Thursday, August 28, 2014

It's Fall, let's shop Zara

Zara Fall 2014

Zara pants, €45 / Zara cargo pants, €45 / Scarve / BOUCLE BLAZER WITH ZIPS / COATED SLIM - FIT JEANS - Trousers - WOMAN | ZARA Germany / FABRIC SCARF / SOFT SCARF / LARGE JACQUARD SCARF

I didn't really write about going to the US this year.  The thing was bitter sweet.  I was so sad to leave my family, my friends, my home.  I still don't want to talk about it. 

Before I went I had promised myself that I was going to be very careful and only buy a few things.  That didn't happen.  I bought ALL the things instead.  Sigh.  I keep going through events in my head trying to figure out how my careful shopping plan derailed so disastrously.  I ended up with several new pairs of jeans, more dresses, a handbag, sandals, tanks and ts and hoodies and leggings and a ton of sweaters, etc, etc.  The answer is that walking into a Banana Republic to 'just look' when they are having a 50% off sale is stupid. I shouldn't order things online.  I shouldn't start to get carried away with 'it's only $25! That's like €17!' logic.  

I upped my game this year and only shopped at proper adult stores for people in their 30s.  That was easy, I haven't bought anything at Forever 21 in forever.  Shopping with girls half my age in the juniors department?  No thanks.  

After all that spending I promised my husband I wouldn't buy anything else for about two years.  (If you know me feel free to laugh uncontrollably at that last sentence).  And I sort of truly mean it.  Things that I do not ever need to buy again in Germany:

1. Jeans- I have boot cut, skinny, cropped, high rise, low rise, mid rise in every wash and every size I will ever be.  

2. Sweaters- I have a million and one sweaters in a million and one styles and cuts.

3. Button downs- I am still looking for the magic unicorn* slouchy white button down but I don't need any of the regular ones. 

4. Ts, tanks, tops- I am covered for at least two years.

5. Dresses- I'm pretty sure unless it's a magic unicorn dress I can live without it.

6. Leggings, lounge and work out- I cleaned out the VS sale so I'm good for years to come. 

That covers a huge swathe of things I would normally be tempted to look at.  BUT there are a couple of things that caught my eye at while browsing around on Zara's website.  

I would love a mid weight neutral gray scarf for Fall.  My scarf game is pretty bad right now and I really want something that will go with everything.

Really super comfortable ankle boots.

Black or gray pants.  I have my eye on the gray coated jeans at Zara.  I missed getting a pair of coated jeans years ago and regretted it.

A blazer.  Black is more practical but I love that textured white one so much.  

On a totally unrelated note, I was disturbed to see I can buy flare knit pants, flannel shirts and stirrup leggings.  What is going on Zara?  These hideous what the hell shoes look like they jumped right out of my closet in 1998.


Your financially frugal and responsible friend,

 *magical unicorn clothes are clothes I rarely find which are so prefect and wonderful that I absolutely have to buy them even if it makes no sense or is expensive.  I always end up loving these things forever and forever.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

I go on a diet, exercise, lose wieght

I'm almost done with three weeks of the Paleo diet.  First up, I have a confession, I've never been on a diet before. When I was in my 20s losing weight was pretty easy so I never felt like dieting was for me.  Sometimes I counted calories or tried to eat more fruits and veggies but I'd never been on weight watchers, never tried South Beach or the Zone or anything like that.  I have also never had a personal trainer or nutritionist.  I gained between 5-10 pounds since moving to Brandenburg.  None of my clothes fit, I was struggling to exercise and nothing I was trying would shift any weight.  I felt like things were getting out of hand.  I was desperate to do something.  Anything!  I wanted to be healthier but skipping meals or cutting too many calories wasn't an option.  I am a stay at home parent, a task which requires monumental patience and energy.  It also makes me my daughter's role model for healthy eating.  I am aware of how easily girls and boys can get disordered eating patterns.  We don't need any of that in our house.

I read about Paleo a long time ago.  My initial reaction was 'oh that's stupid' but almost a year later my thinking had shifted.  Now it sounded much more reasonable.  I was ready to try anything.  I started doing research and reading as much as I could on the subject.
Exercising with dedication but not losing weight.
 It starts with food but I decided against paying €20 for a one time read diet book.


The things I like about Paleo and the Whole30 are this: the food is unprocessed, fruit is allowed and it isn't trying to limit calories or completely cut out carbs.  There are regular meals and snacking is discouraged.  I don't like diets that cut carbs because I like to run.  Distance running is almost impossible without eating adequate carbohydrates.   The most miserable pathetic run I did on this diet was the one I tried to do instead of eating lunch.  Now if a scheduled meal is coming up I eat and then exercise. 

My only problem so to speak is that I am limited by where I live in my food choices.  I live in a small town.  German supermarkets are not large and going to multiple stores in a week with a two year old in tow is a serious complication.   I get exhausted just thinking about taking Sophie to look for kale or bok choy.   Given this handicap my version of Paleo is too low in calcium to continue for very long.  Did I mention being a full time parent?  Sticking to Paleo means a lot more cooking than I would normally do.  A lot of times I would be making two separate dinners every night.  My husband is one of those infuriating people who can eat whatever he wants, run a couple times a week and never has to worry about gaining weight.  Most of the time my daughter and husband were eating different things than I was though this week I did a much better job of combining our dietary needs.

 While doing this strict elimination diet I was also doing three days combination moderate to high intensity cardio and three days of strength training with lots of time spent stretching and doing yoga after my runs.  I really like everything except core strength training.  This is my weakness and probably why I never liked Pilates.  I loath core strength training but I forced myself to get over and get it done.  I wasn't expecting to see any huge fitness gains.  My main goal was to prevent any muscle loss while I was dieting.  Most of my reading tells me that it's somewhat difficult to gain muscle and lose fat while eating few calories.  I had more energy!  I wasn't exhausted at the end of the day even when I was working out.  I noticed some improvement in my endurance and muscle tone too.

The corn wasn't for me but I ate everything else.
The first week was the hardest because I was constantly hungry.  My body was like, 'where is the pasta!? Where is the cheese?!  Wine!?'.  After the first week my appetite dropped off significantly and all the weight I had gained since moving here was rapidly lost.   The food I was eating has a high water content and very high fiber.  I was eating a normal volume of food three times a day but it was still very low calorie without trying and without me being hungry.  I made sure I was eating a lot of fish and lean protein, again I wanted to prevent losing muscle.   Nutritional balance was another concern so I ate mostly walnuts for omega 3 and tried my best to get as many nutrients as possible.  Despite my best efforts calcium and iron were a problem. 

 Almost all of the food I made was easy and delicious. My one huge disappointment were the seasoned baked sweet potato fries I found on Pinterest.  I could not eat them, they were super gross. 

just nasty
I also had several reoccurring nightmares where I would eat like half a donut and then wake up scared I'd broken a diet rule.  That was weird.  Thankfully dream donuts don't have any calories.

 The results after less than three weeks are pretty obvious (to me anyway).  My husband said my face is still really round but I think it thinned out as well.  Now I am the same weight I was a year ago before moving.  I haven't made a dent in losing the lingering baby weight and I'm still pre diabetic.  But I am less discouraged.  If I could lose this much in a short time I am sure I can continue to lose more as time goes on.  I would also like to find a healthy, sustainable diet that isn't too difficult to continue.  The vain part of me would love to fit into all my clothes and look awesome too.  I have a long way to go still.   


But I'm so happy these jeans fit again!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Germany unseen: beautiful Brandenburg

Into the deep dark wood.
Brandenburg is a strange place.  It can be wonderfully beautiful and peaceful.  It can be unbelievably dirty and ugly.  While East Berlin has mostly been made over with great sweeping urban renewal and an influx of foriegn money, Brandenburg hasn't felt nearly so much love.  Rents are rising here too, but not as fast as the city.  You can see urban decay everywhere.  My guess would be at least one in ten buildings sit rotting and abandoned.  It might be more in some places. 

I wanted to share some of my favorite things about the place we call home right.  (Sometimes it really is weird). 

First would be the farm/wild park.  It's only 20 minutes from our house and I love going there.  During the week it's pretty empty which is nice.  We take Redgie but leave him in the car for the petting zoo, rabbit visiting part.  He gets really upset when he isn't allowed to chase goats and murder bunnies. 

Sophie likes to give the chickens pine cones and sticks.  So far the chickens are not very impressed.

Finding one that seems to like her.
She spent 15 minutes talking to him about how hungry he was.
They also have berry picking, a huge play ground and a sort of store/farmers market.  The petting zoo and wild park are free.  We love it when things are free :)

The wild park has deer and wild boar.  The Stadtwald in our town is right by a lake.  At the end of Summer it's full of ticks and mosquitoes so we haven't been going there.  This forest is much better.  The paths are clear of grass so we don't need to worry about ticks and there aren't as many mosquitoes.

Another place I really like is the island in our town.  We can walk there in about 10-15 minutes.  There are ice cream shops and restaurants if we feel like a treat, several play grounds and walking paths.  A free beach is on the island but Havel is polluted so I wouldn't swim in it.  I don't even like Redgie going in there since it might have caused his last mysterious doggy illness.  The lake is still pretty to look at.  It's full of fish and birds. Sophie and Redgie both like the ducks. 
On the island

This last weekend we visited the swimming complex Marienbad in the city of Brandenburg.  We all liked the pool.  It's going to become a regular weekend destination.  Driving through Brandenburg city was interesting as well.  So parts around the central station are shiny and new.  Other parts have more character, like a throwback to before reunification. 

Lots and lots of abandoned buildings in Brandenburg city.
Like seriously a lot.
Probably communist apartment blocks.  They aren't as tall as the ones in the Berlin but they still have the look.
Brandenburg is full of fruit farms.  On the way home we stopped at one and got some berries.  They were much better than the supermarket fruit we usually buy.  Berry picking/fruit farm visiting is also fun.  We'll have to plan a visit before the weather turns.

So there you go!  A glimpse of parts of Germany most foreigners never really see.  What do you think?

Thursday, August 14, 2014


I have to apologize for some of the things I wrote.

I try to be diplomatic.  I try to be fair.  I try to make sure that my thoughts are carefully explained and easy to follow. 

One of the most popular posts on this blog- 'Do Europeans parent better than Americans' was lazily written and contained some unfinished and poorly explained thoughts.  As a result it was offensive and a little bit disrespectful to Germans.  I am so sorry. 

I was uncomfortable when that post popped up in the most popular feed so I went back and read it.  It didn't accurately depict my feelings or thoughts.  I added some notes to it that I hope make it less offensive and easier to understand.  I absolutely do not want to disrespect my adopted home or the people who live here.  So you know, respect.