IKEA Hack: Expedit Lego Duplo Table with Storage

Thrifty Travel Mama | Ikea Hack: Lego Duplo Building Table with Storage Made From Ikea Expedit ShelvingWelcome back reader friends!  I trust you’ve had a nice long holiday break, wherever in the world you are.  We spent a wet week in Paris (more on that later), and now I’m dealing with a very particular toddler who has decided two naps per day is tooooo many.  Oh, joy.

Luckily, the little stinker has found his happy place smashing up his Christmas present – a Lego Duplo table that Doc Sci and I made from an Ikea Expedit shelf.

I was inspired by the Lego Playhouse I saw here.  However, I had a slightly different vision of what would work better for our family and apartment.  I wanted the table to include space for storage, and I wanted it mobile.

I absolutely loved making this gift for the boys, and I know your kids would be thrilled to receive this, too.  So, today I’m sharing how we did it.


*The large Lego Duplo building plates are too big to fit on the lower shelves (but, they are perfectly sized for the top!).

We could’ve bought them anyway and cut them to fit, but I wanted a lower stress option (what if the cut looked bad?  What about the rounded corners?).  We found smaller boards on ebay (none available on amazon!).  The size I used is 12×16 knobs as seen below.Thrifty Travel Mama | Ikea Hack: Lego Duplo Building Table with Storage Made From Ikea Expedit ShelvingActually, I bought all the Lego Duplo building plates on ebay.  Those suckers are crazy expensive, and I knew my boys wouldn’t care if a few of the knobs showed a bit of wear and tear.

Assemble the Shelf

First things first – put your Ikea Expedit shelf together!  I don’t think you need much help here – the shapeless nonverbal figures in the instructions should tell you everything you need to know.

Add the Wheels

Wheels are completely optional.  I wanted them because we have a very small apartment, and Big Foot takes a 3-4 hour nap in the boys’ room.  I thought it would be nice for the older boys to not have to carry out armfuls of toys to play with while the little one sleeps. Thrifty Travel Mama | Ikea Hack: Lego Duplo Building Table with Storage Made From Ikea Expedit ShelvingJust as a side note, it’s not necessary to use Ikea’s casters.  If you find wheels that suit your fancy elsewhere, just use those.

Again, I was going for low stress.  The wheels are competitively priced (at least in Germany), fit the Expedit shelf perfectly, and have a locking wheel which is crucial if you don’t want your playhouse running away from you.

A drill is handy to have when attaching the wheels, but it’s not critical.  Doc Sci was too lazy to bring ours up from the cellar, so he used good old fashioned elbow grease.

Glue the Boards

Decide where you want to position the boards, and glue them down one by one.  A few tips…

  • If you bought used boards, clean them first before gluing!  I totally forgot to do this (you can see it in the photo), and it was a pain in the you-know-what to scrub in between those little knobbies after they were cemented down.
  • It’s helpful to have two people glue the boards simultaneously in case you need to shift them slightly to ensure proper spacing.
  • Use Duplo bricks to attach adjacent boards together (see second photo below).  This will ensure you get the spacing correct.  If you glue the boards with the edges flush, they will be too close!
  • Pile heavy books on the boards while the glue dries overnight.  Keep the Duplo bricks in place during this time, too.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Ikea Hack: Lego Duplo Building Table with Storage Made From Ikea Expedit ShelvingThrifty Travel Mama | Ikea Hack: Lego Duplo Building Table with Storage Made From Ikea Expedit Shelving

Add Storage and Decorate

Zip your bins together, and fill them with your bricks.  I put a few extra of the bigger building plates in one of the bins so that play didn’t have to be confined to the table.  They do fit, but only at an angle.

I attached some colorful 2×2 Duplo bricks around the edges for decoration and to encourage “out of the box” play.Thrifty Travel Mama | Ikea Hack: Lego Duplo Building Table with Storage Made From Ikea Expedit Shelving

I liked the idea of laminating paper scenes and placing them inside the middle shelf.  However, I didn’t have time to do this, and I wanted to see how my boys would use the table first.

If I end up adding the pictures, I’ll use velcro tabs on the back of the laminated sheets so they can switch them out.  I’m thinking they would love the ability to rotate between airport, fire station, police station, post office, zoo, construction zone, and city scenes.

I added some vehicles, buildings, and people (all from ebay, of course) to make the gift super sweet for them.Thrifty Travel Mama | Ikea Hack: Lego Duplo Building Table with Storage Made From Ikea Expedit Shelving

And… You’re Done

That’s it – easy peasy!

We gave the boys this table as a joint gift.  We’re resisting the draw of the regular, smaller Legos as long as possible since Big Foot still puts everything in his mouth.  My hope is that this table will help the Duplos remain cool just a bit longer.  So far, so good!

Would your kids like this table?  What other variations can you think of to customize it for your family?Signature-Marigold

13 Practical Gifts for Traveling Families

Thrifty Travel Mama | Inexpensive, Practical Gifts for Traveling FamiliesOkay, okay, I’m hopping on the holiday gift wish list bandwagon… but, I’m kicking and screaming the whole way.

Confession: Gifts are just not my thing.  I love to give and be generous, but I’m better at offering my time… or cupcakes.

When it’s my turn to pick out a present, step one is usually to panic.

Step two is to accept help, usually in the form of gift guides scattered around the Internet.  But, most of the guides for men and kiddos (I’m the only female under this roof) are technology-laden.

We don’t need any more electronics, and my five year-old is just not getting a Kindle.  Or his own iPad… mini, gigantic, telepathic, whatever.  Ain’t gonna happen.

And, if I do manage to find a few items I like, I start hyperventilating when I see the price and end up suggesting to the intended recipients that we do handmade gifts, consumable gifts, or no gifts at all.  (aaaaaand we’re back to cupcakes!)

However, I don’t like being a Scrooge, so this year I’m putting out my own list, a mix tape of gifts for traveling families. 

Practical.  Affordable.  Fun.  Suitable for male recipients.  Enjoy!

Oh, and before I begin, you should know that at this time I do NOT use affiliate links.  I have not been compensated in any way by any of the companies below. 

  1. Streamlight Septor LED Headlamp Fun for kids and adults alike, headlamps can be used for your next after-dark adventure whether it takes place in the mountains or under the covers on the pages of your favorite book.  I like the extra strap on this headlamp, but other models with just one strap are less expensive.

  2. Handmade Silver Travel Necklace with Globe Charm Show off your wanderlust with this pretty, pretty necklace.  Choose from four chain lengths and four font options.

  3. Nibbles Apple iPad Charger Holder.  Keeps unruly cords in check both at home and on the go.  And, it’s hilarious.  Also available for iPhone chargers.

  4. Deutsche Bahn German Railway Map T-Shirt Not just for expats, this tee is travel nerd fashion at its finest.  Good thing they have men’s and women’s sizes!  Be sure to check out the other art, science, and travel t-shirt designs in babbletees Etsy shop.

  5. Scribble It! 30 Postcards My boys are constantly asking if we can mail the drawing of the day to a friend across the world.  I’d love to reduce the bulk (and save on postage!) by using these postcards which they can color and then send.  Plenty of margin space for doodling and personal messages.  The hardest part will be convincing the boys not to send all the cards at once!

  6. Airplane Mode Pouch Unisex packing organizer, pencil case, camera holder, catch-all clutch, etc.  Just one Fab’s fabulous travel accessories.

  7. Curious George Magnetic Tin Play Set What toddler doesn’t love Curious George?  Leave the stuffed animal at home, and take this traveling tin with you.  Features three scenes and loads of magnets sure to delight and entertain your favorite pre-schooler.

  8. Men’s Grunge Airplane T-Shirt Order one for the pilot, mountain man, or armchair traveler in your life.  By the way, OhSudzGifts also has clothing sporting bicycles, Chucks, compasses, and the Eiffel Tower.  Yeah!

  9. NYC Metro Cuff Not recommended as a suitable tool for navigating the New York subway, but fashionable and fun anyway.  NYC not your thing?  Designhype offers cuffs with San Francisco, Washington DC, Chicago, Brooklyn, London, Paris, Berlin and Milan maps in several finishes.

  10. Sticky Mosaics® Vehicles Set.  Finally!  Fun crafts for boys that are easy enough for kindergarteners to tackle.  Take this kit on your next holiday or bust it out when cabin fever sets in, oh say about mid-January.  Also available in girly and grown-up kid versions.

  11. Pirate Passport Cover.  With five passports to juggle (thank God none of us have dual citizenship..), we’re always fumbling with the stack at check-in.  From cars to camo to cupcakes, Pokey Passports has you covered with dozens of designs that are sure to please every member of your traveling family.

  12. iTunes Gift Cards.  Personalize an impersonal gift card with a list of recommended or favorite apps.  My boys love Smart Fish: Frequent Flyer, Roxie’s a-MAZE-ing Vacation Adventure, Toca Kitchen Monsters and Hair Salon, and Minion Rush.

  13. Skip Hop Zoo Neck Rest Stash this adorable travel pillow in the car for naps or shove it in a backpack so you (er, I mean your child) can snooze in style.

If you love this list but your extended family could max out a cruise ship, don’t miss the following suggestions from other family travel bloggers:

But, what if you’re like me and homemade is more your style?  Everything Etsy has an excellent list of 25 DIY Gifts for Travel Lovers.  (I might need to make some of these for myself!)

Which of these gifts would your kid(s) love?  Which one are you secretly adding to your own wish list? Signature-Marigold

DIY: Map Flower Wall Art

Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtEvery now and again, I just need something new in my home to make me smile… a cheerful little reminder that there’s more to life than diapers and dishes.

The easiest fix for me is to print out some recent family photos and update my gigantic cork board.  This time, though, I decided I wanted to make some wall art using a map from our Salt Lake City trip.

This cute flower canvas inspired the design for today’s DIY project.  However, I don’t own a hot glue gun, and I didn’t have a canvas lying around.  Being thrifty and all, I hunted for a canvas substitute.  The answer?  A shoe box lid!  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtTo make your own map flower wall art, you’ll need a large shoe box lid (mine was from a boot box), a roll of brown paper, an old map, scissors, tape, and a glue stick.  That’s it!Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtStart by cutting a length of brown paper several inches larger than the lid.

Optional step: I wanted my lid to stay in place, so I covered all but a two inch strip around the edge with my glue stick.  Then, I smoothed the brown paper over the lid, glue side down.

Wrap up the lid like you would wrap a gift.  I used my glue stick as well as a little tape to secure the edges of the paper to the back of the lid.  Now your “canvas” is ready to go.Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtFor the flower petals, cut 2″ strips from your map, and then cut each strip into 2″ squares.  Perfectionists will be glad to know it’s not imperative to measure or cut exactly.  Eyeballing is acceptable in this case.Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtNow, cut leaves from the map squares by starting at one corner and cutting a wide curve that extends to the opposite corner.  Repeat the wide, corner-to-corner curve on the other side of the square.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtYou could also fold the square in half diagonally if you only wanted to make one cut per square.  I didn’t want a fold down the center of my flower petals, so I made two cuts per square.

Once you have a pile of petals, it’s time to design your flower.  Choose a center point, and place petals in a circular pattern extending out from the center point.

Layouts will vary based on the size and shape of your shoe box lid.  Since my lid happened to be more of a long rectangle, I added a few detached petals in the empty space.

When you’re satisfied with your design, use a glue stick to adhere the petals to the lid, one by one.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtSince this is a map flower, I thought a small compass would be perfect for the center.  I found a small compass printed on the map itself, but you could also draw one directly on the brown paper.

To up the adorable factor (and, ahem, cover up the AAA logo), cut out a small heart and place it in the center of the compass.  Glue the heart to the compass and the compass to the lid.  Thrifty Travel Mama - DIY Map Flower Wall ArtVoila!  An inexpensive, pretty little pick-me-up ready to hang on the wall in your home.

Want more map crafts?  Check out my DIY Map-Covered Pencil Holder. and discover lots of other ideas on my Travel Crafts and Projects board on Pinterest.Signature-Marigold

Supermarket Souvenirs – Germany

Thrifty Travel Mama | Supermarket Souvenirs - GermanyI’m so excited to bring you a new series here on Thrifty Travel Mama called Supermarket Souvenirs!  My favorite finds in a new location are usually edible.  It’s always an adventure to try new snack foods, sweets, specialty items.

You can save loads of money by buying where and what the locals do instead of dropping your precious travel dollars into tourist traps.  Plus, isn’t it more exciting to give and receive a little piece of the travel experience rather than a cheesy shot glass or t-shirt?

The first post in this Supermarket Souvenir series will be a little peek into Germany’s snacks and sweets found in most grocery stores.  If you’re looking for beer or sausage, leave a comment below and use your best pretty please.  I may cover those items in a future post!  For now, chocolate fans, charge on…

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyEveryone has heard of Nutella, right?  But, did you know that Nutella tastes different depending on the country where it was made?  I’ve learned from a very reliable source that the Nutella in England is distinctively more hazelnut-y and the Nutella in Germany is heavier on the chocolate.  Want to know how the German version stacks up to the American version?  Find out here.

Don’t like the hazelnut tones in Nutella?  Try a different spread.  The chocolate cream above is practically frosting in a jar.  Some stores carry a chocolate and caramel swirly spread.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyNot into chocolate for breakfast?  Taste test this caramel spread.  I bet the kids back home aren’t slathering this on their morning toast!

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyGermany has some excellent neighbors, the Dutch in particular.  You can pick up boxes of amazing cocoa powder in German grocery stores.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyAnd many food shops here also carry stroopwaffels (also known as siroopwaffels), another delight from Holland.  Contrary to the “brand” these caramel treats have nothing to do with Florence, or Italy for that matter!

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyStracciatella, on the other hand, is totally Italian.  And the Germans love stracciatella (chocolate chip-ish) yogurt.  You won’t be able to stash this in your suitcase, but you can enjoy a cup on the way to catch your train.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanySomething else you most likely (and sadly) cannot take home is a one-and-a-half liter of Dr Pepper made with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.  If you’re a Dr Pepper lover from Texas, you probably know and love Dublin Dr Pepper.  This is very similar – and really, really good.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyThe Coca Cola (including Vanilla Coke and Cherry Coke) here in Germany is also made with sugar.  Once you go sugar, you never go back!  These little half-liters are more likely to hitch a ride in your dirty laundry and hop the pond back home.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanySpeaking of sugar, the ketchup in Germany is not made with high fructose corn syrup.  It’s a subtle flavor difference, and ketchup connoisseurs usually side with sugar.  Want to take that currywurst sausage taste home with you?  Pick up a bottle of Heinz Curry Ketchup.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyWhile you’re at it, chug a German soda with that sausage.  Pick up a bottle of Schwip Schwap (or Mezzo Mix) at any grocery store.  It’s a mix of cola and orange soda – weird, but worth a try.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyNeed some snacks to round out your taste testing?  These flips are funky enough to schlep home and pass around.  The experience is hard to describe, but let’s go with savory peanut butter Cheeto puff (no cheese).

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyNo discussion of Supermarket Souvenirs in Germany would be complete without a handy dandy guide to chocolate.  Milka is well-known (and sometimes even available in the US).  My favorites are the varieties containing Oreos or Daim.  However, the absolute best Milka bar is the Triolade.  It’s only available in a big brick, but it’s worth the space in your carry-on.  The combination of milk, white, and dark chocolate is a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyLess well-known is Ritter Sport chocolate.  It’s a nerd’s delight.  The tag line for this chocolate can be translated as, “square, practical, good.”  The square design was an attempt to make sure this chocolate could fit into anyone’s sport jacket pocket.  I have a soft spot in my heart (and my stomach) for the yogurt (Joghurt) variety.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyIf you’re visiting Germany around Easter, pick up these Milka eggs for the folks at home.  Or, crack one open during a flight delay for an instant pick-me-up.  They come in an adorable little purple egg carton with teensy purple spoons.  The idea is to crack open the chocolate egg and spoon the creamy filling out.  Delish.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyEven if you don’t visit Germany around Easter, you still can grab some Kinder eggs for the kiddos.  Just package them carefully because these eggs are not as exciting when crushed.  Inside the chocolate egg is a little toy surprise!

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyNeed something more hearty to withstand your horrendous packing job?  Kinder also makes chocolate bars for kids.  They are apparently “high in calcium.”  Right… Marketing genius.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyLike chocolate but want something more unique?  Most grocery stores in Germany carry Swiss cookies.  They’re fancy and full of scrumptious Swiss chocolate.

Thrifty Travel Mama Supermarket Souvenirs GermanyChocolate not your thing?  Go nuts in the Haribo aisle instead.  Germans love gummy candy, so take your time picking out the craziest ones for the co-workers.  I highly recommend the Sweet Mice.

That’ll do it for today’s edition of Supermarket Souvenirs – Germany.  Stay tuned for Supermarket Souvenirs – Belgium and The Netherlands!

What have you bought at grocery stores in Germany to take home as a souvenir?

Make It Yourself: Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Scrub

Thrifty Trave Mama Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body ScrubThough I make lots of food items at home (as well as household cleaner), I haven’t quite immersed myself in the DIY beauty product world… yet.  Pinterest often features delicious body scrubs that look good enough to eat, and a friend’s birthday party was the perfect occasion to try my hand at making my own.

After I whipped up a batch for her, I couldn’t help but make another one for me.  It smelled heavenly!

And my-oh-my was it easy.  Crafting the label took the most time.  If you’re just putting together this luxurious sugar scrub for yourself, the whole process should take less than five minutes!  Thrifty Trave Mama Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body ScrubThough it’s in the name, you do not have to use brown sugar.  I made my scrub with half natural brown sugar (the kind with the crystals, not the soft American stuff) and half white sugar since it was more cost effective.

Also, if you don’t want to (or can’t) use coconut oil, olive oil works just as well.  But, of course, you won’t have that sultry coconut smell, so I highly encourage you to go coconut if you can!

Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Scrub

1/2 cup sugar (natural, brown, or white)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted or softened (or olive oil)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a small bowl, mix the vanilla and the coconut oil, stirring vigorously to incorporate the liquid into the fat.  Pour in the sugar, and stir until combined.  Let the mixture rest for an hour uncovered to allow the alcohol in the extract to evaporate (you want the scrub to smell like a tropical paradise, not booze).  Store in a glass jar with a screw-top lid.  Thrifty Trave Mama Coconut Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Scrub



Send Some Photo Love in the Mail

photo source

photo source

One of the challenges of living life abroad is staying in touch with those you love back home.  I must admit, it’s much easier today than it was ten years ago.  Most people have Skype and Facebook.  I can even use Gmail chat to “text” friends who are also signed in to chat.

And, while digital communication is marvelous, sometimes it’s nice to send (and receive!) something tangible.  Sure, it’s possible to pick out a birthday card, scrawl a greeting, print out a photo or two, enclose it in the envelope, walk to the post office, stand in line, and mail the card.

But why would you want to?

As a furiously busy mama of three, I’d rather not freely give away my precious time to any of the above activities if at all possible.  Luckily, I’ve found three companies that make my life easier – and my friends and family back home arguably happier. 



Best for: photo cards and their free photo sharing site.

My first favorite is Shutterfly.  Maybe you already love Shutterfly.  If you don’t, here’s why you should: their photo cards rock. 

Before moving to Germany, I only knew Shutterfly because of their kinda-pricey-but-decent-quality photo books.  While these are great if you can get a coupon code or amazing Black Friday sale, chances are you won’t be sending photo books more than once or twice per year (and other companies have better deals when you factor in international shipping.. see below!).

But greeting cards?  Those are a monthly staple.  I don’t know about you, but I loathe picking out greeting cards.  They are either too schmoopy, too cheesy, to childish, or too serious.  I can’t stand it.  I’d rather just see some photos of my favorite people, thank you very much.


Shutterfly’s cards are good quality, and a good price.  Most cards are $2.99 or less, and you can jam as many photos as your heart desires on all surfaces of the card.  I like the designs available, and I find them suitable for anyone on my list, old or young, male or female.

Shipping is reasonable for the cards, and Shutterfly will even mail the card to your recipient for you!  The fees are fair, even for international.

Bonus – Shutterfly often gives out a code for a free card (CARD4U).  This code resets every once in a while, so I always attempt to use it before purchasing my card.


And, just before I step off my I-heart-Shutterfly soapbox, may I also mention that with Shutterfly you can create a free photo sharing site?  You simply upload your photos, password protect them, and then send an email to your friends and family with the details.  Love it!



Best for: sending photo books anywhere in the world.  Photo canvases if on sale.

Artscow is a company out of Hong Kong.  I know, you’re thinking, what the junk yo?!  Why would I want to order something from there?

Because they have tons of sales, and their shipping is the same price to anywhere in the world!

That being said, I only order their products on sale.  The best deals are those that include free shipping or give you the product for free and you pay the shipping.  Artscow always has a link to deals from their homepage.  You can also find other sales and codes if you know where to look.  Or if you ask me.  Nicely.

Personally, my best luck with Artscow has been with their photo books.  Their quality is satisfactory, or even better than that though if you consider that often I’m getting the books for nothing or next to it.  Many a family member has received a photo book for Christmas from Artscow!


Tip: If you do decide to try Artscow for a gift, allow several weeks of lead time especially if ordering for Christmas.  After all, the photo book will be coming from Hong Kong.

Full disclosure: I once ordered two sets of photo coasters.  The colors were super saturated, and the glue adhering the photo-printed fabric to the non-stick pad had leaked in between coasters and mangled the image.  But even without the damage, the quality was sub par.  Personally, I’ll be sticking with the photo books.

Side note: Other folks have had a good experience with Artscow’s canvases when on super sale.

P.s.: I’m done now!


Amazing Mail

Best for: knocking out your holiday card list in one fell swoop.

I love sending Christmas cards.  I really do enjoy designing the photo, and snapping together a little sentiment.  But this year, with a baby, and an overloaded advent season, I knew I was not going to have any shred of time left to address envelopes – or put up with the post office for that matter.

Enter Amazing Mail On a tip from another expat friend, I gave this new-t0-me company a shot.  My first impression from their website was that they must be some kind of direct mail company.  I thought, oh no, they make the stuff that most people directly recycle.  I don’t want my holiday cards instantly tossed!


But the price just couldn’t be beat.  It costs about the same amount to send a photo post card through Amazing Mail as it does to print, stuff, address, and mail a photo from Germany (adjusting dollars and euros to be equal).  However, the time savings is huge.  I could sit and design a photo and a message at my convenience, upload my addresses in an excel file, get an instant proof, and be done.


Feedback from friends and family was positive – the cards stood out and were of good quality.  One drawback is that it isn’t possible to put an international address in the return address field.  I know this is because the USPS won’t actually “return” the mail internationally.  But, it’s still annoying.  I got around this by placing the address in the message area.

Amazing Mail sends domestically and internationally, with acceptable rates for both.

What about you?  Have you tried using Shutterfly, Artscow, or Amazing Mail for any of the services I mentioned?  What other websites do you like for sending some love through the mail?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are solely my own.  I have not been paid or compensated in any way, and I do not currently use affiliate links.  I only recommend products I have personally used.  Happy sending!


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Okay, okay, I know the holiday is seriously over-commercialized in the US.  But, it’s not in Germany.  The Germans do celebrate Valentine’s Day, just not to the scale that Americans do.

To those of you who think Valentine’s Day is just another Hallmark holiday, I’ll just slip a little reminder in that we have no Hallmark stores in Germany.  Or any Red Hots, conversation hearts, or the like.  But that’s another lament for another

In Germany, Valentine’s Day is an adult holiday.  Children are not expected to make and take 30 valentines to school on the 14th.  Or, for that matter, take home 30 different valentines containing enough candy to sustain a sugar high for a week.

(And all the parents reading this just heaved a great sigh of relief!)

Instead, German men may give red or pink flowers to their sweethearts.  Lucky for the dudes, flowers are much cheaper over here.  In fact, decent roses or tulips can be had from grocery stores like Aldi or Lidl for only a few euro.  Stepping up to a real florist costs but a fraction of what it would in the US.

When I worked at a florist nearly 10 years ago, one dozen, long-stemmed red roses delivered in a vase was just shy of $90.  For flowers.  That die.  Not very romantic.  I don’t even want to imagine what the cost is now.

Chocolates and sweets are also popular gifts.  But, forget Hershey’s.  Over here, it’s better to choose something unique.  Perhaps something Swiss.  Elegance and thoughtfulness are key.

Beyond flowers and chocolate, I will admit I have seen displays in department store windows advertising jewelry and other girlie goods.  But you won’t find any special section of the store dedicated just to Valentine’s Day.

As I mentioned this morning in a conversation with a friend, the lack of materialism and pressure to buy, Buy, BUY in Germany is quite refreshing.  Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to break the bank, and the meaning can still shine through.

So, although no German really says this, Happy Valentinstag!