Happy Fourth

4 07 2012

Today I dressed up in red, white and blue and wore my Maryland necklace to show pride for my home country (and state!). As I think about my [church] wedding just one month from today (!!!!), I am a little bit more introspective about this year’s Independence Day. Of course no one knows exactly what the future may hold, but I am faced with the decision that I have made, that I am making, that Germany is the place where I will be setting up residence for the long haul. We may decide to live in the States at some point, for a few years, but I think Germany will be the place we’ll keep coming back to.

Germany has changed me in many ways, of course. I think I certainly would have been a bit different had I stayed in the States. Not bad, but…different. But I will always cherish my American upbringing. That feeling of independence that we so celebrate today, that pride for our country and for our nation and the values it stands for. A lot of people ask me if I’ll get “my German citizenship” when I get married, which is not really such an obvious assumption. As far as I know, the only way for me to get a German passport is to give up my American nationality, and there is no way in hell I would do such a thing. (Sorry, Germany. It’s not you, it’s me.)

Of course America is not perfect, and neither is Germany. There are good things and bad things about both countries, and I would be happy living in either one! But luckily Germany feels enough like home to me that I feel well here.

I think most of the reason I feel so at home here because I’ve got a man who loves and appreciates me for who I am, who takes cultural differences in stride and has never once made me feel bad for being an American. (Although he does joke lightheartedly about the fact that I like to eat cereal as a meal…)

And my guy really made today special. I came in to get dressed after my shower this morning and Tobias, still in bed, immediately started whistling the Star-Spangled Banner. Made me laugh. And then he wished me a happy Fourth as I was leaving for work. For lunch, he crafted this beautiful yogurt and fruit snack, but not before putting on a YouTube recording of the US national anthem to accompany as background music. (The anthem generally puts tears to my eyes, but today even more because of Tobias’s sweet soul!) And then he pulled out the yogurt and presented me with this very patriotic dessert.

So thank you, my love, for making me feel special today and for bringing a little bit of America to my Fourth of July here in Germany.

Now I’ll just have to go watch some fireworks (online!) to finish off a perfect Independence Day…not quite like the real thing, but Fourth of July without fireworks is a bit like Christmas without a Christmas tree. Happy Fourth!


The Name Game – or Why I Decided to Take His Last Name.

2 05 2012

One of the things that has popped up while wedding planning has been the name game. Who takes whose last name?

(The above phrase seems to be pretty popular on Pinterest,  and it made me laugh when I saw it!)

First of all, disclaimer: I support the right to choose. Whether you’ve taken his last name, hyphenated, kept your maiden name, he’s taken your name, you combine your name into one, or you end up with a completely different last name altogether, I think that’s great! These are modern times, and all of the old traditions don’t really apply anymore these days. It’s not as important to carry on a family name as it was in the past, and most of us aren’t royalty who don’t really have a choice in the matter. (Although who really knows any royalty’s last names, anyway!?)

Here in Germany, there isn’t quite as much freedom with the name choices as there is in the US. There’s no Princess Consuela Bananahammock, as Phoebe in Friends decided on, faced with wonder at all of the possibilities when the man at the registrar’s office told her she could choose any name she wanted. On a similar note, even naming newborn babies is regulated here, and you won’t end up with any names like Peaches Honeyblossom, Tallulah Pine, Sage Moonblood, or Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. None of that here. In fact, baby names must be gender-specific and on a list of approved names! But I digress.

So for German law, you’ve got four easy choices when you get married. 1) Both of you keep your own names, 2) she takes his name, 3) he takes her name, 4) or you can hyphenate both names, but only the woman has a hyphenated name, and then the children get only the husband’s last name, as hyphenation cannot be passed down.

With those choices available, the current trend is to keep your own names, which in my opinion is great when both partners have a professional life in which their name is essentially their brand. That’s probably why celebrities often keep their own names. I don’t know anything about their real choice, but can you imagine Angelina Pitt or even Brad Jolie? Not likely. And in Germany, keeping your maiden name seems to be the cool thing to do, though it is also practical because most couples who get married are already in their mid- to late-thirties and already have an identity built up around their names.

Enter my decision: I have decided to take his name. There are definitely pros and cons for me, which I plan to explain here. Let’s start with the cons, since for me, the pros outweighed the cons enough to make the change.

Cons of giving up Gilmour

  1. Gilmour is a nice name, and I can’t help but smile every time people compare it to the Gilmore Girls. Plus, Sarah Gilmour is also the name of a model whose famous father, David Gilmour, is a member of Pink Floyd, so it will probably drive down my blog hits when I change my name. (Kidding!)
  2. It’s higher up in the alphabet, and my new last name will move me down to S, the 19th letter of the alphabet. It’s not a big deal, though, but it probably means we’ll be waiting a bit longer to watch our kids graduate from school, as those kinds of things are usually done in alphabetical order.
  3. After I got engaged, I started to feel nostalgic about my maiden name. It is kind of a weird feeling to give it up…
  4. My new initials will be SMS, which is what Germans say for text messages. They’ve even made a verb out of it: simsen. “Ich hab dich gesimst!” I once heard a German friend of mine say. And if you shorten it to just the first name and last name, SS is not really a great letter combination here, considering German history…
  5. Everybody knows my heritage. They can automatically see that I’m not German, and though 9 times out of 10, people guess I’m from England (God knows why…), at least they can see that I’m not from around here before I even open my mouth.
  6. Paperwork. I am soooo not looking forward to that. Especially changing the American stuff, where they won’t know what an umlaut is or how to use it, and I will likely have the same problems as Tobi has had with different versions of his name floating around out there – Stäbler, Staebler, Stabler. People without umlauts in their alphabet just don’t understand how it works.
  7. Gilmour is easier to pronounce than Stäbler. As hard as I try, I just can’t get that ä without sounding Schwäbisch (a dialect from Stuttgart, where his family comes from). And my mother told me the other day that she also has trouble with it and could use some pronunciation lessons on my soon-to-be new last name. Ha!

Pros of choosing Stäbler

  1. Growing up, I always assumed I’d take my husband’s name. Yes, that’s the traditional thing to do, and that’s likely  why I dreamed of it as a kid. But for me it’s a nice idea to have a family with one name, where it’s clear to people that we belong together. And we won’t have any difficult decisions later on on what to name the kids.
  2. Sarah Stäbler acutally sounds really nice. I pronounce my first name the American way, and Stäbler the German way. It just has a nice ring to it!
  3. It will fit in my passport. Since I am not hyphenating my last name, I won’t end up with something ridiculously long to fill out on forms, like Sarah Michelle Gilmour-Stäbler. My fingers got tired just from typing that!
  4. Tobi is already really well-known in his business with his own last name, and even though he thought Tobias Gilmour sounded really cool (by the way, it’s pronounced Toe-BEE-us, not Toe-BYE-us), it’s good for him not to have to change his name. Although I think he would have been willing to, had I insisted, and that is really cool of you, Tobi!
  5. Okay, so the language nerd in me comes out: I freaking LOVE the idea of having an umlaut in my name! Apart from the stress of it when dealing with non-German speakers (see #7 above), I just think it’s so awesome to have a character in my name that doesn’t exist in my own language. Besides, it could be worse – saying “it’s like an ‘a’ with two dots over it” is easier than trying to explain the Eszett (ß)…”it’s like a capital B with a long tail, and it’s pronounced like an S”… One of my friends saw the address on my wedding invitations and thought it was actually a “p”. Peter, my best friend and fellow language nerd, took great pains in writing a beautiful Eszett in my street address on a recent card he sent me, and he pointed it out to me so I could admire his handiwork. So anyway, yes. Ä is cool!

So even though I have a few more cons than pros, the point that carries the most weight is having the same family name. And for me, it’s a nice way of combining our cultures and accepting that Germany is a really big part of my life right now and, with a German spouse, will be in the future.

What is your personal preference about changing your name? Did you run into any initials trouble like my SMS, or my mom whose maiden name Susan Arlene Wood had her initials change from SAW to SAG when she got married…? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

5 years ago today

29 04 2012

5 years ago, it was a Sunday morning in Paris, and I had gone, as usual, to the German church on Rue Blanche. It was there that a thin, reddish-blonde-haired guy sat near me and was outgoing enough to strike up a conversation after the service. He was really nice, funny and sweet, and we exchanged phone numbers afterward before he ran off to the banlieue (suburbs) for a photo shoot. I spent the entire rest of the day thinking about him, and was excited when we talked later and set up a date for the following Tuesday, where we ended up talking for hours, until 3 a.m. the next morning.

Thank you, Tobias, for making that first step and saying hi to me all those years ago. I had no idea then, in 2007, that you’d end up being my perfect match, the love of my life, and that we’d choose to spend our lives together in 2012. I am so grateful to know you and am so very excited to to be your wife soon.

I love you so much!



1 09 2011

Hooray!  Now that it’s September, it is officially fall, as far as I’m concerned.  Especially since we’ve had chilly autumnal weather all summer long (minus one hot day thrown in just for fun every few weeks).  In fact, I found my first orange leaf of autumn on the ground last Tuesday and taped it up to the window to enjoy its pretty vibrant color.  (I’m thinking of adding a few more as I find them!)

For a lot of you in the States, you’re only just dreaming of cooler weather, but for us – well, we never really got our hot summer, so it has started a little earlier for us.

So…welcome, September!  Even though it’s officially summer until the 23rd, we’re excited to have you here and the promise of all my favorite fall things.

And this year is great because this fall, I’ll be getting my very first niece in November! I’m counting down the days!

Autumn allergies

Fall has unfortunately meant a lot of extra allergies for me.  There’s something in the air, and with all this wind, I have been sneezing violently, which often scares the bajingas out of Tobi when he’s nearby.  Ha!  But really, it hasn’t been that fun.  Two weeks ago, I finally went to the allergist to get things checked out.  I had one of those prick tests as a kid, but that was so long ago that I don’t remember exactly what I had allergies to.  And allergies can develop over time, as well, so I figured it would be a good time to get that done.

It wasn’t really new information, but at least we know for sure.  As it turns out, I’m most allergic to mites (dust, which is unfortunately everywhere), birch, and grass pollen.  So that explains the year-round allergies!  (Winter = dust; spring/summer/fall = grass pollen and birch.)

So they sent in an order to the pharmacy for a mix of allergy shots and (lucky me!) I get to start them next Thursday.  The therapy takes 3 years, but hopefully it will help.

(On an animal-related note: They didn’t check for horses or dogs, but those are both without a doubt bad allergies for me.  But I barely reacted to cats, which was a surprise!  I’m not going to push my luck by petting any cats anytime soon, but that is encouraging a bit!  I remember I had a bad reaction to cats on the last prick test – more than dogs.)

The interesting thing is that my raw fruit allergies are related to the grass pollen and the birch allergies.  Apparently these fruits have an enzyme that is the same or similar to those found in grass pollen and birch.  Some fruits cause more reactions than others (cherries more than kiwi, for example), but at least I can eat them once the fruit has been cooked.

Does anyone else have any pesky allergies?  Have you tried immunotherapy via allergy shots?  Have you noticed any improvement?

Here’s hoping it will help!


C is for Clafoutis

16 08 2011

I came across this recipe for clafoutis and thought, “Oh!  What a good idea!”  Cherries are in season at the moment and all of the little fruit stands around Hamburg (there is a surprising number of these, actually) are selling bing cherries.

Side note: Bing!  I’ve been re-watching Friends for the past few weeks…and I can’t help but think of  Chandler every time I hear bing cherries.  That and Bing Crosby.  What a silly name, I thought, but apparently it was just a nickname.  Bing Crosby is really Harry Lillis Crosby.  Betcha’ didn’t know that!

So anyway, back to that recipe – Tartelette just has the most beautiful pictures and delicious recipes!  And I’ve made clafoutis twice before and love it.

The thing is, I’m allergic to most fruit, and I discovered last summer (or was it two summers ago?) that cherries are included in that group.  However, there’s a plus side to that: I can eat these fruits if they’re cooked.  So this clafoutis will give me a nice cherry kick.

But crap.  I wasn’t thinking and licked the juice off my finger while cutting the cherries, resulting in a slightly swollen, burning top lip.  Yep.  Definitely allergic.

Serves me right, I guess.  “That’s finger-lickin’ good!” refers to the eating part, not the cooking part.  Last time I checked, it’s generally viewed as unsanitary to lick anything while cooking.

But come on, I know you do it too.  Unless you work in a restaurant, in which case you probably don’t do that.  Right?  Right?

Okay, so for the recipe, I made just a few modifications based on what I already had and what I could find here in Germany.  My recipe isn’t gluten-free, since I used regular flour.  And I wasn’t sure on the exact translation of “heavy cream” so I figured Schlagsahne would do the trick.  And it looks like it did!  I just took it out of the oven.



20 06 2011

This photo is from way back in April when Angela was visiting and Tobias’s friend was singing in a concert at the Michel.  We got to the church early and walked around and I caught this lovely reflection of the tower in the office building across the street.

Speaking of reflections, when I reflect on my time spent in Hamburg, I can’t believe how far I’ve come.

I now feel much more comfortable with the language and am starting to almost believe it when people compliment me on my German.  Almost.  🙂

I’ve got a great job and wonderful bosses and coworkers. I learn a lot every day and love getting to meet lots of different types of people.

We live in a great apartment that’s slowly coming together and feeling more like home.

August 2nd will mark my first year here.  I’m excited to see what the next year will bring!


It’s grammar time. (Not hammer time.)

25 02 2011


Having friends who have the same interests as you can be such a good influence.  Peter got a really nice compliment on his Spanish recently from one of his teachers, which, he told me, made him want to go out and get a Spanish workbook to improve even more.  That type of positive reinforcement was just the boost he needed to push himself to improve.

I don’t quite work that way, however.  People compliment me on my German quite often, but I never believe them.  It doesn’t make me want to try harder, because it usually just makes me focus on how much I don’t know and how many mistakes I make, and if they would stop asking me the same questions I get from everyone, they’d realize my German’s not all that great.  Let’s just say that I’ve become an expert on talking about where I come from, what I’m doing here, and how hard it is to learn another language.  Blah, blah, blah, always the same.  (I hate small talk!)  So that doesn’t really motivate me, because I’m too much of a perfectionist to accept that type of compliment.

What does motivate me is seeing other Americans or other foreigners who have been here for a little longer than me, perhaps, but who speak German incredibly well.  The types of people who have obviously been speaking more German than their native tongue.  It’s pretty easy to pick those ones out from a crowd.  And when I hear that, I think, “Oh God.  I don’t want to be one of those foreigners who has lived here for years and who still can’t speak the language.”

And a little bit of friendly “competition” that Peter and I have always had when it comes to learning languages helps too.  This time it’s kind of nice not to compete on the same language, though.  🙂  So thanks, Peter.  That was just the motivation I needed.  I went and picked out a German grammar workbook at the bookstore and have already done the first few exercises.  Tobias has offered his help with any questions I have, and even offered to correct the exercises for me.  The answers are in the back of the book, but he’s already been a lot of help with certain little things.  I have a good teacher.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some grammar exercises to do!  🙂


Haha!  I couldn’t resist!


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