Monday, 29 May 2006

Inside a Berlin hospital staff who speak English.....and I can use some of my German too.
Straight from getting our bags off the flight from Sicily, we hop into a taxi.
"Kinder Krankenhaus in Westend bitte!" (Children's hospital in Westend please).

The taxi driver looks at me very oddly, and I have to explain that Cameron has broken his arm on our holiday and we need to go to the hospital.

Cameron is reluctant to go to the hospital, until we get there, and he says "Oh, I know this place, the doctors are really nice here" (been here previously when he needed stitches in his chin aftera fall at ice skating)

So, bags in tow, we arrive in the emergency ward at 11pm. Staff are great, and give us a place to leave our bags. I explain the situation, the doctor takes the xrays from me, has a look, and says wait in the waiting room until we are called. We wait for a whole 5 minutes, before we are asked to come into a room, where they have already started to get the plaster ready! How is that for great service! Cameron is very brave and we need to wait around for an hour to check the plaster sets properly, and the blood is still getting to his fingers. Both boys fall asleep on my lap in the waiting room while we wait.

We are given the all clear, staff call a taxi for us, and we are home by 1am! Thankfully the boys both sleep in until 10am the following morning!

We visit an Ortopedic on Monday, and we need to bring Cameron back next Tuesday to have this cast removed (the swelling will be gone by then) and another one put on - this one will stay on for 4 weeks. (should be off just in time before we come back to Australia for a visit. Phew)

Sunday, 28 May 2006

Inside a Sicilian hospital

Italian dancing is bad for your health!
After dinner, we headed to the resort's piazza for some dancing. They had a kid disco, and then some adult dancing afterwards.
Cameron was doing some dancing, when he slipped over and landed on his wrist. Crying out in pain, Phil takes a look at it and says "I think it is broken"
I say, "Give it awhile, he will forget about it, and it is probably only sprained."
Cameron fell alseep for awhile, but at about 11.30 he woke up, he was crying out in pain. So, Phil took him to the hospital in the next town.....with our handy European language electronic translator in tow.

The resort calls a taxi, and Cameron and Phil set off into the Sicilian night. The hospital looked very dodgy - dingey, no one around...Phil did not get very good vibes...The taxi driver is very friendly, and stayed with Phil and Cameron to try and help out. But becuase he, and everyone else on the graveyard shift didn't speak a word of English, it became a game of international charades.

Finally Cameron was examined. With the right sign language, it was made clear that Cameron may have fractured his wrist and was sent to X-Ray. Luckily Phil has dealt with these a lot at work, and was able to get Cameron all set up so the X-Ray could be taken (how do you tell a 5 year old to stay still whilst everyone else runs from the room to avoid radiation, when he doesn't speak the same language??)

Phil and the radiographer checked the films and it was clear that there was a small hairline fracture. Sent back to emergency, they were not too keen to plaster it, and wanted Cameron to go to Palermo to have it set the next day. Phil was not all that unhappy with this, and got them to wrap it tightly as Cameron would be back in Berlin where he could get it set [the German way] the next day.

The taxi driver stayed with them the whole time. He tried his best and Phil was really impressed with him. He didn't help much, but at least he tried!

They finally made it back to the resort at about 3 am. From rested and relaxed to stressed and sleep deprived with one Italian dance move!

Saturday, 27 May 2006


We passed Catania and circled around Mount Etna, and stopped for a late lunch at a beautiful little town called Taormina. The town is regarded as a real 'Sicilian Pearl' and has heaps of history. It is set high on an outcrop of rock, and has winding streets and interesting little buildings and piazzas.

Mount Etna...smoking!

As a little tourist town, and with the old narrow streets, we had to park in a big parking tower down the mountain and catch a shuttle bus up to the town. The place was packed with tourists, so stopping them bringing cars and busses was probably a good idea.

The street leading up to the ampitheatre...tourist shops on both sides the whole way up the street.

We had a delicious lunch (although very expensive - this seems to be the Sicilian way!). We then had a lovely walk around the town and ended up at the ancient Roman ampitheatre. Through the coloumns you can have a super view of the smoking Mount Etna. It really was an amazing sight!

The stage area of the ampitheatre. Currently adding a modern stage platform in front of the columns.

Mount Etna in the distance behind us.

Some of the seating in the ampitheatre. Currently adding modern seating in some sections, on top of the ruins.

We then left Taomina and continued our drive around the coast. We had planned to make another stop (Cefalu) for ice creams and a sit on the beach, but Sicily is bigger than you realize and we probably bit off more with our tour than we thought! In the end, we decided to get back to the hotel in time for dinner and we then put in a straight 31/2 hour leg from Taormina to the resort.

Sicily's belly button is an Outie

The town of Enna is called the belly button of Sicily. It sits in the middle of Sicily, on top of a mountain. This was the first stop on our 'tour' of Sicily. We had been driving for about 3 hours - we left the hotel and passed through Palermo (with all the crazy traffic - not as bad a Cairo, but certainly very interesting!), then turned into the centre of the island.

As we reached Enna, it is described as a town that sits atop a pyramid with the top cut off - and that was about right! It sat high up on a mini mountain, and we left the highway and climbed up some narrow, winding roads to the town centre. Driving through one-way streets (that would have been narrow for a donkey-cart!) we found a park and toured the town on foot.

One of the wider streets in Enna!

We found a lovely old church, a few interesting piazzas (not pizzas, town squares!) and the castello (castle). We stopped at a small cafe for a coffee and a rest, then back on with the touring!

The Enna Castello

We re-joined the highway (always an interesting experinece!) and headed for Catania - as we drove down the road we had a wonderful view of Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. It looks like it is covered in snow, but it is simply the ash and pumice. The boys were fascinated by it.

Touring Sicily..hold on tight!

WOW, I will never complain about Sydney traffic ever again! (You can quote me on this!)
Phil thought it would be a great idea to hire a car and tour a bit of Sicily. All organised the night before, and we picked up the car straight after breakfast and headed off towards Palermo. Roads are pretty good there, and the freeway is 2 lanes the entire way, and everyone stays to the slow lanes unless overtaking.

Sounds good.....well, then it gets scary! As you head into Palermo, the lanes widen, and then the white lines disappear...2 lanes mysteriously can become 5 lanes, with cars trying to squeeze in anywhere...then you have all the motorbikes and little mopeds as well! I would have taken a photo or 2, but my hands were firmly embedded in the cushion of my seat! There was no way I could eve nthink about taking any photos out of the window...I was too anxious!

Here are some photos of the countryside once we had stopped. Sicily is really mountainous. the roads are really interesting, instead of winding around the mountains, they have drilled tunnels through the hills and drive through the mountains. So, it makes for quick driving (as well as driving at high speed limit!). They really have the road system figured out and the autobahn type roads were really good to drive on. Too bad about the crazy Sicilians tht we shared them with!

We rented a littel Alfa 147 diesel. It came with only 1/4 of a tank. So one of the first jobs was to find a petrol station, and fill it up! We were expecting a big bill (witht he price of petrol), but the little diesel was filled up for about 22 Euros! We then used the same tank all day, travelled for about 10 hours, and the little car was very impressive (and nice to drive).

Friday, 26 May 2006

Crikey! Look at that Beaudy!

Cameron is the next "Steve Irwin"! On our way down to the waterslide today, a black snake slithered across the path in front of him. ( he was too quick for me to get the camera out!
Cameron was great and just stopped and stood still. He didn't try and catch it! Phew!
But that experience doesn't stop him looking for lizards. Any sort of beetle, bug or butterfly, moth creature needs to move fast, or Cameron will pick it up. these little lizards moved way too fast for him...but he still liked to chase them!

These little critters were everywhere around our hotel.

"Slowly, I'll find him soon"

"Crikey, I think I am close"

"Crikey, there he is....isn't it a beaudy!"

Water logged!

The resort we stayed at was really lovely.
There was a kids club, so the boys went there for the morning 10 -12.
The resort had a series of waterslides where the last one ended up in the sea (with stairs to get back up from the cliffs), an olympic size swimming pool, a kiddie pool with 2 spa pools, and a kidney shape pool. Hard choice to decide which pool to swim in! So we decided to swim in all of them over the course of the afternoon.

one of the waterslide pools (4 in all)

the kiddie pool.

the Olympic pool.

the kidney shape pool

After Kids Club we headed down to the waterslide pool. Each pool had a life guard on duty when the pool was opened. The waterslide pool was only open certain times of the day, and was closed when the tide was going in and out so no one was slammed into the cliffs on the last slide. When we got there, the water slide was closed, so instead we went to the pizza restaurant on the edge of the cliffs and had lunch! Great pizzas in Sicily!

After lunch the boys had a few turns at the waterslide, then we the rest of the afternoon we went to each different swimming pool.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Off to Sicily

Phil had a 3 day meeting in Palermo, Sicily at the beginning of the week. Thursday was a public holiday, Friday was a pupil free day, then the kids have a "half term holiday" for a week.....I have never seen so many holidays at a school before, feels like we have only just got back from Legoland from the Eatser break!??? (It is the British system!)
So, Thursday the kids and I travelled to Sicily to meet Phil there after the meeting, and have a few days of warm weather. Stopover in Milan, and met Phil in the hotel about 4pm. Our apartment had a view of the bay from our balcony, very nice, and the weather is warm!

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

Business Meeting - Palermo

As part of a European Business group, we have representatives from the major EU countries (France, UK, Spain, Italy, Germany) some smaller ones too (Portugal, Hungary and Turkey) as well as those of us from the regional office. Every second meeting we 'escape' from Berlin and have one of the countries host the meeting. This time, it was Italy's turn - so we went to Sicily!

Palermo is the capital of Sicily, and a reasonable place for flight connections for all (via Milan airport). We arrived at the hotel at various stages on Monday - I arrived after midnight.

I think the hotel must have been an old palace - the place was really impressive and was very much a hang out for the 'Gucci' set. No wonder they would not extend my stay when I asked if they had any family rooms...I think it is basically a no kids type of resort.

Meeting was very lively (as always) and the group are great company, so we have very entertaining nights out. being in Sicily, we went to a couple of superb little restaurants - a local trattoria, and a seafood restaurant on the seaside. Bonissimo!

When the meeting was over, I transferred to the resort where Nicole and the kids would join me for a long weekend - I have been travelling so much that this really would be a great chance to relax and spend some time together!

4th angel Hope

These are stitching up really nicely and I am enjoying doing them almost every evening!
Next one is Happiness and Faith....stay tuned!

obsessive compulsive??

Well, we did took over a week to do, but the boys and I have been sorting out LEGO! We have so much Lego, and the boys want to make the helicopters and trains etc...but always have trouble finding the little specialty pieces in an enormous box. Then it is up to Phil or I to help find the tiniest piece.
There had to be an easier way!
So off to Ikea to buy some storage units, and Cameron helped assemble the units after school. He liked to hammer the dowel pieces in, and help with the screws.
Tonight we will label the boxes, and all will be perfect in the world....just like my tupperware! :)
Maybe I need to get out more!

all sorted by colour...

Doesn't that look much better!

I think I need one more unit......back to Ikea next week!

Friday, 19 May 2006

Tumbler Block quilt top

Here is a picture of the top of the quilt I have been working on for the past 2 weeks. I am really pleased with how it looks...single size quilt, with a lot of overhang on the end!
Busy trying to make the backing with some of the scraps and other pieces of purple fabric that I have left over from other backings. So far it looks quite good.....just a bit more to add for the back to get the width.
This one was a tricky one to photograph..only being 5'2" (and a half), makes it hard to photograph quilts that are lying on the floor. So I stand on a chair

Attempt number 1. Me standing on a chair trying to fit the whole quilt into the digital screen.

Attempt number 2. Me standing on a chair with the camera stretched out as high as I can (and not being able to see the screen of the camera.

Attempt number 3. Give up and pin top to quilt hanging on the wall...still it hangs on the floor. Well that's as good as you will get today!

the backing

Here is the backing sewn together ready to go.

3rd Angel Love

Here are the photos from the previous comment.

Number 3 - finished

Number 4 - 1/3 completed

3rd angel complete

Here is the3rd angel in the series..."Love", and I have started on the 4th "Hope". These are really nice to be stitching on. I am using lots of thread, because it is a large idea what size fabric, it was someting I pulled out the stash. So I am using 3 strands of cotton. Phil cannot believe I actually ran out of a few colours (I have 2 of almost every DMC colour). So, he was a bit shocked when I said I needed to buy some more! :)
mmm...DMC have released some new colours...may have to do a bit more shopping! I get a lot of stitching done on Sunday and Tuesday nights, when we stay up until 11 to start watching the latest episode of 24 and Lost. So I need to do something to keep me awake!

well...I hoped to add a piccie, but the photo thing is playing up...will try again in a bit

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

Spring means.. bike riding and ice-cream!

When not away travelling, I have been getting home early and taking the boys out bike-riding after school (and on the weekends, too). We sit together and plan our course (the more exotic the better, particularly if we can find a forest track to belt along) and set off. There is only one pre-requisite - we must stop at one of the local ice-cream shops on the way home!

Alexander is fairly accomplished and can handle his bike on most (normal) terrain now. Cameron has learned really well, and after a scare last weekend (had to pluck him off his bike as he raced by down a hill out of control) he is finally understanding the need for braking. He has since been more cautious, and is now getting the idea of using the brakes to stop (rather than running into expensive cars, for example!).

Cameron likes to push the boundaries, and has come up with a few beauties like "Look, I can ride with my eyes closed" - you have your heart in your mouth enough as they get the hang of riding a bike, but this added 'excitement' is not really necessary.

We have lots of fun, and it is great for us to get out into the nice weather and spend lots of time together.

Monday, 15 May 2006

Berliners and bikepaths - this is serious!

On our 'learn to ride adventures', we make use of the fantastic bike paths around Berlin. The only problem with them is the small number of Berliners who don't understand that kids, especially ones learning to ride, are wobbly and slow.

General description: Fat, sausage-eating old Berliner on a women's style bike. Often in bike shorts and with a moustache.
Attitude: I will not ride around you (even when invited politely to do so). I will give you a mouth-full and ride right behind you complaining until you move off the bikepath (note, the bike-path is 1 metre wide, continuous with the footpath that is another 2 or 3 metres wide. All other 'normal' bike riders understand and go round).
Number of times seen: 3 (twice with my boys, and once when out riding with a friend, whose son was also just learning at the time.

If it was just me, I wouldn't really care. But to sit right up my tail when I am trying to shepherd the kids makes me see red.

Benefit: It provides me with an opportunity to enter into a robust discussion with a Berliner in German, particularly using many new colourful words and phrases I have learned from colleagues in the office.

I simply cannot understand the attitude, and the inability to simply go around. But then again, I don't fit their general description (which I am quite happy about). One of the joys of an international placement - interacting with the locals.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

World cup fever

The world cup is fast approaching, and Berlin is really getting into shape. There has been lots of road construction, they have added a new entrance to our local U-bahn station (including lift - but it is only on one side of the railway, so you can go, but not come back again if you are in a wheelchair??). Some of the announcements on the trains and stations are now in English (well, American really), they have painted the Fernseherturm (tower) in Alexanderplatz as a soccerball.... and I bought an Aussie World Cup jersey! Nothing in the size for the kids, but they were happy with Aussie caps and lanyards.

I expect to go to three of the games in Berlin, and have been invited to a 'party' to celebrate the final. If the atmosphere is anything like the 'buzz' that descended on Sydney during the Olympics, then it will be a fantastic few weeks to be in Berlin.

The boys' school has a charity comp and we have put in a bid for the Australian team (with a couple of teachers who lived there at some stage). Not so much competition for little old Australia, but for Germany and England, I understand the bidding is ferocious. I may also bid for Iran, as I can't see too much action for them in the current climate...

So, even though the Socceroos will only appear in Berlin if they make the final, we will be cheering them on. (listen for the sounds of "Aussie, Aussie Aussie, oi! oi! oi! )

Saturday, 13 May 2006

Back to Cairo

I flew out on Sunday to Cairo - it was my third visit, and each time I find the city fascinating, really vibrant and I always enjoy outstanding hospitality from my hosts.

Third visit - third time to the Pyramids! The first time was a visit with a tour guide (a professor of Egyptology), the second time was dinner in the desert, and this time I went to the 'sound and light' show. Using lighting and lasers, they tell a history tale about the pyramids and the Sphinx, and they make the Sphinx look like it is talking. Very loud commentary, and very '60's...

We then had a seafood dinner in a restaraunt nearby - when the lights were on, the pyramids looked so close you could touch them.

Work went well, but at some point I let my guard down and ate something I shouldn't have... Came home with a dose of 'spruhwurst' [ a german slang term for 'spraying sausage' - that is diahorrea].

It first hit me in a shop - I asked for their toilet and raced against the clock up the stairs, through the back of the store and found the privvy... ahh relief. But only then did I notice NO DUNNY PAPER! And after that visit, it was really needed. Big problem!

This is why I don't travel anywhere without a pack of 'babywipes' in my bag. Can't think what I would have done without them (maybe bought a few ties I would never wear...??)

Tough weekend to follow, but lesson learned. DONT LET YOUR GUARD DOWN with the food. After 18 months of travelling to the most exotic (and dirty) places, I have never got a dose.. until now. I think I got a bit too used to it with all my recent travels and let my guard down.

I have one week in Berlin before I head off again. Hopefully my innards will be back to normal by then!

Back to the Cutting Board

Change of plans with my Tumbler blocks.
After cutting 200 light and 200 dark blocks, I sewed them up into groups of 8, then ended up with this formation.
Then after looking at is for awhile, I think I would like to make it into a single size quilt (no idea who it is for)
So, back to the cutting board for about 150 more light and 150 darks, and see what theat looks like!
At least I am using lots of my purple strips and fat quarters that I had no idea what to do with!
(I already have an idea for my pink scraps...but am going to try and be good and finish this one first!)

Thursday, 11 May 2006

Purple Tumblers

Here is the next work in progress, using lots of purple scraps.
Here are all the purple strips and fat quarters I have...smallest strip 4 1/2 inches.

I cut out 200 light and 200 dark, this is how I have started to arrange them, just the lights laid out first! It will be about the size of a lap quilt.
Now to be continued

Ta Daaaah!

Sorry Dylan, this is so late in coming.....but it is finally all finished! xxx
Happy 10th Birthday!

Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Love this garden!

There is a gorgeous apartment block we pass quite often near our home. They have the most immaculate garden, and it always looks gorgeous! The fountain is a series of fish on top of each other, and spurt water from their mouths.
Here are all the tulips out at the moment! I love the colours, and the grass is so green!

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

Xmas stocking completed..finally!

Yippe, it is done..only 5 months late!
Charlotte, please forgive me!

What's for Dinner?

The school runs "clubs". These clubs run over lunchtime breaks and after school. The lunchtime clubs are ideal when it is Winter, and too cold to play outside. In summer lots of sport activities outside and other clubs. Since we have been here, the boys have been involved in storytime, cricket, football (soccer), playground games, board games and others I cannot think of at the moment. This term they are both in cooking club. Last week they made a pasta dish, and we decided to make it together last night! YUM

Here is the recipe for anyone is a nice quick meal to make, and really delicious. Next time, I think I will chop up some sun dried tomatoes as well!

Salmon Pasta
500 grams hard pasta (dried one, not fresh from fridge area) spagetti, spirals, penne.. any really
water to boil pasta
1 tablesppon butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup pouring cream
150 grams smoked salmon, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
fresh parsley, finely chopped
fresh parmasen cheese(optional)

Boil water, add salt and cook pasta "al dente"
While pasta is cooking, fry onion in butter until onion is transparent, not browned
add the cream and salmon
add salt and pepper to taste
drain pasta, and add to mixture along with parsley
Serves 4 people
top with cheese (optional)...
yummy with Herb or Garlic bread!!

Well done boys!!! :)

Sunday, 7 May 2006

#2 Angel - Friendship, 10 to go

Second Joan Elliott angel completed. (scroll down a few posts to see the first one) I ran out of White DMC, and had to go into the city to the only shop I have seen here in Berlin that stocks DMC....other places have Anchor..but I prefer DMC.
Got lots done last Tuesday night when the second series of LOST 11pm...then the tv station decided to do a double....It was 1am when we finally got to bed. Neddless to say, there was a lot of stitching done before hand to ensure I stayed awake!
Phil went to Media Markt (kind of like Dick Smiths) and finally got the adaptor we needed to link the sky box to the at least we can tape the shows now, and watch them at a reasonable time of day!

Here are the 1st 2 completed. I can't get the french knots right for the eyes. So I think once the whole thing is finished, I will cheat. I will remove the french knots, and use mill hill black beads! That will be better! :)

Currently working on the next 2. Progress so far....

Saturday, 6 May 2006

Fun (?) in Istanbul

Who said international business travel was glamorous, or fun??

I spent three days in Istanbul, and it went something like this:
Flight delayed because of security.
Arrived in Istanbul and was run into by a taxi (good thing I bounce!)
Took a one hour taxi ride to the hotel. The taxi driver would fail his licence in Tehran or Cairo, he was that bad. He was very caring and offered us all a cigarette before he lit up himself! Got to the hotel and felt nauseous for the next two hours.

Dinner was fine, however. Found a great restaraunt and enjoyed eally good local cuisine. We were told to go by taxi, which took 20 minutes and cost 7 Euros. We later found out it should have cost about 3, and we walked back to the hotel in less than half the time. Then, in a 'taste of home', I discovered a Gloria Jeans Coffee shop and had a large caramel latte, to remind me of Sydney. I emailed Nicole about GJ's, and I think she was green with envy as this was where she 'hung out' with her girlfriends in Oz.

The second day, I lost a button off my shirt about 5 minutes before an appointment (found a sewing kit for running repairs), then I lost one off my trousers (not through putting on too much weight, mind you!), then my belt buckle broke. I managed running repairs as required.

That evening we caught a bus from the hotel to dinner. It took the bus 40 minutes to go the same distance I had walked that morning in 15 minutes! The bus took us to the Bosporous, where we had a boat cruise to the dinner venue.

At dinner I had red wine spilt all over me by a colleague-this was just before I found out that the two most important guests didn't arrive because the organisers had not sent a car for them! Big apologies were now called for (I had walked to their hotel earlier and personally delivered invitations....)

The flight home was packed. The people directly behind me on the first leg spent most of the flight complaining about the bad service (poor hosties were going flat out!) , and there was a screaming infant on the second. If the child had a cold or something, it would have been no fun at all with blocked ears. As it was, it was little fun for the rest of us.

Arrived home at 11.00pm. One day with the family then off to Cairo on Sunday. Hopefully I have a somewhat 'luckier' experience there....

Wednesday, 3 May 2006

It's the little things you miss

Looks like an Easter show bag!!!! (well it came in a very cute Pumpin Patch carry bag) , including some apricot curry chicken mixes and a couple of magazines.

Sarah has been back to Australia and brought us back some goodies...(and a few weeks ago Paul got us some Violet Crumbles).

I left them on the bench. When the boys came home from school they were beside themselves when they saw everything. They both decided that they would have 1 of each, as they couldn't decide which one to chose!....mmm..I don't think so!

Thanks are a life saver! :) We will return the favour when it is our turn, start writing your list!