Sunday, 31 December 2006

New Years Eve Photos

Here are some photos from the previous post

The restaurant had a small indoor playground..perfect!

Nicole and Michelle at dinner
Happy New Year from us!

New Year's Eve

Gordon had managed to book a table for 12 at a nice restauarnt at the resort - right next to the play room (perfect!) Even though they can't handle the name McLeish (it was Mabish), they gave us a table for ten. With some indignation, they finally brought another table over to extend ours after Gordon got stuck into them.

We settled in for a delicious meal and the kids had a great time in the playground. At least we were safe inside from the fireworks.

In Germany, people get really cross with you if you don't use the pedestrian crossings, or wait for the Green man. They also get cross with you if you don't follow every little law perfectly. However, it is quite fine to give kids fireworks to set off as they would like, even kids younger than 10! So your kids know how to follow the rules but can play with explosives?? Where is the logic to that?? (or the sense!)

From early morning, fireworks were going off all over the place. As the day (and then the evening) wore on, the intensity of armanent fire (sorry, fireworks) increased dramatically. We could see kids without supervision throwing lit fireworks at each other. They were setting them off close to other people. They were sending up massive rockets anywhere. In fact, one smashed into the window of Stuart and James' apartment, and we could hear it from 3 doors down!

As midnight approached, so did complete chaos. We went to the square to watch the professional fireworks being set off on the beach. However, whilst this was going on, there were rockets, crackers and all sorts of devices (some massive) going off all around us. One rocket from someone in the crowd didn't work properly, spiralled into the crowd, and exploded on the chest of a young boy. People rushed from all around and it was not too pretty. We had stuff exploding at our feet and we decided it was time to go back to our apartment. The view from the third floor of our apartment was better, and safer, and as we settled the kids and ourselves for the night with explosions going on all around us, I thought of those in Baghdad....

However, except for the fireworks, we had a great fun evening with our friends and wherever you are, we wish you a safe and lucky 2007!

Ost See Beach...

Time for a rest?? Maybe not!

Although the weather was cold and wet, we still found plenty to do!

On the second day, we took a nice long walk on the beach (Alan was heard to say "it reminds me of a Scottish summer!) which was very "fresh"!

In the afternoon, we took the kids to the enormous swimming centre. It has 2 massive waterslides (5 stories high), big pool, kiddie pool, rapids (a long pool with waterfalls to ride down like mini waterslides), waterfalls and caves, etc. It was freezing outside, but very tropical within. The kids had a great time, with Alexander becoming a waterslide 'junkie'. We rode the big blue slide many times. (the yellow one is called the TUrbo and essentially descends the five stories in a single fast curve! very fast and exciting, but for over 12's!) Nicole is still a bit shocked by the mixed changerooms, with lots on 'display' as you made your way to or from the pool, or got changed yourself. Nicole found a change cubicle, but the boys and I live by the motto "when in Rome..."

We had a delicious Italian dinner, the n the boys went out for a few beers after the kids went to bed. A very good second day!

On the third day, it was new year's eve. In the day, we took the kids for a big play on the trampolines and playgrounds, and in the afternoon, Alexander, Cameron and Bradley went to a kinder-party for New years and had a great time. Alan, Gordon and I snuck off for a round of Minigolf, which proved a real challenge and lots of laughs (especially when Alan is putting his putter over the end of the tunnels and Gordon doesn't know why his ball is not making it through!). It was a case of fine German engineering - the course had some of the best designed and engineered 'tricks' I have ever seen on a minigolf course: for example, on one hole, you had to hit it up a ramp and into a basket, which swung on the weight of the golf ball and deposited it an another cute. Others had rockers, balances and carefully crafted traps (which we fell for!).

We then got ourselves ready for the Ney Years Eve Celebration (see next post).

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Ost See

From the Hautbahnhof we caught a train to Hamburg, with a 30 minute changeover, to catch our second train to Oldenburg on the Ostsee. In Summer, the Ostsee is famous for having a beach covered wall to wall with Germans (or their towels, which they put down early to reserve their places!). We then caught a taxi to a beach resort about 10 minutes away. Alan, Sonia, Bradley, Stuart and James travelled with us, but were in separate compartments. They had been to this resort before in the Spring and this was the reason we chose it for our New Year break.

We had to walk about a kilometer from the reception to our apartment! Apparently, there are between 2500 and 4000 people booked into the resort (apartments, caravan park and hotel) at any one time. We had 4 adjoining apartments - the McLiesh's (who drove up), us, Alan, Sonia and BJ, and then Stuart and James in their own apartment. They were all up on the top (3rd) floor - which was a bugger for carrying bags, but the safest place when the fireworks were going off (more on this later!)

On the first afternoon, we had a nice stroll around and saw all the attractions - Tennis, Badminton, Minigolf, a massive swimming centre, kiddie rides, playgrounds, trampolines... and of course the beach. There were also plenty of restaurants and shopping, including its own supermarket and newsagent! Check it out on Google Earth (54 18'38.24N, 10 48'04.87E)

Our apartment was newly refurbished and very comfortable (in fact, better than many hotels I stay in!). It had its own kitchen, so we could do our own breakfast.
Meghan, Alexander, Cameron and Bradley in front of a large Gingerbread house. It was so tempting to snap a piece off to eat.....we had to make sure the kids didn't do it!!!

Photos of the beach

Here are some photos to the below posting (I was having trouble loading them into the previous post)

Alexander, Meghan and Nicole walking along the beach in 5 degree weather

Near the pier

Gordon, Sonia and Michelle

Friday, 29 December 2006


Here is an impressive tree,at the Hauptbahnhof train station.
The whole tree is covered in swarovski crystal decorations. WOW.
It was so big, I couldn't stand back far enough to get the whole tree in the picture. It was surronded by 7 foot glass panels, so you couldn't take a souvenier. I wonder what the dollar value of the tree would have been??

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Our first snow for the season

We left the house this morning to do a bit of started to snow.
By the time we got back there was a good layer on everything. Sadly it was not to last, and by following morning, the snow had all melted again.

These photos were taken at about 4.30. you can see how dark it gets in Winter.

Later that evening, Phil went out with some of the British Embassy guys for some beers. They went to a pub called "100 beers". they did a "World Tour" of beers! Sounds like a great night out, and he hopes to go along to the next one!

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Boxing Day

Boxing day was cool and clear. I was awake early so I went downstairs and watched a bit of the Boxing Day cricket at the MCG - Very much enjoying the results so far, but just wish the Poms had of sent out their cricket team rather than their netball team so at least the series would be a bit more interesting...

The boys spent the morning playing with some of their new toys.

Late morning, the boys and I rode their bikes to Sonia and Alan's, and Michelle picked Nicole up with her car on the way. We rode down to the Gruenewald and through the forest, then across to the Ramsay's. It is a good ride and the boys and I had a lot of fun.

There was a lot of food left over from yesterday (even with a 14 and 17 year old in the house!), so we thought we would have lunch again (with not so much alcohol). We polished off almost everything, giving Sonia more space in her fridge.

Sonia, Michelle and Nicole then left to see a 'chick flick' called "Holiday" with Cameron Diaz (Which they really liked). The boys were left with the clean-up, and looking after the kids. We took the four kids (Alexander, Cameron, Bradley and Meghan) to the local park for a play, then back to the Ramsays, where they raced about in the yard and played inside. Stuart and James played Badminton in the yard (in shorts and t-shirts! .. The temperature was about 3 degrees!)

We were having a really pleasant afternoon, and I noticed the sky was starting to dim. It was time to hit the bikes to get home before it got pitch-dark. We almost made it, and rode the last kilometer or so in the dark (I had lights for my bike), but it was also getting a lot colder. I think that this will be the last ride of the season, as it is getting a bit chilly on the face and hands, and ice and bikes are not a pleasant combination!

Monday, 25 December 2006

Christmas Evening

Lunch began after 2pm and finished well after sun-down (it does go down early here!). After all that fine food and drink we settled into the living room.. until we got out Sonia's Christmas present from last year...the kareoke machine! We laughed and laughed, and sang far too loud. I can tell you that there will not be any Australian Idol, Pop Idol or South African Idols coming from our families! I wonder what the neighbours thought?

Stuart with just a "wee bit" of beer

Alan, Gordon and Phil singing "Suspicious Minds"

Sonia singing "Stand By Your Man"

Sonia and our Santa ready to hand out Christmas gifts, which also brought much laughter and fun! The beer, wine (and Port!) continued to flow and the adults had a great time.

Meanwhile, the kids were all off playing with new toys, playstation games and watching a few new DVD's. Seems like a great Christmas celebration for everyone!

Christmas lunch

Christmas lunch was at Sonia and Alan's house, (our Scottish friends), with their children, Stuart, James and Bradley. Also our South African friends Michelle and Gordon, and their daughter Meghan. 12 altogether.

The tables looked great, and we all had a great time.
Here is Alexander waiting patiently for his meal!

Here is a picture of the adults table

Alexander, Meghan, Cameron and Bradley, and Snowy the cat (If you didn't guess - not a real one. It has sensors and responds to movement in the room, purrs when stroked and hisses and spits when you pull its tail!)

Nicole, Michelle and Sonia (and James in the window haha!)
We had divided the menu so everyone got their 'speciality' - Michelle and Gordon brought the starters - some yummy chicken wings and cherries wrapped in bacon! As hosts, Alan and Sonia did the main course - "Terry" the Turkey and a mountain of veg. Nicole says to note the big bowl of Brussel Sprouts on the table in front of her - she says she didn't eat any of them! There was a mountain of food - all delicious! We were well and truly stuffed before Nicole wheeled out desserts - Super rich Chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, Pavlova and ice cream!

It was a terrific meal!

Nicole and Phil with our Christmas-cracker hats on at the table.

Christmas Morning

Christmas Morning...From the visit to Santa in November, all the Christmas markets and parties, we were now at the big day! The boys were out of bed early (6:00 am), and although we wanted to resist, Christmas morning is too exciting and by 6:30 we were all around the tree. Before this, the boys had been peeping into the loungeroom and racing upstairs to report that Santa had been, his supper had been eaten and there were heaps of presents under the tree!

There was lots of excitement as each present was unwrapped, and the boys were really pleased with everything that they were given from Santa, and all the presents from family and friends. I am really pleased with how grateful they were for everything, how genuinely excited they were and how much fun we all had!

Some of the Santa presents:
Santa gave Alexander this Lego train set that he has been eyeing off for quite sometime.

Cameron got a car racing set, he was thrilled with it. It took me over an hour and a half to set it up (there were 24 different types of track pieces that had to be constructed exactly or it wouldn't work!) :). Here I am at about 6:50 starting the job of putting it together so Cameron could get playing with it.

We rang our families back home in Australia. This is one of the times when you really do miss the extended family. To speak to them for a little while on Christmas day is nice, but not the same as sharing it with them properly. We were going to a friend's place for Christmas lunch - 3 families from odd corners of the world enjoying Christmas together. I suppose this is the closest to a big family Christmas you can have when your real family is half a world away.

I finally coaxed the boys away from the new toys to get ready to go to our friends whilst Nicole set about making the chocolate cake and pudding for dessert at lunch.

We love Christmas morning!

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Christmas Eve

Last night we went to a friend's open-house for Christmas and met a whole lot of really nice people from the British Embassy. One of them was called Philip Owen (no joke!) - a really nice guy (of course!) from Wales. He is on the embassy staff here in Berlin, and he and his colleagues seemed be a really nice bunch. There is a bit of a 'boys night out' next week that I have been invited along to (I promised not to mention the Ashes...)

It was a lovely evening, and after a slow start this morning, we had a lot to do preparing for the arrival of Santa, and for Christmas Lunch with our friends. Lots of tidying, and Nicole did a heap of cooking and baking! Gingerbread, chocolate balls, Pavs... mmm!

Cameron wanted a restful day (after all the ice skating, cycling and sandy hills!) so he stayed in his pyjamas and played around the house. Alexander wanted to go on a bike ride - it was a little drizzly but he really wanted to go - so just he and I went for a couple of hours.

We rode down through the Gruenewald forest to Schildhorn (on the Havel), and along the 218 bus route back to Theodor Heuss Platz (visitors will know this bus - its a great one for getting to the lake at Wannsee). It was about a 12 km round trip, and it was so quiet and peaceful in the forest, and the roads and bike paths were also really quiet. We had a really pleasant time and Alexander is riding really well - hardly needed a rest.

The boys are really excited about Santa coming and we have said that they can get us up at 7:00am for present opening.. and Alexander has tried to negotiate this to 6:45, or 6:50... SOmehow I expect that our door will burst open close to 6am and the fun will really start!

Merry Christmas to you all, where-ever you are.

Santa's supper....

Christmas Eve means leaving something special out for Santa and Rudolph... This year, there was a nice gingerbread cookie and cup of milk for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph. The boys also made a page of decorations to put it on, as well as lots of little snow-flakes and stars (which we were still vacuuming up a few days later)...

It appeared that Santa and Rudolph were very happy with the supper as they left only a few crumbs, a splash of milk and the little end of the carrot - and there were lots of presents under the tree!

Some of our Decorations

Here are some of the other Christmas decorations we have around the house.
Our entertainment unit.

The boys German teacher is very confused why we have 3 Santa figures, when there is only one Santa.

Our Aussie decorations were put on our kitchen window.

sorry for the photo, I couldn't get a decent one, the sun was too bright.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Ice Skating

One thing that I really love about winter is being able to go ice skating! We have a local (well, one bus, one train and a short walk!)ice stadium that has an outer 400m ring and a central rink, which may both be open at once, or sometimes one is closed for lessons, racing or whatever.

It is great to get there when the place opens, because the ice is perfectly smooth. To skate on really nice ice for an hour or so, have a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and then skate for about another hour is a great way to start the day. At the moment it is still quite warm (3-5 degrees C) but in the true depths of winter, it is really nice to have a bit of snow falling whilst we skate around.

We have all improved a lot since last year (although there are no Torville and Deans here!). The boys are confident and have a great time skating and mucking around, Nicole and I will often skate and chat with our friends.

Whilst I have been on holiday I have been 3 times so far. On Tuesday, whilst the boys were still in school, I went by myself and got a bit of practice in. On Thursday and Saturday, I took the boys and met up with Alan and BJ, Gordon and Meghan (Thursday), Alan, Sonia BJ, and Michelle, Gordon and Meghan (Saturday).

I am trying to improve my skating and I often see young kids and old guys skating around effortlessly doing stuff I can't - I think a lot more pratice and maybe some lessons and I can get there. At the moment I am working on skating backwards, and crossing over my skates so I can do tight, fast corners (forwards!). Makes for a bit of fun whilst I try new things and a few spills as well!

The boys are really getting the hang of it - thinking that this time last year they were clinging to the walls... now they really belt around!

Friday, 22 December 2006

Bike Riding to the Sandy Hills

Whilst ice skating, Alan and I decided that we would take the kids to the 'sandy hill' (Kiesgrube) in the middle of the Grunewald forest. It is only about 30 minutes bike ride from both of our houses, so it makes a great 'meeting point'. It is a great big hill of sand that the boys love playing on / digging in / rolling down / running around madly on...

It is a really nice ride from our place - all the tracks in the forest are easy riding and it is nice to be off the bike paths and roads for a while. Although it is cold (5 degrees C) it is not too cold on the face and hands. The Grunewald is really peaceful this time of year - although in spring and summer is is very busy on all of the tracks with joggers, walkers and cyclists.

So with a thermos of coffee, Alan and I sat at the top of the hill and watched the world go by, whilst Cameron, Alexander and Bradley did all of the above (and more!) for a couple of hours. Whereas in Summer there are 20-50 kids here at any time, the boys had the place to themselves. When they had had enough, Alan, myself and three very sandy and tired boys cycled together to Harry's - a really nice little cafe that has a NO SMOKING policy (yippee! the modern world comes to Berlin!). Sonia and Nicole had been shopping (getting ready for Christmas day) so we met them there for lunch.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Making Bon Bon's

There will be 12 for Christmas lunch at Sonia and Alan's this year. They have been brave to invite the Aussie and South African friends along.
I thought it would be nice to make some bon bon's for the table (minus the bang's), can't get them here...not a German tradition.

Inside we put 2 choclates, a small hanging decoration, and some glitter stars. Once they were wrapped, Cameron stuck all the stitckers on the outside.

They didn't turn out too bad.

Opps, but one of them is missing the Snowman hanging decoration. So, I need to keep an eye out when they are opened to see who missed out.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Writing Notes

The boys are often awake by 6am....yippee!
So, before I go to bed in the evening, I put the cereal boxes on the bench. At 6am the boys go into the kitchen and make their own breakfasts.
Usually there are a few cornflakes or weet bix on the floor that need to be swept up, and I can deal with that, rather than me having to make breakfast at 6am.

Sometimes, some milk or yogurt get split on the floor. Instead of them wiping it up with some paper towel, this is what I am usually greeted with before I enter the kitchen. A small carefully cut out sign with "Caution, milk on the floor".

Sometimes I get these sort of notes at the doorway to the bathroom, letting me know they missed the toilet....charming children! :)

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Smoking Man

This is a German Smoking man. Inside you put in a small scented cone and light it. The smoke wafts out of the mans mouth, and he looks like he is smoking a pipe. These are everywhere in the Christmas markets. There are some adorable Santa and Snowman designs. But I cannot bring myself to see Santa smoking, and if a snowman smoked...wouldn't he melt? So, I bought the traditional Tinder Man instead

Monday, 18 December 2006

Year 2 Christmas Party

Santa visited Year 2, before they had their Christmas Party. They sang songs for Santa and he gave out a present to each child, a box of pencils. Then the kids helped themselves to a plate of food. Phil and I went along to help set it out and clean up afterwards. Phil was great cleaning up spilt drinks! (Plenty of practise at our house!)

You can see Cameron's teacher, Mr Boddy in the very left hand side.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Lights and other stuff

As it gets dark here so early, you really get to appreciate the Christmas lights.
Not like in Sydney, where we have to wait until after 9pm to look at the light displays! :)

By 4pm, it is dark enough to see all the wonderful displays.

Here is the Xmas tree outside the Sony Centre.

You can have a go at curling...

Or the kids can have a practise of skis...

Then there is the ice skating, and the tube snow ride, which I need to take photos of as well.

Potsdamer Platz Trains

In the shopping centre there is a great display of trains for the kids (and adults) to look at. Alexander, Cameron and Bradley were happy to stand there and watch the trains for about 30 minutes, while sonia and Phil ran into the supermarket to find something for dinner.

We had been to see Happy Feet. The boys enjoyed it, and Bradley did some great dancing along.