Thursday, September 27, 2012

Travel Thursdays: Boston Sister Meetup {Part 1}

We did have other folks with us on this trip - quite a lot of fun friends, actually - but I planned our 3.5 days in Boston on this past little vacation we took completely around getting to hang out with Natalie and her dude in our beloved college town.

It started off with a home-brought snack in the Paris airport (least favorite airport in the world, but nothing some Bockwurst, stuffed olives, and a can of Heineken can't solve!)...

That's Alyssa massive present of chocolate hanging out with us on the left!

...followed by the most empty flight I have ever been on, I kid you not. Best. Thing. Ever.

Man, am I a prepared flyer with my way-too-tightened seatbelt, or what?

I'd only ever once before gotten an entire row to myself on a flight (back when I flew from Italy, where I had studied abroad, back to New York for two days, then home to LA for two more days before jetting off to New Zealand for two weeks to visit Nat - yes, it was as insane as it sounds. But I miraculously got my own row on the flight from LA to my stopover in Australia and it could not have been better timing or more glorious.) and have dreamed of reliving that ever since. So you can imagine my joy when we realized that on this flight, each person in our section had a good 3-4 empty rows to choose from. (No joke!) An added bonus came when the adorable French flight attendant (we flew Air France) giddily told us, "I don't know why it's so empty but it's wonderful! Enjoy it! I'll break out the champagne as soon as we're in the air!" And he did. Hats off to you, Air France man.

When we arrived in Boston at long last, Alyssa and Erik graciously picked us up from the airport after already having picked up our friend Sara, whom they'd never even met, from the airport two hours before us; that's how awesome they are. And even more to their credit: they let the three of us house crash that night and then put up with six (questionably sane) house guests the next night when Natalie, F, and then later that night, Liz, all joined us for some Beantown shenanigans.

We spent our Friday sister day showing our troop of Europeans - my two Germans and her Italian :) - the swankier side of Boston, starting downtown at Faneuil Hall and following the Freedom Trail backwards towards Boston Common and up through the ever lovely Beacon Hill (which Sara was completely smitten with).

Nat had the brillant idea to stop for drinkies in the Liberty Hotel, a stunning luxury hotel converted from an old prison.

Sadly, we were an hour too early for the bar, but least we got to admire the stunning design of the place.

After stocking up with supplies at the grocery store - and giving Sara her first American giant-ass supermarket experience - we headed back to Alyssa's and Erik's for a mini Scotland reunion with Mike and Deanna, where we ladies caught up on gossip...

(Sorry for that first one, Nat, but the second one's pretty unattractive of me, so at least we're even!)

...while the menfolk barbecued in the backyard...

...and then managed to burn everything as they concentrated more on the copious amounts of beer each of them brought than the food.

The Germany-Italy love pose

And that with a professional chef in the midsts! But hey, we still wolfed down the blackened asparagus and well-done/crispy marinated steaks, so we must have had enough spritzes in us, too, by the end.

The next day we, tragically, had to leave Alyssa and Erik's since they were heading to a wedding for the weekend. And as much as we didn't want to go - and could have spent a lot more time with those two! - at least we were headed next to the most adorable B&B in existence...

More to come!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Weekend in Pictures {Disneyland Paris!}

In two words, Disneyland Paris was: unforgettably incredible. Obviously, I'm a rather huge Disneyland (not Disneyworld) fan to begin with, so getting to go there without the obligatory 10+ hours of flying home to LA first, plus the added bonus of getting to brush up on my rusty French skills with phrases like Indiana Jones et Le Temple du Peril while there, made for a pretty big win in my book.

Here is just a glimpse at the fun we had, both in Disneyland and then our subsequent day in Paris.

A little too giddy waiting for the Orly-Disneyland express bus at 9am

The Walt Disney Studios Park - basically their version of California Adventure

Entrance to the main park - the entrance castle is a hotel! (and it's calling my name...)

It's been there for 20 years already! I remember (from afar) when it had just opened and sounded so magically adventurous...

Thunder Mountain - very similar but a little bit faster

Space Mountain: Mission 2 was just plain amazing. A loop! A twist! So much speed!

French Jack Sparrow, just doing his thing
I could have stayed in Toy Story Playland all day | Fantasyland was its usual cute self

Paris nightlife

A walk through Montmartre

Micha's first real-life view of the Eiffel Tower!

I heart Vélib'

While we had only about 36 hours in the park and the city for our quick weekend getaway, we sure did make the best of it while we could. (As did the weather, so thanks for that, Paris!) Plenty more details about the awesomeness that was Disneyland in French to come, including a rundown of ride comparisons, if you're into that kind of thing. :) (Hint: Space Mountain kicked ass, but Indiana Jones was another story.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Friday!

All right, I'm not gonna lie to you folks. This coming weekend may possibly go down as my all-time favorite weekend in the history of ever. That is how epic it will be.

Why, you ask? Why, because we are headed to the second happiest place on earth!

Nat and me on the teacups the last time we were in LA together

That's right, we're headed to DISNEYLAND PARIS!! (What? That wasn't obvious...? ;) (I have not been able to type that once without all caps.) (Also, obviously, the original Disneyland is the happiest place on earth - true story - and can never be surpassed. I dare you to find a Los Angeleno who feels otherwise.)

You see, in case I haven't said it enough, Micha is the best boyfriend ever and surprised me with the most fantastic birthday gift this year that included tickets to Paris for a weekend, a hotel, and DISNEYLAND PARIS tickets! (I may have jumped up and down like this for about 10 minutes when it happened...) And this weekend, we are finally on our way and I couldn't be more excited! I highly doubt I'll even sleep a wink tonight - like those kids in all those Disneyland commercials of yore.

Here's hoping your weekend is just as magical as ours promises to be! 

PS. A few links to send your on your way:

The world should be run by 11-year-olds.

I'm totally avoiding the high swing ride at Disneyland now thanks to this...

This simple tutorial gives me hope for amazing cakes.

Do you ever miss AIM?

Best blog title (and ridiculous story) ever.

We don't have many tomatoes left from our garden, but the remaining few will be used for this.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Expat Shopping Lists: US and Germany

There's this massive list I make in Google docs before every trip we take to the US that looks a little something like this:

Things to Bring With (for Gifties)

- Beer
 -Haribo (particularly the extra juicy Saftbären)
- Ritter Sport (for Alyssa :)
- Coconut yogurt (I'd bring it for sister if it were at all feasible, she's obsessed with this one!)

Things to Bring Back

- Chocolate chips (multiple kinds)
- Brown sugar (They have now started stocking this in Asia markets in Berlin, but it was on my list for years)
- Canned pumpkin (for our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie)
- Bisquick biscuit mix (for my Thanksgiving broccoli casserole - Gramma's recipe :)
- Ranch dressing packets
- Taco/fajita seasoning packets
- Jeans!
- Target goodies!

If you're an expat, I'm sure you know exactly what I'm talking about (and have an ongoing list of your own). There's just something about American grocery stores (and, of course, Target!!) that turns me into a complete consumer maniac. That and the fact that, in the past two years, Berlin stores have reverted to mid-90s fashion when it comes to jeans and only seem to sell ones that ensure you show off unflattering muffin top at all times. Which is really unfair, because I'd totally found the perfect Only jeans just 4 years ago, and then they wrench them out of my life...

Our loot from this trip (Ikea frame not included) - my goodies on the left side, gifties on the right (Full disclosure: I did some major damage at the Gap, Old Navy, and Under Armour outlets, too, but am not about to photograph all that madness...)

Living abroad makes you realize - and way overfocus on - the little things you miss from home. Things you could quite easily live without - why would I want canned pumpkin when I can have fresh? I'm sure it can't be that difficult to whip up your own taco seasoning, and cutting up chocolate for chocolate chips is easy peasy and delightfully messy - but find that every now and then, you really just can't. (Usually brought on by reading American blogs or magazines and thinking, dammit! Why can't they just tell me where to find those ingredients/that shirt/that rug in Germany?!) (True story: I once had Natalie order a rug - on sale - for me and I schlepped it all the way back to Germany from her wee apartment in Brooklyn. It was totally worth it.)

Somehow, this is the only picture I could find of that rug. But there it is, in not quite all of its beauty...

Which is why I liked Emily's post (of From China Village) on a similar topic recently - she looked at both things she missed from the US (and could make a fortune importing, which is so true!) and things she'd totally miss if she left Ireland. And because it's so easy to forget how good I've got it here, I whipped up a quick list of my own of things that, if I left Germany tomorrow, I think I'd get just as homesick for:

- Bread: actual dense, dark, non-air-hole-filled, non-squishy, filling and healthy German bread. In countless varieties.
- Dairy: the dairy products here are seriously unparalleled by anything I've had in the US. (Happy cows, as Emily says?)
- Beer: delicious, bitter beer that comes in 0.5l bottles and costs slightly more than 1€ at a Späti (Radeberger, Flensburger, Berliner, and Jever being my top picks).
- Flower prices: every time we order flowers for our family for birthdays or holiday, I nearly choke all over again looking at the prices. Why must a bouquet cost $60 when I can get something even better at my local market here for 12€? It boggles the mind...)

I'd love to hear your list. If just to know that I'm not the only one who gets so giddy at Target that she puts 5 packs of various chocolate chips in her bag and squeals like a schoolgirl on the first day of summer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

New England Vacation Daydreaming (Picture Preview)

I'm still regaining my bearings here in Berlin and readjusting to the whole doing-more-than-just-drink-wine-and-read-and-float-all-day thing, but I did want to stop in quickly and say hi! We're back from vacation! In physical presence if not quite in our heads at least. In our daydreams, we're still...

...hanging out with sister and most of our Scotland crew on Alyssa and Erik's cozy terrace

...cheering on the Red Sox (to sadly no avail)

...crashing Charlestown block parties

...and practicing our inflatable bar drinking-while-floating skills to put to use... this magical little slice of paradise

Can you see why we never wanted to leave?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

An End of the Season Tomato Update

Well, we're currently on our way to Boston - very likely in the air somewhere near Paris, either before or after our transfer. On our way to a short but not-too-short but oh-so-sweet end of summer vacation in Boston and New Hampshire to hang out with some of my very favorite people. Not the least of whom is Natalie!! So we may not be posting much in the next week and a half but in return, we will be having plenty of ridiculous fun in our old college romping grounds in return.

So I leave you with some pictures of our very bountiful, if not rather end-of-season-rather-ugly tomato plants.

The ugly skinny one on the left is Ursula, the bushy one in the right we just refer to as "leany"

Tomato count 2012 has already reached 277! (2011's total was 255 :)

Man I love these little fellows. Kai's in charge of them while we're away, so wish him luck!

See you here again in 1.5 weeks!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Inspiration to Action: Neon-dipped Goodies

Finally doing something that you've seen about one billion times on Pinterest is certainly reason to celebrate in my book. So in hopes of big celebrations ahead, last weekend I tackled two things: neon + dipped-pots/-jars.

I had a ton of neon paint left over from Thanksgiving last year, so I decided to put it to work fancying up a boring little white flower pot that sits in the guest room.

And then I threw a little jar-turned-colored-pencil holder into the mix too. Just for funsies. And also, because once you get started, it's really hard to stop. I was thisclose to dipping all other containers found in the room into paint...

After a night of drying, voilà! Easy peasy neon-dipped plant and pencil holders! Because I don't have enough color going in that room already. ;)

Even crazy gumball-laying chicken approves (he was a gift from Liz, but of course)

I think it's high time we start our own regular Pinterest Challenge over here, wouldn't you agree?