Saturday, March 30, 2013

Family Rites of Passage: Our first pet(s)!

First, you should know that we are not "pet people!"  I have a hard enough time keeping our house clean with just human created, though I may coo over tiny little things like kittens and puppies I KNOW that they get bigger and I'm just not willing to be into them for the long haul.  (Does that make me sound heartless?...ha, ha all my siblings and my parents just answered "YES!") 

Anyway, we now have ourselves a tank full of tadpoles...and though I'm still pretty grossed out by them, I'll admit that they have brought quite a lot of joy to our household these last few days.  Josh has fond memories of catching tadpoles and "raising" them with his dad growing up, so he was very excited to share the tradition with our kids.  (NOTE:  When he shows even the slightest hint of sentimentality, I MUST take advantage of these rare and sweet moments...even it is does mean having pond scum and wiggly squiggly things in my dining room!)

Here are some photos from our grand tadpole hunting expedition...
We expected the attrition rate to be high, so I'd say we collected at least a hundred tadpoles in the valley stream just below Motta.  We've shared a few with friends and we sent some in to Elise's classroom, but if we end up with 100 little frogs hopping around in a few weeks I'm not quite sure what I'll do.
I love spring!
...and by "stream" - I meant that some of them also came from puddles along the dirt road that runs through the valley.  I'm pretty sure we saved their lives.
Mission accomplished!
Casa dolce casa!


Here are some spring beauties we found on our hike today!  More on the tadpoles later...
Sadly, I don't know what any of them are...not sure why I haven't purchased a Sicilian wildflower book yet?!?  Oh well, they're lovely just the same!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Guess Who's FOUR?!?

Our sweet little Caleb Asher Arthur is NOT so little anymore! While being sick on his actual birthday - we managed to spread his birthday cheer and celebration over the next several weeks - including dinner with friends on the 25th, a steady stream of packages and cards from the States in the days that followed, and a rescheduled birthday party with friends at Miss Lorrie's Farm!
I'm telling you...this poor boy was SICK! eye...yucky cough...the works!  He did manage to enjoy the cupcake that he and Daddy and Lucas had made the day before...and he was a really good sport while we shared dinner with the Garbers and our friend Brian, who was in town from Naples.
Straight from Sherwood Forest...many thanks to Grammy for the fun new costume to add to our repertoire!
Birthday Celebrating...Take 2...both our family and Miss Lorrie recovered from illnesses so that we could enjoy a party with great friends at Lorrie's farm in nearby Paterno.
A rare viewing of my 3rd trimester self...31 weeks and counting!
Sometimes it's just great to be a kid!
Pony rides for everyone...the birthday boy led the way!
Next stop:  Hot dogs on the fire pit...yum!  For the adults:  A delicious spread of Sicilian appetizers (grilled eggplant, bruscetta, fresh ricotta and honey, frittata, etc...)  Thank you, Lorrie!
A "Sicilian" birthday least for Caleb!  Since strawberry season hits here in February/March - Strawberry Shortcake is the perfect "winter" birthday cake.
Love Daniel's sneak attack on the strawberry shortcake!

A sweet birthday gift from Caleb's best bud, Stevie!  We have been putting that airplane together and taking it apart a LOT over the past week!  The boys think having their own "real" power drill is AMAZING!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Praha: The city of a thousand spires

Prague is the largest city in the Czech Republic, as well as its capital. It escaped much of the devastation that plagued other European cities during WWII, so it's historic beauty is well preserved and worth the trip to enjoy! I may not recommend going in March as the days were gray and quite cold, but that's a charming and easy to explore city (and it was a bit cheaper and less crowded as a perk!) 
Before I go on, I must admit to having a hard time finding the motivation to post our pictures from our 4 days in Prague since sadly, our camera (along with my wallet and phone) was stolen on our first night in the city...we ended up with a low end camera we picked up at the mall just so we could capture a few highlights of the trip. I didn't realize how attached I was to my camera (and my wallet that we purchased at the leather market in Florence) until it was no longer mine. Okay, enough of my pity party - it's been dragging on for several weeks now and I should really just get over it. Without further ado...
The Orloj - Astronomical Clock - on the Old Town City Hall in the Main Square.  The clock was first installed in 1410.
Elise begged us to go to the top of the clock tower.  She and Josh took all 200+ stairs to the top and the boys and I took the elevator!  We were glad we made the trip - the views of the city were amazing and it was the only sunny day of our stay.
So glad Elise is such a willing adventurer!  She raced us back down the steps - again with us on the elevator - and she WON!!
Views along the Charles Bridge and Vitava River.
I think we must have crossed the Charles Bridge at least 20 times during our visit.  Elise was particularly fascinated with it because Mr. Atkinson had made a drawing of it for her on the day before we left for our trip.
Views looking down at the city from the Prague Castle and Strahov Monastery - since the city is situated in the river valley, there are lots of great places to enjoy a birds' eye view!
The kids were completely captivated with the changing of the guards at the castle gates.  They marched around all afternoon pretending to be palace guards.
St. Vitus Cathedral - within the walls of the Prague Castle (very Notre Dame-esque) favorite vocab word of the day:  "flying buttresses"...aren't we classy?!

Never thought we'd spend nearly an hour listening to a Dixieland inspired Czech band in the center of Prague...
Never, never, never thought we'd buy their CD!!!!!  Caleb was too cute and too amazed to say no...and the kids have honestly listened to it every day since we returned - thank you Staromestsky Dixieland!
Old Town Square.
Yes, we really must each Asian food on every single trip we take.  Elise was quite pleased to have her own plate of sushi!

On our last evening in Prague we took the tram and the cable car (especially for Lucas!) to Petrin Hill Tower - for more great views above the city.  This tower was completed 4 years after the Eiffel Tower and is 1/5 of it's size (i.e. not that impressive!) - but Josh and the kids climbed all 200+ steps to the top and enjoyed some beautiful skyline views at dusk.
Czech-style pancakes on the last morning of our trip.  They weren't quite sweet enough for the kids, so I got to eat them!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The hills are alive...

We've been busy planning a trip to Prague and figured out that the most cost effective way for us to get there was to fly into Munich and drive from there...sooo, that got us thinking about what other places we might want to see with 5 free days and a set of wheels. We had not made it to Salzburg during our trip in December and since it's just an hour south of Munich we decided to stop in for an overnight visit. We prepped the kids with a very jolly viewing (in 3 parts) of The Sound of Music (they've been singing "How do you solve a problem like Maria?" ever since!) and headed to Austria right from the airport. Thankfully, Josh had the foresight to book a Sound of Music tour ahead of time so all we had to do was wake up...find some pastries and coffee...and make our way to the tour van! The kids were really sweet and excited to see things they remembered from the movie and it was a great way to get our bearings in the city since our visit was so short. We returned from the tour around one and had the afternoon to explore the historic part of the city and find a few more VonTrapp related sites before we began our road trip to Prague.
Remember when Maria and the children all tipped out of the canoe?  That happened here - once a private residence, it's now owned by a group of American Universities and runs as a scientific "think tank" of sorts. 
Oh, isn't he just adorable?  This is just a replica of "the gazebo" and it's no longer in it's original location due to troubles with vandalism, but our kids still loved skipping around it and singing!  We're still hearing a lot of "I am 16 going on 17..." around our house.
Picture these trees with leaves on them and you may remember the children climbing in them while their Father and Baroness Shrader drove by.
The front gate and courtyard where Maria came when she first arrived from the convent.
Enjoying the countryside and alpine lakes outside the city.

A stop at the "wedding church" from the final scene of the movie.  The highlight of the day for Elise!  We also enjoyed sandwiches and a slice of apple strudel at a cafe down the street.
Always fascinated by Europe's lock sightings...

The kids did NOT like this part in the movie - it was way too intense - still this cemetery looked a LOT like the Hollywood set so it was worth taking a look around.
Salzburg Skyline.
Views from atop the Hohensalzburg Castle.  So long, farewell,auf weidersehen, Salzburg!