Friday Favs {Foods I Miss Edition}

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Happy Friday, my friends. I am so looking forward to this weekend because it is going to be filled with lots of relaxing thanks to rain and lots of delicious food. Speaking of food, I thought it would be fun to do something a little different with Friday Favs today and share my favorite foods that I miss from America now that I live in Germany.

Chips and guacamole. Mexican food is a favorite in our house. In fact, we had tacos yesterday. Mexican restaurants just aren’t equal and are not as good. The last time we were in the States, we had Mexican food (including Chipotle and Qdoba) about four times.

A nice, juicy cheeseburger. We have yet to find a burger here as good as some of our favorite spots back home. Hell, I’d even take a TGI Friday’s burger at this point. The best burger I’ve had here is from Burger King, if that tells you anything.

Cheez-It’s. But also, Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies. This was our road trip essential snack and I would bring a small ziplock baggie full of the cheesy goodness to work as a way to get me through the afternoon.

Luna granola bars. I used to eat these all the time, especially the peanut butter ones. They are the best for an on-the-go breakfast when I’m running late or for an after gym snack before running to Target. I have yet to find a granola bar here that even comes close to Luna or even Quaker granola bars! They all have 20 grams of sugar or don’t taste good or make me hungry twenty minutes later.

Peanut butter pretzels. Specifically the huge jar from Costco. It’s probably good that I don’t have access to these because I could eat triple the serving size in one sitting. Germans don’t love peanut butter like Americans and we have smuggled JIF in our suitcases to satisfy cravings, but there is something about these filled pretzels that make my mouth water.

Fritos and French Onion dip. This has been an appetizer staple for years in my house. In college, I had to tell my mom not to buy it anymore because I would spend the hour before Thanksgiving just chowing down on Fritos and French Onion dip, completely spoiling my appetite. But now that I can’t have it, it’s all I can think about!

Chicken sausage. Sausage is definitely aplenty here in Germany and, boy, is it delicious. I would make chicken sausage once a week before mixed with rice and broccoli for a healthy weeknight dinner, and I am really sad I can’t find them anywhere.

Mini muffins. Any brunch would always include the assorted mini muffins from Costco. (Man, I really miss Costco, I guess)! Lemon poppyseed is my favorite.

Doughnuts. Or at least good ones. We’ve found a doughnut shop downtown but it does not even compare with Krispy Creme. There is a Dunkin’ Donuts in the train station, but I want those specialty doughnuts and they really do taste different!

Chik-fil-A. Enough said.

BLT sandwich. Of course, I could make this at home, but something about a restaurant BLT on toasted white bread sounds so scrumptious, especially with extra mayo. And if you add avocado, I will be all over that.

Apparently, I miss a lot of unhealthy foods, but whenever I’m craving something, I usually am craving something unhealthy. Healthy food is very easy to find here and a lot of it is much less expensive. Experiencing the food here in Germany is just one of the things I love about living abroad, but I certainly miss a lot about home! And you bet, next time we go to the States, I will be devouring most of the things on this list.

What are some of your favorite foods? 

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Esslingen Wine Walk

Yesterday, Vinn and I went on quite an adventure with friends. We went to the Esslingen Wine Walk, or the Weinwandertag. It was the perfect recipe for a great day, wine, friends and gorgeous weather.

The Esslingen Wine Walk is a one-day event where the local vineyards of Esslingen (we went to the Esslingen Christmas market with my parents, in case you don’t remember) set up stands where they sell wine and food and then participants walk through the vineyards from stand to stand trying wine after wine. It started in 1983 and has about 6,000 attendees each year, which is insane to think about because the vineyards aren’t huge.

We met some friends around 1 PM on Sunday after a rough train experience, thanks to the Stuttgart soccer game, and were ready to start drinking immediately.

 

vineyard_stuttgart

 

The wine stands were full of people so our group decided to buy bottles instead of glasses to save time, which proved to be smart because it was actually cheaper in the long run. We each had a small wine glass attached to a lanyard type thing for easy walking through the vineyards. Although, it also made it super easy to spill. Oops! We all spilled at least once I think.

 

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We first picked up a bottle of white wine and once we finished that, we headed towards our next stand. We hung out there for a little bit snapping pictures and sipping on rose before taking a snack break at the next stand.

 

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I had read online beforehand that stands run out of food and that it would be wise to bring food with you. So, I did just that. I packed a caprese salad, strawberries, prosciutto and some cheese, which we all shared at a picnic table. It was so nice to take a break from walking, the hills were quite steep, and eat.

 

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We made it to one more stand before we decided to head back to eat something more satisfying and realized the quickest way down was to walk through the vineyards. It was a little steep, but super fun to see the vines up close.

 

stuttgart_wine

 

vineyard_stuttgart

 

We said goodbye to everyone and then headed home on the train ready to snuggle with Copley on the couch. Vinn and I both fell asleep on the couch while watching Big Bang Theory because we were so tired from being in the sun all day.

All in all, it was a fantastic Sunday and I hope to do the Esslingen Wine Walk again. What did you do this weekend? 

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Life Abroad Q&A

Life in Germany is pretty darn awesome and whenever we go back to the States and we meet up with friends and family, we get asked similar types of questions. A lot of these questions are really good questions but I can’t think of a really good answer. Now that I have some time to think about my answers, I thought I’d put together a list of the questions we get asked most often with responses after I’ve had time to really think about it! If you have more questions, please leave a comment below.

 

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What do you miss most about America?

Taking out the obvious answer of family and friends, I miss Target the most. I know that sounds odd, but I really do miss Target. It’s the only place in the world where you can get a cute lamp, picture frame, bathing suits, food, wine, vitamins, make up, cards, anything I could ever want. My wallet is much happier, but there’s just nothing like Target. And I go every time we go back!

Starbucks drive-thrus. Or any drive-thru really.

Whole Foods, especially the hot bar and sushi. I would go to Whole Foods at least once a week for a quick dinner after working out or on a Saturday to grab a roll of sushi for lunch because Vinn doesn’t like it. I guess, I really just miss the food convenience. There are so many options for quick, healthy food in the States that just don’t exist here.

And on that note, I should also add Panera…and Chipotle because Vinn loves it so much!

Nordstrom. And their shoe department. I guess, shopping in general.

Carr’s crackers. A really strange thing to miss, but I have yet to find a delicious cracker for a cheese plate!

Brunch. More specifically, a boozy brunch with bottomless mimosas, Eggs Benedict and crispy bacon.  Brunch isn’t a popular concept here.

What do you wish America would implement from life in Germany?

The metric system. Seriously, why is America the only country that doesn’t use the metric system? I still have to think about what temperature it is when I hear it on the radio and couldn’t tell the doctor how much I weigh or how tall I am.

The work/life balance. Or maybe I should say the acceptance of vacations. Whenever someone is on vacation in Germany, no one even thinks to call him or her. People respect that holidays are necessary and should be relaxing. There is also a law where employees are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day. If a person did work over 10 hours and got into a car accident on his way home, the company would be liable. The thinking is that you are no longer at your highest mental capacity if you work longer than 10 hours. I wonder if something like this could ever be implemented in the States?

The fact that small children walk to school by themselves. This is not the case in larger cities, but in our little town, kids walk themselves to school every morning. It’s incredible to see. These kids are probably in first grade and are trusted to make it to school on time! That’s really cool.

The value of learning another language. Children learn English very early in school and then are required to take another language once they hit middle or high school. Most people here speak at least three languages. That concept is lost in the States. You might take Spanish in high school, but that’s it. Vinn is lucky that he stuck with Spanish throughout high school and college, and then lived in Mexico for six months, so his Spanish is really good. We hope to teach our children Spanish when they are little and then they take German as their foreign language in school. It is such a gift. I guess that means I have to learn Spanish?

Are Germans nice? 

Short answer: yes. Long answer: for the most part, everyone we’ve come into contact with is super helpful, willing to answer questions and overall nice people. It is, however, difficult to make German friends. It takes a long time, stereo-typically, to cross over from acquaintance to friend in the German culture. But, overall, I have been very surprised with how nice everyone has been.

What’s been the hardest adjustment you’ve had to make? 

The language, hands down. It has definitely gotten easier over the past year and for the most part people speak English, but not being able to read something we get in the mail right away or not 100% understanding someone at work, on a walk or in a restaurant has been the biggest adjustment.

Getting adjusted to the fact that nothing is open on Sunday also took some getting used to. At the beginning, I would forget about it and then realize on Sunday that we didn’t have anything to eat for breakfast and be SOL. Restaurants are open so we don’t go hungry, but it took some adjustment to make sure to run to the grocery store on Saturday just in case.

What do you do all day if you’re not working? 

I go to the gym, write on this blog, take Copley for walks, meet friends for lunch, research vacations, watch Housewives, you know, I’m surprisingly busy. I really don’t know if I could go back to working full-time because I am enjoying working part-time and traveling and hoping to write a book. Life is good. If you’re interested in a more detailed post, here’s a day in the life post.

What’s the best place you’ve visited?

Oh man. Seriously, how can I answer this question? We’ve been to so many amazing places and I’m not sure I can pick one. But what jumps into my mind right away is  London. Although, Venice was pretty great.

Where are you going next? 

Milan, Italy! I can’t wait. If you’ve ever been, I’d love some recommendations.

Are you going to have a baby over there? 

Not sure. There are definite pros and cons to having a baby here but we just aren’t sure if now’s the right time. There’s also too much wine to drink.

When are you coming back? 

Again, not sure. Vinn’s contract is for three years, starting February 2016 until January 2019, but he has an option to extend the contract. We’ll see. It all depends on job opportunities back in the States and where we are on the family front like mentioned above.

Have a question about life abroad? Ask away in the comments! Or have you ever lived somewhere totally different from where you grew up? What was that like?

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How Germans Celebrate Easter

With Easter coming up this weekend, I thought I’d share some insights into the Easter traditions here in Germany. One of my favorite things about living abroad is that I get to see how other people live, especially how other cultures celebrate holidays.

 

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I just had to include the cutest picture of Copley. Doesn’t she just look so happy?!

Growing up, Easter was not the biggest holiday, that award goes to Christmas easily. But we would get together with my aunt, uncle and cousins and my Mima to celebrate with a big meal and lots of wine. We don’t have the same meal every year, but it’s usually something like a ham with lots of sides, a beef tenderloin or spaghetti and meatballs. We’d have Easter egg hunts when I was little, but after age 10 we pretty much stopped those. My mom always gave us an Easter basket, like seriously up until like 24, and she would even hide them throughout the house and we’d have to find them with a scavenger hunt. She’s seriously talented with coming up with rhymes for the scavenger hunt. This is my biggest memory of Easter for sure. I love little traditions like that.

A lot of Easter celebrations are similar here in German, too. It is a pretty large holiday nationwide. Schools are closed, banks are closed and no one has to go to work on Good Friday or the Monday after Easter, or Easter Monday. The Saturday before Easter is a huge day! People head to the grocery store like the Apocalypse is coming, Easter markets are everywhere and bakeries are flooded with people hoping to score an Easter “lamb,” which is a cake in the shape of a lamb.

For decorations, Germans love “Osternbaum” or an Easter tree where they hang eggs on tree leaves like the picture below or around a well like the picture above. I love this tradition because the eggs are so beautiful and full of bright colors. These trees are everywhere and they just make me so happy.

 

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On Easter Sunday, most Germans go to a church service and then have a large, celebratory lunch with family. The typical German Easter dish is Maultaschen, which is a German ravioli or tortellini with large noodles filled with meat, usually, and with spinach. Legend has it that German monks came up with Maultaschen as a way to hide meat from God during Lent. Sneaky Germans.

 

(Source)

For children, Easter egg hunts are very popular and Easter baskets from the Easter bunny are given on Sunday morning. The baskets are usually filled with little chocolates and most likely a Kinder überraschung or a child, chocolate surprise. Kinder is a brand of chocolate that fills a chocolate egg with a toy. They are illegal in the United States because of the potential chocking hazards from the toy inside, so naturally we had to buy some. I’ll share picture of our surprise on my Instagram once we eat them!

Overall, German Eastern and American Easter are pretty similar. We are all Christians celebrating the day Jesus rose from the dead. I am really looking forward to celebrating Easter this year here in Germany and am looking forward to seeing what the day will bring!

How are you celebrating Easter?

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The Moment I Realized I’m Out of Touch

Happy Monday to all of you. It seems lately that I’ve been thinking a lot about how lucky I am to live in Germany, to experience so many great things and wanting to talk about my experience. I don’t know, maybe it’s too much caffeine from my daily cappuccinos, but I’m just going to roll with it.

I am lucky that we live in the world of technology because I can text, email, FaceTime and Facebook with anyone from anywhere. It makes staying in touch much easier, for sure. I text with my mom, sister and best friend pretty much every day, which admittedly isn’t different from life in Michigan, but it brings such normalcy to my life here in Germany and makes me feel like I am still connected to American life. That being said, there is no way I could stay on top of everything in the States. I had a subscription to Us Weekly and stayed on top of all the celebrity gossip like it was my job. In the London airport, I picked up a copy of the magazine only to find out that I didn’t know half the people in the magazine or the TV shows they are in. Uh oh.

But there was one moment when it really hit me. It hit me that I am out of touch with the day to day life and the happenings of the States.

I was texting with my best friend about Lord knows what. We usually text on a variety of topics: what we ate for lunch, how hard a workout was, what crazy thing we read on Facebook, or just a random thought. Here was our conversation:

Me: I am living for Suits lately. Have you seen it?

BFF: No. Is MM a good actress?

Me: Who?

BFF: Megan Markle, she’s dating Prince Harry

Me: What?! I didn’t know that.

(Source)

In this moment, I knew I was out of touch. Without E News I don’t really know what’s going on in the celebrity world outside of the anything Real Housewives related…I actively seek out that kind of information. This moment made me feel sad, but also happy. I have officially crossed over to the world of German life. Now, I don’t know who German celebrities are or anything, but I no longer feel the pull to stay on top of everything happening in the States. It is a strange, welcome feeling that I am embracing it.

I realize this is a really random thing a) to discuss with your friend and b) to have a strong feeling toward something so small, but this was the moment when I realized I am out of touch. Oh the life of an expat and twenty-something!

Have you ever felt out of touch?

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