We Won’t Miss Pt. 1

Although we have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Germany, there are a few things that we won’t miss (and certainly there’s a thing or two we won’t miss about being in the military). In honor of the day we fly back to Texas, I’m beginning our series of what we won’t miss. If you’re reading this, we’re already on our way to Texas!

We won’t miss the lack of Southern hospitality. There is nothing like walking down the street in Texas and waving at random people passing by, nodding hello and the general friendliness of people you run into while out and about. We have really missed that here and cannot wait to be welcomed back to Texas by all the strangers we will pass on the street.

We won’t miss the lack of hot days. In Germany, it’s a hot day if it hits the upper 70s. In Texas, that’s a nice breezy day. We won’t miss the inability to wear flip flops most of the year. We won’t miss the very short outdoor swimming season.

We won’t miss the lack of air conditioning. On those few days that do get up there in temperature, there’s nowhere to go to escape the heat. We set up our bedroom as “the cave” during the summer months. We never open the blinds, our portable A/C is always running (and can barely provide enough air to cool one room) and that is our escape.

We won’t miss living on post. Had it been up to us, we would have chosen to live on the economy and immerse ourselves in the local culture. We would have learned far more German, had better living conditions and overall been happier. We would not have had to deal with endless Army politics even at home. We would not have had to deal with neighbors who never grew up and learned to be responsible.

We won’t miss stairwell living or the thin walls of our apartment. We have heard all sorts of intimate details of our neighbors’ lives from fights to shunned children to the more private matters of the bedroom. We won’t miss knowing a little too much about our neighbors’ private lives.

We won’t miss the Armed Forces Network (AFN), our sole source for television. We do not get regular commercials on there – it’s all PSAs for the military on things ranging from military history to don’t drink and drive. We won’t miss the season-old shows they choose to air, either. However, we may or may not miss our weekend morning programming of Mythbusters, Top Gear and the like.

We won’t miss the lengthy shipping times we face, especially during Christmastime. It’s always hit or miss as to whether our gifts will make it to their destinations by Christmas Day. This year, my gift to John arrived a week late. Bummer.

We will not miss the lack of shops open late into the evening. Most stores around here close by 6. There are a few that stay open until 8 or 9, but that’s a real novelty. I am always amazed by the late store hours when we visit the States.


May 12, 2011 at 2:00 PM 1 comment

We Will Miss Pt. 3

We will miss the seasons. Texas pretty much has one season: summer. Even in the winter, Texans see their daily highs reaching into the 70s sometimes. A 70-degree day here means summer – MAYBE late spring, but really summer. I will enjoy wearing flip flops more often, but I will not miss the joy of seeing the seasons change, particularly the arrival of spring. When spring arrives in Germany, you can walk outside and the air is saturated with the smell of flowers. It’s delicious. In early spring (now), the crocuses and other bulbous plants are making their appearance, which is also delightful. It’s a great reminder that the long, cold, dark, gray winter does not last forever.

We will miss the Heidelberg “hilltains.” They technically are mountains, but they are nothing compared to the Alps, of course. They are also much more than hills when you compare them to the Texas Hill Country. Thus, John and I dubbed them hilltains. It’s nice to look out our windows and see them. Watching the colors of the trees change in the fall on the hills or the green return in the spring is extra special. It is also magical to see the tops of them dusted with snow when we barely got anything down in the city.

We will miss our garden. Just over a year ago, we cleared out a weed-ridden portion by our building, ripped out old decrepit rose bushes and built a raised bed garden. We planted flowers, vegetables, fruit and herbs. We learned a lot about gardening and took great pleasure in checking in on our garden on a daily basis. We also brought back the grass instead of the weeds in the area in front of the garden. Now, with our departure, the only things remaining in that area are the grass, our hydrangea (my favorite flower), chives and our asparagus plant. We were hoping the pepper and pepino would make it through the winter, but I think they’re done for. Anyway, we don’t think anyone will take care of this area once we leave, and it will be sad to know that it will return to the nasty, overgrown, weed-ridden area that it was before we got here.

We will miss the Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas markets) and all the other seasonal festivals: Spargelfest (asparagus fest), the wine festivals, Flugtags (flying dags), etc. Germans like to fest everything. It’s fun! The Christmas markets are definitely our favorite, though. We will miss all the sights, sounds and smells of the markets – particularly the crepes and Glühwein.

We will miss the Kaffeehaus and Schwetzingen. Schwetzingen has held a special place in our hearts since we got here. It’s a cute small town, and the people there have always been friendly to us. It is also home to our favorite restaurant, the Kaffeehaus, which gets it major points. We will miss our brunches, lunches and dinners at the Kaffeehaus. No matter what you order there, it’s going to be good. I miss it already!

We will miss tax-free shopping. Because we are military stationed overseas, whenever we buy something from the States and have it shipped here, it’s tax free. I will miss getting everything at about 8% off. (I won’t miss paying for shipping, though!)

We will miss not paying for rent or healthcare. This has been one of the major benefits of the Army. We have had these needs provided for. However, it has not always been wonderful (some of which I will cover in the next series on what we won’t miss). There have been several instances where we have been completely frustrated with the standard of healthcare. For instance, having a non-cavity drilled and filled as if it was a cavity is beyond infuriating.

And the last of the “we will miss” series:

We will miss Sunday being a rest day. Almost all shops and many restaurants are closed on Sundays. It is nice to have a day where you cannot do anything other than relax and enjoy your family. However, when you and your spouse both work full time, it can also be exasperating to only have one day (Saturday) to be able to get out and do errands. We have a love/hate relationship with this one, which brings us to things we won’t miss about military life and living in Germany.

May 10, 2011 at 2:02 PM 2 comments

Moving On

I’m taking a break from the current series of posts today as we are moving out of our apartment (sniff sniff) and into guest housing today. It felt like this time would never arrive, and now that it has, it’s truly bittersweet.

I will continue posting as normal next week. I hope everyone has a great weekend. We are going to (hopefully) go to Spargel Samstag (Asparagus Saturday), which is the asparagus festival in Schwetzingen, our last German fest, visit our favorite German waitress at the Kaffeehaus on her last day of work (which only seems appropriate considering she has served us nearly every time we’ve dined there over the past 3 years) and enjoy time as a family.

May 6, 2011 at 2:41 PM 2 comments

We Will Miss Pt. 2

Welcome to the food edition of “we will miss:”

We will miss leisurely dining. In the States, servers are trying to turn tables quickly in order to maximize their tips for the day. Also, Americans often are in a hurry to get from one place to the next, so a quick meal works out well. (Exception being fine dining) Over here, however, the wait staff is paid a normal wage (aka not $2.13/hr), so they do not rely on tips for their income. It is not abnormal to spend 1.5-2 hours enjoying lunch. LUNCH. No one tries to hurry you from your table. You are expected to relax, enjoy the meal and eat, drink and be merry. While I’m on the topic of eating…

We will miss our bakeries. Oh boy, we will really miss our bakeries. We have already scouted out some bakeries to try once we get settled in Austin, and I’m certain we will be regulars at one of them. I just hope their Schokocroissants (chocolate croissants or pain au chocolate in France) satisfy our cravings. The recipes and examples of these that I have seen online has been subpar, so please, Austin bakeries, don’t disappoint me!

We will miss coffee. Sure, you can get coffee at any Starbucks, McDonald’s or local gas station, but the flavor is lacking. The first time I had a cup of Starbucks coffee after having been over here was in the Detroit airport. I ordered a caramel macchiato. When I took my first sip, I announced that the barista must have forgotten to add the coffee. It just tasted like warm water and milk. John took the drink back to the counter, and they remade my order. Unfortunately, try #2 was no better. Coffee in the States is that weak compared to what we normally drink, which is rich and full of flavor. I will really miss it.

We will miss pretzels. Like with the coffee, you can get a warm pretzel in the States – namely, at the food court in the mall. However, it’s just not the same.

We will miss doner and our lovely Turkish fast food joints. There is a large Turkish population here, and so there are also a proliferation of fast food restaurants and food stands who carry doner, Turkish pizza, etc. Yum. One place in particular, Sisal, has phenomenal doner and fries. They make their fries fresh and add great seasoning. There’s no need for ketchup or mayo on the fries. (Yes, here it’s more common to put mayo on your fries than ketchup. And you know what? It’s delicious!)

We will miss two great sodas: Mezzo Mix and Fanta. Mezzo Mix is a blend of regular and orange cola. Next to Dr. Pepper, it’s my favorite. The Fanta sold here is a different recipe than is sold in the US. It’s not a bright orange Crush-looking beverage.  It looks more like Sprite plus orange juice. The sweetness factor is a fraction of the US Fanta, too. Fanta is my third favorite soda and my top pick if I’m going caffeine free (as in, I have been ordering it often since June!). Speaking of something I haven’t been enjoying lately…

We will miss wine. Old world wine. French wine. Burgundian wine. We can buy this in the States, but it’s usually the mass produced wines, and they are sold at a huge mark up because of import taxes and transport costs. I will miss walking down to our favorite little wine shops and picking up a fantastic bottle of French, Spanish or Italian wine for as little as the US equivalent of $9-10. Our oenophile-tendencies are about to get a lot more expensive, which means that we will probably have much less opportunity to enjoy truly great Old World wine. Perhaps this will give us a chance to delve more into Californian wines. (And no…call me a wine snob if you will, but I won’t accept Llano Estacado as a noteworthy wine.)

We will miss neuer Wein and Zwiebelkuchen, otherwise known as new wine and onion cake. This is a popular seasonal treat in the fall. New wine is wine that has just begun the fermentation process. It is not filtered, so it has a feathery look to it, leading some to call it Federweisser (feather white). Oh, and it’s carbonated! Depending on where you are in Germany, this sweet treat has many different names. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federweisser The alcohol content can be quite deceptive and can have an alcohol content of anywhere from 4-10% by volume. The Zwiebelkuchen is an important part of enjoying the neuer Wein. It is a lot like an onion-based quiche. The tastes complement each other well and you would be remiss not to order them together.

May 5, 2011 at 2:00 PM 7 comments

We Will Miss Pt. 1

As our time here winds down, I thought it would be appropriate to look at the things we will and won’t miss about our lives over the past four years. This, of course, includes both life in Germany as well as being in the Army. We focused mainly on Germany, because the Army does not define us.

When I first set out to write this, I meant for it to be a two-part post. However, after jumping in, I realized that this was quickly turning into more than just two quick blog posts. So, please, enjoy part 1!

We will miss our slow pace of life. We live and work in the same community, so we do not travel far and we see the same people every day. It lends itself to a nice slow pace. We are also as isolated as we want to be from the 24 hour news cycle. We don’t have local news (unless we seek it out online), and our newspapers revolve around the Department of Defense and other military news. As a result, I feel less anxious and cynical about the state of the world, and I like it that way. This is not to say that we are uneducated when it comes to current events, because we certainly still hear about them, but our lives aren’t overly saturated with days of reporting on Charlie Sheen, violent murders or the endless drama of Washington D.C.

We will miss orderly highway driving. While I still prefer not to be the driver on the Autobahn, I will say riding on it is rather nice. Everyone sticks to the pass on the left law (yes, it’s a law in the States too, but people rarely adhere to it), which leads to a much less stressful drive. You do not have to worry about cars zipping past you and the left and right and being surrounded by 18-wheelers. Here, they are only allowed in the right hand lane unless they are passing. They also have a maximum speed limit, which is usually 80 kph or roughly 50 mph.

(I must note that I just lost the rest of this post. I had written five more paragraphs. I am no longer a happy camper.)

We will miss our friends.  During the first three years of John’s assignment here, we struggled to find likeminded friends. However, when John got send to work at the band, we were introduced to a great group of people. We have spent Thanksgiving together, welcomed new babies and celebrated pregnancies as well as many birthdays. Truly, this will be the hardest part about leaving.

We will miss the ease of traveling to our favorite places like the French countryside, Paris, Switzerland, Garmisch and Baden-Baden (in the Black Forest). We will have new places to visit on long weekends like San Antonio, the Texas coast, Dallas and Houston, but none of those have the same relaxing feel or exciting ring of our European getaways. I will admit, however, that if we were German, chances are we wouldn’t think the travel opportunities here were so great. We just wish we could have travelled more, but thanks to the poor exchange rate and our work schedules, we were a bit constrained by what we could do. We are really happy with the vacations that we did go on, though. Every one of them was special and wonderful in its own way.

May 4, 2011 at 1:00 PM 2 comments

Bubble Face

Before I begin posting the series I mentioned yesterday, I have to share this video of Elijah. He has been pretty fussy the past 2-3 days, and we think it’s because he’s going through a growth spurt. We tried to measure him yesterday, and we think he’s now about 22.5-22.75 inches long, which means he has grown one whole inch in the past two weeks. That’s a lot of growing! As a result, he has only been taking 40 minute breaks from nursing during the day, but hopefully this growth spurt will be over soon and I’ll (hopefully) have a little more time to get around to household chores.

Anyway, so Elijah was fussy yesterday, and John was holding him for a few minutes for me to give me a little break. He was playing with him and blew a little air in his face, and Elijah’s response was too cute:

May 3, 2011 at 12:57 PM 3 comments

Elijah at One Month

I cannot believe our little boy is already one month old. Technically, he was one month old on Saturday, but the day was filled with cleaning and hosting a party. I didn’t have quite enough time to blog as well. However, I am pretty impressed that we managed to pull off all that we did over the weekend with Elijah in tow.

At one month old, Elijah:

  • Nurses about 4.25 hours/day
  • Takes 2-3 longer naps a day with a number of small catnaps
  • Knows the difference between night and day (and loves sleep, just like his mommy and daddy)
  • Usually sleeps one longer stretch at the beginning of the night and then a short stretch, getting up for the day anywhere between 5:45 and 7:30 AM (he goes down around 10 PM)
  • Can follow objects with his eyes
  • Can lift his head up during tummy time and turn it from side to side
  • A day or two ago, he lifted up his shoulders during tummy time as well
  • Loves his green frog rattle
  • Gets incredibly startled when Daddy tickles him (and he gets very wide-eyed)
  • Smiles a lot when he’s waking up
  • Is a pretty good out to lunch companion
  • Loves to spend time in the Ergo carrier
  • Is starting to notice the toys on his bouncy seat
  • Is amazed by the blinds on our windows
  • Is starting to be startled/disturbed by noises while napping (Béni got scolded the other day for waking him with his barks…we’re working on that)
  • Takes a bottle like a champ
  • Is lukewarm on the idea of a pacifier — it’s really hit or miss
We didn’t get to weigh Elijah at one month, but at 3 weeks 2 days, he was 9 lbs 11 ounces, which means he gained 1 lb 5 ounces since birth, which doesn’t include the amount he gained back after the initial post-birth weight loss. I would measure his length, but he’s napping right now and hasn’t napped more than 20-30 minutes since he got up 6 hours ago. I’ll measure him later and update this, but for now, I’ll just say that he was 21.5 inches at 18 days old. That means he’d grown half an inch since the day he was born.

Elijah at 1 Month (Catherine -- Thanks for the idea!)

I have a series of posts coming over the next two weeks as we transition out of the Army and living in Germany, which is the only life we’ve known during our married life, and into our new life living in Texas with John going to school.

May 2, 2011 at 3:06 PM 1 comment

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