Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Getting Domestic in Deutschland...

Anyone who knows me knows that I love to bake anything sweet...mostly chocolate chip cookies but also brownies, funfetti cookies, coke cake, pumpkin muffins...and the list goes on. Well, I've decided to expand my horizons a little since I have nearly unlimited blackberries these days. So I looked up several recipes, bought the supplies, made sure I picked plenty of berries, and took on the challenge of making homemade blackberry jam!

With the input from several recipes, here is what I decided would be the best combination:
5 cups of blackberries
a few raspberries sprinkled in
a squirt of lemon juice
2 cups of plain sugar
2 cups of sugar with pectin

This little project was surprisingly fun, quick, and easy! I got out all my supplies, then vaguely measured the berries and the sugar (in separate bowls).
After I had all that ready to go, I mashed the berries and put them in a pot on the stove. I stirred continuously and added a few squirts of lemon juice. It started to boil pretty fast.
The smell was to die for...I just wanted to soak it in all day. But I kept stirring ferociously to keep my jam from burning!
  
I poured in the sugar, and kept stirring, stirring, stirring! (and inhaling the wonderful smell...and probably some major calories considering how much sugar I had just added! haha)
And after 10 minutes on the stove, I scooped the foam off the top and poured in into three cute jars! It had to cool for 12 hours (and it was scorching HOT when I was pouring it...) but it was ready this morning. And it was delicious with my breakfast :)
I would highly recommend this...I could have done with a little less sugar to be healthier but it really is delectable and its fun to have it be completely home made! It would be a great gift idea too because its personal and who doesn't like jam?!

P.S. I continued my domestic streak and made brownies with the dragons today...a treat they do not usually have in Germany! My mom shipped me our favorite Ghiradelli brownie mix and the kids absolutely loved it!

xoxo

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mini Kitchen Make Over

After being inspired by one of my favorite blogs, and the fact that this was my first weekend staying in the adorable, but not-so-happening town of Wald-Michelbach, I decided to give my kitchen a much needed make over. It was not a full make over at all, seeing as I am only an amateur painter and had no intention of changing any of the major appliances, but it does fit my tastes better!
And voila, here is the finished product!

It looks much more impressive when you see the before pictures, including the sponge-painted 70's style cabinets and absolutely no organization, at all.


I knew from the moment I moved into this apartment that those floral cabinets had to go. But also the way the Germans do their trash (four separate trash pickups: excess food, paper products, plastics, and then everything else) calls for four separate trash bags, which I had failed to organize at all. Also, the refrigerator door opened the wrong direction, which resulted in my 5'10 self smacking my head almost every time I went to open it. Needless to say, there were plenty of reasons this mini make over was a must-do and it was the perfect project for this weekend.

So, after a weekend of painting and trying to render every artistic bone in my body, we have the after pictures. And a kitchen that is much more pleasant for me to see every time I want food.
Firstly, I rearranged to make a much more user-friendly set up. This move alone made a huge difference, but then I painted two coats of basic white paint to cover up the orange and green flowers, then adding a the teal handles to give the cabinets a pop of color. I also bought a wonderful cinnamon candle so my kitchen not only has a fresh look, but it also smells fresh! And, now that the fridge is more accessible, I wanted to add some decor.

I couldn't find cute magnets in town, so I decided to make them with cloth and buttons (it pays to teach at a school with a great craft room!). With those magnets, I put some cards, pictures, and one of my favorite verses on the front of the fridge as happy reminders. On the side, I cut up small pictures and bits and pieces of favorite postcards, making mini-magnets of some of my favorite people and place. (Also the blackberries pictured are what I picked today, stay tuned for my next blog post on them!)

And after organizing my dishes and small appliances to make my countertops look less cluttered, I bought some basic white hooks and painted them to match the cabinet handles and hung them for my dish towels and my keys. The little brass birds on the shelf are something my mom found when she was helping me move in, so I bought some more the other day when I was buying supplies to do this little kitchen fix up...aren't they cute?

xoxo

Friday, August 24, 2012

Kids After My Own Heart...

After two weeks of teaching, I already love my little dragons. Even with the language barrier, it is apparent that they all have zest for life and enjoy giggling, learning, playing, and just plain hanging out with me. Today, even on my day off, I had an interaction with my students that made me even more certain that I love them and that we are cut out of the same material.

The smaller kids were learning how to tell time on analog clocks yesterday, and I was helping them practice saying the times in English. Jonna and Linn Sophie told me (in English/German/hang signals...) that they were going to the store to get supplies so they could make a clock cake tomorrow. This was the first good sign...anyone uses any excuse possible to bake is a kindred spirit of mine.

So this morning as I went out for a run, I walked past the kitchen and they called out to me to come see the cake they were working on.

The work in progress!
So, I went for my run and came back after, only to hear the girls squealing and telling me I had to come have some cake with them! When I walked in, a bunch of little dragons were circled around the table, not eating their actual clock cake at all, but licking the batter bowl, the icing bowl, and eating the excess cake that had been cut off to make the clock shape. And I immediately fell into a new level of love...kids after my very own heart. Never in my memory has my mom made any baked good where I didn't lick the bowl or the beaters til I got every last drop. And it made me so happy to see my students doing the exact same thing!


All the kids (and me of course!) gathered around to help take care of the last bits of icing in the pan!

Adrian came late to the party so he was shoveling in the cake crumbs quickly!

Jonna scrapes the last bit of icing out!

Lena, Linn Sophie, Ava, and Jonna were the main cooks...and here they are with the finished project. An amazing clock cake! (and we did practice telling time with it...so it was at least a little bit educational!)
xoxo

Sunday, August 19, 2012

#itsthelittlethings

Everyone is probably familiar with the saying, "It's the little things in life...", but living in Germany has made that saying ring especially true for me. Though I am fortunate to be living in such a beautiful place, there are tough days, times when I miss my family and moments that I wish there wasn't a 7 hour time difference between me and my friends. Despite those, I have been the recipient of so many little blessings that have made my adjustment significantly easier. It's so important to take note of these bright spots and focus on the good in my life. So, to help myself do that, here is a list of a few of the little things that have made me happy the past few days.


When I was at dinner in Berlin on Friday night, I started chatting with a German couple nearby asking them what to see in the city, and after an extremely helpful conversation, the waiter brought my bill. The mad took my bill and declared that my dinner was on them, which was so generous and unexpected!

Berlin was the perfect city to visit alone, because most of what I wanted to see was art, such as the Berlin wall, the countless historic buildings, and the memorial to the Jews. (I really hadn't realized this beforehand, I just kinda decided to go and then looked at tour websites to plan what I wanted to see.) Art is one thing that I would actually prefer to enjoy alone, so I could not have picked a better city as my first solo trip.

I came home tonight to find not one, but TWO packages from my sweet mom. They were filled with stuff I'd forgotten, treats from home, and supplies for my students...so it was a pleasant welcome home surprise!

I have been lucky enough to be the receive some hilarious e-mail from Grace, (who never ceases to make me laugh even if we are thousands of miles apart) about some crazy family antics that we can both appreciate the humor in.

Clearly I am an novice blogger, but my sister asked me to blog for her company, Lydali, and list my favorite things. It was so easy, as I love their products, but I was honored to be featured on a real blog!

I have been picking blackberries that grow on the path where I walk into town. When I got back after the weekend in Berlin, there were billions ripe and ready to be picked! I picked for nearly an hour and there were still tons left, but I am excited about blackberries on my cereal all week!
I hope these things brighten your day like they brightened mine!
xoxo

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Successful Start

I have now been in Europe for a month, but I just officially completed my first week as a teacher at Drachenshule! And I am excited to report that it was a success, on many levels!

There were so many unknowns going into this week. First of all, this is a Montessori school, so I really did not know what that would entail. Its also in Germany, a place I formerly was not too familiar with. And the students speak German, a language I took only one semester of in college. So, needless to say, I was fairly clueless going into this whole thing. Monday morning rolled around, and I nervously walked into the room as the students were all arriving. It was nerve racking, but the other teachers were outgoing (with what english they knew) and the kids were sweet and interested in getting to know me.
Understandably, Drachenshule is decorated with dragons. I can already feel my affinity for dragons developing.

To give a little more detail, Drachenshule is a "free learning" school so the 32 students, ages 5-14, can pretty much do what they want all day. It sounds crazy, and it kind of is. But I love it. The kids all learn at their own pace, whether thats by asking me to read an english story, cooking enchiladas with the Spanish teacher, or knitting in the art room. In my job description, I am just supposed to interact with the kids in English. Luckily most of them are very sweet kids and want to cuddle and play, so I did a lot of holding kids on my lap, playing board games, and reading Dr. Seuss this week. And I doubt this comes as a surprise to anyone, but I absolutely loved it. Another benefit for me is that most of the students are eager to learn English, so on the first day I had a little dragon pass me a note that said "I want to learn English with you, but I do not know much", so we pulled out the english books and I did a lesson with a few students. That is about as formal as it gets here at the dragon school, with most of the learning taking place on-the-go.
This is kinda the main room, its where we meet for "circle time" in the morning and where a lot of the kids tend to hang out throughout the day. (Notice the dragons hanging over the door!)

I love the cozy reading room, it has really comfy chairs. This is Phillip and ?? (its surprisingly
 hard learning names when you don't have the kids sitting in a classroom!) just reading a comic book together.

These girls circled around to play the German version of "Sorry" with me, which was fun and I made them all count every move in English!

There is a minor downside, however. It is extremely tiring to hold kids all day, while constantly attempting to understand German (and usually failing). Also throw in a few intense games on the outdoor soccer field with the boys (think elementary school recess...) so needless to say, I feel completely exhausted by the end of school each day. I am sure that will get easier with time, though. And I really cannot complain because I have every Friday off. That's right, every weekend is a long weekend for me which is golden for my travels. I am headed to Berlin this weekend, so I will keep you all posted on that!
This is Jonna's "I have no clue what you just said" face! Especially with the little ones, the language barrier is tough but I am sure it will improve with time!

Here I am holding Linn Sophie, she is precious but she loves to be held and use me as her jungle gym...she has no concept of muscle fatigue and I am not even going to try to explain that to a 7 year old girl who only speaks German.

I wish I could post pictures of all my students because they are literally adorable...with cute little German haircuts. However, after snapping a few pics on my phone the first day, I was told that we unfortunately aren't allowed to take pictures in school. I will post the few that I have, just to give you all a feel, but I really cannot express how grateful I am for the successful first week of school and the compassion of my coworkers, students, and my boss Nicole as I adjust to life here in Germany!
I just had to include this picture to give y'all a taste of life over here...as I went on a walk the other day, there were just two horses casually strolling into town. #germanyisweirdandiloveit
xoxo

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Sun is Setting on Summer 2012...

Today marks the last day of what has been a fabulous summer. And, sadly, what might be my last real summer. Tomorrow, the dragons are coming. (I call the students dragons because the school literally translates to The Dragon School). I am feeling a mix of emotions...excited to meet my students but sad about the places and friends I have left behind for now, and also nervous to see what teaching will be like and wondering where this next chapter of my life will take me.

I feel like the sunset metaphor is perfect for a day like today, the closure of an amazing summer and the beginning of something new and unknown. I have also been fortunate enough to see some absolutely beautiful sunsets all over the world this summer, so I thought this would be a good time to commemorate the summer as I step onward to my next adventure in life. (And it helps that I love sunsets so I had PLENTY of pictures of them from throughout my summer.)
The sun setting on my Wake Forest career as I graduated in May. I adored my time  at this school, a mixture of fun, challenging, stimulating, tough, and hilarious times. I was sad to leave Wake and my friends there, but it was time.

The sun setting over the grand canyon, as we stopped there on the road trip. It was amazing to see the sun reflecting across the vastness of the canyon. This experience was a very spiritual one for me.
The sun setting over the Seattle harbor on our last night of the road trip, it was a cool sight to see and significant as we closed out a two week trip across America.

The sun setting over one of my favorite farms in Nashville, which makes me appreciate the beauty of the town in which I've always called home.
The sun setting in our front yard over Lake Michigan, as I spent the 4th of July up there with my family and a few close friends. It is my favorite holiday and one of my favorite places, so it was a great vacation and send off for Germany.

The sun setting in my front yard in Nashville, just a few nights before I left. It is a sad but real reminder that part of growing up is moving (far, far away) from home.

The sun setting over the ocean, as we stood on the deck of our cruise ship one evening. It's neat to see the same beautiful sunset from all different parts of the world. And because we were so far out in the ocean, the sky seemed like it went on forever, with never ending colors reflecting from the sun.

The sun setting over Wald-Michelbach, taken from the window of my new apartment. It makes me feel right at home in the new place, knowing that I can still see and appreciate the beauty of the sunset every night from my kitchen.

 xoxo


Friday, August 10, 2012

Results of my free time...

Since being in Germany, I have had more free time than I've probably ever had in my entire life. I'm not in school and my job has not started yet so I am pretty much free all day, every day. I'd be lying if I said it hadn't been lonely and boring at times, but its also been fun to be able to read, journal, go on long walks, and try to think more artistically! These are a few compilations of the inspiring quotes, pretty pictures, reminders of old times and places I hope to one day go to, and simply just things that made me smile. (A few are mine, most were gathered from around the internet.) Happy Friday...enjoy!








xoxo

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Missing the Swiss...

I have spent the last few days in the Swiss alps with my cousin Carlyle...and let me just start off by saying it literally warms my heart to know places like Gimmelwald, Switzerland still exist. It is easily one of my top five favorite cities in the world.
My cousin "baby carlyle" and I with a foggy Gimmelwald behind us.

And I'm sure you're probably wondering why? I was also pretty skeptical when Carlyle wanted me to meet him out in the middle of nowhere, Switzerland. As a matter of fact, when you ride the train to Interlaken (the nearest big city) you still have to catch a local train, a bus, followed by a cable car to get up to Gimmelwald...but the hassle is worth it twenty times over. This tiny town is tucked in the middle of the alps, with views of the river rushing through the valley below and the snow capped alps everywhere you look! Gimmelwald has no cars, one hostel, a few hotels, a couple resturaunts, and then some residential homes.  I don't know any other way to describe it besides saying it is a quintessential Swiss village. Our hostel, which was built in 1563, had breathtaking views out every window. Even as I was washing my face this morning, I glanced up to see one of the prettiest scenes I have ever seen...and it has been a constant reminder of God's intricacy throughout creation.
no words needed

To start my adventure, my train rolled in and it began to rain a little bit, just as a double rainbow appeared in the alps. Immediately I was reminded of Gods faithfulness and the beauty in his creation. As I got off the cable car, Carlyle was there to welcome me and we walked around the town (took a grand total of 10 minutes!) and then we had a nice dinner as we enjoyed catching up! the ladies next to us at dinner were eating chocolate fondue, which Carlyle commented looked delicious, and when the women left they bought us a huge fondue tray and the waitress delivered it to us. It was neat for us to receive such a random act of generosity from strangers...and we devoured the fondue!
sorry for the low photo quality...it was through a rainy train window!

As for activities, the first morning we went with three friends from the hostel, paid 25 swiss franks (which equals 25 dollars) to rent climbing equipment and embarked on a 5 hour climb! this climb entire climb was surrounded by beautiful scenery, but we had spirts of hiking, climbing, tight rope walking, and even a 15 minute stent in a cave as we waited out a brief rain shower. 
As you can tell, I am screaming/laughing because Carlyle was shaking the line as we walked with nothing but a 700 foot canyon below us. (Also note our styling' hiking clothes. #backpackerproblems)

The next day Carlyle and I took a sceneic hike up to the glaciers...it was amazing because we started out sweating, got cold and put on our sweatshirts as we reached the snowy glaciers, then a major thunderstorm blew in and we were soaked...we still managed to enjoy ourselves and chat the whole time and just appreciate the beauty of all the different weather. because we were wet to the bone upon our return, we each treated ourselves to a ten minute shower (it costs two franks for a 5 minute shower!) so that was a nice reward. we also bought local gimmelwald cheese, eggs, and sausage to make one of the most delicious dinners I've ever consumed, followed by some fun piano and guitar playing at our hostel!

Here I am standing on the glacier...about two seconds later the rain started pouring!

This morning we woke up at 7 am (and I am NOT a morning person...) to see if it was clear enough to go up to Shilthorn. The sky was clear and the crisp mountain air was perfect...so we hopped on the cable car and went up to the second highest point in Europe. After being completely in awe of the view, we went inside for breakfast in a resturaunt that slowly spins 360 degrees so you can enjoy the sights on every side. We looked right out on the steepest mountain in the world, the north face. We could see Geneva in one direction and almost to France in another. Needless to say, we had a spectacular 3 hour breakfast before heading down and saying our goodbyes. But it was definitely a fun few days filled with great conversation.

We literally felt like we were standing on top of the world!
I will undoubtedly be going back to gimmelwald (hopefully sooner rather than later...) and I am so thankful that I got to experience the beauty and peacefulness of this town that remains untouched by the busyness and tourists of the twenty first century.
The cute town of Gimmelwald...this is our hostel and some of the scenery.
xoxo