Thinking back to Italy…

Cinque Terre

Today I was thinking back to my trip to Italy with Maya from back in April 2012. I had dreamed of that trip for over a year. It was going to be me, this my mom, and Maya going — three generations of McBryde women. But then just a few days before we were to leave, my mom found out that she was going to have heart bypass surgery. It was totally unexpected. Then I had to decide whether to cancel the trip or not. After going back and forth, my sweet mom encouraged us to go without her. And we did. It was a glorious holiday. Maya and I had never had two weeks off just enjoying each other like this. She was a trooper — best three-year-old world traveler ever. Okay, that’s not true, but we did have a blast. And thank the Lord that my mom is doing well now. We’re going to take that trip to Italy with her sometime soon, I hope.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVenice, Italy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnjoying our daily gelato. Levanto, Italy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABike riding along the coast. Levanto, Italy

Today, my Timehop app reminded me of this trip. My Instagram has more pics. I’m sure I’ll post Italy photos for the next several days as I reminiscence about that glorious vacation.

gelato

Now I’m in the midst of planning a trip to Nicaragua with Madison and Maya for June. Stay tuned — it’s going to be another one for the record books.

#Gift Guide: Travel Deals

I heard on the news that December is the perfect time to book your next trip; that prices on hotels and airfare are best in December. I don’t really have any big travel plans yet for 2016, one health but I do like to dream. Here are some places I’d like to go next year along with links to discounts if any of them sound good to you too.

* This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through one of these links, symptoms your price will be the same as shopping directly with Viator. However, buy information pills I will receive a small commission. Thank you.

Save 12%: Lisbon Super Saver: Lisbon Sightseeing Tour and Sintra, Cascais and Estoril Coast Day Trip (thru 12/25)lisbon-super-saver-lisbon-sightseeing-tour-and-sintra-cascais-and-in-lisbon-154938

4-Day Classical Greece Tour: Epidaurus, Mycenae, Olympia, Delphi, Meteora (thru 12/25)4-day-classical-greece-tour-epidaurus-mycenae-olympia-delphi-meteora-in-athens-115147

Save 10%: Polanco Food Tour in Mexico City (thru 1/18)polanco-food-tour-in-mexico-city-in-mexico-city-140804

Galapagos Luxury Cruise: 5-Day Tour Aboard the ‘Odyssey’ (thru 1/19) galapagos-luxury-cruise-5-day-tour-aboard-the-odyssey-in-galapagos-islands-226262

Save 21%: London Super Saver: Royal London Sightseeing Tour with Changing of the Guard Ceremony plus Stonehenge (thru 1/22)london-super-saver-royal-london-sightseeing-tour-with-changing-of-the-in-london-192903

Grand Cayman Dolphin Encounter (thru 1/23)grand-cayman-dolphin-encounter-in-george-town-43420

Save 30%: San Jose Tropical Rainforest Adventure including Chocolate Tasting (thru 1/15)cocoa-fruit-to-hot-chocolate-photo_12737570-fit468x296

Save 11%: St Lucia Segway Nature Trail Experience (thru 1/17)st-lucia-segway-nature-trail-experience-in-castries-50332

Christmas MarketsBest Christmas Markets Tour from Salzburg Lapland"Lapland Reindeer and Husky Safari from Rovaniemi NYENew York Christmas Eve Dinner Cruise with Santa
NYE in NYC

Viator VIP: Exclusive NYC New Year’s Eve Luxury Dinner Cruise

NYE in Vegas

New Year’s Eve on The High Roller at The LINQ

Christmas Markets

Dinner and Show at the Paris Moulin Rouge with Transport

Where do you want to travel to in 2016?
I bet Viator is going there!
*NOTE: This information was compiled from ShareASale where I am an affiliate. I earn a small commission when readers make a purchase after clicking on my link. Find a sponsor for your web site. Get paid for your great content.

Black Friday Deals Online

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

Tis the season to SHOP, mind aka Black Friday. I know people will camp out overnight on Thanksgiving to be the first in line at Big Box TV-World to get that 80-inch flat screen that their 9-year-old just HAS TO have for Christmas. Personally, I don’t want to chance my life among the throngs of shoppers duking it out over the last must-have toy of the year. I prefer leisurely shopping from the comfort of my recliner on my laptop. Thank you, Internet.

Here are some Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that I’ve found online:

RENT THE RUNWAY

Want to look dazzling this holiday season and save some of your holiday gift-giving funds in the process? Then shop Rent the Runway’s spectacular Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales! Black Friday Sale 25% Off $75

SOFT SURROUNDINGS

Shop Soft Surroundings Now!

REEBOK

50% Off Collection For Black Friday with code BF50 – 11/27 ONLY!

ADIDAS

— Free Shipping on all orders (no minimum) – thru 12/17
Get 20% off Mi adidas with code CUSTOM –  thru 11/28
50% off Outerwear, Tracksuits, Accessories, and Fleece – thru 11/28

EASTERN MOUNTAIN SPORTS

Get 40% Off EMS Classic 200 Fleece Jacket Was $80 Now Only $40 at Eastern Mountain Sports!

Get 20% Off on Thule Car Racks PLUS Free Shipping.

Get FREE Shipping on Every Order.

TEA COLLECTION (kids’ clothes)

Shop Girl Black Friday Styles at Tea Collection
Shop Boy Black Friday Styles at Tea Collection
Shop Baby Girl Black Friday Styles at Tea Collection
Shop Baby Boy Black Friday Styles at Tea Collection

Tea Collection

PRIMARY (kids’ clothes all $25 and under)

Primary is giving away PJs! Customers can get FREE PJS ($24 value!) with a $50 purchase. And for the baby crowd, a FREE Footie ($18 value!) with $50 purchase!Primary

VIATOR (travel)

Viator’s great deals mean that you can save up to 60% on tours and activities.

Save 44%: Deluxe Las Vegas Helicopter Night Flight with VIP Transportation – Expires 12/25/15

Save: 36%: New York Dinner Cruise – Expires 12/30/15

Save 10%: Florence Day Trip from Rome – Expires 11/30/15

  • Their guaranteed low price means that you will always get the best prices.
  • 24/7 customer service to answer any customer purchase questions.
  • They accept all major currencies USD, CAN, AUD, GBP and EUR.
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ZAFUL (fashion)

Back Friday & Cyber Monday Sale
Sitewide Sale. Up to 80% off. Entire Site! Ends 12/1.
Back Friday & Cyber Monday Sale Game@DressLily.com

GREEN KID CRAFTS

Green Kid Crafts’ Black Friday deals start now! Use coupon code 70SUB to take 70% off the first month of any subscription. And coupon code 50SHOP will get you a whooping 50% off any single Discovery Box, Creativity Kit, or Science Kit! To view their subscription options and Discovery Boxes and Kits, go here to start saving!

Green Kid Crafts

ZOOSHOO

All Black Items in our sale section are up to 55% off and Free Shipping. No code needed. *limited time only

30% off items in the Sale Section. And get Free shipping at ZooShoo.com. Use BLACKOUT at checkout. Valid Nov 16-27Cyber Monday only – 35% off and Free Shipping

MODCLOTH

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at ModCloth — the Black Friday fun has officially begun! Score tons of new and favorite styles at up to 40% off, now through 3 p.m. ET on 11/29. Grab some great gifts, or find the perfect festive frock to wear to all your holiday soirees. Hurry — a sale this good comes but once a year!

BULK SUPPLEMENTS

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Save 6% Store Wide!Ends 12/1.

 

BULU BOX

BLACK FRIDAY SALE — Up to 60% off. Plus save 20% sitewide at BuluBox.com!  Hurry, Save Now!
•       Ends 11/29.
•       Promo Code: HOLIDAY

 

JULEP

Julep Black Friday

Knock-knock! Save up to 75% on Julep’s Holiday Collection. Plus, while supplies last, Julep is giving away a FREE Julep Mirror Compact with any purchase of $25 or more. To get the free gift, add the Julep Mirror Compact to your shopping cart and use code GIFTING at checkout.

Need a few gifting ideas? These are a few of my personal favorites:

The Eyes Have It

The Eyes Have It: 6-piece Gel Eye Liner Gift – $92 Value – ONLY $19.99.     With four shimmery eye liner shades, a sharpener, and an exclusive artist-illustrated bag, this set is the best way to gift a smoky eye.

It's Balm TrioIt’s Balm Trio: 3-Piece Lip Crayon Set – $60 Value – ONLY $19.99  Julep’s lip crayons are vibrant and nourishing—and priced so low it’s a deal you can’t miss. Get three shades of It’s Balm in a giftable artist-illustrated sleeve for just $19.99.

Three’s a CharmThree’s a Charm: Nail Polish Trios – $42 Value – ONLY $14.99 Shimmer and matte and satin—Oh my! These festive polish trios are perfect for gifting and getting. Each polish is $5 (normally $14!).

Twice is NiceTwice as Nice: Nail Polish Duos $28 Value – ONLY $9.99   Stock up on stocking stuffers with these holiday polish duo deals.

 

HINT WATER

hint Black Friday Sale: 25% Off site-wide + $10 credit. Use code HINTFRIDAY. Ends 11/29. Shop Now!25% Off + $10 credit during our black friday sale. Use code HINTFRIDAY.

THE HAPPY TRUNK

JACOB BROMWELL

Jacob Bromwell Black Friday-Cyber Monday Sale! Save 40%!

FLAGS CONNECTIONS

Save additional 10% over the 50% discount store wide on select item. Flag Display Cases, Awards Display Cases, Burial Flag Display Cases, American Made Flag Frames

** Top Quality Coin Display Case
** Real Quality Wood
** Glass front
** Hand Made By Veterans
** Fast shipping
** Mahogany Wood
** Safe and Secure Transaction

WONDER WORKSHOP

Save $50 OFF any order $300+ (Promo code: NICE50)

Save $25 OFF any order $200+ (Promo code: NICE25)

Robots for curious minds

ZAZZLE

Up to 65% Off + 20% Off All Orders
50% Off WoodSnap, Posters, Wrapped Canvas, Cards
40% Off Mugs, Kitchen towels, Cake pans, Aprons, Binders
30% Off Cheese boards, Wine stoppers, Table Cloths, Platters, Serving trays
20% Off Clocks, Pillows, Blankets, Lamps, Coasters, Glassware, White faux, Bath Mats, Dog Beds, Calendars 15% Off Everything else
Free Shipping with Zazzle Black

Find all current Zazzle coupons here.
Black Friday Week Sale – Use code: BLACKFRIWEEK – Up to 50% Off + 15% Off All Orders – Starts: 11/20/2015 Expires: 11/26/2015 11:59 PM Up to 65% off on Zazzle.com

I SEE ME

Black Friday Offers – Save $5 on $25
Black Friday Deals – Save $10 on $50
Black Friday Deals – Save $20 on $75

I SEE MECute Gift Idea!: My Twelve Day of Christmas Book
This personalized adaptation of the classic Christmas song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” overflows with counting and seek-and-find fun!

Also check out my Daily Deals page.
I update it regularly with the latest in sales and specials from merchants across the web.

*NOTE: This information was compiled from ShareASale where I am an affiliate. I earn a small commission when readers make a purchase after clicking on my link. Find a sponsor for your web site. Get paid for your great content.

#GIFTGUIDES: Gifts for World Travelers

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, price your cost will be the same but I will automatically receive a small commission.

Do you have someone in your life who is always living out of a suitcase or traveling to a far-away locale? I’m leaving on Sunday for a business trip to Chicago. It got me thinking about my packing list which led to me thinking about the perfect gifts for travelers. Here are a few ideas of things I would like:

Capture
1. Bath and Body Sampler Kit – Just Natural Products
2. Willow Leggings – J.McLaughlin
3. Black Rimmed Hat – Ily Couture
4. Grey Striped Scarf – Ily Couture
5. Black Walking Shoes – Reebok
6. Bromley Sweater – J.McLaughlin
7. Blue Venice Watch – Flex Watches
8. Great American Flask – Jacob Bromwell
9. PISTIL Women’s Riley Beanie – Eastern Mountain Sports
10. French Lemon Ginger Tea – Art of Tea
11. Vaughn Suede Tote – J.McLaughlin

Do you have a must have travel item to add to this list? Share it in the comments below (or let me know which of the existing travel goodies you liked best).

Now I better go pack for the Windy City.

 

*NOTE: This information was compiled from ShareASale where I am an affiliate. I earn a small commission when readers make a purchase after clicking on my link. Find a sponsor for your web site. Get paid for your great content.

New Year. New beginnings.

 

New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday. I think it’s because I love fresh starts. It’s like a new notebook the first day of school full of blank pages, page endless possibilities, and ideas yet to be thought. halfwaythere2014 was a pretty good year for my family. Anthony and I celebrated our first anniversary in April and started foster parenting classes with The CALL. On Mother’s Day, I was honored to be featured in Listen To Your Mother at The Rep. In June, Anthony and I visited England, Belgium, France and Kenya for 16 days. In September, I was in the delivery room when our baby girl that we’re currently fostering was born — I even cut the cord! All our children are healthy and happy and drive us crazy (as they should). We are definitely blessed.

Paris Tours
But yet, there’s something magical and mysterious about a new year. It’s not like a do-over — I don’t want to erase the events of 2014. It’s more of the anticipation — how is God gonna top this one kind of thing. I know He has great plans for us in 2015.

Of course I have the usual new year’s resolutions: cut back on my sugar intake, get back into daily walks, and build my Le-Vel Thrive business. But mostly I’m looking forward to possibly adding another child to our family legally and permanently, and spending more quality time with my kids and husband.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

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Walking in Kenya (part 1)

Writing about Kenya is extremely difficult for me. I think it’s because the way I feel when I’m there is indescribable. It’s comforting and heartbreaking at the same time. The people are incredibly kind and welcoming. They are grateful, clinic and yet they have so little. It’s a humbling experience to say the least. Anyway, ampoule I will do my best to tell this tale…

052-IMG_3304On June 20, 2014, Anthony and I flew out of Paris and arrived in Kenya to meet up with the rest of the Kenya Relief team. We flew over the Swiss Alps and the Sahara Desert — beautiful, vast contrasts in landscape.

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I had a bit of a panic attack at the Nairobi airport waiting in line for hours to get through customs. I could see my luggage going round and round on the carousel just on the other side. It was crowded and loud, and I was tired. Of course, the recent violence in the country was always on my mind. But we made it through customs eventually, I got my bags, met team members from Alabama and Michigan, and exchanged my American dollars for Kenyan Shillings. Our drivers picked us up. I was comforted to see the same drivers from my 2010 trip — Francis and Nelson. They escorted us to our hotel, a small, walled compound with heavy security. 006-IMG_3225I think this hotel caters to traveling missionaries. It was safe, but certainly not luxurious. I teased Anthony that I’d seen prison facilities nicer than this. I managed to sleep to prepare for the long journey to Migori the next morning.

 

Women travel clothes
The next morning after breakfast, we traveled the long, bumpy road from Nairobi to Migori in the far southwest corner of Kenya. Along the way we stopped at the Great Rift Valley.

013-IMG_3242We stayed at Brittney Home of Grace, an orphanage started about 12 years ago by Steve James. (story here) The children at the orphanage are precious. We all enjoyed playing with them during our down time. (And they will kick your butt in soccer!) Their carefree innocence in the midst of really hard stuff made my heart smile.
062-IMG_3344One of the highlights of the trip was catching up with Velma, the girl that I met in 2010 and started sponsoring. She calls us Momma Stacey and Daddy Anthony, and she has blossomed into a sweet, beautiful young lady. There are many other kids that need sponsors, so if you would like more information about that, go here. As a sponsor, I help cover the cost of Velma’s room and board at the orphanage. Another sponsor covers her school costs. This trip, we walked to Velma’s grandmother’s house. It was such a thrill to meet her grandmother and her siblings.
072-IMG_4025Unlike the medical team that I did last time, our mission this trip was to hold a Vacation Bible School of sorts in four public schools. Christian education is part of the curriculum in Kenya, so we were welcomed with open arms. Our first school was Kenya Relief Academy where Velma and the other orphans from Brittney’s Home of Grace attend along with kids from around town. It’s a fairly new school and is already the top-performing school in the area.
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Paris Tours

094-IMG_3414115-IMG_3386The other three schools we visited were not as nice, but the children still were adorable and eager to listen to our stories.
137-IMG_3419199-IMG_3490205-IMG_3508206-IMG_3506That Tuesday afternoon, I got to go into town for some shopping. It was unlike any shopping experience I’d ever had. I didn’t want to be an obnoxious “poverty tourist”, so I don’t have photos of it, but picture a farmers market in a shanty town. That’s kind of the feel. I did get permission to take this photo of the beans and grains. I purchased a woven purse, a colorful paper bead necklace and some other things requested by teammates back at the compound. Next we walked to the grocery store to buy toiletries to take the the prison. The grocery store has a “coat check” where all bags must be kept — they are not allowed in the store. I even had to check my purse into a locker. I kept the key as I shopped then retrieved it after I checked out. It was most strange. But the grocery store was pretty close to what you’d expect — shopping carts, aisles of food, soap, etc. — sort of like a large Dollar General.

On that Wednesday afternoon, the entire team visited the local prison in Migori. Anthony preached. It was different.
219-IMG_3518Stay tuned for Part 2 of my story where we go on safari…
Gifts With Humanity

Walking in Bruges

© Jacob Slaton Photography

© Jacob Slaton Photography

© Jacob Slaton Photography

Photos by Jacob Slaton Photography.


002-IMG_2741On June 13, sickness
Anthony and I left Little Rock for the UK. Anthony’s brother Elijah lives in Mildenhall, about 80 miles north of London. We stayed with Elijah and his wife Gloria for two days. During that time, Elijah led us on a whirlwind tour of Cambridge and London. If you want/need to see all the major sites of London in just four hours, call Elijah. (My legs ached so bad that first night.) Here are the highlights.

010-IMG_2772Anthony and me in Cambridge, UK

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022-IMG_2797 Ring, Ring — The Queen is on the line.

031-IMG_2806Our super-charged tour guide, Elijah Valley

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043-IMG_2833Big Ben (not so big according to Anthony)

RootBizzle Tie Club

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I LOVE BRUGES! It’s beautiful. It’s walkable. And it’s full of chocolate shops. What more could one want?

Anthony and I stayed in a lovely B&B called Guesthouse Abiente. Our room was simply decorated and very relaxing. One peaceful moment was lying in bed with the windows open listening to church bells ring. Our hostess make us feel so welcome and prepared a breakfast feast for us in the morning.
091-IMG_2892I had a bucket list of things to do and (mostly) eat in Bruges:

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* Eat chocolate. Now I got into this assignment. And it was easy to do with chocolate shops every few feet. And the chocolate did not disappoint.129-IMG_2973105-IMG_2935
073-IMG_2860* Eat a waffle. I had several — some where light and delicious; others were heavy and gross. But check. 063-IMG_2862

Women travel clothes
085-IMG_2881* Take Anthony to the concert hall for their interactive museum. He really enjoyed himself. And the view from the top of the concert hall was spectacular. 089-IMG_2951
110-IMG_2934* Eat mussels. I had to do this one alone since Anthony doesn’t eat seafood. They were very good, buy
but not something I want to eat often. I’m good for a year or so.
* Drink Belgium beer. I’m not a beer drinker, but I heard that the beer there was really good, so I had to try one. (I’m still not a beer fan.)
137-IMG_3003
* Eat street fries. Frites, as they call them, are served hot with a big dollop of mayonnaise. OMG. They are so amazing. I could eat them every meal. But then I’d weigh 300 lbs before year’s end. 119-IMG_2955120-IMG_2978
135-IMG_2997One thing that I didn’t expect was a World Cup game between Belgium and Algeria taking place while we were there. The city of Bruges set up a giant movie screen in one of the town squares to broadcast the game. People came out in droves dressed in Belgium colors to watch the game. And Belgium won! So then a dance party broke out with a DJ spinning tunes (including a lot of 80’s American pop). Anthony and I joined in the festivities.

Another delightful surprise was a moonlit walk after a light rain. The city sparkled like diamonds and the sky was an intense blue.

074-IMG_2890So yes, we loved Bruges and will definitely try to return one day.

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Shop on Zazzle for Personalized Gifts

Walking in the UK

© Jacob Slaton Photography

© Jacob Slaton Photography

© Jacob Slaton Photography

Photos by Jacob Slaton Photography.


002-IMG_2741On June 13, sickness
Anthony and I left Little Rock for the UK. Anthony’s brother Elijah lives in Mildenhall, about 80 miles north of London. We stayed with Elijah and his wife Gloria for two days. During that time, Elijah led us on a whirlwind tour of Cambridge and London. If you want/need to see all the major sites of London in just four hours, call Elijah. (My legs ached so bad that first night.) Here are the highlights.

010-IMG_2772Anthony and me in Cambridge, UK

021-IMG_2795

022-IMG_2797 Ring, Ring — The Queen is on the line.

031-IMG_2806Our super-charged tour guide, Elijah Valley

035-IMG_2815

043-IMG_2833Big Ben (not so big according to Anthony)

RootBizzle Tie Club

Last-minute Trip to France, July 2012

2012-07-23 11.58.32Flash back to July 2012: M and I were living in Washington, check DC, area, and since I worked for the US Public Health Service, we were able to fly “Space A” (military stand by) for almost free. Our good friends Juliette and Hamet, also officers in the USPHS, invited us to join them and Hamet’s French family in the south of France for a week. Hamet’s entire family (Mom, Grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins) get together for two weeks every summer in a large home in Nyons in the Provence region of France. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. Now if M and I could just get on a flight! With just two weeks to plan, I decided that trying to catch a flight out of McGuire Air Force Base would be our best chance. It was a three hour drive from our house to McGuire. The flight we hoped to get on was in the middle of the night, so I put our names on the list, and we camped out in the cold airport lobby. 2012-07-21 12.25.22Luckily, we were successful in getting seats on the plane. We boarded in the wee hours of the morning and were given ear plugs and blankets. These military planes are not insulated, so it gets very loud and very cold. Even though it was July, we dressed in layers including fleece jackets. Three-year-old M was a trooper — watched movies whenever she wasn’t sleeping. We flew to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. 2012-07-22 09.49.3499Luckily, my friend Jeana and her husband live there, so they picked us up at the airport and let us spend the night with them. The next morning, we did a little site seeing around Ramstein, then rented a car (a sweet Audi) and drove eight hours to southern France. After getting the GPS switched from German to English, it was an easy and beautiful drive. We arrived in Nyons late Sunday night. Hamet’s Grandma lives in Nyons, but the family went together to rent a large home with a pool. It was beautiful.

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Juliette and Hamet have two boys just a bit older than M, plus the French cousins were there too, so it was heaven on earth for M. Juliette and I took day trips to nearby wineries and markets.

wine tasting with Juliette

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sausages for sale in NyonsWe walked all over Nyons visiting museums, a lavender factory and ice creams shops.

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But I think my favorite part of the trip was hanging out with the family back at the house. We’d go get freshly-baked croissants each morning. Meals were a group effort with everyone sitting down and unhurriedly dining together. And there were nightly games of poker while sipping hot mint tea.

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2012-07-23 10.37.50

enjoying lunch with my French friends

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Kathryn and JulietteAfter several (lost count) lovely days in Nyons, it was time for M and I to drive back to Germany and (fingers crossed) hopefully get on the next flight back to the US. It was a nail-biter, but in the end, we got seats 7 and 8 of only nine available seats open on a flight back to McGuire along with lots of cargo and a few sleeping soldiers.

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2012-07-27 14.53.58