14 October, 2011

Alles Gute zum zehnten Geburtstag!

When we decided to move to Germany back in 2006 a lot of people wished us luck and reminded us of the Germans' cold, standoffish reputation. And the Schwabians? They're apparently the worst of the bunch!

I am happy to report that this hasn't been our experience at all! We have been blessed with great friends and neighbors!
Last night the doorbell rang. It was one of our neighbors. She'd apparently found out that it's B's birthday today and she showed up with a homemade cake decorated with M&M's and sparklers!!!

Happy 10th birthday, big guy! May you have many more happy and healthy decades to explore the world and to make friends in new cultures!

Grampa and his *adoreable* grandkids

My poor dad is always the photographer and rarely ends up in any of the family snapshots. I was just sifting through some old photos and came across this series which made me laugh until tears came to my eyes. He finally has a chance to have his picture taken but no one else was in the mood to cooperate at that moment!

03 October, 2011

Mayberry R.F.D.

It was 9:30 and getting noisy in the restaurant, so we did what any responsible parents would do and sent our kids outside so that we could finish our half-liter beers.

B showed up about 10 minutes later, eyes wild and cheeks glowing. "I just saw a TEENAGER! And he lit a cigarette, but didn't SMOKE it and then threw it in the BUSHES!"

We agreed that this was completely scandalous and sent him back outside.

"There you go, that's life in the big city!" chuckled M. Someone made an Andy Griffith crack and we all giggled.

Suddenly the kids came bursting back in-- they were all shouting at once and gesticulating wildly. All I could hear was: TEENAGERS! BIKE! WINDOW! GLASS EVERYWHERE!

M and our friend went outside to investigate and came back a couple of minutes later. Apparently two boys had thrown their bikes through the window of the bus stop behind the restaurant and then disappeared.

The kids came storming back in-- "canwecallthepolice, canwecallthepolice, CAN WE CALL THE POLICE?!" M handed them his Blackberry and they dialed 110.

We were waiting outside when the police arrived. One of them swept up the piles of safety glass rubble while the other wrote down all the vital information.

"How tall were these teenagers?" S pointed to M. "About as tall as my dad." "OK. How were they built? Were they skinny or muscular or fat?" C pointed to M. "They were built about like S's dad." The police officer looked at M, who just smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

Once everything was written down, the officers thanked us, hopped into their car and pulled out. When they saw the kids waving then they drove off with flashing lights and blared their sirens. The kids were so excited they were about to split out of their skins!  It was a banner day for the Bloodhound Gang in H-town!  :-)

30 September, 2011

Makes me wonder what's next...

A sweet, but somewhat bizarre neighbor keeps trying to make contact with me. She doesn't speak any German (or English) but often hangs out of her window when I drive up and shouts: "Heh! HEH!" One day she came out bearing a plateful of dates, another time it was a ring with a pink plastic gem. Today she flagged me down and handed me a bowl of soup. It was right around lunchtime, so I smiled and thanked her. When I got upstairs I took a big gulp and discovered that it was spoiled. (???)

22 September, 2011

Moscow trip in pictures

M and I spent the weekend in Moscow visiting all our old haunts and taking a major trip down memory lane.

I haven't been back since 1996 and the city has changed enormously since then. Amazing how much friendlier and more global the city has become! People are dressed so nicely now and you even see a lot of them smiling, which was great but also a little bizarre! There are chain stores everywhere and although I did end up grabbing a sub at subway on the way to the airport I found it a bit depressing to see Dunkin' Donuts and Wendy's and TGI Fridays there.

Was amazed at how much Russian I can remember. I've been working on it pretty diligently for about 6 months now, but haven't been able to get anything out of my mouth on the few occasions that I've tried to practice with acquaintances. And then when I got to the border the agent asked me in Russian: "Do you speak Russian?" I answered "Da" and realized that it was true! It was fantastic!

Had a great time, really enjoyed being back, but this trip just made me realize even more that I'm not a big city person and that I'm so happy to have ended up here in this lovely, clean, green small town in Germany!

09 September, 2011

Fruit fruit fruit!

A friend has a couple of plots of land near here where he cultivates fruit trees. Tuesday he showed up with his Unimog and took S and B with him to harvest the fruit.

Herr G explained all about the growing process and his way of farming organically. The boys came home bubbling over with wild tales about helpful insects, tall ladders and bumpy rides in the Unimog.

They also returned with crates of apples, pears and plums! Yesterday B and I made several liters of applesauce and 4 kilos of plum marmalade! It was such a pleasure to see him busy in the kitchen! This year he took the lead, pitted most of the plums himself and kept track of all the steps we had to follow. I was honored to be his faithful assistant!

(It was also very handy that B could do so much himself. I spent a good chunk of time trying to clean dog vomit off of the carpet. Turns out D stole a bunch of plums while no one was looking, wolfed them down and then deposited them in one big foul-smelling, multicolored puddle right at the door to the kitchen!)

06 September, 2011

Energy drinx

S asked me the other day if he could buy a Red Bull with his pocket money and my answer was, of course, a resounding "NO!" He was in a thoughtful mood, though, and said that he's very curious about the drinks because everyone in his class drinks them and then brags about it. And that he feels left out sometimes because he can't keep up with the conversation. Good point!

I told him that I have nothing against him trying the drinks, but that they're terrible for your body and explained why I don't want him drinking them on a regular basis. But I can also imagine that he's curious, so I suggested that we do a taste test so that he can form his own opinion about them and join in on the small talk.

Today we bought the three most popular drinks: Red Bull, Rock Star and Sexergy. I had S and B write down how many calories and how many milligrams caffiene each had per 100 ml. Then we compared them to other drinks like coffee, tea, chocolate milk, etc. (They have 3x more caffeine than Coca Cola!)

Then we all tried a small glass of each. The taste test winner? Rock Star, which has 2g more sugar per ml than the other two. (Blech!)

Thinking I was teaching them something about marketing I asked S and B why they thought the company gave Sexergy its name. S smiled and said: "I dunno-- maybe it has sperm in it!" :-D

03 September, 2011

Chateau de Marquis de Sade, Lacoste

Faceplant at le pool

B slipped climbing out of the pool yesterday evening and bit through his lip in two places. At first I thought we were going to have to take him in to have it stitched but after some ice, ibuprofen and compresses it looks like he's going to be OK.

Oma used her Red Cross training (again!) to cut a butterfly bandage to close the wound and it swelled up but stayed closed.

On the upside, this being the Provence, B got to rinse his mouth out a few times with Pastis! And he loved it! Vive la France!

Faux Pas

We were having lunch this afternoon when a couple came in with a small, wiggly dog with a pug-nose and pointy ears. S, B and I went over to admire him and I said: "Wow, he's cute! Is that a Boston Bull terrier?"

The owner could barely hide his disgust: "What?! NO! It's a French Bull terrier!" :-D

01 September, 2011

More pictures!

Today we took a hike between Castellet and Auribeau, two small villages near here where M and his family spent many happy summers. The whole area is so picturesque and the weather was sunny and beautiful!

We were pretty deep into the woods when S picked up a rock and uncovered a nest of scorpions! then B discovered an evil red-juice-spitting beetle. The rest of the walk was interesting, but not completely for all the right reasons. ;-)

31 August, 2011

Lunar landscape (with sheep)

Today I hiked part of the top of the Mont Ventoux again with the kids and the dog. Had a couple of nervewracking moments when one of them stepped (or peed) too close to the edge, but otherwise it went great and we had a really nice afternoon. Here is the photographic evidence, documented by S.