Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Memories

Now that Christmas 2010 is a lovely memory, I figure I better capture some of the fun on the blog. The DH and I stayed home for Christmas and had no visitors, so it was a nice quiet affair. The weekend before Christmas was very busy. We went to an amazing Christmas concert put on by the Northwest Boy Choir and I made cinnamon rolls and we participated in the Sunday Christmas program.

On Christmas Eve, we both had the day off. We both slept in, then I went and worked out with my trainer and did some last minute shopping (though mostly for groceries, not gifts). For our Christmas Eve, we had Chinese food from Chef at Wok and watched a movie (Bounty Hunter and it was pretty good -- definite rental). We read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before going to bed and then called it a night.

On Christmas morning, we woke up fairly early (just after 6) and made sure Santa got the stockings filled. Then we both got up and went to open gifts. We were both excited to give our gifts to each other! It took us about an hour to open and look at everything.

Here's the low down on the loot:
I got 10 swimming lessons, and iPod touch, a cool ring, a bracelet made of Chinese tiles, a cool bee necklace, a blue paperweight, a painting from an Etsy artist with two birds on a wire with a cool background with gold in it, new running socks, a cool yoga top, a Gene Juarez gift card, and iTunes gift card, and various candies and toiletries from the DH. He did a great job finding just the things he knew I would love and going completely overboard in making me feel loved and pampered.

I also got a cool Space Needle lego set and an Etta's gift card from my parents; an Amazon gift card and star ornament (or sun catcher, depending on how I feel) from Colin, Sam, and Max; wonderful Hickory Farms food gifts from the Godfrey's; and a wonderful candle from one of my co-workers.

The DH got an overcoat, a Buck knife, a T-shirt that says "Meat is Murder, tasty, tasty murder" on it, an iTunes gift card, a pint glass with a skull and cross-bones etched in it, a Raiders mug for drinking tea at work, a bunch of handmade soap, and other candy and food items from me.

He also got a T-shirt from Colin, Sam, and Max that says "Bing in love is totally punk rock" that we both love, an iTunes gift card from my parents,

The two of us together got a Raiders blanket and stocking caps and pillow cases from his brother time, a couple of books that look really good from the DH's sister, some sparkling grape juice and candle from friends, a movie gift card from friends, and I'm sure I'm forgetting something here.
All in all, we feel incredibly blessed by all that we received and the wonderful opportunities to give.

After opening gifts, I talked to my family in Boise and cooked for a good part of the day. I made rolls, pumpkin pie, cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, and homemade stuffing. The DH bought a smoked turkey from Jensen's (about which I cannot say enough good things) and that topped of the most wonderful dinner. We shared dinner with some friends and then called it a night.

It was a very merry Christmas for both of us.

Our Year in Review

The DH and I wrote a Christmas letter, then I forgot to tell DH that we needed to add it to the Christmas cards when he was helping and he sealed them all. He was being super helpful, so I take full responsibility. So, since no one got our letter with their card, I'll just post it here.

Dear Fiends and Family,

2010 has been a wonderful year for us! In January, Patrick got to take a photography class (part of his Christmas haul) and Noelle had the privilege of participating in jury duty. It may sound like a chore, but really was a unique experience getting to understand how our judicial process works. In February, we had the pleasure of flying out to Pensacola, Florida for a week to visit Patrick’s oldest son Daniel and his wife and three kids. It was one of the coldest winters on record, so we didn’t get as much beach time in as we’d hoped, but we had a wonderful time enjoying family for a few days.

February also marked the beginning of racing season for us. After starting workouts with a trainer, Noelle was able to run a full 5K for the first time in her life at the Valentine’s Day Dash. From there, we continued training and participated in several more runs. Noelle finally got to her big race, the Danskin Triathlon, in August. It was a sprint distance swim, bike, and run event and was a huge accomplishment for Noelle. She even felt so good about it that she did another triathlon a month later (also a sprint distance).

In May, Noelle headed off on her own to meet up with her mom and sisters in New York City to celebrate Whitney’s 40th birthday. They had a fantastic time seeing the sites, going to a Broadway show, eating great food, and shopping at fun stores. The activities were good, but the best part was the company!

In August, we enjoyed more time with the Robertson family at a reunion in Boise, ID. It was a great time to see all the nieces and nephews and catch up on what everyone is doing. We had fun with all the activities that mom and dad had planned, but again, the company was the best part. We also had a really nice trip to see Patrick's sister and brother-in-law just outside Hermiston, Oregon in the Fall. We came home with a car loaded with produce, much of which Patrick's brother-in-law grew organically on their land. We're still enjoying the home grown tomatoes and spuds!

In early October, we set off on a grand adventure with another couple and visited southern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Patrick had never been to any of these areas, so it was all new to him. Noelle had been to many of the places, but had a wonderful time seeing some of the wonderful places she has such fond memories of from past trips. The best news of all is that we’re still good friends with the couple we traveled with. They were wonderful travel companions and we all seemed to travel at about the same pace.

We spent some time in Boise again for Thanksgiving and enjoyed visiting with the relatives that live there (and Ann!) for a few days. It’s been a busy December, but we’re looking forward to a quiet Christmas at home and a wonderful new year with more plans for fun.

Merry Christmas!

Noelle and Patrick McDonald

Monday, December 13, 2010

Music Monday -- Vampire Weekend

Several weeks ago, I kept seeing posts on an event list asking for tickets to Vampire Weekend. I thought it was some late Halloween thing. After a while, it dawned on me that it might be a concert. So many people were interested in tickets that I thought it might be worth my while to check them out. I was not disappointed!

Their latest album is called Contra and I took a listen and decided that I liked it. The songs vary pretty wildly in style, but I actually think that gives the album a lot more interest. I hate it when you buy an album and you can't even tell the songs apart because they all sound the same after a while. That won't happen with Vampire Weekend. The first song on the album is Horchata. It's the kind of song that just makes me feel good.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Feelin' It?

I haven't been lately. I just haven't felt much in the Christmas mood. I thought some Christmas tunes might help the situation. I really love this song. It's hauntingly beautiful and has all the right words.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Music Monday -- Florence and the Machine

Yes. I realize it's not Monday. It'll be OK.

I discovered a new band (well, new to me of course) a few weeks ago and I've been loving them every since. Florence and the Machine has been playing in my car more than the DH can stand, but I'm completely enamored. The album is called Lungs and I like just about every song on there.

My favorite song on the album is probably Drumming Song. It's great, but embedding was disabled for the song, so you'll have to click the link to hear it. (How does she dance in those shoes? Crazy!)

I also love the song Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up). I hope you enjoy it too!

Architecture of the Alpine Region

While traveling in the Alpine region, we visited many small towns with a variety of architectural styles. It was fun to see the paintings on the sides of buildings, the architectural embellishments, and the variety of styles. These are a few of the buildings that I enjoyed most.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Back to Bavaria -- The Final Installment

After having a wonderful time in Salzburg, we headed back to Bavaria. Our first stop was Herrenchiemsee. We had a bit of difficulty finding it to begin with. The instructions I read basically just said what town to go to and gave the impression it was close to the train station. We parked at the train station and I went in to ask about getting there. The man told me generally what direction to walk, but wasn't so clear on how long it would take. We started walking and saw nothing that gave us the impression we were walking in the right direction. We stopped again and Beep asked a guy on the street which way and how far. We were going the right direction, but he indicated that it might be kind of far. That's when we headed back to the car and started driving. It wasn't too long to drive, but it would have been an ugly walk.When we finally got to where we needed to be, we actually had to buy tickets for a ferry to get to the island where the Herrenchiemsee is. This is the third of the three castles built by crazy King Ludwig. He had a huge fascination with France's King Louis XIV, so he modeled this castle after Versailles and had a lot of art dedicated to Louis XIV and several portraits of the King. It also had large fountains and gardens out front reminiscent of Versailles, but on a much smaller scale. Apparently, he ran out of money before he was able to build things out to the scale he wanted.From there, we headed back to Munich. When we got there, we checked into our hotel and ran to the grocery store for a lifetime supply of chocolate to take home, and then went to the Modern Art Museum. They had some really great displays and we enjoyed seeing them. It was fairly late in the afternoon and we were concerned about the time, but we were able to see all the displays we were interested in before the Museum closed.From there, we wanted to go to the iconic Hoffbrauhaus for dinner. It was a Friday night and we didn't have reservations, so we had the choice of joining a shared table of heavy drinkers or finding a dinner alternative. After walking through the beer hall, we thought we may have had enough of the ambiance. It was fun to see the band playing and watch the waitresses hold ten liters of beer at one time, but it just wasn't the place for us to eat dinner. We didn't really have any ideas, so we went across the street to the Hard Rock Cafe. The dinner wasn't German, but it was still good. We all enjoyed interesting burgers and then spent our last Euros on Gelato.
From there, we headed to the hotel where we spent our last night before heading back to the airport and flying home. We had a great time with Bop and Beep, but two weeks was a long time to be on the road, so we were glad to be home and sleeping in our own bed again.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Mishap Two of Two on the Alpine Tour

We had a great time overall and, again, I'm so thankful that we didn't have anything really bad happen the whole time we were traveling abroad.

We'll just call it The Salzburg Situation. The Situation started when we couldn't find any laundry facilities during our first 10 days on the trip. We ended up doing our first bit of laundry in the sink and then let it air dry. If you've never had to do this, I encourage you to just try it once for fun. Oh, wait. It's not fun. It makes for crunchy undies. Good times. Let me just say that we were very much looking forward to the laundry facilities that we knew were awaiting us in our Salzburg apartment rental.

As soon as we got to the apartment in Salzburg, we asked the woman giving us our key about the laundry. She said something about 10-cent pieces and easy and in the basement. No problem! Beep and I headed to the basement on a reconnaissance mission. We found the washer and dryer with no problem, but they were currently in use. However, it was not yet a Situation. We could wait until someone else finished.

We headed down later and found that the other person using the washer was just getting her laundry out of the washer and so we waited for her to finish and put our load of whites in right after she was done. We couldn't see anywhere to put money in, but the washer started, so we figured it would just work.

We waited 45 minutes and Beep and I went back to get the wash. When we got to the laundry room, it looked like the wash was done. It was a front loading washer, so we had to push a latch button to open the door. We pushed. Nothing happened. We noticed all the lights on the machine were dark. We pushed every button on the machine. Nothing happened. It was becoming a Situation! Our laundry, our WHITES, were stuck in the washing machine. We pushed every button again. Nothing! It was definitely a Situation.

We went back to the apartment and the DH had to go see if he could fix it. We pushed every button again. He tugged on the door. He yanked on the door. I feared for the door! Things were getting tense. Our WHITES were held hostage in the washer. We thought. We reasoned. We realized there must be somewhere to put the money in that we had heard about. We looked around, but couldn't find anything in or on the washing machine. We looked around the room and saw only what looked like a breaker box. We read the instructions (sort of) that were in German and very unhelpful. We pushed all the buttons again. The DH was ready to pull the machine apart to extricate our laundry. By this time it was after 11:00 at night, so we couldn't easily ask anyone for help. At that, we decided to go to bed. It was the only thing we could do.

I fretted all night. All that fretting paid off at some point though. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the problem was in the paying. This Situation required that we pay the 10-cent fee. After thinking more, it became clear that paying sent the electricity to the machine and that our laundry probably hadn't gone through the whole cycle. The person before us had some time left when she took her laundry, so we just got the leftover time that she had paid for.

Since I was awake fretting anyway, I got up around 6:00 and went down to the laundry room with a handful of 10-cent pieces. I stood calmly in the room and looked around. All I could see was what looked like a breaker box, but I opened it up. Inside were two meters labeled "washer" and "dryer" in German. Breakthrough! There was also an instruction sheet on the inside of the door that indicated that one 10-cent piece bought 14 minutes of electricity. I put 3 pieces in. I turned to the washer. Nothing happened. I pushed some buttons. Nothing happened. I started getting tense again. The Situation was not yet under control!

Then, I heard footsteps on the stairs. I looked out and there was a woman picking up her newspaper. I called to her in German. This was one time I really had to speak German and do it right. She came down and I told her that I couldn't get the washer to start. She looked at the washer, then looked at me, then laughed and pushed the power button.

It's not funny.

I wasn't laughing at all, but she thought it was just the cutest thing she'd ever seen. She then went on to tell me all there was to know, plus a little extra, about doing laundry there. It was quite informative.

The Situation was over. The laundry continued its cycle and we threw it in the dryer half an hour later and did a second load of laundry before leaving for the day. It was about as easy as any chore could be.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Salzburg and the Sound of Music

Our next stop was Salzburg. We got up in Fuessen, had breakfast, and then headed back into Austria. I think our time in Salzburg was my favorite part of the trip. When we arrived in the city, we found a spot to part the car and walked into the main part of town.It was beautiful. We were there on a day with perfect weather to enjoy of lovely city and its surroundings. Our first destination was the tourist information center. It was right off this lovely square with a statue of Mozart.
At the tourist information center, we bought our tickets to the Sound of Music tour and then found some lunch before heading out to see all the Sound of Music sights. We hopped on a big coach bus that had songs from the movie playing while the tour guide wasn't talking. The tour guide reminded me of John Lovitz. He didn't look like John Lovitz, but his voice reminded me of him for some reason.

Anyway, we headed out first to the lovely building where a few scenes from the movie were filmed. The lake in front of this house is the lake that the von Trapp kids and maria were in on a boat that tipped over. Apparently the actress playing Gretel couldn't swim, so it was a bit of a traumatic experience for her.
Then we headed to where the gazebo is placed. It used to be next to the building pictured above, but apparently the tourists were a bit too rambunctious and it bothered folks in the building. The building is used for conferences now and the tourists proved to be a bit disruptive. It's also locked up now, supposedly the result of some 80-year old woman pretending to be 16 going on 17 and falling down and breaking her hip in the gazebo. Now we just get to look in. No dancing inside.
From there, we headed up into the mountains. The area around Salzburg really is a sight and we were lucky to have such a clear day for it. Untersberg is the mountain in the background here. It's actually several miles from Salzburg, so it would have been impossible for Maria to hear the abby bells and run back in time for dinner. It's nice to imagine anyway, though.

As we continued the drive, we went to a small town called Mondsee. The Collegiate Church of Mondsee was the church used as the venue for the wedding of Maria and Captain von Trapp in the movie. This wasn't the actual church they were married in though. They were actually married in the abby church in Salzburg, but it's not grand at all, so not as impressive for a movie set.

After leaving the town of Mondsee, we headed back to Salzburg to enjoy the city a bit more. They dropped us right by the Mirabel Palace. The gardens behind the palace are where the filming of the Do, Re, Me song took place.

With that, we headed out to our apartment for the stay in Salzburg. The place was a little out of the way, but right on a bus line, so it was super easy to get back into town. We found a small grocery store and bought food for dinner and spent the evening playing cards and relaxing after a long day.

The next day, we went back into Salzburg. We spent a good part of the morning exploring the churches. There were a bunch of them!

We also walked past Mozart's birth home several times. It's right in the middle of town, so it's hard to miss.
Bop and Beep decided to try out the roasted chestnuts. They're all over the cities in Europe, so it seemed like the right thing to do. I had to laugh tough when neither of them liked chestnuts much. I think they're yucky, but I didn't want to dissuade them from finding out for themselves.
After lunch, we got on another tour bus that took us into a small town with a large salt mine. To go on the tour, we had to put on coveralls that they supplied for us. We had quite a time laughing about our attire. No pictures were allowed on the tour (and it was sort of dark for the whole thing, so pictures wouldn't have turned out well anyway) so we don't have pictures inside the mine. I loved the tour though. We got to ride little train cars into the mine, slide down wooden slides inside the mine, and float in a barge over a brine lake. It was very cool!
Once we got back from the salt mine tour, it was dinner time and then we were done for the day. We had one more day to enjoy Salzburg. We started our third day in Salzburg at the Mozart home. This is the house that Mozart lived in from the time he was 18 until he died. There were a lot of interactive exhibits and it was fun to read more about Mozart.
From there, we headed to the Mozart bridge. It's a foot bridge that just happened to be in the Sound of Music as well. It's also really old, like a lot of things in Europe.
It was foggy and overcast all morning and we thought the clouds might burn off, so we hung out in town for quite some time. We found street food and the DH enjoyed some time with Wolfi.
We had hoped that the clouds would burn off because we planned to go to the castle, but it wasn't getting any brighter as the afternoon wore on and we couldn't just hang around. We finally just decided to head up to the castle. It's a good thing we didn't waste any more time, because it ended up staying cloudy all day. The castle was really cool even with the clouds, so in the end it didn't matter.
We rode a funicular train up the mountain to the castle. It dropped us just outside the wall. The views from here were amazing.
I enjoyed the detail in the castle. It seemed like there was something interesting every time we turned a corner.
After checking out the museum in the castle, looking at a marionette exhibit, and walking around the grounds, we headed back down the mountain. Our last destination was the Nonnburg abbey church. This is the abbey where Maria von Trapp was a postulate. When we were on the Sound of Music tour, the guide told us that they sang vespers each night here. It was a bit of a hike to the church and we were early for vespers (they started half an hour later than we thought). We looked around for quite some time, then just waited and then finally listened to vespers for about 15 minutes. It was really lovely.
From there, we headed back into town and wrapped up our Salzburg fun.

Return to the Scene of the Crime

Last Friday, the DH and I went to Stumbling Goat Bistro for dinner. The occasion was the sixth anniversary of our first date.

Six years ago, I invited the DH to go see Rigoletto with me, and my brother and sister-in-law, at the Seattle Opera. Before the opera, we all met up for dinner at Stumbling Goat.

The date itself was a bit awkward, as first dates usually are, but we both enjoyed the food immensely and then loved the opera. It was the DH's second opera and it was a good choice for someone who wasn't a huge opera nerd. It was set in WWII and has a lot of singable melodies that just about everyone is familiar with.

As first dates go, it was one of the better ones. There may have been lulls in the conversation, but it was good enough that we ended up going out again a few weeks later. Our second date was on the DH's birthday. We went to Thai Siam for dinner with friends. Then there was the Carrie Akrie show a few weeks after that. Soon, we were seeing each other regularly and falling in love. The rest is history.

Thanks, DH, for taking me to the scene of the crime to enjoy the place where I first started this journey with you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

More Fun in Bavaria

Our Alpine tour took us back into Bavaria at the beginning of week two. We spent a couple of days with Fuessen as our home base. We got up on Monday and headed out for Linderhoff Castle. This is the second of crazy King Ludwig II's castles that we visited. The grounds were beautiful and we enjoyed seeing the grotto in the back with a lake and swan boat that the crazy king had his servants row him around in -- indoors. It was also a venue for concerts and parts of Wagner operas. That guy really was crazy, but he built some beautiful places.
From there we headed to Oberamergau. This city is famous for it's Passion Play that is put on every ten years. It was put on this year, but we decided against going considering that it's five hours long and in German. I just couldn't see this group sitting through that. We did see the large theater that the play is performed in and quite a bit of religious art in the area.
The town was also very quaint and we enjoyed lunch there and some window shopping.From there, we went to Garmish-Partenkirchen. I think I just wanted to go there because the town name is a tongue twister. It had lovely architecture and we enjoyed yummy gelato there too.

The next day, we headed back to Austria to enjoy the lovely Tirol.