Friday, November 27, 2009

A Happy Thanksgiving Weekend

So, usually we travel either to my parents (Illinois) or Andre's family (Pennsylvania) for Thanksgiving, but this year, because we're going to my family for Christmas, and Andre was just with his last week, we decided to stay home and just be us. And despite missing everyone very much, we've had fun.

On Wednesday, we started off the holiday weekend with a date to Fritti (thanks for the gift card Young Adults Committee!). It's a really fun restaurant downtown with great atmosphere and even better pizza (try the Chocolate Soup for dessert if you go). We finished the evening with a stroll around IKEA, looking at dressers which we need as extra storage/changing table for the baby room/guest room. We're keeping our guest room in tact and Baby Y will have one corner of it, so we're trying to come up with creative storage solutions.

Yesterday, we started the THE GREAT DE-CLUTTER of the guest room, cleaning out the closet, bookshelves and storage bins under the bed. Needless to say this is an emotionally draining task for someone as sentimental as myself! Even Andre admits, however, that I have improved dramatically over the last few years and have consolidated things quite nicely into plastic storage bins. BUT...there are several storage bins. To give you an idea, I have one whole bin (and it's a big one) full of birthday cards, letters and notes, some from high school! I am avoiding going through it. But the time has come, because there is now no more room to stash that bin!

On to more inspiring news...we have chosen fabric for Baby Y's cradle:

And today we picked out paint. After several hours sorting bookshelves this morning, we braved the traffic of Black Friday, which really wasn't too awful, and picked up two paint samples at Home Depot. We're repainting the guest room a very pale blue, which should go nicely with our existing bedroom set of white, black and red. I'll post before and afters when it's all finished.

This evening Andre's been watching a James Bond marathon, and I made chocolate chip cookies for our guard at the front gate, Kevin. I did make him some last week, but when I went to drop them off on my way to work, he wasn't on duty. And I was never able to deliver them actually, as I munched through the entire bag during the course of the day! Oops. I worked off my guilt (if not the extra calories) by making him another batch tonight :) Before I could munch my way through those, Andre made sure to run them down to him as soon as they were out of the oven!

So lots of little details and small tasks have made up our Thanksgiving weekend so far. Oh, and last night we went over to have dinner with our friends, Robin and Jay and had a delightful time meeting some of their family too, and eating an INCREDIBLE turkey feast. Yummy!

We are so thankful for this special time in our lives, anticipating and preparing for our little boy's arrival, enjoying the holidays and rejoicing in all God has given us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


My sweet cousin in South Africa just posted a whole lot of old photos on Facebook of us all as kids. I loved this one of Camilla, me, Fleur and Nessa.

I remember this day as being such a fun one, full of special memories. Nana and Grampa were visiting Cape Town from Zimbabwe and took all of us out for a day on the train and a picnic. Most of my childhood memories include these cousins, who were very close in age to us and were our best buddies. We've all remained very close friends even now (and we miss them as they're spread all over the world!). Cousins are such a special relationship and these photos made me think about Nessa's and my new babies coming this Spring, only two weeks apart! We're so glad the cousins will be close in age and hope they'll be specially close friends too. So sweet!

P.S. And I'm sure little Miss Michaela, as the oldest, will have just as much fun bossing them all around as I did growing up!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Quick update

We've been busy getting back into our routine here, after being away in October. Last week Andre's Uncle Slava and Aunt Rya arrived from Russia for their three week visit. They stayed with us last week and then on Friday, Andre drove them up north via Chattanooga, Washington D. C., Philadelphia and New York, for a sight seeing trip. They will end up in Belleville, Pennsylvania with Andre's sister Olga and her family, whom his Mom and Grandpa live with. Slava is anxious to spend some time with his father (Andre's Grandpa) as he hasn't seen him for about 6 years.

Andre is flying back this Saturday and we'll be so glad to see each other and celebrate his birthday, which was on Sunday. I think that's the first birthday we've have to spend apart in several years. Happy birthday Baby!

I have lots of company this week, as Jana and her family spent the night on Friday and Heather is staying with me this week. It's lovely to have friends around!

Will post some more photos of our goings on as soon as Andre and the camera are back in Atlanta :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back home (Monday 11/02)

We were up early Monday morning to head home, after a wonderful two weeks away! We thought the following photo made a fitting end to the trip...we got such a laugh when we saw these German exit signs on the highway!

And we did return to the States with the newest addition to our family, Teddy Ramsau:

This is Baby Y's present from Europe and we named him after the little Austrian village where we bought him-too cute!

Rapperswill (Sunday 11/01)

After visiting the old part of Zurich in the morning, we headed along the Lake to see another little town that was recommended as being picturesque, Rapperswill. It turned out to be a nice drive and an interesting place to look around.

Harbor on the Lake

Rooftops of Rapperswill


After huffing and puffing (on my part!) our way up many flights of stairs and a little road, we came to the top ridge of the town on which was built this beautiful church. We sat there a while (to recover from the climb, as well as for contemplative reasons!), and almost became part of the service that suddenly started up! We hurriedly made our escape and hoped we didn't seem too rude!

Next to the church was the Rapperswill Castle, which has been used as a Polish Museum since 1870, when Poland was an occupied country and many fled to Switzerland for refuge. The castle grounds were surrounded by low walls and every time we looked over a wall, we found something surprising, like this little herd of deer!

Looking over another part of the wall, we saw this beautiful vineyard...who would have thought, in the middle of a town?!

Zurich (Sunday 11/01)

On Sunday, we ventured out to the old town district of Zurich and wondered around the waterfront there. It was pretty quiet early on, but got busy as people started coming out to the outdoor cafes for morning coffee and attending the big church down there. Andre took some lovely photos that morning:

Luzern (Saturday 10/31)

On Friday we drove from Lake Como, through the Italian and then Swiss Alps up to Lake Lucerne. We planned to spend the night there, but upon finding the hotel to be less than desirable, we continued on up to Zurich, about 40 minutes away, and added on two extra nights in the hotel we'd booked there for Sunday night. We were really disappointed not to be able to stay on the lake but this turned out to be a perfectly good arrangement and we were very comfortable in our Zurich hotel and it had a bath!! (Albeit about half the size of American ones! Too funny!)

So on the Saturday morning we walked over to a bakery near our Zurich hotel and got coffee and croissants for breakfast before heading out to Lake Lucerne to do some sight seeing. The city of Lucerne was packed with people all enjoying the good weather. We had fun browsing the Saturday fruit, vegetable and flower market, the beautiful (and VERY expensive!) shops, as well as a flea market that was going on near the waterfront.

As we were browsing the shops, we heard this strange sounding music coming from the central square. And there was this group of alpenhorn players! It was fascinating listening to the music...I felt like someone was about to yell "Ricola!"


Swans were everywhere!

Exquisitely painted building

The covered bridge, which was built in 1333, has a series of beautiful paintings inside depicting Lucerne's history. The tower was originally used as a prison and torture chamber!

Covered bridge across the mouth of the lake

Religious paintings up under the roof of the covered bridge

View of the city of Lucerne

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day on the Lake (Thursday 10/29)

On Thursday, after a lazy breakfast at the hotel, we took a bus (which was a hair-raising 15 minute ride!) to another little village along the lake, Menaggio, to meet the ferry. Two other guests from the hotel, Paul and Catherine were also doing the ferry rides that day, so it was fun to keep meeting up along the way. They are from Australia and travel all over the world each year...really interesting people.

Having a coffee with Paul and Catherine while we waited for the ferry in Menaggio

Harbor in Menaggio

The big car and passenger ferry we took around the Lake

From Menaggio we took the ferry across the lake to Verenna where we spent about 2 hours exploring.

Coming into Verenna

Someone's private garden

Streets and buildings in Verenna

From Verenna, we took another ferry across to Bellagio, which is also gorgeous and has lots of wonderful shops. They are famous for their silk (apparently the silkworms feed off the mulberry trees that grow well on the Lombardy Plain, near Milan and so the Lake district has plenty of silk). Andre bought me a beautiful raspberry colored silk scarf which I love!


Enjoying a panini in Bellagio!

From Bellagio we took the ferry back to our side of the lake and then drove back up to the hotel.
We had a really lovely day there and enjoyed our explorations very much. Everything is so beautiful, you can see why George Clooney bought a house there!

Sunset from Bellagio

The ride home

That night, our hosts were cooking dinner for whomever wanted it, so most of us staying there decided to eat in, after a long day of explorations. Julio cooked an amazing three course meal with lasagna as the main was incredible!

Julio cooking


Everyone enjoying dinner in the great room

We had a really fantastic time there and would definitely recommend that place to anyone who wants to visit the lake. It's in a quieter part of the lake and the actual bed and breakfast is so comfortable and picturesque with gorgeous views, a gym, sauna, Turkish bath (whatever that is!) and massages available. We loved it!

Off to Lake Como (Wednesday 10/28)

On the Wednesday morning, we left Tuscany and the old farmhouse behind and drove up towards Milan, across the Lombardy Plain and along Lake Como. We were staying all the way at the northern end of the lake, near Switzerland and so were able to see wonderful scenery all the way along. We skirted Milan on their ring road, just like I-285, only with smaller cars and faster drivers! The whole plain was full of smog/haze so we didn't see much going through there. Once we got to the lake is cleared alot, although it remained quite hazy while we were there, which is often the case apparently. But we had gorgeous weather the whole time and loved our time there.

Driving up the west side of the lake

Fascinating old buildings along the way

We arrived late afternoon and settled into the wonderful bed and breakfast Andre had chosen. Fabulous choice and we had a great experience there. It's run by Dani, an English woman, and her husband Julio who is Italian. There were about 7 other people staying there and we actually all really enjoyed each others' company at breakfasts and dinners!

Villa Tres Jolie, the bed and breakfast we stayed at (highly recommend it if you're going to Lake Como!)

Our beautiful room (it had two balconies!)

View from our room

View from one of our balconies

Breakfast patio

Me chatting to Dani, our hostess, over breakfast

Sovigliano: night at a farmhouse (Tuesday 10/27)

On the Tuesday, we checked out of our Florence hotel and spent the day exploring little side roads in Tuscany. We didn't have a place booked to stay that night and so thought we'd find something appealing along the way. Which is exactly what happened! We ran across this beautiful old farmhouse quite by mistake and when we found it had plenty of free rooms for the night, we settled in there. The original building, where the main guest rooms are, was built in the 1300s but the outbuilding that we stayed in, which has been converted into small apartments, is "much newer" said our hostess, as it was built in the 1600s!!!

We absolutely loved staying here! They have their own small vineyard and olive grove, from which they produce and sell delicious wine and olive oil.

Original farmhouse

Our apartment (it even had it's own tiny built in kitchen)

Outside of our apartment

View from our bedroom window


Enjoying a glass of wine

Enjoying my book!

View we woke up to the next stunning everywhere we looked!

Out of our bedroom window

Our wonderfully sweet hosts, Claudio and Patrizia

Our hosts were absolutely precious and although Claudio didn't speak English, his wife did and we had some lovely chats with her, learning all about their farm and guesthouse. They even gave us a bottle of their wine and made us promise to come back to introduce our baby to them when he's bigger!

Walking the vineyards

That morning we explored the grounds and were really sad to say goodbye. We would certainly go back there if we're ever in Tuscany again.