Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Getting back in the game

I've got a special furniture project coming up that I'm excited to get started on. My sweet cousin is having her first baby soon, and her mom, my sweet aunt, asked me to paint a dresser for the baby's room. I haven't laid eyes on it yet myself, but this before photo already has me swooning.

It reminds me a lot of the vintage dresser I have in my own bedroom.

They won't look so similar in the end, because Cara's dresser will be painted white to coordinate with the baby's room. Truth be told, I'm a little torn about painting it because it looks so beautiful already, but I do what the customer wants!

Sheesh ... I better get myself down in the basement to clear out some work space. I haven't used my paint sprayer in so long! It will be good to get back in the game.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Just call me Ginger

I'm super-behind on sharing the rest of the photos from our Europe trip, but an upper respiratory infection hit me like a ton of bricks on the way home from Berlin, and over the weekend. My poor hubby ... it was his birthday on Saturday and then Father's Day on Saturday. Not such a fun weekend when your wife is sniffling and sneezing and moaning, and you have to make her meals rather than her making yours on your special days!

Today is our 16th anniversary, and instead of celebrating with a romantic dinner, we're driving up to Indianapolis for my 20th high school reunion. Fun times for Jason again! Happy anniversary, honey! Thanks for putting up with me all these years!

Funny Anniversary Ecard: On our anniversary, I want you to know how much I've enjoyed annoying you all this time & how excited I am to keep doing so in the future.

Does the phrase "20th high school reunion" conjure up scary thoughts in your head? I wasn't too worried about it, but a few weeks ago I did start using a fitness DVD just so I could feel more toned. A couple weeks into it I hurt my back and couldn't work out for several days, then we were leaving for vacation, so the work I did in that first couple weeks has gone by the wayside with all the food we ate in Europe! Somehow I think all the walking we did didn't burn many of the calories we ate.

Also on vacation, because of the rain and wind on the first leg of our trip, my hair was a hot mess. I hated any photo I was in, and had a bit of a meltdown (just internal ... no sobbing) about my hair cut and color. Frantically one evening I started researching the best cuts for square face shapes, and the best hair colors for people who have fair skin and pink undertones. I sent a crazy message to my hair stylist, asking if she had any appointments for a color the week we got back.

Who decides to get her hair colored the day before her 20th reunion? This gal! Insane, right? My mom was so worried I would be unhappy with it and wouldn't have time to do anything about it. I had my stylist snap a quick pic before I left the salon. I'm a ginger!

It's actually more red than the picture shows because the sun wasn't hitting it the right way. What did I look like before? Here's a reminder:

I had just gotten it cut a month ago so we didn't do anything with the style, but as of now, I'm working on growing my bangs and my overall length longer. I don't think my hair has been longer than chin length since Zachary was a baby.

I'm actually horribly un-photogenic, but I hope to get some good shots this weekend so people who don't see me in person can see the true color of my hair.

As neurotic as I may sound, I really am looking forward to the reunion tonight and tomorrow. My mom moved away from my hometown when I was in college, so I rarely get the opportunity to see any of my high school friends. Here's to a good time!

What about you? Do high school reunions make you go crazy too?


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Vacationing in Germany: Rothenburg, the medieval walled city

When you picture a quaint German town, you picture Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which translates to "Red fortress above the Tauber" [River]. It's filled with half-timbered houses and surrounded by a medieval wall with watch towers.

We enjoyed a tasty German dinner of sausages, Schnitzel and beer soon after we arrived and checked in to our hotel. (We usually prefer renting apartments but for a one-night stay, there weren't any available. For such a short stopover, it was nice to have a hotel conveniently inside the old town walls.)

That night we joined the Night Watchman tour, which I expected to be cheesy but was rather informative and funny. After a sunny and clear morning in Heidelberg, we had ditched our umbrellas only to be caught in the rain unprepared during the tour. Lucky for me a kind woman ran in and grabbed me a loaner umbrella when we passed by her hotel along the tour route. Danke schön!

The next morning I had to try a Schneeball, which is egg dough fried and then covered in powdered sugar, cinnamon, chocolate, etc. They look better than they taste. Save your money.

We checked out all the medieval torture and punishment devices at the Kriminalmuseum.

Above top right is a shame mask worn in the town square as punishment by those who acted like pigs. Bottom right is a very uncomfortable chair, no? Bottom left is a neck violin. The large hole went around the offender's neck and the small holes around the hands. A double neck violin was used to make quarreling women work out their issues. Can you say "Real Housewives"? (Disclaimer: I don't watch that show, but I can only imagine.)

Before we scooted out of town for our next destination, we took a walk along the old perimeter wall. That was pretty cool. And as a bonus, it was covered at the top, so no rain!

If you're visiting Germany, I recommend you give Rothenburg ob der Tauber at least a day, if not two. We had to skip a few recommended attractions because we were on a tight schedule. And I highly recommend you stay in the town overnight, when it's much quieter after the daily tour bus groups head back to the big city.

Has anyone else been lured in by Rothenburg's charm?


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Vacationing in Germany: Blue skies in Heidelberg

We've been in Europe for just over two weeks now, and we are exhausted! You know when you need a vacation from your vacation? Yeah, this is one of those. We turned in early tonight, so I've got a few minutes to fill you in on our second day in Germany.

After a miserable first day, we were ecstatic that the skies were blue and the sun was out when we woke up in Heidelberg. We took a tram from our apartment to the quaint Altstadt (old town) area. Even though it was probably 10am by the time we got there, it seemed like the city was just waking up.

We ate breakfast at an outdoor cafe, after spending a while translating the menu. Our server was very patient with us! Here's your German language lesson for today: Käse is cheese, Speck is bacon, and Rührei is scrambled eggs. Nouns are always capitalized, FYI.

After our leisurely meal, we walked through the baroque-style Altstadt toward Heidelberg Castle. I was surprised how clean and fresh everything looked. They obviously spend a lot of time keeping the town manicured.

The castle sits on a hill above the town, and there are three ways up -- stairs, a gradual incline, or a funicular. Guess which way we went up and which way we went down?

Yep, we're backwards. Stupid Americans. It was a crisp morning, but by the time we climbed the 315 steps, I had ripped off my trench coat and cardigan and was sweating. Oh, and let's not forget the huffing and puffing. We even got passed by a guy carrying his bike up the steps. (There are some homes along the way up the steps. Very inconvenient, but very lovely.)  And to top it off, the funicular ride was included in the cost of our castle admission. Oh well! The positive of our climbing experience was a pause midway up to pet a friendly black cat that reminded me of my kitties at home.

We took a guided tour of the castle itself, which was much swankier than medieval Marksburg Castle we had toured the day prior. In the lower level of the castle is the world's largest wine barrel. At 7 meters (23 feet) high, it's a doozy. Actually, when you first enter the area there is a giant wine barrel and we didn't realize until after we'd taken a photo and then turned the corner that it wasn't THE wine barrel. In the photo below, Zachary and Jason are standing on the right, above the barrel. Yep, it's large!

Have you ever heard of a moat that didn't hold water? Here it is. It did serve as a deterrent to enemies, but the Heidelberg Castle moat was also used for entertaining its inhabitants. Deer and bears were released into the moat area to be hunted by members of the court. (I guess they didn't realize it's like shooting fish in a barrel.)

We weren't allowed to take photos inside the castle, although I did sneak one of an amazing spiral staircase made of stone. The handrail was a continuous almost-vertical spiral down the middle. I'm such a rebel.

If we had more time, we would have crossed the Alte Brücke (old bridge) and taken the scenic "Philosopher's Way" walk for the great views, but we just had a few hours to spend in Heidelberg, so we admired the Neckar River from below the bridge instead.

This last photo is just something that cracked us up as we passed through the shopping area in the Altstadt.

If you're European or have traveled here, you may be familiar with this German brand, but we were not, so it got a chuckle from us. Very clever.

From Heidelberg, we traveled east to the medieval walled town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. More on that next time!


Monday, June 3, 2013

Vacationing in Germany: Marksburg Castle along the Rhine River

Today marks the end of day 5 in Germany. I'm finally getting a chance to sit down at my laptop for more than just planning out the current or next day's adventures.

Our vacation did not get off to the best start, but I still have to keep pinching myself that we are finally in Germany, after months and months of planning. (And I kept telling myself that at least it wasn't as bad as Cassie's first day in Europe.) It's been raining almost every moment since we got here, but we're trying to make the best of it.

In order to keep you reading along, I will sprinkle in photos from our tour of Marksburg Castle in Braubach, Germany. It over looks the Rhine River.

Marksburg Castle sits high atop a hill along the Rhine River

Day 0: Travel day from home to Frankfurt, Germany

Without boring you with the details, both our flights from Louisville, KY, to Newark, NJ, and from Newark to Frankfurt, Germany, were delayed. The earlier delays didn't stress us too much because we had plenty of layover cushion in Newark. But delays in Newark meant getting into Frankfurt later. (This was an overnight flight -- leaving Newark in the evening and arriving in Frankfurt the next morning. Of course we lost 6 hours as we skipped over a few time zones, so our bodies weren't sleepy until it was almost time to wake up. And if you've ever tried to sleep on a plane, you know the uncomfortable seats and constant noises don't make for a restful situation.

Nothing fancy here, just a foreboding Medieval fortress

Looking out at the Rhine Valley (much nicer views on sunny days, I'm sure)

Day 1: Castles and views along the Rhine River Valley

Because of the delays, we lost an hour or two of time on our first day in Germany. We had originally planned to drive straight (in a rental car) from the airport to Marksburg Castle along the Rhine River to catch the English tour at noon. Unfortunately we had quite a few hiccups following the GPS directions, and we ended up doubling back a few times, both on the interstate, and through the villages along the countryside. In one town, we must have driven through the same intersection at least three times. Our GPS kept telling us to go down one street, but the street was closed for construction, and it took forever to find a way out of there. On the positive side, we saw lots of quaint German villages. Interestingly, you see farmland upon farmland, then a cluster of 100 or so houses. Then farmland for a while again, then another cluster of houses. Even in the countryside, the houses aren't spread out like they are in rural U.S. I guess the farmers have to drive to their farms, because their houses were all in the villages.

Good shoes were needed to start this tour! No handicap or stroller access here, either.

Did I mention it was raining this whole time? And Jason was driving a stick shift, which he hadn't driven much since borrowing his stepdad's sportscar now and then in high school? And he had about 30 minutes of sleep overnight on the plane? Oh, and road signs were in German, of course. Made for a great time, as you can imagine.

The trip from the airport to Marksburg Castle was supposed to take just over an hour, but I'm pretty sure it took 3 hours. Once we eventually felt our way to the town of Braubach, we saw the castle high upon the hill, but we then had to figure out how to get there, which wasn't obvious. Once parked, there were many steps up the steep hill in the rain. We didn't feel like waiting an hour and a half to catch the only other English tour of the day, so we borrowed an binder with the English explanations to help us while we joined a German tour.

Cannons were used for defense

Below the window you can see the seat for the toilet. Look out below, because it was really just a hole for things to fall down outside the castle wall. Ick.

Our original itinerary included a leisurely drive up the Rhine to the town of Koblenz, then a leisurely drive down the opposite river bank to Rheinfels Castle in St. Goar, but between our delays and our GPS mishaps, we were grumpy and whooped. Instead, we just drove on to our rented apartment in Heidelberg for the night.

Lovely frescoed ceiling in the chapel

Zachary checking out the display of Medieval armor and weapons

It's quite unfortunate, because the Rhine Valley is littered with castles left and right, but we had to just jump on a highway instead of driving along the river. The rain and cloudy skies didn't exactly make for good viewing conditions anyway.

Summing it all up, day 1 was pretty much a bust. The tour of Marksburg Castle wasn't as exciting as expected. I'm sure it would have been better if we were well-rested, well-fed, hadn't just spent unnerving hours in the car, were able to join the English tour, and the weather was nicer.

Luckily day 2 was much improved. I'll fill you in on that next time. Gute Nacht! (Good night!)

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