Sunday, November 23, 2008

(snow)man's best friend

We drove home from dinner with friends on Friday night in a scary snowstorm and woke up on Saturday to find six inches of the white stuff covering the yard. Boy12 used almost all of it (plus a few leaves and a bunch of dirt) to make a snowman, carrot courtesy of our helpful neighbour.

More snow to come. Whee. It's officially winter. Now where did I put my skis?

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

the past and the present

In the little corner of the universe I take up space in, they're celebrating St. Martin's Day and the start of the Carneval season. Click on the links to take you back to my 2005 posts on both of these.

We didn't have any children knocking on the door for candy this year, as is the custom in our area, but just for fun I made some Weckmänner, yeasty little men symbolizing St. Martin. I'm sure St. Martin never looked like that, but these guys tend to develop distinct personalities in the oven.

Besides the celebrations, these past few days have been very full in a historical sense. Where I come from, today is Remembrance Day or Poppy Day, also known as Veteran's Day or Armistice Day in other parts of the world. Lots of commemorations going on.

Germany certainly has its share of remembering to do as well. November 9 is a key date and is sometimes called the Schicksalstag, literally the day of fate, the two most recent events being the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 and the Kristallnacht, a terrible event in Germany's history that took place on November 9, 1938.

Coincidentally, my maternal grandmother's birthday was also on November 9 so I did a little personal remembering and reflecting of my own on Sunday. Nonna passed away in 1983 and I miss her every day.

I wonder what she would have thought of the world we live in now?

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

monstrous monsters

A rep from Oxford University Press recently approached me and asked if I'd do a review of a childrens' bilingual language-learning book. Having had the pleasure of raising two bilingual children myself, I'm happy to oblige.

Compiled by Neil Morris and lovingly illustrated by David Melling, German First Words is part of The Oxford First Words Series. It is labeled as a 'thematic bilingual picture book with over 400 words in German and English' and recommended for 4 to 8 yr olds.

Each double page of this book covers a different area. A large illustration in the middle is bordered on the left and right by miniature drawings accompanying German vocabulary in bold print and an English translation in a smaller font. Everday themes such as home, school and shopping are mixed with more exotic fare - dinosaurs, stone age man, ancient Egyptians and fairy tales stir up a child's imagination and enrich his vocabulary.

Now, this format is nothing new. We had many books of this type when my children were young (in the opposite language constellation, of course). They loved them and learned from them. It's the illustrations that make the book really special. Every time you come back for more you'll discover something new, something that will most likely bring a big smile to your face.

As a wonderfully funny touch, right in the middle of the book a family of ungeheure Ungeheuer (monstrous monsters in English) shows up to get in on the fun. These little monsters aren't really monstrous at all, they're really quite adorable and go about their daily lives just as you and your family would.

Bonus material at the back includes sections on counting, telling the time, weather, opposites, shapes and colours as well as a word-picture matching game. Whether you're a German parent in a foreign country trying to teach your child your native language, or just someone interested in the language for fun, this is a book that can grow with your child and be used for years in many different ways.

As luck would have it, the books in the First Word series are also available in French/English and Spanish/English versions. Here's the blurb from the bottom of the press release in case I've piqued your interest.

Oxford First Word Series
by David Melling and Neil Morris, will be published, in paperback,
by Oxford University Press on November 6, 2008
$12.95 / 48 full color pages / ISBN: 978-0-19-911002-5[French],
978-0-19-911004-9[Spanish], 978-0-19-911003-2[German]

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thanks, America...

...for choosing the right man for the job. Change is a Good Thing and y'all have made this Canadian in Germany very happy (yes, I cried when he gave his speech). And if I'm happy, I can just imagine how happy YOU must be.

Speaking of change and the right man for the job, Mr. M is right in the middle of remodelling our upstairs bathroom from stem to stern. I'm all itchy from the dust already. New ceiling, new lights, new commode, new bathtub, new flooring - the works. And maybe even a new bathmat and a few matching towels. That will be my department.

It's a big job, but we can do it.

Yes we can!

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Monday, November 03, 2008

as far as I'm concerned, it's still Halloween

At our house it ain't over until the pumpkin starts growing mold.

I'm about to grow mold or moss or something any minute myself. Yes, I do shower daily, but I've been so slooooow lately that some might take me for an inanimate object. I walk slowly, I think slowly and I get things done so very slowly that Casa Messy del Norte is really in dire straights at the moment. I blame it on The Malaise. You guys know all about that.

Anyway, back to Halloween. We had a couple of friends over on Friday night to join in the festivities.

We gave Boy12 free reign with the table decorations. He was only halfway through at the time I took the picture. Didn't he do a scary job?

Nothing like random body parts to whet the appetite.

The swamp soup and roasted bat wings went over well, as did the Halloweenie mummies...

Curses! We're done for!

...and the skeleton cookies for dessert

If only I had paid more attention in anatomy class!

You can't have Halloween without a pumpkin. When I first moved here they were pretty hard to find. Now you can get them all over the place in every shape and size.

We had two this year. The one on the left is the real McCoy. The right one is a wooden jack-o-lantern I found at a craft store for €1.99 and painted myself. Year-round Halloween fun!

Along with the pumpkins come the pumpkin seeds - almost the best part, I'd say. I varied with tradition and tried out a new recipe. These Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, flavoured with sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cumin and a pinch of cayenne pepper are a really interesting variation on the regular roasted and salted seeds. Definitely worth a try.

And last but not least, my little tribute to fall. Is there anything cuter than an ornamental gourd? Mr. M brought me these beauties last week. The three wee ones outside of the basket are ceramic but also look quite real. I love them - I can't help it!

Well, it's the beginning of another week. My to-do list is a mile long. Now that I have (finally!) blogged, I can get down to business and start getting something done. Maybe.

Keep smiling - it makes people wonder what you've been up to. ~Author Unknown

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