Happy Monday!

22 Aug

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend- we sure did! Let me back up…So last Monday,we got a surprise visit from my Uncle Mike- he’s married to my Dad’s sister, Julia. He’d been keeping up with the Portugal saga and how my Dad had ended up back here with us in Stuttgart several weeks sooner than he’d intended. So being the cool- and luckily retired!- guy that he is, he booked a flight quickly and came to spend the week traipsing around with my Dad! I know, right?! We all had the best time and I don’t think there’s ever been an easier, more laid back house guest than Mike. We so enjoyed having him here with us and hope that he’ll return soon, maybe with Julia in tow, too!

So what all have we been up to…For starters, our neighbor and one of Neve’s best friends turned 3! It’s always tough fighting the traffic to make it to their backyard BBQs, but it’s worth it😉 Sure do love when our whole group is able to come together. Beyond that, we just hung out, ate at some of our favorite spots, and he and Dad played tourists visiting all the car museums, etc.

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All the essential beverage groups represented- three kinds of beer and a water!😉

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Neve’s been LOVING working on her swimming now that the outdoor pools are in full effect!

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If only the pups would’ve warmed up to Mike…

We wanted to take Mike on at least one day trip during his visit, so we gave him several options…He ended up choosing one of our favorites, Rothenburg! I’ve done several posts on this cute little town already, so I won’t go back into details here, but be sure to check back if you’re interested. In a nutshell, it’s the oldest medieval walled city left in Germany. It’s picturesque- straight off a postcard and everything you picture when you think of this country. Half-timbered colorful houses, cobblestone streets, rolling green hills as far as you can see all around…We just love Rothenburg❤

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So many grapevines growing all over the city, and all packed full of ripe grapes!

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Ha! Didn’t this shot turn out so fun?! We were touring a little dungeon exhibit and they had one of these old timey ‘neck violins’ for John to model. Ha!

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Now, I’m sure you were thinking to yourself, ‘Where the heck is Neve in all these pictures?!’ Well, Neve was actually having her own fun- her first real sleepover! Our good friends, Cameron and Ji, just moved downtown a few blocks from us (they were living in a suburb until they saw how much fun we were having downtown! ;)) and to celebrate getting settled in, they asked Neve to come spend the night with another of her besties, Emma. They’re the exact same age- their birthdays are just 2 weeks apart- and so similar in personalities that it’s freaky sometimes! Anyhoo, Neve did so awesome! Seriously, we’re so proud of her- the first time staying in a new place, without any family. Heck, I was that kid who didn’t spend the night away from home until sometime in middle school! Seriously, I tried it once for a slumber party in like the 4th grade and my mom had to come get me at 1a (do you remember that, Alissa?). So way to go, Neve! (Thankfully, Ji knows that I fret and sent me pictures all along the way- looks like they had the best time!)

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I can’t even tell you how much I love this picture! I died laughing!

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Headed to the park…

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Feeding the Feuersee ducks and swans…

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So here we are back at another Monday…Mike is on a plane headed home, Neve is out of school for her three week summer break (late, I know!), John is in the Azores (islands owned by Portugal, but actually closer to Bermuda) for work until Friday, so Dad and I are holding down the fort. Planning to get in some swimming, some picnicking, and lots of playing this week❤ Hope everyone has a good one!

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For those of you who’d asked to see my shorter hair…17″ gone! Lovin’ it!

 

Spanish Beach Bums!

16 Aug

Back again with the second half of our southern Spain getaway! Y’all, it couldn’t have been any better if I’d read about it in a glossy travel magazine. Like I said yesterday, my requests were: staying ON the beach, being able to hear the ocean from our room, sweaty hot sunshiney weather, and lots of people. Let’s just say that every single box was checked and then some!

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Y’all know I like some visuals😉

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Torremolinos is 13 km west of Malaga.

Now, before we get into all the pictures (and trust me- there are a ton of ’em! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!), let me talk about the ‘lots of people’ part. John and I both tend to go from one extreme to the other on preference here. Sure, sometimes it’s so nice to stay somewhere remote where you have plenty of space and quiet and peace. Sometimes that’s exactly what your soul needs- to disconnect, to recharge. But other times, your soul needs crowds and noise and movement and room service. Sometimes, your soul needs LIFE. And for me, those times often come in the summertime. I think it goes back to growing up in a seasonal touristy city, near the beach, on the boat, vacationing in Myrtle Beach (still one of my favorite places on Earth, btw)…Some of my happiest times involve all things summer- which includes throngs of people- so that’s probably why I equate those things with these types of vacations. They truly feed my soul- and refill my tank❤

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Once a poor fishing village before the growth in tourism began in the late 1950s, Torremolinos was the first of the Costa del Sol (ie. Sun Coast) resorts to be developed. The average population is about 80,000, but this more than doubles from late spring through early fall. A large portion of the tourists are from the UK (which we loved! We talked to several and they told us that the beaches in both Spain and Portugal are wildly popular for them because of their quick direct flights…) and Scandinavia.

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View from our balcony…Look at that blue Mediterranean water!

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Two of our hotel’s pools…Loved how the fact that they’re infinity pools makes them just blend right in…

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There are 8 km of beach just in Torremolinos (Costa del Sol runs the entire coast and is comprised of lots of similar towns, so there’s beaches for days!) with a paved promenade running from end to end- walkers, joggers, skaters, cyclists…Every 100 meters, it seemed, there’s another beach bar or restaurant, all specializing in fish.

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Hey Dad, who knew you had your own beach bar!

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Yep, that’s my daughter! Look at that hair once it hits humidity😉

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We rented one of these, with three chairs, both days- in the front row right along the ocean. Best 5 euro spent!

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Within walking distance from our hotel- along the promenade- is the next town, called Benalmadena, and its gorgeous marina. We loved heading that way for dinner for the simple fact that the views were unbeatable! Unfortunately, the food (for most of our trip) left alot to be desired. You know that’s true when I order a hotdog for three meals in a row! Ha!

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This hotdog was actually pretty good! As close as I’ve had to home for sure!

For our two full days at the beach, our one and only goal was relaxing (ok, and playing a little, too). We slept in both mornings, then moved ourselves out to the pool or beach around 9a, swapped to the other (pool or beach) sometime in the afternoon, headed in about 5p to get cleaned up and go to dinner. Seriously, that’s all we did and it was so freakin’ magnificent I can’t even.

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Poolside lunch…

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Neve’s swimming has come lightyears this summer. Finally! And these two days in the water just solidified it. She can swim side to side, she can jump off the side and make it back to the ladder, the can mermaid twirl (don’t ask) and she can float on her back for well over 60 seconds…Dare I call her a swimmer now?! WOOHOO!

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Finishing up his Garlic Grilled Octopus

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You can’t tell, but this is a topless beach, as are many of the beaches across Europe. Of course it’s not mandatory, just optional. And honestly, I find it so liberating! No one bats an eye. Young and old women, thin and larger women, pale and tan women…It’s just so refreshing to see positive body images being celebrated and embraced! And before you ask, yes, I took mine off and joined right in the positivity🙂 (Although no, I didn’t walk the beach or anything- don’t get crazy!)

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Notice the crescent moon over the palm tree…Going to Carolina in my mind❤

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Yep, the stars definitely lined up for on this one. The weather, the hotel, the beach itself, the language (yay for majoring in Spanish and being able to speak!)…And most importantly, the three of us being together. Just us. After being apart for a month while Neve and I were in the States and then being so crazy busy since we got back, we really needed this time as a family to relax and to play and to enjoy. So THANK YOU to my wonderful husband for planning such an incredible Spanish getaway just for us. And for always putting Neve and me above all else. You move me❤

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We will most definitely be back- I foresee the Costa del Sol becoming a regular quickie getaway for the Thomas clan!

Hola, Granada!

15 Aug

And hey there, Alhambra! That’s right, we just got back from a lovely little getaway in southern Spain! I don’t think I even mentioned that we were headed out of town- that’s how hectic things have been around here these last couple weeks! But actually, this one had been in the pipeline for a couple months now. Technically, it was a late anniversary celebration- John planned the whole thing from start to finish and let me tell you, it simply couldn’t have been any more perfect.

For months- since last winter at least- I’ve been dying for a beach vacation. An all out, boardwalk, ice cream stands, tiki huts, hearing the sound of the ocean from your room, umbrella drinks beach vacation! Being in Charleston back in June only whet my appetite, too! Ha! So we started researching options and stumbled upon one that just happened to be close to one of John’s top Bucket List items, La Alhambra, in Granada. Once again, isn’t it great the way things just work out that way?! So last week, we caught an (obscenely) early flight (left the house at 4a!) to Malaga, Spain, rented a car and drove 1.5 hour north to the city- in time for a churros-and-chocolate breakfast at a sidewalk cafe❤ Then we spent the day taking in the sights, culminating with an afternoon at La Alhambra, one of the best surviving examples of ancient Moorish/Islamic architecture in the world.

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Even the ride itself from Malaga to Granada was just gorgeous…You don’t realize how arid that part of the country really is, or mountainous…Or how many olive plantations there are! Turns out Spain and Portugal produce over 80% of the world’s olives!

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Granada is the capital city of the province of Granada, in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, right at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains and at the confluence of four rivers, the Beiro, the Darro, the Genil and the Monachil.  The population is about 473,000 people, ranking as the 13th-largest urban area of Spain.

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The region surrounding what is today Granada has been inhabited since at least 5500 BC. In 711 AD, the entire region was conquered by the Moors from Africa and by the eleventh century, Granada had been loosely established. The name translates into ‘Hill of Strangers,’ because the original city was based in a valley, making it very difficult to defend. Over the next century, as Moorish control grew, the borders of Granada extended onto the surrounding hills, securing its place as one of the most important cities in Al-Andalus.

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Granada Cathedral, or the Cathedral of Incarnation, took 181 years to be built. It was started in 1492 with intentions to be a Gothic structure (which can be seen in the oldest part of the cathedral, the main), but then as rulers changed, it became a beacon of the Spanish Renaissance. We loved the look of this cathedral and really appreciated the differences we saw when compared with the more Italian-ish styles that we’re a bit more used to seeing. Ornate, but not too ornate…Colorful, but only in a way that adds to the character…

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Beautiful old stone floor…

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There are actually two of these organs…You can see them in the top interior picture- on either side of the archway near the nave.

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The Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace, is the most well-known, best preserved structure left from the Islamic dominance of the Iberian Peninsula. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 AD on the remains of Roman fortifications and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Moorish emir, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition) and the palaces were partially altered to Renaissance tastes.

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The detail in just one shot…Wood, stone, tile and paint…From the 14th century.

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Tile work.

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The Islamic palaces were built for the last Muslim emirs in Spain during the decline of the Nasrid dynasty. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon. La Alhambra is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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All walls are carved stone. Many have Arabic inscriptions at the top with mathematical patterns at the bottom…

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A courtyard in the center of a quadrangle…

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Tiled ceiling

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Moorish poets described Alhambra as “a pearl set in emeralds,” an allusion to the color of its buildings and the woods around them. The palace complex was designed with the mountainous site in mind. The park, which is overgrown with wildflowers and grass in the spring, was planted by the Moors with roses, oranges, and myrtles; its most characteristic feature, however, is the dense wood of English elms brought by the Duke of Wellington in 1812. The park is usually filled with the sound of running water from fountains throughout. These are supplied through a conduit 5 mile long, which is connected with the Darro River.

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Only stained glass in the entire palace…

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Looking out over Granada…

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We decided just this small outbuilding could be our villa😉

Despite long neglect, vandalism, and some ill-judged restoration, the Alhambra endures as an atypical example of Muslim art in its final European stages. The majority of the palace buildings are quadrangular- with all the rooms opening on to a central court, and the whole reached its present size simply by the gradual addition of new quadrangles, connected with each other by smaller rooms and passages. Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived there, however, each new section that was added followed the consistent theme of “paradise on earth,” with sun and wind freely admitted. Column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools were used to add to the aesthetic. In every case, the exterior was left plain and austere.

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The decoration consists for the upper part of the walls, as a rule, of Arabic inscriptions that are manipulated into geometrical patterns. Tile mosaics, with complicated mathematical patterns, are largely used as panelling for the lower part. Similar designs are displayed on wooden ceilings. The palace complex is designed in the Nasrid style, the last blooming of Islamic Art in the Iberian Peninsula.

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After leaving La Alhambra, we both immediately considered it among our favorite palaces/fortresses we’ve ever visited and have talked about it countless times since. Yes, it’s that amazing and it’s easy to see why it’s considered a top destination in the world (#1 most recommended sight for this year!). There are just so many things that set it apart- the tile work, the stone work, the woodwork, the colors, the light and air and water flowing through every single room…All of these things just come together so beautifully and so perfectly. And the simple, yet gorgeous, ways that nature is incorporated throughout- in the center of the quadrangles, in the fountains of crystal water, in all the surrounding gardens and hillsides. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a place with as much beauty and harmony all in one structure. It’s truly breathtaking…

Taking that early flight and driving all the way to Granada to kick off our vacation proved to be the absolute right decision. We found the city to be just lovely and, well, Alhambra to be a once in a lifetime visit. I can’t recommend it enough. And even for those of you who say that you ‘aren’t really into architecture,’ I dare you to visit this place and still say those words.😉

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Smiling at the thought of heading to the beach! Ha!

And with that, we made our way back southward to the coastal town of Torremolinos, just past Malaga on the Mediterranean. The next two days were EXACTLY what the doctor ordered- sun, sand, blue waters and the three of us doing a whole lotta nothing! Be sure to stop back by tomorrow for all those colorful beach pictures- I promise they’re just as pretty❤

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Always a sign of a really good day.

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Sneak peak of tomorrow’s beachy post- from our balcony!

 

Monday Mash-Up

8 Aug

You know it was a good weekend when you have so much to share on a Monday morning! Ha! We really did have a good weekend, with some great pictures to prove it, if I do say so myself😉

To start things off, it was Sommerfest weekend- four straight days and nights of food, drinks, live music and just all around FUN- all at Schlossplatz, Stuttgart’s main square, just a few blocks from our house. No better place to meet up with friends for Friday Night Dinner if you ask me!

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Those clouds look pretty ominous, right?! They’re actually why we missed opening night on Thursday because it was raining so hard, but we just went prepared with umbrellas and rain jackets this time…And wouldn’t you know it…The clouds parted!

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These balloons were the coolest things ever! I’m not even kidding. We were just sitting there gabbing with friends on our blanket when right behind us, these things start inflating. WOW. So neat to watch!

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Saturday night, we found ourselves running errands in one our favorite suburbs, Boeblingen, which has the cutest little Alstadt (Old Town). One of the best things about living here is just being able to walk everywhere- so after dinner (where they gave us the most delicious fresh watermelon and (not so delicious) uzo with our bill!), we did just that. And it was lovely.

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And then came yesterday, always our Sunday Funday. The weather was absolutely perfect, the countryside was calling our names and we just had to answer. Our initial goal was to take the pups out for a good run and stretch. Y’all know from lots of my previous posts just how easy that is here- drive 10 minutes out of the city in any direction and you’ll find yourself smack dab in the middle of nature…Rolling green hills, fields tilled for planting, forests straight out of a fairytale…Well, one thing that’s super common here are roadside fields of whatever’s in season- berries, pumpkins, flowers…- with a small box for you to pay for whatever you pick. Yep, all on the honor system. Only in Germany😉 Well, it’s sunflower and lily season and we just couldn’t help ourselves!

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‘Kasse’ essentially means ‘pay here.’ As far as you can see, little fields one after another of different kinds of flowers- just take your pick! Literally!

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Yep, she brought her magnifying glass to inspect for bugs❤

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Little Miss Attitude😉

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And just so you see what we ended up with…Oh if only one of us was a florist- or had even the slightest bit of flower arranging skill! Ha!

By the time we finished picking flowers, it was lunch time and John remembered this biergarten, Barenschloss, out in the woods that he passes when he rides his bike to work. So we found the highway nearby, parked the car, and starting hiking…All the while, him ‘hoping this is the way.’ Ummmm….? (And yep, I deserve a gold star in the mom department for thinking ahead and knowing she wouldn’t want to be in that dress all day!) It turned out to be the PRETTIEST wooded hike right alongside the most peaceful lake. And about a mile down the path? Yep, Barenschloss. And about 500 people laying on their blankets, throwing a frisbee, playing catch with their pups! Ha! PERFECT Sunday lunch❤

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Popsicles with friends🙂 (Does this log carving look like Falcor to anyone else?!)

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Sorry for all the pictures, but…We were just so many pretty picture-worthy places over the last few days! All three of us absolutely love getting to experience new things and find new places to explore. And when that happens to line up with some awesome weather, HELL. YES.😉 (Btw, I’m ignoring the fact that the forecast is calling for rain and highs in the 60s for the rest of this week.)

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And now on a crummy note since I know alot of you are following along through me (thanks to everyone who has reached out in support!)…My dad is en route back here to Stuttgart as we speak. He so enjoyed getting to see Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, last week and really gave the hiking of El Camino his absolute best effort. But some things- and some partnerships- just aren’t meant to be. From the moment my dad and his cousin, Bill, connected in Portugal last Wednesday, it became apparent that their personalities, their ways of doing things, their goals, their values, their core principles…are just very…different. My dad is the most caring, kind, generous man you’ll meet. He’s honest to a fault and he’s so wise. And he’s fun! He would do anything for anyone, give away his last dollar to someone who had less. But sometimes, folks just can’t see how lucky they are to have such a person by their side- how blessed they are to have such a person along on an adventure of a lifetime. And sometimes, that person just reaches his limit and calls it a day. (Remember that whole wisdom thing I mentioned?) We’re all SO proud of Dad for jumping into such an adventure feet first and giving it his all every (literal) step of the way. He is a rockstar. And John, Neve and I are beyond pumped to have that rockstar here with us for the next little bit.❤

 

It’s August, Y’all!

3 Aug

Does anyone else feel like it was JUST Christmas?! It’s so strange because in alot of ways, yes, Christmas feels like eons ago and ALOT of awesome adventures have been had since then, but in other ways, I just can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that summer is just about over- it just got here, dammit! But the more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s because spring lasted an infinitely long time here (we were still in jackets the week before we headed to the States in June!) and because I know from last year’s experience that we never even got to unpack our shorts when we arrived here the third week of August. (Yep, our official One Year Anniversary is almost here!) In other words, I don’t think Germans can fully appreciate the meaning of the season! Ha! John’s been joking lately that he’s so ready for fall and crisp air and pumpkin everything and chili. I just look at him with disdain and tell him to shut his mouth.❤

Anyhoo, just wanted to share some pictures from the last couple weeks as we’ve really settled back in here at home. Back to the farmer’s markets, taking the train instead of the car, evening walks for ice cream, dinners with our tribe…All the good❤

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When you get home from a month away and crave the two best parts of German cuisine- sausages and fresh produce! Ha!

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When she picked out this dress, she told me, ‘Most of the kids at school here don’t wear stuff like this. But I can…because I’m from Charleston. And they would like Charleston.’ Yes, they sure would, sugar.❤

 

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One night talking about our time in London led to the next night’s homemade British delicacies!

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After-dinner ice creams at Schlossgarten…

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Ringing in August 1…with a jacket. Yay.

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Celebrating 12 years of wedding bliss with a long overdue date night❤

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And last but not least, we’ve had the best last 24 hours! My dad got here yesterday morning as a quick stopover on his way to Portugal to hike the famous El Camino trail. What an amazing adventure, right?! It doesn’t matter if it’s been 6 months or 3 weeks, reunions are always…

I mentioned all of this a while back, but in case we’ve got any newbies…My dad’s cousin, Bill, spent 10 months last year hiking the Appalachian Trail- solo. (I know, WOW.) When he came to Charleston in June for our BBQ, they got to talking about his next hike- in Europe- and the rest is history. El Camino starts in Lisbon, Portugal and heads north through Porto (yep, the same two cities we visited this past May, so feel free to look back at those posts!), then across the northern coast of Spain, and north again through the Pyrenees Mountains and southern France to Paris.

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Bill will hike the entire trail over the course of several months. Dad will hike until he’s ready to come back here to Stuttgart- probably 6ish weeks- or in time for Oktoberfest, whichever comes first! Heehee! He and my mom were coming all along for the Fest, so it worked out just perfectly. See how the Universe does that?😉 My mom will meet him here next month, and then a few weeks later, Andy will be joining us as well. The WHOLE gang together again for the first time well over a year. YES.❤

Dropping him at the airport this morning- exactly 24 hours from when I picked him up- was bittersweet. His time here was short, but it was full of all the good stuff and I think I speak for all 4 of us when I say that we didn’t want it to end…

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Dinner at the biergarten…

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But on the flip side, I know he’s going to have such a wonderful adventure with so many stories to tell when he’s through. I’m so proud of him- our whole family is so proud of him- for taking on this challenge doing it with gusto. A few years ago, he did the Race to Bermuda on a sailboat full of strangers (who came back friends) and here he is setting out to hike hundreds of miles with nothing but what he can carry. That’s my dad, y’all.❤ We can’t wait to have him back here sometime next month to hear all about it! In the meantime, Bill has a blog that he intends to update along their way, so if you’d like to follow along, head over to MyATGuide.com. I’m sure I’ll be updating here a bit, too, but straight from the horse’s mouth seems like more fun😉 Good luck, Dad! We love you!thumb_IMG_0516_1024

12 Trips Around the Sun!

31 Jul

On this day 12 years ago, John and I said ‘I do.’ How is it possible that it’s already been that long? In so many ways, I would swear it was just last month. It was SUCH a good day. And I know everybody says that about their wedding, but we still have folks talk about the fun they had that night…Twelve years after the fact! 

Many of you were there to celebrate with us, but for those of you who weren’t- we got married in a church in Summerville, SC, and then moved to my parents’ back yard for the most awesome reception under a huge white tent with twinkly white lights. We had all of our favorite tunes playing, a big dance floor, BBQ with all the fixins’, an open bar and all of our family and closest friends around us. We stayed that night at a cute B&B there in town, then headed southward on our honeymoon- to Key West and the Bahamas- the next morning. It was truly a night that changed our lives forever.

And for the skeptics who had trouble wrapping their brains around our initial 7 month love story- ie. we met in December, got engaged in March and married in July- and the ‘when you know, you know’ mentality…We told ya so❤

Click the link below to see our life whittled down to 3 fabulous minutes!

Therapy Thursday!

28 Jul

Greetings! And welcome to Therapy Thursday! Ha! Nah, I’m just kidding. Seriously, though- I’ve had this post bouncing around in my brain for a few days now and just feel compelled today to get it all out there. I like to think that at least one person reading this is going through something similar and might be able to benefit from listening to my perspective. I know I got a couple awesome notes after the last ‘deep’ post I did a month or so ago, so here’s hoping for a repeat!

So yesterday was one of our best friend’s, Andy’s, birthday. I’d already sent his card and sent him a text message first thing in the morning (perhaps the ONE positive of the time difference is being the first to wish folks happy birthday?!), but as we were waiting on dinner to cook last night, Dulcie happened to be doing all sorts of perfect posing, practically begging for me to take her picture, photoshop in a birthday hat and noisemaker and send it to Andy. So I stealthily slipped out the camera and used my finest covert ninja skills to ensure the perfect shot without her noticing. Here’s what I ended up with:

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Yeah. Turns out she’s the expert in fake outs, not me.😉 So I sent Andy the above shot and explained my intentions. He loved it, of course. Ha! But then he asked me something that got me thinking…and ultimately led to me sharing my thoughts with you guys today. He said, ‘You seem so busy this week- definitely different than last week. Why?’

So let me rewind to last week for a sec. I know I said it in a couple posts that jet lag was a bitch, but that transitioning back to ‘Germany life’ was proving to be a bit more difficult than I’d planned. I immediately missed my family, my friends, my home, my city, my boat…And on top of these feelings of sadness, I had several beyond frustrating incidents last week involving culture differences, language barriers and just overall dealing with plain ‘ol assholes. The details are irrelevant. Even though I knew better, I let myself focus on all these things I missed, all these things that pissed me off and hurt my feelings- in other words, all that was negative.

Rather than just give space to these feelings and sit with them, I gave them my power. You see, thoughts are just stories your brain creates based on your feelings. You can change the stories any time you want to- YOU have the power over your brain, not the other way around. But remember the ego that I talked about last time- that little piece inside each of us that is the king (or queen) of story telling, of exaggerating, of spinning…? Well, as soon as you allow your stories to snowball in a direction that’s not where you want to go, your ego hops in the mix and you’re in a world of doom and gloom before you even know it!

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See what I mean? See the difference between merely providing space for your emotions and allowing your ego to come in and convince yourself of the stories? Long story short…Sunday night I had a little heart to heart with myself. I thought back to a conversation I’d had with John the night before- one where he’d acknowledged how I was feeling (bless his heart), but then- being the practical realist that he is- reminded me that all the reasons we came here in the first place still hold true- to travel, to grow, to bond, to increase our savings…And that the challenges I was feeling are the very same ones we’ve faced since we got here. In other words, I was in a place mentally where I could only see the small picture, the immediate picture- I’d completely lost sight of the big picture and the longterm goals.

From there, I gently reminded myself of what I already know- that we’re all spiritual beings have a human experience…That even those of us who are crazy in touch with our bodies and our emotions still have moments- or days or weeks- of doubt and misdirection. That even the strongest of us still have times where we feel weak, where we feel out of control, where we feel bogged down in our own crap- in our own head. That duality of feelings isn’t just possible, but probable. We can be sad or angry or fearful at the exact same time as we’re also happy or excited or confident and that’s nothing to feel guilty about. This goes back again to the ego. It’s human nature to tell ourselves, ‘Oh, I’m sad so I can’t possibly feel happy about that or I’m not really that sad afterall…’ or ‘Oh, I’m so anxious that I can’t even allow myself to get excited about…’ Do you know what I mean? But that’s where we have to remind ourselves that those kinds of thoughts are not the truth- they’re just ways that we’re limiting ourselves. It’s perfectly ‘normal’ (I hate that word- I tell Neve ‘Normal is just a dryer setting’) and healthy to allow yourself the space to feel ALL of your emotions, even when they seem contradictory.

Remember months ago when I shared with you that I have a bedtime habit of listing out all the things I’m thankful for  as I’m falling asleep? Well Sunday night was no different. I used that time to really work on shifting my perspective, determined to have a better week ahead. I acknowledged all of the above- all that I’d been feeling all week long. I took all the judgements away- no more labeling my emotions as bad or good, no more trying to rush through them or ignore them, no more creating stories about them…But then I thought about the so very many things that I’m thankful for and excited about and hopeful for and proud of. I fell asleep in the middle of my list it was so long.❤

So are all my sad feelings and frustrations of last week gone? Yeah right. Hell no they’re not. Self-care isn’t magic and it’s by no means a quick fix, but rather a slow and steady process that is so rewarding all along the journey. So yes, I’m still missing home, I’m still getting back into the groove here, I’m still working through some frustrations I’m having with language barriers…But I’ve made space for these feelings and I realize that feelings are ever changing- the weather of our minds. Again, my newest tattoo is the perfect visual- ‘Until It’s Not…’ I’ve reminded myself that I control my stories- not the other way around- which means that I CHOOSE to be happy, I choose to be secure and productive, I choose to live the life that I want to. And most importantly, I choose to trust myself and the Universe- it will always provide for each and every one of us.

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So Happy Birthday again, Andy! Although it seems like you’re the one who actually gave me a little gift❤

Happy Friday!

22 Jul

The weekend is within sight, y’all! And I for one am beyond happy about that because this week has dragged by like turtles in mud and I’m ready for a little change of pace! You know how when you get home from any (good) vacation you almost feel like you need another vacation to recover? Yeah, well this is pretty much like that except in addition to just being tired from the travel itself and jetlagged from the damned eastward travel (it gets me every. single. time.), I’m missing home and family and friends and Charleston and the whole routine we’d gotten into there something fierce.😦

That being said, it’s been so, so nice to be back in our home with John, as our trio.  And yes, he’s been one happy camper week, even texting me daily on his way home to remind me that he’s doing the happy dance knowing the house won’t be empty when he gets home. Ha! Neve has loved being back next door to Amalie- and her new baby brother who arrived the week before we got back!-back at school with her friends, and back eating at restaurants with schnitzel. Seriously, she didn’t miss a beat whatsoever, even with the big time change! Oh, to be a kid again…So that’s pretty much what this week has been about- settling back in at home, getting in touch with our normal routine, reconnecting with friends (hurry up and get home, Horan family- you’re the only ones missing!), and enjoying what’s left of the German summertime❤ Here’s a look!

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The fountains at Milaneo…

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So happy to be back with these two!

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This backyard BBQ couldn’t have come at a better time! And it was the perfect party for everyone to meet baby Simeon❤

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Neve is absolutely in LOVE with ‘Amalie’s new baby.’ She talks about him every day and is mesmerized by him when he’s around. And she’s so sweet and gentle, it’s precious❤

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My husband knew it was a good week to bring the sunshine indoors😉

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How nice that we’ve only had one rainy day all week, too! And it’s so warm- not crazy hot like in Charleston, but lovely warm- the kind that means you get to eat your dinner outside.😉 And remember before our trip how I was talking about how completely over it I was- the language barrier, the unfriendliness of so many of the folks we encounter, the isolation that can creep up without warning? Well, the vacation worked- I definitely feel reinvigorated after our time at home and I’m back to seeing things as stimulating little adventures- most of the time anyway😉 Right now, it’s all about being present, making space for all the feelings and just sitting with them, without judgement. I can miss things and look forward to things and enjoy the things that are happening right now- all at the same time. Nothing is all or nothing.

And for one more moment of confirmation that the Universe is always looking out for each and every one of us, this shot came in as I was typing on this post. It’s from Lori- one that she’d forgotten to send me a few weeks ago from their lunch date to ChicFilA. Look how happy my girl is. I absolutely love that she’s happy no matter where she is or what she’s doing. We sure lucked up with this one❤

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Happy Weekend!

Home Again, Home Again…

16 Jul

…Jiggity Jig. John always makes fun of me for saying that when we walk in the door from a trip, but my grandmother- on my Dad’s side- always said it and I have the fondest memories of her saying just that as we’d walk through her front door after a morning at the ‘Jockey Lot’ in Anderson, SC…Alas, it always makes me smile even though I have no clue what it actually means!

So I hadn’t intended to write this post today. Truth be told, I’d meant to write it multiple times over the last few days while Neve and I were still in Charleston, but life- the good life- got in the way and before I knew it, our time was done. We arrived back here in Stuttgart this morning after a long day and night of travel, so now my only goal for today is to fight this feeling of death and stay awake long enough to go to bed tonight and pray to stay asleep for the most of the night. (That won’t happen, no, but believe me when I say that sleeping during the day today would only make tonight an absolute nightmare and would start one crummy cycle of getting over jet lag!) Sharing our adventures from the last two weeks at HOME just seemed like the perfect- therapeutic- distraction.

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Ten hour red-eye flights suck. Doing them with a 4-year-old who doesn’t sleep on planes sucks. Already missing home and your people sucks. But watching the sunrise from 35k feet over the Atlantic is pretty damn awesome.

Neve and I had a fun, low key Fourth of July eating pizza with the fam and then continuing our tradition of spending it with our neighbors, the Mathews, just three houses down from our house (yep, we still own it- it’s just being rented right now). We actually met Lindsey, Joey and Savannah on this very day two years ago, at the holiday block party. Our girls are just a few weeks apart and we were all fast friends. Sometimes, you meet people and you just click.❤

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My goodness she loves her Uncle Andy…

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Coincidentally, John celebrated the holiday next door (that’s our yard on the other side of the fence) with our other neighbors- more people we just clicked with from Day 1.

Later that same week, we celebrated quite a special moment, Neve’s baptism. I can’t tell you how many conversations John and I have had about this topic over the last four years. Religion can be such a tricky thing sometimes- the differences in what things mean, what they represent, how different denominations view the same things…In this instance, John was raised independent Southern Baptist and I was raised Lutheran, which means that there are key differences in what baptism actually is and what it represents. I invite each of you to research these differences if it’s something you’re interested in because there really are some interesting discussions on it. But that’s not my goal with this post. I merely want to share the happy news and some sweet pictures. Neve did wonderfully and was so proud of her accomplishment. So were this mama and her family❤

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What would a summer be without some fun times at the waterpark?! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Ms. Lori (who was Neve’s first preschool teacher and who has been keeping her in the summers ever since) is one of our absolute biggest blessings. Not only does she love Neve like her own, but she’s seriously one of the best, most nurturing, most creative women- and moms- I’ve ever met. Spending time with her and her two kids was 100% one of the highlights of Neve’s vacation.

And in that same thread, what would a summer be without boating and more boating?! Seriously y’all, I can’t even. Being on my boat on any body of water (I’m not picky) in the sweltering heat with the people I love and listening to some good music…There just isn’t any better for me.

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My other happy place? Duh. The beach. I am a Lowcountry girl through and through- and I’m raising one, too! You’ll remember from the last post that we’d done Sullivan’s Island right after we got to town. Well, we got to round it all out over these last couple weeks…First up, Isle of Palms. John’s Uncle Mark, Aunt Kathi and cousin, Lauren, came all the way from Lexington, KY, just to visit with us and invited us to crash with them at Wild Dunes for a couple days. They stay there often when they visit and I’m always amazed at what a cool resort we have right there in our city. It’s everything you want in a beach vacation- crystal clear pools, tiki bars, umbrella drinks, live steel drum bands playing all day long, lots of people, the air full of the sweet smell of sunscreen and five short steps down onto the sand. Yep, it’s definitely the good life and we certainly realize how fortunate we are to have such awesome folks we get to call family.❤

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Poppy got this kite for Neve when she took an interest in big kites after watching some YouTube videos. This one was so cool. But the wind was too strong, the cords snapped and it flew away never to be found again.:/

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And then there’s Folly, another of my absolute favorite islands on the planet. There’s just something about its vibe…its realness. It holds a very special place in my heart. I’ll just leave it at that.

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And then there were more of just those regular, everyday moments that all too often pass by unnoticed. Those ones I was telling you about before that feed your soul…that tide you over until you get your next fix.❤

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Mornings at the pool with Poppy…And then Mommy’s bestie happens to see their truck in the parking lot and pops in for a quick catch up🙂

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Summertime in Charleston = Humidity Ringlets and Blonde Highlights, just like mama😉

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Lazy Sundays❤

And that concludes what feels like a whirlwind trip to the South Carolina Lowcountry. I knew our time at home would fly by, but I had no idea just how quickly…Nor just how sad I would be for it to come to an end. Just keeping it real here, but coming back to Germany has proven to be the biggest bag of mixed emotions for me…so bittersweet. Of course I’m elated to reunite with John and our pups (Neve even warned me as we were getting off the plane this morning that ‘tears will be rolling down [her] cheeks long before [she] even sees Daddy’- and they were! It was precious.) and to catch up with our dear friends here whom we’ve missed so much (our neighbors even welcomed their second baby just a few days ago!), but there’s a huge part of me that’s very much still in Charleston- still in the house I’ve called home for decades, still running errands with my mom, still soaking up the sun and the sand and the water, still taking advantage of having Netflix available, still stopping by my dad’s latest construction project just to say hello, still playing Team Trivia at a local bar with my best friend on Tuesday nights…Right now, being back in Germany and away from home is hard. I’m sad and relieved and excited all in one. But I’m doing my best to follow my own advice- advice that I believe in so fully that I had it tattooed onto my arm just a few short weeks ago. I feel a bit off right now, until I don’t. It’s a sad time right now in some ways, until it’s not. Sometimes being pulled backward is only to ensure our greatest projection forward. Our minds are the atmosphere and our feelings are just the weather, ever-changing and constantly flowing. That in itself makes me smile. Until next time, Charleston…

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Home Sweet Home…

4 Jul

…and it feels SO good. Y’all, I can’t even tell you how awesome it is to be here in Charleston. Of course, I’m sure you could’ve guessed I’d be having this kind of reaction- either because A) you know me even a little bit😉 or B) the fact that I haven’t had a chance to chat with you guys in two weeks, which is always a good sign that time has been limited! Speaking of which, don’t even get me started on how quickly time is flying. Two weeks already?! Sheesh.

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I want to start with the most wonderful BBQ my parents threw for us last weekend. Something like 75 of our closest friends and family showed up to spend their afternoon- and some even well into the evening!- with us in the backyard. Burgers, hotdogs and all the fixins’…Sweet tea brewing, sunshine shining (fans blowing ;))…Kids in the pool…Grown-ups playing Cornhole in the shade…Neve and I couldn’t have asked for a better party, a better afternoon. And we couldn’t have been more perfectly reminded of how great the people we surround ourselves with truly are. Thank you so much to everyone who came to hang out!

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Just in case any of you need to put a face with a name you’ve heard about many a time on here, this is my best friend, Sam❤

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Probably my favorite shot of the day…My dad and his cousin, Billy, having some fun with the potato gun!

In addition to running ourselves ragged the entire first week- getting in all of our doctors and dentists appointments- we’ve managed to pack in as much summertime and friends as we possibly can these first two weeks…

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My dad’s cousin, Billy, recently hiked the entire Appalachian Trail over an 8 month period. Yeah, WOW. (Check out his cool blog if you’re interested- MyATGuide.com) He’ll next be hiking El Camino (Portugal/Spain/France) starting in mid-August. My dad is going to be joining him for the first 2 legs of that one🙂

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Possibly one of my new favorite pictures of my girl. And she’s rocking my old shorts from 1985ish.

Neve has loved having playdates at her cousin, Norah’s, house…They even had their very first sleepover this weekend!

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She’s also been loving her time with Ms. Lori and her (not-so-) littles, just like she has the last few summers. I still don’t know how we got so lucky to have them in our lives.❤

John’s family came from Kentucky to visit a bit while we’re here. Always a treat to spend time with them- I know Neve sure loves having them around. And we were able to get in some downtown time on multiple days, so it was beyond win-win in my book! Ha!

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One thing I absolutely miss the most living in Germany…Backyard summertime dinners with family❤

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One extra cool thing that’s happened? I added to my personal art collection and took my bestie along for the afternoon, as if we needed anymore bonding time! Heehee. Her first time in a studio, so it was extra fun😉

And last but not least, my goal for this past week- after all the running around like a headless chicken of last week!- was to touch water, ie. my favorite thing about this city. And I’m proud to say that I did, not once but twice! First up, y’all know we’re a boating family. Very few things in life make me more content than being on my boat- oh, how I’ve missed my boat! Doesn’t matter where we go- the lake, the river, the harbor…All it takes is good people, good music and the sun shining and I’m a happy girl. And you can see from the pictures that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Seeing her truly LOVING something that I’ve loved since I was her age is just so freakin’ awesome. Every summer she loves it more and more.

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When your elastic breaks 30 minutes into the day and there’s not another one around for 100 miles! (*Note: If you don’t know what this is taking the place of the elastic, you aren’t redneck enough to appreciate this creativity!😉 )

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My kid❤ When you give the day absolutely everything you’ve got and just can’t quite make it back to the landing. 

And finally, Sullivan’s Island. It’s by far my favorite beach, mainly because the tourists haven’t really found it yet and you can still go there without feeling crowded in the least. As I sat there watching the sunset, I couldn’t help but think of this…It doesn’t how matter how many beautiful cities we visit or how many beaches we play on, nothing- and I mean NOTHING- do I find as stunningly beautiful and breathtaking as a Lowcountry beach. The marsh leading out to it, the rolling dunes, the soft sand, the shells, the baby waves, the ghost crabs digging their holes, the wide openness of the shore, the salty pluff muddy smell…Even the brownish green water. Again I’m reminded of just how fortunate we are to call this great city HOME. Note: I may or may not have gotten teary first setting foot on the beach- and that says alot because y’all know I’m not usually a happy crier! Ha! Another Note: I may or may not have done that multiple times over these last two weeks!

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Wow, that was alot of pictures, right?! There’s just so much I’ve been wanting to share with you guys (obviously😉 ) and what better time to sit down and do it than our halfway mark! In so many ways, that sounds so crazy because I feel like we just got here and there’s so much left for us to do and people to see and fun to have. But in other ways, I feel like we’ve been gone from Germany- from John, from our pups, from our friends, from our routines- for quite a long time. And we’re really missing all of them. Thank Heavens for modern technology that’s helping to bridge the gap!

In the meantime though, we’re just going to soak up every ounce of goodness that being home has to offer because we know good and well that it’ll be time to go home in a flash. Being here with my parents, in my childhood home, a block from my grandmother, surrounded by so much familiarity and comfort, having slow mornings in our jammies and getting to say goodnight before heading up the stairs to bed, eating dinner together at the kitchen table…THIS is where the good stuff happens, where the real moments are made. THIS is what feeds our souls and calms our seas. THIS is a gift we’ve been given and what really matters. THIS, afterall, is everything.

Hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th!

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