2008 Christmas Letter

Dear Friends,

The Zabels have the usual to report for 2008 – great trips, work, music, fitness, and church.  (Note:  photos on the family web site  http://web.mac.com/alan.zabel for those interested).

Our major trip this year was to Austria.  We decided on Austria since we had been there briefly on our Danube cruise in 2003 and always wanted to see more.  So we went in May.  We started with 3 days in Vienna, then 2 days in the picturesque village of Hallstatt.  Then on to our usual mode of operation – 13 days in a self catering cottage in the small village of Wörth in an out of the way Alpine valley.  Finally, 2 days in Salzburg, before returning home from Munich, Germany.  In Wörth, our landlords lived in the house next door.  We enjoyed talking to them in a combination of their limited English and our less than perfect German.  Alas, even Cheryl’s fluency has degraded somewhat since her year as an AFS exchange student in Germany 40 years ago.  As usual, we took many side trips, enjoyed many hikes, and just enjoyed being where we were.

We also spent 1 week in New Orleans in July.  We had been top bidders at our church auction last year for a 1 week stay at the Quarter House, an elegant time share in the French Quarter.  Yes, it was hot, but that’s part of New Orleans.  We heard live music practically every night, experienced a great swamp tour and city tour (the Katrina damage is still very evident), a river cruise, unique New Orleans cuisine, and several great museums.  A great experience.

Alan still works as a systems engineer at Northrop Grumman. NG works a 9/80 schedule (9 hour days, but every other Friday off) and Alan is using an accumulated vacation bank to take the other Fridays off as well.  So every week is 4 days of pretty hard work followed by a mini vacation weekend.  Alan enjoys the work, but is looking to working a bit less as he gets older – he will probably retire from Northrop Grumman within about 2 years.

Cheryl is still actively involved in music.  She does fewer “gigs” but has several private voice students. She is still an AFS volunteer, helping today’s AFS students visiting the U.S. and their host families – this year she is an AFS “Aunt” to a girl from India.  

We both remain active at Riviera United Methodist Church.  Cheryl is lay leader and a mainstay of the music program.  Her term as lay leader ends at the end of 2008 and she is thankful for the break and opportunity to do other things.  Alan serves on the finance and staff-parish relations committees. Cheryl continues to lead a very successful women’s Bible study that meets Monday daytimes.

This year is unusual in that we don’t have our next year (2009) trip(s) planned yet.  The state of the economy has made it harder to get excited about trips, but we have noticed that the exchange rate of the dollar versus the pound and the euro has improved quite a bit lately (last year, Austria seemed very expensive at $1.57 per euro).  So we might go to England in the spring. Check our letter next year to find out where we went!

We are still out there, accepting being older and slower, but working out regularly – running, walking, frequenting the gym.  Life is good!

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2009!


Cheryl and Alan