Happy (Just About) Summer!

25 May

Greetings, all! Fancy seeing you here- it’s been a while! Let me start by saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has made the move with me over to Treats, Travels And Truths– there’s absolutely no other place I’d rather start the journey than with you guys who have been following our shenanigans for all this time right here.The new site is coming along so nicely- growth is slow, but steady, and I’m learning more every day about the ins and outs of blogging on a larger scale. Most importantly, I’m having a really good time with it and that’s really all that matters, right? Please, please, please continue to help me spread the word and get the site out there- sharing it on Facebook or Instagram, sending the link to friends in emails or just telling them about it. I SO appreciate it. And you. ❤

So I just wanted to share some pictures from our last month or so. We’ve been really busy- and in a really good way for the most part! Y’all know we’ve had some visitors- my mom came for my birthday at the beginning of April and then John’s sister, brother and his family came a few weeks ago when we all headed to Greece (phenomenal vacay, btw). Other than that, we’ve been kinda all over the place- waiting for spring to arrive and taking advantage of days when it teases us (see the snow pictures below that were taken mid-April!), getting Neve registered for Kindergarten, Fruhlingsfest (the largest spring festival in the world!), rock climbing (Neve is in LOVE), celebrating Mother’s Day…Have a look!

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She’s really taken an interest in drawing- and is pretty darn good!

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Anybody else think these are the best kinds of lunch EVER?!

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Bedtime Stories ❤

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Fruhlingsfest

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Chocolate-covered fruit on sticks…

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What better last weekend in Germany than homemade pizza from scratch?!

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Morning waves from school ❤

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Mother’s Day Breakfast at Kindi…

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Found a huge rock climbing gym less than 20 minutes from the house! Neve has really started showing an interest and is really good at it!

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What do you do when you’re out walking the pups on Sunday afternoon, but a storm is rolling in? Find the nearest biergarten and wait it out 🙂

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All doing our best impressions of the ‘Ears Up’ pose 😉

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Waiting out the storm at the biergarten, overlooking Stuttgart…

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Good Lord. He is mine. ❤

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Just finished with Kindergarten Orientation on base. Safe to say that all three of us like the school, the teachers…and the playground! September can’t get here soon enough for this kid!

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We make Countdown Chains for so many things. This one marks when Daddy gets home this Saturday (the link with the stars) and when Uncle Andy arrives (the link with the smiley faces). This is the first chain that Neve made entirely by herself 😦

I told you we’ve been pretty dang busy! Lots of fun, though, and some pretty exciting stuff (how do we have a Kindergartner?!). And I’m happy to report that the weather is *finally* cooperating for the most part- we’re at least reaching 70/75F most days! Ha! I swear summer can’t get here soon enough! Speaking of which, our next adventure begins in just 5 days! We’re headed for the Canary Islands next week to do (hopefully) a whole lotta nothing- sun, sand, waves, drinks with umbrellas…Ha! This family needs some summatime, dammit! My little bit of planning is officially done (see selfie below where I reconfirm that I’m a nerd and must write down everything!), John gets home Saturday (he’s been in the States for work since last weekend), and Uncle Andy gets here Monday (he’s needing some Canary Islands in his life, too!) Life is good, friends. Happy Memorial Day weekend!

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Thomas Family Greek Vacation

8 May

Hello, y’all! First of all, thanks to all of you who have made the switch with me over to Treats, Travels and Truths! It’s so exciting for me to really get things rolling over there. But like I said, I want to keep this space as somewhere to continue sharing our personal pictures- the stuff that we want to share with our family and friends. And that’s just what I’m doing today. John’s brother, sister-in-law, niece and sister have all been here for the past couple of weeks and we decided to use a week of their visit to take on our latest adventure, Greece! What a wonderful place and what a fun, fun time we had exploring its capital, Athens, as well as two of its islands, Mykonos and Santorini. Over the next week or so, I’ll have several posts up on TT&T all about each of these spots and how we spent our time there so please be sure to stop by there to read up if you’re interested. But in the meantime, here’s our adventure as described by pretty pictures ❤

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First up, Athens…

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Library…

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Top of the Acropolis

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Erechtheion Temple- next to the Parthenon and smaller, but much better preserved…

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The Parthenon

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Temple Erechtheion- right next to the Parthenon and much smaller, but much better preserved…

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Parthenon on the left, Erechtheion on the right…

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View of the south from the Acropolis

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Erechtheion

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The original theatre where Plato and Socrates both spoke…

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Mt. Lycabettus

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Legend has it that Poseidon (brother of Zeus) and Athena (daughter of Zeus) were fighting over the city when Athena cast her spear down and where it sparked, an olive tree grew. As a result, she won the city (thus its name) and Poseidon was given a smaller village nearby…This is the original olive tree from Athena’s spear…

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A girl and her espresso…

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When in Greece, eat….pasta! Ha!

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GYROS!

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On to Mykonos…

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First morning on our balcony…

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The walk to lunch…

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Chocolate faces!

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When you’re not sure if you’re on a road or someone’s (poorly maintained) driveway! Ha! *It’s a road!*

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Mom, see the fava beans?

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Siblings ❤

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Mykonos Town

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(Neve’s first crush…On our waiter…Raphael…Who played along beautifully…In case any of us were wondering how she’d react her first time ‘in love’ and planning to ‘marry him…’ ❤ ❤ <3)

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And finally, to Santorini…

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Taken from our balcony…These blue domes are some of the most photographed items in the world…

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From our balcony…

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Our front door…

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Grape Vineyards…They have to keep them cut very short or they can’t withstand the high winds…Wine is a staple industry on Santorini…

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Castle Ruins…

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Black Sand Beach…About 5 min before she was naked and in the water!

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Downtown Fira…

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Red Sand Beach…

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Only brewery in the Greek Isles, on Santorini…

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I really can’t say enough good things about our time in Greece. Athens was terrific, the islands were terrific, the sunshine and the (mostly) warm temperatures were terrific, the food was terrific, the people were (mostly) terrific…Time most definitely flies when you’re having fun! Can’t wait to share more over on TreatsTravelsandTruths.com!

Thanks for following along!

Erin’s New Venture

21 Apr

Hello and Happy Friday! I don’t know about you guys, but this girl is ready for the weekend! Seriously- between my mom heading home, two straight days of (super wet and messy) snow, and a zillion things to get done mixed in there, a laid back, lowkey couple of days with just my man and my little sound just about perfect. Other than a date night tonight (Neve’s gymnastics program is having a Kids Night Out), we’ve got nothing on the books and I can’t wait.

So you may have realized that yesterday’s post was a bit different than most in that it talked about our visit to a Bucket List castle that we’ve been waiting for ages to see, but didn’t have many pictures and none of the story (y’all know I’m all about the story!) Well, that was by design. There actually ARE lots of pictures and there IS alot of story to share, but they’re over on my new little corner of the Internet: Treats, Travels & Truths. That’s right, I’ve finally made the decision to take my blogging to the next level- to really make use of our current situation living overseas, of our years of travel, of our current adventures, of my passion for food and cooking and baking, of my personal trainer certification, of my Southern roots, and most importantly, my unwavering penchant for keeping things real.

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Now, I realize that some of your are like me and you follow various blogs, so you know how it works. I follow lots of different kinds of blogs- some for healthy recipes, some for baking, some for travel, some for fitness and workouts, some for fashion, some for self-care, and even a few for things like writing and photography. It’s where I get ideas about what to cook for dinner, where to stay when we travel, how to get a certain effect in a picture, etc. But I also realize that some of you aren’t as familiar with the blogging world, so I’ll do a quick 101 just so we’re on the same page. (And honestly, I’m still very much in the learning phase myself, so if any of my fellow blog friends are interested in sharing your tips and secrets, PLEASE! Ha!) Blogs are not only wonderful ways to connect with likeminded folks, but they’re excellent research tools. There’s a blog (or a thousand of ’em) for everything! For example, if you ever look something up on Google, say ‘pimiento cheese recipe,’ most of the results that will pop up are, indeed, blogs. Or ‘what to do in NYC’ or ‘lower body workouts.’ Yep, alot of what you’ll see are blogs, much like this one, just on a larger scale. They are just regular folks who have taken their passions and put them to work, just like I’m doing now.

Blogs earn money various ways- through ads, through sponsorships, through guest posts…The growth of a blog is directly related to its number of followers- the more followers it gets, both through blog subscribers and on social media (like Instagram and Facebook), the more attractive the site becomes to potential advertisers and sponsors. Ultimately, the largest, most successful bloggers can end up with huge corporate partnerships, publishing deals, etc.

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But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Yes, y’all know that I’m a dreamer and that I’m an entrepreneur at heart so all of those things sound wonderful to me and are definitely on my radar for longterm goals, but for right now? I’m just excited that two years’ worth of ideas swirling around in this head are finally coming to fruition. And to finally be focussing my passions into something, and in a way, that I genuinely think is needed in the blogging world.  My goal is talk about my two biggest passions- travel and food (and a tiny bit of fitness thrown in here and there)- in a way that most ‘regular’ people can relate to. Some travels will be all out Bucket List adventure while others will be a budget overnight trip. Some food will be healthy and quick and perfect for weeknight dinners while some will be all out gluttonous. There’ll be talk about how good it feels to workout every single day, but then days (or weeks) when you just plain don’t feel like it. The goal here is to let people know that it’s not only OK to think both ways, to act both ways, to enjoy both ways. And that it’s normal. We’re ALL in the same boat of trying to find that balance in our lives. I’m creating a zone of no judgement, no stigmas, no harping on one thing or another. I’m calling things like I see them and inviting visitors to do the same!

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And just to answer a couple questions that you may have…This new venture was officially born about 3 months ago after years of just thinking about it. I spent the first month getting my thoughts- and business plan- in order, coming up with my business name, networking with folks, researching, etc. Eight weeks ago, I teamed up with a graphic designer to design my logo and to build my new website, then I got to work on the content itself (because who wants to launch a website with no posts?!). And here I am! The site went live just a few days ago and I absolutely couldn’t wait to share it with all of you!

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I haven’t exactly decided yet what I’m going to do with this space. For the next little bit, I’ll be posting here like usual and linking things over to Treats, Travels & Truths. Once things get rolling, I’ll likely keep this space to continue sharing our personal (non-public-blog) pictures, but make it private (subscribers only perhaps?). This site has been such a blessing to me for the last 8 years- can y’all believe we’ve been doing this that long already?! It started as a way to keep in touch with our family and friends during our first stint in Germany, then during my pregnancy and subsequent world travels. It’s been a way for us to share our adventures, to connect with loved ones far away, to make new friends…Heck, it’s even stood in as a therapist here and there! Ha! And along the way, we’ve grown to more than 800 followers (!), which makes me so excited to take it all to the next level!

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I think that’s about it! I’m in the process of figuring out *if* there’s a way for me to transfer all of my current subscribers here at Thomas Wanderings over to TT&T as that would make things the simplest for all of you. I *think* it’s possible, but I’m not sure. That being said, it’s SUPER easy for you to subscribe to the new site if you’d like to just go ahead and do it yourself. Just go to www.TreatsTravelsandTruths.com and on the homepage, you’ll see a teal ‘Join Me’ button right there in the header at the top of the page. Click it and enter your info. Then it’ll be just like it’s always been right here- when there’s a new post, you’ll get an email. Easy peasy! You’ll also see a few social media buttons, so if you’re on Instagram (treats_travels_and_truths), Facebook or LinkedIn (Erin Thomas), please follow along! And please, please, please help me spread the word! Feel free to share the site with any and everybody on your email blasts! 😉 Thank you all SO MUCH for all your support over the years, and for continuing to stick by me with this new venture. Means more than you know.

Oh, and back to yesterday’s post. Head on over to check out all the medieval awesomeness that’s Burg Eltz– I wouldn’t label it as our new favorite for nothing! Ha!

Happy Easter, Y’all!

20 Apr

OK, a few days after the fact, but I hope all of you had a lovely Easter! We sure did! For starters, my mom was in town- she surprised me a few weeks ago with a last minute decision to come for a quick visit that just so happened to include my birthday and Easter. Both weekends were terrific. For Easter, we finally made it Burg Eltz, John’s bucket list castle that Rick Steves had named as ‘Best in the World’ (we attempted to see it last fall, but it ended up closing for the season the week before our trip :/). It was well worth the wait and has most definitely become one of our favorites, too! Birthday Weekend was terrific, too- the first night we celebrated with a Grown-Ups-Only night out with our tribe (woohoo for 2 babysitters + 5 littles!), then spent Sunday doing what we love the most- cooking, baking, and just being together. Meant so much getting to share it with Mom.

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We made pizzas from scratch- the crust, the sauce, the toppings…DELISH!

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This is my absolute FAVORITE cake on the planet and I get it once a year, when my sweet husband- and now sweet daughter- make it for me on my birthday. It’s a take on the classic Tres Leches, but with fresh homemade whipped cream and Oreos. HOLY COW.

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Birthday Flowers (with a Boston Terrier photo bomb!)

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Driving to Burg Eltz

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Burg Eltz

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Driving to Burg Eltz

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Waterfront in Koblenz, Germany, where we stayed to visit Burg Eltz…

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Deutsches Ecke- the merging of the Mosel and Rhein Rivers in Koblenz, Germany…

Mom and I also did a little daytrip over to Burg Lichtenstein, which is another of our favorites. It’s small and quaint, yet so charming and regal the way it’s built right on top of a giant rock overlooking the foothills all around. How is it possible that this is Mom’s first castle?!

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Other than that, we’ve just been doing a whole bunch of normal. And it’s been awesome. It’s crazy how much of a boost the regular, day to day stuff gets just from having your mom around. We dyed Easter eggs, we met up with friends at the biergarten when the weather was pretty, we celebrated the Easter Bunny’s delivery (via a clever scavenger hunt set up while we were gone to Burg Eltz!)…Oh, and BIG NEWS! Neve learned to ride her bike all by herself, no training wheels! BURSTING. That’s the only way I can describe the love and the pride her Daddy and I- and Goddess, and Poppy from afar!- felt. ❤

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Stuttgart Postcard Heart on a random fence…

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Trying to get a picture and I keep saying, ‘Turn around, no the other way, no the other way…’

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The beautiful face of a big girl bike rider!!

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When you take your American- little-bit-European- new bike riding girl for ‘whatever she wants’ and she chooses strawberry ice cream and an espresso with extra milk ❤

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When you get to be there to open the care package you sent before you knew you were coming! Ha!

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Do you ever stand at your grill flipping burgers and get the feeling you’re being watched?

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Taped to the door when we got home from the castle on Easter Sunday…

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We really did have the loveliest of times with Goddess here visiting and saying goodbye to her earlier this week was difficult all around. But at least our hearts are full and our souls are happy. ❤ Funny thing is that Mother Nature must’ve known we were prepared for a crummy few days because she brought back the snow! In April! This is the third time it’s snowed on the day Mom is leaving. Maybe it’s a sign…Ha! As pretty as it was and as unexpected, I’m pleased to report that it seems to have passed again and the forecast is showing slow improvement throughout the weekend. This Southern family is ready for WARM!!!

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And that’s it for now! Lots of fun over these last couple weeks and even more to come as John’s brother, sister-in-law, niece and sister arrive on Wednesday for their annual visit- and this time, we’re headed to Greece! A first for all of us!

But in the meantime, remember that big news I teased you with a couple weeks ago? Well, the time has arrived to share it- finally! Stop back by tomorrow for the big reveal 🙂

Spring in Stuttgart

4 Apr

Hello again! I go from MIA for nearly a month to twice in a matter of days! Sheesh. I’m sorry about that. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve got something big in the pipeline- a project that’s been taking up a good bit of my time and that I’m really excited to share with all of you in the very near future. *And before some of you start jumping to (crazy) conclusions, nope, I’m definitely not pregnant, nor adding any living creature to the family 😉 But in all seriousness, it is a venture that I’m pretty damn pumped about and that I’m feeling so, so good about. I promise to share more in the coming weeks!

That being said, let’s consider this a photo dump post because we haven’t had one in a really long time! March was a really busy month around here- you already saw the Retro Classics Car Show and that we had Uncle Andy here to join us for the Bunkerhotel– but we also spent a heckuva lotta time welcoming spring, hanging out with friends, welcoming biergarten season back (hallelujah!), exploring new (to us) haunts in our city, etc.

So in completely random order, I present to you the, ‘Thomas Family Month in Pictures…’ (*warning: it’s alot, like alot alot. 😉 )

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New pants, vintage boots ❤

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The 70s called- they want their look back. Never.

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You know a carwash is the bomb.com when you have to take a picture.

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Thumbs up for new house shoes at school!

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One pup took the other pup’s treat. Can you guess which is which? Ha!

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Afterschool Tea Parties ❤

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When you’re still in a funk from yesterday, but you have to walk the city…1. Ear buds in so no one will talk to you – > No explaining that you don’t speak German. 2. Sunglasses on so no eye contact. 3. Ball cap on to erase any doubt that you’re American. Ha!

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(German) Breakfast of Champions

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Tulip Trees are my favorites ❤ (And Redbuds…)

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Sunrise from my side of the bed…

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Nothing better than homemade frozen yogurt pops after school!

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Slumber Parties ❤

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When you don’t know if it’s because you just got out of school for the day, or if it’s that it’s finally feeling like spring, or if it’s that the sun is out for the fourth (!) day in a row…You’re just…THANKFUL.

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Saturday morning farmers market ❤

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When you see one of these in your mailbox, it’s a great day. When you see 5…It’s like freakin’ Christmas! Bring on the packages!

Sunday afternoon at the Stuttgart Planetarium. Neve’s first such experience- she LOVED it.

Another Sunday afternoon at the local biergarten with friends…

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Pretty impressed with myself for creating this Stuttgart skyline…

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Beauty and the Beast in 3D ❤

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She loved this outfit she picked all by herself ❤

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Stuttgart Opera House

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New Palace

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Whew! I warned you it was alot! Ha! Thanks for sticking it out with me. I promise I’m going to try to do better this month. For now, I’m going to try to contain my excitement as my mom gets here in 36 hours!! Total last minute surprise trip just in time for my birthday this weekend (and Easter the following) and I simply can’t think of a better gift than having her here. In many ways, it’s been a very challenging season for my whole family (will elaborate on that in due time…), so having her here for just a couple weeks is a really good thing for me…and for her. Can. Not. Wait. ❤

Stuttgart Bunkerhotel

3 Apr

Greetings, y’all! And happy April! My goodness, March just got away from me I suppose as it’s been over three weeks so I posted! As always, that’s a good sign- just means that things have been hoppin’ and there’s been little time for my therapy, ie. writing on here to you guys 😉

Wanted to share with y’all something we’ve been waiting to do since we heard about when we first arrived and finally got around to doing last weekend. Once a year, every March, Stuttgart holds its ‘Long Night of the Museums,’ where ALL the city’s museums (more than 110 of ’em!) stay open until 2a. Visitors buy one ticket for regular price (about 18 euro) and can then get into any and all museums they choose. Quite a steal!

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Waiting in line isn’t near as bad with friends ❤

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The line is no joke! Entrance is over by the white and red ‘pyramids’ and we’re opposite…

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Nearing the entrance, looking back at the line where we started on the far side of the square…

Well, we’ve had our eye on one museum in particular- the old Bunkerhotel. This one is special in so many ways, but mainly because it’s open ONLY on this one night of the year- if you miss it, you’re out of luck until next year! Here, let me start by showing you a picture of the farmer’s market at Marktplatz that we happened to be walking through earlier that day…

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If you look closely at this shot and the one right above, you’ll see that I’m standing in nearly the same spot. Well, once the market clears out in the evenings, you’re left with Marktplatz, one of the biggest public squares in Stuttgart. The neatest part? Underneath the ground, running the entire length of the square, is an old WWII bunker. And not just a plain ‘ol bunker, but one that was then converted into a hotel for over 20 years! Here’s a look at yesteryear…

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The bunker was completed in June 1941 for 1010 persons, but sheltered up to 3000 people during the WWII air raids. As more and more peoples’ homes were destroyed, the number of bunker tenants rose. In 1945, a local Germany hotel company purchased the bunker with the purpose of converting it into a hotel, with 80 single and 10 double rooms. One night cost about $5. In addition to the sleeping facilities, there was also a restaurant and a conference room, which were equipped to host groups of 180 people. The visit of public figures led to national importance of the resort and it quickly became one of the “leading bunker hotels in Germany.”

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Heading down into the bunker…

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The Bunkerhotel operated from 1945-1985, using ventilation shafts instead of windows. By the late 1980s, new regulations meant that the hotel no longer met safety codes and that it would cost too much money to make that not the case, so it closed and sat empty until 1995 when someone had the idea to include it in the ‘Long Night of the Museums.’ Today, the hotel sits beneath the Marktplatz just as it did all those years ago- retro peeling wallpaper, antique rusting fixtures and all. Yes, it’s decaying and it’s moldy (you have to sign a waiver before you can enter!), but it’s just beautiful…

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Exploring a guest room…

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Original guest room…

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Bunker Door

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Heading back up…You go inside at one end of the square, out at the other…

We really thought it was a neat, neat experience- just feeling those bits and pieces of history, picturing it at three times its capacity during the terrifying air raids, imagining it in its splendor as a swanky, modern hotel…Definitely never done anything like it before. And it was even better that we got to share it with friends- our besties, the Horans, met us there, and then Uncle Andy and his colleague, Kevin, happened to be working in Rome for the few weeks prior and came up to spend a long weekend with us, so it really was win-win all around. And as if the bunker wasn’t happening enough, we finished the night at one of our favorite cafes for cake, coffee and maybe a little absinthe 😉

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So yeah, really good night all around. Our people are just…awesome. And once again, the Universe somehow knows how to provide just what we need, right when we need it. ❤

More March pics to come in the next day to two!

For the guys :)

12 Mar

Happy Sunday! Just a quick post to share with you guys a neat little adventure we did here in our town last weekend. Guys, this one’s mostly for you! The largest classic car exhibition in Europe (and one of the largest in the world) just so happens to take place here in Stuttgart and with nothing else going on, we decided, ‘why not?’ The Messe (technically ‘fair grounds’) consists of 8 (soon to be 10 as they’re in the process of building more) ginormous ‘halls,’ all connected with actual hallways, and all we filled to the max with the most beautiful, shiny, chromy cars (and parts and motorcycles and…) you’ve ever seen. And when I say ginormous, I’m not kidding. We’re talking over 3.1 MILLION square feet of car show. WOW.

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Model of Stuttgart’s Messe…

And it wasn’t just European cars or sports cars or fancy cars…Every make and model you can think of was represented. Some were for sale, some were just for lusting, er…looking…And yes, people were definitely buying! But most were like us, just there to oooh and ahhh.

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Yep, Tesla all the way down to Mazdas 😉

We were there for hours and still only made it through half of the halls! What a fun- and exhausting!- way to spend a Saturday. Even Neve had a great time with so much to explore. Just wish my Dad could’ve been here- he would’ve absolutely loved it. (And I’m pretty sure John would’ve enjoyed it even more doing it with a guy instead of his best girls! Ha!)

So for your viewing pleasure…Here you go!

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My favorite car of the entire show…

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Neve’s favorite…She called it the ‘Kid’s Car’ because it was so short and tiny 🙂

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My dream car in middle school…I remember there was a Bug so similar to this one for sale on the road we drove to and from gymnastics. I wanted it so badly! (Then I realized they didn’t come with air conditioning and in SC summers, that’s no bueno!)

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We got a kick out of this. Even huge Dodge Rams were represented. (If you EVER see one of those here in Germany, you can almost bet your month’s salary that it’s an American who shipped it here…and who doesn’t mind looking absurd. Ha!)

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Another of our favorites from the day. How cool is this?!

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By far the coolest paint job/finish we’ve ever seen. Oh my goodness, it was awesome.

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Hope everybody has a great week ahead! They’re predicting some sunshine and temps (slightly) above 50* for us, so we’re feeling pretty good!

February Wrap-Up

6 Mar

Happy March, y’all! Did last month seem to absolutely fly by to anyone else? Just me? Jeez. I’m not even kidding when I say that I have no idea where the time has gone since we got back from the holidays in South Carolina…I suppose that’s a good thing 🙂

I realized this morning that it’s been ages since I did a good ‘ol photo dump post- just a whole lotta mismatched pictures of what’s been going on in our ‘normal’ lives here in Stuttgart. Contrary to what some might think, especially based on social media and even this blog at times, the majority of our life is pretty darn ‘normal’ and often uneventful!

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Not even enough squares in this grid to fit in all of our Valentine’s Days together- this year marked 14 ❤

Lots of fun little things going on in February…Obviously, Valentine’s Day, but also just time spent with friends, time spent enjoying our city, bowling alley birthday parties, some really good food here and there, and of course, Fasching (Germany’s version of Carnival- you can read all about it in my post from last year HERE). So here we go…

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What a perfect Welcome Committee!

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Night out with friends at one of our favorite little Greek spots…

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With one of her besties, Amalie, at school. We’re all missing the Fobanjong family as they’re visiting the States right now and staying for 6+ weeks 😦 

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21 miles in before the sun even comes up 🙂

We had the loveliest of Valentine’s Day weekends. We kicked it off with a date night to a new Japanese BBQ restaurant which turned out to be fabulous. Very similar to fondue restaurants at home where you order your meats and veggies raw, then cook them at your table, only here you have a grill built in to your table rather than a burner for a pot of oil. Finished off the night with a nightcap- and dessert!- at our favorite cafe, Planie. A neat thing to point out, too. I know I’ve done posts before on how different European desserts are than their American counterparts- mainly, they are WAY less sweet and tend to do more with doughs rather than batters. Well, I’m happy to say that our entire family now loves German desserts and will often choose them over an American version! (For me, I’d take a German Kasekuchen over a NY style Cheesecake any day!) Just goes to show that it’s all about how you train your palate, I suppose 😉

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Valentine’s Celebration, Take 2, the next night at home with Neve. I tried my hand at Chocolate Lava Cakes (based on Roy’s famous ones in Hawaii), fresh raspberry coulis and homemade vanilla bean ice cream, creme bruleed on top. TO. DIE. FOR.

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Sunday Morning Blueberry Streusel Pancakes ❤

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First time at the bowling alley on base. Super nice!

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Perfect spot for a birthday party! This was for Neve’s friend, Estelle, who started with us in the German Immersion program on base when we first arrived. Coincidentally, they’re from Charleston, too, so we’ll be friends for the long haul, too!

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With the Birthday Girl. Estelle also turned 5.

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We had alot of fun with Fasching this year. Each kindi chooses a theme each year- it can range from forest creatures to under the sea to medieval times. Neve’s kindi chose ‘Fairytales’ and spent the whole month leading up to the celebrations reading a different German fable each day. She had a blast. Then they gave them several days to dress up however they’d like, to culminate with the big end-of-the-season parade in downtown Stuttgart, which happened to pass right by our house :).

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Day 1- Full on glamorous princess.

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Day 2- Rapunzel, with Elsa (Lucy)…

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Her teachers have some mad skills, right?!

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Day 3- ‘You can only be a princess for so long. I need my cape.’

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❤ ❤ ❤

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Proof that the sun DOES indeed come out every now and then! And shine so bright you have to squint! Ha!

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Neve wanted to stop at a cafe for dessert one night after dinner. She immediately zeroed in on this cake in the display cabinet. It’s 4 layers- chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate fudge and chocolate brownie- all coated in a thin layer of mazipan and a thin layer of chocolate ganache. She devoured the entire slice on her own. I’m not even kidding.

I hope everyone’s March is off to a great start. We’re so ready for spring we can’t hardly stand it! We’re getting a day here and there of warmer (upper 50s), sunny weather, but for the most part, we’re still chilly and dreary. Yuck. Send some of that good juju, please! 😉

Hei again from Norway! (Part 3)

24 Feb

I can’t believe that this time last week we had already taken three flights, been in three different countries and were sitting peacefully in a little cafe having our first homecooked Norwegian meal watching the snow fall outside the window. Not gonna lie, kinda wishing we were back there right about now! Coming home from vacation is always the hardest, amiright?

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So, we saved what turned out to be our best adventure until our last full day in Norway. We knew spending the day dogsledding would be alot of fun- and a definite winner in Neve’s book- but we had no idea just how amazing it would be. Oh. My. Word. Hands down, one of the best true adventures we’ve ever done- and one that we’re still talking about daily. When we were first doing our research, we were so torn as to which ‘tour’ we wanted to do in addition to the Northern Lights. There are so many options- whale watching, fishing, snow mobiling, snow shoeing, hiking…And even after you make the decision, then you’ve got even more options- large company, private guide, full day, half day, evening…We ultimately chose an afternoon of dog sledding with a small company- a husband-wife team who live way out in the wilderness (a little over an hour drive from our hotel) on a neighboring island. They love Alaskan Huskies, own 30 of them, and like to share their passion with visitors. No puppy mill, no looking to become millionaires, no breeding for Iditarod racing…Just going to their house (the business is on the ground floor, they live above) for an afternoon of fun and adventure. It was the perfect fit for us.

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We arrived just before lunchtime and spent the first little while with the wife- learning all about the sleds, the dogs, how to ‘drive,’ what to do when you’re falling over and going to bust…Ha! Next, we set off down the road another mile or so where we met up with the husband, the ‘musher’ of the operation. He had all the pups harnessed and ready to go with each of our sleds. He’d also just gotten back from a run up the mountain on the snow mobile because it was snowing so hard that day that it was impossible to see any of the paths we’d be taking!

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All ready to go!

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And with that, the eight of us and our dog teams loaded up in our respective sleds and started up the mountain behind Thomas (the husband). John started out as the musher, so Neve and I rode shotgun in the sled ❤

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I actually took this picture on accident not realizing I had my camera flipped around, but it turned out to be one of my favorites. We were whizzing down a hill at this moment and John was out of breath from running and pushing us all the way to the top, but then he saw the view (that I thought I was taking a picture of!) and I caught that moment right here. ❤

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One thing folks don’t realize, or at least we didn’t, is just how much physicality is involved with dog sledding. You are NOT just riding on a sled behind a team of dogs. You are WORKING. You’re controlling their path, you’re strategically using the brake to control speed and direction, you’re hoping from one side to the other of the sled to counter balance curves and turns, and most of all, you’re hopping off and running/pushing the sled to help your team make it up any hill whatsoever. Within 10 minutes of starting, you are sweating and out of breath! That’s one of the main reasons we chose this company- we wanted to actually do the sledding rather than just riding in someone else’s sled! All just part of the adventure!

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And we thought our views from our scenic drive were awesome…The views here were INCREDIBLE. Wide open icy tundra as far as you can see, snow covered jagged mountains all around, dense forests lining your path, racing rivers carving their ways through the Earth…And here’s the thing. Yes, it was some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve ever seen, but it was more than that. It was that feeling again- that feeling of being part of something so much greater, of realizing just how much is out there that you’ve never seen and never experienced, of how truly grand this Earth really is…Here we were, alone, in this vast, majestic wilderness. No sounds, no buildings, no cars, no other people…Just us. For miles and miles and miles. For hours. It was truly moving…and humbling.

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Halfway through, we switched ‘drivers’ (and got a nice serenade from our pups! Ha!) and I’ve got to say that it was one of the most exhilarating experiences for me. The freedom and the power and even the bit of nervousness that inevitably comes when you’re learning something new…Oh goodness…Yes. Please.

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Amazingly, the sun came out for a few minutes just as we got back, which was nice so we could take a minute and play with the pups. What a sweet group of dogs, and so gentle and kind. And just in case any of you have the same questions that I had…Their pups ranged from 2 years to 12 years, which is the average span of a sled dog’s career. Girls and boys on all teams, lots of brothers and sisters in this group. Girls tend to make better leaders and are therefore, usually at the front. The strongest are generally at the back, leaving the middle spots for newbies and slower dogs. All of them get along well and live together, but the same teams run together at all times (ie. each 6some is set so they each learn their specific roles).

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We even got to meet the next generation before we left! Three pups born just 12 days prior- they had just opened their eyes the night before! What icing on the cake, especially for our girl. There’s nothing better than puppies, is there? They will start training in the summer (sleds with wheels) and should be able to do some short runs by next winter.

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The next generation meeting the next generation ❤

What a perfect afternoon we had- more fun than any of had even hoped for. The perfect Arctic adventure for our last day in Norway. We were famished by the time we got back, so a nice warm meal was first on our agenda- after marveling at how especially pretty the harbor was that night. We found this great little tapas place and just got lots of small plates- smoked reindeer, tacos, mussels, salmon, cheese plates…Have I mentioned I wish were back there right about now?! 😉

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But by the next morning, another blizzard had blown in and we woke up to…

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Saying goodbye to our hotel’s ‘dead polar bear…’ Lord.

It took some doing to actually get to the airport- lots of delays with both traffic and planes!- but ultimately, we made it. We can now say that we know what it’s like to have a truck come to de-ice the plane last thing before takeoff (they have a boom that hovers above and sprays a viscous liquid all over the place!) AND what it feels like to take off in three feet of snow! Ha! Neve also made the most of the airport by becoming best friends with a little girl named Eleanor. No, they didn’t speak the same language, but you sure wouldn’t have known it! I swear my kid has never met a stranger ❤