Monday, November 16, 2015

Halloween 2015

Happy Halloween from the Sanders!

Superman, a very pregnant Wonder Woman, Iron Man and Princess Anna.

This pumpkin throwing up guacamole was too funny!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ireland in October

We went to Ireland as our last trip before the baby is born. What a beautiful place! It was wonderful to travel around the land and shoreline and take in the beauty that God has made there.

After landing in Dublin, we rented a car and drove down to Killarney, where our lodging was for most of the trip.  Richard drove the entire trip.  It was the first time had driven on the 'other' side of the road.  The most difficult part was shifting with his left hand. The next day we drove around the Ring of Kerry. This is a circular drive starting in Killarney and following the shoreline of the Kerry Peninsula, until you get back to Killarney again.

The Ring of Kerry was perfect for children. It was a full day of driving, but we stopped frequently to enjoy scenic views, visit historic sites and try local food. The children were able to stretch and run often as we made our way around the ring.

Our first stop was Muckross House, a Victorian mansion located in the National Park near Killarney. Ownership has gone through different hands, it has been given as a wedding gift (gee wouldn't that be nice?), and even Queen Victoria stayed here at one point in 1861. Unfortunately, the tour wasn't available when we arrived, so we only saw the outside and the surrounding scenery. But even from what we saw, it was beautiful. Here we are at the entrance. A kind stranger took a family shot for us, but left out the house behind us.

From the side of the house, you have a large lawn and an amazing view of the lake and National Park beyond.

This is the side of the house that has the lake view.

And the backside has a pretty rose garden. Here's Hope making a typical silly face.

Next stop was Staigue Fort, which is a circular fort with stone walls. The fort is thought to have been built around 300-400 AD.


Richard and the kids on top of the fort's wall. See how green the grass is and how blue the sky is? I love it!

The kids had fun exploring the small storage areas that were dug at the base of the fort.

After a delicious local lunch with soups and sandwiches, we headed to Derrynane Beach. We practically had the beach to ourselves which made the experience even better. We watched the waves come in and threw rocks into them. We played in the sand and climbed up boulders, then ate a delicious chocolaty treat we saved from lunch.

We also stopped at Coomakista Pass, which is a scenic view of the shoreline and islands in the distance.

On the next day we drove up to the peninsula just north of Kerry, called Dingle Peninsula. Our first stop was Kilmalkedar Church and grave site. The church no longer has a roof, but many interesting architectural details still remain. Of note are the designs in the archways, and the stones with carved letters from an ancient alphabet.

Next we stopped at Gallarus Oratory, which is believed to be an early Christian church. You can see it's shaped like a bee hive, and some huts have been found in the area that have the same bee hive look to them. This oratory only has two spots where light can come in; the door and a small window on the wall opposite the door. On the cloudy day we visited, it was difficult to capture a picture of the inside, but the only difference in the walls, is a spot near the door where one could set a candle for light. Other than that, it's just an empty room.

Off we went to the town of Dingle, which is a cute little fishing village. They have their own brewery, called Dingle Brewing Company. We took a tour and enjoyed the beer, which the kids had some orange juice.

A must-do before leaving Dingle, was a stop at the well-known Murphys Ice Cream shop. They serve up unique, high quality ice cream that is delicious!

The last full day we went back to Dublin and visited Trinity College and The Guinness Storehouse. Trinity college was a pretty site with its old buildings that are well maintained.

We went into the library, which was gorgeous. Yes, a library can be gorgeous! It had floor to ceiling books on two levels and winding metal stairways to reach them all. You're not allowed to go through them, because the majority of these books are very old, and the college is working on restoring them. There is also The Book of Kells on display in its own room (no pictures allowed), which is an old copy of the four Gospels. Two copies are on display, while the other two are locked away, and rotated in for security. It was interesting the view the book, which was written by quill and ink on calf skin in Latin.

At The Guinness Storehouse, we took a tour through seven different floors, and ended up at the top level where we enjoyed some Guinness while viewing the Dublin skyline.

Even the baby got to try some. ;)

I highly recommend a trip to Ireland for anyone thinking about it. It's absolutely beautiful and filled with things to do and see!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Sarah's 31st Birthday

I just had to document how awesome Richard was during my birthday. He knows I like birthdays to be special, and he worked really hard to make me feel special this year. In the weeks surrounding my birthday, Richard had to be in Germany for work. He was coming home on the weekends for a short time, then turning around to do another week in Germany. My birthday fell on a Friday, and he made sure he was home at a decent time on Friday night, just so he could get up Saturday morning and start doing things for my birthday.

We started with pancakes, then Richard invited some friends over to hang out for a few hours, and he made some pizza for everyone. After this, he got started on the long process of making my requested cake. A banana cake with white chocolate ganache and candied pecans! He spent all of the kids nap time working on it, then had them help when they woke up.

Just look at how pretty this cake is! And it tasted delicious.

He then proceeded to make a wonderful chicken dinner for the family. He must have spent at least 8 hours in the kitchen that day, while I spent time lounging on the couch and feeling pampered.

Thank you, to the best husband ever! I love you, sweetie!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Heidelberg and Luxembourg

Richard has been spending a lot of time in Germany these past couple of months. So much, that we probably could have justified moving there for a time before coming to Belgium. Fortunately, the kids and I were able to tag along for a week on one of his business trips. We stayed in Heidelberg, Germany the whole week. Then on the drive home we spent one night in Vianden, Luxembourg, because... well, we were near by so why not?

When daddy is away, the kids will play. Wait, that doesn't work... When Daddy travels, the kids go too. Not so catchy. Well anyway, here's what we did while Richard worked some long hard hours, God bless him.

Heidelberg has a fairly large castle that sits on a hill overlooking the city. Much of the castle is not what it was originally, and some parts are missing, but you can still go in and look around and get an idea of what it must have been like a long time ago... you know, when people lived in castles. Here I am with the kids with the city behind us. This was taken right before we entered the castle.

There is a long entrance with a gateway into the castle courtyard. It reminds me of Cinderellaesque carriages pulling important people up to the castle.

View of a beautiful part of the castle from the courtyard.

We couldn't go inside most of the castle without a guided tour, which didn't fit into our day, but we were able to go see the world's largest wine barrel. It was built in 1751, and holds more than 58,000 gallons of wine! This is me attempting to get a picture with my kids, who are more interested in goofing off than smiling for the camera.

After the castle, we took the funicular tram up the hill a bit more to a lookout spot. It was a beautiful day, but I must say, having kids run around near the edge of a steep hill does not make a mama feel safe. I corralled them with a shared cup of hot chocolate and we headed back down on the tram.

In the historic center of the city, there's a pretty church to visit. Its crisp white interior was much different than all the stone we saw in the many churches of Italy.

I have become interested in, and hence have read several books about, the life of Martin Luther, the amazing man who played a huge role in the Protestant Reformation of Europe. He is very well known for nailing his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg in 1517. Luther came to Heidelberg in 1518 to give a disputation regarding his 95 theses upon request of the Augustinian order. Today, there is a plaque dedicated to Luther's visit to Heidelberg. It's not actually well known, and it was a bit of a treasure hunt to find it (which my kids thought was fun). We ended up finding it in the ground in the square of the old University.

Another popular site in Heidelberg is the bridge called "Alte Bruecke" (Old Bridge).

From the center of this bridge you can get a nice view of the castle.

And there's a fancy gateway of one side of the bridge, which doesn't seem to fit into the rest of the architecture, but it's pretty to look at.

Another highlight for the kids was this odd monkey next to the gate of the bridge. I told them to rub the plate he is holding for good luck, but for some reason that scared my kids. Haha! So while Hope held onto my leg, to get away from the monkey, Gabriel at least was brave enough to pose for a picture.

The rest of our time in Heidelberg we spent shopping, going to the zoo and swimming in the hotel pool.

Once the week was over, we traveled to Vianden, Luxembourg and spent the night there. We chose Vianden, because the castle there has been renovated/restored and you can really get a good feel for the whole place. What we didn't realize, was how charming the little town is that sits on the river directly below the castle.

We stayed at a wonderful little hotel overlooking the water. I kept thinking I smelled sausage, and just assumed it was being served at the hotel's restaurant. But I later found out there was a shop connected to the hotel which sold delicious fresh sausage and meats. How cool!

The castle, like I said, sits on a hill above the town.

It definitely towers over everything.

Some of the rooms inside the castle had pieces of armor and weaponry on display.

As well as a pillory, which we had fun with.

It was difficult to get a nice picture of the inside of the castle, but it was what you would expect from the movies... many different rooms with many passages, plus large rooms for entertaining, etc. In fact, this castle has been in several films throughout the years. We also loved the view from the balcony of the castle.

After the castle, we headed home. It was a lovely trip, and I'm so glad we got to tag along with Richard to make it happen!