Tag Archives: friends

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!

Home for the Holidays

1 Feb

Well whatd’yaknow, it’s been over a month since our last chat- and I’m not the least bit sorry! Ha! 😉 That just goes to show you what a wonderful and busy time we were having at HOME for the holidays. Our family Christmas and New Years were everything we hoped they’d be- togetherness and happiness and thankfulness and warmth and energy and love. It was glorious.

And this trip proved to be quite different than our summer visit. Not sure exactly why, but it just had a whole different feel to it. Maybe it was the holiday magic in the air or the hustle and bustle that inevitably comes along with the season or just that we had a new appreciation for being ‘home for the holidays,’ but for whatever reason, these few weeks had more of that true family vibe going on- less running the roads, less cramming things (and people) in- more cooking together, shopping together, sprinkling in some lazy jammie days here and there… ❤ That’s not so say we didn’t fit in as much awesomeness as we could, though- we spent some time in the mountains with John’s family, we rang in the new year with what I coined ‘Thanksgiving 2.0’ (a meal with all the favorites we didn’t get to have during our holiday in Garmisch!), we celebrated Neve’s birthday with Party #1 and her first Chuck E. Cheese experience…So yeah, we stayed pretty busy one way or another!

And since I’ve now accumulated over 300 pictures- I was there nearly a month, you know! Ha!- I’m going to break things down into a few different posts just to keep the sanity. 😉 For today, I want to share with you some pictures from our first full week at home, including Christmas. For the first time in many, many years, we kept things super small and super simple- just us, and embracing what the season is all about- our blessings. It’s one of the best Christmases we’ve ever had and one that I will remember for always for so many reasons.

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First morning home, staying in my childhood bedroom, and look out the window to see these two- bundled up in their pjs- swinging in the backyard and talking about life ❤

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When your best friend finishes her 5k and comes directly to see you on your first morning in town. ❤

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Lazy mornings are always the best ❤

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When your tribe loves your girl almost as much as you do ❤

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Reunited at last ❤

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The bond that these two share ❤

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When brothers become Daddies, Christmases get even better ❤

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Oh how she loves her Uncle Andy ❤

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Christmas Eve

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Caught in the act!

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Christmas Morning

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When you love so many of your gifts equally…

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Christmas Day ❤

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So you can see that we sure did have an amazing Christmas. It really was beautiful and full of all the feels. Just what our family needed ❤

Stay tuned for Part 2- we’re headed to Boone, NC, to do it all again with John’s family!

I am Thankful.

22 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving Week, y’all! Hard to believe that it’s already that time again. So before everyone settles into their kitchens to start preparing the most glorious feasts, I just wanted to take a few minutes and reflect, as much for myself as for all of you. This season has been particularly challenging for me this year as it’s my first one- in all my 35 trips around the sun- that I’m not with my family…That I’m not at home…That I’m not surrounded by the sights and sounds (and smells) that I realize now I appreciate so much. And I’m missing all of those things something fierce. So while it can sometimes be easy for me to get stuck in this rut, I’m making the conscious effort not to. I’m deciding, each and every day recently, to be grateful for what I do have and to be all the more excited to go HOME in just a few weeks!

So without further adieu, here are some of the things, and people, that I’m most thankful for this year.

I’m so thankful for Neve. To be her mom, to see who she’s becoming, to do what I can to help her grow in every sense of the word.  She is an AMAZING person.

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When your hair doubles as a weather forecast.

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I can’t tell you how often I think to myself, ‘I wish I could be half as stylish as my kid.’ She dressed herself completely ❤

One thing about my girl that I’m especially thankful for? Her fearlessness. Remember last month when she got her first haircut and I told her that if she still wanted it shorter, we would go back? Well, she’s talked about it ever since and never once wavered. No hesitation, no fear of regret, nothing but excitement. She made the decision and just a few hours ago in fact, she went full steam ahead. *Life Lessons*

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My big girl ❤

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To say that I’m thankful for John is an understatement. I’ve sung his praises plenty of times on here, so I won’t go into them again too much right now. Just to say that he gets me like no one else on the planet. GETS me, gets me. He is a calm in the storm, a rock, an anchor…He is a best friend, a partner in crime, a cheerleader. And during challenging times like this holiday season, he is exactly my counterpoint. Oh, and I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again- seeing the man you love as a dad…There’s NOTHING like it.

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She asked him to marry her, complete with her long gown blanket. I was the minister. ❤

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I am thankful for the wonderful friends in my life, both near and far. Yes, life gets in the way and we don’t get to see each other- or even talk to each other- as often as any of us would like, but it doesn’t matter. Knowing that you’re part of such an awesome tribe- that you have people who love you not because they have to, but because they CHOOSE to- is the most comforting, grounding feeling. Waking up to text messages, getting unexpected care packages, chatting online unexpectedly in the mornings with one of your insomnia-prone friends ;), being invited next door for impromptu tea parties…THIS is what makes the world brighter.

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I am thankful for my fitness. I’ve always been into an active lifestyle, but this year has really taken it to the next level. Why the change? I rediscovered my love of cycling- specifically, Peloton. It’s a cycling community that has been truly instrumental in changing things up for me. More than ever, I appreciate my body, its capabilities, its beauty…I can’t even imagine missing my morning rides now! I mean, look at that sunrise that greets me and the fall colors that surround me?!

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I’m thankful for new (to us) traditions. A few weeks ago, Neve’s school celebrated Laternefest. In a nutshell, it’s the secular celebration of St. Martins Day and it’s celebrated throughout all of Europe. St. Martin was a kind and gentle man who was a friend to children and the poor. Legend has it that he ripped his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snow storm. That night, he dreamt of Jesus and was baptized the next day. In celebration each year on Nov. 10 and 11, children walk through their cities carrying lanterns that they’ve made at school to symbolize light overpowering the darkness. They sing all the songs they’ve learned to spread joy. And they finish in a big public square- usually with a park nearby- to mark the culmination of their celebrations, complete with food and warm drinks. Spending the evening with 20 something of Neve’s classmates, their families and her teachers, regardless of the freezing rain and bitter cold, proved to be the absolute perfect and happy end to a fiery election week.

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With one of her best friends, Emna.

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Stopping for some caroling.

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Homemade snacks and warm tea at the park.

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I’m thankful for my family. No, they may not be here with us right now, but they’re always with me…Always. I realize just how fortunate we are to have each other, to be doing this life together, to count on each other through thick and thin. So many people don’t have the kind of family that we do. And I’m so thankful in every sense of the word.

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This picture is framed on our shelf.  It was taken at my parents’ retirement party when Neve was 5 months old. She’s been talking about it alot this week- about how happy everyone is. And that makes me so happy 🙂

And finally, I’m thankful for this season of change and for this most unique Thanksgiving. We are leaving tomorrow, headed for the Alps to celebrate the day with other families in our same situation, at a resort managed by Americans at the border of Germany and Switzerland. We’re staying in a hotel with an indoor pool area for kids, a fancy spa for grown ups, an outdoor area for pups…And serving a big traditional Thanksgiving Feast on Thursday! How’s that for making lemonade out of potential lemons?! Here’s hoping everyone has the loveliest holiday and a wonderful official kick-off to this holiday season. THANK YOU for coming along on this journey with us. ❤

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Our Elf, Mr. Clark Pricklepants, should be arriving back here this weekend, according to the Big Guy! 😉

Hallo, Amsterdam!

3 Oct

Once again, Monday has rolled around- why is that always the case? Sheesh. I never know if it makes it easier or harder having had an amazing weekend to look back on. In this instance- when it’s really cold and rainy outside and I’m just getting home from grocery shopping and have piles of laundry calling my name- I’m going to go with harder. That’s how good this weekend was. I kid you not. All the stars lined up- one of our favorite cities, three (yep, Andy made it- WOOHOO!) of our favorite people, the perfect weather (this is a first- it’s rained, sometimes freezing!, every single other time we’ve been there), no traffic, no one ended up in jail 😉

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So yeah, we’ve been to Amsterdam a handful of times and it just gets better every time. The first time we visited was for John’s birthday back in 2010- I planned the whole thing as a romantic, over the top weekend all about him- boutique hotel with black velvet walls and gold chandeliers, Heineken Brewery tour, personal chef preparing his favorite delicacies, and one delicious homemade bake by yours truly <3. You can check that out here , along with all the nitty gritty details about the Netherlands and its capital city.

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The other notable visit came just last spring when John surprised me with a trip for Mother’s Day. He- and Neve- planned all the details- a gorgeous room overlooking the canal at one of the oldest hotels in the city, reservations at all of our favorite restaurants, homemade gifts and a visit to the famous Keukenhof Tulip Gardens. Completely different trip than our first, but every bit as fabulous and memorable. Check it out here if you need to jog your memory. 😉

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Our new house and ride…

Y’all, we had the BEST weekend. We stayed at a great little AirBnB apartment in the heart of the hipster De Pijp neighborhood. We walked our tushies off, we thought ahead to make reservations at all our favorite spots, and we even rented our own boat this go around to see the city in true boating-family-style! Really couldn’t have gone any better. And getting to finally share such a special city with the people we love- priceless. So I give you: Amsterdam ❤

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One of our favorite meals in the world. Cheese fondue with freshly baked bread and lean steak, served raw and cooked at your table in pesto sauce over an open flame. OH. MY. WORD.

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Best part of our apartment- people watching one of the busiest nightlife streets in the city!

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Best pancake house in the Netherlands. Totally earns that reputation. 

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When the city is already too crowded, how do you accommodate bike parking? On boats!

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Our visit to any city isn’t complete without a stroll through their busiest market!

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Remember my post about these a few months ago? They’re plaques in the sidewalks in front of houses that were raided during WWII. Engraved are the names, birthdays, death dates and places of the victims. You have to bow your head to to read them. I love everything about this whole concept- and that it’s so widespread.

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At our favorite restaurant, Moeder’s (Mother’s). In the background, those are pictures of mothers. Thousands of pictures of mothers. 

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You can’t help but feel good eating here.

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One of the most well known ‘coffee shops’ in the city…

We covered so much ground in just 2.5 days, right?! Yep, we were sure tired by the end of each day, but it was so worth it. And I think it’s safe to say that Mom, Dad and Andy all fell in love with the city just as we did years ago. There’s just something so neat about Amsterdam. Yes, it’s beautiful and it’s unique, but it’s also very REAL. It feels lived in and worked in and in constant motion. It reminds me of NYC in some ways. It’s the perfect mix of old and new- of history and modern. The people are friendly, the lifestyle is progressive and there’s an overall feeling of acceptance. Of peace. Of happy. Yep, we’d move there in a second. 🙂

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Oh, and you may have noticed something- er, someone- missing in all these pictures. Where was Neve?! Well, we gave her the option this time since she’d already done Amsterdam with us last year- she could either come do it again (because she LOVED it the first go around!) or she could stay at the house with Ms. Rachel, her favorite teacher/friend in Stuttgart- the one whose been keeping her practically since we got here. She thought long and hard, but ultimately decided she’d have more fun at home. And fun they did have! They- along with the pups!- did the markets, the zoo, the huge Killesburg Park, dinner at McD’s…

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At the top of the Killesburg Tower overlooking Stuttgart…

I’m pretty sure Neve would tell you that she had the better weekend over ours in Amsterdam. Ha! And I’m pretty sure that I was the one who had the harder time being away from her! Thank Heavens for FaceTime! And for Rachel. Y’all have heard me talk time and time again about Ms. Lori back at home- how she’s one of the best things that ever happened to Neve, to our family…Her absence in our lives here, in Neve’s life, has most surely been felt, and we knew that coming into it, which is why we prayed for God to bring another special person into our lives here in Germany. Well, he did just that with Rachel. Y’all, she’s a saint. She’s so good with children, SO good with Neve, so kind and genuine and creative and crazy smart…And she’s become a great friend to me. She’s from North Carolina (yay for Southerners!), graduated from Chapel Hill, moved to Germany, met a boy, went back to get her masters in education…And the rest is history. 🙂 The nerdy part of me loves that Rachel and Neve speak German when they’re together. 😉 Anyhoo, we are so blessed to have Rachel in our lives- the peace of mind she’s given us is immeasurable. She has most definitely helped fill a void more than we could’ve hoped.

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And speaking of blessed…Our Neve is so brave and so fearless- just look at all these pictures proving just that. She’s comfortable on trains, on buses…She’s confident helping to take our pups out into the city…She can climb tall, swaying towers, she can do ziplines by herself…She can be away from us for two whole nights and still thrive and feel secure and be happy. We’re just so proud of her- for her first time staying away from us, but also of who she’s becoming. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it makes me just a tiny bit proud of us, too. We are raising this kind of girl- this kind of person- who will do great things, I just know it. Times like this make me believe that we must be doing something right, at least some of the time. ❤

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This face- and this little body…I’m pretty sure I squished her to death when we got home. ❤

Oktoberfest!

25 Sep

Show of hands- how many of you have a visit to the world famous Oktoberfest on your Bucket List? Well, it was definitely on ours and had been on my parents’ ever since we moved here, so after a decade of being in and out of Europe, we’ve finally crossed it off! And it was totally worth its spot on the list, too. SUCH a fun experience!

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So to kick off this little picture post, y’all know I’ve got to get a bit nerdy and give you some backstory. Don’t judge. Oktoberfest is the largest beer festival in the world, complete with a traveling fair. It takes place for 18 days in late September/early October every year in Munich, Germany (about two hours from us in Stuttgart). Other cities around the country also host similar festivals (stay tuned for my post on Stuttgart’s own Volksfest- our personal favorite- in a couple weeks!), but Munich’s was the first (held in 1810, as a wedding celebration for King Ludwig and Queen Therese) and is still considered the most popular, drawing more than 6 million visitors each year and serving nearly 7 million liters of beer (!).

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Our tent for the day, Schutzen Festzelt. Each tent is known for different things. Ours was known for good food (especially pork) and good, modern music by live bands. It’s one of the larger tents, holding about 8000 people.

So what does Oktoberfest look like? Well, it’s basically a giant fair- complete with rollercoasters, giant stuffed animals to be won at games, and greasy fair food- with ‘tents’ (ie. giant wooden restaurants) throughout, each serving its own kind of food and drink. I tell you what- these ‘tents’ are more sturdy and better put together than many a house I’ve been in! That’s how permanent they look and feel! The majority of tents specialize in whole roasted chickens and beer (each tent is sponsored by a different brewery), but there are also wine tents, dessert tents, wild game tents, etc. In addition to varying cuisines, tents range in size from smaller (2000ish people) to massive (10,000 people), as well as style (traditional, progressive, rowdy, older crowds, etc.) So in other words, choosing which tent you’d like to spend your time in is big business and there are lots of things to consider!

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So do you just choose one and walk in? Well, yes and no. There are two different options for getting into the tents. The first is to go during slower times (ie. weekdays, earlier in the day) and hope to find a seat inside. Sometimes you luck up, other times you don’t. (You can’t be served food or drink without a seat.) If you tried to do this at night or on a weekend, you’d have about a 0% chance of this happening. The second way is to round up 10+ people and buy a table reservation in advance (this isn’t an option for smaller groups). With reservations, you choose one of three ‘shifts’- morning, afternoon or night- in the tent. Although we’ve done it both ways, this time we opted for Option 2 and it couldn’t have turned out any better! We always prefer the afternoon shift for various reasons- less being exhausted before it’s all over, more stamina, slightly more ability to hear ourselves think, more stamina, less vomit from surrounding patrons…so that’s what we went with this time. Plus, half of our group was leaving the next morning for their Ireland vacation, so…yeah 😉

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Of course we’re embracing the culture! With the number of fests always going on, we had to splurge for a dirndl (it’s three separate pieces- the dress with built-in corset, the apron and the blouse) and lederhosen. Traditionally, the placement of the apron bow denotes married/single/widowed and the symbol in front of the suspenders is the region you’re representing.

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Walking through the front door of Schutzen Festzelt at noon and already a madhouse. Each tent has its own decor, its own colors, its own placement of stages and tables…Fest tables are typically long and skinny with benches down each side to accommodate 10 people each.

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View from our table on the second floor. BEST seating we’ve ever had! (And yes, this is how packed it is on a Thursday afternoon!)

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Festival beer is sold in one size and one size only. Each masse holds 1 liter.

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Can I get a hallelujah for whoever invented the pushup bra?! They make them here specifically to go under dirndls- and to add 2+ cup sizes! 

We realized while we were home this summer that our good family friends, the Heaths, were also planning to cross Oktoberfest off their Bucket List this year, so the coordination plans began. Our two families go way back. My mom and Susan worked together in the operating room at Trident Hospital in Charleston in the late 80s. When I was in middle school, and the Heath boys in elementary school, we started vacationing together, along with two other familes- the LePines and the Forinashes. In other words, we’ve all been close for the last 20+ years <3. Harrison, the youngest Heath, graduated from West Point a few years ago and is now stationed in Germany with his wife Sammi, so just like my parents, his parents and his brother, Kyle, are in town for a visit. What better excuse to plan some awesome joint ‘fest’ivities. (Ha! See what I did there?!)

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Our tent sold Lowenbrau beer, one of the most popular breweries in Germany.

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When you discover the table behind you is also from N. America…Canada, but close enough 😉

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Finding the perfect hat 😉

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The Heaths

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View from the deck…

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FUN ❤

One of my favorite things about doing the afternoon shift is that when you leave the tent, the sun is just going down and the fair is in full swing- all the lights and sounds and smells that can’t help but make you happy! No, you don’t always necessarily feel like riding loop-di-loops after 5 hours in a tent, but walking around and just taking it all in sure is fun in itself.

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Missing our girl- Neve’s favorite ride at every fair!

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We really did have such a fun day- and to get to share it with my parents and our great friends from home was just icing on the cake…er, gravy on the schweinehaxe! Ha! Definitely an experience- a little trip to Munich- we’ll never forget. Next week, Round 2 at Stuttgart’s Volksfest!

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Just in case you were wondering what one eats for dinner after a full day of festing…We plan ahead ❤

And to quote another girlfriend who also just got back from Munich, “Rick Steves said it best: ‘Fest is about people getting together to celebrate culture, happiness, and embracing life.'” Yes, it surely is. ❤

Fall has Arrived!

18 Sep

Greetings from Stuttgart, where the weather has finally started to resemble more of what we know and love for this time of year! I kid you not, it wasn’t until just a couple days ago that we didn’t have a heat index of 90*+. In mid September?! Every time we’ve been here in the fall- including last year when we didn’t even unpack our shorts when we arrived in mid-August!- the temps are already dropping steadily, mornings and nights warrant a jacket and the leaves have tinges of yellows and oranges on their edges…I think Mother Nature felt like she owed us one this year for giving us the never ending spring (we were in fleeces for Memorial Day!), knowing that this southern family needed some decent hot weather! Ha! And she was right- I haven’t minded one bit- bring on the sweat and sunshine! Yep, this has been me ;):

And speaking of sunshine, the downside of German fall? With it comes the rain. Endless, constant dreary. Blech. Today is the perfect example- we went to bed with it raining, woke up to it raining, and it’s still raining now. Hasn’t let up NOT EVEN ONCE. Guess I’ll need to think about getting out my sun lamp 😉

Anyhoo, I guess what I’ve said before holds true- when I go weeks between blog posts, it must mean we’ve been having too much fun- and we have! So I thought this would be a good time to share some pics ❤thumb_img_1243_1024

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One of our all time favorite festivals is Pumpkin Fest. It happens every September in Ludwigsburg, a suburb of Stuttgart, and lasts for almost two months, which means that we normally hit it up at least a couple times. Some of you probably remember my posting about it last year (and also back in 2010 for those of you who have been with us from the start!), but if not, be sure to search for past posts 🙂 There are so many things that make Pumpkin Fest so neat. For starters, it sits on the most beautiful palace grounds and surrounding park. Seriously- you’ve never seen such green grass, such bright flowers and such majestic trees. Second, it’s super family friendly with an entire section of the park designed for kids. Third, you just can’t beat the pumpkin cuisine! And I’m not talking froo froo lattes either- I mean real, top notch food made using pumpkins and gourds! Jambalaya, ravioli, pumpkin fries, squash flatbreads…And yep, pumpkin beer and wine. Duh.

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You’ve also never seen so many pumpkins and gourds! This festival has the world record for the most pumpkins in one place, and it holds the contest for the World’s Largest Pumpkin. (It’s something like 650lbs. and taller than me!)

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In Rapunzel’s tower…

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Look who we ran into! And just in time for the kids’ park! They loved this boat ride through the forest.

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Last week had two pretty cool events. First, we threw an end of summer BBQ for our tribe. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: being here, in this situation, would be so much different- so much more challenging, not to mention just plain sadder!- without these people. Together, all of our families make up one big family of friendship, of love, of support, of comfort…Love getting to share this extended family with my folks, too. Wish I had more pictures to share from a super fun night, but we were all too busy ‘feeling American’- eating pulled pork (yep, my dad can even do killer pig in the oven! Ha!), laughing and watching football, complete with American commercials! It’s the little things ❤

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The other big milestone was that our girl started her last year of preschool! Holy cow, how is that even possible?! It feels like just yesterday we were walking into Ms. Lori’s class at Bethany UMC, Neve with a backpack bigger than she was and this mama with tears in her eyes. Oh how she’s grown in just these last few years and oh what a trailblazer she’s becoming.

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When you’re trying to read along on the Kindle, but your Poppy gets distracted…

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View from our bed. I absofrigginlutely love living in the heart of a huge city.

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What this southern girl does with leftover pulled pork…

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If everyone could say a quick prayer for my girl, Dulcie. She’s been having some pretty serious health issues this last week and we’d sure appreciate as many prayers as we can get!

And finally, this weekend marks the ‘end of Fest Season,’ which meant that we celebrated the only way possible- going to not one, but two, fests! (Still not sure how they figure the ‘end’ as they’re in the process of setting up the next one as I type, but who am I to question a good thing…Ha!) Nothing better than being outside all day long surrounded by pretty scenery, artists, crafters, games and deliciousness!

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Gerber Fest, just out of our front door…

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Y’all, this girl was a ROCKSTAR at the rock climbing wall! Seriously, John and I were so shocked and so proud. She made it all the way to the top completely unassisted AND with the wall tilted in at the top! Need to find her a gym stat!

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Perfect space for a fest, right?

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She was as fearless here as on the rock wall! All the way across the lake- going fast!- all by herself!

And there you have it- a glimpse into our last two weeks of fun, of saying goodbye to summer, of taking care of sweet Dulcie, of enjoying the life that’s filling our walls (still so nice to have my parents here for a couple more weeks), and of looking forward to all that’s still to come. Speaking of which, on Thursday, we’re headed to Munich to meet friends for Oktoberfest! And no worries, zillions of pictures to come! 😉

Hope everyone has a great week!

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!

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