Majorca, Spain pt 1

We had planned and bought train tickets for a trip to the Scottish Highlands as our last vacation during our time in London.  We thought we would hire a camper and "glamp" all over the Scottish countryside so we could see and get out as much as possible. However, the week before we left, we still had not found a camper and there were zero available hotels in the areas we wanted to visit.  Add to this the fact that the weather for that week was characteristically Scottish...lots of rain and cloudy skies.  So, we hopped online and looked for the best deals to the polar opposite of Scotland- a warm, sunny beach vacation!  Enter Mallorca...we found great last-minute deals to this tiny island off of the west coast of Spain.  Tickets booked...now lets find a hotel, right?  Not as easy as we had hoped, we spent hours scouring the internet for any availability with no luck.  A few days before our flights, we came across a brand new hotel that had just opened a couple of months prior and they had space.  It was a little out of our price range, but we decided to just go with it because we 1. needed a place to sleep and 2. go big or go home!  Our drive from the Palma airport was so nice- the island had an old Italian feel to me, with its old stone homes and colorful shutters on big pieces of land.  Plus, the hills were studded with old castles along our route- so beautiful!

We stayed in Canyamel, on the eastern side of Mallorca, about a 10 minute drive from the closest beach.  The hotel was incredible and they gave us some awesome upgrades because the place was empty.  We had two big rooms with our own private backyards and patios that overlooked the gorgeous grounds as well as the valley flanked by beautiful mountains all around.  The sunsets from our backdoor were something else.  Our first day was spent on this beautiful beach called Cala Mesquida, about a 20 minute drive from our hotel.  The sand was really nice, but the water was incredible- clear, turquoise and warm- my 3 favorites!  There weren't waves here, so we just relaxed and played a ton.  We swam clear to the rocks on the far side (pictured above) and explored the coves and sea life there as well.  After a few solid hours of ultimate beach relaxation, we headed back to the hotel to swim in the pool there (and rinse the sand off of us!).  That was pretty much our routine for the entire week.  

Brian and the older girls explored the rocks above the water and built stone towers.  Not a bad idea and not a bad backdrop.

While we relaxed at the hotel, Brian drove to this other beach about an hour away.  That water!  Who knew the Mediterranean was so perfect?!

Day two found us at a different beach also about an hour away that we'd heard good things about  The weather today was pretty windy, so the water was a bit more choppy, which provided some pretty entertaining waves for the girls to jump through.  Kate even found a place to do some cliff jumping here.  

There are my girls jumping waves above.

The gorgeous town of Santanyi was a pit stop on more than one occasion, given that it was situated right between several of the most stunning beaches.  Plus, it was a great place to stop and eat...we had some of the best crepes I've ever eaten right here in the town square.  We even went back a few days later to enjoy them again, but the cafe was closed. :(

I spy some sunburned backs.  We were really diligent with applying sunscreen, but our kids fair skin combined with too many hours in the sun made it difficult to avoid.  

Below is the hotel we stayed at.  Our rooms were right at the top of the hill here and the pools, below, were so nice!  

We loved staying at such a gorgeous place and seeing so much of this fantastic island. (Part II coming next)

Amsterdam, Netherlands

It might be because I'm writing this post AFTER we have moved from London, but looking at these pictures and remembering our time in Amsterdam is making me feel all sorts of happy and sad.  Happy that we got to visit such a gorgeous and unique place, and sad that I can't just jump on a train and go there.  Either way, Amsterdam was a slow start and then by the end of our few days there, we absolutely loved this amazing place.  One of my favorite things about each European city we got to visit was the architecture that was unique to each place, and these Amsterdam homes and buildings sort of blew my mind with their design.  Plus, the fact that they were all built on a canal with a pretty interesting history just added to their appeal.  See below for some awesome evidence.

With 60 miles of canals, 90 islands and 1,200 bridges, there are endless things to see and do.  After riding the Eurostar from London to Brussels and then hopping on a Thalys train to Amsterdam, we then walked to our hotel (everything in the city is easy walking, or even easier public transit).  We spent most of our time in the most popular canals, the Prinsengracht (where our hotel was), Herengracht, and Keizersgracht because these areas were so gorgeous. Lined with cafes, coffee shops, and cute shops and, of course, lots of houseboats, motor boats, homes, and thousands of bikes chained to the bridges, the canals provide unending eye candy.  We also spent a considerable amount of time letting the kids play at the local playgrounds while we relaxed.  The weather was gorgeous, so whatever we ended up doing, we did it outside! 

We spent most of Saturday, our first full day, walking along the canals and exploring as much as possible.  We snuck a few good meals in too, that is if stroopwafels constitute a meal? :)  We walked into a Tulip museum followed by a cheese museum, where we all tried some pizza flavored cheese (there were tons of flavors!).  Brian and I let the girls play for hours while we planned out our next couple of days here.

Pictured above: The Famous "I amsterdam" sign in front of the Rijks Museum.  

On Sunday, we were able to find a meetinghouse for our church right in Amsterdam (well, about a 15 minute drive away) and really loved the meeting.  As always, we loved hearing everything in Dutch, while occasionally tuning into the translation headphones.  After church, we had to scramble back to the city center to catch a boat tour- which I cannot recommend highly enough.  We loved it.  It was 2 hours long, and even though we were all moving on empty stomachs, it was interesting enough to make us forget about our missed lunch.  We were able to see so much of the canals from this new vantage point, and the gorgeous weather didn't hurt either. We learned some really interesting tidbits, like how the Dutch used to be taxed according to how many windows or steps they had on their home, so in order to exhibit wealth, many homes were outfitted with many more windows and an abundance of steps leading up to them.  Crazy! 

From our boat ride, we literally had to RUN to get to our scheduled bike tour.  But, a trip to Amsterdam isn't complete until you've ridden bikes there and that wasn't going to happen without some local knowledge and supervision, so off we went!  We saw a lot of the same things that we had just been to on our boat ride, so we tried our best to enjoy just riding around in this gorgeous place (and ignore our seriously rumbling tummies!).  Our kids were such troopers to go this long without food- I don't think we even ate anything until 7 PM that day.  And, we were all so much nicer after we ate.  ;)

Because the weather was so nice, there were TONS of boats out this day.  

On our last day, Brian really wanted to take the girls to see one of his favorite painters and paintings, "The Night Watch" by Rembrandt, which was in the Rijks Museum.  The Rijks is pretty amazing...its gorgeous interior and thoughtful planning were obvious, especially when it came to their famous works.  Each one was accompanied by big information sheets that pointed out significant facts about the art, which I loved to read.  The girls totally loved learning about Rembrandt's famous and massive painting (below) and each said that this was their favorite part of the day.

On our last day, Brian really wanted to take the girls to see one of his favorite painters and paintings, "The Night Watch" by Rembrandt, which was in the Rijks Museum.  The Rijks is pretty amazing...its gorgeous interior and thoughtful planning were obvious, especially when it came to their famous works.  Each one was accompanied by big information sheets that pointed out significant facts about the art, which I loved to read.  The girls totally loved learning about Rembrandt's famous and massive painting (below) and each said that this was their favorite part of the day.

Our friends from London, the Larsons, recommended we stop and get their favorite cookies while we were in Amsterdam.  And I'm never one to turn down a cookie...so we made sure that we made it over to Van Stapele Koekmakerij- which was pretty much the cutest and most fancy cookie shop I've ever seen- and ordered up enough to make up for the lack of food the day before.  Tessa thoroughly enjoyed hers, as you can see...

I don't know if I'll ever get over how gorgeous these homes are.  The best part was at night when the owners would turn on their lights and you could see right into their stunning living spaces.  In an effort to symbolize how tolerant and open their city is, most homeowners don't have window treatments, so that you can see right inside at night.  Seriously gorgeous stuff.  

Lauren is obsessed with gymnastics lately.  She wants to move to Ohio so she can train at the same gym that Gabby Douglas trains at. There are not a lot of moments when she's not jumping around or doing flips all over the place.  

We did a lot of this...people and boat watching.  

Kate and I were able to get away one night and see the Anne Frank Museum as well.  During WWII, Anne, her family, and 4 other people hid in rooms at the rear of this canal house in a secret annex, to avoid Nazi persecution.  The home, which was built in 1635, was able to escape demolition due to the brave story of Anne Frank and her famous diary.  Its a sacred place and an incredibly touching museum that perfectly tells the tale of the courage of Anne, her family, and the people who hid them.  Definitely a must-see.

Amsterdam was full of so many good things- it was a totally unique city and we loved that we were able to see it!

SUMMER IS HERE ...


We went boating this afternoon with Nana and Papa on their boat. I don't think Kate's smile faded the entire time, or at least not until she passed out on the way home. Papa let her drive the boat "all by herself" and she was in heaven. Taylor could not be found without her sunglasses- she had the rockstar personality to go with the look too. She was not intimidated one bit to hop on the tube with Daddy, even after Kate was too scared to go first. After the girls rode the tube, then Brian and I got to go together- a little alone time!! Looking forward to lots of boat trips this summer!

BIKE RIDE TO FAIRVIEW ...

We decided to go on a family bike ride out in Fairview on Saturday morning. Brian loaded the girls up in the Burley (the "carriage") and we rode out to a beautiful neighborhood nearby. On the way there, we stopped to feed the horses some carrots. Mommy did most of the feeding though- I think the idea of the girls coming in such close contact with a horses' mouth was just a bit intimidating- uh, and gross.
Later that day, we went out for ice-cream and made a fun stop at a pet store to see the animals. We had to drag Taylor out of there, kicking and screaming! She did not want to leave. Then, we came home and broke out the sprinklers for the girls to run around in. Afterwards, we made cookies and watched a movie together on our new (hooray!) couch.

Too cute to photoshop ...

the "ADRIATICA"

This afternoon I took the girls out to lunch while Rachel attended a baby shower. After lunch, we explored a new place across the street from the McDonald's we ate at (always a healthy choice w/ dad) ... it appears to be a Croatian/ Mediterranean-inspired development complete w/ a hotel, shopping, living, etc. It was fun to photograph ... off from the future hotel was the beginnings of a small vineyard that the girls named "the secret garden" (3rd picture down).

About 30 minutes into our self-guided tour (and blocks from our car) the girls decided they couldn't walk any further and that they needed their mom. The trip to ADRIATICA (McKinney, TX) was a little short-changed, but we'll be back--and next time it will be legal (we had to hop over a couple of fences to get in some parts). Enjoy.




The "secret garden", or the only "hill" in Texas, right off the freeway.

Kate is embracing her calling as my model ... either that or she's itching her legs from the grass we trail blazed.

Family Pics

We got our family pics taken by the most amazing photographer- Angela Weedon. Here's a sample...they mostly do children shoots, so we may not have a Christmas card here, but we think they turned out great. If you want to see more of their work, go to weedonphoto.blogspot.com.



The Big Orange Pumpkin Farm



We made the annual family trip to the pumpkin patch- the very fancy (as pumpkin patches go), very popular, Big Orange Pumpkin Farm in Celina. We had a great time- on account of the amazing weather (wind excluded), beautiful drive, fun farm animals, the ever-popular hayride, and of course, picking out our prize pumpkins (or "punkins" as Taylor adorably refers to them). Brian couldn't get enough pictures and the girls couldn't get enough of the cows, goats, donkeys, and sheep that were corralled all over the place. The best part of the day was when the girls got to pick out their very own pumpkins to take home. Here's a peek into our day at the "punkin catch" (Taylor's words- again).

Kate loved feeding the goats- but it was a delicate process. If you let the goats get a good grip on your cup, they'd rip it right out of your hands. Fun nonetheless!







Daddy and his girls on the hayride.

Taylor would have taken every pumpkin home, if only she could have lifted them all- you gotta admire her for trying. She hefted this one up just long enough to say, "Momma, its heavy" and then dropped it altogether with a big thud.

Needless to say, we took two of the smallest we could find. The girls had a blast painting them right after we got home.

I apologize for the over-abundance of pictures- if you know Brian, then you know why...'nuff said.