January 29, 2014

Freedom Birds Jewelry

Hi peeps! I'm working on a ton of posts right now, with more Pinterest tested and army life tips. Actually, tonight I'm trying a new pin… how to make "healthy" ice cream out of nothing but bananas. I'm praying to all the Pinterest gods that this actually works, as my rear end could definitely use a lower fat option, ha!

Today, though, I wanted to share something special with you. How many of you shop Etsy? I'm completely obsessed with finding great artists who share their craft, especially those who support our military. And I want to pass along one of my new favorite jewelry shops, run by a military spouse. She donates 10% of all profits to the Wounded Warrior Project, how amazing is that?!

Her online shop is called FreedomBirdsJewelry. Many of the pieces are antique, and the stamped items can be completely personalized. She named her shop, and designs her jewelry, in representation of the freedom our military men and women fight for everyday. The "Freedom Bird" represents the plane which brings our soldiers back from war.

She is AWESOME. And reasonably priced, always a plus! 

Check out some of her pieces:

Faith Hope Love necklace, $20

Vintage Bronze Button bracelet, $25

Vintage Button Necklace, $20

Antique Edwardian Turquoise and Bronze Brooch necklace, $30

Apache Helicopter stamped necklace, $25

This is just a small selection of her pieces. Check out the whole shop to see even more. I LOVE supporting a fellow spouse whenever I can, and her art is really fabulous.

Do you know other spouses who run a shop, or sell their work, or volunteer for a great project? Add them in the comments!

I'll be back soon with more posts :)

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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January 28, 2014

My Favorite Things…

A big move can often leave us feeling out of sorts, and discombobulated (I love that word!). We miss things and people from our last home. We miss knowing how to get around, knowing where all the best stores are… well, we miss just knowing.

Every move requires adjusting to new people, new locations, new jobs, and so much more. One of the habits I've developed, is to find new things that our old place didn't have and which I love. Here is the first of many new favorite things!

Happy Hippos are the most magnificent Kinder chocolate EVER. Technically, we can get these in the States, but the only place I've ever seen them is World Market, and it's not like those are on every corner. And, they are wickedly expensive back home.

Here in Germany, Hippos are everywhere! And they are cheap. The local grocery stores (they sell in 5 packs!), the convenience stores, even the commissary carry them in stock. All over.

It's awesome.

So, if you haven't tried a Hippo, then get one today. I proudly introduced them to my new neighbor and pal just today. She can totally verify the amazingness that is Happy Hippo. I'm sure these things have a zillion calories, and are probably awful for your health, but it's soooooooo worth it.

Trust me, peeps.

If you've just moved, or even if you've been at your current duty station a while, try to find some of the good things that perk you up. By the time you move, you'll have a whole new list of things to miss, but I'd rather miss some stuff than never have enjoyed my space!

Until later!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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January 27, 2014

Pinterest Tested: One Pot Pasta

With such a huge move to deal with, the Hubs and I have not been eating the same way we usually do… i.e., I've not had as much time to cook.

Despite the time constraints, I still wanted to eat delicious food that wasn't strictly from a box or can. Browsing Pinterest (one of my favorite pastimes!), produced a ton of results, many of them these new 'one pot wonders'.

I had to give it a try. 

I used several different pins, combining techniques and using what ingredients I had on hand. The beauty of these recipes is you can literally throw just about anything in the pot! I was inspired mainly by a recipe from Apron Strings… check the link for the original recipe, or use my tweaked version. 

I prefer using fresh ingredients where I can, instead of canned. Granted, this doesn't always happen, but I try. I began with one box of pasta (a flat linguine noodle this time, but you should be able to use any pasta. You may have to adjust your water content and cook time for thicker pastas). 

Place the pasta in a deep, wide skillet. To the pot, I added 2 small shallots (chopped), 1 large bunch of fresh basil (roughly chopped), 1 whole head of garlic (minced), and 2 packages of cherry tomatoes (halved). 

I opted for both red and yellow tomatoes here. Not just for the color, but also for the acidity level. Yellow tomatoes have a much lower acidity, so they can be especially nice for anyone who suffers from heartburn.  

Apron Strings used vegetable broth for the liquid base, but I didn't have any on hand. Instead, I used plain water, which worked great. In the future, I will probably try the veggie broth, but the pasta had plenty of flavor without it. 

Add 4.5 cups water (or broth) to your pot. Partway through heating, I added another ¼ cup of water... I like my pasta saucy. But you can leave yours the way it is, totally up to you. I also added a few dry herbs here as well, a sprinkle of oregano and an additional sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Fair warning, the red pepper definitely added some heat to this dish. If you don't like your meals too spicy, just leave this out. 

Sprinkle in a dash of salt as well, but don't get too heavy-handed. Remember: you can always add more later, but you can't take it away once it's in there. I also added two tablespoons of tomato paste, just to thicken my dish a bit more and bring out that tomatoey taste. 

Bring the pot to a boil. 

You can cover the pot if desired, but I didn't find this to be necessary. Frequently stir and turn your pasta to prevent sticking. I liked using my tongs for this recipe, they made stirring much easier! Boil about 8-10 minutes. 

The water will evaporate, and the starch from the pasta will start to form a sauce. The sauce isn't traditionally thick, so don't expect that. Once your pasta is al dente, and most of the water had evaporated, stir in ½ cup of shredded parmesan cheese. Stir well to combine, until the cheese has melted and incorporated into your sauce.

Then, dish it up and enjoy!! 

The finished pasta

This meal was quick and easy, perfect for those busy weeknights. It's also great for using up all your leftover bits of vegetables too! There are so many add-in possibilities: spinach, bell pepper, broccoli, etc. I'm curious how this would taste with some seafood added to it, maybe shrimp. 

Have you tried a "one pot wonder" before? How did it turn out? Please feel free to comment below with your own experiences… 

I'll be back again soon with more Pinterest Tested. But until then, happy cooking!! 

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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The Standard Form:

One Pot Pasta

1 box of your favorite pasta
2 small shallots, chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, minced
2 packages cherry tomatoes, halved (combination of red and yellow)
4 ¾ cup water (or vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt, to taste
½ fresh grated Parmesan cheese


To a deep, wide skillet, add all the ingredients except the Parmesan cheese. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Boil 8-10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Stir the Parmesan cheese into the pasta until well-combined. Serve with a side salad and garlic bread.

January 26, 2014

Snow Day!!

After complaining yesterday about the minuscule amount of snow, today I woke up to this…

Official snow day!! I guess my dance worked, ha. So instead of scratching items off my to-do list, I played out in the snow with my dog.

This is my dog, Lucy:

And THIS is my dog on snow:

She's such a wackadoodle, I love her.

We did this for more than hour, playing fetch and chase. Seriously, the best part of my whole day. Pets bring such joy into our lives. Lucy is perfectly content just to be with her people, and run around in the snow. So I followed her lead, ran around in the snow, then came inside to eat lunch and take a long cat nap… uhhhh, dog nap.

I hope you had a great Sunday as well! Check back in tomorrow for a new Pinterest tested post, One Pot Pasta. TTYL!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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January 25, 2014

My Thoughts Exactly…

In recent months, I've been doing a lot of thinking about this blog. Like, should I continue? Should I change my content? Should I get my own domain name? Should I change the look? My style?

Lots of unanswered questions. BUT, I did make one important decision.

I don't want to give up this blog. I love it, and I love hearing from you. I am, however, going to make some changes.

Nothing major, don't worry!! You'll still be getting lots of army life tips. The recipes, and travel, and Pinterest posts will all continue. What I want, is to add something new. Something I've been denying you (and myself) for quite some time.

I want to get to know you better, and I really want you to know me.

I'm making an effort to post more often, and to share our army life with you. But it's hard to write such detailed posts, with links and downloads, every day. Those are great, and super useful, and I'll never stop doing them. Those topics are why I started blogging in the first place!


I feel like I've played it safe with you (my fabulous readers!), by only posting about neutral and informative topics. All of that changes today.

Today I promise to start posting, if not everyday, at least more than twice a week. These new posts could be anything… I might talk about the Hubs, or almost burning my house down (yeah, that happened once!), or just ask your opinion on a hot topic, or advice when I'm losing my mind. I might just need a rant session. Who knows?

They may be short, or long. Heck, they might only be two sentences, I don't know. Could be a video, or just pictures. Could be anything really. But, I promise you this… they will be personal. They'll be relative to what's happening in my life. Not just information, but sharing.

So, with that in mind, this is today in a nutshell:

It "snowed". And by snow, I mean random flakes that occasionally stuck to the ground and mostly melted. It was cold, overcast, and dreary.

I loved every second! The Hubs has been working a lot, so I used today to play catch up. I slept in. Then I did the laundry and the dishes, and I took my dog for a long walk.

At which point, she knocked me into the mud as I tried to play fetch with her. So much for loving every second, haha.

The rest of the evening was full of… well, mud. On my coat, on the dog. Which then transferred to my floors and one of my dining chairs. I still haven't cleaned the chair. Or the floor. Mostly because I was traumatized while trying to bathe the dog.

Now, instead of cleaning the floors, I'm having a fat glass of wine and ice cream for dinner. Productiveness is officially over. Bring on the mindless TV or movie. I think I'll let the Hubs pick.

So, bye for now peeps! Tomorrow will hopefully be less dirty :)

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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January 24, 2014

A Tale of Two Castles

Just after Christmas, I was very excited to have my friend Becky and her husband visit us for a weekend.  We've been friends for many years now, first meeting at one of our previous duty stations. Though we were separated for a few months, Becky and her hubs also received orders for Germany!!!

Cool, isn't it?

We're not living in the same area, but we are only about 3 hours apart. So weekend visits aren't hard to arrange. This particular weekend was one of many to come, I'm sure!

Our main plan was to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. On my Germany bucket list is the desire to photograph this castle in each and every season. Winter snow was first!

In regards to visiting the castle, I have one suggestion that you should definitely take… reserve your tickets online in advance. We didn't do this, and we were very lucky to have arrived early. An hour after our arrival, the ticket booths were a maze of people, the lines stretching on endlessly. For a few euros, you can reserve your spot and cut the line out of the equation.

Do it, peeps!!!

As it was, we left in the wee hours of the morning, armed with our cameras and a few snacks. The drive was gorgeous. I resisted the urge to snap a thousand pictures through the window, but I couldn't stop myself from taking just a few…

Top: Beautiful Bavarian countryside
Bottom: Our first glimpse of the Bavarian Alps

When I could resist the scenery no longer, I forced the Hubs to pull over in a frozen field so I could  jump out and snap pictures to my hearts' content!!

I could only stand in the cold so long without my gloves, so after a few minutes (ok, 15 minutes), we were on the road again. Before we knew it, the castle was in view!!

Again, we had to pull over and take pictures. How could I resist, really? This castle actually inspired Walt Disney's version at the Orlando theme park. I totally understand this! Neuschwanstein is beautiful.

Of course, this isn't the only castle in the area. In fact, Hohenschwangua is right next door, and you can purchase a combo ticket to see both castles in the same day. Which we did.

Hohenschwagua Castle

Though I found the exterior of Neuschwanstein to be prettier, I actually enjoyed the tour of Hohenschwagua better. The guides were well informed at each castle, however… both tours felt rushed, with little time to look around or ask too many questions.

No pictures are allowed inside either castle, but there are plenty of books in the gift shop if you desire them. The best part of our day was actually the hike we took after our tours. There are many paths around the village, some of which lead to other villages (those paths are quite the hike, though!).

Of course, we chose the hike which would offer the best views (and therefore pictures) of Neuschwanstein. During the winter, this path is closed from the public, but many people simply hop the fence and continue at their own risk anyway.

We were some of those people.

I was surprised by how many chose this path, it was extremely crowded. The path was also well covered with ice and snow. More than one person came down on their butt. Eventually, the path led to a bridge…

The bridge is narrow, and also coated with the winter weather. But as you can see, that didn't stop anyone! Beyond the bridge, the path continues up the mountain. I climbed quite a ways in, and I can't wait to try again in better conditions. There may be another post coming this spring, and I'll let you know how far the path really goes. As it was, I only hiked about another 20 minutes in.

The views from this hike were fantastic:

Top: View of Hohenswangua
Bottom: View of Neuschwanstein

Of course, by the time we made the trek back down the mountain, we were all cold and hungry. On the way down, we decided to take one of the offered horse and buggy rides. These are a few Euros each. Totally worth it after all the hiking we'd done that day! You can also take the horse and buggies to the castles on your way up, but the queues are extremely long. I suggest getting in line several hours before the start of your tour if you expect to make it on time.

At the bottom, there were plenty of restaurants for us to choose from. After a hearty meal, we were on our way back home, content with the adventure.

This is a must-see on almost everyone's list here. I'm happy to have been at least once, though I fully expect to see these castles many times as we have visitors over the next few years.

Have you visited Neuschwanstein or Hohenswagua, or both? What did you think of them? Feel free to comment below!

Until next time peeps, happy travels! I'll be back soon with more travel tales.

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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January 14, 2014

Sweet Cornbread & Secret Honey Butter

I can't seem to stop myself from sharing all my secrets with you! First it was the secret ingredient in my chili, and now I'll be telling you the genius behind my ultimate honey butter recipe.

I must like you an awful lot, huh?

Or else it's my dream to spread honey butter madness the world over.

Could be the second one, ha.

ANYWHO. You should definitely start this recipe with a batch of the world's best chili simmering on your stove.  Then, whip up this simple cornbread recipe to go with it. This (along with the honey butter spread) is the perfect accompaniment to hearty, spicy chili.

You've got to trust me, peeps. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

To get started with the cornbread, this is what you need:

Cornbread Ingredients

Start by mixing together ¾ cup of cornmeal with 1 ¼ cup flour, ⅔ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Once fully combined, make a well in the center, like so:

Why do this, you wonder? Well, I'll tell ya. If  you're using a big stand mixer, you probably don't need to bother with this step. But if you're mixing by hand (like me), this method ensures an even, non-lumpy batter that hasn't been over mixed. You can try mixing your batter without the well, and everything may turn out great, I just wasn't taking any chances.

SO. To your well (or not), add the following: ⅓ cup vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons melted (but not hot!) butter, 2 beaten eggs, and 1 ¼ cup whole milk. You can lighten the fat content here with 2% milk, but I don't think the cornbread is as moist and tasty that way. Up to you!

Stir all the ingredients together until just combined. This mix will be slightly grainy, but not lumpy, and thin…

Taking a picture one-handed… not as easy as it looks! 

Pour it all into a greased and floured 9x9 baking pan, then pop into a pre-heated, 350 degree oven for 25-28 minutes. I'm desperate to try this recipe in a cast-iron skillet. You can fully expect an updated post with alternate cooking methods once I've tested those ideas out.

Keep an eye on your cornbread, as all ovens are different. You don't want to dry the bread out! Test with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, or with only a few crummies clinging to it, your bread it done. The edges will be lightly browned, the center a golden yellow.

Cool in pan for 15 minutes before slicing.

In the meantime… 

You should make honey butter to go with your cornbread. No, you MUST make honey butter for the cornbread. In fact, don't even bother to make the cornbread unless you plan to make a honey butter accompaniment!

Honey butter

Seriously though, the butter makes the bread here. What was once a typical cornbread recipe transforms into magic with this honey butter.

I know what you're thinking… what makes this butter so special? Well, I'll tell ya. Most people make honey butter with only two ingredients, the obvious butter and honey.

I use three.

HA! The secret to perfect honey butter is actually… marshmallow creme! Or fluff, whatever your preference.

This is so easy to make, there isn't an excuse not to. Simply whip together 1 stick of softened butter with an ⅛ cup raw honey and ¼ cup marshmallow creme.

Viola! Your friends will think you're a genius, and your spouse will worship you from a honey butter induced coma.

Take the time people…. eat perfect honey butter. You won't regret it.

I guess that's all for today! Especially on these chilly winter nights, chili and cornbread make a great dinner. The Hubs and I often make a double-batch of the chili and freeze half for a later date. So warm up your evening soon, and let me know what you think.

Happy cooking, my friends! As always, the standard recipe is below.

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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The Standard Form: 

Cornbread with Secret Honey Butter


For the cornbread:                                                        For the honey butter:
¾ cup cornmeal                                                            1 stick butter, softened
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour                                              ⅛ cup honey
⅔ cup sugar                                                                  ¼ cup marshmallow fluff
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cup whole milk


For the cornbread: Mix together the dry ingredients and make a well in the center. To the well, add the oil, butter, beaten eggs, and the milk. Stir until just combined. The batter will be a little runny. Spread the batter into a greased and floured 9x9 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 28 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan before slicing. 

For the honey butter: Whip together all the ingredients for the honey butter and then serve at room temperature with the cornbread. The butter can be chilled and refrigerated for up to 10 days. Soften at room temperature before serving again.

January 13, 2014

Regensburg Christmas Markets


This is the last Christmas market post of the season.

I miss them already.

The lights, the food, the drinks, the crafts… the sheer festiveness and fun. I've never experienced Christmas this way before, and I'm pretty sure I'm ruined for life. Christmas will never be the same.

What will I do back in the States??!

So, I've got to enjoy it while I can. I fully plan to visit as many Christmas markets as I can in the few years we have here.  My gluhwein mug collection will be enormous.

This last outing, I visited Regensburg with Hohenfels' ACS. There are many small markets around the city, and we visited most of them. In fact, I found my absolute favorite Christmas market (so far). Unlike some of the others, you pay to visit this market, but the entry fee is totally worth it. Known locally as the Romantic Market, the Thurn und Taxis Weihnachtsmarkt is beautiful.

Thurn und Taxis Christmas Market

The booths are strung with lights, decorated with evergreens. Fire pits abound. As night falls, the market definitely lives up to its romantic tag. Now that I've been, I can't wait to take the Hubs next year.

The other markets around the city are also fun, don't get me wrong. But this one spoke to me. It said, 'Stop, stay a while. Eat, drink, and be merry'. 

Of course, you know me, so the 'eating' part stuck out quite a bit, ha. After walking most of the afternoon, in the cold, we were all ready to warm up with a little food and drink.

The Regensburg markets impressed me with the abundance of their food choices. Looking back through my photos, I think I snapped more images of the good eats than anything else! Check it out:

Top left: Apfelkuchel
Bottom left: Spit meat
Right: Roasted nuts
The Apfelkuchel (above) is so dang delicious! Basically, fresh apple slices are dipped in batter, then fried, and then coated in sugar and cinnamon.

Ja, I ate those. And I would have kept going, except there were so many delicious things at the market to eat!

Left:  ½ meter hotdog (sausage)
Right: Bread, cheese, and meat vendor

The States may have the footlong, but the Germans have the ½ meter dog! The variety of sausage here is outrageous… I doubt I'll be able to taste them all in the few years we have. So far, I haven't found one that I didn't like.

BUT, my absolute favorite treat at the market is something I'll probably dream about until the next time I can eat it. So garlicy, buttery, and delicious, it's a hard treat to forget:


Kind of like pizza, but not. Better. Soooo much better. The bread was fried right in front of us, then topped with a white sauce which is out of this world, scary-crazy delicious. You can add toppings or not, it's totally up to you.

You MUST try this if you have an opportunity. Seriously. Don't doubt me, peeps! If no one had been watching, I would have gone back for another, no lie.

I'm pretty bummed the holiday season is over, but I'm already planning my market trips for next year. I know I'll never be able to visit every market, but I'm dang sure gonna try. Luckily, Germany doesn't need much of a reason to have a festival. Various ones abound through the year, with all the same elements… beer, food, and community. Fasching will be here before I know it!

Until then, I'll keep you updated with all our travels. I'm visiting London this week, and Venice in the early spring. And of course, I'll also have more recipes and more Pinterest tested, and more army life tips! Talk to ya again soon!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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January 2, 2014

Heidelberg Christmas Markets

Before our move, the Hubs and I were a little worried about meeting new people, and finding friends at a new duty station. After all, our old pals are so wonderful! We miss all the good times we had together, and really hope they can visit us sometime.

Lucky for us, a few of our friends have followed us to Europe! Of course, none are at our exact location, but they're closer than some of our other friends. Also lucky us, we discovered that we have amazing new neighbors! Most of us are new here, so we have the chance to discover this beautiful country together.

One of my new pals is actually from Germany, and she has been an incredible help to all of us as we fumble with the language, train schedules, and grocery stores. She's originally from Heidelberg, a gorgeous town. And, she offered to show me around a couple weekends ago...

Naturally, I said heck yes! 

The Christmas Markets were in full swing when we arrived. My friend, Becky (who lives in Germany now too!) met us there, and we all spent an excellent afternoon together. Mostly, we wandered the markets. Shopping, eating, and chatting…

I'm really, really obsessed with the Christmas markets. They're so much fun, just to hang out and socialize. Not to mention, a great place to pick up gifts for our family back in the States.

Though we only had the afternoon and a bit of the evening, Jasmina (my new neighbor) managed to show us so much of her lovely hometown. We stopped for breakfast at a fantastic cafe, wandered the markets, and eventually made our way to Heidelberg Castle.

Panoramic of Heidelberg Castle and the town

We spent some time seeing the sights, with Jasmina as our guide (she was excellent!). The history in Europe runs much longer than what I'm used to in the States, it's fascinating. Not only did we tour the outside of the castle area, with it's excellent views, but we wandered into the castle itself before making our way back to town.

Us ladies goofing off 

Left: Giant wine barrel (room sized!)
Top right: Entering the castle center
Bottom right: Sun clock on castle tower

Someday I might take a guided tour of the castle, but we saw so much even without a pro guide. Though I think Jasmina should qualify, ha! In the image above, you can see some of the sights. The ginormous (that's a real word, peeps!) wine barrel especially impressed me.

I'm not sure what that says about me… but I'm ok with it.

One spot Becky and I were especially determined to see was the Heidelberg Gate. As night began to fall, we walked to the gate among small crowds of people.

The gate is an especially photographic spot. On the other side is a stone bridge (also beautiful), where many people attach their "love locks" in this city (you might remember these from my trip to Budapest). One of these days, I'll buy a lock with the Hubs and we'll toss the key into the river below. We only have to decide which gorgeous city we'll complete this tradition in… suggestions, anyone?

Though I loved my trip to Heidelberg, it just wasn't enough. I'm desperate to go back! So far, this is one of my favorite cities in Germany. Sometime in the spring, I plan to visit again, for a weekend this time. Hopefully the Hubs can come on that trip too.

But for now, Happy New Year, my friends! There will be one more post about some of the local Christmas markets, and then I'll tell you all about my recent trip to Neuschwanstein castle. Plus, some new recipes should be coming soon (now that my dishes are unpacked!).

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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