2014 in a Nutshell

For the past two years (2012 & 2013) I’ve written a recap of my year. 
This post took me probably between eight and twelve hours and several days to complete. It’s been crazy looking back through 2014 and seeing all that’s happened in my life! 
I’ve had a lot of good times, a lot of confusing moments, a lot of oh-my-goodness-is-this-really-my-life experiences, a lot of pain, a lot of joy and a lot of changes. 
This year has been a full-out learning to trust God and rest in Him year (more about that in another post), so it’s not been all lolly-pops and ice cream sundaes, if you know what I mean. 
I’ve decided to share the good, the bad and the fantastic with y’all. 
I hope you enjoy getting to see a glimpse of my life! 
I’ve linked about 95 of the over 320 posts from last year into this post, 
so I hope you enjoy going back and reading about a few of my highlights again. 🙂 


January: 

2014 was ushered in with lots of fun, festivities, Settlers of Catan, and hanging out with family. Our cousins spent about two weeks with us – weeks filled with jolliness, games, and craziness. I would have never guessed at that time that they’d be living here before the year was out!
I also began writing When Life Hands You Lymes and posting a segment each Friday. 
On the 3rd I headed to my adopted parent’s house to work on writing a kids bookCool Critters of the IceAge, with them. I start having ‘no internet, no computer Sundays’. During the first ten days of January I also work on hyper-speed to write the first draft of the first book in my Action Kids series. (I co-authored one book and wrote the first draft of another book during the first 10 days of the year. Short books, but still… Busy times!) I took many long, freezing cold, snowy walks to brainstorm. 
All in all, in January I write the first draft of the Action Kids book, go through it a second time, send it to my beta readers, go through it a third and forth time and then send it to my editor.
We were on a time crunch. 
I enter a short writing contest, but don’t even place in the top 10. I spend part of January working at the house we’re building. Thinking we’ll be moving within a couple of months, I give y’all a tour of my ‘old’ office. Getting my braces off is an exciting time for me and I celebrate by eating sugar for the first time in over a year. On the 24th I head to Florida with my family (cue fun car trip with sisters). 
All throughout January I’m praying about possibly taking a trip to Asia for a month with my brother, but I  can’t find an opportunity to ask my dad about it, so I don’t know if it will work out or not. At the end of the month I finally ask Dad and he’s all for it. I’m going to surprise my best friend (who lives there), so I keep the trip quiet. 
My review of January leaves me feeling happy. 
Nights Gone in January: 12
Books Read in January: 8
February: 
Walking was so nice in the beautiful Florida sunshine that I walked 22 miles one week, a far cry from my previous year in bed with Lyme disease. 
Getting to watch the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate on the 4th was exciting. 
Hanging out with extended family, getting the first illustrations for my Action Kids book and getting ready for a huge work conference made the first week of February fly by. 
I worked a lot on scheduling posts for the A to Z Challenge I wanted to take part in during April, because I’d be in Asia over that time. 
On the 9th I get to spend the day with my adopted parents, fossil hunting and hanging out with Dr. and Mrs. Parker. It was so very cool! 
Going to GatorLand on the 10th and getting to sit on a gator was also pretty fun. 
A fellow blogger contacted me and asked me to write a guest post for her blog. She requested a subject I’d never blogged about before, but I happily accepted the challenge.
After our conference we spend Valentines day canoeing in the Everglades.
We arrived back home on the 17th, a few days later I introduce Action Kids to Noveltea. 
I then celebrate my upcoming two year blog-anniversery with a giveaway
And of course I review February. 
Nights Gone in February: 15
Books Read in February: 5

March: 

I start out the month with gearing up for the trip to Europe that our family was planning to take in April. I wished I had more time to read books set in the countries we were going to be visiting. My two year blog-anniversery takes place on the 6th while I’m in Nashville with my adopted parents. While in Nashville we got to go to the Hermitage which is where Andrew Jackson used to live. It was a crazy experience. Going to the Grand Ole Oprey was a something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’m so glad I got to go and see my adopted parent’s old stomping grounds. 
I get home from Nashville on the 9th to find my first royalty check! *cue happy dance* My wonderful sister, Helena, gave me a stuffed animal to celebrate. (Stuffed animals are the best, by the way.)
My brother and I leave for Asia on the 15th and after over 50 hours of traveling we arrive at our destination. I blog about successfully surprising my friend, Sarah, and settle into life on a warm, tropical, bustling island. Walking in the rain, riding the motor bikes, climbing up mountains, shopping at the market, eating exotic fruit and tons of rice, hiking to gorgeous waterfalls and playing countless games of Rook made for a wonderful interlude in my life.
I also spent many hours sitting on the couch, editing my Action Kids book.
My review of March.

Nights Gone in March: 22
Books Read in March: 8

April: 

The A to Z Challenge starts in April and I kick off with the word Attitude. Getting to be in the background taking pictures when my wonderful friend, Sarah, gets proposed to was well-worth the trip to Asia and a highlight of my year (of course!). Finding out a few days later that she wanted me to be in her wedding party was incredible.
 A few days later we hike up the same mountain we tackled in March, this time in the middle of the night. Our plans to arrive at the top of the mountain in time to watch the sunrise were messed up by dense fog hiding the view, but it was still a wonderful experience, ending with two more of my friends getting engaged.
My brother and I arrive home on the 16th after over 55 hours of traveling. With all the time changes, April 15th lasted for over 30 hours for me which was really weird. My phone stopped working about half-way through our stay in Asia, so getting it fixed when we arrived home was wonderful. After a busy 8 days home, my family and I head to Europe for a month.
We spend a week in Vienna, Austria at a business convention.
I don’t take the time to review April. Life is just too crazy.

Nights Gone in April: 22
Books Read in April: 6

May: 

Getting to explore so many countries was spectacular. After Vienna, Austria, (where we got go to into catacombs!) we go to a more rural part of the country and get to see where part of The Sound of Music was filmed. We head to Germany next but take a very long detour to Switzerland and spend the day taking in the beautiful view. I’ve wanted to go to Switzerland since I was just a little girl and I throughly caved each moment of sitting in a wide, flower-strewn field under the breath-taking heights of the Swiss Alps into my memory bank.
In Germany we get to experience the culture for a few days while staying in an apartment where we try our hand at cooking German-ish food. Exploring castles in Germany was a absolutely amazing. Especially going to Heidelberg.
Holland was our next stop and a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to go to Holland and see the Beje (where Corrie ten Boom lived) since I was about eight. Reading part of The Hiding Place while in the actual hiding place was something I’ll always treasure. Seeing the Beje and the place where Anne Frank lived on the same day was crazy. Hanging out with our friends in Holland made the trip so much better and our day trip to Belgium with them on the 9th was a whirlwind.
On the 12th we head to Paris and I’m amazed at it. After a few very interesting days in Paris (including going to the top of the Eiffel Tower) we take the Euro Star across the countryside and through the Chunnel to London. London was a beautiful, friendly and filled with places I’ve read about. London was one of my favorite cities in Europe. After too-short of a stay in London we meet up with some of our friends who have lived in England for 45 or so years. They treated us like royalty when we were at their house, including delicious meals in the garden. It was dream-like.
While in England we visited Oxford and I got to go into the Eagle and Child, which is where C.S. Lewis used to hang out with his writing friends. On the 22nd we pack up and head home. A couple of days after we get home we have some friends come and visit. Our time together is lovely.

Nights Gone in May: 21
Books Read in May: 10

June: 

Having almost the whole month of June home was a much-needed breather. I spent a lot of the month working with my family on moving to our new house that we’d been building and also discussing plans for Sarah’s upcoming wedding. Midway through the month I celebrate my book’s first birthday. On Father’s Day I surprise my adopted dad by staying with my adopted family and having a totally fantastic time.
I also take time to work on another round of editing. During this time I begin to have discouraging feelings about being a writer that I’ve never had before. I have to make the choice to trust God instead of continuing to freak out. A conversation with a wise friend really helped me during this time.
 We move into our new house on June 24th. Deciding an office is way more useful for me than a bedroom, I ditch the whole bedroom idea and create the perfect office for myself. I just pull a sleeping bag out of the closet each night and sleep on my office floor. My office is everything I dreamed of and more. I can’t stop being amazed at how wonderful it is.

Nights Gone in June: 1
Books Read in June: 5

July: 

July starts out with exciting news: One of my adopted dad’s songs hit number 11 in the national charts! Helping out with the VBS at church was one of my highlights of the month.
Getting to work with kids is so rewarding!
The second week of July I head out of town with a few family members to visit my sister and her family. I also spend a large amount of time planning a bridal shower for Sarah. July is a month brimming with so many responsibilities and emotions I can hardly keep track. There are some really big things in my life that are changing and I’m not sure how to deal with everything. Being thrown out of routine is hard for me and I struggle with finding peace and joy with being where I’m supposed to be. An encouraging note from a special friend came just at the perfect time and warmed my heart. Five months later I still carry the note around in my computer bag.
Spending several days with extended family is a highlight and we have a really wonderful time. Sadly I’m not feeling the best which puts a damper on the time for me, but I still enjoy it. One of the cousins is getting married so we spend a good amount of time talking about that, including phone calls on speakerphone to his fiancée. Good times.
A few days after our family get-together I head to PA to spend a few days with Sarah and work with a wonderful friend to get my dress made for Sarah’s wedding. My day is brightened by the news that I have a brand new, beautiful niece. I end out the month with finishing setting up my new office, I celebrate by taking some pictures. It was a good ending to a hard, crazy, wonderful month.

Nights Gone in July: 10
Books Read in July: 9

August: 

The first week of August rolls around along with Sarah’s bridal shower. The bridal shower didn’t exactly happen without any snags, but I did learn a lot that I’ll put into practice if I ever host another similar event. Overall everyone agreed it was a success. The next week I head out of state for a wedding and I’m shocked to meet a girl who reads my blog while in the food line at the reception.
On the 18th I hit my goal of read 22 non-ficiton books before I turn 22 and I celebrate by sharing a list of the books with Noveltea. Getting the contract signed for the Cool Critters of the Ice Age book that I wrote with my adopted parents back in January was great.
I drop my iPhone and it breaks into three pieces and is only held together by a little thread. I tape it and keep using it, discovering a mixture of tricks to do what I need to even when it begins malfunctioning.
Sarah’s wedding was on the 23rd and I’m blessed beyond belief to have been her maid-of-honor.
The days before and after her wedding are crammed full of tons of out of state guests who came in for the wedding, including some of my most amazing friends ever. At the beginning of the time I prayed that each day would seem like a week so I could store and treasure all the memories I wanted to have. I’m very happy to say it was one of the longest weeks of my life.
(And, one of the shortest, if we’re going according to how many hours of sleep I got.)
So much happiness, emotions, changes, sunset-watching, caring, tears, dreams come true, long hugs and good talks took place. 
I end August by going on an overnight caving adventure with my adopted parents. Fun times!

Nights Gone in August: 5
Books Read in August: 10

September: 

I arrive home from caving to the delighted welcome of a bunch of little cousins who have moved in next door but spend most of there time over at our house. (Yes, the same amazing ones who I mentioned at the beginning of the year.) When the founder of one of my favorite blogs asks me to guest post, I’m ecstatic. We also have some great friends spend several days with us, a life-changing visit.
Getting to spend a week at the Creation Museum (where I get to meet the Duggar family) with my adopted parents is wonderful and my excitement is overflowing when they buy me a rat for my birthday. The fact that they also give me a genuine whip (I’ve been wanting one for several years now) adds greatly to my delight. Being sick with a horrible cold during my stay with them is a bummer, but I still enjoy my time. I arrive home three days before my 22nd birthday, and then wake up on my birthday with pinkeye. Not fun at all. Thankfully we’re able to get medicine and no one else in the family gets sick. My birthday is brightened considerably by the exciting news that I have another niece or nephew on the way. The perfect birthday present.
All throughout September I’m dealing with a lot of changes going on in my life and I’m having a hard time being ok with some of them. I spend many nights praying, reading and snuggling in my sleeping bag trying to comprehend life and growing up and difficulties and changes. It actually takes me about two months and lots of late-night talks with God and heart-to-heart discussions with my sweet sister and a couple of great conversations with good friends before I finally find peace and accept that life is going to be full of changes and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Nights Gone in September: 7
Books Read in September: 7

October: 

October starts out with a crazy writing-related list for me to work on. The plan is for me to dedicate the whole month to work on my up coming Action Kid book release. Going to a concert with some of my sisters and cousins was fun break, but not exactly what I was imagining.
When my good friend and neighbor, “Grandpa” Eddie dies, it’s harder on me than I expected it to be, but I’m so thankful for the years I knew him. In the middle of my extremely busy month getting ready for the book release, I head off on an last minute trip to my sister’s house for a week (with pretty much zero internet) to help her out cause she hadn’t been feeling the best. While there I’m amazed time and time again at all the work mothers do. I also get a call from Helena (another sister) asking me if I want to go on a road trip to Nebraska with her in some friends in November, then we’ll fly home. (Our friends live in Nebraska.) Of course I happily accept since 1) Road trips are awesome. 2) Sibling time is amazing. 3) Some of my best friends live out in Nebraska. It was a win-win situation. The last day I spend with my sister I get to see a bunch of hot air balloons which was crazy-cool.
 October also marks the start of my “23 Before 23 Challenge”.
On October 27th I begin the two week countdown until the release of my Action Kids book. My furious paced work on the book release details continue. I self-published the book and we ran into a few snags with the formatting that gave me several days of craziness. My brother, Logan, is a huge, huge help to me during this time. I couldn’t have pulled it off without him. He’s an amazing example of being a servant. I read an extra few books during the late nights when I can’t sleep because I’m mildly freaking out about Action Kids. 
October in review.

Nights Gone in October: 6
Books Read in October: 13

November:

My stressed out, jumbled emotions are totally unexpected and only heighten as November comes into focus. It took me two or so weeks to remember that I felt the same way leading up to the release day of my first book. I have everything (other than runaway-emontions) under control with the book release now, so I can focus on some big events going on at my non-writing job. When I’m not working I’m pretty much curled up in my room, freaking out or reading books late into the night cause I can’t sleep or listening to the Bible on audio to escape the stress. (I read ten books in the nine days leading up to the release.) Mom endures several sessions of me freaking out and asking what is wrong before I finally calm down a bit.
The day of my book release and the launch of my blog tour finally take place and leave me feeling rather let down. I spend several days musing over being an author, wondering if it’s worth every thing I’d been going through. (I’d been working on the Action Kids concept for over four years by this time.) It will take me several more weeks and some really good talks with wise artist friends before I can accept how I felt I failed and move on and have joy in being an author again.
My phone gives up the ghost for good and I miss having my iPhone kindle and music a lot.
Meanwhile, we have some friends visiting and also family coming in for an early Thanksgiving. Our family Thanksgiving takes place on the 15th and the news that I have yet another niece or nephew on the way is the highlight of the week.
On the 21st some of us head to Nebraska, and after about nineteen hours we arrive at our destination. Those nine days were life-changing for me. I was able to let go of the stress of being an author and just enjoy living life as a person, not a writer. I was almost constantly surrounded by sweet children and wonderful friends who were loving and made me feel so special. I had a very healing talk with Helena that helped me overcome some things I’d been going through all year long and change my mindset about some big things happening in my life.
I also had some epic writing related conversations with friends out there that helped me see life/writing in the right perspective again. Right before we head back home, Helena and I receive the news that our long anticipated trip to Africa that had been post-poned is back in motion!
I arrive back home the last day in November.
November in review.

Nights Gone in November: 9
Books read in November: 15

December:

Soon after getting home I read my 100th book for the year. My goal was 50, so I’m pretty excited. December if filled with extra-long hours at my non-writing job, good family time, preparation for my upcoming trip to Africa (leaving Jan. 10th, 2015, Lord willing), lots of editing and reading. I also get to go to the Creation Museum twice: Once with my family for the day, and then the next weekend with some friends and I end up staying with my adopted parents for several days. It was wonderful.
A quick trip out of state with some extend family turns into a great memory-making couple of days and when we arrive home late on Christmas Eve, I’m ready for Christmas.
Christmas and the days surrounding it are filled to brimming with family, board games and fun. The day after Christmas I start on a five day juice cleanse. It’s a good (exhausting) experience and I hope to do it again some day when I can continue for longer.
The last several days of December are spent reviewing the year, working on goals for the next year, deep-cleaning my office, getting work done and getting a yellow fever shot before Africa. We also have tons of family and friends over for multiple game nights and hanging out times.
I have a delightful time finally eating again on December 31st.
December in review.

Nights Gone in December: 3
Books read in December: 24

* * * *

Nights gone in 2014: 133
Books read in 2014: 121

I am so ready for a totally wonderfully God-blessed 2015!

The Newschwanstein Castle – Tour of Europe

Y’all. Today was the perfect day to go on another ‘tour of Europe’. 
Enjoy!
Seven weeks ago today I awoke at a little out-of-season ski lodge near Innsbruck, Austria, close to the Germany boarder. The day was cloudy, misty and magical. We had arrived late the night before and tugged our luggage up three flights of winding stairs to our room.
“Aidyl, you’ve got to come see this!” was my wake up call the next morning. Slipping out from under the warm covers, I wrapped my blanket around me in the chilly morning air. The mountains were cold. Looking out the window, I gasped. It truly felt like we had stepped into a book. The landscape and architect was so different from what I’d ever seen before. 
As we ate the odd assortment of food my dad had bought at a grocery store, we talked over our plans for the day. We were heading to the Newschwanstein Castle in Germany. I was delighted at the thought of visiting my first real castle. Sure, we’d seen palaces in Vienna, but that was different. (Actually, as horrible as it might be to admit this, before we went to Europe the words ‘castle’ and ‘palace’ were interchangeable in my mind. Crazy how different they are from each other.)
This is a good preview of how we ate for the next few weeks.
You can’t see the cheese and meet, but it’s on there somewhere. 🙂

When we arrived at the little town below the castles (there were two of them, although we only went in one), it was still damp, gray and cold. My parents and younger brother ended up heading back, but my older brother, sisters and I stayed on. And stood in line for tickets for hours. The buildings in this part of Germany were gorgeous. 

I had my iPhone along with me and began reading a Sherlock Holmes book. I think I read over half of it that day while waiting in line. After we had been standing in line for probably about an hour and a half, a lady came through telling us that all the English speaking tours were sold out except the last one which started at 5:55. It was about noon at this time. We decided to wait around. 

After we bought our tickets, we walked around until we found a restaurant that had some open seats. Everything was so crowded. Some days the Newschwanstein Castle has up to 6,000 visitors, and it’s really not that big of a place. I’m glad there weren’t that many when we were visiting. After an authentic German meal, we were back out in the cold. We went and stood in line for the bus that would take us part way up to the castle.  

When the bus dropped us off, we still had about a twenty minute walk up to where the castle stood. It was breathtaking. We were in woods filled with pine trees and surrounded by a thousand stories.

Newschwanstein Castle was commissioned to be built in the 19th century by Ludwig II, King of Bavaria. He had a great imagination and wanted it to be built like the castles of old. King Ludwig was declared unfit to rule and insane (or some such similar diagnoses) before the completion of the castle. Six weeks after King Ludwig’s mysterious death, the castle was opened up for tourists in an effort to pay off the huge amount of debts King Ludwig had incurred. The castle was never finished.

We took a side-trip to go and look at the cliffs surrounding the castle. There was a bridge about three hundred feet over a river with huge boulders and twisting, churning water. The boards on the bridge moved when we were walking on them. It was frightening. 

In all my life, I had never seen anything quite like this before. I kept thinking And this is the setting of fairy tales. I don’t see how a writer could possibly see a place like this and not get inspired.

When I first realized we were over-looking the castle, I had a creepy feeling come over me. It was so foggy I hadn’t even been able to see the castle to begin with. Imagine staring into the fog, and suddenly having a fortress appear before your very eyes.

 After the bridge, we hiked the rest of the way up to the castle. We then continued wandering around, looking, taking pictures, getting totally chilled and enjoying our time (at least most of us) for the next four or so hours. There was an area that hot sold drinks, breads, and little trinkets. We bought some postcards there and I tried to write on them, but my fingers were so cold I could barely grasp the pen and so the writing came out shaky.

The castle was built right on the edge of a cliff, which kinda freaked me out. I have no clue how they did that. And I do mean right on the edge of a cliff. 
And then at last it was time to go on our tour. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the building (the story of our visit to Europe…), but it was magnificent. Magnificent as in, it took 14 carpenters more then four years to make the woodwork for his bedroom. That, my friends, is what you call magnificent. And elaborate. And extravagant. And maybe helps to explain why he ended up being declared insane. (And did I mention that even though his mother lived almost within sight of the castle, he never had her come for a visit?)

I was fairly disappointed when I found out how ‘young’ the castle actually was, but as we continued on our trip and I was able to visit ancient fortresses, the beauty and mystery surrounding Newschwanstein Castle made it more and more interesting to me. 
Wow, this post is rather lengthy and has taken me a lonnggg time to write. Today just felt like a good day to sit down and reminisce about our trip to Europe. I can’t believe it’s already been seven weeks since we visited Newschwanstein Castle. I hope you enjoyed this visit as much as I did! 
What about you? Have you ever been to Newschwanstein Castle? 
Ever heard of the place? 
Would you want to visit it? 
I’d be delighted to hear your thoughts. 🙂

***

Just like a lot of historical figures, people have many and varying ideas about King Ludwig. I quoted mostly our tour guide’s opinions/stories of him. I’m sure you can find out a lot more by researching him for yourself, if you feel so inclined. 😉

Europe Trip – Salzburg, Austria – Sound of Music

The last time I posted about my European trip was two weeks ago. Yikes! Therefore, I thought today would be a great day to give y’all the next installment. There are still lots of Vienna stories to tell, but since it’s taking so long, I decided to move on to the next leg of our journey. 
Our time in Vienna was with a bunch of people we knew (it was a business trip), but when we left the hotel we were suddenly in a land full of strangers where we didn’t speak the language and that’s when the adventure really began. We were all like “Oh my lands, what are we doing?” 
There were eight of us traveling in two cars and once we were on the busy roadways, we got to thinking “Wow, what if we get separated? There isn’t any way to get back in contact with each other unless we both find Internet (which was hard to do) and then we can iMessage on our phones.” It was weird. That’s when we decided to make sure each carload had their own passports and directions to the hotel we were going to be meeting up at that night. 

The first while was a little bit stressful as we were learning to navigate the strange road system and figure out where we were going and try to figure out a place for everything. (We packed too much. Note for if you’re ever traveling through Europe: Pack half of what you think you need, and then leave half of that at home. You’ll be glad you did.) 
Salzburg, Austria was on our way to our next destination which made us all really happy. If y’all have seen Sound of Music, then that name is probably familiar because Salzburg is where the original Von Trapp family lived, plus where the movie took place and was filmed. 
I remember the first time I watched The Sound of Music back when I was probably about eight or so. It was one of the first ‘war’ movies I watched that didn’t have fighting in it. I didn’t understand the significance of what the Von Trapp family did at the time, but since then I’ve realized how huge of a deal it was. 

Sadly,  didn’t get any pictures of their actual house, only this sign, before we were told we needed to leave… :-/
It’s a bed and breakfast now. We *were* there though!

For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Von Trapp was a war hero from WW1, but when Hitler called for him to serve during WW2, he refused and the whole family ended up crossing the border to Italy and eventually immigrating to America. They were amazing singers and traveled all over the States, singing. The movie Sound of Music is based loosely on their story. (I don’t necessarily recommend the movie, although I do like it.)

The place we got to see the most of is where the rowboat scene was filmed. They didn’t use the house that the setting takes place in, so it might look a little bit confusing, but they used part of the gardens and of course the water. 
It was a cloudy, rainy day (most of our trip was), but it was still beautiful. We didn’t stay long because we didn’t know for sure if we were allowed to be there (it was a hotel, I think), but we did get a few pictures and enjoyed looking around outside. The building was huge
When we saw this (below) we were all like “Oh my goodness!” because it felt so weird to actually be right there. A few days later when we watched the movie together, we kept saying “Wow, we saw that.” “Oh look, we were there!” “I hadn’t realized that was in the movie!” It was a pretty fun experience. 

Salzburg was beautiful. Austria was friendly. The history was amazing. All in all, Austria was one of the countries that was clean, astounding, and very much worth going back to. When I take everything into consideration, there wasn’t much about the country that I didn’t like. 

What about y’all? What good things have you heard about Austria? Have you ever watched The Sound of Music

Vienna – Buildings, Flowers and Food, Oh My!

After flying back from Asia (a fifty-five hour trip) just eight days before, the 24 or so hour trip to Europe didn’t feel long at all. Do y’all want to know what my first impression of Austria was? (Other then Wow, this smells like a city, not like the beautiful freshness we experienced when we arrived in Hawaii! and Wait, they drive on the same side of the road as us!) I was like “This looks just like home!” After being on an island with heavy foliage and exotic plants, the trees, bushes and landscape in Vienna seemed very much like what I would find in the cities around where I live. 
After I got to experience more of that beautiful and extremely old city, I realized that it wasn’t really as much like home as I had first thought, but it was still a weird feeling when I was expecting stuff to be so very different.

The buildings, people! The buildings are so old and magnificent and history-filled and alluring and stunning and elegant. I could pretty much stand there looking at a lot of them with my mind so blown I wouldn’t quite be able to absorb even a fraction of their amazingness. 
And, just a disclaimer here: I’m not a photographer by any means. My pictures do not do justice to any of the places I’m showing. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to show y’all some of my brother’s pictures because he is a professional.  

And the flowers! Austria was about two weeks further into Spring than we’d been back home so seeing all the flowers made me want to gush and take pictures and pick bouquets and dance around with my arms overflowing with the gorgeous blossoms. Thankfully I was able to limit myself to the gushing and picture taking since we were in public parks and they might not have appreciated all their flowers disappearing like that… 
Looking back though my pictures I see an amazing amount of food pictures during the first week or so of our trip. The food was so yummy. It probably has something to do with the fact that I let myself indulge in as much bread as I wanted, compared to my very-light-on-wheat-lifestyle of the last few years. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I had as much bread during our month in Europe as in the last three years combined.  

We went over to Europe in the first place because we had an awards trip/business conference with our work, so that’s what we were doing during the first week. Therefore, we had lots of “Hanging out with people” time that turned out to be totally wonderful and fun and memory-filled. 

A couple of my siblings and I rented bikes which was pretty crazy. Vienna is very much of a biking city, they have lanes for the bikes and all these rules and one way streets and stop lights just for the bikes and I was confused and kinda freaking out and enjoying it greatly and hoping I didn’t somehow do something overly horrible and get us all killed. Thankfully, we survived. 

When I think of how much we crammed into each day of our trip, my mind can’t hardly comprehend all of it. It wasn’t as if we had tons of plans to see everything in Vienna, but different things would come up and we’d be like “Let’s do it!” and so we did. 

From climbing hundreds of steps up the steeple of a church to exploring palaces (note, that’s not places, it’s palaces, you know, the place where royal families live?) to rushing through museums to double-decker bus tours to walking the streets eating gelato to a concert in the city of music to trying all kinds of new foods to cramming all sorts of new information into my little ‘ol brain to exploring catacombs, we made the most of our time there. 

Did y’all get that last thing I mentioned? Exploring catacombs? People! It was amazing. I can’t wait to tell y’all about that. Since this post is getting rather long though, I guess we’ll have to wait until next time.

What about you? Are you more of a see-as-much-as-possible or lets-just-see-one-or-two-things-slowly kind of person?

I hope yesterday was great for y’all. I had an amazing day! I got to cut grass for two hours and what can be better than that? Except maybe cooking. Cooking is something I missed so much when we were gone. Being back in the kitchen with hungry people waiting to devour the food I’ve prepared makes this little girl happy. Then I got to hang out with some totally amazing people in the evening. Days like these just make me happy! (And very tired since I stay up way too late to get everything done, but we don’t need to talk about that…)  I’m so thankful for the life God has given me!

 Oh, and don’t forget that you can still get more entries for our European Postcard Tour and Corrie ten Boom Book giveaways! 

Home From Europe! // Giveaway

I’m home. Yay! The last month of traveling through Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, France and England has been the experience of a life time and I feel incredibly privileged that I got to take part in the journey. 
Germany

And do you know what? I thought of y’all during the trip. I thought of the stories I’d be able to tell you, the pictures I could show you, and what I’d be able to bring back to give to y’all. That was a hard one, because, well, I just had a hard time trying to figure it out.

Belgium

 My recurring purchase in each country/town we went to was postcards. I got them basically everywhere we went (except Switzerland, because we were only there for part of a day and I couldn’t find any there). I had so much fun looking through the postcards and picking out the most beautiful ones, the ones that showed places I had seen, and the ones that seemed to capture the country/city the way I saw it.

The Netherlands (Holland)

It was the second week into our trip, right after we left Austria that I suddenly realized Wait, that would make a perfect gift! A tour through Europe from postcards. Therefore, blogger friends of mine, I began buying postcards for y’all. I bought them in a castle in Germany, at a little road-side shop in Belgium, after exploring a windmill in Holland, while walking up and down the streets of Paris, while exploring in London and after a history-filled tour of Oxford.

France
By the time I was done buying postcards, I had a whole bundle of them tucked away in my computer case that was bulging far more than it was ever intended to. Sometimes at night after we were settled into our hotel, I’d pull them out and look though them, remembering all the amazing places we’d been. 
London, England
I bought enough postcards to have four prizes, one postcard from each of the six places I mentioned above. I also got four little keychains of the Eiffel Tower to go along with the beautiful postcards. I hope you enjoy getting them as much as I enjoyed getting them for you. I wish I could have gotten a postcard for each of y’all who read my blog and support and encourage me, but sadly, that isn’t going to happen. 🙂
Oxford, England

Thank you, to all of you who have read my blog (even if this is your first time!). The support I get from having a blog for my writing is amazing and I’m so thankful for each and every one of you! I’d be delighted if you wanted to enter my giveaway, because really, I’m doing it for you. 🙂 And, of course if you want to pass on the word, that makes the giveaway even more fun and I appreciate it ever so much!

I can’t wait to share all my stories with you, plus I have some really cool stuff going on with my books that I’m eager to tell y’all about as well! But, until then, have fun with this giveaway and thanks for spreading the word!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Beautiful England

I always imagined England to be rainy and gray. Instead, we had a rainy several days in Germany, almost our whole visit to The Netherlands was filled with gray skies and rain, Belgium was more of the same, it rained for half of our time in Paris, and then when we arrived in England, lo and behold it was bright sunshine. 
So far the English countryside and every-day buildings have been some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. From brick buildings that date back hundreds of years, to sprawling farmlands dotted with sheep and hedges to fields filled with flowers, England has reminded me of one huge, breath-taking postcard. 

From cute little stores selling old clothing, to fish and chips, to scones with clotted cream, to scouring antique sales for old spoons to sitting in the garden drinking tea, England has been far better than I had imagined. 

From exploring used bookstores, to buying classics which were printed in 1894, to driving through the awe-inspiring countryside on the wrong side of the road (which is actually not really wrong…) to buying postcards to marveling at how old everything is, to enjoying the accents, England has been a place that’s begging me to revisit.

I’m so glad I got to spend as much time in England as I did, and would gladly come back if I got the chance. Even if it were next week. What about you? Have you ever wanted to (or have you ever) visited England? 

The Netherlands (Holland), Belgium, France and England

Only three more days until I head home! After being gone for three months already this year, I seriously can’t wrap my brain around the idea of being home and actually having time to catch up on everything and get back into the routine of writing, cooking, helping out, petting my dog and just normal life. (Although in reality, I’m not even sure what normal life is…) 
The Netherlands (Holland)
If I remember correctly I last updated you when we were in Germany. Since then I’ve spent a delightful, albeit rainy, few days in the Netherlands (which was a dream come true for me! I can’t wait to tell y’all more about it), part of a day in Belgium, a couple days in France and then the last several days have been spent in bright and sunny England.  
Trying Belgium waffles in Belgium, French bread and French fries in France and English tea and fish and chips in England has been fun. It’s weird because in Belgium they had really good fries, but you had to pay to get ketchup on them. I actually liked the fries I had in Belgium more than the fries from France. And of course ‘chips’ in England are actually fries. Crazy, right? 
The Eiffel Tower
Paris has never been a big dream for me, but I’m still glad we went there. I’ll of course have to tell y’all more about it later. In fact, I hope to write a lot more about Europe during the next few months. I feel so  behind on my blog. I was just realizing I’ve never finished the story about how I got my first book published, and my book’s birthday is rapidly approaching. 😮

The 100% spectacular view from the Eiffel
Do you know what I miss a lot? I miss animals. I’ve barely had any contact with animals these last few months, and I’m getting to the point where when I see a dog I’m pretty much like “Can we stop and pet him?” I’ll be happy to get my petting animals time in when we get back home. 🙂 

Fish and Chips in England 
London was amazing. I’ve read so many books that take place there that I was one happy little girl for the two days we spent in the city. Now we’re out in the country visiting some friends, and it’s totally beautiful! I can’t wait to share more about it with y’all. Thanks for all your lovely patience with me and my blog during this time of little activity. As much as I love doing stuff with y’all, it’s been amazing to just focus on the time here and not on writing, emailing, blogging and all that great stuff that’s a normal part of my life. 🙂 
What about you? What have you been up to? I’d be delight to hear from you!

Austria, Germany and Switzerland

Hey Everyone! I know, I know. My posts about Europe have been stunning so far, haven’t they? And yes, of course I’m being sarcastic because there haven’t been posts about Europe. But, but, but! But I’m about ready to remedy that now. =) 
Austria 
Actually, I’m not going to say much because we’re in a rush and I just spent the last long while trying to upload these pictures. I thought y’all might like to see what Europe looks like though. It’s beautiful! Some of the places we’ve been are just jaw-dropping. The old buildings are amazing. And they really are old. It’s crazy how many hundreds of years old some of this stuff is. 
Germany
We’ve explored castles, palaces, museums, cities, towns, the countryside… Really, it’s been the trip of a lifetime! I don’t know how much more I’ll be able to post with pictures during this trip, but after I get home, hopefully I’ll be able to catch up with everything! 
Switzerland

 Going to Switzerland (even if just for the day) was a huge, huge, huge dream come true for me! It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time. I’ll have to do a whole post, or maybe two whole posts on our time there. 🙂

Germany

 And Heidelburg, Germany! There’s the ruins of the Heidelburg Castle and my dad went there about 40 years ago when he was my age. It was SO neat visiting it! I’ll probably have a whole post about that stop, too. 😉

Germany 

So, what about you? What looks the most interesting to you? I can’t wait to share more! I hope y’all are having a great day. 😉 

A Glimpse of Europe

Europe is pretty much jam-packed with story ideas. It’s amazing. Historic. Beautiful. Grand. Busy. Different from what I’m used to.

This isn’t a long post, but I thought y’all might like a glimpse of what I’ve been seeing. I hope you have a great day!

On My Way!

Y’all. I. Am. Excited. 

I am now officially on my way to Europe. 
I’m sitting at our gate in the airport. 
This is what I’ve been dreaming about. 
This is the kind of thing I’ve imagined for years. 

source
I can hardly wait to share stories, ideas, pictures and the experience with y’all. 
Posting might be a little slow some of the time, but I will have scheduled posts. 
It’s going to be amazing, so hold tight and have fun. 🙂 
If you were going to Europe, what/where would you want to do/go where?