Category Archives: Day to Day

Spring Break – Siena

Time to tackle spring break. We saw SO much during the two weeks the girls were off school, that it’s going to take quite a few posts to get it all documented.

We started off spring break by getting in the car and driving to Siena, Italy.  It’s about a seven hour drive, without stops, so we made it just in time to check into the Villa where we were staying the night. It was out in the country side, just a little ways outside of Siena. Now we needed to find some dinner. The manager of the Villa suggested a restaurant in an old castle not too far away. Sounded cool, so we thought we’d give it a try. The area was quite ‘interesting’. This midieval castle, which was in serious disrepair, had been turned into apartments. No, these were not luxury apartments. They were down right scarry. I was totally creeped out walking through it, and ready to find somewhere else to eat, but alas, there was nothing else around. The restaurant ended up not being inside the actual castle, but right next to it. Inside, the restaurant was really quite nice. Everything was in Italian, so we had no idea what we were ordering. We ended up ordering way too much food. It was definitely authentic Tuscan cuisine. I can’t even tell you what we ate, because I don’t know. Some of it was really good, some of it we had to force ourselves to eat. Kudos to Emily for finishing all the liver! (Sorry no pictures of the scarry castle Frown )

The villa where we stayed

The next morning we headed into Siena. It is a very beautiful old city. First we saw the church of San Domenico which honors the life of St. Catherine. In the church they have cases that house her actual thumb and head. I find this whole idea of relics a little bit creepy. The girls were totally grossed out.

Next we headed to Il Campo, the city’s main square. It is really quite amazing. The city tower is Italy’s tallest secular tower and the Fountain of Joy (Fonte Gaia) by Jacopo della Quercia was beautiful.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant right on the square and had some authentic Italian pizza.

The highlight of Siena for me was the Duomo. Wow. Breathtaking. The church dates back to 1215, and inside you find statues by Michelangelo and sculptures by Bernini. With it’s stripped walls and dark blue ceiling, it is definitely different than any of the churches we’ve seen so far.  I have to say though, that my favorite room was the one that houses the the illuminated music scores. What can I say, I love books.

We finished our tour of Siena by hitting the gelato stand, and we came to the conclusion that during our stay in Italy it was manditory for us to have gelato at least once a day.

Next stop… Rome.

Gasteiger’s House

Sunday April 3nd was a surprisingly warm and beautiful spring day, and seeing how there was no church due to general conference (which we couldn’t watch until later in the day), we decided to check out the Ammersee area. Ammersee is a lake about 30 km west of the Starnberger See. While we were there, we stopped at the Mathias and Anna Sophie Gasteiger’s House. It’s another place that is covered by the Bavarian pass. Mathias Gasteiger was a sculptor and Sophie Gasteiger was a painter. Their house still contains the original furniture, and displays some of their original artwork. It’s not a big house, so it was a quick stop, but the grounds were amazing with all the flowers in bloom. That’s were we spent most of our time.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It seems very strange to see your husband off to work and put your kids on the bus on Thanksgiving day. Actually…. it’s sad. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I just love getting together with family and enjoying a wonderful meal, but most of all I love just hanging out…visiting… playing games… I love that.

I got up early today to make the girls a little Thanksgiving lunch. They were sad to go to school today too. Hopefully this will make it a little bit better.

 The mini pumpkin pies did turn out delicious (if I do say so myself… I’ve already eaten my fair share. John will be lucky if his is still here when he gets home. :) )

To all our friends and family, we want you to know that we miss you and we hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

O Canada!

Today I’m going to say  “eh?” a little more often. I’m going to pronounce “bag” and “flag” in that way that only Canadians can. I’m putting on my big red sweatshirt and belting out the Canadian national athem. Why? Because today I am a Canadian citizen once more! Actually as of 2009, but no one bothered to tell me they changed the law.

You see, I was born while my parents were attending university in the US, making me a Canadian citizen born abroad. Only there was this crazy law on the books that if you were a Canadian citizen born abroad between 1947 and April 15, 1977 (that’s right James, had you been born a few weeks early you would have been in my same predicament!) you lost your Canadian citizenship at the age of 24 if you were not residing in Canada. That was a sad day for me as I was living in Michigan at the time.

But in 2009 they reinstated the citizenship of all those who lost it under the old law. So today I am Canadian once more.

Break out the Nanaimo bars! It’s time for a party!

Landshut, Germany

The last Saturday in March we decided to check out another city here in Bavaria… Landshut. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either, but there is a castle and residence there that are covered by the Bavarian pass, so why not check it out?

One of the great things about living here in Germany is that you really get to learn a lot of history (whether you want to or not, right girls? Wink ) Well, it turns out that Landshut was actually a pretty historically important city. In fact, when we were in Paris we saw that it was one of the cities listed on the Arc de Triomphe. (The city names represent victories won during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods.) Landshut was founded in 1204 and was for centuries home to the Wittelsbach family, the former rulers of Bavaria.

Anywoo… history lesson over. We thought it was a very nice town and enjoyed seeing the castle and the residence, and even had our own private tour of the residence in english (seeing as nobody else was actually there).

Trausnitz Castle


The Residence


And how could I forget the most beautiful statues I’ve ever seen…




And this church… St. Martins. It’s steeple is the tallest brick structure in the world.

Walchensee, Mittenwald

The second Saturday in March turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, although we didn’t have anything planned for the day, we quickly packed a pinic lunch and set out for Mittenwald to do some hiking. Mittenwald is a cute little German village near the Germany/Austria border. John’s friend told him of a good hike to do from Mittewald up to a beautiful lake, so we thought we’d give it a try.

We were nearly to Mittenwald when Lauren started throwing a huge tantrum. (Isn’t she too old for that?) She was screaming that she was hungry and that we needed to stop right now. She couldn’t make it another minute without lunch. I’m not inclined to give into such tantrums (it’s just not in my nature… I have just a little bit of a stubborn streak :) ), but John didn’t feel like listening to her scream for 30 minutes so he convinced me we should just stop.

It just happens that  we were driving by a beautiful lake at the time (Walchensee), and there was a little park with picnic tables. So we found a place to park and had our pinic lunch.

I’m so glad we stopped. It was such a beautiful  place. The lake was a beautiful green/blue. One of the most beautiful lakes I’ve seen. After lunch, we weren’t quite ready to leave. The girls were busy trying to skip rocks. Lauren had found some swings and was busy swinging. It was just a perfect moment.

Everytime I look at this picture, I just can't get over how grown up Emily and Cailyn look.

On the lake shore there was this really cool Viking village. I guess a few years ago they filmed a Viking movie here and they decided to leave the village for people to enjoy.

Finally, we got back on track and headed to Mittenwald.

We arrived a little latter than we anticipated, so we didn’t get to look in any of the little shops. Emily and I were a little disappointed (Cailyn was silently cheering :) ). We had really been looking forward to it, but in the little German villages by 2 pm on a Saturday everything is shut down. So we headed off on our hike.

This was a fairly easy hike. Very doable for family’s with young kids. We only had a few complaints along the way. Since the weather was so beautiful and the snow had all melted in Starnberg, we forgot that we might encounter different conditions in the mountains. So we had a good laugh when we hiked up to the beautiful lake and found that it was completely frozen over.

Still beautiful… just not what we had expected. He hiked around the lake to the chalet that you can see in the picture. It’s a little restaurant. Germans love to put little restaurants up in the mountains that you can hike up to. We love it too! We’ve made it a tradition to always stop and get a dessert.

Here’s Emily enjoying her dessert as the rest of us watch. She ordered a slice of Himbeer-Streuselkuchen (Raspberry Crumb Cake) so she got it right away. The rest of us ordered hot desserts, so we had to wait for ours to be made. I, of course, ordered the Apfelstrudel. I love me some Apfelstrudel and this one did not disappoint!

Frankfurt, Köln

The second weekend in February we made the trip to Frankfurt to visit Kim and her family. The girls were very excited to see their cousins. They always have a great time together. Of course we headed to Köln and Bonn so that the girls could see where their dad used to live and hang out.
Here we are at the Kölner Dom.
The two family's together.
Don't they look excited to be here. I imagine they're thinking 'Not another church!'

The mosaic floors are amazing!

John couldn’t possibly go to Köln without eating at the Hofbräu Früh am Dom, so that’s where we stopped for lunch.

The kids trying to decided what to eat. We finally made the decision for them and ordered them all a bowl of Gulaschsuppe... delicious! Perfect for a cold windy day.
Cailyn must be telling a very interesting story. She has everyones attention. I just love how well the cousins get along.

Next we went to Bonn and saw the old house and the school, and climbed up to the castle in Bad Godesberg. I know I took some pictures, but I can’t seem to find any. And of course we went to the Haribo factory store and loaded up on WAY too much candy. (Sara is still talking about this and cannot wait to go back.)

The following day we had lunch with one of John’s mission companions before heading back for home.

Here is John with his mission companion Elder Paul.
And now a picture with all the kids.

It was a really quick trip, but we had a great time. Lauren did, however, let me know that next time she just wants to stay at Ella’s house and play instead of going to see things.

First day of School

Back to school time. The summer seemed to just fly by. Of course it was only six weeks long, but we did a lot and had a great time. My parents came for a visit and we went to Venice, saw castles and palaces here in Germany and spent a week in Spain. We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed their visit. We also spent a week in Switzerland, went to an amusement park and explored more of the Munich area.

But August 22 is here, and now its off to grade one for Lauren, grade 4 for Sara, grade 6 for Emily and grade 7 for Cailyn. It’s going to be a quiet house during the day. I’m sure going to miss them.

You might be wondering what Lauren is holding in this picture. It’s called a Schuletute. In Germany it is a tradition for the parents to give their child a schuletute on their first day of first grade. They fill it with school supplies and special surprises.

Lauren was very excited about her Schuletute and couldn’t wait to open it. All the first graders were supposed to bring theirs to class on the first day, but everyone had to wait and open it when they got home. Lauren had to wait until John got home from work, so it was a very long day for her.

Here is Lauren with her best friend Isabella. They were very excited to be in the same class again this year.

Innsbruck, Austria

The first weekend in January we decided we needed to start taking advantage of being in Europe and take our first little roadtrip. We decided to head to Innsbruck, which was a great starting point. Not only would we get to go to a different country, but it’s only about 1 1/2 hours away from us.

The first thing we did when we got there, was go to the Tourist Information Center and buy our Innsbruck Card. With this card you can get into most of the sites in Innsbruck, and it also covered public transportation.

Then we walked around downtown for a little bit, and stopped in to see the church.

Lauren was fascinated by the pipe organ.

Next we took the Nordkettenbahn, which includes a train and a cable car, up into the mountains. One word… Breathtaking!

There was a little self service cafe at the top of the mountain, so that’s where we decided to stop for lunch. Here’s John with his Kasespaetzle and Almduler. (John specifically asked me to take this picture for you Jason. :) Trying to make you jealous, perhaps?)

After lunch we went to the Alpenzoo. It’s on the same mountain just lower down. We took the cable car down, but decided to walk to the zoo from there instead of going one stop on the train. That was a mistake. It was a muddy dirt path down to the zoo, and on the way Lauren tripped and scraped up her face. So sad! Frown

Despite her little mishap, Lauren thoroughly enjoyed herself at the zoo. She especially loved the mountain goats… oh ya, and the moose.

Next we headed back into the Altstadt (old city) to see the most famous site in Innsbruck… the Golden Roof. Lauren of course had to get the audio guide, and despite the fact that they were closing soon and we had to hurry, she insisted that she had to listen to every single thing.

We also climbed the Stadtturm (citytower) which in Medieval times was a prison and visited the Hofkirche (which I don’t have pictures of, I’m guessing we weren’t allowed to take any).

The last place we visited was the Schloss Ambras, a Renaissance palace just south of the Altstadt. It wasn’t spectacular from the outside, but is still one of my favorite palaces that we have visited.

It’s one of my favorites because it’s not as well known. When we went there was no one there, and I mean no one. We had the run of the place. Look at this beautiful Spanish Hall, built between 1569-1572. Just gorgeous! And we didn’t have to hurry through it, and we weren’t being shoved and pushed by hundreds of visitors. My girls could really look around and see all the beautiful paintings, the carved wood ceiling, the inlaid wood doors and if you look at Lauren you might be able to tell that she had a great time dancing around the whole room.

And we learned something new at the Ambras palace. We learned about a new apostle. We never knew there was an apostle named Jake :) .

Hupfleitenjoch and Höllentalklamm

John borrowed a book from a friend entitled “Wandern mit Kindern” (hiking with children). So it turned out to be a beautiful sunny Saturday (the rest of the week had been rainy) and we decided to do one of the hikes the book suggested.

We got a little help getting to the top of the mountain via a gondola. All we had to do was hike down. Easy… or so we thought.

Turns out that the first part of the hike was up hill (the first hour+, that is) to the Hupfleitenjoch (a “joch” is the ridge between two mountain peeks). The trail wasn’t bad, not too narrow and not too steep. You couldn’t have asked for a better day or a more beautiful place to hike.

There were butterflies every where. I’ve never seen so many butterflies in my life. It was simply beautiful.

At the top of the Hupfleitenjoch

The next part of the trail is what makes me question whether this is really a hike suitable for children. It was a steep rocky descent with a sheer drop-off to one side. As a mother this equaled hours of pure torture as I anxiously watched my girls hiking down.

After hours of hiking we came to the Höllentalangerhütte, a chalet/restaurant that is on the trail and stopped for some apfelstrudel and water. We were terribly hot, and hot apfelstrudel might not have been the best choice, but it’s become kind of a tradition when we go hiking to stop when there’s a chalet and have some dessert. Of course we forgot to ask for water “ohne kohlensäure” so we ended up with bubbly water that the girls wouldn’t even drink.

After the chalet the trail became quite tame, and this last part of the hike was the reason we decided to do this hike in the first place. A “klamm” in German is a gorge, and the Höllentalklamm is a gorge that’s been carved out of the mountain by a stream that runs off the glacier. They have made a path down in the gorge where you can follow the river. At times there are staircases carved in the rock; at times you have to go through tunnels. It’s very cool.

Höllentalanger stream above the gorge. The cleanest, clearest water I've ever seen.

You get pretty wet walking through the gorge. We thought we’d have a chance to dry off as we walked back to our car, but we were about fifteen minutes from the car when a thunderstorm rolled in. We were walking through a farmers field at the time, so there was no where to go for cover. So we walked the last fifteen minutes in the pouring rain with no umbrellas or jackets. As we were driving away (soaking wet… sitting on grocery bags trying not to get the car too wet), we saw the most beautiful double rainbow.

You may only see one rainbow in the picture, the second one didn’t photograph through the car window very well :) .

The next day at church, John mentioned a double rainbow in his testimony and how beautiful it was. The girls and I were trying very very hard to surpress our giggles. Most of you can probably guess why, but if not just search double rainbow on youtube.