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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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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! 😉

Neve’s 5th Birthday Princess Party!

8 Feb

Guys, I’m so sorry for my delay with this one! I actually had it written weeks ago, but we were having a little (ok, a big) snafu with our pictures, so I had to sit on it for a while until we could get things back in working order. Then I forgot to post it! Sheesh. Sorry about that, especially since so many of you reached out for Neve’s special day.

Before I get to the party, I just want reiterate how quickly time is passing. It’s exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. Neve is becoming such a neat little girl. She’s feisty and full of life, she’s spirited and has a laugh that’s guaranteed to make you join in, she’s headstrong and stubborn, yet she can be the most gentle, sensitive little lady. She loves candy and chocolate more than I ever knew someone could. She thrives on routines, habits and traditions. She’s funny, she’s stylish and she loves to dress herself. She knows what she wants and she goes after it without hesitation- she’s fearless and fierce. And so loved. And just an overall awesome kid. Can’t wait to see what this year brings!

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Neve told me back over the summer that she wanted a ‘Princess Party.’ And all these months later, she stuck to her guns! Her only requests were ‘pink, purple and all friends dressed as princesses.’ What baby wants, baby gets! Ha!img_3003

Per our usual style, we kept things pretty simple and fairly small. Those really are the best kinds of parties, don’t you think? I don’t know, but I always love a good birthday party thrown at home so you can focus on the actual celebration and the people and the fellowship. Although that’s not to say that it’s sure not easier going out to celebrate and leaving the cooking and decorating- and clean up!- to somebody else! 😉 Nah, I still wouldn’t change a thing ❤

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The party was a great success and our girl sure felt celebrated and loved. All the little princesses were just precious and they all seemed to have a blast, especially playing Pin the Kiss on the Frog and Princess Bingo! Best of all, we have such a great group of friends here- all of us navigating this expatriate life the best we can. It really does take a village.

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Taryn and Neve were in school together on base when we first arrived and now they do gymnastics together. Taryn is a year older.

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Present Time!

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Neve actually won this game, no peaking!

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These three all arrived in Stuttgart about the same time and started the schoolyear together in the German Immersion program on base. Coincidentally, Estelle is from Charleston, too, and will be returning there about the same time we do! Small world!

Now y’all know how much I love to bake. And birthdays are my favorite because that means full-on fancy, decorated cake (it should be noted that cake is my absolute favorite sweet treat on the entire planet) made special for that one person to celebrate her big day. I would opt for homemade over store bought any day of the week, hands down. Here’s the thing- I’m a pretty decent baker and I’d even be willing to put some money down on the deliciousness of some of my specialties- but a decorator I AM NOT. Like, really not. Decorating is always the most challenging part for me- the most unnerving and, at times, exasperating- and I spend hours reading articles and watching ‘how to’ videos just in the hope of getting it even remotely close! But I try my damnedest. No matter what I end up with, though, I hope the real message everyone gets is that it was made with love and that I tried my best- and that at least it (hopefully) tastes good, so there’s that! Ha!

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As soon as Neve mentioned having a Princess Party, I remembered a cake I’d seen on one of the blogs I follow and immediately got to work researching how to create it for my girl. As always, it was important to me for the cake and icing to homemade from scratch. That was first and foremost. Then I wanted the inside to be as pretty as the outside would (hopefully) be, so I knew I wanted the pink and purple request to be reflected throughout. And finally, I had to somehow figure out how to put it all together and ice it to look like a ballgown! *crickets* Most definitely a labor of love. And most definitely one of the most fun, rewarding cakes I’ve ever made. No, it wasn’t perfect and no, it wasn’t exactly as I’d pictured it in my head (seriously, how many things are?!), but it was lovely, it was delicious and Neve’s eyes just sparkled when she saw it. *Happy Mama*

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My attempt at the ‘ombre’ cake trend, going from light to dark. The cake was my own recipe of Classic White with my traditional vanilla bean buttercream ❤

I think it’s safe to say that our girl sure felt like a princess that day. She even threw her arms around my neck that evening and said, ‘Thanks, mama, for the best party ever.’ My heart melted. It’s the little things ❤

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And as if two birthday celebrations- one at Chuck E. Cheese in Charleston and one with a house full of princesses- weren’t enough, we had to do one last one to round out the week- this time at school. 🙂 A neat little note: birthdays are the only time that sugar is allowed in the kindi, so the kids take it very seriously when they’re choosing what type of treat to bring in to share with their friends. Months in advance, Neve told me EXACTLY what she wanted: a sheet cake ‘that you cut with a knife into big squares,’ strawberry pink inside ‘with ground up strawberries actually in it,’ white icing, Oreos ‘somewhere on it’, and ‘strawberries cut in half all over the top.’ You got it, dude. ❤

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She came home from school that day and told me that her’s was the best cake ever and that every single friend ate his entire piece. ‘The pan was really, really empty after the party.’ ❤

It’s beginning to feel alot like…

9 Dec

…Christmas! Amiright?! I have been waiting for this day for weeks now- when I can finally say that ‘this time NEXT week…’ we’ll be on a plane over the Atlantic headed for HOME! Oh Lord, I just don’t have any words. I was telling my mom last night on the phone how my whole perspective has changed this year. Well, that’s true on so many levels, but in this instance, I was talking about the whole coming home, being home for the holidays, surrounding yourself with those who make your world complete…Being away from home- so far away and immersed in a completely different culture- really brings alot of focus to what matters most. Especially this time of year. It sure is going to feel like one big, weeks-long bear hug. All three of us are counting on it ❤

So in honor of this one week countdown, I just wanted to share some of our holiday pics so far. We’ve really been having alot of fun with the season this year- Neve is the absolute PERFECT age right now for all things Christmas and we LOVE it. And this year, she’s getting to celebrate the season in a whole new way, too- with German traditions at kindergarten, so we’re learning things right along with her!

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Christmas carols and hot tea and twinkly lights to end the day…

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John knows me so well. When he ‘brings me flowers,’ he almost always goes for the most creative, funkiest arrangement he can find. And they’re always our perfect centerpiece.

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The Advent Calendar is always one of her favorite parts of December!

Even with bare trees and temps in the 30s, we have still managed to have some amazing sunsets. Neve and I have actually started to really love our rides home from gymnastics because we get to see some of the most beautiful natural paintings. This week, we made a game out of counting as many colors as we could in this sunset ❤

If any of you have ever been to Germany this time of year, then you know how awesome they do Christmas. Seriously. I’ve never been a place that goes as all out for the season as here. It’s amazing. The stores, the streets, the famous markets…Everywhere you turn is Christmas. And on a grand scale, with all different styles. Trees, lights, music, warm drinks, fresh baked goods…Definitely our kind of place 😉

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Our shopping mall below our house…

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Modern take on visiting Santa…

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At my favorite shopping mall, Breunigerland.

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And speaking of Christmas markets, we finally made it out to one of the most well-known all around, the Medieval Esslingen Market. Can’t believe it took us this long to get to it as it’s only about 30 minutes away at most. The town itself is so cute, but the market was downright awesome. And huge. What sets this market apart from the rest is that, in addition to the regular stuff, a huge part of it is a time warp back to the middle ages. The huts are primitive, the vendors and many of the people walking the streets are dressed in animal hides or rags, the wares they’re selling are handmade in medieval style and they’re preparing delicious, simple foods over open flames and clay ovens. It was TERRIFIC.

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You can see the mean physically turning the medieval Ferris wheel! So neat.

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Looks can be deceiving. This was plain sweet bread wrapped around a stick. And it was the most delicious thing ever. Yeasty, doughy, warm, chewy…Jeez.

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This past week, we crossed off two super important items from our list- family flu shots and pictures with Santa! Woohoo!

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Thumbs up for keeping flu bugs away! 😉

In addition to finding our new favorite Christmas market ever (I’m really not kidding), the other highlight was probably our baking day. My mom and I bake homemade goodies for friends and family every single year- we have since I was in at least highschool, maybe earlier than that. It’s one of my absolute favorite Christmas traditions. Getting our list together, spending entirely too much time deciding on what we’re going to bake this year, buying all the groceries, destroying the kitchen for an entire day while listening to Christmas music and sampling as we go, packaging the fruits of our labor and hand tagging each and every one…I adore all of it. Well, this was our first year not doing it together (yep, we even got to do it last year here in Germany because they were here with us!) and I knew it would be a tough time. Long story short- once again, my husband needs a gold star. He really, really, really stepped up and made the whole day so beyond special. Like, I could get teary just typing about it! Not even just the day itself, but weeks before when we sat down to make our list and to go through recipes to decide what we’d bake. He- and Neve- both went all out and it made for the most perfect family day. Y’all, we baked for 7 hours straight- neither of us sat down the entire time, not even once. When something was in the oven, we were prepping something else…or cooling or packaging or sampling ;). For me, there’s just something about sharing homemade goodies with your nearest and dearest that really captures the spirit of the season. Oh, and for anyone curious- we did my famous Cookie Butter Iced Brownies, Shortbread Funfetti Bites and Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark ❤

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And of course, Mr. Clark Pricklepants has been having way too much fun while we’re asleep. Neve just loves hunting for him- and laughing at his antics- each and every morning ❤

And now I’ll leave you with one of my newest favorite pictures. It was taken last night after a wonderful early Christmas celebration with our tribe. We went to one of our favorite restaurants, took up their entire back room, ate, drank and were the merriest of merry. It was perfect and effortless. And this picture just captures it so perfectly. ❤

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Fall or Winter?!

8 Nov

I ask that question because here we are in Stuttgart, November 8, and there are snow flurries! Seriously?! I’m so not ready for this. Especially not when it’s just cold enough to hurt your skin and make it impossible to ever get really warm, but not quite cold enough to keep the flurries from turning back into rain every other second! Annoying. Except to this kid.

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Alright, let me back up and pick up where we left off last week, with Halloween. I asked Neve while we were putting on her costume, getting ready to head on base to trick-or-treat with friends (Germans don’t do this tradition) why she chose to be ‘Cinderella, but before she turns into a princess’ for Halloween this year. She thought for a few seconds and held up two fingers. “Well first, all the girls pick the fancy princesses. And second, we all know that she turns into the princess at the end- she just has to wait for it for a little bit.” Oh, the lessons we can learn from our children if we just listen.

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The Two Cinderallas. Neve is before the change, Emma is after ❤

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Joined by Evelyn as Spiderman ❤

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We also hit another big milestone- Neve’s first ‘real’ haircut! I’ve cut her hair three times since she was born, the last being just after we moved here. But it tuns out she got Mommy and Daddy’s thick, wavy (getting curlier by the day!) and it’s just out of this mama’s wheelhouse now! Ha! So we looked at lots and lots of pictures with all different lengths- she was torn between shoulder length and leaving it long, so we opted for longish with the promise to go back soon if she still wanted it shorter!- and headed over to the kids’ salon. The coolest part? They braid it after the cut and spray it with glitter ❤

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Waiting patiently…

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Four inches gone!

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After ❤

And it just so happens that Neve had saved up enough money to stop by the toy store on the way home and finally buy the Princess Cadence she’s been wanting since she first laid eyes on it in August! She was so proud of herself and has played with it every single day since. I think that’s a first considering how may toys fall by the wayside!

Another big milestone? Officially starting gymnastics! Well, technically we’ve tried it about 3 times, but options are so limited for the younger kids, especially over here, so we’re finally to the 5-10 year old real class, complete with all the normal events! This means so much to this mama who was a competitive gymnast for ten years! Neve is LOVING it. Seriously, she’s been talking about and practicing her ‘cartwheels’ constantly. Really can’t tell you how happy this makes us- to see her so excited about something.

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Lunch with our girl after buying her first leotards ❤

Even the drive to and from gymnastics is a pretty one. It’s held on Robinson Barracks, the US base on the northern rim of the city- the same one where Neve will start kindergarten in the fall.

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Other than that, we’ve just been living the life. Enjoying fall (yes, before these stupid flurries!), getting our arts and crafts on, missing our family back home but LOVING that they love us so much to send the best care packages…<3

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Day out of school means a trip to the art store to paint some pottery…Maybe a Christmas ornament for our cousin, Norah? 😉

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John came home with flowers, just because ❤

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Early out school day means there’s more time for fun with friends!

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Walking to school ❤

That’s about it from our side of the pond. Veteran’s Day is this Friday (thank you to those who serve and have served) and we will be celebrating with a little family getaway to Eltz Castle in Chochem, Germany. We watched a special on it a while back- Rick Steves considers it the ‘best castle in the world’- and John’s been dying to visit ever since. And don’t you worry, I’ll report back with pretty pictures next week. 😉 In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a little craziness…Thanksgiving is two weeks from this Thursday and Christmas is 6 weeks away. WHAT?! How is it already time for Elf on the Shelf planning?! Oh well, no one loves this season more than me! Except maybe for my Neve ❤

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Quick shout out to myself for how much I’m embracing my bullet journal (totally recommend it, couldn’t live without it now!) and how much I’m learning to stretch my creative comfort zones! Look at that elf drawing! Ha!

Volksfest!

6 Oct

…Otherwise known as Stuttgart’s better version of Oktoberfest! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- the original Oktoberfest in Munich is fantastic, but the one here in Stuttgart- called Volksfest- is just a little bit better. On the surface, they’re identical. Both are giant fairs complete with oodles of rides, games and greasy foods. Both have 12+ huge tents serving up fest beer, German food and live entertainment. So what gives Volksfest the edge? Well frankly, the tourists. Or lack of them! Munich has become such a ‘bucket list item’ for so many people- mainly Americans and Brits, according to the stats- that it just has a bit more of a touristy vibe, and beyond obnoxious crowds. Higher prices year after year, marketing to everyone but the locals, more souvenir stands full of useless crap, cuisines moving away from traditional Bavarian style…Volksfest just feels a bit more ‘real.’ In fact, most predict that it will take over the top spot (it’s currently the #2 beer celebration in the world) within the next decade.

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Volksfest, attracting about 5 million people each year, takes place over three weeks in late September/early October- coinciding with Oktoberfest happening a few hours away. Let’s take a quick look at it’s really cool beginnings…

In 1815, a gigantic volcano eruption in Indonesia led to a climatic catastrophe even in Europe. The explosion hurled rocks, ashes and dust into the sky. These were distributed by the jet stream around the world and caused crop failure and famine in Europe. The winter of 1815 in Wurttemberg was the coldest in history- snow until May, no summer, alternating rain, whipping hail and thunderstorms continuing into the growth season. This made harvesting crops in those years impossible. Throughout Germany, people were starving. The little existing flour was stretched with sawdust and the planted potatoes were dug up again. When Wilhelm became King of Wurttemberg in 1816, Czar Nikolaus of Russia, helped with deliveries of grain. Then, in 1817, when the first harvest wagon from the region was finally brought in, King Wilhelm celebrated by throwing a harvest festival for his people. He donated cash prizes and honorary awards for outstanding agricultural accomplishment- the festival was designed to encourage the farmers. Today with around 350 companies, Volksfest is the biggest carnival-festival worldwide.

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On the train, headed to Fest…Thank God for public transportation!

We were really pumped to get to do two Fests this year- the first a few weeks ago with friends in Munich and this time here at home with our girl and Uncle Andy ❤ Neve LOVES fests- the rides, the lights, the tents, the music, the dancing…She was in Heaven, and this time, she had her own dirndl like Mommy!

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My favorite pic of the night ❤

The rest of us had a pretty kickass time ourselves, too. Unlike a few weeks ago, this time, being in the tent wasn’t the main objective. When Neve goes with us, we usually get there in time to (hopefully) find seats in a tent (we lucked up on the third tent we tried!), eat dinner and have a beer or two, then spend the rest of the night riding the rides, eating fair food and marveling at all the festivities. And you know what? I 100% love both ways of doing it! There’s definitely something akin to Christmas morning about watching the wonder and the pure joy through your daughter’s eyes.

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We ended up in the Dinkelacker tent. Coincidentally, this is the brewery that’s a block from our house and we can use our keen senses of smell to tell when they’re brewing 😉

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Some friends back in Columbia, SC, are doing a school project where ‘Flat George’ travels the world and returns home with stories and pictures from his adventure. Tonight, Flat George joined us at Volksfest!

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Never, ever, ever has there been a cuter little ‘German’ girl. Or one who loves Fests more. ❤

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Sweaty and out of breath from dancing and singing on our table ❤

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Dad and Andy about to be slingshotted into the night sky!

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Just try to get this kid off the rollercoasters!

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Have you ever ridden fair rides in a dirndl and lederhosen? Ha!

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‘Twas definitely a fun, fun night here in Stuttgart. And one that almost didn’t happen- at least not as we’d planned as I’m sure many of you know that there’s a hurricane headed straight for our hometown, Charleston, SC. Well, at the last minute, the predicted storm track shifted just a bit eastward and the projected speeds slightly lowered. That coupled with the uncertain airport closures and insane parking lots that are currently the roads in the Lowcountry helped my parents make the decision to stay with us through the weekend as originally planned, which meant not only our fun night at Volksfest, but also John’s early birthday celebration scheduled for tomorrow night! Yep, we intend to keep the shenanigans going right up until they board that flight! ❤ (And yes, that’s another saga in itself- can’t even imagine this house without them here by this point, so I’m not even going to go there yet! Telepathic hugs appreciated! ;))

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