Thursday, November 14, 2013

Visiting Mark's Family

The tree that I planted in my parent's yard when I was a 17 years old.  
After Don & Joan's anniversary blowout, Grant & I headed to Moline to visit my family.  We drove our rental car and dropped it off in Moline, which was easy, convenient and essentially quadrupled the cost of the rental.  I checked into taking the bus -- Greyhound has a nice schedule and the price was only $45 per person -- but I thought that was one experience that Grant didn't need.  Having the car also allowed us to stop at the Iowa City outlet malls and buy all of our clothes for the next year.  Avoiding Holland's 21% sales tax helped helped put a dent in the rental car drop off fee.

Grant behind the wheel of the big rig. 
This was his other driving experience.  He and Tom took some sticks to the brush pile.  
With Grant's impending 16th birthday he did some practice driving around the farm.  This year he used Grandpa's old (1984) truck for his lessons.  It was a great strategy since that thing is about as wide as a semi; it gave him practice at staying on his side of the road.  It also made me feel better; just about any car that hit us would be smaller than the truck.

World famous Walker Brothers Apple Pancake...with ice cream.  The best part is that this is breakfast!  If you're interested, they will mail order to your home (not the ice cream).   
I couldn't finish it. 

While Lori was enjoying her Tasty Tacos we continued our own culinary quest.  In the Quad Cities we discovered Gansons, which deserves its #1 rating in Rock Island.  We also drove up to Winnetka to visit my brother, Dave.  His daughters treated us to breakfast at Walker Brothers Original Pancake House -- rated one of the top ten pancake houses in the US by USA Today.   And mentioned in the movie Mean Girls.
Tom's onions drying.

Grant enjoyed the fresh (and raw) onions. 

Last year this area was barns and cement.  Quite a change. 

Uncle Tom with Dave's dog, Teddy. 

For those of you who remember the TV show......"My Three Sons".

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary Don & Joan

Lori's parents, Don and Joan celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary this past summer.   They were married in June 1953 in Prairie City -- Joan taught school and Don was a local farmer.

During their marriage they have lived in Prairie City, Ames (Pammel Court for those of you ISU grads who remember the post WWII "temporary" housing that lasted for 40+ years), Mason City (also known as River City thanks to it's most famous resident, Meredith Wilson, creator of the Music Man) and now Des Moines (birthplace of Bill Bryson, one of the author's favorite authors).

The family, which now includes 5 kids, 10 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren and a host of in-laws  got together for a weekend in July.

The mirror in this photo allows a simultaneous front and back shot of Doug's head to verify how much hair he really has.  

Don, Joan and Grandkids

One final note on the trip to Des Moines.  We always check out the local restaurant scene in towns that we visit.  One of the highly rated Des Moines stops on Trip Advisor was Tasty Taco, a local, family run group of about 4-5 restaurants.  Since we suffer from a severe shortage (as in zero) of good Mexican food restaurants, it seemed like the place to go.  Unfortunately, we went on a Sunday ---- Closed!

Grant & I left the next morning for my Mom's home in Illinois; Lori stayed behind to work from her parent's home.  She went to Tasty Taco that day.  It was so good, she went again later in the week.  Looks like the Trip Advisor folks were right, we'll put it on the list for the next anniversary party.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Summer 2013

I guess summer vacation is over so I have run out of excuses to update the blog.  That plus the fact that I am getting tired of my daughter complaining about seeing nothing but the Leiden Marathon for 6 months.  So what did we do this summer you ask.  The short answer is nothing too exciting.  I'll try and stretch this into a couple of posts with lots of dog pictures for filler.

The summer started with a visit from Kate.  In early June she finished her second year at Med School and had to take her written board examination.  It was one of those tests where her life was pretty much burrowing into a carrell at the library and studying full-time for over a month.  She came up for air once in a while, but not often.  She took the exam on June 10 and two days later was on a plane to Amsterdam.  It would have been 1 day but she had a mountain of laundry to do after a month of ignoring it.  And no, don't think that just because she took a big test that she's done.  It's just a big test after their two years of class room work.  There is lots more medical schooling ahead of her. 

When Kate arrived Grant was taking his finals which included significantly less studying and no visits to the carrells at all.  Regardless, she and Lori thought it best to leave so they took off for 5 days of relaxing, eating, touring and drinking fine wines in the Loire Valley, France.  It would be nice to post some photos of their trip along with some pithy commentary.  But, alas, my repeated invitations for a guest posting have been unanswered.  So all you get is a stock photo of a Loire Valley Chateaux.  

After the girls returned to Holland, Doug flew over from the US.  He and Kate spent a few days in London (again, no pictures or commentary) to visit Doug's haunts from when he did a summer session there.  

We celebrated Doug's birthday -- he chose the ever popular Tuxedo Cake.  

At the end of the visit, Kate and Grant returned to the US together.  Kate began her two years of clinical rotations (no more summer vacations for her) and Grant visited Don and Joan for several weeks.  So Lori and I had the summer in Europe with no kids!   Think again.   Her work travel schedule seemed to peak right then (somewhat suspiciously I might add) so we ended up with a only a weekend in Europe with no kids.  And Graber and I had lots of quality time.  

Grant & Kate before they left for the US.   At the beginning of the summer, Grant always gets a haircut that will last all summer.  

At the end of the summer, Lori, Grant & I had our annual trip to Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt for a week of very hot weather, warm water and fantastic scuba diving.  Not many shark sightings this year, but we did see a manta ray.  As you remember, things were (and continue to be) a little unsettled in Egypt, so the resort was about half full.  And not many of those were European. But we felt safe, the staff was great and we had a fun week.  The week after we returned the Dutch government put out a security warning, all flights to/from Egypt were cancelled and they really haven't restarted since.  Lucky timing on our part.   Bad luck for some really nice people who make their living off of tourism.   
The lifeguard at the beach had to carry towels to his station.  Looks like he's done this before.  
He never dropped one
After our dive at Ras Mohammed, a pod of 15 dolphins played around the boat for 10 minutes.  

In September (which is still summer by my calendar) my Uncle Ralph and Aunt Barb finished up a Rhine River cruise in Amsterdam.  I hadn't seen them since Lori & I were married (30 years this year -- see future blog posting); it was great to catch up.  They lived in Germany in the 50's so it was interesting to hear their stories of Europe back in the day

Ralph, Barb and I in the lounge of their cruise ship.  

A filler photo of the dog.