Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I want to Fracture a Picture!

As a photographer and someone who loves photography, I am constantly looking at new products.  From picture frames to printing companies.  Fracture is a new company who is changing the way people print pictures.  Fracture allows you to print your digital pictures onto glass.  Pretty cool, right?  With Fracture you no longer need to print on paper and then frame it in a glass frame.  It's one-stop.  Simply upload your photo to their website, choose your size, and your photo will be printed on glass.  Another bonus, it comes ready to mount and display.

Photo Courtesy of
If I am among the first 100 participants who get to try Fracture, I will be writing a review letting you know what it is like after testing it out. I hope I win!

Additional information on Fracture can be found here:

I wrote this blog post in response to a TwitterMoms RAMBO alert, making me eligible to get a Fracture picture frame for review. You can learn more about Fracture at

Monday, August 23, 2010

How to get rid of the ammonia smell in cloth diapers

If you use or have used cloth diapers then you are familiar with the awful ammonia smell.  Sometimes a simple cold rinse before a regular wash does not completely remove the odor and you end up needing to strip your cloth diapers more or lay them in the sun to dry.  One thing I discovered that really helps get rid of the smell is to add about a cup of vinegar to the cold rinse before you wash your diapers.  If your diapers are really stinky then let them soak for 30-60 minutes in the water and vinegar.  Then wash with cloth diaper friendly detergent and finish with a double rinse.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Germany Travel Tips

Germany is a beautiful country full of culture and history and I have enjoyed living here. If you are planning a vacation or planning to move to Germany, here are a few things you should know. 

While many younger people in Germany speak some English, don't expect people to go out of their way to help you. Many Germans appreciate your attempt to speak German.  Once they realize you're not very good, 9 out of 10 times they will speak English to you if they know any. 

Restaurants: Water is not free in restaurants.  You pay for bottled water. Ask for water without gas (ohne gas) if you don't want carbonated water, which is the standard drinking water in Germany. There are also no free drink refills at restaurants.  If you buy a soft drink you get one glass, most of the time without ice or one or two ice cubes.  Except at most American fast food restaurants there are free refills such as McDonald's, KFC, and Burger King.  The tip is typically included in the price for food but it is customary to round up to the next Euro when you pay.  If you feel like your server did an outstanding job you can tip them more, though most food servers don't expect it. 

Grocery Stores: If you shop for groceries while in Germany you will notice that the cashier does not bag your groceries.  Grocery bags also are not free, they usually cost around .09-.19 Euro cent each.  Most people bring reusable grocery bags to the store with them when they shop.  You will also notice that the grocery carts are locked together either right inside the store or in the parking lot.  In order to use one you have to insert 1 Euro to unlock the chain.  When you're done shopping simply return the cart, reattach the grocery cart and you'll get your Euro back. 

Hotels:  There is no top sheet on the hotel beds, just a comforter.  Depending on the season you will either get a light comforter or a heavy comforter.  Also air conditioning is not standard in many traditional German hotels.  

Store Hours: Stores typically close earlier in Germany than in the States.  Also many stores are closed on Sundays including grocery stores. 

Bring extra cash: If you are traveling to smaller cities and towns in Germany make sure you have enough cash with you.  Many stores and restaurants only take cash or an EC Card (European debit card).  In fact, many gas stations also only accept cash.  It's really a good policy, that if you don't have the cash, maybe you don't need to buy it.

Tax is included in the price:  Germany has a 19% sales tax on most of their products.  One thing I really like is the tax is already included in the price you see.  So if the t-shirt you like is priced at 9,95 Euros you are only going to pay 9.95 Euros.  Germans also use a comma instead of a period when they price things. 

You pay to use the toilet: Always carry extra change with you in Germany.  Most department stores and gas stations require you to pay to use the toilet.  There is usually someone sitting outside the restroom with a plate to put change on.  Some larger gas stations along the autobahn give you a ticket to get .50 Euro cent off at their store, so use the restroom before you purchase gas or food.  On the positive side, in general, Germany has some of the cleanest restrooms I have ever seen.  Some even have cool self-cleaning toilet seats.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Is Cloth Diapering For You?

If you would have asked me before I had a baby if I would be a cloth diapering mama I would have told you no.  It wasn't until after having a baby and watching my child cope with severe diaper rashes and learning that disposable diapers stay in landfills for around 500 years that convinced me to switch to cloth diapers.

Overall cloth diapering is easy to do.  It's not as overwhelming or time consuming as it may seem.  If you're hesitant to switch to cloth, try easy to use all-in-one diapers with  Velcro.  They go on just like disposables and you don't have to fold or stuff anything.  Of course there are lots of different kinds of cloth diapers and you might find you prefer pocket diapers or hybrid diapers more.

Cloth diapering is not for the faint of heart.  It is dirty work.  Some would simply say changing any diaper is dirty work, but with cloth there is a little more effort that goes into diaper changing.  However, most of the effort happens after the diaper has been changed.  If you use diapers designed like disposables then changing a cloth diaper is very simple.  If you use pre-folds it's a little more work.  Dealing with poop is nasty but it's nasty no matter what.  The difference between cloth and disposables is with cloth you dump the poop in the toilet, with disposables many people simply fold the poop in the diaper and throw it away.  Which, by the way, is not the recommended method.  Even with disposables you are supposed to put the poop in the toilet, not the trash.  

Most cloth diapers today are designed to be kept in a dry pail.  This means when a child pees in a cloth diaper, you simply put the diaper in a dry lined trash can until the next wash.  With a poop diaper simply dump the poop in the toilet and rinse the the diaper.  I have a bidet which I use only for cloth diapers.  If you don't have a bidet then you can buy a sprayer attachment that attaches to your toilet and spray the diaper that way.  If you don't want to do either of those options then you can rinse the diaper the old fashioned way which involves dipping the cloth diaper in the toilet.  Once you're done rinsing the poop off the diaper, simply place the diaper in your dry pail. It is that simple.

Washing cloth diapers is easy too.  In your washing machine, simply do a cold rinse (no detergent) then a hot wash with detergent, followed by a double rinse.  Make sure your laundry detergent doesn't have additives and don't use fabric softeners.  Using a water softener is fine if you have hard water.  Most cloth diapers you can tumble dry.  Once a month or so you'll want to strip your cloth diapers. 

Since we have been using cloth diapers my son has not experienced severe diaper rashes.  For the most part he is rash free.  Cloth diapers don't have all the additives that disposable diapers have.  If your child has a sensitive bum like mine, then you might give cloth diapers a try.  You will also be helping the environment.  Diapers take up a lot of space in landfills and in your home trash can.  Another perk to cloth diapers, in the long run you save money.

Related Stories:

My first thoughts on cloth diapers
Traveling with Cloth Diapers
Cloth Diaper Reviews and More

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My passion is now my business

Several weeks ago I asked my friends and readers their opinion on several DSLR cameras.  I want to thank everyone who responded.  I decided to purchase the Nikon D90 because of its almost endless possibilities.  It was a tough decision especially since I own a Cannon SLR and love Cannon cameras too.

My wonderful new camera has now arrived and I love it!  We bought it for several reasons.  (1) Photography is one of my favorite hobbies; and (2) thanks to the encouragement of a lot of friends and family, as well as the support of my sweet husband, I have decided to offer my services to the public.  That's right, I have started a photography business.  Having a photography business has been a dream of mine for a long time.  I just never thought I would actually  have one but it seems like this is a great time in my life to start one.  Since I live near a lot of Americans, I am mainly going to offer my services to them.  It can be challenging finding a good photographer in this area who speaks English and doesn't charge a small fortune.  Therefore, one of the biggest difference between me and the other people are my prices.  Not only am I new to the business but I also want to give people an opportunity to have professional portraits taken in this beautiful part of Germany without having to spend excessive amounts of money.  I have been practicing photography for over 15 years.  Am I really that old?  All portraits will be edited and marks such as blemishes will be removed. 

In college I took several photography and publishing courses including Underwater Photography.  Yep, a little known fact about me is I'm also certified in underwater photography.  Pretty crazy, right?  But that really doesn't do me any good living in Germany as the weather is too cold to take underwater pictures here.  Therefore, my portrait sessions will be on-location and above water.

I'm super excited about this opportunity and am looking forward to seeing how it goes.  My time is limited so I'm only able to offer a limited amount of portrait sessions per month.  My main job is taking care of my sweet boy and there is a shortage of babysitters in my area.    

I have already done two photo sessions, three if you include my son.  I had the pleasure of photographing a cute couple last Friday, and on Monday I did a senior portrait session.  You can see some of my work on my Facebook page and on my website.  My website also features some additional work I've done.  Please feel free to leave a comment on my work.

Please spread the word.  If you know someone who is looking to get family portraits or high school senior portraits taken, or if you're going to be in the Heidelberg or Mannheim area, please feel free to contact me.

I'm also going to be in Texas for the month of September.  Several people have asked me if I would do a photo session while I'm in town.  The answer is yes, but again, due to time restraints my time slots are limited.  Please contact me soon if you are interested in having a photo shoot while I'm in Texas.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Parks are great!

Today marks the day of living in Germany for two years.  Overall our experiences have been wonderful and I'm glad we took this adventure overseas because it has brought many challenges but also opportunities and blessings.  However, I've been feeling kind of lonely lately.  It seems like all my American and English speaking friends live near each other and are within walking distance of one another.  While our town consists of mostly Germans, which is really nice but it has been challenging finding friends our ages.  Thankfully we have some really great neighbors who have been very helpful to us these past few months.  But selfishly I have been wanting more.  As most of our neighbors are better friends with my husband.

This morning after meeting with a German attorney regarding my business I took my son to the park.  There were about 7 or 8 German moms there with their young children around my son's age.  My child wanted to go straight to the swing.  After pushing him in the swing a little bit I took him over to the sand to sit with the other moms and children.  We started talking and I found out that most if not all of them speak English (a very nice surprise) and our kids are all around the same age.  They told me they meet twice a week and invited me and my son to join them.  This might be the answered prayer I've been praying for.  It's hard being a mom and I think can be even more challenging when you don't have friends nearby.  Don't get me wrong, I have wonderful American and a few German friends here but like I said we don't live that close to one another.  So I was super excited to meet some nice ladies this morning.  

Monday, August 2, 2010

Finding your Overseas Family

The hardest part about living overseas for me is being away from family and friends.  Family and close friends are irreplaceable.  However, once you live across the ocean from your family it is not possible to see them very often and having connections is still very important.  One thing that makes this even more challenging is when most of your neighbors speak a different language then you.  Even if you can speak some of their language and they speak some of yours, communicating across culture is still challenging.

I think the most important thing you can do when you arrive in a new country is find people you can connect with.  Whether that's through church, a job, an organization, or an expat program.  It can get pretty lonely sometimes even when you have connections.  The second most important thing is try and remember that with time it does get easier.  One thing I like to do is always have something to look forward to.  Whether that's going on vacation, hanging out with a friend, or trying something new.  How do you cope if you are currently living away from family?
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