Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Hello!  Long time, no write.  To be fair to myself, I’ve certainly had lots of good excuses for not posting.  At some point, I need to fill you all in on the whole repatriation and the holidays.  We’ve got a ton to share with you. 

BUT, for now, I’m just here to say that I haven’t forgotten about all of you and hopefully you haven’t forgotten about us. 

A very belated Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to all of you.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Insomnia, Suicidal Laptops, & a Cute Video

I can't sleep.  I woke up at 4:30 am and couldn't go back to sleep thanks to all the things running through my head.

In addition to all the other, expected things that are on my mind (see previous post), my work laptop decided to kick the bucket yesterday.  I was working on it at the kitchen table when I heard a *pop* and then about 10 minutes later my computer locked up.  A computer lock up is no big deal...a simple, albeit irritating, reboot and all is well. Right?

Right? Hello?

Not so much.

My laptop started to boot but then the screen went blank except for the message "Missing Operating System."

Now I'm no IT expert, but I know that's not good.

So with all this sleep not happening, I've spent some quality time during the wee hours of this morning on our (gasp!) desktop computer in the basement.  I've researched various bakeries in the area to see which ones will be open today. I have mentally prepared my order that I need to place for our going away party at work on Monday.

side note -- It is German culture to throw your own party at work.  This includes the "I just joined your group so come have coffee and cake at my desk so I get to know you" parties, birthday parties, going away parties, etc.  Like I don't have enough other $#*% to do right now, I have to arrange for a joint going away party for me and Ben.

Anyway, I've been on the computer for awhile this morning and I've been working on catching up on my Google Reader items and came across a cute video.  You should all know by now that I'm a Breast Cancer Awareness advocate and so when I stumbled across this video, I though I should share.

Some employees at the Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon put together a music video to promote Breast Cancer Awareness.  It's a cute video and looks like they had a lot of fun making it.

Here's hoping your search for slumber has been more successful than mine.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Help! Valium Needed...

So the panic has started to set in.  We have 3 days until the movers come.  There is so much to do.  We have work obligations, we have social obligations, we need to organize, purge, clean, pack.  I have ridiculous amounts of laundry because the idea of packing up anything dirty just makes me shudder. 
If it wouldn't hamper my progress on the afore-mentioned things, I would be drinking copius amounts of red wine right now.  And tomorrow, and the next day, and every day until we get on that plane.

Was I this stressed when we moved here?  Somehow I am remembering that I was better organized...maybe that's just selective memory at work.

Perhaps it's the added stress of moving over the holidays.  I still have Christmas and Hanukkah gifts to purchase.  Oh, speaking of gifts, I need to get "thank you" gifts for Carter's teachers. 

I've already stopped feeling guilty about not keeping up with the blog and not responding to emails from friends and family in a timely manner.

Despite the lists and piles and planning, I have never felt more scatterbrained in my life.  Probably not true, by that's what it feels like.  My brain could seriously benefit from some ADD medication right now.

If you are thinking of us at all, you should be feeling sorry for Ben and Carter for having to put up with me during this next week. I'm sure I'll be testing the limits of their patience over the next couple of days.

Fortunately, we get to fly home first class.  Hopefully during the 9 hour flight I can decompress and will be back to normal (albeit jetlagged) by the time we touch down in Detroit.

OK, now I know there's some chocolate around here somewhere...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lego Countdown Calendar

You are likely all aware of Carter's fascination with Legos (really, the whole family is obsessed). Well, Lego makes an Advent calendar every year and each of the 24 doors opens to a small Lego (usually a max of about 10 pieces).

Last year we used the calendar for the countdown until we flew home for the holidays. This year we are using it as the countdown to the movers. Last night was the first night. We only have 23 nights left in the house.

"Aargh!  Get packing or I'll make you walk the plank..."

PS - The Carter picked out the Pirate themed Advent calendar (pictured above) this year.  I was pushing for the Lego City theme which would coordinate with much of his Lego collection already.  He has nothing pirate related nor has he ever shown any interest in pirates. Until now.   My whole point of telling you this is to tell you that this set retails for $55 on and we picked it up for 12 euros here in Germany.  That kid is smart...he somehow picked the "rare in the US" edition.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

38 days!

It's totally official now.  We have the movers scheduled and our plane tickets booked.  We will officially be re-patriated as of December 11, 2009 at 5pm.  OK, so maybe we won't actually be through passport control and customs until closer to 6pm. 

We only have 38 days left over here.  It's a huge rollercoaster of emotions.  We are so excited to be moving home to be close to family and friends.  I'm excited to be able to shop at Target and Costco again...and even on a Sunday if I so choose.   But, there are so many things that we will miss about Germany/Europe.  The bread and the beer, for example.  And, of course, we'll miss the travel opportunities.

Oh my gosh, only 38 days. 

I have so much I need to get done. 

Aside from all of the work related stuff that I need to wrap up, we need to get our house organized.  So many decisions:  what's coming home with us on the plane?  What's going in our 770 lb air shipment?  What's going by sea shipment?  What do we need to sell / give away here in Germany (vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, iron, lamps, lawn mower, etc)? 

I can't even begin to think about Christmas shopping. 

Ahhh...I don't have time to be blogging with you people.  I've got stuff to do!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Soup's On

We have been in a cooking frenzy here in the Gale household.  I pulled out a recipe that I've been wanting to make for a long time:  No Cream Creamy Broccoli Soup.  Again this is from my favorite place for super easy recipes:  Kraft.

If any of you have been to Panera with me, you know that I absolutely love their Broccoli Cheese Soup in a bread bowl.  No, I'm not saying this is as good as that...but it's not a bad substitute. 

No Cream Creamy Broccoli Soup

1 cup chopped carrots (about 2 medium)
1 cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
3/4 cup chopped onions (about 1 medium)
3 Tbsp. oil
2 cans (14-1/2 oz. each) fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp. pepper
4-1/2 cups broccoli florets (about 2 small bunches)
1/2 cup instant white rice, uncooked
2 cups milk
1/4 cup KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese

(1)  Cook and stir carrots, celery and onions in hot oil in large saucepan on medium-high heat 5 min. Add broth and pepper; stir. Bring to boil.
(2)  Stir in broccoli and rice. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 10 to 15 min. or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.
(3) Add soup, in batches, to blender or food processor; cover. Blend until pureed. Return soup puree to saucepan. Add milk and cheese; cook until heated through, stirring occasionally.

It was definitely a least amongst the adults.  Carter opted for fish sticks instead (he's really not much of a soup eater).  Ben ate 3 bowls, easily exceeding his Vitamin A & C requirements for the day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What's Cooking?

Many of you have asked what my little (half) naked chef was making in a previous post.  Carter was helping me with CornBread Muffins.  Ben had made a batch of chili (which he'll hopefully post about soon) and so we thought cornbread would be the perfect counterpart.  This is a recipe that I found at

Golden Sweet Cornbread

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

(1)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spray or lightly grease a 9 inch round cake pan.
(2)  In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Stir in egg, milk and vegetable oil until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.
(3) Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Instead of baking in a cake pan, I used a mini-muffin tin for (nearly) bite sizes muffins.  By doing this, the baking time is greatly reduced so monitor them carefully.

And, no, I don't have any pictures.  We ate them too quickly!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Move Over Jamie Oliver...

There's a new Naked Chef in town!

OK, he's not naked. BUT, he's definitely cooking without any pants.

Monday, October 19, 2009

E-Mail Me!

I have added an "E-Mail Me" button over on the top left corner of this blog.  Just click on the button to open up an email message to me.  I continue to hear that people are having difficulties posting comments.  If you could, please send me the error message you are getting.  This will help me better understand the issue.  I've been doing some research to see if this is a recurring issue with Blogger or if it's just me.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Supper #10

We are officially a couple of weeks into autumn and, here in Cologne, that means rain.  Lots of cold, damp rain.  This is the perfect weather for soup, chili, and the crock pot.  This Sunday I will be sharing with you a delicious recipe from Better Homes and Gardens for Buffalo Chicken Soup.  Hopefully in the coming weeks I can share some of my favorite slow cooker meals and maybe I can get Ben to post his chili recipe.

Buffalo Chicken Soup

1 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 lb. deli-roasted chicken, skinned, boned, and coarsely shredded
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 14-oz. cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. bottled hot pepper sauce
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (6 oz.)
1-1/4 cups crumbled blue cheese (5 oz.)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (2 oz.)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Bottled hot pepper sauce (optional)

1. In 4-quart Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat. Add celery and onion; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in broth, milk, and the 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce.

2. In bowl toss together mozzarella, 1 cup of the blue cheese, Parmesan, and flour. Add gradually to soup, stirring after each addition just until melted. Stir in three-fourths of the shredded chicken; heat through. Top with remaining chicken, blue cheese, and hot sauce.

Makes 6 servings.

Of course, I am always tweaking the recipe.  Here are the changes I make:
  • I cook a couple of chicken breasts in the oven instead of buying a deli-roasted chicken from the grocery (about 25-30 minutes at 350 F)
  • I double up the celery and onion...both 1 cup (roughly) each.
  • Increase the amount of hot pepper sauce (we use Frank's).  The small amount the recipe calls for is completely undetectable. 
  • Since we are not fans of blue cheese, I use cheddar instead.  Of course this takes away some of the flavor or "tang," but we make up for it.
  • I serve with a bottle of Buffalo Wild Wings Hot sauce.  Everyone can add as much/little as they want according to their ability to handle spice (here's where we make up for not having the blue cheese flavor...we compensate with hot sauce).
  • Note:  shredding the chicken is the worst part of this recipe.  Once, I threw the chicken into the food processor to cut it up into tiny little pieces but the texture just wasn't the same.  It's worth the time it takes to shred.  I have also found it's easier to shred by hand.  You can at least do this in front of the TV on a Sunday afternoon watching the game.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Little Something I Made

MDF picture frame, acrylic paint, a napkin with an interesting pattern, Mod Podge, grosgrain ribbon.  Super easy!    (The picture is of my brother and his two adorable kids.)

Here's a close up (not exactly in focus) of the edges with the grosgrain ribbon.

I think I may do one with a polka dot print next and will maybe turn it into a tutorial.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


We have had a ton of rain lately. In Michigan, the joke is that there are two seasons: winter & construction. I feel the same about Cologne -- except the two seasons are summer & rain. This disgusting crop of mushrooms in our backyard popped up OVERNIGHT!

On the other hand, our driveway looks incredible with all the bright green moss in between the brick pavers. I actually think that this is frowned upon by the Germans. There is not another driveway in our small neighborhood with moss growing in it. If I were a proper German, I would be outside bright and early (but not on a Sunday) scraping the moss out from between the pavers.

Of course there are a slew of other signs that we are not German:  our lawn that is desperately overdue for a mow, the dead leaves in the street in front of our house, the weeds in the garden, and plants in need of "dead-heading."

What about you?  What are you neglecting in your yard?

As a reminder, leave your comments.  Every comment in the month of October earns $0.50 for Breast Cancer Research.

Pedal Bike!

I'm not even sure I need to say anything here...other than I am so proud of him.

Special thanks to Gus Johnson who grew out of his bike and loaned it to Carter to try out.

Sunday Supper #9

Hi everybody, it's Ben. Here to let you all know that I can cook too. Now, to be fair, most of my meals involve cooking meat over fire so there is usually not much to write about. Mother nature doesn't always cooperate with the grilling weather so here is one of my indoor favorites. Nothing beats Cottage pie on a cold rainy autumn day. That is exactly what we were dealing with this last Sunday.

Follow the jump to view the recipe.

Friday, October 09, 2009

House Shopping

It should be no surprise to anyone that I've already starting looking at homes for sale back home in Michigan via the web.  Nearly every day I see what's listed at or  To be honest, I'm getting sick of the same old houses that have been on the market for months and months.  There are so many in foreclosure that are empty and neglected and sold "as is."  There are many more that are short sales which are famous for taking months and months for the paperwork to be processed and so we are trying to steer clear of those.   There's really not much out there that I'm even interested in seeing in person.  It's quite depressing.

Then the other day, I found a website that highlights all the ridiculous homes on the market (worldwide).  Check out for a couple of good laughs.  Actually, I find it hilarious!  It's everything strange you might see in a real estate listing from poor decorating taste to realtors taking terrible pictures to just plain junky homes.  Or as the website defines itself:  "Odd finds in Real Estate Listings."

This is one of my favorites:  I love that there's a dedicated bathroom sink...because you couldn't just use the kitchen sink 6 feet away.  You'll understand what I'm saying when you look at the pic.

This makes me wish I had a camera with me back in 2004 when Ben and I were last looking for a home.  We toured one house which was clearly lived in by a man recently divorced.  It was so obvious that half the stuff in the house was missing...from the way the closet looked like she just took her clothes and ran to the bookshelf with random empty spots where she took anything that interested her.  The icing on the cake, though, was the master bedroom.  There were candy wrappers on the floor around the unmade bed and porn videos sitting on the dresser.

Sigh...I'm not looking forward to house hunting in ernest.  If only I could just click my heels together and already be moved into our new home...wherever that may be.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Future of this Blog

I've been thinking a lot recently about what I should do with this blog when we move home. Should I keep it going and simply rename it? Would I have as much to write about? I think that without the lure of pictures from fun destinations, perhaps no one will want to read it. And since we'll be home, my mother won't need to get Carter updates as she will be able to get them in person.

Is anyone even interested in my craft projects (few and far between as the may be) or recipe sharing? So I'm looking to you, my readers (all 12 of you) to give me some feedback. What do you want to see in the new year? Yes, yes, I realize that's 3 months away but -- you know me -- I love to plan stuff. Besides, it will take me that long to come up with a new name. I mean, it will be so hard to top the creativity of "The Gale Family in Deutschland."

Don't forget to leave your comments...every comment earns 50 cents for breast cancer research.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Gross, Lice!

Someone at Carter's school has lice.  How gross is that?

Last week someone was diagnosed with chicken pox (fortunately Carter has had the vaccination) and now this week someone has headlice.  I guess it's a common problem in daycares and preschools (and camp) but I still can't get past the idea that it's due to general  uncleanliness.  I have not stopped itching since I found out. 

Carter does not appear to have any sign of it but I still want to burn everything of his that was at school in the past week.

Have you or your kids had lice?

PS - don't forget that I'm donating 50 cents to breast cancer research for every comment my blog gets this month.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Lucerne, Switzerland

We just had a fabulous long weekend in Lucerne, Switzerland.  We originally planned this trip two years ago.  Exactly 2 years ago we went to Legoland.  We had a blast but Carter came down with a fever.  We had plans to continue on to Switzerland (including Lucerne) but ended up cancelling the rest of the trip.  Two years later, we finally were able to make it a reality.

We stayed right in the heart of the Old Town.  It's mainly a pedestrian only area with lots of restaurants and shops.   The famous Chapel Bridge was just a two minute walk.  The first night in town, we ate at a touristy fondue restaurant.  We thought Carter would love it.  Turns out he wasn't a huge fan of the cheese fondue (wasn't cheddar cheese or cream cheese...the only two that matter). But no surprise, he devoured the chocolate fondue and bananas.  Of course, Carter was bouncing off the walls the rest of the evening.

On Saturday morning there was a beautiful Farmer's Market along the river.  I could have spent all morning there wandering the stalls and seeing all the fresh food and flowers. 

Carter was not the least bit interested in the Farmer's Market but was rather OBSESSED with the swans.  There were easily 30 swans on the river right at the bridge and Carter could not get enough of them.  Especially exciting were the "kid" swans.  There were two light gray colored swans that were clearly still young-uns.

On Sunday, we visited Mount Pilatus.  We did the Golden Round Trip which involves taking a boat from Lucerne across Lake Lucerne to Alpnachstad, going up on the cogwheel railway, coming down on the aerial cableways and panorama gondolas, and taking a bus back to Lucerne (this is all depicted on the graphic below but it's really hard to read).  This was an all day excursion.

The views were absolutely amazing. Mt. Pilatus has it's highest peak at about 7000 feet. There were clouds below the peak. What amazed me is how quickly the clouds came in and then disappeared just as quickly. Since I am somewhat afraid of heights, there were several uncomfortable moments for me. The gondola ride was especially bad for me because it was also extremely crowded. There were probably 40 people crammed in (standing room only style) onto a gondola the size of a small bus. Not only do I have a fear of heights, I'm somewhat claustrophobic...especially when it comes to proximity of people. Fortunately, it was a super fast leg of the trip, lasting only about 5 minutes. Good thing, too, because I'm not sure I breathed during that whole leg of the trip.

Half way down the mountain, we stopped at the sommer-rodelbahn (summer toboggan run).  Think of luge with a sled on wheels and a metal, half-pipe run.  This particular one is 1.4 km long and was soooo much fun.  Carter had a blast and absolutely loved it. We could have spent all day doing it if it was his choice.  Of course we finished with some ice cream.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

October = Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and 2009 happens to be the 25th anniversary.  As you are probably aware (thanks to the "Feel your boobies" button on the right), I am rather passionate about Breast Cancer Awareness.  You may wonder why I'm so passionate about one close to me has ever died from breast cancer.  BUT, the statistics are scary....

From Wikipedia: 
Women in the United States have the highest incidence rates of breast cancer in the world.  Among women in the US, breast cancer is the second-most common cancer (after skin cancer) and the second-most common cause of cancer death (after lung cancer). Women in the US have a 1 in 8 (12.5%) lifetime chance of developing invasive breast cancer and a 1 in 35 (3%) chance of breast cancer causing their death.

Good links to check out:

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

National Breast Cancer Coalition

Feel Your Boobies

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Army of Women

Save the Ta-Tas

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am going to copy Ree from The Hotfessional.  She's donating 10 cents for every comment she receives during the month of October, up to $150.

I’ll contribute $0.50 for every comment I receive during the month of October, up to $200.  
No, I'm not trying to out-do the Hotfessional.  I will be really suprised if can get to $200.  I don't have the number of readers she does, nor will I post everyday like she does.  I will only count 1 comment per person per posting.

Lame Excuses

Ugh, it has been 11 whole days since my last terrible.  All I can say is that the Gale Family has been busy.  We've had the auto show in Frankfurt, my birthday, a long weekend in Hamburg, and several colds in the past 11 days.  Bear with me...I have much to blog about...just need to find the time.  Of course we are headed to Lucerne, Switzerland this weekend which means I'll have more blogging material and no time to do it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy 6th Anniversary

Dear Ben,

Happy Anniversary!  It has only been six years and, yet, I can't remember my life without you.  Or perhaps I don't want to remember my life without you. 

You are funny, incredibly patient with me, and you are a wonderful father.  I am so lucky to have you as my husband. 

Love always,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Few Things From our Backyard

These are just a few of the nasturtiums that are growing in our garden. I didn't plant any of them and not sure about the previous owner. They are popping up everywhere. I even found some pushing up through the lawn. I wish I had captured a better picture of the green leaves. They are the flattest, smoothest leaves ever...despite all the veining. Apparently these are edible but I just can't bring myself to do it.

I'm not sure what this next one is. It's a vine that is growing on the fence between our yard and the neighbor's. The leaves are large, about 6 inches long, and are all perfect hearts.

I just love our Japanese Lanterns. This is a fun plant as it gives little white flowers in the spring and early summer and then these beautiful orange-red papery "lanterns" in the early fall. The poor plant is struggling due to neglect. I simply didn't water it enough during our hot spells. All the green leaves have turned yellow and have fallen from the plant. Fortunately, there are about 15 of these precious lanterns still hanging on.

Sorry to gross you out with this last picture. There must be hundreds of these huge spiders in our yard. Within ten feet from our front door, I was able to count a dozen webs with these ladies on them. It's not the best quality picture as I just couldn't bring myself to get quite close enough (or hold my hand steady enough) for the macro mode to function properly. 

At one point as I was snapping pictures, the spider moved and I screamed and jumped back. Both Ben and Carter laughed at me. It's amazing how brave they can be standing 6 feet away. Try being 6 inches away. Ick. I find spiders soooo disgusting and I'm sure I'll be having some nightmares about these tonight.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I've Been Featured!!

Amy Anderson over at Mod Podge Rocks took a liking to my Ikea stool make over and has featured me on her blog today (see my nice new shiny button over on the right!).  Go over and read what she has to say and then spend some time looking at her other projects for some inspiration.  I know I have a list a mile long of projects I want to do.

Thanks, Amy, you made my day!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Supper #8

I know I'm supposed to be sharing a dinner recipe with you but this week I'm sharing two appetizers. I had my German colleagues over for dinner last Thursday and the following two recipes (courtesy of Kraft Foods) were huge hits.

Hot Spinach Dip

1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
1 cup KRAFT Real Mayo Mayonnaise
1 cup KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 clove garlic, minced

HEAT oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients.
SPOON into 9-inch pie plate or quiche dish.
BAKE 20 min. or until heated through.
Serve with assorted crackers or tortilla chips.

Optional:  Top with 2 Tbsp. chopped roasted red peppers before serving.

Savory Parmesan Bites

1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
2 cans (8 oz. each) refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 cup chopped red peppers
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

HEAT oven to 350°F. Beat cream cheese and 3/4 cup Parmesan with mixer until well blended.

SEPARATE crescent rolls into 8 rectangles; press perforations together to seal. Spread each with 3 Tbsp. cream cheese mixture. Top with peppers and parsley. Fold 1 long side of each dough rectangle over filling to center; fold again to enclose filling. Cut each into 4 squares. Place, seam-sides down, on baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.

BAKE 13 to 15 min. or until golden brown.

Enjoy!!  And, as always, leave me a note if you make these.

(Pictures are taken from the Kraft Foods website.  Thank you Kraft Foods! )

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Travel Planning

So I counted, and we have roughly 12 weeks left here in Germany.  At this point we don't know our exact move home date so I'm just estimating.  That time is just going to fly by.  So hard to believe that it's coming to an end.  Sure it's something we've talked about a lot but for it to be actually happening...

Because of our limited time left, we've been busy planning our final trips.  We've got Hamburg coming up at the end of the month.  We'll be visiting Lucerne, Switzerland the first weekend of October.  We are hoping to take a long weekend in mid-October for Munich (and squeeze in a final trip to Legoland).  First weekend in November will be Budapest, Hungary. And then Thanksgiving weekend (while you are all eating Turkey and watching parades on TV), we'll be in Vienna, Austria. 

As much travel as we have done in the last 2 1/2 years (and will do in the next 3 months), there is still so much more that I want to see. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

German Spelling Bee Nightmare

I received an email at work today with the following German word in it:


Yep, that's 30 letters long.  Can you imagine getting this one during a spelling bee? 

If you are not up on your German, it means Travel Authorization System.  Why it needs to be all one word, I don't know.  The Germans are really into that and to make it worse, most online translators can't handle these complex words.  The only way to translate it is to know enough German to be able to pull out the individual words and look them up. 

Sigh.  This is part of the reason I am far from fluent after 2 years of lessons.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Scrap Paper Notebook

I sit right next to the printer/copier/scanner/fax machine at work.  Not only is it loud (people like to congregate and talk) and hot (people + hard working electronic equipment) but I have really noticed how much paper is wasted.  Sure, sure...this should not be a surprise to anyone working but I mean I REALLY noticed it.  The recycle bin is always overflowing, often to the point of it spilling over the sides onto the floor.

I guess this has made me a little more environmentally conscious and so I've started using scrap paper for much of my note taking at work.  Usually this is the informal kind that happens at my desk when I'm flipping between spread sheets and need to scribble down a couple of numbers so I don't forget them.  Or when I'm on the phone and need to scribble down some info.  If it's important, it will often get transferred to my more official notebook but usually it goes right into the trash/recycle bin minutes later when I no longer need it.    Normally I would use Post-It notes for this type of stuff but I've switched to scrap paper.

There's a problem though.  I'm obsessed with office supplies and I like things to have their place.  OK, maybe that second part isn't entirely true.  BUT, if I have a random stack of scrap paper on my desk, how am I to tell that from the random stack of potentially important work papers?

Then, one night while snuggling Carter back to sleep after a bad dream, I had an a-ha moment.  My Mod Podge project turned out pretty well, so why not try another?  And so my Scrap Paper Notebook came to be.

How did I make this?  I started with an empty box of cereal and cut out rectangles the size I wanted for the covers.  I actually cut out four as each cover is doubled up for stiffness.  I Mod Podged two pieces together to make a cover and then I wrapped in scrapbook paper and used more Mod Podge.  I used a coordinating print for the inside of the cover to cover up the seams.  Finally I coated the whole thing liberally with Mod Podge.  The binder rings that I am using here are too large but it's nearly impossible to find them here in Germany.  I have some smaller ones on order.  This notebook is roughly 8.5" x 6".

I am so happy with the finished product that I have been brainstorming reasons to make more of these.  I can make another one for home for grocery lists and weekly meal plans.  I can put in photo sleeves instead of paper to make a photo album.  I can make a larger one and fill with sheet protectors for a recipe book.  Oh, just think of the possibilities.

Let me know if you want one...I'm just dying for reasons to make more.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


I've been depressed because I've been thinking that you readers don't really love me which is why hardly anyone leaves me any comments.  Then I learned today that some of you have tried to leave comments but haven't been able to.  A-ha! So you do love me.

Apparently I had some setting wrong that limited the comments to registered users or something along those lines.  I have now corrected that (I think) so that anyone can leave a comment (after first being moderated by me to filter out any spam).

So any minute now all those comments should come flooding in, right? 


Is anybody out there?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Who The Heck is in Switzerland??

So I just have to ask...Who is following this from Switzerland?

I was certain it was Ben's cousin, but he's back in California and I've still got a Zurich IP addresses visiting this blog.

Do I have a friend in Switzerland and I don't know it?  I would love to know who you are...but I can't force you to comment or email me if you don't want to be known.

Of course, we are thinking of going to Switzerland in the next month and so if we do have friends there, it would be nice to meet up with them...if only I knew who it was.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

More Random Stuff

This morning as I was drying off from my shower, Carter was using the potty. He looked at me and asked, "Mommy, why is your tushie big?"

Let's just say that I'm looking forward to moving back to the States and getting a master bedroom with an en suite bathroom. And Carter can have his own bathroom. No more sharing.

I had been recently wondering at what age should I not let Carter see me naked. I think I have my answer.


I recently purchased Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts. I have been loving it and am so excited to try a bunch of new projects. Problem is...craft stores here in Germany are terrible. I can't even begin to tell you how much I miss Michaels.

I have also just been kicking myself for sending my sewing machine and scrapbooking supplies to storage and not bringing them over here with me. I guess I thought I would just be sooo busy traveling and living the European life that I wouldn't have time for boring old crafts.

Oh well, I now have a long list of projects for the future.


I'm thinking of becoming a Mormon. I think at least 70% of the blogs I follow are written by Mormon women. These women are superwomen. Not to generalize or anything, but they all have at least 3 kids, churn out a quilt a week, make their kids clothes, have incredibly beautiful children, have fabulously decorated homes, have 4 course meals waiting on the table for dinner when the husband comes home from work, and write wonderful and witty blogs. Perhaps if I were to become Mormon, I could have these traits, too.

Come to think of it, it's either (A) the polygamy thing -- multiple women masquerading as 1 wife in the virtual world. One to cook, one to quilt, one to clean, one to tend to the children, one to blog, all to have children. Or (B) it's really only one woman but she's taking her kid's ADHD medication and has become uber-productive.
Sorry if I have offended any Mormons out there, but seriously, I'm in awe. How do you do it?

Friday, August 28, 2009


Last weekend we took a short trip to Israel. Since we flew out of Frankfurt into Tel Aviv, we had to first take the ICE train to Frankfurt. This is the second time that we have taken the train between Cologne and Frankfurt. It only takes about an hour and it's top speed is282 km/hr (~175 mph). Yes, that's really super fast. The train stops right at the airport. I love convenient.

The Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv is possibly one of the nicest, cleanest airports I have ever visited. To be completely honest, I expected tons of Israeli military wandering about in their fatigues and carrying machine guns. I did not see a single person with a gun. Check out this cool water feature in the middle of the airport. Please note, this is not my picture (I found it on a Google Image search) but I was so impressed with the airport, I wanted to share it with you.

Tel Aviv is right on the Mediterranean Coast and that was our first stop after checking into the hotel and meeting up with the rest of Ben's family. Our plan was just to walk along the beach and then search for a suitable place for dinner. But even the best laid plans are easily derailed by a young child. We walked down to the water and Carter had so much fun playing in the waves. In no time his clothes were totally soaked and so we stripped him down and let him run around naked for a little while.

A side note about the sand. This was the softest, finest sand I have ever experienced. With each step your foot would sink right in . There was no moisture in this sand and so it didn't pack down under your weight. It was also ridiculously hot. I think I actually burned my feet.

On Sunday, we took a day trip to Jerusalem. The old city was amazing. What is amazing is that this is still a living, breathing, functioning part of town. And it's the center of 3 of the largest religions in the world. It's not just a museum or a historical hot spot (like much of Rome). Nearly all the streets are merely narrow alley ways, often covered. These alleys are like a labyrinth through the city and with all the vendors it's like a giant flea market. It was very crowded and very hot.

We did manage to find our way to the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. I had wanted to walk the Stations of the Cross (yes, the actual stations, not just pretty stained glass windows like in many churches) but the heat got to me. After several hours of wandering the alleyways, I was feeling lightheaded and weak. I think I was getting close to heat stroke and so I can only imagine how poor Carter felt.

On Monday morning, Mel took Carter to the beach again. Rebecca took Ben and me to the Carmel Market. This was was amazing...and overwhelming. I am still kicking myself for not bringing my camera because words cannot describe this place. It was like the best farmer's market and flea market in one. I spanned several blocks. You could buy absolutely anything there. One of the most amazing things were the spices. I was a little weirded out by the fact that they are just sitting in huge buckets, open to anyones hand and/or germs. But the colors and the smells were incredible. Thanks to Urban_Hipster at Flickr for allowing her photos to be used.

I am so glad I went to Israel. So many people who have never been think of it as an unsafe place. Though there are many places in Israel that I wouldn't visit (Gaza Strip), Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are safe and enjoyable. Besides, would thousands of Jewish mothers allow their high schoolers to go with Temple Youth Groups every summer if it wasn't safe?
I would like to go back sometime during the spring, when the desert is in bloom and the air is cooler and fresher. I would like to spend a lot more time in Jerusalem, perhaps even get a guided tour so that I could get more details and history.