Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Herzliche Weihnachtsgrüße!

We hope that this holiday season finds you and your family healthy and happy. For us, this has been a wonderful year with lots of happenings. We have been able to watch W. grow and become quite the independent little person and sadly we have seen the remnants of her babyhood slip past.
J. has been to many exciting new countries with his new job and has had the chance to experience a variety of different cultures- not to mention new beers! We really are fortunate that we are able to have this opportunity to live abroad and do so many things as a family.
Speaking of family, we will be adding another little one to our brood in July! Baby Archer is expected to arrive on the 2nd, but I know with Archer and Whitney genes, it’ll probably be later rather then on time… especially if baby’s anything like my mom… (Love you mom!) keep checking the blog for more up dates.
Well lucky for me, and for you, I’ve been keeping up, pretty much with our doings here in Germany for the past year on this blog. Hopefully next year we’ll have many more adventures to add to our story…

Fröhliche Weihnachten,

The Archers

Saturday, December 20, 2008

St. Nicholasbahn

Last Friday we took a special holiday steam Christmas train ride- St. Nicholasbahn trough our village with a few friends. The train is from the 40’s and very vintage. About 10 minutes into the ride St. Nicholas came on the train with Black Peter (he reads off all of your bad deeds over the year) and handed out treat bags to the children. The bags were filled with a bread man, chocolate Santa and a licorice flavored cookie, along with some Clementine oranges, which are very popular right now. W. was feeling under the weather, but really enjoyed the ride. It took about 2 hours, with the train traveling about 5mph. We stopped for an intermission ½ way through, got off the train and had sausages and hot chocolate at one of the depots. The children were then able to see St. Nicholas personally if they wanted to. There were no 2 year olds that volunteered. For more info (in German) go here: Here are a few photos from our trip:
She ate the whole bread man!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

For the past few days we've been experiencing a change in the weather. Usually this time of year in Germany brings lots of cold blustery days filled with rain. The kind of weather that makes you hurry from the car to the house, or to the closest warm shelter available. It is still cold and windy here, but the rain is what's been missing. Snow has taken its place, and in that, a special spot has been filled in the heart of a young girl. A spot she didn't know that was available for weather. Snow has become the rage in our household. It's good for everything- throwing, kicking, stomping and eating. Even in the dark of night, a little voice cries out, 'Mom, can I have my boots to go outside in pleeze?' And so the love affair begins with the cold white stuff. Soon I know that I'm going to be hearing, "Mom, I'm going to climb this mountain now...' I wonder where she gets it...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Brugge and the English Channel

This past weekend we packed the car and headed out once again to Belgium. Our destination only 2 ½ hours away, and a place where old Europe lives. Brugge, Belgium is about an hour from Brussels situated in the northwest corner of the country. The old part of the city is a beautiful reminder of times past where the streets are all break-your-neck-cobblestones and the roads have no discernable pattern. The houses are small but built well, and the churches are magnificent. There are several squares and many more chocolate shops. There are also horse drawn carriages that will take visitors around the old city and give a limited tour of what old Brugges has to offer.
Being the horse lovers that W. and I are, we opted for the buggy ride, and J. didn’t object. This time of the year day light is of limited quantities- because of the latitude and because of the constant cloud cover. Our ride was at twilight, the city shops were lit up and there were oodles of pedestrians out strolling the city streets. The experience was very fairytale, and W. and I enjoyed ourselves very much. J. not being much of a horseman was gracious the half our journey it took to tour the city.
Accommodations in Brugge are expensive, but we were able to find a reasonable hotel at the Hotel Groeninghe using a Rick Steve’s recommendation: This hotel included a great European breakfast and was centrally located. The only disappointment I would point out was that you have to park your car at the train station and have a ten minute walk back to the hotel. But not that I’m complaining…
For us, a complete day was enough to see in Brugge, so we loaded back up into the car and drove another 20 minutes away to the Belgium shore town of Oostende which over looks the English Channel. This cute little town was once the vacation hotspot for royalty, but now is open to all sorts of tourists. The beach reminded me of an Oregon beach- cold and windy with drizzly rain. There were no boulders sticking out of the sea, but there were loads of misshapen rocks (small enough to fit into your hand) and all the sea shells a girl and her mom could carry. Belgium: a very fun place to visit!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Luxembourg and Trier in a dash

Traveling with a two and a half year old is tough. Traveling with two 2 year olds and a 5 month old will test the limits of reason. But what else is there to do in life but to be unreasonable some days. Our most recent adventure took us south to Luxembourg City, Lux. What a beautiful place- full of parks and coffee shops, there is little else to want on a chilly Saturday afternoon. (Well maybe a nap)

A map is not required to see the city; it is full of pedestrian walks and signs that point you to where you want to go. After wandering around the shops and eateries we strolled on over to the Gëlle Fra monument which shares one of the most magnificent outlooks in the city. Being October, all of the leaves are starting to change, and for me, it was heaven to see. As I mentioned before, we were traveling with small people, and we not able to stay long in the city- but we know now how long it takes to get there, and what we want to visit when we come back.

Being associated with the armed forces does have its advantages. One of these is the benefit of being able to stay at the temporary lodging facilities on the bases in Europe. Where a night in a local hotel would cost you € 80, a night with the army will only be $25. This makes traveling for us very reasonable- AND the facilities are very nice...

The next day we did some shopping at the American stores on base- sometimes it's hard to find what you really want around here- and then headed out to Trier. Trier is a most wonderful city situated on the banks of the Mosel River neighboring Luxembourg. The countryside is well known for their wines and the city it's self boasts a history that is over 2000 years! Once called the Roman capitol of the north, you can still see evidence of Roman occupation in the amphitheater, the ruins of Roman baths, and the Porta Nigra, the best preserved Roman city gate north of the Alps. There is so much more to see in Trier then the ruins of the Romans- Trier like most large cities has a beautiful cathedral that is worth a trip to see. And if the cathedral doesn’t impress you, then the shopping and gastronomy is sure to do the trick. Even the children we brought along seemed to like this place.

Europe is a fun place to visit, and I am so glad that we have all of the opportunities that we do, and we look forward to seeing more with some gusts- so come over, the beer is great here!

PS: So being overwhelmed as I was with small people, the camera did not make an appearance on this trip- BUT it did make the trip with us... resting the whole time in it's bag where it did lots of good taking up valuable car space.... SO, there are no photos... sorry!

PSS: W. started kindergarten last week- actually speilgruppe, and she is fast on her way to learning more German than I!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Edinburgh, Scotland

Whew, vacations can be tiring! Luckily they are also a lot of fun, so it's all well worth the loss of a few Z's to be able to see new and exciting places. For our third anniversary we booked a trip through and found ourselves in the capitol of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Only a short trip from where we live, we were able to take advantage of arriving in Scotland around noon, and using the beautiful weather to tour about the area closest to our apartment. From almost every point in the city you can see the castle- it’s a huge structure sitting atop volcanic rock, and impressive from all angles. We were drawn to the top- albeit the long way around through areas tourists weren’t allowed and reached the entrance with the help of a park ranger. We were given a short tour of the castle then left to ourselves to explore the place. Visiting the crown jewels and the dog cemetery were two of the highlights of the experience- but for smaller versions of the Archers, the cannons were the place to be, and to sit.
After leaving the castle, we were shown first hand how quickly Scottish weather can change, and hastily found activities to do while indoors. Somehow we managed to find ourselves in the Scotch Whiskey Appreciation Society museum where J. was able to brush up even more on his knowledge of the grain drink. W. and I found a children's museum- Camera Obscura, and we enjoyed and hour or so trying out different science experiments. In all it was a great way to spend the afternoon in Scotland.
The rest of the trip is a bit of a blur, but we were able to see so much of Edinburgh. We took a tour on the Royal Yacht Britannia, visited Holyrood Palace, Saw the National Gallery of Scotland, the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, walked through the new Parliament building (I would have never done this unless J. hadn't insisted) strolled the Royal Mile, Princes Street, Kings Street, Queen's street, and about 100 miles of other streets whose names change every block.
I think that we were able to get a good feel of the city after our 5 day stay, and I can say for two of the three of us, we will be definitely be going back!
Here's a link to for the pictures- there's too many to post on here..... Enjoy!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Yet another monistary visit

What do you do on a lazy rainy Sunday? Well if you're an Archer living in Europe, you visit a Trappist brewery. Today happened to be our lucky day, and being only an hour and a quarter drive from fine beer prompted us all to load up in the Subaru and head over to Belgium. Once there we enjoyed delicious sandwiches at the monastery cafeteria, and of course Achel beer- both the blonde and brun for those interested. They also have fantastic soup and soft serve ice cream which W. can attest for. There is a small wooded area with trails, and horses pulling buggies in the street. The monastery property is located in both Belgium and Netherlands, so you really can be two places at once! We weren’t able to tour the grounds- but we did see a couple of monks. What a treat for a Sunday in Europe!

And because I didn't bring my camera with me, here are some shots of W. practicing the backstroke in the tub. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Not all of our lives are filled with travel and adventure every week, but for some lucky members of this family, they get to see the lion's share of Europe. J. had some work to do in Italy last week, and by chance he had a day off when he was there, and was able to go sailing and snorkeling. Here are some pictures from his recent adventure:

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Summer fun

Wow, the time is just flying by. I can't believe that it's already August! Only a few short months and the weather will turn and for most of us that will mean sweaters and mittens and steaming mugs of deliciousness. However it is still summer and we are enjoying the spoils of the season. As a family we haven't been 'doing' too much of anything, so we decided we needed to go some where. Luckily we live in such a place where there's plenty of some where’s to go. We really haven't done too much camping since W.'s birth, and so it was decided that now is as good of time as any to go. Off we were to one of our favorite countries; Belgium. Where not only do they have rock climbing- which I've been jonsin' to do, but they have beer.

My first tip that something might be amiss is when we drove into the campsite, and I didn't see any other toddlers. We searched for the perfect campsite by driving in a circle around the park, and choosing one of the three available remaining spots. W. was a great helper while we set up camp. She was in charge of driving the parked car, and is now a master at using the horn, much to the annoyance of her mother. And it wouldn't be camping if there wasn't an abundance of food. J. found a comfy seat in the tent and proceeded to teach W. how to feed him. She is now a master at opening the cooler and rooting for junk food. They both seemed to love this, and who am I to discourage father-daughter bonding?
Sleeping with a two year old is not really my idea of a good time. All night you're getting kicked elbowed or having your blankets removed. Not withstanding the physical discomforts, as a mother I am constantly worried that something might happen while W. is asleep, and I won't know about it. So when she is lying next to me, every time I move, I need to check on her. Sleeping on the ground affords many of these opportunities. But the real obstacle camping with a toddler is getting to the sleeping part. Saturday was very exciting for W.- so much to see and do that she didn't take a nap. (Not for a lack of me trying to convince her to take one) So by 8pm, I thought that she would be exhausted. NOPE! Being in a tent is awesome, and who in their right mind would want to sleep? Finally at 10pm her little eyes shut, and soon after mine did too.

It seems in Europe you need to belong to some sort of mountain climbing club to be able to climb the rocks. So unfortunately we were left on the sidelines admiring the boulders from afar, but we've got a pretty good idea of what to expect for next time. In Belgium almost all of the land is privately owned. In order to climb, you need to get the land owners permission, and pay a fee. However the countryside is beautiful and the rocks are enticing, so we'll be back...

We did however check out the Chimay monastery and sample all of their delicious beers and cheeses. This is one of the nicer Trappist monasteries that I’ve been to. If you’re ever in the area, check them out, you’ll be glad that you did.

Here's a few parting shots from when we came home, and were putting our supplies away. (Many days W. pretends that she's a cat. She'll meow and make slurping noises like she's licking something. As you can see, she is also taking on other feline characteristics!)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

To Belgium and beyond!

So we did it. Today we took an epic adventure, and we made it home intact. What is this nonsense you may ask? Well, I will tell you. Coming to Europe my dear husband and I decided that we were going to become bike riders. Not just your every day hop on and stroll through the neighborhood kind of riding, but people who ride their bike to places. Ever so slowly-for me, and not so slowly for my husband- who by the way is very quick on the bike, have been building up our stamina.
Now to put this into perspective, I think my stamina is the one who needed the building. So almost daily, when the weather permits, I've been trailering W. over the local hills. To the base, to a friends house, to the park. Where ever we needed to go, that we could reasonably ride our bike to. J. on the other hand has been steadily riding his bike EVERY day to and from work- about 8km one way since January. So you see, it is now July, and we should be able to do more then a quick outing.
Belgium. This is where I thought it would be fun to go to. To get there, we had to cycle through the outskirts of Germany, and then traverse through Holland over the bridge and through the woods to Belgium. What a cool way to spend the day! Finally looking at the logistics, we figured that we would drive to Belgium- Massik, and then ride home from there. Somehow we'd figure out a way to get the car back. After an hour and a half of riding, we all decided that we were getting pretty hungry, and stopped at the local train station, 10 minutes from our house. It was a great setting to finish our goal. We rode 30km today, and through 3 countries. How many people can say that they did that this weekend?!

Post script: Here's a few pictures from last weekend. W. and I went to the neighbors house to ride their horses. We both loved it. I can't believe how lucky we are to have such great people living by us!

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Well, it's been pretty mellow around here lately. All of our visitors have gone home, and the temperature is warming up. So, last Saturday we were feeling a little lazy, and decided to get up and check out another local castle.

Burg Trips is located in the town of Geilenkirchen, about 15 minutes from our house. It is now a retirement home, but visitors can still admire it's beauty- if only from afar. Only visitors to the residents can see the inside.

Surrounding the castle there are several walkways and bike paths that meander through rose gardens and beautifully up kept lawns. The castle is surrounded by a moat which is now home to many ducks and a swan family. Luckily for us, the swans are used to people, and will let you come quite close- providing you have a snack for them. W. was in love their babies, and wanted to follow them into the water.

As many of you know, we have the tiniest of back yards. However, our neighbors have a huge yard. Horses, dogs, a cat, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and children fill the area. Well last weekend there was an addition to their amazing play area; a pool. It's summer holiday here, and so the kids are out for the next six weeks. Heaven for W. since there is usually always someone around for her to play with. With the addition of the pool, the kids are always out in back, and W. is right there wanting to be in the action. The children are good natured about it, and play with her for a little while before they go back into their crazy wild ways. W. loves it, and anytime she hears voices outside she gets a huge grin on her face and shouts 'kids!'

We've also been working on potty training and art. Sometimes at the same time. Potty training is not so bad, providing W. is not wearing any pants. As soon as something covers her bum, then she forgets all about it. So, this summer we have joined the bare bottomed club, and walk around with out anything on. Well W. has a shirt on usually. And I almost always have something on... ok this post is getting out of hand...