September 29, 2009

A Day in Stuttgart

We were so kindly invited by our neighbors the week we moved in to join them for a day in Stuttgart. They offered to show us how to use the public transit (U-Bahn, S-bahn and Bus), the local sights, and the best ice cream place in town. We had a wonderful time getting to know one another and learning each others language (with the help of a dictionary at times)! They have a six year old daughter who is very cute and Madeline and Jack enjoyed teaching her how to play, Eye Spy, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, and other english language games. She in turn taught them how to play Shing Shang Shung, a German version of Rock Paper Scissors. I think this relationship will be great for all of us.

On our adventure we toured the famous Schloss Platz, Theatre district, and upscale shopping. Of course you can't afford much around here with how weak the dollar is. We enjoyed window shopping the sale shoes priced at 250 Euro which = $375. Oh, did I mention that in our wet shipment all of my winter shoes were moldy? At these prices, you can understand why I'm enjoying my tennis shoes so much. I really do need to break down and buy new ones - online of course!

Here's a photo of the kids at the Schlossplatz.

Soccer vs. Fussball

Welcome to soccer the European way! What a road it's been to get here. Three weeks ago we were able to find a boys and a girls German soccer team for Madeline and Jack. After a week of figuring out where to be, which team is the right age group, I think we've hit the nail on the head!

Jack is playing on the SV Vaihingen club, right here in our town. The team has 12 players and they play 2 teams of 6. Jack had his first games this past Saturday. They played 3 games from 8:30-12:30 in the nearby town of Plinegan. He scored his first goal in the second game!

The boys on the team all seem to be very nice and somehow they all communicate with one another while speaking different languages. The parents are all very nice and speak english so this helps Brad and I out a bit! We've been invited to attend the team ski weekend in Austria later in December! A great group of people. Through this emersion I will at least be able to talk about fussball, now how that helps me asking my neighbor for a cup of sugar, I don't know!!!
As for Madeline, no luck. We quickly found out that girls are the 2nd class athlete in these neck of the woods. Madeline practiced with the SV Morhringen girls team and didn't enjoy it like her brother. Rightfully so, she was paired up with a group of girls the average age of 14. She noticed the physical differences right away! This team practices on a cinder field, not the nice grass or astro-turf fields the boys have! So, in order to play agressively you end up falling and yes...bleeding. And if you know my Madeline and her skin infections - not a good pair! So to make a very long, long story and long, long week short...she is now giving the CYS team on base a try. She's not very excited about the caliber of play, but enjoys the social interaction with the American kids! More to report later !!

September 22, 2009

The Berlin Wall

Here is a piece of the Berlin Wall. What a great experience for the kids to be reading about the Cold War and now being able to see and touch a piece of history.

September 20, 2009

Air Force Ball

Here's a photo of us and our friends from the Air Force Birthday Ball we attended last night.

Making Apple Butter

Since it's harvest time around here for plums and apples, our church decided we would make apple butter and dried plums.
While the girls were learning how to make the apple butter, the boys were learning how to install lamanent flooring in the fellowship hall. But, as you can see from these photos, Jack and Micah had more fun "launching" the apples than learning carpentry skills!
The pastor's wife said she never knew you could "launch" an apple from her peeler/corer/slicer! I said - leave it to the boys to find out!

Wilhema - Stuttgart Zoo

This was our second field trip of the year. The trip to the zoo was much cleaner than the trip to the Barfusspark. Not all the kids were here to attend, but here are a few photos of the fun we had!

September 15, 2009


Promotion results for Lt. Colonel were just posted! Congratulations, Brad for making rank!


So, we played mini golf this weekend - German style. What a blast it was! Not every hole had a cup, some you simple had to hit the ball as if you were teeing off the tee box and aim for the butterfly net. As you can see in one picture, Jack took to threwing the ball! Others, you took a swing and hoped your ball landed in the clam shell filled with rocks and not launched across the tennis courts behind. We have since figured out that mini golf is a rarety here in Germany - so maybe they're still working on mastering the course layout. Here are a few photos of our adventure! Did I mention I won with 4 hole in ones?

Volksmarching in Hilzerhousen

Yes, another Volksmarch this weekend! Only this time the weather was beautiful. Not much to report other than we're enjoying our weekends. Here's a photo from this trip. As you can see, Madeline was tired of walking!

Another Year Older!

Okay, yes, I admit it - I turned another year older this past week. Brad and the kids treated me to an afternoon of pampering at a local spa, cooked dinner, picked flowers and baked a cake. Here's a photo of the hard working crew! Thanks again to all who sent birthday wishes!

September 08, 2009

Burning of the Castle - Heidelberg

While in Heidelberg we visited the castle and planned to find a spot in the city to view the annual "Burning of the Castle" and fireworks. The burning is a reinactment of when the present structures had been damaged by wars and fires in 1689, 1693 and 1764.

Brad decided that we should try and view the burning from the castle instead of the marktplatz where we had seen the burning 10 years ago. As we ventured up the steep, winding, pitch black road to the top, we realized we were only one of the few people up there. We briefly thought we had the wrong day and time of the event. After seeing a few people venture to the main entrance of the castle we decided, "When in Rome...." and followed. Just our luck they were beginning to close parts of the castle for the burning. We kindly asked the guard if he spoke english and asked him if we were in the right spot. He promptly told us that in order to view the event we would have to go downtown and cross the Nekar River and view from the other side. Our conversation lead to the fact that we used to live there and had traveled all the way from Stuttgart to see it. So....he said follow me! After pointing to an old wooden door he said, when these doors open in 15 minutes you'll see some people go in...just follow them! Okay, we said.

Not knowing what exactly was on the other side of the door, we proceeded to follow all the Germans. Of course we were the only Americans for miles. We promptly climbed the spiral staircase not one flight, but 5 flights to the top of the castle. (You can see the top in the photo on the left). As we climbed in the complete darkness there was a mystery about where we were going and with whom! Of course we were telling the kids earlier in the day about the dungeons of the cave - so their imaginations were running wild. Upon exiting the staircase we came to a balcony and thought this is where we'd be viewing the burning. Oh, no...more climbing still. After following the Germans through yet another doorway, we continued to climb another 3 winding stairways to the TOP! Still in the complete darkness of the night, I saw this out of the corner of my eye....

Brad and I both looked at each other with wide eyes and weren't sure what we'd gotten ourselves into. So we just stood back and watched for a while. The view of the city was beautiful with all the lights and the river below. Soon there was a man bringing a box and unloading items along the castle wall. I couldn't see well, but were those flares? Oh yes .... flares! (John, I think you'd have enjoyed all this!) Still seeing the rockets (fireworks) out of the corner of my eye and watching everymove of those who were smoking and flicking half burning cigarettes, I heard "Achtung, Achtung" one word we did know - Warning, warning! We stood back and BOOM! We were in the midst of the burning of the castle! Talk about the best seats in the house!

Come to find out we were with the German dignitaries who were selected to light the flares for the event. What an experience we'll never forget. AND it was free! Afterwards we had an awesome view for the fireworks. Well, until the next adventure.......

September 06, 2009

Madeline's Birthplace - Heidelberg

We took a day trip to Heidelberg to show Madeline where she was born; just an hour North of Stuttgart. We visited the house where we lived, the hospital where she was born, and the famous castle grounds. Here are a few photos of our trip. I'll have to try and dig up pictures of here when she was a baby in front of the house and bringing her home from the hospital and see how much she's changed in 9 years.

September 04, 2009

The Curse of the Forbidden Fruit

Okay, so let me explain the title of this blog.

Since this is Labor Day weekend and Brad has Friday and Monday off and I make the school schedule around here we headed off for our first 5K Volksmarch (an organized hike in surrounding towns). The weather forcast - iffy! As we started out on the Autobahn the rain began. Mr. Optimist (aka Brad) said it will surely dry up before we arrive. Upon our arrival in the town of Schonbruch we had the wipers on high and a beautiful view of the incoming rain storm. So what did we do? We headed out of course! Oh did I mention that we were in his car with only one umbrella? Well I won out with the umbrella since the kids both had hoods on their jackets and Brad was tough enough to weather the rain and wind.

We started out up the hill in the steady rain enjoying the countryside through the apple orchards and farm land. We stopped to view several of the huge slugs and snails enjoying this nice wet afternoon :) But the forest wasn't far....just right up that hill...a little further...and then we'd be able to enjoy the shelter from natures canopy. Well just before we reached the sumit...the sun peeked from behind the clouds. Here to the right you'll see a photo of Jack in his "glossy" rain coat taking a repreave from the hood.

Once we reached the top of the hill, ready to enter the forest, enjoying the sunshine - it began raining inside the forest! Wouldn't you know it had rained so hard that with the wind it was now "raining" under the trees! So we were able to enjoy seeing the sun through the trees, under the umbrella, down the otherside of the hill!

Okay, what about the name? We came to a clearing where it was warm and sunny and we were able to shed our jackets and really enjoy the sights. And low and behold more fruit trees, except this time, plums. I didn't mention this before but I find it important to mention now. Rewind 2 weeks ago. Brad had taken the kids to the park down the street and allowed Jack to eat 1 wild blackberry from the plentiful bushes. 12 hours later - yep you guessed it....sicker than a dog and who was left to tend to Jack in the night and all the next day....that's right - MOM! Okay back to the plums, the Forbidden Fruit. Brad and Jack both decided, against my pleading, to eat from the beautiful looking trees so ripe with the purple juicy plums. As I walked down the path a bit further there it was, a sign posted, as if God put it there himself in this Garden of Eden. "Vorsicht! Pflucken kein frucht. Verboten!" (Caution! No picking fruit. Forbidden!) As I yelled to Brad and told him of the sign, he quickly threw the apple that he had in his hand. The clouds rolled in, the wind picked up and then came the curse! We were at the half way point of the 5K and down came the rain. Hence, The Curse of the Forbidden Fruit! After running the rest of the way in the pouring rain with the umbrella sideways and all the feet soaking wet we reached the goal - the Festhaus (fest house).

Here we were able to enjoy dinner under the shelter of the tent. Traditional German fare of Rotwurst (red sausage), Schweinsteak (marinated pork steak), Brot (bread), kartoffelsalat (potato salad), kuchen (pastry) & kaffee (coffee). Here is a picture of our favorite the Bienen Stiche (bee sting), a pastry of cream, vanilla torte with honey and almonds!

Each Volksmarch has a prize at the end if you finish. Sometimes it may be a mug, pin, stuffed animal, toy, or trinket. Today's prize was not one high on our list - a figurine for harvest. Maybe you can guess that by the look on Madeline and Jack's face below.

I think today will be memorable in so many ways - a true reward. Today was like that of the Master Card commercial - Priceless!

The Waldheim - Stuttgart - Rohr

Down the street from our house is the Waldheim "Forest Home". We stumbled upon this the week we moved in noticing all the kids that were flocking. So as adventuresome as we are we followed along. When we arrived we realized that it was summer camp. We found someone who spoke english and invited us to come on Saturday for the "Familie Tag" - Family Day. Here are a few photos from the day.

Here, Madeline and Jack are testing out the self propelled German apparatus. This looks much easier than it really is. Much balance is needed!

Below is a wonderful picture of the kids enjoying a local lunch of Schweinsteak here in Vaihingen from the Metzgeri (local butcher). As you can see - utensils are optional!

The Blue Park

Madeline and Jack wanted to share some photos from their favorite park, "The Blue Park" which is outside of one of the bases here in Vaihingen.

This is the pendullum swing that the kids are still trying to figure out how to use each other's weight to make the most momentum. This becomes a physics lesson everytime.