December-December 26th and Christmas as Five...In Photos Only (2016)

How to even choose photos that would encapsulate one of my favorite months of the year?  I don't know, but I'll certainly try.  Then once posted I'll come across approximately 435 other pictures I wish I would have posted for you.  December is for all things cozy, slow and family oriented.  Whether that be lengthy dinners, baking together, movie watching, present shopping and wrapping, serving, worshipping or decorating.  I try to keep our schedule open and free of obligation.  We like to jump in the car in our jammies and drive around to look at Christmas lights, while sipping hot chocolate.  I think we did all these things and then some.  So thank you December for the gift that you are and the most special gift we celebrate at the end of your month.  You're the best.

Downtown Franklin Christmas Tree on the square, magical.

Creating paper snow flakes.  

That NOEL sign, it's my favorite.  

Christmas Concert at PGS with these cuties.

Thing 4 started working at The Crag.  

Thing 3 made macaroons for the very first time.  Scrumptious.  

Even Polo has treats in December.  Pup cup for one.  

And since this Thing wasn't with us for Christmas we sent her a 
super size package, complete with her Christmas jammies.  

Our mantle looks different every year.  This one has been one of my favorites.

Christmas gift outing with Autumn and Gemma.  We went to see 
The Grinch play at The Grand Ol' Opry.

So much fun watching these two take everything in.

While we were at The Grinch these five escaped!  

Tree decorating shenanigans. 

Traditional gingerbread house creating.

Thing 3's turn for the angel placement. 

Toasting the Eve with apple cider.  

Sibling sleep over, every Christmas Eve.

Presies underneath the tree.

The reading of Luke 2, Jesus' birth story.

This guy liked his present!  

Annual ornament photo.  You know, so I don't forget.  

Christmas morning brunch with the family.  

Cousin present time.

Christmas day shorts!  

And that my friends wraps up this month.  Well, at least through Boxing Day, or Thing 4's birthday.  

October-November and Thanksgiving (2016)

I am catching up here for posterity's sake.  Or something like that.  Because today I have a strong urge to feel complete and up to date with one area of my life.  At the very least.   And if I am being honest with myself my "1" wing is needing order and the "should's" are loud in my head.  So, because  I know that our family blog history would be incomplete without covering the months of October and November of 2016 here we go.

What even happened in October, other than Halloween?  I always revert to my photo stream when preparing one of these back logged posts.  They are helpful in sparking some recollection of the past and what was.  I do know that we returned to Franklin with one less Thing and that left a hole in my heart that I don't believe any Mama is ever prepared for.  This was not a new rodeo for me, Thing 1 had been gone for 7 months before too, but there was a visit mid way through.  With Thing 2 I knew there wouldn't be.  That meant Christmas without her and Thanksgiving and New Years and Valentine's Day, well, you get the picture.  Moving on.

In October Thing 3 landed herself a job with Starbucks.  She sported the green apron and began her new role as a partner and she's been there ever since.  There were a few family hikes, the weather here in middle TN is gorgeous this time of year and rather inviting.  We make our best effort to enjoy the outdoors and all things nature and fall related.  There was pumpkin picking at the Farmer's market, outdoor Eno camp outs, Pumpkin Fest on our favorite Main Street, walks and footie matches too, of course.  Then I went on a little excursion all by myself to MN for a conference and spent the weekend with my dear friend.  Her sweet family welcomed me and I was spoiled by their gracious hospitality.  The time together was a gift and the memories made a treasure for certain.  I returned home in time for our traditional chili and s'mores on Halloween night.  The Things all dressed up, Thing 4 made the most of his last year of trick or treating and we greeted neighbors with a bonfire and jack o lanterns.

Family hike.

Eno Camp out.

Painted faces at Pumpkin Fest.

Cousin giggles. 

Footie Sunday.

Halloween bonfire and s'mores.

Carving pumpkins.

My Scarecrow, vampire and painted face man-child.

November came, as expected and a presidential election stood in the limelight.  This was Thing 1's first time voting and we marked the occasion with smiles and celebratory coffee.  We had normal days filled with games and family dinners around the table.  Husband Jared and I went for a quick jaunt to ATL for our Global Entry interviews, which of course included some delicious food and live music.  There was hot chocolate and an early Christmas tree search.  The girls and I went on a weekend trip to Indianapolis to surprise Thing 3's friend from MN.  We were reunited with some old friends from AZ and just like that it was a weekend to remember.  It was a full month.

Christmas tree searching.  Or sibling fight, you be the judge. 

Voting day!

Walk to ice cream! 

Thing 4 inspecting a furry caterpillar.  

And all the while Thing 2 was traveling the world.  I loved seeing her smile. 

In ATL.  

This pup really missed Thing 2.  

Thing 3 and Taylor.  

Downtown Indie.

Girly snuggle time at the Porter's house!  

Thanksgiving was held at Gpa and Mama's house this year.  We held our usual pie prep the night before  and Thing 1 made vegan pumpkin pie tarts, Thing 3 and I helped with the pecan chocolate chip pie and pumpkin cheesecake.  The next morning we were ready for the Macy's parade and brunch at home in our jammies.  Thing 4 shaved for the first time.  Ever.   The girls and Mema made their lefse and Thing 4 made his corn casserole.  We watched football, sat on the dock and enjoyed a lovely meal around the table and played cards.  A sacred time of sharing and being grateful and present.

Lefse making.  

Mema and Thing 4 in the kitchen together.

Our feast.

Gpa, Mema and 3 of 4 Things.

"Friendly" game of GOLF, with a side of pie.  

Black Friday viewing of Gilmore Girls, compete with Lorelei and Rory's favorites, after the traditional shopping of course.  

And just like that November ended.  December was on her heels and we were ready!

For You Thing 2, on you your 19th Birthday.

Nineteen.  You are nineteen years old.  Full of joy, hard fought for and grateful for life joy.  Happy birthday to you! What a year eighteen was and what a year nineteen is shaping up to be.  Most notably from this last year was your time spent abroad.  Traveling, learning and growing.  Creating memories with friends that became more like family.  Beginning a special relationship with a young man and cultivating friendships long distance when the time came to an end in Germany.  You have done that so well.  Created time and space and written letters.  Not only have you moved home with us, you've begun a new journey at Apple and are planning your next steps.  College, maybe.  And preparing to move in with your Uncle and Aunt while we move on to Austria.  You've been brave and confident and flexible.  I appreciate the way you share your thoughts, opinions and your heart.  You are who you are and what I see is a beautiful God creation, inside and out.   There is this gift you have, you bring out the very best in everyone.  Cause them to find the truth, speak openly and you encourage them to live authentically themselves.  Mostly you do this by example.  Thank you.  I've seen you, on your bed, notebook at the ready, Bible opened and music playing.  One of my favorite scenes.   This year has also been full of sunset chasing, senior picture taking, solar eclipse watching, Bahama cruising, Cali visiting, tattooing, nannying, acting as the official Nash/Franklin tour guide for all our guests, church searching and community finding, bonfire building and a knee surgery, right at the end of your eighteenth year.  Whew, that is quite full.  

And now you're entering your nineteenth year, a precious and wild gift.  Here's to the year ahead.  To more adventures, more music, to self awareness and digging deeper into the Word, discovering truths, sitting across the table from people that are different than you, learning new things.  Here's to being a bright light, to more laughing, more hugs and more love.  To travel and journeys unexpected.  To dance parties and being a world changer, right where He has you.  Your very own mission field.  Whether it be in the work place, in social gatherings, at music festivals, cafes or shopping for groceries.  He created you for such a time as this and I believe to my core that you, my sweet daughter, are a mighty warrior of the One True King.  

As you grow more independent I pray you never lose sight of your great need for a Savior.  I pray you know that I am here for you, always.  Whether it be 3pm or 3am.  I promise to listen and I will try not to over react.  We may not always agree but I am always on your side.  Please don't stop sharing your life with me, even the hard stuff.  The conversations we don't want to have are usually the ones we need to have.  I will be your champion forever.  And as you grow older, I pray your friend.  I speak life and promise over you, your heart.  Use the gifts He has given you and carry His love everywhere you go and in everything you set out to do.  Keep smiling, it softens hearts and continue fighting for justice wherever you see less than.  Live your story, run your race.  

I love you to the moon and back.  It is nothing short of a privilege to be your Madre, you are a gift daughter of mine.  Happy year of nineteen, may it be the best yet.  xo

Bodenseehof and Beyond

It began with a travel day.  A long drive to Chicago for our International flight, part one.  The day was also marked with a seven month goodbye that involved sibling hugs, breakfast and family selfies.  It's what we do.  And how we say "see you later".  Our drive was uneventful, thankfully and we waited for the first leg of our flight to Istanbul over Mexican food and some fantastic people watching.  Thank you airports, especially the International terminals.  From Chicago to Istanbul and Istanbul to Munich.  Then the hilarity began.  Three people, four extra large suitcases and a small hatch back Audi.  Husband Jared tried to no avail to utilize his best Tetris skills but our luggage would simply not fit.  Ugh. Minivan it is, so much for our Audubon driving dreams we envisioned.  Practicality won over.  I suppose it was the grown up decision to make.  Now for the drive to Zurich where a comfortable hotel bed was waiting for us and our introduction to European driving and country stickers.  We followed the GPS and safely made it to our hotel.  A short nights sleep later and we were off to explore Zurich, but first coffee and pastries.

Family Selfie as Six...last one for 7 months.

Zurich, well Zurich and Lucerne were Thing 2's choice for travel destination prior to her school drop off.  She's a smart girl, real travel savvy, thus her decision to explore the most expensive European city with her Daddy was not by chance.  Kudos to you sweet girl.  Thing 2 arranged our travel itinerary for our days leading up to drop off at Friedrichshafen.  It began with a drive to city center and coffee.  There we walked the streets of Zurich proper and entered our first art museum.  The entrance was adorned with "The Gates of Hell" by Dante and as we wandered the floors of exceptional paintings, sculptures Thing 2 pointed out her favorites, least liked and told me stories of each artist, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Degas and Cezanne among them.   We lunched at a historic restaurant, serving some of the best schnitzel, then we made a bee line to the #1 chocolatier in all of Europe, quite possibly the world.  It would behoove me to share that we sampled the champagne truffles and they truly were divine.  Otherworldly.  Bubbles, chocolate, two of my favorites together in a marriage that brought such joy to my taste buds.  Thank you.

View from the hotel.

Breakfast in Zurich.

We found a Starbucks in Zurich.

Teuscher. The chocolate store. 

World famous champagne truffles.  

Zurich, riverside.  

World famous schnitzel and historic building in Zurich, lunch, day one.

From Zurich to Lucerne via windy country roads not marked clearly.  Eventually, following a few detours, we pulled in to the driveway of the renovated school house that was to be home for the next two nights.  We were greeted warmly by our hostess and her young son and had a tour of the place, Swiss dairy cows mooing in the distance.  Husband Jared and I found an authentic Swiss chalet for dinner that night.  No reservation made, we approached the entrance confidently until the door was opened and we were caught in a stare off with about 45 Swiss military men and women enjoying their dinner and wine with enthusiasm.  The host promptly summoned the only English speaking person in the restaurant and they prepared a table for us with a superb vantage point.  That night we indulged in the finest fondue I have ever had.  Seriously.  Bread, vegetables and meat, salad and enough melty goodness to make your cares fade away.  Yes, that good.  Perhaps the most amusing part of our evening was the sweet host coming to our table multiple times throughout the evening and in his broken English asking how our meal was and if we would be kind enough to leave a review on Trip Advisor.  It is with mixed feelings that I said yes to his request.  On one hand, why would I want to share this gem with fellow tourists or passersby and ruin the aesthetic and local vibe that they have going for them, and on the other, how could I not when the entire staff clearly went above and beyond to make our experience memorable.  We did, in case you were wondering.  After we left with our Ricola, of course.

The only photo I took that night, had to include it.  I think I caught him mid bite, oops.

Our AirBnB was such a sweet place of rest and respite for us.  The next mornings plans included an early morning run with the cows, only the weather wasn't exactly cooperating so we walked to the end of the drive, said good morning to the neighboring farms and promptly returned indoors to sort out the Nespresso machine.  Coffee and a slow breakfast allowed us to firm up our plans for the day.  On today's agenda was a gondola ride up Mt. Pilatus and a hike around the mountain with the ibex, a picnic lunch and investigating the property around the mountain, including a ropes course and alpine slide.  The world's steepest cogwheel railway operates on the mountain and it gave me chill bumps just looking at it.  No thank you.  The gondola was feat enough for me.  After the challenging altitude we were due for a treat.  We headed in to Lucerne, ordered a coffee and pastry and enjoyed them while taking in the Lion of Lucerne; A rock relief of a wounded lion.  From there we walked the cobblestone roads and stumbled upon a church with the most massive organ I have ever seen, covered  bridges from the 1400's were crossed and we took in the sunset at a river side cafe.  It was a magical day to say the least.  And witnessing Thing 2's fearlessness on the mountain side inspired the words for her 18th birthday letter.  She ran, investigated, opened her arms wide and took it all in.  Breathing deep and wanting more.  More of everything.  Stepping into the unknown with bravery and enthusiasm.  A joy from the depths of her soul so undeniable that you can't help but desire a fraction of the same for yourself.  Yes, this trip opened my eyes to her in new ways.  I am so grateful for the days we spent just the three of us; Touring, tasting and soaking in each other's presence.  It was so good.  A sweet gift to my Mama's heart.

This was the not so happy Swiss dairy cow that we photographed, on the side of the road, a little too close for comfort.  

The gondola ride.

Picnic lunch. 

The view from the top.  See that little white building?  That is a church.  

Thing 2 with the ibex.

Exploring the ropes course.  

Gondola ride down, thank you Jesus. 

Is this place for real?  Straight out of a storybook.

Under the covered bridge. 

Murals throughout the market area.

Swan watching, while dining riverside.

Sunset and coffee.  

Sunset with Dad.  One of my favorites.  

Even more of a gift because I knew what was coming the next day, it was the day we were set to say our good byes, or rather, see you laters.  A drive through Lichtenstein, lunch at a local Italian restaurant, a walk through the city center and a sleeping Thing 2 in our back seat.  Lichtenstein was another arranged stop en route.  Only 25km, it is one of the smallest European countries, possibly one of the smallest countries in the world and we were all intrigued.  So we made a pit stop in Vaduz, the country's capital and we lunched.  Then we piled back in the mini van and continued on to Friedrichshafen.  Upon our arrival at Bode, Thing 2's school and residence for the next 6 1/2 months, my stomach became all squirrely and my heart began doing the dance.  Every mother who has ever left her babies behind whether at college, a friend's, a new apartment, etc. knows this dance.  The dance of resting securely that you have adequately prepared them for independence and the anxiety and uncertainty of knowing  you will not be in close enough proximity to kiss the owies, hold them when they're scared or fix the heart breaks that will surely find them.  I have a lump in my throat just writing that last sentence.  This seems to be norm for the season of parenting adults and semi-adults.  I know, I mean really know and believe without a doubt that they are His before mine and His ways are higher, no question there, but goodness this opening of the hand and watching them fly is nothing I was prepared for.  It's beautiful to witness and heart wrenching in all the very best ways.  Hold me Jesus.  We surveyed the city before beginning the school move in.  The local cash machine was found, Birkenstocks purchased, necessities bought at the market and mobile phone sims card found.  Back to move in, young adults greeted us warmly, showed Thing 2 her room, helped her with luggage, gave us a tour of the digs and kindly shared the schedule with us so we could calculate our goodbyes.  We met roommates, saw the tea room and chapel and just when I thought I was no longer needed my sweet girl asked me to help her unpack.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a tad bit excited to help her organize and spend just a few more minutes with her.  So I did.  We hung clothes, placed books on the shelf, took out pictures and stored toiletries safely.  And then, because he knows me all too well, Husband Jared grabbed my elbow and pulled me away.  I clung to his arm and I felt as though he carried me out of that room.  My feet wouldn't work and my eyes couldn't see straight enough to know the exit.  We prayed together and I hung on to her a little bit longer than normal.  There's a movie we have watched multiple times as a family, College Road Trip.  A particular scene in the movie gets me every time.  The eldest daughter is walking up to her dorm room for the first time, she turns to wave at her parents, proudly watching from a distance and as she does the parents see this younger version of her, pigtails and all toothy smile.  My friends, I can not watch that scene without losing it and as Thing 2 skipped away to become acquainted with this new chapter of her very own grown up life, I saw her.  I mean, I saw her at 5 years old, short bob cut and missing a tooth, high tops laced up and her bright blue eyes staring at me, and then just like that she ran the other direction.  Isn't that life?  Yes and Amen.  As it should be.

The view on our drive, breathtaking if I do say so. 

The only photo we have from this rather small country.  

Thing 2's school and home for the next 6 months.

One last photo, one last squeeze. 

Top bunk for Thing 2.

One last hug from Dad.  

City center, a short distance from campus.  I love the colored buildings.  

Husband Jared and I sped away to Fussen, Germany to begin our own tour of Bavaria.  The hillsides and quaint villages captivated me and carried my thoughts away.  With each kilometer my heart calmed and all became clear again.  Our AirBnB in Fussen could not have been any better.  Just off the main street and filled, floor to ceiling, with books and local art I was enchanted.  Our first night was spent at a local restaurant close to the apartment.  We closed down the place and returned to play cards and face time the kiddos at home.  It was a late night and we fell into bed, exhausted in the very best way.  We were up before the sun and watched the sunrise on our patio, coming up over the tiled roofs and quiet city streets.  The idea to trade our minivan had taken over Husband Jared's mind and we made a drive to the city of Memmen and made quite the effort, unfortunately there were no smaller vehicles to be had that day.  Our detour was not for nothing though, we met a kind Turkish man in the process and had quite the conversation upon hearing his family's story.  The remainder of our day was spent wandering Fussen.  Shopping for Lederhosen, following a trail to the water, around the castle and into both the old and new town.  In classic vacay fashion, we had ourselves a siesta and ran to the market for dinner accompaniments.  That afternoon in the apartment was beyond restful and just what we needed.  Our last day's agenda in Fussen was filled with castles and hikes and then a drive to Salzburg, Austria.  We purchased tour tickets for both the Hohenschwangua Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle.  We took a photo with the swans and listened to the sad history of this castle, including an insider's perspective of King Ludwig's favorite room.  The one in which he could view Neuschwanstein Castle's construction from.  I was beyond excited to hike the hills and take in the view on Marion bridge, and that I did.  Running far ahead of Husband Jared.  He caught up and we gawked in disbelief at the sheer beauty we were gazing at.  Truly breathtaking.  Our hike down caused rumbly in our tummies and we stopped for a pretzel and beer, the official snack of our trip.

The streets of Fussen.

Breakfast everyday in Fussen, yes please.  

Castle in Fussen.  The walls were painted to appear grand, all faux windows and decorum.  

Our apartment in Fussen was enchanting, truly.  Take a look at that chandelier.  

Crystal clear water and loads of drift wood everywhere.  

Hohenschwangau Castle.

View from the Marion bridge. 

Neuschwanstein. Otherwise known as the castle which Disney modeled Cinderella's castle after.

After fueling our bellies our little minivan drove us to Salzburg.  More meandering village roads, green hills, random flower farms and pumpkin picking fields, all on the honor code.  Just a box for money and a sign.  Yes please.  And then our destination appeared, Salzburg and our apartment built into the side of a mountain.  I was googly-eyed before I even got out of the car.  Our sweet hostess welcomed us with a smile, shared her favorites of the city and was on her way.  Leaving us to take in the sights and the festival that we could hear in the distance.  Walking was our preferred mode of transportation and that we did.  It seemed as though a mini- Oktoberfest was taking place in the city square and we immersed ourselves in the culture immediately.  Brats, beer, people and crafts surrounded us.  Picnic tables everywhere.  Churches and shops towering high, right beside carnival rides and squeals of delight from children of all ages.  On our walk back to the apartment we were awestruck with an unexpected fireworks show to end the festivities.  Wow!  If you know me at all you are most likely aware of my love for all things related to Sound of Music and Julie Andrews.  Husband Jared had mapped out a walk to Maribel Gardens for us.  You might recall the fountain scene, children marching up and down the steps and running through garden paths?  Yes, that is exactly where we went first.  A sweet couple took our picture and we theirs.  I walked slowly singing the song in my head, savoring the moment and marking it.  We oohed and awed over the palace and we trekked up the hill to the Medieval fortress.  A fortress that has become a museum, housing artifacts and antiquities from every time period in history.   There were alleys and hidden streets that called out to us and maybe it's the romantic in me but as we got lost in the city, holding hands I felt as though my heart might leap right out of my chest because it was so full.  Yes, there you have it.  No schedule to follow, roaming off the beaten path and trailing behind the locals is my idea of heaven on earth.  Conversations to listen in on, no matter the language, glasses clinking and kisses being exchanged by lovers and friends.  This, this is the world we live in.  I want to see it all.  We made our best efforts and walked across the city to a local beer hall, the Augustiner.  At our cafe table we played cards, gathered food from the local stands and then strolled some more.  This time over the bridge and onto the other side of the river, into an Italian restaurant and it was there we lingered long over the bread and wine.  My favorite kind of night.  We lost all track of time and before we knew it the waiters were stacking chairs and closing the doors.  They were patient and allowed us to stay, and then we walked home, hand in hand, finding the locks on the bridge and making up stories about the lovers that placed them there, music being played in the background as if we were characters in a movie.  The script unknown to us.

Random pumpkin patch, see paragraph above.

Salzburg shopping. 

Flower market in Salzburg.

Of course we took a picture of our "snack", which we ate 
while sitting at a table with a bunch of strangers.

Welcome to Salzburg.

Fireworks finale to end the festival! 

The view of Salzburg from a Medieval window.

Inside the Medieval fortress.

Tourist photo of the day.

The Maribell gardens.


Inside the Augustiner Brewery.

Waiting on my man.  

Lock bridge. 

On our walk home, on the other side of that mural is a mountain and in that mountain is our apartment.

I wasn't quite prepared for our next field trip.  A long drive took us to Dachau, the concentration camp built in 1933 by the Nazis.  Tens of thousands of prisoners died here and walking the grounds was akin to walking on hollowed ground.  Empty, lost and filled with pain unbeknownst to me in this lifetime.  I have so many words for this experience but mostly grief. The gravity of this event in history, this slaughtering of a people group, it's challenging to fathom.  At least to the depth with which it deserves to be contemplated.  I'll leave it at that so as not to risk being disrespectful or ignorant over the significance of the place, the moment in history.  It was a quiet ride to Munich.  I remember staring out the window as we'd come upon a village and the round about which marked them, staring out at the farm land, the barns, the beer halls and the houses.  It was on this drive that we made an impromptu stop at a rather randomly placed department store.  Husband Jared had told me of these from his previous travels, over a decade or two ago and now I was given the opportunity to experience them for myself.  Birkentstocks were purchased for the entire family and a pair of boots that I am rather fond of as well.  A memento of this time together and ones that have a fun story to accompany them.  I also remember arriving at our AirBnB, close enough to the city to ride public transport but far enough removed to not have the noise interrupt us.  When we walked in I could sense something was just not right.  Despite raving reviews the place was in shambles.  Empty glass bottles littered all over the patio, smears of food covering the cabinets, cleaning supplies left in the living room, food opened and scattered on the coffee table and the towels and sheets dirty.  Um, no thank you.  I connected with the host and we were more than dispelled with her response.  After an hour or so of negotiating and attempting to find a vacant hotel we left, disappointed but optimistic.  Into city center and much to our surprise a short walk to the location of THE OKTOBERFEST.  Yes, the one I had only seen photos of and watched on Amazing Race.  Let me tell you the fairgrounds did not disappoint.  It was like the Minnesota State Fair on steroids.  And that is really saying something people.  There were beer tents on every corner.  Not a tent like you use in camping or even the circus, it was a more permanent structure.  Adorned and decorated accordingly and filled with a stage, live music and waitresses navigating the ins and outs of wobbly festival goers, table top dancers and jolly communities of friends and families partaking.  Such a sight to see.  Husband Jared and I found ourselves a "quiet" table outside, toasted each other with a stein of the local beverage and sat and people watched the night away.  There were carnival rides, cookies and keepsakes, ribbons, twinkly lights and game stands waiting for patrons, both winners and losers alike.  Oh what a night!  I can now say I experienced Oktoberfest and while I very much liked the ribbon poles, the food and the community aspect of it all I would be alright if we didn't revisit that festival too soon.  Our last day in Munich was much different than the first.  A slow breakfast at an English restaurant provided a needed respite from the crowds and chaos.  More walking, which if you ask me, is the very best way to see any city.  Our journey took us from one side of the city to the other.  City center, an Apple store, but of course, the Glockenspiel, the Marienplatz and the legendary Hofbraus House.  It was there at a shared picnic table that we met a group of Israeli students on holiday.  We exchanged stories of our time in their country, we toasted to the goodness and gift of travel and strangers and all that this beautiful culture had to offer.  Cards were played and questions asked and conversations shared.  Such a special experience.  There were shops lining the streets begging for our money and we did leave quite a bit of behind.  Little trinkets were purchased, something special for each Thing, a specific token that reminded us of them.  A piece of the place we were in that helps us share it with them.  And at the end of the day we walked back to the hotel, full and happy and ready for our next destination.  Turkey.

Carnival rides, aplenty!  

Yes, that is a beer tent.  On steroids.  

Inside one of many tents.  I loved the draped fabric and hanging lights and wreaths.  

Cookies, cookies everywhere!  

The meal of champions.

Merry go round bar at Oktoberfest.  

Of course we had to find the Apple Store.  

 Glockenspiel at the Marienplatz.

Inside the Hoffbrau house.  Live music and loads of tourists.  But look at those 
beautifully painted ceilings.  

His and hers at Hoffbrau.  

Our families called us crazy.  Unable to comprehend just why we would want to purposely spend a night in a city filled with turmoil.  For us, it's a special place.  A country that changed our family in unexplainable ways.  We wanted to revisit and taste the difference.  See how and if we still fit into the puzzle there.  I think we discovered that we did.  But just in a different way now.  The city has changed and so have we, and yet some things are very much the same.  Like a fish dinner on the river still tastes just as good as it did then.  The smells of the water, the open cans of Efes and Raki being passed and the Mustafa calling people in from the sidewalks still carries the exact same tone.  I had missed it.  The people.  The language.  The food.  The market.  All of it.  We soaked it all in.  Took a taxi ride through the crooked streets and walked with determination into The Grand Bazaar the next morning.  Now that place, it was completely changed.  No people lined up waiting with anticipation to enter the gates.  Armed with bags and Lira and shopping lists folded up.  Nope.  Just us at opening time.  Husband Jared's Turkish came flooding back in no time and he was making conversation with the shopkeepers, asking for the local price and tasting their tea like no time had passed.  It was magical for me.  I had my must have list and we wasted no time uncovering those treasures.  We sat with a kilim curator and heard his family's story.  How the tourists don't come anymore.  Numbers are low.  Business is suffering and he is sad for his country.  His story made me sad too.  I took advantage of the phenomenal exchange rate though, feeling like I was making a small contribution, and purchased two of his pillow covers.  A special reminder of our less than 24 hours in Turkey.  Pide was another must have and we shared some of the best while waiting for our transport to the airport.  The time there was short and nothing less than a sweet ending to our time away, a grand finale of sorts.

Mosque at dusk.

The view from our hotel.

Mezzes on the Galaty Bridge.

Outside the entrance to the Grand Bazaar.

Kahvalti, our favorite meal in Turkey.  

Pide outside our hotel while waiting on our driver.  It was our family's favorite late night snack when we lived in Turkey.  

Now the journey home.  Thankfully, it was uneventful and I was more than anxious to return to our three Things at home waiting for us.  They were troopers and kept house and shop in our absence.  Beyond impressive.  I left schedules and instructions, meal plans and such and they worked together and in the end, maybe had a greater appreciation for Mom and Dad than before we left.  Maybe.  This began the process of learning to live as five again and not six.  A tangible loss is always felt when one of our six is gone and it was no different this time around.  Regardless of our joy and confidence that Thing 2 was exactly where she should be we all were missing her in different ways and for different reasons.  What a trip, what a goodbye and what memories we have!