Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas #4

Our Christmas is like the Energizer bunny. It just keeps going and going and...

The boys got a couple of presents that wouldn't fit in our car to go to Germany with us, so they waited here for our return.

We believe in starting French chef training young!


We don't really do the Santa Claus thing around here, but we have mentioned him a couple of times so Benjamin will at least know what other people are talking about. When I asked Benjamin later who brought him the kitchen, he hesitated between Santa Claus and Mommy, but finally decided it was Santa Claus AND Mommy. Smart cookie.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Strasbourg

Sunday, we all visited the French city of Strasbourg, which was on our way home to Puiseux. Lindley took us on the scenic route through the mountains to get there.

Strasbourg is situated on the Ill River, which flows into the Rhine.

The city is well-known for its Christmas markets, which remain open through the end of December. They are filled with artisanal products, hot spiced wine, and all sorts of other goodies.


After a visit to the cathedral, we headed back home.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Christmas visit with our friends, and are already thinking about our next trip to go visit them (preferably when it's a little bit warmer out!!).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Trier, Germany

The 26th, we bundled into the cars and went off to visit Baumholder, where Emiley's dad had been stationed 30 years earlier. On the way we stopped to take a look at the Moselle River Valley:

We then visited the city of Trier, which has a beautiful pedestrian center.


Trier is home to the Porta Nigra, the largest Roman city gate in northern Europe.


We also visited the Cathedral of St Peter, which was originally built in the 4th century AD on the foundation of Roman buildings.


Monday, December 28, 2009

On-Time Christmas, or Christmas #3

We left December 24th for on-time Christmas with our friends the Hummels in Germany. We arrived in time for a Christmas Eve candlelight service at their church in Stuttgart. After dinner, we opened stockings.

Then the next morning, we opened all the presents (except for 2 larger ones that are waiting for the boys at home).

Noah was not interested at all in opening presents, so Benjamin had to help him out, but once they were opened he was more interested.

I *might* be set for books in English for the year now, between the close to 70 I bought while in the US, and the huge boxful Emiley got for me for Christmas. And Frederic was very pleased with his cases Diet Dr Pepper.

Lindley made us a delicious Christmas dinner of duck, and Emiley's dad took the kids out to the park in the afternoon so they could run off some of that extra Christmas energy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Early Christmas #2

So we ended up missing the village Christmas party because our town hall told us the wrong date, and we thus mistakenly thought we'd be back in town in time for it. We discovered upon our return that the party had taken place the weekend before we got back - the day we were celebrating Benjamin's birthday and Early Christmas #1.

BUT we found out Monday night that Santa Claus (or rather, Père Noël) delivers!

The party and gifts are organized by our town hall, and paid for by our local taxes. They always pick out nice gifts for the kids. This year, Noah got a garage with 3 little people and cars:

And Benjamin got an ice cream shop Playdoh kit
that he couldn't wait to try out.

We don't really talk about Santa Claus around here, but we did tell Benjamin that the "Père Noël" brought these presents for him. He's latched onto that and keeps telling me about the "Père Snore-Ell" who brings him presents. Hee hee.
(It didn't seem to concern him in the slightest that we were also eating the Père Noël in his chocolate form.)

Tomorrow morning we are on our way to Germany for On-Time Christmas with our friends the Hummels.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Way Too Early O'Clock

That is what time I got up today. Frederic got up for work at 2:22 am. I know, because I looked at the clock, and couldn't get back to sleep after that. I tried for a while but gave up around 4 am and got up. Then of course I got tired around 7:20 am, and kept falling asleep. But I got the boys up at 8, and we're all doing our best to get back on French time. It's easiest for Frederic, I think, since his schedule is so crazy anyway and he went back to work today.

We arrived back at home Friday morning, about 22 hours after we left my parents' house in St Louis. We didn't see any snow in the US this year, despite staying in town so late, but it was waiting for us here when we arrived and a little bit more fell today.

We had a good flight back, with very little turbulence (not that that calmed my extra anxiety about flying I've had since June - google AF 447 if you don't know what that's about). After some "discussion" with the check-in agents over whether we could be upgraded since we were flying with children, who had special children's meals, we were finally upgraded to business class, which made the flight very much nicer for us!

We were seated near one lady in the plane who got quite a lot of attention from the flight crew, including the captain. She didn't look familiar, so Frédéric looked up her name when he got back to work today... and we still have no idea what the deal was. If she is famous, we must be out of the loop.

The boys started getting sick the morning we left, so we are hoping to get them in to the doctor tomorrow or Tuesday to find out whether we can take them to Germany for Christmas without infecting our friends' kids or not. BUT we are thrilled that they were not sick (other than minor colds) the whole time we were in the US, AND they weren't feeling too sick to go out and play in the snow today!

Our one and only sled lives in the condo in the Alps so we don't have to transport it back and forth every year. So Frédéric and the boys improvised today with a shovel and a swing.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

First Thanksgiving, then birthday, then Early Christmas!

The excitement just keeps going at this time of year for us. Thanksgiving, travels, visits with friends, Benjamin's birthday... and after his birthday, we celebrated early Christmas with my family.



Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy 4th Birthday, Benjamin!

Our baby boy turned 4! (already?!) We celebrated his birthday a few days early at my parents' house. Pastry artiste Frédéric made an amazing airplane cake for Benjamin -- who had changed his mind a couple of weeks ago and no longer wanted the train cake he had originally requested. No problem, our pastry chef extraordinaire knows how to roll with the punches! We located an airplane cake pan with some help from my mom, and the talented chef got to work.

For those not in the know, those are Air France colors on the tail, of course!

It was kind of a shame to cut into such a beautiful cake, but Benjamin vetoed the idea of just keeping it in the freezer to take out and look at again next year. At least we took a lot of pictures of it before it was no more.

Then it was time for presents, which were plentiful and greatly appreciated.

Benjamin has been telling everyone for weeks that he was going to be "this many" as he holds up four fingers, and now the moment has arrived!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Back in St Louis

Since we got back to St Louis, we have been visiting friends, shopping, and working (no true vacation for the self-employed!). We did celebrate Benjamin's 4th birthday (which is today) on Saturday - more on that soon!

This was Frederic's favorite part of our trip, I think:
A big thank you to Mick and Alison for donating their 2 bottles of Dublin Dr Pepper (made with pure cane sugar!) to feed Frédéric's addiction.

We helped decorate my parents' house for Christmas, too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Thanksgiving Travels, Part Four: Memphis, Tennessee

We made a mini-stop between Austin and Memphis for a quick visit with our friend Mike Stephens in Little Rock, then continued on to Memphis to visit our friends Mick & Alison Wright and Chris & Amanda Eden.

Alison had a gingerbread train kit that Benjamin enjoyed making with a little help from Frédéric.



Now we are back in St Louis for another week and a half before our extended vacation will be over and we'll have to head back to real life... at least for a week, until we go to Germany for Christmas!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thanksgiving Travels, Part Three: Austin, Texas

Saturday morning, we weren't ready to see the Thanksgiving fun come to an end, so we stretched it out by going to Austin with Aunt Claire and Uncle Curtis. The rain cleared up enough on Monday for Uncle Curtis to take us and the boys to a great playground, er, Creative Playscape, in Georgetown.




Benjamin tried his hand at clay sculpting in Aunt Claire's pottery shed, but he doesn't like to be messy so he drew the line at adding any water to his clay. He stuck with making snakes and squishing them under clay rocks.

Other highlights of our stay in Austin included seeing my cousins Trevor and Kayla who weren't able to come to Thanksgiving, having lunch with our cousins Brett and BethAnn, spending time with our friends J.L. and Emily Gray and their 2 boys, enjoying a delicious dinner Curtis cooked for us, and meeting some of my "internet friends" for the first time face to face.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thanksgiving Travels, Part Two: Madill, Oklahoma

After Tulsa (where, by the way, we got to have coffee with college friends Andrea and Wendi), we went to southern Oklahoma on Wednesday. My mom's side of the family rents out a camp down there every year for Thanksgiving. We've gathered there for the past 30 years or so.

We spend a few days together, and besides the deliciousness that is Thanksgiving dinner, we also play on the playground.


Play games inside.
And attempt to get a few family pictures together (here we are with my maternal grandparents).
We had perfect weather for playing boules (imported by Frédéric a few years ago, it has joined the ranks of our American games of washers and horseshoes as a Thanksgiving tradition).

We go for walks.
And we go fishing.

We had a smaller crowd than usual this year but we still had a great time down at camp.