Saturday, December 26, 2009

Our new addition!

I'd like to introduce you to Mieka's brother Josh!

He was an enormous surprise for us - literally. He's just over a year and weighs just over 90 Lbs and he is insanely sweet.

My parents have had him for a month and were able to keep him a secret from us until we got home for Christmas. You can imagine how excited and surprised we were to see him wearing his bright red bow when we arrived from the airport.

He's extremely handsome, somewhat clumsy, and very curious / skittish, but he's a great addition. I need a dog in Munich!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We are on our way to Ohio... I am actually writing this on the plane! Why don't more planes have free wifi? That definitely would have allowed me to write here more often.

Our trip has taken us to so many unforgettable places. I have to admit it's going to be harder and harder to make travel plans, because there are so many places I'd love to revisit - and my list of places to see continues to grow. Life is certainly too short!

I've neglected this blog, but for good reason. Our travels have just kept us too busy to write. The end of my day usually finds me uploading photos and then falling asleep very quickly. Between visits with friends, family, and tons of holiday parties I think we will go into hibernation mode in Ohio.

We're desperately missing lebkuchen, gluehwein, and of course our neighborhood Christmasmarkets, so if you are in Munich / Germany please enjoy some for us. We were happy to find some at the World Market, so that was a great surprise... but it's definitely not a replacement for the German christmas spirit.

I will write a more cohesive summary of the things we did and saw thus far when I get some more time. I promise that will come soon, because sadly our trip will end at the end of January. We visited cities, canyons, beaches, sand dunes, meadows, national parks, historical sites, and even an active volcano! Stefan and I keep reminding ourselves that it's not the end... it's merely a pause.

Since I last wrote we have seen so many phenomenal things and been to what feels like the ends of the earth and back. Some days it seems like forever ago and it's difficult to remember a life that's not constantly being on the road and flying from one city to the next.

Here's the laundry list of places we have visited that I will write about...
(feel free to leave a comment if there's something you're particularly interested in!)
Northern India
Hong Kong
New Zealand
The Cook Islands
The Southwest US

...and we are still going to visit New York City and the Southeast US coast in early January.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gift guide: Him + Her

1. Viva Terra Bamboo Radio - Handmade and a nice accent piece, that is both purposeful and beautiful. (image viva terra)

2. Acculevel removable propane tank gauge - Although he might have to wait a while to test it out it will give him something to look forward to in the warmer months. (image amazon)

3. Dress for dinner napkins - A great way to look dapper, even while dining. (image wishingfish)

4. credit card bottle opener - Sleek, easy to store and use. Plus don't you always love being able to save the day? (image fitzsu)

5. Bose quietcomfort 3 acoustic noise cancelling headphones - Great for travel or everyday life for the guy that loves music. (image Bose)

6. Parking Meter Alarm with Quarter Holder - Holds 10 quarters and keeps track of remaining time on the meter, so you can avoid tickets. (image spoon sisters)

7. etsy morelle truffle bag - A gorgeous and feminine catch all style purse. It's even large enough to hold a lap top! (image morelle / Elle Moss)

8. hand embroidered culture + comfort pillow - With a variety of cities and areas these beautiful pillows could provide a colorful reminder or a special time and place. (image uncommon goods)

9. nero shelf - A striking shelf designed by Nanni Holen that is sure to evoke compliments. (image huset shop)

10. object frames - I am still loving these simple, yet bold stated frames to show off your favorite things. (image the.)

11. napa style plant watering - A wonderful way to keep plants alive during a short get away. (image napa style)

12. Bloom flower light - Brighten things up during the dreary winter months. It also makes a great reading light, since it can be clipped virtually anywhere. (image World Wide Fred)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gift guide: For a cause

1. Oregon Scientific +ECO clima control - a solar powered weather station for those who want to play meteorologist - and probably with better results. (image oregon scientific)

2. Battery Wizard - recharge your batteries - even those that aren't meant to be recharged. (image gizoo)

3. Darfur relief beads - Handmade beads that help sustain life for refugees. (image relief beads)

4. cuddly rabbit - a nice cuddly toy that doubles as a warming device. (image Volker Senger / branch home)

5. recycled wreath - A simplistic way to display holiday spirit with a touch of 'being green'. (image uncommon goods)

6. recycled sundial - You can feel a little better about your coffee habits after you purchase this sundial made from coffee cups. (image ecocentric)

7. Reader's Digest homemade - an interesting book that helps you to create homemade solutions for cleaning naturally or creating fresh products you would typically buy. (image Reader's Digest / amazon)

8. easy bloom - For those that have always wanted a green thumb, but need a bit of help. It will tell you what thrives best where you want to plant and includes a plant doctor assistant when you upload data. (image easy bloom)

9. hanging chair - a beautiful flat folding swing for two to get back to nature. (image ecocentric)

10. yoyo ceramics - a reusable solution for list makers and those that are always jotting notes. (image yoyo ceramics)

11. eco artwear wreath - A recycled wreath that can be used season after season. (image Boris Bally / eco artwear)

12. pet alert animal rescue - Window decals to let emergency help know that animals live in your home. (image animal rescue site)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gift guide: Travel

Since we are currently half way into our trip around the world - somewhere in Asia (most likely Tokyo), travel related items have been very necessary for us for the past few months.

These are a few products that I found while searching, planning, and packing.

1. Light my Fire spork - I love these and have one in virtually every bag that I own. Visiting the grocery in a foreign country is always interesting, especially when you recognize the brands and not the products. This is every utensil in one, so you can buy things along the way and always have the immediate chance to sample them. (image light my fire)

2. Monster pod - a tripod that can even cling to the sides of buildings. I have to admit it makes me a little nervous, but reviewers claim they don't have problems with it. (image monster pod)

3. I heart my city - A playful take on the 'I love NY' shirts. I appreciate that you can love whatever city you are in - and it makes a fun conversation piece. (image forever 21)

4. Travel Scale - If you've ever overpacked and had to unpack at the airport or pay a ton of money this is a very good tool to have. Plus, it's small enough to pack along. (image Kikkerland)

5. States United print - A great homage to my homeland. (image Beauchamping etsy)

6. panorama perfect - This takes the guess work out of making sure your panorama images line up properly. (image photo jojo)

7. World clock - Spend time day dreaming about what you could be doing in a far away land, or make keeping in touch with family and friends a bit easier. They will thank you when you aren't calling them in the middle of the night. (image zero per zero - online shop is link on the bottom left)

8. Lens pen - This is very portable for photographers who want to keep their lenses dust free for spotless images. (image spoon sisters)

9. Trinvo talking translator - I wish that we had bought this before we left, because my Mandarin hasn't really improved too much. We definitely need this on our next trip through Asia. (image trinvo)

10. Mili universal charger - charges 2 devices at once and is compact, sleek, and very practical for international trips. (image Beam Box Mili)

11. Pitotubes - These were created by a flight attendant to make packing liquids and complying with safety rules easier for travelers. They are very sturdy and refillable. (image wishingfish)

12. Spy lens - Since people are often more at ease than when a camera is pointed directly in their face it's easy to catch candid photos along the way. (image photo jojo)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gift guide: Toddler + Pet

1. Threadless YGB shirt - This shirt is perfect for budding horticulturists. I love the colors, the happiness, and the simplicity. If you like it enough, you can get an adult sized one for yourself. (image Threadless)

2. Haba blocks - I adore virtually all of Haba's wooden toys. They are so smooth and imaginative. Their various sets of blocks also have so much character and demonstrate that not every block needs to be a cube or rectangle - many are designed around some of the world's greatest architecture. (image haba)

3. vtech kidizoom digital camera - Art work by children is always interesting, and since they always have an interest in gadgets and electronics this can also help to make them productive. The bonus is that you can score some free art for your walls - with a slightly skewed vantage point. (image vtech)

4. Haba block + tackle - This pulley system toy will help children that love construction and lifting. And once again it's by Haba - need I say more? (image haba)

5. Tire Swing Horse - Many of my favorite memories as a child were playing outside and exploring our big back yard. While I never had a tire swing, I am sure that I would have enjoyed it... especially if it had as much character as this one. (image Target)

6. Wooden fishing play set - This fishing play set is not only beautifully made, but it also contains tiny magnets inside the wood so the fish can be caught. (image MoMA)

7. Kid-O matching shades puzzle - Wooden puzzles are so timeless and beautiful. This one is great for the subtle tints and tones. Kid O has an entire range of beautiful, simple, and practical puzzles. (image Kid O)

8. Pat Says Now computer mouse - These are the most adorable mice that I've ever seen. (some animals may be discontinued) (image pat says now)

For Children with 4 paws
9. Pet Top drinking device - Allows you to adapt any water bottle into an animal friendly water fountain. (image Pet Top)

10. Curve Wall Mounted Pet Bed from Akemi Tanaka - a beautiful and out of the way solution to a cat bed. (image Akemi Tanaka)

11. Critter cord - Protects your cords with plastic, a light citrus scent, and a bitter taste, so that 4 legged friends aren't tempted to gnaw through the cords. I had a bunny growing up and he certainly loved cord chewing, but he didn't like oranges. Sounds like it would work. (image critter cord)

12. Otomik - inventive dog toys that will give anyone a good laugh. (image otomik)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gift guide: Babies + New Parents

It seems as though even more of my friends are having babies. I guess that's what getting older will do. There are a lot of really adorable gifts on the market that make shopping a bit more of a challenge. These are some that I love.

1. Baby Dam - This an economical and ecological solution to bath time. The only downside is that it fits only in straight sided bathtubs. (image Baby Dam)

2. Mr. Sneeze Forehead Thermometer - My sister and I had this thermometer when we were younger and absolutely loved it. It's less invasive and easy to take along in a bag. (image spoon sisters)

3. Etsy SuperSweetCreations - The t-shirts and onesies with ties are hysterical and a bit sophisticated - not to mention handmade. I love supporting local artisans. (image etsy)

4. The Weanmachine - This is a portable food grinder that helps to feed little ones table food. It quickly enables parents to make a nutritious meal on the go. (image weanmachine)

5. present time monkey door hangers - I first saw these in Paris and fell in love with them. Since then I gift them to anyone I know having a baby or with young children. They come in a variety of colors and are simple, yet modern.

6. Puppy Dog shoes - washable leather shoes that help protect little feet that are learning to walk. (image patina stores)

7. Billy Bob Pacifier - a large array of unique and specialty pacifiers that are sure to get a lot of laughs. (image billy bob products)

8. Knock knock medical organizer - a great place to store all of those new documents from checkups and doctor visits. (image knock knock)

9. Construction Tools - A lot of parents complain about getting their children to eat, so this may be a fun solution. (image flying peas)

10. Hushamok baby hammock - Who doesn't love a hammock? These are made for babies as a stylish option to a bassinet or swing. (image hushamok)

11. etsy Hipoart - This gorgeous rocking horse is made by hand in Kentucky. Undoubtedly it would make a treasured heirloom. (image etsy / HIPo Necessities)

12. etsy allthenumbers - A modern / retro handmade quilt with beautiful colors. (image etsy / all the numbers)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Gift guide: Art

1. Photo Canvas - Have a meaningful photo put onto canvas and decorate a special room. (This is a photo from our honeymoon in the Maldives - how nice to wake up to that every day!) (my own image - simply search online or visit a photo shop in your area)

2. Jelly Lens - This helps to transform a camera phone into something better. I actually cringe when I see people use camera phones at meaningful events, but at least these help improve the quality. (image Spoon sisters / Jelly Lens)

3. Superheadz Blackbird camera - When I took photography courses in college I absolutely loved using medium format cameras. This one is beautiful and playful. (image Urban Outfitters)

4. Retro NaNa Tape from etsy - It's great to see creative types using tape more frequently... and the variety is incredible. (image etsy / RetroNaNa)

5. Yashica Portable Scanner - This is a quick and easy way to turn those old 35mm negatives into scanned copies, which make archiving a breeze. (image Yashica - currently only available in Japan)

6. photojojo shortcut mac keyboard skin - A great tool for learners and designers alike. All of the shortcuts are at your fingertips - and not to mention the bright colors make it even more fun. (image photojojo)

7. seat belt camera strap - fun colors and very sturdy. A great gift for the photographer who has everything. (image photo jojo)

8. Stencil 101 - This book is perfect for budding graffiti artists and Banksy fans. (image Ed Roth / Chronicle books)

9. Famille Summerbelle map - These scherenschnitte paper cuts are so striking. These would be an especially nice gift for someone who is fond of London or Paris. (image famille summer belle)

10. etched letters - These acid etched letters would make a great gift for a typography lover. It looks like many people agree, because there aren't too many available. (image Urban Outfitters)

11. hudson chalkboard paint - For those that want something more exciting than the standard black or green. I love the endless variety and would love to add a color splash to my kitchen. (image hudson)

12. zero per zero railway notes - Everyone loves mail - and these notes are absolutely certain to make someone smile. (image zero per zero)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gift guide: Cooking

Last year I composed a gift guide with ideas for the holidays. Since I am gone for the holidays this year I decided to prepare this in advance (September 09), so apologizes if items are no longer available.

I had to get an early start on holiday shopping, so I figured I might as well share my finds.

Just as last year there are a variety of items at various price points, so there's something for everyone in every budget.

1. Ziploc style candy bowl - This is a cute gift for a candy lover and since it's made of glass it's reusable. (image perpetual kid)

2. Sommelier glasses - These add a bit of tongue in cheek sophistication to enjoying a glass of wine. (image Area wear)

3. Filigree cuckoo clock - A modern take on the famed German style clock. It's also made here in Germany. (image North Coast Imports / Ingolf Haas)

4. M cups - Cute nesting measuring cups that take on the matryoshka form. (image world wide fred)

5. Wine bottle thermometer cuff - an inexpensive and simply solution to figuring out the proper temperature each type of wine should be served at. (image catching fire flies)

6. iittala cookware - These beautifully designed pans are not only stylish, but also function wonderfully. (image iittala)

7. cheese knives - Colorful cheese knives that take the guess work out of figuring out which type should be used for a variety of cheeses. (image patina stores)

8. glass beverage bottles - Add simplicity and sleekness to all the drinks in your refrigerator - or keep one next to your bed. (image Crate and Barrel)

9. vinyl Lace place mats - a delicate and dainty way of sprucing up any table top and they are kid friendly and easy to clean up. (image dream in plastic)

10. IKEA fusion table - This table is great for small spaces and apartment living. (image IKEA)

11. Goldfish trash bags - Anything to make taking out the trash more fun... and you never thought trash could make you smile. (image perpetual kid)

12. Gaggenau Oven - A ceramic based oven that lowers to counter top level while keeping heat in the oven.

Again, I continue to do a lot of my shopping in the US, simply because I can mail things directly to people there and not deal with wondering if Deutsche Post is going to lose something again. (I apologize in advance to international readers, however some of these companies may ship internationally.)

There will be several more self published gift guides in the coming days or weeks.

Happy gift giving!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

One month on the road

Big apologies for not keeping up with this more... but I will have plenty to write about - of course when I get some time, which lately isn't on my side. Things have been happening so quickly, but I am taking notes and tons of photos.

I'm slightly saddened that we are 1/4 through our trip, but everything has been even more exciting and wonderful than I ever could have anticipated. I'm also amazed at how much my views have been challenged and how each and every day I learn something new. (We saw this little plaque in Kathmandu and I thought it was so fitting.)

My bags are already bursting with beautiful clothes and souvenirs. That's the biggest downside of being gone for so long. Fortunately the memories will last a lifetime.

This is a photo from one of (if not the) highest bar in the world. It's located in Bangkok and the view is absolutely incredible.

... and that's just the beginning.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

hello - namaste!

Just a quick note to let you all know we are safe and staying very busy seeing so many wonderful things. We never quite knew how a trip like this would feel - being constantly on the road and missing those luxuries from home.

After almost 10 days of travel I can say that we've been distracted enough to not miss home too much yet. Missing people is another story, so keep those emails coming to let us know how life is where you are!

We started our trip in India with visits to New Delhi, Jaipur, and of course Agra for the Taj Mahal. Some days we had a 5 hour drive, but it was really nice to see the city outskirts - even though we really weren't prepared for a lot of what we saw. I think our driver said it best, 'Money - big problem'. Social issues always stress me and I think I take them on as my own, so this hasn't exactly been a relaxing get away. Even so, I wouldn't have it any other way. People here are very grateful that we come to their countries and that we have an interest in their cultures.

It's still taking a lot of time to process, but thankfully Stefan and I are going through this together and can talk about it all. I have to say I have one amazing partner in crime.

Right now we are in Kathmandu, Nepal where were are taking in another culture and at times sweltering our lives away with 90F / 32C temps.

There is so much to see and the sites and colors here are absolutely striking. I still can't get over how welcoming everyone has been.

I will try to get some photos up soon. Working on a tiny netbook does make me miss my Mac. I completely have to relearn how to use a PC, which I should have done before we left!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I couldn't leave Munich without writing a little bit about the 176th Oktoberfest.

As we arrived we noticed people sleeping in the lawn. Amazingly some people come to Oktoberfest without a place to stay. They put their luggage or bags in the train station lockers and are able to shower at the Hauptbahnhof. I can't even imagine.

The Australian consulate even relocates to Munich during Oktoberfest from their Berlin office, because people often lose their passports / wallets. If they don't have an ID it makes getting a train ticket more difficult.

We walked through on opening night, because I love seeing the lights at dusk when the colors are so beautiful. The tents were packed and the drunkards were everywhere.

Not only is tons of beer consumed, there are also plenty of carney rides. I never go on them, but it is interesting to watch. The 'Top Spin' was particularly interesting, because it nearly dunks the people in water. I also love the 'star flyer' sky swing, but I don't know that I'd have the nerve to get on it.

There were bachelor parties, couples strolling through, and plenty of food for drunken hunger pangs. In some places you can walk through and feel as though your lungs are coated with sugar from the saccharine sweets for sale. They are never as good as they smell.

It's a great place to visit for some interesting photos - if you can handle being run into by drunks and dodging the manure and detritus on the ground.

We'll get decked out in our tracht and celebrate tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

St. Peter's Stiftskeller

Stefan joined me on my final tour before we head out on our big 4 month adventure. It was so nice to have him, because it was a long day. We had some characters including the kind that turn up over 15 minutes late, which required hauling it to the train station - complete with a grandma in a wheel chair. We thankfully were able to catch our train with only a minute or two to spare.

Stefan and I decided to stop at the St. Peter's Stiftskeller for lunch. This is one of the oldest restaurants in all of Europe and dates back to 803! On one of my tours, a few weeks ago, I had a couple who invited me to lunch there, however I had already been invited by another couple to another place, so I had to turn them down. (Bummer!)

After their lunch they were raving about the schnitzels. The woman was telling me she had the veal schnitzel and she was so impressed she was asking about it and they said they have a special schnitzel oven. Most schnitzels are made in a pan with way too much oil, so I try to avoid them... and I don't eat veal, although I will on occasion eat poultry, which they also have.

We both ordered a schnitzel today and I still think mine are better, although these were decent. I think I'm just a sucker for home made food, even if I have to be the cook. I make my own - from scratch, using this schnitzel recipe. If we have a loaf of bread that needs to go I will use that, and if not I use panko (Japanese bread crumbs). We usually eat ours with Heinz curry ketchup instead of making the sauce. You can make them to celebrate your own Oktoberfest at home.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Munich Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (ZOB)

The Zentraler Omnibusbahnhof (ZOB) has opened right at the Hackerbrücke S-bahn stop and it is a very welcomed addition. I love seeing Munich modernizing it's image - at least with some new architecture.

This will serve as a bus station, but it also has restaurants and shopping. We decided to check it out today and were certainly impressed. It felt as though we were on vacation, because it was so foreign to us.

We had lunch at Vapiano, which is an open kitchen style restaurant that is actually branching to the US.

They have another location at Fünf Höfe, which is an equally as impressive design oriented restaurant and shopping area.

Here are a couple more photos, including the bus area, which is located underneath the shops and restaurants. It looks like next year we'll be able to entertain the idea of traveling by car, plane, train, and now bus.

Through the coming months we'll also often be traveling by foot, so I was really excited to get these adorable red shoes in a package from my parents.

I've never owned crocs - and I am one to agree most of them are heinously ugly on anyone older than 8. What swayed me was their lightweight and anti-microbial aspects, which will be nice for our trip.

(Thank goodness the rhinestone on the side is covered by my pants.) I bet you wouldn't have even guessed that they were in fact crocs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Less than a week!

We went around town today collecting our last minute things. Here are a few of my observations:

I love MUJI (inside Fünf Höfe). It's a Japanese shop that prides itself on being no brand. All of the merchandise is simple and they have a wonderful array of everything you never realized you needed to stay organized. Their travel sized products and stationery items are among my favorites. They make packing so simple with their empty TSA sized 100mL bottles.

Everyone and everything is gearing up for Oktoberfest. I love seeing products suddenly having Bavarian spirit and lederhosen all over them. Even the Pixar movie 'Oben! (Up!)' is in on the fun with their ad featuring the herzen, roller coaster, and the sky swing. (It says: 'With so much fun you'll lift off') We're slightly behind on the times here - it opens tomorrow.

I noticed Ihr Platz located inside the Ostbahnhof (near the U5 Orleanplatz entrance). Under normal circumstances I really wouldn't write about a drug store, and I realize this sounds ridiculous, but it is open until 10PM - even on Sundays. Talk about revolutionizing shopping in Munich! Really, it's the little things here.

They even have a small grocery section where you can get milk and simple things past 8PM! I'm thrilled - even though I'll only be here for one more weekend this year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Long Term / Extended Travel Packing

Some of this list is slightly laughable for going lightweight, but to each their own.

I included anything that people would potentially want to bring, so you can always cross things off your own list as you see fit. Thanks also to my friend Cait, who is also planning a trip. It's been so nice to compare lists and have someone to double check with.

Don't forget the added bonus of packing light is having plenty of space for the treasures you find along the way!

(click the image to see it larger)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Long Term / Extended Travel Checklist

I'm not sure if anyone else that reads this will be planning a long term trip, but I figured I could at least share the information that I've gathered along the way so it's not as daunting.

Feel free to add anything I may have forgotten!

(click the image to see it larger)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

2 weeks

We are really making progress on the travel plans, which is a very good thing considering we leave 2 weeks from today. I don't even know how to comprehend that. The planning phases are at times very exciting and at other times slightly frustrating, but so far things have worked out wonderfully. (knock on wood!)

Our vaccinations are completed, all of our flights and trains are booked, we have reservations at some pretty stunning hotels - and restaurants.

(As a side note, I just received the Zagat Best Restaurants in the World book today, simply for rating my favorite European restaurants on their site. I'm so excited to check out their recommendations for the cities we'll be visiting. If you haven't signed up I highly recommend it - they send you fun little surprises like this book.)

I'm also really looking forward to seeing friends along the way. The last things to do are to finish up our work weeks. This is Stefan's very last week of work for 4 months! Mine ends next week. I've really enjoyed talking with the tourists and getting tips from about their homelands.

We've exchanged money into a rather large stack of US dollars. We need to pick up our final visa, check our packing list, print our tickets, and then we'll be ready.

The best part is that we get to celebrate before we leave - with a visit to the Oktoberfest! Not bad at all.

If I get some time in the coming days I will try to write a list of things we'll be packing and what we've had to do in preparation for such a long time away.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Münchner Kindl

Sometimes when I walk through town I play spot the Lion or Münchner Kindl, which are both ubiquitous symbols of Munich. They are literally everywhere.

The lion came about because the city was founded by Henry the Lion in 1158. The Münchner Kindl has changed a bit through history - it first began in the 13th century as a monk and over time has transformed into being a young girl. It's very prestigious to be the Münchner Kindl, who leads the Oktoberfest parade.

We will be attending Oktoberfest this year, as always, although I'm not sure if we'll attend the opening parade. While opening day is a lot of fun it's also a lot of drunken people who pass out or get sick before the mayor taps the first keg at the Schottenhamel. I have no issues in avoiding that.

Above is one of my favorite depictions of the Münchner Kindl - atop the Rathaus (town hall) at Marienplatz. It goes easily unnoticed, but it's always watching over this wonderful city.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


All of the little ones are going back to school. The yellow school buses and glorified school supplies are American luxuries that don't exist here. Sadly, you can't even purchase crayola markers in Germany.

The school children don't completely miss out... at least when entering first grade. This momentous occasion is marked with a Schuletüte, which is a cone filled with candies and tiny presents to make the transition a bit easier. Stefan tells me one of his co-workers has a son that just entered first grade and he made his own Schuletüte as a final project in Kindergarten.

The school system in Germany is complex. Can you imagine your grades and test scores in the third grade dictating that professions you could have down the road? In Germany the children are tracked towards attending a Hauptschule (9 years of schooling), Realschule (10 years of schooling), or Gymnasium (12 years of schooling - recently changed from 13).

I still remember my mother in law saying she was amazed that President Obama could come from such humble beginnings and eventually go to a prestigious university and become president. The chances of something like that happening in Germany are slim to none.

Attending Gymnasium paves the easiest route to getting into a University, so the pressure is really on from a very early age. As always, the higher the education the more opportunities and options. This system can be really oppressive to foreigners who haven't grown up with German as a first language.

In the United States, which is the system I am most familiar with, the students attend school until the 12th grade. It strikes Stefan as odd that each and every county and school district can differ in when they have holiday breaks and vacations or when school begins, both in dates and times. What is odd to me is that until recently each and every German state used to decide how many years their children would go to school.

Then there is the issue of perpetual students. Those who were fortunate enough to attend a University often stay there for quite some time they are able to do so because going to a University here is incredibly affordable. Not always, but typically (especially in comparison to the US). There was a large outcry when students were asked to pay roughly 500€ / $700 per semester. Unfortunately at my university it cost about that much for every credit hour - and most people took around 18 a semester.

The perpetual student issue creates a very educated population, however we also have a shrinking population. So many people marry much later here than their counterparts in other countries. That's another issue unto itself.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I keep seeing this book around town and it is absolutely adorable. It's the 'Kinder Künstler Kritzelbuch' (child artist scribble book) from Beltz&Geldberg.

You can see pages from the interior, which include beautiful fill in style illustrations from illustrators like one of my favorite - Philip Waechter (he did the cover).

They say things like 'Das bin ich' (This is me) and 'Und sehe ich aus, wenn ich gross bin' (This is what I look like when I grow up) with space to draw a self-portrait. There are other pages which give suggestions that allow imaginations to run wild.

Here are a few more from the publisher's website:
They say: 1. What grows here? 2. There are a lot of fish under the boat, aren't there? 3. Who was that?

(images: Beltz verlag)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Around the World Travel

There are plenty of resources online regarding long term travel. Here are some that I returned to again and again, as well as a few tips of my own.

If you are planning a trip around the world or for an extended amount of time it's difficult to know where to begin.

This is where we started. These were our our first considerations, and this is a bit of information about our stops along the way (this is still being updated).

You can also pick country or city specific posts by scrolling down on the right.

These are the places we have visited so far:

Here are a plethora of helpful planning links that I frequently use -

Star Alliance Around the World planner - We chose Star Alliance because of Stefan's Senator Status and also because they fly to the destinations we wanted to visit and they also give us flexibility (we can change dates without paying a fee).

kayak - we frequently use the multi-city tool and I love that it stores my past searches for future visits.

skyscanner - this also scans budget airlines, which can be very helpful in Europe. I also love that you can search by price if you don't care where you go, but don't have tons of money to spend.

Flight Stats - delays and other important information
Flight View - track loved ones as they travel
Flight Memory - keep track of your own flights and stats on airtime
Seat Guru - find the best seat so you have some extra leg room
Startrax - safety ratings for airlines if you need a side flight

Seat 61 - Very concise and well put together information regarding trains around the world.

Make sure you purchase country passes before you get to the country. Often times they are not available once you've arrived.

Busabout - I've never taken one of these tours, which seem geared towards a college crowd, but I like the idea of traveling above land and stopping in various cities.

How far is it? - calculate distances between cities
Google maps - maps and step-by-step directions between multiple locations.
Meet Ways - find a meeting point in the middle

Travel Independent - this is an incredible resource that is a one stop place to find useful information regarding any and all aspects of being gone for a long time.

Health + Safety
Centers for Disease Control
Fit for Travel
Travel Cautions + Warnings
Travel Registration (for US citizens)
Medgle- search your symptoms
What bit you - images of bugs and their bites

Project Visa - Which countries will you need a visa for and embassy information
Country Specific Information
Travel + Leisure
Time Magazine city guides
Budget Travel
NY Times Travel
Condé Nast Travel
World Travel Guide
Famous Wonders of the World
43 places
lonely planet

What to Pack - while it seems straight forward there are a lot of things that are completely not necessary and can be purchased along the way.

There are plenty of stores online to help make getting supplies easier. I also suggest heading to your nearest outdoor sports shop and a home goods store. We found many practical things that were added to the 'What to Pack' list.

Here are a few of my favorite Travel brands:
ExOfficio - wicking and quick drying undergarments
The North Face - high quality and very durable
Columbia - feminine and simple outdoor wear
I know every country has their own take on these. If you have time in advance to ship things I also suggest checking out Campmor and Backcountry, for discounted apparel.

Trip Advisor - see actual candid photos and ratings of hotels and the reasons people like them or don't. There are some major gems if you just look.

airbnb - vacation rentals, private room, and sublets. It always is nice to walk onto the city streets from a neighborhood or unique location rather than a massive hotel. It's a quick way to feel like a local and stay like one, too. - for every 10 nights you stay you get a free room. If you frequently travel this is a really great deal. I also like that it doesn't tie you to one chain.

hostelworld or hostelbookers - I'm not opposed to staying in a hostel, provided I have a private room / bathroom and it is highly rated. Just check out the best boutique hostels and you'll quickly see it's easy to save money and sleep in style.

hotwire - this unfortuantely only works in the US, but you can get a real steal if you simply need a place to stay last minute.

unusual hotels of the world - if you're looking for offbeat this is a great place to start. Some of these are seriously out there. We've stayed in a hospital and I have to say it was lovely.

Design hotels
Small Luxury hotels

Food and Wine
San Pelligrino 50 best
Unusual Restaurants of the World

Interesting and random travel links
Travel Math - a calculator that helps with distance, time, and budgeting
Walki - Talki - audio walking tours for your MP3
single serving - free pocket sized travel phrases in a large number of languages
Trip It - organize your travel plans
Smug Mug - upload your photos to share and download them in full size once you get back.
gadling - travel related news, gadgets, and photos
XE - money conversion
Panoramio- explore the world through other people's photos
locr - locate your photos / geotag through various methods

Hopefully there was something here that will be helpful and useful for you in the future. I'll add more links over time.

Safe and Happy Travels!

New Hotel on the Market

I always stop at Viktualienmarkt to purchase berries and delicious foods. It's definitely a place where tourists and locals alike flock to for a quick lunch or specialty ingredients to make meals at home.

Right by the auction house there has been a lot of action for what seems like an eternity. A new chic façade has replaced the scaffolding and left a beautiful sight in its place - the Louis hotel. I'm glad that we finally have a design hotel here in Munich and what a fantastic location!

You can read a bit more about it at design hotels. I'm also looking forward to trying their new Japanese restaurant (Restaurant Emiko) and Asian Tea.

Hopefully we'll be able to try the restaurant out before our trip. It opens September 9th.

Can you believe we leave for our adventure around the world 3 weeks from today?

Monday, August 31, 2009

heirlooms from the Omas

This weekend we went to visit Oma. I absolutely adore our time with her. She is so full of life and always so incredibly thoughtful. Her kindness is inspiring and she is one of my favorite people. I just want to sit and talk with her for hours.

We left her house with sweets and sekt to celebrate our anniversary and she also gave me a beautiful brooch, which I will always cherish. It made me think about my own Grandmother opening her jewelry box to me and the overwhelmed feeling I had. I didn't want to take her things. Once she passed away I was offered her wedding dress, however I was in junior high and I still regret not taking it. Oddly, I'd go through that feeling once again later in the day.

During our visit we also stopped to visit Stefan's cousin and his wife. I also wish we saw them more often, because we always have such a great time talking and laughing. They are clearing out the other Oma's home after she passed away on their wedding day last year. I cannot fathom having to go through someone's belongings after they pass. We left with some family photos (I can totally see how Stefan turned out to be so handsome), an old typewriter, a handwritten cookbook, and a sewing machine.

I was always sad I couldn't bring my own sewing machine from the US, but with different electricity and it weighing so much it's rather pointless. Hopefully I can figure out how to use hers, which is really built to last. I also want to try my hand at her recipes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

one year ago today

One year ago we were leaving for Iceland + Greenland. I never envisioned what a life changing trip that would be. We were hoping to get back to Iceland during our around the world journey, however there wasn't a logical connection for us.

I'm not overly concerned though, because I know that we'll make it back. Even though it still pains me to say it was already a year ago.

At least there are plenty of beautiful and exotic destinations in the coming months to distract me from missing those beautiful islands.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Whenever I go back to the United States I quickly notice the food differences. I go through this each and every time I return, but it never fails to catch me by surprise. Some ways I am pleasantly surprised -here in Germany the food is so meat and pork heavy (which I'm not a fan of), while other times I crave the produce stands and markets that are quintessentially European (and don't get me started on craving the cheeses).

My old roommate, Julie, just finished working with Americorps at an organic farm in Maine. I also worked in Maine - about 7 years ago, which is when I fell in love with it.

Julie would write to tell me about waking up early to go the farmers market and hanging out with the farm dog. I have a slight envy every time I hear about her adventures - not to mention the blueberries, lobster, puffins, and that gorgeous coast line. She has sent me so many postcards and little packages of things to let me know she's thinking of me, which is so very sweet.

If I had to cash in my city life, I really think I'd love to live on a farm. I know I have romantic notions of what it would be like, but the idea of eco friendly sustainability and having my hands in the soil sounds wonderful. I'm sure it's a thrilling feeling to know you can completely feed yourself on what you grow. Fresh ingredients direct from the plant have become such a luxury.

When we travel back to the Unite States, this winter, I would really like to check out the 'slow food movement' started by Alice Waters of chez panisse. I admire her because she has a fire in her home kitchen that she uses to cook and she encourages having an 'edible schoolyard' where she teaches children to interact with their food - to cultivate it and to be proud that they can grow things. It seems so empowering.

After first moving to Germany I saw a TV show here about the school children here that could not recognize vegetables. I'm not talking a rutabaga or kohlrabi (I didn't even know what that was until I moved here) - they couldn't even recognize carrots. It made me so sad to watch the children run up to the table with excitement when the were told they would able to take these fresh foods home. When they visited one child's home his mother talked about McDonald's and frozen pizzas. Nearly every child could differentiate which fast food restaurant something came from and what it was called. Is that not absolutely heartbreaking? To me it's important to learn how to cook, and to teach early on what healthy eating is.

The Whitehouse / Obamas tried to get in on having an edible landscape. It was planted on March 20th on the south lawn and was 1100 square feet organic herbs, fruits, veggies. The idea is great, but the soil was found to have very high levels of lead.

Sometimes I step back and really consider how much progress has been made and how much things have changed in the last century, but it comes with obvious disadvantages. People no longer need as many children to work on the farms. They've traded family for a faster pace of life and even then there are still population issues. Everything has gone prepackaged and people don't even take the time to feed themselves or their families healthily. Foods (meat especially) are injected with growth hormones. I listen to my friends whose parents are farmers and I know that it's not an easy job to be a small town farmer, especially now that factory farming has entered the game.

I really want to see the movie Food, Inc., which addresses these issues and more.

Although my sister, Stefan, and I went to Maine in March 2008, I dream of going back.

I'm very curious what types of foods I will be encountering through the next few months on our trip. I hope I don't come home too skinny!

(image: food, inc. poster - magnolia pictures)

2 tickets to paradise

Our Star Alliance around the world tickets won't cover all of our flights since there are several locations they don't fly to or we wanted to use extra 'coupons', so there are a few side trips that we will be making.

One stop I cannot keep a secret. We just booked tickets last night to... Aitutaki in the Cook Islands! We decided to go with a far less touristy island, as opposed to Fiji or Tahiti. National Geographic even named it one of the top 12 adventure islands in the world!

After spending our honeymoon in the Maldives we're very accustomed to gorgeous beaches, so we'll see how the Pacific counterpart lives up to things.

Aitutaki's biggest claim to fame, besides it's incredible lagoon, is that it was featured on Survivor: Cook Islands in the United States.

This entire trip will be a complete dream.

(image webshots travel)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

clothing + packing

I have a pretty predictable style, at least according to my friend Cait, Stefan, and my sister. Stefan has even gone as far as coining the term 'Emil-ish' if it looks like something I would wear or not.

My friend Lauren tells me I'm not trendy and before I know it I will end up wondering why I never ventured into fashion risk territory while I could be young and adventurous. I prefer to think I will appear slightly more timeless and less dated in photos down the line. That's my theory anyway. I love theme parties and odd costumes... just not on myself. I'd rather have my life be a musical - with normal clothes. Who wouldn't love if people broke out into song in the middle of the streets?

Predictable or not I love simplicity, femininity, and dresses. One side of my closet is entirely devoted to dresses. I have something for every occasion - even down to two dirndls. I'm an over planner. Who knows if I have a friend visit that needs to borrow one, or heavens forbid I'm at Oktoberfest multiple days in a row or someone spills a beer on me.

I think I'm much like any other girl. I can always justify why I would need another dress... never mind the fact I have four that are different styles and just slightly different shades of slate gray. It's one of my favorite colors. It's neutral without being as bold as black. Sometimes I really cringe when I walk down the street and see a woman that looks as if she's dressed to go to a club - at noon.

Packing for this trip is already getting the best of me. Thankfully I am not alone. Stefan keeps reminding himself, or perhaps trying to remind me, that we aren't going to be incredibly far off the beaten track and if we need something chances are good we can find it. Even so, I like to be prepared.

Cait, who is also planning an around-the-world trip of her own (for an entire year!), told me she read it's smart to have long skirts. They are good coverage if say you are on a bus and it stops at a field for a restroom break. I can't think of too many instances where we will be on buses, but better safe than sorry.

I was delighted to find a long lightweight jersey skirt at the store every ex-pat American woman misses - Target. Not only that... it is so versatile that it can be worn as a tube dress or a long skirt. Once again I bought two, of course in different colors. When I find something that works I often purchase it in two colors. I'm sure that can be attributed to my Americanness.

Other travel clothes that I love are Columbia's World Traveler Pants. They look like normal pants, except they are moisture wicking, quick drying, and water repellant. It's amazingly difficult to find clothing that is made for outdoors without looking like you are going on a fishing expedition with massive cargo pockets. I just know I will appreciate feeling feminine and yet remaining modest during our months on the road.

While I was in the US, in June, I also was excited to find a feminine rain jacket. It has frilly shoulders and looks more like a chambray jacket as opposed to something made for rain. Every time I put it on Stefan instantly complements me on how adorable I am. That I will certainly not tire of.

We are wholeheartedly tourists - and I am OK with that. I don't expect to appear local, however I do like to respect and obey local customs. It's so much nicer to blend than to stick out. Even a slight bit of flesh in an Islamic part of the world seriously stands out in attracting unwanted attention. I don't even own one pair of shorts, so it's strictly dresses, skirts, and pants for me.

Alaska won't be included in this trip due to the weather change and not being able to pack for frigidly cold seasons, but we do have many other stops and several exciting events along the way.

I will need a nicer dress for a special surprise event with ~ 70˚F / 21˚C weather, however I can't decide which one to wear... any opinions?

These are my choices... or at least a few of them. I was able to get the subway dress in my size. I am super happy about that.

(images - skirts: Target, pants + jackets: Columbia, dresses: dvF, jcrew, francis, jcrew)