Friday, January 31, 2014

Extended Holidays in Indiana

Kyle and I were so blessed to be able to go back to the States for a visit just a few days after Christmas.  Kyle was able to stay for almost two weeks, and I stayed for about three.  It was wonderful to extend the holiday season and get to have Christmas with our families in person instead of over Skype!  It was also a lot of fun to spend New Year's and my birthday with friends and family as well!

We had a nice, uneventful flight from Stuttgart to Atlanta, and then on to Indianapolis.  For our first full day in Indy, we had Christmas with Kyle's family.  Cory and Lynn live in London, but they were also in Indy at the beginning of our trip!  It was really nice spending a relaxing "holiday" with the whole family!

A quick visit with Isaac before heading to the Guynn's

Cory at the front of the food line...nothing's changed!

Mmm, the Guynn Christmas dinner with everyone's favorite delicious potatoes!

The following day was New Year's Eve.  We did some ice skating that afternoon with Cory and Lynn.  We all hadn't been ice skating in a really long time.  They took off like they do it everyday.  Meanwhile, I had a death grip on Kyle for quite a while before I finally let go.  (I have an irrational fear of falling!)  It was a lot of fun!  That evening, our good friends Jason and Lydia hosted a New Year's party.  We had a wonderful time with great food, and great friends!  (I stole the next two pics from Lynn :-)

Heading to the party!

We hadn't seen the Guynn side of the family in way too long, so my parents and I hosted some of the Guynn's at their house for a New Year's Day get together.  Kyle's dad is one of 15, so we didn't get to see the entire family, but it was so nice to see the Guynn's that came!  I really wish we could see them more often!

We had three January birthdays to celebrate!

Everyone was entertained by Rashida's stories!

That night we had the first round of snow which was about five inches.  Kyle got out and got some nice pictures in the city.

My birthday is on January 3 and Jason's is on January 7th, so we have a long history of celebrating our birthdays together!  This year we celebrated at a wonderful Latin American fusion restaurant called Delicia.  The food was awesome, and being there with friends made it even better!  I think this is the first year we ever had birthday flan!

We also had a Christmas celebration with my family, which was special since it was our nephew, Isaac's first Christmas.  It was really nice that Kyle's parents joined us for a delicious prime rib dinner.  Mmmmm, beef!


I think the most memorable part of our trip was the crazy snow storm and frigid temperatures.  The snow started in the morning, and it pretty much looked like a snow globe outside all day.  The temperatures were not bad at all during the snow, so Kyle, Mom, my sister Kari and I went on a long snowy walk.  It was quite gorgeous with all of the fresh snow!  We got about 11 inches on top of the old snow.  That night the temperature dropped to below zero, and stayed there for several days.  The high the day after the snow was negative 11F.  For the high!  It was insane!  The roads stayed pretty bad for a long time since it was too cold for the salt to work.  We were pretty much stuck inside of the house for three days.  We got a bit of cabin fever!  Kyle and I were at my parent's house for the first two days, where we lost power for just a couple of hours twice.  We were lucky compared to Kyle's parents who lost power for 52 hours!  We drove over to their house on the third day, and the roads were still horrible.  Needless to say, with those frigid temperatures, their house was also frigid!  We went out to lunch to warm up.  The power finally came on that evening at about 6:30.  It took a really long time for the house to warm up after that.  We could actually see our breath in the house!

Bundling up for our walk

This is what happens at the Joest house when we get bored and cabin fever sets in...

This is what happens when you throw boiling water into subzero temps...

A wet sock frozen solid after 20 minutes

Meanwhile at the Guynn house...

Cold? What cold?

Finally getting the power restored

This frost and ice was on the INSIDE window of the guest room...

Here are some more snowy pics that Kyle got when he and his mom went for a drive around town.

Kyle had to leave January 10, which is the day we had "Thanksgiving" with my extended family.  My cousin, Erin (that got engaged in the last post) was still studying in Ireland and wasn't home for Thanksgiving, and neither was I.  She was craving a big turkey dinner, so that's what we did!  It turned out really nice.  We also had some Christmas and birthday gifts thrown in there, so we hit a little bit of everything that night!

I headed back to Germany on January 16.  Little did I know what kind of trip it would be when Dad and I headed for the airport that morning!  I was there plenty early.  I was waiting at the gate when the plane pulled up, unloaded, and there was an announcement that the plane was having pressurization problems. They worked on the plane, and kept telling us that they would know more info in twenty minutes.  The time kept getting pushed back further and further.  I wasn't concerned at first, because I was supposed to have a three hour layover in Atlanta, but then I got a bit more concerned as time went on and we still weren't in the air.  We finally boarded the plane, then had to sit while they de-iced it for 15 minutes, then had to sit while they cleared a slick spot on the runway for 10 minutes.  We finally landed in Atlanta at 5:35, and my flight to Stuttgart was supposed to leave at 6:00.  I tore through the Atlanta airport from the A terminal to the E terminal just in case the plane was miraculously still there.  It wasn't.  I went to the Delta counter feeling defeated to re-book my flight.  They booked me on a flight to London which left in three hours.  I asked for an upgrade since it wasn't my fault that I missed my flight, but of course that didn't happen.  I waited at a bar in a seafood restaurant that had wifi.  I had crab cakes and a couple glasses of wine to console myself.  Finally on board the plane, I was seated next to a person, while 6 rows of people had a row of three seats all to themselves.  How is that fair?  Anyway, once I got to London I had about 5 hours before my flight to Stuttgart.  I waited, moving from seat to seat while reading my book, trying to get comfortable on those hard plastic chairs that ended up leaving a bruise on my spine.  I made it back to Stuttgart, tired and 10 hours later than originally planned.  It was so nice to get home and take a long hot shower!  I was very happy that Kyle had cleaned the house and taken down the Christmas decorations, though!

Gizmo was anxious for me to come home

Despite the brutal trip back to Germany, we had a wonderful time back home in Indiana.  It was a pleasure to have some leisurely time there instead of running around like crazy trying to squeeze everything in!  We got to meet a new family member of some good friends, and I got a lot of time to spend with my nephew!  We ate a lot of really good food, caught up with people we haven't seen in far too long and spent quality time with our friends and family.  We're very anxious to see friends and family out here in Germany this spring and summer!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Christmas and a Proposal

We were lucky enough again this year to have family here in Germany with us on Christmas!  My cousin that studied for a semester at the University of Limerick in Ireland made the trip down here as soon as her finals were wrapped up.  While she was making her way from Ireland, her boyfriend, John,  was making the longer journey here from Raleigh, North Carolina.  They managed to find flights that arrived here in Stuttgart less than an hour apart.  (One less trip to the airport is always a good thing!)  Both flights were delayed, and they ended up at the baggage claim at the same time in different terminals.  Erin and John hadn't seen each other for the entire semester so it was a happy reunion for them!

They arrived late in the evening, so we enjoyed some Mexican food and relaxed a bit at home.  They managed to stay awake until we started watching TV, then they were both out of it pretty quickly!  The next day we had plans to visit a couple of Christmas markets in two beautiful German towns.  I love the German Christmas markets.  They're full of wonderful sights, sounds and smells that really put you in a festive mood.  (The glühwein, or hot mulled wine, served at all of the markets doesn't hurt the mood either :-)  My favorite Christmas market in the nearby town of Esslingen was our first destination.  Kyle was off of work and able to join us, but he just came off of a night shift, so he was in la la land until dinner time that evening!  The Esslingen Christmas market is also part medieval market, so it has it's own unique flair.

We left Esslingen around lunch time and drove about an hour and forty-five minutes to a gorgeous picture perfect town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber.  It's known for being a very well preserved medieval village.  Several movies were filmed there and it also inspired the village in Disney's Pinocchio.  It's Christmas all year round in Rothenburg with a Christmas museum being located there, as well as the original Käthe Wohlfahrt store.  The Christmas market was also still set up, so it seemed a perfect place to go a few days before Christmas.  We had a wonderful time walking around and enjoying the quaint atmosphere, despite a bit of rain and large crowds.  We had a great dinner with sausages, sauerkraut, and cheesy spätzle before making the drive home.  (These pics are all from the i Phone.)

The next day was a special day!  We went to visit the nearby and impressive Hohenzollern castle first.  It's just about a forty-five minute drive from our house.  We walked around the ramps leading up to the castle and arrived at an area with a beautiful view right before you enter the castle courtyard.  Kyle had his camera ready, and I had the iPhone ready to start recording when John started playing the songs he had written for Erin on his mandolin.  Then John had a neat video for Erin to watch on his phone featuring video clips from friends and family back home.  After the video, John got down on one knee and proposed!!  First with a ring pop, then with a beautiful ring with Celtic knots around the band.  It was such a special moment, in a beautiful location, with sun and blue skies (which was very unexpected of Germany in the winter!)  It was so nice, and Kyle and I were so glad to be able to see it!  After the proposal, Erin and John toured the castle (although I'm sure they had trouble concentrating) while Kyle and I had some cake and coffee in the restaurant.

On our way home from the castle we stopped in our favorite local town, Tübingen.  If you're a guest of ours, you will end up there at one point or another!  We enjoyed the sites around town before heading to eat at our favorite brewery, only to find out that they were closed for a few weeks!  We were all starving, so we weren't very happy about that.  We went to check out another restaurant I had wanted to try, but they didn't open for another 15 minutes.  We walked around the block a couple of times, and were standing there when they unlocked the door.  It was early, but we didn't have a real lunch so we didn't care!  The food was very good, and it was a cool atmosphere with stone vaulted ceilings.  It was nice trying something new!

Erin and John were heading to Munich by train the next day, which was Christmas Eve.  I dropped them off at the train station early in the morning, then headed home and took a nap before doing a bunch of cooking.  They had a nice time in Munich taking in the sites and enjoying hearty German fare at the famous Hofbrauhaus.  Kyle picked them up from the train station, and I had our Christmas Eve dinner ready when they got back.  It was a great dinner of Hoosier holiday comfort food.  We had glazed ham, twice baked potatoes, broccoli casserole, glazed carrots, and salad.  Right after dinner we headed out for a late Christmas Eve mass at a church on base.  It was a really nice Christmas Eve!

Christmas Day was a day of relaxation!  We slept in before enjoying our Christmas brunch.  We had homemade cinnamon rolls, egg casserole, bacon, fruit salad and mimosas.  Delish!  We opened presents after brunch, and then Kyle had to take a nap before going into work that evening.  Luckily he was able to spend part of the day with us!  We spent the rest of the day laying around, relaxing, eating cheese ball, chocolate fondue, and watching a movie.  We tried to Skype with our family, but I think the site was overcrowded with tons of people doing the same thing, so it crashed about every minute.  We had a really nice Christmas, but it was still weird not being home for the holidays!

On Erin and John's last full day here in Germany, we went to walk up the Birkenkopf, or Rubble Hill.  It's the highest point in Stuttgart, made from piled up rubble from damage during WWII.  It was rainy, but it kind of added to the gloomy vibe from the visible rubble.  On our way home we stopped at Meilenwerk, which is pretty much a showroom for any amazing car.  None of us are very into cars, but it's still a neat place to visit, especially on a rainy day.  That evening we headed to Triberg in the Black Forest.  It's a beautiful drive there, and as we got higher in elevation there was even a bit of snow.  Triberg is a cute little town in the Forest that has neat shops full of works by master wood carvers and cuckoo clocks.  We did some browsing in town before heading to the waterfall, where they had a special Christmas/New Year market and light show set up.  The market was small, but I think the neatest part was all of the Christmas lights they had lit up around the forest.  It looked beautiful, even in the rain!  They do a fire and light show at the waterfall that has some music, laser lights, fire and such.  I had heard good things about it, but honestly I wasn't too impressed.  I think it's a great idea, but it could've been taken much further.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  We still had a really nice time in Triberg!  (Thanks for the pics, Erin!)

The next day Erin and John were heading out for Switzerland!  They took a bus to Zurich, then a train to Interlaken where they spent a few days before heading to Lauterbrunnen.  After seeing their pics, it's definitely a place that we will be visiting!  After they left, Kyle and I had a couple of days to get ready for our trip to the US!  We had an awesome time with Erin and John.  They were wonderful (and tidy!) guests that we hope can come back for another visit when it's warm!  We are so happy for their engagement, and I'm crossing my fingers for cheap airfare for their big day on July 26!

Indy trip post will be coming soon!!  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!