24 December 2009

December 18th in Utah

Garrett is now an official member of the US Air Force.
Mom & Krystal (his Fiancee) pin on the rank
Ready to jet into the future....
We were glad to be able to be there for the big event.

Later that night we all went to a John Schmidt concert in SLC. It was very entertaining!

21 December 2009

Blizzard of 2009

The blizzard of 2009 hit while Elaine & I were in Provo for Garrett's Air Force Commissioning. Fortunately DC had a day to recover before I had to fly back, so did not get stranded as everyone going to this area did the day before. When I arrived home at 2 am Monday, all I could do was get a trail to the house, and dig a place to keep the car off the road. Snow was about 20 inches. Most I have seen in years.

The rest of the photos are random, because I still have not mastered uploading photos in the right sequence. This blogspot is fun, but it could certainly do with a much better editor. Oh well, at least the price is right!
Below is where my new steps in the back yard "used to be".
The sidewalk to the back of the house
The front of the house, after my wonderful neighbor cleaned the driveway with his snow blower. Snow does not stick long on these steep roofs - the snow there looks wimpy.
The front steps the night I got back
And last but not least, the back yard and my 4-foot-tall bird bath.

Fortunately the days since the blizzard have been slightly above freezing, so the area is recovering fairly well. More snow/ice on the way Christmas day. But we will be safely in Spokane Washington - assuming Chicago does not get snowy on the days we fly through there.
I give it 50-50 odds we make it through on schedule.

13 December 2009

Seven Christmas Markets in Eight Days

The day after Thanksgiving I flew to Germany to visit my friend during the Christmas season. There's only one word for the Christmas markets and city lights at this time of year: magical. If there's anything comparable in the US, I'm not aware of it.

I landed in Germany on Saturday morning, and I was at this Christmas market in the city of Esslingen that afternoon. No time to waste on jet lag!
Some pictures of a booth selling lebkuchen and one of the churches in town.
The next Christmas market was in the town of Ludwigsburg.

I especially liked the angel lights at this Christmas market.

As you can tell from this picture, it was rainy and a Monday evening, so the market wasn't crowded at all.

My best photo of the angel lights.

The friend I was visiting, Chele Taylor, and I took a bus tour to Zurich, Switzerland.

The Zurich Christmas market has two claims to fame: it's held indoors at the main train station, and the 30-foot tall tree decorated entirely with Swarovski crystal. The tour left to return Germany at 4:15pm, so we didn't get to see the tree with lights at night. I'll bet it's very sparkly at night.
We saw St. Nicholas riding a street car in Zurich.
Our next stop was to the Chocolate market in the university town of Tubingen. The town itself was full of really picturesque houses and streets. The lady in the picture is painting a design with chocolate on a dress made of chocolate.
Every time we turned a corner we found another fun street lined with half-timbered houses.
The market sold chocolate from all around the world. We had lots of interesting samples. We didn't see any booths selling American chocolate, though.
The town was even more fun to see at night. We thought we'd only stay a couple of hours, and ended up staying six! The weather was perfect for December--dry and not too cold.

This picture is of the old city hall (rathaus) at night.
Our next Christmas market was in the city of Stuttgart. I should mention that all these markets were within a 30-minute drive of where Chele lives. I'd been to the Stuttgart market three times before, so I knew my way around. It's one of the biggest, and in my opinion, one of the best Christmas markets in Germany.
I've seen stars like this for sale at almost every Christmas market I've ever been to.
I found these piano ornaments made of Bethlehem olivewood, and bought one for each of my piano students.

On the last day of my visit, we drove to France to go to two Christmas markets. The first was in the town of Colmar. It was a Saturday, and the market was VERY crowded. It took us half an hour just to find a parking spot. (I didn't post any pictures of the crowds.)

In spite of the crowds we saw some cute buildings and Christmas lights.

Our last stop was the French city of Strasbourg.

When I went to the Strasbourg Christmas market three or four years ago I started collecting some figures for my French nativity set. This year I picked out a few more pieces to add to it.

I had a wonderful, wonderful week in Germany. It was great to be back, especially at my favorite time of year. It was the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season.