Groningen Round-Up 3 (Plus Some Extra)

So, remember that time we went home for Christmas?

…probably not, because I never actually blogged about it! (facepalm)

In short:

We flew home – we had Christmas with our families – we celebrated New Year’s Eve – I turned 32 (not too keen on seeing that in writing) – we saw as many friends as we could – Shane got to see some of his nephew’s swim meets – time went way too fast – we came back to the Netherlands!

I’ll let the pictures show the details. Presented in chronological order.

IMG_5898
IMG_1382
Shane was a mattress shopping assistant.
IMG_5938
Star Wars.
curious kitten. Muffin wouldn't let me get any pictures this trip.
Curious kitten, Abby.
IMG_5958
Birthday!
Birthday, again!

Since we’ve been back, we’ve been laying low. Shane is officially in the final stretch of Ph.D. so there is a lot of writing going on in our house at the moment. There have been a few new developments though.

1. We booked our next trip! We will be heading to Livigno, Italy for a week of snowboarding in March.

2. We checked something off our Groningen bucket list! We FINALLY made it to an FC Groningen match. The best part? The tickets were free (thanks¬†to our insurance ‘healthy points’ rewards program) and we ended up being 4 rows from the field! The match ended in a tie, but it was so nice to go to a live sporting event.

IMG_6075

3. I started a Dutch course! For two hours every Tuesday and Thursday night, I’ll be in class. The group is 16 people, and the people are from all over. Mexico, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, Poland, Bosnia and America (me), to be exact. I think it’s so cool for such a diverse group of people to be united over a common goal of learning Dutch. Supposedly, when I complete the course I’ll be halfway to ‘B2’ level, which would be advanced-intermediate. I should be able to have conversations and more clearly express opinions in Dutch without problems. I’ll report back on how it goes.

4. We are fully on the climbing train. Right now, we’ve been going to the climbing gym about twice a week. Our gym does mostly top-rope climbing and has a very small (indoor) bouldering room. We recently found out about a fairly new bouldering gym here in Groningen, so we decided to check it out. Lots of fun!

IMG_6041

5. And most importantly, Meatball got a house for Christmas (had to get the XL version…). Toooooo cute!

IMG_6009

So, I think that’s about all! More to come after snowboarding. ūüôā

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Charlotte, NC USA

My instinct for the title of this post was “Eating My Way Through America”, or more accurately, “Eating My Way Through Charlotte”, because I felt like that’s all I wanted to do on this trip home.

Since the majority of the food I ate ended up in my stomach before I remembered to take a picture, it didn’t make the final cut.

Despite my inability to re-brand The Shwits as a food blog, I had a fantastic week at home with my dad and sister. The weather was warm and I was able to hit all my favorite spots, even some new ones!

First stop (duh)…

12 piece tailgate box for three of us? Yup. That’ll do.

IMG_4262

As I mentioned before, I was able to play tourist a little bit this time. I think when you live somewhere, you often don’t take advantage of all the things the city has to offer. That’s definitely been the case for me, and to be fair, a lot has changed since I last officially lived in Charlotte. Therefore, I present to you the new things I did while I was home.

New Thing #1 – BB&T Ballpark

Home of the Charlotte Knights AAA baseball team!

IMG_4283

This is by no means my first Knights game. We went a lot when I was a kid, but the stadium only recently moved to uptown Charlotte. And for good reason… what a view!

Pops & me with Homer the Dragon.

New Thing #2 – NASCAR Hall of Fame

Opened in 2010… It only took us 7 years to get here! (insert eye roll)

IMG_4486

As I learned in the hall of fame, the birth of NASCAR itself was in Daytona Beach, FL, but the origins of NASCAR date back to the days of prohibition when guys would modify their cars to improve their ability to run moonshine out of the mountains of NC. NASCAR fan or not, the hall of fame was very interactive and absolutely worth the visit!

IMG_4480
Sis & Terry trying their hand at being part of the pit crew.

and speaking of racing…

New Thing #3 – Lancaster Speedway

Dirt track racing! And while technically not in Charlotte (it’s in Lancaster, SC) I’ve never been so I’m counting it.

IMG_4310

And yes, I forced my sister to wear matching pigtail braids with me. 

Not pictured – funnel cake fries. I think you can understand why.

As for the rest of the trip, I was able to see some friends, get my fill of Mexican food, sis and I got matching ear piercings (lol), and we had some nice evenings out in the Queen City.

IMG_4499

I’ll see you again at Christmas, Charlotte!

In the meantime, I’m off to Mallorca, Spain this weekend! My summer of unemployment is pretty rough…

Tot ziens,

Whitney

Oh America, how we missed you…

And we’re back!

That’s right, after 4 short weeks traveling the eastern half of the United States, we are back in Groningen. ¬†We technically made it back two weeks ago, but it’s taken some time to get caught up on sleep/work/day-to-day life. ¬†As to be expected, we have lots to share, which means multiple posts. ¬†However, for now I’ll keep it simple and just recap the past month (Whitney will follow with more specific and exciting news).

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 20.35.00
Major stops highlighted: 11 diferent states visited

It all started one cool, dark December day in northeastern Holland. ¬†Our story begins in the city of Groningen, in a small, one bedroom apartment just outside of city center. ¬†After months of planning, we were finally preparing to head back to the U.S. (the first time in 18 months!). ¬†However, not everyone in the Wright/Crosson household was¬†so excited…

Don’t worry, she was well taken care of while we were away!

Our journey began with an early morning drive to Amsterdam, followed by flights to Munich, Germany and then finally on to Charlotte, NC.

All told, it is about 24 hours from start to finish.  Despite the long trip, we were warmly greeted!

Way too blury, but I guess that’s to be expected in the excitment of seeing family after 1.5 years. ¬†Whitney jump-hugging her mom, while mine¬†hurries past.

Now I could continue on in chronoligical order of our entire 4 week trip, but that would take forever! So instead, I’ll categorize, mostly sharing pictures.

First and foremost, we got to spend time with family (the following of which is only a sample – aka when we remembered to take pictures)!

We saw friends (and met new additions)!

We spent time in our old stomping grounds, Pittsburgh!

We spent lots of time driving and thus had many unplanned stops along the way (only one of which we have photographic evidence of)!

Whitney had a birthday (30!)….

….and quickly¬†embraced this new step¬†in life.

And finally, we ended back where we began: Charlotte!

Interesting side note: we’ve always wondered if upgrading seats for long flights is worth it. ¬†The verdict? Totally worth it! Sooo much leg room!

So there you have it: 4 weeks of friends and family as told with minimal text and lots of pictures.  To say that we enjoyed our time in the U.S. is an understatement.  We have been looking forward to it since the day we moved and it did not dissappoint!  To all of those that we were unable to see this trip, it’s definitely happening next time! In the meantime, planes also fly this direction….hint hint. We love visitors!

Coming soon: Whitney will follow with a more detailed post of trip specifics.

Looking ahead: 2016 is shaping up to be a fun-filled year. Stay tuned for some new travel adventures and other randomness!

IMG_0363
Did I hear you say more travel?!?

Until next time,

Shane

#LittleLove2015

Well that was a whirlwind trip! Absolutely worth it, but a whirlwind none the less!

This past weekend I headed to State College, PA to see some friends get married!

…and who was waiting for me in the Pittsburgh airport? SISSY!!! ūüôā

So we hopped in our rental car (yes! I still remember how to drive!) and headed to my favorite spot in the city… Mt. Washington!

Coming here really makes me miss Pittsburgh. When I’m here, in Groningen, I’m more than happy don’t get me wrong. I have nothing bad to say about The Netherlands, and I really love my job, but coming back to Pittsburgh felt like coming home. Maybe that’s because it was the first place Shane and I were really “starting out” on our own together? Regardless of the reason, it was really¬† nice to be back even if it was for only 18 hours.

After our detour, we headed to Brian & Alicia’s new house! We may have only been there for a half day but we really packed it in. Friday night we were off to a restaurant downtown with an awesome rooftop terrace. Saturday morning took us to my favorite breakfast place in the city, Square Cafe, and cruising through some of the old haunts. In between I got a little overdue puppy snuggling.

After breakfast, we were off to State College. Two things.

  1. Mountains DO exist! I almost forgot! It was so nice to see elevation changes greater than a bridge!
  2. My love for Sheetz has not faltered.

Car trips are the best!

The wedding was at a country club just outside of downtown State College. The wedding itself & the hotel for guests were both at the country club. This made for a really fun time since all the wedding guests were in the same place. Saturday was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, with Sis as my date, and the rest of the night was spent catching up with everyone.

Sunday was Wedding Day!

…up bright and early for hair and makeup!

I know it’s kind of awkward to post pictures of my head, but I just really loved my hair. I asked her for a “braided something pretty” and she definitely delivered!

AND it survived all night dancing! Which, if you know my dancing, you know that basically means all night flopping around.

The wedding itself was beautiful. The weather was hot, but perfectly sunny and the bride and groom looked great!

I just have to share one picture the photographer took. It has a little backstory.

All day, we’ve been saving this giant bottle of champagne. Not to drink after the ceremony, but for a picture. Michelle found on Pintrest a picture where the bridal party was surrounding the bride and groom & the picture was taken right as the champagne popped. I’m sure you can imagine this. I expect she anticipated something of this nature (picture courtesy of google)…

So, that champagne is saved! After we take all the other bridal party pictures we start to get together for this last shot. Steve (the groom) is shaking up the bottle… and he gets his finger a littttttleeeee too close to the cork…. and POP! Before everyone is ready the champagnes a flowin! This is the resulting picture. (Photo taken by Philter Photography)

!! I mean, I think it’s the best. The absolute shock on Steve’s face is priceless, and the mix of emotions out of the bridesmaids who were close enough (clearly I was distraught haha). Really, I don’t think it could have been more perfect.

You know what else couldn’t have been more perfect? The selfie sticks. I know Shane ranted on these before, and I still stick to my opinion that in touristy places I want to rip them out of people’s hands, but in this case it was SO MUCH FUN! Each table got their own selfie stick and so the rest of the night everyone ran around taking tons of pictures. You ended up with ones like this….

and this…

and this…

Ok, so that last one is a nice one, but you get the point.

Oh, and don’t worry. Shane was able to make an appearance. He got to hang out with his friend Mike!

IMG_5898

The DJ followed the bride’s rules (no slow songs & no Michael Jackson) so the rest of the night was spent dancing away with good friends…

and taking photobooth pictures of course!

So, it was crazy, hilarious, exhausting yet refreshing, and made me a little bit homesick but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything!

Congrats again Steve & Michelle! I am so happy I was able to be there!

Tot ziens,

Whitney