Sunday, July 31, 2011

Europe - day 5

On Monday morning, we drove west of Frankfurt to some small cities in the Rhineland-Palatinate.  Our main objective was to tour another castle, Burg Eltz.  The castle was a little out in the middle of nowhere, between Cochem and Koblenz.  We had a short half mile hike to get to the castle; loved the setting in the forest.  Burg Eltz is a fairy tale-like castle that has been in the Eltz family for over 800 years.  Unfortunately it's undergoing renovation (notice the crane & plastic covering one side of the castle) so we didn't get to see all of it, but what we saw was very cool.  A couple of interesting things we learned - they built mini chapels in bay windows because they believed that no one should live above God (they could place these on lower floors because of the bay window extension).  Also, we learned that the spiral staircases were designed specifically with protection in mind.  Intruders would have to hold their sword in their left hand while going up the stairs while the homeowner (castle owner?) had the advantage of being able to hold their sword in their right hand while coming down towards an intruder.

I hope you're not getting tired of the arm's length photos or my blue-green jacket.  :)  The jacket shows up quite often; I didn't expect to wear it very much, but it was chilly or rainy enough to need it most of the places we went.  You'll probably be castled out by the time I'm done too - I'll admit I wasn't interested in seeing any other castles after the ones we saw (and we didn't even tour all the ones we took pictures of).  But we did enjoy each of them.

We took over 2000 pictures on our trip, so I really had to pick and choose.  Here's just a few things from inside the castle.  And I had to include a picture of our dessert - so yummy.  I don't remember the names of our cake/pie (everything was in German - we did a lot of pointing... we'll take one of those.)    :)

The little town of Cochem was another favorite of our trip, where we stayed at a bed & breakfast on Monday night.  The Mosel River ran through the city, which was filled with touristy shops and restaurants.  It was fun to walk across the bridge and watch the boats and the see the reflection of the brightly colored buildings in the water.  We walked along both sides of the city - on one side was the Cochem Reichsburg Castle and the other was filled with vineyards (and shops and restaurants).  We enjoyed walking up above the vineyard and just gazing out over the city and to the castle on the other side - very peaceful and romantic spot...  ;)

The cool little orange car was just something we saw while out walking - we saw so many little cars while in Europe.  In fact our rental car in Scotland was a little mini thing.  We didn't see very many big cars, trucks, or vans in Europe.  

We didn't actually tour this castle - it was after hours when we got there, but it was fun to explore the outer courtyard area, and also provided another great view of the city.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Europe - day 4

On Sunday morning, we went to church at the Livingston Ward (Livingston is about 30 minutes west of Edinburgh).  In the afternoon, we flew from Edinburgh to Frankfurt, Germany.  I wasn't sure if they'd allow us to stay in Germany - the customs guy didn't know where Cochem or Fussen was when we told him where we'd be visiting.  At least he knew where Frankfurt was and we eventually got our passports stamped...

Late in the evening, we went to the Women's World Cup Final, which we were lucky enough to be able to watch USA vs. Japan.  We had to buy the tickets in advance, of course not knowing who would make it to the final.  We lucked out and got to cheer on our own team, but then had the unlucky result of losing to Japan in the penalty kick shoot out.  It was a fun game to watch and really an amazing experience just to be there (although I wished it wasn't on Sunday).  The crowd was great too - a lot of Germans (of course hoping Germany had made it), some cheering for us and some for Japan.  Directly on the right side of us were USA fans and sitting on our left were fans cheering for Japan.  The whole stadium was interspersed with fans cheering for opposite teams (many not even their own country).  USA should have won it - we were so close (tied 2 to 2 at the end of overtime), but couldn't make our penalty kicks.  The interlude and postlude to the game were cool to watch - with sparkly things, lights, music, cameras flashing, and flags waving.  It was just a little bit magical - I don't even know how to describe it.

It's amazing that we were even at the game.  We never set out to be there.  It just happened to work out just right for us.  When we were planning our trip, we originally planned on taking a train from Edinburgh through London through Paris to Frankfurt.  It was going to cost about $700 and take quite a bit of time.  We decided to look into flying.  Plane tickets ended up being a much better deal and saving us time, so we bought the tickets.  It was only after we had already purchased our plane tickets to Frankfurt that we thought about the World Cup going on in Germany.  We curiously looked at the schedule to see when and where the games were being played.  Turns out the final was that night we were flying in to Frankfurt.  A quick look at ticket prices and just the fact that it wasn't a normal Sunday activity for us turned us away, at first.  But I couldn't stop thinking about how coincidental it was that we would be in Frankfurt that day (and I love soccer - I think most soccer fans dream of being at a world cup game) - the temptation was just too much for me and I bought the very expensive tickets to the game.  So much for trying to save money by flying...

We had a fun time and I'm still amazed that we even got to cheer on the USA.  Now if they had only won it... almost perfect.

You might want to turn the volume down a little bit...  here's the replay of our 1st goal.  The second video is just a little after game stuff.  (The better after-game video was too big to post).  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Europe - day 3

Day 3 was one of my favorites.  We continued to drive through the western highlands and to the Isle of Skye. It was not highly recommended in the book we looked at, but we knew we didn't want to miss out on it as much as we loved the outdoors.  We weren't disappointed, although we did get rain half the day.  We stopped by the Eilean Donan Castle, we ate fish & chips in Portree Harbor with the seagulls, drove by the famous landmark "Old Man of Storr", castle ruins, and Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls.  So beautiful!  We also loved how peaceful it was and the lack of crowds.  We didn't have time to see everything we wanted to - we had to make our way back to Edinburgh.  (It took about 6 hours to get back to Livingston, just outside of Edinburgh).  

Europe - day 2

While Alex was at his conference on Friday morning, I toured the Edinburgh Castle, a military fortress on the top of an extinct volcano.  Some of the highlights I couldn't take pictures of, such as the Stone of destiny, crown jewels of Scotland, or War Memorial.  I was able to take a picture of Mons Meg, a 550 year old cannon which at one time shot a distance of about 2 miles.  I stayed for the One o'clock Gun, which has fired 6 days a week since 1861.  (It doesn't fire on Sundays, Christmas, or Good Friday.)  Impressive castle!

We spent the afternoon and evening driving towards Inverness.  Despite the one lane road (with 2 way traffic at times), we enjoyed the pretty drive.  The bed and breakfast we stayed at overlooked Loch Ness.  
We didn't see the Loch Ness monster...   

Europe trip - day 1

Here's the first post about our recent trip to Scotland, Germany, and Switzerland!  I don't know how many you'll get at a time, but here's the first day at least.  (If I get going on these, you could get a bunch at once).

Most of my first day was spent on the plane getting there.  I left Wednesday evening and got to Edinburgh, Scotland on Thursday evening.  Alex was already there (and surprised me by meeting me at the bus stop).  Our whole trip was in conjunction with 2 conferences he had - the first was in Edinburgh and the second was in Bern, Switzerland.  I met him at the tail end of his first conference and left at the beginning of his second one.  So we didn't get to fly together, but I was just grateful we were able to go without kids.  Thanks mom and dad for watching the boys!  As far as the time change (Scotland is 8 hours ahead of us), my plan was to not sleep at all on the plane, so I'd be ready to sleep when I got there.  I was tired, but we realized we wouldn't get to see Edinburgh together if we didn't get out on Thursday evening.  So despite being up all night, we walked the Royal Mile in Old Town Edinburgh (a walk just over a mile that connects the Edinburgh castle with several other streets - the streets are lined with little shops, restaurants, churches, and other government and historical buildings).  For dinner, we had pizza while overlooking the city - loved the architecture!  We stayed at the Point Hotel, which was only about 0.5 mile from the Edinburgh Castle.  Not a bad start to our trip (my 1st time ever to set foot in Europe)!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

credit where credit is due

The lovely flowers in a previous post were actually from my DAD.  He picked those up on one of his trips to Home Depot, likely one of his outings to replace the windshield wipers on our van.  I just discovered that today.  What else did you do Dad?  Thanks!  By the way, it was also clever of you to add the $1 to the top of the cash I left for you to use, which you didn't use.  I saw that and was happy that you had used some of it, only to find out I had only acquired an extra dollar.  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Big boy Weston

Before I post about our trip, this little man deserves the spotlight.  He turned one on the day I flew to Europe. I felt guilty about doing that, but at least we got to celebrate earlier in the day.  He LOVED the cake and immediately dug into it.  He didn't have a clue how to unwrap presents, but his brothers were happy to help.

Here's a look at his growth - amazing how much they change in just one year.

Good to be home

I missed my boys!  I couldn't sleep very well on the plane and only got a few hours sleep the night before, so I had been up for at least 24 hours.  When I got home, the boys couldn't stop talking, but it was great to be home.  While I missed all of them, I have to admit it was hardest to be away from Weston.  It was hard not having my baby cuddles.

My parents were real troopers and entertained the boys while we were gone.  They also left things better than they found them - typical.  My dad fixed several things - the trampoline enclosure, the leaky washer, the disposal, and built a tree house for the boys.  My mom left new things around the house, like flowers, soap dish and dispenser, cups, toys, and games for the boys, toothbrushes, organizer buckets, shoes for Weston, towel rack, and bath mat.  And they got a heavy duty cleaner for the hard to scrub spots in the shower.  Basically, if they saw something that needed to be fixed or replaced, they did it.  And I'm still finding more things - I probably didn't name everything.  Baba and Papa need to visit more often.  I highly recommend borrowing them for a week or two...  :)

The boys had a great time and they miss them already.  They loved going to the zoo, baseball game, the park, the beach, McDonald's, Wendy's, bowling, watching movies, playing in their new tree house, playing baseball, watching sports on-line, games, and eating treats.  After we dropped Baba and Papa off at the airport this morning, Nathan asked, "Do we have to go back to the regular rules now?"  Yep.  Back to boring.

They had the best 2 weeks of the year.  Thanks for coming Baba and Papa!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Just so you know...

My parents are watching the boys for a couple of weeks while Alex and I are in Scotland, Germany, and Switzerland. I'm so grateful they allowed us to do that. I won't be able to post pics until after we get home. But if you're curious about what the boys are doing, my mom will probably post on her blog

Full update later! Check back in a couple of weeks...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mama's weekend out

I spent the 4th of July weekend in Colorado - Alex stayed home with the boys.  It was nice not having to worry about kids, but I did feel little lonely without them.  Loved spending time with family though.  My sisters were all there, and I got to meet Eli (Audrey & Sam's new little guy).  We stayed at Grandpa Bob's "ranch", one of my most favorite places, but the special occasion was my cousin Enola's wedding.  Congrats to Enola & Cris for (finally) tying the knot!  :)  I also got to see my uncles Doug & Gary (don't know why I didn't get pics of them) - thanks to them for carting me to and from the airport and feeding me.  It was a fun mama's weekend out, but I sure did miss my babies!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Superman, sticks & stones

One of the fun things about being a mom is hearing the funny things your kids say.  Jared has no shortage of funny things that comes out.  Here's a couple of his recent "sayings":

"Sticks and stones will break my bones, but birds will never hurt me."

Talking with Nathan:  "There's only two things that can hurt Superman - kryptonite and his mom."

Ready for grandma?

We're getting ready for a visit from Baba and Papa...  or should we just box up these dirty boys and ship them?  We'll overnight them - handle with care!