Living out of a bag/crazy upcoming travel

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From May 3rd until August 10th I'll be traveling heavily and will be living out of a bag. Yes, I love having loads of travel but sometimes, never having the chance to unpack can be exhausting. This certainly will be a packing feat!

Upcoming Travel Plans

1) May 3.  fly from Vilnius to Madison, WI, USA to defend my dissertation. I'll be in Madison for about a week and will need to pack at least one professional outfit. (May 3 - May 9)

2) May 9 - May 11.  Travel from Madison, WI to Asheville, NC for a bit of relaxing.

3) May 11 - May 15.  Travel from Asheville to Cherokee, NC for a professional conference. I will need to pack professional clothes for a warm climate.

4) May 16.   Travel to my parents in CT from Asheville, NC. My sister will graduate college and my mom will graduate with her masters (Yeah for three graduates!) so I will need to wear some nice clothes for celebrations.

5) Late May.  Boston for my sister's graduation.

6) June 28th - 30th.  a relaxing visit to Rhode Island.

7) July 10 - August 10th. An epic trip to China. I cannot wait. 


Does anyone have travel plans this summer? Any pointers for packing?

Questions People Ask about Americans

Monday, April 28, 2014

Throughout my travels when people learn that I am American I am typically bombarded with questions.  I'm always surprised by the questions that I'm asked. I won't be talking about any controversial topics and these questions and my answers aren't meant to be offensive. These are all actual questions that I've been asked.


You are American - why aren't you fat?


This was an interesting and blunt question asked to me by an acquaintance in China. Let me clarify that in China it isn't an insult to be called fat, it is more of an observation. This was a tricky question to answer. I said that people are many sizes all over the world. I left my answer at that because I didn't really know what else to say.

Do your parents kick you out when you turn 18?


It seems to be a common misconception that in America, families kick their children out of their house once they turn 18. I lived at home after I graduated from college and this is a very common occurrence. Family is very important to many people anywhere in the world.


What do Americans look like?


I answered this question with an explanation that people in America are from every different country therefore they look like anyone. I explained that there are people from Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania, and everywhere else. I said that my father's family is from Greece and my mother's family is from Ireland, England, and Germany so I am a mixture of all of these ethnicities. This makes everyone in the US look very different.

Do you know what Easter is?


This was my most recent surprising question. In Italy the hotel concierge said that we must not know about Easter since we are Americans and that our trip timing was poor because everything will be closed during the holiday. I explained that I was aware that it was Easter and that many Americans including myself celebrate Easter. I also said that many places close in the US on Easter but you can always find something open (Yes Chinese food!).


Greek Easter bread in the US
Typical Easter with my family in the US

What questions have you been asked? How did you answer them? Did any of these questions surprise you? Are there any questions that you have about Americans?

Quivey's Grove Beer Festival

Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm going back a bit in the archives to re-cap some fun bits from my time living in Madison, WI. I'll be returning to Madison on May 3rd for my dissertation defense and need a bit of a reminder about the good things about the city. While in Wisconsin I'm looking forward to enjoying delicious locally brewed beer and cheese. Beer is one of my favorite beverages and for me the best way to taste all of the Wisconsin beers was to visit Quivey's Grove Beer Festival. The beer fest takes place every fall (late September or early October) and is healed at Quivey's Grove restaurant.

                   new glarus spotted cow beercentral waters beer


This beer fest is seriously awesome! I went three years in a row and each time drank my fill in beer while snacking on pretzels. If you ever happen to be in Madison in the fall I'd really suggest that you purchase tickets for the beer fest.


Have you ever been to a beer fest? What is your favorite beer?

Happy Friday!

I'm linking up with Paige for weekend reads and #residenttourist link up with Quaintrelle.

A Review of Air BnB

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Several of our friends said that they really enjoyed their stays with airbnb and suggested we try it during our travels in Europe. Because of the rave reviews for our recent trip to Barcelona we rented an apartment through airbnb to give it a try. We were super optimistic and our pre-trip communications with our host was so wonderful.

For those of you who haven't heard of airbnb before it is a booking website that allows you to rent apartments or homes from someone basically anywhere in the world. You communicate with the apartment/home owner through airbnb's secure website and you can see helpful reviews from other people who have stayed in the apartment.

The apartment that we rented in Barcelona was in the most perfect location - near La Rambla and only a block from the beach. The apartment was small but clean and was just what we needed for our six day stay. We only had two complaints about our stay. 1) The apartment was on the 5th or 6th floor of a walk up and 2) it was very loud late at night because a few bars nearby. These negatives could have happened anywhere so we really weren't upset.

Overall our stay at the apartment we rented through airbnb in Barcelona was not perfect, however it was good enough to make us want to try airbnb again. We have rented a small house through airbnb in Rhode Island for a short stay in June. The house seems to be  in a perfect location near a beach and is close to places we will be visiting. I can't wait!


staying in barcelona in an air bob apartment
The apartment we stayed in in Barcelona

experience with airbnb

kitchen in the airbnb apartment in barcelona
A fully functional kitchen - perfect for making quick meals



*This post is not sponsored, I just wanted to share my experience with airbnb.


Have you tried airbnb? What do you think? Would you recommend airbnb to a friend?

Lithuanian Food

Monday, April 21, 2014



Lithuanian food heavily features beets, potatoes, honey, and cheeses. I really enjoy some Lithuanian dishes, but I didn't know what to expect to be eating before moving here. Lithuanian food is very rich,  filling, and overall is pretty delicious. Also, don't forget to try Lithuanian beer (Svyturys is the favorite brewery) to wash down any of these dishes! Below are common dishes that you will see in Lithuanian restaurants.


-----Potato Pancakes-----

Often filled with meat, potato pancakes are a hearty option that are tasty, delicious, and inexpensive.

Potato pancakes

-----Zeppelins-----

Zeppelins are potato dumplings that are typically stuffed with meat and are served with a sour cream dipping sauce. Zeppelins seem to be comfort food for many Lithuanians.

-----Borscht-----

 Though not traditionally Lithuanian, borscht is commonly in Lithuanian restaurants and is totally delicious. 

borsht

-----Cold Beet Soup-----

Served during the spring, summer, and fall (typically April - September) this pepto bismal-looking soup is refreshing and delicious. Don't be afraid by the bright color - it is delicious!


-----Fried Bread-----

Deep fried rye bread that is served with a mayonnaise dipping sauce. These are a popular beer snack that are reminiscent of french fries.


-----Cured Meats-----

Salami is maybe the most popular of the cured meats in Lithuania. You'll find them in markets and grocery stores, and they are a popular option for lunch on the go.

cured meats

-----Kibinai-----

Kibinai are savory or sweet filled pastries. They seem to be very popular for a quick lunch out and are really tasty. I especially like the raspberry jam filled kibinai from Pinavija Bakery.


Chili, Kvass, and a Kibinai!


-----Mushroom shaped gingerbread cookies - Grybai-----

 These are basically gingerbread cookies that are typically shaped like mushrooms. So good!

Lithuanian mushroom cookies



-----Nuts suspended in honey-----


nuts suspended in honey



-----Lithuanian Tree Cakes - Raguolis-----

 Lithuanian tree cakes are common at bakeries, markets, and grocery stores. These cakes are often featured during big celebrations like weddings or holidays. From what I've tried they don't have a very strong flavor.


Lithuanian tree cakes


-----Gira - Kvass-----

A drink made from fermented bread, honey, and berries. Kvass is really delicious and tastes like you are drinking mildly sweetened bread. You can buy Kvass basically everywhere. 

Lithuanian Kvass


-----Jam Tea-----

Just mix a bit of jam with hot water and you've got jam tea.

Eastern European Jam Tea


-----Honey tea-----

Delicious honey, flavored with ginger or herbs, that is mixed with hot water and enjoyed as tea. This is the perfect remedy when you have a cold or are just feeling tired.

Lithuanian Honey Tea


I'm linking up with The Sunday Traveler, I hope you enjoy some weekend wanderings.

What did I leave out? What other Lithuanian foods to you love?

How to Avoid Jet-Lag

Friday, April 18, 2014

Traveling can be exhausting. Jet-Lag is probably one of the worse things about traveling and still catches up on me occasionally. I hate when time differences slow me down when I'm in a new place trying to experience the wonderful culture. I've found a game plan that prevents me from becoming overwhelmed by the desire to sleep during the day and helps me to adjust to the time difference quickly.


  • If possible I arrive in the late afternoon or evening so I can get settled into the hotel, freshen up, grab some dinner, and head to bed after 8 pm. 
  • Exercise is a great way to energize and adjust to the time difference.
  • If absolutely necessary I give in to a short nap, have a bit of coffee, and walk around. Exploring a new city is always bound to wake me up.
  • If all else fails drink coffee!

Woman Drinking Coffee
Coffee!


I'm off to Italy tomorrow for Spring Break. I will blog on my usual Monday, Wednesday, and Friday however I may be slow to respond to comments.

Today I'm being interviewed by Amanda at Rhyme and Ribbons. If you haven't stopped by her blog before make sure to check out her delicious peanut butter and chocolate cupcake recipe. They are seriously the best cupcakes I've ever eaten (and now I look like a pro whenever I make them!).


How do you adjust to different time zones? Do you have any spring break plans? 

Cultural China Series Part 2: Gifting Culture Continued

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Today is a big day. Today is the day I'm turing in my dissertation thesis! I'm so happy to not have to read through the over 100 pages that make up this document for a few weeks, but I'm also nervous that my committee members won't like it. Eek! To celebrate turing in my thesis I'm going to spend a few hours this morning planning our summer trip to China. In preparation for China (and packing) I'm thinking about the gifts I'd like to bring for my friends and colleagues.

Cultural China: Gifting Culture 101 Semester 2. To continue on with my Cultural China Series I'm going to talk more about gift giving. Below are a few of the things I'm thinking of bringing during this visit.


Gifts I'm Bringing for Friends

Gifts that I'll be bringing for friends are pretty different from gifts I would bring for my colleagues, especially those that are my senior.

Girl Friends:
  • Bath, Body, or Makeup Products. Everyone loves a bit of a pamper!.
  • Tchotchkes from travels abroad
  • Candy
  • Books in English
  • Scented candles

Guy Friends:

Men are notoriously hard for me to buy for, but here are my ideas. If anyone has any other ideas I would love to hear them!
  • T-shirts from travels abroad
  • Candy
  • Coffee
  • Teaching books (one of my friends teaches English to young children)


Gifts I'm Bringing for Colleagues

  • Reprints of academic papers that we collaborated on together
  • Nice Coffee
  • Candy
  • Pens, hats, or other items from my current University


Do you bring gifts for foreign friends when you visit them? What do you bring?



Today I'm linking up with Nicole from Treasure Tromp for TreatyoselfThursday. Last week my post about a weekend in Vilnius was the most viewed treat!

Waffles for Charity

Monday, April 14, 2014

Last weekend we were just strolling down the street next to our apartment and the owner of a local restaurant (who we know) grabbed us and invited us to his Waffles for Charity Event. We were offered coffee and a steady stream of waffles topped with jam. The Charity Event was manned by young entrepreneurs who wanted to give back to the local community. Any donated money is given to the brothers of the Bernidinu Church who distribute this money to families with many children. J and I are hoping to become more involved with Waffles for Charity the next time it is held (it is held very spur of the moment and not well advertised) by helping with advertisement. 

waffles for charity restaurant
Inside the restaurant

Waffles for Charity Waffles
Waffles for Charity

It was so nice to be recognized by the owner of this restaurant and to chat with the people running the event. This was the first time that J and I felt welcomed by acquaintances in Lithuania. Perhaps we are finally finding our niche in Vilnius. (Yeah! Insert Big Grin Here)


Do you get involved with local charities? Have you found your expat niche yet?

Cultural China Series: Part 1: Gifting Culture 101

Friday, April 11, 2014

Learning about culture is one of my favorite things about traveling and living abroad. To share what I've learned I'm starting a new series about cultural intricacies that hopefully can help expats and travelers to better understand and practice some cultural nuances.

Gifting Culture 101 (Semester 1)


In preparation for my big trip to China, from July to August, I'm creating a gift list for friends and colleagues. Gift giving is an important part of Chinese culture and is based on respect of others and is a way to maintain relationships. Additionally, gift giving can be used to give or receive face (a complicated show of relationships in formal situations) or in situations where you may need a favor. Gift giving is different from bribing, so please don't think that I am encouraging bribing.

Typically, during events like birthdays, weddings, and holidays like Chinese New Year, it is expected that you give red envelopes filled with cash as a gift. The amount you give depends on how much you can afford. If you are in a situation where you are giving cash, you must avoid giving a denomination with four (e.g., 40 CNY, 400 CNY) because four sounds similar to the word for death. An auspicious number for cash would be a denomination with an eight (e.g., 88 CNY).

If you are in a situation where you are giving things other than money as gifts, wrapping or packaging the gift is important. Red is a lucky color in Chinese culture, so wrapping paper with red would be a nice touch. It is important to avoid wrapping paper with white, blue, or black because these colors are typically used in funerals (especially white), therefore they suggest death and misfortune.

Gift giving is also important when you visit someone's house. Typically in those situations you should bring fresh flowers (avoid white flowers) or fresh fruit. When visiting relatives of my friend's houses I would always bring watermelon. Shortly after I returned from China I was invited to a friend of the family's house and brought a watermelon along...it didn't go over as well in the U.S. as it did in China. Whoops!

When offering any type of gift (even fruit) you should try to offer it with both hands because this is a way to show respect. This is even true when pouring tea or alcohol. If you are unable to use two hands, touch your hand to your wrist of the giving hand (see the photos below for clarification).

Chinese gift giving culture
Giving a gift with two hands

Giving a gift in Chinese culture
Giving a gift with one hand

Have you been to China? Do you have any cultural pointers? Are there any cultural things that you would like to learn about?

I'm linking up with Bonnie, Melanie, and Tina for Travel Tuesday.

A Weekend in Vilnius, Lithuania

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Saturday


Wander

Vilnius Old Town is beautiful, especially when the weather is warmer (late Spring, Summer, and early Fall). The streets of Old Town are brimming with history, bars, restaurants, and a few great shops. Enjoy the windy streets of Old Town Vilnius with a walk through the tangled streets. Check out the old Jewish Ghetto on Zydu st. and Stikliu st. If you enjoy shopping I'd suggest visiting Decolte, Accessories Studio, Butega, and Ausko Avis (my personal favorite...more information about shopping here).

Statue of the famous Vilnius Rabbi Elizer
Statue of famous Rabbi Elizer
Map of the Jewish Ghetto in Vilnius
Map of the Jewish Ghetto


Vilnius Old Town


Bastion of the Vilnius City Wall
Bastion of Vilnius City Wall


The Presidential Palace
The Presidential Palace


Litteratu street in Vilnius, Lithuania
Litteratu Street

Litteratu street in Vilnius, LithuaniaThe Streets of Old Town Vilnius 

Vilnius Old TownVilnius Old Town



Lunch

Wander down Piles street to stop at Pilies Krepykla for lunch and tea. The streets of Piles are lined with stores selling amber, however taking home a souvenir from a local Vilnius artist sold at Ausko Avis might be a better option.

Ice cream


Views

After lunch wander down the end of Pilies to see Cathedral Square, Vilnius Cathedral, Gedimino Tower, the Hill of Three Crosses, and the park. Several months ago J and I took a tour of the crypts under Vilnius Cathedral and I would really suggest planning ahead and booking a tour. The crypts are really interesting and you can learn a bit about the history of Vilnius and Cathedral Square.

Gedimino Tower in Vilnius, Lithuania
Gedimino Tower

The view of Gedimino Tower from Above
Gedimino Tower

The Hill of Three Crosses in Vilnius, Lithuania
The Hill of Three Crosses


The Crypts under Vilnius Cathedral
The Crypts under Vilnius Cathedral

Crypts
Crypts under Vilnius Cathedral

Vilnius Cathedral
Inside Vilnius Cathedral


Dinner

Bistro 18 (Stikliu st. 18) is one of J's and mine favorite places to eat in Vilnius. Be sure to make reservations because this small restaurant fills up fast.



Drinks

Follow dinner with a few drinks at Bambalyne (Stikliu g. 7), which is in a basement behind Mama Mia cafe. Bambalyne has a huge beer selection and a great atmosphere.

Sunday


Lithuanian Brunch

Pinavija Cafe and Bakery on Vilniaus st. 21 makes excellent kibinai, which are Lithuanian pastries stuffed with sweet jams, meats, vegetables, or cheeses. The decor of Pinavija Cafe is very feminine and is a great place to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon.



Explore

After filling up on some Lithuania pastries stroll over to Uzupis Republic. Before crossing the bridge into Uzupis visit the beautiful St. Anne and Bernardine Church. I talked extensively about Uzupis in this post.

St Anne's ChurchLock bridge in Vilnius, Lithuania


Uzupis Bakery
Treats at Thierry Krepykla


The Uzupis Constitution
The Uzupis Constitution


Uzupis wall carving
More Uzupis


Lunch

Oh the food at Uzupis Klasica is absolutely delicious! This restaurant is a recent discovery of mine and is one of my favorite restaurants in Vilnius. Try the chocolate cake - it is completely worth the wait!


Additional Information

Money:  Lithuania has not yet changed to the Euro so swing by an ATM (or bring along with you) some Lithuanian Litas. Litas is about a 1 USD to 3 LTL exchange rate and generally prices in Lithuania are lower than the rest of Europe.

Walking: Vilnius is a very walkable city so there is no need to rent a car.

Restaurants: Waiters or waitresses will not come to you to ask if you need anything or to bring you the bill. If you need something you must get their attention.

Tipping: It is customary to leave a tip of about 10% at restaurants.



Do you have plans to visit Lithuania? Is Vilnius on your list of places you'd like to visit?


Today I'm linking up with Bonnie, Melanie, and Tina for Travel Tuesday and Nicole for #treatyoselfthursday.