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Thursday, January 05, 2006
The New Year

Well, I started this blog a year ago to let the world know about my time in Europe.  That has now obviously come to an end, so I don't think I will be using this space anymore.  Thanks for visiting, though; I have definitely enjoyed your comments and e-mails!  My time at home has been good so far...I am just soaking up the relaxation before the reality of a new job, etc, sets in.  Well, and I am getting over this weird cold thing that I have which has now attacked my lungs.  It is really NEAT, let me tell you!

Christmas was super fun with the fam and all the relatives freaking out that I was home as a surprise.  Quite hilarious, let me tell you, but after three days of being the "SURPRISE" I had had enough.  That is what I get for LYING (as my parents kept reminding me) for three months about coming home in January.  I interviewed for my teaching position and hung out with some high school friends and family friends the couple days after Christmas.  Later in the week I got to spend a day with my adorable almost-3-yr-old goddaughter Kate and her family, which was hilarious.  And I got to go bowling for the first time in well over a year.  No worries, my 11 year old cousin beat me.  I then spent New Year's weekend in Milwaukee, hanging out with friends and my really cute godson, who is also three years old, like Kate, and equally as funny.  It has really been a good time!

Anyway, God's blessings to you all in this New Year of 2006.  May it be joyous!

And if I haven't heard from you in awhile (or even if I have), please drop me a line or call me.  I am enjoying being in the same time zone, or at least the same continent, as most of the people I know in the world!  (Those of you in Europe have noticed that my moving back home has not hampered my ability nor the frequency with which I call you.   Hope you don't mind!) 

The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!

Numbers 6:24-26

Posted at 04:50 pm by jenannjen
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Sunday, December 25, 2005
Merry Christmas!

Surprise!  I am back in the States!  Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and I hope to see many of you soon!  God bless!


Posted at 12:41 pm by jenannjen
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A brief update:  we never get sick in this household (I have not been to the doctor once since I have been here, knock on wood), and now we get the 24 hour flu.  Gross.  Little Richard and Karoline are both sick and I am sitting around hoping I don't get it, and then hoping if I do, I get it today or tomorrow so I am not sick at Christmas.  Blah!  Send healthy thoughts over to me, will you?

I found a really super cute nativity scene for them for Christmas...hope they like it.  I think Richard will have fun playing with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph anyway.  They are wooden and 'kid-friendly' if you will.  I like it a lot.

I was asked to bake cranberry muffins but am debating whether it is worth it, given our current illness in the house.  Hmmmmmmmmm.

Not much else to say.  Hope your Christmas preparations are going well!

Posted at 12:52 pm by jenannjen
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Monday, December 19, 2005
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

We finally have SNOW.  Real, fluffy, white snow.  It is fantastic.  It started snowing promptly at 3:30 pm on Saturday while we were at the Marktplatz picking out our Christmas tree.  So fun.  Have I mentioned I love Advent and Christmas Season in Germany?  Oh that's right, I have...anyway, we got a tree, Little Richard was very excited, I got to run into church and go to Confession (woo hoo!), and then when I got home we had some tea punch thing (tea with rum and orange juice in it) and decorated the tree with lights, candles, and lebkuchen, which I helped bake (kind of like gingerbread).  Yes, Germans put real candles on their trees.  I guess every year a couple of homes burn down.  Isn't that terrible?  Oh my gosh!
Anyway, it has been snowing ever since Saturday and it is sooooooo pretty out!  Richard and I made snow angels and baby snowmen (mostly Richard ran away with the head or stomach or wherever I was at) but it was super duper fun.  Getting ready for gifts and last minute Christmas preparations this week!

Thursday I went to Frankfurt for the day/night and hung out with so many fun people.  I love new friends.  Sebastian and I hung out with Dave and Lindsay, a couple from Missouri who are in the peace corps in the Republic of Georgia.  Wow, it was so interesting to hear about their experience and Lindsay and I have a similar chatty, loud, silly personality so we were quite loud and as she is a high school English teacher, I had lots to ask her about.  Andrea met up with us after work and as we were hanging out eating dinner and just chatting away I was like wow, my life is really cool.  Here we are, probably one of the randomest groups of people ever, and we are having a super time hanging out and chatting about our lives and just stuff in general.  I am sorry, this is a pretty banal description...why is it that the things that are so much fun are not that fun to talk about?

The search for appropriate teacher clothing goes on.  I hate shopping for clothes.  But, as Sara so lovingly pointed out to me, I will not let it ruin the Advent and Christmas spirit.  Thanks for the tip from Charlie Brown, Sara.

So loving life in general right now.  Just soaking up the relaxedness before I enter what might be termed as 'the real world'.  But it has been a super duper year, though it has had its own challenges as well.  More reflections on 2005 some other time!

Posted at 09:05 pm by jenannjen
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Everyone needs to pray for me because, woo hoo, I am getting interviewed to teach Middle School German in Appleton!  So when you read this, just offer up an intention that it goes well and God's will be done.

And as a follow-up to the candy making story, St Nick sent me a package full of the candy from the Vosters gathering and they were SUPER tasty, and I have to say that mine don't taste much worse than the ones they made, though they are certainly not as pretty!

This weekend was pretty fun.  Saturday was the big painting day (and the painter said that my masking tape job was better than most of his coworkers and they didn't have to clean anything afterwards, it went so well) and so while they were painting, baby Richard and I went swimming.  It was sooooo fun.  The indoor pool has a little special area for kids with three splash pools and little frog and snake fountains and it was super fun.  Except, of course, as we were leaving Richard crawled up on a bench and fell down, scraping himself by his eye and wailed like you would not believe while all the other parents were just giving me looks of incompetence.  So then I had to truck him home after over 2 hours of playing (he fell asleep literally the minute we got into the car) and tell his mom his gash and lump on his head was due to his overactivity and my inability to run and catch fast enough.  Whew!  But it was a ton of fun and I even took him on a water slide, though he wasn't too keen on that.  If any of you know of fun water activities for kids in Milwaukee or Appleton, let me know!

Then Saturday I headed up to Frankfurt and met up with Andrea, a Californian teaching second grade in Frankfurt.  We met Sebastian at the Christmas market, drank Glühwein, and went to a bar that served these fun cheetos but peanut butter flavor...YUM!  Oh and Tom, I drank a mojito for the first time and now I know why you rave about them.

Andrea has a super fun apartment in Frankfurt, so we stayed up until something ridiculous like 3 am having girl talk and then Sunday we hit up Mass with Sebastian and then ditched him for Heidelberg, where we wandered around, ate, and shopped at the Christmas markets.  I think we need to import Christmas markets into the US.  It way beats malls.  I haven't been in a mall yet this Christmas season (mostly because they don't so much exist) AND I LOVE IT.  I could gush on and on about this if you like, but I will spare you.  Basically they rock my socks off.

Well I am outie.  Love you all, hope to hear from you soon! 

Posted at 02:52 pm by jenannjen
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Friday, December 09, 2005
Master of the Masking Tape...and Other Random Stories

So Richard has again skipped the country and the Gerstner household is experiencing one last 'While You Were Out' for the year.  We are having the entire first floor painted and new curtains put in.  The past few nights have held scenes of Karoline and I prepping the rooms, including scrubbing down old paint from the window frames.  Then last night began the joyous task of taping off windows, doors, outlets, etc, and it suddenly occurred to me that I have madd skills in the department of masking taping.  And I thought to myself "Why am I so good at this?"  Then the memories of the fun and exciting (for many reasons) Christmas break of 2002 came flooding back, in particular those of when Floyd decided to repaint the living room, foyer, and hallway.  I was laughing to myself yesterday as memories of that break came back to me...Dad insisting there was one really good way of getting the masking tape on the trimwork as efficiently as possible and also as tightly to the wall as possible (you're right, Dad, it does work the best, even on random curtain rods in Europe)...Aaron painting that little alcove above the closet and then getting stuck in the corner, if you will, because he sort of painted himself in...Dad and Jason way über excited about that electric automatic roller painty thingy that was kind of out of control but actually quite fast and quite efficient, if not messy...and the madd amounts of dangerous scaffolding all over the living room in very precarious positions.  Ha ha ha!  Fun times had by all.  There was nothing nearly that dangerous going on in Pforzheim the last couple of days, but the painters come Saturday and I will let you know what happens then!  We have already had to have the curtains redone because we sort of forgot that one section of the house is a foot taller due to the fact that you step down into the living room.  Oops.
Today I also wanted to relay the story I like to call 'Candy Making in Europe.'  Many of you know that some of the Vosters family gets together every year to sing 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' and 'Timothy the Tow-Truck' and at the same time try to accomplish some Christmas candy making.  I was not there this year, and even missed out on calling at the right time for my debut in the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' (I believe I usually have the Four Calling Birds) so I had my own candy making session here.  I decided to make peanut butter balls, because they are yummy, and because Europeans get yummy treats with peanut butter oh so rarely.  The thing is, I never realized how hard and time-consuming candy making is by yourself, and I had certainly forgotten how messy it is.  I started at about 7 pm on Dec 5th (to have them ready for St Nick) and mixed everything for the filling together.  Set that in the fridge.  Then I rigged up a double boiler system for the chocolate, which was harder over the stove than just having the hot plates we have at home.  Plus I was using Kuverture, which is the German dipping chocolate/glaze, and I was not convinced I had the right kind.  Then there's this awkward pause in production when the peanut butter had only been in the fridge for a half hour and not yet the prescribed hour, but I was too impatient to wait.  So I glob the mixture onto cookie sheets and freeze them...but since the fridges and freezers here are smaller, I keep having to run up and downstairs between the freezer and fridge downstairs and the stove upstairs where my Kuverture was way too melty.  So finally I have frozen globs and I am trying to dip them and the peanut butter is melting into the chocolate and not looking REAL pretty and I get it into the fridge and then the Kuverture doesn't get hard...at least not as quickly as I would like it!  It just stays oh so soft.  Grrrrrrr.  So I start on the next ones and these I can actually roll into balls and pretty soon I have 3 trays of yummy good peanut butter kugeln, but as I am finishing up tray 2 I run out of chocolate.  More Grrrrrrr!  Plus finally as tray 2 was looking good Richard and Dieter and Karoline come in and start eating my chocolates right off the tray!  By this time it is 10 or 10:30 pm, there are chocolatey peanut buttery finger prints all over upstairs and downstairs, and I still have one whole tray of uncovered peanut butter.  I called it quits at that point and went downstairs and went to BED!
The next day I finally just melted down a big Santa Claus  that St Nick had left us and covered the rest of the peanut butter balls with that!  Whew!  Finally, done!
So just wanted to say madd props to the fam out there...candy making is a heck of a lot of work.  But it was worth it...everyone is very excited and very big fans of the peanut butter goodness that we have.  Especially Little Richard.  :)

Posted at 12:59 pm by jenannjen
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Monday, December 05, 2005
Medeival Market

Had a fun time in Bonn with Pauline, Andy, and the Aszyk Family.  Hit up the Christmas Market in Bonn with some Glühwein and shopping...yikes, have to get on the Christmas gift shopping bandwagon!  So fun with all the Christmas lights and little stands all over the place, and people everywhere!  Of course ate way to much food at Cecylia's, went out for the usual cocktails at night in Poppelsdorf, etc.  Sunday was church, belated birthday celebrations for Cecylia and me, and then the medeival Christmas Market in Siegburg.  They even had court jesters, jugglers, baked break in ovens heated with fire, a blacksmith, and all sorts of fun stuff!  And of course the prices were all in Talers and Silberling or something like that.  It was neat, and I love hanging out with that family!
Hopefully Paula (and possibly Andy) will be heading to the States in February.  Wow, it will be just like the old days...except now we are seven years older!  Funny stuff!
Hope all is well by you...

Posted at 12:24 pm by jenannjen
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Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Birthday Goodness

My birthday was super duper.  I am exhausted, so this is going to be short...I have hung out with Mrs Jackie Barten every day since Friday.  This means lots of talking and giggling and shouting until 3 a.m.  But so much fun!
Hung out with Jackie at her house on the weekend and had a super snowy fun experience.  Girl time.  Friends Season 9.  Little Women.  Hiking to and eating Schnitzel at the Hube Haus.  Mass in English and seeing Liam and Cathy one last time.  Super fun.
Jackie came to Pforzheim and we saw Harry Potter 4 in German Monday night, which was fun and interesting.  Ask Jackie about the intermission and the man who walked around trying to sell us ice cream.  In the theater.  Whoah.  Tuesday was Thanksgiving and Birthday Madness.  Thanks for the phone calls, cards, emails, gifts, etc.  I felt super duper loved, except for those who kept reminding me I am a quarter of a century old.  The farmer nearby killed a turkey for us since they are hard to get here...it ended up being 40 pounds.  We had it sawed in half and could barely fit that half in the oven.  It was Thanksgiving goodness with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, cornbread, and cranberry sauce.  And Jackie made an amazing pumpkin pie.  We had six people at dinner and everyone was raving about the food.  There was definitely Schnapps and red wine to be had.  Super fun!
Now I am heading off to Bonn Friday to hang out with Pauline and her family, which should be joyous.  I have to go to bed now, I am sooooo tired.  Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving in the States!

Posted at 09:19 pm by jenannjen
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Monday, November 21, 2005
An Update on the Little Guy

So funny things:
Richard is now at the point where, though he is nearly 18 months old, he doesn't feel the need to talk.  Why?  Because all he has to do is point to something and say DAS or DA and I give it to him.  He talks and talks and talks but no one understands a single word, except maybe MAMA or HOPPE HOPPE REITER (the German giddyup horsie) and HEISS.  That's all he's got.  His latest thing is to constantly come get me, take BOTH of my hands, and walk me wherever he wants to go in the house or outside, so that we can play somewhere.  It is really cute.  I guess he finally realized that if I can take him by the hand and drag him wherever I want him to go, he can do it to me, too.  He also got into a really bad habit of finding bellybuttons.  I sang the Bellybutton song to him, so now if you say, 'Richard, where is your bellybutton?' he will immediately show you...but he will also come over to you and try to find yours to show everybody else at the table as well.  He also loves books and will make you sit down, crawl into your lap, and read books endlessly.  It is really sweet, but I am really regretting buying Goodnight Moon and a book about trucks, because those seem to be the two favorites, which I now know by heart.  He also learned last week how to do somersaults, but if you are not careful, he will try to do them off the couch as well.
He is a cute little bugger.  I am going to miss him.
The weekend was fun.  I hung out with Sebastian again...on Saturday his friend, who is dating an American guy stationed in Germany, invited us out.  We hung out with them and three other American guys, and it was hilarious.  We were at an Irish pub, so I was having a weird sort of feeling that I was possibly just chilling in Milwaukee, listening to Sweet Home Alabama and Brown Eyed Girl.  Bizarre.  Mostly I was just excited because we had Mexican for dinner.  Yippee for strawberry margaritas and enchiladas!  I thought of you, Aunt Jackie and girls, and how last year about this time we were having one last Mexican night before I left!  So anyway, it was funny...like a bad joke maybe?  'Five Americans, two Germans, and a Finnish girl went into an Irish pub...' 

Posted at 12:35 pm by jenannjen
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Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Mark Twain Had it Right

"Lot of vociferous Americans at breakfast this morning. Talking AT everybody, while pretending to talk among themselves. On their first travels, manifestly. Showing off. The usual signs--airy, easy-going references to grand distances and foreign places."
Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad

Even in 1878 Americans were frolicking about Europe in their boisterous way.  Let's Go estimates that every day 32,000 tourists...or was it 32,000 Americans? make their way to Heidelberg in the summertime.  I got to take part in this venture yet again this past weekend.  And Sebastian made considerable comments as to how Americans, in constrast to other nationalities, constantly feel some instant connection when running into each other and have to have some conversation about where they are from, how the Badgers are doing, and where they are off to next on the European map.  What can I say?  We like to talk!

The country was celebrating Martinstag on 11/11, which was Friday.  Little kids make lanterns and run around getting candy from the neighbors and the family has to eat goose, dumplings, and red cabbage.  If you're Catholic, you are celebrating St Martin of Tours; if Prostestant, you remember the catalyst of the Reformation, Martin Luther.  Newspapers run stories as to why we have to eat goose (one schoolgirl:  Martin was running away and got stuck in a pen with a bunch of geese and they were too loud so they found him there and as a punishment the geese were eaten).  Wow, what an explanation!  So don't worry, we consumed goose...that is, I convinced Sebastian to order it and I tried it, so I could say I had some.  Only to come home to a Thanksgiving-like leftovers of goose that will be consumed the rest of the week in the Gerstner household.

So it was an interesting and funny weekend--tours of the University, the second oldest in Europe, the castle, and a stroll along the Philosophenweg.  The University has a nifty old library with medeival books you can look at, beautiful old lecture halls, and the Studentenkarzer.  This is where naughty students would get locked up for misdemeanors for anywhere from 24 hours to four weeks.  They decorated their cells with fun graffiti and poetry about their shenanigans.  It was the goal of most students to spend at least one day in the Karzer; you just weren't cool if you didn't.  Wow, I wonder how my life as an RA would have been different had we had one of these at East Hall...
kidding, of course.

Mass Sunday was at the Jesuit church and we randomly ran into college friends of Sebastian, so it was cool to meet some more young German Catholics.  Then we hiked up to the castle and got a lovely tour of the grounds and I was able to yet again witness the world's largest wine barrel (Sebastian:  Can you imagine how much it would cost to actually fill this thing up?).  Yes folks, it holds 221,000 liters (so what, roughly 90,000 gallons?).  I am not good at the conversions, but you get the point.

And a trip to Heidelberg, where Mark Twain, Goethe, and a bunch of philosphers I can't even mention because I've already forgotten who they were whiled away their time and thought about the meaning of life, would not be complete without a walk on the Philosophenweg, a path that runs on the opposite side of the Neckar River from Heidelberg.  So we walked, rested, ran into plenty of groups of Americans, some of whom were gloating over Penn's victory over the Badgers, and appropriately contemplated the meaning of life.  And made fun of each other.

Saturday night we were able to see the Swedish movie Sa som i himmelen, which I think would be roughly translated 'As it is in Heaven'.  It was quite good and fun to see--sort of a reverse Mr. Holland's Opus...a world famous conductor returns to his small Swedish hometown and conducts the five-person church choir.  Quite a good time, and afterwards I got to try Glühwein for I think the first time...or maybe the first time I actually ever liked it.  You have to drink it in Germany in the winter, so I have been told.  It apparently is going to be available at every Christmas market.

It was a nice weekend and I am glad I got to visit the most touristy city in Germany again and that we were able to visit it in the off-season.  The weekend was full of hilarious conversation and mostly a lot of misunderstanding...neither Sebastian nor I can listen very well.  So here are some funny quotes...

(at breakfast)
Jenny:  Brauchst du was? (Do you need anything?) 
Sebastian:  Nein.  (No.)
(Jenny leaves, gets coffee and returns.  Sebastian looks confused)
Sebastian:  Ach, du hast gemeint, brauchst du was?  Ich dachte, du hast gesagt, weisst du was? und bist einfach weggegangen!  (Oh, you said 'do you need anything!'  I thought you said, 'you know what?' and just walked off!)
About American football players

Sebastian:  Right, so the stereotype is that girls like them and date them because they have a nice body...

Jenny, distractedly:  Um, yeah, I guess he had a lot of nice buddies.

(confusion.  later returning to previous thought)

Jenny:  Wait, did you say body?  I thought you said buddy.  My gosh, you must have thought I am really superficial!
These are funny stories.  I promise.  Maybe you had to be there.  Errrr?  Other fun quotes:

Sebastian (completely serious):  So you finding out a guy plays music for church and is in a praise and worship band is probably the equivalent of most American girls finding out a guy is in a boy band.
(Jenny=on ground having a laughing attack).
at dinner
Sebastian:  Do you always eat like that?  I don't think I have ever seen anyone cut their food that way.
Jenny:  We are eating ganz viel Gans...ha ha ha, no pun intended!
because we are Catholic nerds

Sebastian:  Okay, you are in charge of taking the Bible along, and I have got the Catechism and Ratzinger's Salt of the Earth.
on who is nerdier

Sebastian:  So you weren't one of the popular kids...
Jenny:  Um, no.  I was a nerd.  I hung out with the Honors kids.
Sebastian:  Oh that's right.  Well, I was in chess club in high school.
Jenny:  Oooh, that is really nerdy!
and lastly, I just had to let Sam know that A IS FOR AWKWARD is now spreading around the world.  It is a new trend that we're pretty sure is going to catch on in Germany.  Once we can get people to understand what awkward means and when it is appropriate for a situation to be AWKWARD.

(Sidenote:  These quotes remind of when Kristina was here (we also went to Heidelberg) and ever since then she makes fun of me because I said, "Don't worry Kristina, I will be your beaver!" 
I meant gopher.  You know, that I would run and get things for her.  But now I will never live it down.  I am Kristina's beaver.)

Well, I think I have successfully gotten less funny and less practiced at story-telling, but hopefully you enjoyed today's repertoire! 

Posted at 11:36 am by jenannjen
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