Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thanksgiving Double Take

Yeah, yeah, it's a little past Thanksgiving - but, again, better late than never! We drove up to Washington to spend Thanksgiving with Melissa (a friend of Joe's from high school), her husband Giancarlo and their two ADORABLE girls, Angelina and Victoria.

On Thanksgiving Day, Giancarlo had to work so we enjoyed our Thanksgiving day meal on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. Afterwards, Giancarlo gave us a great tour of the ship - it was very impressive and quite interesting for a couple engi-nerds!

On Friday, we enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving 'fixings' at their house. It was a great, relaxing day of reminiscing, playing with the girls and catching up. Of course, their was lots of food preparation going on and the day wouldn't be complete without a couple minor 'incidents' (misreading ingredient quantities and early 'removal' of the turkey), BUT, no worries, the meal turned out FAB-U-LOUS and of course, put us into an early food-induced coma. We ended the night getting schooled by Melissa and Giancarlo in the game Sequence. I blame it on the food-coma and want a REMATCH!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cape Lookout

With a break in the rain last weekend we took the chance to head out to the beautiful Oregon coast. We went up to Cape Lookout and did a hike out to the end of the headland. We got there a little later than we had planned (darn outlet malls along the way!) but it gave us a great view of the sunset over the ocean. It just meant we had to hike a little faster on the way back so we weren't stuck in the dark!! If you haven't seen the rocky shores of're missing out. The trails had some pretty muddy spots but nothing impassable. Really of course the highlight was being able to watch Myra use the logs across the trail as the catwalk for her model runway (sorry no pics of that...that was just for Joe ;)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween Fun...

We spent Halloween over at our friend's Jen and Todd's. Jen is a FABULOUS cook/baker - check out all the great spread! And this wasn't all! Soooo creative with decorations and food! Yumm, yumm, yumm!!!!!

It's been a few years since we dressed up for Halloween and we decided to do a 'group' custome with our friends Dan and Natalie. We all voted and decided on dominoes, of course Myra and Natalie couldn't just settle on the boring description of putting white dots on black clothing. Sooooo, here we are as dominoes - the women decked out with dominoe earrings, headband and braclets. Don't you think the guys pulled of the gold 'Mr T' like domino 'necklace' and 'Rambo-like' headband well?
We entered the party in 'true' dominoe style, that is, falling down knocking each other down. Here is an reenactment, although we were MUCH less graceful coming in and ended up scaring little Ethan (sorry!).

We weren't the only ones sporting fun outfits though! Check out the other great costumes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fruit Loop Day (what do you think this means??)

We decided to take a day 'off' this past Saturday and drive the Fruit Loop in the Mt. Hood area. Now, get your head out of the breakfast aisle (or gutter) and stay with me here - the Fruit Loop is a 35 mile loop around 30+ orchards in the Mt. Hood/ Hood River area (yes, only in Oregon). On the way up, Myra decided she wanted to take the scenic route to check out the changing leaves through the mountains (this way took about 3 1/2 hours) - it was very pretty, but nothing compared to the changing leaves of the Adirondacks!

The 'loop' started with a visit to a real, live, Alpaca farm - lots of baby Alpacas, soooo cute. We found out that female Alpacas are worth $10,000 when there little baby feet hit the ground! The owners were talking about how this farm has really helped them diversify their portfolio - no kidding! They really do have nice 'fleece' though...but $10,00???

Next, we stopped at a place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, for a BBQ behind an old country store. It was very good (with cider baked beans and pear coleslaw) - a bit crowded as there was a tour bus - yup - a tour bus! They were also making fresh apple butter the ol fashion way over a fire in a big copper pot - Myra took a turn stirring the pot to relieve the worker (really, just because she likes doing dorky things like this).
The rest of the afternoon was spent going to different orchards, getting some fresh fruit and some hard cider from the locals. Then we took the 'non-scenic', scenic, route home (an interstate along the Columbia Gorge), which was only a little over 2 hours....But, after all that, we were still back home in time for take out and a movie - what a great day!!

Harvest Time!

Myra decided to do a major harvest of the garden the past couple weekends. The tomatoes and squash plants were dying so it was time to bring the 'veggies' of her labor inside for some major cooking!

The tomatoes made some fabulous salsa!! Only about half of the squash have been cooked (those things are a pain!). So fun fact - when different varities of squash are planted close together they crossbreed and you never know quite what you will get! But, still, there was enough 'buttery' squash to make a ton of squash gnocchi - yummy!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Celebrating and saying good bye....

After only be back home for a couple weeks, we packed up for a quick visit back east, and I mean QUICK. We arrived at Joe's parents' house in PA at about 3:30am Sat. morning, and left again on Monday afternoon! It was WELL worth the quick trip though.
Our reason for such craziness was two-fold. (1) To celebrate Joe's grandmothers 90th birthday at a surprise party(Ruth Long) (2) To see Joe's brother Jeremy, wife and Erin and beautiful little girl Isabel one last time before they moved to Brazil a few days later...

The 90th birthday celebration started with all of grandma's children and grandchildren attending church in the morning - what a large section we took up! Ruth is the oldest charter member of that church and was celebrate by everyone there though! Next we went to a great buffet where we had our own room with lots of food and pictures. Below is a picture of his grandmother, one with her and her living children and one with her and her grandchildren...

Following the celebration Joe and Myra went back to grandma's house to help her open her presents and cards - very fun experience! :-)

Of course our second reason for visiting was no less important - to see off Joe's brother, wife and little girl, I'm not sure we let anyone else have much time with little Isabel. She is TOO adorable. Here's just a few pictures of our too short time with her:

Friday, September 19, 2008

In Memory of Olivia Marie

Today is a day of very mixed emotions. It’s one of celebration but also one of grief. Rarely are celebrations sad.

Today would have been Olivia’s 1st birthday.

It’s hard to believe that one year has past and it may sound weird but I think we kind of wished time would stand still and the day would really never come. Not because we want to ignore this day or because we’d rather not move on, but because we wanted it to be done right and we aren’t sure what “right” is. We promised ourselves that we would always honor her birth in some way and this will be the first time we have a chance to celebrate her very short earthly life. But as we do that we remain comforted that she continues to live in heaven, aside the God we put our trust in.

We don’t mean for this post to be morbid in any way. The purpose is not to make you sad or for us to seek your condolences. Rather it's only for Olivia and to make certain she is remembered for the child and human she was. We were very torn about whether to post this or not. But at the same time it is our responsibility as Olivia’s parents to celebrate her birth as any parent would. Olivia will never have the chance to carve out a path and meaning for her own life and so that responsibility lies solely with us. What we do BECAUSE of her birth and to honor her memory, is what will define that meaning. That’s a lot of pressure and not something we take lightly.

Going to the hospital at 4:30am one year ago, we were totally unprepared for what was going to happen. We aren’t going to rehash all the details but we will say that if the hospital had not been prepared and given us things to remember her with, we would not have coped as well as we have. They gave us her hand-made baby blanket, hat, photos they took, and number of other memorabilia that at the time we assumed came from the hospital. We learned later, that there is an organization called Heavenly Angles in Need that makes all of these things for babies born prematurely, and then gives them to the local hospitals for the family. Without these, we would have nothing to look back on and we are eternally grateful to them. Because of this, we have made a donation to them in Olivia’s memory so that other families can be as blessed as we were.

We write this mainly so that all of you can remember her just as fondly as we do. She was born with perfect features, from the fingernails, eyebrows, and right down to the toes.

The anger and guilt have mostly passed but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t sad. In reality, this day will always be sad. But we’ll never forget that God created Olivia for a purpose; a purpose that we will help fulfill for the rest of our lives. Of course selfishly we wanted the chance to raise her and watch her grow but she is in heaven now with the Ultimate parent and we couldn’t ask for anything better.

So in the end we can still celebrate the time we had and whisper a "Happy Birthday" to our beautiful baby girl.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Europe Friday (12th) and Sat (13th)

OKAY, well we ended up not really having internet the rest of our trip – so we are going to 'back-blog' for a bit...stay tuned.

Well, back to our Friday (12th) travels (remember this may be lengthy because its also our travel journal)...After feeling a little happier about having dry clothes on we continued onto Kรถln, Germany for a quick stop to look at what is considered, to some, the most amazing Cathedral in Germany. We paid for the English tour of the church, but haven't decided if it was quite worth it. The only cool thing is you get to go into a gated portion of the church that is normally closed to visitors – an alter used for special occasions where relics of the wisemen are kept and where the more important members of the church used to sit. This Cathedral was just amazing, between all the 'chapels' turned burial areas, the unbelievable height, captivating paintings, sculpture and windows – some more than 3x as old as the USA!!! No words can really describe it – but we can tell you that it is worth the stop, even if you just have an hour in your travels to spend admiring it!!

After that – on to Koblenz, one of our stops along the river Rhine. We were pleasantly surprised that our Hotel (Hotel National) was really close to the train station - about a 5 min walk. We were even MORE happy with the fact that we didn't have to maneuver around mold, plugged up sinks or squashed bugs anywhere we went! Nothing fancy – but clean, decent breakfast and pleasant owners....

As you saw in our previous post – our entire room also doubled as a drying rack – Myra was quite sad that some of her 'famous pamphlet' had been destroyed in the hour run through the storm in Bruges – darn souvenirs! After setting in – we wandered down to look at the Rhine and then back to the train station for a real German pretzel appetizers while trying to figure out where to eat. We have to put in a little plug for the place we settled on for anyone heading to Koblenz someday. We ate at Piper's Corner – a Celtic Irish Pub and it was VERY VERY good, of course we had dinner with our beer (or was it the other way around?) For Myra's family – the name of the beer was Franziskaner (for those who don't know her maiden name is Franz).

The next day (Sat) we left our luggage in a locker in Koblenz and took a train to a little town along the Mosel River (Moselkern) with a supposedly 90 minute hike through the woods and up to a fully intact castle, Burg Eltz. It was very interesting and really in the middle of nowhere...The rain was still following us and we were able to do the hike up in 60 min flat. We were lucky and there was enough people for the English tour – yeah! Afterwards, we wanted to be sure to catch the :43 after train leaving, but left the castle with only 58 min to get there. Joe MADE Myra run through the trail (and since she's writing this she'll add that there were cliffs, no railings and a ravine hundreds of feel down) – okay maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration – but we BOTH did try and book it down the trail – we made it back in about 45 min, a little sweaty, but that just secures a seat by ourselves....

Next up, Marksburg Castle – passing through Koblenz we went about 15 min to Baurbach, where Myra's pamplet failed them and didn't have the directions to get there!! After wandering around aimlessly we finally came across the 'train' to take us up the very steep looking road (we heard there was a path but hadn't found it)...Unfortunately, this tour was only in German – we had a lovely sheet to follow along in english. However, the tour got quite boring as the sheet had about two sentences and everywhere we stopped the mean looking tourguide would ramble on for 10 minutes and the 30 German people around us would laugh and nod letting us know we were certainly missing out – or wasting our time. The castle had some different things – the favorite being the toilet that was just a hole that hung over thin air – this was obviously a vulnerable spot in the castle so was locked from inside the castle – yet, I wonder if the King had guards at the bottom to protect his royal behind when nature called? Guess we will never know..

So tricky part – this last little ho-dink train station had NO train schedule – we just hoped that there WAS one sometime going back to Koblenz....after waiting awhile we tried to ask a woman with a Canadian flag on her bag – she was at least able to make us feel good that we would get back. After going BACK to Koblenz, we picked up our luggage (why don't other little train stations have lockers?!) and got BACK on a train to go BACK past Baubach to get to our B&B in St. Goar. After about 15 min walk from the train station we found it at about 8pm!! Yeah – we've finally arrived! We were a little unsure how it would be since it's hard to tell from the internet – but... we HAVE to recommend to ANYONE traveling to the Rhine area – make your homebase in St. Goar and stay at B&B Alexi!! The woman who runs the place is wonderful and speaks great english – the rooms are very modern, clean and bright – ours had a view of the ruins of Burg Rhienfels... The breakfast was great and we were even waited on by her sweet daughter. Again – stay here!!!! :-) to a comfortable bed!

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Wet (still- see Day 2 below) arrival in Koblenz....

After a quick tour of Koln (pictures to come later) we headed to our final destination for the day - Koblenz. Here's a picture of what our room looked like after discovering exactly HOW wet our bags had gotten! For those of you who know how neat and organized Joe is - you can imagine just how much he enjoyed this!!!

Bye Bye Belgium

Day 1: The train got into Bruges at about 10:40am after which we started hoofing it the Market in the center of the city that happens every Wednesday and Saturday. When we got there we decided we had enough time to find our hostel and drop off our bags. We were staying at the Bauhaus hostel. Then we went back to the Market in search of some grub. We bought some local berries which we devoured quickly and then went to a stand in search of some Belgium fries (frites). Yes I know that we just wrote about trying the famous Dutch fries but what kind of fair-minded tourists would we be without trying and comparing them both? Of course, between the fries and baguettes we might be strutting around with 10-15 more pounds than when you last saw us. These fries come with many of the same sauce choices. Joe went for the fries covered in a traditional Flemish Beef Stew with beer based sauce and Myra opted for the most unusual veggie burger and fries with cocktail sauce which wasn't what we think of as cocktail sauce - as with most things around was heavy on the mayo with a little whiskey for flavor. Ok, I should mention we are using this as a journal for ourselves so the details might get a little cumbersome so skim through as you see fit.

Next up was to start the Bruge City Walk which covered climbing thousands of steps (ok, I guess it was only hundreds in reality) up the belltower (Belfort) to get us started.

We swung by the City Hall in Burg Square (political center and religious heart of the city) where they were setting up for an outdoor opera (The Barber of Seville). Tons of beautiful canals along the way and then a stop in the Gruuthhuse Museum (mansion turned museum). The place was filled with artifacts and art (at which Joe took time for a quick stop on the bench nearby) and an AWESOME old guillotine that was able to wake him right back up. Probably one of the highlights was the Church of Our Lady which has the only sculpture by Michelangelo to ever leave Italy (Madonna and Child) while he was alive. I cannot stress how incredible this church was. It's amazing how they constructed it so long ago.

I should also mention (mostly to Natalie) that we passed a genuine Belgian pug! Oh I almost forgot...we stopped for a lovely belgian waffle covered in belgian chocolate!!!

We capped off the day with dinner at the restaurant in our hostel where they give you a three beer sampler for free. One of them was a famous Belgian cherry beer. I have to say over the two days we were there we tried 5 Belgian beers (don't worry moms...some were small sampler sizes) and they were all great. So for those of you worried about a Belgian company taking over Budweiser...I'm convinced they might actually make it a beer worth drinking!!

Day 2: We woke up and decided to tour an old windmill near our hostel (used to crush grain back in the day – very cool for a couple of engineers and old farm boy) and then to the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Supposedly they have a phial (housed in a silver tabernacle) that has some of Jesus's blood collected after the crucifixion and given to someone from Bruges in the 13th century for being a brave warrier in defending Jerusalem from the Muslims. They only open the tabernacle every Friday and parade it through town once a year.

Then we rented some bikes and rode through the countryside over to Damme. Just a small, quaint town where we ate baguettes with crab and grey shrimp from the North Sea. In typical Joe and Myra fashion (remembering prying off one bathroom tile resulted in a compete bathroom renovation) we decided to keep going until we got to the North Sea (they have awesome bike paths). We got there about 10.5 miles past Damme. But we loved seeing (and touching of course) the North Sea! Of course then it was time to start the trek back. Also in typical Joe and Myra fashion...we somehow lost track (or they forget to put them up!) of the bike paths sign and ended up in Blakenberge (NOT on our way). In reality it was only a 2 mile detour but we sure whined about it like it was a 17 mile detour. Anyway the trip back was again through the countryside (and a bit of a headwind) and through a cute little town called Lissewege. We finally made it back to Bruges about 6 hours later (5 hours and about 27 miles of biking) and the storm clouds weren't looking good but we still needed a picture to recreate the one we took from our honeymoon when we rented biked to ride down from a volcano in Hawaii. We did it (a bit slower and less flexible now that we're 30) in a small alley in Bruges and then booked it back to the rental place. Yet another detour meant we didn't quite make it there dry. A walk back, a shower, and nice dinner at a spanish restaurant made it all better.

One last night in our smelly and somewhat moldy hostel room (maybe we are too old for this?). We woke up to yet more rain, ate breakfast and were on our way. We had not yet bought any of the traditional Belgian lace so we wanted to walk to the train station rather than take a bus. What a if you are one of the ones that gets a souvenir from Belgium....treasure it because we got SOAKED! We made it to the station in the pouring rain about an hour later and quickly hopped on a train to Brussels. We had decided not to stop and keep going to Cologne (aka, Koln) of course now I see and email from my friend Thom saying to definitely stop in Brussels. I guess we'll save it for next time. We had just enough time to change into dry clothes in Brussels and grab a sandwich (both which made us much more pleasant people!). Now we are on a posh International train to Cologne, Germany. Don't worry Don, Gary & Tuba (if you're reading this) we most likely will be coming back to work someday!

Stay tuned!!!