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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Munich, Germany: Sunday in Deutschland

While planning our trip to Germany, we were really excited to attend church in the ward Matt was a part of as a missionary in Munich. Unfortunately, we discovered upon arrival that the building was being renovated and ward boundaries had changed. Plan B took us to an international ward about 45 minutes away from our hotel, and we enjoyed breakfast from a local bakery as we waited for the U-Bahn (pronounced "ooo-bahn").
When we arrived at the chapel, this sign was such a welcome sight: Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzen Tage, or "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
And an even better sight was walking in the front doors and seeing a man greeting people as they came inside, a man Matt knew well. Ikenna is an African refugee whom Matt had taught the gospel to and baptized five years ago, but whom he had lost touch with since.

Matt approached Ikenna, stuck out his hand, and started to say, "I don't know if you remember me, but my name is Matthew Da..." He wasn't able to finish, because Ikenna had already thrown his arms around Matt in an embrace suitable only for a much beloved friend. Ikenna then turned to me, with tears in his eyes and a giant smile on his face, and excitedly explained: "He brought me to the church! He brought me to the church." It was such a sweet moment between the two of them, and such a special one for me to see the fruits of Matt's labors and experience firsthand the joy that Matt's missionary service had brought to another's life.

The scripture found in Alma 17:2 immediately came to my mind with an increased measure of understanding. After being apart for several years, Alma happened to meet up with his dear friends, the sons of Mosiah. The scripture continues: "Therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God."
(I promise, Ikenna was ALL smiles before and after this picture! Apparently, it's a cultural thing from his African roots to not smile in pictures.)

Ikenna reported that his two friends, whom Matt baptized as well, were both still strong in the faith and active members of the church (one had moved away and the other had to work that day). That experience alone made the entire trip worthwhile and still brings tears to our eyes tonight as we recall it.
That afternoon, we took a little nap (after all, we'd been going non-stop since we got to Europe and were still incredibly jet lagged) and enjoyed a quiet Sunday stroll around Munich. We brought our camera out for a quick picture at the Karlsplatz fountains, but kept it tucked away the rest of the time.
It was really nice to forget we were tourists and instead just walk hand in hand, enjoying the evening together as we meandered around the charming old city. A special Sunday, indeed.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Greatest Idea on Earth...

... compliments of the Happiest Place on Earth!

When Matt and I saw the commercials for Disney's Give a Day, Get a Day program, it was a no-brainer. The day sign-ups began, we registered to knit scarves for the homeless and marked our calendars!
The big evening arrived and we enjoyed a gorgeous drive to Rancho Cucamonga, where we met up with our group.
It was an interesting mesh of grandmas and those doing court-mandated service. We joined the grandma side of the room. :-) As a 4th-grader, my class crocheted hats for a homeless shelter, so I picked up a crochet needle and got to work. Meanwhile, the sweetest old ladies in the world took Matt under their wing and taught him the ropes. They were so cute; every time Matt would make a mistake, they would tell him he did absolutely nothing wrong... and then take his little scarf, undo a couple rows, stitch it all back up, and hand it back with a smile.
In the end, we made a couple scarves and came away with a great experience, a new talent (hooray for husbands that can knit!), and a free day pass to Disney. We're actually going to use our voucher toward a Southern California resident annual pass (making it cost a mere $100 each for a whole year of Disneyland!) but you can also use it toward a hopper pass for your family vacation. We highly recommend it!

*PS: I saved this week's Europe post for Sunday, in case you'd like to see!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Babies and Such

Simply put, I love babies. So, naturally, I spent nearly my entire Utah vacation with them! My other half, Liz, had her first baby in January and I was dying to meet him.
He's the sweetest little boy! I hogged him for an entire afternoon and it was wonderful.
The rest of the time, it was all about my own babies (fine, they belong to my mom). They're getting so big! It's really not right that they grow up so fast.
Or that they love Matt more than they love me.
Luckily for me, I got to stay a few days longer than Matt did and was thus able to buy their love with ice cream cones at Macey's, among other things. The boys were cracking me up with their race car cart "racing" and ice cream licking strategies.
I begged my mom to let me take one home to "Talifornia" with me but it turns out she loves them, too. I think I need a Plan B.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Everything's better as a tourist

As a teenager in California, I would bundle up in a down coat if the temperature fell below 65 degrees. Consequently, when my family moved to Utah while I was in high school, I didn't venture out much during the wintertime. In fact, that first year my "winter" consisted solely of running from the house to the car in short little shorts at 5:45 a.m. for cheer practice; I tried not to go outside any more than was absolutely necessary.

It got better in subsequent years as I'd coax myself out of the house for a short sledding adventure every now and then. But I was convinced that all of those skiers and snowboarders who would actually make a conscious choice to spend a full day in the freezing snow were, quite simply, crazy.
Then I moved back to California and, naturally, decided that whole snowboarding thing looked fun. By now, I've learned the magical powers of Under Armour and layering, so spending an entire day in the snow is surprisingly tolerable. Moral of this story, kids? When I was back home in Utah, I went snowboarding for the first time. And it was a blast!

Since Matt's a great snowboarder and my husband, he took on the initial teaching duties.
It looked something like this...
... or this ...
... the entire time. We've since decided it's not a very good idea for men to teach their ladies how to do anything. More specifically, it's not a very good idea for Matt to teach me German, golf, or snowboarding. I make him laugh, he makes me laugh, and we get absolutely nowhere. He is also way too nice and I milk it for all it's worth: "Could you please help me up with your big, strong muscles?" "Babe, don't let me fall!" "Can't you just hold my hands the whole time, sweetheart?" Yeah.

Needless to say, I became well acquainted with "Easy Street."
Then my 16-year-old brother Christian took over teaching duties. His teaching method was less "I love you, my delicate flower" and more "Seriously, Ashley, just do it already." It worked pretty well. Turns out, he's also full of great tips and could make good money as a ski instructor one day. Within minutes, I went from this...
... to this! Hooray!
So I graduated from the bunny hill and joined Matt, Christian and Matthew on the grown-up slopes. (I'd say "Hooray!" again, but I don't want to go overboard.)
As it turns out, it's GORGEOUS up there! All these years... who knew?
I was pretty pumped after my first successful ride down the slopes.
(And equally excited with every single ride that followed.)
Ah, victory is sweet!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Underground Ketchup Brigade

If you only know one thing about my family's eating habits, it should be that they are serious about their ketchup.

Del Monte ketchup mysteriously disappeared from Utah shelves a few months ago and it's been really rough on my siblings. Since Del Monte ketchup is plentiful out here in the desert, Matt & I happily supplied a box of it as a funny little Christmas gift. It got actual cheers from the entire family.
Little did we know that our one-time gift would lead to constant requests for more. Thus, our backseat on the way to Utah last weekend looked like this:
Like I said: serious about ketchup.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aying, Germany: 4-wheeling in the Bavarian countryside

Upon arriving in Munich, we immediately met up with our German friend Matthias. He took us to his hometown, a beautiful neighboring village called Aying. Along with a delicious authentic German dinner, Matthias and his family had a little surprise in store for us: 4-wheelers and acres upon acres of private farmland and woods for us to explore. What a welcome! And what an incredible way to explore the countryside in Bavaria.
Oh, it was gorgeous! An excellent surprise, for sure. (Thanks Steinmuellers and Clara--I know you're reading this!) We had such a fabulous time!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I almost forgot to post my absolute favorite picture from Louisiana.
Actual instructions on our beloved Garmin:
Maybe I'm easily entertained, but it made me smile the whole way to Alabama.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Orleans, LA: Little visit to the Big Easy

Since it's Fat Tuesday* and all, I thought I'd share our quick visit to New Orleans last fall! I was flying to the South to meet Matt in Alabama and figured it was as good a time as any to cross Louisiana off our 50-states list. Matt picked me up from the airport in NOLA and we checked into the beautiful downtown Hilton, compliments of a $40 room through Priceline. (Have I mentioned that we adore Priceline? Because we do.)

We then took a cab to the (in)famous French Quarter and dined at a highly-recommended jazz club. I must say, the authentic Cajun food was delicious. And the atmosphere, with the live jazz band playing in the background? Fantastic.

After dinner, we walked around the French Quarter a bit more...

... strolled along the riverwalk...

... and made a little purchase before heading in at 10 pm. (We weren't too interested in experiencing the night life in NOLA, if you know what I mean.)

Before heading back to Alabama the next morning, we enjoyed touring around the French Quarter in the daylight. Most of what we saw in New Orleans has been renovated since the hurricane, and the buildings still have so much character. It's definitely a unique city!

I have a little secret, though: we still like the Disneyland version better.

*Just for the record, I by no means participate in Fat Tuesday! Phew.
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