Thursday, April 29, 2010

El Teide - Tenerife

OK - last of Tenerife, I promise. It takes me a while to get the time to download these photo's - we need a 2nd computer as Rachel hijack's the family one most nights now for homework. Contrary to popular belief, I do stuff during the day besides take naps and eat bon bons.

Bart got a good shot of the last vent to erupt on El Teide around 1750 AD: Driving through the black lava fields:
A mix of lava beds and other 'volcanic hills' (for lack of the technical terms ?):

There is a cable car that you can take from a base station nearly to the top. There is a hike up to the top of the cone as well but requires a permit of which they only issue so many per day. We opted not to take the cable car up. One, we ride a lot of cable cars up mountains - not a novelty; Two, it was expensive and the haze/clouds didn't make for good view - saved some money; and Three, altitude. We were staying near sea level and had already driven to 2,000 m in the span of hour - on windy roads. Rachel was not feeling well and honestly, I was feeling it a bit myself. The thought of taking a cable ride up another 15oo m was not appealing.
When we are in the mountains, we usually start at 1500 m or so and go up and down in the course of time so we have time to acclimatize. 0 - 3500/3800 m in under 2 hours didn't seem wise. While I'm lecturing, those with small children really, really need to be careful about taking their children to high altitudes if they are not used to it/acclimatized. It can be dangerous and many people aren't aware of it.

We thought El Teide was cool - has the classic cone shape. Looks different than the Hawaiian volcanoes.

We have budding photographers now so Bart & I can get our pic taken occasionally:
And there they are:
Hope you enjoyed. Now I can move on to Spring in Switzerland. GOR-geous!!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pot of Gold

My friend J posted a piece she called a Pot of Gold. We met in Des Moines and have girls of similar age. Even though we live miles and miles and an ocean away from each other, it's still fun to share our life experiences through the Blogs and occasional phone calls.

She had a sweet moment with her oldest daughter this week - her Pot of Gold. So I was prompted to share mine.

I'm constantly amazed at how different my girls can be - and have been since birth. Rachel loves the physical confirmation, Kendra doesn't need it as much (although she is a hugging and sweet girl). I laugh because I'm usually trying to tug myself away from Rachel, who clings like a monkey as long as possible, and I hold on to Kendra, who flits and offers her loves like a hummingbird.

The other night, Rachel was having a hard time getting to sleep. It was about 10:45 and she had already been in tears (anyone who's been around us much knows that Rachel turns into a pumpkin sometime around 9:30pm). I went to her room again to massage her head and neck(she loves that!) to try and relax her. Then she said "just hold my hand mommy, that always helps me fall asleep."

I had tears in my eyes. And I sat for a little while before I gave her a kiss and left her to fall asleep.

I used to be soooooo frustrated when she was a baby. She liked to either fall asleep in my/our arms OR we'd stand/sit there by the crib holding her hand until she went to sleep - sometimes 20 - 30 minutes. I know, I know - don't let them train you to these habits. Well, we all have our weaknesses and having her cry and not sleep was one of mine.

We outgrew this habit after she moved out of the crib when Kendra arrived. But she always wants us to linger with her and when she prays at bedtime, she always holds my hand.

The other night was the first time she ever vocalised the inherent need she has for the hand holding/physical comfort. A while back I started "The Five Love Languages of Children (Chapman)," I recognized immediately what her love language was, physical affirmation.

As I sat the other night, I realized how I'm no longer frustrated by this need. Someday, she won't be at home to have me hold her hand. So, I will treasure each time we have to share her love language.

But I'm still thankful I don't have to stand by a crib for 20 - 30 minutes a night now!!!!!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tenerife Jungle Park - Screamin' Eagles

We were through Passport control in Zurich, on our way to Tenerife, and noticed the current 'art' display on our way to the gates through the ever enticing Duty Free shops. It was Swiss Chocolate Month (Easter and the Bunnies you know?) and they had a Chocolate Art display from various Chocolatiers from the different companies (Spruengli/Lindt, Cailler, Teuscher, etc....).

Little did I know that this picture of the eagle would be so fitting for a post: RICARDO! Please get off that young man's head!
You! You are not an Eagle. You are a cheeky bird with false eyelashes and as I'm in love with Ricardo, I have nothing to give you.
Remember "the Jungle Book" and the barbershop quartet vultures at the end "What do you wanna do? I don't know? What do you wanna do?" Well, one of them escaped....
NOT an eagle:
Something out of a JR Tolkien book. Except this one was alive and therefore, not a fantasy:
Not an eagle, but isn't this view pretty - condors look better in the air than they do on the ground:
OOPS! Not an eagle either:
Whew! Here's the Eagle. Yes, definitely an Eagle:
An Eagle who's ready to fly:
And can these birds fly:
You'd be running too if an Eagle was screaming down on you to land on your arm:
Flying at low altitude:
A little too close maybe?: Coming around again:
Yes - THAT close! Awesome shot! Not normally self-congratulatory but, look at that!
And all he really wanted was the dead.....well, never mind.
We really enjoyed our bird experiences at the Jungle Park. There were other fun animals too but this is but a FEW of my bird shots. I can't say that I've ever seen an eagle fly like this in person - they can dive bomb like nobody's business. I'm not going to touch the ramifications of why an island off the coast of Africa has a slew of North American Bald eagles and that they are semi-trained (the birds do 'fly the coop' ever so often but tend to return within a couple days) - we enjoyed ourselves.
Now there were people stuck on Tenerife for almost a week due to the Iceland Volcano issues (please don't ask me to spell it/volcano, please, please.....). Should we have been stuck - and would have been had Spring Break come one week later - we would have spent more time here. And at Aqualand. Because I would have contracted Island fever. The Jungle Park might have saved me. But we'll never know....... :)
Bart did go to the US and called from Target "so you want children's Zyrtec?" "no honey, adults Zyrtec" "and do you want the cream or ointment on the Neosporin" "cream please" "the big tube or the little one?" "two little ones" "how about one big one and a small one?" "No, don't spend money on a big one, we don't use it that fast but we lose them so two small ones" "OK" "I don't see Flonase" "well, it might not be called Flonase. Ask the pharmacist for an over the counter version - I don't remember the name" "OK. Hey Siri (his sister), go ask the pharmacist about the Flonase stuff" That man! I tease - so thankful he's will to go with a shopping list. Ever so often I ask for something here and I get something that seemed like what I needed but turns out to be not exactly what was required.
Fascinating conversations we have across the seas.....
Hope you enjoyed the Eagles. Next up, we will have the Volcano that did NOT blow it's top in recent history.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Post Volcano Week

Well, Switzerland opened their airspace (limited) on Tues. and gradually headed toward a normal schedule. Most people we know are back where they belong although some are taking extended business travel in countries they do the majority of their work in.

Bart is planning to fly to the US this weekend for business but we've mulled it over quite a bit. It's not fun thinking through "what if" scenarios. Will the volcano cause more trouble? What if he can't get back for a week or two?

Because for all of those traveling over large bodies of water - there aren't many options. It's much harder to walk down to the docks and book passage on a ship than it is catching a flight. Not to mention the 6 days across the Atlantic. Or from Europe to Singapore? Interesting times.

We are very thankful our pastor & elder's wives arrived home safely - a 28 hour journey by bus (one without a WC!) from Madrid through Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland. Their flights were cancelled and there were no train tix to be had. A friends husband finally arrived home yesterday from NY - first flight to Switzerland from JFK. Their flight took them south over Spain and up to Switz. - the normal flight pattern is North Atlantic and coming back in over the UK.

But we still have produce and veggies - prices are creeping and expect to see them go up higher.

This may be a very boring post but this impacts our life right now. Again - imagine if air travel in half the US was shut down for 5 days plus - some countries are still shut down.

Bart and I walked out on the terrasse and watched a jet go overhead when we heard the noise.

Amazing how quickly we had become used to the quiet. :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Update to "So Many Things....."

I was going to just update the original post and then "Linds" comment really made me think. So I'm thinking aloud on the Blog.

One, flights are still grounded - and most likely won't be starting tomorrow. Our friends due to go out tomorrow (Sunday) are being told Thursday at the earliest.

And there is ash on my grass.....

But Lind's comment really got me thinking: "The knock on here is that there are warnings that the UK may run out of fresh fruit and veg. And as M**** says, if the tourists can't get here (Switzerland), the mountain will be in trouble too. This could get really serious."

Switzerland is a landlocked country. The UK is an island. We really rely a lot on imports. And many of us never think about how much is transported by air. Guaranteed that any of our Stateside mail will be significantly delayed. Heck, we waited 4 weeks for a mail packet sent in February as most of Switzerland was on Sports Holiday.

There are a lot of things that come via air and train transport. And right now, the trains are running overtime/overbooked trying to accomodate stranded passengers throughout Europe.

Imagine the US, Chicago east to NY - air traffic grounded for days. At least Europe has a well developed train system - even though it's quite stretched at the moment. Our pastor's wife and an elder's wife are stranded in Madrid right now. Trying to figure out if they should wait out the ash cloud or take the 14hr train ride back to Zurich. Makes the non-stop from Heathrow to LAX sound like a breeze. Except that flight is grounded.

All is NOT doom and gloom. A reminder that life does go on in spite of inconvenience. BUT, this is very, very interesting.

And I have ash on my grass......

So many things....

There's just a lot going on right now in the Olson household. It's "the Quarter" (1st quarter financial reports due for client this week) and Bart is working away, music recitals are coming up, Rachel started softball, friends/Bart's lead partner on the job are leaving at the end of the month, travel, anticipating the arrival of good friends in a couple weeks, Dr.'s appointments and various other meetings/school activities.

So many things. And a volcano. Which we think is probably the cause of the haze today. Has a different look than our 'normal' haze. Swiss Airports are still closed through 10pm tonight but may start some flights tomorrow morning. We have friends who are hoping their flight out to CA won't be cancelled tomorrow morning. Bart is hoping this won't disrupt business travel plans for next weekend to the States. Other friends/acquaintances are trickling in from the UK (business travelers) via the train. They are all going through Paris - I can't imagine the main Paris transfer station right now. It must be absolutely crazy.

A reminder that we are not in control. A time for patience and understanding. Still, it's a bit surreal that we've not heard/seen any airplanes today as we normally would - half the time, air traffic is routed 'around' Lake Zurich and even if you don't hear it, you see the planes.

Had good news from the Dr. this week. The MRI on my knee showed that the ACL (partially torn from skiing 15 yrs ago) is still intact, the meniscus is intact and there is just a bit of irregularity on a portion of the patella - a small lesion. Whew! And no osteo-arthritis evident which is great considering having prior surgery and age. No cure - just have to step up the muscle training (getting older so he said it will take more training than it used to - Ugh!) and take the Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplements for the cartilage health. So happy to have a non-surgical diagnosis but the recommended bicycling - where we live, not so "easy" to cycle. So it will take some effort to find out where I'm comfortable going. Too many narrow roads that cars and bikes share for me - or too hilly.

Well, the girls are after me to make Strawberry Smoothies. The stores are selling them by the flatload for cheap! right now. Cheap for Switzerland anyway. So we are 'strawberry loading' right now. Then off to start the weed pulling for Spring. And get ready for a good-bye dinner :(.

Hoping all is well in the part of the world you're reading this from. A favorite quote of the day:

Britain to Iceland: NO, we said "Send us your CASH."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tenerife Jungle Park - Ricardo

Hola! My name is Ricardo:
Hola, American Lady.....
Do you have any little tidbit of fresh meat or legumes for me?
Are you suuuurrrrrrreeeee? Por Favor?
I fell in love with Ricardo and fortunately, Bart is not the jealous type. We parted amicably and Ricardo will live on in my photo memories.

Crazy, crazy week - I even forgot to get Rachel to Quartet practice on Wednesday. Spring Break was long and we returned to a changed and very full schedule. More postings later.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tenerife - Spring Break 2010

Hola! In our effort to escape the cold winter we decided on the Canary Islands - specifically the Island of Tenerife - for Spring Break this year. It was certainly warmer than Zurich but overcast/hazy quite a bit. Nonetheless, we got some fun pictures and had a relaxing family vacation.

Tenerife (largest island of the Canarias) is part of Spain and located in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa, just West of West Sahara & Morocco. The islands are volcanic and Tenerife boasts the 3rd largest volcano in the world from it's base, El Teide at 3,718 m (almost 13,000 ft above sea level). So, for the family who loves to spend their Hawaiian time in Kona (on the Big Island - home to Mauna Kea (tallest at approx. 4200m) & Mauna Loa (next at about 4080m)), it was great. It was interesting (at least to me) that much of the "volcanic vocabulary" from Hawaii has been adopted in other volcanic regions - they use the Hawaiian language for various lava flows and formations in Tenerife as well.

Another piece of trivia you may or may not care about - Tenerife's name is derived from the words for mountain & snow/white and Mauna Kea also means "white mountain." Did you also know that Mauna Kea is also considered the "tallest mountain in the world" when measured from it's base? It's taller than Mt. Everest (8840 m)! Think about how deep the ocean floor is there - over half the mountain is under water. This is how my brain works - lot's of sporadic info. that I will spill upon unsuspecting individuals in a dry and lecture-type fashion - a curse.

OK - enough of the geography lessons. The girls took plenty of pictures themselves:

El Teide - you can drive around the entire mountain but we opted for half :).

The mountain cliff range known as Los Gigantes:

El Teide seen from the Northern tip of the island - we stayed in the South. From the road we were on in the picture below, you would turn one corner and see one side of the island, turn the next corner and see the otherside - pretty awesome (and narrow - one lane - but very well maintained mountain road with solid barriers :) !).

View from the mountain road above Santa Cruz de Tenerife:

Playa las Teresitas:

This beach was made by importing approx. 4 million bags of sand in from the Sahara Desert. Needless to say, it was very fine and soft and the girls LOVED it. Most of Tenerife's beaches are a bit rougher - pebbles, black sand - the southern beaches are softer/lighter. We went along the black sand beach in El Medano as well - lots of crabs and stranded jellyfish to interest us on a cold, windy day.

But Playa las Teresitas was huge - a mostly sunny day - and warm. And very southern European.......

Plenty of time to play in the pool at the hotel as well:

And have fun at the nearby waterpark, AcquaLand:

The food was OK - not the same as some of our other trips when we can't get enough. We did enjoy this restaurant in Playa las Americas/Los Cristianos: girls loved the bolognese and Bart & I enjoyed paella.

On a superficial note: I'm glad the wind is blowing my hair above. It was humid there and my hair was a puffball all week unless I managed to tame it into a ponytail - yes, sometimes even a ponytail can be unmanageable. I got ready for church Sunday morning on our return and was so pleased to see my hair return to normal. Because I like looking "normal" in pictures - is that possible on vacations?

More later - have some fun pic's from the Jungle Park and more of the Volcano. Adios!

Friday, April 02, 2010

We're Off....

Off for a week of family bonding and some warmth.....Ski rentals have been returned, ski clothes put away....definitely Spring Break in spite of our dusting of snow on April 1.

Happy Easter to all! Jesus is the Risen Christ and seated at the right hand of His Father in Heaven! What a relief that my imperfect efforts have nothing to do with my salvation - Believe. have Faith. the price has been Paid.

Bis bald!!!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Easter Bunnies - 2010

Although our household celebrates the true meaning of Easter - the resurrection of Jesus Christ - it seems that bunnies do invade.

They are in the house: On the train:

Everywhere you look:
The Lindt Goldhase (golden bunny) is everywhere. And very, very tasty.
I have a favorite chocolate this time of year - it's an Alpenmilch egg (milk chocolate) that is seasonal and quite delicious. We decided to color our own Eggs this year instead of buying them - guess I'd better get the water boiling............
SomeBunny loves you!