Saturday, April 15, 2017

Christmas and New Years

Is it April? 
Why does time move so swiftly at times? I wanted to "document" our Christmas (2016) travels so we can look back and enjoy the memories but I'm afraid those memories are already fading. I will try my best to remember what we did and where we went but I'm afraid I do not know the names of some of these places, pictured. Italy is full of history and beautiful architecture. 

Once upon a time, a long time ago, we were planning our Christmas trip in Europe. We wanted to visit a place we had never been and decided to go to Spain and Portugal. I began researching all the places we wanted to see. My research was frustrating. Of course Spain and Portugal are full of adventure and history and are lovely places to vacation but I could not settle on where to go. It so happened that around the same time, my husband was scanning the internet for a new dog. We knew we wanted to adopt but didn't know from where. Over the weeks, he came across a pet rescuer in Croatia who introduced us to a pup named Lenny. Lenny was only a few months old at the time and we could not stop watching the videos of him that she sent to us. So, we made the decision to travel to Croatia to meet him and see if he'd like to come home with us. In the spirit of adventure, we decided to swing by Italy on our way. That is how we chose our vacation, because of a dog (as it turns out we snatched up a cat from the same shelter-a surprise gift from my husband to our oldest daughter). They are wonderful additions to our family and we thoroughly enjoyed our trek across Italy and Croatia to get them. Sometimes what seems to be a frustration can turn into something lovely and unexpected.
 Here is our trip in photos: enjoy!

Rome, Italy

 Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II (early 20th century)

 Colosseum in Rome Christmas morning

Our tour guide, Mary Grace, from the "Joy of Rome" company was fantastic.
If you ever find yourself in Rome, I highly recommend hiring a guide for a private tour. Here, she was telling us about the ancient bathrooms. Riveting.

Inside the Colosseum

Arch of Constantine through a Colosseum window

Right in front of the arch is an ancient Roman road. It seems more like stepping stones now.

There were lots of people up and down the road outside the Colosseum who had unique ways of earning a living.

 Gelato of course

 Lunch outside the Colosseum

It is said that Italians are the ones who started the "slow food" movement (Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser). They protested the opening of a McDonalds-in vain it turns out, they are everywhere. But Italians, and frankly most of Europe, really know how to enjoy food, from picking it out, all the way to the table. Oh if we could enjoy our food instead of rushing from one task to another. Each meal we shared on this trip we sat, ate, and enjoyed the experience and each other's company-you know what they say: when in Rome...
(Had to get that pun in at least once!)

 Gelato outside the Pantheon

We took a walk after dark.
Rome, is such a lively place, even at night on Christmas day.
Interesting to note, the Italians acknowledge there was a Jewish man in their history who "rocked the boat" for the Romans (the then world's superpower). He and his followers forever changed history. So, whether or not one believes He was/is the Son of God, a couple of things are certain: He did walk this earth and He did make a permanent mark on the world. They have yet to find His body, but it is all written in history, we only have to research it and find it for ourselves. Sometimes it's hard to believe but the whole of His message was and still is one of grace and love. A just Judge made a way for us to be set free. The older I get and the more I read about it the more I want to share it because it is good news not discouraging news.

Chioggia Veneto Italy:

(Most of these photos were taken by Rob, my husband, with our DSLR.)


Chioggia is known locally as a "little Venice" and the Christmas festivities were in full swing when we arrived.  Alas, this was only a stopover point for us as our true destination was Croatia. We arrived at dusk and left at dawn, but such a lovely corner in Italy to have visited.

We stayed outside of Zagreb and also in a town outside of Pula a couple blocks from the sea.
 Adriatic Sea

Pula is home to one of the six largest and best preserved surviving Roman arenas in the world.

 Inside Pula Arena

Self Timer Family Photo

One of the perks to visiting the Pula arena is that, unlike the Colosseum, very little is off limits for visitors. 

A quick history lesson...don't they look captivated!

Fazana, Croatia:
Dusk by the sea
We spent our mornings in this town walking to the local bakery for fresh pastries, bread, and cappuccino. During our afternoons we walked by the sea collecting various odd items such as bottle caps and strange rocks. And in the evenings we ate sea food in cafes while watching the sun sink into the Sea. Afterwards we headed for our rental house where we played rounds of storytelling using "Story Cube" dice. I do not regret our slow paced vacation in Croatia-not a bit.

This manger scene was in the town square.

Rob giving a lecture on how we represent America everywhere we go, so leave people with a good impression, and also, hang on for dear life because this will be a wild ride.

Adriatic Sea at sunset
The weather was pleasant. While there we only needed jackets and jeans to be comfortable.

This is one lucky starfish. The kids found this starfish at low tide. It was stuck on some rocks, already pretty dried out and "dead" so we thought. We brought it home with us like one would bring home a seashell. It was wrapped in paper towels and placed by the sink to continue drying out. The next morning we discovered it had opened up and was still moving. We immediately, and I mean immediately, ran it down to the sea and plopped it back into the water hoping it would recover. As far as we know, it lived. We went back later in the day and took this picture. Yes, it would be cool to have one of these gorgeous guys in our shell collection but no, not worth the "torture" of the innocent. We hate to see any creatures suffer and are happy the little guy is back where he belongs. So very beautiful!

So many sunsets

The reason(s) we went to Croatia:
Lenny (the pup) and Boss (the cat)
Here they are resting on my bed. Not allowed. It's almost like having 2 extra kids. They have brought so much joy into our lives. We are blessed to call them ours.
The matching colors weren't planned-just a coincidence.
Lenny is at least part Croatian Mountain Dog. He currently weighs 65 pounds and is 7 months old. He could weigh over 100 pounds before he stops growing. He has a shepherding instinct and constantly protects his "pack" i.e. family.

Boss is the coolest cat. He endures all of the kid snuggles with great patience. He is also playful and enjoys wrestling with the dog. We couldn't be more happy with these two.

For all of you readers, thank you for following along on our adventures, however late I may end up posting them. May you have a blessed Easter holiday... or as we like to call it, Resurrection Sunday. Wink.

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It's Monday.
I'm reclining on my couch. There is a cold cup of coffee a little too near my olfactory system for my liking. Maybe I will reheat it in a minute and finish drinking it. 

For the moment, I am forcing myself to relax because starting tomorrow there is activity every single day of the week until Christmas and today is THE last day to myself.  I have four children. Know what that means for the "happiest season of all"? It means four separate Christmas programs, Christmas Market field trips, and four separate class parties. This month also brings with it obligatory office parties. It means a Christmas program at church because, "the community needs to know what Christmas is really about" and if you don't volunteer we will glare at you until next Christmas season and make you feel like scum until you redeem yourself. (This may be an exaggeration.)

'Tis the season!

I wanted to catch up on 2016 before 2017 gets here. I feel a need to document, scrapbook? log? some of the memories we've made over the last several months.
First the hubs deployed (very unexpectedly) over the summer. The kids and I made the most of it, I think. We spent our days at the pool and our late evenings on bike rides in the dark with glow sticks. We even had another small garden this year which yielded carrots, strawberries, red potatoes, and cherry tomatoes. This summer was not oppressively hot like last year. I took 2 of the kids to a summer camp up near Berlin and the 2 youngest and I stayed in a nice hotel for the week and had such a relaxing memorable time. Of course, there was always the ever looming shadow of missing someone but when life gives you lemons.... know what I mean?

When Rob returned we headed straight to Austria and holed up in a cabin for a full week! We hiked, explored waterfalls, and ate til we were fat. It was just lovely. 

 Pictures do not do this view justice. This is what we lived in for the week.

 Some creek exploring.

 We visited the creek at the end of each day. It was the perfect way to unwind.
See the half naked kids in the background? No arctic creek water phased them!
 Campfire and sunset each evening.

 Daily hike to rest the soul.

Daddy fixing blisters.
This hike was a brutal 11 miles to the place that was called Hitler's "Eagle's Nest". He allegedly entertained diplomats and such there. It was an interesting piece of history and I'm glad we made the effort to climb to the very top, where there is now a restaurant, yes, we ate.

Maginot Line in France
 After WWI The French made this massive set of fortifications to keep Germany out. Germany went around through Belgium and invaded anyway. The history here is just so astonishing to get to visit.

 We ended up with food poisoning here from a McDonalds. It was a mild case but enough to put a damper on the trip. We do hope to go back and see more of the historical side of Prague. 

This is not a real man. 

The quaint mountain town we stayed in outside of Prague.

Budapest, Hungary
 Phillip, ever curious, helping build a fire at the cabin we stayed in. It rained nearly the whole weekend but that did not deter the kids from playing outside and they jumped on the trampoline for hours.
The Basilica. I'm told the largest building in Hungary? But not sure if that is accurate. It was an awesome sight to behold. 
 At night.

A bridge on the border of Hungary and Slovenia.


The colors of fall.

Thanksgiving at home.
Here is Sophie practicing her culinary skills.

She and Phillip were in charge of appetizers. 

Robert (and Grace not pictured) had pie crust duty.

Candlelight dinner. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

May you all have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!