They’re here!

20 Nov

Well they made it, safe and sound! An hour late due to crummy Atlanta weather before takeoff, but Mom, Dad, Grandma and Ellie Mae (the chihuahua) made it and are settling in nicely. Jet lag is a b…Well, you know how it goes. Hopefully they’ll rest for a few days and feel better than ever by Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to back up a little bit and share some of our pictures from the last week or so…We are still LOVING our Saturdays spent walking the city- farmers markets, flower markets, flea markets…This past week was really chilly, but still just lovely.




Early Christmas browsing at the toy store! And we ran into a My Little Pony roaming around!

Then on Sunday, we visited the Ritter Sport Chocolate Factory in the small town of Waldenbuch, about 30 minutes outside of the city. Ritter was established in 1912 and is known for their 4×4 chocolate squares, further divided into smaller, bite size squares. I can almost guarantee you’ve had one, or at least seen them in the store. They look like this:

Ritter Chocolate

John’s work buddy and his family joined us, including their daughter who is just two weeks older than Neve, so it proved to be a really fun day!


Ritter Chocolate- the whole place is dedicated to ‘the square.’


Making her own chocolate! The truck is dropping it off to her :)


New friends <3



We stopped for Hot Cocoa at this cute cafe. Sat outside bundled up in blankets :)



Not sure of our plans yet for this weekend, although I’m sure it will involve some walking and exploring and more resting. The difference will be that, as of today, the temperatures have plummeted and snow is on the forecast for tomorrow, Sunday and Monday! Is it bad that I’m excited?! *GIDDY*

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 4.36.38 PM

At some point, we’ll have to buy groceries for our Thanksgiving feast. Yep, we’ll be cooking here at the house and having over several of our friends also navigating this holiday far from home. Should be great fellowship, fun…and food :) And just in case I don’t get a chance between now and then- Happy Thanksgiving! Hope everyone finds themselves so very blessed and thankful. We are most definitely thankful for all of you.


A Day at the Park…

12 Nov thumb_IMG_6328_1024

Happy Belated Veterans Day! Thank you to everyone who has served or is serving now…I speak for all of us when I say that words can’t express our appreciation.

We enjoyed the holiday as a perfect opportunity to spend the day together in the middle of the week. It was lovely. We had a lazy morning, then ventured out to find the best little brunch spot called Zimt und Zucker (Cinnamon and Sugar).



Then we headed up the hill in search of playgrounds and open fields- stumbled upon a new-to-us park that more than fit the bill. Right on the side of the hill was all of the above, plus a biergarten (closed for winter) and a vineyard. Needless to say, the five of us had a blast enjoying our day full of sunshine, pretty colors, pretty city views and a warmish breeze. <3


One of three playgrounds in the park...In an old rock quarry...

One of three playgrounds in the park…In an old rock quarry…



My big kid at heart!

My big kid at heart!

Vineyards over Stuttgart

Vineyards over Stuttgart

Looking out over Stuttgart East...Our house is just out of the shot on the lefthand side, behind the tree...

Looking out over Stuttgart East…Our house is just out of the shot on the lefthand side, behind the tree…

The pups and I finished the day with a little photo sesh. They’re such good sports :)







Hope everyone’s having a great week! Talk soon!


Caves and Castles

9 Nov thumb_IMG_6220_1024

Well, I think this weekend was the first since we got here that we did zero work! No unpacking, no rearranging, no organizing, no donating…That’s got to be a great sign, right?! And y’all, it was so nice. We were finally able to take a little day trip and we had such a fun time. Icing on the cake was that the weather couldn’t have been any better- sunny and warmish and a light breeze blowing around the few remaining neon-colored leaves that have made the most beautiful fall.


Did you guys know that there are roughly 20,000 castles in Germany? Nope, I didn’t put too many zeroes- there are seriously that many! It’s the neatest thing to be driving down the road and just stumble upon a fortress ahead in the distance. Ha! This weekend, we opted to visit Germany’s smallest castle, Lichtenstein, which is about an hour and 15 minutes south of us near Bavaria. Nearby, we happened to find Fog Cave, one of southern Germany’s oldest and largest show caves. Our little explorer was in adventure Heaven, let me tell you!


Fog Cave, first mentioned in literature in 1486, is roughly half a kilometer long and is known for its impressive drip rock formations, which look alot like marble. Just like all caves, its temperature stays around a steady 55F, but because of its location, there tends to be a constant meeting of cool with warm air, causing it to produce its own fog, thus its name. Cool, huh? The cave is home to several species of bats, including the endangered white-bellied, ‘Mouse Eared Bats.’ In an effort the help preserve their population, the cave is only open during the warmer months so that they can safely hibernate (and not have to search for food) all winter. Neve was fascinated by these cute little guys hanging from the ceilings in the cave- even insisted we stay quiet so as not to disturb their slumber!


We happened to be the first visitors that morning, so we had the cave entirely to ourselves for over an hour. Talk about feeling miniscule! And let me just do a quick aside for those of you who may not know this- I lived in a cave for a few weeks during my junior year of high school. Yep, I went with a group of probably 12 people through an Outward Bound program where we hiked several miles through the West Virginia snow to the mouth of a giant cave system where we descended underground and didn’t see the daylight again for several weeks. We took with us only what we could carry (which meant that, yes, my backpack was practically bigger than me!), lived only by nature (no electricity, no batteries (that meant actual fire lamps worn on our helmets, lit with flint strike lighters), no watches, no radios), took no showers, carried our waste with us (yes, all waste)…We hiked for miles within the caves every day, setting up ‘camp’ each night beneath the bats sleeping overhead…We crossed rivers (yes, that meant we got wet, along with our stuff), we completed challenges, we played games…There were definite rough patches along the way that we won’t get into here, but all in all, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and one that I’m so thankful I fought to be a part of (I was the youngest of the group). Needless to say, any time I’ve visited a cave in all these years since, I can’t help but be taken aback…But enough with the digression!

Another mind-blowing tidbit is that stalagmites and stalagtites grow at an average of 1 cubic centimeter every 80 years…Yeah, wrap your mind around that one as you think of how many millions of years old these caves are. And look at this visual for perspective:

This stalagmite was damaged during WWII, so it was cut and polished so that its interior could be studied. The lines and different colors show what the soil and rain water was comprised of during different centuries...

Nope, not a tree trunk! This stalagmite was damaged during WWII, so it was cut and polished so that its interior could be studied. The lines and different colors show what the soil and rain water was comprised of during different centuries…


Driving between the two places couldn’t have been any more gorgeous. Here’s the random view from the parking lot.


That's where we're headed! The castle on the mountain in the distance...

That’s where we’re headed! The castle on the mountain in the distance…

Schloss (Castle) Lichtenstein is a Gothic Revival castle built on a cliff in the Swabian Alps. Although the original castle was built here in the 12th century, it was destroyed during battle. The new castle was built in 1390 and was considered one of the best Medieval fortresses of all time as it withstood every single attack, but when it lost its role as a Lordly ducal seat in 1567, it fell into disrepair. In 1840, Count Wilhelm purchased the property from the King, removed the top half of the castle and rebuilt it as a premier hunting lodge for himself, his friends, and distinguished guests from around the country. The castle was inaugurated in 1842 with the King present. An interesting fact: the Count personally designed the plans for the rebuilding, as well as furnished and decorated the entire property himself as he had a flair for style. Today, the property is still owned by the Dukes of Urach, Count Wilhelm’s descendants, but is open to the public for a few months each year.



City of Honau in the valley in the distance…

This was one of our favorite castles we’ve ever visited. For starters, it’s just beautiful- the castle, the grounds surrounding it, the miles and miles of beauty that can be seen in any given direction from its walls…But more than that, it just has the best ‘cozy’ feel going on inside. I know that’s a funny word to use in relation to a castle, but it’s really true. Its rooms are small, warm and inviting. The furnishings are soft and rich and detailed. The stain glass windows cast the most beautiful colored sunlight all across the wooden floors…You leave there thinking to yourself, ‘I totally would’ve loved a weekend there with friends spent hunting (OK, so I wouldn’t do this part, but I know some would!), fellowshipping, eating, drinking and being merry!’ Unfortunately, they don’t allow pictures inside, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!


Look at that view!

Look at that view!


Main entrance over the drawbridge...

Main entrance over the drawbridge…


Painted Bark Tree

Painted Bark Tree (Hi, Mom!)




Wasn’t that the most fun for a Saturday?! We even made it home in time to try out a new burrito place for dinner! And I’m happy to report that it was pretty darn tasty! Similar to Moe’s if I had to compare. We’ve been on the hunt for decent Mexican since we got here- just like we were in Wiesbaden in the spring and five years ago when we were here- and were just about ready to throw in the towel , but Burreatos hit the spot! BAZINGA! No, it’s not amazing and not an exact match, but it was chips and salsa and burritos in an actual tortilla so we’ll take it! ;)


Hope everyone has a great week!

Trick or Treat!

1 Nov thumb_IMG_6156_1024

You guys are in for a real treat! Two posts in two days! I’m on a roll!

I just wanted to do a quick little post about all the fun we had with Halloween this year. Between Neve’s party at school on Friday and trick or treating last night with friends, we had such a blast! Seriously, this has got to be the most fun, awesome age ever to celebrate with a kid! Neve was so into it this year, starting with costume selection. We started asking her months ago what she’d like to be for Halloween and she said the same thing as last year, a witch. Well, last year that wasn’t an option because we were in a church setting for school, but this year, we were free to indulge! (Albeit, I knew we wouldn’t be an evil, scary, dark side witch…) So we got to work pulling pictures of various costume ideas and once we had quite the collection, we let her choose. She instantly chose this one and when we asked her reasoning, she explained that it was the perfect combination of a witch and her favorite My Little Pony, Rainbow Dash. And with that, Miss Rainbow Witch was born :)

thumb_IMG_6154_1024 thumb_IMG_6115_1024

Her party at school was a blast. All the parents were invited to come an hour early and celebrate with our littles. Every single one of her classmates was so cute- there were princesses (Elsa, Belle and Sofia), Star Wars (Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper), super heroes, military personnel, Day of the Dead ladies, wild animals…They just loved seeing each other in costume! It was also the first time us parents have really had the chance to get to know each other better now that our children have made friends, so that was a nice plus.

thumb_IMG_6116_1024 thumb_IMG_6117_1024 thumb_IMG_6118_1024 thumb_IMG_6120_1024 thumb_IMG_6123_1024

In the past, Germans haven’t celebrated Halloween, although that’s changing moreso every year. Most Americans, however, tend to trick or treat on the bases, so that’s what we did, along with our friend, Aubrey, and her parents. You’ve never seen so many costumes in one place! What a crazy place- and so much fun! And it’s not just Americans- each family is allowed to bring up to 14 (!) guests, so we saw plenty of German kids enjoying the festivities right along with us. (Let me just say that I was thankful we did not bring guests because the line to sign them onto base was INSANE!)


The way it works on base is that, rather than the kids trekking into all the apartment buildings and up and down the stairs, all the residents just set up stations at each building entrance. Lots of them had fire pits going, elaborate costumes, eery music playing, smoke machines…Some even made it true tailgating with grills going and full coolers! Ha! Someone had told us that the trick or treaters ‘in the know’ start in the Officers’ Neighborhood because ‘the Generals, Admirals and Colonels always have the best candy…everyone knows that.’ HA!! So that’s where we started.


thumb_IMG_6162_1024 thumb_IMG_6163_1024

Neve LOVED going house to house, station to station with her pumpkin yelling, ‘TRICK OR TREAT, HAPPY HALLOWEEN!’ all the way. People thought she was just precious- and she was! :) That’s not my bias talking either!



I hate that it got dark so quickly because that meant I couldn’t take pictures of the most fun parts- when the streets were packed with kids and their families, then the fire pits cast the coolest glows, when people were snuggling up to their mugs of hot toddies to help fend off the insanely chilly for October air…But you’ll just have to trust me. It was terrific.

My favorite shot of the night. I just it, especially the flag in the background. Just wish she had her hat on!

My favorite shot of the night. I just it, especially the flag in the background. Just wish she had her hat on!

She totally ‘got it’ this year and had the best time. She carried her own pumpkin (which we left with FULL!), she kept her hat on (a first!), she said ‘thank you’ when she got candy…Which meant that WE had the best time. Watching her love it was so cool. I really don’t know who had more fun – her or us! And now, to emerge from the sugar coma! Ha!

Hope everyone had just as much fun on Halloween!

A House Becomes A Home

31 Oct thumb_IMG_5387_1024

Happy Saturday, y’all! I know, I know, I’m impressed, too, that I’m finding the time to write a quick post on a weekend! But since I managed to get some pictures of the house and we had a busy morning canvassing the nearby farmers markets for this week’s fresh produce and fresh pasta (what, what?!), Neve ended up ready for her nap a few minutes early, so I figured I’d fill the time with you guys :)

Can't get into a post before I share a cute picture of our sweet Rainbow Witch! This was yesterday, headed to her school Halloween Party :)

Can’t get into a post before I share a cute picture of our sweet Rainbow Witch! This was yesterday, headed to her school Halloween Party :)

I’m sure you remember the pictures I posted last month of the empty house, so hopefully you’ll be as surprised as we are with just how homey it’s looking these days now that it’s filled with our stuff. There seems to be one paint color here in Germany- WHITE- with a few slight shade variations ranging from pancake batter to an almost-healed bruise, but for all intents and purposes, it’s white. And ours is beyond white- it’s white like pure snow- which can definitely make for a sterile feel. Luckily, we’re eclectic and we have lots of funky artwork, colorful furniture and hand painted pieces that really help jazz it up! And at first, we were a bit concerned with all the hardwood floors, especially given the winters we’re expecting. But, they have radiant heat! Yep, no forced air heat here- just metal coils beneath the floor that you control how hot there are! It’s awesome and I swear that even though you can’t usually feel the actual heat, your feet are rarely ever cold and neither is your body since the whole premise of such systems is to heat the furniture itself! We love it!

OK, so just a quick recap and a little update- we’re in a three level, 4 bedroom duplex (about 2200sf) on top of a three level shopping mall in the heart of downtown Stuttgart. So yeah, we’re high up in the air! But we have a grassy, fenced-in yard, a community playground and a nice patio, so it’s truly the best of all worlds. And it’s totally quiet! As soon as the door closes behind you, there’s no sign that you’re in the city at all- step out of your door and you’re in the hustle and bustle, sometimes to the point where you have to wait for a spot to hop in the line on the sidewalk! And the update? And American couple, along with their young daughter, are moving in to the other half of our duplex! We met them a few weeks back when they first came to check it out, and have been hanging out some recently since they decided to be our neighbors. I just have a great feeling that we will grow to be great friends and we’ll have a wonderful time watching our girls grow up over the next few years.

So without further adieu…


Home Sweet Home…You can see the playground right out of our front door.


This is from the entryway of the house- the entry has a half bath and a few closets. On the shelves on left, you’ll see sweet Betsy and Max, in their beautiful eggs…


Opposite corner, looking back toward the entryway. Kitchen is to the right just out of the picture.



View from the kitchen…All the glass doors into our yard…You can see our fence and our red patio chairs if you look closely :) That’s the ‘office’ along the far right wall…


Actually a large kitchen for Germany! And we have a dishwasher! And don’t forget that we installed every single light fixture in the house :/


What better print for a German kitchen? I actually got this for John for our anniversary this year, before we came.

There's no place for a light above the kitchen table, so we decided to showcase three of our favorite pieces of art instead...And you can see our happiest piece in the background. That's Joyce <3

There’s no place for a light above the kitchen table, so we decided to showcase three of our favorite pieces of art instead…And you can see our happiest piece in the background. That’s Joyce <3

Far side of the yard, looking back at the patio and house...

Far side of the yard, looking back at the patio and house…The yard goes down the far side of the house to a fence just past the spiral fire escape (we have our grill over there, too, just outside of the kitchen door.)

Our little fence we installed between us and the neighbors :)

Our little fence we installed between us and the neighbors :) The other side has a privacy fence because John didn’t want ‘people watching us grill.’ Heehee.

Headed up the stairs. Anyone who has been to our house in SC knows that we collect magnets from every place we spend a night (you can't get a magnet if you only pass through, that's the rule!) and usually display them on a big piece of sheet metal. Here the bannisters are metal, so John thought up this super creative display. Every time we go up the stairs, we're reminded of different places we've been <3

Headed up the stairs. Anyone who has been to our house in SC knows that we collect magnets from every place we spend a night (you can’t get a magnet if you only pass through, that’s the rule!) and usually display them on a big piece of sheet metal. Over 100 cities and 32 countries represented! Here, the bannisters are metal, so John thought up this super creative display. Every time we go up the stairs, we’re reminded of different places we’ve been <3


Our bedroom, second floor…



Neve’s room, second floor…



First guest room, third floor…


Second guest bedroom, third floor...

Second guest bedroom, third floor…


Best part of the whole house...the view from practically EVERY window <3

Best part of the whole house…the view from practically EVERY window <3


Even with the construction (set to be completed in three weeks), this sight from our bedroom doesn’t get old!

Full moon over the city, view from our patio...

Full moon over the city, view from our patio…

So there you have it! Our new little home! We’re quite pleased with how it’s coming together and can’t wait to share it with visitors! And we’re about ready for a break, too! Putting together a house is exhausting!

Hope every has a fun Halloween! We’re headed to trick or treat tonight with friends- Neve is beyond excited and has been counting down the days for weeks! We LOVE seeing holidays, big and small, through her eyes. It’s the BEST part. Trick or Treat!

View leaving Neve's school...Loving Fall.

View leaving Neve’s school…Loving Fall.

Well, Hi There!

26 Oct

Hello! OK, I’m about to the point where I have no more excuses for not keeping you guys way more in the loop! And that’s such a good thing- writing here is one of my favorite things, so having more time to do it has been at the top of my list all along! I can’t believe we’ve already been in this house almost a month now. Crazy, right?!


Our view from bed…



Sitting amongst the chaos, reading her book from Ms. Sue with pictures of all her friends at home…


These last four weeks have been a whirlwind of boxes, paper, furniture arranging, rearranging, buying closets and light fixtures, installing them…I kid you not, we’ve been maxed out over here! Thankfully, it’s finally all coming together! The house is looking so good if I do say so myself. We started at the ground floor and have been working our way up to the second and then the third. The biggest challenges by far have been the closets (there were ZERO) and the lights (there were ZERO), so before we could really get rolling with our unpacking, we had to go shop for them and get them here and installed. We ended up with 16 wardrobes and 20ish light fixtures. Yep, that’s alot of carrying and alot of installation! Ha! Anyhoo, I’ll get back to the house once I get ‘after’ pictures in the next few days.


For now, I just wanted to fill you in on all the fun stuff that’s been happening! I’ll start by saying that we are absolutely loving it here. From the moment we made the decision to give this whole Germany a whirl, I prayed that I’d be able to write that sentence, at least at some point within our first year. So to be able to say it after less than two months is just such an awesome, awesome thing. But it’s true. We have always loved Europe and it’s still so true. We’re loving Stuttgart, we’re loving our new house, we’re loving the friends we’re making and the life we’re building. We came here committed to starting fresh, to learning new ways of doing things, to being open, to learning and experiencing and accepting, to saying yes…And that’s what we’re doing. And it makes me…full. And excited. And proud. We see each other growing, both individually and with each other. We are changing and we can feel it.


Alright, enough with the mush- onto some pictures! We’ve yet to travel again since our trek to Sweden and Copenhagen, so all of our fun this month has been had right here in our own backyard. We’ve taken full advantage of living downtown- walking to dinner, exploring farmers markets, training to the suburbs…




She prefers if we could all think of her as more of a Director of Unpacking...

She prefers if we could all think of her as more of a Director of Unpacking…

Found the International Movie theatre! Sunday Afternoon Girly Day with friends <3

Found the International Movie theatre! Sunday Afternoon Girly Day with friends <3


Training back into the city from our movie date…



Day out of school means exploring new places with friends! Sensapolis is like the biggest indoor playground/children's museum/amusement park I've ever seen!

Day out of school means exploring new places with friends! Sensapolis is like the biggest indoor playground/children’s museum/amusement park I’ve ever seen!


Because who doesn’t like wearing two tutus to dinner?

FaceTiming Cousins

FaceTiming Cousins

Meeting halfway across downtown (they live on the other side) for dinner...

Meeting halfway across downtown (they live on the other side) for dinner…

View from our dinner table one night...

View from our dinner table one night…

, we’ve been to two of the big fests since we got here. The first was Pumpkin Fest that you saw last week. The second was Volksfest, Stuttgart’s Oktoberfest. It’s considered THE festival of the year. And for good reason. It’s HUGE- picture the Texas State Fair combined with huge beer tents. Lots and lots of beer! It’s one giant party for a few weeks and has something for everyone. And before you fret: yes, we took the train so there’d be no issues whatsoever with us driving and yes, kids are welcome (have to be out of the tents by dark) :) We had the best time!

Training with friends to Volksfest...

Training with friends to Volksfest…


Still not sure how they call those ‘tents…’

Inside the Dinkelacker tent...That's a live band in the distance...

Inside the Dinkelacker tent…That’s a live band in the distance…

thumb_IMG_5876_1024 thumb_IMG_5874_1024

thumb_IMG_5878_1024 thumb_IMG_5882_1024

She was determined to do the BIG swings. This mama was a nervous wreck. Our girl had a BLAST! Never stopped laughing!

She was determined to do the BIG swings. This mama was a nervous wreck. Our girl had a BLAST! Never stopped laughing!


Dinner is served!

Volksfest from the top of the Ferris Wheel

Volksfest from the top of the Ferris Wheel

John celebrated his 33rd birthday last Saturday. All he wanted was a legit date night, gourmet burgers and beer…What baby wants, baby gets! Ha! It was lovely, though. Neve’s teacher, Ms. Rachel, came to the house to hang out with her so we could try an upscale burger spot called The Meatery- ’twas delish. We finished the night at a little jazz bar with gelato and cappuccinos :) Saved cake for when we got home with our girl.


My baking assistant for Daddy's cake <3

My baking assistant for Daddy’s cake <3


The weather here has actually been pretty darn good considering that the last time we were here this time of year, I had a get a SAD light! Ha! The leaves are gorgeous and other than some dreary days, the temperatures have been holding strong in the 40s and even 50s sometimes! No, not by bag, but it all goes back to that embracing it ALL that I was talking about :)

thumb_IMG_6014_1024 thumb_IMG_6007_1024



We spent this last Saturday enjoying the warm sunshine…Just from our front door, we found 3 farmers markets, a flower market and a flea market. We also found a wonderful little brunch cafe.

thumb_IMG_6066_1024 thumb_IMG_6064_1024


Look who is swinging all by herself now!



Whew! Thanks for sticking that out with me- getting all caught up on a month’s worth of tidbits isn’t an easy feat! Ha! But now at least we’re all on the same page again and hopefully I can get my act together now and keep things moving along at a more steady pace! My next post I will try to get some good shots of the house now that it’s looking like a home. Past that, we’re just gearing up for an awesome holiday season. My parents and grandmother will be here in just a few weeks! EEEEKKK! I’m so pumped- we all are. So we’re in the planning stages now for lots of fun while they’re here during the absolute BEST time of the year <3 *tingles*

And on that high note, I leave you with this…

let go

Pumpkin Fest!

13 Oct

I know I keep saying it, but I promise I’m going to get more regular at these posts! It just goes to show how insane these last few weeks have been! Mainly, finishing up our stint at the Marriott and getting ourselves- and all of our stuff!- into our new house! More on that to come…

But for now, let’s go back to our two visits to the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Fest! John and I have the fondest memories of this festival from our time here in 2010 and we were so excited to take Neve because we just knew she’d love it. It’s this GIANT park in the northern Stuttgart suburb of Ludwigsburg that has a palace, an old castle, an English garden and a magical fairy tale garden all within it. Now imagine gourds of all shapes, sizes and colors descending onto all of the above! It’s the most colorful, unique, fun place you’ve ever seen! Not to mention that there are tons of delicious pumpkin cuisine throughout!



This year’s theme was ‘Taking Flight,’ so all the displays had something to do with flying, whether it was literally or figuratively, like with imagination or with art…


Taking Flight…with the palace in the background…


Pumpkin Fest is the largest pumpkin exhibition in the world. Every year, more than 400,000 gourds 150 tons!- and more than 500 different species of pumpkins are brought in to make it all possible. The craziest part for me is that they’re all grown in this state- Baden-Wurttemberg- not shipped in! In addition to all the sculptures, there are contests for the largest, heaviest (current world record is 1400 lbs!), and best carved. And there’s even a pumpkin boat race where people hollow out the huge pumpkins and paddle them across the lake! The final weekend of the fest, guests are invited to join in the smashing of all the pumpkins. I hate we missed that part, actually- how fun does that sound?!

thumb_IMG_5335_1024 thumb_IMG_5340_1024 thumb_IMG_5338_1024


thumb_IMG_5355_1024 thumb_IMG_5346_1024

Pumpking Maultaschen (German Ravioli- my favorite!) in Pumpkin Soup...Pumpkin Latke, Pumpkin Fries (better than sweet potato!)...and Pumpkin Prosecco to wash it all down!

Pumpking Maultaschen (German Ravioli- my favorite!) in Pumpkin Soup…Pumpkin Latke, Pumpkin Fries (better than sweet potato!)…and Pumpkin Spritzer to wash it all down! (Not pictured: Pumpkin Beer and Pumpkin Prosecco :) )


Yep, everyone enjoyed the pumpkin fries! Ha!

The second time we went, we took our new friends, Ashley and Aubrey, with us. It was their first German festival, so we just knew it’d be perfect since this one is family oriented and relatively tame! Ha! And you can see what a difference just a few weeks makes in the fall colors!



Aubrey, Ashley and Neve…In the boat floating around the Fairy Tale Forest…



Peeking into Rumplestilsken’s house…



Rapunzel's castle...You can see her long braided hair (with red bow) descending from the tower...

Rapunzel’s castle…You can see her long braided hair (with red bow) descending from the tower…


With Aladdin and his magic carpet!


This is really one of the coolest festivals in our opinion. It’s fun for everyone- young children all the way on up. And it’s such the perfect way to welcome the season! Happy Fall, y’all!

Last Weekend in the Hotel!

25 Sep

Happy Friday, everybody! We are especially pumped for the weekend because…it’s our last one in this hotel! BAZINGA! It’s so crazy to think that by this time next week, we will be in our new house, with a kitchen, with a yard, with our own stuff…That’s right- our stuff has arrived! ALL of it! We got the call on Wednesday that both of our shipments are here and awaiting delivery! How awesome is that? We knew our smaller shipment would arrive within our first month (it landed in Stuttgart a few weeks ago, but obviously, we had nowhere for them to deliver), but the larger main one was scheduled for mid-October, so it’s been like Christmas came early since we got the good news! Ha! So our timeline for next week is: walkthrough of the property late Tuesday afternoon and key pickup, delivery of the smaller shipment and of the washer and dryer on Wednesday, then the big shipment delivered on Thursday along with Internet hook up. And yes, that means there’s going to be a major Ikea run somewhere in all that jazz ;)

Yep, all 300+ Americans in this hotel get to share this set...

Yep, all 300+ Americans in this hotel get to share this set…

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been here five weeks. I suppose that things have just stayed so crazy busy that it’s made the time fly by in so many ways. Despite being in this tiny hotel room and working out various hiccups practically every day, it’s amazing how much of a routine we’ve already established in such a short period of time- how settled we actually feel amid the chaos. I think I said it once before, but there’s a familiarity about Stuttgart for us and being here this time- knowing that it’s ‘permanent’- has changed our whole perspectives. We feel as though we’re part of the group, not just on the outside looking in- not in limbo trying to decide if we want to be part of the group. There’s a feeling of ‘we’re all in this together, we’re all going through the same things…’ and that’s nice. Even here at the Marriott, there are so many families experiencing the same challenges and changes that we are- several whom we’ve grown close to over these last few weeks and who I see us only growing our friendships over these next three years. Yeah, I have a hunch we’re going to like it here. <3


This is a random house next to a Greek restaurant we’ve been going to. I just love it.


Speaking of friendships, the distance is definitely hard- for all of us. We’re all missing everyone back at home. I was just talking to my mom about this yesterday, in fact. I just can’t imagine what people must’ve gone though just ten years ago- before the age of technology and cell phones and Facetime…We are so fortunate to talk to our loved ones any time we want to and to ‘see’ their faces. That bridge helps the distance so immensely. For example, these two:


Gabbing like the best friends that they are!

We Love Care Packages!

We Love Care Packages!

So this last week has been particularly good. Neve has really gotten into the swing of her new school. She loves her new teachers, Ms. Rachel and Ms. Erin, and to be honest, so do I. Ms. Erin is from North Carolina and has her masters degree from Chapel Hill. She’s super creative and nerdy in a perfect way, just like we like! Ms. Erin is also an American, but has grown up here as part of the military family. Both speak English and German in equally perfect portions and the kids seem to be thriving. After two weeks, Neve knows at least 10 German words and talks about her time at school constantly. Always a good sign! And she’s made several little friends who she also tells us all about, so that just warms my heart.

In front of school...

In front of school…



We’ve had our third week of ‘gymnastics’- I use quotes only because it’s more of a tumbling class with lots of mats and energy- but she’s loving it nonetheless. It’s perfect for burning off energy, learning to use her body, and meeting even more friends.


Once a month, the bases here offer a ‘Parents Night Out’ on a Friday night. They open one of the schools and parents can drop their kids there to eat dinner with their little friends (still divided into age groups, of course) and then play games, watch movies, etc. It was such a nice break for all three of us! Neve had a blast and John and I treated ourselves to a nice meal downtown where we just talked and laughed and enjoyed. Then we all got to sleep in the next morning! Win-win! They also offer one Saturday a month for ‘Parents Day Out,’ so we haven’t tried that yet (weekends are kinda our time as a trio), but it’s nice to know that it’s an option.



Two particularly awesome things have happened this week- I’ve made two new girlfriends! And the good kind that felt that ‘click’ from the get go. I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret. I know that many of you are social butterflies and you probably have no trouble meeting and making new friends, but this is an area that I’ve always found a bit tricky, believe it or not. I’m an odd bird in that I’m very comfortable in groups and I have no problem talking with strangers, being animated and loud and energetic. To a point. But I’m also very much an introvert in many ways- I often feel awkward and at a loss when it comes to making acquaintances into friends, I’m sometimes lazy when it comes to putting myself into situations to meet new friends, and then I’m not always the best at carving out the time to nurture and grow friendships…I don’t know why, but I just run out of time and life gets in the way. Oh, and I love my alone time, too! In other words, I’d much rather come home and put on my PJs rather than go to happy hour 9 times out of 10! Ha! And jokes aside, my preference has always been to have a handful of girlfriends whom I genuinely love and would do anything for and to feel that in return- rather than to be the girl with tons and tons of ‘just friends.’ (And yes, I know that some of you are blessed to have lots of girlfriends in both of these categories and just know that I think you have mad skills!)

That being said, coming here means that I’ve left behind my handful and I knew that it would take some effort once or I’d be one lonely girl! So one of my personal goals was that I would work on this area of my person because it’s something I’ve long wanted to be better at. I would make a point to put myself out there, to be a little uncomfortable if it meant that something good might come of it, to trust the process…And I’m happy to say that the Universe has brought two awesome women into my life just in the last seven days! Well, I actually ‘met’ both of them online- one through an expat page that I follow and another through a mutual friend back in Charleston (small world, right?!), so we’ve been in communication for a while, but we finally got to meet face to face this week. And both meetings went swimmingly! The best part is that they both have daughters close to Neve’s age. In fact, as I type, Neve is napping after a busy morning coffee/lunch/play date with her newest friend <3

Cheers to new friends!

Silly faces. Cheers to new friends!


Goddess sent us some Ponies in our care package. They’re ALL the rage. Yes, they even accompany us to lunch.

So yeah, it’s been a good week! And to top it all off? Fall TV is back, which means that our SlingBox is filling up and we’re feeling even more like ‘normal!’ Big plans for the weekend- headed downtown for dinner tonight with our new above-mentioned friends (they’re from Summerville!) and Sunday we’re headed back to Pumpkin Fest one last time before it’s over. I hope all of you had a great week! Talk soon!

Happy First Week of Fall!

21 Sep

Can y’all believe that it will be Fall- officially- on Wednesday?! I don’t know about you, but it feels like summer just came and went for us. I think it’s because we were here in the spring where it stayed cool well into May and then we got back here in August where it was already turning cool again. We’ve been in pants and jackets since the day we got here! John’s favorite time of year is fall, so he’s super pumped and already enjoying the leaves changing colors and being able to see his breath most mornings. Me, on the other hand, I’m a summer girl and I didn’t get enough of it. Give me sundresses and flip flops ANY day. That being said, my biggest problem here five years ago (same time of year) was all the rain and gloomy skies ( so much so that John even bought me my very own sun lamp when we got word we were doing this adventure! Ha!) and that part seems to be better at the moment, so there’s that little silver lining :)

Well, I’d planned to write today about Pumpkin Fest- the largest in Germany and one of our favorite local excursions so far. But, I’ve decided that I just did three posts on trip type stuff and I’d rather spend this time updating everyone on what’s going on here at ‘home.’  So here goes!

We found a house! And we move in a week from tomorrow!! WOOHOO! We are shouting from the roof tops and dancing in the streets over here! We’re in Week 5 of our hotel stay and let me just say for the record, we are OVER it! Ha! I swear it doesn’t matter how nice the hotel is or how good its location is, nothing takes the place of having some space and some room to spread out and just being able to call something your own. We saw alot of places- well, Neve and I saw alot of places and took John back to anything worthwhile ;)- and really learned alot about the area in the process, which is exactly what we’d hoped to do.

stuttgart map 2

Here’s a map of Stuttgart since I’m a visual person and I like to assume that all of you are, too. So, you see the big bold in the middle along with ‘Mitte’ (this means the heart of downtown), ‘Sud,’ ‘West,’ ‘Ost’ and ‘Nord.’ That is downtown. Picture Stuttgart as a giant bowl- all of downtown is at the bottom of the bowl. Around those areas are giant hills making the rim of the bowl. The areas of Botnang, Feuerbach, Degerloch, Sonnenberg, etc. are all along the top of the rim with beautiful views down into the bowl or toward the outside of the bowl. South and west of the city is most of the industry, the smaller cities…The east and north are beautiful rolling hills, farms, countryside…I wasn’t kidding when I said Stuttgart has it all!

To give you an idea, our hotel is to the south about where you see the A81 and S-Vaihingen in a city called Sindelfingen. The largest of the four military bases- the one where John is working- is in Vaihingen. We would’ve enjoyed living here, but there’s rarely anything available due to its proximity to the base. The next largest base- the one that has all the main offices and most of the shopping- is about 15 minutes southeast in a town called Boblingen. We had considered that area until we got Neve registered in school on the third base (which happens to be my favorite one as it’s nestled in the woods and has a much more intimate feel), which is kinda near Frauenkopf over by the bright yellow area. It’s about 40ish minutes one way, so that’s just too far.

Once we got the lay of the land, it boiled down to what feel we were looking for- big time city, suburbia or countryside. And y’all, it was TOUGH. We found houses that we liked in every one of those areas! Now let me back up and say that it’s been interesting for us to take a different approach to house hunting than we’re used to. We’ve always owned our houses and therefore, shopped with that in mind- resale value, how it will be in 10 years, the costs of changing and updating…Searching for a rental is obviously so different. No, you don’t get absolutely everything you want and no, you can’t make all the changes you’d like, but you get the freedom to choose what fits you the best RIGHT NOW. You get some of the pressure taken off of you by knowing that you can’t change a thing, and there’s something really neat about that! Nothing we saw was EXACTLY what we wanted, so we were able to look at from all kinds of different perspectives to find what would work BEST.

And boy have we taken a leap of faith! We’ve decided to live in Stuttgart Mitte, in the heart of downtown! Charleston peeps, the location is equivalent to living at Charleston Place on King Street. We are so excited! Now let me share a bit of our rationale. First and foremost, we’ve often thought we’d like to live in a big city- we’ve even looked at jobs and properties in areas like Manhattan and San Diego. What better opportunity to ‘try it out’ than these 3 years, right? To be part of the action, the lights, the movement, the energy…Public transportation, taxis, big buildings…Which leads me to our second consideration. We hope to have lots of visitors (hint, hint ;) ) and there’s just no better spot to be a guest of this city. No cars needed, no Autobahns, no searching for things to do…unless you choose to. And third, it all came full circle for our original reasons for coming here in the first place- to stretch our comfort zones, to grow as individuals and as a family, to learn new ways of living, to immerse ourselves in a new culture…We know that the best way to do this is by placing ourselves smack dab in the middle of it all.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Isn’t it beautiful?! That’s us to the left with the spiral fire escape. (Grandma, the top door goes right into your bedroom <3) Now are you ready for the neatest part? Wait for it…Wait for it…The house is on top of a shopping mall! Yep, you read that right! There’s a 3 story mall right below us- in other words, the call ceiling is our floor!

Entrance to Das Gerber, the shopping mall below our house :)

Entrance to Das Gerber, the shopping mall below our house :)

Street in front of the mall...

Street in front of the mall…



Yep, two grocery stores in the basement of my house! Winning!

The Das Gerber is Stuttgart’s largest mall and it opened just a couple years ago. On top of the mall, they decided to build a small community of 4 houses and 40 apartments, complete with grass, sidewalks, and even a playground (which happens to be right out our front door!). I know it sounds crazy and I was definitely skeptical myself, but it turns out that this is pretty normal here- that space is beyond limited, so building up is about the only option!

First floor- main living area...Kitchen is to the right.

First floor- main living area…Kitchen is to the right.


Not half as large as we’re used to, but amazingly decent for German standards- and even has a dishwasher!

Looking back toward the kitchen...

Looking back toward the kitchen…


Also on this floor is the entry hallway and a half bathroom. On the second floor, there’s our room and Neve’s, along with a full bathroom…


Neve's room, overlooking the playground...

Neve’s room, overlooking the playground…

Playground outside our front door and beneath Neve's room...

Playground outside our front door and beneath Neve’s room…Those are the apartments with the arched windows…To the left are just office spaces.

The third floor is identical to the second- with two bedrooms and a full bath- plus the washer and dryer. So plenty of room for guests! And now for the best part:

thumb_IMG_5415_1024 thumb_IMG_5416_1024

Look at that view! That’s downtown Stuttgart! We can’t wait to get moved in and start enjoying this city! The only drawbacks to this house- and to the majority that we looked at- is that it doesn’t come with any light fixtures (just wires hanging from the ceiling) and no closets. Not a one. Yeah, so that will be our challenge- buying enough wardrobes to house all our stuff! And isn’t it crazy that German renters move around with the light fixtures? Lots move with their kitchens, too, but at least we lucked up there! Ha! We also lucked up by getting 2 parking spaces in the garage below, as well as a storage room and access to the bike room.

I wish y’all could see our current situation- we look like hoarders gone wild in this tiny hotel space! The dogs are about to go crazy, too! They will be so pleased to get moved in- and to have a yard! No, it’s not huge, but it’s something!


This is the side yard, but it wraps around to the front and the back :)

If all goes as planned, we should get our keys next Tuesday. The following day, we will get one of our two shipments (the big shipment won’t arrive until about 2 weeks later :/), and a few temporary furniture pieces we can use from the base just to tide us over…Please everybody say a little prayer for us that all goes as planned! (One can dream, right?!)

Stay tuned for Pumpkin Fest later this week! Happy Monday!

Part 3: Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

17 Sep

Thanks again for stopping back by! This is what happens when your adventures are just so grand- they take three days to get them all out there! Ha! We knew when were planning this trip that it would be a doozy and require a good bit of time spent either doing boring things (ie. taking care of paperwork to get the new car) or in the car making our way home. Total, we spent just over 16 hours in the car- and that’s not counting the nearly full day of travel to get up there! So we definitely wanted to do something special for Neve- something she would think was the most fun and would hold her attention. And with that, we found that Sleeping Beauty’s castle just happened to be in northern Germany along our route back to Stuttgart!

Getting there would prove to be a bit challenging, however. The drive from Copenhagen to Sababurg, Germany was supposed to take about 7 hours. Due to crummy weather and horrible German traffic (this is a world-known thing- the unexplainable terrible traffic situation in this country- they call them ‘staus’ and we call them ‘worst things ever on every single road trip!’), it ended up taking us closer to 10 hours. So frustrating. On the plus side, you take an hour long ferry between the countries, so we had a chance to get out of the car and enjoy a surprisingly delicious meal on the boat!



We made it to the castle just in time for our dinner reservations. Still raining and still chilly, but there she was- the Dornroeschenschloss, Sleeping Beauty’s castle. It was gorgeous and so majestic set atop the highest hill surrounded by lush green pastures.

thumb_IMG_5552_1024 thumb_IMG_5553_1024 thumb_IMG_5554_1024

Dornroeschenschloss, built in 1334, was originally used as a fortress to protect the town’s pilgrims from enemy invasions. Several hundred years later, it became more of a hunting lodge and home of the region’s elite. Eventually, the castle began to decay and its stone wall (originally used to fence in the livestock) became covered with thorny hedges, leading the residents of the surrounding areas to let their imaginations run wild. Two such imagination were those of the Brothers Grimm, the famous authors to so many childhood classics. From this castle, their fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty was born.

Our room- in the righthand tower- was so cute. Dated, but cute ;). Love me some timber and exposed beams, too! Neve especially loved the princess bed and even more special princess bathroom ‘only for girls, but Daddy can use it.’




Dinner was phenomenal- candlelit, overlooking the countryside and delicious fresh-prepared cuisine. All right there in Sleeping Beauty’s Dining Hall.



The gardens surrounding the castle are gorgeous- the perfect marriage of planned landscaping and letting nature do her thing. We spent our rainy morning exploring and learning the story of this particular princess. Neve is in love and has yet to stop talking about the story.


In a nutshell…Many moons ago, a King and Queen had dreamed of having a baby, but hadn’t succeeded in their efforts after years of trying. One night, a frog came to the Queen while she was in her bath and told her that her wish would finally come true- she would have a baby girl in the spring. After the birth of Briar Rose, the baby girl (and the original name of Grimm’s fairy tale), the King was so elated that he threw a grand party, inviting any and everyone- with the exception of one of the 13 ‘Wise Women’ as he only had 12 plates fit for such royalty. The first 11 ladies blessed the child with things like wealth, happiness, beauty…But when it came time for the 12th lady, the shunned 13th Wise Woman came from the shadows and angrily put a curse on the baby- that she would prick her finger and die on her 15th birthday. The 12th lady offered the only blessing she could- to lessen the effects of the curse. The princess would not die, but rather sleep for 100 years, along with everyone and everything around her.

On her 15th birthday, the princess found herself drawn to the seamstress quarters where she found a little old lady spinning on her spindle. The witch encourages the princess to try it for herself, but she immediately pricks her finger on the spindle and falls onto the nearby bed, drifting off into a deep sleep. Below her, everyone in the castle- the King and Queen, the staff, even the flies on the wall- also falls asleep and will remain so for the next century. As years go by, the vines and plants take over, essentially covering the grounds and the castle in impenetrable layers of vegetation. Word spreads throughout the country that there’s a beautiful princess inside and many a prince attempt to scale the walls only to end in uncertain death when they’re overtaken with the vines.

Finally, on the day that marks the end of the century, another prince is determined to take his chances for a shot waking the beautiful princess inside. Because the curse is over, he is able to cut through the hedges and make his way up the tower to find her sleeping peacefully. He wakes her with a kiss and they make their way down from the tower to find the rest of the castle occupants also waking and the vegetation receding to reveal the same beautiful gardens that had been there 100 years before. The tale ends with the couple marrying in splendor in the grand courtyard.






The wall surrounding the castle…



Looking down into the cellar…


Today, the castle is used as a hotel, a restaurant and an upscale event spot. Can you imagine your wedding in this castle’s courtyard and your reception in the gardens?! It’s so great what this man (a single affluent guy purchased the property years ago and has spent all this time bringing it back to life for all of us to enjoy) has done so that, hopefully, generations to come can experience this little piece of history. So awesome to get to share this with Neve.


And with that, we loaded back up and made the final 4 hour drive to Stuttgart. And with minimal staus! Woohoo! The pups had a great long weekend, too. We were lucky enough to meet a couple who keeps pups in their home- one family at a time- and it appears that Meg and Dulcie had a blast! They were spoiled rotten and even got baths before we got there to pick them up!

Talk soon!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 815 other followers

%d bloggers like this: