Friday, January 31, 2014

Moving Day and Murphy's Law...

I survived my first PCS pack out! Whoo! It has been an interesting few days, lemme tell you.

For all my non military readers, PCS stands for Permanent Change of Station, which is fancy Army talk for "you're moving". Now, this ain't my first rodeo in terms of moving-I've moved like 15 times in my life, including 3 solo international moves, but this has been a totally different experience. 1) I'm the wife, not the kid and this is MY china, furniture, etc. so I am much more involved than following my mom's orders to pack boxes. 2) The Army is involved AND we're moving overseas, which means the paperwork, bureaucracy and headache increased tenfold compared to my past moves. 

Anyway, I survived, learned a few things along the way and am SO grateful for all the seasoned military wives who gave their advice, tricks, and support, and for everyone else for reached out to encourage me this past week. My Instagram ladies especially...y'all rock. :)

M-Day (like D-Day, but with moving) began with the pick up of our Unaccompanied Baggage. UB is the shipment of the "must haves" that'll go by plane so we can get it faster and set our new house up. Clothes, pots and pans, plates, tool boxes (or "handy tools" as the movers referred to them), all that jazz. We were told our movers would arrive sometime between 8 am and 3 pm.

A team of surly Romanians finally showed up around 3:45. They barely made it in the door before the leader started barking orders while his minions speed packed everything I'd laid out. It was chaotic and I could barely keep track of what they were packing, never mind if they were packing it well. I'm pretty sure if I had wandered too close they wouldn't wrapped me in paper and shoved ME in a box! 

Neatly laid out before the Romanian tornado

The second day was for packing our Household Goods, which is all the big stuff that goes by slow boat. That day we had two very friendly German guys and a grumpy older Turkish guy.  The two German guys had been working as movers since the 1970s, but the Turkish guy was kind of new and man did it show! Fionn and I split up so we could watch what they were doing. I left the living room to ask the German guy to put extra paper between my china plates and returned in time to see the Turkish guy carrying my fragile travel souvenirs all balled up in his fists.

WORSE, he had dropped the little bouquet of antique wax orange blossoms I used in my wedding bouquet and then STEPPED ON THEM! I was so horrified I actually cried out. Those wax flowers were a huge deal to me and finding them was a huge pain. And now he was just stepping on them?! While haphazardly throwing my one of a kind travel souvenirs around?! I was seeing red.

People who know me well always joke that while I am usually sweet and friendly, if you make me angry my Irish temper comes out and I become a little pit bull. Somehow I managed not to explode on this guy, but I definitely had some strong words for him! Of course after that, I never let him more than 2 feet out of my sight.

He got on my bad side again later while packing the kitchen. After breezing through, he emerged and announced to his boss (in German) that the kitchen was done. I came behind him, noticing he'd left three cabinets untouched along with all the things I laid out on the counter. So I replied in English that it wasn't done at all. When he tried to argue with me, I switched to German and opened all the cabinets he'd forgotten, pointing out what he needed to pack.

"Ahhhh..." He said slowly, "Sie sprechen gut Deutsch..."

"Yes," I replied in German, "I've lived in Germany for 4 years. And you've got a lot of work left to do."

So that ended anyone's hopes of having a secret language around the Americans ;)

He didn't give me any trouble after that, though I was so glad the other two guys were so professional. They wrapped everything up well, took their time, and even made a custom box for my harp. The guy in charge was very nice and didn't try to rush us or cut corners. He took time to look at every box, label it well, and write down each detail. Such a change from our first experience the day before with the Romanian guys!

The Harp box, complete with parentheses to dummy proof it

Pretty soon it was time to load everything up on the truck. Fionn and I took turns overseeing this process and of course when it was my turn the Turkish guy took it upon himself to tick me off yet again...

I specifically told them that the harp, once wrapped, could NOT be placed upright. It must be lying down on its side or its back. Since harps are kind of top heavy, it could easily topple over if it's not carefully stored. As they're loading our crate, what does he do? He tried to place the harp upright, but upside down!! It wouldn't fit, so it got balanced again upright, on top of other boxes. Then he took it out and left it balancing perilously close to the edge of the ramp...

Y'all. My harp is my baby. It is a delicate and expensive instrument that I take very good care of. Heck, it gets its own heated room in the winter! Watching this guy toss it around like that, especially after he'd already ticked me off...ooh man. We were about to have words.

Before my blind rage moment...

Thankfully at that point the leader came out, took over, and successfully packed the harp like I asked. Geez Louise.

Once the crates were on the truck and sealed, they headed out. Our house was empty and echo-y. We discovered they'd packed our plastic cups and plates and utensils. Then Fionn reminded me we had our housing inspection the next morning at 9 am...did I mention it was 4 pm at that point and I had a whole house to clean??

Cleaning began and we discovered that the vacuum cleaner won't suck anymore (of all the stinkin days...). We borrowed my neighbor's vacuum and proceeded to clean like mad. Poor Fionn even scrubbed the top of our cabinets, fearing some kind of West Point-esque room inspection where if one flake of dust is visible you fail (thankfully it wasn't anything like that and on the plus side we now have very clean cabinets haha).

After cleaning for hours, we decide to break for dinner. As we walk outside, Fionn trips over a box of wood in the dark and nearly falls down the concrete stairs to the basement. Thankfully he was ok, but the box he was carrying of fridge stuff to be thrown out wasn't so lucky. Broken jars of pickles, olives, mustard, and everything else were all over the stairs and all over Fionn. Poor guy!

I drove down to the village to order take out while Fionn cleaned up broken glass and pickles. I had just placed my order when I realized my wallet was at the house. Drove back, got it, drove back to get food, came home and had dinner.

That's when we found out my favorite tea got thrown out by mistake.

And that's when we decided to call it a day and head for bed! :)

It was a crazy day indeed. The moving part went pretty smoothly, it was just everything else that was nuts!

SO GLAD that part is over and done with. Soon we move into a hotel until our flight out. Is it just me or is this all happening crazy fast?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

An Ode to our First Apartment

 Dear First Apartment of Our Marriage,

It's already time to leave you! The movers are on their way to pack up our belongings and furniture (not that there's much of it, since we moved in with hardly anything) and we set our sights on bigger kitchens, quieter washing machines, and screens on the windows.

But we will miss you! I remember the first time I visited, back when our relationship was barely three weeks old and I came down to see Nurnberg for the first time. You were so bright and airy, hardly the dank bachelor pad I'd been expecting. Sure, there was nothing on the bookshelves but old Army manuals, but I could tell you had potential. And I appreciated the obvious cleaning Fionn had done in preparation for my arrival. 

Nothin' says love like a man who cleans for ya.

Two years later, a pile of Army boots, sequinned flats and salt coated snow boots grace the front door, evidence of who lives inside.

I love sitting in here on a sunny morning with a cup of tea, catching up on the blog, listening to music, and soaking up whatever sun I can. I like it because it's still and quiet and sometimes I can hear the landlord downstairs with his grandkids, patiently answering their endless stream of questions. 

I'm going to miss our landlord and his wife! I doubt we'll ever find such sweet, welcoming landlords again. When we told them we were moving out, he got a bit misty and in halting English said he would miss us and wished us many children, a happy life, and much luck.

Tiny kitchen, I'll even miss you. You forced me to get creative, to make the most of a small space and lack of ingredients. I learned to make the dishes I missed from home along with all the take out we craved but didn't have. Here I learned to make bread, how to eyeball a cake when your finicky Celsius oven makes the recipe times wrong, and here I cooked many tasty treats for all the people I love (including that one time where I made 90 muffins for the soldiers' breakfast. Phew.)

This kitchen was barely big enough for two people, but we made a lot of memories there. Chatting while doing the dishes, telling Fionn for millionth time that the cheese grater goes to the left of the oven, and finally breaking down and admitting that maybe we could upgrade the bachelor pad's kitchen inventory to include more than 4 forks...just sayin.

I taped these verses on the kitchen cabinet so I would constantly be reminded to be thankful and to walk in love. When I'm angry or frustrated or hungry and it's still 20 minutes til dinner...I look up from the stove and I'm reminded. I like that.

Living room, you've come a long way. When I first moved in you were completely furnished by the landlord's son (the former tenant). Actually, the whole house was full of his Mobelhof furniture, but the living room was my least favorite. It had this weird Euro mod theme with African accents. Scary tribal masks, a 5 ft tall giraffe statue, and zebra and elephant prints? While I didn't manage to get every thing down (the giraffe statue had to stay since it was too big to hide) I have to say I like the adjustments we made.

And man do I love these giant windows!

I also appreciate the fact that I now know I will never want a zebra theme or any kind of weird low German style living room set. So weird.

I love my music corner in the living room and our "where we've been" map. The acoustics in the living room are perfect for harp, violin, mandolin, and voice, and I've loved having a little space that's mine to be creative.

Even though I'm not a fan of German style furniture, I really like this wall unit. Even though Fionn says it's messy, I love my little travel treasure chest. Every place we go I always try to bring back a small souvenir. Maybe it'll inspire our kids to travel and see the world like my parents and grandparents' travel cases inspired me.

Down the hall are the bedrooms, toilet, and laundry room. This hall was the only cool place in the whole house during the heat wave last summer. The perils of living on the top floor!

Our guest room has hosted so many wonderful people during our time here. Family, friends from near and far, and of course, my china collection. :) 

"The highest form of happiness is life with a certain amount of craziness"- Erasmus von Rotterdam

Since our house has no closets, we're going to skip the second bedroom, which is a hot mess of craft supplies, Army stuff, shoes, and a fridge that's too big to go anywhere else. Hey, when you haven't got closets you've gotta make do! That's one thing I will NOT miss about you, little apartment.

Ah, the bathroom and laundry room. While I don't think I'll ever have a tiled-to-the-ceiling grey monochrome bathroom ever again, it was much bigger than I expected, which was a nice surprise.

But laundry room? You can bite me. I can't even tell you how many times I've banged my head on that stupid sloped roof.

Last but not least, is our room. Maybe one day I can convince Fionn to go for a color scheme besides olive green and brown but we shall see. I love the view from our window. In winter I can watch kids sledding down the hill, in spring and summer I look out onto fields of wildflowers and gentle breezes through the window, and in fall the surrounding hills are aflame with red, orange, and yellow. I love it.

Two years went by so quickly. It seems like just yesterday I was here visiting the bachelor pad, then arriving from the States as a new bride with two suitcases, then unpacking the three moving boxes of household goods from my single girl apartment (we literally had nothing!).

I've grown a lot in this little apartment in Bavaria. I've grappled with Army life and struggled to make a life for myself far from home. I learned that marriage isn't like what the romance movies say. It's harder than you think, but it's also so much more rewarding. I learned that being an ocean away from your family and friends is incredibly hard but also forces you to rely on each other. I've made fantastic friends who've been there when I needed them. I learned how to decorate weird spaces on a budget and cook delicious things in a shoebox sized kitchen.

 I've fallen deeper in love with Fionn. I grew closer to God and realized there were a lot of things in my life I needed to change, to improve, to get over, and to let go of. I'm trying to become less selfish, more giving, more loving, more forgiving, and less worried. Those are still a work in progress. ;)

I've done a lot of living in this little apartment.

I am sad to close this chapter but I don't want to dwell on it. Like the nomads we are, we'll move. Fionn will get new orders and new assignments. I'll make new friends and buy new curtains and the same little coffee mugs that have followed me since college will make wherever we end up feel like home.

But I will miss you, little apartment. You have been fun. I hope our next place has as much charm as you!



Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Before Baby Travel Bucket List

Fionn and I have been joking about our "Baby Bucket List", as in all the weird places we want to travel to before kids come along. We probably won't get to all these places, but if you're going to dream, why not dream big, right? These aren't in any particular order, I just think all of them sound exciting!

10. Petra, Jordan

Fionn has already been here (maybe one day I'll post his stunning pictures from that trip) but I'm eager to get my chance to see Petra. Isn't this stunning?

9. Israel

Fionn has also been here already, but I'd love to see the Biblical sights. Jerusalem seems like a fascinating place.

8. Egypt

Once this part of the world calms down a little, I'd love to see the pyramids. As a huge history buff, visiting Egypt would be a dream come true!

7. St. Petersburg

Once again, this is on Fionn's been there, done that list. But I'd love to see Russia, especially this pretty city. And preferably in one of the warmer months...

6. India

We wanted to go here for Christmas, but visas and government shutdown delays spoiled that plan. But one day I would love to see this incredible country. 

5. Japan

Japan seems like an incredible place with so much interesting culture and history. It's supposed to be extremely expensive, so maybe this will be a short trip...

4. New Zealand

Fionn has been here too (surprise surprise!) but said he would absolutely go back. Stunning nature, friendly people, and Lord of the Rings? I'm in.

3. Thailand

We wanted to go here after our India plans fell through, but riots in Bangkok also put those plans on hold. I'm still interested in going and seeing some gorgeous beaches and temples. Maybe next year?

2. Indonesia

I would love to see this beautiful country of contrasts. 

1. Costa Rica

Something a little closer to home! I've heard amazing things about Costa Rica and would love to visit one day. What's not to love about rainforests? 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Moroccan Spiced Meat Pies with Lentils, Apricot, and Spinach

The other day Fionn caught sight of a recipe for Moroccan Hand Pies and asked me to make them. The original recipe called for eggplant, but since I didn't have that I substituted with lentils and then went rogue and started experimenting. Next thing I know...these tasty things were born.

Moroccan Spiced Meat Pies with Lentils, Apricots, and Spinach

Store bought pastry dough (or make your own)

1 cup spinach
1 cup dried apricots, chopped

1 cup lentils
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 Tbsp tomato paste

Ground beef
One onion
2 cloves garlic1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Coriander
Dash turmeric and allspice
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375F/190 C.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup dried lentils and 1/2 tsp of salt with 1 3/4 cups water. Boil until soft (around 20-30 minutes). When the water is getting low (around 20 minutes in) stir in cumin and 1/2 tablespoon of tomato paste along with a little bit of water if it's low. Keep cooking until the lentils are very soft (but not total mush).

In a cast iron skillet, brown beef with chopped onions and garlic. Season with ginger, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, allspice, salt and pepper. Add lentils to beef mixture, along with chopped apricots and spinach.

Carefully cut the pastry dough into squares and spoon the mixture on the squares. Seal the edges by crimping with a fork. Brush hand pies with an eggwash if desired.

Cook the pastries for 20-25 minutes.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Christmas in Amsterdam

A bit belated, but here it is anyway. Our Christmas in Amsterdam with Fionn's parents!

For Christmas Eve, we had an incredible 4 course dinner in Amsterdam. Fionn's mom found one of the few places that still had tables available and boy did she pick well! YUM.

Then it was Christmas morning!! What does that mean? Uhm, presents of course. So we met up before breakfast to exchange some gifts.

Everyone loved their presents. Fionn found some me some cute ornaments for my Christmas tree and Fionn's parents got me a beautiful Dutch bracelet. It's so pretty!

After presents and breakfast, we donned our coats and headed to an English speaking church. The church has been around since the 1600s! It was cool getting to celebrate Christmas in a place like that.

Merry Christmas 2013!

After church we stopped for lunch and then headed to the Rijksmuseum, which was surprisingly open. It was kind of neat getting to spend Christmas with Van Gogh, Vermeer, Rembrandt, and all the other great Dutch artists!

The Rijksmuseum is HUGE. It goes on for ever! Luckily we had all day to spend there :)

After the museum we attempted to attend an organ concert, but they closed the doors at exactly 3pm, so when we arrived 3 minutes late we couldn't get in. Sad! That night we had one last dinner before Fionn's parents returned to the States and Fionn and I began on journey through Croatia...

Belated Merry Christmas, blogland ;)