JANUARY 2001-JUNE 2001
We have no way to update the website during the move, so there probably won't be much new posted here until mid to late July. We are sure we will have lots of fun with the move, and if you would like to approximate what we are feeling, please bang your head several times on the nearest hard object. When you regain consciousness do it again. Repeat until several weeks have gone by.
We will be moving out on 25 June, which makes 1 complete year since our website was launched - 24 June, 2000.
17 June - Too Much Stuff: The party is officially over and we are trying to get our goods organized for the move. Oy! It is coming along, but what a hassle. We hope this memory sticks with us for a while because it will dissuade us from buying anything else in the future. We also called our Dads today to wish them Happy Father's Day - Happy Father's Day again if you are reading this!
16 June - Blitzing The House & A Feast At Tom & Susie's: The move is starting to feel real, ominous, and imminent! We really started taking things apart, organizing similar articles, etc. to prepare for the movers who will be coming 19-21 June. It didn't look like much to deal with when we started, but we had squirreled away so much stuff in different places that it started to look like it was coming out of the woodwork. We made a good dent in it, but there is plenty more to do. In the evening, Tom & Susie hosted a going away dinner and Nancy, Linda, Kleha, Doris, Will, Debbie, Jessica, and Melissa all came. The spread was big and we got to have all kinds of tasty fun food like Buffalo wings, ribs, and meatballs. As usual there was no room for dessert but we somehow squeezed in strawberry shortcake too. We got all kinds of going away gifts - Tom & Susie gave JA a cool Milka truck that she had been eyeballing for a while as well as some cool scuba sculptures made of industrial metal pieces and parts like bolts and spark plugs (Greg's diver has a spear gun). Kleha and Nancy gave us a beautiful watercolor painting of the way Landstuhl looked in the Middle Ages, and even though Hobler & Ari couldn't come to the dinner they sent along a picture frame decorated with a road map of the area around our village. Besides the gifts everybody gave us very nice cards and that is making it even harder to leave! Thanks everybody for the gifts and thanks especially Tom & Susie for hosting the dinner!
15 June - Unstitched & Heading Home: The stitches came out this morning - what fun. There was some tugging on the thread with something that looked like pliers, and then Mustapha the doctor used a razor blade to cut the knots. The wound is still ugly but there doesn't seem to be infection, bleeding, etc. so that is probably a good thing. Our flight didn't leave until the evening, so we lounged around the pool in the afternoon and even had another walk through the aviary just to say good bye to the loud peacocks. We flew over Greek Islands and parts of Italy on the way home and what we could see from the air was very rugged looking. We got back to our apartment at about 23:30 and were greeted by the bad-ass grass rat who was surrounded by beer bottles and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. It appears he found his way back from Schwedelbach but he looks a little homesick. To Be Continued....
14 June - Goin' Deep; Dinner Celebration: We finished our Advanced Diver Certification in the morning with a deep dive to 30 meters. It was enjoyable but it was also a strange feeling to look up and see 100 feet of water above us. We saw many different fish including lobsters, starfish, and a 1-meter eel that was deep blue with gold and brown spots. It was a pretty color and incredibly fast underwater. Michel got his Open Water Diver Certification and we went to dinner with him, Alice, and Sylvia to celebrate our respective certifications. Of course an evening wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Doc for new bandages so we made sure to do that too.
13 June - Photography & Boat Diving: Today we went out on the dive shop's boat with Alice, Nikos, Astrid, Andrew, Pschemek, Michel, and Klaus. We did our Photography & Boat adventure dives and it went well again. We got some good pictures and had fun meeting Michel. Our confidence level with scuba is rising and Alice has made the classes fun. We also got to do some archery at the beach.
12 June - Damn The Torpedoes & Scuba Tanks: Dimitris came up with a way to wrap Greg's thumb with a finger rubber, latex glove, medical tape, a rubber band and a reef glove so Greg could try diving. It worked and we were able to do our Navigation & Peak Performance Buoyancy dives with Alice! Greg had to make some adjustments to operate the low-pressure inflator but all went well and we got to make our first dives in Greece from the beach. The ocean bottom there is grassy with various fish, coral, rocks, etc. and good visibility.
10, 11 June - Luxuriating: Greg was under strict orders not to get the wound wet because it could tear the skin around the stitches so we had to go back to the dive shop. Alice and Dimitris were totally understanding and graciously rearranged the schedule to keep open the possibility to dive later in the week. We spent the next few days studying scuba books and luxuriating at the pool. We also started the tradition of an evening promenade to the clinic for wound cleaning and bandage changes. Dr. Michael did a thorough job each day and it started looking better.
9 June - Spontaneous Surgery In The Dining Room: The day started with a dive shop visit to arrange classes. Alice, Dimitris, Astrid, and Nikos helped make plans for our Advanced Open Water Diver Certification and scheduled the classes and dives for us. That afternoon we walked around the resort to see all the pools and facilities that were available. There were a lot of people, but it didn't feel crowded anywhere. We also worshipped the sun some more before going to dinner - that's when it happened! Greg stopped paying attention while cutting bread with a light saber (actually it was a really sharp bread knife) and he sliced a chunk of his thumb. After collecting his wits, the bloody knife, and the bread he asked a hotel employee for some bandages. A short while later we walked to the village's clinic where the Doc cleaned the wound, shot it with Novocaine, put in 3 stitches, and wrapped it up. After that we picked up antibiotics at the pharmacy and headed back to the hotel - happy it wasn't worse, but bummed that we might not be able to dive.
8 June - Cold Rain at 0330, Catching Rays By 1200: Our flight is a charter and that means it's a red-eye special. We had to leave our apartment at 0330 to be at the airport by 0430, so depending on your perspective that was really early or really late. We picked up our tickets, got on the plane, and a few hours later we arrived at the Iraklion airport. After a 45-minute drive on the coastal road we arrived at the resort and it was beautiful. We wound up in a comfortable bungalow near the resort's aviary and zoo - no joke. There were monkeys, ostriches, and all kinds of birds - some running free and others in cages. It was fun to see all the little things running around. We hung out at the pool for a few hours before heading to the dining room for dinner. We were exhausted by the time we hit the rack, but it was a fun day. The peacocks turned out to be real screamers and we didn't sleep much so the next day we changed to a bungalow on the other side of the hotel - that way we could visit the animals when we wanted to instead of the other way around!
5 June - Greece Is The Word: We have decided to go scuba diving next week on the island of Crete. Greece is a beautiful place and our friend in Sigonella, Lindy, suggested the resort. We are leaving on 8 June so arranging it all today was tricky but it worked. We can't wait!
4 June - Cuban Grill: We broke out the grill for another experiment. This time it was a Cuban beef dish called Palomilla that is made with salt, pepper, cumin, garlic, and lime juice. The recipe comes from Steve Raichlen's Barbecue Bible and as usual it was delicious.
2 June - Scuba Review: We are trying to squeeze a vacation into our last few weeks before returning to America and are seriously considering a scuba location. We haven't been diving since last September when we went to Egypt, so this weekend we went with Tom & Susie to a scuba review. We had to take a 50 question written test and then put our gear together, hop in the pool, and do about 16 different exercises to pass. It went well and helped refresh our knowledge.
31 May - Turkish Dinner With Jim & Francoise: We did some recon for our going away dinner by eating at Abdo's. Astute readers know we were there just a few weeks ago, but are tireless in our quest for good meals. We had even more appetizers than last time and for the main courses we had lamb chops, lamb skewers, and fish. For dessert we had something like Baklavas. As usual the food was excellent. After dinner we all headed back to our apartment for peanut butter cream pie, and mint chocolate chip pie. A lot of good food plus we got to show off the recently displayed chess sets!
29 May - Site Update: Added more pictures to the newsletter.
28 May - Chess Sets on Display; Tom & Susie Visit: Greg has acquired chess sets from most countries we have visited but until recently could only display about 3 at a time in our apartment. However, since we got a display case with our latest furniture, Greg put all 16 chess sets in the case. We will only be here a few more weeks so we won't get to look long, but this way we can take pictures as a record for the inventory - just in case something happens during the move and we need to show the insurance company. Plus, it looks really cool! Tom and Susie visited tonight for a grilling experiment involving lots of spices, chicken, and about 600 degrees F of smoldering charcoal. The experiment was a success.
27 May - Run, Food Prep, & (You Guessed It) Administrivia: The weather is still perfect, so we started the day with a nice 40-minute run. Once we got home, we started preparing the chicken for tomorrow's grilling adventure, and then into more administrivia to learn the ins and outs of our upcoming move.
26 May - Bike Ride & Administrivia: Hopped on the bikes for 43 km bike ride that went to a nearby castle, through backwoods to a lake called the Gelterswoog, and then home. That wasn't enough physical activity for JA so she also walked along the ridge near our house for about an hour while Greg had a beer!
25 May - Administrivia & Cooking Software: Considering we have no cars, no house, no insurance, etc. in the US, we have begun relearning what it takes to live in our home country. Today we started reading about all the administrative schtuff you have to do and it looks like a real barrel of monkeys. On a brighter note, we installed some new software that tracks recipes, gives you nutritional information about the meal, what you can make with ingredients on-hand etc. Important stuff!
24 May - Big News: We have loved living in Germany, but it is time for change and Greg has been half-heartedly trolling for new jobs over the past few months. There have been offers for interesting networking jobs in a few places, but then JA received an unexpected but good job offer in Virginia. It is hard to believe (even for us), but that is where we are headed next. We will probably move there in July so the race is on to get our stuff organized, pack out, and say our good-byes.
23 May - Greg's Greek Grill: The weather was perfect today - deep blue skies, loads of sun, and warm. The best thing to do on days like this is to grill so we whipped up some Greek style pork on skewers and had a relaxing dinner on the balcony.
22 May - More Furniture: The rest of the Living Room furniture arrived today and it looks great. One of the pieces is a big display case that we'll use to display some of the chess sets we have gathered on our travels. On a meteorological note, we have had 8 straight days of sunshine and warm temperatures - it is a new record! Fall must be just around the corner.
21 May - Fitness Today, Pictures Coming Soon: We went rollerblading and running after work today since the weather is great and it is staying light past 8 PM. Also, we recently had pictures developed and will add some to the newsletter soon - stay tuned.
20 May - Bike Day!: A stretch of road was closed today so that people could walk, bike, rollerblade, etc. without any traffic. The course went from the castle at Landstuhl all the way to Waldfischbach and there was loads of food and drink stands (of course) along with bands and other entertainment along the way. The bike day road goes right through our village so our house was the jumping off point for the big event. Hobler, Ari, Nancy, Kleha, Fred, Jeff, Tom, Susie, Maureen, and Corie came over for a hash brown, scrambled egg, and banana bread breakfast JA whipped up. We rode around all day and in the late afternoon came back for chips, dip, JA's Peanut Butter Cream and Ice Cream Pies as well as a chocolate cake that Fred made. The weather was perfect, we rode almost 50 km, and it was an enjoyable day with friends.
19 May - Prep For Bike Day: JA picked up Hobler's bike from outdoor rec and then we had pizza at the Anarchy House for lunch. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and getting ready for tomorrow. A bunch of friends are coming over for Bike Day and JA is preparing a breakfast for the morning and some pies for the afternoon.
18 May - Tom's 20th: We celebrated Tom M's 20th anniversary with the company at the Kusel Castle. The castle was started in the year 1200, is one of the biggest castle sites in Germany, and has a great restaurant. The gang from work were all there and it was a fun evening. We had the duck in port sauce, and even tried a new item on the menu - Ostrich. It might seem strange to have Ostrich, but there is a general effort underway to find other meat sources besides beef because of Mad Cow disease and Ostrich is leading by a neck (insert rim shot here). It had the texture and taste of mid-grade beef with a little background taste like liver. That probably doesn't sound good but it was. In any event, we will all probably be eating more Ostrich soon because of the beef problems.
17 May - Turkish Night: We finally got together with Kathleen, Joe, Nancy, Gary, Bev, Paula, Rich, and their kids for an evening at Abdo's - a Turkish restaurant. Abdo's supposedly has a menu but you never get to see it because the owner likes to make combination meals where they bring out several different community dishes during the dinner. It started with simple but wonderful appetizers such as fresh baked bread and side dishes such as grilled eggplant, diced olives, tabouli, various beans, tzatziki, stuffed peppers, humus, and spicy dipping sauces. After the salad, the main course was a big plate of lamb shish-kebabs and another big plate of heavily spiced fish. Good food, good fun, good company!
16 May - Living Room Furniture Starts To Arrive: 4 of the 7 pieces of new living room furniture arrived today and JA picked them up. The furniture matches our couches and we are happy. The furniture store promised these 4 pieces would be here this week and they were - we were shocked but thankful. The other pieces will come soon.
14 May - Car Gets Clean Bill Of Health: The meisters finally figured out that a bad Antilock Brake sensor was causing the car problems. They replaced it and the car is running great.
13 May - Personal Bike Day: Started getting ready for next week's bike day by riding about 30 km on the lower half of the course. On the way home we had a simple but tasty lunch in a renovated farmhouse in the town of Steinalben. It has been sunny for the past few days and we are making the most of it.
The top 2 pictures are us on a zip line we found in a park and the picture below that is the farmhouse where we had lunch:
12 May - Bazaar & Luxembourg Shrimp: We visited a bazaar at a local base and picked up a few doo-dads for our home. A bazaar at the military base means that vendors from various countries temporarily set up stands and sell different goods like Speculaas (cookies from Holland which we send to our addicted friends and family), antiques from England, woodwork from Poland, etc. Bazaars also have good food and today we had some crepes and garlic bread before and after the shopping excursion.
At Susie's Party ->
In honor of Susie's birthday, Nancy, Kleha, Tom, Susie, and we headed to the great shrimp place in Luxembourg for dinner. The weather was perfect and we walked around some of the casemates before going to the restaurant where Susie scored some good birthday presents and we all chowed on that great garlic & butter flaming shrimp dish. The ride home was a little hairy as the car still had problems that caused the brakes to apply themselves whenever they felt like it and that was frequently at the wrong time. The meisters must have been drinking some serious beer the last time they "fixed" the car. It is going back to the garage.
Luxembourg is such a pretty place, here are some bonus pictures:
May 11 - Car Problems: It turns out the meisters aren't so meisterful because the car continues to have problems. They downloaded some new software for the traction control system but that didn't fix the problem so it is back in the shop.
10 May - Metz Shopping: JA headed across the French border for a shopping expedition in Metz where she picked up a few things including "The Little Prince" decorations for Kim's child's room.
9 May - Car Problems: The car has decided to sporadically activate the traction control system even though there isn't snow, ice, or otherwise slippery roads. The practical impact of this is that there is some kind of rubbing in the wheels. This can't be good, so the car went to the autokrankenhaus today.
7 May - Special Ops: The day started with the insertion of special agent "grass rat" behind the lines in Schwedelbach. His mission was to greet Susie with a smirk and a Happy Birthday sign early in the morning. The plan was almost foiled by a big stau on A6, but the agent accomplished his mission.
6 May - Firing Up The Smoker: Although we were still so full from last night's feast that the thought of ever eating again was terrifying, we had 2 chickens coated in salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic ready to inaugurate the new water smoker. It took some time to get the heat just right and maintain the beer/water in the pan, but 4 1/2 hours after slow cooking in a steamy hickory-smoked beer cloud the chickens were ready. These were the juiciest chickens we have ever had, and although they were prepared with a basic recipe, they had a nice smoky flavor. We were happy with the results, but next time we'll put different spices on the chickens and put more beer in the water pan. We'll also close the balcony door because it smells like a smokehouse and there is more than a little ash indoors (oops).
5 May - Stuffed To The Gills: The regular food reporting continues today as we went to Tom and Susie's for a massive feast. We ate so much good food we almost had to crawl away from the table tonight! It started with a ton of Buffalo wings and celery with Blue Cheese dip and then moved to a heaping dish of falling-off-the-bone tender baby back ribs that had homemade corn bread with honey butter and JA's beans on the side. After eating ourselves into a blissful stupor, we watched The Patrio.... I mean the movie called Sieged on the new home theater system - way cool. To top off the evening, Susie brought out homemade strawberry shortcake, which was piled high with the strawberries - mmmmm... what a meal!
2 May - More Furniture Shopping: Today we ordered some furniture for our living room. It looks like old-fashioned Mexican furniture, we got a good deal, and we are psyched.
28 April - Furniture Shopping, Visiting The Colonel, Renewing Old Friendships: The day started with a trip to some local furniture stores in a quest for some living room furniture. After checking out several different pieces, we headed to Mainz, which has an American facility with good furniture and electronics shopping. We didn't get any furniture but Greg got a new charcoal smoker with the gift certificate Kleha and Nancy gave him on his Birthday. Greg is psyched and can't wait to smoke some pork, chicken, and fish soon. It also turns out that there is a KFC in Mainz and we got to have some of the Colonel's chicken for the first time in a long while! Germany is so known for its culture and it is good to see it even next to a KFC. For genuine culture, please look at this picture and note the 3rd sign from the top (for those of you that don't speak German, markt is a market - ahem). The icing on the cake today is that Greg called Mike - a friend from Berklee. Although Greg had planned an elaborate prank involving the FBI and furry animals, Mike recognized his voice and foiled the plan! It was an enjoyable and long overdue phone call.
27 April - Pizza Buffet: After work we headed to a local place that has a big all-you-can-eat pizza buffet on Fridays. We have nicknamed it the Anarchy House because it is very kid friendly and there are tons of them everywhere! The pizza is good, and with kids flying all over the place it is kind of fun. It was so full tonight we wound up sitting with a guy who had flown a C-17 mission to Germany that day and was flying back to South Carolina in the evening. He was from Hawaii and we got the local scoop on scuba diving and snorkeling the islands.
24 April - Car In Autokrankenhaus: Today Julie Anne took the car to the shop for a badly needed tune-up. Driving the Autobahns at 180+ km/h puts some wear and tear on the vehicle!
21 April - Ice, Snow, Tropical Party: Nancy threw a tropical bash on Hammack Island which is North of Frankfurt. In spite of the fact that it was 3 C and alternating between rain, snow, and other frozen stuff, we donned our tropical clothes and had a good time. It was a fun party and any day that you get to see Peg the Mom from Washington State is a good one!
20 April - Movie Night: The movie club went to see the movie called Traffic. The acting was good, the production was pretty good, but the movie seemed unneccessary. You can approximate the mood by reading tabloids and watching the news for 3 straight hours. It was a good movie, kind of depressing, but we are not sure why it won 4 Oscars. After the movie we went to Taormina's for some Italian food.
19 April - Spinning Class: Sabine tried to kill Julie Anne again by convincing her to do the turbo-bike workout called spinning. Although she is a bit sore, JA survived the ordeal and probably lost a little weight too.
17-18 April - Business Trip: Greg went to Stuttgart for meetings with various commands regarding network security. He got to stay in a good hotel again and had a pretty good dinner. The only downside is that he had to wear a suit!
16 April - Boston Marathon: JA is still recovering from the Triathlon bike crash so she wasn't able to do the Boston Marathon this year. However, we got to watch the whole event live on Eurosport. We enjoyed watching the race, but we really missed being there for the days surrounding the race, hanging out with our friends, and just having fun. We hope to make it there next year so Beth, Colleen, Stacey, and Tod please keep your calendars open!
15 April - Easter: JA made a tasty meal today - Ham, potatoes, carrots, bread stuffing, sautéed mushrooms, and for dessert we had a spice cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum. Just in case you thought we were kidding about the weather in Germany, here is a picture from our window on this fine Easter morning:
<- Easter in Germany! See any eggs?
14 April - German Soccer: Tom scored tickets to see Kaiserslautern play Eintracht Frankfurt. Professional soccer games in Germany are usually big exciting events and today was no different. The fans in this area are legendary for how much they love the local team and the really hard-core people show up with giant banners, drums, horns, and fireworks. They bang the drums and sing throughout the game, wave the huge flags when the home team scores, and sporadically fire flares and smoke bombs (no joke - they do it right in the stands). The game started with Kaiserslautern scoring a goal off a corner kick in the first minute and the stadium just erupted. During the rest of the game there was some great play, some poor play, and good soccer in between. Kaiserslautern won the game 4:2 and everybody but the Frankfurt fans left the stadium in high spirits. This is a picture of the fans in the Western part of the stadium - this is where the most fanatic of the fans are.
12 April - 3 Down 1 To Go!: Greg found out that he passed the beta Cisco design exam he took in December. It took so long because the beta test has a ton of questions and Cisco evaluates which ones everybody got right, which one everybody missed, statistics, etc. to evaluate the test and determine passing grades. Passing this test means there is just 1 more exam to pass for Cisco's second level design certification - the CCDP.
11 April - Meeting In Heidelberg Means Good Food: Greg had a meeting in Heidelberg to talk about network stuff but that is not the important thing. You know that we judge the quality of any trip by the food eaten, and even though Heidelberg is only 1.5 hours away lunch is still important. Earl gave us a tip about a great Thai imbiss (fast food place) in town and anytime we have meetings in Heidelberg we want to have lunch there because you get amazing food really cheap. For example, Greg had 3 sticks of Chicken Satay for an appetizer and crispy duck with vegetables for DM 18 (that is about 9 dollars)! In an act of selflessness, he also brought home 2 orders of Chicken Satay, Pork with noodles, spices, & cashews, and garlic and pepper sauce Chicken Breast. All that food made an excellent dinner for less than 20 dollars - yum.
7 April - Mexican Food & Ice Cream Parlor Lessons: Today we went out for Mexican food with Tom & Susie. We went to a place we hadn't been before and the food was good. It was a busy place and we could stay "but you have to leave by 19:30!" No problem, we were done by 19:25. We went to an ice cream place and ordered 2 scoops of good stuff, but the more experienced parlor goers knew to check out the menu and got some cool concoctions - next time we'll be sure to look at the menu before giving into an ice cream frenzy!
3 April - Site Update: Just added the section about Greece. Click here for a trip to the Greek Isles.
2 April - New Section Coming: Julie Anne gave spinning a whirl with Sabine and has found another solid physical activity to stay lean. We also added some pictures to previous newsletter entries and started working on another travel section for the site. Hopefully it will be ready in a few days - check back soon!
1 April - A Cook Out & A Phone Call From A Friend: Tom & Susie joined us for a Bengali Shish Kebab dinner. Longtime newsletter readers know what is in this dish (see 31 Dec. 2001), and while it is fairly easy to make, it is delicious! Greg got to use the cool chimney starter he got from the B's for X-Mas and it works like a champ - just pour the charcoal in the canister, light something flammable underneath it, and you get blazing hot coals in about 15 minutes. One notable thing about today's cookout is that we could see the food as it cooked because daylight savings meant the sun was out after 16:30 - hooray! No more holding reading lights over the grill trying to decide if the food is ready. Later in the evening, Pam called from Texas and it is always a pleasure to talk to her. Here ist Der Grillmeister showing off the chimney starter while wearing the latest in Pfaelzer grilling apparel:
31 March - Volksmarch, Souvenirs, And That @#*&^ Computer!: We started the day by running the Rodenbach Volksmarch where Greg got his doo-dads for 30 events and Julie Anne got her stuff for 125! JA is much more inclined to wake up early on Saturday then Greg and her IVV logbook shows it. After the Volksmarch and a potential souvenir from the polizeiwagen with a camera in the back, Greg fought the evil demons in the computer today and learned more about how the virus checker works then he ever wanted to know. Long story short - McAfee's virus definition file made McAfee's virus checking engine unhappy and that caused all kinds of weird problems for Internet Explorer and Outlook 98. Greg discovered that cursing and banging the keyboard (mixed with the right amount of beer consumption) accelerates the problem resolution process. Everything is working again.
30 March - Going Away Dinner For A Friend: One of the guys we have known since arriving in Germany, Jim T, had his going away lunch at the Cantina tonight. The dinner was good and we saw a bunch of other people we haven't seen in a while but we will miss him.
26 March - Simple Pleasures: We rushed home today to grill cheeseburgers and eat good old-fashioned American cuisine while watching the Dirty Dozen.
25 March - Spring Forward: Daylight Savings Time has started in Europe so we are temporarily 7 hours ahead of the American East Coast. Although it is dark and rainy about 400 days a year here, they still act like Daylight Savings Time matters. I think the only reason they do it here is because the rest of Germany does it too.
24 March - Flea Markets & The World's Best Shrimp Place: The day started with us selling doo-dads, junk, and extra stuff at a local flea market. We don't have much storage space and our apartment was starting to get stretch marks, so we thought it would be a good time to jettison some things. The flea market was an interesting sociological study - both when examining others as well as ourselves! Although we didn't get rid of everything, we did sell a lot and made enough to bankroll a few evenings out - starting with tonight in Luxembourg.
Nancy invited us to go out with a group of her friends for "good shrimp at this little place in Luxembourg." We drove the hour and 15 minutes to get there and hooked up with them on the way into town. It was raining like crazy, and as their black station wagon stopped in front of the restaurant, people started jumping out of the car. It looked funny, but what made it really look like the anthill gang is when the back door flew open and people jumped out of there too. It's probably one of those had-to-be there things but we sure won't ever forget it.
The restaurant is very homey (just a few open rooms with a bunch of interconnected tables) and the smell of grilled food and garlic wraps you up as soon as you walk in the door. Just about everybody ordered grilled scampi flambé with fries for dinner. The meal arrives with 24-30 jumbo shrimp bathing in garlic butter, but that is not all - the shrimp are on fire too! We just about jumped out of our seat every time the waitress went by with one of these things. Anyway, the dish is full of big shrimp cut in half, grilled and soaked with garlic butter and the french fries are just the thing to sop up all extra stuff in your plate. For dessert, JA had a tasty parfait and Greg had lemon ice cream that had a chocolate wafer in the middle and was served in a giant frozen lemon skin. This restaurant immediately made Greg's list of "3 favorite restaurants of all time" and we're not telling anybody else where it is! Rob, Sarianne, Sue, Ruth, Linda, and Marge all made us feel very welcome and we had a great time.
23 March - Angus Goes To The Greek Place: The festivities continued tonight as it was Tom's Birthday and we had our "official" celebrations at the Delphi restaurant downtown. Nancy, Ari, Hobler (who all came from Frankfurt again - thanks!), Kleha, Will, Debby, Jessica, and Lisa came out for an evening of excellent Greek food. Hobler had just returned from Dublin where she purchased very fashionable headgear for the Birthday boys - a Scottish hat with a lovely shock of orange hair sticking out the sides for Greg and a nice Irish Viking hat for Tom. Tom's hat came complete with green braids and horns on the side with bells attached - he was a most bonny lass and made a nice partner for Angus the Scotsman. Lisa and Jessica gave Greg a drawing of the car that served Jessica and Susie so well in a Mille Bornes rally at Zell am See, and Nancy & Kleha contributed a gift certificate for our upcoming "last hurrah" at AAFES! Tom got good stuff too including an excellent addition for his love-me wall - pictures and medals from some of the many ski races he has won. Good food, good fun, good stuff!
21 March - Birthday Dinner In Old Castle: Greg turned 21 today and is finally old enough to drink beer - hooray! Greg's colleagues had a little Birthday fete for him and another guy named Tom who graced the world on the same day. Sabine made a banana and chocolate cream cake for Greg that was even better than usual because the crust was homemade and she also made a cherry cake with chocolate drizzled through the middle for Tom - nobody in our office lost any weight today!
In the evening, we went to Burg Lichtenburg with Tom, Susie, Nancy (who drove all the way from Frankfurt - thanks!), and Kleha for a gemuetlich B-day dinner. Burg Lichtenburg is a castle that was started in the year 1200 and was the place Greg had his 30th Birthday blowout. Most of us had the should-be-world-famous duck dish, and for dessert they brought Greg a big serving of ice cream & hot raspberries with a whole lot of candles on top. Tom & Susie gave Greg a bottle of German sparkling wine and a super cool bathing suit that has colorful fish all over. The swimsuit is great and brought back good memories because the fish look like the ones we saw when we all went scuba diving in Egypt - I hope to wear it there sometime! Other memorable moments included a story of a near-death shower experience that left us all hunched over quivering; laughing about how some folks wound up staying in the wrong hotel on a recent ski trip; and we learned how to get free rides on freight trains from Spokane to Seattle. All of us and some other friends are going out again on Friday because that is Tom's Birthday - March is the best month!
20 March - First Day Of Spring Pfaelzer Style: It is the first day of spring and in the past 24 hours there have been very high winds, a blizzard, and torrential rains. Is it sunny where you are? Be thankful!
19 March - Hooking Up With An Old Friend: After a successful Internet search, Greg tracked down Paul, a friend from Berklee. We talked about all things musical, the state of the nation, and several other topics. It was great talking to Paul again.
17-18 March - St. Patrick's & Spring Cleaning: Saturday found us doing more administrative things related to Spring cleaning and the loss of the ID card. The major project on Saturday was a massive blitz on our file cabinet to compile, sort, throw out, and otherwise organize a huge amount of financial and personal paperwork. What a nuisance! When will the paperless society arrive!? It is hard to imagine so much important stuff in such a confined area, but we emerged victorious and our file cabinet is about 50 pounds lighter! We also sorted out videos, books, software, etc. we no longer need which we hope to sell at a flea market. Hopefully we'll make enough money for a few dinners out! We finally escaped the house and went furniture shopping. Although we visited several stores and found some good things, nothing yelled, "take us home." We headed to the gym in the afternoon for a good workout and then went to the driving range to hit a few baskets with 5 irons. Greg still has a delightful slice and Julie Anne scalped several poor golf balls - we are sooo happy that some things never change!
The weekend was made special by Julie Anne's amazing Corned Beef & Cabbage dinner. It was a big spread and it was one of those meals where everything came together and tasted just right!
15 March - Ides Of March: Our day started with a sneaky e-mail warning us to "Beware The Ides Of March!" and we did.
12-14 March - Bad News Brings Out Good Friends: This was an unexpectedly busy week because through a series of blunders, incompetence, and probably malice, we were given 3 days notice that we would lose our ID cards. Without ID cards we can't use base services, you have to get different passes, etc. We speak German and do most of our stuff on the economy so losing the cards isn't that big of a deal. The problem is that you can't possibly switch everything over in 3 days but that is what we were obligated to do. Greg's local Government customer tried to get an extension but was initially told no, so we started getting our stuff in order. On the day we were to lose our ID cards, he went to the top of the bureaucracy, pushed the issue and asked for at least a 30 day extension. That evening, after consulting with their lawyers, the Government said they would give us 20 days to try to get things together. It's better than nothing, but the official paperwork only gives us 19 days and it was backdated 1 day so we actually wound up with 18 - duh. I guess these guys couldn't count well enough to work at the IRS so they are pushing paper here. Anyhow, we are scrambling to deal with administrivia and other evils.
The good friends part of this is that almost everybody that found out unreservedly offered to help us in a variety of ways. It was a nice feeling after the way we had been treated by our Government and is much appreciated - thanks!
10-11 March - Fun In Western Austria: Over the weekend we headed to Schruns and Tschagguns, which are in the Vorarlberg province of Austria, so we could ski with Ian & Celeste who were on holiday from Scotland. It is always fun to see them, and this time was no exception. We met at Hochjoch on Saturday morning after agreeing, "10:00 at the frog's head - brilliant" was the best plan. Although it was occasionally cloudy and kind of cold, there was plenty of new snow and it was a lot of fun. In the evening we had Kir Royal at their ritzy hotel and then went out for a fun, contortionist dinner at a nearby fondue place. On Sunday morning we quested for a stomp pad for JA's snowboard and had lunch at a little pizza place in town. 2 unexpected bonuses were that it was sunny and a German TV station was filming the town's band playing traditional music in old-fashioned clothing.
8 March - Good Lunch: The company hosted a 10th anniversary luncheon for Greg at a Greek restaurant and we had a tasty meal. The boss gave Greg an anniversary doo-dad which was a Waterman set with a roller pen, a ballpoint pen, and a pencil - each with a small company logo on the clasp. Ooh La La. The lunch was interrupted by a call from our friendly COR - more about this later.
6 March - Work Anniversary, B-day, Furniture: Today marked Greg's 10th anniversary with his company - the only other thing he ever did for 10 years was to attend public schools. We also spoke to Mom M who was celebrating her 29th (at least that is what she told us) birthday. Finally, the last piece of dining room furniture arrived so we now have a complete set - hooray!
4 March - Administrivia, Jettison, and Pizza: Today we battled the evil forces of tax time paperwork and when that stopped being fun, we started our spring cleaning by pulling out some books, CDs, and movies that we no longer use. After that we went to the gym to stay buff and then had pizza for dinner.
2 March - Fried Brain Anybody?: We saw the movie Hannibal this evening and it is ummm.... different. While the production value was great and there were some excellent images and moods, the story was slow and there were more than a few gruesome moments. Normally we go out for dinner after a flick, but we couldn't bring ourselves to do it tonight. Our recommendation is to wait for this one to show up in the discount rental bin. One good thing is that we were the only people in the theater. Greg realized a lifelong ambition by making shadow puppets on the big screen during the movie - that was fun.
24 Feb - Cook, Where's My Hasenpfeffer!?: Tonight we headed to a nearby castle with a 25 person group including Sylvia, Ken, Aimee, and Jason for a big medieval banquet that had minstrels for entertainment. The dinner started with the wenches... I mean waitresses tying a big bib on us and serving honey wine in an ox-horn. Then we sat at long tables in a big room that had 2 levels, 2 fireplaces, and a stage. The meal started with bread and the minstrels came out between each of the courses (meat pastry, soup, roast pork, apple pie, and cheese) to tell stories, do magic, and play music. There was audience participation in the form of some people getting dragged onstage to play an instrument or dance. At the end of the meal, the girl minstrel did a crazy dance with a sword, 2 snakes, and a lot of fire (including fire-swallowing). It wasn't exactly what we expected, but we won't forget it anytime soon!
21 Feb - China, Poland, & Us: What do these things have in common? Not much except that this evening we went to a Polish pottery shop in a small village to purchase the rest of the dishes, plates, bowls etc. needed to host dinner for 10. JA got some good stuff and the shopping expedition was a success. Tom & Susie were also shopping and when we were done at the pottery shop we went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant that served some of the best Chinese food we've had in a long time. JA had sweet and sour chicken and Greg had a plate they called the Drunken Buddha, which is crispy duck that has been cooked in a tasty beer sauce.
16-19 Feb - President's Day In Zell Am See (it rhymes!): We spent the long weekend skiing in Austria at Zell am See. Our hotel was at the top of the mountain, and although the rooms were kind of small, the view was spectacular. As usual, the food was good and the hallways smell like a big Thanksgiving dinner because something is always roasting downstairs in the restaurant. Another good thing is that because the hotel is on top of the mountain, the piste is wide open in the morning if you have a run just before the lift starts. It has been warm this winter, so the snow was hard packed and even icy in places, but there was more than enough to ski all weekend. Memorable moments include hearing the song, "Hey Baby I Wanna Know Will You Be My Girl" about 10,000 times, getting stuck in our room because the lock had problems, Susie's affinity for bass lines, and the bus breaking down again at Leipheim with generator problems. Although Alois the bus driver fixed the problem quickly, longtime newsletter readers can imagine how it gave us flashbacks of the Oktoberfest trip - fortunately this time Susie & Tom were the trip captains not us! Here is a picture of the hotel:
15 Feb - Site Update: JA's birthday week in Kirchdorf is now immortalized on our website. Click here for the story.
14 Feb - Happy Valentine's Day! We celebrated today with some roses and another tasty dinner at the Akropolis restaurant. Greg had Calamari as an appetizer and Garlic Lamb as the main course. JA had garlic & cheese toast for a starter and the Akisteller, which is Souvlaki and Gyros. Of course, a Greek meal wouldn't be complete without Tzatziki and Ouzo - not to worry there was plenty of both!
13 Feb - 2 Down, A Few To Go: Today was a good day because Greg passed the Cisco Switching exam, which is the second core test required for the second level Cisco certification. There are 3 core tests and 1 specialty test for network operations (CCNP) and 1 specialty test for network design (CCDP). There is more studying to do in the next few months, but Greg likes it and it keeps him off the streets at night.
11 Feb - Dinner With Friends: Another great meal at Tom & Susie's tonight. After looking at the latest additions to Susie's artistic photo albums, watching some crazy high-speed sledding competition, and playing with a big glowing bee while munching on nachos, salsa and dip, we settled in for a hearty meal - tons of tasty ribs, muffins, and a bean dish that had bacon, pineapples, and onions. JA brought brownie sundaes for dessert, and although there was hardly any room for it after dinner, we all managed to fit some in. As if that weren't enough, they sent us home with a bag full of cookies - thanks!
10 Feb - Fasching: Fasching starts at 11:11:11 on November 11 and lasts until the beginning of Lent. It is kind of like a Mardi Gras season with various parades and parties where people dress up in costumes, act foolish, and just generally have fun! Some of the towns put on a big variety show where they do skits, songs, dances, tell jokes, etc. Tonight we went to a Fasching show in Miesau because one of our friends is from there and she was in one of the acts. It was a fun evening and there were a lot of great costumes, dances, and even a guy that did a puppet show with real people made up as the puppets. It is hard to follow the stories and jokes because they are told quickly and in the local dialect, but there were funny comments about George Bush/Bill Clinton, Schroeder, and BSE. They also announced one of the acts as being American cheerleaders from the local base and it turned out to be a bunch of German guys with Red, White, & Blue skirts, shirts, and pom poms who did a dance routine - very funny.
9 Feb - New Pots & Pans: After receiving a hot tip from Susie about amazing deals on WMF pots & pans, JA went on a late night shopping expedition to score some new kitchenware for us - thanks for the tip Susie!
3-8 Feb - Fitness, Studying, & Swimming Gear: Not much to report, as we have been going to the gym a few nights a week lately. JA started putting one of her X-mas presents to use - pool running gear. This involves a flotation belt and some special footgear that allows you to get the benefits of running without the impact to the joints. Greg has been studying a lot lately to get farther along the Cisco certification trail and is starting to dream in binary.
2 Feb - Movie Night: Happy Ground Hog Day - the Germans don't celebrate Ground Hog Day since it is never sunny and there is no chance the Ground Hog will see his shadow! However, we celebrated by going to the Kino with Tom, Fred, Sylvia, and John to watch "Unbreakable." The movie got mixed reviews from our movie club, but one of us renamed it "Unbearable." After the movie we had dinner at a good Greek restaurant called the Akropolis, which is located near the train station. As usual the food was delicious, there was a lot of it and, as far as we know, there was no need to worry about BSE since JA had Souvlaki (grilled Pork on a skewer) and Greg had Garlic Lamb.
27-28 Jan - Bool Kogi Night: Tom, Susie, Nancy, Kleha, and Linda came to our house to help us put some miles on our new dining room set and have an excellent evening of food, drinks, conversation and fun. You know this entry wouldn't be complete without the evening's menu so here it is:
Starters: Chips/Dip and general munchies.
Appetizers: Shrimp cocktail.
Main Course: Bool Kogi, salad, bread and JA's famous potatoes. Bool Kogi is a Korean dish made by grilling beef that has marinated in soy sauce, sugar, rice wine, sesame oil, scallions, toasted sesame seeds, black pepper, and lots of garlic. There is also Asian pear dipping sauce (thanks for picking up the extra rice wine Tom & Susie!), Romaine lettuce, and garlic coated with sesame oil, salt & pepper grilled on skewers. You eat Bool Kogi by wrapping grilled garlic and meat in a piece of lettuce (kind of like a fajita) and dipping it in the pear sauce - yummy.
Dessert: Susie made 2 different desserts for tonight - Death by Chocolate Cake and Banana Cream Pie with homemade crust - two delicious ways to close the meal.
The food turned out nicely and there were some memorable moments starting with a shocking display of falsies at the front door. And although the Nordic Track didn't help anybody burn calories it provided more than a little entertainment while being piloted by some first-timers! Remember the expert's advice, "...just make sure your right hand goes with the left leg and the left hand goes with the right leg..." We also had some unexpected appearances - Buoyant BJC went for a dip in various glasses of beer, and Lila Kuh came out too.
Everybody contributed something - Linda brought flowers and Asian snack mix, Tom helped Greg with grilling duties, Nancy spared us the agony of cleaning up, Susie brought 2 tasty desserts, and Kleha showed up with birthday presents. We have already celebrated JA's birthday but Kleha celebrates birthday MONTHS and it is still January (Greg can't wait for March).
So in spite of hot water problems, leaking roofs, snow and wind gusts of 40 mph leading up to the dinner, we had a great time!
26 Jan - Site Update: Added Tank Day section to our WWW site - Hooah!
24 Jan - Meals With Amigos: JA had a fun lunch with Sylvia, Wendy, and Aimee, the "Landstuhl Ladies", at Michaelangelo's - good lunch with good friends. She unexpectedly passed Nancy while driving home, and a cell phone call later we had dinner plans! So, we had an enjoyable dinner tonight at the Storchennest - JA had Wiener Schnitzel and Greg had something called Baennjer Toast which is pork medallions on toasted bread with ham and melted Gouda cheese on top. You could almost hear the arteries hardening but it was delicious!
We also updated our home page to make it easier to navigate the site. We will add more pages soon, so be sure to check back occasionally.
21 Jan - JA's Birthday Week in Austria: We just returned from a wonderful vacation in the Austrian Province of Tirol. For the past few years, we have been going to a little village called Kirchdorf, a beautiful place with good food, several nearby ski areas, and best of all - fun people! One of our favorite things is that we get to meet up with friends from prior years and we want to say hello again to Ian, Celeste, Marian, Graham, Sylvia, Marino, Derrick, Andi, Edi, Seppi, Ernie, Raimund, Helmut, Rosemary, Gunther, Burkhardt, Katherine, Toni, Freya, Claudia, Marco, Karl, Carrie, Frau Steger, Herr Seiwald, and Claus!
Our vacation started late Friday afternoon with a 550km drive that got us to our hotel in Austria around midnight. That gave us Saturday to lounge around and do some shopping in St. Johann before signing up for lessons and meeting friends for a late lunch. We started our lessons on Sunday - Julie Anne skiing and Greg snowboarding. While the lessons are always educational because the instructors are aces, the classes are actually weeklong social events that involve skiing, fun lunches and the occasional beverage of choice- at least for the skiers. Greg's 2 snowboarding classmates were 11 year old girls who somehow never made it to an apres ski party!
The local ski school puts on a show every Monday night with various demonstrations such as carving, snow blades, snowboarding, team formation skiing, and even the old-fashioned skiing which used a big stick to make turns. The highlight of the evening (except for the gluhwein) is the feuer springing, which translates to fire jumping. Feuer springing involves a ramp on the slope and a bonfire just below. The instructors come down the hill to gather speed and as they fly off the ramp, a shovel of gasoline is thrown on the bonfire to make a small inferno for them to jump through. They almost always make it, but it helps explain why they consume so much gluhwein and beer on Monday nights!
Tuesday is a big day for us in Kirchdorf because the Alphof has an apres ski party we use to celebrate JA's "official" birthday. The apres ski party has an accordion player accompanied by a guitarist, loads of beer, music, laughter, and many trays of obstlers. For those who have never had the pleasure, obstlers are shots of schnapps that hurt your eyes when you drink them and they arrive at your table with alarming frequency. There are traditions associated with the Tuesday party such as Wolfgang the accordionist drinking Sylvia's beer, pouring a shot on the Geburtstagskind (Birthday Child), and wrapping his legs around the head of the lady who happens to be sitting on the bench with her back to the wall (be sure to check back for pictures). It should be noted that unlike last year, there were no bruises to be seen and Andi had no trouble lighting his cigarettes as he had stashed a lighter just in case he "lost" the others.
Wednesday was something of a down day for us (see the paragraph above), so we luxuriated a bit in the morning and had a late lunch of Strammer Max. Strammer Max is an open faced sandwich of cold ham and sunny-side-up eggs on buttered bread, accompanied by a pickle and a hot pepper on the side. Strammer Max is a perfect afternoon meal.
Thursday found us skiing at Steinplatte again and Greg joined the big kids for lunch. That night, we went to "Der Oldies Bar" to see Ernie play guitar, keyboard, and harmonica while managing to sing and otherwise entertain a full bar. We also discovered that in addition to being a fearless navigator of the parking lots, back streets and walls of Kirchdorf, Derrick can sing and play some tunes too!
As Friday arrived in Austria, Julie Anne became1 year older and she celebrated that morning by getting the fastest overall time at the ski school races. Greg also got to celebrate because he won the snowboard races - sure the competition was little girls, but he was happy. After the races, we went with some friends to ski St. Johann. We ate lunch on the balcony of Stanglalm lodge while watching hot air balloons float through blue skies above the surrounding mountains. After St. Johann, we returned to Kirchdorf where JA took a few runs on her snowboard and then we went on a sleigh ride with Claus just before dinner. That night, we went to the race-day awards ceremony, where Julie Anne got a nice trophy and Greg got a medal. JA received a few surprise phone calls that evening, and the people in the bar sang a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to her. All in all it was a full and fun day!
We went to watch the Hahnenkamm downhill ski race in Kitzbuehel on Saturday afternoon. These guys look fast when you see them on TV but it is amazing to actually see them race down such steep, icy slopes at speeds up to 130km/h. An Austrian, Herman Maier, won and a surprising thing is that an American tied for 3rd! The Americans don't usually do well in ski races, but the US skiers seem to be doing well this year. Kitzbuehel is one of the most prestigious ski races and the town turns into one giant party for the weekend. We have gone to the race a few times and there are food and drink stands throughout the town, tons of people everywhere, and it is always a blast. We also got JA's birthday present on Saturday - a new rodel. A rodel is a wooden sled and we found a nice, traditional rodel with a seat that has the colors of the Tirolian flag. It was a great way to wrap up the week in Austria!
...And that is how we spent Julie Anne's birthday week. Click here for pictures!
9 Jan - Site Update: Today we added some pages about our village. Click here to learn about life in our roaring metropolis.
7 Jan - Tank Day: Just back from a weekend spent with a bunch of friends and armored vehicles - way cool! One of our friends is an armored cavalry troop commander and he invited us to come learn what his unit does and the equipment it uses. We started by looking at and learning about the vehicles in a big maintenance bay, including the M1A1 Abrams tank, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, a tracked M-577 command & control vehicle, the M-113 armored personnel carrier, and the M-88 recovery vehicle. After that, we went outside where his troops fired up one of the Abrams tanks and we all took turns getting in the vehicle to see how it operates. After learning about each crew member's duties, we got to look through the optics, check out some of the moving parts, and even move the turret and main gun. It was very interesting and more than a little impressive. Click here for pictures. Thanks for letting us crawl on tanks Jaws - you da man!
5 Jan - Site Update: Added some pictures about the Arraba Trip and made a page from the Oktoberfest (remember to place your cursor over the pictures).
3 Jan - 1 Down 3 to Go: Today was a good day because Greg passed the Routing 2.0 exam which is one of the tests required for Cisco's second level certification, the CCNP.
1 Jan - Site Update: We are on our New Year's resolution like white on rice! Today we decided to try a different tool for our web site and we hope you like the new look. We are in the process of rebuilding the site and will add more pictures and stories a little bit at a time - check back often!
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