Thursday, March 22, 2012

Aarrrg! Matey

Finley was invited to a Pirate party a few weeks ago. He came home in pirate gear ... the best part being this awesome mustache. He is definitely to be feared on the high seas. 

Isn't he frightening :)

Rumor has it he takes after his Opa who at one time was a Scottish Pirate.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The newest members of our family

We are so happy to announce that we've welcomed not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 new members to our family! Berlin and I picked out these cute little 3 week old Ameraucana chicks this morning. They are so cute and fluffy! Berlin was a little disappointed that they weren't fluffy yellow. But she has warmed up to them. The chicks get more chirpy as the day goes on. The chicks are a little shy, but they perk right up when you go by them and chirp their little hearts out when they want attention. I think they were a little nervous after the 30 minute car ride to their new home. 

Meet: Kikki, Sally, Gerty, and Foxy

Yay for having yummy, fresh green/blue eggs down the road. They will definitely be the most expensive eggs ever, but the experience and the new little friendships with them will be price-less (or so I keep telling myself).

Here is Finley in the field drawing pictures for the chickens roosting boxes.

He also took it upon himself to label all the parts of the coop so the chickens would know where to go and what to do. He's so sweet & tender it just melts my heart. 

Of course, we moved the coop from where it is in the above picks a little further back behind the tree where the ground was more level. And of course I will be painting the coop this weekend once it warms up again. We finally decided on the colors and I will go pick up the paint tomorrow. These chickens are going to have one stylin' coop! Once they are 6-8 weeks they can start living in it full time.

So, here's the newest adventure in our life. Hopefully I don't regret it :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

the Mosel

Our last stop on our month-long trip was in the little town of Ellenz, located along the Mosel river in Germany.  This is the historical home where we stayed in the top floor studio apartment: 

The location was perfectly situated between two mini castles right near the river and bike path.  The Mosel Weinstrasse is Germany's wine country. I can't wait to go back there when the kids are older. If you go during the Fall (harvest time) you can often go out with the locals and help them harvest the grapes. The kids loved seeing the men climb the steep hillsides and bring back bushels of grapes and dump them into the trucks. The white wine produced in this area is supposedly famous and delicious. We settled on the white grape juice schorle and it was excellent. Finley couldn't get enough.

When we drove into town and checked into our room, we had just enough time to tour the smaller of the two castles before settling down for the night. We walked down past vineyards to get to the ferry which took us across the Mosel to the tiny town. The castle is more of a fortress and it's in ruins, but the kids had fun climbing to the top of the tower.

 The view from the top of the fortress ruins. Across the river is Ellenz where we stayed. Do you see all the terracing on the hills? Those are the vineyards and they are steep!


There was a cute little cafe at the top of the tower, so we decided to sit down and have our dinner where we could enjoy the scenery. This area of Germany is just beautiful.
Finley trying a red currant (those red berries on his plate) for the first time.

The next day we decided to tour the other castle, Reichsburg Schloss in the town of Cochem.


Of course we had to hike up the mountain to get to the castle. After all the castle hikes we did on this trips, you'd think I would have lost weight,or at least have thighs of steel, but no.

This is the back of the castle ... "almost there, almost there." That's what we kept saying to keep the kids going. And of course giving them Haribo Green Frogs. The ultimate reward was the Magnum ice-cream treat on our way back down after the tour.

The ever so grand and imposing entrance gate.


 My little super-model. It was was super windy that day and her hair was all over the place. But she's working it!

The inside of the castle was stunning. The first pic is just a small section of the painted wood ceiling in the dining hall. The other is the fireplace. Those frog looking things up on the top were everywhere around the castle. Pretty cool & creepy at the same time. Note, they aren't frogs though. They are lions in a helmet, making them look froggish.

 The carved wooden details on the ceiling beam joists, and down the stairwell. I seriously want to live here. It's amazing.

 Despite the fact that the taller knight's armor is on a 6 inch platform, it was freakin' HUGE! It was made for a 7 1/2 ft person.



After the castle we got lunch and then drove to another castle, Burg Eltz. We love this castle. It truly is one of the most beautiful castles in Germany, and the collection of furniture, armory, and weapons housed within in amazing. The family that owns it (split between siblings) still resides in part of the castle and vacations there often. Can you imagine having a castle as your vacation house? LUCKY!!! (in the voice of Napolean Dynamite).  

Of course, you have a pretty steep hike down to the castle from where you park your car - that's the easy part. It's the climb back up the hill that gets you huffing & puffing. Our kids were very disappointed we didn't take the shuttle van. But to their credit they hiked both ways very well and just enjoyed the fall foliage that surrounded us.

Burg Eltz

 Again, the wind. My ferocious little lion.

After Burg Eltz we went back to Cochem for a delicious dinner of Doner's. Then it was to bed.

The next day we drove up to Koblenz, the city where the Mosel meets the Rhine river. It is a busy city and driving was a bit confusing, but we finally got where we wanted - the old Roman fortress. There was some garden show going on so it was super crowded but it was still fun & interesting. The fortress is just across the river on top of the little mountain. We rode the aerial tram across which was pretty cool.

There is also a monument in the park right where the two rivers meet called, Deutsches Eck (German Corner). The base is surrounded by pillars with the coat of arms of the cities that were important back then. Here's Berlin pointing to her coat of arms (the Bear).

The monument is of German Emperor William the 1. The German Corner used to be controversial because it slowly became the symbol of German Nationalism, but over the years it has become more a symbol of German unity and not aggression.

The next day we had to head back to France for our very early flight the next morning. Because we knew the drive back to France would be long, we decided to break it up with a stop in Trier, which is also along the Moselle. Trier also happens to be the oldest city in Germany and was founded before 16BC.

First stop was the Porta Nigra (the black gate). It was part of a system of 4 city gates. The Porta Nigra is the only one remaining. It is also one of the few remaining Roman structures still standing in Trier.

My favorite people standing in front of the Porta Nigra.

We got to go inside and climb up and explore all the levels. Trier is obviously a touristy spot, which became evident when we noticed tour-guides dressed in full on togas, roman soldier outfits, and more. Cheesy, but in a fun way. 

The back of the black gate. 

Berlin's favorite part was the pink Palace of Trier. I wonder why?

Next up were the old ruins of 3 Roman Baths. You can take a tour, but we didn't have time, so we just walked around the outside, which was good enough for me.

The inside of the bath complex.

The outside of the bath complex.

To finish up Trier, we went to the old Roman Amphitheater. We had the place to ourselves, well, except for the Roman soldier marching up and down and all around the outdoor stadium. It was kinda cool - especially for the kids.

Below the amphitheater is where they housed the prisoners that were to fight, the slaves, and even the dangerous animals. It was so interesting - definitely my favorite part of this site. 

My own soldiers fighting to the death.

This poor girl was tuckered out from all the walking to and from the monuments, so we waited at the amphitheater while dad went and got the car. 

 Around the stadium pit are rooms where lions and stuff were stored before being released. Isn't she scary?

Note: It was FREEZING and WINDY that day. The poor guy must have been freezing in that getup. No wonder he kept running around the stadium. 

And that, with much sadness, concludes our trip to Germany. The drive to France was long and when we got to our apartment we put the kids to bed and re-packed for our flight home the next morning. Here's to planning our next big adventure in 2016 ... to England (and maybe Wales and Scotland)?