What We Post on Social Media vs. What Really Happened

Earlier this week I was really moved by this article on EverydayFamily.com about not comparing your life to others’ “highlights reel”. The article, by Galit Breen, invited real moms to show a picture of their families they posted on Facebook/Instagram or wherever, and describe what the picture looks like to outsiders vs. what was actually happening in the picture. See the post HERE

This is something that has been on my mind for a long time but especially lately. For one thing, one of my biggest pet peeves is that because I am a happy/optimistic person, people assume my life is just magically delicious and filled with kittens and rainbows all the time and that I’ve never had a tough day in my life. HA! That really grinds my gears though. For one thing, I didn’t have it that easy growing up. But at some point in college when I gained some insight and perspective I realized that happiness is a choice. And so, I decided to stop being mad/hurt/sad about things that happened in the past and when I graduated college I graduated to a higher life, where I decided that I was in control of most things in my life and therefore I was going to make good, healthy decisions that ultimately made me happy. And that groundwork was hard but it led me to where I am today. Some may say I’m lucky, and I’m sure to some degree I am. But the rest…the rest was, and still is, hard work. It’s deciding every day to get up and put on a smile and not complain about every little thing most days. To try to bring and share happiness with others and not bring people down. To live the best life I can for myself and my husband and daughter and hopefully to encourage others to do the same.

The other thing is my personal feelings about how Facebook should be used. I use FB to share positive things about my life and to keep in touch with friends and family. Simple as that. However, in sharing the many wonderful positive things in my life and NOT sharing the negative very often, that’s another way people just assume everything is all good all the time. And here is where I really struggle. Because I’m all about keeping it real, so I have no problem telling people the truth about how I really feel or how something went down, but so few people ask. FB is the online equivalent to asking someone “How are you doing?” 99% of the time people want to hear “Good” and that’s it, everyone moves on with their lives. If you’ve ever asked someone this question and they unloaded a ton of crap on you about how miserable their life is then you know what I’m talking about. It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, and unless you are close with that person, most of the time you don’t want to hear it.  And that brings me to my next pet peeve: people that use FB for negative reasons: bullying others, posting negative/mean/passive aggressive things, and “vague booking”. Unfamiliar with this term? Read what Vague Booking is all about right here. And my personal favorite (insert eye roll here) the people that just flat out throw their dirty laundry right out on facebook, often times not even bothering to talk privately first with the person or people they clearly have an issue with. Not cool.

Anyhow, facebook and social media can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you use it, who you allow to be a part of your online social network, and how you interpret statements and images. In the spirit of “keeping it real”, the article by Galit Breen inspired me to share one of my recent pictures with the story behind it. I decided I should write about this picture I took of my daughter a week ago. Here goes:

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What Looks Like Happened In This Picture: That my beautiful, photogenic, and perfect daughter posed gorgeously and effortlessly because she is an absolute angel and I, as her mother, am loving every minute of being a new mom and photographing her milestones. This picture received nearly 150 “likes” and about 35 comments.

What Actually Happened: At 4 months old, and being slightly ahead of her milestones, Julianne is in the throes of a wicked sleep regression. I had gotten pretty spoiled with her sleeping, on average, 8 hours straight through the night. Possibly teething, and dealing with trying to get your infant to sleep in what is like the BILLIONTH heatwave this summer, in a country that does not believe in central air conditioning, is my version of hell. It’s insanely hot, it’s sleep deprivation at it’s absolute worst, and it feels like there is no end in sight for these long nights. After multiple times of being woken through the night, Julianne thought it was a great idea to start her day at 5am as she often does (groan) and so we did. Whilst nursing her, she poops. Not just any poop, the mother of all blowouts. Usually I catch them before they get out of control. Did I this time? NOPE! In my bleary eyed sleep deprived state, I had no idea she just laid the mother of all poops until I picked her up off of the Boppy nursing pillow to burp her and felt something wet on her back. As I pulled my hand out, I realized the error of my ways. I carefully (or so I thought) picked her up and placed her on the changing table. I finally got her cleaned up only to realize the crap load (pun intended) of laundry she left in the wake of that blowout. That one poopy diaper took down the boppy slipcover, the boppy cover, the changing pad cover, a pair of socks and my tank top. Only, I didn’t realize about the tank top until way later. As I attempted to stain treat and launder all of these things, I had to keep stopping to blow my nose because I’ve had a raging case of allergies this summer. On this particular morning, literally every time I bent over to change Julie’s diaper or put her in her crib, or get her dressed, my nose would run incessantly and I’d have to run for the tissues. Glamorous, I know. Anyhow, as I scarfed down a quick breakfast it was then that I realized it was her 4 month “birthday”. I did not want to take this picture this morning, but it had to be done, lest I regret the blank spot in her photo album and baby book for years to come and suffer from insane mom-guilt. It’s a lot of work staging these little shoots. Of course the lighting wasn’t great, since it was 7am, but we did it. She was uncertain of the puffy dress but she went with it without crying and that’s all I could ask for. I couldn’t get a good smile out of her, but I got this kind of half smile about 20 pictures in. Obviously I am glad I took this picture, and I’m sure I’ll look back on this photo one day and laugh at the story behind it and recall fondly, how even through the chaos and sleepless nights, I still think I have the best daughter in the world.

And that, my friends, is what my life is like right now in a nutshell. Yes, this blog is mostly about traveling and our adventures living abroad, and all that is great, but it’s only about 10% of the time. The majority of the time, especially now that I’m a mom, is filled with regular day-to-day stuff that no one really wants to hear about. So when you look at my pictures, and others’, do not compare yourself to them or think that “the grass is always greener”. It isn’t. Most of us post highlights on facebook to remember the good times and to share them with others…. but just remember that that is just on the surface and there is always a story behind the pictures!

Having a Baby Abroad: Julianne’s Birth Story

By far, one of the biggest concerns I had prior to moving to Germany was about having a baby over here. We had long known we wanted to start a family, but it didn’t happen for us when we lived in New Jersey or Hawaii. A major perk for us to move overseas meant that I could take a break from my career as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to focus on starting a family and even better yet, raising a family. For us, we knew that there was no way I would be able to be a stay at home mom for any period of time if we stayed in the U.S. So, in Dec. 2013 we took the plunge and made the move to Germany.

I was shocked, and happily surprised, to learn from others that already lived here that many women actually PREFER to give birth over here rather than in the states. As it turns out, Europe in general is way more open to holistic practices and encouraging of natural births than the U.S. Once I learned of this, I decided to do a little research. I read up on this topic and watched some videos as well. I can’t recall everything I watched, but YouTube and Netflix were definitely helpful. Probably my favorite thing to watch was Ricki Lake’s documentary “The Business of Being Born” and her follow up documentary series “More Business of Being Born” where they interviewed celebrities who challenged the “American Way” of giving birth in favor of a more natural approach. If you’re interested in more about natural birthing you can also google Ina May Gaskin, she’s a midwife and did an excellent “Ted Talks” that’s worth watching as well.

One of the biggest cons to giving birth in the U.S. is the c-section rate. I can’t tell you how many friends, or friends-of-friends I know that have said they were basically “forced’ into a c-section. There’s probably a lot to blame for this: our health care system, medical staff wanting to time things to their advantage, and just the general notion in our culture to hurry up and get things done. Now I just want to say that there is nothing wrong with having a c-section. Some women really need it in medical or emergent situations obviously, and some women just prefer to have it done. Nothing wrong with that! But what IS wrong is women being coerced into having a surgical procedure to birth their child if it’s not really necessary and not what they wanted. So many women I’ve talked to have said “if they only gave me more time…”. How disempowering is it to think that a woman was in a sense cheated out of the birth they desired because medical staff or health insurance companies or both didn’t want to wait for the woman to progress on her own time. Over here in Europe, the process is not rushed. And typically, interventions, medications, and surgical procedures are not pushed for by medical staff either unless there seems to be a medical need or the patient asks for it. This mentality really aligned with my vision of having a baby and therefore, I went from being nervous about giving birth abroad to being excited!

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When I met my doctor over here I liked her right away. After I got pregnant, my husband came to almost all of our appointments and we both felt safe and comfortable with her. You can imagine then, that we were shocked to learn that she would not be delivering our baby! That’s right, over here the ob/gyn only sees you for prenatal and postnatal care, and there is an ob/gyn at every hospital to delivery your baby if needed. But what’s really different in this case is that often it’s not the doctor that delivers your baby- it’s a midwife! Of course we were sad and a bit worried when we learned that our doctor wouldn’t be present at our babies’ birth, but on the other hand, the more specialized care really is a plus. I think this is a big reason why things aren’t rushed over here. Doctors aren’t getting called in at all hours of the day or night to deliver babies while they still have patients waiting in their waiting rooms at their offices. One thing that did bother us though was that we wouldn’t know anyone who would be present at the birth. And because you’re not tied to a hospital because that’s where your ob/gyn delivers, you can literally choose any hospital you want to deliver at. Here in Wiesbaden, there are 3 hospitals to choose from and a few in nearby towns as well. However, even if you decide what hospital you would prefer to deliver at, there might not be room for you when you go into labor (more on that in a bit). And furthermore, even if you did get into your first choice hospital, there was no way to meet the midwife or doctor ahead of time who would be delivering for you, because it’s all random. Being first time parents, not having any family with us when the baby would be born, and not knowing any of the professionals who would be present at the birth really freaked me out. After some more research, I came up with a plan for our problem: hire a doula.

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For those who may not be familiar (and I had to explain this to a few of my friends and family who were unaware since doulas have been around for a long time but are really gaining “popularity” now), a doula is a trained non-medical professional who is able to provide support before, during, and after the birth of your baby. In short, they’re a birth coach. But in reality, they are so much more than that. And doula’s can have their own specialty as well, such as being a post partum doula, a lactation consultant, a photographer, an acupuncturist, and so on. Now when I first told my husband this idea, he had no idea what I was talking about and didn’t understand why we should hire one, but after some research and discussion, we agreed this is what was best for us and our baby. Some of the benefits of hiring a doula include: emotional support before, during and after the birth, shorter delivery times, decrease in need for c-sections/interventions/medications, and improved outcomes for both mother and baby. For more information on the benefits of hiring a doula, and how to find a doula, go to http://www.DONA.org.

There weren’t a lot of doulas in our area here in Germany to choose from when I started looking, but fortunately the number is growing! I started our search by asking my doctor for her recommendations and she gave me a short list of 3 people. One was moving away, one was already booked up with mothers for our due date, and the third’s phone number was out of service, ha! So I began asking around, and as luck would have it we had just began working with someone through a new parent program here who also happened to be a doula! Enter, Barb! We first met in early December when I was about 22 weeks along. And by the end of the month, around the beginning of my 3rd trimester, Jeff and I agreed that she was who we wanted to be with us on this journey. Barb met with us bi-weekly at our home from December until April when I delivered, and met with us weekly for a month after that. Her presence, support, and advocacy meant so much to us all along the way. As new parents, we had tons of questions at every meeting and she took the time to chat with us and answer each one. Being an RN and a certified Lactation Consultant, she had a ton of info and advice for us which was always appreciated. Once we had Barb as our doula, it was time to work on Hypnobirthing.

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This is another thing you may have never heard of, or have little information on, but is becoming increasingly popular. Hypnobirthing is similar to Lamaze, which many people have heard of. But what it is, is a way to utilize meditation, relaxation, visualization, and breathing techniques to eliminate or reduce the fear associated with birthing and increase the likelihood of a successful, natural, and intervention and medication-free delivery. I had heard of Hypnobirthing from my Aunt Kim who used it too when preparing for the birth of her daughter. (Thanks Aunt Kim!!) She had told me about it during her first pregnancy, and then when I got pregnant she filled me in on the details. You know how sometimes when you hear about something it just really resonates with you?! This was it for me. I knew I wanted to do Hypnobirthing. My main reason for wanting a medication free birth was because of the benefits to the baby, and also because I really felt I could do it medication free because of my previous kidney surgery. Personally, I know my body does not react well to pain medications and I didn’t want to suffer through that if I could prevent it during my baby’s birth. So, my first step here was to order the book “Hypnopbirthing: The Mongan Method” on Amazon. It’s only $13 and comes with a CD that has 2 audio tracks to start you on. What a bargain!! I had looked into taking actual Hypnobirthing classes, many of which are now offered in the U.S. by the way! I couldn’t find any English-speaking classes out here that were starting when I was ready to start learning though. And later I found a class that was offered but it was pretty expensive. Therefore, I decided to do self-instruction.

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I had read and heard that many women have success using the self instruction, so I decided to get crackin’. While Barb had no previous Hypnobirthing experience, she was just as interested as I was in learning about it, and so we learned together! She read the book too and downloaded some additional hypnobirthing audio tracks that she shared with me, which were fantastic. We also made it a point to watch hynobirthing videos on YouTube to actually see how all these tools were put into play. At around 26 weeks pregnant, I began practicing my relaxation tracks every night before I went to bed. I listened to the 2 tracks that came on a cd with the book, but I also got a bunch of tracks from Barb from the Kathryn Clark Hypnobirthing Hub Home Study Course. Then once a week Jeff and I would set aside 45 min to listen to the Birth Intentions track together and then do one track where I put my headphones on and zoned out while Jeff massaged my back and practiced his anchors and prompts and I would alternate sitting on my birth ball or leaning over it or walking… just different positions for labor.

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Pregnant woman on exercise ball

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In total, I practiced every day for 15 straight weeks. It seems like a lot, but when you think about it, “practicing” could be as simple as listening to a relaxation track for 15-20 minutes a day. Of course there were days that I spent a lot more time on it like when I would put the tracks or relaxation music on in the background while I did other things around the house, and then there were days where I only made it through one track. But If you stay committed and practice a little bit each day, you’re going to be shocked and amazed with the results! I loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat. By the end of my pregnancy I was so “in the zone” while listening to these tracks before I went to bed that I would doze off and go through ten or more tracks before I woke up and took out my headphones lol. Also, I really enjoyed listening to the positive affirmations! My favorite one was: “Each surge of my body brings my baby closer to me” which I repeated to myself in my mind during a lot of the contractions when I was in labor. Here’s one that I liked to repeat a lot just before my due date arrived:

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Our next step in this process was to choose a hospital. As I previously mentioned, you pretty much have your choice of whatever hospital you want to deliver at, with the caveat being that you hope they have room for you when you’re in labor, because each hospital has only a few laboring rooms! Unfortunately, it has happened that you can go to a hospital in labor here and they’ll be full and will send you to another hospital. It happened to a friend of ours, and I was worried it would happen to us…particularly because we were informed that we had a VERY popular due date.

As luck coincidentally would have it, we conceived our baby at the time when Germany won the World Cup which was HUGE over here as you can imagine. Therefore, we were told to have back-up hospitals in mind since there was no telling if the hospital we preferred would have room for us on our delivery day or not. Fun fact, there’s a German word for the babies conceived during the winning of the world cup, and I can’t remember what it is, but it translates to “victory babies” lol. We toured 3 hospitals – 2 in town, and one over in Mainz which is the next town over. We were partial to the 2 in town because they’re both about a 5-10 minute drive away depending on traffic and we had some familiarity with them. The 3rd hospital was a good 30 minutes away but it had a NICU in case we ran into any problems or I went into labor before I was 36 weeks along. The other hospitals won’t admit you if you go into labor before your 36th week. I registered at all 3 hospitals. And I can tell you this: every hospital is a little bit different. You would expect them to be more uniform, but they weren’t. Here’s a pic from the day Jeff and I went to watch Germany win the World Cup, and an article about “Victory Babies” in Germany: http://www.spiegel.de/international/happiness-sparked-hormone-rush-germany-s-world-cup-baby-boom-a-467714.html

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Then came the BIG DAY!! On my due date I spontaneously went into labor! No induction methods done at all, but I was doing some natural induction methods over the weekend such as drinking red raspberry leaf tea, sitting on my birth ball, eating pineapple, walking a lot, and having Jeff massage certain pressure points in my hands, feet, and ankles. My day started out as usual with running errands and then meeting Jeff for lunch and then we went for a non-stress test since it was my due date. Normally we would go to my doctor’s office for this but it was the Monday after Easter, which is an observed holiday in Germany, so all doctor’s offices were closed and we had to go to the hospital. Around that time, 1pm, I had some early labor signs. I mentioned it to the midwife doing my non-stress test, but coincidentally, the contraction part of the non-stress test machine wasn’t working so she couldn’t tell I was actually  having them, She actually said to me “if you’re breathing through it, you’re fine”…and at that point I wasn’t entirely sure since I had some false labor signs over the weekend. But as the afternoon went on and I timed my contractions I soon learned it was the real deal! My water broke at 8pm, got to the birth center with my husband and doula at 9pm, and our baby girl was born just before 11pm!! I did an all natural, medication-free Hypnobirth/Waterbirth and it was everything I hoped our birth experience would be!
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As for the waterbirth, it was wonderful. I love water in general and loved all the pros of having a waterbirth. They set it up with some aromatherapy and it was very relaxing and comfortable. One thing I will say about being a hypnobirther is that for the most part you’re so much calmer than other mom’s who don’t use hypnobirthing that they don’t believe you’re as far along as you are…even when you and your birth team communicate and advocate for you. I was a prime example of this, as it was about 10:45pm and the doctor left the room and the midwife said out loud that she wondered if my baby would be a due date baby if she was born in the next hour and 15 min, or if she would be born the next day after midnight. Then she walked to the other side of the room to get her gloves before she checked me again. Literally within 5 min our daughter came out so quickly that no one was there to catch her but me!! As soon as I realized what had happened I reached down and picked her up out of the water myself! Everyone was overjoyed but in disbelief lol. Because she came out so fast, I did have to get a few stitches, but my postpartum recovery was great overall and I had minimal discomfort and healed just fine. 
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Another plus to hypnobirthing and waterbirthing is that Julianne is very calm and relaxed. She hardly cries and when she does it’s for a reason that is usually easy to figure out. And one of the coolest things when she was first born was that when I would put on one of my hypnobirthing background songs (Steve Halpern’s “Chakra Suite”) she immediately recognized it and calmed down! Probably because I played it so much while she was in utero and also it was playing when she was born!
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Here are some pictures from Julianne’s birthday. Words and pictures can’t describe how amazing this day truly was for all of us. Definitely one of the best days of my life for sure! While these photos are not photoshopped in any way, some have been edited with cropping for privacy or lighting was edited to show the pictures better, because both my labor room and the waterbirth room both had soft/ambient lighting. All photos were taken by our Doula, Barb, who is not a professional photographer, but took some great pics of this special day. Also note that since these pictures are untouched, you’re seeing me at not my most photogenic time, or with flattering angles LOL. I’m a real mom who worked out 4-5x a week throughout my entire pregnancy, gained the recommended 35lbs (and at 3.5 months post partum is still working to get about 20 lbs of it off but that’s a story for another day!), and was sweating through 10 hours of labor. No graphic pics shown, but giving you the heads up – just keeping it real folks!

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The Morning of my due dute, taken around 9am:

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My water broke at home at 8pm. An hour later, at 9pm, we arrived at our first choice Hospital (lucky us!) Paulinen Asklepios Klinik:

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The leaning on the counter thing and breathing was a big part my labor from about 6-9pm. From 1-6pm my contractions were relatively easy to breathe through. They escalated pretty dramatically after my water broke at 8pm and then again around 10:15pm when I was fully dilated. When I arrived at the hospital, I had to wait about 45 min to get checked because the midwives were doing change-of-shift. That kind of sucked, I’m not gonna lie. And at that point things were getting kind of intense for me and I needed some air so we opened the window and I stood there leaning on the window sill for a while taking in the cool night air. Then Barb suggested I use the Rebozo which is basically a long woven fabric attached to the ceiling for support during labor.

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At 9:45pm I was about 5-6cm dilated, but at 10pm I started feeling the urge to push and asked to get into the tub to prepare for the waterbirth. This was a separate room right next to the labor room, thankfully not a far walk! It felt great on my lower back and having aromatherapy and my hypnobirthing music was great too. At 10:15pm I entered the tub and was checked again- fully dilated! I was pretty shocked that I went from being “halfway there” to “you’re all set”  in 30 minutes time. Here I am below “relaxing” between contractions, or surges. As you can see in these pics, Jeff was amazing… what a great partner to have by my side! He was supportive, encouraging, and there every step of the way. He gave me water when I needed it, helped me to relax, and even held the baby’s fetal heart beat monitor in place on my belly when I moved around and it started to lose the signal. There was no cursing, no “you did this to me” moments, and no ferocious hand squeezing like you see in the movies! We had practiced this for so long, it was just about doing what we learned through hypnobirthing practice and our sessions with Barb: breathing and using the encouragement and support to relax through the contractions. I’m not going to tell you it was pain free. There was a moment or two where I felt like I might throw up, and a few times after I got in the tub I said “ow”. To me, the difference was that I was saying “ow”, but not screaming it. I felt pain and I pushed through it with the breathing and visualizations I was taught.

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As previously mentioned, the Doctor and Midwife were great but I had them fooled by how “relaxed” I was  (ie, not screaming) because they didn’t think I was anywhere near ready to have my baby yet despite my increased urges to push. Here they are checking on some stuff in the corner of the room, and you can see the clock on the wall – it’s about 15 min before Julianne was born. Shortly after this was about the time when the conversation occurred as to whether Julianne would be born before midnight to be a “Due Date” baby… ha!!

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The contractions were pretty strong at this point and shortly after this, I asked if she was crowning yet. The answer was no, but the midwife was going to do a quick check. As she crossed the room to get some gloves, Julianne came bursting into the world! Because she was a waterbirth, Jeff says she came shooting out like a torpedo LOL. I say she came out waving her hands, “jazz hands” style and saying “I’M HERE”!! Either way, she was hanging out in the water for about half a second before we all realized what happened and thank God for Barb who said “Your baby is here! Reach down and pick up your baby!” In my birth plan we had discussed the whole “feeling the head and lifting her out myself” thing, but Julianne did not want to wait. I think I heard her mutter “crowning is for wussies” on the way out. Nonetheless, I got the most amazing opportunity of lifting her out of the water all by myself and bringing her up to me. It was incredible. Because we chose not to learn the sex of our baby ahead of time, it was even more extra special that I was the one who saw she was a girl and was able to announce it to everyone! Although to be honest, Jeff and I had a feeling in our guts, and our hearts, since day one that she was a girl. I literally had so many dreams about her being a girl, even a particularly vivid one exactly one month before she was born where I got to “meet” her. It was so realistic, I pretty much knew at that point that we were having a girl. The awesome thing about that too is that she looked exactly as she did in my dreams. I truly felt like I already knew her when she was born from having seen her in my dreams so many times. Pretty neat huh?! Anyhow, after I picked Julianne up from the water and held her, the midwife then came over and unwrapped the cord and patted her back and did a mouth-swish to give her her first breath. That’s when we heard the most beautiful cry. At no point was I scared or worried about her birth. Even when no one was there to catch her, I had read so much on waterbirthing that I felt safe having her enter the world in water and having her hang out under water there for a split second before I picked her up. I know it’s not for everyone, but I think it really benefited us both, and I loved every minute of it.

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We chose to delay cord clamping. The benefits to that are increased blood for the baby, as they get the last of the oxygen rich blood from the placenta through the umbilical cord. The increased blood helps increase the baby’s blood volume, provides increased iron, improves circulation, and some things I read even indicated that it might help with neurodevelopment as well down the road.  I was so wrapped up in the moment that when it came time to cut the cord I was like “Uh, has it been more than 5 minutes?!” And Barb said “It’s been way longer than 5 minutes, the cord stopped pulsing a long time ago!”. After the cord was clamped I took off my tank top and bra and breastfed her for the very first time in the tub. It was so special.
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After a while the midwife checked the placenta and it wasn’t quite ready to come out. Then a very cool thing happened: the Midwife suggested she use acupuncture to help deliver the placenta. So she put a few needles in my stomach and they barely hurt at all. Five minutes later she asked me to push and the placenta came right out no problem. I feel like this is something that probably would not have been offered to me in the states. Since I had no idea about it, it definitely wasn’t in my birth plan, but I’m sure glad I did it.
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After that, Jeff got to do skin-to-skin with the baby while I got out of the tub, got cleaned up, and headed to the labor room again to put on a gown. Hospital gowns aren’t exactly offered to you in Germany. In the states they make you wear one pretty much as soon as you walk in the door of any hospital, but here you can labor in anything you want. Apparently you can ask for a gown as they supposedly have some available. I however, have Jeff’s Aunt Barbara to thank for making me a few hospital gowns! You can see it in the last pic, that was such a nice touch to not have an ugly, scratchy gown to wear, but a soft, clean, cute one to wear after the birth and during my hospital stay. And they even snapped down for breastfeeding. Thanks Aunt Barbara! Once I was cleaned up and Jeff was done with his skin-to-skin time with her, Julianne got weighed and measured. Notice that I didn’t say “cleaned” as well. One additional benefit of waterbirths is that the baby comes out pretty much all cleaned off already! Then came the stitching up, more breastfeeding, and more skin-to-skin time. After that was all done, the staff leaves you alone in the room for a few hours to be together as a family. It was so nice. We got to thank Barb and say our goodbyes to her, make calls to family back home, and just be together as a new family. We had about 2.5 hours like this until the midwife came back to help us gather our things and move us to our room.
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 For a million reasons, the stars really were aligned on this night… we got the one and only “Family Suite” that this hospital offers. It was great, because one of my worries was having to share a room with a roommate, which is common practice here. Can you imagine sharing a room with another new mom (who probably doesn’t speak your language) and her new baby… and then you and your baby are just right there next to her… and your husbands are there too… but they’re not allowed to stay the night…. What?! When I learned this during the hospital tours, I pretty much had a panic attack. And then I was told that at some hospitals even if you pay for the other bed to have no roommate and have privacy, you STILL aren’t allowed to have your husband stay the night. Um, no. So our best bet was to request the family suite and keep your fingers crossed that you get it. You have to pay extra of course, insurance won’t cover it, but it’s totally worth it. I didn’t really get many pictures of the family suite. Mainly because by the time we got into the room it was almost 3am and we were all exhausted and frankly, I couldn’t take my eyes off our beautiful daughter. It reminded me of a hotel room- it had a large bed with a little sitting area for eating, a little changing table, and an attached bathroom. It was nice to have the privacy. It was almost TOO private though.

For one thing, at this hospital (which is really more comparable to a birth center in the U.S. vs. an actual hospital) there is no nursery. Your baby is with you 24/7. I was totally happy with that, I loved having her with us the whole time and felt great about that. But unless someone was coming to draw blood or run a test, no one really came by to just check on us and make sure we were ok. Quite a few times I walked to the nurses station to ask questions. And most staff speak at least some English, but not all of them, and not always very well. Still, we got the help we needed and we got by just fine. The food there was interesting. They had a little food area you could walk to on the unit for breakfast and dinner. Both meals were the exact same layout: deli meats, cheeses, and breads. Classic German spread. Lunch was the only hot meal and it was brought to us and we got to choose what it was. The staff was awesome and brought me a loaf of my own Gluten free bread which was unbelievably tasty… but poor vegetarian Jeff suffered through a few days of cheese sandwiches for breakfasts and dinners since there weren’t any other options. After 2 days, Julie and I were doing great and saw no need to stay so we asked to check out. Yes, we told them we were leaving. In the U.S., they usually give you the boot ASAP from the hospital so as not to incur more charges that health insurance has to pay for. By the way, living overseas means we have to pay ALL of our health insurance costs (medical and pharmaceutical) up front and THEN submit a claim to our insurance and just wait a few weeks and see what they are willing to reimburse you for. This means you need to have money up front for most things whether you are charged immediately, or you get the bill later in the mail. Anyhow, in Germany, it is extremely common for women to stay a week in the hospital if they want to, even if they, like me, had a normal birth with no complications. In fact, you can check out as soon as 4 hours after the birth if you feel like it! As a first time mom, I think that’s a bit much, but supposedly a lot of American moms who have had previous babies check out that quickly to avoid having to share a recovery room with a roommate or be subjected to multiple days of deli spreads for meals lol. Here is our first pic of Julianne when we got home:

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The first week home with Julianne was pretty nice… it felt good to be home and, it being the second week of April, the weather was just gorgeous. It was an incredible time. It was great to have so many friends stop by and of course Barb stopped by to check on us too. Although we were sad we couldn’t share our bundle of joy face-to-face with family, we loved and appreciated all the calls, texts and facetimes. And special thanks to our friends who stopped by to visit. We loved the company, and the sweet gifts and tasty meals were just the BEST! I will never forget how happy that made us, how wonderful it was to have others meet our precious baby girl,  and how nice it was to get such tasty food… especially after the hospital LOL. Here are some pics from Julie’s first week home.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this very long and very overdue blog post. If it took you a long time to read it, imagine how long it took me to write it. I’ve been working on this thing for MONTHS! Ah newborns, they keep you busy! Stay tuned for my next blog post about how weeks 2 through present have gone for us, and what living overseas is like for us new parents! xo

Our “BabyMoon” in Düsseldorf

If you’re not familiar with the term, a “BabyMoon” is typically the last trip you take as a couple before the baby arrives. Of course, some people plan big trips to like an island or something, but at almost 33 weeks along, we decided to do a roadtrip here in Germany to play it safe! We decided on Düsseldorf because we earned a free night’s stay with Marriott and they have a Marriott there and it’s only about a 2 hour drive from us. And to make things a bit more romantic, we went over Valentine’s Day weekend – so we started our morning off with a nice valentine’s themed breakfast and then hit the road!

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We got lucky with a nice sunny 50 degree day and minimal traffic so the trip there was pretty nice. We checked into the hotel, which was also nice, and then headed out downtown.

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Düsseldorf is the capital of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It reminded us a lot of our current city of Wiesbaden (which is the capital of the state of Hessen), but unlike Wiesbaden, it’s located along the Rhine River so it offers some pretty gorgeous views of the water. We especially enjoyed walking downtown along the promenade next to the river and soaking up some sunshine :)

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After we grabbed a quick bite to eat for lunch, we walked down to the tower you see in the pics above- it’s called the Rheinturm. It’s a media tower and for a nominal fee of 6 euro per person, you can take the elevator all the way up to the top where there is a little restaurant/snack/drink bar where you can sit and look out over the city at the gorgeous views. The tower is almost 800 feet tall and you can walk all around the top and see different views of different areas- pretty cool!

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After this, we walked back downtown and checked out a pretty location called Königsallee. It’s an urban street located not far from the pedestrian zone that has a lot of upscale shops and is most well known for it’s beautiful tree-lined canal.

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After all this exploring, we decided to walk into town more and have our Valentine’s dinner at a place that got rave reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp for it’s incredible pizza. Germany not really known for it’s pizza (obviously) but this little place called Pizzeria Trattoria Romantica is an Italian family-run hidden gem about a 30 min walk from the Königsallee area. After all this walking we were starving, but we arrived too soon!! As with many restaurants in Europe, they were closed for a bit in the afternoon so we had to wait until they opened at 6. Luckily we were able to grab a table even though we didn’t have reservations. The reviewers didn’t lie- this was the best pizza we’ve had since being in Germany!

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The next day around noon we headed out back downtown to the pedestrian area again. Not only was it Valentine’s Day Weekend, but it was also Fasching! Fasching is the German equivalent to Carnival or Mardi Gras – it’s basically the big celebration before lent. When we were downtown the day before, we saw many people in costumes, adults and kids alike. Mainly kids though, as it was the day of the Children’s Parade. But walking home after dinner on Saturday night we saw more and more adults in costumes coming out… mostly teens and 20-somethings ready to party with many a beer/drink/shot in their hands walking around the streets haha. After a full night of all these people drinking and partying in the streets, you can only imagine how things looked on Sunday morning LOL. It was a sight. A lot of people still out and about and clearly intoxicated. Not really the scene for an 8 month pregnant woman and her husband! We hung out by the water for a while and then grabbed some breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks before heading home. The Starbucks had a bathroom we could use before the drive home which is why we went to both places. This was not without incident of course, we got to see firsthand how the Polizei (German Police) handled some of these intoxicated kids. If you recall, the drinking age in Germany is 16. And these kids are all in costumes – most people chose warm/furry onesie-type fully body costumes, and would hide their alcohol in their costumes where the police couldn’t search them. There were certain checkpoints around the pedestrian zone where security or police would check peoples bags and things for glass containers and alcohol and stuff. Well this one girl was banging a small glass bottle, presumably with a shot in it that needed to be shaken, on the window of the Starbucks and causing a scene. The police came over and took it right out of her hand and a heated discussion ensued. Meanwhile, just off to the side, other kids seeing this started stuffing their alcohol down their pants and into their costumes. Oh man! I of course needed to use the restroom before we took the drive home, and at this particular Starbucks the bathroom is locked and you have to enter a code from your receipt to enter. This was no problem for me, but a lot of drunk young women were trying to sneak in and the Starbucks staff was not having it, so there was basically a bouncer at the door of the bathroom checking receipts- totally nuts!! On the walk back to the car we got to see more people in costume and interesting sights… overall a good experience in Düsseldorf, but we were ready to head home and out of the Fasching scene haha.

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It was another beautiful day for a drive, and of course Jeff made the most of that on the Autobahn haha! The driving around here and the views can be very enjoyable sometimes if the traffic and weather is nice… and especially with our “early spring” over here, it’s really nice to see the green fields and pastures after a long, grey winter!

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Well, that’s all for our trips lately, you’re all caught up! As my due date is in 2 days, we won’t be traveling anytime soon, but we will be preparing for the journey of our lives- stay tuned!! ;)

Je aime la France!!

Ahhh France! Our trip to Paris has long been a dream of mine- I’m talking straight up bucket list material since, well, forever. In fact before I met Jeff my bedroom was entirely decorated with pictures and decor of Paris. So when we found out we were moving to Germany we knew we had to go there!! It took us one full year of living in Germany to make the trip to Paris though. We’ve been to France a few times, mainly to a few towns that are right over the border from Germany like 2 hours from us. Paris, on the other hand, is about a good 6 hours away. So that was one thing that kept us from hitting the road to the City of Light ASAP. The other thing was cost- where would we stay, would we drive or take the train or bus, and how much were food and activities going to cost us? In budgeting for this trip however, we got super lucky when we were hiking with one of our neighbors earlier this fall who invited us to stay at her apartment in Versailles with her for a weekend in December… SCORE!! It’s a great trade off because we watch her cats for her while she is away on business trips, and in turn she offered for us to join her on this weekend in France. So two weekends before Christmas the 3 of us took the road trip together to Versailles on a Thursday night. It was a fun ride and we got to take turns driving as well as sharing the cost for gas and road tolls (which can really add up if you’re driving there by yourself – one toll alone was over 20 euro!!!). We arrived at her apartment super late that night and crashed. The next morning she gave us a little guided tour of her neighborhood in Versailles – super cute! Conveniently located right outside of her gated community was the train station, and walk a block or two down to get to the grocery store, the bakery, the weekend farmers market, and some other quaint little shops.

After exploring the area and having some breakfast (authentic French croissants baked fresh from the bakery anyone?) we headed for the train station and set off for Paris! Versailles is about a 45 min drive from Paris, but by train it can take as short as 30 min to get there, depending on where in Paris you’re going. Here’s some pics of the train station outside our friend’s apartment and the actual train itself, which was surprisingly clean I must say!

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Our first stop was to the Notre Dame Cathedral! It’s free to go inside and look around, and it’s absolutely astonishing. Towards the back of the church they even have a wall with a timeline and pictures from when it was first constructed starting in 1163 all the way to how the cathedral got to be how it is today. Pretty cool info on the French Gothic style of architecture and all the renovations the cathedral has had over the years. Of course my favorite thing about the cathedral, as with most churches and cathedrals, is the stained glass windows… breathtaking!

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When we finished checking out Notre Dame, we decided to walk around the city for a while and just take everything in. We had plenty of time to do that since our tickets to see the Eiffel Tower weren’t until 5:30pm. I highly recommend getting tickets online for the Eiffel Tower – it’s about 15 euro per person and you don’t have to wait in the super long line to buy tickets when you get there. Anyhow, we saw a lot of cool stuff on our long walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower…

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On our walk we got to see the Love Locks Bridge! We did not add our own lock to it, mainly because in my research prior to the trip, I learned that you can now be fined for doing this because the bridge has been compromised by the weight of all the locks. In fact they are now boarding it up so that people can’t add more to it unfortunately. But it’s still neat to check out!

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When you make the trip to Paris, you have to be prepared for LOTS of walking. It’s about a 3 mile walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower. You could take the metro, but then we would have missed out on all the beautiful Parisian scenery along the way.

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In the last pic above, we finally saw the Eiffel tower in the distance and the “Tour Eiffel” sign! The Eiffel tower really is huge… as you are walking to it it just gets bigger and Bigger and BIGGER!

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I purposely chose an early evening tour of the Eiffel Tower because that way we got to see it during the day, at dusk, and at night. When the sun starts going down, the Eiffel Tower lights up… but the best part is that at the top of every hour the Tower Sparkles!! In the last 3 pics above you can kind of see where the different lights light up to make it shimmer, it’s truly amazing to watch!

After this, we got in the ticket holders line to wait to get in. It was still a little wait to get in, but NOTHING like the line you wait in if you didn’t preorder your tickets! Unfortunately, while we were waiting, the weather held out no more for us. The winds picked up and the rain came down pretty heavily. So much so, that by the time we got into the tower, they had closed the top so we weren’t able to go all the way up. Kind of a bummer. We got to the second level but that’s as far as they would allow any of us to go. And since it was crazy windy and torrentially down pouring, our pictures didn’t turn out so great either. We hope to go back one day and make it to the top next time and get some better pictures!

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That last shot there is one Jeff took as we were dashing in the rain from the Eiffel Tower to the Train Station to get back to the apartment and meet our friend for dinner. I take pretty much all the pictures on trips, but I gotta give credit where credit is due! Jeff turned around to take one last pic, and it’s a beauty!! Til we meet again Eiffel Tower!!

The next morning when we got up it was still raining… and it proceeded to rain pretty much for the rest of the time we were in France. Such is life! But of course, we made the best of it! Cold and damp as it was, we bundled up and decided to spend the day in Versailles. Our primary destination for the day was the Palace of Versailles!

This Grand Chateau started out as a hunting lodge in 1624 for King Louis XIII, until his successor King Louis XIV decided to turn it into a palace. And a fancy one at that! Known for its ornate paintings and decor, hall of mirrors, and spectacular gardens, it really is a sight to see. About a 30 minute walk through the gardens leads you to a few other buildings on site apart from the palace- the Grand Trianon and the Marie Antoinette House. Both are cool little places to check out, but of course not nearly as large and fancy as the main palace! We literally spent a full day on this site. And because we went on a rainy Saturday, it wasn’t too crowded. Our neighbor told us that Sundays can be crazy busy here. I would recommended doing the audio tours throughout, as you get to learn some pretty cool things. We made a full day of being here, but it can be done in shorter time. And honestly, if it were nicer out we could have stayed longer to scope out the gardens. We were there in December, but I hear that the gardens are just out of this world in the summer – everything in full bloom and sometimes they even do a water fountain, lights and music display with fireworks! That would be great to go back and check out too! But it was still rainy and getting colder by the time we finished our visit there, so we left the Palace in search of dinner.

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Walking around these little French towns at Christmastime is pretty magical though! The lights, the decor, the music… it keeps you warm no matter how cold it is out!

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Our final stop for the day was to a little place called Creperie Sarrasine. We originally picked out another crepe place to eat at that was recommended in our guide book but when we got there it was closed! I was bummed, and starving. But luckily my amazing husband and his quick thinking found us another crepe place in town to eat at not too far of a walk away. Best husband ever!! So we sat down at this quaint little place and tried dinner crepes for the first time. It’s made with a different type of crepe than the dessert crepes most people know of. Jeff has one with eggs and veggies and mine had one with eggs, potatoes, and sausage. Pretty tasty! Oh yeah, and we shared a nutella crepe for dessert of course haha. All this talk of crepes and croissants reminds me to tell you that while I follow a primarily gluten free diet, this weekend in France I did not! Now, I can get away with that temporarily because I have a wheat intolerance in my esophagus, as opposed to a wheat allergy or full on Celiac Disease or something. So from time to time, I am able to “cheat” on my gluten free diet, but the sooner I go back to being gf the better I feel. In this case, I was making the most of my trip and sampling all the finest pastries and dishes France had to offer me that weekend, and it was amazing!

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The following day was our Museum Tour day! Still raining of course, we bundled up and hopped the train to Paris. Our first stop was the Musée d’Orsay, then the Musée de Louvre, and finally the Musée de l’Orangerie. Now, we did our museum tour “out of order”. It is recommended that you start at the beginning of the art displays which is the Louvre. Then you do the d’Orsay, and finally the Orangerie. All 3 museums take you through art displays in chronological order with the Louvre showing art from Ancient world to 1850, the Orsay from 1848-1914 and the Orangerie from 20th century to today. We went in the order that we did because the Orsay was a convenient train stop for us in the rain. Afterwards we crossed the river over to the Louvre and then not too far of a walk away is the Orangerie. Here are some of the incredible things we saw at these museums:

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From ancient Egyptian works, to Monet and Van Gogh and the Mona Lisa, it really was incredible to take in so much of our history and culture in one day! We also lucked out in that it stopped raining for a bit! So we took that opportunity to walk down the Ave. des Champs-Élysées and head to the Arc de Triomphe. Along the way on this 2 mile or so walk, we got to see the Eiffel Tower in the Fog, the Rue de Paris Ferris Wheel at sunset, and we even got to walk through the Paris Christmas Market!

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It was a cold and crowded walk, but there was so much to see along the way! We finally made it to the Arc de Triomphe and we were able to check out the little museum inside as well as walk all the way to the top to see the view! Again, it was foggy out so we didn’t get the best views, but it was still pretty cool. And on our way out we caught the ceremony honoring those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napeoleonic Wars. Below that area is where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies from WW1.

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It was getting kind of late at this point and we were starving after all that walking that day and stair climbing so we headed back down the Champs-Élysées in search of dinner. We ended up stopping at the George V Cafe and were pleasantly surprised by the menu offering English descriptions of it’s meals, friendly English-speaking Staff, quick service, and excellent food! On my continued enjoyment of French cuisine, I got the Beef Bourguignon for dinner and Jeff enjoyed a pasta dish with a nice glass of French wine!

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Our last and final day in France was pretty relaxed. We packed up our stuff at the apartment in Versailles and took the train into Paris and spent the day walking around and grabbing some lunch and shopping before we met our friend and drove the 6 hours back home. All in all, it was a really incredible weekend, one that I will never forget, and is up there as one of our best trips ever in my book! It may have been cold, and often rainy as well, but it was so worth it to be there at Christmastime and enjoy the spirit of the season in France!

Some tips for future travelers:

1) Book things ahead of time if possible. Specifically, the Eiffel Tower tour! If you go in the early evening like we did, you get to see the tower during the day and at night. Make sure you’re there at the top of the hour to watch it sparkle!

2) I seriously recommend getting a Museum Pass. Jeff and I were VERY fortunate that our friends gave us theirs and we were able to use their passes for free. But if you buy one I think it’s like 100 euros total, but don’t quote me on that. They sell them at the train stations I believe. Anyhow, they are totally worth it because you have access to about 60 locations in and around Paris for FREE! Plus, you get to skip most of the lines!! Seriously, Jeff and I barely waited on line at every place we went, which freed us up to see and do so much more and make the most of our time there. We were able to get into the 3 museums, the 3 places at the Palace at Versailles, and the Arc de Triomphe all for free and without waiting in lines at any of these locations.

3) Use guidebooks and maps. Our friends lent us the guide book Rick Steve’s Paris 2014 and it was very helpful. Grab some free maps at the train stations too.

4) Invest in a book of train tickets and another book of metro (subway) tickets. You can decide how many you want or need, but the train tickets at 2-3 euro a piece were great for getting into Paris and back out to where we were staying in Versailles. The metro tickets are cheaper and great for getting places between stops. Say for example you didn’t want to walk the 3 miles from Notre Dame Cathedral to the Eiffel Tower, you could take the metro instead.

5) Wear good walking shoes. Even if you take the train or metro system as much as possible, it is still A LOT of walking. Which is great if, like me, you’re trying to work off those croissants, but not great if you’re in bad shoes. It’s totally do-able though. Even in the cold and rain, even being 6 months pregnant at the time, I hoofed it all over Paris and Versailles and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Know your limits though, if you’re not in decent shape or have trouble walking in general, it’s not going to be easy to get around. Even relying on the metro and train stations, there are lots of stairs and walking to and from platforms.

6) You will CONSTANTLY be warned about pick-pocketing. Be smart and stay aware. Ladies, I wouldn’t even recommend taking a purse if you can do without it. I carried my little coin purse/wallet, and it was safely zipped on the inside of my coat where a pick pocket couldn’t get to it easily.

7). Pack light. I carried a small tote bag with me with our guide book, maps, water and snacks, and umbrella in it. Again, since you’re walking all over you don’t want to be lugging a ton with you too. If you’re buying souevenirs, pick small lightweight things, or just wait til your last day to get them. There is no shortage of places to get souvenirs, I promise you.

8) Another one for the ladies: practice your squats ahead of time, because most toilets look like this:

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Where is the toilet seat you ask?! I have no idea. But this “no toilet seat” fad seemed to be the rule, and not the exception in France. Strange… but, the use of restrooms is free all over (unlike in Germany) and there are lots of bathrooms every where which my prego self appreciated!

9) Consider what time of year you are going and the pros and cons of each. Obviously spring and summer in Paris is gorgeous… and everyone else is thinking the same thing, so be prepared for mad lines. On the other hand, we avoided most of the crowds and lines by going in the winter time and got to enjoy the Christmas season there, albeit in the cold.

10) Ditch the diet. This is not the place or time to watch what you eat or drink unless you absolutely MUST. For most people, this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Enjoy all the chocolate, cheeses, croissants, and crepes you can! Although I obviously couldn’t drink at the time, Jeff got to sample some French wines for the both of us. You will pass by tons of places offering tasty breads and pastries, try as many as you can. The staples will obviously be plain croissants, butter croissants, and chocolate croissants. But there were a few pastries I tried and fell in love with. I wish I could tell you the french name for them but I have no idea. One looked like a large round cinnamon bun but it didn’t have cinnamon. It was glazed and had raisins. The other was a long flat pastry with a lot of chocolate in the middle and was very moist. MMM!

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Until next time my friends, enjoy the journey!

Have bump, will travel!

This is my first blog post since I announced my pregnancy about 4 months ago now. I was 8 weeks pregnant during our last big trip to Ireland, but so few people knew at the time. Now, I’m 30 weeks prego tomorrow, the cat is out of the bag, and everyone is in the know and able to celebrate this exciting time with us, yay! I seriously debated posting a blog after we announced our pregnancy and then ultimately decided against it for a few reasons:

1) This blog, since it’s inception, has primarily been about traveling. I know there will be people who read this specifically for that reason and don’t actually give a s^#!* about my being pregnant. In which case I thought it better to wait until we have a few more trips under our belt to post about our adventures while also giving me time to adjust to this whole new world of having a life growing inside of me!

2) I thought about not posting at all about my pregnancy, and then realized that there are people (friends/family) who mainly read my blog posts just to find out what’s going on in our lives ASIDE from traveling. In which case, it would probably be strange not to post anything pregnancy-related since that’s pretty much about the biggest, most important thing we have going on right now in our lives.

3) For me, being pregnant is a deeply personal thing that I literally could dedicate an entire blog post or two about AT LEAST. I love talking about this new journey, but I recognize that not everyone wants to hear about it. What I mean by that is that there are people who are just not in a place in their lives right now where they want to hear about yet another person getting pregnant. I know, because I was one of them once. For me, well it took me a while to get pregnant. It was all me, I needed to get my health on track and in the meantime, there were days where I felt like every time I logged on to Facebook someone else was announcing their pregnancy, and there I was, still not pregnant. For others, who have had miscarriages or complicated pregnancies or whatever the reason, I get that this may not be something you want to read right now. This is probably the biggest reason I decided against writing a blog post about my pregnancy, which is also why we waited so long to tell people I was pregnant in the first place: to show sensitivity and respect to those who are struggling right now. I can’t say that I’ve been through it all, I haven’t. But I can say that I relate to the struggle and am willing to privately and openly talk about it with anyone who is reading this and wants a to reach out for someone to listen to them or wants some advice.

4) Finally, I recognize that the key to most things is balance, so you’re going to get a blog post which highlights both traveling and pregnancy, in a fun and light-hearted way. Who doesn’t love a good compromise, am I right?! Everyone wins!

So after our trip to Ireland in September we decided our next trip was to go home for the holidays. Historically, we always go home for Christmas. However, with my being pregnant, we realized that we would be traveling at a very chaotic time AND very near to the beginning of the third trimester. That did not sound like fun times to us, so we decided to go back for Thanksgiving instead this year. At 20 weeks along, I went out for 2 weeks and Jeff came out for 1 week. I have travelled alone MANY times before, so to go without Jeff was no big deal… but the weird thing was, I wasn’t *actually* alone! I have this awesome little human being with me that I need to consider at all times during all parts of my traveling. So I’m going to point out for you some entertaining differences between regular traveling and traveling with a fetus lol.

1) Regular Travel: Book flights and show up to airport on time.

Bump on Board: Talk to doctor before booking trip, get the A-OK to fly. Because I’m in perfectly good health and have a low-risk pregnancy, Doc says I can fly up to 4 weeks before my due date (and tempt fate with an in-air birth at 36 weeks? Um, no thanks). Everything is good-to-go…. except… find out that on long flights (such as from Germany to the USA) they recommend giving you a prescription for an injectable anti-coagulent to prevent blood clots during air travel. Find out you need to inject YOURSELF with this BOTH WAYS. Having no pre-existing medical condition that warrants me to inject myself with anything, and ya know, no history of being a junkie, have no idea how to stick a needle in myself. So yea, thanks to YouTube, learn how to inject self in the tummy with this stuff both flying to the states and coming home. The needle is tiny but don’t be fooled, it stings like a B*!@# for a good 10-15 min after you inject it. Then you’re fine.

2) Regular Travel: Go through Security Clearance like everyone else.

Bump on Board: Wait in line at security until you get to a TSA agent, hopefully a female, who can pull you aside since you can’t go through the x-ray machines. This can go either way: If met with a friendly female TSA agent she will pull you aside very quickly, give you a brief pat down and send you on your way, and then you’ve bypassed much of the line! It can also work the opposite way: met with male TSA agent who has to track down a female TSA agent (this can take a while). Wait off to the side feeling like a freak while everyone else is filing through the x-rays machines. Also try to keep an eye on your bags at the same time. God forbid someone walk off with your bag containing prego essentials: pre-natal vitamins and Preparation H. I shudder to think. Finally get pulled aside. Sometimes it’s literally right off to the side in a little area that resembles an office cubicle. Sometimes it’s right out in the open and if they ask (or you request) they can do it in a private location. At the risk of wasting more time and not wanting to appear needy and demanding, I always do it out in the open. This can lead to feeling like a piece of meat because a lot of people will walk by, staring, wondering why you are being frisked, as if you did something wrong. You can only hope they notice your bump and put 2+2 together and realize you’re just a harmless pregnant lady trying not to subject the precious life in her tummy to radioactive waves. Also, some freaks like to watch a female TSA agent frisking up a female passenger- ya pervs! But I digress. As in the case of the woman I had frisking me in Newark Airport, she took her dang time, was extremely thorough, and was all up in my grill. I actually did wonder if she enjoyed it LOL, because none of the other times I was frisked was it that thorough. Who knows, but after they realized I wasn’t a prego packing heat I was set on my way, albeit 15 min later due to all that hoopla.

3) Regular Travel: Sit in preferred choice of seat: window seat. Great views, no one bumping into you, and no one climbing over you. Score!

Bump on Board: Forced to take an aisle seat: you don’t wanna be that person asking people every hour to get up so you can hit up the bathroom or stretch your legs. Nothing can stand between you and the restroom. Nothing.

4) Regular Travel: Get up once or twice over an 8 hour flight to use the bathroom/stretch your legs.

Bump on Board: Doctor recommends you get up and walk around as much as possible. Your bladder and aching back insist that this is every hour, at least. Try not to use the bathroom that reeks excessively of urine or from the person who used it before you that made the poor choice of having taco bell as their last pre-plane meal. Bad choice buddy, but why must you make us all suffer? Switch bathrooms if need to to avoid the urge to vom. Leave bathroom, do some stretching, attempt to return to seat without anyone knocking into your bump on the way. Try to sit back in your seat despite having a belly and the abnormally tall guy sitting in front of you who has apparently decided to stretch out and recline his seat alllllll the way back leaving you almost no room to slither back into your seat. Be thankful you do yoga as you are just flexible enough to wriggle back into your seat. Put movie back on and hope the flight attendants come around soon with a snack, because you’re pretty much always hungry….

5) Regular Travel: Eat and drink whatever you feel like having. In flight meal options sound ok? Go for it. Flight offers free beer/wine, have another!

Bump on Board: That free alcohol Lufthansa provides is completely wasted on you, bummer. The in flight meals: is the food on your doctor approved list of foods you can eat while pregnant? Is it a food that you’re not currently experiencing an aversion to? Is it a food that will not give you horrific heartburn and make you suffer (even more) the rest of your flight?! If yes, have it. You’ll probably be famished in an hour again anyway. If no, decline and opt for your own pre-packed snacks that you know will not cause nausea, vomiting, or heartburn, or expose your growing baby to listeria. The struggle is real, people.

6) Regular Travel: Airplane provided blanket and pillow – use ’em, don’t use ’em, who cares.

Bump on Board: Airplane provided blanket and pillow – worth their weight in gold. Hope someone in your row is not using theirs so you can ask to use it, or opt to ask flight attendants for extras. Squirrel these items away like it’s your job because somehow over the course of a few hours your seat that seemed ok with to begin with is now a torture device. Your butt and back are killing you. Use pillows and blankets to pad your seat and support your back. Try variations of reclining seat and putting it upright to find what will work for the rest of the flight. Hope and pray you’re making your descent soon to your final destination.

7) Regular Travel: Get bag(s) from overhead compartment, and be on your way.

Bump on Board: Doctor recommends you not lift anything more than 10lbs. When traveling sans husband, must do this on your own or enlist the help of a friendly stranger to help you get your 20lb carry-on down from the overhead bin. Try not to pass out when other strangers around you lift their arms to get their own bags and realize it seems like FAR too many people were in a rush to the airport this morning and conveniently “forgot” to put on their deodorant. For the love of God, why must pregos have such keen senses of smell coupled with nausea?! Thank kind, non-smelly stranger for getting you your bag for you. File off plane trying not to have people hit your bump on the way off… or hit it yourself on a back of a chair or something because let’s be honest, sometimes you forget you have this belly now.

8) Regular Travel: Walk through airport at a quick, brisk pace to find customs and luggage carousel. Dodge small children/slow travelers as needed to effectively bypass most of the other people on your flight and be first in line for everything to get the hell out of there.

Bump on Board: You are now the slow(er) traveler. You can’t walk as fast as you used to and you’re out of breath and need to take it down a notch thanks to the increased volume of blood pumping through your body (up to 50% more!) and the decreased lung capacity you have now, as someone is crowding your organs so they can stretch out a bit. Realize the error in your ways when you pause to rest near the entrance for the smoker’s lounge. *Gag* Keep walking. Find a restroom. Just went 30 min before your plane landed? Who cares, you always need to go and this will give you a little break until you must continue your long ass walk to customs and luggage.

9) Regular Travel: Get bag from luggage carousel, exit the airport.

Bump on Board: Like your earlier debacle with your carry-on, must find a stranger again to help you lug your 40lb bag off the carousel. When you’re an independent woman who is so used to doing everything for herself, it’s a little difficult to keep asking everyone for help, but you do because you know it’s best for the baby… ego be damned.

10) Regular Travel: Leave airport, talk to whoever picks you up about the regular pros and cons of your flight: turbulence, airplane food, in-flight movies, annoying passengers, etc.

Bump on Board: Leave airport, hesitate to tell everyone who asks how your flight was how different and difficult it actually was for you because you don’t want to seem like a complainer when you truly are so happy and blessed to be with child. But wow, things are so different, already!

As always, it was an incredible trip home filled with family, friends and fun! I Hope you enjoyed this post, I will be back soon with my next blog post about our trip to Paris, France last month, so stay tuned! ;)

Escaping to the Emerald Isle!

Hi all, apologies that it’s been an eon since my last blog post, but ya know, that’s life! Things are busy here as always, it was a nice spring and summer full of festivals and hikes and fun with friends. We’ve really spent the last few months getting to know Germany and the area we live in which has been great. But of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t use our prime location to explore other countries in Europe!

For Labor Day weekend we met up with our friends Lisa and Eddie and took a trip to Ireland together. If you are particularly observant, you might realize that these are the same friends we met in Hawaii and did a lot of hikes and trips together with… when we found out that they were moving to Germany too, we were thrilled! So this was our first reunion trip together and it was amazing. When I posted on FB that we had landed there, a lot of people said that this was their dream trip, and I can see why. It really is as green and naturally gorgeous as you see on TV & the movies.

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The pics above are a few I took on the day we landed. We flew into Dublin but we actually rented a house waaaaaay on the other side of the island in a town called Killorglin, it’s about a 4 hour drive from Dublin. Huge thanks to Eddie for driving the rental car- none of us wanted to deal with the whole “driving on the other side of the road” thing. Not gonna lie, it freaked us out a bit, but Eddie had some experience from having previously driven in New Zealand so he was up for the challenge. It was a manual transmission so I test drove it a bit in a driveway just to try it out, but I wasn’t exactly ready to hit the road LOL. Anyhow, it rained a lot the day we landed so we didn’t get to see as much of the panoramic views as we would’ve like but it was ok because we had been up since 2:30-3am so the long drive was a great opportunity for Lisa and I to zonk out in the back seat of the car as per usual hahaha. When we woke up we were in a town past Killorglin called Dingle. It’s a really neat little fishing town on a peninsula, so cool. Our first stop was an old skool Irish Bar called Dick Mack’s – funny name, and definitely a hole-in-the-wall kinda place that had been there for forever! The boys had a few pints of Guinness while Lisa and I poked around town doing some window shopping and dodging rain drops. When we returned the guys had made friends with an older Irish gentleman named Hans who was giving them great tips about where to eat, things to see and what to do all over Ireland. Very cool! He steered us to a place called Murphy’s for dinner (There’s a place called “Murphy’s” on like every corner in Ireland, seriously!) and I got to try some authentic Irish Beef Stew!

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After that we headed over to Killorglin to our rental house, which was beautiful. The hostess, Shayla, met us there and she was very nice and helpful. It was a great place to stay for the weekend, not that we spent a lot of time there because we were always out all day, but it was very enjoyable when we were there!

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The next day we woke up to farm fresh breakfast foods provided by our hostess: eggs, yogurt, bread, milk, assorted fruit, and oranges to make fresh squeezed orange juice! We liked it so much we gave her extra money to pick us up some more things at the farmer’s market that morning for the rest of the trip! We fueled up on our tasty breakfast and off we went!

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Our first stop was an area called Bray Head where we did a Hike out to an awesome scenic point where an old watch tower was. Apparently this area was used as point of communication for telegraphs back in the day, pretty cool! The hike was so pretty and at the top the views of the cliffs and the roaming sheep was pretty neat too. You could even see some little islands off in the distance!

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After our hike, we were starving, so we headed over the bridge to another super cute little fishing town called Portmagee! We popped into a little pub and grabbed some lunch. I got to try some awesome and fresh seafood chowder, yum! And of course, the boys had more beer lol. We also tried some kind of an English Mustard with our french fries and it was actually really good- it had quite a kick that we weren’t expecting!

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Next up on the agenda was a trip over to Derrynane Bay. We did a small hike to the beach and walked along it for a long time. It wasn’t raining, but it wasn’t exactly warm either, and yet there were people in the ocean! Very cool beach too, because not only was it picturesque, but the were a lot of huge rocks on the beach with striations from glaciers, that was something I had never seen on a beach before!

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Our last stop for that day was over to Torc Waterfalls which is part of the Ring of Kerry. It’s a very tourist-y spot with a 5 minute walk to see a waterfall. Unfortunately, there was a lot of people there and a good handful of people kept going into the waterfall to get a picture of themselves in the falls, which we all thought was pretty rude because it obscured everyone else’s shots but whatever. Keep that in mind for proper etiquette fellow travelers, that is not cool! So all my shots of the falls have some random dude in it, but I digress. It was a nice little scenic waterfall to end the day with.

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After this, we went back to the rental house and then walked into town to check out the local fare. We hit up this pub called Bunkers and had some tasty food for dinner. I have to say, overall almost everywhere we went, everyone was really friendly. Especially the waitresses and bartenders, they were always nice to talk to! On the way out of the restaurant though, we saw a stereotypical drunk Irish guy yelling profanity at people walking by. It was kinda funny actually but it was late and we had to walk home so we didn’t stick around long to watch that haha.

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The following day we decided to spend more time on the Ring of Kerry. Our first stop was Ross Castle! It’s a dilapidated castle from the 1500’s that was partially reconstructed. Usually you have to pay for a tour, but apparently we were there during heritage week so we got in for free, holla!

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After that we decided to check out a boat tour of the lake. It was covered thankfully, because it started raining. It really is no joke how much it rains there! We didn’t get to see a whole lot because it was foggy at that point, but the tour guide on the boat was entertaining, so that was nice!

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It was lunchtime at this point so we headed over to Killarney National Park and hit up their cafeteria-style restaurant which was actually quite nice. And honestly, they had the largest selection of gluten free food I’d experienced since we got there! I was able to get pot roast, mashed potatoes, a toasted slice of GF bread with butter and a GF brownie…yum!! I’d show you a picture, but I scarfed that shizz so no pics were taken, sorry! Hahaha. As usual, the servings were HUGE so I didn’t finish it and had to take the brownie home for later because it was just too much. Then we got tickets to tour the Muckross House which is a beautifully restored tudor style mansion built in the 1840’s. It has 65 rooms and we got to see I think 26 on the tour. This was the longest and best tour we got to do on this trip, and that I’ve done so far in Europe. I highly recommend it, ESPECIALLY if you are a Downtown Abbey fan. If you’re familiar with that show, then a tour through this house that is so similar to the things shown on that show are going to blow your mind. It was really awesome. Of course, like most castle and palace tours, you’re not allowed to take pictures inside, but it was incredible. I would definitely say this is a must see if you’re visiting the county of Kerry in Ireland.

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We walked over to the Petting Zoo after that on the other side of the national park because I was dying to pet a sheep. I know, weird, right?! But sheep are ALL OVER Ireland roaming around looking all cute and snuggly and I just wanted to pet one! Well this was the perfect opportunity because I get to pet three, I was pretty psyched!

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For dinner we went back into Dingle (the first town we visited) by way of Connor’s Pass which is a very scenic and beautiful drive around the peninsula. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain again so we didn’t get the best views, but we did get to see a lot of beautiful natural waterfalls (this time without fools standing in them to block our shots lol). And of course, we saw more sheep roaming around very close to us by the waterfalls!

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On our last day in Ireland, we checked out of the rental house and headed straight to Dublin. When we got there we went into the downtown area and headed for the popular Temple Bar. It was a nice place with great live music. The musician was so cool, Jeff sent him a pint of Guinness! We walked around Dublin for a while after that and then we grabbed  some coffee before we headed to the airport… Irish coffee of course hahaha!

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At the airport, we got settled in waiting for our flights and Lisa and I made a last minute visit to the restrooms when I saw the coolest thing… in the restroom, yes! It’s a hair straightener in the ladies room to freshen up while you’re traveling! I’m telling you, when I saw that, I was like “These are my people!! They get me!!” I can’t tell you how many times I wished something like this were available in other places so I could spruce up my hair when it gets frizzy, especially for certain events. Ladies with curly/wavy hair that you straighten, you know what I’m talking about! Now, I didn’t use this one, because I had no need to that day (Ireland water is WAY better on our hair -like US water- than the water in Germany that dries us all out, ugh.) But had I had a need for it, I gladly would’ve paid 1 euro to use this!  Ok, enough about that.

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This trip was super fun and really a great opportunity and another awesome trip in the books with our friends Eddie & Lisa. We all agreed that it was really nice to be in a country again that speaks our language! The simple joy of being somewhere again where you can read all the signs and the menus and communicate exactly what it is that you want/need and have people understand you is something we no longer take advantage of while living overseas! And of course one of my favorite things was just feeling connected to the island as part of my own Irish heritage. I’m sure I’ll feel this way when we visit other countries my ancestors came from, but my first experience with this was pretty spectacular! :)

Adventures & Advice in Food, Traveling…and Cleaning?!

The alternative title to this post could be “How Pinterest has enriched my life” lol. I have referenced Pinterest on here a time or two before, but if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a website (and app) where you create boards about anything you want and “pin” things on there from all over the internet. It’s a great way to organize things, learn things, be inspired, etc. Needless to say, I have a ton of boards, and countless more pins of cool/interesting/helpful things I’ve seen all over the place. I always enjoyed using Pinterest, but now that I am not working, I actually have time to try out a lot of stuff on there, and it’s pretty awesome!

I suppose technically you can call me a “Housewife” since I am not currently working, but I rather hate that word. “Homemaker” and “Stay-At-Home-Wife” (since I’m not yet a mother) don’t really do it for me either. I searched alternative words for this which include: “Domestic Engineer” and “Lady of the House”. The former words sounds pretty legit/professional, and the latter reminds me of one of my new favorite shows to watch, “Downton Abbey”. Either are preferable to “Housewife” in my book. But I digress…

Since we’ve gotten settled into our new home, I realized something: I give more of a sh*t about being domesticated. I figure, because this IS my job now. Do you guys remember old skool report cards where the teacher would give you “comments” on your grade, usually associated with a number?? Like say for example #4 was “Does not play well with others”. Well I got the same recurring comments from multiple teachers year after year, and that would be: “Takes pride in quality work”. It is so true, I really get a lot of satisfaction out of a job well done, which served me well in school and in my career respectively. But while working, when it came to cooking and cleaning I didn’t care as much. Who has the time to do all that on a regular basis when they’re working?! If you do, then I applaud you (**insert slow clap here**). I on the other hand, found it infuriating. Many arguments were had between myself and my husband about cooking more healthy home-cooked meals and doing more deep cleanings of our apartment. To this I would simultaneously scoff and laugh, because honestly, what was he thinking? Throughout my 10-year career as a Social Worker there was hardly a time when I wasn’t working 2 jobs or working one 50+ hour a week job. By the time I got home (frequently late) I hardly felt like cooking and cleaning, and on the weekends if there wasn’t some family event or another to go to, I generally felt like I deserved to relax and recharge for the upcoming week. But now that I am on my own little sabbatical, I really enjoy this stuff! (If you are working, or a working parent, you might feel like punching me in the face right about now but hold back! I will reveal some awesome things I learned on Pinterest that may help make your life easier!)

We will start with two of my favorite things: food and traveling! Food first of course, hahaha! I have a Pinterest board called “Yum!” where I pin tons of recipes. This is especially helpful for me as my husband and I are the most annoying couple ever to eat with: He’s vegetarian and I’m Gluten Free. This also goes back to why I used to not enjoy cooking as much when I was working- every meal often has to be modified to adapt to one or both of our diets… not an easy task mind you! Anyhow, I like pinning recipes in my spare time and then bringing my laptop into the kitchen to try them out. Sometimes it’s instantly great results, sometimes things need a bit of a modification, and a few times it was pretty much an epic fail lol. I’ll share some good recipes I’ve tried lately here with you now, as well as my feedback on possible modifications to enhance the recipe. You should know that my general rule of thumb when trying new recipes is “the simpler the better”. If a recipe has a million ingredients and takes forever to make, I usually steer clear of it. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!! The best thing to me is when a dish looks and tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen, but you didn’t, so that’s a win right there.

So we’ll start with a recipe for vegetarian spicy black bean burgers. I tried this out a few weeks ago and the hubs liked it but suggested a modification that was easy enough… and he liked them so much it was his special request for his birthday dinner this week, so I got to try it again, and my mods made a big difference! Here is the recipe: http://www.annies-eats.com/2011/06/22/black-bean-burgers/

The taste is great in these burgers but the first time I tried the recipe, we realized that the burgers fell apart a bit when cooking. They needed an additional ingredient to hold them together more… my choice? Plain Oatmeal! I also made them GF so I could eat them by switching out the panko and using GF bread crumbs instead. Side note- if you have Celiac Disease the addition of oatmeal may not work for you. I don’t have CD, but a gluten intolerance in my esophagus which is why I am GF, and oatmeal works fine for me. You know your body so if oatmeal doesn’t agree with you, try an alternative ingredient that will help bind these burgers a bit more and not hurt your tummy!

This next recipe is for fresh guacamole, which I added on top of the spicy black burgers above for an out-of-this-world flavor combo. This recipe is surprisingly simple & easy. After I made it I was like “I’m 32 years old, how have I never made fresh guac before? For shame!!” I will be making this again soon. The author of the blog dubs it as “The only guacamole recipe you will ever need” and she’s right! Here it is: http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/post/1518781/2195042825/  Click on “Continue Reading” to go to the detailed recipe. The only mod I made for this was to add the teensiest bit of sugar because I found it to be a tad bitter when I was done making it. I usually find ways to avoid sugar in my recipes, but this needed it, and the tiny bit made a big difference. Also, love the author’s suggestion about reserving the avocado pits to place in the leftover guac to keep it fresher longer… I tried this and still fully expected to see the top of the guac turned brown/black the next day when I pulled it out of the fridge and was absolutely shocked when it was not!! The guac lasted fresh, green, and tasty in the fridge for 3 days… it might have lasted longer but it was so good we finished it, haha!

One of my recent food obsessions since I moved to Germany has been Brussels Sprouts… SO OBSESSED!! They are quite inexpensive here at our farmer’s market, and when I can’t get to the FM that week I find the ones in the frozen food aisle are a decent substitute. Side note for a moment- for a while now I’ve been reading up on how to eat healthier for your blood type, and the link between your blood type, diet, and illness. Shout out to my friend Lisa who first told me about this back in Hawaii probably a year or so ago. I then got a little book on it and tried making some adjustments, and then recently got another book out of the library about it. Jeff and I are B+, and brussels sprouts are supposed to be amazingly awesome for our diet, which is great because I love them! Sadly, other foods I really enjoy (chicken, peanut butter, shrimp) are not. Every blood type has a different lists of foods that are super good for you, just neutral, or toxic to you. Very interesting reading if you’re into finding ways to be healthier and modify your diet to improve your quality of life. The author of these books is Dr. Peter D’Adamo if you want to look it up. Pins on Pinterest are also available to give you quick reference lists on what is good/bad to eat for your blood type!

Ok, back to the sprouts though… I have been trying multiple ways to make these bad boys because they are just so tasty to me. I literally make them once a week which usually lasts me a few dinners. The other day I tried this recipe which included sweet potatoes and it was fantastic. I omitted the bacon-bits for the vegetarian’s sake though. Sweet potatoes, btw, are another Blood Type B superfood, so it packs two for the price of one in this great recipe! Here it is:  http://www.cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com/side-dish-saturdays-roasted-brussels-sprouts-sweet-potatoes-and-bacon/#jsIyzzB5Krwq06bI.32

Another great brussel sprouts recipe including balsamic vinaigrette and sea salt is here: http://www.piarecipes.com/2014/01/roasted-brussel-sprouts.html For this, I suggest investing in a really good vinaigrette of your choice. I got ours freshly made from our local farmer’s market and it was outstanding. I literally watched them pour it into the bottle we took it home in. This is light years different than the stuff you buy in the store… packed with flavor! A hint for my NJ friends who may be reading this, if you’re looking for a quality olive oil or balsamic vinaigrette, try Carter & Cavero in Red Bank, their store is entirely dedicated to that stuff and you get to sample it all, yum!

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(The pic on the left is  a bit blurry but it’s the black bean burger topped with guac. They both show the sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts recipe, but the pic on the right is more clear.)

The last recipe I’ll share is a healthy dessert option called “Healthy Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies”. I’ve made them twice already and will probably make them again tomorrow hahaha. What’s incredible about them is that there are no added sugars, oils, eggs or flour, yet they taste great. Fresh ripe bananas and unsweetened apple sauce give these cookies a bit of sweetness without the overkill (or the guilt lol!). I chose to omit the PB on account of it being one of the foods that, sadly, is not good for our blood type. Something about not being able to properly digest the proteins in peanuts which causes weight gain or something like that. So I included mini chocolate chips and walnuts. But you can also add raisins, coconut, etc. Here it is: http://www.theskinnyfork.com/blog/2013/3/18/healthy-peanut-butter-oatmeal-cookies

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Moving on to my next favorite thing, traveling!! Pinterest gives you a “Favorite Places” board which is where I pin places I want to travel and see. Last weekend we decided to go to Brussels, Belgium (home of my favorite vegetable!) because I saw a pin about it and also because one of my aunts lived there for a couple years a while back and I heard it was cool. It’s about a 4 hour drive from where we are in Germany. What initially attracted me to going there was something called the “Flower Carpet”. I later learned that this is a special event held every other year for one weekend- it’s where they fill the entire town square at the Grand Place with flowers and create a unique design each time. Fortunately, they will be doing it this year in August, so we plan to go back to check it out!

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We just went for the weekend to have a little road trip for Jeff’s birthday and see some new sights including the Mannekin Pis and the Grand Place. We stayed at the Brussels Marriott using our points, and it was conveniently located downtown near everything. Our room had a cool window that kind of looked like a porthole, so that was neat too! It was a beautiful spring weekend and we did a lot of walking around and sampling of things. Jeff tried a few Belgian beers and I tried a few Belgian chocolates. I also had a tasty dinner our first night there of steamed mussels and Pommes Frites, and Jeff had a bangin’ Falafel sandwich!

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The next day we grabbed breakfast from this quaint little French Cafe before the long drive home. The restaurant was called La Mercerie and they literally had only one GF option option on the menu, so that’s what I got LOL! It was called a “mousse” and it was basically ground up cashews topped with peaches. Jeff got a breakfast plate with Polenta, feta cheese, greens, and tomatoes. Very different from what we usually get when we go out to eat, but quite tasty! And the ambience of the restaurant was adorable too :)

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On Monday it was back to reality and as with any trip, our place was a wreck when we got home. I always feel like you need a vacation from your vacation. As much as I try to clean before we go away on trips, there’s always things to unpack and laundry to do and whatnot when you get home. This leads me to my next Pinterest inspired tips for you! In general, I hate cleaning the bathroom. It’s pretty gross right? And it’s a lot of work!! And since we moved in here last month, there has been this super gross and annoying line in our master bathroom toilet where the water streams down from under the rim. It’s all like yellow and gross and calcified from the hard water. No amount of scrubbing with the toilet brush was going to get rid of it. So I did a little research and I found my answer… pumice stones! I bought one for like $2-$3 at the PX in the health and beauty aisle near the nail polish/manicure stuff and this little thing took the stain right out in less than 5 minutes with not too much elbow grease! And it doesn’t scratch the porcelain. I HIGHLY recommend it! Here’s the link for more info: http://www.ehow.com/how_4687595_clean-toilet-bowl-black-stain.html

And by far my absolute favorite new thing I found was on how to get the bathtub/shower properly cleaned!! For years I was using scrubbing bubbles, kaboom, Lysol bathroom cleaner or whatever with results that left me like “meh”. The soap scum build up usually ends up killing my back as I bend over the tub scrubbing the crap out of it. But no more! This tip for cleaning the tub is as easy as 1-2-3. The trick is combining vinegar with dawn dish detergent (I use the blue kind which most posts recommend). Combine these two ingredients in a spray bottle. Some people suggested adding baking soda, but then I read that that clogs up  the spray bottle, and frankly I found that I didn’t need it. I also read that some people heat up the vinegar first but then the addition of the dish detergent causes it to foam up a lot, so I also didn’t do that and again found it to be fine. Spray this mixture all over your tub/shower especially on the trouble spots, then ventilate the bathroom with a fan or open window (this is important as the vinegar smell is pretty potent) and walk away. Let it sit for a while. I gave it 30 min or so. When I walked back in, I lightly wiped everything down with a damp cloth and I kid you not, it all came off so easily… I was shocked! This mixture works really well on glass shower doors too BTW. When you’re done wiping it all down, give it a good rinse down with water and stand back and watch your tub sparkle like never before. Who ever thought I’d be blogging tips on how to clean your bathroom?! Uh, not me, but I wish I knew these tips years ago so I wouldn’t have spent so much time being frustrated about my lack-laster bathroom cleaning skills lol. Here’s the link for further info: http://www.23imaginaryfriends.blogspot.de/2013/08/how-to-clean-your-runners-shower.html

Well, that’s all for now folks. Hope you enjoyed these tips & tricks in my continued efforts to become a Domestic Goddess ;)