Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Visegrad Trip: Castles, Kings & Vampires

If you like castle/mountain/river - scapes, this is just the post for you! This post is lousy with castles! If you don't like castles, you might not be real into this post. But I did mention vampires... that seems to interest lots of folks these days. If that sounds like something that might interest you... read on!
The day before Easter, we ventured off to Visegrad. It's about 45 minutes outside of Budapest. Visegrad is an old little village and it boasts the remains of two castles: Fellegvar (the citadel) & Kiraly Palota (King Matthias Corvinus' royal palace). The shot above is from the royal palace. It had some beautiful windows.
We started with the citadel (Fellegvar). King Bela IV built this around 1240 AD, after the Mongol invasion of Hungary. It was built for the purpose of watching the Danube for approaching invaders. Nice view of the Danube, huh?! Claudia was more concerned with her squashed banana.
She pretty much ran around looking for Princess Aurora the whole time.
Man, we need to get to Disney World!
But even Claudia was taken aback by the beautiful view.
Here's one of the three towers of the citadel...
and three invading Mongols storming the castle!
Teasing.The citadel is fortified with some winding stone ramparts.
Daddy and Bop could have cared less about the castles,
but they had a great time playing around.
... and walking around.
After the citadel, they had had enough.
They found a super playground in Visegrad and left me to my castles.
This is the royal palace and it's situated below the citadel, by the river.
It was built by King Matthias Corvinus around 1477.
It was actually completely covered by a mudslide for about a century.
It was discovered and unearthed around 1934.
Surprise! We found a castle!
Now here's the part about the vampires! One of the palace towers is called Solomon's Tower. Between 1462 and 1467, Vlad the Impaler, a Transylvanian nobleman was imprisoned here by King Matthias Corvinus. I didn't know this myself, but Transylvania was once part of Hungary. Several centuries later, Bram Stoker wrote up a little book based on Vlad... you may have heard of it... Dracula! Creepy, huh? The real life Dracula lived here!
Here's something more light hearted for you. This fountain is on the fourth floor courtyard of the palace. Under Matthias, it ran with red wine. Wine would spout of the lions' mouths. The story goes that Matthias would bring visiting dignitaries to the fountain for discussions. After he got them good and drunk, they'd pretty much agree to what he wanted. Maybe they should install one of these at the White House!
Here's one of the lions from which the red wine would spout.
Maybe that can be my next home renovation project: installation of red wine fountain.
And that's all from Visegrad.
Maybe I'll tour Solomon's Tower next Halloween!
dun, dun, duuuunnn!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Our First Easter in Budapest

It's our first Easter in Budapest and I was happy to celebrate this special day, but a little sad because we are away from our families. It has been a McLendon family tradition (for the last 50 years!) to spend Easter weekend together at Lake Bruin in Louisiana. Claudia loved her first Lake Bruin trip last year. Since we are here, doing something new, we decided to try some new traditions...
We started by leaving carrots out for the Easter Bunny.
Bop got very excited about this and spent half an hour picking
out the perfect spot to leave his carrots.
She also insisted that an extra carrot be brought to her bedside bunnies.
She woke up to find that the Easter Bunny had come to Budapest!
She carefully collected every egg and stuffed them in her basket.
Here she is, ceremoniously hoisting her first piece of chocolate in the air.
A good amount of focus was devoted to candy unwrapping.
Bop's basket had a bug theme.
Here she is going through her ladybug loot.
Loaded up on candy, she danced and stomped around the yard.
The eggs!
Happy girl. =)
We also started another tradition.
Bop likes to bake, so we made some special cookies.
Look how serious she is!
We made these little lambs and watched them rise in the oven.
I explained the meaning of Easter to Bop and told her
how our lamb cookies symbolized Jesus, the Lamb of God.
We watched them rise up in the oven and talked about
how Jesus rose from the dead.
I think the cookies kept her focused and interested. =)
This isn't the greatest picture, but I wanted to record it for posterity.
I made this outfit! It took forever! I'm really proud of myself!
Shortly after I took this picture, we went to a BBQ at some friends' house
and the outfit got covered in lots of mystery stains.
But, at least she enjoyed herself!

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Best (and Cheapest!) Gift for a Toddler

Thank you Euro Walmart.
For stocking your shelves with an at-home ball pit.
My daughter wakes up at 7 a.m.,
jammies still on, and launches herself in.
This continues until 8 p.m.

Claudia loves ball pits, but the germ freak in me can't help but question the hygiene of those things. So, when I saw this at Tesco (Euro Walmart), and the price tag (cheap!), I couldn't get it in the buggy fast enough. Take out the balls & it doubles as a swimming pool. It has provided hours & hours of fun. Russell & I burst into uncontrollable laughing fits when she gets going, hurling her little body into the pit. Plus, it is just the ticket to induce bedtime exhaustion. =)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Woo Hoo! Claudia is Two!

Last week was sweet girl's birthday.
She loves owls so we did an owl themed party last weekend.
The bouncy castle was a hit with all the kids.
Even the little ones loved the slide.
They don't sell cupcakes here, so we rolled up our sleeves and made them.
Claudia smashed hers up pretty good.
The bubbles and bouncy house made her day.
Here she is concentrating on her birthday wish.
Cake demolition.
Wish fulfilled.
Family photo.
I would have pulled that icing covered finger out of her mouth,
but this how the next half hour went.
And that's what needs to be documented.
Here is Claudia watching Sleeping Beauty with Daddy after the party.
For her birthday dinner, we took her to her favorite restaurant for pasta.
Mama Kate & Grandaddy... Claudia loved her b-day dress.
She even wanted to sleep in it. =)
Here's some of Claudia and her favorite gifts.
Claudia loves to cook in her pretend kitchen.
Now she can cook in her personalized chef hat and apron.
Ripping off the wrappings.
She loved her musical instruments!
Beautiful shakers... wooden... thoroughly entertaining... slightly dangerous.
And her favorite... the tricycle!She even loved her helmet!
It's a ladybug.

Claudia, it's hard to imagine that you're already two. You are our very special girl and we are thankful for all the joy you bring into this world. You are healthy, happy and you love everyone.

Here are some fun & funny facts about ya:
  • You laugh so hard that strangers often approach me and ask if you are ok.
  • You love to read. Your favorite books are anything Seuss and Rolie Polie Olie by Bill Joyce (Shreveport author!)
  • You can say anything and often speak in full sentences. Yesterday you asked a stranger in the elevator "Remember me? I didn't think so. I'm Daddy's favorite." No clue where this came from.
  • Your favorite song is "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder. You ask for it by name and sing it around the house.
  • You talk in your sleep. At school you often sleep in your own room because sleep talking wakes up the rest of your class. =)
  • Your favorite cartoon is Olivia. It's about a little pig who loves everything red.
  • You love to travel - cars, planes, trains, airplanes. You are Mommy's perfect little travel companion.
  • You are happiest when you are outside. You like to slide, swing, play chase and hide and seek.
  • You love your kitchen and to cook pretend food. We're still working on getting you to like real food.
  • We don't brush your hair! It is super curly and grows up and out. It is beautiful and we love to curl your hair around our fingers.
  • You are beautiful on the inside and out.
  • You mean the world to us and we are thankful to God for blessing us with you.

xoxo, Mommy & Daddy

Easter Program & Egg Redistribution

Claudia learned a very important lesson last Friday, which, coincidentally was tax day in the U.S. Claudia's Easter Program at school involved a performance by all the classes, including the Happy Hippos. It was the first time the Happy Hippos weren't relegated to the task of "sitting quietly and observing."
Things started out great.
Claudia's class filed into the auditorium and waited in quiet anticipation.
Then the Happy Hippos took the stage.
Then they all started screaming. And crying. And running.
After a few minutes of screaming, the Happy Hippos returned to their seats.
There they sat quietly and observed the remainder of the program.
The mood lightened considerably when the Easter Egg hunt began.
Claudia's class hunted eggs at a used tire shop behind the school.
Just kidding. They hunted eggs on the school's kiddy go-cart track.
Claudia, being the eager little American she is,
gathered every egg she could find. She was like a machine.
Here's the interesting part...
In five minutes she had collected nearly every egg. See this picture? Most of the other children picked up one or two eggs and ate them while Claudia worked her little tail off. And then all the eggs were collected from the children. Claudia's teacher redistributed all the eggs to the children in equal amounts. Claudia got M.A.D. Very socialist, huh? I told her we felt the same way when we paid our U.S. taxes.
The Easter petting zoo cheered her up though.
She liked the bunny the best.
She disliked the goose the worst.
We went home and ate her allotment candy.
And a little tinfoil.
Sweet thing can't wait for Easter Sunday.
No egg redistribution will be going down at this house.
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