A Travellerspoint blog

France, it has everything

rain

We just can't get enough of France lately. This is our second weekend in a row, but the weather here in the north is a drastic departure from what we had in Provence. I certainly underestimated the size of France before moving to Germany where the terrain and weather vary greatly. A smaller, lesser known mountain range, the Vosges, are a mere two hours from our home and the Tour de France passed through here in this years edition of the race. The forecast called for rain every day, but luckily we only got wet one of the three days.

So we drove to northern France to catch 3 stages of the Tour de France. The plan was to catch stage 7 close to the finish when the peloton is typically moving pretty fast, but there might still be a break out front, and then catch the finish and the preceding start in the town of Gerardmer where we were staying.

We were able to drive right onto the race route and park off to the side, thanks to a miscalculation on my part that put us there 4 hours before the racers came through. Luckily there is entertainment of sorts when the caravan comes screaming by a couple of hours before the race. The caravan is the media parade (read moving circus) that throws out bits of swag or snacks while driving along at 30 miles an hour. It actually seemed a bit comical, as I'm used to the small town parade's in Wisconsin, where at times it seems like the Zor shriners are never going to end. Similar to the shriners they drive some really crazy vehicles, and are all strapped in with harnesses. We were able to score a couple of dry fit shirts and an awesome polka dot cycling hat.

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When the racers came through a few hours later, they made short work of the hill we were standing on and also went by faster than I expected. I snapped a pic of a couple of them chatting, while calmly riding 25-30 miles an hour. These guys truly are amazing athletes. I didn't realize how many vehicles are driving along with the racers. I bet it is exhausting, and it is somewhat surprising that more riders haven't been hit by media cars.

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On day two we camped out near the finish line in Gerardmer, where we had a hotel room 1000 meters from the finish. And when I say camped, I mean sat out in the rain waiting for the riders to come. It was more like camping in Ireland really. This was an awesome finish, with a 2 mile climb at a 10% grade after riding 234 kilometers (145 miles). We didn't get any pictures of this day, as the camera might not have survived. Here are a couple of pics from the hotel room, where maybe you can get an idea of the terrain. Gerardmer is a cool little town in the Vosges mountains that serves as a ski resort in the winter.

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On day three the race started from the same town of Gerardmer and we just strolled down to the team bus area in the morning to see all the riders getting warmed up on their trainers. I guess they are treated a bit like zoo animals, because hoards of people are milling around the fences that are set up watching all the movements of the riders and just waiting for the stars to step off the bus. The poor domestique is treated like animals in the petting zoo (i.e. goats, sheep, pigs), and come and go without much excitement. I was surprised to see how skinny most of the riders are, at least their arms anyway. The guys who perform the best at the multi stage races are fairly small, like powerful little bicycle jockeys.

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I know that cycling has been tainted in recent years by the proliferation of drug charges, but that is not to say that these guys are not athletic monsters. While I in no way condone the use of performance enhancing drugs, I think it is unfortunate that it has overshadowed the sheer ability of the guys who still ride clean. Watching the performance of the riders first hand is really incredible.

This trip was originally going to include some cycling of our own, but due to obvious prior events that wasn't going to be happening. However, it should be noted that this weekend marked my official return to cycling, celebrated with a lap around the lake in Gerardmer. In terms of notable events on my road to recovery, this one is high up there.

We capped off the weekend by watching Germany win the World Cup. This is the second time Kristen and I have been in the country that won the final, but Germany was markedly more calm than when we were in Italy.

Posted by trackers 23:08 Archived in France Comments (1)

When I say voilà you say France....Voilà...

Yes, they actually do say voila in France and you hear it quite often. In fact, I believe every waiter/waitress that we had during our trip said it when putting down our meals!

My gradschool girlfriend Erica and her husband Rene came to visit us this month. Newlyweds....

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Since Rene used to live in Germany he wanted to see some areas a little farther away that he had not yet experienced. We took yet another Ryanair flight (they really should be paying me for all of these plugs) to Montpellier in southern France. Then we rented a car and drove over to the region of "Provence." You may recognize this from the seasoning, Herbs de Provence.

Apparently Erica was really excited to fly.

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We stayed in yet another place from Airbnb and this one again did not disappoint. We did not land until 10 pm and by the time we got to our place it was 11. Our hosts graciously welcomed us to our new home for the next 4 days. It is a mother-in-law suite with two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a beautiful patio with access to the pool. The owners lived in the house upstairs and it was absolutely the most gorgeous piece of property on a hillside with an incredible garden full of tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, and wild herbs. I was super jealous. Quinn had asked if there might be any restaurants or bars open where we could grab some food and our hosts regretfully said no. However, they happened to have some tomatoes, a full leg of prosciutto that you could cut yourself, a warm loaf of bread, eggs, and a bottle of wine that they suggested they would bring down!!!!!!!! They would not take no for an answer. So before we knew it we had an amazing snack and once again wonderful hospitality from strangers, turned hosts, turned friends.

The tomatoes were so amazingly huge! They were possibly the best tasting tomatoes we have ever had.

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Quinn cutting the ham leg

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We all had to inspect the tomato

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We were also greeted by their resident Saint Bernard who was a giant fuzzy ball of mush.

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Our patio and our pool

We enjoyed some more tomatoes with our breakfast
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We spent our first day cruising around our town of Saint Remy. This town is famous for its Roman ruins

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and its mental hospital where Vincent Van Gogh spent some time. He completed something around 200 paintings while staying at this institution.

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You can really only tour a small part of the hospital because it is still a working hospital but the grounds are quite amazing. This region of France is known for its lavender which blooms in July. This timing was not coincidental.

We took a lot of breaks for Quinn to put his foot up and to reduce the amount of walking. Here we are relaxing at a cafe.

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mmmm, cheese.

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Next stop, Les Baux de Provence. We didn't have this on our itinerary and had no idea what to expect but our host recommended it so we went to check it out. We were quite impressed when we rounded the corner and this was the town!

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Wandering around the streets. This is more of a historic, touristy town rather than a town where people live but there is a huge castle at the top with a giant trebuchet. We didn't hike up there but we got some nice views anyhow.

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We enjoyed a delicious dinner in town as well. I had tagliatelle with little octopi and Quinn had a traditional dish with veggies that you dip into a garlic aoili.

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This was a delicious fish dish!

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Les Baux by night.

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The next day we went to the town of L'Isle sur la Sorgue. It is a town known for its canals and water wheels. It sure had a lot of those.

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They also had a lot of delicious cookies.

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Next we went to Fontaine de Vacluse which has a fresh water spring that no one knows the source of. It was a pretty walk but we didn't get a ton of pics

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Next up, Senanque Abbey. This Abbey is known for its beautiful lavender fields and dramatic backdrop.

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So many people were taking pictures, including us! Peek a boo!

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No biggie, just a random hill top town along the way. Getting this group shot was an adventure because I set up the camera on this little plateau and then had to run around a path and down a ways to get in position. I didn't realize it, but I had a whole audience and one lady even said, "watching that was as great as the view!"

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Little stop in Rousillion. This town is known for being the "Colorado" of Provence with its red rock. Unfortunately for us, the sky opened and rain poured on us so we couldn't really check out the town. Something to save for next time.

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Dinner at a little crepe place in a quintessential outdoor seating area.

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The next day we went to check out Chateuneuf de Pape which is a town where they used to make the wine for the pope. Erica and Rene got some mussels for breakfast and we had a little en route breakfast picnic. Quinn got some good shots just along the side of the road. Everything is beautiful in France.

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First stop, a winery and car gawking.

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Next stop, best meal of the trip.

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Next top, more wine

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Then we went over to the city of Avignon which hosts a theater festival every July, for the entire month. In order to get people to go to their productions, the actors perform, hand out flyers, and generally make a raucous in the city to promote their show. The whole town was covered in posters and there were little performances on every corner.

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They also have the Pope's palace there but we were just too tired to take the tour....bad tourist, bad!

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Fun door, and fun Erica.

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We also had to check out the Pont du Gard which is a still standing Roman aqueduct! It was so gigantic!!!!!! You really cannot get the perspective from this picture but there are some tiny people in it. We enjoyed a beverage and some hours of relaxation here.

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Magnificent Olive tree.

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Dinner at a little joint in our town

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On our last day, we went to check out Saint Marie de la Mer. This was a tourist beach town and super windy so it was kind of bust but they have a really cool symbol for their town.

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Then we stopped by a flamingo and wild horse sanctuary. I have seen a ton of flamingos in my life but this was the first time I ever saw one fly. It is so incredible. Their wing span is really wide but it is just crazy to see their super long legs behind them. I really enjoyed seeing them circling around the park. We didn't get to see the horses because we were once again foiled by rain but we did get to see an owl and coypu. It was a fun little sanctuary.

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After France we had one more day with Erica and Rene and the three of us went on a Mosel boat cruise. Quinn had to work and unfortunately missed a beautiful sunny day. I love when friends come to visit and it is even more fun to explore a new place together. Southern France is on my "must return list" and so are Erica and Rene!

Posted by trackers 07:41 Archived in France Comments (0)

3 kids and 4 adults

Our very dear but no longer so near friends, Jenny and Dave took on the amazing feat of traveling around the world with 3 children under the age of 7. We have been friends for 10 years now and I hope that eventually we will live right down the road from them again like we did in Phoenix. But for now, they are in Japan and we are in Germany living an adventure. Even with 3 little kids (who are amazingly well behaved) they somehow have not aged one bit. I think they should start selling special beauty products or something.

Enough rambling, onto the story. With 3 kids and 4 adults (one of which was on crutches) we were more like a slow moving barge than the regular speedboat that we usually are. But we had such a great time because we had an excuse to do all the little kid things around our area that we don't usually do, while sneaking in some adult time after the kids' bedtime with the help of an awesome friend turned babysitter.

Let me introduce you to the crew. In this picture you can see Quinn and I and Adeline (17 months), Emery (almost 4), and Evan (just turned 6....he is one week older than our marriage and was the ring bearer in our "wedding".

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Here we all are hanging around the yard, having a BBQ and watering plants. Apparently, the plant watering had a big impact because it made it into a picture that Evan drew which was absolutely adorable.

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Playtime at the park. We have a little zipline at our neighborhood park. Super cute.

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The scales of Justice- family style

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The next day we went for a boat ride along the Mosel river. These really don't get old. I just can't get enough of them. Plus it is super fun to see kids so excited about going on a boat. Emery was also nice enough to share some of her nuggets with me.

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The adults might have tasted some wine in Bernkastel while we bribed the children with ice cream.

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Evan said that this was the best day ever because he got ice cream two times. We went to the ice cream shop in town to watch one of the world cup games.

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Prost to watching another world cup with these folks. We watched Italy win the worldcup in 2006 during our trip together through Italy.
(take note the MVP of the ice cream demolition team hiding out below. At one point, she was holding two cones, while alternating licks off each one.)

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We also got to check out Eifel park which is a zoo and small amusement park type place only 20 minutes from our house. It was super fun and the kids really loved it. I enjoyed the trampoline. The kids got to go on a bunch of cool rides. I don't know how these kids didn't get jet lagged but they were such little troopers and never got grumpy or anything. They were so fun and easy to be around! I didn't bring my camera this day so I only have one picture of me having too much fun on the trampoline.

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Silly straws were always really fun for me as a kid so when I saw a few at the store I thought it would be a fun time. I was right.

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On the last day, we went to a little town open cellar day. It was quite small but we did find a nice place to sit and visit before they left for England.

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Selfie with a DSLR is not so easy!

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Some other randomness follows!

Evan's work of art. I loved how much the kids enjoyed drawing and coloring.

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Jenny was very excited about bananas.

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Group shot.

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The last time we saw Jenny and Dave, they were living in Arizona. Then after we left Japan, Jenny was able to take my job there and they have been there ever since. We miss them a bunch and we are looking forward to another visit soon.

Here are some other pictures from this early summer time. We have a cherry tree in our backyard and last year we kept waiting for them to turn red. Well, the birds ate them all before that happened mostly because they are YELLOW cherries and will never turn red. So this year, we knew we couldn't waste them all so we started picking just a soon as they ripened. We made cherry jam, cherry liquor, and cherry vinegar. Not sure how they will turn out. More on that to come. I checked out a bunch of blogs of preserving cherries and attempted a few recipes. I don't think Quinn was excited about all of the chaos and work involved as we were expecting visitors but he always humors my crazy ideas and helps out when my plans start to go haywire!

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We also stopped at a winery that we have been meaning to check out. It is a huge place, unlike all the other wineries in this area. This is the tasting room! Isn't it crazy?

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Also, one of my work out buddies moved this month. I am so sad to say good bye but I hope our paths will cross again. See you later Michelle. (she is the one in the middle)

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Posted by trackers 22:09 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Ben and Jaya visit Germany

Ben is Quinn's cousin and he has come to visit us at every stop along our nomadic journey. Jaya has joined him for the last two stops and during this vacation it has been decided that she will be along for the ride for many more stops! THEY GOT ENGAGED!! Yay! This is the third couple to get engaged while on a trip to visit or stay with us. The other two are our friends Rene and Erica who were engaged on the Big Island of Hawaii and the other two were couch surfers that were staying with us for a week.

Happy picture of cousins.

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The first couple of days that they arrived we had to work and they tooled around Trier and some other little spots. We took them down to Bernkastel Kues to show them the really cute town center.
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Then we went out to a delicious dinner at our new favorite restaurant called Graacher Tor. We invited our friends Andrea, Kevin and Casey along. The food there is delish!
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On the weekend we went to Bruges, Belgium to celebrate the birth of our friends' little baby, Isolde. These are friends that we met through couchsurfing that live in Ghent, Belgium. In Europe, it is more common to have a baby party after the baby is born rather than having a baby shower before the baby arrives. We stayed with our friend Liesbeth's mom and sister in their amazing house/former restaurant. The garden was absolutely amazing!

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Isolde and me

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Her new dress. Every Belgian baby should have one!

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They treated us to such a nice lunch upon our arrival. It was croque (warm sandwiches) that you grill at the table. They were with salmon and ham and cheese and all kinds of sauces. Then we heated them on a sandwich maker...yuuuumy. I love "do it yourself meals" like raclette and fondue.

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We spent the afternoon and evening cruising around Bruge. Such a beautiful city. We didn't see all that much of it though due to all of the stops at chocolate shops, beer places, and a gin and tonic.

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Said gin and tonic

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Cool sign

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Street art

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It's Lt. Dan and Forest Gump! Okay, in all fairness, I did not make this up. Other people have been calling Quinn Lt Dan when he is in his wheel chair. He does not think this is funny.

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Liesbeth and Peter were able to join us for dinner. I don't know how they found the time to make it out for dinner with all of the baby party preparation but we were so happy to have some time with the hosts!

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It was a crazy baby party. There were 180 people. It was all in the garden and it was a perfect day for a party. They also had a traveling fry shop that came and made some fries and other fried treats. They also had bartenders making drinks and pouring beer and champagne. People planning a babyshower take note, alcohol and fried food are a great addition to a baby shower.

The next day we went to Dehaan Belgium which is an aboslutely adorable town on the beach. I really loved it. There were amazing houses, a really cute shopping street and a mile long boardwalk.

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Limbo!
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Cute siblings, taking care of one another

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Before we went back to Germany we stopped by Bruge again. I loved the windmills and canals and adorable shops. It is quite a crowded place but cute nonetheless.

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Cute coffee shop

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Our hosts saying good bye

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On the way back to Germany, we stopped in Brussels so Jaya and Ben could see the main square.

Posted by trackers 10:50 Archived in Belgium Comments (0)

Recovery

I will do the medical update first. Don't worry to all of our squimish friends. We did not include any pictures of incisions or scars or anything of that nature. To medically minded folks and those that like gore, email me and I will send you those pics if you desire.

The first 5 weeks were the toughest. Quinn was in quite a lot of pain for the first 3 or 4 and it was an adjustment for both of us to be "grounded" in the house. We set up the living room to be Quinn's central command post with everything he could need. He is taking a graduate school course so it was a bunch of work for him to get caught up with class. We had frequent doctor appointments in the beginning with mutliple x-rays and what not. At the six week mark he had a surgery to remove the screw that tied together his tibia and fibula. Up until that point, Quinn could not bear any weight on his leg. The surgery was an outpatient procedure and was quick and painless. Quinn said it only took them about 4 minutes to actually remove the screw using x-ray guided precision. After that time he started a little bit of weight bearing, up to 45 pounds. So he walked around with crutches and put some weight on the leg for the next 3 weeks. In his last doctor appointment they allowed him to increase by 10 kilos every week. So he will be full weight bearing in the next week or so. As of right now, he can stand without the crutches but still has to walk with them since he cannot shift his full weight onto the leg. He has physical therapy 2x per week and about 2 hours of exercises to do every day after and before work. Thanks to Silvan (our friend and Quinn's PT) he has been very busy. He went back to work part time after 7 weeks and now he is back to full time at work minus all of the appointments. He has his final doctor appointment with the surgeon in 2 weeks from now. His flexibility is returning and every week he gets stronger so I am thinking the next couple of weeks will go by fast.

Onto the fun social part! We had so much help and so many visitors the first few weeks back! Our friends Erin and Cole made us some delicious chili and a bunch of Quinn's coworkers/friends (Thanks Phil, Katrina, Susanne, Taylor, Michelle) came over with cassserole's galore! We also had additional little social visits from Susanne and Michelle. Our friends Andrea and Kevin came over with about 1000+ hours worth of movies and television shows. Later on in the recovery process they also picked up Thai food and brought us Chipotle all the way from Frankfurt!!! Our friends Jake and Emily came over with their brand new baby and a tray of delicious bars. How Emily cooked for us with a 1 week old baby and then ventured over to deliver them and let Quinn hold James is beyond me! We should have been delivering food to her! Then they came by again to socialize and drop off some home grown rhubarb which Quinn promptly made into a delicious cake. Then another friend of ours, Nicki, brought us a meal even with two kids of her own to take care of and a deployed spouse. All of these people were so kind to help us out and go out of their way even with their own crazy lives going on. I wish I would have taken pictures of all these acts of kindness but I wasn't really in picture mode. Finally, I got my butt in gear and realized I should start documenting things. So here is a visit from our friend Abby with her two little guys Luke and Same. Sam really made Quinn's day by snuggling with him on the couch.

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Then our friend David came over and cooked us a gourmet meal. No seriously, really gourmet. It was like having a professional chef in the kitchen. He even brought his own salt and pepper and an amazing cheese tray full of cheese he had bought in France and Luxembourg. We are lucky people. Quinn really wanted to be a part of the cooking action so we brought the couch over to the kitchen.

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David insisted that I take a picture of this. He brought all of his own pans to cook but then needed and extra one and used one of ours. Well, silly me gave him the wrong lid and it got stuck on there with steam suction or something and it was quite the hilarious challenge to get it off. Thank goodness it didn't ruin the meal. Now I see why he travels with his own cookware!

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Quinn jazzed up his crutches with stickers so they wouldn't be so plain. I am not going to lie, he was pretty sad when this is how he spent his Friday night but we tried to keep it fun and stay positive.

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After about 4 weeks in the house and not being able to go anywhere or do much morale started to get a little low. Also, I was getting a little tired of being the sole caretaker because that is a lot of work! So we called for reinforcements and my Mom flew to help us. We called her on a Friday night at 9:00 pm and she was on a plane the next at 2pm! Go Mom! She cooked up a storm and I wish I would have taken a picture of each dish but I did take a picture of my favorite. Crabs and sauce! (sometimes it is just nice to enjoy the visit and forget about the camera).

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Everyone was happy to have my mama here. Even Ethan enjoyed the extra spoiling attention!

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One night we had our friends over to the house on short notice for a few after dinner drinks and dessert. It was fun to see everyone and introduce them to mom.

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Kevin is like an elusive cat that moves too fast for the camera.

Also, our friends Silke and Silvan hosted a BBQ for my mom's visit. I cannot believe we did not get even one picture but I think it was because we spent the whole night laughing. My cheeks and stomach hurt by the end. We played a game called "dirty minds" and then we just sat around saying funny stuff the rest of the time. It was a great night. Thanks guys!

For mother's day, my mom and I went down to the Mosel for a little boat ride and mother daughter time. It was a fantastic day.

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I don't think my mom and I have done any adventures like that with just the two of us since I was 4 or 5 years old and we used to go to the zoo! It was fun to do something with just the two of us. No offense husbands :)

We went on a little Game of Thrones marathon while my mom was here and we watched all 3 seasons in about 3 days. Wow. That show is sick, twisted, gorey, and completely addicting. It was so hard to say goodbye to my mom but I so appreciated her coming to help. Love you Mom.

Random cheese tray to spice up life.

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Yes another BBQ. We have become the BBQ friends. I imagine the conversation in the household goes something like this. Hey, we should see Quinn and Kristen....oh but they can't really go anywhere right now. I have an idea....let's invite them to a BBQ. We were so thankful that people kept cooking for us and getting us out of the house. Thanks friends.

This one was on base.

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This is the first day Quinn was given clearance to ride his bike on the trainer. What a happy moment.

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After about 8 weeks we ventured out of the house for the first time to an event. This was an open wine cellar event in Traben Trarbach. About 8-10 of the vinters open their cellars, tasting rooms, and gardens to visitors to have a taste and look. It was such a beautiful day and a really fun time.

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One of them had a huge cellar that could probably hold 300 people for an event and under that is a cellar that they have set up as a museum. The vinter's son who was probably about 13 showed us around and gave us a private tour because we had to go in through a seperate entrance that did not involved stairs. Quinn let me take a picture of him in the wheelchair but he was not happy about it.

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We knew we had visitor's coming soon and we really needed our lawn mowed so we bribed our friend Casey with sushi if he came to tame the forest of weeds that was taking over our backyard. We might have gone overboard with the number of rolls we made.

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Quinn's second couch set up perfectly for elevating his leg!

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So, as you can see, he is making great progress. There were some high and low points and everything in between but life is good.

Posted by trackers 11:37 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

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