Monday, August 27

two meals for hot weather.

Last week, the weather in Germany was so surprisingly hot! Without the air conditioning that we are used to in the States, it's humid, sticky and exhausting. When it's that hot, the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the oven. Thus, I decided to make an effort to create a couple of quick and easy summer meals, inspired by family recipes. 

Quick shot of Feta Pasta.
This recipe for Feta Pasta is based on a dish my mother used to make for me as a child. 
For 2-4 servings, boil water for a half a pound of ziti, penne or something similar. 
As the pasta is cooking, in a large bowl combine: 2 diced ripe tomatoes, 1 minced clove of garlic, a small handful of basil thinly sliced, some cubed or crumbled feta cheese of any sort (I usually use herbed feta), and a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Ingredients can be adjusted easily to suit your tastes. 
Drain the pasta, add to the bowl, toss to coat the pasta and serve!

Cold Rice Salad, taken with my 50mm lens.
Rice salad was something introduced to me by my aunt Clair, who I lived with in Montana for a collective couple of years as I was growing up. I asked her for the recipe more than once, but she couldn't give me any specifics and said I could just throw in whatever I wanted. It truly is versatile - all you really need is cooled rice, any vegetables you have at home, leftover meats and some kind of oil and vinegar based dressing. I happened to have carrots, celery, radishes, olives, chicken, parsley, German salad dressing and olive oil on hand. 
Chop all the vegetables and meat into small pieces, mix with the cold rice and slowly add dressing, salt and pepper to taste. Then cover and refrigerate for an hour or two before eating!

These meals are both fresh and simple - hope you enjoy! 

Thursday, August 23


Sometimes I look back through my blog at all the old photos and descriptions of Iris and I quickly become teary eyed. 
My little baby has grown up and oh, so quickly it has all gone by. 

I wish I could hold the tiny, helpless kitten that was my newborn, one more time, 
to savor her scent and the way her little squirms against me made my heart so full to bursting with new love. 

I wish I could hear her soft coos, fresh and breathy against my ear, 
as now they've become echoes to strain for in my memory. 

I hope I never forget those first moments, weeks, months - I hope I don't forget the ones currently unfolding. 
I wonder - what Iris will be thinking, when she sees this many years from now? 

No matter what happens in the future, will she see how much I loved, love and will love her?

I hope so, my sweet baby.

I do love you.

Ready to go for a walk with her seals. 

Wednesday, August 22

little creations.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was chopping vegetables, I decided to give Iris a handful of carrots, olives and celery to explore. I didn't suggest anything or show her what to do, just let her have a few minutes of completely open play. First, she squirted some juice over the veggies and took a few nibbles.
Then, she created...

I asked her, "would you tell me about what you're making?"
"Carrots," she replied.

Tuesday, August 21

a slice of Germany - Wittlich Pig Fest

"Legend has it that Wittlich was once a walled fortress constantly under attack by invaders. One evening a guard charged with locking the gate to the besieged town couldn't find the peg to secure the fortified door. All he could find was a large carrot to wedge in the door. Later, a pig ate the carrot, the gate opened and the enemy came in. After the enemy ransacked the town, the angry townspeople herded every pig into the town's market square and roasted them. Since then, the town of Wittlich has been known as the town of the pig burners."

The Wittlich (pronounced Vittlich in German) festival goes on for four whole days. We went on Sunday and it was over 30ºC, without a breeze to be had. It would have been pure misery if not for the delicious pork sandwiches, cold local brew and excitement going on all around us. A large portion of the town center is closed down from traffic, leaving it free for carnival style rides and games, and even a stage for musical performances. All of the restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlors spread their tables and chairs into the streets and food vendors set up their wares. Most notable of course, are the pigs roasting on an open fire! We had some of the 43rd pig that was roasted that weekend.

We wandered around for about an hour after eating and drinking, but it was difficult to shop the homemade goods because it was just so hot. Iris was feeling very rambunctious and somewhat grumpy, so we didn't stay for very long. Before we left, we stopped at the toy vendor and bought Iris a couple of beautifully made wooden toys. We definitely enjoyed the experience and look forward to going again next year! 

Sunday, August 12

twenty-two months.

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but some time between last month and this one, something shifted within you. You are starting to firmly grasp independence, really taking chances on your own by initiating change. 

Thus far in your life, you have seemed to be more intellectual than physical. While other kids your age run around, getting into everything, you prefer to watch and talk about what you're observing. Now that you are becoming more interested in socializing, you're taking more chances and stepping outside of your usual comfort zone. At a squadron picnic this weekend, there was a bouncy castle. You screamed with joy - "TOY!" while laughing and pointing at the other kids "BOUNCE!" You wanted to try, so we took your shoes off and placed you on the edge of the castle... but the first two times we tried, you got scared and immediately asked to get down. It was apparent that you still really wanted to try. The third time, you connected with another toddler who was throwing herself joyfully around on the bouncy castle and you joined her, tentatively at first. By the time we left you were bouncing around all by yourself. 

On top of this new breaking of your old boundaries, you are further amazing us with full sentences. For example, the other day you patted my arm and told me "it'll be okay," as a loud motorcycle went by us. You are asking for specific food items that you want, such as "cheese and bread?" We usually walk to the market together every few days, and you excitedly name the fruits and veggies in the product section, "carrot! apple! tomato! pepper!" while also saying "hi!" to everyone we pass. You've also got remarkable manners for your age, demonstrated by your energetic "thank-you!!!" every time one of your needs or wants is met. You are also learning to say "please" when asking for something. When you want one of us to do something for you, you push our legs in the direction you want while commanding, "go!" or "come!"

Your favorite foods at home are yogurt, oatmeal and waffles. When we go grocery shopping, you know to ask for your other favorite foods - "a yummy?!" I usually buy you a little treat to keep you entertained while I shop, such as a carton of raspberries or a little chocolate pastry. You enjoy lounging on the beanbag in your play area while talking to your stuffed animals. You've learned to simultaneously run across the lawn and kick your ball while exclaiming, "kick it!" We draw with chalk on the patio almost daily, and you tell me that you're drawing "blub blub" (fish) or "meow" (cats), even adding recognizable little details such as eyes and whiskers. When you want a change of scenery, you will ask to "go room?" to play upstairs in your room. 

You have also learned to tell your first knock knock joke! You say, "knock knock!" and we reply "who's there?" You throw your arms open wide and say "...a little baby!!" Your newest word obsessions are pointing to an insect and saying, "a bee!" or "a fly!" and you shoo it away. You have also started being a copy-cat for language, repeating things that we say like "not cool!"

The most illustrative and surprising change, is your own decision to night-wean. Since your birth, you have woken multiple times a night for me to nurse you. I would go to bed with your Papa, and you'd wake me crying not long after. I would spend the rest of the night in your bed with you, and I so enjoyed those nights we spent snuggling. You whimpered and nuzzled me a few times every night, until your need for milk and comfort was met, and you would fall back asleep. The last two nights, instead of crying out for me to come to your room for milk, you took a different route. You found your ladybug nightlight, turned on her soft light and fell back to sleep all by yourself. Without me. Without milk. 

I got the first full nights of sleep I've had in two years - except for when I abruptly woke up wondering how I could possibly still be in my own bed! The first night, your Papa and I jumped up to make sure you were okay.... and there you were curled up in bed, bathed in a blue glow and fast asleep. I never imagined you would give up your nightly feedings and cosleeping so easily, that you would transition so beautifully. This is truly an example of my belief that children will hit milestones when they are ready. I have been so patient, and this reward is more than I could ever have asked for. 

I am so very proud of you.

Thursday, August 9

spaghetti girl.

I must admit that during Marius' last deployment, I made a lot of spaghetti for dinner. It quickly developed into being Iris' most favorite meal in the world - as it is with most toddlers, right? Don't most children have the token "covered in spaghetti sauce" photos? I know I do. My mother put me in a highchair outside, let me cover myself, and then "hosed me down" with the hose! 

However, being clean during meals has always been one of our little girl's top priorities. In fact, unless she's only getting wet, she wants nothing to do with any kind of mess in her vicinity. That's why, when four nights ago she decided to devour four servings of spaghetti, I jumped at the opportunity to take her photo. It had been weeks since she'd had a spaghetti dinner and she was so very excited. After eating, there was copious dancing, smiling and laughing. She didn't make much of a mess compared to most children, but for her this is pretty unique!

Wednesday, August 8

on choosing to be tattooed.

This is a post that I've been ruminating on for a long while. I've spent many moments at the sink washing dishes, or in the shower, or building block towers with Iris and wondering... what is it that captivates me so much about the art of tattooing?

I remember that as a child, I received the impression that tattoos are disgusting and only trashy and criminal people get them. I remember the raised eyebrows and the noticeable disgust. I remember my father once telling me that he thought about getting a tattoo at one point in his life, but then he saw an old man whose tattoo was just a messy black splotch on his arm. My father thought that it was ugly and said he wouldn't want something like that on his body. I can relate to these points of view, I see why they occur and I don't wrong anyone for feeling opposed to tattoos. However, I do find error in the idea that a human being, a subculture of human beings no less, can be judged as good or bad based solely on their appearance.

If you ask Marius, he will tell you that I have an interest that could almost border on obsession with tattoos - the designs, the styles, the execution. I, myself, have two small ones currently and have made an appointment with a local artist to have my first larger piece done on my arm in November. I know that this is something which will surely disappoint or sadden certain family members. I don't intend to be disrespectful to them, it simply comes down to the fact that I made a commitment to myself. A commitment to free myself from the part of my personality which above all desires approval from those closest to me.

I rarely, if ever, mention my childhood on this blog, as I think it's important to respect my family by not over-sharing. However, I do think it is appropriate to share that until only recently, I felt terrible, agonizing guilt for not being the child that I felt my parents wanted. This guilt created a certain level of self-hatred which trapped me at every turn. It is a self-defeating prophecy for most people, the desire to fulfill others in the hopes that it will fulfill the self. The older I get, the more I realize that I can claim life and existence as my very own; that my happiness is not dependent on those around me but on myself.

Many years ago, my father shared a piece of writing with me about attitude, and how one's attitude dictates life experience as positive or negative. At the time, I was old enough to understand the concept, but I rejected the word "attitude" due to the negative connotations implied. To this day, I prefer referring to this concept as "choosing your perspective."  The more I learned how to choose a positive perspective, the healthier I became as a person and the more I began to understand who I am and who I want to be.

You may think I am getting off the subject of tattoos but in actuality, this is the root of why I no longer have reservations about decorating my body with the things I find beautiful. I am being tattooed now because at 18 years old, I had the wisdom to realize that I lacked the maturity and foresight to choose tattoos that I could grow old with. At almost 25 years old, I feel confident that I have the self-realization and emotional sophistication necessary to make such a decision. I am content with who I am as a person, and the criticism which may come from others has very little significance. As a respected blogger I follow has put it, tattoos are a filter. Someone who would make negative or hurtful comments based on my appearance is likely not someone I would be interested in having in my life anyway.

Tattoos have always held meaning and significance for me, and I no longer feel shame for that. I find it fascinating that they can tell stories, bare someone's soul, or simply be a piece of art to enjoy. I view them as a form of self expression. 

Tuesday, August 7

drawing with chalk.

One of the best things about having a patio is chalk drawing! 
I take Iris outside to draw almost every day, assuming it's not raining out. 

My reflection. 

A little girl reflecting. 

Coloring the square.

I went online to buy her new sandals shortly after taking this picture...

Long lashes.

I am commanded to draw many kitties. 


Monday, August 6

breastfeeding is beautiful.

Remember this post I made almost one year ago? I talked about what it might be like to nurse a one year old in a society that is rarely exposed to the natural act of breastfeeding and I also recommitted to playing my part in normalizing breastfeeding by nursing Iris in public. Since then, our breastfeeding relationship has advanced into an even stronger emotional connection, and has continued to provide a cherished source of hydration, nutrition and prevention of illness. I have continued to nurse her in public any time, any where. I am joyful to report that not one person has attempted to shame me for feeding my child in the natural way. Not one person has glared at me, shielded their children's eyes from me, or asked me to leave the room. Until now.

About a week after moving into our new house we met our neighbors, an American couple who have lived here for over two years. The four of us got together a couple of times to spend the day together, and it seemed as though we all had things in common and enjoyed each other's company. The wife and I got along swimmingly and we went on several day trips to nearby cities to have lunch and go shopping. We saw eye to eye about many things and became fast friends.

Since she doesn't have children, the first time I nursed Iris in front of her at a fast food stand in Bitburg, I warned her beforehand, "just so you know, I'm still nursing Iris." She replied, "thanks for warning me because I would have been totally shocked." Then she asked me if I wanted to go back to the car for privacy. I said no, we're very comfortable here and shared with her that I am very passionate about mothers being able to feed their babies any time, any where. She expressed that she values privacy. As I mentioned, we continued to be social with each other and I was not offended when she asked if I wanted to cover Iris with a scarf on another nursing occasion. I made attempts to be more discreet when nursing Iris while we were socializing - and nursing her was a rarity. We shared meals, laughed and exchanged details of our lives with each other over the period of a few weeks, and not once did she make it clear that my breastfeeding made her painfully uncomfortable. Then one day, she messaged me on facebook with some very unpleasant words. She referred to my nursing Iris as "well, yuck is the reaction I have to it. It just makes me really uncomfortable for a list of reasons. Especially when its in public and when its in front of my husband." 

She said that she was "squirming in her seat uncomfortable" when I was "pulling out my breast" and "making my statement." She believes that everyone else in our vicinity was also offended and were staring at us. I responded with some information about the benefits of breastfeeding, the German breastfeeding rates, and made it apparent that I was offended. However, the majority of my replies to her words were ignored and she continued to blame me for her discomfort. "That is unfair to me, and considering I feel that way and you are not willing to have any boundaries about it at all I am going to have to set the boundary that I not be in public with you and Iris anymore." In reality, there was no suggestion of a compromise, no honest admission that she was just embarrassed and hoped there was a way for me to make it better for her. Just outright accusations, expectations that I simply do or not do whatever she wanted and for lack of better words - shaming and blaming. 

Exacerbating her already highly offensive tone, she compared breastfeeding to abortion. "For example, I feel very passionately about being pro-abortion, planned pregnancy, and all things related to population control. But I fully recognize how much that offends other people for their own list of reasons and so unless in a more intimate setting I keep the details of that passion to myself. " 

She went on to accuse me of plagiarizing. '"Wow. Your true angst was very transparent in that statement. On the one hand you tell me to be respectful, yet you take a shot at my communication skills and refer to my messages as a 'scattered flood of opinions.' Honestly, I don't think you came up with that by yourself, and I don't believe it's the way you actually feel. I think that remark either came from a place of hurt feelings, or you got it from someone else."

She suggested that I should not be around people while nursing, and compared breastfeeding to any other bodily function. "I see it as a bodily function, yeah its a natural part of being human but so are a lot of other bodily functions... there's things I do as a natural part of everyday behavior but I don't do them in public as a courtesy to the people around me."

Being the rather sensitive person I am, I was hurt by her unexpected words. Even after I presented the scientific facts about the benefits of breastfeeding, this woman who is educated in biology and child development blew it off and could only focus on how wrong I was to feed my baby in public. Her words in their entirety suggested that I should be ashamed and embarrassed for my behavior, because how dare I make her or anyone else uncomfortable. I can only imagine what it must be like for the mothers who are treated that way by complete strangers, or worse by family members who tell them to cover up or leave the room. I held fast to my passion for normalizing breastfeeding. If she had asked me in a friendly way, of course I would have made further attempts to make her more comfortable. I honestly thought that her offers of going to the car and for a scarf to cover Iris were for my own sake and that she was just trying to be polite.

I do not intend this post to be a personal vendetta, merely an illustration of a popular ignorance found throughout the world. It is hard for me wrap my head around this kind of mindset. I understand that some people just cannot break through the cultural norms they grow up with, and no amount of reason can sway them. I am still surprised that someone I thought was my friend could treat me that way, because of the way I feed my child. Needless to say, I am no longer interested in a friendship with her. I can empathize with her point of view, though I find deeply seeded flaws. The nursing relationship should continue for as long as mother and child want, and judgement of that should be kept private. If a woman feels more comfortable nursing her baby with a cover, or she wants a private room then she should have those things - only if she is the one who desires them. I personally do not feel the need, and that is okay too. 

For a brief moment, I thought about not posting the above second photo. Then I realized that I was thinking that way because I was afraid I would be judged again. Afraid someone else would find me and my child disgusting. And maybe someone does. But you know what? I know for a fact that I am making the best decision possible for my child's health and well being throughout her life by breastfeeding her. And I will never feel ashamed of that. 

This past week has been World Breastfeeding week. In our area of Germany, dozens of mothers and their babies gathered on the lawn of Ramstein air base to participate in the Big Latch On, which is a global effort to raise awareness of breastfeeding. I wish I could have been there to be a part of it! Iris will be two years old in October. I will continue to nurse her in public to promote the many benefits of breastfeeding and to normalize this wonderful, natural act. 

Sunday, August 5

links I love.

"I do not need you to be with me. I need you to be with yourself. When you are with yourself, you are with me."
A wonderful reminder to remain in the present moment, and more thoughts to consider in the voice of the universal child, shared on the Peaceful Parenting facebook page.

Have you seen this video? I hope this type of technology soon becomes commonplace.

A healthy recipe to try this week and a healthy food blog with beautiful pictures to drool over. 

Considering that I only have one pair of wearable shoes at the moment, made this purchase for myself today!

An article by one of my favorite bloggers, Danielle Hampton, about what it's like to be visibly tattooed. It's given me a lot to think about in considering the decision I've made to become more heavily tattooed. 

I was introduced to the German company Weleda by a friend in North Carolina, and am now in love with their  natural baby products!

Ladies, I recently discovered Revlon's Lip Butter and Balm Stain! The lip butter, which feels like a lightweight lipstick, healed and moisturized my lips within two days. The balm stain is non-drying, long wearing and provides a lovely pop of color. I highly recommend them!

Are you interested in browsing The Local, German news in English?

The most beautiful story I read this week. 

And lastly, how cute are these?!

Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend! 

Wednesday, August 1

a slice of Germany - Schloß Café

I've decided to introduce a new feature to my blog - A Slice of Germany! I plan to document and post all about the beautiful and interesting places we visit during our time here. I'll likely mostly feature restaurants, as enjoying food is something of particular interest to me! I hope not only to share a bit of our life here, but also to document our experiences for us to look back on. 

The town of Malburg is a short 30 minute walk from where we live. It's quite a workout to walk anywhere in our town or near it, as we are located in the base of a valley, thus lots of hills! I admit that lately I've found myself to be in the best shape I've been in years with all the uphill walking both ways I do every day! We initially had planned to walk into the next town over and then return home, but I decided we should walk around a bit to see if we could find a restaurant our landlady had recommended to me. 

We ended up at the peak of a steep hill, atop of which is the castle of Malburg, which we didn't visit that time around. However, sitting right below it was a small café and we decided to check it out! They had a fairly simple menu with appetizer type plates of meat and cheese, small sandwiches, cake, ice cream and all sorts of refreshments. It looked like the sort of place that people of the town frequent after church, as we were there on a Sunday and it was full of well dressed people when we arrived. 

Since we'd already eaten lunch, we ordered some of the most divine cake I have ever tasted. It was so light and yet full with the flavors of chocolate, cherries, sweet liquor and whipped cream. On a similar note, I should mention that Marius and I are self-professed beer connoisseurs and it's quite an intense hobby for us. We ordered a beer called Kasteel Donker, a quadruple style which is brewed in Belgium. The name Kasteel, which was world-class delicious albeit sweet for our palates, also translates to "castle" in Dutch. The staff were lovely and helpful and I am simply amazed that we live just a 30 minute walk from a place like this. I will never tire of the simple pleasures of Europe. Since moving here, I've been bombarded with requests for pictures of our new home - those will be coming soon! For now, enjoy the photos I took of this wonderful little café in the town next to us, Schloß Café. 

The sign translates to "Castle Cafe. Coffee + Cake. Beer Wine ice Cream"