Thursday, November 30, 2006

Our Last Day in Spain

It was so hard to decide what to do with our last day, there was SO much we still wanted to see and we knew there was no way we could even begin to do that. We woke up to rain, but couldn't really complain because the forecast for our entire trip called for thunderstorms and we only got the one day of drizzle. We started out in El Puerto de Santa Maria and visited the city church briefly. There was a service of some kind going on so we didn't want to disturb things. It is a beautiful church inside and out.

Our next stop was a really cool Moorish Castle where Christopher Columbus is said to have stayed while getting ready for his trip to America. The guide said the next english speaking tour wasn't until 1:30PM and we just couldn't wait around for that so had to satisfy ourselves with walking around the outside of the walls and peering through the open front door.

We spent the next big part of our day walking around the white village of Arcos de la Frontera. It is a very dramatic village perched on the top of a limestone ridge. There are many tiny lanes of whitewashed houses and several stone churches and a castle poking up through the houses. We remembered driving through the buttresses of the church on one of the incredibly narrow roads the last time we were there, but now the traffic rules have that part of the village closed to outside traffic. Probably not a bad idea because we had to step up into doorways several times to avoid cars and even a bus so it is scary to imagine tourists driving there too!

We stopped at a grocery store for some sandwich fixings and headed down the road to Seville again. One of our guide books had some pictures of the inside of the Royal Palace called the Real Alcazar and we knew we had to try to see it. We REALLY wanted to get to Granada to see the Alhambra but there was just no way, so this would be our moorish architecture stop instead. We were NOT disappointed at all. What an incredible building. The rooms just seemed to go on and on and were full of amazing ornamentation and tilework. If they hadn't closed and shooed us out the exit doors I don't think we would have had enough of it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Dreamed City

Friday we set out towards Ronda...a wonderful picturesque ancient city perched high on the mountaintops that was and is a favorite destination for all sorts of people including Ernest Hemingway who said "the whole city and its surroundings form a perfect romantic setting." The focal point of the city is it's "New Bridge" that was built in 1793 and is 98 meters high above the river and the gorge below. It is a beautiful and amazing structure that connects the two sides of the city. We started out tour of the city at the famous bullring. It is said to be the oldest and most beautiful stone bullrings in Spain. Unlike most bullrings it has a double roofed gallery so there are no seats open to the sun.

After we toured the bullring we started down the main street to marvel at the bridge and then went down past the palace of the Arabian King (in sad disrepair) to see the other bridges and the valley below. Every corner you go around is another photo waiting to be taken. I think I read in a tour book that every view is said to be the "best view" in the city...there just isn't a bad one! As we came back up the hill Colin and I decided to tour the Mine and Gardens of the Arab king. The mine is actually a water mine. They had a staircase dug out of the rock down to the river below so when the town was under seige they could still have access to their water supply. We read that they would have a line of slaves bringing the water up in skin bags. There were a few rooms cut out of the stone too, and the one Colin most wanted to see was the Room of Secrets, an oval room that if you stand at opposite ends and whisper you can hear perfectly what the other is saying...but a person standing in the middle can hear nothing. We tried it out and it is true!

After we rested a bit from our climb back up to the street level we wandered through more streets of the town and went in a couple of pretty churches...took LOTS of pictures and started to think about dinner. We ended up eating in this cute place right off the square and once we were finished with that it was dark out and we couldn't resist going back to the bridge to try to get some night shots. We hated to leave...but knew we had a long drive back ahead of us and another busy day coming up so off we went!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Get a piece of the Rock!

At the top of Colin's list of things to be sure to see on this trip was the Rock of Gibraltar so we headed that way on Thursday. Part of our drive took us along the coast where we could see Africa just on the other side of the water. We stopped at an overlook to get some pictures and use the coin operated telescope. When Bill and I had visited there a few years ago it was so windy we could barely hold our cameras still enough to get a photo. It was much nicer this time. There was a couple of stray dogs and cats around the gift shop and one of the cats looked just like our Chaemi kitty did when he was younger. Of course I had to pet him and get a picture!

When we got to Gibraltar it took us quite a while to get onto the island. Gibraltar belongs to Great Britain so we had to go through a border crossing and there was a long long line of traffic going there also. Another thing that held us up was an airplane! The road into Gibraltar crosses the runway of the airport and a British Airways flight was taking off so we all had to wait for it to be on its way. We spent most of our day on what is called "the Upper Rock". This is a nature reserve that is home to about 250 wild Barbary Macaques who roam freely. I read that there is a superstition that if the monkeys ever leave the British will also (reminds me of the ravens at the Tower of London!) There is a wonderful natural cave that we visited and had lunch afterwards in the little cafe that is in the gift shop just outside the cave exit. The monkeys are all over the place up there and are very brave. While we were eating one came inside and was running across the tables next to us until the owner chased him out! You aren't supposed to feed them but the taxi drivers do and I am sure a lot of others do as well so they were sitting on cars and busses and watching everyone very carefully. The next place we visited up there was the Great Seige Tunnels that were dug out of the rock with picks and chisels and gunpowder in 1782. It was incredible to see how far they got through the rock using such primitive methods. There is a huge 30+ mile network of tunnels through the Rock that is still in use by the military today, most of them were dug during the time of the second world war. After we finished with the tunnels we drove down into the city of Gibraltar for a stroll. It feels just as British as it is, with Bobbies in their distincive caps on patrol, little red phone booths and post boxes and fish and chips shops. We hated to leave, but it was starting to get dark and getting a bit drizzly so we headed back towards our apartment.

On our way back we passed a GORGEOUS village perched on a mountaintop that we couldn't resist stopping in just for a bit. It is called Vejer de la Frontera and is one of the famous "pueblos blancos" or White Villages of Andalucia. We parked near the square in the center of the village and took a walk through some of the narrow streets. It was so quiet and beautiful and just whetted our appetites for our trip the next day when we planned to spend the whole day in one of the villages.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Ole' Spain!

We are back safe and sound from our trip to Spain. It was a wonderful few days, but definately TOO few. It is SO beautiful and interesting and there just wasn't enough days or daylight hours in the days to see all we wanted to see. We flew into Jerez early Wednesday morning and drove straight to our rental apartment in El Puerto de Santa Maria, a village right on the beach on the western coast of Spain where Christopher Columbus prepared for his journey to the Americas in 1492. Our apartment was perfect for us and had a great view of the beach and harbor. There were orange trees all over the place covered in ripe oranges but the lady who manages the apartments told us they are all marmalade oranges and not tasty. Too bad!

After we got dropped off our luggage and picked up a few snacks we headed up the road to Seville, the capital city of Andalucia (the region of Spain we visited). The first place we toured was the bullring or "Plaza de Toros". Our guide told us all about how the bullfights take place and pointed out where the bulls and the matadors enter the arena and also the royal box where the Spanish royal family sits to watch the spectacle. We also toured the museum and learned about how bullfighting evolved and also about some of the famous and favored matadors who fought in Seville.

The next place we visited was the Cathedral. The Cathedral in Seville has the distinction of being the largest cathedral in the world and is a very beautiful and fascinating structure inside and out. Like many churches in Spain, the cathedral began its life as a Moslem Mosque in 1198. In 1248 the Christians regained control of Spain and the mosque was converted into the cathedral. The only parts of it that you can see this are in the courtyard with the oranges and in the belltower which was the former minaret. The cathedral is SO immense! I loved looking up and up at the ceilings and marveled at the huge organ. The many alters had an amazing amount of gold and silver decorating them and there were gorgeous paintings too. We were surprised to discover that Christopher Columbus's tomb is located in the cathedral. Try as we might...our pictures just don't do any of it justice.

After we came out of the cathedral we drove to the Plaza de Espana, a huge semi-circle building built for the Spanish American exhibition in 1929. There is a big fountain in the center of the square with a canal surrounding it. Beautiful bridges go over the water in several places and the bottom of the building has benches built into it decorated with ceramic tiles, one stall for each province in Spain. It was a wonderful picturesque place to finish up our day in Seville.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gotta let me do a mommy brag!

This morning they had the awards assembly for the first quarter grading period at Colin's school. They have the advanced band play a bit before the awards are given out and while everyone gets there. Colin is a percussionist in band and got to show off his tympani skills. He also got to go up on stage and get his honor roll certificate. Of course I had to be in the front row with camera in hand like a good 'mamarazzi'! Great work Colin!!!

I haven't had a chance to brag about Jeffrey yet. I have been waiting for pictures to go along with my words but I don't have any yet. He is doing EXTREMELY well at Boys Town! This first quarter in school he got all A's except for one B. Fabulous!!! He has also been active in band and was a part of the varsity marching band, playing the baritone. He has never done marching band before but really threw himself into it and had a great time playing during the halftime of the football games. He also is taking part in JROTC for the first time. He is on the drill team and has been promoted several times. His rank right now is Corporal and he is also acting as platoon sergeant! Go Jeffrey!!!!!! My parents will be visiting him over the Thanksgiving weekend and he will get to go to the zoo and the SAC museum. Mom will take lots of pictures and email them my way so next week I can show off with pictures as well as words!!

In keeping with our Thanksgiving tradition since we have been living in Germany, we will be going out of town this week. Gotta take advantage of these long holiday breaks and get out and see Europe! Our destination this time is SPAIN!! We will be leaving bright and early (well won't be bright for a few hours yet) and we will return Sunday. Hope everyone has a happy, healthy and safe holiday!!! See you when we get back!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The most fun job I ever had....

Oh that is so Easy! Jozzie asked us to blog about the most fun job we ever had. I had every kid's dream job....I worked at ! Yup...I was a Toys R Us kid! I wore a silly orange smock with Geoffrey the giraffe on the back of it and did all sorts of things. A lot of the time I ran a cash register and that is OK, but I really liked working on the floor cuz you get to see all the toys up close and see the kids all excited and happy. I was in college then so it has been awhile, let see...the hot items then were the Fisher Price tape recorder, Teddy Ruxpin, Pound Puppies, Nintendo was new, Star Wars action figures, Transformers.... One of the best things about working on the floor was when someone came in wanting something specific and you helped them find it and they would be SO happy! The store I worked in was on the Chicago's North Shore...and I was ASTOUNDED at how much people spent on their kids there!!! The carts that came through loaded before Christmas...amazing! My kids think it is cool that I used to work there. It comes in handy sometimes too...cuz they used to want to mess with stuff in the stores (ride the bikes and stuff) and I would say it is against the rules and "I know cuz I used to work here!"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What kind of music do you like to listen to?

What is you favorite band? Why? Tough question isn't it? Well a group of musicians and their techie pals got together several years ago and decided to try to figure it out. They figured they could break down any song into 400 different specific attributes or 'genes'. Over the past 6 years they have been analyzing the music of over 10,000 artists one song at a time. This has been and is the work of The Music Genome Project. Isn't that interesting? "Yeah, in a geeky sort of way I suppose it is, but so what?" you probably are saying to yourself. Because the Music Genome guys have crossreferenced all this data and using broadband technology they now provide a free streaming radio service to anyone who is interested. What you do is tell it the name of a song or a group you like and it uses the data it has on this song to bring up other songs that have similar attributes and let you listen to them too. You can set up to 100 different "stations" that start from different songs or artists. Once it starts playing a song it will tell you about some of its attributes, and later on you can ask it why it chose to play a certain song. If you don't like a song it is playing you can skip it, if you don't agree that a song "fits" you can give it a thumbs down and never hear it again. The more you do this the more you customize your stations. Don't expect to be able to put in requests or listen to the same song over and over again, that has to do with the licensing requirements and how they can let you listen to music free and all that. Sound like fun? I think it is...and they are categorizing new music all the time. So what are you waiting for...come check out Pandora Internet Radio.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What scrapbook item are you?

Today's blog challenge on Scrap That Moment was for us to consider if we were a scrapbook item what would we be and why. Several of the gals were very creative in their responses but my creativity seems to be on vacation right now so I am going to cheat on this one and avail myself of a few cool internet quizzes to help me figure this out!

What scrapbooking item are you?

You are Fibers!Fun and crazy at times. You are a warm fuzzy kind of person. You run around getting things done but still find time for fun! You have so many diverse interests that it is often hard to pin you down to any one thing. People love your friendly attitude and carefree ways. You often brighten other people's days. But Fibers Beware - Sometimes people don't take you seriously because of your happy-go-lucky ways. Sometimes you find yourself feeling left out from decision making that could directly affect you. Even though you like to be happy and cheerful, make sure others know that you can also be serious and in tune with reality.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

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Or perhaps we are wondering what Paper Collection I am?

Which Scrapbooking Paper Collection Are You?

You are 7 GYPSIES paper!Oh la are sophisticated and enjoy fine wine and a candlelight dinner. You envision travelling the world someday. Your scrapbook pages are elegant and well thought out.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

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Falling Water

We decided to take a daytrip into the Black Forest in search of waterfalls. There is one that we have been planning to find but when Bill looked on the internet to get directions he came across another one that is closer to us and has the ruins of a 13th century monastery nearby so we decided to head there instead. The waterfalls are called the Büttenstein waterfalls and are the largest natural waterfalls in the northern Black Forest. They are actually 7 different falls that zigzag through the ravine down 270 feet. The forestry department developed the area in 1840 with stairs and walkways along the water so you can hike all the way up through the gorge. Mark Twain even wrote about this waterfall in his book "A Tramp Abroad" where he said "It is beautiful--a mixture of sylvan loveliness and craggy wildness. A limpid torrent goes whistling down the glen, and toward the foot of it winds through a narrow cleft between lofty precipices and hurls itself over a succession of falls. After one passes the last of these he has a backward glimpse at the falls which is very pleasing--they rise in a seven-stepped stairway of foamy and glittering cascades, and make a picture which is as charming as it is unusual." If it is good enough for Mark Twain then it certainly is worth a trip for us!

It has been raining here for the past few days so it was very wet in the gorge. There was water coming down from all different places besides the main waterfall and the trees were covered in moss and there were ferns and all sorts of green things growing on the rocks and trees. I was fascinated watching the water dripping and made it my goal for the day to get a picture of a drop of water stopped in mid-air. I am still learning how to use the different features of my camera and it was pretty overcast so this might have not been the easiest goal...but imagine my excitement when we got home and I uploaded my pictures to find THIS:

After we finished walking up and down the waterfall we drove up the road to visit the Allerheiligen monastery ruins. How fascinating! They were first built in 1297 and were used in different capacities, surviving fires and lightning strike until 1816 when it was auctioned off for demolition and was even used as a quarry until 1840 when the Ministry of the Interior forbid further exploitation of the ruins. It is cool to walk around a place like this and try to imagine how it was when it was bustling with activity and in all its glory.

After that we headed towards home via the Black Forest High Road. We had to take a short detour and drove through a small village called Ottenhofen where we passed a brown sign for another waterfall. We had time so of course we had to check it out! This waterfall is called the
Edelfrauengrab Wasserfälle which means "the grave of the noble lady". Apparently it is like the other one and is a series of falls and we were kind of tired from our earlier climb so we only went to the bottom cascade. It turns out this is the one that the falls gets its name from because there is a little cave carved out of the rock with a sign next to it telling the story of the noble woman. Apparently the lady was unfaithful to her crusading Lord Wolf von Bosenstein. She ordered her maid to murder the resulting sons (septuplets!), but her husband returned just in time and secretly prevented it. Later she was punished by being walled up in the cave to starve, but then to give her a merciful death the stream was diverted into the cave. Delightful story huh? Well was worth the hike up to there and we may have to return another time to see the rest of the gorge. I played with my camera some more and got an intersting shot of the waterfall going past the cave. Cool eh?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gotta use up that Scrap Stash!

Cmon, admit KNOW you have a huge stash of scrappin' goodies but it is just SO much fun to use all the newest papers and supplies that the old stuff just sits and gets overlooked time and time again. Or maybe you are like me and it is just SOO cool that you hate to use it cuz then it will be gone! Sometimes it is hard to justify buying new stuff when you have perfectly good stuff at home already...(nawwww, it isn't!! LOL) but our hubbies kinda have trouble with that. That's why Nancy Jones decided to start a Use up your stash Challenge at Scrap That Moment. The theme for this week was to use fall themed colors and be sure they come from our going out to buy anything new for this one!!!

Here is my layout using some CTMH papers from my stash and also some RubOns.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Major Milestone...

...remembering my first days behind the wheel.

On the message boards at Scrap That Moment Jozzie has a blog challenge each day and todays is to reminisce about when we learned to drive. I remember my first time behind the wheel. I was 15 and it was early in the summertime, dad had bought a 70's era split pea colored Pinto station wagon for me to learn to drive. I almost DIED when I saw that car! It wasn't the cool sporty amazing automobile that I had envisioned myself behind the wheel of that's for sure!

But since I was in no position to go out and make money to buy something more to my liking, if I wanted to drive that was going to be the car I was driving so I swallowed my pride and took the wheel. I grew up in the middle of Nebraska where it is VERY flat and the countryside is divided up into a checkerboard of 1 mile square gravel roads with a stop sign at each corner. That is where we went for my first driving lesson. I hadn't so much as drove a riding lawn mower before then so it was a huge deal for me. I remember not knowing where to focus my eyes, I knew I had to keep them on the road...and on the road I put them, I watching pretty much right where the road disappeared under the hood of the car, and even moving as slow as I am sure I was going it seemed to be disappearing in quite a blur! After a bit I learned to look farther ahead of the car and things felt a lot more comfortable, then dad gave me my first defensive driving lesson. "Always be ready to stop the car if you need to" he said. "OK" I replied, then he said abruptly "STOP!" He startled me so bad! He said he wanted to be sure I really was ready to stop. Then we started up again..and when it was time to stop at the corner he told me to step on the brake carefully like there was an egg between my foot and the pedal. I guess I did OK, because he let me drive again after that and even let me drive with our family in the car to church sometimes! I took driver's education that summer and having had the experience with my dad I felt like an old pro when it was time to do our driving practice and when I turned 16 in August I got my licence the first try. I drove that Pinto all year and it never grew on me!

I really really wanted a little pickup truck. I guess I bugged dad so much that he gave in, or maybe he wanted a little truck too, I'm not sure, but he did eventually trade in that station wagon for a little blue Datsun pickup. I was SO happy. One problem though...the Pinto had an automatic transmission and the truck had a stick shift. So back to the country roads we went one evening. I was feeling confident for about ten seconds...then I popped the clutch and stalled the engine and cried and thought I would never figure this out. Dad told me what to do, and in my head I knew and understood but it wasn't easy and I was ashamed of myself and nervous with him watching me. After awhile we went on home and dad said we would try again the next night. It was summer so the next day while he was at work I took the truck out to the country by myself. I practiced and practiced and kept at it and I got it! I was so excited for him to come home and for us to go out again to drive. He was so surprised and proud of me! Then we drove into town....and came to a light. I felt us roll back a bit when I went to go and it startled me and I hit the brake and stalled it out. I was so embarrassed!! I guess because we were on concrete the truck rolled easier because that didn't happen on the gravel. But I overcame that obstacle too...and me and my friends drove around in that little truck until I went away to college! I love to drive fact it is one of my favorite things to do. Thanks Dad!! :)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's that time again!

If you haven't been over to Scrap That Moment to see what we have been up to lately then this week is the perfect time to check us out! All the designers have been working all month with our product from Treehouse Memories and this is our week to post them in the gallery. Lynette has several people sharing their work every day so the fun lasts all week long. What are you waiting for...come be inspired!!!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Photo Challenge for this month

Every month on Scrap That Moment Chriss Coleman gives us a photo challenge. You post your photos in the gallery and link them back to the photo challenge thread and at the end of the month Chriss chooses a winner. It is a great way to keep yourself thinking about photography all month long and for me it kind of adjusts how I see my world that month....whatever the theme is sort of jumps out at me for that month. Like one month the theme was blue and when I started looking for it I saw blue in the most unlikely of places and probably noticed things that month they my eye normally would have passed right over. This month Chriss has us focussing on TEXTURE! What a fun challenge this will be. Texture is all around us all the time....but getting it in a photo...that could be a challenge. I'm up for it, are you??

Today we visited the Wilhelm Hack Museum in nearby Ludwigshafen and I used it as an opportunity to try to see if I could get some texture photos. I got a few good examples, but the one I wanted most of all I couldn't hold my breath long enough to get a decent shot of and I left my tripod at home. Here are some of the ones I like....

Friday, November 03, 2006

Colin's Scary Halloween Party!

Be very afraid!

Colin and I decorated the courtyard and garage with lots of jackOlanterns, spiderwebs, a cemetary with a gravestone custom made for each guest, a scary witch, a flying skull ghost, bats, lights, camoflauge netting, scary music and a campfire in our grill. We made all sorts of fun party food including witch finger cookies, a candy cookie pizza, veggies and dip, pretzels and Bill brought pizzas. We had PLENTY to eat!!

They played a balloon popping game where they had to pop balloons with small prizes hidden inside. Then they played a game that had them all trying to eat gummy vampire teeth off a string held by their partner. They all had to go out into the garden next (it was very dark and creepy out there) and find some gourds that Colin had hidden earlier. Each gourd had a number on it that we used to seperate them into teams for the next game...a game where they and their partner carried packs of M&Ms across the courtyard and dropped it into a bucket and came back for more...first one to get so many in wins!

After that they gathered around the campfire for the story of Mr. Hal O'ween...complete with body parts for them to feel...peeled tomatos, spaghetti, dried apricot, catsup and more! ewww!!! It was starting to drizzle a bit by then so they went inside and told ghost stories by flashlight in the living room. We had printed some out earlier and had them the number that was on the gourd they found helped us decide who read what story. Judging by the amount of laughter and screams and squealing I would say that the party was a success!