Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Top 5 Favorite Picnic Spots

Who doesn't love a good picnic? As the temperatures begin to dip below freezing here in Germany, I can't help but look back wistfully on warm summer days when it was quite clear the best thing to do was lounge out on a picnic blanket with snacks and a book, enjoying the feeling of the sun on your face. It's been freezing and gray for weeks now and I am actually convinced I've forgotten what the sun looks like!  With picnics on the brain, I've compiled a list of my top 5 favorite picnic spots in the world. 

1. Bannwaldsee, Bavaria, Germany

Bannwaldsee is a gorgeous lake about 10 minutes up the road from Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria, Germany. There is nothing like a picnic lunch in the middle of a lake surrounded by a 360 degree panorama of the German alps.  To enjoy this experience, enter the Bannwaldsee campground and go to the main office to rent a paddle boat. It costs 10 euros for 2 hours but they are not strict about the rental time and we kept it out on the water for 3 hours without any trouble.  The paddleboats here are large, with a little deck on the back of each where you can stretch out your legs and soak in the rays.  If you haven't brought your own picnic lunch, the campground quickshop sells bread, meats, fruits and snacks at affordable prices. 

2. Hydra, Greece

Hydra is a small island just off of the coast of Athens. It is incredible. It was wonderfully hot when we were there in late October and I loved sitting on the rocks with my toes dipping into the Aegean sea, munching on a greek gyro pita. You can get to Hydra by taking a bus or taxi from Athens to Pireaus and then hopping on a water taxi.

3. The Tuscan Countryside

If I'm being honest, anywhere in Tuscany will do. We ate picnic lunches almost every day outside of our B&B and it was an experience I'll never forget. Pick up some focaccia bread, olives, sundried tomatoes and prosciutto Toscana at the market and take in the incredible views. The little town of Fiesole, which sits above Florence in the surrounding hills, has some great picnic spots. Many of these spots have panoramic views of Florence - so breathtaking!

4.  The roof of Le Corum in Montpellier, France

Le Corum is a large conference center in downtown Montpellier, an easy walk from Place de la Comodie. The roof of Le Corum is accessible to all by way of the stairway at the front of the building, and it provides a stunning view of the city perfect for relaxing and enjoying the day. On weekend nights (particularly in the warmer months) there will be lots of young students enjoying a few beers with their friends, so if you're looking for something a bit more private I'd suggest heading over on a weekday. Enjoy a crepe and the view, you'll never forget it!

5. White Face, Simi Valley, CA

It's a definite hike to get to but the view is unmistakably worth it. White Face is easily my favorite place in southern California and it's easy to see why. There are lovely views in all directions, trees to recline under and the most perfect hills I've ever seen in my life. Pack a picnic lunch in a backpack and make the climb. Read how to get to this hike here.

Have you been to any of these places? Would you go? Where are your favorite picnic spots?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I sometimes go periods of time where I think to myself "Do I even want kids at all?"

I know, my mormon friends and neighbors probably just fell out of their seat reading that.

Don't worry. When I take (and edit) photos like this, I'm reminded that yes indeed, a family is something I see myself wanting in the future. The idea of Steven looking at our child the way this dad looks at his little girl?

-insert long wistful sigh here.-

That being said, I've never really been the type of person who felt the strong and immediate need to reproduce. I know I'm young and this "biological clock" thing may kick into gear later on into my twenties, but I've met plenty of couples who got married just as young as I did and then immediately started trying for a baby. I think families are sacred and important and beautiful so I respect the choice they've made, but Steven and I decided long ago that we didn't want to go that route.

The conversation went a little something like this:

Daryl: Do you want kids?

Steven: Yes.

Daryl: When do you want kids?

Steven: Not now. Definitely not now. But sometime soon, maybe.

Daryl: -sigh of relief- so, if you had a deadline for when you wanted to have kids by, when would that be?

Steven: -ponders- probably by the time you're 30ish.

I was eighteen when we had this conversation. SO WE'VE GOT TIME, FOLKS.

What are your thoughts on the babies/no babies debate?

P.S. These photos are from a family photoshoot I shot this weekend. More coming soon :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lessons From a Handmade Business Owner

Hello everyone! My name is Kelly Burr and I am the founder of my little craft business on Etsy, Firenzi

I have many stories to tell about my journey, and I feel like I've grown so much from when I first started crafting! You might be wondering where to start with your own store, or you may just want to read something inspiring. Here is a little of both!

I'll admit it: Originally, I got into crafting because I wanted to impress people. Someone. Anyone. I wanted to be known for something and get some attention. I started brainstorming in the fall of 2011. Newly-married and on a tight budget, feeling dissatisfied and under-valued with substitute teaching for the third year in a row, and BORED, I went for it. 

We've all seen something decorative that we've admired immensely, whether it be in a store or on Pinterest. For me, wreaths initially piqued my interest. I saw so many over those few months, and had a thought: I could make that! So, I did.

February 2012 - my first finished wreath
I posted this picture on Facebook, and many of my friends exclaimed over it. Someone immediately wanted to buy it, full price. I was elated.

I slowly branched out and experimented with more wreaths, jewelry, and baby headbands. Guess what? It all sat there. For months. Here is why:
  • Lesson 1: Just because you post it does NOT mean it'll sell right away. Give shoppers the opportunity to search for your type of item. Use Etsy's statistical data to see if your search terms are helping or hindering your post's visibility.
  • Lesson 2: Do your homework first. Just because you think something will sell, doesn't mean someone else hasn't thought of it before you. I went into baby headbands because it was inexpensive and easy, and I naively thought, This stuff will sell so fast, it'll be awesome. Not. I had no idea how many types of baby headbands there are. And, no surprise, they were much cuter than my ideas were!
So, this "experiment" of playing around with crafts went on for a few more months. I made about one sale per month, which I thought was really lame. How was I supposed to get noticed if hardly anyone liked my stuff? Then, it REALLY hit me square in the face:

I didn't like most of what I made either. I wouldn't have bought it from myself.

  • Lesson 3 (the best of all): Above all else, make what you love!

I've realized that if I make what I love, even if no one buys it, I'll still be happy. Sure, I still like to have my crafts noticed. But at my core, I need to be true to myself and just make what I would appreciate around my own home. And guess what? Business has exploded.

I've fallen in love with fabric! Learning to sew and getting over my fear of sewing machines has been extremely rewarding.

The name "Firenzi" is a play on the words 'frenzy' and 'Firenze' (Florence, Italy, in Italian). My crafts contribute to a frenzy of fun in life, and Firenze is where my ancestors are from. I like to think I am more connected to them through doing what feels natural to me.

Daryl, thank you so much for featuring me! I hope you all have found something meaningful in the piece of me that I've shared :) Come check out Firenzi on Etsy and on Facebook and you'll love what you see!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Last German Thanksgiving

Our family's first German Thanksgiving, 2010

This will be my last expatriated Thanksgiving, at least for a while.

My first thanksgiving here was in 2010. Steven and I had barely started dating, and he had his family make me a Thanksgiving dinner so I'd feel at home. It was the sweetest gesture and I cried, a lot.

The second Thanksgiving was the least traditional. Newlyweds, we spent the long weekend in Montpellier France and gave thanks over delicious fondue.

This year, we're doing Thanksgiving right. There will be turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and green bean casserole. I will be the only American at the table as we enjoy this American holiday, but that's okay. Any opportunity to spend time with family (especially now as we're nearing the end of our time here) is welcome with big wide open arms.

There is so much in this world to be grateful for, and our world changes for the better the minute we remember that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Hat/Scarf: Pimkie | Shirt: H&M | Pants: Vero Moda | Super Chunky Socks: handmade | Boots: Kohls | Jacket: H&M 

I had a very interesting conversation yesterday. I had just finished taking pictures for a client named Julia, and she graciously offered to drive me home since Steven's family lives a bit completely out of the way. On the drive home, we began talking about her life and her family.

Julia was born in east Germany. My first thought was "Oh, lovely!" Because I've been to east Germany and think it's an interesting and beautiful place to live.

Except it wasn't lovely, or at least not completely, because when she was born The Berlin Wall was still very much in place, separating the east from the west.

I listened to her tell me about her mother, who dreamed of seeing the world but had no freedom to do so. She dreamed of studying medicine but wasn't permitted by the Eastern German government to attend any sort of higher education past grade 10, because she was a member of the Mormon church.

When the wall came down in 1989, Julia's family left east Germany and began to travel Europe, exploring beautiful new countries that had seemed worlds away only months previous.

"My mother has always strongly encouraged me to travel and see the world, just because I can," Julia said. "She didn't always have that freedom."

Honestly, thoughts like this just can't compute in my brain. I can not imagine living in a world where I couldn't exit a certain perimeter, where all of the media I consumed was controlled by the government, where I wasn't allowed to get the education I deserve because of my beliefs. But for some people this was normal (and still is, in some parts of the world!) It was their reality. And these aren't just people in some history book, they are people that I know and interact with every day. 

Sometimes the terrible events that occur in history don't seem like such a big deal to me because they are just that: History. Maybe this was ignorant and "typical American" of me, but it's easy for me to forget that the people I'm reading about in books were real, which leads to me taking a whole lot of incredible things for granted.

It is Thanksgiving week, and I could not be more grateful for my freedom. I am so thankful that the Germany I live in is a place where we are free to make our own choices, go where we want to go and worship who we want to worship. I'm grateful to be able to voice my opinions without fear. I'm grateful I go to sleep each night feeling warm and safe and loved.

Happy almost Thanksgiving, my wonderful American friends. Let's spend tomorrow and every day afterwards remembering how very blessed we are. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

One Year Ago, In France...

One year ago today, Steven and I had just arrived in the South of France. It was one of our first trips as a married couple, and probably still one of our favorites. My love and obsession of travel no doubt began with this trip. We just felt so free. No matter where we live, we'll keep the memories for a lifetime.

Do you have a favorite place you've visited?

P.S., I 'm talking about something I love about travel on Jenna's Blog today! Go check it out and say hello :) 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Well I Guess It's Time to Come Out and Say It...

There's a topic that I've been somewhat avoiding here on the blog. I've been hesitant to mention too much about our upcoming move to America. 

You see, up until just a few weeks ago, the move was a very unsure thing. We've been waiting and waiting and waiting for Steven's visa to process, and while we knew we'd be spending Christmas in the USA we weren't sure if we'd be doing so as American residents or if we'd be returning to Germany after the holidays to keep on waiting some more. 

Well, we got a letter in the mail two weeks ago announcing that Steven's final interview would take place later on this month. The final visa interview is step number 7 on the US Immigration Services "how to apply" guide. The last step on the guide. We've made it to the end.

We are coming home. 

So, if you've been wondering why things have been a bit absent here on the blog lately, that is why. Wanting to avoid paying another full month's rent and also hoping to spend as much time with family before we leave, Steven and I have decided to move in with his family for the rest of our stay here.

With the help of his wonderful mother and sister, we spent all of yesterday boxing up our entire apartment. This was hard for me. Don't get me wrong, I won't really miss the apartment itself; the kitchen seemed like it was put together with duct tape and bubble gum (seriously landlord, one nail on a wall is NOT enough to hang an entire cabinet on, thank you very much) and I'm very happy that I will never have to look at the atrocity that is tangerine orange and dark blue sponge painted walls ever again...

But the first eighteen months of our married life were spent there, in that little crappy apartment in Frankfurt, Germany. To see it empty and devoid of any personality or memories tugged at my heartstrings.

We handed over the key to our landlord and drove away, and in many ways I feel like we were reaching the end of a chapter. I know that feeling will be much stronger in just a few weeks time. 

Steven and I never planned to live in Germany after getting married. We had plans to jump right on our (American) education and start building a life for ourselves. When we learned we'd have to live in Germany to wait out his visa processing, we were both disappointed. Delaying our plans even six months seemed far less than ideal and a total waste of time.

Well six months turned to a year, which then turned to a year and a half...and it has been the happiest, most wonderful waste of time I've ever experienced. God/fate/the universe had something planned for us that we hadn't expected or desired and I couldn't be more grateful.

As you can imagine, I'm experiencing a lot of mixed feelings. I'm excited (SO EXCITED) to start wrapping up my education. I'm excited to drive a car. I'm excited to be able to drink as much water as I want in a restaurant without having to pay for it. I'm excited for cheaper gas and food and clothes, and for California sunshine, and Disneyland, and the beach.

I'm dreading leaving a place I've grown to love so much. I'm nervous about the financial burdens that will come along with Steven and I both being in school. I'm terrified that I will go stir-crazy in a place where international travel is much more difficult and expensive.

Still, I trust that things are happening when and how they should be. I have faith that this move is right for us and our future, and a step in a positive direction.

But Germany, I will most certainly miss you. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Denmark in Pictures

If you read yesterday's post, you know that I really did not document the past few weeks very well. Below are literally the only pictures I have from the experience but I thought them worth sharing nonetheless.

The weather was pretty much exclusively rainy during our stay in Denmark. Because we were mostly holed up inside in our pajamas the entire time, no one minded very much. Still, conditions for sightseeing would have been much better had the sun come out to play. 

A typical danish house. Doesn't it seem like the seven dwarves would be arriving home from the diamond mine any second now? 

These windmills dotted the Danish landscape as we drove. I'm sure there are far more in the Netherlands, but I was still impressed by the number of windmills we passed. 

Steven and I went with our family (the little ones included) to a cool park where all of the playground equipment was made solely from cut logs. It wouldn't pass a safety test in America by a long shot but the Danish kids don't seem to mind at all! There was also a giant sand hill with ropes you can use to climb it. It would be so fun to climb/sled down in the winter! We raced up the hill. I won. 

Steven and I also visited the town of Svendbourg on the southern tip of the island. It was adorable, with so many little cobblestoned alleyways lined with shops and cute restaurants. I would love to go back in the summer when we could wander the streets wearing fewer layers, enjoy dinner outside and watch the sun set at 11:30 PM (Scandinavia, I tell you!) 

This is how the majority of the week was spent. Feeling cozy in the little loft of the second floor of our vacation house, reading or working on Homework while enjoying the view of the North Sea. Perfection.

P.S. All ad spots are 50% off today with the code FLASH50 at checkout! Click here to see sponsorship options. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

To Blog or Not to Blog?

The ONLY {lame} photo I managed to snap in Berlin 

I have been traveling since Tuesday, October 25th but am now (finally) back home. We left central Germany on a rainy afternoon and made the eight hour drive up to Odense, Denmark where we checked into a cute vacation house and settled in to relax. I spent at least two of those days without getting out of my pajamas. We played a lot of card games and watched a lot of movies (though I did manage to squeeze in a lot of online homework in between these activities) and ate a lot of food. We celebrated Steven's Grandmother's birthday with a big party, and at the end of our trip Steven and I drove down to Berlin to spend a few days there.

Throughout this entire 1.5 week experience I can probably count on my fingers the amount of photos I took - which is not normal. Normal would be having so many photos to sort through that it takes me weeks to go through and edit them. However over the past fifteen or so days I've found myself with surprisingly little to say, and oftentimes blogging was far from my mind.

I'm realizing that there is a time and a place for photo-snapping and constant documenting. It's good to preserve those memories and I love sharing them with the world. There are times, however, when said documentation actually gets in the way of the memories themselves. There are times when lugging around my huge camera and stopping every five minutes to take photos would completely ruin the magic of walking hand-in-hand with my soulmate, window-shopping on one of Berlin's beautiful streets. There are times when choosing to write blog posts would get in the way of precious quality time with family. In those times, I think it's important to learn when to put the camera down and the computer away and just live your life. 

Life is good right now. I'm getting good grades, traveling a lot, spending time with the people I love. I might not have many pictures or words to back up that statement, but it's the truth and the memories are there. 

P.S. All ad spots are 50% off today and tomorrow with the code FLASH50 at checkout! Click here to see sponsorship options. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Growing Family

When a tiny, awkward, nerdy little version of myself moved to California in 2003, It was literally only days before I met my best friends. All three of us went to different schools (and couldn't have been more different in real life) but, thanks to church, we were pretty much forced into spending time together until we didn't need to be forced anymore and, of our own free will, became completely inseparable. We were SO joined at the hip that we honestly became known as "The Three Musketeers" and "The Three Amigas" by the adults in our church, something that is still referenced today.

Embarrassing photo from 2006 seminary class - I don't know what we were doing. 
2007 Seminary Class - Still Embarrassing 
Rainbow Brite, a Nerd and Supergirl, Halloween 2008

 Growing up, I was the weird one. I was (am?) socially awkward, with a love of SciFi and Medieval Fantasy. Bri (blonde hair) was the popular, social one, always in fashion with tons of friends and tons of boys chasing after her with their jaws dropped. Kasey (long brown hair) was the laid back one, pretty quiet with a love of nature and a carefree lifestyle. We were and are SO different, but somehow we complemented one another so perfectly that there was never a dull moment. 

Being weird in 2009

Still being weird in 2009 - prepping for a snowball fight in Big Bear, California

Senior Prom in 2010 

Now we learn the reason why I wrote this post today: Within one month of each other, both of my best friends have gotten engaged to great guys who they love very much. They are planning to get married within a few weeks of each other as well, so our family is going to be getting much bigger very soon. 

Welcome to the family, boys. You better take good care of my girls. 


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