Monday, December 30, 2013

Back in Germany!

After all of the presents had been upwrapped on Christmas morning, I still had one more present waiting for me - my trip to Germany!! My grandparents met us at the airport and I had quite a nice send-off! I got through security and onto the plane without any troubles, but when we had all settled in and the anouncement came on that the plane would need some de-icing, I became a bit worried. My scheduled layover in Atlanta was a close one anyway, so any delay at all was not going to do me any good.  When we landed in Atlanta the flight crew made an announcement to let those with close layovers off first.  Once I got off the plane I realized that another girl was also trying to catch the flight to Munich and we proceeded to sprint through the airport together! We made it - just barely, but sure was I thankful not to have missed that flight! The flight went by smoothly enough, although I would have preferred to have gotten some sleep. Instead I watch several movies and listened to quite a bit of music, passing the hours in great anticipation.

Once we landed it Munich it became clear that our suitcases had not made it through the airport quickly enough to join us on the journey across the Atlantic. So after filling out some forms and saying goodbye to my new Austrian aquaintance I was finally able to cross through the arrival doors and give Mario a big long hug!

Back in Hilpoltstein I got to open some presents from Mario's parents that were just perfect! They gifted me a coat, scarf and hat all of which were my favorite color - purple!! I felt bad that I couldn't give them their presents right away, seeing as they were all in my suitcase which was still in Atlanta, but they didn't seem to mind. I went upstairs to lie down for a bit, but that inevitably led to a little snooze and I was out for about 2 hours! Even with that nap, however, it was an early bedtime for both Mario and I Thursday night.  The fact that I didn't sleep on the plane messed with my perception of time. As a result, it didn't feel like the 26th on Thursday, but rather one extremely long Christmas day!

By Friday I was starting to feel back to normal and even went for a morning jog with Mario.  In the afternoon we made a spontaneous trip to a lake and had a nice late afternoon/early evening walk.  By the time we got home my suitcase had arrived - yay!! - and I was ecstatic to finally change my clothes! At night we ate at a Chinese restaurant with friends and then headed to Nuremberg to continue the fun until late in the night.

Due to our late night, Satruday was spent sleeping-in and generally being a little bit lazy. We tried to make up for that, however, with an adventure to Strasbourg, France on Sunday.  As with most of our trips, our decision to go there was entirely spontaneous.  When we got there, however, we were met with an awesome surpise! The town was filled with Christmas lights on nearly every street. Christmas markets both big and small were scattered throughout the city and signs proclaimed that the city was ''the capital of Christmas''! We spent the day walking, looking around, taking pictures, and eating lots of yummy treats! It made for the loveliest of days, in which I almost constantly had a smile on my face! The day ended with a Skype call to my mom and a movie!

Today was another relaxing day with a trip to the Rothsee after lunch for a nice long walk. We'll probably spend the rest of the day relaxing, as tomorrow we set out for a New Year's Eve celebration in Prague!!

I'll leave you with some pictures!











Christmas time!

Since it is nearly New Year, I suppose I should say a few words about my Christmas! Finals week stretched right up to December 20th, so there weren't too many days at home before Christmas, but boy did we cram them fuller than full!

Driving home!
The first night home called for a lovely reunion dinner with my Russian teacher from high school and his wife. Saturday was filled with family time and an early Christmas feast and Sunday was spent at church and then a Christmas gathering with aunts, uncles, and cousins which involved delicious food and lots of good conversation. Monday we spent the first half of the day in Indianapolis and the evening going on our traditional Christmas lights sightseeing adventure. And then just like that it was Christmas Eve day, which was spent with family and ended in a beautiful candlelight service at church.  My mom and I stayed up late Christmas Eve, making a last-minute Christmas surprise for my little sister, so the 7am Christmas morning wake-up came a little too soon. Nevertheless Christmas morning was a blast and I recieved so many wonderful gifts.  We ate our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of egg-bake and waited for my older sister to come over with her husband to open presents with them as well! We late morning we had to hit the rode to the airport so that I could set out on my latest adventure.

Having spent last Christmas in Russia, I can't even begin to describe how amazing it was to be home for Christmas this year. My family's traditions are so special to me and I certainly missed them while away! Hope you all had the merriest of Christmases as well!

Here are some pictures! 
Making a hospital visit to a former neighbor
Logan opening presents on Christmas Eve
Family picture before church
Christmas pajamas - only this year, we matchd!!
Because we always need a picture with the cat!
Lion King style :D
Traditional Christmas Eve movie
Christmas morning!!
Stockings!
Christmas morning breakfast
Sister and nephew

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Giving Thanks


Due to the fact that my university is awesome, my one-day holiday turned into an entire week of fun. I spent the first weekend after classes got out in Bloomington and Chelsea Squared got to spend some quality time together.  By Sunday afternoon I was home sweet home.  My mama and I put the Christmas tree up and got the lights on it! Normally we're a tree up after Thanksgiving kinda family, but if we wanted to have a decorated tree before December 23rd, before Thanksgiving it just had to be.

                                                 

Monday I picked up my little sister who had gotten a ride to Indiana with some friends from her school and we had some nice sister time running a few errands for our mama.

On Tuesday afternoon I headed to one of my favorite coffee shops for coffee and chatting for more than 2 hours with a dear friend whom I hadn't seen since May 2012 before I left for Germany.  I love that girl with all my heart and although we had kept in touch via the internet during my time abroad, it was great to sit down and chat face to face.  I was so glad to hear about all of the great things going on in her life these days and could tell that she is really really happy and doing what she loves!

Tuesday night Elizabeth, Jimmy, and Logan came over for dinner followed by decorating the Christmas tree.  We streamed the Pandora Christmas station and hung all of our favorite ornaments on the tree.  It's nice to have a young one around who is still so excited about Christmas.  We also got our stockings hung up that night and the house was starting to look pretty festive.  It's exciting to think that this time next year little David will be about to celebrate his first Christmas and not too far off from his first birthday! Also, Mario has already been promised his very own "Grandma Barker stocking" for next year when we come back to the States to celebrate the holidays :)

                                              

                                             
                                     

Wednesday morning I took Mackenzie out to breakfast for some more sister time.  I also had plans to meet some high school friends and we had a lovely girl's lunch together.  It's hard to believe that we're all about to finish university, but it's so exciting to see where we are all headed next! I had my first ever Baby Guinness shot and it was mighty delicious! I mean, how can a shot that is Kahlua and Bailey's not be???

Wednesday evening we went to Thanksgiving Eve service at church followed by a pie social afterwards.  It was good to see everyone there and the pie was most delicious!  After church we packed up the car and were on our way to Grandma and Grandpa's house.

By the time the actual holiday of Thanksgiving was here, I already felt like I had been on vacation for a loonnnnggg time! I haven't had so many days off from school since the semester began.  The morning was spent drinking coffee and chatting with my relatives.  It was a full house with 17 people, but that is WAY on the low side by my family's standards.  Peter wanted to know where the Germans were who visited him in Michigan :) We watched the Macy's Thanksgiving parade on TV a little, but it was mostly just on in the background.  My mama french braided my hair for the first time in many years and we reminisced about the days when I would knock on her bedroom door every morning requesting all varieties of braids and other hairstyles.

The Thanksgiving feast itself was delicious and I was filled to the brim with all of the Thanksgiving classics, accompanied by a nice glass of wine.  And of course, we all had to save a little bit of room for pie after dinner!

                                      
                                      
                                      

And just in case we hadn't eaten enough that day, there was cake and ice cream at night to celebrate my uncle's birthday.  After that little birthday celebration we decided to hit up some of the sales that were already beginning Thursday night.  The only place it was really crowded was Kohl's, but we got some awesome deals there, so it was worth it.  Our shopping excursion went pretty late into the night and even included a midnight stop at McDonald's :)

Friday morning we all slept in a bit.  Mom and I went to a couple more stores and we got in some more quality time with the cousins before they had to head back to Michigan.

Saturday we were up early to make our way to Bloomington for the Purdue vs. IU football game. Elizabeth and Jimmy even came down for the game! I didn't spend a lot of time watching the game, but was happy to see IU winning for once, especially against their oldest rival.

                                     

                                     

Sunday it was back to the books to gear up for the last few weeks of classes before Christmas break!!!

I'm thankful for such a fantastic fun week at home with family and friends.  I'm thankful for good food and a warm home.  I'm thankful for my education and all of the opportunities I have had and continue to have. I'm thankful for God's beautiful creation and how much of it I have been blessed to see and explore.  I am thankful for the most loving, caring boyfriend, who has never stopped loving me these past 2+ years, no matter how many miles we are separated by on a given day.  And I am thankful that by this time next year I will have been living in Germany for almost six months! There's a lot to look forward to in the coming year!!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Baby Shower!

This weekend I had the joy of coming home for a whirlwind weekend of wonderful family time! All three sisters were home for a few days of fun, something that doesn't happen much these days with the three of us in three different cities.  Saturday we were up early running errands and preparing for Elizabeth's beautiful baby shower. The afternoon spent celebrating Baby David's impending arrival was definitely a fun! At the beginning of the shower it was declared that the use of the word "Baby" was forbidden, as part of a game we would be playing throughout the shower.  Any gal who uttered the prohibited word would have to give up her pin to whoever caught her in the act.  Whoever had the most pins at the end of the shower won - such silliness! Other highlights of the shower included yummy treats and watching Elizabeth open many thoughtful gifts for David.  I can't wait to hold little David in January!!

Some of the goodies!


It's a boy!

Sisters)

So many thoughtful gifts! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Catching up




This weekend I had the chance to catch up on a few things I was really missing during my 15 months abroad. The first was Avers spinach pizza. Ever since freshman year way back when we lived in the dorms, my friend Chelsea and I have had a tradition. Whenever we needed a girls night, pizza, breadsticks, and soda were accompanied by hours if girl talk and some sort of girly TV or movie. With both of us being overseas, nearly a year and a half had passed since our last spinach pizza date. So, when the doorbell rang around 8:30 PM, we couldn't wait to get our hands on that pizza. Pizza like Avers, with thick crust and plenty of cheese, just doesn't exist in most of eastern Europe. I remember times in Ukraine when my roommates and I would talk about the foods we missed from back home and pizza was always at the top of my list! Friday night's pizza definitely didn't disappoint!


Saturday afternoon, after leading a Borsch-making event at the Global Village (yummmm) I headed to the stadium for another Bloomington exclusive - IU football.  I'm not much of a sports fan, but there is something about cheering on your uni's team on a beautiful brisk fall day with family and friends that just makes my heart happy.  And while IU may have lost and while I may have been shivering from head to toe by the end of the game, it was worth every second of it!
Chelsea and Chelsea :)


Watching the game with my mama
No game is complete without some tasty kettle corn!
Four years of friendship))

Hope you all enjoyed your weekend as much as I did and caught up on some things you love!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

American Adventures Part II

A much overdue account of our early October road trip.

There is nothing I crave more than adventure and being spontaneous! So when the opportunity arose to join in on a road trip, I barely blinked before saying yes.

We were up early Thursday morning to hit the road and found ourselves in Novi, Michigan by early afternoon for a quick visit at my Aunt and Uncle's home.  It had been almost two years since I had seen them, so it was a much overdue visit! Their youngest son Peter found the boys to be good playmates, engaging them in light saber battles and Nerf gun wars.

When our short visit came to an end we hit the road again for just a short bit until we came to Detroit.  In America and around the world Detroit carries quite the reputation. I have to say, however, that the city center itself was quite nice.  And we didn't even get mugged or shot at ;)

GM Headquarters 

The GM buildings were pretty impressive




Our next move was to cross the boarder into Canada.  The border guard seemed rather suspicious of us, but we crossed the boarder all the same and began the long drive across stretches of nothing but countryside until we reached London, Canada to have a bite to eat.  With full tummies we hit the road to finish out the journey to our destination for the night - Toronto!


In Toronto we were welcomed by the warm hospitality of my dear friend from Afghanistan.  He hadn't quite made it home from university, so we headed out to by some alcohol as a "thanks for letting us stay at your place".  But did you know that the sale of alcohol isn't privatized in Canada? And that it's not for sale after 9 PM! We couldn't believe it, but happened to be in luck - there was one wine store in the area open until 11 PM! We had a nice chat with the guy offering us free wine and cider samples and then bought what we wanted and headed back to my friend's apartment.  My friend and I hadn't seen each other in 5 years, the last time we were both in the United States.  Yet we laughed and chatted just like old times until late into the night. In the morning he made us a delicious breakfast and then gave us a quick run-down of what we should see in Toronto before he had to head to university.  We then explored the wonderful city of Toronto on our own for a while, dodging some rain here and there, until we felt that we had gotten a pretty good impression of the city and needed to hit the road. 

Friends reunited

The group

Nice view of Toronto from his balcony

downtown Toronto

Mario + Tim Horton's Coffee + Canadian Flag



Toronto is really awesome!

Since no trip to Canada is complete without a visit to Niagara Falls, that was our next destination! We were soaked with mist as we approached the falls. We got a few minutes of viewing them by daylight before we headed into the town to eat something.  Then it was over to the American side via the Rainbow Bridge and back to Canada for some final admiration before hopping back in the car and making our way back across the border.

Here we come!

First views of the Falls

Beautiful!








Walking around the town

On Rainbow Bridge

Boundary line in the middle of the bridge

Falls on the American Side


Heading back to Canada!





 By the time we left the Falls it was already getting kind of late, but we decided to drive as far as we could before stopping for the night. We drove through New York and briefly through Pennsylvania and by the time we crossed the border into Ohio were ready to find a place to stay.  We got a hotel coupon book in the visitors center and we called a few places only to find them either fully-booked or overpriced.  I saw a sign for a place in Geneva, Ohio, so we just drove until that exit and ended up taking one of their very last rooms.  It was nothing fancy, just a Motel 6, but the room was clean, the beds were comfortable,and the price was low.  We crashed pretty quickly after our long day

The next day drove through Ohio, stopping in Cleveland and Columbus.  By Saturday night we were back home in Bloomington and enjoyed a night in with my roomies.

Cleveland

Cleveland

Friends!



Blue Slushie Tongue! I think we've been in the car a little too long ;)

Ohio State Capital 

Ohio State Capital 
Sunday we got some much-needed rest before heading to the boys' most favorite place for lunch - Olive Garden!




Later in the day my mama drove down to Bloomington and took us all to the Oliver Winery. After a nice tour of the facilities we enjoy wine tasting while my underage brother had to simply watch and sip his apple juice.

                                  

                                           

So yes, many an adventure was had!!!!