As many of you know, I’m a native American who has lived abroad. I lived in the Czech Republic twice as a student, and married a German. Our lives are this incredible mix of Germany and American and Czechia. A hodge podge of cobblestone streets, castles, wide open spaces, mountains, bikes, and long road trips. No matter where I have lived over the past 15 years, my heart has always had a piece missing. It’s the reason I travel so much. It’s the reason our daughter is bilingual.
I am so lucky to have been able to study abroad, so glad to have met my husband, but there are days when the homesickness is really hard. And no matter where we live, no matter how recently we’ve been back to Europe or have another trip planned, a part of our lives is always missing. It’s celebrating German holidays and Czech holidays quietly at home. It’s phone calls and texts and emails to friends and family far away. It’s long flights and castles and cake and friends you travel halfway around the world to see.
Last spring, I found amazingly cheap tickets to Prague and without really thinking, I booked them. I booked them because it had been 4 years since I had been back and I was desperate for my host family to meet my husband (who hadn’t made that trip with me) and our daughter. And today I realized, I haven’t shared some of the photos I took, photos of places I used to walk all the time when I lived in Olomouc and Prague, and I am feeling extremely homesick, as I always do in the fall, and so here you go.
Prague is a quirky place to travel with a little kid. It’s not exactly stroller friendly, and it’s not filled with playgrounds or kids museums, but Czechs love kids. I think it’s best as a town for tiny babies or for slightly older kids, but found parks and playgrounds. We stayed in Prague 6 this time, at this sweet family apartment near a bunch of embassies and I hadn’t spent much time on that side of the river when I lived in Prague. We loved the apartment, and we were so sad to leave.
In Olomouc, I got to show my family all the the places I used to go, and we spent a few days with my host family. It was so strange to see my old school, the main square, and all my old spots. We met up with a few friends in both Prague and Olomouc and it just…was so good to show my husband and daughter all the places I used to go all the time.
All these photos were shot on my Nikon FG 20 film camera, on Portra 160 and Portra 800.
Can you believe it’s May already? It’s amazing the difference just two months can make. When I switched to doing these every other month, I realized there is a bit of wonder in looking back more than 60 days to see how things change so much in such a short time. And spring is such a huge example of that. When we left for Germany in early March, there was still nearly two feet of snow at our house. When I came back, it was more or less all gone, and now we have flowers and real spring!
March – Germany & Italy
1. Flying for us is always a bit weird because we need to be near two different hubs in Germany, to visit family, so we usually pick one and then have to drive/train to the other and it’s a mess. This time we flew in and out of Munich, and while I like it much better, I’m still not a huge fan because Germany won’t let me opt out of the scanners. Ugggh. But, we booked an airport hotel since we got in late and were driving up to the Frankfurt area the next morning. We stayed at this Holiday Inn Express at the airport, which had a pack and play, a decent breakfast spread, and (bonus!) we had a room with a direct view of takeoff and N let me know (every 90 seconds) that a new plane was taking off. Toddler approved.
2. In a super funny coincidence, my family is from about an hour away from where H’s mom grew up. And while we were there, we realized last minute that we had a free afternoon and a rental car, and we drove over to the town my great-grandparents are from. It’s basically a suburb of Frankfurt now, and the weather was all over the place, but it was cool to see. Next time, I’ll plan a little better.
3. The Airbnb apartment we rented had this great little Winter Garten, which is kind of like a sunroom, but this fabulous thing Americans don’t have. Basically, they’re greenhouses attached to your home. Usually not heated, this one had a little space heater and I parked myself out there in the sunshine during naps to enjoy the view…
4. …and to work on a cross stitch. After having N, I really needed a hobby that wasn’t writing to my politicians or reading books, something that was compact, easy to pick up when I had 15 minutes, travel with, and didn’t take up too much space. I tried embroidery and cross stitch and prefer cross stitch for now.
5. A rainbow from the Autobahn. The Autobahn is just as crazy and beautiful as you might think, and I will probably never ever drive in Germany because I find them so overwhelming. But I do find it fascinating that Germans make it quite hard an expensive to get a license, and then trust that their drivers will follow the rules and make the best decisions based on their abilities and their vehicle. It places a lot of trust in drivers. Anyway! I think this was from when we detoured to pick up a cousin of H’s that I’d never met after his flights got messed up and we drove him down to Bavaria with us. Kismet.
6. We barely spent any time in Munich proper for this trip, since we basically camped out in a tiny Bavarian village with family, but we did make it to the aquarium and N was absolutely thrilled. She loved pointing out all the fish and the sharks and basically said ‘yaaaaay’ and clapped her hands the whole time. Win. And since we spent so much time hanging out with family, at the hotel pool, and just relaxing, I didn’t take many photos this time. But it was good and I ate really well.
7. Rome! We went to Germany for Opa’s 90th birthday party, but when H had to fly back for work stuff, N and I took advantage of the fact that tickets were the same price a week later to stay longer. I wasn’t sure what we were doing until about a month before our trip when we made the decision to spend 5 days in Rome. It was lovely, it was strange, and I have mixed feelings.
8. I have no mixed feelings about Roman pizza. It’s amazing. We adored the cold pizza by the kilo during the day (my fave had fresh ricotta and basil with the thinnest schmear of tomato sauce) and never had it hot from the ovens because we were too exhausted to eat dinner out and only tourist places serve hot pizza before like 7:30pm. N adored it, and we adored all the pizza store owners who saw her and handed her a roll or slice of bread. She learned early on to say grazie! with a big smile.
9. This church was near the bus stop by our Airbnb and there was a small fountain and square and N loved it. We would grab gelato or pizza and sometimes sit here while waiting to grab a bus and people watch. Rome is fab for people watching.
10. At a piazza, listening to music, and sitting next to a fountain. And shortly before having gelato or pasta. Seriously, Rome was N’s dream, because everyone loves kids, and N loves the food they have there. We did a lot of walking – I do regret not bringing a stroller because she got heavy after 2-3 miles of carrying her – but she was a champ and I was so proud of her.
11. A little action shot of how carrying her went most days. I usually used a ring sling because she would want to rest for a bit, and then I had a purse or my backpack to wear as well. A couple times when we just popped out for groceries or to grab take away pasta or gelato, I would back carry her in our Tula. But usually I used the ring sling and a backpack. It was not easy. I think we averaged about 6 miles a day while in Rome.
12. And then, after she went to bed at night, I would power through 2-3 hours of work on my laptop at the tiny table in the kitchen. Because of the poor internet connection at the Munich hotel, I played catch up and had to do a lot more work while we were in Italy. But it was worth it. A couple times we took it easy and I would come back with her for naps to work while she slept.
13. Gelato face! This was good gelato, but not our favorite. We had gelato every single day, and even had some at the airport on our way back to Munich. N would pick one flavor, and I would pick the second. Usually, she wanted a berry flavor or chocolate. Once she got a mint flavor, and then decided my nutella was better and ate most of mine.
14. We make it to the Pantheon, but didn’t make it inside. Instead, we played in the fountain, charmed a bunch of French school kids with our strawberry hat, and watched all the people.
15. Rome, like Athens, had a lot of beautiful tile and stone work. One of the greatest parts about going at “toddler speed” is that you often have to stop and look at things more often. It takes longer, and sometimes it can be frustrating, but other times it means you notice this beautiful tile work in a building nearby and check it out.
16. I booked us tickets on a Big Bus tour and we rode around for two days hopping on and off. N loved waving to people, seeing all the ‘vest-pass’ drive by, and pointing out all the oranges on the trees. I don’t know if it was the best way to see Rome, but it was fun and she loved it and I at least got to see a few things and we got the lay of the land.
17. The craziest day we had was when we went to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. It was nuts. We got conned into a tour which at the Colosseum was meh, but the guide for the Forum and Palatine Hill was amazing. We walked at least 8 miles that day, and N did probably half of them on her own. She powered through nap time, played with rocks at the Roman Forum and climbed the stairs at the Colosseum. At the end of the day, she told me that she loved ‘playing in the dirt in the old plays with the towers’.
18. On our last full day in Rome, we spent the morning at St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to handle the Vatican Museums, but I really wanted to see the Pieta, which is at St. Peter’s. We were able to skip the line when a kind security guard took pity on us, and N had a blast finding all the stars on the floor of the Basilica, told me the mama looked sad in the Pieta, and giggled when the bells rang. We picked out postcards and mailed them. Then we ate chips after leaving the square and giggled at the pigeons.
19. This was a side street near our Airbnb. My regret is that I also had put off seeing a couple of the more touristy sites – Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps – and they were a zoo on a Friday night. I would take the advice to see them early in the day, and frankly, I didn’t think they were that great (but I hate crowds). We did wander through Piazza Navona again (from the fountain up above) and there was a great quartet playing music, tourists dancing as the sun set, and N loved that more.
20. We schlepped ourselves back to the train station at a leisurely pace (pro tip: always leave early with kids, it’s easier to go slow than to rush). Then we had this train station pasta which was still 100x better than most pasta in the US (that’s burrata cheese, not eggs) to fuel us on the first leg of so many to get home. We then flew to Munich to spend the night with family, before flying back home.
21. Due to a super delayed flight out of Philly, we had to overnight in Seattle, but the view of the mountain, which N delights in pointing out, almost made up for it. And like that, March was more or less over, we were home from Europe and it was time to slow down, a little, maybe, in April.
April – Hustling, Gardening, Growing Things
1. We came back from our trip and I spent a couple hours doing a deep dive into the next couple months. I really love working at Rockwood Bakery because their food is amazing and they have no wifi! Which is super super helpful when I’m trying to sort through or organize things and don’t want to get distracted by social media.
2. We’ve been talking about overhauling our veggie garden (taking a cue from one of the home bloggers I follow, I’m going to call it my potager garden when it’s done) for years, and this year, we decided to pull the trigger. Of course, then our schedule got crazy and it rained and rained and rained, so it’s been a race against time and energy to get it done in time for growing season. Adventures in home renovation.
3. I took my Think Tank camera bag apart and we used it as one of our carry on suitcases for our trip. It’s a bit tedious to do that, so I don’t do it very often, but it’s also nice because I have to clean it out. When I was putting all my gear back in it, my little assistant decided that I needed a couple friends to keep my lenses company for a few minutes.
4. When our home is chaos and we’re up to our eyeballs in renovation stuff, I try to find pretty little corners and enjoy them. This spot in our living room, with flowers on the piano, makes me very happy. I love having flowers in our home, and after we finish our potager garden, I’m going to start sketching out our front garden plans and slowly start working on them. One of my dreams is to plant a bunch of flowers for a cutting garden, because I adore having fresh flowers in our home.
5. I guess I was on a French kick last month, because I also finally got around to making Smitten Kitchen’s updated French Onion Soup and then ate it for like a week. I probably didn’t cook it long enough, but it was better the next day (and the next) and I’m game to try it again – when soup season starts back up.
6. I cut way back on weddings this year, and I’ve been shooting more families, head shots, and working with small businesses. It’s been fantastic. I love weddings and I am going to write more about this choice later, but I needed to breathe and try new things too. This was from when I was waiting to meet with a new client.
7. My husband has been traveling a LOT this month, which means a lot of juggling too. The dog isn’t always well behaved enough to handle him on a walk and keep an eye on little miss, so she got some mama snuggles and the dog got a walk and everyone was happy. Remember the pregnancy photo of me from this same window? It’s a good then and now.
8. We went over to Gonzaga for an Easter Egg hunt, and after getting eggs, N made a beeline for Hughes Hall. Maybe I’ve got a future paleontologist on my hands? She does love dinosaurs!
9 & 10: Snuggling up with my girl before heading out to work at Confetti Spokane. This season of being a parent, and a small business owner, has really challenged me in so many ways. I’m juggling the hustle and learning how to be present with her and present with my business and not feel the mama guilt. I want her to see me do something that empowers me and others, to build a business that I’m proud of, to do a job that brings joy to people. And sometimes that means I have to leave, I have to put myself and my work before her. But I know we’ve built a good network of daycare and family who care for her and love her. And she love them all too. Which helps on those long days.
11. One of my favorite things from Confetti was meeting the delightful Tia, who runs In Bloom Flower Farm and is a local florist. She was helping all the lovely ladies make these beautiful flower crowns and made me a gorgeous one to wear. I had such fun and my husband got a good laugh out of it when I got home.
12. Toddler style is the best. This jacket is still huge on her, but she is in love with it and wants to wear it all the time now. I look at her sometimes, and I can see hints of what she’ll be like when she grows up, and it makes my heart ache in so many ways. This stage of life has been exhausting. She is a whirlwind of pure energy, but it’s also been so full of joy. To see her explore and experience new things. To see her find her voice and her confidence.
13. Last spring, we planted a plum tree and a peach tree in our back yard. We had to remove our backyard maple tree a few years back because we found out during the windstorm in 2015 that there was some serious rot in the limbs (one almost fell on our garage and missed the garage and me by inches). As sad as that was, it was the perfect chance for us to plant a couple fruit trees. We ordered these two tree last year, and this year, the peach tree bloomed! They’ve still got at least another year before they’ll fruit, but I’m so excited about them.
14. The lack of a garden and the cold weather has kept me from actually buying any plants, but it didn’t keep us from scoping them out and dreaming of what we’ll put in the front garden as well as our potager garden.
15. Surprise flowers from H, which he sent to both of us girls because he missed us. N has been telling us that the pink and white ones are for mama, but the purple ones are for her. And papa sent them for us from the airplane. :)
16. Omi and Opi have this sweet little desk/chair set in Germany, and so we made our own version so that N can “work with mama” in my office. It still needs to be painted, but she’s been loving having a dedicated coloring space. Because these are modular, they can both be chairs or desks.
I know how lucky we are to travel as much as we do. We’ve been able to make decisions that have helped us pay down debt, and we make choices every single day that allow us to travel fairly regularly. A lot of our travel is to visit family, or is tagged on to a work trip for one of us, but we try to get in one good vacation each year. A few years ago, we realized that the best way to survive the long, dark, and cold winters in Spokane was to get away for a warm weather break. So, when I was pregnant with little miss and we knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere that winter (and it was a rough, rough, winter), H promised me we would finally go to Hawaii the next winter.
Maui was a dream, you guys. I’ve traveled all over and been to tropical islands before, but Maui is like living on a different planet. It was the most beautiful kind of place, and I left a little piece of my heart there. That said, it wasn’t the easiest vacation by any means. N was recently mobile, is a 100% winter baby who prefers snow and cold weather to hot weather and sand, and we made some key mistakes. Oh, and it rained half the time we were there. It was weird. But these photos don’t show that.
— We stayed near baby beach in Lahaina and really loved it. We walked into town a couple times and also drove in once or twice as well.
— Places we loved: Down the Hatch, Frida’s Mexican, Maui Brewing Company, the Pride of Maui Snorkeling Tour, the Maui Ocean Center.
— Baby beach was shallow and perfect for littles, but a little tame for our more adventurous swimmers. It’s nice and flat, which I loved. 100% would go back there, and there’s a decent amount of parking by it too.
— Please wear reef safe sunscreen anytime you’re in the ocean. Save the fishes.
I’ve been traveling to Germany for the past decade, and this was I think my 10th trip? I tried to count them up, but I can’t remember how many times I hopped across the border while studying in Prague. It’s like asking me to count how many times I’ve been to Portland. We’ve been to Munich a half a dozen times – after all, H grew up there. But for this trip, we knew we wanted a few day away from everything to just explore a new place. We looked at a bunch of different places, but when I saw this apartment on Airbnb, I knew we were coming to Schwangau.
Schwangau is where Neuschwanstein is – spoiler alert: we didn’t go to Neuschwanstein – and Hohenschwagau. It’s very typically Bavarian. In fact, on our second day there, the dairy across the street let their cows out into the field in the first photo. It was loud, and kinda smelly, but so very Bavarian. We laughed, and headed out to visit a few castles.
If you’ve ever been to Leavenworth, and loved it, you’re going to love the real Bavaria. Leavenworth, while good, isn’t anything like the real deal. The first morning, I woke up and snuck out on the balcony. The mist was out (that’s the first photo) and it was perfection. We wandered around and ate cake at a beautiful old cafe. I visited a cemetery (you can learn a lot about a village by how they treat their dead). We hiked a mountain with a baby and visited a castle. We almost got caught in the rain (which is why we didn’t make it to Neuschwanstein) and read books in the hammock on the balcony. It was good.
I didn’t take very many photos on our recent trip to Munich. We barely went into the city, in fact, we only went in once — to stroll around Schloss Nymphenburg on a sunny Sunday afternoon. As we wandered along the paths, the beautiful spring sunshine beating down on our shoulders, and the baby sleeping in her stroller, I had a moment where I realized — this could have been our normal.
I’d like to think that there are alternate universes out there, where things have gone ever so slightly different, and instead of living here in Spokane, we packed everything up and moved to Germany. In all realities, we probably wouldn’t be living in Munich, but it was a fun thing to think about as we sat down at the cafe and had our cake, and then posed in front of the lilacs on our way back to the car.
This last photo is something different. It’s the view from the sofa at my grandparents-in-law’s home in Munich. From there, you can see through the doors into their Winter Garten (the German version of a sunroom, it’s all glass and you put your plants in there in the winter). I’ve sat on this sofa during every trip to Germany, in this corner, and stared through these doors. I’ve seen rain and sun and snow fall out those windows. And this photo, more than almost any other, causes me such homesickness for a home I’ve never lived in. Funny how that works, isn’t it?