Couch von Rot does Spain

We did it! A beautiful vacation in the middle of Spain… And when I say middle, I mean… of no where. In Berzocana. We drove three hours west of Madrid through beautiful mountains to be greeted with this view from our porch:


Our little cabin was perfect! We made good food, the kids played with the dog, Duc, they watched television in Spanish, we swam in a beautiful (and chilly) pool, and we drank good wine.


On food (because I love food): milk is mostly dried or has a shelf life here. I’m not exactly sure what “shelf life” means… except you can buy it not from the fridge in liquid form and it seems to be fine. In other news, when in Spain, the manchego is ridiculously cheap. This was 10 Euro (and we had already eaten half of it at the time of this photo):


We’ve eaten fresh baked bread, cured jamon serrano, fresh fruit, salad, and one pasta meal. The chicken comes really thinly sliced (think pounded chicken prepared for chicken parmesan) and the bacon was actually pancetta–and I didn’t care for it much. OH! And the egg yolk is gloriously orange… Like it came from a local chicken this week. So good. Also, the stove top espresso maker was awesome. I didn’t perfect the process in 5 mornings, but that was ok. It was all better than from a coffee pot. (I used these instructions.)

We went on one “out of town” excursion to Guadalupe on Sunday. I took some photos before realizing that I shouldn’t have been taking them (somehow I missed the BIG sign with a slash through the camera symbol… Oops):


It was a cute town where we enjoyed brunch in the town square, took a walk, and I attempted to follow the flow of a Catholic Mass in Spanish. I thought our kids were pretty well behaved, but we noted afterwards that we actually have no idea what the norm is. Maybe we offended someone by pulling out coloring books? Hah. We’ll never know. I can say that everyone was smiling at them… so there’s that.

Guadalupe Center

It was a good day, though the heat did finally get to me. I think we’ve discovered in the past week that we get tired very quickly. Maybe it’s the being away from home for over a month, maybe it’s the jet lag, maybe it’s the need for more “normalcy”. But, it all kind of sums up with trying to adjust to the new time zone. Our normal wake-up time due to jet lag has been hilariously in sync with the Spanish way… waking after 9 am, siesta around 2 pm and dinner around 7:30. Also, the sun isn’t fully down here until about 11, so it’s no wonder they enjoy a later schedule. Last night we went out to dinner at 8 p.m. and returned home at 10:30. This is not how I’m wired and I’ve done fine. I’ve been amazed.

The other fun adventure we enjoyed was going to the Cork Forest, where I finally learned where cork comes from–TREES. (I really had no idea, which I guess is kind of embarrassing.)

Cork Forest.jpg

So, I’m here to say that I hope we make it to Spain again. We’ve had a lovely time and we’ve finished our time with 12 hours in Madrid–a very different place than our rural town of Berzocana. We enjoyed an amazing visit to El Mercado de San Miguel and saw the Royal Palace of Madrid before melting into a puddle of exhaustion in our hotel. It’s been wonderful.


Tomorrow we board a plane to our final destination, which seemed so dang far away a month ago. We have been here and there and in 36 hours we’ll be closing on our rental home in Hamburg, Germany. I’m eager to be settling in, but so grateful to have seen so much of our family and the world before beginning our adventure in Germany. Thanks for taking a little ride with us!



Renting in Germany

We will be in Germany in 7 days! As of today we’ve been on the road for a month and tomorrow we fly to Spain before hitting the ground in Hamburg! Stay tuned on Instagram! (link on the right)

But, I promised to tell you about finding a house in Hamburg! And now we have one! But that’s the punchline… Here’s a bit about the process…


So, when it comes to figuring out housing internationally, we have been working with a relocation company. However, I suspect that we will appreciate their help with setting up utilities and internet (all in German) more than in our house hunting adventures. No hard feelings, it’s just that my husband is THE best at research. He has found almost all of the houses we’ve wanted to view and we’ve had a fair amount of fun in the process. (It’s hard not to feast your eyes after 1960’s grad school housing! Never truer words were spoken when someone said, “I almost expect Jason Bourne to come climbing from the roof onto the balconies.” … The outside had the cold, hard-lined European complex feel. Charmed. Or not.)

So, Brian began researching the housing market almost immediately after we started seriously considering Germany. (This is his favorite game–housing research.) That means we’ve spent months deciphering “the German way” with housing. To name a few:

  • Rentals turn over quickly and often. A house listed today may be gone tomorrow. You shake a hand, write a check, and can be in your house in a week or less. Very efficient. (This also makes it hard to search for a house in advance.)
  • Rental properties are owned by people. There is no company. When you rent, it is a personal business relationship. Germans don’t like renting to people they can’t see in person. They want to be able to trust you. This is difficult when you live… across the ocean.
  • When listing a property, there is no such thing as “staging”. You need to imagine all of their stuff gone. Their paper towel holder, toaster, and bedding selection are there for all to see.
  • Every house has a listed number of “zimmers” (rooms). Each apartment’s number of zimmers may or may not be bedrooms only, or may include the kitchen, or may include the living room… So, it’s not an easy search filter.
  • There are doors on every room. The kitchen is often totally enclosed with a door. Kind of wild.
  • When you rent an apartment, it comes bare. No lights. And no light fixtures. Nothing. There aren’t usually closets, and almost everyone buys wardrobes from Ikea.

At this point it’s almost (but not quite) funny how many glitches our international move has had. The housing situation was certainly not excluded from “the fun”. We saw about 5 apartments/houses by Skype with our nice relocation helper. She was kind and did a good job.

The decision tree for housing in Hamburg is very similar to any other city: more money to be closer to the city, likely in an older apartment and with less space. Further out of the city, the options you can afford increase, you might get some yard space, and the restaurants are fewer. And yes, I need to go watch House Hunters International because everyone says that I should be on it when I tell them of our adventures.

We had many conversations on what we want… The parking spot? Laundry hookups? A newer apartment? A place for laundry? A cool part of the city? A laundry room. The Portuguese district–which we loved? Near our school? Ok ok. It’s all about the laundry. And we got it!

We settled on a newly built townhouse an 11 minute drive to school and a 30 minute drive to the center of Hamburg. It has 1600 sq ft and 5 (smaller) bedrooms. We got all the way through the contract process and the owner backed out. Thankfully, 5 days later, we were offered an almost identical unit a few doors down. The only bummer? The kitchen is grey–not white. Boo hoo. (sarcasm–it’s beautiful). We are so very grateful after our Jason Bourne apartment and are excited to arrive and get possession of it on July 15! (Fun fact: that is one day shy of one year ago when we got possession of our Cambridge apartment. Life is an adventure!)

Without further ado, here are some photos sent to us by the realtor. More later when we get settled–I promise!

We’re looking at the front entryway: You walk in the front door and that first door (on your right as you walk in, but on the left of the photo) is a guest bath and a coat closet. The last door (first on the left) is storage under the stairs. We will be buying the fridge. (We’ll also be buying our washer and dryer, like most Germans.)


Kitchen Sink

View of Kitchen from LR


Above the tub are towel heaters/dryers. They are very typical. So is the bidet… Yes, we’ll have one.

Bathroom 2

Bathroom Shower

Things I’m excited about are laundry on the third floor (where our bedroom will be), a balcony also on the third floor, a patio for eating outside and a common green space between rows of townhouses. The kids can play outside, the parking is free, and we get to rent a brand new apartment. We’re very blessed. Oh, and there’s room for you to stay! Come visit. We’ll even cook for you!

I’m tempted to be so excited for Germany that I want to rush through our  vacation in Spain… but that would be foolish! Bring on the cured meats, red wine and in-ground pool! Ciao!

Packing for a Month Away


What do you pack when you’re leaving for over a month? Well, not only are we homeless and carless for one month and ten days, we’re staying in eight locations over that time frame. That is a lot of places. We’ve just arrived to location number 4 and I’m very thankful that the first afternoon of nap-fighting has the reward of some seriously quiet awesome nap time on day two. Fun. Fun. Fun. Sorry about the new digs, kids… again… You’re troopers.

For the record, I’ve only forgotten two items so far and that was because I unpacked into a side table drawer. I like organization to a fault, which means I enjoy unpacking into a new space upon arrival… But I also am more likely to forget something. (Thankfully those two items got back to me very easily–thanks to family.)


So, we have one big luggage, one small luggage, two back-packs and a messenger bag. These transponders have saved our lives. (We brought car seats so we can rent cars when needed and get around in each location.) (Maybe in 5 years our luggage could look like the above photo? That’d be fun. Also, our next luggage will definitely be the hard shell kind.)

So, here’s what we brought!

In our big luggage:

  • Clothing (I tried tried tried to pack about 5-7 outfits for each of us.)
  • Bathing suits
  • Belts, ties, socks, etc.

In our small luggage:

  • Sneakers
  • Sandals
  • Dress Shoes
  • Toiletries
  • Two Sound machines
  • Two extra pacifiers (can’t. run. out.)
  • Medicine–Baby Tylenol and Loratadine
  • Journal
  • Clutch for date nights (I switched out my purse for the backpack on this trip.)

In Brian’s Backpack (which is our diaper bag):

  • Diapers for the day (we’ve purchased diapers in the small pack in each location)
  • Extra set of clothes
  • A laptop
  • Two sippy cups
  • Two bibs
  • Two snack cups

In my Backpack:

  • DSLR camera and 4 lenses
  • A laptop
  • Wallet and similar “purse” items like ibuprofen, lipstick and gum

In our messenger bag:

  • Airport Time Capsule (This device has all my photos which are not backed up in another location. I simply couldn’t put it on a ship and send it away for 6 weeks. It makes me too nervous.)
  • Books
  • Baby doll and dog (R’s and G’s “comfort friends”)
  • Snacks for travel
  • Two safety harnesses for the kids. This one and this one. With five flights in one month and future travel this year, we decided it was worth it.
  • And funny enough… some paperwork with personal information because we didn’t have a safe way to shred and dispose of it. hah. Bonfire anyone?

Oh, I guess I cheated. We brought George’s backpack, too. It has books, coloring books (mess free!), and only a few small toys–like cars. George is responsible for carrying it.

We’ve now flown twice with our kids and the apple ear buds are insufficient for toddler ears. I purchased these and hopefully they’ll hold up. (Because I don’t want any more frustration outbursts when the huge ear bud falls out of the tiny ear… again.)

We’re doing great! Travel is exhausting, but the amazing treat is getting to spend quality time with family. We’re being careful not to accumulate much of anything in each location because we simply can’t fit it all in. I have prayed with much fervor each time I have painstakingly packed our two checked luggages and then again when it is being weighed. I have been within 1.5 lbs of the 50 lb limit each time. Let’s pray that continues.

Stay tuned for more stories on house hunting! So many adventures in an international move!

The Move

The moving company came and went. And yes, getting quotes and deciding what company we wanted was it’s own adventure. For example, if you can’t show up at all or on time to walk through our home for an estimate, we’re not going to contract with you for our international move. Logical, no? It certainly helped narrow down the choices!

We didn’t pack a thing. (Perks.) BUT, that doesn’t mean we didn’t do any work… I promise. We loaded up about 10 bags of donation items (kind of embarrassing, but real life, yo). And yes, this is version 2.0. Last year, we did the same thing as we prepared to move to Boston. And I couldn’t believe how much we got rid of. We successfully settled into 900 sq ft in Boston and we anticipate having about the same amount of space in Hamburg.

But, deciding what to ship across the ocean is a different decision process. 1 square foot costs $10 to ship. If its value is less than $10 and it’s 1 sq ft or bigger: it ain’t going. We got rid of lots of clothing, stuffed animals, extra linens, etc. We also got rid of tired and broken items like our dinning room chairs, changing table, crib, and a laundry basket. Those items were fun to pitch! I guess fun for me. George cried when we pitched his (broken!) laundry basket. I wasn’t prepared for the “It’s totally fine!” pep talk with a smile. I was mostly baffled why he was attached to it!)

Another difference is that we’ll have a different kind of electricity when we arrive. That means we parted with any “cheaper” appliances like our toaster, coffee maker, hair dryer, waffle iron, lamps and fans. I’m hoping to buy an amazing coffee maker. I might even vote for an espresso machine. And yes, we packed the ice cream maker. Priorities are priorities.

So, we’ve been moved. We survived the move morning with streaming shows for the toddlers:


But, eventually that wore off and the kids were squirrely. I also felt helpless as they packed us and I wasn’t doing… anything. So, we enjoyed the amazing benefit of going out to lunch while they packed us up.

I didn’t regret my quick search of the kitchen cabinets as I found a few extra items that they didn’t pack and sent them along with the company. But, despite my best efforts of eating our pantry down to nothing, my frugal self died a little inside as we thew away things that went unpacked accidentally, like our aprons, and sent all of the leftover eggs, beer, bread, yogurt, and balsamic vinegar to the dumpster. Ouch. And I worked hard to not waste anything! Oy. I didn’t totally succeed.

So, we’re done. Our stuff is on a boat in a cargo container and is on its way to Germany. It takes 4-6 weeks and in the meantime we’re soaking up the sun and quality time with family. We’ve already enjoyed South Bend and its many family members, and are currently enjoying spending time with my sisters in Michigan. Coming up next? Florida, a getaway sans kids to Miami, NY, NJ and Spain. Three cheers for a summer vacation after a year of grad school!

Hip, Hip! HOORAY!


A visit

“You’re moving to Germany?! Have you ever been there?! Do you speak German?!”

Yes. For 48 hours! And, no. Ich spreche kein deutsch.

“48 hours?!” you say? Yes! And here’s the story!

In February, my mother-in-law, Beth, agreed to come for 4 days while Brian and I flew to Europe to see the school and city where we were considering moving our family. I cannot tell you how grateful I was to go sans kiddos. It was tiring enough! Hah.

The first thing I have been dying to tell you–fly Lufthansa. It was amazing. They served us dinner, a small breakfast, glasses of wine (or scotch, if that’s your thing. Or beer, if that’s your thing… Or… you get the picture) and hot towels for our faces as we attempted to get some shut-eye in the sky. They were kind, orderly, and I will fly with them whenever I get the chance. Also, you can watch the live stream video during take-off and landing from the camera placed on the belly of the plane. So. Cool. Also, if you look like me and are flying to Germany, expect people to talk to you in German. I look German… because I am. (And no, I don’t speak German.)

Life in the skies

When we arrived, the head of school graciously picked us up at the airport. We drove directly to visit the school because the way to beat jet lag is to say no no no! to sleep when you arrive. We drove through the outskirts of Hamburg and I spent a moment in awe of the fact that any place is still just a place. It sounds silly to say, but there are cars, roads, construction, schools and thankfully, the cars drive on the right side of the road. But, yes… It is also different… and much older.


We arrived and entered the school. Here’s the entryway to the school, complete with coffee (what a wonderful, welcome sight when we arrived!):


It was a beautiful school! Built brand new and very fun to tour. Here are a few more photos:

CafeteriaGymSchool Playground

The cafeteria, gym (they teach parkour!), and the playground.

We went on the tour, and regrettably, I didn’t get a photo of my future office… Because, well, that would’ve been kind of weird. But, I’ll be honest: I’m excited not to be in a cubicle, even if I won’t be able to see Boston from 18 floors up!

After visiting the school, I was very grateful to go to lunch. We had great conversation over lunch and we got to see some beautiful views from a castle in Hamburg. THIS. All of this:


Believe it or not, the weekend just went on and on–in a good way! We went out to drinks with a few other people from the school. We drove through the city of Hamburg, looking at neighborhoods that we could possibly live in–and yes, comparing how close all of them were to Aldi. Guys. They have Aldi. It’s the land of Aldi. It’s Aldi’s home place. You should see Brian’s laughter over my excitement on this front. Oh, and the sushi. Swoon.


Oh, but then we had to fly home. We woke early in the morning and drove the airport and I felt terrible. Brian lovingly convinced me to get a 15 minute massage from a man who began my massage and said in a German accent, “VAT HAS HAPPENED?!” and “How do you Live like DIS!?” Thankfully, that man in the airport made me headache free for the first time that day, and I felt like a flight over the ocean might be a bit bearable. Thanks, Brian, for encouraging me. (Oh how I wish I was not the nausea-ridden flyer that I am… especially with this new life.)

I remember the first night we (finally) settled into our hotel bed and I turned to Brian and said, “Are we really going to move to Germany? I could definitely live here.” 3 months later, I can say, “Yes. We’re moving to Germany. And I’m excited to live there!”

Hamburg downtown

The plans

Everyone has been SO very patient! Thanks for not posting on our walls and sending the same question to our emails over and over and over again: “What are you going to do next year?!”

As a reward for your patience, I won’t kill you with suspense. If you were to come over for dinner, our son George would tell you very confidently, “I’m moving to Germany! And when I go to Germany, I’m going to wear a backpack and go to school!”

RathouseGo ahead. Take a deep breath. I know. Right?!

Brian is finishing his masters program in School Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. On May 25, he will walk across the stage with both kiddos in hand! And yes, you’ll need to stay tuned to see how that goes… I’m praying for two cooperative children, buuuut…

While job searching this year, Brian interviewed with a woman, also a graduate of the School Leadership program, who is head of a new school in Hamburg, Germany called International School Campus. They are just finishing their first year, and will be growing a lot over the next few years. After much conversation, a quick two-day visit, and a job offer for both of us, we decided that this was an opportunity we could not pass up. And yes… the a-maz-ing coffee the whole time we were there definitely helped. (Especially with the jet lag.)


I will be the Deputy Business Manager and Brian will be the Director of Advancement and Admissions. Our kids will be immersed in a German-speaking preschool run by the same parent company.  They will most certainly be scheming together in German within six months. We’re sure of it!

hamburg-2255755Our new fair city!

We are hoping to live in the suburbs of Hamburg, close to school. According to those who know, it takes less than a week to see an apartment, shake a hand, write a check, and move in. So, while our research is fun, we won’t know where we’re going to live until we arrive. (If you’re looking for an idea, here is an example of what we like.)

But first? Brian will walk across that stage! And then? They will come and pack (FOR US!) all of our things and put them on a cargo container to be shipped across the ocean. For the record, I almost said yes to our German adventure just for the company that comes to pack us up and move us.

It will take about 6 weeks for our container to sail to Germany, and we will be visiting our family during that time! Midwest, Florida, and New York: we can’t wait to come out and see you! Oh, and why not throw in a vacation in Spain for four nights on the way over? Twist my arm.

It’s been a big year. I’m grateful it’s coming to a close and ecstatic about all that awaits us. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

I can’t wait to share more details with you! I’ll most certainly do a post on our two day visit in February and keep you posted as we settle in this summer. If you have an itch for more, feel free to visit my About page!