Year in Review: 2018

How is it already January? Anyone else feel like the winter Olympics were last month (probably just me)?

November and December have been absolutely crazy months for us. We were in six different countries (seven if you count a week in the UK during mid-October) including about a month away from home. I’m REALLY far behind on updating everyone on the amazing places we’ve been this year, along with the continuous atrociousness that is USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the USOC (spoiler alert: it’s even worse if that’s possible, but I’m sure you already guessed that). 

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Because we’re in a new year and I love making lists, this post will include 2018’s #allthethings : life things, my favorite things, traveling things, food things. You know, my usual rambling.

Here’s the Thing: Sometimes Life is Good and Bad.

Like most things, 2018 was both wonderful and terrible. This year I was forced to really start to put a lot of my own experiences in perspective; a combination of the #metoo movement, Nassar victim impact statements, and constant discussion of abuse made avoiding my own history inescapable. I learned that I need to start taking my emotional and mental health more seriously rather than continue my usual tactic of ignore, ignore, ignore.

I learned that I’m not alone.

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Bratislava, Slovakia: One of the best memories of this year is streaming the Larry Nassar sentencing from my phone with a friend in a Slovakian speakeasy. A pretty perfect representation of my 2018.

This year I laughed until my stomach hurt, sat at the edge of the world, and ate an obscene amount of sweets with my coffee. I was able to see my family, my friends, and experience new places with the people I love. I had carrot cake cheesecake for my birthday, walked Prague with two of my favorite boys (Ike and Chris), won a fantasy football true crime league, and hosted more get-togethers than I can count.

Looking back, my heart is both broken and full. I’m so incredibly thankful for everything I have and accomplished this year.

There is pressure during the new year to make a fresh start. In a lot of ways a new beginning sounds great, but in a lot ways it doesn’t.  I’m in a sort of weird in-between limbo right now. And you know what? That’s fucking okay. I am striving to just be content with where I’m at rather than put pressure on myself to move too quickly (one of my intentions for 2019).

Saying Goodbye:

Ike in 2016.

Before I start my lists, I want to take a moment to speak on one the hardest months of my life. In January Ike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given weeks to live. We were completely devastated. At only eight years old and in great health, the diagnosis came as a complete shock.

My little bandit.

Ike came from a longggggg line of Boston Terriers; we adopted his grandad Skittles when I was in middle school. He (and Porkchop) have always been such a constant in my life that letting him go was one of the absolute most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

Thankfully the diagnosis proved to be incorrect in that the masses on his liver and pancreas weren’t in fact cancer. That news however, was coupled with the fact that the small mass in his chest (right between his lungs and heart) could prove to be fatal.

Best of brothers.

After two months of chemotherapy, I had high hopes that he could recover. Ike was a tough and stubborn dog; his abdominal masses were shrinking and he was doing great. When he started having issues breathing I hoped it might just be due to the change in the weather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The mass in his chest was growing. And there was nothing we could do to stop it.

Look at these babies! Ike was constantly judging everyone.

The vet told me this was a difficult way to pass away… and we would know when the end was here. We didn’t want our best boy to suffer. Even now, I can’t even talk about that day and the morning I had to make that decision, never knowing if it was right. I’m just so incredibly thankful to Chris, my friends here in Papa and far away, my family, and of course,  Porkchop and Arya.

Ike and his new sister Arya in 2017. She actually found the skin issue on the back of his neck (you can see it here in the picture too) that led to us beginning the tests.

I still expect him to grumpily come inside out of the rain or itch his face on the covers every morning. Chris still looks for him when he comes back from traveling for work. Arya and Porkchop were both really confused at first, but I think are doing better. PC really misses his little brother. We all miss this little guy.

Ike’s favorite pastime: sunning himself. On his last day with us he had all the sun.

I don’t really know how to end this except to say how heartbroken I still am. Some days are easier. Other days are really hard. If you’re reading this and are working through something difficult that happened to you this year, just know that you’re not alone. And its 100% okay to feel sad or guilty or angry or a combination of any and all the emotions. 

Best Places of 2018:

This year we saw incredible new places and had the opportunity to visit old favorites.

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Places we visited in 2018:

  • Belfast (and the coast), Northern Ireland
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Charleston, USA
  • Cleveland, USA
  • Dresden, Germany
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Kethely, Hungary
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Peniche, Portugal
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • San Francisco, USA
  • Seville, Spain
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Zagreb, Croatia

I’m extremely thankful to have the chance to visit a couple of our favorite spots with friends and family who made the leap over the ocean to spend time with us in Europe.

Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest

Choosing my absolute favorite places is virtually impossible. Taking into account a number of factors, here are my picks for 2018 (in no particular order):

Coast of Northern Ireland

Christmas in Zagreb

Seville, Spain

Edinburgh, Scotland

Honorable mentions go to Budapest because of so many reasons, but specifically the Budapest Beer Week that was absolutely awesome.

Favorite Concerts of 2018:

This year was THE year of shows for us. We saw a ton of our usual musicians (Pokey LaFarge) and a couple of new ones (FINALLY Flight of the Conchords went on tour). Here’s a list of everyone we saw live in 2018:

  • A Perfect Circle
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three
  • They Might be Giants
  • Jack White

My favorite shows of 2018:

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Middle school Ashlyn was absolutely ecstatic to see Franz Ferdinand. They were great–full of energy and fun–and sold out a huge space. 100% recommend. (Prague, Czech Republic)

Flight of the Conchords at Capitol Theatre

Finally saw Flight of the Conchords in real life. (Dublin, Ireland)

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Of course Jack White is at the top of the list. He was amazing (as always) and just as incredible as when we first saw him play in 2005. (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Special shout-out to Jane Goodall, who spoke in Budapest this year. Technically not a band, but it was truly a dream come true to see her in real life.

Favorite Books of 2018:

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via Cutiosities on Etsy

This year I surpassed my goal and read 41 books! 2018 was definitely a year of nerding out both in fiction and non-fiction. I joined a couple of book clubs (one here in Papa that connects readers from all over the world, Now Read This! A NYT/NPR collaboration, and of course Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf). My favorites are definitely influenced by a lot of the personal struggles I had this year. Here are my top books published in 2018:

#8. Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out (Erin E. Moulton): An anthology of stories of sexual assault, Things We Haven’t Said is a powerful book on why survivors struggle with speaking out on their experiences through providing an outlet to victims who typically don’t have one.

#7. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Kate Manne): A professor of philosophy at Cornell University, Manne states that misogyny is “a social and political phenomenon with psychological, structural, and institutional manifestations” that enforce gender roles that continue to influence society today. Detailing the impact of these ideas both culturally and institutionally, Manne’s book provides context on why we expect (and allow, and in some ways, forgive) actions of one group of people over another. 

#6. Heart Berries: A Memoir (Terese Marie Mailhot): Mailhot’s memoir is raw and at times difficult to read. A Native author, this beautifully written book details her life in crisis: poverty, overcoming multiple disorders, losing custody of her child, growing up with an absent mother, and life on the Seabrid Island First Nation Indian reservation in British Columbia. 

#5. A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law (Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, and Anthony C. Thompson): This slim book (128 tiny pages) is a discussion on race in America by the leading civil rights leaders in the field. Their conversation on inequality and changing culture and institutions was one of my favorites this year.

#4. Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens): Owens’ first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is a gorgeously written story of a girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. I adored not only the descriptions (it reminded me so much of Charleston) but also Kya’s story of persevering on her own and in her own way.  

#3. Educated (Tara Westover): I finished Tara Westover’s memoir in two absolutely brutal days. Educated tells the remarkable story of Westover’s life from being born (sometime, her actual date of birth is unknown) to survivalist parents.  Their mistrust of medicine and education meant that she had very little experience of the outside world. Her desire and determination to leave home for education (eventually a PhD and at the disapproval of her family) is one of the most incredible (and impressive) stories I’ve read all year.

#2. One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy (Carol Anderson): Anderson discusses the implications of the 2016 election–the first in fifty years to be held without the complete protections of the Voting Rights Act–and how voter suppression systematically blocks the ability of many Americans to submit their ballots. Her work details the impact of Jim Crow and voter requirement laws implemented after the abolishment of slavery, the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters leading up to the Civil Rights Act, and the continuous suppression through various laws and redistricting today. 

#1. I’ll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Michelle McNamara): My favorite book of 2018 is McNamara’s account of her obsession to help catch one the of the most horrifying rapists and murderers in United States history, the Golden State Killer (a name she coined). I’ll be Gone in the Dark is so well-written that you feel her passion and dedication to find the man who assaulted more than fifty woman and killed ten people on each page. The chilling final chapter–McNamara is speaking directly to GTK–and her prediction of how he might be caught is eerily similar to way it actually happened in reality, although she passed away unexpectedly before he was arrested.

There are also a ton of great books I read this year that were published before 2018 including Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram W. Kendi and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 

Favorite Brunches of 2018:

It’s no surprise that brunch is my absolute favorite meal. Here are my favorites from 2018:

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#8. Blueorange (Vienna, Austria): This everything bagel from Blueorange was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I had in 2018 (a big accomplishment considering Chris is the king of making them). Brie, honey, walnuts, and greens… what else do you need in life?

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#7. Munchy Food Truck (Zagreb, Croatia): Who says it isn’t appropriate to order a homemade waffle covered in Nutella and bananas at 10am? If you dip it in coffee, it counts as breakfast.

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#6. Holy City Brewing (Charleston, SC): It’s no secret that HCB has my favorite brunch in Charleston. My last minute visit meant I had only one Sunday for brunch and this crunchwrap was absolutely the best decision I made all summer.

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#5. Urban House (Bratislava, Slovakia): The best Bloody Mary of 2018! Look at this amazing spread. My favorite dish is their vegetarian English breakfast–the greens are the tastiest part of the meal.

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#4. Maggie May’s (Belfast, Northern Ireland): Maggie May’s has the absolute best diner food. A small, cash-only restaurant in Belfast, their menu is extensive and the food is so genuinely good.

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#3. La Jeronima (Seville, Spain): This croissant was stuffed with roasted eggplant and honey marinated tofu (I can feel the collective “ugh” from meat-eaters reading this and the “ooooh!” from my veg friends haha). This tiny cafe in Seville had such a unique menu that I wish we were able to have breakfast there every day.

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#2. Copenhagen Coffee Lab & Bakery (Lisbon, Portugal): So here’s the thing–I love a solid avocado toast and this was hands-down the best I had all year. Heather and I chose this PLUS sweets with no regrets. Not pictured is the hot ham breakfast sandwich that Chris ordered that smelled so good, Karl had to get one for himself (second breakfast for the win).

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#1. 3FE (Dublin, Ireland): Look at this scotch egg! These hash browns! In addition to their amazing menu 3FE also hosts coffee tastings and training for those interested in learning more about roasting their own blend. This tiny cafe earns my favorite brunch of 2018.

Favorite Podcasts of 2018:

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I love podcasts. Sometimes I don’t turn on our TV for what feels like weeks because (nerd alert) I’ve discovered a new show and binged all the episodes in a few days. Similar to my book choices, my favorite podcasts are heavily influenced by a lot of my personal struggles and growth this year. Here are my favorite podcasts published in 2018:

#8. Believed (National Public Radio): The goal of Believed is to answer the question so many people have asked: How did Larry Nassar get away with decades of abuse to hundreds of girls and women? Their interviews with survivors and parents can be an extremely difficult listen, but necessary if we want to learn how to change the system that allowed for this abuse to occur for so long. 

#7. Keep It! (Crooked Media): Keep It! is my weekly guilty pleasure podcast. Hosted by Ira Madison III, Kara Brown, and Louis Virtel, they hilariously discuss the intersection of pop culture and politics. Kara also has my favorite frustrated statement of 2018: “people just need to read!”

#6. Uncivil (Gimlit Media): The only reason Uncivil isn’t number one on my list is because  most of their episodes were published in 2017 and therefore didn’t qualify as a “2018” show. Discovered late this year, this was one of my binges of 2018. Each episode “ransacks America’s past” and tells an untold story related to the Civil War.

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#5. My Favorite Murder (Exactly Right): My favorite true crime podcast, MFM is hosted by Karen Kilgarariff and Georgia Hardstark. Each week they share stories of murder, cults, and hometown stories from listeners. Not only discussing true crime, Karen and Georgia are also super open about their own struggles with mental health, finding time for self-care, and sparked a million taglines including the famous “stay sexy and don’t get murdered”, “you’re in a cult, call your dad”, and my personal favorite: “can’t you see from my really thick black eyeliner that I’m no one’s mother?”

#4. R U Talkin’ REM: Re: ME? (Earwolf): As stated by Scott Aukerman, it truly is the year of R U Talkin’ REM Re: Me. Hosted by the superfan Adam Scott Aukerman (Adam Scott [Parks & Rec] and Aukerman [the hugely underrated Comedy Bang Bang!]), this podcast discusses the impact of R.E.M.’s music album by album. Their banter is hilarious and each episode is filled with smaller episodes (“Is this an episode of ‘I Love Films?'”) that Chris and I always played during our hours on the road this year. 

#3. GymCastic: The Gymnastics Podcast (Gymcastic): Definitely a niche podcast for fans of the sport, Gymcastic makes the top of my list not only because of their analysis of the sport (and mostly hilarious takes on competition, scoring, and love for the athletes) but their unrelenting dedication to discussing the Larry Nassar abuse that finally began to garner mainstream media coverage this year. Each week hosts Jessica and Spencer held MSU, USA Gymnastics, and the USOC accountable and provided an outlet to athletes and survivors. Their coverage of not just the abuse, but of the cover-up and mismanagement makes Gymcastic one of the my favorites this year. 

#2. Serial Season Three: The Cleveland Court System (This American Life): Rather than focus on one particular story (unlike seasons one and two) season three instead tells the “extraordinary stories of ordinary stories” taking place at a courthouse in Cleveland. These  largely untold narratives of people working through the complicated (and convoluted) justice system was one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking podcasts I listened to in 2018. 

#1. Scene on Radio Season Three: Men (The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University): I loved season two (“Seeing White” featuring Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, host of Uncivil) so I was really looking forward to season three of Duke University’s podcast. With the goal of discussing “How did we get sexism, patriarchy, misogyny in the first place? How can we get better at seeing it, and what can we do about it?” hosts Jown Biewen and Celeste Headlee tackle a topic each week and provide feedback on how we can combat these systems. The episode “Himpathy” was the most difficult and impactful for me; it featured input from Kate Manne on not only why survivors of abuse feel sympathy for their abusers, but also how society does as well. 

Extra love to Pardon My Take and Fantasy Football Focus, which I binged throughout the entire NFL season. 

Favorite TV Shows of 2018:

This year I hardly watched any new shows (too much reading and podcasting I suppose) so my list is embarrassingly small. But here are the shows you absolutely need to watch:

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#5. Ballers Season Four: If you know me, you’re not surprised by this choice. Listen, I love the Rock. I love Rob Cordray. I love football. Is this a ridiculous show? Yes. Do I love it? Yes. Does the plot matter? Nah, not really.

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#4. Better Call Saul Season Four: One of my favorite shows continues to get better with this newest season. Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks are still absolutely amazing as Saul and Mike. The return of Gus Fring (one of the best characters of Breaking Bad) makes this season binge-worthy for sure. The season finale nearly gave me a heart attack.

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#3. End of the F***ing World: Technically the show premiered in the UK in 2017, but it wasn’t picked up and added to Netflix until 2018, so it counts for me. I loved this show. Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther are superb as Alyssa and James. Their relationship is endearing, odd, and their adventure to find her birth father completely drew you into the show; the final episode was amazingly filmed. I’m so glad it was picked up for a second season.

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#2. Game of Thrones Season Seven: Finally, this year I got into GOT. I always begrudgingly sort of paid attention to the show over the years but never committed (why is everyone so dirty?) until this year. Maybe call it the revenge of Arya Stark or the undeniable affection I have for Tormund, but I’m 100% in moving forward. Better late than never.

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#1. Sharp Objects: Yep, Sharp Objects beats Game of Thrones for me. The combination of Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Eliza Scanlen gives me LIFE. Incredibly creepy and at times jarring, Sharp Objects was my favorite show of 2018. Closer was my favorite episode that also creeped me out the most.

Here’s to 2019!

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Currently Reading: My Sister, the Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite)

Currently Watching: Ozark Season 1 (Netflix)Ashlyn (2)

 

 

 

“The craft beer brewers are the new rockstars”: An Interview with the organizers of BPBW Beer Week in Budapest

One of the best ways to experience a city’s culture is through their food and local beer. Moving from Charleston, SC to Hungary in 2016, we’ve loved tasting the amazingly unique beers developing in Budapest.

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Local brewery Mad Scientist opened their own bar inside the popular ruin pub Szimpla Kert. The goal of the bar is “to be as ‘mad scientisty’ as possible.”

The Hungarian craft beer scene has been growing; this May, Budapest will host the country’s very first international craft beer festival from the 21st-27th. Beer Week in Budapest (BPBW) will feature unlimited tastings from 40 local and international breweries on Friday and Saturday. While the beer is important, the emphasis of BPBW is to provide attendees with a complete experience while in Hungary’s capital city: the festival will also include after-parties with lineups of over 20 (!!) local bands, meet the brewer events, as well as tap takeovers across the city.

Like many great things, the idea of the festival was born in a beer bar under the influence of new wave brewing, international festivals, inspiring brewers and of course a decent amount of good beer. The goal was simple and straightforward from the beginning: although during the past couple of years the wind of craft has touched the Hungarian beer scene and great breweries has been risen from the ground, it is clear that we have to leap that next step to connect our culture into the international circles of craft beer. That is why we are here -and so are you.

Developed by three “beer enthusiasts” with experience in all aspects of brewing, I spoke with Marton Sefcsik, one of the organizers who works in online marketing as well as the editor in chief of local beer blog, Fenekig.com, about the history of craft beer in Hungary, the goals of BPBW, and how he sees the movement growing in the future.

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Marton Sefcsik

When did you start to see the Hungarian craft beer movement start to develop? 

I’ve always appreciated import beers rather than drinking shitty local lagers owned by multinational corporations. Of course, most of the imported beers were owned by big companies. So it’s 2009-2010 and we’re already regulars at pubs that serve Czech beers, but we start to get our hands on some even more interesting and complex local and export beers. In 2011 the first craft beer fest happened in Budapest (Főzdefeszt), a small, but fun event with only local beers and a few up and coming brewers together with some more traditional countryside breweries. I remember being blown away by ipas, I really developed a nice taste for that. Then thanks to an awesome bottleshop called Csakajósör (Onlygoodbeer) the world of real beers opened. By then, BrewDog has been an absolute favorite! The rest is history…

What was the inspiration behind BPBW and what do you hope visitors experience while at the sessions?

MBCC, Brewskival, Tallinn Craft Beer Weekend, etc… We wanted to bring the very same vibe to the city we know and love the most. We hope that Budapest won’t only be the backing image for awesome times, but that with this festival we’ll be able to join the circulation of the leading craft beer scenes.

We want to show you the best our beloved city can offer.

A great deal of work was put into including local bands and cultural experiences into BPBW. Why was it important to include these different aspects of Budapest into the Week?

This city is much more than the home of spas, ruin pubs and spicy cuisine. We want people to witness the real Budapest through BPBW Beer Week in Budapest, that’s why our event is inside the city, just a few minutes away from the party district, near one of the main tourist attractions of the city called Heroes Square.

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“Come for the tastings sessions, stay for the week!” – join us in Budapest with our favorite international and beloved Hungarian breweries, let’s make a hell of a party in the name of quality beers!

Your website states that the goal of BPBW is “connecting Budapest and the Hungarian craft scene into the international streamline of good beer.” How do think BPBW will accomplish that goal?

Visitors from across the globe will come over for the international headliners, no wonder, but we’re sure everyone will find their local favorites as well! We also encourage brewers from abroad to make bonds and check out the local breweries to do collab brews. Many breweries have their own bars or good connections to their local scenes so there’s no better opportunity like this to schedule future tap takeovers!

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Tickets are still available! BPBW encourages attendees to “drink great beers, meet the brewers, raise hell, and have fun.”

What is unique about Budapest breweries and what sets them apart from other cities and their craft beer?

The scene is strong and better developed compared to the surrounding countries. Trends have an impact on everyone, but I believe here we’re not copying them blindly. We start to know what is quality beer and we’re not afraid to go the extra mile. Budapest is a vibrant and colorful city with rich culture and history, so it’s hard to make statements that fit everybody though, but this is definitely a strength that each of us see the World a bit different, so there’s no typical Budapest craft beer or brewery.

“We’d like to think that the Hungarian craft beer has grown up and we would like the international spotlight to shine on it, to make sure people are not only visiting Beer Week in Budapest because the previously mentioned festivals are being almost immediately sold out, but also for the beauty of our beloved the city and also its vivid beer scene.”

How do you see the Hungarian craft beer movement evolving in the future?

What is truly exciting, that there’s no week without the premiere of a new beer or the opening of a new crafty place. The scene is booming! There were times when the demand was higher than the supply; this has changed in the last 1-2 years, so these days we’re moving towards quality. It’s not enough if you’re beers are okay anymore. To stay on the scene, you need to impress your customers month by month with new and wild brews, but also, you should keep your core range on the same high quality. Not everyone will survive, but people are working hard on this every day, so in the end the customers always win.

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During the official press conference at the British Embassy of Budapest the press was introduced to the patron and guest of honor, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Hungary Mr. Iain Lindsay (middle).

In your opinion, what is the absolute “must-try” beer and venue for those visiting Budapest?

Visit Főzdepark hosting 4 craft breweries on the same spot in the outskirts of Budapest, take a tour, taste some beers from the tank (you cannot go wrong with Horizont, HopTop, Mad Scientist and MONYO – they are the must tries for sure), then head over to Csakajósör bottle shop, the true source of the craft beer revolution in Hungary. If the weather is good, catch the last rays of the sun over the Danube and treat yourself right with a beer on the riverbank at Jónás Craft Beer House (maybe you’ll do a burger as well). You can make a stop at Élesztő on your way back to the party district as they used to be the flagship of Hungarian craft beer bars, but in a few minutes you can reach the brewpub called Neked Csak Dezső with another wide range of local and international brews as well (and you can have bistro meals as well), but if you’re hungry for some burgers, drop in to Kandalló as they always have some awesome beers on tap as well. It’s getting late, but you can still lose yourself at bars like Hops Beer Bar or Hopaholic, providing not only a cool vibe, but a crazy selection of international brands as well. Catch the night bus, but first, grab a pizza and your last slips of beer at KUZIN Bar. What a night! You’d like to do it over and over again…

 

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BPBW will feature beer from forty craft breweries.

Extra special thank you to Marton Sefcsik for the interview and all of the people working to make BPBW a success. Buy your ticket now!

 

Ashlyn (2)

Budapest Part Deux

A part 2 of my favorite spots in Budapest/an excuse to research Hot Shots Part Deux gifs.

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One of my favorite movies as a kid.

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I can’t promise there isn’t more later.

Places:

Cake & Beer

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Via Facebook

A relatively new pub (they opened in November 2016) the name says it all. Cake & beer (and also card games). The beer was great–we tried the Ubik Eklektik Herbál IPA, Budapest–and it was really great, one of the best beers I’ve had since we moved. They also have sandwiches and coffee for the morning visitors too. We didn’t get a chance to try the coffee, but it sounded great. We also played a solid two hours of Uno and Rummy while enjoying our beers.

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Cat playing cards!

Blue Bird Cafe

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Such great breakfast and lunch we had to go twice (in one weekend). Blue Bird is a cafe by day and insane karaoke by night. The cutest restaurant with amazing food, house roasted coffee, and homemade cheesecake, Blue Bird is my new favorite spot.

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I’m dying of cuteness.

I ordered the vegetarian eggs Benedict both days and Chris had Philly cheesesteak and pulled pork bagel.

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And I also ordered cheesecake….

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Via Facebook. I ordered blueberry.

Fat Mama’s

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We had Christmas lunch at Fat Mama’s and it was delicious. Chris ordered a BBQ burger (shredded beef neck) and I ordered the veg burger because we were both craving fries.

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But I really want to visit again to try this adorable/amazing breakfast menu:

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Azteca Tex Mex:

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We stopped by Azteca because it was close to our Airbnb and we were craving burritos. Really extensive menu, fast service, solid food! Plus they deliver.

Manufaktor

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An adorable shop near Blue Bird, they hand make and sell art prints, toys, puppets, and cards around the theatre theme. The art studio is home to work of Garami Richard and Ötvös; you can also buy their work online via their Etsy shop.

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Budapest State Opera House:

This January we went to see Pushkin’s Evgeny Onegin performed by the Hungarian ballet at the Budapest Opera House. It was a beautiful building and great performances.

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Incapable of taking “nice” pictures.

Random Sites:

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Ashlyn inspired outdoor seating if I ever saw it.

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Calling my name.

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Old Man Status 😦

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Ashlyn (2)

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Things I’m Loving 12.31.2016

I’m a little late with these, but its been a crazy week!

Final 2016 edition of reflections.

To Watch: Breaking Bad & Better Call Saul

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Phew. We binge-watched Breaking Bad in about a week and a half; I honestly didn’t think that my heart or nerves could handle it. One of the best shows of all time and the writers truly showed the evolution of Walter White from passive high school teacher to a murdering meth-making sociopath. Phew. My life will never be the same.

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Bonus points to the severely underrated Better Call Saul. Saul and Mike were my favorite characters from Breaking Bad, so I was stoked to have a whole couple of seasons telling the story of the characters. SOOO GOOD. I can’t wait for season 3 (and happy its on Netflix so we can watch it in Europe!)

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MIKKKKKEEEEEEEEEE

To Play: T-Pain Performing on NPR’s Tiny Desk Series

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Our friend and overall amazing person Meagen Olah visited Charleston right before we moved. In between binge-watching OJ Simpson: Made in America she introduced us to the T-Pain performance on Tiny Desk. I wasn’t really a fan of T-Pain before, but honestly I now have the biggest crush on him. That voice. Those glasses. SWOON. I can’t even pick a favorite song.

Watch it! And while you’re there, watch more of the Tiny Desk episodes. They’re amazing.

To Do: Christmas Markets

One of the best reasons to live in Europe is visiting the Christmas markets during the holidays. Set up in small villages and big cities, each market is unique to that location, with different crafts and food representing that culture. Plus, all the mulled wine you can drink. We visited Bratislava and Budapest this year but hoping to hit up a couple more spots next year.

Our lovely friend Haley visited from London and we had a blast roaming around the big Budapest market in Vörösmarty Square. We tried the kürtös kalács (chimney cake) but not the Rooster-testicle stew (kakastöke pörkölt).

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Bratislava

To Eat: Slovakian Dumplings (Bryndzové halušky)

Slovakian dumplings are my new favorite food. They are usually made from potatoes that resemble gnocchi and served in a soft cream or milk sauce (bryndza).  There are a couple of variations across the region (Hungarian and Czech), so I’ll need to do a couple of tastings. For science.

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With Mushrooms

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Not my picture because I forgot to take one, but these are from the Slovak Beer House, Bratislava.

To Read: Abuse Allegations in UK Soccer

Last post I wrote about the sexual abuse allegations in USA Gymnastics and how many former employees including National Team Doctor Larry Nassar have been arrested for abusing underage girls. The New York Times published a similar story of abuse in the UK; the article outlines the systematic abuse of children playing soccer. Chelsea, one of the largest clubs in the UK, paid a former athlete to not come forward with allegations of abuse against his coach. Now, another professional player, Andrew Woodward, has gone public with his story of abuse as a child, prompting at least 20 other athletes to now tell their stories. According to the article:

At least 20 police forces across Britain have opened investigations into 83 suspects in cases involving about 350 possible victims and 98 soccer clubs from the amateur level to the Premier League.

Woodward’s former coach Barry Bennell served prison time for raping a 13 year old boy at a soccer camp in the United States, then was arrested again on 23 charges of sexual abuse. Heartbreakingly, Bennell married Woodward’s sister after years of abusing the young player. Following a conviction in 2015, Bennell then lived under an assumed name. The article further explains how the abuse was covered up by various organizations, allowing coaches to continually hurt children.

To Look Forward To: Visiting Charleston

This month Chris and I visited Charleston for the first time since moving in August. Its been great getting to see everyone again (including out of town friends visiting over the holiday) and it makes my heart happy to be surrounded by such lovely people.  Oh and watching Draft Day as many times as possible.

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Me listening to Lemonade while driving around Charleston after getting my license reinstated (lololol)

I’m so thankful to be able to share Jen and the Duke’s special day; I can’t believe my work wife is all grown up! (sobbing)

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We’ll be back on the other side of the world tomorrow so we’re spending as much time with friends and this crazy girl as we can 🙂

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Cheers to a happy 2017!

Ashlyn (2)

Listening to: Solange | A Place at the Table 

Celebrating: Placing #1, #3, #3 in my fantasy football leagues (yaaaassss)

Good Food and Getting Lost: Our First Weekend in Budapest

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Last month Chris and I spent the weekend in the Jewish Quarter of Budapest (VII or Erzsébetváros). Located on the Pest side of the Danube, this area is known as the Jewish Quarter because it was the location of the Jewish ghetto established in Budapest in 1944. Now, 70 years later, this portion of the city is known for great restaurants and craft beer in addition to the beautiful historic sites commemorating the events of WWII.

We had a great time in the capital, eating a ton of great food, drinking beer that is not Soproni, and having an adventure in this gorgeous city.

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View from our apartment.

The first day was rainy and overcast, but thankfully the weather cleared up by Saturday. Wanting to stay close to the apartment because of the rain, we stopped at Szimpla Kert (“Simple Garden”) for a few beers. A ruin pub that also houses an awesome farmers market on Sundays, the atmosphere at Szimpla Kert was a lot of fun and super interesting (their outdoor seating also had an area playing silent movies!)

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Not the best quality. Rain + Old Phone = Grainy Pictures.

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A couple of beers we tried.

Later we had dinner at the Hungarian version of a food truck rodeo–Street Food Karavan.

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From TripAdvisor. I was too excited and forgot to take a picture.

There were probably about ten or so trucks with all types of food, although our favorites were Zing Burger (Chris) and Paneer (Me). The food was so good we went twice. I ate the same sandwich (friend camembert+beetroot mayo+eggplant+cranberry) while Chris ordered the Angus Burger the first night and the Guitar Hero burger on the second (double patty).

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YAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

Thankfully the weather was nice and sunny on Saturday so we spent the day wandering around the city looking at the beautiful historic sites in the district.

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Sunnier today!

But first, breakfast. One of the things I really miss about living in a big city is weekend brunch so we were going to take full advantage of that in Budapest. Saturday we had amazing orange juice and sandwiches at Darjeeling Teahouse and Cafe.

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Let’s be honest, I also wanted to go there just to make Wes Anderson references.

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Okay on to our walking adventure.

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One of my favorite buildings ❤

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The Great Synagogue. The largest in Europe and second biggest in the world.

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Two thousand people are buried here, passing away from the hunger/cold in the ghetto during 1944-1945. Imre Varga created this weeping willow monument at the synagogue.

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Really cool Peti Rajzol art.

We also randomly walked into a vintage market and I found a pretty awesome 1980 Moscow Olympics camping mug, so obviously a great day.

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Boo to boycotted Olympics, we never got to really experience Misha the Bear in the states.

img_2198After touring the Holocaust Memorial Museum, we headed to Éleszto (“yeast”), a pub with over 20 craft beers on tap. It was awesome and I’m still missing the beer. While we were there we also facetimed with friends from Charleston too ❤img_2199

We tried a few kinds: Pandulabeer XMoke Ripe (Hungary-Smoked Rye IPA). Armando Otchoa Hangover Rasta (Hungar-Oyster Stout),  Vilagos Sor Éleszto Propaganda (Hungary-Pilsner) Monyo Black Alligator (Hungary-Saison), Kaltenecker Chopper (Slovakia-IPA). I can’t recommend this place enough.

Sunday was back to dreary weather but nothing can stop me from that brunch game.

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We had brunch at Cirkusz and it was one of my favorite EVER. Chris had the Recovery Breakfast and I ordered Turkish eggs (first time I had them!)

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SOOOO GOOD.

After breakfast we went over to the farmers market at Szimpla Kert which had the most amazing variety of cheese, meats, and spices. For lunch we took advantage of the variety of food available in the city and tried Mazel Tov. It was a beautiful restaurant with a middle eastern menu.

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Chris had a Shawarma plate and I chose Shakshuka. Both were great, although I wish the Shakshuka was a little spicier.

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This Sunday was actually the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution (1956). Occupied by the Soviet Union following WWII, the revolt was started by students in Budapest and lasted until November 10th. The Soviets came in after the government collapsed and regained control, with the new government suppressing all revolutionaries. Time Magazine named the “Hungarian Patriot” as their Man of the Year in 1956. Walking back from dinner, Chris and I saw the start of mural of the Time cover on a building near the restaurant.

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Here it is finished!

Because I am a nerd for discussions on nationalism and state identity, one of the interesting aspects of the revolution is how different parties view the uprising. Vladimir Putin calls the Soviet intervention a “liberation” of the Hungarian people of a “counterrevolution.” Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán stated that “We no longer watch from the sidelines while others write our history for us..” Joe “precious cargo” Biden noted in a letter to the Hungarian embassy of the impact of the revolution in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  In this article, Vera Molnár discusses the importance of interpretation for a nation:

 

History is a sum total of personal and group narratives the interpretation of which can strengthen or destroy a nation’s soul. This is why the narrative one chooses to highlight or ignore matters a great deal in terms of the healthy development of a nation—and learning the right lessons of the past. That includes Hungarians as much as Russians.

Hungary Today also posted a couple of awesome “Then and Now” pictures of the revolution and Budapest today.

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This is one of the streets we walked during our trip.

Okay, back the trip.

Unfortunately by the end of the day I was feeling really under the weather–I caught Chris’s cold–so we missed grabbing Mexican food at a nearby restaurant. While at the time this seemed like the best course of action now that I don’t have a fever I’m definitely depressed about missing it.

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Last day in Budapest we stopped at The Goat Herder on the way to the train station. Still not feeling well, we grabbed tea and breakfast sandwiches. I LOVED this shop. If you can think of the coziest, sweetest cafe with the cutest tea cups in the world, then you’re on the right track.

img_2217Thanks for the lovely weekend 7th district!img_2232

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Send some positive thoughts to Ms. Wino. She just had surgery last week and is on the mend. Missing this crazy girl. Thank you thank you to Erika and Aaron for taking such amazing care of her.

Ashlyn (2)