Saturday, 14 April 2012

Pencil Roll

I still have quite some of the material left over out of which the apron and the book cover have been made, so I browsed the web for some inspiration. I found this: Stifterolle This is a really great guide on how to make a pencil roll yourself, even I was able to get something done here!

I cut the fabric up and began sewing yesterday evening when suddenly my sewing machine started playing up. No matter what I did, the top thread kept getting caught with the lower thread and tearing. It was really annoying.

As I have not used my eight (!) year old sewing machine that much in the past, I never ever though of the idea that I should clean underneath the sewing plate or anything before. Yesterday was a first for me, however, the problem persisted. Lukily enough, I met a friend-of-a-friend this morning who is kind of a sewing expert and asked for her advice. This led to me oiling my machine for the first time ever and looky here: it actually worked!!

Finally, my youngest has his pencil roll (my eldest is still thinking of a smaller project he can give me for himself):

Not perfect but I know what to take care of the next time. Normally you tie these pencils rolls shut but I used velcro for this one. Nevertheless, son is happy with it and that is what counts!

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

It was my darling husband's birthday a few days back and as he is saving for a new laptop, he did not have many presents to unpack, instead he received some gift vouchers from me and the kids. To still make his birthday a bit special, the boys and I decided to try and make his favourite cake: a black forest gateau.

As the kids and I also wanted to assist the birthday boy with the diminishing of the cake, we opted for an alcohol free version. I followed (apart from the Kirschwasser) this receipe: Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. Really great and really tasty and it was done really quickly (especially if you use the kitchen aid for whipping the cream).
About one hour later (the boys helped wonderfully) the above result turned out. My husband absolutely loved it and we were all pleasantly surprised that a gateau does not necessarily need to be a whole lot of work!

Monday, 9 April 2012

An Afternoon Spent Sewing

I had bought some cotton fabric a few weeks back, planning on making a cover for my youngest's medical check-up book. As I am no expert with the sewing machine, I bought more than enough cloth, just to make sure that I had enough 'chances' to get something that went right.

This afternoon the boys and my husband decided that they would build a Lego city, so I thought it would be good to give the book cover a try.

To all our surprise, the first try worked straight away. As of now, the check up book has a nicer cover than it did before:

Now I had a lot of cotton fabric left over. And quite nice ones to say as well: small blue and white checks and the other one with cute trucks on a white background. My darling hubby then mentioned - in front of the kid - that the cooking apron we have for our 6 year old no longer fits, I could try and make him a new one. My youngest thought the idea was great, so I told him that I would do my best.

The next few hours were spent with ironing the cloth, cutting out the different pieces of the apron, ironing them again, threading and rethreading the needle of the sewing machine, tiding up stitches, ... etc. Pretty soon I decided that I would give the thing a real try and sew him a reversible cooking apron with a double pocket on the front. The different sides of the apron are in 'negative'. Finally the last stitch was made shortly before my son's bedtime. It fit's great. The loop for the head is a bit large, but smaller and he would have not got his head through properly. A small knotted loop at the back of neck fixes that though. The rest seems to be fine. My son is really happy and my husband and I are positively surprised that the apron has no reason to hide ;-)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Easter Lambs

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday and, according to various traditional things here in Germany, you should actually go an visit your parents, siblings, etc.

My mother- and sister-in-law are also celebrating their birthdays tomorrow but both stated that they do not want presents. My parents have invited us for dinner (hmm, lovely roast!!). So I decided to follow another german tradition and bake some Easter Lambs to take with us, along with bunches of flowers, as small pressies instead.

After succeeding in the last-minute Easter shopping chaos in the town's largest supermarket, I started to prepare the mixture for the Easter Lambs. The sponge is not as light as a typical british sponge, but it is certainly going in that direction. Very easy to make and very tasty!! Instead of ground hazelnuts (which is quite common for the Easter Lambs here) I used lemon zest in order to give the sponge a nice lemony flavour.

I only have one mould for the lamb, which I bought years ago, only to never ever use again, as all baked lambs were headless after taking out... Browsing the internet this year helped me though. Apparently it really helps with not only greasing the mould very, very well (which I did all the times before) but also with then covering the inside of the greased mould with very fine bread crumbs. Believe it or not, this actually worked! So I greased and crumbed in the mould three times in total to bake three ladies an Easter Lamb each.

After they had cooled down they need to be covered with powder sugar. Lately it is also quite 'in' to cover the lambs in chocolate or coconut flakes instead but traditionally it's really only powder sugar let loose on the lamb. As you cannot really wrap them up in gift paper, I placed each on a paper bakery tray with green paper grass (normally used for the german Easter nests) around the lambs.  Each lamb then got a light green ribbon around it's neck and the whole thing was then wrapped in cellophane and topped with a ribbon.

I hope our families enjoy the Easter Lambs. I am certainly happy that they worked out well!!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Day Trip to the Discovery Center

Today is Good Friday and like all Good Fridays in Germany, everything is shut. Not even the cinemas are open.
So like all Good Fridays we decided to take the opportunity to have real quality family time and go on a day trip that everyone of us would enjoy. After thinking long and hard about this and having the one or other short discussion on whether or not a suggestion is a good or bad idea, we all agreed to cross the border to the Netherlands and revisit Continium in Limburg, NL:

Clicking on the image will redirect to Continium homepage.

This user to be a Technology Museum but a few years  back they decided to change it into a Discovery Center. It's great for all people interested in science and technology. This center is so great because it's explicitly wanted that the guests try out the experiments, games, etc.. Great for the kids to have a hands-on experience with science and  technology. And it's extremely children-friendly!

 You have two main areas in Continium: the standard experiment and exhibition zone and the changing exhibitions.
In the standard area you have main themes in which the displays and experiments sometimes change but without any special regularity. It's fun each time you go in there though. There is also a Hall of Fame in which the most special objects are put on display in a huge room for themselves. These mainly have something to do with the main theme of the standard area. Today it was mining and Dutch porcelain.
The changing exhibition area is currently under the motto Get Smart - entertain your brain. It was amazing. A lot of mind games, puzzles and great experiments that show you that your brain is far more complex than we would ever dream of. My favourite experiment was the revolving tunnel. You had a few steps to a bridge that lead through it's center - not moving one inch. The inside of the tunnel was painted with black stripes and the tunnel itself was revolving around the bridge. Nothing very fancy from the outside but one step into this tunnel and I was hanging onto the bridge railing. I could not believe this, how an optical effect could influence your sense of balance that much that it doesn't matter if you know that the ground beneath your feet is not moving - you will continue to topple over until you close your eyes.
That's not all there is to continium. There is also a theatre area in which various topics are presented to the visitors, a 3D cinema that shows short documentary films  (for example on dinosaurs), a small restaurant for a snack inbetween (also with the possibility to sit outside and with a small kids playground) and of course, The Lab.

Today we finally had enough time to let the kids select a lab packet. Our 10 year old selected glass engravement and our 6 year old chose to build a morse code buzzer (it's louder than our fire alarm ...). ,
Anyhow,  after selecting their packet, the boys were handed out their building boxes and we all took a seat at the lab tables. The whole process of building the morse code buzzer and engraving the glass were explained in word and with pictures, making it really easy for my pre-schooler to see himself what the next steps in the building process were.
These packets just took them about half an hour but there are many more to choose from. They are all sorted for certain age groups so the kids have enough to choose from and there will almost certainly be at least one thing that they would like. Some of the packets I saw today was Monster Slime, Hair Gel, Wall Clock, Solar Powered Fan,... taking everything from about 30 - 90 minutes time to complete. The best thing about this though is that you have everything you need for such 'mini projects' available at once and you don't have the superglue marks on your own kitchen table ;-) The kids are as proud as punch with their work!

The discovery center was not that full up with people today, probably because it was a normal working day in the Netherlands. But there were two childrens' birthday parties being held there: one for the age group around 7 and the other one we met in The Lab were about 12. It was a great day out for all of us - parents included - and will not be the last visit to Continium!!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling

To be honest, reading about the availabilty of Harry Potter eBooks via the Pottermore Site in a german tabloid really tipped the scales in favour of me buying an eBook reader. After over a year thinking "shall I, shall I not", I marched into the next retailers and bought myself a really good one :-)

Two hours later and with a very bemused husband sitting next to me, I was the proud owner of all seven of the Harry Potter books in eBook format - and in english!!!

A side note to the english editions of Harry Potter - even though there are more than enough pages to read, I finally now have the proof that the British can keep themselves shorter than the Germans ;-) Almost 100 pages less to read compared to the german translation... My son says that's cheating. I say that's fair. German is his first language, english mine, so we're square now...

Back to the book:

I did see some of the world outside last weekend - just not as much as I normally do. I grabbed the eBook reader every minute I could spare and had finished  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Wikipedia Link) by Sunday! Please take into consideration that I have kids, a husband and a life, so I couldn't allow myself to stay on the couch all of Saturday to have it finished on one day - even though I would have loved to after starting with the book.

Sequels tend to have a hard time living up to the expected standards of the reader, especially if the previous story was really, really good. Well, it did definitely not make the impression that J. K. Rowling had a hard time writing the second part of the Harry Potter series! I enjoyed this read even more than the first! Admittedly, I am not really sure whether or not it is due to the first read in english or due to the story. Whatever the reason - thumbs up all the way from me!!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling

After my then 9 year old read his first Harry Potter book, he was sooo fascinated and  definitely caught the Harry Potter bug. "Mum," he kept pleading, "you just have to read these books". After my normally football-crazy son starting wishing for bookshop vouchers from his friends for his birthday and started getting panicky when a book neared it's end after bookshop opening hours, I started getting curious. Even his teacher was thrilled with the sudden interest the boy was having with reading...

My son was really excited to finally hand me over Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Wikipedia Link I will refrain from summarizing the contents due to the book's immense popularity)-  in German. First of all, I was quite sceptical, as books in German tend to not really get the point across after translation from a foreign language. However, this first book in the series managed to get me through a flight from Frankfurt to Krakow with almost forgetting I was sitting in a plane (and for me, that is definitely saying something!!)

I used to love stories like this when I was a child and reading this book managed to revive the feeling of these times quite vividly. It was really surprising to see how a completely fictional and far-from-the-truth story could have me just as 'caught on' as my 9 year old son! Seeing as I have quite high expectations on the storyline as well, it was a welcome change to have a read over 300 pages and not really experiencing a single "drag" reading section throughout the whole book.

This was the first read of the Harry Potter series for me, it will definitely not be the last.
No-one was more surprised about this than I was...

My first blog entry!!

After being inspired by reading many really good blogs the last weeks, I have decided to take the plunge and also dive into the world of blogging.

I'm looking forward to this and hope that I get the hang of this quickly ...