Wednesday, November 30, 2011

International Chocolate Festival

Monday we planned to go to the Christmas Market in Heidelberg and I planned to blog about it, neither of which happened.   That trip will have to happen another day.
 on Tuesday we went to what I consider the only thing that could possibly be better than a Christmas market,  the International Chocolate Festival in Tübingen, Germany.  That’s right an entire festival devoted to CHOCOLATE!  Not too hard for this city to move to the top of my "Favorite City in Germany" list!  

For more information on the Chocolate festival click Tübingen ChocolArt 

At the entrance to the festival

Chocolate covered strawberries on a stick...Oh My!

Ryley loved them.  Look at that happy face!

The girls at the entrance to "Chocolate Candy Wonder Street"

Warming up! 

Is she paining with chocolate?  Yes, yes she is.
I just had to take a picture of chocolate shoes.

A group of people attempting to make the largest cookie every made, they planned to make it large enough to make the Guinness Book of World Records.  Pretty cool!  

Here are some pictures of some of the buildings in Tübingen.  
Just beautiful!
Above is the Rathaus (City Hall), the oldest building in the Marktplatz dating back to 1435. 

Grace just had to have her picture taken in this "hand chair".  It actually turned out to be a pretty cool picture!

For more information on the city click Tubingen,Germany 


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Plotner European Christmas Tour

First, I want to say that this will be my first blog entry for the 
Plotner Family blog, and I'm excited about it.  I've only edited and provided what I think to be valuable input up to now.

Second, I'll say that three blog posts from the Plotner family blog in one day is definitely unheard of and I wouldn't expect to see that happen...EVER...AGAIN.  

Thirdly, today was the day that we began our Plotner European Christmas Tour.  
I spent many days, while I was supposed to be working, planning out the next month's adventures.  Our adventures will take us to Prague, France, and many places in Germany to experience Christmas markets and Christmas traditions in Europe.  
I'm very excited because I think that German's and maybe all Europeans quite possibly enjoy Christmas in a more traditional way than we do in the US. In the US it seems like we spend so much time trying to buy the newest gadget for our children.  We fret about whether the children are going to have enough "things" or if they are going to be "happy" on Christmas morning.  We begin to lose site of traditions and the true spirit of Christmas.

~ WARNING ~ soap box starts here ~ WARNING ~
  My dread for the Christmas season has increased over the years, due to the emphasis that has been placed on hunting for the newest fad gift rather then spending time with family, friends, and the celebration of the birth of Jesus.  And no offense to you "Black Friday" shoppers, but hasn't it become a little over the top?  I mean, now the shopping starts on Thanksgiving?  WOW...anyway, I won't stay on a soap box about that..I'm just not sure I'm willing to trade in my family time to get beat up and stomped on for a deal on the "coolest, new thing" out there...but that's just me
~ WARNING ~ soap box ends here ~ WARNING ~

The idea of experiencing Christmas over the next month with my family enjoying the cultures and traditions of Germany and other nearby countries is very exciting.  
Today, we visited our first Christmas market in Vaihingen, home to Patch Barracks and our friends, the Johnson's.  We met the Johnson's there, ate dinner, explored the vendors and festivities and enjoyed some delicious crepes.

Standing in line at the Crepe stand
 The girls enjoying their crepes

Christmas markets here are very "village" and family centric.  The people in the village come together and sell things that you can purchase for gifts, they have delicious food to eat, and of course "glühwein", because the Germans don't do anything without something "special" to drink.
Marshal says "When in doubt, pinky out."

We had a great time with the Johnson's visiting our first Christmas market.  Grace bought a present and I bought a fresh wreath for the front door.  We are looking forward to our second Christmas market tomorrow.  My goal is to blog about each place we visit and to buy small gifts for family as we go.
I hope that each of you will find a way to enjoy this holiday season beyond the commercialism that surrounds the season so heavily today.  Gift giving is a small part of Christmas, but remember, sometimes the simplest of gifts can be the most meaningful and long lasting. 

Our 1st Thanksgiving in Germany

Thanksgiving~ a time for being thankful, enjoying family & friends, and eating delicious FOOD!!!

Marshal law requires that if you are going to call your blog a family blog, more than one member of the family must contribute.  In order to placate the powers that be I will allow Hailey and Grace to guest blog, on a trial basis, for our Thanksgiving entry.  Commence guest blogging:

On Saturday we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in Germany.  
We had our German friends over for their first Thanksgiving; it was really fun.  Hailey and Mom cooked all day we had turkey with stuffing inside of it, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, and green bean casserole.   It was very delicious!  For dessert we had miniature pumpkin pies and pumpkin bread, that was also very delicious! My favorite part about our first thanksgiving in Germany was having our German friends over to celebrate Thanksgiving day with us. ~ Gracie ~

This Thanksgiving, which we spent in Germany, was great!  Mom and I spent all day cooking.   We came up with the idea to make miniature pumpkin pies.  We weren't sure that they would turn out right.  Here is a picture of us "figuring it out"...

And then the outcome....


Did you know that they don't sell whole turkeys in German grocery stores?  Only the turkey legs.  That just wouldn't work for our American Thanksgiving Feast that we wanted to show to our German neighbors and friends.  We were thankful to be able to buy a 12 lb. turkey from the Patch commissary.   

Mom and I decided to make a stuffed turkey.  

Since we invited our German neighbors over for a Traditional American Thanksgiving dinner and I was assigned to use this dinner as a "home-ec" project, I decided that we needed to properly decorate. 

We had a blast and everyone enjoyed the food.  Sorry, no pictures after we destroyed the turkey.  
When our neighbors came over they informed us of some of the traditions that we had forgotten to include in the holiday; they had looked on the internet to see what were the typical traditions of the holiday.  Here is a picture of our awesome German neighbors and friends.  

And of course a picture of Ryley and me.

After dinner we watched "Mickey's Magical Christmas"

I really enjoyed spending time with friends and family, and also some quality time cooking with mom. Miss and love you guys! ~ Hailey ~

 Now that the guest blogging is over...
We really have a lot to be thankful for.  We are geographically separated from our family and friends in the US, but everyone has made an effort to communicate with us and we greatly appreciate it.  Here in Germany we have a handful of great friends, a beautiful home, and the opportunity to create unforgettable memories with our family.  God has provided for and protected us and we are thankful for all of the blessings in our life.  We hope you had a great Thanksgiving and that you know that we are thinking of you and praying for you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

edited by B. Plotner

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Austrian adventures

I began our last blog entry by noting that it had been 2 months and 4 days since the one before.  This entry comes 1 month and 4 days following that one, from this perspective, I have shaved a solid month off of our time!  From any other perspective, its been too long.

We have enjoyed great experiences in the last month, we count ourselves fortunate and blessed.  We've made progress in our home schooling, on our house and our business.  The biggest event was a trip to Stubai, Austria.  The drive into Austria from our home took between 4-5 hours, I would consider this our first real autobahn experience.  We were traveling at 130-145 km/h and were getting passed like a little old lady!  It's incredible how fast some of these cars can and do go.  For the record, all the interstates here are "autobahn", some have speed limits, some do not.

Here are pictures from the drive; honestly, they do not do justice to the landscape.  The part of Austria we traveled through was breathtaking.  One part of a curvy road we drove had ruins of a castle sitting off to the side.

Driving the highways in Austria requires a special highway sticker, called a Vignette that can be purchased at any gas station near the border.  It can be purchased for different lengths of time, prices adjusted accordingly.  Driving without one can result in heavy fines.  We purchased a ten day sticker for 12 or 14 Euro, the stickers look like this:

Brandy made all the arrangements, she is incredible.  She found a two bedroom, 3 bath condo on for 4 days & 3 nights.  It was between the glacier, where you ski, and the nearest village, Milders.  Hailey, Grace and Ryley shared a bedroom that had a pull out bed for Ryley; she was so excited to sleep in the same room as her sisters.  Brandy and I took the other.

 Living room:
 Master bedroom:
 Girls bedroom:

And, finally, view of Austria from our balcony:

Stubai is definitely all about skiing, there are several shops that cater to the demand.  We rented our ski gear from the Army's Outdoor Recreation Center, website located here, on Panzer Kaserne base.  It was roughly 100 Euro for each of us for the whole season.  We found a ski shop with sizes to fit Ryley and rented equipment her for 1 day/6 Euro.  The Ski passes on the glacier are a little expensive for a family, For all of us to go up and ski for a day it was around 114 Euro.

It was interesting seeing the Austrians and Germans ski, it seems to be second nature for them.  They stand at the bus stops in their full ski gear, boots to helmets, and make their way up to the glacier.  I assumed if they could wear their ski boots from the house to the bus stop, all day on the mountain and back, certainly we could wear ours from the parking lot, to ski, and back.  This was a tragic assumption.  All rookies, like us, please put your boots in a duffel bag and switch your shoes for boots right before you ski.  Hailey and I walked away from the first day of skiing with blisters on our shins from the boots, Brandy had some pretty good bruising.  This prompted the purchase of some high dollar ski socks which I assumed, could only be but so good.  High dollar ski socks are worth every penny, they make you super human.  I would wear them daily if not for the immediate loss of sex appeal.

From the entry area you take a gondola, or a sky tram, or cable car up the mountain.  It was a beautiful ride, although nerve-racking for Brandy.  Ryley would yell "Airplane!" as soon as we left the ground, followed by rounds of "We're flying, we're flying!"  Its a ten minute ride up the mountain, during which we "flew" over waterfalls, gorges and beautiful landscape.  The lodges on the glacier are great, they offer equipment, lessons, food (great food!) and warmth.  Ryley's perception of skiing is an airplane ride, playing in the snow and eating good food, she loves to "ski".

We stayed mostly to the bunny slopes as we are all in a beginner status, Brandy had the most experience of all of us, she and I went down a more aggressive hill for awhile.  She took only one spill that resulted in a few of those serious bruises that eventually turn green, but the girl is tough as nails.

This is the Stubai entry to the Glacier:
Some pictures from the "Airplane" ride up to the Glacier:

And the ladies suited up, ready to take on the slopes:

We consider this trip a practice run and are excited to go again.  There are a few things we may do differently but all in all it was great.  The places we go make us think about more places we want to explore and things we would like to see.  Traveling as a family and enjoying these things together make it that much more special.

We have more trips planned and are looking forward to having some friends and family visit so we can share this with them.