Friday, July 21, 2006

I knew I was forgetting something

Before this mega-vacation, I made lists and checked them twice in Santa Claus fashion, and then I checked them again. Something always falls through the cracks though, and this time that something is a picture.

Today is Mike's 14th birthday, and I forgot to bring along a baby photo to display here in his honor. Oh, crap, come to think of it, I also forgot to bring the video camera and the tape that we use to record a few minutes of him on each of his birthdays. I will catch up on all of this once we're home in Kentucky.

We've had a total blast in Florida. My sister took off some time from work, and we've been able to spend it visiting. We went to St. Augustine, to the beach, and to Orlando. Today we're picking up Fred at the airport and going out to dinner for Mike's birthday. Tomorrow is the Boyd family reunion in Tampa, followed by several days in Sarasota, followed by some time in Alabama for Fred's mom's family reunion. I had hoped to be posting pics along the way, but I'm just too busy. The kids start school August 1. I can get caught up then.

See you next month!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Who, me? Jet-lagged?

This was the scene on my parents' couch last Wednesday night after we got back from the airport:

Annabelle and I were feeling a little bit jet-lagged. The cat--she's just a nap opportunist.

My sister was here for a long weekend, and we've had a blast. I hope to get photos posted soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Germany in my rear-view mirror

Well, our last couple of days in Germany have been really nice. I've had a little wine and a lot of Italian ice cream (twice today!). We haven't done anything wildly exciting, but I've had lots of time to visit with my friends, which was great. On Monday, Amy and I met Doris and Sibylle for lunch (Thai food--sorry, Gretchyn, forgot to take a picture). Yesterday, we took Phil's Thunderbird over to Heidelberg and met our friend Jane for a 4-hour lunch.

Today the bags are packed, and we're ready for our flight back to the States. I'm sad to go but excited about the Florida portion of our summer vacation. I'm especially excited about seeing Fred again. Not having him here has been the one defect in an otherwise perfect holiday.

See you all on the other side of the Great Pond!

Monday, July 10, 2006

The days, they are a-flyin'

Thursday, 7/6th: Annabelle and I walked into Käfertal in the morning to find a yarn needle so I can graft the toe to my newest knitted sock. Along the way, we found this quaint little house:

We wound up at the Mini Mal, so we went ahead and got the fixings for a great picnic lunch. Annabelle also got this cool World Cup hat for 5 euros (I saw it in downtown Heidelberg later in the week for 15!):

We took our picnic lunch and headed over to Miramar to meet my friends Jutta and Iris and their kids. The pictures on my camera of the 3 of us girls didn't come out very good, so I'm waiting to see if Iris had any better luck with hers. I'm kicking myself for not having grabbed all the kids together for a group photo, but here's a picture of Mike and Annabelle with Iris's kids:

And here's one of Mike, sporting some seriously crazy hair:

Friday, 7/7th: Annabelle and I rode the streetcar:

over to Heidelberg to meet my friend Jennifer for sushi:

After lunch, we walked all the way down the main street of town to catch a glimpse of the castle ruins:

and then we shopped our way back up the street:

By the time we got back to the streetcar stop to head home, our arms were aching from carrying all our bags. The biggest score of the day was a pair of Josef Seibel shoes for Annabelle for 20 euros (about $25 bucks). Seibel shoes sell for $100+ back in the States. (Yes, Fred, even in Europe, I am saving you billions of dollars . . . by buying stuff!)

All the pictures from that day, including lots of shots of downtown Heidelberg and one really cute one of Jennifer with her son Asher, are here.

Saturday, 7/8th: I took Annabelle up to Hanau on the train to drop her off for a sleepover with her friend Autumn, who used to live across the street from us here in Mannheim. It was a quick and easy trip, but it reminded me of how much I love riding the trains over here and how much I wish that we had more time so as to squeeze in more traveling. Annabelle and Autumn were very happy to see each other:

Sunday, 7/9th: Not much to report. I spent a lot of the day starting to sort our stuff for the trip back to the States on Wednesday.

Last night we watched the final game of the World Cup. I was cheering for France, and you see how well that turned out for the French. I think I could have a lucrative career. Say you're a fan of Team X--you could pay me to root for Team Y. If I'm going to be cursed, I think I should at least be able to profit from it.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

"We're number three! We're number three!"

The rodents really got into World Cup fever. They made a couple friends and drank way too much beer:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Duck . . . duck . . . goose?

If you've been going through my daily photo albums at Image Station, you have probably seen a lot of pictures of a pair of rather odd-looking birds. They are Egyptian geese, and they seem to have taken up residence here in Grant Circle. Apparently "ducks" are to "Tony Soprano" as "Egyptian geese" are to "me," because I can't stop taking their picture!

On Sunday when my friend Sibylle was over and we were sitting outside enjoying the beautiful day, I was concerned to see that there was only one goose, and I wondered what had happened to the other. Well, I guess she must have been otherwise occupied, because as of Tuesday, there were 2 new geese:

I saw a hawk take a pass at one of the babies, but Daddy Goose chased him off. I really hope I don't have to witness any "circle of life" moments.

Check out this brief video clip of the geese. Make sure you have your speakers on, because these birds are NOISY!

Day to day stuff

Monday, 7/3d: The kids and I went downtown to do a little shopping. Mike wanted a World Cup jersey, and Annabelle wants anything related to Diddl Maus. It was hot though and downtown Mannheim is apparently under construction, so we didn't stay for long.

We did stay long enough though for me to lose the kids in Kaufhof! I stopped to pay and they said they were going to go look at something, and the next thing I knew they were gone. I knew they were fine, but after a few minutes I started to feel panicky. After all, none of us were carrying cellphones. They had no money. And they have only limited German skills, so even if I had them paged, were they going to understand the announcement? Finally I did have the cashier put in a call for them: "Zwei kinder, Michael und Annabelle blah blah blah . . . " It worked though, and the next thing I knew, 2 very indignant kids were coming down the escalator demanding to know WHY ON EARTH I hadn't thought to look for them upstairs in the toy department.

That evening, I got a tremendous craving for icecream, so Annabelle and I set off on a little walking tour of Käfertal. Lots of places were closed since it was Monday, but we finally found a little pizzeria, where I was able to get my Spaghetti Eis. Here is the waitress pushing the icecream through the pasta press:

On our way home, we found Eddie's German twin:

Daily photos are here.

Tuesday, 7/4th: I went out for Indian food (yum!) with my friend Sibylle, and then we spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. The kids and I walked back into Käfertal to the pizzeria Annabelle and I had found the night before and grabbed a (relatively) quick bite to eat.

We made it home just in time for the beginning of the Germany-Italy World Cup game. I mostly hunkered in the kitchen and called out occasionally for Annabelle to give me an update. By 10:30 nobody had scored, so I felt it was safe to leave and go see the 4th of July fireworks. We returned just in time to see Germany defeated, which was just crushing. If you had told me a month ago that I would be this depressed over a soccer game, I would have asked you to please share some of whatever wacky drugs you were smoking.

I've got some fireworks photos and videos here.

Wednesday, 7/5th: Hot, hot, and hot! Too hot, in fact, to do much of anything other than turn on the portable A/C and sit in front of it all afternoon, knitting and watching the first season of the BBC version of "The Office." Nothing worth taking a picture of.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fed up with yellow ribbons

Every morning while I'm visiting in Germany, I start the day with the Stars and Stripes, which regularly lists the names of servicemembers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back home in Kentucky, these names are apparently worthy of mention only if the deceased hailed from Kentucky or Indiana. Over here, as you enter the post, you see welcome-home banners hanging from the fence, and when you walk around the neighborhoods, you see blue-star banners peeking out of plenty of windows, each one signifying a loved one who is deployed. Pick up the post newspaper, and you will see joyful photos of units coming home evenly matched with the sorrowful photos of those who are being sent out. What do you see back home? Stupid yellow ribbon magnets on cars.

It's abundantly clear to me over here, where the war is so visible on a day-to-day basis, that most Americans are comfortably insulated from the war (even those with the afore-mentioned stupid yellow ribbon magnets) and that the only people who are sacrificing ANYTHING for this war are the same ones who are either fighting it or giving up their loved ones to fight it.

The Army has been suffering lately from a severe lack of funds. Temporary workers have been fired, and those left behind are under pressure to pick up the slack. Lots of installations haven't had the money to mow the grass in the common areas. Heck, Fort Sam Houston can't pay it's power bill! Word on the street here in Mannheim is that the reason quarters are sitting empty for so long is that Housing doesn't have the money to bring workers in to clean and repair the units between occupants. Meanwhile, incoming soldiers and their families are stuck for longer and longer periods in hotels and temporary quarters. It's hard in the face of all of this to feel anything but contempt for the sheer impotence of the yellow ribbon magnets.

At the same time though, I have some degree of sympathy for the ribbon-magnet people. After all, short of enlisting themselves (which, hey, soon you will be able to do up to the ripe young age of 42! Doesn't THAT just open a host of put-up-or-shut-up opportunities for a certain demographic?), what can they do? The civilians left behind in World War II rationed gasoline and sugar. They bought war bonds and grew victory gardens. They DIDN'T slap a yellow ribbon on the ol' SUV and call it a day! But what is there for us to do, short of displaying the ribbon while we drive for our Disney vacation to let the terrorists know that they haven't won?

Well, I have an idea. What if we imposed an additional tax on gasoline, one that would go specifically for short-term defense funding? There would be a certain harmonic balance in seeing an oil-driven war paid for at least in part by the consumption of that black gold.

Not likely to happen though, is it? Raise the price of gasoline even higher, and then voters might get angry and politicians would get voted out of office. And how sad would THAT be?! Meanwhile servicemembers and their families will continue to take it in the shorts, and our fellow Americans will continue to memorialize our sacrifice on the bumpers of their cars.

Happy 4th of July--if I sound bitter, it's probably because I am.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Catching up

Wednesday, 6/28th: We made a quick trip to the local mall in the morning to pick up a few things. I was amazed to see that my beloved mall now has a Starbucks. And is this a giant foosball table, or what?

After the mall, Amy and I picked up the kids, and we all headed over to Heidelberg with them to meet Phil at an office hail and farewell. Some really good friends of mine are leaving Germany for the States and the Army for retirement, and it was lots of fun to be there to wish them well. I also got to meet some of the summer interns, which was lots of fun.

That evening we went to the German-American fest that happens each summer here on post in Mannheim. We pigged out on fest foods like potato pancakes and chocolate crepes.

All photos are here.

Thursday, 6/29th: Amy and I walked across the field to Gartenstadt to enjoy a nice, leisurely breakfast of Broetchen with butter and jam. After breakfast, we encountered the sweetest little squirrel on our walk home. Shield your eyes from the brilliant cuteness:

My friend (and loyal reader) Robin is getting ready to move back to the States, so I rode with her and her kids out to Heppenheim so that she could pay her electric bill. Heppenheim is a cute little town, and we had a lot of fun wandering around. I had the most amazing pork cutlet with mushroom gravy and potato croquettes for lunch and Spaghetti Eis for dessert.

One neat thing about Heppenheim is the series of street lights that depict scenes from German folk tales, such as "The Lawyer and the Devil":

All photos for the day are here.

Friday, 6/30th: Amy and I spent the better part of the at the mall on Friday. I got some new CDs (like the soundtrack to "Mama Mia" in German), and we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant we used to go to all the time.

The main event of the day, however, was the soccer game between Germany and Argentina. I am quite possibly the least-interested-in-any-and-all-sports person on this entire planet, but the excitement surrounding the World Cup is positively contagious.

After the game, we all walked into Käfertal for a celebratory dinner. Here's Annabelle demonstrating her team spirit:

The streets were full of people joyriding around, shouting and waving their German flags:

Mike's new favorite German drink is cola-beer. It's really not as disgusting as it sounds. I asked the waitress to make it more cola than beer, but then Mike got all offended, and she was winking at him and promising to take care of him. So this could be anything from mostly cola with a little alcohol-free beer for flavor to mostly real beer with a little cola for color:

All photos are here.

Saturday and Sunday, 7/1st and 7/2d: We had a nice, lazy weekend. Saturday night the kids and I went over to Mike's friend Will's house for supper. Phil and Amy and Rebecca left for their Norwegian fjord cruise (yes, I'm insanely jealous) late Saturday night. And yesterday my friend Sibylle came over with her son and brought a huge German breakfast. Nothing major to report for the weekend--just a lot of eating and talking, 2 of my very favorite things.