Sunday, December 27, 2009

First Snow

We had our first snow last week - it was only an inch or so and didn't last too long but it was nice to see. It's supposed to snow this weekend in Scotland while we are there so hopefully we'll get to go sledding!!
It really wasn't that cold:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! We had a wonderful day yesterday - thank you to everyone who sent us gifts!! The kids slept in until 8 am and we didn't finish opening presents until 11:30 or so. We had to take a few breaks - the kids were beginning to get overwhelmed. Aoife had to take a nap in the middle of it all and Emmy shut herself in the bathroom for about 20 minutes to calm down from the rush of all the new toys. It was really funny but I am glad that she knows how to calm herself down and realized that she needed it! Brendan's parents sent us a Wii and we got a few games. Brendan seems to be really happy to have Aidan play video games with him! Everyone got lots and lots of stuff - Santa was very generous!

Aidan opening the Wii - he was very excited!!
Emmy wearing dress ups, wings, jewelry, a helmet, eating chocolate and playing with her new cash register - heaven!
Even Aoife enjoyed the chaos!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas Eve

It's been really busy around here but we are finally going to be able to relax and enjoy Christmas Eve. We definitely miss being with our families but we will be celebrating tonight with friends. Christmas party this afternoon, caroling and drinking mulled wine around the firepit afterwards. It's also exciting to have Aoife's first Christmas this year. She likes the tree but has no idea what's coming!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

No Munich...

Our preChristmas vacation plans have been thwarted by the huge failure of Eurostar. We were supposed to cross the English Channel this morning at 6:50 am on the train that takes cars through the chunnel. It snowed quite a bit yesterday in Eastern England and Northern France. The storm caused the ferries across the channel to close so we thought that all of the traffic going towards the chunnel last night was because of the snow and rerouted ferry traffic. We stayed in a small hotel last night so we would make it to the train in time. We got on the road at 6 am and as we were coming up the highway there was a huge back up going the other way. The cars had their lights off and looked like they weren't even turned on - this turned out to be true since those people had been stuck on the highway for almost 10 hours. Mind you - it was 27 degrees last night - not so fun when you can't keep the car running because you don't want to run out of gas. We got off the highway and talked to a police officer who told us that there were 4 trains stuck in the tunnel and it didn't look like anything was going to start running again anytime soon. We drove up the road a bit to a rest stop to get some food and think about what we were going to do. We listened to people on the radio telling stories about how they were supposed to get on last night and were still delayed - in was almost 7 am by that point. We decided to just go home since even if the trains started running by noon - which isn't even looking likely - there would be such a huge back up that there was a good chance we wouldn't even get across today. Since we were only planning on spending 2 1/2 days in Munich, it seemed ludicrous to drive all that way for one day. And that is based on us making it on tomorrow - who knows if that would happen. So I am so disappointed. I was really looking forward to seeing Munich and going to Salzburg on the train. On the bright side, we will get to do some more Christmas preparation here - bake more cookies, get more wrapping done etc - and we'll be a little warmer. :)

Click here for a link to the BBC article about Eurostar

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Weekend in London

We spent this past weekend in London. It was so much fun to see the city at Christmastime! We stayed at the RAF (Royal Air Force) Club which is a very nice hotel right on the edge of Hyde Park - just a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace! We are very lucky that as foreign exchange students we get to be members of the RAF club and get to take advantage of these wonderful opportunities. Here is the view from our room:
We walked down to Piccadilly Circus and had lunch at a tiny pub. Here is a sculpture on the way:
Piccadilly Circus - they put Eros in a snow globe!!
We went into Hamley's which is like FAO Schwartz of London. It was INSANE and I only lasted about 5 minutes before the crowd and the heat got to me. I walked up Regent Street while Brendan stayed in the store with Aidan and Emmy.
Regent Street:

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

After lunch we took a taxi back to the hotel and took a nap!! After we were all rested and warm we went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park which is a big Carnival/excuse to drink Gluhwein (mulled wine). It wasn't too cold and there was no wind and we had a good time going on rides and eating bratwurst and popcorn.
Here they are - all bundled up - Emmy insisted on wearing my scarf (faux Burberry) after seeing everyone in London with their Burberry scarves. A fashionista in the making.
Riding in the princess coach - what could be better?
Driving the train:
Brendan took Aidan and Emmy on the carousel:
This is a HUGE ferris wheel that had enclosed cars. We took a ride and it was really cool to see the city at night.

Buckingham Palace

We got up on Sunday and walked over to Buckingham Palace. It looked like they were getting ready for the Queen to come back from church so we waited for a little while but we were getting cold and bored so we left before she showed up. I was a little disappointed by the exterior of Buckingham Palace - I'm sure the interior is beautiful but the outside was a little boring. There was a beautiful fountain out front with some gorgeous carvings around it.
Leaving Buckingham Palace:
The Band on the way to great the Queen:

Other Sites

After Buckingham Palace, we walked down the Mall and then past Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Parliament. We walked halfway across the bridge so we could see the water and the London Eye.
Westminster Abbey
Parliament and Big Ben
Trying to not let Aidan climb over the edge
The London Eye

The Rainforest Cafe

After our long walk we took a taxi back to Piccadilly for lunch at the Rainforest Cafe. It was seriously the best meal I've had at a restaurant in England. The kids got their faces painted - Emmy got a butterfly and Aidan is Father Christmas - as you can tell!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nativity Play

Aidan's class had their Nativity Play yesterday. No, you didn't read wrong - that is a play celebrating the birth of Jesus in a public school. There is no separation of church and state here AND the head teacher is the local vicar's wife so we get a double dose. I told one of the British moms that it was surprising for me every time something Christian comes up at school and she looked at me and said, "Oh - well I guess you can't do that because of the diversity in America." No, actually, our country's president isn't also the head of our church and religious freedom is kind of a cornerstone of America but whatever - diversity - yeah - that's it.

At any rate - the play was sooooo adorable! There were a bunch of kids dressed as stars, angels, shepherds, sheep and of course Mary, Joseph, the donkey and the three kings - Aidan was a king. I had the best seat in the house and the kids all walked right by me to get on stage.

Here's Aidan with one of the other kings - they didn't have steamers or irons in 0 AD:
Aidan, delivering his gift:
The class after the play was over - as you can see there are only a few people crying!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Picture

I love going to get cheesy Christmas pictures taken of the kids. I usually go to Picture People because you get them right away but I haven't been able to find anywhere like that here. So - - here's this year's picture - without the benefit of studio lighting. We will probably try again and see if we can get more smiles!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Tree is Up!

We finally got our tree up this afternoon. It was a little more difficult than normal because everything is a little more difficult in a new place. We had to buy new lights because of the voltage difference. This took two tries because the first set of lights we got were a loop of lights - very strange and definitely not going to work on the tree! We also don't have our tree stand with us since it is in storage - one of those things that I didn't plan very well! Brendan had to run around and figure out where to buy one. He did find a really nice one today at a local garden center and got the tree there too. It would have been nice if we could have all gone with him but after all the pitfalls we had already run into it was easier for him to go alone. We got the tree up, lights on and ornaments on all before dinner. It was great. The kids were a little more into putting the ornaments on this year but we still had to finish up once they got bored. Click HERE for the 2007 tree post and HERE for the 2008 post.
Even Aoife got in on the fun and enjoyed wearing the reindeer antlers once she got used to them!

Bourton-on-the-Water Tree Lighting

We went back to Bourton-on-the-Water on Friday evening for their tree lighting ceremony. I had wanted to go back since our ill-fated first trip (click here). It get dark really early these days - DARK by 4:30 - seriously - and it's only going to get worse!! The sun sets at 4 pm and rises at 8 am - ugh! Anyway - the tree lighting was at 6 pm (well after dark!) and it was beautiful although it rained - drizzled - the entire time. There were lots of rides - even a Ferris wheel Aidan and Emmy went on with Brendan - Aoife and I stayed on the ground where it was a little warmer!!

This made LOTS of noise - the kids thought it was great and danced around to the music.
Bottles of sloe gin, crab apple vodka and raspberry vodka - I wanted to buy some of the sloe gin but we ran out of time before I had the chance to go back!
The Christmas Tree! All of the public trees seem to be decorated with blue lights - not quite sure why!

Bath Christmas Market

Last week the girls and I went to the Christmas market in Bath with my friend Dyann and her son. It was really fun even though we didn't buy very much. It was drizzling the entire time but we made the most of it and even went on the Carousel. I'm sure the markets in Munich will be better - I can't wait!!!