Saturday, February 27, 2010

Morning Walk 27.2.2010

All images were taken with the iPhone using the Hipstamatic app.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Masque de Carnaval

Niamh came home from preschool today wearing this mask, which is probably about the extent of the Carnival celebration here in Morges.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sun, Rain, and a Little Shadow

The weather on Sunday was gorgeous, and though I knew it likely would not last long, I couldn't help but hope that it would.

Incidentally, I have no idea what these flowers (except that they're not. I just call them that) are. But I love them, and have been taking a lot of photos of them this past month.

...probably too many photos of the funny winter flowers, actually.

At any rate, we did get another day of sunshine, but today it has rained all day long. Muriel loved running errands with me in her stroller bubble while the big kids were at school. There was usually just a little hand peeking out.

But towards the end of our errand run she was getting much less tolerant of the bubble.

Once home she spent the rest of the morning following me from room to room with Niamh's little red stroller...

...and wishing that she could go outside to play.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Getting Closer to Spring

This morning started out dreary and rainy, but considerably warmer than it was a few days ago. Late in the afternoon the sun came out, and as it was still pretty warm (maybe 50 degrees F) I opened up the windows and balcony doors. When Rowan came home from school, instead of immediately asking for his daily TV allotment, everyone played outside; racing, having a picnic, and playing house "like Emily".

We are SO ready for Spring!!!

Further Proof That Art is Not My Thing

This is a window I walk by on the way to drop Rowan off at school.

Not sure what those things are on the window? Here's a closer look:

Yes, that is a cherry tomato, cut in half, and taped to the window. This window always has interesting displays up--for some reason, the only other one that's coming to mind at the moment was a few months back when the display was slices of pizza rotting away.

Anyway, I did visit the website pasted onto the bottom of the window (oloap), but do not feel any more enlightened.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Rome Pictures on Flickr

The rest of the pictures from our trip to Rome (and Pompeii!!) are up on Flickr now.

Where are the parks?

Where are the parks in Rome? The only playground I saw in Rome was behind Castel Sant'Angelo.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mount Vesuvius

Complete with smoke, lava, and flaming rocks...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Italian Trains

We decided to go to Pompeii while in Rome. We followed Rick Steves' advice and took the 7:30 AM train from Rome's Termini station to Naples' Centrale station via Trenitalia. We purchased our tickets at the ticket window and ended up with 3 reserved seats (children 4 and under do not need a ticket). The coach we were in and those near us were very full, which meant that I had to stand in the aisle so Niamh could sit in my seat. It was only a two hour trip, so it wasn't too bad.

From Naples to Pompeii we took the Circumvesuviana narrow gauge train. Although we had read that this train was full of con artists and pickpockets, we met only nice and helpful individuals(and returned with all our possessions).

We missed the standard train in Naples on our return trip, so we ended up on the Eurostar Italia. It was mostly empty, faster, and significantly cleaner. It was more expensive, but the extra cost was well worth it when traveling with 3 kids. After our morning adventure we were going to purchase a ticket for Niamh on the way home. I told the person at the ticket window that both kids were 5, so he would sell us a tickets for Niamh and Rowan. He told me that both kids were 4 and wouldn't sell me a ticket. I am assuming he knew the train would be mostly empty and was trying to save us money.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Jimmy's Pink Cookies from A Homemade Life (basically shortbread cookies generously spread with cherry flavored frosting), heart flower bouquets from maya*made, and lots of paper heart collages.

Hope everyone has or had a wonderful day filled with treats, love, and piles of glitter!


I think that we had a successful trip to Rome and saw everything that we could reasonably expect to see during a 4.5 day visit with three kids. If we exclude the luggage arriving 30 hours after we did and Muriel vomiting in the taxi on the way to the airport, I would say we had a very good trip.

Our apartment was located at Via dei Coronari 222, which was within walking distance of most sights. The Colosseum was a bit of a walk for Niamh, especially in the rain, but she managed to do it. It might have helped that she knew there would be gelato at some point.

Our double stroller was about 5 cm too wide to go on the busses without disassembling, so we used taxis every day. Using a taxi was less expensive than I had expected and saved us quite a bit of time. It was nice having a taxi stand about 100 meters from the apartment. We didn't use any car seats, so I was a bit nervous about getting into an accident. That being said, the driving was not nearly as scary as I had expected it to be. There was only one time when I thought we would hit somebody and that was the pedestrian's fault.

If you have been following us in Facebook, you will know that we ate our (or maybe more than our) share of gelato. Here are a few of the places we wanted to visit. I'm not sure how many we actually sampled.

Rome Reading and Watching

We got a lot of books about Rome before our trip to Rome.
This is Rome by M. Sasek-this one was disappointing. We love This is Paris, but Sasek's Rome book is much drier and read more like a guide book than a picture book, for some reason. Even so, I'd say it's worth reading, but probably much better suited for older children.
Rome Antics by David Macaulay-thumbs up from kids and I. Pat wished it was more like his Castle and Cathedral books.
Madeline and the Cats of Rome by John Marciano-thumbs up
Vacation Under the Volcano by Mary Pope Osborne-thumbs up from Ro and I (Pat didn't read it, and Niamh wasn't interested)
Ancient Rome and Pompeii by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce--thumbs up from me, though the kids were not super interested.
The Roman Colosseum by Elizabeth Mann--Definitely meant for older kids, so I didn't even attempt this one with the kids, and haven't read it myself.

And then picked up some more while we were in Pompeii!
The Usborne Time Traveller: Rome & Romans-thumbs up
Romans by Katie Daynes-thumbs up
Pompeii by Karen Bally-thumbs up--Rowan adores this book. He was torn between this one and a similar book about Gladiators, but ultimately the people running in terror from the erupting volcano won out over men being forced to fight each other or animals to the death.

Here he is reading it in our apartment in Rome after we got back Tuesday evening. He's so sensitive about some things, it always surprises me when things I think would be scary seem to fascinate him rather than scare him. At any rate, I do think it's a good book. It's a fictionalized account of the time of the eruption through a several people's eyes, and then at the end there is a chapter on how Pompeii was rediscovered, the excavations, treasures that have been found at Pompeii, and a nice map of the city.

We all watched Rick Steve's video clips about Rome. Niamh wasn't so interested, but I think this definitely helped Rowan get more excited about the trip.

I meant to read The Seventh Sinner by Elizabeth Peters and When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh, and also watch Roman Holiday, but got sucked into some other books instead. Not to mention just general craziness limiting free time. I'll get to all three in the next week or so while Rome is still fresh in my mind!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bringing a Small Taste of Rome to Morges

We made it back to Morges yesterday afternoon relatively unscathed. While we were in Rome it felt chilly, but the weather here makes Rome seem positively balmy! The three main things we ate in Rome were gelato, pizza, and hot chocolate. Once in a while we did throw in some apples or oranges. But I'm afraid that unless there were vegetables on the pizza (broccoli on pizza--delicious!), none were consumed. Anyway, I do not really have the equipment needed to adequately replicate gelato and pizza, but I figured I could certainly manage a cup or two of thick and creamy Italian hot chocolate. And the cold, windy weather in Morges seemed the perfect excuse for some hot chocolate experimentation. A quick Google search produced several promising recipes; this is the one I used as a base.

Unsurprisingly I had a bar or two of chocolate on hand. I buy the above chocolate in packs of ten or so when they go on sale at the supermarket and use them for baking, though I think they are intended for eating. For some reason chocolate specifically for baking is difficult to come by in Switzerland.

The main difference in Italian hot chocolate vs. good quality regular hot chocolate seems to be the thickness. I saw several methods used for thickening the drink--flour, arrowroot starch, and cornstarch all came up. I imagine potato starch would work pretty well too, but I used cornstarch.

My recipe ended up like this (only two changes from the recipe on bell' alimento):
-100 grams of 70% or higher chocolate, finely chopped
-1.5ish cups whole milk (I think I added a bit more).
-2 tablespoons sugar
-3 teaspoons cornstarch

I mixed the chocolate, sugar and cornstarch together in a small saucepan placed over medium-low heat. Once the chocolate was melted I slowly added the milk.

Or at least, that is ideally what would have happened. First of all, I only had 2.5% milk in the fridge, so used that instead of whole milk. Secondly, I mixed 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, the sugar, and chocolate together. Then whisked in the milk. Then decided that the hot chocolate wasn't thick enough (did I not cook the hot chocolate long enough? It was hot! Or maybe it was the lack of whole milk?) and added another teaspoon of cornstarch. The hot chocolate ended up with quite a few "bits" (as Rowan said) in it, which I think was cornstarch that I couldn't get blended. I'm assuming if I follow the aforementioned ideal method next time, I can avoid the bits. At any rate, the bits were easily strained out, and the hot chocolate ended up being delicious! Better, in fact, than most of the stuff we had in Rome, as we didn't often have the luxury of being picky about the establishments we stopped at for refreshments.

More on Rome to come!

NOTE: I made the hot chocolate again with with whole milk, and 3 teaspoons of cornstarch was too much. So if you're using whole milk try with just 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rome Perspectives

It's been a long time since anyone has wanted to take my picture as much as Rowan does.

He (and Niamh too) has loved spotting all the SPQRs

Niamh likes to take photos while walking. Sometimes they look like this.

But a couple hundred others look like this.


Rowan and Niamh each received a camera for our trip to Rome, and they've been a big hit, as you can see (a brilliant idea from Dana). We've been here since Saturday and have a couple more days left before we go home. Too exhausted at the moment to write more, but there's sure to be much more to come!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Monday, February 1, 2010

International Festival de Ballons

Yesterday we took Rowan and Niamh to the Balloon Festival in Chateau D'oex. Muriel stayed home with a was SO nice to travel without a baby. Wow, what a difference! So incredibly easy--even with a five and three year old. The kids are all so close in age, I think it's been five years since we've done any sort of trip without a baby.
The infamous Chateau D'oex weather let us down though. Thankfully when we arrived it was only partly cloudy, and a big bunch of balloons were just preparing for lift-off. But after that it clouded over, and we only saw two other balloons go up. By the time we left it was snowing.

I'm glad we went though. Niamh was her usual...let's say, three-year-old self (enough said), but Rowan had a blast playing in the snow. I only wish we had brought a sled, as there was a hill behind the center of the festival that was filled with children sledding.

More pictures are up on Flickr! The iPhone and my Nikon were vying with each other for my time. Secretly I just wanted use the iPhone, but I figured I would probably regret it later if I totally ditched the Nikon.

Hands and Fingernails By Niamh