Thursday, October 31, 2013

Be Happy

I was able to squeeze in one layout this month.  I don't have the opportunity to use pink a lot, so I was very excited to use pink in this sister layout of Rachel and my weekend in Chicago last year.  I used My Mind's Eye's October sketch as my inspiration.


I also made this card for Scrapbook Express's October card sketch.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Europe Part 4: Köln

We spent our last few days in Cologne, Germany.  Our first day there was wet and cold, but Jesse and I braved the elements and walked across the Hohenzollern Bridge where they put up tons of love locks.  Once we crossed the bridge to the opposite bank, we had a great view of the city's iconic Dom Cathedral.   
 



We also explored the inside of the cathedral, which has impressive, grand Gothic architecture.  It also (supposedly) has the skulls and bones of the three magi, which are kept in an ornate, gold and jeweled box.  There are numerous other pieces of significant art and stained glass.   






After our tour, Jesse sneaked in what he considers an obligatory McDonald's stop.   


Wesley was so excited about taking a boat ride.  We booked a one-hour sightseeing cruise on the Rhine and enjoyed some luxe seating on the upper deck.  It was a great way to see the city, although Wesley would have preferred it if we went super-fast!







We walked around the cute city acting like dorky tourists . . .


and Wesley got attacked by the kissy monster more than once.


We finished the day with a Cologne must -- dinner (sausage, meat, and potatoes) and Kölsh beer at a Brauhaus.  


The following day, we took another fun mode of transportation -- the Schoko-Express (a really cute little touristy train).    


We took the train up to the cathedral area, where we we showed our true colors by having breakfast at Starbucks (do you see how huge those mugs are?!?)  After breakfast, we went to the museum Ludwig, where we saw (but could not photograph) a variety of contemporary art, including Picasso, Warhol, and some really out there stuff (which was fun for entirely different reasons).


After the museum Ludwig, we took the Schoko-Express down to the chocolate museum, which houses a collection much more up Wesley's alley.  We saw cool chocolate sculptures, read interesting facts about chocolate, saw actual Lindt chocolate being made, and received a free piece of Lindt chocolate and a wafer dipped in a chocolate fountain (yum!)  Those treats weren't enough, so Jesse and I scored a nice box of handpicked German chocolates from their extensive chocolate shop. 





That evening, we had another highlight: attending the Germany v. Ireland World Cup qualifying game, where we cheered Germany on to victory!  


The game definitely had good atmosphere, with tons of cheering, singing, and clapping.  Here is a video of the kickoff.  

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Germany scored the first goal of the game at the first half, and we had the perfect vantage-point.




Ireland put up a decent defense, and kept the score 1-0 at the half.

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It was a little cold and rainy, but our seats were covered and the excitement plus layers kept us pretty warm.


In the second half, Germany scored two more times to tremendous applause.



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Germany's decisive win secured its spot in the World Cup!



We are so blessed to have had such an amazing trip!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Europe Part 3: Cochem & Burg Eltz

The next day we woke up in charming Cochem, a small town on the Mosel River (an area known for its Riesling wines).  It is hard for me to pinpoint my favorite part of the trip, but this day was probably it.  There was just so much beauty to soak in!





Situated on a hill right in the middle of town is a lovely castle (Reichsburg Cochem).  We walked all the way up past the grapevines that grow on the steep river-side hills.  We did not have time to tour the inside, but were able to walk around the grounds, enjoy the views, and watch a falconry show.





We had a special treat for lunch because my friend Maria (who lives in Germany) drove up to see us!  Her visit made the scrumptious outdoor patio dining even more fun.  We (of course) had some wine with lunch and then tasted and purchased a number of different wines at a couple local wineries and wine shops.


We finished the day at Burg Eltz, another castle not too far from Cochem.  Unlike most castles in this area (including Reichsburg Cochem), this castle was never destroyed so we were able to tour a true medieval castle, including a number of fully furnished rooms and the castle treasury.  Wesley, being the expert on castles, was on the lookout for dragons and princesses, and kept asking where they were.  Despite his vigilance, we did not come across any during our tour, so we bought him a stuffed one from the gift shop.  Being the bright kid that he is, he immediately declared the dragon a toy, not a real dragon, but he soon got over that small point and enjoyed running around with him. 





Believe it or not, we fit all of this fun into one day.  Say tuned for the final post on our trip to Cologne!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Europe Part 2: Amsterdam and Nürburg

On Monday, we took a day trip from Antwerp to Amsterdam.  There, we visited the Vincent van Gogh museum, which is my favorite art museum from our trip.  We learned a lot of neat tidbits about van Gogh, including his use of perspective frames and the fact that the blue flowers in the picture below (and many others) used to be purple, but the red dye has since faded, leaving them blue.





I don't have a lot of pictures from the Anne Frank House (no pictures were allowed inside), but our visit there was pretty powerful.   


We also had a chance to walk along Amsterdam's famous canals before our delicious crepe dinner.






The next day, we started the Germany leg of our trip with the activity that Jesse was looking forward to the most: driving a race car along the Nürburgring (a/k/a the Nordschleife a/k/a the "Green Hell"), a 12-mile loop of curvy racetrack in Nürburg, Germany.  Jesse and Dave took turns at the wheel, while Tiffany, Wesley, and I prudently observed and photographed the driving from a distance.  Their four-lap trip was actually cut short at three laps because of a serious accident involving a motorcycle.  Apparently, accidents happen all the time, but Tiffany and I were pleased to note that when we saw their car coming around the bend, they appeared to be going a relatively reasonable speed!  




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After their manly driving experience, the boys got meat and potatoes on a stone at a racetrack-themed Italian restaurant in Nürburg.


And Jesse's driving was not done for the day.  He took the autoban to Cochem, where we spent the night and caught sight of their lovely castle (more on that in the next post).