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I Heart Europe!, or "Christmas Markets are REALLY the Most Magical Places on Earth"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I arrived in Berlin along with the first snow of the season. It's bloody cold, but everything is covered in a thin layer of white which somehow makes the cold a little friendlier...well, that and Gluehwein (but more on that later).

After a short layover in the Frankfurt airport, I boarded my flight for Berlin. I honestly don't remember much of the flight because as soon as I found my seat, sleep finally found me and I was out like a light until the landing gear came down. What I do remember about Frankfurt was the INCREDIBLE spread of fresh sandwiches, fruits, coffees, and pastries at one of the small shops in the airport. You know you're in Europe when... I literally smiled to myself at that point. It's good to be back. Food here is like art. They say you eat with your eyes before your stomach and Europeans are the best artists in the world. None of this pre-packaged stuff that we have at every Starbucks every two blocks (not that they don't have those too, because they do), that may or may not be soggy, stale or over salted when you take it out of the package - but bread so fresh you can smell it everywhere lined with meats and cheeses and bright red tomatoes and vibrant green lettuce. It's JUST a sandwich...but then again, it doesn't even begin to compare to JUST a sandwich. Anyway...I digress. I was still full of plane food, so I didn't buy anything to eat, just a bottle of water, and I was on my way.

The Scientist picked me up from the airport and after buying a City Pass for Berlin & Potsdam, we jumped on a bus and then a train and arrived at his apartment about 45 minutes later. Of considerable note - he lives on the fifth floor of a five-floor WALK UP building. Who needs a stairmaster? I may have started to perfect my running hams, but let me tell you - stairs are a whole different beast and by the end of a full day walking around I will NOT be looking forward to that task. I was pretty exhausted, but I wanted to stick to my plan of getting on schedule in one day, so after a quick shower and a change of clothes, we headed out for lunch at a lovely little Spanish restaurant down the street from his place. I had a delicious pasta with grilled chicken and mushrooms in this divine creamy sauce - not as heavy as alfredo, almost like a stew. YUM! After lunch I thought we would just end up going back to his house so I could take a nap, but a step outside into the cold air woke me up again and we decided to just start walking and see how long I could make it. He said there was a Christmas Market very close to his house so we ventured down a couple of different streets and looked at all the vendors.

Next up was KaDeWe (short for Kaufhaus des Westens). This was on my "must see" list, so since I wasn't begging for bed yet, we went in:

Inside the front doors was the prettiest Christmas display I have ever seen (and I live in Chicago with the Marshall Fields displays!). This high-end department store is a lot like Macy's or Marshall Fields, but at the very top in that glassed in section is a market unlike anything I have ever seen. Here are a couple of shots - I'm going to try to go back to take more. They have meats and cheeses and chocolates and mustards and breads and dried goods - anything and everything you could possibly imagine in the most beautiful, eye-catching arrangements. We didn't buy anything today, but we plan to go back to eat at the Marche-style restaurant up top.

After a quick trip to the toy department (where we found a Santa and Woody from Toy Story made in Lego) it was time to go. But first - we had to get pictures with the life-sized Steiff bear.

Bears are a big deal in Berlin. They're actually the symbol of the city, and so you find them everywhere (kind of like Chicago has cows everywhere). Here are a few that we found around town:

I was still doing ok (surprisingly) after KaDeWe so we walked a bit further and came upon another Christmas Market surrounding the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial Church. This is a beautiful old church that was bombed heavily in WWII and the ruins were left intact as a reminder of the horrors of war while a new, modern church was built around it. Here you can see the old church (with scaffolding all around it - I think they're trying to do some upkeep on it) and the two pieces of the new church - the tall tower and the low hexagonal building that looks a bit like a bunker.

Inside the ruins of the old church is now a museum that shows the building before and after and preserves a small part of what was left of the gorgeous interior.

The new church is pretty outstanding itself with thousands of stained glass windows and a huge pipe organ.

Since we were there anyway - we walked around the Christmas Market for a bit - smelling the smells and seeing the sights. SO PRETTY when all the lights come on and the sun starts to go down (it's completely dark by 4:30pm here).

I finally was in pretty desperate need of a nap at this point, so we stopped by a grocery store to pick up some items for breakfast and headed back to the apartment (and the 10 flights of stairs - 2 per floor) for a nap. 2 hours later - a little more rested and refreshed, we headed out for dinner and a walk around Mitte - a neighbourhood in East Berlin. Definitely different from the West, I really like East Berlin (from the little I saw of it in the dark). It has a lot of character and the buildings are very different from the buildings in the West. It also has a huge punk culture which was evident when I stumbled upon the Ramones Museum! There is also this really awesome gutted out building that is awash in graffiti and other art that houses a punk club, an art studio, a music performance hall, a couple of sub-culture restaurants and an open air market for all kinds of really interesting things. I want to go back in the daylight. This is the kind of place where street people still burn papers and other items in large barrels, etc. so I didn't really want to venture in at night. But it looked really cool!

We ate dinner at a great German restaurant - I had flammkuchen, which is a dish from Alsace that is like a very, very thin pita bread almost that they serve with pizza-like toppings. I had mine with lean gyro meat, olives, onions and feta cheese. It was delicious. A stroll back to Hackescher Markt to end the evening and my first introduction to this WONDERFUL Christmas drink called Gluehwein. Essentially a mulled wine, they have stands here everywhere for it and it's at all of the Christmas Markets in all kinds of flavours. Cherry is very popular. But in addition to the wine that's already in it, they like to add a shot of Amaretto. Oh dangerous! I'm obviously enjoying myself!

A VERY full first day, so we headed home to the stairs one more time and I crawled into bed. I awoke this morning right on time! Success! I managed to right my body-clock in one day - hurrah.

Today we had planned to visit Shloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace), built by Sophie Charlotte, wife of Friedrich III - who later crowned himself Friedrich I "King in Prussia". It's a Baroque-style palace and reminded me a lot of Versailles, though on a much smaller scale. It was originally built to be a summer house, but then was extended a number of times by a number of different generations, so the tour was really cool because we got to see rooms from when it was first built in the 1700s all the way to the remodeling that was done after a section of the palace was destroyed during the war.

They didn't let us take any pictures inside, but that's ok. I almost enjoy things more when I'm not seeing the world through my camera. We took in the whole palace on both floors and then walked the new wing as well that was added on in the 1900s. All I can say is - if you ever get a chance to visit a Baroque palace - do it. The opulence is unbelievable. This one is best known for the Porcelain Room - Sophie loved collecting porcelain, mostly from China and Japan and there is one room that is wall to wall, floor to ceiling porcelain from her collection. Over 1800 pieces adorn the walls, all laid out in order of size, type, colour, etc. And that's only the beginning. Her collection spans the rest of the palace and spills over into a museum next door. Incredible. The wealth and abundance of royalty. Phew!

Once outside, we walked over to the Christmas Market that was set up outside the palace. This one is by far the best one yet (and they say they only get better in Munich!). It was stunningly beautiful, all the little wood huts decorated in lights with white tops that look like snow. They smell like Christmas - candied nuts, mulled wine, fire and sausages of course. And lebkuchen (for Pookie!) which I of course had to try. It's German gingerbread and mine was dipped in chocolate. And each Gluehwein hut had collectible mugs. We stopped for two different varieties, but I think there were at least 7 or 8 at that one market. Dangerous business for a mug collector! We rested outside the Wilde Scheune for some venison stew and spatzle (potato pasta) with a cup of Gluehwein.

One thing is for sure - Germans are hearty and they love being outside. With temperatures this cold, Americans hunker down with their televisions. But not these folks. It seemed everyone in the city was out enjoying their Saturday at the markets and out of doors. Sidewalk cafes are still set-up and people still eat at them (with lap blankets provided by the restaurants). Beer gardens are still very much open - I totally thought they'd be closed by the end of November. Tomorrow I'll be wearing my tights under my jeans for sure - I couldn't feel my legs by the time we got home.

A couple last shots of the palace at night, lit by the lights from the Christmas Market:

A stroll up the Kurfurstendamm (Berlin's 5th Avenue or Magnificent Mile) ended our evening with more beautiful lights down a beautiful boulevard of trees. I was happy to see it at night since all the stores were lit up and it's not like I'm going to be shopping at any of those stores anyway! Santa and Frosty flanked the two ends of the strip :)

Tomorrow we're off to Sans Souci in Potsdam (another Baroque Palace) and to Shloss Cecilienhof where the Potsdam Conference was held in 1945 that lead to the split of Germany and the beginning of the Cold War. So much history!

Believe it or not, I'm under my calories today and was under yesterday and Thursday as well. I finally had time to input all of my food tonight and was quite pleased to find that out. I haven't felt at all deprived or hungry. I'm eating when I want to/feel like I need to eat, and I'm drinking alcohol responsibly and water often. So overall on the food front, I think I'm doing pretty well. Exercise is a no-brainer. We walked about 4-5miles today (and my legs are definitely feeling it) so I've got the calorie burn to counter-act the eating. Win-win? I think so! I've been taking my water bottle with me which is a good thing since they don't serve water at the dinner table and when you ask for it they literally bring over a small cup - not exactly what I'm used to consuming for sure. But at least I have a solution to that problem. Veggies are scarce at street fairs, but with dinners they're pretty regular, so I'm promising myself to maybe order a salad for lunch tomorrow since I didn't get very many in today. Good thing I bought bananas for breakfast!

Time for bed! Must rest my feet and my back before tomorrow's adventures in Potsdam. Gute nacht!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VICKYMARIEC 6/30/2011 2:31PM

    I loved the pictures! But i was so missing something here!!! This is like a good novel that i can't seem to put down - i swear i sneak onto here every chance i get to read another blog. So i want the juice! What happened when you saw the scientist? How did you feel? Did you kiss? MAN! I so need to know how THAT went...i must read on...after a little more work!

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ANDREA963 12/2/2010 12:29PM

    I'm so impressed that you are watching your nutrition on this trip. It would be so easy to throw caution into the winter wind. Love the pics of the palace all lit up.

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LAURIETAIT 11/29/2010 7:24PM

    You're doing a great job of recounting your adventures. The photos are beautiful. I almost feel like I'm there! Thanks for sharing and keep up travelogue coming!

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_TRIXIE_ 11/29/2010 5:51PM

    Wow. Thank you so much for sharing these great pics along with your travel stories! It looks so beautiful and festive. I hope you have a wonderful time!

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LOTUSFLOWER 11/29/2010 5:33PM

    I love the pictures!! You must make that cute picture of you with coffee/tea/cocoa as your profilie pic!!! Also the bear picture is adorable. All of the pictures are great, it sounds like you're having a wonderful time!!! Miss you!!

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WYND10 11/29/2010 9:55AM

    Sounds like you're having a good time, love the pics of you, you're so damn cute. And it looks beautiful there. Thanks for keeping us updated, can't wait for more!

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KT-NICHOLS-13 11/29/2010 12:50AM

    I love the photo of you with the huge brown bear.

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-POOKIE- 11/28/2010 4:07PM

    Beautiful, thank you for sharing.

Colour me jealous at the markets, we are off to a HUGE one in Manchester in couple weeks, I can't wait! Im planning on Bockwurst and my boyfriend wants gluhwein and giant pretzel!

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FIRESTARINFINI 11/28/2010 3:54PM

    Awesome. I'm visiting my friend in Scotland in January, so we're planning to go to London and Paris! She's big on seeing everything so I'm training to walk long distances, because I don't want to be the one that's too tired and ruins it for everyone!
I'll have to hit the stair stepper machine because we're going to see castles!
I can't wait!

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-SHIMMER-ANN- 11/28/2010 8:58AM

    Gorgeous, thanks for sharing!!

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CALLIKIA 11/28/2010 8:54AM

    The palace at night is beautiful! What an amazing trip you seem to be having! I can't wait to see more!

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MNGIRLIE 11/27/2010 11:35PM

    What an amazing trip! Thanks so much for sharing the details and the photos with everyone. Looks like you're having a spectacular time. You've totally given me the traveling bug again. I would love so much to travel all over Europe and especially Germany. I look forward to reading about your travels!

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SLFRISBEY 11/27/2010 11:27PM

    Keep having fun! If you get a chance get a kebab! I miss them TONS!!!

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NEVERMIND2010 11/27/2010 8:55PM

    Christmas in Germany is definitely the best!

And Berlin is one of my favorite cities, although I haven't been there since the Wall came down (yeah, I'm old). I've been thinking about spending time in Germany next Christmas season, and you've just added impetus to that. Thanks!


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DANCINGJILL 11/27/2010 8:45PM

    Beautiful pictures!!! I am so glad you are enjoying yourself. Europe is such a beautiful country! emoticon

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KARENE10 11/27/2010 8:21PM

    I love the pictures and your blog! Thank you so much for sharing! We go to Christkindlemarkt here every year(Pa.)and we have a nice time. emoticon emoticon

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MEADSBAY 11/27/2010 8:17PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon
for this awesome travel blog!
I sosososo enjoyed it-
and your fab pics.
LOVE the one of happy you with the rosy cheeks!
Please keep 'em coming.

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SARAWALKS 11/27/2010 7:33PM

    Gosh, you are so making me want to go to Berlin! That church looks incredible - and the food - and the markets! You will probably lose lots of weight from all the walking! Enjoy - emoticon emoticon

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TEENY_BIKINI 11/27/2010 7:19PM

    Wow. What a totally fun blog!


Just enjoy, gorgeous. Woo Hoo!!

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UNICORN212 11/27/2010 7:18PM

    I have never been to Berlin, but I have been to Munich, Heidelberg, Stuttgart and some other areas. I still have family there. I miss it. Tale lots of pictures so I can visit vicariously!


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BESTMEPOSSIBLE 11/27/2010 6:27PM

    I have never been to Germany, but my husband has. He said your photos reminded him of the days he lived there. They were all beautiful.

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YICHE12 11/27/2010 6:20PM

    Lovely! Thank you so much for sharing these with us.

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ASHLEYKAT 11/27/2010 6:15PM

    Oh, I loved Berlin! Last time I was there, they had 100 Christmas markets in the town! So fun! If you get a chance, right by the Brandenburg Gate (on the side AWAY from the Reichstag), there's an ice bar that a hotel does when it gets cold enough. Really neat stuff since the bar itself is made out of ice.

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PUNK_MOM_24 11/27/2010 6:07PM

    Don't you love Germany? It sounds like you're taking in all the best parts and the Christmas markets are definitely one of my favorites. I'm amazed you were able to stay within your calorie range, you deserve an award for eating here and managing that one emoticon I hope you continue to enjoy your European visit and great job with your food intake and walking.

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Traveling Lighter

Thursday, November 25, 2010

After a momentary panic this morning (I received a text message from Orbitz at 5:30am to tell me that my flight for today had been rescheduled to tomorrow!) I am currently sitting at my gate waiting to board a 747 to Frankfurt, en route to Berlin!

The airport is fairly quiet - it being a big national holiday and all, but it's fun sitting in the presence of German nationals (I'm sure) listening to them speak in a different language...except the language that I hear right now is actually French, so I'm feeling very international!

It's been over a year since my last big trip to Paris, and a 65 pound weight difference. Right off the bat, I can feel the change - and I know this trip is going to be even better because of it. I actually feel kind of svelte in my tight black yoga pants, running shoes and hoodie.

After getting my flight switched this morning, I was set to depart a full 2 hours earlier than I had originally planned, so that meant moving QUICK to get out of my house and still get done all the things that I needed to before I left. Running up and down the stairs for some last minute laundry, dishes, clean the cat litter, change the bed. By the time I dragged my suitcase out the door and breathed a sigh of relief I realized that I had barely broken a sweat. Amazing. That wouldn't have happened last year.

On and off the train with heavy bags didn't seem as much of an issue this time. And as I rolled up to the check-in I took just a second to recognize that hauling all of my stuff through the airport wasn't nearly as terrible an experience today. I wasn't out of breath, I wasn't sweating or exhausted - if fact - I was rather comfortable. Awesome!

I made it through security so fast that I forgot about the half bottle of water in my bag - so to ensure that I drink my limit today I chugged it before walking through the scanner. They let me through with my yogurt for my lunch, thankfully, and once I was through I located the Great American Bagel for a sandwich. Everything according to plan I made it to my gate to relax with some food pre-flight. The next time I eat will be on the plane and I've figured that I have just enough calories left for my in-flight meal and a glass of wine.

The waiting area seats are the same size that I remember, but this time I can sit cross-legged in one seat and have room on MY LAP for my sandwich - and now my laptop. I couldn't be more thrilled. So many NSVs in one day already, I can't wait to experience more!

The airplane seat and the belt are to come, but I know that those won't be an issue today. I can finally cross that goal off my list - no more seat belt extensions!

Happy Travels indeed :) More to come from Germany. We just started boarding so I'm signing off for now.

Happy T-Day Spark Friends. Auf Weidersehen!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CALLIKIA 11/28/2010 8:46AM

    I'm still so nervous for my flight out to D.C. The last trip was a disaster, and I'm hoping my weight loss will mean I won't have to worry quite as much. Not expecting a "no extension" moment, but that will come.

Safe journey to you! Sounds like you have a great plan of action!

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LAKEGIRL76 11/27/2010 10:15AM

    Way to go! Traveling is definitely easier at a smaller size. I remember that feeling and want to get back to it! Last year when I traveled, I actually had to ask for a seat belt extender..... I don't want to do that again....

Enjoy your trip!!! emoticon

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WYND10 11/26/2010 6:12PM

    Woot!! So happy for you. Safe travels!!

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LOTUSFLOWER 11/26/2010 4:12PM

    I am so happy for you!!!!!

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-POOKIE- 11/26/2010 5:25AM

    Thats so great! I like your comparisons, be proud!

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MEADSBAY 11/25/2010 9:10PM

    Bon voyage, mon ami!

Comment edited on: 11/25/2010 9:11:50 PM

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LAURIETAIT 11/25/2010 4:58PM

    I hope the great beginning of your trip is the auspicious beginning to the vacation of a lifetime. I'm really looking forward to reading about Germany while stuck here in the Manitoba prairie winter. This is going to be my vicarious vacation so please do everything you can to ensure that it's a great one!

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Berlin Bound

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tomorrow, while the rest of America will be gorging on turkey and watching football, I will be peeling the plastic wrap off of my pre-packaged in-flight dinner and cracking the twist top on my tiny bottle of airplane wine...and I couldn't be more excited!

I'm excited about my trip, but I'm also excited that I get a by tomorrow - a free pass out of having to worry about over-indulging on turkey and stuffing and family drama. I am breathing a sigh of relief just thinking about it.

But I'm nervous too. I'm worried about gaining weight while I'm there which I REALLY don't want to happen. And everyone knows that Thanksgiving is only ONE day, while a trip to the carb capital of the world is going to last exactly 18 days. Pretzels, beer and brautwurst anyone?

My weigh-in today was not a good one. I was really hoping to see 245 before I left, and especially after I accomplished my other goal of a 4 mile run before I left yesterday, I thought I was due for at least a pound loss this week. But no such luck. I was actually up 0.4 pounds (I don't record gains on my ticker though, so now it just gets to hang out at 66.2 pounds lost for another 3 weeks...ugh). I have a feeling I know the culprit - that home made lentil soup that I made over the weekend and have been eating for lunches all week packs a HUGE amount of sodium AND fiber into one bowl, so despite an increase in water consumption this week, I just don't think it's enough and I'm hanging onto some water weight. Either that or I could also have estimated the calories wrong on the Recipe Calculator. Whatever it is - I didn't get my loss this week and that doesn't put me in the best mind frame to leave on vacation where we'll be eating out 3 meals a day.

So I need a plan for Germany to stay on track and enjoy myself without freaking out about a serious weight gain on the scale when I come back.

emoticon I already know that I am taking my food scale with me so that whenever possible I can measure what I'm eating. I should be able to do this for breakfasts and lunches since breakfast is included in all of our hotels and I plan to take away a few items from the buffet to pack as snacks or a light lunch that I can measure.

emoticon Stick to what I know! Yes, the breakfast buffets may be appealing, but I know what's in oatmeal, yogurt and an apple or other piece of fruit, so keep it simple for breakfast and lunch so that I can indulge a bit at dinner and not worry so much.

emoticon I'm actually nervous that I won't be able to find enough veggies in Germany. I know that's got to be just a wise-tale. People over there HAVE to eat fruits and vegetables - it's just not what you hear about the traditional dishes besides their love of cabbage. So if I have to, I will go to a market and buy some baby carrots to pack in my bag to ensure that I get enough freggies a day!

emoticon WATER! I'm packing my water bottle and I'm planning on using it! At least 10 glasses a day since we'll be walking a lot as well and will need replenishment.

emoticon And speaking of walking - WALKING! A lot. About 8 miles a day if I can. Which shouldn't be hard since most of what we have planned are walking tours. And also RUNNING! I have decided that I need to get at least ONE run in around the Tiergarten in Berlin. Cause that's just awesome. And I can map my route on SparkPeople. And that is also awesome! I already have my running gear packed. And finally HIKING! We have a day planned to hike Zugspitze (the highest point in the Bavarian Alps) and that's going to be such an amazing day. Just hoping we don't get snowed out!

emoticon Beer is going to happen - I'm in GERMANY! But it doesn't have to happen more than once a day, or even once every couple of days. I'm not used to drinking anymore anyway, so one stein will likely have me on the floor! I'm just going to use my best judgment if I want a drink and weigh it in with the rest of what I'm eating for dinner.

emoticon Stay away from the bread basket! This is going to be REALLY hard because bread is my favorite, and rye and pretzel bread are my favorite of the favorite. But I'm going to be consuming enough other carbs, so I don't need to go crazy and puff up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. I won't deny myself what's worth it, but GO EASY!

emoticon Log In to Spark every day! You, dear friends, are going to get the benefit of my travel log :) I've decided that I want to keep a blog of my daily adventures anyway, and what better place to do it while keeping myself on track? So I'll be signing in as much as I possibly can to track, post photos and blog about my travels to keep myself accountable and to document my own vacation.

So a VERY HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of you! I wish you all the best of holidays with just the right amount of yummy food, and plenty of exercise. I'll be thinking about all of you while I'm thousands of miles away - because you are what keeps me grounded and on track on my journey - near or far. I am so thankful to have all of you in my life!

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CALLIKIA 11/28/2010 8:44AM

    It sounds like you are about to have an amazing adventure! Remember to enjoy it as well!

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NANENASCHKATZE 11/26/2010 8:02AM

    Hi, I'm actually from Germany and I can assure you that we have tons of veggies over here :-)) Walking around Tiergarten is really fun, also I can recommend the botanical gardens just a few train stops outside the city... and the beer, well,... that would be lost of carbs, BUT: try the "Glühwein" instead, just around these days all the christmas markets are opening and you'll definitely find glühwein or some kind of christmas apple cider there. have fun discovering berlin!

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MEADSBAY 11/24/2010 9:26PM

    Excellent plan!
Have fun- all things in moderation.
Focus on the experience- not the food (and beer).

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WYND10 11/24/2010 9:04PM

    So excited for you!!!!! Have a wonderful time! I can't wait to hear all about it.

And .4 pounds is nothing. No worries, you're a rock star and with your plans in place you're going to kill this trip and have a fantastic time doing it!!

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TEENY_BIKINI 11/24/2010 8:47PM

    Aw shucks, cutie. The culprit of .4 pounds could a good BM. I think my hair weighs .4 pounds. It is nothing. You are doing just fine.

I hope you have a fab time. I didn't really like German food. You may have nothing worry about on the food front.

Be fabulous as you are :)

Safe trip and be good - only when necessary....


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AUTUMNPOTTER 11/24/2010 7:24PM

    I'm so excited for you. I think you have a good plan in place especially for Thanksgiving I wish I'd thought of that. I was kinda bummed that you were probably going to be too busy to post but now I'm excited about the vicarious vacation. I can't wait to see the photos and hear how it is. I have never been to Europe at all. My one chance I gave up for the sake of my mother's sanity. It was a school trip and she was freaking about the idea. I failed French anyway LOL. Good Luck on your trip. You inspire me to keep at my goals, if you can do it there I can do it here. Thanks!

Comment edited on: 11/24/2010 7:30:47 PM

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FLYSOHIGH 11/24/2010 6:43PM

    ooh, you're gonna have such a great time!!! Berlin is my totally favourite city in Europe (apart from my city, of course). and i actually found it very easy to stay on track in Germany, they have great choice of freggies, in my opinion, and great choice of delicious low-cal food.
the pastries are another story... i never touched them, cause they did look like they could overpower me for good. but that was me.
hiking is gonna be great! and the tiergarten, maaaan, that is one awesome park! i couldn't clock in a run when i was there, but i did a lot of walking there when generally sightseeing and i was CRAZY JEALOUS of all those people running. the park is like a forest but like, NEXT TO, awesome architecture and monuments. lucky, lucky berliners!

you have a great time!!! berlin rocks!!!

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SLFRISBEY 11/24/2010 6:27PM

    I am sooooo jealous!!! I love love love Germany and miss it tons. I lived there twice for a year each time. When you go out to places, there aren't going to be TONS of veggies on the menu but if you go to the grocery store they have alot of choice and it's alot less expensive than going out. Water is good straight from the tap but the Germans will look at you like you're crazy, they love their fizzy water! In places like Berlin you'll have tons of choices with food. Berlin is a very cool trendy city and any kind of cuisine you'd like. Bavaria however, they stick to the typical fare. HAVE FUN!!!! I want to go back so bad next year!

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LOTUSFLOWER 11/24/2010 6:12PM

    Have a wonderful trip, you have a great plan!!! I am so excited that you'll be blogging about it, I can't wait to hear about your walking and running adventures in Germany!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

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LAURIETAIT 11/24/2010 4:48PM

    I'm so looking forward to having a virtual holiday with you! Unfortunately for me all the walking won't be included! I have always found that I lost weight during a holiday that involved lots of walking. The big challenge was to keep it off when I got home. I hope your vacation exceeds all your expectations and your weight loss is through the roof! Enjoy!

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KT-NICHOLS-13 11/24/2010 4:37PM

    O.M.G. I wish I could come along in your back pocket ... what a great trip you have planned AND an awesome plan to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle. Can't wait to see your photo's and read your blogs. You ROCK sister!

Safe travels and Happy Thanksgiving!

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KRAWRS 11/24/2010 4:13PM

    Sounds like a fantastic time! Its great that you get a pass on having to worry about family drama, overindulging on thanksgiving food, and feeling bad about it later. It sounds like you have a good plan in place, so I think you'll do just fine! Try to stick to it as much as possible, but don't beat yourself up about it too much if you slip up every once in awhile. You're on vacation! Enjoy yourself!

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-POOKIE- 11/24/2010 3:59PM

    I hope you have a WONDERFUL time.

I loved Germany when I went, I so want to go again. I stayed near Stuttgart, in the Black Forest... my host family made me real Black Forest Gataux on my last day... was kugulhupf on my first day!
The giant preztels on the streets where awesome... was way too young for beer when I went!

Comment edited on: 11/24/2010 4:31:59 PM

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Cry Baby

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Over the past few weeks I have turned into the biggest blubber-butt ever. And I'm not talking about fat, because thankfully, my booty continues to shrink - woohoo!

I'm talking about being an emotional mush bucket. For a person who has walled-up her emotions for most of her existence into this tough exterior, believing that to cry (especially in public) was a sign of weakness, I sure have turned a new leaf. The floodgates have opened my friends. Be careful what you say, because if it reeks at all of sentiment, you might set me off.

I cry at EVERYTHING now. Sheesh. Not only am I shedding my physical layers of emotional protection so that these raw feelings are closer to the surface, but we have also entered THAT time of the year in which it is the American Way and the goal of every marketing company known to exist to pull at the heartstrings of poor little people like me. Pass the Kleenex.

Christmas is a VERY emotional time of the year for me from the get-go. I was born into it. My birthday is December 23rd, and I was born at 11:49pm so I was ALMOST a Christmas Eve baby. I popped out of the womb crying "Carol of the Bells" - I'm sure of it. They brought me to my mother wrapped in a stocking and wearing a tiny knit hat (that she still has pressed between the pages of my baby book). There is so much "special" in my life rolled into a 3-day window every year, that I can't help but get a little verclempt when the first chill of winter hits the air.

And while we're on the subject of my mother, let me also mention that she is OBSESSED with Christmas. When she was still a stay-at-home mom, she made a crafting business for herself by selling hand-made Christmas decorations. I remember all too well helping her in her shop. She would have me hold up two fingers to help her tie tiny red bows, since my little pinkies were just the right size. Forget Christmas in July - it was Christmas in my house 365 days a year. Years later, after she went back to work full time, she insisted on hosting the extended family every year since she was the only one with children at the time and it wouldn't feel like Christmas any other way. I became accustomed to lavish party after lavish party with both sides of our family and a number of family friends. Christmas always lasted a week at least and culminated on New Year's Eve when all our neighbours would join my family around our player piano and sing songs late into the night. Nowadays, mom has switched to insisting that she DOESN'T want to host Christmas every year and how much she wishes that someone else would step up and take the responsibility. I hate to tell her that the real reason no one does is because we all know how much it would break her heart if she were stripped of the annual duty. The planning and prepping and baking and fretting about every little detail have become so much a part of the person she is, that without it she would seem sad and broken. That can't be an easy existence. Living your life for Christmas. Every year I watch her wind up like a top, and every year I watch her deflate when it's all over. It's like the most depressing movie you've ever seen. And for 25 years of my life I have tried to avail her of some of that burden. I would wind up with her. Spin through the appetizers, and the Christmas crackers, and the presents and music and guests and dishes. And every year I would eat more and drink more and sink myself into the same depression when the party was over. I lived my life for Christmas too. Until I started seeing my therapist and coming to terms with the fact that Christmas for me is a big mixed bag of hope and hurt. Every year I hope for it to be something that it never turns out to be and every year I walk away a little more hurt.

Last year, in a fog of a feeling that I hadn't really experienced before, I baked 8 different kinds of Christmas cookies. Just me, in my apartment, by myself - I laboured for hours on shortbreads, and nut bars, and gingerbread and peanut butter bon bons. All of the same cookies that my mother makes every year (though I stopped at 8 variations, when she typically does at least 14). I ended up with about 10 cookie platters. A couple I brought to work. A couple of gave to friends. But at the end of the day I still had about 5 plates that I ended up eating all by myself well into the New Year. It wasn't until later that I started talking about my feelings and beginning to understand why I needed to make those cookies. Even though I consumed most of them, the real reason I made them was not in an effort to binge, but in an effort to love. Those cookies to me WERE love. And last year when the seasons turned and my emotions started coming to the surface I needed that love to get me through the intense loneliness. I needed my mom - and baking all of her cookies was, at that point, as close as I could get.

This year I am not baking cookies. I'm not decorating, and I have sworn off television for the time being since every dang commercial that even hints at bells and snow makes me cry. But I can't avoid Christmas. And being that this year is my 30th birthday, I can't avoid that either. So I am coming to terms with the fact that I'm a blubber-butt for holiday sentiment. I just returned from the opening night of my theatre company's annual production of Miracle on 34th Street. I literally walked in the doors of the theatre and started welling up. There's something about the sight of red and gold ribbon that creates a perpetual lump in my throat. And I can't hear "I'll Be Home for Christmas" without bawling like a baby. I am intrinsically linked to Santa Claus and Frosty The Snowman and I don't know if that is ever going to change.

But what I can change is how I deal with my emotions and the yearly pull to drown them in a vat of eggnog (with rum please). I know now that I am lonely. Everyone is at some point in their lives. And though food is and has been my friend in times of need, it's not really going to help me in the New Year when Christmas is back in a box. The January blahs will still exist, and there will always be Christmas again next year. And as much as it sucks to pop the balloon on Christmas, it IS true that Christmas happens every year, so why must we continually live it up year after year as though it's our last day on the planet? Eat, drink and be merry? Or eat, drink and be sorry later.

So this year - bring on the tears. I'll cry every day if I have to. What I'm not going to do is soak up those tears for the loneliness that we all feel around the holidays and the great expectations that they bring with fruit cake, or shortbread, or venison tortiere (my absolute holiday favorite). This year I am making a pact to be honest with myself and honest with my family about my emotions. Because they're not ALL about loneliness. Honestly, most of them are happy tears. Christmas with my family is a joyous and wonderful time (I'm crying writing this, just so you know). It is warm, and inviting, and delicious. It smells of all of the things Christmas should smell of - a fire in the hearth, food in the oven, spiced cider on the stove, pine trees and berries and my grandmother's perfume. So if I get a little emotional at the overwhelming spirit of it all, I think that's only normal. And it's my plan this year to let it all out. Cry, love and tell my whole big, happy, crazy, annoyingly wonderful family just how happy I am to be home.

A phrase we hear often in the theatre while rehearsing a play:

Now once more; with feeling!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JESSSPARK 11/23/2010 12:49PM

    Made me well up too. And realize I'm not at work and I might miss the thing of assorted cookies I usually get from the guy at work who also makes like 20 kinds of cookies with his kids. Good luck getting through this.

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LAURIETAIT 11/22/2010 5:53PM

    I think the fact that you are crying a lot says that you are really in touch with your feeling about Christmas, the good and the bad and that you feel free to face them, acknowledge them and deal with them like you have not been able to do in the past. I think you have amazing self awareness and understanding. You have this whole healthy journey in the bag, physically and emotionally! I hope this is our best Christmas ever!

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KT-NICHOLS-13 11/22/2010 1:01PM

    It feels good to actually feel and it can be a little scary and overwhelming too. You are well on your way to a total transformation ...

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LOTUSFLOWER 11/22/2010 11:03AM

    emoticonNow your blog is going to make me cry! I can just imagine you brought to your mother in a stocking that is so adorable!! I think it is just amazing that you are so in touch with why you overate last year, and why you're not going to this year. You are one remarkable woman! I'm glad to call you my friend.

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KARVY09 11/22/2010 9:46AM

    It's OK girl. Cry if you need to.

Let's make this season the healthiest and best there is.

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WYND10 11/22/2010 8:50AM


Cry it out! ;)

If this wonderful blog is any indication, you're going to be just fine this holiday season.

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-POOKIE- 11/22/2010 6:34AM

    emoticon Christmas can be so bittersweet for people, I am hoping mine is a good one for the first time in years, I have hope I can repair the damage to the season done with my new boyfriend, his family.

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MEADSBAY 11/21/2010 9:45PM

    No doubt abut it- this is a very emotion laden season for many of us- and you've got a double dose of it.
Please consider decorating and baking a bit- if you get joy from it, that is.
All things in moderation- it's healthy for the body and the soul.
Just a little bit of decorating- maybe your top 3 favorite cookies- something like that.
There's no wrong way- we create our own traditions when we grow up- and, sorry sweetie- you are now one of us- at 30!

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_COSMOPAULATAN_ 11/21/2010 9:35PM

    What a great blog. Really, I loved it. It's amazing how much emotion surfaces when you aren't busy stuffing it away.

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MAMADWARF 11/21/2010 9:16PM

    Oh.My. God. I love this blog so much!! I totally get what you are saying and I so understand when those walls start tumbling down. I can relate to baking becuase you want your mom. Mine has been gone for 16 years. I still want her. I use her china at christmas. we make her recipes. we hear her singing. And its funny because the year she died (in october) she had said we needed to make new traditions, that she wouldnt be around forever and someone else needed to have it at their house so we planned thanksgviving at my house. For the first time ever. And then she died the month before. I was happy to already have a plan in place and all holidays have been held here ever since, even though I am the youngest. I have the happy house, I have the space, so everyone comes here. The christmas she died, I did not want to celebrate, cook, decorate or shop. I had to tho because I had kids and I had to be the MOM. It was the hardest thing I ever did. And Mothers day? pshhh, dont even get me started. It took years till I thought mothers day was about me and not for grieving that I didnt have a mom.

So you see, we are all hung up on holidays and family and emotions. Good for you for looking at it and being honest with yourself. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season with your family And I hope I didnt make you Jan

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WW Challenge COMPLETE!!! (And the kick-off to The WW2 Challenge)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And I blew the number out of the water one week early!

On September 28th I set out to destroy the memory of my last attempt at Weight Watchers with my new found love of SparkPeople.

At 265.4 pounds I was exactly the same starting weight as I was when I joined WW in 2005 - a last ditch attempt to get some control over my life that was in a downward spiral. I was in a new city, depressed, in the middle of a divorce, with no friends or family for support. For 25 weeks I yo-yoed up and down around that starting number, never getting a solid foot on the ground the whole time. At the lowest point, I weighed 249.2 pounds before ballooning back up to 259 pounds by the time I gave up and quit.

The challenge this time was to get to that lowest weight by the time I left for Germany (9 weeks in total), at which point, I would tear that old WW weigh-in book to little shreds and burn it in effigy - removing it and the memory of that horrible time in my life completely.

Well - I haven't gotten to the burning part yet - I'll take pictures of it smouldering on my BBQ tonight, but as of today I AM DONE with that challenge!!!

In 8 weeks I have gone from 265.4 pounds to 246.8 pounds! I surpassed my own challenge by a whole 2.4 pounds!

But that means I'm already well underway for the next challenge. It's another WW challenge (and I think it's only fair that I call it the WW2 Challenge - take that how you will). The WW2 Challenge is the "Weight Watcher Wedding Weight Challenge" and dates back to the summer of 2002 when I joined Weight Watchers yet again to lose weight for my wedding. I was successful that summer in losing 28 pounds, putting me solidly at 230 pounds on my wedding day. Enter the honeymoon though and by the time I returned home I had already gained back 8 of those pounds that I lost and it only went up from there.

Since I am already half way to the finish line for this challenge (my weights from both challenges overlapped in the middle) I only have about 17 pounds left to lose. Score! So I'm setting my goal date a little closer this time to stay motivated through my trip to Germany and the busy Christmas season. By New Year's Eve of this year, I want to be done with this challenge. That's only 6 weeks and means I have to lose almost 3 pounds a week. I'll be honest - I'm not optimistic about those stats - my weight loss is going to slow down - I'm going on vacation, I'm doing a lot of traveling, and I have to go home to face my family (ALL of them) whom I haven't seen since I started this journey. But maybe this challenge will keep me motivated and on task. (And really, setting an arbitrary date in the middle of January - which is probably when I'll more likely hit this goal - just isn't as special as going for the gusto on New Year's Eve!)

New Year/New Me - and another book to burn and more memories to set aside. This is an emotional challenge, just like the WW1 Challenge was. Through this challenge I'll be sorting through old wedding pictures, deciding what to keep and what to throw away. My wedding dress is sitting in a box in my living room right now. I want to put that sucker on one more time, take some pictures, and then give it away or sell it if I can. As much as my prior marriage is a part of who I am today, I'm ready to move on from it in every way - and that means parting ways with the mementos. Freeing up closet space, and brain space, and emotional space for what is only to come - which at this point, can ONLY be good :)

Here are the official numbers from my WW1 Challenge (for those of you who like to count):

Start Date: September 28, 2010
End Date: November 17, 2010

Start Weight: 265.4
Week 1: 264
Week 2: 262
Week 3: 260
Week 4: 258
Week 5: 255
Week 6: 254
Week 7: 252
Week 8: 247! (holy crap, thanks TOM)
End Weight: 246.8
Total Weight Lost: 18.6 pounds

Total Weight Lost To Date with SparkPeople: 66.2 pounds!

Inches Lost: 15.5"
Waist - 3.5"
Hips - 2.5"
Bust - 2.5"
Arms - 1" each
Thighs - 1" each
Calves - 1" each
Neck - 1"

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CALLIKIA 11/20/2010 9:30AM

    I *love* that you're replacing bad memories with new, better ones! Keep up the great work, girl!

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TEENY_BIKINI 11/20/2010 7:33AM

    Wow. You are dropping weight like crazy. It is simply amazing how determined and motivated you are. You are such an inspiration.

I am so proud to be your spark friend. It is also great to read your blogs on a cold Saturday morning with a cup of coffee :)

Continue being awesome. Nobody does it like you.

emoticon emoticon emoticon

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CHICAT63 11/19/2010 5:22AM

    Congratulations on your challenge, you rock Sista !!!! Excellent you will do great on the next one.

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ATREAT4ME 11/18/2010 8:50PM

    What an awesome, personal challenge. Way to go! Can't wait to see your New Year's Eve blog.

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WYND10 11/18/2010 2:41PM

    Congratulations!!! That is awesome that you so thoroughly killed this challenge!! :D

I have no doubt you will do as well with your next challenge. You are unstoppable!!

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LAURIETAIT 11/17/2010 5:51PM

    emoticon on your success do far. You have this next challenge in the bag! Isn't dumping the weight and the emotional garbage freeing? You go girl!

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JESSIELOVE78 11/17/2010 4:11PM

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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LOTUSFLOWER 11/17/2010 3:37PM

    Congratulations Jenn!!!! You continue to amaze and inspire me! You are doing FANTASTIC!!!!!! You can do it!!! I have a goal to reach Onederland by New Year's eve...I have 18 lbs. to lose by then...only 6 weeks away and my weight loss has been stalled since I reached the 80 lb. mark...maybe we can help keep each other accountable and motivate each other. emoticon

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JENJESS48 11/17/2010 3:14PM

    Fantastic! You are really on a roll! emoticon

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SWEETS86 11/17/2010 3:12PM

    Awesome!! I am new to WW, this is my 3rd week and I am loving it. I use SP for my food tracking, but enjoy my meetings. Good luck with your next challenge!

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KT-NICHOLS-13 11/17/2010 3:07PM

    You go girl! You got this! Your journey continues.
I remember feeling free of the past when I decided to go through "the box" in my closet in June 2008. When I finished shredding the contents I told a friend that I had discovered a monster in my closet and I killed it. I've never looked back.

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