Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Sniders’ Most Excellent European Adventure: T minus 2 days!

About 15 months ago, we decided to plan a family trip to Europe.  The kids are all independent adults, none of them yet married with kidlets, and the timing seemed perfect for a Trip of a Lifetime. 


I need to back up a bit to what allowed us to even entertain the notion of such a trip. In 2012, Tom very unexpectedly came into an inheritance upon the unexpected and very sad death of his beloved Uncle Ray.  It is only due to Ray’s generosity that this trip is even possible and right from the get-go I want to dedicate this entire adventure to him.


This is Tom and Kat with Uncle Ray just a few years ago – and unfortunately the last time any of us saw him.  He was a kind, loving, generous man and we miss him!  Thank you, Uncle Ray!

We’ll especially think of Ray in Vienna, where we’ll try to visit the place where Ray’s father (Tom’s paternal grandfather) lived before immigrating to America in 1923.   Thanks to, I found the ship manifest that indicates Franz Schneiderbauer (yes, that was actually the family name before it was changed in this country!) as a passenger and lists the address of his home in Vienna.  Coincidentally, it is just blocks from the hotel where we’ll be staying!

Stubenbasteui 12, Vienna - where Franz Schneiderbauer grew up

Pretty cool. eh?

But I’m getting ahead of myself! We haven’t even left yet!

All of our kids are experienced world travelers and have no trouble winging it when they travel, but with six of us I knew things would have to be planned, at least to some extent. We all knew, too, that being together ALL the time would be catastrophic (or at least annoying) and that we’d have to build in a whole lot of flexibility to our plans. So we decided to build the trip around “anchor cities,” where we’d meet and spend time together, with lots of openness and flexibility in-between.  So we came up with this:


And, from there, THIS:

map labeled - for blog

We’ll all be together for a few days in Munich – and both Laura, our “other daughter,” a German AFS student who lived with us for a year in 2005 – 6 and is now in medical school, and Eva, a German AFS student for whom I was a liaison in 2006 – will join us for Fruehlingsfest, which is a smaller Spring version of Oktoberfect.  THAT should be a blast… and yes, there will be photos!

On Monday evening, Peter, Aleks, and Kat will board a night train to Zagreb, where they will surely find their own adventure until joining up with us again in Budapest on the 10th.  While they are in Croatia, Tom, Elisabeth, and I will head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen to explore some of my family history and to – weather permitting… fingers crossed! – head to the top of the Zugspitze, where we will hopefully see views like this (from a photo Peter took when he was there last year):


From Garmisch, the three of us will explore the Alps for a day, hopping on and off trains as we please, exploring small Austrian villages, until we arrive in Vienna late on the 7th.  On the 8th, I have an appointment with the Director of Provenance at the Albertina Museum! She found me via my blog and wants to meet regarding my grandfather who was a German-Jewish art collector. If you saw the movie Monuments Men, you know what the crux of her work is. As far as our situation is concerned, we are mutually interested in what the other knows about my grandfather and his art collection – especially the circumstances under which he released some of his art pieces.  I wish my dad could be there, of course, but at 85, he is no longer travelling, so I will have to relay any pertinent information to him. That should be an interesting meeting!

We plan to also visit Tom’s grandfather’s childhood home in Vienna and, of course, take in a concert!

From Vienna, we’ll travel to Budapest, our second anchor city, where we will meet up with Peter, Kat, and Aleks upon their return from Zagreb.  I’m sure they’ll have plenty of interesting stories – one of them surely being about their visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships, which is right near the hostel where they’ll be staying. What a fascinating idea for a museum!

In Budapest we’ll be staying at the downtown hostel run by a friend of a friend (another beloved AFS student from 2005-6).  There will be so many fascinating things to see there, but I must admit that the one I’m really looking forward to is a visit to the Cat Café.  Talk about brilliant ideas…!  Think Seattle might be ready for one?

From Budapest, we’ll all travel together to Prague.  Aleks studied in Prague for four months in 2010 and loved it and all of us have wanted to go there since.  As with the other cities, the “kids” will stay in hostels, where the night life is hoppin’ and there are lots of new young people to meet, and old fogies Tom and I will stay in nearby hotels.  To be honest (and shallow?), the hotel in Prague is what I’m looking forward to most. We’ll be staying at the Grand Hotel Praha, in their attic suite.  No, it is not a punishment.  It is this:


Other plans for Praha are… well, anything Aleks suggests!  I do want to see the Jewish Quarters, the Charles Bridge, and Aleks’ old stompin’ grounds!

After three days in Prague, we’ll all head back to Munich for a day before flying home.  I am hoping to meet up briefly with a dear old friend, Thomas who, many years ago almost kept me in Germany.  He’s met most of my family, but never all of us together.  This time I’m hoping he’ll at least join us for a beer! 

The next day, just 16 days after arriving in Europe, we’ll all fly back to Seattle.  No doubt, the trip will be over far too soon.

So this is what I’m dealing with today, at T minus two:


…brought on by:


Thank goodness the pets will be loved and well cared for by our dear German friend, Christel, who they see regularly and adore. Still, I worry about Quinn, who is just so attached to her mama. (That’s me, not Shasta!)

I’ll try to blog daily on our trip, though it will be when I have access to wi-fi and from my new (and slightly kludgy) Chromebook.  So stand by as we count down…

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Two visits to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival (One too early and one almost too late!)

Two Wednesdays ago Elisabeth and I drove to Mount Vernon in hopes of finding the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival in full bloom. Like this (courtesy of Seattle Pipeline):


We were fairly disappointed to find that pretty much only daffodils were blooming then.  But how beautiful they were!




(I swear, Grace poses for photos!)

At Rosengaard Gardens, the tulips were wanting to bloom, but most of them looked something like this:


Some tulips had just begun to bloom, but it was obvious that their full splendor was yet to come.


Today, in spite of another dismal weather forecast, we attempted the tulip festival again, knowing it was our last chance for the year, since the festival ends on April 30th. 

Ahhhh… SO MUCH better!



Since this is the last week of the festival, there was a lot of tulip-top-off-lopping going on!  It seems such a shame to see these guys lopping off those tulip tops…


- but apparently that’s important for next year’s growth.  So don’t cry about these poor lopped tulips, sad as they look.



Here’s something to make you happy: children, animals, and (un-lopped) tulips!  (Yes, I like the word “lop.”  Say it twenty times in a row and I promise you will too!)



Of course, like everyone there, we had to attempt a few tulip-enhanced portraits, just for fun!



So finally, after more than twenty years in the Pacific Northwest, we finally made it to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. 


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

The best kind of birthday party

There's nothing quite like a four-year-old and a two-year-old throwing a birthday party for a nine-year-old and a three-year-old -- especially when the first two are the cutest kidlets ever and the second two are the cutest dogs ever!

I'm babysitting for our neighbors, Abby and Ty (the kidlets) tonight which, it turns out, is the day after Shasta and Quinn's birthday.  If you mention something like that to pre-schoolers, this is what you get:

"Put the frosting on the cupcakes?  But that's a wasted opportunity!"  Look at Ty's cheek!

An entire cake and a whole bunch of cupcakes, all for dogs!  No way!  They'll get sick! 
Solution: bring most of the cupcakes to Tom and save ONE for each dog.

Once the cupcakes were decorated, the kids brought them to our house and presented them to confused, but very happy dogs.  Quinn always sits nicely when she wants something!

Abby and Ty even bought and wrapped presents for the birthday girls!

A whole package of balls!  Shatsa is in heaven!

Needless to say, so is Quinny!

Doggy heaven, defined.

Ty and Abby teach Quinn and Shasta all about one-to-one correspondence.

It was all over too soon.  Goodbye, friends!  Thanks for the party!  Sleep tight!

(This is another blog post from my Chromebook, using the Blogger app.  I dunno, the formatting feels a bit kludgy.  I'll try to figure this out before we leave for Europe in three weeks!)

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