Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beach fail

In an attempt to turn Saturday from a cleaning day into a fun day, I had grand plans to take the kids to the beach. It wouldn't be laying-out weather, or hot in any way, but I imagined us walking along the water, and Coco playing in the sand. We packed a lunch, some toys, and a wind tent, and headed towards the beach. About 5 minutes before parking, the first raindrops hit. As we got out of the car, the first lightning flashed. We still decided to brave the 15 minute walk through the dunes to the beach, and were sheltered somewhat from the rain by the trees.
Instead of letting up, the rain and thunder got worse. By the time we got to the top of the dunes, and could ALMOST see the ocean, the lightning was severe and scary enough, to turn back to the car. We were all soaked by the time we loaded back into the car, and back home. Adventurous? Maybe. Fun? definitely not! What a bummer! And of course I had left our museum cards at home, so we couldn't even take shelter there. Our beach day turned into a "eat lunch on the living room floor while watching a movie" day. It's hard to imagine summer still being in full swing (with over 100 degree temps) in Texas, when here it seems more like fall.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It's a go

Reality has set in. There's a 95% chance that I'll be holding a baby in my arms in just 6 short months! I switched back to the midwives, and had my first ultrasound with them yesterday. It was surreal to see a tiny human that actually looks like a baby. Not anything like the blob I saw 3 weeks ago.

Looking at the baby moving its arms and legs, reality really set in, and I almost started crying. Almost, because I'm just not an emotional type of girl. Now that everything is looking so positive, I've started telling a few people. But I haven't been able to publicly post it on my blog or facebook, since I haven't had the chance to tell either of our parents yet.

My belly is rapidly becoming more prominent, and when I don't wear just the right shirt, I can catch people stealing glances at it. Only a few more weeks, before no one has to wonder, and it will be obvious what's going on, but until then, I will just feel fat. And from that point, I might actually need to buy a few more pants that go over my thighs.

It was fun to finally tell the kids as well. They are super excited, and of course seem to think that they'll want to change the baby's diaper every day... Haha, we'll see how many hours that will last! Just for fun I walked into a Prenatal store. All of that still seems so surreal, and I'm definitely not ready to start thinking about all the things we'll be needing soon. For now I prefer carrying it around internally.


To my silent, but faithful readers, I apologize for not having posted pictures yet. It often seems like I'm the only one reading this blog, so it wasn't high on my priority list. I'll start working on it right away

Thursday, August 11, 2011

To find a biking trail

Part of the reason I choose this particular resort, is that it has a program where you can drop off the kids 3 times a week. Although 3 times seems too much for a weeklong vacation, it’s nice to have the option of doing things that can only be done without them, like mountain biking. We just happen to be staying in the perfect mountains for mountain biking trails. Some trees, not too rocky, and of course a beautiful view.

It took a while to get ready, and just as Joe and I were picking out bikes and saying to each other how much Winter would enjoy going with us, the kids’ adventure land called to say Sterling was soaking wet. This presented the perfect opportunity to fetch Winter for our ride.

Not having a map, we just started climbing on a road from town. The incline was about 45 degrees, and very challenging. Winter was a trooper, but had to be pushed up most of the way (by Joe). After about an hour of climbing, we met some hikers who let us look at their map. Turns out, we were only halfway up the mountain, and no biking trails were anywhere near. Defeated, we headed down the hill, and towards the biking trail.

The biking trail was a road. Of course we weren’t sure if it would turn into an awesome trail soon, so we went up a ways. After another 20 minutes of climbing or so, Winter had had enough. Honestly, I was glad that she gave me a reason to head home, because I’m not sure how much further I would have been able to get anyways. Joe decided to keep going, in search of an actual trail.
Now don’t get me wrong; we did have fun. All the whining, sweat, and doubt aside, we really enjoyed the scenery, company, and mere fact that we were riding mountain bikes in mountains.

So Winter and I headed back, and Joe moved on. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the pool and enjoying the sunshine. I wonder if I’ll be able to walk tomorrow….

After dinner we treated the kids to movie night, and all piled on our bed to watch Megamind. Quite a good movie! It was fun to eat popcorn and snuggle on the bed together.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hallstatt Salt Mine

We’ve been blasting through all these tourist attractions! The money keeps flying out of our wallets, but I really enjoy seeing all the different things. It’s not every day that we’re in Austria, and can visit Europe’s oldest Salt Mine! Salt has been mined in Hallstatt since 600 BC. I can’t even imagine how different things must have been then.

The last part of the drive there reminded me a little bit of the road trip to Oregon we made in 2007. Just driving through beautiful woods down towards the water. Hallstatt is located right a lake and a steep mountain, so in order to keep the traffic out, they have carved a tunnel right behind the city. Somehow this caused us to miss the entire town (we weren’t smart enough to leave our car in the parking lot and just walk into town)

We’re been in several types of cable cars now. This one was on a sort of track instead of hanging from a cable. As we were walking up the path, we heard someone say something like: “watch out what you say, they may be Canadian”. Of course the kids were quick in correcting them, and soon Sterling was playing/teasing with the little girl. It turns out, these people are from Durango. Our ultimate dream location. We started chatting, and ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with Laurien, Betsy, and her parents. Maybe we’ll be neighbors if we ever get to move to Durango.When you say something has been turned “touristy”, you might as well use the salt mines as a definition. It reminded me a little bit of Disney World. But in a fun way. At the beginning of the tour they give each person a mining costume. After you walk 300 meters into the mountain through a small tunnel
You take a slide down deeper into the mountain, where they have a light show over an underground lake.
After taking another tunnel down even deeper, and seeing a 3000 year old mineshaft
You finally get on a tiny little train that takes you back out of the mountain
All together very well put together. Not too cheesy, and a smidge dangerous; which always add a plus point. Speaking of dangerous; Betsy had seen a rock face with ladders on the way up, and wanted to check it out. This trail was way too dangerous of the kids, so Joe stayed behind while Betsy and I explored. A cable was secured into trees and rocks, for an extra safeguard on the small trail right next to a death drop.
It was a great adrenaline rush, and I was a little bummed out when we had to turn back in lou of time, and mortal danger. On the way back we saw a little memorial for a guy who had died on this trail. Serious business!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


I had read about the world’s longest Alpine slide, and we figured the kids would really enjoy that. While we were driving there, we saw another alpine slide that was about 30 minutes closer, and decided that the kids would probably enjoy this one just as much.

This alpine slide was set up different than any other one I’ve been on. It was almost set up like a roller coaster. Very safe carts that couldn’t possibly careen out of a track. It made going faster even more enjoyable!

We ended up getting done fairly early, so after some shoe shopping we still had the entire afternoon left. Although my bed was calling me, I figured I can sleep when we get home. Just a few miles up the road, there’s a pretty lake.

It was fun to watch a pair of Swans continually chase off another pair, and we made the leasurly hike around the lake.
Of course Ginger always goes in style
The rain came and went, but ultimately we had a very nice stroll in the beautiful mountains. I could do this every day!

Monday, August 8, 2011

World's largest ice cave

So far we’ve been very lucky with the weather, in that the sun has been out while we have been out, and it has been raining while we were driving. Today was the first day that we specifically had to plan around the rain. Not a problem perse, but it did limit our options of activities. As we all wanted to spend as little time as possible actually getting rained on, we decided visiting the ice caves was the perfect option.

As soon as we took the exit towards the Eiswiesenwelt, or the biggest ice cave in the world, it became apparent that all the other tourists had the exact same feeling about the rain. We were told the parking lot up higher was full, and to park at the bottom of the mountain and take a bus up. Sure, no problem. We go get our tickets, and I almost faint when the lady tells me that the ticket will be $20, which is just for the bus. The actual tickets for the gondola and ice cave will be sold at a higher point. We didn’t come to Austria to be scared off by $20, so we just cough up the money, and enjoy the bus ride. That was a steep ride up the mountain! And as we are passing full parking lots and keep going higher, I am just a smidge grateful that we won’t have to do all that walking. After all, we climbed a mountain just yesterday, and my glutes can sure feel it.

We get off the bus, and quickly see the massive line up to the ticket office. Joe hurries inside the giftshop while I wait in the rain in line. By the time I get inside, I am ready to pay whatever price they want for their umbrella in the giftshop. This is also when I see that the line at the gondola will be another 30-45 minutes, there is a 20 minute walk to the gondola, and another 20 minutes from the gondola to the cave. By now Joe is ready to abandon ship. But not me. I’m stubborn like that. Once I have my mind set to something, I will get it done.

Armed with the umbrella, I take the backpack with drinks and cameras, and stroll leisurely up the mountain while Joe and the older kids walk “normal speed” to secure a spot in line. Somehow this day off from hiking has turned into a day of more hiking than I’d ever planned on doing. But alas, at least I’m getting some exercise right?

The gondola is amazing. It must be going at least on a 70 degree incline, and we’re shooting up into the air like birds. It’s a cloudy day, so we can’t see very far, but it’s fun to go through, and then above the clouds. The final 20 minutes up to the mouth of the cave are difficult. Winter and Ginger are both complaining about wet and cold feet. Somehow we managed to let them take off with shoes that have holes in the soles. There’s something to be said against $7 walmart shoes…..

With the large number of tourists, we get our very own English speaking tour by Lucas. Each 4th person is handed an old-time miners lantern with a single flame, and the door to the cave is open. It’s like stepping into a freezer. At this point I’m really starting to worry about those wet and cold feet, especially after we are told the tour is 60-70 minutes long. What was I thinking when I planned for this trip? We all had jackets and (semi)closed shoes, but the only person smart enough to bring a hat was Joe. There was one consolation: we would have to climb 700 steps. This should keep us somewhat warm.

The cave was amazing. The waterfalls, and columns of ice were breathtaking. The downward slope of ice made me want to jump onto it, and slide it all the way down. The ambiance felt almost haunted or surreal with dozens of little lanterns floating in the air. We were walking right behind Lucas, and his slow and steady pace really impressed me. Yet again photography was strickly forbidden, which of course means I just HAD to get at least on shot. This is the best I could come up with.

About half way up Ginger and Winter seemed to be in serious pain. Joe manned up, took Ginger’s wet socks and shoes off, and carried her up the rest of the way, while holding her feet in his pockets. Unfortunately Winter is such a big girl, that carrying her up 500 steps, and down 700 just wasn’t an option. This really made me feel for her, and made me think about the Pioneers, and how helpless those mothers would have felt. All I could do is whisper encouraging words to her, and try to distract her with the amazing sights in the cave. The most impressive part was when we were heading down through a fairly thin tunnel made completely out of ice.

Once we reached the mouth of the cave, we assessed everyone’s feet. Winter’s feet were cold, but luckily not even close to frost bite. Joe gave her his socks. I gave Ginger mine. And we set off with Joe carrying Winter, and me Ginger. For a while that worked pretty good. But by the time we got to the gondola, were not only my arms on fire, but my legs were shaking from exhaustion too.

Even with all the climbing, rain, wet feet, more climbing, and waiting in line, we had a wonderful time. It sure will be a great memory to look back on.

A little update on the laundry situation: We washed whites in the shower yesterday. It was pretty fun, and 24 hours later most items are dry. Tonight we washed darks, and it quickly became apparent that without a spin cycle in a washing machine, cold weather, and high altitude ; it might take all week to dry the jeans and shirts. Even though the hotel staff has repeatedly told us the nearest washing machine is 2 towns over, we have found a laundry room in the basement of our very own building. We have kept an eye on the status of the laundry in the machines, and have concluded that no laundry has been done whatsoever in the past 24 hours. With a quick burst of adrenaline, and a small pang of guilt, I swooped down the stairs, and threw our soaking laundry in the dryer. Even if it can only get half dry… we’ll actually have clothes to wear the rest of the week.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fruitful hike

It’s still hard to believe the beautiful mountains we are staying in. Looking out any window, all you can see picturesque hillsides with cute little houses. The sun was peeking over the mountain top, perfect to enjoy sitting on our balcony for breakfast.

Being Sunday, but not wanting to get back into the car to drive to church, we felt it appropriate to spend the day as a family. Building relationships. First on our list of must-do’s is hiking. Hiking in the mountains beats just about any activity in my book. The hotel receptionist tried to sell us a map of the area hiking trails for $7, but after a quick glance, we quickly saw that we could drive up pretty much any little mountain road and we would find a hiking trail. We started from the hotel. Only a few hundred meter up the road, we got tired of walking on pavement and decided to drive the car up as far as possible. That turned out to be the best decision of the day.

Our car joined 5 or 6 other car on the side of the road, where a few signs steered hikers into the woods up the mountain. We took our sweet time, looking for elk horns, at huge mushrooms, and picking berries. At first we just saw raspberries, and they were hard to get to, and few and far between. But it seemed that the higher we went, the bigger the bushes and the better the berries. The blueberry bushes also started getting more plentiful and big. Luckily we had brought a little bag of grapes, so after we’d all had our fill, we started collecting them. It’s amazing just how many berries need to be picked to make up any substantial amount. We kept making our way up the mountain, getting passed by a few other families, and genuinely enjoyed our time together. There was hardly any bickering (with the few exceptions when one child found an especially good bush and another tried to join in picking it)

By the time we made it halfway to our final destination ,the clouds had multiplied and rain was slowly trickling down. This was also the place that had the most and biggest blueberries. After quickly increasing our volume, we headed back down. And none too early. The last 2 minutes the rain really started coming down. Picking (blue)berries on vacation is never on my concrete list of things to do, since it can only be achieved with some luck. But… if it can be added to things done, it really completes the vacation and turns a good day into a great day.

We were all pretty exhausted by the time we got back to the apartment, but somehow the kids mustered enough energy to play some Uno and go swimming. Joe was sweet enough to guide them in these activities and let me take a nap. We have a little kitchen, so we can save a substantial amount of money by cooking our own food. Of course it’s all very basic, so we’ve had to improvise a bit on a few things.

There’s no washing machine anywhere in this resort, town, until the next town over. So we are doing our laundry like the “olden days”, in a tub of water. Which just happens to be the shower. We all take turns agitating it.

Dishwasher. This might not be considered improvisation, but my kids have never had to do dishes. We’ve always had a dishwasher, even on vacation. So we are doing dishes like the “olden days”, although I explained that this is the way it was done by most people when I was a kid, and still by most people all around the world today. They thought it was pretty cool. The first day….

And finally, the internet. This is the hardest and best thing not to have. I love my internet, and don’t think I can live without it for extended periods of time, but it’s nice to spend time doing other things. Things that easily go by the waste side. Like playing games. Reading books. Telling stories. And building club houses. At first I was a bit apprehensive about the lack of internet, and wii, and TV, but after a few days without it, I can already see the benefits for my kids. They still argue, but we’re there more to catch it early, and to help them correct behavior in the early stages. They actually complain about boredom less. And they are learning to play WITH each other, and keep each other company.

I’ve always enjoyed playing games, and grew up in a family where game playing was a regular occurance. But Joe came from a family that either hates games, and they just never played them. So Joe’s not a big fan. But I’m starting to see him enjoying himself while playing with our little family. And that makes me happy. It teaches the kids sportsmanship, and stimulates their brains.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

From Germany to Austria

Germany has many concentration camps that were used in WW2 to exterminate millions of Jews, political prisoners, and other opponents of Hitler and his regime. Since we were driving past Dachau, one of the first concentration camps, I felt it would be a good teaching opportunity for the kids. We have been discussing the second world war quite a bit recently, starting with a visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam last week. I can see the curiousity and interest in Winter, similar to that which I had as a child. It’s important for kids to learn these difficult and sad histories, to build character and understanding.

After Dachau, we had just a few more hours of driving to our vacation apartment. Instead of taking the scenic route, I couldn’t wait to get out of the car. A VW golf is not the ideal roadtrip car, with a huge lack of room to spread out. But it amazes me that somehow we have enough space to bring stuff for 5 people without a problem. Especially considering the fact that we use to could barely fit everything in our Suburban.

When I researched vacation destinations, I could tell that Brunnleiten was located in a pretty valley in the mountains. What I didn’t realize was just how far it was into the mountains. I had all sorts of day trips planned, which quickly seemed silly. Silly, because we could just enjoy our whole week in this valley and the surrounding mountains.

It was so fun to see the kids’ excitement over our apartment. They have their own room that they all sleep in, which is just super exciting. They loved that we have our very own kitchen, and balcony overlooking the valley. What got them most excited though, was the swimming pools. If it was up to them, they’d spend all week in the water.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Amazing sights

After "sleeping in" until 7.30, we enjoyed the buffet breakfast that the hotel provided. When I explained to the kids that they could eat as much as they wanted, you could just see their amazement and excitement in their eyes. We still struggle with keeping the kids quiet in restaurant settings. It seems like we are always the only ones with kids, especially that 'many' (3). And they talk LOUD. All the time. Usually it's not too big of a problem, but all of a sudden when you are in public the loud volume becomes all-too-quickly very apparent. Breakfast was great, especially the fresh eggs from their chickens and the real hot coco.

As we would be spending the majority of the day in the car, we decided to let the kids play on this little bike/car thing at the hotel. There was a slight hill, and they just kept going up and down over and over. This is the kind of place I want to own. With a vegetable garden, lots of fruit trees, hilled terrain, wood shack, a roaming goat, and an enclosure where guinea pigs, bunny rabbits, birds, and quail all happily live together, eating oats and hay.

After only a short time we figured out that yesterday's town wasn't at all Rothenburg. Rothenburg ob de tauern is an AMAZING town. Just everywhere you look you see postcard snapshots. From the fountains to the houses and church, to steep alleyways. This is the type of place Disney World uses to model their theme park after!
We saw some flying buttresses (I thought this was a hilarious idea for a photo, while Joe thought it was slightly retarded)Lots of pretty streets and housesWe had some fresh genuine applejuice
Saw the most amazing Christmas shop EVER. I don't get impressed very easily, especially not by Christmas decorations, but this place just .... took words out of my mouth. The quality of Christmas decorations and amount and variety was unfathomable. (Again, I guess we weren't supposed to take pictures, but REALLY.. what harm can it do?)
And a town wall that you could walk along the top of. No iron fences or entrance fee. Just walk up the stairs and imagine what it would have been like 400 years ago on that same wall.
After seeing a lot of beautiful countryside and pretty towns, I was all of a sudden sick of being in the car. I just HAD to get out! So we found a hotel that we didn't have a reservation for, and ignored the cracks in the walls, smelly rooms, and just plopped into bed, and onto the internet. It turns out I use the internet very much, and miss not having it. As I'm writing this, I enjoy watching Sterling watching a movie with German voice-overs. It really doesn't matter what the language is!

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