New Year’s Eve on the Riverwalk

On New Year’s Eve, Bryan made us reservations for dinner at Acenar on the Riverwalk.


I was so excited when our server led us outside, through the crowds, and to a little secluded table on the balcony overlooking the Riverwalk.  So cool!


Just look at those pretty lights!



It was a delicious meal, and a great way to celebrate the end of a terrific year.


After dinner, we wandered amidst the Riverwalk crowds until we came out at the Alamo.


Last time we visited during the day, so it was neat to see it at night.  While you couldn’t get inside, they had the facade all light up and glowing.




Exciting people that we are, we headed home early.  At midnight, Bryan was asleep, but as I lay in bed reading, I heard the fireworks for quite some time.  Sounded like fun…but maybe not as much fun as being cozy in bed.


On January 1, we headed home.  We drove from San Antonio to College Station, stopping for lunch at this great restaurant in Bastrop.


I don’t know if you heard last summer about some of the big fires in Texas.  Bastrop contained an area known as the “Lost Pines,” a beautiful pine forest.  During last summer’s drought, fire took out 34,000 acres and burned over 1,600 homes.

Bryan and I drove through Bastrop State Park, and we were awed at the extent and thoroughness of the fire damage.  Really impressive, sobering destruction.


We drove the rest of the way to College Station, then flew to Dallas and finally to Madison, where the weather was in the teens.  Burr!  Bryan had off work on January second, so we sat around the house and enjoyed pretending like we were slugs.  It was so nice to have a little down-time at home before Granny flew the kids up on the 4th.  Thanks oodles to Granny and Grandad for giving us this lovely time together:)

Kicking back in San Antonio

We arrived in San Antonio late in the day on Friday, December 30.  Our hotel was a few blocks off the River Walk, and we set out to see the sights.



We hadn’t anticipated how heavily crowded the River Walk would be.  Apparently it’s a pretty popular place to visit around New Years.  In the restaurant district, we shuffled along through the thick crowd.  The trees sure were lovely, all lit up and magical!  After a few failed attempts at finding a restaurant, we left the River Walk and got ourselves dinner at Texas de Brazil.  The drinks were good, and the salad bar (and the cheese bread!!!) was so good that I filled up before the meat course.  We were entertained by a crazy aerial “wine angel” who flipped and spun and retrieved wine bottles for lucky patrons (see here for a video I found on YouTube).


On New Year’s Eve morning, we had breakfast at a wonderful place called The Gunther House.  So glad that Bryan’s mom suggested it for us!



Our wait for a table was really pleasant as we sipped our coffee in the sunny courtyard and then browsed the restored home and the cute gift shop, full of Texas cookbooks and baking goods.


I seriously could not get enough of these trees.  They are so beautiful it makes my heart ache.


After breakfast, we wound our way through the King William Historic District.  So many pretty homes!


The Riverwalk extends through most of San Antonio, and it seems like it’s become a wonderful way to connect the city and to help people get outdoors.


One of my main goals for our time in San Antonio was to eat at a restaurant where we’d have guacamole made at our table.  We did this when we visited San Antonio back in 2001 (photos here!), and it made quite an impression.  After a little walking, we stopped at Boudros for some drinks and guac with chips.


There’s our waiter making me happy with avocados!


Oh, what a day!


We wandered down the Riverwalk until we came to a little park where we sat and read for a couple hours.


Ahh, a day spent walking and eating and reading.  Pretty fun stuff!  Now back to the hotel to change for New Year’s Eve!


Exploring the Hill Country – by horseback and stream

On Friday, December 30, we woke up early, packed our bags, said farewell to Barron’s Creekside, and drove down to Bandera, Texas for a horseback ride at Dixie Dude Ranch.


I’d called around, and our trail ride was actually arranged by Marci and Russell Tiner from Cross T Ranch.  They bring their horses to Dixie Dude Ranch and offer rides on their land.

I felt like a kid, I was so excited to see the horses when they pulled up.  I sold Cold Snap back in 2002, and I don’t think I’ve ridden a horse since then.  Made me oh, so happy to be near them!


I was on a steady, smart thoroughbred named Earl, and Bryan was on a half-Percheron, half-quarter horse named Archie.  They were both sweeties and needed almost nothing from us as riders:)


We rode for around an hour through scrubby woods and rocky gullies.


It was windy but sunny and very pleasant.  I’d love to come back and do an overnight ride someday!


Signs of the longhorns.


There’s me and Earl!


After our ride, we drove down toward San Antonio.  On the way, we took a scenic road (thanks to a book we got for Christmas) and stopped at a nice little nature park.


We wandered down to the stream and saw some beautiful Cypress trees.





Prickly Pear Cactus grows everyone here in the hill country.  As we drove along, it was as common as thistle is up here in Wisconsin.  So cool!


During this walk, Bryan and I spied a Scarlet Tanager.  I don’t think I’d ever seen one before, so that was a bit of high for me.  I used some of my iTunes gift money to buy iBird for my phone so I can more quickly ID birds.  Fun fun!

Hill Country, Texas romantic get-away

On Wednesday, December 28, Bryan and I packed our bags, said goodbye to the family, and drove west for a week of vacationing together.  After a stop in Austin for a delicious lunch at Z Tejas, we drove on to Fredricksburg, TX, a beautiful German town in the heart of the Hill Country.


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We stayed in a cabin at a beautiful little resort called Barron’s Creekside.

First thing we did was to stroll around the grounds.



I love this shadow picture of the two of us!




The cabins are made of timber from a tabacco barn and the windows and doors and some furnishings are from a home in Switzerland.  The owner, Daniel, is Swiss and splits his time between here and there.


There’s my handsome sweetie.


And there’s me, feeling quite relaxed and happy.


Our cabin was named Wasserfall.  What a wonderful place!





Our first morning there, Bryan brought me breakfast in bed and then we lazed around and read for half the day.



We enjoyed some delicious dining in Fredricksburg (the Navajo Grill was super yummy), but my favorite meal was the steaks and mushrooms and asparagus that Bryan made on the grill.  We moved our table out to the porch to eat by white Christmas lights.


Ahh, and the fire in the fireplace!  So cozy!


This was one of the best trips we’ve taken together.  We visited Becker Vineyards (bought some port and lavender honey), went to Wild Seed Farms, drove past the very crowded Enchanted Rock State Park, and wandered up and down the adorable shopping street in Fredericksburg.   I loved it here, and highly recommend both the location and also the solo vacationing sans kids!

Christmas morning

On Christmas morning, I woke up around 7 and came out to the living room.  Mark and LuAnn were sipping their coffees, the fireplace candles were lit, and it was all peaceful.  No kids up yet!  So we sat in cozy contentment together, gazing at the now-stuffed stockings, and waited for the young ones to awake.  Andrew came out with salutations of “Feliz Navidad, Granny, Feliz Navidad, Grandad, Feliz Navidad, Mommy!”  Then he snuggled up in my lap and we hung out together for a while.  I mentioned something about Sylvia waking up at some point, and Andrew disappeared.  A sleepy, Sylvie groan came from the bedroom, followed by a more lively waking-up sound.  In a moment, two kids were gazing up at the stockings.


After we gave the OK for them to go wake up Melanie and Dad, the unwrapping of presents began.  Usually we go around taking turns unwrapping.  This year, the pace was a bit more, uh, frenetic:)


Sylvia got a Vidia and Rosetta fairy!


Ooo, new dresses from Aunt Mellie!


Here’s a video of some of our present-opening:)

Christmas morning

Andrew has been requesting a toy called BeyBlade.  I’d never heard of it before…but his friends at school love them.  After doing a bit of searching, I found out that they are battling tops.  Actually, they’re really fun!  I got Andrew a couple, and we all had fun battling them in their special arena.



Each top is a little different (these two are called Galaxy Pegasus and the Meteo L-Drago).  I think the object of the game is that the last top spinning is the winner.


Fun to spend Christmas Day together, playing with toys and eating lots (and lots) of fudge:)

Christmas Eve frolic

On Christmas Eve, Grandad put together a really fun scavenger hunt for all us kids.  I spent a quiet December morning putting together the videos that Granny shot with the photos I took to make this Scavenger Hunt video.

After the prizes were uncovered (the traditional Christmas Eve pajamas), the kids were full of excitement and glee, and they danced together around and around and around.




Then they went to the kitchen to get some cookies and milk for Santa.


And then they gamboled together again.




Oh those two…they really crack me up!

Here’s my favorite picture from Christmas.


And a quick posed photo (with the obligatory sibling-neck-squeeze) in front of the fire place.


Ahh the excitement of being a kid on Christmas Eve.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Gingerbread houses

One of our Christmas Eve activities was gingerbread house decorating.  Granny had baked and assembled two gingerbread houses…all blank and anticipating the sweet decorations of my chillens.


Can you imagine their eyes when they saw the bowls of candy, candy, candy?


While Granny piped the icing, the kids gleefully stuck on the decorations.


Don’t mind if I do help myself to a taste of that yummy frosting!


Careful consideration of candy placement.


They made windows and doors.


A yummy candy cane door…


Andrew even made a skylight.


Happy activity!


He’s having fun!


Everyone’s having fun!


Sylvie enjoyed some candy snacks between decorating shifts.



What pretty houses they made.  In the next day, Sylvie’s house added a lot more candy.  She learned that she was allowed to eat the candy off, so she wanted to put a lot more candy on.  Smart cookie:)


Something tells me that we’ll be making gingerbread houses again.


Sweet, fun times.


Bryan got into the action and decorated a gingerbread cookie.


Which Sylvie wanted to eat!


Thanks for the fun idea, Granny!  Gingerbread houses were a hit!


In Texas for Christmas

On Friday, December 23, Bryan, the kids, and I flew down to Texas for a Christmas visit together.  The house was so beautiful, the food so tasty, and our time together so fun.  What glowing memories!

LuAnn played the piano at church on Christmas morning.  Here she’s doing a little lovely practicing for us.


It’s so much fun to walk into a beautifully decorated home.  So may pretty details to discover!  The kids remembered all their favorite games, costumes, and activities, and the moment we arrived, they set out to review them all:)


This, my friends, is the fudge bowl.  I love fudge.  Love, love, love.  Whythankyoui’llhaveanother.


I’d call this a full fridge.  Salivatingly full.


On Christmas Eve, we made a variety of finger foods for our meal.  Shrimp and veggies and fruit and cheese balls and Swedish meatballs and quesadillas, oh my!  It was a good way to celebrate Christmas Eve:)


Finishing up dinner in the kitchen together.


The spread…  ho ho ho!


Getting our Christmas Tree

It’s a little funny to be writing this post after Christmas has come and gone, but better late than never!

We went to get our Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.  We’d thought about going to a tree farm to cut our tree this year, but Andrew wanted to go back to Jung’s (I think he was hoping for a post-tree visit to Culver’s).  These kids are rapid tree deciders.


We picked out a Douglas Fir again this year, and we named it Ferb after Andrew’s favorite cartoon, Phineas and Ferb.


Sylvie is happy about getting a Christmas tree!  She’s practicing her high knee skipping.


Melted my heart to turn around in the car to see Andrew and Sylvia’s fingers intertwined over the top of the tree.  Life is more fun with a sibling to share it with!


We got Ferb home, and while Bryan draped it in lights, I pulled out all the boxes of Christmas decorations and our Christmas plates.  Bye bye fall, hello Christmas!


She’s loving this, isn’t she. It melts my heart.


What a fun, decorated tree!


It’s pretty fun to be three years old at Christmas time!


Bryan put up the outside lights, and poof! our home was ready for Christmas.



My mom had bought a bunch of Bitty Baby/Bitty Twins outfits, and I pulled out a few for Sylvia.  So the twins (Linda and Rose Crystal) got Christmas sweater outfits and Evie got a polar bear snow suit.  Thanks, Mom!  Sylvie loves ’em.


Jack’s weekend – part 3

Our family is pretty big into traditions and routines.  At Jack’s, we eat the same foods and do the same things.  And in a way, that makes the whole experience feel a little like Christmas.  Excess eating, lots of laughter, knowing exactly what comes next.

On Saturday night, we had peaches and buttermilk biscuits with cream.  Yum!  Here, Jack’s helping prep the peaches.08-06-11_Jacks_229

We’ve been having some big issues with which version of Trivial Pursuit to use.  Terry likes the original, but none of the next generation know any of the answers to those questions.  The other versions we’ve tried have questions that are either harder or more stupid/trivial, so the debate continues.08-06-11_Jacks_234


Rolling and moving

Lots of ribbing of Terry and laughter.


Sunday morning, we lay out the final breakfast feast.  Bryan’s making French toast.


I love this picture of me and my siblings, but I feel like a midget.  Mental note, I should stand in the middle…08-07-11_Jacks_280

Hugging goodbye before Maretta and Kyle head back home to Minnesota.  A moment with Joe and Kyle.08-07-11_Jacks_288

Maretta and Terry08-07-11_Jacks_290

Pretty plant outside Jack’s front door.08-07-11_Jacks_291

Maretta says goodbye to Andrew and Sylvia08-07-11_Jacks_29208-07-11_Jacks_296

For the last four years, I’ve brought a bouquet of flowers in memory of Mommy.  She is so much a part of this weekend, and her absence deeply felt.  Mommy, we miss you.08-07-11_Jacks_294

On Sunday late morning, Jack drove his truck up to the high prairie so we could all take a look.08-07-11_Jacks_299


Sylvie doesn’t like the “shiny sun.”  My glasses seem to help.


Andrew’s tired out from an active weekend.  He’s sleeping in the bed of the pickup truck on Bryan’s lap.08-07-11_Jacks_347

We have pictures over the years of Michael and Joe up on Jack’s garage (the back side of the garage is close to the ground for easy access).  Here they introduce young Andrew to the tradition.


So ends Jack’s float weekend 2011.  Time spent with my brothers and sisters fills me up.  Thanks, guys, for a great time!