Thursday, December 27, 2012

8 Christmases

It's hard to believe that this was mine and Koko's 8th Christmas together
and that next year will be our 1st Christmas as a married couple.

I can still remember that first year;
the excitement of having found someone special to share the holidays with
and the feeling of falling in love.

It was the most perfect gift.

 The years have flown by and I can't wait to celebrate next year 
in our home 
to bring together our traditions
and create our own new ones
surrounded by our families.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our Proposal Story

Our proposal story begins while I was still in Greece.
Koko had left around mid-August. 
And, unbeknownst to me, had purchased a diamond engagement ring on September 1st. 
By the second week of October (our anniversary), he had asked my father for my hand in marriage at the same place where we had first met.
He had expected me to be there so that he could propose that weekend.
I never showed.
At this time, I was still up in the air about when I would return to California. 
I knew I wasn't going to stay forever, I just didn't know when I would leave. 
Koko and I were talking everyday.
One day, he said something that really stuck with me 
"Greece will always be there, I won't". 
An ultimatum. 
Either come home or it's over for good. 
I knew I had to come home. 
And as much as I love Greece, I love Koko more. 

I began searching for tickets.
He told me that the 2nd weekend of January he wanted to go to Lake Tahoe
a mini getaway to stay at a hotel recommended by his boss. 
I agreed. 
I'd be lying if I said I hadn't been a tiny bit suspicious. 
When I came home though, he gave no hint or indication that he would be proposing. 
I did ask my friend if she thought I should get my nails done just in case and she told me to do whatever I wanted (I wish I had!). 

On the morning of January 14th, we left my house for Lake Tahoe. 
We drove about an hour. 
It was freezing. 
As soon as we got there, Koko suggested we take the gondola ride to the Heavenly Ski Resort.
I had never been and I was excited to see the view of the lake from up high.
He was acting a bit funny.
He had slept on the couch the night before because he couldn't sleep [he was nervous] .
he went to the farthest staff member (there was one beside us) [he wanted to ask if we could ride the gondola alone]
and he nudged me away from him when I went to wrap my arms around him [the ring box was in his pocket],
but I really didn't think much of it.

We boarded the gondola and I toyed with my camera
snapping photos of the view
We had gotten to the point where all of the lake can be seen 
and for a quick moment I looked down at my camera to review a picture

Then I heard Koko say to me "so, I wanted to ask you a question"
I sort of smiled and turned to look at him
Before I could realize what was going on
he was kneeling beside me
holding open a box
with a diamond ring.

My mouth dropped open.
I. was. speechless.
I just stared.
The rest is sort of a blur, but I heard the words
"I love you"
"You make me so happy"
"I want to spend the rest of my life with you"
and then I was crying.

I nodded,
told him that I loved him, too
and he slipped the ring on my finger. 
He jokingly said "you never said yes" and I replied "yes, obviously, yes" and kissed him.

I spent the next 10 minutes calling and texting my family and friends.
I spent the rest of the day staring at my ring smiling
 telling everyone I saw  that we had just gotten engaged.

 I am excited beyond words to marry Koko in June.
My heart feels so full of love every time I think about it.

Christmas Markets

The Christmas markets in Budapest, Vienna and Bratislava are so spectacular that their photos deserve a post all to themselves.

Everything about them entices the 5 senses.
The sights of lit trees, colorful decorations, carefully painted porcelain and ornaments,
the sweet smells of mulled wine, smoked meats and gingerbread,
the tastes of chocolate and pastries, fresh breads and sausages,
the feeling of delicate embroidery and soft, luscious furs under the fingertips,
the sounds of laughter, music, caroling and folk songs.

It was November and I already felt like it was Christmas
here more than anywhere else, ever.

Each entire city was completely in the spirit.
Enjoy these photos!

By the end of November I was beginning to feel a little homesick.
I was craving some good ol' American-ness.
Thoughts of Thanksgiving filled my mind.
And Pinterest did not help the situation.

Instead of going back to America, I decided to visit Hungary to meet up with an old high school friend who was living in Brussels.
She and I were going to spend Thanksgiving at the residence of the United States Ambassador to Budapest.
We also planned to rent a small apartment in Vienna for a few days and ride the train to Bratislava.

Our Thanksgiving celebration was all I had dreamed it would be.
Turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows, pumpkin pie, apple pie, pecan pie.
Food comas, board games, Christmas tree decorating.

Staying at the residence definitely had its perks.
It was like having a small piece of America in Europe.

The entire trip was amazing in every way possible.
And I think it was a big turning point in the journey I had set off on 10 months prior.
Back in Greece, I had begun to feel lonely.
I found it hard sometimes to move around without a car.

In Budapest, I was able to speak and communicate with fluent English speakers.
I spent nights staying up late eating popcorn and drinking tea with my friend.
And I talked about Koko. A lot.

I explained to her how hard it had been to be apart
and how great it had been when he visited me
and how much I love[d] him.

And it was then, when I was explaining the love of my life to someone else
that I really realized how very much I missed him.
And how I didn't want to miss him anymore.
Even still, my choice to come back to California was not an easy one.
Realistically speaking, who wants to give up an extended vacation.
 The year had been the best year of my life, especially compared to the year before.

I kept making excuses.
I'd be back in September.
then October
then November.
then December.
Summer had come and gone.

Christmas was on its way and I kept picturing myself waking up on December 25th to a family-less, empty home.

The idea made me feel so lonely and sad.

I was talking to Koko daily.
Saying I would stick it out until after New Year's and see.
But the Christmas image haunted me.

On December 17th, I booked a ticket to SFO.
I packed and closed up the house.
Went out to my favorite bar/club one last time.
Said a tearful good-bye to my cousins and best friends.
 And on December 19th I set off on a return trip to SFO.

Nearly 21 hours later
Koko greeted me in San Francisco with cards and a flower
and together we drove home.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


The Liberty Bridge
American Embassy Residence
Gingerbread house decorating
Christmas tree decorating. Those are real Andy Warhols hanging on the wall
Where I slept
St. Stephen's Church
Interior of St. Stephen's Church
Dome of St. Stephen's Church
Hungarian folk art and dolls
The Chain Bridge
St. Matthias Church

View of Parliament from St. Matthias Church

Parliament and the River Danube
Hungarian Opera
Hungarian Parliament
Chain Bridge by night
Castle Hill with the Royal Palace
Dinner at Cafe Deryne