Gifts for the Expat, Living Abroad Gift Guide

 

I spent a great deal of my Cyber Monday online shopping, mostly at places like Old Navy and Nordstrom for gifts for myself and Vinn. Clothes are more expensive in Germany compared to the US, so we are getting a wardrobe update this year.

As I was shopping, I realized that I thought it would be a good idea to share some things that would make perfect gifts for an expat. Many of my expat friends go back to the States for the holidays and if you have a friend or family member who lives outside the US, here are some things that they would really love because it’s something they miss or will make their lives much easier abroad.

*This post contains affiliate links.*

Gift Guide for the Expat in Your Life, Everything Your Friend Will Love While Living Abroad

Candy / This may seem strange but American candy is so hard to find abroad. Of course I have grown to love most German candy and chocolates but there’s something so delicious about a Reese’s cup that reminds me of home. A cute little gift bag filled with the person’s favorite candies and treats would make a fantastic gift or care package.

Grocery bags / In Germany especially reusable grocery bags are necessary. If you forget a bag, you have to pay for a plastic one, which is a bummer for the environment and for your wallet. We have accumulated quite a few big bags from the grocery stores here but I wish I had a bag that could fold into itself and could carry in my bag. I found this bag on Amazon that would be absolutely perfect to make an expat’s grocery shopping experience easier.

Nespresso pods / I am obsessed with our Nespresso machine and love that I can make lattes and cappuccinos at home. Nespresso is king in Europe (there isn’t Keurig over here) so some Nespresso pods would make a great gift. I love gifts that I can use daily, which is why these are amazing.

Personal Care Package / Like the candy, certain things are difficult to find abroad when it comes to makeup and other personal care items, like deodorant. A cute idea could be to put a little package together with some mascara, face wash, deodorant, vitamins, hydrocortisone and Advil. It’s certainly a practical gift but I always stock up on all of these items when I visit the States because they are hard to find in Germany or just really expensive. I mean, it’s easy to find mascara, but the specific one I like I have yet to find anywhere! And the deodorant is a big one because Europeans love the roll-on kind and not a stick. Isn’t it funny what things you miss?

iTunes gift cards / And the big one is an iTunes gift card. I couldn’t have gotten through this move without iTunes and all the Real Housewives seasons I’ve bought thanks to iTunes…and my dad/Apple Music. And when you move, you’ll love being able to watch or rent movies on iTunes, as well as tv shows. It’s been a saving grace.

Food scale / I never thought I would want to have a food scale, but now that I look up a lot of recipes in German, it really helps with learning the language, I wish I had something easy to figure out how many grams of an ingredient I need. The would be so helpful and save me from constantly having to look up the conversions!

If you are an expat, what would be on your list? And if you’ve ever been abroad, what do you wish you had brought back with you?

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Grateful

 

Since last week was Thanksgiving and we had our Friendsgiving on Saturday, I thought I would write something about what I’m thankful for this year. It has become a tradition at Friendsgiving to go around the table and say what you’re thankful for, which is just so nice. It’s especially nice because most people there are American expats and going through the same ups and downs, trials and tribulations and homesickness we are. It’s a nice community that can really only appreciate our circumstances.

This year I feel extra sentimental. I’m not sure if that’s because we are halfway through our time living abroad, because a lot of our friends are starting their families and it gets me really thinking about that phase of life or that I have a big birthday on the horizon. *I turn 30 in June and I feel like that’s when I officially become an adult for some unknown reason.* But for some reason, I am feeling extra thankful this year. Here are my deep and not so deep things I’m grateful for in 2017.

I feel extremely grateful for my husband. I know this is obvious but 2017 has had some insane highs and some tough lows and it has brought us closer together. I’m thankful for how hard he works and that he is passionate about his job. I love that no matter how hard of day he’s had, he always asks me what he can do to help me, especially after he’s had his first glass of whiskey. I am thankful for the life we’ve built together and that the best is yet to come.

Family Alps

I’m grateful for girl’s lunches, reality tv, a good Friends joke and YouTube videos of people falling. I’m grateful for travel and the ability to see all that Europe has to offer.

 

I’m thankful and grateful for my Mima and the times we had together. I found myself thinking of her over Friendsgiving because she would have loved how we all went around the table saying such nice words and she’d make us have her turn be last so she wouldn’t really have to say anything when it came time for her to say what she’s grateful for. She would just say all of us and that everyone had such good answers. She would have loved that I made tiramisu and that the wine was flowing quite freely. I’m grateful for the memories we built together over 29 years and that her memory and spirit will live on. I hope to live up to her expectations of me. (She would hate that I ended some of these sentences with prepositions, sorry Mims…and Mom)!

Speaking of my mom, I am thankful for her, my dad and sister. They have been a huge support system my entire life but have stepped up the game the past year and a half since our move. I can call my mom crying about something and she always talks me off the ledge or at least tells me it’s okay to have that piece of chocolate! I’m thankful that my dad is supportive of me and Vinn and walks him through difficult work situations. He has always given me great, sound advice and it’s nice to see him extending his knowledge to Vinn. My sister, well, I’m thankful that we share a sense of humor and that she and her boyfriend asked us where we still wanted to go when they visited in July and that we had the best time in Croatia! I’m grateful for my extended family as they’ve let us crash with them while we’re back in the States and sent us updates on their lives so we don’t feel completely out of touch.

I am grateful for cappuccinos, pasta, tiramisu, good wine and bubbly champagne.

champagne district

I am thankful that I have made so many wonderful friends here in Germany and that I’ve kept up with my friendships at home. I had no idea what to expect when we moved and thought for sure I wouldn’t have many friends. I am happy that I was wrong about that and that I have built some fantastic relationships & memories that will extend past our time here. I am also thankful that I still talk to friends at home and friends who will visit over here! You all have no idea how much it means to me that you will travel across an ocean to drink in Champagne or just to watch the Real Housewives in a hotel room!

I’m grateful for all the friends I’ve made thanks to this blog. And for all you readers! Thank you for following along this journey!

And last but certainly not least, I am thankful for this face.

grateful for copley

I am so grateful for the best dog in the world. A dog who brings me laughter and joy every single day. A dog who spends 90% of her life sitting on my lap or following me. A dog who loves unconditionally and who helped me survive a cross-continental move in a way no human ever could. I am especially grateful that Copley has learned how to travel and be in restaurants. When we first moved to Germany and had to leave her in the hotel so we could go to work, I could hear her crying down the hallway after we left. And now, she is a champ and doesn’t make a peep. She’s also learned to lay down while we eat out and usually ends up on my lap, like the picture above.

What are you grateful for this year?

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Favorite Christmas Music

 

It is officially Christmas in our house. The tree is up, the lounging polar bear (who we dubbed Marv) is chilling on the tv stand and Christmas music is filling the air. I love holiday music and sometime listen to it even when it’s not even close to November/December.

This past week I’ve been blasting the Christmas music and thought I’d share what some of my favorites. I’d love to hear what your favorites are, especially some pop stars who have holiday albums!

2017 Christmas Tree

Michael Bublé

This is the go-to Christmas album in our house. Michael Bublé’s voice is just so smooth and instantly relaxes me. Whenever he starts singing, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” it means that the holiday season has officially started.

Mariah Carey, obviously

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Obviously, this album has to make the list. Is there anything better than “All I Want for Christmas” by the legend? Nope. I even love listening to this in November, in a bar, as it’s closing!

Jessica & Ashlee Simpson

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There is a song on this album with Jessica and Ashlee Simpson that is so bad, it’s so good! It’s Little Drummer Boy, which is my favorite Christmas song of all time. My sister and I would blast this song in the car and sing the duet together. And this album is from when Jessica Simpson was “normal” and could sing fairly well.

98 Degrees

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I love 98 Degrees. They were my boy band in middle school that I loved more than the others. I love that they are back together on a new Christmas album and it’s pretty good. But nothing beats “This Gift” from their first CD from like 2002. Plus, Nick Lachey has such a great voice.

Pentatonix

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If you love a cappella, you will love this music. It’s so well done, beautiful singing, the perfect music choices and usually brings me to tears. This album brings me so much joy and is what I listened to while putting up the tree.

Straight No Chaser

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And last but not least, another a cappella music group. Straight No Chaser is amazing. They sing some classic songs but also some really fun, silly holiday music. This CD is usually our go-to for the car because it’s really fun and makes the time go quickly.

Man, I’m in the holiday spirit now for sure!

What’s your favorite holiday music? 

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Gifts for the Traveler

 

With the holidays quickly approaching and me finally getting around to making a shopping list & wish list for myself, I thought I would share some great gift ideas. I thought I would share a few different guides based on the receiver and today I’m sharing my gift guide for the traveler.

Since I do a fair amount of traveling (we’ve been on about 10 trips this year), I’ve come to realize the products that help me have a relaxing flight and as stress-free of a vacation as possible.

*Some of these links contain affiliate links, which means that I receive a small percentage of the sale without the price changing for you. Thank you for your support.*

Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life

A nice, digital camera // Even though smartphones have some pretty great cameras now, having a true digital camera means that the memories will last forever. I have this camera and absolutely love it. It’s a little on the big side but takes some really great pictures. There are lots of presets that can be adjusted for brightness, colors and intensity. It is a great camera and for under $200, it’s perfect for the amateur photographer who wants to see the world.

Cute cosmetic bag // I’ve had this cosmetic bag for years and love it! The size forces me to really think about the beauty products I pack, while not taking up too much space in my suitcase. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a Kate Spade gift.

Journal // My aunt gave me a journal right before I studied abroad and I wrote in it daily. I love that I have the memories of that time in my life in one place and it’s really funny to read about what I liked, what I worried about and what I looked forward to as a 20 year old. A journal isn’t something a lot of people will think to get themselves, so this makes a great gift that people will cherish forever.

Silk eye mask // This is something I’ve been eyeing for a while. I’ve seen lots of silk eye masks on different YouTube channels and blogs, all raving about how great they are for keeping out the light while maintaining your eye makeup. I’ve never really used an eye mask before, but for our upcoming 10 hour flight to Atlanta, it will be necessary.

Noise-cancelling headphones // My husband has these headphones and he swears by them. Not only are they great for a flight, they also work at home while your wife watches the housewives.

Passport holder // In college, my aunt again bought me and my best friend matching passport holders. I still use it to this day and love that I can easily spot it in my purse when we’re traveling. This is an updated version of the passport holder I have and would make a great gift for someone looking to travel lots in the new year.

Rain jacket // I bought the black version of this North Face lightweight rain jacket before my family trip to Europe in 2012 and I still love it. It’s super lightweight, so it’s easy to fold up into your suitcase and will keep you dry if it rains. One thing I’ve learned the hard way in all my travels is that you can’t trust a weather forecast. It will say 0% chance of rain but then it will start raining halfway through the day. It’s also great for the mornings when the weather isn’t exactly warm yet.

Travel beauty set // I used to hate travel sets but now I love them! I love having all of my favorite products with me on the go. This Aveda travel set is my favorite because it has shampoo, conditioner and body lotion. You never know what kind of products will be at the hotel, I’ve seen some expensive ones and some $1 bin from Target ones, so being prepared is ideal. Plus, this is a cute gift idea because the work is done for you.

Cross-body purse // I wear mostly cross-body purses when walking around a new city because it is comfortable and is best to have all my valuables in front of my body to avoid pick pockets.  I love the neutral color of this cross-body and the size. It looks large enough for a pair of sunglasses, which is always part of my criteria.

Travel steamer // This steamer is on my wish list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a hotel, opened the closet and not found an iron. Apparently, many hotels feel an iron is a fire hazard and you can pay someone to iron your clothes or “check out” the iron for an hour. It’s a hassle. This steamer has great reviews on Amazon and would make a great gift for the business traveler, too.

Sunglasses // I’m a bit obsessed with sunglasses and have enough pairs to switch them out every day of vacation, but for some reason I always want more. I love getting pairs as gifts and giving them, as well because they are in the category of need but definitely cross over to the want category, especially because prices and styles vary so much. I love these sunglasses because you can’t go wrong with Ray Bans.

Cute sweatshirt // And last but certainly not least, is this cute sweatshirt. I love getting ready in a sweatshirt because I’m usually quite cold in the mornings and then, of course, to lounge. Even if I think I won’t have any lounging time, I always manage to find some, whether that’s getting ready or taking a nap after a long day of walking around the new city. It’s nice to have something else to wear besides pajamas, too. And, it can double as your plane outfit. I love this particular sweatshirt because it’s too expensive to buy on your own but not astronomical as a gift.

What’s your favorite thing to bring with you when you travel? What would you add to this list?

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Why You Should Go to Innsbruck, Austria

 

On our drive back from Florence, we decided to break up the 9 hour drive and stop for two days in Innsbruck, Austria. Neither of us had ever been and Austria is such a beautiful country. I mean, we loved Salzburg & Vienna so much. And, boy, am I glad we went! Innsbruck is absolutely stunning and a gem of a city. And these pictures will be reason enough for you to hop on a plane for yourself.

The main reason you should visit Innsbruck is for the gorgeous mountain views. They are everywhere you turn and literally take your breath away.

Why You Should Go to Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is the capital of Tyrol and is nestled in a valley, so the mountains surround the city. It was quite cold while we were there, which was not great because we didn’t pack the warmest clothes since it was in the high 60’s in Florence.

The number one thing to do in Innsbruck is to take the Nordkette, the tram that takes you to the top of the mountain. There are several stops along the way up the mountain, including a stop at the Innsbruck Zoo, and a lot of people get off at a lower stop and then hike or bike to the top. When there is fresh snow, people go skiing, as well. If you’re not into the winter sports, like me, then you can go to the top, walk around and grab a cappuccino at one of the two restaurants. And, obviously, snap some pictures.

Going to the Top of the Alps in Innsbruck

Look at that city view? I just love the river and the snow-capped mountains.

Mountain Views are the reason to go to Innsbruck, Austria

Small photo taking tip: use your self-timer. I would say 50% of our family pictures are from the self-timer and they usually turn out great.

Nordkette, the number one thing to do in Innsbruck

We took the tram all the way to the top, which has an altitude of over 6,000 sq feet! We were so high and it was so windy. Again, we didn’t really prepare, especially for poor Copley. So, if you go, bring gloves, hats, parkas, etc!

Over 6,000 Sq Feet High in Innsbruck

Mountain views in Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck Mountain Views from the Top

Mountain views from Innsbruck

Innsbruck is one of those cities that is big enough to feel like a city but small enough for you to hit all the major highlights in a day or two. There are lots of great shops, cafes and restaurants, too. We actually went to a Mexican restaurant for burritos because the Mexican here in Germany isn’t the best. And, let me just say, it was the best Mexican we’ve had outside of the US/Mexico! It may seem funny but it was one of the highlights of the trip. The restaurant was called Machete and if you are craving Mexican, I would definitely recommend.

Speaking of restaurants, an amazing Austrian restaurant is Gasthof Weisses Rossi. It’s known for their typical Tirolian cuisine. I ordered a Cordon Bleu and Vinn got the schnitzel. After a few days in Italy, this type of food was delicious and surprisingly felt like home. That’s a scary thought that German/Austrian food feels like home now.

Innsbruck Mountain Views

And if these pictures aren’t enough reason to visit Innsbruck, go for the alcohol. Since it was so cold, we stopped in several bars to warm up and have some wine for me and whiskey for Vinn. Many restaurants have great views of the river and feel extra cozy.

On our drive home, we drove through the Alps and saw the most perfect snowfall. It made me wish we were wearing some cute Christmas pajamas and we could take the perfect Christmas card picture!

Driving in the Alps Gives you amazing Views

Doesn’t this just look like where Buddy the Elf would live? I love looking at snow from the safety and warmth of my home with a fireplace and a glass of red wine, but I do not love the cold. It was freezing while snapping this picture but you gotta do what you gotta do, am I right?

Innsbruck, Austria is a hidden gem that should definitely make your bucket list, especially if you are a winter sports fanatic. The mountain views are perfection, the food is delicious and there’s lots of shopping around, too. Basically there’s something for everyone!

Do you like the cold or are you more of a beach vacation person? 

Why you should visit Innsbruck, Austria: mountains & more

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