April 19, 2014

Adventures in Polish Pottery

Last week, my next door neighbor (Boo-Dah-Washy) arranged a day trip for some Polish pottery shopping. This is a long day, since the drive is a little over 4 hours each way. But we were game, the shopping bug had bitten.

I didn't plan any of this excursion myself, I was along for the ride. I'm so glad Boo-Dah-Washy did her research. She came prepared with maps, GPS addresses, and store names. She even packed a picnic dinner! Her best source of information was Bavaria Army Wife Travelers. If you're headed to the pottery too, you should definitely check them out.  The "file" section on their group page is an excellent resource for all kinds of travel through Europe, not just Polish pottery.

The ride may have been a little long, but the scenery was beautiful. After crossing the Polish border, we drove under several of these wildlife bridges, which allow animals to cross the highway without danger of being hit. I love these.


Our GPS addresses didn't quite work the way we expected, but after a bit of fumbling, we found the restaurant we were looking for. Our plan was to eat a nice lunch, then shop, shop, shop until the stores closed.

This cute restaurant had great food and was so inexpensive, we were shocked. The price was easily ⅔ less than what we normally see in Germany. Though Polish currency is the zloty, the restaurant and all the pottery outlets accepted our Euros.




I was so excited to try traditional pierogi, and I wasn't disappointed! We also enjoyed a variety salad and goulash. Everything was seriously good.

With full bellies (so we could make good decisions), we began our shopping spree at a strip of shops.

Some of the stores are neatly organized, and others are a complete free-for-all. We learned prior to travel about the ranking system. See, the pottery is ranked from 1 to 5, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst. I've looked for an online guide that explains the ranking system better, but I haven't found one yet. I've been told to only buy quality 1 or 2, especially if you're using these items to cook in the oven.

Inside look at a few shops, plus a fun car! 

The pottery all contained a sticker with the price, and another with the quality level. I fell in love with several patterns, but not all the patterns have every piece available for purchase. For example, I may have found a baking dish I LOVED, but the soup tureen in that same pattern wasn't there. Or I spied a great tea set, but there were no baking dishes.

I specifically wanted a large soup tureen and some baking dishes, so even when I found cute patterns I moved on if those items weren't available.

Some of my favorite patterns
At the end of the day, I bought several gifts and a soup tureen (plus ladle and bread bowls!) for myself. The prices were right, though not as inexpensive as expected. We were all happy with our finds, and ready to head home.

Simple, right?

NOPE.

See, we plugged 'home' into our GPS and were on our way, when… we passed a man walking his goats on a leash. This was, of course,  VERY distracting. Hence, our driver didn't quite watch her speed as well as she should and before we knew it…

We were pulled over by the cops!!!!



Whoops.

Luckily, between a little German and a lot of hand gestures, Boo-Dah-Washy only had to pay a small fine. This meant a quick trip to an ATM, but then we were on our way again. I guess now we can check 'get pulled over by cops in foreign country' off our bucket lists, ha!

I can't wait to head back for shopping again. I was conservative in my purchasing, and I already have a long wish list when I return.

Until next time, peeps, happy shopping!



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April 17, 2014

Hiatus in Amsterdam


The Hubs and I are off for a weekend adventure today, prepared to explore Amsterdam! I'm quite excited to visit the Keukenhof Gardens. Keep your fingers crossed that we see lots of blooms, ok?

Since I'll be gone for several days, don't be surprised if you don't hear from me for a bit. I've written a few posts that will automatically publish, but otherwise I'll likely be off the grid. The Hubs and I haven't had a chance to explore much together, so this is extra special.

Have you been to Amsterdam before? If yes, what are your recommendations and suggestions? I'll see you on the flip side, my friends! 




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April 14, 2014

Not Your Average Date Night, Part 1

The Hubs and I are pretty terrible when it comes to date night. We always do the same old thing, watch a movie at home. Occasionally we go out to eat.

Well, no more! Not that I don't like movies and eating out, but we're making a commitment to try new things. Every couple likes different things, and sometimes you don't like the same things as your partner. So the Hubs and I are going to mix it up, doing some of what he loves, some of what I love, and some things neither of us has ever tried before.

I've searched Pinterest and the rest of the internet diligently. I've spoken with my girlfriends, my family, and the Hubs. I've asked all of you (via the ArmyLife Facebook page), and I've tuned in to what I see other couples doing. This is the list I've finally come up with. I hope it helps you come up with some new "date night" ideas as well. Or a "date day". Not all dates need to be at night!

Date Day at Neuschwanstein Castle


Here goes:


1. Movie Night In - Since I mentioned this above, I figured I should start with it. Movies at home are not a bad thing, but I do find that the Hubs and I get stuck in a movie rut. To spice things up, try creating a themed evening. Print up 'tickets' for your spouse. Create food dishes around the movie. For example, if you're watching The Smurfs, make all the food blue!

2. Geocaching - I just recently learned about this interesting pastime! I think this would be a really cool way to spend a weekend afternoon. Basically, you plug in your zip code and are given coordinates to find "treasure". These can be easy to find, or moderate to hard. After finding the stash, you leave something new behind. Have you been before?

3. Spice Up  "Dinner In" - Having dinner at home doesn't need to be boring. In our house, I do 99% of the cooking. The Hubs will help me prep, but he doesn't really cook. If he does cook, it's always a great surprise for me. Usually he whips up pancakes on a Saturday, and I love it. Try spicing up you dinner-at-home status by picking a new recipe together, then sharing the responsibility of cooking the meal. Pour each other a glass of wine, and get to work! Set the table, light candles, and agree to no electronic devices. Really sit down and enjoy the time together. Or create an indoor picnic. Heck, picnic in your backyard, under the stars!

4. Spice Up  "Dinner Out" - Do you always go to the same places and order the exact same things? Try mixing it up a little! Write down restaurants you've never been to on pieces of paper, and leave them in a bucket on your counter. Take turns picking out the restaurant. OR, if you're feeling really adventurous, make a pact to try new foods with your spouse… and ensure it by allowing them to order for you! And vice versa.

5. Conversation Cards - If you're having a hard time with conversation during your dinner in (or dinner out!), try adding some conversation cards to the mix. You can find these in bookstores and online, and they are so much fun. Plus, you really learn new things about your partner which you never knew before. For an added twist, try answering the questions as your partner would and see if you get it right!



6. Movie Out - This is a dating staple. Take your girl to dinner and a movie, am I right? Even this can be spruced up. Search out drive in theaters, or old theaters that offer discount showings. The town I grew up in has a great theatre, known as The Byrd. If you have nothing similar in your area, try other ideas. Let the attendant pick your movie, or pull titles out of a hat. Drive to the theatre and buy tickets for the next show playing, no matter what it is. Dare to be adventurous, you might be surprised!

7. Movie Alternatives - There are so many alternatives to a movie showing. Look for live performances of any kind, like plays and musicals. Try the ballet or opera. Seek out comedy clubs. Google is your best friend here, people! How surprised and pleased would your spouse be if you came home with tickets to a show?? The Hubs has done this for me, and I loved it!! We had a great time, and there was so much to talk about when the performance was over. If you're on a budget, check out your local high school theatre or small productions. Give it a shot, peeps.

8. Music - Instantly, I think of big concerts in a big stadium. And this would make a great date night! But you can also look for smaller shows in local venues (like concerts in the park), or try out karaoke together. This may be cheesy, and you might be shy, but it can be so much fun. Gather a group of your friends and dare each other to sing.

9. Spa Day - This date can become pricey if you let it get away from you. That's all well and good if you have the funding, of course. Schedule a half day at a local spa, or perhaps a couples massage. If you're looking for something easier on the budget, search Groupon or Living Social for good deals. Or simply get a pedicure together. Menfolk, if you haven't done this, you should! It's ah-maz-ing. To keep the costs even lower, schedule a spa day at home. Offer each other massages, paint your wife's nails, turn your bathroom into a steam room. It can be done, people.



10. Take a Class Together - This could literally be anything. Groupon often offers deals for cooking classes. Look into a class at the gym. Try out a course in photography. Learn a new language together. Maybe take a karate class? Oooohhh, try taking a Salsa or ballroom dancing class!

11. Marriage Seminars and Retreats - This is a great idea for anyone, but for us military spouses, it's invaluable. We spend so much time away from our partners, these seminars really help us build our communication skills again. You can usually find these through your chaplain's office or ACS. The Hubs and I have done several, including The Five Love Languages (which we loved!).

12. Get Outside - Take a hike, wander your local park, feed the ducks. Heck, go fishing! There are so many opportunities on a sunny, spring day. The Hubs and I use a great app called All Trails. You can search all trails by location, review, etc. There are even photos from people who've hiked the trails before. If you're interested in all things outdoors, check out my pal Abby and her blog, 1,000 Miles On My Own Two Feet. She's been some truly amazing places, it could give you some ideas! I especially love her post about spontaneity with your spouse.

Photograph by Abigail Austin Photography


13. Book It - Maybe I'm  bit of a nerd, but I love bookstore dates. Hightail it to your local Barnes and Noble (or other bookstore). Wander the stacks together, talk about your interests, pick up a few things. For example, grab a travel book of someplace you've always wanted to go together! Or pick up a funny joke book. Then wander to the coffee shop, share a brownie, enjoy a coffee, read and converse. Don't like reading? That's ok, too. Pick up magazines, puzzle books, or even comic books. Find a cool new game, then take it home and play.

14. Game Night - I know lots of couples who do this already (including me and the Hubs), but it deserves a mention here. I love game night! This can be cards, board games, video games, anything!  Hubs and I especially love playing the Wii together. I like the games that require us to work as a team. Conversely, I also like to compete with the Hubs for prizes. Example? If I win at Mario Kart, then the Hubs has to cook me dinner. And vice versa.

15. Dessert Date - Always eat dessert first, right? On a dessert date, you can actually do this. Find a local chocolate shop, and pick out $20 worth of candy you've never tasted. Take turns sampling each piece… and make sure you pick out some crazy ones! Never eaten chocolate covered cockroaches?? Well, today is that day. Other "dessert date" ideas could be a fondue night (eat out or make it at home), an ice cream/frozen yogurt date, or a dessert "hop" where you travel from restaurant to restaurant and test their mini-desserts together. Or cook your spouse's favorite at home!

Pavlova


16. Taste Tester - Oddly enough, my grandmother used to do this with me when I was a kid because I was such a picky eater. It's kind of weird to think that now, because I love all food! Maybe it's because of this game??? So, the idea here is to blindfold your partner and feed them various items from the fridge (not the gross stuff, people!). Try to pick some of their favorites, then toss a few new things into the mix. Keep score of what your spouse guesses right, then trade places. Whoever gets the most right wins a prize of your choice.

17. Sporty Date - This could be any number of things. Is your spouse's favorite team playing that night?  Set them up with snacks, drinks, and the TV as a fun surprise. Watch the game without complaint, participating even! Or, if that's not your thing, head to the park for some sports of your own. Play frisbee or tennis. Go to mini-golf. Still not your thing? Get tickets to a local sporting event and go together.

18.  Home Project Date - Turn work into play! We've all got things we want done around the house, am I right? For me, I'm desperate to get a move on my beachy bedroom makeover. Spend a weekend tackling home improvement projects together, but make it fun. Shop for yard flowers, or re-paint your walls. Make a no-stress deal, meaning that there will be no pressure to finish in a certain amount of time. Simply enjoy the little moments in life together.

19.  Project Selfie - Make your own "photo booth" at home! Dress up, or dress down. Pull out funny props. Take a zillion silly selfie pics. Or set up a tripod and take some nice family portraits. Stick with your style, and have a blast! OR, hire a pro photographer and get some great images to hang on your walls.

Having a good time with the Hubs! 


20. Tank of Gas - Where will a tank of gas get you? Find out! Turn off your GPS and just drive. Stop at anything that looks interesting. When you hit half a tank, turn around and head home.

21. Be a Tourist in Your Town - I find that most of us never explore our own home towns. Play tourist for a day! Hit up the museums, walking tours, and zoos. Find a local farmers market and pick up ingredients for dinner. Search online for "Things to Do In… (fill in your town's name)", then go do them.

22. Watch the Sunset/Sunrise - This is such a romantic thing to do with your spouse. You can do this right from your own backyard, with a glass of wine and a blanket to snuggle in. Or find a scenic location where you can take in the view together.



23. Water Fight - This only really works in warmer weather, but Hubs and I have been known to start a water battle in the house in mid-winter! You can also make this a snowball fight too. Sometimes it's fun to just be a kid for a while. Create your own battle strategy, and get to it.

24. Volunteer Together - It's great to give back as a couple. I think you'll be surprised at how much closer this can bring you to your spouse. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, or a nursing home. Maybe the animal shelter. Take some time to give back to your community, together. 

25. Star Gazing - The Hubs and I do this a lot when we visit family, since many of them live in the country away from city lights. Grab a blanket, spread it out, pour some wine, bring snacks, and watch the stars. If there are too many lights in your area, take a drive somewhere quiet to watch. Or find a star party nearby you can attend.

A night of stargazing 


So, what do you think of these ideas so far? I'll be back soon with another 25 ideas to keep your dates interesting! The great thing about most of these ideas is you can customize them to you and your spouse. Try combining ideas to create something even more unique. Why not have a picnic amidst your day of geocaching? Watch a sporty movie, then head out to play that sport. Anything is possible, you only need to give it a go. And if the date turns into a disaster?

Well, that does happen sometimes. It's happened to me, and I'm sure everyone else you know too. But that's ok! At least you know what not to do next time, am I right? Don't let fear of the unknown intimidate you, my friends. Put yourself out there with your spouse. I think you'll be surprised with the amazing response you'll get.

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list? Comment below peeps, and you could get featured in the next post!

Until then, happy dating!


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