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Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Phew!! It's been a while ... German school verses English speaking

Hi there ... it's been a while since my last blog post!! Where has the time gone?  Well I've been busy preparing an LDS missionary and moving my children from German school back to English speaking. It's been BUSY!!

Elder Robertson

Our children attended the International School Frankfurt for the first three years of living here in Germany.  They did really well, however we always had the goal and intention of them integrating into German school after this period of time.  We wanted to be apart of the culture etc etc ....

The time came ... our second son did extremely well socially.  We would expect that as he really is a sunshine child and loves people.  He was even voted in as 'Schulsprecher' ... Head boy of the school.  However academically, with the German school system, he was never going to get the grades he needed for entrance into University.  He was our priority to get moved back into the International school as he is in critical years ... Grade 10.  He now attends Frankfurt International School Frankfurt.  He is excelling and we are very happy.

Rugby match in England with Aunt S and Uncle G

Our third son didn't do too badly academically at first but socially he struggled at first.  Then socially things improved and academically things were not improving enough to be promoted to the next grade.  A new European school opened last September - European School Rhein Main (ESRM) in Bad Vilbel. This was a solution for him and he was able to carry on in Grade 9 so he wouldn't skip a year.

Happy number 3! 
Then our fourth (and last) son who had attended the local Kindergarten and started at the Grundschule (Primary) school was doing OK, but having seen our other children struggle at High School level, we didn't want to take a chance with him.  So guess what? He now attends ESRM too.  What a huge difference to his 3 R's.

and number 4! 

The thing is we just couldn't sacrifice their futures for wanting to make it work.  We tried ... it didn't work ... we found a solution!!

And as for me?  Well I feel a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders.  There is nothing worse for a mother than to see her children struggling. Being able to communicate with their teachers and other staff is just an added blessing!

The important thing to remember is what ever decision you make, it has to be right for your family and not what other people think is right for you.  Make a plan and if the plan doesn't work, change the plan.  All of the experiences have been for the betterment of my children's characters.

We are all settled and thriving!! PHEW!!  Back to aHappyLife! =)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Starting School Party

Our five year old Thomas will be starting school in August.  Having three older brothers, he has been waiting for the time to arrive.  As it approaches he is getting cold feet. Just recently he has decided he would like to stay in Kindergarten after all!! So to get him warmed up on the idea again I am going to throw a 'starting school party' with his little German friends who will be transferring to the same school as he will.  We will be on holiday in England for 2 out of the 3 weeks holiday they get from Kindergarten - in a little boys life, that is a looooonnnnngggg time! This will be a good way of getting them together before so that we can strengthen their friendships.

The apple invitations have been made and given out you can read about that here.  Here's a quick look at how they turned out.

I've been gathering ideas on Pinterest.

I am thinking these would be fun to have as centre pieces and i could have a line hanging across the room and I could peg up their art creations.  I am only going to have 6 or 7 kids attending ... I think I can monitor that many so it doesn't transfer onto my white walls.  =)

This idea has to be my favourite ....
This morning I finished the jam that was in a similar shaped jar to this ... so now I have to buy more jam for the jars!! =) I already have the straws.

I'm in the process of making some bunting ... I'll post more on that as soon as I have time!! 

Have you had any successful starting school parties and would like to share your ideas?  

Gummy worm apple invitations - starting school party

I have found some lovely pins on Pinterest for starting school parties and it sparked me into action!! Our youngest son will have his first day of school in a German school and I thought it would be great to get him and his friends together and have a 'Starting School Party' at home.

I went through a lot of 'shall I, shan't I's?' But in the end I was brave enough to GO FOR IT!  The main concern was not being able to communicate with those cute little German kids who frown at me when I try to have a conversation with them.  It's a good indicator and sometimes alarm bell telling me that I need to try harder with my language skills.  Well to get rid of that worry I enlisted the help of one of one of the mums to take care of the instruction for any games that we will play. Easy peasy ... !! PHEW!!

Well I have gone with the theme of apples so far.

I just wanted to tell you quickly about our invitations.

I wanted to do an apple invitation with the party information on the card leaves.  Cute eh?  Discussing this with my sister in law and she suggested adding a gummy worm for fun!!  I loved this idea.

I searched high and low for gummy worms ... I almost gave up!!  I eventually found some ... 

Here come the tips!!  

  • I used a cork screw to make the hole so that it was deep enough to keep the worm in place.  Screw in the cork screw and pull it out so that it brings out the apple from the hole with it.  
  • use a drop of lemon juice so that this exposed part of the apple doesn't turn brown.
  • IMPORTANT TO KNOW!!  I prepared these the night before, ready to give out at Kindergarten the next morning.  When I looked at them, the acid in the lemon juice had reduced the gummy worm to a goo! I am not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing.  The goo seemed to act like a glue to keep the gummy worm in place.  =) 

Here's how they looked before we went out of the door.

For hygiene reasons I decided that I would put them into individual bags to give them out because those little fingers in Kindergarten are attracted to the good stuff .... the gummy worms and not the apples; thus I didn't want all of the other children touching them to destroy my work of art  the food after having their fingers up their noses and making the party goers sick!! 

The invitations went down a treat - the mums giggled seeing the gummy worms in there and the children loved eating the gummy worm ... not sure if they continued on and ate the apple too - I hope so!! =)

More to follow as the preparations continue and the day arrives ... only 8 more sleeps!! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mum's Memory Book - the gift that keeps on giving!

My mother's memory is deteriorating.  It's quite sad to see her not even keep up with what day it is. As I only get to return to the UK and see her approximately every six months, I notice a big difference in her each time.  When I visited home at Christmas it was quite upsetting that even Christmas day, as prominent in the calendar as it is, was confusing her.  Shortly after returning home I noticed a lovely idea on Pinterest that a daughter had put together for her father for his birthday.  She collected memories from friends and families and presented them in separate envelopes to him.  You can read that story here.  I was so moved when I read it that I wanted to reproduce it myself.

I spoke to my hubby about it and he gave a me a great idea that would suit my mum's circumstances better. It was to create a photobook with the memories collected and then she would have the memory along with photographs all in one place. If I handed her a bunch of letters she would lose most of them.

Well  I got to work.  I started by contacting family and friends for memories.  As they started feeding in to me, I was loving all of the memories that people were sharing to be included.  It was actually a blessing to me to be able to read them. Some sent photographs with their memory and I also enlisted the help of my niece to raid mum's house for her 'older' photos.

I started putting the photobook together but realised I was quite limited with space in the text box and some of the memories were long letters of love and appreciation.  I didn't want to crop them!

One day I was sharing my idea with a friend who was sharing with me her family year books she puts together in photobooks. (That's another great idea I am going to introduce!) She shared with me a company called Mypublisher.  Here's the link to that.

You download the software and then off you go. This really allows you to create your own photobook without any restrictions on text box size or how many photo's per page you wish to include.  I found it really flexible and easy to use.

It was worth all of the organising and it was finally ordered and delivered and I couldn't wait to give it to her.  We were meeting her the day after her birthday at a train station as we were driving in from Germany and spending the midweek with her at a Centre Parcs.  

We've got Nan!! 
This picture was taken as evidence that we had her safely in our possession.  One of my nephews had gone part of the way with her to make sure she made her connection in time and didn't get lost in the process too.

Here's the pics we took of her unwrapping the book and reading and rereading through!!

I think she thought it was just a picture at this point.

 Getting a little tearful listening to me read her the messages and memories.

Both in tears here ... =)

As she is forgetful she would forget that she's already seen and read the pics and messages so when she read them again she would say "I didn't know they had sent me a message!" and then cry all over again.  It is a gift that keeps on giving!! Now she can sit and reread it whenever she wants to. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jubilant Jubilee Party

I wanted to share some of our photo's with you from our Diamond Jubilee party here in Germany.  I believe I have become more patriotic since living away from the Motherland, but watching the coverage of the Diamond Jubilee events in the UK on the TV - I think most people have become more patriotic; even if they are still living in their home country.  It was really fantastic watching Britain and the commonwealth countries unite in celebration.

The whole idea of having a party started off as a joke with me saying I didn't think we would be seeing many street parties around locally.  It was here the idea was born - We can do our own!! A few of us got our heads together and came forward with ideas for the party.  It's great when you work with others and end up with a great plan!!

Here's how it went ...

The Decorations ...

Welcome everyone!!

Those of us that were travelling home to the UK were able to purchase Diamond Jubilee bunting. 

We posted several pictures of the Queen throughout her life.

More bunting ... and the Union Jack

These were sent over from England ... whispers of a Jubilee Party!! =)

Starting to take shape!! 

The Food .... decoration in itself! Everyone who attended was asked to bring food for the buffet ...

This cake turned out far better than I had expected, you can read about the joys of making this here

People really made an effort ... isn't this cool!!

Another work of 'food art'!

Here's our 'big' 5 year old checking out what was on the menu!! 
Food glorious food .... even cucumber sandwiches!! =)

The Fun ...

Face painting ...

Crown decorating ... this little girl was definitely 'Kid of the Party'

Badminton ...

Having a Splash ...

Story telling ...

Trampolining ...

Bouncy Castle ...

We had planned a lot of things we didn't get around to doing, like 3 legged races etc All is not lost as we will use those ideas at our Olympics 2012 party!! =)

Our friends were so great sharing their garden and all of their outdoor goodies with us all!! The venue really made it a fun party.  However it was just lovely to get together and enjoy our Britishness and celebrate our beautiful and hard working Queen Elizabeth II!! God Save the Queen!!

Did you plan or attend any Diamond Jubilee celebrations?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to make marshmallow fondant.

The first time I tried this was last year.  My husband trained to be a chef before returning to University and setting out on a new career, so basically I don't usually even try to create anything in the kitchen.  Anything like birthday cakes and special occasions are left to him.

Alas my husband was away for a 3 month period on business when our soon to be five year old was inviting every man and his dog (and I include women in that) to his birthday party.  He went on and on for a birthday party for forever ... ugh kids ... food .... cake and no husband!! HELP!! I tried to put him off the idea, but our five year old wasn't budging and not any old cake ... a Toy Story cake! ... shreeek!!!

I couldn't find any ready to roll icing here in Germany so I search on google for how to make it from scratch.  Please note this was merely research and was expecting to come to the conclusion of 'that's not easy enough for me .... forget it!!!'  Where's Costco when you need it most?!!!

Well I came across some Youtube clips on how to make the stuff from marshmallows.  What???

Here's the clip I used.

Marshmallow fondant

It works great!!  Please take notice of when she says grease your hands and anything else!!  Remove any jewellery in advance too.

It works really well and I have so far covered two cakes using this fondant.  Here's how the first one turned out.

The toys are actual toys!! =)

This is my second cake I decorated using this method.  You can read about it here.

Maybe I'll even try another .... haha

Diamond Jubilee cake ... fit for a queen!!

How are the Diamond Jubilee celebrations going?  I'd love to hear how you've marked the day wherever you may be living.

Here in Germany, as a joke, I remarked how there wouldn't be any street parties. It was here that the idea was born to hold our own garden party with the local Brits!   Excitement is an understatement! I'll be blogging about that in the next couple of days!

I set up a facebook event page to invite people and get the information out there.  One daily posting on there was of this picture of a crown cake that the royal cake maker made.

Royal Cake Maker crown cake - Daily Mail
My question was ... who can make this for our centrepiece?? No one came forward!! So I just went on with other postings getting everyone warmed up for the day.  My initial suggestion of who could make this cake was thrown back at me ..."Michelle - have a go!!"  I don't really enjoy being in kitchen. EEk!! I always used to joke I would have to marry a chef ... and guess what?  Yup! I did!! Anyway I got all brave and decided to attempt it.  If all else failed we would have a lot of victoria sponge that could end up in trifle!! haha.

I got to work and made 4 individual victoria sponges to layer up and filled the layers with butter cream and jam filling.

Look how messy it looks!! I told you ... baking, cooking ... the process is no joy for me!! =) I was so embarressed at how messy it looked that I wanted to get it iced as quickly as I could so my hubby wouldn't see the imperfections MESS!  In all of my rushing (which I think is my main problem!) it turned out an even bigger mess.  Please note I have only iced one other cake in my entire life before so I am new to all of this.  Are you hearing my excuses? I had used ready icing (the roll out stuff) and it was too dry, broke up and cracked ... yuck!! 

Then to cover up the disaster of that, I decided if I stuck on mini marshmallows on top of the fondant - it could look better .... mistake number 5,000.

Look ....

I took this pic on my iPad so it isn't such good quality.  Please don't laugh ... too much! Oh never mind ... just laugh!! I can now!! What's the first thing that pops into your head?? Diamonds maybe?  No I didn't think so - independently hubby & I both thought it looked like a tea pot and hubby even thought the marshmallows added the effect of a tea cosy! How creative of me!! 

At this point I wanted him to say it's GREAT .. it'll go down a treat. He didn't!! The silence and deep thought was telling me realistically this cake couldn't go to our jubilee party dressed like this!! 

The next morning I called a British friend who is a cake maker and we went into crisis talks.  I knew I could do it better if I could just get hold of purple food colouring paste.  I wonder if you can find this stuff over here?  Anyhow we met at her son's school, me on bike with wet hair ... desperate!! She has a treasure trove of food colouring pastes and goodies!! I dashed home, stripped the cake back to the sponge and re-buttercreamed it.

I smoothed it all off and placed it in the fridge for a while.

I then got to start on my marshmallow fondant.  I followed a youtube video that I found last year.  Here it is and it makes the most wonderful stuff to cover a cake with.

Here is the link to the video on how to make it!

After following these instructions and adding the purple paste ... I arrived at this stage ...

Great eh?  Except i didn't want an octopus! =)  I was starting to feel a lot more confident at this point.  And so continued to trim and smooth the fondant and then made the gold stuff the same way; and decorated some more.

We are starting to take shape!! Now I am feeling extremely happy!!

Then I could add the fun bits ...

This is the finished result ......

What do you think?

You know what I learned all through this?  Is not to give up, not to settle for just OK and mostly as I was reflecting on my first attempt and my disappointment, was how blessed I am to have my hubby and how grateful I am that he doesn't just say things like 'Oh it's fine!!' so that he doesn't hurt my feelings.  Rather that he is on my side - always to make me realise I am better than I think I am and help me achieve more than I think is possible.  He could have jumped in at anytime and made something much better I am sure.  But he didn't, he helped me to grow and achieve something. It's not perfect but you know it doesn't matter.  Everyone loved it and it was worth all of the effort!!

And ... it even tasted good! That's a bonus right?? 

Have you had any failures and successes with baking? Please share! =)