Tuesday, November 20, 2007

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To Deutschland With Love

When I was growing up, we never lived close to any extended family. Visiting aunts and uncles always meant at least 20 hours of driving, if not more. So, as an adult, I fully expect to live far from my own siblings. My sister, however, thinks it's totally cool to live in a different country. And...well...as much as I miss her...I think it's totally cool, too! A little over a year ago, my sister Heather and her husband Karl moved to the southwest corner of Germany, to a cute little town called Buhl. They were supposed to only be there for 6 months but because they are both fluent in German and absolutely LOVE it there, they've extended the stay for at least 2 years...maybe more. My parents and I went to visit them last Christmas and had a lovely time. But I had wanted to take Andrew there one time before a) them came back and b) we were too poor to go. So at the beginning of October, we had absolutely the best trip to Germany and France just about ever.

Our first full day there, we did probably my favorite thing there. Heather and Karl discovered this great little beirgarten in the middle of the Black Forest. You drive through the mountains, park your car, and take about a 30 minute hike...

...and suddenly there's a cute little restaurant! We sat outside, looking out at a field of cows, and had one of the best salads I've ever had. Then we hiked back through the Black Forest. It was just so very...German.

We spent a good part of out time exploring castles. I served my mission in the Loire Valley in France, where you can't spit without hitting a castle. But German castles are different. They're not as grandiose and uber-fancy. And honestly, that makes them more castle-like. My favorite was Burg Eltz. Holy moly, this is a beautiful castle. It's one of the only castles that's never been taken over. Also, the same family has lived there for like 500 years or something. And they still live there. (if this were one of my sisters' blogs, she be all sorts of smart and informative...me...not so much...)

Andrew's favorite castle was just a stone's throw from Burg Etlz, called Burg Thurant. This one is much smaller but way more fun. It had winery, stables, cannons, medieval toilets, and a dungeon with human remains still littering the floor! Ewwww!!

Other things we did in the Germany - eat yummy Doners, play Settlers of Catan, saw a 1,000 year old church, walked the streets of my ancestors' home town, walked around a 2,000 year old Roman bath house, and played with my favorite sister and her darling husband.

More on the France part of our trip in the next installment!

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A La France Avec Amour...

Ok...not that I don't love Germany...but my sister lives 45 minutes from France...so of course, that is going to be my favorite part of our European trip. Having lived there for 16 months and never getting to go to Paris, that was my one goal for this trip. And I totally achieved it! Heather, Andrew and I got on a train Monday morning and 2 hours later we were in Paris. First of all, just being back in France was wonderful. I loved my mission but it wasn't the easiest time in my life. And I used to lump France itself in with that experience. But I know now, having been back twice now, that I absolutely LOVE the country of France (note: I have yet to visit my mission area...who knows how I'll feel then...).

We spent only like 36 hours in Paris...but we sure packed in the touristy crap! When we first got there, we dropped our stuff off at our 300 year old hotel, and took a walk. We went to the Luxembourg Gardens and had yummy sandwiches while French-people watching. Also, from our little spot in the Garden, we could totally see the top of the Eiffel Tower...and I won't lie to...I full on cried. After lunch, we split up - Heather went to one of her museums while Andrew and I just started walking. We walked up to the Seine and then all along it...watching the painters and the book salesmen and absolutely swimming in Paris.

We seriously walked loads that day. We ended up in the Louvre that afternoon. I like museums fine...but usually I get a little bored after an hour. The Louvre, however...I mean, you just CAN'T get bored. Every room you walk in is totally different from the last and all day long I was constantly saying, "THAT painting is here?! I know THAT one!" My favorite, far and away, was Winged Victory...this picture does it absolutely NO justice...It's the most stunning thing I've ever seen. It quite literally took my breath away.

So many beautiful things to see - not to mention the building itself - that was actually Andrew's favorite thing - the gorgeous architecture. We then met up with Heather and ate at a trendy spot close to our hotel - had wicked yummy croques.

The next day, Heather spent her whole day in Versailles. Andrew and I started our day at Notre Dame. I love French Cathedrals. My first area of my mission had one much larger than Paris'. But it didn't have the history...and it definitely didn't have the stairs. We walked up to the first level...I don't think of myself as claustraphobic....but....I may be a bit. Grrr...tight tight tight! Then we went all the way to the top - such a fabulous view of the city. Then Andrew and I had lunch at McDonald's. I know...we're surrounded by the BEST food in all of the world and we choose McDonald's? But first of all - MacDo is SO good in France - don't ask me why...it's just better. And also...Pulp Fiction, man!

After our Royal with Cheese's, we went to the Eiffel Tower. We took the subway and so when you come up, you don't see anything. So we followed the crowd along this road. And then...all of a sudden...it's just there, looming in front of you. The most beautiful structure I've ever seen. I can't tell you where my love for la Tour Eiffel comes from...but I pretty much can't even talk about it without getting all teary. I'm actually getting emotional just typing about it. I don't know why it's so beautiful - it's just a big iron tower that really has no point...but to make me cry, apparently.

We didn't mean to, but took the elevator to the top. There's a midway point where you think you see a lot of the city. But when you get to the tippy-top - wow. What a view! We did take the stairs down. Which was nice because we were able to stop at the first level and have a diet coke and a croissant! Heaven, I tell you...

Then we wandered and bought random touristy things...and then we went back to Germany. I know it was only 2 days...but it was the best 2 days I ever had in France. Paris is quite honestly the yummiest city I've ever been to. Done and done.

Monday, November 12, 2007

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Quilts...Baby Style

Ladies and Gentelmen: I present to you, the talented BabyAnne. Shop there...you won't be sorry.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

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I Got Married, I Bought A House, I Caught A Fish: Part 3

Andrew just had his 29th birthday and when I asked him what he wanted he said, "I want to go deep sea fishing." ...My husband's so cute. So we did. We went down to his parents' and on his birthday, his dad drove us and our brother-in-law Don over to Corpus Christi where we hopped on a fishing boat and headed into the Gulf of Mexico. The boat provides everything you'd need - reel, rod, dead fish bait - it's great! So us and 30 other people just sit around and fish for 5 hours.

Now, let's get one thing straight - I was NOT going to fish. I didn't want to fish and I knew the money would be wasted on me. So I was just going to sit and read my book and look at the ocean and watch the men-folk bring in the food. But when we finally got out to the first cast off (it took over an hour to get far enough into the ocean to fish), my father-in-law says, "Come on, Susan, grab your rod!" And I was like....wha--? Apparently, he went ahead and rented ME a rod too so that they had more chances of catching as many fish as they could. Well...I had no clue what I was doing, so Don showed me how to drop the line into the water and then stop it when I wanted. So I did...and then I stopped it. I stood there for a bit and then suddenly a fish started to pull on Andrew's line! Well, I wasn't missing this photo op, so I stuck my rod into the little rod holder thingy, and went to grab my camera. Unfortunately, about 3 feet from the surface, the fish unhooked himself and swam away.

HOWEVER, unbeknownst to me, as soon as I put my rod down, a fish hooked onto IT. Don saw it move and quickly grabbed it and reeled it in. I still say it was him who caught the fish but the men say that putting the hook in the right place is where the fishing talent lies. ...Whatever.

Here's my fish.

And then my father-in-law made me gut him. See?

It was gross...but then my daddy grilled him...and he was tasty.

And that was the time I caught a fish...and it was awesome.

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I Got Married, I Bought A House, I Caught A Fish: Part 2

I thought that when I turned 21, I was a grown-up. But I didn't so much feel grown-up-y. Then I got my own apartment and that was pretty darn grown-up-like. ...Except for then I moved back in with my parents. But THEN I got married - dude...what is MORE grown-up than marriage?! ...Well, dear readers, I have recently found out the answer to that question: Buying a house is WAY more grown-up than getting married. You know how I know it's more grown up? It's scarier.

We were always going to get a house but like in a year or something. We started looking at model homes just for fun and then we found KB Homes. They had the most reasonably priced, while still being cute, homes we'd seen. And pretty much the decision to buy a house now was made for us. It just made sense. Done and done. Only also, they want money...that's gay.

So our house is still dirt, though they have paved the road. See?

For those of you who are curious little monkeys, you can see the floor plan here (only flip it because it'll be backwards).

They say it'll take at least 6 months to build. So we're looking at being in the house by April-ish. I'll be keeping you all updated on how the building is going with pictures and what not.

And that was the time Andrew and I bought a house...and it was awesome.

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I Got Married, I Bought A House, I Caught A Fish: Part 1

Hi. Remember me?

So, let's start with The Wedding Of The Century. See...I got married. ...I know, right? Amazing. Eight days after my 31st birthday, I married the best man I've ever known, Andrew Gardiner. He's not at all what I was looking for - he's better. Way better. Wicked better. And pretty much my best friend. And guess what - he's mine! Yippee! (I may or may not be doing the Charlie Brown dance right now...)

Here's a brief rundown on the Man himself: He's 29. He did much of his growing up in south Texas, a town called Kingsville - known for the King Ranch and of course, King Ranch Chicken! Yum...He graduated from Sam Houston State University in Chemistry and now works as a forensic scientist for the Texas State Crime Lab...which is SO hot. He's wicked funny...but also a little shy so if you get him talking, listen up - you'll hear some gems. He likes Jimmy Buffet and ACDC, and loves taking me to Astros' games. He collects coins and has pretty much one of the coolest coin collections I've ever seen (...ok...the ONLY coin collection I've ever seen but it's still very cool). He's the kindest, sweetest, cutest person I know...and so I married the heck out of that guy.

The Wedding itself was perfect. I know I'm biased, as it was MY wedding. But seriously, folks - it was perfect. All my closest friends were there - Krisanne, The Triumvirate, Teresa, Ben & Melanie, Emilie, The Feils, Jake & Anne, and of course all my amazing family. Seriously, one of my favorite parts of the wedding was walking into that sealing room and seeing so many people I loved.

The reception was also pretty darn perfect. I'd been teased for years because I actually wanted my reception in a church gym...but I must say, it wouldn't have been lovelier anywhere else. My mom got the help of an amazing woman in her ward who pretty much rocked my reception world. We had pretty fakey candles, pretty fakey trees, and LOTS of yummy barbeque.

Then also, we went on a cruise. For all you readers who have never been a cruise...promise yourselves that someday...someday you will take a vacation on the sea. Mmm...cruises makey me happy. We went to Jamaica (which was scary and lame), Grand Cayman (which was lovely and perfect) and Cozumel (which was Mexican-y and ruin-y).

In conclusion, The Wedding Of The Century was pretty much the best day of my life...except for the fact that every day since then has pretty much been the best day of my life. I got married...and that was awesome.

Friday, July 13, 2007

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Shh....it's ok...

...I'm coming back. Don't worry.....I'm coming back.

Friday, March 02, 2007

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Face it...

...my fiance's hotter 'n yours.