Before Five in a Row: If Jesus Came to My House

We started this story when we were at my Mom’s for the holidays.  I thought we’d do a lot more school while we were visiting but alas, we only managed to squeeze in one day.  We finally got around to finishing the book about a month later — it took us a long time to recover from jet lag and Christmas.

This was a very sweet story with a beautiful message… We can show our love for Jesus by serving others and treating them with love and kindness.


We began by learning about the Golden Rule.  We made watercolor hearts.  They loved watching how the watercolors spread on the paper.  I even let them use my fancy Japanese watercolors which made it that much more exciting.  I didn’t get a picture of the final product, but we cut them into heart shapes and wrote the golden rule on it.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12

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We talked about the power of music and how it can make you feel certain emotions. We listened and danced to classical music selections from Play Kids Music and they explained how it made them feel and why.  They were definitely partial to the fast, loud, and exciting pieces.  We also discovered how music can make unpleasant tasks a lot more fun…  so we blasted music and tidied up the house.


So do not fear, for I am with you

Isaiah 41:10

In the story the little boy is frightened by the shadows on his wall at night.  We discussed different kinds of fears we all face in life. Apparently Benjamin has no fear, but Clara stated she is afraid when she is outside in the dark without her mom or dad.  We read Isaiah 41:10 and reviewed that we shouldn’t be afraid because Jesus is always with us.

“Although I cannot see him, I still can feel him near to understand and hold my hand and drive away my fear.”

Since the boy in the story mentions shadows, we had lots of fun reading about how shadows are made.

We did a shadow puppet show.



We traced, raced, and chased our shadows at the park…




We watched our shadows swing.


We combined teatime this week for The Snowy Day and If Jesus Came to My House. Benjamin decided we should serve snowball cookies, so we got baking.  I have to say this Tupperware chopper was amazing for chopping all of those pecans!


rolling “snowballs”


We looked for all of the ways in the story the little boy shows hospitality to Jesus and decided to invite some special visitors for teatime.

We greeted them at the door and invited them in…


welcomed them to our table…


and offered them something to eat…


The kids did all of the decorating for teatime today.  I loved the snowflakes as coasters.  We enjoyed the snowball cookies and root beer and of course began teatime with My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson.


“And with my bricks I’d build for him a palace of his own, and he would be the little king and sit upon the throne”.

We made palaces for our guests.


This one looked a bit more like a prison cell!

I was glad I went ahead and finished this story.  I wanted to make it more service centered, but living in a foreign country makes it difficult to find opportunities.  I also wanted them to find toys to donate, but since it ends up sitting on our train table it didn’t seem too effective in getting the point across.  Hopefully we can do more service projects after we move.

Prayer for a Child

We had a lighter week this week as we were getting ready to go home for Thanksgiving and had much to do.  Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field was the perfect book — a lovely illustrated prayer of rhyming couplets.

We talked a lot this week about what it means to be content — to be happy with what we have instead of always wanting more.  I thought this lesson went totally lost as both of their Christmas lists continued to grow, but it as it turns out, they are quick to point out when I  am not satisfied with what I have.   Now I am constantly reminded about being content when I want to buy new pens.  And truth be told, I am beginning to accumulate an astonishing number of pens.  Alas, I suppose we’re all hypocrites at heart!

We made praying hands to think of things in our own lives for which we could pray and be grateful.  Clara loved hers so much and had me read it to her many times throughout the week.  She even packed it in her suitcase for our trip back to the states.


I was glad to see  “better attitude” on Benjamin’s.  And cactus juice??? Where did that come from?


We learned the song Jesus Loves the Little Children and watched it on YouTube.  I loved hearing their voices caroling throughout the house all week.


We read Children Just Like Me.  A story that spotlights the lives of children all over the world.  Although we discovered many differences —  types of shelter, languages, clothing, and traditions — we also found many similarities.  We learned that kids all over the world go to school and like to play with toys.  In countries where toys are scarce, the kids create their own.  We invented our own toys just like the kids in the book.  Benjamin made a sword out of a stick and his praying hands, and together, we made a ball out of old grocery bags.  We had fun playing games of tennis and soccer with our ball.


In the story the girl spends some time gazing at the stars.  We read a few books on stars and learned about the big dipper.  We worked on making pinhole constellations.  We never had time to stargaze through a flashlight as intended, but they enjoyed poking holes in the paper anyway and I was happy because it was great for fine motor skills!


And then Benny decided to make the Big Dipper with his bread.


The prayer begins with ‘bless this milk and bless this bread.’  We watched a little video about dairy farming and wheat harvesting.  We also read Little Red Hen.  I didn’t even need to talk about the moral of story because that spoke for itself.   We baked some bread to practice being cheerful helpers.

Benny measured the flour while Clara made a tally mark for each cup.


We learned how to knead the dough.  Clara tired quickly, so Benjamin did most of the kneading.  Clara got to grease the bowl for the dough.



Ready to watch it rise!


They loved working with the dough so much that they continued to “bake bread” with the play-doh.


They loved checking in on the dough and watching it rise.  Purely magical!


The finished product was excellent! We enjoyed the fruits of our labor all week!



I love this sweet little face!

We had a special teatime for Thanksgiving this week and Dad could even join us because it fell on a Sunday!  We slurped hot apple cider, licked the frosting off of pumpkin spice cupcakes, and read stories about Thanksgiving.


Our Thanksgiving tree is complete!  Though I regret not recording what they had said each day, I love how it turned out in the end!  One of my favorites from Benjamin was “turkeys in all of the land”.  I hope to make this a family tradition and will look forward to it every year.


That pretty much sums up the week!  Now we are looking forward to a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving and holiday season with family in Utah and California.

Blueberries For Sal

Blueberries for Sal, a beautifully illustrated 1948 classic by Robert McCloskey was up this week.

Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! Sal and her mother go a picking blueberries to can for the winter. But when Sal wanders to the other side of Blueberry Hill, she discovers a mama bear preparing for her own long winter.  Meanwhile Sal’s mother is being followed by a small bear with a big appetite for berries.  –Amazon

The first day we studied the illustrations to find similarities and differences in how we live today.  We also read Then and Now from Usborne.  It’s a book comparing past and present ways of life. Lots to discuss in this one — both kids loved this story and wanted to read it several times.  Now I frequently overhear them talking about the “olden days”.


We did a blueberry picking race around the house and then sorted and counted by two’s.  We loved dropping different objects in the pail to see which would go kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.

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Benny and I worked on some math while Clara transferred pompoms with tweezers.

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We made smashing cotton “blueberries” — an idea I got from Fabulously Frugal.  It consisted of equal parts flour and water, some food coloring, and cotton balls.  We dipped the cotton in the mixture and baked it.  You’re supposed to be able to smash them with a hammer, but I don’t think we baked them quite long enough.  They were a tad too squishy to smash.  Photo Nov 07, 6 14 46 AMPhoto Nov 07, 6 15 06 AM We still enjoyed counting, stacking, and listening to them go kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk when they hit the bottom of the tin pail.

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Every now and then I like to surprise the kids with a themed meal.  It never fails to get a chuckle out of them.

IMG_7971We played find the hidden bear where I would give them clues about a number and they had to guess the correct cave.  They loved this game!

Photo Nov 10, 1 17 56 AMWe worked on a directional book.

Photo Nov 10, 2 22 08 AMWe created our own blueberry hill with oil pastels.

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Clara and I baked blueberry muffins for teatime.

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For poetry teatime we served up blueberry muffins, blueberries and cream, and blueberry juice.

Photo Nov 11, 6 29 12 AMWe had  a lot of fun with this story.  Clara’s favorite part is when little Sal and little bear followed the wrong mom.  Benjamin’s favorite part was when little Sal got tired and sat down in the bush to eat berries.

Other things we worked on this week:

We practiced blending words together and beginning sounds.   Ziggy came out for this one.  They go wild whenever Ziggy makes an appearance.

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Benny learned the phonogram “d”.

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For math we did counting games with the number mats.  We did exercises, built towers, and, sorted toys.

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We tried to think of all the possible ways in which we could sort socks.  We discovered we could sort by family member, boy/girl, colors, size, and tall/short.

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I made a fall themed sensory box with rice, colored pasta, pumpkin pie spice, and apparently just about every kitchen utensil we own.  I’m working hard to get over my fear of messes!

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I also made little ribbon rings for Clara.  She had fun dancing around with these for a while.

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We crafted our thankful tree for November.  Clara helped me paint the tree and get the leaves ready.  Each day we will name something we are thankful for and add a leaf to the tree.


No glitter left behind in this house!


The finished product!  I’m not very artistic, but was quite happy with it in the end!





Fall Fun

It was far too beautiful a day to stay inside and do school so we went to Lago di Barcis for a picnic and a nature study.  We tried to find a place to eat, but this guy wouldn’t leave us alone.  He followed us everywhere!  He would stand there looking around for us and then he’d come flying on over.


We couldn’t find safe place to eat, so we picnicked in the trunk.  They probably enjoyed this more!IMG_7842IMG_7844

Even after we finished eating and started our hike around the lake, he continued to swim along side us for half of the length of the lake. In the end, we grew quite affectionate toward him until he glided upon some fellow ducks and decided they were better company.


We stopped to throw rocks in the water.

Love his backwards shorts!


Benjamin is looking so grown up.  This is the “cool bridge”.


We hiked around the entire lake.  It turned out to be a much longer walk than I had anticipated. I don’t know why I thought it would be a quick walk…this is the only bridge and it’s on the very edge of the lake!

We found the coolest mushrooms I’ve ever seen.  We loved studying them.


This was our favorite!


The view of Barcis from the other side of the lake.

These two were so cuddly today 


The base had an event for Fire Prevention week.  They offered grilled burgers and lots of fun for the kids.  It made for a great day!

We got to watch them put out a fire in a burning car.


They had an obstacle course for the kids. Her favorite part of the day was spraying the fire hose on the burning fire.  It was really cute.

The cutest firemen ever!


You can see Clara spraying the hose on the left

We got to check out the fire engines. Ben is still obsessed with big trucks.  They also had a smoking trailer for the kids.  It was smoky inside and they had to find their way to the balcony and climb the ladder down.  I guess I failed to get pictures.   We had to drag Benjamin out of there.


We also made it to our first Boy Scout activity this weekend.  It was the Fall Boy Scout campout.  It was a great little campsite at a large park just about 30 minutes from our home.  The boys went crazy on the playground and thoroughly investigated the forest.

They had a three-legged race to find rocks…

This was hilarious to watch!


Walked a tight rope…


And learned to start fires…  He had SO much fun with all of those boys.  And the great thing is that most of them are also involved with the homeschool group, so he will be able to get to know them pretty well.  IMG_7905IMG_7904

The best part was that I got to  home alone and Derek, Benjamin, and Clara stayed up in the tent overnight.  It was quite glorious to have the evening to myself though I didn’t sleep anyway because I was worried about the kids being too cold. Oh well…suppose I’m quite used to being “nocturnal” as Benjamin would say.

Clara flipped over the sleeping bag and tent!

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

This year we are starting a program called Before Five in a Row.  It is literature based and has you “row” or read the story five days in a row completing an activity for a different subject each day.   I purchased this program a few years ago and am so excited to finally get started with it.  I chose “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”  by Michael Rosen for our first row.

We made maps and binoculars so that we would be ready for our own bear hunt.

Photo Aug 16, 3 50 53 PM Clara’s Koala Crate this month had a camping theme so we built a tent for camping, a campfire, and made a delicious “smores” snack to eat around the campfire before we reenacted the story throughout the house. I had also made a cave for the bear, but forgot to get a picture.  We must have gone on at least 20  bear hunts this day.

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We had fun reading the story while hanging out in our tent.

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We did some yoga through Cosmic Kids on YouTube where she narrates the storyline and takes them through a yoga routine.  They had a lot of fun with this and did it several times throughout the week.  We also watched the author’s read aloud of the story on YouTube.  They love this so much and still ask to watch it on occasion.


We took a hike through the woods to gather everything we’d need for a Lego bear hunt. Benny was in charge of scooping up dirt to make thick, oozy mud.  We would’ve liked to  hike longer, but Clara and I had gotten almost 40 mosquito bites within about 20 minutes — it was pure torture.  The itchiness almost brought me to tears.

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They had a blast reenacting the story with Legos. This kept them busy for a couple hours.

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Later in the week, we drove up to Dobbiaco (about 2 hours up the Dolomites) and happened upon a delightful park — it had everything we needed to do a bear hunt (aside from the snowstorm of course)!

Long, wavy grass…

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A deep, cold river…


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Part of the kniepps course at the park – Benny loved dunking his face

Thick, oozy mud…

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And a tall, dark forest…

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The kids had so much fun playing with this dam feature.  The top of the hill had a water pump and they could stop the water in various places.  Benny could’ve worked all day on this.

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Benny has quite a knack for finding caterpillars.  He finds them everywhere and I’m always stunned to see how small and camouflage they can be.

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Can you even spot this one???


We loved our first “row”!  Can’t wait for what’s ahead!

Soaring into a great year!

We got started on our first official day of school!  We sailed away in a hot air balloon and imagined all of the different places we can go this year.  We had fun flying around the world via google earth and made a tasty snack.



We made our own hot air balloons and reenacted Hot Air:  The (Mostly) True Story of the First Hot Air Balloon Ride by Marjorie Priceman.  They both think this book is hilarious.  Much of it is wordless and I loved hearing them put words of their own to the illustrations.


Benny should be starting kindergarten this year.  He has been in Italian school for the last two years and was supposed to start first grade in Italy.  I admit I am relieved to not have to worry about translating everything that comes home and always being in the dark when it comes to information.  I loved his little (blue) preschool, but didn’t feel first grade would be worth the effort.

We did a retake on this one.  Haha!


Slightly more natural (maybe)…


Clara barely turned 4 and I feel bad she went to school last year – I’m just not a believer in early childhood education.  I can’t count the days I had to force her into her class screaming.  I never felt good about it and couldn’t bear another year of it.  20170905-DSC01749



A Getaway to Naturno – The Sunny Side of the Alps

One thing I’ve discovered all over the Alpine Mountain is a collection of hotels called Kinderhotels; hotels specifically devoted to families traveling with children.  Everything in these hotels caters to the little ones — kids clubs, large playgrounds, and a weekly entertainment schedule.  Derek had a last minute work trip and so it was just the kids and me.  We stayed at the Familien Wellness Resort – otherwise known as the “blue water slide”.

What a wonderful week it was!  I started most days with a good hike around endless winding  trails while Benny and Clara played games with King Pipo in the kids club.


Some views from the hiking trail. Of course I couldn’t begin any physical exertion without enjoying a cappuccino (alone!).

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The hotel had the most amazing playground!

A mini ropes course
a castle


A “jumpy place”
a race track with many different tricycles


The sandpit was wonderful. It had a digger truck, a conveyer belt, and a water pump!  A total dream for Benny.


a beloved digger

They even offered some indoor fun.  We played some mean games of dodge ball in this little castle room every night.  I, of course, was the bad guy.


One morning I was feeling guilty for putting them in the kids club and thought they’d enjoy taking the cable car to the top of the mountain to do some short hikes (everyone told me it would be no problem for kids).  It ended up being a big mistake.  They were fine until we walked about 20 feet — just to the restaurant! We didn’t even get the hike started.  At least the playground (and the beautiful views) helped to salvage experience.  20160726-_DSC266820160726-_DSC267320160726-_DSC2679

Love the garden decorations.


Luckily there was a place to eat at the top.


I wanted to hike to this platform, but alas…


We passed this cute shop on the way home.  I wondered why my flowers never look like that.


Every afternoon we spent the time swimming and relaxing in the swings. The blue water slide!  I can’t count the times Benny  climbed the stairs to go down this thing.  I went down with Clara once and we had both had enough.


A basket we found in the city!

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There was a wonderful, shady park a short walk from the hotel.  We spent a lot of time here too — climbing up the hill and sliding back down…

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And digging in the dirt and making dams…

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I had this turkey salad almost every day for lunch after hiking.  I’m still shocked I found a  turkey salad to be so delicious and looked forward to it every day.  It’s so hard to find anything but heavy food where we live — and poultry is a rarity.

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I’m so happy when poultry is on the menu, but decided to take a risk on the steak one evening.  I was so glad that I did! One of the best steak salads I’ve ever had! A variety of sauces included made it especially glorious.  I get nervous when ordering beef in Italy because they tend to serve it pretty bloody.  Maybe I was just having a protein deficiency that week.

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When I couldn’t get the salad,  I tried something new — some kind of buckwheat dumpling.  It is a popular local specialty.  It was good, but didn’t compare to the turkey salad.

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One evening we were lucky enough to stumble upon a festival.  We danced in the street and sampled local pastries.

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This pastry is called Kirchtagskrapfen… it was kind of like a crisp puffed pastry with a  chocolate filling.  We all gave it a thumbs up.

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We tried out some miniature golf.  It wasn’t the fanciest course, but the we still had a great time.  We must have been the fastest golfers ever with the way Benny golfs.  He hit the ball it once and then placed it in the hole!

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I thought it would be fun to try out the hotels’s Bringo.  A poor decision on my part, it was much more difficult than I had remembered.  I did ok when the ground was completely flat, but any amount of incline made me hyper aware of how I have indulged in Italian cuisine for the past 7 months.  I tried so hard to get up this hill, but just couldn’t do it.  Then I found myself trying to push the Bringo into the (busy) intersection while relying on Benny’s  steering skills.  Embarrassing! It felt as if the whole world was watching this display.

This was the hill I died on…

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This is the Bringo…

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And this is proof that the kids still loved every minute…

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It was much needed getaway and the alps continue to be one of my most favorite places in the world. With delightful villages, delicious food,  an abundance of walking trails, and breathtaking views it truly is hard to beat. And to top it all off, there is really no fear of wildlife!  Dolomites…until next year…


Spain: Malaga

Last stop… Malaga! We were pleasantly surprised by Malaga.  Because we were flying out of Malaga (the busiest airport int he Costa Del Sol), we added a couple days to the itinerary to explore the city.  We were disappointed to learn Rick Steven doesn’t recommend Malaga and barely mentions it in his guide book – we even considered changing plans at the last minute, but found it to be too big of a hassle.

I don’t understand what Rick Steves doesn’t like about it — tons of history,  sightseeing, and one of the best pedestrian areas I’ve ever seen.  And I LOVE pedestrian zones.


These two are becoming quite the troopers.  It was a bit of a walk from the cab to the hotel as the hotel was located in the heart of the pedestrian zone.  Though we must have walked right by it at least five times – Google maps was not cooperating and the hotel didn’t have any signs.


Waiting patiently for Google Maps to produce

This was the view from my room — overlooking city’s main plaza which provided great entertainment while Clara was sleeping.  20160416-DSC01394

Ready to explore!

We visited Alcazaba and the Roman Theater barely discovered in 1951.



We meandered the grounds of the Alcazaba – an 11th century Arabic fortress.


Benny was getting a little too close for comfort.  It was a looong way down!


Maybe one day Derek think about photobombs before he snaps the picture. Haha!


Poor Derek twisted his ankle pretty badly on the stones in the ground, so a “horsey ride” was a welcome idea.  Clara was in heaven.


From the carriage ride we took a ride on the giant ferris wheel.  The kids loved it! And we had great views of the city from the top.



 Can’t do anything without a little wrestling!
Malaga’s Bullring


Yum… we found the Golden Arches! It was the most the kids ate in one sitting the entire trip!  Derek and I passed and opted for the largest cappuccino ever made.  You can’t tell from the picture, but the mug was at least the size of a large cereal bowl.



A playground + beer service = fun for all!   We logged a lot of time parked at this table. 20160416-DSC01396


admiring the princesses

I always enjoy fun artwork and painted murals throughout the streets.



It is not a myth that Spaniards are night owls! The commotion on the streets woke me up numerous times.  This video was taken at about 12:30 AM.  Tons of people wandering around…

…so it’s no wonder the streets look like this around 10:30 in the morning.


I’ll never forget this Mickey.  I watched many entertaining Mickey encounters from the balcony of our hotel after Clara had gone to bed.


Love these two.  And I love this picture of them!


Whew!  Our trip to Spain is complete!  It only took me a year, but I got through it!  It still feels weird to fly into Venice as our home airport.



Gibraltar was about an hour away from our hotel in Marbella so we hopped on the bus and headed out there for the day.  Though it’s located at the very tip of Spain, it is actually British territory.



The Rock of Gibraltar, a limestone ridge jutting straight out of the sea, is the main landmark of Gibraltar.  We were able to see Africa from the top.


Much of the top of the rock is a nature preserve which is home to the apes Barbary macaques.  They were a little scary, but so fun to watch.  Now the kids know what I’m talking about when I lecture them about “monkeying around”!


These two got a little closer to the ape than I would like to be and he just happened to leave a surprise for them!  Benny thought this was so hilarious!


This big guy was barely INCHES from crashing into me!  He came leaping through a window right as I was walking past.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt me heart beat so quickly!!! Terrifying!


We got to witness some of them getting into trouble.  The gift shop had left a box of merchandise unattended…it didn’t take long before the “monkey business” began.  The employees did not look happy.

There must be something tasty in here!
The aftermath

Of course we couldn’t leave the top of the rock without taking a monkey with us.


The main streets were quite bustling and had great shopping.  It was so refreshing to speak english without feeling guilty!

Now THIS is what I call fish n’ chips!


…and the freshest chicken nuggets I’ve ever seen!


It was quite a delightful day and I would definitely like to go back some day to explore more of the city and nature preserves.


Spain: Puerto Banus

Well…It’s been almost a year since we returned from Spain and I still have yet to finish the  posts! Oh well, I just about quit the blog altogether, but figured I’ll be happy someday if I keep it up.  So here is an abbreviated version of the last few stops.

We took the catamaran to the ritzy town of Puerto Banus just down the coast from Marbella.  It is full of fancy yachts and high-end shopping.


They were a little uneasy about sitting on the net for a while, but quickly took a liking to it.


We found a cool little bar right on the water shaped like a pirate boat.  The kids loved the kingsize furniture.


And we loved the kingsize drinks.  This was amazing!!


The freshest orange juice ever!


We didn’t stay in the town very long as it was mostly high-end  shopping.  The sun finally decided to shine and the boat ride back was wonderful. The kids loved discovering that fish like to eat Pringles.


There’s always time for a little roughhousing.

And relaxing…


Benny is ready to be captain.


Yikes! I had never realized that Clara’s dress had gotten so short on her.


Down we go!


Whew! Good recovery!


Back on land, this is what happens when anyone has to potty.  Bathrooms are impossible to find unless you are a customer.