Friday, September 28

a slice of Germany - Brauhaus Kloster Machern

I am getting a bit behind on my Slice of Germany posts. Perhaps I should spend more time blogging and less time devouring German food and drink? Doubtful! Anyway, several weeks ago we visited the Brauhaus Kloster Machern. We arrived a bit too late to see their museum and gift shop and also had a bit of a time taking photos in the low light, but it was a really enjoyable trip nonetheless. There was a restaurant, an ice cream shop and a small wine shop and cafe, all of which we indulged in. 

We dined on plates of sliced pork with sauce, bratwurst and homemade sauerkraut, then moved next door where Iris had an ice cream and Mama and Papa had glasses of delicious house wine. The area also had a small built-in playground which we shared with Iris before leaving. Brauhaus Kloster Machern was a lovely place to spend a relaxing evening.

A fountain outside the main restaurant.
The wine cafe.
A look inside the wine cafe.
View of the vineyard from the patio.
House wine.
An antique which we think was a pump of some kind.
Enjoying the wafer that came with her ice cream.
She loves her ice cream!

Friday, September 21

finger painting!

I've really been making an effort lately to expose Iris to new sensory experiences. In the past, anything sticky, gooey, mushy or slimy has caused displeasure at best, or even hysterical tears at worst. Experimenting with new projects for her has been fun, now that she can be reasoned with and seems much more open to new experiences. She has learned to push through her trepidation and accept sensory play on her own terms. About a month ago, her first highly successful project became finger painting. She now asks for paint all the time and is very deliberate about the way she paints. Here are a few pictures of her exploring it for the first time. I will post some of her paintings soon!

Poking at primary colors.

"Ehhhh I don't know about this!"

"Look what I can do!"

So proud of herself!

Thursday, September 13

twenty-three months.

Baby, you are now officially sleeping through the night! This is big news, considering the sleep deprivation of the last two years. We had a little bout of regression when you learned that coming out of your room and crying for me would get me out of bed to nurse you. Since we already knew for a fact that you could put yourself back to sleep without me, we decided a little nudge in the right direction was appropriate, considering your age. A few nights ago, we adjusted the baby monitor, made sure your best animal friends Bird, Baah and Pooh were close by, and closed your door for the night. You cried for a few minutes on the first night when you woke at 2am, realizing that you couldn't go to the top of the stairs to call for me. I got out of bed and almost went in to see you, as I don't believe in allowing children to "cry it out," but you settled down quickly and had a nice long conversation with your animals before falling back to sleep on your own! Now, you are going to sleep at 9pm and sleeping for up to 12 hours!

Aside from learning to soothe yourself to sleep, you're trying out all sorts of other new things too! You had your first experience swinging on a real swing recently, during our town's Oktoberfest. After a few minutes of help and practice, you were able to hold on all by yourself while we pushed you gently. As you swung, you learned to say, "no baby - big girl!" You can buckle yourself in your kitchen chair. You can put on your own socks, slippers, sandals, and sometimes pants. You really enjoy choosing your own clothes to wear, an activity which generally ends with you running around with three layers of clothing on. You still haven't gone through the "I want to be naked" phase, nor do you try to take off your diaper. Your favorite thing to wear is pajamas, particularly your silky Elmo ones.  

I've had a pretty bad case of seasonal allergies lately and you've been very sensitive to my well-being, asking "you okay?" every time I blow my nose. You've been feeling a bit under the weather yourself, now that your 2nd year molars are making their way in. Regardless of that, you are still eating quite a lot and nursing a bit less than in the past. We recently discovered that you love pomegranate seeds, and you ask for a "taste?" of new things. Your other current favorite foods include cheese and bean quesadillas and apple cinnamon cheerios with milk.

Lately, I've been trying to involve you more in the process of cooking. If I ask whether you'd like to sit in your chair and help me chop vegetables, you squeal with glee and run for the kitchen. We play music and you sit there watching me chop, naming vegetables and asking for tastes of them. Last night, you did a great job helping me rinse thinly sliced leeks in a bowl of water. Since we're on the topic of kitchens - you are now taking the full initiative to clean messes that you notice such as crumbs or spills all by yourself with a dish towel from the kitchen. You also love to haul the big broom out to sweep things about on the floor. After flies started to frequent our house in the summer, you quickly learned, "shoo fly!" and how to whack at them with a towel. 

Last night, you shocked me when you decided that you were ready to sit on your potty. I have been asking whether you'd like to sit on it every time before bath time, and you've always been adamant about saying, "noooo..." Last night you sat on it for several minutes, not wanting to get off as you tried to make peepee. I am tempted to start helping you learn to use the potty (by the way, I really dislike the term potty "training"), though I am hesitant considering that your little body is already adjusting to a new sleeping pattern right now. 

It's worth mentioning that your favorite things to watch are "Mowgli!" and "Lil Beah!" (The Jungle Book and the show Little Bear.) You are now so in tune with the world that you find things in the movies hilarious and you act out animal noises and sing along with the songs. You are also really enjoying our art and sensory projects that involve coloring, gluing, sorting and more. When we start the weekly homeschooling preschool we've planned with our new friends here in Germany, I just know you will love it! You get so excited about a "fwriend" coming over for a play-date, so I can only imagine the level your enthusiasm when we start getting together with four of them at once!

The last few weeks have been so full of your bright energy and smiles. It seems that so often these days, you do or say something new that causes your Papa and I look at each other with proud smiles, as we share in the experience of your growing. We love you.

Sunday, September 9

a slice of Europe - Belgian Beer Weekend.

Last weekend, as part of my 25th birthday celebration, Marius surprised me with a trip to Belgium for Belgian Beer Weekend! Our enjoyment of beer is like that of a wine connoisseur's enjoyment of wine. There is an expansive world of beer that reaches far beyond the American stereotypes associated with  the drink. Only in the last decade or so has the craft beer movement begun to overpower the watery, flavorless giants of the American industry. There are endless arrays of colors, aromas and flavors, for example amber hues or pitch black malt; floral hops or sweet caramel; spicy cloves or freshly toasted bread. Much as "foodies" or wine connoisseurs enjoy their wares, we also consider the enjoyment of beer a hobby.

A two hour drive brought us to the Grote Markt (Grand Place) of Brussels and the Bourse (Stock Exchange), where the event was held. The Gothic architecture all around us was absolutely stunning! There were dozens of breweries being represented in the Grote Markt, with over 300 different types of Belgian beer! Down the street was a huge beer bar with a different menu, and the Bourse that hosted food pairings. Instead of offering small two ounce samplings of beer, as is seen in the States, only full glasses were offered. Even considering such, we were surprised to discover how responsibility everyone at the event was drinking. We didn't see one person who was overly intoxicated, stumbling, or being rowdy. 

In addition to drinking quite a few beers both familiar and new to us, we got to see horse-drawn brewery carts, costumed representatives of the Belgian breweries, wonderful wandering musical groups, and a few historically significant reenactments involving beer. Nearby, there were dozens of small side streets, paved with cobblestone and cluttered with the tables and chairs of dozens of seemingly identical seafood restaurants. Instead of trying our luck with seafood while we were there (we both grew up right on the east coast, so we're rather picky about where we eat seafood), we left the event before the evening hours set in and opted for a lovely pizzeria, a great little crêpe restaurant, and even Belgian fast food! 

We stayed for two nights at a nice little hotel that offered a decent European style breakfast buffet, and a play area for kids. Iris discovered Rody the bouncy horse and fell in love. She did a great job while we were in Brussels, especially since the brewery tent area was very crowded and she had to stay in her stroller for safety's sake. She did really enjoy toddling around watching all the action on the cobblestone streets with Pooh, eating crêpes and going up and down on the glass elevator in our hotel. It was wonderful to have a little vacation that focused on one of our favorite hobbies, and it was also fun to have the opportunity to speak French again! What a great weekend, thank you my dear Marius! 

Grote Markt of Brussels, the huge square where the brewer's tents were located. 
Grote Markt of Brussels. 
Grote Markt of Brussels. 
Reading to a very patient Iris. 
Drinking Westvleteren Blonde.
Delirium Tremens representatives in a procession towards the Grand-Place.

A musical group passing us in the street.

The Brussels Bourse, where different beer and food pairings were served every hour.
Our beer samples paired with seafood, cheese and a chocolate dessert.
Inside the Bourse. 
Drinking our favorite new find, DeuS (Brut Des Flandres.) It is referred to as "a champagne beer" for good reason!
Two lambics (fruit beers), Oude Geuze and Kriek Mariage Parfait by Boon brewery.
Love and beer.
Drinking a limited hop edition of a favorite beer, Duvel.
Menu for the big bar near the brewers tents.
Bar near the brewer's tents.
Two of the beers we tried.
Historic brewer's carts that passed us on our way to lunch.
Another one of at least half a dozen carts that passed us.
Enjoying another favorite beer at a crêpe restaurant.
We gave Belgian fast food a try, which was delicious... and this was Iris' massive kid's meal and package of toys!
Iris and her new love, Rody! She will be so surprised when he magically shows up for her birthday!
Our souvenirs, most of which we will be aging over the next few years.