Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas in Scotland, Day 3

This was our day to tour around Edinburgh.  We had originally planned to take the train in, but when we got to the station we found out that they were running reduced schedules and had just missed our train by 20 minutes or so.  We decided to go ahead and drive the 1 hour in, instead of waiting for the next train.  We only had a little bit of trouble finding a place to park, what with Christmas only 2 days away, but we found our spot.

We first walked up to Edinburgh Castle.  It sits on a pretty big hill and has a commanding view of the city and surrounding countryside.  It is a pretty sprawling fortress - now a barracks for some Royal Scots Dragoons and home to loads of museums.  We took in several of the museums there - it was all pretty fascinating.  I even had a look at the "Royal Honours" of Scotland - their Scottish Crown, Sword, Sceptre, and some jewels.  Their Royal Sword was enormous!

Below is a shot of a street in Edinburgh as we made our way to the castle.

This is probably my favorite shot of Edinburgh - those famous British (heresy to call it "English" in Scotland) red telephone booths.  They were lined up three in a row just for Leah, Ian, and me!

And these were just inside the castle gates, after crossing the "moat".  These phone booths were literally everywhere - including our sleepy little Oldhamstocks!
After the castle it was down to the park to ride the Christmas "train" - which Ian and Leah just adored.  Then it was time to head home.

Next day was the absolute highlight of the trip for me - a swing into the Southern Highlands.  Let me just say that they lived up to the romanticized notion of the Highlands that has been circling in my head for many years!



Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in Scotland, Day 2

Our second full day in Scotland was a lazy Monday.  I had read through some literature at the cottage and "discovered" Cove Harbour, pictured below.  It was just Ian and me on this little jaunt, a boy's morning out.  You can see a house in the bottom right of the shot - someone actually lived there!  They have their own private harbor and pretty stunning daily views of the North Sea!  Though I'm not sure how long this villager will be able to drive to and from home - landslides (mud) occur frequently here, and even from this day to our visit on Christmas Day there were some significant changes.  Enough to make me uncomfortable on the stairs leading to the path.
Right before we got to the house pictured above, we went through a Smuggler's Tunnel - where Scots used to smuggle in goods to circumvent English taxes - to get to this secluded harbor.  There were rock pools, arches, keyholes - all sorts of good stuff.  Here I caught Ian looking out to sea with some of the arches in the background.

Later that day we drove to the Glenkinchie distillery and took a mini-tour of the distillery, and tried two different whisky's.  There was a little museum that the kids got a kick out of, with an interactive computer/movie station. In the photo below, I captured the three of them right outside the visitor entrance.

We went to find Roslyn Chapel (from "The DaVinci Code" fame) - and we did find it.  It is just under some serious renovation AND they were charging 10 pounds a person to get a look around.  It was an interesting idea to go see the place - but definitely not something I'm willing to consider at $40 (US) just to look at architecture in a church.  Especially not when there are so many other churches with stunning architecture for free . . . We felt cheap when we first made the decision, but we feel pretty good about it now.

That night we went caroling with the villagers from Oldhamstocks village (where we were staying).  It was great fun!  What was so interesting to us was that the other villagers obviously knew who was living in what house, by name.  But more interesting was that they knew at some houses which carols to sing based on individual preferences.  Some of the recipients shared candy with us, one house passed out Hot Toddies (for the adults) and two others were passing out warm, mulled wine!  They were genuinely happy for the carols, and genuinely happy to share their candy, whisky, and wine with us.

I hope everyone has been enjoying the play by play! Tomorrow I'll cover Edinburgh, our first BIG day!



Sunday, December 28, 2008

We're baaack! Here's Glasgow . . .

Well, we're back from our Christmas holiday in Scotland.  It was a fantastic trip, and we had absolutely lovely weather.  I'm planning on posting a day by day, so expect some decent traffic here in the next few days.  Of course, that depends on how easily I can get to my photos, what with cleaning up here after Christmas and corralling the kids with their new toys : )

Our first day was mostly airport time.  We were delayed by thick fog out of Frankfurt-Hahn by almost two hours, so that got us into Edinburgh at about two or three in the afternoon.  Just enough time for us to get our rental (MUCH easier getting used to driving on the opposite side of the car and road this time, though mistakes were made).  More interesting was learning to shift with my left hand!  Anyways, we didn't have any time to explore Edinburgh as it gets DARK by 4 pm.  So we headed out to our cottage in the countryside of Scotland south and east of Edinburgh along the coast.

The shot here is of the church that sat adjacent to the cottage (literally a one minute walk or less).  It is where we spent Christmas morning for our Christmas service with the other villagers.  You can see the sheep on the hillside just behind the church.

That first day (21st) we decided to drive into Glasgow.  Mostly because we wanted to see the open air market (The Barras).  This turned out to be harder to find than we anticipated it, but we found it.  We didn't spend much time there, other than buying me new gloves, which came in quite handy on this trip.  After that we found some lunch, then made our way to the House for an Art Lover.  They had this great playground that some of the resident Artists must have made, as some of the play equipment had elements of sculptures to them.  Here is Leah enjoying her ride on the swing.

Here is Ian on one of the slides.  It looked like beaten copper or bronze in the shape of a ladybug - Ian only cared that it was fun to slide down.

The last shot here is of Catherine, Ian, and Leah right before we went inside.  It was actually a kid-friendly museum of sorts - with everyone enjoying their shot at playing the piano in one of the rooms.

That's it for this post.  Look for more to come . . .

Friday, December 19, 2008

Merry (Early) Christmas to All!!

Our Christmas Cards are going out today.  Horray!  I was glad we got those done.  The main reason is we leave for Scotland for a week tomorrow.  We will be spending Christmas there & we will have a cottage on the coast SE of Edinburgh.  I'm looking forward to having a few good roaring, fires while we're there.  We will celebrate our family Christmas once we return.
We will probably not have internet or phone while we're there, so we wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas now.  We will post some pictures after we return (or I probably should say Marc will probably post some pictures).

Merry Christmas Everyone!!
Catherine, Marc, Ian & Leah 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Strange Winter Weather

We've been having some strange (for us) winter weather. It gets cold here (below freezing anyways), colder than just about anywhere else nearby. There is seriously about a 4-7 degree difference - colder - year round.  So we've been having a lot of fog lately, even when it is 28 degrees (F) outside. We haven't had any snow in about a week or so, but because of this freezing fog it looks like we have had a ton of snow.

I took Ian out in it for a walk yesteray, and he of course found the little bit of remaining snow and started throwing snow balls at me.  For no reason, can you believe that? : )

Anyways, I got in close for this shot so you could see what I'm talking about. The fog forms ice crystals that "grow" in every which direction, which makes it look beautifully like snow, as opposed to just freezing rain and ice.

And this is how it looks from a distance.  Like it has just snowed and there is no wind.  Like I said, it is beautiful. But if you go literally 10-15 minutes in any direction it disappears, except for the tippy-tops of the small mountains around here.

Finally, an extreme close-up.  (I meant for this one to be first - but I just can't be bothered to try to straighten out this blogger, it pretty much puts the photos in the order it wants and makes it too difficult and time consuming to reorder them!).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Love Thy Neighbor

We had a pretty decent snow fall this past week - enough so that I couldn't drive in to work.  Lucky for me it is a short walk!  The Mini Cooper is a great car in the spring/summer/fall . . . but way too much power and just not enough weight when it gets slippery out!

Anyways, my neighbor upstairs and another buddy decided to have some fun and cleared out all the spots next to the Mini (including Catherine's car).  They did a great job of getting ALL the snow off the ground around the other cars, and you can see the result for the Mini.

They had some real nice touches - notice the license plate and antenna still showing - so I could find my little car.  Very funny!

And I'm glad they took care of Catherine's car for me . . . ahhh, Love Thy Neighbor!  : ) 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Marc needs your votes!

Hi everyone, 

I probably should have thought of this sooner, but here it is now.  Marc has entered a Photography Contest Here.  Please go to the site & register to be a member so you can rate his pictures (if you like them) so he can have a chance at winning a $1000 Sony Gift Card!
Once you've registered, go back to the page you started at and click on the tab "View All" next to Highest Rated Photos.  Once you're there you will see a black & white of a train wheel by Rainman.  This is Marc.  Feel free to rate this photo, then click on rainman under the photo.  This will take you to all of the pictures Marc has submitted on the site.  Go to page 2 of his photos and rate his "Memorial" photo.  It is the black & white photo at the bottom of the page.  This was taken at the Murdered Jews of Europe Memorial when we were in Berlin.  We're pretty sure this was the one that is being considered as a finalist since it has 9 ratings.

We're hoping he wins and hope that those of you who are interested in photography stay with the site and check out some of the other photos there (just don't rate any higher than what you rate Marc's :)


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

It was another nice, wintry day here in Germany.  Catherine had a crown come out last weekend, and had an appointment with a German dentist (actually an American - he just loved it here when he was in the Army so much that he move to Landstuhl and started his own practice) to get that fixed.  While she was in the chair, I took the kids to Burg Nanstein - the castle/ruins that sit over Landstuhl and Ramstein.  The photo below is of Ian and Leah sitting on a log very near the Burg.  I took at least 7 shots of them and this is literally the ONLY one where they were both smiling and looking at the camera (and I really like this one of them too!).  Good thing digital is so cheap!

We also went into the Burg and climbed around - there are loads of stairs and towers, and as the photo below illustrates, a "dungeon".  And climb we did.  We had a great time; the view overlooking Landstuhl and Ramstein was pretty, and the view from the towers into the Burg grounds was pretty cool too.  This is the best preserved abandoned castle that I have climbed around in yet.  I hope to get back there to explore it more fully as we were limited on time (Catherine was in the dentist chair, if you remember).

So after all that fun we ran home so we could have Thanksgiving dinner/lunch at the dining facility on post.  They really put on a very nice spread, good enough that I would say it was worth the 20-30 minute wait in the cold.  After lunch we came home and took our tryptophan naps.  Great way to spend the afternoon!

I woke up just in time to get some photos of the sunset - this is a crop of the view from our living room window (a favorite subject of mine).

We hope everyone out there has a wonderful Thanksgiving!  



PS.  If you click the photos you get a larger version that will open up in a new window - in case you wanted to see a larger version.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First Snow!

We had our first "real" snow of the year!  After a crazy day on Friday, it finally fell in spurts through the night and into Saturday.  Friday was a crazy day for me (Marc) - I participated in the final portion of Das Abzeichen fur Leistungen im Truppendiesnt, the German Armed Forces Military Proficiency Badge.  I had already done the shooting and "sports" portion, Friday was just the 30 kilometer (18 mile) roadmarch in under 5 hours.  Aside from some blisters and some REALLY sore muscles, I did it.  Good to have that done.  Although the weather was pretty crappy - rain, then sleet, then hail, then rain, then sleet.  Even some lightning and thunder.  Easily the second most miserable road march I've ever done.  Like I said, good to have that done.

So Friday night, while I was recovering, it started to really snow.  On Saturday morning, I got up good and early to get out and get a shot of the local ruins.  Ruine Frauenberg is only 10, maybe 15 minutes away and has been around since 1320.  It is open to the public and free of charge - Germany is pretty amazing.  Ian and I found the perch overlooking the castle ruins on a previous trip out there, and I knew I was waiting for a morning just like this.

After I went home, I picked up the kids and we went back out there so Ian and Leah could have some fun in the snow.  And did they ever have fun!  There is a path that runs along the Nahe River very near the Ruine Frauenberg that I had been wanting to check out, and this was the perfect time.  Ian and Leah had a great time running in the fields on either side of the path playing in the snow.

After our trip along the Nahe River, we went up to the Ruine for a look around - we were the first (probably only) people to get there in the snow.  They wanted to climb the stairs to get to the top - but the stairs were a little slippery so we just stayed at the bottom of the towers.  The picture below is of the kids standing in the only entryway to the Ruine.

We hope everyone is well out there!  Enjoy the photos (we'll try to keep up a little better than we have been!).


Monday, November 17, 2008

Oh, How they are Growing!

So, since I had 2 of you ask me if we were still blogging this weekend, I realized I'd better get back to the family blog here.  Marc did arrive home safely from the states, and we have been busy spending time together as a family, and doing some Christmas Shopping! 
We also had a request for a pic of the kids with something recognizable so everyone can tell how much bigger they are getting.  So, here it is in front of one of our famous green couches from the house in KY.

I just had Marc measure the couch & he tells me it is a little over 2 & 1/2 feet.  Not exactly the perfect way to measure them, but it gives everyone an idea of how big they are getting.
Hope this message finds everyone well!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Christmas is Coming!

Ok, so I know this is WAY earlier than when I usually start to think about Christmas, but the shipping issue is worrying me A LOT!
So, if anyone wants me to buy gifts for the kids for them this year, please send me an e-mail asap with the amount & what type of gift you're thinking about.
Anyone who wants ideas for Marc & I please e-mail as well.
I am going to be starting to ship boxes in the next couple of weeks, so just wanted to give everyone a heads up.
I will be in contact with several of you once I survive my coupon class I'm teaching tomorrow.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

My new Cheese Racks

I am so excited that I finally get to share the pictures of my new furniture!

First is the bookshelf we bought (sorry our plant is dying a little bit).  This one is SOLID wood.  Marc had to get one of his friends to help him bring it up the stairs.  Tall & Narrow.  I wish I had taken a picture from the side so you could see the edging:

Here is a little planter they gave us as an extra:

The planter is sitting on one of the cheese racks.  We are using this one as a bookshelf.  It has adjustable shelves and is very sturdy as well.  Both of the cheese racks are probably close to 7 feet tall (with the book shelf one being slightly taller than the cabinet one).

Finally, here is the one that we bought in Holland.  We purchased the other 2 in Manheim when we went to pick this one up.  It is another cheese rack that has cabinet storage in the bottom, and a really nice divided cabinet/shelf on the top.  This one is in the kitchen for now.  

Well, that's all the pictures for today.  Hope some of you will post comments or send an e-mail so we know you're reading.  It's starting to feel like we're blogging only so we can read the posts ourselves!


I wanted to share a picture of Marc and the kids for a change of pace.  Here is one that we took while we  were in Amsterdam a couple of weekends ago.
This was taken outside of one of their museums right before we went to have an ice cream break.

The hotel in Harlem, Holland

So, I know we have talked about how steep the stairway at the hotel we stayed at in Holland, I finally got the pictures.  

The first one is taken from the top of the stairs with yes, my feet at the top and that pink spot at the bottom left of the picture is Leah's coat where she is at the bottom of the stairs with Marc:

Here's another one with Marc and Leah to show another look.  Yes, we were ducking out heads not to hit them on that low ceiling as well.
They were very steep, but the room was nice and it gave us a memory and a funny story to share with all of you.

Halloween Fun!

Thought I would share about our Halloween here. 

The kids & I started the day with a party at the play group we go to in the mornings.  The kids each had a doughnut (well, Leah just likes the icing).  So, the kids were pretty wired by the time we got home for lunch.

We tried to have a little bit of quiet time after lunch & that wound up only lasting for around 15 minutes or so.  

We then had another party to go to that turned out to be a lot of fun!

The kids decorated rice krispie treat "pumpkins" and then enjoyed eating them:

Here are Ian & Leah with their friend Ethan.  Leah wouldn't keep her costume on for the party.  

All of the kids helped to "mix up the candy that was going to be given out for trick or treat.  They each got a treat bag as well.

And here was our brave knight Sir Ian the good and Ladybug Leah out for trick or treating.  It was a cold one, but they did great and really had fun with it.  We went out with Ethan & his brother Erik who are twins & dressed as Storm Troopers.

Leah didn't scream at the people in masks this year, which really helped a lot.

Hope everyone had a fun and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Broken Toe & the Busy Week Ahead!

Many of you know Marc is stateside for a couple of weeks, so that leaves the kids & I to stay busy here. Well, wouldn't you know I broke one of my toes the night before he left! It's still not a pretty sight.
I may not be blogging much the next couple of days as I have a class to attend & we have activities galore with Halloween at the end of the week.
I did get pictures take of our new furniture we purchased in Holland (and a couple more pieces in Germany from the same people). I will try my best to get them posted this week, along with the kids in their Halloween costumes, oh and I did want to show everyone the crazy steep stairway we had to climb at our hotel in Harlem.
So much to share, but the time change has not been good to me. It gets dark so early now that I want to go to bed at 8:00 with the kids.
The kids & I did get out with some friends to pick apples yesterday, and they had a blast seeing horses and chickens. One of the chickens chased Ian & almost caught him. There were trees with red, green, and a variety in between. So far they have all been delicious. (Sorry, Marc, we'll try to save you some!)
Stay tuned for more later in the week!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Time change coming this weekend!

Just wanted to let everyone know that we actually change the clocks to "fall back" this Saturday, Oct. 25.  So we'll have a 5 hour difference for those of you on Eastern time until the time changes in the states.
Someone let us know when you change your clocks so I know when we go back to the "usual" 6 hour difference!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Our Holland Trip

For our first "real" post, we decided to blog about our recent trip to The Netherlands.  It was a last minute (literally less than a week to plan) trip that was pretty phenomenal.  We lucked out with weather, which was gorgeous, and got to see some beautiful parts of Holland on our whirlwind tour.

First night we stayed in Tilburg, home to the good monks of Abdij O.B.V. Koningshoeven.  They are one of only seven breweries in the world that brews Trappist Ale.  And man do those monks know their beer!  The photo above was taken in their garden just off of their Abbey (Abdij).  

The next day we headed into Arnhem, where we met up with a furniture dealer who was selling old cheese racks (where they used to age cheese years and years ago), among other things.  The lady there was so nice, she even showed us around her home and farm.  For you WWII buffs, Arnhem is the site of Operation Market Garden - of "A Bridge Too Far" fame.  We didn't cross that bridge (it's been replaced anyways), but we did cross the Rhein and went to the Openluchtmuseum - the Open Air Museum.  If you are ever in The Netherlands, plan a trip here.  More than 100 acres of multiple villages, windmills, a bakery, etc. all showcasing life in Holland from years past.  All of the buildings on the site were brought in from different parts of the country.

From there we went to Haarlem.  It is only minutes from Amsterdam, but without all the hustle and bustle of a big city.  Great choice!  The photo below is from the train and bus station in Haarlem.  When we first drove past Catherine and I were laughing pretty hard because the sheer number of bikes left on and around the bike racks was ridiculous!

I came back while Leah and Ian were napping to grab some photos - head over to my Flickr account (www.flickr.com/photos/mskinner) to see some more shots.  It was a short walk away, maybe 10 minutes, but well worth it.  Haarlem had a lot to see and do - but we mostly walked the streets and did some window shopping and eating at the sidewalk cafes - still one of my all time favorites.

On the way home we swung into Amsterdam for a tour of the Van Gogh museum.  The museum had a near chronological lay-out of his work, which was so interesting to see.  He started out so dark, so somber - and progressed to works so bright and saturated.  It really was pretty cool.

Look for more in future blogs!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Visit Catherine's Blog for details on a Barbie Deal going on now...

I just got it limping along today, but this deal was too good not to post.

Here's my blog for deals & things: catalinamuse.blogspot.com

Just in time for Christmas!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Welcome to Skinner Sightings

Thanks for joining us here.  We should be posting about our trip to Holland in the next few days.
Hope everyone enjoys visiting us here. 
Please post a comment when you find us!