Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beauty Products & Drugs

Lately, I've run into some German women who have helped me navigate the ins and outs of this area. I'm always on the look out for interesting and fun things about my host nation. One of the things I've discovered is that certain beauty products here are seriously pricey! I love O.P.I. nail polish but had trouble finding it on and off base. I asked at the exchange salon and they informed me that it's really hard to find off post and, when I find it, it's expensive. Something like 16 Euro a bottle. I was chatting it up at baseball practice with a few other mommies who informed me that beauty products in general off post are just more expensive. Unfortunately, I can't even order it online because it can't be mailed via USPS. (Nail polish must be a threat to national security?) Anyway, I'm able to get other brands of nail polish. Just recently, I went for glitter toes. A suggestion by Joshua. Up next is blue and suggestion by Samuel. :) Just recently we all got Birkenstocks so this way, my toes can be interesting!

Having European friends in the past has helped me a lot here. One of the things that a French girlfriend of mine always did was use homeopathic medicine for common ails like cold symptoms, bruising, or insomnia. The US has just started jumping on the homeopathic bandwagon with Hyland's brand leading the way. Just about every American mother is familiar with the Hyland's teething tablets. I ran into another German mother at the hospital. She was venting her frustration over tri-care so, I listened. Unfortunately there wasn't much I could offer other than comforting words. For any woman who's been up since 3:00AM this is really all they need! She was a nice woman and new to the area. We struck up a conversation and I asked her if Germans also used Homeopathic medications and if I could just walk into a drug store and buy some. She said yes and in fact the pharmacist could help me figure out what I needed. She suggested that I try Dm-drogerie next time I was in a bigger city and Alnatura. Alnatura looks almost like a Whole Foods Market. She said that some common medicines that she always asked her mother to mail to her while she was in the US were Hustagil, Prospan, and Mucosolvansaft.

I suppose in closing for any German woman/mother moving to the US, stock up on your favorite pharmaceuticals! They are very pricey to buy on line apparently and even if German family members are sending them, the shipping costs can be astronomical. On another note, for any American woman moving to Germany, stock up on your favorite beauty products. Most everything is available here but I guess the prices are much higher!

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Homework Machine

by: Shel Silverstein
reenactment by: Joshua

The Homework Machine, oh the Homework Machine,
Most perfect contraption that’s ever been seen.

Just put in your homework, then drop in a dime,
Snap on the switch, and in ten seconds time,

You homework comes out, quick and clean as can be.
Here is is – “nine plus four?” and the answer is “three”.

Oh me…

I guess it’s not as perfect
As I thought it would be.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Gartenschau" in Kaiserslautern

Spring break at our residence has been pretty low key. However, we've able to do some fun things and I've been able to get some things done that I had been putting off. I was able to finally purchase some sandals for the summer. Silver, Rio-style Birkenstocks... HOT! I also purchased Birki's for the boys. We are gonna be stylin' this summer for sure!

Today, a neighbor friend took me to Gartenschau in Kaiserslautern. It was a little chilly today, but honestly the kids didn't mind at all. What a fantastic place for kids and families! The daffodils where in full bloom along with tulips and other bulb flowers. According to the webpage, there are about 80 different replicas of dinosaurs throughout the walking trail. Several playgrounds are bunched together with equipment for all ages. There is also a miniature golf course. When the weather gets hotter, I know the boys will have a great time in the water play area. Samuel couldn't wait for warmer weather, so he got both pairs of pants soaking wet. Thankfully it didn't bother him at all. Also, during the spring, summer, and fall season there will be outdoor concerts. Concessions and a small (but good quality) gift shop are here as well. Apparently there are also temporary exhibits shown as well through out the season. I ended up getting the season family pass for 39 Euro. A really good deal considering it also includes entrance into the nearby Japanese garden.

What a great time! I admit, I was freezing when we were done there but it was worth the trip. I'm so grateful to have a friend nearby who is adventurous and willing to show me the ropes. My next adventure... is not so fun but it needs to be done! Joshua's 1st Communion is coming up fast and I need to find a suit for this boy. I've got several recommendations of places and am hoping to find what I need. Just yesterday, I was hopeful that I could get him measured at the exchange and then order through them. It's proven not so easy. The exchange does not do boys suits. (Considering that there are about 8-10 1st Communion classes... about 80-100 kids receiving 1st communion this year... most likely half of them boys... it's a very bad business decision in my opinion!) so, I'm left to look out in town. This forces me to get out of my comfort zone. Armed with a GPS, it shouldn't be too hard and being able to accomplish this task on my own makes be feel pretty confident.

So, YAY ME! (-Sam's favorite quote)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Libraries and Dinosaurs

I recently read a blog post that gave me a little more perspective. My time in Germany has not been the pleasant beginning I expected it to be. We came in November, right smack in the beginning of a nasty weather season. Just as the weather was getting better and we had hopes of paying off our moving expenses, we were facing the threat of furloughs. We were pretty terrified for a while about how we were going to survive in a foreign country with no paycheck. But, while I was anxious about all my expectations being lowered, I was also not noticing the "unexpected". We live in a very nice house in a very nice neighborhood. Mike is able to work for the military again, something I think his heart has always been in. Joshua goes to a great school with a supportive teacher. I can get both kids in after-school care for CHEAP, and I mean cheap. It's quality care with meals and snacks served. We have a ton of inexpensive resources at our disposal.

One resource that we have here is the library (we have them in the States too, but here it really feels like a gem). The library is something that I just recently discovered again. The people that work there are extremely helpful and some of the latest books are always available. The Landstuhl library also has DVD and CD check-out. Since we are still on a mission to pay off our moving expenses and other things, this has served as a really great resource of FREE entertainment. Limit on DVD check out is 10 per library cardholder. Another fantastic service that I recently found out about is the library's online services. If for one reason or another the Landstuhl library doesn't carry a DVD that I'm interested in, but that DVD is located at another (on-base) library within Germany, I can request it and they will have it sent to my Landstuhl library for me to pick up. How awesome is that?! There are also a few bookshelves with free-bee books. I found a Dan Brown & John Grisham book that I'm planning on reading. I highly recommend everyone go and check out the library. It's such a fabulous resource.

With the big WHEW moment that came this Friday (Budget finally signed) the weight was lifted a bit. Joshua had the day off on Friday and I had Samuel reserved at the Childcare center all day, so I was fortunate enough to get Joshua all to myself. I absolutely love both of my boys (or, should I say all of them?) but there is something really special about having one all to myself. I rarely have the time to really listen to Joshua when Samuel is around. When things get a little quieter, I can really focus on him and I find out all kinds of information I wouldn't normally find out. Joshua was really bummed that Sam was going to have "school", so I decided to take him to the local Dinosaur museum. GONDWANA-Das Praehistorium is located about 45 kilometers away. (About a 30-45 minute drive). Because most local children were in school, we had the place virtually to ourselves. The facility has a small cafe and also English translator devices available (just leave your ID as a deposit). They also asked me for my zip code. Upon entry, there is a huge dinosaur's skeleton. The tour starts with a film (about the scientific explanation of life beginning on earth) then we moved on to the real fun - the dinosaurs. There were skeletons but there were also robotic dinosaurs. Near the end of the museum loop, there was a display with snakes (red tailed boas) and tarantulas. At the end there was another short 4D movie about the death of the dinosaurs. This was really a fun day for us. Joshua even told Mike that "it was only the best museum ever!"

A neighbor friend told us that TOOM (basically a German Home Depot) was having a sale on soil. 1 Euro for a 40-liter bag. We decided this would be the day we were going to tear up the weed infested "garden" in our backyard. It took us about all day but in the end we were able to remove the weeds and rocks, replace the border and add fresh top soil. Our plan is to put veggies in the area. The one things we've been told we have to worry about is the birds eating our food. Also, I hear that slugs and snails are another pest. One thing that I learned can be done about slugs is leaving out a shallow dish of beer, or yeast mixed into a little water. The smell of the yeast attracts the pests to the dish of yeasty smelling goodness instead of the garden. I'm going to probably test this one out once my tomatoes are in the ground. When Fall comes I'm looking forward to planting some sort of bulbs.

Some other things on my short list of things to possibly to with the kids are Gartenschau-Kaiserslautern and Wildpark Potzberg.

In summary things are looking up. The sun is up and the tank is clean! (-Nemo)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


All over the place I've been hearing about Globus. I saw an add for it in the Find-It Guide and was intrigued, but wasn't in a big hurry to go see it (I unfortunately have the attitude of "Well, I've got 3 years. What's the rush?"). At any rate, I started up the GPS and drove on over to K-town to check it out. For those who are unfamiliar with the area or, are planning on moving here, K-town means Kaiserslautern. We are in the village of Landstuhl. Ramstein, Landstuhl, and Kaiserslautern are all very close to one another. In fact there are many people who may work at Ramstein but send their children to and live within Kaiserslautern. Where a person's children go to school is determined by what district they live in, not what district they work in. Kaiserslautern, or K-town, is about a 10 minute drive on the autobahn from Landstuhl. K-town is where a lot of the shopping is. There is a fair amount of shopping in Landstuhl Village. One can find the necessities and a little more there. Landstuhl has some really adorable small boutiques for clothing and a couple of chain apparel, houseware and grocery stores. However, K-town tends to have all the big chains (like Toys R Us). Globus, from what I understand, is one of those big chains. I went on a weekday and found out that they open at 8:00 which is pretty awesome. There is a restaurant, bakery and deli in the front. Also surrounding the main shopping area, there are several specialty shops, an eye glass shop, an Esprit clothing shop and S. Oliver clothing as well. Once in the main shopping area, there is produce, dairy, frozen goods, meats, packaged breads, office supplies, small appliances, toiletries, and toys. The closest thing I could equate it to in the States is a Wal-mart Super Center. I didn't eat at the restaurant. There are mixed reviews on the quality of the place. Some folks say it's good others say "no way!" I've got no idea. I'm assuming that it's kinda fast food German style. I did buy a lot of baked goods. I just love the pretzels here and the little chocolate chip bread.

Once we aren't so broke, I could really have a field day in this place. I REALLY want to get a vacuum. I have an American one but it's a pain-in-the-patooty to plug in the transformer and then plug in the vacuum. If it were just a one level house it would be OK but I have 4 floors to vacuum! Luckily it hasn't been huge on the priority list, since I've got tile and laminate, and I can just sweep the floors. That being said, the purchase of a 220V vacuum would really make my day.

Another place I was fortunate enough to be shown was a little bakery up the road. My neighbor took me to Franz Westrich and I am so thankful she did. What a beautiful assortment of goodies. I can drive and park easily in front of the place. It is also close enough to walk to. Most likely I can find the way by foot. There is a woman there that speaks English and is very kind and helpful. This was just one more reason I'm thankful for helpful neighbors and friends. Since the sun has come out folks are getting outside and saying "hello". Being able to meet and become friends with the other women in the neighborhood has enabled me to learn a lot about the area quickly. It's helped me become more outgoing again. Just how I like it!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Today was one of those days. I've been exploring the whole potty training thing with Samuel. That means I've been doing a lot of mopping and cleaning. YUCK. He's gone in the potty a few times but, I think those times were a bit of a fluke. The rest has been on the rug or on the floor. I usually am a "natural" cleaner. It didn't start so much as me wanting to be conscious for the environment. For me, baking soda and vinegar were just more economical.

Being overseas has its perks. Most international food has made its way across the ocean, but something that has not made it is international cleaning products. For example, I have this fabulous little broom that I got at the 100 yen store in Japan. It's one of the greatest brooms I've ever had and I haven't been able to find something like it anywhere else. I really relish that thing.

Here in Germany (and it looks like throughout Europe) they have great mops. I know that sounds weird but I went to the store and picked up a Vileda mop system. I've got f-ood (fake wood) laminate floors and I had no clue how to clean them. My understanding is that it's bad to get them sopping wet. These mops are made with a highly absorbent material that also can be rung out (using the bucket that comes with the system) to nearly dry status. Despite my appreciation for the system, I wasn't sure if I would be able to clean the mop head in the wash or if I would have to replace it over and over again after just a few washes. Turns out it can be washed. Thank goodness. With all the cat hair and crud that I mop up every week, I need to wash it. The company recommends that they heads be replaced every 3-6 months. I love this system but after looking at the site a little bit, I figured out that I might actually need the flat mop (kinda like Swiffer). I love that I don't have to bend down to ring out the mop. Good stuff.

Yesterday I went with a neighbor to "her" bakery. This has beat all since I've been here... Cheese covered pretzel rolls... So yummy. I also split a strawberry cake with her (to take home) and some strudel (Cinnamon sugar flavor). I'm so thankful that I've been able to meet good neighbors. It really does determine how I enjoy my time here. It's so important to have friends and a great support network. They can let you in on all kinds of information that otherwise would go "unknown".

April fools today. I pulled some good ones on Joshua. I will have to fill you in when he gets home!