Oh Hi. Life Lately.

It’s been awhile. 43 days to be exact.

I was in middle school when Jagged Little Pill dominated the airwaves. My favorite song on the album then and now is Head Over Feet and my least favorite is {ironically} Ironic. I admit that I was by no means considered brilliant in 7th grade but even I side-eyed Ms. Morissette’s lyrics, which detailed bad luck and not irony. Because of this, I’m always hesitant to declare something ironic because I always feel the need to take a step back and ask myself, “Is this really ironic?” So – with trepidation, I am writing that I found it ironic that I woke up sick on the day I took off from work in effort to collect and recenter myself. Of course.

I’m feeling better today and I have another day at home thanks to the kids not having school due to Election Day and the fact that my hourly rate barely covers child care. The house is scrubbed clean, our winter clothes sorted, and our guest bed is now home to a mountain of items to be donated. So now I write. The past couple of months have been a whirlwind of new normals, uncertainty surrounding our future, and the everyday life that occurs when raising two children in the DC suburbs.

Soccer season has come and gone. Our Saturdays will become a little more open because both decided not to play a team sport this winter. We took advantage of the reduced military rate for the Epic Pass so we hope to spend most of our weekends this winter on the slopes and finally have the kids learn to ski. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t learn to ski until I was in middle school and living in Pennsylvania and even then, it was during a ski trip with the French club. My parents don’t downhill ski so my siblings and I never learned as kids. Clay and I would like to take ski vacations with the kids when they get a bit older so we’d like them to learn sooner rather than later. We’ll start with the Poconos and who knows – maybe in a few years we’ll be skiing in the Alps?

We leaned into fall and visited Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Virginia. I’m not a huge fan of the organized fun that occurs at such places – I’d much rather wander through fall foliage without the ‘farm’ experience. However, the kids really enjoy going and we found ourselves in fits of laughter while getting lost in the corn maze.

We cheered on the Nationals as they won their last regular season game – we did not attend any of the playoff games or World Series games. We briefly considered dropping the cash because the opportunity doesn’t come along often to see your team play in the World Series but it was either pay for four tickets or have the funds to take another epic trip next summer – we chose travel. It was the first World Series were neither team won any home games so one could argue that it worked out to our advantage. But boy, it sure was fun watching the Nats – even if it was on television. They finished the fight. Go Nats!

We went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, which is the second largest Renaissance festival in the country. While we enjoyed the jousting tournament, we quickly learned that we’re not really Renaissance Festival people. We inadvertently went on Pirate Weekend, which made for some interesting people watching but the grounds were ridiculously busy and we found it to be very expensive. But yeah – not our cup of tea.

Clay and I saw The Head and the Heart at the Anthem, which is one of my favorite venues in the area to see concerts. The Head and the Heart put on a fantastic show and their set list was a good mix of old and new songs. Does it really get any better than Charity Rose Thielen’s voice?

We bought a new car – a 2020 Subaru Outback Onyx XT Edition. We’ve been wanting to trade in Clay’s car for quite some time because neither one of us particularly liked it but there was nothing on the market that we wanted to buy. That is – until Subaru announced the new Onyx XT package on the Outback. I plan on reviewing this car on the blog in the future because it is so much fun to drive and we’re so happy that we waited instead of settling.

The broken mini-blinds really make the picture, don’t they? I’m a sucker for my husband in his Mess Dress so I was thrilled to accompany him to the Marshall Dinner last month. While there was no dancing at the event, we did get to hear former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, belt out Theme from New York, New York among other songs. His speech really resonated with us and covered many of the topics that have monopolized our own discussions about what we want the next 5, 10, 20 years to look like in regards to Clay’s military service.

Clay’s parents come up to visit and help us celebrate the little guy’s 10th birthday. They were able to attend both soccer games, which the kids really appreciated. The following weekend, my mom flew in for a quick visit. She was able to also see both soccer games and afterward, we took her to our favorite place to get blue crabs in the Annapolis, Maryland area (The Point Crab House).

We only managed to visit two breweries over the past 43 days – Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton and Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont. Pictured is the Pineapple Tart Ale, which is described as “A simple grain bill of Pilsner and Wheat malts with just a touch of Perle hops. Lactobacillus is added to the wort before boiling to achieve a tart flavor. Pineapple puree added post fermentation for a hint floral aromas and a citrus finish.” I highly recommend if you like tart ales and/or wheat beer with a hint of fruit.

The kids’ costumes for the Book Character Parade at school were quite different than what they wore later that night for Trick-or-Treating.

And finally, while we haven’t decorated for Christmas yet, we do have an undecorated Christmas tree in the corner of our living room. Over the weekend, we bought a new tree with a smaller footprint because our 10+ year-old tree has just been too big for our last few homes. We took the tree out of the box to make sure the lights worked and it just seemed silly to put it back in the box so up it went! I’m sure we will decorate the tree and the rest of the house sooner rather than later – when do you traditionally decorate for Christmas?

So there you have it – a glimpse into my life over the past 43 days. I didn’t write near as much as I wanted due to other professional obligations but the next few months will look quite different than the previous few. And for that, I am thankful.

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We Fell in Love with Salzburg, Austria

When I wrote my post about how we chose our summer vacation this year, Salzburg wasn’t on our radar. Our original plan involved squeezing in a trip to Berlin but we eventually decided that we’d rather spend our time in Bavaria this time around. To be honest, I can’t quite remember how we decided on Salzburg, Austria but I’m so incredibly happy we did!

Salzburg is amazing. It’s the fourth-largest city in Austria and known for it’s Baroque architecture, being the birthplace of Mozart, home of the Salzburg Festival, and the setting for The Sound of Music. We stayed in a family suite at Das Grune zur Post, which was a quick bus ride into Old Town (a bus stop is literally outside the hotel). Our room was spacious, clean, and comfortable. Our time in Salzburg coincided with a record-breaking heat wave so while our room had no air-conditioning, the hotel had set up couple of free-standing fans that helped. And how can you not appreciate the …interesting…artwork above the bed?

Public transportation system in Salzburg consists of a network of buses that are clean, reliable, and extremely easy to navigate. We purchased a family pass each day we were in town and had no trouble hopping on and off to get to wherever we wanted to go.

So what did we do in Salzburg?

We walked. And we walked. And we walked. Salzburg’s Old Town (Altstadt) has stunning mountain views, gorgeous baroque architecture, narrow alleys, and winding roads lined with green moss. And it even has a castle!

Known for having one of the most-preserved city centers in the Bavarian region, Salzburg’s Old Town has cobblestone streets and buildings dating back to the Middle Ages that emerged from World War II relatively unscathed – at least compared to other towns of the era. The town’s bridges and the dome of the cathedral were destroyed by Allied bombing but a majority of the baroque architecture remained intact.

The Salzburg Cathedral (still contains the baptismal font in which Mozart was baptized!) dates back to the 700s, eventually being rebuilt in the 17th century, which is as we see it today.

The kids absolutely loved the “Gurken” art installation in Furtwänglerpark by Austrian artist Erwin Wurm. We’ve had a handful of people criticize our decision to travel to Europe two summers in a row with our kids (“Why don’t wait until they’re older?”) – wondering if our itineraries are ‘too boring’ or ‘too adult’ for our elementary-aged children. Perhaps we’re lucky but both our kids enjoy exploring cities, hiking, and learning about history (Stonehenge being the exception – ha!). Our goal as parents is to have them leave the nest with a sense of adventure and an appreciation for the stories of our past and present. Fingers-crossed that we can make it three summers in a row.

Seriously – how can you not love Salzburg?

Residenzplatz is the square in the heart of Old Town Salzburg. Surrounded by the archiepiscopal residences, Residenzplatz is bordered by the New Residence, the Cathedral, the Old Residence and lots of townhomes. In the center of the square is Residenzbrunnen, a 17th century fountain that is considered the largest Baroque fountain in Central Europe. You’ve probably seen it before – Julie Andrews splashes the fountain while singing ‘I Have Confidence’ in The Sound of Music.

Speaking of The Sound of Music, easily one of the highlights of our almost two-week trip was our Fraulein Maria Bicycle Tour throughout Old Town and the countryside. The tour had us biking to famous sights of the film and locations relevant to the real Maria and Captain von Trapp, who were from Salzburg, Austria.

All of the external scenes for the movie were filmed in Salzburg and the surrounding region, and interior scenes were filmed at the 20th Century Fox studios in California.

If you find yourselves in Salzburg with time to only do one thing, I recommend The Sound of Music bike tour. It was schmalzy, incredibly fun, and absolutely beautiful.

Our time in Salzburg also included a visit to Hohensalzburg Fortress, one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Refurbished in the 19th century, it has been a tourist attraction ever since – complete with a funicular railway up to the top. Visitors can either walk up to the castle or take the funicular railway for a small fee. The kids enjoyed seeing the exhibits scattered throughout the castle and the views are incredible!

Our time in Salzburg happened to be the week before the start of the famed Salzburg Festival so we were able to witness bustle in preparation. While we did a lot of things in Salzburg, we were not able to visit a salt mine – we ran out of time! Salzburg literally means Salt Fortress – there are artistic references to salt scattered throughout the city and almost everyone we met recommended at salt mine tour. Next time, for sure. Because we will the magnificently beautiful Salzburg again.

Let Me Clear My Throat

Taps microphone.

In 1996, DJ Kool gave us the jam, “Let Me Clear My Throat.” Professional sports haven’t been the same since and it’s impossible for me to sit down to write without thinking of the title lyric, which is uttered throughout the song. Thank you, DJ Kool for sponsoring this long-overdue post.

An alternative title of this post could be Reasons Why I Haven’t Blogged in 30+ Days. Shortly after my last post detailing our time in Munich this summer, I started a new position at the district office for our school system. Over the years, I’ve written a lot about my desire to find the right balance between my professional goals, Clay’s professional goals, and what we want our family life to look like – all while living within the constraints that the Army puts upon us. I currently work 20 hours/week and only go to the office during the hours my kids are in school and I feel like that is the perfect amount of time. I’m still able to be heavily involved in our kids’ school, be a Girl Scout Leader, shuttle the kids to sports, music lessons, and other activities throughout the week, but I also have a place to go that values my input and allows me to actually use some things that I learned in graduate school. Unfortunately, I’m still figuring out the best way to organize my time so as a result, the majority of the writing I’ve been doing hasn’t made its way to this space.

I still have yet to write about our trip to Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg earlier this summer and my recaps about our time in Salzburg and Garmish-NAME are sitting in the draft folder. We had a little getaway to Shenandoah National Park (we saw two bears!) and Charlottesville, Virginia. We also went to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina this summer – but I never wrote about it. I haven’t talked about how difficult I’m finding it to lose the ten pounds I’ve put on over the last two years. I wrote a post about my insecurities surrounding my skin but never published it. I don’t write about how terrified I am that I am failing at something/anything at any given moment. And I haven’t mentioned a word about how our (rental) home is seemingly falling apart around us.

It’s not that I have a shortage of things to write about. I could write about how we went camping this past weekend and ended up spending the night next to the snake who lived in the tree beside our campsite. I could write about the one lady who glares at me whenever I see her on the playground. I could write about how I’m not really crazy about the list of places the Army could send us next. And I could write about the plans I have for And Then We Laughed.

I spent last year throwing a bunch of ideas and experiences at the proverbial wall – just to see what would stick. I tried a couple of different things in the professional realm and I experimented with a few things in this space. Perhaps that most important lessons I learned were that the type of blogger I want to be doesn’t really have a label yet and teaching elementary school isn’t for me. I also learned that there are certain things that I am not willing to give up – even if it means making professional sacrifices. Example? Walking my children to school. Sorry, not sorry.

Shenandoah National Park

I had someone recently ask me what I was truly passionate about. Like really truly deeply within my bones passionate about. I’ve been giving it some thought – admittedly, probably not as much as I should. Expect some positive changes in this space in the coming weeks. I’m slowly getting my groove back and man, does it ever feel good.

Four Days in Munich – Prost!

Munich (München in German) is literally “Home of the Monks”. Founded in 1158 and known as the capital of Bavaria since 1506, Munich’s history is filled with stories of counter-reformation, renaissance arts, the plague, and war. Despite the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Munich eventually became known as Hauptstadt der Bewegung (Capitol of the Movement) when Hitler and the Nazi Party took control of Germany in 1933. Dachau, the first concentration camp, is located only 10 miles outside of the city. For these reasons and more, it’s a shame to only associate Munich with Oktoberfest and beer.

That’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy ourselves when it came to drinking our calories in Munich. I was right at home because it doesn’t get much better than hefeweizen in my world. Clay is an IPA man himself, so while he thoroughly enjoyed drinking his way around Bavaria, he was missing hops greatly by the time our trip was ending. And you have to love Germany – Clay and I drank cheaper than our kids during our four days in Munich, which should be known as Land of the 5€ Cokes.

We arrived in Munich around 11am on a Sunday and thankfully didn’t have too long of a wait for immigration – waiting to get my passport stamped after sleeping on a plane for 9+ hours is easily my least favorite aspect of traveling. We grabbed our luggage and attempted to figure out how to purchase passes for the Munich U-Bahn and S-Bahn. We used a kiosk and crossed our fingers that we bought the correct tickets. On our way to find the U-Bahn entrance, we passed an information desk and decided to double-check our instincts – which ended up being wrong. The incredibly nice lady gave us a refund, explained the various zones, and told us that a daily family pass is our best (and cheapest!) option for using Munich public transportation.

We were able to get to our hotel, Sheraton Munich Westpark, without any trouble and we very much appreciated it being directly above the
München Heimeranplatz train station. We were in a family suite that was spacious and found paying the extra $10/night for access to the Sheraton Club on the top floor was will worth the money. With the Club, we had 24/7 access to bottled water, bottled soda, bottled beer, and coffee/espresso/cappuccino, as well food during certain times of the day. I highly recommend the hotel, which is part of Marriott Bonvoy collection, if you find yourself in Munich with kids – it is just a few train stops away from the city center and within walking distance of some fantastic independent neighborhood restaurants that don’t charge city center prices.

Our first meal in Munich was at the infamous Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. Yes, it was a touristy thing to do but hey – we were tourists. Clay and I did learn that we were a bit overzealous with our drinking a liter of beer on only a few hours sleep.

We spent the rest of the evening strolling through the streets of Munich and just experiencing the sights and sounds of the city. By the end of World War II, Munich was a shell of it’s former self due to the heavy bombings it endured. As a result, the city was painstakingly rebuilt using photographs that the Nazi’s meticulously captured when they realized that the Allied Forces were closing in.

We spent the next day exploring to our hearts content. I found the dichotomy between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ throughout the city particularly somber and beautiful.

We were able to witness the famed Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Marienplatz, which is in the heart of Munich. Every day at 11am and 12pm (year-round) and 5pm (summer only), it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century. Marienplatz is the central square of Munich and has been it’s main square since 1158. Pictured is New Town Hall, which was completed in 1909 and a brilliant example of neo-gothic architecture.

We visited Viktualienmarkt at least once a day for drinks and food. Viktualienmarkt is a popular outdoor market next to Marienplatz that is filled with over 140 stalls offering food, drinks, flowers, produce, etc…

The Englischer Garten is a large public park in Munich that is one of the largest in the world (it’s even bigger than Central Park). We waded in the water, saw a few nude sunbathers, and marveled at the seemingly endless green space in the middle of the city.

The beer garden that surrounds Chinese Tower in Englischer Garten seats over 7000 people so of course, we had to eat (and drink) there.

The stream that runs through Englischer Garten is artificial so as a result of the water pumping mechanism there is a standing wave at one end. On any given day, you can see people attempting to serve on the wave for as long as they can. We watched quite a few people with serious surfing skills – in Munich nonetheless!

Like many people traveling to new places, we love to visit churches that have withstood history and tell a story of their own. I couldn’t stop staring at the ceiling of Heilig-Geist-Kirche (Holy Ghost Church).

Another one I loved was Michaelskirche (St. Michael’s Church), which is the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. “Mad” King Ludwig II also happens to be entombed in the crypt.

Our time in Munich was broken up into two chunks – two days at the beginning of our trip and two days at the end. We stayed at the same hotel and really enjoyed bookending our vacation in Home of the Monks. Munich is Germany’s third largest city and home to almost 1.5 million people. But it many ways, it’s the perfect blend of city and country – there are so many public parks that you never feel too far away from nature. And we were hard-pressed to find a window that didn’t have fresh flowers or plants growing in a windowsill.

And how can you not love the sight of Monks strolling the streets?

We loved just walking around the city and seeing where each day took us. One evening, we climbed almost 300 rickety steps to the top of the Church of St. Peter for a fantastic view of Munich (totally worth the few Euros).

We all agreed that our favorite food in Munich were the meals that had a strong Hungarian influence. The goulash we had at Hofbrauhaus was one of the best dishes we ate the entire trip.

We did make it a point to visit Olympiapark, home to the 1972 Summer Olympics and the site of the Munich Massacre. We visited the memorial – erected near where 11 Israeli Olympic team members were held hostage and killed by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. A West Germany police officer was also killed in the attack. Olympiapark continues to serve as a venue for cultural, social, and religious events. It also has a playground that the kids absolutely adored (Germany has fantastic playgrounds in general).

We also popped into BMW Welt, where we were able to get up close and personal with various Bayerische Motoren Werke products. Entrance is free and you are encouraged to ask questions and fall in love with the cars. We opted not to pay to go to the museum because we got our fix from the free and massive showroom.

Did you know that there is a Michael Jackson memorial in Munich? Neither did we until we accidentally stumbled upon it one morning.

Feldherrnhalle, a 19th-century Italianate monument to the Bavarian Army and the site of Hitler’s 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.

We found Munich incredibly easy to navigate and an absolute joy to explore. If you ever have any questions about visiting Munich with kids, please do not hesitate to ask!