Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Munich, Day 5

On Thursday, we opted for a daytrip to nearby Salzburg, Austria, and it was just a darling place to visit.  Munich's population is 1.3 million while Salzburg has just 150,000 residents, so it was nice to get out of the "big city" for the day.

The forecast called for a 90% chance of rain and cooler temps from the day before, so we switched from shorts back over to jeans.  There's nothing worse than being wet and chilled.  The drive across the border was amazing, all green undulating terrain dotted with farms, cows, sheep, etc.  We even spotted the occasional deer off in a field.  

Our tour guide was quite the salty character.  Due to the clientele on the tour bus, he was giving us information in German, English and Spanish.  The latter didn't appear to be his native language, but it seemed to me that he really rattled on a bit more in Spanish than the other two languages.  Of course, this might be due to the fact that the Spanish speaking folks laughed at all his jokes.  He was probably in his late 50s and his stomach was testament to a love of food and/or beer.  His attire included a black t-shirt with a wolf screenprinted on it.    

After being shown Mozart's birthplace in the old city center of Salzburg, we were given a brief overview and about 3 hours on our own to explore.  According to Rick Steves' guidebook, the view from atop the Hohensalzburg fortress was excellent.  All you had to do to locate it was look straight up.

If you look over to the right side of this pic, you can see a funicular track that cuts through the greenery.  According to Jason's travel Bible, the Rick Steves Germany book, Rick said it was an easy walk to the top.  So yeah, no problem, I typically work out five days per week and was game.  I was concerned about the husband and girls, but we set off in high spirits.  

Here we are looking back down at the view after the first couple switchbacks.  This is about where it all fell apart.  The little one started the climb at a jog and by this point was in full whine mode.  For some odd reason, the older one was being more stoic, but jumped on board when the younger one started making noise about turning around.  I was starting to feel the burn, but was still in good shape and joined with the husband to encourage them to go just a bit farther.  

We slogged up a couple more switchbacks and the complaining ceased because it would have required effort and oxygen, which was in short supply by this time.  The steepest grade was located about two-thirds of the way to the top and it was covered in gravel.  A running joke in our family is that I am the most UNsurefooted creature on the planet.  So I crept over to the side that provided a railing for the old folks trying to avoid breaking a hip and carefully continued my trek to the top.

I must admit that the views from the fortress made our Bataan death march worth it.  We were all a bit breathless when we reached the top.  And the girls were so weak that they needed a scoop of ice cream to revive them.  Me... I was busy mopping up the sweat that was running down the side of my face.  And the attractive sweat beads on my upper lip.  Plus the line of sweat running down my back.  The temp was only in the low 70s, but it was incredibly humid, a Southeast Texas sort of humid, thanks to the rain headed our way.  

Here we are posing after we had a chance to catch our breaths, quit wheezing and dry out a bit.  I was looking forward to our walk back down the hill, gravity making for an easy time of it.  But no - the oldest complained a good part of the way about how this was more painful to her calves than going uphill.  This from the girl on high school dance team that kicks and stretches and jumps around for hours a day during football and contest seasons.  If my middle-aged patootie can handle Rick Steves' "easy" walk to hell to the fortress, then I don't wanna hear any bitching from the ranks, especially when I'm 27 and 33 years older than them.  

In a completely random comment unrelated to everything else I've written up to this point, we had lunch at Nord See (North Sea) and it was a big hit.  It's a counter service restaurant with all sorts of fresh seafood cooked a variety of ways.  We had the fried shrimp with french fries and it was as tasty as Catfish Cabin in Lumberton or Al-T's in Winnie.  YUM!

About the time we loaded back on the bus to head to the lakes in Austria where parts of "The Sound of Music" were filmed, it started raining.  That put the kibosh on my grand plan to spin around like a top a la Julie Andrews in the opening scenes of the movie while the girls filmed me.  Drat!  We traveled around Lake Wolfgang, passing through several quaint little towns dotting the shores.  We disembarked in the town of St. Wolfgang just about the time the rain decided to come down in buckets.  As luck would have it, we stumbled upon a bakery to purchase ice cream (recurring dietary requirement with our girls) and homemade lebkuchen.

This wasn't the bakery, but another precious little decorated building I saw while we were strolling around in the rain.

We boarded a boat for a leisurely tour around the lake... in the rain.  At least the boat was covered.  Check out my pic below taken from the back of the boat, the boat that played the "Do-Re-Mi" song Julie Andrews sang in the SOM movie.  The water looked as if someone had added a bunch of green and blue food coloring to get such a beautiful hue.  I bet it's really enchanting on a sunny day.  

I found this pic on the internet of what it would look like minus the rain - just lovely!  This is the sort of place I might break my rule for, the rule that says I shouldn't return to any place in Europe until I've been able to cross every location off my travel wish list.  Anyone want to come over next summer and rent a chalet on the lake with us?  Or maybe Lake Como in the Italian Alps?  Sounds like a dream to me.

And finally, as we were preparing to board the bus to head back to Munich, I spotted some cable car/gondola things running up the side of the mountain in St. Gilgen where our boat ride ended.  Can you see the speck of red in the pic I took?  I love the way the red color of the gondola car stands out against the backdrop of greenery.  Talk about good views on a clear day!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Munich, Day 4

Wednesday was the only day we allowed ourselves to wake up without the assistance of an alarm clock.  We had too much to see and do in Bavaria to fritter away our time sleeping.  I was pleased when the girls really warmed up to breakfast at the hotel after initially deciding a Burger King down the road would be their preferred morning spot.  Admittedly, it's hard to compete with the gooey, artery clogging goodness of cini minis.  

I imagine breakfast at the hotel was very German/European, though I wouldn't really know since most continental breakfasts in the US don't include pretzels.  Every day the girls would have a pretzel, sometimes adding butter or nutella to it.  Plus they typically had a bowl of cereal and some fresh fruit.  Jason helped himself to some bread, not in the form of a pretzel, plus coldcuts like ham and prosciutto, as well as cheese and fruit.  I thought the bowl of horseradish was a nice touch.

We decided that we wanted to get a good aerial view of Munich from the old city center, so we headed over to the Frauenkirche.  A church constructed in the 15th century, it has a distinctive onion dome atop each of the two towers.  We climbed 86 stairs in the tower, which only allows for one-way traffic unless your physique resembles a broom.  Twice I had to press my body up against the outer wall to allow other folks to pass.  At the landing, we then boarded an elevator that took us to the top for some great shots of the city.  

We went to the top of the tower on the right.  The tower to the left is undergoing renovation, so it looks as if it has been swathed in white plastic from top to bottom.

At the entrance to this church, they had pictures of what it looked like in the years following the war so you could see the damage it suffered, which included a collapsed roof.  I was most impressed with an oversized Wittelsbach tomb located at the back of the church.  It is an amazing monument to Louis IV, King of Germany and Italy as well as the Holy Roman Emperor.  This amazing piece of statuary was initially installed at the front of the church (which can hold up to 20,000, by the way) before it took up residence at the back.  I'm thinking the man had quite a high opinion of himself and wanted to make sure he wasn't forgotten before the apocalypse.

The church was HUGE on the inside and had small chapels lining both sides of it. I was wishing I had a basic understanding of German so that I would have been able to decipher who the chapels were honoring or memorializing.  To my untrained eye, it looked like many of the items contained in the little chapels would fetch a handsome price on The Antiques Roadshow.  This certainly isn't something you'll find back in Texas at the local First Methodist Church, so maybe that's why I was so intrigued by them.

Out in front of the church, there was a water feature that had been installed in more modern times.  It consisted of little metal sculptures with water cascading from the center, which looked like either water lilies or skinny mushrooms.  Callie went down to take a closer look.

During Napoleonic times, it was commonplace to exhume bodies buried around the church and have them removed to another location in order to create space for further expansion.  It was also considered unhealthy to continue adding bodies on top of rotting bodies, which was wise in an era when the average life expectancy was just about my current age!  So what did they do with all of the headstones for the folks buried around the church?  They affixed many of them to the exterior walls of the building.

I have always had a fascination with epitaphs.  Even as a kid, I enjoyed strolling through cemeteries to read what had been written on tombstones.  The larger ones with detailed information about the life of the deceased person were always my favorites.  I've told my husband and the girls that I would like to be cremated, but have my ashes placed in a mausoleum.  Therefore, they can spend the insurance money (or maybe inheritance, because I want a nice resting place and none of that cheap pink granite, either) getting the story of our lives etched in stone for future generations to read.

After checking out the church, we headed over to the Viktualienmarkt just a couple blocks off the Marienplatz.  I believe it originally started as a farmer's market, but has morphed into permanent stands.  We passed people selling fresh meats, cheeses, fish, sweets, breads, candies, ice cream, flowers and souvenir stuff.

Having walked off breakfast, we whipped out Rick Steves' Germany book and thumbed through the Munich section for a restaurant suggestion.  Voila - we had a very tasty late lunch at the Andechser am Dom.  The weather was sunny and in the mid 70s with a nice breeze, so we ate outside under the shade of a tree in the biergarten area.  Jason had a dunkles (dark) and helles (light) beer for comparison purposes, you understand, and declared the dark variety his favorite.  Surprise, surprise - we were given a basket full of pretzels, as well as a couple slices of rye and some sort of twisted bread critter, before the meal arrived.  

See the little blue and white porcelain tub on the table?  It was filled with a sweet grainy mustard that was a perfect dip for the bread.  We dined on schnitzel, sausages, sauerkraut, spaetzle and warm potato salad.  Since Rick Steves, the travel god, had suggested this place, the three hollow-legged folks in our little party of four decided that we needed to order dessert, too.  As if we hadn't totally gorged ourselves on so many carbs by this time that we were all just about catatonic and in need of a larger pants size.  So with overindulgence being the order of the day, they decided on a slice of warm chocolate cake drizzled with ganache, a fried "donut" (that reminded me of bread pudding) floating in warm vanilla sauce, and freshly baked apple strudel with a jaunty scoop of ice cream crowning it.  

We ended the day by waddling back towards our accommodations, doing a bit of snooping through German department stores along the way.  Jason is always on the lookout for a new leather manbag and he found a keeper in the Galeria Kaufhof that he wore as a crossbody for the rest of the trip.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Munich, Days 1-3

Guten tag!  We returned yesterday from our week in Munich.  The dirty clothes pile (aka Mt. Everest) is shrinking, so I thought it would be the perfect time to get in a bit of blogging while I'm waiting around to shake out and hang the shirts currently tumbling in the dryer.

DAY 1:  We arrived last Sunday at the Munchen City (Munich) airport and took the Lufthansa bus to the Hauptbahnhof because our hotel was located just a few blocks from the central train station.  The Fleming was rated #13 out of almost 400 on Trip Advisor and it was a great central location.  After checking in, we strolled over to the Marienplatz, which is the heart of the old city center.  It was a busy place, with lots of street vendors, sightseers, a couple live bands with dancing and sidewalks filled with tables full of beer drinkers.  

In the pic above you'll see a temporary stage with locals in traditional German attire - dirndls and lederhosen - performing some sort of Bavarian dance.  My husband and I got these goofy grins on our faces because it immediately brought to mind this scene from the Griswold's European vacation.  The girls danced around the fellas while the guys did their own little snap, clap, and stomp bit in the center of the circle.  

We watched the famous glockenspiel do its little routine.  It was all very pretty with the beautiful red flowers in the boxes bedecking the facade of the new town hall where it's located.  It's as if that whole part of Germany agreed to really trick out their houses and businesses in gorgeous blooms to impress the tourists.  

DAY 2:  On Monday we opted for a hop on-hop off tour bus ride around the city.  The Central Park of Munich is called the English Garden.  Everything was incredibly green and peaceful along this stretch of the Isar River.  We rode across the bridge that overlooks a spot where people surf.  It was around 10 am on a Monday morning, so no one was surfing.  However, this is what we would have probably witnessed if it had been a bit later in the day.

It's so strange to think that the majority of the city was rebuilt following World War II after America leveled much of it with air strikes.  In a sad testament to priorities, several of Hitler's unattractive administrative buildings survived because they were camouflaged, while historic buildings like the Residenz palace and various churches dating back hundreds of years were partially destroyed.  I will give the Nazis credit for taking lots of pictures to document how things looked since it aided in the rebuilding of so many places that are an important part of Bavaria's heritage.  We enjoyed our tour of the Residenz, which was home to the Bavarian royals.  Parts of the palace date back to the 14th century and it has been expanded over the years until it became a museum right after World War I.  Here are a few pics we snapped while on our tour.

There were two statues we passed several times on our tours around the city center.  One of them was a wild boar - aka razorback if you're from Arkansas or javelina if you're from Texas.  It's supposed to be good luck if you rub its snout and we saw several people walk by and do just that as they passed by it.  The other statue resembled a big old catfish with its mouth wide open.

DAY 3:  On Tuesday, we rolled out when the alarm clock beeped at 6:15 to hit the trail on a daytrip to Linderhof, Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein.  It was a fabulous ride into the edge of the German Alps on the upper deck of the bus.  We started out the tour at Linderhof, which was originally just a hunting lodge until Mad King Ludwig decided to gussy it up with a whole lotta 24K.  It seems he had this little obsession with the Palace at Versailles and even created his own mini Hall of Mirrors.  It was small but incredibly ornate and unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any pics while inside it, though I did snap the one below of the front entrance.

Here is a pic I found on the internet of the HOM replica - see what I mean about the use of gold.  I think he and Liberace would have been big pals!

Our next stop of the day was Oberammergau, famous for its production of the Passion Play every ten years.  All of the residents are involved in some aspect of the show and people come from all over the world to see it.  We saw the theatre where it was staged last year and had a chance to snoop around some of the local shops.  What I enjoyed was seeing all of the interesting artwork painted on the sides of the buildings throughout town.  Here are a few examples I found.  And once again, it's as if everyone in town had agreed to provide a profusion of flowers on their houses or businesses to enchant the tourists.  

Our final stop for the day was at Neuschwanstein.  Mad King Ludwig designed this castle and approximately one-third was completed before he was deemed mentally incompetent and removed from the throne.  Annie and I white-knuckled it out onto "Mary's Bridge" to get this view of the castle.  

This picture of Mary's Bridge, where Annie and I crept out to snap the above pic of the castle while trying not to look down, was taken from a viewing area of Neuschwanstein at the end of the official tour.  We certainly got our fair share of exercise, but it wasn't so bad since the high was in the mid 70s.

Neuschwanstein looked cheap in comparison to Ludwig's over-the-top finishes at Linderhof.  There was a lot of gold, but it was all painted atop cement instead of ornate plaster.  Ludwig might have been a bit of a kook, but he did have an eye for great locations because the views from the castle across several lakes to mountains in the distance were stunning.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Es verdad - hindsight is 20/20

I thought I was so smart back when I was 14 and decided Spanish would come in handy living in Texas.  French is a beautiful language, but it just seemed so hoity toity compared to the ever practical Spanish.  And German... I was afraid it might have involved a lot of inadvertent spitting and words that would come across as guttural grunting rather than an actual language.  Spanish is something I could use in my everyday life.  I could expertly place an order at Taco Bell, Casa Ole or Pappasito's with my Spanish pronunciation skills learned in high school and college.  When in the heck would I ever use German anyway?

Fast forward almost 30 years to my realization that it would come in pretty handy tomorrow when we head to Germany for a week.  I know ja means yes and nein is no.  I can also pronounce schnitzel correctly.  As long as I eat schnitzel at every meal, I'm good to go.  

Our hotel in Munich has wifi in the rooms, so I hope to send along some pics on Facebook as well as a possible post here on the blog by the time we return next weekend.  The girls have already started asking if we'll be seeing any "boring old history stuff" and I responded with a hearty ja, we would be seeing all sorts of historic places in Deutschland.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shop 'til you drop... or you get arrested for strangling your child in the shoe department

Lordy, lordy... I survived, but just barely.  Arguing, raised voices, a bit of colorful language and a headache were the order of the day.  Up and down, back and forth, wandering here and there with no luck while threats were being hurled.  It was just a typical trip to the local mall with my teenage daughter.

It's hard to believe I was once a devotee of shopping.  I could roam around and snoop through stores all day.  Even when the girls were little bits, it didn't slow me down.  I just packed them up, along with some snacks, and hit the racks.  Sure, folks stared at the 7-yr-old being pushed along in the stroller or shopping cart.  But hey, it beats piggy backing them from one retail anchor store to the opposite end of the local mall and back again since I had bags to carry.

I've been known to temporarily misplace kids a time or two since they always loved to hide underneath the clothes displays.  My oldest was especially good at this and would sit there quiet as a mouse.  It got to the point where the old trick announcement of "I'm leaving now" or "I think we need to go buy something from the Chocolate Chip Cookie Factory" would fall on deaf ears.  One time my mother, a novice with the wait-it-out game, was in tears and ready to call store security to help us find the brat Annie before she finally started giggling and gave away her hiding place.  Please - all that hiding bought me some extra time to do a bit more shopping in peace.  Sure, she always crawled out from beneath the racks with two fists full of those extra buttons they attach to clothes so that I had to quickly ferret them away out of sight from the sales clerks.  But seriously, who really keeps or actually uses those extra buttons anyway?

The older I get, the less patience I have with shopping in general.  I'm not a window shopper anymore.  I head out with a specific list of item(s) in mind, locate them and then vacate the premises ASAP.  I think Annie takes after her great great aunt Jodie, my sister and my husband's mother - all great at scratching through the racks for hours on end, trying on things and then leaving the store empty-handed.  Annie gets started with an item in mind, then her inner raccoon comes out and she gets distracted by a shiny necklace in accessories or glittery new eye makeup kit in cosmetics.  Then boom - she's chasing down something else entirely while I stand around tapping my toe with impatience.

Probably the most often repeated and incredibly aggravating scenario begins innocently enough with the question, "Which one do you like?"  Or maybe "What do you think of this?"  That's obviously a loaded question because what appeals to her teen fashion sense isn't going to translate to a middle aged woman's style.  Showing me an outfit made from fabric with large horizontal stripes that's either cut up to here or down to there is like waving garlic in a vampire's face.  You know - lots of cringing and shielding my eyes while swallowing the impulse to hiss in scorn until the offending garment is removed.  Don't be insulted... you asked and I answered.  Honestly, you need to quit pitting one outfit against another.  I always end up liking what I had no idea was your second place winner and then you feel compelled to defend the one you really like best.  Hello - don't ask my opinion if you don't want to hear my answer.  My only criteria for your wardrobe is that it's reasonably priced and covers up most of you in a somewhat modest fashion so that it doesn't appear you're planning to set up shop at a local street corner in the near future.  

I quit picking out your clothes way back in elementary school.  Let's go ahead and totally sever the belt strings so we can try a new kind of shopping.  I give you a big wad of cash and turn you loose in the mall.  Feel free to invite a friend or two along for company.  I'll happily spring for lunch and then swing back by to pick y'all up once you've gotten your fill of retail therapy.  It seems like a win-win situation to me so that no one gets their feelings hurt or is temporarily blinded by that neon print shirt you're admiring.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

I have an appointment at the salon Wednesday morning.  I've been thinking that it might be time to go short again.  What to do, what to do....

Back in my mid 30s, after having Callie and going back to teaching full-time while wrangling the demands of motherhood, I decided to give short hair a try.  Up to that point my hair had been anywhere from shoulder length to halfway down my back.  I had worn it straight or permed my whole life, but had never been tempted to cut off any serious length.  

Rhonda, my stylist at the time, told me I should cut it progressively shorter each time I came in to get my color done.  So every 6-7 weeks I had a bit more taken off until it looked like this.  Talk about a blast from the past when I found this pic.  OMG - where are the wrinkles?  And what about the turkey waddle neck I've developed lately?  Maybe I need to keep my hair longer as camo for the aging that seems to be moving forward by leaps and bounds these days.

I happily wore my hair this length for about five years.  Then I hit the big 4-0.  I figured that if I ever wanted to have longer hair again, then I had best get busy growing it.  And you know the deal - middle aged lady trying to grow out her hair.  Her hair that's now much thinner than in her youth thanks to perimenopause.  Her hair that's got a bunch of whites covered in brown hair dye that give it a different texture not so easily tamed.  Her hair that requires an investment of vitamins and various hair products to aid in the growing out process.  Three years later, my hair is a bit past my shoulders.  

Lately I've been wondering what I should do with my hair now that I've gotten it this far.  Side ponytails and french braids are appropriate for my teenager, but not terribly attractive on a lady my age.  I don't like the reality check that I've spent YEARS growing out my hair to end up just pushing it behind my ears to get it out of the way.  I wish I could say I was up for some high maintenance hairstyling, but I'm just not.  

I had mentioned going short again to the family and they didn't think it was a good idea.  If I had the thick and lustrous hair I completely took for granted as a young woman, it would be a no-brainer.  Oh to go back to my hair's glory days when it could have been used as Cousin It's body double.  But alas, those days are gone.  I'm afraid I may soon be ordering all the knock off Rogaine from Canada or Mexico that I can find on the internet.  Or, heaven help me, I'll be doing a Donald Trump comb over at some point in the future.  That would give a whole new meaning, and incredibly unattractive visual, to the phrase "side swept bangs".

These are cute short 'dos.  It's a bit sad to realize I'm more than old enough to be Rihanna's mom.  And if I had Victoria Beckham's tiny little figure, I could sport any old haircut and look like a million bucks.  I don't aspire to look 25 again because that's one miracle that won't materialize, but rather young enough that folks don't start trying to give me an AARP discount before my time.  *sigh*

I don't know what I'll end up doing when I sit down in the stylist's chair in a couple days.  Maybe I'll just get a bit trimmed off the ends and continue to give longer hair a try.  Or maybe I'll get it all whacked off and go back to my days of easy, breezy wash and go hair.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

School's (Almost) Out

In just six short days, the girls will wrap up their first semester of school here in England.  It just doesn't seem like summer is almost upon us.  Our usual signs of approaching summer include my manic countdown to ship off yet another class of 5th graders on to 6th grade.  That certainly isn't happening.  Another harbinger of summer is VBS, with Callie attending and Annie volunteering.  Nope, we won't be doing that either.  As a matter of fact, we have no lessons or camps of any sort on the horizon.   

And last but not least is weather hot enough to get us in shorts, tank tops and dips into the backyard pool.  Hmmm... the high today was a whopping 66.  Maybe that's why I just can't get all excited about the arrival of vacation since it just doesn't feel like the dog days of summer back home in Texas.  We don't have an air conditioner to run, which is still just the oddest thing to me.  Over the weekend when it got up to 80, we opened up windows and turned on a floor fan or two.  There are no screens on windows, so it's inevitable that bugs get into the house.  At least that's better than the occasional bird flying in because I've heard the horror stories from a few people who have experienced this.  If that ever happens to me, I'll just have to sit around and sweat like Mammy in "Gone With the Wind" with her original do-rag around her head because I aint gonna open up any more windows.

When school cranks up again on Aug. 24, the girls will have a new school home.  Isn't it pretty?  

The girls are making the switch to TASIS, which stands for The American School in Switzerland, but obviously this is the England branch.  They require uniforms - yippee!  It isn't as conveniently close as the school they've been attending, but that's fine since they'll be riding the coach to campus every day.  It was a difficult decision, whether or not to move the girls yet again now that they had settled in their first school over here.  I pray we've done the right thing and hope they have a smooth transition when fall arrives.  Until then, we intend to enjoy a summer chock-full of travel, friends and family.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Prom 2011

The prom here in England is strictly for juniors and seniors, so we had no expectation of Annie attending.  Then a week before prom, a junior named Stephen asked her.  Annie's friend in chemistry class named Chloe served as facilitator since Annie and Stephen are equally shy.  Chloe is a good ol' Texas girl from Corpus Christi.

So Friday after school, we flew over to the mall in Kingston to hunt for a dress.  The mall hours here are typically 9:30 to 6, so we were definitely pressed for time.  Annie initially wanted something classic and simple in black.  She found a contender by Jaegar, but really needed a size smaller.

The search continued as she waffled back and forth between short vs long.  After the little one and I snooped through the adjacent racks looking for other options, we returned to find Annie trying on a tomato red Ted Baker beaded maxi dress that she really liked.  It wouldn't have been my first choice, but when you're a pretty little 16-year-old with a cute figure then even a flour sack would look fashionable with the right accessories.  We found the winner!  While I waited to purchase it, Annie went downstairs to look in the shoe department.  The young lady that rang it up for me commented on how pretty it was and asked me where I was wearing it.  Helloooo there... pay attention!  First off, I couldn't squeeze into a size 6 with a tub of lard.  The removal of a few ribs might make it more plausible, as well as getting my jaws wired shut for a couple months.  Second thing, I'm not the target audience for a sleeveless maxi dress with my middle-aged batwing arms.  The older I get, the more aware I am about dressing my age.  Just because they make hot pants or jeggings in my size doesn't mean I should be wearing them.

We hit a few more stores before the mall closed, but still needed vital things like a purse and shoes.  On Wednesday, after school, we returned to Kingston to find the rest of it.  Annie fell in love with a pair of caramel satin pumps that cost only £50 less than the dress.  The shoe below was our compromise since it matched the beading on the bodice and cost only 1/3 of what we paid for the dress.  They look silver in this pic, but these strappy sandals are a light gold color.

Unfortunately, we had to pass by the cosmetics counters on our way from shoes to the skywalk bridge to access the parking garage.  Cue the puppy dog eyes and cajoling.  This resulted in quite a hit on the old bank account because I ended up shelling out for a new eyeshadow kit, some self tanner, nail polish and sparkly lip gloss.  

And speaking of the price of beauty, it continued Friday after school when Annie had a manicure.  Then it bled over into Saturday morning when she got some subtle sun kissed honey blonde highlights in her hair at the local Aveda salon, in addition to a brow and lip waxing.  We couldn't make such a huge investment in her overall look without ensuring that she didn't resemble Sasquatch's long lost cousin.

I dropped Annie off at Melissa's house Saturday afternoon because all of the girls gathered there to get ready.  The boys arrived at 5:30 along with all of the parents for Prom Photopalooza 2011.  For an hour we stood around chatting and taking a bunch of pics.  Here are the girls - a front and ever popular back shot.

And here are the guys looking sharp in their suits, doing their best imitations of John Travolta back in the day... minus his blindingly white ensemble.

This is a pic of Annie and her date, Stephen.  Cute, huh?  I can hear her refrain now... Mom, he's just a friend.  And that's alrighty with me!

Here is one final shot of the entire group before they all climbed aboard the ridiculously long limo that looked like a Suburban on steroids which carried them to Sandown in nearby Esher for the prom on Saturday, June 4.  I thought they cleaned up quite nicely.