Monday, December 31, 2012

Auf Wiedersehen 2012: Year in Review

Friends, it has been a year. 2012 was intense. Let's review...

This year:

-we moved from Virginia to Germany

-we celebrated our first wedding anniversary (in Prague!)

-we became aunt and uncle to our sweet nephew and learned about our niece (coming soon in 2013!)

-we got a puppy (ohmygosh!)

-we both changed jobs within the same organization. I transferred to the German branch of the company I've been with for the past 4.5 years and Z transferred to a new unit in the Army.

-we started learning German

-we traveled to 6 different countries on 3 continents

-I learned how to drive a 5-speed

-I read 36 books (let's remember I had a lot of time off in between jobs)

It was a big year. It was wonderful in so many ways and hard in so many ways. But here we are. Saying goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013. I can't wait to see what the next year holds!

Happy New Year, friends!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in Germany

Merry Christmas! Maybe it's a day late, but when you blog, you're allowed to be late. These are the rules.

Sigh. Where to begin? Christmas was very much bittersweet this year. It was so hard to be away from our families and the traditions and surroundings that are familiar to us. It changes your perspective on a lot of things...

BUT I have yet to have a meltdown and this is owed almost entirely to the fact that our Christmas gift this year (from us, to us) was an adorable, precious, sweet Great Dane puppy named Olive.

Here she is...I mean, can you even stand it? 






I fell in love with Great Danes in college (one of my good friends had one) and decided that when I finally got a dog, it would be a Dane. Z loves big dogs and was on board from the beginning...but the timing of this pup was all his doing. He is a wise man and new that this time of year would be especially hard for me, so he arranged for us to get a puppy right around Christmas in hopes of distracting me cheering me up. 

It worked. Anytime I felt especially sad or headed towards the depths of despair, Olive would do something adorable or hilarious or terrible (she IS a puppy, after all) and my emotions would be re-directed. Anytime I voiced my sadness to Z, he'd smile sympathetically and say "go hug your puppy". You really can't argue with that...there is something downright medicinal about hugging a puppy.

So allow me to avoid talking about missing our families and traditions and trying to make Christmas special for just the two of us thousands of miles away and just let me be an obnoxious puppy parent, just for this one post. Please? It's therapeutic.

We stumbled upon Olive almost by accident...when Z told me a few months ago that we'd get our puppy around Christmas, I immediately started looking for breeders and doing a lot of research. Fun fact, Great Danes are not actually "Danish" at all, but German! Their true name is "German mastiff" and the German standards for breeding Great Danes are INCREDIBLY high and very strict with lots of involvement of vets and officials from the Great Dane Club of Germany, so we knew we'd be getting a top dog. I did a lot of searching (which wasn't always easy with 95% of the breeder's sites exclusively in German) and finally found a breeder that we were very comfortable with. She had puppies due in December, ready to bring home in January. We anxiously refreshed the website the week of their due date only to find out that there had been a problem and either it was a false pregnancy or none of the pups survived (translating the German proved difficult here). We were bummed out, big time. 

Back to the internet. I spent about a day searching for German breeders and sending inquiry emails about planned litters or available puppies. I sent all of the emails in German, but always asked if the breeder spoke English, hoping against all odds that we could find a breeder to clearly communicate with us, but expecting to have to proceed in whatever broken German we could use, plus Google Translate. I heard back from 4 or 5 promising breeders, but still hadn't found one I felt really good about. BUT THEN...an email pops up from a breeder, in ENGLISH, stating they had two puppies available that would be 8 weeks and ready to go home by December 22nd. AND one of the available puppies was a female merle, EXACTLY what we were looking for. We knew we wanted a female (they don't get as big as the males) and we really loved the merle colored dogs. After a phone call with the breeder (IN ENGLISH!) and a LOT of questions on our part, we decided she was the puppy for us.  

The Saturday before Christmas we drove across the country (which isn't that bad when it's a smaller country) to get our girl. I cannot even handle how precious it was to walk into this family's backyard to 7 wiggling, clumsy, adorable puppies running around. I don't even know how they get anything done; I would just watch the puppies all day long. 

So we spent some time with the family talking about Olive and puppy care, etc. and then it was time to put her in the car and head home. Oh you guys. This poor puppy. 8 weeks old, just removed from her only familiar environment, taken away from her mom and siblings, stuck in a car with strangers...she was terrified. She was shaking like a leaf and making this pitiful moaning/grumbling sounds. I lasted about 15 minutes before I told Z I needed to drive and he had to sit with the puppy. I just couldn't handle it. I almost cried; I felt so bad for her!

Now she's home and happy, still scared when put in a new situation with new surroundings (we haven't QUITE mastered the concept of "going on a walk") but she's still just a baby...she'll get there. 

We LOVE her; it's ridiculous. She is such a smart puppy, picking up on house-training so quickly, sleeping in crate without too much whining, pushing the limits but always responding to a firm "NO!". She is going to be HUGE, so we're enjoying the time where she can sit on our laps when we get down on the floor to play with her, and being able to pick her up and move her when we need to (those days will be over soon for me, she's already heavy enough!). She's  hilarious and clumsy and so ridiculously cute. We don't stand a chance. She grumbles more than she whines or cries, and that is mostly amusing. She gets a wicked case of hiccups anytime she is scared or startled or we yell NO! when she's doing something she shouldn't. That's probably my favorite quirk about her. She shoves her nose into our legs or feet when she wants to feel close to us. She sleeps on Z's slippers. It's all just too much cuteness to handle.

We really feel like we hit the puppy jackpot, and she certainly made this Christmas away from our families more bearable...a true miracle. 

We hope your Christmas was filled with family and fun and laughter and joy. Merry Christmas, for our home to yours!
Our little German Christmas tree

No fireplace, so this is where the stockings were hung

At one of the Christmas markets (freezing our buns off)


Friday, December 14, 2012

What?

Ok. I don't know what happened... I was doing some maintenance on my blog and suddenly noticed I had a post in my "draft" folder. What? How did THAT happen?

It was the post about our 1st anniversary trip. You guys, I don't know if I ever posted this? Maybe I did and I accidentally reverted it back to draft one day? Maybe I didn't ever post it! I don't know. 

Either way, just in case I never posted it, click HERE to read about our 1st anniversary trip to Prague!

And if I did post it and you've already seen it, click HERE because ohmygosh I can't even handle it.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

SNOW MY GOSH

A few disclaimers: If you've ever lived in a place that gets a lot of snow, this post probably won't make sense to you. But I haven't, and now I do, and it's exciting and new and crazy for me. So there's that.

Also, let's remember I am OCCASIONALLY dramatic (when absolutely necessary). And just know that I am completely safe and home right now. So it all turned out ok. So don't worry. Crisis averted.

Good? Good.

Today started out completely normal. I woke up excited because I was headed to Nuremberg with a friend to (finally) see the last Twilight movie...Z had to work this weekend so I was looking forward to getting out and spending some quality time with this new friend. As I was getting ready, I checked the weather to determine what to wear. It was freezing cold and snow was supposed to move in later in the day. Nuremberg was supposed to be cold but clear all day. No snow in the forecast. With this in mind I decided to forgo my serious snow boots and wear my very cute but very tread-less and not very warm fashionable boots. I was pleased that we had decided to see the 11:15 am movie because it meant we'd be home before the bad weather AND before it got dark...and I hate driving in the dark. And I've never driven in a snow storm. 

So we go to the movie and afterwards walk outside to find a thin layer of snow covering the ground...wait, this isn't right...it wasn't supposed to snow here. It's snowing hard. No matter, let's just get in the car and go. We'll make it home in an hour and it will be all good.

FALSE. You guys. Where do they give out the blue ribbons, because I need to pick mine up. I drove through a WHITE-OUT, blizzard-esque, extremely treacherous snowpocalypse without ending up in a ditch, crying, or calling Z to come pick us up. That snow came so hard and so fast that the plows didn't even have a chance. Sure, we saw 4 snow plows on our way home. ALL GOING THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. 

I don't even know how to explain to you what a crazy experience it was. We never got past 3rd gear, we slid down every hill and fishtailed around every curve and corner. I lost my breath every time I felt the wheels leave pavement and fight for traction. We couldn't see the road...we relied on the tire tracks in front of us. We passed cars spun in the opposite direction. I prayed we would make it up every hill. I drifted around turns in a way that would make Vin Diesel proud (Fast and the Furious reference, keep up). And the whole time I'm contorting my body every which way because my wipers kept freezing, making it nearly impossible to see around the slushy splashes across the windshield. We had to stop multiple times to knock the ice off the wipers. We kept up pleasant conversation, cut short by every slip and slide of the car, then haltingly restarted with a nervous laugh or deep exhale. We agreed wine was in our future. It was THE most stressful slash exhilarating drive EVER. I think it turns out that it was better that I was driving...as least I felt like I had some tiny amount of control as the driver...I would have been a nervous wreck as a passenger. Also, now I have accomplished a treacherous icy drive. So I know I can do it. I know how my car responds and how to take a turn that I know will throw the back of the car into a spin. I know how to ride 2nd gear down a hill instead of braking. I feel incredibly proud of myself. I am not in a ditch on the side of the road! (To be fair, I was never seriously worried about our safety. The only TRULY scary moments were when the road was flanked by deep ditches...otherwise, I think we could have recovered from any other mishap. Probably.)

When I got home after dropping off my friend at the bottom of the hill leading to her house, I couldn't get my car into our driveway. Cruel world, I made it all the way home and NOW I can't accomplish getting my car into MY OWN DRIVEWAY? No sir. Z was still at work so I went inside, changed into my serious boots, and came back armed with the snow shovel. I shoveled out a spot and revved my little car right into the driveway. Take that, Winter.

Afterwards I looked outside and just couldn't help myself. SO much snow had fallen and was continuing to fall. I had about 30 minutes of daylight left, so I grabbed my phone and headed out on a walk around our town. Oh, it was just magical. So quiet. So beautiful. I was truly, completely, wonderfully happy. Here's some pictures I took...


When I left this morning, there was no snow on the driveway. I had to carve this spot out.

Walking down our street




The tree in our little town. I LOVE this.




Frozen stream in our town

It's like living in wintry movie scene





There's a road there somewhere





Ahhhh. I love it so much.