Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Completed Chicken Pot Pie Casserole (aka: Pure Deliciousness)!

When Carson was little and experiencing food for the first time, she loved it all. She would try just about anything and it was wonderful. Now, in her toddler years, she has become a super picky eater. She has already determined what she likes or doesn’t like before she tries it, I guess not unsimilar to some adults. In searching for a potluck friendly dish, I came across this Chicken Pot Pie Casserole recipe from the No Biggie food blog. Carson absolutely loves it and usually asks for “more”. Needless to say, this dish has become a staple in our household.

Below is the recipe, including my modifications because, well, Germany.

Ingredients

  • 1 can Pilsburry Grands Biscuits 8 biscuits (can’t find 8 so I use the can of 6)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small package frozen veggie mix: carrots, peas, corn, & green beans (I use a large package and add mushrooms)
  • 2 chicken breasts cooked and shredded (I cube the chicken before cooking and break it apart in the cooking process)
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth: adapt to your preference (this is non-existent in Germany, I create my own broth/cream mixture using chicken bullion)
  • 1 can Cream of Chicken Soup (again, non-existent in Germany…see above)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook chicken & make cream sauce (chicken broth, Cream of Chicken Soup combo)
Cook frozen veggies (+ mushrooms)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 200 F (about 200 C)
  2. In a large sauce pan, cook the cubed chicken. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove cooked chicken and set aside.
  3. Step added/adjusted to make chicken broth/cream sauce: In a small sauce pan on medium heat, add 8 oz cream, 4 oz of milk, chicken bullion (adjust to your liking), and a little bit of flour (about 1/4 cup). Whisk until all ingredients have combined. When concoction is bubbly, adjust heat to simmer and allow to thicken. Whisk in the chicken broth and the Cream of Chicken Soup. Let the sauce simmer for 1 minute to thicken. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. If following the extra “German” step, don’t add any salt as the chicken bullion is salty enough.
  4. In the same large sauce pan heat the butter on medium heat (use the fond for extra flavor). Add the frozen veggie mix (and mushrooms) to the pan. Saute until the veggies are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste (we add Tony Chachare’s Creole Seasoning and pepper for a little spice).
  5. Turn off heat and add the cooked chicken and cream sauce to the veggie mixture, stirring until the mixture is well combined.
  6. On a parchment lined baking sheet, bake the biscuits for half of the time listed on the can (about 7 minutes) for a “pre-bake”. Take them out of the oven.
  7. Pour the filling into a 9×9-inch baking dish. Top the filling with the biscuits (partially baked), flip them over top to bottom to ensure even baking on the other side. (I break the partially baked biscuits in half, place the baked side down into the mixture and leave the middle exposed on top.) Bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Coot for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Combine chicken & cream sauce to veggie mixture. Put in baking dish.
Partially baked biscuits broken in half and placed baked side down. Bake for 10 minutes then enjoy!

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Mom’s Wish List

The trouble with being an adult is you can buy what you need and want when you need and want it. This year, when I was asked what I wanted for Christmas, I was stumped. What do I want? What do I need? I’m currently 21 weeks pregnant with baby #2 which makes shopping for me harder. Don’t get me wrong, getting stuff for the baby is super fun but my usual wish list items might not make the list this year…as they don’t/won’t fit me in my current state.

Top left to bottom right: Leopard cardigan, Scuffette II Slippers, Lululemon leggings, Bailey Button II Boot, H&M maternity leggings
  • Lululemon Leggings: This is a standard ask from me each year. I love the fit and feel of the leggings and wear them almost daily. Yeah, yeah, I know they are a little pricey but they don’t wear out and they are super flattering. I’m still asking for leggings this year but won’t be able to wear them until after the baby is born.
  • H&M MAMA Sports Tights: Maternity leggings are what I need this year! And from what I remember, I should be able to wear them for a month or two after baby is born. Part of my daily routine is to go to the gym, so maternity leggings are essential.
  • Uggs Bailey Button II Boot: It has been a long, long while since I have upgraded my Uggs. I love the easy of putting them on and the warmth they bring to my feet. Fingers crossed these make it under the tree. They are the perfect boot for this pregnant mama to travel in.
  • Uggs Scuffette II Slipper: I really must be jonesing for Uggs, warm feet or both. I’m on the search for a warm pair of slippers with a rubber sole so I can safely travel up and down the 47 steps to the cellar to do laundry…and to comfortably wear around the house.
  • Leopard Cardigan: I know, I know, leopard is all the rage right now. You bet and I want in! I’ve been eyeing various leopard print cardigans.
Top left to bottom right: Louis Vuitton Neverfull, Goodr sunglasses, Sleepy Panda Kaitlyn Diaper Backpack, 2020 Planner, Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Lite Circle Cardigan
  • Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM: Yep, this one is a pipe dream…for a Christmas wishlist item, but one I would love to have nonetheless. I’ve had my eye on this bag for quite awhile and feel like I’m finally old & wise enough to take care of it. I’m sharing this in case Santa, or someone with a little extra cash to spare, is in the giving mood.
  • Sleepy Panda Kaitlyn Diaper Bag Backpack: What does this soon-to-be mother of 2 want, an upgraded diaper bag. Wow, never thought I would say that. I love my current backpack style diaper bag but am wanting more space with the arrival of baby 2. This style is currently sold out and in the pre-order stage, scheduled to be delivered at the end of December.
  • Goodr Sunglasses: I love my Wayfarers but have stopped wearing them because of slippage (I have a small face/head). A friend recommended Goodr sunglasses and absolutely loves hers. They are no slip, no bounce, and all polarized. A special coating around the light-weight frames prevents them from slipping and bouncing when you are working out or doing daily activities. They also protect you from UVA & UVB rays.
  • 2020 Planner: Surprisingly enough, as a stay-at-home mom I am using organizational planners more often then I ever did while in the workforce. Anthropologie has a ton of adorable 2020 planners that fit my needs (travel schedules, doctors appointments, meal planning, errands, etc).
  • Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Lite Circle Cardigan: I have heard nothing but marvelous reviews of the Barefoot Dreams cardigans. Known for their lightweight and comfortable threads, this machine washable sweater is perfect for lounging around the house or running errands.
  • Spice House Spices: Yes, Germany has spices but they just aren’t quite the same as what I’m used to in the US. It could just be my imagination but I really miss the flavor combinations like BBQ, and anything spicy that the US has to offer. I also miss Chicago. The Spice House originated in Chicago and has some Chicago specific flavors which make it perfect for this homesick mama.
Spice House Spices!

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Stocking Stuffers

Family traditions, opening stocking in the library

Not sure about everyone else but stocking stuffers are big deal in our family. We are a small family but purchasing gifts for everyone is quite taxing on the wallet. Instead, we get each other stocking stuffers (aka stuff for the stockings). When this tradition started we were supposed to spend no more than $5/person. I tend to spend a little bit more…but no more than $15. Here are some of my stocking stuffer recommendations. (If you are in my family, you may be getting some of these in your stocking ;).

For the Ladies:

Top left to bottom right: Hidden Valley Ranch packets, handmade lavender soap, smartwatch band, jewelry cleaner, lip scrub/balm, earrings
  • Hidden Valley Ranch packets: There are many times in Germany that I miss the comforts of home. When back in the states I like to stock up on these packets so I can make some of my favorite recipes or a good old American ranch for veggies or my salads. (No joke, this is on my stocking stuffer wishlist).
  • Handmade lavender soap: This year, some of my family members will receive lovely handmade lavender soap that was picked up in the Provence region of France.
  • Smartwatch wristband: If you have a smartwatch wearer in your family like I do, you could surprise them with a decorative/new wristband. While I love my FitBit, I don’t always like it to look like a FitBit.
  • Jewelry cleaner: A friend recommended this jewelry cleaner to me and I took the bait and bought it. It is the most simple, easiest to use, best results type of jewelry cleaner. I highly recommend this product for any jewelry wearer in your family.
  • LUSH products: Since moving to Germany, I have fallen in love with anything LUSH! While I will always recommend their bath bombs (should you be a bath taker), my stocking stuffer picks are the lip scrub, lip balm, and calming lotion. The lip scrub and lip balm are essentials in my house as I use them daily. I use the sleep lotion in the evening when I’m ready for bed. These are perfect for anyone who likes to pamper themselves.
  • Earrings: I found these gems on the Iron Fox Clothing Instagram account today! How does Kristi always seem to know exactly what I am looking for? These are perfect for the fashionista in your life and set at reasonable prices.

For the Gentlemen:

Top left to bottom right: AirPod protective case, fun socks, beard oil, gourmet mustard
  • AirPod case: Is your loved one getting AirPods this Christmas? If they are, or already have them, this is a great protective sleeve for the AirPod charging case. It also helps the owner of the AirPods identify their case if you happen to be a multiple AirPod household. Let’s just say there will be one in my stocking, my mother in law’s stocking, and Jeff’s stocking (Shhh).
  • Fun socks: Not sure when but in more recent years, Jeff has traded in his boring black and white socks for more colorful & fun ones. He has and routinely wears his avocado socks and will be getting some colorful hamburger socks in his stocking this year.
  • Beard oil: Does the man in your life have a beard? If yes, he NEEDS this beard oil! As regulations at Jeff’s job are different in Germany then in the states, he is able to grow a full beard. He is extremely proud of this beard and regularly gets beard trims whenever he gets a haircut. He uses beard oil everyday!
  • Gourmet mustard: These are perfect for the foodie or gourmet cook in your life. Enjoy the different flavor combinations these mustards provide. Again, we picked these up in the Provence region in France at a vineyard but you can find them in any specialty food store…or Amazon.

For the Toddlers:

Top left to bottom right: Indestructible holiday book, dimple, Little People Princess Parade, silly glasses, Color Wonder coloring book
  • Indestructible holiday book: If you have an infant or toddler and haven’t ordered these yet, what are you waiting for? These chew proof, rip proof, nontoxic, 100% washable books are lightweight and brightly colored to keep little one’s attention.
  • Dimple by Fat Brain Toys: We keep this staple in our diaper bag. Carson plays with it weekly, if not daily, whenever we are out of the house. Even at 20 months, she is still engaged while using it.
  • Little People Princess Parade: Carson loves Disney princesses and things that move. The Little People collection by Fisher Price combines BOTH! She also has a small collection of Little People by Fisher Price and loves playing with them. These will be an excellent addition to her collection.
  • Silly glasses: Who doesn’t love playing dress up? Your little one will love getting in the holiday spirit with these goofy holiday glasses.
  • Color Wonder coloring book: Carson is an avid colorer and would prefer to color with anything I don’t want her to (ie. markers, pens, Sharpies, etc). The Color Wonder markers by Crayola won’t mark on anything other than the Color Wonder coloring books. Carson will be receiving quite a few of these in her stocking this year!

This is not an ad. Many of these are stocking stuffers that I will be giving this year as well as items that are already in use in our household. Some of the items have been purchased outside of the USA. In those cases, I have done my best to find a similar product on Amazon. Good luck on your hunt for the perfect stocking stuffers for your loved ones!

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Homemade Animal Crackers

Animal crackers, Chex Mix, M&Ms…also known as mommy’s craving jars.

One of my dear friends in Germany is the ultimate stay-at-home mom role model. She is always coming up with amazing Montessori activities, making play-doh and baking healthy snacks for her kiddo. After hearing about her amazing momming moments, I am forced to try them at home for Carson. Forced is a strong word. It’s more like, she had and executed a great idea and I should probably do the same because it’s a perfect enrichment activity for Carson as she isn’t in a kindergarten (preschool) yet.

One day, her little one was carrying around homemade animal crackers…let me say this once more for the people in the back, HOMEMADE ANIMAL CRACKERS! I thought to myself, I can do that. And I did! I used Pinterest and found an animal cracker recipe from A Modern Homestead. They turned out wonderfully. I have since made this recipe 3 more times because not only does Carson eat the crackers but so do her parents 😊. Below is the recipe.

Animal Cracker Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup milk
Cutting out cookies!

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (or 170 C). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. My German oven only holds 1-9×13″ baking sheet so I prepare 3 parchment sheets.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. The original recipe calls for an electric mixer but I do it all by hand as my American electronics don’t work in Germany and I don’t see the need to purchase something I’m only going to use sporadically for another year.
  3. Next add in butter, brown sugar, sugar, vanilla, honey and milk. If you are using an electric mixer as suggested, hold off on the milk until your dough looks like small peas. Then add the milk and process until your mixture forms a ball. Again, I stir it all by hand so it’s easiest for me to add the milk with the other ingredients.
  4. Divide the dough into two balls. Dump one of the balls onto a well floured surface.
  5. Roll the dough as thin as you can 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick.
  6. Use your mini animal cookie cutters to cut shapes. Place shapes on lined baking sheets until a tray is filled. For the first batch, I used a variety of mini cookie cutters. For the last few batches, I have stuck with a heart. I can quickly stamp the heart shape and can get quite a few of them on each tray (extremely helpful as I only have the 1-9×13″ baking sheet that fits into my oven at a time).
  7. Bake for 9 to 13 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to completely cool and store in an airtight container. I have found that if left in for 9 minutes, the cookies have a soft texture. If left in for 13 minutes, they are quite crunchy. My family likes the crunchy version so 13 minutes is our wait time.
  8. Repeat with the remaining dough until all the dough has been used. This can take quite awhile if you are not utilizing the surface of your dough to its maximum advantage (see: heart shape).
Top: cookies cooling. Bottom left: cookies ready to bake. Bottom right: lining up raw cookie dough.

Tip

As mentioned earlier, I lay out 3 pieces of parchment paper to line the 1-9×13″ baking sheet that fits in my oven. When my production is in full swing 1 sheet has cookies cooling, 1 sheet is in the oven with cookies baking, and 1 sheet is getting lined with raw cookie dough. Its a system that works for me and keeps things moving along in my small European kitchen.

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Cinderella Never Had To Unpack

We’re moving!?!

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the story of Cinderella. However, here’s a quick recap…scullery maid who is treated like garbage by her stepmother meets, falls in love with, and immediately marries Prince Charming. The 1950s Disney movie ends with Cinderella and Charming riding away in a horse-drawn carriage with the storybook closing and the last page reads “…and they lived happily ever after.” For the sake of this post, I am going to ignore the fact that Cinderella ran around town in a pair of high-heeled glass slippers and had very little to actually pack then move into the castle.

Well, my story is nothing like that of Cinderella’s. The only parallel is that I too met, fell in love with, and married my own version of Prince Charming. He is smart, handsome, funny, and above all else an amazing father and provider. So, when this amazing man got the opportunity to work in Germany, we packed up our things and moved! Unfortunately, unlike Cinderella…we came with a ton of cr@p, er, stuff and I definitely didn’t run around in glass slippers.

Packing up

All of our belongings were packed up on October 3, 2018. Lots of movers arrived at our condo in Chicago and packed everything…literally everything (yep, including the almost empty bottles of shampoo and wet outdoor rug). I was specifically instructed to create two piles for packing. One, the smaller one, would be everything we needed for daily life, also known as “Air Shipment.” The second, the larger one, is everything else, also known as “Sea Shipment.” The air shipment was to take one to two weeks to make it to Germany while the sea shipment was to take six to eight weeks. For us, those instructions meant pack everything the baby needed in the air shipment and everything else in the sea shipment. Knowing we would be moving into a fully furnished apartment and that none of our appliances would work meant that we also needed a third packing option, also known as the “Moving to My Mom’s” shipment. (Sorry mom, it was a lot of stuff…and thank you).

Jump forward a few weeks…we moved out of the hotel and into our German apartment on the European 2nd floor, the American 3rd floor (aka 43 stairs). We also had our meeting with the city to get our resident cards. While we didn’t walk out of the immigration office with resident cards in hand, we did walk out with a paper stating that our resident cards were coming. Our official cards would be coming through Deutsche Post in a few weeks. Everything was going well, right? Wrong! Let me be clear, the rest of the world thinks Germany is very efficient. They are not. Even with the paper promising our resident cards, NO ONE could move the rest of the process along. Everything we needed was at a standstill because we didn’t have the official plastic card. Ugh!

Things that can happen after receiving the physical residency card:

  • air shipment can be processed and arrive
  • sea shipment can be processed and arrive
  • the process of leasing or buying a car can begin

Yeah, you read that correctly. The air shipment, remember…one to two weeks until arrival from the packing date, couldn’t be processed or sent until we had the official plastic resident card. So, everything we needed for baby didn’t leave the US until early November. However, the sea shipment was already on its way. Let’s just say we made many trips to IKEA to purchase things like a play mat and high chair so I could safely set Carson down every once in awhile.

Thank you IKEA! Safe space for Carson to play/be set down.

Fast forward, again, to November 26th, the week of Thanksgiving. We got word that everything, and I mean EVERYTHING had arrived in Germany. All items had been processed and would be delivered bright and early Monday morning (if you are counting, that was eight weeks without our things). It was also the week that we were heading to Paris to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, see previous post. To say I was stressed doesn’t even begin to cover the wave of emotions I felt.

Unpacking…the beginning

Monday morning arrived and so did the truck, all of our things, and about 5 German men to unpack everything with only one speaking a little English. 4 of the 5 moving men worked tirelessly to carry up and unpack our boxes. The other one requested a fresh pot of coffee for himself while he watched the others work. (I never did get the coffee mug back…) The men had a system in place for unpacking the boxes…carry the box upstairs, unpack the box onto any available surface, remove the box. Unfortunately for us, they brought up the empty furniture, like the dressers AFTER they had unpacked everything onto all available surfaces. Again with the efficiency thing, not sure why they wouldn’t just bring the furniture up first, then unpack the boxes into the empty furniture…but then again what do I know? I don’t own, run or work for a moving company. The absolute last thing the moving men unpacked was the air shipment…you know, the one with all the baby items that was supposed to have arrived within 1-2 weeks of us moving to Germany. Two days later, we headed to Paris only to return to the mess a week later.

Unpacking hell…I still get stressed out looking at these pictures.

After we returned from Paris it took about 2 weeks to get all of the items sorted and put away. Some items that were packed we no longer needed and we had to find storage for them. It took another couple of months for me to organize, rearrange, and toss items for our apartment to start feeling like a home.

We have lived in Germany for over a year now. All of our things were delivered and unpacked a year ago and I am still salty about the whole thing. Needless to say, I now know what NOT to do when we move back to the states or should we make another international move.

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Danke!

When the holidays roll around, Jeff and I love spending time with our family. Usually we are in LA for Thanksgiving and DC for Christmas. For the past two years, we felt that flying to the states for Thanksgiving and then again at Christmas would be too taxing, especially on Carson. She is a great little traveler but the 3 day jet lag is no fun. Luckily for us, we haven’t had to spend Thanksgiving alone. Last year our LA family met us in Paris. This year our expat family gathered in the Eifel region of Germany.

2018: Paris, France

Grimm Family at the Eiffel Tower

Paris is a 5 hour drive from where we are living in Germany. Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, Jeff took a few days off from work and we headed to Paris to meet up with our LA family. In total we had 7 adults and 1 baby. We rented a beautiful 4 bedroom Air BnB near the place de la republique, complete with a full kitchen so we could prepare a somewhat proper Thanksgiving dinner. Days were spent exploring the city and nights were spent drinking too much wine and catching up.

Marche Des Enfants Rouges & a Croque Madame
Exploring Paris!

At that point in time, we had been living in Germany for two months and while I wasn’t completely homesick, I was definitely missing American TV…or anything in English. On Thanksgiving day the crew headed out to gather ingredients for dinner while Carson and I enjoyed couch time and American Netflix (yes, there is a difference in what is offered on Netflix dependent on the country). I was also stressed out because all of our belongings had been delivered to Germany the day before we left on this adventure and our new home was a complete disaster, more on that in another post. Thankfully, I was able to relax and enjoy some quiet time. Turkeys were unavailable at such late notice as they aren’t a staple in France, but we were able to scrounge up a whole chicken, herbs and fresh veggies for our feast.

LA Family & our Thanksgiving Feast

2019: Schleiden, Germany

This year for Thanksgiving, we celebrated with our expatriate crew: 31 adults, 1 teenager, 3 toddlers, & 2 dogs or 20 Americans, 5 Australians, 3 Germans, 3 Frenchmen, 2 Canadians, 1 Brit and 1 Egyptian. Two fearless leaders took charge and found an entire hotel for rent on Air BnB in the small town of Schleiden. Seriously, it was just our crew taking over this hotel that was complete with industrial kitchen, large dining room and bar area. Instead of taking off time from work and celebrating on Thursday (actual Thanksgiving), we all decided it was best to wait until the weekend. Days were spent exploring the outdoors on hikes and going to Weihnachtsmarkts (Christmas Markets). Nights were spent playing board games and watching American college football.

20 weeks pregnant with non-alcoholic wine & Chex Mix and play time.

Not only is it pretty cool that our group gets along so well but that everyone did their part when it came to the Thanksgiving feast. Whether they made one of the 3 turkeys, prepared a side dish like green bean casserole, potatoes or stuffing, baked pies, decorated tables, or brought snacks for when we weren’t feasting…we all did our part.

Industrial kitchen food prep.
Food prep, turkey time & waiting on the feast!
Buffet style feast & dessert table (bad pic).

I’m looking forward to see what’s in store for Thanksgiving 2020.

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‘Tis the Shopping Season

‘Tis the season for some online shopping!

Hello and happy Monday…Cyber Monday, that is! In case you didn’t shop ’til you dropped on Black Friday, I have a few small businesses to recommend to you. I believe in each of these businesses and know that you’ll be purchasing quality items.

  • Iron Fox Clothing-Clothing for strong women who are looking for a fashionable, flattering, comfortable fit while participating in life’s everyday activities. Kristi, a mom of two boys and avid crossfitter, saw the need for a clothing retailer to provide clothes for, well, women like her. She found it difficult to find clothing that was flattering yet flexed with her ever changing muscular body so…she founded Iron Fox, a company that does just that. Seriously, there is something on this site for every woman! My favorite part about Iron Fox is that not only is Kristi one of the top models on her site but all of the models are real women wearing the clothes. To get the best deals and stay up-to-date on Kristi’s latest finds, join the Iron Fox Clothing Group VIPs Facebook group.
Iron Fox Clothing
  • Well Made-STiicks are magnetic poster frames that are made out of solid wood and magnets. They make framing your works of art effortless and elegant. Trust me, we have quite a few STiicks around the house showcasing some of our favorite prints. But Well Made is more than just STiicks, they are Rackless (floating magnetic key shelf), Pinch (mini magnetic frame), Visible Vinyl (minimal artwork/record vinyl ledge), and custom orders. On any given weekend in the summer, you can find Brandon (& his wife Simone) at the neighborhood street festivals in Chicago working the Well Made booth. Brandon is an extremely talented, hard-working, detailed designer who has been working on his passion, Well Made, since 2013. You may have seen his STiicks at the Guggenheim, Smithsonian, Museum of Contemporary Art or Target.
Well Made
  • Beyond The Paint-Do you love having your nails done but hate waiting for the paint to dry or paying salon prices? I do. Jamie, a Color Street Independent Stylist, “offers 100% REAL nail polish strips in a variety of nail colors and nail art designs. Color Street is actual nail polish strips, NOT STICKERS, that apply to your nail in seconds and last up to 2 weeks. No need for a base coat, top coat, 3 layers of polish! No smudging, no mess, just apply and you’re done!” At first I was a non-believer too. Join Jamie’s Beyond The Paint With Jamie Facebook group and request some sample nails.
Beyond the Paint, Color Street
  • H2Joe-Is a 2-in 1-coffee & water bottle! This one bottle carries both your hot & cold liquids and allows you to drink BOTH from the same lid. While still in the pre-order phase (so you wont get it by Christmas), the H2Joe team is working to perfect its design. Be on the lookout for your H2Joe in Q1 of 2020! Join the H2Joe Bottle Facebook group for updates on this awesome product!
H2Joe

This blog post is not an ad. Each of these businesses are owned and operated by my friends. I believe in their products and wanted to share them with you.

Merry Blogmas

Carson fireside at a cafe in Vienna.

Hello! Wow, it’s been awhile…like, a long while. What happened? Life. Life happened, which is why I have decided I will partake in Blogmas!

What is Blogmas? Well, it’s Vlogmas but for bloggers or aspiring bloggers (aka me). Everyday in December until Christmas (Dec 25th), I will be adding a post to Grimms Family Tales. Let’s be honest, this is going to be quite the challenge for me. I’m clearly out of the habit of writing and with a toddler and the exhaustion of pregnancy posting 25 blogs in a row is going to be nearly impossible…but I’m sure going to try!

Setting all of the excuses aside, I am actually quite excited to jump right in to help you get to know our little family and the adventures we’ve been on while living the expatriate life in Germany.

Traveling with Baby

In living the expat life, Jeff and I have been fortunate enough to up our travel game this year. As you may know…from following our blog…we moved from the USA to Germany in October of 2018. Since then we have been able to visit Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Spain, Hungary, Luxembourg, Denmark and in a few days, Italy. Italy will bring Carson’s country count to 11 (and technically 12 since we will be visiting Vatican City…yes, it’s a country too)! This also means that we travel a lot, more than your average household. Sometimes it’s a quick 1-2 hour drive across the border, but other times it’s a quick 1-2 hour flight.

Recently, a friend asked me about my travel “must haves”. Wow…me? I’m usually so busy packing “must haves” for the baby that I don’t even think about what’s in my bag. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I was able to tell her what I always pack and actually use! I’ve compiled a list of “must haves” for both me and C and included links in case it’s a “must have” for you too. All links take you to the item or a similar item on Amazon. I am not sponsored by Amazon or any of the products listed. These are just things I have found and love.

  • Must Haves For Me:
    • Travel Purse
      • My great friend Stephanie came to visit us a few weeks ago. She had a travel purse that held a lot of items and kept them safe at the same time. You had better believe I ordered it as soon as she left and can’t wait to travel with it on our trip to Rome in a few days. It’s a leather mini backpack with zippered pockets, hidden compartments, holds an iPad and comes in a variety of colors! Face wipes
      • These are a must. Travel can be hectic and stressful. Whether you have a 60 min flight or a 6 hour flight, it’s always refreshing to cleanse your face with a wonderful smelling, cool wipe. I prefer to use the Yes To Cucumber Soothing Hypoallergenic Facial Wipes for Sensitive Skin. These are a little hard to find in Europe so I use whatever I can find that seems legit.Hand sanitizer/disinfectant wipes
      • Thinking about all of the germs in/on public spaces…yuck! Don’t! Seriously…just don’t. One way to ease your stress about the germs from traveling is hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes. The Honest Company Hand Sanitizer is my absolute, hands down favorite. I love the different scents and the ease of the spray. Honestly, I carry 2-3 of these sprays with me all day, everyday…even while not traveling. I also love Clorox Wipes in a travel size. I personally love to wipe down the arm rests and fold away tray as soon as I take my seat in the plane. Small bag to hold cords
      • If you are anything like me, even while you are in a chaotic state, you like to stay organized. Not sure what it is about being organized that makes me feel calm but whenever I am traveling I have to have a small pouch or baggie to hold all of my electronic cords. If I’m really feeling inspired, I’ll even label them (doesn’t happen often). It can be a plastic baggie or a beautifully monogrammed zippered pouch as long as it holds all of the cords I have, it does right by me. (No link as this is probably something you already have in your house). I usually carry two of these with me. One for cords, as mentioned above. The other bag is for small items so they don’t get lost in my purse like floss-sticks, safety pins, a hair thing or two, moisturizer, nail file, clippers etc.Twist Ties
      • As silly as it sounds…twist ties. Yes, the twist ties that come on everyday items, yet I can’t think of one. I save and collect these in a way that makes my husband crazy. However, they make great binders for cords…you know, the electronic cords that are being stored in your small zippered baggie. Again, it’s the organization in a chaotic time that makes me feel at ease. Every cord is always wrapped and bound in an organized manner.Extra Charger
      • At this point in time, most airplanes have seats with charging ports. However, sometimes you will fly on a plane that is a little older and there are no charging ports to be found. You could turn off your devices but on a 9 hour flight my response is, “no way!” Especially not with a little one in tow. I always bring with me an external battery charger for my phone, iPad, electronics etc. This way, I know for sure that I am covered when the battery on my not-so-old-phone dies a little too quickly. Small Notebook and Pen
      • Even though most information is stored on my phone sometimes I like to actually write it down. Its always a good idea to keep a pen on you but I like to take travel notes in a little notebook/journal. Inflatable Neck Pillow
      • Let me just say that this is Jeff’s “Must Have”. He purchased these for both of us when we were traveling to China (15 hour flight) a few years ago and thank goodness he did! The Inflatable Neck Pillow provided some much needed comfort on long flights. Not only is it small and compact but it inflates incredibly easily to the comfort level of your choice. I only bring this with me on long flights where I want to sleep.
  • Must Haves for Carson:
    • Backpack Diaper Bag
      • When Carson was first born, I bought a beautiful leather diaper bag. It was large, elegant and heavy…very impractical. After a month of slinging this thing everywhere I went, my massage therapist suggested I get something a little more lightweight. I stumbled upon the Diaper Backpack. The backpack comes in a variety of colors and holds a lot of baby essentials. It is now our everyday diaper bag and we love it.Woofy, the Lovie
      • I’ve already mentioned our friend, Steph, but did I also mention that at one point in time, she was a nanny? She knows what babies want. At birth, she gifted Carson with a Lovie (mini blanket with an animal head). Woofy, the Lovie, is Carson’s absolute “Must Have” for sleep. Not sure if you’ve realized but we have quite a spirited girl with a huge personality. When she is tired, Woofy is all she wants/needs. Side note: we now have 2 Woofy’s…just in case. They are not allowed to leave the crib unless we are traveling. On travel days, we keep him in the diaper bag so she can have her comfort item on the plane. We also always leave one Woofy at home. Developmental/Busy Toys
      • Thanks to my expat/mom friend/the person I spend every day with Nicole, Carson now has a few toys that don’t leave the diaper bag. They are light weight and keep her busy when we are out and about.
        • The Dimple Toy by Fat Brain Toys is always a win! Carson loves pushing the colored silicone spots in and out. Another toy she loves is Pop and Slide Shelly a turtle toy from Fat Brain Toys. This one keeps both adults and children entertained. The colorful pieces on the turtle’s shell slide around and pop into place.The newest addition to our travel toys, especially on longer flights is the Wooden Lacing Watermelon Threading Toy. Carson fully concentrates and play with this toy for a solid 10-20 min. She enjoys threading the little green worm through all of the holes in the watermelon.Water Wow books by Melissa and Doug are also great to have on hand. Simply fill the little paint brush with water and paint the pages. When your little one paints, the water activates the colors in the picture including secret picture details. Painting on the go with no mess…sounds like a win-win to me!Travel Baby Chair
      • There are quite a few of these on the market at this point but we really like the super light weight, easy to carry portable high chair like the My Little Seat Travel High Chair. The portable high chair fits over the back of most chairs and keeps baby safe and secure. Many restaurants in Europe are pretty small and do not always have a high chair. This portable seats turns almost every chair into a high chair so you don’t have to eat with a baby on your lap.Pacifier Clips
      • Pacifier clips have been a must have for us since Carson was born. However, Carson has never taken a pacifier. She used to give us a look as though we had offended generations of her family every time we tried to coax her to take one. Almost 15 months later and she still hates them. The good news is that we don’t use the clips for pacifiers. We use them for, well, everything else. Attach one to the handle of a snack cup or bottle and “Voilà“, it doesn’t get lost when it is inevitably thrown. Clip blankets and toys to strollers with ease and again, they don’t get lost when the princess no longer wants these things.McClaren Travel Stroller
      • When I initially saw the price on the McClaren travel stroller, I about fainted. We already had a Running B.O.B. and a Chicco Car Seat Carrier. Why on Earth would we need another stroller! The good news is that we found one on CraigsList in decent condition. I’m so glad we did! It has traveled with us to 10, soon to be 11, countries. Harness Backpack with Leash
      • This is a new item that we will be trying out in the next couple of days. Carson loves, loves, loves to walk but doesn’t always love holding an adults hand while she is walking. She loves exploring and at 15 months old, doesn’t yet know stranger danger or the dangers of the environment around her. We thought it best to try out a backpack with a leash. Yep, we have officially become those parents. We are also going to call it her “snack pack” where we store her tasty treats…nothing too heavy as she is still pretty little.

Lady Luck

Before leaving Chicago, Jeff and I had quite the social circle. We loved spending time with our friends who, to be honest, became family. We knew that in moving to Germany our social group would change and possibly be nonexistent. I’ll just say that Lady Luck dealt us a pretty great expat hand.

Our expat community is large and includes members from Australia, the UK, Scotland, Spain, France, Germany and of course the US. We spend a great deal of time together but about once a week the ladies break away for Ladies Night (Montag oder Mittwoch fur Mädchens, Dienstag oder Donnerstag fur Damens, Freitag fur Frauen…you get the picture). Usually it’s a nice dinner with good wine, thoughtful conversation and belly laughs. Sometimes it takes us on an adventure or a weekend away (more on that in another blog post). Every time we are together I think to myself, these girls get me. We’ve all chosen or been thrown into the expat life and are surviving with grace.

I want to take a blog post to recognize these wonderful women, friends. Expat life comes with its challenges. These women are strong individuals and believe in celebrating each other rather than bringing each other down. They are trustworthy and honest, compassionate and non-judgmental, extremely supportive in good and bad times, humorous and are overall enjoyable to be around. We don’t need specific reasons to meet but occasionally it’s to celebrate a birthday or enjoy one last night together before an unfortunate departure.

As a stay at home mom, I live for these nights out. Please don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter with 100% of my being but I do love my nights away where I get to be “me” again. What some fail to realize is that stay-at-home moms don’t get to leave work or have weekends off. In fact, sometimes our “boss” can be a real pain, especially when tired, hungry, or well, it’s a Tuesday. My boss comes with me everywhere! And, not sure how your vacations are but mine are always work trips where my boss flails her little body around in a 2″ x 2″ space on the airplane.

Our ladies nights usually take place in restaurants around Essen. Essen is the town where the majority of us live. Coincidentally, essen also means food or to eat in German. However, as mentioned earlier, sometimes our ladies nights turn adventurous. Duisburg is a little town about 20 min from where we live. It is the home of an unusual attraction called “Tiger and Turtle”. This walk-in roller coaster like attraction was opened in 2011 and built atop a former dump. A climb to the top, promises beautiful views of Duisburg and the Rhine River on clear days. And the answer to your obvious question is no. No, you cannot climb upside down on the loop…but wouldn’t it be cool if you could?