picklesink

A mom, a dad, and two nutty kids.

To My Favourite Ben-Magoo on Your 6th Birthday

Oh, my Ben-Magoo…what can I say? You have been full of surprises literally* since the day you were born! I can’t post a pregnant belly picture of you because I don’t have any. I was so busy with school and daddy with his new job that we hadn’t gotten around to taking an artsy belly picture when you decided to make your surprise appearance at only 33 1/2 weeks.

Tiny Ben

Tiny baby Ben in his isolette. His chest is smaller than my hand.
©PicklesINK 2013

You got it in your teeny head that you were ready to be born and there was no stopping you! I was scared at the time but I should have known you had it all under control. They told us that preemies usually have breathing problems – not you! They told us that preemies usually stay in the hospital until their due date – but you made sure you were home in time for my first Mothers’ Day!

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We could have fit 5 baby Bens in this Moses basket!
©PicklesINK 2013

Have I told you before how smart you are? I know all moms think “My kid is so smart!” but my Magoo, your intellect continues to astound me. I haven’t been able to win an argument with you since…well, since you learned to talk…and ever since you started moving around you’ve been building and creating amazing structures – first “simple” towers and now extensive multi-level train tracks like Brio Peak.

Stacking

Ben, around 18 months, creating a stack of jars taller than him.
©PicklesINK 2013

You have what your Uncle Chris calls “the knack,” and not only that, you have the single-minded drive, when you come up with an idea, to keep working at it until you see it through. You can get frustrated when things don’t go the way you envisioned though, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective or a second pair of hands to finish the job, and asking for help is just a way of effectively problem-solving.

You are so kind and loving, my Magoo. We had a bit of a rough patch there for a while after Molly was born. There were times when I got really frustrated yelled too much, and I know that I hurt your feelings and made you sad sometimes, and you still loved me more than anything. But just like I said, asking for help is a way of problem-solving, and knowing how much you loved me gave me the strength to do that. Do you know what else? Me being able to talk about that hard time has given lots of other people the courage to do the same thing, and that’s all thanks to you!

Mommy and Ben

Mommy and Ben snuggles
©PicklesINK 2013

I bet you didn’t know this, Magoo, but there are some kids who are unhappy or mad when a new baby comes home because they have to share their mommies or daddies. I don’t think that ever even crossed your mind, though, because you have loved Molly more than anything since the moment you first saw her.

Grinning big brother Ben holding his brand-new sister Molly.
©PicklesINK 2013

I don’t know if I’ve seen you so sad as the day I told you you couldn’t marry her because she’s your sister! And boy, does she ever look up to you. She thinks that you are just the coolest person ever, and I think she believes you could do absolutely anything.

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Ben plays a private guitar concert for Molly in her jumperoo.
©PicklesINK 2013

I know that now that’s she’s getting older there are times when she gets on your nerves, but even when you two fight you work it out together and go right back to being best friends. I hope you two keep on appreciating and loving each other as much as you do now, even when you grow up.

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Ben and Molly hugs
©PicklesINK 2013

Ben-Magoo, one of the most wonderful things about you is your integrity. I will never, ever forget when you knocked over a pile of socks that Molly had folded, and I said, “Don’t tell Molly you knocked those over because she’ll be sad.” She overheard me and said, “Did Ben knock over my socks?” and I said, “No, monkey, I put them in the laundry basket.” You leaped up and said, “Oh Molly, I did knock them over! I’m so sorry! It was an accident. I’m really, really sorry,” and Molly said, “That’s okay, Ben.”

Then you looked me in the eye and said, “Mommy, you shouldn’t have told that lie.” You know what, Bud? You were absolutely right. It it always better to take responsibility for your actions and face the consequences then to tell a lie to get out of trouble, and you were right to remind me of that.

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Stern Ben dressed as Santa
©PicklesINK 2013

We had something sad happen in our family this year, didn’t we, Bud? Our Papa, your great-grandfather, died. You were so very special to Papa because you were his very first great-grandchild. The first time he held you in the hospital, he looked at me, his face aglow, and said, “Can you believe that I actually have a great-grandson?

Papa and Ben

Papa holding Ben – can you ever see the resemblance!
©PicklesINK 2013

Papa was very special to you, too. It must have been hard wrapping your head around the fact that you were never going to see him again, but you thought about it asked the questions that you needed to to understand, and sometimes I think that you understand better than us grown-ups – Like when you said, “Chris and Caitie are sad because Papa isn’t going to be at their wedding. But really he is going to be there with us, isn’t he?” and when at Christmas you said, “This Christmas our family just isn’t the same, is it, because Papa died.”

You also have  real gift for creativity, Magoo. You and daddy share a special bond with your love of photography. (I know, I know, you don’t have that camera any more. You figured out pretty quickly that kid cameras just couldn’t capture the shots that you wanted and you took over mommy’s!)

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2 year-old Ben with his obsolete kiddy camera
©PicklesINK 2013

You and daddy definitely share that photographer’s eye. I don’t think there are many people who could guess which of you took which of these pictures!

Ben's sunset pic

Sunset on the St. Lawrence
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(Your artistic shots are great, of course, but my favourites are your self-portraits!)

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Self-portrait by Ben
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And your creativity and ambition don’t stop with just photography. How many other just-turned-6-year-olds can say that they are published authors?

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Ben opening up his debut book,
Your Favourite Brio Peak Collection
©PicklesINK 2013

 So, my favourite Ben-Magoo, keep on being your super-cool self, just like you have been from the day you were born, even if people tell you it’s wrong. (Except mommy. If mommy tells you you’re doing something wrong, you’d better listen. Because I’m mommy, that’s why.)

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Ben and Molly at Day Out With Thomas
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Happy 6th Birthday, our favourite guy!

~ Love, Mommy, Daddy, and Molly

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Team Pickles self-portrait. Can someone explain why 3 of us look goofy while Molly photo-bombs the shot with utter adorableness?
©PicklesINK 2013

*and y’all know I don’t use that word lightly.

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phil&teds Excellent Adventure

Once upon a time, I bought the greatest stroller known to man, the phil&teds Explorer Sport with double attachment. Greatest. Stroller. Ever.

Phil&teds stroller with carseat attachment
©PicklesINK 2012

I loved that stroller. I took it everywhere and recommended it to everyone who would listen (at least those who asked me about it…I didn’t run up to random strangers like a crazy person and scream at them to buy this stroller. Much.).

Molly fast asleep in the stroller
after a long day at the zoo.
©PicklesINK 2012

When we planned our trip to Germany this summer, we originally planned to bring 2 cheap umbrella strollers to the airport but at the last minute decided to take the phil&teds instead, thinking that it would be more useful in our travels. Unfortunately, fate was not on our side and it came to pass that a terrible dragon, in the form of a careless baggage handler, wrecked it during the flight. Actually, my guess, judging from the type of damage, is that he – and I say he not out of sexism but because it was taken from me by 2 young men – dropped it to the tarmac while carrying it down the stairs before the flight ever began.

They snapped the handle clean off!
©PicklesINK 2012

At first I hoped to keep using the broken stroller, at least for the trip, and did managed to get a bit of use out if it in the first few days with packing tape holding the handle together.

It could still safely carry liquor!
©PicklesINK 2012

Unfortunately some new damage quickly came to light – I think the front wheel assembly must have been bent too so with continued use the tire popped. Despondent, I gave it up for lost, figuring that my kids were a bit older and I could probably get by with a cheap umbrella stroller until they outgrew strollers completely (see the October 2012 issue of Today’s Parent for a good debate on topic of strollering your toddler or preschooler), and I would be better off taking a cash settlement.

I even composed a haiku in its honour:

Careless baggage guys/dropped my stroller down the stairs/Condor owes me big.

After a fair bit of frustration and some back-and-forthing through social media and then email with Condor Airlines, it came down to a choice between a significantly depreciated cash value versus full reimbursement for a replacement stroller so I opted for the replacement – which means I was able to purchase the brand new just-released phil&teds Navigator in pretty robins-egg blue!

Things that I loved about my Explorer:

– SO maneuverable

– double stroller without the double width

– double attachment let Ben jump in and ride when he needed to and didn’t get in my way when he didn’t

– driveable in all seasons and on all terrains

Things that I loved less:

– stiff wire brake needed a lot of force to flip on or off with foot (and not doable in sandals – ouch!)

– deep fabric footwell caught crumbs and dirt and you had to flip stroller upside down and shake get them out

– long dangly tails on harness straps

– waist straps that you had to dig out from under your kid to buckle

– very small sunshade that didn’t really shade at all

– no clip to prevent stroller from opening when folded

– soft fabric back of seat was oh so tempting for kid in double attachment seat to kick or push, earning a “Hey!!” or just a wail as they woke up from the kid above

– permanently attached seat cover cannot be washed

Don’t get me wrong – these were all minor annoyances and certainly did not detract from this being the BEST STROLLER EVER MADE.

Until now.

With the Navigator, phil&teds have stared deep within my soul, discovered all of the things I found mildly irritating about the Explorer, and FIXED THEM. Every last one of them. The Navigator has a one-touch toggle brake; a firm plastic footwell with vents for the crumbs to fall through; a new tail-less harness system (I didn’t even know you could do that!); a harness system that while still having shoulder and waist restraints, only has 2 clips; a hard plastic back to minimize those “Hey!”s; and a detachable, machine-washable seat cover. They even fixed the bar that goes across the front – I took it off originally because my kids were biting chunks of foam off it, and apparently this issue was not unique to me because the new incarnation has a fabric sleeve.

It also has the biggest freaking sunshade I’ve ever seen (Ben and Molly like to pull it all the way down to enclose them in a kind of sunshade cocoon) – and again, since they either have secret video cameras recording my life or else someone in R&D is my creepy long-lost brain twin, they KNEW that I always put stuff like my keys or wallet on top of the sunshade while I walk around and I’ve lost a cell phone as a result, and built freaking POCKETS into the sides of the sunshade so that when things inevitably slide off, instead of falling to the ground they get caught in the pockets.

New stroller with double attachment.
Note the stuff on the sunshade –
No, I will never learn.
©PicklesINK 2012

Another really neat feature is that it assembles completely without tools – I took it out of the box, popped the wheels on, and was ready to go. It also handles like a dream, even more smoothly than the Explorer did, and all this at the exact same price I paid for my Explorer originally.

If I have one complaint, it’s the the colour is not as bright and the fabric slightly coarser than I expected, but since I ordered it online without seeing it in person, I can’t really blame phil&teds for that.

Ben and Molly heartily approve.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly heartily approve of the new stroller, and if it has half the staying power of the last one (barring being dropped down a flight of stairs onto asphalt) it should last through a few more kids after mine. Thank you, thank you, thank you, phil&teds, for making my stroller dreams come true, and thank you Condor Airlines for making things right.

~ karyn

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Better late than never – Final Germany round-up!

Here are the last few Germany bits and pieces to wrap up the trip diary:

One of the highlights of the vacation was the trip up the mountain on a cable car.

Don’t look down!
©PicklesINK 2012

We went about 1800 m up, to the third of four stations (we couldn’t go all the way to the top as the timing meant that we would have had to ride back down on the same car without actually disembarking). Before we reached the third station we were in the clouds and the kids had a great time playing in the ethereal, misty playground (as described in Ben’s guest post).

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We then rode back down and enjoyed dinner al fresco at a lovely Italian restaurant, which was interrupted at one point by the sound of cowbells as a farmer brought his herd down from the mountain for the night. (“My family’s been bringing the cows down this road every night for 3 generations and we’re not going to stop now just because this damn town is overrun with tourists!”).

Who knew we’d be there until the cows came home?
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On the way home we passed the brewery that had been supporting our pils habit for the 2 weeks…mmm…I still miss the beer!

No chance of mistaking what they do here!
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Apparently there were a number of town festivals going on while we were there, which meant that for most of the trip many people were dressed in traditional Bavarian “tract.” These Bavarians certainly have the right idea when it comes to flattering clothing, especially for those of us with, let’s say, “hourglass” figures (I like to think of them as “good, strong childbearing hips.”)! I tried on a dirndl but unfortunately I just didn’t think it would translate well to home.

What, this old thing? It’s just something I threw on…
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I also tried to convince Ian to get a pair of lederhosen but no dice. (Come on! Even Santa wears them in the off-season!)

Ben said, “That’s not Santa.
I can see his mouth.”
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One area where Germany is way ahead seems to be the use of sustainable energy, particularly solar power. Everywhere we looked it seemed that people had solar panels on their roofs, sometimes just a few, sometimes covering every available inch.

Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun,
Please shine down on me!
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We also passed fields of row upon row of solar panels along the highways. Pretty cool stuff. I know we’re starting to experiment with it; in our town there are 2 towers with panels but it’s on such a small scale, comparatively. These Bavarians really seem to have it down to a science.

As a small side note, if you think back to the Kurpark post, this is the photograph that Ian was taking when he was hiding in the flowers:

You’d better BEE-lieve it!
©PicklesINK 2012

Finally, the time came for us to make our exit. In Germany this is indicated by highway signs reading, “Ausfahrt,” and I remain convinced that I can’t be the only English-speaker in the world whose inner 15 year-old giggles uncontrollably at that.

heheheheheh…fahrt.
©PicklesINK 2012

~ karyn

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Ben’s review of the German playgrounds

I have invited a guest blogger to contribute to this post, and I will let him introduce himself:

My name is Benjamin. I am 5 years old. We went to Germany this August to see Grandma and Grandad and some of my uncles and aunts and cousins. We did some fun things there. We played in lots of parks and I’m going to tell you about the parks.

* Molly, 2 1/2, also contributed some thoughts.

The first park we went to was close to the river. This is a picture of the climber. All the parks in Germany were made of logs and ropes and chains and tires. I thought that was really cool.

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This is a picture of me on the log stairs. You had to climb and hold onto the rope to balance.

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This is the rope bridge. We needed to use a rope on this bridge too. After we went on the rope bridge we got to the shaky bridge which I call the “Shake-shake bridge.”

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After you went across the Shake-shake bridge you got to the climber! This is a picture of Molly at the top of the slide.

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There was a swing made out of rope and it looked like a spider web. You could put 3 kids in that swing!

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You could pull the bucket in the sandpit up with the chain. It felt light! If you let go of the chain the bucket would fall down fast!

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There was a stump in the sandpit with little holes you could put sand through.

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Everyone had fun at the park, even my daddy Ian!

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One day we went to a Rodelbahn. We went up a mountain on a chairlift and then we came down on a big slide. At the bottom there was a playground with a ride-on clam-digger. We had to put money into the slot to turn the motor on and then when we pulled the levers it would work. The scoop picked up stones and moved them around and dumped them.

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There was also a helicopter. On the helicopter you also had to put money in the slot and then it would go up. The helicopter’s lever didn’t move but you could push the screw on the top of the lever and it would make sounds.

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There were also trampolines and we had fun jumping on them.

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There was also a slide and a sandbox but we don’t have any pictures of them.

One day, we took a walk in the woods and we found a playground! There were stairs to come down to look at the stream. This is a picture of us playing in the stream. Molly added, “That park we went to. I liked it. We went to see a river and grandad come with us and grandma come with us too.”

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This is a picture of the shaky bridge, which I call the “Shake-shake bridge” too. This shake-shake bridge goes over the river. I called the river that the shake-shake bridge went over “the Logging Pond.” The bridge was really shaky and really high.

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There was a wooden train. You could only sit on it because it was made of wood and it didn’t make steam because it had a wood funnel but you could pretend you were driving it. Molly says, “And I went on that choo-choo train.”

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This is a picture of me (Ben) on the climbing tree. I think it was made out of a tree with the leaves taken off and parts of the branches sawed off.

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This is a picture of grandma swinging. I think she is having fun!

We all had a lot of fun playing at that park.

On another day we went on another walk in the woods. There was a xylophone made of wood. I didn’t play a song, I just played it, but Molly played, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life,” and sang.

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This is a picture of me on the see-saw. There was also a jungle gym and a sandbox. To get to the stream you had to go to the other side of the grass. You have to go down the bank to get to the water but you can still see it from the top. You didn’t have to climb down the bank because there were stairs.

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We went wading in the stream. It was cold! We didn’t see any fish. There weren’t fish in any of the streams but there were fish in the lake.

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I think this is a picture Molly and Uncle Martin. I think Uncle Martin was going to lift Molly into the swing. This is the swing set and the climber. The slide is really slippery, especially when you’re wet!

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The last park we went to was on top of a mountain! We took a cable car up the mountain to get to it. When the cable car got to us, so many people got out that I said, “Is this a cable car or a party?”

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We went so high that we went in the cloud so it was misty at the park because we were inside a cloud. This is a picture of the high tower. It was the highest climber that I have ever seen!

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There was a shaky bridge which I called a “Shake-shake bridge” too. It was made  out of logs hanging with chains.

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This is a picture of Ian on the zip line. There was a green circle that you had to sit and then you pushed off and went really, really fast, as fast as me!! You would go all the way to the end and then come back.

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This is a picture of Molly and her doll Charlie on the swing. I think the swing was a chair from a chairlift like one at the Rodelbahn. Two people can fit in this swing together.

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This is the rope climber. It also had those green circles like on the zip line but this time they were for swinging. We could climb all the way up to the top.

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We were so high up and this is a picture of our view from when we looked down from the cable car on the way down.

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I thought that the parks in Germany were a lot different then the ones back in Canada. They were a lot of fun. I loved the clam-digger and I love all the Shake-shake bridges. I really want to back and play on them again one day!

~ Ben

(dictated to mommy)

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Food glorious food…coma.

German food. Very, very yummy. Not a lot of emphasis on green. Or red. Or orange. Unless they’re Smarties and gummy bears sprinkled on ice cream. But definite emphasis on the delicious. Here is the round-up of what we ate:

Every morning started with someone, usually Grandad, venturing to the bakery (or “makery,” as Molly termed it, which makes a sort of sense) with one or two children in tow to pick up fresh rolls (and gummy bears for the kids – breakfast of champions!).

Fresh-baked every morning!
©PicklesINK 2012

These would be served at the breakfast table along with soft-boiled eggs, fresh-churned butter, assorted jams, ham and salami, and local cheeses, most notably the delicious Heumilchkäse and Blumenkäse (literally, hay-milk cheese and flower cheese). The Heumilchkäse has a distinctly barnyard aroma and strong flavour and the Blumenkäse is milder and rolled in dried wildflowers. Heaven for a cheese-lover like myself! Ian wasn’t quite so enthralled and the kids were for the most part indifferent.

Heumilchkäse and Blumenkäse
©PicklesINK 2012

I have to confess to a weakness for Schnitzel und Spätzle so I sampled both as often as I could. My first opportunity was outside of Munich when we went to get the estimate for my (*sniff*) broken stroller (*sniff*) where we stopped at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and I had Schnitzel mit Pfeffer-Sahnesauce und Spätzle (schnitzel with peppercorn cream sauce and spatzle noodles/dumplings). I was so hungry that I ate it all without thinking to take a picture first so unfortunately I have no record except for the memory of its utter deliciousness, but the sauce was creamy and amazing and the spatzle was plump and had been crisped to golden perfection.

We enjoyed a lovely meal al fresco at the Biergarten across from the house where I had Champignon Schnitzel und Spätzle (schnitzel with mushroom cream sauce and spatzle). I realize that I have unfairly painted all of the German chefs with the same brush – as you can see this meal did include some green and orange!

Champignon Schnitzel und Spätzle.
©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly each enjoyed a Kinder-Schnitzel und Kartoffel Kroketten (kiddie meal of schnitzel with potato croquettes), to which I had introduced my picky eater before we left to make sure that there was something he would eat in German restaurants…

Kinder-Schnitzel und Kartoffel Kroketten
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And German mall food courts:

Schnitzel und Spätzle (again)
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On another beautiful sunny day out we again had lunch on the patio of another local restaurant where I had (you guessed it!) Jägerschnitzel und Spätzle (schnitzel with mushroom gravy) and a Radler (half Pilsner, half Sprite). Yes, I may have a Spätzle problem.

Jägerschnitzel und Spätzle
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Ian went off script and had Hähnchen-Cordon-Bleu mit pommes (chicken cordon-bleu with french fries). Once again, I realize that I was unfair to the German chefs as his meal also included a variety of vegetables. Bundled together with a strip of bacon.

Hähnchen-Cordon-Bleu und pommes
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Sometimes of course we needed a break from the heavy German food. Fortunately there was an excellent take-away pizza restaurant down the road that did European-style thin crust wood-fired pizza with every topping imaginable. 

Pizza Hawaii
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Pizza Oliven Salami Peperoni
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For our last night out we ate at an Italian restaurant where I had Tortellini mit Gorgonzola, which was delicious,

Tortellini mit Gorgonzola
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and a bowl of Pfifferlingen Cremesuppe, a cream soup of the locally in season Chanterelle mushrooms.

Pfifferlingen Cremesuppe
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Of course, it wasn’t all savoury dishes. Germans are also very fond of ice cream. In the form of ice cream sundaes:

Haselnuss-Eis
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Banana splits:

Bananen-Eis
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Liquor-spiked chocolate milk with a scoop of ice cream topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings:

Baileys Eisschokolade
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And of course, appropriately small portions of ice cream for the children:

Kinder-Überraschung-Eis
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As comfortingly delicious as it all was, the first thing we did when we got home was head to the grocery store to stock up on a fresh, crisp, brightly-coloured assortment of fruits and vegetables.

Produce, sweet produce!
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I ate half a cantaloupe for dinner yesterday and I may swear off white flour for good.

~ karyn

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Tobogganing in summer…does life get any better?

Two things that the Bavarian Alps have a-plenty are cable cars and Rodelbahns. Cable cars are pretty self-explanatory. As I Google though I am learning that technically what we have been visiting is known as a Sommerrodelbahn (sommer = summer) and an actual Rodelbahn involves snow, but for simplicity’s sake I will refer to it as the latterJust don’t blame me if you try to Google it and get very confused.

How do you feel about heights?
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There are of course many ways to climb the mountains – Many enterprising folks choose to walk (often with Nordic walking sticks, which I don’t begin to understand); some even more energetic types run; and we even saw (from our comfortable perch on the cable car) one person cycle up. He was practically standing still, moving up inch by excruciating (I imagine) inch, until he got to the top, turned around, and with an expression of glee let go and sailed back down.

Now that’s hardcore!
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We, however, chose the leisurely and absolutely safe method of riding up on a single-seat open cable car with a metal “safety bar” about 1 cm in diameter. Imagine a rickety lawn chair dangling from a cable 25 feet off the ground carrying you up the side of a mountain. With the kids on our laps.

What could possibly go wrong?
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Great photo opps though!
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Can you tell that they’re 30 feet in the air?
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From an ultra-protective North American standpoint the blasé attitude towards carrying your 2 year-old up a cable car with no more instruction than a bored teenager barking an instruction in German that essentially amounted to “Hold her forwards!” was both terrifying and refreshing. It was all fun and games until Molly tried to slide out of my lap saying, “I want to bounce on that grass!!” (No.)

Disembarking safely:
Ie. hold on tight and jump!
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But we made it up unscathed and arrived at our reward: The Rodelbahn. Essentially, this is a metal track that snakes down the side of the mountain that you rocket down on a plastic sled holding onto a  joystick that controls your speed (forwards = faster, backwards = brake). At every curve there’s a sign that says “bremsen” (brake). Yeah, right!! About halfway down there is a speedometer that displays your speed for all to see; You wouldn’t have a hope of being the winner if you were braking safely like a sucker to avoid overturning on all of the corners!! The top recorded speed for us was my sister-in-law’s 38 km/hour. Ben and Molly alternated yelling, “Whee! Super-fast!!” and looking bored all the way down.

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It was a great morning out and we actually went back a second time because the adults kids really wanted to have a rematch do it again. Unfortunately (for the kids, who were really interested) the speedometer was broken that time but I think deep down we all knew that I won.

~ karyn

“WINNING!” – Charlie Sheen
©PicklesINK 2012

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A Kur for what ails ye

One of Ben and Molly’s favourite discoveries in town so far is the Kurpark (essentially “spa park”). Many German towns have these and they can be more or less elaborate, incorporating gardens and multiple pools with various types of mineralized (or simply COLD) waters. The Kurpark Ben and Molly have been enjoying is on the smaller side but plenty of fun for two kids. It has been beautifully sunny so the water, which is usually painfully cold, is actually quite comfortable for wading.

There are lovely gardens (if you peer closely at the pictures, Where’s Waldo? style, you may be able to pick out Ian practicing his macrophotography on the flowers), a wading pool, and a basin.

Where’s Waldo?
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There is a sign explaining how to properly use the Kurpark in order to get all of the health benefits.

©PicklesINK 2012

According to Google Translate unfortunately we are doing it completely wrong, as we seldom remember that “the most important principle in using cold water is a pre-heated body active” and thus do not warm up first by “moving through brisk gymnastics or running.” We also frequently use the arm and foot baths in quick succession rather than allowing 2 hours to elapse between even though the sign cautions us that this is physiologically wrong and counteracts both uses. I can assure you however that bathing your arms in the basin and then walking through the pool with proper “stork walk” form (lifting each foot completely out of the water with each step) does, as advised, result in a “strong cold stimulus.”

Ben and Molly improving their circulation in the arm basin.
©PicklesINK 2012

The only trouble is that the Kurpark is actually intended for adults to quietly and contemplatively wade and those who come for that purpose are not always impressed to find my very active 2 and 5 year-old splashing around!

Actually, reasonably good
“stork walk” form.
©PicklesINK 2012

It’s a only 2 minute skip across the road from us so I’m sure we’ll be spending plenty of sunny afternoons there!

Not actually intended as a “foot bath.”
©PicklesINK 2012

~ karyn

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Everything I ever needed to know, I learned in Germany.

Aside from the sleep issues (Sleep update: Night 4 finished with Ian and I watching Inspector Morse on the laptop with earphones in the room until Molly fell asleep at 11:00 and Ben at midnight. Last night we took turns rubbing Molly’s back until she fell asleep; Ben went down easily; both around 7:00. Fingers and toes remained crossed all night and they both SLEPT THROUGH UNTIL 6:30!!!) the first few days of our trip have been GREAT.

FINALLY!!!
©PicklesINK 2012

On Sunday we headed up to the town of Jungholz (technically in Austria, but accessible only from Germany and close enough to the village Ian’s parents live in that we walked home from there once in winter) to check out a craft fair.

Ben and grandad wandered off to explore by themselves for a bit and Ian, grandma, Molly and I had a look at the stalls. Molly was very taken by a couple of sleek black ducks in a chicken-wire topped crate watched over by a friendly young girl in traditional Bavarian dress. We passed by again a bit later and they were being transferred into a cardboard box. The young girl seemed very pleased as she put two new ducks into her crate and we realized that the originals were going to become a delicious roast dinner and this new pair might soon follow!

There was a one-room art gallery set up in the town hall by an artist who seemed to specialize in still-life paintings of fruit, stone fruits in particular, which caused my inner 15 year-old to giggle uncontrollably and think, “Nice plums!” (heh heh…heh heh…heheheheheheh…)

Once we found Ben and grandad, who had gone for a walk up the ski hill, we found a picnic table and sat down for an afternoon snack, which in Bavaria is it not uncommon to enjoy with either a coffee or a frothy golden-hued beverage. Have I mentioned the beer yet? Ahh…the beer. German pils is a thing of beauty. Almost every town has its own microbrewery and each beer is subtly different but all are delicious.

Molly took this picture of my beer.
©PicklesINK 2012

An afternoon snack also traditionally involves some type of pastry – I had a slice of apfelstrudel and Ben and Molly enjoyed some type of crumbly chocolate cake. Molly added an element of adventure to hers by mixing the crumbs in with the pebbles she had been collecting before picking them out and eating them.

©PicklesINK 2012

Germany has also been heaven for my fuzzy-water loving children – they have been happily sampling all of the different Mineralvasser.

Bottoms up!
©PicklesINK 2012

Besides the slaughter-your-own ducks, other artisans and offerings at the craft fair included clothing, wood carving, hand-woven baskets, candles, herbs, a bee-keeper, and a blacksmith. There was also a troupe of strolling players demonstrating that no matter the language, Medieval fair geeks are the same the world over.

©PicklesINK 2012

~ karyn

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Back on solid ground

Travel day has come and gone. Apparently some people pack a week in advance, which I think is just plane crazy (heheheh). Why would you stretch that kind of stress out over the course of a week when you could just concentrate it all into a 6 hour period and be done with it? In the end I only forgot one thing, Ian’s tripod, so well done me!

We checked in and checked our baggage and then met up with my family for a lovely, leisurely dinner near the airport…a little too leisurely, perhaps, as it was followed by a full-on run across the terminal to our gate interrupted by a brief interlude of pretended calm to clear security. But we made it before they had even finished pre-boarding and got shuttled right on, set the kids up with the iPad and Innotab and sat back and tried to catch our breath!

©PicklesINK 2012

©PicklesINK 2012

Ben and Molly were absolutely amazing on the plane. Ben fell fast asleep within about 10 minutes of take-off. Molly held out for a while longer but eventually succumbed to sleep as well. Ben slept soundly until they turned the lights back on for breakfast. Molly was a little more fitful (and by “a little” I of course mean “a lot”) – she wound up sleeping for a couple of hours in my lap in various positions that were I’m sure very comfortable for her although not so much for me! She woke up after a few hours but was mostly content to snuggle and stare until “morning.”

When the kids woke up, they discovered that they could both fit in one seat and spent the next couple of hours watching shows on the iPad.

©PicklesINK 2012

As I mentioned in my last post, I was fully prepared with a backpack full of activities to keep the kids going through the whole flight if necessary. So here’s the summary of what we actually used:

©PicklesINK 2012

So yes, perhaps it was overkill, but I think it was still worth the backache for the peace of mind!

Finally, one important piece of advice that I picked up for traveling with young kids: Don’t be afraid to take a good stroller – it will be a great help getting through the airport and you can check it conveniently at the gate. Make sure you bring luggage straps, specifically bought for the purpose, so you can fold it and then secure it tightly:

All wrapped up in a nice, neat little package! ©PicklesINK 2012

That way all the baggage handlers have to do is pick it up and carry it to the hold and there’s no chance that anything could possibly go wrong and damage it. Then when you arrive at your destination, they will just bring it right back to you at the gate so you can pop it back open and use it right away!

😀 😀 😀 LOLZ J/K!!! 😀 😀 😀

Okay, for REALZ now! Make sure you use an el cheapo $20 job and don’t bother with the luggage strap crap since the airline will rip it off and leave it behind on the baggage cart anyway (which you know because you can see it through the plane window) and crush your very favourite phil&teds double stroller to a pulp and then send it into the “bulky items” baggage claim for you to pick up only after you wrangle your 2 exhausted and hyper kids plus 5 carry-on bags through immigration and customs on foot!

Snapped clean off. How did that even happen? It’s not a flimsy stroller! ©PicklesINK 2012

Squashed metal frame. The frame is also bent out of shape so that the seat back no longer lies flat. ©PicklesINK 2012

But we made it through relatively unscathed (except for my stroller…sniff), Tetrised the luggage into the car, and made the 4-hour drive from the airport to the house and settled in with some lovely European-style pizza (mmmmm…) and some German pilsner…

…and a good night’s sleep. More on that later.

~ karyn

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