New blog, new start

August 13, 2013

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It has been a wonderful past few years here on An American in Wiesbaden. I started this blog, like so many other expats, to chronicle the massive life change that is moving 5,000 miles away to make a home in a new country where you don't even speak the language. After being settled  (mostly) for almost four years and learning the language (sort of), I have realized I define myself by so much more than just being an expat. I'm a cook, a writer, an explorer, a fashion-follower, a design lover, a shoe aficionado.

So after deciding to leave this wonderful town we have called home for the past several years and move on to a new adventure in Berlin later this year, I figured the time had come to start a new blog to share all my passions: my re-designed and reinvigorated blog, Sole Satisfaction. It is now the place where I will write about not only what satisfies my soles, but my soul as well: cooking, and more importantly - eating, travel, fashion, design and living life in Europe. I hope you will continue to follow my journey to Berlin - and wherever else life takes me.

I will be leaving this blog active so that anyone seeking information about expat life or Germany or travel in general can still use it as a resource, but it will no longer be updated. I have received so many heartwarming notes from people who have thanked me for my blog and helping their transition overseas, I only hope more people will find something of value here. Thank you for reading!


A weekend wedding celebration in France

August 09, 2013

Our trip to France last month took us to Paris, through the amazing French countryside, to the Atlantic coast and back again, but what in fact brought us to one of my favorite countries: a wedding. Since we were unable to accept two amazing European wedding invitations in the last few years, we figured this was an opportunity we could not pass up. Not only were our friends getting married in France, but they were hosting the weekend's festivities at their recently purchased chateau and vineyard just outside of Bordeaux. Talk about a dream wedding scenario.

The wedding festivities, while held in France and with all services performed in French, had definite influences from this international couple: him from England, her from Romania. Even the guest list was made up of people from all over Europe, a handful of American expats and even one work colleague who traveled all the way from Russia. Let me tell you, this bunch knew how to party. Dancing had begun not only before dinner, but before the tent and dance floor were even open for the evening, with people grabbing partners and taking advantage of whatever space they could. Not to let my own heritage have too much of a bias, but Eastern Europeans might be the most exuberant and dedicated partiers I've ever met.

With one day for the civil ceremony and the other for the marriage in the church, the parties were scheduled to last all weekend. Not only was there dancing - and lots of it - but this foodie's belly was in heaven. Saturday, merely called a 'garden party', was complete with countless hors d'oeuvres, an amazing salad spread and not one, but two pigs roasting on a spit. In what I can only call the best dessert decision ever, bite-sized sweets ranging from macarons to mini eclairs to little cups of fruity, creamy heaven were set out alongside French mainstays of bread, fruit and cheese. Needless to say, after such indulgences, we were already dreaming of the following day's menu - but we were not even close to prepared. Appetizers of butter-seared foie gras on toast and creamy sweetbreads (my first ever) wrapped in flaky pastry could only be outdone by dinner's caramelized duck breast with candied citrus and chanterelles. Of course, endless bottles from the couple's own vineyard was just icing on the rose-covered, firework-adorned cake.

We called this amazing couple neighbors for an unfortunately short amount of time, but managed to spend holidays together and form a connection I only hope will last a very long time. They are truly the kind of people you feel lucky to even know. And if you happen to notice the bride's Linda Hamilton-circa-Terminator-2 biceps, that's because in addition to being a full-time lawyer - in not her native language - and now part-time wine maker, she's also an incredible table tennis champion. Seriously, this couple brings joie de vivre to a whole new level and we left humbled and inspired to live a life even half as full as theirs.


I love the French grocery

July 26, 2013

Many people might dream about all the foie gras and countless cream-based dishes they will consume when they go to France, but my new love of French eating is a lot simpler: the grocery store. The last couple of weeks driving across France had me convinced that we should be making a run for the border to do our grocery shopping on a regular basis.

Being on a road trip with some definite budgetary restrictions (I know Berlin, we're coming!), not to mention contending with my major headaches nine of the eleven days we were gone, grabbing snacks and light fare at the groceries seemed like the way to go. Not expecting more than decent 'grocery food', we were blown away by both the assortment and the quality that exists at the average Carrefour. Everything we tasted was delicious and even the processed stuff had some of the shortest ingredient lists I'd ever seen. Perhaps some of it was the novelty of being in another country with different tastes, but I truly believe the French might be at the top of the world's grocery quality.

Yogurt (and custards and all assortments of creamy desserts) didn't come in cheap, colorful plastic, they came in glass bowls and painted crockery. The pre-made salads were far and away better than just about anything I've had in German restaurants. And that mint tabbouleh above? Might be my new favorite thing. Lest you think it was all high-end stuff, we developed a serious crush on what can only be called French Cheetos. Albeit, they did come in flavors like French (read: stinky) cheese or goat's cheese and pepper. It seems even the junk food is swanky.

The pièce de résistance for me was one of the best ice cream bars I've ever eaten. Frankly, I was stunned that I had yet to see this from the Magnum assortment in our country, as Germans have a serious love affair with all things apple. Oh, but it was so much more than just apple, with pieces of spiced cookie and cinnamon-speckled white chocolate coating... Even if all this doesn't sound high brow enough to satiate ones desire for more rich French flavors, not to worry. Cans of pâté and the like are abundant as well - even in the gas station shops.

Until next time, France, I will be dreaming of your grocery aisles...

Back from France

July 23, 2013

While I have been to France numerous times before, this trip was something rather special. We were able to attend not only an amazing two-day wedding celebration on our friends' vineyard just outside Bordeaux, but we got to see so much of this beautiful country that we might have missed had we not taken the roads less traveled, literally.

Avoiding costly toll roads meant meandering through towns so small, we passed through them in mere seconds. Being close to the Atlantic coast of France meant discovering places so stunning, it nearly brought tears to my eyes. I may have only caught glimpses of the Eiffel Tower while we were driving through Paris, but it truly was the little, lesser-known places that made this trip what it was. And even though we received news of a beloved family member's passing while we were gone, there was something about the beauty of where we were that helped center our thoughts on the celebration of life, rather than just the sadness of loss.

So as I take the time to gather my thoughts from our recent travels and sift through about a gazillion photos - not to mention do countless loads of laundry - please enjoy a couple highlights from our last couple of weeks traveling across France. I plan to save a few city- and restaurant-specific posts for my new blog - which will have a definite travel and foodie focus, in addition to fashion, design and of course, shoes! - but I hope to get a few special things up here as well. From Paris to Bordeaux to Arcachon to Chenonceau to Orleans, I'm sure there will be abundance of things to share.

Here's hoping your summer holidays take you places as magical as ours has!

I'm famous! (sort of)

July 11, 2013

While I am here in Paris, enjoying my favorite chocolat and keeping away from the bi-annual les soldes so that I don't inadvertently spend all our Berlin savings, my little blog is getting a bit of publicity back in Wiesbaden. In yesterday's issue* (today's online edition) I was featured in a series the Wiesbadener Kurier is doing on local bloggers, written by another local blogger and Wiesbaden native, Vivienne Matz.

So while I'm still traipsing around France - next stop: Bordeaux and a vineyard wedding! - do take a look at my first little bit of press. For those of you who are English-only, Google translate is an imperfect lifesaver. It is especially entertaining when it translates 'her husband Russ and female dog Bailey' as 'dog lady Russ Bailey'. Bear with it though, it seems even Google can't help some things from getting lost in translation.

*Update: Originally slated to run in the Wednesday issue, my feature was actually in the Thursday print edition as well. Sorry to friends who went out and bought the Wednesday paper, expecting me to be in it!

Music Monday: A France road trip playlist

July 08, 2013

What could be more important to a long road trip than some good music? With us hitting the road for Paris tomorrow morning, I have been picturing warm sun, the French countryside rolling by and just the right mood-setting tunes. A few of my current faves, a little bit of classic and of course, a little something French - including my favorite Paris-based band, Lilly Wood and The Prick.

À bientôt!

Who do you want to be when you travel?

July 05, 2013

This admission may come as no surprise, but: I am over-packer. Not only am I the left-brained, cautious planner who wants to make sure that every possible travel scenario is covered - from lost luggage to freak mid-summer snowstorm - but I'm also the right-brained dreamer who revels in the opportunity to be whoever I want to be in each new place I visit. I can't be the only person who sees travel as a kind of escapism from who you are in daily life (right..?).

Travel to me is a lot like being an expat: you are anonymous and new (not so-and-so's daughter, or that girl in high school who did something horribly embarrassing), and therefore can be anyone you want to be. So an excursion like next week's road trip across the entirety of France presents a particularly challenging packing dilemma: who do I want to be this trip? Do I want to be the fashionable Parisian? The knowledgeable wine country woman? The seaside luxuriator? Or something else entirely...?

I imagine my luggage will consist of a lot of blue, red and stripes, in a very French, but also very me, statement. Little nods to the French countryside (floral accents and a bag big enough to tote a bottle of wine and a baguette for the impromptu picnic) and the south of France coast (sea-tousled hair and large sunnies) not to mention a few of-the-moment items (wedge sneakers, anyone?) for the likes of Paris will be tucked in there amongst some of my favorite items. For me, it's all about balancing who I am with what I want out of a holiday and what the locals are like. One part me + two parts the location = what I dream my holiday self to be.

Who I dream of being in Bordeaux...
In Bordeaux...

Who I'd like to be in Arcachon...
In Arcachon...

Here's to culling down the piles strewn all around our apartment into some semblance of a cohesive wardrobe in time for our departure early next week!

Who are you when you go on holiday..?