Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Since We've Been Home

So the Wandering Family is done wandering for a bit, and now that we're at home things have settled down a bit.  Well, not exactly "settled," I guess, as there's plenty of excitement with some new things starting up, but nothing like the travels of the past few months.

What have we been up to?  Well, first of all, we were jet lagged for a couple of days after our arrival, meaning that I got a chance to take a picture of the dawn with the sun rising over the mountains.  Not a sight I see that often, I'll admit, but it was beautiful (see above).

Then it was my birthday, so we had a few friends over and Bobbie made me a delicious fruit pizza.

In home school news, the boys are learning about plants, so Bobbie decided to get them some seeds and plant them so they could watch them grow.  If they survive (the boys LOVE watering them, so they might get overwatered if we don't watch carefully) it should be fun.

This weekend, our friends A and S invited us to go to the lake with them.  We've normally gone to the salt lake, but right next to it there's another lake with much lower salt content that, in my opinion, is much nicer.  We decided to go there and have shashlik (you can see the fire in the grill on the right getting the coals ready).

Of course, after our Italian adventures, our boys are now water experts (ha!), so we went for a swim.  Matthew first investigated the pouring properties of his watering can ...

... then he decided to lead an aquatic assault on the sand castle his Daddy and brother were building ...

... and then Steven decided that looked like more fun than building it, so he joined in ...

... and with two attackers Daddy was overwhelmed and the sandcastle succumbed to the assaulting waves.

A good time was had by all.

And that's about it.  Thanks for thinking about us and checking in; be back next week for more exciting news.  Hopefully.

As a bonus, as this was such a short post with few pictures, I leave you this, one of the few "image macros" I've ever seen that actually made me laugh:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Il Amore in Italia

WOW!  What a vacation!  

Most of you already know about the surprise trip Jesse took us on to Italy.  If you haven't seen it yet go to our last blog post and see the video where Jesse reveals to me that we were in Italy for a week.  Needless to say, I was shocked.  Now, most wives would have probably picked up on some hint of a surprise vacation being planned for them but nope, not me.  Mainly because I have learned long ago to keep my hands out of any planning when it comes to traveling.  

Jesse knows what he is doing and I've never seen anyone who can plan trips cheaper than him (that is a compliment).  So, when he told me that we were leaving Germany on a cheap airline flying to Croatia, and then to Moscow, I said "OK" and left it at that.  Of course, once we got there and he told all about the planning for months, things that were said to me started to make sense.  Even my twin sister knew and didn't tell me (way to go keeping that secret, girl).

Though we didn't have much money to spend, Jesse found a campsite where we could stay for a week that was on the beach and had pools and other things to do for the boys.  The place was beautiful and almost perfect ("almost" because it was REALLY hot).  We got there, set up our tent, slept, and woke up the next day and right away went swimming. 

The boys loved it.  It was so much fun to see them enjoying themselves and learning to be in the water.  Jesse was determined to teach Steven to swim.  He was getting better and better each time and was pretty close to being a swimmer by the end of the week.  Matthew was just happy hanging out in the water or floating down the lazy river with me (my favorite thing) or playing on the nearby beach. 

Of course, it being so hot and since we were the whitest people there, we made sure we had strong sunscreen on.  But we don't think it was waterproof since we were suffering some really nasty burns the next day.  So, we donned our shirts and bought expensive ($14!) sunscreen that seemed to work the rest of the time.  

It didn't make any difference to the boys, though. They would run into the water and play and play and play.

Steven loved the water slides but Matthew, not so much (he's like me).  But, it was so nice to be able to spend time together as a family without any interruptions.  We try to do that when we are here in T-land but when you have friends there, they will just show up and spend hours with you.  It's wonderful to have that with the people here but it makes it difficult to get good, quality family time by ourselves.

After a few days of going to the pool in the mornings, eat lunch, take a nap, go to the pool again, eat supper, go to the kids program, then bed time, we decided to take a break and catch a bus to head to one of the towns near the campsite.

It was so Italian!  All the streets were lined with bicycles, flowers, and were really clean.  I finally stopped taking pictures because all the streets looked the same (that is to say, really beautiful).

We also were able to enjoy authentic Italian food thanks to my sister, who gave us a gift just for that reason.  That meant we were able to enjoy some of the national dishes like spaghetti and pizza while we were there.  I had told Jesse a while back that if we went back to Italy that I would want to go and be able to eat as much pasta as I wanted without worrying about the cost (that was before I had any idea of this trip).  And, we were able to do just that, so thanks, Kellie!

Every night the campsite had a kids program where they could do silly dances and things like that.  Steven really loved it.

Above: The best meal I've ever eaten (pasta with fresh mussels).  Below: Matthew seems to like gelato (Italian ice cream).

So, a week went by and then we left.  It really was a great time.

Thank you Jesse for all that you do for me!  This trip was the best trip I have ever been on.  I'm so lucky to call you my husband.  Thank you for marrying me and showing the love of Him everyday.  I love you more now than the day we got married 10 years ago.  Happy Anniversary to you too!

Sunday, July 8, 2012


So we're back in Germany (more on why in a bit), so I wanted to do the promised post on what we came for - a work conference.  Once every couple of years, we get together with all the other workers from around our area for a conference to see how everyone is doing, bounce ideas off one another, recharge a bit, and just generally improve our communication and effectiveness.  

We were fortunate to have a great location for the conference; a local group rented it out to us and it was very nice.  There were playgrounds for the kids, and activities and all sorts of stuff there for the adults as well.

There was also fantastic food, as there always is in Germany, so I took pictures of us eating it rather than pictures of us sitting in meetings, as I didn't figure that would interest any of you.  Trust me, there were lots of meetings.  I just didn't take any pictures of them.

Instead, we took pictures of the times we weren't in meetings.  One of the afternoons we had a chance to get out of the meeting rooms and go on an excursion, so we went over to the "Open Air Museum," a place where they've built a little model of how Germany used to be throughout the centuries, as sort of a preserve of the old ways.

It's pretty big, so we got Matthew a wagon to ride in (and of course, in the spirit of everything old, it had to be wooden as well).  Steven was asleep when we left, so he stayed at the center with friends and missed out.

Here's one of the German leaders pointing out the various towns and things to visit on the giant map.  Everything was in German, so it was nice to have a translator!

The rest of the pictures are just from touring around the place; it was really, really beautiful and everything was historically accurate to some period in Germany history.  Apparently they just went around finding historic barns and buildings and took them apart piece by piece to reassemble on the museum grounds.

Oh, and Bobbie wanted to try out the macro settings on our new camera, so there are several closeups of flowers as well.

So yes, it was very pretty.  Then we came back and had more meetings, which, though very productive, didn't make for interesting pictures.  So instead, here's Steven with one of the people who volunteered to come help out and feed us at the center.

And, just like that, after a week, it was all over and we were packing up to go.  Here we are all sitting around waiting for our rides to the train station or airport.

Now, the more astute among you will have noticed that a week was over, like, a week ago.  What have we been doing since then that causes us to still be in Germany?

Well, it's a long(ish) story.  You see, next month is Bobbie's and my 10th anniversary.  I was trying to figure out what we could do to celebrate such a milestone out where we live, and the options were pretty limited.  We definitely can't afford to travel out of T-land again in a month, so there wasn't much of a choice.

"But," I thought, "if we celebrate a month early, we'll be in Germany, and from there we can go lots of places relatively inexpensively."  Hmmm.  Thus was born a plan.

So, back in April, when I bought tickets to and from our Germany conference, I padded our departure with a week after the conference so that we could go somewhere as a family to celebrate 10 years and also to have our first real family vacation (ever!).  I don't know if you recall our Italian adventure when we were in school in England a few years ago (pre-kids), but we managed to arrange a week in Italy, including food, flights, and rooms for $250.  Yes, we're cheapskates, and it involved setting up a tent at night, but it can be done.

I set out to find a similar option, considering flights to Spain, Croatia and Italy, finally settling on a flight that got us to Trieste, in the north of Italy, for $200 round trip.  No, not per person, silly - you think we would spend that much to fly?  That was for the whole family.  Yes, it was on that horrible airline Ryanair, but it was cheap, and that was the main thing.  Then I found a campsite where we could set up a tent for a week, and the plan was in motion.

The next thing on the agenda was to make it a surprise for Bobbie.  This was actually more complicated; I could buy the tickets without her noticing, but if I wanted to bring our tent along to our Germany conference she was going to get suspicious.  

Fortunately, she isn't the type to get involved in the details of our travel (that's usually my department) so she accepted that I had bought tickets without questioning when the exact dates were or anything like that.  It required a lot of help from some of our friends in Germany (HUGE thanks, David and Christy!), but in the end we got it all set up.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I told Bobbie that we had a layover in Croatia on the way back to Moscow.  She was nonplussed but ultimately unconcerned, but then I got out the camera at our "layover," to "take a picture commemorating a new country added to the list of where we've been."  This is the result:

So yes, it worked out to be a surprise, as you can see.  And we've just gotten back from the trip, to spend a day in Germany before we go back to T-land.  Thanks for thinking of us, and tune in next week for a post about our time in Italy.