Strasbourg, France …Happened

A tale of I wish we had two bathrooms

Our European tour started with a bang,  shortly followed up by a gurgle and a burp.  This would set the tone for all of our future excursions through Europe.  Something easy, inexpensive and highly enjoyable. Just a quick weekend getaway…

My wife’s birthday was right around the corner.  After the stress of relocating our entire family, including two cats to Germany, what could be better than a quick stop over to the self-proclaimed “most romantic country in the world”…right?  

I set out to plan the whole trip; sightseeing, outdoor cafes, wine, cheese and bread for days!  A week before we head out, our youngest caught a bug. No sweat, plenty of time for it to work its way through his system…I will not be deterred.

I found a nice enough hotel room, one bedroom for us, two single beds in the main area for the boys and even a small kitchenette.  All within walking distance of the city center. Sure enough, the entire day before the trip everyone was back in good health or so I thought, the mission is a go.

We head out early enough, but not too early so that we will be able to check into the hotel when we arrive.  Our crossing over the border of Germany into France becomes apparent instantly. From the language on the signage to the design of the speed limit and off ramp signs, the style isn’t drastically different but unmistakable.  We had purchased a cell phone for my wife, and it instantly chimes to tell her that we have now left Germany, if she would like to continue to receive calls she must turn on roaming. No big deal, something I love to do during vacation is unplug, in fact I recommend everyone unplug every chance that they can.  Our car comes equipped with a GPS anyway.

A handful of miles into France and something strange happened on our GPS however, it looks as if we have left the road and are driving through some random road-less field.  I can assure you that we are in fact still road-bound, despite my logical argument the GPS seems to continue to disagree. We fiddle with the controls for a few minutes then are left with no choice but to bite the bullet and turn on the roaming feature of my wife’s phone in order to Google map the rest of our way to the hotel.  Again, I will not be deterred, once we arrive we will have the WiFi from the hotel and no need to drive again so we will be able to turn it off again.

Only 20 minutes until we reach our destination, my oldest son starts to complain about not feeling well.

“We are only 20 minutes away, surely you will be able to make it to the hotel right?”

He must just be a little car sick, my wife and I justify his not feeling well.

“I will tr…BLAAARGHHH” comes his response

His corner of the car is suddenly covered in this morning’s breakfast.

“Oh no!” I say as I look for the first available spot to pull over.  My wife is already rolling down the window.

“BLAAARGHHH”, last nights dinner.  “BLAAARGHHH” yesterdays….lunch?

After spending the next 10 minutes on the side of the road, we have the mess somewhat handled.  We debate turning back and scraping the weekend but decide that at this point 15 minutes to our hotel beats an hour plus driving back home in a vomit encased car interior.  Our oldest looks like he will need to get to a toilet as soon as possible anyway.

We arrive at our hotel and I run inside to check-in while my wife hangs outside with the boys so we don’t have an incident in the lobby.  We get everything in order and get to the room, with a sigh of relief we show our oldest just where the bathroom is. As they settle in, I have to go back down to the car to move it around to the parking garage at the rear of the building.

Strasbourg is mid-sized city, but like most cities it is composed of mainly one-way streets.  Moving the car to the back of the building suddenly became a little more complicated. I am unable to turn right to get to the back of the building, so I look for the next road that I can turn down only it doesn’t come right away and the road curves away from my intended destination.  After a few more twists and turns in my pungent car, I deem myself lost. One more attempt to reach the road I am trying to get to and I find myself back on the highway that i came in on, and in the wrong direction. I try to re-locate myself with the “you’re driving in the middle of a field” car GPS, unsuccessfully.  I start patting down all of my pockets for my wifes cell phone, which happens to still be with my wife. A moment of panic rises in my chest, I am lost in a foreign country, on a highway going the wrong direction, with a sick child in a hotel room that I can’t find.

A couple deep breaths and I gather my thoughts, I exit the highway and loop around to the other side of the highway and re-enter.  I am going the right direction now, I must be able to remember the exit we got off of. I look for the spot where we pulled over to let my son puke while we cleaned up the back seat.  I don’t see it, and this has to be too far. I try again, exiting and entering the highway back and forth one more time. Panic is starting to rise again. This time I take what I think is an exit at least near where I want to be.  After circling through the city of Strasbourg in stop and go city traffic I know I have to be close. I pull over and jump out of the car in search of someone that knows English preferably and possibly the road that I am looking for.

I run into a couple guys who look to be in their 20’s.  Their English is spotty, but they are willing to open up Google maps and let me put in my destination.  Turns out I am about 3 roads away from where I want to be. I can hardly stifle the relief that I feel, I extend my thanks and get back to my car, two minutes later I am sitting in front of the hotel in the exact spot that I started from.  I will not be deterred. I circle around the hotel a drive up what I now recognize as a road next to the street trolley tracks to the parking garage. Victory! A piddly two hours and countless kilometers have passed since I last said I will be right back, I have to go park the car.

I finally walk back into the hotel room.  My youngest is watching Netflix on the laptop, my oldest is looking as pale as a ghost trying to rest on one of the single beds.  

“Where’s mommy?” I ask.

They point to the bathroom…”BLAAARGHHH”

“Oh no.”  I wipe my hands down either side of my face.

I describe my car parking adventure while my wife and son exercise the bathroom door hinges and toilet handle.  We gathered up as many receptacles as we could find in the bathroom to accomidate the double occupancy at times.

“I wish we had two bathrooms.” My wife says repeatedly as she is forced to share the bathroom with my son who is using both the toilet and a bucket at the same time.

I left the room once more that afternoon, for a food and water run.

That night, we quarantined my wife and son to the bedroom while myself and my youngest each took a single bed in the living room.  They were equipped with tissues, towels and buckets. I checked on them regularly while hoping beyond hope that myself and my youngest weren’t next on the list of victims.

After some restless sleep everyone seemed to be feeling a little bit better the next morning.  Myself and my youngest were anxious to get some breakfast and my older son felt like he might be able to keep some food down as well, so we all went down for some free hotel breakfast.

During breakfast we decided that it wasn’t even worth it to try and explore the city, everyone just wanted to go home.  The last thing we wanted was for another bout of vomiting to strike in the middle of a walking tour of the city. Our choice would prove to be the correct one.

We packed our bags, cleaned up the bathroom as well as we could and just before heading out, my oldest decided that he did NOT in fact want to bring the free breakfast home with him and tried to find room for it in the already overfull trash can.

Our return drive to Germany was on pins and needles, as every cough, burp, sniffle and hiccup resulted in my looking around for some part of a lunch from three weeks ago to appear in some form on the car seats and floor. Our sole souvenir gripped between my son’s hands for the entire drive, the hotels plastic bathroom garbage can liner.

By the time that we arrived back at a house with two bathrooms, no one needed either one anymore.  So I guess you can say that we have visited France, but I’m not ready to mark that country off our bucket list quite yet.

Please excuse the lack of pictures…but I’m sure you understand.

4 a.m.

A few weeks ago, I opened up a blank Google document…and this fell out.

I don’t know anything worse than being jolted awake at four o’clock in the morning by an absurdly loud and incessant alarm clock.  Well, maybe I know a couple things that are worse than that, but at four o’clock in the morning I will be damned if I can think of anything worse.  You would think that in the times of iPhones, virtual reality and flexible LED screens we would find a better way to signal to our body that it is time to get up and get going.  Actually, I am willing to bet there is a hundred products out there that claim to do just what I am talking about, but who has time to find and try them out? Certainly not the people that are using alarm clocks to get up at four o’clock in the morning that’s for sure.  We are so damn busy that we can’t even wait until a decent hour to rise and shine. You know who the real villain is, the people that decided that they want to run a business that starts operating before the sun comes up, before the shine part of rise and shine actually happens, that’s who.  Sure, when you’re in the coffee hawking business I guess it makes sense to start early, but what about all those people stumbling in when we unlock the doors with one eye still closed begging for a cup of the high octane like Oliver Twist asking for another bowl. They aren’t selling liquid cocaine, they are selling things like tires, knick-knacks, suit jackets and cable subscriptions.  Who am I kidding, nobody subscribes to cable anymore, not in this streaming, instant gratification, I want my money and I want it now society. I want really good movies and shows to be available for watching when I damn well feel like watching them, and I don’t just want one or two episodes I want the whole season at my fingertips. Then every other week there better be another season available for me to watch, you want me to wait a whole year for another eight or ten or thirteen episodes?  That’s downright un-American I say.

Jesus, how long have I been in the shower?  Sometimes my mind just wanders you know, I’m not sure that my brain realized that I got up.  Did I get up? Am I still sleeping? Please don’t tell me that I have to live through my alarm clo… BRRRT BRRRT BRRRT. 

“FUCK!  I hate my life.”

As I rinse and repeat the morning shower routine, that I already lived through once this morning, I can’t shake a couple lines from the Twenty One Pilots song “Stressed Out” out of my head, “Used to dream of outer space, but now they’re laughing at our face singing wake up, you need to make money!” This seems to be an accurate mantra to start my day with. I can’t for the life of me, remember the line before or after that though, isn’t that how it always goes, just enough of a song to stick in your head but not enough of it to keep it from being mind-numbingly annoying.  I turn off the water and stand in the steam for another minute and take a deep breath.

“Well, I guess.”

As well as resorting to mantras to get me through the day, I’ve also taken to talking out loud to myself lately.  I’m not crazy, I only do it when no one is around to hear me doing it. Maybe I should get a dog or something then it would look like I was just talking to them, that wouldn’t seem as unusual I think.  You know, on the off chance that someone snuck into my house to observe me in my natural habitat and caught my solo conversations, they would just be like, “he has a dog and I can only assume he is talking to his dog, perfectly normal”.

Today feels different, it’s not but it feels like it could be.  I mean, every day is different but they are all the same as well.  Not deja-vu the same, but more or less similar. I am wearing the same color khakis and blue shirt that I always wear to work. I am going through the same morning routine that I always go through, hence the term routine.  I take the same path to work as I have been taking for the past five or six months, at the same time that I always do plus or minus a minute or two depending on how far my mind wanders during my morning shower. I inhale a deep, crisp breath of fresh air through my nose and it’s almost cold enough to give me a headache, but that’s nothing new.  Yet, there is something else there, paranoia, premonition, foresight, who knows. Call it what you want, I call it “another day another dollar” and remind myself, “I get paid by the hour.” Well would you look at that, another out loud solo conversation, and two more mantras all rolled up into one.  I’m really on a roll today.

Yogi Quotes

I don’t know if you have ever tried it but I have been drinking Yogi tea lately. They print motivational phrases on the little paper squares at the end of the tea string.  Every night I get to read a new one, now you can too:

-Give happiness and you will end up happy.

-Let us be kind and compassionate to remove the sadness of the world.

-Forgiveness is an act of consciousness.

-This life is a gift.

-Let your energy be used to build, not destroy.

-May this day be the day to lead us to peace, to happiness and to joy.

-Think seriously and think honestly.

-Love is the ultimate law of life.

Kindness is the light of life.

The essence of life is to communicate love.

-People who love are forgiving.

-What belongs to you shall come to you.

-In every moment of life, you should be what you ought to be.

-Spread the light; be the lighthouse.

-If we are happy, everybody looks up and shares our happiness.

-Love is to live for somebody, love is not to live with somebody.

-You must have self-respect; only then can you respect somebody.

-Be kind to others, but always be compassionate to yourself.

-Happiness is actually an art of living, which is in us.

-Our creative consciousness is not limited.

-Give love, get love.

-Let your heart speak to others hearts.

-Your strength is your own knowledge.

-We are born wise, we are born compete.

-The purpose of life is to know yourself and love yourself and trust yourself and be yourself.

-When the dawn of simplicity comes in life, complications leave.

-If you let yourself be successful, you shall be successful.

-Your potential self is infinite.

-Every beat of your heart is a rhythm of your soul.

I will add more quotes as I get them so be sure to check back. In the meantime, sit back with a cup of warm tea, relax and enjoy the moment.

The embedded link will bring you to the tea that I am referencing on Amazon.com – I am in no way endorsing any products or suggesting that you or anyone should buy anything…ever.

Kitchen Counter Hygge-lism

Kitchen counters can be a catch all in any household. Not to mention the multitude of cooking gadgets that are enough to overcrowd any size kitchen, and more handy dandy, must have items to make people think you are a master chef are being introduced every day!  Anybody who’s anybody will have all of the most up to date high tech cooking tools right? If your lucky there will still be room on your counter to toss your junk mail once all of your appliances are firmly in place, collecting dust.

Call me crazy, but I like a kitchen that I feel comfortable cooking in, and a counter that has room to prepare food on.  While I am slicing and dicing up some peppers for the frying pan, I prefer to not have my elbows knocking into anything made my Cuisinart, Pampered Chef, Oyster or any of those other pricey paper weights.

Don’t get me wrong I do have an appliance on my counter, but just one.  I have a drip coffee maker. Even that has been considered and reconsidered though, I would really love to switch to a pour over or a french press.  I will make the switch, and when I do you will hear all about it, of that you can be sure. I own a couple more appliances, but they get put away when not in use.  A clean, minimal, hygge kitchen counter is what greets me when I walk into the kitchen and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As you can see, our counter-top is not perfect but it works perfectly as a fully functional and hygge food preparation station. Utensils at the ready, grab and go fruit (and cookies) within reach, a cutting board posted and ready for use and the maybe not for much longer, ever present coffee pot.  Eagle-eyed readers may notice the Amazon Tap standing at attention next to the utensils – I enjoy having music accompany me in the kitchen. There is also a roll of paper towels for quick spill clean up, we would prefer more of a zero waste approach but are not quite there yet.  

Plant life and minimal decorations on the window sill really help to bring home into the house, and bringing elements of outside in is one of the essential ingredients to Hygge.  Minimal, functional, comfortable – Hygge-lism.

The embedded links will bring you to the items that I have researched and contemplated purchasing on Amazon.com – I am in no way endorsing any products or suggesting that you or anyone should buy anything…ever.

A Sunday Morning Tradition

Lazy Sundays are probably my favorite days, that is especially true here in Germany.  Unlike the States, most businesses still close on Sundays here. They also really enjoy their quiet, noise restrictions are in effect all day every day on Sundays.  Seriously, it is enforced by law if you get carried away. You are not allowed to mow your lawn, you shouldn’t be washing your car and be careful if you go for a drive, finding an open gas station could be a problem.

So plan on not making plans.

Enforced relaxation is something that can get down with.  So I start my Sundays with a tradition that will hopefully be passed down from my children to their own children one day.

PANCAKE SUNDAY!!

Pancakes are so simple, so quick, filling and a big time hygge food.  Plus they are so customizable, we have experimented with all kinds of combinations of add in ingredients like chocolate chips, blueberries, M&Ms, bananas, bacon, you name it.  Toppings, sauces, creams, jimmy’s (or sprinkles, whatever you call them), and don’t forget shapes. I typically mix my pancakes in a glass measuring cup, so that I can make all sorts of shapes with the batter.  We have done geometric shapes, letters, people, superheros, big and tiny circles, there are just so many options.

Hygge-lism has really taught us to enjoy these mornings even more, which I didn’t think was possible.  Our small minimal kitchen is easy to cook in, and that makes enjoying the process just as nice as the final product.  The smell of freshly brewing coffee, and the sound of pancake batter lightly sizzling on the skillet are both relaxing sensations.  I crack open the window behind the sink and a brisk fall air with all the smells of outdoors mingles with the kitchen aromas. Between flipping pancakes and mixing sugar into my cup of coffee, I check to see if the plants on our window sill need another splash of water.

A big plate of pancakes with syrup, a big glass of orange juice or a hot mug of steaming coffee and sometimes bacon, though we are trying to cut back.  Is there a better way to start a lazy Sunday?

The embedded link will bring you to the skillet that we have used for years – We are in no way endorsing any products or suggesting that you or anyone should buy anything…ever.

Homemade

Less is more, less cleaning, less organizing, less worrying, less time wasted attending to your many many things.

More is the result of less, more money, more experiences, more time doing the things that you really love to do.

Let’s take this a step further, you have less stuff so let’s look at how the stuff that you do have makes you feel.  Having less stuff isn’t the goal, having the right stuff is the goal. Everything that you own should be something that you love.  It’s more that just having items that serve a purpose, your possessions should give you a comfortable, cozy, warm feeling. The Danish term for that feeling is Hygge.  The amount of things that I own is very minimal, the items that I do own are Hygge.

Physical possessions are just the start of Hygge-lism, when you start to apply it to all the other facets of your life is when you really start to feel and see the difference.  Weights are lifted off of your shoulders as your stress recedes. You begin to smile more, laugh more, you start to look forward to each coming day and whatever it will bring. You become closer with your friends and family.  Small annoyances disappear as you start to enjoy the process of daily tasks. The destination is no longer the goal, the journey itself is just as enjoyable. In the coming posts I will give you all the tools necessary to instill Hygge-lism into your home and life, how I apply them to my own and how they have added immeasurable joy to myself and my families daily lives.

Segues & Excerpts

I like to write.  Just in general, I enjoy the process of writing.  I even enjoy the sound of the keys tapping on my tiny little Chromebook.  Taking what is in my mind and trying to articulate it into a web of words that is appealing to the eye is an endless source of satisfaction for me.

While writing about my daily life is satisfying, occasionally I get an itch to write something completely different, typically a fictional short story or essay.  I have even completed a full length fiction novel, unpublished but written.  

I will occasionally post these random stories and essays here for everyone’s reading pleasure.  Perhaps even a few chapters from my book will find there way here as well, who knows.

Life on Two Wheels

Germany is a very bicycle friendly country, in fact all of Europe shares this trait.  It is healthy, environmentally friendly, efficient, low budget and an activity that is very Hygge-list.  The benefits of bicycling for your own health are innumerable, not to mention the multitude of benefits to the environment.  The communities of people and personalities that enjoy pedaling as their primary source of transportation lead to experiences and friendships that will last lifetimes.  As you can imagine, I am eager to join this community.

I do own a bicycle, albeit it is a decade or so past its prime but it is functional.  This winter I have decided that it is time for my dusty old bike to go under the knife.

This page will track my progress as I rebuild my bicycle into something I can be proud to ride come spring time.  It will then document my many explorations on two wheels across the countrysides of Germany and its neighboring countries.

Adventures

We love to travel, as most people do.  As a family of four though, travel can be expensive, stressful, tiring and as exhausting as it is rewarding.  By adopting Hygge-lism into all facets of our lives though we started to notice that the peg on the travel-meter started to swing away from the exhausting side and more towards the rewarding side of the meter.

Instead of throwing money away on loads of items that we didn’t need, we began to invest in experiences and living life.  We applied our lifestyle to our travel and started to see that we could travel cheaper and easier. We stopped dragging so much stuff with us everywhere we went.  Less stuff meant that we needed less space and fewer bags which equaled less expensive travelling.

As luck would have it, just as we were getting our Hygge-list traveling underway, my day job presented us with an opportunity to relocate to Germany.  This was an opportunity primed for taking advantage of.

In the coming posts we will show you how and where we travel.  Big adventures on little budgets with less headaches and lots of memories.  Not to mention some awesome photos supplied by my incredible travel photography wife.

Check out some of her awesome photos on her new Instagram page – @vaca_with_katie

Flavors

Flavors and aromas are powerful.  They have the ability to instantly transport you back in time and immerse you into a memory that you thought was long forgotten.  Just thinking of one of those moments now I bet you can almost smell whatever was cooking in the oven at the time.

Hygge-lism has taught us to really enjoy the process of cooking, baking and just preparing food in general.  Filling our cozy home with the warm aromas of freshly baking chocolate chip cookies, or the sounds and smells of a stew bubbling in a crock pot is a universally Hygge sensation.  Sitting in a comfortable chair with a throw blanket, cradling a hot cup of coffee watching the snow fall outside is a moment that we could live in forever.

We are creating the memories that these aromas bring back to us for our children now, and along the way creating some new memories of our own.  

This page will be a collection of all our favorite flavors, perhaps they will turn out to be some of your favorites as well.