31 December 2011

I'm a Master Furniture Builder!

When is being single not a whole lot of fun? When your car has been making a funny noise for a while. (I must take it to the shop on Monday.) When you need furniture built. Wait a minute. Not so much when you have Ikea! Don't laugh at me! Looking at their German and American websites the prices are almost spot on at what they are in the store.

I'm from the US Gulf Coast, and I had never heard of Ikea before I moved to Germany. For those of you like me it is a huge warehouse/box store with inexpensive, easy to put together furniture and some accessories. Who doesn't want to live here?

Or here?

A couple days ago I bought a bin organizer and a shelf with a removable changing table.

Cute carpet too, huh? Both only took a little while to assemble and were very easy too. The toy bin is a lot more study, well built than the shelf. It's made out of press wood and the flat pieces on the outside is only held on with baby wooden dowels/rods about an inch long. I don't expect it to last more than one or two moves - about 5 years.

I think one of the best things about Ikea is Small Land. Sometimes its really nice to just be alone. They take kids 3 and up for an hour and a half. I have confidence that my kids are fine there but they are 4 and 8. All you need is your Ausweis or Passport. Driver's licenses are not accepted.

In this area there is one store in Mannheim-Scharhof (right off the A6) and one in Waldorf (a few kms south of Heidelberg on the A5). A word of warning: I would never, ever leave my kids in the Small Land at the Waldorf location. If you need details let me know.

If you go:
Frankenthaler Str 123, 68307 Mannheim (Scharhof)
Hans-Holbein-Str. 2, Walldorf, 69190
Sells furniture,accessories, a Swedish food area, and a cafeteria style restaurant

27 December 2011

A Christmas Find

On Christmas Day we had a Skype Christmas to the States. I was lonely. Perfect time for our normal 2 mile dog walk. This (like lots of things) goes much slower with 3 kids. Sans bikes I decided we should skip the normal route through Rohrbach and go the oposite way. The great thing about living here is that there are bike paths all over the place. Everywhere! It really is quite nice. When we were in the states I don't think I knew what a bike path was.

Aparently right behind Rohrbach is Kircheim and the Heidelberg Messplatz. This is where they have special events like the flea markets. We saw something with a lot of bright lights. The boys decided we needed to investigate. I thought it was just the garden restaurant. Wrong! This is what we found:

The Heidelberg Weihnachts Circus. If we didn't have the dog we would have seen the show. You can see other pics here.  What a treat for anyone.

If you go:
Heidelberg Weihnachtscircus
Heidelberg Messplatz
Kircheimer Weg, accessible by bus/tram
tickets range from 20-30 Euros for adults and 5Euro less for kids

Let me know what you think!!

25 December 2011

Restaurant Review: Pizza Hut

On December the 23rd I had a brilliant idea. We should go down to the Heidelberg Christmas Market. The one in Mannheim was open, so Heidelberg's should be too. Not so much. So my kids and I just walked around and did some more exploring of the Altstadt (Old Town). We found an African restaurant, a seafood restaurant that I've heard a lot about and a bar built around a tree. All are must try's. We ended up at Pizza Hut on Hauptstrasse.

Since Santa just had a baby and there is a ball coming up we ordered kids meals and dessert. Their food was 3.90 Euro a piece and came with a drink. One guy ordered pizza and the other had chicken and fries. Who orders this a Pizza Hut? My little weirdo. We also had a large Cola Light and the Chocolate Chip Cookie dessert. The bill was 14.90 Euro. A bit more than $20.

In true German fashion it took us an hour and a half.  I love long leisurely meals, just without 3 kids in tow. They were satisfied with the food and it was decent. I was surprised that the waitress brought us a fun pack "Viel Spass mit der Hutt Mutts" (have fun with the Hut Mutts). Inside were too little toys to keep them entertained. We got a whistle helicopter, a puzzle, a fun eraser and a little wooden toy that we deemed to be for the baby. We've been here plenty of times and this was the first time we were given anything for the kids.

In Heidelberg there are two Pizza Huts. One on Hebel Strasse across from McDonalds and the one on Hauptstrasse. I know the one on Hebel Str. has a lunch special during the week and also a special between lunch and dinner. Both are around 6 Euro and include a drink. I believe the lunch one has a two topping personal pizza and garlic bread. The afternoon one has a one topping pizza and a drink. totally enough food though.

If you go:
Hebelstrasse 3 or Hauptsrtasse 111, Heidelberg
Cuisine: REAL American pizza, pasta and salads
I would estimate 30-40 Euro for a family to eat individual meals or less if sharing a pizza.
Kid friendly and has room for strollers
Bathrooms are okay, but could be cleaner. I would never use their changing table though.

UPDATE: I forgot to tell you all that there is a take out window on the fussgangerstrasse. Very affordable. I beleieve I paid around 7 Euros for 3 pieces of pizza and a 0,3l soda.

20 December 2011

Different? The Same?

The more time I spend here in Germany the more I realize how different Americans are to Europeans. Basically, people are all the same: school, spouse, kids, a good life. However, we just don't think or behave the same.

Germans are more, humm, aloof or standoffish. They are very abrupt and straight forward. It used to bother me a lot because I thought no one liked me. How insecure is that? I volunteered/worked at this nonprofit; I thought that the lady who ran the place hated me. I would avoid her at all costs. Come to find out we were just different. I have also found that the older generation is different from the younger one. That's everywhere. There are exceptions on both sides. I did have a doctor, that was not much older than myself, tell me 'I just don't understand why you're asking questions.' I was beyond thankful when my OB showed up!

Americans tend to live in a bubble. We're taught that we are right, the way we live is the right way and there is no better place in the world to be. The more time I spend abroad the more I realize this is just wrong. I am so grateful to be an American, but there are other great societies too. There are so many different cultures and languages here. It's completely normal to hear German, English, French, Russian or other languages all in one outing. You drive for a few hours and you're in a different country with all new customs and traditions. Are Europeans just more adaptable than us? Our states decided to form a union, so it may be a little different but its all the same. Is that the big difference? That Europeans are just more aware of other countries?

17 December 2011

Expat Survey

The other day I found this survey. It is for an American living in Brussels that is a lecturer on migration and politics. The questions are very interesting and thought provoking. While I don't consider myself to be an expat, maybe you do and wouldn't mind helping her out. The survey is here.

16 December 2011

Uncle Sam

This is completely random, but I just can't stop thinking about it. In America we all have an Uncle Sam. Sometimes he's pushy and demanding. It doesn't really feel like he cares about his family. You do what he says mostly without question. He definitely has too much say in my life. He always wants to borrow money. Sometimes he repays a bit, but mostly he just wants more. (I always pay Uncle Sam without complaints) Once he even surprised us all, he gave us more than we expected. Yep, that's right. Uncle Sam is the good ole USA. It's a nickname for our government.

Being government employees sometimes we don't get to chose where we work or live. Okay, only once in the last 10 years did we almost get a choice. Plans were changed at the last minute. Because of this I have had the joy of explaining the nonsensical to my kids. How do you tell them 'we just have to move' or 'no, honey, we can't go back to our house in Georgia for a few more years'. They will just keep asking questions. Lately I've just told them 'Because Uncle Sam says so'. Thankfully they are small enough that this is a good enough explanation.

Do other governments have something like this? What is it called? What would Germans have? An Uber BergerMeister? Do other nations have a national identity like this? Surely they must, no? Please tell me!!

13 December 2011

Oh no!

I'm on home confinement. Another day of this I think that I will go crazy. My little guy sounds like a toad. He has a cough for like the last couple days. He's been surviving on lots of Triamenic and being attached to Mom. While I love the little guy, let me out!!

11 December 2011

Going Green

It's hard not to pay attention to the footprint that you leave behind. Here in Germany it is mandatory to recycle. There are bins for rubbish, paper/cardboard, yellow bags (plastics, aluminum and things like that) and Bio waste for composting. It always irks me when my neighbors don't seperate their garbage. How hard is it really? Recycling is the first step. Then comes homemade cleaners and cloth diapers...

Now, I'd like to tell you that I started making my own laundry soap because I am sooo Earth conscience. Actually I was broke and the $10 Tide wasn't cutting it anymore. Not having a job sucks! For the record I would use the recommended amount of liquid detergent and a booster, like OxyClean, as well. Don't forget the Snuggle. Now, I use my homemade cleaner, about half a cup, a booster like OxyClean and vinegar. I've been making my own detergent for more than a year now. I really am happy with the results. I still have to use a booster for my kids clothes. They are just so hard on their jeans.

I originally got inspiration from the Duggar Family. They are inspiring in many ways. Here is the recipe I use: I'll tell you at the end how I change it up for me

5 gallon bucket
one bar of soap
1 cup Washing soda* (not to be confused with baking soda)
1/2 cup borax*
essential oil if you like
*can be found in German stores too

Grate the soap (using a regular ole cheese grater)

Fill up your bucket about half way with warm water. Put a good size pot of water on the stove, add your grated soap. Stir until it is melted.

To your bucket add washing soda, then the borax. Stir until dissolved.
Next, add the soap mixture and stir well. Fill it all the way up with warm water.
Put the lid on and let sit overnight. This is what it will look like:
It will be a gel like. Wisk it up good, then fill your container half way with the detergent and half with water. Shake it up before you use it. That's it! Easy.

Notes: Most recipes you find online are all about the same. Some tell you to use a certain amount of water to melt the soap. They also tell you to use Fels-Naptha bar soap. I've never seen this, nor is it available here. I still can't figure out what is so special about this soap. I've used Dove because that is the only soap I will put on my face. This last time I used this organic Lemongrass soap that was uber easy to grate and smells wonderful.

Most recipes tell you a certain amount of water melt the soap in. I just fill up my gumbo pot about half way. I also use a 15l bucket. Where in Germany am I going to find a 5 gallon bucket? Also, I only cut the detergent with water to a 3:1 ratio. My kids are hard on their clothes. We have no hand-me-downs. I also still you OxyClean as a booster in their loads of clothes. I have never had any problems with my clothes. I also use vinegar in a Downy Ball instead of fabric softner. The first time you use it you will smell it when you open the lid, but it will smell normal after drying. I haven't noticed since that first load.

This was an easy transition to make. It is simple, and last for quite a while. I feel good that I reuse one plastic container (usually until I give it away) instead of 2 a month. If you don't want to make so much just cut it down to fill the container you have. My friend uses 1/3 of the ingredients to fit in a gallon bottle.

Other great make at home cleaners are a multipurpose spray, glass cleaner, and dishwasher detergent. I am just venturing into cloth diapers and wipes. We make our own play dough too! The kids love this. What do you do to reduce your footprint?

10 December 2011

Mannheim Christmas Market!

I LOVE Christmas time! Not the getting of presents on the 25th, but everything between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's the feeling in the air. The atmosphere. People are nicer; the air is crisp. (Last year at this time there was snow already) People are more giving of themselves. My favorite place at Christmas is Natchitoches, LA. I went to a boarding school there for the last couple years of high school. I loved to go and walk down front street and window shop. Stop in to Cafe Isabelle (no longer there) for a cup of hot chocolate or the ever cool cappuccino. I went back there 5 or 6 years  ago, and I still miss it.

Anyway, in Germany they have Christmas Markets. I think all towns have them. The larger ones are open everyday. The smaller cities' markets are open just on the weekend or they are only for one weekend. A couple days after TOM Turkey we took the S-Bahn to Mannheim with a few friends. Seriously, America needs to get with it on public transportation! We spent like 6 hours at the market there. On the way to the library we drove past the market, and by the time we went on Saturday they could barely contain themselves. There is rides for the kids, plenty of vendors selling everything from gemstones and decorations to vintage signs, and all kinds of food. The best part is the gluwein!! Hot red wine, yum! Sometimes you can get white, honey or in Heidelberg, Heidelbeere. I haven't tried that one yet though I've heard it's the best. It was such a wonderful day. Shopping. Eating, drinking. Lots of great conversation. If you ever have a chance to go to a Christmas market you should.

If you decide to go:

In Mannheim, open daily from 23 November to 23 December, 11am to 9 pm
It is all around the Water Tower, just a short walk from the Hauptbahnhof
There is also a smaller market at the Kapunizerplanken behind Engelhorn
Go here for more markets and info. Also, they get the photo credit for the pic at the top. Have fun!

20 November 2011


Everyone makes choices that are right for them. No one can tell you what is right for you. What course of action you chose today may not be the best tomorrow. What the hell am I talking about? 9 years ago I chose to drop out of college (in my senior year) to follow my husband half way around the world and to have my little family whole again. It really was the right choice at the time. With the war, being a new mom and just itching to find out about life away from home it was time for a break. I just never anticipated it being this long. I was going back about 5 years ago. Then, you guessed it, baby 2 (afectionately know around here as meatball) was on the way. And a huge mortgage. And not enough money to go around to mom. Yikes.

But still, it was the right choice at the time. Now though those choices just aren't 'okay' with me anymore. Let the stoning from the 'SuperMoms' being. I tried my hardest. I really did. I cooked (quite well I've heard), baked, sewed, quilted, gardened, had lots 'o kids at my house for playdates, done the morning neighborhood walking then the ladies who lunch, and been very involved in the FRG and the spouses clubs (I'm almost embarrassed to admit that one)*. Not to mention the soccer practices and being an amazing popcorn selling machine ($2k) for Cub Scouts. I had a good time. Really, I did. Where is me in all that? It was all for someone else. Either a child, or two or three, or a hubster, a friend, a group or just to keep up appearances. I miss the life that I thought I would have, that I still want.

I went to school to be a mechanical engineer. I'll admit it, I'm a math geek! :) Sometimes I will go online and find some calculus problems to work, or physics. When I first arrived back in Mannheim I was so excited. I brought the 'little' guy to a babysitter and walked to the local high school to volunteer to be a math tutor. Once upon a time I was far enough along in my degree to have more than a minor. Surely enough that would be enough to whip some algebra, right? Nope. They only wanted me if I had my degree. Sorry, no dice.

Then I learned that I couldn't even volunteer to be a kids cooking instructor. Even if no actual cooking took place. What a shot to the ego. I'm not even qualified to volunteer my services? How am I ever going to find that 'perfect' job? I did find a job. Not fulfilling at all. I do pride myself in doing a fabulous job. (I'm pretty sure they're missing me about now :) ) BTW, this year I had a very, very difficult pregnancy and learned that one of my boys has a vision loss. Scarry. I did all that alone too. Big 'ol fist bump to Uncle Sam on that one.

Let's check the scoreboard. No career. No almost acceptable volunteer position. Unfulfilling job. Ugh! So, here I sit flailing in the wind. Directionless. Where do I go from here? I can try to get certified to teach English as a second language. Be a financial manager. I really want to be at DCSENG. How am I supposed to get there? I will, eventually. I would really like to get a German job. It's not looking too healthy. No degree and I'm an Auslander.  A foreigner. Sigh.

Is it okay to be going through a mid-life crisis a little early? I think this all started this last summer when my doctor so nicely pointed out that I had recently had a birthday and then politely pointed out my age. Seriously, Dr Lauk, how is it okay to do this to a depressed pregnant woman??? It's no wonder I lost 35 pounds while I was preggo.  I hope that you all aren't too dragged down by now. Here is some sweetness in simplicity. Bye!

* Notice that laundry is not on that list? Lol. There is a funny story on why the hubster does that. Sometimes. 

15 November 2011


Geez! It sure is cold these days! I'm not sure that Louisiana people are made for the snow. I like to visit the cold then go home. I was telling a lady that I'm not too excited to be driving in the hilly Heidelberg area. She laughed out loud when I told her where I was from. She is from New Hamshire. A total pro at the snow.

It is currently 34F or 1C. Yikes. No wonder I was freezing waiting on my guy at the bus stop. The nice German lady always tells me it's to cold not to have on a jacket. Although, today she was talking to me about the dog and I just couldn't understand what she was saying. Maybe because My brain was still napping. Its kinda nice to be on extended leave from work.  :)

So, today we are headed off to Luisenpark for a couple hours. I really should have bought the year pass for 2011. Hopefully we will have some visitors, like usual.

I'll be thinking about the spring!

13 November 2011

Adventure Sunday

Good morning everyone! Or what ever time of day it is for you. The baby is sleeping and I have some time to do something other than nurse :) I was only 20 when I came to live in Germany. Before then I was just a person who thought little of the rest of the world. I had plans to move to the big city...Houston, TX, to work at NASA. Moving to Europe opened my eyes in many ways. I like the idea of raising my kids as citizens of the world. They have been exposed to so many cultures and places I didn't even know existed when I was a child. So, I want this page to bring a little piece of the rest of the world to those who have not had the pleasure to experience it. I'm going to post something new each week. I'd love to hear about where you live too!

This weekend was, to me, our last chance to enjoy the outside without freezing! It is still a little warm, strangely enough. So, we went up to Koenigstuhl (I can't figure out how to get the numeric keypad for an umlaut!). There is the Märchenparadies. This translates to 'Fairytale Paradise'. It is on top of the mountain and is a little playgroup/miniature theme park. In our house it is affectionately know as 'the playground on the mountain.'

What is special about this place is that it has little animatronics that tell the fairy tales. There is Rumplestiltskin, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and lots of others. These stories are scattered about the park with little rides and play areas. My boys loved the rides beause they could do them on their own without help from mom. I liked that too! It really is a small place so the rides are operated by token and you push a plunger to make them go. My 4 year old thought he was so grown.

In addition to the dozen or so rides there are a couple of play areas. One has a typical playground, a merry-go-round, a huge bouncy thing, automated swings and lots of benches for moms and dads to enjoy the view. The other play area is one of those climb around ball pits with different levels and air powered foam ball guns. That sounds way worse than it is!

If you're in the area here are the details:

Heidelberger Märchenparadies GmbH & Co. KG

Königstuhl 5a
69117 Heidelberg

Monday - Saturday
Adults 2 EU, kids 2-12, 3EU 

Sundays, Holidays & I think school out days for BW
Adults 3 EU, kids 2-12, 4EU

All rides take tokens that cost 50 cents each. I bought 30, and it was plenty. Both my kids rode everything multiple times and mom may have too :)

Below are pics that I yanked off their website. No, I still don't have a camera. On the mountain is a few other things that are worth checking out: Tinnunculus - a hawk show, an observatory, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, 2 nature trails designed for families, and a funicular railway. Dont forget to click on the Union Jack for the English version. Bye!

04 November 2011

Shhh....I have a Secret

Shhh....I have a secret. I did it again on Tuesday. And yesterday. I pretended like I didn't understand when a German person was speaking to me. Yikes!! Does this make me a horrible person? Possibly. to understand why you need to know what's going on in my life. I recently had a baby.  (That deserves a whole other post.) You know it goes; everyone that you encounter thinks they know how to be a better parent than you so they want to give you advise. Generally, in English, I smile and say something like 'I'll keep that in mind'. But, in German I just don't want to. I think it is because I am very unimpressed with German children's behavior. I have not had the greatest experiences with local kids at the bigger playgrounds. To be fair, I'm sure not all German kids act poorly. It can just be so frustrating. Wouldn't it be great when someone tries to give you unsolicited advise you could just pretend like you don't unerstand them?

I want you to check out something interesting that I found. It's a webcam on the Neckar river.

http://www.edingen-neckarhausen.de/webcam/ Its interesting to people watch.

Map of Edigen-Neckarhausen This is a link to a googlemap so you can see where Edingen-Neckarhausen is located.

Edingen-Neckarhausen is right around the corner from Heidelberg. I've been to a bike store there, John's Radhaus, of course I couldn't afford a bike there, but I like to window shop. He is an American that has been living here for like 20 years.


PS - Sorry if there are spelling errors. My spell check is in German and I am not smart enough to get it back to English.

13 March 2011

Hello, again!

Well, hello, again after such a long while. Wow. It has been a long time. I have to say, 2010 was horrible!!! However, 2011 is going to be great! So many things has happened in my life since I was here last. Where to start?

Both the hubster and I have new jobs. His requires WAY more travel than I care for, but in the end it will be good for us. Mine is great. It is with a great employer, and the whole outfit is such a team. It is really like one big family. The guy in charge is so laid back and easy to work for. I'm not saying that it isn't all business, but he is just a good person. He's the guy that can walk in a room full of people and leave with a room full of friends.

I guess the biggest news is that we are expecting a new baby in the fall. This will be our 3rd. Never thought I'd say that. I'm super nervous to have a baby here, but, in my experience, the German doctors are more conservitave. This suits me well. No way they are coming at my back with a big ole needle! DISCLAIMER: EVERY ONE MAKES THEIR CHOICES BASED ON WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM. MY CHOICE IS NO DRUGS, BUT I RECONIZE THAT THIS MAY SEEM ABSURD TO SOME. I AM FULLY SUPPORTIVE OF EVERYONE'S RIGHT TO CHOSE! I must say that I am really excited b/c German strollers are so damn cool. They are made to go on cobblestone, so they like have shocks. They are considerably more expensive than their American counter parts. This is my last baby, and I've never really been able to afford something  expensive that I wanted and not needed. Gosh, does this make me sound selfish? I hope not!

My biggest confession: I don't live in Mannheim anymore! Truth be told, we wanted to stay in Mannheim forever, but things just didn't work out like that. We moved about 13 miles down the Neckar River to Heidelberg. It's okay. Lots going on. I haven't really been able to explore too much b/c I work, and with being pregnant I am exhausted when I get home! I'm sure there are ladies who can totally understand!

So, I've thought about changing my name of the blog. I still feel a sentimental attachment to Mannheim though. I really do love that city. What's that old saying? 'New York is where I'm from, but Paris is my hometown.' The US is where I'm from, but Mannheim is my hometown. Although, Paris would be lovely too!! I'd love to work at the mission in Paris.

Okay, I've got some great (to me) ideas for the blog. With the new job, I am shocked at how little we have traveled in this last year. So, I think that the focus of this blog is just going to be about life in a foreign country. I still don't speak the language that well, but it's a work in progress. More to come!!

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