Friday, October 31, 2008

Snow Daze

First - here are the girls representing the US of A for the United Nations Assembly at school on Friday. Not as many kids dressed up as was hoped for but ours really get into the spirit of things. Thursday morning we received a call at 6am - school cancelled due to weather. And I am room parent for 2 classes and therefore must start the "phone tree" calling as prescribed by the school. It's not fun calling parents when you are groggy and haven't had caffeine yet.

This is what the forecasted "chance of snow" looked like at 7am:Normally - school wouldn't be cancelled for snow like this. But on October 30th, not many people have their snow tires on yet and the cities weren't quite ready to handle the removal. It wasn't a soft, dry snow either. It was very heavy and wet. The elementary school relies on a private bus service for about 40% of the student transportation and the rest of the students are driven from all parts of the Zurich area - including ferry from across the lake. Needless to say - it was a messy day out there.

The other risk involved: If you are in an accident in Switzerland and do not have the proper tires on for the season - in this case, snow tires -, the insurance company will not pay for damages. Your loss. Too bad, so sad. And, most likely, the reason the private bus company wasn't running.

We don't get our snow tires on 'til Nov. 10 - I'm driving very carefully!

Gee, don't they look sad about staying home for the day. Eating their "hot lunch" in Rachel's room. They love getting their lunch on trays and then eating them in R's room - playing school. Grilled cheese and tomato soup was on the menu in the 'cafeteria.'

The heavy wet snow did a number on the garden and I have more 'clean up' now than I planned to finish Fall with. I had seen bad weather coming and got the tulips in last Sunday afternoon and pulled out some dying annuals.
The snow cruched most of the ferns, the sedum and many of my hydrangeas - just snapped them right down at the base. Not supposed to happen. So, a bit of extra work and fewer flowers from the hydrangeas next year.
The pic below shows a tree/bush that stands about 10 ft high - and is completely bent over from the weight of the snow. It's still leaning over into the path so will have to chop it down as well. So why am I sitting at the computer when I have so much work to do?
Sad, sorrowful faces of little girls forced to stay home from school and play in the snow.

Prayer request: Have a sweet, almost 5 yr old nephew in the hospital with pneumonia and potential viral complications - praying for JT.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hungry for more Hungary?

OK - Sorry for the cheesy title but I have to get this post off my plate. OK, now I'm done - no more awful humor.

Here is the gang in Hungary - Rachel was acting as photographer. Bart took one look at this picture and said "So, why did you stand at the lowest end of the bridge? To make yourself look shorter?

Yes, I am vertically challenged and it doesn't help to be surrounded by Mid-westerners with Northern European roots. At least I fit in the 6' beds at the hotel - the guys were having a bit of issue with the "little people" beds.

Here I am trying to leave the Esterhazy Palace - I would never be hired for Keeper of the Gate.

Playing tourists on a free day. We all (8 of us) piled into our 7 passenger vehicle and took off down the road to Esterhazy Palace. Kudos to Julie and Carol who took turns riding in the middle of the third seat - each suffering from a small bout of motion sickness.

The Palace was pretty cool and we all enjoyed the large, surrounding gardens with the gumdrop bushes/trees. One can only visit inside with a tour guide (Hungarian or German) so we chose the German tour in hopes that I could translate some.

I did a little translating but overall, the group got more out of the written English guide we were given. But I was able to let them know these bushes/trees are all over 100 years old. That was really interesting and useful. Right?

I did a lot of power point that week and really, really enjoyed the music provided by the group. Hadn't heard some of the songs since we left Valley and I'd catch the girls humming later in our room. We really enjoyed it. Kevin is sitting on an instrument called a Cajon - it was very popular with the missionaries. It's like having a drum in a box - hooks right into the sound system. Helps to have some knowledge of percussion instruments to play though. I'm sure it would sound like an empty box if I tried. I'll stick to backup vocals or power point.
Speaking of PowerPoint - it gets crazy on certain songs and I did mess up a slide or two. Felt like an accomplished PP operator when I could get through "You are Holy" without blowing any slides.
The guys doing their thing. They rocked! And the conference attendees really enjoyed it.
Here's Rachel with Ben and Bradford (or 'Brad' as the girls refered to him - we all cracked up at that). It's amazing to see your own children interact with other adults for a full week. There were no playmates their age - just us grownups. How they developed a trust and liking for people that I've known but they were never really exposed to much before.
The girls were comfortable and I didn't have the stress in taking them along that I thought I might have. Each one of these adults made an impact on my kids life - if you are reading this (or your wife is :)), Thank You!!!!!!!
A view of Sopron from the city tower - it was hazy and smokey but still pretty.
Ah Tesco! My first shopping trip to Tesco. Big deal you say? Let's start at the beginning: Germany used to have a few WalMarts but they pulled out. There were a couple of Carrefour's in Switzerland (think French owned answer to KMart - and large Int'l retailer of it's type) - there are no more. :(
So while I was in Hungary, I stocked up on shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shaving lotion, etc... at about 40% less than I buy these same products for in Switzerland. Yeah!!! I want to say Tesco is like a UK KMart - does that sound right regular UK reader?
I also bought a new pair of boots - go figure. At about 25 % less than I can here - because they don't have many sales here, the whole "wait for the sale" theory does not apply when living in Europe. And they fit my "sporty" legs - I can even tuck my jeans into them. But still trying to determine whether I can pull off that look beings I'm vertically challenged and all - I'll check with my stylist -
RACHEL!!!!!!!........ Yes, the daughter who tells me which clothing options make me look younger. She does plan on becoming a fashion designer someday. Time will tell.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Kendry - #8!

Kendra cracks us up - she must read the card before getting to the present. Even if there is a letter in it - it must all be read before moving on. I think she likes ALL the anticipation and drama that goes with the present process. Stretch it alllllll out........ She opened these the night of her birthday - day after getting back from Hungary. Gee, look at that (above), how many kids do you know who get Nature Valley Peanut Butter granola bars in their Birthday presents?

Seriously - my mom knows how to pack a box and when sending overseas, it's all about how much you can stuff into every available space. Most boxes arrive with very little filler/packing peanuts. We find that baggies and oatmeal work great as box fillers and are light-weight. Yeah - we think too hard about these kind of things.

As her Bday fell during the Fall Break, her party was this last weekend instead. I told my sweet husband the reason I married him was for his Birthday Party assistant skills. I kid you not - I might have been comatose or tied up by pick-up time if he hadn't been there - or halfway through a bottle of Chianti.

Our flat with it's walls of concrete, floors of limestone tile, lack of wall to wall carpeting and lack of window hangings combined with the excited shouts of 9 little girls was enough to drive me through the roof. That, and I have some sensitive hearing issues - so does Kendra. Kendra was at tears within 10 min. and I had to stop everyone and explain the situation. The girls did seem to get it and when reminding them the noise - HURT -, they calmed down for at least 3 minutes.

They had a fun time with the Nancy Drew 'detective' theme that Kendra picked out and got into the Mystery we arranged for them. Kendra really gets into the 'Birthday' planning and ideas so I was just happy it all went well. She was happy with it. What a Sweetie!

Til next year Kendra. I may be recovered by then. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Electricity in Europe - Primarily for the Ladies

Just thought I'd throw this out there for anyone traveling/planning to travel in Europe.

It's great to bring a plug adapter. That will allow you to get your US item (120v) plugged into a different outlet.

It's better to have a converter & adapter so that it will convert your 120v item to the 220v currency used in Europe.

If you don't use a converter with your 120v item you will damage it or blow it up. Yep, we blew the face off a little clock radio when we first moved.

Some appliances (I know many hair dryers and computers do) have an option to switch your voltage from 120 to 220 - handy. Then you just need the plug adapter.

For anyone traveling with a curling iron/straightener - you need a converter that switches to 1600watt for heating appliances. However, this works with older heating items - like my 10 yr old curling iron. As we have found out with many a guest, the newer heating appliances are often digitally regulated - even if you don't see it. And they will not work with a converter.

There may be some new converter's out there that will handle the digital controlled heating items but we don't have one. If you know of one, please let me know.

The beauty of Europe - hair is not expected to look perfectly coiffed. I can pick out an American woman in a tourist city by hair alone (and the makeup, manicured nails, jewellery - while wearing a sweatsuit/tennis shoes). So when in Europe, do as they do and embrace your natural look - ponytails are a popular option.

A little Austria....

No - I don't pose my children dancing and hugging. They do it all by themselves - in fields, on streets and in front of churches - and at tram/bus/train stations. It makes for some fun pictures. We stopped in Mondsee, Austria overnight on our way to Sopron. The next morning was beautiful and we took advantage of the guys calling to tell us we weren't needed until 3:30pm (original was 12 - 1) to do a little walking by the lake & checking out the church.
This being the church where the wedding scene for the Sound of Music was shot.
Mondsee is a tiny, lakeside town right off the Autobahn and about 1/2 hr out of Salzburg. Very convenient for an overnight stop driving through Austria.

My plug for Austria: 1) they speak German, you know, the regular kind 2) Vienna and Salzburg are only 3 hrs from each other 3) prices are cheaper than in Switzerland 4) they are 'German' and thus - clean, public restrooms (don't ask for a 'restroom' in Europe though - they will look at you quizzically - ask for the 'Toilet' - because that's what you need) and 5) there are plenty of places to go/things to do that are Family friendly.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Picture Proof!

That Carol & Julie did, in fact, fly into Zurich and then road-tripped with the girls and I to Hungary.

Poor things. After flying into Frankfurt from Chicago, there was a delay getting into Zurich and then we had a small train mishap (the train which normally goes all the way to our town from the airport, went only one stop and then asked everyone to get off as it was going to return the other direction - fortunately, another train was right behind it. But if you've never had to haul luggage on and off trains and walk quickly, while jet-lagged, I don't know if you can fully appreciate their good sense of humor.). It was so good to see their faces.

On the train (again) as we head into Zurich that evening for a city stroll and yummy Italian food. Further proof - here they are on the wanderweg above our house - complete with Swiss cows and Alps in the background.
From the city tower in Sopron, Hungary. It was so nice to visit with girlfriends from home. I've made some really nice friends here but, sometimes, somehow, it doesn't feel the same. Not yet.
OK - Here's the set-up with the girls during the Missions Conference. By time we had arrived for "our" portion of the conference, any kids who had been there over the weekend were gone - back to school. Except for little Katie from Portugal but, at 10 months, she didn't prove a qualified playmate - even though she was extremely cute.

The girls made themselves at home in the lobby area of the conference center either playing with their toys, watching ScoobyDoo dvd's or eating dinner at makeshift tables (they wanted to swim longer so we snuck their plates out of the dining area :) ). They had to manage themselves several times a day in this fashion.

They never complained. They even helped arrange books for one of the leaders on the break tables one night. They really enjoyed meeting all the people and if you ask them how their vacation went, they'll tell you "Great."

Rachel and Kendra especially cracked us up one night playing "Catch Phrase." J & K had a suite they shared with B & B so there was a nice sitting area. We were playing the game after the evening session was over and it was Rachel's turn (she played for the guys). She starts describing her word - with hand's a-flying: "You watch a lot of these" "They're on TV" "You can watch a lot all at the same time" "It's on Cartoon channel" "You watch Tom & Jerry all day"

And then we got it - "Marathon" - that was her word. Like J said - it couldn't be "you train for this, you run 26 miles......" Nope - out of the mouth of babes - cartoon marathon.

So there's a bit. More later.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy ??? Halloween

I'll admit it. I'm not the biggest fan of Halloween. I think I quit 'doing' Halloween after I turned 10 yrs old and only picked it up again for the costume parties a co-worker of Bart put on in Des Moines.

Of course, I always sent my youngsters out in their cute costumes for the Trick or Treating because I am NOT a Grinch. I also end up dumping most of the candy as they never eat it all.

Thus, I don't mind living in Switzerland where Halloween is virtually ignored. Those of you in the States have probably been looking at Halloween "stuff" since they took down the 4th of July displays.

BUT - I am thankful to Halloween for one reason. One reason which I was reminded of when Carol pulled a Brachs bag out of her luggage. Candy Corn!!!!!

She shared half her stash with us - Thank You Carol! And then Grandma Vel sent some in a box with B-day goodies for the girls. Switzerland knows chocolate but is lacking in corn syrup laden goodies.

So we are happily grazing on the best Halloween treat around and I was inspired to write this post while munching on Halloween Oreo's. With orange filling?! Who cares if I am eating orange dye today! It's not going to kill me. At least not quickly.

This from the Mom who admitted to her friends this last week that her children had never eaten any "Little Debbie's" treats. But I am willing to eat an orange-filled Oreo.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I was hungry in Hungary

It's true. The girls kept joking that they'd keep saying they were "hungry in Hungary" but it was a little true. I think it was the hotel buffet though, not the variety of food available in the Country as a whole. It seemed the hotel menu choices were better at the beginning of the week and then got blander as time went on.

Plus, they seasoned their veggies with spices which the girls didn't care for so they had pretty "white" plates - french fries, potatoes, pasta, bread.

Food aside - We are safely back and had a GREAT time seeing our friends from Des Moines AND getting to offer the Worship services for the Conference.

A few observations on the people I miss and got to serve with this week before I dig into the laundry:

Kevin - worship pastor extraordinaire. I still am awed to watch this group of musicians work together - Kevin says "I need it 'chunkier'" and they all know what he wants. I still wonder that he ever put me in the team- thank you. He listens to the whole sound, has a vision and is graceful in getting us all on the same page. Plus - He sings with his whole body and it ROCKS! Julie - your husband Rocks! I'd like a recording of 'Unleashed.'!
Julie - his beautiful and wonderful wife. Who also sings with her whole self and equally rocks - the girl's got soul. A wonderful friend who always has wise words ready and gives the biggest hugs - miss her already. Can't say more - might cry on my keyboard.
Carol - quiet, unassuming, beautiful and an extremely talented pianist/vocalist. We got to know each other better on this trip as most of our previous times before was at rehearsals. She is so much fun and I'm so glad to have had this time with her. She also walked me down to the Wellness Center and made sure I made an appointment for a upper back massage - then took the girls so I could do that. Thank you Carol! It made the drive Friday more comfortable.
Ben - don't take this wrong - it was almost like having my husband on the trip but NOT. No need to be jealous Makila - I'm happy for you as I am happy for myself with my man. A man who's organized, on time, financially savvy, cuts to the heart of a matter quickly and navigationally gifted. He was the navigator on our little excursions. Which I needed as 1) Bart was not with us and 2) 'Charlie,' my GPS man, decided he did not like Hungary and gave me many a blank screen. I'm confident at the driving part, it's the watching for turns in time (alone, I will make a couple U-turns as I see the turn while passing it).
Bradford - an incredibly talented musician and artist. And I think he grew in the last 2 yrs if that's possible for a man in his early 20's? Newly married (celebrated Year 1 before coming over - Congratulations) and so kind and funny to Rachel and Kendra (they all were by the way). To spend time with Bradford is to get to know Bradford. A man with a warm heart, a quirky sense of humor, can laugh at himself and make a lot of people laugh with him - must come from a good family :).

As the girls would say "We met the nicest people" from all over Europe - western and eastern - including places such as Turkey, Tanzania and Estonia. There were missionaries/church planters from about 15 different countries - some Nationals and some from the US. The girls met more of them than I did!

What can I say about Rachel and Kendra on this trip. They had great attitudes and we had only one melt-down from Kendra - at bedtime when the power went out a couple times. Understandable. They did great and had a fun time on the playground, in the pool and hanging out with grown-ups.

I'll share more later - with pic's - but today is Kendra's B-day, we have much laundry and I am still trying to wake up after speeding through Germany and Austria yesterday. :)

I'd say Goodbye in Hungarian but I didn't pick up a word! So - Tschuss!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Busy Day - Ready for Hungary!

This may be my last post for a week unless I find myself up early Sunday morning with nothing to do until the guests wake up.

Guests! We're having guests!

I think I've exhibited much self-control on the blog re: the announcement of impending guests. I never tire of the anticipation of seeing someone from 'home.' And the girl's and I will be traveling together with them. Yahoo!

Julie & Carol will be arriving tomorrow afternoon from Iowa. Iowa friends! And no, neither of them grow corn or live 150 miles from the nearest town. And Iowa not to be confused with Idaho or Ohio - can't believe how many people made those 'mistakes' when we moved there.

We will be going to Hungary with them this next week for a Global Missions conference focused on Church planting for the missionaries/pastors located in EuroAsia. J & C are part of the Worship (music) team from our home church in DM that is preparing the worship sessions for the conference. The 'men' are already safely in Sopron and we'll join them for the general conference.

Story behind this and lessons I (S) have learned:

Last Spring, Julie & Kevin asked if I'd be interested in joining the team in going (I use to sing on the team in IA). I was honored to be asked and thought it would be a great time to get away, serve others and renew friendships. And I was certain I would be able to find someone to watch the girls so Bart could work and I could go away alone.

Sure, the girls had their Fall break (no school for the week) and Bart's schedule would be tight but I really thought over the months of asking and praying that somehow it would all work out. It has worked out but God worked it out differently than I thought it should be. Like He always does. And - guess what? His way is totally better than mine. Big suprise.

Every childcare possibility fell through and the accelerated quarter close schedule for Bart's client plus the current world economic situation ensures that he will be virtually living at the office for the next week - not good for the wife to be away and the kids left at home.

Kevin called in early Sept. to say they really needed to know for conf. sign-ups. I said I couldn't commit to the Conf. after all but that I would be driving J & C to Hungary (they had already planned to land in Zurich first and then we had planned to overnight train to Hung.) with my girls. We would just stay a couple days and then head home - long enough to see everyone but get out of their hair. And I hoped we could at least get a room at the hotel.

Well - A couple of days has essentially turned into the whole conference. The hotel had room for us plus half-board (breakfast & dinner), I will be able to do some of the worship sets with them, the girls are thrilled to be going (hotel has a huge playground & an indoor pool - goes a long way with them) and we were able to borrow a keyboard from a musician in our Zurich church which saved having one shipped from the US or the cost of renting.

All along, I was trying to go for myself, by myself. When God obviously wants my children to go along with me. I love them with all my heart and would worry when I left them but I do like getting a little time away - which I got last weekend - funny how these things work out. Living overseas is the same as moving to a different city or state from where your family lives. It's just harder to get time away and refresh yourself - resources are harder to come by - no family and it takes time to establish friendships that might allow you to leave the kids overnight. Bart and I laugh - we've had 1 night alone (together) in the last 3 + years.

The conversations I've been able to have with Rachel & Kendra over the past month about this trip have been priceless. The closeness we have and the teamwork we experience as a family is possible because of the opportunity we've been given - to live far from "home" and its culture and to rely on each other. We are so blessed. And I am looking forward to this trip with more excitement that they are going than if I was leaving them behind. The girls are hoping to be "helpful to the people" and want to sing "songs we used to sing at our old church."

Looks like we'll have good travel weather and Julie, Carol & I will have a nice, loud American friend reunion outside of Customs at Zuerich Flughafen tomorrow.

Which means I need to finish cleaning up the guest room, bathrooms, vacuum......... Not to mention work on dinner - chili tonight. The goal has been to leave a supply of frozen dinners for Bart so he won't starve next week - it'll be late nights for him - reheat & serve.

So there you go - I'll be back next week. If you are willing, I ask for your prayers for the health and safety during this next week. Driving on the Autobahn again! :)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Writing out Birthday Invitations

I'm writing out the addresses for Kendra's birthday invitations and thought I'd share - just in case you think your name is too long.

Sample of Streets:


Sample of Last Names:

de Keersmaecker
Bauernfeind (hee, hee)

Now say them 10 times fast.

Just a sampling of longer names I'm not familiar with I try my best to spell right. Whew!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Girls Weekend in Switzerland

I went away this weekend. Bart and girls stayed home. It was a girls weekend we've talked about for a year and now that several ladies are headed back to the States in Dec., we figured we'd better do it now or it would be too late.

We went to Lenzerheide - once again, one of those places you would not find out about unless you actually live in Switzerland. Even then, I hadn't heard of it until just a few weeks ago. We planned a nice FALL weekend with hiking and spa time.

This pic is day 2 - after most of the snow had melted at lake level. We hiked in falling snow on Sat. but Sunday was beautiful blue skies and warmer. But we were still in the snow. Have I mentioned this is a cold Fall? I'm sure I have and I'm getting old so you'll have to excuse the repetition.

Observations from the weekend :

1. We had a really nice time. All 6 of us American women.

2. I would make a poor celebrity. All 6 of us American women were stared at all weekend - breakfast, lunch and dinner - and in the pool - and on the mountain. It could just be they don't feel it's rude to watch other people. I just know I got tired of being stared at with nary a smile or Gruetzi.

3. We had trouble finding a Wellness (Spa) Hotel that didn't have restrictions re: clothing in the Spa areas. To explain for the Americans - many places don't allow clothing (sans bathing suits) in the spa areas. Thus we were able to use the swimming pools and outdoor spa tub in our bathing suits, we snuck into the sauna when no one else was using it and we had to forgo all the neat-o steam showers, etc. because we couldn't bring ourselves to strip and enter.
Did I mention these are co-ed facilities? Yeah....OKAAAAYYYY. Again, a culture difference but.... just can't get there myself.
I felt better after talking with my German teacher this morning who said she'd be uncomfortable as well. It's not co-ed everywhere but I've been in several facilities where this was the case. So discriminated against for keeping the bathing suit on.

4. We were told to check out "Oldies Night" at the hotel next door. It turned out the "Oldies" music was almost all from the 80's. So another milestone in life reached. I'm officially an 'Oldy.'

5. Don't assume the customer(you or me) is always right. I chose to have Apfelstrudel & Coffee instead of lunch. I asked what kind of nuts might be in the Strudel (there are nuts in everything - I always ask) - she said Hazelnut and I said fine. But I neglected to say I am allergic to Walnuts - I thought she knew what she was talking about!
About 1/3 through the strudel I realized what I was tasting, took some antihistimine (allergy isn't severe enough for Epi-pen - yet!), quit eating it and let them know their mistake and why I couldn't eat the rest. Nor could I eat anything else for a while.
When it came time to pay - they tried to charge me for it! She said "My boss says that you ate some of it and should pay for the food." HELLLLOOOOO!!!!!! I didn't pay for it.

Those things aside, we laughed ALOT and it was a fun weekend with friends.

Bart and the girls had a good time as well - went to the movies and the girls continued to improve their bike riding abilities. The bike riding will have to be a Blog in itself. They have finally learned - at 10 & 8 yrs old. We were wondering when they'd ever get it - YEAH!!! The girls and I will be off to Hungary next week (no blogging btw) while Bart stays home for yet another crazy week at work. So it was great they got some solid quality time in with 'Dad.'

Off to do all the things I should before leaving - again.....

Friday, October 03, 2008

CD's, DVD's - Cleaning them up!

Finally - I got to the mess of CD's and DVD's that have inhabited the small entertainment portion of our flat. I've meant to do this for - about a year.

I've been missing too many things, lost accompaniment music for church, we go on too many trips - loads of empty cases. Where are the accompanying CD's?

It's all nice and neat now. I even have some room for a few more DVD's - some Birthdays and Christmas will fill some of that.

What I found funny was how sentimental music can be. I still can't throw away my Paula Abdul "Forever Your Girl" CD or Bart's Scorpion's CD's (not that I would dare!). Some of them remind me of childhood (John Denver), some from HS (Foreigner/Van Halen/early Amy Grant) and then the eclectic mix that ranges from Rosemary Clooney to Pearl Jam to Josh Groban to Alicia Keys to Third Day to Casting Crowns and so on...

It felt good to get it all sorted. And vaguely alphabetized - organization is a good thing.

And found my Wynonna CD for warmin' up - 'cause she's got a nice low range. It's comfy. I'm sure Bart will be thrilled.

Salzburg - Not just for Sound of Music fans

Salzburg is a beautiful city. Even if you are not a rabid "Sound of Music" fan. We had a great time there with the girls. It offers plenty to do in a 2 day period - a day in the city and a day to roam outside. A great in-between spot - Munich, Innsbruck, Vienna are all within 2.5 hrs.

It is also very close to Berchtesgaden, Germany where we made a quick trip up the mountain to the Kehlsteinhaus (Eagles'Nest). Bart & I didn't have a chance to go when we were in Salzburg in '96 so we took the opportunity this trip.

The Eagles' Nest was a 50th B-day present for Hitler from the Party. It was built for Party functions and not as a true residence. It is amazing as it has about a 300 degr. view around from the top - the only thing obstructing a 360 view is part of the mountain it's located on. We asked the girls if they knew who Hitler was. Rachel: "In 1933, Hitler was the First Chancellor of Germany. He made many laws which made it difficult for the Jewish people to live there and because of him, the Frank family had to leave Frankfurt. ..."

She is doing a unit called "Influential People" right now and her person is Ann Frank. It is amazing how much information these little people get about history and other matters in their Unit Studies. She blew us away.

The country chose not to tear down this place but instead use it for tourism. It does have incredible views. We found it interesting that there are no flags flying in the area. Unusual for Europe - flags flying everywhere.

Old Salzburg with the fortress on the hill. This fortress is unique and one of the largest intact in Europe. Salzburg was an independent 'state' under rule of the reigning Archbishops until Napoleon convinced them otherwise. The beautiful Mirabell gardens. Kendra "Hey, didn't they film the Sound of Music in here mommy" "yes, dear, they did" She has a good eye/memory. So they proceeded to sing "doe, a deer,..." while I'm going "Shhhhhhhh"
Salzburg's greatest resident: Mozart. The City holds 7 music festivals per year and Mozart dominates the tourism theme.
Our little "Magic Flute" puppets. We took the girls to the Marionetten Theatre in Salzburg who will be celebrating a history of 100 yrs in 2011. It is amazing to see the craft involved in the marionette puppets and the skill required to perform with them.
Schloss Shonbrunn - a short distance from the city centre. This was the summer residence built by Archbishop Markus Atticus in the 1700's and it is truly a fun and beautiful place to visit. The pic here shows part of the 'wasserspiele garten' (waterplay- garden = hard to give it a direct translation).

There are many amusing, hidden fountains within the garden that the Archbishop would surprise his guests with. Including the table you see - every seat has a fountain in it except for the head seat where the Archb. sat. There are also moving diorama's that are water powered. Very entertaining for adults and children.

Besides which, the gardens themselves are absolutely beautiful and they have a huge playground which was fun for the girls.

So - Salzburg is ideal for a family if you are traveling through Austria. Enjoy the pic's and will be back next week!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Kangaroo? Horse? A meaty observation.

I just have to comment on this as I find it interesting. Being a meat-eater and all.

I just read an article from Australia in which they discuss the benefits of the people going back to eating kangaroo meat. Kangaroo was the staple meat for Australia until the cattle and sheep farming took over. However, they are finding that the 'emissions' from cattle and sheep farming are detrimental to our environment. The emissions issue from the 'cow and sheep' industry is here in Europe as well.

The kangaroo meat is low fat and high in protein. And very low in toxic emissions. In order to control populations in the wild, the kangaroos have to be put down and currently used as pet food. Horse meat - same issue. Low in fat, high in protein and recommended for those with high cholesterol. And used for pet food.

People eat horse meat in Europe. It's right in the meat section at my grocery store. If it weren't for the little outlines of animals on the packages and the fact I know what 'pferde' is now, I couldn't tell the difference between horse or a nice beef fillet. It can be found in restaurants as well. Guess where it comes from? (hint: the country that won't eat it - Stars & Stripes)

So it makes me wonder, How do we as a society decide what animal is acceptable and what's not in regards to the meat we eat? How did it get to be JUST cows, sheep, pigs, turkey, geese and chicken - with some exceptions thrown in for the hunting crowd? Some would be bad tasting but others? (And no discussing household pets because that is just BAD.) Some people won't eat certain things just because they're "cute." ???

Obviously, I don't have anyone to talk to today.

And, I'll post some pic's of Salzburg later. Cheers.