Monday Dreaming: European Christmas Markets

Yesterday my family and I put up our Christmas tree.  As we were hanging each Christmas ornament, we remembered where we were when we got it.  I can name every occasion that occurred and trip we took when we picked up each ornament.  This is such a special time for us as a family.  We put a fire in the fireplace, turn on some Christmas music and decorate the tree while we remember where each ornament came from. 

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As I hung the six or seven ornaments (I’ll admit…it is a problem!)that I picked up at Christmas markets in Europe on our 2008 trip, it made me think about all those booths getting ready to open up right now.  We had so much fun wandering Christmas Markets in Vienna, Innsbruck, Garmisch, Munich, and Salzburg.  I couldn’t get enough of them: the cheery bright lights, the marzipan in beautiful shapes lined up in rows, the Christmas music in different languages, and the pretzels bigger than my son’s head! 

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I am so very excited because just recently we decided that our next major trip is going to be to return to those Christmas markets in Europe (I am hoping for a side trip to Italy this time!) for Christmas 2011.  We are excited to spend Christmas with my dad and stepmom again, jump in the snow and learn more about Germany.  It is more than a year away, but I am going to try to be patient!

Stop by Mara’s at Mother of All Trips to see what other people are dreaming about on this Monday!

Monday Dreaming/Wanderfood Wednesday: Viennese Cakes

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Two years ago, we were celebrating Christmas in Germany and Austria.  While we were in Vienna, Austria, we ate the oh so famous cakes everywhere we went.  Cafe Demel was one of our favorite places to visit and was worth the wait that we had to make our purchases. 

This past weekend, we had a little bonus visit with my sister, niece, and nephew.  We knew they were coming in town for a wedding so my mom planned our big Thanksgiving dinner for the day we were spending together.  After we were finished stuffing ourselves with turkey, sweet potatoes, and all that other Thanksgiving goodness, it was time for dessert.  My sister surprised me with my very own Esterhazytorte! 

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When I took that first bite, I was quickly transported back to that small restaurant whose name I can’t remember now where my husband and I sat in a dark corner indulging in cakes and wines.  We had left the kids with my dad and stepmom and enjoyed a few hours out on our own.  After trying several slices of cake, we decided that our favorite was Esterhazytorte.

My sister has been perfecting her baking skills.  I think that she has a very bright future of cake and pastry making!  What do you think?

Here is my Esterhazytorte from Vienna:

Esterhazytorte is the black and white cake.

Esterhazytorte is the black and white cake.

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Here is the Esterhazytorte that Marissa made for me:

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Pretty darn close, don’t you think?  And it was delicious!  She did a beautiful job replicating a cake that she has never even tasted.

I am dreaming of that trip to Vienna two years ago.  I am dreaming of other moments like this…moments where we can relive trips that we take and the impact that they made on us…impacts as minor as Viennese cakes and as major as a sister who saved an email with a link to a recipe that you jokingly sent her asking if she could ever make one and that same sister that spent all day (and it actually took all day long) trying to replicate that Viennese cake that you loved so much on a trip that occurred two years ago. 

Stop by Mother of All Tripsto see what everyone else is dreaming about today during Mondays are for Dreaming.  Mara is dreaming about one of my favorite places-the Biltmore Estate!  Also, please visit Wanderfood Wednesday over at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

If you have a moment, stop by our craft blog, Threaded Together, where Marissashares many of her cake decorating strategies.  She also shares them on her Facebook Page, Decorated Decadance.

Wanderfood Wednesday: Gigantic Pretzels at German Christmas Market

This time last year, we were spending the holidays in Germany.  These pretzels were our favorite Christmas market indulgence as we wandered through Germany and Austria.  Well, that and the waffles and the marzipan, and the chocolate and the Viennese cakes and the…ok.  The pretzels were not our only indulgence, but they certainly are one of the main things my son remembers.  Just the other day I gave him a handful of pretzels and he asked me if I remember that “gigantor” pretzel that we had with Oma and Opa in Germany!

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Stop by Wanderlust and Lipstick to see other Wanderfood Wednesday posts.  If you aren’t hungry now, you will be after reading about all the lovely meals!

Auf Schonberg-Oberwesel am Rhein

In 2005, we traveled with my 10mo son to Europe.  We had a whirlwind vacation and got to do so many different things.  You can read the other posts here: Berlin in Photos, The London Eye, Trier, Germany; Kelty Convertible Backpack; American Cemetery and Memorial; Amsterdam, NetherlandsZermatt, Switzerland and the Matterhorn, Brussels, Belgium, and Stuck in Bed.

We took a long leisurely drive down the Rhine River with our family.  My dad and stepmom told us to pack a bag just in case we went further than we had originally planned and decided to stay the night.  Little did we know what was in store!

We drove up and down the Rhine spotting and visiting many of the castles.  When we reached the Schonberg Castle Hotel, we stopped for hot chocolate and to give my son a break from the car.  We had our hot chocolate and suddenly one of the employees appeared with several keys.  He told my stepmom that the rooms were available to view.  My husband and I thought that she just wanted to take a look at the rooms.  We walked up to a beautiful room, the Tower Room, and when we got inside the employee handed us the keys and told us to enjoy our stay!!

Imagine our surprise!  My dad and stepmom whisked our son away and told us that they would be back in the morning and to enjoy our time.  We had a wonderful time in the hotel.  The many course meal was amazing and the room was absolutely beautiful. 

This is the Schonberg.  See that balcony?  That is our room:

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And this was the beautiful view from our room:

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Be sure to stop by DeliciousBaby to see the other great travel photos!

Berlin in Photos

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Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz (Berlin TV Tower)

In 2005, we traveled with my 10mo son to Europe.  We had a whirlwind vacation and got to do so many different things.  You can read the first eight posts here: The London Eye, Trier, Germany; Kelty Convertible Backpack; American Cemetery and Memorial; Amsterdam, NetherlandsZermatt, Switzerland and the Matterhorn, Brussels, Belgium, and Stuck in Bed.

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Big S in front of Checkpoint Charlie

Today, for Photo Friday over at DeliciousBaby, I am going to share some photos from our wanderings in Berlin.  We spent the majority of our Berlin trip just wandering the streets.  At this point, we had been traveling by plane, train and automobile for 2 weeks and we were tired.  We were also running out of money!  We wandered through many historical landmarks and ate at some fantastic restaurants.

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Kaiser Wilhelm Kirche (a church that has been kept in this state as a memorial after it was hit by a bomb in 1943)

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View of Alexanderplatz from our hotel room

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Statue commeriating the life of Klaus von Stauffenburg at the Bendlerblock (Parts of Valkyrie were filmed here)

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Brandenburger Tor

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Holocaust Memorial

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Buddy Bears in Berlin – These beautiful bears were everywhere!

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Checkpoint Charlie

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Big S holding the umbrella…it rained the entire trip!

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Statue of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels at Alexanderplatz

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Fountain at alexanderplatz

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Kaiser Wilhelm Kirche

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace – London, England

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Do you ever have one of those travel moments where you think “Why on earth did I want to do this?”  The Changing the Guard was that moment for me.  Don’t get me wrong – I think if you are making the trip to London and you want to see it, it is definitely something you should see.  Don’t forget…I love a good tourist spot just as much as I love the hidden treasures.  When we told people about our London itinerary, everyone said to skip the Changing the Guard unless it was something that I HAD to see.  I am glad we went…I think…but the only things I really remember about the Changing the Guard are the fact that it was miserable hot, Big S was whiny, and the crowds were absolutely atrocious and extremely pushy.  Other than that, I don’t really remember much else!   If you do plan on heading to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing the Guard, get there very early and bring snacks/toys to entertain the kids.  These are our fantastic (note the hint of sarcasm!) photos from the event!  I did get a couple of good pictures but these are more fun!

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Be sure to stop by Delicious Baby to check out all the other great Photo Friday links!

The London Eye – London, England

This is the eighth part of a series of posts in which I am sharing pictures and thoughts from my first major trip with children. You can read the first seven posts here: Trier, Germany; Kelty Convertible Backpack; American Cemetery and Memorial; Amsterdam, NetherlandsZermatt, Switzerland and the Matterhorn, Brussels, Belgium, and Stuck in Bed.

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London was a last minute addition to our itinerary (along with Zermatt) because of where we were going to be for most of trip.  Logistically, we were not sure if we could fit London in to our three week whirlwind tour and see what we wanted to see.  That being said, one of our travel motto’s is “We might never make it back to THIS spot, so let’s find a way” so we squeezed it in at the last minute.  We took the Chunnel train from Brussels to London in the morning.  This was possibly one of the biggest pains on the entire trip.  It isn’t like traveling from Brussels to Amsterdam where you just hop on the train and the conductor checks your ticket at some point.  You had to go through a customs setup which was miserable for us with a little guy…not only a little guy, but one wearing a helmet for brachycephaly.  Apparently the border patrol had never seen a child in a helmet and thought we were trying to smuggle something in our kid’s head.  They made us take the helmet off, they then ran it through the x-ray and continued to evaluate the helmet.  Mind you, coming back into Brussels was much easier!  Once we made it through, we were able to relax for a few minutes before it was time to get on the train.

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The train ride was very short and the only sign that you are in the tunnel is the fact that you slow down considerably to enter and exit the tunnel and the windows were dark, as opposed to full of rolling countryside.  We arrived in London, took the tube (in the middle of rush hour) to our hotel stop (King’s Cross) and dropped off our luggage.  We immediately headed to the London Eye.  I must admit that this was one of the highlight of my London adventure.  I love a good tourist trap just about as much as I love the off the beat stuff!  We got the last ticket for the London Eye and if you are going to check this out, I recommend you take the ride in the evening.  It was absolutely amazing to see the city during the sunset and then all lit up at night!

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Check out other Photo Friday posts at DeliciousBaby!

Oh my!

My last post was on Thursday night of last week! YIKES!!! I would like to take a moment to say thanks to all of my loyal readers. I appreciate you all continuing to visit the site. Things have been crazy here! I am finishing up the school year and as a teacher that entails a LOT of work! We are finished on Monday and although I am sad to say goodbye for a summer, I am so excited about spending the summer traveling with my family! At the same time, I have been working on migrating this site and creating a new site!

Lately, I have been reading Mother of All Trips as she writes her “Mondays are for Dreaming” and I know it isn’t Monday, but I am going to leave you with a picture that shows you what I am dreaming about…this dessert in Garmisch, Germany!

Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium

This is the sixth part of a series of posts in which I am sharing pictures and thoughts from my first major trip with children. You can read the first five posts here: Trier, Germany; Kelty Convertible Backpack; American Cemetery and Memorial; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Zermatt, Switzerland and the Matterhorn.

When we decided to make the trip to Europe with our 10mo in 2005, so many people thought we were nuts. They asked us how we would be able to enjoy ourselves. How were we going to go out and have a good time? And the most common question we got from our 2o something friends? What about all the great beer?

I will admit that planning this trip was much different from planning the trip we took recently (Christmas 08). Big S was still small enough that he was content with sitting in our laps or the stroller for many minutes at a time. Even though we were traveling with our little guy, we still got to enjoy so many activities geared towards the big kids! The Grand Place is the perfect example of this!

The Grand Place is the central square in Brussels, Belgium. We stayed in Brussels for one night as we were passing through on our way to London from Frankfurt. Brussels is a beautiful city. The Belgium lace, the Belgium chocolate and the Belgium beer certainly lived up to their reputations. It was absolutely surreal as we enjoyed a meal while sitting in the middle of the Grand Place. I wish that I could remember the name of this great little restaurant/bar. They had the most amazing les Carbonnade Flamandes, a beef stew made from hearty Belgium ale, and pommes frites, french fries that are fried not once but twice.

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This funny little cutout was in the chocolate store where we shopped for what seemed like hours!

And the beer you may ask? We enjoyed that too! My favorites were: Framboise (a rasberry beer), Kriek (a cherry beer) and Kwak (an amber beer that is served in this very cool glass).


Enjoying that great rasberry beer!

Zermatt, Switzerland and the Matterhorn: Living out #4 of my Bucket List

This is the fifth part of a series of posts in which I am sharing pictures and thoughts from my first major trip with children. In 2005, my husband and I headed to Europe with our 10mo son. We had a computer hard drive disaster and I thought that I had lost all of these photos. I was so thrilled to come across a CD with them; I wanted to share these first travel adventures with our little guy. You can read the first four posts here: Trier, Germany; Kelty Convertible Backpack; American Cemetery and Memorial; and Amsterdam, Netherlands.


When we were planning our trip to Europe, my dad (with whom we would be staying for part of the trip) asked me if there was anywhere else I really wanted to see but didn’t think we could do it. We had already packed this trip full, but I decided to mention the fact that #4 on my Bucket List was to see the Matterhorn. I have always been fascinated with the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland and I had taught a great book called Banner in the Sky to my 7th grade class. It is about a teenage boy and his rite of passage into becoming a man. He loses his father to a mountain climbing accident and then gets to climb that same mountain. The mountain and town are loosely based on the Matterhorn and Zermatt, Switzerland. Some of you may remember an old Disney movie titled Third Man on the Mountain. That movie is based on the book. This story only cemented that need to see the Matterhorn.

Imagine my excitement when we were able to add a trip to Zermatt in to our itinerary! Zermatt is this neat little town at the foot of the Matterhorn. There are no cars allowed, so you park at the bottom and take a tram up the mountain. When you arrive, there are these little cars that pick you up and take you where you want to go.



We stayed at a wonderful hotel called the Park Hotel-Beausite. This is quite possibly the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in! The rooms were spacious and beautiful. Although this was a very ritzy, expensive hotel, they welcomed my 10mo son with open arms. They had a beautiful crib put in the room. It was made of the same light wood that all of the furnishings were made of. This may seem trivial but the thing I loved about it was that it made us feel posh even though we were traveling with our little guy. The dinner included was sinful and it was where we tried some of our most exotic foods.


While in Zermatt, we took a ride in the tram up to the mountain so we could get the perfect view of the Matterhorn. We had wine in the Glacier Paradise, the ice bar carved out in a section of the glacier. We even bought a bottle of Matterhorn wine to bring home with us. They make the wine and store it the glacier! My husband got to ski the mountain in the middle of June.



Luckily, we were traveling with family because Big S was too little for the ride up the mountain. Because of the elevation, he could not go. My stepmom kept him while my dad, Daddy J and I made the trek. If you are planning a trip, be sure to check the age limits to make sure your children can go. If my stepmom had not been able to take him, the hotel did offer a babysitting service that we could have looked into using.

I am glad that we added this trip to our itinerary at the last moment. If you can’t go, check out these live webcams of the mountain. It is gorgeous!