July 2017 Favs

 

Seriously, it’s almost August. I cannot believe it. Pretty soon there’s going to be pumpkins and Santas everywhere. But, for now, I’m enjoying the pleasantly mild weather we’ve been having here in Germany and I’m looking forward to one more long, summer weekend. Since it’s the end of a month, today I am going to share some of my favs from July.

In case you’re new, My Favs is where I share some of my favorite products, new finds that make daily life a little bit better and any fun things I’ve been watching, reading or listening to lately.

*This post contains affiliate links.* 

This month I finished reading Lauren Graham’s book from my 7 books to read this summer  list. It was a relatively quick read and is definitely a must-read if you’re a Gilmore Girls fan. I did find the book to be a little boring before getting to the Lorelei Gilmore phase of her life but overall, it makes for a perfect beach read. Now I’m reading Truly Madly Guilty and am having a hard time getting into it. It’s a lot like Big Little Lies in that there are several different characters and you get their perspectives on the same event. I have yet to get to the “big event” or the hook and I’m really looking forward to it. My goal this August is to finish this book and one more, maybe Option B.

We had several vacations this past month, which were amazing. We flew twice with Copley to Nice and Croatia. She does really well on airplanes and I think it’s all thanks to this lavender spray. I spray all over her bag (we use this one and never had a problem with any airline) right before we are about to board and I really believe that it calms her down and makes her feel more safe. The spray is made by the same company that makes Thunder Shirts and is said to mimic the mother’s pheromones, which is why it is relaxing for dogs.

(Source)

On the what I’m watching front, Vinn and I totally binge watched Friends from College last week. It’s a Netflix original show with Fred Savage, Colbie Smuders from How I Met Your Mother, and Keegan-Michael Key. The show hasn’t been so well received on sites like Rotten Tomatoes, but we thought it was really funny! It’s about how a group of friends from college all still hang out twenty years later and still haven’t really grown up. They all allegedly went to Harvard, have real jobs and are trying to navigate life as an adult, while still acting like college kids. It’s laugh out loud funny and Fred Savage is my favorite! I wish he was the new host on Live with Kelly.

About three times a week this entire month I ate a snack of a Granny Smith apple with Gruyere cheese. I know I’ve mentioned this many times on the blog already, but it definitely deserves a spot on the monthly favs. I don’t know what it is about this snack that I love so much but I just do. I think it’s because the apple is tart and sweet and then the cheese is so soft. It’s a great snack because it has healthy fat, sugar and protein from the cheese. The one negative is that Gruyere cheese is on the expensive side, so I may have to cut back a little.

bringing your dog to Croatia

And, last but not least, a cute picture of Copley from our trip to Split. I just seriously love this dog with my whole heart. I can’t go too long without a cute puppy picture!

What did you love this July? 

July 2017 Favs

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Going to the Gym in Germany

 

One of the first things I did once we moved into our German apartment was join a gym. It had been months since our move and months since I last exercised and I was going crazy. Thankfully, our relocation agent is a gym rat and told me the best gym to join in our area.

I’ve been going consistently since I signed up in April 2016 and have realized that going to a gym in Germany is certainly different than going to the gym in the States. I realized it last night when I was on the elliptical that I haven’t shared what it’s like to go to the gym in Germany in great detail (I did share my BodyPump experience here, though) and thought it would make a fun post.

Overall, most things are the same. There’s dumbbells, cardio equipment, exercise machines, rooms for classes and locker rooms. It’s like most other gyms. It’s nothing too fancy or over the top but it’s nice. There are, however, some things that make going to the gym a little different. Here’s what it’s like to go the gym in Germany!

Going to the Gym in Germany

Modern design. 

German architecture is definitely more modern than the United States. Our apartment is definitely more on the sleek side, especially our kitchen. The gym is no different. Everything has fine lines, there are interesting art and displays and the ceiling is open like a loft. I actually really enjoy the design because it is so clean and simple. There’s nothing super fussy about it and the machines are spread out.

There are several monthly payment options, but they all include childcare.

I was a member of Planet Fitness when we left Michigan and had previously been a member at LifeTime Fitness. Both offer different things at different prices. My gym in Germany offers three different monthly payment structures with varying ranges of benefits. For example, the most expensive option includes access to all the locations of this specific gym (there are three around me) and one workout with a trainer per year.

I have the middle option where I have access to an additional section equipment specific to stretching but don’t have access to the other locations because I only go to the closest one to our house. I pay about 55 euros a month, similar to what I paid at LifeTime Fitness.

This is a little steep per month, but it was recommended to me and one of my good friends goes to this gym, as well. What I did’t expect was to look at our bill one month and find that it was 25 euro more expensive than the previous month. When I looked into it more, I discovered that it was a charge for the childcare room….that I don’t use.

I sent an email to the club, thanks to Google Translate for certain German words, only to discover that everyone must pay for the cost of childcare once a quarter, even if you don’t use it. I even told them I don’t have a child and would, therefore, never use this service. I was told that it doesn’t matter. Perhaps, they will watch my dog.

The gym hours vary by day.

I loved that Planet Fitness was open 24 hours a day. Vinn and I would go for our marathon training runs at 5 AM before work most days during the week. I love exercising in the morning because then it’s over and I don’t have to think about it anymore. Plus, I feel so accomplished when I’ve already been to the gym before 7 AM.

Well, my gym now has very different hours depending on the day of the week.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday the gym opens at 6 AM. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday it opens at 9 AM. These hours aren’t terrible and I do take advantage of the earlier opening on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but I wish I could wake up and immediately go to the gym everyday of the week.

You can only wear indoor shoes inside. 

It is against the rules to wear whatever shoes you were wearing outside when using any equipment. I keep my “gym shoes” in my gym bag at all times so I don’t forget. I actually don’t mind this policy but it is something different, especially when I used to go straight from the parking lot to the treadmill at my old gyms.

Many people drink sparkling water while working out. 

Yes, sparkling water. This would make me vomit. In fact, most people drink something other than water. My gym has a wide selection of drinks for its members, which I definitely use to my advantage. There’s still and sparkling water and different flavors of energy/sport drinks. I really like the blood orange drink mixed with sparkling water after a hard work out.

Going to the Gym in Germany

Towels are BYOB. 

And if you forget, you can rent one for 5 euro. So, don’t forget your’s!

Greetings are big. 

Just like at the doctor’s office, you say hello to anyone in the locker room, especially if it’s early in the morning and no one else is there. This isn’t different, but saying hello and goodbye to anyone working at the desk is appropriate. I actually really like how friendly the workers are at my gym. It makes me feel welcome even though I sometimes feel like an outsider.

Everyone takes a shower afterwards. And showers are timed.

The showers are in one big room, like how I imagine the showers were during high school in the 50’s. There are no shower curtains, so you just shower…with everyone. I’ve only taken a shower at the gym once because our hot water heater was getting fixed and, luckily, no one else was there. Oh, and everything’s on a timer. So, water flows for about two minutes and then turns off. Then you have to turn it on again. It’s to conserve water, which is nice, but not ideal when you are in the middle of a shampoo.

Going to the Gym in Germany. Here's what the showers look like

All in all, I enjoy my gym in Germany. It’s very nice and I get in a great work out five to six days a week. I find it interesting how different the small things are in Germany compared to the States. I hope you do, too!

What gym do you go to? Do you think you could shower in an open shower?

What It's Like to Go to the Gym in Germany

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Why I Went Gluten-Free

 

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about anything other than travel, which is amazing and means that I’ve been seeing a lot of amazing places. That’s very true, actually. It’s been two weeks since our trip to Croatia and I am finally feeling back into the groove and routine, like a normal, working person again.

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Part of my routine is attempting to eat rather healthily. I definitely love pasta, pizza, and gelato, hello. And I won’t turn down a glass of wine and am obsessed with chocolate. But, I do like to live a  “balanced” life and like to work out and eat an apple more than I eat Reese’s Cups.

Over the past few months, I’ve started to notice changes in my body when it comes to digesting gluten. In fact, during our trip to Reims, France, I ate gluten for every. single. meal for the majority of our weekend there. Like I had a croissant for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and then pasta for dinner.While it was absolutely delicious, it was not at all nutritious and I woke up the day after with the worst stomach ache and cramps ever. I even had to leave lunch once because I was in so much pain and in need of a bathroom.

I started doing a lot of research about gluten and how it can affect your mood, gut and overall health and I found that there is absolutely a connection between the way I was feeling and what I was eating, go figure! I should also point out that I recently found out that my thyroid is under active and that gluten is the worst thing you can eat when it comes to thyroid health. I read this article and it pretty much scared me from eating a gluten-based diet.

In case you aren’t sure, gluten is the general name for proteins found in wheat and serves as the glue that helps food maintain their shape, according to the Celiac Foundation. Gluten is also found in barley, which is a big ingredient in beer. So long steins, hello, wine glass! < — the easiest part about going gluten-free! Gluten is found in pasta, pastries, processed foods, bread, pancakes, granola bars, flour tortillas and candy to name a few. I put a note in my phone with the list so I can easily access if what I’m about to eat has gluten in it.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been eating much less gluten, pretty much going completely gluten-free. I read somewhere that you can’t be sorta gluten-free, it’s like being sorta pregnant. I haven’t taken this philosophy to heart, exactly, but I have drastically decreased my gluten intake and started to sub gluten-free products when I would normally eat white or wheat grains.

Not so shockingly, I feel so much better. Since I started doing this, I haven’t had any sort of stomach aches or cramps and I do not feel deprived or unsatisfied. The main reason I did this was for my health and so I could enjoy my days and not spend them bloated and uncomfortable.

What do I eat? Well, that’s a very good question. I’ve started cooking with Barilla gluten-free pasta, which is husband approved (says a lot about the taste!) and eating whole foods. A typical day is: Greek yogurt for breakfast, salad or rice with veggies for lunch, a Granny Smith apple with Gruyere cheese as a snack, and then a gluten-free pasta with chicken or taco salad for dinner. Thanks to Pinterest, there are lots of recipes and resources available online so I can quickly throw something together that is sans-gluten. I also love red lentil pasta and have found some decent gluten-free bread at the grocery store.

Over the course of the next few months, I want to really do some experimenting with some new recipes and staying on the healthy track. I’m eyeing this cookbook for help and have started a new work out routine, as well.

So far, I have noticed that my stomach doesn’t get as bloated after a meal as it used to, I get fewer headaches and stomach aches and I am more conscious of the food I am eating. Gluten can hide in some salad dressings and condiments, so I am reading a lot more labels, too. I’m determined to make this year my healthiest year and I feel like I’ve taken one giant step towards this goal. If you’re interested in follow-ups on my gluten-free journey or even some of my favorite recipes, please leave a comment below!

Why I Went Gluten Free

What do you do to feel your best? Where do you find cooking inspiration? 

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7 Reasons to Study Abroad

 

Studying abroad is one of my favorite college memories. I spent six glorious weeks in Rome, Italy during the summer between sophomore and junior year. It was 2008 and while people at home were worried about the recession, I was worried about finding the Vatican and if getting a third round of gelato was a good idea.

I traveled all around Italy, ate so much pasta, earned six college credits, bought a purse I still use to this day and created memories to last a lifetime. I have friends who didn’t study abroad and when we talk now, they say it is their biggest regret. If you are contemplating going abroad in college and need some convincing or need to convince your parents that this is a good idea, here are seven reasons to study abroad.

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One – You will never have weeks or months to just travel.

I know it seems like I travel all the time, which I do, but I still have to work, pay bills, take care of a dog and husband, normal life stuff. When you’re a college student, you don’t have as many responsibilities and all you need to worry about is studying. While you’re abroad, you most likely won’t have a full class schedule, so you can spend your time traveling.

When I studied abroad, I only had classes Monday – Thursday, so it was really easy to travel over the weekend. It was even encouraged by our program to take a day off if you were going somewhere new. Ah, the European lifestyle at it’s best. Some girlfriends and I even skipped class one day to go see the Pope do his weekly prayer in St. Peter’s Square because he only did that on Wednesdays. I figured that was a good trade and forgiven in the long run.

Two – You will expand your horizons.

Experiencing a new culture is the best thing for a young mind. You will be surrounded by another language, possibly, and not know where to go for certain things. I remember the moment when I realized that I was surrounded by a totally new language. I was sitting on the airplane to Rome from Amsterdam and I could hear Italian and Dutch. I’d never really heard another language being spoken in real life before. I took Spanish in high school but that’s about it! I just sat in my seat on the verge of tears thinking, “No one is going to understand me. What have I done?” Moral of the story, everyone will understand you because most Europeans learn English from an early age (I wish I had learned Spanish or Italian or German from an early age) and getting to be part of another culture for even a small period of time is going to change your life.

You will have to find your way around your new city, buy your own groceries and figure out the best time to take out money based on the exchange rate. I loved having Italian professors who were much more laid back than my American ones and really immersing myself in the pasta, wine, dessert Italian lifestyle.

why you should study abroad

Three – Budgeting lessons will be to the max.

I learned how to budget while abroad. My parents gave me a certain amount of money for the duration of my six week program, very generously, and I knew I could only spend what they gave me. I printed out a calendar and wrote down every penny I spent on the day I spent it and then put the remaining total underneath. Some days I would spend 2 Euro on a mezzaluna sandwich for lunch and that was it and other days I would spend hundreds because I booked a train ticket or had to pay my friend back for the hostel. <— Side note about hostels, they aren’t as bad as everyone says. I did stay in some nicer ones and some not so nice ones, but they are a great option when on a college budget. Just make sure you do your research before. 

I did not spend 1 cent over what my parents gave me, I am happy to say. If only I kept this up for the rest of my life.

Four – You will earn some of the easiest college credits.

My college had a sister university in many different cities for the study abroad program. Since I chose the summer program, I completed two classes, so six credits. Back then it costs about $2,000 to get those credits, which was actually pretty inexpensive as far as college credits go. I took an English elective where we read A Streetcar Named Desire, which I read in high school, and then a history of music in America in the 60’s. That class was fascinating and we listened to a lot of Bob Dylan and Beatles music. The best part was realizing how American and British artists had an impact on Italians. I discovered that music is an universal language and that everyone loves the Beatles.

Studying abroad is a great way to check some electives off your list, while not being too difficult. This is my experience, anyway with the curriculum of studying abroad. My sister studied in Belgium for an entire semester where her classes were completely in French as she was a French minor. I imagine that is more difficult but also the best thing for immersing yourself in a language and culture.

Five – You’ll make great friends.

I lived with three other girls, two were from my school and the other was from a school in Boston. We all traveled together with one other girl and just had the best time. We would cook together in our apartment, go to class together and travel all around Italy. We are all still friends, even just social media friends, but we will always have Rome.

why you should study abroad

Six – It looks great on a resume.

The world is only getting smaller thanks to the internet and globalization is here to stay. My husband and I are living proof of it. We both studied abroad (actually Vinn did twice) and wholeheartedly believe that we were able to get jobs at international companies in part because we studied abroad.

Studying abroad shows prospective employers that you can adapt, have a want to experience new things, you perhaps know another language and can communicate across  cultures. These are all great qualities for an employee and will only benefit you in your future career.

Now that I live abroad, I know I was able to jump in with both feet quicker because I had already experienced living abroad. Certainly the scale was different, but the basics were already there. You never know where you life is going to take you but the skills you learn about yourself while you live in another country will be with you forever.

Seven – Memories for life.

This is the most obvious reason to study abroad, but it should absolutely be noted. I still talk about the time I stayed in a hostel in Florence where there were no towels and resorted to using a pillow case. And I laugh every time. My best friend was studying abroad in Spain at the same time and when our programs were over, we met in Venice. And that long weekend was so much fun and we talk about how my flip flop fell off into the canals as I tried to stand up from eating our pizza and our feet hanging over the edge. Or how I couldn’t find the Venice hostel and was carrying all of my luggage from the past 6 weeks and stopped on the street just crying. Some nice man asked me if I was okay and I told him what was wrong and he said, “Well, I’m not sure but a lot of young people always go to this door.” And that was my hostel. I needed to cross a bridge and didn’t know it. And then crying again when I saw my best friend because I was just so happy to see her. I’ve even visited some of the same restaurants after visiting Rome and Venice again.

One recommendation to make sure you remember everything: keep a journal. I kept a journal while I was there and having my thoughts, memories and feelings written down in one place from that time of my life is so special.

That’s it! Did I convince you?

If you did study abroad, where did you go? What was your favorite part? Are you going to study abroad if you’re in college? 

why you should study abroad

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Visiting {that} Doctor in Germany

 

One of my biggest worries before moving to Germany was how I would find doctors, handle our medical bills and if I could get similar medicines as in America. I had heard the ibuprofen was not an over the counter drug in Europe and to bring cortisone because you need a prescription for it here. All good things to know! As a woman, visiting that doctor was the first box to check since I take the pill and have a history of cysts, so it was something I need to tackle fairly quickly after the move.

Here’s everything you need to know about the lady doctor abroad.

How I found my doctor

Before we moved, I asked my American doctor for advice on how to find a doctor in Germany. I think I literally said, “Do you know any doctors in Germany?” She laughed and then gave me the biggest piece of advice, to look on the consulate’s web site. Wow. I had no idea and this would not have been on my radar.

I went to the Frankfurt Consulate’s web site, clicked on list of doctors (which are listed by type of doctor and then by city), found the one OB/GYN in my area and picked up the phone. (The consulate also lists international schools and attorneys, in case you need that information). This was the most intimidating part. The phone call. Would they understand me? Would I have to wait a really long time before getting an appointment? What if they need some medical history form that I don’t have?

After some intense Google Translating, I called the office and was pleasantly surprised. I tried my best at broken German (we had only been living here for four months at this point) and the nurse on the other end starting speaking English right away. Thank Goodness. I was able to make my appointment for the next week. Whew.

The waiting room

After the two weeks, I got on the train to head to the doctor in downtown Stuttgart. It was actually really easy to navigate and found the office with no problem.

Once I arrived, I had to ring the doorbell on a gate outside because the office is actually in the office area of a hospital. I was buzzed in, climbed what seemed like a lot of stairs, especially for an office that pregnant women visit, and walked into the waiting room.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

There was no receptionist. No counter with a woman sitting behind a sliding glass window. No sign in sheet. Nothing.

It was just a room with some built-in chairs and a a door with what appeared to be a doorbell. I looked around at the other women and just sat.

And waited.

I waited for twenty minutes without anyone knowing I was there.

And then, a nurse came out and called my name.

“Oh, thank goodness. Twenty minutes isn’t that long to wait for a doctor.”

I walked through the door and sat in a chair in front of a reception desk. She asked me the typical first-visit questions, like name, address, etc, and I fill out a form with some of my medical history.

Instead of going to see the doctor right after this, I was told to go back to the waiting room and wait for my name to called.

So that was just the introduction/meet and greet part.

I go back out to the waiting room, which now has more women in it and it’s June and no air conditioning. Wonderful.

I refreshed Instagram too many times, scrolled through Facebook and read some of my favorite blogs on the Bloglovin’ app.

About 45 more minutes go by and then my name is called.

I waited over an hour.

The visit

Now I meet the doctor, who was an older gentleman,  tall and didn’t have a super thick German accent. His English was actually really good and I learn that he studied in America as a resident. Score. 

We talked at his desk for a few minutes, I gave him my history and future plans. Then it was time for the exam.

I walk back to the room and see all the standard stuff. The table, an ultrasound machine, the scary, metal thing that looks like a duck. Girls, you know. It all looks pretty standard.

I go to sit on the table and he directed me to a little area behind a curtain. “No, no. Go in there, take off everything on the bottom and come back out.”

I’m sorry, what?

There was no gown, no push this button when you’re all set, nothing. I literally walked out freeballin’ it. It was uncomfortable.

The actual exam was standard. 100% the same. The only difference was that he did an ultrasound on my ovaries, which scared the crap out of me thinking he was about to give me some news I was not prepared for. Nope. It’s just normal German procedure to measure your ovaries and uterus at each appointment. Phew.

Then I went back behind the curtain, put my pants back on and took my top off. Repeat awkwardness.

Overall, the visit itself was fine. The doctor was friendly, knew what he was talking about and I felt like I was in good hands.

Prescriptions 

I walked away with a 3 month trial prescription for a new pill. It was printed on what appeared to be a green bar printer or one of those first printers where you can tell this was almost a typewriter. There was no call to my closest CVS, no we’ll send it to the pharmacy. Nope, I walked out with it in my hands.

And later when I needed a refill, it was sent through the mail to me. Again, not the pharmacy, to me. Such a small but very different process.

Other differences

A few other differences about that doctor in Germany. As mentioned before, there are no gowns, but there isn’t paper on the seat. It is cleaned after each patient. The women say hello and goodbye to each other in the waiting room.

Something else interesting, you go every six months. No matter what. In the States, you go once a year and sometimes only need get tests done if it came back not normal the last time. Nope, Germans are very cautious people. My doctor said, “Why would you wait a year when something could change in 6 months?” Valid argument.

I’ve been to the doctor several times now and, like most things, it’s gotten easier and much more, dare I say, normal. If you are moving abroad, know that you will find a good doctor and that everything is going to be okay. I wish I had read this before I visited the doctor here in Germany and hope this helps someone in the future.

Visiting the GYNO in Germany

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