Round the Kettle Ep. 24: Coronavirus and My Thoughts

Happy Sunday to all! How are things looking in your neck of the woods?

I mentioned on Social Media that we were supposed to have a little girls weekend this weekend in Prague that we were looking forward to for a few weeks. However, we have had travel restrictions placed on us both as a military family AND by the country that we were supposed to be visiting. So, I am now writing to you in the comfort of my comfiest clothes, in my office, with full plans to spend the weekend reading.

Now, before I get super far into this I want you to tell me, has Coronavirus stopped you from living your life? Have you experienced any changes? How is the panic in your area? What are YOU seeing in your community?

(In a weird way I’m actually very interested in the whole “feet on the ground” folks in their own communities’ outset on the virus. I find that it gives a much better view of what is going on than anything else.)

Here are my thoughts on Coronavirus. I’m concerned to an extent. I don’t want to spread it to my family, my friends, my larger community. There are enough unknowns, enough questions, that I understand the travel bans, the closure of places that aren’t able to be easily cleaned and sanitized (like Disneyland). The ability of this virus to spread is something to be concerned about, similar to how we get concerned about many other diseases and viruses. While I am not traveling, not within or outside of Germany, I see no problem of taking a trip into the city using appropriate caution (aka washing my hands a little more than normal, not touching my face, keeping my general distance from others- all things I would do normally). Something I’m not doing? Freaking out. Panic buying all the toilet paper (seriously- what the hell is the deal with this?!). Panic buying really anything beyond normal groceries. We have had a confirmed case in our little community and I got a direct understanding of how they are conducting checks and determining who is actually at risk of exposure when this happens.

I think that the right steps at this point to take are to just practice common sense. Something that we should have all been doing long before this anyways. Listen to the official statements put out by government entities, not what your friends/colleagues/the rumor mill are saying (unless those people are directly in the government system and can give factual information). If you are looking at a quarantine situation, then listen to that. And for crying out loud, if you are sick, even if just a common cold, stay home.

All of this is common sense, but for some reason we have all seemed to have forgotten it in the past few weeks. I think we are starting to fall into the media trap of hysteria to an extent. It is causing mis information, unnecessary panic (note – I said PANIC not concern, concern is certainly valid in this), and shortages of items across the board. Countries, states, and communities are doing what they feel is best for their own people and if you feel that there should be further steps taken for yourself and your family, then you are certainly able to take those steps.

One more thing, at a time like this, community becomes even more important. Help out others, your friends, your neighbors, the random stranger that you don’t know. As schools, businesses, and communities begin to close, we are all going to feel those affects. Offer to bring by groceries, water, help with meals, whatever. Support those who are going to be in need of it. The way that we get through this is by coming together and working through this as one. Let’s see this pull of us back together as a people.

As I’ve said, for us we are living life normally, minus our upcoming trips. I’m concerned (as I think would be normal in any case), but I’m not agonizing over it and hermitting in my home (any more than normal at least ha ha). We are also keeping up to date to our potential of exposure as we have had a case in our immediate area. We are tracking things appropriately, but I probably won’t be sharing too much on that end (at least as of this exact point) as I don’t want to unnecessarily spread misinformation or cause anymore panic.

Tell me, how are you feeling? How are you doing with Coronavirus? Have you seen any local impact for you? I definitely want to hear from others!

A Week in My Life – 2020

I did a “Week in our Life” post a little under a year ago when we were still somewhat fresh in Germany and still living in the hotel (HERE). A lot has changed since then, but some things have still stayed the same and I figured it would be fun to update on what our weeks look like. Since it’s wintertime still here, walks are pretty much nil, but if the weather is nice we will head down to our little town park or the boys will run around the back yard. Come summer I plan on taking full advantage of all the pools and parks there are here.

One of the biggest changes we have seen is our oldest, Colton, starting school. He goes to a preschool program within our Elementary school three days a week for a few hours, so that’s been a big change. We also have a house now, so I putz around the house quite a bit and we have a bit more of a social life (ha-ha) with playdates and such. Let’s just talk about what our week looks like.

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What does life look like when we aren’t castle or country hopping???

Mondays:

I kick off our week on Mondays and it is full of tidying, errands, and making sure our week gets off on the right foot. I start the morning off (after my morning routine, HERE) with a clean/fresh kitchen. Colton goes to school on Mondays in the middle of the day, so I take the time when he is gone to run to the grocery store and do any other small errands I may have. I am still trying to leave Monday’s relatively empty in terms of writing/computer work, so I’ll spend naptime either reading or doing any random chores I need to.

Tuesdays:

Tuesday is one of our busiest days of the week. It starts bright and early with playgroup for the boys (also known as Mom’s Social Hour while the kids run and play ha-ha), then Colton is off to school again for a few hours. While he is at school we will run over to the library, handle any on base errands that we may need to run. Then it’s back home for lunch, a living room and dining room tidy and an afternoon of writing.

Wednesdays:

Wednesdays are a bit slower, a kind of nice breathing point in the middle of the week. We only have playgroup in the morning, and then we spend a day at home. I start by handling a tidy of our master while the boys will play in the house or backyard. Naptime is spent writing for me and Colton does some of his learning activities (we do ABC Mouse and a couple workbooks).

Thursdays:

Thursday is spent with friends for the most part. I tidy up the boys room and organize their toys (again). We will host playdates, or I’ll have coffee with friends at the house while the boys play. Colton does go to school, so Andrew gets a little quiet time to help tidy (which he loves to do). My naptime tasks depend on the actual day. If I am having friends over for a coffee, I try to schedule that during naptime so we get some quiet time to talk without interruption, but if that is not the case, then I’ll spend my afternoon finishing up any computer tasks I haven’t completed yet as well as clearing out my inbox before the weekend.

Fridays:

Fridays are a mixed bag. Sometimes we will head to an indoor playground, have playdates for the kids, head into the city for a little walk around, it just depends on the day, how the kids are, and the weather. Often times I will do laundry on Fridays just to keep our weekends clear. Fridays may also be a travel day depending on if we have a long weekend. It may also just be a quiet day at home playing with their toys. I try to keep Friday open not only because of long weekends, but also because I think it’s essential and nice for the kids to have the downtime. Colton has especially needed it since starting school. I’ll do a quick tidy through of the office/library as well, usually first thing in the morning, and spend naptime reading.

Saturdays and Sundays:

Weekends are all about exploring and spending time together as a family.

And that’s pretty much all there is to my weeks. I know, I know, so exciting. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but each day ends up being quite full between the cleaning and the boys and then the writing/blogging keeps my brain functioning beyond the Toddler conversations. What’s your favorite part of the week?

Fasching 2020

Here in Bavaria (a state within Germany) they are highly religious. Every holiday is celebrated with the appropriate parameters and one of those celebrations is Fasching, or Carnival. We experienced our first Fasching parade last year, but we were still so new that I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it much. Now, a year later I feel a bit more comfortable. I may not know all the ins and outs, but I feel a little bit more of a connection with the culture and having seen two very different parades, feel like chatting about it. This will be similar to my “Bavarian Weekend” post, in which I talk about some of the traditions of the region that we live in.

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Fasching is also known as Carnival or Fastungnacht and refers to the time leading up to Lent. In much of Germany carnival season actually starts around Epiphany (January 6, also known as Three Kings Day) and continues through to the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Most parades and parties occur in February, with many being the weekend right before Ash Wednesday. Overall though, the days of carnival signify a party; a last shebang if you will before the seriousness of Lent.

Carnival occurs across Germany, as well as Switzerland, Italy, some areas of Austria, Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, but other countries have also adapted Carnival to their own traditions such as Latin America, and even New Orleans’ “Mardi Gras”. It didn’t really pick up much steam in regard to the United Kingdom or United States of America due to the history of Henry VIII moving away from the church and such. The history of Carnival (or of this style of celebration) can be traced back quite a ways, but the oldest mention is somewhere in the 13th century.

Basically, it is a chance to party and enjoy life, before repenting all the sins and it is very much enjoyed by all.

Last year we attended a small-town Fasching Parade which consisted mostly of very small floats being pulled by small tractors or by hand. All of the floats usually had some parody of local and international politics. All of the floats (whether about politics or not) all reflected what was trending in the world at the time of the parade or within the last year. For example, there was a cart referencing the Border Wall from last year. When attending a Fasching Parade or Event (they have balls and other parties as well), it is expected that you dress up. For the parade it is a chance to dress up in a costume of your favorite character and there is candy tossed for the kids, shots of alcohol for the adults.

So, last year’s small-town parade was a really nice introduction to the concept of carnival.

The kids got to experience the parade, load up on candy, and it wasn’t a “big production”. This year we went to a slightly bigger town (that is in fact closer to our house) and got a much bigger taste of what Fasching can actually be. We had so much fun getting swept away by the excitement of the crowd, the party atmosphere, and just the general feeling of “fun” that the Germans have when it comes to life.

At this year’s parade, we saw floats about Star Wars, Frozen, Vikings, Snow White, Coronavirus, and so much more. We collected an incredibly large amount of candy (that my kids will definitely take a year to eat), and I even got to have a shot.

The entire afternoon was set up as one big celebration and we definitely got a little swept away in the atmosphere. This year’s parade was exactly what we want when we look for these celebrations- not too small, but also not too big. There are much larger, much more well-known parades and parties that we could attend, but I like the small-town community feel of our neighboring larger towns. This is how I would recommend celebrating the Fasching or Carnival period. I say that, but I may have a larger plan for next year to attend one of the bigger ones in our area (bigger than this year), in order to experience what the larger one is like.

I don’t know if this post really went a direction that I intended it to, but I hope that you enjoyed learning a little bit more about Fasching and getting a little glimpse into some of the celebrations that we experience living here.

Life in Europe – 1 Year In

Where to even begin with this post?! I mean, seriously…where do I even start? It’s been a year. We’ve been here a year. Well technically it’ll be a year on Friday, but still…a whole year. It’s hard to wrap my mind around.

A year ago, we stepped on a flight leaving out of Baltimore (after a flight from KY to MD) and into, at the time, the unknown. 8 hours later (or something like that) we stepped off the plane on a whole new continent that we hadn’t been to before, in a new country, ready for a new adventure. And an adventure it has been.

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Our first 5 months here consisted of living in a hotel, traveling (A LOT), and trying to learn our way around the customs and traditions of Germany. Things like stores being closed on Sundays, paying for restrooms, paying for water at restaurants, the dinners out that last hours, and driving as fast as we “like” on the autobahn (which isn’t as true or fun as you would think) were all new to us. After 5 ½ months in a hotel apartment, we got a house. A spacious 3 bedroom + to make all our own (well except for no painting, no major construction, etc.). We spent the rest of the year “settling in”. A year later and I feel like we finally feel settled, feel a part of our little community, have good friends that we can count on, and have things figured out.

And traveling. We’ve traveled more in the past year than I think we have in the span of our lives. We’ve learned more history, more culture, more information in the past year than ever before. We’ve seen the not so good parts of history up close, seen the gorgeous scenery of several countries, and have had one incredible trip after another. This first year taught us, more than anything, how to adapt, how to go with the flow, how to work with what we have. And, as much as it may seem like an “on the go” lifestyle, we’ve really slowed down in a way. We’ve stopped and smelled the roses for lack of a better phrase. We’ve taken so much more time as a family, exposing not only ourselves, but our children to different ways of living. One of the most incredible things was my older son telling us, at 4 years old, about The Colosseum and what used to happen. At 4 years old.

We’ve traveled to 11 countries, visited 14 castles, we’ve seen more churches than I can even count, seen the Tulips in The Netherlands, the Tower of London, the Dachau Concentration Camps, the filming locations for The Sound of Music, The Pantheon and Ancient Rome, and so, so much more. We’ve been to Oktoberfest, a whopping 7 cities (some of which had multiple within the city) Christmas Markets, and numerous cultural festivals and events. We’ve really tried to be involved and be a part of the culture in Germany. To celebrate with them, mourn with them, understand their history, culture, and what is important to them in life.

Even with all of that, we are still just living our life. We live our everyday lives. My husband goes to work in the morning, our oldest is starting school (just preschool, but still), both boys go to playgroup, I read and write every day, and we chat with friends over coffee or dinner. We just happen to be in Germany. I think this might be when I just get mind boggled the most. When I’m making that afternoon cup of tea or curling up in the evenings with my family. When I look at my backyard and it hits me…we are in Germany. This is when I count my blessings.

It’s hard to believe that we have our “home” days. That we aren’t always out adventuring, discovering new places, seeing more and more. I think that’s kind of the strange assumption that is made when you see someone who is able to move to a foreign country for a few years- that they are always going to be traveling. But that is just not the case for us. For us we have to have that down time. Not only do work and our boys make that a necessity, but it’s also just a quirk to us. We are homebodies by nature and so we usually need to have a little bit of home time in between all the travel, and it can’t just be a couple nights. Plus, there is adventure right in our backyard. There is so much to do and see right nearby us that it makes our home time weekends still full of fun.

This first year in Germany has been an adjustment, a whirlwind, an adventure. I can’t wait to see what the next two bring us.

Christmas Market Breakdown: Nuremberg 2019

IMG_2708Oh Nuremberg…a romantic (ish) city with quite the history, was there ever any doubt that the Christmas Market would be spectacular? I had heard several of things about this particular market (which we will get into as we go on in this post), the least of which was about just how popular the market is. We decided to visit the Nuremberg Christmas Market as a Girls Night. A train ride in (so no worries on the drinking front), a couple of drinks, a lot of shopping, and an overall good night was had by all.

 

 

 

 

To start with…The Basics

Nuremberg’s Christmas Market is one of the oldest markets in Germany’s history, dating back to the 16thCentury! It also has several traditions, including a post war prologue for the Christkind, the food and drink offered at the market, even the stalls are the old-fashioned striped roof stalls. The market itself is open from 11/29/2019-12/24/2019 from 10AM to 9PM. While we didn’t experience the crowds (we went on a Thursday night that had wacky weather all day), I would recommend getting there right when it opens if you are going with young children or a larger family.

Nuremberg Specifics

Basically, Nuremberg has one main market with a couple of smaller off shoot markets. The market is in their Old Town Square with Frauenkirche and the Rathaus as a backdrop and The Beautiful Fountain on the outskirts of the market. It’s very compact in this main square as there are around 165 stalls total in the main Christkindlmarkt. You can see how it could become very packed full of people very quickly, but we got incredibly lucky and didn’t have any crowd issues. We were able to take our time walking up and down the stalls and make our purchases.

There are two other immediate market offshoots and those are the Sister Cities Market (with 22 international stalls) and the Children’s Christmas Market. Walking up just a little further will get you to the Original Regional Market, and there is also the Craftsmen’s Courtyard, which is a little closer to the train station area. There is also the Feuerzangenbowle which is the largest punch bowl in the world.

Out of the offshoots, we peaked very briefly at the Children’s Market, which features a nice number of children’s rides and we walked through the Sister Cities Market.

I would highly recommend the Sister Cities Market, not only is it really cool to see and taste different offerings from around the world, it also provided a nice little dose of home with an Atlanta booth (as well as us questioning how the rest of the world sees the States). This little market was a highlight of our time there.

Of course, one of the highlights of any Christmas Markets you attend is the food and drink and Nuremberg was no exception to that. Nuremberg is known for its Nuremberg Sausage and the 3 in a bun or Nuremberger. IMG_6927This is exactly as it sounds, 3 of the Nuremberg sausages (which are about the size of your finger) in a bun. It is actually incredibly delicious and was a highlight of our evening. We also managed to snag some Apfel Glühwein and Hot Chocolate’s. One of my friend’s got Baileys in her Hot Chocolate and said it was delicious, so that is on my list to try (it was for Nuremberg, but I ended up passing at the last minute). We also got the world famous Lebkuchen, which is a gingerbread style cookie. In my absolute honest opinion of Lebkuchen…I would like it if it didn’t have this weird papery bottom to it. If it was just the standard cookie it would be delicious as it’s quite full of the spices and flavorings.

In terms of shopping, this particular trip was hit or miss despite what my purchases say. It’s one of the disappointments that can come with the larger markets, more mass-produced products, less individual crafted items. In the case of Nuremberg, I would say that each aisle had relatively the same products (displayed differently) with only a handful of local, unique items. I did do a bit of shopping picking up an incense smoker (which ended up having quite the story behind it!), a bookmark, a ring, and a smoker house for my little German Christmas Village. I also did manage to snag two of the Christmas Market Mugs.

I do want to touch on one item that you may want to purchase, an item that is unique to the Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt…the Prune People. These are little “people” made out of prunes and walnuts (I believe). They are only at this particular market and we only saw two or three stalls devoted to them. I’ve included pictures above so you can see what they look like, but did not end up purchasing one.

On the whole we had such a wonderful time at the Nuremberg Christkindlmarkt. It’s definitely a market that you need to get to early to avoid crowds, understand that there will be a lot of heavily commercialized items, and just have very few expectations outside of a good time. I would take the train if you can and avoid trying to find parking, and then walk from the main train station to be able to hit all the markets (which is easily do able in a day trip). At one end of the main market there is a stairway that leads to a restaurant, but also gives you a good vantage point over the top of the square. While it wasn’t my favorite of all the markets we’ve been to so far, it definitely ranks somewhere in the Top 5.

Christmas Market Breakdown: Prague 2019

Prague is such a beautiful city and the same goes for its Christmas Markets. In case you missed my post all about our weekend in Prague, you can find that HERE. Today I am going to be talking about the various Christmas Markets we went to within the city, the tips that I have for going to the markets, and the things you should buy at Christmas Markets. I’m still finding my way in writing these posts, so bear with me as I figure out how I want to structure them and such.

To Start With…The Basics

IMG_2078Christmas Markets are a great way to get in the Christmas Spirit, to try new foods/pastries, drinks, and other fun items. It’s a good option when shopping for Christmas Gifts and fun little keepsakes of your time in Europe. Each city has its own market and the bigger cities often have several different markets.

Prague holds several Christmas Markets throughout its town, but the two big ones are Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. There are several other notable markets, Republic Square, Havel’s Market, and Prague Castle, most of which you will either walk through our past if you are just attending Old Town Square and Wenceslas.

The Christmas Markets officially open right around the end of November and most will continue through the beginning of January. I’ll touch on the specific 2019 dates when I talk about each market that we attended. They are open all day and into the night, with all the lights really coming on at dusk (around 5pm or so).

Prague Specifics

I am going to touch on just general tips real quick, for parking you’ll want to either use Mr. Parkit (all over Czech Republic) or the Palladium Parking Garage (the big mall). This will give you access to the Republic Square Market and from there you can walk the entire line. You can also purchase a day transport ticket (24 hours) that will cover your bus, street car, and metro trips. It’s reasonably priced and a great option if you are not able to walk the trip.

I have listed out the markets below in the order that we visited them. I will include a final summary at the end of the post of the order I think you should go in (the one that fits best in my opinion). I’ll also include a bit on what we ate, what I bought, as well as what is worth spending money on (again, in my opinion).

Prague Castle Market:

This is a smaller market located within the walls of Prague Castle, this was the only market this year that actually had the nicer mugs. This is a smaller market, with more craftsman makings, but still just as lovely as some of the cities bigger offerings. This year the Prague Castle Market opened up November 23, 2019 and runs until January 6, 2020 and it opens around 9AM everyday (closing at 7PM). I highly recommend just including this as part of your Prague Castle trip as it is a beautiful smaller market. It was one of our top favorite markets from Prague this year.

Republic Square Market:

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This is the first market we went to on our walking Prague/Christmas Market day. This is a smaller, but still just as good, market right outside the Palladium Mall Area. It’s a nice little start and introduction to the Prageu Christmas Markets. It’s a good start as it’s not big or overwhelming. There are plenty of stands to have a browse in before heading to the other markets. This particular market differs in dates as it is only open 11/25/2019-12/24/2019, it also opens at 10AM, but closes early at 7PM.

The Old Town Square Market:

One of the most popular markets within Prague, this is also one of the busiest markets. Nestled right in the heart of Old Town Square, the tree at the center (with the church as a backdrop) this definitely is a beautiful market. I would even go as far to say that this market is the heart of the Prague Christmas Markets. This is the main event and we got to not only check out the market early in the day (therefore beating the bulk of the crowds), but we also go to watch the Official Opening and Lighting of the Christmas Tree. I’ll be honest- it was magical. The Old Town Square Market runs from 11/30/2019-1/6/2020 and opens at 10AM. This is another market that we loved, although I would recommend visiting it earlier in the day as it will get crowded.

Havel’s Market:

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This was probably one of my favorite markets as it is a market set up all year round, with Christmas time leading to more of the Christmas Stalls. It is just a row of shops in the street (that is a walking street), which makes for easy set up and browsing for shoppers. This one has the most artwork and crafts stalls that I saw (with Prague Castle being a close second to that) and we found some really good bits at this market.

 

 

 

 

 

Wenceslas Square:

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This was the final Christmas Market we went to in Prague and it was probably my least favorite of the bunch. I don’t know what it has been like in past years, but this year it was heavily focused on food shops, which was good for us as it was lunchtime, BUT it’s not what I would have wanted at any other time. The booths here that did not offer food or drink were almost nonexistent, shoved to the very end of the row. So, good for a little food break, but definitely missable in the grand scheme. This market is again, open 11/30/2019-1/6/2020 and open at 10AM.

So, my overall thoughts are that Prague at Christmas is magical. Christmas Markets have an air of magic and with the backdrop of Prague it’s amplified. In my opinion, if you are just taking a day to wander the markets, I would start at Prague Castle. This is a market that won’t take you long to walk through and you’ll get to wander the castle. It really sets the magical mood. From there I would hop a bus or street car over to Republic Square. From there you can walk through the Prasna Brana down to Old Town Square and Havel’s Market. You can choose whether or not you would like to go to Wenceslas Square, but I personally wouldn’t.

These markets are definitely doable in one day, especially with a dinner at the end of it if needed.

At the markets we ate Trdelniks, which is the most delicious pastry, a Chocolate Waffle on a Stick, also delicious, but messy so bear that in mind, and chicken shishkibobs. I didn’t end up getting any drinks beyond some tea, but I would always recommend trying out either the glühwein or hot chocolate with rum. Each market has it’s own twist on what they will taste like, so don’t entirely judge the drinks off of just one try. There are also different flavorings for glühwein and the like!

In terms of what we bought this time around, I just picked up a little resin village house for my Christmas Village collection (I am going to collect these as we go along in time here). I also did pick up a mug, but not one from the Christmas Market. It is my plan to collect Christmas Market mugs, but I missed out on getting the mug that I wanted. Lesson learned for future Market trips!

And that is my Christmas Market Breakdown for Prague. I hope that you enjoyed, got some tips, or just followed the Christmas Magic through our eyes. Please let me know if you like this formatting or if there are more things you want to/would rather hear more about.