France Trip,WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!!!February 2017

We are in Strasbourg, France for our 3rd Wedding anniversary.We are enjoying two nights here. I highly recommend not being pregnant while you travel in Europe. 

I still like American food more than Any kind of European cuisine. Portions here are scanty and “sweets” like chocolate crepes are not sweet. Lunch was too expensive.  The architecture and scenery more than makes up all the food and customer service disappointments. The people are lovely in France and customer service is MUCH better than most other countries (in our experience).

We found an INCREDIBLE Patisserie and I bought a piggy cake and a mouse cake for our dessert. Pictures are below.

The Cathedral Notre Dame De Strasbourg was the highlight of our journey. It was the tallest structure on the planet until around 1874. It’s Gothic Beauty is sure to rapture you and make you think of Europe as the architectural treasure house of the world. It’s construction began in 1015 and was completed in 1439. Our forefathers gave something lasting and valuable to future generations instead of doing the opposite–loading us with immense debt that we would be forced to pay. 

Japan Adventure–November 2016

Japan Adventure–November 2016

First of all, I’m sorry for my dead silence. I know you’ve missed my exciting and/or controversial posts, so I apologize. Just kidding.

Life is quite busy. Even worse? Our internet connection/speed is unbearably slow. It’s really frustrating because it takes days (yes, 48 hours sometimes) to upload things to the internet. In fact, I’ve tried to edit this post numerous times and my internet connection keeps dying on me…”Can’t reach this page” etc etc. So you’ll have to make due with what I have to offer here.

My goal this year (2017) is to be much more active in my writing, photo and video taking/making. I want to become a writer. All writing, photos and other media on this blog are 100% my own, of course.

Most Importantly: Here is some Japanese loot that I got during our trip. Thanks Dear. I’m excited to use the parasol when the weather brightens up.

 

 

Hair clips, Hydrating Japanese face masks (in cute packaging), and adorable pottery with very fun kiddie pictures.

 

 

 

Japan Trip 

The Japanese people strike me as a very reserved, gentle and quiet people. They appear to be very careful and intentional in their behavior.

The first thing that gripped me about this country was how clean it is.  I thought Germany won the award for cleanest country but I was wrong. Japan definitely wins this award. The streets are not paved with diamonds, but they are swept spotless. Despite the fact that public garbage cans are extremely hard to find, roads and railways stay almost free of rubbish and clutter.

Floors and surfaces are kept much cleaner than what I’ve seen in Western countries. When entering many places, you are expected to remove your shoes. This is something that my husband and I have implemented into our own household.  Removing shoes before entering the house really does help keep the floors cleaner for longer.

Japan has an excellent railway/train/subway system that everyone seems to depend on. It’s as if the Japanese planned and invested far in advance for the present and future needs of an exploding population. Now that’s foresight!  Instead of corrupt government leaders siphoning their country’s blood diamond money into their personal Swiss Bank Accounts (*cough* *cough* Charles Taylor of Liberia)—the money in Japan was used in a more sensible manner—creating effective, clean public transit that ends up helping everyone.

I was shocked at how few cars I saw in Tokyo compared to people. There were still cars and taxis on the streets, but far fewer than what you would expect for a population the size of Tokyo’s

We went to a Cat Cafe. We went to an Owl Cafe. Yes, these places exist. They are quite unique :0)

One thing I’ve learned is that the collective actions of a group of people, living within a certain territory, will have a significant impact on the land and the general appearance of a country. If everyone thinks that “spitting out one piece of gum on the sidewalk” or “throwing out one piece of trash is simply no big deal” this country would look like a sewer.

 It was great to visit several Shinto and Buddhist shrines in Kyoto and watch the Japanese offer up prayers to their ancestors. No true atheists here. I enjoyed Green Tea (Matcha) ice cream and loved visiting several of the Starbucks—nice to have pleasant but not Fake, over-the-top customer service (ahem, Seattle).

We got to walk through a bamboo forest and we wandered through a famous Zen Garden in downtown Tokyo. We went to the Robot Restaurant in the Red Light District in Tokyo. That place is psychedelic, sensory-overload land. Instead of taking your daily dose of LSD, just watch the show.

Tokyo is the biggest city in the world (it competes with Mexico City in terms of “most populated”). Yet, this country looks remarkably clean for such an abundant population.  If everyone in Tokyo (or Japan, for that matter) had a mentality that “little things don’t add up”, the scenery would look vastly different. Sure, there are tons of blah cement buildings–and many of them look very similar to each other (and aren’t very high) but the city is well laid out, organized and very clean. We went up to the top of the Tokyo SkyTree. HIGHEST OBSERVATION DECK IN THE WOLRD–450 stories! Our baby freaked out.

The Japanese seem to fully realize that their individual actions have an aggregate impact on the entire country. Perhaps the great irony about this country and its level of cleanliness and order is that not only are the cities densely populated, but garbage cans are very, very difficult to find. People take pains to hold onto their garbage and responsibly dispose of it when they can, in a can.

Finally, toilets in Japan are high-tech and designed to do a variety of things. I’m not going to get into it here, but let’s just say that they thought of everything.

Interesting Things I noticed about Japan (and what I learned from our tour guides):

  1. Japan looked spotless, even compared to Germany.

  2. It was hard to find public garbage cans anywhere—yet the Japanese won’t use this excuse to litter. The population in Tokyo is insane—but the Japanese won’t use this excuse to litter either.

  3. Contrary to what you might think, I did not see that much ANIME, AT ALL.

  4. If you leave/forget your purse somewhere just go to the police station. It will probably be there. The Japanese DO NOT STEAL. Crime is super low in this country. The Japanese have a strong sense of ethics and karma.

  5. You can’t evict renters in Japan. Well, it’s super difficult.

  6. Because it’s incredibly difficult to evict renters in Japan, our tour guides told us that the Japanese who do rent their property prefer Japanese (and other East Asians) over foreigners. “Foreigners have a reputation for trashing the apartments/houses they rent.” Verbatim from our Japanese tour guides.

  7. Like most of the rest of the world–thanks to the biased largely Democratic/Leftist News Media– the Japanese I spoke to seemed to have a very negative impression of Donald Trump. They feared that “he would be the next Hitler”. (Yes, I did engage in several conversations along this topic). I assured them that this was not going to happen.

  8. Immigration into Japan is difficult, if not impossible.  Our tour guides informed us:  “Japan officially allowed 11 immigrants to resettle into the country last year.”

Drinking Coffee in Europe

Drinking Coffee in Europe

Overall, after sampling tons of different coffee in shops in Europe, I have come to the conclusion that I enjoy the taste of coffee better in America. The biggest difference between indulging in a cup of morning java in Europe VS America is the ambiance. There is such a variety of individually owned coffee shops in Europe and each one happens to be tucked deep within the entrails of a quaint village. Most of the coffee shops are unique; they are hidden within the alleyways of a village or amidst tight streets.

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The tables in these coffee shops are fit tightly together, like a jig saw puzzle. Coffee shops here have a medieval feel to them. I feel like I’m drinking coffee in an ancient world.

In my opinion, the taste of both coffee and food in Europe is not as scrumptious or varied as what I have discovered in America. In the US, there is this entire food industry; a FOOD NETWORK—where restaurants and chefs tend to be in an endless game of trying to out-compete other restaurants in terms of uniqueness, freshness and taste.

In my opinion, if you’ve had the dish once, European cuisine tends to be unsurprising and unwaveringly typical. That said, we recently encountered a restaurant that served schnitzel Satay—a nice blend of German and Thai flavors, that would hopefully appease any American food fanatic. A peanut sauce on Schnitzel tastes amazing!

The coffee here, like the music, tastes the same almost everywhere. It doesn’t taste that great. I’m not sure what is causing this. My husband and I have our theories. We think that socialism is to blame. Then again, Europeans tend to be thin, in perfect shape and look very attractive—especially the women. American men are more attractive than European men, in my humble opinion.

America is the land of a great variety of food and music—and such creative people!

In fact, I argue that in the past 50 years, America has experienced a kind of Renaissance with food and music that many other countries have not experienced. I think that it ultimately comes down to the internet. It must be technology—the internet and television—the rapid spreading of information in advanced nations which leads to a fusion, a blending of ideas ripe for the connoisseur to use in everything from music to food.

If you ever watch the food network or take a splash through recipe ideas on the internet, you are met with some of the most audacious and surprising combinations as though a “Food Enlightenment” was happening.

I can’t wait to move back to America for so many reasons.

Cochem, Germany Wine Festival ~June 2016

Cochem, Germany Wine Festival ~June 2016

 

This June our family went to a weekend wine festival in Cochem, Germany. What a splendid time we had! It was so refreshing to taste chilled German (not Californian–i.e. “not sweet”) Rieslings and wander around this adorable village. The weather was perfect! Lots of German tourists were there, sucking up every drop of the sunny weather and mingling in the town square where the wine festival along with the music and many food carts were found. I indulged in crepes slathered in Nutella with a glass of wine in my hands. I felt like an epicurean.

We booked a tour of the castle on the hill. We also walked all over this cute village and took part in a Riesling wine taste at a local wine cellar. We truly enjoyed our little hotel with all its quintessential German flavor and motifs.  We enjoyed mouth-watering schnitzel, great wine and beer and, most importantly, had a relaxing time in this quaint village positioned right on the Mosel river.

If you are visiting Germany, make Cochem one of your travel destinations. It is a beautiful little village with just enough to do and see–especially if you go during a wine festival. Bonus, it isn’t overwhelming with tourists!

 

I Reupholstered Our Dining Chairs

This week I finished reupholstering our dining chairs.  I had purchased these at a thrift store here in Germany. I was immediately impressed by their hard-wood, Chippendales style appearance. No, they are not real Chippendales, but I was told that they were made to “look like that style”.

I negotiated the price down to 80 euros for the four of them. Never accept a price that is even “just slightly too high” as you can always find something in your price range at a thrift store. This was my first time to use a staple gun and have fun with fabric. I’m a bit sloppy–but nobody can see the underside of the cushion, so no worries, right?

The worst part about reupholstering chairs/sofas? Removing the old staples! This is a very laborious task.

Here is a “before shot” of the chairs. I still need to sand down the wood and varnish them.

 

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Hard part of the process: Remove the seat cushion from the chair and yank out all the old staples to remove the old, cigarette smoke infused fabric.

 

All done! 4 chair cushions reupholstered with a manual staple gun.

 

MALTA TRIP~ May 2016!

MALTA TRIP~ May 2016!

Last week we went on a trip to Malta. If you ever want to feel fat and hideous, I highly recommend a vacation to Malta—everyone you walk by looks perfect and thin—and often with a pair of stilettos. People dress like they just stepped off the runway in Milan—no pressure at all. You will find that your envy quickly melts and then you are left with a general feeling of awe. People take their aesthetics quite seriously in Europe. This is the place of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, after all. 

 Our trips are always so busy and packed. With a baby added to the mix things felt a bit chaotic—with diaper changing and breast feeding in random places and lots of crying, holding and consoling, but we managed to make it work. Everyday we were off doing something—like visiting ancient Temples, going into medieval cathedrals or seeing artwork by Caravaggio.

The food was good! I highly recommend McDonald’s breakfast (as 22 Euro per person at the Hilton is MUCH too expensive, and frankly, fiscally stupid). Our hotel was situated along the crystal blue sea. The Mediterranean Sea, itself, is a sight to behold; it transitions from aquamarine to cobalt blue the further out you look.  Our hotel was unduly luxurious. The bed in our room made me feel like I was sinking into a heavenly cloud.

 

The highlights of our trip were scuba diving in the Mediterranean (our first time!), visiting Gozo Island and seeing an ancient temple–Ggantija (3,600 BC—the oldest above ground religious structure on Earth) and also the Azure Window (used as a scene in Game of Thrones). We also went to a really cool Aquarium on the main island of Malta. Our baby just loved the Aquarium.

We enjoyed plenty of strolls along a promenade that flanked the Mediterranean Sea. We spent a half a day in Valletta, the capital city of Malta. Valletta took us for surprise. You walk through the entrance of this walled city and are immediately stunned by the baroque motifs on every building. This city is, quite possibly, the most beautiful, baroque city in the world. It is my favorite city in Europe (so far). It is a very compact city with lots of tight streets, ornate architecture, boutique fashion shops and a garden that overlooks the sea as well as three other picturesque cities

 

Malta is my favorite country that I have been to in Europe. It has an almost 3rd world feel to it, but, for the population density, it is kept clean and they recycle there.

My husband and I can’t stop raving about our scuba diving experience into the Mediterranean Sea. At first it was daunting–I felt like I was suffocating under water until I began reminding myself to just breathe. Eventually I was able to calm myself down and we were able to spend a good 30 minutes under water. Breathing air from an oxygen tank deep in the ocean isn’t as satisfying as ambient air. This said, scuba diving was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. We were so thrilled that my husband will be getting his certification in Scuba Diving over the summer and we plan to go on more scuba diving adventures in the near future.

My list of favorite European cities at this point: 1. Valletta, Malta 2. Taormina, Sicily 3. Krakow, Poland 4. Rome, Italy, 5. Prague, Czech Republic, 6. Salzburg, Austria 7. Bergen, Norway. (In case you were curious). Of course, I just LOVE Paris and Amsterdam too!

 

 

 

Bend Oregon Trip April 2016! WHITEST PLACE EVER!

Bend Oregon Trip April 2016!  WHITEST PLACE EVER!

Pictures are of Smith Rock

You may have heard of White Flight. White flight is the phenomenon when White people in a neighborhood tend to move out of a neighborhood as more ethnic minorities move in. This is a well established phenomenon. There tend to be VERY few neighborhoods in the US where there are equivalent proportions of Whites and Ethnic minorities within their boundaries. Instead, neighborhoods in America tend to be predominantly one race or another—either White, or a mixture of ethnic minorities.

Bend Oregon has experienced the opposite of White Flight. Bend has what I like to call “Caucasian Invasion”. In my many travels, Bend has got to be one of the whiter places in the World, and I’m not referring to the Cascade Mountains or the ample snowfall there in the winter.

In April 2016 our family was able to fly back to the United States. We had the opportunity—thanks to a professional connection—to spend some time in Bend, Oregon. While there I was able to validate the sheer whiteness of the place. We also spent some time in New York City, which isn’t quite so white. After living in Europe for a year, it was a nice break to vacation in America. I deeply missed America, especially the delicious food.

I had faded memories of a trip to Bend with my church youth group in the mid-1990’s. I remember going into the caves in that region and also hiking to the top of Smith Rock. This time, we had another agenda—a professional one for my husband and a personal one for me— we  got to see my parents.

Central Oregon appears to be a dusty dessert with sagebrush and evergreen trees. I could have sworn I saw mirages with cowboy riding in the distance. The days unfold, initially very cold; and then, when the sun comes up, the entire place bursts into golden warmth and glory. The sun beams feel especially piercing here, like daggers to the flesh. There are so many outdoors activities in Bend: fishing, hiking, skiing. The crime rate is fairly low in Bend and the public schools are decent. Diversity is almost non-existent.

Bend has a tightly knit downtown that cozies up to the Deschutes River. If you enjoy microwbrews, Bend is the place to go. It boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the world. Bend is also the dog city. Dogs are everywhere imaginable…everyone has a couple dogs or three or four. We made sure to hit the famous Deschutes Brewery.I had a Black Butte Porter—the burgers there are also divine!

We learned a lot about the Real Estate Market in Bend. It is a boom and bust cycle. The house prices in Bend are some of the highest in the nation due to wealthy Californians moving in and “getting more for their money than they would in California”. Thus, with an increased demand for homes in this beautiful region, home prices are pushed to heightened levels. This creates the housing bubble there. I assume a consequence of the high prices for real estate in Bend pushes out the riff-raff–so it is a very safe place to live (according to all the locals we spoke to).

After visiting Bend, I can see why people there just LOVE it.