Aug 28, 2014

Dental Failure


You guys, I got my first ever tooth filling yesterday...and I'm feeling all kinds of melancholy about it. I went 27 years, 10 months, and 19 days without ever having a cavity and BOOM, one visit to the dentist later and I'm getting not one, not two, but three fillings. T-H-R-E-E!!! %$*@! I'm ashamed and disgusted with myself, too. I could have boo-hooed the whole way home, but I was too busy drooling out of the side of my numb mouth, so I figured one involuntary bodily function was enough for the moment. 

I blame Germany for this. Gummie bears and copious amounts of semi-sweet Riesling weren't staples in my diet until I moved to that sugar-riddled country and now I have 3 tiny, expensive souvenirs from our time there. Gee, thanks! I also award blame to my sealants for their supporting role in deciding to jump ship and making my cavities even more possible. NO SLOW CLAP FOR YOU! But seriously, this kind of rocked my world. Going from having a brag-worthy cavity-less mouth to having 3 black spots of death in one fail swoop makes me sad. And it hurts...literally. As if a regular teeth cleaning wasn't already irritating enough on my mouth, I thought it would be a brave idea to get the fillings done in the same visit. The dentist had time, so I said, whatevs, let's get this over with. As they were prepping their scary tools and sticking all kinds of nonsense in my mouth, I kept mentally beating myself up and trying not to barf from the nerves. They tried to give me laughing gas, but I refused it. Glutton for punishment, I was. I deserved to be totally aware of this awful experience. That'll teach me, right? Glad I refused it because the whole filling process really wasn't that bad. My entire mouth is still sore today, but I didn't die, so yay for that. Apparently my cavities were itsy-bitsy baby cavities, and I'm making sure to tell everyone that so as not to feel as awful about my dental failure (re: denial).

Anywho, after driving home drooling all over myself, I spent 5 hours yesterday afternoon thinking my face was swollen the size of a soccer ball (truth: it wasn't) and Googling ways to make Novocaine wear off faster (hint: there isn't a way). I'm the epitome of a baby. I called my mom and sister to confess my news and they laughed uncontrollably at my misfortune. Guess I deserved that after all my years of not-so-humble bragging about my stellar cavity-free mouth. Karma is, indeed, a bitch. But really, they both laughed and consoled me. Mostly laughed though. I was also talking like a slurring drunk. Your tongue literally doesn't work when it's numb. So weird.

 When D got home from work and I was basically dying of starvation because I hadn't eaten a thing since 7am (tip: don't agree to same-day fillings when your original cleaning appointment is at 9am and they don't finish the extra stuff until after noon), I finally said f**k screw it...let's get fro-yo! A giant middle finger to my 3 cavities with more cavity-causing sugar. Yep, seems about right. They probably shouldn't have suggested I eat soft, cold things for the rest of the day (they actually mentioned Slurpees--I mean, really). My mind went straight to ice cream (#duh). Doc, I'll see you for another filling in 6 months. 

Aug 26, 2014

The Reason I Dressed: The Land of Vikings [GIVEAWAY!]


Hello, We Took the Road Less Traveled readers! I’m Angie from Reasons to Dress, my blog is about life and style, things that go hand in hand in Italy where I currently live with my husband and 2 year old son. Last week I was in a Northern German town visiting a Viking settlement recreation, I hope you enjoy where I went and what I wore!

The Reason I Dressed - The Land of Vikings

In search of a new experience we headed to the Northern tip of Germany to a small town called Hedeby just 20 minutes south of the Denmark border in “Viking Territory”! 

Once upon a time, around a thousand years ago, Vikings settled in this inlet and stayed here for over 300 years. They worked, lived, and set sail from here, until the site was abandoned for the more strategic position across the lake. The area they left behind remained untouched until archaeologists discovered it and were able to piece together the story of the settlement, recreating a few of their homes, tools, and ways of life.

 

We spent an incredible day at the Viking Museum in Hedeby, immersed in vibrant green meadows and perched on the edge of the inlet that connects to the North and Baltic seas.

The museum itself is very modern and showcased the artifacts in an interactive way. FYI, I was not able to actually read or enjoy any of the indoor exhibits because I was WAY too preoccupied ensuring that my toddler didn’t:
a) Climb/break the exhibits, b)  Stomp his feet, play hide and go seek, climb the exhibits (wait did I already say that?), c) Annoy the £$%& out of other museum dwellers with his adorable (to me) and yet surprisingly ear-piercing squeals (aka tantrum screams!)


What I really LOVED about this place was that you could go outside of the museum, walk for 15 minutes along the nature trail to an entire Viking Settlement recreated on the water’s edge.


Incredible attention to detail made it feel as though we really did enter a real Viking settlement complete with characters in full costume! There were even sheep grazing in the hills beside us along the trail!

 

I loved this part of the museum and thought more than once about the fact that the same cold wind that was blowing all around would have blown a Viking’s face a thousand years ago.

What I Wore

In my blog, I try to share not just how I dress but where I went. I always wonder where all those fashion bloggers are going all dressed up! Not only that, but I have a really hard time dressing appropriately for the weather, so hopefully this will help you if you ever plan on visiting North Europe in mid-August! Let me save you some packing headaches...leave your bathing suit at home (unless of course you are incredibly tough-like Viking tough!)


 What to Wear?  What to Wear………

A TRENCH
 I didn't bring this trench with me, I bought it on sale for 20 euro (about $27) in Copenhagen a few days before this trip to Germany. It has been a much needed addition to my wardrobe.


LAYERS!
 It can be very hot and sunny one moment and then frigidly windy and cold the next, only to be followed by rain! You’ll want to pack and wear many a layer from cotton sweaters to polo shirts and t-shirts. When it gets cold, layer away, and if you start to sweat just peel a layer off!   Plus, don’t you find that adding in layers instantly makes any outfit so much more interesting?


RAIN BOOTS
 I managed to pack rain boots into a carry-on luggage! These are “Chelsea” rain boots, meaning they are rubber, but have that sleek London Chelsea-design, making them an easy addition to bring along for a trip to North Germany in the summer. Believe me you’ll be glad you have them since it rains every second day!

HATS and RAIN GEAR
 Remember my trusty rainhat from my Spring trip to Rome? Well, I keep it in my pocket at all times! When it starts to pour and I need to push the stroller, I just pull it out and voilà! When it really starts to come down I also have a fashionable Topshop rain poncho that I use, but luckily we were greeted with pretty decent weather on our trip to the Viking settlement (by decent I mean it only rained twice in a 10 hour period!) It was windy, however, so I’m glad I had my cotton beanie (touque for those of us who are Canadian) to protect my ears. The hats are available now at H&M as part of their new collection and are under $10, but any thin cotton hat will do!

SUNGLASSES
 You’ll want to pack sunglasses, when the sun shines it REALLY shines. Mine were bought on sale for $17 and did the trick. Here’s some advice, skip the expensive sunglasses when on vacation, if you loose them or forget them they will be gone forever! I’ve lost $400 sunglasses in Paris (pre-baby days obviously) and to this day it still bothers me. Enjoy your vacation without the worry of loosing things that you won’t want to replace.


A SCARF
 I live in Italy! I dare not go ANYWHERE without a scarf. If you want to read about the Italian obsession with scarves and drafts I wrote a bit about it last winter here!

A BRAIDED BELT
 Last, but not least I would recommend a braided belt. Since there are no holes, there is no specific “sizing” so you can wear it up high on your waist, or with pants and jeans and even over a coat.  I usually pack at least 3 belts when I go on vacation since my husband is a belt artisan, but on this trip, being limited to one small carry-on for two weeks I only packed this belt and it GOES WITH EVERYTHING!  For a chance to win this belt, valued at around $600, please enter the giveaway below!


And that’s what I wore and how my day went at the Viking Settlement. If you’re wondering if I found any stylish moms to photograph in Hedeby, I found only one! I call her “Viking Mom” and she was pretty cool!  Little does she realize that plaid will be all the rage this fall! Come visit the blog next week and I’ll be sharing some Copenhagen DAD Street Style, with a pretty hunky dad that looks surprisingly like Jude Law (good thing my husband has a lot of self-confidence!). Have a great day and don’t forget to stop by, say hi, and enter the giveaway!

 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thanks for sharing your stylish outfit and great Viking adventure, Angie!! Friends, make sure to enter to win one of Angie's FAB Italian belts in the Rafflecopter below.
This supreme calf leather belt has been colored by hand and features a solid brass, artisan made buckle created in Florence, Italy. It has been braided by hand, and you will notice that each leather strip is actually twice as wide as what you can see, because the same leather is folded upon itself, so you have the same supple leather on top and bottom.  This method has created a luxuriously supple accessory that hugs your curves and confirms to your body’s shape.  Incredibly versatile you can wear this flexible belt through pant belt loops or even over a dress by tucking the belt tip down. Created entirely in Italy by the Italian artisan belt company T.E.S. Tradizioni ed Elementi di Stile, meaning Traditions and Elements of Style, Italy’s foremost exotic leather belt artisans, who have created belt lines for the World’s most exclusive luxury brands and currently have their own line of belts on sale at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. This belt will be custom sized to the winner’s WAIST SIZE,  please indicate your exact waist measurement (just above your hip bones) in centimeter’s as part of the giveaway’s entry process. This belt would retail for approximately $600 in North America. Good Luck!


Aug 25, 2014

Tips for Moving with the Military: Things I Wish I'd Known My First PCS



In the military, PCS is just a fancy acronym for "Hey, you're moving!" The acronym stands for Permanent Change of Station, but as all military families know, the move is never permanent. Some families will move every 2-3 years, while others may live at one duty station for 4-7 years. Sometimes more depending on the job. For D and I, it's somewhere around the every 3-4 year time frame...and once he gets higher in rank, it'll likely be every 2 years. One thing that's for sure is military families get really good at this whole moving thing. The entire process can be super stressful (and never gets any more fun to do year after year), but after the first 2 moves, you begin to get it all down to a science. Housing office meetings, TMO scheduling, out-processing, packing, unpacking, TLF living...I feel like I could write a book about it all myself! 


{Taken at D's deployment homecoming in 2010}
Since marrying into the Air Force in the summer of 2008, D and I have moved to three different duty stations. Our very first military move was from our hometown in North Carolina to Hampton, Virginia (Langley AFB). I learned a lot that first PCS, and even more when we moved from Virginia to Germany in 2011 (moving abroad deserves its own PCS post!). Just when I thought I'd gotten the hang of this moving thing, then we up and bought a house and moved to our next duty station in Florida after 3 years abroad. Needless to say, owning a new home and navigating a transatlantic move granted us a whole new learning curve for military moves. Just goes to show, every move can be different! Now that we've covered all kinds of moving situations, there are a few things that remain constant throughout the military moving process...



Here are some basic things I wish I had known my first PCS with the military:
  • Don't pre-pack anything in boxes. The movers will just unpack it and re-pack it to their liking. The reasoning behind this is because the movers are liable for any items they break during your move. If you pack it and it breaks, that's on you. It's their way of protecting you (and themselves) should anything happen along the way. If you have anything in large Tupperware bins (i.e.-holiday decorations, keepsakes, old clothes, random storage items, etc.), they likely won't re-pack those. It is a good idea, however, to organize your belongings and throw out anything you know you'll never use at your new duty station. Downsizing & simplifying are two of the perks of moving every few years!
  • It's always a good idea to have a few snacks and drinks (like water, tea, gatorade) on hand for your movers. It can be a long day (or multiple days depending on your moving poundage) packing up and labeling all of your precious belongings, so snacks help to keep their energy up and crankiness low. If you're feeling extra sweet (hint: just do this anyway!), buy the movers lunch. Nothing fancy or expensive, just something to show them you appreciate them taking good care of your stuff. And after they're full and happy, I guarantee they'll be extra careful with your grandmother's antique vase. 
  • Anything you don't want the movers to touch, LABEL IT! You can even go as far as placing all those things in a closed-off room and telling them whatever's in that room...stays. Believe me, if you don't tell them or show them what NOT to pack, they'll pack it all. I've heard horror stories about folks getting their household goods weeks or months later and realizing the movers packed their garbage as well. I'm sure that smelled lovely! If you're a super organized Type A-mover, you may also want to color code your boxes with tape or stickers to designate what boxes go in what room when you get to your new home. I've yet to try this, but I hear lots of good things from fellow milspouses who've tested this technique.
  • Keep a watchful eye, but don't hover. It's a tough thing, watching strangers touch your personal belongings, but hovering over them and dictating what you'd like to have in what particular box is overkill. There's a fine line for helpful monitoring and nagging over-protectiveness. Nit-picking and having unrealistic packing ideals won't make them go faster and it sure won't make for a happy packing environment. I know, I know...it's YOUR stuff. You want to make sure it's packed away safe and sound (and that no one's stolen anything), but have a little faith that your movers know what they're doing. I'm sure packing your house isn't their first go-round. If you want them to take particular care of precious items or see something you rather them pack differently, then politely ask them. Or better yet, find a way to get those items to your new location yourself. We kept all of our fine china in my parent's basement for our move overseas. Just didn't want to chance it. If you do notice your packers completely disrespecting your belongings, call the moving inspector and let them know immediately so they can remedy the situation. DON'T take matters into your own hands!


  • Put your bedding, sheets, curtains, pillows, towels...anything fabric (aside from clothing) folded nicely in those giant Ziploc moving bags. They are absolutely wonderful for keeping moisture out and dirty hand prints off your linens. That way, when you finally get them back, you can just pull them out and not worry that they're moldy or soiled.
  • You'll have to take down everything of your walls (the movers won't do that). For all the screws, bolts, photo hangers, curtain tiebacks, mounting fixtures, etc. (the little things that help hang something to your wall), place them in labeled baggies and store them all in one box labeled "DECORATIVE HARDWARE". Then you'll easily find them all in one place ready for hanging. Such a timesaver!
  • Have the movers and packers lay down moving cloths or cardboard boxes for them to roll their dollies over and pack (or unpack) heavy items on in your home. This way, you'll save your precious floors some serious scratches. If you do find any damage to your home, address it with the movers and with the moving inspector before the movers leave your home.
  • Make sure to pull out any important papers, passports, bills, password sheets, medical info...anything you might need to keep your life going while your stuff is moving, don't let the movers pack those! It's a good idea to have a "PCS Binder" full of all the important paperwork you might need in one organized place, that way you won't be wracking your brain looking for Sally's shot record when you register her for school in your new town. Here's a great list of things your PCS Binder should include.
  • Make sure to talk with your moving inspector pre-move to find out what items the movers will or will not pack. Most moving companies will move any non-perishable food items (i.e.-boxed dry food, flour, rice, pastas, canned goods, etc.), but anything half-opened they'll leave for you to discard. I've had moving companies tell me they won't move candles, batteries, alcohol, opened liquids/toiletries, lighters, cooking oils, aerosol cans/sprays or anything that could be flammable. In our recent transatlantic move, alcohol was permitted (as long as the state we were moving to allowed for it) and they packed my candles & batteries. Proof every company is different...so ask before chucking them out! Hiding half-opened toiletries wrapped up in Tupperware bins is also a trick of the military moving world, but you didn't hear that from me! ;)
  • If you're moving abroad (OCONUS locations), the second you can start making plans (scheduling movers, out-processing, being medically cleared, no-fee passports, etc.), DO IT! Don't wait until the last minute to do any important things that will help you get abroad. You know the military works on their own schedules, so being ahead of the game on your end can save you a headache later. Also, it's wise to stay ON TOP of whomever you need to to get stuff done. Don't be afraid to pester the housing office, TMO, your sponsor, EVERYONE...if you need something done ASAP. Sometimes things fall through the cracks during peak PCS season. Don't let that something be you!

Any move is stressful, but moving with the military can be a different beast of its own. You might think you're out of control, but take heart, you're not! You have many military entities in your corner during the moving process, so don't let the stress get the best of you. PCS season can be exciting, too! Moving to a new city, starting over, experiencing new places and making new friends...think of the possibilities! Take a deep breath, make lists, and go forth with minimal worries. It will all get done! And if you've got any PCS questions (abroad or otherwise), don't hesitate to email me! Always happy to help a fellow MilFamilies!

Any more tips you'd add to this list? Share the wealth!

Aug 20, 2014

5 Surprising Destinations in Europe



Ever come across a destination while on vacation that absolutely surprised you? You know, that city or town you really had no interest in seeing, but totally blew you away in the best way possible? During our time living abroad, D and I encountered quite a few of these "hidden gems" while traveling all over Europe. Some we discovered as ports of call on our European cruises, others we just happened upon while traveling with friends. But what they all had in common was the ability to create major "WOW" moments unique to each destination. That's what's thrilling about traveling places outside of your typical interests. You never know what beautiful destination you might fall in love with! Here are a few of the cities D and I were most pleasantly surprised about...


Split was a stop on our most recent Adriatic cruise sailing. Dubrovnik was the highlight port of the cruise (for me at least), so our day in Split just seemed like a bonus. We weren't expecting it to present anything spectacular, but after disembarking the cruise ship and riding the tender boat to port, we immediately changed our minds! Split is nestled into the side of a small mountain range and is pushed right up against the Adriatic Sea, making for some gorgeous landscape contrasts. The views just from sailing into port were thrilling. Palm trees, white-washed stone buildings, crystal blue water...my photos hardly do it justice. Once we arrived at the port, the town opened up into a historic wonder with Diocletian's palace being the star attraction. I was nothing short of awe-struck for the rest of the day.

| EAT |
Restaurant Tifani--We stopped in here for a bottle of wine and a snack. Be sure to try the Croatian wines and nosh on local olives and cheese. The views at this place can't be beat! 
5 Poljana Kraljice JeleneSplit 21000 Croatia

FIGA Food Bar--Great cocktails and quick meals inside of an eclectic tight alleyway cafe. Not a lot of seating, but the fresh dishes make up for it.
Buvinina 1Split 21000Croatia

| SEE |
--Wander through Diocletian's Palace
--Shop vendor stalls around the palace
--Cathedral and bell tower of St. Dominus
--Cardo Maximus & the Peristyle
--Riva Harbor


Tallinn was hands down the best part of our Baltic cruise during the summer of 2013. I haven't written about it yet, but when I think of "diamond in the rough" type towns across Europe, Tallinn is the first destination that pops into my mind. We knew nothing about Estonia before traveling there. NOTHING. So, needless to say, we really had no expectations. We were totally enamored with the way this town has preserved every historic tradition Tallinn ever had. From restaurant waitresses wearing traditional garb and serving traditional fare (think wild boar, elk, & bear, yum!) to the medieval town fair and surrounding fortress wall, this town really wowed us with its historic pride. In addition, the city is just too darn cute. So much fun and absolutely unexpected.

| EAT| 
Olde Hansa--Excellent place to try traditional medieval Estonian delights right in the heart of Tallinn Old Town. Might I suggest the wild bear, elk, & boar sausages or the bear stew? Don't forget to wash it all down with a mug of honey beer! Such a fun place to eat.
Vana Turg 1Tallinn 10140Estonia

Hell Hunt--Great Scandinavian pub and restaurant to try local Estonian beers. 
Pikk 39Tallinn 10140Estonia

| SEE | 
--Tallinn Old Town
--Tallinn Town Hall Square
--Toompea Hill
--Oleviste Church & Tower
--Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
St. Catherine's Passage


As a bustling University town, Utrecht definitely had an eclectic life of its own. Between the students riding their bikes to class and ducking in and out of bars at the end of the day, this city really made me feel like I was back reliving my college days, only with much more stunning scenery. As if the gorgeous canal-lined streets weren't swoon-worthy enough, Utrecht also boasts a healthy craft & Belgian brew scene, great shopping, and lots of quaint cafes to keep you fueled an happy while exploring. Had we not visited here on a birthday trip with friends, we would have never had the pleasure of experiencing this jewel of the Netherlands.

| EAT & DRINK | 
Olivier--Belgian beer bar and restaurant housed inside of an old "hidden" church; original vaults, organ, and alter still intact. Menu includes 70 different beers and suggested dishes for pairing. Try the cheese croquettes, homemade bread with garlic aioli, and the local Utrecht brews. 
Achter Clarenburg 63511 JJ Utrecht, Netherlands

Rooie Dop Brewdungeon--Local craft brewery bar featuring unique brews including a coffee porter, an oatmeal stout, and a fruit white IPA.
Oudegracht a/d werf 5, 3511 Utrecht, Netherlands 

| SEE | 
--Visit the Dom tower
--Walk the canals (picture-perfect in every way!) 
--Venture just outside of town to Castle De Haar



I was shocked by the beauty of Kotor and surrounding Kotor Bay in Montenegro. Montenegro is a country most people don't even know exists, but man, once you've floated through its fjords, drenched in sunlight with mountains towering overhead, you'll never ignore this tiny country again! As if the beautiful sea juxtaposed against the lush mountain landscape wasn't already perfect enough, wandering through Kotor's walled city is icing on the cake. This up-and-coming city is truly a destination to watch! I'm excited to see how tourism blossoms here over the coming years.

| EAT |
Galion--Beautiful views and excellent seafood. Terrace of the restaurant floats over the sea!
Suranj bbKotor 85330Montenegro

Restaurant Cesarica-- Mediterranean cuisine. Again, go for the seafood!
Stari grad 375Kotor 85330Montenegro

| SEE |
--Old Town Kotor
--Walk the city walls
--The Church of Our Lady of the Rock
--Kotor Castle of San Giovanni (St. John)
--Venture up to Mount Lovcen to experience the 25 switchback turns drive and breathtaking scenic views of the city and bay.


Bamberg is one of those unsuspecting German towns that enchants you from the second you begin to walk through it. Colorful half-timbered houses, rushing water, quiet canals, and all the fabulous German beer you could possibly want stuffed into one charming city. Very easily navigated and day-trip worthy! D and I loved our day here, and have been spreading the world about beautiful Bamberg ever since.

| EAT |
Schlenkerla--Home of Bamberg's claim to fame, Rauchbier (smoked beer)!
Dominikanerstrasse 6, 96049 Bamberg, Germany

Klosterbrau Bamberg--Traditional German fare and excellent brown beer.
Obere Muhlbrucke 1-396049 Bamberg, Germany

| SEE |
--Bamberg Alstadt (Old Town)
--Altus Rathaus (Old Town Hall)
--Bamberger Dom (cathedral)
--New Residenz (tour not in English)
--Little Venice (Bamberg's famous canal area)
--Bamberg Brewery Trail

What are some destinations that have surprised you in your travels?

Aug 15, 2014

Refreshing Fresh Face Friday...


This might be my new favorite photo of D. No happier man than a man on vacation! I can't wait to get my iMac back so I can start sharing our Adriatic cruise photos with you. That vaycay feels like forever ago! Anywho...we made it to Friday, y'all. Whew! I hope you all had a nice, productive, fun-filled week, wherever in the world you are! We have another set of guests visiting with us this weekend...D's parents! D hasn't seen them in over a year, so needless to say he's on Cloud 9 hanging out with his dad and being spoiled by his momma. I've enjoyed watching them reconnect and getting to spend some quality family time with them myself! 

I'm sure you've noticed, but there's no Fresh Face link up this week. In an effort to keep my load light and my sanity intact as we finish out the last steps of this transatlantic transition (i.e.-OUR STUFF IS BEING DELIVERED ON MONDAY!!!!! CUE THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS!!!)...I decided to reintegrate FFF back into my blogging routine a bit slower than normal (every 2 weeks instead of hosting once a week). Half to see how it would do again, and half to not overwhelm myself with too much at one time. So far, the response has been pretty good and I'm only hoping it will continue to grow as blog land awakens from its summer stupor. Tell me you guys have noticed how dead-as-door-nails this place has been recently? Like tap-tap-tap, is this thing on? Anywho, I feel like an upswing for blog world should be happening any day now, so I'll be revving up FFF with a new feature. Starting September 5th, I'll be trying out some writing prompts along with the blog hop! Now, don't freak out...it'll be fun!

How it will work:
1| I'll give a writing prompt a week before FFF goes live every other Friday. 
(Example-I'll be giving you a prompt today that will be the writing topic for the blog hop on September 5th. On Sept 5th, I'll give you your topic for the hop on September 19th.)

2| You write a blog post on the topic. You've basically got 2 weeks to brainstorm & write away. Easy peasy.

3| Link up that specific blog post to the FFF Blog Hop.

4| Hop around, read posts, mix & mingle, and meet new-to-you bloggers!

Boom. Fresh Face Friday freshened up a bit. :) September will be a trial run for this whole writing prompt thing. Why am I even changing the format? Because sometimes it's hard to find things to write about. I get "bloggers block" more than I care to admit most days. At least this way, we all have one day a week where we'll know exactly what to write about! If it sucks and bloggers start showing up at my door for a Casey-lynching, then well, we'll go back to the no-prompt approach. I'm not one to try and make a round peg fit into a square hole. Hopefully, we'll all have some good stories to share, sharpen up our writing skills, and have some flippin' fun!

So, all that being said...wanna know your first writing topic for September 5th?!

Tell me about the greatest trip of your life.
It could be a family vacation, a mission trip, a big move abroad, a honeymoon...tell me about any trip you've taken (foreign or domestic) that left a long lasting impression on you. A trip of a lifetime, a vacation you can't stop bragging about, a trip you still talk about to this day...I WANNA KNOW! Make sure to add in fab pictures, because if this was the greatest trip of your life, we're gonna wanna see it!

Everyone got it? Good! If you've got topics you'd love to write about for future FFF, leave me your suggestions in the comments section...and I'll meet you back here September 5th for even more Fresh Face Friday fun! Want to be one of my Fresh Faces for September, you still have time to grab your spot at $5 OFF with code LETSPARTY! Happy weekending, friends!

Aug 14, 2014

Homemade Queso Blanco


Ask and ye shall receive! I know, it's so mean to brag about how awesome I am at making cheese dip and then wait forever to share it. Crazy thing is, I had a super hard time finding the cheese I usually use to make this stuff! How in the world does the commissary in Wiesbaden, Germany have what I need and basically every grocery store in Central Florida didn't. Well, until I got smart, slapped on my sloppiest workout gear, and went to the one store I LOATHE going to...Walmart. Walmart may suck every other day of the week, but yesterday, it was my cheese saving grace. Now, before you read this recipe and say "EWWWW, NO FRIGGIN' WAY...she uses PROCESSED CHEESE to make this stuff?!?!" I should tell you that I've tried replicating Mexican restaurant-style queso blanco with dozens of different cheeses. Nothing gave me the good, melty consistency that queso blanco requires except for processed american white cheese (the Land O'Lakes kind, to be exact). Eating processed cheese once in a blue moon won't kill you. And if you frequent a Mexican restaurant and order this stuff, it's likely processed, too. So, just suck it up and enjoy the cheesy goodness, mmmkay? D got to taste-test this batch after I was done photographing it and subsequently mumbled quite a few wonderful things about my queso making skills in between mouthfuls of cheese. Would I steer you wrong? ;)


How did this drool-worthy recipe come to be? You guys have heard me lament about how Germany had the worst Mexican food in the history of ever. Being a total Mexican food fiend stuck in a country lacking such goodness, I was in a panic whenever a chimichanga craving hit. So, I started concocting my own versions of my favorite Mexican restaurant dishes. Queso blanco is something we ALWAYS order (nothing like a side of cheese with a meal of fried meat and cheese, the American dream!), so experimenting with my own version was totally necessary. Now this dip has become what D requests on our cheat days, Sunday afternoon football parties, his birthday, and Thanksgiving, even. I've never indulged him in a Thanksgiving queso blanco request yet, but I'm sure one day he'll wear me down. Cheese is good any time of year, am I right? Overflowing queso blanco cornucopias, coming to a Thanksgiving table near you this fall. 


Homemade Queso Blanco
Serves 8 (or something like that)

Ingredients
  • 3/4 lb. to 1 lb. (roughly 4 cups) Land O'Lakes White American Cheese, shredded or cubed
  • 1 cup of fat free heavy cream, divided
  • 1 medium jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, divided
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pinch of pepper to taste
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (if you want more heat)

Directions
1| In medium-sized sauce pot, melt 1 Tbsp. of butter over medium-low heat. Drop in chopped onions and jalapenos and saute for 2 minutes.
2| Add the remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter and allow to melt. Then add in flour and whisk together for 1 to 2 minutes until a roux is formed (grainy, pasty mixture forms around the jalapeno and onion bits).
3| Pour in 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and whisk together until roux is incorporated into the cream.
4| Add in a handful of cheese and whisk until melted. Continue alternating 1/4 cup of heavy cream and handful of cheese until all cheese is used. Continuously stir to keep the cream/cheese mixture from burning on the bottom of the pot. You may need to turn down the heat if you notice any burning.
5| Add in salt and pinch of pepper and stir together. If you can handle more heat, add in a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes.
6| Serve warm with your favorite tortilla chips (might I suggest Tostitos Blue Corn or Cantina chips??) and ENJOY!


For more delicious recipes, visit my Culinary Adventures page!

Aug 12, 2014

Hopfensee, Germany


Nestled in between miles of lush farmland and the commanding German Alps is a small lake called Hopfensee. If you were just in town visiting Neuschwanstein, you'd likely miss it. In fact, had D and I not done our research before our weekend in Bavaria, we would've missed it, too. The town surrounding the lake is quaint, but quintessentially German. Half-timbered houses, colorful flower boxes adorning each window...the ideal place for a German holiday. The locals seemed to think so, too, seeing as the town was bustling with families paddle boating and couples strolling along the lakeside path. D and I scored ourselves a lakefront hotel reservation at Residenz Hofensee and made this mountain view town our home base for the weekend. 

Upon arriving, we were in awe of the beautiful views of the Alps that surrounded Neuschwanstein castle. If you looked close enough from our 2nd floor balcony, you could see the tippy top of the castle spire dropped in between the mountain peaks. Talk about some Bavarian magic! After dropping off our luggage, we took cues from the locals and wandered along the lakeside trail, stopping for photos and a sweet treat at the eis shop. A storm was rolling in, so we cut our walk short and grabbed a covered al fresco table at a local pizza parlor. Not a single soul in town spoke English, so we took the opportunity to practice our German...a lot. We were as submerged in German culture as we possibly could be, and we loved every second of it. We spent the next two days enjoying nature, darting into cafes to avoid rain showers, and feeling positively German as we mixed and mingled with other vacationers. If you want to holiday like the locals, explore the Füssen/Hopfensee area and experience the beauty of Bavaria. Prepare to have your mind blown and your idea of a magical vacation taken to new heights.


For more from Bavaria, check out my WANDERLUST page!

Aug 8, 2014

FRESH FACE FRIDAY [& Blog Hop!]: Meet Jess & Morgan

Happy Friday, friends! Welcome back to Fresh Face Friday! Whew...it's been awhile, right? I'm excited to finally have my blogging grove back and thankful to still have interest in this fun sponsorship I created oh so long ago! So, THANK YOU for sticking with me through this extended transitional period in my life. I know I've said this a hundred times before, but I have THE greatest readers in all of blog world! You guys make this space so much fun for me...and so hard to stay away from for too long!

How about a quick life update, shall we? We still don't have our stuff. Day 52 and counting. I sound like a broken record, but goodness...I WANT MY STUFF! Nay, we NEED our stuff. Moving to Germany, we were without our belongings for much longer, but we were also staying in a hotel with a real bed and per diem. You have no idea the different those two things make in a move. Moving back home has had us much more displaced and unsettled than moving to Germany did. Which still totally blows my mind, but it's true. Sleeping on an air mattress is the total pits. Cooking make-shift meals in the microwave or in the one pot and pan we have in the house is getting old, real quick. And eating out just isn't an option day in and day out. The Air Force doesn't give extended per diem on this side of the move...only abroad. Makes no flippin' sense. Granted, we do have this beautiful home to hang out in, but it's like an empty shell that just keeps our heads dry and our 4 pieces of furniture safe. We're all kinds of restless...and to add insult to injury, we still don't have D's car. He's basically fit to be tied, as you can imagine. We lived as a one car family for almost 3 years in Germany, but that's just not feasible here in America where public transportation is WAY different and we're not just a short walk from a large downtown area anymore. These things may not fall under the typical realm of reverse culture shock issues, but they've made moving back from a foreign country incredibly difficult. We've tried keeping a positive attitude and making due with what we've got (and taking mini-vacations to hotels with plush bedding to keep our sanity intact), but we're coming to the ends of our ropes here in the Sunshine State. There's only so much pacifying a sandy beach can do.

Anywho, enough bellyaching from me. Keep us in your prayers, won't you? As for your Friday...I hope it's off to an awesome start! Make sure to visit the two fab bloggers below and link your own creative space up to the Fresh Face Friday Blog Hop! The next hop won't be until August 22nd, so don't miss your chance to meet & mingle this week. Be on the lookout for the new link-up writing prompts to start in September (more info to come)! Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

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BLOG | FACEBOOK | BLOGLOVIN' | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST

Mrs. Beer is back! And I'm always thrilled to have her! Jess is a loving wife, mama to an adorable tot named Abbie, and a life-loving blogger just trying to share her story. Over on her aptly named blog, Being Mrs. Beer, you'll read thoughtful posts on motherhood, catch glimpses into Jessica's everyday life, and just melt over the sweet stories she shares about life with a rambunctious little girl. Jess writes with all her heart (even about the tough stuff), so make sure give her space a good look, friends. She's a great one to add to your reading list!

Jessica's Favorite Posts:
Working Mom Woes
From Girls to Women
Celebrating Small Changes

My Favorite Posts:
World Breastfeeding Week & Our Story
Shrimp Tacos
A Day in the Life


BLOG | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | BLOGLOVIN'

It's no surprise that I love sharing avid travelers with you guys--Morgan, of the fun-loving blog, The Misadventures of Morgan, is no stranger to getting out and experiencing the world around us. A Wyoming native, Morgan has lived abroad in Brazil, Germany, and Australia all before the age of 21! Lucky duck! Over on her creative space, you'll find recaps from her travels, throwbacks from her time living abroad, and peeks into her everyday life as a student finishing her undergrad degree. There's lots more to learn about Morgan, so head on over and get to know this girl-on-the-go today!

Morgan's Favorite Posts:
What Kind of Blogger are You?
Tales of a Traveler: What I Wish I'd Known Before Moving Abroad
The Importance of Positive Self Image

My Favorite Posts:
Making Friends in a New City
What Brazil Taught Me About Living in Australia
Five Places Within Five Years

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Welcome to the
FRESH FACE FRIDAY BLOG HOP!

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