Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lunch Menus- Packin' It

Last year, I started to write up and save lunch menus each month. This helped to prevent the repetition of PB&J that the kids hate, the monotonous snack menu of apples and bananas, and general boredom with school lunches.
We like to mix it up. I thought I'd post the new lunch lists here in case anyone else is looking for some school lunch ideas.
Most everything I pack for the kids is homemade, but certainly there are options out there for speed and convienence. We use almond butter, but others might prefer Jiffy. We use whole wheat bread, but someone else might make their own. So be it. To each his own. There are about 6 weeks of lunches and snacks offered here.
 I'm not a nutritionist, just offering some back to school lunch ideas that work for us....
This year, one of the family chores is to pack lunches. So once a week, each child will be packing all the lunches, and one day, mom or dad will do the chore. Hopefully the menus will make this quick and easy, offering a number of options.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10 things this month

Couisn Kelsey (and grandma and grandpa Hill) have been here for a month. They fly home tomorrow.
We hope Kelsey has enjoyed her whirlwind tour of Europe. Certainly she deserves great credit. She has stepped out on her own to try new things, eat new foods, and go new places.We're really proud of her for that and we hope that she'll continue to do and try new things, even back home.

Before her arrival, her mom mentioned that she's a neat freak, which I welcomed. (This would be such a nice change!) She has had to put up with her two cousins, Addie and Stella, who are usually, despite best efforts, are complete slobs. I can only hope that she rubbed off a little on them. She was a trooper.
We compiled a little commemorative list for her, and here it is....

Kelsey's Top 10 in Europe 2011
10 - the number of tickets for admission to major sights, and the number of new foods tasted.
9- the number of ailments she thought she'd die from during her visit, and the number of other languages she experienced along the way
8 - yep, a total of 8 countries in only 3 weeks; also the number of time zones she traveled through
7- cathedrals visited and also 7 days at sea on a cruise ship
6- different means of travel and 6 different bus systems utilized
5- the number of days she has to recover from this trip and return to school; also 5 countires traveled to by ship
4- cousins playing tour guide, and 4 times packing a suitcase for travel
3- the number of flights it took to get here, and 3 is also the number of royal palaces visited
2- trips made to the Grande Place and Mannekin Pis; also the number of nights spent in a tent
1- ferry ride; 1 castle visit
0- the number of times she worse the rain poncho her mom sent along with her (but it rained a lot!)

She even put up with Bernie, who occasionally let her bad manners show....
Kelsey we know it's not likely that you'll be back to Belgium anytime soon, but we do hope you have a chance to see Europe again some day! Thanks for making the trip kiddo. Safe travels!


Amsterdam. Interesting, to say the least. Especailly with 4 kids, a niece, and 2 grandparents in tow. During Grandma's last trip to Europe, she asked to visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, but at that time, it was too late to get tickets and fit a trip into an already busy schedule. So we promised on her return, that we'd take her there.

She got to see Amsterdam in its entirely- from the pot smoking dudes hanging out in the "cafes" to a quaint canal cruise; from the vast assortment of bicycles to the erotic window displays and sex museums. She had a good overall taste of the city. To each, his own I suppose. The kids were fairly oblivious, perhaps due to their age, and that was probably a good thing as I can't imagine all that we'd have had to explain. It would take days, not to mention possible psychotherapy.

We did skip the red light district, so grandma may feel the need to someday return, who knows. Personally, I think ignorance is bliss on that one, as I was already suffering from what seemed an oncoming asthma attack from all the marijuana waffing in the air. When it wasn't pot, it was cigarettes. By the end of the day I felt truly nauseated. Half heartedly, I declare now that if I die of lung cancer, it will be because I visited Amsterdam.

But would I got back? In a heartbeat. -Just to spend time in the Van Gough and Rijksmuseums alone.

The Anne Frank House was fascinating and saddening, as it ultimately places a physical location to a family of  Holocaust victims. Her father, Otto, wished for the house to remain unfurnished, as it was after the Nazis discovered their hiding. So, inside there was little to see, except some of Anne's posters from her bedroom still hanging on the walls, models of house the way the house was, the bath, and moving bookshelf which hid the access to their living area. The museum was well done for the boundaries placed upon it and they have a fantastic online website with an interactive 3d page where you can walk though as well....

Grandma got a great deal at the market on this 2 sided wooden speculous cookie mold. An incredible deal!
I have to greatly thank Matt and grandpa for schelpping around my fab find as well- 3 brass candelabras, which we hauled all over Amsterdam and back to the hotel. I wish I'd have take a photo of that, but our arms were so darn tired, and mentally I felt like I'd stepped right off the the "Clue" gameboard. It just didn't seem timely. But thanks guys- someday we'll burn those babies over a nice meal and, hopefully chuckle about the Amsterdam trip.

 OK- one more thing. The kids were great on the buses. the trains. The metros. The ferries. The canal cruise. They really were...but um, Arleigh? Do you have to lick everything? Really kid? Is that necessary?

Baltic Cruise

We took a cruise over the Baltic Sea last week. It began in Kiel Germany where we dropped off the car, and embarked on our first cruise, and a big learning curve. For me, a cruise is not terribly comfortable. The room was big enough. the food was great, though there was an awful lot of that. But I didn't like the unmistakable feeling of overindulgence. it was everywhere. People waiting on us hand and foot. It was difficult to not clear the table myself- pitch right in and help our waiters Adinata and Dewan. I hated being served all the time- who are they kidding? I'm no better than anyone else. For me it was uncomfortable. And man alive, if I heard someone ask "Are they all yours?" one more time I might have jumped overboard. Apparently cruising with 4 kids, a niece and 2 grandparents is not the norm. Now we know. 

Most of all, I hated the rocking of the ship. It would wake me at night, because the sensation was not unlike the rumbling or shaking of the ground just before an earthquake in Guam. I didn't like that feeling in Guam and the movement instantly recalled this unsettling memory for me. Who knew? I thought I'd left that rubling under the feet back in paradise.

The exposure for the kids was great though. For the days preceeding our embarkation, there were lots of questions, most of which were quite amusing. "Will there be enough food?" "What if I have to go potty?" "How can they drive the ship?" "Will it be a big boat or little boat?" "Where will I sleep?" "How do we get on?"
Everyone participated in the lifeboat drill, which Arleigh detested, as his liefjacket seemed to eat him alive...

 Prior to this excursion, my only knowledge of a ship cruise was that of opportune moments, about 25-30 years ago in front of the TV with our baysitter, Susie, on Friday nights watching the 'Love Boat'. There was no "Gopher" as the Yoeman Purser, or Julie McCoy as "Cruise Director", but the ship was vast and had everything from a library with covered cushy leather chairs, to a casino.

 In the theatre, there were shows each night. Matt found the "American theme" show rather amusing as preformed with a European twist. I preferred most nights to stay in the cabin with sleeping kids and press on through the latest novel from the nightstand.
and what would life be without our very own act in the theatre of absurd?

We thought it was a great chance to see the Baltic countries though. We prefer to camp around Europe, but we couldn't have camped around the Baltic Sea and have seen what we did in the time that we had available for the same price. This was a better deal, overall and despite the learning curve, I think we'd do it again, perhaps though, slightly differently.

For the kids, their favroite area on board was likely the pool, but I loved the deck nearby where the gulls would escort us into and out of each port as if a welcome committee.
We'll see. Perhaps there will be, eventually another chance to be greeted by this welcoming crew.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Port call in Denmark.... we chose a hop on hop off tour to cover the city, but found ourselves cheering on an ironman race through the town. Then returned to the ship for a 5 course dinner (feeling a little guilty). From the mermaids to the palace guards, we enjoyed it all, and were glad to not have completed an ironman in order to see most of it....
 And they were off!
 The hop on hop off...
 The Little Mermaid, a landmark with a Danish story. The Little Mermaid symbolizes the fairy tale by Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen, the story of a young mermaid who fell in love with a prince who lived on land, and often came up to the edge of the water to look for her love.
In 1909, brewer Carl Jacobsen saw solo dancer Ellen Price dance in Fini Henriques' ballet "The Little Mermaid" at the Royal Theatre. He was so taken with her that he asked her if she would pose for a statue. She agreed in principle, but was not very interested in posing without any clothes on, when she found out just how public the statue would be. Instead sculptor Edvard Erichsen's wife stepped in and modeled for the body. On September 14, 1912, the Little Mermaid statue was first placed at a test location, and on August 23, 1913, at its current and permanent site. The statue's birthday is celebrated in various ways every year on August 23. Throughout the year, 75% of all tourists visiting Copenhagen go to see The Little Mermaid.  I suppose the other 25% get lost along the way.....

 We spent a nice time in this area, Nyhavn, where Hans Christian Andersen lived and wrote several of his stories.

Just before we headed back to the ship, we wandered over to the Palace doors to see the guards. This was a special request from Emory and a significant highlight in his day. No doubt he would have sat on the cobblestone yard outside and watched them pace back and forth, keeping watch. they weren't exactly into posing for photos, so having the kids standy by as one guard approached was the only way to have a photo with them....

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden was a lovely visit, especially to the old city "Gamla Stan" where shopped and admired the scenery. The kids were content enough after only a few hours and wished for pool time back on the ship, but the rest of us enjoyed the city and all it offered in our day trip.

 Cool shades babe...(even cooler front teeth there!)

 His first ferry ride...

 We made away with woolen knits from Sweden as well. The sweaters, mittens, socks and scarves were all quite beautiful and seemed like they would be incredibly warm in the chilly months.

 Upon departure from the port in Stockholm, we said we'd really love to take a trip and stay put on the waters edge here for a week or so. We'll see....