Mar 29, 2012

Baltimore: The City of Firsts

This absolutely wasn't my first trip to Baltimore. In fact, it was somewhere around my 5th. I've flown in and out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport more times in the last 10 months than I've even laid eyes on my own dog. Sad, right? The military seems to love this port of call, so it's been the starting place for many of the greatest adventures of my life thus far. This is the place where I left D, his duffle bag, and my tears when the Air Force took him for his first deployment in 2010. This is the place where we said our first set of goodbyes to my family before moving 4,000 miles across the ocean. Now, this is the place where my mom, little sister, and myself got to spend some quality time together, just the 3 of us, before shipping me off to Germany for the 3rd time. Although Baltimore has been the stage where many goodbye scenes have taken place, I still love coming to visit here. No hard feelings Charm City, swear it! Only fond memories that have given life to some of my bravest moments and greatest journeys. How could you not love a place like that?











{FYI all my nice, fancy camera photos stop here. iPhone tends to be my go-to camera in moving cars and heavily populated areas as to not seem like such a tourist. Does it really make me less conspicuous? Jury's still out on that one.}


When trying to find memorable things to do and see around a city we're visiting, I always tend to gravitate towards activities where food is involved. Call me crazy, but trying out restaurants that are new to me and could potentially have 'outta-this-world' cuisine is just as thrilling as riding a high-speed roller coaster. Both offer a great depth of sensory pleasure and, quite frankly, both could make you throw up. For the record, I'd choose a new restaurant over a roller coaster any day. The likeliness of barfing after trying a new restaurant is significantly lower than riding a roller coaster where I'm concerned.

As soon as we stepped foot into our hotel room, the lil' sis and I Googled "Best Restaurants in Baltimore." A myriad of seafood restaurants and crab shacks bombarded the computer screen. Yeah, Maryland, I get it. You're famous for your crabs. But, guess who's got two thumbs and doesn't like crabs? THIS GIRL! Next, please! Finally we got the bright idea to search for restaurants that had been featured on Triple D. You know, "Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives" on the Food Network with that crazy blonde-haired rocker dude Guy Fieri? Hubs freakin' LOVES that show, so any new place we go he's always re-watching episodes to find a cool place to grab a meal. That's why eating at 5 restaurants featured on Triple D is part of my 30 by 30 list. Hubs would be so proud! Luckliy, Mom and Wendy were also on board and in the mood for brunch, so stumbling upon Baltimore's Blue Moon Cafe seemed like a godsend. Their cafe speciality 'as-seen-on-TV' sounded too good to be true. As soon as we were dressed and ready, off to downtown B'more we went in hunt for THE one and only Captain Crunch French Toast!


I'm positive this place is classified under the 'dive' category, because it's literally a hole in the wall. A pale blue row house sandwiched between miles of brick and mortar. If I hadn't known what I was looking for, I probably would have just passed it by...although I definitely would have been wondering why there were so many people standing outside of it. Guess that was our first tip that this place was going to be good! I walked inside, flagged down the host, and asked how long the wait was. Looking around the restaurant, I assumed it would be long seeing as there were only 8-10 tables in the entire place. Talk about an intimate dining experience. Host said "hour to hour and a half". Wow, was I a good guesser. I hesitantly put our names down on the list and took my grumbling tummy back outside to warn the troops. Mom and Wendy were a little less than thrilled about the wait, but we decided to make the most of it and took a walk around Fell's Point till it was time to reconvene at the Blue Moon Cafe. 1 hour and 15 minutes later, we had ourselves a table!



There's Guy's Triple D stamp of approval! Took us forever to figure out that the spray paint scribble reads "GUY ATE HERE." Clever, ay?


There she is...the long awaited Captain Crunch French Toast! Captain Crunch crusted texas toast topped with cinnamon sugar, fresh berries, and homemade whipped cream. Ho-ly-crap. Seriously folks, it was worth the wait in every conceivable way. Truth be told, I'm not the biggest fan of French Toast. I've found there's a fine line between a good non-eggy tasting toast and a super eggy/soggy toast, so I tend to stay away. This particular French Toast has a batter saturated with vanilla, cinnamon, and heavy cream that seems to hide that over-eggy taste. Not to mention, the addition of crushed up Captain Crunch gives a sweet maple punch to an already decadent breakfast. Syrup was a non-nesessity, but a giant glass of cold milk would have put this dish over the top! Comfort on a plate, ladies and gents. Comfort on a plate. 



While your at it, feast your eyes on what my mom and sister ordered! That's one wicked huge Cinnamon Bun (which was, dare I say it, BETTER than that overpriced mall chain, Cinnabon. Leaps and bounds better!) and a Pesto Sausage Pinwheel with a side of potato cakes and fresh fruit. The pinwheel was also featured on Triple D. Insanely good. It's ok to drool. If you guys ever find yourself in Baltimore with a few hours to spare, kill your hunger pains at the Blue Moon Cafe! One of the greatest meals of my life. No joke.


After stuffing our faces, we still had a few more hours till I was due at the airport, so we drove around Baltimore just to take in the sights. A few of these places might look familiar! Should have just called this post the "Food Network tour of Baltimore," huh?


Wendy wouldn't let me knock...she barely wanted to get out of the car to take this picture with me! I just wanted to ask Duff how he gets his icing so smooth! Kidding. Seriously though, everyone else was parked outside doing the same thing we were. Tourists. :)



M&T Bank Stadium-Home of the Baltimore Ravens



Driving around Baltimore's Inner Harbor. I really wish we would have had time to hop out and explore this area more...it looked so neat!


As quick as it was (and always is), I had a blast roaming around Baltimore. I'm so thankful I got to spend some special time with my mom and sis as well! You're always a gracious host and until next our next visit, Charm City...Keep Cruisin'.

Mar 21, 2012

That Time I Basically Ate My Way Through North Carolina

If you've ever lived abroad or even have vacationed abroad for a long period of time (like months people, not a week or two) then you know the cravings and heart pangs that incessantly plague you during your time away from the USA. Some days, you revel in the beauty that is your new home, your new adventure in a far away land. But some days you can't stand the sight of the Autobahn, the lack of eye contact when you pass a stranger on the sidewalk, or trying to order a flippin' muffin at the corner bakery, but the cashier doesn't seem to understand the translation of the word "muffin" you found in your pocket translator. Daily frustrations can build up and have you daydreaming about home.

It's in those very moments, you long for a simpler life. The life where Targets and Starbucks were on every corner and the only worry you had was which one was closest to your house. The life where Chick-Fil-A is considered a food group and you're quite sure they've given you your own personal parking spot, know your order by heart, and making it for you would be their "pleasure." The life where you can go to the bathroom, anywhere, without having to make sure you've got pocket change to secure yourself a stall. Right then folks, that's when you yearn for the life you left in America.

I'm convinced life's only simpler in America because it's what we're used to...what I'm used to. If I had grown up here in Germany, the 27 different recycling receptacles and paying for a glass of water at restaurants would be totally normal to me. Alas, my life didn't begin here in Germany, so I spend my days working through a intricate web of cultural rules that govern my new home just so I can keep my head above water. It's only in the times when I put my feet back on American soil, no matter how brief or fleeting, the comfort of familiar things returns and life's made simple again.

That's also the time when I become a ravenous pig and raging 
shop-a-holic. It's the American dream, no?

On my recent trip back to the states, there were no holds barred. I ate what I wanted, I drank what I wanted, and I bought what I wanted. I had 2 weeks to do what I needed to do to hold me over for 10 straight months of European isolation. Although this trip home felt like a vacation, there was hardly time for relaxing.


Contrary to the list, the first order of business was loving on this guy:


Be still my heart! I miss my baby Tucker dog more than words could ever describe. I mean, c'mon! Who wouldn't miss that ADORABLE bow-tied cutie! It's ridiculous (and completely necessary) the number of photos I took of him while I was home. I'm melting into the floor just thinking about him now. Sigh. Ahem, moving on...


After I got my bearings and a couple thousand Tucker kisses, it was time to acclimate myself back to the plethora of food choices the states has to offer. "Eat myself back into my fat pants" should have been on the top of my list because that's practically all I did. Calories, shmalories, right? I was on vacation, baby! 

 I have a laundry list of food conquests...no judging allowed!!






See, I told you I literally ate my way through North Carolina (and a little of Baltimore)...and I am not ashamed! That last conquest there...yeah, there's a story about that. 1,000 points to anyone who knows what's special about the Captain Crunch French Toast at Blue Moon Cafe in Baltimore!? No googling, cheaters! 

Oh yeah, one other insane thing happened. 
I shipped a small grocery store back to Germany. 
No biggie.


Let's get serious for a second...
Truth be told, I hate Walmart...with a fiery passion, but after spending an hour there with my mom just combing through the aisles helping her grocery shop for the week, I found myself a bit teary eyed. I know, I'm crazy, but I just couldn't control the flood of emotions that came over me right there in the cereal aisle. I guess seeing the endless options for cooking combined with spending time with my mom doing plain old everyday things really got me thinking about how complicated living abroad can be. Little things like being able to cook a meal and bring it over to my parent's house for an impromptu dinner on a Tuesday night is something I've never had the opportunity to do since marrying the military almost 4 years ago. Most days it doesn't phase me, but in that moment picking out corn flakes, I realized how much I really miss home. Even though I was home, I can't always be home. Something I took for granted before moving so far away. Living in Europe is awesome and I feel very blessed, don't get me wrong, but for those of you who live a hop, skip, and a block away from your loved ones, count yourselves blessed as well. Some days I'd kill to trade places. Only I could have a major revelation in the aisles of Walmart, people. Thanks for listening. 

SO, after shopping and eating my way through the Piedmont with my family and friends, it was almost time to make my way back to Baltimore to catch another Space-A flight to Deutschland. But, not before I got one last chance to squeeze some cheeks! My adorable nephew, Logan...he's the sweetest little 2 year old I've ever laid eyes on. We spent 15 minutes in front of my iPhone taking silly pictures one night at my MIL's house. He kept saying, "Again, again!" every time I tried to move on to another activity. Guess the fascination with technology really does start at a young age! Watch out Aims, he'll be calling you from his own iPhone someday soon. Gosh, they grow up fast. Love that little booger!



Truly, the quality time spent with family and friends made the hours I spent on an airplane totally worthwhile, even if I hadn't gotten to eat a bite of Chick-Fil-A (blasphemy, I know!). I have one last post regarding my visit back to America {think Baltimore, girls trip, and a few televised hot spots}, then I promise I'll be done making my fellow expats jealous. :) When is my next visit to the USA? Well...not till Christmas...and we're still crossing our fingers that trip will happen. Until then, it's back to daily life as I know it here in Germany. 

We've got lots and lots of trips coming up this spring and summer {Amsterdam, Berlin, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Innsbruck, Tuscany, Rome, Florence, Prague, Lake Constance, Paris, London, and the Black Forest}. Ack! My head is spinning just thinking about it all. SO MUCH TO LOOK FORWARD TO! Hope you'll be along for the ride!

Mar 15, 2012

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Ok. I know. This trip happened like aggggesss ago. And by ages, I mean July of last year. But seriously, a girl forgets things sometimes. And then she remembers them again. It happens. So, here you go. A recap of our 4th anniversary trip to THE cutest medieval town in all of Germany...

Rothenburg ob der Tauber!
{Lots of photos...consider yourself warned.}


Our hotel! 
Stay here, it's fabulous. They even put a tiny bag of Haribo gummie bears on our pillows at night. Pretty much as German as it gets.


Fairytale view from our window




 Beautiful Rothenburg, "The red fortress above the Tauber River"!






 We had the most memorable dining experience of our lives at this restaurant in Rothenburg. You can read about it in a guest post I wrote here for Jessica Lynn Writes.


The best Käse Spätzle I've ever put into my mouth.




D outside of the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store. That place was like Christmas on crack.









We made a pit stop at the Criminal Museum. It should have been called the torture museum...the photos below will explain.





The view just outside the walls of Rothenburg.





Had to refuel before starting our 1.5 mile walk along the city wall.






Toppler Castle



And thus begins our walk around the wall of Rothenburg...









This place is like a dream!






Dinner on night 2...more spätzle and a swiss steak!


Mein Bier und David's Bier.


Final attraction for the weekend...the Night Watchman's Tour of the city!





The Marktplatz {town square}.





Sigh. I never wanted to leave this place. I'm completely enchanted by Rothenburg. It's a German "must-see." Can't wait to bring my family here this summer!

Auf Wiedersehen, Freunde!
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