Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I think the kids had a great day and really enjoyed their first trick-or-treating experience. A fellow American expat that lives in our complex sent out flyers to all 98 apartments explaining the Halloween tradition. Those interested in participating were asked to cut out the jack-o-lantern on the flyer and paste it to their door as a signal to trick-or-treaters. There was a pretty good turnout, and the kids came back with quite the candy stash. More pics tomorrow--I'm beat!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Home away from home

This is the mobile home we stayed in while in Germany. We should have gotten the 3 bedroom version, but other than that it had everything we needed. There wasn't an oven, but I don't think we really missed it.

The campground was on hill and therefore a bit windy, but not too bad. There was indoor pool, playground, mini golf, store, restaurant, laundry facility, chair lift to town, and summer luge course. We used the campground mainly for sleeping and didn't use the mini golf, restaurant or luge.
I think we'll look into staying at other campgrounds in this chain, as it was a good value. We'll probably stay in one when we visit southern Germany and/or Austria (whenever that happens).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cheese Buffet!

I can't get the video to show in the blog, so take a look at this. It looks like it would have been fun.

How many cheeses do you have in your refrigerator?

We have 14 as of this morning...we finished one off yesterday. Here is the list:
  • Baby Bell
  • Léger Rustique
  • P'tit Louis
  • Vacherin Mont d'Or (an excellent cheese!)
  • Pecorino Romano
  • Pecorino Brigante
  • Pecorino Canestrato Siciliano
  • Cathedral City Cheddar (the only cheddar that is available on the shelf in Morges)
  • Raclette (not sure what brand)
  • Gouda (young - don't know brand)
  • Gouda (mature - don't know brand)
  • A German cheese that was purchased from the deli (brand unknown - tastes like Gruyère)
  • Le Brigand Du Jorat
  • British Cheddar (brand unknown - very good)

Halloween Party?

How could I have missed this?

Moving to Germany?

We discovered a large grocery store with relatively inexpensive prices. Emily was excited by the halloween candy, but it wasn't until she she saw the organic, unsweetened applesause in a glass jar that she was ready to move to Germany.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Germany Day Two

(Porta Nigra in Trier)

On Saturday we discovered that Niamh had a cut that looked infected and we decided she should see a doctor. The doctors' offices in Saarburg, and perhaps across Germany, are closed on Saturdays, so we took her to the hospital. It took a bit of work to find the correct area, as we were told to go to "F", but we weren't exactly sure how to get there.
Things went fairly smoothly after we found the right area. Both the receptionist and doctor spoke perfect English, which was a pleasent surprise. Niamh howled the entire time, but Muriel and Rowan played with the toys in the waiting area without making as much as a squeek. Niamh was given a prescription, we paid the bill, and went off to find a pharmacy. The hospital bill was only €42, which seemed inexpensive for an urgent care visit. The bad news was the Niamh wasn't supposed to go in the pool and that had been one of the things she was most excited about. The pharmacies are open until 1PM on Saturdays, so we didn't have any issues filling the prescription.

Once we got the medical issues taken care of we headed to Trier. It was cold and wet, so we decided to head back to the campground for the day. More info on Trier to come.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Germany Day One: The Drive

We left the apartment by 7:30 Friday morning. By 7:35 we realized we had forgotten to bring Muriel’s sippy cup. By this time we were already on the auto route and it would have taken at least 20 minutes to get to the next exit, go back to the apartment, find the sippy cup, and return to the auto route, so we quickly decided we’d get a sippy cup in route.

Muriel turned out to be a much better car passenger than Emily or I anticipated. On Thursday night I had discovered that we had never adjusted her car seat to account that she wasn’t a newborn. I’m thinking the extra room might have made her a bit happier.

We made good time to Basel with limited screaming (either me or the kids) and pulled off at a mall to search for a sippy cup. For some odd reason the store didn’t open until 10, so we had time for bathroom breaks and to run the kids for a few minutes before finding a replacement sippy cup. We jumped in the car and headed towards France. “Jumped” may have been the wrong word – getting three kids in the car seats isn’t a quick process.

We traveled through eastern France at a very slow rate. At one point we were stopped for about 45 minutes due to a significant amount of hay being spilled on the road. At one point we were passed by a flock (Rowan’s term) of tractors that were going way faster than we were. We had a quick bathroom break at a McDonalds. The older kids enjoyed their McNuggets while Muriel ate her jar of baby food and started in on the fries. The girl behind the counter had issues understanding my horrible accent, but I don’t think my version of McNugget sounded anything like Big Mac, which is what she tried to give me.

The last 2 hours went very well and we arrived at the campground about 3:30. The GPS indicated it should have been a 5.75 hour trip, so we didn’t do too bad given we had three kids and lost 45 minutes due to traffic.

The car has three rows of seats and Rowan was in the very back. It went much better than expected. The kids normally drop their water bottle in the first few minutes and then proceed to complain about being thirsty for the rest of the trip, but Rowan managed to keep his water bottle and snacks within reach for the entire trip.

The mobile home is a bit small. I’m surprised they let 5 people stay here. There isn’t a place for the portable crib they provided unless Muriel sleeps in the living room/kitchen or the beds in one of the rooms are rearranged. We decided rearranging the furniture would be the better option.

Germany: The first few days

More details and photos will come later, but here is an overview of our first few days.
  • Muriel is much happy in the car seat after adjusting the car seat straps to account for her not being a newborn
  • Leaving the camera battery charger at home is a bad idea, especially if the batter wasn't full when you leave the house
  • Muriel likes McDonald's french fries
  • German hospitals are efficient
  • German medical bills are lower than anticipated
  • 2 adults and 3 kids are a tight squeeze into our 2 bedroom mobile home
  • Emily, and maybe I, disagree with Rick Steves on the best castle in Europe
  • It can be very cold in the mornings
  • Swiss hot chocolate is better than German hot chocolate.
  • Germans make excellent sausage.
  • Paying for washing and drying machines is a good way to use up 5 trips worth of smal coins.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Muriel's Birthday Book

A while back I saw a cloth photo book on SouleMama, and immediately knew that's what I wanted to give Muriel for her first birthday. The problem was that my sewing machine is boxed up in a Seattle storage unit.

My first (really rational) thought was that I could just buy a sewing machine. But do I really want to divert time and money away from other hobbies/interests right now? Sadly, no.

My second thought was--Mom! My sweet mother, of course, said that she'd be more than willing to make a photo book for Muriel.

While I was pondering over making my mom sew the book, I thought about Etsy. How I love Etsy! Sometimes I wonder how I survived Before Etsy. After a little searching I came upon Victoria at ex libris handmade who makes gorgeous cloth books. I asked her if she'd be able to do a custom photo book on relatively short notice (it was one month until Muriel's birthday) and she enthusiastically said yes. As I have a zillion other sewing projects I'd like my mom to do I decided to spare her this one, and save the favor for another time...or two!

Here is Victoria's blog post about Muriel's book, with some detailed pics of the book. It turned out even better than I had imagined, and I can't praise her work enough. Thank you again Victoria!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy 1st Birthday Little Miss!

Really hard to believe that Muriel is one year old today! Just a couple photos for now, hopefully will be able to get up more before we leave for Germany on Friday. Things have been a little hectic around here lately.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Not Much is Cuter than a Baby Learning to Walk

...but I will miss these adorably dirty toes.

Grape Harvesting

For the past couple of weeks or so there has been a steady stream of tractors rumbling down our street with loads of grapes from the vineyards around Morges.

They are headed to the cave at the end of the block. This time of year the normally quiet cave is bustling with activity, and the air around it is filled with the scent of fermenting grapes. I'm guessing those giant bins are filled with grape refuse, but am not entirely sure as I have no idea how wine is made.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More Fun With Uncle Patrick

Uncle Patrick left Monday morning for ten days in Turkey. We had a wonderful visit, and the kids are already asking when he'll come back.

Sunday was a pretty low key day. In the morning we walked down to Fornerod for hot chocolate/coffee and pastries. Later that day there were walks in the park and through the vineyards.

And on Monday morning Uncle Patrick was able to squeeze in one last book just before heading out the door.

Désalpe de St-Cergue 2009

On Saturday we took Uncle Patrick to St. Cergue to watch the cattle descend from the alps for the winter. The train up was extremely, claustrophobically so, crowded. Uncle Patrick and Pat had to stand the whole way. Someone was nice enough to offer Muriel and I an aisle seat right off, and then Rowan and Niamh were able to get seats sitting next to each other across the aisle from me. That wasn't too bad, but within the space of about three minutes the train suddenly became packed and Uncle Patrick and Pat got separated from us (along with the snacks in the backpack I had promised the kids). The aisle between the kids and I also filled up so that they could not see me and that I could not reach Muriel's duck which was in my camera bag in the storage compartment above the kids' seats. It was astounding to me that even after Rowan and Niamh started to get pretty upset (by the end Niamh was crying) nobody offered to move so that we could all sit together. As for Muriel--no crackers to munch on, no duck, being confined for thirty minutes in a tight space--it was not pretty. She was crying loudly and squirming inconsolably by the end of the train ride.

However, once we got off things got much better. The weather was fantastic, much warmer than the previous two years. There was naturally a lot of good food and cows, both of which lived up to expectations. Rowan did get lost in the crowd for about five minutes, but Pat was able to find him without too much trouble once we realized he was not with us. He was pretty shook up, and I felt terrible. It was a good reminder that I need to teach him phone numbers and addresses, just in case. The train ride back was a little less crowded and we were able to get seats all together, thank goodness!

Anyway, I was not feeling too inspired photographically, but here are a few shots from our morning.

that's not a tear running down Muriel's cheek, just that darn clogged tear duct that won't go away!

Uncle Patrick enjoys a cup of soup that was cooked in a cauldron over an open fire

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Uncle Patrick!

Uncle Patrick arrived yesterday afternoon. The kids are loving having him here. Ro and Muriel were friendly right away, though Niamh took a little bit of time to warm up.

Yesterday was also a milestone day for Rowan. He sat down at the table to eat raclette for dinner instead of hiding in his room because he couldn't stand the sound of the bacon and sausages sizzling and popping. And how was miraculous feat accomplished? Earmuffs.

Uncle Patrick was kind enough to bring over a small duffle bag of various American items for us, and among those was a pair of earmuffs for Rowan to wear when noises are too much for him. The earmuffs worked even better than I anticipated. By the end of dinner Ro was not bothered at all by the sizzling and popping, and had ditched the earmuffs.

On another note, the above picture demonstrates Ro's own take on the best way to eat raclette which I'm sure elicited a collective gasp of horror from cheese lovers across Switzerland: scrape the melted cheese on top of raw carrot sticks and allow the cheese to harden before picking up with your fingers and eating.