Germany’s Christmas Markets

German Christmas Market. December, 2017.

Hello, Ladies and Gentlemen! We are still in the 12 days of Christmas, right? so not to late for all of this! Also I am extremely excited to announce another guest blogger – whose work I will probably have a lot of fun commentating – My Fiance, Ryan, who I have been discussing a whole lot lately…. which he now is very aware of as I just gave him access to this site….. Yep. Hi, babe!

Anyway, he’ll be going into more details on his life and I hope you guys enjoy and get to hear from him a bit more – partners are fun!

As the aforementioned fiancé living abroad in Germany, I am finally joining Taylor here on Leave-on-the-Wind as a guest blogger. Seeing as I will be spending 3 years as a Soldier in a foreign country, I figured it would be fun to support my fiancé’s blog with some OCONUS (Outside Contiguous United States) views. I get to experience Germany and Europe as a whole for the first time; while I have lived in a couple states and deployed twice to the Middle East, I haven’t spent much time in foreign countries that are not war zones.

I arrived in Germany a little over a month ago, disappointed to have missed Oktoberfest (The real one since we did manage the LA equivalent!), but excited for the next big holiday group event: The Christmas Markets.

Most major cities in Germany have their own Christmas Markets as well as some of the smaller towns but they are proportionally smaller versions. My first taste of the markets was in my local town of Ansbach, where a small market took place in a walking shopping district.

My friends told me it was a tragedy to attend any Christmas Market and not have some festive glühwein, a traditional Christmas beverage most commonly made from a boiled red wine mixed with various spices. I gladly purchased a glass, which instantly started warming me up on that windy, cold day that I have come to recognize as the common daily weather.

It’s taste was compelling, to say the least.

I have never fancied wines much – always feeling forced to enjoy them when offered a glass – but something about the glühwein really resonated with me. Whether that was because of the added spices, or the warmth it provided, I cannot say, but I know I went back for quite a few more cups of it.

Throughout this drinking process, I also discovered an interesting sales mechanism that seemed particular to the markets. Every glühwein seller will charge extra for the mug they provide the drink in, but if you later return the mug, you receive a deposit back or you may forego the deposit and keep the glass. Naturally I kept my first one as a souvenir of my first market. (Check out the pictures below!)

We wandered the market, making small purchases and enjoying the time with friends, as I practiced my meager German. I had come to think of this small, lightly crowded market with just a couple dozen stalls as being the standard of a Christmas Market.

Boy, was I wrong.

The next weekend, I had the opportunity to travel about an hour away to Nuremburg with a coworker, her husband, and their 9-year-old son.

Making our way into the market, I was floored by how many people I was seeing already – this market must be huge: it was. It had hundreds of stalls and thousands of people were milling around.

Most of the time, the market was a crushing crowd, as people pushed left and right to get through – certainly not for those who don’t do well in crowds, but if you can brave the ruckus, you are rewarded with stalls selling all kinds of goods; from handmade candles, to Christmas ornaments, to pastries, pretzels, and sweets. The smells of all the foods cooking was overwhelming, and I wanted a little bit of everything. I stand by my decision to start of with a pretzel and a glühwein and slowly try random pastries and other foods picked at random.

As we walked, we started in on a maze of stalls that seemed organized to lead you in a line from stall to stall as if in a brightly colored labyrinth. My group lost me more than once as I would get distracted by a beautiful bauble, a delicious smelling bag of tea, or the plethora of hanging Christmas tree ornaments. Finding them again, we would start back down the path again, seemingly wanting to buy everything they had to sell. (I talked about this way back when I was living in London; pace yourself and set a budget!)

In the end, not counting food and drinks consumed as we roamed, I managed to buy two ornaments for me and Taylor, a big bag of caramel apple black tea (which smells as sweet as its namesake), and a bag of fruit flavored sweets for my friend’s son. After hours of walking around, we spent some time listening to the band that was on a little stage in front of what looked to be a cathedral, and then called it a night.

Honestly, this introduction to a little bit of German culture and a wonderful evening out was just what I needed to help integrate me better into the place I plan to live, and I was glad to have the chance at some (very poor) German interactions as I butchered their otherwise beautiful language.

Thank God for Google Translate.

I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did and, again, welcome, Ry (as both a reader and writer)! So until next time around,

This is Ryan, writing for Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Germany’s Christmas Markets

LA Grand Central Market

So this post is a little bit of a throw back, unfortunately into the span of time before my phone took a lovely trip through a washing machine but after my last computer sync, so all the pictures are gone (*sad face*) but this LA market is so well photographed a simple search will give you all you need to know.

Way back at the end of September, some friends, my dad, and I participated in the Homeboy 5k – a charity run to support a great LA foundation that is really close to our heart because it’s kind of literally close to home – and since we got up to go so early and the track was full of hill, we had worked up an appetite. If you have ever ran or walked one of these events, you know that all the food venues near site are crazy after the race ends – if you are hungry, probably so are the other hundreds of thousands of attendants.

We all took a quick drive to LA’s Grand Central Market. If you have been to larger cities and gone to their indoor food vendor markets, this isn’t new to you at all – the idea is more or less the same no matter where you go.

So what are some things to know?

The truth is, with all of these markets you are dealing with gentrification – even if they have been around for a long time! You will find a lot of really trendy vendors who serve really good but pricey street food which will basically be all organic, home-made/grown/prepared, and will use fancy words like ‘aioli’ – guys, this literally means sauce.

The atmosphere also means a very specific kind of crowd – young hipsters and groups looking to brunch, mixed with brunching families. It’s mostly communal dining and first grab, first sit so you have to be quick or charming enough that people give you their table as they leave.  So yea, crowded which isn’t helped by all the people walking around carrying food trays or snapping shots for Instagram – yes. Guilty as charged.

Dad and I got really good tuna melts from one of the vendors while most of our group got bagels and lox, but I was lucky enough to try both. The tuna sandwiches were really good and large enough that I didn’t feel bad about the cost and the same can be said about the lox – size and cost was one of the reasons I hesitated ordering them but I was gladly mistaken.

In fact, eating from Belle’s plate almost made me wish I had ordered it, except it was a little odd. The Salmon is prepared by the group that runs the booth and I know that smoked lox is not an easy task, however, the fish was slices thicker than I am used to and it wasn’t as salted. I know this could be part of the freshness, but it was off-putting to some in the group – hence me getting to eat more of it!

Instead of going home straight away, we decided to explore a little longer which lead us to an amazing artisan ice cream booth – I mean, Lavender and Earl Grey and Biscuit ice cream? Yes, please! and eating the Churro flavor – again real with pieces! – made me feel like I was in Disneyland (the only place I really eat churros….). The prices are a little hefty for what you get but with everything else you are bound to try, they are surprisingly filling and rich. Basically, watch out because they sneak up on you.

None of this is to say that I didn’t totally enjoy myself and all the food I got to have, because I did – after all, I usually don’t write about a place unless I enjoyed myself – however, I probably wouldn’t race into the city just to come back, and I wouldn’t drag out of town friends here unless it was because we were passing through. But that’s just me.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

LA Grand Central Market

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri. 1 July 2017.

So here we go through part one of day 2 (or the first full day) in the whirlwind trip through Kansas (even if we were really in Missouri). While Ryan was in charge of the big ticket item dates, I put my time and research into smaller places that I would want to visit on one of my normal travel expeditions. And this, of course, leads us to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

If you know my background – an MA in Cultural and Creative Industries (which is a fancy way of saying I studied things like museums, publishing, social heritage, media, and international business movement and technology across entertainment fields – basically a wide range of topics) – you know that I love museums. I have a brief insight into how individual galleries are curated and then how things move through the whole of the museums from this degree and, alongside my collected knowledge from my college art history class, this makes exploring so much more fun, especially when I have an audience who doesn’t mind hearing all about it.

With this background and my love of photography, this pick was absolutely fantastic.

First off, the museum itself is lovely – built with classical architecture and rooms upon rooms of art and a sculpture garden that is sparse enough to feel like a park while still calling itself part of an exhibit.

This is the part of the museum that we actually came out to see. I absolutely loved all the Shuttlecocks sculptures and understand how these became the statement piece and symbol of the whole museum. The sculptures are scattered throughout the garden in patches and across levels which is great for both pictures and picnics while surrounded by all kinds of art. Outside, the sculptures fall into the modern art classifications, but has a range that makes it interesting enough to keep running around – I loved the maze (but walk slow because I have seen many slam into the clear walls), the metallic tree, and (I must mention again) all of the different Shuttlecocks. Even if you aren’t looking for a museum day, this is a lovely areas just to come and have some lunch if you are in the area.

We didn’t spend much time inside, except for lunch, but we did run through the impressionist gallery, and, if this is any indication of the rest of the museum, every gallery would be worth stepping into if only for the unorthodox set up. Again, we were in the impressionist gallery, but throughout there were other types of art – furniture pieces and small scale sculptures which used an interesting juxtaposition. For me, if a gallery had a Degas ballerina sculpture (which this did), I am more than happy.

But onto lunch: as with all museums, food here isn’t cheap, however, unlike other places, the portions were rather generous. The staff was friendly and efficient and the room was lovely – hanging lights and natural daylight, with black iron tables surrounding a fountain. We had sandwiches and soup (I had half portions of both) and a blondie for dessert, plus infused water and every bit of it was fantastic. It is all freshly made in front of you so if you don’t want a specific spread or veg on your sandwich, they can make it without, without any extra work. Again, the portions were really generous and I was happily full on the half portions! Also, if you can agree on the type of sandwich, you can split the whole for cheaper than buying two halves.

I’ll end it here without going over and over my strange, nerdy discussions over curation and storytelling through the placement choices, but I will say, if you visit Kansas City, go see this museum. It’s beautiful, full of so much to see, has a full itinerary of events going on all the time, and, as someone who loves the arts, visit and make a small donation for the upkeep because your trip (minus parking, food, and special exhibits) doesn’t cost you anything!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

Food and Travel.

Expanding your world and your pallet.

Espresso pour-over at The Fable, London. January 2016.

I haven’t gotten the chance to travel recently, but I have been cooking which has led me to think a whole lot about eating while traveling.

In a lot of place you can visit, you can easily make it so that your food doesn’t vary much – you can always get french fries/chips and a burger no matter where you go with little variation.But I don’t see the fun in that – I don’t go to McDonald’s when I’m state side let alone when I’m traveling the world.

I feel like if you are spending the time and money to expand you horizons through travel, why limit yourself in what experiences you are willing to delve into? Food is one of those great experience centered items that immerses you in feeling and memory – there are smells and tastes and textures as well as the visual aspect. A single dish can make you feel at home or immerse you in your surrounding so why not jump in?

I love that individual locations can have specific specialties that can make traveling an adventure for your taste buds just as much as the rest of you and that will make you remember a specific day or location forever.

In the summer of 2004, I got to travel to Australia and visited a crocodile farm which served the group of us crocodile chowder. It was so good – it turns out crocodile is a lot like chewier chicken, at least when cooked in a chowder!

In the summer of 2002, we were in a tiny town in Italy where a family restaurant made us their special holiday lasagna chicken stock soup for being such regular and great customers.

I’ve had steak tart-tar in Paris (it tasted like blood to me and not to my taste), homemade sushi in Japan (which was fantastic), just to name a couple. I never ate escargot in all the times I was in France – I never felt like spending the money – but my sister said that it’s a lot like shrimp in texture and – similarly – tastes like whatever you cook it in.

Some of the food you will love while others you’ll never order again, but the experience is always worth it.

What I love about food travel is that the food you are trying doesn’t have to be related to the place you are stay in. Rather, expanding what you eat because you are traveling and you may as well, can do just as much to expand your horizons.

My sister – recently back from her travels – went to the largest restaurant in Amsterdam (Sea Palace, a Chinese restaurant) and her picky husband has now claimed to be addicted to mini fried squid.

Traveling somewhere between Waterford, Ireland and Liverpool, England, I fell in love with mushrooms because in the strange times we were eating, small authentic Italian restaurants serving mushroom risotto were all we could find open. We were in Ireland but my palate has been forever changed.

So, when you travel – especially you Americans because we are known for sticking to our fast food basics – avoid those fast food chains you can go to at home and really look to push your comfort zone! I’m not saying go out and eat bugs if it turns your stomach, but if you think it’ll go down, why the hell shouldn’t you!

You only have to try something once to tick it off you bucket list – even if it wasn’t originally on it – so go out, eat, and enjoy.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.



Food and Travel.

Eating in NorCal….

… Or something like it!

Extending Childhood. Oakland, California. April 2016.

The thing about being from LA, or really most places this far south in California, is we rarely have perspective on what and where NorCal is. In college, many of us southern-born natives talked about how in our minds San Francisco to Napa and slightly higher is about where California ends and new states most of us wouldn’t be road-tripping to begin – for those of you not in the know, this is not the case!

Where most will call these areas northern, they are lower Northern California with hours and hours more to go.

But onto food!

When visiting the Sonoma and the Bay Area, we ate well – very well! While we hit some touristy fun musts – Boudin Bakery and Ghirardelli in San Francisco – I loved the other fun spots which definitely made the trip worthwhile.

Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa.

If you are a beer lover, you should absolutely known the name Russian River. They’ve won tons of awards for their brews and the food is just as good. Everything is fresh and well sourced and you can choose whether to stay in or take away – wait times vary depending on your choice. This take away includes filling up your Russian River Growler with the brew of your choice.

The only real issue is you must show up early as they do not take reservations no matter the situation and the wait can be hours long. This wait time is exponentially longer if they are sampling a new brew – however, I’ve been assured that every brew is worth the wait.

The plan is for a new location not to far from the current spot with much more room and more of a focus on non-locals so if you’re in the area, check for opening dates for quicker turn around times.

Quickly moving to Sol Food in San Rafael.

Another long line here but – according to the locals I know – it’s the only place worth going to. We laughed through the line as one patron tried – jokingly – to convince the whole line that the food was no good and we should all go somewhere else so they could go in more quickly.

While the line was long, the host(esse)s were so efficient. The tables are community settings so you will most likely sit with strangers but, as long as you don’t mind this style, you’ll sit much quicker than you’d suspect.

The servings were amazing, full meals and all locally sourced. My friends and I all ordered different plates and no one was disappointed. For spicier pallets, some at our table felt that the sauce on the table wasn’t hot enough so don’t be afraid to ask for spicier additions.

And finally, Homeroom in Oakland.

This final stop on my foodie weekend was an amazing spot for comfort food – a menu packed with mac and cheese, some vegetable sides, and salads but little else. It was fabulous!

Again, the four of us picked different sides and styles of pasta but everyone of them was perfect. We had one garlic, one sriracha, one goat, and a final jalapeño popper styled and each flavor was strong yet balanced and the popper mac tasted exactly like a giant jalapeño popper!

We couldn’t stop eating.

This was also the most fun to wait for. The joint is more than a little hipster with communal seating, eye-grabbing decor and a line that is just a sign in sheet you kind of have to keep an eye on. The crowd can get big and you’ll never be seated until your whole party arrives but there are benches and chalk to help you through the wait.

My friends and I are 25 years old and where endlessly entertained by a chalked out hopscotch draw on the sidewalk outside the side door. Paired with the childhood comfort of – yet grown up pallet! – mac and cheese and it’s a steal.

Again, in the trend of these small restaurants, everything is locally sourced and freshly made. The waitstaff was super nice but can blend in with customers so don’t be embarrassed if you mix them up a time or two! – a very sweet high schooler was very embarrassed at mistaking me for a floating server.

So here’s the wrap up: depending on where you are and where your going, if you are looking for quality food with great atmosphere, there are plenty of small overlooked places you should not miss out on! They are too good to pass up even with a bit of a wait.

So that’s all my foodie news, until next time:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Eating in NorCal….

A Pre-Road Trip Check List…

A bit ago, I wrote a post on my desire to get back on the road. Well, this weekend I will get that chance, though not as I had originally planned.

It’s one on my college friend’s final recital up at Sonoma State University, so this weekend my best friend and I will be taking a familiar 6 hour road trip that I haven’t taken in just over 3 years.

We’ve made this drive many (many!) times, but on each trek I was always the one driving…. faster than I probably should have. But this time around, I’ll be sitting in the passenger seat and doing my very best to stay awake… which is more than my regular passengers can say!

While there are definite must-haves when you decide to take off (your favorite snack foods, drinks in a cooler, you know, sustenance!), there are also things to negotiate between your party. Some of these just deal with cost – who covers gas or food and what your manageable and agreeable budget is – while others are just to make sure you and your companions aren’t bored out of your minds.

So budget is really first since that’s the hardest thing to talk about, and if you don’t have the conversation, one person will always be left holding the bag. You and your companions will have to figure this on your own but you must have this talk before going! Trust me, it will save you many headaches.

While I am a fan of fashion and style, if you are in a car for an extended period of time, fashion should take a back seat. Skinny jeans don’t have great stretch or give and shorts or small skirts make your legs/leg sweat stick to your seats. I’m opting for some easy leggings and a long shirt, throw in some boots and a hoodie of warmth. Again, like prepping for an airplane: easy, comfortable, and movable.

As long as there is more than one person, you should have “games” on hand. I’m not talking games like punch-buggy – I’m not allowed to play this game as I’ve been deemed to competitive and aggressive… – or the license plate game.

My best friend and I are total nerds so we’ve recently gotten to highly academic debates over nerdy topics – the most recent was: which would you rather have the Doctor’s (of BBC’s Doctor Who) TARDIS or psychic paper? Can you guess who won?

I like these fun nerd-offs because you can pull from all over the logical spectrum and note episodes if you want. It not only tests your knowledge but gives you quite the lively conversation as well – this helps with the not falling asleep thing. Also, unlike all the purchasable games available now, debates are free! Just steer clear of topics that will cause animosity more than fun whether this be politics, your favorite Doctor, or Marvel/DC.

The other thing that can help you in the case of falling asleep – or better yet, not falling asleep – is a killer playlist. Just like everything else in this situation – you are trapped in a tiny space with other people with no real way of getting out – music must be a mutual decision. Whether this is a mixed playlist that pulls joint or a few of everyone’s favorites or just a rotation of everyone’s favorite radio stations, keep the tunes peaceable.

Just remember, if you opt for radio, if you are going any sizable distance, the radio will eventually cut out the stations you know and you’ll be flying musically blind! Never fun.

So clothes, games, music, money, and food… so the only thing left to consider (along with money) is planning for sleep on journeys lasting longer than a day. This ends with deciding if you want to plan ahead going from point A to hotel B to motel C and so and so forth, or if you want to go as far as you possibly can in a day and then see what’s around when you are able to stop. Either way, it’s good to talk this all out before leaving home to make sure everyone in your party is comfortable.

That’s all and I can’t wait to feel the wind in my hair!

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

A Pre-Road Trip Check List…

The Fable, London….

A book-nerd AND foodie paradise.

Sorry it’s a little blurry! The Fable, London. January 2016.

I’m back in London!

Okay, well I was. This week is quite hectic – well, the next two week really. This week I’m graduating with my master’s degree (today in London) after spending a day in Cardiff and (re)wandering my old London haunts. Now I’m writing from a Paris-bound train for a four day stop over. Then it’s home to LA for a day before flying back east for three(!) job interviews.

I’m tired just typing that!

Anyway, on to the books and food:

Last time I left London (a month ago), I was a bit disappointed that I never managed to hit any of the amazing looking bookstore bars listed on Chelsey Pippen’s Buzzfeed article.  While a good chunk of these were hard/impossible to hit due to distance, timing, or inaccessible to the public (private clubs with higher pay-ins than I am ever expecting to be able to shell out), I was over the moon to be able to hit the trendy and book themed The Fable Bar and Grill. Absolutely everything about this location has me raving!

There are three levels to this space – the upper floor bar, the middle floor which looked like an event space, and the lowest level which serves as the grill and where book nerds will want to spend most of their time.

Pictured here and on the gallery portion of the site, Fable houses some awesome décor which surrounds you while you get to dine on beautifully crafted dishes.

IMG_8206.JPGWe entered the top-most floor and took the inner stairs down to the grill following this whimsical neon sign, ready to be Alice once again whisked down the rabbit hole.

As we were dinning early on a Monday, there wasn’t a crowd but they do recommend making a reservation just in case. The site has a reservation form online which is easy to complete but you should call ahead at least the morning of or day before depending on which meal you are looking for as sometimes thee forms don’t make it through – this happens everywhere, of course, so nothing against Fable.

IMG_8210 (2).JPGWe were tempted to cuddle into the amazing book nook – who wouldn’t! – but decided to save it for a larger group,opting for one of the tables near the windows so we could people watch.

The food was amazing – tasty and well portioned for every dish we ordered. I got the butternut squash risotto followed by a brownie a la mode and was more than happy with both the price and that ‘just right’ full feeling.

You should definitely read all of the menus including the descriptions because there are some truly awesome details and titles in there. Even If you don’t drink, the drink menu is well worth the gander – like the “Winter is Coming” cocktail and the Tipsy Affogato, an alcoholic pour-over coffee dessert which is presented in a pair of tea cups!

The whole look of the grill begs for pictures and, as long as you are respectful of servers and other diners, the staff won’t say anything about you taking a quick wander around the dining room for a few pictures – as long as you are a customer obviously! In fact, all of the staff we talked to while wandering and eating were awesome.

This is one stop in London I would recommend to anyone, but to book-nerds in particular. It’s a treat that you can go to over and over again!

But that’s all the raving I can do for now, so below I’ll add in any last pictures as they say so much more than I ever could and until next week,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The Fable, London….