Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Milano, Italy

After Spain, we took an overnight train to Milano, Italy.  It's so easy to travel by train - especially when it's direct!  We arrived just before noon, the weather was terrific, and we were ready to take a look around.

Leaving Barcelona

Is it morning yet??
clockwise: Julia, Joe, Flower, John

Arriving in Italy.
Departing and arriving look very similar, yes?.

Our first stop was a small cafe.  It was wonderful to take our time dining - it's quite customary for wait staff to not rush the customer that often Americans interpret it as bad/slow service. We had a prime spot along a roundabout a near a trolley stop.  

Flower & John - lunch in Milano

Joe & Marie - lunch in Milano

One of the things I was looking forward to in Italy was the pizza and the shopping.  I was not disappointed in either area.  The pizza was yummy (though we weren't always certain what we had ordered).  Naturally, the pasta was delicious and I don't believe there were ever any leftovers.

If ever in Milano, a must-do is a visit to the Duomo (meaning: large cathedral).  This structure is massive huge with an equally huge piazza (plaza) out front.  What good is an Italian piazza without a stature of Napolean?

The Duomo - Milano, Italy

John, Marie, Joe, Flower - outside the Duomo, Milan, Italy

Lunch on the piazza w/Duomo as a backdrop - Joe, Flower, Marie

Shopping was all-together a different scene.  We found the "Rodeo Drive" of Milan - I didn't feel comfortable walking into some shops, e.g. Prada (310€ per small leather coin purse, whatev).  However, I hunted down and located the area of town most Milanese visit when they go shopping.  Whew!  Wear comfy shoes.  There is no American-style mall - the largest shopping area was both sides of the street... for 4km!

Never fear, I found a few things to bring back to Heidelberg, but mostly I was interested in looking and not buying.  Window shopping is primarily a safe hobby, while handbag or shoe shopping can become a full contact sport!  Just keepin' it real.

Our hotel was awesome and quite affordable.  At the same time, we were very happy to head home after two days there... we were in need of our own beds.

Joe, Marie, Flower - on our way to the train station from our hotel in Milan

Spending 6 hours on a train crossing the Alps was fabulous!  Totally amazing scenery - and we'd have missed the view if traveling on an airplane.  We saw small little hamlets nestled up in a valley, crystal clear lakes, sheep in a meadow, waterfalls, and even a camp ground.  Sometimes it is the journey and not the destination.  [Insert crazy running-in-flip flops-to-make-the-train-connection-in-Zurich story.  You wouldn't believe it if I told you.]

Italy and the Alps with my people is where it's at.

Friday, May 22, 2009


What a terrific visit to Barcelona, Spain! - it was far more enjoyable and interesting than I anticipated.  Travel by train is quite convenient (look for a future blog regarding train travel and making connections).  Since we were going to be in town for four days, we decided to rent an apartment ... on the Mediterranean Sea.  Talk about a spectacular view - holy cow it was amazing.

Flower and John

The view from our rental apartment.

For the first time, we opted to purchase a tour bus ticket (double-decker, hop on/hop off all around the city) - Barcelona Bus TurĂ­stic.  We were glad to have done that since there was so much to see and it really gave us a lay of the land.  It helped us decide on the areas we wanted to explore more fully.

Flower, Joe, Marie

L'Aquarium Barcelona was a fabulous afternoon for the family - there was something interesting for everyone.  The highlight of our visit was gliding along the automatic footpath that wound it's way under the huge fish tank ... we could see all manner of sea life all around us.  I just love love love "Jaws" - so the sharks were especially interesting to me.


Joe, Marie, Flower - outside the Aquarium

Marie, Flower, Joe

Joe, Flower, Marie, John - on the moving pathway under the shark/fish tank

We stopped by the Olympic Stadium (Summer Games - 1992).  The hilltop where the games were held offers a breathtaking view of the city.

Marie, John, Joe, Flower - Olympic Stadium

One of my favorite stops was the Museu Picasso.  I hadn't realized how much work he accomplished, but there was plenty of his art in this museum to appreciate.  Having the kids with us to view these masterpieces was well worth making the trip.

During one of our many walkabouts (favorite quote from Joe at the end of a long day "arch supports baby, arch supports"), we came across an open air market offering every type of food possible - meat: fresh, smoked, dried; fruit:  fresh, candied, preserved; etc.  The colors and scents were amazing.  Talk about spectacular!

Since we were taking the overnight train to Milano, Italy (separate post for that later) for the second leg of this trip, we enjoyed another full day of Barcelona prior to leaving.  The Zoo de Barcelona is located on a huge piece of land in the middle of the city - it is a great zoo.  Interestingly, the fees for the zoo were the highest fees for admission we paid at any site we visited in the city, but worth it.  Then again, I love the zoo - and I grew up spoiled on the exquisite St. Louis Zoo (free admission for all.)

Flower, Marie, Joe - Rhino in background (looks like a rock)

John:elephant, Joe:tiger, Marie:monkey, Flower:camel

Joe, Flower, Marie - look's like we all had the same idea.

My take-away impression of Barcelona was a city that is alive and passionate.  From the highest vantage points I looked out over the city and saw color and shape and energy!  The rooftops offered  every shade of terra cotta and it seemed like no two buildings side-by-side were shaped the same.  The colors of the city, the market, the laundry hanging to dry juxtaposed with the green/blue sea simply overwhelmed the senses.  *sigh* ... it was good times and I'm so grateful I got to share it with family.

clockwise:  Marie, Joe, John, Flower - found a lovely park where we could rest our tired feet!

Flower, Joe, John, Marie - outside the Aquarium

Flower, John, Marie, Joe

Barcelona with my people is where it's at.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day

What a terrific Mother's Day Weekend I enjoyed this year!  My people went way above and beyond the call of obligation.  Gone were the perfunctory notes of proclaimed love and devotion; instead we enjoyed time together on an adventure (picnic in the Black Forest), dinner out, Sunday worship, a telephone call from our missionary, and gifts.  Many many wonderful gifts (flowers, chocolates, perfume, and outrageous bling!).

I love being a mom and don't recall a time when I didn't want to be a mom.  I have always wanted to have children.  We worked hard to become pregnant with our oldest - temperature tests, etc.  But Heavenly Father saw fit to send us children on His own timing.  Over the years, we lost three little ones while still pregnant - I think of them often and wonder what might have been.

There is something magical about a newborn ... the downy scent, soft skin, their sweet toe-jam, and the look of peace when they sleep.

As they grow up, the times and seasons changed for me - in ways I wasn't always expecting.  While they became more independent and self-reliant (dressing self, bathing, fixing their own cereal), I discovered they needed me more in other ways.  Listening became a full time job and dispensing advice was my new calling.  

No one warned me, but teenagers need a parent at home when they bust through the door after school more than a 3rd grader needs someone waiting for them (that's a pearl I'm offering).  

None of it is possible without my husband John - he's an outstanding father and husband.  Using an old-fashioned phrase ... he's a terrific provider and a steady example of compassion in our home.

Now, our beautiful sons and daughters range in age from 20 years to 13 years old.  Marie is leaving for university in the Fall and Jack will return from Russia in October (then university in January).  So, again I can see what I do will change, but my role never can - I'm their advocate and head cheerleader.

Jack - 1995, Grade 2

Marie - 1995, Kindergarten

Joe - 1998, HeadStart

Flower - 1999, Pre-K

For me, motherhood is where it's at.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Schwarzwald Picnic

Today we went for a drive through the Schwarzwald (Black Forest); talk about spectacular!

The Black Forest (about an hour car drive south of Heidelberg) is 200km x 60km - which means we'll have to go back many times in order to see all of it.  The weather was perfect for a drive through the mountains on the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse. As far as the eye could see was a sea of green in more shades than humanly possible - trees, shrubs, meadows .... it was simply gorgeous.

John and Julia Murphy

We stopped at several look-out points that provided breathtakingly beautiful vistas.  There was an outcropping of rocks that we had fun climbing up and over and around.  Took some great snapshots as well.

Clockwise:  Marie, Joe, Flower

As planned, we carried a picnic lunch with us.  There was a small area with a few picnic tables near an eagle's promontory.  It was lovely to sit and enjoy each other's company.  While we prepared our sandwiches, another couple out hiking passed by and struck up a conversation in English.  Turns out they are from Hamburg and recommended June as the best month to visit the northern region of Germany.  

L to R:  Marie, Joe, Flower

I didn't realize how far up we had climbed until we started our decent!  There were sections of the road that were posted as a 12% downhill grade.  Along the way, the small hamlets and large meadows of perfect little chalets reminded me of a movie I used to watch when I was just a sprout - Heidi.

It was a great day for an alpine adventure ... as evidenced by the napping children on the way home.

Picnicking in the Black Forest with my family is where it's at.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Night Fun Times

Tonight was a ward activity for the Heidelberg English-speaking Military Ward - and what a night to remember.  It was advertised as an evening of games, snacks, entertainment ... all very casual from 18:00-20:00.  We arrived closer to 6:30 and were surprised to see a full stage set up complete with two drum kits, keyboards, 8 guitars, speakers, mics, etc.  Also, there was a guy behind the the rolling tripod (television studio quality) video recorder.  The onstage talent at that time was the seminary teacher/Army dentist doing an acoustic version of something I didn't quite recognize.  

There was plenty of food from the snack aisle (chips, pretzels, Twizzlers, etc) and a surprising amount of fresh fruit with caramel dip.  Marie had baked Angel Food cupcakes with strawberry and Cool Whip frosting - absolutely delicious! - and only 68 calories each.

After John and I found a seat along the sidelines, we were able to really take a look at the different solo artists, family groups, garage band types, and ensemble pieces.

The play list included:  a 'rock band' that sang mostly in German complete with a wizened drummer sporting Birkenstocks, ponytail, and a caftan ... a mom and pop garage band with a keep-the-kids-busy-with-this-music-project-they-won't-go-astray sound ... a would-be boy band sans choreography ... the list goes on.

Funny thing, one of the best parts of the evening was the confidence of the participants to get up on stage and do their thing.  It was a
truly safe environment with nothing but an encouraging vibe in the air.  

Had I known this was akin to open mic night, I'd have suggested some def poetry jam - I'm thinking of a piece I wrote, "Married Sex."

I'm already looking forward to next year's event.

Live music with my family is where it's at.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Little of This, Little of That

This past week as been quite busy. 

Last Monday morning John crashed his bike on his commute to work.
He was able to ride back home (he was about 4km away), but he was pretty banged up and in pain.  Recovery has been slow this week, but both shiners are starting to turn lighter shades of purple and the yellow has appeared.  He took a good chunk of skin from his right knee.  This photo wastaken after 6 days of recovery.  *sigh*

Later in the week John made me a most delicious ham/cheese/tomato sandwich - it was so beautiful I just had to take a picture.

We had some fresh lilacs from the market - they reminded me so much of our house at 123 Lindenwood Avenue.

Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor dropped by to return the chicken noodle soup pot I had taken over to them.  They were so appreciative ... they also gave me roses.  I am still very humbled by their gratitude.

Enjoying one week at a time is where it's at.

Afternoon at the Park

Another awesome day with my people.  The weather in Heidelberg is idealic - bright sunshine, soft breeze, and the occassional poofy cloud.

We decided to take a short bike ride up and over the old bridge to one of the parks along the Neckar River.  Before leaving the house, we each packed a lunch, a book, and a couple blankets to stretch out on.  Since the park wasn't jammed with people yet, we landed a terrific grassy spot near a large tree with shade.

It was terrific to relax and visit and read.  Of course the people-watching was good times too. There were lots of university students (the park is just a few blocks from campus), young couples, and new families with wee buntings hanging inside baby slings.  We didn't see other families that looked like ours - dad, mom, teenagers.  It turns out that most teens hang out with their friends from school and not with their families.  I believe this explains why a few heads turn our direction as we ride along the river ... a few spectators have that they-can't-all-be-together-can-they? expression.

Finally!  John relaxing.

Clockwise:  Marie, Joe, Flower

Our bikes.

Of course, we have the impression that when the weather turns much warmer, park areas along the river (or at least sections of the park) become clothing top optional.  Welcome to Europe!  So far, it's still Spring and there's a lovely breeze.

Hanging out with family is where it's at.