Saturday, December 31, 2011

Silvester in Berlin

Today we are flying back to Berlin from Paris - our glamorous Christmas gift to each other (glamorous in name only - we flew for less than 200 euro, stayed in a tiny studio, and subsisted on croissant). Glorious nonetheless.

It may seem odd that we flew in after Christmas and are retuning before New Years, but we just couldn't tear ourselves away from Berlin. Christmas in Germany is magic. When we went to London in December 2007 we expected their Christmas markets to be English. Nope - just crummy imitation German.

Instead, we prefer to spend Christmas in Germany. Midnight mass in the Berliner Dom, friends, & Weihnachtsmarkt held us hostage.  We've heard that neighboring European countries offer trips for people to visit Germany & the markets. Everyone should be lucky enough to experience the markets once.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Love, Photos, & Christmas Cheer

Our photo advent calendar for our p's has become a grotesque thing of beauty. We've enjoyed  showing our culinary accomplishments (sugar cookies), showcased our Berlin life (kita Christmas pageant), and showed our decorating skills (Axis of Evil member adorns our tree).

Since we couldn't be with them this Christmas, we hopefully made them smile and laugh at least once a day.

Day 17:

Snowman were swiftly created, just to get into a food fight. We finished them off.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our Plan of Attack on Paris

When we plan (aka fall into an internet sink hole) for travel to places like Bratislava, Reykjavik , Polignano a Mare, Italy, Sighişoara, and Ljubljana - any resource is a good resource.

Researching our xmas gift to each other - a trip to Paris - is different. Much written about, photographed, and waxed on about lyrically, everyone and their mother has advice on Paris. And we have our own thoughts as well. I had one day in Paris on my month long high-school-group-adventure back in the day, and Ian & I spent 2 nights there on our month-long traipse around Europe in 2008. We are crazy excited to go back.

Onto what we have used to prepare for the trip.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Calendar with Crazy Cute Kids

 We continue our photo advent pics for the parents with week 3:

Day 10:

15 days till Christmas & time to pick our tree. That means 17 euro tiny trees at a hardware store.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to Pose for a Christmas Card Photo

...don't do what we do - seriously. Euphemistically you could say we're quirky, but realistically we're a little off. If you do not want to look mildly insane to your friends & family, do not make a photo advent calendar like this:

Day 3:

Ian had pnemonia. So a day in bed, sleeping & watching movies had us a little loopy.

Lebkuchen eyes!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Get in the Mood...for Christmas!

Christmas is a mere 18 days away and we have halfway thrown ourselves into the Christmas spirit. We put up our paper sign "Welkom Sinterklaas" we got in the Netherlands when we visited friends in Venlo on our way here last year. We hung a "Wilkommen" snowman on our doorknocker that we inherited from some Irish friends that repatriated back to Dublin. We put up colorful lights on our bare balcony. We celebrated my birthday at a Weihnachtsmarkt. But without family here (paired with Ian's pneumonia that has kept us almost entirely housebound for 5 days) it's been hard to feel truly jolly.

However, we have a plan.

Movies play a large part in our entertainment schedule.
"What do you want to do?" is usually followed with
"Want to watch a movie?" which is followed by

Diligently, we have compiled a list of Christmas movies, both expected and unusual, to get us in the mood.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

We've been on the look out for an advent calendar we really like. The supermarkets are chock(late) full of disposable calendars with cute little doors that open to tiny, adorable chocolates... but to be honest- they're not my thing. I'm not a huge chocolate fan (I know, horror of horrors) and I don't really get excited trying to pry open those impossible paper doors to find a chocolate candy cane. We usually do it for 2 days and then remember it on Christmas eve and gorge on chocolate (I said chocolate is not my favorite, not that I wouldn't eat it if it's right there).

Even if we did want one- they're probably all gone. Those crazy Germans & their need for seasonality and function. When we were first in Berlin & feeling broke we came up with the clever idea to wait till Dec 1st to buy our advent calendar. Not such a bad idea when you them marked up to 20 euros! However, we hadn't thought out the German angle. We walked in to our local Lidl to find....nothing. Not a one. Apparently it was past their time and they were all chucked. That must have been some sad trash can - stuffed full of happy families, silver bells, and softly snowing scenes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stepping back in Hungarian Time

My parents aren't ready to give up on car trips, even when traveling in Europe. While Ian & I are full fledged fans of train travel and have a growing love for cheapo plane trips (yes- even Ryanair & EasyJet), we have to admit seeing Europe by car is an entirely different experience.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Bellatrix Badou

Who is this Bella I speak of? The moronic heroine of a teen series? A visiting dignitary? A foreign princess? NO!

This is Miss Bellatrix. (Doesn't your cat have a full name?)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Buda Love

Once again, we have decided to rate the cities we are visiting with the parental units. The first leg of our mini- central European tour, we start with breath-taking Budapest.
travel europe

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gardens in the Rain: Berlin's Botanical Garden

I had a dilemma. My parents were visiting, but Ian worked during the week. What to do that wasn't going to make him crazy jealous, but entertain them. I got it - Berlin's Botanical Gardens!

Unfortunately, there was a hitch. It was raining. A lot. We're from Seattle, but c'mon Berlin. Good sports that they are, they accompanied on my fools errand and we got very, very wet. Trying to keep up our spirits, we tromped though the soggy grounds. I apologized. A lot.

Yeah, those are raindrops

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Quilt of Love

As the weather turns cooler, I snuggle under our new quilt. An instant heirloom, my mum gave it to me on their recent trip to visit us in Berlin. Lovingly crafted with my aunt, it is composed of the ribbons I won showing horses. It's amazing.

If you are unfortunate enough not to have a million ribbons from your childhood, a basic ribbon looks like this:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Where my Ghouls at?

I LOVE Halloween. As in LOVE!!!

Far and away my favorite holiday, I love the silly, spooky character of the season. Not yet into the mushiness of family time and fresh in the "holiday season", Halloween is all sorts of awesome.

I have fond memories of past outfits and tasty treats. What- You'd like to see some costumes & treats? No problem!

Video Game Halloween costume
Princess Peach & Mario

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Visiting Halfway Around the World...

Snohomish is a small town in the State of Washington (NO! Not the capital). About an hour away from gorgeous Seattle, it is known for antiques, quaint Victorian housing from it's time as a lumber town, and a charming 1st street that is often used for filming idyllic Americana.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

IKEA I spy

As a sublettor in Berlin, you expect everything in your apartment to be from IKEA, but you don't know for sure until you go to the source. Oh, look!

There is our motar & pestle (who needs one of these anyways?)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

Paired with last night's karaoke escapades and tomorrow's flight, I got a little John Denver on the mind:

We are taking the parents to their 4th-6th European country. Flying to Budapest & spending a few days there, then a day in Bratislava, then Vienna. Some new, some old for us, but I am sure it will all be fabulous. Especially since having them here has been so fun-filled in boring 'ole Berlin.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Placing Poland: Szczecin

Daytrip from BerlinThe parents are here and on day 5 of European travel. We have big plans for a trip to Hungary, Bratislava, & Vienna next week but since we are so close to Poland, why not a day trip? We didn't just want to hop the border for some nowhere, so we set our sights on Szczecin (auf deutsch Stettin). It reportedly had a Duke's castle, a tourist map with red line guided tour, and was only about 2 hours away. Plus - the train ticket was a Brandenburger ticket, meaning it would only cost 28 euro for all 4 of us to travel there & back. Bonus!

It didn't turn out exactly as we hoped, but was still an experience. Once again, we have decided to rate the cities we are visiting with our parental units. This town might not have stacked up so well, but there is more to come. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Parents are Coming, The Parents are Coming!

It has been a lonnnnnnnggggg 11 months of Skype video chats, e-mails, and occasional phone calls. But today, my parents are an 1 1/2 away from taking the last leg in their long trip from Seattle to Berlin. I am picking up some flowers, then picking them up at the airport. I simply can't wait. I don't know that I have ever been this excited to see them. Ever.

Mum/Father of the Bride
 The parent's visit in Spring 2008:

Hertha game where Dave Ball impressed us by ordering a mass

Wandering around Alex

Family photo at Brandenburger Tor
Our road trip through Southern Germany and through the Rhine...

Burg Eltz
Zell, Germany

Countless German vineyards
Heidelberg, Germany

Nuremberg, Germany

And my latest favorite of them in my beautiful home state of Washington:

We are going to do more fun things in Berlin, skip over to Poland, and take a trip through Hungary, Slovakia, & Austria. But best of all, we are getting a little time to spend together. 

Oh - and they are proving word title holders for best parents ever in bringing over our cat Bella! Me-ow. 

Love you mum & daddio!

(To get an idea of the teariness of the hello, check out the good-bye: Leaving for Berlin)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mosques & Unity in Berlin

Monday was both Day of German Unity (Tag der Deutschen Einheit) & a day of open mosques. Considering I've only been in one mosque (granted it is an important one), I was excited to see what all of our Muslim neighbors have got going on.

Let's Go!

Day of German Unity Tag der Deutschen Einheit

Day of German Unity (Tag der Deutschen Einheit)

Gorgeousness of gorgeousness! The open house was wonderful with a member writing names in Arabic calligraphy, prayer service, and henna tattoos.

Day of German Unity (Tag der Deutschen Einheit)

When we exited the mosque, a news crew that had been video tapping the open house asked for his opinion. 1 euro for anyone who finds the footage!

We wandered down to Brandenburger Tor to check out the German Unity Day (Tag der Deutschen Einheit) celebration. A concert, lots of food & beer stands (including proud displays of Belgian waffles, Dutch fries, and other national speciaties) I was completely underwhelmed by the celebration. Isn't this one of the biggest days in history for Germany?

(Expat in Germany wrote a great post about the celebration & her disappointment here. )

Berlin ferris wheel

truck Berlin skyline

Fernsehturm Berlin sun

Another beautiful day in Berlin, but certainty not the significance I thought a day like this deserved. Tired from our tramping around, we made our way back to the house. We saw this notice on the door:

Someone had put a quacking lawn duck in the courtyard that quacks whenever someone walks past. This German doesn't find it funny. After asking "Who would do something like this?", they said the quacking is driving them crazy. Come to think of it, we can hear up on the 4th floor. It must be loud for those on the bottom. At least one German voiced a different opion, writing in pink marker 

"I love the duck"

For more pics of Neukoelln & the day: photos

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Continuing on our long drawn out story of our road trip through Cologne, Belgium, and France....

Wilkommen Herrieden On the car ride back to Berlin from France we took a break in some of the cute German cities that aren't so prominent up in our NorthEast corner.

First stop:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Officially Visa'd

About 10 months after I arrived here in Berlin, I am officially visa'd. Hooray! But why'd it take so long?

I think I learned a valuable lesson. Do not confuse the Auslanderbehorde. They do not like confusing American writers who work for off-shore companies. Many guidelines need to be followed and rule books thumbed through. There is no room for common sense - only Rules!

The German system (from our perspective) makes no sense and it's bureaucracy is no doubt increased by the unhappy people who work there. Do they have to get a degree in hating people? As always - this is the time to preface how lucky we are to even be able to live & work here. I know its nuts trying to get into the US and we are the ones who decided to live here. Still - not so fun.

Luckily, during our appointment we bumped into the one nice woman we worked with before and everything went according to plan. Well, basically. There was some confusion about where exactly to go, awkward butting in line, and a discrepancy in the price of the visa (in our favor so we were ok with it :). BUT the most important thing - I got it. It's even quite vague allowing me to work as a writer anywhere in Germany. If I wasn't so busy & happy in my current position that would be quite enticing.

I do feel so sorry for making the process so difficult. Ian got his teaching visa (much more common in these parts) ages ago. Next time, I will just lie & apply for the teaching visa. Just kidding kids, don't do that.

Berlin visa
Visa what!

(But seriously - do that. )

Want to hear more about stamps & frustration at the Ausländerbehörde? 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Observations for the Kita, part cuatro

Once again, it is time for Observations from the Kita and Ian is home being lazy. This time it is because the school is giving him time off, but same difference.  Lazy.

This week Ian and the kids visited another playground so Big News! for the Kita. In case you haven't seen the vast majority of European playgrounds- they are crazy dangerous. Huge metal disks they are supposed to run on, unsecured bridges, and giant ridged gerbil wheels. They are nuts! I appreciate the German sense of personal responsibility and worry maybe we have fallen into the trappings of nervous nelly parents that grips so many American parents- but c'mon! The 2 year old trampolining into the metal siding is a bit much.

Back to Ian's kids:

  • At the new playground, Ian "helped" the kids use the spinning wheel of Death. He would help them  onto the wheel and spin them until they got off and fell over. Bad teacher!
  • A huge slide scared the oldest kid so Ian went down the kiddie slide with him.
  • Levy has been taught to give the fist bump
  • Ian was playing soccer with the kids and hit one of the other teachers on the arm. She was not amused.
  • Darius & Joshua use Ian as muscle. They take him over to a kid using a toy they want & tell him to get it for them. Especially the tractor, everyone wants the tractor
  • Ian has come to realize the swings are like a bar. If no one is at the swing - no one wants to swing. But if they are full, everyone wants to swing. 
  • Toby rules the sandbox. As the resident collector, he will gather all the shovels and cry if anyone takes one.
  • Most the kids are still mid-potty training. Taking some boys into the bathroom they dropped their pants a good 10 ft to building
  • Playing a game with an afternoon class, one little girl had trouble with the words "little fish" and changed them to "dick fish". Teach that English Ian!
  • In this same game, little Andre is desperate to be caught & be a big fish. This is a problem because no one wants to catch him.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Little bit of German, A Little bit of French - Colmar

Crime Scene in Bordeaux
After the Belgium beer run, we thought it was time to venture back into France. The country of wine, the huh huh huh laugh, and elite cuisine is one we have only briefly skimmed. Marseille, Perpignan, Bordeaux, Paris...most of our whirlwind through the country was spent chasing a friend.

Despite this inauspicious start - we loved France. We were prepared for the worst, but the people and place gave us their best. Some of my favorite pictures and most bizarre stories (there was either a murder or suicide in the hotel room across the hall) have happened here.

So we were excited to make it back to the country. However, it was just going to be a baby toe in as we had to start making our way back to Berlin. Los!

We chose Colmar. A mini-Strasbourg, it is a town to fawn over the adorable finishes and the combination of German & French.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What do we know about Germany politics?

From the political signs littering the city, it's become apparent that there is an election coming up in Berlin. Nothing is as bad as the American campaign process at this point, but German political posters (and parties) do seem a tad hilarious.

Somehow, Ian got in a long phone survey about German politics so clearly it was time to get a little informed.

CDU Christian Democrats - Yeah, the name says it all (assholes). Major players with Merkel in the club

Green - Germans are not into subtlety. Guess what their platform is? It is pretty cool that they once planted some of that wacky tobaccy in the Reichstag garden. (I was trying to think of a slang word for weed and ended up on a parenting site for watching for drug use in teens. Died laughing!)

Die Partei - This is a joke party. They have been hosting an awful campaign of bizarre ads like this blackface ad comparing the "canditate" to Obama. We actually saw them throwing a sparsely populated party in the park today.

Piraten Partei - This is a real party. Named after pirates. "Bbased on the model of the Swedish Piratpartiet...supports the preservation of current civil rights in telephony and on the Internet; in particular, it opposes the European data retention policies and Germany's new Internet censorship law called Zugangserschwerungsgesetz. It also opposes artificial monopolies and various measures of surveillance of citizens."

This explanation is mostly in jest as we really don't know what's going on. Expats can't vote and as we have been barely able to figure our situation- let alone the political climate - we have taken a break from following the dreary and depressing world of politics.

This is with one big BUT. One of the coolest moments we've ever had in connection with the political world was when Obama was campaigning and spoke at the Siegessaule. We saw Obama! In person! Do other people remember that feeling of hope when it looked like he was definitely going to be elected? It was a great moment in my life...and it seems oh so long ago. That Obama has never come to full fruition. Maybe with another 4 years and the freedom of not worrying about re-election we can finally have the president we saw a glimmer of that day. A girl can hope...

American in Berlin

security event berlin

Police Berlin Security

Siegessäule back berlin

Still incredulous we will be seeing the future leader of the USA

Siegessäule Obama

Listen to part of his speech here (do be jealous that I watched it live)!  

We're Back in Berlin Ja!

We're Back in Berlin Ja!
ebe & ian at Yak-toberfest 2008