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Feb 27, 2014

It's Coming...

I don't mean to sound dramatic, but my heart feels like one giant gob of worry pudding. I've spent all winter trying to come terms with our impending move and now, any day now, we'll have to hike up our proverbial bootstraps and finally start putting this move back stateside into motion. We will know the day, we will know the where, and we will have to start working on the how, but I'm not sure I'm completely ready for any of it. I've been praying feverishly to know all these variables…for the Lord to prepare our hearts for this big change...but with every day that passes by, we get closer to the inevitable and I find myself still clinging tightly to our life here. I have cereal boxes with expiration dates stamped after our time in Germany is over. Even my food knows it's coming.

 There are days I get sad. Real sad. I look at my inbox filled with travel bookings and trip itineraries and I die a bit inside. Over the next 4 months, those common inbox adventure confirmations will disappear, and I'll return to the life I knew pre-travel. Back to the life that was good, but lacked spice, spontaneity, and engulfing wonder. I had no idea I even wanted those things for myself, but now that I've tasted them, I'm addicted. I know what you're thinking, "You don't think you'll travel when you move back to the states?" My answer is yes. I DO think we'll travel. My gosh, I'll die if we don't. We're going to try our hardest to keep travel as a sub-priority, but we're positive it won't be as prevalent in our lives as it is right now...as it has been these last 3 years abroad. It can't be. We have other goals, other priorities we're equally as passionate about that have started needing our attention. One can't live the selfish, carefree life forever.

 I think the loss of a life focused on travel is what I'm having the hardest time coming to terms with. Not the fact that I won't have a job (although that's a whole other beast of a worry), not the possibility of still living a 12 hour drive from our families (I don't love that, but I think we can handle that), not the idea of having to make new friends and get new doctors and new hair stylists in whatever town we end up in. These things I can handle. These things are challenges we endure every 3 years or so. Old hat, if you will. What's not come so easy is the thought of leaving behind the freedom of jaunting off to "X" destination on a whim. The excitement of throwing suitcases in the car and driving 2 hours to Belgium for a beer, just because. The thrill of combing through travel books on Sunday afternoons, planning our next great adventure as we listen to our towns' church bells ring in the distance. The memories D and I have made exploring Europe childless, completely on our own, and adapting to daily life in foreign country. All those perks of expat life make this transition HARD. We can still do some of those things in our soon-to-be life back stateside, but they'll be different. Jury's still out on whether they'll be good different or just different. It's all relative, though. We'll get used to our pre-travel life again (or at least that's what I keep telling myself). But what this experience abroad has given us has been so unique, so special, so good different from our life stateside, that I'm feeling rather lost about being forced to give it up in just 100 days or so.

There are so many challenging moments in expat life and travel...language barriers, learning new customs, driving new terrain, deciphering new foods, avoiding gypsies and evildoers (just to name a few)...but I'm finding that the hardest part of expat living and traveling is being forced to leave it. There's always been an expiration date on our time abroad. From the day we stepped foot in Germany, our time started ticking down. At first I couldn't hear the tick…now it's so loud I can hardly think straight. But that's the way it goes with the military. Many expats don't experience that certainty of expatriation's end. They stay however long they want...or however long they can stay in school or keep a job, renew their visas, or heck, even move to a new country. Lately I've been pretty envious of those kinds of expats. As much as I miss home and long for Target, my sweet puppy dog, and expansive parking lots, I can't hide the fact that even though we're not typical expats, I've developed a strong attachment to our expat way of living. It's a double edged sword; finding somewhere you feel happy, comfortable, and settled, but having to let it go not out of your own free will. I know we chose this life. I know I married a man who has a love for his country and a need to defend it. I know the day I said "I do" to him, the Air Force became my life, too. But no matter the circumstances that brought us into the expat world, I can still be sad about it ending far too soon. I'm sure every expat who's had to leave expat-dom can relate to that, at least.

 So, I spend my days waiting for the other shoe to drop, that phone call from D that will start this whirlwind of change again. The musings I had in this post are still the same…only littered with more visceral panic, mourning, and melancholia. I feel weird telling my family I'm so excited to move home when I also feel so distraught about leaving Germany. What's weirder is that I can't even say home because we're not even really moving there! Layers of crazy cake, I tell ya. I've never understood the many facets of confusion more clearly than I do now. In fact, I'm not even entirely sure what I was hoping to achieve in writing this post. Transparency, maybe? To remember these feelings when I'm back in America scarfing down Krispy Kreme and Chick-Fil-A? I once loved and thrived in another way of living...mustn't forget that. I guess I'm writing this to tell you the condition of my heart through all this waiting, through all the thoughts of moving back to a life that once was familiar, but now seems hard to grab hold of with all my heart again. I'm happy, I'm sad...somedays, indifferent. The Air Force gave us this amazing, life changing blessing...one can only hope lightening will strike the same place twice. 

Until then, we're still waiting. Prayers appreciated. xo

Feb 26, 2014

Travel Like a Boss Series: How to Create a Custom Itinerary Map

As many of you know, one of my favorite things to do since moving abroad is plan trips all over Europe. And I've planed A LOT! So many that trying to count them up would be pretty labor intensive. So, just take a peek at our WANDERLUST page and you'll get the idea. :) I love being organized and having a good itinerary for hitting all the "must-see" sights in whatever destination we travel to. In my planning arsenal, Google Maps has been infinitely helpful in facilitating touring strategy maps and jumping off points to get the most out of our time in a new city. I've created many custom itinerary maps with the help of my trusty Google Maps and love taking them with us on our adventures. Have you ever thought of creating your own itinerary map? It's SUPER easy to do…and is a resource this traveling girl can't live without!

Google Maps has recently updated their map system and with that, their custom mapping options have changed. I've gotta admit, I'm in LOVE with the new format presented with Google Maps Engine! It's so much more user-friendly and navigates quite easily, making mapping a tour route a total sinch! I know what you're thinking…the idea of customizing your own map sounds daunting and wayyy too time consuming. I did too, my first go-round. That's why I've done all the confusing work for you and built this nifty guide! Introducing my quick tutorial on how to create your own custom itinerary map with the NEW Google Maps! Follow the easy steps below and you'll be well on your way to mapping out travel plans all around the world! Ready, travelers?! LET'S MAP IT!

STEP 1: Go to mapsengine.google.com then click Create a new map to get started! (Ahem, ignore my 5-yr-old chicken scratch doodles. Gives the tutorial character, don't you think?)

STEP 2: Type your destination city in the search bar. I chose Dublin, Ireland as my example city since we're planning a trip there soon!

STEP 3: Once your choice city is brought up, then add a fun name to your map. Just click where it says "Untitled map" and name it! I kept it simple, just naming our map "Dublin, Ireland Trip," but feel free to get as creative as you like. Just don't forget to save it!

STEP 4: Now you can start adding your attractions. To do so, type in an attraction name, airport, hotel, or restaurant in the search bar. I chose to start with our hotel. FYI, your map will save your progress automatically. How nice!

STEP 5: Once your attraction is found…click "Add to Map" located at the bottom of the white pop up screen…and it will be added to your map! Notice the green icon changed to red once the item was added to your map.

STEP 6: You can change the red attraction icon to be any color or icon you choose for easy viewing and deciphering between attractions. Since this location on my map is a hotel, I'm going to change my icon to reflect that. To change your icon, hover over the attraction on your map list until the paint bucket appears…then click the bucket.

STEP 7: In the next small popup screen, you can change the color, icon shape, or browse more icons. Click "more icons" to see what other fun icons you can choose from.

I found my hotel icon! Click "Ok" to save it!

STEP 8: In addition to changing your icon, you can also add/edit information to the map that might be helpful to you during your trip. To edit, just click the pencil icon at the bottom of the white popup box (you can click the hotel icon to get the white popup box to appear). FYI, Google has already given some information about your attraction in the gray area. Great, right? :)

STEP 9: Type in whatever information you'd like to add to your map and click "Save!"

STEP 10: Search and add more attractions!! I went ahead and added in all my attractions…you can see the complete map key on the left. Don't forget to change each attractions icon to something different so you can easily decipher each point on your map.

STEP 11: Want to see all your map info laid out in list form? Click "data" in your map key and a list will pop up for you. You can also edit this list within this popup.

STEP 12: SHARE IT! Export this map to your email (so you can open it on your phone and use it while you travel!), share a link with friends, post it to your Google+ wall, Tweet it, Facebook it, or even share it on your blog…Google gives you endless options to get your map seen and used by all!

There you have it…your own custom itinerary map! An easy way to plan and make the most out of your next sight-seeing adventure! There are many other fun settings and features of the new Google Maps Engine…feel free to email me if you get stuck or have any other questions. Want to view my completed Dublin map? Click here! If you found this tutorial helpful, share the wealth and Pin it, Tweet it, or Facebook it to all your travel-loving friends! 
Happy traveling! :)

Feb 24, 2014

Málaga, Spain Adventures: Part 1

Day 7 of our Spanish cruise brought us back to Spain and to the beautiful Costa del Sol city of Málaga. Truth be told, we had no intention of staying in Málaga for the day. We were hoping to take a tour to Granada to visit the Alhambra…but somehow the Alhambra tour overbooked and we ended up having to tweak our plans a bit. Turns out, Màlaga was an absolute dream and we hardly missed our original plans! 

We started the day with a birds-eye of Málaga from the commanding Castilla de Gibralfaro (Gilbralfaro Castle). The sun was shining, skies were blue, and the air was incredibly warm for the first day of November! It was such a clear morning that we could see all the way to the Málaga mountains in the distance. After touring around the castle and marveling in its majestic vistas, we made our way down to the Plaza de la Merced, one of Málaga's most popular squares, to see Casa Natal where the famed artist Pablo Picasso was born. Aside from the plethora of history that resided in just that square, there were gobs of al fresco cafés, beautiful palm trees, and some of the most colorful Spanish architecture I'd ever laid eyes on. The quaint alleyways lining the plaza were almost too much cuteness to take! We strolled leisurely while our tour guide told stories of Picasso's early days and how Andalusia became such a thriving part of Spanish history and tourism. We were so thrilled to touring with such wonderful weather…I could have wandered for hours! Before our half-day tour ended, our guide led us by the Alcazaba fortress to the Málaga Cathedral. Photos coming soon! :)

Feb 21, 2014

FRESH FACE FRIDAY [& Blog Hop!]: Meet Mary & Jillian

Have I ever told you guys that D's squadron has a winery? Well, they don't own one, per se, but they do partner with a really fabulous one situated along the Rhine River (my single favorite wine growing area in all of Germany, mind you). I'm not really sure how this wine/squadron partnership came to be…but what I can say is that it's been very beneficial to the two wine lovers of Team Coté. Because of this partnership, D and I currently have 30 bottles of the most delicious Riesling we've ever tasted...and...we picked it with our own two hands in the fall of 2012. How insanely cool is that? We picked the grapes that made the wine that has become one of our favorite wines of all time. I may be a bit biased, but it's really dang good! I love serving one of these bottles of wine to our friends at dinner and telling the story of how D and I almost broke our backs picking just 2 rows of grapes. What a gift to be able to say we picked grapes on the Rhine in Germany and have the fruits of our labor to prove it. Our wine bottles are even labeled with the squadron seal! NEAT, right?! The point of this whole not-so-humble brag is that tonight we're going to our last wine tasting at this amazing winery. Our squadron and the vintner set up a 25 bottle (yes, you read that correctly) wine tasting every few months and open only a handful of slots for lucky wine enthusiasts to attend. We went to one tasting last year and now, we're attending our last. Another bittersweet first of the lasts. I'm really gonna need that wine…and the 3 or 4 cases we hope to buy to ship back home with us this summer. If I can't take Germany with me, at least I'll have their wine. I mean, my wine. ;)

I hope you've all got some fun plans for the weekend! Before you get going, please take a hot second to visit the two Fresh Face bloggers below and link-up your blog to the Fresh Face Friday Blog Hop! It's the last one for February, so don't miss your chance to make new friends and gain some great blog exposure for yourself! 
Happy Friday to all!



I've got another fun expat blog for ya! Mary is a 23-year-old Scottish native and coffee lover currently living in Southern Germany. Over on her blog, Pick The Wildcard, you'll be reading posts about Mary's adventures in Bavaria, her thoughts on adjusting to life in a new country, and taking a peek at fun lists of things she loves. Make some time today to visit Mary's blog! Always nice to add another expat to your reading list! :)

Mary's Favorite Posts:
Very German Things: Bizarre English Loanwords
Postcards from Austria: Daytrip to Salzburg
Autumn Apple Cake Recipe

My Favorite Posts:
Postcards from Bavaria: Kloster Weltenburg
Very Germany Things: Ridiculously Long Words
Recipe Roundup: German Recipes Part 1


Meet Jillian, full-time student, writer, and the brains behind the namesake blog, Jillian Lorraine. Over on Jillian's creative space, you'll find some awesome tributes to Dawson's Creek (I heart Pacey Witter!) and other pop culture pieces, musings on life and friendship, and some insanely witting writing. I absolutely adore Jillian's sense of humor and she's definitely got the gift for telling a great story. Head on over and get to know Jillian, y'all! You'll be a forever follower in no time. :)

Jillian's Favorite Posts:
Me at 20
Martha's Vineyard

My Favorite Posts:
Moving: Fantasy vs. Reality
Why Writing?
Enjoy Malibu


Welcome to the
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Hosted by: Casey @ We Took the Road Less Traveled

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5| Want to be a co-host? Click here for more info! 

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Feb 20, 2014

Portugal: Madeira Wine & Beer

The last of our Funchal adventures brought us to doing something we're more than good at…drinking! I don't know how it happens, but in almost every city we've visited in Europe, we've found ourselves in a bar or at a winery, enjoying the fruits and brews of the local area. I'm far from complaining...just a funny observation of the kind of travel experiences we tend to gravitate towards. As the day was winding down Madeira, we made a stop at The Blandy Old Wine Lodge, one of Funchal's oldest wine making companies. A wine tradition of Madeira since 1811, Blandy's Wine Lodge is known for having 2 beautiful tasting rooms, a plethora of traditional Madeira wine, and wine-making areas on site. 

Madeira wine is quite different from the wine D and I are used to drinking. They're all fortified, grown on the mountains of Madeira, tend to have strong flavors, and boast higher percentages of alcohol. Madeira produces a wide variety of wine styles from dry wines that are used as aperitifs to sweet wines to be consumed with desserts. They're also noted for having a unique wine making process, heating the wine up to temperatures as high as 140°F and deliberately exposing the wine to oxidation. Because of this process, Madeira wine is often robust and can endure long shelf life, even after being opened. During our visit, we were able to taste 2 different kinds of popular Madeira wine…one sweet and one medium-dry. While I'm usually a fan of almost any wine you put in front of me, D and I didn't fall in love with Madeira wine. The flavors were great, but the tiny samples we drank were potent. Very syrupy and very alcoholic (the two varieties we tried were 19% and 18% ABV). Would I still recommend taking the time to visit Blandy's and experience true Madeira wine? Absolutely! When in Portugal, right?

After our wine stop…we had a late lunch at a quite cafe in town (banana-covered black scabbard fish--a traditional Funchal dish--good, but strange) and then started making our way back to the ship. While walking, we stumbled upon Beerhouse Madeira, a brewery right on the bay with great views of the Funchal shore. The boys were itching to grab a pint in this idyllic setting, so we stopped in, had a glass, and took some photos around the brewery. Beerhouse Madeira was quite a lucky find. Come to find out, their in-house beers are brewed according to German Beer Purity Law and include no chemical products or preservatives…just water, hops, rye malt, and yeast. After the first few sips, we started to wish we'd had our late lunch there! Very tasty brews and gorgeous views to boot! Worth a stop, for sure. Well, that's all from Portugal! Next stop, Málaga, Spain!

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