Thursday, April 24, 2014

Europe's Military Officer's Ball

This is a must do if you are stationed in Europe.  Every January Austria puts on a ball for all officer service members from countries that they have partnerships with called the Ball der Offiziere.  It's a great way to see the lovely city of Vienna and get a ticket to one of the 400 balls that occur in this city between New Year's Eve and Mardi Gras.  Not to mention that you get to dance in one of the premier estates, Hofburg Palace.  We enjoyed learning how to waltz (i.e., faking it by spinning in circles) and feeling like royalty for the night under crystal chandeliers.  This city is rich in history and culture and even holds the second best palaces in the world, Shonbrunn Palace.  Similar to the Palace of Versailles.  I had no real expectations for this city when we booked our trip, and by the time we left I had fallen in love with it.  I hope to go back in the summer to see the gorgeous flowers.  

My only real expectation for Vienna...

Looks like fun, right?
Hofburg Palace - Where the ball is held

Rear view of Hofburg Palace

My first dress bought on the German economy at Hochzeitshaus Wiesbaden

Gorgeous ceilings 

The Debutantes 

Some of Austria's powerful people

"And we waltzed, and had a really, really, really good time"

Can you believe these chandeliers?

My prince charming
This city has so much to offer.  A great subway system (make sure to buy the full pass for the weekend), cute cafe's to relax and enjoy gorgeous architecture, museums, palaces upon palaces, and a great opera house.  Our favorite part of the trip, aside from the ball, was going to the Vienna State Opera.  It is gorgeous, and we were able to enjoy it without shelling out a lot of cash.  It is really nice to have your own box to watch the show, but if you're not sure if you like opera, you can do the standing seats and not feel bad about leaving when you feel like you've had enough. To buy these tickets, go to the middle of the building on the Operngasse side and look for a door to enter.  Then head to the right looking for the sign Stehplatze.  You can buy standing-room tickets for 3 Euro 80 mins before until 20 mins after the curtain time.  If you go early you can save your standing spot by tying a scarf around the rail and then head to the bar for a drink.  This was the best experience ever and so worth it!  We also ate at two wonderful restaurants while we were in town - Mini and 1516 Brewing Company.  Mini does a great pairing of wine with your food and 1516 is a reminder of home because it's a microbrewery.  

Schonbrunn Palace
I want to see the gardens in the Summer!

Vienna sausage-not from a can.  Learned the hard way that the shredded white stuff is not cheese.  Mouth full of pure horseradish = Fail!
St. Stephen's Cathedral - Look at that tile roof - gorgeous!

Vienna's taxi service

Yummy beer at 1516

The view from our opera standing-room seats

I'm so happy to report that Vienna has much more to offer than tiny sausages.  Make sure to book your tickets for next year's ball, so you can waltz the night away too!

Here's a video of the music and dancing at the ball.  I wish I looked half as good as these dancers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My nephew - My first love - My heart

Six weeks ago today my heart broke into a million tiny little pieces, and I'm slowly attempting to pick them back up and put it back together.  It feels like when you have those tiny Styrofoam balls that you try to pick up but they keep getting stuck on something else and you can't quite get them where you want them. I'm quite certain it will never be whole again.  My 17-year-old nephew passed away in a car accident.  It still doesn't quite seem real and I wish every day that he was here.  Even after traveling home and staying for 4 weeks to assist my sister while she started the healing process.  This is by far the most shocking, unbelievable, and hurtful event in my adult life, and I'm just now becoming comfortable talking about it.

Trevor was my first love.  I'm not sure how to explain it, but the day he was born my life changed.  He is my first nephew, and when I became an aunt at the age of 13, I wanted to be the best aunt possible and make his life amazing.  I saved my money every year to make sure I could give him a birthday and Christmas gift to make him happy.  I watched him grow from a baby to a fun toddler to a smart little grade school kid to a lively teenager with his own style and opinions.  I spent countless holidays, vacations, and summers with him.  I am so blessed to have witnessed potty training (even wiping his butt), learning how to spell his name, his first bike ride without training wheels, hole in ones at mini golf, and teenage girl troubles.  My heart still hurts to think about all of the things I imagined doing with him and seeing him accomplish.  

I still have the drawing in this picture

Learning how to ride a bike - one of my favorite days 

He was so musically gifted that he could play any tune on just about every instrument just by hearing it.  He was the best nephew:  sweet, funny, goofy, thankful, protective, smart, talented, caring, responsible and polite.  He was the type of son I hope to have one day.  The one that hugs you so tightly when you see him, or yells your name when he sees you across the room via Skype, holds open every door for you, and carries your luggage from the car to your room without being asked.  

The prettiest blue eyes - I remember tickling him right before this picture
The first time I realized he was taller than me

So much taller
Things that make me happy are his smile, that Sam deployed which made me visit home more giving me quality one-on-one time with him, that he saw the beautiful island of Hawaii and learned how to surf, that he became a lifeguard, that God made it snow in Georgia this winter for him to play in with his siblings, and that he was able to spend his birthday and Christmas surrounded by his family.

Surf lessons

Life is so unpredictable and I know God has a plan, but this plan is so difficult to understand.  The only thing that makes any kind of sense to me is that you were too unbelievably talented for this world and he needed you with him instead.  

That smile

Always stylin' and helping me stay up with the trends

I'll never forget you Trevor, and will think of you every SINGLE day.  Every time I hear a saxophone in a song I'll think of you playing it for me, hear Skrillex or Daft Punk I'll imagine you moving your head to the music, walk into an Express store I'll think of what you would have picked out, wear pink I'll remember your confidence, eat Taco Bell I'll think of you ordering the whole menu, see Beats headphones I'll think of you wearing them everywhere, put on my Sperry's I'll remember you helping me pick them out, or see your mother I'll see you because of how much she resembles you. 

And don't worry, I'll make sure to tell the world about you.  Especially your younger brothers and sisters and any little ones that I may have one day that they have the greatest brother and cousin watching over them.  

Until I see you again my sweet, sweet first nephew.

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