Tag Archives: wilhelma

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 😉


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.


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. 😉



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 ❤



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.






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



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















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





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



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.



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


You can’t help but feel good eating here.



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. 🙂


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…




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.


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. ❤


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

Family Photo Dump

18 Apr

Happy Monday, y’all! I thought about waiting until this weekend to do a post because it’ll be a terrific, juicy one with lots of pretty pictures. Afterall, we’re headed to Rome on Wednesday for the rest of the week! Or I could’ve waited until tomorrow since we’re headed to FruhlingsFest tonight (the Oktoberfest spring equivalent- WOOHOO!) But I just couldn’t wait. We are having the BEST time with family- Mark, Bethany and Norah. We’ve been so excited for their visit- and have missed them terribly since we left last summer. At home, we spend alot of time together, so the distance has definitely been felt in that regard, especially for Neve and Norah who  (usually) gracefully straddle the line between cousins and besties. 😉


Night One ❤

This is their time in Europe, so it’s been so great to experience some of those ‘first time wonders’ again through their eyes. Things that we don’t really notice anymore, customs that we’ve just gotten used to, scenery that has become our norm…I just love those little nuggets of newness! And we love being part of this new experience for them.


First night in Europe. What better way to kick off than dinner at the nearest biergarten?!

Just a quick aside for those of you not as familiar with our family tree. John is the oldest of three children- Mark is four years younger and Christina, who was here last month, is in the middle. He and Bethany are high school sweethearts (Bethany had just turned 15 when I met her! She and Mark started dating a few months after John and me), who then both graduated from University of Louisville. Mark lived with us one summer in college while he interned at SPAWAR with John. Once he graduated, he moved to Charleston to accept a full time position as a civil engineer (John is an electrical engineer). Bethany soon followed and they bought a house just a few miles from us. Norah came along in 2013, making her just 21 months younger than Neve. And that’s our quick run down 😉


For our first week, we’ve been super busy, both exploring Stuttgart (y’all know I love playing me some tourist!) and venturing out for some cool day trips. So far, though, nothing that I haven’t already posted about, so I won’t go there again. 😉 If you happened to miss the posts about the famous Wilhelma Zoo, medieval Rothenburg or Schloss Lichtenstein, just do a quick search of the site and it’ll take you right to them! But for now, just some shots of our adventures, our time together, some awesome spring-welcoming weather, some not so awesome weather, because…Germany. HA!





John’s newest toy! Several of the guys ride to work each day and John’s been dying to join the fun! It’s less than 10 miles, but half of that is straight uphill! Ha!



Spring has sprung at Wilhelma!


What are the odds?! We met a family on the train en route to the zoo…who are also American…and who live across the street from us! The boys are 4 and 6- and the three of them were instant friends! We have plans to hang out next week 🙂



Where did my little baby go?


If you look closely at the roof of the building at the far end of the alley, you’ll see a stork sitting in her nest. Storks return to the same nest year after year- and they meet their lifelong mates there, too. ❤


Lichtenstein Castle is always one of our favorites, even on days the clouds and fog are so heavy it makes it look like the Evil Queen’s castle instead of Snow White’s.






Just a little patience…Grabbed some lunch before heading home and the weather cleared out- just temporarily- and long enough to get the perfect shot ❤



Two birthday celebrations in less than a week! And yes, this is a real cake this time- an ice cream cake, actually! My attempt to write his name ended up completely not centered, so I added a ‘y’ for extra pizzazz. Ha!


See, I told you so! We really are having a wonderful time, strengthening our bonds and making such lovely family memories. The sad part is that this coming week is sure to go by even quicker than the past. Not even going to think about that yet! Just going to focus on the Fest tonight, a quick trip back to the Sonnenhof farm tomorrow and then we’re Italy-bound for five days! I know, I’m tired just thinking about it, but SO pumped! Go big or go home, right?!

Monday Mash-Up

28 Mar

By now, y’all know I love me a good hodgepodge of pictures and stories! Ha! No seriously- I think it’s important to share the normal, the day to day, the routine…The life we’re living here in Stuttgart between adventures. Heck, living here is an adventure in itself!

For starters, PROOF OF SPRING! Not only have they put water back in all the fountains, but we have buds on our tree and green leaves on the bushes around our house!



So here is the remainder of our week, in pictures. We played tourist, tried a new restaurant or two, played on playgrounds…


At the Brauhaus across the street from us…



Always a highlight of our day ❤



Just a typical walk to school 😉


They made candles at school as part of their Easter celebrations. Then wrapped them to prevent drips and learned to light them and blow them out on their own.


Ladies, this fella is single! 

And we finally made it to the famous Wilhelma Zoo here in Stuttgart…It’s HUGE and probably the prettiest zoo I’ve ever seen. So organized, so well-kept, so diverse…My favorite part was the botanicals- building after building, green space after green space of different enviroscapes, terrain and indigenous plants. I LOVED the warm weather houses- the rainforests, the deserts- obvs. What I didn’t love were the spaces allocated for the animals themselves. Don’t get me wrong, the zoo has a wonderful reputation for animal care and I saw no evidence that any were unhappy, but it just seemed to me that with all the land they have, it could’ve been put to better use where the animals were concerned. Less decorative landscapes, more animal spaces. So you’ll see that I wasn’t near as inspired to take pictures in those areas…





My absolute favorite part of the entire zoo was the Azalea House. Yes, it’s a real thing. And no, it couldn’t have come at a better time. These last few weeks, despite all the fun we’ve been having and despite having one of my best friends here, have been a bit rough for me on the homesick front. I’ve really been missing home- the people, my town, the familiarity…I love spring in the Lowcountry of South Carolina- the days getting longer, the temps getting warmer, the tourists starting to arrive for the season, my hometown in bloom, the Flowertown Festival (where I’ve had a booth for the last 17 years), all of our birthdays…Being away right now is hard. Well, the day before we visited the zoo, I had a mini pity party with John about the matter. Then lo and behold, not even 24 hours later, I stepped into a balmy 80F ginormous glass house filled to the brim with Summerville. Every color and smell of azalea right there in front of my face. Even Neve immediately shouted, ‘It’s like home!’ The Universe knew, once again, what my soul needed and it provided. And I was thankful.



One of my favorite pieces of artwork- it hangs in our entryway as a reminder always.

And before Uncle Andy had to leave us, we made sure to kick-off the Easter festivities because…eggs. 😉


No Easter Bunny this year, so we had to make due with a giant LED egg in the mall below us 😉

Which brings me to Easter. This was definitely a different Easter than years past, and even with some awesome planning, it still didn’t work out the way we’d envisioned. We had plans for a giant, multi-family Easter Egg Hunt in one of the local parks. Everyone was bringing stuffed plastic eggs and food. Except last week, the plague struck (ie. the pukes) several of the families and before we knew it, we were down to just us and our neighbor besties. So we improvised and all worked out beautifully. Thanks again, Universe, for providing what we need. Our two girls ended up hunting for eggs on our own terrace followed by a lowkey lunch across the street. And during that lunch, we all realized that what we were missing was ‘tradition,’ so we made a last minute decision to cook a big meal and enjoy the day just as we would have at home- at home with family and fellowship and togetherness. Yes it was different, but it was soul food and we ended the day full.



Checking out their loot 😉


First egg she spotted was hidden under a bench. She went running for it and tripped about 2 feet before the bench. Had she hit two inches to the right, it would’ve been a metal corner rather than wood. Very lucky to only have a knot, a bloody spot and a cute bandage.


The Easter Bunny came!! (Funny side note: John and I hate marshmallows. Neve loves them. We don’t know how or why. But we just knew she’d love Peeps, so we looked high and low for them. We were right. Yuck.




And there’s our week! Told you we were busy! And yes, we’re missing Andy already. So I’ll leave you with my new absolute favorite picture of Neve and her Daddy, taken one night when nothing would do but stopping for a scoop of ice cream. ❤


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