December 19, 2013

Salzburg Christmas Market

The month of December is such a festive time in Germany… Christmas markets abound, lights are strung, and trees are decorated. For the four weeks of Advent, you can't help but be infected with holiday spirit. After attending my first Christmas market in Germany, I branched out the following weekend and took another bus trip through ODR (Outdoor Rec) to Salzburg, Austria.

View from the Museum of Modern Art

Gorgeous, isn't it? A few minutes after arrival, I knew I'd be visiting again someday, this time with the Hubs. But for the moment, I was there with friends to attend Salzburg's Christmas market.

We started our day early, wandering the markets before they became too crowded (and believe me, they did!). Food vendors are everywhere, tempting you with their sights and smells, not to mention all the Christmas crafts which are for sale.

Let me be honest… I have to fight the urge to stop at every, single stall! Yeesh, talk about putting on some holiday weight. Luckily, those with me had more self-control, and we merely stopped to have cheese sausages for breakfast, yum. Lunch was an open-faced Raclette sandwich. This was so good, the Hubs and I re-created it at home earlier this week!

And yes, the simple recipe will be coming soon to a blog near you…

Various food vendors. Bottom-left: Raclette

Salzburg is known for many things, but some of the better known items are these:

1. Birthplace and home of Mozart
2. The filming of the Sound of Music (the original!)
3. "Old Town", an UNESCO World Heritage Site

Though our group didn't tour Mozart's home, I plan to check it out when I go back with the Hubs. But I did get a quick look at the outside, plus every street corner seems to house Mozart candy chocolate shops! I can't resist things that include chocolate, ha.

Left: Birthplace / Home of Mozart
Right: Chocolate shop selling Mozart candies

While history and chocolate are always at the top of my list, one of the very top reasons tourists visit Austria are the Sound of Music tours. Again, I was in Salzburg for the Christmas markets, so we didn't take a tour. But I'll be enjoying one soon! Sometime in the spring, I hope to test the tours with the Hubs, and I'll be sure to let you know how we like it.

As for Old Town, we did manage to see quite a bit of it as we wandered from market to market. The architecture is stunning, and just begs for photographs to be taken. You can find a printable map and free walking tour here if you're interested.

View of Old Town from above, with Fortress Hohensalzburg on the hill

Our group accidentally wound up at the top of the Museum of Modern Art, thinking we were riding to the top of the castle! Of course, once at the top, we quickly realized our mistake. The view was so fantastic, though, none of us regretted the detour.

We decided to tour the fortress next, then spend a few hours (after dark) shopping at the Christmas market. After taking the tram to the castle, we were happy to find a small market there.

From the castle top, we were able to tour the inside of the fortress, as well as explore the market. Plus, the views were out of this world, seriously.

Don't believe me? See for yourself:

I was right, huh? Out of this world. 

The market at the fortress was much less crowded than the others, but also much smaller. After a while, we headed back to the hustle and bustle in the city.

We shopped, we laughed, we ate, we drank. And then we did it all again! I personally prefer a more intimate market (translate: less crowded), but I found some amazing Christmas crafts and gifts here. And I definitely want to visit Salzburg again!

Have you ever visited this beautiful city? Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments, I love hearing from y'all. I'll be writing soon to tell you about some more of the local markets I've visited recently.

Until then, happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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December 13, 2013

UAB - Unaccompanied Baggage (Your OCONUS Move)

Now that the Hubs and I are unpacked…

Ok, we all know that's a lie. I'm not even close to fully unpacked! It's getting there though, slowly but surely. As you can see from all the Pinterest Tested posts, I'm deep cleaning and organizing as I unpack.

That takes time, people. Inexplicable amounts of time.

So today we're going to talk about UAB, or unaccompanied baggage. This is the shipment which comes prior to your HHG (household goods), if you're lucky. Sadly, both shipments have been known to arrive within days of each other, or somehow the UAB arrives after the HHG.

It's madness, I tell you, madness! 

However. If everything works as it should, then this UAB shipment is important to your move. It contains items you need to survive until the rest of your stuff gets there. Ideally, it will arrive long before your household goods.

Moving day!  

The weight allowance for your UAB shipment will vary based on rank, number of dependents, army regulations, etc. The VERY BEST thing you can do is ASK transportation what your allowances are, so you're well-informed. Once you have that information, you can decide what to pack in your UAB shipment.

Before I get to the packing list, I'd like to add a few more tips:

1. Separate your UAB in a different room if possible. This will make it much easier for your movers to pack and pick up the items. Also, this prevents any cross-contamination between your UAB and HHG. You don't want anything left behind in the wrong shipment.

2. Set up your UAB shipment as soon as possible. The faster you send it, the quicker you will receive it.

3. You are not required to utilize the UAB shipment. For our recent move, the Hubs and I decided against it. Why, you wonder? Our shipments would have arrived within days of each other, so the additional paperwork was just too much hassle for too short a time.

4. If you already have an APO address at your new duty station, you can mail some items to yourself. The Hubs and I did this instead of a UAB shipment. Note, however, that you pay those mailing fees yourself if you choose to do this. Hubs and I sent two large packing boxes, containing mostly lightweight items like linens, and it cost us around $60 for priority shipping.

5.  There are restrictions to your UAB. For example, you can't ship large furniture items. However, you could ship an air mattress. Find ways to work around those restrictions so you still have what you need, but are also within military regulations. Don't forget to ASK questions to discover what these restrictions are at the time of your move.

6. Check in with the lending closet at your new location before you decide what to carry in your UAB. Many items will be available for your use at the new duty station. For example, the Hubs and I had loaner furniture (including beds, sofa, chairs, table, dressers) and plenty of kitchen items (microwave, dishes, cups, silverware, skillets).

7. If packing any small appliances, be sure to check your voltage. You may need to purchase transformers/adapters in order to use them at your new duty station. Make note of any items that require this, so you can purchase the proper converters on arrival. Generally, you can find these right on post at your PX. Some people choose to purchase new items on arrival that already have the proper voltage. This is also an option, and one the Hubs and I chose for several items. Transformers are great, but they can also burn out your appliances faster than normal.

8. Make a list of what is packed in your UAB and carry it with you. I know this sounds silly, but it helps. Especially if you've moved your items early, you can forget what is packed and what's not. This will give you a quick reference after arrival, so you don't borrow/purchase items which are already in your UAB.

So, here is my list of suggested items. Remember, you may not need all these items. Or you may not need any at all, if you decide against a UAB shipment. Also, because I love ya, I'm including a PDF checklist at the end of this post, if you'd like a printed copy. If you're like me and don't pack anything, keep an eye out for future cooking posts, where the Hubs and I survived with a single cast iron skillet and a spatula!


Dish towels


Pots and Pans (small selection)
Cast Iron skillet
Dishes and mugs
Child-safe items (zippy cups, plates, bottles, etc)
Cooking Utensils (spatula, wooden spoons, etc)
Pyrex dishes/pans
Cookie sheets
Knives (for example, a chefs knife)
Manual can opener
Corkscrew for wine
Microwave, Coffee Pot, or other small appliances
Trashcan / Bags
Mop / Broom / Dustpan


Bath Mats
Shower Curtain / Hooks / Liner


Small TV
Video Game system / games / controllers
Desktop computer / printer / printer paper
A few books (especially for kids)
Favorite Toys
Bikes / Helmets
Outdoor game equipment (soccer balls, baseballs, etc)


Air mattress and pump
Laundry basket
Small ironing board / Iron
Vacuum cleaner
Folding Chairs
Pack n Play
Baby Gates
Booster Seats
Bouncy Seat
High Chair
Tool Kit (screwdriver, hammer, nails, tape measure, etc)
Extension cords


Extra vitamins, medications, etc.
Seasonal clothing
Extra coats and jackets
Extra shoes / boots
Rain gear
Formal clothing (in case of a ball, etc)
School supplies


Favorite toys
Unopened treats / bones
Food (unopened)
Extra medications

Military Gear: (Soldiers often need their gear before HHG arrive! Pack in luggage or ship with UAB if necessary)

Extra uniforms
Running shoes
Dress uniform / shoes
Field gear

I hope you find this list useful! Please, feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below and I'll add to these items. If you'd like the handy, dandy printable checklist, get the PDF by clicking here.

That's all for now, folks. I'll be back soon with more tips for your OCONUS PCS move...

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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December 12, 2013

Pinterest Tested: Remove Candle Wax From Jars

A while back, the Hubs surprised me with a romantic evening (translate: he lit some candles while I cooked dinner, haha). By the end of our meal, the candles burned low. In the morning, I realized the wax had melted into the container and stubbornly refused to be removed.

Hence the need for this Pinterest Tested post. 

This is what my candleholders looked like before the magic happened:

I searched the net and came up with several solutions. Plus, lots of you sent me some great ideas on the ArmyLife Facebook page

Here were your suggestions:

1. Set holder into hot water and wait for wax to loosen
2. Microwave the holders
3. Place holders in freezer, wait one day, then remove wax

Also, there was one preventative measure, which I'll be testing now that my holders are clean: 

1. Before burning a candle, spray a little Pam on the inside. The wax should pop right out after use. 

This is the link to the pin I based my test on: Jars for Things

To get started, I used my trusty tea pot (a gift from the Hubs!) to heat some water to boiling.

I was a little scared to get the water too hot, because I thought my jars might shatter. Then I remembered that I used those jars to hold burning candles.

*smacks head*

Ja, the boiling water was a-ok.

After carefully adding the water to my jars, I noticed the wax began to melt right away. I managed to leave it alone for about 30 minutes, but then I couldn't take the waiting any more! Using a butter knife, I gently loosened the wax stuck to the bottom of the holder.

Left: Immediately after adding water
Right: Wax loosened by knife

I allowed the water to cool overnight, but I don't think you need to wait that long. An hour or two would probably be fine. You definitely want the water at room temperature before you empty it though, otherwise you might accidentally pour hot, melty wax down your drains.

In the morning, I scooped out all the wax, then washed my holder with soap and water. And viola!

Clean, practically new candle holders!!

Clean, like-new candle holders

I decided to try out the preventative measure suggested by you (spraying Pam in the bottom of the holder before adding the candle). Next time we have a candle catastrophe (knowing Hubs, that could be soon, ha), I'll let ya know if it worked. If you have more suggestions or experiences with this, please comment below. I love hearing from you…

Until then, happy pinning!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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December 9, 2013

My First German Christmas Market

When Hubs and I found out about our move overseas, the Christmas markets were at the top of my to-do list. This German tradition dates back to the late Middle Ages, and began as winter markets which provided a break in the season and an opportunity for some fun. Today, there are large markets open during the whole of Advent, as well as smaller, more local markets which may only last a few days. Nuremberg's Christmas market is perhaps the most famous in all of Germany, and I have plans to attend this year. And, of course, plans to share my experience with you!

But two weekends ago, I chose to visit a much smaller, local market with my neighbors. Only a few minutes from home, we began our day at Kuhstallcafe, locally referred to as the "Cow Cafe". I am not ashamed to admit that I've completely adopted the German tradition of Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake). In fact, as this is one of my new favorite things, I routinely walk to our local bakery/cafe for just this purpose. The Cow Cafe is a special treat...

... of course, in the 8 weeks we've lived in Germany, I've already eaten here twice. And I've plans to return soon.

I see nothing wrong with this cake ratio in my life. 


Two weekends ago, the Cow Cafe was holding their annual Christmas market.

The smell of bratwurst on the grill filled the air as we wandered the booths. The Christmas crafts are fantastic. I especially adore the more natural pieces. Candlesticks made from thick tree branches, wooden Christmas trees, and ornaments. For a small market, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of workmanship.

Besides the crafts, scarves and hats and mittens were also for sale. And food. And gluhwein!

The gluhwein is the best part. Warm and spicy, a little like hard cider, and so delicious.

Gluhwein stand
The local markets sell all the ingredients to make your own gluwein at home as well. Some are instant (like a cocoa mix) and others are giant tea bags to steep in the warm wine.

After perusing the wares at Cow Cafe, we decided to try our luck at another market, this one in Burglengenfeld. High atop the town sits a castle, where the market was located.

Of course, we got a little lost trying to find our way there. But we found it eventually, and survived the long hike to the top.

This market was quite a bit different from the first one. A few stalls were there, though they mostly contained food and drink. Tours were being conducted of the castle. We stumbled upon some crafts, though they were more expensive than the previous market and of a different style.

We stopped for gluhwein, munched on some amazing sausages and soup. We toured the castle on our own, climbing to the top of the tower.

View from the castle wall
After a while, we were worn out and ready to head home! For my first experience with markets, I was glad to attend some smaller ones in the beginning.


I was slightly better prepared when I went to Austria this past weekend for Salzburg's Christmas market. Compared to these, it was huge! More coming on that as soon as I've recovered.

Until then, auf wiedersehen! 

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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December 2, 2013

Twelve Hours in Budapest

Before our car arrived, before our household goods made an appearance, and before we even had a chance to explore our new town...

I signed up for a bus trip to Budapest. That's right. Me and the Hubs. Bus to Budapest.

Insanity, right?

Some people might think so. But for me, I thought it would be madness to turn down the opportunity. I mean, it's Budapest, people! Since we were without a car, the bus trip was a great solution for us. We could sleep on the long drive there, explore the city, then sleep on the long trip back.

It was awesome.

View from Castle Hill 

Are you wondering where I found this bus trip? Well, I'll tell ya. Outdoor Recreation is a department sponsored by MWR, and they organize fabulous activities for soldiers and families. Including this particular trip to Budapest! Now, these excursions are not free. Each activity will be priced based on the cost of the trip. It's up to you to look, ask questions, and decide which activities might be right for you.

Of course, I find that most of them are right for me. I'm already signed up to visit the Christmas market in Salzburg this year.

But, back to Budapest.

This is a beautiful city, which I highly encourage you to visit. Though we had only 12 hours, the Hubs and I loved every minute of our adventure. We wanted to see as much as possible, and also learn what we could about the city. Technically, two cities... one side of the river is Buda, the other side is Pest (pronounced pesht).

With our limited time, we chose two walking tours, which also proved to be extremely economical. Free is a pretty good price, right? Our guides were excellent, and the exercise good. At the end of the tours, you tip based on your experience. We tipped pretty well, because our guides were awesome! But because our first tour didn't begin until late morning, we were free to explore the city a bit on our own (and have some breakfast!).

Central (or Great) Market Hall

The Great Market Hall was a fantastic place for souvenirs and food. If able, I would have purchased much fruit and cheese and meat! Alas, there would be no way to keep it fresh for the journey back. Instead, I satisfied myself with nesting dolls and Christmas ornaments. And meat on a stick for breakfast, ha.

After the quick meal, we roamed the city streets for a bit. You never know what you'll see! Like this flute player we walked past...

Our official tour (The Original) began on the waterfront, where the statue of a young girl sits on the railing that lines the Danube. The Little Princess is one of the most photographed statues in Budapest. If you look closely at her bronze knees, you'll notice they are quite a bit shinier than the rest of her. This is because it's believed rubbing the Princess' knees will bring you luck. Naturally, Hubs and I tested the theory ourselves. If our great day in Budapest was any indication, then I say the luck worked!

The Little Princess on the Danube promenade 

The tour lasted little more than 3 hours, and was packed with history, not to mention the beautiful scenery. Our guide was available to answer questions, even take pictures. Hubs and I hardly ever have pictures together that aren't selfies, so this was a sweet bonus for us. Here are some of the other sights we saw whilst on tour:

St. Stephen's Basilica

Tree of  Love Locks

Panoramic view from Chain Bridge

Chain Bridge

Hungarian Parliament

Random parade in the city 

After the first tour, we had time to wander again on our own. More importantly, it was time for lunch! All the walking worked up our appetites. If you take a walking tour yourself, I suggest carrying bottled water and some light snacks. There are several fountains throughout the city where you can fill your bottles for free.

As for lunch, the Hubs and I hunkered down at Gerbeaud for ONE reason... the Hubs' uncanny ability to sniff out any establishment with gigantic sweets on the menu. Lunch was fab, but dessert was out of this world:

Left: "Strawnilla"
Right: Somloi Sundae


These were huge, and so delicious. In fact, at the end of our day (about 6 hours later), the Hubs ate another one of these!!! I restrained myself, but it would have been worth the calories.

During lunch, we were entertained by street performers as we enjoyed our lattes at sidewalk tables. The hour of respite was needed before we began another tour. This time, we would explore the Jewish Quarter with our guide.

The first stop on our tour was this statue, a memorial dedicated to Sztehlo Gábor, a young priest in Budapest during World War II. During the German invasion, Gábor rescued thousands of Jewish children, most of whom were orphaned.

From here, we moved on to Dohany Synagogue, the second largest in the world, after Temple Emanu-El in New York City. 

One thing which makes this synagogue unusual is the burial grounds on site. According to Jewish traditions, graveyards should not be located on the premises of a house of prayer. However, during the war, the synagogue became part of the ghettos, and thousands of Jewish victims died here. The necessity of mass graves and burial sites outweighed tradition. Today, these markers are in memory of the thousands buried beneath:

The synagogue was closed to tours while we visited, but I would suggest taking one of you can. The inside is purported to be quite beautiful, and I'm sure you could discover much more of the history. As it was, we could only view from the outside.

Around the corner, but still enclosed within the synagogue grounds, was this holocaust memorial: 

Emanuel Tree by Imre Varga

The leaves of this weeping willow contain the engraved names of the Hungarian Jews killed during the holocaust. 

Our tour continued, through the city streets, moving from the past and into the future. Now, the 'ghettos' contain restaurants and bakeries, nightlife and hot spots. Homes are still maintained in the area, like these which rest next to an oft overlooked memorial (a small section of the ghetto wall, rebuilt): 

At the end of our tour, we stopped in one of the ruin bars for which Budapest is quickly becoming known:

After many thanks to our guide (and a hefty tip, she was fantastic), we left the pub to find our way back to the bus. On the way, Hubs snacked on another giant ice cream, and I enjoyed another coffee with the city lights sparkling around us. We wandered the Danube waterfront one last time, entranced by the beauty of this amazing city.

Chain Bridge at Night

Though we saw much in our 12 hours, Hubs and I can't wait to go back to this city. There is so much more to see and do! If you've been to Budapest yourself, feel free to leave some suggestions in the comments below. 

For now, happy traveling! 

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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