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I’m so sorry I missed Friday’s post! It slipped away from me without my notice. We had my brother and sister in law over for the weekend, a last visit before the big move, and spending time with them got priority over being in front of the computer.
This was also probably the last weekend of fun and relaxation we’ll have for a while. From here on out, it’s going to be paperwork, packing tape and suitcases.
We’ve had precious few sunshine days this past season, so whenever we had even half a chance of catching a ray or two, we were outside. Feeling bolstered by the cloudless day, we hiked to Duisburg Zoo.
We’ve been at the zoo twice before and this is my second blog about it (hence the 2.0). I just couldn’t resist sharing the experience again. There’s even a video this time! As far as zoos go, Duisburg is really worth the trip. We had a blast there, despite the crowds.
As promised, here’s the bonus Thursday post. 🙂
For the 9th anniversary, we headed to Düsseldorf. This actually happened by accident. The real reason for the trip was to pick up our passports with the brand-spanking-new visas to enter Canada. Both of us had completely forgotten it happened to be our anniversary too. 😛
Since we were already there, we figured a meal would be nice. You know, because it was an event. We conquered the wind and found a cosy restaurant.
Would you believe we’d been living in Germany for almost two years before we went for a stroll in Duisburg (our neighbouring town)? I couldn’t either.
Duisburg is a quiet city with an abundance of fountains in the city centre. Colourful and weird, these fountains create a strange contrast to the ancient buildings in the area. Of course there are some modern buildings too, but the city centre hosts many older structures.
We’re not the biggest sports supporters in the world, but there’s something incredible about going to a live soccer game. To those of you who take this seriously, I know it’s called football in Europe. I’m South African, so to me it’s soccer. No offence meant.
Anyway, the last game we went to (which was also the first ever 😛 – I told you we’re not spots-people) was England vs Ukraine in 2012. Since we enjoyed that one so much, we simply had to see at least one game in Germany. Jan’s boss arranged a company event for the employees, which brought us to Essen stadium for this game.
Sunshine has been rare this summer – I don’t know what’s going on. Apart from three or so heat waves, we’ve had an excess of rain and gloom this season. Pretty depressing, if you ask me. Especially considering the fact that I had a tan last year this time.
So, when the sun is out, we are too.
Well, I’m sure some of the other runners still had their fun, but by the time we reached Düsseldorf, it was coming down in buckets. So much so that my water resistant jacket (and shirt underneath) were drenched and we had to stop to buy something dry and warm to wear.
Jan and Mario would have done one of the weekly parkruns in the city, but both decided they’d give it a skip in the heavy rain. We might give it a try again in a week or two, so you could still see running photos. 🙂
As we had nothing better to do, we went exploring. Indoors.
Life is full of little firsts. A while ago, one of these came up for Kayla, when we took her bowling for the first time.
Jan and I used to love bowling back in SA, but haven’t played in about 5 years. Thinking about it now, that puts the last time we played at before my pregnancy. Sad, but true. Anyway, we thought we’d turn a gloomy, rainy Saturday into one of those ‘remember the time when’ memories and headed out to the Rhein-Ruhr Zentrum to bowl.
Another weekend, another fair.
Let me tell you something about this one, though – it was huge. Everything is bigger and better in Düsseldorf, right? I almost felt bad for the Saarner Kirmes we’d visited the weekend before.
On a cloudy Sunday, we headed to the city to see the fair. Loud music, delicious food scents, bright colours and the screams of thrill-seekers – this is what the fair was all about.
In the post about those things I love about Germany, I mentioned random fairs popping up at every opportunity. This weekend, we found one of those. 🙂
The Saarner Kirmes set up in our hometown of Mülheim an der Ruhr, on the bank of the River Ruhr (Saarn is a suburb of Mülheim). We wouldn’t even have known of the fair’s existence, had we not went out to lunch. I was in the mood for currywurst, but we couldn’t find a nice place to have that. So, we went in the direction of the river.
By chance, Kayla spotted activity on the far bank. I say chance, but I really mean her fun-radar. That thing is accurate within half a centimetre. 🙂
I’d call it a Weekend in Pictures post, only I took too few photos for that. I don’t understand how the picture-drought happened, to be honest. We got up to SO MUCH, I just didn’t think to snap the events. Those moments I did shoot fall off the other side of the spectrum.
I have 32 photos of fish. THIRTY. TWO.
My… month in pictures? The monthly recap? As far as alternative titles go, these aren’t the best. Sorry. 🙂
Since I didn’t do a single post with photos from this month, I thought I’d give you an overview today (all my WIP posts were of adventures from past months). I’ve been toying with this recap post idea for a while, since so many of our photos taken in the week are share-worthy, but never get featured because they weren’t taken on weekends.
This is the end. We had a blast, saw amazing things and bonded with our tribe. We miss them terribly. The house is still quiet. Going through all of these photos somehow amplifies that.
But, before I get too soppy, let’s get on with the post.
While I shared all the main events with you, I have hundreds of photos taken on the in-between days. You know, those ones that didn’t involve buying tickets to enter tourist hot-spots. That’s what I’m sharing today.
Oh, Amsterdam. Still one of my favourite places on earth. The sweet smell in the air (no, not the weed, the pastries :P), the buzz in the streets and the beauty of the city will always draw me to return. Add the fact that we can be understood when speaking Afrikaans and it becomes all the more alluring to visit the Netherlands.
We love these two cities so much, we’ve visited both before. This was our second time in Maastricht, Netherlands, and also our second visit to Aachen, which is a small German border-town. I can highly recommend both.
This was a lazy Sunday trip and would also be the last warm, sunny day we had while the Groenewalds were here.
There’s a feeling that fills your chest when you round that corner, or take that step out of the train station in Cologne. The first and most undeniable structure in the heart of the city is the Cologne Cathedral – majestic, impossible and awe-inspiring. It claims your every thought and emotion with its sheer size, then slams its hooks into your heart with its gothic spires, stained-glass windows and grotesque gargoyles. You’ll always kind of shiver when you recall this place, never fully capable of wording what it is you felt in the cathedral’s shadow. And an enormous shadow it is.
Well, I’m back.
This vacation was one for the record books. Having friends over was seriously special, and more so because we experienced so many new things together. It was an honour to have them fly half-way around the globe to visit us. All the warm and fuzzies were felt. Having said that, I’ll try to keep the emotions contained while I write this. You know me, a big old softie. 😛 I cry at McDonald’s commercials.
Last year this time, we had maybe an afternoon of sunshine every two weeks. The drizzle was constant, predictable like the beat of my heart. Depressing too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of rain. I come from a place where the thunderstorms are legendary, with rushes of rain like waterfalls and crashing thunder like battles in the sky. Hard rain – I love that. This misty, more-like-wet-wind-than-actual-rain? Hate it.
Still, it left its mark. Last year this time, everything was green. Some trees had already started to blossom and the air smelled sweet and earthy. Spring showers (showers, ha) transformed our surroundings to something magical – something Johannesburgers aren’t used too. I mean, Jozi is awesome, but doesn’t have the same amount of trees and forested areas as we do here in Germany.
With the weather in Germany finally turning, we’ve been seeing some sun. Though, that thought barely crossed my mind when the rain arrived. As I type this, it’s dristing outside. No, that’s not a word. It’s a weather phenomenon that is neither drizzle nor mist, and is so definitive of Europe that you probably have the exact image of this drist in your mind right now. I HATE IT. But OK.
Saturday graced us with some relatively good weather – cloudy, but wind-still. Kayla’s been nagging to go to one of the local animal parks again, so we figured Saturday was perfect for that. I’ve blogged about Kaiserpark before, but this remains one of our favourite places to hang around in nature. If you ever find yourself in Oberhausen with kids, I totally recommend this outing. Entry is free, and you can either bring or purchase carrots to feed to some of the farm animals. There’s a nice restaurant and a small outdoor café too, and some beautiful park-scapes.
If you’ve been around the blog for a while, you’ll know I’m the obsessive type. Whenever I do something, I hurl myself at it until it’s done and I’m exhausted. Then I go into a weird, anti-climactic ‘what the hell now?’ state. That’s what I’m combatting now.
So, since finishing the latest revision of The Physician’s Apprentice, I’ve been focussed on spending time with my family. Because of that, I’ve missed a few days of fanart February, but I’ll make that up with a few quick sketches. Point is, it hasn’t been as rushed for a week or so and I’m actually coping with the quiet.
Our weather has been turning too – this is awesome. One week we were still freezing, and the next was just cool. We actually had some SUNSHINE too. Then, on Thursday, the chill returned. It snowed through Friday night and left us with a frosty surprise Saturday morning. Snowball fights ensued.
I’m happy to report that my insane revision period is over. For the moment. The editing was strong with me this weekend, but I did have some forced breaks mixed in. Also some spontaneous breaks, otherwise known as procrastination, which led me to find my Patronus is a St Bernard. I know.
Anway, while not working, we went for walks along the Ruhr. Since we live about 2 km from the river, we tend to find ourselves next to it quite often. This weekend, however, we followed paths yet unexplored.
Last week, I bombarded you with images of snow. This week, it’s ice. You see a theme here? This winter has been more than a smidge colder than last, but the weather brings many new experiences for those of us originally from warmer parts.
We live close to the River Ruhr, but we also have other water in our area – fountains galore. Having said that, all of these fountains are usually turned off to dry when the daylight savings kick in and the cold starts. This means we’ve never seen water freeze over in the winter. Until this weekend, that is.
If you’ve hung around the blog, you’ll know we’re a family of South Africans living in Germany. Johannesburg is our hometown, and is overall not a very snowy place. In fact, we’re used to truckloads of sunshine all year round, with some thunderstorms in the warm season.
We find European weather a strange phenomenon. Here we have misty drizzle and near-constant overcast in the winter, with weather patterns that shift because a baby farted. One thing we’re particularly fond of, though, is snow.
My baby turned three yesterday, folks. Three. I can’t even.
I baked the cake on Monday afternoon, cleaned the house, wrapped the gifts and then Jan and I decorated the cake in the evening.
We woke up to Kayla bellowing something about her birthday party yesterday morning. 🙂 From there on, it was gift opening, playing, crafts, skype sessions, her friend coming over, cake and waffle eating. We ended the day with a stroll through the city centre and a happy meal – which I didn’t photograph.
We spent Kayla’s first two Christmases in South Africa, but for the one she was 6 weeks old and for the other, just over a year. So I doubt she remembers much. Last year, we didn’t want to make too much of a fuss, because our apartment was still temporary and we didn’t want to buy too much stuff to have to move with. That meant we had no tree. Still, I think she was too young to really appreciate all of the Christmassy stuff.
This year though, Kayla demanded that we buy and decorate a tree.
First of all, I apologise for missing yet another blog post on Friday. I went to my German lesson as always, then received the bad news that one of our doggies in South Africa passed away. I was really sad and shocked by the news, which really just jumbled my mind, I accomplished nothing for the day.
Along with that, Kayla is almost three and Kayla approves of nothing because she is almost three. Good grief, sometimes motherhood is difficult.
Anyway, this weekend went in much the same fashion as our weekends tend to go lately. We met with Mario and Plamena for coffee on Friday afternoon. I totally had ice cream, because, reasons.
Hope your weekend was good. Mine sure was. I didn’t take so many photos, but the family and friends will be glad to hear that this post will officially be Kayla-fest. As any typical mother, there will always be tons of photos of my kid. 😛
Inktober is in full swing, but I have honestly been skimming on the drawings. I’m revising and writing. Focusing on more than one project at a time drives me insane – it’s the reason why I rarely read more than one book or watch more than one series at the same time too. Still, I’ve been drawing in the between moments, and I think the added creative endeavour is good for my writing too. It really does help me focus.
So, Oberhausen has a schloss (this word can be used to describe anything from a castle to a manor house – in this case, it’s a manor house) and a park, but we’ve been putting off going there. First of all, the schloss is not that impressive (in our opinions) and we had no idea that Kaiser Park existed, because it doesn’t have a website. Secondly, when we have so many cool places to visit in and around Germany, why would we go to the local spots?
Yeah. We were idiots.
Kaiser Park is amazing and Schloss Oberhausen is quaint. Yes, that’s the word I’m going with. The locals call it the schweinchen schloss – schweinchen being ‘piglet’ – because the schloss is pink. Oink. OK, fine, ‘whimsical’ may have been the better word choice.
Kaiser Park has a free petting farm (we’ve been finding these all over), beautiful river views and hiking trails, and a nice kiosk next to the schloss. There’s also a restaurant and beer garden, if that would tickle your fancy. We’ll go visit the schloss art gallery sometime.
We had a lot of fun here, but nobody loves seeing and feeding the animals as much as Kayla. And then riding in a fire truck trumps all.
I said this last week somewhere and I’ll say it again – I feel as if a train ran over my head, realised it was on the wrong course and then reversed. I’ve been unable to stay fully awake at any given time for about 8 days solid. Hello, Monday.
This weekend was a pretty packed one.
My German lessons usually fall on Friday late mornings, but my teacher was on vacation last week, so I had the day off. This meant getting acrylics up to our elbows. Kayla and I both adore art and painting, so this change in schedule fit both our needs perfectly.
You would never guess from the title, but we had one hellishly warm weekend. In fact, all of last week was the kind of weather where your clothes are perpetually stick to your skin – moist and glistening. Yuck.
All I can say is that a lot of ice cream was involved.
On Friday, our landlady offered to look after Kayla so that Jan and I could have a date night. It was honestly the sweetest thing anyone has done for us since coming to Germany and, considering that Thursday was our year-aversary, it was perfect timing. Yes, friends. Kayla and I have officially been in Germany for a year.
This date night was literally the first one Jan and I have had since moving.
This time though, she totally outdid herself.
When I forwarded my mom a video of a quiet time book in January, I have to admit it wasn’t even a subtle hint. I was preparing to rewrite The Physician’s Apprentice and I could use something to occupy Kayla for those moments when I had to work. So when Mom told me she’s going to try to make a book, I was ecstatic. I mean, I knew it would be good.
I never imagined she’d make this.
It literally took 6 months to make. I have no idea of the cost involved, but I imagine it was a pretty penny. And my mom’s poor hands and shoulder suffered for this work of art.
Prepare to feast your eyes on the mother of all quiet time books.
This title is probably a little misleading, because everyday is ‘girl’s day’ in my house. You know, because I stay at home with Kayla and all that. The difference is that we don’t usually have girl’s days on weekends when Jan is home.
Last week from Thursday to Sunday was Gamescom in Cologne and, being the calibre of geek that we are, Jan and I really wanted to go. Unfortunately, they don’t allow kids under the age of three, so Jan went on Saturday, leaving me and the Kayster to our own devices.
And… as always, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Friends – castles. Over the weekend, we saw three of them. OK, fine, we saw one castle and two palaces, but you get the general idea. We also visited some monuments, a small fort with an actual moat and drove between two countries. It was amazing.
Here’s how it went down.
Hi there, folks! I am indeed back in the northern hemisphere and back to blogging / work. Of course, before I can get to blogging about other stuff again, I know you want to see my vacation photos and hear about what we got up to.
First of all, I have to warn you that we didn’t really do anything other than be with family and friends. As in, we didn’t go sightseeing or exploring. I mean, we’re from South Africa, so we’ve seen a lot of what Johannesburg has to offer. Also, we wanted to soak up as much time with our loved ones as possible. This means that I tried to be in the moment and experience the moment, without looking at the moment through my cell phone screen.
This means that most of the photos I’m going to share with you today were taken by friends and family. For the most part, you’ll see the faces of the folks we love and little else. But I know you don’t mind. 😀
Since discovering Schloss Styrum, it’s been one of our favourite hangout spots. And of course we had to go see the little aquarium they have there, especially considering we have a kid who is CRAZY about fish.
This little aquarium is open on Sundays and is free to view. So obviously, we’ve been there twice. 😛
It’s much different from zoos in South Africa, but it was still a pretty cool experience. In SA, the zoos are bigger and tend to have a greater variety of animals. It makes sense, because a lot of the animals are native to Africa.
Don’t get me wrong, Duisburg zoo still had a good variety of animals. What I liked most is that the enclosures tend to be more open, so you can see the animals easily. The lemur enclosure is completely open, so the animals can run in the trees over your head. Instead of fences, the predatory animals are kept behind glass panels, so you don’t have to strain to see through wire.
These photos are actually from my Mother’s Day weekend. It’s late, I know, but I was writing a novel! Yes, the keyword in that sentence is ‘was’. More on that soon. 😀
With the amazing spring weather, we’ve been sightseeing a lot lately. There are some pretty awesome sights to see right in our back yard, a fact we didn’t know until recently. You can’t blame us for sticking to indoor activities in our first European winter!
But anyway, sightseeing is how we came across Schloss Broich. It’s like 4 km from our apartment and is adjacent to one of the most beautiful garden parks we’ve been to so far.
Inside the Schloss itself is a mini museum with some treasures from the area in olden days. In fact, as far as we understand, they’re still excavating antiquities on the site, while restoring the tower.
You know how I feel about castles by now, otherwise you must be new here. Welcome! As always when faced with a castle, I was pretty giddy with excitement. Add to it the fact that there’s a museum inside, FREE OF CHARGE, with chainmail and all the old weaponry you can think of, and all my weaknesses were exploited. 🙂
Japan Day is a big thing in Düsseldorf every year. Massive crowds of people dressed as their favourite anime / manga characters (or even some characters that don’t fall into that category), good food, fireworks and a lot of fun is to be expected. It’s a highlight on the calendar! But then, going out to Düsseldorf is a highlight on its own. You know how I feel about that city if you’ve been around my blog before.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The most of my weekend was spent writing. Yes, I’m still not done, but I’m getting there. If all goes according to plan (and it had better), I should be done by the end of next week at the latest. So then stuff on the blog should go back to normal again, I promise.
On Ascension Day, we hopped a train to Werden. This picturesque place is a suburb of Essen and is seriously gorgeous. The buildings are still in the old style and there’s almost a fantasy-type vibe to the old taverns turned cafés. Walking through those cobblestone ways certainly piqued my creative flow.
Then, there’s the parks and greenery. I could tell you how brilliantly green the grass is, or how amazing the trees look. I could tell you how warm the sun was and how tranquil the flow of the river made me feel. But then, I’ve recently been instructed to ‘show, don’t tell’, and you know what they say about pictures and words. 🙂 So, have a look!
We’ve been living in Germany for seven months. Can you believe that?
It’s been interesting. We’ve been adapting. There are still better days and worse days, but overall, we’re finding our feet. Jan is starting with German classes soon, and our landlady has undertaken to teach me too. Once he learns, I’m sure my own learning will accelerate. Honestly, I’ve been so caught up in my book, that I haven’t focussed on learning German like I used to. It’s my fault, I know. I just have divided priorities between my kid and hubs, my writing and keeping house. Being a work at home mom is difficult enough without adding learning a language to that. 😛 But as soon as the book is in for round two of edits, I’ll throw myself at learning German again.
OK. Obligatory update out of the way. (If you want a more detailed update, let me know.)
So spring in Germany. I mean, WOW.
Fair warning, this is going to be an image rich post. 😛
We set out for London from Düsseldorf airport in pretty much perfect weather. The flight itself was only 55 minutes, but of course we stood in the line at passport control for over an hour and a half. 🙂
I honestly don’t blame the airports for the higher security than usual, with all of the terrorist activity lately. Having said that, waiting in line with an exhausted and irritated toddler is no fun for anyone. Including the people waiting in a radius near said toddler. At least some people made the best of the situation and tried to keep Kayla occupied by playing peek-a-boo with her. Awesome people still exist.
Anyway. We were lucky enough to be able to rent a car for the week. I love public transport, but having wheels for a week was still awesome. It makes me miss having a car at our disposal, not that I would drive it personally. 😀 So, after we got through passport control, we met Willem and picked up the car.
Obviously, there was a lot of wedding stuff happening during the week. This means that our sightseeing time was limited. Not to mention the fact that we were sick. Don’t ask me how these things happen, but I reckon our vacation illness was a pre-runner to our back-home illness (more on that here).
Continuing on the other day’s shape-thing‘s wave, my mom made a second cool gift for Kayla. This one is a fishing dam with glittery fish and fishing poles.
And it’s just as easy to make and effective at occupying little hands as the shape-a-ma-jig.
What makes this one great is that Kayla can fish on her own or one of her parents can join her. She loves fishing with Mom or Dad and then mimics what we do. If we catch a green or purple fish, she’ll aim for one of the same colour. The concentration on her face is priceless too.
Once again this is a great teacher of colour and awesome for fine motor skills. It also installs concepts about magnetism and movement, because Kayla realises now that when she moves the fishing pole too much (AKA wildly), she can’t catch fish. She knows she has to move it slowly. Slow is a big thing for a two-year-old. 😛
When my folks came to visit, my mom brought some cool hand-made gifts for Kayla. I mentioned in a post that I would share more about these gifts with you, so I’m doing that now.
As a mom of a two-year-old who still has her own things to do and ambitions in life, I’m always looking for educational and effective ways to keep my kid busy so I can see to other things. The house doesn’t clean itself, after all. Note to self, I really need to invest in a Roomba.
Anyway. My mother had this genius idea to make Kayla a shape chart? A shape puzzle? It’s a shape-a-ma-jig. She probably found it on Pinterest, knowing my mom, but I’m giving her full credit for this awesome invention. And the best part is you can make it too. You’re welcome. 😛
Coming from Johannesburg, I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t seen real snow before in my life. Sure, there were two occasions, but I’ve never seen enough of it to cover the ground. This is why moving to Europe had me hopeful for some snow this winter.
Of course, it doesn’t really snow in our part of Germany. According to all of the people we know who have lived here all of their lives, it only snows here once every three or four years, and then never for more than three days at a time. This year, the forecasts for snow were few and far between, and the locals never believed it would really snow.
Until one fateful morning.
Continuing from yesterday, I’m going to share more pics with you from my brother in law’s visit.
On Sunday we went to CentrO’s Christmas Market and on Monday we visited an amazing indoor kid’s playground in Oberhausen. Kayla had a blast, but I have to admit that we ‘adults’ had just as much fun. I know a few people who would love it there too (AKA Franco and Lorenzo). We’ll definitely be going back there when my folks arrive.
We had some yummy treats at the Christmas Market and I bought my first gifts for my loved ones back in SA. Here are some shots of that.