The Art of Knowing Very Little

The other night after dinner, the four of us were playing a game at the table when I was struck with one of those moments of disbelief – the type when it feels like you’re floating above the room keenly observing the people and events. If we were in a Nancy Meyers film, the screen would’ve given way to a gorgeous and unnecessary oversized kitchen as Summer Samba (So Nice) floated in the air. I stared at my hard-working husband and curious children and the Ticket to Ride: First Journey game board and thought to myself, “I am here.” The three of them were laughing about a mispronunciation of a train station as I looked on with reverence. I was reflecting on our path that lead to that precise moment in time when my son called out, “It’s your turn, Mom!” – which sent me crashing down from my ethereal birds-eye perspective.

the great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been

madeleine l'engle quote

I’m getting older. The laugh lines on my face are more pronounced than they were five years ago. When I stare at my hands, I’m struck by how much older they appear than the years my birth certificate indicates. The sands of time seem to be falling at feverish pace and I know they will continue to do so with each year. And while I am more confident than ever and grateful for what I’ve been able to experience thus far, I am continuously reminded that I know very little about this world.

Grand Canyon family sunset

We’ve been lucky to travel to some pretty amazing places that will be forever etched in our hearts. But there is a reason why I am quick to recommend the Grand Canyon as a must-do family vacation – being able to participate in the transformative experience of soaking in the indescribable view with our children is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. Sitting on that ledge, we were reminded of just how small we were in the most overwhelmingly way possible. And what is perhaps most astonishing is that if were were to sit in that same exact spot right now, the view would not be the same because the canyon is ever-changing. Just like life.

Sometimes I wonder if I deserve the life that I’ve cultivated over the years. I’ll look down on the events taking place around me and think, “How did I ever get here?” and confuse perception with reality. I wonder if I express enough gratitude. And I question whether I’m seizing the moment enough to maximize the experience. But when I float back down, I’m reminded that the beauty of life lies with understanding just how little we understand of it. I am lucky that I’ve had the time that I’ve had and I can only hope that there are many more years ahead of me. After all, I still know very little.

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Germany and Austria – Our {Rough} Itinerary

I can count on two hands the number of days left before we board our flight to Munich. To say that we’re excited is an understatement. Eeeeek. Earlier this year, I wrote about how we chose our big summer vacation. And last year, I really enjoyed writing about how we chose our adventure and our rough itinerary, and recapping our time in the Cotswolds, London, and Paris. So I figured I’d give a brief overview of what we plan to accomplish during our time in Germany and Austria and how we plan to incorporate lessons learned from our trip to Europe last summer.

Munich. We scored an amazing deal on roundtrip tickets to Munich so we’re bookending our trip in the capital city of Bavaria. We initially considered incorporating Berlin into this trip but ultimately chose to focus on southern Germany and Austria in order to really experience the scenery and culture. Yes – we will be sure to visit Hofbrauhaus, Marienplatz, Frauenkirche, and more but we’re just really looking forward to wandering around the city and seeing where each day takes us.

Salzburg. After our initial stay in Munich, we’re renting a car and driving to a villa on the outskirts of Salzburg. We will stay there for a few days and explore both the city and countryside. Yes, we will be doing a Sound of Music bike tour and will have no shame singing Do-Re-Mi in Mirabell Gardens. We hope to visit a lake or two, we’re looking forward to hiking Untersberg, and of course eating our way throughout the city!

Edelweiss Lodge & Resort. We had already pretty much mapped out our trip when we received news that Edelweiss Lodge & Resort changed the eligibility requirements back to those stationed outside of EUCOM. We were able to score a few nights at the resort so we will be heading back into Germany after our time in Salzburg. We plan to relax during this portion of our trip and leisurely explore the countryside and visit Neuschwanstein Castle and other famed Bavarian sites. And I am almost positive we will fall in love with Garmisch-Partenkirchen and will never want to leave. We will also be in town for Garmischer Fest so we will be able to experience a true German festival.

Munich. We are ending our trip back in Munich and will have a couple of days to explore more of the city before flying back home.

What We Are Doing Different This Year

More time. Due to Clay being an aide-de-camp at the time, he was only able to take a week of leave. We made the most of our 7 days in the United Kingdom and France but because of our tight schedule, our days were packed and we were exhausted by the end of the trip. This year, we will have more time and we will have more opportunities for rest and relaxation.

Less guilt. This ties into the previous point but we are not going to let ourselves feel guilty if we want to have a quieter day that doesn’t involve running from landmark to landmark in order to maximize our time. Clay and I have trouble relaxing but we are going to force ourselves to have a few hours of down time built into each day – even if it means eating a leisurely meal or sitting in a park and letting the kids play while we sip drinks.

Listen to Rick Steves. We love watching his show and reading his books so we have no reason not to follow his advice. His travel philosophy is simple and we will be sure to be fanatically positive and militantly optimistic during our trip.

Those of you who have been to Munich, Salzburg, and/or Garmisch-Partenkirchen, what do you recommend?

Spring Break 2019 Recap – Savannah, Georgia

After five states, four cities, and over 1600 miles, we are home and back to our regular routine. We had a great spring break. While our Easter was unconventional – the kids hunted for eggs in our Raleigh hotel room – it was spent with the people I love most in the world so I can’t complain. Tomorrow will be filled with work, school, baseball, and preparing ourselves up for the last quarter mile of the school year. The kids are currently asleep and Clay and I are watching Brooklyn 99 with computers on our laps – I’m writing this blog post and Clay is researching hotels in Munich (we booked our hotel for our time in Salzburg, Austria and I am unapologetically excited to nerd-out to Sound of Music locales – eek).

Okay – let’s talk about our spring break road trip. We briefly considered leaving Friday evening after Violet’s t-ball game but we quickly vetoed that idea when we realized that traditional Friday evening traffic on I-95 coupled with Spring Break traffic would be about as much fun as being forced to watch Speed 2: Cruise Control on a continuous loop for 24 hours. We made the right call because traffic horror stories dominated the local news cycle that night.

Yes – we have coordinating monogrammed LL Bean luggage. I’ll admit that it’s a bit dorky but also very efficient and practical. We woke up early on Saturday morning and pulled out of our driveway shortly after the sun rose. Our goal was to reach Savannah, Georgia by mid-afternoon but because we weren’t the only ones traveling south on I-95 that day, Waze pushed back our estimated time of arrival throughout the day. But soon enough (it felt like days) we pulled into the Savannah Riverfront Marriott and breathed a sigh of relief – it finally felt like vacation.

The hotel choice was perfect for our family. It is located along the river – within walking distance of Savannah’s historic River Street but just far enough removed from the rowdiness. The hotel upgraded us to a riverfront room so after catching our breath on the balcony, we changed out of our road trip clothes and walked to Boar’s Head Grill & Tavern, where we had made reservations via Open Table somewhere in North Carolina. 

The kids had their first sampling of fried green tomatoes topped with goat cheese. We all agreed that the she crab soup was delicious and enjoyed the view. After dinner, we walked around historic riverfront and the kids convinced us to pop into River Street Sweets. We walked up some spooky stairwells and found ourselves caught in the middle of what felt like the World’s Biggest Bachelorette Party. We watched a steamboat leisurely make her way up the river and admired the Waving Girl underneath the moonlight.

The next morning, we walked into Savannah and admired a few of the 15(?) public squares. We went to Café M for breakfast – a little Parisian café in the heart of historic downtown Savannah. The kids had orange juice and crougnuts while Clay and I enjoyed coffee and egg sandwiches. 

Guys – this seemingly simple egg and cheddar on a baguette was probably the best egg sandwich I’ve ever had. The eggs were so creamy and smooth – well worth the wait (did you know that Alton Brown’s recipe for scrambled eggs requires 20 minutes of constant stirring over low heat?). After brunch we walked around historic downtown some more before checking out of our hotel so we could continue on our trip. We weren’t in Savannah for very long but we will be back, for sure. Next up – Amelia Island, Florida!

Dreaming of Spring Break

Is anyone else running on fumes? It has been a week. Because we currently live in an area that schedules Spring Break around Easter, our week-long vacation from school and regular life is extra late this year. A handful of years ago, Clay and I vowed to make every attempt to pack a suitcase and physically leave during Spring Break if our schedule allows. While neither one of us were into the traditional Spring Break scene during our college years, we appreciate the mental reset that escaping home can provide this time of year. Especially when we call the fast-paced and unrelenting Washington DC suburbs home (we do enjoy living here, I promise!).

Deremer Studios Commercial Photograph – Amelia Island
www.ameliaisland.com

We decided quite early that we’d go to Amelia Island, Florida for Spring Break this year. My parents bought a place there last year so after coordinating with my siblings last fall, Clay and I penciled our family to use it for the week. It helps with scheduling that my siblings and I don’t live in the same area – different school calendars!

We’re driving to Florida because it is not in our budget to fly – especially since we’re going to Germany and Austria this summer. We are able to travel as much as we do because we are willing to drive to a lot of our destinations. Would it be easier and faster to fly to Florida? Yes. Would we still like to be able to contribute to our kids’ 529s? Also yes. We are incorporating a brief stay in Savannah, Georgia into our road trip to Florida. We’re staying right on the river and we’re looking forward to exploring the Hostess City of the South.

We don’t have much of anything planned during our time in Amelia Island beyond relaxing on the beach. We will be bringing our stand-up paddle board with us to Floria so we’re excited to take her on her maiden voyage. I have a stack of books to read without guilt and we’ll be sure to eat at some of our favorite local places – like Timoti’s (pictured)!

My parents will be meeting us there towards the end of our stay and watching the kids for a night while Clay and I escape to the Casa Monica Resort and Spa in St. Augustine, Florida. We’re looking forward to staying in one of the oldest hotels in the country and enjoying the Moorish and Spanish Revival architecture on the property.

Yesterday was dreary, rainy, and cold – it made it easy to daydream about our upcoming trip. Thankfully the sun is shining today – perfect weather for the first Little League games of the season. And soon enough we will be breathing in the salty air and eating fresh seafood. What about you? Has your Spring Break already come and gone? Did you go anywhere? What are your Spring Break plans?