Springtime in Deutschland

Spring is here and better than ever. Last week the flowers started to pop up in unexpected places. They seemingly came overnight and it was enough to put a very broad smile on my face. Now the trees are starting their shy comeback to the world of the living. The birds are singing sweet hymns and everything is just awake.

This weather is so conducive to my feelings about footwear which is nice. I like to be barefoot as much as possible and wearing TOMS the rest of the time. That doesn’t really jive with cold temps. My naked feet are quite happy that winter has said its last goodbyes. Socks=get out of my life.

I got to spend last week with my mom and uncle which really put the cherry on top of my springtime sundae. (Dear sweet Jesus, I just said springtime sundae.) Of course, they didn’t get to enjoy much of the high-of-65 weather that we’re having this week (that started on their last day) but it was sunny for the duration of their visit and just having them here with me was really surreal and exciting and AHH MY LIFE IS GREAT.

Though of course the real world is ever present and I still have dumb things to do like taxes and homework and other such nonsense, I’m feeling very light these days. I’m in love with a lot of things right now that I would happily list for you but won’t because this post would quickly become novel length.

Next week my cousin will be here to finish up her latest whirlwind European adventure, then I’ll have a week of normalcy, and then I’m off to Paris for four days with a good au pair friend of mine. My semester at UCF is also ending in the next few weeks and my semester at Uni Bayreuth is starting on the 14th soooooo this month is going to be a crazy mixture of amazing and stressful and MORE AMAZING and lots of other stuff too, probably.

Sorry for the lack in posting. Life has been beautifully hectic and I don’t see that changing until maybe sometime next month. But hopefully I’ll take better care to update my blog/online journal of random thoughts more often. Note the naked feet in the picture below.

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Carnival in Cologne

From Saturday-Monday I was Carnival-ing in Bonn and Cologne. In case you’re like me and Carnival is all new to you, it’s a few days of parties, parades, and general merriment before Ash Wednesday kicking off Lent. Cologne hosts the biggest Carnival celebration in Germany. And I was all up in it.

On Saturday, we hit up a small, local parade. It lasted about 20 minutes and was great fun. Sunday we went to a bigger Bonn parade. For any of my Bradentonians, it was quite similar in size to the Desoto Parade, around 1.5 hours. Monday we went to the mother of all Carnivals in Cologne. It was a five hour parade and wow…

Below are some facts and observations I made throughout my Carnival celebrations:

  1. EVERYONE dresses up. Not just kids and college students.
  2. No beads. Candy, little toys, and flowers (if you’re lucky) are where it’s at.
  3. Showing some cleavage makes getting flowers easier. Red lip stick doesn’t hurt either. Don’t ask me how I know that.
  4. Beer is always appropriate. 3:00 PM, 10:00 PM, 9:30 AM, every time is a good time for a brewski.
  5. If you’re a real pro, you’ll have a cup hanging from your neck so you can go hands free with your beer.
  6. You should be learning the songs that go along with Carnival from a young age. I missed the memo. They’re still fun, though.
  7. Be prepared at any moment to lock arms with the people on either side of you (stranger or no) and dance.
  8. Also be prepared at any moment to yell “Alaaf!” three times in a row. *Note: This changes depending on the region you’re in. DON’T screw it up.
  9. Clowns are always in style. Pirates too. (I was a pirate. I like to conform.)
  10. Riding the train into Cologne on the day of the big parade is really a fun sight to see.
  11. Getting back to the train at the end of the day is almost an equally fun sight to see. Much less excitement. Many more looks of exhaustion and drunkenness with a smidgen of regret thrown in here and there.
  12. Even when not actually at a parade, Carnival time is party time. Be prepared to socialize. A lot. Social anxiety be damned.
  13. Different parts of Germany celebrate Carnival differently and some don’t celebrate it at all. It’s actually really crazy how strikingly different the cultures are in different regions here.
  14. You can get really pretty painted hard boiled eggs and they are delicious.
  15. Standing for five hours is not nearly as tiring as you would think when you’re having fun, eating candy (gotta keep that blood sugar up!), and drinking a moderate amount of beer. Have I mentioned beer enough in this post? I sure hope so.

So that is what I experienced condensed into a very small nutshell. There are of course about 3,000 other things that happened but I think for those 3,000 things you kind of just had to be there.

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure:

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My good friend, the Cologne Cathedral.

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Saw this BEUT at the second parade. It had multiple Confederate flags and was surrounded by cowboys and Native Americans. I fear that flag will follow me wherever I go in life.

Looking back at old blog posts

From time to time I like to go to my old blog that I started back in 2010 when I made my move to New York. It’s interesting to read because A) it serves as a time capsule for what was happening in my life back then and B) it shows me how much I’ve changed in the last three years.

Three years isn’t such a long time and in a lot of ways, I’m virtually the same as I was then. But reading about the way I saw the world around me, how I handled certain situations, even how I wrote about my life in general… it makes me smile because I think it’s all perfectly appropriate for when you’re 18/19 but I would never write some of that stuff now, or at least not in the same way.

I’ve always known I have a flare for the dramatic. That’s not something that’s going to be changing any time soon but it makes me giggle a little when I see 19 year old representations of said dramatic flare. Take, for example, the poem that I wrote shortly after moving back home in the summer of 2011. It is an ode to making the one that wronged me feel wronged himself. I still smile when I read it because though it is no great piece of art, it’s fun to say out loud and it made me feel slightly better at the time of writing it.

Now, I’m all about people writing to feel empowered and such. BUT, when I see people writing long poems about someone that they supposedly don’t feel bad about whatsoever my first thought is always, “If you really don’t care, I wonder why you took the time to write this.” Clearly, I was not as awesome feeling as the poem would have you believe. I think I may have actually been crying at the time of writing. Yeah…

In the end, I’m really glad I have my old blog to look back on. There are a lot of things I don’t ever want to forget but as I have the memory about equivalent to that of a mouse, I’ll take help wherever I can get it.

That One Time I Pissed Skiers Off in the Alps

Guess what, people! I went to the Alps after New Years. Yeah…the Alps. We stayed in the town called Garmisch. Here are some majestic mountain pictures to start you off:

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Daaayyyyuuummmmm that’s majestic

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I’ve never done more than drive past mountains on road trips in years past so being on a mountain was pretty amazing. On the first day I decided to go on a hike.

There are some paths on the mountains for people to walk, such as myself. The hike I did took about 45 minutes. It didn’t lead where I thought it led but that was fine because it was well marked and while I was hiking alone, there were other hikers all around so it wasn’t dangerous or anything (except I swear there were places were I SO EASILY could’ve fallen over the edge…not exaggerating). I only fell once so let’s take a second to virtually pat me on the back. That shit was slippery.

At the end of the path there was a short walk up a hill to the lifts that would take you back down the mountain. Here’s my crude drawing of the situation:

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Now I COULD have walked up the down way to the right but since there was a thing to scan your badge to get into the up lane to the left, I felt like I was supposed to go that route. The chord that was pulling up the skiers was way too fast to hold onto and I couldn’t walk up on my own because it was kind of steep and very slippery. Thankfully, there was a nice, unmoving chord to the right that I latched onto for dear life.

The problem was I was still walking too slow. There were skiers coming up behind me and I was majorly in the way. To fix this, I ducked under the right chord and waiting a second to let some people by. Here would’ve been a great time to just stay on the other side and walk up but DAMN IT, I was determined to follow the rules.

After a few people went by and there was a break, I grabbed onto my trusty, stationary chord and ducked back over into the lane. Then the moving chord halted. The girl in front of me that looked to be around my age turned to me and said (in an icy tone), “That’s the emergency brake. You’re not supposed to pull it.”

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

I profusely apologized to which she responded by looking at me like I had just insulted her mother. All the skiers in the lane were looking around to see why they had stopped and as I was the only doofus not on skis, they figured it out well enough.

Oops

At this point it would have been really easy to duck back over to the other side and walk the rest of the way up (which I had finally come to the conclusion was the simplest and best way to have gone about the whole thing), but since the skiers were stuck there, I figured I deserved to be stuck there too. Thankfully, it started up about two minutes later. 

I couldn’t hold onto what I now knew to be the HOLY AND UNTOUCHABLE EMERGENCY BRAKE but I still couldn’t walk up without holding onto something so I grabbed the briskly paced chord and had to run to keep up with it. Imagine someone looking really, really stupid (doing anything) and that’s pretty much where I was at.

I got to make eye contact with a guy as I was FINALLY leaving that godforsaken hill/lane thing and could tell that as stupid as I felt, I looked much worse. I proceeded to the lifts without further incident.

And that, my friends, is how I pissed off skiers in the Alps.

The 23 1/2 Books I Read in 2013

For the first time, I decided to keep a tally of the books I read throughout all of 2013. Half for the potential for this blog post to exist and half to have some kind of record of the reading that I did over the course of the year.

  1. The Time Keeper by Mitch Album
  2. Passion (Fallen series) by Lauren Kate
  3. Regeneration  (Regeneration series) by Pat Barker
  4. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
    My first Vonnegut book. Loved it. Need to read more by him.
  5. My War: Killing Time in Iraq by Colby Buzzell
  6. Rapture (Fallen series) by Lauren Kate
  7. Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog From Iraq by Riverbend
    Reading this after reading #5 was extremely eye opening. Basically you get two completely different sides of the same story which is something of a miracle when it comes to the war in Iraq. Very powerful when read as a pair.
  8. 1984 by George Orwell
    I’ve been meaning to read this for years and finally did. Did not disappoint in the slightest. I love me some dystopian fiction.
  9. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    Read this with my French class. Other than having the ending ruined by a classmate, it was good. Definitely not just for kids.
  10. Daughter of the Forest (Sevenwaters Series) by Juliet Marillier
    This was given to me by one of my best friends EVAR. It’s got magic. It’s got romance. It’s set in medieval times. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?
  11. Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters series) by Juliet Marillier
  12. Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire series) by George R.R. Martin
  13. White Noise by Don DeLillo
  14. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
    Along with #13, these were for a class I was taking. Both have a lot of heavy philosophical themes. Philosophy is not my thing. If it is your thing, you’ll probably enjoy these two books.
  15. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
    Reading how Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy fall in love will never get old.
  16. A Clash of Kings (ASOIAF series) by George R.R. Martin
  17. The Double Helix, A Personal Account of he Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson
  18. Mockingjay (Hunger Games series) by Suzanne Collins
  19. Catching Fire (Hunger Games series) by Suzanne Collins
    Why did I read them out of order, you ask? I watched Catching Fire when it came out and needed MORE so I read Mockingjay. Then I finished it and still needed MORE so I went back and read Catching Fire. I was in a bit of a Hunger Games frenzy. We’ve all been there, right?
  20. Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by Alida Nugent
    Given to me by my wonderful friend, this book is a hilarious, honest, and insightful look into what it is to be freshly out of college and in the big, scary adult world.
  21. Divergent (Divergent series) by Veronica Roth
  22. Insurgent (Divergent series) by Veronica Roth
  23. Allegiant (Divergent series) by Veronica Roth
    Overall, a fantastic series. Disappointed by the ending for sure but since I’m not the author, I guess I don’t really have much say, do I?

23.5 The Fault in Our Stars by John Green *Finished on New Years Day*
Wow this was a sad book. Beautiful and insightful. But sad as shit. I cried a lot. Like choking, dripping, leaking-from-every-orafice-in-my-face crying.

So here you are. Though I’ve never counted before, I feel comfortable saying this is the most books I’ve ever read in a year. It is also most definitely my most diverse year of reading. It took a long time for me to realize my love of reading but it truly has become pretty much my favorite thing to do. Unfortunately, I don’t get to read much while classes are in session which leads to marathon book reading weeks over break. (I read books 18-23.5 in the last two-ish weeks.)

Here’s to a great year of reading in 2014!

Reasons Why Charlie Brown Christmas Wins at Everything

Charlie Brown Christmas has been a part of my Christmas time as long as I can remember. It holds a certain magic to it. It what reminds me to be happy and jolly and sentimental in a season that begs for those feelings but also pushes me to feel stressed, lonely, and depressed at times as well. While most, if not all, Christmas movies usually leave me feeling jolly, Charlie Brown is unique in that it produces those feelings by completely justifying the presence of the crappy ones. Charlie Brown is one depressed little dude.

So here’s my list of the reasons that Charlie Brown Christmas is the best Christmas movie of all:

1. As already mentioned, Charlie Brown doesn’t make you cheery by being cheery. Quite the contrary, he spends most of the special being depressed and more than a little pathetic. He’s on the outside of the group, desperately looking in.

2. He’s sassy.

3. One of the major themes is one we could never hear enough about: the commercialization of Christmas. Every year I find myself worrying about finding the right present for someone and being able to pay for it all. Hello, not quite what the holiday is supposed to be about, amiright?

All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share
All I want is what I have coming. All I want is my fair share.

First prize?!

4. Even though all of the characters except for Charlie Brown (and usually Linus) are obsessed with the presents, tin trees, and big holiday productions, the only time any of the characters seem happy are when they are either singing or sharing in the true Christmas spirit.

5. It shows that with a little love anything and anybody (cough cough Charlie Brown) can be seen as beautiful.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Join me in trying to not stress too much, this year. Take a chapter out of Charlie Brown’s book. Be kind to others and be so thankful for all that you have.

Language Barriers in the US

This goes out to all the people who have ever thought or said, “You’re in America. Speak English!” You’re a douche bag.

Here’s why: I’ve been in Germany for just shy of two months. It’s already been such a crazy, amazing, humbling experience. Before this, I had never even visited a place that didn’t speak English as the primary language, let alone live in one. Humbling is an understatement. Overnight my world became intensely complicated. Buying conditioner at the grocery store was suddenly a considerable challenge. I was too scared to ask for help for the longest time. I didn’t understand the words on the bus that explained which stop was coming up. I couldn’t understand the total amount due at the store (still can’t).

Now let me tell you a little about the culture here in Bayreuth. Almost everyone speaks English to some degree. What’s better, they’re all very willing to communicate with me, even if that means a mixture between English, German, and miming. Even with the graciousness I was met with, it was my immediate instinct (still kind of is) to clam up and stay silent. If I couldn’t find something in the store or didn’t know the German word for it, I’d go home empty handed instead of asking someone. It’s just a very scary feeling.

The idea of going through this in America is revolting to me. Way fewer people speak Spanish there than people speak English here. People sneer or make quiet comments about your inability to speak a language you had no need to know until very recently. You’re forced to adjust very quickly to a world that is completely unfamiliar to you. You don’t know the customs, the way the street signs look, every one speaks English too fast so even if you do know a few words, they’re lost in the garble of conversation. God forbid you’re a kid! You’re put in a class full of other kids which can be welcoming, cruel, or mostly indifferent and I truly feel it’s pretty random which of those you’ll get.

I have to stress the unfamiliarity here. For the first few weeks, I felt like I was not just across an ocean from home but on a different planet. It’s not that things were bad, just different than anything I’d ever known. So adding a language barrier on top of that can be a huge struggle. And on top of that, there are people in the US that for some reason think it’s every single person’s responsibility to be fluent in English the second they step on American soil. When was the last time YOU just picked up a language? Sorry, you were probably too busy petting your bald eagles and pondering your freedom while cooling your cherry pie on the open window sill to look into any inferior languages. Why bother when you can speak the greatest language of ALL TIME?!

My point is this: Don’t go off judging people in circumstances that you’ve never been even close to. Even just trying to imagine yourself in their shoes helps. Imagine being alone, scared, largely silent, and trying to adjust to a place that has just become your new home. It’s not easy. It’s not quick. Lay off and maybe find it in your red, white, and blue heart to lend a helping hand once in a while.

Thanksgiving Breakdown

Because I’m in Germany this year, Thanksgiving was a little different. Karin and I hosted dinner for twelve people which is way beyond what I’ve contributed to the Thanksgivings of years past. Her and I spent some of Wednesday and all of Thursday creating this amazing meal. Because I’m me, I kept a running log throughout the process.

Tuesday
4:07 PM – I’m crafty as fuck so I just produced this gem: 

I am thankful for

Would’ve been nice to remember that America and Canada are the ONLY two countries in the world that use 8.5×11 as their standard paper size, but oh well.

Wednesday
7:05 PM – Just made the fourth Thanksgiving-related trip to the store. Two of those have happened within the last hour.

9:02 PM – Made stuffing and watched Karin handle a cold, dead bird with a steady ass hand. Impressed.

9:30 PM – Decided that one of the many reasons I find giblets horribly disgusting is that they’re called giblets which is a horribly disgusting word. Also, I find it gross because that shit is just gross.

Thursday
7:30 AM – Woke up at 7:30 and briefly contemplated ways to cancel Thanksgiving because 7:30 should only exist in PM form.

8:10 AM – Stuffed the CRAP out of that bird. Yeah. That turkey knows what’s up.

10:35 AM – Discovered I’m growing a massive zit in my ear and proceeded to feel blinding pain after discovering it. TMI? This is Thanksgiving, people. No such thing as TMI in a time like this. I put it ALL on the table. (That was a Thanksgiving pun, my friends.)

10:42 AM – Realized my day is nowhere near as busy as I thought it would be. Like, I have things to do, but they don’t really have to do with Thanksgiving. So…I guess I’ll go take a shower.

11:04 AM – Finished the cupcakes. Other than my sudden inability to make a frosting with the right consistency that has plagued me since coming here, they seem pretty legit.

11:30 AM – Perfected (almost) my homemade eggnog. I have a great recipe, but I really like the store bought taste. Classy, I know. I found out this flavor can be achieved by adding in lots of rum flavoring and sugar. Thanks, internet! Side note: Thanks to having to taste said eggnog 57 times while fiddling with it, I got a stomach ache because sometimes enough is enough. Even when it comes to eggnog.

12:30 PM – Finally took a shower because for the love of God…ew.

1:15 PM – Ate lunch because lunch is great. As is Karin, the woman that keeps me fed on the reg.

2:05 PM – Peeled a lot of potatoes and cut up a lot of pumpkin.

3:07 PM – Realize that people who host Thanksgiving dinner without having everyone bring a dish (like my family does at home) are unsung holiday heroes. It’s 3:00 in the afternoon and I’m tired as hell and Karin is either tired too and amazing at hiding it, or she’s Superwoman. Either is a viable possibility.

4:00 PM – Set the table like a badass. That shit had tablecloths, fall colored napkins, the cornily adorable card shown above, and some festive ass candles.

4:17 PM – Nothing. I’m doing nothing. I’m drinking a cup of coffee I’m ready for bed and dinner is still five hours away. I AM AN ADULT. THIS SHOULDN’T BE SO HARD.

7:30 PM – The time is nearly here. Still a decent amount of food to cook since a lot of stuff only takes a little while to cook. But everything is pretty damn ready for when the time comes. The turkey is doing great, that little trooper.

9:00 PM –  People come. General merriment ensues.

10:30 PM – I keep thinking of things to write in my Thanksgiving timeline. Shit is getting REAL SENTIMENTAL in my head right now.

11:17 PM – I am now certain I’m thankful for every single thing everywhere.

11:48 PM – Wine is good.

12:57 AM – People have left. I’m kind of drunk. So happy about my life. I love everything.

1:30 AM – Time to skype my sister because that’s the thing to do when you’re a little drunk, tired, and full of the holiday spirit.

Friday
10:32 AM – I feel like I’ve died and this is the sad leftovers of what I once was. (Note: I was not THAT drunk. I just have a tendency to get really, really bad hangovers.)

10:49 AM – Someone has cleaned the entire kitchen. Something tells me it wasn’t the cleaning fairies.

1:30 PM – Karin made an awesome lunch. I slept on the couch while she and Sophia enjoyed it.

7:22 PM – Karin made me the food they had for lunch because she’s the best person on the entire planet. I’m still thankful for life.

Final notes: I tried really hard to make this post only funny and not mushy. That got really hard because honestly this is the most special Thanksgiving I think I’ve ever had. Mine at home are always nice, but this one just meant so much more because Karin and I created it together and even though it’s only an American holiday I had a houseful of wonderful Germans here to celebrate the crap out of it. Karin, if you happen to read this, what I am crazy thankful for this Thanksgiving is you. And I mean that in the most mushy, gushy, sentimental way possible.

And now for a heartwarming collage to top it off:

Oprah’s List of Her Fave Things Is Out! Let’s All Revel In Our Inability To Buy Any of It!

Oprah has just released her list of favorite things for 2013 and under each product was a quote from her. Some of the quotes explained what the product was while others told just why it was she loved this product so much. After perusing the list I was left with the feeling that A) I want everything on that stupid list and B) Oprah doesn’t know much about how other people live these days. Not hating, just observing. I compiled a list of things on the list that made me realize this truth.

Reasons that we know Oprah means well but is actually 100% out of touch with the real world:

  1. Her body wash costs $75 (for 6.8fl oz).
  2. She has a $400 tablet that is solely used for cooking. All it has on it are recipes. I’m pretty sure they make books that do that. Like just regular books.
  3. She has a $400 pillow with her dogs face on it. But I mean, this one is kiiiiind of worth it. The dogs face is printed on Belgian linen so…
  4. She said this, “What do you get for the dog who has everything?” That’s only a problem for you, Oprah. Most people’s dogs just about die/pee any time you give them a toy. Or a bone. Or a friendly glance. Or just a glance.
  5. All of her knives are handmade in Italy, created by a single artisan. I don’t mean like all the knives in her knife block. I mean just the regular ones that you cut your chicken with. Does Oprah eat chicken? Chicken seems really middle class to me for some reason.
  6. Oprah considers earrings that are $220 awesome because “[t]hey look much more expensive than they actually are.” Scoreeeeee
  7. Oprah’s jewelry box costs $300. My jewelry box? A bowl.
  8. Oprah has a stationary set that costs $300. She likes stationary because, “E-mails are incredibly convenient, but they’ll never replace the real thing.” Now, I tend to agree with that. But my handwritten letters tend more to be written on notebook paper so…yeah.
  9. Oprah said this: “Don’t you just hate when you’re at a dinner party and[…].” Doesn’t even matter what came next.
  10. One of Oprah’s favorite things is a $100 mediation CD. Nothing really remarkable there. Except that it’s HER OWN meditation CD. Apparently even Oprah can’t resist plugging her own stuff. Respect.

Oprah seems like a cool enough lady and if she was offering me anything (and I mean anything) off that list I’d be super pumped but come on…$75 for body wash? It takes a gargantuan mental struggle and five minutes in the soap aisle at the grocery store to decide if I should splurge and get Dove or just cheap out and get Dial. I usually get the Dial.

Just in case you’d like to see the list for yourself and revel in all the stuff you can’t afford: look it over here.