Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Delightful Read

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a delightful book. It is funny and sweet and very serious without being cheesy. Besides being informative about the occupation of Guernsey during World War II, the depictions of Guernsey's inhabitants rings true. I loved the letter format. I have found this format annoying in some books, but not so with this one. This is really a book that anyone can read and learn from, as well as enjoy. The characters are marvelous and well-rounded. The ending is predictable, but the journey is lovely.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Darth Ryder Turns Three

September 8 was Ryder's third birthday. He enjoyed celebrating turning three, even though he continues to insist that he is 2 1/2. ("I don't want to be three! I'm tuna half!) You may notice that this kid is obsessed with Star Wars (Chtar Wers). He wants to watch Star Wars movies all the time, his favorites being Episode 1 (the Darth Maul one); Return of the Jedi (the green one); and Episode IV (the blue one). He also loves Clone Wars (Clo Yours).

Over the past year he has switched from his obsession with Word World to Knock Knock jokes to Star Wars. With Word World he noticed letters everywhere; he then tormented us with Knock Knock jokes that NEVER made sense; and now we get knocked around pretty consistently with a plastic lightsaber.

It has been a lot of fun to watch him change as his vocabulary increases and his sense of humor develops. He can be a stinker, but he is quick to follow up his trouble-making with a kiss and an "I love you."
Opening gifts--do you notice a theme?

"Luke. I am your father."

"I will destroy you."

Ready to blow out the candles

It's hard to blow out candles through a Darth Vader mask

That's better

Ryder's new Darth Vader ship

Looking fancy with those shoes

He didn't want to sleep without his new lightsaber

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Haven Turns 5

On Monday, September 7, Haven turned 5 years old. The big girls convinced her how awesome it was that she didn't have to go to school on her birthday and it was kind of fun. She was also very glad that her dad didn't have to go to work and that grandma Easley was in town. For breakfast she wanted waffles AND pancakes with syrup and strawberries on top.

Ryder benefited from breakfast as well--without the strawberries

Opening presents

Her new helmet with knee and elbow pads

Haven finally scored a bike

Happy day!

Last year Savannah and Sage made Haven and Ryder's joint birthday cake. Haven did not forget! This year she requested specifically that Savannah and Sage make her cake. They took the challenge. Haven wanted a Tinkerbell cake, so the big girls were trying to figure out what to do. My mom suggested that they look on my step-dad's niece's blog and cake website for some ideas. (Janell has amazing talent, by the way!) They decided to try fondant. Let me first say that the baking of the cake itself was initally a catastrophe. I really had little hope that it would work out. And I must say that there was a little weeping and wailing on Savannah's part as well. But it turned out great! They used a fondant recipe from Janell's blog that uses marshmallows and tastes so yummy. Well done, girls!

We had a fun day. We actually had everyone over for barbeque ribs and other yummy stuff for lunch and then celebrated Haven's birthday. Haven said it was her best birthday ever (she says that every year, but I like to think that she feels it's true). She is such a beautiful and amazing little girl. She has a great sense of humor and loves her family. And we love her too!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Catching Fire

Catching Fire (Hunger Games, #2) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love this series. How am I going to wait for the next one? My admiration for Katniss grew in this novel. She is very complex and her character rings true. I couldn't put this book down.

At one sad point in the book I began crying. Ryder (my 3-year old) said, "Mom, why you cryning?" I replied, "This book is sad." He looked at me for a moment and appeared to be thinking and then said, "Then read a different book." He sounds just like his dad.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sage's 14th

I am trying to catch up on a few notable things. I wanted to start with the three birthdays we have had recently: Sage, Haven and Ryder. I initially decided that I would post the three birthdays together, but changed my mind when I realized how many pictures I had taken of those special days. At least, Haven and Ryder have many pictures. Sage only has these three! I am a bad bad momma. Sage was already feeling a little gypped because her birthday was on a Sunday, and then I sort of blew it in the picture department. I think she had a pretty good day. She wanted clothes and money, and that is what she got. She also had her favorite dessert (Better Than....). I can't believe she is 14 already. Crazy! I love Sage so much. She is an amazing girl. I want to be just like her when I grow up.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

European Tour 2009 - Day 7

This was another of those crazy busy days. We started our day with breakfast at the chateau. Our hostess was very hospitable, but while chatting with her during breakfast we found out the true extent of how inconvenienced they were by our late arrival the previous night. The chateau offers dinner to those guests who request it. Through some internal miscommunication she thought we had requested dinner the previous night and had prepared it for us. Now, I still have the e-mail to prove that we did not request dinner and had instead prearranged to arrive late. I did explain our side, but I still think she was a little irritated with us. Despite that fact, it was a lovely place to stay. Given another opportunity, I would stay there and take the train into Paris.

The front of the chateau

The dining room

A view from the top of the stairs

A view of the incoming road from our room

Another view of the front with our rental car on the left

A cool place to hang the cool keys

Back view

A little path off the side of the chateau

A view of the road as we were leaving

And once again as we were leaving

There were wooded areas surrounding the chateau and the road leaving the grounds

Before we left, our hostess recommended that we stop off at Chateau de Maintenon on our way to Chartres. It was purchased by Louis XIV for his mistress. It was a worthwhile stop.

Dan on the walkway to the chateau

There was a canal that ran alongside the chateau towards an aqueduct

Some creepy house on the grounds of Maintenon

How about some doors?

The aqueduct

Rear view

The entrance we took

After Maintenon we went to the city of Chartres. We headed straight for the cathedral. There was a tour that we were hoping to take that is famously given by Malcom Miller, but it turned out that the tour would not take place that day because of a funeral. Our self-guided tour was probably just as effective.

One of the cathedral spires

The buildings surrounding the cathedral

The front of Chartres Cathedral

Kind of blurry, but the architecture is amazing

Chartres Cathedral is famous for its stained glass--I only wish the pictures could do it justice

Stained glass windows

There were a lot of beautiful wooden doors

I think this is the nave

More of the famous stained glass windows

Doors leading to...I don't know

Eric, Tina and Dan inside the cathedral

Inside the cathedral--there were so many of these

Chartres Cathedral

The front/side of Chartres Cathedral

Of course we were getting hungry by this time and began to look for a place to eat. There were several cute little cafes around the cathedral, but once again we were looking for something we could eat in a hurry. We stopped at a little bakery on our way back to the car for a sandwich. I must say that I was less than excited thinking that I didn't want to eat a sandwich that had been sitting in a display window. I was really hoping to finally get some delicious French food and here we were picking up a sandwich. Eric convinced me that it would be fresh and was ordering a favorite from his mission: ham, cheese and butter. I decided to share with him. I also ordered an eclair to help console myself. But guess what? It was one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten in my life. I was left wishing that Eric and I hadn't shared and that I had gotten my own. It was so good. It was so simple but I haven't been able to duplicate its goodness. The eclair was equally delicious. We got one for Dan and Tina as well and that is when Dan's love affair with the eclair began. From here on out I will try to document each time Dan buys an eclair--and I will fail. He nearly cleaned out the city of Paris of eclairs while we were there. Next stop--Versailles.

Tina and Dan

The gate in front of Versailles


Dan and Tina in front of Versailles


The Royal Chapel

We walked through room after room of paintings and other items--I took this picture in part to show how many rooms are behind Eric, Dan and Tina

A statue in one of the ball type rooms--there were similar statues in abundance

One of the many beautiful ceilings

Dan and Eric earnestly trying to figure out if the bust was carved from one piece of marble or if it was pieced together

The Hall of Mirrors

The Queen's Bedchamber

A side view

Versailles gardens

A view of Versailles from behind (I actually liked the back better)

A statue near the fountains

Looking out towards the Versailles gardens

Versailles from behind

Versailles was amazing. It was also overwhelming. We didn't see all there was to see, and the gardens were being changed and therefore not in bloom. But it was quite a sight. That is where we bought our Museum Pass. It got us into Versailles and almost everywhere else we went in Paris. On the way back to the car we were practically accosted by men trying to sell us postcards and replicas of the Eiffel Tower. One guy was really giving Eric a hard time and didn't want to let Eric pass him.

It should come as no surprise that by the time we left Versailles we were running late. The hotel where we were headed had a 7:00 check-in time and we needed to call them to tell them we would be a little late. By this time we had figured out how to use the phone and I gave Eric the job of calling the hotel. Imagine my surprise when I heard Eric say that they did not have our reservation. I hoped that he wasn't translating correctly, but it was true. They had canceled our reservation. I was sick! The back story is that I ended up booking our Paris hotel stay through a complany called Planigo (take note of this company and DO NOT use them). They booked our hotel we and had already pre-paid for our stay. I had all the information with me in the car, so I got on the phone to try to sort it out. I spoke with a lady at Planigo who claimed that the hotel had canceled the reservation and that they no longer had the two rooms. She also told me that she had e-mailed me and tried to call my home phone several times (this turned out to be true but I'm not sure how that was helpful given that I was on vacation). She assured me that she would find us a place to stay and call me back.

At this point we pulled off the road into a lot so that we could work things out. Let me just say that I had put a lot of thought into where we would stay. I chose the neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower and a few other places of note that we could just walk to. So when the Planigo lady called back to say she found us a place in that same neighborhood, I was very happy and relieved. We started driving again when the phone rang. It was Planigo saying that the reservation fell through, but she would still continue to look. At this point I was starting to panic. We were driving into Paris with no where to stay. She finally called back to say that she found a place. We redirected the GPS only to have her call back AGAIN to say that the previous reservation wouldn't work. I had been writing down confirmation numbers and then crossing them out only to write down a new one. I was nearly in tears. She called back a final time to say that she had a place that would work out for sure. Really? Positively? Yes, she assured me. As we continuted to the new hotel, we had to drive on the Champs Elysees right by the Arc de Triomphe on the Place de l'Etoile. It was as crazy as I pictured it!

We located La Regence Hotel and decided, because of the parking situation, that Eric and Dan would drop me and Tina off and then take the rental car back. They would then take the subway back to our hotel. Tina and I dragged all of the luggage into the hotel lobby and waved Eric and Dan off. Once at the lobby desk, I proceeded to tell the clerk who we were, assuming that he would have very recently been in touch with our friend at Planigo. He had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. He hadn't heard of us and had no idea what was going on. I asked him if he would be willing to call the Planigo lady and talk to her about it. He grudgingly did so. After a lengthy conversation of which I could only understand bits and pieces, he told me that he had two rooms and that we could stay there, but that we would have to pay for it (this particular hotel had severed its relationship with Planigo for obvious reasons and wouldn't take payment from them). I, once again, got on the phone with the Planigo lady who told me that they would just refund our credit card. I was beyond irritated, but glad that we had a place to stay for the next two nights.

Tina and I took the closet sized elevator to our floor and got settled in. It took me a while to finally settle down. (If I were a drinker, I probably would have headed to the nearest bar.) Tina and I then began to worry about Eric and Dan. It was taking them a long time to get back and we were starting to panic. We only had one cell phone between us and Tina and I had kept it in case we had any more hotel trouble. It was nearly 10:00 when we finally spotted them. They didn't have any trouble finding the station where the rental car place was, but they circled blocks and parking garages trying to find the correct place to park the car. They eventually encountered a man who did some running around for them and found the correct place. Whew!

Can you guess how we were feeling at this point? We were relieved and thankful because we had a roof over our heads and exhausted from a big day. But we were also, you guessed it, starving! It was getting late, and because we had ended up in a neighborhood we were completely unfamiliar with, we didn't know where to go. We walked up the street and saw an Italian restaurant that was still open. If you know me then you know that in an Italian restaurant I first look for gnocchi on the menu. It was there and I felt like I deserved it. Dan, Tina and Eric each ordered pizza. The gnocchi was some of the best I've ever tasted and everyone else loved their pizza. It was seriously good food. We had a good time talking about our continued misfortunes and hoped that they were over!

Things I learned today: NEVER use Planigo; things always take longer than you think; NEVER use Planigo; driving in Paris is insane; NEVER use Planigo.

Things we ate today: bread, jam, yogurt, granola, sandwiches, eclairs, gnocchi and pizza.