Tuesday, November 25, 2008

On to Dusseldorf

After leaving Copenhagen, we flew to Dusseldorf, a business-like, no-nonsense city, quite unlike Copenhagen. Our hotel was about 15 km outside of the city. Dusseldorf, like Orlando, has many conventions throughout the year and the Medico convention is one of the largest. So every hotel in the city was booked. The Hotel Gut Hohne used to be a 17th century farmhouse with a potter, baker, blacksmith--you name it--and the hotel is sprawling and winding. We rolled our luggage down the brick entrance--clickety, clickety--to the reception area and we escorted by a hotel staff member to our room. Down a flight of stairs, through a few doors, down some more stone steps (clickety, clickety some more) to the pool area and our room. It was the wackiest place I've ever been! Our room had a wall of windows and a French door that opened onto the pool. It was tiny too and pretty rustic. D and I looked at the barely double-sized bed and wondered who would have to sleep on the tiny, barely a loveseat couch! It was a pretty place and the homemade croissants (baked in the bakery!) were delicious!!! The grounds were pretty too but I think we would have enjoyed ourselves more if it had been spring or summer. There's a spa at the place too and it seemed several companies were having conferences or retreats there.

Our main reason for being in Dusseldorf was attending the trade show that featured some exercise equipment and to meet up with the German distributor for D's company. So all day Wednesday was spent at the convention center wandering around, looking at the competition. The distributor then went back with us to the hotel and we all ate at a great Italian place in Mettmann. He wanted to take us to a McCafe after dinner. He insisted that we wouldn't believe it was a McDonald's coffee shop. Leather seats, espresso, nice decor--closer to a Starbucks than a McDonald's. Crazy!

Our next day in Dusseldorf we were on our own and everyone insisted that we should go to the shopping district and walk Kulstrasse and Schadowstrasse. Sycamore tree-lined streets, twinkling lights, it was beautiful--if you're into that kind of stuff. D's not really a shopper and even less of a window shopper, and even less when the windows are Tiffany's, Louis Vitton, and Prada. But it was fun to walk around together after being with other people for the past few days and we found a cute chocolate shop to purchase thank-you presents for those back home.

The trip back home was not so nice. We got up at 5 am, Germany time to catch our flight out of Dusseldorf to Frankfort. A cold front was moving through Germany affecting flights all over. We were late getting into Frankfort (nearly 11:00) and after eating only a granola bar and a croissant we snatched from the buffet room (we left before breakfast was served) I was starting to get a bit light-headed and sick. We walked all over the Frankfort airport (the most disorganized airport!) trying to find something appealing to eat. Our flight out was delayed, we waited in lines and in waiting areas for over 2 hours, got on the plane, waited some more, and then sat through a miserably hot and stuffy 10 hr. flight. Oh, and my entertainment console was on the fritz the entire time. I watched Hancock and Flawless on D's screen with no sound. Then we switched seats and I watched Happy-Go-Lucky--very cute. After watching a documentary on Knut the polar bear, we've decided he reminds us of B!

All in all, a great experience and a lovely time away. The kids were wonderful--not a bit of trouble for either set of grandparents. My parents, of course, did projects around the house for us too. There were places and things I would have liked to see, especially in and around Copenhagen. I wanted to see the Glyptotek art museum or drive up the coast to Elsinore Castle (something rotten going on there) or cross the sound into Sweden. And it would be nice to go when I'm not pregnant. It was nearly impossible to get decaf coffee anywhere and the sip of D's beer was very good. Another time perhaps!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wonderful Copenhagen

I've been up since about 2:30 this morning, which is 8:30 Germany time. This is going to take some time to adjust.

Our Internet availability was hit or miss, especially once we got to Dusseldorf so updating the blog was impossible. Plus, we weren't in our room that much either. So I'll start the vacation slide show in a couple of parts, starting with Copenhagen, "wonderful Copenhagen," an epitat that comes from Hans Christian Anderson according to our colorful (literally, she was wearing a knee-length red coat, red gloves, and a white hat--Denmark colors) tour guide. She was a trip!

We got in to Copenhagen on Sunday afternoon after an uneventful flight. After settling into our room and cleaning up a bit, we hit the streets. Our hotel, a recommendation from the customer D was meeting with, was on a fairly quiet street of galleries and auction houses and just around the corner from the French, Swedish, and Swiss embassies. We actually weren't too far from Amalienborg Castle either we discovered the next day. Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries were delivered to our room--a romantic touch that D thought of, but forgot about after finding out that #3 was on the way. Whoops! (I had a little bit of bubbly; I had too! And all the strawberries!)

That night we walked down to Nyhavn, the harbor street with restaurants and shops. It, along with much of the city, was decorated for "Jul" with greenery and lights. It looked just like the picture that's been my computer wallpaper for the past weeks. D soon bought a wool hat from a vendor there! Sexy! We walked along the Stogart which is the largest pedestrian shopping street anywhere (they say) and found an outdoor international food "festival". Tents were set up with breads, pastries, cheeses, and sausages to buy along with other foods being cooked right there. Being the cheapies that we are and after walking around smelling so many good things, we decided to make our dinner right there. We ate troflette (sp?) from a French vendor; it's sliced potatoes with creme fraiche, bacon, cheese, and onions (how could you go wrong?!) cooked on a giant skillet. Then we moved to the bratwurst grill from Holstein (biggest bratwurst I've ever had) and then for dessert tiny Dutch pancakes hot off the grill and doused in powered sugar. Before we left in search of coffee, we got these warm, sweet almonds in a paper bag to eat as we walked back to the hotel.

Monday morning we walked back to the city center, past Tivoli (weird--now we know why they come to Disney) and picked up a tour bus to take us around the city. If it had been warmer, maybe we would have walked it, but this was the way to see the most of the city when the temp is 9 C. But at least it was sunny, clear, and not windy. We saw the changing of the guard as Amalienborg Castle and saw the Queen's sister, Princess Benedict, knock on the door. (She's like 65 or so but R thought seeing a princess was cool). We did see the Little Mermaid at the harbor which is a bit of a joke because there is absolutely nothing else there but this statue in the water. They love their Hans Christian Anderson though. Saw more pretty buildings and got a bit of the local color and history of the town.

That night we met D's customer for dinner. He drove us around the city in his Maserati and we saw his fitness clubs and D talked business. Then he took us to dinner at the oldest, fanciest hotel in the city. I ate tornedo with grilled foie gras in a mushroom reduction and assorted onions. D had veal with artichoke puree and risotto with truffle sauce. I also managed to get down two bites of the pate on my starter plate. The chocolates afterward were heavenly!!

Wednesday morning it was rainy and windy. We were going to shop for our souvenirs for the kids but after dashing through the cold rain we hit the first gift shop we saw and just bought anything we thought they would like! Then it was lunch with the customer. D drank the tallest beer I've ever seen (he's not a big drinker but he did it!) and had to try Akavidit, a drink made from distilled potato and other grains and is 40% alcohol. D said it tasted like the medicine he had to take has a kid but without the grape or cherry flavor. Bit of a buzz too! Our lunch was a bit weird and very heavy but again, the petit fors and chocolates were fabulous. Then on to the airport and our flight to Dusseldorf!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Day One

We are tired!! I fell asleep last night at 7:00, woke up at 10:00 and didn't go back to sleep until 2-3 hours later! What a night!

But the flight was fine, we barely made our connection in Frankfort (Dave left his belt on going through security and was delayed a bit). The Frankfort airport is nuts! When we left the plane, we walked out onto the tarmac and into a waiting mini-bus that took us to the terminal. Left there, made our way to our depature terminal (up, up, down, down, all around), got through a customs check (stamp in my passport!!), and then....boarded another mini-bus that circled around and brought us to our next plane. All in wet, drizzle-y 50 degree weather. Crazy!

I didn't bring my camera cord b/c I thought Dave's computer had the same memory card slot mine has but not... so no pictures.

We're hitting the streets now so more later!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Continue to Live in Him

This semester in our women's Bible study we worked through the book of Colossians using Kathleen Nielson's study. It's been a fantastic, inductive, thoroughly Bible-only study. She's an English professor--of course she knows how to read and ask good questions!

What a true joy to spend 9 weeks on this letter, paragraph by paragraph--at times, sentence by sentence. For one week's study, we covered only four verses. I really concentrated on specific words and images that Paul uses and it was worshipful!

My favorite week was our study on Col. 1:15-23 where we looked at the incarnation, resurrection, and reconciliation through Christ. It was a great week of study and then when we met to discuss we had a visual activity that solidified the whole week. On one side of the room, black paper was hung on the wall with the word "Before." On the other side, yellow paper and "After." Our tables were given phrases that belonged on one side or another--words like "enemies," "alienated," "wicked," "alive," "holy," "blameless." We put the words on the appropriate sides of the room and then had to come up with another phrase for each. Each table wrote something different for the before and the after. Then we each had a small paper bookmark with black on one side and yellow on another. Individually, we chose a "before" word and an "after" word that resonated with us. I have "enemy of God" and "peace with God" on mine. How often do I consider that I once was an enemy of God, fighting for opposing sides and under an opposing authority, deserving of wrath, and without peace?

The focus on Christ is my "take away" lesson from this: to be reminded again and again of the superiority of Christ to anything else and the amazing work he did on my behalf and the way he has modeled obedience and submission to the Father.

These past few weeks, the soundtrack for our house has reflected this. We got Andrew Peterson's new CD, Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2, which focuses on how our lives are different after that Sunday because the power of the resurrection is in us. Amazing CD (well, the first 3/4ths, I don't like the last 2-3 songs as much, the first 7-8 are fantastic!) Then we pulled out Behold the Lamb of God, a "Christmas" CD because R was reading through the Passover story. That's all about the great story of redemption from the beginning and the incarnation of Christ. And, because I had it rattling in my head, Rich Mullins and the Ragamuffins' The Jesus Record. And while I'm waiting for R to ask me what a whore is ("the whores all seem to love him") and an ass ("he rode an ass's foal), there is nothing sweeter than hearing that tiny, high-pitched voice singing, "Surely God is with us," "My Deliverer is coming," and "That where I am, there you may also be."

I've had a wonderful group of women in my small group. The burdens are tremendous within this group, but the level of vulnerability and honesty has only been matched by their encouragement and wisdom. At times, it's been kinda heavy and there have been many tragedies and hurts within the body these past few weeks. I feel totally ill equipped to sit there but awed at the stories I hear and the witness these women have. Feasting on the Word together is such a blessing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

71 hours and counting....

We leave Saturday evening. This Saturday evening.

And I'm so exhausted with the getting ready that I have barely any energy to think about the fact that I'm actually leaving Saturday evening.

I've left my mom a four-page manual on taking care of the kids for the week (everything, she says, from the time the kids wake up to how to care for B's wee-wee. He has an inny--it's a fat issue). I've stocked the freezer, pantry, and laundry room with meat, chicken nuggets, cereal, Goldfish, bread, peanut butter, paper towels, toilet paper. A hurricane could come here no problem. Just need to put sheets on the guest bed, clean a few bathrooms, and wash every article of clothing we own.

Compounding all the normal getting ready for a trip is trying to tie up the loose ends of responsibilities I have here. I'm putting the Women's Ministry newsletter together (needs to go to print tomorrow and it's not done yet). There's R's preschool class Thanksgiving feast. Still need more turkey. Discussion questions for Philemon to write. And trying to still enjoy some of that (more tomorrow).

And, on top of everything, D had his wisdom teeth out today. I just got back from a Walgreens run for pain killers.

I did enjoy our dinner tonight, even if D couldn't eat a bite. (I had planned it for last night but a last minute call from an eldery church member who needed to get to the hospital put that on hold. We had grilled cheese and Publix subs instead.) Go to Foodtv.com and look up Rachel Ray's pork chops with Golden apples. It had a yummy maple-mustard glaze on the chops that you top with chunky applesauce. We served ours with squash casserole and green beans. Fabulous! And even Patti could make it!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Fall Festival et al

In looking at my memory disk tonight, searching for a suitable costume shot of the kids, I realized how much is on here that I haven't posted about, made print outs of, or just ignored: R's 4th birthday (in September), our girls' weekend to the beach, a new Thursday playgroup where B's one of the oldest kids, R's fall party at school this week, and now the annual Fall Festival at church.

This was the first time since R's birth that we haven't had to "work" the Fall Festival so we were definitely more relaxed this year and were able to enjoy our time there and then leave when the kids were ready. We even made it home in time to pass out candy at our house.

Thanks to Aunt D for the hand-me-down costumes! B's was a last minute substitution. The original football player costume came with a red jersey and a blue helmet (which he refused to have anywhere near him). Dad came home, saw the UCF jersey in the bag of clothes from our nephews and made B into a hometown player. We even had black electrical tape down the sides of the pants to cover the blue stripe. Definitely the perfect costume for him! I couldn't get them both to stand up at the same time long enough for me to press the shutter button! I wanted R to wear her cousin's cheerleader outfit (c'mon!) to match her brother but, no, pink princess again this year. Same theme, different dress.

Dad and the finer points of rubber band nerf shooter thingys.

Dad's putt-putt game lives on (he built this two years ago).