A Cuppa Cosy Reads – April and May 2021

Another reading post covering two months. I very much underestimated just how long it would take for me to back into my reading swing between moving, setting up a new home, and then getting back to having time for reading. I am very much back into the full swing of things and am very excited to share that over the past two months I’ve read 16 books and given an average 3.45 star rating. 

I’m not going to break these up in any particular way (but maybe I will in the future?), but I am looking to expand some of my reading and book content over here on A Cuppa Cosy. Let me know what specifically book related content you would like to see; more single book reviews, recommendations, reading certain new things? You let me know!

Now, onto the books…

Fortuna Sworn by K.J. Sutton (PURCHASE) 3 Stars I’ll be honest, I read this back in the middle of March and…I don’t really remember any of it? This is marketed as a fantasy romance involving fae and while I was intrigued, I left the story not really caring about any of it. 

Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown & Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse by John Lithgow (PURCHASE, PURCHASE) NR These were just a fun lighthearted take on the Trump presidency, policies, and outbursts. 

House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (PURCHASE) 3 Stars This was the first of two re reads over this period of time. I was in a bit of a… what do I even want to read kind of mood, so I reached for a standby favorite: Sherlock Holmes. 

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (PURCHASE) 4 Stars This was an incredibly well-done novel, handling everything from fantastical elements to racism, to grief, and to love. In Legendborn we follow teenaged Bree as she comes to terms with not only the death of her mother, but with a newfound knowledge that some legends are not just legends from days past, they are still very much with us. I found that Tracy Deonn managed to touch on a wide variety of topics, but weave them together so well that it never felt overwhelming or disjointed. Highly recommend- it’s worthy of the hype it received. 

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay(PURCHASE) 4 Stars This was an interesting read as it’s a horror novel, but not horrifying. I don’t even know if I would say that it’s “scary”, it’s just thrilling more than anything. It’s a standard possession story with a family in a home, and then a tv crew, and a worldwide sensation, BUT we have a dual timeline that makes us question everything that is presented. I found this to be a story that I could have delved much deeper in, chatting with a friend about the different aspects of the story and characters. 

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman(PURCHASE) NR I don’t know one person who hasn’t purchased, read, or listened to this poem, so do I really need to talk about it? I’d rather let you know that she has a full poetry collection coming out later this year, as well as a children’s book. 

Anna K: A Love Story by Jenny Lee (PURCHASE) 3 Stars An Anna Karenina retelling set in the upper echelon of New York Society? Sign me up, sounds like my cup of tea ( very niche cup admittedly), but alas, it was just not meant to be. In Anna K, we follow Anna K who seems to have it all. Dream school, her horses, her picture-perfect family and an even more picture-perfect boyfriend. But when she meets the mysterious Count V, she realizes that maybe none of that stuff really matters after all. I think all of my issues can be boiled down to the fact that Anna K did not feel like a 16-year-old girl. She felt like a slightly older woman, who has lived a little and is reflecting on what she had wanted to know as a 16-year-old girl. What made it even more obvious, was that all of the side characters were much more age appropriate. 

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers (PURCHASE) 3 Stars So far, this is my least favorite of the series, but it was still a stellar and interesting read. 

The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed by Wendy Lower (PURCHASE) NR This is the story about how one photo, tucked away in archives, came to expose a little-known massacre during the latter half of WW2. We are given insight into how photographic evidence is dissected and used to identify dates, locations, perpetrators and victims. It also touches on how to handle perpetrators when the murder has long passed. The book also pays homage to those who we won’t know the names or faces of who died at this same massacre. This was a hard read, but also very enlightening to a side of “evidence” that isn’t talked about a lot.

The Troop by Nick Cutter (PURCHASE) 4 Stars This may end up making it to my Best of list at the end of the year, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I believe the words I used are “disgusting, horrifying, a great page turner from start to finish”. I don’t even know if I could begin to describe this book, but I will say, it deals with body horror. If you cannot stomach that then this is probably not for you. However, if you don’t have a problem with that and want some realistic horror, then this is a great read.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (PURCHASE) NR I found this to be a good read not only on understanding the history of racism in another western country, but in creating a good starting point for modern day conversations about racism and race. To be honest, this is a great “introductory” or primer on the topic, or a more generalized coverage. 

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (PURCHASE) 3.5 Stars This was another re read with the hopes of continuing the series and watching the Netflix adaptation. This is an expansive fantasy universe loosely based on Russia/Poland. This “universe” includes this original trilogy, a second duology, and a third series that is currently two books published. I really enjoyed this first book, it had me wondering why I didn’t actually continue back when I first read it. 

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo(PURCHASE) 3.5 Stars This is the second book in the original “Grishaverse” trilogy. We are introduced to new characters, higher stakes, and an epic battle scene that sees us wondering, what, if anything, can be done to set the world right again. I do think this was a little middle book-y, but it was still a strong story. 

The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L Armentrout (PURCHASE) 3 Stars I finally got to read the third book in the Blood and Ash series and boy was it somewhat worth the wait. I said it about the last two books, this is not a series that you can objectively explain. Objectively it is not good, but for a trashy, smutty, engrossing read? It delivers. 

Just Another Damned Thing by Jodi Taylor (PURCHASE) 3 Stars I’ll be honest; I found this book to be…ok. I feel like honestly the author wanted to write a book (or series really) of visiting different times and making observations, slight changes, and experiencing different lives, but didn’t know how to tie it all together. This book was definitely character and time heavy and VERY plot light. I didn’t hate it, but didn’t love it either. I won’t be continuing on with the series, BUT if it was a tv show I would watch. 

And that’s it! I’m very happy that, once again, my reading is back on track. I definitely had a couple of favorites out of the above books and one or two that may just make it to my best of list at the end of the year. What was your favorite book you’ve read over the past couple months?

A Stone’s Throw – 2 Day Trips

Sackets Harbor

Sackets Harbor was our first day trip and our first little exploration after moving to upstate NY. It’s a small bay town that sits on an inlet of Lake Ontario. Founded in the early 1800’s, it’s been on the list of Historic Places since the 1980’s for its well-preserved buildings and historic district. Aside from views, it’s most known for its support during the War of 1812. The Navy used Sackets Harbor as a major shipyard and turned the quiet little town into a major city, the third largest populated in the state at the time. Shortly after the war a selection of local businessman helped support the building of the first US Steamboat, Ontario. 

In Sackets Harbor you are able to walk the battlefields from the War of 1812 that take you alongside the lake as well as through the town (depending on which route you take). You can, when open for the season, walk through the various buildings that talk about life at the time. You can also walk-through Main Street and feel that old small-town vibe, popping into various little shops or cafés as your day goes on. 

We walked through a portion of the battlefield (we have plans to go back and bike ride the entire path), walked through a bit of the harbor, and then along Main St. We stopped in to the Junk in you Trunk antique store, which was one of the coolest little spots we’ve stumbled upon. They had everything from modern to antique, local businesses, and nationally sourced small business. We also stopped in Tea Thyme; a small tea shop that made all my tea loving dreams come true. I picked up a couple samples to try out. Overall, I think it would be one of those spots where you can easily spend a Spring day.

Wellesley Island (Thousand Islands)

Original called Wells Island (renamed Wellesley to honor the 1st Duke of Wellington in 1815), Wellesley Island is located partially in Canada and partially in America. It is one of the largest of the Thousand Islands, it is home to not only a thriving community, but also two State Parks, a nature center, and several golf courses. 

We spent a day visiting a section of the Wellesley Island State Park. This State park in particular offers a life guarded beach, nature center (with the cutest little chipmunk), hiking, hunting, fishing, snow shoeing/cross country skiing, boating and a marina, as well as a variety of camping spots and options (everything from primitive to cabins to rv’s). We hiked from the Nature Center over to Eel Bay, through the Narrows, and an inter trail or two through the woods. It was seriously one of the prettiest spots, reminding me so much of Eibsee and Konigsee in Germany. We stopped for a snack on one of the rocky inlets, resting, watching wildlife, and enjoying the sun and water. 

We did also walk briefly through the nature center, where they have educational materials about the different wildlife located on and around the island, as well as a little chipmunk that was attacked by a dog. 

I can foresee this being one of those spots that we return again and again, hiking different trails and doing a little boating and camping. We drove around a little after our visit to look at the different amenities and were very impressed by the sheer variety of options. It’s an incredibly family friendly area, however someone without kids would enjoy it just as much. Both of these day trips are within a “stone’s throw” and make us very excited to be able to explore more or our area. We seem to have a good combination of historical small towns and nature trails, which, in all honesty, is our happy spot of living locations. We are very excited by all of the hike and outdoor activities that are around and, with the weather starting to shift, we are looking forward to getting some more h

Round the Kettle Ep. 30: Back into the Fold

Happy Wednesday! I’m coming at you technically on Tuesday, in my comfiest jeans and a sweatshirt outfit, on a blustery, rainy day. To be honest, as much as I love the sunshine (and its necessity to our lives), my favorite weather is happening right now. I really love when it’s overcast, a soft pitter patter of raindrops hitting the windows and roof, and we are quietly cozied up in our home with books or a movie or a puzzle. That last part is incredibly rare in my home (with 2 boys and a husband it’s rarely ever quiet), but today must have some special powers because it’s happening. I’m upstairs in my office, typing this post up and the boys are downstairs playing an alphabet puzzle/game. This is rare. So, let’s take advantage of it and chat.

How are you doing? Like, really actually doing, not the standard “Things are good” or “I’m fine”. What are some specifics?

Today’s post was originally supposed to be the first in my “welcome to our new home” posts, but I STILL don’t have everything in place for that (dang counter stools). Then it was going to be a blog post about Heidelberg Castle, but…in a moment of full transparency, as much as I loved Heidelberg, Heidelberg Castle, and all of the history, there is SO MUCH history to that castle and my brain is oddly struggling to keep it all straight. So, that’s been tabled for now (maybe even indefinitely) too. Feeling at a bit of a loss for what to write about, I realized I hadn’t really done a casual chatty post in so long, definitely since before we came back to America. 

I work really hard on every blog post that goes up, usually putting a week or two of work in each post. Most of the content is worked, and reworked, and then maybe reworked again. And I love that, but I also like when I just sit down at a computer, type away, then hit publish without thinking twice (except maybe to run it through spell check or grammar checks). In some ways, that feels more vulnerable than a lot of the vulnerable stuff I share. I used to do these types of posts twice a month (if you remember Round the Kettle, there ya go), but they kind of faded away when things got busier, and I was pre planning a lot of posts. Right now though, it seems like the perfect time to bring them back.  

So, gosh, where do I even begin? My blissful peace that I referenced just…3 paragraphs ago has left. Replaced with a high amount of noise that I didn’t know two little boys were capable of making, right in my office (right behind my office chair and desk to be specific). Which is the nature of my days anymore. The boys have handled the transition of coming back to America with a poise that us adults didn’t even have, but they’ve struggled with the transition of Daddy going back to work, school starting back up (though Colton is super pumped about that), and just a general sense of normalcy returning. The minute one parent leaves, they cannot seem to let the other parent out of their sight, which means that they just follow from room to room. If there was any “sign” of what 2020 did to our children (beyond the whole school/social life downfall) it was that when we go to stores now, Andrew just randomly stops and watches in wonderment at EVERYTHING. It’s been that long since he’s been shopping in stores and such. 

Which, let’s talk about that for a minute, because a lot of us are starting to “see a light at the end of the tunnel” these days. While I personally am feeling so good (because it’s VERY different here in America than Germany- so I’m already feeling much more free) about things, I do still have a bit of a cautious feeling too. For all the bad that 2020 was (and it was bad), there was also some good that came out of it. My concern is that we are all going to rush to “getting back to normal” that the lessons and good that came from 2020 are going to be brushed aside. Let’s try not to do that, ok? 

So, normalcy is returning to our house. Colton has gone back to in person schooling two days a week at his new school, and he’s never been a happier little boy.  Andrew is still a bit attached to mommy (and daddy realistically), but he’s also really starting to become a little social butterfly. I swear, that kid will handle all the introductions I would ever need for me- he just runs up to people and starts talking to them. It’s something we are working on. Spring is…springing, which we are learning basically looks like “whatever goes” up here in the northern part of the country. We are supposed to get 5 inches of snow Wednesday, but then it’ll be back in the 50’s/60’s for the weekend before hitting 70’s next week. “Whatever Goes”. 

We are starting to explore our area, to branch out from our neighborhood and see some of the closer small towns. It isn’t anything like full blown traveling, rather little day trips here and there, but they’ve been special in their own ways. It’s nice to explore the area, to learn the history, and to see those little “American Small Towns”. We went to Sackets Harbor this past weekend, walking through the battleground from the War of 1812, learning the history of the battle as it happened, and then wandering through Main Street, stopping in a little bakery, an antique store, and a tea shop for some shopping. It was a lovely day and it felt good to just see something new for the day. 

And that is basically it! I feel like we’ve gotten a pretty good routine going, cleaning, writing, reading, schooling for the kids, socializing, etc. I always talk about feeling settled and the desire for “home”, and I feel like we are at that point. With that, I’ve got some big plans for the rest of this year. I’ve got two projects I’m working on outside of the blog as well as some big reading goals. 

Ok, post writing all this, but I felt like I needed to add a bit more. I wrote this before the verdict came back in the Derek Chauvin trial. I feel like first we need to address the fact that we were all waiting to see what the verdict would be, knowing full well what we all saw and witnessed in the video. The fact that we had to have a trial (instead of him pleading Guilty), and then had to wait for a jury to reach a verdict (what that verdict may have been), says A LOT about our system. But it’s also important to note that this is not justice. This is not something we should be grateful for (though many of us are). This is simply a man being held accountable for his actions. It is not the “sign that our system is changing”. It is not a time to say, ok we did this, we’re good. No, this is a time to keep pushing forward. To keep listening, learning, and fighting for the changes that we want to see, that we need to see. 

What is Home and Other Moving Musings

What is home? Is it a place? Is it where you are physically? Is it a house? Is it a person? A community? The people whom you surround yourself with? Is it having your schedule in place? A routine that you can follow day to day? 

What is home? This is a question I’ve found myself learning and exploring the answer to over the years. I think it is a question that we all try to answer through the beginning of our adulthood. Learning what it is to each of us to feel “at home”. I’ve found that, obviously, this varies from person to person and it’s one of my favorite things to learn about people.

So, before we go much further, leave me a comment (yes, right now mid read of this post) and tell me, what is home to you?

So, home. Now, I don’t talk about my husband’s job or career for many different reasons, but if you’ve followed for any period of time, you’ve probably figured out that at this time he is in the military. This means that in the almost 10 years we’ve been together we’ve now moved 4 times. There have been several benefits for this. We get to experience different places (even just within the US there is a wide variety to the way of life) and travel different chunks of the States. We got to experience living in Europe and seeing how life operates outside of our “US Bubble”. Those are big things, but even just the simple thing of figuring out what we like/want/hate/don’t want in a home, so that when we do settle we are positive what we want. The fact that every 3 years (at most, we’ve now had two two-year stations), we are forced to declutter, to re organize, to figure out what we actually want to keep and use and what we can pass along has been great in teaching us value and quality of quantity. 

There are also negatives to moving so frequently. The fact that we are in a place just long enough to create a home, a community, friendships, and then we have to “leave” it all behind is hard. As nice as it can be to unclutter and get rid of stuff regularly, it’s also tough to constantly feel like we are packing or unpacking, never truly able to settle. 

All of this has made me realize, what home actually means to me. For me, home is a combination of things. It’s hearing the pitter patter of feet running across the floor (after they’ve been repeatedly told “No running in the house”). It’s the pacing and chatting of my husband as I am trying to do something in the kitchen. It’s the feeling of waking up in the morning, going to the kitchen to steep up a pot of tea or brew a cup of coffee and while the house is still quietly waking. It’s seeing books aimlessly stacked in various rooms, because even a home library stretches its arms to other places. It’s opening a window on a pretty spring or fall day, heading to our local park to run off some energy (because remember…”No running in the house”). It’s finding a local walking route that gives us just the right number of endorphins (and can also be used as a running route…just maybe?). It’s all of these things that make up “Home”. 

***You’ll notice I haven’t made mention of a community yet. Here’s the thing, as an introvert I don’t “thrive” on community. I like having a social aspect to our lives and you’ll find me out and about, doing all the community things quite a bit, but I find that rather than needing a whole community, I tend to find maybe one or two friends that I spend time with on a much deeper level, than having a whole community at my hands. 

This is what home is for me. 

Let’s Talk About – Judaism and Being Jewish

Something that shifted for me, almost ironically so, in 2020 was my faith. I found myself coming back to who I was, in terms of faith, and unearthing a part of me that had been silent for a long while. I’ve talked a little bit about this HERE, but this really started a bit before our move to Germany and then really solidified while we were here, with a trip to the Old Synagogue of Rome (HERE) reminding me of the very things I liked and missed.

Something important to note about Judaism (that I’ve noted before, but it’s important) is that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It doesn’t matter if they are practicing the religion, they are a Jew. It doesn’t matter if they have converted, they are a Jew. Being Jewish is so much more than just practicing the religion. It’s unique in that it’s an ethno-religion, which simply means it’s an ethnicity, as well as a religion (not a race- an ethnicity). Basically, a Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It’s something that is both used against and for Jews. 

Let’s kick things off at the very beginning. I was raised “in the faith” we will say, but in a reform manner (don’t worry- I’ll break it down in a minute). My mom is Jewish, as was her mom, and so in and so forth. In Houston, where I grew up, we had a sizeable Jewish community. My neighbors were Jewish, close family friends, and we celebrated all the holidays together. We had a beautiful synagogue where I was an active participant both in the services and schooling, but also in the choir. My faith was an important part of my early childhood. 

And then we moved. There was a lot that went into the decision to move, there was a lot that went into the actual move, and a lot of things that came out of that move (both good and bad), but something that we lost that I had never truly realized was our Jewish Community. I didn’t truly recognize how much this move wrecked my faith until much later on (when I was like 20 something) and we went back to Houston for a birthday party and visited our old Synagogue and community. It really struck me then how far I strayed away from practicing the faith. 

I want to clarify something as we are going to get into some nitty gritty here…

I have always considered myself Jewish. ALWAYS. That has never changed. Being Jewish is just as much of part of who I am as my long brown hair, brown eyes, and so forth. I have a kinship with “my people” that extends beyond whether I practice or not because, again like I’ve mentioned, Judaism is an ethno religion. There is a connection with all of the Jews, one that I feel keenly quite often (more than I even talk about). Whether I actively practiced or not, I still had faith in the lord, and the core principles of Judaism guiding me. I had to navigate some pretty tricky waters and I reached out to other religions to learn and understand. I traveled quite the…”journey” and I’m at where I’m at now because of it. 

ANYWAYS, I’ve majorly digressed here. 

So, we moved and while we found a synagogue and a small community, it wasn’t the same as I had had. For the first time I was the “oddball” of my area and I struggled. I struggled with being different (I had this large southern accent and was not the…”status quo” in my school) and while I wouldn’t say I hid my religion; I definitely didn’t talk about it as much. This was the time where everyone is entering adolescence and so things are already awkward and different, and here I was this strange new girl. I was different all around when all I wanted was to fit in. I think we all know those feelings as they go beyond faith. 

Once I became Bat Mitzvahed we definitely dialed back on the religious front. We would still go to synagogue for High Holidays, and we kept relatively kosher, but it there was a definite difference pre and post. Again, I think a lot of this was in relation to not having that community. To not really loving our synagogue. To not connecting in a new area. It was kind of the perfect combination of all the wrong things. 

Things slowly started to continue to fade away until finally they just went dormant. I don’t know that I would say that I didn’t keep kosher (as I actually still did- dietary things always stuck with me), but I definitely didn’t practice in any noticeable way. I met my now husband, who comes from a large (compared to mine) Catholic family. Neither of us really practiced religion in any secular way (in that we didn’t go to church or synagogue, nor did we practice any important holidays from our respective religions). The only holiday we ever participated in was Christmas, when we would go to his family’s home and I got that magical big family Christmas that I always dreamed of.  We got married in a small ceremony in a small church in Kentucky and that was perfect for us (I would NEVER change our wedding for anything- it was easily one of the most incredible days of my life). 

Fast Forward to now. When we went to the Old Synagogue of Rome and we walked through the museum where they talked about all the Jewish rituals, the importance of those rituals, the various stories and histories, I felt a panging in my heart. A longing for that feeling that my faith had always given me. I felt at home in this area, talking about all the things that I had participated in, all the things that I had missed from those rituals, it felt good and heartbreaking to walk through. I had felt this before, these little inklings over the years, but standing here, in this moment it clicked in my heart, soul, and mind. I wanted that back. 

It’s been strange, living here in Germany and being Jewish (even without being a practicing Jew). A place that is a source of so much pain, and seeing sites that cause that pain, hearing about the anti Semitism that started almost “innocently” that then led to a mass murder. To, once again, feeling like I had to hide a part of me- that may be a bad way of phrasing, but I don’t advertise that I’m “Jewish” here in Bavaria. It’s not because I feel like Jews are being openly attacked or anything, just more so a personal security, don’t paint a target kind of feeling, which is a sign of something that I’ve hinted at this entire post. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to “other” myself and there is enough anti-Semitism that still OPENLY exists in our world that it makes me hesitate to be so open about this part of my identity. 

But, if I’ve learned something over the past two years, and throughout this entire journey, it’s that trying to hide that doesn’t do anything. I had someone this year question my faith. Question this part of my life. Belittle my Jewishness and make it something that was nonexistent. And when I tell you it fired me up, it fired me up. I’m not a person that gets riled by other opinions of myself, but this one, to be blunt, pissed me off. It also made me realize just how real ignorance (and stupidity) still very much exist in this world. Hatred still exists in our world. People still try to find others to blame for problems. And me celebrating my faith and religion isn’t going to change that fact. 

So, what does being Jewish look like to me now? Well, not much has changed. We aren’t a big “go to church/synagogue” family and that isn’t something that I foresee changing in the near future. We are interfaith, this past year celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, and I have started integrating little things into my everyday celebrations of faith. I celebrated Rosh Hashanah this year, fasted on Yom Kippur, semi abstained during Passover, I make Challah, when we move I plan on lighting the candles on Friday Nights. I’ve been wearing more of my Jewish jewelry, recently having received my “אִמָא” (Imma-Mom in Hebrew) necklace. I’ve also picked up a couple other pieces here and there on our travels. I’m looking forward to what this next phase in my faith will look like.  

Germany and America: Differences, Similarities, Comparisons

We’ve been back in the states now for almost 6 weeks and I think that, while not completely back in the swing of things (we’ve only just recently gotten to our final destination and our new home), I think we’ve managed to settle back into the US. At least enough so that I feel like I can share what that adjustment was like and how keenly I noted the difference between the two countries. 

First and foremost, I feel like I should note that I don’t necessarily think that either country is better than the other, though I do want to say that if we had the choice to go back to Europe I would in less than a single heartbeat. I think that there are benefits and losses to each, and it’s ok to acknowledge that of both countries. With that being said, I can say with fairly good certainty, that at its heart, there is really just one fundamental difference of life that every other difference can be attributed to: Way of Life. 

In the United States, we place a lot of emphasis on THINGS and APPEARENCES. There isn’t anything wrong with this- well maybe there is, but that’s a topic for a whole other conversation- it’s simply how it is in our country. Think about it, a lot of our standard activities, a lot of our social media, revolves around some form of store or shopping. We often will just “stop over at the store” or do a “quick Target run”. 

Everything is “bigger and better”, and we are constantly in a battle to have the newest, shiniest thing. Again, this is just how our society operates. Along with that, we have a rapidly rising sense of instant gratification. An “I need this, and I need it now” attitude that is then catered to by a late-night closing or even 24-hour shopping society (and this isn’t even stepping into Amazon or overnight delivery). You want to get the newest game? You can buy it at 12:01AM at your local super store on release day (pre Covid of course). We never have any concern of running out of something because well…we can just go out and get it, no matter day/time. 

Finally, in the US, we are a country of “go, go, go”, getting in and out as fast as we can, on to the next thing before we have fully finished the first. It’s a never-ending cycle that permeates every second of our life. Our day runs through before we’ve even realized that the end of the day has come, and there are times when we can’t even recall what we’ve actually done. Think about your day…we go, go, go get everyone up in the morning to get to school/work. At work we go, go, go to get an endless list of tasks done. Often times we would take lunch at our desk, quickly nudging a bite or two of food in our mouth before we have to get back to it. Or maybe your lunch consists of a quick trip to the shops to pick up some things or to peruse the shelves. Then, the workday and school day ends and it’s go, go, go to various activities for the kids OR home to quickly whip up some food. Maybe your too busy for even that, grabbing a drive through or quick meal in between activities. If you go out to dinner, it’s go, go, go through dinner with barely enough time to enjoy your family/friends’ company before the bill arrives and it’s time to go. Go back to the house, maybe now you take a little bit of time for yourself or family, with a show or a book or something of that nature. By that point, we are all so exhausted that…well the day is over, and we are left wondering…what happened. 

All of these little things tie into our basic way of life in the US. I’m not saying this is wrong, in fact there are some benefits to it, the ability to just run to the grocery store whenever, not have to worry about stores closing or anything like that, it’s just a different way of life to Europe. 

This is not the case in Germany. 

In Germany the number one emphasis is quality of life. The quality of your social experience. What you are doing, rather than what you have. The value is placed on who you are, how you spend your time, where you go, rather than anything else. It’s a society that thrives on the connection with people, everything from dining out to traveling to pumping gas is all about person-to-person connection. It’s not infrequent to go out to eat dinner and be at your table for 2-3 hours, for the wait staff to not bother you or you having to flag them down when you need something. There is no such thing as pay at the pump, you take a ticket into the gas station where you are greeted with fresh baked goodies (like a full bakery) and a wide variety of snacks and magazines to choose from before paying for gas. Every interaction comes with a smile and a conversation, rather than a brush off and rush out. 

In the smaller towns/communities, you’ll find smaller neighborhood style grocery stores that stock fresh, in season, regionally produced fruit and veggies. When you are looking at meat departments, it’s all fresh (seriously fresh), locally sourced, and the common ground meat is a cow/pig combination. It’s so fresh, that often times in malls you can walk right to a butcher shop in the mall and select your cow meat that’s hanging in the back, clear glass view, cold area. It’s an experience for sure, but a great one to have. Basically, you can always expect to have locally sourced, fresh food options. Even the frozen sections tend to be somewhat local and fresh, rather than the processed options we are all used to in The States. 

Another thing that is different is often times, German’s will buy less, but better quality. Sure, you have big box stores in every city, but you’ll often find many more boutiques with better offerings and more unique/cooler designs. This is because the Germans tend to value quality of quantity. They don’t need the next greatest thing because what they bought previous has lasted quite a long time already. Consumerism isn’t as much of a “thing” over there as it is here in The States. 

Another difference is that life is largely lived outdoors. In Germany there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothes (seriously- this is very much a thing). On any given day, in any given weather, you will see people outside. They’ll be hiking, riding bikes, rowing, enjoying what the earth and nature has to offer. I don’t think that there has been a time where I haven’t seen people outside and being active. There are parks for kids everywhere, and these are sturdy, use in any weather jungle gyms. And when the weather turns even the slightest bit sunny, EVERYONE heads outside, from the youngest babies to the oldest citizens, you’ll find them soaking up that sunshine. 

Finally, in Germany their work/life balance is vastly different. Maternity leave is much more a thing in Europe already than it is in The United States, but in Germany you have much more vacation time, longer lunches, and an overall healthier boundary between work and life. I feel like there are some things in this area in particular that The States can learn from. There aren’t nearly as many “workaholic” types of situations and there is annual paid vacation time and such. Much more than what is offered in The States. 

More than anything else, I miss that the value is placed on your quality of life, rather than the quantity of your life. 

A couple fun little differences for you to end this post on a happier note; there is no central air in the majority of the houses. That means no AC. Heat is by radiator system and throughout the year you have to open the windows several times a day for certain lengths of time to air out the house. I’ve already said it, but pay at the pump is not a thing there, you take a ticket (or remember your pump number) and head into the station to pay. Most places are cash heavy and do not take card (including those fun markets), so don’t leave the house without it! Most stores close by dinnertime (unless you’re in a bigger city) and, everything, short of churches and some restaurants, closes on Sunday. You have to plan to have everything you need before Saturday or you’ll be waiting till Monday. Since restaurants may in fact open on Sundays, they are typically closed on Monday or Monday and Tuesday. In terms of eating out at restaurants, Water costs money (there is no such thing as “tap” or “table” water, you will buy bottles if you ask for Wasser at a restaurant) and most of the water is actually sparkling- you have to be specific if you want flat water. In addition to water, more often than not, ordering alcohol will be the cheapest drink option.

Obviously the history of Germany (and of Europe) is much older and more vast than America, so you are able to see castles and towns that pre date the beginnings of our own country. Travel is also…different than it is stateside. Obviously you can country hop all throughout Europe (in a non Covid world), but there also different modes of getting to places (you can choose car, train, or plane).

I think that basically covers most of the differences I noted between Germany and America. Truth be told, it just boils down to way of life and if you’re open to how they live, then you can adjust really fast. If you have any questions, or anything to add, just let me know!

Linderhof Palace

We went to Linderhof Palace as part of our weekend in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen region (HERE) and it has to be close to one of my favorite castles. Ornate, ostentatious, and only meant to be used for personal residence, this palace was nowhere near what I expected and yet exactly what I expected. 

A quick note- photography was not allowed inside the castle itself (as with many of the castles in our region). I will do my best to describe the rooms in detail, but you are also able to look at the Linderhof Palace website HERE and see for yourself. 

Linderhof Palace was commissioned by Ludwig II, who seemed to want to rebuild everything he could and commission as many monuments as he could during his short reign. Ludwig II was crowned in 1864, and started his first plans for Linderhof in 1868 (after already redesigning his Munich Residence AND laying the foundation stone for Neuschwanstein). Linderhof was originally a forester’s house used by Maximilian II (Ludwig’s father) as a hunting lodge. In 1874 it was completely torn down and moved about 200 meters for its final spot. The final building was completed in 1886, with a final phase of rebuilding his bedroom (which we will get into in a minute). Linderhof is the smallest of the three palaces he commissioned, but the only one he saw completed in his lifetime. 

Ludwig II was a bit obsessed with the French Monarchy and the ideals presented. He loved what he saw of Versailles and tried to channel a lot of both Versailles, and the French monarchies rooms within Linderhof. You can see these influences in the gold adornments covering the walls, and the tapestries and paintings throughout the interior. There are also paintings of various members of the French Monarchy, such as Louis CV, Marie Antoinette, and others.

There are a total of 4 rooms within the palace (again- it was intended as a private residence), each more over the top than the previous. The ones that stood out to me the most were the Hall of Mirrors, which was used as a living room of sorts. It is said that Ludwig II would sleep during the day and be up at night, and the mirrors combined with candles would create an illusion of a never-ending room. The Bedchamber was another that stood out to me, mostly because of it’s incredibly over the top nature. Ludwig II pulled on his inspiration and admiration of Louis XIV when designing this room. He was fascinated by how the French King would hold morning audiences in his bedchamber as he got ready for the day. While this was a private residence, and there would not be much business or visitors at Linderhof, Ludwig II still wanted to create this grand appearance. The bed itself is massive and a beautiful blue coloring, but is positioned in a way that idolizes Ludwig II (had you happen to see him there in his life). The entire room boasts of glass, porcelain, and gold. 

Though it appeared that most rooms were coated in gold, there actually was not a lot of gold used. If you had melted down all of the gold in the palace, it would have only yielded under 10kg of gold. It was more so for the sake of appearing wealthy than of actually being wealthy (although the cost of the palace was still a hefty 8 million marks). 

The grounds of Linderhof are equally stunning. Set almost right into the Bavarian Alps, you can’t help but feel as if you are in a secret oasis, with only the mountains around you. In front of the entrance to the Palace is a large pool with a 25-meter-high fountain. Continuing on there are three terrace gardens that lead up to a temple. Behind the palace is a cascading water display topped by a small music pavilion. There are also several other features to see, including a grotto, the Morocco House, and the Hunding’s Hut. 

The combination of the grounds and the palace give a very overwhelming effect. Here lived a king. And he did. He found himself staying at Linderhof for a couple weeks a month.  Overall, this is a must see spot, especially if you like secluded mountain oasis spots. 

Adjusting to America

We’ve been back in America for about 6 weeks and I can firmly say that we’ve adjusted about as much as we are going to. We’ve had a couple of moments of culture shock, but by and large it seems like just stepping back into a life that we could only just barely remember. I wanted this post to kind of serve as just a highlight of some of the things that we’ve noticed or dealt with since moving back from Germany. Some of it is personal observations, some of it is going to be Covid-19 related (as that’s what we are currently in the middle of), some of it is going to be random. 

I will say, I do have a whole separate post in the works about some of the big differences between the two countries, so drop by for that one when it comes out in a few weeks. 

One of the biggest things to adjust to in coming back to the US is just the convenience of it all. You don’t have to worry about hitting the stores before they close, or reaching out to friends/neighbors on that inevitable time that you run out of something and the stores are closed. There is NOTHING wrong with this (in some ways I like how it fosters a community), but it is nice to just be able to get what you need exactly when you need it. 

Another aspect of convenience is in terms of big box stores. It’s nice when you are able to do all of your shopping in one store, rather than making lots of little purchases at a variety of different stores. That is actually something I missed in some ways (although I didn’t miss picking up random things that were not needed simply because I walked past them thinking “oh well we will need that at some point” or “oh that’s cute”). 

In strict relationship to Covid-19, it’s been really nice not to have to schedule an appointment or worry if a store is open due to restrictions, we can just run over to whatever store and do what we need to. Of course, masks are required, not much of a difference there, but the fact that stores are even open is a new thing. Not commenting on the merit of that, just on what we experienced. 

In terms of reverse culture shock, I once again experienced culture shock in going to the grocery store. For some reason going to Walmart or Target didn’t bother me (there are big box stores in Germany that we did go to), but the grocery store was massive in comparison to my little neighborhood grocery. I walked up and down the aisles in shock trying to figure out what we needed and where to find it. It was an experience to say the least. 

One other thing, that is partly just being in a new place (in terms of NY specifically, it wasn’t so bad in KY where we’ve been before), but also partly different is just driving and getting gas. First up, getting gas in Germany involves going in to the station market to pay. It’s not a pay at the pump situation and often times, some gas stations will have their own cards that you can use to pay. Also, the speeds and driving rules are different enough in Germany that, coming back here and driving has been a little strange (and no- I’m not just talking about the Autobahn, just in a general sense). I didn’t feel it as much going over to Germany, but definitely did coming back. 

Otherwise, we’ve gotten to a point where I feel like we are feeling “normal”. I feel like there are benefits and drawbacks to each country, BUT, in all honesty, I would go back to Europe in not even a single heartbeat. 

Leaving Germany

January 17- I don’t really know how this post is going to go. I have no idea how to even begin, when to begin, how to process my feelings and then write them out, no ideas. So, I think I am going to treat it a bit like a diary of sorts. A dated registry of my feelings every so often (I’m thinking maybe two or three of these dated bits) as things happen or what not. I hope that this turns out ok and that it ends up being a good representation of this move. It could also end up being totally bad…if it is, then I’m sorry. My goal is to have a bit of a “part 1 on the road home-leaving” followed by a “part 2 on the road home-adjusting” that will be up in March. And if you’re reading this, then I’ve succeeded. Maybe. 

So, we are about a couple weeks out from our flight back to the US. Our home has been packed up, crated, and is slowly making its way to the shipping facility to be shipped back. It’s been a tense time between trying to corral two very curious, very active little boys, track what the movers are doing, handle schoolwork, and just keep sane. Getting your entire house packed up and emptied out slowly (this was done over two days) makes a move even more real. The second day we were all cooped up in our Master Bedroom and walking out to things being wrapped and then later to a completely empty living room was…a bit heartbreaking. 

I’ve spoken before about how much of a home and life we’ve made here in Germany. This is one of the first places in our moves that has felt…so much like home. We’ve made a little community for ourselves here and while we’ve known this move was coming since summer, this moving day kind of…came all too fast and all too final. Germany has taught us and given us so much. We’ve learned how to live a slower, less complicated life; how to be a bit more “go with the flow” (ok, ok, 2020 and Covid really taught us that); how to actual live life, rather than plod through it. We’ve seen history in ways we couldn’t imagine, been to places we’ve dreamed about, and we’ve been able to learn and grow as a family. We’ve made some incredible friends, a best friend who will forever be in my heart. I’ve found some new facets of myself and a little piece of our family’s heart will always remain here. 

And now, as we are about to start cleaning our house, making the last of our meals, and getting everything together for the last shipment of stuff consolidated, and really look at leaving, I’m getting that antsy anxious feeling. That feeling that says, “C’mon let’s just get on with it already”. The whole, just rip the Band-Aid off, feeling…except just break my heart instead. 

January 29 – Today was our move out day. Out of all the days that we have had to prepare and adjust to this move, today was the day that it decidedly felt real. We loaded the massive van we rented, did a final walk through ourselves (due to Covid) and then drove away. I had a tear or two (or a sob fest) as we drove the route towards base one final time. There was a finality to this. Previously, we could almost fool our brains into thinking that this wasn’t coming, wasn’t happening, that we were just doing things (don’t ask me to explain the psychology of it because I can’t). But driving away that final time, knowing we were done in that house, that we were properly leaving was hard. 

February 4 – Well, the road hasn’t been easy the past 48ish hours, but we are finally on a plane heading back to the USA. We were supposed to be on a plane 2 days ago, but due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, the planes were not coming or going, and we ended up in a hotel without our luggage for that period of time with all of our fellow travelers. Thankfully everyone’s spirits were high, the hotel did an exceptional job housing us all at the last minute (and feeding us, keeping us informed as the changes kept coming, etc.), and on the last day we had a bit of free time between our arrival at the terminal and our security time, so we could go purchase some clothes or anything else we might have needed at that point (we did have a grocery a short walk away, so simple things were able to be purchased on the first day). 

Needless to say, having this experience of leaving, changed my reaction to finally boarding the plane and now, writing this while in flight. I thought that I would have some tears, some sadness at leaving a place that had come so close to home for me, but instead I was filled with excitement at the thought of actually boarding the plane and heading home. I had said my farewells to everything and everyone in preparation for our Tuesday flight, and now, after all the delays, I just wanted to go. 

So, not the way I had thought I would end this post, but here we are. I think that this was a way for me to be “ok” with leaving Germany. Maybe “Germany”/A Higher Being/The Universe/Whatever you want to call it thought I needed a little push to leave and this was how that happened. I’m still feeling a bit emotional at leaving, but mostly what I feel is relief to be leaving this limbo that we’ve been in.

Auf Wiedersehen für jetzt Deutschland.  Wir werden dich vermissen und die Erinnerungen und Freundschaften schätzen, die wir geschlossen haben.  Bis zum nächsten Mal.

A Cuppa Cosy Reads – january & February 2021

Ah, the start of a new year. A fresh reading year full of new, endless possibilities. I’m combining two months into one as our January was manic and I wasn’t able to get the post up before we flew out of Germany, so instead of trying to put up a subpar post, I just decided to consolidate two months into one. I didn’t do as much reading as I intended, so ultimately it probably doesn’t matter much. 

Also, hi! It’s been a month since my last post and I am going to take a second to give a little hello. I took the month of February off, as it seems to be a good annual time to take a step back and just evaluate everything. This happened to also coincide with our move back to the USA. More to come on that experience, but this post is my way of getting back into my weekly blog posts. 

***I apologize for the lack of purchase links, March’s wrap up will be fully back to normal.***

So, let’s get into it. 

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 4 Stars Well, I just started off on a strange (for me) foot for 2021. I’m not a Sci-Fi girl, but I had heard that this book was great if you wanted a little bit more in depth than the movie and I can confirm that it is. The only part I didn’t enjoy was the portions devoted to Chaos Theory, but that’s mostly my own issue. Overall, if you liked the movie and want more, then give the book a shot. 

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers 4 Stars I LOVED this. This was so far out of my standard genre’s (seriously, the last time I picked up a space sci-fi was a few years ago now) and I’m so glad I read it. In this book we follow a rag tag crew of a spaceship as they are creating a “tunnel” to one of the farthest, most volatile planets. It is incredibly character driven, but not so much so that the story doesn’t move forward. There is an element of science and space exploration, but it’s not overpowering, you aren’t focusing constantly on the logistics of it all. Highly recommend this one as well. 

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker 5 Stars I LOVED this book. Wecker has a way of spinning a story similar to Carlos Ruiz Zafon or Madeline Miller. There is something about her words and her descriptors that just really spins this beautiful web for you to get stuck in. This was incredible, and not just because there was so much Jewish and Arabic/Middle Eastern mythology that I could see a lot of my own views in. 

A Close and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers 4 Stars Ah, I really enjoyed this second, companion novel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. In this companion novel we are following to side characters from the first book as they navigate some pretty big changes. It serves as a way of expanding this massive universe, learning about some more of the politics around different creatures. I don’t know if I loved this one AS MUCH as the first, but I really enjoyed expanding the world and learning about some of the other characters and their struggles. 

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi translated by Geoffrey Trousselot 4 Stars I feel conflicted about this read. On the one hand I enjoyed the concept and some of the stories really pulled at my heart, BUT I also felt like at times it was a bit slow to read. In this collection we are following a small coffee shop that, within rules, can transport its’ patrons back in time. 

Whiteout by Ken Follett 4 Stars A pandemic related thriller set in Scotland during a snow storm? Yes please! I actually really loved this one, but I do think that short, plot driven stories are not Ken Follett’s forte. Having read his Pillars trilogy, reading something short and more plot, rather than character, driven felt like putting on a pair of pants two sizes too small and the wrong cut. As much as I enjoyed it (and would recommend), it felt like he could have really taken these characters and ran with them.

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica translated by Sarah Moses  3 Stars This takes the spot of “most disturbing book” I’ve ever read. In Tender is the Flesh humans are living in a period after all animal consumption has been banned due to a disease pandemic. Animals are not able to be consumed, so humans have turned to their own for protein. It is not only disturbing in content (serious content warnings here), but also just in the fact of what humans are capable of when pushed. 

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer 4 Stars I enjoyed this concluding novel to the trilogy and felt like we had FINALLY reached some turning points that we were anxiously awaiting in the second book. On the whole, I really enjoyed the trilogy and would recommend it for a good in between the serious books trilogy to read. 

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson 3 Stars I have absolutely nothing to say about this book. Honestly, I’m trying to think of anything that stood out to me, but there’s nothing. It’s just a standard “high school girl goes missing, but is she really dead” story. I feel like there was some good commentary on civil issues, but overall, it wasn’t memorable. Obviously.

The Lost Shtetl by Max Gross 3 Stars This one was a tough one for me to read as I really wanted to love it. There aren’t a lot of “Jewish” stories out there that are not Holocaust related and this one just sounded so great. We are following a small Jewish town (called a Shtetl) in the heart of the Polish forest as they discover, through a series of small events, that the world has entered a modern era. In parts I loved this story and could picture a lot of what was happening (Eastern European Jew over here), but there was also a feeling of nothing truly happening. At least not in the manner that you would expect from a novel. This is very much a…town coming of age novel and while I enjoyed it, I also felt a bit let down in the same way. 

Tomie by Junj Ito translated by Naomi Kokubo NR In a massive shift from my normal, I decided to pick up a horror manga. I knew nothing about this going in, and overall enjoyed the entirety of this collection. The artwork was incredible and the storyline truly horrifying at times. 

The Deep by Alma Katsu 4 Stars I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this book from Alma Katsu. I think the Titanic is always a hard one to cover, but she did it in a way that brought a new touch. In The Deep we are following a group of characters that are traveling on the Titanic, but all have some form of connection to each other and to one major event. In a dual timeline, we are also following two Titanic survivors as they are once again reunited on the sister ship the Britannic. This was beautifully written, hauntingly enchanting, and a true feat. What I missed in her other novel, The Hunger, was brought to life in this novel to perfection. There were still some slower moments, but I just really loved the overall novel as a whole. 

I did DNF (Did Not Finish) a book in January, A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik. I don’t know if this was just when I read it or something different, but the 80 pages or so that I read were quite juvenile, jarringly written, and I found myself not caring. This would have been my third by her and while I enjoyed the other two (Uprooted and Spinning Silver) this was just not my cuppa. I also DNF’d The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon in February. I had such high hopes for this book and this series, but something about it just did not connect with me. 

And that’s it! All the books I’ve read in the first couple months of the year. Any stand outs? What about your reading?