Sunday, June 28, 2015

Segue with Pop Quiz!

On Friday, Fritz and I celebrated our first Schnapszahl anniversary. Schnaps-, like the alcohol and -zahl, meaning "number" in German. It is our eleventh anniversary. I guess, if you drink too much schnapps, you see double digits. Therefore: our first Schnapszahl anniversary, or the 11th. (Our second Schnapszahl anniversary will be the 22nd, then the 33rd, and so on...)

One of the things that happens after 11 years of marriage is you stop paying attention to (newer?) traditions like this. The photo above is on the Alte Main Bridge in Würzburg, Germany. Supposedly, when a couple is in love, they put a lock on the bridge and throw away the key. In Paris, they've had to cut locks off the bridges because the quantity has begun to endanger the structural stability of the bridge.

Have you ever noticed how strawberry shortcakes rely on gelatin for structural stability? I'm not a fan of gelatin. I'm a pile-it-on-and-let-it-fall-apart type person. I like to think the taste of my strawberry shortcake totally compensates. I made this one for Father's Day last weekend. Our cake serving utensil has this off-set handle, see? So clever if your cake is apt to fall apart!

I'm not sure if this fork is particularly clever, but it did make me smile. Noah and I tried to come up with additional, non-traditional fork uses for it. It was a challenge. If you've got something, let us know. Okay: Pop Quiz! (With an answer at the end of this post!) What are the hooks on the side of this motorcycle for?

Sometimes, I have the feeling that something is so obvious once I know the answer, that the surprise isn't the answer; the surprise is that I didn't know/think of it/see it. Like the font on the sign below. SURE! Why not inscribe letters in circles? That looks neat! Surely, I must have seen this before and yet – yet! –  I can't possibly tell you where that might have been....

 Answer to the Pop Quiz: the hooks on the side of the motorcycle are for a surfboard. Maybe that's obvious if you live on the coast?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


We spent last week recovering from jet lag, doing laundry and trying to get back into the swing of things. Of course, being summer and school being out, means that there is no regular swing of things. There are camps and swim lessons and a visit from my parents, carefully sprinkled throughout the summer to keep everyone a (hopefully) comfortable mix of (self-)entertaining and entertained.

In the summer, I feel particularly unable to keep up with the kids' mess destruction. I don't know what's worse: the wake of 'play' or all the eating/snacking. Sometimes I am better at letting it go than other times. I remember that the whole reason I am here at home with them anyway is NOT to be a maid, or look good in yoga pants, or have a perfectly designed home, or fill my blog with a curated version of life. Rather, I want to enable the kids to have the kind of summer in which they build stuff, have a lemonade stand, and eat home-created popsicles. Having that kind of summer often means I have to suspend my own desires / wants / expectations. And then, sometimes, I just can't take it anymore and I stick them in front of a screen so that I can at least mow the grass and mop the floors. (And then my mind feels a bit clearer for the 60 seconds before chaos breaks loose again.)

The sign should say 'freshly squeezed AND store bought lemonade. Because, you know, whatever.

Generally, it is worth noting: I am so, so happy to no longer have any big, looming THINGS: No exchange student. No loaner car because mine is in the body shop. No new car to buy. No loft-to-bedroom conversion. No basement finishing. No living with 5 people in the same bedroom. No pending month-long travel with 3 kids to another continent. No living in other people's spaces. Ahhhh!!! It sounds crazy to complain; but all those things have happened in last 11 months. And while it has been an exciting time, it has also been stressful. Maybe it makes the daily grind of a garden that needs weeding and dishes that should be washed a little less urgent.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Boiling an Egg in Iceland

Mattias and Noah watch a German television program called Sending Mit Der Maus, which does kid-oriented documentaries on various subjects. In an episode about Iceland, as a demonstration about how Iceland is volcanic, they cook an egg in a hot spring. Ever since Mattias saw this episode he has wanted to "cook an egg in a volcano." He has wanted to do it so badly, that it became The Most Important Part of our Iceland Stopover.

We were warned in advance by several natives of Iceland that this was very dangerous and we must be very careful. Hot springs are truly very hot. And the ground isn't always stable around hot springs. Finding the place to boil the egg was going to be a challenge. On one flight, a man from Iceland typed the name of a place where we might go to boil an egg onto Fritz's iPhone. We were never able to locate this place on a map. And google didn't seem to recognize it, either.

At first, Fritz wanted to scan the landscape for steam rising into the air and then take off driving across the landscape in the direction of the steam. I vetoed this plan on account of the notice plastered on the passenger side of our rental car, basically telling us we were not to go off-roading in the vehicle. Also, kids in the car! Kids in the car!

Then we decided we should start by visiting the geyser named Geysir. It's a major tourist attraction. Except Geysir doesn't erupt with the frequency of Strokkur, so instead we saw Strokkur erupt, not Geysir. It looked like this:

Hmmm. Well, that's hard to see. How about here, in the background:

The areas around the geysers were filled with bubbling hot springs. They were all roped off. I spent most of my time chasing Trixie away from the ropes while Fritz spent his time scheming how we could drop an egg over the ropes and into a hot spring with some sort of fishing pole.

The whole thing made me think about my parent's trip to Yellowstone a few years ago. They complained a lot about how disrespectful the German tourists were at Yellowstone. I've never been to Yellowstone, but I understand there is a huge effort on the part of Yellowstone to protect the fragile ecosystem of the geysers and springs. Apparently, the German tourists my parents ran into were not very respectful at all. The trampled in place they shouldn't and ignored ropes and signs. This partially surprises me, because Germans can be so uptight about following procedure. And it partially doesn't surprise me, because, look: here I was at similar tourist attraction and my German husband was trying to talk a German-speaking tour guide into giving him her walking stick so that he could put an egg in a sock, and tie string to the sock, and tie the string to her walking pole, and then dip an egg in the hot spring for 10 minutes while the egg cooks. IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY. Because it didn't explicitly say NO BOILING EGGS.

Fortunately, the guide had a better idea. There's a Geothermal Park in Hveragerði, where they would sell us the eggs and rent us the fishing poles. 

I was relieved.

Also, how cool is a Geothermal Park? Whose ever been to a Geothermal Park?? 

Where you can take a foot bath, 

or see bread being baked by steam,

(Noah is not suppose to be off the path. He must be German. Or just 8 years old.)

or boil an egg?


No, I mean, hot. Very Hot.

Everyone was so happy to boil their egg! It was also very surreal to walk around in the steamy landscape. Descriptions next to the different features were excellent.

Noah and Mattias thought this one was particularly hilarious: Garbage Hot Spring:

Once upon a time it was a mere fumarole that people threw their trash in. After a nearby volcanic eruption, the fumarole erupted, too. It exploded the garbage all over the town and a hot spring appeared in its place (except there was no water in the hot spring while we were there).

Usually, I don't like boiled eggs, but I found my hot spring boiled egg to be especially delicious. We stopped by a restaurant in Hveragerði for lunch, one of the few times we "ate out," where all the food was cooked (on this giant outdoor oven) using heat from the earth. They served the special Icelandic bread which is cooked in the ground so slowly that the sugar caramelizes. It was sweet!

(Grapes hover above Fritz's head in this greenhouse.)
Hveragerði was a really interesting town; if we had known more about it before we arrived, we might have stayed there longer. They grow a lot of food and flowers in geothermally heated greenhouses. They also have a "hot river" a few kilometers hike from town, which sounds particularly intriguing.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Skógar Folk Museum

We are back in Denver. Noah and Max are busy processing everything they saw on vacation by playing it. In spite of the fact that huge amounts of the kids' energy went into doing things that they could be doing almost anywhere, I guess they learned some stuff. I'm still processing too. (I guess I'm just doing it on my blog rather than the living room floor.)

One of the places that was our favorite, as a family, was the Skógar Folk Museum. They have some really neat historic turf farmhouses and historic structures. Generally, I find these types of museums – with lots of old buildings scattered about in a designated area – are fabulous for our younger kids because they can run around between the buildings and release some energy. (Also of note, this is not a living history museum. That, I suspect, would NOT be as successful with little kids.) I wish there had been more information about the buildings, I ended up making up some of my own narrative for the kids, just based on what I observed:

Building were always a cluster of house, stable, workshop, and sometimes food storage shelter. The windows were always south (form warmth and light?) with the northside nestled up against the hill (protection from the chilly polar winds.) The cluster of building on this farm even created a little courtyard open to the south. Kind of cool, right?

On the way to the museum, we had seen some caves and structures that were built right into the mountainside.

Since this is a volcanic and hilly area, I have to believe that there is some danger in being too close to the slope. The kids and I talked about mudslides. Then we observed the way this cluster built an earth damn on the north, rather than digging into the mountainside:

In one of the workshops, we got a hint of how the turf roof was constructed. Heavy timber supporting stone slabs: Interesting!

This is a more finished interior. A bedroom, which is above a stable:

There was also a little set of houses. We think these are elf houses, since IcelandAir informed us inflight that 50% of all Icelanders believe in elves. Although there was no sign confirming what these were.

(I have a photo of this without the crying & scowling child, but I'm posting this one because,
you know, I think it's always important to keep things real.)

The scale of the dandelions on these elf houses makes the dandelions looks like trees, right?(Dandelions grow on the roof of the life-size houses, too.)

If anything, I wanted more information about the buildings and the stuff inside. We might be a little spoiled by a similar museum in Frisco, Colorado, which is quite thoroughly documented.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Humor in the Public Realm

I really like humor used within public spaces. I've been taking photos of some of my favorites over the last month. The first photo is from Germany, the rest are all from Iceland. I do believe that Iceland wins the Funny Award.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Free Admission

We arrived in Iceland on Tuesday and we drove into the countryside on the southside of the island. It is beautiful and amazing and Fritz is grinning from ear to ear in a way that I haven't seen in years.

The kids are still kids. The things that give them the greatest happiness (and that they spend the most time doing) have absolutely NOTHING to do with the exotic location. Just in case we needed a reminder; there's a reason why children are often "Free Admission." Here are some of the things that they are doing that could be done, um, lots and lots of other places.

Collecting Dandelions

Playing with Earthworms

Hanging on Stuff

Sitting on Maps (Presumably the crackle is fun?)

Jumping in Puddles

Throwing Rocks

Building Bridges

Drinking (Eating?) Hot Chocolate with Cream