August 13, 2016 // Juliana / My life / Nicolas

Ever since the official countdown to our summer vacation was running, and every time someone was asking me whereto we'll be heading this year, I was almost hesitating to answer that question and giving away that we're going to Slovenia. Because almost nobody I know has ever been there, and all the people we know do either go further down to Croatia or stay further up in Italy. That kind of reminded me of the beautiful story from Emily Kingsley „Welcome to Holland", where everybody is busy making plans to travel to Italy ... (in case you don't know this story, do yourself a favor and read it!) ... and we end up in Slovenia. ;-)

 

So the fact that nobody we know has ever been down there, made us really doubt my father-in-law's wish to explore something totally new this year. My thought process was that if nobody has ever been down there, it can't be any good. In fact, I had lowered all my expectations, and I was just looking forward to some quality time with all my family and to recharge my batteries. Nothing more.

 

The minute we got there, I was quite positively surprised and immediately in love. Since the Slovenian Riviera is only 46 km long, it's very close to Italy and Croatia. Hence the immense Italian influence and appearance. We thought we're in Italy, only the people spoke a different language.

 

All my worries went up in smoke. I would even say that I can't say anything bad about the whole trip. Well maybe if our kids would have been younger, they might have preferred a long sandy beach. Slovenia doesn't have many beaches, and the one's they have are covered in concrete. But I really enjoyed that we only had to take the elevator down from our nice hotel, and we were already at our private hotel beach, just a few meters away from the water. If you have a family member in a wheelchair or somebody who has trouble walking, our hotel would be just about perfect for you. Everything is easily accessible within minutes. 


Our kids absolutely loved the small pebbly hotel bay and the piers for easy access into the water. Nicolas spent all day at our pebbly coastline trying to catch crabs or fishes. Juliana joined him, but not for the love of fishing, but for her big passion of climbing rocks and exploring. She has been doing that ever since she can walk. Of course she finished every day with new bruises and bloody wounds, but it was all worth it for her. An icecream pretty much comforts everything anyway. With the kids exploring the sea and shore life all day long, I had so much time to just relax and read read read. I also have to admit, this year I hardly didn't take any photos at all. The ones you'll find below are a mix of my big camera and my iPhone. When you're a professional photographer, sometimes you just wanna keep the camera in your bag and soak it all in with your five senses and your heart.

 

I hope I can inspire you to explore something new too, if you haven't been in Slovenia. Have a great summer everyone, I'll be back for sure in September.




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Our cute little beach was just about perfect. I really enjoyed the short distances to everything your heart desires aka the ocean, the coffee bar and ice-cream parlor ;-)


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Nico took up the sport of fishing little crabs and fishes, which he immediately released into freedom after they made it into his neon fishing net.

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I realized that Juliana is now so grown up, I can't no longer give her a piggyback ride. ;-)

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Sometimes my little girl is sporting an interesting style, haha!

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She's the light of my life. Her happiness is contagious.

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And so is my son. He definitely enjoys it to the fullest to be highly admired by his two girls in the family :-)

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I enjoyed the whole "wellness" program ;-)

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I mentioned it already on Instagram, Juliana and I want to sign up for a yoga class in September. We're both pretty excited about it. I so much enjoy her being a teenager. Meanwhile we have the same size in clothing, and share tons of interests. 

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The hotel has a great indoor pool on the 9th floor which is a great plan B if the weather is ever bad. They also have a beautiful wellness & spa area on the 9th floor.

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Every room in the hotel has an ocean view. So every night we enjoyed the most beautiful sunset from our balcony or the Sunset Restaurant on the 12th floor. Just incredible. 

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That's her glooming icecream-is-to-be-served-soon face. ;-)

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Every time I pulled out my camera, she immediately posed. OMG, the daughter of a photographer. ;-)

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It's hard to not fall instantly in love with this incredibly beautiful and picturesque little town Piran which is just a 10-minute-walk from our hotel. There is also a bus stop in front of our hotel, so we could just hop on the bus (the commute is for free!), drive 2 stations, and be there. 

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It was all worth to climb up the 147 stairs on the Campanile to enjoy an awesome view and overlook this historical old town and its Venetian Gothic architecture.

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Juliana loves loves loves her brother. You can tell. She really looks up to him and makes him feel extremely special. I think this is one of her greatest gifts. To make people feel special and loved. And she means it. And you can tell.

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I also enjoyed all the little craftsman shops everywhere.

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Two years ago on our vacation in Ibiza, we everywhere stumbled upon their fine salt "fleur de sel". Piranske Soline is the Slovenian equivalent.

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The concrete beaches I talked about above. The people in Piran do not mind it at all.

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We also very much loved that everything was so easy on the wallet. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a Hugo drink for only 3,50 € or my beloved cappuccino for 2 €. ;-)

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The public beach next to our hotel. You can see that Piran is just 10 minutes away by foot.

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The first thing we discovered in Piran was this lovely bar/restaurant which served five sorts of gluten free and vegan cake. Juliana was super happy! And since it was only a 5-minute-bus-ride from our hotel, it was a quick afternoon treat.

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The area we stayed in between Portorož and Piran is extremely biker-friendly and has an extra lane for bikers along the shoreline. So we rented bikes a couple of times from the hotel and biked to Portorož. These yummy „Black Wild Salmon Burgers" were a big incentive for me to move out of my lazy comfort zone on the beach and to hop onto the bike, haha! Although I've interrupted my Paleo program (which BTW really helps with my food allergies and rashes) during that stay in Slovenia, I couldn't be more thrilled about all the glutenfree, lactosefree, vegan and/or paleo eating opportunities that are rising everywhere. People who are challenged in the food department are really really grateful for that.


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We had one rainy and cold day which made us drive up to the capital city of Slovenia: Ljubljana which reminded us very much of Austria (especially their neat Kaffeehäuser), but also to Prague (only without all the tourists) where we have been just six weeks ago. Ljubljana is definitely worth a trip. At one time it rained so hard that we were forced to do some major shopping, haha! On our way back to the hotel we did another stop at the huge shopping malls that are only ten minutes away from the old town.

 

Nicolas enjoyed all the street art in the city.


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I am a huge fan of stationery and was so happy to discover this cute little shop which tons of lovely things. So glad we came with the car this time, ha!

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Since Croatia is just around the corner we were heading across the border to explore the wonderful Istrian city Rovinj which is one of the most beautiful coastal towns and ports.

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Of course my little soccer girl had to get on one of these tourist stands a Croatian soccer tricot from one of her favorite players Mario Mandžukić ;-)

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No day without icecream! 

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To my great horror I realized on vacation that the pokémon go craze had also gripped my husband. First I got totally mad when I saw him staring onto his phone while the rest of us enjoyed the beautiful scenery and all things pretty walking the ancient streets. But my husband always knows how to get me and to calm me down. So in all his smartness he answered: „I'm not playing pokémon go, this thing is just an excellent tour guide. So did you know that we have just passed the Batana museum and that the cathedral St. Euphemia is further up this way?" Ha, he got me! ;-)


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We discovered that neat little restaurant where you enjoy your dinner directly on these rocks overlooking the sea. Just beautiful! 

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Nicolas is a big sucker for everything lavender. We have lavender soap everywhere, lavender on the balcony, and now he bought a cute little scented lavender bag. He also enjoys supporting people selling their crafts on the street and the little artisan shops. ;-)

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Ten years ago our charity group 46PLUS Down-Syndrom Stuttgart e. V. had the wonderful opportunity of a photo shoot at the Stuttgart Ballet for our wall calendar with celebrities and kids with a little extra. We couldn't have been more blessed with the two models: the outstanding and internationally renowned ballet dancer Jason Reilly and our adorable eleven-year-old Sophie who had been taking ballet lessons ever since the early age of 4. Sophie and Jason immediately hit it off. There lies some magic on the 47th chromosome that breaks the ice instantly with the people they encounter and like. The two of them had so much fun, and Sophie enchanted the whole team on set with her enthusiasm, joyfulness and radiating warmth. She insisted that the music of Sleeping Beauty is played loud and then she danced with her prince through the room as if there was no tomorrow. Sophie's mom Sylvia had tears in her eyes and was overjoyed. Overjoyed that nobody in the room saw Sophie as a child with down syndrome, but as a beautiful girl who loves to dance ballet and to have fun.

 

After our shoot we took two polaroids (one of our established traditions) and had Jason sign them for Sophie. We were all smitten by this handsome, incredibly nice and super talented young man who truly has a heart of gold. Sophie liked him so much that she spontaneously invited him to have BBQ with her and her family (which is another beautiful tradition at Sylvia's and Sophie's - I have so many fond memories of tons of yummy „Hot Dogs" over the last decade in their beloved backyard), and Jason didn't wait a second to accept the invitation and said it would be his great pleasure to come. The rest of us was speechless and quite impressed, because heck yes who in the world wouldn't want to have BBQ with this wonderful guy, the Soloist of the Stuttgart Ballet!? But who in the world would dare to ask him out for that? ;-)

 

As always, life got busy, winter came .... but Sophie had never forgotten about her invitation. Fast forward ten years in July 2016, as luck would have it, Sophie's parents met Jason on another occasion and they reminisced about the wonderful shoot and then remembered the outstanding BBQ invitation. This time they didn't wait too long and immediately made plans for coffee and BBQ. What a great afternoon. Jason came with his gorgeous girlfriend Anna Osadcenko, and Sophie was completely over the moon and in heaven.

 

There is magic in the 47th chromosome. It's absolutely impossible to resist our kids with a little extra once they spread their charme. They enchant you. They win you over. It's pure love. Unconditional love. No strings attached. Something rare to find in our world. I get often asked what I love the most about photographing our kids with a little extra. Beyond a million other things (that would make another long blog post) it is that they break the ice with other people and put everyone immediately at ease. When we do our celebrity calendars, they manage to instantly break the ice and I get the most authentic and pure smile from the celebrity you wouldn't get under normal circumstances. Seriously I thought about a million times. If I would ever have to photograph a „difficult" person, I would take an assistant with down syndrome with me, and I would get the best and most genuine results. No kidding! ;-)

 

Wishing you guys a wonderful and happy summer, lots of BBQs, days in the pool or at the beach, yummy cocktails with colorful straws and lots of sunshine ... and I hope to see you back here refreshed and reenergized in September. School's out tomorrow so I might not get a chance to blog before we leave on vacation. See you soon! xoxoxo

 


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July 25, 2016 // Advice / Artist / My life

Last week I had coffee with one of my wonderful clients (now friend ;-) who is also self-employed ... and we talked about the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur and how a typical day of working from home looks like. When I told her that I get up quite early in the morning before the rest of the family awakens to enjoy some peace and quiet time, but first thing check on all my social media and texts ... she looked at me almost in disbelief and said „That's how you start your day?"

 

That morning I learned that the way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. When we wake up we are still in kind of a vulnerable state. So when we enter the loud and noisy world of social media and scroll through the soundless but loud chatter of Facebook absorbing the word and images of other people's lives or we look at the news with the latest tragic headlines or we read an e-mail that might upset us, we inevitably give ourself the message that the world outside of us and the lives of others is more important than our inner world. She said it's like if you'd have a young child that comes up to you and wants to snuggle with you and tell you something in the morning, and you keep pushing her aside so that you can read your smartphone.

 

And then she told me about her morning rituals and how this book has changed her life. Of course, I immediately had to get my hands on it ... I will read it on our vacation, then hopefully follow through on it and implement all the six habits into my life, and later tell you about it. ;-)

 

The quotes below are out of that book. More Valerie lovin' coming at the end of summer, so please stay tuned! Have a happy Monday (evening) and a great start into this week with people who give you good energy!


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It's been the third year that these sweet girls came all the way from Hamburg to celebrate their special friendship with a photo shoot with me ... and I couldn't be any happier. I can't find words to sum up their unique bond, it's one of the greatest gifts in life. They are girlfriends, best friends, soulmates and confidants. They always enlighten, inspire, and empower each other, and they go through thick and thin. They value each other, they equally give and take, they openly share their vulnerability and they have the most beautiful „band aids" to fix any problem. And when one of them celebrates her birthday, they go out of their way to the moon and back to make sure it will be their best day ever. These girls just have it all ... a beautiful friendship is something you can't buy. It's worth a million dollar, and yet it doesn't cost anything ... it comes straight from the heart.

 

Please enjoy a few images of these three sunshines .... Here's to all our girlfriends! xoxo


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"Girlfriends are therapists you can drink with" ;-)

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We tried to make a decent selfie ... but the balloons came popping back into the picture ...

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My effort to keep them down, so no, I'm not about to hit on Steffi's head, haha!

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July 18, 2016 // Artist / Food / Fun
It's my busiest time of year, but also my most favorite one: Lots of BBQing, summer drinks, hanging out outside with friends and family. What is your favorite summer drink? And more importantly: any cool recipes for the grill or how you marinate your steak? ;-)

Have a great start into this week with the people you love and who are going to lift you higher ... Happy Monday!


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