25 December 2013

Merry Christmas from the Leighs

2013 Leigh Family Christmas Card

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, 
Let your heart be light. From now on, our troubles will be out of sight. 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, 
Make the Yule-tide gay. From now on, our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days, happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us once more.

Through the years we all will be together. If the Fates allow.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

18 December 2013

Weihnachtsmarkts 2013 Edition

If we can't be in the States celebrating the Christmas season with family, Germany is a pretty good second place. In fact Christmas in Germany is pretty spectacular. The way they celebrate the Christmas season is one of my favorite things about Deutschland. A large part of their celebration revolves around Advent and they are pretty creative with the use of Advent calendars. One town nearby turns their beautiful rathaus (town hall) into a living breathing calendar with each window assigned a number. Every day the children gather around the window and wait for presents to be thrown out. Oh the life of a German kinder.

Shortly after the beginning of the Advent season Christmas markets // Christkindlesmarkt // Weihnachtsmark open all around the country. They are usually held in the town center, but sometimes you can get lucky and find one in a palace. The streets are lined with stalls showcasing beautiful handcrafted ornaments and delicious, traditional German food & drinks. This year I've made it a point to try and get an ornament from each market we visited, but I'd be lying if I didn't say eating and drinking was what it's all about. For food we normally seek out the bratwurst, schweinesteak, and my favorite the kartoffelpuffer (potato pancake). For drinks we've sampled a lot this year between gluhwein, apfelwein, and eierpunsch. The last wasn't much of a crowd favorite.  My iPhone pictures don't do the markets justice, but when you're surrounded by friends, eating good food, and soaking in the Christmas spirit it's a fantastic experience. 
Thurn and Taxis Palace in Regensburg
N├╝rnberg Weihnachtsmarkt

29 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

It's official, Thanksgiving 2013 topped Thanksgiving 2012 by a long shot. Being separated and eating sub-par food last year, Thanksgiving just came up short on the holiday spirit. This year we went all out. A small Thanksgiving feast for two. :) And I'm happy to report that for my first Thanksgiving meal there were no disasters. Ham in the oven, turkey in the crockpot, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie were all a success. We enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving lunch together, lounged on the couch while the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was on TV in the background, and rounded out the night with a few friends coming over. It turned out to be a really nice, relaxing day. We have so much to be thankful for.

I am also excited to report that we have adopted the "Cook Family" tradition of post-Thanksgiving festivities. Black Friday morning we bypassed the crazies at the PX and headed off for breakfast at a local backeri (bakery) and a little Christmas tree shopping. We were not impressed by the trees we saw at the first place we stopped at and I was beginning to get worried that I would have to give in and buy a fake Christmas tree for the first time EVER in my life. Oh, the horror! ;) Luckily, on our drive back we passed by a somewhat hidden Christmas tree lot on the side of the road. Here we found our plump little tree that fit almost perfectly in the car. Only about a foot hung out of the window.  
Now that Thanksgiving has passed it's now "legal" to bust out some Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, & Tony Bennett holiday tunes and celebrate all things Christmas! The next few weekends are sure to be filled with tree decorating, present wrapping, and visiting Germany's many Christmas markets. Dare I even say, bring on the snow? A tiny part of me may want to experience a White Christmas... just once. 

26 November 2013

Fish & Chips, Red Telephone Booths & Harry Potter

I've come to the conclusion that I'm an anglophile. I have a completely romanticized view of England and all things British. The culture. The people. The stores. (Hello, Primark) All of it. I just adore the city of London. Even though the weather can be pretty dreadful the city just makes me happy. I've been there twice now and there are still things I'd like to go back and do. And London is just the beginning! There's a list of other cities within the UK that I'd like to visit. If only there was more time and an endless amount of funds. ;)

I'd have to admit that my anglophilia is more for news & entertainment than English history. (Sorry, Shakespeare.) But in my defense think how many fantastic things we can thank Britain for! Jane Austen. Harry Potter. One Direction. Ed Sheeran. Downton Abbey. Prince Harry. The list goes on & on! :) 

03 November 2013

A Quick Update

It's hard to believe, but we've been in Grafenwoehr for over 3 months now. Our first weekend we had record highs and the temperature rose to the high 90s. Now we're in the middle fall and winter is (unfortunately) just around the corner. The trees and a looking a little more bare and more & more frost/ice is appearing on car windshields in the morning. This winter will be an interesting experience as it will be the first full winter in Germany for both us. I'm praying God has mercy on us poor Southerners. Actually, I'm asking God sends extra mercy to me because RC claims that he is "made for the cold weather". So he doesn't need it. :)

Since our move I've traveled to Poland and we've traveled to Munich (again), Prague, and London.

RC's birthday was this weekend. The big 2-4. I love these few months where we are the same age. Doesn't make me feel so old. :) The last bit of big news is we've been talking with a breeder in the Czech Republic and we are on a waiting list for an Alaskan Malamute puppy. The liter is due in just a few weeks and depending on the number of puppies we could have our very own Mal come mid-January. We are both really excited about this possible new member of our family. :)

27 October 2013

Rainy Ol' London Town Recap

  • FLIGHT -- RYANAIR :: We flew out of Memmingen Airport, just west of Munich. Road construction & detours turned it into a 4 hour drive. Blah, but RyanAir was running an unbelievable deal. So cheap!!
  • TRANSPORTATION :: With RyanAir you fly into London Stansted, approximately 1.5 hours from London's city center. There are numerous ways to make the trip into London, but I recommend NATIONAL EXPRESS. It was only £30 for both of us round trip. But the best part was they had '2 for 1 vouchers' at a number of tourist attractions. With these vouchers we more than paid for our transportation into the city. We also took the tube/underground everywhere. No taxis for us. I recommend buying an Oyster Card. You'll receive cheaper rates- something like £7 a day. Make sure you go back to a customer service desk in the underground because you can get a refund for your deposit (£5) and what ever money you have left on your card. I'm so glad we overheard someone talking about it! On our last day we got money back for breakfast at a local cafe AND ended up only spending around £30 for three days of transportation for two people. 
  • HOTEL: PREMIER INN- OLD CITY :: Since we saved so much money on our flight with RyanAir I had a little more wiggle room with our hotel. You also get to the point where you just have to bite the bullet- London's pricey (but so worth it!). Close proximity to public transportation is always number 1 for me. Well right after good reviews and safety. ;) There was an underground station less than 2 blocks away. Also, the NATIONAL EXPRESS (how we go TO and FROM the airport) had a bus stop less than 15 minutes away on Shoreditch. Easy walk! Friday was a long day of traveling so once we finally got to our hotel we didn't exactly feel like going back out for food. So we decided to eat at the hotel's restaurant. Really good food, beer, & wine! They had a good spread for breakfast as well. 

26 October 2013

Tower Bridge

After walking Tower Bridge and touring the Tour of London we decided to find a bench along the Thames River to sit and people watch. We also had the good fortune of watching Tower Bridge open. Apparently watching the bridge open brings good luck because it's such a rare occurance.

Isn't Tower Bridge beautiful? So beautiful that it is often mistakenly recognized as London Bridge. London Bridge is actually a kind of un-impressive bridge located about a mile further down the Thames. It was pretty cute to hear a little girl walk past us singing "London Bridge is falling down..." though.

25 October 2013

Tower of London

“If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the crown will fall and Britain with it…”

The first time I went to London was my junior year of college for an International Law class. We were in London for 2 days and I instantly fell in love with the city. I was so excited to come back to London and since my college visit had to be filled with "educational visits" to the UN, etc. there were still a number of touristy things I hadn't done. One of those things was the Tower of London.

The Tower of London was so impressive- in size and the number of things to do. We were able to use the NATIONAL EXPRESS 2 for 1 vouchers and saved £20. Wahoo! We spent hours walking through the grounds and looking through the different exhibits. We went through the history of torture at the Lower Wakefield Tower, viewed the Royal Armories collection in the White Tower, and saw THE Crown Jewels located in the Jewel House. One of my favorite things about the Tower of London though was the view of Tower Bridge.

02 October 2013

Catching the Sea Breeze

While back in the States my mom and I decided to be tourists in our own town. We walked along the battery and toured the Edmonston-Alston House & the Russell House. My only regret from the day was that there was no photography inside these historic homes. Highlight from the day? The fat orange cat we found basking in the warm Charleston sun. 

30 September 2013

Friday Night Lights

One of the main reasons I went back to the States was so I could see my littlest (only not so little) brother play in his senior year of football. He'd previously attended the same private high school I graduated from, but decided to transfer to the local public school where both his athletic and academic talents would flourish. The coaches at SHS were so excited to have him transfer and I think they'd agree he's fit in perfectly on defense. 

I should also add that there were two stars that friday night. Obviously #88 was on the field. 
And the other... a cute little boy in the stands attending his first football game. 
How handsome are these two? I love being a big sister and an aunt. :)

24 August 2013

Munich, Germany :: Third Reich Tour & the Hofbrauhaus

Earlier this month we took the train down to Munich. Highlights of the trip? 
Third Reich Tour led by an Irish man. Dinner at the famous Hofbrauhaus. 
Stumbling upon Taco Libre- where we ended up eating TWICE in less than 24 hrs. 
 Don't judge. Good Mexican food is hard to come by in Germany.