Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Happy Twenty Year Wedding Anniversary to Us!

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl who really, really liked each other a lot as you can see in this picture. I think it was taken in 1994, and it has always been one of my favorite photos of us.
We met for the first time in 1991 under the Stan Musial statue at the Old Busch Stadium downtown  before a Cardinals game.

We were good friends for a long time before we actually began dating. In fact, that day we met I was actually in a relationship with someone else.
In fact, I made a scrapbook layout a few years ago to share that story.

Thankfully, I realized what I knew in my heart all along. That you were the one for me. You proposed to me as we were sitting on the back trunk of your car looking up at the stars. It really was perfect. The first time we had ever kissed was when we were doing the exact same thing. Sitting on the back of your car, just talking and looking up at the stars. On the night you proposed, you gave me the ring in one of those gumball containers because you had been buying me toy rings out of the gumball machines as a joke for a while. When I opened the container I actually asked you if it was real, and you responded by getting down on one knee and asking me the question I had been hoping to hear.

And on October 18, 1997, we stood up in front of all our family and friends and became husband and wife.
It was a beautiful day and one of the happiest of my life.

I know there have been times that weren't perfect and in fact there was that one year that was downright awful for both of us. The lost year as we like to call it. But life isn't always going to be perfect. I doubt there is a couple out there that can say married life after 20+ years has been all rainbows and butterflies. But that is what real love is about. Loving and supporting each other through the hard times as well as the good. Choosing to love each other even when times get tough. And I am so grateful that in the past twenty years we have had many, many more good times than not so good.

So today in honor of our 20th anniversary, I want to share twenty of my favorite memories from our marriage so far.

1. Obviously our wedding day is top of the list. I felt like I was the luckiest girl in the world on that day.
2. We have so many special memories involving both of the places we have called home. As much as I loved our apartment in Clayton where we originally lived after we were married, there was something so exciting about buying our first home together. We knew that apartment wouldn't be big enough for our growing family since I was pregnant with our first baby at the time we began house hunting.
3. Our first real vacation as a married couple - Cancun, Mexico. Here we are at Chichen Itza, where I hear they no longer let tourists climb to the top of the Kukulkan Pyramid. We were lucky that we got the chance when we did. We returned to Mexico when Evan was one for a family vacation, but I will always remember our time there just the two of us.

4. Watching favorite tv shows together like Friends, Survivor, and Trading Spaces have been replaced by newer ones such as Stranger Things, Big Bang Theory, and House Hunters.

5. The birth of our son was such an important day for us. What I will never forget is the moment you told me I was your hero right before Evan was born. So much changed that day for us as a couple, but being parents together has been an amazing journey so far. Not without it's challenges of course, but ultimately makes me realize how lucky we are to have each other.
6. The time you surprised me with a weekend getaway to New York City to celebrate our 6th anniversary. Hard to believe that was fourteen years ago! The photo of the two of us is special to me because it was taken in Central Park at a spot I remembered visiting with my friend Linda on a high school trip fourteen years before that.

7. Our last vacation as a family of three when I was pregnant with Erin. We went to Orlando, Florida and stayed at the Portofino hotel. We spent most of our time at either Universal Studios or Islands of Adventure with a one day trip to Disney world. It was one of my favorite vacations ever despite the fact that there weren't many rides I could go on.

I love this photo Evan took of us in Tomorrowland at Disney World!
8. The birth of our sweet daughter made our family complete.
A scrapbook layout from Erin's baby book.

9. Our annual mother and father's day brunch tradition with our parents always gives us a good time to get a family photo.

10. Going all the way to Dublin Ireland to see U2 at Croake Park stadium two nights in a row! We have seen them so many times in concert, but seeing them in Ireland was something we had always wanted to do. Definitely one of our best trips ever.
11. And then later that fall, we took Evan to his first U2 concert!
12. I absolutely loved our anniversary trip to a resort in Canada when you were working up there. It was so beautiful there and very relaxing. 
The view was pretty incredible.

 13. Our selfie photos we take at the pumpkin patch every year.
14. And every year we have the most fun celebrating Halloween. Somehow you and Evan always come up with fantastic themes that make it extra special and a little creepy sometimes.

15. And then there was the year you kissed me under the mistletoe at the Botanical Gardens - Garden Glow.

16. All the many concerts we have gone to through the years - these photos are U2, Alabama Shakes, Elle King and Awolnation.

17. Speaking of music, I love how you always share songs, bands and your favorite music with me. I've learned about a lot of great bands I would have missed out on if it wasn't for you. Like The National!
18. Getting to live down in Miami for two months in the summer of 2016 while you were working there was one of the best summers ever! I think the kids would say the same thing.

 19. We have learned the importance of making time for each other and date nights.
20. And I think I will end this for now with our trip to Europe this past summer. Four countries and two U2 concerts in eleven days will be hard to beat, but I know we can do it.

I saw this quote on Pinterest one day and it really seems to fit us perfectly. 
I am so grateful for the past twenty years and I am looking forward to making many more wonderful memories with you for years to come.
Happy Anniversary, Mike! 
I love you the most!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Amsterdam - Day 3

After a very late night out, we didn't wake up until 11am on our third day in Amsterdam.
My husband loves to take long bike rides, so I knew that would be one of the activities we would do  for sure in while we were there.
So after grabbing some sandwiches, bananas, chips and drinks at a tiny market, we headed to Mike's Bike Tours for the Countryside Tour.
We set off in a group through the city before heading out into the countryside.
Just the two of us on our bike tour in Amsterdam on July 31, 2017.
We rode along the river for awhile until we reached the first windmill on our stop.
I loved the shutters and flowerbox. So pretty!
Here is Daniel our tour guide who was fabulous. The tour lasted a little over four hours and there were 16 total in our group. At the beginning of the tour, Daniel asked if there were any experienced riders who could help him out. So Mike definitely being one volunteered, which resulted in us bringing up the rear to make sure we all stayed together.

We reached the cheese and wooden shoe farm pretty quickly after the windmill.
The shoe maker was quite a character. He flirted with the ladies and gave some of the men a little trouble in a joking way.
 After the shoe workshop, we had a picnic lunch and then got back on our bikes.
Mike took a photo of me with my pink bike that had flowers on the handle bar at the stop where we saw some deer. At this point, Daniel also shared stories about how they used to flood the plains in certain areas as a defense tactic during the wars. But once there were planes, it wasn't as effective. This was definitely an interesting part of history that I was unfamiliar with.
We stopped at a second windmill before heading back. Our ride back to the city and the tour shop lasted about an hour. I'll admit it was a little rough for me at points that last hour because we didn't really make any stops. Mike bikes regularly so for him it was a piece of cake. And the first three hours were fine, so I am glad I had been riding a little bit on my bike at home to get ready for it before our trip. Four hours is a pretty long time to bike if you are not used to it at all. So I would definitely recommend practicing before a trip if any type of biking is in your plans.

After the tour, we grabbed some smoothies and headed back to the hotel to rest and have a facetime chat with the kids.

That night we had dinner at a place called the Downtown Grill which had excellent food, but not so great service. So I would recommend it, because honestly good customer service as far as restaurants in Amsterdam was hard to come by. As long as the food was good, we were happy.

We saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen while standing on a bridge over a canal.
Then we spent the rest of the night wandering through the shopping and entertainment districts stopping to look around, have some drinks and just enjoy the atmosphere.
Before heading back to the hotel, we decided to get some dessert (a waffle with chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream) to split.
One of my favorite parts of that night, was just sitting there next to the canal talking and eating a waffle!
So I would say our time in Amsterdam was well spent. We had so much fun hanging out with family and then just each other.

For my next post, we are on to Brussels, Belgium!

Steps - 18,689
Miles - 8.01 (not including the bike ride)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Amsterdam - Day 2

We didn't wake until 10:15am our second day in Amsterdam. So we grabbed some quick smoothies for breakfast and headed out to meet Mike's brother and sister in law at the Van Gogh museum. It was a nice walk from our hotel.
But it was a bit cloudy, and as we approached the museum it started to rain.
 This was one of the best parts about visiting Amsterdam for me!
Vincent Van Gogh has always been my favorite artist thanks to my grandpa Pete. He loved to paint for fun and made a few replicas of Van Gogh's paintings that were hanging in my home growing up! I remember when I was little seeing the Sunflower painting in an art book and exclaiming "my grandpa painted that!"
If you are ever in Amsterdam, I highly recommend going to the museum. I know a lot about Van Gogh, but learned so much more while I was there! He had a really fascinating life and to me was the very definition of someone who immersed himself in his work. Plus, I loved the information about his relationship with his brother Theo who was so supportive of Vincent.
Another recommendation would be to buy your tickets on line ahead of time. We stood outside in the rain for quite a while before being able to get in.
There is an entire room in the museum dedicated to his self portraits. Back home you are allowed to take photos without the flash. I snapped a photo of my favorite before realizing that photos were not allowed in that room. (whoops)  So I'm not going to post it here for that reason.
But I did absolutely need to get a photo of the Sunflowers for myself and my mom. I think one of the things I love best about Van Gogh's paintings is his use of texture. It's amazing. And being able to see it for myself up close just blew me away.
Hmmm...seemed just a little sacrilegious to me. But his painting of the Potato Eaters is another favorite of mine so I could see the humor in this.

After the museum, we headed to see the iconic I Amsterdam sign.
So many people there wanting a photo with it!
Just the two of us at the I Amsterdam sign - July 30, 2017

After lunch we headed over to Heineken for the Rock the City: Heineken Experience tour
This included a tour of Heineken and then a boat ride on the canals that went to Amsterdam Tower which is also known as A'DAM LOOKOUT. My sister in law bought tickets pretty far in advance, but I don't think it is something that sells out too quickly. 
Here are a few photos I took on the tour.
But the most exciting part came right before a little 4d ride and heading up to the rooftop bar.
Since Mike's sister in law usually would get a drink, they told us that she is pregnant with their first baby! Really exciting and fun news!

We didn't stay inside the rooftop bar because it was so loud.
But the view from outside was pretty.
We didn't take a lot of photos during our boat ride on the canals.
The actual tower is not very tall (lol), but a cool design.
Here are some views from the top on the inside behind the glass. In the top right photo you can see the Ferry that we rode back across the water to where our hotels were located.
 A view from the rooftop.
They had these great cushions to lounge around on up there.
My brother in law and his wife are such a cute couple! And then taking all these photos I was feeling a little left out.
So I joined them!
Just the two of us - Amsterdam Tower rooftop, July 30, 2017
Cone fries are a big deal over there and in Brussels.
My sister in law was really wanting a cone, so we found a pretty popular place with a long line.
But the line moved pretty quickly, so we had our fries in no time. There were a ton of sauces to choose from, but I settled on plain old ketchup.
The fry stand was right across from this iconic spot that you see in photographs all over the internet. Although, just like the scaffolding on Big Ben, it wasn't so picture perfect for us. This time we have some construction going on here.
This is what you would typically see. But we just had to laugh because it seems like there is always construction or scaffolding in our "famous" photos.
And the view behind where we were sitting.
We walked around for awhile afterwards before dinner.
Mike loves to bike and he really liked how bike friendly Amsterdam is.
This is one of my favorite photos he took at a bike parking area.
I really liked this building right next to the canal and that bridge!
We finally had a late dinner, I think around 9 or 9:30pm. Then Mike's brother and wife went back to their hotel because they were leaving the next day.

But Mike and I had another whole day to explore.
So coming up - Day 3 (our last) in Amsterdam - The Bike Adventure

Steps - 17,264
Miles - 7.4