It’s Been a While, but WE’RE BACK!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Back to Blogging after Moving to AmericaIt’s been a while since, well, our world completely changed.

And, it’s been a while since I’ve written because, well, I haven’t been able to make the time… for reasons I’ll mention in a minute.

But, I’m back since, well, our story isn’t over just yet.

Continuing the narrative is important. Conclusions matter. They erase that nagging question of, “Whatever happened to…” Your story, my story, our stories, they’re all full of meaning that doesn’t deserve to be cut short.

Before I launch into the posts about where in the world we’ve wandered and all the grit of my reentry experience, I’ll briefly describe why it has taken me so long to reacquaint fingertips to QWERTY.

First and foremost, to be completely honest, it has just been too hard. It’s difficult to think about what I miss and how much I miss it. The longing for “the way things were” is an indefatigable foe.. and a deceitful one at that.

Life abroad was not always amazing; in fact, often it was so hard that I was brought to tears, anger, and desire to just.go.home. But this side of the pond, those memories are fuzzy. It’s all too easy to wish for the greener pastures of bygones.

Second, untangling the reverse culture shock has been tricky. It cripples, and its most wicked weapon is the element of surprise. I know my own struggles intimately, but I have been waiting to see how this major change played out in other members of our family. Not all effects of culture shock show themselves immediately, and I didn’t think it wise to proclaim “all is well!” in haste.

Third, life circumstances made it nearly impossible to write. I managed to steal an hour here and there and eke out a rough post only a handful of times in eight months. When we landed in the US, we had no job, no destination, and only a loose plan. Our one computer and all kid-free hours were assigned to finding and applying for employment.

I’m happy to report that Doc Sci has a fantastic job now, and we are no longer professional hobos (or, pro-hobos as I dubbed it). Stay tuned for more about our wild ride in a coming post.

Third and a half, I started homeschooling our boys full-time, both as we traveled before we had a job and after we settled. The few hours I previously devoted to writing while the boys went to German kindergarten have now been obliterated with spelling lists, times tables, Egyptian pyramids, and the solar system.

If you know me, this decision to do school at home might blow your mind a little, so hang on – a post about our current educational choice and the hows and whys is also on the docket.

Because I have missed you, friends, and because I don’t want to string you along too much in this post, I’ll answer the burning question… where in the world are we?!

Since 2014 turned into 2015, we’ve called a small-ish city in Arizona home. Doc Sci is teaching at a local university, something he has wanted to try for years. And, I am scrambling to figure out a new balance of my own teaching, establishing local relationships, and managing an American life that turns out to be way more complicated than I remember.

If you’ve even heard the term “reverse culture shock,” you might already know that everyone’s experience with it is slightly different. So, why write about mine?

One of the main purposes of this blog is to help others. I have many expat friends and readers who will likely face reentry themselves one day, if they haven’t already. As I said before, everyone’s reverse culture shock experience is different and depends on factors such as where he originated, where abroad she lived, how long he was gone, and how much she embraced and identified with her host culture.

But, certain themes are common to all expats returning home, and an awareness of what may lie ahead is always appreciated. I aim to share my story with you in hopes that you are able to use it as a beacon on your own journey, or in the journey of someone close to you.

For now, I just want to thank you friends (yes, you!) for waiting patiently in my absence, and I look forward to getting reacquainted in the coming weeks.

I would love to know what all of you have been up to since I last posted. Leave a comment, post a link, drop a line. Let’s catch up!Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

An English Speaker in an English Speaking Land… and a Little Announcement

Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life: The English Speaking Bubble, Edinburgh

At the top of Arthur’s Seat, overlooking Edinburgh.

Before Paris, we had the most lovely whirlwind of a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.  We had gorgeous weather and a marvelous time together, just the five of us.  I long to tell you all about it – oh, how I do – but, for now, let’s just have a little peek into the wide, weird world of an English-speaking expat.

When you live in a foreign country and don’t speak the language, you get quite used to living in a bubble.  You may think the description cliché, but it’s spot on.

Inside the bubble, things are quiet.  Others may chat, giggle, debate, argue, or whisper around you.  But the funny thing is… you don’t really hear any of it.

There’s no picking up a snippet from the teenagers here or a stray comment from the elderly couple there.  You have absolutely no idea if the person next to you is gossiping about her best friend or discussing the finer points of Nietzsche.

When you open up your mouth to speak in your native language (because, of course, that’s what tumbles out first), those outside the bubble either stare or ignore you.  It’s impossible to tell whether you’re understood or not because interaction simply does.not.happen.

In some ways, you’re… invisible.

In other ways, you’re on display for all the world (okay, the train) to see.  Eating out, grocery shopping, waiting for the bus.. these are all relatively quiet affairs.  It’s a silent phenomenon, one that sneaks up on you and becomes firmly ingrained while you remain oblivious, until…

One day, you find yourself in another place, a land where everyone hears, understands, and -gasp- speaks to you.  This isn’t a forced exchange full of necessities and awkward pronunciation.  No, here the conversation is effortless.

The bubble bursts.  And suddenly, everything just got a whole.lot.LOUDER.

You try to finish your lunch, but the girl in the booth next to you just won’t shut up about her problems with the landlady. 

The college kids sitting behind you on the bus are bragging about how many countries they’ve visited (three), how cultured they now are, and how that one time they… was just SO funny!

A man stops on the street mid-stride to suggest you try the coffee shop (his favorite) around the corner because you’re discussing where you should go to warm up on this chilly morning. 

You ask the bus driver to help you figure out which stop is closest to your holiday apartment, and he agrees, smiles (!), and gives a shout when you’re nearly there.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced it, but going to a foreign country and hearing English spoken is really very strange.

We’ve come to expect this hokey-smokes-we-can-understand-everyone-and-CRAP-they-understand-us phenomenon when we go back to the US.  We become a bit disconcerted on the plane when flight attendants greet our children and make conversation. (Can you imagine someone talking to your child on the street and completely excluding you because they can tell you don’t understand?  For us, this is our normal.) This disorientation grows until we finally recoil in utter shock when the cashier at the sparkly, big-box grocery store chats us up.

“How y’all doin’ today?”

Say, what?!

This is reverse culture shock, and we live it every time we go to America.

But it was a new thing for us to experience a foreign country without a foreign language.  It was… fantastic.  Comforting.  Therapeutic.  Welcome…

Since we know it will be our last year to live in our current city, we often try to imagine ourselves as residents in the places we visit.  Could we live here?  Would we want to?

And while Scotland would take a lot of getting used to (I’ve never stared at traffic, drivers, and cars so much in my life – how do they drive on the left?), at least we would be insiders in a way.

Language.  We miss so much being outside the deutschsprachig circle here in Germany.  We cannot fight or fend for ourselves in many situations.  ‘Tis true that I have only myself, my lack of time, commitment, and determination to blame.  It is our/my struggle, and often brings me/us shame.

So, in between language blunders and fragmented exchanges, we wonder.  How important is it?  Should we make every effort to become fluent?  Is it time to pop the bubble and live out loud?

My answer… is yes.

And so with this long-winded attempt to explain the freakish feelings we experienced in Scotland, I have a small announcement to make.

I’m taking a break.

It’s not you.. it’s me.

I love this blog for many reasons.  It’s been my creative outlet for nearly four years.  It’s pushed me to explore some really random corners of the world as well as to find the marvels and miracles amid the many mishaps of (my) expat life.

But, most of all, I have loved meeting all of you.  I have made real life friends because of this blog, and truth be told, I don’t intend to stop.  While I need to set aside the time I normally spend here at Thrifty Travel Mama to study German, I don’t plan on disappearing completely.  I may post sporadic updates and quick recaps of our trips.  But, I won’t be able to create regularly scheduled content for at least a few months.

I still plan to answer comments (though you may have better luck with email), and I will still be reading your posts and cheering for your adventures.  I hope, when I’m finally able again, that you’ll be back to champion mine as well.

Wish me luck – it’s going to be DEAFENING out there.

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Traveling Mercy: Take Action Against Human Trafficking

CHILDREN of the CITY BookIt’s Valentine’s week, and whether you are into the holiday or not, the hearts and flowers are everywhere – love is in the air! I’m pausing my not-quite-lovey-dovey Parisian series today for an important message from the heart of a very dear friend of mine.

Tiffany Pastor and I met over 10 years ago when we were both living in Orlando, Florida. We became fast friends, especially when we realized our husbands already knew each other. We’ve traveled together on a fun Caribbean cruise, driven halfway across America together, and literally weathered storms together (hello, Florida hurricanes of 2004!).

And now, Tiffany has written a novel about human trafficking with the intention of bringing awareness to this heartbreaking reality.

Though the book is set in America, human trafficking is an issue that affects people, and especially travelers, everywhere. I invite you to read her words today, and I personally ask you to support not only the launch of her book but efforts to eradicate slavery wherever in the world you may be.

The Background

Maybe you have heard the statistics…

  • 30 million people are enslaved globally, funding a $34 billion industry.
  • An estimated 300,000 prostituted children live on the streets in the United States.
  • 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.
  • In America, 2300 children go missing every day, and 2/3 of those will end up in the sex trade.

The numbers are staggering and numbing.

Even with our best intention, we might say: “Wow, there are so many of ‘them’.” However, the moment we categorize the victims of human trafficking as a ‘them’ we have unconsciously held their sorrow at arm’s distance.

With compassion we might serve ‘them,’ or give to ‘them.’ We might fight for ‘them.’ But we would stop at nothing if it was one of US.

I realized this brokenness reached one of US one day when traveling. I was given a glimpse into a little girl’s life. She was in danger, and no one seemed to help her. I looked her in the eyes, and made a call to report my suspicion.

When I think of human trafficking, I don’t just think of the numbers anymore. It’s not a ‘them.’ It was HER. I picture her. Now, I picture the faces of people I have met, people with stories so heart wrenching that I can not stop fighting for freedom, because I know they are one of US.

The Story

CHILDREN of the CITY is a novel about human trafficking in America. It transforms the numbers of statistics into the personal connection to someone’s story. People may not feel they know a victim, but when they open the book, these characters come to life before them. It changes the issue into a heart’s cry for justice.

Many people feel compelled to make a difference but they don’t know how to respond. CHILDREN of the CITY spreads awareness that opens our eyes to the communities around us, and becomes a tool to share in the hands of readers.

A call to action at the end of the book features tips and signs to be aware of, as well as a list of non-profits who which to get connected.

When the book is released, 40% of all author profits will be donated to freedom fighting organizations.

What Can I Do?

The book will release in April 2014, and a Pre-Release Launch has just begun! Incredible doors to spread the story are opening up. As future events and conferences welcome the story into their venue, the cost of accommodating a print-run for the book falls to me as the author. That is why pre-ordering your book now really matters!

As you purchase the book, the funds will give us the ability to say “YES” to each opportunity and walk through those open doors with the book in hand.

Take a moment to check out the theatrical book trailer:

Ready to take a stand against human trafficking by supporting CHILDREN of the CITY? Pre-Orders are only available until February 24. Click here to contribute.

Anyone can buy the E-Book for $10. This donation or pre-order is a tangible vote that says “I CARE! And I won’t put up with it!” It’s a small price for a huge impact!

If you prefer a paper copy or would like to order multiple copies for a book club or resources for small group discussion, you can also do that here. We have perks at nearly every price point as a way of saying THANK YOU for taking a stand for the enslaved among us.COTC PreOrder Form

Thank YOU!

Thank you for sharing the story! Thank you for donating, and thank you for being a freedom fighter together. I am honored to stand for justice with you!

I’ve just ordered my copy – now it’s your turn! Please check out CHILDREN of the CITY’s website to learn more about Tiffany and this life-changing novel. You can also like COTC on Facebook here.Signature-Marigold

Thrifty Travel Mama Now on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Thrifty Travel Mama Social MediaKicking and screaming the whole darn way, I finally signed TTM up for Facebook and Twitter accounts.

I know I’m rather late for the Facebook train, and I would let the whole thing pass me by if it weren’t for my expat status and my desire to keep up with friends and family back home.  I hope you’ll hold my hand and stay with me while I try to avoid being squashed by the social media wave.

I’m not new to Pinterest, so if you haven’t started following my pins, you’ll definitely want to jump on the bandwagon.  Find loads of practical tips for all kinds of travel as well as fun travel-themed projects, DIY ideas, and gorgeous photos of dream destinations all over the world.

So, I won’t beg you to like me or follow me around the internet, but if you do like and follow this blog anyway, show your love with a click on the thumbs up.

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Nerdy Travel Dad: Visiting Zaanse Schans in Holland with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Nerdy Travel Dad - Zaanse Schans, Holland.My absolute favorite thing about traveling as a family is the ability to visit the same destination but experience it through the lenses of our different and unique personalities.  I (obviously) blog about what interests me in a new location, but I also enjoy hearing and sharing a different viewpoint every now and then.

So, I’m super excited to introduce a new feature on TTM – a series of Nerdy Travel Dad posts written by my husband, Doc Sci!  If you’re looking for a cheat sheet on the educational aspect of the places we visit as a family or if you simply care more about how things work than how they look, this Nerdy Travel Dad series is for you.  

Thanks to the popularity of WIRED magazine’s GEEKDAD and celebrities that not only embrace but promote their geekiness (hey, Adam Savage), it’s never been a better time to be a nerd.

I love traveling, but my fascination with new places differs significantly from that of my wife.  Example.. while she ogled some ridiculous bunch of fluorescent flowers at  Keukenhof, I  calculated how many times the “flower engineers” had to cross breed the tulips to achieve such spectacular color.

But, on to Holland!  When my wife told me we were going to a kitschy place outside Amsterdam to experience traditional Dutch culture, I’ll admit I was a tad bit skeptical.  However, after pulling up to the parking lot and seeing all the gigantic, old school windmills and random people walking around in wooden clogs, I decided the Zaanse Schans could be a place where my kids might actually learn something as opposed to just stuffing their faces with Gouda.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

The Zaanse Schans goes beyond typical Dutch tourism.

The Zaanse Schans goes beyond typical Dutch tourism.

On the surface, the Zaanse Schans is a typical tourist destination where one can part with their euros in exchange for souvenirs and snacks.  Shops making clogs and cheese, a bakery, a smattering of museums and several windmills dot the landscape.

But, look more closely and you’ll see that many of the buildings at the Zaanse Schans (hereafter known as ZS, because scientists like acronyms) have open areas where visitors can learn and observe the old ways.  Educational opportunities abound. 

Get smart.  Leave your pram at home.

Get smart. Leave your pram at home.

However, before I get to the nerdy stuff, here are a few practicalities my wife is insisting I include..

  • Admission to the park and many of the buildings is free, though some do charge a small fee (including all windmills).  Choose your own adventure by only paying to go in one or two, or purchase a combination ticket covering all the Zaanse Schans attractions.
  • Parking is 7,50 euro for the day.
  • Strollers should be left behind if at all possible.  It’s difficult to maneuver prams over the bridges, and many of the shops are too small to accommodate buggies.
  • Toilets are NOT free.  Each visit costs 50 cents, so go easy on the coffee!  Bring coins, because change will be given in 50 cent increments.  You don’t want to break a 20 here…
  • Changing tables for babies are located in the restroom near the entrance, but not the one near the back of the park.
  • The area is windy and chilly, so dress appropriately.
  • Dining options include the pancake house (fun but pricey), the restaurant (outrageous), and quick snacks/drinks sold in the windmills.

The absolute highlight of ZS is the collection of windmills.  All of the windmills charge an admission fee, but the spice mill has an area on the bottom floor that one can visit free of charge.  Since we had already been up inside a windmill at Keukenhof, I decided to gauge the boys’ interest in the spice mill before coughing up the money to visit the rest of the mills.

Windmills!!

Windmills!!

The main thing I tried to communicate to T-Rex and Screech was the idea that wind can be used to help us do work.  The spice mill interior is not set up to show how the big sails up top are connected and moving the cogs and wheels down below.  It is my understanding that the windmill innards are visible from the admission area.  Regardless, older children will be able to visualize the basic engineering principles of torque, rotation, and interconnection.

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The Spice Mill.

Get the wheels in little heads turning by asking questions such as… How can a vertically rotating rod can be connected in such a way to move things horizontally?  Why are such big sails needed?  Why do the small cogs move so much faster than the big cogs?

Unfortunately, Screech and T-Rex are a little too young (ages 3 and 5) to really engage in these topics.  While in the mill, T-Rex was more interested in a spice trading map with a blinking light that moved along the worldwide routes.  Still educational, but not exactly what I had in mind.  I tried to give him a quick rundown regarding the technology of the LEDs that made that map possible… but to no avail.  He just wanted to push the buttons.

We then moved on to something more up my boys’ alley – food.  The ZS cheese shop offers a five-minute presentation on how cheese is made.  Unfortunately, the man in costume talked WAY too fast, and we were herded like cattle into the store immediately after the talk.

(Tip: don’t buy your cheese at the Zaanse Schans.  If you like a particular variety, jot down the name, and then search for it in a nearby supermarket.  For more Dutch supermarket souvenirs, click here.)

The Cheese Master.  Free sample, anyone?

The Cheese Master. Free sample, anyone?

Surprisingly, Screech and T-Rex were both quite interested in how one of their favorite snacks is made.  Since I wasn’t able to answer all their questions during the presentation (and you won’t be able to either), here’s a quick version for the kiddos you can probably memorize or pull up on your smartphone.  Oh and if you want to sound super smart, make sure to call it biotechnology.

In order to make cheese, you need milk.  Then…

  1. Curdle the milk.
  2. Separate the whey (liquid).
  3. Press the solid curds into a mold.
  4. Bathe the cheese in brine (salty water).
  5. Mature for a period of time; the longer the wait, the more intense the flavor.

See here for more big words, and a few cheesy videos.

The Zaanse Schans cheese display.

The Zaanse Schans cheese display.

Moving on to fashionable footwear… A brief display lines the entrance to the Dutch wooden shoe shop, demonstrating the process of making a log into a clog.  Don’t miss this!  It’s an excellent way to introduce your children to low-tech tools and encourage them to look for new uses (clogs) for ordinary items (logs).

Get your souvenir photos in the gigantic wooden clogs before going inside to learn how these Dutch shoes are made.

Get your souvenir photos in the gigantic wooden clogs before going inside to learn how these Dutch shoes are made.

Parents of young children, take note!  There is an open section in the clog shop that’s chock full of fascinating sharp objects that Screech thought were part of the experience.  While we weren’t looking, he slipped under the loose rope and started making his own.  Okay, not quite, but a few more seconds and he would’ve had new shoes.. or needed stitches.

The Zaanse Schans wall of clogs.

The Zaanse Schans wall of clogs.

Nerds, divas, introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between will enjoy trying on the various clogs for sale.  A plethora of sizes and styles are available, just come prepared to pay in case your little one won’t part with his new fashion statement.

Unknowingly, we both picked the same pair of clogs to try on.  Props to T-Rex for taking this photo.

Unknowingly, my wife and I both picked the same pair of clogs to try on. Props to T-Rex for taking this photo.

Despite my initial skepticism, I am giving the Zaanse Schans the Nerdy Travel Dad seal of approval.  Should you and your posse find themselves in Amsterdam, take a short detour to the north for a dose of Dutch culture and historical technology.  Or, just come for the windmill pictures.  Whatever.

Headed to Amsterdam?  Check out our Snapshot of Amsterdam with Kids, and don’t miss a visit to the Kinderkookkafe!

Thrifty Travel Mama – 2012 – A Year in Review

Whew!  2012 has been a wild ride, full of experiences and surprises.  “Year in Review” posts are all the rage in the blogosphere, so despite my inclinations to do the opposite, I’m jumping on the bandwagon.

In January, I went fully frugal.  I shared my source for Free DIY Passport Photos.  I pointed you to the European Backpacker Index, a tool for researching expenses in European cities.  Oh, and I saved you from having to run to the store at the last minute by showing you how to make your own brown sugar.

February brought me a birthday, and Doc Sci took me to Milan (sans kids) to celebrate.  We ogled da Vinci’s Last Supper and the views from the roof of the Duomo.  We got caught in Carnival madness, and stuffed our faces with risotto, bread, pizza, and (of course) gelato.

I went crazy in March trying to make our awful concrete student housing apartment more homey on a very small budget.  I spiced up the kitchen, bathroom, and front entry.  I constructed a ginormous cork board wall in the living room and plastered it with photos.  I somehow also found the time to completely finish Rosetta Stone German and post a final review.

In April, our little family went home to the US for 3 weeks, stopping in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.  We soaked up the sun, and made kid-friendly activities a priority.  Among the boys’ favorite was our trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Back in Germany, May was part work and part play.  Doc Sci and I both took week-long intensive German courses.  We also managed a date night to the movies, complete with popcorn and assigned seats.

Doc Sci let us tag along with him to Berlin in June.  He attended a brainiac conference while the boys and I played at Legoland.   And speaking of brains, I got mine to work long enough to pass my German driver’s license exam.

In July, I switched to extreme nesting mode.  I stocked the freezer with a gazillion meals, and organized our life into one happy turquoise notebook.

I took a six-week break starting in August to bring our third and final little traveler into the world.  His birth story is the kind nightmares are made of.

We ventured out to Frankfurt in September to get the little guy his passport when he was only two weeks old.  And good thing, too.  Later that month, Big Foot found himself coasting through five countries on four planes, five trains, and two buses, in the span of three days.  No sweat for a seven week-old.

In October, I posted reviews of flying Delta Airlines and easyJet with a baby.  I should’ve shown you these fashionable Oktoberfest pull-ups, but I was too busy scoring freebies for babies and mamas in Germany.

November was an exciting month for us.  We bought a car!  Doc Sci wrote a fabulous guest post detailing the adventure.

We took our car on a little road trip to France in December.  It was all the travel we could muster in between the zillions of Pinterest projects that filled my days and nights before Christmas.

Every year has its highs and lows, surprises both good and bad, and 2012 was no different.  It’s just how life goes, and I’m thankful to live it with my awesome-amazing-how-could-I-describe-you-in-just-one-word husband and three blessed boys who make me laugh every day.  Here’s to 2013!

Shameless Repost: London’s Coolest New Attractions

Doc Sci and I in London, 2006.

We’ve been watching the Olympics this week – have you?

The games have been inspiring my boys to make up new sports in their room and inspiring me to dream of traveling again soon.

Ahhhhh, London.  Doc Sci and I were in the British city in 2006 for a missions trip.  We spent two weeks (including Christmas) there and we loved it.  From where we live in Germany now, its possible to fly, drive, or ride a train to London.  We may just have to take the boys there in the not-so-distant future.

And, while visiting London during the Olympics will be impossible for us this year (and probably for most of you reading this), rest assured that this year’s events will leave their mark on the city.

For a list of London’s Coolest New Attractions, visit Travel + Leisure’s website for a slideshow of the latest and greatest.

I’d like to see The Shard and the ArcelorMittal Orbit – what about you?

Dashboard Confessional: Restless

It’s summer.  The weather is beautiful.  But most days I’m home.  Inside.  Not traveling.

A strange season this end-of-pregnancy thing is.  I desperately want to get out and enjoy this time of warmth.  But I also just as fiercely want to avoid the stares and comments I get everywhere I go.

Yes, I’m as big as a house.  Yes, it’s all baby, and it’s all out in front.  No, I do not need you to remind me of this.  Or ask me when I’m due.  Or show shock and horror when I reveal I still have a few weeks to go.  And, please oh please, stop staring.  Haven’t you ever seen a pregnant woman before??

To avoid the awkwardness, I honestly try to just stay home.  And it’s at home where I read about friends’ trips to fun places like Malta.  And Tuscany.  Colorado.  I itch to pack my bags, but I know now is not the time.  Hard as it is for me to believe right this exact and very minute, I will find myself traveling again.  Just not quite yet.

Until then, I’m relegated to the city parks and pools.  Ahhh, the pool.  What a great way to cool off in a summer with no air conditioning, right?  Right.

Well, right, except for the fact that it’s only been warm enough to go to the pool two or three times (it really has to be 85+ degrees F outside – the pools are filled with ice cold river water) .  Last week, I actually needed a jacket.  In July.

And then there’s the issue of the dreaded maternity bathing suit.  Need I say more?

So, me and my cankles are hibernating.  Not slacking though, mind you.  I’ve always got irons in the fire.  A summary of my latest projects…

I’m working on a Household Notebook – a resource to organize our family’s information and streamline my mama-of-three-boys job.  Oh, and to help out Doc Sci should he ever have to know things like what size shoes the boys wear or the pediatrician’s address or my Facebook password.  And since I can’t just settle for someone else’s product, I’m creating my own notebook structure, layout, and design.  It’s nearly complete, and a post on the finished product is forthcoming.

Speaking of design, I’m taking an Adobe Illustrator e-course.  Reasons for taking this course range from “I want to” to “I should be learning if I’m not working” to “it gets me a discount on child care for Screech.”  The best part about it is the homework is not required or graded.  But for some reason, I still do it…

I’m researching, prepping, and freezing meals for an army – an army of boys, that is – to eat after the baby comes.  We have very few prepared meal options in the grocery store, and even fewer choices for decent (edible) take-out.  Since I don’t want to find myself eating spaghetti, chicken nuggets & fries, and pizza for weeks on end, I’m cooking up other options.  It’s a challenge to do with so little freezer space and no cream-of-mystery-soup ingredients, so be on the lookout for a post detailing how I managed.

Last week, I finally stopped procrastinating and photographed our annual Day in the Life project. I really do like the idea of digitally scrapbooking one ordinary day in the life of our family.  It’s the actual documenting of everything (and the trouble I put myself through to avoid any unflattering camera angles or lighting that might further accentuate my roundness) that made me put it off for weeks.  Now, I just need to find a deal on a photo book and put it all together.

These are just a few things keeping me on my toes – and inside, away from the pregnancy paparazzi.  And while all these projects are fun, helpful, or just plain good for generating blog content, what I really want to do is just lie on a beach in Croatia.  The beauty of the Dalmatian Coast reflecting in my sunglasses.  The sun tinting the bodies of my little boys.  Gelato satiating my stomach.  Foreign words filling my ears.

Ah, well, maybe next year.

Pinterest

I have a new love.. Pinterest!

Well, perhaps love isn’t exactly the right word.  It’s more like time sucking obsession.  But, it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

You see, I read this post (which I found courtesy of simplemom), “A Beginner’s Guide to Pinterest.”  At the very end of the post, I saw this:

So, why should I be on Pinterest?

Is this just another pretty float in an never-ending parade of time-sinks?

I don’t think so. Not at all.

This was the exact reason I had purposefully NOT joined previously.  Well, okay, maybe if this busy mom blogger has time for it, I’ll bite.

So, I signed up.  And I started pinning.. and pinning.. and pinning some more.  Perhaps the writer of the above post wasn’t a visually oriented person because I found the opposite to be true.  Pinterest is a great place to spend hours ogling instead of working, cleaning, cooking, organizing, or whatever else real life mamas are supposed to be doing.

It may be a guilty pleasure, but Pinterest is fascinating, full of amazing, clever, innovative, beautiful, inspiring, hilarious, atrocious, delicious images.

And, while I have a personal Pinterest page, I thought it would be a great idea to create one for Thrifty Travel Mama.  Check it out here, and follow if you like it (you must be a current Pinterest user to follow, but anyone can view).

For newbies, the idea of Pinterest is to create visual boards with pins of things you want to remember and revisit later.  I’ve created boards for Dream Destinations, Simple Pleasures, Favorite Places, Packing Tips, etc.

Clicking on a board will take you to a collection of images on a theme.  Clicking an individual photo will allow you to comment (if you are a Pinterest user), and clicking the image again from the comment page will take you to the source.

Happy pinning (or lurking)!  If you stumble across anything you think should be added to my boards, leave a comment below and I’ll check it out.

Miracle: New Fridge!

Herr is the word for Lord, and Lieb can mean all sorts of things, but it reminds me of the word for love, Liebe. My fridge tells me to love God. How cool is that.

Oh man gracious, I am so excited about this.  I just have to tell someone!!! So I’m telling you.  We have a new fridge!

And, we didn’t pay for it.  Score!

The old one. We'll still use him for leftovers 'n stuff. And, yes, I totally do have dirty dishes in my sink. Doc Sci really should do something about that.

I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about my hotel room-sized fridge before (maybe they thought it would remind me of traveling?).  Well, the thing started freezing the food in the back, and the butter on the door was practically room temperature.

If I turned down the temperature (warmer), much of the food went bad.  Fast.  If I turned up the temperature (colder), almost everything froze.  Iced salad anyone?

Don't open too many condiments at once. Like my washing machine hoses that decorate the institutional floor?

I protested to the hausmeister (building super) that this was not normal or economical.  Appeal to the German values, right?  He tried to say that it was just because I had items too close to the back of the fridge.  Hogwash.  Then, out of the blue (no prompting from me), he decided the fridge was too small for four people.  Right on, cowboy.

Mr. Hausmeister man said he would order us a big one.  Okay.  A week went by.  Two weeks.  I thought surely we’d have the big one in time for Doc Sci’s birthday.  Four weeks.  I was dying to make iced tea (impossible in the old fridge unless I made it by the tupperware-ful).  Five weeks.  When I’d ask for an update, I usually could not understand what in the world the dude was telling me, but it didn’t sound good.

Lured by the idea of cold soda(whoa), I pulled a few strings with the student leasing office and voila!  Our new fridge arrived Tuesday.

This bad boy is AS TALL AS ME!!! Okay, that's not saying much, but whatever.

I’m STOKED.

Do you KNOW how much milk I can buy at the store now.. at one time?  I might even be able to.. grocery shop only once a week!  Living dangerously, I know.

This is like movin' up from the Motel 6 to the Ritz. The only catch? It doesn't fit in the kitchen! It's in the living room, right next to the dining table.

Okay, okay, enough with the recipes and fridge stories.  I’ll write you something travel-ish soon.  Until then, enjoy some ice in your drink.  For me.  Cheers!