Friday, June 29, 2012

The perfect bag

I am obsessed with organizing my life, and I feel like with every change comes the need for a new way to carry all my crap. It's been eating at me for awhile now, the search for a perfect bag. I thought I finally found it at a Christmas market last year, but that one broke not even a month after I purchased it, so the search continues...

Well, I think I have FINALLY found it: the perfect bag for my crazy and adventurous life. And I'm excited enough about it, and quite frankly just that much of a dork, that I have to share how awesome this bag really is.
The minimalist that I am, I have rarely had a purse or day pack that is large. In fact, I usually carried a tote or backpack to the office and would use a wallet that would slide out of that bag when it was time to shop, etc. This method didn't even change much when I had little r.

My life shifted again though - big surprise, right? The office is no longer calling, and my purse needs to carry diapers, bankees, cars, yum bears, and...oh, yeah, my wallet. Little r is also constantly on the move and always asking me to pick him up for a bit, so finding the right bag that isn't overly cumbersome, fits all our adventure needs, and stays put when I carry and chase little r is critical.

So, I got a backpack, but it's not just any backpack, it's pretty much the perfect day-tripper for the adventurous mom on the go. A little bigger than a purse pack but a little smaller than those packs we all carried in grade school. It's a backpack, so the straps don't fall off my shoulders or provide too much weight to one side. Poor little r would get smacked in the head with my purse every time I leaned over. Hopefully those days are over.

If you are super anally organized like I am and you obsess about silly things like finding the perfect bag, you might just have to check this thing out. It's from REI, pretty much my favorite store on the planet, and it is made from 28 recycled bottles (SWEET!). My sister gets all the credit for turning me onto the idea. She has had the REI day tripper backpack for years now. When I saw her use it on her trip here, I decided I just had to have one. I'm super excited to try it on our mini-vacations this summer.

I'm going to go about my day dreaming about all the fun and dorky things I'll be able to do with my new bag. It's pretty freaking awesome, and I'm pretty stinking happy that I found it ;)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The sweet things little ones say...

I've been uncertain, and maybe a bit anxious, about how little r would handle Rani being gone. This isn't exactly something we rehearsed. Saying goodbye to our girl was not in the realm of the expected. More than anything, little r just seems rather confused about why his best pal isn't here, and why she isn't walking him to school anymore. Sometimes he'll come home and run around the house calling for her. The first night he went to bed holding the picture frame with her picture, and then didn't sleep much at all through the night. And yesterday we took a hike together, and he talked about her the entire time until he fell asleep...

The sweet things he says as his creative imagination tries to figure out where she could be, would seriously bring tears to your eyes. This morning though, I think he is finally starting to figure out how he can cope with his loss.

Here is the conversation we had as we left for school this morning - something we nearly always did with our puppy:

little r: "Where's Rani, Mommy?"

me: "Rani isn't here anymore, sweetie."

little r, as he placed his hand on his chest: "Yes she is, Mommy. Rani is in my heart."

This time I didn't cry. My heart melted and I smiled. I think we are going to be just fine.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rest In Peace my sweet Rani-girl

Dogs Leave Paw Prints On Your Heart

We had to say goodbye to our beautiful girl this week.  I have lost many furry four-leggeds in my life, but this  time is somehow different.  Rani was not just a dog, she was our best friend, loyal companion, baby-sitter, hiking buddy, running partner, and all-around best pal.  She found my heart when she was a mere six weeks old, and that love grew to insurmountable levels as we tackled life's trials and tribulations.  I am not one to sit still, and Rani was always loving and willing as long as we did the adventures together.  From Colorado to California to Vermont, through two broken hearts, four cats, three marathons, and a life-changing career move to law school.  She flew on four planes before she was two years old, and in her thirteen years, she moved with me more than a dozen times.  I think she was better at adapting to change than I was...

Most importantly though, Rani-girl found Big R. It's true, she is the one that found him and brought him to me. Big R always joked that "he married me for the dog," and although I, of course, knew that was a sweet expression, I also knew that he loved her as much as I did and almost as much as Rani loved him.

Our adventures continued and she was always there making me a better person, teaching me patience, and most importantly, providing me with unconditional love. Big R and I started our legal careers and let the Army move us from Maryland to Virginia, and then over the pond to Germany. She kept Big R company when we lived apart that first year, and then found a new best friend when little r was born. I think her most courageous act was helping Big R adjust to this foreign place when little r and I stayed in Virginia (or being my sister's therapy dog when she was going through so much pain in her life). She kept him company and walked miles and miles of trails to help him feel comfortable in Germany and find his way.

Rani-girl had a knack for finding your heart and helping you build the strength you needed to get through whatever life was throwing at you. I don't think I am exaggerating when I say that she left her warm paw print on so many hearts throughout her lifetime. She always remembered you, and greeted you with enthusiasm as if you were the most important person in the world.

Her final days were hard, for her and for us. The cancer moved into her lungs and wreaked havoc there until her heart finally couldn't hold out anymore. We thought she had a stroke last week, but we now know it was a heart attack, which is why she couldn't recover despite her will to stay with us. She tried so hard to be strong and we believe she waited until we returned from our trip back to the States to give in. The x-rays showed that her heart was about four times its normal size. Big R claims her heart was already larger than normal anyhow, and I think he was right. The poor girl was struggling to breathe and could no longer walk on her own, her appetite was gone, and we could see that she was disappearing before our eyes. She died quickly and peacefully in Big R's lap and with me by her side kissing her nose. After we said our good-bye's, we left the veterinary clinic and saw a beautiful rainbow fill the sky.

Rani's Rainbow... :)
I never let myself realize how much Rani was integrated into our lives until she was gone. I am not sure if I will ever overcome the grief from her loss, but I believe I will instead learn to live with the happiness her memories bring. Big R assured me it will get easier with time, and soon the sweet things that little r says about Rani will not make me cry, but will instead melt my heart.
I am thankful that Rani stayed strong and healthy for our move to Germany where she was able to hike the Cinque Terra and sled with us in the Alps. She fit in nicely here, and we'd like to believe she thought this was a pretty fabulous place to retire. Her relationship with little r grew strong here through our family walks and little adventures and all our excursions to and from kindergarten. I hope he always holds a small place in his heart for those memories with his best pal.

Oh, my sweet, sweet Rani-girl, how much you'll be missed. You made me a better person and you were part of so many lives. This is not a good-bye forever, but is instead farewell until later, my old friend. You will live in our hearts for an eternity.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Hanging on

This has been an emotionally tasking week for us. Despite the many fun adventures we've had lately, my motivation to write has been low. Our sweet Rani-dog hasn't been doing well, and that can really kick you where it hurts.

The night before my sister left, Rani had a stroke and went into severe shock. Not that watching her go through that wasn't difficult enough, but it happened at 10:30 p.m. Trying to find a vet that can help at that hour is tough; finding one that can help at that hour in a country where the language spoken is not your own is more than mildly overwhelming. Lucky for us we have the greatest neighbors and best friends living in our building. A knock at the door in tears was all that was needed.

Our girl has been through it all with us, and we are going to be there for her up to the very end. Send strong vibes and good karma this way for our sweet girl.

I'll be back soon - promise...

Friday, June 22, 2012

My keychain broke...

Such a sad, sad day, and an even more bizarre attachment for one to have. My keychain did, in fact, break, and it's leaving me feeling rather lost at the moment. There's actually nothing special or alarming about this particular keychain. There isn't even a memorable story or any significance associated with how I acquired it. But the truth is, I've had this keychain for a very, VERY long time.

I got this keychain when I was in college. Like I said, there isn't really a memorable story for how it ended up in my hands, just that I wasn't the first owner, and from the picture you'll see that it's not even a keychain - it's just a bangled bracelet attached to a keyring. I've used this keychain to carry my keys since 1995 - I was shocked when I did the math and realized that was now 17 years ago!

This bad boy has moved with me and held the keys for 16 different residences (and yes, all mine) in seven different states and two different countries. It has held the keys for eight different cars and three different bike locks. This is providing an interesting picture into my life. Can we say, "unstable", people? Geesh! When you live a life that is continuously changing, I suppose having a few constants is never a bad thing, and is probably more of a necessity. This keychain provided that to me in strange way, giving me a constant familiarity when I grabbed keys to that new residence. It gave me some sort of reassurance that I am actually able to hold onto some things despite the constant change in my life.

Just for fun, I decided the other day to count the number of times I've moved in my life. Have you ever done this? From what I've told you here, you can imagine what the numbers look like on my end. Nothing to brag about, but the answer to this question seems insanely crazy to me. According to both my memory and my mom's, I have moved no less than 32 times in my 37 years. Holy bananas! Some moves were rather insignificant like moving from one apartment to another during college or law school, and some were definitely drastic and life-changing like my move from California to Vermont or our big move last summer from Virginia to Germany.

My hardest move was definitely when I went to law school. I left a great job that I just happened to be pretty darn good at, and took off - literally across the country from California to Vermont - to pursue my dream of getting a law degree. Looking back, California was the most stable I had been in my life having lived in one place and stayed with one job for over four years. There for awhile, I really thought I might never leave. Turns out that move to Vermont ended up being one of the best decisions of my life and without a doubt, one of the most rewarding experiences.

So, what does this mean now that my keychain is broken? A whole lot of nothing, most likely. I'm not going to try to fix the darn thing either. I'm thinking instead it might be time for a change. Lord knows I should be used to a little change by now, don't you think?

Do you own anything small or otherwise that provides a peek into facets of your life? I am definitely craving a little stability in my life. One of these days, Big R and I will own a beautiful house on a big piece of property in Vermont. Until then, we'll just keep on keeping on :)



Thursday, June 21, 2012

We crashed the honeymoon

How lucky were we? We got to crash my sister's European honeymoon, and boy, did we all have a crazy good time.  After spending a week relaxing at a Villa in Tuscany (I know, paradise, right?), my sister and her beau joined us for some fun debauchery Deutschland-style.  The weather was quite literally perfect while they were here, raining at all the opportune times and leaving sunshine forever allowing us to give them the best we could offer of this corner of Bavaria while they were here.  It's a lot of fun to have people visit you when you love where you live.

They took a night train from Venice, and the poor tired saps wondered out of the train station looking a tad bit dazed and confused.  Little did they know we had a huge day planned ahead, so I tried to encourage some sleep. Night trains are convenient, but they are by no means the best way to get shut eye - especially when you have a runaway train, right Jess?

Somehow over the past several years we acquired four bicycles, which meant we were able to show Bamberg to Jess and Ryan in true German fashion - on the bike trail. We stopped off at the market to pick up some fresh fruits, cheeses, and sausage and introduced them to how the Germans are able to eat so well with all the fabulous food available to them at the market.

Awesome fresh veggies
And the flowers smell so pretty!
It didn't take long for us to find a Keller, so that Big R could give Ryan a true taste of Bavaria. We went to Fassla and he claims this was his favorite on the trip (and we were not shy about making sure he tried several different brews!).
Mmmmm, BEER! Now this is what he was waiting for!
We then showed them the Old Dom - nothing quite like seeing a church built in the 10th Century.

The cathedral was originally built in 1002 and finally completed in the 1300's. Pope Clement II is buried there making it the only location outside of Italy and France.
The adjacent rose garden isn't too shabby either and it provides some great views of Bamberg. My personal favorite was the pictures we took of the newly weds. Aren't they precious?!

We were certain to get some pictures in front of the famous Rathaus that sits in Altstadt Bamberg. It's a beautiful building and the day made for some amazing pictures. We happened to cross the bridge by the Rathaus just as a wedding was taking place. Balloons were released when the groom kissed the bride...

Facade of the Rathaus. Do you see the Cherib leg hanging out of the building?
Balloons from the wedding

We finally  have a picture of us together in Bamberg!
Big R, our fearless leader, guided us through the streets of Bamberg until we landed at Spezial Keller, which is hands down the best Rauchbier in Bamberg, and it sits at the top of a hill providing incredible views of the city below. Here they both not only got a taste of the regional beer, but they also got a very traditional German meal to boot. Boiled pig knuckle with a side of kraut and potatoes is quite a sight, but according to Ryan, it was tasty and kind to his belly.

We finally led the honeymooners home for an evening on our fabulous porch. The goal was to be sure they got some much needed rest to prepare them for tackling the adventures for the following day. I think we succeeded. We set up our new bar/couch combo and enjoyed our fresh meats and cheeses from the market with a nice bottle of Proseco (ok, that's Italian, but it's just as wonderful enjoyed here in Germany).
Pure awesome. Can we say, "relax"? 
The sky was incredible that night and even blessed us with a few thundershowers to cool things off
The following day entailed a trip to Wurzburg to tour a palace, and then some good 'ol German fun at a Volksfest in the nearby town, Schweinfurt. It was a crazy fun day. As a side note, I started off the day trying to be a peach and help my sister with her laundry. The forecast called for clear skies and hot temps, so I thought I'd give her a taste of drying her clothes in the Bavarian air. As soon as I got them all hung out, the skies unleashed a furry of rain. Lesson learned - if it looks like rain, it's going to rain, despite what the forecast might tell you.

Here are some photos from Wurzburg, which is a pretty Bavarian city only an hour or so away. Hard to believe looking at the city that it was virtually destroyed in WWII. The beauty of the city was revived by those Germans that have so much pride in their history and where they live that they did a masterful job bringing the city back to life.

The honeymooners
Little r and me
Such a beautiful and romantic city.
The Prince's rose garden.

Aunt Jessie is hilarious
And the Volksfest was ridiculous fun, of course. We went on many crazy rides, including one where Ryan seriously feared for his life (and Jess and I probably should have as well). It was pure madness. The little bear got to ride on a train, on a bus, and on a pony! The best part is nearly always the beer gardens though, and those awesome 1 Liter beer glasses.

Love the train rides. He's so attentive!
Practicing to ride Grandma's pony
We were quite frankly nuts.  Crazy ride I have EVER been on in my life!
Sharing ice cream with Daddy
The honeymooners enjoy a crazy ride together
The trip continued with a quick visit to Prague (which was so insanely awesome I'm saving it for a separate blog post), and a leisurely bike ride and afternoon spent at a local beer garden. Putting them on the train to head home was tough. I wanted them to stay for another month! Alas, all the good times must come to an end, and besides, I'm not sure they would last another night on our sofa bed!
Thanks for including us in your honeymoon - it was fantastic fun! Love you guys!
PS I can't wait to see all of your pictures.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Let's go shopping...for groceries

I've been saying it since before I even arrived in Germany, and I talk about it repeatedly. It's now time. I need to bite the bullet, put my money where my mouth is, grow some balls, be brave already... whatever your favorite cliche. The time has come for me to revert to shopping locally. By that, I don't mean, occasionally when I happen to walk into a store, or grabbing veggies from the market on Saturdays. What I mean is that the time has come for me to truly shop German and to stop complaining incessantly about the Commissary and the PX on our tiny little Post.

This has to sound absolutely ridiculous to all of you. Quite frankly, it sounds a bit nuts to me as well. Such a simple thing to end continuing frustration. All I can say is that habit and routine have a tendency to override any of the little bit of courage I might have in my bones to start shopping in the German supermarkets. Why, you ask, could this possibly be so intimidating, and I honestly do not have an answer for you. Perhaps it's the language or maybe the different foods and the labels that I am unable to understand, or maybe it's just that I already loathe the task of shopping for groceries that slipping into a habit and going American is just that much easier.

The closest grocery store to us is good for last minute emergencies, but it's not even close to being the best place to shop for food locally. I thought I might become one of those daily or frequent shoppers and use my bike like you see so many Germans doing here, yet that doesn't seem reasonable if you don't live in downtown in a larger city. The bakery, maybe, but not the other produce and staples. And quite frankly, the Commissary and the PX kind of suck here. It's a tiny Post, so they don't offer much at all. The Commissary is probably the smallest on all the Army posts, and once I got used to it, I started getting into a routine of what I liked to buy long as it was in stock, that is. The PX, we just won't even go there. And for those of you that have never heard of these words before, God bless you. You are a lucky soul to be clueless on this front. You can use them interchangeably as an American grocery store or a low-scale Kmart (maybe). Sometimes these stores are massive and they have everything your American heart could possible desire or miss from back home. Not the case here, unfortunately.

I'm starting to see that the weak link here though is me. An amazing opportunity is right in front of me to fold myself into this culture in every possible way. The resistance is confusing to me, and it's time to get over it. My shopping excursion this week was dreadful on Post, and I decided that was going to be the last time. There will still be an occasion now and again to pick up certain things, but overall, I'm done. This silly little girl is going to pull up her britches and get over whatever fear is taunting her. New routines will be established and my kitchen will be stocked with the deliciousness that this amazing country can provide. And believe you, me, they have some REALLY ridiculously good food here.

So, I realize this is something you really could probably care less about. Instead, I'm writing this blog to keep myself honest and to be sure I don't turn back. I'm hoping that in the not too distant future, you'll be reading a blog post from me about how German I feel I've become and that our pantry is stocked full of food with labels in a different language. Honestly, how cool would that be?

In the meantime, thanks for humoring me. Do you think shopping locally would intimidate you, too? I can't be completely alone on this, can I?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fun music

It's been an interesting week in our household. We're all a bit out of whack as we muscle through jetlag, nightmares, and busy schedules. All of which are individually tasking. It has taken every will in my bones not to fall into the trap of sticking little r in front of the tv so I might be able to steal a couple of much needed zzzzzz's. Instead, we are staying busy. Unfortunately, my Rani-dog is nursing a pull of sorts in her shoulder, so our old fallback of taking a nice long hike has become a quick trip down the street. That leaves lots of time to keep a sleepless toddler occupied. We've planted gardens...

reorganized the garage, cleaned the house, played cars and trains, drew pictures, and read some books...
Some of the best fun we've had though has been watching music videos on YouTube. Little r is a huge fan of watching dance routines and an even bigger lover of music. I posted his favorite dance video on Facebook about a month ago ( It's a lot of fun, but we've seen it at least a dozen times, if not more, so I was on the search for something new. We came across this video during our last searching session and I just had to share it. The video is by a group called Walk Off The Earth (WOTE), and the video is a cover of the song "Somebody that I used to know" by Gotye (same song as the dance routine, so little r was an instant fan). It's more impressive if you actually know the song because they sound so much like the original band and the five of them are all on one guitar!

I'm probably somewhat late in discovering this. As I was searching for it to put into this blog, there are already several parodies of this video. As someone that grew up not only loving music, but having it played in my house (especially by guitar) all the time, it's hard not to appreciate how freaking awesome this video is though. As far as I'm concerned, I think the craze is worth it because these folks have some serious talent. And hey, maybe there are a few of you that haven't had the joy of watching it yet :)

Until next time, you'll find little r and me dancing around the living room snapping our fingers to this fun beat.


Monday, June 11, 2012

House concert with Jenn Grinels

A little over three years ago, my sister and I fell in love with Jenn Grinels when we saw her in Thomas, West Virginia at The Purple Fiddle. I hadn't been fortunate enough to see her again because her tours never quite matched up with my schedule, but I never stopped listening or hoping to catch her again. A few months ago my sister forwarded me an email from Jenn saying that Jenn would be in the Virginia area the weekend before the wedding and she was seeking house concerts. She said, "it's a long shot, but wouldn't that be a cool way to start the week of wedding festivities?"

Have you ever been to a house concert? If you like good music, talented folk singers, and an intimate atmosphere to enjoy both, then a house concert can be an experience like no other. I had only been to one of these types of concerts before. To see Jenn in a house concert would be fantastic, so long shot or not, we were going to go for it. Several weeks and a handful of emails later and we were hosting a house concert for Jenn! We could hardly believe it! I

Lucky for us, my sister has some great friends that both love music and also have a killer house on a farm in Richmond with a huge piece of property. Having the concert in my sister's little apartment would have worked, but it would have brought a whole new meaning to "intimate." The backyard space was awesome. My sister's friend is in a band so he had a makeshift stage and PA system already set up. It was absolutely perfect.

When I found out we were chosen to host her house concert in Richmond, my sister and I were a little nervous to add something else to our plate. It all came together and ended up being a fine night with friends, family, and great music.

It was a beautiful way to kick off a fabulous week of wedding festivities. Most of our friends thought Jenn was just some singer that plays her guitar. They had no idea of the gift that they were there to see. Jenn is so talented with a sound stars are made of. She's also freaking hilarious and she shares her stories in her folk star way that makes you feel like you are having an evening with a best friend.

Jenn showed up a couple hours before the show and got things put together. She did a soundcheck while my sister helped her make a pretty display for her merchandise.
The weather was a perfect summer day. A little muggy, but Jenn didn't seem to mind. She came on that stage and blew us away...
If you ever get a chance to see Jenn Grinels, don't even hesitate. It didn't occur to me until after the show that a video of one of er songs would have been great. I suppose I'll just have to keep her music from that evening close in my memory. This was definitely one night I will not soon forget. I hope it was memorable to others that came as well, but especially to my sister and her husband.
Thank you, Jenn, for such a beautiful night. I hope it's not another three years before I'll get to see you sing again. My sister and I love you!