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Grand Teton National Park

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When I was planning our family trip to Yellowstone, I was disappointed that I couldn’t find anywhere we could camp and use a fire pit.

I looked into RV sites and tent camping, and finally learned about this recommendation for camp cabins from another homeschool family. There were grills right by the beach park!

We stayed at Colter Bay Cabins in Grand Teton National Park.

This was perfect for a large family. We got a private 2-bedroom cabin. The gorgeous breakfast buffet at The Ranch House Restaurant was even included!

It was convenient and affordable for a larger family.

There’s a nice convenience store and visitor’s center.

It was close enough to Yellowstone that we got to drive into the park to see the sites.

We came back to our quiet cabin to grill dinner and play at the rocky beach each evening.

Grand Teton National Park

The kids loved the beach!

Colter Bay Beach Picnic

Our last afternoon, we went on a free ranger-guided family nature hike.

The kids also all completed the Junior Ranger program.

Kids with Park Ranger

We got to see deer, fish, frogs, swans, pelicans, and beaver dams.

Swans at Grand Tetons

We saw trees gnawed by beavers and scratched by bears.

beaver stump

We really enjoyed our stay at Grand Teton.

The Colter Bay camp cabins were convenient and affordable for our larger family. The end of August had perfect temperatures and not too crowded.

We stopped by Jenny Lake (which also has a lodge) on the way home just to see it.

Jenny Lake

They had some hiking trails. It’s really beautiful.

This chipmunk wasn’t shy at all! We watched a man feed it peanuts from his hand.


It was a long, tired drive home, but we have great memories!

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Burg Eltz

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We loved our little end of summer field trip to Burg Eltz.

The family and castle are named after the stream Elzbach, or Alder Creek. Eltz Castle has been in possession of the Eltz family for more than 800 years. The present owner of the castle, Dr. Karl Graf von und zu Eltz-Kempenich, alias Faust von Stromberg, lives in Frankfurt.

We paid 0,50 to park and walked the lovely forest path to the castle. It’s about a 1.3 k one way. There’s also a shuttle you can pay to ride.

Around a bend in the forest, you suddenly see the castle!

There’s a stone bridge to the castle.

There are two restaurants on the grounds.

The kids enjoyed climbing up the wall near the free restrooms.

We really enjoyed the treasury museum!

It was a lovely tour of the castle. No photos allowed inside.

And the river is great fun to splash and play!

Visit Burg Eltz!

Daily from 09:30 to 17.30 until 5 November 2017. Usually reopens in March or whenever weather allows. They update the website with info.

Tours available in German, English, French, and Dutch. Audioguides and pamphlets also available in other languages. Treasury self-guided tour included in ticket price.

Adults: €10
Children: €6,50
Family ticket: €28

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Celebrating Saint Joan of Arc

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I’ve always held a fascination for Joan of Arc, ever since I was a little girl.

The historical story is a remarkable one, no matter what one believes.

To hear heavenly voices and do something amazing, to save one’s country and obey God – it’s the stuff of dreams and fairy tales.

But Joan did all that and more.

Joan was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1431, after a politically-motivated trial. The appellate court retried Joan and declared her innocent on 7 July 1456. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.

We’re focusing on European history this year since we’re living in Germany.

We spent several weeks reading about Joan of Arc, the 100-year war, and other issues of the Middle Ages.

To celebrate the end of the first unit of our history cycle 2, we visited Rouen – where Joan of Arc was tried and executed.

For our Joan of Arc Unit Study, we read lots of books, watched some films, completed notebooking pages, and traveled to Rouen.

My son especially loved this book and it was very accurate, not dumbing anything down.


Joan of Arc: The Lily Maid by Margaret Hodges

Joan of Arc by Michael Morpurgo

Joan of Arc: Heroine of France by Ann Tompert

Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Nancy Garden

Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley

Joan of Arc by Demi

Joan of Arc by Josephine Poole

Joan of Arc by Mark Twain

DK Biography: Joan of Arc by Kathleen Kudlinski

Joan of Arc (Step into Reading) by Shana Corey

Joan of Arc (Dorling Kindersley Readers, Level 4) by Angela Bull


Joan of Arc with Ingrid Bergman and Directed by Victor Fleming

Joan of Arc with Leelee Sobieski

The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc with Milla Jovovich

The Passion of Joan of Arc (The Criterion Collection) with Maria Falconetti

Joan of Arc Interactive DVD by Nest Learning

There’s also an Nest activity book here.


St. Joan of Arc coloring page from Catholic Icing

Reenaction with Legos by Adventures in Mommydom

Simple Joan of Arc Lapbook from Homeschool Epiphany

Online documents of Saint Joan of Arc Trials

Interactive Maps of Travels of Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc notebooking and coloring pages from Shower of Roses

Joan of Arc notebooking page from Homeschool Helper Online

Our Field Trip to Rouen:

Eglise Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc de Rouen

Since 1979, this church stands on the Old Market Square where she was burned. It is both a church honoring St. Joan of Arc and a civil memorial with a cross and eternal flame in the courtyard. The outside is modern, designed by architect Louis Arretche, evoking the sea with a cover of scales in slate or copper. The roof of the church is meant to resemble an overturned Viking ship and consuming flames. Inside, there are remarkable stained glass windows of the old church Saint Vincent Renaissance. There are no relics of St. Joan of Arc.

Cross Monument Eglise outside Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc de Rouen
Eternal Flame at Base of the Cross outside Eglise Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc de Rouen
Front Facade of Eglise Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc de Rouen
Eglise Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc de Rouen downspout
Bust Statue of Joan of Arc
Michel Coste Statue of Joan of Arc

I paid €0,50 for an English brochure.

Joan of History and Message Brochure


Monday to Thursday, Saturday : 10am to 12pm and from 14h to 18h

Friday and Sunday : 14h to 18h

Closed : 25 December and 1 January.

Rouen Cathedral

Joan of Arc was put on trial in the bishops’ palace, but we felt it fitting to visit the famous cathedral.

The highest spire in France, erected in 1876, a cast-iron tour-de-force rising 490 ft above the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. Claude Monet immortalized Rouen’s cathedral facade in his paintings.

Rouen Cathedral

A chapel is dedicated to Joan of Arc.

Joan of Arc Chapel in Rouen Cathedral

New Joan of Arc Museum in Rouen

Interior courtyard of the Bishop's palace Rouen

The kids loved these discovery booklets with puzzles, questions, activities, and information about the life and times of Joan of Arc and the city of Rouen.

Joan of Arc Museum Discovery Booklet for Kids

The Joan of Arc museum has projected videos and images that explain the story of Joan in each room of the bishop’s palace. It’s quite innovative and exciting and holds everyone’s attention really well.

There are statues and artifacts at the end of the tour.

We viewed the tower from the attic window.

Joan of Arc Museum

We bought a rare souvenir in the museum gift shop:

Joan of Arc and Rouen Book Souvenir

See info about Historial Jeanne d’Arc here.

Individual Tickets €9,50 or Family Ticket €26


31 May to 1 October:

Tuesday to Sunday: 9.45 a.m.–7.45 p.m. (last visit begins at 6 p.m.)

1 June to 30 September

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday: 9.45 a.m.–7.45 p.m. (last visit begins at 6 p.m.)

Friday and Saturday: 9.45 a.m.–8.45 p.m. (last visit begins at 7 p.m.)

Joan of Arc Tower

This dungeon was part of the castle built in 1204 by Philippe Auguste. It is all that remains of the Rouen Castle. Joan was held prisoner here during her trial.

We didn’t have time to walk over to the tower, but we saw it from the window of the museum.

Tickets € 1.50

Free for children under 18


1 April to 30 September

10am to 12.30pm and from 14h to 18h Monday through Saturday. From 14h to 18h30 on Sundays.

October 1 to March 31

10am to 12.30pm and from 14h to 17h Monday through Saturday. From 14 to 17.30 on Sundays.

Closed: Tuesdays and 1 January, 1 May, 1 and 11 November, 25 December.

Rouen is a fun town with lots to see and do, a nice market, and plenty of restaurants and shopping.

We would love to see Domrémy and Reims someday.

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Rome with Kids

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We went to Rome for Christmas.

This was our family gift. We didn’t have presents under the tree. Experiences over stuff.

Then my son asked afterwards if we can stay home next year and do presents. Sigh.

We flew on Alitalia from Frankfurt to Rome Ciampino. I know Ryanair often has really cheap tickets, but I couldn’t find any when I was planning our trip, and honestly, it was so nice to fly and check bags and get free snacks.

A driver was waiting for us. It was so much easier than worrying about how to get to our apartment. Worth every penny. We asked for a return to the airport since we left early.

We stayed at Peter’s Nest in Vatican + St. Peter, about a block over from the entrance to the Vatican Museum.

We got fresh cornetti every morning from our hostess and she kept us stocked in fresh milk and juice too! A little Carrefour Express grocery store was right beside our building, so if I had known that, I wouldn’t have paid for the pastry delivery, but it was still nice.

Our Christmas Trip to Rome

The courtyard to the apartment building had a lovely floral fountain.

Peter's Nest Courtyard Fountain
Day 1

After we got settled and freshened up, we walked over to St. Peter’s Square.
St. Peter's Square Christmas Tree
We loved seeing the huge lifesize nativity scene.
Vatican Nativity Scene
Then, we went through security to go into St. Peter’s Basilica.

And I got to see Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Michelangelo's Pieta
We walked down to Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II to see Castel Sant’Angelo.
Castle Sant'Angelo

We love the statues lining the bridge.

Angel Bridge

I highly recommend L’Isola della Pizza for incredible food. Glad we got there early for dinner – it was soon packed with locals!

The waiters brought out a medley of appetizers and salads and the kids all ordered pizza.

I love all the salads and breads and prosciutto. They brought arancini (fried rice balls) for the kids but Aaron and I loved it too! The fried artichokes were amazing.


It was too much food, but so amazingly delicious.

Day 2

We were at the Vatican Museum before they opened and we were ushered right on in.

I’m so glad I ordered basic tickets online. I had also ordered 4 audio guides for the kids and 2 adult audio guides for Aaron and me. The kids got great little scavenger hunt maps. We loved the guides!

We began in the Pinacoteca – the Picture Gallery.

Entrance to the Pinacoteca

It was completely empty.

We were following our audio guides and the kids’ scavenger hunts.

If I had known, we’d have scooted on down to view the Antiquities and Sistine Chapel and left the Picture Gallery for last.

We got to stare at Raphael’s tapestries and study paintings undisturbed.

I especially liked Leonardo’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness.

St Jerome in the Wilderness by Leonardo da Vinci

Then we went to the Egyptian and Etruscan Museums.

This was especially exciting for the kids since we didn’t get to experience anything or travel for those units.

Alex and Katie really loved seeing the mummy.

Mummy at Vatican Museums

Love the colors here!


They save the best for last: The Sistine Chapel.

No pictures and they have guards to hush people.

But by that time, we were hot and almost exhausted. We stayed a while, getting a crick in our necks and trying to sneak pictures with our phones.

We got takeout pizza at Forno Feliziani for lunch.

Forno Feliziani

The best gelato is at Old Bridge. We got some every single day. Super great prices and large portions.

We went to the Colosseum in the afternoon.

I ordered our tickets online and they were good on any day.

At the Colosseum

I don’t know that I’d recommend doing quite so much in one day, but we thought we could handle it. We realized our tickets included the Roman Forum and the tickets are only good for two days and we didn’t think we’d have time to go back down there the next day.

We got to look down upon Circus Maximus.

Circus Maximus

The Forum must’ve been very crowded. There was so much in such a small space!

Roman Forum

It about did me in. We barely got through it before the loudspeaker announcement that they were closing. We rushed up the stairs.

I was about ready to collapse, so I begged to take a taxi back since we had no idea where the nearest subway was and I couldn’t walk anymore. The 6-seater taxi van from Piazza Venezia to St. Peter’s Square was only €8,00!

We got takeout pizza at Forno Feliziani (yes, again) for the kids for dinner. I love that place.

Aaron and I went to The Angry Pig for gorgeous sandwiches. Our contact recommended it and the eggplant pork tenderloin sandwich was divine.

The Angry Pig sandwich

Day 3

This was Christmas Eve.

We walked to the Galleria Borghese.

Again, I bought tickets online. I super recommend that.

On the way, we stopped by Santa Maria del Popolo.

Santa Maria del Popolo

We got kicked out because they were about to start Mass. But I got a picture of the Chigi Chapel first.

Chigi Chapel

The Borghese Gardens are peaceful and lovely, even in winter.

We checked our backpack, used the toilets, got the audio guides and waited for our entrance time. The tour main entrance is outside and up the steps.

There wasn’t really any instructions for that, but I followed the crowds who seemed to know.

I was really there just to see the Bernini sculptures.

The Rape of Proserpina is amazing with its emotions and realism.

The Rape of Proserpina Front
The detail of the finger impressions:
The Rape of Proserpina

Apollo and Daphne

Apollo and Daphne

Bernini’s David in mid-action (and a self-portrait)

Bernini's David

We walked to the Spanish Steps. They were closed for repair.

But we love this fun fountain by Bernini – The Ugly Boat.

Fontana della Barcaccia by Bernini

We walked to the Trevi Fountain. Super crowded and noisy. We threw our coins in and went to find lunch.

Trevi Fountain

Nowhere on my list was open for lunch. We finally walked back to this place that smelled good when we walked by.

We got gnocchi, salad, pizza, pasta (carbonara and Bolognese), fried cod, and broiled fish.

It was delicious.

Locanda Giulietta e Romeo on Via del Lavatore:

Christmas Eve Lunch

We walked to the Pantheon. Right at dusk. Super crowded. Lighting is terrible for photos.

Pantheon at Dusk

We walked through Piazza Navona on the way back. We really weren’t that impressed.

More Bernini fountains though!

Fontana del Moro by Bernini
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi by Bernini

We rushed back to the Carrefour Express next to our apartment building to buy some food to prepare for Christmas Day. We knew everything would be closed for the holiday.

Then we got overly expensive takeout from the only open cafe a couple blocks over. It was just ok.

Day 4

Christmas Day.

We went to St. Peter’s Square to wait for the Pope’s Christmas address.

It didn’t seem so crowded, so I wanted to wander around inside the Basilica to look at the chapels again.

We got to witness the Pope’s Christmas morning mass.

Altar of the Chair of Peter

Above the Chair are two angels bearing the tiara and keys and then a gorgeous window of Bohemian glass, divided into twelve sections as a tribute to the Twelve Apostles, and in the center, a brilliant dove.

On the left, Sts. Ambrose and Athanasius and on the right, Sts. John Chrysostom and Augustine.

St. Peter’s Chair and Canopy were both designed by Bernini.

I asked a guard if we could view the The Altar of the Crucifixion of St. Peter. He led us around the velvet ropes to a little side chapel.

Ancient tradition claims that St. Peter suffered martyrdom precisely where this altar stands. Part of the basilica is actually built on the site of Nero’s Circus.

The Altar of the Crucifixion of St. Peter

Then we heard the Pope’s Christmas address.

Pope Francis Christmas Address 2015

We went back to the apartment for lunch.

We walked through the Jewish district and found Bernini’s Turtle Fountain. Tori loves turtles.

Bernini's Turtle Fountain

We kept noticing these little plaques in the street. Later, we learned about Stoplerstein.


We walked along the river, crossed over at the island, and just leisurely walked back.

Surprisingly, several restaurants were open, but we made the pasta and sauteed chicken we’d bought for dinner and it was great.

Day 5

St. Stephen’s Day. Most shops and restaurants are closed.

We visited some churches in the morning.

All the walking had been killing me, so we took the subway and it was great. Only €4,50 for our whole family one way.

Our first stop was the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.

Papal Archbasilica of St. John in Lateran

Across the street is the Triclinium of Leo III, the apse mosaic of the former papal dining hall of remains of the old Lateran Palace.

Triclinium Leoninum

The mosaics depicts Christ with the Apostles in the center, Christ with Constantine and Pope Sylvester I on the left, and St Peter, Pope Leo III, and Charlemagne on the right. Pope Leo III has a square nimbus, showing that he was alive when it was made. The mosaic has been dated to the year 800, when Charlemagne was crowned in Rome.

The Scala Santa are inside that building, but can only be viewed on guided tours.

We ate lunch at Hosteria La Vacca M’briaca.

We looked a couple more churches.

Aaron wanted to see the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli.

We finally made it to the Musei Capitolino.

Capitoline Hill

The museum is HUGE. The kids got audioguides and scavenger hunt papers. And they wanted to make sure they completed them.

There are many levels and courtyards with lots of sculptures and art.

Neptune Fountain

Alex was THRILLED to finally see his wolf!

Romulus and Remus

We also saw The Dying Gaul.

The Dying Gaul

We stopped in at the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. They’d already closed their Holy Door.

We loved going to Ai Balestrari on our last night. The pizza guy made our son a reindeer pizza as a gift after we watched him prepare pizzas.

Reindeer Pizza

We were exhausted and ready to go home. Rome is lovely – busy and crowded, yet so full of art, good food, and life.

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Ways to Eat and Stay Healthy While Living Abroad 

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What are Some Ways to Eat and Stay Healthy While Living Abroad?

At first, the idea of living abroad sounds like an extended vacation—you look forward to having so much time to visit famous landmarks, soak in the culture, or eat exotic foods. What could possibly go wrong? Then the reality sets in, or in other words, the honeymoon is over. You realize that you’re not really on a vacation. You have to learn a new way of life in a country that’s going to be your home for several months or years.

Challenges of Staying Fit in a New Country

If you struggled with eating healthy when you lived in your home country, that issue is going to be magnified living abroad. While overseas, you may not have access to familiar foods and product brands. You’re also learning a new food culture as well as a new language. But maybe you had an established healthy routine before you moved abroad. It should be simple to transfer that to another country, right? However, it’s not that easy. It may be difficult to join a gym in a foreign country because of the language barrier, or you may not have the extra funds.

Overcoming Obstacles to Healthy Living Abroad

It’s easy to let your health fall to the wayside when you’re not in your element. You’re already dealing with a lot of change, so you may feel that you don’t want to add healthy eating as one more thing on your checklist. However, a healthy eating and exercise routine may be the medicine you need to manage the stress of adjusting to a new environment. You’re dealing with so much change, and keeping up your health is one of the best ways to cope. Here are some ideas of ways you can eat healthily and exercise while living abroad.

Set Up a Routine to Get Your Body Moving

When living abroad, you may think you could replicate the same exercise routine you had in your home country. However, you may not have access to the same resources you once had. So let’s say that when living in the United States, you usually went to the gym in the evenings. But when you live abroad, you may not be able to get a gym membership or have as much time to exercise in the evenings as you did before. You’ll have to accept you’re going to have to develop new routines while living abroad.

To get yourself back (or get started) on a healthy exercise routine, try working out in the mornings. Your exercise gets done even before anything else comes up. Also, try to look for ways to get more exercise throughout the day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. While living abroad, you could join meetup groups with similar exercise goals—you meet other foreigners who are in the same position as you: feeling their way in a new country and culture.

Get to Know Local Health Trends

Shopping in a grocery store in a foreign country will be a culture shock itself. You’re more than dealing with a language barrier; you’re also dealing with a selection of foods that you’re not familiar with. Diet staples in the United States are not the same everywhere else, so your favorite foods may not even be stocked in stores. In some counties, your favorite fresh fruits and vegetables cost way more than expect, which prevents you from eating the same amount of raw foods that you had once before.

So when in Rome, do what Romans do. Try to get to know the local health trends. Just like how plant-based hamptoncreek products are gaining traction in the United States, other countries also have up-and-coming food products that promote a healthy lifestyle. Observe the whole foods are often part of a meal. For example, a typical breakfast in Japan includes a lean protein like grilled fish. That item isn’t part of a typical American breakfast. So, you could start a healthy routine by including grilled fish in your morning meals, and you get to experience local cuisine.
Here’s one more thing to note: food labels on foreign foods may list kilocalories per serving rather than listing calories per serving like in the United States. The two measurements mean the same thing; in the United States, the “kilo” is dropped.

Living abroad comes with many benefits, but don’t let it be at the expense of your health. These healthy eating and wellness tips can help you adjust to your new surroundings.

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