Stockholm 2012

9 07 2012

Christine and I spent 4 days in Sweden this summer. Swedish meatballs, tourist sites, discovering the origins of the Nobel Prize, hotel accommodations in 1924 luxury yacht moored in the “Gamla Stan” or Old Town of Stockholm.

Canal du Midi – Windstrup and Watkins Spring Vacation 2012

15 04 2012

For the longest time I have wanted to explore the Canal du Midi in France. I remember seeing something about it on TV in the late 80s thinking that I want to do that someday. Might have been the BBC cooking show Floyd on France or some other PBS show at the time. I had no idea I would eventually live in the country not just vacation there. After living in France for 10 years while discussing my younger man’s dream with some friends over dinner I discovered other compatriots who had similar dreams. We discussed it a bit and decided on the spot to just do it. What a wonderful opportunity to discover the mysteries of the canal and the charm of the connected cities together aboard the same “Le Boat”. We all took pictures and I took a ton of video. Click on the image below to see the edited and loosely narrated video of our adventure. Or if you want to simply see our photos in a slideshow click here on the photo book slideshow.


1 04 2012

I’ve always had a fascination with old school pedometers and more recently GPS receivers. These gadgets have encouraged me to get out and about more over the years. I remember back in my youth calculating my run stride with simple math and the yardstick measured distance of the sidewalk in front of my childhood home. I entered this “scientific” information into the electro-mechanical unit I saved up to purchase in the 80s. It made a thumping noise as I ran but it did tally up and fairly accurately show the distance traveled. Of course that was back in the day when I was on the track and cross-country teams. Many years later when we arrived in France I got my first GPS. I was able to see the electronic or “breadcrumb” track of my bike rides and hikes in the environs of our new home. I tediously massaged this information to view it overlaid on georeferenced digitally scanned maps. Imagine my delight now with applications like RunKeeper on the iPhone or hardware like the Fitbit. The Fitbit is a pedometer beyond my dreams replete with wireless transfer of 3D accelerometer and altitude data sent to the web for detailed reporting and analyses. It even tracks how efficient you sleep if you can imagine that. RunKeeper is an iPhone application that does it all! This thing tracks distance traveled and provides a detailed map tracking exactly where you ran and you instantaneous pace at any given point on the map. Cool stuff. It makes me really want to get out there and run as you’ll see in the video. Christine and the kids have been joining me fairly regularly too. The distance and pace I’ve been running is nothing great but my simple goal is to run once a week for at least a year. Let’s see how I do.

If not for anything else, if these gadgets get me out and about more, especially the times with my family, they are good gadgets indeed.

New Year 2012

1 01 2012

We went to the Netherlands to to bring in the New Year with friends. Started out in Holland and the capital city of the Netherlands. We went on a canal boat trip, the kids ice skated, we grabbed a few good meals, and Gabrielle insisted we go shopping. On the way out of Amsterdam we went to an open-air museum for a nice diversion out of the hustle and bustle of the city. Then just about hour away we met up with our Dutch friends. Ivo and I took the kids to blow off fireworks and find some geocaches. Debby and Christine spent the day together catching up on things, sewing, and getting ready for a proper New Year celebration. We all had a great time and very memorable experience. Thanks guys.

2011 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2011

It’s the holiday time of the year again. We would like to take this wonderful opportunity to say hello and let you know what we’ve been up to. I bet you want to hear about the kids first. Good because that’s what I like talking about the most. David and Gabrielle are growing strong. David is a powerhouse that excels in sports and can’t sit still. Gabrielle is maturing into a young woman who’s interested with the latest beauty and makeup trends. They both moved up a grade in school with David now in CM2 and Gabrielle in 4 ème. That’s 5th and 8th grade for you non francophones. Gabrielle was selected to be part of the special European class with more intense language studies and an overall higher curricular push in the 3 Rs. That’s reading, writing, and arithmetic for you non anglophones. Outside of school the kids have their activities. David is really getting into handball now with practice two times a week, he has continue on a 3rd year with ping-pong, and this year, now that he is old enough, he signed up for competitive shooting. Jeff and David do this together Sunday mornings. They also tried paintball for the first time. There’s a neat little video at if you like that kind of thing. Men and their shooting sports. Gabrielle is still actively involved with her art class, American Girl Scouts, and dance though this year she changed from ballet to modern dance. Not sure if shopping should be called an activity but as of late Gabrielle is really into it. She’s an American after all.

In addition to school, hobbies and work we still found time for travel and vacation. In February the kids and I spent a week with my cousins in Alsace next to the German border. Good hardy food and fun. In April we went skiing in the Alps. This year my brother joined us for the fun. We hiked and explored more that skied as there wasn’t much snow but still a welcomed repose. Jeff video blogged our adventures if you want to check it out. Summer vacation was spent in England and Wales. We visited London, Greenwich, Bath, Bristol and Stonehenge the first week. We saw and did a ton and lucked out without hardly a drop of rain. After that we met up with some English friends to spend the second week together in Wales. We enjoyed the Welsh countryside, an abundance of castles, the Celtic culture and of course speaking English. David had an opportunity to go more than a week solo this year at a vacation camp for kids. “Colonies de vacances” as it is called in France is something of a national institution and most kids participate in several up to the age of 18. He and his best friend joined the group where they went to the camp center in Brittany. They followed outdoors type activities and games and just reveled in being away from their parents for a stint.

Jeff and I are still working at the same places as before. Going on 5 years now. Jeff did have a big office move but his new office is only a minute away from the old one. I have been keeping up with my dance. In tennis I’m progressing and I have recently taken up sewing. Jeff’s most recent thing is music and stereo equipment. He tells me he’s trying to relive that big 80s sound he had when he build his own speakers and CD audio was new. He’s doing a good job because the speakers he has now are huge. They take up a good chunk of the front room and they definitely have a big sound. He just loves his toys.

We kept up our faith this year with David’s First Communion, Gabrielle’s Profession of Faith, and we all participated in a weekend pilgrimage where we crossed the the bay of Mont St. Michel barefoot at low tide. It was a moving experience. We wish you Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.


9 10 2011

David and I had our paintball initiation. A bunch a guys and gals running around shooting at each other. What fun it was. At first we were a bit apprehensive but once we got our first mission underway we quickly let that go and got the gist of the activity. Don’t get shot because it hurts. OK, there is more to it than that but that was the first takeaway. After a few more sorties we started to get more tactical though we still got shot way more times than we were shooting our adversaries. We went with the Watkins to celebrate Johann’s 17th birthday.

Walk in Paris

3 07 2011

We had a lovely walk in Paris today. We’ve lived here for years but rarely tour the city like tourists. We had such an opportunity today as we showed Christine’s family around.  Come with Stephane, Fabienne their children and us while we show them around.  We had excellent view of the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Since no visit to the city would be complete without a Métro ride we embarked to be whisked off to the foot of the iconic tower. We gazed at its timeless beauty from below and continued our leisurely walk to a nearby bistro for refreshments. After our tour and including the complete walk along Champs-Élysées from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe and up the Arc’s 300 or so spiral stairs we worked up quite an appetite. Dinner would be back at home where I had a chance to fire up the Weber and barbecue some beef shish kabobs. With Stephane’s help they were cooked to perfection.  We ate well and spent a very nice day together.

Spring Break 2011

15 04 2011

We went “skiing” in Morillon, France for spring break with the kids. The skiing is in quotes because we did little actual skiing. We have been going skiing every other year for some time now. We go to the same station and stay in the same chalet. We thought we were “pros” now because of our routine and the fact we purposefully go end of the season to avoid crowds and take advantage of the warmer weather. Well this year we outsmarted ourselves because the weather was so unseasonably warm all the lower altitude stations were covered in green and obviously closed. We did manage to get in a couple of runs in at the higher altitude Flaine station. Skiing or not vacation is still vacation so we took advantage of the marvelous weather by hiking and geocaching. We were able to find 3 persistently stubborn goecaches in the Haute-Savoie. (Land-is Joux-Plane, Les Tines-Sixt, Cascade du Rouget) On previous trips we looked for all these but no joy… This time with not a lick of snow they were not as elusive. We also visited the Musée de l’horlogerie in Cluses, did some shopping, went to a traditional restaurant for some hearty mountain food, and the kids got in some treetop adventure park fun. All in all a nice break from the school and work routine.

2010 Christmas Newsletter

25 12 2010

Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

We would like to give you a brief update on what we Windstrup’s have been doing since our last newsletter. We were able to travel and discover some new destinations this year. In February Jeff’s mother Gloria came to visit. She came with her cousin and Jeff was proud to show the ladies around the City of Light. They even went to eat in the fancy restaurant Le Jules Verne on the second floor of the Eiffel Tower. He likes to say that he knows Paris like the back of his hand. I wonder if he knows it better than I do. The second week of their visit we all went to visit the French Riviera. We went to Cannes, Antibes, and Nice in France. We didn’t plan it but we just happened to be in Nice for Carnival. “Nice” timing. Since we were close we also went to visit the principality of Monaco with its palace on the rock. We all enjoyed our visit and were glad to spend time with grandma. In April me and the kids met up with my parents in the Pyrenees for a week. French side of course. Jeff wanted to come but was saving vacation for summer. We did quite a bit of hiking and exploring in the mountains. There was a hen house and farm close to the chalet where we stayed. David was very pleased since he was charged with looking after the hens.

When summer arrived we were all excited about returning to the US. There were some changes in the 3 years since we’ve been back. Most notable was certainly getting to meet our niece Josephine and our nephew Jonathan. We did the usual things around Chicago though it felt odd acting like tourists in a place I lived in for 10 years and Jeff grew up in. Our list of tourist attractions included the Brookfield Zoo, Museum of Science and Industry, Field Museum, Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium. Couldn’t forget the skydeck on top of the Willis Tower. Jeff took the kids as some of you might know I am not particularly fond of elevators and that one must be a doozie at the 103rd floor. Jeff says he just can’t stop calling it the Sears Tower. Oh well things change. We also went on a few day excursion to the the House on the Rock and the Wisconsin Dells. Those of you from the Midwest will know these. They have a special charm and if you are in the area I recommend visiting them. Jeff and I also took 2 little getaways together without the kids. We took a day trip to Rouen. There’s a neat little video at For my birthday Jeff got me a gastronomic weekend getaway. We had a top notch dinner and stayed in a medieval castle in Sedan France in the Ardennes. Speaking about birthdays. I turned 40 this year. We rented a hall and had a DJ dance party. It was quite a blow out.

The kids are getting another school year under their belts. Gabrielle is in 7th grade at the junior high school the next town over and David is in 4th at the primary school right across the street. Both are doing fairly well in school so far this year. Let’s hope the trend continues. The kids had two shows this year. David had his part in the quasi production quality school play. Gabrielle had an equally elaborate dance recital. They both worked hard on their productions and it showed with stunning performances. As for after school activities David has continued with ping-pong and started handball. No change for Gabrielle and I as she continues with art class and ballet and I continue with contemporary dance and tennis. Jeff’s interest in Geocaching, hiking, and computers is also unwavering. However, he has changed computers now by becoming a MacMan. Both Jeff and I are working at the same place for the last few years now and are pleased with what we do and where we are.

We hope you too are happy this Christmas season and all throughout next year.

Summer Vacation 2010

12 07 2010

This is my second attempt at video editing or maybe my third. Below is a link to a substantially condensed version of the original 2 hour “director’s cut”. Knowing that nobody wants to watch other peoples home movies especially at feature film length I edited this down to a viewable but still riveting 14 minutes. As usual I went out of my way to add some interesting commentary.

I made this masterpiece with iMovie. Not being pleased with the various Linux video editors I tired before I used this project to justify my purchase of an iMac. A move in hardware and software that I do not regret.