Friday, June 19, 2015

Things I Love About Germany Part 2

Let me again start with my little nonsensical important disclaimer here: These are my opinions about the area of Germany I've lived in for the past year. As with anywhere, not everyone fits into these opinions or stereotypes. People are people anywhere you go. We are all different and experience things different ways.

Things I Love About Germany Part Zwei (2)

This first bullet point is a big one for me. Sooooo prepare to read a lot about it. :)

*People are more laid back about appearances in Germany. It's refreshing to see so much less makeup and obsession with looking sexy and all glammed up all the dang time. Sure, sure, we have makeup here and nice body care products and all that jazz. It's just much less of a big deal. The most made up ladies you see are the teenagers and college ladies who are experimenting with their look. Other than that, the majority of people are sporting a totally makeup free face, or going for a very natural look.

It is incredibly freeing and comfortable to walk around and see people dressed casually and modestly, but still nice. The dress is much more modest than in the States. Call me a prude, but I don't think you should be showing it all off to everyone on the streets all the darn time. It's rare to see it all "hanging out" here...let your mind figure that one out, as it applies to lots of different scenarios with the way people dress. These people like their clothes, no doubt about it. But their sole mission isn't to dress to show off every body part. It's more about being classy, professional, comfortable, casual, and looking nice in a more subtle way. I like that. I like it a lot. (Did you read that last sentence with a 'Forest Gump' accent? If not, then you're doing it wrong.)

A natural result of a society generally less obsessed with this is that people (in general) are MUCH less judgemental to each other. Sure, you get checked out by other ladies to see what you're wearing, there are beauty shops and hair salons and all kinds of shops everywhere, but people don't make as big of a deal about it. Being overly made up is not a big normal here. It looks out of place.

I am borrowing this photo from a website, but it is very similar to what you see at train stations, shopping areas, large businesses or work places. Bikes everywhere. :)

*Fitness/Healthier Lifestyle- Most Germans walk and bike everywhere they can. We've met so many people who have a car, but rarely use it. It's true that their country is set up to make biking and walking to places much more convenient than in the States, but in general, their attitude about health and fitness and being outside is really wonderful. There is less priority with being in the gym all day, pumping iron and taking supplements, and more on just walking outside with the family, going to the park, walking to a festival or concert, biking to the supermarket, etc. It's a normal part of life, being outdoors and being active. (Yes,  I've complained about walking to the supermarket and walking home with heavy grocery bags. I in no way renounce that complaint. That is HARD hard hard...especially on someone with neck/shoulder/back issues!) Living here reminds me of my and adults are outside all the time. Just relaxing, strolling, playing, reading. Germans eat a lot of bread and meat and potatoes and such, but it's rare to see obesity here, due to such an active lifestyle. (And smaller portion sizes.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Things I love about Germany Part 1

I've been living in Deutschland for 10 months now. I've experienced so many amazing foods, places, festivals and more. I've met some incredible people from all over the globe. I want to share some of my very favorite things about living in Germany.

Disclaimer: My thoughts and opinions are mine alone. These opinions and insights are from my personal experiences living in the South Hessen area. Many areas of Germany, like anywhere else in the world, are very different culturally and may be nothing like the South Hessen area.

Fave Things About Germany:
Part Eins (1)

*Parks, parks everywhere!
- No joke; there are parks EVERYWHERE here. Beautiful green parks with walking and biking paths, ponds and ducks, amazing playgrounds for kids, soccer fields, picnic areas, huge green grassy lawns for lounging on a blanket and reading in the warm sun, benches GALORE to sit on and enjoy the scenery, gardens full of beautiful plants, flowers and sculptures, and more. And people are serious about parks here. Parks are used all the time. There are always people at the park. Relaxing, snacking or napping on blankets, sitting on benches, listening to music, reading books, strolling hand in hand on the paths eating Eis (ice cream), kids running through the grass playing with balls and toys, or frequenting the extremely well built and maintained playground areas, zip lining over a sand pit, scooting on their bikes and more. I'm going to interject this tidbit: Kids here usually have NO training wheels on their bikes, even 2 year olds! They use their feet to propel themselves on the ground and learn quickly how to balance on a bike. Children start doing this at 1 1/2 to 2 years old!


Prinz Georg Garten

*How Safe I Feel Here

-This part of Germany is so safe. I'm not saying bad things don't ever happen, but violent crime is much lower here than in the U.S.  In my 10+ months here, I have never once felt unsafe while walking by myself, riding the bus, trams or trains, strolling through the park, etc. In the U.S.,  I'd frequently feel uneasy or strange about a person's behavior/way they were acting or staring, whether in the store or on the streets.  I never would have just strolled around at night by myself without my pepper spray back home, but do here easily. I'm still alert and aware, as I feel that's very important no matter where you are, but so far haven't felt uneasy or afraid here. 

*The People Here
-GASP! SHOCKER! Did she just say she liked those rude, crazy Germans? Is she crazy? 
Apparently I am. Let me tell you, when we first moved here, I was expecting and felt like it was accurate to say Germans were a cold bunch. They don't make eye contact and smile at you that much, or strike up conversation randomly on the bus. They don't "Hi, how ya'll doing?" and proceed to ask personal questions. This is all true. My first thoughts were that they were unfriendly people. And to someone who's used to living in the U.S., where in most places, people smile and make eye contact and chat wherever you go, it seems that way.

BUT what you discover, when you live here for a bit and learn the German way, is how incredible most of the people here are. I have found the people here to be so incredibly kind and helpful to each other. 
Some examples:
1. Any time an older person gets on the bus, someone gets up and offers them their seat. When a pregnant woman walks into a room or onto the bus, someone gets up and offers them their seat. 
People are very quick and efficient about getting on and off the buses and trams, but when someone with a stroller is trying to get on, people get up, they keep the doors open and help pop the stroller wheels up into the bus/tram and get in. 

2.  In the doctor's office while waiting for my appointment, a baby left with one his big brothers (around 11) in the waiting room starts wailing while Mom and the middle brother (age 2 or so) are with the doctor. A lady gets up, asks the child if it's ok, gets the newborn out and walks around, pats the baby, calms him down. The other people in the waiting room are smiling. No one is thinking: "I can't believe she touched that baby. Oh the lawsuit possibilities!" No, it's just a nice thing another lady did for a Mom and her child.

3. When you meet a German individual, they aren't as open and friendly and personal as you might be used to in another country. Germans take a little more time when getting to know someone, which I now think of as a GOOD thing. It doesn't mean they are cold or don't want to get to know you, they just think it should be done in layers. They don't lay their business and personal life all out on the table, nor do they like it when someone else does it right up front. BUT when someone here gets to know someone and decides they like them and opens up, they are loyal and friendly and personable. Being invited over for dinner or lunch is a big deal and is taken seriously here, it's an honor. They go all out with food and drinks and hospitality. 

4. Germans mind their own business. I like this. One thing I've always disliked is how Moms in the U.S. (and other places I'm sure!) are so critical and nosy about other Moms parenting styles and choices. Now, I'm not talking about something that is obviously dangerous or neglectful. I'm talking personal choices and parenting styles. People commenting on how "they did things" and passing judgement on others who do things differently. Drives. Me. Bananas! I have experienced so much less of that here. It's refreshing and freeing and feels more like a community to have so much less judgement and interference by others into your life. Everyone is different and it's nice that people don't stare, make comments, openly judge, etc as much here. 

This makes me laugh. :) Pretty accurate!

Germans love their festivals! They go all out and enjoy themselves. :)

Now you might be thinking that I'm coming down on Americans. I'm not trying to. I'm merely pointing out the things I LOVE about Germany. And these things happen to be much different than what I'm used to in the States. There are SO many things about living in America that I love and cannot find or experience here. Tons and tons! But I do love Germany, and I want to share why with you. Stay tuned for part dos zwei!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sometimes it's ok to Lash Out!

Background info: I love makeup. I have always loved playing around with new colors, new products and creating new looks. I actually don't wear a lot of makeup despite my love of it- my makeup routine literally takes me about 8 minutes start to finish. My daily regime is usually: BB cream or mineral powder, blush, a neutral eye shadow, charcoal eyeliner and 1-2 quick coats of mascara. That's it! For a night out or a special event, of course, I'll take a little more time or wear some more dramatic eye colors. I'm a big believer in accentuating what you have and not covering up your natural look.

My absolute favorite and must have makeup products are mineral powder, blush and mascara. Without blush, I look so pale and tired. Same with mascara. I'm thankfully blessed with decently long lashes that curl on their own- I don't own a lash curler! They scare me! Haha!

I recently had the opportunity to try a mascara I've never used before: Younique Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes.

Now, I've heard of this mascara and have seen before and after pictures on friends' Facebook pages and such, but didn't' know much about it other than that. A friend who knows of my love for makeup sent me the mascara to try and review.
(I'm going to go ahead and apologize for my red and irritated allergy eyes in the photos! They've been like this for weeks with everything blooming here!)

(Read to the bottom to find out how you can win a FREE mascara from Cheryl Harrell at Younique!)

First off, the packaging is fabulous! I love the hard carrying/storage case- it's black and sturdy and chic. I was surprised to see two tubes inside, as at first I didn't know the procedure to apply this product. The tube you see on the left in the above picture (shorter tube) is the "Natural Fiber" tube. The longer tube on the right is "Transplanting Gel".

The instructions were clear and easy to follow: Start off with an application of the transplanting gel, then apply a coat of the natural fibers before the gel dries. I have to be honest and say I was a bit intimidated by the fiber tube when I first saw the wand- it is covered in little fur balls fiber fuzzies. All I could think about was that I was most likely going to get those bringers of eye death little fuzzy fiber suckers all in my eyes (OWWWW!) but thankfully that didn't happen.

Here's my zombie before picture / nothing on but a little BB cream:

My initial thoughts on this product, before using it:
*I was a bit intimidated by the procedure at first. Gel, fibers, gel- this is the order of each coat. You must start with the gel, apply the fibers while the gel is still wet, then seal it all with the gel again. You can apply more than one coat, just follow that order each time. I initially thought this would take a long time to do.

*The first time I applied the natural fibers, I was thinking "Wow, this ins't going to work, they are sticking out off my lashes and falling on my face!" BUT after you apply a coat of fibers, you seal it in with the gel, which cleans it up very nicely.

 Gel wand- this stuff goes on so easily!

Right eye after one coat of the mascara; left eye still naked!

Up close. This is still just one coat on my right eye only. Wow! Lashes!

Hard to see, but this is the fiber wand. It's kinda furry looking, but thou shalt not fear! :) 

Starting with the transplanting gel on my left eye- I'm getting the hang of this!

Application tips:
*Gel, fiber, gel. Make sure you follow that order, as that's how the mascara works!
*Don't be intimidated by the fibers (A.K.A. fuzzies!), they may go on kind of messily and unevenly, but the gel transforms them into perfection!
*The fibers come off the surrounding skin SO EASILY. Yes, they do tend to fall on your face around the eye area during application, but you can lightly wipe them off with a cotton pad or something similar. 
Here's an example of a few fibers getting on my face under my left eye- they come off so easily!

 This is one coat of the Moodstruck: 3D Fiber Lashes on both eyes.  Just one coat on top lashes!

Just another view- still 1 coat

 Side view- hey, I like giving you options!

This is a few minutes later, with a little blush, eyeshadow and liner added. I love the finished look!

Final thoughts on this product:
*I LOVE it! I am amazed that I like it so much. I'm extremely hard to please with mascara!
*I adore that it's so easy to clean up off of my skin- no scrubbing removing mascara off my eye-shadowed lids or from around my eyes. It doesn't leave a stain on my skin! This is good news.
*I love the build-ability of it. (Is that a word? Oh well...)
*Once you have tried it a couple of times and gotten into the groove of applying, it doesn't take long at all to do this. Honestly, I can do 1 coat of this stuff in the time it takes me to apply my typical mascara! Almost faster, as I'm no longer worried about getting wet mascara all over my lids!
*Yes, the fuzzies fibers look weird, but they work!
*This mascara didn't melt all over my eye area throughout the day as most normally do on me. YAY! Raccoon eyes begone!

~What do you think? If you are interested in trying this mascara or have any questions about Younique's products, please contact Cheryl at Any orders placed on her website will also be in a drawing to win a FREE mascara! Woot! 

I was provided supplied a full size product to sample and asked to give my honest feedback. All reviews and opinions are my own.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Piano Man

One of my favorite things is walking around and hearing people playing instruments, singing, etc. This happens on a daily basis in the city center, near a large shopping and office district.

After leaving the gym today, this is what I was treated to:

It just so happened that the moment I started recording, it was noon and the bells were ringing and music from the church bell tower was playing at the same it's a bit of a competing sound.
But this was lovely! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

All Washed Up

Are you at all curious about how we wash our clothes here in Germany? No? Well, you're going to hear about it anyway...:)

Watch the video below for a very interesting lesson an insider's view (OOO! Lucky you!) on the subject.

Side note: Do you despise hearing your voice play back on videos and such? I do! Do I really sound like that, in real time? Hmm....

Quick list of some of the differences in doing laundry/washing machines in Germany: (this is from my observations and may not necessarily be the stone cold truth)

*Washing machines use a lot less water during the cycle here, which is good as it's better for the environment!

*Our "load size" is a lot smaller than a standard load size in the U.S. There ARE washing machines that are much larger here, but in general I think the size of the loads are smaller for most machines in Europe. BUT I've been set straight advised that the clothes don't need to "float" due to less water in the cycle, allowing you to pack the drum completely full. Hence a larger load. However, I don't pack it full, as I feel my clothes don't come out as clean if I do so, despite what everyone says! I do what I want I'm my own person here! :)

*Laundromats are a bit harder to find here. They do exist, but they tend to be smaller and the ones I've seen are a bit expensive!

*Most washers have internal water heaters. You don't have to rely on the temp of the tap to dictate the temp of the wash water.

*Wash cycles take a bit longer- as it used less water and the machine stops and starts a lot.

*Clothes tend to come out just as clean as what I'm used to, so I don't see a big difference there. This washer actually seems to be a bit harsher on my clothes.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Open Library

One of the very first things I found to love about living in Germany was the "Offene Bibliothek" that is literally 200 feet from our apartment. Now, you're probably wondering what on earth I'm talking about, so I shall explain. Right outside our patio is the cross section of the road we live on and another road (a platz), complete with a circular drive with a grassy middle area that is raised. If you walk outside and take a right onto the road that is perpendicular to ours, you will immediately stumble upon this:

Upon first glance, it looks like nothing more than a crazy graffiti-laden cabinet on the side of the road and walkway. BUT WAIT! Upon closer inspection (and opening the cabinet doors), you would see:

Wah-la! Books galore! Books of every genre. It is an open library (Offene Bibliothek) for people to enjoy at their leisure! The premise is simple: You take the books you'd like to read and return them when you're finished. You can also add to the collection by donating books. It's pretty amazing! I remember my first thought and spoken response after seeing this the day I arrived. It was something like, "Woah, don't people steal the books or destroy the cabinet or do mean things and vandalize this?" That's not very elegantly stated, I know. I was really thinking that something like this, with no lock and operating solely on the honor system, wouldn't last long in most cities in the U.S. *Sheepish face*
And I'm certain that sort of thing does happen to some of the Offene Bilbiotheks here, but this one remains in good shape. The cabinet doors don't even latch all of the way. People do post pictures and ads and add graffiti to the outside of the cabinet, but the inside has never been damaged.

I do so wish the books weren't all in Deutsch. Once in a while I find one in English and I do a happy dance and yell WOOPEE! and take it home to devour. Or something like that...;)
I love this open library system!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Food Stuffs Part Zwei

As promised, here is a glimpse into more food items, along with my thoughts on them. :) WHAT? Tell me you're not surprised I'm posting a lot about food. If so, tsk tsk. You know me better.

 The Radler

Let's talk about the "Radler" here. Radler is a half beer, half citrus soda adult beverage. The first time I was offered it, I actually had no interest in trying it. I really like my beer. I like beer to taste...beerish. Not sissified and mixed and such. But I was pleasantly surprised to find I really enjoy Radler! This is just one brand that makes it. Braustüb'l is one of my favorite beer brands here. This stuff is more refreshing and a lot less heavy than a normal beer, and has a very low alcohol content; around 2.7%.


Mmmmm Schokokeks. "Chocolate biscuits". These delicious little sins treats are pretty darn addicting. I don't buy them often as such. The biscuit texture and flavor kind of reminds me of animal crackers; just in non-mammal form. ;) The "Zartbitter" (delicately bitter) chocolate on top is just a perfect thin layer that lends to the double whammy of sweet and bitter yumminess overload. They. Are. So. Good.

Chili Tortilla Chips

This is actually my go-to salty snack. One of my all time favorite snacks has always been tortilla chips with salsa or dip. My mouth is now watering thinking of the crazy delicious (and FREE) chips and salsa you can get at Mexican restaurants in the U.S. Not so here for the most part. :( Sadness. Anyway, these tortilla chips are all natural and only contain a few ingredients. They are crispy and a little salty and full of spiced flavor. I really like them! I usually eat a handful plain OR dip them into plain Greek yogurt. Yep. Try it. These suckers are only 99 cents a bag at "Tegut" grocery store, which is a more upscale grocery store in the area that offers a really large selection of Bio (organic) products.

Studenten Futter

Before I talk about this, let me tell you what "Studenten Futter" would translate into if the "en" were left off the first word. "Student Futter" would be: student feed! I accidentally left off the en when I first looked it up to see what it meant and cracked up thinking that's really what it meant! You know, like college students needing a quick and easy yet healthy snack...nuts and such! Student feed! Alas, my humor quickly dissipated when I added the forgotten en and discovered it really means "Nuts and Raisins". WAYYYYYY lamer.

I really like these bags of student feed nuts and raisins because they are a really tasty and healthy snack in between meals or right before I go work out. Except for the raisins, there is no added sugar and all of the nuts are totally raw. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, etc. All in one bag! And the bags are about 1.59 Euros at Aldi. I do confess I have probably gained 2 lbs in the last week from snacking on these and consuming almost an entire bag in one sitting due to not paying attention. And not just once. Healthy fats from nuts, but still fat!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Outdoor Produce Markets (Video)

Here is a quick glimpse of two outdoor produce markets that are about a 12 minute walk from our apartment. The 2nd one you'll see in the video has employees who shout out the prices of the produce as you walk by! :) 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Winner of the Giveaway

Thank you to all who participated in my last blog giveaway for the ceramic German beer stein! We discovered during this giveaway that comments on my blog weren't always showing up after people posted them. :( Sorry about that! I do believe I have remedied that, so comments should now work!

Everyone who shared any of my postings, commented, asked a question, referred a friend, followed the blog, etc received entries!

The winner of the stein (through random entry selection) is: Heather Livingston! Woo hoo! Be prepared to receive your amazing stein very soon!

There will be another giveaway in the very near future for some tasty German chocolates! Mmmm! Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Food Stuffs

If you haven't figured it out by now, I love food. Food is my bestie. Food is my love. Ok, maybe it's not that intense of a relationship, but I love to eat. I try my very best to eat pretty clean and healthy. I do give in and treat myself every once in a while...ok, maybe more than that these days!

I like writing about and sharing information about neat food items I've found in Germany. I may post some things that you don't get very excited about, and you may be thinking,"Wow Sheena, Germany has apples. How exciting." Eye roll. My purpose is to share not only things that are new and different here, but also things that are similar and familiar. Or price comparisons, the process of finding these items, etc.

When we first moved here, I felt like I was missing a lot of the things I ate frequently and found easily back home. After more time here and more information and exploration, I've found the majority of those things at this point! EXCEPTION: Mexican food is not the same here. It's just not. Salsas, wraps, etc from the store are different. Not good. Mexican restaurants are few and far between and don't measure up. (I have recently learned that there is a "Chipotle" in Frankfurt. Plans ARE being formulated to make a visit!)

Let's explore some food stuffs. (Yes, I know it's "stuff", I just like saying food stuffs. It's more fun.)

 There are SO many different spreads for bread here. The cold aisles have a HUGE amount of space devoted to these spreads. Most are dairy based and come in many flavor varieties. As I don't eat much dairy and don't care for those types of spreads, I typically bypass that aisle. But sometimes walk down it just to stare at all the varieties! I mean, you could try a different flavor/brand/type of cream/spread every week and still not be running out of options after a year. I actually tried this "Kräuter-Tomate" Bio Veggie Streichcreme at a friend's place and it was delicious! It doesn't have dairy in it and doesn't have to be refrigerated. I found it at Aldi and sometimes enjoy a slice of gluten-free bread smothered with a delicate application of Tomate spread. ;)

(Sidebar: Bio means all-natural/organic here.)

 Here is the gluten-free bread I like. It's "Meisterbäckers" Mehrkorn (multigrain) bread. It's quite tasty, although expensive for this pitiful sized loaf. 

 I love peanut butter. I'm on a very low sugar eating plan right now due to some chronic inflammation issues, and traditional peanut butter has a good amount of sugar, so naturally I have to avoid it. Sadness. I did find some "Erdnuss Mus" (peanut puree) that is 100% pureed peanuts with no added ingredients. Not even oil! Kinda's not very tasty and is quite runny, but if I'm desperately craving some P.B. it somewhat helps. I don't think you need to be able to read between the lines to conclude that I'm not excited about it in the least, and am still trying to convince myself it's an acceptable substitute for "real" peanut butter.

Let's talk pancakes. Delicious fluffy flour spheres of moist heat goodness. One of my all time FAVORITE foods. Something I actively crave, although I rarely eat them. When I do, I enjoy them plain, or with butter and syrup, or with just powdered sugar, or with honey, or with peanut butter, or with sliced bananas on top..ok I suppose I enjoy them any way.
(I did however learn to make them with more natural and wholesome ingredients. They don't taste quite as yum, but are decent!)
Germany doesn't have pancakes ya'll. Not really! This is their version of pancakes. Pfannkuchen. (Pancake.) Suss oder herzhaft. (Sweet or savory.) And lemme tell ya, these suckers are neither sweet or savory. They are weird. They taste like a bland eggie flour tortilla thing that neither thrills or satisfies the palette. They are refrigerated and you can heat them in the microwave or on a pan on the stove. The only way to somewhat pleasantly force them down is to smother the middle with peanut butter and roll them up.  And pretend they aren't supposed to be anything even remotely related to a revered pancake.

(Note: I am fully aware that pancakes from scratch aren't that hard to make and the ingredients are ALMOST all pretty easy to find here in Germany. Carry on.)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Meister Proper!

I am somewhat easily amused by what I personally think of as funny product names. It doesn't matter how wonderfully the product works, I lose maybe just an ounce of respect for it if it has a silly name!

I also like finding products from the same company that have different names in other countries. 

Take for instance, our "Mr. Clean". Here in Deutschland, he goes by another name: "Meister Proper". When I saw this at the Rewe Center, I laughed. Not because I think "Mr. Clean" is better, but because I kept picturing the mascot with a butler uniform on to better portray the image of "Meister Proper", which roughly translates into champion proper.

Can't you just see him losing the earring and white muscle tee and donning a black butlers suit with a proper hat?

Or take the Pillsbury frozen biscuit and croissant products, which are "Knack Back" here.

The dough boy is still cute!

I actually haven't tried either of these products to tell you if they are the same or perhaps have a different chemical makeup (Meister Proper) or different ingredients (Knack Back), although the foods here, even from the same company, tend to be less preservative and chemical-filled, which I love.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Giveaway time!

Ok my lovelies, it's time for another giveaway! This one is pretty exciting and I'm hoping the winner will be quite stoked to receive a stereotypical and genuine German piece! Read on for more important info.

You can earn 1 entry for each action (and can do some of these multiple times for more entries, such as commenting, questions, etc) listed below:
*Following my blog (let me know if you do)
*Commenting on posts 
*Sharing my blog on your Facebook or other social media page
*Referring new readers to my blog
*Requesting things you'd like to see more of or that you'd like to read about on this blog
*Joining my Google+ circle

~~Please comment on this blog post or on FB and let me know each action you take!~~

This giveaway will end on Saturday, February 21st.

A winner will be randomly selected on Sunday, February 22nd and will receive a traditional ceramic German beer stein! If you don't drink beer, rest assured they also work for other beverages. Haha! They are also quite fun and handy to have as a pencil/pen cup. ;)

This isn't the exact stein, but an example.

You will get 1 entry for each completed action as listed above. If you comment 15 times, you will get 15 entries. Winner will be announced via FB and also on this blog.

Let me know if you have any questions! :) Good luck!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Cool stuff

I really enjoy finding and trying things when I travel or move somewhere that I could not find around my previous home area. So of course, living on another continent and in another country, there are many things here in Germany we don't have in the U.S. and vice versa.

I thought I'd blog about a couple of things every now and then that I have discovered during my time here.

*Packets of "Waffeln"- these crunchy little mini-waffles are available at most grocery stores and even at the drug stores here! You set one on top of your cup of coffee or tea and the steam from your mug heats it up, making the syrup or honey inside warm and sticky and the waffle a bit more soft. They are delicious! 

Mezzo Mix- a Coco-Cola product, Mezzo Mix is a combination of cola and orange soda. It is quite popular here. I personally am not a big soda drinker, and wasn't a fan.

Note: Soda is very expensive to buy at a restaurant, bakery or other specialty type store here. It's much cheaper to purchase at a grocery store in the beverage section. Expect to pay around 2.40-3.00 Euros ($2.74-$3.99) for a SMALL glass of cola at a restaurant and there are no free refills. To purchase a plastic bottle of soda, around 0.5 liters, is usually around 1.50-2.00 Euros ($1.71-$2.40) plus the Pfand which is anywhere from 0.25-0.50 cents. The Pfand is returned to you once you have returned your bottle for recycling

Pfand basically means "bottle deposits". You should expect to pay a Pfand for all plastic, aluminum or glass beverage containers in Germany.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Drying Wars

How great does it feel to pull hot clean clothes out of your dryer and smother yourself with a few as you fold the rest into piles? Or to wrap yourself in a hot blanket or warm towel from the dryer on a chilly day?

I never thought there would be a day that I'd pine and yearn and grieve for my dryer back home. That day has come. Moving to Germany, I was unaware that having a clothes dryer is pretty uncommon, especially in apartments. Heck, even in a lot of homes. Allow me to introduce the ever popular drying rack!

The drying rack- expanded in front of the radiator, excitedly waiting for clothing. Ha!

If you're lucky and it's warm and breezy or sunny out, you stick your drying rack out on the patio. You better secure those neon pink leopard print panties tightly else the breeze will blow them right off the rack and down into the bushes below your patio...not that I have firsthand experience with this situation. ;)

In the summer, clothes would be mostly dry in a day if they were outside on the rack and the sun was hitting them. Of course, towels, sheets, jeans and other thick items take the longest.  I have discovered there is an art to drying those items as fast as possible. It's kinda like flipping a steak to make sure both sides are equally cooked and seared.

Winter time is another story. Your clothes obviously cannot hang wet outside, as they'd freeze and get crispy and stay wet. I mean, unless you like that sort of thing. Drying racks go in front of the heat units, which for most places are radiators in each room. The clothes take about a day or a day and half to dry with the heat running.

 Drying rack loaded up with clean wet clothes!

A rare sunny day! Helps the clothes dry much faster with the sun coming through the windows and the heat from the radiator right next to them.

Let's be honest. If you're used to having a dryer, this concept is a bit hard to get used to. I agree that it can be more environmentally friendly for sure, less energy consumption, no dryer sheets, etc. 

Line/rack drying is more work. It's not hard work, it just obviously takes more time and effort than shoving your wet clothes into a dryer and turning it on. You have to arrange the clothes the best way on the rack to ensure the things that take longest to dry are closest to the sun/heat source, balance the weight of the clothes on the sides, and flip some items over after half a day. It's a bit inconvenient for our situation, as there are three of us living in a small 1 bedroom apartment and the drying rack takes up our entire patio in the summer and about 25% of our living room in the winter.

Don't get me wrong, you CAN buy dryers in Germany. I have met only a few people who have one though. Those that own a dryer also use their drying rack a lot of the time as well.

You'd have to A. Have the space for one, and B. Be able to afford a pretty nice one to make it worthwhile, otherwise line drying/rack drying is much more efficient.

Differences in Dryers in Germany and most of Europe:
*They don't have an exhaust that goes outside; they have a water catcher instead. That's right, you empty out the water catcher as it pulls the moisture from the clothes.
*Condenser dryers are less efficient than vented exhaust dryers. Clothes take longer to dry.
*They are pricey.
*Most residences don't have the space for  dryer. Washers tend to be in the kitchen in apartments and small homes here. 
*Some have 2 lint catchers. I'm not sure why, but our washer here is hard on my clothes in terms of pilling, so maybe they know there are more pills and lint to catch. Who knows!?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Where's the passion?

One thing I really enjoy about a new place is trying new things. (Ok, I just like trying new things, whether I'm in a new place or a familiar place!)

I love trying new food! I would describe myself as adventurous with new culinary delights. It takes a lot for me to actively dislike a certain food or flavor. There are only a few I can come up with off the top of my head: cottage cheese, "Hamburger Helper"...ok I'm stumped now. I'm sure there are more things I don't like, but you get the picture. The list is small.

Since living in Germany, I have been purchasing a good percentage of our produce from produce markets and outdoor vendors. The selection is usually so much better than in the grocery store, the produce looks so much better and I feel good about supporting local and family businesses. I have been trying to sample a new fruit or veggie every so often.

My first "new fruit" was the persimmon.

Now, you can get persimmons in the States, but they aren't always easy to find. Asian speciality stores or a "Whole Foods" type of store would be most likely to carry them. They are in season in the fall: October-December. In Germany, they are called "kaki" or "sharon". The persimmon is a firm, apple-sized fruit that typically is a light orange to a dark orange color. When eaten raw, you just wash them and cut them into slices, consuming both the skin and flesh. They have a mild, sweet flavor that I love! The inside fruit flesh is firm but soft to chew. There are no seeds to worry about.

Verdict: I love persimmons! They are a bit pricey, usually 1 euro each or sometimes 2 for 1.50 euros.

About two weeks ago, I was purchasing my produce at one of the outdoor markets and the lady asked if I wanted 10 maracujas for 1 euro. I had no idea what these were! I asked her to show me. They were dark purple plum-sized fruits. They usually are marked at 4 for 1 euro, but were getting overly ripe, so they were trying to sell them quickly. She told me they were a sweet fruit and very tasty, so I took 10. Once I got home, I washed them and googled "how to eat a maracuja". I discovered while on Google that these were actually passion fruits, as a maracuja is green. You slice them in half and scoop out the seeds and "jelly" in the middle. That's it. You don't get much out of each fruit.

This picture was taken after washing and slicing them in half. I had not tasted them at this point.

Verdict: Yuck! I do not like passion fruit. This was surprising, as I really like fruit and haven't come across a fruit I actively dislike until now. The jelly and seeds had a strange tart flavor that I didn't care for. I have wondered if the flavor was a little off due to the over-ripeness, so I would try one again that wasn't at the cusp of spoiling. :) Haha!

I would actually like to find and try a real maracuja now, as they are supposed to be more mild and sweet than a passion fruit.

I guess I'm just not very passionate about passion fruit.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Let's talk about what the Germans refer to as "sauna".

Going to a sauna is pretty common in Germany. I've met several people who make plans to be at "sauna" for 3-4 hours once a week. They take this sauna business seriously!

My intro to the sauna in Germany:
I was invited by a lady from church (after visiting the church one time) who is in her mid 50's to go to sauna with her on a Friday evening. I thought to myself, "I'm not really keen on sitting in an extremely humid room and sweating for an hour or so, but I want to get to know some people and get out of the house, so I should go with her and try it." I told her I'd go. I at first didn't understand why she was so excited and told me I was the first "westerner" that had agreed to go to sauna with her. I laughed and told her I had used the sauna at my university in the states a few times, and didn't love it, but it wasn't foreign to me either.

Fast forward to a few nights later. I was invited by the same lady to dinner with two of her friends. After meeting them, one friend of hers was astonished that I had agreed to go to the sauna. She giggled and said she'd never met someone from the U.S. who would jump right in to "European sauna" experience. At this point I'd figured out that I must have missed something, so I asked why. She then explained that going to a sauna in most of Germany is usually something most people from the U.S. don't feel comfortable with, as you must be totally naked (you sit on a small towel) and they are MIXED saunas. And by mixed I am certainly meaning that men and women sit in the same sauna.

After learning this, I turned to the lady who had invited me, verified this information with her and took in her response of "Yes, it's no big deal here. I thought you knew. Everyone keeps their eyes up and it's very normal." I then turned down the sauna trip offer. I explained that when I sat in the sauna in the states, it was after swimming and while still wearing a swim suit with several friends. And it was in the women's locker room, so it was only ladies in there.

Now, if you know me, you know I actually have been going to the sauna for the past two months or so and have been loving it! The sauna I go to is in my gym here, which is a women's only gym. So no men around! :)

Here's a typical sauna schedule, as I have both read about and been instructed in by employees of the gym:

*You take a warm-hot shower first complete with a scrub or soaping of your body. You want your pores and skin to be free of anything that is a barrier, such as perfume, makeup, lotion, dirt from the day, etc.

*After showering, you sit in the sauna of your choice for no longer than 30 minutes. There are three separate saunas at my gym, one is the infrared sauna and is the least humid and hot, and the other two are hotter and more humid.

The saunas at my gym look very similar to this one, including the wooden "pillows" women can move around to lay down on. (P.S. Lesson I just learned the hard way: don't google "sauna" unless you want to see nudity. Then again, this was on Yikes!)

*You go into the sauna naked as the day you were born. You do not wear a bathing suit or wrap yourself in a towel. You sit on a towel when in the sauna to absorb your sweat.

*After your time in the sauna is complete, you take a cool-cold shower to wash the sweat off and "shock" your body. Most women don't soap off, but just rinse off. They believe (and I've read articles that both support and contradict this, so I'm not sure) that the warm shower followed by the hot and humid sauna (where toxins and things are sweat out and purged from your body) and finished with a cold or cool shower will strengthen your immune system.  The lady who invited me said since she started going to the sauna about a year ago, she has yet to be sick, and usually is sick several times a year because she works with children.

*There is a shower right next to the sauna with a huge wooden bucket hanging in the middle where you can stand and be drenched with icy cold water! I have not and do not intend to ever do this! Hahaha!

*There is a place at my gym where the women go outside to a small courtyard to sit in the cold and fresh air after showering off. Most saunas also have a lounging area, where you sit and relax (they strongly recommend this!) for 20 minutes or so after your cold shower. At my gym, there are about 10 brown wicker lounge chairs with blankets, lamps above each one you can click on to read, several small brown wicker tables with chairs, and two green couches. On the tables are pitchers of water so that you can refill your water bottle and hydrate. All very peaceful, serene and cozy. Plus the OUTSIDE AREA that naked women go to. Haha! It's totally secluded, as the gym is on the third floor of the building and the outside courtyard is surrounded by other parts of the building without windows. But still....

*Drink lots of water afterward. You lose a lot of water and hydration when you are sweating in the sauna, which needs to be replenished very soon after.

Here's my personal sauna routine:
*Work out
*Take a warm shower
*Sit in the infrared sauna (I still can't handle the other ones; they make me feel as though I cannot breathe) for about 20 minutes. The infrared sauna is more of a dry heat, which I don't mind as much.
*Take a lukewarm shower
*Sit down and towel off, apply lotion, drink some water, and chill for a few
*Get dressed and go home

I do not meander outside naked. Nor do I sit around naked. Haha! The second I come out of the sauna and shower off, my towel stays wrapped around me until I get dressed. That's just my personal preference. Yes, most of the women stay naked the duration of their time in the locker room, shower area and sauna area, which are all connected in the back. And they are very cool and normal acting. No one is ogling anyone else or being judgmental. In all honesty, it's a very relaxed "all naked" setting, if you can believe that. And more than that, it's totally normal here.

Why I like the sauna:
*I first started sitting in the sauna after my chiropractor here recommended it for my chronic neck/shoulder/back problems. The heat would be good for loosening up my tight muscles and also in the long run should help with my chronic inflammation.
*After trying the infrared one I found myself extremely relaxed. I look forward to sauna time now!
*It does feel therapeutic to sweat and feel as though you are sweating toxins and other bad stuff out.

There you have it! My personal sauna experiences here in Germany. Feel free to share any sauna experiences you have had or ask questions about it!

Here are some links if you want to read up about the benefits of using a sauna!