Gluttons in Gdansk

When we drove to Gdansk, Poland, we decided that we wanted to stay outside of the city itself, thinking it would be cheaper. We rolled into a little town on the coast of the Baltic Sea called Sopot, which turned out to be an expensive resort town. We inquired at a few different hotels who quoted us 100 dollars per night, per room. By the grace of God, we found some very cheap and very rustic (though clean) cabins NEXT to a nice hotel. They were equipped with two rooms and a bathroom:

And that night, when the drunk party animals in the cabin behind ours kept us up till all hours of the night, we comforted ourselves by thinking about ALLLLL that money we were saving!

The next day, we took a short commuter train into the city of Gdansk (which used to be called Danzig when it belonged to Germany for all of you history buffs out there). This is what the city looked like by the end of WWII:

Here's what it looks like today:

We hadn't been walking around for too long before we seized the opportunity to pig out on some pierogies:

Then we went into a very small museum and saw the tallest tile stove in Europe. Over ten meters high!

As it turned out, there were a lot of tall things to see in Gdansk; next we climbed 406 steps up to the top of the oldest brick church in Europe (St. Mary's Cathedral). Here's the view looking down on the church spires:

Here's the rest of the town from above:

At the very end of the day, we went back to Sopot and Max and I walked to the touristy/happenin' place by the beach. We bought a whole bag of Haribo candy from those colorful bins and ate them on the beach as the sun was setting on the Baltic Sea. I don't have a picture of that, but let me assure you it was a sight and taste to remember!!

Our trip part 1: gallavanting across Germany

I promised pictures from our trip, didn't I? Well now that we're all settled at home in France, here they are (in installments, bien sur). Let's start with all the places we visited in Germany.

Our first sight was good old fashioned German traffic ("stau") on the drive from the Frankfurt airport to Berlin. We were stuck in it for four hours. Passengers gathered on the grassy median to socialize, drink, or ask other drivers what was going on. We tried to stay patient, happy, and awake (stupid jetlag!)

We started our one day tour of Berlin with the Holocaust Memorial in the middle of the city (new since May of 2005). The 2,711 concrete blocks are meant to represent coffins. Despite the somber atmosphere, we can't help but smile for a picture:

Next up, the Brandenburg Gate:

We stopped at a cafe after this (one of many in ten days!). Max poked fun at my dad's compass and insisted that he knew which way was North in his head at all times. For the rest of our ten day trip, my dad would stop randomly, cover his compass, and quiz Max on where North was. What is it with boys and their competition!?

Next, we went to Checkpoint Charlie. Here we are in front of some of the remaining wall. To think we were seven when it came down!

We ate at a Persian restaurant for dinner in eastern Berlin. Here Max is drinking Dugh, a yogurt drink mixed with mint herbs. It was a little salty, and very delicious:

The next day, we drove three hours to Rostock (and nearby Warnemunde) in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea. We ate an incredible seafood lunch in Rostock. We ordered a seafood salad and potato and shrimp soup that were TO DIE FOR.

We hopped on over to Warnemunde, a popular seaside resort, and immediately checked out the candy stands. Because we needed desert, that's why. There was tons to choose from, but these looked especially colorful:

Here we are in front of the Baltic Sea. Way too cold up there to go in, so we battled the wind to take a picture:

Mom and I had ice cream for dinner (spaghetti eis!!). Because we're grown ups and we can!

Max and Dad opted for something "healthier" (ha!) and ate Doner Kebabs while we walked around town:

Never sick of posing:

Some kind of record

Tune in next week for the full detailed report of where we went and what we did on our Central European Road Trip, but I had to share yesterday's highlights with you:

We ate breakfast in Poland.
We ate lunch in the Czech Republic.
We booked our hotel in Slovakia.
We ate dinner in Hungary.
We had ice cream for dessert in Austria.

Life is good!

It's in my blood

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth. We've just been driving around central Europe... For a more detailed description of where we've been and where we're going, see here.

We've spent the last few days driving through Poland. We're at our third and final city in this country: Wroclaw. And one thing has been consistent in all three Polish cities (well, you know, besides all the Polish people): ice cream, which is called "lody" here. Every where you go, people are milling around with waffle cones or soft serve cones piled high. You can't pass ten people without at least one person eating ice cream. There are lody vendors every few yards, and the going rate is pretty cheap!

So needless to say I'm in ice cream heaven here. And it's totally justified that I pig out on lody everyday because I'm part Polish and this is apparently what Polish people do!

I knew there was a good reason I'm addicted to ice cream...

Finally in Europe

... and we'll be here for about three weeks to visit with my parents. Ordinarily, we would have just gone to their house, but this time, Mom and Dad picked us up at the Frankfurt airport and we are going on a European road trip for two weeks!

First stop? Berlin. It was quite an adventure getting there. After twelve hours of transatlantic flying, we got in the car for what was supposed to be about a six hour drive. The drive ended up taking TWELVE hours. Yes, 12! We got stuck in a four hour traffic jam (called "Stau" here in Germany). We were inching. We drove one mile in two hours. People were getting out of their cars and socializing. Others were walking along the median (and making much better progress than the cars!). After the traffic jam was over, it took us about an hour and a half to detour around the accident that caused it all--thank you, GPS!

We finally made it to Berlin after 24 hours of travel. It was good to pull up to the apartment and meet my parents' friends that we were staying with.

The next day, we set out to See Berlin In One Day. We took the underground train into the city and then we walked around to see the sights. We saw the Holocaust Memorial (new in the city since 2005), the Brandenburg Gate, the top of the Reichstag (parliament building) overlooking the city, and Checkpoint Charlie. I so wish I had pictures to show you the sights, but I haven't uploaded them yet...

The Holocaust Memorial (especially the museum underneath) was definitely very heartbreaking and haunting. But a must if you are visiting the city. The Brandenburg gate was a very cool structure. And it was at the Starbucks right across the street that we ran into some old missionary friends of ours that are now living in Sweden! There was much excited screaming when we recognized each other. They were in Berlin with the family for the U2 concert! Then later we stood in line for about an hour to get to the top of the Reichstag (long lines for free stuff!) to get a great view of the city. And Checkpoint Charlie was definitely worth it--especially to see parts of the wall that were still hanging around. We ate dinner at a little Persian place in former East Berlin with excellent prices and very yummy food!

But maybe the highlight of Berlin (for my dad anyway) were the Dunkin' Donuts locations that we saw. Donuts!!! In Europe!! This trip rocks...

Later this morning, we are heading to Rostock on the Baltic Sea. Let's hope that there are no more massive traffic jams!

Small preview of a 20 hour horror film

Well, we've finally moved out of our apartment and into our in-laws. You'd think that moving in stages over a period of weeks would be a smart thing to do, but you'd be wrong. It was a terribly drawn out business... Glad it's finally over!

When it was finally over and we had thrown out the last bag of trash, we captured the cats and brought them out to the car. They were not pleased. In fact, Mrs. Hufflepuff was so upset, she left a permanent claw mark in the fabric ceiling of our car! We set out for our in-laws' (a 90 minute drive) to the tune of three angry cats yeowling in three part harmony. We stopped briefly at Burger King for dinner, and while Max ran out to get our food, I took some footage of the cats' indignation (you'll note that Gizmo, our calico, is suffering in silence here):

And this was them relatively calmed down! When we were about thirty minutes away, Mowgli decided she had had enough and barfed in the little plastic basket she was sitting in. (Max: "Hey what's that smell??"). Then, as she had barf on the end of her tail and on her paw, she decided it wasn't very comfortable to sit there anymore, so she moved to a different plastic basket and sat down. I thought she sat down, anyway, but it turns out she was just squatting to poop. Poop! In our car!! With no litter on it!! Do you have any idea of the stink we went through for the next thirty minutes?!?

On top off all the hoopla, Max's allergies decided that three cats shedding hair in such a small confined space was not acceptable and so he spent most of the trip sneezing violently and trying to breathe.

If this is going to be a preview of the twenty hour trip it will take to drive down south in August, we're in BIG trouble...

And everything's wrinkly

We've been living out of a suitcase since the middle of June, first with our trip down south, and now splitting our time between the in-laws and our nearly empty apartment. When we're at my in-laws, it's all fun and food and new barn kittens and reading and crafts. When we're at the apartment it's all cleaning and scrubbing and packing and apologizing to our cats for being gone!

In early August it will be Go Time with all of the unpacking and setting up and getting comfortable. We will also be hunting for the best deals on our shopping list: refrigerator, washer/dryer, dining room table, dishes, TV stand, and guest room furnishings. Oh yeah, and it will be time to go back to school and start my job.

But let's not think about all of that right now... too much fun to be had first!


What happens when a frugal man has to sift through hundreds of dollars worth of groceries to throw away/give away before a big move? A lot of gut-wrenching emotion, that's what.

Today I cleaned the bathroom from top to bottom, while Max cleaned out the cupboards and fridge in the kitchen down the hall. In between my trips to the kitchen faucet and back (refilling my soapy bucket), I witnessed his progress as he systematically put all the food we owned (opened and unopened) onto our counters. Our kitchen looked like this (but with all the counters filled):

And as I scrubbed down the bathroom, I would hear these comments every so often coming from the kitchen (imagine a gut-wrenching-whiney tone of voice):

"Aargh!! So. Much. Food."
"We have FIVE whole jars of spaghetti sauce. FIIIIIIIVE!"
"What are we going to do with all of this food?"
"OOOHHH! My bread flour!! That stuff is EXPENSIVE!!"
"Hey, how long have we had these croutons?"
"We have so much uneaten food, this is making me sick. SICK!"
"Did you know these two boxes of cereal aren't even OPEN?"
"Seriously, this is making me want to vomit..."
"I think I just vomited."

Here he is, choking back the tears. Note to self for future moves: stop stocking the pantry months ahead of time, not just weeks....

On a related note, Hannah, do you need any food?

You're welcome

If you are a teacher, then you know that dissing the No Child Left Behind legislation is part of the territory. If you don't like something about your job as a teacher, it most likely has something to do with NCLB. In fact, lots of things can be blamed on NCLB... it's a perfect scapegoat in so many ways.

If you're a teacher and you love dissing NCLB (who doesn't?). Or if you're not a teacher and are wondering why we all constantly whine about NCLB, then this hilarious comparison is for you!

But mostly I just want the house, please

It's too bad that buying a house isn't like buying a shirt. With a shirt, you just pick out the one you like best, bring it to the cash register, and voila! Pay for it and go. With a house, it's more like: pick the one you like best, hold your breath till the offer is accepted, spend the next week knee-deep in paperwork, run up your cell phone minutes talking to the realtor and the mortgage lender, pack pack pack, clean clean clean, pray pray pray. And in the end, it might fall through anyway.

Of course, it doesn't help matters when the seller is being a jerk. Not only is she in the midst of what I can only assume to be a nasty divorce (aren't they all though?), she has actually sold the house twice before in the last month and both sales have fallen through. So she's been fighting her ex, she's been burned by two previous buyers, and she's making us pay for the sins of them all by rushing us along (and trying to rush the 75 other people involved in buying/selling a house).

I alternate between wanting to give her a hug and wanting to kick her in the pants.
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