Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Someone's Following Me...

Toddlers are interesting creatures. One moment they're the babies we knew just a short time ago, wanting to cuddle and fall asleep on mommy or daddy's shoulder and the next they're too old for their age, wanting to do everything on their own, accepting no help from anyone.

That's part of the age, though: learning to be independent, knowing they can figure things out on their own. Thirteen or so years from now, Norah will be acting the same way, but exponentially worse.

But no matter what, there was a point in her life while she was working this out on her own: Why is this shadow girl following me?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fun Times With a Hat

Not much to say in this post...I just thought I'd share some super cute pictures of my quick-growing little girl playing with daddy's hat.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

...and we have touchdown!

We've just started our third month back in the US. As opposed to July, which opened up for us in Pennsylvania while staying with my parents and an August spent with Amy's parents, the month of September finds us in our very own place.

In the suburbs.

I grew up in the suburbs and thought it was all fine and dandy, but I'd rather be out in the country. Somewhere quiet with lots of hiking, climbing and mountain biking.

Until I came to reality. You can't get pizza delivered to you if you live out in the country.

Norah Grace and Mika playing in the backyard.

So I'm living in the suburbs and appreciating every bit of it, . We've got our fenced in yard, the park up the road, and go for walks around the neighborhood every day. The grocery stores and restaurants aren't far and neither are the baseball diamonds where Norah and I split an ice cream sandwich while watching an exciting game of t-ball.

While I have to admit I feel a certain bit of jealousy when I see planes high overhead, wondering where all those people are off to, I think I can live like this for a while.

I start most days drinking my coffee (in this case out of my mug I got in Venice)
while Norah plays on the back patio.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Natural Play in the Suburbs, Part II

This post is all about loose parts.

And no, I don't mean the nuts and bolts you have left over after putting together that new play set.

In the realm of child development--more specifically that pertaining to natural play--loose parts are items kids can play with that have no set use. For example, a keyboard is not a loose part. It's meant for music. The same thing goes for slides, bikes, rocking horses, the list goes on. A lot of these toys are great, wonderful for a child's development, and worth the time and money to get--they just usually have a set use.

Loose parts do a better job of encouraging imagination and creativity. The outdoors is full of loose parts. In my opinion, sticks are the ultimate example. They can be magic wands, hiking sticks, writing utensils, swords, guns, building materials for forts and rafts, and something to use to play with the dogs (and more). Grass, flowers, leaves, rocks--they can all be loose parts.

If you try, you can find loose parts inside. In our experience, tupperware is a good one. It can be used for building, for music, for sorting. The colander proved to be a favorite. I'm glad we had two, because Norah was always using the other as a stool, a hat, a drum, a basket, or something to scoot across the floor on. And then there's a box. Need I say more? Getting together a small collection of loose parts inside does wonders on a rainy day. Some other possibilities: wrapping paper tubes, couch cushions, legos (sort of), a sand tray with different items inside. Can you think of any others?


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Another Gray Hair

Anyone who has worked with groups of kids knows they learn from watching each other. Whether for good or bad, it's there. Norah takes this watching to the next level.

Norah, this sort of defeats the whole run and play reason for coming to the park...
She can hardly take her eyes off the other kids or parents on the playground. It doesn't matter if she's walking up stairs, running on the pavement, or standing right at the top of some fun thing like a slide or wobbly bridge, completely oblivious to the children behind her wanting their turn, she's watching. Sometimes it does get a little weird...

Norah, watch where you're going, you're going to fall off the steps.

  I worry she's going to hurt herself, either from not paying attention to what she's doing (which almost happened today--well, everyday) or trying something the big kids were doing (which also almost happened earlier this week). It was a very steep corkscrew slide with a low side that went around twice before leveling out at the bottom. She saw a little boy going down and thought she would too.

That isn't creepy at all, Norah Grace.

Now, I usually don't go up on the playground equipment with Norah unless it's still too dangerous with me following her along on the ground where she's usually within reach. I was standing next to the slide.

Had she sat on the farthest side, it would have been fine. Fast, only slightly dangerous, but fine. However, she sat on the inside, which would have given her a near-vertical drop about as far as I am tall.

"I think she's about to take a tumble," said a guy whose son was playing on the same slide. Apparently, we were on the same train of thought. I climbed the slide and we slid down together, safe and sound.

Norah, just because you saw the four year old boy doing that doesn't mean you need to.
You seem to forget he fell halfway down the slide. 

I can't take my eyes off this little girl. She has no fear. She gives me more and more gray (and white) hairs every day. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My, How Things Have Changed

If you've been following my blog for more than just a few weeks, you know that my family and I just moved back to the US after our four year stay in Germany.

And my, how things have changed.

At first it didn't seem that significant. Yeah, I saw more people oblivious to the world, heads bent over their smartphones, than there were in the first half of 2009, but I didn't think much of it.

It's just now, after a month and a half of being back in the good old USA that I'm beginning to have a grasp on how smartphones have changed American society.

When we left, I felt like smartphones were a luxury. People had them, but they weren't so widespread. Now they've been ingrained into our lives in a lot of different ways that weren't so apparent in Germany. Everyone is expected to have one. Not only our we expected to have one, we are expected to be reachable at any moment.

The work lives and personal lives of Americans are now even more enmeshed than before. Your clients and your employer should be able to contact you at any time and they do because they assume you have a smartphone, therefore you can be contacted. In fact, I'm buying a house right now almost completely through email. Sometimes these emails are time sensitive and I need to get them and respond quickly. The only way I can do this up until now is at home because I put off getting a smartphone.

Our interactions with other people have changed. Facebook and twitter seem to be used much more than before. People don't call to make plans, they text or facebook message and assume others can check their facebook instantly wherever they are and respond. It's almost like owning a smartphone has become a prerequisite to join the new American society.

So we bought smartphones.

Even more troubling is that Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana are being played on my local classic rock station.

And this might shock you: I saw a poster for the latest Now That's What I Call Music. It was number 47. Number one was released in 1998 and included The Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls and Hanson.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Defiant Little Thing...

Little Norah Grace is 19 months old, going on 15 years. From what I've heard, this is normal for a budding toddler; they have this new sense of willfulness, along with likes and dislikes, but have a hard time expressing it. Thus, frustration and tantrums. I get it.

But, man, she's a defiant little thing.

She's been working on the death glare. This one's just warming up.
 And she loves pushing boundaries.

For example, I'll tell her to get off the stairs and she will. Then, she'll look directly at me and slowly put one foot on the bottom step.

You little bugger.

A few days ago she found herself some house keys and thought it would be fun to poke Bella the dog in the ribs with them. I told her not to, of course, so she looked straight in my eye and dangled the keys above Bella and slowly lowered them towards her fur.

Like I said.

My precious girl is a defiant little thing.

Yes, believe it or not, this little girl can have a bit of a temper.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Language of Her Own

Norah Grace and her beautiful mommy (and the long gray nose of Shiloh the horse)
She points her finger toward the field, looks that way and back again at us.


Norah Grace says it quickly--not long and drawn out like you say when you see something beautiful but rather fast, like a sneeze.

We look where she's pointing, already knowing what we'd find

"You want to see the horse?"

One emphatic nod answers the question and off we go.

Norah saying hi to one of the horses with her Papaw.

So how did Norah, after hearing the word "horse" a thousand times or more, come up with "ooh!" to represent the big, four legged creatures walking through the fields?

I have no idea.

It's pretty common (so I understand) for toddlers to come up with a way of speaking that only family ends up able to comprehend. I'm starting to see this and can now compile the Norah Grace translation guide thus far:

ooh! = horse
dee-dee = chicken
ga = cat
abbey = just about any dog
wah = anything that starts with w (namely walk and wet and wagon), along with playground. Playground=W?
buh = this can mean drink or outside. Where did this come from? Your guess is as good as mine.
bee = fishies (as in goldfish)
gee = geese

And, of course, there's the German. No matter how many times we say "thank you," she still says "danke." When we say "finished?" she says "alle." A few days ago I told her to get her shoes and she walked to where all the shoes are, pointed to hers and said "die?" This is actually pronounced dee and is a plural pronoun in German. Basically, from my understanding, she was saying "these?"

We'll see what she comes up with next.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Natural Play in the Suburbs, Part I

Believe it or not, playing outside isn't just fun for kids and relief time for parents. The fields we ran through, the trees we climbed, the streams we played in--they all helped out our development in essential ways without our realization. Kids that enjoy unstructured/semi structured natural play outside on a regular basis can focus better in school, are more creative, have better balance, and are more physically fit than their video game playing, tv watching counterparts. Don't just take my word for it, read The Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. It's a great book that will change the way you approach working with children and even raise your own kids.

Children need that natural play, even if they're either too young to go running on their own through the forest or simply don't have a forest near them to go running through. Once I found out I would be moving into a subdivision (suburbs) I started planning how Norah could get that natural play without leaving our yard. Here's the first of (hopefully) quite a few play elements to come over the next few years.

This is something to help Norah Grace out on the balance, strength and focus categories. How to do this: find a longish, straight log and cut it into varying lengths (or find yourself a willing father-in-law with a chainsaw to help you out). Keep the cuts straight and the pieces short enough that you don't have to worry too much about them falling over. 

The log sections are close enough so Norah can step from one to the other. She isn't quite ready to do it on her own, so
I hold her hand while she walks on the log sections.
Once you you've gathered a small collection of log sections find a clear, level area to arrange them in. Make sure they don't wobble and send the little ones in for some fun. Once we're into our new house I'm thinking I might lay out some sand and bury the bases of the logs so they're extra steady and Norah will have a safer place to land if/when she falls.

Just watch a little kid while they play outside--there's more going on than meets the eye. In this picture, Norah is learning
 about nature by examining a mushroom growing on the log, working on her balance by standing on this small area, and
 is building leg strength by squatting and standing and keeping balanced. It gets better! Just think of all the ways
playing outside is benefiting her different senses. 
Something I should mention: if done right, childhood carries with it a certain amount of risk. It is up to our judgement as parents and childcare/education professionals to decide how much risk the child is ready for. On my blog I'll be sharing projects I've created for my own daughter and take responsibility for her safety. It would be great if others took my ideas and made them their own, but in doing so you are assuming responsibility for the safety of the kids who use it. 

Have fun!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Dance Like No One's Watching

Norah Grace heard her favorite song over the mall sound system (I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons). 
She danced her little heart out, oblivious to anyone who may be looking on.

To parents of toddlers (and kids under 42" tall): find a mall with a play area. It can be a life saver on those days when the weather traps you inside. Just watch out--sometimes parents bring kids that are too big and too wild to be playing around small kiddos. It's trial and error to find the right time to go. I find the best time of day is in the morning when the mall walkers are cruising past with their elbows flying out to either side and their orthopedic shoes a blur, speeding them down the hallways. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Yes, you can get peanut butter in Germany, but it's a bit, well...the quality ranges from a murmured "Bleh" to a disappointed "That's kind of like sweet clay that tastes something vaguely, yet nothing at all, like peanut butter."

But now we're back in the US and Norah Grace discovered how good peanut butter can actually be.

I guess peek-a-boo is a good game to play when your hands are covered in peanut butter and cracker crumbs.
I see you!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Travels with Toddler: The Road Trip

Norah Grace has a hard time sitting still. She's a bit like a six year old boy: every once in a while something will keep her attention for 10, 20, maybe even 30 minutes but, other than that, she's go go go. She doesn't stop.

We drove from my parents' place in Pennsylvania to Amy's parents' place in Kentucky, what's supposed to be a 13 hour drive. However, with a toddler, two dogs, a few driving rainstorms, and a GPS that's a bit rusty at giving directions, it took a bit longer. Luckily, my wonderful wife had the foresight to book a hotel for us along the way.

The Car:

(I should get paid for this part)

We came back to the US without a car, so we needed to buy one. After months of research, I was leaning toward a Kia Sorento. Now that we have a child, safety was the number one priority. There are just too many drunk drivers and texting teens. Gas mileage was also important. 2011 and newer Sorentos are some of the safest vehicles on the road and get decent gas mileage for their size. We found a 2011 model for a decent price and bought it. We love it. Not only is it roomy for the passengers, but it also holds a large amount of luggage. On top of all that, our manual shift SUV maxed out at 31 miles per gallon on the highway. It's just about the perfect road trip vehicle.

Our new ride.

The Plan:

We would load up the cooler with drinks and stuff for sandwiches and picnic along the way, something that would allow both Norah and the dogs time to stretch their legs. The drive to the dog-friendly hotel (Ramada) would take about 9 hours including a picnic stop. The next day would take about 5 with the stop planned in. The computer and ipad were loaded up with Sesame Street musical guest youtube clips and veggie tales music videos to keep Norah busy in case she fussed.

The Reality:

Driving the first day ended up taking twelve hours. Not only did we stop for our picnic, but we also stopped about a half dozen other times for dogs who couldn't wait any longer and a toddler who needed to get out and move around and get a new diaper. On top of that, the GPS added about an hour to our drive and we had to pull off the highway twice because of torrential downpours. And the bonus: the rain took our temporary (cardboard) license plate from the back of our car and left us looking over our shoulders for the rest of the trip wondering when we were going to get pulled over. We lucked out and made it without seeing flashing lights in the rearview.

Day two was smoother and went more according to plan. The right lane was closed for more than half the time, but we managed to make it with only a few stops, including a very nice park in Elizabethtown, KY.

Putting Norah to work walking the dogs at the park in Elizabethtown.

Norah watched her videos for the majority of the trip leaving me with veggie tales songs stuck in my head for days.

The tips:

Plan everything out beforehand but be flexible. You may have to stop before you planned on. Parks and playgrounds are always a good idea. Let those kids get some exercise. Above all, keep in mind everyone's sanity: your toddler who has to roll around when she sleeps is going to eventually have a mental breakdown in the carseat, an event that stretches the limits of sanity in everyone stuck inside the car. At times like that it's best to let her nap in the park or spend the night at a hotel. Trust me. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Meeting a (Very) Distant Relative

While Mommy and Daddy had themselves a quiet day in, Norah went with her Gigi, Pop Pop, two aunts and an eventual uncle (oh you know I'll be right) to the Philadelphia Zoo. Here she came face to face with a gorilla.

No fear, this one.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Travels with Toddler: Jet Lag

I'm back.

Obviously, two weeks of nothingness is all you've heard from me since I've been back in the US. But, never fear. My little blogging hiatus after the Germany countdown project is done and I'm back. For this first entry after getting back from Germany I figured I would blog about something (recently) current, applicable, and may or may not be considered one of the many circles of hell.

Surviving a jet-lagged toddler. 

The time difference between Leipzig, Germany (where we lived) and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA (where we spent our first two weeks here) is six hours back. Lunch time in Philly means dinner time in Leipzig. It also means that when our plane touched down at 4:05 pm our bodies were telling us it's 10:05 at night. Which, for Norah, meant bedtime was about two and a half hours earlier yet it's still bright and sunny out. This is enough to make an 18 month old brain spin.

We were a bit nervous beforehand because you never know what's going to happen. Would I be walking back and forth, up and down the isles with my energetic little girl? Would she, for one reason or another, cry and fuss the whole time? Or, would we luck out and have a sleepy little girl who would just doze for the duration? 

Not long into our flight the clouds parted, the heavens opened up, and a mildly fussy Norah Grace stretched out across mommy and daddy's laps and fell asleep. Outside of periodic interludes for eating, drinking, and diaper changing, she slept the whole flight. It was a nice, relaxing flight. This also meant she was well rested when we landed. We lucked out. (Tip: If you have the option, try not to have a connecting flight after the long flight. The little one may have no desire to board another plane and could make you pay for it.)

But then came the jet lag.

She went to bed fine the first night and woke up happy and ready to go the next morning. Well, technically it was the next morning. 1:15.

She wanted to nap early and go to bed early each day for the following two or three days. I started out trying to stick with the normal routine and had no success and a perpetually fussy toddler. Then realized easing her into it would be better. Instead of forcing her to stay up until her normal bedtime I put her down an hour or so early one night, then half an hour early the next night. She kept waking up early, but that eventually worked itself out. I used the same process with her nap time.

After three days or so everything was back to normal.

The other tip: Before you travel across a couple of time zones with a toddler, accept the fact that you may be a bit sleep deprived your first few days at your destination and that you'll drink a whole lot of coffee. Have no fear, though. It will get better.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Auf Wiedersehen, Leipzig

This, the final entry in the countdown, is being posted from Pennsylvania, USA. This morning we bade farewell to Leipzig, our home for the past four years. It was hard to feel like we were not coming back, that we aren't going to be returning to our apartment at the end of another holiday. That was it. We have some great memories from Leipzig. Our time there wasn't perfect and we had our share of ups and downs. What matters are all the good memories we're taking away with us. And above all, the most significant thing about our time is this:

We moved into Leipzig as a family of two and left as a family of three.

And that, my friends, tops the list.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dear Norah

Dear Norah Grace,

  Tomorrow we're getting on a plane and leaving Leipzig, the place you were born and your first home. After four years here your mommy and daddy need a break for a bit and some time to feel comfortable with what we've known most of our lives. We're looking forward to getting back to loved ones and good food. Our loved ones are looking forward to our return and especially to the opportunity to spend more time with you, the first grandchild, great grand child, and niece. Your grandparents are particulary enthusiastic and have already planned outings for you and are more than ready to spoil you rotten.

  As excited as we are to get back to the US, there is a certain bit of sadness in leaving Leipzig. This is where your mommy and I moved after just ten days of marriage. It was our home base to more than a dozen trips to foreign countries and the place where we made friends from all over the world. But, more than anything, Leipzig is where you joined our little family and made our lives that much brighter.

  Leipzig was the first place you knew. You were born in the Universitätsklinikum and came home to our apartment on Rödelstrasse 18. You met your puppy dogs here and had a lot of firsts here. You took your first steps in our apartment and went for long walks in the park down the street. The Käferhaus was your first daycare and your teachers Angelica and Veronica adored you as if you were their own grandchild.  In your short time here you've managed to visit a half dozen countries. That's quite an accomplishment for someone who isn't even 18 months old yet.

  And now we head out. The travelling life isn't over. We'll still need those passports. It's just that our time here in Germany has come to an end. Maybe some day we'll come back and show you around. It's up to you.

If you want to be a traveller, just let us know. I'll buy you a backpack and whichever guide book you'd like and go where ever you want.



Friday, June 28, 2013

By Train on the Cheap

Whether it be by plane, train, or automobile, we love to travel. After all the trips we've taken, plus the travelling back and forth from the US, we know what works best for us.

Travelling by plane is okay. It gets us where we need to go the fastest, but we're confined to a tube a few miles up in the air, can hardly move around and have to first go through security. We've found there's a wide range of how seriously some airports take security. In Turkey we had to get our bags scanned before we even entered the building. In London-Heathrow they made me open up Norah's baby food and give it a taste. Don't even get me started on the TSA. In a small airport somewhere near Rome no one actually looked at our passports before we boarded the plane back to Germany. Needless to say, that one was a smooth process.

Travelling by car is nice enough in the US. In Germany, though, where people may be passing you at 150 miles per hour, it's a bit more stressful. But you get to listen to your own music, stop when you want to stop, and not have to deal with sharing a space with strangers. You can also usually take the most stuff with you when you hit the road. And now, with a toddler, we don't have to worry about bothering anyone else with Norah's near-inability to sit still for more than 30 seconds. Going by car is by far the easiest with a toddler.

A beautiful train ride through the swiss alps.
When it was just Amy and I, nothing beat getting from point A to point B by rail. We loved strapping on our packs and taking the train out of Leipzig. When you ride a train, all you have to pay attention to is which stop you're coming up on. No focusing on the road, no filling up a gas tank, and you can get up and walk around whenever you want. You can also get a better look at the countryside. When I'm driving along at Autobahn speeds, I can hardly glance away from the road ahead for a fraction of a second to look at the speedometer, let alone admire a castle perched on a cliff until it's out of sight.

Put everything you need into a hiking pack, hop on a train and travel from here to there while taking the time to admire everything in between.

That's backpacking. I love it. I love travelling on the cheap: taking the trains, getting our meals from street vendors or grocery stores, and sleeping at a hostel or campground.

Norah Grace camping for the very first time in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

Some of my favorite trips were ones where breakfast was a mini box of cereal and lunch a cold cut sandwich. After those first few trips we realized that with proper planning we could take the comfortable trains and stay in hotels and be within budget.

Still, though, I do get a certain amount of enjoyment in taking the rougher route. Maybe we'll give her a few years and let Norah decide what sort of travelers we'll be.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Good Friends

In our four years here we've met quite a few people. Out of all those people we managed to find ourselves some good friends. As is the international scene, most of them headed on out before long and left us looking for others to fill the void. We found that the people who left were irreplaceable and hold a special spot in our hearts. They were people we went out with, people we stayed in with, and people we celebrated holidays with. A few of them are friends that were around when we really needed support and they stepped up to the occasion. 

I've only got a few pictures below. When I was trying to find some photos for this post, memories kept coming into my head and I found myself wishing I had taken more pictures. So, if you read this and think to yourself "Hey, why isn't there a picture of me?" don't worry. Picture or no picture, we won't forget you. 

Some friends came over for Thanksgiving dinner. From left to right: Holly, Katherine, Amy, me, Nicole, and Kat. 

Nicole and Kieran rented a paddle boat with us one nice summer day.

Kieran and Nicole again with Andrew as well. A bunch of us got together for some grilling and beer in the park.

Thanksgiving buffet dinner. Left to right: Heather, Mariana, Romy, and Jo. (I'm sitting on the floor watching football.)

Still more Thanksgiving fun. From left to right: Tom, Christian, Holly, Jo, Sie Mei, me, and Bryony.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Next Chapter

Today was the last day of school for the kids. They were all really excited and sad to see some of their teachers leave. They sang us a song and a few of them brought gifts. I got a couple more letters for the "Why I Do This" folder, something every counselor should have. It was all very touching.

The school year ended, just as our time here in Europe is coming to a close. As they have in school, I'm looking at this series of blog posts as a bit of a yearbook of our lives for the past four years, something we can open up years from now and say to ourselves "Aw, I remember that!"

A yearbook also represents the closing of one chapter in a person's life and the opening of another. Even though all of the particulars haven't all been figured out yet, we're looking forward to being back and starting that next chapter. We're really happy about being closer to family, to having that support less than an ocean away.

We're looking forward to buying a house, having a yard, and making some new friends.

We can hardly wait to get our hands on some good American food and celebrate American holidays with all the other Americans.

I'm excited to watch football on an actual TV and not just trying to see if someone happens to post a stream of the game online that may or may not work.

We long for the comfort of the familiar for a while. We've gotten pretty comfortable here, but there's still a strong language and cultural barrier that exists.

Like I said, these posts are to celebrate things we'll remember fondly from our time in Europe. But make no mistake, we're really, really excited to get back to the US. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Thanks to the wonders of our connected world, Amy and I could have gotten our master's degrees anywhere. We just happened to be living here in Germany. Amy is leaving the country with an M.A. Ed. as a reading and writing specialist and I now have an M.A. in school counseling. 

When it came to the schedule, I was the lucky one. By this I mean that I had a live class I had to sign into once per week during my last few semesters. I was lucky in that the classes were offered in the morning where the school is, Colorado, which made it a decent time here--eight hours ahead. Only one of my three or so classes during those terms required a live class. I lucked out. 

Amy's diploma came in the mail the same day Norah Grace came home from the hospital.

Amy, though, had a live class she had to sign in to for each course. This meant up to two or three times per week she would have to log in, listen to a lecture, and take part in discussion. It gets worse. Her program was aimed at working teachers, people that would be able to log in after dinner. Amy had to attend class at 2:00 am Leipzig time. That's rough. Oh yeah, she was pregnant for most of her studies. 

She's a trooper.

I lucked out in that I was able to have a paid practicum and internship at the international school where we work. This meant I could finish my studies here in Leipzig and we could keep travelling. That was another plus to the online program--I could travel and not miss classes. As long as there was internet connection I could do schoolwork and sign into classes. 

And now we leave Germany two master's degrees richer. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Beer, Round Two

My first beer post focused on a general "Dang, German beer is really good" theme. Now, though, there's something else really important to mention about the beer.

It's cheap. The beer you see just below is one of my favorite dark beers here and a bottle of it costs, I believe, 65 cents plus an 8 cent deposit. That's 73 cents per beer.

Germany produces some really great dark beers.

There's something else. It's bigger than your typical American beer. It's a half liter compared to the .33 liters you get from Sam Adams or any other US company for that matter. To put that in different terms, four German beers (2.92 euros) is the same as 6 American beers (8.00+ dollars for a six pack of comparable quality beer). 

I'm a guy who likes a beer with his dinner and I will miss getting such good beer for so cheap. I know we've got some great microbreweries in the US, but the price here can't be beat.

A glass of Radeberger pils, brewed in a neighboring town and one of the top
10 beers in Germany. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Cheap Seats

Train, plane, or automobile. Which is the cheapest way to get around Europe?

Surprisingly enough, getting around by airplane is sometimes the least expensive choice. True, you don't get the experience of crossing a country by rail and seeing all there is to see, but you can get there quicker and sometimes for less than 30 euros one way, depending on the route, the day, and any promotions. A current promotion from easyJet could get me from Berlin to Athens for 29.99 in October. 

easyJet: my favorite of the two. Compare travel dates on their website,
Flying just a few days earlier or later could save you loads. 
That's cheap.  

Ryanair is the other big name in the cheap airfare business. Super cheap flights can be had with them as well,  but you have to be extra careful with these guys. Read the fine print. For example, forgetting to print out your boarding pass at home could cost you an extra 40 euros at the airport. They have a lot of fees to be aware of, so make sure you read through everything. You also need to take a second look at the name of the airport you're flying into and where it really is. Their "Barcelona" airport is actually 90 kilometers or so away from the city.

Ryanair: super cheap, just make sure you read everything.

Now, IF you aren't checking any bags and have actually measured your carry on to make sure it fits requirements and IF you've read the fine print and made sure you covered all your bases and know where you're going, then easyJet and Ryanair make for cheap, quick ways to get from point A to point B. 

Boarding often includes taking a bus to the far reaches of an airfield, followed
closely by a mad sprint to the stairs by people who so desperately want
their very special most favorite seat on the plane.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Moving House

As we're getting ready to make the big move back to America I thought it would be good to remind ourselves that this isn't the first time we've moved since setting foot in Germany. 

In late spring of 2011 we had a realization.

We were going to need another bedroom.

So the apartment search began. In the end we ended up moving from our first apartment at Brockhausstrasse 4 down the street and around the corner to Rödelstrasse 18. It's going to be really nice to move back to the states where I can pronounce my own address.

Our balcony on Brockhausstrasse, a place where many a meal was eaten.

The view from the balcony. Notice the lovely courtyard. We discovered
after the first winter that the grass is quite sensitive to dog urine. When the
snow finally melted away, all the times that the dogs had taken advantage
of the courtyard on a dark, cold evening were obvious. You could have
played connect the dots with yellow circles of dead grass. It regrew.

The main bedroom at our second apartment had a door to the back balcony.
Note the view through the window. I love being able to live in the city
and wake up to nothing but green leaves outside my bedroom window.

The view from the back balcony. Despite the buildings to the side, we had
no buildings directly behind us. Just trees.

This is our back courtyard at our Rödelstrasse apartment.
The dogs never went back there. 
This is the right side view off our front balcony. I wrote about this before.
Having a grocery store across the street was great. And although we're on a
busy street, we have extra thick windows that keep the road noise down to almost nothing.