Tag Archive | memoir

First Turkey

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My husband and I were newly married, when we invited my parents and brother over to host our first Thanksgiving.  I followed the directions, recalled other instructions learned until that point, and felt very proud.  Since Mom made wonderful Thanksgiving dinners, I copied her menu plan.  Just before our company was about to arrive, I thought it all looked good, after I peaked at the turkey browning in the oven.  It smelled delicious, especially when I opened the oven door and the steam wafted towards my face.  When I was younger, there were many times when Mom called me into the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day.  

“Mary Ann, come in here and watch me do this,” she’d say.  “I’m stuffing the bird!  You’ll need to know how to do this someday.”  Sometimes, I pretended I didn’t hear her, and she would have to come and find me from wherever I was hiding in the house.  Back then, I didn’t like looking at anything that used to be alive and was pale and unmoving.  Mom used to cut up chickens, and I would tell her to stop because she was hurting the poor little thing.  The sound of cracking bones made me feel nauseous.

“I can’t hurt it, because it’s dead,” she would tell me.  No smile accompanied those words, because cooking is serious business, even though Mom liked to giggle at most things.

“You will need to know how to do this,” she repeated.  I groaned and wondered why.  Why did she call me and not my brothers? The Thanksgiving mornings at the house where I grew up smelled like toast and simmering onions and celery.  Mom toasted the bread and tore it up into bite-sized pieces for the stuffing.

Yes, I see how the nails go in and how the string wraps around to keep in all the stuffing, I thought.  The way the string went reminded me of shoe laces.

The day I roasted my first turkey, I toasted bread too.  Now I use Pepperidge Farm bread cubes seasoned with onion and sage.  When I first started using those packets, it felt like I was cheating, but it worked out okay, and no one minded that it wasn’t bread that I personally put into the toaster.  As things moved along, the cooking made our house smell delicious too.    

When Mom, Dad, and Brother came over, I’m sure they told us how good everything smelled, but when Mom looked at the bird in the oven, she informed me that I had it upside down.  Again, no giggles came my way. I must have missed that part somewhere!  I pulled out the roaster and flipped the main course over.  It only had a little more time to roast.  After Husband carved it and we enjoyed our first bites, it all tasted flavorful – just like Mom’s.  Ever since that day, I roast the turkey breast side up.  I’m still not sure if it makes much of a difference.

To this day, when I get a chance to host Thanksgiving dinner, I use Mom’s menu plan.  Others may think that’s boring, but I find it to be a great comfort. It brings back memories of other blessed Thanksgivings I’ve been lucky to enjoy over the years.  Plus, I love that lime jello with cottage cheese, marshmallows, and cool whip that was probably popular in the 50s!

Today I am thankful for the memories Mom gave me when she taught me how to stuff a turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is possible only for those who take time to remember; 
no one can give thanks who has a short memory. ~Author Unknown

“Love is… Sharing”

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Finding ripe raspberries growing on our raspberry bushes in the fall is a rare occasion. When my husband knocked on the door and stood in front of me with two plump raspberries in his hand, I was very surprised.

“Wow,” I said. “How many did you find?”

”Four.”

”Thank you! That’s love,” I said, as I savored each delicious one slowly.

The gesture reminded me of the little “Love is…” cartoons that used to appear in the newspaper back in the 70s. I used to clip them out and even have some tucked away with some of my other memorabilia.

Thanks for the love! ❤️ Next time I find fall raspberries, I will share them too. I hope. 😘

Love is… Sharing. ~ Kim Casali

Another Mile…

While on a walk the other day, our dog, Lila, acted like a puppy with the way she jumped about after my husband found a stick for her to fetch. A tiny thought came to me of how agile Lila is for her age of 11 years and that maybe we shouldn’t be playing fetch any more. As we watched her run happily through melting tufts of snow, I chased the thought from my mind. She looks great, I thought. That expensive dog food must be working its magic on her.

Not too much longer after that run, my husband and Lila came home after a quick jaunt, with Lila limping. It looked like something was bothering her front paw. No whines escaped from her during the incident where she was running and suddenly came to a stop. The quick halt must have been too jarring for her. We didn’t find any swelling or bumps on her legs, paws, or ankles. Since it was Sunday, we called the vet the next day. Betsy said to watch Lila for a day and call if it got worse. We waited until that evening and made an appointment for the following day. Even though Lila could climb up and down steps okay, it seemed her limp was getting worse, or we were imagining it was getting worse. Plus, we didn’t want to delay any repairs, if there was something that needed to be fixed.

Lila was excited to go for a car ride the next day. Lila’s tail slammed against the back of the car seat on the way to the vet. When we arrived, we saw this silly sign.

We called the office, and one of the techs came out to our car to get Lila. It felt strange because it was the first time we let Lila see the doctor by herself. People are not allowed in the office, due to the coronavirus.

A short time later, the doctor called to let us know Lila seemed all right, but he thought it was some sort of soft tissue issue and that perhaps arthritis was the cause of the limping. “She is getting older,” he said.

“How long do you think we need to wait before we take her out for a walk?” I asked.

“Why don’t you wait until Saturday, and take it slow,” Doc told us. We were told to only give Lila leash walks for the time being. The tech delivered our girl back to us, all wags and smiles. She got two treats and a bottle of pain killers, which have been helping her.

Lila and I took a very small walk the next day. Lila looked up at me when we got back to our front door. She gave me a look like, You’ve got to be kidding me. Is this all the further we’re going to go? I dropped her off at home, and continued on for a longer walk by myself. Not holding onto a leash with a dog at the other end felt awkward, when I walked without my faithful companion. It was a straight walk, with no stops, no sniffing, no pointing at squirrels or chipmunks, no head tosses to show me the birds, no picking up messes.

The next day, we went for a little longer walk – about a mile – because the limp was gone and has stayed away. Today we will go about another mile. Maybe next week we can go three. Every mile together is a gift. 🙂

Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really. ~Agnes Sligh Turnbull

“Sublime Chocolate Experience”

A big decision needed to be made when we stopped at the Great Lakes Candy Kitchen a few weeks ago: Do we get the handmade candy turtles or the walnut fudge? Since the store was out of the dark chocolate turtles, we got the fudge. It came in a little white box, wrapped in wax paper, with a small wooden knife. The top of the box was stamped with the name of the store in bright red letters. We cut little chunks out of the half pound, eager to see if it tasted as good as it looked. No one was disappointed when we enjoyed a little bite during our visit. The fudge lasted beyond lunchtime, but not much longer!

This very informative sign, let us know exactly where we were! ❤️

Due to restrictions, we were not allowed to enter the quaint-looking store but ordered from a walk-up window.

Many more bears were there to greet us on the other side of the building. Bear tracks lead us to a picnic table and a play house with a toy register.

It was a fun treat, and after each delicious bite, no one felt even a tiny bit of guilt!

Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. ~Lora Brody

Art is What You Make it!

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Buttons were calling me. Button artwork showed up on Pinterest, and I saved it. Fancy buttons, from grandmas gone by, revealed themselves to me. While searching for measuring tape in an old sewing basket, a decorative button appeared, from a Great Great Grandma. When looking for a sewing tool in another spot, impressive buttons from yet another Grandma showed up. My own buttons, the ones that come with a newly-purchased piece of clothing, piled up in a drawer, reminded me of their whereabouts.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could combine a bunch of buttons from the grandmas and give it to my granddaughter for a birthday present? Here’s how I made that happen.

Directions:

  • Draw a paper heart, like we made in elementary school, where you fold the paper in half and cut it with scissors.  My paper heart was approximately 7 inches x 7 inches.
  • Open and center the paper heart onto a piece of Aida cloth, and trace the shape with a sewing marker.
  • Contact any other grandmothers to ask for buttons to add to the piece.
  • Collect buttons and store in one place.
  • Get more buttons at a craft store.
  • Arrange buttons on cloth to get an idea of how the piece might look (optional).
  • Sew buttons on one-by-one.
  • Start at the bottom and work along the right edge. Fill in middle as you go. Continue to go around the edge of the rest of the heart.
  • Sew buttons to fill in so cloth does not show through, as best as possible, if you like.
  • When complete, hand wash with laundry detergent and warm water making sure to rub off any marks.
  • Remove excess water by placing piece between bath towels.
  • Let air dry overnight by setting on a dry towel.
  • Iron wrinkles out the next day, using the cotton setting.
  • Frame in regular or shadow box frame.  The shadow box I purchased was 8 inches x 8 inches.

On the designs I saw on Pinterest, the buttons lay flat.  My design has buttons popping out all over the place, but I like how it looks.  Art is what you make it!

Those old buttons took on a shine I didn’t know they had, after I washed them clean. To finish, I wrote a note to my granddaughter, and placed it on the back of the frame. The note described how the heart is “filled with grandma love” and explained where the buttons came from.  I let her know “I mixed a little bit of the old with a little bit of the new.”

I hope my granddaughter will cherish and feel the love that went into this piece.  🙂

As the sun colors flowers, so does art color life. ~John Lubbock

Showered with Lots of Love

composition of decorative coil hearts and open envelope

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The breeze was a little strong at times, even though the day was sunny and bright.  The hand-crafted white tissue paper flowers that decorated the signs and table in the front yard got tossed about.  We jumped in shock when a few of the polka-dotted balloons popped, which happened when they hit a sharp corner of a sign.  We had to keep an eye on things to keep stuff from blowing away.  

When I first accepted the fact that my daughter’s bridal shower wasn’t going to happen the way we originally planned, I felt disappointed.  I like tradition.  The old plan was to get together inside to share a meal, talk and laugh a lot with family and friends, play a silly game, and watch the future bride open her gifts.  The new plan was the guests would drive by, wave, drop off their gift, watch the future bride and groom open it, get a treat bag and be on their way.  That’s what I envisioned because that’s how the invitation read.  But when the day arrived, things turned out differently.  

Our hostesses parked their cars in the church parking lot across the street, so the street would stay clear for the big parade!  Funny though, because the first guests to arrive were three of the bridesmaids.  They drove by our house a few times, and we were wondering what they were doing.  We waved each time.  Where were they going?  This is not how a parade works!  They ended up parking in the lot too.  It was a welcome sight to see them walk over to stay and chat the entire time.

My friend Dianne parked in the lot too.  The hostesses started to worry if we should have more food, if people were going to stay and chat.  When I asked Dianne, she said, “No, it’s a drive-by shower.  People aren’t expecting anything.”  So I took her advice.  To be hospitable, I grabbed the big tray of cupcakes we had on hand, and offered those.  Plus, each invitee received a little treat bag filled with different chocolate sweets and a juice pouch. 

The guests who didn’t park across the way, got out and stayed close to their cars or stayed in their cars and kept a safe distance.  It was getting towards the end of our one-hour parade, and I wondered about a few cousins who hadn’t shown up yet.  The pièce de résistance was when a Jeep rode by all decorated in white streamers.  Six beautiful cousins were waving with arms all over the place and smiling their biggest smiles.  A song of “Here Comes the Bride” wafted towards us.  One cousin held a sign that said “Always and Forever.”  🙂

After the parade, the grandmothers, mothers, a dad, aunts, an uncle, sisters, a cousin, and the future Mr. and Mrs. sat outside at the picnic table to have a lunch of wraps, fruit, chips, banana bread, and cupcakes.  A delivery man driving a FedEx truck waved and smiled at us, happy to see people celebrating.  Later, a smaller group went inside to watch the future bride and groom open their presents.  Katie and Mike were showered with lots of love that day.  

The drive-by turned out better than I ever expected.  I missed having everyone together in the same place at the same time, but we were fortunate to see many smiling faces that we haven’t seen for so long!

Do you think the drive-by party might become a new tradition?

Long-Lost Cravings

sliced vegetables in white ceramic bowl

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Our family room now houses a temporary eating area because we are in the process of getting our kitchen remodeled.  Squished in by our fireplace is our refrigerator and kitchen table.  The microwave and toaster are taking up space at the table with a lot of other things that used to have a special spot to stay, but now have nowhere to go.  Things like scissors and vitamins and such.  My husband bought a two-burner cooktop, but he ended up taking it back to the store because we never took it out of the box.  It seemed like too much work to use, since we have no running water on our main floor. Thankfully, the weather has been nice because a lot of grilling has been going on.  The microwave and grill have been meeting all our cooking needs, so far.

Not having a functioning kitchen has caused me to seriously miss cooking and baking. I haven’t made my favorite recipe of banana bread for years, but suddenly I have a craving for it that will not go away.  Another thing I miss is the usual spaghetti meal we have on our table about once a week.  Luckily we got to have that when we babysat. I’ve never been so thrilled to boil water as I was last weekend when we used our daughter and son-in-law’s kitchen.  I made that simple spaghetti meal, served with fun garlic bread, and a tossed salad.  Now thoughts are coming to me about how much I miss the taste of my mom’s tuna pasta salad.

My mom made tuna pasta salad for us for as long as I can remember. When our kids came along, I made the salad every Sunday, after we got home from church.  It’s one of those family recipes that is not written down anywhere (until now).  Somehow it morphed into my brain from watching my mom make it so many times. Adjustments needed to be made for some of my kids, who don’t like peas, which, ironically, I think is the best part! I like it when the peas hide inside the shell-shaped noodles.  When they fall into place that way, it looks like they were made for each other.  🙂

Here’s how I make it: I boil two to three cups of the small shell-shaped pasta in water, depending on how many hungry people there are to feed.  While that’s cooking, I drain one small can of albacore white tuna and combine it with two or three stalks of chopped celery, a couple of slices of chopped onions, Miracle Whip (with olive oil), a 16-oz. can of drained peas, and a splash of lemon juice.  Sometimes I add a little salt and pepper; other times, I leave it for others to add their own seasonings.  Mom didn’t use the “splash of lemon,” but I think it adds a little flavor.  I can’t tell you how much Miracle Whip I put in.  A person has to “eye ball it” until it gets to a certain consistency of deliciousness.

Until the kitchen is back where it belongs, I will keep my chin up and continue to create a list of things to make. Seems like the list is going to be kind of long because long-lost cravings keep popping up and the tile for the floor is on “back order.”  😦

Do you have a recipe that you had when you were a child that you still enjoy today?

Fishy

beach enjoyment fun leisure

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Once upon a time, on a warm and sunny summer day, a little girl went to the beach with her mom. They packed up a picnic lunch, beach blanket, towels, sunscreen, a bucket, and a shovel. There was a little spot on the beach just for them. Many people were together enjoying the day too, and those peoples’ conversations floated away with the wind. All the talking didn’t cover up the sounds of the waves splashing on the shore or the rustling of the leaves in the towering trees.

They walked hand in hand in the Minnesota sand, which felt very warm on the bottoms of their feet. The little girl, who would be two years old on her next birthday, looked confident in her pink one-piece swimsuit with a picture of the Little Mermaid on front. They quickly toddled off to find the cooler wet sand. The waves tickled their feet to welcome them in. Soon, the little girl was up to her knees in the very clear blue lake water.

“Fishy,” the little girl shouted and dove into the water face first as quickly as she could, somehow wiggling out of her mom’s grasp. The mom was surprised how courageous her daughter was and was sure the little girl had kept her eyes wide open as she held her arms forward trying to grab the fish with her hands. The mom instinctively pulled her little girl out of the water.

“Did you try to catch the fish?” the mom asked.

The little girl looked surprised, her curls now smashed down after coming out of the water. She didn’t seem to have lost one beat to the rhythm of her breath. The mom held her little girl on her hip and felt little goosebumps form on her own arms. They waded out to the deeper water.

“I wonder where the fish went,” the mom said.

“Fishy,” the little girl repeated in a softer voice as she looked down at the deep water trying to find the fish. The mom and daughter held onto each other while they bobbed up and down with the waves. They twirled about to feel the water cool them. The fun melted away the mom’s goosebumps.

“I think it was a sunfish,” said Mom. “I’m surprised it was so close to all these swimmers at the beach. That was very brave of you to try to get it with your hands!”

The little girl giggled as the mom carried her. They went to the shore, played in the sand, and had a lunch that included gold-fish crackers, which reminded them of the Fishy they found at the lake on a warm and sunny summer day.

The world is as many times new as there are children in our lives. ~Robert Brault

Ancestral Home

The next leg of our Switzerland trip ended up being the one where we got in the most steps. When we arrived in the small town of Ringgenberg, after a short train trip of a little over three miles from Interlaken, we walked a couple of blocks to find the tourism office. It didn’t seem like anyone else was visiting the quiet town, which has a population of 2,700. We told the nice young man at the tourist office that we came to visit Ringgenberg because my grandfather was born there. He told us there are many people who live there with our last name. I told him my grandfather would be about 140 years old by now, so it was unlikely there were any people there who would have known him. That gave him a chuckle, and he told us about a couple of the main attractions: Ringgenberg Church and Burgseeli Lake.

Ringgenberg Church, which was built into castle ruins in 1670, sits on top of a large hill. “Ringgenberg Castle was inhabited from 1240 until 1380 [by the Ringgenberg family].” Before we climbed up to see the church, we noticed the small cemetery by Lake Brienz. What makes the cemetery unique is that in front of each tombstone there is a little garden where spring plants actually live in the ground. The little gardens felt as if a lot of love, pride, and care lives there. We noticed Grandpa’s last name on some of the tombstones, and I guess this was the closest I would get to some of my relatives. Looking closer, I realized the people who were in the cemetery were too young to be my great grandparents, and I wondered where their final resting spots might be. We continued exploring by walking up the steps to find a spectacular view. Even though it was a Friday, we happened upon a happy couple getting their wedding pictures taken behind the church. There was a little bit of hustle and bustle going on as people were getting ready for the wedding ceremony.

Ringgenberg

Home Across from Burgseeli Lake, Ringgenberg

We walked to Burgseeli Lake, which is located between the towns of Ringgenberg and Goldswil. I thought I snapped a picture of the lake, but I must not have pushed the button hard enough. 😦 To see a picture, click here. This may have been the spot where Grandpa saved two girls from drowning many, many years ago. The water in Burgseeli Lake can reach temperatures in the upper 70s, and people can swim there from May through September. “The water reaches such comfortable temperatures so quickly in spring because it is moorland water with a low oxygen content and very slow circulation.”

We found our way back to the train station and headed to the adorable town of Brienz. Our main goal was to find the woodcarving school my grandfather attended. We ended up walking along the shore of the lake from one end of town to the other, and eventually found the school. We would have found it sooner, if we held the map the right way! 🙂

We met a young woman at the carving school who is a student there. She told us how the students are required to go to school for four years and said when my grandpa went there, there would have been about 2,000 students. Now there are about 30. My husband asked if the school sells any of their wood carvings, and she said they do not want to take business away from the woodcarving shop down the road. So after a few more pleasantries, we headed off to visit the Huggler Wood Carving Shop and bought a few little souvenirs to bring home to the kids.

When we got back to Interlaken, we visited the Golden Egg Restaurant again, since we enjoyed it so much the night before. Besides the bread and salad, we each had a meal of pasta. I had macaroni and my husband had ravioli, which was swimming in olive oil. We relaxed in a comfy booth by the window. My husband and I wondered how many miles we walked, and I wondered where my Great Grandparents were and thought it was weird I didn’t think about them before we went on the trip. Funny what visiting a cemetery can do to someone, but they had passed away almost a century ago. Maybe I’ll be able to find them some other time. It’d be nice to go back and spend more time in my ancestral home and the Golden Egg! 🙂

Inside the Golden Egg.
See the Polar Bear in the Middle Picture?

Next stop: Grindelwald

Trains Run on Time

The morning we left Amsterdam to go to Zürich is the day I should not have worn my money belt around my waist, because that’s when I got frisked at the airport.  I had gotten used to strapping the belt on every morning.  When the lady who worked at the airport started patting me down is when I realized the money belt that held my passport and credit cards was triggering this activity.  “Next time, don’t wear that when going through security,” she politely said.  Whoops! 🙂  Before leaving on our trip to Europe, I read a few articles about the pickpockets, which is why I was careful about wearing the money belt. For that reason and the reason that a friend of mine had her purse and passport stolen when she was in Italy.  It’s a big mess to go through when losing a passport.  I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen to me.

After the frisk, we boarded our flight on KLM Airlines.  The flight attendants wear white blouses, light blue blazers and skirts with a matching pill hat balanced on top of their heads.  It seemed as if they were coming out of a decade we’d already lived through, but it was nice to see!  Plus, they gave us little chicken sandwiches in a white and Dutch blue paper box covered with pictures of old-fashioned windmills.  It was the simplest of meals, but left quite an impression.

When we arrived, there was a different feeling from what we experienced in Amsterdam. Zürich seemed to be a bit more serious, quiet, and less crowded.  We found the office of the train station, and the lady there pointed us to the train tunnel.  This is where I started to feel a little anxious.  What were we thinking?  Could we really navigate our way through Switzerland by ourselves via train?  What if we ended up on the wrong train?  But all went well.  The lady at the train station handed us a train schedule and told us about the SBB Mobile app.  The app has the timetables and has the ability to purchase tickets.  We didn’t have to worry about buying tickets since we purchased them before we left for our trip.

The tunnel wasn’t very crowded, and since I didn’t have the app loaded on my phone yet, I asked one of the train workers if the trains have numbers (like the bus I take at home). He said, “No, it all works by timetable.”  In true Swiss fashion, each train has a spot on the car where it indicates its destination.  All the trains ran on time, just as you would expect when traveling in Switzerland, the clockmakers of the world.  There was no need to be nervous about numbers on trains.  To be sure though, we asked fellow travelers if the train was going to Bern.  🙂

We noticed a lot of graffiti on walls and under bridges as we travelled to Bern, which I didn’t expect to see. I also saw billboards or signs for Electrolux vacuum cleaners and Elna sewing machines – things my dad bought when I was younger.  After we got off the train in Bern and were trying to figure out where to go next, a lady walked up to me and asked for directions in English!  I thought I must look like I belonged there but told her we were trying to figure out the same thing.  We ended up following everyone else and found our way to the restrooms and some restaurants.  Luckily, we bought the best chocolate, chocolate chip muffin I’ve ever eaten.  Back to the tracks, we found our next train, which was going to Interlaken.

The scenery improved more and more as we traveled along and left the big city of Bern. When we got to a valley by a lake and mountains surrounded us, I knew we were in Interlaken.  The beauty of it all took my breath away!  So much so, that I did not take pictures at that time.  After a few more minutes of train travel, we were at the train station in Interlaken and took a cab to our hotel.

We stayed at the Hotel Bellevue, which has been in business since 1801 and is located on the River Aare. Above are pictures of the outside of the hotel and an adjacent restaurant, reception area, headboard on bed (thought it was cute!), updated bathroom with clear shower doors, and view from our hotel.  Carla, at reception, told us “people around here like to watch the parasailers jump off the mountain and try to land in Hohematte Park,” a short walk away.  After checking in, we leisurely walked around town where we found a beautiful church, the park, the spot to go to buy a wristwatch – there were many watch shops there – and more beautiful architecture.  Even though we enjoyed our short stay in the Netherlands, it was nice to be away from the Hectically Moving Crowds and busyness of Amsterdam.

Interlaken Hotel Where We Did Not StayFancy Hotel, Where we Did Not Stay

We ended up having dinner at the restaurant next door to our hotel – Goldener Anker (Golden Egg) – which Carla recommended. Our waitress brought us a little basket of bread.  We both had a dinner salad which came with finely-shredded beets and carrots.  I had chicken schnitzel.  In case you don’t know, schnitzel means the meat is tenderized and pounded thin and covered in flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs.  Instead of bread crumbs though, mine was covered in coconut flakes and came with a mustard sauce.  My husband had fresh perch with a rice medley.  The atmosphere was relaxed with hushed conversations and soft American rock music in the background.  The staff was very accommodating and the food was delicious.

The reason we travelled to Switzerland was to see where my grandpa grew up. My dad received many postcards that were sent to him from his cousin, John, who traveled there many times.  John encouraged my dad to visit, but Dad did not like to travel by airplane and never went.  Those postcards, the picture calendars Grandpa received from his hometown, and Grandpa’s stories made me want to visit my ancestral home.  Knowing we could get to Grandpa’s birthplace by train the next day made me excited for our next adventure.

Next stop:  Ringgenberg and Brienz, with more mountain pictures to come.