• Updates

    Monthly Recap: August 2017

    Happy Almost Fall!

    Our August was fun and relaxing! Gavin celebrated his birthday in early August, and we took him to Dallas for a couple of days to have some family fun. I wrote about our Dallas trip here. We were home on Gavin’s birthday, so we celebrated the day with lots of pool time and by going out to eat.

    The birthday boy - Gavin turned 3 years old! | rainerlife.com

    For the solar eclipse, we went to the local science place. They were handing out viewing glasses and had a few informative and fun activities. Gavin had fun, but he didn’t really understand the whole solar eclipse thing. We also went to the science place another day when it was less crowded. Gavin loves playing with the different activities they have available for kids to learn new things.

    Gavin at Discovery Science Place | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Discovery Science Place | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Discovery Science Place | rainerlife.com

    A new bookstore opened in town at the end of the month. Of course, we were there on opening day and managed to find a few books to buy. I got a lot of reading done in August, and have started reviewing books.

    Half Price Books | rainerlife.com

    Reading with Rocky | rainerlife.com

    We also spent a lot of time at home this month. We enjoyed the pool on nice days. We played with toys inside when it was too hot or too rainy.

    Gavin playing pirate | rainerlife.com

  • East Texas Experiences

    Family Fun in Dallas

    Gavin turned three years old earlier this month! To celebrate, we took a short trip to Dallas to do some fun stuff. We spent two days (one night) doing fun-filled activities with Gavin. We went to the Legoland Discovery Center in Grapevine and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas.

    We drove over on a Wednesday morning and did Legoland Discovery Center, which is in the Grapevine Mills mall. That took a few hours for us to do everything and give Gavin plenty of time to play. He was too young for a couple of the activities, but he did play in the Duplo Village and with the earthquake tables, walked around the Miniland, rode two rides (Merlin’s Apprentice and Kingdom Quest), and saw the 4D movie. They have a coffee shop inside, so we had a snack break while we were there. Of course, Gavin got a couple of new Duplo sets on the way out. Lego Duplos are his favorite toy, so we knew he would have tons of fun with all the Lego stuff.

    Gavin at Legoland Discovery Center | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Legoland Discovery Center | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Legoland Discovery Center | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Legoland Discovery Center | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Legoland Discovery Center | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Legoland Discovery Center | rainerlife.com

    When we left the Legoland Discovery Center, we walked through the mall to the Rainforest Cafe for a late lunch (okay food and service). It’s a fun restaurant to eat in, and we all enjoyed looking at the animals. We didn’t shop the mall, but it was busy and seemed to have a lots of good shopping options. Okay, I may have dragged Michael and Gavin in the Books-a-Million, but that was the only store we shopped. After the mall, we went to check into our hotel and rest a bit. After getting our second wind, we headed out for dinner – we ate at the Uncle Buck’s Brewery & Steakhouse (okay food, great service) that is part of the nearby Bass Pro Shops. We spent the night in Grapevine, and stayed at the Hyatt Place near the mall. We were exhausted after a very full day of activities!

    Gavin having fun at Rainforest Cafe | rainerlife.com

    We headed to the museum on Thursday morning. The Perot Museum of Nature and Science was very nice! Gavin had fallen asleep on the drive to downtown, so we put him in his stroller (he’s really too big for it, but we’re still making it work) and Michael and I enjoyed looking at some of the exhibits that wouldn’t have been much interest to Gavin. Those were the exhibits on the second and third floors that were about discovering life, being human, engineering, energy, and minerals. We woke him up to go to the fourth floor, which were the exhibits on space and dinosaurs. After seeing the fourth floor exhibits we went to the children’s museum on the lower level. We spent a lot of time in the children’s museum while Gavin played and explored. This area of the museum was designed for kids under the age of five, and has a wonderful selection of activities for the little ones to learn and play.

    Perot Museum of Nature & Science | rainerlife.com

    Perot Museum of Nature & Science | rainerlife.com

    Perot Museum of Nature & Science | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Perot Museum of Nature & Science | rainerlife.com

    Perot Museum of Nature & Science | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at Perot Museum of Nature & Science | rainerlife.com

    After we left the museum, we drove over to the Spaghetti Warehouse (good food, great service) and had lunch. It was a good restaurant choice for us because Gavin loves pizza and pasta.

    It was a busy two days, but lots of fun. Gavin really enjoyed the Legoland Discovery Center, and I think it’s somewhere we will take him again. The same is true for the museum. We’ll definitely be going back. They had an amazing selection of hands-on activities for older kids, so I think Gavin would really love it in a few years.

  • Updates

    Monthly Recap: July 2017

    Happy Dog Days of Summer!

    Our July was great! Early in the month, we went to Germany. We stayed in Heidelberg for a week and had so much fun! I already wrote about our trip, so for more about what we did and tons of photos, click here and here.

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

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

    Heidelberg Castle Illumination | rainerlife.com

    Gavin with his first stamp in his passport! | rainerlife.com

    Michael’s birthday was in July. We celebrated by hanging out at home around the pool and going out to eat.

    Michael on his birthday | rainerlife.com

    With our big trip early in the month, we took it easy the rest of the month. We took Gavin to see Despicable Me 3, and Michael and I went to see Wonder Woman. We did a lot of swimming and relaxing around the pool. Gavin and I went to the Center for Earth and Space Science Education to watch a couple of shows in their dome theater – Astronaut and Ocean Wonderland. I worked in the flower beds around the house. I’m working on the area around the pool. That’s about it for our July 2017.

    Gavin playing robot in the pool | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at CESSE | rainerlife.com

  • 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!

  • Updates

    Monthly Recap: June 2017

    Happy Summer!

    Our summer has been pretty great so far! We’ve been spending more time outside and in the pool. I love summer time, and it’s so nice to have a pool to relax in during the warm weather. Oh, and we have a lot of pool toys… and we play with all of them. I think the pool will be getting a lot of use this summer!

    Swimming pool | rainerlife.com

    Gavin playing in the swimming pool | rainerlife.com

    Gavin playing in the swimming pool | rainerlife.com

    Gavin playing in the swimming pool | rainerlife.com

    Pool time! | rainerlife.com

    We’ve been staying busy around the house, mainly working on yard projects. I started adding landscaping near the pool. We had the pool installed last summer, but never got around to landscaping around it. Figured the only way I would get any of it done was to work on one small area at a time. To get started, I added a bed of mondo grass between the flagstone decking and the fence. I dug out the area, placed stone edgers in the pattern I wanted, filled the bed with soil, and planted mondo grass. Between the stone edging and pool decking, I put in a drainage pipe and covered it with rocks. The water already drains that way, so, hopefully, that will only improve the drainage and help prevent the flower beds from being washed out in heavy rains. I will install more drainage pipe and rocks to improve the drainage, but it’ll be a slow process… maybe I can finish in July. I also started adding a few plants behind the pool. This will be a pretty large area to plant, and I’m not completely sure what I want to put there, so I only did one small area. Also, it was harder to dig out because of all the rocks buried in the ground from the pool construction. The soil isn’t great, so I’m digging out the grass and weeds and adding better top soil. Our only non-yard project was when our AC went out early in the month… thankfully we have a home warranty and they got the new unit installed. We have two AC units, so it wasn’t too hot in the house, plus it was pretty nice weather the week we were without a working air conditioner.

    Mondo grass bed | rainerlife.com

    On Father’s Day, we go to BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. The food is good, the beer selection is decent, and Michael gets a Father’s Day pint glass. He now has 4 – 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. He got one in 2014 because we went on Father’s Day when I was pregnant with Gavin, and they gave him a glass since he was “almost” a dad. It’s now a family tradition.

    BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse Father's Day Pint Glass | rainerlife.com

    We toured a local brewery early in the month. We’ve been to ETX Brewing several times, but never toured it… we always just get a pint and hang out for a bit. So, we wanted to tour the brewery, hear more about how they got started, and see how they brew their beers. It was fun to see their set up.

    ETX Brewing brewery tour | rainerlife.com

    ETX Brewing beer | rainerlife.com

    For other fun activities, we go to the library, movies, and out to eat. Gavin enjoys storytime at the library, and he LOVES to look at books… he gets that from his mama. Michael, Gavin, and I went to see Cars 3. A fun movie that we all enjoyed. Now that Gavin is a little older, we can add taking him to the movies as a fun outing to do. We try to be home in the afternoon for Gavin to take a nap, which he only does a couple of days a week now. The photo below is after he convinced me to let him sleep in the “big bed” (mama and daddy’s room) and bring all of his stuffed animals to nap with him. He can be very persuasive!

    Gavin at naptime | rainerlife.com

    Gavin | rainerlife.com

  • Organization

    7 Apps for Staying Organized

    7 Apps for Staying Organized | rainerlife.com

    Finding the right tool to help keep you organized is a wonderful thing. There are so many online resources available today to help keep people organized, that it can be difficult to narrow down the best app for you. I’ve tried numerous apps, but have a few favorites that I’ve used for years. Odds are, if you’re interested in something, so are other people… and someone probably created an app for that topic. I use some apps for tracking one specific thing (e.g., Goodreads), while other apps are more general and can be tailored in a variety of ways (e.g., OneNote).

    My favorites apps for staying organized:

    1. OneNote – I know Evernote gets lots of talk, but I’ve found OneNote to have everything I need to stay organized. I use OneNote to keep track of recipes, travel ideas, and home projects. Michael and I have shared Notebooks to keep track of things too, like home projects.

    2. LastPass – This is a great app to keep passwords organized. It seems everything requires a password, and every website has different criteria, so you end up with dozens of different passwords. I’m always forgetting passwords, so it’s great to have an easy way to look them up.

    3. Pinterest – This is possibly the most popular way to keep track of things found on the internet. I have “boards” for recipes, home projects, crafts, and other things I’m interested in. I tend to go back and clean up my “pins” after a while. For instance, if I have pins for a home project we’re working on, and we finish that project, I delete the pins when we’re finished.

    4. Feedly – This app is how I keep track of blogs I enjoy reading. I divided the blogs into different “feeds”, so I simply click on whichever topic I am interested in catching up on. It’s a great way to read the blogs I want to keep up with.

    5. Goodreads – I read a lot of books, but I have a hard time remembering which ones I’ve read and which ones I want to read. I used to keep a spreadsheet of books I had read, and tried to keep a list of books to read. When I started using Goodreads, I got rid of my spreadsheet system because Goodreads makes it so easy to look up a book when I’m out and about. I use Goodreads to record which books I’ve read and which books I want to read. I’ve found new authors and books to read by searching around Goodreads and reading other people’s suggestions and reviews. It’s a must have app for avid readers!

    6. Discogs – I use this app to keep track of which vinyl records I own. This app isn’t only for vinyl, you can use it to track CDs and cassettes too. It’s also a place to buy music. I’ve never bought anything on Discogs, but there are lots of records for sale. There is a wishlist feature too, which is nice if you’ve been trying to find something specific. If you have something on your wishlist, and someone lists it for sell, you get a notification… if you have notifications turned on.

    7. Untappd – This is an app that I use to keep track of the different beers I’ve tasted. Since we enjoy trying new beers, and I have poor memory, I can look up a beer and see if I’ve rated it. Beyond that, I can see when I had it and even where I had it. There is a great sort feature also, so I can sort by brewery, beer style, highest rated, etc. Before I started using Untappd, I used a spreadsheet to keep track of which beers I had tasted. There are other apps similar to Untappd, and I’ve tried a few, but so far I’m sticking with Untappd. This app has a social media side too. You can add friends and see who’s drinking what and what they like or don’t like. You can also have a wishlist of beers.

    These are the main apps I use to stay organized. Some of them, like Goodreads and Untappd, have social features that help you share info and find new things that interest you. There are so many apps available to help people stay organized. What are your favorite apps?

  • Children

    5 of Our Favorite Bedtime Books

    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.

    Every night at bedtime, Gavin picks a book (or three) and settles in my lap while we read books together. We’ve read a lot of books, but we do have a few favorites that we read over and over… and over! Gavin has a nice collection of books to choose from, and we’re always adding more books. The books listed below are ones we own and have read numerous times. We do check books out at the library a lot, and we usually read those at night too. I’m not including any of those on this list, but I definitely recommend using your local library to find new books to read together.

    5 of Our Favorite Bedtime Books:

    1. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

    2. The Goodnight Train

    3. Steam Train, Dream Train

    4. The Going-To-Bed Book

    5. Goodnight Moon

  • Updates

    Monthly Recap: May 2017

    Happy Summer!

    Michael, Gavin, and I started the month off with the quick family trip to Houston. You can read about our trip here. We had a great time, and it was nice to get away on a short vacation.

    Gavin at Rocket Park | rainerlife.com

    Gavin at the Houston Zoo | rainerlife.com

    Gavin and I went to a Mother and Son bowling outing with some other mothers and sons from our church. It was Gavin’s first time bowling, and he wasn’t too interested in it. At first, he was excited and wanted to roll the ball. Of course, the ball didn’t go very far, so I had to help him with rolling the ball. It was fun, and it was nice to get out with other moms and kids.

    Gavin picking a bowling ball | rainerlife.com

    Darinda & Gavin at Mother / Son bowling | rainerlife.com

    We celebrated Mother’s Day with a nice lunch out. It was a relaxing day, where we didn’t do much, but spent the day together. Those are great days.

    Darinda & Gavin on Mother's Day | rainerlife.com

    Gavin’s most recent soccer classes ended. He’s pretty good when he’s paying attention… it’s keeping the attention of a two-year-old that’s tricky. It’s been a good way for him to learn teamwork, while having fun with other kids his age. Since he’s not too interested in the classes, we’re taking a break from soccer for a while.

    Gavin at soccer | rainerlife.com

    Gavin with his Certificate of Completion for soccer classes | rainerlife.com

    Gavin and I have continued to work in the flower beds around the house. We’ve made a lot of progress, even though it seems to be a never-ending job. Good thing I enjoy working in the yard!

    Flower bed and pool | rainerlife.com

    Hydrangeas | rainerlife.com

    Daylilies | rainerlife.com

    We had a quiet Memorial Day weekend around the house. We had Gavin’s Honey and Pappaw (my mom and stepdad) over on Monday. Michael grilled burgers and brats, and we all had a nice time visiting and enjoying some food and drinks. It was a cloudy and rainy weekend, but we did manage to get in a little pool time.

    Pool time | rainerlife.com

    Michael and I celebrated our 5th anniversary on May 19th! We went out to eat at a local Italian restaurant to celebrate. It was a pretty low-key anniversary celebration, but it’s been a wonderful 5 years. Below is a photo from our wedding day.

    Our wedding day | rainerlife.com
    Photo by Elizabeth McClung

  • Children

    10 of Our Favorite Board Books

    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.

    Gavin reading his books | rainerlife.com

    Books! Gavin and I love looking at books! During the day, sometimes we look at books together and sometimes he likes to look at books by himself. In his room, he has a shelf of board books, plus a few of his favorite paperback books. I keep all the other children’s books in the living room and office/play room. We usually read one or two books together during the day, and another one or two books in the evening. He has been known to pull all the books off a shelf and sit and look at book after book. It’s so fun to watch him! He’ll even grab one of his favorite paperbacks and take it to “read” on the sofa… he definitely takes after his mama. We have several favorites, and below are ten board books that we’ve read many times. We are starting to read more paperbacks than board books, but we still have our favorite board books that we go back to again and again. I usually let Gavin pick out which books to read, so the ones listed below are the board books he most often chooses to read together.

    10 FAVORITE BOARD BOOKS:

    1. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle – We also have Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. Gavin picks them to read about the same amount of time. There are others also, but we only own two Little Blue Truck books. Definitely favorites for my little boy.

    2. From Head to Toe by Eric Carle – We love Eric Carle books! This one is a favorite because we do all the motions together, and Gavin thinks it’s hilarious!

    3. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw – There are other “Sheep” books, but this is the only one we own. Can’t speak for the other books, but this one is fun to read.

    4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – There’s a reason this book has been so popular for over 45 years! It’s a classic, and a good one for your child’s library.

    5. Robots, Robots Everywhere by Sue Fliess – Gavin loves robots, so this is a favorite because he likes to talk about all the different robots.

    6. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen – Another classic I recommend for a child’s library. Gavin was on a kick a while back where he picked this book out every time I asked him what he wanted to read.

    7. Inside, Outside, Upside Down by Stan Berenstain – We got this one for free at a library event, and Gavin loves it! This is our only Berenstain Bears books, and it’s a short fun read.

    8. Hands Are Not for Hitting by Martine Agassi – This is part of a series on behavior – other books include biting, kicking, and yelling. I got this book when Gavin was starting to hit us or others when he was playing, and I didn’t want him to think it was okay to keep hitting. It’s a great book, and one he ends up picking to read a lot. Which surprised me, but I guess that means it works.

    9. Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton – We have this one, plus six other Sandra Boynton books. Gavin goes through phases where different ones are favorite, but lately he’s been picking this one. Two others that he reads a lot are Moo Baa La La La and Blue Hat, Green Hat.

    10. Ten Tiny Toes by Caroline Jayne Church – This is another interactive book, and it’s so fun to read together!