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February 1, 2019

Live Well 2019: February

Welcome to the renewed guest post series of Live Well 2019, thanks to my dear friend/client/Bible study buddy, Sarah! The previous stint of fabulous Live Well guest posting was done by my sister, Lindsay Wampler, from 2016-2017.

This time around, we will post once a month for the year of 2019, in tandem with The Pro Player Timeline posts.

Sarah Blomgren is another California-Christian-Volleyball-Crazy who has played in England, Finland, and is currently living and playing in Serbia. Sarah adds a deeper dimension to being a professional athlete abroad with her commitment to maintaining a plant-based diet based on vegan guidelines, developing her professional profile, and growing as an athlete and person.

Sarah and I met through Elite Volley, and we have been a part of Athletes in Action online Bible study groups for professional athletes overseas. It only seemed fitting for us to also share our idea space for 2019 to better equip and encourage our fellow athletes and expats abroad!


Proverbs 8:35 “Joyful are those who listen to me, watching for me daily at my gates, waiting for me outside my home.” 

Wisdom isn't a one-time encounter. It is a daily seeking, waiting, watching, and discovering. And wisdom isn't hard to find, because Jesus is wisdom personified! 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself.” How encouraging! When we don’t have the answers, we can go to the One who not just holds the greatest wisdom from God, but IS wisdom in himself! But let's be challenged to continue to go back for more, daily, and be filled up again by his wisdom!

Smoothie Mixmaster

My latest smoothie bowl is a berry powerhouse! Clinical research shows that berries have a protective effect against cancer - so freaking cool! Unfortunately, berries are not in season right now in Serbia, so I must buy them frozen. However, it actually works in my favor because that makes it easy to throw them into any of my smoothie creations (or defrost them and sprinkle on my oatmeal). Enjoy this Berry Blast!
Handful frozen raspberries
Handful frozen blueberries
Handful frozen strawberries
Handful frozen blackberries
1-2 pitted dates
Small knob of fresh ginger
1 orange (peeled)
Handful fresh spinach
Agave nectar (optional)
1 Tbsp. flaxseed or chia seed or both
*add some water and blend it all up!

Dig Deeper Recommendation

Book time! One "resolution" I made this year was to read more! My goal is to read at least 30 minutes a day. The book I am reading at the moment was a gift from a sweet friend. She gave it to me before I left for Serbia saying, "I bought two, one for you and one for me, so we can read it together even across the world." It's called Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and has several books out that help women conquer life using Biblical principles.

Uninvited's subtitle is "Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely." There are so many great truths and gems of wisdom in this book so far, I've done a lot of highlighting! But one of my favorite quotes is when she talks about trusting God with the unknown rather than letting our minds and imaginations run wild with fears, doubts, and worry. Lysa encourages, "In other words, those with minds fully braced, upheld, and supported by truth and trust in God will be in perfect peace. The mind feasts on what it focuses on. What consumes my thinking will be the making or breaking of my identity." Intrigued yet? Go have a read.

Stay on-task and motivated throughout the month for FREE!

Plant-Based Meal

Buffalo Cauliflower "Wings"
If you've had buffalo wings, then you will love this classic "game day" party food. The cool things about this meat alternative are that cauliflower is very filling and packed with phytonutrients that are key for a healthy gut and body, vitamins C and K, antioxidants, and it has ZERO CHOLESTEROL (as opposed to any meat wing option). There are many ways to make this dish, but here's an easy one I like from #buzzfeedtasty (here is a video showing you the steps, too).

1 head of cauliflower
¾ cup flour
¾ cup milk/milk alternative
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup buffalo/hot sauce
2 tablespoons coconut oil/vegetable oil
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 450˚F. (230˚C). Break the head of cauliflower into florets, about 1½ inches wide. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, paprika, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and milk, and stir until well-combined. Add the cauliflower florets to the batter, making sure each piece is evenly coated. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway. In a small mixing bowl, combine the hot sauce, vegetable oil, and honey, and stir until evenly combined. Brush the hot sauce mixture on cauliflower and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Yoga Move

A really great whole body flow I like to include in every yoga practice is a combination of warrior, side angle bend, and triangle flow. Rather than describe each position, I have some pictures that can help explain. (These are super common moves, no need to worry).

I usually start in a low lunge and then swing up to warrior II, settle in, take a few deep breaths, and then move to side angle pose (can do a variation with the arms, extended or bound), take a few breaths here, then move to triangle. Flowing back down to low lunge, I'll step the foot back and flow into plank, then take a "chaturanga" to upward-dog, then into downward-dog. Once you flow on that side, step the opposite foot through and flow on the other side.

Vegan Snack/Dessert

One of my favorite snacks seems pretty unusual, and, at first, it seemed unusual to me, too. My vegan friend shared this with me even before I was vegan. It's simple. Ready? Peanut butter and carrots! I'm telling you, it tastes loads better than it sounds. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Literally just open up a jar of PB and dip a raw carrot in it. (I wash and peel the carrot first.) Carrots have fiber, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. The peanut butter has good fats and protein as well, which is great before volleyball practice.

About The Author

Hey, friends. I'm Sarah. In addition to what Christy mentioned above, I played indoor and beach volleyball in college at The University of South Carolina where I earned my bachelor's degree in Exercise Science. I then went on to get my master's degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology and continued my volleyball career at Northumbria University in Newcastle, England. My first pro season was in Finland, and now I'm playing in Serbia.

Since then I've become 100% plant-based (vegan) and I absolutely love this world of plant-based nutrition. One fun fact about me would be that I have an obsession with doughnuts! No, not like Krispy Kreme; like actual artisan, small-batch, crazy flavor doughnuts! I try to use all my traveling as an excuse to visit doughnut shops around the world. Besides that, I love Jesus and I'm just here to figure this thing called life out the best I can through His eyes.
Ćao from Serbia!

Connect with Sarah on FacebookInstagram, and her website.
You can contact her directly via email for more information on Juice Plus+® sarahblomgren[dot]provolleyball[at]gmail[dot]com.

Let us know in the comments below if you try any variations of these 

delicious recipes, yoga moves, or have the chance 

to check out Sarah's recommendations!

Continue »

The Pro Player Timeline: February

Working from The Pro Player Timeline: Overview, this individual month post focuses on what a professional player overseas - or an aspiring pro player - should be outlining each specific month of the year like.


Navigating Sports Abroad blog post.

Play Abroad 101 for the most accurate preparation in print.

The Pro Player Timeline: Daily 

The Pro Player Timeline: Weekly.

Most players looking to play professionally overseas don't really have any idea how to do it! This is not your fault; unless you know someone who has done it or have incredible connections already in the pro world of your sport - you try searching Google and barely anything comes up. A few agencies, some club team pages, maybe an incomplete Wikipedia page about a league or two.

Pro sports are cyclical. What might be a frenzy of hiring in August right before the season starts can occur again in January at mid-season transfer periods. Players coming out of university eligibility are ready to go pro at different times, depending on graduating in December or May.

How you handle the months of your year will vary depending on if you are already signed and with your team or not signed with anyone yet. The first section of this post will deal with "When you are signed," and the second section of this post will give advice for what to do "When you are not signed yet."


February is a short month, but it can feel like a long, cold part of dark winter in some parts of the pro world! It is so important during February to fuel your passion for your sport and remind yourself of your purpose, both on and off the court. You have at least two to four months of your season left, and you want to make sure you are still getting better and better!

Some statistics to consider about your purpose in pro sports...
(If you have links to other sport statistics, please comment below and I will include them! This site has info on most sports in the USA.)

For the sport of Women's Volleyball in 2016-2017 (can also see Men's Volleyball at this link), there were over 440,000 girls playing in high school. There were over 21,000 American women playing in around 1200 teams in the top four levels of college volleyball. These numbers can vary slightly from year to year, but, in general, they will maintain that each team has about 15-18 players and the same percentage that roughly 5% of USA high school players will continue to play in university.

If we figure even just 20% of these players are graduating seniors, that means at least 4,000 USA volleyball players will no longer have their college teams to play on after each season. I have known many pro players to have careers lasting into their late thirties, but, for the sake of averages and easier math, let's say all of these annually graduating players could physically compete at some level abroad from ages 23 to 33, for 10 years.

That puts the USA volleyball field of able-bodied women players at somewhere around FORTY THOUSAND (40,000). And yet, somehow, we haven't figured out how to have our own league system?! [A post for another time...!]

Even more incredible is the number of American women actually playing volleyball overseas. This number is not because of a lack of jobs! Most players who really desire to play overseas find the ways to make it happen and the league in which they fit best. (If you don't believe me: I'm a 33-year-old, 5'9" with shoes on, white girl who's had two knee surgeries, who played NAIA volleyball with zero team or personal accolades. Wait - does Most Inspirational count?! If I can do it - since 2011! - MOST of you can do it.)

In January of 2018, USA volleyball set a record for the MOST transfers it had EVER had: 413.

This included both women (307) and men (106). The current list for the 2018-2019 season is here. There will be another update posted during this month with the mid-season transfers added. These lists are really helpful because you can find players you know and to follow on social media, learn about team names and countries, and notice which places and levels take which kinds of players.

If you're already an American female volleyballer abroad, you can gain a lot of confidence and purpose in the fact that you are part of the barely .08% of able-bodied players your age still getting to enjoy the game as a player (and in the .0007% of the girls you played with and against in high school)!!!

For whatever pro sport you are playing or hoping to play, the percentages are nearly the same! Be proud of what you have accomplished and what your goals are, and be passionate about the gift of playing your sport!

More inspiration here >>> Live Well 2019: February

Every month of your year can be outlined with a theme, enhanced with motivational reminders, and structured in a way that you day-to-day activities promote your short and long term growth and well-being.

When you are signed...

Create a 2-3 minute highlight video on your best skill.
Link on CV and upload to social media to be shared.
Consider your current situation and your thoughts, ideas, and goals for the next season.
The club should schedule a meeting with you about the next season; if they do not schedule it, take the initiative to arrange this meeting for yourself.
Make sure your representation is aware of the time and date and ready to support.
[There will be more info on how to handle these meetings in The Pro Player Timeline eBook coming soon.]
Do a mid-season update with your representation about expectations from both sides for next season.
Plan your summer training, travel, work, and living situations.

When you are not signed yet...

Do your research as best as you can.
(Here's a good place to start: bit.ly/PlayProInfo)
Contact current and previous pro players.
Contact agents and agencies to find the best fit for your goals.
Learn about different leagues, levels, and countries.
Read Navigating Sports Abroad blog post.
Read Play Abroad 101 for the most accurate preparation in print.
Create your pro sport brand social media platforms, while also tightening up your social media image from the past (any inappropriate/upsetting/unnecessary comments, photos, videos, etc.).
Dedicate a Google Drive folder to your documents, photos, and videos, so you can easily attach and link your information to teams.
Build your CV (player resumé) to show your basic data, playing history, accomplishments, and video.
Make sure you are working out and practicing your sport at the highest level possible on a regular basis AND getting video proof by recording and uploading the full session or highlights.

If you've already done these things based on the January post, then February can be spent maintaining your social media presence, widening your contact network through the pro transfer lists, and getting closer to making decisions about who you want to work with and where you want to be.

If you looking to join a team immediately, please see this post for resources.

Continue »

January 24, 2019

Madrid Museums on a Budget

Madrid may not be on the list of top ten European destinations for non-Europeans, but that doesn't mean it's not worthy of a lengthy visit! Instead, Madrid attracts its own kind of visitors: foodies, sunshine-in-the-park types, and art lovers.

Strolling through several art museums can make for an expensive walk! However, Madrid has great options for free museums and even offers affordable moments for their more fancy museums as well.

So no matter what your budget - or time frame - you can definitely find the right place at the right time to experience grand art and culture in Madrid, Spain.

*There are TONS of discounts and free tickets at most museums for students under the age of 25 and/or children. Go to the links provided for more details. This is NOT an affiliate post!*

Golden Triangle

The Must-Do's for the Museum Lover

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia: FREE Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, from 19:00-21:00, Sunday from 13:30-19:00, April 18, May 18, October 12, and December 6.
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza: FREE Monday from 12:00-16:00.
Museo del Prado: FREE Monday-Saturday from 18:00-20:00, Sunday & holidays from 17:00-19:00.

*My husband, Marc, and I did all three of these museums during their free times. Definitely make sure to line up early, as you don't want to end up waiting during the entire free opening time! All three house a variety of art pieces and deserve your time.*

Cultural Ministries Museums

The Hidden Gems

Museo Cerralbo: FREE Saturday from 14:00-15:00, Thursday from 17:00-20:00, Sunday from 10:00-15:00, and April 18, May 18, October 12, and December 6.
Museo del Romanticismo: FREE Saturday from 14:00-20:30, Sunday from 10:00-15:00, and April 18, May 18, October 12, and December 6.
Museo Sorolla: FREE Saturday from 14:00-20:00, Sunday from 10:00-15:00, and April 18, May 18, October 12, and December 6.
Casa Museo Lope de Vega: ALWAYS FREE, but advanced reservation for the tours is necessary.
Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas: FREE from July 1 to August 31, late on Thursday, Sunday, Saturday from 14:00-15:00, and April 18, May 18, October 12, and December 6.
Museo Lázaro Galdiano: FREE Tuesday-Saturday from 15:30-16:30, Sunday from 14:00-15:00

*I have been to the Romanticismo and Cerralbo museums and both were FANTASTIC!!! Large enough to be interesting, but small enough to manage and full of intricate items from bygone days. I will do the rest of the museums on this list on my next trip to Madrid because they were located a bit further from where we were staying this last time.*

Already There

The Outdoor Options

*ALL of these landmarks are stunningly gorgeous and located in great areas of Madrid. The real star of the city is always Retiro Park, and I highly recommend renting a rowboat on the lake to enjoy the sunny day. I like to pair these sites with a nearby museum for a fabulous morning, then head to a delicious restaurant before the afternoon siesta.*


While You're Here

The real treat in Madrid is getting to experience Spanish city life, and the museums that store and display the cultural heartbeat of this great city are a huge part of this experience. I have loved every museum I've been to in Madrid and am looking forward to finding more beautiful places in one of my favorite European cities the next time I visit!

Continue »

January 9, 2019

Rest at Hammam Al Ándalus

There are thousands of things to do in Madrid, and it can get exhausting, especially with how walkable the city is. One of the best activities we have added to our city trip itineraries is finding a local spa/bath house. Each country creates these experiences a little bit differently in light of their own history and culture, but we have been thoroughly satisfied with the results: warm and rested!

Because we head to Spain every Christmas (plus some extra times during the year, too!), it’s the best combination of a relaxing and indoor way to spend a few hours, recuperating and refreshing for the next round of walking Madrid.

Our absolute favorite bath house to go to in Spain is the Arab bath house of Hammam Al Ándalus. It had been a few years since we had been in Madrid and we were so excited to return!

Over the past couple of years, Hammam Al Ándalus has undergone a marketing makeover, complete with new logos, a totally revamped website, and a more holistic approach to their offered services. The bathing, massage, and relaxation options that are focused on the “Water Journey” of the guest can be found in more detail on their website, but here is the quick overview.

Emerge: for an hour and a half, you are free to roam between the Turkish steam bath, warm pool, hot pool, and cool dip pool.
Mimma: your choice of massage for 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes with the Emerge package.
Midra: your choice of a 15 or 30 minute massage, a 15 minute body scrub on a hot stone bed, and the Emerge package.

They are also offering another range of services under the “Mistiq” category that includes a variety of deeper experiences related to rest, sleep, and skin treatments.

Hammam Al Ándalus Madrid is located on Calle Atocha, creating a triangle between Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. We have stayed in this area twice now and love it for the proximity and diversity of markets, restaurants, and activities, including the Hammam.

Our top two favorite things about the Hammam are the Turkish steam bath and the unlimited Arabic mint tea available in the resting room. The steam room is the most calm area of the Hammam, and we always find it to be very cleansing and refreshing. The resting room is wonderful for not only the hot tea, but also to smell the various essential oils of the Hammam, to enjoy the peacefulness of the water fountain, and even to play a game of chess!

The Madrid Hammam (there are three other locations in Spain in Granada, Córdoba, and Málaga) is currently offering an amazing spa and tour package called Star Bath. It includes a Mimma 15 for the baths, a mountain tour of Arabic history near Madrid, and is valid until the end of April, 2019.

We always make sure to schedule our time at the Hammam when we come to Madrid, and the other locations in Spain, too. It is a special time of relaxation and rejuvenation, and we can’t imagine our time in Spain without it.

*     *     *     *     *

I agreed to review the Hammam Al Ándalus Madrid in exchange for a complimentary experience. All opinions and views are my own.

Photos provided by the Hammam Al Ándalus Madrid marketing department.
Current Hammam Al Ándalus Madrid Special Offers.
Advance reservations are necessary.

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