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Traveling with Kids – Rome, Italy

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After our night in Casorate Sempione, near Milan, we took 2 trains down to Rome.  I’ll share more about the process of train travelling in another post.  We spent the most nights in Rome so this will be the longest post and has a ton of pictures.  So I apologize for it being long.

Since we spent 4 nights in Rome the best deal for us ended up being to stay in an apartment.  I had preferred us to take a van taxi to the apartment so it’d be quick and we wouldn’t get lost but Ken convinced me to try taking a bus.  It made the process take longer and was a bit more confusing and we definitely got turned around for a few minutes after the bus stop but we managed to find it in the end.  (I think it is worth paying a bit more for the taxi for the speed and convenience.  Just make sure you get an official white taxi so you don’t get scammed. But there are apps to help you figure out which bus you need for which stops if you want to use them.)  There was a man waiting there for us and he showed us around, answered questions, gave us the keys, etc.  After that we explored the area a bit and got the kids some gelato.

We have a dear friend and honorary member of the family, Candace, who was living in Spain and was moving back to Texas a couple weeks later and she had a few extra days to do some travelling before she left.  So spontaneously a couple days before our trip we started talking about her coming to Italy too.  She ended up flying down and spending the days in Rome with us and it was such a joy to have her.  Not only do we just really like her and were happy to see her again before she left this side of the world but it was so awesome having someone else to help with the kids in such a big, busy city.  So, you’ll be seeing pictures of her down below with us.  Having another adult with us, who is easy to travel with had so many advantages.  We had an equal adult to child ratio, a couple of the evenings when my feet were killing me she was able to walk with Ken and help get some food for us to eat, take pictures of us at places so we actually got some pictures of all of us together, and since she is fluent in Spanish could help translate the Italian.  Now, I have to say that not just anyone could have joined us and lightened the burden. Some people if they are a different temperament or not as independent or familiar with traveling can make things more stressful.  Thankfully she is someone who makes things easier instead of more complicated.

Okay, so the next day we woke up, ate breakfast in the apartment and walked over to the Vatican. I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen for that to be the first thing we did but we were in town for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday as our full days.  It is closed on Sunday and would be even busier on Saturday, so Friday became the choice.  I had researched so much about what was the best way to do this and was hoping that what I had read would work out because I was going against a lot of advice.  You will read that the lines to the Vatican museums are really long and you need to pre-book them and then you might get lucky and be able to go out “the wrong” door to take the short path to St. Peter’s but it seemed that was something that was monitored more now and was unlikely to happen.  I had read that if you went to the museums in the afternoon there was no need for a pre-booked pass (which saves a little money and you don’t have to be there at a specified time) and so we did it in the reverse order of many.  We started our day at St. Peter’s and got in line immediately for the dome.  We paid the extra to take the elevator up to skip the first steps and it was worth the money in my opinion knowing that we’d be walking all day and wanted to save our feet as much as possible, especially with little kids.  Since we got there early there really was no line which was perfect and as we left close to noon the line was huge.  So, we really did great in that way.  The climb was challenging but not nearly as bad as people made it sound and although it does get small it wasn’t as claustrophobic as people had said either.  The kids did great and the view was amazing.  Thankfully we were there in the spring when it wasn’t too hot.  I can see how if you were doing that when it was really hot it would be harder, especially with even bigger crowds.  And as I had been warned in other readings, just pass by all the people out front who try to offer guided tours and promise skipping the lines.

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We borrowed this carrier from a friend and it was worth its weight in gold on the trip.  This isn’t Disney World which is stroller friendly.  We did see people pushing them around but with the cobble stones, the steps everywhere, and not being to just leave it if you’re going up to the dome, etc it just didn’t make sense to use one.  It would have been very difficult for William to climb the steps all the way to the top and even harder for him to come down them since it is steep. He actually just climbed the 246 steps up the Wallace Monument in Stirling the other day but it took forever to come down with him since he was nervous about falling.

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The two big kids each have a little kid digital camera that they’ve had a few years and it was great for them to have them on the trip.  I knew that this would be our longest un-kid friendly day but had gotten good advice to let the kids take pictures of things to make the museums more interesting for them.  It seemed to work well.

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After we left St. Peter’s we had to walk around the walls of the vatican to get to the entrance to the museums.  And we stumbled upon this little pizza place.  It didn’t have a name that I could find outside so I can’t easily recommend it but it had signs about Rick Steve’s liking it so maybe it’s mentioned in one of his books.  The pizza was good and cheap.  It was also a nice, fast way to eat so we could continue on our way to the museums. 

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There was a mirror on the wall behind us which allowed Ken to get this fun picture below.

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I was nervous whether or not I had made the right decision about not pre-booking the museum since paying a few more Euros would be worth it if it saves you an hour or more of waiting in line when you have 3 kids and will be walking for hours through the museums.  But I’m glad we didn’t because we were able to walk right in and get tickets.  I had read that it wasn’t as busy in the afternoon and that proved to be true – although don’t get me wrong, it was really busy!

The whole place was packed with people and it makes you a bit like cattle going through. We knew that we’d have so much to see before getting to the sistine chapel so we mostly did a walk by of everything.  We didn’t spend long looking at any one particular thing.  If so we would have used up all our energy on that and never made it out.  I was overwhelmed by how much was there and it really felt like I was visiting a hoarder who happens to have a big place to put it all.  I’m glad all those pieces of art are saved somewhere but it was just SO much.

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We were of course excited about seeing the Sistine Chapel but there were so many amazing ceilings in there that were just as magnificent.

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Pretty much every floor was covered in gorgeous mosaics.  You really could spend so much time there looking at every detail and still miss something.

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There was an Egyptian section which was cool and seemed a bit random with the other items.  The kids enjoyed it a lot.

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Towards the end you can either cut out the last chunk of the museum and go straight to the Sistine Chapel or continue on.  We almost skipped it because it had already been long and we were tired but I had heard so many people say the Raphael rooms were amazing so I hated to miss it.  So, we went the long way and part of that includes going through a modern art section.  By that point I was so zombie like that I totally walked right past some paintings by Salvador Dali.  If Candace hadn’t called me back I would never have noticed them.

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There is also a section that has art from Matisse which was nice.

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You are not allowed to take any photos in the Sistine Chapel.  It’s kind of an unexpected reason why if you’d like to read about it.  There are workers who yell, “no photos”, and “no talking” which breaks up the atmosphere of trying to take it all in.  It was really great to see and pretty amazing to be in this room that I have learned about for so long.  Of course not getting to see it until the very end made it difficult since I was really worn out by that point.  And it is hard to look up at it for long since it hurts your neck.  But it is totally worth seeing and a masterpiece.

I would definitely recommend going to both the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica.  They are truly amazing places to see and hold so much history.  The kids did really, really well considering how much walking we did.  There were some tapestries that showed babies being slaughtered from the story of Moses I believe and even though I had heard there was art like that I was expecting it to be paintings and my daughter saw it before I did and was pretty upset by it.  So, we walked past that part really quickly and I had her look at the tapestries on the other side.  We also tried to point out different animals or cool things we saw and ask the kids about things they saw and just try to keep it interesting for them. The cameras proved to be really helpful in keeping them engaged and giving them some sense of control over what they were doing.  The pictures on those little cameras aren’t very good but it was really more about the process than the product.

On the way back to the apartment we got some gelato at the one place we always got it in Rome and it was the best we had in Italy.  And then later that night we went out for dinner at Bernini Ristorante recommended by the man who let us into the apartment.  It was right on the Piazza Navona which I think inflated it’s prices a bit but the waiter we had was so nice and ended up giving us appetizers for free and dessert as well!

The next day was Saturday and it was our day to see the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and Mouth of Truth.  It was the group of things that was farthest from where we stayed.  It took probably around 45 minutes to walk there.

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The first thing on our route was the Bocca della Verita or Mouth of Truth.  It’s believed to be part of a fountain or a drain cover but legend says that if you tell a lie while your hand is in it it’ll bite your hand off.  Thankfully we all left with our hands attached.

It surprised me but it’s actually on the wall of a covered porch of an old church.  They have the front of the porch lined with a metal fence or wall.  It wasn’t how I imagined it to be.  So, because we got there in the morning there was a big crowd and we probably waited half an hour. Of course one of the kids had to use the bathroom and I don’t remember if we ever did find a place or if we made them wait.  We checked and the church didn’t have a toilet.  Anyway, I’m sure if we came at another time it might not have been so long but this kept us from backtracking.  To help keep the line moving they tell people to only take one photo per person.  So, our time up at the mouth felt very rushed and short but it was fun none the less.

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On our way to the Palatine Hill we walked through Circus Maximus which is where they used to have chariot races.  It was windy but a great place for the kids to be able to run.  One of them did end up falling and skinning something in the rocks but they survived.  It is nice how everything is relatively close together.

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This was when we were approaching the Palatine Hill which is next to Circus Maximus.  We chose to start with that first and then do the Roman Forum and end with the Colosseum because I had read that there can be long lines at the Colosseum but not at the Palatine Hill.  It also lets you travel down hill and when you get to the exit of the Roman Forum you are near the entrance of the Colosseum which is very convenient.  I definitely always tried to be as strategic as possible with our walking.

We actually bought the tickets and then asked where we could eat lunch.  There was nothing that close but we found a little pizza place that would have been ok but the kids weren’t behaving and we were sitting outside and we were unprepared with how chilly it would be.  I really couldn’t wait to be done with lunch.

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This kind of looks like all the kids need to go to the bathroom.  ha.

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We really missed a lot of what the history of the place was but again, there was so much to see and you could spend a really long time at each of the 3 locations.  We enjoyed just walking around.  Candace had downloaded some free audio tours from Rick Steves but we kind of forgot about them and it would have been difficult for us to all listen to it without bothering others.  I’ve heard they are really good though.

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This was the spot where we got out of the Roman Forum area and walked to the Colosseum.

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The flat part down below is where the floor would have been and everything down below it is where the animals were kept.  They could raise them up through the floor.  I wish we could have done one of the tours that takes you down there but they were all sold out by the time we looked into it.  But really by the time we got there we were really tired from all the walking we had already done and so it was ok to not be listening to a tour guide and just to wander around.  It is still an amazing place to see.  After seeing it so much in pictures it is pretty unreal to be standing in it.

One of the items we bought as a souvenir is a book that has pictures of what sites around Rome look like today and then there is an overlay that then shows how it would have looked originally.  It isn’t cheap (around 18 euros I think at the Colosseum gift shop, although we saw it other places too) but it was great for the children to look at and understand what they were seeing.

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The next day was Sunday and so we thought it’d be cool to see how they do church in Rome.  We found Rome Baptist Church online and their morning service is in English.  They are an international church so all throughout the week they have classes and services in different languages.  It was nice to go there and the people were very friendly and kind.  It also worked well because it was near the other section of town we still needed to see.

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I had found the name of a cheaper restaurant in a Lonely Planet guide that was close to the church and the Pantheon and so we ate there.  We made it in right before the big lunch rush.  It was a nice meal and cheaper than a lot of places we saw.

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The first thing that hit us when we first turned a corner and came up to the Pantheon is just how taken aback you are with it’s huge size.  We just hadn’t imagined it to be that big.

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We stopped at the store Bartolucci and bought a couple little wooden items.  It was a fun shop to see and the kids really enjoyed taking these pictures.  Our youngest loves Pinnochio so he kept yelling out his name every time he’d see one.

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We went to the Trevi Fountain and I hadn’t realised that it was in such a small area.  I expected it to be on a big piazza but it was so crowded with people.  We had to push our way to it.  We gave the kids and Candace coins to throw in insuring that one day they’ll be back.

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trevi fountain

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The Spanish Steps were closed off.  There was a big marathon through Rome that morning and so it looked to be because of that.  So our stop there was brief.  Candace and I tried to drink from the fountain at the front of the picture as others were doing.  It was harder than it looked.

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The last thing we did which took forever was to look for the cat sanctuary.  The problem was that it is in a different place than I was remembering.  And we asked every local we could find including guards as we walked and none of them had any clue what we were talking about.  I knew I wasn’t crazy and so finally we found an English bookstore and I looked it up in a guide and we found it.  It’s located at the site where it is believed that Julius Caesar was killed.  I thought you could go down in the ruins but you have to just watch from the side.

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Thankfully Candace’s phone worked really well for maps so she could lead the way.  We were going to get sim cards there but the ones we use in the UK had a pretty cheap plan for using them in another country so we just did that.

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There was a part where you could go down into where they care for the cats.  It was fun to see them but it also smelled.

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This is the famous last picture before that cat attacked him.  I wasn’t even watching him (Ken took this photo) but apparently he was being gentle, he just ended up with a cat in a bad mood.  I was really nervous that he’d get infected or some disease.  All I had on me was some hand sanitizer and even though I’m sure it stung I put some on his cuts (I think the cat bit and scratched him) to help kill anything.  It ended up healing quickly and there was never any infection.  It was comforting to know that all the cats have vaccines and are well cared for.

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It was kind of a game of where’s Waldo looking for all the cats hiding amongst the ruins.

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This is the gelato place we ate at every day.  There was always a line and had lots of locals so you know it was good.  The gelato is made there and you got 2 scoops for 2 euros and they would either dip it in chocolate which would harden or they would put whipped cream on it for no extra charge.  Such a good deal!

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Gelato was the main thing that made not having extra clothes difficult.  After the first couple days I made sure to bring wet wipes with us since the tiny napkins you get don’t do much and don’t get the sticky off of fingers.  Giving the big kids spoons helped them eat their cones with less mess.

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Finally, here is the apartment we stayed in.  It was so nice!  I was confused when we first got there because it looked different than it did online and had a different name but after looking back at the listing I realized they had repainted and redecorated it.  I found it on the site Friendly Rentals which after looking at countless places for days/weeks I couldn’t believe I had found a place that wasn’t priced too badly and didn’t have extra hidden fees etc like so many other places.  The apartment was huge and in a good location.  I wanted something in the Piazza Navona area so we’d be close to all the sites and it worked out well.

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The last morning we woke, ate breakfast, and cleaned and packed.  We walked down to a nearby bus stop and took a bus back to the train station.  Wow, that bus got packed.  It was laughable how tightly squeezed we were in there.  I thought the doors wouldn’t be able to close but whoever designed it was very smart.  I finally understood why some buses are notorious for pick pocketing.  It would be so easy in a crammed situation like that.

That was a lot of info but I wanted to get it all down in one spot.  The posts about Florence and Venice won’t be that long.

Rome is a great city and much easier to get around in that I had expected.  I had also heard from many about pick pockets so I was really paranoid the whole trip.  But we never had any troubles of any kind.  Just like any big city if you are careful with your belongings and aware of your surroundings you should be fine.

The city is so full of history you could continue to go back and see new things.  I highly recommend going if you ever have the chance.  It was great being able to share the city with our kids and they still talk about the things we saw and did.

 

 

 

 

Bookending our Italy Trip in Casorate Sempione

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While we are living in Scotland and so close to everything on this side of the world we want to take advantage of cheaper flights and shorter travel times as our bank account will allow.  In April, we went on a 10 day trip to Italy while the kids had a two week break from school.  I wanted us to visit Rome, Florence, and Venice to see some of the big sites.  We found really cheap tickets in and out of Milan on Easy Jet which wasn’t ideal but we made it work.  After all the planning was done I might have done things a little different since the money saved on the plane tickets might have been spent on the extra train travel to and from the airport but, oh well, you live and learn. And what we did worked fine so it was ok.

While researching for the trip I read for countless hours on Fodors forums and other sites to see what others have done and what they recommend.  So I have wanted to write down things that worked for us so it can help others as well._DSC0110

We flew in and out of the Milan Malpensa airport.  I didn’t realise until after I started looking for places to stay that Milan has a few airports and Malpensa is actually about 30 miles from the city.  There is a train you can take from the airport to the central station in the middle of Milan.  If Milan is ever having any type of expo or big event then the cost of their hotels goes way up for those days.  They also tend to be higher during the week when business people commute there for work.

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I didn’t want our trip to be stressful and push the kids too hard, so I thought it’d be best to sleep one day at the beginning and end of our trip in Milan because our flight was landing around 4 pm in Milan.  We had already driven an hour and a half to the airport in Edinburgh and you have to get there early and then it was a 2 hour flight so even though none of those things is that long when you start to add it all up it would have been too much for us to then take a 30 minute train to Milan and then a 3 hour train to Rome.  It seemed better to just spend the first night there and take our time.  We thought it’d be great if we got to see The Last Supper which is in Milan but found out too late that tickets sell out for it months in advance.  Or at least the cheap ones do.  You can pay a lot for a multi hour tour for Milan that includes The Last Supper but we didn’t want to do that.  They only allow you to see it for 15 minutes anyway so we didn’t fret too much that it wasn’t going to work out.  But if that is something you really want to do, get tickets as quick as you can.  I think you can start getting them about 3 months before the date.

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Once I figured out that we really weren’t going to be spending any time in Milan and I couldn’t find anything we could afford that would fit 5 of us near the train station I started looking closer to the airport.  I found a B&B on booking.com that had wonderful reviews called Il Terrazzo and was 5 miles from the airport.  It has an apartment at the top that had beds for all 5 of us.  For having to “waste” the first and last day of our trip on an extra place this place couldn’t have been any better.  To show up tired in a foreign country where the first language isn’t English and to have someone waiting outside specifically for you in a van ready to take you to your home is such a luxury.  Mario is so so kind and helpful and couldn’t be more accommodating.  Before we got there he helped us figure out the best train station/route to take to save money and time to get from Casorate Sempione to Rome.  He also took us to the near by train station (Gallarate) the next day and also picked us up from it when we returned at the end of our trip.  He was so accommodating and answered all our questions.  The apartment was great because it was roomy and clean and had everything we could need.  There was a good sized balcony and so the kids could enjoy the warmth outside but still be close.  They watched some cartoons in Italian and played with the few toys they brought.  We were pretty worn out from the travel there so instead of eating out Ken walked down the road and ordered us a pizza.  It was huge and good but know that if you ask for pepperoni they will put bell peppers on it.  When we came back at the end of the trip Mario ordered the pizza for us and had it delivered and his wife gave us a cake as well!

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Each morning they would bring us breakfast to our place at the time we wanted/needed and it was the traditional Italian breakfast which was rolls, croissants, fruit, yogurt, different things to put on the breads, juice, tea, coffee, etc.  It was perfect.

So, if you need to stay near Milan I cannot recommend Il Terrazzo enough.  Also, because we booked two times for the two different nights Mario gave us a discount which was great.

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Oh and with the picture below, it was so cute.  Our oldest son asked Ken why the sink was so low.  Ha!

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These pictures aren’t the best.  It was getting darker outside when I took most of them.  There are better photos on some of the booking sites but this gives an idea of the place.

I’m going to share posts from the three cities we spent our time at (Rome, Florence, and Venice) and also a separate one with public transport information.  Overall it was a wonderful trip and we are so glad we went.  Italy is beautiful and the people are so warm and kind, especially if you have 3 children!

A Bit of This and That

I’ve got a special video for you today.  It’s probably not at all what you’d expect but I wanted to share something very dear to our hearts…our washing machine.  The washing machine in our house plays a lovely, happy tune every time it is done washing to let you know it’s finished.  It just makes us so happy to hear it and makes you feel glad to do laundry.  Ha, never thought I’d say that.  All washing machines should play this tune.

Other things:

We just learned last week that children in the primary grades (that’s the equivalent of Kinder through 6th grade) don’t get grades.  That was a surprise.  I can see positives and negatives with this.

Our baby is turning 3 on Sunday.  Everyone already thinks he’s 3 or 4 because he’s so tall.  We’re doing a small party at our house with just us and our neighbors.  He’s been obsessed with Mickey Mouse since before we moved so that’ll be the theme.  We got him a radio controlled car that can go in water or land which will be great for our weather and rocky yard.  We also got a pirate Playmobil set and this blue horse.  It is like the Rody horse but it comes with a pump and is cheaper.  The reviews for it were just as good.  I figured it’d be a good way for William to burn off energy in the house when it’s yucky outside.  We’ve also received a lot of cards from family that we’re waiting to open on his birthday.  I’ve been so impressed with how on the ball they’ve been. We are generally pretty terrible about getting cards out on time and being over here isn’t helping.

Here’s a random picture from a few weeks ago when the kids wanted to go camping out in our front yard.  Also, they don’t say yard here, they say garden.

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We are hopefully getting a car this week.   We’ve survived fine without one but it’ll be nice to have one for exploring the country or running errands in surrounding towns.  We keep running into issues with figuring out costs though with insurance or the yearly tax they charge based on the type of car/engine it is.  Finding anyone to give us a loan is another story.

We’re getting a new boiler in the house today – well, work has started on it.  A plumber came last week.  We thought it would be to get the radiators unstuck and to make the noise in the pipes stop but he told us that the boiler was leaking gases so he turned it off and unplugged it.  It’s amazing how not having hot water in the pipes of the house really makes it feel a lot colder.  Thankfully, we have an electric heater in the living room where we spend most of our time and then are warm under our blankets in bed.  Also, we have 2 showers that are electric so the water is heated for them right at the shower and a dishwasher which heats the water as well. So, it’s only been a minor inconvenience.  We’re so thankful nothing bad happened to us with the leaking gas.  Yikes.

I am planning on doing a food post at some point to show how a lot of the food here comes in tiny packages.  We joke sometimes that it is food for hobbits.   Although generally it seems that is the case more with processed foods than if you are buying meat or fruit or vegetables.  When you buy fruit snacks you get 5 packs to a box at the most.  When you buy microwaveable popcorn you get 3 packs to a box at most.  When you have 3 kids or a group coming over it makes you have to order a lot more.

I made my computer be in British mode to make some things more convenient but spell check changes my words to British spellings when I don’t want it to.  If I’m talking to an American then I want American spelling.  Also, the calendars (called a diary) here go from Monday to Sunday which throws me off at times.

One more picture.  The highland games happened a couple of weekends ago and it rained the whole day and was really cold. We tried to adventure out into it since it only happens once a year but after a couple of hours the kids were miserable.  Actually, they were before then but we could no longer handle it anymore.  This picture is from our walk back home.  All the pipe bands were parading down to the event.  I felt so bad for everyone competing that day.  They were such troopers.  We enjoyed our two youngest screaming pretty much the entire walk home. But we picked up some meat pies at the butcher on the way home and put warm, dry clothes on and had a nice hot lunch in front of our electric fireplace.  Hopefully next year the weather will be nice for it.

Pitlochry Highland Games

 

Well, just some random thoughts and updates.

I almost forgot!  I have been cutting my fabric for my ornaments and have just been waiting for the string to come in to start sewing and it just came through the door!  I also just got the bags for my ornaments yesterday.  It’s fun to be getting in all the supplies.  I still need to order tags and business cards but haven’t decided on a printer yet.  And then mailing supplies but that shouldn’t be difficult.  Hope you are all having a nice week!

 

 

Have You Seen the Mifold Booster Seat?

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*Update down below on how we like them.

I have been keeping an eye on a new booster seat for the kids. It’s called the Mifold.  Instead of pushing the kids up so that the belts sit on them correctly this pulls the belts down to them.  It is still in preproduction and for pre-sale on Indiegogo.  I finally pulled the trigger and bought two for my big kids so that I could get the 20% discount.

I’m super excited that it takes up so much less space than a traditional booster seat since fitting 3 kids in the back of a car is a challenge.  We are currently car shopping and trying to figure out all these European cars over here.  There are some larger cars that easily fit 3 car seats across the back seat but some of those cars are huge and the roads around here are so narrow at times.  I really want a car I can park easily and zip around without fear.  Also, bigger cars are more expensive so having a smaller car could save some money.  We hope to travel a lot since we’re across the Atlantic now and having these will make taking the boosters along with us for rental cars and taxis much easier.  We can just fold them up and stick them in the suitcases.  Then we’ll only have one car seat to deal with.

I’m laughing at this post cause it sounds like I’m a commercial for them or that I’m affiliated in some way (which I’m totally not!).  I’ve never seen one in person so I can’t vouch for them.  But I’m hoping they work as well as they say which will be a great help to us in our situation.  The only downside so far is that they won’t be shipping until March so we still have a while to wait.  But since we’ve gone this long without a car and this long with borrowing booster and car seats we can hopefully hold out a bit longer. I’d been holding off on buying booster seats and a car seat until we got a car so I knew they could fit across but with these I’ll just focus on getting a car seat that isn’t too wide.  Oh, I just thought of one more downside and that is the kids will be lower and not able to see out the window as easily.  But they’ll grow and it’s probably safer that way anyway.

We didn’t bring any of our boosters or car seat with us since they have to be EU approved and none of the US ones are.  Well, probably the simple boosters would have worked but they were really wide.  We actually gave them all to Disney when we left (since we flew here straight from Disney World) and they were happy since they said sometimes someone needs a taxi and doesn’t have a seat.  We were glad they found some use since we thought they might otherwise get tossed in a dumpster which would be sad.

Anyway, I just thought I’d post about it in case anyone else is in a similar situation and would find it useful and hadn’t heard of them yet.  Crossing fingers it works as easily and as well as they say.  Here in the UK you have to keep you kids in a booster seat until they are 12 now so I’m sure the kids will appreciate a seat like this more as they get older as well.

This doesn’t apply to us but it mentions carpooling and I can see how having this tucked in your car for when you have an extra child every once in a while would be very helpful.  You wouldn’t have to lug around another seat all the time, taking up space in the back seat or trunk.  It’d be great for grandparents as well for that reason.

Update: March 6, 2017

We’ve been using 2 Mifold seats for about 7 months now?  I forget when we actually got them because we ended up having to wait about a year for them to arrive…which was a bit insane and way past the original date but I guess that is part of buying something from a crowdfunding place where production times can be unpredictable.  Anyway, we were really excited to finally get them.

The pros:

The are tiny and you can easily fit 3 in a row.

They would be nice as a back up for when having extra kids in your car occasionally because they’d be easy to stow away when not in use.

Because of the size they also travel great. We took them to the US with us when we visited family and friends last fall and it was great slipping them in our suitcase without adding a lot of bulk or weight to them.

The cons:

They are not as simple/fast to put on as advertised.

They are really difficult to take off at times.  The two arms on them that extend, lock so that they slide out farther without pressing a button BUT they don’t lock for sliding back in.  It looks like this was done for the convenience of putting them away without having to push a button but we feel it is a major design flaw because as the kids are sitting on seats with the belts on the belts end up pulling the arms all the way in.  Once the arms are pushed in it is really hard for the kids to get the belt out of the hook that is in the arm.  It would work so much better if the arm locked both directions so it would stay the width you need it to.  The button to release the arm is under the seat so it is difficult for the child to pull the button while sitting on it to release the arm again.  We have had many a time when our two kids (ages 6 and 9) were crying out of frustration or refusing to use the seats correctly because they were a pain to use.  We can buckle them and unbuckle them to help but it seems silly to have a seat that makes a 9 year old unable to use himself easily.  It is also difficult to reach the child in the middle over the other children to help them.

Conclusion:

So, I actually just bought 2 cheap foam booster seats off of amazon the other day that don’t have arms (since that is what makes booster seats so wide usually) and the kids are much happier.  We will still keep our Mifold seats to use when travelling or if we have another child join us who needs one.  But for everyday use it just got too frustrating and I worried about their safety since they weren’t always buckling correctly to avoid getting stuck in them.

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Some people asked what the picture from the last post was from.  We got the kids out of the house one Saturday while we were borrowing a car for a couple of weeks.  Ken had heard of an annual event down the road called the Soldiers of Killiecrankie.  It commemorates the Battle of Killiecrankie that happened on July 27, 1689.  It was a nice to do a touristy thing after mostly just working on getting settled in and was a fun way to teach the kids some of the history of where we live now.

The event reminded us a bit of a renaissance fair.  There were battle reenactments, a tour of the battlefield, a living history camp, a jester, and story-teller, etc. It wasn’t very big which was excellent for us with younger children.  It was just enough for us to fill a few hours of the day but not wear us out.

 It lasted for two days and at night they had a ceilidh.  It’s pronounced “cailey” and is a traditional dance where they do different square dances with someone calling out the moves and a band playing along.  We didn’t come back for that but look forward to showing the kids a ceilidh at some point.

On the website it said that everyone pays to get in but when we got there they just charged Ken and I which was nice.  It was all set up in the field and so when it rained a few times we got a bit wet but thankfully it wasn’t too bad and Ken did end up running home to grab our umbrellas that we forgot which helped as well.

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

We started out by watching the soldiers and horses demonstrate a bit of how they fought.  There was also a group that fired a cannon a few times which made all the kids jump.  Poor little William’s eyes got so big each time.

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

We also watched a slap stick show for the kids and then were front and center to see and hear all about how they punished and tortured people.  Thankfully by that time the kids were eating some meat pies and not paying too close attention to what was being explained because it was pretty gruesome.  I definitely thought that if I had been tortured like the ways they described I would have admitted to being a witch in no time.

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

The jester was making balloon swords and giving them out which was nice.  William’s started to deflate mid way through but he handled it ok.  They did end up all picking out some swords and a couple of shields to take home.  Since we sold so many of their toys we had told them that when we got here they could pick out some new ones.  So that was what they wanted.  They sold cheaper, home-made ones but these are made (the wooden ones the big kids are holding in the top picture) really nicely and apparently are a scaled down version of the real thing.  They can totally reenact Braveheart now. William preferred a cheap plastic one with a sheath.

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

They also had a tent where you could be dressed in highland clothing.  At first it was just going to be Ken and Josiah since Audrey got shy and didn’t want to do it and I was wrangling William.  But then we got her to change her mind and then the women doing the dressing said I should as well. We didn’t do William but he is little and showed no interest anyway.

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

William was happy to chew on grass while we got dressed (love those shoes in the background).

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

They also had face painting.

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

I laughed when I saw the archery targets.  This cost extra money to do so we didn’t do it.

Soldiers of KilliecrankieHere are our final looks.

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Soldiers of Killiecrankie

Highland FamilyWe had a great time and would recommend it to others.  I think probably a lot of the people working it are volunteers or at least do things like this as a side job but they were all very nice and did their best to make it a fun time.

 

 

Big News/Why It’s Been So Quiet Around Here

Highland FamilyThis post is long over due! I planned to write it months ago and then even started it a few weeks ago but it got deleted. It seems strange (and it was never my intention) making the announcement after the fact instead of telling you the news in advance, but here it is, we have moved to Scotland! Part of why I put off writing it was because I was waiting for my husband, Ken, to make a Facebook announcement to friends that hadn’t heard yet and part of it was I have been unsure as to what I should even write. There is so much I could say. I could write a small book just in the background of how it all came to be and how it all happened in the last few months. It’s been really hard to get motivated to sit down and figure out how to edit myself down.

But here goes nothing. The story actually starts way back in 2001. After graduating, my college roommate, Beth, and I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland a week after 9/11. I was going there with a 6-month work visa through a company called BUNAC (which looking at the site now, it has grown and changed a bit, and the expenses have increased a lot) and she was going to get her Master’s degree at the University of Edinburgh. It was a really great time and also very hard time. I was there during the darker and colder months and of course there was so much uncertainty in the world after all that had just happened in New York. Scotland was wonderful but trying to find a job with such a short work visa proved to be very difficult. I finally did find a temporary, holiday job at Next, which is a department store here. Ken, and I had just started a relationship and he flew out to see me for my birthday in January. Scotland was imprinted on our hearts.

Fast-forward a bit and Ken found a youth minister job in San Marcos and I later found a teaching job there as well. We were engaged a year after his visit to Scotland and married 3 months after that. We settled in and it became our home.

We loved our town and church home. Our family was far away so our friends became like family. We knew that God had planted us there for a purpose and we dug in for that. We had no plans to move unless we felt God moving us. Scotland was always on our hearts during that time and we wondered if we’d ever be given the opportunity to live and serve here, but we just didn’t know.

We had actually seen a couple of opportunities over the years but none were quite right or worked out. But then toward the end of 2014 Ken saw the job posting for youth pastor in Pitlochry that got him really excited. He sent in his CV but didn’t really expect it to go far since nothing else had. But he eventually did hear back with some interest. I won’t go into the whole hiring process but he flew to Scotland over Valentine’s Day weekend for an interview and was invited to come as youth pastor and he accepted. While there he fell in love with the people and the possibilities and not just the obvious beauty of the area. He had a real peace about whichever way it would end up. He knew that if it worked out that it was meant to be and that if it didn’t, God wasn’t done with us yet in San Marcos.

So, that was in February, and we looked to try to get the process done and move by mid July. I can talk more in-depth about all of that in subsequent posts. Only by God’s continual help were we and the church successful in getting it done on time.

Leaving our friends and church in San Marcos was very difficult; there were lots of tears. I have never liked goodbyes, and having to do it over a 5-month period was very hard. It definitely put my introversion to the test. And at the end I was so exhausted, physically and emotionally, I had a breakdown on the last night and had to skip a goodbye dinner to take a nap. I am so thankful that we live in an age where we can still talk via the internet and phone though. The world has gotten so much smaller.  So none of the goodbyes are forever.

I don’t want this blog to become only about Scotland but it has always been a mixture of my life and nesting/crafting things so hopefully that will continue. I know a lot of people who we’ve left are interested in keeping up with us on here though so don’t be surprised when you see a lot of Scotland posts.

People have asked what will happen with my business now that we’ve moved. And to answer that I have to say, I’m not really sure. I plan on continuing it but I’m just not sure what is going to work best now that I’m across the ocean. Obviously, it is an online business so in theory I can move it anywhere but with the ornaments being time sensitive and most people ordering at the last-minute I don’t know if I could get them out on time. But I have had some people already asking if I’ll be making more. If I can get a printer that will work for printing on the fabric like before then my initial thought is that I’ll make a limited edition of the best-selling ornaments. I usually start cutting and sewing all the ornaments about now in June or July and don’t stop until Christmas. It is fun but also exhausting especially when Fall hits. I don’t want to do that this year. I don’t want all extra time to be taken up by that. I want to be able to enjoy the holidays and my family. Thankfully, I’ll have two of the three kids in school this year so I might be able to get more done during the day instead of only the evening. I also am thinking I’ll start selling my art as digital downloads so people can print them out themselves. That will save me having to worry about printing, shipping, inventory, etc. I still haven’t really figured it all out yet. I closed down my shop a week before moving and just wanted to survive the move and settle in. We finally just got internet in our house after being here almost a month. It has been a painfully slow process. The kids will start school mid August. After that I think we should get in a good groove and I can have time to really figure these things out.

All is going well though and we have been welcomed so wonderfully, more than we could have hoped for! We are so very blessed to be here and get the chance to have this adventure as a family. We look forward to all that is ahead.

I have so many things that I look forward to sharing with you all. But if you have any specific questions or things you’d like to see please ask in the comments and I’ll try to make sure to answer them in upcoming posts.

Oh, and I set up an Instagram account under the name @thenestingspot so you can follow me there as well.

Christmas Card Picture Outtakes

I was planning on posting these last week but the flu made its way through our house and it never happened.  Thankfully, we all survived.  Three of the five of us had it fully although we are thinking that the other two had it a bit because they shared some minor symptoms without the fever.  It was also my birthday on the 29th while I was getting over the flu so that wasn’t very awesome but we made the best of it and I had a pretty sweet day filled with lots of love.  Now that life is getting back to normal I have time to write up a couple posts.

A while back I mentioned that when we took pictures of the kids for our Christmas card, that to make it work to get all three smiling AND standing near each other AND looking at us, we played a game of counting to three and then throwing leaves in the air.  So, we have lots of pictures of them actually in the process of throwing those leaves.  I really love some of those outtakes and promised to share some of them.  (And as a side note, when you start looking at the word outtake a lot it starts looking really weird and foreign.)

First, as a reminder, here is the picture we used for the card.  It is while we were counting to three and there was the anticipation of the throw, so they were all excited.

Christmas card photo

Now here are some of the fun ones.  I love the energy and joy shown in them.

out take

out take

out take

out take

Love, this last one! …the spin, the running, the smiles!  A sweet moment caught on camera.

We usually have to take hundreds of pictures to get one “good one” but there are often quite a few that are favorites even if they don’t make the cut.

 

Holiday Recap

The fall is always the busiest time of year for me so it makes it hard to post much about it while it is happening.  So today I thought I’d share a few photos of some of what we did during October to December.  Sorry it is all pictures of the kids, I am usually taking the photos and am bad about getting myself in them.  The kids are cuter any way.

Halloween Costumes

My plan was to get all three kids standing by their pumpkins in their costumes.   I can’t wait for the day when are all old enough to just smile and take a picture without drama.  Audrey’s costume was partially handmade.  Josiah’s was found on sale at Pottery Barn for $15.  I had planned on making one but after the cost of materials and then the added time of making it, it was a lot easier to just buy it.  Plus it glowed in the dark.  It was bit long so I shortened the legs (took off the bones first and then reapplied them…which ended up being way harder than I anticipated.)  William’s skunk costume was first worn by his brother when he was the same age (found it for a steal on ebay) so it was fun to see another one in it.  I love that little costume.  I’ll try to find a picture of big brother in it.

Group halloween costumes

Here was another attempt at a group shot.

little skunk costume

Family garden

We’ve talked about making a garden for years but because of time/budget/and a constant drought we have put it off.  My son is required to do a big project of his choosing  for school that can be about most anything so we decided to finally try our hand at a garden.  It has taken way longer than I’d hoped with us finally planting some seeds this last week…let’s see if anything can germinate in our now cold weather.  I will be doing a whole post on all we’ve done but just wanted to show a glimpse for now.

Christmas card photo

Here’s the photo we got for our Christmas card this year.  I thought it was going to turn out like the halloween photos because William hates being told he has to stand next to his siblings for a picture.  I have some pretty fun out takes.  It was all looking dark until I told them to grab some leaves and on the count of 3 throw them in the air.  The anticipation of it and now being a game made them all genuinely smile (when Josiah tries to smile for a picture he does like Chandler on Friends and his face looks crazy) and look at us while I was counting.  It was a Christmas miracle that we got a good shot within a few minutes of trying since it was cold and we usually end up having to try 2 separate times.  One day the whole family will all be able to get in a photo and still look at the camera, can’t wait!

The Nutcracker at the Austin Ballet

Oh look, here’s a picture with us adults in it too!  The kids asked about seeing The Nutcracker last year but by the time I looked into tickets all the affordable ones were gone.  So this year as soon as Fall came I grabbed some of the $15 tickets they had in the nosebleed section for the Austin Ballet.  Of course the way the theater is built there aren’t any bad seats.  We could see just fine.  The only real issue was literally all the people around us were really late and the theater becomes completely black once it starts so they were having a terrible time finding seats, walking back and forth tripping on people,  standing in front of us trying to look at their seats and tickets with other people’s phones, and even arguing with us that we were in the wrong seats (they were in the wrong row).  It looked like something out of a sitcom.  But once all those things got fixed we enjoyed the ballet.  The dancers did an amazing job and I’m happy any time we can introduce some culture into our children.

Seeing the Nutracker

This was before it started and we were trying to get them to smile.  They were not in the mood to be photographed so the first 10 shots are of grumpy faces. I don’t remember what we said to convince them to act like they were having fun.  I think part of why they weren’t as excited as I expected them to be was I later learned they thought it was just going to be a movie and didn’t understand they’d be seeing it live.

Santa gifts

The kids showing off some of their loot from Santa.  Audrey wanted a 3 wheel scooter and Josiah wanted it all (a house, phone, diamonds, 4 large lego sets) but was happy with the castle he got.

A ukulele from Santa

Once when Ken pulled out his guitar William went crazy for it so I knew he’d love having his own little version.  He calls his little ukelele “blue song”.  He LOVES all things music and sings, dances, beat boxes, drums, etc all day so it has been fun for him to have this to use as he sings and dances.

Christmas morning

There were lots of other things that happened that aren’t pictured.  We had lots of family come and stay with us in September, October, and November but we aren’t good at taking pictures while hanging out with people and some of the ones we emailed from family are too small to post on here.  We really enjoyed that time but it also allowed us to appreciate the mellow Christmas and New Years we had with just us since we were really tired by the time December came along.  For the first time maybe ever we were able to just stay home and enjoy rest and each other while Ken had off work for a week.  It also allowed us to slow down and reflect more on the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

Looking at all the out takes of the Christmas card photos made me laugh so I’m gonna show a few of those in another post.  It’s a shame to never show any of the other ones that don’t get chosen.  They’re the ones with the most personality.

I’ll also be sharing more about our garden as well in the future.

How about you?  Are you able to get all your kids to look at the camera and make a natural smile?  Are you good at taking pictures of yourself with the kids?  

 

Baa Baa Black Sheep

little lamb

Over Labor Day weekend I spent the evenings sewing two stuffed animals for two different babies.

The first one was for a sweet little girl that was born a few weeks ago.  She is the first girl in a household full of boys.  I had seen the free pattern for a little sheep recently by Abby Glassenberg for Sew Mama Sew and had pinned it on Pinterest to remember it for later.  (I have a bunch of great free patterns for stuffed animals pinned on there!)  I figured this could be a great time to try out the pattern.  It looked like a simple pattern that wouldn’t take too long but is also super adorable.

little lamb

I really enjoyed making this little lamb.  It was fun picking out the fabric and really making her my own.  The one that Abby made has embroidered eyes, nose, and mouth but I really wanted to use safety eyes.  And I just embroidered a little nose.  That is one of the great reasons to sew, you can customize things just the way you want them.  I also tied a ribbon around her neck to add some color.  I added a bell on the ribbon too which looks cute and is fun to hear ring but I told the mom that if she doesn’t want to hear it or worries that the ribbon is a choking hazard she can always just take it off and save it for when her daughter is older.

little lamb

little lamb sewing pattern lamb face

I hope the little one who received it will have fun playing and snuggling with her.

reading to little lamb reading to little lamb

little lamb

If you have never sewn an animal before this would be a great one to try.  It’s free,  so if you just completely fail (which I don’t imagine you would) you aren’t out money on the pattern.  There are good step by step instructions and photos which help you along the way.

Abby makes gorgeous patterns and in fact the other animal I made is one of  hers as well from her book Stuffed Animals.  I’ll show you that one next week.

And while we are talking about her patterns.  She just made one for Wild Olive.  It’s a free pattern for a flying squirrel and it is the cutest thing I’ve seen in a while!  I definitely have to find a reason to make one soon.

 

And So It Begins

insides of elephant ornaments

Well, it’s that time of year again.  No, not back to school or the winding down of summer, it’s time to be making Christmas ornaments.  If I don’t start making them at least by mid summer there’s no way I can make them all in time so that they are ready for the rush once October and November hit.  With more homework now that my oldest is a big first grader (WHAT?!)  and with the birthdays of my youngest turning 2 at the end of this month and my oldest turning 7 in November, and with making Halloween costumes ahead of time so they can be shared on line in time, and Thanksgiving, and tons of family coming over to stay with us over the next few months, well, I just have to pretend it isn’t 100 degrees outside right now and get into the Christmas spirit.

One thing in my favor is that I am finally not pregnant, nursing, or dealing with the sleep issues of a newborn so I have high hopes that everything will get done earlier than ever this year.  I’ve gotten in a good pace these last couple weeks so I just need to keep it up so I can enjoy myself during the holidays instead of being holed up sewing.

This year I am introducing some new animals to my collection.  They are a whale, bear, dove, and sheep.  Plus my ever popular elephant and rabbit will of course be available.  I still have some of my classic shaped ones, octopi, and moons available as well.  My hope is to get them made and photographed to be listed this month.  There are some very organized people in the world who already started contacting me about ornaments back in July.  Wish I could be that on top of things.

I hope you all had a relaxing summer.  I loved not having the structure that comes with school.  We could keep the kids up a bit later if we wanted to go do something fun and not worry about waking up the next morning to be somewhere.  There were also no lunches that had to be made ahead of time and I didn’t have to wake the little kids up from nap to pick up brother from school.   It is nice having the house a bit quieter now that there is one less child in the house during the day though.

We did a bit of traveling this summer.  My husband is a youth and college minister at a church and so summer is his busiest time.  He is usually gone a good bit of it with going to camp and multiple mission trips and retreats etc.  This year though the camp had extra space and so the kids and I tagged along and stayed in a separate motel like room.  It was a bit hard at times trying to keep them happy with us all in one room.  And I didn’t want them to change the experience for the youth but we got in a groove and had a fun time.  I also got to go on a trip to West Virginia with the high schoolers which is my first trip away from the kids since my oldest was 8 months old.  We drove through Mississippi so we could leave the kids with my parents and then kept on going to West Virginia.  It is such a beautiful place.  Everyone was so friendly.  It is always so interesting to travel to different places and see how people are so similar but also so different.  And to also see if stereotypes are close to reality.  We helped one church paint their old sanctuary (with super high ceilings) that has now become a youth room.  They had told the youth 7 years ago that they’d paint those old paneled walls but haven’t had the chance to do it, so it was nice refreshing that space for them.  We also helped a tiny church in an old coal camp do a little backyard bible club for some neighborhood kids.  It was all a lot of fun and hard work.   I’ve missed getting to go on these things.  The kids had a great time too and got to see all their grandparents at some point which was nice.

So, we survived all that and now are settling into our new schedule of being in school.  And it’s to the grindstone I go with all these little ornaments.  I also just sewed two stuffed animals as baby gifts that I’ll be sharing here soon.  I already gave one away and next week will give away the other.  I was on top of things and actually got photos taken of them this time before I give them away.

*The picture at the top is a look at the inside of my little elephant ornaments.  It’s a view not usually seen by most.

 

So, did you have any adventures this summer?  Are you glad to be back in the school routine or hating it?  Have you done anything creative lately?  I’d love to hear!