Monday, March 31, 2014

We Were On a Break!

At a sad fall out in mid December during a slow moving unsuccessful Christmas Market, Wreaths and I decided to take a break. After my third Christmas Market failed,I boxed up almost all of my inventory, shoved it into the car, kicked the tire and drove home with a pouty bottom lip. This was a low point in the Mainly Maren Wreath Making Experience.
Christmas Market #1

What hurt the most was how I put our entire lives on the back burner for eight weeks preparing for the Christmas Market season. Husband was so patient with the disaster zone that became our flat, he cooked meals nearly every night, built my wreaths a display, and helped set up and take down the inventory three different Saturdays. This is most definitely not how a man wants to spend his weekends. 
Christmas Market #2

I'm not sure why the Christmas wreaths did not sell here in Germany. I did my research comparing similar handmade wreaths on Etsy and Dawanda for pricing points. Each wreath took me nearly 4 hours to complete and the cost of my time plus materials created a price point that might have been too high for some shoppers. In the chain stores, I saw wreaths made of plastic material, mass produced in far away lands, with prices not much cheaper than my individual handcrafted yarn wreaths.

The yarn wreaths for a few years now have been popular in the States. As I watched shoppers pass my booth I noticed people's eyes widen as if this was a new concept here in Germany. Many said nice compliments, took my Mainly Maren business cards, and seemed genuinely interested. These wreaths are a craft that anyone can create but... Who else has done this? You are walking around a craft show and make mental notes in your head of all the ideas you are going to recreate when you get home. And? What happens? The day ends and the crafts never get made. 

The week after my last failed Christmas Market, Husband and I flew back home to the States. I packed our suitcases full of German chocolate, mustards, and about 8 Christmas wreaths. I am sure TSA thought Mrs. Claus was flying Lufthansa that day. I wasn't joking when I told my family and friends "Everyone is getting a wreath this year." Everyone got a wreath. 

I'm not sure if my mom just told me how wonderful my wreaths are because she is my mom and has to, or if she really does like them. Regardless, after three unsuccessful Christmas Markets I became burned out crafting wreaths in my free time. In fact, I have not spend any time on crafts over the past three months.
My mom opening one of her Christmas gifts.

That is until Friday when a coworker asked me if I was still "doing my crafts". I told her no and felt a little bit of sadness come over me. 
April Showers Bring May Flowers

I don't particularly enjoy wrapping yarn around Styrofoam circles but the arranging is always the most interesting to me. Perfectly situating every piece, looking at where the items should go, and coordinating the colors together was and is the part I enjoy.
A Breakdown of some items used.

So...Saturday afternoon I spent four hours creating my newest (and only) Whimsical Wreath of 2014.
Inspired by the rainbow.

The theme and goal of Mainly Maren is to "Make Life Beautiful". While my Christmas Market experience at first left me feeling a total burn out, in the end I was able to find beauty. (After a three month break!) I found the support of Husband, family, and friends encouraging. It took courage to plan, prepare, and act on an unknown area. Even more so in a foreign country! I now know creating individual wreaths is something I enjoy as a hobby and will continue doing in my free least for my momma.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow,

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The (cooking out of the) Cabinet Challenge

Husband and I moved to Germany for two reasons; international work experience AND to see as much as Europe as possible. Even though we see more of the office then we do of the continent, every other month or so we try to take a trip someplace new. To keep the expenses in check, we spend many weekends that we are not traveling low key and on a budget. You might have heard me mention before that we only eat out once a weekend if that... Back in Texas we were eating out at least three times a week. (OH, and we gained weight doing that)

In three weeks we will be taking one of our big trips of the year. During Easter break (we get a week off), Husband and I are making a whirlwind roadtrip of Italy.We are planning to spend a few days in Pisa, Rome, Sorrento, and Florence. Mama Mia! (Must find my stretch pants....) With the anticipated costs of museums, dinners on the coast, and 8 nights of hotel stays right now we are living stricter than normal.
Easter 2013 in Venice

While Husband is a bit more self disciplined when it comes to spending than I am, this past weekend I had a great idea. Each Saturday we spend anywhere from 40-80 Euros at the grocery store. That is about $60-$120 a week in food. You might think this is an okay amount but I knew we could do better. So I came up with..."The (cooking out of the) Cabinet Challenge".

In the States most households have an entire pantry the size of a closet dedicated to food space. Here, our kitchen has a tiny cabinet above the oven that holds our dry items. The cabinet is a small, yet deep space that seems to have a black hole where food items get forgotten when pushed too far into the back. Climbing up on a chair, I decided to take inventory of our cabinet.

Here is what I found deep inside the dark depths of the cabinet:
-green beans
-Rudy's BBQ sauce
-Fritos (horded from January's flight out of Washington D.C.)
Now you can see how items get "lost" in our cabinet.

Inside the refrigerator and beyond I came across:
-bell peppers

I realized we had so much food already! Then I decided we should eat what we have instead of spending another 80 Euros on unnecessary groceries. To see what items Husband and I could use this week during our dinners, I came up with this menu:

With this menu, Husband only had to buy 4 items at the grocery store to last us the entire week! He bought ground beef, chicken, tomato sauce, and milk. Our grand total for food this week was...

6 Euros!

Remember when I said Husband is more disciplined with spending than I am? Well, this is the perfect example. Less than 24 hours after Husband's 6 Euro grocery bill we went out to eat... Let's face it, who can resist good friends and Sunday brunch?

Ruffini's is a Co-Op restaurant in Munich with amazing coffee and cakes!

Make Life Beautiful,

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blueberry Muffins

Saturday mornings are pretty routine around here for Husband and I. Every Saturday morning we drop off our recycling at the center and then grocery shop for the weekend. Living in Germany, things are sometimes not as convenient as it is back in the States. Here the stores are closed on Sundays and many small, local businesses lock their doors Saturday around noon. 

Before our Saturday morning errands begin, we start our weekend off with breakfast together. It used to mean pastries bought from our neighborhood bakery, but the last few months Husband and I have been taking turns preparing breakfast for each other. This is an unspoken agreement and it doesn't hurt that Husband can fry up a pretty delicious French beignet. 

Lately, I have had blueberries on the brain and so this weekend I baked... 
homemade blueberry muffins.

I wish I could claim this recipe for myself but I can't... I found the recipe after a Google search on The recipe is titled "To Die for Blueberry Muffins" and while I think that is a bit of an exaggeration, these muffins are absolutely a make again. I'm really glad I trusted the 6,821 recipe reviews. I mean I'm not even rating these muffins, I'm writing a blog about them. People, you know they must be good!

Husband is sometimes impatient whenever I photograph our food. It is a bit mean of me to set a plate of piping hot, fresh blueberry muffins down in front of him and then yell "NOT YET!" as I grab my camera. Three minutes is about all Husband can stand watching me switch camera settings, rearrange the plate, and move around to the right light. Heck, it's about all I can stand as well without stuffing these beauties in my face.

Some things can just make life more beautiful. Homemade blueberry muffins on Saturday morning is one of the simpler things.

Three Day Until Saturday,

Monday, March 10, 2014


Sometimes the best projects are the most random ones. They are unplanned, spur of the moment, and usually experimental.

I'm currently involved in one of these unplanned experimental projects with daffodil bulbs. While waiting in the check out lane at our local grocery store, I saw sprouted daffodil bulbs cheap...I mean real cheap. I bought two bunches and brought them home.

I have never had success planting bulbs in patio containers. My last try at tulip bulbs ended up in a disgusting, mushy, rotted situation. Not wanting another planter covered in moss and who knows what else...I took to the wonderful world of Google.

Several Pinterest pictures, a few garden club websites, and a couple YouTube "how to" videos later I had what I needed; inspiration, directions, and a plan. I was ready to give daffodil bulbs a try.

 This is my procedure for planting sprouted daffodil bulbs: (unless it doesn't work)

-medium glass hurricane
-river rocks
-sprouted daffodil bulbs

First, I set a layer of the larger rocks at the bottom of the glass hurricane. The layer was about two inches thick.

Then, I pulled the bulbs out of the container. The roots were packed into the soil pretty tightly so I spent a few minutes rubbing the soil off and into a pile. If you buy just dry bulbs this step is not necessary. Since I am impatient, I bought sprouted bulbs with maturing roots. Since my bulbs were going into a glass hurricane, I wanted as much dirt off of the roots as possible. Dirty water just is not as nice looking as as clear, clean watered roots.

Next, I placed the daffodil bulbs root side down onto the rocks. Along the sides I placed the smaller rocks to keep everything snug. My daffodils were mature enough that the stems were already peeking out of the top of the hurricane.

Last, I poured water into the bottom of the vase with just enough water to reach the roots. This only submerged the bottom rocks, some of the longer roots, and did not touch the bottom of the daffodil bulbs.

I placed the hurricane of daffodils near a window that receives several hours of afternoon sun. Every few days I will either add water or switch out the old with new fresher water.

I must really be impatient and have bought ready to bloom daffodil bulbs. Originally, I thought the bulbs would take another couple of weeks to bloom. In just 24 hours almost all of my bulbs have bloomed tiny daffodils. I thought that the plants would get thicker like the ones I see outdoors, but now I realize I must have purchased the miniature daffodil bulbs. We shall see how long these last and if they get any bigger. Even if the flowers do not get any bigger, these yellow blooms are a cheerful addition to the emerging spring. Hopefully, the daffodils will stay around until Easter!

Are you making Springtime beautiful in your home?

Springtime Well Wishes,

*Follow Up: The Daffodils great quite full and lasted beautifully for about two weeks!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Day Trip to Augsburg, Germany

This weekend Husband and I took advantage of the gorgeous, springlike high temperatures and sunshine for another day trip out of Munich. We headed to Augsburg, Germany for a Saturday outing.

Every time we go out of town on a weekend road trip we drive by the town of Augsburg. Passing by I always say "I wonder what is in Augsburg?" Three of Husband's colleagues live in Augsburg and so he was curious as well.

Mid-morning Saturday, we hit the "Super A+" autobahn. Even though this nerve racking stretch of the autobahn does not have a speed limit, Husband prefers to maintain a speed somewhere in the middle of a grandpa and race car driver. Just a 45 minute drive outside of Munich we found ourselves rolling into Augsburg.

In Augsburg's city center we visited the Fuggerei and the Rathaus (town hall).

The Fuggerei is considered the world's oldest social housing complex still in use. That's right folks, we visited the projects. Actually, even though the Fuggerei was established in 1516 for families going through hard times, now days it is mostly considered an elderly assisted living community. The average age of the 100 or so residents is 71 years old. 
The main road inside the Fuggerei

Each resident pays only 88 cents a year in rent, must be catholic, and reside in Augsburg. The community is a large city block of row houses. Each row house is more like an apartment with two rooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. 

Visitors to the Fuggerei pay just 2 Euros to walk around the property. Inside the walls surrounding the Fuggerei is a museum, a beer garden, a chapel, a modern walk through apartment, a 16th century model of an apartment, and a World War II underground bunker. All of this is open to visitors. 

Unfortunately, I did not take any photos of the underground bunker. I was a bit weary to go down the old concrete steps into the dark, cold, bomb shelter... but I did. Inside the underground bunker was a museum exhibit dedicated to the dark days the Fuggerei encountered during World War II. Over the course of the war, Augsburg a heavily industrial town, was involved in a handful of air raids. The worst damage was done in 1944 close to the end of the war. Despite the 16th century Fuggerei being heavily bombed, all but one resident found safety in the bunker. Three days later, approval was made for the Fuggerei to be rebuilt over the course of the next decade.  It was eyeopening to think about the times the underground concrete walls had seen.
Outside the Fuggerei's Walls

Leaving the dark times underground and resurfacing to the most beautiful Saturday possible, Husband and I headed to a local bakery established in 1923. There we enjoyed an afternoon coffee and cake. Do you know how difficult it is to pick a cake slice among 20 different cakes? 
Going traditional with the Black Forest Cake

After a coffee and cake break, Husband and I headed to the Number 1 attraction in Augsburg, the Rathaus. A rathaus is the same thing as a city or town hall. Construction on the Augsburg Rathaus began in 1615 and finally completed in 1624. On the ground floor of the Rathaus is an exhibit showcasing the history and influences on the town of Augsburg. 

During the Roman Era

Up three flights of stairs, on the first level, is the Golden Hall. Before we even reached the top of the stairs my jaw dropped at the sneak peek coming through the doorway. Gold, gold, gold everywhere you looked! Detailed and elaborate paintings covered the ceiling and the walls. Paintings of Roman emperors lined the length of the back wall and Christian emperors the length of the front wall. I walked the entire room with my head back and eyes up at the ceiling. (probably with my jaw still hanging open)
City Hall

The City of Augsburg still conducts meetings inside the Golden Hall. Can you imagine making modern day decisions and votes underneath and surrounded by these paintings? The Golden Hall is considered one of the most important cultural monuments of the late German Renaissance.  
The Golden Hall's Ceiling

If you are coming to Germany for the first time, Augsburg would not be a place I would say you HAVE TO SEE! If you are coming to Germany for a third or forth visit, then I think Augsburg would be an interesting place to spend a day. There are several castles nearby that open to the public come midSpring. Husband and I are excited to visit one of the Fugger's castles sometime next month after the nonexisting snow clears from the passes.

May Your Days be Sunny,

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Weekend Trip to Lucerne, Switzerland

This year my birthday was canceled. Leaving the decade of my 20s and turning 30 made me ill. I'm talking about head over the toilet, called Husband home from work, ate an entire box of saltines, down right awful sickening. Okay, maybe I am being a bit of a drama queen. It might actually have been the virus that half of Munich seemed to encounter during February and not the fact that I was turning thirty. Nonetheless, we did NOT celebrate my birthday on my birthday...
30th Birthday Dinner

until two weeks later. Husband planned back in January my birthday weekend. Since it was a BIG zero ending birthday this year he made it extra special. I had told Husband that I wanted to spend my time turning 30 sitting in a hot tub surrounded by the Swiss Alps. I may have mentioned fondue as well... what can I say? I am a foodie. Husband is a self-acclaimed master Googler and he found exactly what I was looking for when I envisioned my big day.
Our Favorite Hotel

After reading fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor and coming across breathtaking photos, Husband booked a weekend at the Hotel Villa Honegg outside of Lucerne, Switzerland. The hotel sits at the top of a mountain with a view of neighboring mountains, Swiss countryside, and tiny villages dotting Lake Lucerne.

My favorite part about Hotel Villa Honegg, besides the view, was the infinity heated outdoor pool. The pool was the perfect spot for us to relax, even in the middle of February. Inside the pool there were lounge benches, jet pools, and overhead waterfalls. One of the best memories was Saturday night after dinner when Husband and I put our swimsuits back on and headed to the pool. In the pitch black of night, we stepped into the heated, mood lit pool as snow fell above our heads. IT WAS AMAZING. I felt like I was in a fairy tale.
The Heated Infinity Pool

Saturday and Sunday mornings we were fortunate enough to have gorgeous weather. Despite being on top of a mountain, the sun was warm enough for Husband and I to enjoy our breakfast on the outdoor patio. The chairs were full of plush pillows and fur blankets to keep us comfortable during our meal. We enjoyed eating local Swiss sausages, cheeses, homemade jams, warm bread, and fresh squeezed orange juice at the start of our day. You can not beat sipping cappuccinos outside among the Swiss Alps.
Breakfast in the Swiss Alps

Husband and I spent the majority of Saturday enjoying full body massages, spa treatments, and the saunas. Most of the time our trips are jam packed with sightseeing excursions and fitting as much into our schedule as possible. This time we made it our weekend goal to simply relax and that we did. It was so nice to pack a suitcase of swimsuits and yoga pants instead of an hourly schedule. One thing I really love about the European lifestyle is how saunas are viewed as essential to personal well being. Coming out of two weeks of being under the weather the steam bath and aromas did help. Of course, being in Europe these were saunas with nudity. As they say...when in Rome! ;-)
Lucerne Beyond

Another thing that amazed Husband and I was how attentive the staff members of Hotel Villa Honegg were during our stay. It almost seemed as if they knew where we were at all times. The staff members went out of their way to make sure our stay was comfortable and we felt like celebrities. When we were at our meals the maids cleaned our room. I wasn't expecting a second cleaning but when we came into our room after dinner I was shocked to find my thrown clothes folded nicely on the sofa. (Though a tad bit embarrassing...) Our room included a free minibar, a refillable fruit bowl, and a Nespresso machine! The manager made it a point to greet us at each meal and was called up to shake our hands at check out. (I have never been so sad to leave a hotel before!)
Maybe 30 is Okay...

This weekend was not something Husband and I do often. If you know me, you know I am quite frugal. Husband and I most of the time plan our trips on a strict budget. We stretch our dollars euros as far as they will go and plan accordingly. Our stay at the Hotel Villa Honegg was a real treat and a special memory for a girl turning thirty years old. I made Husband promise that 30 years from now we will return for another stay at the Hotel Villa Honegg. 
Room With a View

Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving, (name that movie!)