Saturday, 31 December 2005

New Years Eve

Saturday, we decided to catch a train to Brighton for the day. From the local train station we were lucky to get an express train that only stopped at 2 stations. So we manged to get to the beach by the morning. Strange sand, just pebbles. No wonder everyone hires deck chairs to sit and lay in...I can't see those pebbles being very comfortable on a hot day! We had a lovely walk along the boardwalk. Alexander and Phil went to the end of a small pier, a wave came in and splashed up the side of the pier, drenching both of them. They both came back to the start of the pier, dripping water from their jackets and Phil's face looked like he had just had a shower. We howled with laughter, (Phil and Alexander didn't!) We went to the Brighton Pier, which has an amusement park at the end, which was quite nice. Mum and Dad got a couple of text messages from Melbourne, wishing them a Happy New Year (it was 12am in Melbourne), so technically they were on a beach for the New Year....just not Rosebud/McCrae, Victoria, Australia (where they would normally spend New Years Eve) : ) We wandered around the Brighton area, before getting some take away sandwiches to eat on the train back to London.
The boys, Phil and I checked out of the hotel in the afternoon and caught a train down to Kylie and Rob's for New Years Eve. We thought it would be easier to stay the night there, than try and get back to the hotel late at night...there was a train/tube strike, and it all looked too hard to get back. Mum and Dad stayed the extra night, and had a cab booked for get to the hotel where their European Winter Wonderland Bus Tour was beginning from...they had to be at the hotel by 5.30am, leaving at 5.45am! So were not going to see them in the morning anyway.
We had a quiet New Year's Eve, Oliver, 1 year old, was a party animal and stayed awake until after the fireworks. Alexander and Cameron went to bed at about 9pm.
Happy New Year Everyone! Have a good one!!!! :)

Brighton Beach

Here are some of those silly photos you just have to take! On the Brighton Pier.

Friday, 30 December 2005

Day 3 in London

Friday Mum and Dad wanted to explore more of London. The ticket from the Bus Tour gave us the opportunity to follow the blue tour line for free the next day. Mum and Dad went to Harrods for High Tea and around some of the other highlights of London. We got the train and bus to Bluewater Shopping Centre. We met Kylie, Rob and Oliver there. I would say it was bigger than Miranda Shopping Centre in Sydney (for those reading this that know Miranda) It was so nice to see familiar brands, sizes, and be able to ask questions in English and fully understand the answer! :) We bought a few bits and pieces. The boys found a Lego shop, and we bought a few things in there! After the "interesting" customer service we get so often in Berlin, it was pleasant being served with a smile. An example of this...we were in a local Berlin coffee shop mid morning (only customers in the shop) This is how it went (translated into English for you)
Me: Could I please have 3 cappachinos and 2 Hot Chocolates"
Staff: "Sorry our cappachino machine is broken".
Me "Could I please have 3 normal coffees then, and 2 Hot Chocolates please"
Staff "I can make the coffees, but I do not have time to make Hot Chocolates"
Me: Stunned silence "mmmm.....What??"
Looking around the shop...still no customers....
Staff :(whilst making the coffees) "Are the Hot Chocolates for the children?"
Me: "Yes"
Staff: "I can make one for you....but it will take 2 minutes"
Me: "OK" (sounding very confused)
Now, if I had have had this conversation in would have been a lot different!
Anyway back to London....I went into a shop where I had recently got a catalogue sent to me...but prices of postage to Berlin is way too expensive to justify the items.....
Picked up a few things that I would have liked to get from the catalogue..but couldn't find the item I was really after. I got to the counter...this conversation was in English...
Staff: Hi There! (in a friendly tone), did you find everything you were after today?"
Me: "Yes thank no. I was looking for this Xmas Card Tree you have a catalogue handy?"
Staff: Sure (hand under the counter, producing catalogue for me to look through)
Me: (flipping through pages, until I found the item I was after) "This Xmas Tree Stand, I looked for it, but couldn't find it in the store"
Staff: "Just a minute, let me check for you" and off she ran to check for me. 2 minutes later she comes back with item in hand "You are in luck" she says, " This is 60% off"
Me: "Fabulous, I will take that as well, Thank you!!!"
Anyway, after drooling over lots of terrific shops, we headed back to our hotel to meet Mum and Dad and have dinner with them

Thursday, 29 December 2005

The Great Fire of London Monument

Alexander has been studying The Great Fire of London as one of his topics at school. One of the stops on our bus tour was The Monument for the Great Fire of London that started in Pudding Lane in 1666. He was so excited to see it. So, we got off the bus to have a look and take some photos. Then we saw that you could climb up The Monument for a couple of pounds! Alexander was thrilled to climb up, Cameron was not keen at all. Phil and Alexander climbed The Monument. Cameron and I went shopping for cheap DVD's and CD's at a shop around the corner. The Monument was built in 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London. There are 311 steps to climb to reach the top. The Monument was one of the first tourist attractions of London. From the top they had great views of London. Here are a few photos of them at the top and in Pudding Lane. When they got to the bottom, they were given a certificate for climbing up the stairs. Alexander can't wait to get back to school and tell his teacher! By the way, Cameron and I got some good CD's and DVD's :)

More photos from Day 2 in London

Here is a photo of Prince Alexander and Prince Cameron.

The Tower of London and Tower Bridge

Day 2 in London

Bus Tour of London!
This morning we headed off to the centre of London to find the Original Bus Tour Buses. Open Aired Double Decker Buses, complete with tour guide to show us some of the highlights of London. Great tours, you learn a little bit about lots of different buildings, gardens monuments etc, and then the bus stops at locations and you can get on and off as you chose. The buses pass every 10-15 minutes so you never have to wait very long. There were 3 different routes to take, Mum and Dad decided to take the yellow route. We wanted to take the red route. So we all got our tickets and went our separate ways. (We have already been to London last Easter, and didn't want to get off at the things we had already seen). for an extra 3 pounds each, you got a voucher for fish and chips at the Sherlock Holmes Pub. So we bought those as well! As any tourist does (especially with children), you have to ride on the top of the bus. Gee it was cold. We sat up top for the first hour and just listened to the commentary of the different buildings etc. But after 1 1/2 hours we were all froze. Even though we did the London Eye yesterday, we got off there, as we knew they have an indoor cafe with great hot chocolate and that would warm us up. That helped! We decided to get back on the bus (on the first level) and keep going.
We rode on the bus for quite awhile and got off near the Sherlock Holmes Pub for a delicious fish and chip meal (have not had any since beig in Germany....not a German dish!) From there we walked to Trafalgar Square, and up the road to Buckingham Palace. Some beautiful parkland on either side of the road, and there were heaps of grey squirrels all looking for food on the grounds. We watched the changing of the guards (looks like a dreadful job really, all these tourists taking photos of you and staring, and they must have been freezing too!)
While we waited for the next bus we ducked into the Buckingham Palace Gift Shop. Just inside there was a Xmas tree covered in crown decorations. Cameron found a crown there where someone had stolen one of the jewels! he was very worried. I got the boys to stand under the tree and strategically position a crown on their heads...introducing Prine Alexander and Prince Cameron!!!
Here is Alexander frozen on the bus, and a picture of the boys guarding Buckingham Palace. W

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

more photos from Day One in London

The London Eye, with Big Ben in the background.
At Trafalgar square and one of the Lions
In Hamleys Toy Store with A Lego replica of R2D2

Here we are in London!

Day One....
London Eye River Cruise and London Eye! Lots of fun...although rather cold! First off we did the River Cruise...of course you have to sit on the open roof of the boat...otherwise how do you see everything and take great pictures! Crikey, it was cold up there, but the staff brought us a glass of warm mulled wine and that hit the spot! Good tourist information about all the different bridges, buildings and monuments along the River Thames...(and I still can't remember how to say the Thames properly!) We caught up with Kylie, Rob and Oliver for lunch, and then did a walking tour around London, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street, the big Toy store in London, Hamleys...all 6 floors of everything you could possibly find! We were all tired after a long day of touring. Also, the Xmas sales had begun, so there were heaps of people out and about....all a bit crowded to really have a proper look around!

Monday, 26 December 2005

Snow at Brandenburg Gate

These photos were taken at about can see how dark it gets so early! A bit hard to take a photo when the snow is falling. But The Gate looked gorgeous with the lighting and the tree close by. Our photos do not do it justice! Close by was a large Jewish Candlabra, and people beneath it, singing and dancing Jewish songs for Hannukah...

Lots of Snow

We take a lot of pictures of the snow...just like we took lots of photos of Autumn with the leaves falling on the is all such a novelty for us! Here are a couple of photos on our walk on Boxing Day. A great trick for getting someone covered in snow, is to make a snowball and throw it up into the branches of a tree, and for the snow on the branches to fall on top of the person! This is a good way of getting someone totally covered in snow! Heaps of fun!!! Can you tell we love the snow! Mum and Dad are surprised that they are not as cold as they thought they would be....highest tempreture was about 0 degrees today!

Snowing Boxing Day

What a great day! Heaps of snow last night, and all day today! We made our first snowman for the year...on the front lawn of the Comtemporary Ary Gallery of Berlin! That was fun! Heaps of snowball fights!! Here is the view from Cameron's bedroom window to show you some of the snow!
Today we went in to the city, and looked at some of the tourist sites with Mum and Dad. No point in going up the Fernsehnturm (the main lookout tower), visibility would not have been the best! Instead we wandered around Alexanderplatz, through the markets, past the gallery for a bit of snowman making, and then to the Brandenburg Gate! Mum and Dad can't get used to it getting so dark by doesn't do the jet lag much good, your body thinks it is much later than it is. But to their credit, Mum and Dad seem to have gotten over the jetlag really well...and not gettting up at 3am ready for the day!

Sunday, 25 December 2005

What a great day!

In the afternoon we settled back and watched Polar Express, one of Cameron's new DVD's. Officially we had snow on Xmas Day, but it didn't happen until about 9pm! But all the same technically a White Christmas, now we hope it keeps going strong!!!!! Here are the boys after a great Christmas day! They had a terrific time playing their new games with Nana and Pa. Nana and Pa had a great day as well, and I was glad that for once they could sit back and relax, instead of doing all the hard work that is involved with organising lunch! Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Lunch

Our first ever time to host Christmas lunch! A nerve racking experience, but Phil is the master of cooking roast dinners in our family. The turkey worked out really well! I was really pleased with how the table looked! I bought these Santa Hat Chair covers from a shop in Berlin and we put our Bon Bon's, chocolates and sparklers in the hats. That was good, as there was not much room on the table after setting it all out!
A delicious lunch, complete with the usual bits and pieces we are used to (ordered at the English Shop in Cologne). The only thing we really missed was the fresh prawns and crayfish...although Uncle David let us know that they were about to start on theirs after we had called them!! Sob sob!! :)

Ready for the snow!

Nanna and Pa gave the boys this sled for Xmas.....well we are hoping for a White Christmas..but it is not promising yet!!! Hopefully soon it will snow! If you scroll down to the previous post, the photo of the presents the Santa brought, you can see a yellow disk in the background. This is a UFO. You sit in the disk and slide down the snow. They are supposed to be really fast, and we are really keen to try these ones! Cameron got a yellow one and Alexander got a red one!

Merry Christmas! Santa found us!

Phew , we were worried that Santa may have been too tired after delivering presents to New Zealand and Australia.....but he made it to us...and we were very spoilt! Can you tell?? Those poor reindeer carrying all these presents! We had a great day. The boys were up at about 7am, and waited patiently before everyone was up to open presents. Alexander's favourite present was the model of the new Qantas Air Bus A380. Cameron tells me EVERYTHING was his favourite! :)

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Merry Christmas from Us

Almost a year that we have been in Berlin, and we are really enjoying our time here! We are looking forward to having Santa visit, we hope he is not too tired from delivering presents to all of Australia and New Zealand, before he gets to us! Here is a photo of the boys in front of the Christmas Berlin Bear at one of the Christmas markets. Also a photo of us in front of the Ka De We Christmas tree...this photo of all of us was taken by a fellow Aussie who we bumped into.....a student from Richmond, Vic, Australia....small world!

Gingerbread House complete

Here is the final product! Complete with lollies, biscuits and snow....we are still hoping to wake up tomorrow to snow, but it is unlikely!! :(
Next year we might try a Christmas train....or Pa thinks a two story gingerbread house might work!!!!

Our Gingerbread House

A good project for Nanna's and grandchildren to do together is make a gingerbread house (well, I thought so anyway!) After a few attempts at a good icing mixture, the gingerbread house started to be assembled. Cameron had to watch over the lollies that were going on the gingerbread house, because Dad and Pa kept trying to eat them!

Monday, 19 December 2005

Fun at the Christmas Markets

On Saturday, Cameron had a birthday party (at a paint-your-own crockery shop - fancy taking a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds to a place like this.. sounds like the 'bull in a china shop concept!). He had a wonderful time!

Nicole wanted to see a 'special' Christmas market near Nollendorfplatz with her friend Libby - so Alexander and I went to the Berliner X-mas market with Libby's husband Ash, and their 2 kids Hanna and Zac. We went there specifically to go on all of the great rides!

At the end of our time there, the kids had been on two sets of bumper cars, in through the fun house, on the mad mouse, down the giant slide and on the super-swings! Of course, they needed a parent to go with them!!

The mad-mouse was Alexander's first Roller-coaster experience and he did really well, although he told me after "I'm not ready for those big ones in America, yet, Daddy!"

We had a great time. I have never seen 3 kids eat a bag of fairy floss (candy floss) so fast!

Later we picked up Cameron from his party then went to some other friends for a drink and some Christmas cheer!

Nana and Pa have arrived

Nana and Pa arrived today after a long flight....minus one bag. So we are waiting for the bag to appear...hopefully about 24 hours! Berlin put on a show and we had snow as we left the airport..unfortunately the snow has turned to a bit of rain, but we keep hoping this will change for Christmas Day. Here is a picture of Nana, Pa and the boys in front of one of the Christmas trees at Ka De We (one of the big shopping stores here in Berlin)

Friday, 16 December 2005

A couple of Table Runners

Here are a couple of table runners I sewed up for the boys teacher's for Christmas. Great pattern, and easy to sew up when you need something quick....(check out this site for the instructions quilty girls)

Thursday, 15 December 2005

The wedding Quilt

Here is the photo of the quilt I made for Jane and Stephen when they got married in November. It was a pattern from Quiltsitters, based on the Judy Hooworth seminar I missed in July (sniff sniff). Those that know the pattern will see I ran out of fabric and needed to adapt the pattern, but I really like the effect that I was able to achieve. It is in between queen and king size. I finished the top, and sent it to Ellen in Padstow to quilt for me....what a great job she does!
Thankfully she helped me out and stitched the binding on for me as well. Phil picked it up when he flew to Sydney, and then took it to Melbourne for the this is a well travelled quilt! made in Berlin, quilted in Sydney! Thanks Ellen, you are a life saver!!!!

Jane and Stephen's Ring cushion

Opps...forgot to post a picture of the ring cushion I made for Jane and Stephen's wedding. They got married at the end of November! I made it months ago, but couldn't put a proper picture of it up, cause it was a surprise!

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

A quick trip to Sofia

Phil had the last of about 25 business trips for the year, to Sofia in Bulgaria. He says:
Everyone said Sofia is lovely in Summer - a nice thing to say when you turn up in winter! I suppose the leaves on all of the trees would hide a lot of the crumbling soviet architecture and the drab, grey colour.

They also kept telling me there was a big, beautiful mountain behind the fog... Although for the first day and a half I could have been in the flat-lands of Holland the number of mountains I saw!

Finally the fog cleared and there was a very beautiful mountain, with lots of snow. I was advised that it is really cheap skiing and good quality - however it is quite dangerous becuase it is usually full of English who don't want to pay big money for their first ski experience and haven't learnt how to ski yet. Apparently there are heaps of accidents!

An excellent business trip, and extra happy that it was the last one for the year!!!

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

Cookie Swap...a success!

Well, I was worried that this wouldn't work...but it was great! The mums involved have never done a cookie swap before. It was lots of fun , and everyone went home with a terrific selection of cookies for their family. After coffee morning today, the mums would like to do this every couple of months. All the kids think it is terrific to have such a great selection of cookies to choose from after they get back from school each day!
Phew...why was I worried at all???

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Baking for Xmas

Busy, busy, busy baking lots of cookies for tomorrow. We are having a Cookie/Xmas baking swap tomorrow at our place. Each person has to make a few batches of their favourite cookies, and then we get together and swap cookies and other Xmas baking. This way, you have lots of different varieties of cookies, but have only had to make up one mixture, and saves on all the washing up after each different cookie!
I have my fingers crossed that this will work tomorrow, and we can do it each year! I will let you know tomorrow!!!

Friday, 9 December 2005

Decorating the Xmas tree

Got all the decorations out, including new ones we bought at the Xmas market last Sunday to decorated our tree. What fun! Each year the boys choose a couple of Xmas decorations that they like and they have started to get a great collection of decorations over the years. This year Alexander chose Santa on an aeroplane, and Santa in a helicopter. Cameron chose Santa and a Snowmen on a shooting star, and a gold reindeer. The boys chose a Santa in a hot air balloon for Phil, and I found a sewing machine Xmas decoration! We are not going to follow the German tradition of lighting real candles on the tree, that just sounds too dangerous, although me German friends insists I have to do it that way....Sorry Ingrid!!

Xmas tree arrived today

YIPPEE, our Xmas tree has arrived. This is the first year we have had a real tree, it smells great! Cameron is off school today with a cold....yesterday I had to pick him up from school. We went to one of the Xmas markets on Sunday, and the boys chose 2 special decorations each. Cameron put his reindeer up straight away! Cameron and I will wait very patiently until Phil and Alexander come home before we put anymore decorations on!

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

A Quick trip to Copenhagen

Phil had a conference in Copenhagen for 4 days. He says:

Copenhagen is a lovely city – a bit grey and foggy when I was there, but it was easy to get around, had real charm and certainly knows how to do Christmas! There is Christmas stuff everywhere, and their main ‘Christmas Markets’ are in the Tivoli Gardens. It costs 10 Euros just to get in! It has lots of Christmas stalls, restaurants and an animatronic Christmas scene that would fill a small warehouse - lots of elves, snowmen, animals etc and quite a few Santas!

Saw the little mermaid - the symbol of Copenhagen (and it is a 'little' mermaid). Thought I'd stop in and see the only other Australian I know of in Copenhagen.. Princess Mary. However, I arrived at the palace at the changing of the guards and thought the timing might be a little inconvenient....

Nice place, but quite expensive.