Friday, March 30, 2007

EDM challenge (something fresh)

When I saw this challenge on Every Day Matters it took me most of the week to think of something to draw. Then one day while brewing one of many cups for the day, I thought that this must be one of my most favourite smells ever. I am one of those people who would sell their own mother for a strong coffee first thing in the morning. I really enjoyed drawing this, but then I thought I really have not done justice to such a wondrous thing as good coffee. Now I'm filled with inspiration to research and draw a homage to this heavenly stuff. Which is fortunate, because next week we have a few days in Paris. I've been once before a couple of years ago, we dragged the kids into cafes every couple of hours to have a fix of Espresso and when we got back to Melbourne, I remember it took 2 months to get over the disappointment of not being able to find coffee of French quality.
Now I'm pretty excited because when my husband's contract is up in June we're going travelling and I'm strongly pushing for a trip to Italy, first for the Espresso then for the art. I'm currently reading 'A year in the world' by Frances Mayes. She describes the disappointment on her husband's face each time he experiences a coffee that is below par. I know that feeling of being short changed so well. If anyone knows of great cafes in Paris or Napoli let me know!
BTW I am sorry about the slightly blurry quality of these photos, I have no access to a tripod while I'm on the road. First thing when we get home, I'm buying a scanner!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Unschooling moments

As parents who homeschool, we focus on the tools for learning rather than what is learned. We try to instill a love for learning, reasoning that once they have this they can learn anything they need. In our house we try to treat the "Why?" stage very seriously. You know that stage- when your kid starts asking questions more or less constantly from waking until passing out? It takes a lot of energy to keep thinking of answers to questions like- 'what's a lie?' ,'what's truth?' 'what's his name?' what's his name again?'
and then 30 minutes later going through the whole script again. The reason why we do this, is to keep curiosity alive, to let our kids know that curiosity is a most valuable thing and will take them everywhere they want to go in their adult lives. But.....there is a down side to it.
The other day we were walking around the Elisenbrunnen here in Aachen, it's a lovely building built above hot springs, it has fountains and stairs and all sorts of things that children find entertaining. The kids decided to run around the grassed area and I ambled slowly behind. I noticed them both standing still studying something they had found on the ground.
"Mum! What is this?"
"Aaah, a chance to enlighten their lovely little minds!" I thought. I came to where they were and squatted down to see better.
"erggh! it's dog poo!" (most astounded they hadn't figured this out for themselves.)
My daughter nodded solemnly and as we all watched, promptly put her foot in it and gave it a good ol squish! This is what you get for encouraging a child's curiosity, I'm afraid.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bowl 2

The serious bowl has been done, now for the not so serious one! The idea came to me at a place where I'm sure lots of people find inspiration. Also reminded me of one of my all-time favourite poems -
'With Sincerest Regrets' by Russel Edson
Like a white snail the toilet slides into the living room, demanding to be loved.
It is impossible, and we tender our sincerest regrets.
In the book of the heart there is no mention made of plumbing.
And though we have spent our intimacy many times with you, you belong to an unfortunate reference, which we would rather not embrace.......
The toilet slides out of the living room like a white snail, flushing with grief.......

Thursday, March 22, 2007

EDM challenge (the bowl)

Now that I've posted this, I can see a few bits I would like to build up more. This colour business feels awful strange too! Ok, I'm off to check out all your bowls.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The language window

The German language is damn hard to learn! Don't let people tell you otherwise! I studied Japanese for one year and could carry on a decent conversation and I could write both Japanese scripts as well as some Kanji (the Chinese characters used in Japanese writing.) Admittedly I haven't been studying German for long but I am living in the country and having to use it everyday. When I learnt Japanese, I did it without ever visiting the country.
I've just been eavesdropping on the kids playing-
DS "Look DD, here's my shop, what are you going to buy?"
DD " A widdle kidden, an a widdle dog, an a wamm, an a poddy.
(Translation: A little kitten, a little dog, a little lamb and a potty.)
DD "Wait! I habben buy-deded dem yet!
I suspect this is how I sound when I attempt to speak German, however DD is probably more grammatically correct. I just don't understand how my lovely little girl can mispronounce every English word that comes out of her mouth, yet I heard her whispering 'Sponge Bob Schwamm Kopf', 'Nein', 'Schuhe' and 'tschuss' in perfect German!

EDM challenge (the flame one)

I keep forgetting which number we're up to. Well, actually I'm not keeping up, but that's neither here or there. Not terrifically happy with this, I don't know why- I just have a sense of.......blahhh. I'm steeling myself to actually venture into colour. Think I need to change methods to shake myself up a bit. Thanks to DH for once more doing a handsome job of my hand model. Remember that Seinfeld episode when George was discovered as a Hand Model? BTW this is a lighter for the stove!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

An example of Unschooling

People are often confused about what kind of homeschooling we do. I don't think I ever answer this one to the Questioner's satisfaction because it's all so nebulous and instinctive. Here's an example- We took the kids to the Reliquary here in Aachen, there were all sorts of beautiful objects made about the 10th Century. At a place like this there are so many opportunities to hopefully inspire some learning. After browsing about, well DH and myself browsed, (DS and DD amused themselves by trying out various chairs about the museum.) DH came upon a huge, well lit display case. It was empty. After a few moments in front of this he turned away resignedly and said-
"I thought there might be a trick to it."
"What were you waiting for? A hologram?" I replied with uncharacteristic sarcasm.
Just then DS came up and asked us what a hologram was.
"Well, it's, ummm, you know, like a picture made with light......"
He looked at me blankly.
"It's ummm, well...... I know! You know that bit out of Star Wars episode 4, where R2D2 projects that message! It's a hologram of Princess Leia!"
His face lit up with recognition, and I felt all smug with my expertise with making relevant cross references.
That's unschooling, you go about your day trying to set up meaningful learning environments and end up with Star Wars as your main learning resource.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

EDM challenge (the clock one)

Because we are staying in Germany at the moment, we are living in an apartment supplied by the company. There is only one clock in the whole place, it's a digital one in the bedroom that I might look at maybe twice during the night. I do however, have a mobile time service, chiefly my DH who thought this choice of subject was very apt. He now refers to himself as my Talking Clock. Oh, and a big thanks to Karen and Sydney who gave me some pointers on taking clearer photos. I'm without a tripod, and if I were to go outside, I would have to go stand on the pavement 6 flights of stairs below, but with your tips I did manage a clearer image by stabilising the camera and standing next to the window, Ta!

self portrait

I've posted this only because in order to change my profile image without an url to the photo, I had to publish my image of choice. So I think it can stay awhile after all that.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Boy's Head

This was meant to be my son, but it looks nothing like him. Well, I'll just get around that by giving this little sketch a generic type title. I really need to work on my picture taking methods, they are all a bit blurry.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Things I like

Things I love about Germany-

Toilet cleaner gets rid of Kalk and Schmutz
the"Kick Artz" bakery
silent dogs
professional supermarket cashiers
supermarket trolleys that always drive straight
Bratwurst street vendors
extremely polite people

The photos above were taken in Maastricht, a Dutch town about an hour away from Aachen. It was very crowded on Sunday, I can't remember the Dutch phrase for it now, but there is a special one for 'first Sunday of the month, Shopping Day." It is definitely popular, as you can see by the bikes, though that really is a particularly Dutch thing. The bike paths are as well or better maintained than the roads. I love that.

I also like the fact that the next day after rain, little umbrella cemeteries pop up around the towns. Is it a special privilege to be the first one to a potential site? I think that person should get some sort of credit for establishing it.

Sunday- a whole day dedicated to purchasing- we came home with yet another baby doll and extra Lego. But we ate a lot of Frites with Mayo, I hereby swear off excessive shopping.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Shopping blues

Good news! Styrofoam goes in the yellow sack! I got up this morning, albeit quite late-ish, and felt overwhelmed by German hygiene standards, and shopping routines. There was that Styrofoam that goes in the sack but has to be broken into minuscule pieces first and there's the chicken carcass that has to be frozen because that bin does not get emptied for another fortnight.......and perhaps I will just stop banging on about it, now to bang on about shopping!
I guess I'm still tackling the everyday shopping like I would back in Australia. I was an enthusiastic advocate for Homeshop, it was so much more enjoyable to shop online and then hang around to have it delivered right into the house all without having to leave the keyboard. I could make a massive order and should a natural or man made disaster hit, we could hole up in the house for a year and live off the supplies.
It's very different here, hunger hits and I realize if we are to eat, I'll have to descend those damn 6 flights of stairs and venture to the local Plus store. I know I sound incredibly lazy but here's the deal. Plus is about the size of a postage stamp, it's difficult to manoeuvre the pram around, the kids think it's just another play area with food. I come out of that joint every time with tense shoulders and guilt that I couldn't pay with the exact money. There's an art to buying groceries here, you pack them yourself at the checkout, you need to be quick and able to count out the exact change at the same time so as not to inconvenience anyone. Maybe I'm paranoid but I feel disapproval emanating from all sides in a shopping type environment.
I guess when in Germany I should follow the Local's lead. Although there are big shopping centres here, people shop there with an apologetic air, there is such a strong culture of buying from smaller specialist shops. Want meat? Go to your butcher, buy fruit and vegies from the Market, buy potatoes from the potato shop (I'm not kidding!) Unfortunately, that type of shopping really requires a bit of daily planning, not really my strong point. The thing is, I hadn't realized before how consumerism driven our society really is. We want it all in the same place,we want a thousand choices and we want to shop 24/7. Believe it or not the shops are closed on Sundays. I had to wean myself off Sunday shopping when I first got here. Shopping is entertainment, but as a result we do work incredibly hard and long in Australia for our shopping privileges. I think people here really value the activities they do with friends and family on non shopping days, they live for a simple walk in the fields as much as they do for a new widescreen. Our equivalent of a family stroll is to first drive the 4wd to Chadstone and spend Sunday traipsing the mall. Having said all that, as a family, we are planning on taking the bus to Holland this Sunday for- heavenly pleasure- Sunday shopping! (But only on the first Sunday of the month.)

Now, you may be wondering why I have posted a photo of the Lego version of the Interceptor from Star Wars. While I'm away, I decided I would do something creative everyday. I've been crocheting, writing and drawing but yesterday DS needed my urgent help to put this baby together. He did a great job with the starting pieces, and with the more difficult parts, I found the pieces and he really studied the instruction booklet and managed quite a bit of it on his own. However, he began to tire after a couple of hours so I took over and I was so pleased with my finished piece! Lego is so satisfying! I'm saving up a little nugget of information that I will share with DS when he comes of age, but I'll share it with you now- You can actually have a career making lifesize Lego sculptures! What a wonderful World we live in! A little later in the day, I did actually do some drawing, which are shown above.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


You might wonder why I always complain about being busy. Well, today I'm going to tell you. It's the recycling. This is the recycling routine I need to follow in Germany:
Paper- needs to be clean and not packed together in boxes or such. Goes in bin with blue lid. Can be taken to the recycling bins at the Supermarket but then needs further sorting into paper and cartons.
Glass- is sorted into Brown, Green, Clear and needs to be placed in the proper community recycling bins found around the neighbourhood. Must not be done during 'quiet time' 1-2pm. Beer bottles, Wine bottles and water bottles must be returned to the supermarket from which you purchased them. Or, if you can't be bothered, just give them to the drunks at the train station and they will return them for the refund.
Bio tonne- this is any compostable matter like food scraps. This one is relatively easy to do.
Gelbe Sack (yellow sack) - seems to be any kind of packaging, I love the fact that you shove all kinds of plastic into this! Only problem is the distribution of these sacks is done by the apartment owners and sacks are only given to buildings once a year. So there is some rationing required.
All the other stuff- used tissues (Must not be placed in Biotonne bin!) Meat scraps ( I think?!) this is a problem, this bin gets emptied every fortnight!

This system took me weeks to figure out. So I think I've got it all sorted (Ha!Ha!) The only things that keep me awake at night are DH's blatant disregard for any of it and the fact that I have a whole chicken carcass and a few big blocks of styrofoam I can't seem to get rid of with a clear conscience.


So grey and rainy at the moment. A sharp contrast to the weather in Australia ,I know. It's hard to imagine spending more than 30 minutes at a time outside. Bring on the park weather!
We're now in our larger apartment, when it's time for us to return home, I just know we'll be absolutely horrified by all we've accumulated in 6 months. One of the pleasures of travelling is only having to worry about the contents of a few suitcases, it's so refreshing to be so unencumbered! However, it's a fact of life that people shop. And being of an artistic temperament, I am so seduced by 'things', I love the toy shops here! I'm going to have to start going to them on my own though, it's too hard trying to get out of those places without desperate pleas from the kids for things and I feel cruel if I buy a toy for myself only.
Apart from shopping, we've been attempting to follow a Steiner curriculum for DS. He's up to the letter E so far. He's quite pleased about learning real writing but has a lot of trouble remembering the phonetic sounds of letters. He knows all his capital letters however, because we're always spelling words for him to type into log in pages on the PC. I think we'll have to start using words such as 'Encyclopedia' and perhaps 'Gesundheit' as passwords to help him boost his vocabulary! Apart from writing practice he's been drawing a lot of monsters, we've made our own calendar and talked about the seasons. In this curriculum they have a very creative approach to maths, I've read several stories about the 4 gnomes- plus, times, minus and divide and we've been practicing sums with a big bowl of walnuts. We've pressed some flowers to learn about plants and DS wants to start learning to play the recorder. I think music is big business here, there's lots of music shops about and DS keeps looking longingly at the piccolo recorders all in pieces in beautiful wooden boxes. These cost about 125 euro, I hope he's not to disappointed with the budget version I'm planning on getting for him.
And what is DD doing in this wonderfully enriched learning environment? She has developed a passion for eating a bowl of Hungarian flavour chips concurrently with a bowl of crunchy cereal with milk. They have to be served up at exactly the same time. While it might seem a little worrying that she shows more interest in this than say- any kind of education, I see a powerful CEO in her personality!