The adventures of a born-and-raised-in-Michigan girl (OK, woman) who's moved to Bavaria with her husband, kids, and dog.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bulleted List of Summer News Items

Well, since I don't quite know where to begin, I'll attempt to throw bullet points at you in rough chronological order. Some of these deserve their own post with photos, but in the interest of time we'll forego that for the moment. Let's dig in:

  • The trip to the U.S. was wonderful, much relaxing with the kids and grandparents (included a trip to a strawberry farm, the zoo, children's museum, and Lake Michigan, as well as multiple trips to Easely Art, the Meijer Gardens' children's garden, Y swim classes for Stephanie, library storytime, and a nearby park with a small lake and beach). We also got in a few visits with cousin Colin (who is almost two), and made time for other special treats... like making and eating pancakes for the first time, or baking bread with Grandpa, or planting flowers with Grandma, or going to the Ada Township 4th of July parade. I also did a lot of shopping for "essentials" -- everything from graham crackers to smoke detectors to dried cherries, and other things not available here.

  • The wedding was really wonderful, everything was perfect and in keeping with Mackinac Island -- from the nice weather to the party favors (Mackinac Island fudge from Murdick's in a cute box) to the table decorations (beach glass in assorted colors). It was pretty tough to juggle the kids' food, naps, etc. around being a bridesmaid (no real "duties" except getting my hair and nails done, to be honest). But after a bumpy Friday where the kids had 30 minutes of nap time before the rehearsal, all went well on Saturday and we made it to the finish line (Sunday breakfast with relatives) with the usual post-wedding exhaustion.

  • We returned July 8th to our bombed out house (Martin decided to tackle ALL of the destruction projects in our absence, sparing the kids and I both dust and noise) with just a day to prepare for our houseguest, Emily. She started out as our "mother's helper" in the U.S. when Nicholas was just a month old, and thanks to her German class trip this summer, she was already "in the area" and could extend her trip to visit us for ten days. (In all fairness, the house was actually in great shape, as Martin had arranged for a group of friends to clean all the usable rooms and whip them into shape the night before we arrived.)

  • With Emily, we managed to ignore and abandon the mess at home and become tourists again. We made several day trips: to the Playmobil FunPark, Regensburg, Nuremberg, and Munich, as well as hanging out around Ingolstadt (she met several of our friends, and hung out with two teenage daughters of friends of ours while here). It sounds like she left with plenty of German email/pen pals and a desire to return next summer.

  • The end of July saw the culmination of the 1200 year old celebration of the city of Ingolstadt (throughout 2006), in the "Historisches Fest" which was a more authentic version of a Renaissance Festival, essentially. The end of the weekend festival was a stunning "Historischer Festzug" (historic parade) which will be a lengthy, picture-laden post coming soon. I still can't believe how well done it was, particularly for a city this size... the planning must have been unbelievable.

  • August has brought much cooler weather (50s and 60s but now returning to 70s and 80s) after a very hot and humid July (temps often over 95, heat index had to be well over 100), which is not unlike a Michigan July... except that there is no air conditioning here (!!). Not in the houses, not in the offices, not in the stores, and not in the restaurants. Yes, we have scoped out every area swimming pool and found other ways to keep cool (Martin couldn't take it in June and installed a one-room A/C unit in our bedroom... plans are to have A/C in all upstairs bedrooms for next summer). Why no A/C here? I have asked a number of people (Germans and foreigners) and it seems that most Germans believe that air conditioning takes the humidity out of the air... and that low humidity is very very B-A-D, particularly for babies and the elderly. Huh?? I am still trying to figure it all out...

  • August also brought Nicholas' third birthday, which we celebrated by having a few people come over to share the cake. He now grasps the concept that he is three years old, and that he used to be two, but sometimes he still says "Two will come back," or "Two is sleeping."

  • Life these days consists of continuing to unpack and starting the belated spring cleaning effort -- now that the dusty phase of construction is essentially over, it makes sense to tackle the thick lurking layers and get back to something like a normal life. Thankfully, we have Kersten, the daughter of a friend of ours, as our new "mother's helper" which gives me large enough blocks of time to get things done around here (much better than that one hour nap window). Nice to get the house into decent shape, particularly as my parents will be here for ten days in late September.

  • We are also prepping for Kindergarten... some shopping (rubber boots, porcelain cup, houseshoes/slippers, gardening pants, lunch box), a little extra effort in the potty training area, and much discussion of how much fun it will be even if Mommy and Stephanie can't go along. Nicholas' first day is September 12th, the first day the new building (post-fire) will be open.

Well, I think that pretty much brings you up to speed... except for a brief rundown of the house and construction projects and their current status. Don't worry, full photo stories (before, during, after) will be posted, just as soon as I have some "after" photos! :-0

  • Kitchen/dining gutting and remodel: Cabinets were installed just before we went to the U.S., countertops (dark blue manufactured stone) finally installed last week. Still to do are the backsplash tiles and other misc. decorating, which will require a trip to IKEA in Munich to find the perfect tablecloth, for instance.

  • Living room: Done, except for hanging pictures. Replaced the aged and faded laminate flooring with the same mottled taupe tile from the kitchen (which will also be used throughout the front hallway). Stripped the old wallpaper and hung new paintable wallpaper (with sawdust chips embedded for texture, the norm here), and changed it from white white to a soft taupe, blending with the floor tile (same color will be used in the front hall).

  • Front hall: Old floor tiles and welcome mat are gone, old vestibule interior door (70s yellow glass) and doorway are gone, cheesy metal built-in cupboards with fake dark woodgrain are gone. Entire full bathroom, which was right by the front door, is gone (Martin started to track down a leak and associated smell and one thing led to another...). Electrical and plumbing are done, old walls are closed and prepped, new walls ready to be framed. Instead of a full bath, we will have a small half bath and a small pantry (directly opposite the kitchen doorway). Plans are to eventually include a second fridge in there, and just have a place to store cases of drinks (all pop, juice, beer, water is sold by the case), instead of the garage. This project is on hold for now, as we are concentrating on the basement.

  • Furnace/laundry room: New furnace/water heater needs to be installed, as the old one has been slowly passing away. We used to have a separate laundry room, but we moved the washer and dryer into the furnace room to make more space in the basement.

  • Guest bedroom and full bath: Formerly a very small bedroom, it has been combined with the old laundry room to make more spacious digs. Martin installed a good-sized window (we will create a staggered egress with plantings and such at some point), replacing the typical tiny basement one. A shower stall and small sink and toilet are works-in-progress. We chose floor and bath tile this past weekend, and estimate that drywalling will be this weekend. So tiling, wallpapering, painting, and installing the bathroom fixtures would be the remaining tasks before the furniture can return. It will be nice to have a basement bathroom, since the playroom is down there and jogging two flights of stairs during potty training is a little tiresome.

  • Yard: Essentially ignored, we have lost any "curb appeal" that we once had, as many things have been removed (two dilapidated tool sheds out back, the crumbling front steps and walk, the front porch overhang, etc.). New front door has been ordered and should come in next month (Martin wanted to remove the porch overhang now, as he was visualizing it crashing into the new front door if he waited until next spring to remove it).

  • Garden: Also essentially ignored, as in, not even a lawn cutting this year (thankfully our yard is quite secluded). I did harvest some red currant berries from our bush (could only find one non-jam recipe online, anyone have another??), and the plum tree is heavy with nearly ripe fruit, so I am ready for your favorite plum-based recipe, if you want to send it. We also have four peony bushes, two dark pink and two cream, which bloomed exactly when I was gone for those five weeks. They are quite large and must have been stunning. I am planning on salvaging and reusing them whenever we do our landscaping overhaul.

That's the scoop, on our in-home and out-of-home activities. All in all, the summer has been nice. The projects around the house mean that we have the occasional "helper" over who stays for dinner after their evening work stint with Martin, when the kids have gone to bed. So we've had a nice social life in addition to all the hard work.

On that note, the next big dinner I am planning is for the basement drywalling day. The menu consists of "American" food -- brats in beer, baked beans, cornbread, cole slaw, and bananas foster for dessert. Does anyone else have any good "American dinner" menu ideas (cheeseburgers, deviled eggs, and Jell-O salad aside, of course)?


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