Venturing Out…

7 May

Can y’all believe it’s almost time for another weekend? I don’t know about you, but this week has really flown by for us- definitely much quicker than last week!  I was just talking to my Mom about this, which got me thinking about why exactly and I think there are lots of reasons actually…But before we get into that…

Keeping It Real: I just love a stick shift car! Neve and I rented one this week- stick shift by chance rather than choice as the trains are apparently on strike, which means that everyone is renting cars and choosing automatics- and we’ve had the best time! It’s probably been years since I’ve driven a stick and was quite nervous about the prospect, especially considering the immense traffic in this area, but I must say: It’s been the perfect example of how you come away with such a renewed burst of confidence when you successfully conquer a fear! It turns out that it’s just like riding a bike! I won’t lie and say that I haven’t had any tense moments- like when we got stuck in stop-and-go construction traffic in downtown Frankfurt!- but nothing terrible. No stalling, no jumping, no grating noises…And alot of fun! No, I wouldn’t want one permanently, but for a week or so? Yes, please! 😉

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OK, back to the quicker week…

For starters, jet lag is a b!%ch! John never has much issue with this beast- give him 2 nights of waking up a bit before his alarm goes off (oh, the horror), then he’s right back on schedule. Neve falls somewhere in the middle. It takes her most of a week of no napping, going to bed late and sleeping in- then we just start shifting all of the above gradually throughout the week until we’re back to normal. Then there’s me. Jet lag gets me Every. Single. Time. Laying wide awake all night long, not wanting to get up in the mornings, being hungry at the total wrong times…And all of this leads to the other stuff like the foggy head, the crankiness, the lack of patience, the emotional overthinking…For some reason, it’s always worst for me going east. I read that most have the opposite problem- that going westward is tougher- but nope, I struggle the most going this direction. Don’t get me wrong, I still fight it when we go to Hawaii (mainly in the form of waking up too early), but nothing like when we get back home from Hawaii- after we come back east. My only possible explanation is that it’s easier for me to make myself stay awake until bedtime (when you go west) rather than make myself fall asleep (when you go east).

So, by this week, we’re all pretty much back on schedule. Adequate sleep and a reasonably normal schedule help immensely! John’s work schedule is better this week. Rather than leaving by 630a- before I even laid eyes on him- and working until 6p every night, he’s more like 730a-5p now, so that helps. Neve and I have gotten the lay of the land- ie. Wiesbaden- a bit better, and continue to every single day. Just having a sense of where you are and how to get (roughly) to where you’d like to go gives you some added peace of mind. We’ve remedied our crummy Internet situation as best we can. This is a Keeping It Real topic for another post, but in a nutshell, our apartment’s Internet is virtually non-existent, which meant very little of anything on the computer, very little email or FB, very challenging attempts to write blog posts…And absolutely no videos, movies, streaming of American TV (as we’d planned to do) of any kind…Have you ever been stuck in an apartment with a preschooler on a rainy day with no TV, no movies, no Internet distractions and very few of your ‘things’ because you were only allowed to bring so many suitcases? Um, yeah…Thank God we thought to load my computer with 20 of Neve’s movies and 6 of her TV series- we just connect that to the TV, so at least she feels like she’s watching the real thing! John and me? Good Lord, I will be fine if I never see a cartoon again!

So without getting all techie (because I couldn’t explain it if I tried), we have bought an ‘Internet stick’ that you take to the Best Buy equivalent and prepay with how much Internet you think you might need. When you start getting low, you go put more money on it, like a prepaid cell phone, I suppose. This is not a particularly efficient way to do it (still no video/TV, but playing on the computer is OK), nor is it cheap ($35 every two days), but it’s a necessary means to this end! Ha!

Of course, there are some things about being on an extended trip like this that never particularly settle in or feel like home…The kitchen, for example. You take for granted the beauty of a stocked kitchen! Starting with clean slate means that you have to buy absolutely everything just to be able to cook your normal dishes. The biggest challenge for me is with spices. You don’t realize just how many different spices all your different recipes call for! And you don’t want to buy them to just make said recipe 2-3 times while you’re here! You also don’t want to just eat chicken breasts with salt, pepper and garlic done in the skillet (oh, did you buy the spray Pam?) for 7 weeks…

This week's culinary creation highlight. Since there's no spaghetti squash here and we don't eat much pasta, we used spaetzle! Who knew that potatoes and turkey meatballs went so well together?

This week’s culinary creation highlight. Since there’s no spaghetti squash here and we don’t eat much pasta, we used spaetzle! Who knew that potatoes and turkey meatballs went so well together?

But then there are times that John is not particularly feeling my healthy cooking attempts and comes home craving German food and a relaxing biergarten. And that’s how we end up with these delicacies:

Pork Knuckles are HUGE meaty meals available at just about all the Bavarian restaurants. They usually come with sauerkraut and a potato dumpling. And no, this is not my bag.

Pork Knuckles are HUGE meaty meals available at just about all the Bavarian restaurants. They usually come with sauerkraut and a potato dumpling. And no, this is not my bag.

Spaetzle is the German equivalent of Italian pasta, except it's made from potatoes instead of semolina. It comes with gravy, or cheese, or butter and garlic, or...Neve is a fan. We all are, actually!

Spaetzle is the German equivalent of Italian pasta, except it’s made from potatoes instead of semolina. It comes with gravy, or cheese, or butter and garlic, or…Neve is a fan. We all are, actually!

The biergarten and restaurant we like just a short walk from the apartment.

The biergarten and restaurant we like just a short walk from the apartment.

And let me just say that there is alot to be said for biergartens. For anyone who has never had the privilege of dining out at a nice establishment with a preschooler, when something is going to provide you with freedom of movement and noise, it’s money. Way less hassle for us and way more fun for Neve! Win win!

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Quite possibly my favorite picture of my husband. Good Lawd.

Quite possibly my favorite picture of my husband. Good Lawd.

Another hurdle for me is my workout routine. At home, I have a bit of a home gym with weights, a bench, a Bosu, etc. I’m used to working out- or going for a run- first thing in the mornings before the world wakes up. Here, not only do I have to modify my workouts to use only resistance bands (always the perfect travel equipment!) and body weight exercises, but we also have such limited space that there’s no doing much until everyone is up and at ’em! On the flip side, I’m enjoying the change of scenery- and terrain (hello, big hills!)- for my runs and with John’s later schedule this week, I’ve had time to get in a few before he leaves in the morning! I don’t know about y’all, but workouts and runs are ‘me time’ and going without them- like last week- can really throw a kink in the ‘ol psyche!

You can't really tell, but this is a massive hill leading up to our street. What a lovely view for a run, though!

You can’t really tell, but this is a massive hill leading up to our street. What a lovely view for a run, though!

So yep, it really seems that we’re settling in and finding our groove as we finish our second week here in Germany. Something else that I think has helped with said groove is what I mentioned earlier- that we’ve had a car the last few days and it’s been fantastic. No, you don’t need a car for downtown Wiesbaden, but you do if you want to see any of the surrounding communities, including the metropolis of Frankfurt. Plus, there’s something about just having a car and knowing that it’s parked out there along the street that makes you- or me at least- feel a little more connected. A little more like home and like normal. Sure, Neve and I could walk 20 minutes to the market (with our coats and umbrellas if it’s raining) OR we could hop in our car, drive there to pick up what we need and be back all before the 20 minutes is up. Something about just knowing this makes me feel good and more inclined to choose the former- because then it’s a choice and not a requirement, I guess.

Neve and I had two field trips this week. The first was to the Frankfurt Zoo in the heart of downtown Frankfurt, about 45 minutes from us. I’ll save the history lesson for later, but the jist is that Frankfurt is the 5th largest city in Germany with a population of about 750,000 people. If you include its whole metropolitan area, the population is closer to 2.5 milion, so yeah, it’s a huge place. Two interesting tidbits: 1. Frankfurt is about 40 miles from the physical center of Europe, so that’s why it has the largest airport hub here. 2. It’s the largest financial center in continental Europe, so that explains all the skyscraper banks we saw.

The zoo was lovely- it’s huge and sprawling and set smack dab in the center of the city. I found that part so neat- that something so full of trees and grass and animals could be nestled down in the middle of such a concrete jungle. The weather was perfect and there weren’t too many people there, so it really was a good day, even with the stop and go construction traffic on the way back home!

Making silly faces to send to her classmates back home :)

Making silly faces to send to her classmates back home 🙂

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Our other field trip of the week was across the Rhein River into Mainz (pronounced ‘M-eye-nz’), the capital of the next state over. So yes, there are two state capitals just across the river from each other. We have yet to spend much time there, but I look for us to go back to explore as it looks like a great little city. Two neat tidbits: Mainz was founded as military post by the Romans in the 1st century BC (wow!) and 2. something I find particularly fascinating as a writer myself, Mainz was the birthplace of the moveable-type printing press and first books published using this type of press in 1450.

Anyhoo, the reason for our trip across the river this week was to get our creative on. Paint your own pottery style. Painting pottery is something that John and I started doing together the first year we were married. We were in Myrtle Beach for some reason and it was raining and we happened to pass a studio, never having heard or seen of one before. (I guess that’s about when those types of places really started taking off- 2004ish?) So we stopped, got the quick ‘how to’ from the owner and painted our first plate. Then we started seeing studios in many of the places we traveled, so it kinda became our thing. Neither of us has an artistic (in the traditional paint/draw/sketch sense) bone in our bodies, but something about painting these ceramic pieces and watching them come to life after baking in the kiln for a few days just really floats our boat- and makes us feel artsy! Our first four pieces were plates depicting scenes that were significant at that particular time (for example, we have one of the grand opening of the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston) and always with us somewhere in the picture (in the aforementioned, we’re in a hot air balloon over the fireworks 😉 ) and a black and white striped border. They’re hung as a set in our kitchen at home. Wish I had a picture to share. Then we switched to switch plates for light switches. You never know what a studio will have- a single, a double, a weird 4 opening with a plug hole…Our house now has lots of unique, hand painted, covers in just about every room. Some are abstract, some are bright, some are somber, a few have actual scenes…I know, we’re so nerdy. I love it.

So, long story (somewhat) short, Neve joined our pottery painting hobby before she could walk- lending her feet prints, her hand prints, her thumb prints for many-a-gift. 😉 Now, we seek out studios any time we travel, as something for us to do together while Daddy is working. We’ve painted in Virginia Beach, in Seattle, in Honolulu, and now in Germany. Awesome little shop in Mainz owned by a German woman who went to college in Philadelphia- so friendly, really helpful, super into kids, perfect English…Ahhh, if only there were more mornings here with folks like her! We painted a lovely Father’s Day gift that John is sure to love…and in fact, I know he will because she already told him all about it the second he got home. Gee thanks, Neve.

Mal Werk (means Paint Shop) in Mainz. Fabulously crafty morning with my girl!

Mal Werk (means Paint Shop) in Mainz. Fabulously crafty morning with my girl!

And there you have it- the good, the bad, and the ever-evolving state of our adventure. Tomorrow, we will head to one of our absolute favorite cities- AMSTERDAM! Seeing the famous tulip fields has long been on John’s Bucket List (my sweet, sentimental man) and it just so happened that our timing is perfect to see them! That and the fact that when John asked me where I’d like to go for Mother’s Day, I couldn’t think of a better place! We will even get to celebrate at our all-time favorite restaurant, Moeder’s, which means ‘Mothers’. How crazy is that?! Quick back story and then I’ll go. The last time we were living over here (you can search ‘Amsterdam’ on the blog and read all about our last time) just so happened to be over a milestone birthday for John. As a surprise, I planned us a weekend in Amsterdam to ring in his big 3-0. It was the BEST weekend. Well, in researching, I had read alot about Moeder’s and how it was an absolute must for the best authentic Dutch food, so I made reservations months in advance to ensure our table. I had also read that we should bring pictures of our moms to add to the walls. Wasn’t sure what that meant, but OK, we printed out two pictures- one with my grandmother, my mom and me, and another with John and his mom. When we got there, we totally got it. Every single surface other than the floor and the chairs was covered in pictures of people’s mothers. Some were framed, some were torn from old photo albums, some were printed from a computer like ours, some were even sketched…It was just beautiful and comforting and welcoming. And kitschy- the whole place is awesome kitschy, which just added to our love. So we sat there, eating the most delicious, satisfying Dutch cuisine, looking at pictures of moms, including our own that we thumbtacked just above the chair rail at the table where we were seated.

So to bring this full circle, how crazy is it that we’re going to celebrate another milestone at this amazing restaurant? That it happens to be named Mothers and we will be there for Mother’s Day? That we fell in love with this place celebrating a milestone in a completely different time in our lives and now we get to celebrate this milestone? That I get to put a picture up of my sweet Neve and me? The Universe…love when I get to see how things play out. Can’t wait to update you guys on Monday with lots of pictures of lots of tulips and lots of canals!

I’ll leave you with two parting shots of Neve, sending her love- and funny face- back to her classmates. She asked me to help her make a sign this morning- she listed out each and every friend, including Ms. Debbie and Ms. Sue, and told me just where to write their names.

Made especially for her friends at Bethany...

Made especially for her friends at Bethany…

Made especially for her friends at Bethany...

Made especially for her friends at Bethany…

One Response to “Venturing Out…”

  1. Georgia May 8, 2015 at 5:14 AM #

    Am enjoying your sharing

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