Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Thoughts on Valentine's Day - Yay or Nay?

Valentine's Day. It has exploded in stores. Hearts are taped to windows. Red and pink cards are flooding the shelves. Cute little cupids are everywhere and some kids are decorating little card boxes to take to school to collect cards from their admirers. Love is in the air... or is it? I think there is also pressure, feelings of obligation, unrealistic expectations, and anxiety mixed in there. It's different for everybody, but honestly, I'm not a huge fan of what it has become. Here's why:

For those in relationships, romance should be often and by choice, not obligatory. What kind of example do we set when we say that Valentine's Day is THE day for romance (Aren't there others?), and it must be over the top full of roses or chocolates or expensive jewelry or all of the above? Some of us spend exorbitant amounts of money that day. I better spend at least this much because I know ______ is spending this on _____, and I don't want my Valentine to feel less valued. We stare at cards for hours reading every line as we try to imagine our lover's reaction. Will it be what they want to read? Is it too much too soon? Is it too little? Maybe it should be funny or is that insensitive? Maybe your partner doesn't even care about cards, and unbeknown to you, they either recycle them or put them in a box in the closet because they'd feel guilty throwing it away.  Obligation.

We should strive to love each other more every day and to express that love in a language our partner understands. I asked my husband, "What do I do that makes you feel loved?" He told me, "When you cook for me or do something like bring me a drink without me even asking for one." Maybe you think that's funny. I think it shows that he acknowledges the effort I put into meals for him and that doing something as simple as bringing him a drink without him asking shows that I was thinking about him. Have you ever asked your partner what makes them feel loved? Everybody has a different love language (From: The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary D. Chapman). How different would relationships be if we all took the time to figure that out and show how much we love each other with a "Valentine's Day" every month or every week!?

For those who are single, there's no need to be reminded by the world. So, now single people feel the need to compensate... to show the world that they are totally fine being single by dubbing February 14th as "Singles' Awareness Day" or whatever you like to call it. We buy gifts for ourselves and gifts for our best friends instead. Or maybe we make it about a niece, nephew, or other member in our family to switch the focus of the day away from ourselves...or just to have somebody to love. Maybe you are the type that just avoids people and plans a night at the pub with the girls. Seriously. How many times have you been asked, "Are you celebrating with anybody special tonight?" when they know damn well that you are not? Pressure.

For kids it's a day full of possibilities. I fully support a head full of possibilities but maybe not those that are put into their heads by adverts on TV and unrealistic movies. I think teachers now require kids to bring a card for every member of the class on Valentine's Day, but I remember when they didn't. I'll never forget that day in second grade when I made my box and Valentine's cards for lots of people. I watched in class as kids open their boxes and dumped piles of cards onto their desks from all their admirers. I opened my box excitedly and expectantly. I had three. THREE. Two from friends and one from a person who was just really nice to everybody. I was shattered. As I think about it now, I realize how much we allow Valentine's Day to determine our worth to others or how desirable we are (or aren't... at least that's how it can feel). Unrealistic expectations.

I'm not saying you shouldn't celebrate or enjoy it. My husband brings me a chocolate bar (or two) and a bottle of wine each year, and I cook him his favorite meal. That's what we like. I'm saying that instead of being persuaded or feeling forced into something this Valentine's Day...instead of getting anxiety... celebrate love. Celebrate your love for yourself and your love for others, and do it in your own love language or in theirs (if you have a partner). If you love chocolate... have some! If your partner loves dates, go on one. If you both (or you and all your friends) love Star Wars, put on your Jedi and Darth Vader onesies, break out the lightsabers, and plan a marathon complete with take-out. Make it your day full of what you love.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Berlin - Hop On Hop Off

Our last day in Berlin was spent on the Hop On Hop Off Tour. You pay about 20 Euros to take a bus around the city. You can get off an any of its stops to check out the area, and then you can get on another bus as one comes every 15 minutes. I didn't think I would really enjoy spending a day like that so we never did this on other holidays, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it and found myself wishing that we had more time. Because our flight was at 4PM, we only had time to ride the bus in the full circle. No hopping off for us!

 Checking out the map!
 Choosing our language!
 Enjoying the sights from the warm and cozy bus.... while also constantly using hand sanitizer because the lady behind me was darn near coughing up her lungs.

Berlin Wall

Checkpoint Charlie

Jewish Memorial

The Brandenburg Gate. I was sooooo irritated when I realized that I was on the wrong side of the bus for this, and the people across from me were certainly not concerned about keeping their windows from fogging more than a space just large enough for them to peer through while the rest of us saw the world pass by in a haze. P.S. Almost every other person on the bus used their sleeves to keep the entire window clear.

Monday, February 2, 2015

I'm back! Let's talk about... Berlin!

Back to blogging. I took some time off because I felt like blogging was becoming a chore instead of something I was enjoying. December was also very busy with my birthday and holidays, and in January my cousin and his girlfriend came for a visit. I was running around during the day or planning trips, and at night I just wanted to be with Steve. Anyway, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope that this year will be a blessing to you all. I hope that you've gotten a good start, and if you haven't, well, it can only get better.

I'd like to start my first post of the year by going backwards. My last post was about my lovely birthday girls trip. After that, my husband and I went to Berlin ON my birthday. It was a FANTASTIC holiday. That Glühwein is really good! It's hot, spiced red wine. It was cold in Berlin so warm drinks were so nice. I've been wanting to go to the Christmas markets in Germany, so that's what we did for my birthday. We went to three different markets and enjoyed each one!

The first one was the Wilmersdorfer Strasse Christmas Market, a small market with mostly food and hot drinks. We had a really good bratwurst there. I have other pictures from this one, but I didn't want to overload you with multiple pictures of us eating and drinking Glühwein. :o)

Our second stop was the Christmas Market in Charlottenburg. It was really fun! I'm glad there was lots of Glühwein to help Steve maintain his chipper mood in the crowds! :o)

Oh the treats! Steve and I like those chocolate kisses (giant marshmallows covered in hard chocolate).

Glühwein and great company were to be found all around.

We had lunch the next day at a cute little pub. The food was terrific.

The next and final Christmas market was centered around the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church. It was really nice and probably my favorite one! It wasn't as busy as Charlottenburg and had many covered places to sit and enjoy food and drinks. It also had one of the best shops for German Christmas gifts.

The Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church must have been so lovely before it was bombed. It's free to go inside. We always donate to places like this (they usually have donation boxes) because we feel like they are important historical sites that should be supported.

We did see some of the city. Our last day in Berlin was spent on the Hop On Hop Off bus. I'll post about that tomorrow. Cheers!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Girls' Trip To Edinburgh Christmas Markets

Last week some of my friends and I drove to Edinburgh for some girl time and Christmas market fun.
Oh, and for my 30th birthday! First stop, of course, The Horn Milk Bar for some super bacon rolls!

Next, we stopped at Rosslyn Chapel, where they filmed part of the DaVinci Code. Photos were not allowed inside the chape.

We stayed at The Knight Residence in a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment. It was lovely, and they have parking! The rooms were cozy. They provided nice toiletries and a welcome basket with breakfast goodies including milk for the cereal!

Now for some Christmas Market fun! Edinburgh apparently spent a nice bit of money this year, and I think it was worth it! I really enjoyed it.
Edinburgh was decorated with lots of lights.

Isn't it lovely!?

Julia and Jessica eating the chocolate kisses (they are stuffed with marshmallow!)

Me, Tanya, and Kate enjoying our sweeties!

mmmm... crepes!

 Kate and I HAD to get some potatoes with garlic sauce. It was delicious!
 And no European Christmas market is complete without a giant pretzel!
 Or a bratwurst...

The Scottish Christmas market was much smaller.

 So we headed back to the European market... along with the rest of Edinburgh!

Getting something warm to drink!

I had such a great time! If you can't make it to Germany for the Christmas markets, and you live in the UK, I'd definitely recommend going to Edinburgh!