Monday, January 27, 2014

Addicted to Love (and a good bargain)

 Back in 2011 when Husband was just Boyfriend, Valentine's Day fell on a Monday. Husband was traveling for work that week so we postponed our Valentine's celebration. We decided to honor Valentine's Day on February 17th instead of the 14th. This turned out to be a great idea!
Maren and Boyfriend 2011

For Valentine's Day, I decided to make Husband a fleece blanket big enough for two people. Since we both went to rival universities I wanted each of our schools to be represented. One side of the blanket was Husband's university and the other side mine. (Wreck 'em!) I bought 2 yards of each fleece material at my local fabric shop. The total came out to be $60 and I nearly fainted right there in the check out line. My first thought was "OH crap that is expensive." and then "Will he realize how nice this blanket is?" (I really should do mental math more often) With no other creative gift idea in my mind I sucked it up and took my new fleece fabric home.
Texas Tech Fleece

This entry isn't about how to make the fleece blanket but you can find directions here.
Texas A&M Fleece

When the fleece blanket was finished I decided the best packaging option would be a gift basket. If you know me, you know I love gift themes. Every gift has to have a theme! For Husband's Valentine present I decided to do a movie basket theme. I went out and bought a movie he would enjoy. Another $20 spent, my gift was now grand totaling at $80 and closing in on our set amount. (100 bucks)
"Valentine's Day" 2011

To fill the rest of the movie basket, I went to our local popcorn shop and picked up some goodies. I bought 3 different flavors of popcorn; Dill Pickle (my fav!), Candy Coated, and McKinney Mix (jalapeno and caramel). There I was also able to buy two sugarcane Dublin Dr. Peppers in the vintage glass bottles. How cute! $10 spent at Mom and Pop Popcorn brought the gift total to $90.
Valentine's Day 2012

The great thing about celebrating Valentine's Day after February 14th is everything cupid related is slashed at least 50% off! Chocolate, candy, and cookies do not go bad automatically the day after Valentine's but stores must clear the pink and red aisles for the next big holiday, St. Patrick's Day. 
How Cute Is This! Source

At my local Wal-Mart and Cookies 'n Bloom Bakery I bought an assortment of Valentine's candy and heart shaped sugar cookies to add to the movie basket for less than half the original cost. My remaining budgeted ten dollars went much farther than it would have a few days prior. This sweet purchase brought the movie basket right in at our set limit amount. 
Boyfriend's Movie Basket in 2011

Sure Valentine's Day was technically over...but Husband and I can celebrate the love for each other any day of the year! In 2011, it happened to be on three days later on February 17th. Here we are in 2014, still cuddled up on the couch enjoying movies together and keeping each other warm underneath that fleece blanket.
February 2013

Addicted to Love,

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ireland in a Week

Ocassionally I receive emails from people asking about the places Husband and I have traveled. I have our destinations listed under the "Travel" tab with links to entries with information. I am always thrilled to help so if you have additional questions don't hesitate to ask!

Right before our big move, Husband and I honeymooned in Ireland and Scotland. In the middle of wedding activities and the hecticness of our move, Ireland and Scotland blog reviews got overlooked. One year and a half later, I'm finally getting around to sharing my opinion. Better late than never right?

Some trips can leave you needing a vacation from the vacation. We had been on trips before where we just ran, ran, ran from one city to the next trying to see as much as possible. This time, Husband and I wanted our trip to be relaxing and not rushed. With this in mind we chose to stay in one location, Killarney, during our time in Ireland.

Among the rolling hills, dotted lakes, and narrow two lane roads, Kerry County is charming with quaint "mom and pop" bed and breakfasts. In the town of Killarney, Husband and I stayed 5 nights at the Crystal Springs Bed and Breakfast. It is a family run Bed and Breakfast on the banks of the River Flesk. Husband and I enjoyed sipping our tea outside overlooking the river and lush forest on the cozy deck.
The best part about staying at the Crystal Springs Bed and Breakfast was the hot homemade breakfast each morning! Husband even tried blood sausage but I passed on that! I instead loved the hot porridge with brown sugar, whipped cream, and Baileys. Seriously, Baileys on top of oatmeal! It was an Irish dream come true for my taste buds. Forget those Lucky Charms!

Sight Seeing:
Killarney National Forest
Husband and I hiked through the Killarney National Forest on two different days. Tucked back off of the main pathways you will find hiking trails graded by level of difficulty. The path we chose was a moderate level hike and lead to this amazing waterfall. Not used to much walking coming from suburban living, we were sweating, sore, and jet lagged but the beautiful green surroundings were well worth the time AND energy. You could easily spend one day just walking around the forest. We saw several couples stopping for picnics along the way.

Muckross Estate
Muckross Estate is a former hunting lodge set in the front part of Killarney National Forest. We took a tour of the house and found it's history interesting. The hunting lodge was a wedding present to an American girl from her family who ran a California vineyard. Not a bad gift, eh?

Ring of Kerry

Husband and I spent an entire day driving in our rented car around the Ring of Kerry. If you drove straight through without stopping the loop drive would take you around four hours. All along the Ring of Kerry are pull offs with fantastic photo opportunities. The rolling land and steep hills were breathtaking. I loved the stone walls between the farm fields, sheep sightings, and of course when we stopped so I could enjoy an Irish coffee. Check out the Red Fox Inn for good Irish Coffee!

Ballycarberry Castle

Cahersiveen is a quaint town along the Ring of Kerry. While driving on the main street, Husband and I saw a castle up on a hill in the distant countryside. With all the time in the world, we decided to go exploring off the tourist trail. After a 10 minute drive through the winding back roads and across the river, we came to the abandoned castle set on private property. A weathered looking sign at the fence line told us a brief history of Ballycarberry Castle. An open gate and a beaten dirt trail through the tall grass field just beckoned for us to come on it. There Husband and I were, in the hills of Ireland climbing over decaying castle walls in what would become one of our favorite all time memories.

Cahergall Stone Fort
Just a bit down the road from Ballycarberry, Husband saw a historic sign for a ring fort.  There in the middle of the countryside we pulled into a three car "parking lot" set on the edge of some farmer's land. With sheep on both sides as our audience, we took a 5 minute hike down another dirt path until we came upon the Cahergall Stone Fort. The ancient stone walls were about 7 feet thick of stone but the walking ledges were only 1 foot thick (and a drop straight down!) and went up to several different levels. Husband climbed all the way to the top but halfway up the stone wall was enough for me. Can you imagine having an ancient ruin set on your farmland?

Ross Castle
Ross Castle is in Killarney where our hotel was located. It is a similar style to the Blarney Castle. Since a visit to Blarney Castle was set in our plans, Husband and I did not tour the inside of Ross Castle. Instead we looked around the outside and enjoyed the views next to the river.

Dingle Crystal

Another day Husband and I toured Dingle Peninsula. We only spent a few hours in Dingle, Ireland but wish we would have planned a night's stay. Dingle was a bit smaller than Killarney and had a nice view on the North Atlantic. In the town of Dingle we enjoyed the best fish and chips of our trip. After lunch we shopped the cobble stone streets and stumbled into Dingle Crystal. The crystal shop is family run and is set up as a personal museum. The owner earned a certified crystal cutting certification from Waterford back in the 1970s. After Waterford moved out of Ireland, the owner continued cutting crystal and opened his own shop in Dingle. His crystal pieces are shipped all over the world and he has some loyal NFL customers. The prices for a crystal piece are pretty reasonable for a special souvenir. 

Blarney Castle
The "Eiffel Tower" of Ireland, Blarney Castle was the most touristic spot on our trip. We waited for nearly two hours to climb up into the square tower to see the famous Blarney Stone. In the end we are glad we went but it was not one of our favorite sites in Ireland. How can you compare being alone in an abandoned castle in the middle of nowhere to a long line of anxious tourists? 

Husband and I loved visiting Ireland. The people were friendly, the land gorgeous green, and the food comforting. (the accents aren't bad either!) Another visit is already on our trip radar but next time it will be an extended weekend in Dublin. From Munich we can find pretty decent flight options. It is just a matter of picking a time!

Luck o' the Irish,
Inside Blarney Castle

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Two Transplanted Texans

Living internationally is a wonderful and most likely once in a lifetime experience. (for us at least!) I had dreamed of living abroad and traveling Europe as a young teen. In college, two different years, I visited the study abroad office for information on a semester in Seville, Spain. Unfortunately,the cost was too high while paying out of pocket tuition.
May 2007

After college I got my first salary job and traveling to Europe somehow slipped my mind. Then in the summer of 2010 my family had a reunion and relatives from Denmark visited us Stateside. Suddenly, the desire to see my original roots and great grandfather's still operating family farm became a new goal.
The Farm in Denmark Summer 2011

In the summer of 2011, after 5 months of planning, I  took my first European vacation. Husband and I spent one week in Denmark and a second week split between Germany and Austria. Between Husband's marriage proposal and the cobbled stone streets there was definitely love in the air.
Just Engaged! Germany Summer 2011

During our last few days in Europe panic set in as our time was ending. If you have traveled overseas you can understand the feeling of trying to do as much as possible. I feared how long it would be until we got back to summer, another decade, NEVER AGAIN?!? There was so much more left to see! 
Venice, Italy Winter 2013

When Husband and I arrived back in the States it was clear we were not done seeing Europe. Fortunately, Husband works for a worldwide company and I can work anywhere. Nearly two years ago to the day, we started dreaming big and discussion of moving to Europe excited us.
Just off the Plane in Munich 2012

Within a few days of submitting his request to transfer, Husband had interest coming out of Berlin and Munich. Disappointed Denmark or Sweden were not going to work, we looked at our Deutschland options. Actually, it was a pretty quick decision. We knew Munich was beautiful and the Alps were less than a hour away.
Ireland Summer 2012

When late spring arrived, the contract negotiations were reviewed and revised between a couple 2 a.m. phone calls and many passing emails. Two weeks shy of our wedding day, the contract was approved. It was such a stressful time not knowing for months if we would be moving, let alone an overseas move. 
After a month and a half in an empty flat, 
our crate finally arrived from the States.

Two weeks after our honeymoon, the movers arrived. In one weekend our new home was divided into three categories; ship, store, and sell. Somewhere in a garage we have brand new wedding presents waiting for us to return to Texas. The last day in our home, I remember sitting on the bare floor in the empty living room frantically finishing up 180 thank you notes. 36 hours later we landed in Munich, Germany for the second time and for a bit longer of a stay.
The Store Pile

Husband and I went back and forth for four months debating if moving internationally was a good decision.  I had a fantastic job, all of our family and friends were nearby, and we had our house to consider. (To sell or not to sell?)  Needless to say, I had several melt downs in the spring of 2012.  As a teacher, it is a bit awkward when a parent finds you crying at your desk after school!
How could I "put this on hold" after years of working to get here?

A year and a half later Husband and I can finally say we are settled.  While I do get homesick on the occasional Sunday afternoon, living internationally has been a wonderful growing experience for Husband and I. It was the right time for us to take a chance and quite the adventure we have had! 
Brussels, Belgium Summer 2013

"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." -Amelia Earhart

Y'all Come Back Now,

Sunday, January 12, 2014

From Christmas to Valentines

The sun is brightly shining in Munich.  Yesterday, I wore my jean jacket out shopping and left my bulky winter parka hanging at home.  I envision Mother Nature giving us this beautiful, almost spring-like weather with an evil laugh while drumming of her fingertips.  Snow is in the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday but we shall see if it sticks around.  Last year, the snow kept coming all of January and well into February. Despite this weekend's gorgeous weather, I know it is only a matter of time before the grey skies take over and my breath lingers in front of my face. 

Husband and I worked Saturday morning taking down our live (now deceased) Christmas tree.  What a chore!  Husband took the tree out of our flat, into the hallway, and carried it all the way to the recycling center.  I was left with a trail of needles from our front door, into the building's hallway, down the marble stairs, and it all ended with a well gathered collection at the main front door.  So still wearing my Husband's Star Wars pajama pants, toothpaste dribbled sweatshirt, and dirty recess hair, I took on the task of sweeping up all of the pine needle remains.  Luckily, our neighbor is the only one to witness this awful site.

As for the rest of our Christmas decorations, I decided to leave up our lighted garland and miniature fir tree. In anticipation of dark winter weather upon us, I know some greenery will be a welcomed sign-of-life in our home.  Left alone and looking a bit too much like Christmas, I decided the greenery needed a bit of flirty flare. 

Besides being my birth month (a BIG zero ending birthday is fast approaching!), February is one of my favorite times of year. It was only natural that the Christmas greenery should now become fun lovin' in bright pinks and reds for St. Valentine's Day!

You know the saying "Less is more"? Well, that doesn't apply with what I did to the decorations.  I wanted the garland to look like Cupid came in and spilled a bucket of hearts, cards, pictures, reds, pinks, X's and O's everywhere.

The items I used, I already had on hand. Most of the items were found at the Euro/Dollar store.
-Pink Christmas ornaments
-Red Christmas ornaments
-Pink butterfly
-Hearts cut from Valentine paper
-Felt initial hearts
-Framed wedding photo
-Red candles
-Wire heart garland
-Heart sticks 
-Vintage Valentines

Over Sunday brunch I found out another close friend also changed out her Christmas decorations into Valentine decorations.  I don't think I will extend the Christmas garland all the way into St. Patrick's Day decorations...but you just never know! 

Do you have any Christmas decorations that have stayed up for the duration of winter?  

Loving This Beautiful Life,

Monday, January 6, 2014

A TEXAS Size Goodbye

After a two and a half week unhealthy dose of Tex-Mex food, Husband and I decided to change it up for our last meal in Texas.  We thought a little soul searching was necessary so we had the family meet up at the nearby Babe's Chicken this past Friday night.
Babe's Chicken

There we all enjoyed heaping mounds of deep fried chicken, sweet corn, peppered green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy,  and piping hot biscuits with molasses and honey. As in true Southern style, all washed down with a glass of sweet ice tea.

Under the quirky cowboy signs, stuffed chickens, and Texas flag we sat talking about the wonderful Christmas break, hopes of upcoming European vacations, and how time is certainly flying.

No family meal would be complete without a little bit of some pass-the-baby. One of the hardest things was leaving behind our sweet newborn niece.  After so many years of waiting for her to arrive, she is a true Christmas miracle.  We are looking forward to next Christmas when she and her upcoming brother (another miracle due in March) are into everything under the tree!
Uncle Husband

This week I will fill you in on our whirlwind Texas and Oklahoma tour.  For now, we are resting back in Munich and work starts back up tomorrow morning.
Y'all Come Back!

God Bless Texas,