Tag Archives: birthday

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. ❤

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.’ ❤

Still Home for the Holidays

3 Feb

Thanks for stopping back by for one last edition of our ‘Home for the Holidays!’ Trust me, it’s way easier to do it this way than trying to cram it all into one mega post that would take me three days to write- and you three days to read! Ha!

So, we got home from the mountains just in time to ring in the New Year and to watch the Clemson Tigers earn their spot in the National Championship. On top of that, we had decided to hold our ‘Thanksgiving 2.0’ feast as our NYE meal, so it really was an awesome, awesome night all around. I mean, what could be better than fireworks, football, a HUGE win, and the most delicious meal we’ve had all year?! Yeah, nothing, what’s what. 😉

All the AHHHHHH-MAZING foods we missed for the original, even if it meant five carb-loaded side dishes and three desserts! Ha! But it was so much more than the food. Mom and I cooked ALL. DAY. LONG. Every single recipe was handpicked; every single dish prepared from scratch while we gabbed and sampled and giggled. Our family then gathered around the table and feasted and laughed and savored…together. It was absolutely what we’d missed so much back in November. ❤

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Cheering on the Tigers!

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My first sight of 2017- walking out of the gym just after the sun came up on New Years Day. Had high hopes it was a good sign of things to come…

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Mornings spent playing in the floor in your PJs are the best ❤

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Yep, when you FaceTime with your pets ❤ (Side note: John had to go home a bit before us- work always gets in the way, doesn’t it?)

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We were so fortunate to get to spend some good time with our sweet boy, Merlin, while we were in town. He passed away about 2 weeks after this picture was taken, at the age of 21. Will never forget what a truly cool cat he was. ❤

The biggest celebration of all came the following weekend when we kicked off Neve’s Birthday Week. How is my baby 5 years old already?! Goddess and Poppy had wanted to do something special for her while we were in town, so they booked a party at Chuck E. Cheese- Neve’s first time there! What a rite of passage ❤ Again, kept it super simple and small- and she had a blast! Added bonus? It snowed while we were there! Neve pointed out the window and yelled, ‘Look! Look! It’s snowing in South Carolina! I told you it was going to snow here!’ Touche, my girl.

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Couldn’t wait to get home to break open her gifts!

And just like all the best things in life, our time at home- with the people we love the most- came to an end in the blink of an eye. What better send off than a big ‘ol dinner of true Lowcountry cuisine? Pork rinds with blue cheese and Texas Pete, pulled pork, brisket and mac-n-cheese…Mmmmmm.

And the next morning- our travel day, coincidentally- we woke up with a true 5 YEAR OLD! Oh my word, I can’t even. So of course, before we made our way to the airport, we had to start the day off right- with pink pancakes, frosting, sprinkles and whipped cream!

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All settled in and ready to spend our night high over the Atlantic…with our matching tattoos ❤

Words can’t describe what a wonderful time we had being home for the holiday season. It was so special for so many reasons- and it was exactly what our family needed. We certainly are blessed- all of us. And we need to remind ourselves of that every single day- to be present, to be open, to feel gratitude even in the smallest of moments, and to do our absolute best not to take any of it for granted. ❤

I’ll leave you with a shot I took just after walking in the door at home in Stuttgart…when Neve discovered her big birthday gift that Daddy had been assembling- complete with custom lighting on each floor (love our engineer!)- while we were away. Just look at that happy face- Morning. Made.

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Boone for the Holidays

2 Feb

So after our marvelous Christmas at home, our next stop was the North Carolina mountains to spend some much needed time with John’s family. Over the years, we’ve often met in Gatlinburg because it’s about halfway between Charleston and Lexington, KY. Sometimes we like to switch it up, though, so for this holiday season, we opted for Boone, NC. Every time I’m there I’m reminded of just what a cool little town it is, how much personality is packed into it and just how pretty the entire region really is.

In true Thomas fashion, we found a great big house to rent for our time and it ended up being such a fun house. My guess is that it was once a sorority house just based on how it was set up with lots of private bathrooms, lots of separate sitting areas, individual thermostats…Well, whatever it was, it’s now call the YaYa House and is owned by four self-proclaimed hippie ladies who have gone out their ways to add all the little touches that make a house a unique home.

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I think I’ve told y’all this before, but one of my favorite things about visiting with John’s side of the family is the large size and the ‘togetherness’ of it. Playing boardgames into the night, doing puzzles, cooking…Not having to ‘do’ much of anything, yet still making some of the best memories. I love that about the Thomases, always have. And I absolutely love the way our families have melded together since Day 1 ❤

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Checking out the week’s digs ❤

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Yep, the owners even left up all the Christmas decorations for our belated celebration…

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Brisk early morning walks around the (oh-so-hilly) neighborhood ❤

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Can’t go wrong when these two bake and decorate your birthday cake!

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Lost Province Brewing Co.

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Playing word games by the twinkly lights…

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An afternoon exploring downtown Boone ❤

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These two. #RelationshipGoals #whenboardgamesrequirehandsonparticipation

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Mining for gems- we ended up with two rubies and a sapphire 🙂

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And this Rose Quartz, Neve’s favorite ❤

And as if our time together wasn’t fabulous enough, Mother Nature even gave us a gift on our last morning- SNOW! Oh, it was so pretty. And our time in the mountains was so lovely. We really are blessed to call such great people our family…And who would’ve thought that we’d come to the Carolinas and see snow, not once but TWICE! That’s right! Stay tuned for Part 3 of our time at home for the holidays, when it snows in Charleston during Neve’s birthday celebration! Talk about a cool unexpected gift!

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Labor Day Shenanigans

6 Sep

How is that that awesome holiday weekend already over?! Seriously. It’s like that extra day just made it feel even shorter! We had alot of fun all weekend long- starting with making sure we got in one last pool day before the end of summer, and before school starts back next week. I love the ‘pool culture’ here. Y’all, it’s no joke. Each town has it’s own public swimming facilities- larger cities have several such complexes. Each one has several olympic size swimming pools, huge water slides, rolling grassy hills for sunbathing…And that’s just outside! Each place also has a huge indoor facility with several more pools, high dives, kiddie areas, saunas, steam rooms…It’s just incredible. And alot of fun, once you get past the crowds and all the little pool etiquette things you don’t know about! Ha!

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Look at that neat mosaic bottom! Neve and Amalie enjoying it to themselves…

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Beating the crowds means you get the pools to yourself!

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And just to give you a glimpse of what these places look like later in the day- here’s a peak at last week’s swim lesson…

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Yeah, we avoid the pool at these times because…MISERABLE.

In addition to it being Labor Day, we actually had another little holiday this weekend. It was our sweet Dulcie’s 7th birthday! To celebrate, we spent Saturday morning out in the country throwing tennis balls, running until we dropped and snacking on apples we picked right from the trees. We sure had two happy pups- and one happy preschooler!- on our hands! Followed it up with some lunch at Wine Fest and we were all happy campers!

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Birthday Girl ❤

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The best part of the weekend was this:

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Yep, mom made it Sunday morning, safe and sound! Now, the circle is complete and things are feeling pretty swell. ❤ And the timing of her arrival even worked out perfectly because while she took a quick nap, we headed over to a ginormous indoor funpark to celebrate our bestie, Emmie’s, 7th birthday. Sixteen little kids having the times of their lives! Ha!

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Childhood. Joy. Energy.

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Look who else came to the party!

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Last but not least, Labor Day itself turned out to be the funnest day of all! For months now, we’ve been hearing good things about an amusement park that’s only 45 minutes away and we’ve been dying to try it out for ourselves. But we’ve put it off- waiting for the kids to go back to school, trying to avoid a weekend, etc. Labor Day was the perfect day. Guess that’s one good thing about US holidays not coinciding with German ones- we’re off and the locals aren’t!

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But seriously, y’all. This place was awesome. It’s like a mini-German-themed Disney World geared toward younger children, but still with plenty to do for the older ones (yes, I’m counting us and all other adults as older ones!). Beautiful landscaping, immaculate grounds, creative rides, delicious food…And no lines or crowds whatsoever yesterday! I can honestly count on one hand how many times I’ve seen my Neve as happy as she was here. She rode just about every single ride she wanted to ride, ate anything she wanted to eat, played anywhere her little heart desired. I can’t even tell you how happy it made us seeing her so happy. I absolutely LOVE this part of parenting. There’s nothing else like it in all the world.

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I absolutely love John’s face here…

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As it turns out, Neve is absolutely fearless when it comes to rides. Never once did she get nervous or shy away from anything. Tears only came at the rides where she didn’t meet the height requirement. High climbs, steep drops, dark spaces…She couldn’t get enough. And no, we aren’t too surprised- she comes by it naturally 😉

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You can see the Riesling vineyards in the distance…

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In the distance, the Karacho Rollercoaster.

This is the best shot I could get of Tripsdrill’s biggest attraction, the Karacho. Opened just a few years ago, it’s one of the largest in Germany and considered one of the most state-of-the-art in Europe with 4 inversions and an acceleration of 1-100km/h in 1.5 seconds. Why am I dedicating a section to it right here? Well, because it’s the first major ride I’ve ridden in over 15 years. As a kid and a teenager, I lived for these rides- the bigger, the faster, the more adrenaline-pumping the better. You couldn’t keep me off one…For those of you who read my ’25 Things’ post last week, remember how I mentioned that I’ve dealt with panic and anxiety since my senior year? Well, a huge component of that is feeling trapped and when those bars come down on top of you on these huge rides, well, that’s been a deal breaker for this girl for her entire adult life. Until yesterday. In that moment near the end of this awesome day, I just felt a shift. And it’s like John felt it, too, right when it happen. He took my hand, smiled and said, ‘You need to do this. I know you and I know how good it’s going to feel when you do this. I’m here. Let’s do this.’ And I felt calm and confident and, as crazy as it sounds, in love. And with that, we rode our first rollercoaster together. ❤

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Still sitting in the coaster car as we roll back into the station. I can’t describe how proud of myself I felt in that very moment.

And of course, it wouldn’t be Germany if there weren’t some kind of alcohol involved! Ha! Every ticket gets you a free souvenir wine glass with a tasting in the cellar. Perfect end to a perfect day. Smiles all around.

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Precautionary rain coats for the water rapids ride. Despite all the clouds in the pictures, it didn’t rain on us one single time all day and the temps stayed perfectly around 70*. Thanks, Mother Nature 😉

Hope everyone had a fun and family-filled Labor Day!

WOOHOO! Weekend, baby!

2 Sep

It’s Friday, y’all! So excited! And even moreso than normal since my mom gets here- FINALLY!- on Sunday! And if I’m pumped, I can only imagine how ready my Dad is. Bless his heart (proud Southerner here!), he’s been here with us nearly a month all by his lonesome. But on the flip side, it’s been SO terrific having him. We’ve never in my life had this kind of uninterrupted time together and that in itself has been priceless- something I’ll cherish for always. ❤

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I’ll go ahead and warn you that this is going to be a photo dump. Lots going on here this week and just about all of it fun. The weather has been nothing short of amazing (maybe a day or two of a smidge hotter than perfect, but I’m not complaining! No, we don’t have air conditioner…) and we’ve been taking full advantage. This was Neve’s second week out of school for summer break, so while I admit it I was a tad bit jealous seeing all the darling ‘back to school’ pictures filling up my social media, I rejoiced knowing that we at least have a few more weeks of the best season of the year 😉

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Picnic in the park with friends ❤

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Because sometimes you’re already in your jammies before you realize you need an ice cream from the mall downstairs…And it’s raining outside. So we roll with it.

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You can take a boy away from HIS yard, but there will always be A yard.

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Swimming lessons at the outside pool!

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Sunday Mornings ❤

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She LOVED this outfit she picked out. Can’t tell you how much I celebrate her individuality…

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John spent last week in the Azores, an island chain of Portugal, but closer to the US than to Germany. He tried to squeeze in some sightseeing around work and would send us pics along the way.

Remember a couple weeks ago when we found that neat biergarten, Barenschloss, at the end of an awesome little lakeside hike? Well this time we took company…and a blanket and wireless speakers! Best Saturday afternoon in ages!

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This family. No clue what we’d do without them. Hallelujah that we’ll all be back in Charleston together at the end of these adventures!

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Rare shot of all 4 Thomas ladies 😉

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Because sometimes you just want to match your girl ❤

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This may or may not be at about Beer #54. HAHAHA!

One of the highlights of Neve’s week was a Halloween-themed (how fun is that?!) birthday party for her friend, Lauren. What made this particular party extra special was that Lauren was one of Neve’s first friends- they met in the German Immersion class back when we first arrived- and several of her old classmates were also at the party. She and her friend, Taryn, even won the Mummy Wrap! Coincidentally, none of them are still going to that school (several switched to German kindi like us and a couple have started elementary school), so it was quite the grand reunion all around! Heck, it was even lovely for John and me to catch up with parents we haven’t seen in months!

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With Estelle (also from Charleston- small world!) and Archer (Neve’s first- and still current- crush!)

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Birthday Girl, Lauren, as the Wicked Witch…

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I just love this picture of them. Archer, who just turned 6 and is starting first grade this week, is just the sweetest little boy and they have had the best friendship since the day they met.

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It’s not often you get to shop with a fairy…Stopping by the commissary after the party 😉

In case you’re not on Facebook or you missed my post on there, I’ll share it here because it’s one of my favorite posts ever- one of my favorite moments so far from motherhood.

As I was walking past a store today, this beautiful, lacy, sparkly, twirly, bohemian gown caught my eye. Without a single thought given to where she’d wear it or for what fancy occasion we might need it, I immediately went in the store and bought it. For no reason at all other than that I knew how much my Neve would absolutely love it. Everything about it just screamed Neve. After dinner tonight, I gave it to her and told her just that- that I got it for her just because. She got so excited putting it on that she got teary- and I did, too, because it just felt so good. She must’ve twirled for half an hour- even had me take a video so she ‘can remember what it looks like twirling even when she’s not wearing it.’ She took it off long enough to take her bath, then asked to put it back on as her nightgown. And as I turned out the light and leaned down for one last hug and kiss, she whispered in my ear, ‘Mommy, I just adore this dress. Thank you.’ Oh sweet girl, how I adore YOU and your feistiness and the little girl you’re becoming and being you mom. These are the moments that reach the little corners of your heart you didn’t even know existed…the ones that make it feel as if it could just burst.

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My current favorite picture of Neve…

Meanwhile, back inside…Have I mentioned how much we love having Dad here??

And finally, this last shot…Nope, not taken the same night as the above pictures- just back in the dress because…well, just because.<3

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Hope everyone has a great weekend- I guarantee it won’t be as great as our’s! Ha! 😉

Happy Monday!

22 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Headed to the park…

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Feeding the Feuersee ducks and swans…

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

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

 

I Blinked…

22 May

…and time zoomed past me! You know it’s a good sign when you haven’t posted anything in a week- it usually means that you’ve been busy! And busy we have been! My mom was only here for 12 days this time, which meant that we had alot to fit into a short amount of time! But y’all, it was the best two weeks. Seriously. We had the best time doing a whole lotta nothin’ and there couldn’t have been anything more perfect for my soul. Needless to say, I’ve been in a bit of a funk since she left yesterday, so what better time to sit down and look through pictures- and share our memories with all of you!

So, we decided before she even got here that we didn’t want any big plans during the two weeks. I wanted the company and she wanted to be part of our everyday life, so those were our goals. We walked Neve to and from school, we cooked dinners, we walked (a TON), we shopped (yes, for both groceries and clothes 😉 ) and we played tourists a bit here in Stuttgart. I kid you not- it was just like having a vacation, but with all the good stuff (relaxation, fun, doing new things) and none of the bad (packing, traveling, spending all your money!) Ha! I totally recommend it! ❤

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An old shot, but you can see the TV Tower from our yard- that’s it jutting into the clouds at the end of the crane arm.

When we lived here for a minute back in 2010, I’d done my own little excursion to Stuttgart’s landmark, the Fernsehturm, aka the TV Tower. It’s visible from just about everywhere in the city and is in every skyline photo you’ll ever see. Well, apparently they closed it back in 2012 for a three-year-long renovation and it just reopened a few months ago. Neve absolutely loves it (she tells folks we live right next to it, although we’re actually about 10 miles away at least, but yes, it feels pretty close when you look out of our windows- see pic above!), so I knew I needed to time my next visit so she could go with me. And what d’ya know, she had a day out of school while Mom was here, so it was the perfect day to visit!

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Pretty neat to see our building from that far away!

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We were boneheads, though, and didn’t factor in elevation and wind when we chose not to take our jackets to the top! BURR!

Remember how I was just writing about how neat it was celebrating two birthdays (mine and John’s brother, Mark’s) in less than a week? Well now we got to have our third one in about a month! What better place for Mom to ring in 39 than Germany, right?! Look at this Birthday Girl, complete with a Dunkelweissen and Veal Saltimbucco! Then back to the house for my latest healthy, vegan creation, Pineapple Dream Pie 🙂

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Another thing that I’ve been wanting to do since we got here was a tour of downtown Stuttgart. Y’all can probably tell by now that I’m a closet history buff, that I love the stories that places tell, and that I spend alot of time researching stuff just for shits and giggles. 😉 And that’s definitely been the case here, but there’s only so much I can teach myself- and only so much German I can translate! Ha! Well, a few weeks ago, I came across a walking tour…that happens to be given by an American! Sarah is a fellow history buff originally from California, but has been here since early 2011 with her husband who is a civilian engineer just like John. She offers private and group tours, either for downtown, a few of the suburbs and the surrounding wine vineyards. Mom and I had the best walking tour with her, learning all kinds of neat facts about the city, its history, its buildings, etc…Awesome!

For starters, Stuttgart is actually one of the younger cities in Germany and it wasn’t until a few hundred years ago that it grew to be a significant player whatsoever in terms of power, economy, etc. In the beginning, it was nothing more than a walled farming town. Specifically, it had a booming horse breeding market, thus it’s name which translates to ‘Stud Farm.’ Neat, right?

Stiftskirche

Stiftskirche- the first church in Stuttgart. It was completely destroyed during WWII and rebuilt in 1955. The outside was done to match the original. Today it’s a Lutheran church with a large, active congregation.

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The inside was done in a very modern style. The organ is known as one of the best in the world. It was installed in 2006.

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The building to the right of the church is the Fruchtkasten (Fruit Box), one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city, first mentioned in 1393. It was used to store and process grapes for wine- wooden ramps were put from the ground to the arched windows to roll barrels. Stuttgart is one of the only cities in Germany to drink more wine than beer. In fact, wine used to be in such abundance that this building used it in the mortar instead of water! 

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The famous Paternoster, the never-ending and never-stopping elevator, in Stuttgart’s Rathaus (Town Hall). These used to be very common- until people realized how dangerous they can be! They were banned decades ago, but the citizens came together and filed to get this one registered as a national landmark. And here it is. The right side goes down, the left side up, and the whole thing is in constant circular motion, so you just hop on and off whenever you need to. And yes, we rode it 😉

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There’s more to this square than what meets the eye. Below the cobblestones is an old WWII military bunker. After the war, many people lived in these bunkers temporarily as they rebuilt their destroyed homes. After this period, the bunker was turned into The Bunker Hotel and operated as such, with 100 beds, until 1985 when it became structurally unsafe. Today, the city offers one night a year, The Long Night of Museums, where visitors can go into the hotel that is still decorated in its 1970s splendor, letting time do its thing…And yes, we will most definitely be on one of those tours before we leave here!

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The old jail, built into the outer city wall. Today, a fancy restaurant.

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Probably my favorite thing learned on the tour. These are bronze plaques embedded in the sidewalk. We walk by them- over them- all the time. They’re all over the city. But we never knew their significance. In the 1960s, there was an artist who discovered that the house he was living in was previously the home of a Jewish couple who had been taken violently in the night to a concentration camp. He hated that he had never known that and thought that other people may feel the same way. So he set out on what would be his lifetime’s project- locating these houses all over the city and creating plaques of acknowledgement. Each plaque has the names of the people who lived in the homes, along with the date they were deported, to which concentration camps they were sent, and the dates they were murdered. So for example, the house we were standing in front of belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Leiter. They were taken in 1942 to Theresienstadt Camp and were murdered in the camp on September 29, 1942. The artist chose to put the plaques on the ground (as opposed to on the houses) because he felt that people would have to bow their heads to read them, a sign of respect. Foot traffic also helps to keep them polished. Since it began over 50 years ago, artists all over Europe have continued the project and today, there are hundreds of thousands of plaques all over Europe.

So yeah, even though we didn’t go anywhere or do anything particularly snazzy, we definitely stayed oh-so-busy and we definitely had a fabulous time. The only bummer was how quickly the time passed- and I’m talking like ‘blink and it’s gone’ time passing. *Tear* But that’s the thing about good times and good people and good memories- that’s how you know they’re the best- because you’re so busy living and loving that you don’t have time to will time to slow down. You just savor and basque and smile. Yep, I’ll take it. ❤

Feel free to stop back by tomorrow for a lovely little Weekend Mash-Up as we have had the BEST weather and have once again, taken full advantage. Of course.

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