Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Birthday Party

Today W turned 4, so we had a party. As always on his birthday, the weather was weird, one minute sun, the next minute rain. Just like last year, we were outside enjoying the sun and our cake, then next thing we knew it was pouring and we were running to rescue the cake and the chairs.

I really like this wrapping paper, but am pretty sure that it can't be politically correct, much like this gift that I considered buying, but finally resisted.

I baked a couple of neat cakes. They were a lot of work, but were fantastically sweet and delicious! The bunny cake is an old and pretty easy classic, but the train cake was new to me and rather time consuming. W wished for a blue bunny cake this year. Last year he had 2 brown bunny cakes, and this year I topped myself, replacing the normal construction paper ears with dyed white chocolate ears!

W's cousin G is 5, and he was very impressed with my big new camera. He really wanted to take some pictures, and fortunately my old camera was lying around, so I hung it around his neck and turned him loose. The above three pictures are a few of his shots. I like his work. This young man may just have a career in photography ahead of him!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A blast from the past: Fabulous San Francisco

While going through my photographs to put together an exhibition in June, I started looking through our road trip photos from Christmas 2008. I had the best intentions to document our road trip on this blog, but only got up to the scary hotel story we had, and didn't put up too many pictures at all. Since there isn't much exciting stuff going on around here lately, and taking nice pictures has taken a backseat to dealing with two kids, I thought I would put up some old pictures that I haven't shared yet! The one above is a fantastic view of San Francisco from the top of a hill, you can see the adventurous serpentine we had to drive the Jeep up to get there!

While were in San Francisco that Christmas, it was deep winter in Michigan, but pleasantly sunny and mild on the Pacific. We enjoyed a walk on the beach, and even saw tons of these funny little washed up jelly fish! I bet they aren't so funny, though, if you step on one.

Oh, those San Francisco streets!

And of course we also visited China Town. This is a neat, bustling neighborhood, where you feel transported out of the United States. We had a nice lunch, then were chased and cursed at by the waitress, because she thought our tip was too little. She was unfriendly anyway, and despite that, she got an ample tip.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our day off

Yesterday we didn't do anything manly for Männertag, the other use of Ascension Day here in Germany. Instead, we did something very unmanly, and visited the kids' great grandmother in Leipzig. In addition to having some very delicious coffee and cake, before the visit we stopped off at the Völkerschlacht Denkmal, a giant monument to the Battle of Nations in 1813 when the Germans beat Napoleon.
Above you can see a picture of it being built back at the beginning of the last century.

One of the many details on the facade near the entrance.

Inside there is a circular crypt with these giant figures.

There is now also a museum, where you can view Napoleon's death mask.
My first fateful trip to Saxony back in 2001 also included a day trip to Leipzig and a visit to the Völkerschlacht Denkmal. A lot has changed there since then. They started charging admission, but the monument is also being renovated, there is now an elevator to go to the first outdoor platform, chain link fence to keep you from jumping, as well as new informational exhibits and a museum.


Later on, we also visited the Wildpark in Leipzig-Connewitz with Great Grandmother. This is a very nice, large park with free admission! It was originally opened in 1906 with some deer, later expanded, and now is a huge place with many animals which live in Europe, as well as some playgrounds and restaurants. There we saw this lovely lynx.

Of course there were some obligatory deer, as well as tons of wild garlic! Grandmother asked us if we liked wild garlic, and said we could collect some even though it is forbidden. When we got to a place on the trail where there were no other visitors, she said "Now you can collect some!"
This may sound far-fetched, but whole areas of the park smelled like garlic from this wild herb!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We have a hedgehog in our garden!!!

We have a little spiky friend living in our garden! I spotted him (or probably her) at about 6:00 this morning, rushing between the plants and the corner where our lawn furniture is stacked. It seems the little guy is building a nest using leaves from our plants. We also contributed some bunny hay to the effort, and the hedgehog seemed to be in seventh heaven. I suspect (and hope!) our little friend may be building a nest in this sheltered corner of our garden to have babies.

Upon further reading about hedgehogs, it seems that this little guy will be quite a useful friend in our garden. Apparently, hedgehogs love to chow down on insects, meaning that they can be an effective form of pest control. According to Wikipedia, the British even try to lure hedgehogs into their gardens for this purpose. And we didn't even have to try! We must have a superiorly hedgehog-friendly garden.

The only problem that comes with the little guy are the cats. The cats have returned to watch the hedgehog. They had finally learned, after many a bucket of water over the head, that they are not welcome at our house and not welcome to use our sandbox as a toilet. But now they are mesmerized by the new guy toddling back and forth between nest and plants. Perhaps Wilhelm will chase them away, yesterday he kicked a cat on the street (without any encouragement) for no apparent reason.

In other animal news, we spotted a precious squirrel in the Großer Garten behind the zoo last week. I adore the sleek red European squirrels.