Tag Archives: tribe

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!

Birthdays are so much fun!

11 Apr

I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret- as we get older, birthdays take on a slew of new meanings. Think about. When you’re a kid, you spend your life ‘feeling’ older than you are. Sure, you might be 12, but you totally feel like you’d be fine driving a car, dating, setting your own bedtime…But when you’re older, this weird thing happens where you can’t believe how old you are, how quickly time is passing. And how much younger you feel than your actual number suggests! I turned 35 yesterday and I still can’t wrap my brain around that. So John and I started thinking back- trying to figure out the magic year(s) where one switches from feeling older than the number to feeling way younger. Thoughts? Our scientific approach involved working our way backwards…The day they let us leave the hospital and take a perfect 6-lb. baby Neve with us- sans instruction manual!- nope, we felt like babies ourselves. The day we got married- nope, felt like playing house. The days we started working ‘real’ jobs- still nothing, still amazed anyone would pay us that kind of money! Ha! So we zeroed in on about 21ish as the timeframe that felt truest to our numbers and our brains lining up. What’s your number?

So in a nutshell, what am I getting at? Age ain’t nothin’ but a number, baby 🙂 And I rang in 35 in lovely style. Nothing fancy, nothing over the top. Low-key, laid back and with my tribe…Just how I like it ❤ Not gonna lie- yes, it felt different than years past just because my whole family wasn’t together to celebrate (we’re a family of traditions and sentimentality and I’m the kind of girl who counts on those things for sanity), but that just wasn’t an option for this year and I just rolled with it.

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My birthday weekend actually kicked off last Thursday night with a fabulous Girls’ Night with two of my tribe mates, Abigail and Emma. We went for Mexican (er, the closest to it we can find in this city!) and finished with delicious healthy cookies that Abigail made for the occasion.

John and Neve were the SWEETEST all weekend long- I got a Thai massage to start my Saturday morning, I had fresh cut tulips waiting for me when I got home (in not just one, but in three different vases throughout my house!), I had cards and dinner at my favorite restaurant.

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All of the Pothos vines you see on the ceiling beams are real. And they come from just 3 plants. Yeah. Wow.

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And getting back to the healthy cookies…John offered to make me any cake that I wanted. He knows that cake is my world and that I’ve rarely met a cake that I don’t love. But since we’ve changed up our eating style for 2016 (that’s another post in itself and don’t worry, it’s coming in a post all its own!), I knew a traditional cake wouldn’t be the best choice. Long story short, we haven’t had sugar- of any kind (white, brown, syrup, honey…)- or gluten, since January 14. Crazy, I know! But just think how our bodies would’ve freaked out with a cake and icing sugar bomb! So I found us a healthy substitute and we made it together. (One of my FAVORITE things to do is cook together <3)

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They look delicious, don’t they? Yellow cake with chocolate icing and sprinkles. One of my absolute favorite combinations! Now let me show you how it all came together…

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Yep, those were the ingredients! And yes, that’s a can of white beans and an avocado in the mix! The beans are the bulk of the cake as there’s no flour. The avocado is the bulk of the icing. I should preface this by saying that I love baking with beans! Two of my favorites are a garbanzo bean cookie cake and black bean zucchini brownies. Don’t knock ’em til you try ’em! 🙂

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So…Unfortunately, that bite you see was about the extent of our bites for the cupcakes. Abysmal failure. Whomp whomp. Not a single one of us finished our cupcake. On the plus side, the cake part was actually pretty decent. The whole house smelled like yellow cake when they came out of the oven and their texture was perfectly moist and fluffy. With the right icing, we’d totally try them again. But the icing. Oh the icing. Blech. Have you ever tried chocolate-flavored avocado sweetened with maple syrup? Don’t. Oh well, that’s the only way new delicious creations can be discovered, right?! At least my wish will come true since I blew out all my candles 😉

Sunday, my actual birthday, was my PERFECT day. We slept in, we fixed a nice breakfast, I rode 23 miles on my bike, spent the rest of the day in our PJs and only put on real clothes long enough to meet the gang for dinner at one of our favorite German restaurants a couple blocks away. I FaceTimed with my parents while I opened gifts and had a nice long chat with my Grandma. That was soul food right there. And I got texts and emails with well wishes all day long, and that’s in addition to the pilfering in of cards and packages over the past week. I am loved and I am one lucky girl <3.

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Lazy Sunday in our Jammies ❤

John couldn’t stand the fact that I didn’t get an edible cake for my birthday (ie. none of us got cake!) and insisted that we try again. So we went with a vegan strawberry cheesecake. For anyone living under a rock, vegan means no animal products of any kind- no dairy, no eggs, etc. Anytime we’ve done vegan in the past, we’ve always had success making our own ‘cheese’ out of cashews, so that was our launch point. A cheesecake out of nothing but nuts and fruit? Yes, please!

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So what was the verdict?  Drumroll, please…It. Was. Delicious! I kid you not- it was creamy and smooth and tart and naturally sweet. And oh so satisfying. We all were licking the crumbs off our plates!

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Remember how I said we capped off the weekend with a group dinner at one of our favorite spots? Well, what we didn’t know when we planned ahead was that thousands of our closest friends would be there to join in the celebrations! Yeah. A HUGE protest/riot was taking place literally around the restaurant! It sits in between two of the main squares in the city. The Turks took over one square and the Kurds the other. Hundreds of police men and women- on foot, on horseback, on motorcycles and in helicopters!- and plenty of military green berets were there to keep things in check. Thank God, too, because as we ate our meal, we watched as folks got carted off in handcuffs, as they threw rocks, as the cops launched their pepper spray…It was CRAY-ZAY. At least it’ll make for a memorable story? Regardless, we had a lovely, delicious meal with plenty of laughs and stories. Love our tribe.

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Another dinner, another artist showcase 🙂

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You can see both flags in this one shot…

I’ve tried multiple times to research what exactly the two groups are fighting over, but I never end up with a clear picture. Here’s what I know: The Kurds are a far left group of people who live primarily in southeastern Turkey and make up 15-25% of the country’s population. Turks consider Kurds to be ‘mountain Turks who have lost their language.’ They view them as their primary enemy, even above Isis, who the Kurds are actively fighting. For a very long time, the Kurds have wanted more power and to separate from Turkey into their own country, Kurdistan. Throughout the years, they have been both closer to and further from this goal, which translates into levels of peace and upheaval. This separation would be very problematic for Turkey from both a government and a territorial standpoint. So they fight them on it. Despite cease fires throughout the years, both sides have lost thousands of people as a result of the violence, which happens to be back in full swing since 2013. With regards to Stuttgart, there is a huge Turkish/Kurdish population here with strong ties to their home. Their protests/riots are in support- and mostly symbolic- of what is happening in their country.

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Sooooo didn’t intend to end my awesome birthday weekend post on that note! Ha! But it is what it is, right? If nothing else, witnessing situations like these give us a chance to learn and to broaden our perspectives. They also give us a chance to talk about them firsthand with Neve. And yes, we are always very aware of our surroundings and we take extra care to stay safe, even when presented with impromptu less-than-ideal circumstances.

Thank you again to everyone who reached out in some shape or form to help me celebrate this weekend. And even if you didn’t realize it was my birthday (I know it’s tough with me not being on Facebook at the moment, so there’s no reminder popping up!), just being here and reading my ramblings and following along on our adventures is such a gift and a blessing to me. THANK YOU. Now I’m off to get some rest before John’s brother, sister-in-law and our niece arrive here tomorrow morning! EEEK! So excited!

Already Friday!

18 Mar

*Just so I don’t forget, for those of you who follow along on Facebook, I’m going to be taking a little hiatus and deactivating my account this weekend. (Doesn’t everybody just need a little break every now and then?) So please be sure you’re subscribed to the blog (click the button on the righthand side –>) so you won’t miss when we have new posts!

You probably won’t notice, but I titled today’s post as a direct wink to my last one, which happened to be ‘Finally Friday!’ (I’m so clever, right?) This week has flown by and in a good way because we’ve had some really good stuff going on! For starters, we got in a terrific date night where I left off last week- tried a new rustic German restaurant that totally hit the mark on all fronts, especially with their in-house cut charcuterie. O. M. G.

In even bigger news, Uncle Andy arrived last Saturday! Honestly, I’m not sure who was more excited- us or him!

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See what I mean? Ha!

So let me back up and fill in any of you who don’t know who Uncle Andy is exactly. Well for starters, he’s not technically Neve’s uncle because he’s not technically mine or John’s brother. But he might as well be. You see, we met Andy in 2004 when John started working at SPAWAR in Charleston. I met him- and his girlfriend at the time (she was a troll, btw)- at the office Christmas party that year- and the group of us, along with several others, became fast friends. We formed a weekly trivia team (we won more times than not!), we boated every weekend, we ate food. After a few years, Andy ended up needing a place to live, so he moved in with us. What a fun few years we had all living under one roof! (John’s brother, Mark, even lived with us for part of that time, so it was especially good times!) And he wasn’t just family to John and me, but to our whole family. Holidays, celebrations, hard times…We were all family and still are to this day. Eventually, Andy decided to put down some roots and buy a house of his own- a mile down the street from us. A couple years later, Neve came along and it was love at first sight for she and her Uncle Andy. They’ve had their own special bond ever since. So yeah. Not sure whether I’d call him a brother or a best friend or just an integral part of our lives, but whatever he is, he’s family. ❤

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Three weeks old…

The weather has been fantastic this week for the most part, other than one random day of snow. Yeah, mid march and we’re over here with snow! Ha!

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Ummmm?

But other than that, we’ve been able to get out a good bit and soak it all in. We have a lovely park just up the hill from our house- it has three playgrounds, lots of walking paths among the vineyards and some great wide open spaces for the pups to let loose. And as of this week, it has flowers! Spring is coming, dammit!

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We were so excited to introduce Andy to our friends. They’ve all heard so much about each other, that I just couldn’t wait for everyone to put faces with names. What better time and place for introductions that with our neighbor, Collins’, birthday at the best burger joint we’ve discovered in Stuttgart!? It was seriously the best night we’ve had in AGES. It was so easy and comfortable and FUN. John said that it felt so much like ‘home’ and he’s right- it really did. It’s amazing how quickly- and genuinely- people become YOUR people.

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Not sure what we’d do without this group right here. Just so you know who you’re looking at, starting on the left…Abigail and Collins live next door to us on top of the shopping mall. They’re from the DC area by way of Minnesota and Camaroon. Their daughter, Amalie, is 2 1/2 and the sweetest little thing. She’s a firecracker like Neve. They’re due with Baby #2 in July. Matt and Emma live a train stop away also downtown and are from Summerville just like us, so not sure how we never crossed paths until we got all the way over here! Their girls, Emmie (6) and Ellie (1), are as different as night and day, but both just so awesome and Neve things they’re terrific. This tribe makes my heart happy.

Not much too picture worthy the rest of the week. We’ve just been exploring the city, visiting the bases, playing on playgrounds…Neve is absolutely adoring having Uncle Andy here. As you can see, he’s up for just about anything- human slide, playing with princesses, snuggling before naptime (although no one tops Daddy Snuggles 🙂 )…

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And before I forget, I just want to share how insanely proud I am of my girl and her swim lessons! She can now jump- or be tossed!- into the deepish (5′) end without anyone in the water, bounce off the bottom and swim to the side! All by herself! Long story short, but we haven’t had the easiest go of learning to swim over the last 2 years (yes, that’s how long we’ve been trying to learn!), so to see her so comfortable and confident around the water is amazing. And she loves her teacher, Mr. Isaac. Like love loves him. He’s from Uganda and has been here for 2 years- and is phenomenal with kids. About a month ago, we were walking home from school and she started giggling and blushing and finally said, ‘Mom, I can’t wait to see Mr. Isaac today. He is SOOOOOO handsome like a prince!’ It was the most precious thing!

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That’s about it from these parts! We are excited for the weekend just so we can all be together without pesky work or school getting in the way! Ha! We’re hoping to head south to Lake Constance to visit Affenberg Salem, aka Monkey Mountain. It’s a sanctuary for primates (and storks??) where you can roam freely with them on acres and acres. Sounds like a blast, right?! Best part, it’s supposed to be around 50F and partly sunny both days! I know, I know. Pretty bad when this southern girl is getting excited for weather descriptions like this!

And one last thing. My dear friend, Eleanor, had back surgery last week and has not had the best first week of recovery. If everyone could say a little prayer for her- we are sending the biggest hugs! Eleanor, Neve wanted to take this pictures just for you ‘so you would smile.’ ❤

 

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