Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dinner in the Dark

For my 32nd Birthday Michael told me to get a baby sitter he had a surprise for me. Michael is horrible at keeping secrets and he asked me about 20 times if he should just go ahead and tell me what the surprise was.... amazingly enough we both held out. So on the evening of my birthday I started getting ready, Stella insisted that I get dressed up. I kept asking Michael what I should wear and he just kept telling me it really didn't matter, but Stella persisted so I even put on heels. We dropped the kids off at a friends house(thanks friend) and headed to Koln. Still having no idea where we were going we walked up to a tiny sign that said Dinner In the Dark! Agh we had just watched a TV show that was making fun of a similar place and by the way I am slightly afraid of the dark! Michael could have emphasized that it Really didn't matter what I was wearing, because no one would see it!
   We walked in and were seated with champagne and then waited at our table with only a few small candles burning down until all the guest were seated. The last table to arrive was a group of 18 Italians, and with that the lights went out....
   So let me paint you a picture a very black picture... there was not even the smallest glimmer of light in the room if your eyes were open or shut it did not matter either way you saw the same thing, pitch black. Did I mention that you did not know what was on the menu... surprise
   So here we are in the dark with a German speaking waiter next to a table full of Italians groping in the dark for our food. They set the first course in front of us, and with one bite I spit out something slimy ... Michael took a bite and said "don't eat that".... if Michael says don't eat something you know! not to eat it. We never saw the plate but we believe it was a salad with Octopus or some other sea creature on it. We stabbed around eating bits of lettuce and tomato and avoiding the parts we were not sure of. Next up thankfully was a bowl of soup the waiter placed the bowl in front of us and then set out hands directly on it .... I guess so we would not spill it all over ourselves. Our main course arrived, a couscous and beef stewish combination (very different flavors than anything in an American restaurant.) and for desert even though I was holding out hope for a big slice of chocolate cake it was some banana parfait blah! The meal took 2 hours it was an interesting experience but not one I wish to repeat any time soon. My hearing was on overdrive taking it all the Italian next to us and trying to understand our waiter, it gave me a little bit of a headache.
It does help to give a little perspective because all the waiters are really blind I only spent 2 hours in a world they spend their whole lives in. When we picked up the kids later that evening our friend had helped them make chocolate cupcakes for my Birthday YAY! I got chocolate cake after all.

Monday, October 7, 2013

WE LOVE HOCKEY.... if it's free

     Michael won tickets to a Hockey game at the Lanxess arena last week through work. He won by answering this difficult question ...Who is the mascot of the Koln Hockey team. Thankfully he knew it was sharky the shark. Apparently the Koln team names their mascots just like our children name their pets, simply take the kind of animal and add a Y, it works for every animal.
   We picked up our free tickets at the box office and found our seats right next to the glass... Now I have only been to one other hockey game in my life and it was the Mudbugs in Monroe Louisiana, I remember it being less than exciting. This game between the Koln Sharks and the Hamburg Freezers was better than expected with a score of 3-2 Koln. The boys enjoyed every minute but by far Oliver's favorite part was when Sharky the mascot came out and danced on the ice to Lady GaGa's Applause. I mean who doesn't enjoy the occasional break dancing shark!! You aren't human if you don't..
   On our way out the boys decided they wanted to take up Ice skating... all I can say is good luck with that in Texas...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Exploring an old Steel Mill

Right down the road from our home is a lovely park that just happens to be the remains of an old steel mill. We finally journeyed down to it last weekend to see just what it had to offer. The kids brought along their skateboards and scooters to zip around the rather large park. All I can say is if your looking for a place to take senior pictures (we are not but...) it's the perfect place to do just that. OK me and Michael took a few senior pictures to make up for the horrible ones we took in our youth.
   If only we were certified scuba divers we could have dove into a giant holding tank that has now been turned into a divers paradise. Or if we were excellent mountain climbers we could have climbed the sides of giant concrete structures  that once did something or another inside the plant. OR if it had been open we could have zip lined from one metal remnant to another. But we did not do any of those spectacular things and we still had a good time. There was a giant slide that would surely lead to a lawsuit in American that both the kids and Michael came shooting out of, along with numerous other terrified children. The kids played on several playgrounds and ran in and out of gardens and over walls  Then we topped it off with some currywurst and pomes to end the evening. Overall it was a lovely day at the old steel mill.

Hard Hat Chandelier

the slide ... this is only about 1/2

Our Senior Pictures ... I would have worn makeup if I knew it was picture day

Nailed it

Thursday, September 26, 2013


We headed to Normandy Sunday morning, it was rainy and icky outside. So we went to the beach?... I can't say enough about how beautiful it was in that part of France; the coast was amazing and the architecture was beautiful. Truly a place worth visiting. Our first stop was Arromanches beach, looking out over the water you can see the debris that were purposefully sunk to create a harbor for in coming boats. Up the road at our next stop was the remnants of a German battery on the edge of a cliff over looking the shores at Longues-sur-Mer. The guns and their bunkers remain partially intact and one of the best parts about Europe... nothing was roped off. You are free to climb in and around and touch what you please. The kids picked black berries beside a giant concrete Bunker that once housed the Nazi army and their guns. Surrounded by farms of wheat it was both beautiful and sad. Down the road a little farther was the Omaha Beach American war cemetery and museum. We did not know what to expect but the museum is wonderfully done and the cemetery it's self brought both me and Michael to tears. It's hard to explain seeing the mass graveyard of those that died so that we and our children could live freely. All I could think was how many tears were shed by the families of the men laid to rest there. They were all someone's son, brother, friend. It is overwhelming, and it made us feel truly thankful for what they gave, which was everything. The last stop was Pointe Du Hoc. This is where the Germans set up base it was also on a cliff overlooking the English channel with far sweeping views and numerous underground concrete bunkers. We were struck with the shear volume of concrete used to build these well thought out structures and the amount of time it would take to build them in what seems like such a rural part of the country. The bunkers were vast, but the most amazing thing to me was the size of the holes in the ground left by the bombings. The kids enjoyed playing in the bunkers and holes not fully appreciating how it came to be that way. Both me and Michael had great uncles that fought on those beaches and lived, it was a moving revelation to see our own children play on the same beaches where so many men had died, but God gave us the world to enjoy and those men who lost there lives gave that beach and so much more back to the world on June 6th 1944.
Remnants of the artificial harbor

Oliver on US Army Truck in a French Village

German Gun 

Michael dropping the kids into a treacherous  underground bunker

Safety First

Giant Bunker overlooking the coast

A snail for good measure 

Wheat fields beside the coast

American Cemetery with 9,387 graves

Omaha Beach

bomb craters

Inside the underground bunker near craters, it was dark inside you could only see with the camera flashs

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gardens of Versailles

    We spent Saturday taking a nice train ride to Versailles ... of course when we got there we had to wait in line another hour and half just to get tickets to go inside and then you had to get in another line to actually get in blah! but despite the line delays we decided to start off at the gardens. When I visited Versailles as a teenager we did not get to spend any time in the gardens.  I really only got to peer at them through the windows, so I wanted to really walk around them this time around. The gardens are acres and acres of manicured hedges and large fountains. It felt a little like being in Alice and Wonderland, the queen would be playing croquet just around the corner. There was a little outdoor café towards the front and we stopped there for lunch where we ate what else but baguette sandwiches and pizza. The idea that all the grubby commoners are eating sandwiches and drinking cokes in shorts and tennis shoes where kings and queens used to ramble around with their fellow upper classmen seems almost comical. Can you imagine if they could see it now filled to the brim with "common tourist"?.... the nerve. We walked and walked through mazes with classical music playing in the background, it was delightful.
   After getting our fill of the grounds we went into the palace, I remember it being beautiful and worth the trip but, on this visit it was so crowded you could scarcely see the rooms themselves mostly the only view you had was of the person squished up in front of you....lesson learned do not visit Versailles Palace on a Saturday in August!
    The train ride back into Paris was just about like the inside of Versailles , no room. We wanted to see just one more thing before the day was done so we choose the Moulin Rouge. Mostly just because I loved the movie so much. It is hardly a site to see however , there was a giant grate in front blowing air that provided the kids with a good deal of entertainment for the night.
The little dots out in the water are people in row boats ... amazing

The Commoners

pretending that we are not commoners

So flat it seemed fake

and the winner is

Guess what's being said in this picture.... if you travel with kids you already know

this never got old

OMG Cheesy.... Paris

Last weekend we took a four day trip to Paris, both Michael and myself had already been but for some ridiculous reason, I cant quite remember, we wanted to take the kids. I guess just so they could say that they have seen it (worst reason ever.) So we got an apartment that slept five on the out skirts of town reasonably priced, nothing special but functional in the fact there were actually enough beds for our whole family. We arrived around 11 in the afternoon and headed straight for the train in the direction of the Eiffel Tower, we neglected to pre-purchase our tickets to go to the top and when we arrived there was a snaking line a mile long all around the base of the tower... this may or may not have caused a fight between me and Michael.. When Oliver saw the tower  for the fist time he yelled OMG Cheesy, I don't know what he meant, or if he even knew what he meant, but it was funny. We laid in the lawn for a bit then got back on the train to Notre Dame.  Notre Dame according to the kids was just another big church. Sad isn't it when a famous land mark becomes just another church? Oh well, we walked around a little but, it was also crazy crowded and we decided to walk down to the Orsay Museum because the train line was out of order. Several miles later with tired kids we got there only to find out it was closing early for some unknown reason. Ugh.... Paris was proving a little difficult by then It did not seem beautiful and romantic just crowded and dirty.
Day two the Louvre ... bright and early we headed to the Louvre to.... stand in line some more.  After getting in we hit up all the famous statues and pictures until our legs felt like they were going to fall off. We ate in the cafeteria area for lunch and had the best Mediterranean food, if your in the area I would recommend the cafeteria everything we had was delicious. Then we went to the lock bridge closest to the Louvre which is what the kids had been waiting for.(forget the Mona Lisa when you could draw on your own lock) They each got a lock and decorated it with the American flag and the Texas flag of course name, date, etc. They were very excited so we locked them up and they deiced to keep their keys but me and Michael through ours in the river Seine, never to be seen again. From there are we walked all the way from the Louvre to the Arc de triumph, which is a three mile walk down the gardens and shopping district! I did get to stop at Laduree's for some famous macaroons. They are just so beautiful !Six tiny cookies cost 15 euros but to me they were worth it. The arc was another arch, much like another church, big and arch like.. Then we headed back to the Eiffel tower to try one more time. We had no other choice but to get in the seemingly unending line and wait our turn. The only thing that made up for our 2 hour wait... we made it on top right at sun set and it was beautiful.  I can't not use the word romantic here because there were literally so many people up there with us you were constantly being bumped and elbowed, but the view was unforgettable. Then we saw the city of lights lit up from the very top. One the way back down there was a young America couple in the elevator that had just gotten engaged on the top, they had their family with them. All I could think was what a horrible place to get engaged!! surrounded by 100's of tourist bumping into you in the most unprivate  crowded setting. Some times it's just the idea that sounds good... she can just tell people she got engaged on top of the Eiffel tower and leave out the part where strangers were breathing on her neck the whole time and she had to push her way into the elevator to leave the "romantic" tower. Once we got down we ate at a corner café outside and I had the most amazing French Onion soup and the kids had 18 euro cheese burgers, oh well that's Paris.

We met lady liberty's twin sister

Proof they saw her

Our lunch ... Yum

It's thiiiiis big

On the back of our lock Michael wrote ... Love is like being on lock down.... how romantic!

our keys are gone forever

Bird man... they loved this guy ... a bum that put pigeon food in their hands

The best money spent was on slushes during our three mile walk to the arch

That's like a 1,000$ worth of cookies.... but look how pretty

She made it up

View from the tippy top

The twinkling light show