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.
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!
Last week wasn’t the best. The kids were sick, Clay was TDY, and I’m pretty sure we were experiencing some post-vacation blues. Earlier in the week we talked about going way for Saturday night but then a stomach virus knocked me off my feet, Clay came home sick, and we waved the white flag on Friday night.
However, the four of us woke up Saturday morning refreshed and feeling *almost* normal. We were drinking coffee, watchingTV, and brainstorming ideas of how to spend the day. We talked about going downtown or hiking Great Falls or visiting Roosevelt Island but nothing was really exciting us. But the coffee was kicking in and we were feeling the best we’d felt all week so when the idea of going out of town for the night was tossed around, all four of us we’re on board. We quickly decided to head to Charlottesville, Virginia for the night, which was our original plan earlier in the week. Despite being stationed here for almost five years between two tours, we had never been to Monticello or Shenandoah National Park, which was as good of a reason as any to drive a couple of hours toward the mountains.
We were on the road by 10am. We stopped for brunch along the way and made to Monticello by early afternoon. We purchased tickets and then wandered the grounds until our scheduled tour time. We participated in outdoor ‘Slavery at Monticello’ tour, which focused on the experiences of the enslaved people who lived and labored on the Monticello plantation.
Even though Thomas Jefferson publicly condemned slavery, he owned over 600 slaves himself. He split up enslaved families, impregnated a teenage Sally Hemings when he was in his 40s, and only freed five enslaved men during his lifetime. I appreciated that our tour guide didn’t try and gloss over these facts and was very outspoken about how Thomas Jefferson was not a good man when it came to his treatment of the enslaved people at Monticello – ensuring his reputation as a complex and controversial historical figure.
The house tour was informative but it was a bit squished due to the size of our tour group. No pictures are allowed inside the house (pictured above is small building in the gardens) and it was difficult to hear the guide at times. While we’re glad that we finally visited Monticello, we all agree that it is a ‘one and done‘ place for us.
After Monticello, we drove into Charlottesville and checked into our hotel. We were a very short walk from Charlottesville Historic Downtown Mall, so we spent the evening strolling along the brick-paved roads. It was a gorgeous evening and it was easy to see why Charlottesville is consistently voted as one of the best places to live in the United States.
We opted to eat dinner at The Bebedero, which is located at one end of the mall. We loved the vibe and the drinks were amazing – my spicy margarita was one of the best I’ve ever had. But we may have been a bit to cavalier going to a Mexican restaurant after a week of not feeling great. For that reason, I don’t feel like I was a good judge of the food. We chalked up our meal as a learning experience for the weekend.
Yesterday morning, we checked out of our hotel and drove into Shenandoah National Park from the Swift Run Gap entrance. We briefly considered hiking Old Rag with the kids but due to them just getting over being sick, we decided that the strenuous hike might’ve been a bit much for them. Instead, we hiked a 5-mile loop and saw Dark Hallow Falls and Rose River Falls.
We did a bit of rock scrambling and the trails had enough obstacles that it didn’t feel like we were taking a leisurely hike in the woods. And most exciting – we had our first black bear in the wild! It was through the woods on the other side of the creek so we felt no danger but it was still a bit unnerving – especially since the kids were with us.
We checked off another national park and look forward to spending more time at Shenandoah National Park until the Army decides to send us somewhere else. We’re so glad we decided to get away for the night. -summer is quickly coming to an end (I start my new job next week – eek!) and the kids’ sports schedules will soon dictate our weekends. Time seems to be moving at lightening speed during this phase of our lives so it was nice to spend uninterrupted time together as a family. But we’re hopeful that this fall will allow us at least a few spontaneous last-minute overnight trips…where should we go next?
Sometimes my love of Amazon makes me feel a bit dirty. We’ve been Prime members for over a decade and it seems impossible to imagine our lives without Subscribe & Save, Prime Video, and two-day shipping. I consider ourselves fairly green but it is impossible to ignore the environmental impact of Amazon. I’m sure I’m not the only one wrestling with such thoughts as I type amazon.com into the address bar and give preference to items with the beautiful blue prime in sans serif font. Sigh. So today I am sharing my favorite Amazon finds under $10 (* a couple of the items fluctuate under/over $10 by about $.40 or so) that I use on a regular basis.
Dotted Grid Notebook/Journal – I am always jotting down notes and as a left-hander, I’ve endured a life-long struggle with spiral bound notebooks. If we weren’t planning on paying for our children’ college education, I’d exclusively use Moleskin notebooks but that is not my reality. These notebooks are a good alternative that are much easier on the wallet. My goal is to someday fill a notebook cover-to-cover but my addiction to new journals has prevented me from doing so – maybe 2019 will be THE year!
dimok Running Belt Waist Pack – You know what is cooler than a person wearing a fanny pack running belt? Two people wearing them! Both Clay and I are proud owners of this running belt. It can hold keys, a massive iPhone, and more! The reflective bits really up the fashionable allure of the belt and the adjustable waistband really lets your individuality shine when wearing it… up high or down low? It’s your choice! In all seriousness, it’s a good running belt at a great price. Clay wears his when running fast. I wear mine when challenging the definition of running (who am I kidding – my pace can only be describe as a jog).
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Gel Cleanser – I’ve gotten a lot more serious about my skincare as of late. And honestly, anything is an improvement over my 20s. Back then, my skincare routine consisted of regularly sleeping in my make-up and washing my face in the morning with St. Ives Apricot Scrub. Over the past year, I’ve started double-cleansing, using serums and masks, and really paying attention to the products I use. That being said, I refuse to spend a fortune on my newfound interest in skincare products because if it comes down to me being able to afford to travel or having less-radiant skin, my passport will win every time. I’m a huge fun of Neutragena’s Hydro Boost line with hyaluronic acid – I’ve noticed a big difference in my skin since introducing it my routine. I only use it at night because I find that my skin can’t handle a hyaluronic acid cleaners in both the morning and night.
Aztec Secret – Indian Healing Clay – Every one and their mother are aware of this amazing product but it really is a fantastic mask for a price that is almost criminal. I use it a few times a month and mix it with apple cider vinegar. It lasts a ridiculous amount of time too – according to my Amazon order history, the last time I ordered it was December 2016.
Heritage Store Rose Petals Rosewater – I love spraying rosewater on my face and hair whenever I need a little refreshing. Rose water has been used in various cultures for centuries; the anti-inflammatory properties are said to reduce skin redness and puffiness. Does it really do that for me? Meh – who knows? But it sure does smell good and it really does put a little pep in my step so I continue to buy it. It’s great to use when traveling after sitting on an airplane for many hours and again – it smells amazing!