In case you didn’t already know…

I’m now mainly posting updates over at http://zeisslofts.wordpress.com about our huge renovation project. Go check it out!  😀

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The Woodlands Oktoberfest

Well, we’re in the midst of getting ready for a new baby, so there’s not been much time or energy for me to update this blog, even though I’ve got plenty of outings in Texas and Switzerland to share up my sleeve.

Today, though, I’ve got to share just how utterly pathetic The Woodlands Oktoberfest was. I think what made me the most angry was the admission fee. Never have I paid so much and gotten so little. As much as we were disappointed by the Tomball German Heritage Festival earlier this year, that festival made The Woodlands Oktoberfest look like a corner lemonade stand. Continue reading

Heritage Village in Woodville, TX

Everything "western" looks better in sepia, no?

As usual, I am behind on posting our travel adventures here in Texas and around the US. A few months ago, my parents discovered a little place called the Heritage Village in somewhat nearby Woodville, Texas. The museum site is a restored pioneer-era village in east Texas containing period buildings and artifacts and an attached restaurant and gift shop. There’s also a genealogy research facility that specializes in Tyler County.

From our home north of Houston, it took a little under two hours to get to Woodville, and the park is located halfway between Sam Houston National Forest and the Arkansas border. We took the stroller with us, but found that it was rather difficult to get through the bumpy paths around the buildings, and had to leave it behind to access some of them. Since we went on a week day, it was virtually empty, and we only saw one school tour as we were leaving. That was nice because we could take our time through the village, but unfortunately we missed out on any of the demonstrations that are mentioned in the guide and on the website. Another problem is that some of the buildings were extremely musty, and were a bit overwhelming, so we didn’t explore some of them at any great length.

Overall, though, we had fun, and there were lots of interesting objects to admire. My dad, a huge train buff, particularly enjoyed the old Railroad Depot. My mom liked the Collier Store, with its collection of ladies boots and other odds and ends. I was fascinated and disgusted by a reproduction of a dentist’s office (complete with very scary tools). Most of it was completely over the head of my toddler, though older children would definitely get a kick out of it.

These were saws, not dentist tools (forgot to get a picture of the latter).

After the museum we went to The Pickett House Restaurant, which serves boarding house style all you can eat fried chicken, chicken & dumplings, country vegetables, cobbler, biscuits & cornbread. The food was pretty good, and we enjoyed ourselves.

I’m not sure I’d drive too far out of my way to visit the Heritage Village (two hours is pretty long for a toddler), but if you are going through east Texas, it is worth stopping in to see. More pictures that I snapped at Heritage Village can be found here.

Stein am Rhein

We have since moved back to Texas from Switzerland. I first drafted this post before we left.


One of our favorite places to visit in Switzerland is the tiny medieval town of Stein am Rhein. We can take a train (the S29) from the tiny depot near our flat in Oberwinterthur to Stein am Rhein in about 30 minutes. The s29 is a Thurbo, which is a commuter train with very tall windows, and each car has a bike area that easily holds the stroller. The views on the train ride through the rolling country side are lovely, full of farms and vineyards. To get to the altstadt from the train station, follow the signs heading northeast from the station. Go over the bridge over the Rhine, and you’re there in about a 10 minute walk.

Stein am Rhein is located close to the German border, and is at the point where the Rhine River connects with Lake Konstanz. It first was put on the map in 1007 AD when Emperor Henry the II of the Holy Roman Empire (which included Germany at the time) moved the Abbey of Saint George to this strategic location (a side note – all of the man-hole covers in Stein am Rhein are graced with Saint George lancing the dragon). Most of the town has hardly changed since the 15th century, and is full of gorgeous painted buildings and the loveliest altstadt (old town) area in Switzerland (at least in our opinion). It has remained a very small village and the most recent historical note was the accidental bombing by Allied forces in February of 1945 (they got the wrong town).

Most of the exteriors of old buildings in Stein am Rhein have been fully restored, and the town’s main walk is easily explored in an hour or less. On the other side of the altstadt, there are paths running along the river alongside parks and restaurants. You can even catch a boat up river to Schaffhausen or along the lake to Konstanz. For children, there’s a really big fun playground on the river front, nearly entirely all in the shade – just take the river path northwest from the town.

Continue reading

Tomball German Festival

On March 28, we decided to go to the Tomball German Heritage Festival. It was a nice day out, but didn’t live up to our expectations in the least. I didn’t even take any pictures of the festival itself, aside from a few of our son climbing on a permanent exhibit in the park of a red caboose. Since we have recently moved back to Texas after living in the German part of Switzerland for 18 months, we were eager to feed some of our cravings for German food and beer, and maybe even pick up some other goodies like sausage or cheese. No such luck.

The festival is free, and so is the parking (or it was for 2010 – if you are planning on going in 2011, you might want to check the festival information website). There were a small handful of booths that were selling German-themed items. Most were things that you would see in any tourist shop or airport in Germany. The rest of the booths were selling all kinds of odds and ends that you see at any other festival: clothing, raffle tickets to support various charities, timeshare scams (we almost got roped into one of those), and one very nice local artist that was selling gorgeous jewelry (got a gift for my mother there).

Since the festival is primarily sponsored by ZiegenBock (a Texas beer that got bought out by Anheuser-Busch), that was the main beer, along with several other US beers. No, there weren’t any true German beers at the festival, despite their availability in the US. Disappointing, but we can get decent German beer at our local grocery store. Continue reading

Trash Stickers

I feel really guilty. We didn’t recycle hardly ever before we moved to Switzerland because they don’t do it in our neighborhood. We still don’t have it here, but the problem is, people are tightwads in our neighborhood, and apparently adding recycling would add something like $5 a month to everyone’s trash bill. They’d probably have a fit about it. Plus, there are quite a few retired/fixed income folks here.

When we lived in Switzerland, we recycled everything for several reasons. First, they charge your trash by how much you throw away. The system where we lived is that you buy these stickers. A sheet of 10 stickers cost about $13. For very large bags of trash (65 L, I think) you used two stickers. For your average bags (35 L), just one sticker, and for smaller bags, half a sticker. Next to the trashbins at our apartment complex was a bin for compost material. On designated days of the month, you could leave your paper (carefully bundled in strict regulated size piles) in the trash area.

Here’s what one sticker looks like, though the picture is a bit fuzzy probably to keep people from copying it. You would get a whole sheet of these, same size as a piece of paper that you get from your printer. They are as wide as the page, and yes, they are wavy on the edges.

If you didn’t have a sticker on your trash (on rare occasions, folks would try to pry off a sticker and put it on their own trash, or people just didn’t put a sticker on it for whatever reason), there is a sort of garbage police. Some poor sucker is paid to go through your trash and find out who they are so you can fine you. First, though, they usually put an orange sticker on the offending trash and leave it outside the bin, giving you the chance to put a sticker on it and make amends. Continue reading

A Little Life Update

Since there are a scattering few people who use this blog as primary means of keeping up with us, I thought I’d share some pictures of our son around Easter time. We were able to take him to two Easter Egg Hunts, one done by a mom and baby group that I’m in, and one done by our neighborhood association. It didn’t take long for E to become a pro. Here’s some picture links:

Mom and Baby Easter Egg Hunt

Community Easter Egg Hunt