Because it makes me feel good.

It’s Monday morning, and I’m eating a croissant and fresh bread from the bakery BECAUSE I DESERVE IT. It was a pretty good night, and by that, I mean that the little man was only up twice before deciding to be all bright eyes and bushy tailed at 4am. As I held him in my arms and willed him through my own half-closed sleepy eyes to go back to sleep, or to at least stop doing the bicycle kick and arm thrash long enough for me to doze off a bit, I couldn’t help but relish the feeling of his chubby thighs against my arms, and his soft belly on my chest. I cracked an eye only to be met by a cooing smile and his wide blue eyes staring at me through the dim light of our nightlight. How could I be say no to that? Alas, no more sleep was to be had, so I figured it was time to move onto the next best thing… breakfast.

Deciding that yet another early morning was no reason not to live it up for breakfast today, I pulled on a old pair of dumpy grey leggings, threw the babes into the Ergo, wrapped the both of us in an oversized jacket and slipped into my old red snakeskin Dansko clogs for a walk in the park before the bakery opened at 6:30. We were quite the sight, but I love the old ladies who run the place. They’re patient and forever correcting my German pronunciation rather than telling me they simply don’t understand. It was just what I needed to put a smile on my face.

After three poopy diapers, a shower and some clean clothes (for myself and him), I thanked baby G for his patience and we sat down together to enjoy the spoils. I’m happy because it’s 8:30, and no matter what the day ahead brings, I know that I found a little corner of peace and happiness for myself. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to take advantage of these good moments, no matter what time of the day or night they may be, and truly enjoy them. We’ve had our fair share of 2am scream feasts and walk & rocks, but as long as I know there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll get through them just fine.

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9 Months… And Then Some

Wait, how long has it been since I last posted? Six months? A year? More than that? Certainly long enough that I couldn’t remember the last thing I wrote about, let alone when it was. I’m not sure why I stopped exactly, but I started to question why I bothered spending any time on my blog. I started to feel guilty if I didn’t keep it up, which was just plain dumb, so I just quit all together.

Why should I bother? Yes, i enjoyed sharing and writing, but I could do that in a journal. So what if I met my dear friends Carina and Alex through this blog. Does it really matter the warm bubbles I felt inside when a stranger or a friend told me they read my posts? Is it true that I somehow feel a connection with home by typing away about my latest adventure as well as my day to day thoughts? Is someone listening, even when there’s no one to talk to?

To be honest, after a few months, it seemed too daunting to catch up on all that has happened in the last year or so here in Dresden. The good, bad and nasty of life overseas, I’ve got lots to say. How could I ever come close to catching up?

Then today, I realized a blog I was following, The Anti-Martyry Mom, belonged to a new friend I just made a few weeks ago. What a small world! It made me relive the bubbly feeling I used to get when I connected with someone about my own blog. I began to wonder when exactly I last wrote and what made me stop, so I pulled up my blog, tried about a dozen passwords until I found mine, and had a look.

Turns out my last post was about my birthday trip to the Czech Republic, which just happened to be two days before I found out I was pregnant. Ahhhh, that’s right. I got busy being pregnant, and since it encompassed all my thoughts and we kept it a secret the first four months, I didn’t actually have much else to write about. Tis a pity I didn’t pick it up, because being pregnant and delivering in a foreign country has been a hoot.

Little baby boy Gifford is now two months old, so it’s been nine months and change since I last wrote. With a year off for maternity leave, it’s time to get cracking again…. as long as chubby cheeks here stays happy in his tippy chair with my foot gently rocking him. And having written this post in five minutes flat, I think a little time pressure is all I needed to get going again.

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Surprise Birthday Weekend in the Czech

Turning 30 warrants a birthday week month. Mine kicked off earlier this week when my friend, Isabelle arrived from France but the celebration really got started on Wednesday afternoon when Jace picked me up after work. We have a 4 day holiday weekend, and all I knew was that we’d be heading out of town at 4pm with bags full of hiking and outdoor gear.

At 3:58pm, I raced down the school steps, threw my computer bag into the waiting van, jumped in with Jace and Isabelle, and said, “let’s go!” Jace said we were waiting for a couple more arrivals, and so when our friends Daniel and Katy showed up, I was giddy with excitement to get the weekend started.

We drove the maze of twisty country roads toward the mountains Saxony shares with the Czech Republic, so I figured we’d be hiking somewhere among them. When we stopped in Hrensko, I was slightly confused, but it turned out that Jace was counting on my dependable need for a toilet brake to grab a map and wait for our friend Carolin, who was arriving by train. Yay! More friends!

Finally, we took the narrow mountain road that left the river valley floor to head deep into the mountains. I had a good guess that this region would be our final destination, and was gleeful when we pulled onto a long dirt road that lead to a small lodge that had been converted from an old mill. In typical Czech style, there was a lovely outdoor patio suspended above the stream, a casual dining room and simple rooms with wooden floors and basic furnishings. Hot showers and warm meals served fresh every night, is there anything else a person needs for a couple of days of hiking?

After settling in, we started on a night of sampling a list of Czech specialties. While very traditional with typical dishes such as pickled cheese with garlic, fried chees with fries, pan seared trout, garlic soup, schnitzel and roasted meats, I can’t say that it was the best eating I’ve had in the Czech Republic, but it definitely held me over for a few days.

Jace and I enjoyed the super early rising sun and took the dog for a long walk in the mornings well before anyone else was out on the trail. It brings us immense joy to watch her exploring, darting in and out of the bushes, splashing along the river’s edge and running full speed up and down the trail. At one point, the trail was a series of steps chiseled out of the rock face above the river. Playful as she is, the pup ran straight up the rock face until she ran out of momentum, and rather than jumping onto the stairs, slid all the way down the face, PLOP, directly into a deep pool in the river. Our pup hates swimming, so we had a good laugh seeing her fall in over her head and splashing around. Typical to her personality, she shook the shock off within seconds and was racing around like a rocket again.

We lucked out with amazing sunny and warm weather for a nice 16 km loop that took us up to several lookouts above the unusual rock outcrops known in the area, a castle that we never found, and an old mill deep in the forest that bears a date marker from 1777. We enjoyed a massive lunch that came to the equivalent of about 5 euros per person, took lots of pictures and enjoyed each other’s conversation, the smells of spring and the excitement of exploring new territory.

Over all, it was decided that little trips like this need to be taken more often during our weekends. While Dresden’s a small city with lots of open space and gardens, truly getting away from time to time is so relaxing and rejuvenating.

There’s still 4 more days until my actual birthday, and I know that Jace has lots of other surprises up his sleeves. What a great husband! Plus, I have a visit from my sister and new brother in law coming up next weekend to look forward to. Turning 30’s great!

Cooling our feet off

Cooling our feet off

Not a bad place for dinner

Not a bad place for dinner

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Sheep and green pastures

Sheep and green pastures

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Cooling off in the breeze, enjoying the view of the Czech countryside

Cooling off in the breeze, enjoying the view of the Czech countryside

The last few stairs to the top

The last few stairs to the top

Katy enjoying the overlook

Katy enjoying the overlook

Rhaja racing on the stairs

Rhaja racing on the stairs

1777 and still standing... kind of

1777 and still standing… kind of

Remnants of an old mill

Remnants of an old mill

Remnants of an old mill

Morning along the creek

Morning along the creek

Early morning shadows

Early morning shadows

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A Perfect Little Rainy Dresden Weekend

Springtime weekends are awesome, even if they’re rainy. The gloomy weather didn’t stop us from both from partaking in some fun activities as well as enjoying a little R&R after yet another busy week of work.

Despite Saturday’s cool mist, we had a fantastic 50 km ride through the farm country surrounding Dresden. We passed a little goat farm that sells fresh milk and cheeses, and for the first time in two years, actually took the time to stop and check it out. The old farmer man didn’t seem to understand our German, or maybe he was taken aback by our neon and spandex bike gear, but we walked away with a nice little tub of fresh goat cheese for a perfectly reasonable 3 euros.

After a delicious and hot pasta lunch, we cozied up on the couch with rain pattering on our skylights to watch Anna Karenina. The storyline was good, but you can tell that there wasn’t enough time to really develop all the different parts of the plot. What made this movie special was the beautiful cinematography and creative set. The movie was staged as if it was flowing back and forth between a theater set and real life. Very interesting and enjoyable to watch.

After a quick catnap to regain our energies for a big evening ahead, we rushed into town for dinner with our friend, Carina at a little vegan restaurant called Aha, near the Altmarkt. Great soups for just a couple of euros!

English: Semperoper (Dresden) by night Deutsch...

Semperoper by night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carina’s fiancé, Alex Hajek sings at the Semperoper here in Dresden and being the dear friends that they are, they managed to get us tickets to see Alex staring as Leporello in Don Giovanni. The opera was fantastic. It was so much fun to get dressed up, see the inside of the beautiful Semper, and most of all, to watch a friend in action. Alex was the perfect, mean, playful and acrobatic Leporello.

Sunday was rainy again, but colder, and during our ride, I found myself thinking up concoctions to spend the afternoon baking and cooking. The thing about living in Germany, is that if you want to cook/bake on a Sunday, you better be able to do so with whatever you have sitting around in the kitchen because NOTHING is open for groceries. Our little fridge (they are also miniature here… think American sized beer-fridge) was only half full, but we had the right ingredients to keep me going for the afternoon cooking everything from scratch: tomato cumin soup, pastry puffs stuffed with mushrooms, wild rice, fresh goat cheese and spring onions, buckwheat bread, salad with asparagus, and chocolat fondant with a strawberry sauce.

Luckily, Alex and Carina were able to come over on short notice to help us eat away our creations and finish off with a good game of Carrcasonne.

All in all, a perfect rainy spring weekend in Dresden!

Filling the pastry puffs

Filling the pastry puffs

Homemade pastry puff dough

Homemade pastry puff dough

Our favorite dinner guests

Our favorite dinner guests

Puffs, asparagus and salad

Tomato soup, puffs, asparagus and salad

Fresh bread with buckwheat and oat bran

Fresh bread with buckwheat and oat bran

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The Giant Pickle Race

Yesterday, we did a bike tour in the Spreewald, an area known for its pickles and seemingly hundreds of kilometers of canals that traditionally were used by farmers as their only means of transportation. It’s a great tourist destination for those in Berlin or Dresden looking for a unique day trip, but every April, it turns into a biking/running/rollerblading mania.

Bike tour options range from a fully supported 40km – 200km where thousands of participants, both young and old, set out on all kinds of bikes and speeds to enjoy spring weather, good company and health. As they cost very little (sometimes as low as 4 euros!), they’re a great way to enjoy an active weekend

There are many things that I LOVE about this unique system of tours here in Germany:

  • Food Stations: Every 20 km or so, there’s a food station, and I don’t mean  your average plates of cut bananas and orange slices. Try table after table of hot soups, pancakes made on the spot, beer, sausages, bread with cheese, lard or meats, pickles, coffee, fruits, more pickles….and the list goes on. My personal goal is always to eat my entry fee’s worth of food. I’m generally successful with this. :-)
  • New Sites: These tours are a great way to see a new area. Every weekend, there’s at least one to choose from within a 2 hour drive, and the best part is that they’re all preplanned and marked, so you don’t have to think or worry about getting lost.
  • Immerse Yourself: Germans love bike tours, and hanging out with a couple hundred to a couple thousand Germans doing what they do best (biking and sausage eating) is a great way to dive into local culture, practice some German and stop feeling like such a tourist.

If you’re a cyclist and ever planning to do some riding in Europe, I highly recommend looking up a similar kind of tour for a very unique experience!

Bike route through the Spreewald

Bike route through the Spreewald

Pancake rest stop

Pancake rest stop

Cheese and sausage

Cheese and sausage

The best snack, of course, were the Spreewald pickles!

The best snack, of course, were the Spreewald pickles!

Schmalz, pickles, cheese and sausage – German snack table staples

Coolest finishers award ever - a metal pickle on a lanyard!

Coolest finishers award ever – a metal pickle on a lanyard!

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Reminiscing: Riding in the Pyrenees

Okay, I’ll admit that I’m officially reminiscing back to the sunshine in the French Pyrenees last summer, but who can blame me? It’s officially been the coldest, darkest spring in Germany in 130 years! It’s April, and I’m STILL on the indoor trainer. This time of the season last year, I had a sunburn on all the parts not covered by a short sleeve jersey!

Anyways, I never did get around to blogging about work or travels last summer, and there’s no better time to look back than now. I spent my school holiday working with my husband running challenging bike tours for his company, In Situ Travel, so my summer officially rocked as it was loaded full of sunny and exciting destinations to ride!

One of my favorites was in the Pyrenees. All who know me know that I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for France. Not only am I a French teacher (and thus feel much more at ease there than where I currently call home in Germany), but it’s where my husband and I first met. If we ever were to move to France, the Pyrenees are definitely one of the top contenders for areas as it offers excellent skiing and riding, but it’s not quite as touristy or resort focused as the Alps. The valleys are wider and while they’re plenty challenging to bike, they’re somehow less intense in a peaceful sort of way. Yep, I could definitely call the Pyrenees home… if only there was an international school there!

Free Animals!!! Seriously, roaming livestock is the biggest danger while riding around here.

Free Animals!!! Seriously, roaming livestock is the biggest danger while riding around here.

Nothing like a cigarette at the top of a massive climb and ridding without a helmet- so French!

Nothing like a cigarette at the top of a massive climb and ridding without a helmet- so French!

I definitely find myself counting the switchbacks around here.

I definitely find myself counting the switchbacks around here.

There's something about every French village that just screams QUAINT!

There’s something about every French village that just screams QUAINT!

What goes up, eventually gets to go down

What goes up, eventually gets to go down

Cows!

Cows!

Always a nice surprise on an already slippery descent

Always a nice surprise on an already slippery descent

Don't be fooled by the house wine in a clay carafe... it's divine in these parts!

Don’t be fooled by the house wine in a clay carafe… it’s divine in these parts!

And this is why I bike all day long :-)

And this is why I bike all day long :-)

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So this is where my fromage du chevre comes from!

So this is where my fromage du chevre comes from!

Putting on my tough face before climbing the Col du Tourmalet

Putting on my tough face before climbing the Col du Tourmalet

To the top of the Tourmalet

To the top of the Tourmalet

Scenic water break

Scenic water break

Exploring beautiful roads for In Situ Travel!

Exploring beautiful roads for In Situ Travel!

The classic French mountain road sign

The classic French mountain road sign

Taking a note break while preparing a trip

Taking a note break while preparing a trip

Mountain cows!

Mountain cows!

Signs of the Tour all around us - the maillot à pois rouges here

Signs of the Tour all around us – the maillot à pois rouges here

Bikes, mountains, sunshine and a happy me

Bikes, mountains, sunshine and a happy me

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Stuff Visitors Can Bring Me

ingredients

ingredients (Photo credit: Andrea Goh)

My visitors are very gracious people. They always ask if they can bring me anything from home. Without fail, my response is always, “oh wow, thanks, but I can’t think of anything I would need at the moment.” Then, unfailingly, about a week after they leave, I kick myself for not asking them to bring some seemingly normal ingredient that I can’t quite find here in Dresden. Yes, it’s true that some items can be purchased at the British-American shop in Neustadt if you’re desperate enough to pay for the “luxury” of a bag of brown sugar. I’ve also discovered that the ever-prevalent beetroot syrup sold in German markets can replace dark corn syrup if you’re in a bind, but it’s just not quite the same.

So, as I snack on a divine bag of Trader Joe’s shelled pistachio meats that my loving husband brought back for me a few weeks ago, I’ve decided to create my grocery list. If you really want to bring me something when you come for a visit, here are the things I’ll probably tell you I don’t need, but inevitably find myself missing.

  • Trader Joe’s shelled pistachios
  • Basically any other delicious nuts
  • Dark brown sugar
  • Vanilla (the real liquid stuff)
  • Ziplock bags
  • Molasses
  • Dark and light corn syrup
  • Baking soda
  • Salmon (okay, this is a shot in the dark to my Alaskan friends and family)
  • Chapstick
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