• US Travel

    Trip to Austin, TX

    We took a quick trip to Austin, TX early in May. Michael had to go to a conference for work, so Gavin and went along too. While Michael worked, Gavin and I explored Austin and some of the fun family friendly activities.

    We drove to Austin on a Monday, so our first day in town was a Tuesday. Gavin and I went to the Austin Nature & Science Center. We were able to spend a couple of hours walking trails and looking at exhibits. It’s a very nice science center and a great place to spend part of our day. Gavin especially enjoyed the dinosaur dig area. We spent quite a bit of time there while Gavin played in the sand and dug for fossils.

    Gavin at the Nature & Science Center in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Nature & Science Center in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Nature & Science Center in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Nature & Science Center in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Our second day, Wednesday, was spent at the Thinkery. A great indoor learning space. Gavin was most impressed with the light up blocks. We explored the different rooms and did all sorts of activities. Gavin was a little young for a few things, but he was able to do most of the activities. That evening, Michael went on a “bat cruise” with others from the conference, so Gavin and I walked over to the Congress Bridge to watch the bats. We were staying at a nearby hotel, so it was a quick walk. We did see a lot of bats, but Gavin wasn’t very impressed. Still, it’s worth checking out when in Austin.

    Gavin at the Thinkery in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Thinkery in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Thinkery in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Thinkery in Austin | rainerlife.com

    On Thursday, Gavin and I went to the Botanical Gardens and Barton Springs Park. The gardens were fun to walk around and look at the different plant varieties. At the park, we rode the train and played in the playground. It was a very active day!

    Gavin at the Botanical Gardens in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Darinda & Gavin at the Botanical Gardens in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Barton Springs Park in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Barton Springs Park in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Barton Springs Park in Austin | rainerlife.com

    Our last day in Austin was Friday. Michael had the day off, but, unfortunately, it rained all day. Since our plans were mostly rained out, we stayed around the condo we rented, but did go out to eat for lunch and supper. The weather improved on Saturday, so we stopped at the Inner Space Cavern and toured the cave. It was very interesting, and the first time for Gavin to go in a cave.

    Gavin at Inner Space Cavern | rainerlife.com

    Inner Space Cavern | rainerlife.com

  • Home Improvements

    Home Library

    Home Library | rainerlife.com

    We did a home improvement project! It wasn’t exactly a planned project. I had wanted to turn the home office into more of a home library, and that’s where it all started.

    We took everything out of the room to repaint the floor. I had previously painted this floor, but it never looked good. The paint did not stick properly, and was coming up in areas. So, I scraped and cleaned the floor to try repainting it. I painted it using the same paint I had used on the floor in the home gym, which looks really good and we haven’t had problems with. After painting the floor, it did look good, but it was still coming up in areas. I gave up. I called a local flooring place that had done the wood floors in other areas of our home, and they installed wood floors for us. The floors look great. Really, it’s way better than a painted floor.

    New floor in home library | rainerlife.com

    New floor in home library | rainerlife.com

    Oh, and since I had everything out of the room, I thought it would be a good time to repaint the walls. I painted the walls Behr Full Moon, which is the same color as our living room. The walls were fine and didn’t really need painting. They were painted with Behr Sparrow a few years ago, but I wanted it to be brighter, so went with a color I knew would really brighten the room.

    After the walls were painted and the flooring was done, it was time to put in bookcases. I wanted a lot of bookcases, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So, I went with the Ikea Billy bookcase. It’s a staple among bookhoarders booklovers everywhere. I like the look of the white bookcases, so we bought six of the regular bookcases and two of the narrow bookcases. We got the extension unit for all the bookcases to add extra height. After I assembled them and secured them to wall, they were ready to be filled with books.

    Billy bookcases for home library | rainerlife.com

    Billy bookcases for home library | rainerlife.com

    Other than the bookcases, the only furniture in the room is the desk and chair that we already had. I would like to add a comfy chair. I’m not exactly sure what I want and where I want it, so that will have to wait.

    I’m really happy with our new home library. I’ve been spending more time in this room, and it may be my favorite room in the house. We purchased more bookcases than we had books to fill, so we can continue to grow our library.

    Home Library | rainerlife.com

    Home Library | rainerlife.com

    Home Library | rainerlife.com

  • Home Improvements

    New Front Door {Before & After}

    New front door | rainerlife.com

    We got a new front door! This has been on our to do list for a while, and we decided to do it last Fall. We picked the door and ordered it in October, but it didn’t come in until January. It took longer than expected, but we are really happy with the new door.

    We had the old door and sidelights removed, and had a new double door installed. It’s nice to have a door that opens so wide. Next time we move furniture in and out will be a breeze. Plus, it looks amazing!

    Front Door {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    New front door | rainerlife.com

  • US Travel

    Maui Vacation

    Kamaole Beach Park III {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Aloha!

    We spent most of our Hawaiian vacation in Maui. We mainly wanted to relax and do fun family related activities, and Maui is great for that.

    In Maui, we rented a two-bedroom condo located in Kihei. We had a great location, right across the street from the beach. The condo worked well for us because both bedrooms had king beds. Most condos I looked at had a king in one bedroom and two twins in the second bedroom. This one had a bedroom upstairs in a loft area, with a king bed and a private bathroom. The other bedroom was downstairs, as was the kitchen and living room area. Another perk was the lanai. Technically, both bedrooms had private lanais, but they looked back toward the condo complex, whereas the lanai off the living room was large and looked out toward the ocean.

    Sunset from our lanai {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    We arrived in Maui on a Wednesday afternoon, and didn’t do much that day. We found the condo, unpacked, went out to eat dinner, and enjoyed a relaxing evening. In Maui, a rental car is necessary, so we booked a car for the week so could explore the island.

    On our second day we picked my mother and stepfather up from the airport, they stayed an extra night in Oahu. After getting everyone settled in the condo, we decided to go shopping. Well, my mother, Gavin, and I went to a quilt shop for her to shop fabrics, and the guys (Michael and my stepfather) went to a brewery. After that, we stopped at the Kihei Kalama Village for shopping and dinner.

    Friday was spent at the beach and ended with a luau. We walked across the street from the condo to go to the Kamaole Beach III and spent the day there. Friday night we went to the Old Lahiana Luau. It was a fun experience, and something we all enjoyed.

    Old Lahaina Luau {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Dressed for the Old Lahaina Luau {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Roast pig at Old Lahaina Luau {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Old Lahaina Luau {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Old Lahaina Luau {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Saturday got off to a rocky start. That was the morning the missile alert message was sent out. So, we saw that on our phones, and tried to verify if it was real or not. We never panicked or anything. I did try calling a couple of police stations, but never got through – guess we weren’t the only ones calling. We turned on the local news because the national news wasn’t reporting anything, and the local news announced it was a false alert, so we went back to drinking our morning coffee and enjoying the view. It was still a little while before we got phone alerts that the first message was an error. Anyway, we never really did anything that day. I went for a long walk by myself down the beach. I walked along Keawakapu Beach, Mokapu Beach, and Ulua Beach. It was beautiful, and I enjoyed a nice, long walk along the beach.

    Gavin at sunset {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    On Sunday, Michael, Gavin, and I went to Lahaina. We did a whale watching boat trip, walked around town, and had lunch. It’s a great town to walk, and had plenty of restaurants and shops. Also, there was a big harbor there, and a lot of the boat tours left from that harbor.

    Gavin whale watching {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Whale watching {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Whale watching {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Monday morning was a very early start. We got up really early to drive up to Haleakala National Park to watch the sunrise. It was a beautiful sunrise, but Gavin did not like it. He was sleepy, and it’s really cold, so he wasn’t having it.

    Sunrise at Haleakala {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    That afternoon we drove over to Big Beach, also known as Makena Beach and Oneloa Beach. It’s the widest beach we went to. There was a serious shore break, so swimming was a little more dangerous on this beach than some of the others we visited.

    Big Beach {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Michael and Gavin at Big Beach {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Tuesday was our last full day in Maui, and we drove over to Paia. We wanted to visit somewhere on the north side of the island, and this town seemed like a good choice. We walked around town, visited some shops, and ate lunch. On the way out of town, we stopped at Hookipa Beach. We parked the car, and Michael and I walked a little on the beach while Gavin waited in the car with his Honey and Pappaw. This is definitely not a swimming beach, but there were some kiteboarders out. This is also the only place we saw sea turtles.

    Hookipa Beach {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Hookipa Beach {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Wednesday was our last day in Hawaii. We flew from Maui back to Dallas. Another long travel day. We were all exhausted when we got home, but had a great time in Hawaii.

    Gavin playing at beach {Maui} | rainerlife.com

    Maui sunset | rainerlife.com

  • US Travel

    Honolulu, Oahu

    Aloha!

    We went to Hawaii to celebrate my birthday. I turned the big 4-0, and wanted to take a trip to celebrate. Since I had never been to Hawaii, and beach vacations are always relaxing, a Hawaiian vacation sounded perfect. We stayed on two islands, Oahu and Maui. This post is about Oahu, and a second post will be about our time in Maui.

    Waikiki Beach | rainerlife.com

    We traveled from Dallas to Honolulu, Oahu, and stayed in Honolulu for three nights. We arrived on a Sunday evening, so that day was a long travel day. My mother and stepfather traveled with us, so them and us (Michael, Gavin, and me), were all exhausted.

    We didn’t have anything scheduled for our first day in Oahu. I figured we would be tired from the long day before, and not up for too much activity. So, we walked over to Waikiki Beach and checked out the beach, had a leisurely lunch, and did a little shopping.

    Waikiki Beach | rainerlife.com

    On our second day, we went to Pearl Harbor. We went in the afternoon, and had plenty of time to see the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Bowfin submarine and museum. We didn’t go to the USS Missouri or the Pacific Aviation Museum. We didn’t want to schedule too much, since we were traveling with a three-year-old.

    Pearl Harbor | rainerlife.com

    USS Bowfin submarine at Pearl Harbor | rainerlife.com

    USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor | rainerlife.com

    We had fun sightseeing in Waikiki, but only spent a couple of days there. I’m glad we spent some time in Honolulu because Pearl Harbor was special to see. Most of our trip was spent in Maui, where we spent a week.

  • International Travel

    Vacation in Heidelberg, Germany (Part 2 of 2)

    View of Heidelberg and Old Bridge from Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Last week I wrote Part 1 of our Heidelberg trip. It included information on our day in Frankfurt, where we stayed in Heidelberg, and restaurants we visited. This post is all about the sightseeing we did while in Heidelberg. We stayed a week in Heidelberg, and had plenty to do and see while we were there. Since we were traveling with a toddler, we didn’t want to cram our schedules with lots of activities. So, we took our time sightseeing, but we did see everything we wanted to see.

    We stayed on Hauptstrasse, the main pedestrian street in the heart of Old Town. With that great location, we were able to walk everywhere we went. We didn’t want to worry with renting a car, so we had planned on relying on public transportation. We did take a bus when we first arrived in Heidelberg, and we took a cab on our last day, but otherwise we walked. The sights we wanted to see were all located in or near the Old Town (Altstadt) area.

    Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg)

    The castle ruins are probably the most popular sightseeing thing to do in Heidelberg… and they are definitely worth visiting! We spent one day visiting the castle. We walked up to the castle so we could see more of the area surrounding it. Turns out, it’s a pretty good hike, so we got a workout that day. They do offer a train that goes to the castle, so I recommend taking it to avoid the hike. However, if you’re up for a workout and the weather’s clear, the walk up to the castle was nice… and not at all crowded.

    Construction of the castle began before the 1300s. The part of the castle that remains today was finished before the 1650s. Unfortunately, lightning strikes and wars destroyed portions of the castle, leaving the ruins that remain today. I think they offer guided tours that allow visitors into part of the interior of the castle, but the only interior areas we saw were the wine barrel building, museum, and gift shop. The grounds of the castle are beautiful, so take time to walk around and see more than just the castle.

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    The Rainers at Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Michael and Gavin at Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Darinda and Gavin at Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Michael and Gavin at Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) | rainerlife.com

    Great Terrace at Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle grounds | rainerlife.com

    Bust of Johann Wolfgang Goethe on grounds of Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle grounds | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle grounds | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Tun

    The Heidelberg Tun, or the World’s Largest Wine Barrel, was built in 1751 by Prince Elector Karl Theodor. It stands 23-feet tall and is 28-feet wide. The barrel holds 58,124 gallons of wine! The barrel was used to hold wine paid as taxes by the local wine growers. It no longer holds wine. The room where the barrel is housed has a staircase that you can climb and walk over the barrel. On top of the barrel is a dance floor.

    Darinda and Gavin at the Heidelberg Tun | rainerlife.com

    Michael at the Heidelberg Tun | rainerlife.com

    Apothecary Museum (Deutsches Apotheken Museum)

    Located in the Heidelberg Castle. This apothecary museum was very interesting! The museum has different rooms that display the history of pharmacy, including a pharmacist’s office, a laboratory, numerous pieces of equipment, plus over 1,000 raw drugs that were used in the 17th-19th centuries.

    Apothecary Museum at Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Apothecary Museum at Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Apothecary Museum at Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Castle Illumination and Fireworks

    The town of Heidelberg hosts the Castle Illumination and Fireworks three times a year – June, July, and September. The illumination of the castle symbolizes when the troops of Sun King Louis XIV torched the castle in 1689 and 1693, leaving the ruins that remain today. After the castle illumination, fireworks are shot from the Old Bridge. This tradition is based on when the Elector Friedrich V arranged a fireworks display in 1613 to welcome his bride, Elizabeth Stuart, to Heidelberg.

    Fireworks over Heidelberg Castle | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Castle Illumination | rainerlife.com

    Old Town (Altstadt)

    The Old Town of Heidelberg includes Hauptstrasse, the University area, and the Old Bridge. This is the oldest part of the city, and has a wonderful mixture of historic sights, with the modern convenience of shopping and restaurants.

    Heidelberg, Germany | rainerlife.com

    Old Town Heidelberg, Germany | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg, Germany | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Festival near the Old University {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Hauptstrasse

    The main street through the Old Town. Hauptstrasse is a mile-long pedestrian zone. We stayed on this street, and most of the shops and restaurants we visited were on this street.

    Hauptstrasse in Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Hauptstrasse in Old Town {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Bookshop on Hauptstrasse {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg at night | rainerlife.com

    Karl Theodor Old Bridge (Alte Brucke)

    The current Old Bridge was built in 1786. This is not the original bridge built here, but it is the first bridge of stone. The other eight bridges that once stood here were all built of wood and destroyed by floods or war. The bridge crosses the Neckar River and connects the Old Town to the Neuenheim district of the city.

    The Old Bridge (Alte Brücke) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    The bridge has two sculptures on it, Prince Elector Karl Theodor and Roman goddess Minerva. Karl Theodor had the bridge built, so a monument stands in his honor. The other sculpture was dedicated to Minerva, goddess of wisdom, because Theodor was a supporter of the arts and sciences.

    Karl Theodor Sculpture on Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Minerva Sculpture on Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    The medieval bridge gate on the Old Town side of the bridge was once part of the city wall. The two towers were once used as a guardhouse and jail.

    Bridge Gate on the Old Bridge in Heidelberg | rainerlife.com

    On the Neuenheim district side of the Old Bridge is a Love Stone (Heidelberger Liebesstein) with Love Locks attached to it. Apparently, people sometimes attach locks to the Old Bridge, and the city was afraid of potential damage the locks could cause. For a compromise, the city had this monument put up, and people can attach locks to it. A love poem is engraved into the stone, plus the center of the monument has a hole for photo opportunities.

    Love Locks near the Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Love locks at end of Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Bridge Monkey (Brückenaffe)

    The history of a Heidelberg bridge monkey dates back to the 15th century. The current sculpture was built by Gernot Rumpf and installed in 1979. The bronze monkey is holding a mirror, and is supposed to symbolize that the city people are no better than those outside the city, and they should look over their shoulder when leaving the city to remember that. It’s a popular tourist attraction, and has a couple of superstitions associated with it. Supposedly, if you touch the monkey’s fingers you will return to Heidelberg one day, if you touch the mirror you will receive wealth, and if you touch the mice located next to the monkey you will have lots of children.

    Bridge Monkey at Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Bronze Badge next to Bridge Monkey on Old Bridge {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Market Square (Marktplatz)

    This busy square is located between the Church of the Holy Spirit and the Town Hall. This square has a interesting history because of the many public proceedings that were held here. Some of the things done in this square included burning witches at the stake and putting petty criminals in cages to be tormented by the locals. In addition, it was the market square, where fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, and crafts were sold. Markets still take place a couple of times a week. During the warm weather months, like when we were visiting, the square is full of tables and chairs set our by the nearby restaurants. In the center of the square is a fountain of Hercules.

    Market Square (Marktplatz) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Market Square {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Market Square {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Market Square and Church of the Holy Spirit {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggeistkirche)

    The Church of the Holy Spirit is located next to Market Square. The foundations of the current Gothic church were laid in 1398. Over the years, the church has been used by Catholics and Protestants. It is currently used by Protestants.

    Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggiestkirche) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Church of the Holy Spirit (Heiliggiestkirche) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Corn Market (Kornmarkt)

    This once served as a market square and is still used today. One day we were there, the square was full of people selling crafts. In the center of this square is a Madonna statue. The statue was placed here in 1718 by the Jesuits.

    Kornmarkt {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Kornmarkt {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Karlstor

    This arch was built built 1775-1781 to honor Elector Karl Theodor.

    Karlstor {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche)

    The Jesuit Church was built between 1712-1759, with the bell tower added in 1872. We could see this church from our apartment… it was at the end of the road directly across from the apartment we rented. This church is still used by Catholics.

    Jesuit Church {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Jesuit Church {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Marstall

    This building was constructed during the early 16th century and is one of the oldest buildings in Heidelberg. It was originally built as an arsenal, but has had various other uses over the years, including use as stables, military barracks, and a hospital. The interior has been redesigned over the years, depending on the purpose of the building. It is currently part of the university and houses dining halls.

    Heidelberg, Germany | rainerlife.com

    Old University (Alte Universitat)

    Heidelberg University was founded in 1386. The Old University building houses the university museum and the Great Hall. The building was constructed between 1712 and 1728. The university museum displays cover the university’s history from it’s founding up until the end of the 20th century. The Great Hall was beautiful to see. This auditorium was redesigned in in 1886, in honor of the university’s 500th anniversary. The auditorium is currently used for ceremonies and special events.

    Old University {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Old University (Alte Universitat) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Student Prison (Studentenkarzer)

    The student prison is located behind the Old University. The prison was established in 1778 and was used until 1914. Though it was an official jail, it was less formal than most jails. For instance, the students were allowed to attend classes, as long as they returned to jail after class. The walls of the prison are covered in writings and artwork (i.e., graffiti) done by the student prisoners.

    Student Jail (Studentenkarzer) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Student Jail (Studentenkarzer) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Student Jail (Studentenkarzer) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Student Jail (Studentenkarzer) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    University Library (Universitatsbibliothek)

    The university library’s history dates back to the 1380s, when the university started to acquire book collections. The current library was built in 1905 using the Renaissance style of the castle as influence. This library contains more than 3 million books and is one of the most used libraries in Germany.

    University Library {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)

    The oldest church in Heidelberg. No documentation states exactly when the church was constructed, but is was sometime during the 12th century. This church is near the University Library and it serves as the university church. Protestant services are currently held here.

    St. Peter's Church {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Königstuhl Funicular (Bergbahn)

    A train that goes up to Königstuhl. The train leaves Kornmarkt, and has three stops: Heidelberg Castle, Molkenkur, and Königstuhl. Molkenkur is a transfer station, so you have to get off the train from Kornmarkt and walk over to another train to take you up to Königstuhl. We didn’t explore this area, so I’m not sure what all they have to offer here.

    Königstuhl Funicular (Bergbahn) {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    King’s Throne (Königstuhl)

    Part of the Odenwald Mountains that offers great views of Heidelberg. While we were riding the train, we saw a few people paragliding from the top of the mountain. Once we reached the top, one person was preparing to paraglide, so we stopped to watch the action. There are several hiking trails here. We walked on one trail for a little while to see some of the area.

    View of Heidelberg from The Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    Trails at Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    Trails at Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    Trails at Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    Trails at Königstuhl | rainerlife.com

    River Cruise on Neckar River

    This was our only excursion from Heidelberg. We took the three-hour river cruise that went to Neckarsteinach and back to Heidelberg. We sat on the sun deck and enjoyed a beautiful day of sightseeing… while giving our feet a rest! The cruise we were on offered food and drinks for sale, so we had a late lunch aboard the ship. The ship boarded at Heidelberg and had stops in Neckargemünd and Neckarsteinach. Neckargemünd is a small town that has the charm of a 17th century village. Neckarsteinach is best known for having four castles, all of which are visible from the river. The castles were built between the 1100s and 1335. The castles are Vorderburg, the Mittelburg, the Hinterburg, and the Schadeck. The Vorderburg is the oldest of the castles, it is privately owned and not open to the public. The Mittelburg was built around 1200, and is also privately owned and not open to the public. The Hinterburg was built around 1220, and has fallen to ruins over the years, but it is open to the public. The Schadeck was the last castle built, and is also in ruins and open to the public.

    Dam on Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    View from Neckar River Cruise | rainerlife.com

    Campers along Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    Neckargemünd on Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    Neckargemünd on Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    Neckarsteinach on the Neckar River | rainerlife.com

    Schadeck Castle in Neckarsteinach | rainerlife.com

    Hinterburg Castle in Neckarsteinach | rainerlife.com

    Mittelburg Castle in Neckarsteinach | rainerlife.com

    Vorderburg Castle in Neckarsteinach | rainerlife.com

    View from Neckar River Cruise | rainerlife.com

    Neckar River | rainerlife.com

  • International Travel

    Vacation in Heidelberg, Germany (Part 1 of 2)

    To start our vacation, we flew into Frankfurt, Germany, on a Wednesday. We took a train from the airport to the city center and walked around for awhile, had lunch, and walked to the main train station. We didn’t spend very much time in Frankfurt, but we did walk around enough to see the Zeil (pedestrian street known for its shopping), the Main River, and Altstadt (Old Town), including the Römer. Gavin was in his stroller, and slept through most of our walking because he didn’t get much sleep on the long flight.

    Frankfurt, Germany | rainerlife.com

    The Römer {Frankfurt, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Main River {Frankfurt, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Frankfurt Main Train Station | rainerlife.com

    We took a train to Heidelberg, which took a little less than an hour. It wasn’t very crowded, though there were several stops between Frankfurt and Heidelberg that picked up more passengers. Once at the Heidelberg train station, we went in search of the tourist information office to get a map of the city. The tourist information office was located just outside the train station. We purchased a map (€1.50) and got directions to our accommodations. We took a bus from the train station to the stop nearest the apartment where we stayed. Bus tickets could be purchased at the information center or on the bus.

    Heidelberg Train Station | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Train Station | rainerlife.com

    Accommodations – Airbnb

    We stayed the week at an apartment booked on Airbnb. It was a two bedroom, one bath apartment. We didn’t use the second bedroom since Gavin is too young to stay in his own room in an unfamiliar place. Posted check in time was after 4:00 pm and check out was 11:00 am. Our Airbnb host had said the apartment would be ready after 2:00 pm, so we arrived a little earlier than originally planned. The apartment was located on Hauptstrasse, and we couldn’t have had a better location! We were right in the center of Old Town and within walking distance of everything we wanted to see. Hauptstrasse is a main pedestrian road, and is full of restaurants and shops. The apartment building had an entrance off Hauptstrasse, and our place was on the second floor. Steps, no elevator. Not a problem for us, but something others may want to ask about when booking an apartment. The hall downstairs had enough room we could leave Gavin’s stroller, so we didn’t have to carry it upstairs.

    Hauptstrasse - view from our apartment windows (Heidelberg, Germany) | rainerlife.com

    View from our apartment windows {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Hauptstrasse - view from our apartment windows (Heidelberg, Germany) | rainerlife.com

    The apartment was furnished with the usual items found in a German apartment. The master bedroom had a king bed and the second bedroom had a twin bed. The master bedroom had a large armoire and two nightstand to keep our items. There was no air conditioner, but there were two fans we could move around that provided enough air for us. We also kept the large windows open when we were there. The nice sized living room had a sofa and two chairs, coffee table, television, and a desk. The kitchen was well-equipped with a stove top, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator, dishes, pots and pans, and utensils. The washing machine was located in the kitchen. It was a small washer, that unfortunately wasn’t working while we were there. We had to hand wash everything during our stay, but it was only a week, so not too big of a deal. The dining area had a table with six chairs and a highchair in the corner. A family-friendly apartment. The apartment had wifi… I think most places provide wifi now, but it’s a good idea to make sure before booking. We had packed adapters, but we packed the wrong ones. Fortunately, there was one plug in the bedroom we could use, so we took turns charging our phones. Our phones were the only thing we had that needing charging, so it was fine for us. The bathroom had a tub/shower combo. They provided three towels for our use during the stay. We had brought all our own toiletry items, but they did have small bottles of shampoo and small soaps for us to use. Our host spoke English, so communication was not a problem. We were very happy with the apartment!

    Living area at Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Bedroom at Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Bedroom at Heidelberg Airbnb | rainerlife.com

    Food & Drink

    Palmbräu Gasse – We had dinner here on our first day and a late dinner on Saturday night. The restaurant wasn’t too busy the first time we visited, but it was more packed on Saturday. On Saturday, we ate late because we ate after the fireworks, and most restaurants in this area were packed. We sat inside both times. This restaurant offered their own beers including a hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, helles, and schwarzbier. Our waitress spoke English, and an English menu was available. We had typical German food and beer with both our meals. The food and service were both good.

    Palmbräu Gasse {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    The Dubliners – An Irish pub located on Hauptstrasse. We stopped here a few times during our stay in Heidelberg. Once just for drinks, once for lunch, and once for a late dinner. We first spotted this place when we were walking around and sightseeing. It was hot while we were in town, so stopping for a cold drink and sitting awhile seemed like a good idea. We went back a day or so later because we had noticed the menu looked like it would be a good lunch spot. We ended up here one more time when looking for a place to grab a late dinner, this was one of the few places that had their kitchen open late. It’s a pub, so they had a good selection of drinks, but they had a good selection of food too. They offered Irish food, German food, burgers, and pizzas.

    Vetter’s – We had lunch here and tasted their beers. They brew the Vetter 33, a doppelbock – highest alcohol by original gravity (OG 33, ABV 11.5%). The Vetter 33 was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1994. They offer three year-round beers and occasional seasonals. We tasted the three main brews (the doppelbock, a Helles, and a dunkelweizen), no seasonal beers were available.

    Löwenbräu – Located on Hauptstrasse, it was a short walk from our apartment. They offered typical German foods and Löwenbräu beers. Our waiter spoke English, and they offered an English menu. The food and service were both good.

    Snitzelbank – This was the most authentic German restaurant we ate in. We had lunch there, and the food and service were both very good. This place is located just off Hauptstrasse, and is very small. Fortunately, we arrived at a good time, so a table was available. They don’t have much seating, so it’s good to go at a less busy time.

    Goldener Hecht – An Austrian-style restaurant located near the Old Bridge. This was the only restaurant we ate at during our time in Germany that we had poor service. The food was good, but I wouldn’t recommend the place to anyone. What’s funny is that this place had better reviews than most places we ate at.

    Everywhere we ate gave large portions of food. I don’t think I finished a meal at any of the restaurants, and a couple of times the waitress even asked if the food was okay since I hadn’t eat the whole meal. We ate very well while in Germany. The food was good, and we definitely didn’t leave any restaurant hungry.

    Michael enjoying a beer in Germany | rainerlife.com

    While in Heidelberg, be sure to get a gelato. There are several gelato places along Hauptstrasse. A small gelato is about €1, so you can’t beat the price. They offer lots of different flavors, so be sure to try a variety. We stopped a couple of different times for gelato, and it was always good.

    Gavin eating gelato {Heidelberg, Germany} | rainerlife.com

    Next week I will post Part 2. That post will include the activities and sightseeing we did while in Heidelberg. Lots of pictures to post in that one!

    Signing off with a photo of the little man proudly displaying his first stamp in his passport!

  • US Travel

    Quick Trip to Houston

    Early in May, we took a quick trip down to Houston. Our main reason for going was to take Gavin to visit NASA. He is really into space stuff right now, and we thought he would enjoy seeing the Houston Space Center.

    We spent three nights, and did a different family activity each day. The first day, we arrived in late afternoon. After checking into the hotel, we drove over to the Kemah Boardwalk. The second day we spent at the Houston Space Center. On the third day, we visited the Houston Zoo. We drove back home on the fourth day.

    Kemah Boardwalk
    It’s been years since I visited the Kemah Boardwalk. It’s still a fun place! We walked around the boardwalk and had dinner while watching the boat traffic. Gavin’s too young for the rides, and we’re not big shoppers, so we’re happy walking around, people watching, and grabbing a bite to eat. We ate at The Flying Dutchman. We were able to get a table outside, so we had a good view to watch the boat traffic. It was a Sunday, and there was a lot of boats coming and going.

    Gavin & Darinda at Kemah Boardwalk | rainerlife.com

    Space Center Houston
    Our main reason for going to Houston was the Space Center. It was great! Gavin had so much fun! The Space Center had lots of interesting and informative exhibits. We arrived early – just before they opened. The Space Center opened at 9:00 and we wanted to have plenty of time to see everything.

    NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Tram Tour – Astronaut Training Facility
    We started the day with the a tram ride around the NASA Johnson Space Center. The Space Center offered two tram rides, red and blue. We opted to start with the blue tram first. That tram tour visited the Astronaut Training Facility and Rocket Park. Since it was early, and not their peak time of year, there were only four of us on the tour… and our little family were three of the four! The tour guides seemed to like the small group and visited a little longer, giving us more information than they probably normally have time for in a packed tour. The tour goes to Building 9, a huge warehouse that houses all sorts of equipment the astronauts use to train before going to space. Plus, it’s where a lot of new tech is being developed. It was really interesting to see! The tram tour then went to Rocket Park, where a Saturn V rocket is on display. It was amazing to see a rocket up close like that, and Gavin thought it was fun to see.

    Building 9 at NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Building 9 at NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Building 9 at NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Building 9 at NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Building 9 at NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Building 9 at NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Building 9 at NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Warehouse for the Saturn V at the NASA Johnson Space Center | rainerlife.com

    Gavin & Michael at Rocket Park | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Rocket Park | rainerlife.com

    Gavin & Michael at Rocket Park | rainerlife.com

    Gavin & Michael at Rocket Park | rainerlife.com

    Gavin & Michael at Rocket Park | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Rocket Park | rainerlife.com

    After the tram tour, we walked around the Space Center. There are a lot of exhibits to see! The exhibits we saw were Space Center Plaza, Mission Mars, Starship Gallery, Independence Plaza, International Space Station Gallery, and Astronaut Gallery.

    Space Center Plaza
    This the the main area we first walked through once we arrived at the Space Center. On our visit, this area was set up with a lot of hands on activities geared toward children. Gavin was too young for it, but Michael and I walked around with him and showed him what some of the activities were and how they worked.

    Mission Mars
    This is a newer exhibit for the Space Center, and contains a simulated Orion capsule and a Mars rock you can touch. There was a lot of information in this area, and unlike the other areas, it has more on new tech and NASA’s journey to Mars. This was one of Gavin’s favorite areas.

    Starship Gallery
    This area of the Space Center is like a museum and contains some cool artifacts, such as a Gemini V, Lunar Roving Vehicle Trainer, the Apollo 17 Command Module, the Skylab 1-G Trainer, Mercury 9 “Faith 7”, and the Lunar Samples Vault, which includes a moon rock you can touch. I enjoyed this area, but it seemed to be too much for Gavin. He was looking every which way and kept running from one thing to the next.

    Independence Plaza
    This exhibit was very cool! This is a replica of the shuttle Independence, mounted on top of the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. You can board both the shuttle and airplane. I think Gavin would have enjoyed this more if he was a little older. He didn’t seem to connect that he was walking around on the shuttle and airplane. We took the elevator up to the shuttle instead of the stairs, so when we got off the elevator, he was suddenly in the shuttle. I don’t think he really made the connection that it was the shuttle we had been walking under.

    International Space Station Gallery
    This area is also kind of more like a museum, and contains artifacts from the space station and interactive displays. There were some interesting things in this area, but we walked through a lot without doing much since it was geared toward older kids and adults.

    Astronaut Gallery
    The points of interest here were the Gallery Wall (photos of every US astronaut who has flown to space) and various space suits. Some of the space suits were Pete Conrad’s Apollo 12 suit, John Young’s escape suit, a shuttle launch entry suit, and the Orlan suit. This was a big open area and didn’t take too long too walk around. Actually, I walked around here while Michael and Gavin went back to the Mission Mars exhibit since Gavin was wanting to see that again.

    Tram Tour – Mission Control
    Later in the day, we went on the red tram tour. Actually, it was the last tour of the day, so we were on the first and last tram tours. Anyway, the red tram tour visited Mission Control and Rocket Park. I was the one that really wanted to go on this tour. Gavin wasn’t all that interested in it. The tour goes to the viewing room of Historic Mission Control. Everything is straight out of the sixties… because it hasn’t been updated, since it’s a historical site. It was cool to see Mission Control where so many important NASA missions were monitored, including nine Gemini and all Apollo lunar missions. After visiting Historic Mission Control, the tour went to Rocket Park. Since we had seen Rocket Park earlier in the day, we stayed on the tram to head back to the Space Center. Multiple tram tours were running at the same time, so trams rotated through Rocket Park to pick up visitors and take them back to the Space Center. That’s a great feature, since we were able to spend as much time as we wanted at Rocket Park in the early part of the day, and skip it later in the day.

    We spent a full day seeing the Space Center, and we didn’t do everything they offered. We had a toddler with us, so we took our time, skipped a couple of things, went faster through some exhibits, and slower through others. Plus, we must have gone through the Mission Mars exhibit at least three times. The must-see things were the tram tours and the Independence Plaza.

    The Space Center does have a dining area that sold different foods, like pizza, burgers, salads, and sandwiches. We ate a leisurely lunch of pizza, which tasted okay and was overpriced. Typical for this type of place.

    The Space Center had two gift shops, one large and one small. Of course, we bought a few things for our space loving little boy. His biggest delight was a space suit and a helmet. We bought them after lunch, so he wore them the rest of the day. He looked adorable all decked out in his space suit, plus he had so much fun wearing it and running around looking at the exhibits.

    Houston Zoo
    We went to the zoo on a Tuesday afternoon, which it turns out is a free time to visit the zoo. That means it was crazy busy! Parking was the worst part, but once we found a spot it wasn’t too bad. The zoo was crowded, but we still saw everything we were interested in seeing. The zoo is large, with lots of great exhibits, so we spent a few hours walking around. The Children’s Area was great, and Gavin had a lot of fun in that part of the zoo.

    Gavin at the Houston Zoo | rainerlife.com

    Hotel
    Staybridge Suites
    We stayed at the Staybridge Suites near NASA. It was a convenient location for NASA, and Kemah wasn’t a far drive. It took a long time to drive to the zoo, but Houston traffic is terrible, so it takes a while to get anywhere. The hotel staff was very friendly, and the hotel was clean. They were doing construction, but we knew that ahead of time and it wasn’t a problem for us. The construction did close off some of their parking, and twice we grabbed the last spot in the lot… and one of those times was only because a car left, freeing up a spot. We booked a one bedroom suite with a king bed. I wanted a suite so we could close the door if someone, like Gavin, wanted to sleep, but Michael and/or I wanted to stay up. For this trip, it worked out well for us. We didn’t do much outside of the room, but we did enjoy the breakfast each morning.

    Restaurants
    We ate breakfast at the hotel and grabbed lunch at wherever we were visiting (Space Center and Zoo), but we did go out to eat in the evenings.

    The Flying Dutchman
    Seafood resturant located at the Kemah Boardwalk. The food was good, the service was great. I had the shrimp & crab cobb salad, which was huge and no way could I eat the whole thing, but it tasted good. Michael had a steak. It’s always a risk to order a steak at a seafood restaurant, but he figured he’s in Texas, so maybe it would be okay. He said it was good, so I guess he was right. For Gavin, we ordered grilled shrimp. We had them hold the seasoning on his shrimp so they wouldn’t be too spicy, and he seemed to like them. We sat outside near the water and watched the boats while we ate, which was fun for all of us. A good dining choice while visiting the Kemah Boardwalk.

    Bone Daddy’s
    A BBQ joint in Webster. The food and service were good. I had the burnt ends with skillet beans and potato salad. Michael had hot link sausage and brown sugar ham with potato salad and mac and cheese. We both shared food with Gavin, so he had some of everything, except the hot link sausage because it was really spicy. We enjoyed the food and casual atmosphere.

    J Henry’s Draughthouse
    A family-friendly pub-like restaurant in Clear Lake. We wanted to try a place with a good beer selection, and Michael found this one listed online. We started with the soft pretzel appetizer, which is always a good choice with beer. For dinner, I had the beer glazed fish tacos, Michael had the chicken & sausage spaghetti, and Gavin had a cheeseburger. The food was good and the beer selection was great. Most of the beers were from Texas, and they had several beers we hadn’t tried. It was a good place to go for finding new beers to try.

    We had a fun, short family trip! I think Gavin had fun at the Space Center, which was the main part of the trip. So glad we were able to take a few days to get a short vacation in this Spring.

  • Home Improvements

    Game Room {Before & After}

    Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase. For more information, click here.

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    The room we are using as a game room was built to use as a master bedroom. This room is located behind the kitchen and breakfast room, and we converted one of the closets in this room into a really great walk-in pantry (see the house floor plan). This room has a nice size bathroom off of it and part of that bathroom is what we call the guest half bath. This is another room that we finished last year, but I’m just now getting around to writing about it.

    The room was originally painted light blue with off-white trim, crown molding, and doors. I painted the walls gray using Behr Premium Plus Ultra matte/flat Anonymous (Behr – 780F-5) and the ceiling was painted with Behr Premium Plus Ultra matte/flat Full Moon (Behr – 780E-2). The trim, crown molding, and doors were painted with Behr Premium Plus Ultra satin Ultra Pure White. The interior of the closet was painted with Behr Premium Plus Ultra matte Ultra Pure White.

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    This room had carpet, but we wanted to have wood floors in here like in a lot of other areas of our home. So, we had the carpet ripped out and new flooring installed. It looks great!

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Other improvements were:
    – Hired someone to remove the popcorn ceiling.
    – Replaced the ceiling vent register.
    – Replaced the return air vent grille.
    – Placed LED light bulbs in the ceiling fan and the closet light fixture.
    – Replaced the pull chains on the fan.
    – Replaced the bronze door knob on the game room door with a Baldwin satin nickel knob.
    – Replaced the bronze door knobs on the closet doors with Baldwin satin nickel hall/closet knob.
    – Replaced the bronze door hinges on both doors with satin nickel hinges.
    – Installed new doorstops for the game room door and closet door.
    – Replaced the windows.

    We hired an electrician to update the electrical work in our house. For this room, that was:
    – Replaced the ceiling fan.
    – Replaced the outlets with white decorator outlets.
    – Replaced the toggle light switches with white decorator rocker switches.
    – Replaced the cable outlets with white decorator coax cables.
    – Replaced the phone jack with a white decorator jack.
    – Had hardwired smoke/carbon monoxide alarms installed in the house – one alarm was placed in this room.

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    We replaced the felt on the pool table when we set it up in this room. When we’re not using this room, we keep the pool table covered.

    It’s great to have it finished and the pool table finally set up and ready to use! This is a fun room to have! We haven’t been using the game room much lately, but it’s great to have when we want to relax and shoot some pool.

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Game Room {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

  • Home Improvements

    Home Gym {Before & After}

    Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means I may receive a very small commission, at no cost to you, if you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase. For more information, click here.

    Home Gym | rainerlife.com

    Years ago, one of the previous owners enclosed the garage and created two bedrooms. We are using one of those bedrooms as a home office and the other as a home gym. This is another room that I finished last year, but never wrote anything about it on the blog.

    The room was originally painted off-white with off-white trim and doors. I painted the ceiling and walls light gray using Behr Premium Plus Ultra matte/flat Full Moon (Behr – 780E-2). The built-in shelves were painted with Behr Premium Plus Ultra matte/flat Sparrow (Behr – 780F-4). The trim and doors were painted with Behr Premium Plus Ultra satin Ultra Pure White. The interior of the closet was painted with Behr Premium Plus Ultra matte Ultra Pure White.

    Home Gym {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Home Gym {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    This room has a concrete floor. The floor originally had two coats of paint on it, the bottom coat was red and the top coat was black. The floor was scuffed up pretty bad since I had been using this room as a storage and work room, so I wanted to repaint the floor. Since I wasn’t happy with how the floor turned out in the home office, I decided to paint the floor with a concrete stain instead of using a dye. I cleaned the floor and scraped up all the loose paint. After making sure the floor was as clean as I could get it, I used Behr Concrete Stain on the floor, hoping it would work better than the concrete dye. I used a paint roller to apply two coats of Tar Black. I opted not to use a sealer since it caused a cloudy look to the concrete dye floor. So far, this floor looks much better than the floor in the office, plus it has held up better.

    Home Gym {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Other improvements were:
    – Hired someone to remove the popcorn ceiling.
    – Replaced the ceiling vent registers.
    – Placed LED light bulbs in the ceiling fan and the closet light fixture.
    – Replaced the ceiling fan pulls.
    – Replaced the bronze door knob on the office door with a Baldwin satin nickel knob.
    – Replaced the bronze door knobs on the closet doors with Baldwin satin nickel dummy knobs.
    – Replaced the bronze door hinges on all three doors with satin nickel hinges.
    – Replaced the ball catches on the closet doors.
    – Installed a new doorstop for the door into the room.
    – Replaced the windows.
    – Removed the blinds and hung curtains. I used a double curtain rod with curtains already had – I had used them in another room, but wasn’t happy with how they looked, so they got moved to this room.

    Home Gym {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    Home Gym Closet {Before & After} | rainerlife.com

    We hired an electrician to update the electrical work in our house. For this room, that was:
    – Replaced the outlets with white decorator outlets.
    – Replaced the toggle light switch with a white decorator rocker switch.
    – Replaced the cable outlet with a white decorator coax.
    – Replaced the phone jack with a white decorator jack.
    – Had hardwired smoke/carbon monoxide alarms installed in the house – one alarm was placed in this room.
    – Had the light switch for the attic lights moved into the attic. The attic access is in the room, and the light switch was in the center of the wall and looked out of place, so it’s nice to have it moved into the attic.

    Home Gym | rainerlife.com

    Home Gym | rainerlife.com

    It’s nice to have this room finished – it gives us a nice work-out space and we both want to use this room more. We already had the treadmill, but we bought the exercise bike and weight bench last year. We had another weight bench, but decided to get a new one since the other one wasn’t in very good condition. The exercise bike was something I wanted because I prefer it over the treadmill. Now, I just have to make more time to use this room!