Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Amsterdam

The first stop on our trip was the fabulous city of Amsterdam. Our plane left June 10th, and we landed in Amsterdam early on the morning of June 11th. Our first priority was to get to our hotel. After trying to figure out what to and where to go to actually arrive at our hotel- we realized that we'd have to take a subway from the airport to a stop to get to our hotel. Not as easy as it sounds. After taking 3 different subway trains, we finally got to the right stop. Our hotel was not far from the main station in Amsterdam, and so we had a very short walk (in the rain... fyi).

We checked into our hotel and quickly set out to explore this new place that we were in. My friend Val, from ACU, (see photo of the two of us in slide show below) now lives in Amsterdam because she married a very nice Dutch guy, and so before we left she and I emailed back and forth and she made some recommendations to me. So, Lantz and I were on a mission to find a pancake house that Val recommended for us to eat at. We finally arrived at Pancakes!Amsterdam. It was a great first meal. We had Dutch style pancakes called poffertijes and a thin crepe style pancake with bacon. (See photos of our first restaurant in slide show.)

We then went to the Van Gogh museum, Vondel Park, and then we walked through the fashion and museum district. All very entertaining and eye opening. We also saw an old timey wooden draw bridge in the middle of the city- pretty cool.

At 8:30 we met Val and her husband Florece (spelling?) at the Amstel Hotel (very classy) and walked over to a small social restaurant for some "coffee" (no one got coffee- tea and hot chocolate). It was so good to catch up with Val and to meet her husband. He was very nice, and I was extremely impressed with both of them. They are both so talented and well- traveled and totally tons of fun to be around. We chatted away with them for awhile. When we were walking back to our hotel I thought maybe it might have been like 9:30, but it was like 10:45. So weird. It didn't get dark in Amsterdam until after 11:00 at night.

After our drink with Val and Florece, we walked through the Red Light District. That was so stupid. People told us to do it because we just needed to see it... that we wouldn't believe it. Well, it was sick. We took a few steps into that part of town, and got out as quickly as possible. My heart broke over what took place in that part of town. Satan definitely has a tight grip there. Lantz and I both prayed over that area and the girls working there and the people "visiting" the girls. One piece of advice if you ever travel to Amsterdam- skip the Red Light District. Even if people tell you you need to see it for cultural reasons- no you don't. It was sad, pathetic, and sinful.

The next day we got up early and walked across town for a bike tour. We took the country-side tour through Mike's Bike tour. We had so much fun! Each of our bikes had names. Lantz's bike was "Indian Larry" and my bike was "The Magic Carpet." (Side note, all the bike tours we did in Europe named their bikes- funny stuff.) We rode through part of town, along the Amstel River and then out to a country farm where they make fresh cheese and wooden clogs. The cheese was amazing! We got to sample all the flavors, and my favorite was the smoked gouda. Talk about the best cheese I've ever had in my whole life... awesome! The flavor of it was just incredible. We didn't buy any, although I wish we would have. (It was our second day and we were traveling with back packs and I didn't want to be a major tourist carrying around a load of souvenirs.) The whole trip all I could think about was the amazing smoked gouda. (Side note- I found some Dutch smoked gouda at Trader Joe's today. I'm going to try it later tonight or tomorrow. I'll let you know if it is as good. I hope it is, otherwise I am going to be mad that I didn't get some there.) We then finished off our bike tour by riding on some old country roads and back through town and through 2 parks- one being Vondel Park.

Our bike tour was so much fun, and I felt like we really got to experience so much. We got to see alot of things outside of the city which was really neat. After that we went to the Anne Frank House. That was such a neat experience for me. As most of you know I teach a huge Holocaust unit, and so it was a very moving experience for me to be able to actually be in the place where the Franks were in hiding. I think the coolest part was walking through the bookshelf and up the stairs. It was all so tiny. It was amazing to touch and see the things that Anne did. It was also cool to see the attic area where Anne sat and stared out at the birds and the trees. All very moving. I can't wait to share my experience with my students next year. It was very cool too that the day that we visited the Anne Frank House actually would have been Anne's 80th birthday if she would have survived- June 12th- this day was also Lantz and my six year anniversary to the day we met.

Amsterdam is a very cool city and very different than all of the other places we visited. It is very trendy and fashionable. Everyone travels by way of bicycles. Bicycles always have the right away. You'd see girls in skirts and heals just pedaling away on their bikes. I loved the cities architecture and how there are rivers all throughout the whole city. I loved that you can ride your bike everywhere, and how the whole city is super bike friendly and easy to travel.

This was a great stop and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

P.S. Most people associate Amsterdam with partying, but there is so much more to this city. Don's stereotype it.


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Monday, June 29, 2009

Europe Trip Generals....

First of all... I loved Europe. I can see why people move there and live there, and just love it there. It is so full of history and culture. I am thankful for the 17 days that we had there, but I wish that we would have had more. I can't wait to go back sometime in the future (although to different places cause I have so much more I want to see).

Second, I was really worried about the whole backpack thing, but that is the only way to travel. I am so, so, so thankful I did not have a suitcase. Now, if you are only going to one place then a suitcase would be fine, but if you go to multiple places then you need a backpack. Between getting on and off of trains, subways, and buses and checking in and out of hotels (that don't always have elevators)- then a back pack is a must. I would see people with huge luggage and it was miserable for them to tote around and I would say a silent prayer of thanksgiving that I had my pack and was able to transition into places easily. Here we are with our packs in Venice:

Third, I did good on packing. I brought 10 articles of clothing... that's right 10 for 17 days. (Not including undergarments, swimsuit, and socks) We did bring laundry detergent and wash clothes in the sink several times. But who cares! It was worth it. (So, a warning before photos come up ... yes that is the same outfit or shirt, or pair of pants over and over and over.... sorry for no variety.) Side note- I packed lighter than Lantz... that's right... my bag weighed less- mine was 19.5 pounds and Lantz's was 21 pounds. Go me! Oh, I tried to do the layering thing that yall recommended so that my outfits didn't always look the same- even though it was the same clothing over and over. Great idea, but I probably didn't do it as good as I could have. Oh well- I tried.

Fourth- as much as I loved Italy I had problems with it. It is a very yucky. It is dirty. All the public bathrooms were nasty, all the trains and subways were yucky (and we were in first class), and everyone- EVERYONE- smokes there. Yucko. One of my biggest pet peeves is smoking. Gross. I can't handle it.

Fifth- people tell you to bring your credit card and that you don't need that much cash-wrong. Everyone wanted cash. So, FYI if you are planning a trip (yeah some places take credit cards) have cash on you.

Sixth- I don't think you should ask me what my favorite place was.... I don't know. I loved them all except for one. I won't tell you that one yet. I'll get there in the sequence of our trip. All of the places were so unique and had different things to offer and it was fun to explore each one for the first time.

Seventh- greatest idea ever! A few days before our trip Lantz suggested we buy a journal and glue stick to record our time in Europe. Awesome idea. I'm so glad that we did this. We brought our journal everywhere, and anytime we were not moving (on a train, in a restaurant, in a park, in our hotel) we were writing in that bad boy. We also glued in plane tickets, museum tickets, subway tickets, receipts- anything that we could. It was awesome. I didn't think we'd fill more than 15 pages, but we filled over half of if. I'm so glad too. Close to the end of the trip I was reading an entry from the first of our trip and I had already forgotten so many of the details. It's a great way to remember every small thing about your trip. I plan on doing this on all of our big vacations from here on out. Good thinking Honey!

Eighth- 2 best purchases pre trip- the backpack of course, and our rain coats. I think I wore my purple rain coat in every city. It seemed to rain everywhere we went. I thought that would be such a downer on the trip, but it didn't prevent us at all from getting out and about and exploring. Apparently it rains all the time there. When someone told me to get a rain coat, I got one as a precaution, but honestly didn't think I'd have to use it. (Who pictures rain on their vacation?) Lantz and I were both very thankful for those raincoats.

Ninth- (sorry I wasn't planning on nine of these points) Trip Advisor online was such a help. If you are planning any sort of trip at all you need to use this resource- it is awesome. You get a great idea of what to do, where to stay, and where to eat from tons of different people. I plan on writing full reports on our hotels, bed and breakfasts, and tours on this website. Hopefully I can be of help to other people that I don't even know who are making plans to go to Europe!

Okay... so those were a few things I wanted to point out before I actually tell you all the specifics of our trip. I thought these things may not sequence in very well with the rest of my future posts, and I was afraid that I would forget to mention them.

It's overwhelming to think about blogging about our trip. I don't want to bore everyone, but I also want to have things recorded on here for me and my family. Like I said 2 posts ago... we have 800 photos. I have to go through them and pick and choose and it's so hard. I was going to do a "First Stop" post today over Amsterdam, but there are 60 photos alone from there, and I need to do a little sorting before I go and bore you all with way too many pics. So yeah... be patient for those of you who care it is coming. Those of you who don't care about our once in a lifetime 5 year anniversary trip (no it's not technically 5 years yet, but when you are on a teacher schedule it's easier to do trips in summer and not winter), then skip me for awhile. I'll try to post about normal summer life here in Vegas too amidst our vacation.

Okay... seriously... hopefully the next post will be all Amsterdam. (At least I threw in one photo!)
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Sister's Keeper

I've got to tell you about a book I finished on our trip. I'm afraid if I don't write about it now that I may forget all about it and what I want to say about it. Anyways.... I just finished the book My Sister's Keeper. You have got to read this book. It was so good. It may be my favorite book to date. Funny story, my grandmother gave me the book to read at Christmas and she told me that I had to read it cause it was sooooooooooooo good. Well, I had a few other reads that I needed to get to first, so it was a while before I finally picked it up. And why did I pick it up you ask? I saw a movie trailor and while it was playing I was like, "Holy cow... this movie looks so good." Then at the end of the trailor it said the title of the film: My Sister's Keeper. And I was like, "Hey, I've got that book on my shelf." So, when I finished the book I was reading I immediately picked up this book.

I could not put this book down. AMAZING! I loved that the story plot picked up immediately and I didn't have to wait to get into the book. I love that each chapter is written from a different character's point of view. I love that you fall in love with multiple characters and not just one. I love that each chapter keeps you wanting to read the next one.

So, if you haven't seen the movie preview yet and you haven't read the book here's the scoop: Sara and Brian have two kids: a son Jesse and a daughter Kate. When Kate is two they find out that she has cancer and needs a "perfect" match. The only perfect match has to be a sibling, but Jesse doesn't match. So, Sara and Brian have a genetically DNA matched child to save Kate. Their third "perfect" matched child is Anna. Anna continues to grows up and continues to "save" Kate over and over. She goes through countless operations for the sake of her sister, and at the age of 13 she files a law suit for the rights to her own body. She doesn't want to go through another operation, and so she gets a lawyer so that she doesn't have to give Kate a kidney. The whole book is about the case coming together and being presented before the judge. The tricky thing is that Sara, the mom, is not only on the opposing side, but she is the opposing lawyer (she used to practice law before becoming a stay at home mom). I literally could not put the book down. It had a great ending- it was totally nothing that I expected and yet I could really appreciate it. I laughed and I cried in this book. I promise that it will not disappoint. DON'T skip the book for the movie. The book is worth it. I have not seen the movie, but I do plan on it.

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We're back...

For those of you who didn't know, we have been in Europe for the past 2 and 1/2 weeks. I didn't post it up on my blog, cause I wanted you to be able to read all about it when we got home. Well, now we're here! Can I just tell you that we had the most amazing time ever?! We just got home last night, and we have a zillion things to do over the next few days. We took about 800 photos, and I have not even had a chance to go through them yet. There is no way I'll be posting all of those, which means I've got to sort through them and figure out which ones will be worth your while to see. I plan on writing a full report for you so you know exactly how our trip went and what we did in each place we went to, so .... FYI .... if you don't care about our trip you may want to skip reading my blog over the next week.

P.S. I've also got a ton of catching up to do on reading all of your blogs.... I feel so out of the loop! I'll be doing some late night readings of your blogs.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Belagio











I do not always enjoy going down to the strip, but I love the Belagio! It is gorgeous! I love the flower conservatory and the fountain show out front. I could stand outside and watch the fountain show all day. It is the most magical thing ever!
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Jazz in the Park

We went to Jazz in the Park, on purpose this time, and had a blast!!!! We brought a picnic and blanket and our positive attitudes and had a super fun time! We grabbed a rotisserie chicken, pasta salad, pineapple, chips and salsa, grapes, and Gatorade. The jazz group that played was called the "Sax Pack." They were so good! We loved the saxophones. Here are a few fun pictures of the night:

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Cherries

I love summer! It is so fun to sleep in and do nothing and to feel no responsibility. I have been having a major craving for cherries lately. I have not always liked cherries, but last year I found a new love for them. They are so sweet and juicy! Yummy! I have been popping them in mouth left and right, and they have quickly become a summer must have. If you have not had some yummy juicy cherries yet this summer- you so need to getcha some!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

At First Sight

I finished this book a few weeks ago, and I have to say that I give it a 3 out of 5. Nicholas Sparks is my favorite author, and so I am typically biased when I read his books. This one was really hard to get into. At First Sight was a continuation of Lexie and Jeremy's story that first started in True Believer. I loved True Believer, but I can't say that about this book. It was hard to really get into it, because I felt that it dragged the first 100 pages. I felt like Sparks was trying to catch readers up on Lexie and Jeremy's love story in case they didn't read True Believer, which might be good if you didn't read the first one. I read the first one, and so I hated re-reading every detail. I wanted a new story, and I didn't feel like I got it until half way through.

Now, after I got past the first half it was AMAZING! I did love the second half of the book. I couldn't put it down after I got to the new story line. I wouldn't recommend this to my pregnant friends out there.... way too depressing and worrisome if you are expecting.

I would recommend any other Sparks book over this one. It wasn't bad, but I have loved all the other ones so much more.

Happy reading!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Bride Wars


I finally saw the movie Bride Wars. I really enjoyed this movie. Although it seemed very unlikely, it was light and fun. I even cried a little at the end because it had a sweet message. If you have not seen this and you are looking for something a little cheesy and funny- you should rent it.
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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Graduation

Lantz officially graduated! I am, of course, super proud of him. (I know I've already written about it, but a girl can't be happy enough about her man doing something so awesome!) The graduation was a very long event, but it was worth it. The past 3 years Lantz has gotten to say the prayer at the University of Phoenix graduation ceremony. This was the first year I got to actually here it, because I've never gone in the past. It was so cool! He got to sit on the stage while all the other students sat on the floor, and he got to get his diploma first out of the Masters degree diplomas. Here are a few pictures from the event:

Here he is saying the prayer (you can see that people have their heads down behind him):
Here he is getting his diploma:

And finally here he is in his cute little graduation cap:

I was really impressed with Lantz's prayer, and I'm not just saying that because he is the love of my life. It was a very heart felt prayer that truly spoke truth to people in the arena. If you'd like to read it, you can click HERE.

Way to go Lantz!

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bachelorette Drama

I know, I know..... I am pathetic. I am still watching. Monday night's episode was a little extreme. First, let me say that I am glad that Juan and Dave went home. Good. Dave was a jerk of a potty mouth. Tanner should have called Wes out at the Rose Ceremony. Wes is a good actor- someone should hire him. Jake is getting a bad rap being way to "perfect"... why do good guys finish last too often? Why do girls go for the bad guys. I praise God everyday that I ended up with an AMAZING, GOOD, SWEET, KIND guy every day. I think that she should have kept Mike and gotten rid of Mark. At this point in every season I have a clear person I am rooting for, but right now, I really don't. I like Ed, Jake, Jesse, Reid, and Michael- they all seem like nice guys.

It will be interesting to see what happens next week. From the previews it seems that Tanner tells her about Wes, and that she confronts him and that he possibly goes home...??? We'll see.....
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Monday, June 8, 2009

Still Here....

I'm still here blogger friends.  Things have been so crazy with school getting out, making summer arrangements, Lantz graduating, errands galore..... anyways, that is no excuse to leave you all hanging with my life.  I promise I'll be back soon to catch you all up on the excitement.  I hope yall are enjoying your summer so far.  

Oh, P.S. our weather is being really strange right now.  Cloudy and 70s and 80s- normally at this time it is sunny and 110.  Crazy weather.
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

School's Out!

Today was the last official day of school! Yeah! I have two more staff days and then I am officially on summer vacation. You know, I may not make a whole lot of money teaching, but there are benefits! I love the fact that I still get my summers, and that I never have to ask off for a holiday, and that I get 2 weeks at Christmas alone- most people's "normal" vacation time. I don't know how people work 9 to 5 and only take 2 weeks a year. I work 7 hours a day (normally 8) and get approximately 4 months of vacation time added all together. I love that I'm still on a "kid schedule." I can't wait to sleep in and stay up late! Summer is officially here! The only hard part is going back in the fall, but I'm not going to worry about that for another 3 months.... ahh.... the life!
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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Golden Spoon

Golden Spoon is an amazing West Coast chain. I love it. If we ever did leave Las Vegas, this would be one of the very few "food" places I would miss. It is the most amazing frozen yogurt ever! There are like 15 different flavors to pick from, and they change them up like every 2 or 3 weeks. You can add toppings, but then in my opinion it takes away from the amazingness of the yogurt itself. (And it's guilt free- only like 88 calories.... YEAH!) My favorite flavor is the Island Coconut.... heaven in my mouth amazing! I also like cake batter, pralines & pecan, cookies and cream, and mounds.

We went tonight after church with the youth group. It's kind of a Wednesday night gig after church with everyone during the summers. We started in last summer, and it was a huge success. Tonight brought the very first Golden Spoon night, and I have to say that I can't wait for more!

P.S. I feel like a loser. No one else said they were watching the Bachelorette. I knew I shouldn't have started....now I'm all alone.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Confession...

I hated the last Bachelor. Jason was a jerk, and I felt so bad for Melissa, and I hated the show for playing up her being dumped on national TV. I claimed that I was not going to watch the next season, and I really didn't want to because I wanted ABC to know that I didn't like what they did.

Well, all good in theory. There's a problem though.... I watched. Ugh.... I know. I confess, I confess... I didn't watch immediately though, so I should get some points. I waited like a week after the premier, and I was sitting at home alone and bored. I surfed the Internet, I wrote a blog, I checked Facebook, but still I was bored. There was nothing on TV because we don't have cable and so it was that weird part of the day where nothing else was on except for the news- which I had already watched- twice. So, I got on the Bachelor's home page and I did it. I clicked "Watch Free Episodes." Well, it was all down hill from there. They got me. I got suckered in, and now I want to know who Gillian will end up picking.

Right now I like Jake, the pilot from Texas, best because he seems genuine and sweet. Dave and Juan get on my nerves. Juan is a totally obsessive complimentor who can't carry a conversation besides telling Gillian something nice about her (her dress, her eyes, her smile...blah!), and so I agree with Dave that he needs to be gone. But.... Dave needs anger management and AA classes. That dude is way to mean and way more obsessed with what Juan is doing rather than Gillian, and he's always downing the alcohol left and right. Tanner P. is a weirdo foot freak- he needed to be gone the first night. Wes seems nice enough, but he's starting to bug me. If I hear his stupid, "They say that love it don't come eaaaaaasy...." song one more time I am going to barf. Yuck. Part of me thinks that he's here to promote his career, and part of me thinks he is really into Gillian. Ed seems nice enough, but he even admitted that he's totally focused on his career. Michael reminds me of Jesse from Deanna's season. He's fun and a free spirit, but so not ready to settle down... break dancer... it's all in the occupation, need anything else be said? P.S. Michael and Tanner P. got way too excited about being partners in the car thing.... hummmm. Love Kiptyn's name.... so cool. All the pregnant girls out there, if you don't have a name yet and it's a boy... you should think about it.

Anyways... don't hate me for watching. I'm sorry. I really am, but once you start you just can't stop.

Okay, those of you who fell for it too- dish up. I want to know who else out there is watching. Tell me who your favorite is up to this point and who gets on your nerves the most.
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Monday, June 1, 2009

Garage

I totally forgot to post before and after pictures of our garage- Lantz has been done now for 2 or 3 weeks. Remember Lantz got some wood for like $20 and was a "manly- man" and built us some storage units? Anyways, those of you who actually read this regularly may remember, those of you who don't- lucky you that you get to see our garage. Here are pictures:

Before (and I know- it doesn't look that bad, but according to Lantz it was "messy"-- oh, you can also see all the wood before it was used)
And, below is the new and improved extra organized garage. You can see the massive shelf which replaced the dinky one in the corner above. And then the second picture you can see our work bench with refrigerator stand.
I know that you have not been able to sleep at night in anticipation for the new garage photos... well, now you can. Yeah for Lantz being all manly and wood-workerish.
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