Celebrating the Holidays Near and Far

Snowy Trees in Munich by Natalie Parker

It’s our third Christmas away from home.  Way WAY away from home.  If you’d asked me even five years ago about this I’d have said you were crazy.

Taking these trips has been an amazing privilege for us that we may not have in the future.  Even though we weren’t sitting around a tree, I will remember the last two Christmases as precious.  Two years ago Mr. P and I were on a boat in Antarctica with one of our best friends toasting the end of a very long journey.  Last year he and I were in a rented apartment in Munich, soaking up German Christmas traditions.

I hope whatever is in store for us this year is just as memorable.  Wherever you are across the world and whatever you celebrate, I wish you nothing but peace and happiness.

When to Buy Gifts When Traveling

Tea and Jewelry in Istanbul by Natalie Parker

It’s the season of giving.  It’s also the season of traveling (for me at least).  When do we buy gifts for people back home during a trip?  I’ll explain our philosophy.

We don’t have a must by for list.  In other words, we don’t have to buy anything for anyone.  Think about it.  It’s very freeing.  The first couple of trips we took, we felt we had to buy things for all our family members.  It turned travel time into stressful hunts for things that might be okay and people ended up getting mass produced things from souvenir shops, not anything special at all.  I’ve realized that people aren’t going to appreciate that random thing you bought that was made in China just so you could buy them something.

We only buy if we see something perfect for someone.  This is the fun part.  By not having a set list, we are free to wander without obligation.  If we see something that we know someone would really like, we buy it.  They’re usually little somethings, not too huge.  I knew my corgi-owning friend would love a corgi Christmas ornament from Buckingham Palace.  No brainer there.

Even if it’s for an acquaintance, finding the perfect something can make their day.  I have a friend I don’t keep in touch with as often as I’d like.  Mr. P and I were in a bead store in Istanbul last year and had some necklaces made (pictured above).  They had little black skull beads that I knew this friend would absolutely adore.  I thought about it for a while and went for it.  She loved it.

Buying birthday and Christmas gifts ahead of time is a win-win.  If we’re in a country where it might cost a bit more to get something, but it’s for someone who we buy birthday or Christmas gifts for, we stock up.  We bought lots of little things for family members in China.  But we also loaded up on custom pearl necklaces that we saved until Christmas.

Packing up and shipping our little finds is my favorite activity when we get home.  I use my vintage stamp collection and make Weasley-style mail.  I love surprising people and I love it when they love what we found.

What about you?  Do you like buying gifts while traveling?

Trip Report: Innsbruck After Christmas

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

We spent the last part of our Europe Christmas trip in Innsbruck, Austria.  Innsbruck is a small ski town in the Alps.  It’s just a couple of hours by train from Munich, which is why we decided to go there.  Mr. P got the idea from Julie and Scott’s blog.

We arrived on December 26 and it was snowing everywhere.  So much snow that we couldn’t even see the mountains from town.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

There are some colorful buildings along the river and, let’s be honest, I saw this photo all over Pinterest so I had to get one of my own.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

I was pretty giddy about the snow, even if it made it difficult to take pictures.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

We headed for lunch at a traditional Austrian place.  Mr. P ordered a pretzel with three cheeses to start.  I’m including this here because it was the adult version of Handi-Snacks.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

The restaurant was in the super cute old town area.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

We’d been eating a lot of heavy Bavarian and Austrian food at this point.  Plus, lots of restaurants were still closed on the 26th.  Japanese-Korean it is!  It was a nice break from what we’d been eating.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

Walking back to our hotel at night.  There are several of these fake lit-up trees on the way to the old town.  They were very pretty!

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

We woke up the next morning and Boom!  The clouds were gone and we could see the mountains.  The picture at the top of the post is from our hotel room the second morning.  The town looks that much better with the scenery.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

We hoofed it to the old town to catch the tramway and cable car up the mountain before it started snowing again.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

Part of the way up — nice views of the city.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

After the first cable car ride, we changed to the second cable car that would take us to Hafelekar, or the very top.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

Looking up at Hafelekar — it’s that tiny structure at the top of the mountain.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

It wasn’t snowing, but it was cloudy and very windy.  How cloudy?  I took this picture of the next cable car arriving at Hafelekar.  Can you see it?

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

Yeah, so not the best views up there.  We took the cable car back down one level to Seegrube, which still had excellent views.  They also had lounge chairs!

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

It was just a wee bit cold.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

After my toes got too cold for my liking, we went inside the lodge and had a drink.  I had some more glühwein.  Mr. P decided to try a jagertree, which is tea, rum, and some other stuff (not my cup of tea, no pun intended).

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

Back in town right outside the tram station, there’s this beautiful pink tree.  On closer inspection, I realized it was a fake tree, but it made for some pretty pictures.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

The next day, we visited the ski jump.  Innsbruck has hosted the Olympics twice.  Count me out of ski jumping for the rest of ever.  I never realized how steep it was!

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

At the top, there’s a little cafe where we sat and had hot drinks.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

We watched the sun set from the cafe.  If you look at the top of the mountains just to the right of the center of the photo, you’ll see two yellow lights.  Those are Seegrube and Hafelekar, respectively, where we were the day before.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

The next day, we had lots of fresh snow.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

. . . which made it perfect for Mr. P to go snowboarding.  Mr. P not pictured below, just some cute kids learning how to snowboard.  I’ll write more about this later, but it is not expensive to rent gear and get a lift ticket.  It can be challenging to understand the ski resorts with best conditions before you arrive, but the tourist information office will give you the best information once you’re in town.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

Our last morning before heading back to Munich, we sampled the hot chocolate at a local cafe.  They’re very famous for it and it’s a DIY dealio.  The milk comes hot, then you stir a giant wad of chocolate in.  It was fantastic.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

Innsbruck is such a lovely city.  I’ve heard it’s also beautiful in the summer, but the Christmas trees and snow were unforgettable.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

That’s it for this trip!  We’re already planning the next great adventure.

Innsbruck Winter by Natalie Parker

MORE FROM THIS TRIP

Trip Report: Christmastime in London
Trip Report: Christmas in Munich
Christmas in Europe: What we Learned

Mr. P and I just returned from a 17-day Christmas trip to Europe.  I’m sharing each stop in a blog post.  Doing my best not to include photos already Instagrammed.  See all of my travel related posts here.

Trip Report: Christmas in Munich

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

Once upon a time, I was watching the Price is Right and they gave away a trip to the Munich Christmas markets in a showcase.  What’s this?  I’d never heard of Christmas markets before.  It made sense — Germany is the root of many American Christmas traditions.

And just like that, we decided to spend a Christmas in Munich.

There is a lot more to the story of how we came to be in Munich for Christmas in 2014, but that is exactly how it started.

There are many Christmas markets in Munich, but the “official” one is on Marienplatz in the center of town.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

The markets are Christmas overload and I love it.  Christmas is my favorite holiday.  At this stand, we couldn’t see the shopkeepers through the ornaments.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

All the stands are decorated.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

They sell all manner of Christmas items.  This stand sold baking supplies and tons of cookie cutters.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

Another stand selling wooden ornaments.  We bought ornaments for our families here — they pack and ship very well!

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

Our trips are always about food and drink (I had to restrain myself from posting every drink on Instagram).  In Germany, it was all about the glühwein.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

Glühwein is a hot mulled wine and it was sold everywhere.  We sampled a lot.  The cold weather will do that to you.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

Sausage!  Sausage stands are almost as numerous as glühwein stands.  I think we ate a sausage for lunch every day in Germany and then sometimes again for dinner.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

There was a sausage stand at the bottom of this massive Christmas pyramid.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

There is a separate market just for nativity items.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

Seriously.  Every manner of Joseph, Mary, shepherds, kings, manger animals, and more were sold.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

Sheep!  Just in case the sheep in your manger have gone missing.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

Mistletoe for sale and lots of it.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

We were on the hunt for reiberdatschi (potato pancakes) and were thrilled when we found them!

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

They came sweet or savory.  I had two with a piece of melted cheese in between.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

I was pretty ecstatic when I found feuerzangenbowle the first night we were there.  It’s basically glühwein with a rum soaked sugar cube.  The sugar cube is lit on fire.  It burns until it’s caramelized to your liking then you mix it in the drink.  ‘Nuff said.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

We wanted a white Christmas again this year (forgive me, I’m from California.  Snow is a novelty).  We had to wait until the morning of the 26th.  This is what we saw when we woke up and looked out window into the courtyard.  Magical.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

We packed up our bags on the 26th and headed through the Alps to Austria.  We transited back through Munich in order to go home a couple of days later.

Out on Marienplatz, the Christmas markets were gone, but the tree was still lit up.  With just the wide open square and lots of snow, it was perfect.

Chrismtas in Munich by Natalie Parker

 More from this Trip:

Trip Report: Christmastime in London
Christmas in Europe: What we Learned

Mr. P and I just returned from a 17-day Christmas trip to Europe.  I’m sharing each stop in a blog post.  Doing my best not to include photos already Instagrammed. Stay tuned for Austria next.  See all of my travel related posts here.

Trip Report: Christmastime in London

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

I know, here we are in 2015, everyone is talking about fresh starts (including me), and I’m starting by rewinding to Christmas!

Mr. P and I spent the last half of December in Europe: a week of work in London, Munich for Christmas, and Innsbruck for after Christmas.  I’ll do one post per city.

It’s my goal this year to show you photos of our travels as soon as we return (not a year later *cough cough*) — it helps me get the pictures off the camera and sorted quickly!

First up, London!

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Before our vacation, we spent a week working in London.  I didn’t have time to get many photos, so I focused on getting holiday decorations.  Check out these huge ornament balls hanging from the ceiling in Covent Garden:

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Of course, of course, a quintessential London picture is always necessary.  Especially when it’s so gray outside and the buses and phone booths stand out.

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

We had one free Saturday before we headed off to Munich.  We took a long walk to the Borough Market from St. Paul’s.

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

The market is a perfect attraction for us foodies.  It got very crowded after lunch so I suggest going in the morning.

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

There were lots of lovely things for sale.  I wanted to take one of these wreaths home!

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

The market is under a bridge/road, so the scenery was very interesting!

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Stopping for lunch at the Pieminister stand.  Meat pies on a cold London afternoon = very important.

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

We wandered into the entry hall at the market.  The ceiling was covered with ribbons hanging with mistletoe and ornaments.  There were carolers in the hall singing and right after this photo, a soft wind blew the ribbons a bit.  The sound of Christmas music and the movement of the ribbons was magical.

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Later, we wandered over to the ice rink at Somerset House.  The massive Fortnum & Mason Christmas tree allowed me to get a neato reflection/Christmas photo of us.

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Very quickly, the sun set on our time in London and it was off to the next destination!

London Christmas Snapshots by Natalie Parker

If you go:

Borough Market
Pieminister UK
Somerset House Ice Rink

More from this Trip:

Trip Report: Christmas in Munich
Christmas in Europe: What we Learned

Click here to see a photo index for all my posts on London

Mr. P and I just returned from a 17-day Christmas trip to Europe.  I’m sharing each stop in a blog post.  Doing my best not to include photos already Instagrammed. Stay tuned for Munich next.  

So this is Christmas

Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires Argentina by Natalie Parker
I’m not one to visit cemeteries on trips even if they are tourist attractions and famous people are buried there.  But a friend of ours who was traveling with us to Argentina and Antarctica was very into it, so Mr. P and I went along to El Cementerio de la Recoleta. We were about done with our visit.  On our way out, we passed this huge poinsettia bush.  I never realized before that I’d never seen a pointsettia growing in the wild (or just not in a pot in a Walgreens or on an ESPN set during Christmas).  I stopped to take many photos. It was our first time traveling during the Christmas season.  I’d grown up with a Dad who had to work on Christmas Eve and open a store early on the day after Christmas, so any traveling in December, much less in the southern hemisphere, was odd. It was such an oppressively hot day but it finally felt a tiny bit like Christmastime. Merry Christmas everyone!

Ornaments from My Travels

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Oh my, I have lots of new travel ornaments to share with you this year!

We try and pick up an ornament for our tree during our travels.  It doesn’t have to be made as an ornament — many of the best ones we have are converted keychains.  Putting these up is my favorite part of decorating the tree.

The first two are from 2013 — we were on our trip during Christmas so it’s the first time they’ve gone on the tree.  The second four are from our big trip to Europe this fall.

The Ushuaia Penguin.  We didn’t make it to any of the gift shops on Antarctica (seriously, there are gift shops at some research stations) so this little penguin from Ushuaia was the next best thing.  So stinking cute.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Pope Francis.  Pope Francis is Argentine and I could. not. wait. to see some Pope paraphernalia in Argentina.  This is a keychain that has a picture of the Vatican on the back.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Coach from Buckingham Palace.  Yes, we already have an ornament from London and no, I generally don’t get a new one every time I revisit a city.  But we were in Buckingham Palace (the gift shop, but inside the palace walls).  I saw it, had to have it.  The end.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Munich Beer Stein.  Another keychain, picked up at Oktoberfest.  I don’t feel like I need to describe the awesomeness of this one.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Istanbul Eye.  We had a hard time finding something we liked in Istanbul.  This keychain has a bit of the city plus a charm to ward off the evil eye (frequently seen on our trip).

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Brussels Lace.  Brussels is very famous for its lace.  This ornament isn’t on the level of some of the amazing work we saw, but it was cute and reminds us of the trip, which is the entire point.

Travel Christmas Ornaments by Natalie Parker

Previously: 2011 – Camel from Egypt, 2012 – Great Wall from China & Double Decker from London, 2013 – Kangaroo from Australia.

Scrapbook Layout: Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerChristmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerChristmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerChristmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie ParkerChristmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

The Story: Showing the new ornaments we got for our Christmas tree in 2006.  This was the year we got married, so we had some special ones.  The Sleeping Beauty ornament came out that year — it was totally meant to be.  He proposed to me at Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland and we had Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz played during our wedding ceremony.  Did I mention that her dress changes color and the ornament plays the song?  It’s pretty epic.

Just tree pictures? Yep.  I didn’t grow up in a family of holiday picture-takers so it’s only been recently (especially now that I have an adorable niece and nephew) that I’ve been documenting holidays.  It doesn’t bother me too much.  Some years I’ll just show ornaments, other years will be more detailed.

Cataloging Ornaments: I didn’t take these pictures in 2006 but am using this process to slowly photograph our ornament collection for my scrapbook.

Careful when using translucent paper: The gold paper with the Christmas headline is translucent.  It’s really hard to glue it down and not show the glue (or tape).  Duh.  *smacks head*

Previously: See my holiday layouts from previous years including 2003 (in college), 2004 Christmas and ornaments, and our 2005 ornaments and theatre trip.

Christmas Scrapbook Layout by Natalie Parker

Fonts: Pacifico, Ostrich Sans | Tools: Silhouette SD (headline, snowflake), Epson Stylus R2000 (photos) | Supplies: Pioneer SJ-100 Jumbo Scrapbook (scrapbook & pages), Epson Semigloss Photo Paper (photos), Fancy Pants Designs/All My Heart (patterned paper) | Ephemera Included: none.

Our 2013 Christmas Cards

Christmas Cards by Natalie Parker

As usual, we bought these on sale last year*.  And as usual, I bow in respect to those that make their own cards.  Making my own cards just isn’t in the cards for me.  Ha!

Keeping with my resolution of sending more cards, any “maybes” on my list were “yeses.”  Everyone deserves holiday wishes and I tried to sit and think of the person while I was writing each card.

I dressed up the envelopes with two different types of washi tape I got from Two Peas (gold triangles, red grid).  I used my personal stamp from Paper Source that I still have an unhealthy obsession with admiration for.

Christmas Cards by Natalie Parker

I had to get these out earlier than normal this year.  I’m glad I get to share them with you!

Christmas Cards by Natalie Parker

*Mr. P insisted on penguins this year.  I love the cards but the envelopes were a tad flimsy for my liking.  I kept on telling him that I might end up like Susan from Seinfeld after licking all of the envelopes.

2013 Travel Christmas Ornament

Kangaroo Ornament by Natalie Parker

Here’s this year’s travel memento for our Christmas tree!

To recap, we pick up an ornament to represent each of our travels.  I was in Australia twice this year, once for work and once for school.  We actually haven’t had our big vacation trip of 2013 yet.

Sometimes with these ornaments, I love a piece of local art.  Sometimes, it just feels right to go with straight up kitsch.  How could I say no to the kangaroo?

Earlier: 2011 – Camel from Egypt, 2012 – Great Wall from China & Double Decker from London.