Apr 21, 2014

Style Files: Exploring the Irish Coast

[This post features items ℅ Blacks Outdoor and Millets Outdoor Store. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Our trip to Ireland was one of my favorite trips to plan during our time living abroad. Not sure if it was the allure of vast rolling green countryside or the fact that we were visiting an English speaking country for once, but we were so excited to finally be able to explore all Ireland had to offer. We spread out our 4-day visit among a number of different areas of Ireland…many with different terrain and weather, but all super flippin' gorgeous. 

When packing for our trip, I remember telling D to pack boots, gloves, and a heavy coat. Even though we were visiting towards the beginning of spring and Europe had already been giving us some unseasonably lovely weather, I knew we still needed warm duds. Ireland is known for having bouts of rain, sharp winds, and mud puddles the size of a Guinness hangover, so being prepared for all of the above seemed like the safest bet. The insanely kind folks over at Blacks sent over a fabulous Jack Wolfskin 3-in-1 coat for me to stay dry and warm during our Cliffs of Moher experience. While the sun shined for most of the day, thank goodness for that coat! It saved me from the multiple random hail showers we encountered along the coast. Seriously, it sun-hailed like 7 different times over the course of our 9 hour tour. Ireland weather might just be more bizarre than Germany weather, if you can imagine such a thing. And just a note (because I wish someone would have told me this years ago)--if you guys are scratching your head thinking you've never heard of the Jack Wolfskin brand before…it's because JW is a European retailer (German, to be exact!). When D and I first moved to Germany, we noticed everyone around town sporting Jack Wolfskin attire, but neither of us had never ever heard of him before our time abroad. A few short weeks later, I bought my first rain jacket from Jack W and have only grown to love the brand more as I keep adding pieces to my wardrobe. Especially since my Jack gear keeps me looking European. Note to future expats to Germany…buy Jack Wolfskin anything and you'll blend right in. Swear it! 

Another seriously awesome piece of Ireland-necessary wardrobe? These North Face Etip gloves. They are a blogger/instagrammer/smartphone-lovers DREAM! When that Millets box arrived in my mailbox, I had no idea I'd fall in love with a pair of gloves so much. With one fingertip, I could toggle any touchscreen WITHOUT having to take my gloves off. I spent all of Christmas market season sliding my gloves off and on, freezing my hands to ice cubes just to snap photos with my iPhone. In Ireland, I Instagrammed to my hearts content thanks to my new gloves. I know we're on the brink of summer, but seriously, y'all…go do yourself a favor and stock up on a pair of these for next winter. I may have to book a ski trip just be able to use these bad boys again. Thanks, Florida. ;)

I'm happy to report my new coat, gloves, and even my favorite wellies were well used and appreciated during our Ireland adventure. After traveling all around Europe the last 3 years, I've learned to invest in quality pieces that are not only cute, but also hold up to whatever terrain or weather condition I might put them through. You tend get more milage from the good stuff. This dynamic duo definitely passed the test! 

Look out for more from the Cliffs of Moher this week!

Apr 18, 2014

FRESH FACE FRIDAY [& Blog Hop!]: Meet Vanessa & Jenna

Happy last Fresh Face Friday, y'all! Awww. Sad face. Don't worry, though…it's not the end of Fresh Face Friday forever (hello, alliteration!)…it's more like a "See ya later!" kind of thing. As you know, D and I are in the midst of preparing to leave Germany. With the task of moving abroad comes great stress and potential periods of time I may be without internet…or time to devote to writing on this little blog 'o mine. I have no idea what the next few months will bring me in terms of schedules and internet access, so I didn't think it was fair to my sponsors or myself to try and keep hosting FFF when there's a good chance I won't be around (as much) to give it my full attention. As of now, Fresh Face Friday will go on hiatus from May until August. Total bummer, but it's gotta happen. :( I have every intention of bringing it back in August once the moving dust has settled, but who knows where my brain will go with 3 months away from my FFF routine. Maybe better things will come to fruition…maybe not? I'm letting the wind blow where it may. Either way, I've so enjoyed sharing 6 lovely bloggers with you guys each month and hosting a hop that has drawn in a wide variety of bloggers from all different writing categories. It's been a joy to see new faces and old faces link up each week, and I'll definitely miss making new blogger connections of my own! I've had THE BEST sponsors come along over the last year…no greater group of girls out there! And I hope you all have enjoyed making connections as well. In lieu of having FFF sponsors, I am still accepting vacation guest posters (3 spots left!) and will be adding a few moving guest posting ad spots in a few weeks. If you want to take over my blog for a day while I'm away…head on over to my sponsor page to find out more!

Now, on to the main event…the last two Fresh Faces of spring! Please take some time today to say hello to these two gals and link your blog up ONE LAST TIME (for now) to the blog hop! Thanks for all the fun and support this past year, friends. Hugs and kisses from my insanely messy apartment! Can you guess what we'll be doing this weekend? I'm already sick of boxes. ;)


Vanessa, or Van, as she's known on her blog, is a German native, student, and travel-loving girl on a mission to explore the Arctic. Over on Van's blog, On the Road Again, you'll find great photos and recaps of her adventures in Sweden, Norway, and the Baltics! She also loves participating and in travel and photography link ups…and even started two different series of her own! Come get to know more about Van and her desire for the North. Another fun travel blogger to add to your reading list!

Vanessa's Favorite Posts:

My Favorite Posts:

Miss Jenna of the blog, Healthy Globetrotting, is fairly new to the blog world (welcome, girl!)! She's a teacher currently living in China and has devoted her blog to sharing her exciting travels around Asia, her thoughts on what it's like to be a teacher in China, and my personal favorite posts, how to eat healthfully while traveling! Jenna has tons of great insight and suggestions on the eating customs of Asia and how you can stay healthy while exploring the world...so make sure to stop by her blog and learn something new! Thanks for speeding the wealth, Jenna!

Jenna's Favorite Posts:

My Favorite Posts:


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Apr 17, 2014

Pros & Cons of Living in Germany: Part Neun

PRO: Maultaschen
A friend of mine helped me to discover these little pockets of deliciousness about a year ago, and ever since that divine day, I stop at Aldi at least once a month to grab a pack or two for dinner. Maultaschen is basically the German version of ravioli--only much larger. Created in the Swabian region of Germany, maultaschen consists of an outer layer of pasta dough enclosing a filling of minced meat, spinach, breadcrumbs, and onions flavored with various spices and herbs like parsley and nutmeg (although other fillings can be found as well). You can simmer them in broth and serve them like a soup…you can boil them like regular ravioli and cover them with butter & onions (as pictured above) or a tomato sauce…or you can cut them into slices and fry them in a pan with onions (my personal favorite way to eat them). I recently discovered a maultaschen filled with cheese and bacon…basically the best discovery in the world, as you can imagine. It's interesting, though…I've never been able to find these little dough pockets in any restaurant I've eaten at in Germany. Tell me they don't only exist in home kitchens and prepackaged at grocery stores?!? I'm hoping to take a maultaschen recipe home to the states with us and try my hand at making them from scratch someday. If you've got a stellar recipe, send it my way!

CON: Queuing Confused
Germans, you guys are sweet. You're fun to talk to, you have beautiful gardens, and delicious beer…but you don't know how to form a line worth a darn. For a country that loves structure and efficiency so much, it boggles my mind that many Germans don't grasp the concept of queuing. Or maybe they do and they just don't care to form lines? Whoever's faster and pushier wins? Who knows. Either way, I hate having to stand in line for something in Germany where there are no "official" designated lines or someone directing the line moving. I'm always looking for the beginning of a line and then there's just no line to be found. The airport is the worst of these places. Well, that and tourist attractions and bathroom lines at Oktoberfest. I once yelled at a group of German ladies trying to cut the line for the bathroom inside an Oktoberfest tent. The line wrapped around the building and the ladies just "pretended" not to notice and kept trying to sneak in at various points in the queue. They tried in front of the wrong girl (me!) because I made a scene and embarrassed them to the back of the line. Girl had to pee! Ain't nobody got time for line breakers. Honestly though, it's not just Germans (and it's not all Germans…there are always exceptions to the rule). Many Europeans have this queuing ineptness, too. Now, I'm not saying all American's are good at waiting in line…faaarrrr from it (hello Black Friday madness!)…but it's a common frustration among the American expats I've befriended here in Germany. I guess the trick is to pretend you're German and it's every man for himself? You guys know what you're doing don't you? Give it to me straight.

PRO: Autohof (Rest Stops)
If you've never experienced a German rest stop (Autohof or Rasthof), you haven't seen the beauty of what efficient and expansive rest stops should be. Autohof's are big and can house a wide variety of things like restaurants, gas stations, restrooms, bars, hotels, showers, playgrounds, conference rooms, telephones, convenience stores, and even sometimes churches. Anything you might need on the road, an Autohof is sure to have it. Only trick is, these things are placed anywhere from 40km to 60km apart on the Autobahn and not all Autohof's offer all the amenities I listed above. Sometimes these large rest stops offer one restaurant (maybe a Burger King or a Nordsee), but often times you'll find a hot and cold food bar in addition to a restaurant chain…just to give you options. I'm sure this accommodation is especially appreciated by truckers who are on the road all the time and would love to eat more than soggy hamburgers day after day. D and I love when we can find a good Autohof that ticks all our food and fill up boxes during long travels. American rest stops are good…but they're no Autohof. Unfortunatly, not all rest stops in Germany are large Autohofs. Click here if you're interested in reading more about the how the Autobahn and rest stops work here in Germany. This guy lays it all out beautifully!

CON: Rest Stops (or lack thereof)
While Germany does have some pretty impressive rest stops, there is one problem…they're few and far between. In America, you'll find a place to be able to get off the interstate to pee or eat just about every other mile down the road. In Germany, the rest stops (and exits to towns in general) are a bit more spread apart than what I'm accustomed to. I can't tell you how many times I've almost peed my pants while driving somewhere on the Autobahn. Or almost run out of gas because we can't find an ESSO station (that's more of a military problem than a Germany problem…our gas rations are only useable at ESSO's). There's not a McDonald's or Arby's or Starbucks off of every exit ramp here…an annoying truth many expats learn the hard way in the beginning. You also have to consider the fact that wherever you stop, you'll have to pay to pee. That quick stop at Burger King will cost you…and you can't just stop at a random restaurant in a random town to use their restroom unless you're buying something. Common courtesy, I get it. But German towns are small in some areas, so you may have to venture off the Autobahn a few miles before you reach anywhere to eat, pee, or get gas. Paying for it just adds insult to injury for me, at least. Another interesting thing…you'll see signs that say "P" for parking just off the Autobahn, but there are no bathrooms there. If you're a boy, it's no problem. If you're a girl…you best keep on driving. Sometimes they'll also be a small picnic area there, but no restaurant with food for purchase. Germans love a good picnic, even on the side of the interstate. But if you're "hangry" and wanting more sustience, keep driving for that Autohof. When we head out on driving trips here, we have to plan quite a bit more than we would have to back stateside. D and I have learned that a bag of snacks and a well-placed ESSO station plugged into our GPS is more of a requirement than a choice while traveling the roads of Germany. You live, you adapt, and you do as the Germans to. :)

PRO: Super Clean Everything

Germany is absolutely, hands down one of the most immaculate countries I've ever stepped foot into. The streets, the bathrooms, the movie theaters…clean, clean, clean! You never see trash on the side of the road (side eye, America) and I've never walked into a restaurant and felt like I was sitting in sludge (side eye, Waffle House). Granted, I'm sure there are plenty of unsavory areas of Germany, filled with graffiti and trash and less than cleanly bathrooms, but for the most part, this country is spotless. At least when you compare it to the USA or a few other select countries in Europe. I love Italy (don't hate me Italy friends!), and while I've only visited certain areas, one thing that suck out in my mind was the trash and overall dirtiness of those areas I traveled in Italy. I remember my mom getting off the airplane with me from Bolgona to Frankfurt and almost literally kissing the ground at the airport because she'd missed the cleanliness of Germany so much. I don't know if it's just because Germans cuckoo for cleaning (I mean, their recycling laws are ridiculously extensive), but they're definitely doing something right. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE clean and beautiful Germany. That whole paying to pee thing is a little easier to take knowing you're contributing to the cleanliness of the country. Just don't go into a fest bathroom. There's just no hope for those places, no matter what country you're in!

CON: Lack of acceptance of the Flip Flop (and other foot visible footwear)
If I have one more German ask me if my feet are cold in the middle of July, I'm gonna scream and run away forever. Americans wear sandals and foot-exposing footwear from the second it hits 65°F outside until the first leaves of fall start to shed to the ground. This I know to be true because I am one of those Americans. Sandals ALL SUMMER LONG! From what I've observed, many Germans only tend to wear sandals if it's over 85°F…which happens for maybe about 3 weeks out of the year and then boom, they're back to boots and closed-toe everything. I absolutely don't understand it! Aren't your feet hot? Shoot, aren't your necks hot (they also wear scarves year-round)? Are you afraid you'll catch a cold? Do you all have foot fungus that we don't know about? Dear Lord, I hope not. I'm constantly baffled and even after 3 years abroad, I still have no answers. Oh…and don't even get me started on the Birkenstocks with socks phenomenon. I thought Americans were bad about socks and sandals…but Germans are large offenders as well. Granted, Birkenstocks are German and Germans should wear the crap out of them. But socks? Sigh...I see my dad in every sock-sandaled German that walks the street. Every spring/summer (appropriate sandal wearing times of year, right?), I have at least a handful Germans ask me if my feet are cold while wearing sandals…and at least dozens of them stare at my feet with dissension. German teenagers seem to be the only exception to this unwritten "no sandals" rule. They'll wear them more than Germans of older ages. Is it an age thing then? HELP ME! German friends, any light you can shed on why the aversion to sandals? I need to understand!

Until next time…

*Please keep in mind that all of these pros & cons are formed simply from my experiences and perspective as an American living abroad. You can find the other installments of my Pros & Cons of living in Germany hereherehere, herehereherehere & here!*
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