Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Don!

Lori's parents, Don & Joan, are visiting this week.  Both of their families are originally from Holland so their first visit the the Fatherland has been special.  The visit has also been special because it was Don's 85th birthday.  Lori made a coconut meringue cake for the celebration.  This was the cake that she had hoped I would make for her birthday....but somehow I forgot.  I think she was over-estimating my cooking ability.  The cake was delicious.  I'd highly encourage others to come celebrate their birthdays with us, too. 

For you trivia buffs, Don and Queen Elizabeth were born on the same day.  We invited her to come have coconut cake, but I guess she was too busy getting ready for the big wedding. 

Happy Birthday Don!

Lori begins to put on the meringue.  It was made with 10 egg whites.  The recipe said that she might not need it all.  Small understatement. 

Even though Lori is an accomplished cook, a little supervision from her Father never hurts. 

The best way to get meringue peaks is to get messy

Torching the meringue

Don and Joan

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Birthday Kate!

Although she thought it would never get here, Kate finally celebrated her 21st birthday this week.  Since her parents have moved to another continent, we were unable to be with her and so she had to make due by celebrating with her roommates and friends.   I'm sure it was a real hardship.  

At the Great Wall in middle school
We attempted to be part of the party by ordering cupcakes for her birthday celebration.  Unfortunately, the bakery that we used did some remodeling the day before Kate's birthday.  And even more unfortunately the work took longer than expected, the bakery was closed an extra day cupcakes for Kate.  However, the story has a happy ending.  Kate's fantastic roommate, Rachel, called an audible and picked up some cupcakes from another bakery at the last minute.  Well done, Rachel!

I'm sure that Kate was also looking forward to being of age to legally have a drink.  Being of age is one thing; proving it is another.  You see, Kate lost her drivers license last month.  And as she is finding out, getting a replacement drivers license from the fine State of New Jersey when you aren't actually living in New Jersey is about as easy as passing a budget bill in Congress.  The process involves the folks at the DMV mailing her a form, which she returned with about a gazillion pieces of paper proving her identity, afterwhich the DMV promised to mail her a temporary license that she can trade in for a permanent one when she returns for their fine state.  The process is archaic primarily because very few people who live in New Jersey ever leave New Jersey for more than a week.  No temporary New Jersey license has arrived so Kate is probably one of the few people in Nashville using her passport to get into bars. 

Scuba Diving with an Octopus on her face

Kate and Grant when we lived in Beaumont
Happy Birthday Kate!

Monday, April 4, 2011


Whoa! Sweden in early April?  You are probably wondering about our travel sanity.  Relax, there is a valid reason.  Grant's conference swim meet was held this past weekend just outside of Stockholm so I traveled there to watch him compete.   As you can imagine, the American School of the Hague's (ASH) conference is a bit bigger geographically than the Three Rivers Conference where Riverdale competed (although the drive to Amboy seemed pretty long).  There were schools from Amsterdam, Antwerp, Luxemborg, Norway, Germany, Denmark and of course, Sweden.  And the ages started in 4th grade and went all through high there was a lot of swimming over two days. 

Grant had a busy meet, swimming a total of 7 races in the backstroke, breastroke and freestyle.  He made the finals in the 100 m backstroke, ultimately finishing fourth.  His 200 m medley relay team finished first so he got his turn on the top of the podium (they don't play the school song, though) and a medal to go with it.  There were a lot of happy parents there, partially due to ASH having a good meet, but mainly because this marked the end of 6:00 am practices. 

Ready for take-off in the backstroke

Championship Form

Grant was tied for the lead on the first leg of the relay.  The two boys in middle and back right did breaststroke & butterfly respectively and maintained a tie for the lead, then the tall boy in the back left blew away the other team for the gold. 

Resting after his leg.  The writing on his arm are the heats that he was sceduled to race.  The coaches had 63 swimmers to look after so they knew all the tricks.   

I had some extra time to walk around Upsalla, a town of 150,000 people and home to the oldest university in Scandanavia, founded in 1477.  Its famous citizens include film director Ingmar Bergman, scientist Anders Celsius (invented the Celsius temperature scale) and former UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold.  The town also seems to have attempted to corner the market on pea gravel.  It was everywhere...sidewalk, roads, piled beside the roads.  One of the Swedish parents on the team explained that it gets too cold for salt to effective to de-ice the roads and walkways (doesn't bode well for winter tourism from our family), so they spread gravel  to improve traction.  And they don't sweep it up until they are sure the last snow storms have passed -- which, based on my trip, is evidently some time after April 3.  As we discussed other impacts of the pleasant Swedish winters, he told us that it gets too cold to keep your beer outside in the winter (a favorite European method of dealing with small refrigerators).  The beer will freeze solid and the bottles will burst. 

Pea gravel on the sidewalk
A castle on a hill overlooking the town was the home of King Gustav Vasa.  In the 1500's Sweden switched from Catholicism to become a Protestant country and the King took over much of the Catholic Church's assets (which I would guess to be substantial).  To keep the bishops in line, one set of cannons were aimed at the cathedral to be "styrbiskop" or bishop's controllers. 

The cathedral viewed from the river

Architecture from the 1600's

In the 1700's this curfew bell would ring each night signalling the time when all villagers had to be in their home. 

The Styrbiskop

As I left the cannon area, this group was walking up the hill.  The two leaders are putting the blindfolded ones back in line after spinning each around mulitple times.  Then they began marching up to the cannons.  I guess initiation rites don't change much around the world. 


My town tour also included a walk to the Cathedral (I was safe; the cannons had been disabled) which stated that it was open until 6:00 pm.  However, there was a wedding in progress so we had to wait until that was over before we could go in.  It felt a little funny touring around the inside of the church while the bride and groom were finishing their pictures.  But I guess the locals are used to that type of religous environment because the Cathedral is also open for touring on Sundays.  As the Swedish parent explained, you can tour  inside the church as long as you don't disrupt the service!

My visit inside the cathedral was delayed.....for a wedding! 

I stayed in a historic hotel situated by the River Fyrus.  The practicality of the place would make the Dutch proud.  There was no dresser or closet in my room.  Just a table for my suitcase and four hooks with hangers on the wall.  I didn't have to worry if my clothes got wrinkled in the suitcase; there was an ironing board and iron built into the hallway to be shared by all the guests. But the room did have some decoration....there was a sketch of a Spanish Flameco dancer on the wall.  Go figure?  And in a final comment that is sure to make my Mother wonder if these are actually the words of her son, the pickles on the breakfast buffet were so delicious that I had seconds.

My room's wall hooks

Let's just say that I didn't have to ask anyone to stop ironing to take this picture. 

Great name for a travel company.  Free advertising everytime someone writes "Kilroy was Here".