Tuesday, January 31, 2017


For ten days, we spent time with Carson's mom and a family friend wandering through four countries. About a thousand posts on our trip are coming soon, but for now, here's where we went:

Marburg, Germany  

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany 

Munich, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Innsbruck, Austria 

Zurich, Switzerland

Strasbourg, France

Heidelberg, Germany

We are now back in Munster for a few days to rest and recover from our exciting and very cold trip all over! Updates soon!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Oh, The Places You'll Go!

One of the things we were most excited about when we moved to Germany was that we were going to be so close to so many amazing places. Rome may be 15 hours away by train, but when we lived in Cleveland, we were 12 hours from my hometown so what's the difference? We'd be a hop, skip and a jump away from EVERYWHERE! We didn't think it was going to be likely to see lots of places on our list, but we mentally planned on a few small trips when possible.

A mindset we adopted when we moved to Cleveland was to make the most of wherever we were. We're not perfect at this, and sometimes we just don't have the money needed to make that happen, but ever since we moved there, we've tried to adopt this. In Cleveland, we made a "bucket list" and filled it with places to eat (there is so much good food in Cleveland and we barely scratched the surface), places to see, things to do. Thanks to some amazing friends who are die-hard Clevelanders, we got to do a lot of the things on our list and though we only lived there for 22 months, it feels like we got a lifetime of amazing friendships and memories.

Tallahassee is a little less amazing, frankly. It's very pretty and it's a nice place, but it's a lot smaller than Cleveland and hasn't really hit its peak yet. Our bucket list for our time in Florida therefore included a lot more than just Tallahassee. We added Disney World, Jacksonville, the Gulf Coast, Miami, the Keys - and there are lots of things left on that list because Florida is pretty big, and those things take better planning than we were doing. When we move back, we do intend to get moving on those plans but so far, we've seen a lot of the state, made a ton of beach trips, tried some great local foods and events (we LOVE Food Truck Thursday and I miss the gyros from the Valhalla Grill).

So, when we moved to Germany, we already had the "do as much as we possibly can" mentality. We thought that realistically, since we're living on one really limited stipend, we'd be able to go to Amsterdam, since it's less than three hours away, and maybe hit some bordering countries. If you've followed along at all, you know that we've been able to do so much more than just that. In our first month here, we traveled to Austria, spur of the moment, and had visited a plethora of other cities in Germany. We were surprised by how inexpensive some tickets were on budget airlines, and so we were able to see several countries in 2016. This wasn't the original plan, but our super long term bucket list which includes so much unrealistic travel got a little more reality.

Sometimes we will browse RyanAir or Google Flights and find an amazing deal and decide to just go for it. Even though most of these are booked for less than the gas it would take to visit say, Miami and cost less than a day at Disney World, it feels just a little insane to go so many places, and I think it looks SO extravagant online. We know though that traveling across the ocean to go to Barcelona would be a lot more expensive than our two hour budget flight and we would probably have to wait decades to book one of those amazing two week European Cruises (my dream trip). So we try to be wise about it and cut back where we can, and not go crazy with spending while we're traveling.

We also want to embrace where we are, and to make the most of our time. Sometimes that's been a really solid focus on building relationships or getting to know one specific city. When we were in Marburg we were able to make some amazing friends, who you've seen pop up in our travel posts since then. That opened doors for us to visit places like Bulgaria, with an amazing group of people, both building those friendships and climbing mountains. Our time in Munster has not afforded us local friendships yet, but it has given us the opportunity to see more of the world. We're embracing it for now, and we are so thankful to have the chance to live abroad and expand our view of the world.

And eat tapas. And drink Gluhwein. And to maybe see the Eiffel Tower?*

*This is a trip that is not yet booked but we want to try to make it happen

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Things We Did Over Break

So far, 2017 is off to a pretty good start. It's been pretty chilly here, but still nothing compared to the temperatures we had in Cleveland - that's my gauge for cold now. I can't really remember what 0 degrees (fahrenheit!) feels like, but I know nothing feels as cold as those Ohio winters!

The institute Carson works at was on break from December 23 until January 9, so Carson was on a more relaxed schedule. He's not really subject to the whims of the department anyway, but he has picked up a few classes he attends throughout the week when school is in session. Obviously you don't see that part of our lives, because it probably looks like he's ALWAYS home and we're ALWAYS off adventuring.In reality most days he's headed off by 8 and home around 6 and the pictures you see are from weekends or evenings when we're together. Just wanted to clarify that, in case it looked like he was playing hooky for a year! Anyway, he didn't have the burden of classes or meetings, so while he still went to the office every day of the break, he was home a little earlier on some days and left a little later on others. It was nice having him around more! 

But here are some things we've been doing over that winter break.

I researched iPhone cases. I used to have a hard plastic but not super protective case and that worked fine, then I got confident about my ability to protect an expensive phone. I bought a pretty case with no lip on the front and had it on for less than 24 hours before dropping it face down on pavement, which cracked the screen. Since then, I've been using a Lifeproof Nuud case (mine is white/teal). I like it because it's tough, and I know that because I drop it all the time by accident. It's got a clear back, the screen is sealed but not covered with a plastic film (Carson has the Lifeproof Fre and it has one of those plastic things and I HATE it), and is just generally a great case. The one flaw I find with it is that ONLY Apple chargers fit in it. Carson's fits a slightly larger charger size but not mine, and Apple cords are pricey and sort of flimsy. I've also had the case for over a year and thanks to the constant drops, the case has seen better days. It's still protecting my phone, but it has cracks and some of the rubber has come off. Another issue that isn't that big of a deal for me is that the sound quality isn't great. Not a dealbreaker though.

So, I wanted something that was okay if dropped, since try as I might, I have the grip of a three year old (sorry for the caricature, three year olds). I watched countless YouTube reviews and drop tests on phone cases and read countless reviews online before coming up with a few options. I included my old case on the list because I really do like it except for the charger issue. There were some really highly rated clear cases with some crazy awesome reviews (some had fallen off roller coasters or gotten run over in a parking lot with no damage!), but several of them said they yellow easily and I couldn't find any drop tests for those so I was slightly wary. I wavered between the Spiegen Ultra Hybrid in clear, the Caseology Skyfall in Champagne, and the more protective Otterbox Commuter (I didn't really like the look of the clear Otterbox Symmetry once I saw pictures online). I polled friends on Facebook and nearly everyone mentioned Otterbox, so I decided to go for it and order the Otterbox Commuter. Part of the reason I did my research online was because I haven't found stores here that sell any of these cases so I can't check them out in person. Amazon Prime wasn't available for these to ship to Germany, so I had to ship to my mother in law who's coming later this month, or I might have ordered a few cases and compared, then sent one back.

Anyway, that process took many days, and I hope I made a good decision!

I haven't tried these to see if they're like Cool Ranch Doritos, but I thought the name was hilarious. 

The lake has wavered between frozen and unfrozen, and last week it was the most frozen we've seen it. Flocks of birds sit in the center of the ice and we can't figure out why they do that (is it warm/comfortable? Do they know they're safer there because the ice isn't thick enough to walk on?), but they seem very content. We were freeeeeezing on this day as I walked Carson to the office and then did some window shopping downtown.

People have been taking small chunks of ice from the edge of the lake and throwing it onto the thicker ice in the middle, where it breaks and makes a cool sound. 

I haven't been able to catch up with as many people as I might have liked lately, but we have had a few Google Hangouts/FaceTime sessions with people lately. Hi Emily and Tirzah!

It snowed again! The snow was a little more dry the second time around and we saw fewer snowmen the next day, but it was really pretty! It's been pretty rainy and gloomy for the most part and I can't remember the last time I saw a blue sky, so the snow is sort of nice to break up the wet rain. A day or so after the snow fell, there was some hail, which was super unpleasant because we were about a mile from home and had to walk back with stinging wet ice balls in our faces. 

Snow covering the Aasee

I had some really good Kartoffelpfannkuchen (potato pancakes) in Hamburg last month and I've been craving them since. I know they're similar to latkes so we looked up a latke recipe and attempted. The biggest problem was that the holes in our grater are small, so they don't grate as well, and then the mixture was so water even after squeezing for so long, so they weren't great. Next time, we will grate early in the day and leave them in a colander with a dish towel weighed down by something heavy, and maybe use less onion and add a little more garlic or something. They weren't super crispy. I mixed creme fraiche with some chives as a topping and we had applesauce too, since that's pretty good with these. Next time!

You know that I love a good reminiscing session... well, it's been ten years since I graduated from high school so here's one of my senior pictures next to a picture from Montserrat last month! It seems really weird that it's been a decade! 

Carson is taking another class in Syriac this semester from his advisor at FSU and so he's been writing it out when possible. 

Oh! And I may not have posted anything about this but GOOD NEWS, we'd been looking for a casserole dish that was tiny enough to fit our oven and also not really expensive because we're probably not going to lug anything glass back to the US - we happened on this for 5€ when looking for something else and it's so cute. Carson mixed spaghetti noodles with a variety of spices and dairy products we needed to use to make a baked spaghetti the first day we had this, and it was nice to have something in the oven that didn't require reimagining things that can be cooked on a cookie sheet.  It's ceramic and the outside is aqua while the inside is cream. On second thought, maybe we will lug it home!

Anyway, we made this Parmesan Herb Salmon the other night (I saw the video for it on Facebook - anyone else like watching those videos? I love the cake/sweets ones even though I'm never going to make them because I don't like baking and we don't have the right ingredients/measuring instruments here) and it was so good! We sort of modified it because we had smaller frozen salmon filets and we used breadcrumbs instead of almond meal because that's what we had. We'll make this again! It was easy and we didn't need to shop for anything to make it!

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Pizza

I don't know if I've posted this picture before (probably, let's be honest), but this was one of the funniest things that's happened in a long time. Carson brought it up the other day and I just had to search for the picture. 

Here's what happened:Carson was really excited about this frozen pizza. It had been a tough week or a busy season and he was just really looking forward to relaxing in the guest room/office and eating this pizza. I was in the bathroom or other bedroom doing something else. Meanwhile Carson was in the happiest mood, talking about his great pizza and how excited he was to devour it. The oven went off, he put it on a plate and headed on his merry way into the guestroom to eat the pizza. 

Suddenly, I heard a wail of grief. "Oh noooooo!" cried brokenhearted Carson. I rushed in to see what was the matter, thinking surely he was seriously wounded and maimed. He wasn't physically hurt, but his heart had broken. He was standing at the doorway, plate still in hand, looking mournfully at most of the pizza. The offending food had escaped the clutches of the plate and had blissfully smacked into the door and slid down it, before somehow rolling and landing in polka dot pattern on the carpeted floor. For too long, Carson stood there in shock, holding a lone slice on his plate. 

I did not react well. 

Instead of recognizing the gravity of the situation, I saw the humor in it, and my reaction was ill-timed. I burst into laughter and doubled over in mirth. My poor husband, still processing the untimely death of his long awaited meal, turned his head slowly and looked at me in shock as if to say how dare you laugh in a time like this? although he was unable to form words at all. Instead of attempting to comfort the mourner, I grabbed my camera and captured the moment. As I enjoyed the moment, Carson moved through the different stages of grief and landed on a brief stage of anger, which manifested more like frustration, which I now totally understand. I was unfeeling in his time of need. 

The pizza cleaned up just fine and surprisingly left no traces, which I felt was honestly a bit gross. Now I wonder what else had been disguised in that carpet from who knows how many years of prior tenants. The pizza, cloaked by who knows what from who knows whom, was indeed consumed that day. Carson soon forgave me, although his joy that day had been squashed.

Just like the pizza. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

First Snow

I'm proud to say that we survived 2016 without living in snow.

We saw it a couple of times - last January in Maryland and at Thanksgiving in Bulgaria, but it hasn't actually snowed in a place where we lived since we lived in Cleveland. We live in a pretty mild climate here in the western part of Germany. I don't know much about weather patterns, but I'm told our weather comes from the west, so it's got a similar climate to the Netherlands. There are parts of Germany that get very very cold and snowy, but I am quite thankful to not live in one of them. I'm perfectly fine living in a place where the median temperature in December only hovered between 30-40 degrees fahrenheit (and I still don't understand celsius).

Anyway, it snowed, and I'm happy to say that it waited until the new year.

I was filling up my water bottle getting ready to go to bed late, when I looked out the window and noticed that the sky had that "snow sky" look to it. The ground has been covered in a layer of icy frost for a few days, so I wasn't sure at first if the thin white layer was snow or frost, but I looked at the nearest street light and confirmed that something thick and white was floating down to the earth. "Carson!" I hissed like something was wrong (because I'm mean), "come here, quickly! Shhh!" He rushed out of bed and tiptoed over to the window looking for the animal I was surely looking at. "Is it - is it SNOWING?" He whisper-yelled.

Since November, he's been checking the weather for snow and is constantly talking about how it really is the optimal temperature to snow. He'll announce the chance of snow when that's listed too (there was a 20% chance this day so I guess there was something to what he said!) He hurried back into the bedroom and began throwing on sweatpants and shoes and his coat; "I'm going to go out. I have to see it!" So I threw on a coat and boots over my pjs too and we headed out.

There was more snow on the ground than I'd expected, fluffy wet stuff that was maybe only two inches deep. Since it was really late (after midnight) when I'd spotted it, our footprints were the only ones out there. It felt really special. We headed for the bridge, where the night before there had been so much merriment, and stood there taking in the falling snow and the peace and quiet it brought to a sleeping world.

Then Carson built a little snowman and I began reflecting on how maybe I'll start liking snow again since I won't have to drive in it (not super likely because I also don't like how it makes everything wet, and I just generally hate being cold).

It really was a great start to 2017.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!

It's 2017! 
We've spent New Year's Eve in sweatpants cuddled up on the couch the last few years, and for the most part, that's also what we did this year. We went out for errands in the early afternoon on Saturday since many stores closed at 2pm for the holiday (I'm unsure as to why that early!) and then came home, put on sweatpants, and just sort of hunkered down watching Netflix. 

A few days before, we'd learned that the bridge near our apartment got a great view of the fireworks at the Dom downtown, so we decided to head out there at about 11:30 that night. I was surprised to see crowds of people making their way to the same spot, including many young families. We scored a spot by the railing of the bridge to watch pre-midnight fireworks going off. I'm told that fireworks are legal on just the last few days of the year (they sold them at our local market) and so for the last several days of 2016, we'd hear booms and pops throughout the day and even more regularly at night. New Year's Eve was a completely different ball game though. Lots of people were stationed around the banks of the Aasee (and on the bridge itself) and were setting off large fireworks pre-midnight. 

With about five minutes left in the year, the celebration was already well underway and then the countdown began. At midnight, it was chaos. I don't know that I can accurately describe the noise or the feeling or the smell. Everything was smoky from so many fireworks and it seemed that everyone was yelling or popping champagne. We had to jump out of the way a few times from rogue bottle rockets, but somehow remained unscathed. 

The display of celebration totally blew any fireworks show I've seen out of the water! It sounded like a battlefield scene from a movie. There were noise and lights and yelling, although of course major differences in the reason for all the chaos. There were people absolutely everywhere (the bridge wasn't cordoned off, but either cars had stopped or had given up trying to cross at about ten till, and there were people in the middle of the road setting things off). For a people that seems to be largely subdued, Carson and I were surprised at how everyone had seemed to LOSE. IT. There was just so much happening!

Just out of the shot are several groups of people setting off fireworks, and just behind me here is the bridge where all the merriment took place.

Things stayed loud and festive for a long time, so we decided to watch a movie (we rented Jason Bourne from Amazon Video - we really liked the original three but I thought this one was boring) instead of going to bed, since there was so much noise. There were people celebrating with more fireworks right outside the apartment and on every street corner until maybe 4 in the morning. It was hard to go to sleep. I don't know what parents do, because surely children would be going nuts from so much insanity. It was so so fun to experience, and I've never seen that level of celebration before. 

After sleeping in very late on New Year's Day, we went on a walk around the lake. There was quite a bit of carnage left over from the night before, as well as more people setting off daytime fireworks. Since it's been colder, I've seen fewer people walking around the lake on a daily basis, but so many people were taking advantage of a day off and we passed crowds of families and packs of runners as we made our way around.

The sky was beautiful, and although it was really windy and cold, it was a really pleasant late afternoon for a walk.

For dinner, we cobbled together a baked spaghetti to use up some remaining dairy in our fridge. Our tradition has been to go to Taco Bell as a part of a pact we made in 2011, but a Google search revealed that the closest one is four hours away on Ramstein (military base that's south of us) and so we didn't do that this year (side note - Ben and Ivan found one in Barcelona and while we went to Montserrat, they made a pilgrimage there. They also got leftovers and so Carson was able to have some too).

I don't think any fireworks display I'll see again will have this level of celebration, and I'm a little disappointed by that! The Germans know how to throw a good New Year's Eve, and we weren't even in the middle of the city, or even in a large city! 
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