Friday Morning Cups – On the Capital

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I haven’t done a Friday Morning Cups post in a LONG time. They used to be posts I would put up every once in a while about posts that I shared on Social Media, but either want to go into more detail, or really just feel like need to share a space on my blog. Late 2019/early 2020 I started using my voice in a different way both in my own life, on my social media, and on my blog. It’s now come full circle and I’m very proud of that.

I feel like this post needed to a)be shared in it’s entirety, with my full, unfiltered, un whittled down thoughts as they came out of my brain, and b)needed it’s space on my blog. This is not something I prepped or analyzed over for a long time, rather a incredible need to continue to voice my thoughts and opinions (as I did over the summer, as I did about the pandemic, and as I continue to do in the future). I am continuing to learn, to talk, to listen in the hopes to continue to do better and create a better future for our families and our children.

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I have this picture of Colton and I at The Capital ~4 1/2 years ago. We were able to go on a special tour (thanks to my in-laws for arranging it) while we lived in the DC/NoVa area. I remember staring out the balcony thinking…wow. Feeling a certain moment is feeling at standing at this historical place. A place that has withstood so much. Not knowing what the coming years would bring. And yet…that’s not entirely true is it? 

Any one of us that says “I never thought this would happen” (myself included to an extent because I did not see to this extent…to see the capital willfully broached and the security to be so lapsed- especially as someone who went through stringent security checks and barriers for a tour) has spent the last 4 years willfully ignoring or, perhaps even worse, downplaying what parts of our country have been saying. 

We will never be able to change, to move forward, until we can start to ACTIVELY LISTEN. And no, I’m not saying that hate speech should just be allowed to be spewed or given a platform (hell now), but we can’t ignore or downplay what is happening and what people are saying. What happened yesterday (and I’m specifically referencing the violence on the Capital steps, the breach of the Capital building, and the violence that then continued to ensue) is a build up of the last 4 years. 

Any one of us that says “This is not America” (again- myself included as up until late 2019/all of 2020 I had the privilege of not being exposed to this level of anger and hatred) has not been listening, has willfully been ignoring, or downplaying those that have quite clearly voiced their intents/thoughts. While this may not be America as a whole, this is most definitely a PART of America and we need to recognize that. 

And don’t get me started on the hypocrisy, that conversation is happening, it’s loud, and it’s very clear. If you can continue to ignore the very real privilege and double standard, I…don’t have the words right now. BUT, let’s not minimize the very real quote that a SITTING CONGRESSWOMAN, who was ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE, to do the “work” that needs to be done said 

“ Hitler was right on one thing” (the full quote and her “explanation” is on the next slide). 

Let that sink in. Just sit with that for a minute too. 

And then…AND THEN to see someone wearing a sweatshirt that says “Camp Auschwitz”. Let that sink in too. 

And if I may go off on a tangent for a second here…I have heard SO MANY offhand anti-Semitic/Hitler/Holocaust comments lately. And it’s not because I’m paying more attention. It’s because it has shared more and more and more. Note that. Just make a not of that. 

I would like (and wish of how I wish) that this would be a wake up call for our country, but sadly it, like so much of our recent history, will more than likely not serve as that wake up call. 

2021 – Word of the Year, Intentions, And Other Notes

Man, what a year 2020 was. If 2020 taught me only one thing, it would be that sometimes our goals/resolutions/intentions/whatever fly out the window in the face of drastic changes. I set out for a year of growth, of travel, of living life and was greeted with a year of learning how to be still, how to be at home, how to teach and adapt to the never-ending changes. I was greeted with the travel that meant doing everything last minute just in case things changed, of booking only nonrefundable and saying no to some things instead of yet. 

So, what does that mean as we go into 2021? It means I don’t really have any goals/intentions/resolutions/whatever else. This year I want to really focus on two things…establishing “home” and everything that entails and allowing things to come and go as they may. One thing I’m good at, one thing I’m not so good at. 

2021 starts off with a massive shift for us as we move back to the USA. I’ve talked about this, I feel like, ad nauseum, but in reality, probably not. This is not a move that I was super excited about, but it’s one that I am approaching with wary positivity. I am choosing to look at it as simply another adventure in our life, another page of our book, and that helps with the sadness of leaving (don’t worry- a whole post just about leaving Germany is coming where I sort through all the feelings). I feel like with that comes a period of uncertainty. What will life in New York look like? What will our home look like? What will our day to day look like? My husband is going into a new phase of his career and so his schedule will change (somewhat drastically), our older son will be starting Kindergarten in the fall (whatever that will look like), and my youngest will be doing a preschool program in our home (with me- so that will be fun). And of course, all of this is among the global pandemic that is still on going, which simply throws another wrench into everything. 

I want to try and get settled and really get that “home” feeling as soon as we get our home. I want to get back into a bit of a daily routine (as that has really fallen off as 2020 has come closer and closer to an end). I want to get back into daily yoga and walks. I want to feel a bit more…not in the funk that was the second half of this past year. I think that is the best first step to setting up the rest of the year for success. So, that is one of my primary things I am focusing on for 2021. That’s the thing that I am good at. Home. Community. Settled. 

I want to be better at allowing things/trips/places/whatever to come and go as they do. This year showed me that I CAN go with the flow and just up and travel with very little time to plan. I want to be open to doing more of that. One of my biggest pet peeves about myself is how…plan/routine I can be. But in 2020 I kind of just had to throw it all out the window (every single trip we took was planned at a max of 4 days prior to departure). I want to continue that “momentum” into 2021 as it looks like that is going to continue to be a situation. 

With all of that being said, I don’t have a word for the year 2021 yet. I usually always do the whole “one word 365” thing every year (the past two years have been adventure) because I love the idea of not having resolutions for each year (because oof let’s talk about setting yourself up for failure in so many different ways), but instead this one word that you want to shape how your year shakes out. Normally this is fairly easy for me to pick, I haven’t settled on a word for 2021 yet. There are a fair number of things that I want out of this year, things that are different enough and to put all of that in to one word is a bit difficult. I combed and combed through words, writing down anything that resonated, even a little bit for me. And then it hit me. One of the things that I really want to hold on to, something I learned while being here in Europe, was how to LIVE. Again, I’ll talk about this in my leaving Germany post, but I really learned about what it feels like/looks like to live your life, rather than plod through it and that is something that I want to hold on to and remember as we turn the page on this chapter. So, my word for 2021 is LIVE or the hebrew of Chai (life).

So, there we go, a whole bunch of my rambly thoughts for 2021. Let me know what your plans are for 2021 (if you have any!) 

2020 – A Year in Review

2020. What a year. Where do I even begin?

We all know the big moments of 2020. The Pandemic. The Murders, Uprise, and Unrest (I really hate calling it that though- this is simple human rights). The Election. The unprecedented highs and lows that this year has brought have been like we haven’t seen. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of tired of talking about them. I feel like so much of our lives this year have been focused so heavily on these few moments, which while are drastic and life altering, are not the entire story of our year. They have shaped the year, shaped our experiences, shaped how we cope and handle things, but there are also a million other smaller moments that are overlooked as well. So, I’m going to focus on those little moments. Sure, I’ll cover the things that I have learned about myself, the things that have been shaped by those bigger things, but there not the sole focus of this post. 

Gosh, so a year in review…

Well, our year started by getting blessed by the Pope at St. Peter’s square and then visiting the Great Roman Synagogue. A good start, no? We started our year off in Rome, which was a place that I hadn’t expected to fall in love with as much as I did (you can read my blog posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE). If there is one place in our travels that I would say, “I thought I would love it, but I didn’t know how much I would love it”, Rome and Italy would be one of those places. The other? Switzerland. BUT, when it comes to Switzerland, I think that could be said for anyone. More on that in a minute. However, Rome wasn’t our only destination in the year 2020. We managed to squeeze in several trips this year due to a lessening of restrictions and safe traveling. We managed to hit a total of 5  additional countries, France (PARIS 1, PARIS 2, MONT SAINT MICHEL, NORMANDY), Luxembourg (HERE), Belgium (BRUSSELS), Switzerland (INTERLAKEN/LAUTERBRUNNEN), and Poland (KRAKOW, AUSCHWITZ). With Switzerland topping all of the lists. There really are no words on the beauty of that area of the world. It is beyond worth the trip and I think everyone should experience it. 

Our year abruptly changed/came to a halt when we got the surprising news that we would be moving back to the United States quite a bit sooner than expected…a whole year sooner! We initially got the news about mid-summer, then finalized the information late Autumn, and determined that our next spot would be in New York. I talked about it briefly in my announcement post (HERE) and I’m sure I will be talking about it once again here soon as our move date approaches. I’m still fairly heartbroken about moving back, but I am trying to stay positive and see the positives (because there are some positives to this).

Once again, our boys have grown…A LOT. I think this year, more than ever, I have keenly felt the passage of time and what things look like with these two proper, independent kids. Colton started preschool (and then promptly stopped…only to start up again virtually and then finally start the new school year in school…only to go back to virtual right before Christmas break hahaha). When I say he is a completely different child from last year, I mean he is a completely different child. His progress reports have shown drastic improvement as he surpasses the goals initially set out. He’s quite the little boy. Andrew has changed quite a bit too…gone is my little angelic little boy who would occasionally get a super serious contemplative expression. He’s been replaced with a temperamental 3-year-old that loves to exploit the rules and then give you a winning sly grin to get out of trouble. He keeps me on my toes between the troublemaker antics and the never-ending stomach room ha-ha. Together they either love or hate and they definitely make life interesting. 

But, watching how much they’ve changed, how much they’ve grown, has been bittersweet. As any parent will tell you, there is a certain sadness when your children start to grow. This year has definitely brought a level of independence for our boys (they can do SO MUCH MORE without us needing to help), which in so many ways has been nice, it has me savoring the moments where they want to snuggle up on the couch or need mommy to kiss something better. 

This year hasn’t been all sunshine and daisies and rainbows. There have been low points as well. We’ve faced a global pandemic that had us here in Germany stuck in our homes. At the height of Spring, we were not allowed to leave our homes save for grocery shopping (and this was JUST groceries, any stores that sold both groceries and home goods, you could only purchase groceries), doctors’ appointments, exercise (to be done by yourself), and for essential work. No seeing friends, seeing family, popping to wander through the aisles of a store, we were all stuck at home. While this had positives, there were also negatives. This was also a time when I learned a…not so pleasant tidbit about myself (which then led to one of my lows of the year).

I love my family. I’ve loved having extra time with my husband, for us all to be together and really soak up the extra minutes we get together. BUT I don’t like noise. I don’t like constant, loud, noise. I.E. The noise that comes when your entire rambunctious family is home with loads of energy and nothing really to do to kill off that energy (sometimes even our long walks did nothing to curb it). The kind of noise that you can’t really escape from, that only ends when everyone goes to bed and you are left alone, exhausted and trying to savor the quiet while also wanting to sleep. The kind of noise that just wears on you, day after day after day. The kind of noise that, as an introvert, I HAVE to break away from just to recharge. So, that was fun to learn…NOT. I spent quite a bit of quarantine trying to figure out how to adjust my own expectations and needs with what the situation presented, so that I could be the positive, more even keeled person. It was a time and while I don’t have the entire thing figured out (I’m mostly still dragging little moments out until I can get to the next one), I do feel a bit better than I did at the beginning. 

Another low point was the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so, so many others that all deserved to have their names spoken over and over and over again. Not to mention justice. This summer was eye opening in so many ways on a civil level and one that I am making sure I continue to learn and educate myself as we move away from the initial “push” of the unrest. There was also an alarming amount of anti-Semitism that popped up in 2020 as well, which is…scary. To be honest, the sheer level of hatred in our country, in our world, is scary. 

In all honesty, I am glad to wave 2020 farewell. It’s been a year of highs and lows and draining. While I don’t think we are going to wake up in 2021 and everything will magically be good, I am kind of looking forward to a new year. To another fresh start. 

Christmas Eve Boxes 2020

I don’t know when this became a tradition to share our Christmas Eve Boxes, but here we are for I think the third year of talking about this favorite tradition. I am actually kind of glad to be doing this because it’s fun to see what the boys have loved over the past years (as this is a pretty good reflection in terms of books and little trinkets). Since I don’t share our actual Christmas/Hannukah gifts or our plans online, it’s a good little way to look back. You can see the 2018 and 2019 boxes by clicking on those years if you’d like, but this years was a bit of a struggle. 

So, every Christmas Eve when the sun sets the boys get a little box of goodies. Every year it contains the following items: New Christmas Pajamas, a Book, some chocolate/candy, and a little trinket of some sort. When I had originally started this, I figured I would switch up the little trinket in the boxes every year as the boys grew and interests changed. The first year I put a little stuffed animal in, the second year they got their first set of little mugs, but this year…this year I wasn’t sure. 

The boys have changed the toys that they play with this year, choosing the smaller things like Legos (the proper ones, not Duplo sets), matchbox cars, and trains. It’s helped with gift ideas, but it also makes that Christmas eve box a bit harder as the “little trinkets” are now more of a part of their actual gifts. I went back and forth for quite a long time on what to actually include in the boxes as the possibilities are endless, but also not so endless. 

Another change that changed things a bit was the fact that this year we are doing Advent Calendars (the boys got Lego one’s this year), Hannukah (with presents provided the first and last night), Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. That’s A LOT of gift giving and A LOT of new things. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, so I decided to put an item that I was going to gift for Christmas in their Eve Boxes, rather than find one more thing. 

Long story short (and if you’ve made it this far, cheers to you), the Christmas Eve boxes have…

  1. Christmas Pajamas. This adorable set comes from The Children’s Place and we have a pair for both boys and mom (dad is NOT interested ha-ha).
  2. Christmas Eve Books. Colton received a copy of The Polar Express, Andrew a copy of Dragon’s Merry Christmas, and I am going to be reading Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie.
  3. Large Stuffed Animals. This was something that Colton had actually started by asking for an R2-D2 for Christmas. He really wanted one and when asked if he wanted a hard toy one or a stuffed one, he picked stuffed. Andrew is getting a stuffed Triceratops (his favorite dinosaur at the moment).
  4. There will be a little chocolate bar in each for them to eat after dinner. 

Finally, as we do every year, we are going to snuggle up on Christmas Eve and watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Once the movie ends, we read our books and spend the night curled up with them.  

Thankful in 2020

I think if 2020 has taught us anything it is to take stock. To evaluate, look at our lives, and see what we do have, rather than what we don’t. This Thanksgiving is going to be incredibly different and difficult for some. The holidays bring a lot of emotion, both good and bad, and this year, with the pandemic, with shifts in a lot of the things that we would normally expect, it makes it that much harder on everyone. If we are being totally honest and realistic, this holiday season has the potential of being incredibly depressing. It doesn’t have to be, but it’s going to be tough, let’s not kid ourselves about that. And, I’m not saying that sharing a list of all the things that we are thankful for is going to magically solve all of our problems (spoiler alert- IT’S NOT), it may help us with our perspective and remind us of what is in fact important. 

So, here we go… What I’m thankful for in 2020…

I’m thankful for my little family. No one can put a smile on my face (or rip it off) like my boys and husband can. There have been a lot of times this year that they have completely lifted me into better spirits and a better mindset. Colton and Andrew have been incredible, growing and learning and showing us how to find joy in the smallest of discoveries. If ever I need a reminder of what life can be it’s through their eyes. Robert reminds me that we are not alone in this world. He has been my shining light, picking me up when I’m down, letting me breathe in our room when it’s a little too much, and being the most incredible dad and husband that I could ever dream of. I quite honestly, couldn’t imagine a life without him. 

I’m thankful for the friends that I’ve made here. I’m not one for having a big circle or knowing everyone in the community (although chances are I probably will by default), but rather cultivating a few close friends that remind me that quality is better than quantity. I’ve always been that kind of person (the person who has maybe 2 or 3 really close friends and then a long list of “acquaintances”), and living here in Germany has shown me that more than anywhere else. I’ve made one of the closest friends I’ve had in a while and I’ve found another who understands so much of what I’ve been through and some of the struggles that we experience. 

I’m thankful that we’ve been blessed to call this little village in Germany our home. For all the lessons we’ve learned living in a foreign country, seeing other countries, and learning the culture and history. I’m thankful for the experience of being pushed out of our “comfort zone” (though that’s probably debatable as to what our “comfort zone” really is) and, while it’s coming to a bittersweet end much sooner than we anticipated, it’s something I will forever cherish and be grateful for. 

I’m thankful for the travel that we have been able to do while living here in Germany (especially in this year 2020). We’ve been able to see so many places, so many different histories, cultures, and communities. The fact that we’ve been able to see and explore so much is a true blessing and something I don’t take for granted. 

I’m thankful for books, music, tea, and coffee. Hear me out. Books have been my single form of escapism this year. I haven’t been the biggest TV watcher in a long time and the only way I’ve really been able to get away from our real world has been through reading. I’ve read more books in 2020 than I’ve ever read (and that’s even with having a slower November than I expected) and I honestly think it has been such a big help. Music is another really important mood booster for me. I find that music really sets the tone and has such a powerful ability to adjust our mood and our day. And tea and coffee, because let’s be honest, we all are thankful for those these days. 

Finally, I’m thankful for you. For whoever takes time out of their day to follow along our journey, to read the posts, to engage with my content. You have no idea how nice it is to have comments and stories shared. This little blog is a passion hobby for me and something that I have really found meaning in over the past couple of years. It’s helped my mind, helped me keep my memories, and just been such a nice place to come to day in and day out. 

What are you thankful for this year?

A Cuppa Cosy Heads Back Stateside

Well, it’s come to an end. Or rather a new beginning has come. Glass half full, right?

I have put off writing this post for a long time. And then, when I finally sat down to write it, I went back and forth and re wrote things multiple times. You see, in an incredibly surprising turn of events (to us at least) we found out over the summer that we were only supposed to be in Germany for 2 years, rather than the 3 that we had planned on. To say we were shocked was an understatement. Shock quickly turned to disappointment and sadness at the thought of leaving the place that we have very quickly started to call home so soon. As we started to sort through all of the feelings we were experiencing (which were a lot and were exacerbated by being separated at the time) it became a situation where we needed to look forward to where we would be going next. 

It has taken some time to come to as much peace as I could to write this post and NOT come off in any other way than positive about this change. I’ll be honest, I cried a lot of tears about heading back The States. I’ve made it no secret how much I’ve loved living here in Germany. The benefits have far outweighed the hard moments (which there have been) and I’ve really learned a lot about life, about my little family, about friendship, and about myself being here. We’ve done and seen so much here, and while we celebrate everything that we’ve been able to see and experience, we also, in a way, mourn the closing of this chapter. 

I’m trying not to get to deep into my feelings or into all of the things (though my 2020 wrap up will have A LOT to say), but basically the gist is, in the first few months of 2021 we will be moving. Our new chapter is going to be in New York and we are excited to be in a small town in a beautiful area. There is a lot to celebrate, being able to see our families, shopping at target, eating Chipotle, and much more and we are trying to focus on all of the good that will be coming our way with this move, rather than the bittersweet feelings of saying goodbye to this incredible place. 

So, that’s my incredibly short life update for you. Probably one of the shortest posts I’ve written, but I honestly don’t have much to say about it. It’s one of those things that you process and then try not to continue to focus on as you try to stay positive. 

Autumn in Bavaria

I’m interrupting all of the travel content for this very special post…

Ok, maybe it’s not that special, but I wanted to do a post acknowledging two things:

1) This is my 300-blog post published to A Cuppa Cosy. 300 posts. While my content has bounced all over the place, it is still crazy to think that I have written and published 300 posts in this little corner of mine. And for my 300th post I wanted to focus on something I love, something that just kind of perfectly coincided with the timing of this post and everything else and that is…

2) Autumn. Specifically, Autumn in Bavaria. 

Autumn officially begins next week, but we’ve been officially welcoming it since September 1st (as we do every year) and I think this year, given everything, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the changing season a bit early. 

I’ve lived a fair amount of places that have had beautiful Autumnal Seasons, and a couple that don’t really get an Autumn at all, but it is my personal opinion that Bavaria just takes the cake (at this time, I’m sure in the coming years that may change, but I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the incredible season here). Between the weather, the festivals, the leaves, it just creates the best of the best of Autumn. 

Let’s start with the weather.

If you know me, you know that Autumn has always been my favorite season. I’m really kind of obsessed with the two transitional seasons- Spring and Autumn, but Autumn takes the cake. I’ve loved Autumn before it became the “basic girl” thing to love. Something about the heat fading away, the days slowly going shorter, the start of the school year, the crisper air moving in, and the leaves changing colors just made me feel so alive. And I know I’m not alone in that feeling.

I’m a massive rain fan and Autumn in Bavaria has its fair share of rainy days. This isn’t necessarily the hard rains of spring and summer storms, but rather that soft, sometimes mist like, rain that just peppers the ground and bounces gently off the roofs. The overcast nature of many of the Autumn days gives the perfect backdrop for the bright red and oranges that the leaves turn throughout the months before falling to a damp ground. The air starts to slowly turn crisp with the cool crisp air settling just in time for apple and pumpkin picking. Don’t worry though, it’s not always rainy and cool, there are those brilliant sunny days peppered throughout the 3 or so months that encompass the changing season. Those sunny days are full of life and joy and somehow…always happen on festival days. It’s a time where you may have to pack up the shorts, tanks, and summer dresses, but you can still wear t-shirts and such for a little bit longer. Same for sandals and boots, you get a great chance to wear both throughout the month of September. 

Let’s briefly talk leaves. 

I mentioned the fall colors, but something about the vibrance here in Bavaria makes a difference. Maybe it’s the rolling hills and alps that are just peppered with trees. Maybe it’s the balance of the “evergreen” trees and the changing leaves. Maybe it’s the fact that the sky has just always seemed a bit bluer and clearer in Bavaria. Whatever it is, the changing leaves are absolutely incredible here. You get a real range not only in color, but in timelines as well. It takes a full month to month and a half for the full process of changing colors and falling leaves and it is EVERYWHERE. You don’t have to drive far to get just the simple beauty of the season, you can walk right down the road. You don’t need to take any random country back roads or make a special trip (although you certainly can do that) in order to get the real pretty views. And you can get everything range of colors at any times, from the lighter green, to yellow, to the fiery reds, and brick oranges, all peppered against a brilliant blue sky or overcast gray. It’s truly incredible. 

Finally, let’s talk ambiance. 

Autumn is all about getting cozy. It’s about family, friends, changing weather, and the upcoming holiday season. It’s full of celebration and nobody does celebration better than Bavaria. Autumn, at times, almost feels like, after the grueling heat and harvest filled months of summer have ended and everything can take a deep breath again. Not only can you breathe, but you can celebrate, and Germany sure knows how to celebrate. 

***Obviously celebration will look drastically different this year due to Covid-19. I haven’t seen much about how some of the festivals that we attended last year will happen or not happen this year, but I am looking to see what I can find, and, in the meantime, I have linked a couple of posts from last year.***

The season kicks off with Almatrieb, which is a festival to celebrate the cattle (and sometimes sheep too) coming down from the mountains in anticipation of the colder weather. The cows are decorated with floral crowns, given massive bells, and then paraded on their route to pasture. It’s a massive party, which you can read about HERE. Everyone knows about Oktoberfest, the biggest party in Germany (which actually occurs in late September-usually ending the first week in October). We attended Munich’s Oktoberfest last year and had a blast (you can read that post HERE), but there are also a lot of smaller versions of Munich’s AND there are a multitude of other festivals throughout Autumn. One that I went to last year was Ertedankfest (you can read about that weekend HERE), which is a celebration of the harvest, complete with dried hops decorations. There are also the obvious, plentiful, markets in every town. 

Overall, Autumn in Bavaria is the perfect combination of sunny crisp days and grey rainy days, celebration of the changing season and getting cozy in our own homes. I don’t know that I’ve experienced the perfection of Autumn until I’ve been here. Maybe it’s just the changing season, the sentimental nature of who I am, or just the love I have for Bavaria, but I have truly found my happy spot of the year. 

Travel & Covid-19: My Experience

We recently got home from a trip to several different countries outside of our own (we currently live in Germany) and I figured I would share a little insight into OUR experience. Obviously this is all very new and things are constantly changing from location to location, but this is what I experienced and saw. 

This isn’t a debatable post, nor is it a place for opinions to be spewed one way or the other, I want to make that very clear. This is a place for those who may be traveling soon or want insight on what travel even looks like currently. Also, I don’t have the current accurate case numbers for Covid-19 and I wouldn’t share them if I did. These numbers and information changes daily and I would refer you to check the WHO, EU, or CDC websites for further details. Finally, I am going to give a very brief rundown of our situation. My husband is in the military and we are stationed here in Germany (I don’t talk about this much and wont moving forward very often, but need to address it for the sake of this post). We have our own restrictions set in place by nature of his job, above the European Union and Germany restrictions which do include where/how we travel currently. 

Another – shorter & quicker – note we traveled to Luxembourg, France, Belgium, and a smaller town in Germany. I would say we experienced everything from strict enforcement to relatively relaxed enforcement in terms of recommendations and Covid-19. I feel like we experienced enough to actually speak about not only what we did, but how we felt and what the experience was like. I’ll be sharing everything from masks, to shopping, to border crossings and finishing up with my thoughts. 

I’ll start by saying that masks are recommended across the board in Europe. In some countries they are required, but not all (for example in Brussels they were mostly recommended, but not required and in Luxembourg they were required inside at all times). In countries that require masks, they are required in any indoor situation (so a museum, church, store, etc.). They also recommend and ask that you have a mask in any outdoor setting where being able to be physically distant from others is not feasible. You are not required to wear a mask outside (unless that specific establishment ask that you do) and I found that most places that had outdoor exhibits chose to minimize the amount of people allowed in at one time over requiring a mask. One final mask note in regard to dining out. In the countries we went to, you wore your mask to enter the restaurant, go to the bathroom, and leave the restaurant. The wait staff wore masks through the entirety, but you were not required to wear one once you were seated at the table. 

Public transportation was something that I was the most intrigued about as it is what we use the most when we travel. We rely on a metro or bus system, so when figuring our trip out, this was what I wanted to know the most about. AND aside from a mask requirement and limited seating options (to ensure people from separate households minimize contact) everything seemed business as usual. The limited seating falls into this: if someone is sitting on a seat, the seat next to them (or in some cases behind- basically the seat touching them) should not be occupied by someone other than a member of their own household. Obviously they would prefer that you not get on a train that is already close to capacity (so don’t pack in like sardines), but there wasn’t any sort of force enforcing that. Public Transportation seemed very…”business as usual, but with masks”.

Everywhere we went, no matter mask requirement, you could count on markers (whether signs or tape on the floor) directing the flow of traffic as well as minimizing the amount of people in an establishment at one time. There is no disruption in any way to doing things this way. In fact, I somewhat prefer it. Most tourist locations know their sights the best and know the best way for visitors to get the most out of their visits. They have engineered the markers to take you along the best routes and allow you to get the most out of your visit. Marking the direction of traffic not only allows them to safely have people on the premises, but minimizes a lot of flow problems and allows you to end up seeing exactly what you want to see without a crowd of people or backtrackers. We didn’t run into any issues with making it into locations or museums due to the smaller group sizes, nor did our wait time to anything get too astronomical (except our last day at a suspension bridge). Honestly, I found it to be a bit more enjoyable. 

Since we are on the topic (kind of) of the smaller tour groups, I will say we didn’t see an overwhelming number of tourists, until we came back to Germany. Paris seemed almost empty (and in fact a few people that have been previous to Covid have said my pictures made it look almost like a ghost town) and most of the “tourists” we did run into were “within country” folks (people who are sticking within borders). I will say, it was a bittersweet addition to our trip. I know how important tourism can be, how many are suffering and dealing with Covid (in any way from actually being sick, to dealing with job cuts, to being higher risk for it), BUT I would be lying if I said that we didn’t enjoy being able to truly enjoy the various spots without all of the crowds. It was a unique experience. 

No matter what country you were in, whenever you entered an establishment there was a hand sanitizer station set up. These varied from just regular sanitizer bottles, to fancy foot pump bottles, to wipes (in only one or two locations). It was expected that when you walked in, you sanitized your hands (and our kid’s hands) and then again when you walked out. What varied the most with this from country to country was the guidelines of what to do after you touched something. This is a guideline I’m not even sure what or how I would advise, but we saw one location where they sanitized items right after you touched them, others would take them to the back (I’m guessing to wait out some time period), and some would do nothing at all (now some of this made sense depending on what it is that the store was selling), but otherwise shopping wasn’t very much interrupted. Most places had some form of clear material around their cash registers and I found stock wise things were good. 

A note on dining out in restaurants. We found that we didn’t need a reservation 90% of the time. Of course, you can make one to guarantee you have a table (as you would regularly), but it wasn’t required. We were able to walk into most restaurants and find a table to eat. Tables were placed at generous spacing and those in the middle would occasionally have those same clear barriers on either side of the table. As I already stated, masks were required until you were seated at your table. In the strictest location, restaurants had paper recyclable menus, but most had standard menus that would get sanitized after every use. Wait staff wear masks through their entire shift, but that is really the only “abnormality” (you could say). 

As far as crossing borders, we didn’t run into any issues. The European Union (and our little area) has open borders and at this time there aren’t any border checks for the countries we visited. Of course, you can always get randomly stopped and screened, but we didn’t actually experience that. We drove so I can’t speak to what planes or trains look like unfortunately. 

My Thoughts/Feelings

Honestly, I was a bit nervous going into this trip. I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what the right steps to do to prepare, how paranoid I should get, etc. Now that we’ve gone and done it I have no fears. Well that may not be entirely true, I am definitely still worried about Covid and everything involved with that, HOWEVER I didn’t feel…unsafe in that sense whatsoever. Basically, a lot of what you do (just in general with travel right now) is going to be what you’re comfortable with. We wore masks inside even if they weren’t required, because that is what felt right for us (for numerous reasons). We tried to stay physically distant as much as we were able to and only going into places that we really wanted to. I think once we got into the swing of things it became second nature quite quickly. It really wasn’t all that bad. 

So, that’s that! Do you have any questions that I didn’t cover or that you want a bit more information on? Let me know!

My Thoughts on: Travel and Covid-19

Let me be clear about what this post will not be, it will not be a debate on whether or not Covid-19 exists. It will not be a debate on mask wearing. It will not be a debate on what we should or should not be doing. There are guidelines in place and each person needs to decide what is best for them, their family, their community. What it will be is a {probably unnecessarily long winded} write up of my thoughts on travel right now with the ongoing pandemic. 

I also want to state that the information that I have, everything that I am referring to, is Europe or European Union information. I haven’t been in the states for a year and a half and while I am reading, watching, and monitoring I do not have all the up to date information or resources. The best place to start would be with the CDC and your local state website (or the state that you are wanting to travel to). 

It has begun. The world has started opening up its doors again, beckoning travelers with open arms (and discount rates) to come and visit. And, while each country is choosing their own dates to fully open (and then again for the attractions within each country), if you live in the European Union you are probably able to travel not only in your own country, but also to other EU countries. If you live in America, you are able to travel much more of your own country than you have in the most recent months, and likewise for other countries around the world. While the pandemic is far from over it seems like a good amount of people are ready to start seeing more again and that, combined with the lowering of case numbers (in most places), is giving a good amount of us travel plans for the summer. 

In fact, we have just gotten the initial approval to travel outside of Germany (Summer Holiday here we come!) and are planning to take complete advantage of that. Now that this travel is feasible, is in our hands, and we are planning it, I got to thinking about what travel will be like with this pandemic. 

It’s a vastly different time to be living in right now and while I still think travel is incredibly important, I recognize that not everyone will feel comfortable with traveling. There are options for this, a lot of locations and tour companies are offering virtual traveling (check out Through Eternity- they are great with a lot of the Rome and Italy in general locations), or you can follow along with various bloggers and youtubers, reliving their travels through old videos or blog posts (which is also a great way to support them). Not traveling has also given us all a chance to see what we value and what is important in our home and day to day life. It’s given our world (and I’m talking in an environmental sense) a chance to rest and recuperate for a little bit. We’ve seen a lot of good come out of this lockdown period. 

However, it seems like things are very rapidly changing in a way that we didn’t entirely expect. I’ll be honest, it seems like once the transmission rate lowered then everyone went a little wild. This is to be expected (I mean we have all been basically locked up in our homes for the better part of 3 months and some change), but it all moved rather quickly. It is also still changing hour by hour, day by day. Here in our part of Europe, I felt like it rather quickly moved from nothing to almost everything (still no large gatherings/festivals, sporting events, or nightclubs, but we can now do just about anything else) and then once most things opened up, the “world became our oyster” once again. 

And travel is important. It’s important for us as individuals living in this world and it’s important for countries who rely on tourists to boost their own economies. However, I also feel like it’s important to weigh out the different options we have, do the research on how to travel (should you choose to) in a safe manner, following all the guidelines set out, and make sure we are making an informed decision for ourselves. Travel will most definitely look different in each place from wearing masks, to longer lines and/or smaller crowds. Dining on vacation may look different as will a lot of tourist hotspots (such as theme parks or museums). It definitely won’t be travel that we are used to, which is something else to factor into your plans. 

For us, we’ve made the decision to go and travel. There are several factors at play with our choice, none of which I will be getting in to right now, but ultimately we will be heading out to travel this next month (and beyond). We have been following all of the recommended guidelines in terms of lockdown and quarantine, limited groups and interaction, physical distancing, mask wearing (which is a rule here), and have been closely monitoring the numbers and information that has been put out across the board. I’m not justifying our decision (because again- this is personal and individual to each person), BUT I am in a place where we feel that we can continue to follow the recommendations and do a bit of traveling at the same time. 

So, what will you choose? Are you going to start traveling or do you not want to?

It All Rests On The Challah

Another topic I never knew I would be posting about, but here we go! Before we go deep into this whole story, I want to start off by saying I’ve always considered myself more spiritual than religious and I think I have found a bit of a balance between the two at this point in my life. I also want to say, there has always been an aspect of me that has considered Judaism as part of my heritage, my makeup, part of just who I am and not so much has my religion. I think that too also applies to me today. 

I was raised in a reform (VERY reform) Jewish household. My Mother is Jewish, my Father is not religious. We attended services at our synagogue, which I was very active in for quite a lot of my childhood/early adolescence), we did Shabbat prayers at home every Friday night, we celebrated the high holidays, but also ate bacon as well as meat and cheese together. I had a Bat Mitzvah when I was 12 and slowly I started to slip away from the community. 

For quite a while I bounced back and forth between Judaism and Christianity, just wandering a little while. It wasn’t anything special and eventually I just kind of faded away from both, choosing to be spiritual, to pray, but not to follow anything specific religion wise. And that was ok! I was ok, things were great, all was well. 

Then a few things happened in short succession. I’m not a big believer in “signs” or what not, but I do kind of feel like things aligned a little bit to point me in the right direction. 

The first thing was visiting the Synagogue in Rome.

We stopped in the Great Synagogue of Rome and walked through both the museum and the Synagogue and there was something about being presented, front and center, with my heritage that just had me longing for some of it back. So many memories came flooding back, singing in temple, the Friday Night prayers and meal, Challah, the Torah, and the feeling of just having a bit of my “people” back. I don’t know if I realized how much I missed that until that moment. 

Shortly after we got back I started thinking about it a bit more, and then a bit more, and then a bit more. I did a little soul searching to understand what Judaism meant to me and what role I would want it to play in my life. I realized how disconnected I had become to that (even in the reform upbringing that I had). We aren’t a very religious family (in the sense that we don’t go to church, synagogue, follow any of the “rules” of organized religion). My husband is a Catholic and we just kind of blend in the fact of not really practicing anything to much of an extent. I should say- I don’t think that will change, we aren’t going to suddenly become church or synagogue goers, BUT I wanted to know for myself where that longing could fit back in. 

As I was thinking about all of this (I am a notorious over thinker), we experienced one of those things where you can’t help but take it as a “sign” of something. We experienced the most incredible rainbows over the span of a few days, and one night included a double rainbow.

It was one of those moments where the sky is still storming, but the rainbow just breaks through and BAM it just strikes you as an incredible moment. A true feat. I just knew it was a sign. Maybe not necessarily relating to my internal conversations, but a sign of something. 

So, in comes my Challah test. 

One of my favorite things about the Jewish Culture is the food and the meals that are had centering around the food. I LOVED every high holiday as we would gather with friends and family and feast over wonderful hand-crafted meals (until Passover that is). It was just such a warm time and full of fuzzy feelings. Now, I’m a bread lover and one of my favorite additions to the Jewish Meal is Challah. This sweet eggy bread is just…chef’s kiss and when I realized that making this bread was much easier than I originally thought I knew that I had to try and make it. 

My wonderful, irrational, mind turned my making Challah attempt from just a fun thing to try to a high stakes turning point of my internal debate. In my irrational mind, if this worked then that would seal the deal with my faith, heritage, and that part of myself. If it didn’t work, I was lost from that for good. Everything rested on my ability to make this Challah and make it right (aka exactly as I remembered it from my childhood). Really rational, huh?

I gave myself two attempts (because the first attempt was garbage – I had gotten everything but the consistency right – and I didn’t want to “fail myself” based on just that) and it was my second attempt that sealed it. 

*Warning- I’m going to toot my own horn now*

My second attempt at Challah was…incredible. Chef’s Kiss. Beautifully golden, hand crafted with love (and it shows) and tastes exactly like it should. It tasted like something that I had long forgotten, and I felt so…complete in making it. And I knew, that while I wouldn’t be running off to Synagogue tomorrow, that Judaism is still a massive part of who I am. 

Now, I know this all sounds kind of hokey and like I’m walking this fine line of lunacy, BUT I feel like sometimes we fall into that. Sometimes life just brings all of these different, random, moments together to remind us of parts of who we are. And being Jewish is a part of who I am.