Slideshow Widget

  • Cochem, Germany 2013 photo Cochem_edited-1.jpg" />
  • Heidelberg, Germany 2013 photo heidelberg_edited-1.jpg" />
  •  photo florence.jpg" />
  • Rome, Italy 2013 photo Rome2.jpg" />
  •  photo florence2.jpg" />
  •  photo Venice.jpg" />

Archive for December 2014

34 in 30 ... What I've Learned

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Remember when I talked about the Benefits of Binge Blogging and how I committed to 30 new posts in 30 days, even though my life is out of control crazy at the moment?

I did it. Today is Day 30 and I actually wrote, posted, and shared 34 posts in 30 days, thanks to all of those Awesome Christmas Markets I've been dragging Mike to for the past few years.

psssttt.... If you liked that series, I have a few new ones to share over Christmas week. (:

This Challenge has been amazing! Most days I feel like my head is going to burst with all of the things I've learned, like:

  • You've just got to have an editorial calendar - and use it! Printing one off and leaving it in a drawer isn't helping. Sarah offers up a great digital one and links to many more if you sign up for her challenge. 
  • I need a space to work in. Some people can probably blog very efficiently from their couch, but I'm much more productive when I'm sitting at a desk or table. Maybe it's the uncomfortable chair and lack of cozy blanket.
  • I need to step up my picture editing workflow. This is one of my biggest weaknesses and what keeps a lot of posts from being published. I'm working on solutions.
  • How to make list & link posts more engaging. There are secrets to this, who knew?! Sarah did, apparently, and she's willing to teach us. 
  • Calls to action, selling, and marketing - it's all covered in Her Blogging Challenge
  • Writing gets easier the more you do it. Fo realz.
  • Commenting on other blogs is soooo important. It's how you build a community. So when you read a blog that excites you or speaks to you, comment on it!

I've got lots of ideas for things I haven't implemented just yet, since I am graphic-design-challenged, but I think I will get them sorted out soonishly. I am working on them.

My short and sweet summary is this: 

This Blog Challenge Rocks.
Do It.

I kid, but, seriously, if you have a blog - whether you've been neglecting it or have been very active online, there's something here for you. If you're thinking about starting a blog, start on the right foot.

The Facebook Group is super supportive and everyone is really helpful. You'll find new friends, new blogs to read, and plenty of laughs. It's pretty fantastic.

But, hey, don't take my word for it. The Challenge is free! Go on over and sign up. Each day a new email with a new challenge comes to your inbox. You don't have to make your post about the challenge every day, but these tips will better your blog and your blogging habits.

Thinking about starting this challenge later? Bookmark this post so you can find Sarah's website when you're ready. Know someone who could maybe benefit or who loves challenges? Share it so they know!

Now.... tomorrow... to post or not to post? ;)

7 Seriously Silly Tips to Keep Your Sanity During a Big Move

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yesterday I shared 7 Seriously Important Tips for A Smooth Move and I totally recommend reading it or pinning it to read later if you ever plan to move house.

If you're one of those lucky people who gets to stay in one spot and put down roots, please know that I aspire to one day join your ranks but, alas, that is not my life today. One day, one day....

Ok, so we're in the middle of a move from Germany to California (we don't do things by halves around here!) and here are my best tips for keeping your sanity when nothing is going your way.

Because there will be days like that. Today may or may not have been one of them for me; I admit nothing.

Copyright: nyul / 123RF Stock Photo

#1 - 3 Minute Dance Party 

Turn up the music and get your groove on. Don't worry about what you look like, just get that angsty energy out. By the end of a song or two, you're going to feel like a whole new person.

Family won't join you? Who cares!? You're going to be so happy in 3 minutes it won't even matter. Who knows, your dance party might last longer than 3 minutes and that's fantastic! You're releasing all that stress and burning calories! You go, girl! Or guy, whatevs.

#2 - Have Your Favorite Cereal for Dinner

It's fast, easy, and inexpensive. It's easy to clean up. And if you have a kids cereal, it's colorful and fun and the milk at the end tastes like candy.

I am not responsible for the sugar headache or tummy ache that may follow.

#3 - Play a Prank on Someone 

This is only limited by your imagination. Have a rubber snake? Put it in someone's bag. Fake spiders are fun, too, in all sorts of places. Mix Orajel and toothpaste on your significant other's toothbrush in the morning... after all, you're just being helpful.

Be prepared for payback, though. It will come. 

Playing pranks is only a good idea if you & the people in your household enjoy that sort of humor. If the person you're pranking wouldn't like it, then you've crossed the line into meanness. That's not the way to diffuse stress. Please don't be mean.

Some harmless ideas: Hard boil all of the eggs and replace them in the fridge. Set several random alarms throughout the day on their phone. Or give all of their contacts code names. Change something on their Facebook account if they stay logged in. A few years ago, I switched Mike's city to Sexy, Peru. We had a little laugh and he hasn't changed it back.

#4 - Water Fight

Load up on water balloons and squirt guns. Have everything prepped and declare "war" on your family.

Make sure you have some private stores hidden just for you.

#5 - Camping in the Living Room

The house is already a mess, so pull a mattress into the living room, drape some sheets from the boxes and have a family movie night or curl up and read your favorite books together. Block out the rest of the world and just spend some time being together.

You don't have to bring a mattress in, but your back will thank you if you do.

#6 - Sneak Out

If you need to be alone for a little while, do it. Make sure the kids are safe, of course, but the family will survive without you for a bit. Have your nails done, grab a coffee, do some window shopping, see a movie no one else will be interested in.

Take time for yourself and don't feel guilty for doing it.

#7 - Buy A Bag of Oranges

I read somewhere that peeling oranges reduces stress. The motions are repetitive which helps us calm down and the scent released is good for relaxation as well.

Added bonus: Oranges are high in potassium. Potassium can help relax blood vessels which may lower blood pressure. You can read more about that here.

When you're done with the peels, drop them in a small saucepan with water, some cloves and a dash of vanilla. Heat it up and let it simmer on low and your house will smell heavenly all day. Keep an eye on the water level, though.

Life gets stressful sometimes, especially when you're undergoing a major life change. Moving house is one of those changes; don't underestimate the effects it will have on you and your family.

But likewise, don't underestimate the effects your attitude will have on the outcome. Your attitude is contagious. If you stay positive and find ways to laugh every day, the journey will be a pleasant one for everyone... at least mostly. If you need to do that by being silly, do it! Don't be ashamed of your goofball side; flaunt it! Your family will thank you and you get to keep your sanity. I call that a win-win.

If you're moving soon, feel free to pin or bookmark this post so you can refer back to it when the road gets rough. If you know someone who is moving, share the love with them! Sharing is caring, after all!

7 Seriously Important Tips for a Smooth Move

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mike and I have been married, oh, about a bazillion years - ok, ok, maybe slightly less than a bazillion - and over the past 12 years or so we've moved house 5 times and are about to do it again. 

Let that sink in for a second: 6 moves in 12 years.

Source & Copyright

Yeah, I'm kind of a pro at moving. I've actually moved one extra time that he didn't. Life is so unfair sometimes.

These have not been small moves, either. 3 of them were across 1500+ miles. The move I made by myself was 800 miles. 2 moves involved crossing an ocean. The shortest move I've ever made was to a new house 6 hours away... and Mike was working and couldn't help at all for that one. Thank goodness for great parents!

Believe me when I say I understand. It's overwhelming. It's scary. It's hard work. Don't underestimate the amount of energy you're going to put into this.

But there are things you can do to make it better. I'm here to help.

#1 - Be Organized

My biggest and best tip is organize yourself, your family, and anyone else you're responsible for. I recommend starting 6 months before your move date. You can live without a lot of your stuff for 6 months and it will make your move infinitely smoother. You may even get so used to having less "stuff" in your home, that you decide not to unpack it all at your new place. You'd be surprised how often this happens to us.

There are two basic choices when organizing your home for a move:

  • First, you can deep clean everything, declutter each space, remove everything unwanted, and then leave your rooms exactly as you live in them. This is probably the easiest way and it works really well if you definitely have "living room decor" vs "guest room decor." If you know that a certain painting always hangs in your dining room and you always pair those candle sticks with it, this method will work nicely for you. You can box up each room quickly, and unpack in the new space just as quickly. Setting up your new spaces will be a breeze.

  • On the other hand, some of us - myself, included - are more fluid in where our things "live." I'm constantly moving stuff around until I find it a happy home. Then I leave it for a while until I get bored or I start thinking that the energy has stagnated in a space. So I move things around again. I am constantly redecorating. When I move, I group things in broad categories. I will take all of my pictures off the wall and stack them together. All books will go to the same space (even if they won't all fit on the shelves - we have a bit of a reading addiction in this house). Every piece of random decor gets shuffled around until they are all clustered together somewhere. Exercise equipment finds a home together (usually in my closet). You get the picture. The downside to this method is that it requires more time both before and after the move. I don't have the bonus of "ready made room" boxes that I can open, put things away, have a beautifully decorated room, and then move on to the next room. But here are the pros: I touch every single thing I own at least twice every time we move. This makes it easy to get rid of things I no longer love or that just don't mesh with my home anymore. I get to take some time to get a feel for the new space and decide what needs to be there to keep my home harmonious. It does take me a little longer to decorate, but I'm ok with that. I enjoy doing it and I like taking the time to get to know my new home. Some of you are going to think this is some hippie-dippie-voodoo-nonsense and that's ok; it just means this method isn't for you. But some of you are nodding your heads and already feel less stressed thinking about it, aren't you?

In case you're curious, Mike is a total #1 everything stays where it's always been type and I'm obviously a #2 go with the flow, let the house tell me what it wants and needs from me before we make any decisions girl. We argue a lot when we move. It's ok, he's still my bestie.

#2 - Downsize

You have stuff you don't need and likely don't really want. I know you do; don't deny it. Unless you are an ultra-minimalist, of course, but then you probably don't have problems moving, so why are you reading this? For the rest of us, get rid of it. Have yourself a yard sale, post things to Craigslist, donate it to a local charity, give your stuff to your church and let it be a blessing to another family who needs whatever it is. Get it out of your house.

Set up a Donation Station somewhere out of the way. Stock it with boxes, tape, garbage bags, and a nice big Sharpie. While you're cleaning or sorting, if you come across something that makes you think twice, take it to the Donation Station immediately. Be ruthless. You will always buy more things, more decor, more furniture, more toys... but you need to have room for them. The way to make room is by getting rid of the things you no longer love.

Clutter is a whole other post waiting to be written, but please - do yourself a favor and move on from the stuff holding you back. If you don't love it, out it goes. Don't waste precious packing or unpacking energy on things you don't want, need, or love.

#3 - Clean Everything

I once helped a new friend unpack after a big move. She was overwhelmed and didn't know where to start, so I went to help. I learned a lot that day, but the biggest lesson was this: You never want to open a box that has been sealed for 2 months with dirty sheets inside. It is highly unpleasant. 

The other lesson I learned that day is to not help people unpack their bedrooms. That's personal and you should do it yourself.

The moral of this story is simple: clean everything. Dust, wipe, wash... whatever you've got to do. You should be able to sleep on your sheets one night and not have a problem when you get to your destination, but if you're very worried about it, pack them in your suitcase.

Oh, and double check your dishes. I actually had packers pack our dirty dishes out of our dishwasher once. Fortunately, I caught it that afternoon and we opened all of the kitchen boxes until we found them. The packers were really unhappy with us the next morning when they arrived but I was really unhappy with them for being disgusting so it was a fight I was prepared to have. 

Another random thing I've had happen to me: unpacking garbage from my previous house. Why anyone would pack a bag of garbage is beyond me, but please, do yourself a favor and just take out the garbage before they arrive to pack your house.

#4 - Know Where Your Important Papers Are

I keep a sealed envelope with certified copies of our important paperwork- birth certificates, baptism paperwork, passports, professional licenses, etc - with me while we're moving. It's unlikely that anything will come up that needs to be dealt with immediately, but I'm covered if it does happen.

If you have significant medical problems that concern you, keep a copy of your medical records with you as well - or summarize your history on a sheet of paper. A quick summary would include any drug or food allergies, past diagnoses, any surgeries with the year they occurred, and all current medications you are taking and how often you take them. Be sure to include any over the counter meds, vitamins, and herbal supplements as well. Your primary care doctor and a good phone number for his office should be on there, too, if you have that available.

Nothing you do with paperwork is secure. If you pack it with your household goods, it's out of your hands and may be lost or stolen, but even if you keep it with you it may also be lost or stolen. Remember, though, that most paperwork can be replaced if need be, it's just a headache to track it all down. If you are super organized, create a spreadsheet database with all of your important info and whom to contact if it needs to be replaced. 

#5 - Think Ahead

Are there any big reorganizing or redecorating projects you want to do? Moving is a great time to accomplish them, if the finances are available. I always like to reassess my linen situation when we move. Sometimes we need new towels or sheets and this is an easy time to pick some up. If you're buying something new, go ahead and let go of the old. It will force you to buy that new thing, whatever it is. I've found that once we settle into a new place, most of our stuff just settles in, too, and it takes a lot more effort to get it out again.

My big project for this next move is going to be reorganizing our DVDs. Right now we store them in those big binders that my husband loves so much, but I think they are ugly and bulky and I hate flipping through them to find a movie I want to watch. I hate putting the movies away even more so they end up stacked next to the TV. I don't have a solution yet, but that's going to change. 

#6 - Plan For Your Pets

Moving can be extra stressful for our fur babies, so try to make it as easy as possible for them. Give them extra love and attention - just a few minutes of cuddling goes a long way towards settling their nerves. Make sure they have plenty of water available. If the door is opening and closing a lot, keep an eye on them to make sure they haven't run outside unexpectedly. If your pet is very territorial or runs into the street sometimes, consider a pet sitter if you have packers coming. 

Also be sure their paperwork and shots are up to date and check if you need anything additional for where you're moving to. Some areas have special vaccinations they recommend based on the diseases they see around there that may not be common elsewhere. Keep a copy of your pet's vaccinations or health certificate with you while you travel, just in case you are ever asked for it.

#7 - Keep A Good Attitude

Things may go wrong. Some of your stuff may get broken or lost. It happens. 

But it is not the end of the world.

Having your belongings insured may help you feel more secure and trying to eat a few good meals a week (instead of eating take-out every single meal) may help you feel calmer. Find what it is that you need and try to make that happen. Take a long walk after a stressful day. Move the boxes to the side and turn on your favorite movie. Everything can wait for two hours. Be flexible with yourself... and with those around you.

I like having all of my suitcases packed a few days before the packers come to start boxing all of my things up. I also like having all of our digital pictures backed up (several times, actually) and stored in different locations, just in case the worst happens. But other than that, as long as we are ok and the dog is with us, everything else isn't as important. There's nothing in my house I can't walk away from. I know not everyone feels that way, but you have to find what works best for you. If you're feeling insecure about something, sit down with a cup of tea and see if you can find a solution that will put you at ease.

I could go on and on about moving well but those are my big, most important tips. If you're in the middle of a move and feeling stressed, give yourself some grace. Go take a nice bubble bath. Have a glass of wine. The "stuff" will be there when you get back. You're working hard. You deserve a break.

I'd love to hear your tips for how you make a move more successful. I feel like I learn new things each time we go through this, so, please! Talk it up in the comments!

And if you're planning a move, or know someone who is, pin this for later and please share away!

Update: If you're looking for ways to infuse more fun into your move, check out 7 Seriously Silly Tips to Keep Your Sanity During a Big Move.

Snapshot Sunday: A Cute Advent Calendar Idea

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mike and I spent the weekend traveling around to some Christmas Markets we haven't visited yet, walking around in the cold rain... and today we've both got a bit of a cold.

But, as mentioned here, I signed up for a blogging challenge 27 days ago where I promised a new post every day for 30 days. A little head cold might slow me down, but it's not going to stop me.

So here is today's snapshot. It's a small piece of a homemade Advent calendar from one of the Christmas Markets we've been to. I think it's super cute and I'm sure some of you crafty folks out there could have some fun with the idea. If you do, link up in the comments and let me see your awesomeness!

I hope every one of you is having a great December and your holiday plans are coming along nicely. 

However, if you find yourself facing a cold like we are, I rounded up some natural remedies and shared them here. My favorite one that we turn to every time we start to feel a little icky is simple: Honey + Cinnamon (enough to make it thick like paste). We take it by the spoonful a few times a day and sometimes mix it into an Apple Cider Vinegar hot toddy, which is just a shot of ACV + hot water + Honey/Cinnamon mixture. Easy peasy and it works without yucky chemicals.

Happy Sunday, everyone! 

Snack Time: Camembert on Baguette

Saturday, December 6, 2014

This right here, folks, is my new favorite snack or quick and easy meal. And it takes five minutes to make.

 photo CamembertToast-6.jpg

The longest part is waiting for the cheese to melt. But, oh, once it does....

I don't know which is my favorite part - the fresh baked baguette, the garlic butter, or the ooey-gooey Camembert. All over France, Camembert is known as the King of Cheese, or roi du fromage if you prefer. I have no idea why, but that's what I've been told by several people now.

I tried to Google it to find out, but all I learned is that it is a very popular cheese made in France, the most notable selections hail from the Normandy region, learning to select a good Camembert requires an education in cheese (I just buy one at the market and I'm perfectly happy), most foreigners love it nearly as much as the French people do, and it should have a mild cheesy smell. If it smells too strongly, it is either not fresh or ill prepared.

I love all of the stinky cheeses so I'm not sure how strongly it would have to smell to turn me away. I do think it's a rather mild cheese in general, similar to Brie in both consistency and flavor palette. I think it would do well at a party; I can't imagine it offending anyone.

 photo CamembertToast-1.jpg

How To Make It

 photo CamembertToast-3.jpg

 photo CamembertToast-4.jpg

ONE | Slice up a fresh baguette into however many pieces you want, in any size you want.

TWO | Butter that bread with a good garlic & herb butter.

THREE | Lay slices of Camembert on top of the butter. If you get the cheese that is more tube shaped (vs. the round kind you would bake whole), slicing it is easier. If you have a really ripe cheese, it may already be too soft to slice. In that case, just slather it on.

FOUR | Warm your toast in the oven until the cheese is melted. I usually turn my oven on, put the toast in, and let it warm up with the oven. Roughly 5-8 minutes is all it takes.

FIVE | This step is optional, but I think it is important: Drizzle the toast with something like a wild berry compote. Whatever you have on hand or see at the store will do. Cranberry sauce would be a good substitution, too. (Hey, hey, Thanksgiving leftovers!) The key is to choose a jam with a bit of a bite, not too sweet.

SIX | Eat it while it's warm. It's good once it's cooled off, too, but it's really delicious hot from the oven.

 photo CamembertToast-5.jpg

So simple even a kid could do it. And so yummy I never want to stop eating it.

All the warnings: There is nothing healthy about this recipe. If you have health concerns that require you to stay away from bread, gluten, dairy, or sugar... well, this recipe is not for you. I am not responsible for any changes in dress size you may experience once you become addicted to this deliciousness. ;)

Have a good weekend, everyone! And remember, sharing is caring!

Tips for Caring for Cast Iron

Friday, December 5, 2014

I feel like because I'm a Southern Girl (yeah, I'm capitalizing it!) I should have learned to care for my cast iron skillet in my grandma's tiny country kitchen or while learning to cook beside my mama. Cooking in cast iron is pretty common just about everywhere, but it's almost sacrilegious to cook any other way in the South.

So why don't I know how to take care of my skillet? Well, my mama is notoriously impatient, especially in the kitchen - so she never taught me to cook - and I was one of the youngest of about a bazillion grandkids and more often that not was swatted on the behind while running to the back door as I was told "if you don't get out of this house this instant...." There was no need for my grandma to finish the threat; I knew whatever would happen if I didn't go and play was not going to be pleasant... and, frankly, my imagination was probably more effective than anything my wonderful grandma would have ever done to me. Most likely I would have been put on dishes duty, which would have solved my current dilemma. 

Back to the cast iron. I didn't learn to cook until after I got married and only got my first cast iron skillet last year. So I'm a bit behind the curve here.

Available from Amazon

I always thought you couldn't wash an iron skillet with soap because you don't want to strip that precious seasoning, so for the past year I've been scrubbing it with Epsom salt and re-seasoning it regularly in the oven.

But I was still having problems with my skillet. Food would stick and aren't these skillets supposed to be non stick? And my skillet wasn't smooth and shiny, what's up with that? Every cast iron skillet I've ever seen has been a gorgeous shiny black and just as smooth as can be.

Then I found this article on The Truth About Cast Iron. Yay! You mean I CAN use soap to scrub off that burnt on food?! Oh my goodness, I see the light!

I don't know if anything in that article is true or good for my skillet, but I've been using a couple of their tips, specifically warming it up by rotating it and trying to make sure my food (eggs or meat or fish, especially) are room temp before dropping them in, and I've been having better luck. I have washed it with soap a couple of times (making sure to warm and reseason it afterwards, of course) and was actually able to fry an egg in it yesterday. Today I'm going to try to cook fish fillets. We'll see how it goes.

I really want this relationship with my cast iron skillet to work out. If I can cook things in it and keep it looking good, my plan is to ask Mike for one of these bad boys:

Check it out at Le Creuset's website here.
I don't feel like I'm good enough in the kitchen yet to deserve something so beautiful, but I'm working towards it. Maybe next year.

Also Available at Amazon.

In the meantime, talk it up in the comments! What are your tips & tricks for keeping your cast iron all sparkly and beautiful? Do you love it better than Teflon-coated or stainless steel? What's your favorite cookware? Let us know! 

Know someone new to the cast iron club? Don't forget, sharing is caring!

(Now I'm off to trick my husband into reading this!)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full affiliate disclaimer here.

Books That Every Family Should Have

Thursday, December 4, 2014

My sister is having twins! I.Am.So.Excited!

They aren't due until the spring, but the baby-prep is well underway.

One of the things she's mentioned wanting for these sweet bundles is books, which makes my heart so glad. I have loved books my whole life. It was the one thing my dad would never let my mom take away from me, no matter how naughty I'd been - and I was plenty naughty! I just hope my little nephews love to read, too.

While I'm shopping for them, I thought I'd share some classic favorites I think every child will read again and again.

 photo BooksToddlerWillLove.jpg

Books for Toddlers: ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT

 photo booksforgirls.jpg

Books for Girls: ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX

 photo booksforboys.jpg

Books for Boys: ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX

 photo booksforkids.jpg

Books for All Kids: ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX

 photo educationalbooks.jpg

Books with an Educational Twist: ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE

The links will take you to Amazon, where I have an affiliate account which means if you purchase one of them (or something else awesome) I might get a small commission at no additional cost to you. You'll see that the links are to boxed sets usually; that's just what Amazon offers for most of them. You can certainly find these books sold individually, probably at your local bookstore.

All of the Educational Books are part of bigger series, so you can choose the subject matter your little one will be most interested in.

And please don't be put off by what I labeled as "boy books" or "girl books" - it was just a generalization. I know a little boy who absolutely LOVES Judy Moody and several little girls who enjoy the Andrew Lost books. And those Fudge books (the series starts with Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing) were some of my very favorites growing up.

I hope you found something new and interesting to get for your little guy or gal. So tell me - what were your favorite books growing up? Which books would you recommend? Is there a special one you love to read over and over?

As always, sharing is caring! So spread the book love!

p.s. The book I have read a billion times and still enjoy is The Once and Future King. I also really enjoy any Sherlock Holmes mystery. 

Snow Day!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

This blog is interrupted to bring you the First Snow of 2014!

Well, at least here in Rheinland-Pfalz. Or, at least in my little area of Rheinland-Pfalz.

 photo FirstSnow2014-1632-1.jpg

 photo FirstSnow2014-1635-2.jpg

 photo FirstSnow2014-1638-3.jpg

 photo FirstSnow2014-1642-4.jpg

 photo FirstSnow2014-1643-5.jpg

 photo FirstSnow2014-1649-6.jpg

It's only a few inches, but it's beautiful, no?

And don't forget, sharing is caring!

Benefits of Binge Blogging

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A few weeks ago - three, to be exact - I accepted a challenge: To blog every single day for 30 days. Today is Day #22 and I want to share a little about this journey with you.

How the Madness Started

Exactly 22 days ago, we had no idea where we were moving or even IF we would definitely be moving. We knew that our assignment to Hawaii had been cancelled (booo!) and we were told that it was possible that we may stay in Germany for a year or two more (yay!). We didn't know if we would be able to stay in our house since our landlords wanted to sell it or if we would have to find a new place to live. 

It was a stressful week, to say the very least. 

So what did I do? I read this blog post and thought, "I don't have any time to do something like this. It's insane to take this on right now. It would be setting myself up for failure. I don't even have 30 ideas to blog about. I can't even remember if I washed my face this morning."

I thought all of those things as I went to Sarah Arrow's Website and signed up for the challenge then dropped into her Facebook Group and committed myself to this madness. 

Because you know what they say - if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. And I've never been busier than these past few weeks. 

What I've Learned So Far

Over the past three weeks, I've learned a lot. Like, a whole lot. I haven't put it all into practice just yet - I need time to think and mull things over before acting - but here are some of the lessons I'm learning:

ONE | Exactly what I've just said. I need time to think about things and sort out how I see the parts fitting together. This is both a blessing and a curse. I admire people who just jump in and make changes on the fly; I wish I could be one of those people but I'm not. However, sometimes it's vital to just have a little faith and make a leap. I'm working on that; I can change, right??? I don't have to know how to make the perfect info graphic to make one good enough to share. (Maybe?) I struggle with this because I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I simply don't know how to do a lot of this graphic design stuff. I now have a TON of new tools at my disposal to make some tweaks and changes and I'm excited to learn how to use them effectively.

TWO | One of Sarah's best sayings is that writing is a muscle, one you have to exercise. It's so true. And just like all muscles, the more you work it, the more fit it becomes, and the more easily it does it's work. Writing has gotten easier. My vocabulary has improved (or resurfaced - I always had a decent vocabulary). My grammar rules have magically returned, even if I choose to ignore them sometimes. Working your brain is a good thing. 

THREE | Creativity breeds creativity. I started this journey after having seriously ignored this blog for a long time and I had about a dozen half written posts waiting to be finished and published. I've finished a few of them, put a few on hold, and I have a few more waiting for their day in the sun. But, more than working on what I had already started, I've found that the more I write, the more the ideas start to flow and the more post topics I come up with. Which leads me to....

FOUR | The importance of organization. An editorial calendar is instrumental to blog success! Yes, I've read those very same words from other people and I even printed off one I thought I would like. I never used it because the blocks weren't big enough for me to write in. I still haven't found one I am in love with, and am thinking about just creating one myself, but for now I'm just using my regular daily planner that keeps the rest of my life organized. I just jot down the post idea on each day's column as well as a little "to do" list for the upcoming posts.

If you're curious, I'm currently using the 2014 version of this planner from BlueSky. I love it so much I am thinking about doing a full review so you can see how awesome it is.

FIVE | I have found more things beyond travel that I want to write about. It's not something I've followed through on (much) so keep an eye out for that. I see a bit of a growth spurt coming. I just need to figure out how to organize it first. {See #1, above!}

Where I'm Headed

I have 8 days left in this challenge, which takes me to December 10. Depending on what's going on with movers and whatnot, I might slow down some. I tend to lose entire days when I'm flying around the globe but I am going to try to keep with a regular blogging schedule, even if it's not every single day. 

In light of some of the new ideas I've had, I want to do a bit of a makeover and possibly move over to self-hosted Wordpress. I feel like that's going to be a big project and I'm not even sure how to begin to approach it, but I've got a few days in Tennessee with the family for the holidays... sounds like a good time to jump in over my head, right? 

Sure, why not! It seems to be my M.O. lately.

Oh, and I would have to talk the hubs into that one, too, since it costs money. Hmmm... we'll see how it goes. I may be able to make enough changes right here in Blogger to keep me happy for a while. It's not like moving around the world is cheap.

Your Mission, If You Choose to Accept It....

 Check out Sarah's Challenge! If you have a blog or are thinking about starting one, I think you'll love it. She has so many great tips and suggestions, all for free. And she does a fantastic job explaining things in ways that are easy to understand. 

The Facebook Group is super supportive and all of the members have been wonderful about helping to any answer questions. I've even made some new friends along the way.

So mosey on over, check it out, sign up and join the madness. You won't regret it. 

Oh, and p.s., we're moving to California! EEK! I'm so excited! :)

More Top Christmas Markets

Monday, December 1, 2014

I've shared My Favorites HERE, but now I want to tell you about those markets I'm dying to go to.

Yes, ok, that's a bit dramatic. 
But you already know I get really excited over this stuff. 

We are moving sometime within the next month (we still don't have a moving company or flights booked - talk about last minute stress!) so I don't know how many of these we will get to, but I am really hoping to make these last few weeks in Europe something special!

Basel, Switzerland

Basel is rumored to be one of the prettiest Christmas Markets in the region and is the largest in Switzerland. I haven't been to Switzerland, and I think this is a great time to remedy that! More information can be found here and here.

Stuttgart, Germany

An easy drive from where we live, we love to visit Stuttgart. Our favorite Mexican restaurant is Cocina Mexicana in Vaihingen and we eat there every time we're in the area. I've heard from another woman living here that Stuttgart's Christmas Market is delightful, and when paired with the medieval market in Esslingen, the whole experience is magnificent! Find out more here and here.

Prague, Czech Republic

I should have listed this one first, because it is, by far, my biggest priority this year. Prague might just be my very favorite city on the continent and I know it's my husband's favorite. We've never been at Christmas, but I'm willing to move heaven and earth to make it happen this year. Check out more info here and here.

Rudesheim, Germany

A cute little town on the Rhein River near Mainz, it's an easy drive from where we live and will make a nice little day trip. I've heard many excellent reviews of this market so I'm looking forward to checking it out. Find out more here.

Paris, France

Yes, I know I've been. And, frankly, I don't think I'll be able to put this one off until all of their markets are open if we do get to go this year, but still - a day in Paris is always a good day for me. If you will be in the area during the holidays, find more information here and here. This is one trip I recommend planning well if you're very interested in seeing all Paris has to offer.

Krakow, Poland

Krakow is such a beautiful city! I can't even begin to imagine how much more wonderful it would be at Christmas. Hopefully one day I will find out, but it's not going to happen for me this year. It's just too far away with all that is going on. Maybe you can go and let me know how it is? And if you're looking to combine Christmas markets with a little skiing, there's a beautiful resort south of Krakow called Zakopane. If you're looking for more info you can find it here or here.

Side note: After writing this, I heard from several people that Wroclaw, Poland has a gorgous Christmas Market that blows everything else away. Maybe next time we plan a trip to Poland, it should be during Christmas and we'll see both. More information here.

Hamburg, Germany

I'm not sure what to say about this one. I think since Hamburg is a port city, seeing some of the floating markets would be a different experience and may be worth doing. But, also, they have an X-rated, adults only type market at Santa Pauli. I'm not interested in buying anything, I'm just very curious how that ties in with Christmas. It's one I might have to see to believe. If you'd like more info, it can be found here.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

I'm quite fond of Amsterdam. It's not big or showy and its more, ahem, popular delights aren't for me (there IS more to do in Amsterdam besides getting high), but it's a comfortable little city to spend a few days in. The weather is dreary more often than not (at least when I've been there) but I've enjoyed myself immensely every time I've gone. I always feel relaxed and comfortable there. Maybe they pump some of those aforementioned delights into the general air? I'm not sure, but every time I go the city grows on me a little more. Christmas in Amsterdam just sounds wonderful. If you're heading that way, you can find more info here.

Vienna, Austria

I read somewhere in a book recently that people in Vienna still dress in traditional clothes (dirndls and lederhosen, etc.) rather frequently. Of course, the clothes have been modernized, but that overall it's a very formal city. I'd be interested to see that. I have no idea if it's true, as I've never been to Vienna. Imagine for a moment, though, being all dressed up and going to a Christmas Symphony in one of the great halls of Europe, after having spent the day wandering some of the most enchanting markets around. Heaven, no? Find more info here.

Augsburg, Germany

This was a suggestion from another family who lives near here, and after checking into it... oh, my. It sounds WONDERFUL. Every Friday, Saturday, Sunday they have live angels perform and the whole town is turned into a living advent calendar. Whoa. I really think I need to go see this. If you would like more info, you can find it here or here.

That's it for me. If I could take the next month, with an unlimited budget and no other responsibilities (why, oh, why did I insist on growing up?!?), those are the markets I would visit.

So tell me your dream sheet. Where do you want to go? What are your favorite places you've been? Do you love Christmastime best? Or does another season steal your heart?

And remember - sharing is caring! So share away!