Friday, August 31, 2007

Carter's First Two-Wheeler

Carter got his first bicycle yesterday. Notice this bike doesn't have any pedeals. In German, it's called das laufrad -- which is literally the running wheel or impeller. These bikes are extremely popular here and toddlers all over the city have them. I did see them in the US before we left and they are called Balance Bikes at home. Essentially he just sits on the seat and runs with his legs to propel the bike forward, very good at teaching the concept of balance. Though Carter is not smiling in the picture (due to intense concentration), he is thrilled with his new bike and did not want to get off it to go to bed last night. And, it was the first thing he asked for this morning.

I am very impressed by his concern for safety. Carter has no issue with wearing a helmet. He was also very aware of cars coming down the road and always moved quickly back to the driveway if a car was anywhere on our street. Carter's helmet barely fits his big noggin. I think I may have to upgrade to an adult small!

I think by next week, Carter will be so fast on this little bike that I will be cursing myself for getting it for him as I run after him down the street.

PS - someone commented on the lack of bike helmets in an earlier photo of me and Carter on a bike on vacation. I would like to point out that we rented bikes in The Netherlands and were unable to rent helmets with the bikes. I guess the Dutch are as carefreee about bike safety as they are about drugs and sex. Ironically, there are as many bikes in The Netherlands as there are people.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Peanut Butter!!!

I snapped this picture while Carter was eating apples and peanut butter. He ended up with peanut butter all over his face (obviously), on his pants, in his hair. What a huge mess.

At least he was eating fruit.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Carter's 2nd Birthday

Cars, Cars, Cars. It's all about the Cars. That's Cars with a capital "C" as in Cars the Disney-Pixar movie. Carter is obsessed. The only thing that can compete is The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

For Carter's birthday, Nana sent (among other things) 3 Cars. In an effort to avoid an overload of cars, we decided to ration them out, 1 per day. This only led to Carter thinking that he gets a new car everyday. Oops. Big plan back fired. What's worse is that Ben and I are doing nothing to fix it. We are only making it worse. You see, Carter also got the Race Track/Storage Case combo for his birthday and now we are all obsessed with filling the storage case with all the appropriate Cars. when Carter gets home from school, he asks for his "car surprise." I guess we can only blame ourselves (or Disney!).

Sticking with the Cars theme, we also got Carter Mack the Truck for his birthday. He insists on sleeping with it now (displacing Mater to the bedside table).

Monday, August 20, 2007

Frühstück = Breakfast

How silly of me to forget -- what was once a huge staple for the Gale Family -- BAGELS! That really should be #1 on our "What we miss" list. Back in Michigan, we would go to Einstein Bagels every Saturday and Sunday morning. We went so often that we actually made friends with other regulars. After moving to Germany, we were at a loss on how to start our weekend mornings...there are no bagels stores to go to in order to start our day.

In fact, there are no breakfast places to go to at all! No place for pancakes or French toast. No place for an omlet. No place for eggs over easy with a side of wheat toast. And, of course, no place for bagels. We have pined for Einstein's, Angelo's (in Ann Arbor), Leo's Coney Island. Heck, even a Bob Evans would do. I don't even think the McDonald's here serves an egg McMuffin. Alas, no breakfast joint here at which we could become regulars. So I ask the Germans, why even have a word for breakfast when you don't even serve the meal?

Desperate for a weekend ritual substitute, we have developed a new habit of walking to the bakery on Sunday mornings (one of the few things open) after eating a regular ol' bowl of cereal. At the bakery, we pick out some sort of yummy pastry for a mid-afternoon snack. Carter quickly learned that a smile will get him a free cookie at the bakery and now expects one every time. Yesterday, upon receiving a cookie, I prompted him: "Carter, what do you say?" His answer: "Yummy!" Hmmm, not exactly the "thank you" or "danke" that I was looking for but it got a smile out of the bakery lady.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

10 Things We Miss Most

Now that we've been here for 7 straight weeks, we feel we have the right to say what we miss about home (friends and family are assumed so that´s why they aren't on the list):
  1. Garbage disposals
  2. Screens on windows
  3. Corn on the Cob
  4. Air conditioning
  5. Low Fat Salad Dressings, peanut butter, and dairy
  6. Stores open on Sundays
  7. Starbucks, Costco, Target, and Old Navy
  8. Non-smoking sections of restaurants
  9. 2 car Garage
  10. College Football

Though this list will most likely change over the next 2 years, here´s our initial top 10 things that we will miss about Germany when we move home:

  1. Kolsch
  2. Stores closed on Sundays
  3. A 10 minute train ride into the city center
  4. Delicious pastries (himbeer croissants, nougat croissants)
  5. Asparagus season
  6. Being so close to so many other countries and cultures
  7. Our Landlord´s garden
  8. More moderate climate
  9. TBD
  10. TBD

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Great Fares on Northwest to Dusseldorf

We would love some visitors and there are great fares on Northwest to Dusseldorf (or Frankfurt). Tickets must be booked by August 21 (so act quickly!) and travel must occur between November 07 and March 08.

We could use some visitors in late November/early December or in the New Year!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Backyard BBQ

Phew...we had a huge party at our house yesterday...40 people! Houses are small here compared to the US and so fortunately the weather cooperated and we were able to use the yard. I think we had 28 adults and 12 kids. It was a zoo! These were all other Ford ISE families from the US so we had a traditional US style BBQ. We decided to host the party on a Sunday since there is nothing else to do on Sundays but in retrospect it would have been nice to do it on a Saturday so we could have Sunday to recover.

Pictures to be added soon.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Gales in Deutschland - Now with VoIP Goodness!!

Well, it only took two companies and over a month, but our VoIP finally works. We were originally with Sunrocket, the "no hassle" phone company. Evidently they don't consider going out of business to be a hassle. I was able to find a new company that would let us port our old phone number and use the same hardware that we already had. So, almost one month after signing up with them, our number finally works. It's the same as our old home phone in Michigan. If you don't have that number, email us or leave a comment on this post. PLEASE REMEMBER that we are 6 hours ahead of Eastern time zone.

That being said, please call. We miss everybody and would love to hear news from all our friends and family in the US.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Family Vacation

Just back from a family vacation. We spent 4 nights/5 days at a family vacation village called De Huttenheugte (part of the Center Parcs villages) in The Netherlands. We had a blast. So much fun to have undivided attention to give to Carter...something that I'm sad to say neither Ben nor I have had in the past couple of months as we have been wrapped up in the move.

The accomodations were a little more rustic than we hoped for but the time with Carter more than made up for it. We spent most of our time there riding bikes and swimming. Though you'll see in the pictures that Carter appeared unhappy in the pool, he warmed up to it and even had the courage to jump from the edge of the pool into Daddy's waiting arms. We played ourselves to exhaustion and Carter got to the point of asking for naps or to go to bed at night. In addition to the swimming and biking, there was a very cute petting zoo that Carter loved...especially the goats.

After the 5 days at Center Parcs, we spent a night in Münster, Germany and toured the Münsterland region. This area is know for Wasserburgs, moated castles.

Haus Huslhoff

Burg Vischering

Schloss Nordkirchen

PS - Happy 32nd Birthday, Ben!