Saturday, December 21, 2013

Make paper snowflakes

We've already mentioned that we don't like to buying the Christmas ornaments that you find in stores. It seems to me that all the collections available are cheaply made in China. The glitter is more in the box than on the baubles, Santa's eyes are drawn on his forehead and angels have dubious things hanging from their backs, that definitely don't look like wings.

So this is the third year that we're making our own ornaments.

Making a paper snowflake was a simple and fun project done while we were watching TV. I remember doing this paper project when I was in kindergarten, so it really is easy. The most difficult part might be picking the right book to butcher, if you choose to use book pages instead of regular paper. I did, so I picked Jerry Seinfeld's Seinlanguage. Jerry wouldn't mind, and all the jokes are in his shows anyway, so I felt the sacrifice was minimal.

What you need:

3 book pages for every snowflake
sewing thread
a needle
scotch tape

Make paper snowflakes book crafts EuroAmericanHome

1. Take a page out of a book.

2. Fold it accordion-style.

3. Cut the ends into little hearts or stars (optional, but it looks nice).

4. Fold it in half.

Make paper snowflakes book crafts EuroAmericanHome

5. Make two more, following steps 1-4.

6. Tie three folded pages in the middle with regular sewing thread or a thin ribbon.

7. If the snowflake doesn't stay "open" (this depends on the paper), use scotch tape to attach the separate pieces of paper at the ends.

8. We used a needle and thread to attach the snowflakes together. 

If you're making just one snowflake, you can use thread to hang it from the Christmas tree. We made five and put them up on a wall. As you can tell, it was really dark when we finished. Which means it was probably 4:30 pm in Pennsylvania.

Make paper snowflakes book crafts EuroAmericanHome

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas City of lights and paper

This past week has been spent in Christmas preparation mode in the EuroAmerican household. In all honesty, we started getting ready about a month ago. By that I mean that we brought down the boxes of ornaments and moved them from the top floor to the middle floor(*). A few weeks later, we set up our tree, which remained undecorated for 7 days. The tree was brand new and we just wanted to check its height and if all the lights worked. Then we brought down all the boxes to the bottom floor and this past Sunday we finally decorated out first Christmas tree as a married couple. Yes, we took our sweet time and vowed not to put it up before Thanksgiving, and then things got pretty hectic.

I delighted in taking inventory of the Christmas ornaments that Trevor grew up with, but I was so homesick when I unpacked the few ornaments that I dared to take on a transatlantic flight.

It was last year that we decided that we'll keep Christmas simple and practice mindfulness. Neither of us is a fan of excess or shopping and we certainly like being stress-free. Also, we are both born in January and birthdays don't just celebrate themselves. So we chose to forgo the shopping frenzy and indulge in Mickey and Trevor quality time. We baked, listened to holiday music, decorated the tree, assembled the gingerbread house, made some icing ornaments and watched Into the Woods

We also made this winter paper city, which we stuck on our front window. It started out as a paper village, but Trevor got enthusiastic about making a skyscraper, and he is apparently into cubic architecture. So goodbye Pieter Bruegel-esque picturesque, hello Winter WonderWhat?

Christimas paper city of lights: EuroAmericanHome

This is what it looks like from the inside. The pictures that we took from the outside are all blurry because, let's face it, pictures taken in -5C are bound to be shakey. 

We worked on it for about two hours, with Trevor meticulously doing the cutting and me frantically sketching houses. We reused sheet music from an old textbook, so it looks very musical on the inside. We're thinking that next year we'll just redesign the whole city and put it up for download as a pdf.

Come back soon, we have other things to show you.

* Top floor is the attic; middle floor is what Europeans call first floor but Americans call second floor; bottom floor is what Europeans call ground floor but Americans call first floor. It's all very confusing, really. Which is why, for a while after I arrived, Trevor and I would have conversations like this:

Trevor: Have you seen the car keys?

Mickey: On the table, on the first floor.

Trevor: They're not there. I looked.

Mickey: What are you talking about? You didn't even go upstairs.

Trevor: You said the first floor!

Mickey: That is the first floor!!

Trevor: That is the second floor!!!

Mickey: It's the first floor that goes on top of the ground floor!!!!

Trevor: The first floor is the floor that goes on top of the ground!!!!!

Mickey: Find your own damn keys!!!!!!

We have since resorted to naming our rooms, in the manner of old French mansions, so now the instructions for locating something are a little bit clearer.

More winter-themed posts:

How to enjoy Christmas without stepping foot into a mall - in which I do the handwriting and Trevor illustrates the list by hand.

How to make Christmas cookies - in which I illustrate how to stuff your face while boyfriend is not watching.

How to spot the pickle - in which I explain the tradition of hiding a pickle in the Christmas tree.

How to make paper Christmas trees - in which I don't really explain how, just show a picture.

Felt snow house ornament - no tell, just show. 

Remembering Christmases past - in which I do just that + a bonus picture of young Mickey with a dubious Santa.

How to make peanut butter blossoms - in which we're confused by metric conversions.

How to make sugar cookies - in which we figure out metric and imperial conversions.

Christmas card for tea lovers - proudly made by Trevor.

A list of fun things to do for the winter holidays - looking back is always sweet.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to have a painting date

There are painting dates (as in "Whassap, inner Picasso?") and there are painting dates (as in "I have an idea for the walls in the front room!").

Luckily, I married someone who agrees to both.

Let me tell you about the first type, for now, since this is the kind of date that doesn't take four days to complete.

I am utterly hopeless when it comes to painting. I have a lot of ideas, but no talent whatsoever, so all all my ideas end up brewing in my head for indefinite periods of time.

The multi-talented Trevor, on the other hand, can actually translate his ideas into material creations.

This is why his acrylic paintings look like this, and they're not even finished.

Painting of a hot air balloon: EuroAmericanHome

And my paintings look like this.

Painting of an ice cream: EuroAmericanHome

 Feel free to guess which one went up on the wall after Trevor built frames.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

First Halloween in America

Fall is the season of harvest and wine: EuroAmericanHome

Fall in Pennsylvania has been warmer than expected. From our back porch, we can see the neighbor's tree turning all shades of autumn. In the morning, when I'm having my coffee, I look out the back door and let my mind wander. Sometimes it's squirrel-watching. Sometimes it's robin-(the bird)-watching. The tree is always there to remind me of all the change. It was barren and sad-looking when I came here in February. It exploded into a cotton candy bloom in May. It looked crisp and leafy and luxuriant in mid-July. Now it is turning tawny and amber. It made me realize that I've experienced all seasons here, and yet it still seems to me that I just arrived yesterday. But then I think about the family and friends that I miss terribly, and it seems like I said goodbye a hundred years ago. There is an ongoing battle in my head between perceiving this constant adjustment as exhausting or just liberating. So far, it feels like exhausting is winning.

We bought a pumpkin to carve for Halloween and ended up cooking it down into pie filling. We're not very good planners, obviously. But I see a lot of pumpkin meals in our future.

With Trevor working, I got to experience Halloween all by myself, staying out on the porch and giving away candy. "Giving away candy" is one of those phrases that makes me shudder, and it shall be banished from my vocabulary for at least one year.

My favorite costume was our neighbors' pug dressed as candy corn. Candy corn is this ridiculously addictive Pennsylvania-original piece of wax shaped like a corn kernel. Ok, it's candy, but it looks and tastes like wax. My favorite children's costume was a tie between a rotund ladybug and a two-year-old Al Capone complete with a moustache and a pinstripe suit.

I gave away five big bags of candy in about one hour. I spent the past two weeks sampling Charleston Chews, 3 Musketeers, Raisinets and 100 Grand. The Twix bag didn't make it through to the trick-or-treaters. Twix has a way of sneaking up on you and next thing you know it disappears unexpectedly when your husband is not looking. (For a quick reminder of my modus operandi, see last year's post - How to prevent overeating.)

We're planning to celebrate November by buying discounted candy, having peep jousting tournaments and doing some light Thanksgiving crafting.

Life is good!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Autumn is for having crushes


Mickey: I have a crush on you.

Trevor (seriously doubting that he understood what was said): What is that?

Mickey: I have a crush on you, and I think it's serious.

Trevor (intrigued, but flirty; flirtigued, if you will): Reaaally? How serious?

Mickey: I think I married you.

Trevor: Wow, that's pretty serious.

Crush was professed.

Things resume to their normal state.

It must be fall.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Vintage cookbook teaches valuable lessons

One of the things that I like about living here, apart from being able to share a continent with my husband, is going to yard sales.

Yard sales, or garage sales, or porch sales, are a marvelous invention which deems going through other people's stuff not only socially acceptable, but also encouraged. Sure, there is a lot of trash and objects that should have never seen the light of day to begin with, but every once in a while we are able to find a diamond in the rough.

Today, I will show you one fine gem that I found at a yard sale for 50 cents.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook:EuroAmericanHome

Introducing a cookbook from 1956, published by the First Methodist Church of Germantown, PA. Church cookbooks are quite a thing here. The ladies of the church put together their recipes, which are then collected into a book that is sold for fundraising. If you ask me, it's a great use of the collective (food) wisdom for the benefit of both the church and the gourmands in the community. 

It came with a patch and without any binding, but we learned valuable lessons from it:

1.  In 1956, married ladies used their husband's names. Mrs. Fred, Mrs. George and Mrs. Homer were probably very honored to contribute recipes to this collection.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook:EuroAmericanHome

2. Nippy Cheese Rolls can be kept indefinitely. If that's not your cup of tea, you might as well try Mrs. Bruce's nutty nibbles.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook:nutty nibbles and cheese spread EuroAmericanHome

3.  When you're expecting guests, make something that waits well for company. This tuna fish with pepper sauce will put on a nice suit and tie and make polite conversation on the settee.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook tuna fish with pepper sauce:EuroAmericanHome

 4. "The Girls" like chicken breasts.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook chicken divan:EuroAmericanHome

5. For a light refreshment, a quickie will do.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook orange cream punch:EuroAmericanHome

6. Gooey buns are a great treat after a skating party. However, it is considered faux pas to have gooey buns after a swimming party.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook after swimming party:EuroAmericanHome

7.  This is what a healthy Sunday menu is supposed to look like. Would you like some sherbet with your red cabbage?

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook holiday menu:EuroAmericanHome

8.  It's not called losing weight. It's called reducing diet.

diet for gaining weight Pennsylvania cookbook:EuroAmericanHome

9.  Even back in 1956, the latest fashion and loans went hand in hand.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook:EuroAmericanHome

10. There are serious reasons to save.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook:EuroAmericanHome

11. Keep your ads simple. And nice.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook:EuroAmericanHome

12. Unless you want to write them in all caps. Then you can be as assertive as you like.

Germanntown Pennsylvania cookbook:EuroAmericanHome

I'm really hoping that the ladies of Germantown of yore won't sue me for reproducing their material.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


One of the things that will take some adjusting to in the U.S. is probably switching from metric to imperial. I've used meters, liters and Celsius to measure things all my life. I have no idea how much an ounce is, and I have no concept of yards or Fahrenheit. My calendars start on a Monday, not a Sunday. My Autumn starts on September 1st, not September 21st (although that may be just Trevor insisting to be astronomically correct). Also, I call it Autumn more than I call it Fall. The English taught in schools in Europe is British English and I don't think half the people who speak it as a foreign language know it by the name 'Fall' (yes, I make up my own Mickey-statistics system).

Fall (aka Autumn) is Trevor's favorite season. He's just decided that last year, so let's give him credit.

Mine is spring, but Autumn comes a close second. Autumn for me is an acquired taste.

Autumn always meant going back to school. There's no school to get back to this year, but there's definitely some learning to do. 

Autumn means wearing colorful cardigans, scarves and boots, probably the most comfortable clothes to wear. It means not suffering from the heat and the sweat but still not dressing in layers and turning into an immobile robotic figure; this is the perfect season to be comfy.

Autumn means going to the park and running in the leaves (watch out for dog poop though). While I'm there…

Autumn means picking rusty leaves and tawny acorns and shiny chestnuts.  And…

Sitting on a bench and reading a book.

Autumn is eating white grapes. Maybe supplement that by drinking white wine.

Autumn is going back to drinking hot tea. And ...

Learning something new.

Autumn is all about fighting my way through a quince. I really like the bitter flavor and the aftertaste. 

This year Autumn means going to the Apple Festival in this small Pennsylvania town, buying apple pie and eating it all in one day. 

This year Autumn means going to the farms and picking out a pumpkin and cooking it into a delicious soup and a pie. This year Autumn means eating tomatoes and peppers from our own garden.

This year Autumn means picking marigolds from our flower boxes and putting them on our table.

This year Autumn really means being together, and looking forward to my first American Thanksgiving. Halloween, not so much. 

This year Autumn means having fresh apple cider (with a little spiced rum).

I asked Trevor what Autumn means to him. Like a true man, he answered: football and marching bands. (He said more than that, but those were the first two things he mentioned.)

Autumn means listening to Manic Street Preachers' Autumn Song on repeat. It doesn't even make sense to me anymore; I just do it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

5 Things to do in Chapel Hill

Things to do in Chapel Hill Campus: EuroAmerican Home

Chapel Hill was the first stop on our list of places to hit on our honeymoon. I have no idea why Trevor uses "hit" instead of "visit" every. single. time, but I guess I can safely say that this year I hit Uncle Sam. No? I can't say that?! Ok, moving on.

We had high expectations for Chapel Hill. We had built it up in our heads as a place we would like to eventually move to because it has free public transportation, good cultural venues and a good intellectual environment courtesy of the nation's oldest public university. It is also a safe city, halfway between the mountains and the ocean. It has a lot of parks and green spaces, and it's not in the path of any extreme weather phenomena. As you can see, our list of must-haves is necessarily long and it's hard to find a place that meets all the criteria and isn't a major metropolitan area (we're trying really hard to avoid going back to crazy city life).

So we went to Chapel Hill to test the waters and see if it's as good a match as it looked on paper. We walked and drove up and down, back and forth, left and right, but we were not convinced. Something was just not clicking with us.

But Chapel Hill is a wonderful little town, with a lot of things to see and places to visit hit.

Here's five things we did in Chapel Hill.

1. Walk around campus.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a great place for people watching. The North end of campus runs along Franklin Street, which is full of restaurants, bars and some other small businesses. If you are looking for almost any variety of cuisine, you can walk there.

But before you eat, walk through the wooded campus and make your way to the Old Well and grab a drink from the fountain. There is a great rumored tradition that if you drink from the fountain on the first day of classes, you will ace your exams. But it only applies to freshmen. We had a drink, but nothing miraculous happened to us. That is, if you don't count our teeth freezing.

If you lose track of time while student watching or squirrel watching, there is a huge sundial near the observatory. The Morehead Planetarium was closed, but they nice people at the visitor's center let us walk around the Rotunda on the main floor.

Things to do in Chapel Hill Campus: EuroAmerican Home
Old Well 
Things to do in Chapel Hill Campus: EuroAmerican Home
Things to do in Chapel Hill Campus: EuroAmerican Home

 2. Take a stroll through the North Carolina Botanical Garden.

The Garden is administered by the University, so the admission is free. Since we were visiting in early September, we weren't expecting a lot of things to be in bloom. They were also doing work on some flower beds and paths, so there was a lot of gravel in my shoes by the end of our visit. Perhaps we were spoiled by Palmengarten in Frankfurt or the Hershey Gardens, but we found the Garden in Chapel Hill to be not very visitor-friendly. The signs offered no information about the plant, other than the name, and it all just looked like a hot mess. (Obviously, I am still very much under the influence of season four of Arrested Development.)

The Garden has a green education center with a nice reference library that you can browse through.  We also liked their exhibit of local artists' paintings. They also have plants for sale, but not for the bargain hunters that we are.

Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home
Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home
Tree of Life by Sarah Craige
Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home
Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home
Chapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican HomeChapel Hill Botanical Garden - EuroAmerican Home

3. Visit Ackland Art Museum.

Just like the Gardens, the museum has free admission because it is a part of the University. Just like the Gardens, it suffers from a lack of information about the pieces, other than the name of the artist and the name of the art. The museum collaborates with the University, so some classes in the Humanities take place in the gallery.

I must give them credit for owning a Max Weber - Composition with Three Figures.

Chapel Hill Art Museum - EuroAmerican Home

4. Hang around in the Coker Arboretum.

The Arboretum is another great free bit of nature right in the middle of campus. The trees were full of students, ripe for picking from their hammocks. It seems this is encouraged, although some trees were clearly marked "NOT a hammock tree". We made our way through and after reading about the 100 year old trees, Trevor picked some dwarf palm seeds. Ssshhh! Don't tell anyone, er, I mean, he thinks the seeds must have gotten stuck in his shoe. Oh well, I guess we'll have to plant them at home.

Chapel Hill Coker Arboretum - EuroAmerican Home
Chapel Hill Coker Arboretum - EuroAmerican Home

5. Go Downtown.

As I mentioned before, there are plenty of restaurant choices: Mediterranean, Irish, Asian, Mexican, a brewery, Southern-style and also plenty of student-friendly menus. Right in the middle of it all are some great metal sculptures that emit glowing mist. If you like that sort of thing and need a place near campus, for just $450K you can purchase a 2-bedroom condo.

Fitzgerald's in downtown Chapel Hill is the place where I had the weirdest American food so far - fried pickles, and got a first taste of Samuel Adams Oktoberfest. The beer has since become one of my favorites, but I deeply regretted having the fried pickles. They were so addictive, that I had to eat them all. Hence the regret!

I almost forgot. Here's a gratuitous picture of a deer next to the highway.

Chapel Hill Coker Arboretum - EuroAmerican Home

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mosquito politics

Our neck of the woods is proud home to some serious Ninja-meets-Chuck-Norris type of mosquitoes. Now that fall is here, they're beginning to die down, but I'll write about them as a warning for spring.

These mosquitoes look like they're wearing black-and-white stripped pajamas. I could have gone for the zebra comparison, but I already threw Chuck Norris there in the first paragraph. I wouldn't want anyone to think that I'm prone to exaggerations. I take blood-drawing and needle-carrying creatures very seriously. I have every reason to, since they only seem to be targeting me. Yes, I am jealous that Trevor remains unscathed during summer, and I look like a walking Swiss cheese. Yes, it bothers me that conversations in our house go like this:

Mickey: I got bit agaaaaaaain! I was in the garden for 5 minutes, and came back with 7 mosquito bites.

Trevor: Aww, my little mosquito buffet.


Trevor (talking to the mosquitoes* and pointing at me): Look guys, the food truck is here! 

 Combine the mosquito bonanza with our love of puns and Trevor's penchant for talking politics, and you get this:

Mosquito politics stick figure: EuroAmericanHome

* My husband talks to bugs and I still love him. He loves me despite the fact that I'm in the habit of naming inanimate object around the house.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Honeymoon Road Trip

We're back from our honeymoon road trip, and we're recovering after a lot of traveling through two states (North Carolina and Virginia). Three if you count Maryland. But we're not counting, because we didn't stop there.

Our first stop was in Chapel Hill (North Carolina), followed by Norfolk, Cape Charles, Jamestown and Williamsburg (all in Virginia), and an afternoon in Alexandria (also in Virginia).

We strolled through a botanical garden and an arboretum, learned a little bit of history, relaxed at the beach, spotted a shuttle launch, crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel twice, ate a lot of sea food and walked the streets of Colonial Williamsburg. Trevor drove over 1000 miles (1600 km.) and somewhere in there we celebrated six months of marital bliss and counted our blessings.

We also bought our first Christmas ornament as a married couple, courtesy of the only country in the world that has Christmas stores open all year long. And I added three new mugs to my collection, because who knows when I'll ever find mugs with dancing kitties and French chefs again.

EuroAmericanHome:Buy a Christmas ornament on your honeymoon
EuroAmericanHome: Mugs with dancing kitties and French chefs

We'll tell you more about it soon.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Things to do this summer: Read a children's book

In an effort to brush up on my American popular culture skills, and get some of my husband's totally random references, I decided that I need to know more about Dr. Seuss and his body of work.

Trevor often forgets that I did not grow up in America, and he's genuinely surprised when I tell him I have no idea who Yertle the Turtle is. Obviously, I need an education.

So we grabbed The Cat in the Hat at a yard sale, and Trevor read it to me in mischievous voices.

EuroAmericanHome:the cat in the hat - dr seuss

It is the story of two very bored children with nothing to do on a cold and wet day. That is until a tall cat with an even taller top hat shows up and tells them they can have "lots of good fun that is funny". The cat proceeds to show them tricks and cause havoc in the house until the children's mother comes home. The story in verse was written by Dr. Seuss as an effort to promote literacy to beginning readers, by using an entertaining plot and a limited vocabulary made up of short words.

Here are five things I learned from The Cat in the Hat:

1. Get a bossy fish that will take you to school. If you want to make him shut up, hold him up on a rake.

2. When a cat says "That's not all!", the cat means it. 

3. Cats are attention-starved pretty much every second. 

4. Beware of things called Thing One and Thing Two. They'll wreck your house.

5. Stand up to your cat and make him clean up.

EuroAmericanHome:the cat in the hat - dr seuss

After we read the book, I started noticing this hipster cat everywhere. Here he is on the door of the local elementary school, on the first day of school. The cat cleans up after himself, so I guess he sets a good example with that.

EuroAmericanHome:The cat in the hat-Dr Seuss storyline

But we couldn't stop here. On one of our walks, we went into the library, went downstairs to their children's room (yep, they keep the kids the basement), and looked for more Dr. Seuss books. They had a whole shelf full of them, and we picked Oh, the Places You'll Go!

 We sat down at one of their small colorful tables, and I started reading in a whimsical voice. After we finished the book, we got up and walked out. Needless to say, the librarian had a good story to tell to his buddies that day.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Things to do this summer: Visit an art exhibit

Preferably one of your favorite artists.

Preferably French.

Preferably awesome.

Preferably Toulouse-Lautrec at the Allentown Art Museum.

I was honestly very impressed with this museum. It's no Louvre or Tate, but for a small art museum it is very well-curated. The Lautrec exhibit info left out the spicy details of his life. There was no mention of Lautrec residing in a brothel, suffering from a genetic disease due to inbreeding or his supposed cause of death. But they couldn't clean up the art itself, so we got a nice glimpse of Parisian nightlife in a cafe chantant, the bohemian atmosphere of Montmartre in the 1880s, celebrity culture and decadence, and cabaret obsession in the Belle Epoque.

The collection was on loan from Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece. It didn't exactly include Lautrec's best-known illustrations (most of which are on display in Paris and Washington), but it did showcase his life-long friendship with chanteuse Jane Avril and his proclivity for Parisian cabaret scenes. A very nice touch was the fact that the works were accompanied by music, passages from French literature, photographs and other objects meant to recreate the original atmosphere of the era.


There was one treasure that made it to the Allentown Art Museum, a copy of one of his most famous posters advertising Divan Japonais, one of the many café-concerts that Lautrec used to paint in. This poster surfaced a few years ago, after being hidden from the public eye in a dusty attic for over ninety years.


There are a few other paintings that are worth admiring at the Allentown Art Museum. Philadelphia native Colin Campbell Cooper's masterpiece, Columbus Circle, New York (1909), is breathtaking just by the amount of detail in a bird's-eye view of a bustling cityscape.

Colin Campbell Cooper - Columbus Circle, New York - Alentown Art Museum
 Then there is Mr Darlington's Still Life (1890) by Quaker and Pennsylvania native George Cope. A trompe l'oeil so well-made that it makes you want to reach for that Harper's Weekly.

Mr Darlington Still Life by Quaker and Pennsylvania native George Cope-Allentown Art Museum
And Julius Bloch's People on a Streetcar (1937), a social realist depiction of working class America after the Great Depression.

Visit this Flickr gallery for more pictures of the works on display at the Allentown Art Museum. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Gettysburg Day Trip

Living in Pennsylvania has its perks. Sure, I'm writing this in mid-August and I'm wearing a cardigan, and it does seem like we're experiencing some sort of time warp, in which we skip from July to October weather from one day to another. But we are living in a historically-rich state, and we are never more than an hour away from a great day trip.

A few weekends ago, we wanted to dabble in a little Civil War history (you know, it was one of those mornings), and took a day drip to Gettysburg. We chose probably the hottest day of the summer to do this, but we had been planning this trip ever since I got here, and we really didn't want to postpone any longer. Sadly, neither did a motorcycle convention, which made the town packed and extremely loud. There were motorcycles EVERYWHERE and the streets were inundated with the noise of roving Harleys.

Gettysburg is less than an hour away from our house, and what a charming little town it is.

What gives Gettysburg its historical importance is the fact that the Union and Confederate armies chose to duel it out on the fields surrounding the town for 3 days in July 1863, during the American Civil War between the North and the South. This is also the place where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in November 1863. What I didn't know is that Lincoln's speech, considered one of the most powerful and eloquent pieces of oration in the US history, was only 272 words and 2 minutes long. Talk about concise! Even more interesting is that Lincoln delivered his short address right after the main speaker, politician Edward Everett, who spoke for over 2 hours. There must be a lesson in this.

The town delivers and caters to history buffs and philistines alike, with antique shops, small museums and a self-guided tour of the battlefields. We went into an antique shop gallery which, in a town like this, was like going into a museum. Stray bullets from the Civil War? Check. Old bottles of Coke? Check. Vintage tins? Check. Coins and stamps? Check and check.

While we were walking around town, we came across this little gem of a museum, the Gettysburg Museum of History, which is privately owned and free to visit. This was probably the highlight of our visit. We admit, it's not every day that you get the chance to see a lock of Martha Washington's hair, Eisenhower's golf clubs, President Ford's glasses, Lincoln's wallet and – the cream of the crop – Elvis Presley's underwear (plus underwear that was thrown at him by his adoring fans, thankfully all women). Oh, and if you're that much into Elvis, they also had his Graceland bidet cover on display. It was yellowish-mustard. I kid you not. But if you think this is creepy, another item on display is a prescription for sedatives for one Marylin Monroe, dated close to her death. And one of Evil Knievel's jackets. So yeah, don't miss this museum if you're in Gettysburg (and into weird things).

After closely scrutinizing hundreds of objects belonging to dead people, we decided to lift our spirits with ice cream and a walking tour of downtown. Gettysburg looks very European-like, with small cafes nestled in the ground floors of old buildings, squares full of flowers and wide sidewalks swarming with tourists. Needless to say I was homesick, and demanded to move there immediately.

We ended our visit with the self-guided auto tour of the battlefields, which is 24 miles long and includes 16 tour stops. It would have taken us about three hours to complete the tour at the optimal speed, stopping at all the memorials along the way. But it was too hot and too sunny for this kind of a history lesson, so we took the short route, cut corners, and promised ourselves we'll come back for a complete tour and a visit to the Gettysburg Ciclorama - a sound-and-light show of the spectacular 377-foot painting by Paul Philippoteaux.

EuroAmericanHome:Visiting Gettysburg
EuroAmericanHome: Gettysburg-downtown


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