Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ellie Tenenbaum

Santa, German-style

Of the many things we've learned since we've arrived, one that is often repeated is that we are indebted to Germany for many of our Christmas traditions. The Christmas tree? That came from Germany. Advent calendars? Those as well. As did "Silent Night" (technically, it was written in Austria), the modern image of Santa Claus (drawn in Harper's Bazaar by German-American Thomas Nast), and the name Kris Kringle (actually a misidentification and corruption of the German "Christkindl" which means the Christ child, who here in Germany is the actual bearer of gifts on Christmas morning).

Thomas Nast's now-famous image of Santa

Well, we know our blog has actually leant itself to be over-historical lately, but we couldn't help but point out a few more choice things about Christmas in Germany. Actually, let's just narrow it down to this--German Santa is flat-out weird and a little creepy.

First of all, over here, there is no "Santa"; it is St. Nikolaus, who delivers treats to the shoes left outside the doorways to youngsters' rooms on December 6. But in appearance, he is Santa, without doubt. And his past is a little sketchy, for he used to visit children accompanied by his trusty aide, Knecht Ruprecht, who carried a burlap sack, a switch, and for all intents and purposes, looked like a bum. Of course, St. Nikolaus would reward good children; Knecht Ruprecht, on the other hand, would discipline naughty children by beating them, stuffing them in his sack, and then later eating them.

No, not this Ruprecht.

But of all the crazy things about the German Santa, the thing that stands out the most is how they decorate with the guy! After Thanksgiving, we started to notice Santa showing up at different homes in various strange poses. Well, we thought, maybe it is an isolated thing, but no! It is pretty wide-spread, with Santa adorning houses all over here in strange, suspicious ways.

First of all, you have the Santa who apparently took his home-entry cues from the Wet Bandits, as he is scaling a ladder to suspiciously enter through a window.

This house had the added bonus of the creepy Santa in the window as well

Then, you have the peeping-tom Santa, who is often suspended from the rain gutters or off of a ledge or balcony or whatever. Maybe he had a little too much eggnog or something.

Here, in probably the strangest incarnation of Santa, is the suicidal Santa. No, he is not atop the roof with his reindeer and sleigh--instead he is precariously looking over the edge and pondering whether another off-season of toy building and good/naughty accounting is worth it.

"I salute you all and bid adieu..."

So that's that. German Santa! Breaking and entering, spying on unsuspecting showerers, and ending it all like only the great elf can! It brings a whole new meaning to "you better watch out, you better not cry...", doesn't it?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Whole Bunch of Stuff

It's been a while since I blogged..... Ellie was way cute for Halloween. (Thanks for the costume Carc!)
We had a new baby 3 weeks ago.

Nothing like a fake wild pig. 

The weekend Christmasmarts in Schweinfurt opened, it was busy and sooooo COLD.

Visiting the marts with friends is the best. This is the Nichols family, Holly's husband left for Iraq a couple weeks ago:( 

The Schweinfurt Rathaus (city hall) 

Ellie's Bling: sunglasses, necklaces, sparkly pants, fake tattoo on arm (not visible), and a cell.

A play area for the kids outside our place

The view off our balcony.

The living room with army furniture. 

Ellie's new favorite toy, though at first she was scared of it. 

We have really let the blog go for a while sorry!! Where do we start??? 

We found a nice 3 bedroom apartment in Schweinfurt that is surrounded by forest. There are tons of walking and bike paths all around and if you go about a 1/2 mile around the corner you are in the middle of the freaking  woods, no lights just trees and a cute restaurant.  Our apartment is a little bigger that the one we had in LA, but thats not saying much. The view however, is amazing. We have huge windows that surround our apt. overlooking the woods (our place is on a steep hill) which we love. All things considered it's not bad.

 The move has been pretty hard on Ellie we lived in a hotel for about a month before we finally found the right place and just as she was getting used to that we up and moved her here. So, it's been a slow transition and Ellie is still getting used to things out here as we all are. The Army gave us furniture, pots and pans etc. for all of November and we finally got our stuff on December 2! Boxes and boxes of stuff with sooooo much paper. We crammed all of it in the guest bathroom and hallway and the movers came back last week to pick it up, which was a huge blessing because getting rid of trash in Germany is a bee sting. We have 5 different trashes that go into 5 different garbage cans. They sort EVERYTHING out here: Anything paper, Anything plastic including laminated paper and tin foil, Cans, glass, and trash. The paper garbage can has a little slot for throwing out paper and there was no way all our trash could have fit, so yeah, that head ache is OVER. 

Andrew really likes the clinic over here, the dentists are all really nice and for the most part chill. He is really busy, but still comes home in a good mood and says that "he might be able to really do this as his profession" now. Which is also a huge blessing:) 

We are still working out the power kinks as all of our appliances and stuff don't work over here. Some of our computer stuff and cameras are dual voltage, but everything else is not. So we are trying to weigh out the costs and benefits of getting transformers or brand new stuff. We did finally get a new microwave this weekend- it is surprisingly really hard without one!! And I think we will get a new TV soon. The new TVs are nice because they are dual voltage so we can take it back home when our time is up here.

We get most of our groceries at the Army's commissary and some in town. They have really cheep produce in the German market and it's sooo fresh. I still need to take a picture of their produce here- it looks about 3x bigger than produce in the states (everything seems bigger over here including the spiders.) I really enjoy taking the bus to the central market- lots of shopping and bakeries on every corner.  And we did finally get a new car out here, (we were driving rentals for two months) a black BMW X3, it's our new baby, really fun and roomy. 

As for church, we both have callings, Andrew is the YM Pres. and I'm the activities chair and primary teacher. We just had the ward Christmas party on the 12th and I think it went ok, it's my first time throwing a church party but we had excellent food and a ton of people so that's good I guess. The ward is split 50/ 50 German and English so party planing and pretty much everything is just a little more challenging, still getting used to it. 

We have been so busy lately and a little sick with all the new German bugs that we haven't had to much time for traveling yet, but we still have a lot of time. It's good to relax for a bit though and get used to our new city. 


Friday, November 21, 2008

Hoenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles

Hoenschwangau Castle, where King Ludwig II lived as a child, was built by his Father (King Maximilian II.)

Ludwig had the Neuschwanstein castle (New Swan Stone Castle) built across from his father's. Both castles have rooms, names, and statues dedicated to swans. Turns out that Swan Lake separates the two castles and most people believe Tchaikovsky was inspired to model the story of Swan Lake after the tragic life of Ludwig. He was found dead in a river alongside his psychiatrist, probably murdered, at 46. Some say he committed suicide because he was crazy and also gay. He never married and lived with his mother. But his castle was designed for a man with fabulous taste. It's amazing inside and out. Definitely a home for someone off his rocker and living in a fairy-tale world. In fact, there is a room that is built to look like the inside of a cave, with stalactites and stalagmites, etc.  This is the castle that Disney used to design the Sleeping Beauty castle and it's really not that old as far as castles go. They began building in 1869 and when Ludwig passed in 1886 it was still not quite complete.

Done with the history lesson. So, that aside, it was a really pleasant trip and only about 3 hours away. Not bad. The only downer is that there were no accommodations made for handicap folks and therefore strollers are pretty much impossible. To get there we walked (about a 30/40 min walk) in the woods uphill with many stairs, and when we got there strollers were not allowed inside (or anyone in a wheelchair for that matter.) But it was so worth it. The view at the top and the walk were both refreshing and it was a good workout.  Ellie was on my hip for the tour and way too excited about all the stairs in the castle. She also made friends with a little Italian boy who was about 2 and kept blowing kisses at her. Lots of fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Our flight and first Days in Germany

Sorry for the long awaited post! It's been a process getting here, but we are here safe and sound. Andrew had to come out 2 weeks before Ellie and I because the army still had some processing to do for us. Ellie, my friend Catrina and I arrived on the 12th-- We are so blessed to have such good friends!! Catrina was so much fun and so much help! I CANNOT imagine coming here by myself! I had 7 big bags including a port-a crib and high chair, a car seat and stroller, a diaperbag, a carry on and coats. Oh and I had a screaming baby:) (I packed so much because we won't have our stuff until December- not so cool.) The flight was over 10 hours and Ellie did ok. She was awake until about 10:30pm wanting to walk up and down the aisles (with my help) and so we got to know everyone on the plane pretty well. Especially the people she would stop and stare at for minutes at a time. She finally went to sleep and slept for the remaining part of the flight. It went fine. We got into Frankfurt at about 4am our time (1:30pm German time) there is a 9 hour time diff. and were taken to Schweinfurt in a VW van by Andrew and another army guy.

Andrew and the Army guy (specialist Sawyers) trying to move all the bags out of the elevator.

I thought the trip on the Autobahn would be a lot scarier than it was. Contrary to popular belief they do have speed limit "suggestions" and people do obey for the most part. I actually like the street signs and highways rules more out here. I think it's a lot safer and more organized even though people are going 230 km/hr (130 mi/hr) in some places- you just have to watch out for them. I'm still getting used to everything in km, but I'll get there.

So we arrived in Schweinfurt, an industrial town, and are staying on base. (In German Schwein means pig so the town is full of all sort of pig signs and staues.) The base here used to belong to the Nazi's and it has been converted and restored in some parts to serve the Army's needs here. But it is still pretty dated.

Since arriving here Andrew has been in meetings all day and we currently have no phones, no house and no car. We are in a hotel, renting a car when needed and plan to get phones really soon. We've looked at 3 places and will hopefully find the right one soon.

So, we decided to get out and get to know the area. We went to Bamberg the first day. The Wurzberg residence the next and castle Rothenburg odt the third. Then we traveled to Fussen for 2 days to visit the Neuschwanstien castle (the sleeping beauty one) and the Hohenschwangau castle across the way. I promise I'll go into more detail soon, I have so much more to talk about, but Ellie just woke up so I'll leave you with some pictures. Hope everything is going well back home we love and miss you guys!

Bamburg was a good place to start- your classic German town with a small castle and so much to look at. It so beautiful out here. The trees are changing color and everything is so green.

Bamberg really is a little venice as you can see here. There are many small shops in the town and so many good bakeries.

These pictures are of the Wurzberg Residence Gardens. It was a royal palace and the inside was just as beautiful with huge stair cases and painted ceilings (no pics allowed inside, sorry.)

This is Castle Rothenburg odt. I think it was the most surprizing castle we went to because inside was a city within the walls of the old castle with hotels, shops, churches and bakeries. We ate a nice lunch at a turkish cafe (the donor sandwich is sooo good!) and visited older parts of the castle including a grave yard and garden. Rothenburg was so much fun!

I have a lot to say about Schloss Neuschwanstein so I'll save it for later!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Ellie has had a month for firsts. Her first big girl shoes, first poopy in the potty, first baby molars and canines (she has 8 teeth and is cutting 4 more right now), first trip to Disneyland and first trip to Germany before the month is over. That's right!! Andrew is officially DONE with dental school!! So PROUD of you Andrew, we are so blessed!! And so we are off to Schwienfurt, Germany for 3 years. Sept 30th is Andrew's report date and we have soooo much left to do for our travels. It also turns out that it's snowing over there right now- another FIRST for Ellie. So, because we are leaving in such a hurry the family came over yesterday and we all went to Disneyland. Ellie loved it! I was really impressed at how much we were able to do with her regardless of her age and lack of walking ability. She rode the Jungle boat, Pirates of the Carribean, Mr. Toad's Wild Adventure, Snow White, Winnie the Pooh and went to the Tiki room all before she crashed. We had a great time!

First Shoes

First poopy

Naturally she reads the magazine while doing her business

First trip to Disneyland. Grandpa Bill, John, Sara, Michelle, Tim, Grandma Lynette, Grammy Liz, Ellie and Mom. (Daddy took the pic)

She LOVED the animals on the Jungle Cruise

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Not so good at this.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ellie's 1st Birthday

More details to come....

Ellie was spoiled this year as we had two birthday parties--one for some of the grandparents in Bakersfield and one at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood with family and friends. Papa made a really fun clown birthday cake and Grammy Liz provided the fancy party hat. Ellie was overloaded with toys and clothes and soooo excited about everything that she hasn't been wanting to sleep. When she wakes up in the morning its like Christmas!

The El Capitan theater was awesome. It's an old theater on Hollywood Boulevard now owned by Disney, and of course they only show Disney movies and always put on a little pre-show in good Disney fashion. We saw Sleeping Beauty and had cupcakes and ice cream after.

We just can't believe that she's one. The following are some "tricks" and things she enjoys to do now that she is ONE. 

She LOVES dogs. Max is the Elms family dog and Ellie is in love; she follows him around the house making doggy noises and tries to eat his food. She tells us the sound a doggy makes on cue.

She also squints her eyes when we say "ojitos" (literally "little eyes" in Spanish) and calls us "Mommy" and "Daddy" respectively.

She also has a "hiding spot" under one of the corners of our sofa where she likes to stash things. There have been many a time where we can't find the remote or something similar and, sure enough, we can always find it in Ellie's spot.

We've also tried to teach her to hold up one finger when asked her age. But instead, she sticks her one finger up her nose. Great stuff.

There are so many things, but we won't go on and on. If any family members or friends read this and want to relate a fun Ellie story or moment, we'd love for you to share.

I'm One!
The Crew
When the movie got boring we broke into the candy shop.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Best Party EVER!

 I have my man
Papa Cake
Tim in Drag
Challa in cardboard (he was on a mission)
Cooka break dancing 
All the best friends and family!!!

Today is cousin Bums big day (as well) and we wish him all the happiness he deserves.  Really wish we could be there for the next best party ever!!!

Tres Años

Love you so much sweetie! Sars and all:)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

San Diego Zoo Megapost

Last weekend we went down to San Diego with the Grammy Liz, Tim, Papa, and Pepa to visit Elms cousin Meggie Amis, who had a bye day after participating in a basketball tournament. So there we went, caravan-style, down the 5, picked up Meggie, and decided to go to the zoo. Here are a bunch of pics of the rowdy animals (and the zoo animals, too). It was a really fun day that was ended by meeting up with our friends the Oblads at an underwhelming Mexican restaurant. Enjoy!

Shawna, Grammy Liz, Pepa, Meggie, and Tim
Meggie, Papa, Tim
Near the kangaroos
What's up with Andrew's face?
Giraffe and '64 impala