In which we go on an airplane trip! (Ellie’s first. Evie, of course, is a veteran traveler).

It was only a about a 75 minute flight to Kalispell, MT, but SEATAC is a busy airport in the morning, and we had to fight Seattle-bound morning traffic on the way to the airport. This meant early rising and being at the airport early and lots of excitement and missed naps.

Ellie approves of the trunk space.

The upshot being that we had two very tired baby girls who were passed out before we left the airport parking lot in Kalispell.

Arriving on Friday afternoon we didn’t really do a whole lot except buy groceries and get checked into our air BNB. Actually, I suppose we didn’t really get checked in because there was no one to check us in. We just, I don’t know, walked in.

Mommy and Ellie doing some coloring in our room.

After getting our clothes and food put away, we headed out to walk around the town. After being stuck in a carseat/airplane all day, our girls had some serious sillies they needed to shake out.

The town of Whitefish is very small, but has a fairly large grassy park that the girls could run around in with trees that they could climb. Or rather, a tree that Daddy could climb, and the girls could wish they could climb. Our rule is if you can’t climb it yourself, you can’t climb it at all.

And they had trains to watch!

It’s a touristy, artsy little town, well worth walking around in, but overall geared towards taking your money.

Although this bike is brilliant!

On Saturday we headed out for Glacier National Park. On the way we saw our first real wildlife of the trip…

Yes, that is a silver fox with a squirrel or ground hog in its mouth.

It rapidly became apparent that there were going to be some constraints on our trip. For one thing…

The park is HUGE! It covers millions of acres and crosses the border into Canada, and is home to five distinct climate and wildlife zones (Pacific Northwest, Alpine, Boreal forest, Grassland prairie and Rocky Mountain).

“Whoa, Mommy, that’s a big map!”

The park crosses the border, but the Canadian side of the park was on fire, (hence the hazy, smoky look to some of the pictures). We thought about going to Canada anyway, but there is only one road that crosses the park, known as “Going-to-the-sun Road,” and it was still blocked with snow from the winter. To get to the east side of the park, and from there to the Canadian side, we would have had to drive two hours around the south edge of the park. With two little people in car seats, that did not seem appealing. So we settled for exploring just the tiny little southwestern corner around Apgar visitor center and MacDonald lake.

But first we had to convince the girls that they could not have everything in the visitor center.

So we set out hiking from the visitor center. Evie was leading the way with Mommy…

Using the map in her national parks book to help us find the trail.

Yes, that is a picture map of the entire USA. She was quite sure she could find the trail on it.

It’s okay, Evie, we love you whether you know how to read a map at four years old or not.

We stopped at a bike rental station, but all the child trailers were out, so we reserved bikes for the following Monday and moved on. Evie and Ellie did not want to move on. They were quite content to play in the kayaks at the rental place.

MacDonald Lake was gorgeous, albeit somewhat obscured by smoke.

And it came supplied with rocks to throw and trees to climb!

After a picnic lunch we decided to rent a rowboat, as they are relatively stable and safe for rambunctious four-year-olds, and the price was very reasonable, less than $20 for an hour.

It was lots of fun. Evie is very excited about going out in Papa’s boat later this summer.

Huckleberry ice cream on the way back to the car.

It was a fun day, and we went to Confession and Mass for First Saturday in Whitefish. Afterwards we went out for supper, but this was a bit of a fiasco. Both girls were tired, and Ellie was so tired she couldn’t even eat properly.

Although she did try to eat the wooden bear’s wooden fish.

Evie and Ellie discovered the mesmerizing wonder of front-load washing machine, a.k.a. cat TV.

But after a good night’s sleep, we were up and at it again, heading south this time to a museum called “Miracle of America Museum.” This is a private collection of vintage historic artifacts running from pre-colonial to mid-20th century American history and culture.

Essentially the folks who run it are glorified hoarders who spent a lot of time organizing their hoard. But they had a ton of interesting stuff. I find it interesting that the see-saw, metal merry-go-round, and metal slide are now museum pieces. Are you kidding me? I grew up with those!

Some beautiful country out here.

That was a lot of time in the sun and heat for baby girl. She was plum tuckered out by the time we got to our picnic spot at Flathead Lake State Park (East).

So we had some lunch and then Evie went in the lake (as far as her ankles). Before long Ellie woke up and was so excited by the water that she didn’t even want to eat lunch. We couldn’t even get her to sit still for some sausage!

On the way back we drove through more absolutely beautiful countryside. We saw a couple of spreads that we would love to buy, and fell even more in love when we realized that they were within a mile of a Catholic Church!

Sure it only has Sunday services now, as far as we could see, but once we buy all the land, relocate the locals and move in the entire Kraeger clan the Catholic population will probably double and at that point we’ll rate a full time priest.

And check out the backdrop!

All in all, great Sunday. We went back to our room, nice and tired.

Monday we had to be up nice and early to be out there for our bike ride. Let’s just say, expensive, but BEST TIME EVER!

We are considering getting one of those trailers for home, although Puyallup is not very bike friendly. Most of the roads outside of downtown don’t even have a shoulder, let alone a bike lane.

Then back to Lake MacDonald for snacks and tree climbing.

Much clearer today than on Saturday.

After lunch we headed up Going-to-the-sun Road as far as the south end of MacDonald Lake. It was only a few miles but it was a long drive because they were busy resurfacing the road after winter damage. It wasn’t too terrible, though, because Ellie fell asleep and Evie enjoyed playing with her magnadoodle.

The Lake McDonald lodge was amazing! We were especially impressed by the fireplace.

I am pretty sure we are going to put one like it in our living room when we build our new house.

Lunch time outside the lodge, at the junction of the river and the lake.

That was another full day, and we topped it off with supper at Craggy Range Bar and Grill, which was phenomenal. We were very impressed with the burgers, which come with the top buns branded with the restaurant logo.

The Smokey Classis cocktail, quite interesting with real woodsmoke in the bottle! How crazy is that?!

And then it was Tuesday morning. Time to go home.

Evie loving her some coloring with her new travel activity bag.

Ellie, true to form, slept the whole flight.

Best traveling buddies!

Ellie, for one, is very glad to be back home where she can water her plants again.

The rest of us… Well, let’s just say there was something to be said about not having to drive in rush hour traffic. Kathleen got stuck behind these folks for about an hour on her way home from work last night.

And the worst part was they just drove like that for an hour and then sped up and drove away for no apparent reason. Silly WADOT!

That’s all for this week, folks. Have a great rest of your weekend, and remember to pray for us.

God Bless!

Well! This week was a barrel of monkeys.

Or a bucket of Ellie. Same thing.

We already wrote earlier this week about our visit to the cemetery for Memorial Day. Or rather, the Sunday before Memorial Day. After visiting at the cemetery we went to Deedee and Papa’s house to visit and then visited Dude and Susie.

Always a hoot

On memorial day Daddy and Evie did their best to cook the most patriotic and American breakfast we could think of.

Start out with a little bit of red, white and blue…

A.k.a. strawberries, blueberries, and Bisquick.

When will they ever be done?!

Add some bacon and a little bit of sausage, and voilà!

#Murica!

Then we went down to Dupont for a hike with our good friends Margie and Dane, and their daughter Zellie.

Setting out on our grand adventure.

For our hike we chose sequelachew park which is a 1.5 mile trail from behind the Dupont police station down to the water on the sound.

Ellie gets to ride, because her legs are short.

It is quite a lovely trail, broad and well-maintained, that slopes gently downhill to the water.

Evie and Zellie stopped to collect some nature.

It runs down an old railway grade, so the slope is not very dramatic and there is plenty of nature for the little people to hunt.

At the bottom, the trail goes through an old rail tunnel from when they used to have a dock down there.

This is the only place where there’s any track left, but it runs underneath a working railroad track that runs along the edge of the sound from north to south.

Once you go through the tunnel you arrive on the beach which, like most Washington beaches, is entirely composed of rocks of various size. Far from being a disadvantage, this is a most excellent thing when you are small and want to throw rocks in the water. It also works when you are big and want to throw rocks in the water. This beach comes handily supplied with rocks rated for all your rock throwing needs, at least from 18 month girl to 34-year-old BCFF.

There are also some pretty decent rocks that you can climb on.

All in all, for being a 3 mile round-trip, the steady uphill grade for the entire way back makes it a bit of a smoker especially if you are carrying a rucksack with an Ellie on top of it. After our hike, we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch before heading home to relax for the rest of the day.

Daddy is trying to step up his grill game, so the girls are helping him study.

The neighbor kids came over in the afternoon to test out the sturdiness of the hammock pole after Ryan added three bags of quick-crete. At 50 pounds apiece, that’s 150 pounds of support at the very base of the pole, so it should do the trick.

It may still have a little bit of shake to it, but at least it’s not leaning precariously like it’s going to pop out of the ground it any second.

After nap, Eli wanted to come outside but no one was available to put her shoes on right away, so she helped herself to her sister’s shoes, put them on her self, and walked on outside.

On the wrong feet and everything just like a proper toddler shoe should be. And then she proceeded to get them soaking wet. This is also very right and just for a toddler shoe.

Mommy has been working hard with her new business, selling bags two ladies who need to carry things around in their life. This, in my experience, includes pretty much every lady ever.

Ellie likes to help by explaining the various virtues and benefits of each bag and accessory item.

She’s been getting pretty good responses too, complete with live Facebook videos and other fancy stuff like that.

We spent all day Thursday packing and getting ready for our trip this weekend.

Ellie says, “This works for me. I’m ready to go.”

When Evelyn got home from school, she thought that was a good idea so she joined her sister.

Evelyn reading “The Knight and the Dragon” to Eleanor.

In case you were not familiar with this during tale, you may listen to Evelyn’s rendition of it here.

Or not, since the mobile app won’t allow me to paste the link in apparently. You’ll just have to imagine it.While some liberties may have been taken with some aspects of the story, it was, nevertheless, heartwarming and profound as ever.

Last night, we got together for pizza to celebrate Ryan finishing PA school.

Ellie is impressed

It was a surprise get together, Ryan thought we were just getting together with Deedee and Papa before we headed out for the weekend.

Instead, all of these folks showed up…

And piled on top of Deedee.

And we got our party on like we were graduating college.

Then, we went home and finished packing. We staged all of our rucks by the door as they should be.

Not to mention our suitcase and car seat carrying bags.

And then everyone was up bright and early this morning

Ready for our next big adventure.

So have a great weekend everyone, we will see y’all next week.

God bless!

Last week was a fun weekend. On Saturday we drove up to Port Angeles and hopped the ferry to Canadia! (eh!)

Family Friday 120 (9)Evie loves riding on the ferry. It’s a mode of public transportation which makes it exciting.

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She can ride on the seats with Mommy and Ellie.

 

It also has a ton of open space to run around in, with stairs to climb and people to gawk at, which makes it fun.

 

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When I say she ran wild, I mean she RAN! WILDLY!

So it was fun and exciting, which is the best thing ever.

 

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I asked a Korean lady to take a picture of us. Evie’s comment was, “Wait, Dada, that Lady has your phone!” Sure, the one time she looks at the camera she has an accusatory expression.

90 minutes one way is a relatively long ride, but we enjoyed it thoroughly. Family Friday 120 (24)

When we arrived in Victoria we made a couple of stops. Family Friday 120 (1)

First we went to a chocolate shop to buy some chocolate for Grandma Dolly and Deedee and Papa.

 

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Evie almost never looks at the camera.

We posed with some local wildlife, too.

 

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Evie picked that hat out at a gift shop. She then lost it somewhere in the museum. Oh well. 

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It’s good to be touristing again!

We stopped at the Empress hotel to buy some tea for Daddy. We picked up some really fancy loose leaf imperial breakfast. It is sure to empress Adam next time he comes over for tea.

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Daddy’s photography skills are empressive.

Evie was not particularly empressed by the hotel, but she really enjoyed the Royal BC museum. In the words of Otter, “The museum is the Best Place Ever!”

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“There were lots of fun things to do and buttons to press.” (Copyright 2015, Otter).

Evie saw this lady teaching kids how to pan for gold.

Family Friday 120 (19)So she and Mommy scooped up a pan and started panning… Family Friday 120 (20)

and they struck it rich!

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There be gold in them thar silt!

After that we were able to retire to a life of ease, adventure and philanthropy, and were able to hire a professional web designer to run this blog and publish Family Friday for us…

Actually, the Canadian government (in the person of the lady in charge of the exhibit) insisted that we dump the gold back into the sluice for other people to find. So we tried our hand at drilling for it instead.

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Canada has different child-labor laws than the U.S….

No luck there. Alas. I guess we will just have to continue our life of more than adequate means, busy-ness, adventure and philanthropy.

So then we went across the street to this 19th century house that belonged to a doctor who worked in the area. Family Friday 120 (22)It is still on the original plot of land. It is maintained as a free museum by volunteers, and is quite a lovely little house.

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They let Evie play the piano for all the black-and-white people.

Daddy also tried to remember all the piano he used to know.

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I remember there was a C… and a G… and some sharps and flats and things.

No luck there.

The kitchen is fully child-friendly and touchable. They even had a little hat just for Evie to wear.

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Across the courtyard is a little one room schoolhouse that they moved there from it’s original location.

 

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Evie was practicing erasing her letters.

Then on Sunday we went and joined Auntie Celyn and her family for a fundraising dinner for 4US. As in previous years, the dinner was absolutely delicious.

 

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These folks do it right. (BTW, Daddy took this picture himself).

Evie and Edmund’s favorite part was the homemade popsicles.

 

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Auntie Celyn couldn’t decide which of the pictures she liked best, so she just put them all together in a collage. 

Auntie Lynn (Celyn’s mom) loves having the little people around.

 

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Evie also took the opportunity to try on all the fancy shoes. Such a girl!

And that’s about all for this week.

Oh, and our cantaloupes are done. We didn’t get many of them.

 

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Evie is busy washing the last of the cantaloupes. 

But they were very delicious and juicy.

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So juicy, in fact, that we had to insist upon a bib in order to eat them.

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Mmmmm, yummy cantayoupes!

And that’s all for this week. Y’all have a good weekend. God Bless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was somebody’s birthday this week!family-friday-93-2

Actually it was last week, but we did the party on Saturday. Also, since she’s two years old now, we figured it was high time she learned to drive.

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Just kidding! She can’t reach the pedals.

The birthday party was a lot of fun. We didn’t have a ton of people, just family and Auntie Danica (Evie’s godmother, so pretty much family).

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Educational toys! Yay! Thanks mom 😀

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Auntie Danica crocheted a batch of goodies for Evie’s tea set. They looked so tasty she tried to eat them!

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Evie now has her very own “Doctor Coat!”

We don’t want you to think that we are trying to influence your career choices by our gifts, Baby Girl. You can be anything you want to be when you grow up.

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Seriously, you can be a surgeon or a psychiatrist. Or a cardiologist. Or an OB/GYN. Or even a family practice doc.

Anything you want to be!

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Dancing with Great Grandma!

Deedee and Papa gave Evie a year-long membership to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium so we went on Sunday, so Evie could see the fishes.

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Not all the animals we saw were fish…family-friday-93-7

Evie really liked the Tigers.

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Thank you, Deedee and Papa!

Then, Daddy and Mommy both had Monday off! Yay! Family Trip time.

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Cool Kid!

So we took the train up to Seattle and went to the Seattle Children’s museum.

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Evie says, “Mama come in here!”

They had a supermarket play area. Evie especially loved that. So her Mommy’s daughter!family-friday-93-23On the other hand, her cart does have an awful lot of protein in it. And fish…

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Let’s see, ham, cheese, fish, watermelon. Looks good to me!

So her father’s daughter too.

Of course we had to go through nap time.

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Evie snuggle Mama.

Tired baby girl.

Aunt Susie gave Evie a membership to Wiggle Works, so Evie got to go for some more playing while Daddy and Uncle Adam were sword fighting. Playing is how baby girls learn best.

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That’s all folks. have a good weekend. God Bless.

 

 

 

 

 

Blurry Picture warning! Most of the pictures this Friday are blurry. This is different from most Fridays, when only some of the pictures are blurry.family-friday-86-1

I blame the lighting. The whole weekend was gray.

We went out to Port Townsend on Saturday to join Kathleen’s parents. It was a two hour drive, but Evie didn’t mind too much. She alternated having tea parties with Baby ‘Resa and Mommy in the back seat, and playing with her tractor.

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She was concerned that tractor had an ouchie because the label sticker on the bottom looked like a bandaid to her.

family-friday-86-3We went to visit Fort Warden, an old coast defense station. We wanted to visit the lighthouse but it was closed.family-friday-86-7

They used to have REALLY BIG GUNS here.

family-friday-86-5It was also about 35 degrees out, which isn’t that cold. However, we did have about a 30 mph wind which worked out to a pretty significant wind chill. Daddy was fine, because he’s a barrel chested freedom fighter. Evie was fine because she was riding on Daddy with her fingers in his beard most of the time. Mommy was less fine because she is always cold, and Deedee was down right miserable. Like seriously, that wind was intense! It could cut right through all but a really thick coat, and even’s Daddy’s hands were chilly.family-friday-86-10

We did go inside some of the old artillery/mortar positions, and into a couple of bunkers, which is why Daddy has his flashlight out.

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Mommy and Evie are spotting for enemy ships.

The bunkers are really cool. We will likely go back sometime in the summer, possibly when Evie and Edmund are older and can enjoy it more.

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Evie has been voted “Most likely to survive a horror movie” because she is walking away from the creepy abandoned concrete building.

It was a fun visit, but a really short one because of the cold and wind.

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Although Evie was very disappointed about getting back into her car seat. She wanted to keep playing outside.

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Evie likes boats. She likes boats, trains, planes and buses. She is going to be a travel junky.

Other than that it was a really quiet weekend. We spent a lot of time just hanging out, reading books.

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Papa is reading, “My Dog’s a Chicken” to Evie.

We had a delicious Sunday breakfast after Mass at “The Oak Table” in Sequim. family-friday-86-9

It was quite a lovely little family diner, with very friendly and professional staff and absolutely delicious foods, generous portions and reasonable prices.

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Swiss cheese and corned beef omelet with bacon pancakes? Yes, please!

If you’re ever in Sequim, WA, I recommend you check them out.

And then we came home, and Daddy started school again, and National Guard, and Mommy is back to work. Life is busy, but still good. Sometimes when we get home we only have a couple of hours before Evie goes to bed, and we are still behind on the housework or the cooking. We want to play with Evie but still have work to do.

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But sometimes Evie can help us. This week she helped Mommy make bread, which was fun for her. It’s like playing, but it’s also educational, not that Evie now knows how to make bread. However, she will grow up with in an environment in which there is a priority on taking the time to take care of each other by making healthy and delicious food, despite the inconvenience and the end-of-the-day tiredness.

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Evie doesn’t think the dough tastes very good. family-friday-86-17

But the finished product is yummy!

That’s all for this week. Hope you all have a good weekend. God Bless!

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I wonder if you did a word search on all our Family Friday posts, what would be the most common word we use?

I bet it would be “Evie,” but I would be willing to bet that “busy” would come in a close second.

Holidays are not less busy than regular life, they are more busy.

Daddy and Evie went to an MC Christmas party.

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Carrie and Celyn hard at work, prepping to make gift bags for the homeless.

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Cole is rocking one of the beardliest beards MC has ever seen.

family-friday-85-1 family-friday-85-5 family-friday-85-4Christmas party with MC! Kathleen could not go because she worked nights over Christmas weekend.

That’s why she was still in her scrubs for Mass on Christmas morning. She still had energy to dance with Baby girl.

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Evie had a very important job on Christmas morning.

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She had to move the shepherds to the manger to visit the Baby Jesus who miraculously showed up in the night.

We did have Christmas dinner and opening presents but we didn’t take very many pictures. We were too busy. family-friday-85-9Evie has a few favorite presents from Christmas. She likes her backpack,

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And her cleaning set.

family-friday-85-15And her tea set and Mother Teresa doll.

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In fact she liked the tea set and doll so much that she did not want to leave them behind to go visit Deedee (that’s what she is calling Grandma these days) and Papa.

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So she had a tea party on the go.

 

Evie helped Grandma and Papa take down their Christmas decorations.

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While Daddy tried to finish the pizza box.

family-friday-85-14 It’s all done, except he still needs to find some handles for it.

Then we went up to Port Townsend, and Evie got to ride on a boat for the first time ever!family-friday-85-16“Water!”

It was very windy!family-friday-85-17

Family Selfie attempt!family-friday-85-18

And for our last adventure this week we went and fed the animals at the Olympic game farm.

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Hey there, human. I hear you have bread. Can I have it?

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family-friday-85-21family-friday-85-22 family-friday-85-23And that’s all there is to it, folks.

Now it’s bed time. See y’all in the funny pages.

God Bless!

 

Well folks, we’re back. It was a heck of a trip. Evie picked up a few new phrases. Unfortunately, none of them were in Italian. Her top favorite new ones are:

“I chase birds!”

 

Another favorite is, “I ride train!”

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This lady was tickled pink to have Evie jump up next to her.

And a third one we heard a lot was, “I tired.”

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Traveling will do that to you, Baby Girl.

Well, to pick up where we left off with a quick trip to the Coliseum.

family-friday-84-29Unfortunately, due to the exigencies of toddlerhood (a.k.a. naptime) we were not able to get there until 4 PM, and by that time it was closed and the sun was starting to set. family-friday-84-28

So we took some beautiful pictures of the Coliseum in the sunset.

And Evie in the Sunset.

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She is very contemplative, sometimes.

And this weird arch thingy with an ancient pygmy sculpture.

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By which I mean it is an ancient statue of a pygmy, which we would later learn was a popular theme during a certain period in Roman decorative art. I am not sure whether this statue comes from the same decorative theme or not. In fact, I know almost nothing about it.

Then we hopped on the bus for another ride around Rome in the dark until Evie started insisting that we eat. “I eat dinner!”

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The next day we took the fast train south to Napoli, and from there we jumped on a regional train and ended up in Pompei, in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius.

You know, that volcano that erupted and buried an entire city alive.

We felt right at home immediately.

 

Our first sight on stepping off the train was this gorgeous church, The Church of the Blessed Mary of the Holy Rosary. family-friday-84-37

We have been inside so many gorgeous churches in Italy, but I think this one was Ryan’s favorite.

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We arrived just as Morning Mass was letting out.

Evie liked it too.

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From there we moved on into town looking for the old city. It was not hard to find.

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It was amazing how much of it was preserved, and how much had been restored.

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Ryan the Dad-iator emerges from the amphitheater, victorious, thanks to his trusty mini-combat-minion. Never underestimate the min-combat-minion.

 

Much of the decorative artwork, frescoes and marbles and such, had all been looted in the early 18th century. What remained, however, was gorgeous.

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In some places gardens had been replanted to show what they might have looked like in the city’s heyday.

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The city’s streets, empty, and with huge, rough cobblestones.

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Evie bit the dust on one of those stones. She bit her lip as well. Tears followed, but she got over them pretty quickly.

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This was where one of the city’s bigwigs lived. This house would cost a fortune even by today’s standards.

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Vesuvius sleeping in the background.

It was a long day, but well worth it, and even with a couple of hours in the old city we didn’t even see a quarter of it.

The Vatican Museums would turn out to be a similar experience.

Glimpses of the Mediterranean from the train.family-friday-84-38

family-friday-84-15Sunday morning we went to Sancte Spiritu in Sassia, a Church about a quarter mile from St. Peter’s square that featured an English Sunday Mass.family-friday-84-40That was the day we joined Pope Francis for his Sunday Address and the Angelus. family-friday-84-16

The White Dot is Papa Francisco.

We went to the Trevi fountain that night, and took some pictures, but the area was swarming with tourists so we decided to take some pictures from a distance and then go back to the hotel to go to bed.family-friday-84-42

We didn’t even stop at the Cocktail-to-go stand!family-friday-84-41

But we did introduce Evie to gelato (berry flavored, of course).

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Gelato for everyone!

The berry gelato was so berry-ish, the thing was chock full of seeds! Real fresh fruit. I tell you, the Italians do not skimp on the ingredients.

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Evie’s comment was: “Ummmmmmm, Nummy nummy nummy!

Of course we didn’t let her eat the whole thing by herself. That would have been a very foolish tactical error on our part as bed time was a few short hours away.

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Baby wipes to the rescue. Poor Baby Girl has a fat lip from kissing the cobbles, but she didn’t let it slow her down.

The next day we took a three hour guided small group tour of the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica of St. Peter. I won’t even attempt to describe all of that.

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Our last stop that night was the Spanish Steps.

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Evie’s favorite thing was the Christmas tree, or as she says, “The Miss-miss tree.”

family-friday-84-53Her least favorite was the selfies. She doesn’t like selfies, or holding still for pictures at all.

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And in all fairness, we do kind of suck at selfies.

Then finally it was time to go home.

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Evie stole Daddy’s return trip reading, but she actually did sleep four or five hours on the flight.family-friday-84-54

And here we are back home, recovering from Europe and getting ready to get crushed by Christmas (Mommy works four twelve-hour night shifts over Christmas weekend. Yuck!)

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But at least we have a very helpful baby girl.

What did we ever do without her?

Have a good weekend, Merry Christmas to all, and A Bah Humbug for those so inclined.

God Bless you all!

 

For this week’s Family thing to do, we decided to go on a trip.

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So we all piled in the car and drove to the airport, where we jumped on the first flight out.

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This turned out to be a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and then Rome.

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Lufthansa flights are cool because they come with little baby beds for Evie. This was a good thing since it turned out to be a 10 hour flight.

family-friday-83-22So Evie caught a three hour nap.

And then slept again when we arrived. She even slept while riding the metro, which is not usual for Evie.family-friday-83-24

The next morning we stepped out to explore what was around our hotel.

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Steps. Steps were around there. And early morning streets with the sun on them. family-friday-83-26

And then what do you know, there we were!

family-friday-83-1Right at St. Peter’s Square!

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Mommy and Evie really liked the Nativity scene. It was very Pope Francis-esque, with the images of the tired, poor, hungry and lame coming to visit.

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It was a “cold” winter weekday, so there were no lines for the Vatican. We walked right in (after the metal detectors) and Evie tripped on the cobblestones and smacked her forehead pretty hard. She has been sporting a bruise ever since, but she still looks cute. Tough, but cute.

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Inside the dome.

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The original brass elevator room.

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The Pieta. I could sit and look at it for hours.

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Apparently St. Andrew was about 14 feet tall… and ripped.

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St. Peter’s Square seen from the Basilica steps.

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Mommy and Evie checking out the Swiss Guards.

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Mommy outside the Vatican  post office.

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🙂

We decided to check out one of the Restaurants listed in our favorite Swiss Guard cookbook, La Vittoria, which is a few hundred yards outside the south side of St. Peter’s square.

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As soon as we walked in we knew that the Swiss Guard come here pretty often.

Let me just say, if you are ever in Rome, eat there. You will not regret it, and the prices are quite reasonable.

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Mommy had the pasta carbonara, Daddy had the house pasta, and Evie had patate frittas (a.k.a. French fries). Such a freakin’ toddler!

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Guess who also lives right next door to the Vatican!

And some pictures from slumming around the city…

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Our next major stop (hee hee hee, get it? “Major?”) was the Pope’s parish church,family-friday-83-51

St. Mary Major.

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Undoubtedly this was one of the most beautiful churches we saw on our trip. family-friday-83-12

 

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Mommy took a picture of Daddy and Evie taking a picture of St. Mary Major.

We even paid for a tour of the gallery and mosaics, despite the fact that it was getting on towards noon, and Evie was turning into a very tired baby. The tourguide assured us would only be about 25 minutes long. It would have been, except that he had to give the whole thing twice, once in Italian and once in English, since it was a mixed group.

 

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family-friday-83-15The view from inside the nave.

 

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It was impossible to get a picture of the whole mosaic from the balcony. The balcony didn’t go out far enough.

We learned that the mosaic façade was done in two separate pieces, the first being the upper band in the Byzantine style, and the second being the lower series of panels in a renaissance style. The marble arches and the balcony and gallery that they support were added some centuries later in an effort to protect the mosaic from the elements and extend its life. Unfortunately, the arches had to be attached directly to the wall in several places, so in those areas they had to cover up the mosaic. Still, I think it was done rather carefully and quite tastefully.

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Evie was a very good girl through the tour and only started getting cranky when it was past her nap time and we went inside to see the gallery of popes and Bernini’s staircase.

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The staircase is a bit of an engineering feat because Bernini built it without any central support pillar. The blocks of marble that form the stair sit one on top of the other so that each transfers its weight down into the one below it, and so on into the foundation. The surrounding walls keep them from sliding outward, and the downward weight holds the structure together.

 

Pretty cool stairway, Bernini, but we saw one made out of wood, without a central support, and with no surrounding wall. St. Joseph wins!

Through the whole tour, Evie was a very good girl. She is quite a good traveler, except she likes to steal Daddy’s sun glasses.

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But traveling is tiring work, so, Baby Girl has to take naps.

 

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Rest and recuperation are essential for the traveling toddler.

Then up and at it again! See you next time.

God Bless you all!

 

 

Since I can’t sleep right now because of the fireworks, I may as well catch up on some blogging.

Ayutthaya was one of the sightseeing stops I made on my recent trip to Thailand. It is an historic city, and has been name an UNESCO World Heritage sight because of its role as the second capital of Siam and the many remains of temples and places that dot its landscape. It was also a day that emphasized the importance of having a clear communication with your interpreter before before starting.

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This vendor sells fake poop. Really. It’s for pranking your friends.

I will start this out by saying first of all that I have an ambiguous relationship with sight-seeing to start with. I may write a blog about it some time.

Secondly, of all things to sight-see, tourist attractions are my least favorite. I dislike the crowds, the prices and the cheap spectacle. A day spent knocking about in the boonies or the jungle and happening upon an active temple or an unexpected Catholic Church, or a local night market, or even just people living their lives, this is my idea of sight-seeing.

Interpreters, however, often come to the job with a set of expectations about what Westerners want to see. So do drivers. They want to take you to the places where tourists go to do things that tourists do. So our first stop that day, which was suggested by our interpreter, was an animal show.

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I have a weak spot for Elephants. They are pretty much my favorite animal.

That wasn’t a bad place to see. The hawkers were selling baby bottles and bundles of grass so you could feed the sheep, or baby bottles to feed the koi fish. This elephant was chained in a corner so people could take pictures with it, and a lady was selling cucumbers to feed to it nearby (the ground was covered with smashed cucumbers, which apparently it didn’t want to eat).

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They had a baby white lion that you could pose for pictures with, and further back in the same room they had a full grown tiger, heavily sedated, that you could also have your picture taken with.

However they don’t let you take a picture with your own camera. They take the picture for you and charge 20 baht. One of our guys got hustled into the room and posed next to the tiger before he knew what was happening. He doesn’t speak any Thai but he got the idea pretty quick when the man with the camera started demanding 20 baht.

He didn’t pay, which was only fair because he didn’t ask for or want the picture, but it made the owners angry.

I paid the 700 baht to ride the elephant. I love elephants. I would love to have an elephant as a pet. Family Friday 59 38The elephants know their business pretty well. They walk a 30 or 60 minute circuit around this ruined prang. At a certain point the driver gets off and lets the passenger ride on the elephant’s head and makes the elephant shake the passenger’s hand with its trunk.

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Of course I had to take the opportunity to ride on her shoulders.

I was surprised how hard it was to maintain my balance with her shoulders going up and down underneath me, which is probably why the real elephant drivers actually sit on the elephant’s neck, or the back of her head.

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On the one hand, it was awesome to be able to ride on her and just feel the power of her muscles. On the other hand, it wasn’t really what I wanted. It’s kind of like when I was a kid and I watched westerns all the time, and dreamed of being the Lone Ranger and riding all over the West. The guided pony ride at the fair, while fun in its own way, did not measure up. I wanted to be doing real things away from the safety nets, as it were. I always have.

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This looks pretty badass to me!

Our interpreter wanted to take us to a “floating market” next but we declined. You can buy trinkets anywhere, and you can buy them cheaper almost anywhere. Instead, we wanted to see some historic ruins.

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There was bit of a hassle finding any, which you would think surprising considering how many there are in Ayutthaya. Some of the guys were getting irritated with the driver, which I thought wasn’t quite fair for a couple of reasons. For one thing, we were having trouble making up our own minds, and then explaining that to him through a language barrier was bound to be confusing. For another, the American “hurry, hurry, hurry, we have to be there NOW!” is foreign to Thai culture, especially on a so-called day off. And finally, just because a driver is Thai doesn’t mean he knows his way around every city in Thailand. That’s like expecting someone to know their way around New York City simply because they are from America.

We made it to an old temple sight eventually, and that was quite worth seeing.Ayutthaya 1

This temple had been abandoned for many hundreds of years. It was decaying, although the rubble and fallen bricks had been removed and all the buildings that remained were well cared for.

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The city itself was founded in A.D. 1350 and destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.

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This picture (above) shows the remains of the principle sermon hall with the rows of Buddha images on either side leading up to the principle Buddha image at the head.

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The Temple is home to a Buddha image that has been overgrown by a banyan tree, so that only the face is now visible.

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Ayutthaya, by the way, is pronounced “ah-YOU-tea-ah,” not “Ah-ya-Tai-ya” as I have always pronounced it.

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The place is full of the remains of these small Buddha images.

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You must realize, of course, that the pictures can be misleading. For one thing they give no good conception of the size of the complex, or the sense of its sprawling, yet organized layout.

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For another, they seem to me to give the impression of a somewhat austere, mysterious silence, but that was not the case. It was very hard to get a shot without another tourist in it, and as for the noise, well, the park was surrounded by busy streets on all sides. The bicycles with their bells, or the hawkers shouting their wares, and the cars and trucks driving by and honking, generally continued pretty consistently the whole time.

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The overall sense the whole site gave me was one of up-reaching. As if all those hundreds of years ago, thousands of men and women broke their backs raising this place brick by brick, bearing witness in stone to their instinct to reach up to something better, higher, and holier than themselves.

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I daresay it is not an original thought, and bears application to any number of ancient religious sites around the world.

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But I couldn’t help but compare the level of suffering and hardship, sacrifice and self-oblation, that went into building this place, contrasting it with my easy, effortless and (relatively) cheap “capturing” of it all on my iPhone. I compared and contrasted in my imagination, and I felt that I didn’t necessarily have the better deal.

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Evie says, “But why is Daddy in the phone?”

This was Daddy’s last week in Thailand, which was just as well. Thailand is a great place to go, but Mommy and Evie were missing Daddy.

Evie and Mommy have lots of adventures together, though. Daddy has adventures too. But it’s better when we can have adventures together. Maybe someday we will all go to Thailand together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mommy and Evie went to the Swiss park for the Spring Swing.

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Evie ran out into the Schwingen pit, where all the magic happens.

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This is where Swiss wrestlers go to win fortune and glory. Evie goes there to mooch food from the wrestlers.Family Friday 59 51

Evie likes old people. She is of the opinion that you cannot have too many grandma’s. They come in handy.

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She ran and climbed and swung non-stop for three hours straight after her nap, until she turned into one super tired baby, and crashed on the way home.

Not literally crashed. I mean like she fell asleep really, really hard.

In the meantime, Daddy was visiting Kanchanaburi, where the infamous “Bridge on the River Kwai” was built.

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There is a cemetery there which contains the bodies of nearly 7,000 allied POWs who were killed or died of exposure, disease and malnutrition.

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The cemetery is maintained by grants and contributions, so it is free for all visitors. But apparently they have had issues with people trying to scam tourists.

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There were hardly any American graves. Most of the POWs were British, New Zealander, Australian, Indian or Dutch.

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I found one woman’s grave surrounded by the thousands of men.

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I thought this guy kind of looked like Robin Hood.

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I would be willing to bet his family was Catholic, based on the quotation.
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Across the street was a Catholic Church, The Blessed Queen Mary.

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Ryan stopped in for a quick visit, because he was there.

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You can visit them too (On the web).

The bridge was not much to see, just an ordinary looking steel girder span.

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The Thai/Myanmar railway (formerly Siam/Burma railroad) is still operational, so they have signs warning the tourists to beware of trains.

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It has become a pretty touristy spot. The old narrow gauge rail remains only on the bridge itself, and hawkers, beggars and scam artists abound.

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The international/interfaith peace temple.

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After the bridge the railings disappear and it’s just a span of rails and sleepers on girders, with no safety features whatsoever.

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And then the tracks just vanish into the jungle. Ryan kind of wanted to follow them, but that will have to wait for another day.

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The museum was kind of random, and honestly not too interesting. It had a lot of stuff that had nothing to do with the bridge or the railway, including an exhibit about Miss Thailand from 1938 onwards.

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The bridge exhibits tended to have low-budget (but anatomically correct) mannequins of POW’s in loincloths working on the rials or languishing in prison.

And one room had a completely unrelated exhibit about Neanderthal man, with this gem of an explanation proudly displayed on the case.

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I went out in the sun for some snacks and bought some grilled octopus tentacle from this charming lady, who thought my attempts at Thai were a bit comical.

Which they were. But the octopus was delicious.

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A table of beautiful soap carvings.

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With summer upon us, Evie can now spend a lot of time in the pool.

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Daddy got home on Thursday, and Evie immediately wanted to read books.

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With Daddy. She is happy to have Daddy home.

She tried to wear his sandals, but that didn’t work out so well.

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That’s all for now, folks. We hope you have a good weekend and a great 4th of July. God Bless!