Sunday, June 30, 2013

12 Day Challenge: RESULTS

Mmmm Pizza...
Saturday: For breakfast we all had some scrambled eggs and I had some roasted vegetables from Friday. The hangover got the best of us, and we ordered pizza for lunch. I know, pizza is not paleo, but it is delicious :) If you haven't tried Pizza Haus in Illesheim yet, they have a great pizza for a really reasonable price, plus they deliver! Its dangerous. During the day, I shredded up what was left of the whole chicken, and I made a Paleo version of my mom's cold chicken curry salad. My plan was for Cody and I to have this chicken salad for dinner, but Cody said that he wasn't in the mood for chicken salad OR the leftover pizza, so we ended up going out to Majarajas for dinner. I looove me some Indian food, and since I had ruined yet another day of dieting already, I went ahead and enjoyed my naan, palek paneer, rice, and chai tea. I do have a pretty good excuse for why my self-restraint is faltering when it comes to sweet and greasy food, and it has to do with that special time of the month... anyway, I am feeling very lenient about my diet, but I will get it under control in the next couple days, I am sure! Before bed, I went ahead and threw the ingredients for homemade chicken stock into the crock pot, (Overnight Crockpot Chicken Stock) and this morning I was able to put away 8 cups of homemade stock in the freezer :)
Mmmmm.... Palak Paneer.....

Sunday: We went to the grocery after Crossfit, but not for any food that we consumed today. I had a few spoonfuls of chicken salad for breakfast and Cody had an apple. He bought himself a sandwich at the commissary, and I did end up eating a Larbar on the way home to tide me over. I still have a ton of leftover Tuna&Egg Salad left, and I had a huge bowl of it for lunch. For dinner, Cody had a chicken salad sandwich and some leftover pizza, while I had some roasted vegetables and some chicken salad over lettuce. I have some Paleo muffins in the oven for the next few days- these will be my first Paleo "treat," so I'm really curious to see how they turn out! (Apple Cinnamon Paleo Muffin Recipe)

RESULTS: I'm going to be honest, I don't know if this challenge ended in success or failure. We did stay under $100 in groceries, but we ended up spending extra money eating out, and that was not the plan. On the other hand, I believe there was enough food in the house to cover us for the whole time if we would have stayed in... even if there wasn't, I had figured out that I could buy a 1/2 pound of ground beef from Kauflands and make a burger for each of us, and still stay under the $100 limit.

I think the main lesson here is that it is totally possible to save money on our groceries each month--like a lot of money. It just takes some planning ahead and the willingness on both of our parts to eat our leftovers. Now that I know we could eat for almost two weeks on just about $100, it was really aggravating to leave the grocery having spent over $100 on food that will most likely only last us a week.
I did miss entertaining our friends for meals during these past 12 days, and that is the area I will be fine spending extra money on in the future.

The side lesson to this challenge is that it is more than possible to eat Paleo on a limited budget. After leaving the grocery today, I even talked to Cody about how much money we would save if him and I were both eating completely Paleo. To only visit the produce section of the commissary, and the butcher of Kauflands, is a lot cheaper than going up and down all the aisles and buying a bunch of processed food, as well. There are the occasional extra ingredients needed for some Paleo recipes (canned goods, specialty flours, etc.) but all in all, I would be willing to bet that a family eating entirely Paleo would spend less than a family that doesn't. The one consideration is that it does take more planning and more prep-time to eat this way on a budget, and not everybody has that time to spend.

What do you think? 12 Day Challenge: Success or Failure???

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rothenburger Volksfest

Last night was epic! Definitely in the top 3 best nights I have had since arriving in Europe :)

When we arrived at the fest, it was not what I was expecting at all. I don't know what I had in mind, but this looked exactly like the little town carnivals that went on all around Ohio when I was growing up! There were all the various food booths, the carnival games for stuffed animal prizes, and rides like bumper cars and a ferris wheel. There were a few differences in that the food booths held German goodies like bratwurst, rolls, and crepes; you can buy the stuffed animals from the game booths if you don't want to play; and the ferris wheel seats could spin in circles. I swore that it would have to be my cheat night because I wanted to eat something from every food booth I saw!

The best parts were the Beer Tent/Garden and the Wine Garden! We got there a bit early and were afraid that they wouldn't be selling beer yet because the Mayor hadn't tapped the official first keg yet- silly us, of course they were already selling beer! This is Germany, isn't it!?
The tent was huge and mostly empty when we got there, so we sat down at an empty fest table to save some seats for friends and each ordered a liter fest beer. They serve food in the tents as well, and if I wouldn't have just eaten my own chicken dinner, I would have definitely enjoyed a lovely fest chicken. Fest chicken is the best rotisserie chicken you will ever eat in your life. Ever. I could eat them every meal of the day and never get sick of their crispy skin goodness. Our friend Rocky had a pork shoulder that looked absolutely drool-worthy and Cody had some brats in rolls. I couldn't help myself from having an order of fries; I've been craving them all week!

The night rolled on, we ran into people we knew, our friends arrived, their friends arrived, more of our friends arrived, and we made a new friend who I like to call Old Eric (he's German, too cute!). As the tent filled up, the band played mixes of German and American music, and we all prost-ed more times than I can count. A ton of beer was consumed and everybody in the tent was dancing in the aisles and on their benches.  At one point, I tagged along with Rocky and Shannon to the wine garden and was in awe of the fact I was staring straight at a medieval fortress- Rocky said the wall was built in the 1300s. There truly is no other place in the world like this, and no place I would rather be!

We rode the ferris wheel even though I was kind of scared and every time we got to the top my stomach dropped. It helped to look out and see all the old architecture lit up and beautiful, and to be wrapped up in Cody's arms, of course. Then, all of us rode in the bumper cars and even though our car kept going backwards, I think we did a pretty good job ;) Another huge difference is that you have to pay to use the bathroom trailer, but paying 30 euro cents for a wonderfully clean and fully-functioning bathroom is totally worth it! I know Americans would protest if they had to pay for "the right to pee," but I think Germans know what they are doing (and not just when it comes to the bathroom, either, haha).

At the end of the night, Cody and I were so looking forward to some crepes, but when we exited the beer tent, all the booths had closed down! I was so disappointed (and drunk, so extra disappointed, lol) but it ended up okay, because looking back on it, I saved myself from eating too much non-Paleo food. I wasn't perfect (beer and french fries are definitely not paleo), but my initial plan of gorging on TONS of sandwiches, fried goodies, and sweets didn't occur. Even the ride home was seriously memorable. I won't embarrass any of my car-mates, but even though I was lightly sleeping the whole ride home, I still remember all the mishaps and craziness on what should have been a quick ride home. We totally owe Kevin for coming and collecting our drunk asses. He put up with four of us and I'm not sure I could have put up with one. Even just me by myself was pretty obnoxious: I'm pretty sure before he got there I was sitting cross legged in some grass by the road, pouting that we had to wait so long and didn't even have a crepe to eat. And by the time we got home I got myself drunkenly into a bath and begged Cody to make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich... drunk me is a total genius, haha.

In the end, all of us arrived home safe and sound, and Cody and I woke up in the morning with the absolute best memories of our first German Fest!!!

Friday, June 28, 2013

12 Day Challenge: Part 4

Check it out! How cool is that?? (Don't judge, but I had to put my milk
in an empty wine bottle....haha!)
Wednesday- I had leftover flank steak and eggs for breakfast and it was super delicious and filling.  I also made my first batch of homemade almond milk and almond flour! I had a glass of almond milk, and then a bowl of Bob's Red Mill Muesli with the milk, as well (I'm seeing how my body reacts to very small amounts of whole oats/whole grains). Before the evening Crossfit class, I had a quick salad and then one of my frozen yogurt and cashew bananas. For dinner I had leftover chili and then I had an apple before bed.

Thursday- Now, Thursday was supposed to be the day that I cooked up a whole chicken, but I had plans at 6pm and Cody had a night flight and wasn't supposed to be home until late, so there was really no reason to make a whole meal. Even though we didn't cook the chicken, we had already bought it, and it only cost $5.40. That puts my current total at $97.20... I am getting uncomfortably close to $100, especially since I still have a few more days to go! Anyway, we had bacon and eggs for brunch, Cody packed some peanut butter and jellys for his lunch/dinner, and I had a frozen banana for my midday snack and a tiny bit of chili before leaving for Bingo at 6. Before I left, I finally fixed up another HUGE batch of Tuna&Egg Salad, which I had a bowl of when I got home. I have a confession, because I can't deceive you lovely people: I did cheat on my diet on Thursday. I was craving something comforting all day and my wonderful neighbor brought homemade spinach artichoke dip with warm slices of bread to Bingo, so I couldn't resist! THEN, she brought over homemade coffee cake later in the night, and I figured it wouldn't kill me, so I demolished that yummy non-Paleo treat, as well! I did have a bit of an upset stomach before bed, and I think that was my belly telling me to cut it out, but I did thoroughly enjoy my cheats :)

Friday- I was in a bit of a rush this morning, so I only had a banana for breakfast before Crossfit, but I made up for it with a scrumptious cheese and onion omelette when I got home. I have the chicken in the crock-pot for dinner tonight (and hopefully tomorrow!) and I'm planning on roasting up some carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and squash for the side.(Crock-pot Whole Chicken Recipe!) I'm sure before dinner rolls around I will partake in some more salad, too :) We are also planning on going to our first Fest tonight in Rothenberg, so I will see if I can resist all the goodies that I'm sure will be available!

Two more days of meals to go! Wish me luck (and a stroke of genius to figure out how to make my last meal for $2.80)!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The (Current) Truth about Food

I am really excited for today's post because I think it is super interesting and informative. Since starting up the Paleo diet, I have been trying to research how different food affects my body. Healthy food has been on my radar for awhile, but I only recently began to want to know the science behind "good" and "bad" foods. The aggravating aspect of researching online is all of the differing opinions and advertising you encounter, which makes it difficult to find facts.

Enter my light-bulb moment: Why don't I just go to the library and borrow some books about nutrition?!

 So I did! I love reading, and I have been a little apathetic about novels lately, so this was the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone. The book that I read is titled, Coffee is BadX Good for You and the author is Robert J. Davis, PhD.

What I did was take notes throughout the whole book so I could share the condensed "truths" that Dr.Davis has found through his research. The great thing about this book is that Dr. Davis is completely neutral (although far from boring) in his writing; he has sorted through all the scientific studies relating to food questions/myths, and has shared the actual scientific results/answers that he found.

The book starts out with an explanation of the different types of food research and which kinds can provide us with the most honest answers to our questions, while also explaining which kinds of research may give inconclusive answers. Some examples of unreliable research would be studies paid for by specific food companies, research done on animals, and test-tube research (the effect food has on cells, not whole beings). When a lesser form of study comes up with "facts" about food, these "facts" can be far from the truth.

Dr. Davis has done a wonderful job of summarizing all of the information he researched, but I have condensed the information one step further, so you can have a quick guide to how certain  foods affect your body!
*Disclaimer* Another point made in the book is that science discovers new information every day, so the current knowledge we have about food is constantly changing. The truths in this book are currently accurate, but new research can alter these truths at any time. Also, be careful not to believe every "food fact" you hear, because of the differing levels of research and all of the companies who will feed lies to the public to help their sales!

  • A cup, or two, of coffee is fine per day-- black coffee is best for you, with only 2 calories. What you add to your coffee is what makes the difference.
  • Alcohol contributes to breast cancer-- but may lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • You do not need 8 cups of water a day to be healthy. Extra water may be helpful in certain situations, but is not necessary unless it makes you personally feel better.
  • Juicing is not more healthy than eating fruit, and could even lead to over-indulgence of high calories. Juice if you like it, but eat fruits and veggies, too.
  • Cranberries and their juice prevent UTIs.
  • Stick margarine is worse for you than semi-liquid margarine and butter, but healthful oils are the best of all.
  • Olive oil may not be healthier than other vegetable oils.
  • Fish oil (and supplements) help prevent heart disease.
  • Eggs are not bad for your heart and contain plenty of nutrients--unless you have type 2 diabetes, in which case they can be harmful to your health.
  • Nuts lower the odds of heart disease.
  • Transfat (aka partially hydrogenated fat) is bad for you.
  • Carbs do not cause you to gain weight, and studies about sugar levels have varying results. Studies show low carb dieting doesn't affect weight loss more or less than other types of dieting.
  • Multi-grain does not mean whole grain--whole grains have benefits (reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes) so make sure to check ingredients for the word "whole"
  • Oats can lower cholesterol.
  • Gluten free diets can be beneficial if you cut back on refined carbs and calories, but simply replacing breads and treats with gluten-free products won't help, because these items can be higher in sugar and lower in fiber and vitamins.
  • Quinoa is not a whole grain, but a seed.
  • High fiber protects against constipation, heart disease, and diabetes-- whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and seed are high in fiber.
  • Sugar is sugar and has the same effects across the board (high fructose corn syrup has not been proven to be different, or more harmful, than table sugar).
  • Honey is not worse for you than table sugar, but also is not better (by much).
  • Aspartame may cause problems in certain people, but is not a problem overall and does not cause maladies.
  • Sea salt is less processed than table salt, but it isn't any better for you.
  • A small percentage of people may be sensitive to MSG, but there is no evidence that it is harmful in general.
  • Produce grown locally is not automatically organic or more healthful than supermarket produce-- it may be tastier, but it is not always better for you. Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good for you as fresh, as long as they don't have added salt and/or sauce.
  • Chocolate's health benefits depend on how it is processed and how much you eat. To get possible health benefits, go dark and make sure that cocoa or chocolate liquor (not sugar) is first in ingredients.
  • Raw veggies are not necessarily more healthy than cooked, and sometimes cooking makes certain vegetables more nutritious-- it is best to consume a wide variety in whatever form you enjoy. Eating veggies along with fat, such as oil, can help your body absorb nutrients.
  • Organic produce is better for the environment, but isn't necessarily better for you. If you want to eat organic but can't foot the bill, buy apples, strawberries, and peaches organic and conventional onions, avocados, and pineapples.
  • There is no evidence that acai berries are a super food-- acai juice is a fine beverage (watch out for added sugar) but it isn't any different than other juices.
  • Soy may ward off cancer when it is eaten in large amounts and comes from whole soybeans (like in Asia), but our soy is made from extracts from the bean and may be harmful. Studies are inconclusive about cancer effects, but soy can be part of a healthy diet in moderation.
  • Red meat (beef, pork <certain cuts>, lamb) can increase risk of cancer and heart disease-- in moderation (twice a week) it is fine, even processed meats are okay occasionally (hotdogs, etc.)
  • Grain-fed beef is higher in fat (more tender)than grass-fed, both contain saturated fat (which contributes to heart disease), but grass-fed has a higher % of stearic acid, which doesn't raise cholesterol. Grass-fed is richer in omega-3 fatty acids, but is still lower than in fish and comes in a less researched form. Preliminary studies show grass-fed has a type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CIA) which may prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Grass-fed cattle needs less (if any) antibiotics, which contributes to better public health. Organic beef can be grass-fed or grain-fed, but contains no hormones or antibiotics. 
  • Well-done meat can cause cancer. HCAs develop with high temperature and lengthy cooking--marinading meat or pre-cooking in the microwave before grilling can help reduce HCAs. Does not apply to roasting, baking, microwaving, or sauteing. 
  • "Kosher" and "free range" does not mean food is healthier.
  • Farmed salmon has higher chances of being contaminated than wild salmon, and my cause cancer, and environmental issues. Atlantic salmon is farmed, Alaskan salmon is wild, and Pacific can be either. If you buy farmed salmon, ask where it is from, and try to get it from Chile or Washington State.
  • Mercury in fish is hard to determine, but to be safe, eat less tuna and more salmon. Canned white tuna has 3X the mercury as chunk light, and canned salmon has less than both.
  • There is very little evidence that yogurt helps digestion--certain probiotics could help with specific ailments, but overall, yogurt will not ease constipation.
  • Raw milk does not have more nutrients than pasteurized and raw milk can cause illness because of contamination.
  • Soy milk and cows milk have very similar health benefits.
  • Milk is not necessary for strong bones.
  • Dairy products have been tied to prostate and ovarian cancer, but may lower risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Vitamin C supplements only ward off colds if you are exposed to extreme conditions or push your body to the max--but your body can only absorb 500g at a time.
  • Vitamin B doesn't give you energy.
  • Multi-vitamins have not been proven to improve health, and have been shown increasing risk of cancer.
  • Wash bagged lettuce, too.
  • Bottled water is usually tap water-- it may taste better because of processing, but it is not healthier than tap.
  • Microwaving food in plastic isn't dangerous.
  • Acrylamide may increase cancer risk, but it hasn't been proven. Starchy foods create this when heated at high temperatures--frying is worst, or charring food, but boiling, steaming, or microwaving usually forms no acrylamides. French fries and chips have the highest levels; also in coffee, cereal, crackers, cookies, and bread.
  • Genetically modified foods haven't been found harmful, but no long-term studies have been done.
  • Vegetarian diets are only "better for you" depending on what the diet is compared to. Plus, it is hard to test because vegetarians may have other healthy habits which skew results, and there are many kinds of Vegetarianism.Vegetarians do not usually have protein or iron deficiencies. 
  • The Mediterranean diet (large amounts of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, olive oil; few servings a week of fish, poultry, eggs; low to moderate amounts of dairy products; very little red meat; wine with meals)is associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinsons.
  • Detox diets are not necessary or good for you and can be harmful.
  • The Caveman diet "is healthful overall, but there is little evidence that shunning whole grains, beans, or dairy is necessary for optimal health."
  • Diets high in watery foods (watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, celery, zucchini) help you loose weight.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

12 Day Challenge- Part 3

Monday- I just had a banana and a tiny bit of all natural peanut butter for breakfast. I know, I know, I'm not supposed to have peanuts, but I still haven't found almond butter! If it makes up for it I would have rather had my banana plain! Plus, the plate that the peanut butter was on made a mess in the car, so I got my karma for trying to sneak around the Paleo rules ;) After Crossfit, I was invited to coffee with some of my wonderful box-mates and they treated me to a cappuccino which I didn't add sugar to since I figured the espresso and milk was cheating enough. I can't even describe how wonderful the people are that I have met at Crossfit Ansbach, so I will just say that I thoroughly enjoyed our impromptu coffee date, and it will have to happen again so I can pay them back for spotting me! For lunch, I polished off the last bit of pulled pork (can you believe there was still some left?!). For dinner, I made tuna burgers, which were supposed to be served with asparagus, but it had gone bad. I was so bummed out (Tuna Burger Recipe: Everything I have ever made from this blog has been golden!)! I squeezed in my necessary veggies by putting my tuna burger over lettuce with caramelized rosemary onions and chopped bell pepper, and I mixed some sour cream and pesto together for a sauce/dressing. (Note: sour cream is not part of a normal Paleo diet, but I allow small amounts of dairy into my version). I felt super snacky last night and there wasn't much food in the house, so I satisfied my hunger with an apple before bed.

Tuesday- You would not believe how thrown off my diet has been since I have been skipping my usual eggs for breakfast! I felt so much better this morning after my scrambled eggs and onions, plus, my digestion is more on track. I had a handful of cashews to tide me over before lunch, and then I heated up the leftover tuna burger and ate it with shallots, romaine lettuce, bell pepper, and goat cheese. Dinner tonight is some Paleo Chili! YUM! (Check out the recipe right here)Cody and I love chili so much and I am super excited to see how this new recipe turns out- the most important factor (after taste) is that it can cover multiple meals and hopefully last as long as that delish Pulled Pork!
UPDATE: The chili is to die for! I added a jalapeno, and in the last half hour of simmering, I threw in  chunks of sweet potato. The recipe yields at least 6 large servings, most likely more, and I can't wait to have it again tomorrow :)

Finally, an actual picture from my kitchen! This chili is the best!

Onto the important stuff: the price of the grocery today! This should be my last trip for the duration of the challenge, except for picking up meats from the butcher, as needed. I spent about $48 at the commissary on fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk, and some miscellaneous ingredients for our next few meals. I also ran over to Kauflands and spent 6.35 Euros ($8.30) on two pounds of ground beef for Paleo Chili.  That means I spent a total of $56.30 today. If I add that to the $35.50 I spent on my first grocery trip of the challenge, I have spent a total of $91.80. I am excited that I am still under my $100 goal, but a little stressed that I am so close to maxing out! Plus, I still have to buy a whole chicken for our next bulk meal, and some more ground beef for our last meal of the week... Hopefully, I can figure something out to make this challenge a success!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

12 Day Challenge: Part 2

I thought I would go ahead and do a weekend update of how the grocery budget/meal plan has gone over the weekend; mainly because I'm afraid I'll forget by tomorrow. Pathetic, I know. But better safe than sorry, I suppose!

(not my actual dessert, but I just wanted
you to get an idea of why I couldn't resist!)
Saturday: Friday night, Cody ended up staying out late doing some extra work duties, so he didn't have his share of leftover pulled pork. Therefore, I got to have it as part of a delicious omelette on Saturday morning! I seriously love this pulled pork! Even after all the servings we had enjoyed, when Cody got home from the gym, he made a big plate of pulled pork nachos that looked delicious. Saturday is my cheat day from Paleo, but I wasn't craving anything too crazy (considering last weekend I munched on a chili cheese dog, french fries, sweets, rolls, pastries, etc. I would say this weekend was a vast improvement, haha) so when we went to Rothenburg for a date night, I didn't even stray from the diet very much. Speaking of our date night, Cody got tipped for his night of bar-tending (the extra work duties I spoke of above), so we were able to go out for dinner and dessert. I had a meal planned already, so skipping it just pushes the rest of my meal plan back a day, and will hopefully help me out to reach my $100 goal! My dinner was very Paleo friendly, but I couldn't resist some gelato, and *gasp* they put ice cream, whipped cream, strawberries and nutella on top of a small waffle at our local Eis Rialto shop, so I ended up indulging. What is crazy about it, is as soon as I cheated that small bit, I had no self-restraint to keep me from making a bowl of pasta when I got home and having a few bits of Cody's leftover pizza. At least the day started out strong! Anyway, everything we ate on Saturday was already in the house, or we paid for from Cody's tip money.
Rothenburg is such a great town!
We love that its only 20 minutes away from us :)
Sunday: We had scrambled eggs for breakfast, and I had some nuts as a snack before our study/grill-out with friends. Normally, I love to entertain and I would have happily made food for our company, but because I am really trying to stay to my strict budget, Cody just asked everybody to bring their own meat to throw on the grill. I made Cody and I some Bison Burgers, which I put into a lettuce wrap with caramelized onions, tomato, and mustard. (Here are the recipes I used as a guide) I also made some skillet sweet potatoes; one potato was surprisingly enough for everybody to enjoy. One of our friends was nice enough to bring over fruit salad, so we ended up with a pretty well-rounded (and Paleo) meal. Dinner was early, so we ended up each having a bratwurst (one of the meats brought over) to tide us over before bed.

We should be covered for all of our meals tomorrow- I think I'm going to make another Tuna&Egg salad so I know I have my lunch covered for the rest of the week! On Tuesday, I'm going to hit up the grocery again, and I will let you know how well I am able to stay within the budget. Only 7 more days to go in the challenge!!!

Friday, June 21, 2013

12 Day Challenge

On Tuesday, I decided to try and challenge myself to spend less on groceries than usual. My inner Jewess loves to save money on anything I can, but I rarely limit myself when it comes to food because I love cooking and experimenting so much. My enjoyment of cooking usually leads to at least one dinner party, several nights of company for dinner, and then a ton of wasted food every week because Cody and I are pretty awful at eating our leftovers (why eat something old when I'm cranking out something new?).

What I am currently attempting to do is cut our two week grocery bill from $200-$250 to $100. When I told Cody what I was doing, he said, "That's easy. Give me Ramen every night and we will spend way less than that!"
I politely reminded him that I am on the Paleo diet- but I thanked him for his willingness to live like a college kid for a few weeks. Even though I'm sure he wouldn't last two weeks eating Ramen anyway; he is too spoiled by good food ;)
So. I would love to make my life easy with Ramen, spaghetti, rice, and beans, but I am going to attempt to stay true to Paleo for the next twelve days as well. This means using up some of what we already have in the house, cooking bulk recipes that will last us at least two days, and making meals using cheaper meats.

Here's how its going so far:

  • Wednesday- Leftover Mac&Cheese and Stuffed Rolls for Cody (I made this meal on Monday and even though its one of Cody's favorites, he would probably never finish it off if I kept making new food), and I made a Tuna&Egg Salad for me (Recipe for a great salad!). Everything I ate on Wednesday was already in the house, so this day cost us $0 of my budget.
  • Thursday- I had fruit, a hard-boiled egg, and almonds in the morning, and leftover Tuna&Egg Salad for lunch. We had Pulled Pork for dinner, but I chose a recipe that uses a dry-rub so I wouldn't have to buy ingredients for a sauce. (Recipe for Pulled Pork) Cody had his pork as a sandwich with extra BBQ sauce, and I had mine plain with a sprinkle of cheese and a side of carrots that I had cooked with the meat in the crock-pot. I ended up using schweinehals (pork neck) for the recipe which cost 8 euros for 2 pounds ($10.50), and I ended up with a moister pulled pork than usual. This was Cody's absolute favorite pulled pork that we have ever had! Cody also went to the grocery to pick up everything we will need until Sunday, and spent $25.
  • Friday- I had two scrambled eggs, a banana, and half of a broiled grapefruit for breakfast. (Funny Story: I asked Cody to get me 3 oranges at the grocery so I could make fresh squeezed OJ in the morning, and when I cut open the orange this morning, it was pink on the inside! Broiled or not, grapefruit is just too tart for me! Blech!) For lunch, I have enough Tuna&Egg Salad leftover, and we still have Stuffed Rolls, which I can eat the inside of. Cody has some leftover TunaMac for lunch today. For dinner, we are both excited to have more of the Pulled Pork from yesterday!
I am still going strong with Paleo and I feel like I am on track with spending- I was hoping to keep the first grocery trip under $20, but I think we will make up some ground with our next trip because I want to buy in-season vegetables from the Farmer's Market in Ansbach. I have the next 8 days planned already, but will wait to update until I see if things go as planned! Wish me luck ;)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mixed Bag

I am feeling kind of all over the place today- I have some topics I want to write about, but none of them are cohesive ... time for a smorgasbord!

Cody and I spent some time in Nuremberg this weekend and it was an absolute blast! We intended to do some sightseeing while there, but copious amounts of alcohol got in the way. Whoops! I now find the thought of traveling to Nuremberg nauseating, and instantly say no to any hint of going there... but I think the trauma will fade with time. As long as nobody brings up "baby birding", red bull, vodka, Coyote Bar, bar-top dancing, or hangovers, I think I have a chance of moving on....When did I get to the age where I experience all-day hangovers anyway? I now have the answer to the question I used to ask of my friends: "Why does everybody think hangovers are so awful?" It's because they are incredibly awful! And result in sub-human functioning, you stupid-college-aged-Ali who only got a slight headache and some beer-poops the morning after heavy drinking! I will be sticking to a few glasses of delicious German beer or wine from now on, thank you very much.
I find it funny that no matter where we live, the sights that are closest to us tend to be the ones least explored. We will have to make time over the next few years (hopefully the next few months, but I'm trying to give us some leeway) to do a solid wandering around the museums, churches, and rally grounds in Nuremberg. There are much more valuable things to see than the insides of movie theaters and bars :)
Speaking of local travel, I would like to give props to us, and to our friends, for making it to the Frankentherme this weekend! I love our little town so much, and have been looking forward to visiting our Bad Windsheim spa since before we moved here. We had so much fun jumping pool to pool, floating around in the salt-water (note: shaving directly before arriving is not the best idea for a comfortable salt experience and any cuts/scratches will be painful- I must avoid cat attacks before our next visit), and watching all the cute old folks (what? I adore old people and their awesome wrinkly wisdom)! I am so excited that the pools are open all year round so we can take our families when they visit. I also can't wait for the next day we have free so we can check out the Freiland Museum in town!

Is Our Box an Anomaly??? (More Thoughts on Crossfit...)
On Monday evening, I decided to research the controversy behind the Crossfit "movement." This was spawned by the fact I was feeling rather weak for a few workouts recently and I wasn't sure if it had to do with my foray into the Paleo diet, not allowing myself enough recovery time, or if it was all in my head. My original, simple, google search became a few hour trek through blogs and articles about the pros and cons of Crossfit. I can truly understand some of people's adverse reactions to Crossfit, but I am happy to report that the cons which showed up time and time again do not apply to my beloved Crossfit Ansbach.
These are the top reasons people either dislike Crossfit or think that it causes more harm than help:
a. The workouts are too generalized, and are hurting people because they don't take into account a person's ability or fitness level.
Almost every site I read quoted the Crossfit website where it states that an elderly person with heart disease and an athlete will do the same workout during Crossfit. If you haven't been to a Crossfit box, or you have maybe been to one with an inexperienced owner/coach/trainer, this may be a huge red flag. Yes, the workouts are scaleable, and once you learn what you are doing, everybody can do the same workout with different weights/reps/etc. No, not everybody should do the exact same workout/warmup/WOD all of the time, especially when dealing with injuries or beginners. At Crossfit Ansbach, I see Rob modify workouts to specific people every single day (my workout has been modified more times than I can count). For example, I brought a friend to Crossfit yesterday who has never lifted weights in her life. While I got down to business doing the warmup and skill workout (which, btw, were scaled to my ability level and consisted of movements I am fairly used to doing and have been taught to do correctly) Rob worked with my friend on a proper squat with a wall-ball and PVC pipe. For our WOD, which consisted of push presses and toes to bar, my friend did shoulder presses with a PVC and butterfly sit-ups. At the box this morning, I had to use a PVC pipe during the warmup. I know for a fact that Rob does one-on-one training, which no doubt is because those members have different needs. In my opinion, in a positive and encouraging environment, it is motivating to do the same workout as the really experienced Crossfitters in class- it makes me feel accomplished, while giving me goals to work towards at the same time.
b. Crossfit trainers push people so hard that they cause them to be physically ill- not only that, but those crazy Crossfit freaks actually reward you for puking during a workout and every box has a specific puke bucket.
Come again? What? I read this time and time again in articles and I have no idea what these people are talking about. What kind of crazy-ass masochistic box were you going to? I am starting to wonder if I luckily found the only sane box in existence (or maybe I am just not around when these things go on?)- I really want to know, are we the minority, or did these people just have bad experiences? I admit, people probably have pushed themselves to puking during timed WODs at Crossfit Ansbach, but I have never once seen it, or heard of it being encouraged. We have mop buckets and a chalk bucket... if there is a specific puke bucket somewhere, we haven't been properly introduced. Throwing up can happen when you push yourself, that is a fact; I saw it happen on my high-school swim team at least once a week. I believe this comes down to personality and some people are so driven they do push themselves to being ill; I personally am not that motivated and would take a short break before barfing, but I also really hate barfing, so I avoid it at all costs. But the main point is, "Pukey the Clown" is not encouraged at Crossfit Ansbach. I have been pushed to challenge myself, and encouraged to go faster, or just told to keep moving when I felt like giving up, but I have also been told to go down in weight or take a break when necessary. Which leads me to the next "con"
c. You WILL get injured doing Crossfit. The kinds of lifts required and the amount of reps prescribed during workouts are stupid, won't make you stronger, and will inevitably lead to injury of some kind-it is just a matter of when and how.
This is another issue which comes completely down to your trainer. According to these box-horror-stories we are luckier than we know to have Rob as our trainer! We all know how much he emphasizes form, and I think its safe to say we all trust his level of experience and expertise. I have always been taught how to do something properly before being told to add weight or reps or to race the clock. Have I forgotten proper form and messed it up before? Of course! But I have always had help figuring out what I am doing wrong- even if it means taking a break from the prescribed workout to figure it out. Avoiding injury also comes down to knowing your body. Have I been told to go up in weight when I didn't think I was able to? Sure! But, because I have usually been able to do handle the suggested weight, I trust that Rob knows what level I am at. If I haven't been able to handle it, I have been immediately told to go back down in weight, and I have been encouraged not to beat myself up for using less weight. Because Rob will tell me to use more or less weight depending on the circumstances, I completely trust him to know what I can and cannot do. There are times when I pay attention to my own body, and I ask to go down in weight because I can tell I'm not getting a movement right, and after Rob works with me on it, he usually agrees and tells me to go down in weight. I've had to check my ego a time or two, like last weekend, when I couldn't figure out kettlebell snatches and Rob made me use a 4kg kettlebell... talk about embarrassing! But it was smart, because I could have caused myself injury while flailing about with a heavier weight. Mobility is also a huge part of avoiding injury, and there is not a day where people don't stretch before and after a workout- and sometimes we do it as a group. I have been taught several stretches for every tight muscle or mobility issue I have ever experienced while at Crossfit Ansbach and I have been given "homework" to help fix my issues, as well. I would be worried if mobility isn't worked on in all boxes, but according to the complaints I was reading, it isn't. Yet again, we are very lucky!
d. Becoming Crossfit certified is way too easy and leads to inexperienced owners and trainers which leads to the above problems.
I am sure that this is a real issue, and hopefully, Crossfit finds a way around it because it is getting the program a bad name. I don't feel that I have to address this issue in detail, because Rob is obviously experienced.

Toot Toot!
I don't like to put up many Facebook statuses about working out because, in general, people don't give a shit :) But because I know my loved ones at home are following along, and because my ever-supportive Crossfit family seems to have taken a liking to my blog (thank you, thank you, thank you!) I thought I would write down what I feel are my biggest accomplishments since joining Crossfit Ansbach in early May (don't feel obligated to continue reading, this is a whole lot of me-me-me crap):
I am able to do movements that I wasn't able to do when I started. I know this is a given, and there is a huge list of things I have learned, but some specifics are Toes to Bar and Pullups. My pull-ups still aren't perfect, but I am way closer to doing a strict pull-up than before, when I was basically flopping around like a fish on a hook. Toes to Bar were a cool accomplishment because they surprised me. We were supposed to do them when I first started and I couldn't do one at all. A couple weeks back, a workout called for them, so I went to the bar expecting not to be able to do it, and boop my toes were up there! I can't do a ton of them, and my legs aren't all straight and pretty yet, but I can do a few, and that is still progress!
Yesterday was another day when I did more than I thought I could, and it felt amazing- it was only 20kg during the 30-20-10 push press WOD, but after that first 30 reps I was sure I would have to go down in weight, and I somehow finished the whole workout at 20 kg. It feels great to do more than I think I can-- actually, it feels absolutely terrible during the fact, I mean really really awful and all I want is for it to end... but afterwards, it feels fucking great :) I also went up to using a 12 kg kettle-bell for some workouts that I was using a 4 kg kettle-bell for originally. I already mentioned that I have regressed in that area for some workouts, but none-the-less, I wouldn't have even attempted to touch the blue kettle-bell when I first started.
I can also run without feeling like absolute death now  ! I still don't like it, but a little over a month ago, a 400m warmup was something I dreaded more than any other part of the workout. I got nervous driving to the box because I was afraid I would see 400m or 800m on the board. I knew it was kind of awful that I was struggling so much, but I couldn't help it. I still don't feel great about running, but I jogged 800m the other day and didn't stop or loose the people ahead of me, which was nice. That is a pretty cool change considering how little running we are required to do during a week (and thank god for that, right? I feel like other Crossfit gyms do A LOT of running, and the fact Rob hates running, too, is another reason I know I am lucky that I found this specific box!). UPDATE: after 100 back squats, 400m still makes me feel like death, haha!
I also encouraged one of the Crossfit haters I know to think about Crossfit in a different way yesterday. Cody has a coworker who is always talking about how he hates Crossfit, and he wants to get bigger and stronger, and he doesn't ever see big and strong guys doing Crossfit. I took it upon myself to show him a video of the Crossfit Games from last year, and halfway through it he looked at me and said, "Damn it! You are making me want to do this shit now!" We continued to chat about it, I showed him pictures from our workouts, told him what I had done for my workout yesterday, and we watched another video of women doing Crossfit, after which he was thoroughly intrigued. He was so shocked that guys can get muscular doing Crossfit-- I asked him what else he thought lifting heavy weights would lead to and he said he has just always seen thinner guys doing it. I told him it just depends on body-type. What a ding-dong. But, now there is one more person who has a positive attitude about Crossfit, and who won't give me shit for doing it!
Something else felt pretty great yesterday (it was just a good day, I guess!): While driving home from the box, I was talking to my friend about how she felt after her first time in the box. Among various other things, she told me that she looked at what I was doing and felt like there was no way she could ever do what I was doing. It was such an eye-opening comment! I told her that when I first started, I used a PVC, too, and I also looked around at all of the people working out and felt like I couldn't do it, or that it would take me forever to figure it all out. I told her that it has only been a month, and I am doing things I didn't know if I would ever be able to do, and if it is something she wants, she definitely can do it. I have just blindly trekked forward and have found myself slowly improving, learning, and growing. I also laughed, because if she would have been in class with more people, she would have seen that I do less than almost everybody else- there are much better people to be impressed by! It was flattering, none-the-less :)
And that is what is so motivating about our gym- the fact that I can look around at all of the people with more experience, and I can imagine that if I keep coming, and if I keep a good attitude, and if I push myself, that I will be where they are someday, too!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Weekend Trip..... to Italy!

Cody, Jake, Kevin, and I all piled into the hybrid sleepily and started our journey South into the land of wine, pizza, and "its-a me Mario!" a few weekends back. Using indispensable tips from fellow Army wives, we drove for about three hours and made a pit-stop in Garmisch for a stuffing German lunch, and then continued into and down the Alps, through Austria (where we stopped and got our vignette and some chocolates) and finally arrived in the city of Vicenza.

Vicenza is a beautiful city but it is also chaotic, as I believe most Italian cities must be.... The driving is challenging, to say the least, and our GPS was no help in getting us to the Vicenzan Army base. This would not be even close to the first time we would get lost in our Italian wanderings. We luckily obtained directions from a travel agency and eventually found our way to the entrance gate (it helps to follow the too-big American SUVs), and the patient guard was somehow hilariously able to guide us to the hotel only using the phrase, "follow the way." The hotel on Vicenza's small post is impressive- extremely comfortable, accommodating, large, and clean with several extras we utilized more than we thought we would (free movie rentals, anyone?). The first night we were told of two popular Italian restaurants within walking distance and didn't waste much time immersing ourselves in wine, pasta, wine, pizza, wine, and tiramisu (did I mention lots of wine??)- all delicious and fairly cheap! We didn't actually explore Vicenza much until our second evening when we had finished touring the other two cities, but we got to see a healthy portion of it while riding the bus to the train station each day. When we did take the time to have a look-see around town, I was highly impressed by the beautiful sights and pleasing sounds tucked into every nook and cranny. We found a quaint, yet stunning, park off a small square and the most delicious meal of our trip on the patio of an elegant (yet reasonably priced) restaurant in the middle of the main square. I wouldn't hesitate one second to stay at the same hotel and spend more time in Vicenza itself during future trips to Italy, although next time, Cody and I will have to spend one night on the island of Venice.

Venice was a short bus and train ride away, but when you walk out of the train station you will feel like you entered another, more beautiful, universe. The hustle and bustle is extreme and the setting is breath-taking. Venice's tourist filled streets manage to stay magical with never-ending canals, colorful architecture, cafe-lined sidewalks, and the ability to offer you any merchandise or food your heart could hope to find. The four of us wandered lazily through the streets until finding a gem of a bar for a glass of Prosecco and some fresh appetizers that were out of this world. We slipped into a not-so-hidden bar for some sangria next and tripped and laughed our way through our next hour of exploring. We caught the view from the highest point in the city, and headed back towards the train station while looking for dinner. Unfortunately, we found ourselves hangry (hungry enough to cause anger) and lost in the residential neighborhoods of Venice, with not a tourist or restaurant in sight. With our stomachs empty and our feet hurting, we stopped at the first sign of food, entering into a questionable establishment and encountered the one pitfall of our entire trip- an unsatisfying and inedible meal that cost an arm and a leg (the cost is expected in the city, but the bad food was a complete disappointment that was hard to let go). We didn't overturn every stone in Venice, but we left feeling like we saw enough for the trip. Cody and I would love to go back for a romantic weekend where we can take a famous gondola ride and see the city at night.

Our second day was spent in Verona, which is just as easy to get to as Venice from Vicenza. Unfortunately, the town does not reveal itself on a shimmering golden platter as soon as you leave the train station, and we spent a hot, and aggravating, hour walking around in the wrong direction when we first arrived. Luckily, when we got ourselves turned around and on the right track, we were greeted by huge crowds, bands, and parades all in town for a bike race. We got to check out the Arena, and have a lovely lunch right in the middle of the action so we could people-watch to our hearts' delight. After lunch we found our way (easily with directions from our sweet server) to the castle in town and wandered through and around more beautiful Italian scenery. We had our fill of gelato, crowds, and the city so after another quick loop we headed back to the train station and made our way to Vicenza (where we spent the evening as I described above). It was a truly enjoyable weekend with amazing company and there is nothing I would change about it (except maybe that one horrific meal....)! Italy has held a special place in my heart since I first visited in high school, and I was so happy that it held up so wonderfully to my rose-colored memories of it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Is that paleo??"

I know that I need to be writing the next post about our weekend to Vicenza, Venice, and Verona, but I have something else on my mind that I want to write about instead- and since this is my blog, I am giving myself permission :)

I have recently realized that I am the annoying paleo-dieting-Crossfitter that everybody hates. 
With that being said, I want you to hear me out.  I have only ever been to one Crossfit gym, which is Crossfit Ansbach, so I don't know much about how other gyms work.  I do know that at most boxes, all the sexy twenty-something girls wear short-shorts and knee-socks (you do your thang you sexy Crossfit mamas), while intimidating the fuck out of me, and probably inviting the hatred of lots of other women. I have also watched the video on youtube making fun of Crossfit ladies (check it out and laugh) and the women at my gym are NOT like that. So, basically, what I am trying to get at is I don't know what Crossfit gyms are like in your mind, or what image you think of when I say Crossfit, or even if you love or hate the idea you have of it. I didn't even know how I felt about it before I started doing it...
What I know now is that Crossfit is an amazing passion to have. I have not felt so challenged, mentally and physically, ever before.  I have very rarely been motivated to stick to a hobby or interest in my last twenty-four years. Not to mention, the Crossfit booty! Listen up y'all, the Crossfit booty is a real thing, I have seen it on every woman I work out with, I believe in it, I covet it, and all of those silly workouts you find on the internet claiming to give you a nice ass have nothing on the Crossfit booty. I am currently working diligently to obtain my own ;)
Mooooving on... I couldn't even tell you the ages of all the women I work out with, but I can tell you that there is a range of at least 20 years going on. We have women that come into the gym with babies, with teenagers, with 4 toddlers hanging onto them from all sides- and those mom's are some strong and impressive women! I get my ass kicked by moms every morning in every workout that I do. And I am not one bit ashamed, because these women are no joke. There are the other women like me who don't have kids yet, and you know what? They kick my ass, too! But, as Rob assures me (even during my worst performances) I am getting stronger every day. When I wake up in the morning, I am excited to go to the box and struggle and sweat because one day, as I continue to make small improvements and accomplish, I will be as strong and as healthy and as impressive as these new female role models I have found. I am new to this, I don't know much about it yet, but I know how great it makes me feel, how much I am learning, and how much I adore the people I have met, so yes, it may be aggravating to listen to me talk about it, but I can't help it. I fucking love it.

Onto the Paleo portion of my annoying-ness:
Before all the craziness of the move, I was doing my own adapted version of the South Beach Diet- I basically cut out processed foods the best I could, cut out sugar (besides splenda), and only ate whole-wheat. I was also trying to make a couple no-meat meals a week, maybe working towards future vegetarianism. But I didn't want to limit myself from trying all the new dishes and drinks that Germany had to offer, so I didn't focus on starting up another "diet" right away.
After a couple weeks of doing the Crossfit thing, I was sure that I needed to go back to some sort of eating plan.

I also feel the need to explain why I "diet," because when you are already perceived "thin," people tend to get mad at you when they hear you are on a "diet." I control what I eat because I love food soooo much, that if I don't set some guidelines for myself, I quickly get out of control. Now, I don't love the extra 5-10 pounds that I put on when I'm stuffing my face all day, but the bigger issue is how awful I feel when I eat whatever I want, whenever I want it. I tend to have digestive issues, which I have had my entire life, and which I had decided before moving here were caused partially by a mild case of lactose-intolerance. I usually have stomach aches almost every day when I don't watch what I eat, and it disrupts my day and my plans when I have to lie down until I feel better.
It is also extremely aggravating to know you are not getting the results you should be getting from all of that excruciatingly hard work at the gym, because you are bombarding your body with sugars and ick. There I was, debating on when to start up my usual "diet," when I overheard a conversation between two friends after a workout about the Whole 30. After a few more chats at the gym about what Paleo is and isn't, I got online and did a few hours of research. I decided that if I was going to go full force at the gym, I should follow suit with my diet, and at least give Paleo a try (This is what Paleo is, in a nutshell....). For a week, I did Paleo as strict as it gets, but I found myself getting frustrated and I felt I would be thrown off track completely if I didn't adjust the diet more. I spoke with some long-term Paleos and researched some more, and decided to allow some cheese and a very tiny bit of other dairy into my diet.
 I am now working on my third week of Paleo, and it is getting easier every day! I enjoy having sauteed veggies, eggs, and bacon for breakfast. I have learned all the delicious ways I can spice up a salad for lunch. I even made a feast of a dinner for company that was extremely Paleo friendly, and I got rave reviews from every person in attendance. I like knowing that the meat I am eating doesn't have steroids or antibiotics in it and that it doesn't come from a cow fattened up on grains. I like knowing what every single item I put in my body is, and that I don't eat anything with ingredients I can't pronounce. I don't eat like this because I think I am fat, although eating this way will probably cause me to tone up. I'm not going to lie, I won't hate it if all the sudden I have a sexy, muscular, physique. But that is not my goal; I eat this way because it makes me feel better and because I am passionate about where food comes from and how terrible processed food is for our bodies. Long before I started Paleo, I was bothered by the way the food industry works in the states, and I had watched enough documentaries on the topic to want to change the way I ate- Paleo just gave me the guidelines I needed to change my habits.

So yes, I have become the annoying Paleo-dieting-Crossfitter that everybody hates. And I am okay with it, because I am loving myself, and the way I feel, more and more every day.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Weekend Trips! Continued...


I absolutely ADORE this charming town. Not only is the history of this town extremely interesting, and still present in many ways, but it is incredibly lovable for its beautiful German character and personality.  We are lucky enough to live less than thirty minutes away from this gem so it was painless to hop in the car with two of our buddies and drive there for the famous Night Watchman's Tour. We found one of the several free parking lots, outside of the wall, and then we walked into the medieval city and found our way to the city centre. There are so many things to see and places to enjoy in this adorable town- from restaurants, pubs, and cafes, to shops, parks, and historical buildings. The Night Watchman's Tour is not only informational, but very entertaining and funny- it starts at eight and all you have to do is show up in the city centre and wait for the watchman to show up (you will know its him, believe me!). At the end, simply pay the watchman his six euros, and go on your way! The tour finishes near a pub literally named Hell that is still around from the 15th century (more great information on that included in the tour), so we had to stop in. This restaurant is a MUST-visit place; great for a group, a few drinks, or a romantic dinner for two. We just had appetizers and beer, which were delicious to say the least, but our snacks had nothing on the impressive entrees we saw on neighboring tables. Cody and I can't wait to go back during the day and explore more- a lot of the stores were closed while we were there, and we would love to walk the wall and have a nice meal. This is also supposed to be the most magical Christmas Market in all of Germany- I can't wait to see it!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Weekend Trips!

I have been putting off writing about the awesome day/weekend trips we have done because I haven't been able to upload my pictures. Now that our household goods arrived last Friday and we actually have a computer, desk, printer, etc. I am back in business! It is kind of a daunting task to go back in time and write about each of these trips- I don't even remember the dates that we went on each one! But I am going to try to do my best :)

Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau
This was our very first day trip, our first stop along the Romantic Road, and our first castle tours, so it was an exciting adventure! I researched the castles before leaving and discovered that you could reserve your tours online the day before- this ended up being one of the best travel decisions I have ever made! When we arrived in town after our short 2 1/2 hour drive, we noticed that the ticket office had a snaking line that was barely moving. I had read that the line could take an hour, and it can take about an hour to get up the hill to the castle, so we arrived 2 hours before our appointed tour time to make sure we didn't miss it. There are plenty of parking lots available and all of them are 5 euros for the day, which I think is reasonable. We parked in the last lot with all the tour busses and it was probably the most convenient one- it is the closest to the exit of Hohenschwangau so we could get right back on the road at the end of the day! We wandered up to the ticket office and noticed a little area off to the right of the line for people with reserved tickets- NOBODY was in line! All we did was flash our print-off from their website, and we were ushered to a special desk where we were given our tour tickets and sent on our way in about 2 minutes flat!
I could not believe that out of all of those people in line, we were the only ones who had looked up the castles online before we went; but I guess we were. Anyway, we grabbed a quick bite to eat, took a few pictures, and got in line for the bus to the top of the hill. You can ride in a horse-drawn carriage, which is cool but about 30 euros vs the 2 euro for the bus, or you can walk, which may not even be physically possible, haha. Both castles are absolutely breathtaking and the tours are quick and informational. You aren't allowed to take pictures inside the castles, and I won't go into any of the cool history, but I would recommend checking out both castles. You will be tired after Neuschwanstein- getting back to the bus is not an easy task, and if you aren't up for a lot of walking, you should definitely take the carriages- don't let this deter you from seeing Hohenschwangau! I loved the gardens around the cute yellow castle and everything is downhill (literallly) from there. If you park in the same lot as us, you will end up right at your vehicle and you can mosey out to dinner or jump back on the autobahn home :)