Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Between nursing my jet lag (and a barfy migraine on Sunday) and doing my housewife job, I FINALLY got a few of our favorite photos (about 600 of the 2000) uploaded into slide shows. I have retro-posted them into the blog entries they fit with.

You can watch the slideshows small within the blog posts or you can double click on the screen--it will open to picasa--then click the green arrow in the upper left that says "slideshow" and it will show you the full-screen version. ENJOY!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy & Sad

We're off to Heathrow in just a minute! It has been a wonderful, fantastic, excellent adventure and we are so sad to leave the Caspers and their friends, but so excited to see our kids and be home!

See ya soon! GOD BLESS AMERICA! ;)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I am just checking to be sure that comments are enabled on this blog--I didn't realize they weren't available, but hopefully that's fixed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

English Weekend

We have enjoyed our week end with the Caspers--London Temple and pizza party on Saturday, church in Thetford and a trip to Christopher Layton's birthplace on Sunday.

I will post some temple pictures when I get them cropped, but here are some pictures of the delightful Thorncote Green, Northill, Bedfordsire, England.

This amazingly adorable farm sits opposite the green. We saw a lady come from the farmhouse walking two rambunctious dogs, so we asked her if she'd lived there long.

"Forty-eight years," she said. Rich explained that my GGGreat Grandfather was born there at Thorncote and emigrated to America. She imediately respondeed, "Oh, was he with the Mormons?"

WHAT? I thought to myself. "Yes," I said excitedly.

"The Mormons were quite popular here at the time, and most of them left for America."

I couldn't believe she knew that! I wish I knew more about the saints in that area--I only know Christopher Layton's story, but I'll bet he was a great missionary. And I'll bet the missionaries who taught him would be stunned at the number of faithful descendants he produced!

I collected a few leaves and an almond from a nut tree near the green (there weren't many trees around), so I will try to press the leaves and give them to the Layton sibs.
Thorncote is a delightful place to have sprung from!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wednesday in Edinburgh (09.24)

First of all: Happy Birthday to Aunt Marti, Lil Sis Abby, and Me! Yay, us! :) Miss you guys today...

We found our way through the airport and on to the bus and over the train tracks down to London road, and on to Windsor Place to the Cairn Hotel. It’s a really nice place—the best bathroom of the trip so far—and they let us check in early. So we dropped our stuff and took a walk and decided to see a movie at the Omni near our hotel. It was fun to watch all the ads and previews in the familiar setting of a cineplex. It was a lazy, rainy-day thing to do, but I enjoyed it. We saw “The Boy in The Striped Pajamas” which I would have loved as a little girl (I was obsessed with the holocaust and loved “Summer of My German Soldier” and Anne Frank). The movie was a bit of a downer and a little simplistic, but I will totally show it to my kids when it’s time to learn about WWII.

After the cinema, it was time for my birthday nap! And we crashed HARD! We slept from 3 ‘til 6, and then I showered and got prettied up for a dinner date. We walked out to the traffic circle and caught a taxi—the cars are sooo cute, and the funniest little Scottish man was driving. We asked him to take us up the Royal Mile to a good place to eat some traditional Scottish food, so he took us to Monster Mash and talked about it all the way. The only thing I could really make out was “tatties and neeps” and “Sausages or hagis,” but it sounded great to me. Monster Mash turned out to be one of our best discoveries. It’s a retro café seving home cookin’ comparable to bright clean American diner with blue plate specials. The menu was set up so you could choose your sausage, your mash, and your gravy. We tried trad Pork, herb pork, beef & Guiness, and peppered pork sausages. I had scallion and butter mash (potatoes and turnips boiled and mashed), Rich had red pepper mash, and we both chose brown gravy. It was soooo delicious and satisfying, but the best part was the ambience and the great service. Rich even got the girls to sing happy birtday and brought me a sundae. It was sweet! (We have a photo I have yet to upload--coming soon!)

We then walked the Royal Mile in the moonlight. It was beautiful! We ducked into the Ibis hotel to use their wireless internet access to call our loved ones over skype (Hi, Sammy!) and video chat with the kids. It’s always so fun to see our cuties—James especially looks so deighted on the webcam. I am so grateful for all the technology that has made this trip so pleasant and keeps me close to my babies.

Our walk home was interupted but some hooligans celebrating something with diapers on their heads and argyle socks on their feet. They were pretty funny. Now we are settled in at the hotel, watching some BBC news and hittin’ the hay. It’s 5:30pm at our house and going on 1am here, so good night! Tomorrow (which is today) we will take a bus tour and visit the castle, then flyback to London, then on to the Casper’s home. Yay! Can’t wait!

Tuesday in LONDON (09.23)

We are writing now (Tuesday, 4pm GMT) from a cruise on the River Thames, the tickets for which came along with our bus tour today. It’s so much fun riding along the river, drinking sparkling lemonade, snugglin’ with Richard on this, the eighth anniversary of our meeting.

I was talking to Erin (my dear amiga who is hosting us around England this coming week) last week and we talked about how places have a certain spirit, and how, even though I am used to beautiful mountains living in Montana, seeing the Alps would still be amazing. She was right—Bavaria has its own spirit, a warm, sweet, welcoming feeling, which I really enjoyed. Munich had a bit of a steely feeling, even though we visited while most of the city was drunk. I was never comfortable in Paris, but London? I think London may be my town. I am so loving it, even though it’s not as clean as Germany. It’s kinda like how I didn’t really like New York City, but I like Chicago; I’m not a fan of LA, but San Diego and Seattle are quite nice.

So I’m just saying I am having a great day here. It’s a lovely way to celebrate our big anniversary and my birthday eve.

So now it’s Wednesday and we are pulling out of St. Pancras station heading toward Luton Airport to fly to Edinburgh, Scotland today—MY BIRTHDAY! When I stopped writing last night, our boat had arrived in Greenwich (say “Grenitch”) and we hopped out right next to the Cutty Sark, the boat that’s closed for rennovation. The little we saw of town was adorable. We grabbed a fabulous little snack to go at Marks and Spencer (so far, Marks & Spencer is the thing I would most like to replicate in the US—really great fresh groceries and food to go, like Trader Joes with a bigger selection of prepared foods) and caught the tube back into London to finish the west loop of our bus tour.

We went past Victoria Station, thru Belgravia, around Buckingham Palace, across the Thames again to Lambeth Palace were the Archbishop of Caterbuy resides (funny how the prophet has a tiny little apartment on West Temple Street and the Archbishop has a palace in London). From the top of the bus we watched the sun set and London light up. I think the Thames is just as romantic as the Seine, but then I’m the girl who finds Ben Stein and business suits iresistible! Heh, heh. We got off the bus at Trafalfar Square and took the tube back to King’s Cross. We bought our tickets for this morning’s train, then stopped at a Turkish/ Fish & Chips stand where I got a fabulous Falafel with hummus and Rich got super-delicious Tukish Kebabs. We met the darling Netta in line—she is a college student in London from Orange County. She is so cute, we took a picture with her and gave he our blog address, so Netta, if you’ve logged on, HELLO and good luck in school! You should keep in touch with us.

So yeah, that was fun. I am tired but excited for Edinburgh. Rich said I can have a nap for my birthday, so hopefully we’ll get settled at the Cairn Hotel, take our naps, and stay up late exploring the Royal Mile and hopefully making a video call to our children.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Monday in PARIS, part 2

The pyramid from inside the Louvre
The pyramid at the Louvre
My favorite statue at the Louvre (the lighting was just so celestial!) Good Ol' Mona Lisa--the real thing
Rich's favorite painting--beautiful light

Tired Tourists
The Arc d' Triumph
We strolled down the Champs Elysees
The Seine early Monday morning

The coolest dude in Paris--George Washington
I wanted to buy everything in this adorable Children's Shoppe...
I wanted to buy ALL of this stuff fo Baby Layton!
French rent-a-bikes
(manymore photos to come!)

So we crossed the Seine and walked toward the Louvre and decided to have a little brunch at a cafe just opening. I had an amazing ham & cheese crepe with an egg, and Rich had a big hot dog-type thing—a sausage on a baguette. We were waited on by a smarmy waiter in a bow tie, who kindly brought us Cokes with ice(ICE!!). Satisfied, we asked for our bill which gave us the shock of our trip: those cokes were SEVEN EUROS! That’s the equivalentof ten bucks—the same price as our food! That was annoying. We walked away from the café toward the museum feeling violated. No sooner had we crossed the street, than a middle eastern woman tried pulling the “found ring” scam on us. Luckily we knew the scam, so we kept walking. That rattled us even more, and we were still talking about it as we entered the Louvre. There we were greeted by a tall West African man holding a petition for peace in Darfur. We signed it and somehow he bullied a 5-euro donation out of us. Needless to say, our heads were spinning as we entered the Louvre.

The museum was amazing. I think I liked the neoclassical wing the best—it was stunning. But all of the art was amazing, and I can’t believe I put my hands on something made by Michaelangelo (the “Slaves” sculptures)! When I post our photos, they will speak for themselves.

From there, we took a taxi down the Champs Elysees to the Arc d’Triumph. We took it in, then walked down the Av. D’Ilena to he Seine and the Eiffel Tower. Even though I knew the dimensions of the Tower, it was still shockingly huge. The whole time we walked around down there I was thinking of Madeline cartoons and accordion music. It was absolutely perfet afternoon in Paris—blue sky, breezes, fluffy clouds. We loved it! After taking pix of the Tower, we bought banana-nutella crepes and caught the metro back to the train station (for those of you following along at home—LISA—you should totally watch “Amelie” to get the whole Paris vibe—I love that movie!) We had originally planned to have dinner in Paris and catch the 8pm chunnel train, but half of the trains were cancelled because of a chunnel fire, so we went ahead and caught the 5pm train and were so happy to be in London for dinner.

Just A Few Photos

This is the old man on Mary's Bridge who takes photos for people. To me he looks just like Heidi's grandfather, so we dubbed him Papa Bayern (Grandpa Bavarian)
This is us at Oktoberfest--YAY
Notre Dame early Monday morning from the latin quarter.
More soon!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Monday in Paris, Part One

Holy Crepes! My dogs are barkin’ ! We walked a zillion miles today. I am writing you from the Eurostar, also known as the chunnel train. It’s 4:30pm and we are heading out of Paris toward London, having arrived at 6:45 am on the night train from Munich. We had another continental breakfast at 5:30am on the train, then we headed out in the darkness from the Gare L’este to Gare Nord. There we locked up our bags, found where to check in to Eurostar, and headed out for a morning tour beginning on L’Isle de Cite (City Island in the middle of the Seine, and also the very middle fo France). We caught the metro at Gare Nord androde it down to Cite, where emerged from the underground right in the middle of the Flower Market. Nothing was open yet, and traffic was just starting, so we kinda had the Isle to ourselves.

Rich had uploaded some audioguides to our new ipods, so we took our own little tour of Notre Dame, just as the sun rose and shone through the amazing stained glaass. There was an atual service going on in the choir area, so it was nice to hear mass chanting through one ear and our peaceful little audiotour in the other. It is impossible to write of the ornate details of the cathedral, or the breathtaking hugeness of the building, the countless works of art and craftsmanship so lovingly created to honor theLord and Mary. As I listened to the stories of the sacrifices made to build Notre Dame, and the grand intentions, I felt a little sad, like I had in Germmany, seeing all this passionate faith totallly secularized. I imagine the things I try to do to express my faith and love of God, and the ways I try to pass on my faith to my children and to future generations, and then imagine them desecrated in some ways, and I feel a litte sad for the medieval Europeans. Christ is not a part of daily life anymore, but it seems like everything was made or built to honor Him.

I have lots more to write about, like how three people tried to scam us in the space of twenty minutes, and how there were warning signs all over Paris to beware of pickpockets, and all th amzing stuff we saw at the Louvre. I am not such a fan of Paris, but I bet there are sweet parts of France. For now, I have to hit the hay. We have arrived in London via the Chunnel, and checked into the Hotel Montana on Argyle Square near the train station. We need to rest, so I will finish writing about Paris tomorrow. I hope y’all are well! I miss my kids…Addie, have you lost you tooth yet? How was church? Daddy and I love and miss you guys sooooo much!

A Sunday Like No Other: lots of Bavarian history and beer

What a wild day! I can’t believe it’s the same day as this morning. We woke up at Schlossrestaurant this morning under soft white duvets and a princess-y canopy bed. Rich went down the mountain to Schwangau to pickup our castle tour tickets and I got dressed for the day at 7:30am. When Rich got back we enjoyed a yummy breakfast in the restaurant area downstairs where we could look right up at the towers of Neuschwanstein.

May I just insert here how much I enjoy the breakfast? In the US, continental breakfast seems like a rip-off, but here, when you get fresh cold cuts, rich cheese and mild yougurt, fantastic breads of all kinds, juice, tea, it just totally hits the spot! I’ve enjoyed kiwis and kumquats and grapes every morning, too, and this breakfast has definitely fueled my rigorous “vacation”days! I used to think I was weird for eating sandwiches and fruit for breakfast, and now I know it’s just the European in me.

So after breakfast, we went down into Schwangau and hiked up the other hill to the other castle, Hohenschwangau. We learned in our tours today that these castles aren’t nearly as old as we thought—Neunschwanstein is barely 100 year old, and was only 1/3 finshed. Parts of Hohenschwangau have been around since the 900’s, though, because it was the fortress of the knights of Schwangau. Later, the Bavarian royals took it as their vacation home away from Munich. King Maximillian especially enjoyed hunting deer in the alps, so he made it his home away from home. In fact, his wife lived there full-time because she wasn’t a fan of Munich. They had two sons, Otto and Ludwig, whogrew up there.

Hohenschwangau looks just like the medieval castles you draw or make out of cardboard. It has the towers and the court yard and fountains and the square-zig-zaggy walls all around the tops of things. The walls are pale yellow (like my bedroom) stucco and the roofs are red tiles, and there is a giant swan on the very top.

King Maximmillian died when Ludwig was 18, so Ludwig became King at a very young age. He was once engaged but never married, he was eccentric (and spent his family’s fortune), and obsessed with Richard Wagner and his operas. The Bavarian tour guide would not affirm that Ludwig was mad or homosexual, but you can see why that’s the general diagnosis. He drowned in a lake when he was only in his 40’s, and all work on his three castles ceased because of the great debt he ran up. Even though Neuschwanstein as never finished inside, it’s still amazing to behold.

After our Hohenschwangau tour, we took a bus around Alpsee (the big blue lake) up to Mary’s Bridge,which overlooks a waterfall and stream, and Neuschwanstein. Then we hiked down to take our tour of the castle. It was CRAZY—I never realized that the whole thing was built in honor of Wagner! Every room is themed aound an opera, and the walls have murals with scenes from operas. There is even a man-made cave/hallway that came from one of Wagner’s operas. There are also swans in every room, of course, because this region of Bavaria is all about swans (we saw some gliding along the Alpsee). It was gorgeous and definitely mad.

We ate a quick lunch at a biergarten—I had currywurst and potato salad and Rich had yummy brats and pomme-frittes with paprika. We bought a few souvenirs (and wore our favorites all day—rich got a green wool Bavarian hat and I got a pretty fine woolen fringed scarf—and they kept us warm!) and headed up the romantic road to Munich.

Munich is pretty run down and it’s hard to get around—it took us forever to drop off our rental car and the train station (the hauptbahnhof) and make our way over to Oktoberfest, but we made it. It’s just a silly carnival, like a spoof on Bavaria—beer, pretzels, lederhosen, oompah bands, just as you’d expect. The beer halls are like giant, insane frat parties, and there’s a million of them. We didn’t stay long, and we took a rest in St. Paul’s basilica on the way back to the bahnhof because, afterall, it is the Sabbath! The fest is right next to the basilica and I thought about how much Jesus appreciates what’s going on next door. Ha.

So now we are in the first class lounge at DeutcheBahn waiting for our night train to Paris. Once again, I look like a drowned rat from sweating and being out in the wind all day. But it’s nice to site in the quiet and blog, and watch the crowds and trains below, and be waited on by this nice waiter who keeps bringing me drinks (he thought I’d need a coffee after being at Octoberfest). My Richard is across from me writing postcards and being a cutie. He ‘s my hero…what a great adventure he has planned for us!

I will have to write later in more detail about our dinner in Austria last night at hotel Maximillian and how the owner reminded me of Shawna Smith, and how totally beautiful the alps were. Now it’s timeto catch a train! Auf Weidersein!

Okay, so we drove a gorgeous 15 miles or so to Reutte Austria from Fussen/Schwangau. We went mostly to get our laundry one, but also to say we’e been to Austria (and the hills are indeed alive with the sound of music—if I lived there, I would be an innkeeper/ shepherdess, and I would spin around on green hillsides, singing at the top of my lungs, too—how could I help it?). We ended up eating dinner at the Hotel Maximillian and it was easily the best meal of the trip so far! Those Alpen-folk are aas serious about their meet as we Montanans! Rich had a grill sampler with amazing beef steak, pork chop, and turkey cooked on the fire, plus pomme frittes and pumpkin soup. I chose the marinatedd pork steak with field greens salad and roasted veggies (Potatoes, carrots, zucchini, onions, green beans—a deliciou, gourmet version of Sunday dinner!). We’d planned to have dessert, but the dinner was enough. The laundry came out great and the people at the hotel were amazingly friendly. If you are going to the Alps, consider Hotel Maximillian in Reutte! Also, in the evening all the sheep and goat ae herded down fom the hills and right through town by dudes in full-on lederhosen—you can’t beat THAT.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


We are having a load of laundry done for several euros while we wait here at the hotel Maximillian in Reutte, Austria. It's just across the border from our German hotel at the foot of Neuschwanstein Castle, which doesn't have laundry, but does have a great Bavarian Restaurant AND a fabulous canopy bed. I hope it's comfy!

Today began back in Rothenburg at the Pension Elke. We ate breakfast there and took a photography walk and checked out of the Pension. We said good bye to our new friends Erich and Klaus Endress, who were wonderful hosts. Klaus reminded us so much of Cousin Brent and Erich (his father) reminded of us that cute little old man on the Pixar cartoons with the super-thick glasses (he makes a cameo in Toy Story II as the toy doctor/refurbisher). After loading the car, we took another walk around Rothenburg and bought and shipped some souvenirs, and tried out some schneeballen (I still cannot upload pictures, but if you click links, you can see somebody else's pictures), then we hit the road (A7 south thru Bavaria, to be exact).

We ate lunch in Dinkelsbuhl, which is known as Rothenburg's little sister. We had yummy pretzels and weisswurst and then drove down thru Fussen to Schwangau and our darling little hotel. It is so beautiful, itäs hard to believe it's all real. I canät get over the cuteness of the cows with their big ol' bells on their necks. Also, the forests are dense and green and gorgeous, but the trees and wildflowers are totally foreign to me, so different from North American "flora & fauna."

I can't wait to post pix and to video chat with our kids again! It was so fun to talk to them last night before bed. It was midnight in Rothenburg, but it was 4pm there. They were just having some after-school fun and were so adorable laughing at Rich making funny faces and shouting greetings at us. I missed them terribly, but I felt better having seen them and laughing with them and knowing they are happy.

Things that are annoying me: my hair is behaving badly. Itäs heinous. You cannot get ice in your drinks. No drinking fountains or bottles of water. I had to go to a McDonald's just for ice! Other than that, it's is inexpressibly gorgeous here and I canät wait to share our adventures with you!

More tomorrow after the castles (maybe)--tomorrow night is night train to Paris and I am not sure we'll be able to update. But have a happy Sabbath!!!

"The hills are alive with the sound of Griswald...."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Longest Day

...or the shortest TWO days, you could say. (I am having the hardest time typing on this German keyboard beause the Y is in the lower left corner, among other things--how weird is that?). I have been traveling for 34 hours but my Wednesday AND Thursday are gone now (I'll get them back next week, right?)

Free Wi-Fi is not as abundant here in ancient Rothenburg as it is in the US, so even with my spiffy new laptop, I have been cut off from my peeps all day. I will write in more detail when we are not paying for access by the minute, but we flew smothly and comfortably from Detroit to Frankfurt on the first International Flight from Detroit's new north terminal. The accomodations and the plane were EXCELLENT! We had two nice meals and watched Prince Caspian and slept about 3 hours. I woke up when we were near Reykjavik, Iceland and wished it were light outside so I could see the north Atlantic! We arrived in Frankfurt at 5:20 am, changed into church clothes, picked up our rental car (Opal) and drove to the temple for a 10am session. It was very nice. We headed to Rothenburg and arrived after a roadside nap and a traffic jam at 3pm local time. We got checked in to Pension Elke and went exploring and had an Italian dinner. We are very ready for bed and y#all are just having lunch!

This is a gorgeous town--I canät wait to upload our pictures. For now, just know we love you and are having a great time. If you want pix, just google Rothenburg images--it is just as gorgeous and quaint as all the pictures!

Gut Nacht! Enjoy this sweet note from our kids today:
Addie says: I love you! I miss you already! My tooth is looser, but not out yet. The book I checked out is called "Peanut" and is a story about a lady and an elephant. I knew Heidi would like it very much. Love Addie

James says: Love you!! Hugs and Kisses - wet kisses! I slept all night in my bed. I had fun at Grandma's with the tractors and digging carrots. Love James.

Heidi says: I love mommy because she is my love girl. I like being outside with daddy when he mows the lawn. I helped Grandma dig carrots and wash them off with the hose. When I sprayed the hose in the air it made a rainbow. It was so pretty! I stayed in my bed most of the night. Love Heidi

I miss you three, my little pumpkins! When you get bigger, we will bring you back here! Its like a fairytale! XOXOX

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Got A New Laptop!

Hello, Gramp & Gram!

I am writing from the Denver Airport. We have a connection here and then in Detroit, then it's off to Frankfurt! When we arrived here, we ate breakfast and then I suggested going to a bookstore. Instead, Rich surprised me with a new ipod nano, uploaded with all my cds, a few audiobooks , and the movie, Baby Mama! He also presented me with this tiny laptop that I am using to write to you! The airport has free wireless internet access, so I can just sit here and type away! It also has a webcam, so we can talk to the kids and SEE them whenever we are all on the internet at the same cool is that?!

Everything is going great--so far, so good! I even feel pretty well for having worked hard cleaning my house til midnite and getting up at 3am (United Airilins gave us a wake up call). I will sleep well on the trans atlantic flight.

We take off at about the time the Germans are going to bed. We love you so much!
Love, Jamie & Rich