Thursday, August 31, 2006

Weisbaden Wine Festival

I recently flew a 6-day Frankfurt trip that was a good time. I spent most of my summer in Rome, and it was nice to go to a cooler Germany. We stay in Weisbaden, where I love to go running. A flight attendant showed me a terrific running trail (actually I think it is a bike path), that goes through the woods. You can run as long as you want on it, but I go up to a church on top of a hill and back, a bit longer than 4 miles round-trip. I go in the mornings before we fly and it's a great way to start the day.

The other nice thing about this trip was the wine festival. It was about 10 days long and we went twice, since this was a 6-day trip (back and forth to Frankfurt twice).

This is the big church in the center of town. The wine festival wrapped all the way around it and the other buildings in the area. There was a band playing on each side, which was great.

Here's the other side of it:

I like the balloons hanging between the buildings:

The wine was wonderful and the munchies were great too. These are the biggest pretzels I have ever seen.

We also snacked on this pizza. They each had a thin, chewy crust. For toppings, one had cheese and arugula and the other had cheese, onions and bacon. They were both incredibly delicious!

This kid was doing great pouring and serving wine. I had to take a picture. I wish I had gotten one of him "sampling" it also, but I wasn't quick enough:

This German lady started talking to me in German and I kept saying "Ja, ja", to humor her, even though I couldn't understand a word she said. She ended up talking to several of us on the crew using German, some Russian, a little French and lots of hand signals. She showed me her ID to tell me her age and she is 72! Here we are enjoying wine under my umbrella:

There always seems to be something fun going on in Germany. The next festival I look forward to is in December.

I'm off to Rome. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

First Day of School

It was great to get the kids off to school today. Mary spent much of yesterday thinking about and putting together her first-day-of-school outfit. She is wearing a pin that says, "What would Jesus Bomb?" that she bought recently.

On the other hand, Raymond and I spent 10 seconds on his outfit.

Bob didn't know what to do with himself and kept getting in the pictures. He starts next week...

Bob and I are off to Home Depot to buy a new front door. It's part of the next home improvement project, the front entryway. It never ends!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Mary!

Yesterday, Mary turned 12. Yikes! Where has the time gone?

She had a couple of friends stay over Saturday night and I took them shopping yesterday. A good time had by all. We gave her a digital camera and she has been going nuts taking silly pictures.

It's been awhile since I've posted, but I've been very, very busy. For a mini-vacation,we went to Rhode Island for a couple days to see Cranky's family. We celebrate his mother's and Mary's birthdays and catch up on the family news. Here's Raymond at the beach where Cranky learned to swim when he was a kid:

But besides work, the project occupying most of my time is the mudroom. Each morning before taking the kids to the beach, I "mudded" the walls for a couple of hours. Then I painted. The weather cooled off so I started getting more done when we no longer hung out at the beach. On Thursday, I prepped the floor by putting down the underlayment (1/4 in. plywood) and smoothed the floor (seams and screws) with leveling compound. On Friday, I layed the linoleum. (It was my first attempt at this and it came out pretty good if I do say so myself.) On Saturday, Cranky installed the light fixtures and the outlet. And today I officially finished the room when I put in the floor trim. Here it is (I call it "snake in a mudroom"):

The original room ended at the beam you see in the picture, so we and doubled its size. It's almost ready to get filled with coats and dirty boots and shoes!

Wednesday is the first day of school for Mary and Raymond. I think they are ready to go back and it should free up my time too. Bob will start preschool starting Sep. 7th, going 2 days a week.

Speaking of Bob...You know your kid is ready to be potty-trained when he starts trying to change his own diaper. Today, Bob was yelling to me asking for help. When I got to his room, he was lying on the floor, pants and diaper off. He had a clean diaper unfolded, ready to go, and had even used wipes to clean himself. He did a pretty good job actually. But he needed me to finish up and put his diaper on. We've had MANY discussions on the need to "do his thing" on the toilet, but he says he's not quite ready. He's KILLING me!

That's all for now. I'm working on a couple other posts so I'll try to publish before I go fly again on Thursday...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Back Home Again

I just returned from an interesting (work) trip. Itinerary: JFK - Brussels - Atlanta - Madrid - JFK.

I've been to Brussels several times, and we now stay at a hotel that is a 15-minute walk from the Grand Place. This is one of the buildings in the square:

The Hotel de Ville (City Hall) was built in the 15th century. It has sculptures between the windows (see next picture). The tower is 96 meters high, topped with a gilded statue of St Michael. It was one of the only buildings in the square to survive the French bombardment in 1695.

"Legend has it that the architect committed suicide by throwing himself of the tower when he noticed that the tower was not in the middle. Like most other legends surrounding the monuments of Brussels, this one also is not true. The tower not being in the middle is simply the result of the fact that the right wing of the town hall could not be made as large as the left wing because the town authorities wanted to preserve the street next to the right wing. "

Okay, so the building isn't symmetrical because they added onto it. But it still bothers me that the door is not in the center of the tower! *

The next picture is of a bronze sculpture that people touch for fertility. You can see the shiny surfaces where it has been touched. I'm not sure of the name of this. There are always a lot of tourists by it and I had to take a VERY quick picture just to keep them out of it!

Brussels is a bilingual city. You can see in this sign both the French and Flemish words. I took this picture on the way to the Manneken-Pis, which is the only location not written in French. Maybe it doesn't translate well...

Here is the famous Manneken-Pis, Belgium's national symbol. Sculpted in bronze in 1619 it replaced the stone version which stood in the same site since the 14th century. The statue is now so well known someone is paid to polish him daily and dress him in costumes sent from around the world. I haven't seen him dressed up yet, but the schedule is posted for those interested.

Here he is closer up. It is a fountain, so he is whizzing.

From Brussels, we flew to Atlanta. It was MUCH hotter! I had Belgian chocolates and I was concerned about them, but they survived.** After checking into the hotel, my good friend and former neighbor, Sybil, picked me up. I stayed at their house and had a wonderful visit. I even went for a run in our old neighborhood and was surprised to see a small subdivision had been built in our veterinarian's field! (There used to be an old horse and a big 'ole bull in that field.) We only moved away 2 years ago!

The day, before dropping me off at the hotel, we ate lunch at the Varsity.*** Six years in Atlanta and I had never eaten there.

Here I am getting our order of greasy food. Quite the experience! The best part was the frozen Varsity orange drink. It was like a creamcicle!

As we left Atlanta, we had the usual evening thunderstorms to avoid. Intimidating, yet beautiful!

Here we are flying into Madrid. It doesn't rain much here and it was obvious before we even landed. (It made for pleasant weather however...)

I went out to eat with the crew. Most of us did not know our way around very well, and a flight attendant from Peru who had never been there before, did a good job asking directions in Spanish. We took the #5 bus to Puerta del Sol to eat.

I took this picture from the bus and I now know that it is the Palacio de Comunicaciones in the Plaza de Cibeles. It was built between 1905 and 1917 by Antonio Palacios as the headquarters of the post office. Inside is the Postal and Telegraphic Museum, which displays the history of the postal system.

The Cibeles Fountain is in front of the Communication Palace. This fountain, named after Cibele (or Ceres), roman goddess of nature, is seen as one of Madrid's most important symbols. It was built between 1777 and 1782.

We stopped for tapas (like heavy horse d'oeuvres) before eating at the restaurant that was recommended to us. I sat facing this incredibly creepy painting. **** My first thought was "Naked Santa?" WTF?! I had to take a picture...

As we left we flew near (but not near enough for me to take this picture without zooming in as much as I could) the Valley of the Fallen. Unfortunately this picture is not a straight-on view of the 490-foot granite cross, but you get the idea, right?

General Francisco Franco built it and is buried there. Last month was the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the civil war. The Spanish government is considering redesignating the monument as a place of healing, rather than a tribute to Franco. Recently, streets bearing Franco's name have been renamed and virtually all his statues taken down. We'll see what happens!

Well, that was my trip. I'm glad to be home!

*Cranky would hate the building's asymmetry. The more I looked at it, the more it bothered me.

**Until Sybil's kids tasted them.

***An Atlanta landmark.

****Do not look at this picture very long if you are prone to nightmares!