Monday, June 23, 2014

The Apartment is finally done!

Four months after moving in, the apartment finally feels like it's done. I'm so proud of all the thrifting, DIYing, and improvising we've done to go from sitting on the floor with no furniture to a cozy home we love to come back to.

So if you've been following since the first apartment tour and my many DIY projects (and projects) here you can see what I've been working toward!

Living Room

This space was a little weird because it was so open. We weren't sure how to create a living room out of a space that sorta felt like a walkway between kitchen and dining room.

A friend of my grandparents very kindly gave us these beautiful vintage chairs when he heard we were starting out without any furniture. When my parents came to visit, the chairs were pulled into the living room and the arrangement felt perfect. Natural, comfortable, and just what we needed.

When we first moved in, we put our TV on a cardboard box and used our boxes of books as a side table. Eventually I found the TV stand and bookcase for cheap by scouring thrift stores and unfinished wood stores. The bookcase especially was pretty beat up, but nothing a little sandpaper and a fresh coat of paint couldn't fix! I love how the red pops against the beige wall.

Dining Room

We bought our table in Bavaria, and it was just too big for the tiny space they originally had as the "dining room". So, we turned out sunroom area into a dining room. I love the natural light in there.

Since chairs aren't cheap, we're slowly buying more every month and I stain them myself. It's a lot of work, but I really love being able to control the colors. Only 5 more to go...

Living Room/Entry Hall

This was my hardest project...deciding which pictures to put up for our travel wall! It was hard to pick just 7, but the good thing is, there is plenty of space for more...

Clockwise from the top we have: Sahara Desert in Morocco, Peasant Museum in Romania, Petra in Jordan (a Fionn solo trip), ruins in Athens, Greece, street art in Lisbon, Portugal, bikes in Amsterdam, and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in the center.

If you want to see more of our travel adventures you can check them out here.

Down the hall we have a watercolor my brother did and very kindly gave to us...

and of course the china cabinet and chest I found for a steal in a tiny antique store outside Nurnberg.

Kitchen looks more or less the same, besides the addition of a chalkboard (which I love!)

Spare Bedroom

This room is a bit of everything-my musical instruments live there along with my craft supplies and all manner of odds and ends. It's not perfect, but it'll do just fine with an inflatable mattress should anyone come to visit.

Master Bedroom

If you ask me, this room has seen the biggest transformation. It's cozy and peaceful and just perfect.

So, that's that! Our house finally came together. Aaaaaaaand of course that means we have to move in a few months. Murphy's Law, y'all.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Butterfly Center at Callaway Gardens

Last week Fionn had a rare day off, so we decided to drive over to Callaway Gardens and enjoy some natural beauty. 

Callaway Gardens is an enormous public garden and resort near Pine Mountain, GA. They have lots of things to do, from a beach to kayaking, biking, walking trails, animal watching, and much more. If you'd like to stay longer, they have a resort with lodging, great meals, and spa packages. It's a great place to be outside in a beautiful natural setting and you can make the day as active as you like. 

If you're active duty or retired military, then you and your spouse can enter the park for FREE. If you want to learn more, check out their military section of their website.

For us, we just wanted to take a walk together, enjoy something beautiful, and recharge from a busy week.

We drove around for a while, admiring the scenery, before parking the car and walking from the Discovery Center (where you can see birds of prey demonstrations) and taking the walking trail over to the Butterfly Center. It was a about a 1.5 mile walk, which was just enough on a hot summer day.

My parents used to bring us to this place when I was a kid, and I made sure to recreate a circa 1998 goofy picture with the butterfly sign to send to my mom and brother. It was really fun bringing Fionn to a place where I had so many good memories.

The butterflies inside LOVED Fionn! They kept flying around him (thought they rarely stopped long enough for us to get a picture). Maybe he smells good to butterflies?

After our walk, we drove over to the beach and planned to dip our feet in, but rain had other plans. 

Good excuse for another visit, right?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Best Peach Cobbler Recipe Ever (Seriously)

On the way back from Savannah, we stopped at a peach farm for some tasty fresh peaches. I couldn't wait to get home and make a peach cobbler. I had my mom's recipe, but I wondered if maybe the internet had something better.

So, I googled "best peach cobbler recipe". The first one that came up was by a lifestyle blogger whose recipe included box cake mix and canned peaches.

Box cake mix and canned peaches?!

I'm pretty sure that sound you hear is a million indignant southern grandmas clutching their pearls in horror. Or anger. I was pretty mad that someone would try to pass off processed box crap and a can of dyed yellow peaches as "the best ever".

But then I stumbled upon this recipe and my mind was filled with happy, delicious thoughts instead.

I'll be honest, this is one of the best things I have ever made. Ever. It was perfect warm or cold (but especially warm), the dough on to was light and sweet and perfect. I fought Fionn for the last bite.

Peach Cobbler
America's Test Kitchen Recipe, found on Mo Recipes
4-5 Peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into thick slices
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/3 to 1/2 c. sugar
 pinch cloves
 1 t. vanilla extract
 1 T. brandy (optional)

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. plus 2 tsp sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. buttermilk
4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. cinnamon


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place the fruit filling in 9" deep-dish pie plate.  Place the pie plate on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and bake until the fruit begins to release liquid, 20-30 minutes (about 60 min for frozen fruit).

While the fruit is baking, whisk the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, soda, and salt together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, and vanilla together.  In a third bowl, toss the cinnamon with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Once the fruit filling has begun to release liquid, gently stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until the dough is just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the cobbler filling from the oven and stir.  Pinch the biscuit dough into 8 equal pieces and place them on top of the hot filling, spaced 1/2 inch apart.  Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar.

Return the cobbler to the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, 15-20 minutes.  Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

If peaches aren't your thing, try one of these combinations. You won't regret it!

Fruit filling varieties:
Blackberry (6 cups) plus 1 T. cornstarch (2 T if frozen), 1/3 to 1/2 c. sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla
Blueberry (6 cups) plus 1 T. cornstarch (2 T if frozen), 1/2 to 2/3 c. sugar, and 1/2 t. cinnamon, 2 T lemon juice
Raspberry (6 cups) plus 1 T. cornstarch, 1/2 to 2/3 c. sugar, 1 t. vanilla
Strawberry (2 quarts) plus 1 T. cornstarch, 1/3 to 1/2 c. sugar, 1 t. vanilla

Go make this RIGHT NOW before peach season is gone!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Upcoming Travel Adventures

Hi everyone! By the time you read this I will be on my way to my latest travel destination...

Bali, Indonesia!!

Yeah, that kinda came out of nowhere, right? I can't wait to start exploring and will hopefully come back with a ton of cool pictures and stories. This is my first trip to Asia, so any advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated! 

I've got a few posts lined up for while I'm gone, but if you'd like to see what I'm up to while I'm away, check out my Instagram feed. I'll try to post as often as I can (wifi permitting of course).

With the summer coming up, you know there's traveling to be done.

In addition to Bali, I'm hoping to see some of Hong Kong while I have a crazy long layover there.

When I come back in July, Fionn and I are thinking about a road trip to Miami or New Orleans. Of course, we might scrap those plans are stay close to home...depends on how crazy work is for poor Fionn.

In mid July I am definitely heading to Asheville, NC. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears!

I've been invited to a dear friend's wedding in Philadelphia at the end of July. I would love to go, but we'll see if time and finances and work schedules will make that possible. I'll keep my fingers crossed!

Once we head into August we should know where we will be heading next. I'm hoping that our upcoming move will be a good excuse for a quick vacation somewhere. I'm thinking somewhere fun and warm with swimming and drinks with umbrellas...but I'm not too picky as long as Fionn comes along.

By the way, a new blog name/design is in the works. I know I keep saying that, but man it is so hard to name your blog! I hope naming kids is easier...

Do you have any adventures planned for the summer?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Traveling is like the Beach; Leave Nothing But Your Footprints

Recently I saw an article about how part of the famous "Love Lock" bridge in Paris had collapsed. If you've never heard of it, I'm talking about the Pont des Arts, where people often attach a lock with their names on it and throw the key into the Seine. It's a cute idea, but what happens when you've had your photo op and feel good moment and then you continue on your way?

What happens is, the locals have to deal with it. They have to deal with the effects of a million tiny keys in the river, or the crushing weight of thousands of locks on a metal bridge, or an eyesore they don't want to see every day.

Did it somehow become ok to ignore this fact just because as a tourist I like, really really need a picture of me and my boo doing this?

Another example that sticks out in my mind is the Eastside Gallery in Berlin, where famous murals are painted over sections of the Berlin Wall. We visited it in August 2013 and were shocked by how much graffiti was defacing these murals. Some of them were just straight up ruined. The Eastside Gallery murals are great examples of dealing with a terrible time in history-many of them are heartfelt, moving, and memorable. Yet, here they were, wrecked by the scribblings of people passing through. 

Why yes, this looks SO much better than the original.

When I posted pictures online and complained about the defacement of the murals, many people were (surprisingly!) indignant. "They're ADDING to the murals!" one girl replied, "They make it more interesting!"



Do you have eyes?!

I'm sorry, but defacing something, taking an obligatory selfie, and then walking away congratulating yourself on "adding to history" is NOT OK. No, it's just not. It's even more obnoxious when you get annoyed at the people who are from that place when they ask you to stop. It's THEIR city.

I grew up in a tourist destination. I know what it's like to have people come in and have zero respect for your city and use it as their own personal playground. I can't stand those people. I never want to be one of those people.

Traveling has a lot to do with making memories. I'm not trying to be the anti-fun patrol and ruin things for everyone. But sometimes we need to take a minute and think beyond the present what I'm doing right now going to have a detrimental effect later?

When you travel, you're an outsider looking in. Come visit, enjoy what the place has to offer, learn something, broaden your outlook, and have a good time. But just like the beach, it's best to leave only your footprints and take all your junk with you. There are local people who have to live here every day and don't want to clean up afterwards.

What do you all think? Am I just being a harsh meanie? Or is it time for a little more respect for these places?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

River Street in Savannah, GA

Back in the days when I called Savannah home, going to River Street always seemed like an ordeal. The parking is scarce, the historic steps are scary, and there are throngs of drunk tourists stumbling on the cobblestones and spilling their frozen daquiris.

But on our last trip to Savannah, River Street didn't seem so bad. I saw it with new, less cynical eyes.

This area is called Factor's Walk. Back in the day it's where you could find cotton for sale, now it's where you'll find sneaky parking for the employees of the numerous restaurants.

Right on the riverfront is Kevin Barry's, my favorite Irish pub ever. The thing that sets it apart is that there are no televisions and there's live traditional music every single night. I grew up playing traditional Irish music, so these are major issues for me-I'm going to a pub for music and atmosphere. Pubs are integral to the whole session culture anyway!

Honestly, this pub means a lot to me. Back when I was a kid and just getting into Irish music, this pub welcomed me. The older musicians gave me a chance to play or sing alongside them, and when famous traditional musicians were in town, I was allowed to come in and listen. When it comes to traditional music, you need that kind of space where the older generation can teach the younger one. So kudos to KB's for keeping tradition alive.

If you're a traditional Irish musician looking for a session in Savannah, check out Kevin Barry's. They have a session every Sunday night and the nightly musicians who preform the rest of the week are really friendly as well.

As you explore more of River Street you'll see a mix of tourist crap, actually tasty restaurants, and a lot of beautiful old buildings. Even if it can be kind of touristy, there's something about River Street that does feel fun.

Just remember, don't attempt these monster cobblestones in stilettos. Not only will you break an ankle, locals will surely be on hand to laugh at you.

Happy Wedneday, y'all :)

How Fionn and I Met in Berlin

June 10th, 2011 wasn't supposed to be an eventful day. I got off work early (one of the infamous German Feierabends) and called my friends in Berlin, trying to set up plans. All of them were out of town for one reason or another, and I returned to my apartment at 4pm, feeling sorry for myself that I had a whole long weekend ahead of me but no one to spend it with.

I called my mom to complain, and while we were Skyping a text flashed on my phone. 

"This guy from my internship program invited me out tonight."

"So? Why don't you go?"

"I dunno...he's kinda weird, Mom."

"Well, what else have you got going on tonight?"

Grudgingly, I put on eyeliner and some skinny jeans and caught the U-Bahn to the trendier side of Berlin, where I met my fellow intern for döners and a beer. He ended up being really funny, and I had to admit, going out had been a good idea. We decided to have a drink at the hostel bar across the street, but soon lost each other in the crush of Friday night partiers. Before I knew it, I was standing by myself with a beer, trying not to look uncool.

The nice thing about drunk people is that they're easy to talk to, and I soon found myself welcomed into a group discussing their upcoming trip to Prague. While we talked, a blond guy joined the group, and asked the Turkish guy next to me in perfect American English,

"So, where we headed after this?"

While he talked to the Turkish guy, I couldn't help being curious about this newcomer. It's not uncommon to meet young Americans in Berlin, but he seemed different. He wasn't a bearded hipster talking about indie bands or a party bro out to get drunk on his summer off. He seemed mature and effortlessly cool and interesting. Plus he had incredible muscly arms. 

(I'm only human, people!) 

So, curious and excited by the prospect of speaking English rather than muddling through German, I uttered the smoothest pick up line I could think of.

"Hey, are you American?"

Maybe it was the eyeliner I had so artfully applied, or maybe my hair was just lookin super awesome that night, or maybe the stars aligned and destiny fell right into place, but Fionn didn't think I was a total weirdo for asking and we struck up a conversation.

He was a West Coaster, I learned. He was stationed in Germany with the Army in a place I'd never heard of and humored me while I tried to impress him with my knowledge of the military. He was visiting Berlin because he also had a long weekend but since he was new to Germany he had no one to spend it with. So, rather than spending his time at home, bored, he hopped the next train to Berlin.

(I would soon come to know this as the famous Fionn travel spontaneity)

Our conversation flowed easily. We made each other laugh. He regaled me with his crazy travel stories and I told him about my adventures abroad and the challenge of taking this job in Berlin. I learned he could speak some Russian and I spent twenty minutes trying to teach him to order a beer in German. He was the first person I'd ever met who had traveled more than me.

Before I knew it, an hour had passed and we were still talking away. The group he was with announced they were heading down the street in search of a new bar, and we followed them, wrapped in our own little conversation at the back of the group. We stopped for pizza and I tried to teach him how to order, eventually giving in and talking to the grumpy looking Turkish pizza seller myself.

"Here," Fionn said, tearing a chunk off of the slice, "For your hard work."

After much deliberating (it's crazy hard to decide on where to go when your group consists of 9 drunk out of towners speaking 6 different languages) we finally settled in a USSR themed bar, leaving the others to dance and flirt and party while we kept talking, mostly about Fionn's crazy study abroad time in Russia and Ukraine.

By the time I remembered to look at my watch, it was nearly 4 am. I was tired, but didn't want the night to end. Still, knowing how long it would take to get back to my apartment, I announced I should probably head home.

"Should I go with you? It's not the best time to be on the subway by yourself."

"This time of night it'll take almost 45 minutes one way!" I exclaimed, "You can't go all that way just to turn around."

"Well, give me your number then. We can hang out tomorrow."

I was so thrilled he actually wanted to see me again! We exchanged numbers, and I insisted I really had to get going. He walked me down to the U-Bahn platform, which seemed so cute and chivalrous. Since the train was on the night schedule, it was going to be nearly 10 minutes before the next one.

We looked at each other and there was this moment...maybe it was the eyeliner, or the drinks, or the fact that I'd never had such a great night and couldn't believe I had this awesome connection with this smokin' hot dude I just met, but we both just smiled and leaned in.

And he kissed me.

Where we first met! This picture was taken January 2014

That's right everyone, I have officially known my darling Fionn for 3 years as of today! So prepare yourselves for the love story :)