Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Europe trip... part 7... Paris!

Hello Dear Readers!

Oh! My! Life has been, um, "full" here. It does seem that there are seasons which are more fraught with opportunities to trust God than others. In the past few weeks
  • I've continued to deal with an injured hip (IT Band injury, which turned into bursitis, which is now beginning to gradually improve),
  • my computer which insists on needing reformatting every few months despite the fact that I keep our financial information, homeschool records and of course my photos on it (on the bright side, 15 year-old Gabriel is getting really good at reformatting and reinstalling Windows and I'm getting much more diligent about backing up my files),
  • our septic system is acting up (this is not pretty any time, but in a house with 12 people in it full-time... well, lets just say that it's not a good situation)
  • little Timmy has had numerous asthma attacks after a year with no symptoms... no idea what caused this, but he is doing much better now,
  • and most significantly, my dear Nana fell again this past Monday, this time shattering her hip.

All opportunities to trust God and see Him faithful in the midst of the "un-fun" stuff that happens. And He is faithful.

I know that it's been a while, but I thought I'd go ahead and post some additional photos from Hannah and I's trip to Europe. If you haven't already seen them you can find the other installations here: Part 1, part 2, part 3 (doors and windows), part 4, part 5, and part 6!

After a very full week in London and the nearby countryside, we took the bullet train under the English Channel to Paris! I tried not to think about the train which was stuck under the Channel for way too long last spring.... I don't think that would be very fun at all!

All in all trains have to be one of my favorite ways to travel. What's not to like... beautiful scenery (except for when we were under the English Channel!), plenty of room to move around while traveling, etc. My parents upgraded our tickets to first class so my father could have the leg room that he needs after a knee replacement.

This was our breakfast... actually only the first course of breakfast. I decided that I like first class!

I would have been perfectly content with that for breakfast, but the main course was still to come... I believe we had scrambled eggs, etc. So good!

It was raining when we arrived in Paris... almost the only rain we had during our whole two week trip! Here's the view from the little restaurant where we ate lunch.

We began our Paris sightseeing on foot...

One of our first stops was Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Do you see the poor headless chap second from the right in the photo below? That, my friends, is a representation of Saint Dennis. So the story goes, Dennis influenced quite a few conversions, to the consternation of the druid priests of the time. Their solution was to behead poor Dennis in approximately 273AD. That was when the story got interesting. After his head was chopped off, supposedly Dennis picked it up, washed it off and proceeded to walk 6 miles, preaching the whole way!

So there you have it, that's pretty much what you have to do to end up as a statue on a beautiful cathedral like Notre-Dame.

A rose garden near Notre-Dame. Loved the scrolley fence!

The hotel we stayed at was only a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. Here was the view from our hotel room.

The hotel provided a fabulous breakfast each morning.

I seriously could have these croissants with chocolate in them every. single. day. I'd have to ride my bike 4 hours to make up for it, but I'd happily pay that price!

Now for some Eiffel Tower photos... no trip to Paris would be complete without them, would it? The Eiffel Tower was so much bigger than I imagined. It really was awe-inspiring.

Everything was so ornate.

It stayed light so late there. I believe it was after 10 pm before it was dark enough to photograph the Eiffel Tower with the sparkling lights that turn on every hour during the night for a few minutes.

Rejoicing in His goodness, especially in the trying times,

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Europe Trip, part 6, Windsor!

Now for another installment of photos from Hannah and I's trip to Europe (London and Paris). Here are links to part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5, if you haven't seen them already.

Today, photos from Windsor... the queen's "favorite weekend residence." We were all totally delighted with our (self-guided) tour of Windsor.

Windsor just seems to go on and on and on.... unfortunately, no photography was allowed inside of the castle, so you'll just have to take my word for it. The artwork and opulence were astounding.

A fabulous garden... in what once was the moat!

We arrived in time to catch the "changing of the guard." It was a much longer ceremony than I anticipated (all of 30 min).

With music too!

Some more floral elegance.... it was *everywhere*, it seemed.

On our way back to the train I had to pause and capture a bit of cobblestone history... just imagine all of the people who have trod this street!

Check out this little leaning restaurant! The crooked house of Windsor. Built in 1718. I suppose if I were that old I might have a bit of lean to me too!

I have one last post yet to come with photos from the Paris part of our trip.... hopefully later this week.

And, on the home front, we've been fully entrenched in summer here. Our oldest son Nate was home for almost a full delightful week on vacation from the Army (Ft. Benning, GA). We so thoroughly enjoyed our time with him. He totally doted on his siblings... taking them swimming and kayaking, playing ball in the backyard, playing card games. I enjoyed our late night talks.

Tom and I even took the older children and Nate to Worlds of Fun, an amusement park here in Kansas City. Tom and I's tickets were an anniversary gift from our oldest daughter Micah and her husband! Cool anniversary gift, huh? I hadn't been there since I was in high school. (which was, um, a few years ago!) Our main priority at the park was to ride the roller coasters as many times as possible. (I *love* roller coasters!) It was so hot (95 F.) that we had no wait in lines at all. So we were able to terrify ourselves to our heart's content.

We were all sad when it came time for Nate to return to his responsibilities as a chaplain's assistant. We do have fabulous memories from the past week and we can look forward to the next visit though.

This summer, although young, has already been punctuated with lots of bicycling and swimming. I *love* getting to live, fully-engaged with my family. Until I injured my hip last week Tom and I were running together too. (more on some things I am learning about running as a result of my injury soon)

Are you like me? When you embark on a new passion, do you tend to totally immerse yourself in that topic? My topic of late has been triathlon... swimming (*so* much to learn here), bicycling and running. It is never good enough for me to simply read one book... I am always compelled to completely deplete our public library system of each and every pertinent book on the topics of choice that were written in the past 5-7 years. You never know... there could be some really important info in one book that is not covered in another!

The problem with my approach is that I can tend to let other important things slide. Can you imagine? My family actually wants meals... and three times/day, no less!

So I am gradually cooking large quantities of meals, for us to eat now and enough of each dish to freeze several extra meal-sized portions. Here's a link to one of my ground beef cooking plans.

I am planning some chicken meals for this week. That's usually how I plan my batch cooking. I don't cook lots of different meals for weekend straight like I used to, but instead I'll plan 5-10 different recipes each featuring one type of meat. Then I simply cook a super-large quantity of one meal each day, eating one portion for dinner and freezing the other meal-sized portions for a later date. It is so helpful to have lots of meal options in the freezer.

Yesterday we butchered about 100 Cornish Cross chickens (meat birds) then tucked them in the freezer today after icing them down in coolers for 24 hours. I'm so grateful that we have enough space to raise these delicious birds... affordable organic meat~ so yummy! So tomorrow I'll begin on some of our favorite chicken freezer meals. Perhaps I can post those recipes later this week... we'll see how things go. (read, "how much time I spend reading tri books rather than attending to my responsibilities here!")

I'm also beginning to plan for our next school year (yes, a little late due to my triathlon obsession), but it's ok... it'll get done. We're having a great time together in the meantime!

Enjoying summer here,

Friday, June 18, 2010

Writing a new chapter

I read this article this evening and thought of "story"... what it means to take the circumstances given to us by the Lord and choose, by faith, to "write our lives" in a way that glorifies God.

My new chapter? I'm taking on training for a triathlon! (here's another interesting triathlon site.) This is *way* outside of my comfort zone, but when I said "yes" to the opportunity (and faced my fear of the unknown), I found, to my surprise, that I was having fun! (ok, so I'm still more than a little intimidated and scared of some parts of this, but overall I'm having a blast! Plus it keeps me very, very humble.)

It's significantly harder to get strong and fit now, at 46 after having 12 children than it was when I was in my 20s, but so rewarding to begin to "feel good in my own skin" again. In addition to that, (and really higher on my priority list) I have also been blessed to make some new friends that I never would have met otherwise.

Here's to new chapters and

joyfully glorifying God and

learning to depend on Him in new ways,

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Europe Trip, part 5... Bath

How about some more photos from our trip to Europe? (Here are links to part one, two, three and four if you haven't seen them yet)

Up today, our day trip from London to Bath. We traveled by both "The Tube" and by train. I know I've mentioned how much I enjoyed using London's subway system, but I'll just say it again... totally cool. (I'm easily amused) Check out this escalator to the subway! I wasn't even at the top when I took the photo... is that a long escalator, or what? It never ceased to amaze me how many people were running to catch the trains. I mean Olympic sprinting. So much so that signs on the escalators instructed those of us who were standing to stay to the right so the sprinters could pass on the left. (Actually the escalator sprinting looked like fun, but I really dislike being late, so I think I'd prefer to run for fun...)

The train station for our excursion this day was Paddington Station! Yes, the Paddington Station where Paddington Bear was found! So cool.

How about some "Piping hot Porridge?" So British... love it!

We saw quite a few of these bikes that fold up for traveling ease. And lots of businessmen riding those bikes.... in heavy traffic.... with suits and ties on!

I think that our day trip to Bath was Hannah's favorite place we visited. Not only were we able to tour the Roman baths, but also Bath was home to Jane Austin for 6 years.

There is currently a very fancy hotel and restaurant there on the grounds of the Roman baths. We ate lunch there, serenaded by beautiful live music (violin, cello and piano).

The huge sugar cubes on our table:
Now this is a chandelier! (I'll take two please, along with the 50 foot ceilings)

The vases on the tables were almost 3 feet tall, I think. Have you ever seen anything quite like them?

If you are brave, you can sample some of the famed mineral water. Is this not a most unusual fountain? The mineral water actually came out the the fountain (which was in the restaurant) into the fish's mouths. If you purchased a glass of water, it would have been gathered from that very fountain! So pretty! (and no, I passed on the water, which I understand might be good for you, but is an "acquired taste.")

We went on a tour of the Roman baths. Research has shown that the baths were built by 76AD. Amazingly enough, when they were excavated, without any repair work they still held water!

Originally there was a roof over this large pool and the water which would have kept the water crystal clear. Now it is exposed to the sunlight and has a greenish tint due to algae. It was still beautiful though.

On our way to the Jane Austin house, we passed this flower shop. Loved the outdoor flower shops that we passed so frequently!

Hannah's favorite stop; the Jane Austin Centre.

The items on display were interesting, but I found the 20 minute introductory talk to be the most informative and entertaining.

We walked past "The Circus," mentioned in several of Jane's books... a lovely circular high-rise apartment complex. Still quite expensive to live in, I understand. Very unusual and pretty.

Another lovely British sign:

And if you want your potato with the skin on, you want a "jacket potato" in Great Britain!

Since we loved to cram every possible destination into our travel plans, we also visited the Bath Abbey.

The Avon River runs through Bath. Not only is the river beautiful, but there is an interesting bridge over the river with shops right on the bridge!

Here are the shops:

And a view of them from the other side:

Lovely, yes?

Looking down river:

Loved these flower-filled pots lining the walkway by the river:

Next on our Europe tour: Windsor Castle... the Queen's "favorite weekend residence!"

We are all so excited here because oldest son Nate is coming home for a week tomorrow, on vacation from his Army assignment as a chaplain's assistant. Everybody is already planning lots of fun activities with him.... kayaking etc.

It just won't quit raining here. So many roads are closed, basements flooded, etc. My favorite bicycle path is under a lot of water in spots... like 3+ feet! Amazing! Thankfully, even though we get a lot of water in our old basement, we anticipate where the water will come in and it doesn't damage anything. It's just a mess~ part of living in an old, old farmhouse. I like to joke that the story of our life in this old farmhouse is "A River Ran through it." Remember that movie? Actually I don't even remember the story line accurately, but the title seems appropriate for our life here. If the basement or roof isn't leaking, the septic is backing up into the basement! Ah well, it keeps me dependent on the Lord and grateful for all of my children who so willingly help muck up the mess.

Happily paddling upstream here in Missouri,