Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Remembering 2008

What a busy year this has been! I keep thinking things will start to slow down and they never do. At least there was no major life changing event this year, like there has been the last 4 years. In 2004, I graduated from college and had to move on to 'real life'. In 2005, Rich and I were married. Morgan was born in 2006 and Blake was born 15 months later in 2007. 2008 has been a year of finally settling into family life with nothing really new happening to us...sort of....

*We started this year with my parents preparing to move to Germany. They have lived in the same town their whole lives and in the same house for 30 years. It was really strange to have them move and even stranger that it was as far away as Germany! Dad left in February and, after taking care of a couple loose ends, Mom left in March. It was really emotional for me, since I did everything with Mom, but after a little while I got used to not having her around.

*We were finally able to take family vacations this year! We took 2 camping trips with Rich's parents and brothers in August and September and had a wonderful time! I hadn't been camping in quite a while and as tiring as it was, it was also refreshing just to get away as a family.

*I was able to lose the weight from having the kids this year, which feels wonderful! I won't mention any numbers, since I am quite embarrassed that I let myself go so much during the pregnancies, but I'm almost back to my old self. I just need to get into shape now! :-)

*I feel like Rich and I are at a new place in our relationship. We have basically stopped looking back at what we missed out on by moving so fast with our family and have started looking forward. I think we are excited about the future of our family, our financial goals and just our life together. It's exciting! :-)

*I was able to travel to see my parents this year and experience Germany! I feel so grateful to my parents for the opportunity and to Rich and his family for taking care of the kids and the house while I was gone! I'll never have an experience quite like that again and, despite missing Rich and the kids like crazy, I am so happy that I went and I had a wonderful time!

*Rich and I found a church that we are really fond of. I'm not sure what was holding us back from going for so long, but we finally started going in October (thanks to Shelby for the invite!) and love it. I feel like it will be a wonderful place for our whole family to learn, worship, and fellowship with other Christians. I am hoping to find a place there where I can use my talents and get involved, as well.

*I have to admit that I also got hooked on giveaways and blogging this year, too. Sometimes I wonder if I drive Rich crazy talking about it, but it has been a lot of fun! I started the year hardly knowing what a blog was to actually blogging on a regular basis and signing up for giveaways on other blogs and I love it!

All in all, it has been a wonderfully busy year. Things just seem to be looking up and I can't wait to see what the new year brings for us!

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Handmade Sweaters!

My sister is a very talented knitter. I love seeing what she comes up with to knit for the kids. (And even the other things she knits, too.) :-) This year Katie made both Morgan and Blake the most adorable wallaby sweaters for Christmas. I have to share some pictures of the kids in them-they are seriously too cute! I could go on and on using the words 'adorable' and 'cute', but you'd agree, right? :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Fun!

We had a very busy Christmas this year. It started Christmas Eve with a lot of food preparation for each family get-together. We then headed to my parents' house to open gifts with my nieces, since they couldn't be with us on Christmas Day. (My parents are home from Germany for 3 weeks for the holidays.) After the activity there, we took off to my aunt's place to have Christmas with my mom's side of the family. They only live next door, so we didn't have far to go :-) The last place of the night was to head to Rich's parents for some traditional eggnog, reading of a Christmas story and opening one gift.

Christmas Day was even busier! We got up around 6:00, so we could at least check out our stockings and the kids could open their gifts from Santa. By 7:30 we were at Rich's parents' to open gifts there. Then it was off to Rich's grandparents' for breakfast, more gifts, and a traditional Christmas shot of Peppermint Schnops or Black Velvet whiskey-Nostrovia! After the festivities there, we went back to my parents' to do more gift exchanging and dinner. We then had to head home for a little while to unload the car from all the gifts, so we could get the rest from Rich's parents' house, which is where we headed next. We had a little to snack on, loaded up the rest of the gifts, mingled and headed back home where my parents met us to see what everyone had gotten. By 9:30ish we were finally able to settle down, but since Blake was passed out, the kids finished opening their gifts from Rich and I the next morning.

We love all the family get-togethers! Neither Rich nor I really want to give up anything, but we realize, for the sake of our sanity, we will have to cut a lot out next year. As much as I'll miss all the running on Christmas, I'm looking forward to starting our own traditions as a family at home :-)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I thought this would be an appropriate picture for today, since Jesus is the Reason for the Season :-) This was taken in a Christmas Market in Munich. There seemed to be a nativity set up nearly every Christmas Market in Germany, which I thought was really neat. (Rich and I are guessing the little boy and little girl must be Hansel and Gretel?)

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: More Puppy Love

Morgan must have really liked getting her picture taken in front of the tree last week, because a couple days later she thought she needed her picture taken with her puppy in front of the tree. I had been busy doing some things and when I came back, she had it all set up! It was really cute!

For more Wordless Wednesday check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Germany Trip: Christmas Markets

I felt fortunate to be able to visit Germany during the holidays. Seeing all the Christmas Markets, or Weihnachtsmärktes, was truly a neat experience! Each town and city hosted a Christmas Market and length and size of the Christmas Market depended on the size of the town/city. All the markets we made it to were in large cities and were open every day of advent. Others may have only been on the weekends and even smaller ones may have only been on one weekend of advent.

I loved the look and general feeling of the Christmas Markets. All the booths were wooden and they all matched. There were usually lights and greenery hanging from each of the booths. Each market usually had either a huge Christmas tree, a pyramid or nativity or a combination of a couple or all of them. A lot of times there was also a carousel and other rides for kids.

The products that were sold really varied, but were mostly wintertime related. I saw things like ornaments, wooden toys, hats, mittens, scarves, pyramids, nutcrackers, and the list goes on! On top of that there were all sorts of food booths that usually had potato cakes, sausage, sweets, crepes and many other goodies depending on what market we were at.

It seemed like the main draw of the Christmas Market was the gluhwein, or hot spiced wine. I think we had gluhwein at nearly every market we went to. The area surrounding the gluhwein booths were always packed and hard to get to. When we'd purchase the gluhwein, we'd have to put a deposit on the mugs that they served it in. If we didn't want the mug, we just had to return it and get our deposit back. We never returned them, though, we kept them as souvenirs :-) The only Christmas market that didn't have gluhwein was the Medieval one, but they had Love Potion, which was actually gluhwien :-)

Here is a slideshow of my gluhwein mugs:

I'll admit after so many Christmas Markets, we were kind of Christmas Marketed out at the end of the trip. We were seeing a lot of the same things over and over again at them. I wouldn't change anything, though. The Christmas Markets were still a wonderful part of our Germany experience!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fun Christmas Songs Game with a Giveaway!

Make a Joyful Noise is hosting a giveaway that has a fun little twist! She is giving away a Tastefully Simple package including Artichoke & Spinach Warm Dip Mix, Warm the Oven! Savory Dip Mix, Spinach and Herb Dip Mix and the Bountiful Beer Bread Mix. Sounds delicious, right? The little twist is you can get extra entries by playing a little Christmas Songs game! She has the first letters of the first words of Christmas Songs listed and you have to figure out the song.

Here is an example: H A H J C would be Have A Holly Jolly Christmas

I had a blast playing and I got into it so much that I was singing the songs to the kids! Even if you don't want to sign up to win, just go and play the game-it'll be worth it! :-)

Our Sleeping Pooch

An Ordinary Life is hosting a contest to win a Sleep Number Pet Bed! I thought it would be a great opportunity for Bear dog to get a new bed since he's chewed up 2 couches now! I hope he's grown out of the chewing stage , because the Sleep Number Pet Bed looks really nice.:-) Bear was actually sleeping here, but the flash woke him up a bit. I chose this picture for my entry, because I thought it was sweet that he was sharing his couch! He was trying his best to fit on one cushion so the cat could have the other. (This was taken a couple months before Morgan was born. We were in the process of rearranging the house, so please ignore the mess.)

Ferrero Chocolates' Share Something Sweet campaign

Ferrero Chocolates has partnered with Share Our Strength, a national organization working to ensure that no child in America grows up hungry, to start the Share Something Sweet campaign. Ferrero has donated $150,000 so far and will continue to donate when consumers get involved with their Share Something Sweet campaign. By going to this site, you'll be able to send sweet messages to friends and family. For every message sent, Ferrero will donate another $1 to Share Our Strength, up to $10,000!

Another way to help is to join the Ferrero Facebook page, "Ferrero Lovers Unite". Ferrero will donate another $1, up to $1000, for every person that joins!

Aren't those 2 easy ways to fight hunger? If you have a second, check out the links, send a message or join a page, and you will be helping people in need this holiday season!

Germany Trip: Sir Blake

I did a lot of shopping for the kids while I was in Germany. I looked at every toy that I came across trying to find something 'German' and something that I couldn't find here in the U.S. It wasn't easy, though. It seemed like everything was something that I had either seen before or it was way more than I was willing to spend. I was able to find a couple things that at least looked German, but nothing on them said they were. I ended up getting some little Bavarian puppets, for both Morgan and Blake. I also got a little Bavarian guy on a spring for Blake and the toy that I'm the most proud of finding was a little wooden sword.

We were in Rothenburg, when I came across the sword. We may have never stopped in the shop, but mom was looking for a wooden umbrella holder that this shop carried. The man that ran the shop did beautiful wood burning and had neat scenes burned in wood of the town on the wall and on the floor, leaning against the wall, there were all these little wooden swords. The swords had either 'Master', 'Sir' or 'Lady' on them, then a child's name could be added. I thought that was such a neat idea since it would be both German and original, plus the price was great-only 5 euro! We were also in a medieval town and a sword really seemed to be a great souvenir. So I ended up getting a sword that said "Sir Blake". I know Blake is way too young for a sword, but "Sir Blake" sounded good and I just loved the idea of it. I was even able to get a picture of the man as he was burning Blake's name into it!

Didn't it turn out nice? I figure I can give it to Blake for Christmas, then hide it while he's sleeping and give it back to him when he's old enough to play with it :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

German Food: Potatoes and Soup

I don't usually think of Germany when I think of potatoes and soup. Ireland probably comes to mind a bit more, but Germany had some really interesting potato and soup dishes that I thought were really good!

When we were in Trier's Christmas Market, we kept seeing people walk by with what turned out to be potato pancakes, or Kartoffelpuffer (pictured). The same man who recommended the bratwurst that I tried in Trier, also suggested that we try these potato pancakes. They reminded me of a doughy hash brown, like at McDonald's, and just as greasy! They served the pancakes with applesauce, which really didn't sound too good to me, but I tried it. The applesauce turned out to be great with them-almost like it cut back on the greasiness!

I also had other potato dishes, but they weren't much different than what we can get here in the U.S. I had some french fries, which they call 'pommes' that came with my schnitzel and I also had American fries, which I mentioned in my previous 'German Food: Sausages' post.

The soups I tried while in Germany were nothing like what I expected! The first soup I had was in Munich while we were at the Hofbrauhaus. I ordered a potato soup, which was quite different than what I would usually order in the U.S. The U.S. potato soups are usually creamy and have bacon, cheese and chives on top. The potato soup there had a thick broth with potatoes and wasn't nearly as flavorful, but it was still good.

The other soup I had was a goulash soup, which I had in Rothenburg. I had never heard of goulash soup before or, if I had, I never thought anything of it. The goulash soup was very tasty and had potatoes and pieces of what I'm assuming was beef in it. I had thought there would be pasta in it, since I associate goulash with pasta, but there wasn't any. It was definitely a great soup to have to warm up, since it was also very spicy (for me at least).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

We put up our Christmas tree this weekend and I decided I'd try to get pics of the kids in front of it. This turned out to be the best one and it happens to be the first one I took :-)

For more Wordless Wednesday, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

German Food: Sausages!

Now, what better way to start talking about Germany than to talk about the food! And what better way to start talking about German food than to talk about the types of sausages! I didn't realize before going to Germany, that there would be regional differences. The first one I tried was in Trier, Germany's oldest city. We only ate in the Christmas market while there and were told by a local to try the brats. The bratwursts that they served there were very long and skinny. When they served them, they broke them in half and stuck them in a roll. The bratwurst, even split in half, was still almost double the length of the roll. It had a nice flavor, but wasn't spicy, like the kind we get here in the U.S.

The next one I tried was in Munich and was actually a sausage. Munich is actually very well known for their Weisswurst Sausage, which is a boiled white sausage made with veal, bacon, parsley and lemon. It is served with a pretzel and sweet mustard. I loved the mustard, the pretzel was good, but the sausage was just okay. It was very soft and I could mostly only taste the parsley. I'm glad I tried it, but I probably wouldn't get it again. :-/

The last bratwurst I tried was in Neiderjoshbach, the town my parents live in. I'm not sure if it was a regional bratwurst or not, but it was more like what we have here in the U.S. It was quite spicy and very good! It was served on sauerkraut with american fries on the side. I am very good about eating everything that I am served, and if I can't finish it I'll take it home and finish it at another meal. It's a different story when it comes to sauerkraut, though. I tried it, because I was going to try as much as I could in Germany while I had the chance, but it had never been for me in the past it wasn't for me then, either.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Looking So Grown Up!

I'm not sure where she picked up this look, but she started this after I came back. If you can't tell, she is leaning up against the wall with her hands in her pockets (and she is quite proud of herself!)

For more Wordless Wednesdays, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm Home!

I have actually been home since Saturday night, but I'm still trying to get back to normal and catch up with a few things, so I haven't had much time to blog. I'm hoping to, though, within the next week or so. I have a bunch of pictures and all sorts of neat things that I learned and experienced to share, so stay tuned! :-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: I know you love him, but really??

Morgan loves her puppy and does everything with him. She sleeps with him, reads to him, pretends to feed him and lately she even has to take him to the potty.

For more Wordless Wednesdays, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.
Blogging tips