Friday, July 27, 2012

At the Lake

One last warm and summery day before a predicted cool down. We arranged to go back to the nearby Unterbacher See this time with our neighbors Sissi and Jessica from China. When I apologized to the girls' mother, Chris, that it might be crowded there, she reminded me that in Shanghai this kind of place would be absolutely packed. It's all just a matter of how you look at it, I guess.
Anyway, the girls were happily playing in the water for hours, just coming back to us on a regular basis to refuel on snacks. 

Unfortunately we had to leave early as some dark thunderclouds were approaching rapidly and they were closing the beach. 
The girls continued playing inside and Sophie and I were invited for a delicious home-made Chinese vegetable and noodle soup. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Captain Hook's Pirate Ship

As this might be our only week of summer and warm temperatures, I have decided to let all house chores be and spend as much time as possible outside with Sophie soaking in the sunshine and warmth. 
Today we were going to meet our new friends Jonathan and Lia and their mum Tali at the water playground in Volksgarten. They had just moved to the Duesseldorf area via Munich from Israel last month. 
 Jonathan seemed a little bit overwhelmed by the crowds - poor guy. He was concerned for Sophie who was just running wild in the park.
 Jonathan found Sophie as they are walking by the pirate ship. 
Towards the end, Sophie found yet another playmate.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Irrland in the Heat

One day of 80+ degree weather - off to Irrland (the amusement park near my mum's in Geldern) to try the warm weather attractions. Packed with a huge picnic enough to feed the people around us and then some. 
 Although the water play areas were very crowded, we found a nice spot in the shade.
 Sophie taking pictures of us.
 That is Sophie's finger. My mum was annoyed that she had not brought her bathing suit. 
 We took Sophie on the water slide nearby a few times, but the water they used to wet it with was brutally cold. Berit yelled out "bladder infection" as soon as she sat down in it for the first time. Of course Sophie insisted on sitting in our lap - stinker. So instead we organized some spray guns and checked out the huge water gunfight terrain with fill-up stations, a labyrinth, bridge etc. as obstacles. Berit and I, being the oldest warriors in the terrain, soon had a considerable number of enemies to spray. Sophie exclaimed at one point that she no longer wanted to get wet, but continued to happily spray us - little stinker.
 ...meanwhile a goat was born in the adjoining stables.
 Finally a couple of pictures of Irrland's latest project: a play airport. But we will save this for a shadier day (soon that is).
Now headed back to Geldern for a BBQ.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Our biggest trip during Sophie's break from preschool was up to see my brother and his family in Hamburg. Weatherwise it still feels more like September than July. Brr!
 Sophie is becoming a pro at taking train journeys.
On Friday morning Sophie and I met with my childhood friend, Britta, for brunch. Britta also has a daughter, Hannah, but unfortunately she was visiting her grandmother. 
In the afternoon we picked up Thore and Talea from preschool/daycare, went home and played princess and knights.
 The weather was improving on Saturday: time to head outside. First to the local playground.
 Then we went to the Landungsbruecken (shipping piers) in St. Pauli, where we sat on the steps and ate   herring fish rolls and watched the athletes cycle past on their triathlon.
 From the piers, we took the ferry (sorry too crowded for a good picture) to the Elbe beach, where it was time for dessert.
 We watched some impressive ships sail by 
 Even a Mississippi riverboat.
 Sophie grabbed my camera and took a picture of Talea.
On Sunday, I wanted Sophie to be able to run around outside as much as possible before we were going to jump back on the train home. We explored yet another playground (this one was big) in a park called Planten un Blomen.
Big slides, tunnels, ladders, mountains...
 The three crazy kids.
 A derelict building right next to the playground made for an interesting backdrop.
 As did the TV tower.
Thore, Alexandra, Stefan and Talea.
Thank you for having us and see you again soon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back to Work

It was time for Andrew to go back to work and since Sophie is still off from preschool, we decided to get up somewhat early and join him on an outing to Duesseldorf airport.
At the airport, Sophie tried very hard to spot flight attendants.
 Sophie and I paid a visit to the giant giraffe and her baby courtesy of a car rental place when Daddy was checking his bag. He was flying to Leipzig this morning to then work a flight to Cincinnati.
After a small breakfast at the airport together it was time to say goodbye. We certainly got some stares. Yes, a pilot has a family, too. ;-)
Sophie and I wanted to look at some more stores (they have a proper toy store there) before returning home on the train. My shopper girl.
... and here is a picture of Daddy's airplane in Leipzig that afternoon. See you in a couple of weeks!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kirmes - Fun Fair

The annual fun fair is in town, being advertised as the largest one on the Rhine River. It can be somewhat trashy at certain times, but we went when it opened on a Monday and had it almost to ourselves. We gave Sophie 10 Euros to spend as she liked. 
 The first fun ride she saw was this race car carousel. Good choice with the Ferrari, I thought. 
At this point it had already started raining again.
 Next she wanted to go on a balloon ride. She was the only one on the carousel. Were we the only crazy ones to venture out in this weather?
 But then she found her favorite. The flying machines carousel. She was a bit jerky at first trying to figure out how to handle the lever. Why is it that they always play such terrible music for the poor waiting parents at the children's carousels?
 Then Andrew had us all go on the ferris wheel. The ride provided some marvelous views of Duesseldorf. Here is the famous Altstadt (Old Town) on the opposite river bank. 
 These are some expensive apartments in Oberkassel with a nice view of the Altstadt, but for 12 days a year the inhabitants have to put up with the noise of the fun fair.
 The Medienhafen.
 Then Sophie decided that another 2 Euros on the helicopter was money well spent.
It was hard to find a ride that only cost 1.50 Euros, but then we saw the kids auto scooter. Hilarious!

One hour later and Sophie 10 Euros lighter, we headed back home to dry off and warm up. Hoping for better weather at next year's Kirmes. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy Bastille Day

Cold, but mostly dry today. Good enough to go to the French festival in the courtyard of the city hall. 
We ran into our wine merchant from Geldern who gave us another good recommendation as we are learning about French wines. 
 Sophie enjoyed her crêpe with Nutella while listening to French chansons. 
 There was an excellent face painter. She actually matched most face paintings to the kids' outfits, but Sophie had her heart set on a pink butterfly. 
On the other side of the Rhine we were able to spot the annual Kirmes (fun fair), but we will save that for another day (i.e. tomorrow). 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Best Ice Cream

Sophie has been on summer break from preschool for a week now (of a total of three weeks). Unfortunately, the weather has been absolutely miserable the entire time (ever since our BBQ pretty much), anything but summer-like. It has been so bad that I finally caved in and bought a pair of wellies.  At least now I can jump through the puddles with Sophie. 
 Despite the rain, we ventured out to check out another area of Duesseldorf called Flingern today. It is meant to be a hip area with little boutiques and restaurants. Of course, we arrived fifteen minutes before the stores closed. Typical.
But the ice cream place was open. By far the best one we have tasted here so far - and the competition is tough. An absolute must for any future visitors. 
Andrew had pistachio ice cream topped with fresh strawberries (organic) and old balsamico. I had the raspberry bowl. Sophie had blueberry in a waffle bowl.
Nom nom nom!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Musical Chairs

Sophie has been making more friends as two more girls have joined our neighborhood. They are Sissi (6) and Jessica (3) who moved here from Shanghai with their parents - talk about culture shock. 
It was Sissi's birthday today and she invited the kids from the neighborhood to celebrate with her.
 There was cake and candy and a few games such as a potato run and musical chairs.
(I apologize for the terrible picture quality)
Sissi's dad explaining the rules...
...and off they go. 
When has musical chairs ever not ended in tears?

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Want to Ride my Bicycle

Sophie's old $20 bike with the training wheels had been on its last legs, when suddenly the inner tube disintegrated. Time for a new and proper bike - without training wheels. 
She picked a pink Princess Lillifee bicycle that matches her helmet.
 And she is doing pretty well. This square in our development is perfect for learning. She just needs some more practice with the starting and stopping, but that's what Daddies are for.
Here she is with Andrés.
(By the way, that house in the background is the one that Ciaran and Sophie helped build.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The First Annual Robertson 4th of July BBQ

There was no question though we left the U.S. that we would continue to celebrate the American holidays like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July. Any reason to have a party, right? 
Our friends and neighbors were happy to hear that and we managed to get quite a fun crowd together for our first 4th of July BBQ in Duesseldorf. 
The planning was half the fun. 
I am quite proud of my little cheese cake creation. Not quite 50 stars, but 13 stripes! And it must have tasted ok, as it was gone in a heartbeat.

We went all over town trying to find a flag post to properly hang the flag Andrew had purchased on Long Island. We could only find fixtures for boats, so our bedroom window had to make do. 
Ah, the master of the beer and the burger meat fairy, alias uncle Ralph and aunt Helga, have arrived. Let the party begin.
Well, we opted for German beer instead of an American brew. That's understandable, right?
I think this was 8 lbs of ground beef. Twelve hours later, there was none left.
We could not have lucked out more with the weather. Probably the only nice day with California blue skies in the first three weeks of July. The rain arrived two hours after the end of the party and was to stick with us.
Two of Berit's friends - Li and Dennis hanging out in the beach basket.
We extended an automatic invitation to next year's BBQ to everyone who was present today.
More red, white and blue than I ever used to wear in the States.
Let me guess, airplane talk by the grill?
Kids' corner was in our neighbor's garden.
Lina's little brother Philip taking a siesta. He was to have a rude awakening when he was in the line of fire of a water pistol squirt from his big sister.
Andrew wearing his Hawaiian airplane shirt (making sure the grill does not catch on fire?)
Caught the kids finishing the candy underneath our dining table.
Finally, sparklers for the kids. For next year, we will save some proper fireworks from New Year's. 
The party went on for many more hours. Our margarita was flowing faster than the beer until we ran out of all three bottles of tequila. 
We thank everyone for coming and celebrating and look forward to next year's bash.