Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

We spent the afternoon at a Halloween Party at Jonas' preschool. We all had a great time, and Jonas (the fancy, fancy elephant :-) was especially excited about trick-or-treating. He wanted to know why we can't have Halloween tomorrow too? A big thanks to Grandma for finding us these great costumes, and embellishing Jonas' so that it met the "fancy" requirement.

October was a busy month for us. We began to get settled into our new "townhouse" in Uster. Our container arrived on October 4th, the same day Jonas started preschool! It was so nice to finally have our stuff. When Jonas got home that day, I heard a lot of "Wows" as he saw his toys for the first time in 2 months. Next came the huge task of making a house a home - an especially difficult task when starting from scratch in the furnishing area. One weekend, we spent 8 hours at Ikea. The kids behaved wonderfully through it all. One Saturday, Opa & Uncle Toby helped Andy & Jonas assemble the furniture, while Oma, Sara and I hit Ikea again. A huge thanks to them for all of their help.

Jonas loves preschool. He goes 3x/week and Sara & I enjoy a little girl-time, and some quiet around the house :-). This week, he's moving up to the older class. His teacher really enjoyed having him, and loves that he's such a chatter-box.

At the women's brunch for new members of the preschool, I met a great friend, Connie. She's Austrian and her husband, John, is Irish. They live in our apartment complex and their son, Jack, is a few months older than Jonas. They are expecting their second child in December. John likes to bike, so I am sure he and Andy will be riding together soon. We also met another couple in our complex that have 2 boys. Lenora is Scottish and Marcus is Swiss. They had us over for lunch the first weekend we were here. God has truly blessed us with a great house and great friends.

Our month was also filled with visitors. Auntie Wendy came for 8 days and Grandma & Grandpa were here for 2 weeks. It was so wonderful to have all of them here together! Jonas wanted them all to himself. He often told me to "go away" (and to take Sara with me) so that he could play with them. Sara loved having enough people around to actually get some attention herself. She became very proficient at riding the firetruck around all by herself, and loves to ride bikes with Jonas outside too. Sara remains the most pleasant, agreeable baby ever. Really, she's a little angel. Jonas, the angel's brother, is often a little stinker these days. He's definitely trying to exert control, and often tells me that he's the boss. I'm sure many of you can relate :-)

We showed them the farm nearby that has donkeys, horses, pigs, cows, goats and chickens. An Alpine parade was taking place in the mountains the first weekend they were here, so we ventured out to get a dose of local culture/heritage. Despite the rainy weather, the parade was a huge hit with us.

We ventured into Zurich a couple of times, riding the boat that we enjoyed so much at the end of the summer and showing them the parks we had frequented. One night, dad stayed with the kids while the rest of us went for fondue. (btw, always keep a camera handy when riding public transportation. You never know what you might see :0). It was so nice to finally see Zurich at night. In our old apartment, we were never outside after dark since the kids had to go to bed. Dad made a bakery run just about every morning. He always came back with such delicious treats! I know the women at the bakery must miss him. Mom and Wendy ironed just about all of Andy's shirts, so I'll be free of that chore for a few weeks.

Wendy introduced us to a new game, Bananagrams, and we spent many nights playing it. Thanks for leaving it here, Wendy! Thanks also for the sweaters and movie donations :-). Jonas (and the rest of us) were quite devastated when Auntie Wendy had to leave.

The weather was actually very nice the 2nd week mom and dad were here. Sunny and relatively warm. We visited a local farm that displayed dinosaurs made out of pumpkins. We hiked a mountain to get there. Mom and Dad were such troopers! But, it was worth it. The view was incredible and so was the fresh apple cider.
Mom and Dad returned to Charlotte last Thursday. We miss all of them so much. Andy even told them they could stay with us for the next 2 years if they liked! Jonas doesn't understand why they can't. But, it really was such a great visit. And I know we sent them home exhausted. They might recover by the time we all get together again in the Spring :-) A big thanks to the Lomax family and Kristen, who took care of Molly. We miss her, and know she would love it here. But, it's just not practical to ship her back and forth across the Atlantic.

Last weekend, we took a little hike around the area near our house. There are a lot of "wanderwegs" nearby. The pasture above our house often has horses, cows or sheep in it. On a clear day, the view of the mountains is amazing. Switzerland is a beautiful country. Surprisingly, the "warm" weather is still with us. I'll take all of the sunshine I can get!

A few tidbits from Jonas:

1) J: The cows here, do they moo in German or in English?
2) M: We have to share this cookie. Do you want the eyes or the mouth?
J: I want....both :-) After we finished sharing: J: That was fun to share. Can we do it again right now? (Well, I couldn't resist that request, since I'm a cookie monster too :-)
3) Jonas had to go to the bathroom when we were on the train. I took him and he stared down into the hole, which dumps out onto the track, for a few moments and said, "I don't have to go anymore." Later, while Andy was trying to convince him to go, Jonas looked at me and asked, "Do you like that bathroom?" He knew I wouldn't want to use it either!
4) J: When are we going to buy a pool here?

PS: I know a few of you have had problems posting comments. I'm not sure why it won't work. If I figure it out, I'll let you know.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Oktoberfest & More!!

What can I say? We just had the best time in Munich! Here's what happened:

Day 1: We went to the Munich Airport to pick up our friends, Russ & Corey. While waiting, we saw the Bayern Muenchen Fussball Team arrive from Basel, where they won the night before :-). How awesome to see half of Germany's World Cup Soccer Team walking right past us. Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Mueller - amazing luck to run into them!

We checked into our hotels and started hitting all of our favorite places in Munich. Lunch at Weisses' Brauhaus (can't beat their Kaiserschmarrn and other Bavarian cuisine), coffee at San Francisco Coffee Company, beer at Hofbrauhaus (ok, so this isn't one of our favorite places, but our friends wanted to see this over-rated tourist trap :-)... the beer was nonetheless very good there as well. Then a walk through Theresienwiese for a preview of Oktoberfest and past our old stomping grounds, KPMG. We had dinner at our favorite quaint little Italian Restaurant, La Fiera. The antipasti, Gnocchi and Tiramisu were incredible. (Can you tell that I probably gained 10 pounds within hours of being in Munich :-).

When Andy & I arrived back at the hotel, we were a little confused to see a "Do Not Disturb" sign on our door - and even more confused to open the door and find someone sleeping in our room! We booked it down to reception! Turns out the hotel made a big mistake, as their were 2 Koller parties that night and they somehow gave us both the same room. They had our luggage downstairs. The manager apologized and upgraded us to concierge level, with free breakfast, mini-bar, etc. It worked out great for us in the end, once we got past the initial shock. So strange though, b/c the hotel had so many chances to correct the problem before we arrived at midnight. If you arrived in your room to find luggage, a bathroom that had been used and such, wouldn't you have had them give you a different room? Not sure why the guy stayed.

In hindsight, it was very funny. Especially b/c it was a bit of deja vu for us. When I lived in Munich, we came back from a weekend trip and my key no longer fit into my apartment lock. I peeked in through the mail slot, and someone's stuff was there. Thanks goodness Andy hadn't just left me at the door that Sunday afternoon, b/c the apartment agent didn't speak a lick of English (and at that time I didn't speak any German). Turns out, there had been a miscommunication between KPMG and the rental company re: when I would vacate the apartment. They packed up all of my stuff and put it in a one-room apartment downstairs. I felt extremely violated at the time, but I got enough per diem b/c of it to finance a trip to Venice for me and Andy, so the displacement worked out well :-).

Day 2: After a wonderful German breakfast, we met the guys and toured Munich. Viewed some churches, saw the Glockenspiel at noon, walked the pedestrian zone and then on to the English Garden. For the first time, we saw the surfers there (wearing wetsuits, of course). Lunch at Unions Brauhaus and then on to Oktoberfest. A huge thanks to brother-in-law Toby, who got us tickets at a reserved table in the Lowenbrau tent. We were in the middle of the tent, with very clear visibility to the band. Great beer + Great Food + Great Friends = Amazing experience!

Andy took a break from the Oktoberfest tent experience to walk through the carnival area with me. We rode the swings and Ferris Wheel and he won me a little gray horse by shooting (gun, not basketball) 12/15. And, of course I had my fill of chocolate-covered strawberries too!

We headed to Mister B's after Oktoberfest shut down. Mister B's is a hole-in-the-wall jazz bar I discovered back in 2002. It's owned by Mr. Best, a man from Brooklyn. Our favorite saxophone player, Ernest Butler, is from Cleveland, but has lived in Munich for over 40 years. We weren't expecting to see Mr. Butler, as he wasn't listed on the schedule. When we walked in, there he was!

He recognized Andy, even though it had been 8 years since we last saw him. (We've been to Mister B's a few times since then, but he was never there). So, our perfect time in Munich just got even better! We spent the next 2 1/2 hours listening to some great jazz and reliving memories. We hope to see him a few more times over the next 2-3 years.

It was so wonderful to be back in the city where our relationship first began, and to share some of our favorite places with our friends. The kids had a great time with Oma & Opa.