Sunday, December 28, 2008

our first real chirstmas

M and I have been married for 5 Christmas seasons now but this was the first time we ever had a "real" Christmas together, in our own home. The first Christmas we were married was spent at his parent's house because we had just finished our first assignment and were waiting for him to leave for Korea the next week. Our second Christmas was spent 6000 miles apart. W was just a few months old and I was living in an apartment and really didn't feel like buying a tree and decorating the house. I did however, make a lot of pie that year... Our 3rd Christmas together was actually spent together, but I was hugely pregnant w/ CB and had just moved across the world to Germany and really didn't feel like doing anything. I did put up a tree, with ornaments and all, but we didn't do anything else. We were so lame that 2 days before Christmas we decided that we should probably get W something, so we bought him a puzzle and some cars and called it good. It was only at 9 that night that I realized we didn't buy wrapping paper to wrap the presents, so W never did get to open anything on Christmas morning.

Then there was last year... which really, we can just not talk about because it was so incredibly embarrassing. Never before have I been such a scrooge. I know I had good reason but seriously, that tree was inexcusable. So this year I decided to make up for it all. Germans do Christmas right and this was my last chance to have a real German Christmas, so we went all out. Well, as out as we could. For the past 4 weekends I have been dragging my poor family through the rain and snow to almost every Christmas market in a 400 km radius from our house. We quickly found out they were all pretty much the same, but we still went, if for nothing else than to say we went.

The day after Thanksgiving I pulled out all of the Christmas decorations and went to town. And 20 minutes later, I was done. Didn't have that many Christmas decorations to put up... I had picked up a few from here and there over the years, but really, my collection was pitiful. That is what online Black Friday sales are for, right? Over the next 2 weeks boxes came and our house started to look like a bad Christmas catalog. Oh well, we were in the spirit and that is all that mattered.

Christmas Day itself was incredibly uneventful. The kids woke up way too early and we put them back to bed, then we finally gave into their demands for food and took them downstairs, had some breakfast and started in on the stockings. CB was like, "What the heck is the big deal?" Probably because half the stuff in her stocking was left over from our trip back to Germany... bad mommy! W was excited as always and couldn't wait to get to the big presents.

After we were done opening all of the presents and taking all of the required pictures, M got to experience his first marathon "quick, put everything together and find batteries to make everything work before the kids revolt" session. And then I spent the rest of the morning discreetly putting tape over any and all speakers on the new toys to make them quieter. Why toy manufactures only put loud, louder and loudest as the volume settings is beyond me, but you can bet there will be some letter writing going on because there is NO reason that a child's toy needs to be that loud!

Christmas dinner was tradtional and might as well have been Thanksgiving dinner: turkey breast, green bean casserole with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce... delish. It actually wasn't bad, considering the entire week before I had the flu and had lost 4 pounds and didn't exactly feel like cooking or eating.

And that was our Christmas. Nothing exciting, but we actually did it this year. I hope it will be the start of many special Christmas days to come, but I'm not holding my breath. It looks like next Christmas will be spent moving, which means we will end up at Denny's for breakfast after opening presents under a 2 foot Charlie Brown tree in our temporary housing because all of our stuff will be in boxes, most likely 2 weeks behind us. It's gonna be great!

Here are some pictures of our house for your enjoyment and my memory books:

Monday, December 22, 2008

their room, revised

After the fiasco of moving the guest bed downstairs for CB to use and our bed up to the third floor to use it as a guest bed to make room for the new bed, I figured I'd share what W and CB's room looks like now...

I LOVE their room. It is my favorite room in the house and I'll admit it, I get a little bit excited when one of them wants me to cuddle with them before bed or curl up and read a book because I love being in there so much. It is cozy and calm and fun and really flipping comfortable. I'm not going to lie though, I am little sad that it isn't a baby room anymore. Soon the changing pad will come off the changing table because we don't use it anyway (I'm just too lazy to unscrew the pad from the back of the drawers) and then all traces of what was their nursery will be gone.

But I am proud of their room. It is no easy task trying to turn a nursery into a big kid's room, while decorating for both a girl and a boy. I think it turned out ok. Not too much pink and not too much blue and it all blends nicely. Props to Pottery Barn Kids for the quilts (even though they discontinued the pink one and I had to scour ebay for 3 weeks before I finally found one that wasn't used) and the duvet covers, Tommy Hilfiger for the awesome surf board and hula girl sheets, and Target for the fun picture frames I bought for $.50 each on clearance this summer (and then spent $10 to ship to Germany... but whatever!)



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

apple cranberry crisp

I've had some emails asking me to repost the apple cranberry crisp recipe so here it is. Enjoy!!

This stuff is so good! The first time I made it I did it according to the recipe but it turned out just a little tart for so I added a bit of caramel topping. The second time I made it I thought I'd just bake the caramel into it, so I threw some of those little Caramel Bits on top. But, they didn't melt like I thought they would and ended up looking like brown rabbit turds so I don't recommend doing that...
Makes one 8-inch crisp (or 6 individual crisps).

* 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup rolled oats
* 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
* 1 tsp ground cinnamon
* dash salt
* 5 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (I use 4)
* 1/2 cup chopped pecans
* 4 x Mutsu or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
* 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (I chop them because a whole cranberry is too much for me)
* 1/3 cup sugar
* zest and juice of 1 small orange


1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish or 6 5-ounce ramekins.
2. For topping, combine flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter in a bowl. Work together with fingertips until crumbly. Stir in nuts and set aside.
3. Toss the apples and cranberries with sugar, orange zest and juice. Spoon into prepared baking dish(es). Sprinkle topping evenly over the fruit. Bake until bubbly and apples are tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly. Serve warm, topped with ice cream or cream, if desired.

Monday, December 15, 2008

all for a good night's sleep

A few weeks after I moved back to Germany, I decided we had to get a new mattress. I was waking up all geriatric like every morning-- stiff back, sore neck, aching knees. And that was even with sleeping with an extra pillow or 2 for support. I went to the on post furniture store and picked out the fluffiest, biggest pillow top mattress I found and ordered it. Then I was told they didn't have it in stock, but they would order it and it would be here in 4 weeks. That was a bummer because I was really hoping I could get it before M came home because he is just as geriatric as I am...

In anticipation of our mattress arriving, we converted CB's crib into a bed and moved our full size mattress set from the 3rd floor guest room to the kids' room so CB could sleep on it. The plan was to move our existing queen size bed from our room to the third floor guest room and use it as a guest bed once our new bed got here.

4 weeks came and went, and there was still no sign of our new bed coming. The day after Thanksgiving we went down there and asked what was up. It was then that they chose to inform me that the bed I had ordered was actually on purchase order status, which meant that the company would not ship the mattress until they had an entire crate worth of orders for that mattress from our particular furniture store. Oh, ok. Glad you told me that NOW, idiot.

We were in desperate need of a bed because M's parents were coming in a week and there was no way I was going to convert CB's bed back into the crib and move that mattress back upstairs. I asked the guy to go to the stock room and tell me exactly what queen size beds they had so I could choose one. Of course, they had a plethora of firm mattresses, but only 2 plush ones and one pillow top and one wanna be pillow top. The good pillow top was actually a discontinued mattress and wasn't on the floor, so I never saw it, but they had like 6 of them in the back. Here's a tip for you guys: If you want to sell something, PUT IT WHERE PEOPLE CAN SEE IT! We went and looked at the mattress and it had a great pillow top, it was soft but supportive and really quite comfortable, so we bought it. I thought we had the favor of God because it was actually nicer than the first one I had ordered and since it was a discontinued model, it was $400 cheaper.

Since we had the van now, we thought we were awesome and M could just come back without the kids and I and pick the mattress. That would have been great, except for the fact that the box spring was just 2 inches too long, and I was a stinker and refused to let him tie down the back. If there hadn't of been 2 inches of snow and 6 inches of salt on the ground, I would have let him, but I didn't want all of that grime kicked up into my trunk and on my beautiful new mattress. So he put the mattress back in the warehouse and tagged it with our hold tag before he went to schedule delivery.

They promised us the mattress set would be delivered on Monday, which was great. That gave me time to get the rooms ready before M's parents came. Right on time, the delivery guys came and shoved the mattress up the stairs. I went to look at it as they were leaving and realized that they had brought the wrong one. The mattress they delivered was not the fabulous pillow top we had bought, it was some cheap, firm, regular spring mattress. I ran down the stairs and told them they had to take it back. M got on the phone with the furniture store and asked what was going on. Why had we been given the wrong mattress when he had tagged the mattress we had ordered himself. The tag on the mattress that was delivered to us was the same tag that M had placed on the one we had really bought, so someone stupid had switched them at some point.

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir, I don't know what happened. Send the other mattress back with the delivery guys and we will get the one you ordered to you soon. The soonest delivery slot we have is 4 days from now". Yeah, ok, NO. That is not going to work for me, thanks though. At that point I thought M was being way too nice, so I made him give me the phone-- it is the control freak in me, I can't help it. 4 days from now was not acceptable, especially when we paid $70 for delivery and they were the ones who had messed up. So I told the dude to fix the problem, and to fix it today, or I wanted the delivery charge refunded. After 32 minutes of going back and forth with this guy on the phone, no joke, 32 minutes, he finally came back and said, "The manager won't refund your delivery fee, but we will get the mattress to you tomorrow." to which I responded something similar to, "You had better tell your manager that if that mattress isn't here today, by 6 o'clock, I will be down there tomorrow, at least twice, to tell the manager just how crappy her store is and how simply unacceptable this is and I will raise the biggest fuss any of you have ever seen. I don't think you want me to do that."

Low and behold, 2 hours later there was a knock at the door and there was my mattress. The guys who delivered it were actually the stock room employees, not regular delivery people, who had to make a special trip out. When they got here they gave the requisite "I don't know what happened" speech. Save it. I don't want to hear it. I don't care anymore, just get out of my house, you smell like smoke.

So they left and M went to work on taking our old mattress up to the third floor room. One would think, since we got the mattress set up to the second floor without problem, that it wouldn't be a problem to get the mattress set up to the third floor because the 2 flights of stairs are identical. Apparently, the flights of stairs aren't identical. The first floor stairs have about an inch of extra room somewhere that allows for the ridged box spring to pass through. The second flight of stairs would not allow the box spring to go up. There was NO way it was getting up there. So after all of the irritation and stress of getting the stupid new mattress here in the first place, it looked like we weren't even going to be able to get the old one up to the guest room.

I was thinking we were just going to have to put the old mattress on the floor and our company was going to have to sleep like a broke college kid until we could order a platform bed or something. But my husband, being the ingenious man that he is, decided he could fix the problem with a couple of tools. As long as there were no holes in the wall in the end, I really didn't care what he did, but I didn't want to watch.

I left, went to the grocery store, and when I came back, he was beaming with pride and told me to go upstairs. And this is what I saw:

Not only had he removed a good portion of the stairs, he had also taken off the banisters and then somehow managed to push the box spring up the stairs (or what was left of them) while maneuvering himself over the gapping hole that opened all the way to the first floor of the house. All I could think of was that one wrong step that would have sent him falling a story and a half... Ironically, that morning I had read a post in my friend A's blog about a call she got (she's an EMT) to help a guy who had fallen through his attic and tumbled down a flight of stairs, onto his first floor. Yeah... thank goodness we have gates on the stairs to keep the kids from climbing on them. These stairs scare me to death anyway, but this, well, just took the cake.

I couldn't complain, the old mattress set was on the third floor, our new glorious mattress was on our bed and oh so wonderful. That night we both slept very well, and woke up feeling like people in the mid to late 20s should feel. It was worth every second of irritation and all of that plaster that came off the ceiling and the walls as M was moving the box spring up. I guess I will just have to buy a big tub of putty before we leave... and yes, we do realize that we have to get the mattress down some how when it is time to move. We both agree that is what the professional movers are for.

Monday, December 8, 2008

insane in the membrane (part 2)

On the Tuesday morning before Thanksgiving we woke up with all the anticipation we could possibly feel. The night before we had gotten a call saying our van would be there in the morning. SWEET! I was stoked, and then the sales dude gave me the to-do list that we had to complete before we could pick the thing up. Bummer. Seriously, everything we needed to do could have been done the week before but he failed to tell us. And then he acted surprised that I didn't know we had to do these things and hadn't done them already. For real, things that would have been nice to know yesterday...

So after going to post to pick M up and filling out some forms and going to another building, we had to leave post to go get our license plates. As we were driving out the gate, there it was. Our beautiful silver van, just sitting there on a truck, waiting to go on post so we could go pick it up. What a cruel, cruel thing to do to us. It was RIGHT THERE. Right in front of us and we couldn't do a thing about it. I wanted so badly to take a picture of it but I didn't think that the security guards would appreciate me taking a picture with a large zoom lense at the entrance of a military installation. Probably not a good idea. So we drove away, with tears in my eyes, and went to get our plates.

When we got there, their computers were down. Are you kidding me? Their computers were down and they couldn't call to verify our insurance information. It had to be done online. What the heck? All we needed to get our plates, and therefore our van, was for them to verify that we did in fact have insurance on our car. Since their computers were done and they couldn't tell us when they would be fixed, we left. M was smart and left me in the car when he went in to get the plates, and had already started driving away when he told me what had happened because he knew if I had a chance to go in there, someone would be coming out on a stretcher and it wasn't gonna be me.

So we left, drove back to post, resigned to the fact that we were not going to get our van that day but would have to have patience and virtue and all of that other crap and get it the next day. When we got back to post, we turned in our paper work and decided to go home. But not before M called the plate people and they told him that the plates were ready to be picked up now. Dang it! Ok, so we drove the 25 minutes back to pick up the stupid plates, but we still weren't able to pick the van that day because after we picked it up, we had to drive it directly to the customs office which was over 30 minutes away. Seriously, this was not a simple procedure!

In all, Tuesday was extremely anti climatic and we ended up being gone from 9 am to 8 pm for no real reason. My kids are troopers, that is all I can say. So Wednesday we finally got the van. FINALLY. It is amazing. It has everything we have ever needed and stuff we didn't even know we wanted. After it was officially ours, we went and celebrated another Thanksgiving with some friends of ours. And then we crashed on Thursday. I spent the entire day cleaning the house because I had neglected it for the week prior. My ball gown was still on the chair, there were about 9 loads of laundry that had to be done and I don't even want to say how long it had been since I had cleaned the bathroom. It was bad.

We took the rest of the long weekend and relaxed, which was wonderful. We needed it because on Monday, it was back to the same old same old. And now things are just as busy as they were before. We are swamped with school and errands and decorating and having people over. I haven't been this busy since I was in college and I think I'm getting way too old for this. But I will admit that I like this pace, as long as I can have a couple of days here and there to be responsible and catch up on the boring everyday things.

M's parents are here now and we have been fun traveling around our area and seeing things we haven't seen before. Soon we will go on a little road trip, on which I will be schooling the Christmas Markets. They will not know what hit them. This is my one and only chance to have a real German Christmas and by God, I'm gonna do it right. I can rest later... maybe.