Sunday, April 24, 2011

Keukenhof - Tulips in the Netherlands

One of my "must see while in Europe"  was to see the tulips in the Netherlands.  Allen and Kyra did not consider it a "must see" but were compelled to come anyways.  I don't think Kyra had a strong objection but Allen was less than thrilled.

The Keukenhof gardens are a three hour drive from our home.   This means we spent 6 hours driving to spend just under two hours in the gardens.  Without kids and crazy crowds I could see spending about three hours at Keukenhof.

As we drove in we passed by the commercial fields.  See all the bands of color?  There is field after field of tulips, hyacinths and daffodils growing in rows.

The gardens themselves are landscaped with mixtures of various bulbs planted in swirls and arcs.  There are fountains, bridges, and swans.  Photo ops abound.  Every background is lovely.

Tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils of every variety can be found throughout the garden.  If you have a favorite, you'll find it there.  Kyra and I were partial to the yellow and red tulips of differing varieties.

As you might imagine the Keukenhof gardens are popular.  People come from all over and often by the bus load.  The gardens aren't exactly peaceful but with patience you can find a good spot for a photo and there is always someone at hand to help with a family photo.  (you may see this one again on our Christmas card)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

European Vacation - Optional Elements

 We established yesterday that a European vacation will include visits to at least one castle and one cathedral/really big church.

As I consider it, there are three optional elements.  The first would be ancient ruins (usually Roman).  On the island of Mallorca they are currently excavating an ancient Roman city.  They have uncovered a few larger homes, a forum and an amphitheater (my current facebook profile photo).

Throughout Mallorca's history, they changed hands quite frequently, so not only are there Roman ruins but also Arabic ones.  We visited an Arabic bath house and gardens as well.  This bath house dates back to the 11th century.
Bath house 

The second optional element of a European vacation is an art museum.  Mallorca does have one.  We did not visit it.  (If one hopes to enjoy an art museum from time to time, one must not subject one's teens to every art museum in Europe.)

Optional element three is a historical rich person's house aka a mansion or manor.  Mallorca did have a rather nice one called La Granja.  The building and grounds date back to the 10th century and at one time it was a monastery.

La Granja not only had the typical displays of old furniture and pretty grounds but also demonstrated some of the working elements of local food and cloth production.   There was a yarn dying workshop, looms, olive and grape presses.

A strong stream runs through the grounds of La Granja.  This water powers a few water wheels which in turn power some of the equipment used in cloth and food production.   Kyra really liked the waterfall and took numerous photographs of it. (I'm very grateful for digital photography - she would eat up a lot of film).  I am invariably drawn to the arcaded terraces.  Thus I picked this photo instead of one of the waterfall ones.

If you come to visit we are prepared to show you a castle, a cathedral/really big church, a manor, and an art museum.  As for ancient ruins, we don't have anything local but we could suggest some in France, England, Italy and Spain.

Monday, April 18, 2011

European Vacation - Required Elements

 Allen and Kyra have come to accept that no matter where we vacation there will be two things they always do on a vacation.

1.  We will visit a castle.
2.  We will visit a cathedral/really big church.

It is inescapable.  As loving parents we do give them a break though.  Usually we only visit the biggest castle and the most renown cathedral.  After a while all the stained glass begins to blur and  so much historical furniture one can look at.

Mallorca's castle was an interesting short visit.  The castle was circular in shape.  Thus the courtyard was circular.  I found it quite pretty.  From the top of the castle we had some lovely views of the capital city of Palma and the Mediterranean Sea.

Options for cathedral/church visits abound.  We visited the cathedral called La Seu. It was built over almost a four hundred year period beginning in the early 1200s and finished in the 1600s.

It was surprising to encounter such a large cathedral on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.  We couldn't imagine that there was such a significant population on the island of Mallorca to support such a massive building.  And yet there it was and as cathedrals are a required element, we visited it.

Tomorrow - optional elements of a European vacation...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Miss Buffa's

Recitals are a major production.  There are multiple classes, types of dances and ages to mix into a performance of reasonable (ish) length.

Schedules for rehearsals need to be worked out.  Decisions must be made about make-up, hair, costumes, the color of tights and various accessories.  Space and time have to be set aside for rehearsal and performances.  There are many many moving pieces.

By the time we left the US, I had the Buffa's Dance Studio recital mostly figured out.  I had all the necessary equipment - brush, gel, hairnet, bobby pins, hair pins and all important safety pins.  I knew which brand and color of tights to buy.  Kyra was in the right place at the right time with the right stuff.

Now we are a bit of a mess.  We have to learn the recital routines of two studios - in French.  To add to that neither studio is helping us out with clear communication.  At the beginning of recital season Buffa's would mail out the recital packet - about 8 pages of color coded information - everything a mom would need to know to successfully navigate the craziness.  These studios provide us with a sheet of paper with some information on it every now and again.  Some information is announced orally in class in French behind closed doors (Kyra doesn't speak French).

I'll have Kyra in the right place at the right time.  She'll have a costume (rented - much cheaper - I like that).  She will know her dance and be able to perform it.  After that all bets are off - her bun might not be at the right height, her make-up will probably be different and tights and shoes who knows?

Kyra and I will both be glad when this is over.  It stresses us out to just see how things go but without information we can't prepare so things will be as they will be.  No matter what Kyra will dance beautifully and her mom will be proud.

Monday, April 11, 2011


 First he ran in the JV hurdles.  Don't know why - that's how the race officials classified him.  The hurdles were lower and closer together.  He won the race no problem.

Then the officials and/or coaches realized that Allen isn't JV.  So he got to run again, against bigger guys, over higher hurdles, spread further apart.

In between races, he ran up and down the field to check in, and get in place in time - no rest.

He barely was at the start before the gun went off for the varsity hurdles.  Nonetheless, he shaved a second off of his best time.  At 18.1 he has to shave off less than a second to qualify for Europeans.  Qualifying time is 17.3

We'll keep you posted on his progress

Saturday, April 9, 2011

National Junior Honor Society

Earlier this week, Kyra was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society.

Everyone dressed up for the ceremony.  There was a speaker, candle lighting, recitation of a pledge and of course parents with clicking cameras.

Of course her parents are proud.  She earned a qualifying grade point average.  She completed a lengthy essay application.  In her interview she was poised and was able to demonstrate she is a leader, that she serves her community and has admirable character.

We wonder however if she would have qualified if they witnessed Kyra doing math homework....