Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Most Memorable NYE

Yayyyyyy, it's New Year's Eve! Say good-bye to 2014. I for one think 2014 was a super awesome year and if I'm being honest, am sad to see it go. I lived in Europe, had a baby, traveled (visiting 8 countries!!), met new amazing people, started blogging...and the list goes on. I feel so blessed that my family and I are able to see another year pass with good health and I'm ever so eager to see what 2015 has in store for me.

New Year's Eve holds a very special place in my heart as it was the night my husband proposed to me. For Christmas 2005, I traveled to Austria with my *then boyfriend to meet his family and experience an Austrian Christmas. The week was perfect and my husband did a great job at making my time there memorable. We drove to Vienna and visited Schoenbrunn Palace in the snow, went to a thermal heated spa, stayed a night in the Austrian Alps and just enjoyed relaxing at his parent's home in the country. When NYE finished out or first week there, I wasn't expecting a proposal... after all we had only been dating three months. Plus, even though the conversation of marriage had taken place, my husband had assured me that it was too soon after meeting his family to get engaged (to say I wasn't a little bummed was an understatement). None the less, he planned for a special night in Salzburg with some of his close friends. 

We ended up at the Hotel Stein in Salzburg, Austria. This hotel has a rooftop terrace that overlooks the old town -full of Gothic inspired church steeples- and the Fortress Hohensalzberg. We attended a party hosted by Red Bull (which is housed in Salzburg) and enjoyed mingling with new people. I had noticed that my husband was acting a little weird and dare I say clingy, but didn't really think too much of it. At midnight, as the snow started to fall on the terrace and we looked out over the old city, fire works began to boom and my love came up beside me and whispered in my ear those four magical words. I swear to you my head turned so was so unexpected. Of course I said yes and we were greeted with a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Everything was on a fast track after that as we were married in March, five and a half months after we met!
New Year's holds all kinds of special moments and memories for most people and I wish you the very best, most memorable New Year's Eve tonight!! I will be snuggled at home with my husband and kids, expecting to get lots of kiddie & baby kisses at midnight.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Long Beach, part 1: The Queen Mary

Over the weekend, my husband and I wanted to go somewhere different with our kids that was new and fun for them but not super lame for us. We also wanted to get out of town. We were thinking Hollywood, San Diego or Big Bear for skiing, but soon decided on Long Beach. Now for those of you from Southern California, you might be thinking Long Beach, really?? Yes!! And it was awesome! 
First of all, the drive was only a little over an hour from home and we knew the weather would be great...a little chilly but totally sunny. We made a whole day of sightseeing in Long Beach, going downtown, touring the Queen Mary, a night time visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific, and topping it off with a hotel stay, complete with jumping on the beds, hot tub, board games and popcorn. 

Our first big stop was the Queen Mary, which I knew the kids would love since they've read about the Titanic and this ship looks so much like it. I've always enjoyed visiting the Queen Mary for it's historical features and beauty and my daughter really liked this, too. I love that part of the ship has been converted into a hotel and there is a banquet hall for parties, proms and weddings. Though I've never stayed in the hotel on board, I've seen inside some of the rooms and it is makes you feel like you are back in the 1930's when the ship first set sail. And the view from where the Queen Mary is parked is pretty great, too; Carnival Cruise ships port right next to the Queen Mary and the Port of Long Beach is right there...with all the cargo ships and shipping containers in full view making for a very happy four year old boy. There is also an old Russian submarine that is available for viewing.


So if you are ever in the Los Angeles/So California area and want to do something a little different, visiting the Queen Mary is a must in my opinion.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ever Evolving New Year's Resolution

Hooray!! Another year has come and gone and this week we welcome 2015 into our lives. Can you believe it?! 2015!! I mean, it certainly doesn't feel like 15 years since we were all anxiously awaiting Y2K. For me, 2015 means I'll be turning the big 3-0! Unbelievable! And with a new year fast approaching, people start to take a look back at the last year and review all the wonderful (and maybe not so wonderful) events that took place. This leads many of us to set goals for the coming year and make those darn resolutions. 
I started to think about what goals I have for myself in the coming year and I realized that they're not too different from the goals and resolutions I set for myself pretty much every year. This got me thinking that with a new year, I don't necessarily want to change or better myself only for the time being (because let's be honest, how long do we work on our resolutions??), but rather keep on the same path I've been walking for many years now. I'm constantly evolving as a person, and though my situation might change (ie: have more children, move, lose someone...) I can always keep working on the same goals I've set for myself time and time again...just maybe with a tweak here or there.  
So here are just some of my ever evolving goals and resolutions for 2015, that may or may not already be a work in progress...
So just deal with it.
There is a great list of 35 Little Acts of Kindness I found here that I try to incorporate into my life already but know I can always be doing  more.
Whatever it is, just get it done. No procrastinating.
photo source Pinterest
Continue to appreciate my children and motherhood, and be the best mom I can be. I will focus on coming to terms with the fact that being a mom is enough...that I will never be some crazy important business woman and that's ok.
Remind myself that the future is ready for me and that I'm so very thankful for the life I've lived.
photo source Urban Outfitters

I try to always remind myself that my life with my husband and kids is the best adventure there is... that we are only given one life and to make the most of it. I will continue working on the goals I've set and trying to better myself. I can't wait to see what this new year brings.

I hope everyone has a fantastic New Years...I'd love to hear what some of your resolutions or goals are for 2015! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

*Feel Good Friday* Sometimes things just don't turn out as planned

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday! Mine was wonderful and extra special as it was my little guy Jakob's first Christmas. As you can imagine, I wanted to capture as many moments of Jake on camera...from him opening his presents on Christmas morning (he slept through that), taking holiday pictures in front of the tree (look above), and spending time with his older siblings in their new jammies (yeah, you get the idea). 

Jake's been teething...he got four(!!!) teeth in a week and a half, and had a gnarly stomach bug that made keeping food in him impossible. So pretty much every photo op that I pictured in my head turned out pretty much the opposite. I literally don't have one "picture perfect" shot of him or him with his siblings from this last week. For a brief moment I considered waiting until he's feeling better and staging Christmas pics, but then I realized that these were the shots I was stuck with going to get and to just be happy with the fact I got them in the first place. I will forever be reminded through these pictures that he was miserable during his first Christmas, but also how hard his brother and sister worked to make him happy and comfortable.
 Sometimes things don't always work out the way we envisioned them to, but there is always something to take away from the situation. 

Have a Happy Friday!! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Krampus - An Austrian Tradition

Nine years ago when I first visited Austria for Christmas, a 20 year old -naive- me learned about the very cool traditions the Austrian people celebrate at Christmas. There are carolers in full costume and with instruments on Christmas morning, real candles lit on the Christmas trees, and since it is a heavily catholic country, most people go to mass on the night of the 24th... a perfect time for Santa -or Christkind- to come leave the gifts under the tree. Yes, he comes on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. During the holidays there is an abundant amount of Schnapps being consumed and tall steins of beer being poured, which makes for a very cheery bunch of people to celebrate Christmas with. Oh, and the Weihnachtsmarkts -Christmas Markets- are some of the best in Europe.

 But one such tradition that I had never heard about was that of Krampus and Saint Nicholas. See, on the 6th of December, St. Nicholas will walk through town centers and reward the good children with small gifts for being well-behaved (usually a mandarin, some peanuts, bread or small chocolate treats). But the bad kids, well, they get the crap scared out of them and are chased and whipped by Krampus, a terrifying(!!!), ugly, horned demon-beast that looks like he came straight out of hell
 (no joke).

Now, this is a very old tradition to keep kids in line, think old school Elf on a Shelf, only even as an adult, seeing Krampus running through the streets with his whip is a bit un-nerving. Thank goodness this would never be allowed to take place in the states. There are often parades that take place on the 6th that center around Krampus and his naughty ways.


Here is a funny clip of Austrian actor, Christoph Waltz, explaining Krampus to Jimmy Fallon last week.

Now, if you're ever in Austria, Switzerland or parts of Germany on December 6th, you've been warned.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Travel: Northern Switzerland

Schaffhausen, CH
 In 2013, when I was 12 weeks pregnant, my family and I moved to northern Switzerland. My husband is from Austria and when the opportunity came available for us to be closer to his parents and family (11 hour flight vs. 5 hour drive), we jumped on it in a heart beat.
Rheinau, CH
Stein am Rhein, CH
Rhein Falls, Neuhausen, CH
Everything about Switzerland is like you'd expect... green rolling hills, hundred year old buildings with wood details, clean air and roads, mountainside castles, snow capped alpine mountains,... the list goes on. I absolutely love everything about Switzerland (except one thing, ONE THING, but more on that later).
Diessenhofen, CH
Diessenhofen, CH
There are many unique features about Switzerland that make it stand out even to it's neighboring countries. The dialect of German spoken within the country is different than any other German speaking country (Germany & Austria), and the currency in Switzerland is not the Euro but rather the Swiss Franc. The public transportation system within the country is beyond what you'd find in any other country in Europe, this based on cleanliness and efficiency. The Swiss hold a high standard of living (& not necessarily in a financial way) and take pride in their country, respecting the land and keeping it free from trash and litter. And the central location of Switzerland within Europe makes for a perfect starting point when traveling around.
Rheinau, CH
Schaffhausen, CH
Rheinau, CH
While visiting many cities, towns and villages within Switzerland, I came to appreciate the history, culture and ideals that the Swiss people hold. It's a very expensive place, that I will not sugar coat, however I always knew I was getting great quality for what I was paying for. Though I did go outside the country into Germany several times to go shopping because it was so much cheaper (a perk of living near the border). Oh, and the chocolate is A-MAZ-ING! no joke and I'm not a huge fan of chocolate. 
Stein am Rhein, CH
Schaffhausen, CH
Rhein Falls, Neuhausen, CH
Lake Zurich, Zurich CH

Some interesting facts about Der Schweiz:

Switzerland is referred to CH on cars and within the country...this stands for Confoederatio Helvetica or Swiss Confederation. 

French is spoken in the western cantons (states) and Italian in spoken in the south. 

Switzerland has low sales tax (8% vs approx 20% in Germany) so if I shopped in Germany and then went home to Switzerland, I just got a stamp at the border and basically got the money I paid in taxes back, either right in my account or as a store credit.

Cars are cheaper in Switzerland than the neighboring countries because of the low sales tax.

School children, starting at the age of four, are encouraged to walk to and from school alone, everyday.  

And my ONE thing I can't stand about Switzerland... everyone smokes! Ok so maybe not everyone but I kid you not it seems like everyone. For a place where the people take so much pride in their home, land and public areas, I was shocked at just how many Swiss people smoke, and in front of children. Coming from where I come from you just don't do that. But I promise, everything else is wonderful.  

So if you ever have the chance to visit Switzerland, I highly recommend it, even if just for the chocolate.