Saturday, December 1, 2018

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas--2018 Georgetown Stroll

It's an annual tradition for our family to attend the Georgetown Stroll each December.  It's a wonderful way to welcome the Christmas season.  Usually we attend the parade on Saturday morning, followed by a visit to the stroll. However, this year we decided to attend after the Big 12 Championship Game (which was extra big this year since a lot was on the line for Oklahoma).  We were extremely excited that Oklahoma was able to avenge their one loss of the year to Texas.  After we watched OU win (Boomer Sooner!) we headed to the stroll. 
Surprisingly, the line wasn't too long for this HUGE inflatable slide.  So after our meal at the new Georgetown location of Greenhouse craft food, we stood in line for the slide.

Apparently it wasn't quite exciting enough for Luke, so he decided to add a big jump at the end.

Luke was excited to play these inflatable sports games, which happened to have no line!

Look how close he came to threading the needle with that football!

The kids enjoyed designing ornaments for free.

Abbey said "Hello" to the Texas Stars Hockey mascot.

And she said "hi" to a HUGE nutcracker.
 Our favorite part of the Georgetown Stroll each year is the Bethlehem Village.  A local church transforms this part of the stroll into a village that was similar to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.  There is even a live nativity, with real animals. 

Learning about how they dyed fabrics back then.

Learning how they turned wheatberries into flour.

grinding the wheat.

getting some snacks at the market.

This part of the village is so precious.  The sweet volunteers make a "baby Jesus" doll while telling the children about the story of Jesus.

After watching the live nativity, we headed out of the Bethlehem village and wasted no time getting to the Home Depot tent.  Abbey was extremely excited about this and had been talking about it since the second she saw a child wearing the Home Depot apron shortly after we arrived to the stroll.  They let the kids choose from several different projects.  Luke chose to make an airplane and Abbey chose to build a race car.   Luke was excited to do the whole thing on his own with no assistance.   

The finished product.
It was fun to be there while the sun set--we got to see all the beautiful lights come on.

Drew grabbed the camera and got a photo of me--to prove I do exist.

Family selfie under the twinkly lights.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Urban Adventures: Metrorail, Google Event and Gingerbread Village

After I found out that Austin Capital Metrorail was letting kids (grades K-12 and younger) ride for free through 12/10/18 I knew it was time for a little urban adventure with the kids.  I was already planning on taking the kids to a Google Pixel 3 event, called Sights of Sound, that was located downtown.  And when I saw that the event was a short walk from the downtown metrorail station, it was a no-brainer to use the metrorail as our transportation to the event.  Because adventures are more fun with friends, we invited some to join us.

We met at the Howard Land Metrorail Station and took the 9:55 train.  

It was a very pleasant ride and we got to enjoy all the fall foliage through the big windows as we made our way downtown.  Austin sure is looking beautiful right now!

We arrived downtown around 10:30 and walked over to the google event.  At this event we were each (even the kids) given Google Pixel 3's and invited to explore four different rooms, each inspired by a musician. The rooms were unlocked using the phone and the spaces were great for putting Pixel 3's  camera features into action.  The immersive rooms featured: Ella Mai’s Inner Reflections, Future’s Trap Mansion, J Balvin’s Reggaeton World and Marshmello’s Happier Place (our favorite).  Here are some photos from the event:

Abbey got to "unlock" the Marshmello--Happier room by answering the question about who collaborated with the band on the song.  She answered the question by pulling on a string under the "Bastille" balloon.  Once she did, it released confetti everywhere and the song, "Happier" began playing loudly.  It was so fun! The room even had a trampoline in it. 


At the end of the event, we were each given the opportunity to play a bear claw game until we were able to capture a ball containing a prize card inside.  The prize card inside indicated whether we won a t-shirt or a Pixel 3 phone.  We all won t-shirts.

After the Google event, we walked over to the Fareground for lunch.  The Fareground is Austin's first food hall, which opened last year.  The marketplace hosts an "eclectic collection of cuisine from six premier local vendors, all openly seated to inspire culinary innovation and community building." (from their website).  It's great for kids because there are so many different options to enjoy.   Although, I will admit it can be a bit pricy.  If you are careful though, you can get away with not spending too much.  The kids tacos at Dai Due are almost the same size as the adult size and cost $3.  Abbey likes the Kolache ($4) at Henbit.  I usually enjoy the Ramen at Ni-Kome.  After lunch we walked over to the gingerbread village at the Four Seasons Hotel.  The Four Seasons has this display each year and sells the houses to benefit a local non-profit.  This year, the money will go to People'e Community Clinic.  The village has a theme of "white Christmas and features 11 traditional-meets-modern houses named after some of Austin’s most historic neighborhoods.  From their website: "The 100 percent-edible Village will be centred around a house that resembles the architecture of City Hall, with surrounding houses featuring exposed gingerbread and white frosting accents. According to Executive Pastry Chef Amanda Pallagi-Naim, the design and colour scheme was inspired by the Hotel’s newly renovated Lobby, which features a similar mix of classic and contemporary design elements.  In addition to the houses, Pallagi-Naim and her team create d three accessories, ranging from a vibrant ATX sign – the only colorful item in the entire Village – to a construction crane that represents the growth of the city."

After looking at the village, we headed out to the back lawn of the Four Seasons.  No visit to the hotel is complete without doing that.  Their lawn is gorgeous and has so many things for the kids to enjoy.  The Austin hike and bike trail runs right behind the lawn, as well as Ladybird Lake.  The colors of fall are just gorgeous right now and lined the lake.  Us moms enjoyed sitting in the sun while the kids rolled down the hills, played lawn Jenga and sat on the huge hammock.

It was time to head back to the train station to catch the 1:55 train.  We began our walk back on the lovely trail.  We love this statue along the trail--it's made of tons of metal bikes.

I always smile at these bike racks outside the convention center.

 Time to head back home.  What a wonderful adventure with friends!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Kids' First International Trip: Paris, Part 1

When we found out that Drew was going to be speaking at a conference through his work in London, we decided that would be the perfect opportunity for our family to visit Europe together.  The last time that Drew and I were in Europe, was on our honeymoon in Switzerland.  I can't believe that was 10 years ago! Switzerland is by far my favorite place I have visited in the world so far.  We were so excited to visit Europe again, but this time with our kiddos.  We found out that Norwegian Airlines offers direct flights from Austin to London at very reasonable rates (less than even traveling to a lot of places in the US.).  Also knowing that Drew's flight would be covered by his company, his food would be paid for and the hotel stay would be covered as well, it would be a great time for us to go expense-wise.  When we were researching travel in Europe, we discovered that flights from London to other parts of Europe were extremely cheap.  In addition, children flights are less expensive than adult flights in Europe.  After we found this out, we decided that we would fly to London about a week early and then fly from there to Paris.  We would spend our 10th wedding anniversary in Paris!  Dreamy, right?  So we booked our flights from Austin to London, where we would immediately catch a short little flight to Paris.  We booked our stay in Paris from June 13-18, and then scheduled a train ride back to London, staying until the 23rd before finally flying back to Austin.  Drew actually had more work to do in Madrid, Spain after London, so I would be flying home by myself with the kids while he traveled on to Madrid.   

Getting Passports for the Kids:
Luke was 8.5 during our visit and Abbey was 6.5 during our visit.  Our kids are used to lots of walking and hiking so we weren't concerned that all of the city walking would be too much for them.  Getting their passports was easy peasy.  For those of you in Austin, I highly recommend getting your passports at the University of Texas International Office.  We arrived around 9am on a weekday morning and only had to wait a few minutes before being called back to begin the process.  The whole process only took us about 30 minutes and we were donee.  Drew paid extra to expedite his passport renewal but we didn't.  We got our sent off a couple of days after him and yet ours came in the mail only a few days after his expedited passport.  In total it took about 3-4 weeks to receive ours after visiting the International Office.

Our First International Flight with the Kids:
Our flight on Norwegian departed Austin at 4:15pm and we arrived in London at 7:20am the next day.  We really hoped that the kids would sleep on the airplane, but unfortunately that didn't happen.  They were so excited for the trip, that they were riding on a huge plane and that they could watch whatever movie they wanted on the seat in front of them.  When we arrived in London at 7:20am, it was only 1:20am in Austin.  Surprisingly though, the kids showed no signs of being tired.  It affected us adults more.   We grabbed some breakfast and then caught a short little 30-45 minute flight to Paris.

We stayed at the Hostel, Le Montclair Montmartre, which was perfect for our family during our stay in Paris. The private family room that we stayed in had a separate room (with a doorway but no door) for the kids, which included a set of bunk beds and even their own little sink. Our bed was in a separate room that was connected and included a queen bed. Our little "suite" also had it's own bathroom with a shower. The hostel cost us less than $100/night and the location could not be beat.

We loved staying in Montmartre! It's a very artsy community and has gorgeous streets and buildings, with cute little shops, markets and delicious food. Montmartre is the highest area of Paris, so there are great views of the city here and lots of steep hills. The first night we were there, we enjoyed some absolutely delicious pizza near Sacre Coeur.
‘Sacré-Cœur’ means ‘Sacred-Heart’ in English and is a reference to the heart of Jesus, which is the representation of his divine love for humanity

...Copyright © French Moments Ltd unless otherwise stated. Read more at .

Sacré-Cœur’ means ‘Sacred-Heart’ in English and is a reference to the heart of Jesus, which is the representation of his divine love for humanity.

...Copyright © French Moments Ltd unless otherwise stated. Read more at .
After dinner, we walked up to Sacre Coeur to take in the beautiful sunset on the hill above the City. We also explored the inside of Sacre Coeur.  Sacre Coeur means "Sacred Heart" in English and is a reference to the heart of Jesus, which is a representation of His divine love for humanity.  We climbed 300 steps to visit this beauty.
Sacré-Cœur’ means ‘Sacred-Heart’ in English and is a reference to the heart of Jesus, which is the representation of his divine love for humanity

...Copyright © French Moments Ltd unless otherwise stated. Read more at .
Sacré-Cœur’ means ‘Sacred-Heart’ in English and is a reference to the heart of Jesus, which is the representation of his divine love for humanity

...Copyright © French Moments Ltd unless otherwise stated. Read more at .

Sacre Coeur on the hill in the Montmartre area of Paris
We learned the subway system very quickly.  Near the subway entrances there were often little carousels.  It was so whimsical.  Also, there were some very artistic subway signs at the entrances.  We found out very quickly that riding the subway system in Paris involved climbing and descending many, many stairs.  No wonder most Parisians seemed so fit!  We averaged 30,000 steps a day in the city--and many floors as well!

The next day was our actual 10th wedding anniversary and first on our agenda for the day was to visit the Eiffel Tower.  Y'all--the Eiffel Tower was way more impressive than I thought it was going to be.  No matter what angle we viewed it from any part of the city, it always looked so cool!

Here is a photo from underneath the Eiffel Tower, taken while we were waiting for our turn to travel up into it.

 Here we are from on the 2nd level of the tower.  There were great views of the city from there.

We even found a place to kiss on our anniversary up on the 2nd floor!

Also on the second floor of the Eiffel tower were some cute shops with gifts, as well as a bakery.  Outside the bakery Luke found an Eiffel tower made of macaroons.  The kids were super excited to try their first macaroon, but we encouraged them to wait to get one at a cute little Paris bakery, rather than at the touristy cafe in the Eiffel Tower.


More photos of the Eiffel tower from different angles.  Sorry--we just couldn't get enough of it--it was just so cool and photos don't do it justice.


Happy Anniversary!

After visiting the Eiffel Tower, we crossed a bridge where lots of love locks had been placed.  Here, lovers place their lock (sometimes with a message on it) and then they toss the key into the River.

We grabbed some crepes for lunch near the Eiffel Tower and then headed to the walk along the River Seine, play at the Tuileries Garden and explored the outside of the Louvre.


For dinner, we enjoyed french onion soup (apparently a must when you visit Paris) and then we checked out Notre Dame.

Notice in this photo that Luke (in the top) is eating a ham baguette.  Baguettes are very popular in Paris.   Every day at lunchtime, you will see locals walking around with a huge baguette in their hand-that's their lunch.  Most often, it doesn't even have anything else in it---just the bread.  Luke and Abbey absolutely loved having all the bread each day.  They really enjoyed the ham baguettes, since we don't eat ham at home.
This is Drew's salad.  We shared it and the soup.
Just in case we didn't get enough bread with the ham baguettes for Luke and Abbey, they brought more.  :-)
Outside Notre Dame
Inside Notre Dame
It was very impressive.


It was being renovated in some areas.
On our way back to our hostel, we stopped by a bakery, thinking it would be a good idea to enjoy some chocolate on our anniversary.  We ended up not getting anything, but enjoyed looking at all the yummy pastries.
Speaking of pastries, we began the next morning with our favorite spot for breakfast--Pain Pain in Montmartre.  Oh. My. Goodness.  This place is amazing.  I looked forward to breakfast each morning thanks to this place.  Pain Pain means "bread bread" in French.

Each morning we enjoyed freshly squeezed orange juice, and a couple of favorite pastries (that we just couldn't resist missing) and a couple of new ones to try.  As I am typing this blog post, I am literally salivating thinking of these amazing pastries. I have truly never had anything like them in the United States.

Stay tuned for the next blog post, where I continue to document our fun trip to Paris.  After breakfast, we rode a train to Versailles to check out the Opulent Chateau Versailles.  Check out the next post to read all about it!