Archives for October 2017

October 26, 2017 - 2 comments

The Six Books That Made Their Way Across the Ocean with Me

If you've known me for any number of years, you know that I am a reader. I always have been and I probably always will be! There are even photos of me as a toddler sitting at the foot of my bookshelf with the shelves bare and the books all around me - discarded on the floor after I'd finished reading them. My mom also tells a story about how once when I was (again) a toddler, she woke up in the middle of the night and came out into our living room to find me sitting on the couch, reading a book (and the book was upside down). Needless to say, books have always been a big part of my life. So, when I found myself packing up my worldly possessions to move across the ocean to Germany, I suddenly found myself looking at my entire bookshelf wondering how I could ever decide which books to bring with me. Between the tiny bit of space I had in David's luggage when he visited in June, and the three suitcases I brought with me, I only had about 150 lbs. of weight space (sounds like a lot, but when you're trying to bring your entire closet with you as well, it really isn't...). Eventually, I did decide on my books, and while I definitely will be bringing more with me at Christmas, these were the ones I brought first.

 

#1    The Book I Had Yet to Read

Clémentine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain
I picked this book off of the shelf at Half Price Books back last December, having every good intention of making it my Christmas holiday read, but, of course, it ended up on my bookshelf and was forgotten. Then, sometime in June while I was gathering items of mine for David to take back to Germany with him, I rediscovered the book and it somehow made its way into his suitcase, across the ocean and onto my bookshelf here! I originally bought it because I love reading travel memoirs and books about cooking, and this one was about both, so how could I not like it? But over the past two weeks as I’ve begun to read it now for the first time, I’m finding so many parallels between the main character of the book and where I am in my own life. The book follows the story of an American family - the Becks - who are expats living in a small country village in France. Their French (actually, she was Burgundian) cook - Clémentine - is their pride and joy and almost a part of the family. When the Becks are relocated back to the States due to the unsteady political climate of 1930s Europe, they are devastated at the thought of parting with Clémentine, until she decides to come with them and move with the family to the States. The book follows her as she adjusts to the very strange and foreign things she encounters in her first few months of living in the States - things like modern supermarkets, the English language and marshmallow creme. And it follows the Becks family as they resettle into life in a New England town, while still eating like they are in France! I find myself relating to Clémentine in a lot of ways - getting used to being constantly surrounded by a new language, navigating a way of life that is just a bit different from what I’m used to, exploring foreign grocery stores with all kinds of new foods but missing many things I’m used to having readily available… At least, unlike Clémentine, I’m not combing the grocery scene looking for things like veal and truffles! Anyways, this book really was a treasure of a find and I’m so glad I brought it with me. It’s nice to be reminded that I’m not the first (or last) person working through that adjustment period after moving to a new country!

“The gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends among civilized people, and warms the heart.”

― Samuel Chamberlain

 

#2    The Book I’d Read a Million Times

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
I knew right off the bat that I’d definitely be bringing a Harry Potter book with me. The only problem is that most of the Harry Potter books are giant. Like 700+ pages and several pounds each for the later books. So, I opted for Book 2 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets because a) I liked it more than the 1st book which is ultimately the smallest and b) even though I like the 3rd book more, the copy I had was hardcover so it was going to weigh a bit more. Anyways, the Harry Potter series is one of those series of books that I have read so many times, I can open any of the books at any point and I probably know whats happening. It’s what I read when I’m sick and I don’t have the brainpower for something a bit more hefty, it always gives me a good laugh, and reading them just gives you that cozy feeling - like you want to be curled up on the couch with a candle burning and a cup of hot tea in your hand. Cheers to you J.K. Rowling - your books will always be classics in my book (haha no pun intended)!

"October arrived, spreading a damp chill over the grounds and into the castle. Madam Pomfrey, the nurse, was kept busy by a sudden spate of colds among the staff and students. Raindrops the size of bullets thundered on the castle windows for days on end; the lake rose, the flower beds turned into muddy streams, and Hagrid's pumpkins swelled to the size of garden sheds."

– Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 

#3    The Book that Inspires Me

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
There really is no story like Corrie ten Boom’s. If you don’t know it, then this book is a must read. If you do know it, this book is still a must read. Corrie ten Boom was the spinster daughter of a watchmaker in Haarlem, Holland. The Hiding Place follows the story of her and her family during the Second World War and their own personal fight against the Third Reich. Her and her family were Christians, and when Jews in Holland were being arrested and taken to concentration camps, the ten Boom family helped hundreds of Jews escape from the Nazis. While they were hiding six Jews in their own home, the Gestapo came and arrested Corrie and her entire family for their work with the Resistance, imprisoning them, but failing to find the six people hidden in a secret compartment behind the wall of Corrie’s bedroom. Her sister and father both passed away while imprisoned, but 12 days after her sister's death, Corrie was released for reasons unknown, after 11 months as a prisoner, one of those being in complete solitary confinement. She then devoted the rest of her life to setting up rehabilitation centers for concentration camp survivors and even went on to take in those who had cooperated with the Nazi regime. For the rest of her life, Corrie devoted herself to traveling and speaking about God’s love and forgiveness, and the healing, restoration, and means to overcome hardship that it give us.

“Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.”

– Corrie ten Boom

 

#4    The Smallest Design Book I Own

Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton
Like many graphic designers out there (I’m guessing), I somehow find myself drawn to books about design like ants are to a picnic. While I surely have not bought as many design books as I’ve yearned to, I have managed to get enough that I just couldn’t bring them all (obviously). Also, so many books about design are ridiculously heavy and large! So, I made it my task to find a book that fell in the center of my mental Venn Diagram - one side being my favourite design books, the other, the smallest books. Which is how I landed on Thinking with Type! This book also seemed like a good idea for me, because typography is one of those things that I’m fascinated by, but also it’s not always 100% my strong-suit. So, anything that can be of help to me in that region is a definite bonus. This book covers everything from lettering to mixing typefaces, from grids to kerning. It’s really an encyclopaedia of knowledge when it comes to type. For all you designers out there reading this, if you don’t own this book already, put it on your list. You won’t regret it.

“This is not a book about fonts, this is a book about how to use them.”

– Ellen Lupton

 

#5    The Book with my Favorite Heroine

Persuasion by Jane Austen
For so many years, I always said that Pride and Prejudice was my favourite Jane Austen book. Isn’t that everyone’s favorite? But maybe thats just because its the only one most people know… About two years ago, I decided to expand my “Austen Exposure” and read some of her other books. I ended up picking up Persuasion, and I loved it. I felt like I identified with Anne Elliot, the protagonist of the story. Not in every way, but something about her just seemed to be a kindred spirit to me. Anne is level-headed, practical, and clever and she’s not like some of Jane Austen’s characters who can be a little bit ridiculous and dramatic at times. I have a deep appreciation for the reserved and observant nature of Anne. And, like any great Jane Austen story, I do love a good ending, and this book of course has one of those.

“My idea of good company...is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.' 'You are mistaken,' said he gently, 'that is not good company, that is the best.”

– Jane Austen, Persuasion

 

#6    The Book for David and I to Enjoy

The Picnic: Recipes and Inspiration from Basket to Blanket by Andrea Slonecker, Jen Stevenson, and Marnie Hanel
About 2 weeks before I was due to fly me and all my personal belongings over here to Stuttgart, I of course walked into the cookbook store, The Book Larder, in Fremont, expecting to just have a glance around and browse some cookbooks for a few minutes, but (this was inevitable) ended up walking out with a book - The Picnic. One thing that David and I enjoy doing when the weather is nice, is packing up a nice lunch into a wicker basket, and laying out a blanket in some park somewhere to have a picnic! We haven’t yet gotten to the level of fanciness that this book suggests doing, but we do tend to opt for real dishes and glasses to eat and drink from, and charcuterie and cheese platters do tend to jump into our basket to come along… I got this book in anticipation for this upcoming spring and summer here in Germany with David. Just across the street from my house are acres of wide open fields and orchards with fruit trees. I mean, this is PRIME picnicking land. Just steps from my home! So, prepare yourselves for the onslaught of amazing picnics and fancy basket lunches that will be my spring and summer! And I’ll throw in a little picnic incentive for those of you friends that are thinking of visiting at some point… come, and we will picnic like queens!

“A picnic is a great escape from our day-to-day and a chance to turn a meal into something more festive and memorable.”

– The Picnic

 

**BONUS**

One thing I never travel without is my Kindle. Before I bought it, I was a die-hard “I only read real books” person, but then over a Christmas vacation I borrowed my brother’s Kindle and went on to read for several hours without noticing any huge differences between it and a real book! Because of its special “e-ink” technology, you don’t feel like you’re reading off of a screen like on your computer, or iPhone - your eyes never get over-tired! It’s light, I can hold it in one hand easily because I don’t need to hold the two covers of the book apart (especially helpful when reading while laying down in bed), and its the easiest thing to stick it in my already heavy backpack so I can read on my commute to school. But, my absolute favorite part of owning a Kindle, is that through my library back in Seattle, I can check out books for free using my library card online! This completely makes the Kindle worth it because while I have bought some books from Amazon to read on it, mostly I’m getting them from the library! So, despite only being able to bring a few "real books" with me, I really have an (almost) endless library of books at my disposal thanks to the King County Library System!

Viel Spaß beim lesen! Or, to those English speakers out there, happy reading!

 

October 16, 2017 - 1 comment.

My First 40-ish Days

So, you might have caught on to something along these lines, but as of today, October 16th, I’ve been living here in Stuttgart for 42 days! Before I left the States, I didn’t really have a clear idea for what this first month or so living in Germany would be like. I anticipated new sights, sounds and smells, and I knew overall what being in Germany felt like, from the times I had visited, but those things were just a small glimpse at what living in Germany is really like. I knew it was just going to be amazing to be living within an hour of David, and I figured that there would be some sort of adjustment period, but I really wasn’t sure what it would be like to make Germany my home. But, I have to say, looking back, this first month has been so much better than I hoped it would be, but it was also much harder to move halfway across the world than I thought it would be.

When I got to Germany, David and I had already decided to make my first week here a “logistics of me living here full time” & a “let me get over jet lag" week. I’ve had less than ideal experiences with jet lag before, so we both thought that I would be feeling pretty tired and maybe a little bit sick during that first week. So, even though my German course began on Tuesday (the day after I arrived) I didn’t end up going to my first class until Friday. I felt fine about doing that because I already had a little German under my belt from the classes I took last winter, and David had taken that week off of work to help me get settled and to run errands we needed to do those first couple of days, so didn’t want to postpone any important appointments for when David didn’t have time off because of the language barrier.

We spent the first few days going to Ikea to buy things furnish my apartment with, managed to fit in a superb breakfast date, submitted applications at the city hall to register me at my new address, applied for the language learning visa I had decided would be the best option for me, opened a bank account at a German bank, set me up with German health insurance, a new phone plan, a train pass, and three additional months of language course on top of what I’d already registered for. By this point in the week (just 3 1/2 days after I arrived!) I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and a decent amount stressed out (but very luckily, only a little bit jet lagged!). No one can really tell you how difficult it is to constantly be in need of a translator when doing tasks that are already a bit complicated to begin with, until you’re actually in the middle of one of those situations. I feel very, very lucky to have David by my side during this entire process. For example, when we got to the immigration office to apply for my visa, we ended up with an application form that was in German, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Serbian, but no English. On top of that, the building we were in had such thick walls that we didn’t get cell reception, so I wouldn’t have even been able to Google Translate anything if I was on my own! I really am not sure what I would do if David wasn’t there to be my translator, encyclopaedia of knowledge about all things German, and encouragement when I was feeling tired or stressed out. I really wouldn’t be here in Germany (in more ways than one) if he wasn’t the main guy in my life!

I had decided a while back, that even though I had some understanding of the German language, I really wanted to start at square one (besides those 3 days at the beginning that I missed) with language classes, so I started with the most beginner course that you can take - Deutsch A1.1. After beginning the second course, A1.2, a week ago, I can really say that it was very very good that I started when and where I did. I won’t go into detail of this now, but people aren’t kidding when they tell you that German is a hard language to learn! There are a lot of rules, a lot of concepts that are very confusing at first, and a lot of things to memorize. As someone who only took three years of 3-times-a-week high school Spanish, I had no idea what 20 hours a week of German learning was going to be like. Thankfully, I’m a student at a very good school, with students who are in the same boat as me, with teachers who only want success for their students, and living in a place where I am constantly able to practice my German: whether its ordering coffee, understanding and responding to a grocery store teller, or reading signs in the U-Bahn station. I am always discovering just how much of the language I am retaining, and every day I understand just a little bit more. The other day after class, I literally walked up the street from my language school and saw a billboard using the exact same sentence structure that I had just learned an hour before in class. And whereas, the day before I wouldn’t have been able to fully read that sign, that day I was able to look up at it and know just what they were trying to say. Baby steps have become my new best friend!

Between weeks of school and studying and exploring the city, I have been blessed with visits from friends, visits to friends, and the (still) luxury of having David close by! It’s still easy for us to slip back into “vacation-mode” when he’s back in Stuttgart for the weekend, and try to see and do as much as possible, so we’re having to remind ourselves to take it easy - I’m not leaving anytime soon! Regardless of that, out of the 5 weekends I have been here, we been traveling, entertaining friends, and sightseeing for most of those! It just so happened that we had four friends visit for one long weekend, and since I’m one of those people who love it when my different worlds collide, so it was really special having two friends from Tauernhof and two friends from Bellingham come and visit at the same time! Since I’d only scratched the surface of touristy things to do in the Stuttgart area, it was fun to be able to play tourist as well and get to know my new city a little bit better. And for the past few years, I’ve mainly been the tour guide, when my Tauernhof friends have come to Seattle, so it was a treat for me to have David as our local guide for the weekend! We explored beautiful castle grounds and ate delicious pumpkin-y things at Schloss Ludwigsburg, embraced our inner German at the Canstatter Volksfest, and indulged our cravings for quaint, historical German towns in at the Bebenhausen village/monastery and in the city of Tübingen.

Then, after another busy week of school and settling in, and David’s mom’s Masters degree graduation ceremony, David, Jonathan and I set off to Schladming, Austria for the long weekend to visit my college roommate Madi who is currently studying at Tauernhof - where it all started for David and I two years ago! Between around 10+ hours of driving that weekend (due to some pretty awful rain/thunderstorms), hiking, catching up with Madi, and reliving fond memories in Schladming, we were exhausted! So finally, this last weekend, David and I decided to take it really slow and just enjoy not having very much planned. We spent our time cooking, watching Netflix, shooting photos in the city with one of David’s longtime friends, and going on some nice long walks through the fields around my neighborhood.

This last month has been full of learning - learning a new language, learning how to be a student again, learning how to live with a different family than my own, learning how to be a no-longer-long-distance girlfriend, learning how to navigate a new city in a new country… and so many more learning curves that I just can’t think of at the moment (because there really are so many). It really is still strange to think about the fact that this isn’t an extended vacation that I’m on. Every time I talk about something relating to Seattle, or the United States, I catch myself always thinking in terms of that being “home” and this here being “David’s city”. Seattle is always going to be my hometown, and I will always think of my parent’s house as a home for me, but, in time, I know that calling Stuttgart home will slowly roll off my tongue easier, and where I am now will begin to seem more like real life. But for now, I’m content to be in this transition phase - everything will settle in time, and my two cities will learn how to make room for each other in my heart.

Thank you to everyone who supported me in my move and my time settling into a new life. I have deeply appreciated all of your prayers, words of encouragement, and support in helping me carry out everything that needed to happen to make THIS a reality!

October 12, 2017 - 4 comments

Thoughts on Starting a Blog

I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog as being hypothetical.

“Hypothetically, if I were to start a blog, what would I write about?”

“Hypothetically, if I were to start a blog, would I post something about this?”

“Hypothetically, if I were to start a blog, would anyone be interested in what I would write?”

It’s been hard for me to commit to the idea of writing a blog because I’m really not sure what the reality of me starting one would be. I’ve always liked writing for myself - I’ve kept a personal journal since I was 12 (to put that into perspective, I’m guessing that’s around 20+ notebooks filled with my musings and thoughts), so I don’t think I’d have trouble coming up with content. I also have had several people express to me that they would love it if I started a blog, and the idea of being able to update friends and family back in the States with the new changes happening in my life in one fell swoop, because we all know that part of the reason I moved over here was to be Skyping on my phone less (don’t worry Mom and Dad, I’m not talking about you).

So I think the majority of my hesitation stems from:

a) feeling reluctant to be seen as a bandwagon-blogger (I feel kind of ridiculous thinking that, but I have been, so I had to say it)

b) I’m honestly concerned about my ability to maintain a platform like this, which is undeniably needs more effort than updating Instagram every few days, and

c) I decided that I really could only begin this venture if I committed myself to creating honest, interesting, and original content for my readers.

Ignoring the worries I just stated, I’ve decided that I’m going to pass over my hesitancies in beginning this blog, and I’m going to dive in, begin creating, and see where it takes me.

It might last a year, it might last a month, or it might last one or two more posts down the road, but here it goes! I can’t promise I’m always going to write a lot, I can’t promise that I won’t sometimes write too much, and I can’t really tell you what the output of this blog will end up being, but I can promise lots of photos, a little insight into my new life over here in Germany, and hopefully, an outlet for some of creativity that is ready to gush out of me!