When things don’t go as planned

Oliver turned 5 months old two weeks ago. Between the move overseas and the sleep deprivation (hello sleeping 10-12 hours through the night since the end of June!), the past few months have been a blur. And slowly I’m forgetting all of the nitty-gritty details of what happened during his birth into this big, beautiful world.

Many people continue to ask similar questions, so I thought I would describe (what I can now remember from) answers to commonly asked questions regarding my pregnancy and Oliver’s birth.

Q: Where did you get prenatal care in the UK?
A: The US base facility hospital was my primary care since the get go. From about 20 weeks of my pregnancy onward, I was seeing both the US base hospital facility and the UK National Health System (NHS) for my prenatal (UK terminology: antenatal) appointments.

Q: Why use both systems? I always get asked why I used both the NHS and the US base since it seems like double the amount of work. It really wasn’t a ton of work or appointments until about the 36 week point – when you start seeing the OB/GYN or midwife much more regularly.
A: The very easy and short answer is: for my convenience and peace of mind.
The long answer is: I work at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus (commonly referred to as the Addenbrooke’s site due to the main hospital on the campus). Addenbrooke’s Hospital is an internationally renowned teaching hospital surrounded by several biomedical research facilities. One of the areas of the Addenbrooke’s Hospital is the Rosie Hospital, which is an amazing maternity hospital specializing in all things pregnancy and baby. And I basically work across the street from this facility. If something were to have happen while I was at work (and if I were using the NHS for care), then I could walk 5 minutes to the Rosie for medical care. The commute from my workplace to the base hospital is a 15-20 minute bicycle ride (or 40 minute bus ride) to our home plus another 45 minute drive from our place to the base. It just didn’t seem logical at the time.

Q: You’re having your baby in England, so he’ll be a UK citizen, right?!
A: No, unfortunately he’s just an American citizen born abroad. There are plenty of guidelines for qualifications for being a UK citizen, such as having at least one British parent or living in the UK for at least 5 years. Oliver does not (and probably will never) meet the qualifications unless he applies for UK citizenship later in life after falling in love with British winters that every Brit seems to brag about on end.

We went to the London Embassy to apply for Oliver’s US birth certificate and passport when he was only 3 weeks old (I was wearing a puffy winter coat under my largest rain coat; February in England is rainy and cold.)

On the London Tube


Q: And then the next followup question: Is he going to be able to run for President of the USA later in life?
A: I’m not sure why this is the next question, but the answer is probably yes. And only if he wants to run to be the POTUS. Oliver is a US citizen born abroad.
Bringing you to the US Constitution: Article II, Section 1 is the age and citizenship requirements states that a person must be a natural born citizen (or a citizen of the US), at least 35 years old, and been a US resident for 14 years.

Q: Did you have any problems/issues/cravings during your pregnancy?
A: Not really. I was a little nauseous at work once. I thought I had an upset stomach. For awhile, I really liked sprinkling chives on everything.

Q: Did you end up using the Rosie Birth Centre or the base hospital? (and why?)
A: I needed to be induced at 41.5 weeks (oy!) Once they start talking about induction, you can no longer use the amazing Rosie Birth Centre for a natural birth (what I wanted). You must use the Rosie Delivery Unit, which is still an excellent facility. However, I was already on maternity leave and Elliott was already on leave from work. The procedures were basically the same, so the base hospital just seemed a better choice for us.

Q: How’d your delivery go?
A: It was long; spread out over 43 hours. It started as a natural delivery and ended in an emergency c-section. And the results were a beautiful baby boy.


These are just the frequently asked questions. Feel free to ask more in the comments!

Lessons learned, then relearned

Reflection is the name of the game for me in January. I can’t help but do it daily.

Now having some time, I’ve begun the process of going through pictures from the last two and half years of living abroad; all the trips, moments captured, and memories. However, there is one picture that I absolutely loved and it was taken just prior to moving to England. Elliott was at a prestigious school in the middle of an American desert and had an awesome white board filled with cards and pictures from friends and family, a calendar, a countdown until graduation, and a list of items to remember daily (bottom left corner). I took a picture of this the board the day before his graduation from this school because the daily reminder list melted my heart:

It reads:
Appreciate what you have
Avoid “what ifs”
Stay Positive
Less Caffeine
More Sleep
Less Negativity
More Perspective

I think the last one could definitely be substituted with “Family!” but the overall list is wonderful. And a great daily reminder of the things that matter in life.

Welcome 2017 with a single word

There is a trend going on in the social media communities. By no means is it a new trend. It is an old trend with a new revival, which happens about this time every year. I like to make resolutions and SMART goals  for the year – I actually achieved my 2016 goal of losing 20 pounds. I then “unachieved” my goal by gaining it and some more back (due to healthy weight gain during pregnancy). I currently don’t have a New Years Resolution in mind; I’m more focused on successfully surviving the last few weeks of pregnancy as I have been uncomfortable and a bit grumpy for the past few weeks.

The trend. What I am referring to isn’t about making a resolution that you will end up not keeping for whatever reason. It is to simply find a single word to help you throughout your upcoming year. The idea came from many this year, but I tracked down a source that has been doing this for many years now: One Little Word by Ali Edwards.

I love the idea of having a single word resonant through you for the whole year, to help you throughout the year to have a better purpose. A single word you can meditate or reflect upon; a word to inspire and motivate you. We all have goals that we want to stick with – I feel like even having this single word posted in a place that you’d see it everyday (for me, near/on/next to the bathroom mirror) would help you achieve these goals. There are several words that I tried to narrow down to just one.

The word I finally settled on is: give. Without getting into the nitty gritty details of what this word will mean to me, I hope it will be a reminder to be a better person to myself and to others in multitude of ways.

What about you: How about trying out One Little Word for 2017? What would your word be?

Whisky Notes: Kilkerran Glengyle

Whisky from Scotland is broken up into several regions: Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Islay, and Campbeltown. If you are a believer or not, there are some suggestions that “Islands” be there own region. I’ll let you decide if you want to follow classification or not.

My wife is amazing and bought me a wonderful birthday present: the Kilkerran Glenglye 12 year old whisky from the self-proclaimed “newest, old distillery in Campbeltown” with an interesting history that you can read about here. Apparently, there were only 9,000 bottles made of this stuff.

You don’t care about me telling you about the distillery. You want to know about the dram. Let’s talk whisky. The Kilkerran Glenglye 12 year old is non-chill filtered and with no added coloring. It is bottled at 46% ABV. The whisky was matured in 70% bourbon, 30% sherry casks giving it a great nose and taste. Below are my tasting notes:

Nose: brown sugar or toffee, brine (subtle), grass (subtle), dried apricots, green woodiness, oak.

Palate: sweetness resembling honey with lemon peel, possibly angel food cake, vanilla. Palate not nearly as developed as the nose.

Finish: grassy notes, lingering bitterness, slightly oily, slightly briny

This is an easy, everyday drinker with the price point is £35 per 70 cl bottle (if you were one of the lucky ones able to buy it before it sold out).

Update: The palate improved considerably after having been opened and exposed to air. It tastes much, much better and, in my opinion, definitely needed some oxygen.

Whisky Notes: Aultmore 12

Many of you know that Jen and I were on the committee (USA language: officers) of the Cambridge University Whisky Appreciation Society (CUWAS) – Jen was the Vice-President and I was the webmaster/IT guy. Let’s be honest though; work sometimes kept me away from maintaining the website, so Jen definitely stepped in to help when something needed to be done in a time-dependent manner.

If you live in the Cambridge, England area, definitely check out the society and go to one of their events. Each tasting is an opportunity to try six whiskies, generally along some sort of theme. This term’s events look really varied:
Introduction to Whisky – this event is great for those who may not know much about whisky but still great whisky for those that do
Liquid Gold – some of the “best of the best” whiskies currently available
Out of its Element – if I had to guess, this would include whiskies that don’t generally fit into their own genre: a smoky Speyside or Highland whisky or an unpeated Islay)
The well-loved Christmas tasting – whiskies that just make you want to settle in and enjoy the winter season
They also snuck in a Brandy tasting this term, which shouldn’t disappoint!

Both Jen and I receive a lot of questions on what whiskies we recommend or normally drink (or in Jen’s current state (pregnancy), what she used to drink or what she’s looking forward to drinking in 15 weeks from now). Since I have the “chore” of trying to drink all of our opened bottles of whisky in the next several month before we move again, I thought it would be fun to give you some tasting notes on what I’m drinking. I guess that’s the least I can do!

Without further ado, here is some general information on the Aultmore 12, why we have it in our possession, and my tasting notes*:
Last fall, Jen bought a couple of bottles of whisky that were released by Dewar’s as part of their The Last Great Malts series. There was some sort of online contest that required participants to purchase two bottles in the series to be registered to win all eight of the series. The series included three bottlings of Aberfeldy (12, 16, and 21 year olds), Aultmore (12 and 25 year olds), and Craigellachie (13, 17, and 23 year olds). She loves a good whisky contest and/or deal; this is the reason of why we have a bottle of the Aultmore 12 in our whisky collection.
Aultmore of the Foggie Moss, as the label reads, is non-chill filtered and has no added colorings. Hence its lovely pale caramelly-yellow color. The whisky is bottled at 46% ABV and can be found at various places for just under £45 per bottle.

Nose: Fresh grass, orange chocolate, sponge cake, aromatic and floral undertones. Jen said it smelled like salted caramel-covered apples.

Palate: Vanilla, spice-cake (possibly cinnamon notes), floral notes continue. The overall mouthfeel is spicy and warming.

Finish: Clean and inoffensive. Slightly floral notes. No lingering flavors here. This whisky has a very short finish.

At the price point, this is a very classic example of a Speyside whisky that could be a daily drinker for those who don’t particularly like peated or overly complex whiskies.

*Note: The tasting notes provided here are my own thoughts. Unfortunately, neither Jen nor I were given whisky to review.

Baby Gifts

Hello everyone,
The military family has really set us up for success for having a baby. I know some folks are eager to start working on a shower for Jen, so in an effort to consolidate all the baby things, here is what we already have:

Chico KeyFit 30 with base (US spec carseat)
Spare Keyfit 30 base
Graco Junior (UK spec carseat)
Mothercare bouncy seat similar to these with sound and vibration
Babytrend Nursery center playpen
Medela Breast Pump (Pump In Style with backpack carrier and cooler – 
UK voltage)
Kiinde twist 80 pack
Saplings Bethany Swinging Crib (UK sheet size 840-430 mm)
Nursing pillow
Prince Lionheart wipe warmer (UK voltage)
Vera Bradley diaper bag (so last season… I can’t find a link)
1x moustache pacifier (don’t judge me!)
High chair
Bouncy seat

Please do NOT buy us a baby monitor, as the US/UK frequencies are not compatible, and anything you buy in the US will be illegal in England.
This generally applies to anything that needs to be plugged into the wall – due to the differences in voltage.

No age clothing
9x blankets
9x bibs
12x burp cloths

5x hats
1x shoes
10x socks
2x sleep sack
1x long sleeve onesie
1x short sleeve onesie
1x trousers
6x pajamas

0-3 Month
10x short sleeve onesie
2x long sleeve onesie
7x trouser
4x pajama

3-6 Month
1x Shoes
1x 3-6 mon sleep sack
9x onesie
1x pajama

6-9 Month
5x trouser
6x onesie
3x sweater

> 9 Month
2x trouser
5x short sleeve onesie
8x long sleeve onesie
2x long sleeve shirts

Shower date and details are still up in the air. Given the distance between us and almost everyone we know, we made an amazon.com registry. If you would like to purchase something for us, you can find the registry here. We didn’t list too many books or toys, but we’d also love books (and we don’t mind your second-hand ones)!

It’s also worth noting we will be moving sometime next summer and don’t know where we will be living next, thus what climate clothing we will need. At 6 months, baby will be preparing for a UK summer, an Alabama summer, or something in between. We expect the movers will be here to pack us sometime in June (maybe sooner), so portable stuff for the 4 months we will be living out of suitcases would be greatly appreciated.

If you want to ship something to our UK address, please contact us and we will give you the address.

USAF 69th Birthday Ball!

Joining many others from around the local area, we celebrated the 69th birthday of the United States Air Force last night. It was a great reason to put on fancy clothes, eat, drink (soda water and lime or a cranberry and orange juice cocktail for me), dance, and celebrate.

We also celebrated that our baby boy is developing well and healthy. We’re happy to announce we’ll be adding one to our family this winter, and even took our “first family photo” at the Birthday Ball!

69th Birthday Ball

69th Birthday Ball

A new year, a new post


Long time, no updates. I know you want to know more of our adventures. Wondering what we have been doing, where the wind has blown us, and the adventures we have experienced.

I promise to provide you updates on the following things in the next few weeks:
My adventures in Australia (I did spend nearly a month there)
Touring London with former colleagues and giving Bury St Edmunds a proper visit
Deployments while living abroad (my ode to whisky and friends)
Cambridge Beer Fest 2015: the 42nd year of amazingness
Visiting the US: meeting a friend’s new baby and celebrating weddings
Why we love visiting Edinburgh
My mom, Amy, Tom, and Spencer visit England and Germany
Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum) – our opportunity to see two within weeks
Kate and Darren visit Cambridge
Touring Buckingham Palace and the Queen’s Estates
Camden Brewery: a story of how we fell in love with UK craft beer (it involves Shakespeare)
Kristen, Emily, and Megan visit Cambridge and celebrate the Buffalo Bills playing in London
Celebrate Guy Fawkes Day
Mill Road Winter Fair
Christmas Markets in Germany, France, and Spain: accidentally falling in love with the work of Gaudí
Our second Christmas in England
Why we love Garmisch-Partenkirchen
New year, new hobbies: how we keep entertained when the days are long but dark
El’s first trip to Belgium
Fe and Bo’s visit to England, which included celebrating the Chinese New Year
Celebrating 150 years of Alice in Wonderland
Our trip to Belgium with friends: here’s to beer and chocolate!
Our guide to seeing the most and best of Cambridge
Discovering Portugal: Lisbon and Porto

I can’t wait to tell you more about each adventure!

Salsa – the 2011 garden variety

We lived in the ‘burbs, just outside of Omaha, Nebraska for a few years. Our agreement was that I’d make peace with suburb-life-in-general, the long commute to work, the cornfield literally across the street, and the mice that always appeared in our garage at harvest time, as long as I could have a giant garden and make a huge mess in the kitchen whenever I wanted to bake at 10 o’clock at night.

I convinced El that the garden space from the first summer that I lived in this suburban house was not large enough. The second summer garden was a nice sized one; approximately 3 feet wide and 10 feet long (1 meter by 3 meters). We had an appropriate sized garden full of tomatoes, hot peppers, zucchini, lettuce and carrots. I got a taste of gardening that summer – but I wanted more. The next summer while El was deployed, I enlisted the help from many people to dig and till up a massive garden space with me approximately 10 feet by 40 feet (3 meters long by 12 meters wide). This is what happens when El isn’t there to help with making decisions. We grew watermelon, cantaloupe, string beans, snow peas, habanero peppers, serrano peppers, red/yellow/green bell peppers, eggplant, basil, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, carrots, garlic, and five varieties of tomatoes. We learned about garden spacing that summer. We also learned about what to do with gallons of tomatoes at a time.

One way was canning tomatoes – a recipe that is from my good friend Erin (who received the technique from her dad). This “recipe” is to be done in the evening when you don’t need your oven. In Nebraska summers, the answer to that question you may be having: you never need your oven to be on; it is just way too hot.

Before you begin making canned tomatoes, sterilize all of your canning supplies: jars, lids, rings, and canning equipment. Preheat the oven to 250°F. The basics of this are to blanch tomatoes: boil tomatoes until the skins begin to crack, place tomatoes in an ice cold bath until cool enough to touch, peel off the tomato’s skin, and cut out the stem scar and core. Erin and I refer to these peeled and cored tomatoes as “naked tomatoes” – I know, we really ARE crazy people who both happen to be scientists that like to bake and make huge messes in the kitchen that spread to the rest of the house (exhibit A: salsa; exhibit B: sprinkles, exhibit C: apples). For El’s sake, being separated by an ocean has led to a cleaner kitchen and house in general.

Add a 1/4 tsp of canning salt to the (quart-sized) jar, then take those naked tomatoes, quarter them, then stuff as many as possible into a canning jar. While quartering the tomatoes, collect any tomato juice in a sterile bowl. You’ll want to push and squeeze the tomatoes into the jar to get rid of any air in them. The juices from the tomatoes will be filling the remaining space, which is perfect. You’re canning the tomatoes in their own juice. Wipe the jar opening with a paper towel, then use sterile technique to transfer lids and rings to the jars. Place a cookie sheet with sides on an oven rack, set the jars on the cookie, then close the oven door and allow those jars of goodness to bake for 1 hour at 250°F for 1 hour. Turn off your oven after 1 hour, and leave the jars of tomatoes in the oven overnight.

NOTE: You should technically place the jars in a large pot of boiling water (at least 1-inch of water over the jars) and process for ~15-20 minutes (this is called “processing” in a water bath) instead of baking them. I usually don’t “process” them this way – I bake ’em. I’m not an expert, so please use your own discretion for canning.

In the morning, transfer the jars to a countertop or table and ensure that the lids are sealed. Any ones that haven’t sealed properly now need to be stored in the fridge and eaten within the next few days. These tomatoes should last stored in a dark, cool place for up to 6-8 months.

Another way we used up the mountains of tomatoes was finding a salsa recipe that I could be canned and stored for at least a few months. I turned to the internet and canning books for help. What I ended up stumbling upon at the time was a fun website that was entitled “Reclaim Simplicity” who’s author was hilarious. Her name (at least on the website) is Sis. She had some really interesting stories and recipes. I can no longer find the “Doing the Salsa with Sis” recipe – sadly, I am under the impression that this site no longer exists. Because I can no longer find the recipe online and because many people have asked for the recipe over the last few years, I’ve decided to share it. The first year we made this, I’ve adjusted the amounts of a few ingredients to my liking. However, it still is roughly that of Sis. Please modify the recipe to your preference of salsa.

Salsa – the 2011 garden variety

Some upfront notes:

  • “Naked tomatoes” are blanched, peeled, and cored tomatoes
  • A “rough chop” of ingredients equates to the size that vegetable can fit into your food processor. The smaller the vegetable, the easier it will be to blend. However, do not waste too much time perfectly chopping up the ingredients – you’re about to use a food processor to chop them up.
  • How I sterilize canning supplies (jars, lids, rings, and all things needed to can): I like to wash them all in the dishwasher. Place them upside down in a skillet of water. Add a splash of white vinegar to the water, crank up the heat to low-medium. Don’t forget to add the rings and lids to the pan. And don’t forget to watch the water/vinegar levels over time.
  • For the canning: you’ll want to work in an area of your countertop where the hot jars are able to stay until they cool (usually overnight). Trust me, you don’t want to be transferring hot jars full of boiling hot salsa to another location.
  • If some of your jars do not seal properly, eat those jars of salsa first!
  • Some people like to add a little cilantro in their salsa. I recommend adding cilantro after opening up the canned salsa. I don’t can salsa with cilantro in it because the herb ends up kinda slimy in the finished product.
  • All units are in US measurements.
  • By using this template for “lazy canning,” you are doing so at your own discretion.

~1.5 gallons of “naked tomatoes” cut into halves or quarters
(this amount is a rough estimate – you need a ton of tomatoes; you can use a mixture of tomatoes: plum, roma, beefsteak, etc)
2-3 small bell peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
3-5 jalapeño peppers, serrano peppers, or habanero peppers – depending on what spiciness you’d like to achieve, seeded if you’d like (depends on the spiciness you desire), roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled, roughly chopped
2 angry red onions (or 3 normal red onions), peeled and chopped into quarters
3-5 green onions, ends removed and roughly chopped
1/3 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed is the best
2 Tbsp cumin
2 Tbsp black pepper
3 Tbsp canning salt
2 Tbsp sugar (optional)

  1. Gather, wash your ingredients. Put on some great tunes to dance to while making salsa!
  2. Wash and sterilize your canning equipment, jars, rings, and lids
  3. Blanch and peel your tomatoes – working with naked tomatoes is better for canning!
  4. Next, chop your your tomatoes in the food processor. This will probably need to be done in batches. Transfer to a large, non-reactive pan
  5. In a food processor, chop your onions, garlic, and both kinds of peppers. Transfer to the same large, non-reactive pan that contain tomatoes
  6. To the tomato mixture, stir in canning salt, lime juice, black pepper, sugar, and cumin
  7. When no one is looking, give the salsa a taste – Go ahead! Try it on a tortilla chip. Adjust the flavors to your liking – including spiciness of the salsa.
  8. Bring salsa to a boil. Stir occasionally to reduce the scorching
  9. As soon as the salsa is boiling, it is time to can it. Fill hot jars with boiling salsa. Continue to keep the remaining salsa boiling on the stovetop.
  10. After filling the jar with salsa, wipe the top of the jar with a clean paper towel. Ensure there is approximately 1/2 inch of headspace at the top of the jar.
    11.Sterilely transfer the lid on the jar and screw on the ring (finger tight)
  11. You should technically place the cans in a large pot of boiling water (at least 1-inch of water over the jars) and process for ~15-20 minutes) before moving onto the next step. I usually don’t “process” them in the a water bath.
    I let the jars sit on the counter until they’re completely cooled and sealed. You will hear the lids pinging when they seal.
  12. Store canned salsa in a cool, dark place for up to 8-12 months (though ours never lasts that long).
  13. Enjoy your fresh, homemade salsa!

First Expat Christmas

Let’s first start with a new-to-me word:

Expatriate: (noun) often shortened to expat; A person who lives outside their native country.
I had never heard this word before moving to England. And based on our patriotic-ness, I definitely thought it referred only to Americans. Yes, I know that I am typical American, where everything literally revolves around us. I am wrong; the world doesn’t revolve around Americans. Because I lived in Nebraska for almost 30 years and never truly adventured too far from home, I never thought globally before moving abroad or adventuring away from home. I’m still learning about new cultures, foods, and words.

Now it is firmly the summer months in England, where the weather varies week-to-week or day-to-day. The temperature ranges from roughly 50°F (10°C) to nearly 90°F (32°C). The sun is either out in full-force or hiding behind a blanket of clouds. Yesterday was a new one for us: it literally rained all day.

A few weeks ago when the sun was always around (from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m.), I had some nostalgia for winter! When the sun is never really out but the mood is bright and warm; full of holiday festivals and welcoming pubs. Winter, but specifically Christmas time, always warms my heart regardless of the temperature outside.

However, this past Christmas was difficult for me. At the time, we had only lived in the UK for 6 months, and I had only been at my job for 5. I felt like I couldn’t ask to take more than a few days off work to go home for Christmas. Any time less than a week just isn’t worth the cost of the plane tickets nor the intense jet lag. And to be honest, El also couldn’t take that kind of time off work. Instead, we made the best of our time over here! We put up the [fake] Christmas tree that sprinkles needles everywhere, adorned it with our favorite ornaments, and blared Christmas classics on Spotify (because Pandora doesn’t work in the UK). After a trip to B&Q (the British version of Home Depot – with the orange aprons and friendly smiles), we decided to use our American lights plugged in a transformer – at the time, we couldn’t justify buying new lights for the tree – they’re so expensive here.
Christmas Tree

O’ Christmas Tree!

In the UK, the winter season comes with Christmas markets and decorations throughout the city and country. Cambridge was beautifully lit up and the daily market and stores had Christmas-themed items. A specific kind of cheese that El now loves made its first appearance, but we learned that it is only available during the winter season. There was also a special Christmas Market Day along Mill Road in Cambridge; the street was closed down for the day and evening, vendors were outdoors  on the street selling everything from decorations to gift items, antiques to clothing, and of course food and drinks were available everywhere. Just thinking about the mulled wine that was available makes me almost wish for winter Christmas to return soon. But could I please request a bit more sunshine during winter this year?
Let’s discuss what mulled wine is exactly. First of all, when said aloud it sort of sounds like you’re saying “mold wine.” I promise it isn’t moldy at all! Composed of red wine, sugar, orange juice, and seasonal spices (e.g., cinnamon, star anise, and cloves), mulled wine is another reason, or maybe THE reason, that I can’t wait for Christmas this year. It’s warm and spicy, cozy and spirited! Some recipes I’ve seen call for the addition of bay leaves and brandy. I think it is just wonderful, especially on cold, dark, rainy days. One of my co-workers even has spice bags (think tea bags) that she used to prepare homemade mulled wine while we baked Christmas cookies for our workplace. I also learned how to say Merry Christmas in German from another co-worker and found imported Christmas tins of cookies and liquor that could possibly help me get through a British winter.
Christmas cookies, German: Merry Christmas, Spice sachet, Christmas goodies at Lakenheath Commissary, German Apple Liquor

Christmas cookies, Merry Christmas (in German), spice sachet, imported Christmas goodies, German Apple Liquor

I partook in a ladies-only trip down to London to explore the Christmas Markets. We visited the markets in Hyde Park and near the Tate Modern Museum. More mulled wine. More food. More Christmas goodies and gifts. Next year, I wish to visit Christmas Markets in both Germany and in other parts of the UK besides Cambridge and London.
Hyde Park Christmas Market

Hyde Park Christmas Market

El and I also had to make other tough decisions regarding celebrating Christmas. Both of our workplaces had fancy Christmas Parties, which happened to be on the same night, so we compromised. We chose to attend the Postdocs Of Cambridge (PdOC) Society’s Christmas Party this year; next year we will attend El’s work Christmas party. The Christmas Party for the PdOC was held at St. John’s College, one of the 31 colleges associated with the University of Cambridge. There were drinks, speeches, Christmas crackers, and a fancy dinner in the formal hall that made me think we were in a Harry Potter film. The dining hall was decorated for Christmas, complete with a gigantic Christmas tree.

At our first British Christmas Party.

We took a short holiday just after Christmas. There are so many choices of where to go and what to see, but we opted for going skiing in the southern part of Germany. We made our travel plans very simple; we flew from Stansted Airport to München (Munich) then hopped on a train to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Neither of us speak much German (please and thank get you far though in any language). We found that traveling to, from, and within Germany easy to figure out and extremely on schedule.
Mountain view from lunch

Oh, the Alps! The view from one of the ski slopes.

Jen mountain top post lunch 2

Lunch on the ski slopes.

Kindergarten 2

Learning on the “Kingergarten” slope.

Prior to this ski trip, El and I had only ever skied once. In Iowa. For those of you keeping track, Mt Crescent, Iowa is not a mountain range. It is barely a bunny hill. Let’s just say that the ski instructions in Garmish-Partenkirchen were well worth the money spent. We skied for several days at Zugspitze on the Garmisch-Classic. We picked up the sport quickly and have plans to return! El has even proclaimed that skiing is his new favorite sport. By the end of a ski-cation (our fourth day of the trip), El went down the face of the entire mountain with our ski instructor, Jon-O. I gleefully took the ski lift down the mountain with my eyes tightly shut most of the way down, humming songs to myself to preoccupy my brain. Heights are scary for me. And I was alone in the cable car with no one to distract me.

Jen and El skiing

Selfie on the slopes

We were told that our timing for our vacation was impeccable. The schools would be starting on our second day on the slopes, so the ski lifts would be relatively empty. They couldn’t be more right! On that second day, the weather was perfect and there were very few people on the mountain. It was blissful. Being able to see the whole town and Munich from the ski slopes and lift was priceless. The next time we go to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, we’ll try to stay for a full week and book it just after kids are back in school.

I can see for miles!

I can see for miles!

After the ski-cation was over, the rest of the time we spent in München. We stayed near the Marienplatz and Viktualienmarkt in a wonderful bed and breakfast. The lady who ran the B&B was so inviting and made some of the best breakfast platters on our travel adventures so far. If you’re ever in the München area, contact us and we’ll give you the name of this cute B&B.

In München, we did plenty without having a real agenda or itinerary. This El’s style of vacation, not mine. However, we agreed to it prior to going, so I made due without knowing where we’d be going (wherever the wind blew us that day), what we’d be doing, or when (and what) we’d be eating that day. Overall, it was great! Even without knowing, we essentially saw most of the city. The first night we were in München, we stopped by the Haufbrähaus for an “obligatory” brezeln und biers (pretzels and beer).

The outside of Haufbrahaus.

The outside of Haufbrahaus.

We also toured the Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymphenburg Palace) and strolled through the Englicsher Garten (English Garden) complete with watching crazy surfers on the river.

Nymphenburg Palace

Nymphenburg Palace

We also toured the Residenz München (Munich Residence) and Neus Rathaus (New Town Hall) – with the Glockenspiel am Rathausturm. We climbed the tower of St. Peter’s Church to get a bird’s eye view of the Glockenspiel and plaza.

Inside the Neus Rathaus, there is an American stained glass window.

Inside the Neus Rathaus, there is an American stained glass window.

Bird's eye view of Neus Rathaus.

Bird’s eye view of Neus Rathaus.

I smiling even though terrified.

I’m smiling even though I’m terrified.

We also visited München’s Botanical Gardens and ventured over to the BMW Museum and Welt. Somehow, Elliott was able to talk me into going up the Olympic Tower in the Olympiapark. The top of the Tower a great view of the city and the stadium while having some really awesome pictures and signatures from famous artists.

The view from the Olympia Tower.

The view from the Olympia Tower.


How far is Garmisch?

Olympia Tower at dusk.

Olympia Tower at dusk.

BMW Welt.

Outside the BMW Museum and Welt.

Dear Santa,
Below is my Christmas list for this year. I promise that I’m on the nice list!
1. A real Christmas tree to decorate
2. A week in Garmisch-Partenkirchen to refine my skiing skills
3. Attend Christmas markets in Germany
4. More sunshine during the British winter
5. World peace