Escaping to the Emerald Isle!

Hi all, apologies that it’s been an eon since my last blog post, but ya know, that’s life! Things are busy here as always, it was a nice spring and summer full of festivals and hikes and fun with friends. We’ve really spent the last few months getting to know Germany and the area we live in which has been great. But of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t use our prime location to explore other countries in Europe!

For Labor Day weekend we met up with our friends Lisa and Eddie and took a trip to Ireland together. If you are particularly observant, you might realize that these are the same friends we met in Hawaii and did a lot of hikes and trips together with… when we found out that they were moving to Germany too, we were thrilled! So this was our first reunion trip together and it was amazing. When I posted on FB that we had landed there, a lot of people said that this was their dream trip, and I can see why. It really is as green and naturally gorgeous as you see on TV & the movies.

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The pics above are a few I took on the day we landed. We flew into Dublin but we actually rented a house waaaaaay on the other side of the island in a town called Killorglin, it’s about a 4 hour drive from Dublin. Huge thanks to Eddie for driving the rental car- none of us wanted to deal with the whole “driving on the other side of the road” thing. Not gonna lie, it freaked us out a bit, but Eddie had some experience from having previously driven in New Zealand so he was up for the challenge. It was a manual transmission so I test drove it a bit in a driveway just to try it out, but I wasn’t exactly ready to hit the road LOL. Anyhow, it rained a lot the day we landed so we didn’t get to see as much of the panoramic views as we would’ve like but it was ok because we had been up since 2:30-3am so the long drive was a great opportunity for Lisa and I to zonk out in the back seat of the car as per usual hahaha. When we woke up we were in a town past Killorglin called Dingle. It’s a really neat little fishing town on a peninsula, so cool. Our first stop was an old skool Irish Bar called Dick Mack’s – funny name, and definitely a hole-in-the-wall kinda place that had been there for forever! The boys had a few pints of Guinness while Lisa and I poked around town doing some window shopping and dodging rain drops. When we returned the guys had made friends with an older Irish gentleman named Hans who was giving them great tips about where to eat, things to see and what to do all over Ireland. Very cool! He steered us to a place called Murphy’s for dinner (There’s a place called “Murphy’s” on like every corner in Ireland, seriously!) and I got to try some authentic Irish Beef Stew!

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After that we headed over to Killorglin to our rental house, which was beautiful. The hostess, Shayla, met us there and she was very nice and helpful. It was a great place to stay for the weekend, not that we spent a lot of time there because we were always out all day, but it was very enjoyable when we were there!

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The next day we woke up to farm fresh breakfast foods provided by our hostess: eggs, yogurt, bread, milk, assorted fruit, and oranges to make fresh squeezed orange juice! We liked it so much we gave her extra money to pick us up some more things at the farmer’s market that morning for the rest of the trip! We fueled up on our tasty breakfast and off we went!

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Our first stop was an area called Bray Head where we did a Hike out to an awesome scenic point where an old watch tower was. Apparently this area was used as point of communication for telegraphs back in the day, pretty cool! The hike was so pretty and at the top the views of the cliffs and the roaming sheep was pretty neat too. You could even see some little islands off in the distance!

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After our hike, we were starving, so we headed over the bridge to another super cute little fishing town called Portmagee! We popped into a little pub and grabbed some lunch. I got to try some awesome and fresh seafood chowder, yum! And of course, the boys had more beer lol. We also tried some kind of an English Mustard with our french fries and it was actually really good- it had quite a kick that we weren’t expecting!

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Next up on the agenda was a trip over to Derrynane Bay. We did a small hike to the beach and walked along it for a long time. It wasn’t raining, but it wasn’t exactly warm either, and yet there were people in the ocean! Very cool beach too, because not only was it picturesque, but the were a lot of huge rocks on the beach with striations from glaciers, that was something I had never seen on a beach before!

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Our last stop for that day was over to Torc Waterfalls which is part of the Ring of Kerry. It’s a very tourist-y spot with a 5 minute walk to see a waterfall. Unfortunately, there was a lot of people there and a good handful of people kept going into the waterfall to get a picture of themselves in the falls, which we all thought was pretty rude because it obscured everyone else’s shots but whatever. Keep that in mind for proper etiquette fellow travelers, that is not cool! So all my shots of the falls have some random dude in it, but I digress. It was a nice little scenic waterfall to end the day with.

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After this, we went back to the rental house and then walked into town to check out the local fare. We hit up this pub called Bunkers and had some tasty food for dinner. I have to say, overall almost everywhere we went, everyone was really friendly. Especially the waitresses and bartenders, they were always nice to talk to! On the way out of the restaurant though, we saw a stereotypical drunk Irish guy yelling profanity at people walking by. It was kinda funny actually but it was late and we had to walk home so we didn’t stick around long to watch that haha.

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The following day we decided to spend more time on the Ring of Kerry. Our first stop was Ross Castle! It’s a dilapidated castle from the 1500’s that was partially reconstructed. Usually you have to pay for a tour, but apparently we were there during heritage week so we got in for free, holla!

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After that we decided to check out a boat tour of the lake. It was covered thankfully, because it started raining. It really is no joke how much it rains there! We didn’t get to see a whole lot because it was foggy at that point, but the tour guide on the boat was entertaining, so that was nice!

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It was lunchtime at this point so we headed over to Killarney National Park and hit up their cafeteria-style restaurant which was actually quite nice. And honestly, they had the largest selection of gluten free food I’d experienced since we got there! I was able to get pot roast, mashed potatoes, a toasted slice of GF bread with butter and a GF brownie…yum!! I’d show you a picture, but I scarfed that shizz so no pics were taken, sorry! Hahaha. As usual, the servings were HUGE so I didn’t finish it and had to take the brownie home for later because it was just too much. Then we got tickets to tour the Muckross House which is a beautifully restored tudor style mansion built in the 1840’s. It has 65 rooms and we got to see I think 26 on the tour. This was the longest and best tour we got to do on this trip, and that I’ve done so far in Europe. I highly recommend it, ESPECIALLY if you are a Downtown Abbey fan. If you’re familiar with that show, then a tour through this house that is so similar to the things shown on that show are going to blow your mind. It was really awesome. Of course, like most castle and palace tours, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, but it was incredible. I would definitely say this is a must see if you’re visiting the county of Kerry in Ireland.

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We walked over to the Petting Zoo after that on the other side of the national park because I was dying to pet a sheep. I know, weird, right?! But sheep are ALL OVER Ireland roaming around looking all cute and snuggly and I just wanted to pet one! Well this was the perfect opportunity because I get to pet three, I was pretty psyched!

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For dinner we went back into Dingle (the first town we visited) by way of Connor’s Pass which is a very scenic and beautiful drive around the peninsula. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain again so we didn’t get the best views, but we did get to see a lot of beautiful natural waterfalls (this time without fools standing in them to block our shots lol). And of course, we saw more sheep roaming around very close to us by the waterfalls!

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On our last day in Ireland, we checked out of the rental house and headed straight to Dublin. When we got there we went into the downtown area and headed for the popular Temple Bar. It was a nice place with great live music. The musician was so cool, Jeff sent him a pint of Guinness! We walked around Dublin for a while after that and then we grabbed  some coffee before we headed to the airport… Irish coffee of course hahaha!

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At the airport, we got settled in waiting for our flights and Lisa and I made a last minute visit to the restrooms when I saw the coolest thing… in the restroom, yes! It’s a hair straightener in the ladies room to freshen up while you’re traveling! I’m telling you, when I saw that, I was like “These are my people!! They get me!!” I can’t tell you how many times I wished something like this were available in other places so I could spruce up my hair when it gets frizzy, especially for certain events. Ladies with curly/wavy hair that you straighten, you know what I’m talking about! Now, I didn’t use this one, because I had no need to that day (Ireland water is WAY better on our hair -like US water- than the water in Germany that dries us all out, ugh.) But had I had a need for it, I gladly would’ve paid 1 euro to use this!  Ok, enough about that.

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This trip was super fun and really a great opportunity and another awesome trip in the books with our friends Eddie & Lisa. We all agreed that it was really nice to be in a country again that speaks our language! The simple joy of being somewhere again where you can read all the signs and the menus and communicate exactly what it is that you want/need and have people understand you is something we no longer take advantage of while living overseas! And of course one of my favorite things was just feeling connected to the island as part of my own Irish heritage. I’m sure I’ll feel this way when we visit other countries my ancestors came from, but my first experience with this was pretty spectacular! :)

Adventures & Advice in Food, Traveling…and Cleaning?!

The alternative title to this post could be “How Pinterest has enriched my life” lol. I have referenced Pinterest on here a time or two before, but if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a website (and app) where you create boards about anything you want and “pin” things on there from all over the internet. It’s a great way to organize things, learn things, be inspired, etc. Needless to say, I have a ton of boards, and countless more pins of cool/interesting/helpful things I’ve seen all over the place. I always enjoyed using Pinterest, but now that I am not working, I actually have time to try out a lot of stuff on there, and it’s pretty awesome!

I suppose technically you can call me a “Housewife” since I am not currently working, but I rather hate that word. “Homemaker” and “Stay-At-Home-Wife” (since I’m not yet a mother) don’t really do it for me either. I searched alternative words for this which include: “Domestic Engineer” and “Lady of the House”. The former words sounds pretty legit/professional, and the latter reminds me of one of my new favorite shows to watch, “Downton Abbey”. Either are preferable to “Housewife” in my book. But I digress…

Since we’ve gotten settled into our new home, I realized something: I give more of a sh*t about being domesticated. I figure, because this IS my job now. Do you guys remember old skool report cards where the teacher would give you “comments” on your grade, usually associated with a number?? Like say for example #4 was “Does not play well with others”. Well I got the same recurring comments from multiple teachers year after year, and that would be: “Takes pride in quality work”. It is so true, I really get a lot of satisfaction out of a job well done, which served me well in school and in my career respectively. But while working, when it came to cooking and cleaning I didn’t care as much. Who has the time to do all that on a regular basis when they’re working?! If you do, then I applaud you (**insert slow clap here**). I on the other hand, found it infuriating. Many arguments were had between myself and my husband about cooking more healthy home-cooked meals and doing more deep cleanings of our apartment. To this I would simultaneously scoff and laugh, because honestly, what was he thinking? Throughout my 10-year career as a Social Worker there was hardly a time when I wasn’t working 2 jobs or working one 50+ hour a week job. By the time I got home (frequently late) I hardly felt like cooking and cleaning, and on the weekends if there wasn’t some family event or another to go to, I generally felt like I deserved to relax and recharge for the upcoming week. But now that I am on my own little sabbatical, I really enjoy this stuff! (If you are working, or a working parent, you might feel like punching me in the face right about now but hold back! I will reveal some awesome things I learned on Pinterest that may help make your life easier!)

We will start with two of my favorite things: food and traveling! Food first of course, hahaha! I have a Pinterest board called “Yum!” where I pin tons of recipes. This is especially helpful for me as my husband and I are the most annoying couple ever to eat with: He’s vegetarian and I’m Gluten Free. This also goes back to why I used to not enjoy cooking as much when I was working- every meal often has to be modified to adapt to one or both of our diets… not an easy task mind you! Anyhow, I like pinning recipes in my spare time and then bringing my laptop into the kitchen to try them out. Sometimes it’s instantly great results, sometimes things need a bit of a modification, and a few times it was pretty much an epic fail lol. I’ll share some good recipes I’ve tried lately here with you now, as well as my feedback on possible modifications to enhance the recipe. You should know that my general rule of thumb when trying new recipes is “the simpler the better”. If a recipe has a million ingredients and takes forever to make, I usually steer clear of it. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!! The best thing to me is when a dish looks and tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen, but you didn’t, so that’s a win right there.

So we’ll start with a recipe for vegetarian spicy black bean burgers. I tried this out a few weeks ago and the hubs liked it but suggested a modification that was easy enough… and he liked them so much it was his special request for his birthday dinner this week, so I got to try it again, and my mods made a big difference! Here is the recipe: http://www.annies-eats.com/2011/06/22/black-bean-burgers/

The taste is great in these burgers but the first time I tried the recipe, we realized that the burgers fell apart a bit when cooking. They needed an additional ingredient to hold them together more… my choice? Plain Oatmeal! I also made them GF so I could eat them by switching out the panko and using GF bread crumbs instead. Side note- if you have Celiac Disease the addition of oatmeal may not work for you. I don’t have CD, but a gluten intolerance in my esophagus which is why I am GF, and oatmeal works fine for me. You know your body so if oatmeal doesn’t agree with you, try an alternative ingredient that will help bind these burgers a bit more and not hurt your tummy!

This next recipe is for fresh guacamole, which I added on top of the spicy black burgers above for an out-of-this-world flavor combo. This recipe is surprisingly simple & easy. After I made it I was like “I’m 32 years old, how have I never made fresh guac before? For shame!!” I will be making this again soon. The author of the blog dubs it as “The only guacamole recipe you will ever need” and she’s right! Here it is: http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/post/1518781/2195042825/  Click on “Continue Reading” to go to the detailed recipe. The only mod I made for this was to add the teensiest bit of sugar because I found it to be a tad bitter when I was done making it. I usually find ways to avoid sugar in my recipes, but this needed it, and the tiny bit made a big difference. Also, love the author’s suggestion about reserving the avocado pits to place in the leftover guac to keep it fresher longer… I tried this and still fully expected to see the top of the guac turned brown/black the next day when I pulled it out of the fridge and was absolutely shocked when it was not!! The guac lasted fresh, green, and tasty in the fridge for 3 days… it might have lasted longer but it was so good we finished it, haha!

One of my recent food obsessions since I moved to Germany has been Brussels Sprouts… SO OBSESSED!! They are quite inexpensive here at our farmer’s market, and when I can’t get to the FM that week I find the ones in the frozen food aisle are a decent substitute. Side note for a moment- for a while now I’ve been reading up on how to eat healthier for your blood type, and the link between your blood type, diet, and illness. Shout out to my friend Lisa who first told me about this back in Hawaii probably a year or so ago. I then got a little book on it and tried making some adjustments, and then recently got another book out of the library about it. Jeff and I are B+, and brussels sprouts are supposed to be amazingly awesome for our diet, which is great because I love them! Sadly, other foods I really enjoy (chicken, peanut butter, shrimp) are not. Every blood type has a different lists of foods that are super good for you, just neutral, or toxic to you. Very interesting reading if you’re into finding ways to be healthier and modify your diet to improve your quality of life. The author of these books is Dr. Peter D’Adamo if you want to look it up. Pins on Pinterest are also available to give you quick reference lists on what is good/bad to eat for your blood type!

Ok, back to the sprouts though… I have been trying multiple ways to make these bad boys because they are just so tasty to me. I literally make them once a week which usually lasts me a few dinners. The other day I tried this recipe which included sweet potatoes and it was fantastic. I omitted the bacon-bits for the vegetarian’s sake though. Sweet potatoes, btw, are another Blood Type B superfood, so it packs two for the price of one in this great recipe! Here it is:  http://www.cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com/side-dish-saturdays-roasted-brussels-sprouts-sweet-potatoes-and-bacon/#jsIyzzB5Krwq06bI.32

Another great brussel sprouts recipe including balsamic vinaigrette and sea salt is here: http://www.piarecipes.com/2014/01/roasted-brussel-sprouts.html For this, I suggest investing in a really good vinaigrette of your choice. I got ours freshly made from our local farmer’s market and it was outstanding. I literally watched them pour it into the bottle we took it home in. This is light years different than the stuff you buy in the store… packed with flavor! A hint for my NJ friends who may be reading this, if you’re looking for a quality olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette, try Carter & Cavero in Red Bank, their store is entirely dedicated to that stuff and you get to sample it all, yum!

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(The pic on the left is  a bit blurry but it’s the black bean burger topped with guac. They both show the sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts recipe, but the pic on the right is more clear.)

The last recipe I’ll share is a healthy dessert option called “Healthy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies”. I’ve made them twice already and will probably make them again tomorrow hahaha. What’s incredible about them is that there are no added sugars, oils, eggs or flour, yet they taste great. Fresh ripe bananas and unsweetened apple sauce give these cookies a bit of sweetness without the overkill (or the guilt lol!). I chose to omit the PB on account of it being one of the foods that, sadly, is not good for our blood type. Something about not being able to properly digest the proteins in peanuts which causes weight gain or something like that. So I included mini chocolate chips and walnuts. But you can also add raisins, coconut, etc. Here it is: http://www.theskinnyfork.com/blog/2013/3/18/healthy-peanut-butter-oatmeal-cookies

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Moving on to my next favorite thing, traveling!! Pinterest gives you a “Favorite Places” board which is where I pin places I want to travel and see. Last weekend we decided to go to Brussels, Belgium (home of my favorite vegetable!) because I saw a pin about it and also because one of my aunts lived there for a couple years a while back and I heard it was cool. It’s about a 4 hour drive from where we are in Germany. What initially attracted me to going there was something called the “Flower Carpet”. I later learned that this is a special event held every other year for one weekend- it’s where they fill the entire town square at the Grand Place with flowers and create a unique design each time. Fortunately, they will be doing it this year in August, so we plan to go back to check it out!

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We just went for the weekend to have a little road trip for Jeff’s birthday and see some new sights including the Mannekin Pis and the Grand Place. We stayed at the Brussels Marriott using our points, and it was conveniently located downtown near everything. Our room had a cool window that kind of looked like a porthole, so that was neat too! It was a beautiful spring weekend and we did a lot of walking around and sampling of things. Jeff tried a few Belgian beers and I tried a few Belgian chocolates. I also had a tasty dinner our first night there of steamed mussels and Pommes Frites, and Jeff had a bangin’ Falafel sandwich!

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The next day we grabbed breakfast from this quaint little French Cafe before the long drive home. The restaurant was called La Mercerie and they literally had only one GF option option on the menu, so that’s what I got LOL! It was called a “mousse” and it was basically ground up cashews topped with peaches. Jeff got a breakfast plate with Polenta, feta cheese, greens, and tomatoes. Very different from what we usually get when we go out to eat, but quite tasty! And the ambience of the restaurant was adorable too :)

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On Monday it was back to reality and as with any trip, our place was a wreck when we got home. I always feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. As much as I try to clean before we go away on trips, there’s always things to unpack and laundry to do and whatnot when you get home. This leads me to my next Pinterest inspired tips for you! In general, I hate cleaning the bathroom. It’s pretty gross right? And it’s a lot of work!! And since we moved in here last month, there has been this super gross and annoying line in our master bathroom toilet where the water streams down from under the rim. It’s all like yellow and gross and calcified from the hard water. No amount of scrubbing with the toilet brush was going to get rid of it. So I did a little research and I found my answer… pumice stones! I bought one for like $2-$3 at the PX in the health and beauty aisle near the nail polish/manicure stuff and this little thing took the stain right out in less than 5 minutes with not too much elbow grease! And it doesn’t scratch the porcelain. I HIGHLY recommend it! Here’s the link for more info: http://www.ehow.com/how_4687595_clean-toilet-bowl-black-stain.html

And by far my absolute favorite new thing I found was on how to get the bathtub/shower properly cleaned!! For years I was using scrubbing bubbles, kaboom, Lysol bathroom cleaner or whatever with results that left me like “meh”. The soap scum build up usually ends up killing my back as I bend over the tub scrubbing the crap out of it. But no more! This tip for cleaning the tub is as easy as 1-2-3. The trick is combining vinegar with dawn dish detergent (I use the blue kind which most posts recommend). Combine these two ingredients in a spray bottle. Some people suggested adding baking soda, but then I read that that clogs up  the spray bottle, and frankly I found that I didn’t need it. I also read that some people heat up the vinegar first but then the addition of the dish detergent causes it to foam up a lot, so I also didn’t do that and again found it to be fine. Spray this mixture all over your tub/shower especially on the trouble spots, then ventilate the bathroom with a fan or open window (this is important as the vinegar smell is pretty potent) and walk away. Let it sit for a while. I gave it 30 min or so. When I walked back in, I lightly wiped everything down with a damp cloth and I kid you not, it all came off so easily… I was shocked! This mixture works really well on glass shower doors too BTW. When you’re done wiping it all down, give it a good rinse down with water and stand back and watch your tub sparkle like never before. Who ever thought I’d be blogging tips on how to clean your bathroom?! Uh, not me, but I wish I knew these tips years ago so I wouldn’t have spent so much time being frustrated about my lack-laster bathroom cleaning skills lol. Here’s the link for further info: http://www.23imaginaryfriends.blogspot.de/2013/08/how-to-clean-your-runners-shower.html

Well, that’s all for now folks. Hope you enjoyed these tips & tricks in my continued efforts to become a Domestic Goddess ;)

What’s New…

It’s been well over a month since my last post… my bad!! Some of you may have been wondering “She’s not even working right now, how does she not have time to blog?!” Well actually, things have been very busy over here! February was a very busy month for us what with moving into our new apartment, getting our new car, and getting our Household Goods (HHG) delivered. Everything happened all at once…

The week of Valentine’s Day Jeff and I got the call that our new car was in… exciting! We got a BMW 320i xDrive, I named her “Lola”, and she is freaking awesome. Depending on how long you’ve known me, you probably know that I usually have a “beater” car, and I always name my cars. My very first car “The Boat” was a big grey Ford that I worked really hard at my waitressing job at at 16 years old and saved up $600 to buy. Of course, beater cars usually don’t last too long. Therefore, I had a few other cars like that until just before I graduated college in 2004 when I bought my very first new car, a Hyundai Elantra named “Pookie”, or “Pook” for short. I loved that car, and she was extremely dependable for the last ten years. In Hawaii I got teased a lot by some of my co-workers (I’m talkin’ about you Leonard!) about having  Pook because she was a “beater”. But the reality is, she and I were together for ten long years, most of those years without car payments… no car payments means money you can save for a future car (or whatever) when the time comes. When I sold Pook, it was a sad day, but she went to a good home- thanks Eric and Joy! In Hawaii we were a one car family and we decided to do the same here in Germany. We could have gotten 2 cars out here and split the difference on the cost of a BMW, but we decided to take advantage of a military auto sales program that gives us a great rate on new cars and ships them back to the States for free when our time is up here. We took a look at a bunch of German-made cars in a similar price range before deciding, including high end VW’s and a low end Mercedes-Benz before choosing our BMW. While we got a great deal on our car, I should also point out that just because we are in Germany doesn’t mean the German-made cars are cheap over here. I believe I mistakenly told someone on FB that a while back, but Jeff pointed out that it’s not true. In fact our car salesman pointed out a car in the German dealership showroom the day we picked up our car that was pretty pricey (even in euro’s) and was not nearly as nice as our car. So, cars are still expensive over here even though they are made here, BUT we took advantage of a great opportunity by going through a program that was available to us. Anyhow, Lola is gorgeous and super fun to drive and I plan on having her for at least ten years as well :)

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The night we brought Lola home I got some pretty huge news- my brother’s twins were just born!! This was exciting and scary, because they were born VERY early at 26 weeks. Additionally, they have some birth defects, health issues, and complications. But the important thing is that they are alive and getting the care they need at a great hospital. So a huge congratulations to my brother David and my sister-in-law Amanda on this momentous occasion! Their names are Laura & Jolene, and I can’t wait to go home soon and meet them for the first time!! Of course, they will be in the NICU for a long time, so thoughts, prayers, and well wishes to this new family are greatly appreciated. And if you have the means and would like to offer additional support, you can make a donation to support the babies’ medical care and get more information here:

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-the-hopkins-twins/118103

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Thank you in advance for supporting my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces :)

Later in the week, on Valentine’s Day, we got the gift of our HHG from Hawaii… which if you’ve been following along, you will realize this took THREE MONTHS to get. No joke, they picked up our shizz in Honolulu the week of Thanksgiving and it took til Valentine’s day to get here. It’s a long trip  obviously and then our stuff has to go through customs and then we have to wait for the moving company to offer us a delivery date. By the time the HHG arrives it’s like Christmas… so many boxes, everything wrapped in paper, and you get so excited to see your stuff again. There’s a lot of “Oh my gosh I forgot we had this!” and “I’m sooooooo glad to have this back” lol. It’s a lot of work of course, but I really enjoy unpacking and settling into a new place… cleaning, organizing, decorating… fun times! As requested (by Megan) here are a few pics of our place.. it’s coming along! We get our next shipment in 6 weeks or so which will mean we finally have everything here. After that I’ll post some more pics. But until then, here’s a few pics of the kitchen and the Master Bedroom:

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I had plenty of time to do this by myself of course because Jeff left for TDY  on a business trip to the States for 2 whole weeks. I missed him a lot, but I got a lot done around here! I also enjoyed spending quality time with Lola cruising on the Autobahn and listening to some old skool jams ( I found some CD’s I burned in college– throwback, holla!!). That was short lived of course because once Jeff got back, he gets to drive her most of the time since he has to go to work lol. So a typical day for us looks like this: Wake up together, Jeff drops me off at the ACS (Army Community Services Center), he goes to work, I work out, and then I walk home and take care of errands and stuff and cook dinner when he gets home. This is what I’m involved in right now:

*Zumba/Zumba Toning

*Yoga

*Walking

*Reading

*Cleaning the House

*Meal Planning & Cooking

*Watching Stuff on Netflix

Most of this stuff keeps me pretty busy in addition to keeping in touch with friends/fam back home and hanging out with our friends out here. BTW we recently learned that 2 sets of couples we know just got job offers out here in Germany so they’ll be coming out in a few months to join our “overseas family”…yay!! :) Anyhow, a lot of people ask me if I miss work, and the truth is, very surprisingly, I don’t. This may shock some people, I know, but it’s the truth. I am really enjoying this new chapter in my life and while I miss Social Work and helping clients and my co-workers, I don’t miss a lot of the other stuff that came with it. But even though I don’t have a job right now, I’m not completely out of the game lol. I’ve been in talks with some people at the ACS for a while now about starting as a volunteer which may or may not lead to a job offer in the future, so we’ll see!

But my new thing lately is really just about enjoying the moment, and appreciating where I’m at. I am so happy out here. Seriously, I am really enjoying life out here and I know it’s going to get even better so that’s pretty amazing! I feel like I’m really using my newfound free time wisely and focusing on what’s important to me- self-improvement, self-discovery, being an even better wife to my husband, and stopping to smell the roses. I’m currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”… ironically, a book I’ve been meaning to read for YEARS and finally got around to LOL. (If you’re not familiar with this book, I am laughing at the irony because the book is about living in the present moment ie, not living in the past or waiting for the future). I’m getting more into yoga and mediation too and sometimes it’s not easy for me, but I’m trying to challenge myself to grow in other ways, ways that I didn’t feel I could grow as much with before due to my life circumstances. So this new journey for me is about focusing less on the mind and more on the soul, really enjoying the present and appreciating the things around me because I know how fortunate I am. It wasn’t always this way, but it is now, and I am eternally grateful for that! More later, have a great day everyone :)

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Welcome To Our New Home!

Well kids, the wait is finally over- we now have a place to call home here in Germany! It’s kind of a funny story of how it came to be…
Back in November when we learned we were moving, I signed into the military/government housing referral website. I found a few cute places on there and flagged them as “favorites”, but until we got here we literally had no idea exactly where they were located, whether it was a neighborhood we liked or not, or even how far they would be from Jeff’s new job. But I knew I liked this place a lot from the pictures and description.
As our move date approached in December, I logged on again and was sad to learn that this apartment was no longer on there- it had been rented. After that I decided not to look too hard into finding a place right away as we were going home for the holidays, so my plan was to look more into it after we returned to Germany in January.
But, as fate should have it, I experienced many a sleepless night when we went back to NJ for Christmas (Jetlag much??), so I logged on again and what do you know– the place was back online and available!! It was 5am in NJ but 10am in Germany, so I gave the housing office a call right then and there and asked to schedule an appointment ASAP when we returned after the holidays. Of course, they couldn’t guarantee that this unit would still be available then, but I had to try.
Luckily, no one claimed the apartment by the time we got back. We had our “In Processing” with the Housing Office on base and they were able to call the landlord immediately and schedule an appointment for us the very next morning- Dec. 31, 2013. That NYE morning we woke up super early, bundled up hardcore, and walked from our hotel, through the downtown area, and to the apartment. The landlord was very nice and showed us everything. The poor tenant before us had boxes all over- he had barely unpacked when he learned that he was being PCS’d again to another country… Which is why the place was only unavailable for a short period of time. As sad as we were for him though, we knew we had gotten pretty lucky. Jeff and I wordlessly rotated through the apartment trying to take pictures around the current tenants many boxes and belongings, only stopping here or there to ask the landlord an occasional question. The reason we were so quiet when looking at the place is because we were warned by a few people that if you make comments like “That’s nice” or “I really like it”, allegedly some German people while consider that a verbal contract and that you intend on taking the place.
Once outside and on our walk back to the hotel, we turned to each other and we knew- we both fell in love with the place! Although this was the first and only place we saw, we knew we wanted to make it our home.
Flash forward one month later to today, where we did our housing inspection this morning and we finally have the keys in our hot little hands! We were INCREDIBLY lucky and blessed to find this place and find it so quickly. It offers almost everything on our list that we were looking for:
*3 Bedrooms
*2.5 Baths
*Open Floor Plan
*Large Living Space (1,700 sq ft)
*Storage & Parking Included
*Walking Distance to Downtown
*Short Commute to Jeff’s Job
So, without further adieu, here are the pics of our beautiful new home (with commentary of course, lol):
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This is the entry hallway looking towards the kitchen/dining/living area. How neat are those columns and lighting fixtures?!
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A small powder room for guests.
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And this is our kitchen! I love it and can’t wait to start cooking and baking again!
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These are the shots of our dining & living area, it’s huge!
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And this is the view out onto our balcony… can’t wait to put a little bistro table and chairs out there come springtime!
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This would be the master bedroom and bathroom. Believe it or not, they are not connected. However, the bathroom has heated floors so that’s pretty darn sweet. We also have a washer/dryer in there and a towel warming rack, which are pretty common here.
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This is the second bedroom.
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And last but not least would be the third bedroom AKA the “Guest Suite” as it has it’s own en suite bathroom for when our lovely guests come to visit!
Even though I don’t think the pics do it justice, it gives a glimpse into our new home. Hopefully some of you reading this right now will be making the trip out here at some point in the next few years to visit us and will be making use of our guest room! Our HHG (Household Goods) have been delayed on their journey from Honolulu to here so we have a few more weeks to wait until we can get most of our stuff back. Next up is getting the last of our stuff shipped from Jeff’s parents house, and then (most importantly) bringing our cat/fur-daughter Holly out here to be with us when we are all set up. Can’t wait! I love unpacking and decorating our new homes so this will be fun, and more than likely I’ll be posting more pics then too, ha! Hope you have all enjoyed this mini-virtual tour of our new home. Looking forward to spending many happy moments and making wonderful new memories here :) <3
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Glückliches Neues Jahr!

Well we are back in Germany for NYE after a whirlwind trip back home for the holidays. It was great to be home, but unfortunately I got a pretty bad cold which knocked me out for quite a few days. Those I didn’t get to see (or get to see enough of) I will be back soon! I plan on making the trip back to the East Coast later this winter or early spring to organize another shipment of our HHG (household goods) that’s in storage and bring our cat Holly to Germany…. both our crap and our cat are housed comfortably at my in-laws for now…thanks guys!

As always at New Years, I enjoy reflecting on the past year…both the highs and the lows, and seeing what lessons I learned so I can make the next year even better.  When I thought about it, it kept reminding me of this one quote I saw on Pinterest a while back. I love quotes, I always have. I have a board on Pinterest called “Favorite Things” that is filled with a ton of great inspirational quotes. It’s actually the board I pin to the most, I guess because I just love looking at things that inspire me and make me happy, those things that ring true for me. As one of my college professors would say, a “nugget of truth”…

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For me, I’d have to say that 2013 was a year that asked many, many, MANY questions. The first 6 months of the year were very difficult for me at work. As much as I’m cognizant of the work-life balance and how much I talk about how important it is (on this blog and elsewhere), there was a very large shift at work for a very long period of time where most of my time and energy was being focused on a negative vortex or black hole that was literally draining me on a constant basis. There were a few vortexes, not just one, that were really difficult to cope with. This lead me to the conclusion that living in paradise is not worth it if you can’t truly enjoy it. I know that’s hard for some (nay, many) people to understand. I get a lot of “How could you leave Hawaii?!” and I get it, I do. I loved it there. And I loved my job too and many of the people and clients that I had the pleasure of meeting and working with. But sometimes in life you encounter  situations that have such a negative impact on you that it’s hard to recover from. Fortunately as I said, those circumstances resolved themselves for the most part by 6-9 months into the year, but it was shortly after that that Jeff started talking to me about the possibility of moving to Germany.

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As I sit here in our extended stay hotel suite in Germany I can’t help but feel overwhelmed and excited by the new opportunities that lie ahead for us here. We are in a temporary place now, but I really look forward to find and settling into a new house, making it a home, and making an even better life for ourselves out here. Multiple questions that we had in 2013 I believe will now be answered in Germany in 2014. I’m extremely optimistic and focused on making things happen out here that didn’t or could’t happen for us in the past year. Just because I’m not working right now in the traditional sense doesn’t mean I won’t be working just as hard on my/our personal goals…just wait and see ;)

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As always, I like to throw a shout out to my best friend, my partner in crime, the love of my life, for without whom none of this would be possible or nearly as magical. I love you Jeff, and I look forward to making even more of our dreams come true together in 2014!! :D

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For now, I hope you all have a quiet moment or two to reflect on the past, learn your life’s lessons, and move on to a bigger, brighter, better future in the New Year than you ever dreamed possible! Much love, hugs, happiness, health, and success to you in the New Year , Cheers! :) xo

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Köln Christmas Market!

Yesterday Jeff and I were invited to join our new American friends on a trip to Köln (in English, it’s “Cologne”), which is a nice 2 hour road trip from where we are at in Wiesbaden. Apparently the Christmas Market there (Wiehnachtsmarkt) is one of the top 5 in Germany! The trip started with some snow, then some rain, but by the time we made it to Köln it had stopped thankfully. Bundled up in many a layer for warmth, we trekked through the train station and once outside, the massive and majestic Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) greeted us!

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We were able to walk by it and admire it on our way to the Christmas Market, which is located just outside of the cathedral. So many people packed in to the outdoor venue to peruse the fine handmade holiday offerings: christmas ornaments and decorations, scarves, jewelry, pottery, toys, etc. It was really a sight to see, with something new and different offered at every booth we passed! When we entered the first thing we did was get some Glühwein (“glow-wine” – which is a yummy hot mulled wine). It keeps you warm AND comes in a super cute mug you can keep as a souvenir of your visit to the market. Apparently each town has their own special collectors mug each year at the different Christmas markets. We made sure to keep one as a nice memento!

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After walking around the booths for a while, we decided to go check out the cathedral. From the moment you step inside, it is absolutely breathtaking. The ceilings are sky high and the stained glass windows were so vividly colored. Candles lit almost every corner of the room with beautiful statues all around. It was amazing. Such a gorgeous piece of history! The cathedral began being built in 1248 but wasn’t completed until 1880. We saw a lot of scaffolding outside around certain parts of the cathedral so it was clear that some renovations were happening to fix or update the exterior. It is very gothic and medieval, with gargoyles and flying buttresses and stuff. The two tall spires are just over 500 feet tall and are an incredible landmark for this adorable city. Pretty neat!

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Upon departing the cathedral we decided to take a little walk over the the Rhein River where we got a really great view of the cathedral and it’s notable double-spires. Right next to the river is a cobblestone walkway with little shops and restaurants, it was really cute. Pretty much how you would imagine little European cities to be. I bet it is gorgeous there in the warmer seasons and even more fun to walk around down there!

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The Christmas Market wouldn’t be complete without some yummy food! They had it all! Noodles, chinese food, keilbasa and sauerkraut, assorted nuts, chocolate, candies, cookies, latkes, meat on a stick, hot pretzels, and the list goes on!! Jeff and I found a few gluten free & vegetarian foods to snack on and settled for the fresh made frites (fries) and a side of Champignons (Mushrooms- sautéed with onions and spices and covered in a light fresh herb and yogurt sauce of course lol)…tasty! We also sampled a traditional German Christmas cookie called Spekulatius which are a spice cookie. Not on my diet of course lol, but I had to sample as everyone was talking them up and how awesome they are. Rightfully so, because they have a subtle hint of cinnamon and are definitely made with a lot of tasty but fattening butter haha.

Though the day started out with snow, we caught a bit of the sun going down as we left Köln for our two hour road trip home. If you know me well, you know that I am like a baby in the car- if I’m not driving, I’m falling asleep to the rhythm of the road LOL. This is typical for me, but even more so because I woke up at 4am and I was exhausted after all those hours of walking. Jeff woke me up on the way home to show me a bright yellow castle off in the distance, it was so cool to see! Not sure what town it was in that we were passing through, but I’m sure we’ll come across it again sometime when I can see it up closer and get a picture.

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As we arrived back into Wiesbaden, the temperature dropped considerably and it was freezing! Fortunately for me, I had my new vest on to keep me toasty warm. This was an awesome find during my shopping trip yesterday- we passed a second hand store with a rack outside of outdoor gear and for 36 euro ($50) I was able to score a wonderful black goose down vest. I love vests in the winter. And pretty scarves. And fun mittens and gloves. In fact I saw this awesome matching cashmere fingerless glove and scarf set at this adorable German boutique yesterday but it was pretty pricey unfortunately. Anyhow, we’re staying layered up and snuggling for warmth out here, and as the snow rolls in for many people out there, I hope you all are staying warm too! :)

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Hallo aus Deutschland!

…or “Hello from Germany” for those unfamiliar with the language! Well, it’s been almost a week since we arrived in the land of beer and schnitzel and I finally feel like I’m starting to adjust! From the second we landed in Frankfurt, it’s been a real trip. We were literally let our of our plane on the tarmac, herded like cattle onto a bus, and shuttled to the actual airport where we somehow managed to find our luggage carousel and our ride. Don’t ask me how the hand towel/drying thingy works in the Frankfurt International Airport bathrooms though…still haven’t figured out that one yet lol. The airport here is super nice though, it was pretty fancy and all decked out for Christmas… a nice welcome!

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Like an angel emerging out of nowhere, Jeff’s new boss found us at the airport. We were pretty lost, confused, and tired at that point and with no cell service or wifi we were pretty sure we were screwed. But alas, she found us! How people found each other back in the day before cell phones I have no idea. She whisked us off to our hotel which is on one of the Army bases here in Wiesbaden (instead of one large Army base, there are a few small ones located pretty close to each other). At first when Jeff mentioned possibly staying at a hotel on base I was like “Uh, no.” Military lodgings not exactly known to be clean, comfortable, and classy. But much to my surprise, this hotel was redone in 2011 and is quite nice.

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So nice in fact, that instead of switching to the Courtyard Marriott to rake in our Marriott points when we come back to Germany after Christmas, we’re going to stay here again. A few reasons for that are: 1) Free WiFi, 2) Free continental breakfast, 3) Free laundry facility on every floor, 4) On site Gym and access to free fitness classes at the community center, 5) Free transportation to the other bases, 6) We have a suite which is great for extended stays (equipped with separate bedroom and mini kitchenette). So all in all, this place is totally do-able as our faux home until we find a place to rent. Thankfully we have 90 days to find a place, and I’ve already started looking online, but I’ll get more serious about it once we get back after the holidays.

So anyhow, after we arrived on our first day to the hotel we immediately crashed and got a solid nap in. Then we cleaned up a bit and Jeff’s boss took us to downtown Wiesbaden for a tour. It is really adorable! We got to walk through their Christmas Market and the pedestrian shopping area which is neat because it’s all cobblestone streets and no cars are allowed so you can walk up and down the streets freely checking everything out.

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Having never been to Germany before, or Europe for that matter, it was really cool to see the different architecture downtown. We had dinner there and did a little shopping. We got converters for our Apple Products (iPhones, iPad, MacBook) so we could keep in touch with people. Our cell phones don’t have service out here so we can’t make calls unless we use Skype or FaceTime, and we can’t text unless it’s through iMessage. Basically we can keep in touch best with other people with iPhones until we get hooked up on a German phone network out here. Anyhow, while shopping I got a new hair straightener that has the correct plug for over here. I was bummed about having to get a new one because I love the one I currently have, and much to my dismay, the new unfamiliar straightener burned the ends of my hair. I know, I know, #FirstWorldProblems #GirlProblems. Thankfully I get to see my hairdresser back home next week who will hopefully fix it lol. But there’s a lot of little things that we take for granted to having or doing on auto-pilot back home that are different here and take some time to adjust to. Some other examples outside of my super tragic hair-straightener debacle (I kid) are that the toilets flush differently, and there are no screens in the window so we need a special key thing to open our hotel window. There’s a lot more little stuff like that that I’m sure I will think of later to share with you.

The next day we decided to walk downtown on our own and explore some more on our own. The downtown area is about a 30 minute walk from our hotel. There’s a cute little footbridge from the base to get over the highway and onto the sidewalk to walk downtown. And of course we got to see more of the Christmas Market and architecture down there again.

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After that we found a quaint little place to eat – having brushed up a tiny bit on the language, I was able to request a table and order in German. Jeff was really proud of me, which was super sweet, however the table of older people next to us apparently found it humorous and laughed at us, and the fact that Jeff is a vegetarian. Super rude, and not to mention hurtful. Not cool. Anyhow, the food was good, as is most of the food out here that we tried so far. Mostly I have been ordering soups and salads, which are really good here. The restaurants here make their own yogurt based salad dressings which are super tasty. And in general the restaurants here are really cute, cozy and with great atmosphere. Also, unsurprisingly, Jeff says the beers are amazing ;)

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The next night we went out to eat with Jeff’s boss and her family and a bunch of other Americans that are stationed out here. It was super fun, met some great people, and I even got to try schnitzel- it’s basically pork flattened out, breaded and fried and you can choose what kind of gravy or sauces you want on it. I had the Jäegerschnitzel which is schnitzel covered in a mushroom gravy. It was really good but I could only eat half. The portions there were HUGE!! I ordered the quarter size portion, but they also offered a half and a full portion…yikes! They also had a ridiculously ginormous cheeseburger on the menu that we saw go by our table a few times, that thing was a beast and seriously took up the entire dinner plate it was served on! The food here in general is good, but not exactly healthy for me haha. I’ve tried a few non-gluten-free foods just for the sake of trying them, and they were good but they obviously don’t agree with me so it’s back to the gluten free foods lol. One other thing I tried was their fresh hot pretzels- we grabbed one the other day when we were walking around downtown. It tastes really different than the soft hot pretzels back home. I probably can’t explain it right, but the soft hot pretzels here taste more like the combo of the ones back home AND the regular hard pretzels you would buy in the grocery store.

Eating out here is so different too- besides trying to order in German (although most people will switch to English if you ask), the service is a lot slower, and you have to ask for your check otherwise they will let you sit there all night. Once you ask, they come around at the end and gather everyone’s order- not sure why they do this, as they already took our orders at that beginning obviously (like in America), but it is handy in that you never have to request a separate check (or checks) at the beginning of the meal, because they divvy it up by person or couple at the end for you. Know what else is different? You may have heard that they don’t use ice over here which is true. So if I order a coke it’s cold, but there is no ice at all in the glass. But even weirder than that is that they don’t serve free glasses of tap water. So when you order water at dinner, not only do you have to pay for it because it’s bottled, but it’s a whole process of ordering plain water or carbonated water, and choosing the size of your bottle. Last but not least, tipping is different. You tip less because the servers are paid more. Interesting. And of course we’ve had to adjust to euros because no one takes American dollars, and most places only accept cash vs. credit card.

It’s a little bit of a relief to live on base because everyone here speaks English and you don’t realize how much you take that for granted until you’re immersed in another unfamiliar culture. Even walking around downtown I could only read the signs a little bit here and there which is weird. It’s so automatic back home. The base here has a lot of things here that help you get acclimated and set up. For example, once I got my ID I was able to go to the PX and the Commissary, which is basically like a mini Walmart and a grocery store. Being able to buy some food and bottled water to keep in the hotel room was pretty clutch. Not really realistic to eat out for every meal lol. There is an entertainment center here with a bowling alley and a bar and lounge that is cool, and the community center offers awesome fitness classes for free. So far I’ve taken yoga, zumba, and circuit training this week. Great instructors and small class sizes which are only women- men are allowed, but it’s primarily the military and DoD spouses like me that aren’t working that go to the classes. I’ve already met a few people that way which is great too. I also did a little volunteering this week at the community center by helping decorate for Christmas. Despite not having a job, I keep pretty busy during the day which is good. The workout classes are kicking my butt too, but I need it, as I’m pretty sure I gained 10 lbs the last few weeks with goodbye parties at work, Thanksgiving, and trying new foods here lol. Other things keeping me busy will be a shopping trip tomorrow with Jeff’s boss, going to Christmas Markets over the weekend, and studying for our German Driver’s License exam first thing Monday morning…wish us luck! After that, it’s back home to NJ for the Holidays, yay! Hope everyone is having a great holiday season so far. Thanks for checking in with the many happenings with us over here in Germany. More updates soon, til then, bis später! (See you later!) :)

We’re Moving!!

I know it has been a super long time since I updated my blog, but there’s a good reason for it…. we’re moving! While it has been an absolute pleasure living in Paradise for over a year now, the time has to come to move on. As much as we would love to stay here, Jeff got an amazing job opportunity that we couldn’t pass up… so, we’re moving to Germany!

No, I am not kidding! (Many people have asked me that, and while I think I have a great sense of humor, if I do say so myself, this is not something I would joke about). Making a huge life decision like this, again, is no laughing matter! Many conversations were had to decide if this is the right opportunity for us, and indeed, it is. We are being afforded a lot of benefits  in doing this, which will assist us and align us with our long term goals. I won’t bore you with the all the details, but here is a little bit of what we know so far:

We are moving really soon, as in the first week of December….eek!! We will be put up in a hotel for a few weeks and then be coming back to NJ for Christmas…yay! After our Christmas break is over, we will be flying back to Germany and staying in a hotel again until I find us a place to live… which, by the way, Jeff’s job will pay all the expenses for…holla! Ah the beauty of working internationally! Jeff’s duty station will be in Wiesbaden, which is 30 minutes outside of Frankfurt. Even though it’s kind of a big deal that we are moving out of the country, believe it or not, we are technically moving closer back to the East Coast. Actually A LOT closer to the east coast- an 8 hour flight vs. a 12 hour flight to be exact!

There are a lot of things we will miss about Hawaii… my job, our friends here, the weather…. especially the weather!! But, we are looking forward to moving there at Christmas time- not only is it a magical time of the year anyway, but the Christmas Markets will be really cool to see. And of course, we are excited to travel all over Europe together!

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As much as I miss snow, somehow, we have to mentally prepare ourselves for the cold weather again!! I see a lot of mittens, scarves, hot cocoa, and fireplaces in our future lol.

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I have never been to Germany, or Europe at all for that matter. But I did take 6 years of German from Middle School though my first year of college, so I think I’ll be ok! Jeff was in Germany once for a few weeks for work and loved it. Overall, I think it will be a great move for us. And the good news is, we get return rights back to the U.S. in 3-4 years. But for the next few years we will be calling Germany “zuhause” (home). Here’s just hoping that we can get through the next few weeks smoothly!! We have a lot to do in the next 3 weeks!! Auf Wiedersehen for now, and look for my next blog post from Deutschland… as I change the theme of my blog and report back to you from Europe. Until then, wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and a beautiful start to the Holidays! xo

Our trip to Kaua’i

Can you believe it’s been just over a year now since I started this blog?! It’s a time for reflection for me, as I think about where I was a year ago compared to where I am now…wow, just….wow. So glad Jeff and I took a leap of faith and made the move to Hawaii. Not only do we love living on O’ahu, but the life we are building together is truly incredible. My only regret is that we don’t live closer to share this more often with our friends and family, but that was one of the major reasons I started this blog in the first place…so that our friends and family could keep in touch and stay connected to us despite being 5,000 miles way on a little island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Now, with almost 30 followers and 3,000 views, this blog seems like it was a good idea. It’s always nice to hear when someone tells me they “keep up with my blog”, maybe it’s silly, but for someone to take a few minutes out of their busy day to see what me and Jeff are up to, I always think that’s nice. It’s pretty cool too to have random people following me… strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet right?! Anyhow, thanks you guys, for catching up with our latest happenings over the past year!

Seeing as how Jeff and I signed our lease this month for another year, it looks like I will continue blogging :) So, what’s new…

A few weekends ago Jeff and I took a trip to Kaua’i, and it was AMAZING!! Not only is it a gorgeous island, but it really felt like a second honeymoon! We were able to cash in on our airline miles and hotel points to score free flights and hotel stay. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott at Coconut Plantation in Kepa’a and it was really nice…had a sweet oceanfront room and the whole atmosphere was very relaxing, from waking up to watch the sunrise, to having a drink at the pool overlooking the ocean, or sitting by the fire pits at night listening to a local musician play and talking about how awesome the day was.

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From the second we landed (which was very early in the morning) we hit the road and drove right over to Sunshine Helicopter tours where we crossed an item off our bucket list- doing a helicopter tour of one of the islands! We got crazy views of the entire island of Kaua’i.

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And of course it wouldn’t be a vacation without a little indulgence in some of my favorite things: tanning, spa treatments, and yummy foods & drinks :P

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….Ok, maybe more drinks than food LOL, which is not like me, but hey, we were on vacation! So of course we had to work off those extra calories, which lead to us cruising around the island, walking around, and taking in all the sights. One of our first stops was Waimea Canyon which is also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, and the Red Dirt Falls!

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We also hit up the North Shore town of Hanalei which was just adorable…a great drive up the coast and a cute town to do some shopping for souvenirs :)

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The last stop on our roadtrip was around the other side of the island, as far as we could drive, to Barking Sands Beach/Pacific Missile Range. You literally can’t drive further than that because it leads right into the Na’Pali coast mountain range. Barking Sands was really stunning…amazing white sand and combed beaches with almost no one there, and you could see the next island from there- the “forbidden island” called Ni’ihau. It’s called that because there is only about 150 inhabitants on the island, which are mainly native Hawaiians who are relatives of someone who once owned the island. Anyway, we had a great time relaxing at Barking Sands Beach and would love to go back sometime.

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That’s all for now guys, going to settle in for another awesome weekend here in Hawaii, night all!

Wa’ahila Ridge Trail

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Jeff and I had quite the hike today- and not necessarily in a good way lol, but in the end, it’s always worth it. Our plan was to do the Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike, but there was no parking so we tried this one out, the Wa’ahila Ridge Trail, which is in the St. Louis section of Honolulu. Never been in that area before. FYI the city of Honolulu is HUGE… 68.4 square miles to be exact (thanks Wikipedia!). There are many, many neighborhoods in this city. We live downtown in the Ala Moana neighborhood. I never knew til I moved here that Waikiki isn’t a city- it’s a neighborhood in Honolulu. At any rate, the St Louis Heights area is high up on a mountain so we had to drive up some pretty steep streets to get to this state park and trail. That should’ve been my first sign this hike was going to be more than we bargained for today lol.

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Most of the hike was up hill and of varying terrain, which is never my favorite. Ya know the stair machine at the gym? I freaking hate that thing. Give me an eliptical or a leg press or any other machine besides that. Well some of these hikes are like a Stairmaster on ‘roids. It’s crazy. When I’m not feeling well (lack of sleep, haven’t been eating right, haven’t worked out lately) I even start feeling sick sometimes – nauseous/faint/dizzy. Thankfully, I have been doing pretty well on all fronts lately so I felt fine…but ya know what got us today- the heat! It was very sunny out, and barely a hint of the tradewinds. Of course we came prepared with sunscreen and a lot of water, but after a long time on the trail the heat started getting to us, and I tripped and fell. Got a few scrapes and bruises, and it hurt like hell, but I’m fine. Part of the territory I guess.

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The pic above shows a smooth part of the trail, but most of it was uneven (roots, volcanic rock, boulders) and up or down hill. Obviously I didn’t have my phone out to capture those parts because I was trying to keep focused in those areas. The other thing I didn’t like so much about this trail was that there were minimal views. My favorite trails are the ones where there are views for days all along the way…it’s like a little treat here and there for all the hard work you put in. This one had one great view near the top towards the end of the trail, and that was about it. We could see our building from there though. It’s times like that that I wish there was a zip line going straight to our balcony so we could get right home… and that my car could drive itself home to meet us. It’s 2013, why are these things not invented yet?! But, I digress.

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Probably my favorite part of this hike was the built in snacks lol. That’s right, the foody in me loved this part of the trail for that reason alone! We met a girl on the trail who told us about the edible berries that taste like guava. They were really good!

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At last, we made it back to the car in one sweat-drecnhed, exhausted, piece. Of course there was a rooster crowing in the parking lot by our car, cuz hey, it wouldn’t be a Hawaii state rec area without a random chicken or rooster walking around, right?!

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On the way out of the park, there’s a house on the edge of the park entrance that has sick views of the city and ocean, check this out:

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That place was ballin’. Not gonna lie, had serious thoughts of jumping their fence and hopping in their pool to cool off. But alas, we just cranked up the AC and made our way home. Time to relax for the rest of the weekend, we certainly earned it :)