Tag Archives: stuttgart

Happy Easter, Y’all!

20 Apr

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

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

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

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Birthday Flowers (with a Boston Terrier photo bomb!)

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Driving to Burg Eltz

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Burg Eltz

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Driving to Burg Eltz

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

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

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

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

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Stuttgart Postcard Heart on a random fence…

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

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The beautiful face of a big girl bike rider!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring in Stuttgart

4 Apr

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

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

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

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New pants, vintage boots ❤

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

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

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Thumbs up for new house shoes at school!

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

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Afterschool Tea Parties ❤

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

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(German) Breakfast of Champions

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Tulip Trees are my favorites ❤ (And Redbuds…)

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Sunrise from my side of the bed…

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Nothing better than homemade frozen yogurt pops after school!

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Slumber Parties ❤

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

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Saturday morning farmers market ❤

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

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

Another Sunday afternoon at the local biergarten with friends…

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Pretty impressed with myself for creating this Stuttgart skyline…

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Beauty and the Beast in 3D ❤

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She loved this outfit she picked all by herself ❤

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Stuttgart Opera House

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New Palace

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

Stuttgart Bunkerhotel

3 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Heading down into the bunker…

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

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Exploring a guest room…

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Original guest room…

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Bunker Door

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

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

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

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

For the guys :)

12 Mar

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

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Model of Stuttgart’s Messe…

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

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Yep, Tesla all the way down to Mazdas 😉

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

So for your viewing pleasure…Here you go!

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My favorite car of the entire show…

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

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

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

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

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

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

February Wrap-Up

6 Mar

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

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

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

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

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What a perfect Welcome Committee!

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

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

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21 miles in before the sun even comes up 🙂

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

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

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Sunday Morning Blueberry Streusel Pancakes ❤

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

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

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With the Birthday Girl. Estelle also turned 5.

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

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Day 1- Full on glamorous princess.

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Day 2- Rapunzel, with Elsa (Lucy)…

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Her teachers have some mad skills, right?!

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

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❤ ❤ ❤

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

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

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

Fall or Winter?!

8 Nov

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

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

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

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Joined by Evelyn as Spiderman ❤

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

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Waiting patiently…

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Four inches gone!

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After ❤

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

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

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Lunch with our girl after buying her first leotards ❤

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

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

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

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John came home with flowers, just because ❤

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

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Walking to school ❤

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

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

Volksfest!

6 Oct

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

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

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

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

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

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My favorite pic of the night ❤

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just try to get this kid off the rollercoasters!

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

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

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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!

Monday Mash-Up

8 Aug

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Little Miss Attitude 😉

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

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

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

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

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

 

It’s August, Y’all!

3 Aug

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

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

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

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

 

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

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After-dinner ice creams at Schlossgarten…

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Ringing in August 1…with a jacket. Yay.

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

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

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

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

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

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Dinner at the biergarten…

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

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