a girl, a guy, a tomato, a bean, and a bear

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In which we could all use a nap. Except Chokydar. Chokydar always is ready to go.

Talk about Pulling a Matterhorn...

I don't know why, but I stayed up waaaay too late last night writing that post about the Matterhorn. There was no reason it needed to be posted yesterday, but once I got going I couldn't seem to stop. Also I guess, Evie was more difficult to get to bed than usual. It's so hard to have a "difficult " night when I've become SO spoiled to the routine where she just nurses and then immediately goes to sleep when I lay her in the crib. It serves as a reminder to how lucky I have it most of the time. Still, it's no fun when she just won't go down.

For some reason too, I've been having difficultly sleeping a bit lately. Some nights I lay awake thinking about mundane things that are on my list of "to-dos." The list stays much the same from day to day and I just keep going over and over it in my head.

I've been having disturbing dreams too, and one earlier this week was so frightening that I actually have been a bit spooked by it and am slightly fearful when I get tired that it will revisit me.

So today I was extra tired from my lack of sleep and hoped to catch a nap during Evie's morning lie down. Unfortunately, she didn't take a nap this morning and my day never got off the ground. I was too tired (and lazy) to attempt a workout and never got a shower squeezed in, so I feel all gross. I don't know why I ever skip a day working out. I ALWAYS feel better having done it, but it's so easy to talk myself out of it when I'm tired. It's funny, although it makes perfect sense, how we feed off of eachother on days like this. She's extra tired and would benefit from me having more energy to distract and amuse her, but of course, I'm extra tired and would benefit from her being cooperative (and NAPPING!).

Monday, March 30, 2009

February 2008- Pisa, Florence, & Switzerland- Part IV

Ah! Finally! The last set of pictures from the Italy/Switzerland trip of last year. Now I only have to squeeze in all of March's pictures by...tomorrow. Who thinks that will happen?

Most of this set is more from Florence. These first two were taken from the rooftop cafe terrace inside the Ufizzi.


These next two were taken from the famous square, Piazzale Michelangelo, which, as you can see, has a fantastic view overlooking Florence. On the way up we had our second helping of gelato and realized we'd been waaaay fleeced as tourists the first time around. Our first sampling was on the famous Ponte Vecchio, a bridge spanning the Arno lined with shops of all varieties. We are pretty saavy travelers and should have known better than to buy something as touristy as gelato in a place as touristy as the Ponte Vecchio. I think we were charged something like 14 euro for two cones--something to the tune of $20 for a couple of scoops of ice cream. Yikes! The prices weren't listed and we were too sheepish to back out once we had the cones in hand. Anyway, the next day we stopped for more on the walk up to the Piazzale Michelangelo and when the woman held up 4 fingers, I fished out 8 euro, thinking we'd found a deal on two cones. No, no she gestured--4 euro for BOTH cones total, not each. We got MUCH more gelato for WAAAAAY less. Live and learn.

We almost didn't make the trek up the hill in the first place, actually. I had to beg Justin to walk up to the piazzale--it's kind of out of the way, and obviously uphill. His default setting is resistance when it comes to "adventures," but is always agreeable once I get him going. He would much prefer to be curled up snug at home with a good book or writing. I am really a homebody at heart too, but I do enjoy traveling and a good adventure.


We knew this about eachother, but we also learned a valuable lesson during this trip, as illustrated by...


(to be said loudly
and with an eerie echo)

Ok, so the THE PARABLE OF THE MATTERHORN!!!! begins innocently enough. We checked out of our hotel in Pisa and started the day trying to find the Army installation, Camp Darby, that is nearby. We wanted to make a pit stop there to pick up gas coupons so that we could avoid paying through the nose for gas on the Italian economy. Unfortunately, Camp Darby is not well signed and we got lost, not having an address to put into the GPS. It took a couple of hours longer than we had planned and by the time we'd FINALLY found the darned place and filled up on gas, we were way off schedule and a bit frazzled.

The inital plan was to drive back through Switzerland at a leisurely pace, taking in the beautiful and scenic views of the Alps and breaking that night near Lucerne. Easy. I had, maybe a bit ambitiously, hoped to see both the Matterhorn and drive through Interlaken as well. It was going to be maybe a 7 hour driving day, but that's not too much for me.

My problem, however, is that I plan for the "best case scenario" and in the face of reality I will often Pollyanna my way into trouble. Having had such a delayed start, we should have nixed the Matterhorn, but I just couldn't. I COULDN'T! I figured we were never going to make a trip back to Europe just to see the Matterhorn, and it was oh so famous--our lives would certainly be imcomplete without witnessing it and all of its glory in person. To be SO close (relatively) and NOT see it was certainly a crime. Here's where our default settings got us into trouble. Justin was sitting there arguing against going to see the Matterhorn. It's too far away. We don't have enough time. All I heard, however was Waaaaaaaaaaaa! I want to go home! Not another stop! Thinking it was just another instance of having to drag him kicking and screaming to do something fun, I insisted. So, we plugged in the town closest to the Matterhorn into the trusty GPS, and we set off.

On the way there we passed some truly amazing views. Where are those, you might ask? Oh, I don't have any pictures of those. The camera was quickly losing its battery charge and I wanted to make SURE I had enough juice to capture the Matterhorn in all of its glory, so I kept the camera tucked away in my bag as we wound our way through sunlit, snowcovered mountain tops that would take your breath away. It felt like we were high enough to be flying, but the mountains were so dense and the roads wide, so there was no sense of vertigo. I'm not particularly afraid of heights, but I have my limits...as you will see...

The drive was taking longer than expected. We got stuck behind some big trucks going super slow, and I'm just not comfortable passing at breakneck speed around blind mountain curves. I know, crazy, right? Well, the Swiss thought so. The locals traveled at frightening speeds and were really agressive and obviously irritated by those who weren't with the program. At the point when it became clear that our projected ETA was slipping later and later toward the evening, we should have called the stop off as a lost cause and replugged the GPS with a new destination. We were traveling out of our way at this point, headed west when we needed to be going north. I can be really stubborn though.

I had in my mind's eye an idyllic image of the Matterhorn. Something like this:

I'd seen pictures of the Matterhorn in the course of my research for the trip and was really taken by the view. In my head, we were simply driving close enough to see it soaring into the sky from the valley below, towering above its surroundings and dwarfing everything around it, and then we could course correct and be on our way. Just a little bit further. Any mile now, we'd turn a corner and see it on the horizon. I'd snap my picture, breathe in the moment, and we could be off.

That's not what happened.

We kept driving, and driving, and driving, and before long, we were getting really close to the endpoint on the GPS, but still there was no soaring Matterhorn.

It's funny how you can be climbing in altitude, but if it's a gradual ascent, you'll hardly notice. I'm not sure how high up we had gone, but suddenly, we were UP in the mountains. And then we were committed. We found ourselves on a NARROW, winding road, on the side of the mountain, WITH NO RAILING and no where to turn around. The Swiss were still zooming around like their houses were on fire, and then...it got worse. The road narrowed again and became two way. I'm not kidding. With the sunlight starting to fade, you'd come around a corner and find yourself nearly nose to nose with an on coming car. Every few hundred yards there was a shoulder just wide enough to allow two cars to barely scrape by, but if you didn't happen to meet at that point or with enough time to plan for the circumstance, one of the two vehicles was forced to BACK UP a few hundred yards on the winding mountain-side rail-less roads of DEATH.

At this point Justin was struggling hard not to say "I told you so" and I was cursing the name of the Matterhorn and thinking this had better be worth it. My knuckles were white from clutching the steering wheel and I was not having ANY fun.

After what seemed like an eternity of this--it was probably only 10-15 minutes in actuality under those conditions, we came to our destination. I'd like to tell you that it was all worth it; that the experience was life-changing and that, despite the hard road there, that view was indescribable.

It was indescribable, alright:


After all of that, only the topmost blip of the crummy thing stuck out over a tree. We could barely see it because of all the other blasted mountains. We must have just been on the wrong side of the thing, because the view from where we were sucked. It was so disappointing, all we could do was sit there and laugh. I think we let Chokydar out to pee on the thing and then got back in the car, dreading what lay ahead: the drive back down the road of death. By that time it really was getting quite dark and we still had about 3 hours of driving if we made straight for the hotel. Sorry, Interlaken, trying to squeeze you in was waaaaaaaaaaaay out of the question.


I felt really pretty foolish at this point and very disappointed. We'd been driving for at least 8 or 9 hours by then and it was past dinner time by far. We stopped at a McDonald's not wanting to waste time getting to the hotel and struggled ordering, Justin shouting German across me into the speaker box. Having eaten things were looking marginally better. The acursed Matterhorn was more than 2 hours behind us and we were closing on the hotel fast. The GPS was taking us off the beaten track to give us the fastest route, winding through smaller towns through the mountains. Have I mentioned lately that we were driving through the Swiss Alps? In the middle of February? In a 1999 Toyota Corolla? At 10 pm? While I'm nearly 5 months pregnant? Okay, just making sure.

Had I said ANY of that outloud during the planning stages of this trip, of course I would have realized that it was a bad idea. A VERY bad idea. I didn't though, and I had brushed off Justin's admonitions as him being a wet blanket. So there we were, trying to make the best of a bad situation, telling ourselves only a few miles left. By the GPS estimate, we were a mere 30 minutes away from a warm bed.

And then the unthinkable happened. As we drove through this tiny Swiss town, covered in snow that had been building all winter we wound a corner and the GPS chimed out "Turn left now!" Blinking, I strained my eyes. Justin and I looked at eachother in disbelief and attempted to make the situation not so by sheer force of will. There was no place to turn left. Well, there should have been, except that the road was completely snowed in. Entirely impassable. We drove up and down the block several times, hoping that there was another way through, but there was not. From the road we were on, you could look through the trees beyond the snowed in road and see the lights of cars whizzing by on a major interway off in the distance. We were SO CLOSE but there was no way to get through that road, and without a map detailing Teenytiny-backwoods-town, Switzerland, we were more dependent on the GPS than we should have been. Trying to stay calm, we back tracked a ways and attempted to get the GPS to recalculate another route. It doggedly kept directing us back to the snowed in path.

We pulled over in the parking lot of a closed restaurant and by the car's dome light Justin began examining our physical map to see where the closest major road was. The verdict? Two hours back the way we had just come. Back towards the Matterhorn.

I wanted to cry.

With the delay of having to backtrack halfway across Switzerland, Justin projected that we wouldn't be getting to our hotel in Lucerne until close to 3 am. We'd been driving for nearly 12 hours, and the sickening thought dawned on me that, had we driven directly from Pisa to Germany, we would be home by then. Having little choice, we set out, back the way we came.

The idea struck me along the way, as I searched in desperation for a way to end the nightmare in which we found ourselves, that we might be able to switch our hotel reservations from the Ibis in Lucerne to the one in Bern, thereby cutting off several hours of the journey that night. It was a gamble, not knowing if the hotel in Bern would have room, but we were getting desperate. Justin looked up the Ibis in the GPS's index and plugged it in.

I left the car running at the curb as I stumbled in to explain our situation at the front desk and ask, trembling, if we'd be able to stay the night. After making a phone call to the other hotel and checking the computer and calling over the manager, we were told "yes." I can think of few times I've been as relieved as I was at that moment.

The next day, Justin was keen to put the entire ordeal behind us and head straight home. "But we've never seen Bern!" I exclaimed. He shot me a look like I was crazy.

"Okay, okay," I gave in. He took this picture for me of the historic district as we drove by on our way out of town.


So, now in our family, a really bad idea is called "Pulling a Matterhorn" and we've learned a very valuable lesson about listening to one another, especially in situations when we have strong opposing feelings. We've also learned not to drive through Switzerland in the dead of night, in the dead of winter, after a day's journey back through Italy, nearly 5 months pregnant, in a 1999 Toyota Corolla without a reserve supply of gasoline or food. I am SO grateful it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Definitely Pulling a Matterhorn.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

And then I'm done. For real. For now...

I'm in a listy mood.

First of all, thanks to all of you guys who sent encouragement and happy thougts my way after my little meltdown earlier this week. I try to keep things in perspective--I know that I am INCREDIBLY lucky and blessed and really do not have the right to complain. I know sometimes it must seem, well, really annoying. "Oh, poor Michele. Stuck living in Europe. Waaaaaa." I think I've become increasingly negative about certain aspects of life here over the past few years, and that is not the person I want to be. I have more thoughts on this subject, but will save them for another post, as this one is already getting pretty long and it's quite late.

That being said, I still do have stuff to complain about, and I'd like to get it off my chest. Just because I don't like the way I feel doesn't stop me from feeling that way.

***Disclaimer: Not all of these things are Germany's fault. Some of them are Army specific, living on post specific, and all of them are me specific. I'd like to reiterate, despite my "I hate Baumholder" diatribes, it's not a terrible place--I'm just tired of living here. For me, Europe is for vacations not life. The list is in no particular order. Without further ado...


  2. Many of the people--albeit here I am mostly referring to Americans (Ahem, for instance, Rude Mail Room Guy, Grouchy Car Inspection Dude, Nasty Neighbor Woman, Passive Agressive Mystery Neighbor Person, I could go on and on and on...)
  3. The general attitude and atmosphere. NEG-A-TIVE. (I know, I know. Look at me not helping, right?)
  4. The toilet paper holders.
  5. The toilet flushing mechanisms.
  6. Having to pay to use a public toilet.
  7. Having to pay inside at the gas station.
  8. Messing with currency exchange.
  9. The crappy exchange rate.
  10. VAT forms.
  12. Not speaking the language.
  13. The laughable idea of "customer service."
  14. The 6/7 hour time difference between here and friends and family.
  15. Having to pay "International direct dialing rates" for 800 numbers.
  16. Having to convert to the metric system. I know it makes more sense, but my mind just doesn't think in those terms.
  17. Living on post.
  18. Living in an apartment.
  19. Not having any studs into which things can be nailed. There's about a half inch of plaster before you hit solid concrete, or something equally impervious. It's been a royal pain trying to hang things.
  20. The fishbowl feel of the community--the fact that EVERYONE knows your buisness...what you order online, what you buy for groceries, how often your dog poops and when you leave the house...
  21. Not having screens on the windows. I've become accustomed to not having air conditioning and actually like having fresh air circulate. Not having screens is a problem, though. Once I heard a girl convey a story about asking a German why they don't have window screens. His earnest reply? "But with screens...how would the bugs get out?"
  22. The radiators in our apartment. They have a mind of their own. The temperature can be constant outside and the dial set to the same place yet one day the setting is fine, the next we're burning up. The dial ranges from "snowflake" (a symbol) to 0-5. What the hell does "snowflake" mean???
  23. AFN (Armed Forces Network--the American television programming available here). We don't even watch TV here, but I miss "real" commercials.
  24. The mailroom. The idea that a mail man might actually deliver my mail TO ME at our place of residence is so magical, I can't even begin to describe it to you.
  25. The commissary.
  26. Having to drive 45 minutes to get to ANYTHING.
  27. Not being able to use FedEx or UPS. I can't tell you how many times I've been disappointed by "Sorry, no shipment to APOs."
  28. German pastries and cakes. I want my sweets to be...well, sweet. Theirs aren't.
  29. Having to be in constant "vacation mode." Do you know that feeling when you're in unfamiliar territory? The extra effort you have to put forward to finding things, always having everything be new and unexplored? It's exhausting to be in "vacation mode" for 3.5 years. When we take trips here, I sometimes feel like I'm vacationing while on a vacation--like I'm taking the life raft I live on in my river out onto the ocean.
  30. European sized things. Everything is small, from the dishwasher to furniture to parking spaces and roads. I will not miss "two lane" roads that, in fact, are actually not even big enough to be one full lane.
  31. How often I am denied access to things online (like streaming media and certain downloads) because I'm "Outside the U.S."
  32. Randomly having web pages I frequent switch everything to German language defaults.

I may think of more and tack them on in subsequent posts.

And, in fairness, I would also like to list...


  1. The autobahn. Although I have gotten two speeding tickets (yes, you read that right), I do love the laid back feel and general not-traffic-y-ness of the autobahn.
  2. Ordering out from Portofino's. Especially their pizzas and Jagerschnitzel.
  3. Being so close to Belgium. I love Belgium.
  4. The proximity to so much art, history, culture and architecture. Just wow.
  5. The "tilt" option on the (screenless-boo) windows.
  6. The deli sandwiches from the commissary.
  7. The cheese streudel muffins from the commissary.
  8. Super cheap, delicious, and ubiquitous local wines.
  9. The yellow flowers that cover the countryside in summer.
  10. This specific lone tree on a hill top as you approach Baumholder from the east.
  11. Julia's Mickey Mouse tree.
  12. Christmas markets.
  13. Bernkastel Kues. I love that town.
  14. This specific view of a valley off to the left as you cross a bridge going towards Kaiserslautern. Breathtaking.
  15. The windmills.
  16. The really awesome people I have met here.

Again, I will add to this list as well as things occur to me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

40 ways to say adorable...

It's been in the back of my head for months now, ever since seeing this post on Write Softly that I need to chronicle all of Evelyn's nicknames--or as many as I can remember...

  • Evie (obviously)
  • Evie Babes
  • Eves
  • Angry Tomato

Angry Tomato

Angry Tomato

  • Squishy
  • Squishy Babe
  • Squishyton
  • Squishybee
  • Squishy Peterson
  • The Squish
  • Lady Squish/Squishyton/Squishybee
  • Squishycalafragalisticexpialadocious (is there a theme developing?)
  • Fancy Pants
  • Kicky Peterson
  • Magpie
  • Baby Lady
  • Miss E
  • E
  • Lovey Babe
  • Pooper
  • Poopy Pants
  • Fussy Pants

Angry Tomato

  • Pretty Baby
  • Webbigail (originated by Justin)
  • Fluffy Head

Fluffy Head

  • Clever Girl
  • Wiggle
  • Wiggle Worm
  • Popkins
  • Tiny
  • Tiny Squish
  • Tiny Gurgle
  • Squeaker
  • Giggle
  • Monster (originated by Justin)
  • The Percolator
  • Missy Squishy (Thanks, J! I can't believe I almost forgot that one!)
  • Koala
  • Lobster


  • Squishy Burrito (This one came about after Jennifer Gilbert's comment on this look:


and the nickname is actually often sung in place of "Baby Beluga" to the same tune. "Squishy Burrito in the deep blue sea..." Don't ask me how this was started...Justin needs to come home to bring some sanity to this household. ;)

In which I post another homework assignment from photoshop

I've been sliding into a dangerous mindset with my class lately. It happened the last time I took a class as well. I end up getting about halfway and suddenly it's all about having to do the work rather than wanting to. This is so toxic and ridiculous because I really really want to learn these programs--that's why I'm taking the class, obviously. A large part of it is my old neurosis popping up again: my perfectionist tendencies and my difficulty taking criticism. There is a discussion component to the class and I somehow always feel wrong when I pipe up.

Anyway, I'm glad to have gotten this done before the weekend starts. We're learning about effects and filters and manipulating the way layers interact. Also in this assignement we were supposed to use the history brush to take an element from our final design back to a previous state. In mine you can see that is the top lemon slice.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The cutest Cheerios eater you've ever seen.

As promised...

Here's a quick mock up of the banner hanging outside the commissary:
I laughed hysterically the first time I saw this. "It's Worth the Trip"??? I have this mental imagine of someone trying to give away crap on the side of the street, their banner exclaiming "You Get What You Paid For!" The commissary is maybe 3 minutes away from anywhere on post, so it being "worth the trip" doesn't say much.

I started thinking that if this was the winning slogan, what might the alternatives have been? Hmmmm...

In which I am sad without specific reason

355 days. In other words, 11 months and 22 sunrises since Justin deployed. April 2nd is the one year mark. It feels like forever.

Most days I try not to think about it too much. Just keep my nose to the ground, work hard, and try to stay busy. Most days, despite my complaining about Baumholder, I am happy. Insanely happy actually, because even though he's not here right now, I know what I have, and what I have is once in a life time.

But then there are times--and they tend to sneak up on me, when I can actually feel an empty place in my guts. It's a dull ache, a physical longing that involuntarily makes my eyes well up with tears. I choke them back with a smile, knowing they don't do any good. See, it's happening even now as I type...

Today I went to the commissary. They actually have a banner made up that hangs outside declaring, "The Commissary: It's Worth the Trip!" (have I posted about this before? I can't remember...I know I've laughed about it with Julia...) I have decided I'm going to come up with a mock presentation of the other banner options that were rejected for this stellar advertising campaign. Anyway, like I said, it came upon me out of nowhere. There I was, circling the dingy unflatteringly yellow-lit isles and somewhere about the frozen food section I was nearly overcome with tears. I am just so tired. So tired of eating the same foods week after week, of going to the same places day after day. Tired of the same crappy weather (in fairness, we've just come off of a week of GLORIOUS sunny beautiful weather, but it's back to grey and rainy and cold today--I'm sure it doesn't help my mood). I'm tired of living my life alone when I should be sharing it with my husband. I'm tired of being the only one here to marvel at our beautiful child. Just in case you had any doubts--DEPLOYMENTS SUCK.

I'm not looking for pity. This is our life. I'm so proud of Justin. I know he aches to be here every bit as much as I want him here. I haven't let a tear fall today, and I don't think I will. I'll go put away the tomato sauce and chili beans, the baby food and diapers and cross off one more day on the calendar.

P.S. I love you, Justin.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

February 2008- Pisa, Florence, & Switzerland- Part III

Okay, there's at least one more batch still to come after this. These are all still from Florence. Now I'm trying to remember...did we spend one day or two there???


We stumbled upon this beautiful little cafe as I DESPERATELY tried to find a bathroom. I was five months pregnant when we took this trip, and I seemed not to be able to make it more than a few hours without needing a pit stop. We wandered around for at least 15 minutes, going in circles and trying to play charades with the locals trying to find the hidden bathroom. There were signs for it, but no matter how we tried, we couldn't seem to find it. Once we did find it, I think we frequented it at least 3 times during our stay.







This last picture was taken from the window of the Uffizi. Justin and Chokydar waited in a little hole in the wall cafe a few blocks away so that I could go check out the museum. They're the best.

Friday, March 20, 2009

February 2008- Pisa, Florence, & Switzerland- Part II

Here's part two of our last year's February trip to Italy. All of these pictures are from Florence. We spent one jam packed day there. It was quite nice, but I think the weather hampered our enjoyment just a bit. It was really cold and drizzling off and on. Even so, we made a point to try the famed gelato. Twice.
I'm going to try and finish up this trip's batch of photos in the next few days because I have a whole set from last year's March trip to Normandy I need to get up as well!



This was me after I realized that the Italians CHARGE you to ENTER many of the CHURCHES. I was NOT pleased. I'm philosophically opposed to the idea of having to pay to enter a house of worship, and so I missed out on seeing some of the things I wanted to check out.


I remember having this panel appear on an art history final exam...











Rubbing the boar's snout is supposed to bring good fortune. You'll notice how worn it is. Chokydar wanted to do the tourist thing:


For your viewing pleasure

I have really awesome friends. One pair, Brad and Ari from back in NJ sent us a package a few weeks ago. It was a surprise, and I was so tickled to see the contents--a handmade matching set of Mommy and Baby scarves. How cute is that? This cute:





And then also, I've been meaning to post this one for a while. Another gift from another fantastic friend, Julia. This frog is one of E's favorites for sure.

Evie and frog
Related Posts with Thumbnails