Serra da Estrela

 One other great thing we got to do this winter was go on a mini-vacation with friends!  We are SO grateful for the families in Calvin’s class including us on their getaway to the mountains.  We’ve gotten to experience lots of different things with Portuguese people over the years, but I don’t recall ever actually having an overnight trip with any.  This was SUCH a fun way to delve into the culture a little more.  For starters, I have to say that our friends are some of the most patient, laid back, go with the flow people I’ve ever met.  The weather was anything BUT cooperative this particular weekend.  No way we could do our peaceful outdoor picnic like planned, so instead we borrow someones garage and turn it into a fun and at least, dry, haven :)  When we get to our house, the power goes out.  Everyone keeps their cool and maneuvers a way to eat in the dark.  I was amazed at their skills!  We tried waiting out storms in cafés and when that didn’t work, we moved to the mall and saw a movie, etc. etc.  Nothing seemed to get them down and I was really humbled by that!  We also learned other fun things, like how different our typical breakfasts look, how much more they drink milk, how they worry a little bit more about things causing their kids to get sick…but all such fun stuff!  I even fell down the flight of stairs (so embarrassing) but aside from getting picked on a little bit…everyone was so gracious!  Even though nothing this weekend went according to anyone’s plans…I really, truly had a great time just getting to feel like a part of the gang!  (oh, and we did FINALLY get to play in the snow for a bit…the whole point of the trip…but we didn’t stay long because the wind was brutal!  got a few cute pics though!)

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Portugal dos Pequenitos

We had a few sunny days this winter and for one of those we finally took advantage of some coupons we had to go to Portugal dos Pequenitos.  This is a landmark in our city that was built by the old dictator as a means of building a love for Portugal and it’s colonies in children.  My kids always love visiting, but it’s a little pricey so it’s been years since we last visited.  It was crazy to realize how BIG my kiddos have gotten since the last time.  Instead of having to stay on top of them (like last time when they were little), we were able to play a nice game of hide and seek.  Henry was impossible to find…he was tucked away in some tiny house and finally had to surrender himself because we couldn’t find him!  It’s just little family days like this that do my heart good!

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Lyon

I never got around to sharing about our trip to Lyon, France.  I figured after my cranky post I needed to focus on some of the good things that took place this winter.  By far my favorite thing was our families quick little getaway to France for a Christmas festival.  It was a lot of fun to see how another country celebrates.  We were pleasantly surprised at how kind and helpful the French people were.  We didn’t know a thing about Lyon before going but had a blast touring it’s history museum, puppet museum and miniature museum (we had no idea it was the birthplace of marionette puppets and different lighting for theater/films).  The food was amazing.  Nothing better than festival/street food.  The light shows were spectacular!  Definitely a memory that will last for a lifetime!  (I don’t have many pictures from our night time outings because they didn’t turn out too well :( but trust me, it was amazing to see!)  It was simply a fun time to be together as a family, hang out, splurge on a few things and take lots of fun pictures.  Here are just a few of my favorites…and I’m trusting that the pictures will describe our trip better than my words!

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Winter Cristi

IMG_2675Michael likes to joke with me that living in Portugal, I have two sides…and they stem from the two seasons that Portugal has.  There exists a winter Cristi and a summer Cristi.  The summer Cristi LOVES life while the winter Cristi becomes a little sullen.  I mean, I’m a Texas girl.  We don’t deal well with cold.  I am in a country that basically has cold, grey, rainy days for SIX months straight.  What’s worse…we don’t have good heating in our home and it’s often colder inside than out.  While other European countries have commodities like heated floors and can walk around barefoot in their homes in the dead of winter, here the entire country LIVES in their heavy coats and scarfs for six months because, well, we don’t have heated anything.  There is no reprieve and to be honest…I. get. cranky!  I’d like to blame my lack of blogging on lack of inspiration.  We have come to realize most people here seem to  hibernate for the winter.  We don’t see many friends, we can’t go outside, etc. etc.  Anyway, the first day the SUN came out I took a picture.  It. was. GLORIOUS.  I’ve missed it.  I’ve missed blogging too.  I’m hoping with spring on the horizon I will find more time write.  After all…the summer Cristi is about to come back and she can usually find lots of fun things to share.  (You would think after four winters here I’d have found my joy in the winter too, but I shamefully admit that I haven’t).  Okay…enough negativity.  Come on spring!!!  (and I mean, please come on…I’m shaking while typing this because it’s so cold up in here!  and, my Texas feet need to taste the freedom of flip-flops again!)

 

December 31st, 2013

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We got up and headed straight to Lisbon for a day of sight-seeing.  I love this picture we took in the mirror during a tour of a GIANT old palace.  A really cool old place…wow!

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Then we went to the museum of coaches (or carriages) which was actually way more interesting than I was expecting.  I never knew they were actually so detailed and fancy…I always assumed that was something Disney made up :)

Sad that it was our last day with Mama Sue, but at least it was a good one!

December 30th, 2013

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We headed back into downtown Coimbra just to get out of the house for a bit.  I was amazed that my kids stopped and wanted to take a picture with this statue once again.  The last time I took a picture of them with this lady was right after we moved here (nearly 4 years ago) and my kids have grown up SO much!  Sigh…I better be enjoying every minute with them…it’s going fast!

December 29th, 2013

It was the sunniest day of the week so we finally got to go take advantage of some of the fun Christmas things there are to do around Coimbra.  First we headed to the tiny town of Penela to visit their Presepios (Nativities).

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It’s really beautiful out there!  Then we stopped to ice-skate in another small town.  It was our kids’ first time and they did really great!

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Later that night Mama Sue sent Mg and I out on a belated anniversary date…including a night in a hotel.  All in all, a super great day!

December 28th, 2013

One of my favorite friends convinced me to sign our family up to run a 5K with them.  I didn’t realize the kids race was actually just 500 meters, but they had fun and earned a medal, so they’re happy.  Henry ran crazy fast…and it’s actually debatable…we think he came in 3rd place instead of the boy that got to stand on the podium, but oh well!

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Then the kids went back with Mama Sue (since it was cold and dark) while we ran a 5K through the Christmas lit streets of downtown Coimbra.  It was really fun!

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December 27th, 2013

My little man is 6 now!  Those words don’t flow easily out of my mouth.  It’s hard to believe how fast it has all gone!  Here he is with his long awaited for DS.

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Here is the cake I made for his minion party (let me be the first to admit that cake decorating is not my forte).

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We knew his party would most likely be small due to it’s proximity to Christmas (and it was) but we still went all out for the few kids who came and everyone had a good time.  Here are a few of the birthday guests (missing 3 others)…

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Oh Cal-Cal!  Happy birthday big guy.  We love you so much!

December 26th, 2013

We spent another day mostly indoors (aside from a bit of shopping to get the kids new shoes…yay!)  Randomly though, today was a good Aggie kind of day.  We thought we had lost our Aggie rings, but turns out Michael’s mom found his.  This was exciting news indeed!  (Now if we can just find mine too).  Also, our good friend Glenn (aka “Uncle Glenn” to our kids) recently published a poetry book all about A&M.  I was flipping through reading some tonight when I found this…

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Not many of his poems were actually dedicated to people so I was floored when I saw this.  What an honor to both Mg, Henry and I.  I teared up.  Thanks Glenn!  I still love the fact that I am an Aggie!