Sunday, 30 December 2007

Prague

Outside views of the St Vitus' cathedral.
Prague - a beautiful and expensive city. Just after Christmas we caught the train from Berlin to Prague for 3 days (before heading to Vienna). The weather was cold - but without snow or rain. The Old town is not very big, but there are lots of interesting and beautiful things to see!
Cameron really showed a flair for digital photograhy - he would only hand the camera back when his hands got so cold that he would have to put gloves on! His certainly has an eye for it..some very interesting shots. The good thing with digital cameras is he can take as many photos as he likes, they can be quietly edited later....
The stained glass inside the St Vitus' cathedral - inside the castle. Spectacular! We saw this both on a bus tour, and also when we covered the city by foot (we guess about 12-15km, a lot more if you count all the side tours into souvenir shops....).

As Cameron asked "Why is baby Jesus wearing a propeller hat???" - anyone have an answer? This is one of the statues on the Charles Bridge.
A view to the castle, with the Charles bridge in the foreground.
Enjoying a sausage in bread for lunch in one of the town squares. There was still a bit of a Christmas market going and the sausages smelt and tasted delicious!
Here is a tip for Theo and any other builders. If you stuff it up, get a good painter! Note that 4 of the windows are painted on (not real) to achieve symmetry.
This was up near the palace -really interesting relief in the stone-work created by etching off the top layer.
Did I say cold? The water wheel was having a little trouble because it was iced over.
This is one of Alexander's photos. In a groovy cafe that we stopped for morning tea (and to slightly defrost!) Alexander found this 'Rudolph' on the back wall. Great coffee, and nice to feel my fingers and nose again...(wish we could say the same thing for Rudolph)
Not quite Buckingham Palace.. At the palace, the ceremonial guards were on duty, and Alexander and Cameron thought this would be a great photo - standing at attention with him!
We met some fellow travellers (with 2 girls) who told us about the Barbie exhibition. Cameron and Alexander's response was "no way - you won't get us in there...!!" We happened to find the exhibition, and we offered the boys all sorts of inducements to go in...but nothing was successful!
From the castle looking back towards the old town.
Here is an example of Cameron's photography from within the castle. It is the St George's basilica with Christmas tree in the foreground.
Alexander and Cameron in St Wenceslas Square, on the horse statue. We did a 3 hour bus tour of Prague the first day we arrived. We were amazed to find out that all the statues around Prague (and there are many), are all replicas. The originals are in the musuem for preservation purposes from the acid rain from Communism times.
The 'famous' Astronomical clock on the front of the town hall (Alexander's photo, I think!). Notice the two small doors on the front? We were told that there was a display on the hour - so we duly got a table in the coffee shop opposite, got the boys hot chocolates and waited 5-10 minutes for the top of the hour. Tip to future Prague visitors - don't blink or you will miss it! Some 'Saints' whizz by behind the doors for a few seconds, the show ends, and the bill comes for the most expensive coffees in Prague!
Ever wanted time to run backward? Here is a synagogue (Prague has a very interesting Jewish history) with two clocks - the top clock runs clockwise. The lower clock has Jewish numerals and runs anti clockwise. Prague has the oldest Synagogue in Europe. It has the largest collection of Jewish archive material in all of Europe. During WW2, many Jewish items were brought here for the purpose of turning the Synagogue into the "Museum of an Extinct Race" once the war was over. Scary stuff! Here are two excellent tourists on Charles Bridge with the castle on the hill in the background. We had a wonderful time in Prague, and it is well worth a visit. We then caught a train to Vienna, where we would spend 4 days, including New Years Eve.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Xmas Lunch

opps, too busy with a drink in my hand to take photos! I will have to check with Sonia to see if she took any!



We had a terrific lunch. Sonia organised main course.

Terry the Turkey was cooked perfectly, and the vegies, stuffing and extras were great.



We organised the desserts, pavlova, Nigella Lawson's chocolate pudding nd choclate cake, and lots of gingerbread and choclate balls.



We all ate and drank lots and had a great day together. It's hard being away from family on Xmas day, but we all managed to have fun! Thank goodness the Kareoke machine didn't resurface this year! :)



This is the "supermodel" pose

After lunch we settled on the couches

Alan tries his new scarf

Santa visited

Xmas morning is always fun.

The boys didn't wake us up until 7am, so that was a good start to the morning.

Surrounded by all the wrapping paper and tinsel, we all had a great time unwrapping presents

Santa popped in with some toys, ate his cookies and drank his milk. The Reindeers ate their carrots on the terrace...I am thankful they did not come in and leave hoof prints on the carpet, and knock down the tree.

Alexander was thrilled with his presents....and there was more Lego to be built!

Cameron was wrapped with his presents, and he flew this helicopter all morning!

Katherine gave the boys a treat from home.....yum yum!

They both got guitars for Xmas from us. We have found an English speaking teacher, and they will begin lessons in the New Year. Cameron really wants to learn fast, so he can get an electric guitar like his cousin Dylan!



Nicole playing with her umbrella swift and wool winder

Phil always seems to end up with the tinsel on his head!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Xmas Eve


Xmas Eve, the boys invited a friend over for that afternoon. Harry from Alexander's class and Mohammed in Cameron's class.

I was in the kitchen cooking most of the afternoon, so I set them the task of decorating some gingerbread cookies we bought from the Swedish Xmas Markets. They had a great time, although I think more Smarties went in their mouths than on the cookies.

The kids took their cookies home, so they could leave them out for Santa that evening

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

You can't catch us....



This is what we were busy making this afternoon after school....just got to wait for the chocolate to dry, before we wrap them up for the teachers tomorrow



another scarf...


A simple knit row, purl row scarf, for the handspun mohair mix that I bought at the Isle of Skye, Scotland, at Easter.
Knitted on Size 8mm needles, with the yarn wrapped around the needle once after each stitch, and dropped on the purl row,to create longer stitches. I can't explain it any better than that. I was practicing doing another stitch, made a mistake in the pattern, and came up with this, which I thought would look great in this yarn.

Xmas pressies

For Alexander's teacher, a scarf to keep him warm during our cold Winter.


For Cameron's teacher, a table runner for her lounge room (she got a scarf last year when she was Alexander's teacher).


Saturday, 15 December 2007

Merry Christmas from us!

Decorating the Christmas Tree

Yippee.....
Phil's plane was not delayed, and he was home in plenty of time for us to decorate the tree this evening.


The kids have their own decorations, and we all put them up together. I can see some of my "obsessive compulsive organising" is starting to come through with the boys. They wanted to have the tree in sections..Santas in one area, reindeer in another area. At one stage Alexander says "Where is the Penguin section?"



Glad I bought a larger tree this year. Next year I may need to buy a roll of wire to "bonsai" the branches to make them a bit stronger. Or maybe I should just stop buying more Christmas decorations. I am sure the local hardware store will have the wire I need! ;) Perhaps next year, I might need to buy 2 trees....now that's a better thought!

The finished tree!

Xmas markets and not so friendly Santa

We went to the Ku'damm this morning. Went into KaDeWe in the hope of finding a store Santa for a photo with the kids...not easy to do here (not like at home where there is a Santa in every shopping centre).


Well the KaDeWe Santa gets 2/10 for his performance. If he could actually smile that would have gotten him a few extra points, also if he actually said hello to the children that would have got him a few extra points too. Instead, he sat like a statue, and grumbled if anyone sat too close to him...I think the kids were a bit scared of him actually.....deep sigh! Cameron's eyes were closed, but even I was too frightened to take one more photo incase I was told off by Santa! So, I am on the hunt for a friendly Santa...if anyone has seen one in Berlin, please let me know where...thanks!

On the plus size, the decorated trees in KaDeWe were lovely.

The markets are always fun to walk around. Better to go early in the day, when the crowds are not so big, especially with the kids.
Here is a picture for Dad, of the chestnuts roasting....lecker, lecker, lecker!

The German traditional Lebkuchen (gingerbread)..Michelle sent one to her Mum in South Africa....it cost her 16 euros in postage, about 3 times the price of the actual Lebkuchen! I hope she enjoys it!!!!

Shock, Cameron says "take a photo of me Mum", and for once he is not pulling a face at the camera!!

Second last trip of the year

Christmas is fast approaching, and so is the end of my travel schedule for this year. This second last trip for the year (I have to go to Cologne for a few days next week) was really interesting - First stop was Helsinki, where I'm sure I never saw daylight. I arrived late at night, was up early to take a 2 hour train ride to Turku (where our company has a factory) to have a some meetings and a site tour (to watch the robots dance! The technology that goes into production lines is quite amazing!). I transferred back to Helsinki by train, and even though we were rolling through the Finnish countryside, it was all dark.

After some further meetings in Helsinki, I flew to Chicago - my first visit to the home of the Blues Brothers (Nicole, however, sees it as the home of 'ER' and asked if I saw George Clooney anywhere...). I was really impressed. The parts I saw were great, and the Euro is killing the dollar, so I was able to get in an hour's shopping (ended up with new ice skates for the boys!). The meetings were really interesting (do I sound surprised???), but I was really sad to be away for the Christmas concerts and other stuff - for some reason I missed putting them in my diary, and usually this stuff gets put in first. I have some vidoe footage to enjoy (but it is not the same, is it?). At least I convinced Nicole not to decorate the tree without me!

Huge snowstorms shut in the Eastern Seaboard, but luckily, Chicago missed it all and I got out in time - and glad to be home.

I am so looking forward to the Christmas break!

Friday, 14 December 2007

O Christmas Tree.....


I picked out our tree this morning, and it was delivered in the afternoon.....the delivery service is a bargain. 5 euros, delivery, carried up 3 flights of stairs, and set up in your Christmas tree stand, making sure it is standing straight! Bargain!!!!!!

I promised Phil we would wait for him to get back from Chicago on Saturday afternoon before we decorate it. I may have to get the kids to tie my hands behind my back. We brought all the decorations up from the cellar....lucky I got a bigger tree than last year!

I think we will go out tomorrow to avoid the temptation.....fingers crossed he doesn't get snowed in at Chicago......problems in New York, but the weather hasn't moved across yet. I don't think I could bear looking at this naked tree in our home for the entire weekend.