Monday, August 27, 2012

Cologne, Germany

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you imagined". - Henry David Thoreau

The day before we left SB to start this crazy adventure of living abroad our good friends the Strong Family gave us a beautiful & inspiring card with the above quote which could not be more apropos. It has taken courage and faith to go on this journey leaving our friends and family, leaving the paradise that is Santa Barbara, CA and leaving all things familiar. I have long dreamed that someday Chris and I would live in Europe. I thought we'd live somewhere in the country side of Tuscany and that our children would be grown and living their own lives. However sometimes dreams change and now our children get to take this journey with us. And that is a different kind of dream but one that is so much sweeter. It has not been easy at least for me and Connor. There are days that I wish we could just go home. Then there are days like this weekend when I am entirely sure we made the right choice. 

We jumped on a speed train from Amsterdam to Cologne, Germany with our friends the Ulibargers AKA the Harshbarger & Uliasz Family (they are expats from SB as well). It was about a 2 1/2 - 3hr train ride. The view from the train was lovely, mostly picturesque country side. Cologne is a wonderful city with a beautiful & huge cathedral right in the center of town. When you step out of the train station it's the 1st thing you see. Across from the Cathedral is the Dome Square and the DOM Hotel, from there you can access several shopping streets, museums (Cologne is home to 30 museums), the Roman sewage system (yes you read that right) and several large churches  . . .  

The famous Cologne Cathedral. It's the symbol of the city.

This is random but I had to share. This is a huge vending machine that sells hamburgers, cheese burgers, and an assortment of Dutch foods. 

Jessy having a nap on daddy in the ergo on the train. 

Clair Bear & Connor. Connor was so thrilled to have a friend his own age for the weekend. And they got along great for the most part. LOL 

 Our traveling companions the Harshbarger & Uliasz Family. They were so great to travel with .Heath is all about research, research, research and had everything dialed in. 
 Here they are in front of the cathedral. 

 German beer = relaxed mommies
I did not take any food pictures on this trip but enjoyed most everything. I had never tried Schnitzel before and was pleasantly surprised, it was yummy. We also had blood sausage, salmon, fresh salad with warm goat cheese, ice cream, fajitas and a few different beer selections. All good things! 

We took a little green choo choo train to the chocolate factory.  

Playing around while waiting for the Museum to open.

Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum (Imhoff chocolate museum), I can now check off my life list. 'Tasting chocolate in Germany'. Done and Yum!

 Watching the truffles come out.

 We had lunch at the cafe at the chocolate factory while we waited for the kids custom chocolate orders to be ready. 

 Cheers Germany! 

 A little building at lunch to kill time. It takes about 40 minutes for the customized chocolate order.

And voila, they have their own personalized chocolate orders. Connor and Clair both selected to have gummy bears in their chocolate.  You could pick from about 20 different 'extras' to have mixed into either milk chocolate, white chocolate or dark chocolate.

I don't really know what that building is behind them but looks like part of a castle to me.

The dads contemplating what to do with these sleeping kids while Sara and I made an escape for some much needed mommy time.

Listening to some street music.

Shopping for a gift for the mommies. Both Sara and I got pretty bracelets when we returned to our families.

At the Dom Hotel enjoying some wine before doing a little shopping. 

Cologne is really spelled Köln in German.

German signs . . . at least I can read the word Zoo :)

A Ford motor car perched high atop of a church as a tribute to the largest employer in that city. Yes Ford! 

Our hotel was right in the middle of the city. It was a short walk from everything and the room layout was great for putting baby Jess to bed while Connor and I stayed up for a bit while the dads had some man time on the town.

I could not help but end with these funny pictures of Jess at the train station.

 Until next time. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our little town of Blaricum

We are slowly getting things sorted out here and getting to know our little town, Blaricum. We are all set up on bikes now. Connor, Jess and I have been riding around town everyday. This weekend Chris joined us for the 1st time and we biked down some very beautiful and charming country roads. And yes baby Jess is going sans helmet for now. She has a bit of an odd shaped head and none of the helmets fit her properly and she just screams and screams when she has it on. So I caved and took it off and she is much happier. I'm thinking of bubble wrapping her head in the future. LOL

Clearly she is comfortable on the bike because she's fallen asleep while riding several times. Sweet little bug bug.

Connor thought it was so fun feeding the deer in the park. They are so gentile, they really just nibble the food right out of your hand.
Sadly we found out you are not allowed to feed them :( so that was our last time. We still go and visit them.

Just slipping in a cute one ;)

Every Friday there is a great outdoor market here with fresh fruits and flowers.

We see lots of these really cool bikes here. It's a great way to tote the little ones. 
Maybe in the future you'll see me riding one of these.

My friend Alyssa and I enjoyed a few glasses of wine at the "Rust Wat". It's a lovely restaurant right on the pond where the ducks come right up to your table. Chris and I walked there for dinner on our 1st date night in Holland. The food was excellent and it was  lovely to walk through the woods to dinner. (the way home was a bit creepy walking in the dark in the woods...I was waiting for someone in a hockey mask to jump out at us. Hopefully I'll get used to it and I think I'll bring a flashlight next time. 

An impromptu game of Tball. Glenn was dropping Chris off after work and was talked into a quick game of tball with Connor. 
Side note: Dear Paskin family, thank you again for the tball set you gave Connor for his 5th birthday. We use it almost everyday! Great gift. - Love & miss you guys.

The Blaricum fair started last weekend and goes until Wednesday night. Connor and baby Jess enjoyed the bounce house. Connor wanted to try this crazy water rocket ride but he was too small, probably for the best. He still had a blast.

My next post will be from Cologne, Germany, so stay tuned.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Our 1st week in Holland

Here is our home in Holland and a few picture of our little town. 
Our new home.
Here is our little tree lined street. We only have 3 houses on our street, other than that we are in the woods. 
Baby Jess moved up into a forward facing big girl carseat.

Jessy walking around the yard with her little walker.

Here is 'Greener' the lama. Connor named him "Greener" because he is always eating the greens :)  We see him everyday on our way to the market.
And these are the chickens and roosters that are right next to the market.

Greener and friends.
Don't you love this high chair!? It's perfect for our little princess!

Jessy enjoying her dinner at the local pub.

Of course we have a giant windmill in our town.

This beautiful park full of deer is right in the middle of town.

And this noisy rooster lives there too. 

This is the foot path/bike path that Connor will take to school. It will be so nice not to worry about cars while we are biking to school.

Also on the way to his school.

Pretty happy looking people for sitting in the lobby of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service Office.
We've been busy getting settled this week and have not really had a chance to enjoy all the fun stuff yet. But we are getting closer to being up and running. 
It's definitely a huge process getting set up in another country. Aside from learning to use the washing machine, dishwasher, oven etc. oh yeah what switch turns on this light and how do I unlock that door?!?
We also have to get local back accounts, insurance, cell phones, power converters for anything we want to use from the U.S. and not ruin in these 220v European power outlets. We need the equivalent of a local social security number so that we can see the doctor and with 2 kids that has to happen ASAP.We had to meet with the IND (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) to apply for residency which we were approved temporarily. We are still working on importing my car and purchasing a car for Chris. And doing all this with a bit of a language barrier. Lots of people here speak English but not always well. That is why in the TMobile store Chris and I walked out thinking a new iphone would cost 600 Euros. We don't speak Dutch and the sales girl did not speak much English. I'm glad we were wrong! Hopefully this week we will both have new phones and at least be set up with bikes to get around. The house we are renting came with bikes but we had to get Connor a new one because the ones here were too big, we still need to get a sit situated for Jess other wise I cannot ride. So lots to do!