Tuesday, January 31, 2012


We hit the road this weekend for a quick 2 hour drive to Bratislava, Slovakia.  Why Bratislava? It is close and we hadn't yet been there, so why not? We stayed at a nice, small hotel about a 5 minute walk from Old Town.  We were a little afraid when we drove into the "parking garage" and found 4 spaces. Hmm.
But, the hotel turned out to be lovely and modern and spacious...we had a huge room with a king size bed and a pull out couch, plus a sitting area. There were 3 TV's and a computer in the room.  I would recommend Danubia Gate for anyone travelling to Bratislava. It also had a small children's play area.
Our room wasn't quite ready when we arrived, so we bundled up and headed out in search of lunch. We saw the usual McD's and KFC, but were on the hunt for something a little more authentic. But, when we turned a corner and saw a sign for Sbarro, I couldn't resist. It was across from an ice rink and for a brief moment I felt like I was at the Houston Galleria.
After lunch, we strolled though Old Town. The Old Town was picturesque..and a bit deserted.
The picture above is the "Main Square". On a Saturday. In the middle of the day. Where, oh where, are the people? It was strange. It was also great, because the kids could run freely up and down the streets.
They enjoyed pretending to shoot the cannon and posing with random statues. 
This is St Martin's Cathedral, where several Hungarian kings were crowned during the almost 1000 years that Bratislava was part of Hungary. On the top of the steeple is a replica of the Hungarian crown. 

Across from the church was a wonderful children's museum, Bibiana.  I would recommend it for anyone with small kids. They had many rooms with different projects or play things in each room. 

Fun baking room
Pretend snow
 Mister man likes to use "skissors"
Under the Sea
Painting glass tiles

                           After our time there, we stopped for some coffee and dessert to warm up.
Option 1
Option 2
We are not so mean as to eat dessert and only allow our kids to have fruit...instead, Cade refused to try the cake and begged for an orange that he saw on the counter. Alrighty, then. 

Next up - the Bratislava Zoo...it needs a post to itself!

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Whole Lot of Nothing

 So, the blog has been quiet as of late. Cade has been sick on and off since we got back to Budapest, first with an ear infection and then with upper respiratory junk. That means I have been home. A lot. Doing a lot of nothing except cuddling with my sweet boy who just wants to "snuggle mama." That is quite possibly my favorite phrase of his.

Yesterday, I needed a little extra entertainment so I let Chelsea skip school and stay home and play with us. While she was here, she practiced for her future cosmetology career and used her brother as her model. He was a willing participant, contrary to the picture.
Mom, why do you let her do these things to me?
We also made the "melt your broken crayons" project off of Pinterest. It was a fun and easy way to make rainbow crayons.

This weekend, we are taking a quick trip to Slovakia. So hopefully more exciting things on the blog soon!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Marshmallow Man

As we have said before, Hungarians don't mess around with cold weather. It is a horrible offense if your child could possibly be cold. I picked up this marshmallow man from preschool this week. It was so funny because he couldn't even run to me, he just waddled over. Notice there is no snow on the ground, but he is decked out in jeans,  a flannel shirt, a fleece hoodie, a snow suit, a snow jacket, a fleece hat,  mittens, and snow boots. The only thing missing is a scarf, and I gave in a bought one out of guilt this week.
                                            He may not be able to move, but he won't be cold!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Let it Snow!

Winter has looked quite different this year than last. We have lots of blue sky and barely any snow. 
We love snow and we have relished the little bits of snow that have fallen this week!

                        So far, Cade proclaims he likes the snow...much different than last year!
                                                        Hopefully this trend will continue!
Cade poses by the Christmas tree. 
It has moved to a new home outside and we will strive to keep it alive until next year. 
                                                                Our best snowman.
                                             Hopefully bigger and better snowmen to come!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Houston, Round 2

After leaving Harlingen, we arrived back in Houston for more Christmas with my family. 
 Apparently, we were having such fun that I hardly took any pictures. 
Sweet cousins - these 5 love each other and love being together! 
More presents
We have a drum set...he is a happy boy! 
The ping pong gun was a big hit.
We took Chelsea to her first Aggie game as they played a bowl game in Houston.  She liked it - possibly because of the popcorn and cotton candy.  The next day, we went to a Texans game. We got our fill of football!

Our time in Houston is always a bit of a whirlwind.  It's a fun whirlwind, but a whirlwind nevertheless.  In addition to my family, we love spending time with old friends and with our kids' birth families -- who we also consider part of our family. That is always a joy to us, and while I don't post pics on the blog out of respect for their privacy, we treasure our time with them and we are thankful for the visits we have. Our kids are loved by so many people and are blessed to know not only their birth parents, but also birth grandparents, great grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.  Such a blessing.

Speaking of adoption, we are always happy to answer questions about open adoption...leave a comment and we will do our best to answer any questions.

Now we are back in Hungary...more Budapest adventures to come!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas in South Texas

We started our 3 week Texas trip in South Texas with Larry's family. We had a great time and our kids thoroughly enjoyed time with everyone.  Cade loved his uncles and renamed them "Bunkle Jeff" and "Uncle Candy (Kenny)." Jeff increased Cade's linguistic ability and taught him to say "No mas!" 
Bass Pro Shop Santa visit
Ice skating!  
Loved these penguins the kids could skate with to keep their balance 
Chelsea and Emma Grace 
Hunter and Cade 
Motorcycle man
Motorcycle girl got to go for a ride

The whole crew!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Getting to Europe CHEAP

Every time we come home to visit, people tell us how much they really want to come visit Hungary, but they can't afford to make the trip.  We've helped a number of people get there, thanks to one of my favorite past times... letting credit card companies pay for the trip!

Here's the short version of this post...
  1. Get some American Airlines credit cards that have large sign-up bonuses
  2. Plan your trip between October 15 and March 15 (off-peak times)
  3. Call American Airlines to book your trip using any of the One World Airlines (except perhaps British Airways).
By doing this, you can nearly travel for free.  So let me expand on each point.
  1. Get some American Airlines credit cards that have large sign-up bonuses
    1. Citibank regularly offers large sign-up bonuses on their credit cards.  For example, in the past 15 months or so, they offered a 75K mile sign-up bonus on credit cards after a certain amount of spend (e.g. spend 5 thousand dollars in 6 months or something similar).  
    2. Citibank offers 2 different American Airlines personal cards (e.g. MasterCard and American Express).  You can apply and receive bonuses for both with a little bit of research.  Of course, you have to meet the minimum spend on both cards to get the bonus.
    3. Citibank also offers a business card that most people can apply for and receive the bonus for.  I personally have never done this, but I know many that do.
  2. Plan your trip between October 15 and March 15 (off-peak times)
    1. American Airlines offers a 33% reduction in required miles to travel in coach between USA and Europe between October 15 and March 15.  Instead of the normal 60K miles that are required, it only takes 40K miles.
    2. You can use any of the One World alliance airlines to get between the USA and Europe.  This includes American, British Airways (avoid them if you can as their taxes/fees are excessive compared to others), Finnair, Iberia, Malev, and S7 airlines.
  3. Call American Airlines to book your trip using any of the One World Airlines (except perhaps British Airways).
    1. Before you call, decide with everyone you might be travelling with when you want to travel, what the earliest/latest you can travel is, and any alternate cities you are willing to use.  The more flexible you are, the more likely they can find something.
    2. Be prepared to be on the phone between 30 minutes and an hour.  Be patient and let the representative do their job
    3. When the representative answers, tell them what you want to do, but that you have some flexibility.  I usually also tell them I am not interested in flying British Airways across the Atlantic due to their excessive fees/fuel surcharges.  This is good information because they regularly use British when booking these awards.  Avoiding them will save you between $200 and $400/ticket most likely.
    4. The representative will likely try to get you from any gateway city (e.g. Dallas, Chicago, New York JFK, Miami are all common examples, but there may be some others) to another gateway city (e.g. London, Frankfurt, Madrid, Paris, etc.) first.  Once they have found that, they begin working on the domestic portions of your trip.
    5. Believe it or not, sometimes the domestic portion is the harder to find availability on.  They do have the ability to request that award seats be opened up if they found the international portion, but not the domestic.  In my most recent booking, the seats were opened up.  I was surprised, but this may be reasonably common.
    6. You may have to overnight somewhere.  For example, American flies direct from JFK to Budapest, but the flight time makes it hard to get there from Houston.  
    7. You may have to change airports.  For example, most international flights leave from JFK, but a lot of domestic flights go to other New York-area airports.
    8. You may have to fly out of a different airport than the city you live in.  For example, you can go Austin to JFK to Budapest all without overnighting somewhere.  That is much harder to do from Houston.
  4. This seems like a lot of work, but let's assume you are a family of 4 -- you would need 160K miles to fly round-trip to Europe when booking through American Airlines.  If you applied for 2 personal cards with a 75K sign-up bonus, you could easily get 160K miles (2 cards * 75K bonus = 150K; to get the bonus, you might have to spend 5K USD on the card which also earns you points.  5K @ 2 cards = 10K miles.  150K bonus + 10K spend = 160K = enough miles for a family of 4 to travel to Europe during offpeak times).
Of course, there are other ways to make this happen, but this is one of the cheapest I have found.  Citibank regularly runs good sign-up bonuses.  American has the cheapest options to Europe.  If you absolutely have to use a different airline alliance, most of the principles above will apply also, but it will cost you more miles and it may be harder to earn those miles.

Questions? Leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer.