Thursday, November 29, 2007

Today. . .

at our house:
- we started the fireplace as soon as we got up and it's been burning, merry and bright, all day
- the Cocktail Sausages and "Lord of the Wings" are ready for Christmas and waiting in the deep freeze
- Focaccia Bread turned out very nicely
- Brownies are cooling on the counter
- popcorn and nuts are waiting for their sauce so they can become Poppycock (my heritage recipe)
- we had this yummy Better Butter Chicken, using Heather's recipe, for supper
- Josh Groban's Noel CD played over and over about 4 or 5 times, I think!
- the pool table downstairs is covered with presents, waiting for their wrappings
- and lest you think everything's perfect here - I burned a whole cookie sheet full of almonds that I was toasting in the oven. Man, I hate when I forget about something in the oven!
- it was a lovely, cozy, getting-ready-for-Christmas day!! I hope you have lots of those in the 3 weeks ahead :))

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quote of the Day

"The woman who works with her hands only is a laborer.
The woman who works with her hands and her head is a craftswoman.
The woman who works with her hands, her head and her heart is an artisit."
St. Francis of Assisi


For the last 2 years (yes, I can't believe it either!!), these 2 pages have been sitting on my desk waiting for some attention and the finishing details. I started them at our scrapbook weekend in 2005, just a few months after Mel and Tyler moved to Taiwan. Well they've left Taiwan, finished one year in Poland and are just about ready to move back to North America and the layout was still languishing under piles of stuff. Last week I dug it out, cut some new tags, found a few embellishments and voila - it's finished!! Man, that feels good!!!

Thanks to Heather for the original design which the rest of us gladly lifted!

Monday, November 26, 2007


1. Fires in the fireplace - it's so cold here now that just the sight of the flames and the crackling warm me up.

2. Vacation pictures and the memories they bring back.

3. Internet service and all the things that can be accomplished with the click of a mouse. Melinda is coming home in the new year for a visit and we got her ticket reserved today.

4. Time to enjoy our sweet granddaughters. They are such little people with personalities already. I'm so glad I get to enjoy them regularly.

5. Christmas shopping - finding just the right thing for the special people in my life.

6. Christmas cookies and the whole process of baking. Creating in my kitchen is a happy job for me.

7. Finishing things that have been on the back burner for a long time. What a great feeling!

8. Clean countertops - why do they never last very long?!!

Granddaughter Goodness

I've had some good times with Helayna and Meadow over the past few weeks! Playing with these two is one of the best things about this time off from work. We find all kinds of fun things to do together!!

Heather was using this pepper to make pizza but first Helayna carried it around and tried to chew a hole in it. It was pretty hard to do as she still only has 2 teeth. I think there are a few more just on the verge of popping through.

She is walking all over the place now! I know this isn't the best picture in the world but she goes so fast, I couldn't get a better one. Her little arms are usually out to the side for extra balance. This was just after she took the pepper to Heather in the kitchen and she was so proud of herself!

Hanging out, waiting for Gramma to get ready to go outside.

The two of us went to Walmart for a little while and checked out all the kids toys. We hugged the stuffed animals and dolls and pushed every sound button on the play phones and animal sets. Helayna was so good, smiling and pointing at all the fun stuff and 'talking' to the other kids. We had one toy cell phone in the cart for most of the ride but we put it away instead of buying it. We did come home with some cute pink suede winter boots (they look like little workboots but are so girly!). This picture is for Auntie Mel - "see how the hat you sent from Poland fits me? It's pretty nice!!"

Then last week while Mommy and Daddy had a date night and went to the Oilers hockey game, Meadow and I started some Christmas baking and made gingersnaps. Licking the spatula was great fun!!! She was wearing her hockey t-shirt in honour of the game :))

She is getting to be quite the pro at climbing up on chairs these days.

Enjoying bath time with beloved rubber ducky.

We had to haul some wood to replenish the pile just outside the door so we loaded up the wagon. The wagon is so long that none of these pieces were actually touching Meadow - it just looks like she's squished in there!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Driving Home to Katowice

Our quick visit to Vienna ended just after noon and we headed back on the highway to get home. We thought it should take 5 or 6 hours, depending too on the waits we might encounter at the Czech and Polish borders. We elected to head north and then northeast, which meant we would only cross 2 borders. Driving east would have taken us into Hungary and meant another border crossing. Time was of the essence as Tyler had missed another day of classes by now!!

I got pretty good at taking pictures through the van windows! It helped when the other passengers would watch for trees or signs and yell "Now!" or "Wait, wait."

This route took us through some of Austria's agricultural land and we thoroughly enjoyed these glimpses.

The only crop still left in the fields awaiting harvest were the sunflowers. They were all dried up already.

There were lots of vineyards along the highway. I think the grapes had all been picked and there was just some pruning being done.

Still castles popping up as we drove. I don't think I'll ever tired of looking for them!

The gently rolling farmland gave way to these amazing cliffs as we got into the Czech Republic.

People walking along the roadsides, especially close to villages, were a common sight.

The highway through the Czech Republic was a new divided highway - in some places! In other places the highway was still under construction so we had to detour through the countryside and small villages. In one place, about 4:30 in the afternoon, the local factory must have closed because there were suddenly bikes all over. I think people were pedalling home after work. Tyler was able to navigate us through it all and there were only 2 times were we took the wrong turn. As soon as we did it, we knew it was the wrong way so we were able to turn around and get back on the right path before going too far astray. Mel had worried about this trip home because she knew signs would be very little help when you can't read the language! And she wasn't sure if the map would actually show where things were and if indeed they would be what it said. Thankfully it all worked out okay. God is a marvelous pilot!!

The Czech Republic has many areas where restoration and improvements to buildings have not yet been made. People really do make the best of things and they always seemed to have some garden space for growing food for themselves.

As we got closer to Katowice, these stacks began to appear. We were back in the industrial coal producing area of Poland. Our calculations about time were pretty close and we were back in Katowice by 7 p.m.. Home sweet home!!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Vienna 2

Thank you for continuing to follow my travel log. It's been nearly 2 months since we got home and here I am, just about finishing our first week of adventures!! These first days were jam packed so I certainly have had lots to write about and to show you. I hope you enjoy these little snippets of Vienna.

This beautiful rose garden was just down the street from our pension.

My continuing camera love affair with windows!!

No flowers on this monochromatic wall but still the whole look is so interesting.

Vienna (or Wein in German - remember a 'W' is usually pronounced as a "V") is the home of weiners and little concessions were open along the streets. I'm sure in the summer there are many, many more of them around.

And a pub calling our name!! This is the traditional spelling of our last name (although I'm not sure what that L is doing at the end - it didn't seem to be lit up.)

In case you were wondering if there was a rest stop ahead!

An archeological dig was going on in this section of the city - right beside the busy street. It looks like there's a brick oven at the back of the plot. It was fascinating to watch them use toothbrushes to brush away the dirt and painstakingly record every single thing they found.

Some sidewalk reconstruction was going on here. We were amazed by the tree roots and how carefully they had been left to grow. I wonder how old these trees are.

At this main circular intersection, a double-decker transportation hub has busses unloading on the top floor and the subway stopping on the bottom floor. It's really convenient if you have to switch from one to the other. In the center of the circle is a green space park. Europeans are very creative with their use of small spaces.

My maiden name was Lange and here was a whole street with that name!

Tyler humoured me by sitting down at this sidewalk cafe'. Does it not look like a place kids would want to hang out?!!

I feel like we just had a little appetizer of what Vienna is like. We definitely want to visit for a much longer time again soon!! Mel tells me that there is an awesome Christmas market in the square - that sounds interesting!!

And Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American online friends! I hope your turkey was juicy, your pumpkin pie was smothered in whipped cream and your family time was priceless :))

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


We left rainy Salzburg and headed out again. Highways in Germany and Austria were in excellent condition and Bob did a great job of driving. I was able to snap some good pictures while we motored along.

We were leaving the mountains of Austria behind and heading east to the capital city, Vienna.

Another scenic view as we drove along.

Where in Canada can you see a castle and a farm in the same valley?!! Nowhere!!

An Austrian wind farm.

This was the scene on the highway between Salzburg and Vienna about 2:30 in the afternoon. Yes - you are seeing it right - bumper to bumper traffic that's not moving! We weren't sure what the problem was - we were just very thankful that it was traffic going in the opposite direction of us!

We arrived in Vienna mid-afternoon and with some careful navigating, found our pension which was quite close to downtown. We parked the van and used public transit, since parking (not to mention navigating) in the historic core would have been a nightmare. Our guide book had nearly 100 pages on Vienna and we had less than 24 hours in town - remember we had "Tyler, the student" with us! We barely scratched the surface but tried to pack in some of the highlights. It helped that Melinda and Tyler had spent a long weekend here last year and they were excellent tour guides, once again!

A city of 1.6 million people, there are many beautiful statues of famous Austrian citizens like Mozart and Strauss.

From the tram window as we rode along and saw some of the important city buildings. I didn't get a picture of the Rathaus, or City Hall, which is a huge Neo-Gothic structure. During Advent, it becomes a huge Advent calendar, with 24 windows opening - one each day, as Christmas approaches.

The Vienna Opera House - truly a landmark of the city, rebuilt since the war! If you are a music lover, this would be "one of the planet's premier houses of music" (Rick Steves) Our tour guidebook said to drop by halfway through the performance and see if there were standing room tickets left. Alas, this day was a sold out performance but! We were able to beg some tickets from people as they left the performance early - way to go, Tyler!! We ended up with 3 tickets so took turns going inside to hear a bit of the performance and see the inside of this splendid, historical building. Mel and Tyler scored tickets in the top most balcony so they had an awesome view of the whole interior. Bob and I shared the one on the main floor so we enjoyed more of the performance and less of the view. I think next time (when we have a few days here) we'd buy tickets ahead of time and enjoy a full show. The performance did have English sub-titles displayed on a screen so it wasn't too difficult to follow the storyline.

The imposing front facade with its double rows of statues. At night each alcove is lit and the whole building seems to glow.

You needed to see the side view of the building in order to realize just how big it actually was! I think it covered the entire city block, which explains the spaciousness inside.

I never got tired of the architecture and there was always another photo op calling me!

Statues were everywhere!

After walking through the gates and up the driveway, this view of the Hofburg Palace greeted us.

A closeup of the statues set into recesses along the curved wall of the Palace.

I think I have one very favourite picture from each of our major stops during this vacation. This is the one from Vienna. I love the spires, the statue and the tree tops. Sometimes I surprise myself by capturing these little vignettes!

The Red Gate, according to us. And I can't find any information about it. If you know what it's proper name is and its significance, please tell me. For now, it's just a beautiful gate.

A spectacular dome over the covered walkway that connected buildings on the Hofburg Palace site.

When we considered things we could fit into a quick morning in Vienna, the Spanish riding School, at the palace, where the Lipizzaner Stallions are trained was a recommendation. After buying tickets to the morning training session, we watched while horses and riders practiced individual routines, steps and warmups. The arena had 3 of the biggest and grandest chandeliers imaginable hanging over the performance area. Tickets to performance events are sold out months in advance so you will have to plan ahead for this when you come to town.

This mime played a tune of Mozart's when you dropped a coin in his box. I thought these characters added so much to the historical experience whenever I saw them. Plus you have to admire someone who can dress up with full makeup and stand in the street for extended periods of time to entertain tourists!

There were so many amazing roofs - with statues, sculpture and amazing details. We saw more gilded statues here than any other place we visited in Europe.

I love how it all comes together in this picture - the curves of the Burgtheater (Austria's national theater), the red trolley and Mel and Tyler walking. It just seems to be an interesting photo.

The "votive church", built in 1853 to thank God when an assasination attempt on the Emperor failed, as seen from the transit center - which explains all the lines and cables!

Nearly a quarter of Vienna's buildings were destroyed in WWII so alot of restoration work has taken place. Tomorrow I'll show you some of the street vignettes in Vienna!