A serious highlight of 2017 was The Great British Baking Show. We--all six of us--watched it together this summer. Television that entertains preschoolers and 30-somethings is hard to come by.
Yesterday at the grocery store, we saw a familiar cake. On the show, Mary Berry introduced us to the prinsesstårta. Here it was for sale in Freiburg! We all remembered the green dome and agreed it would be the perfect treat for New Year’s Eve.
I bought Gingerbread house kits before Christmas. We opened them this afternoon and learned a few things. One, frosting is not included. Two, the gingerbread is actual bread instead of the rock-hard crackers we see at home. Three, a candy black cat is a necessity on a German gingerbread house.
Getting Ready for the New Year
Germans seem a little too sensible for fireworks. Yet, I hear them now.
I have seen them for sale at the grocery along with shamrocks, pigs, and ladybug decor. These are all apparently good luck charms for the new year. I'll take it.
Lots of Family Time
We almost made it a week before Errol looked into Christmas break day camps.
These were my favorite Christmas presents. Thom and VIn made beeswax candles on their last day of school. Thom was especially proud of the heart he painted on his.
Today we took a day trip to the town of Baden-Baden. We hit a playground and their Christmas market--our new December routine. It is fun for a town to be named twice. Ned obviously finds humor in it too:
“Do you know what language they speak in Baden-Baden?”
-hysterical laughter from four-year-old-
It was a lovely holiday. We took our first family bike ride this morning. The sun was shining, very few cars were on the roads, and we were running late for church. Perfect biking conditions!
Our Virginian friends came over in the afternoon. We took a nice walk to the soccer field at the forest’s edge. Somewhat hilariously, Thom rode to a different park, but we reunited eventually.
Christmas dinner was delicious and fun. I am so happy to have these friends to celebrate the season.
We are back in Freiburg after a great trip to Zurich. Three days away is about perfect for this crowd. It’s also the max I can pack for the kids without doing laundry on the trip.
Besides the train back to Freiburg (always Neddy’s favorite part of any trip), the highlight of Zurich for most was the FIFA World Football Museum on Friday. The adult admission fee was a little high (24 CHF) so I volunteered to skip it. When we reunited, everyone was bursting to tell their stories from the museum: holding the World Cup trophy, commentating games, the gift shop! Definitely money well spent for my soccer-crazy loves.
Earlier on Friday, we went to the Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich. This was a perfect place for our family to spend a few hours on a rainy winter day. It wasn’t crowded, free, and fun. The kids got to look at many specimens with a microscope, listen to creature sounds, and (my favorite) put together giant wooden puzzles.
Originally, we were planning on taking a day trip to an Alpine town. Sadly, it rained most of Friday, and we couldn’t go yesterday because Errol didn’t want to miss the annoyingly-timed one o’clock Barcelona/Real Madrid game. Instead, before the soccer game, we hiked the nearby peak, Käferberg. On our walk back to the apartment, we cut through a cemetery and stumbled upon the grave of Einstein’s first wife.
After the soccer game, we went back out and visited two Christmas Markets. One had a live singing Christmas tree! We were lucky enough to be there during a performance. I had Lee on my shoulders, and I loved hearing his little voice sing along to some of the German carols he has learned in kindergarten.
The second market was down near Lake Zurich, in front of the Opera House. We bought the kids hot churros and watched ice skaters and fairies on stilts before heading back up to Oerlikon for the night.
Our train to Freiburg left at noon today. The kids explored two nearby playgrounds before we left, and we followed crowds through the BahnhofMarkt. This indoor Christmas Market is famous for its tree covered in Swarovski crystals. It literally sparkles.
In our last hours, Errol commented, “Well, I don’t feel like we were totally fleeced.” Indeed. Switzerland is expensive, but it’s doable for a large family on a budget. Our secret is staying somewhere with a kitchen. This saves us money on not going out to eat; and, as a bonus, we get to experience new grocery stores.
We shared a train compartment with an elderly Swiss woman on the way back to Freiburg. She didn’t speak English, but she appeared to enjoy the kids’ carol singing--especially the German ones. She even started to sing along sometimes. It was very sweet.
Yesterday we left Freiburg for a few days in Zurich. Besides the Basel airport, it's my first visit to Switzerland. I've been warned about how expensive it is, but, so far, it hasn't been too harsh. Errol went out for his essentials last night and reported that prices in the Zurich Aldi are very close to those in Freiburg's Aldi.
Thom and I took a quick tour of the neighborhood we're staying in to find Errol some coffee. We both liked the looks of Zurich and are looking forward to seeing more!
Birthday-ish Trip to the Kino
We celebrated Vinnie turning seven with a couple of her friends today. Her birthday was almost six weeks ago, but I kept putting off the party. Errol takes them to school and picks them up each day so I don’t know most of the parents or kids. Finally, I mustered up the energy to put the pieces together. It helped that Vinnie wanted to invite the son of someone from their school that I know and enjoy.
I suggested to Vinnie we go to the movies. Paddington 2 was her first choice, but I didn’t get my act together in time. We settled for the new Pixar movie, Coco. It was very good. Unfortunately, they only play the original version (in English/German subtitles) once a week. Coco’s OV showing is Wednesdays at 5.45 p.m. This isn’t the greatest timing for first graders, but I decided to just do it.
I felt a bit anxious when we met them at the tram stop coming home from school. Errol warned me with a look that having these two extra first graders for six hours would be tough. It was.
Vinnie was so tired tonight, she cried uncontrollably. Nothing like screaming tears of insanity make a mother feel appreciated!
Anne Thomsen lord
Writings on our year abroad.