Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 In Review

Well, this has been quite the year!

I wouldn't say that this year was a roller coaster so much as a speeding train. It felt very full and very busy. We grew, we became more settled in our church and life in Tallahassee, just in time to pack up and move away from it for a year. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next year as we return and readjust. Will we pronounce all our "W's" as "V"? Time will tell!

I feel a little guilty for how our life probably looks on this blog. Oh of course you know we aren't perfect and that we don't just have fun, but I can totally see how it might look like that. We did a LOT of travelling this year. We did it as inexpensively as we could, and thankfully earlier in the year we had air miles to help us out and Carson got some conferences funded so I was able to tag along, but wow, what a year on the go. With the exception of June, I think we went somewhere every single month this year. 

We got to see some neat places in the US and got to spend quality time with some pretty fantastic people. It's good that we got those times in, because we moved to Germany in August and we no longer had the freedom to drive to see family over the weekend. Once there though, we did have the freedom to see new places. We visited a total of five countries (Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, Bulgaria and Spain) and quite a few cities in Germany (Frankfurt, Marburg, Heidelberg, Göttingen, Kassel, Rüdesheim, Wiesbaden, Mainz, Cologne, Dortmund, Hamburg, Düsseldorf).

We hope that 2017 is a great year also. I'm looking forward to seeing what's in store. I think we'll see some new cities and countries, and I think it will be another busy year. We've got our hopes up about what it will hold... can't wait to see!

For now though, here's a recap of what we did in 2016 with lots of links to specific posts!

We go to Taco Bell every New Year's Day as part of a weird pact we made in 2011
We rang in 2016 on our couch
We went to Maryland for MLK weekend and had a great (albeit freezing) time!
Carson was sick a lot and Lindsay worried about him getting pneumonia but he was stubborn about going to the doctor.


Tampa's Lowery Park zoo

Leap Day - I feel like since we get an extra day once every four years, it should really just go ahead and be a day that's free from work. Who's with me?
The Deer Cousins Birthday Weekend: We went to the zoo and IKEA in Tampa with Morgan, Caleb, Grayson and Sydney.

Governer's Palace in Williamsburg
Lindsay turned 27, which seems a lot closer to 30 than previously thought.
We went to Colonial Williamsburg for a conference
Even though Florida winters are mild, this month stated pretty chilly. Last March we went to the beach, but we had far fewer warm days.
We found out that Carson was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and we were moving to Germany!


Carabelle Beach
We went to the beach! Since we found out about Germany, we realized we needed to make the most of our Florida beaches!
I went to St. Petersburg/Clearwater to see Christina and Caleb
We went to a local art festival
We also spent a lot of time with Josh and Christina this month. We got together on Wednesdays as a community group, but the group sort of split up and it was just the Bays and the Kings, so we had an unofficial weekly standing date from mid-April until we were jerks and left for Germany.

Top of the Rock in New York City

We took an anniversary trip to New York City!
We celebrated six years of marriage. This apparently sounds like a very big number because it gets a "wow, SIX?" response from a lot of people.
Morgan, Grayson and Mom all visited
Carson aced his first comprehensive exam!
I refinished our dresser by myself and got Carson to update our coffee table

Lafayette Heritage Park 
We did our best to get more steps in this month! We took lots of walks and a few hikes
We celebrated Christina's 30th!
Carson passed his second comprehensive exam! 

Anastasia Beach in St. Augustine
Granddaddy and Grandmama's dock in Beaufort
July was a fun month! 
Went camping in St Augustine for the weekend of the 4th
Lindsay was part of the second annual "Writing Class Girls" reunion, in St Pete this year
Did our very best to do as much as we could with people while also packing and working
We packed up in Tallahassee and spent the last few days of the month in Beaufort

Far too many bags, but ready for adventure

Philosopher's Walk in Heidelberg

At the castle in Salzburg
Spent the first few days of the month in Beaufort and then in Atlanta with family!
We moved to Germany!
We spent most of August in Marburg, Germany for language classes but on the weekends, we definitely got to explore!
We traveled to Heidelberg for a day
We took a long weekend in Salzburg and in Werfen, Austria
We went to Frankfurt for Museumsuferfest
Carson took his final comprehensive exam and set a department record for speed! He is now officially a PhD Candidate and I'm so proud!


We went to Gottingen for a day
We went to the Kassel wasserspiele for a day
We took a boat ride on the Rhine and explored Rudesheim with the Fulbright
We explored Mainz und Wiesbaden
We moved to Münster, Germany for Carson's research under his Fulbright grant
Basically the second we moved to Munster the weather decided to stay cold for good. This was expected but I was still a little sad about that.

On the bank of the Rhine in Cologne
Tower of London
Hurricane Matthew hit the East Coast and knocked up Grandmama and Granddaddy's dock pretty badly. More than that, many lives were lost in Haiti and homes were destroyed in the Southeast.
We visited Ben in Cologne
Jordyn, Ben and Annelyse all came to stay with us in Munster for various reasons and it was fun seeing them!
We went to London, England as a short trip
We carved a white pumpkin for Halloween 

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia

Seven Rila Lakes in the Rila Mountains

Ben and Julianne came to explore Munster for the day
We traveled to Bulgaria for Thanksgiving weekend (Sofia, Plovdiv, Rila Mountains)

Park Guell in Barcelona
We explored Munster's Christmas Markets
Lindsay went to Hamburg (Day 1, Day 2)
We had four days in Spain (Barcelona, Montserrat, La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell)
Carson turned 30 in Spain and then we explored Dusseldorf!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas)

Merry Christmas! 

This Christmas season has been so different because we're in another country. It's been really interesting seeing how Germans "do" Christmas, and also figuring out how to make it special here. Since Christmas fell on a Sunday, we had a whole weekend to relax and enjoy. 

We began our gift shopping exactly five days before Christmas because we planned to only get gifts for one another. We debated giving gifts to one another at all, but quite frankly, I really like giving and receiving presents, so we decided that things would be more special with them. We set a small budget and began our shopping in Dusseldorf, but picked up a few small stocking stuffer items the Friday before Christmas. I also made a list of things for us to do over Christmas weekend, just because I like to make lists.

 On Christmas Eve, we had our annual (I think we started in 2013?) Christmas Movie Day. We began with the old Rudolph cartoon from 1948 and also watched Love Actually, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street (Carson hadn't seen it before!) and a Hallmark Christmas movie that has basically the same plot as the Family Man with Nicholas Cage. We'd planned on a few snacky things for the weekend and Carson found the ingredients for Pigs in a Blanket, so we enjoyed those as we sat on the couch.

Our landlords are from Portugal and they made us some tasty food! Well, I hear that it was tasty. I called my mom and Carson ate 95% of it while I was on the phone.

Carson is always dying to open presents on Christmas Eve, so we opened our stockings. My stocking was one of his socks, and I filled an oven mitt for him. We needed one anyway, and I felt proud of this genius "stocking" idea. Our stockings were filled with a toothbrush, as usual, a kitchen knife, some tongs also for the oven, a little fake succulent for me, a back scratcher for me, and some candy. I promise I do have shorts on... it's just a long sweater!

Carson wears this particular color combination often, but chose it on Christmas Eve specifically because it was red and green. I was wearing a navy and white sweater with purple running shorts and cared less about matching or being festive.

On Sunday morning, we went to church. We'd thought about attending the large St Paul's Cathedral in Munster, but stuck with the church we've been attending. Usually the pews are packed, but attendance was very light. They had services on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas (it's also a holiday here), so perhaps people just attended those? We sang carols and the sermon was on Micah 5 (I know this from the slide with the text and the six words I recognized in the sermon... I don't suddenly understand a ton of German).

It was cold, windy, and had a misty rain, which is my absolute least favorite weather combination! This wall made things look cheery though!

Oh yes, we did take our Christmas tree into the backyard for a picture in hopes of better lighting. I hope none of our neighbors were at their kitchen windows!

It started to rain harder as we walked inside...

We tried our typical "picture in front of the tree" picture... which is more difficult when your tree is so tiny.

And then we opened presents! I don't like to know what I'm getting for Christmas each year, but since our budget was small and since we don't often have money to spend on things we want here, we discussed things more specifically. Now I have two hats! I also received a cutting board (we've been cutting things on the stainless steel oven/counter which is not great), a scarf and a small bottle of perfume (I really wanted this because Carson accidentally dropped mine in the TSA line in the airport on the way to Spain and it broke and went everywhere).

Carson received a new t-shirt (he brought mostly dressy clothes here so the few t-shirts he brought along are super raggedy), some non stretched out athletic socks, a bottle of cologne since his ran out, and a bottle of Gluhwein.

We made a half batch of spinach dip (we forgot to look for artichokes) and realized when we went to bake it that we don't have any bakeware, so we put it in a ceramic bowl and hoped it would be okay. It was, and we enjoyed it with some bread while we watched Christmas With the Kranks.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Park Guell

After La Sagrada Familia, we went to Park Guell. We decided to walk there. The internet mentioned it as being an uphill walk, and it was, but it wasn't an unreasonably uphill walk. 

The park has a free area that anyone can walk around, and then there's an area that you have to pay for that has all the tile and pretty things. The Gaudi House inside the not-free part is something you have to pay even more to tour. We went into the not-free part and not the museum because it wasn't something we were that interested in seeing, but also enjoyed the free part of the park! It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site so they only allow a certain amount of people in the park every half hour, which meant we had ample time to explore until we went into the main park.

We had a terrific view of Barcelona from this park and we'd picked the best day of all to visit because it was warm in the sunshine!

Framed by the trees on the left is the Sagrada Familia, and you can also see some other places we visited throughout the city on the right.

We walked around after that and ended up back in the Gothic Quarter for dinner. 

This was the night before Carson's birthday, so for a pre-birthday dinner he wanted a burger. He said it was great! We sat outside at a restaurant with heaters so we were warm despite the chillier night air. 

We all called it a night early and got to bed at a reasonable time after doing some laundry at the hotel and packing our things. The next morning, we made breakfast at the hotel after sleeping in, and then we headed to the airport early just in case security lines were long. Carson and I spent that night in Dusseldorf because it was his birthday, which I already shared!
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