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Jun 30, 2014

So Yeahhh, Florida is HOT!

We're 6 days into being Floridians, guys. Holy wow. Can I tell you a secret? It feels like we've been here forever. Like we just slid right back into some comfortable, familiar type of place...only with more palm trees and salad dressing options. We went to the grocery store for the first time last night and I felt some of that reverse culture shock everyone's been talking about. I was overwhelmed by the sheer plethora of cracker flavors. I. WANT. TO. TRY. THEM. ALL! And right now. D had to reign me in from filling our entire cart with Triscuits. Thank goodness for that man. We spent almost an hour and a half roaming the vast aisles of Publix, making googly-eyes at the ice cream section and mega-huge Florida avocados. D could have cried when he saw that some of our favorite Belgian beers were in the cold beer aisle. I was the one who had to reign him in there. We have 12 crates coming across the ocean, sir...pace yourself!
We've also been to Target, and Walmart, and Starbucks about a half million times in 6 days. There's a flippin' SUPER TARGET right down the road from our house. I think it fell straight from heaven (I had no idea these existed, y'all. My squeals could be heard all through Florida, I'm sure.) There goes all of D's paychecks from here on out! I'm probably gonna have to go start working the pole to fund all the new spending habits America is going to slap on me again. I forgot just how easy it is to spend a dollar in this country. Reverse culture shock again, folks. It is a real thing! All kidding aside, Florida is grand! We have quickly fallen in love with just about everything here. Well, except the heat. Why didn't you guys tell me just how incredibly HOT this state would be???? I mean, we had an idea of the weather conditions, but we were still a bit naïve to exactly how hot and how humid. I stepped off the plane and my hair basically turned into a lion's mane. D sweats the second he walks outside. I'm hoping that over time our bodies will acclimated to the humidity, but as for now, we're two big, sweaty whining babies. Also, Florida thunderstorms are scary.
The gratuitous "D finally got his beloved Buffalo Wild Wings and then complained about heartburn for 2 days after" shot. Welcome to America! HA!
Since our arrival in the Sunshine State, we've been running around non-stop. Appointments and shopping and more appointments...waking up at 5am from jet lag, but crashing at 9pm from sheer exhaustion. Today was the first day we actually slept past 6am. It was a total treat, and much needed. I'll be happy when our bodies have synced up to the time difference, too. I would love to say we've done some Florida sight-seeing, but aside from staying in an oceanfront hotel in Cocoa Beach for the first 3 nights of our arrival, we've pretty much kept to seeing the insides of stores and car dealerships. Which brings me to my newest announcement...we bought a car! YAY! We're no longer a 1 car family, which makes me a very happy camper. Ok, so I lie. We're still a 1 car family for now, but only because D's car is currently on a cargo ship making its way across the pond. Once it arrives in...ahem...August (shoot me now!), we'll go back to the comfort of having 2 lovely vehicles. Many of you may have already seen our brand spanking new Nissan Murano via my post on Instagram, but for those of you who haven't...I literally bought the same car I had prior to moving to Germany. Only 5 years newer and for less money! Hilarious, right? Lord knows how we were able to make that happen, but it did and I'm BEYOND grateful to have my favorite car back in my life. I'm a creature of habit, what can I say? I cried over having to sell my Murano when we moved to Germany...so, it only made sense to get "Pearl" back (we all name our cars, right?) when we made our way back stateside. I didn't expect to get the exact same color, but it's like I reconnected with an old friend. Feels like she never left me. Sometimes we all need a little familiar in our lives. Especially after so many years of the unfamiliar in Europe.
Let's see, what else is there to tell you guys? Aside from how we're the absolute whitest and least tan people in Florida (thanks, Germany!), I'm also incredibly sorry that I haven't been able to keep up with this space as much as I'd hoped I would. You guys are cool though, right? You know how it is be displaced and literally without any normal routine for an unspecified amount of time. I like to give people this visual to describe what it's like moving back from a foreign country...it's like having pieces of your life puzzle (car, home, cell phone, job, insurance, food, furniture, etc.) just dangling above your head and each day you grab a piece of that puzzle and try to put it back where it's supposed to be. I wish I could say I was officially settled and ready to get my blogging (and life) groove back, but that'd be a load of horse crap. Our puzzle is far from complete. We have regular internet now (woo hoo!), so we're making progress towards some semblance of a settled state. Truthfully though, we're still a ways off. But the light at the end of the tunnel is there...we can see it...it's just one really big, long tunnel. Anywho, I've got one more piece of fun news to share with you tomorrow (or Wednesday, if I'm being honest)...so please come back and say hi to me then! Also, I swear someday I'll email all of your sweet faces back...as soon as I'm sleeping past 7am. You guys are just the most patient readers. I'm the luckiest gal in blog world!
Oh, and did I mention my sister (and parents) fly in to stay with us for 4th of July week today? Talk about not being able to wait for things! My mom would have been here Day 1 if I would have let her. We're looking forward to some family time and REALLY getting to enjoy this beautiful state! Talk soon, friends!

Jun 23, 2014

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland!

Exactly 3 years ago today, D and I landed at Ramstein Air Force Base to start our first overseas assignment in Germany. With 4 suitcases, lots of nerves, and mountains of excitement, we lived in the Army Lodge for 41 days before finally moving into our beautiful 2nd floor apartment on Alwinenstrasse, a hop, skip, and jump from Wiesbaden's charming downtown area. Over the next 3 years, we spent the majority of our time here traveling all over Germany and Europe. 28 different countries and countless new cities. I can hardly believe it myself. In between all of our travels, we made new and lifelong friends, D worked in a unique and challenging squadron (pinning on Captain at the end of our first year abroad), and we basically festivaled our brains out all over Germany...and Belgium, for that matter. We fell in love with Germany's picturesque villages, acclimated to German culture and way of life, and we navigated our way through countless language barriers, both in Germany and all across Europe. We hosted friends and family from the states when they came to visit. We parked in tiny parking spaces. We paid for water, and ketchup packets, and to use the bathroom. And naturally, we became obsessed with wine, and beer, and döner kebabs...among other German delights. Germany became a part of us, and us a part of Germany. But today, D and I find ourselves back at Ramstein...just a few short hours from flying back to the states to start our new life in Florida.

I can't even type this without tears welling up in my eyes. This place, this experience...it's beyond anything I could have ever imagined for D or myself. We have embraced every second of our time abroad...never wasting a long weekend...always out exploring...so much to see, so little time. 3 years might sound like a long time, but it flew by in a flash. Weren't we just telling our families the good news about Germany? Weren't we just packing our bags to move here? Now, it's time go. I can't quite wrap my head around how quickly good things come to an end. And I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put into perfect words just how lovely our life abroad has been. Everything about Germany has seeped into my bones. The good and bad, the strange and mundane. This country has such a tight hold on my heart. Leaving our apartment last Thursday just about did me in. I hadn't had time to think about leaving our charming little flat. Life had been so busy, what with our cruise, my impromptu trip home, the movers, the boxes...it wasn't until the movers had left and we started walking through the empty rooms that I had time to let the sadness flood in. I started mentally placing furniture and memories where they used to be. I thought of the hours I'd spent in our sun room, trip planning and blogging, reading and dreaming. I remembered the first thanksgiving dinner we hosted in our tiny dining room...with just a few friends and a whole lotta love. I thought of how much I hated our blue tiled bathroom and toilet with poop shelf when we first moved in. But also of how much I'd grown to love it (well, maybe not the poop shelf...that's a tough one to ever love). And I reminisced about the evenings D and I spent cooking dinner in our tiny German oven and drinking wine out on our balcony. Those nights were simple, but oh so perfect. With every room I walked through, the tears continued to stream down my face. D was shocked...so was I, really. I thought I'd let go of this place. I thought I'd properly grieved the ending of our Germany chapter. I thought my heart had already found its new place in Florida...but clearly I thought wrong. I've got a Germany-sized hole in my heart today. Probably forever.

Even with the sadness I carry for closing this amazing chapter of our lives, there's also immense happiness for the new one that's about to begin. We're so thrilled to move back to America. We're so thankful to finally get back into the same time zone as our loved ones. We're darn near exploding with excitement about Florida and all the wonderful sunshine and ocean breezes we'll enjoy each day. This time in our lives is bittersweet in the best way possible. We couldn't be more grateful for the life we've been given and the new adventures that await us just on the horizon. I'm overflowing with emotions today, you guys. I'm gonna ugly cry through customs, I can already feel it. So, let me leave you all with this. If you ever have the opportunity to get to Europe...whether it be via studying abroad, military assignment, work visa, or family vacation...DO IT. Don't even think about it, just go. You won't regret a single moment of a life (or visit) abroad. There's so much more beyond the USA. Get out and see the world, friends. Life is short! Don't waste a second of it with "should've, could've, would've." Just trust that I am right and Europe is awesome. Especially Germany, but I'm definitely biased. ;)

And to all of you who've followed along on this amazing European journey of ours...THANK YOU!! From the very, very bottom of our hearts. I still have lots more of Europe to share with you...so don't leave me yet! And, of course, the fun shall continue in Florida. We've got lots of the USA to explore! 

Auf Wiedershen, Germany. You've been swell. 

Jun 11, 2014

German Wine Towns to Love: Bernkastel-Kues

I swear, Germany just oozes cute towns...and I've got another adorable one to share with you guys! Bernkastel-Kues is one of those towns that you'd probably never know about unless someone mentioned it to you. Heck, we didn't find out about it until I asked a friend if she knew a fun wine town to visit. Nestled into the hills of the Mosel River Valley, Bernkastel-Kues is quite unsuspecting just driving by it along the river road. At first glance from the river, Bernkastle looks a bit lackluster...but as you make your way through the winding cobblestone streets and pop out at the city's quaint Marktplatz, you'll be transported into half-timbered heaven. Like most towns along the Mosel River, wine is its main economic staple (and thank the Lord for that!). You can find local vintners and their signature bottles on just about every street corner. We spent the morning popping in and out of various winery stores, sipping their grape and stocking up on bottles to ship back to the states with us. We also had some beyond delicious Italian food at a little restaurant right on the Marktplatz called Pizzeria Italia Badstube (great pizzas and baked pastas!). Just before leaving Bernkastel, we decided to wander across the river to see if anything fun caught our eye. It was a leisurely Saturday after all. We stumbled upon the greatest wine-lover's paradise just a short walk from the bridge. More on our divine wine find to come! :)

Jun 6, 2014

Where in the World is Casey Cote?

Granny's 80th birthday party
It feels like forever since I've typed a sentence on this page. I thought that after coming back from vacation I'd feel refreshed and ready to jump into all things blogging again, but I've literally had no time to think about this space. Well, until now, of course. Today is the first day in 3.5 weeks that I've sat down for more than 30 minutes. No joke. When I said I'd be go, go, go after the cruise, I halfway thought I'd really have a handful of days where life would be busier than usual and then a smattering of days where I could veg out and watch Boy Meets World re-runs. Turns out, when I could have used a vacation after my vacation, instead I got hopping a 9 hour flight to NC and driving a billion hours around America and vet appointments and family functions and literally no time to eat a home-cooked meal or sleep a full 8 hours. I've eaten out every meal but breakfast and haven't slept past 5am since coming home. I'm as gross and as out of my routine as I've ever been.

I guess I should back up and tell you that our cruise was AWESOME. It was hands down the most perfect way to celebrate the ending of our time in Europe. We visited Venice, Slovenia, Croatia (Split & Dubrovnik), Montenegro, Greece (Corfu & Olympia), Malta, Sicily, and San Marino...a total dream Adriatic itinerary. Our ship was luxurious, the weather perfect (warm, and no rain until the day we left!), the company most enjoyable (hi Chin & Glory!), and the views we saw...unparalleled to any other vacation we've taken. It was the cruise of beautiful vistas and charming walled cities. I've been giving myself a hearty pat on the back for booking such a brilliant sailing...and high-fiving Celebrity Cruises for, once again, giving us one of the most memorable vacations of our lives. In fact, we loved it so much that we went ahead and booked a 2015 cruise with them. This time to the Caribbean! I'm already counting down the days. ;)

In case you missed the post on Instagram, you might be wondering why I'm even currently back in North Carolina. On day 2 of our cruise, I got an email from my mom letting me know that my grandma had passed away. This is the grandma that just 2.5 months ago went through cancer surgery. She was cancer free post-surgery, but her frail 83-year-old body just couldn't recover from the strain of the procedure (and then subsequent infections from having a low immune system). Before we left for our vacation, I'd gotten word that she'd been moved to Hospice care, but they wholeheartedly thought she'd last a while. At least until our cruise was over and I was able to come home to see her one more time. Unfortunately, her body had other plans and she went home to be with Jesus just 3 short days after being moved. D and I contemplated canceling our cruise (I was pretty distraught about the thought of missing another grandparent's funeral--I missed my MeeMaw's service in 2010 because I was stuck in Cuba with D during his deployment R&R), but of course, like all loving families do, they reassured us Granny wouldn't have wanted us change our plans, lose money, and miss out on our last trip abroad (and neither did they). We reluctantly went on our way, but after hearing of her passing while sailing, I'll admit it was hard to fully enjoy our cruise knowing my family was back home dealing with grief and funeral plans. It was a bittersweet, to say the least. I attribute the lovely weather we had to my sweet Granny smiling down on us from above. She was a special part of my life and I'll cherish her always! Hence why I'm typing to you from my parent's couch. 
The day after arriving back in Germany, I dumped out my cruise suitcase (literally dumped it, clothes are probably still all over our bedroom floor), haphazardly packed another suitcase, kissed D goodbye (he had to get back to work--sad face), and hopped a flight back to NC to spend some time with my family and to take care of some super important moving things. Which I CANNOT WAIT to tell you about...but have to because it's just not quite the right time yet. You should know it's big, though. Big and exciting and totally life changing. No buns in the oven, so holster your ovaries ladies! They'll be time for that later. Anywho...since coming home, I've been enjoying spending time going through old photo albums, reminiscing with family about Granny, visiting with aunts and uncles I haven't seen in years. It's been nice. Incredibly busy, but super nice. This impromptu trip home also provided me with the opportunity to snuggle my BFF's new 3 week old bundle of joy (I bottled up some of his baby smell for later) and put my arms around a family member who's recently been diagnosed with a life changing disease. While I'm physically, mentally, and emotionally drained from the non-stop nature of my life as of late, I know I'm supposed to be home right now. Divine placement, if you will. The Lord knew I couldn't carry on with all I have to do with this move until I knew my family was good and my heart was centered again. Proof that His plan, once again, is always much, much better than mine.

 So, that's where in the world I am right now. Whole lotta crazzy, whole lotta busy, but a whole lotta love covering all of us this week. I've got 2 more days left in NC (quick trip, obviously), then I fly back to Germany and have 1 week to get the last few moving things squared away before the movers come. $&@*#!! Needless to say, this blog might continue to be kind of blank from now until July. I had every intention to come back from cruising and schedule dozens of posts to hold me over while we move..but Superwoman, I am not. For the time being, I'm cool with that. You guys understand, don't you? Of course you do. If you want to keep up with me, Instagram is your best bet. I can totally manage an occasional 30 second insta post of my pup or some cardboard boxes. Riveting stuff, I tell ya. They'll be time for travel posts and fun stuff when we're settled in Florida, right? 20 days!!!! Oh...and thank you, by the way, for all the love you all have floated my way in emails, comments, and tweets upon hearing about my Granny. You guys are always keeping my blog love tank full. Much appreciated. With that, I'm off to find something to eat other than Bojangles. Wish me luck. ;)

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