Category Archives: Holidays

Spring Break – Pisa

Let’s be honest, driving vacations can be very stressful at times. In our case, trying to navigate in unfamiliar territory usually leads to some kind of… how shall I say it… disagreement. Driving to Pisa from Rome was no exception. I had not mapped out where the best parking lot was to visit the tower of Pisa beforehand, which irked John, and trying to follow the signs to parking in Pisa was near impossible. To add to the stress, there are zones within the city where only residents can drive and we were quickly approaching that area. Although we had no way of knowing exactly where it started. We finally spotted a public parking lot and stopped, hoping it wasn’t too far of a walk to the tower.

Well, it turned out to be the best place we could have stopped. We didn’t have to take a bus into the old city. It was a short walk along the city wall and we were there. And so far no ticket from Pisa, so we must have managed to avoid the residents only zone :) .

And here we are… the leaning tower of Pisa.

I must admit that I had pictured it being taller. I think that when you are there, seeing it in person, it doesn’t look as grandios as it does in pictures because you can see it in relation to all the other buildings around it. Still… it was pretty cool to see it in person, and it definitly is leaning!

Spring Break – Pompeii

I have to say, that all of us really enjoyed our day in Pompeii. We got up early and drove to Pompeii from our apartment in Rome. It’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive, so not too bad of a day trip. We had no idea how big the city was. There were so many streets to explore and buildings to see. Most of the buildings were in ruins, but some like the baths were amazingly intact. It was a great glimpse into how Romans lived in 79 A.D.

Porta Marina

Here is Lauren in front of the original city gate. Before Mt. Vesuvius errupted the sea came up to this point, and ships were docked here. You can see that there is a large and a small entrance to the city. During the day they were both open to admit traffic into this busy Roman trading city, but during the night only the smaller entrance was left open allowing for better security.



Temple of Apollo

This is a typical Roman style temple with space for worshipers outside in a courtyard. The temple was high off the ground and only the priests were allowed inside. The bronze statue is of the god Apollo and is a reproduction of the original, which is housed in the National Archeological Museum in Naples.

Fish and Produce Market

You can tell from the frescoes on the wall that this was the market were the people in Pompeii came to buy their food. In the glass cases in front of the frescoes are plaster casts of Pompeiian people who were buried in the ash.

Baths of the Forum

Fast-Food Joint

Looks like we Americans didn’t invent fast food after all. Right across the street from the Baths are these marble food counters. In fact, most Romans didn’t cook for themselves in their tiny appartments. The holes in the counter are where pots of food would have been placed.


House of the Faun

This was the largest house in Pompeii with 40 rooms covering a whole city block. Here Emily and Lauren are looking at a floor mosaic of the Battle of Alexander.

The streets in Pompeii are built of basalt paving stones. The center of the road is raised to allow water to run off into the gutters.  Everyday the streets were flooded with water to clean them. There are small white stones, ingeniously inserted randomly between the large stones, allowing people to see the road after dark.

The Amphitheater


The Forum 

Pompeii’s commercial, religious and political center

You can see Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

Good-bye Pompeii!

Spring Break… RomeDay 3

Day 3 started at the National Museum of Rome… yawn. I think the Vatican Museum overloaded us with Roman sculptures, and it was hard to get into the ones here. They were nice, just very similar to all the ones we had already seen. 

We had a quick look at the sculptures and the old Roman money and then head out to look at some of the churches in the area.

This is the Santa Maria degli Angeli church. It stands where the Baths of Diocletian once stood. In fact the curved brick wall where you enter the church is one of the remains of the ancient bath complex.

The church inside is beautiful. It is the size of a football field and seven stories high.

Next we headed to see the Pantheon. It was originally a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods but early in the middle ages was turned into a Christian church.  It is also the final resting place of the artist Raphael and Italy’s first two kings.

Don’t they look like they’re having fun.

The final church we went to look at was the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi. This is the French national church in Rome. This church is well known because the artist Caravaggio helped in the decoration of it. There are three of his wonderful paintings found here; “The Calling of St. Matthew”, “The Inspiration of St. Matthew” and “The Martyrdom of St. Matthew”.

When we arrived in the chruch, there was quite a crowd gathered around to see the paintings, but the corner where the paintings were found was extremely dark making it hard to see them very well.  I had read in one of our books, that you can sometimes find a little “vending machine of light” in churches such as these. (You put your money in, and the light  around the picutres turn on for a few minutes.) Sure enough there was one that nobody had seemed to notice. We headed over to the box, put our money in, the lights went on, and everyone gasped. They could finally see what they’d come to see. 

After torturing the girls with so many churches, it was definitely time to get a gelato.

Just a few more things to see before we’re done here in Rome…

Victor Emmanuel Monument (Italy’s first king)

Trajan’s Market and Imperial Forum

Next stop… Pompeii

Spring Break – Rome Day 2

Our first stop on our second day in Rome was to the Vatican Museum. The apartment we were staying in was not far from the Vatican so it was just a short bus ride to get there… still packed, but nothing like the subway.

We have found that it definitely pays to do a little research before you go on vacation. In reading about the Vatican Museum, we learned that it was a good idea to buy your tickets and reserve an entry time online before you go. So we did, and boy were we glad! The line to buy tickets was HUGE… and we just walked on by… right up to the front door… right into the Vatican… no line… no waiting… BEAUTIFUL!

The Vatican Museum is the papal palace turned museum filled with ancient artifacts, classical sculptures and Renaissance paintings. There is quite a lot to see.

There was so much to see that it left us quite exhausted. Here we are taking a break before we head in to see “la piece de resistance”… the Sistine Chapel.

Okay, so you aren’t allowed to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel, so I don’t have any. Even though EVERYONE else was taking pictures, I chose to be good. But I do have to say one thing, I was completely underwhelmed by the Sistine Chapel. Maybe it’s because they were herding us through like cattle, and we barely had time to look at anything, but it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Next to the Vatican Museum is St. Peter’s Basilica. That was our next stop.

While the Sistine Chapel did not live up to my expectations, Michelangelo’s Pieta most definitely did… just so beautiful…

At this point it had been a long morning of walking around and looking at art and sculptures, and Lauren was in full tantrum mode. Her feet could not walk anymore. She was going to die of hunger. John threw her up on his back, and then she was back to all smiles.

The girls with one of the Vatican City guards.

St. Peter’s Square

Lauren.. sad that dad put her down and ready for lunch.


Here we are after lunch, enjoying our daily gelato.

Castel Sant’Angelo

After lunch, we walked around a little bit, did some souvenir shopping, and then headed back to the apartment to rest and take it easy for the afternoon.

After our rest, we headed out to find a place to have dinner and then do a night walk trough the city.


John and Sara in front of the Spanish Steps.

We will always remember the Spanish Steps. This is where a tricky street vendor gave the girls roses, telling them they were free for them because they were such beautiful girls. Then he went over and harassed John for money. The girls tried to give back the roses, but he wouldn’t take them. John tried to give him a couple euros, but he said it wasn’t enough. Finally, he took the money, grabbed two of the roses back from the girls and went on to harass someone else. Persistant, unrelenting street vendors… definitely our least favorite part of Rome.

The Trevi Fountain


More gelato. We need to keep our energy up for the night walk :)

A second-century column in the Piazza Colonna.  It depicts the victories of Marcus Aurelius over the barbarians.

Looking out from the portico of the Pantheon.

St. Peter’s Basilica at night

Spring Break – Rome Day 1

 If you are considering going to Rome, may I offer you some advice. DO NOT go over Easter, unless you like being packed into subway cars like sardines and coming out drenched in sweat which may or may not be your own. Just sayin’…

Other than that we had a fabulous time :)

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was simply beautiful! In fact a few of us even ended up with a little bit of a sunburn.

Our first stop was the Roman Colosseum. In order to save some money and avoid the lines we stopped at the train station and got the Roma Pass. The Roma Pass covers free public transportion and free entry to many Roman sights for three days. Unfortunately, the person at the ticket office gave us some miss information and told us that the kids would get in free to the coleseum so we should just buy them 3 day train tickets instead of Roma Passes. Well, once we got to the Colosseum we found out that the kids were not free, and we found ourselves needing to buy tickets, and that meant having to stand in a really long line. Fortunately, one of the employees took pity on us and took us to the front of the ticket line.

The Colosseum was a great place to begin. It’s one historical site that all the girls had heard of and they were so excited to see it in person.

From one of the windows of the Colosseum you could see the Arch of Constantine (the Roman Emperor that legalized Christianity.)

From another window, you could see the Roman Forum in the background.

After the Colosseum, we found a little restaurant and had some lunch. We may have spent a little too much time at the Colosseum, because the girls were exhausted and we still had to see the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. On the walk to the Forum we bought the girls some gelatos to help keep them going. Then we found some nice ruins to sit on while we enjoyed them.

The girls were not nearly so interested in the Forum. There just isn’t enough of it intact to capture their interest. It’s hard to imagine all this rubble being the center of Rome.

Palatine Hill was a little more interesting for the girls as there were active archealogical digs that you were allowed to go and see. The following picture is of the hut believed to belong to Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

One last picture from Palantine Hill before we head to the apartment to rest. It’s been a long day.

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!

Skiing for the first time

We headed to Garmish bright and early in the morning hoping to miss some of the ski traffic, but I don’t think we left early enough :) . After getting to the ski resort we quickly got the kids suited up and off to their ski class.

We signed the girls up for two days of lessons, and for the most part, they really enjoyed it. Cailyn had a hard time on the first day, and ended pretty discouraged. The following day she was given a private instructor to help her out. The first thing he did was take her to get different skiis. She had been fitted with skiis that were a little too big for her. Once she had smaller skiis, she really got the hang of it.

Ella taking a break.
Can you tell Lauren is having a great time?
Emily with the "did you see me mom?" look.
Hannah really concentrating.
Sara liked to go for speed, so she looks a little out of control in all her pictures.
Mason demonstrating how to stop.
Cailyn's going to kill me for posting this picture, but this is how they all looked after a long day of skiing.

At the end of the day John took Lauren to the top of the hill, something that she didn’t get to do with her instructor.

Here she is going down the hill. She looked a little out of control most of the way down, but she managed to stay on her feet and stop herself at the end.

Here’s how she looked when she finished. You can see from the picture that she can’t believe she really did it.


Getting Ready to Ski with the Dzmuras

After Christmas we were lucky to have John’s sister Kim and her family come down from Frankfurt for a visit and to do some skiiing. The day before we were to go skiing we headed to the ski resort in Garmish to pick up our skiis. Garmish is a cute little town in the Alps about 45 minutes from our house.

After pikcing up our skiis (which was CRAZY… just imagine all 11 of us getting fit for boots and skiis… not to mention everyone else who was there doing the same thing) we headed into town to eat. Kim took us to a GREAT restaurant. I don’t know what I ordered, but it was DELICIOUS. I still have dreams about it.

When you think of a traditional German restaurant, this is the place you are thinking about… the one man music show, boys in Lederhosen dancing (so sad that my pictures of that didn’t turn out :( )…

and the applestreudel… Oh! to die for!

Christmas… part 2

Christmas Eve was full of baking cookies, singing Christmas songs, reading Christmas books, and watching Christmas specials on TV (you know… Rudolph and Frosty… I bought the DVDs before we came). We also went to a special Christmas program at the church… which was all in German so only one of us knew what was going on… but it set the tone for the rest of the evening. We finished it off by reading the Christmas story from the scriptures and of course opening one gift (bet you can’t guess what it was :) ).

So you remeber those 60 euro pajamas? (see Christamas… part 1) Well… Emily’s ended up being capris and short-sleeved and Cailyn’s were way too small. Guess they won’t be wearing new pjs tonight!

Even before we knew that we were going to be moving to Germany, we had decided that this Christmas was going to be much simpler than past Christmases. Each girl would receive just one gift from Santa, and none from mom and dad. Our gift to them was going to be doing something fun together as a family. So we were a little nervous about how the girls would react on Christmas morning. They really surprised us. I don’t think they were any less excited about their one present under the tree than they had been in past years with a tree surrounded by presents.

That evening we sat down to a traditional Christmas dinner, our first here in Germany. It had been a truly wonderful day.

Christmas… part 1

Two days before Christmas we were able to move into our house in Starnberg. First things first, the girls had been dying to go out and play in the snow. So they got all decked out in their snow gear and headed out into the backyard.           



Of course Dad had to get in on the action.

Watch out everyone. Here come the snowballs.


Lauren trying to fight back.
Now it's getting serious.
Payback time! Notice John is begging her not to do it.


After some time out in the snow, we had to decided which girl got which room. Never easy. Someone is always dissapointed. Then we crazily put our stuff away so we could get ready for Christmas.  I went to the grocery store armed with my German/English dictionary to try and find the things I needed for Christmas dinner. It  took me 30 minutes just to find the yeast. Next, I drove into Munich (my first time driving in Germany, scary!) to buy Christmas ornaments, lights and a tree stand.  We didn’t bring any of that stuff with us, which was pretty silly since we had plenty of room in our shipment.          

John and I went out on Christmas Eve to find some PJs for Emily and Cailyn, and to find a tree. We stopped at a cute childrens clothing store in Starnberg. When I asked where the pijamas were she pointed over to a shelf where they were organized by size (european sizes). I had no idea what size to get them. To make things worse they were all packaged up with no pictures, so I had no idea what they looked like. Then I saw the price and I just about passed out… 60 euro a pair! Ouch!  There was no way we would be able to make it to another store since they were all closing early, so we guessed on sizes and picked their pijamas based on color. One thing done. Now we just needed to get a tree.          

We stopped at a local tree stand that still had quite a few trees left. I guess its pretty normal to get your tree on Christmas Eve here.  We looked around and found a tree that we liked and John went over to the sales man to ask how much it was. Who knew that trees cost a small fortune here? Wow!! But we wanted to have a somewhat normal Christmas for the girls, so we decided to get it. John and I put all our cash together and we were short by a little. The sales man was very nice, and took less for the tree as long as we promised to visit the local pizzaria that he owned.          

When we got home, we set up the tree and then the girls opened the gifts they had gotten for each other at the Christmas market.          


Cailyn bought Sara this beautiful glass bell.
Emily bought Cailyn two hand blown glass ornament. The one she is holding and one shaped like a bird.
Here is the ornament that Lauren bought for Emily.
Sara bought a wooden snowman ornament and a nutcracker ornament for Lauren. Lauren decided that the nutcrackers name was Mr. Bedhead.
Lauren desperately wanted an apple ornament that she had seen at the Christmas market. Why? We don't know, but Sara was nice enough to get it for her.