Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall crafting

Since fall is now officially my favorite season, I've been trying to find ways to take advantage of all the beautiful foliage around. So Kate and I have been busy crafting away.  Last week we made a few leaf garlands:

They're really easy to do:

1)  Gather beautiful fall leaves and press them for a week or two until they're flat.

2)  Cover pressed leaves on both sides with Mod Podge.

3)  Let the Mod Podge dry:

The colander's not mandatory but we found it worked pretty well.  Or you can lay the leaves on waxed paper, dry side down, flip over and paint the other side then let dry.

4)  Use a glue gun to attach the leaves to a length of string, yarn or twine.

6)  Hang them all over your house!

Kate and I may have gone a little crazy with the leaf garlands, but they're so pretty!

Our next project didn't turn out quite as expected, but it's still pretty, I think:

 For this one, take pressed but un-Mod Podged leaves, paint a thin layer of Mod Podge over a glass or jar, stick on the leaves and cover them with Mod Podge, then let dry.  Well, that was the plan.  But the leaves wouldn't stick to the jar!  So we got out some plain white glue and stuck them on, then painted over the leaves with Mod Podge.  But the leaves still weren't sticking!  So I got the brilliant idea of wrapping waxed paper over the wet leaves, all around the glass, thinking I'd peel the waxed paper off later after the glue had dried.  However, my "waxed paper" turned out to be tissue paper, which wouldn't peel off.  So we got an opaque candleholder instead of a clear one.  Still pretty, but not what we expected.

We've now managed to use up all the beautiful leaves we've gathered so we're off to the forest again tomorrow to find some more.

Not that we mind.  Look at this!

Definitely not a hardship to take a walk through these woods...

As always, I can't take credit for these craft ideas.  They're from here:
Leaf garland

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mantelsonndeg + Birthday party

So yesterday was a very exciting day, for more than one reason:  Not only was it Kate's birthday party (a little late as we didn't want to drag poor Uncle Sean and Aunt Heather to a crazy kids' play place on their trip to Europe), but it was also Mantelsonndeg.  What's Mantelsonndeg, you ask?  It's the day, literally "Coat Sunday" when the stores in Luxembourg are open on Sunday so that people can go out and buy their winter coats.  As the stores are always closed on Sunday, this is very exciting and hordes of people descend on the local shopping centers to buy their winter clothing.  While, unlike some people, I still can't get used to Sundays with nothing open (seriously, nothing!!), I resisted the temptation to join the crowd and get some good deals on winter clothing.  No discount is worth fighting that mob, let me tell you!

Instead, we headed over to Arlon, Belgium, to a local kids' play area to celebrate Kate's 5th birthday with 14 of her little friends.  A good time was had by all, I think.  The kids played, ate pizza and cake, parents chatted and drank coffee -- what's not to love?

Here are a few pictures from the day:
The cake

The guests

The happy birthday girl

Blowing out the candles

There was one person who didn't really enjoy the party -- Will -- and not just because he was surrounded by "annoying" 4- and 5-year-olds.  A couple of days ago he took a nasty spill off some play equipment and ended up with a badly bruised, but thankfully not broken, arm which he has to keep in a sling for a week.  So what fun is a play place when you can't play?  Poor Will!

Wouldn't it have made a better story if he were injured fighting over a coat in the Mantelsonndeg crowds?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Burg Eltz

A couple of weeks ago, during what was probably the last warm, sunny weekend for MONTHS, we took a little trip to Burg Eltz in Germany.

I can't explain how much I loved this place.  The castle was straight out of a fairy tale, and the setting? Spectacular!

I think fall must be the best time to go.  Those leaves!

We hiked down from the car park about a kilometer through the forest:

.. to get to the castle.

There's a nice restaurant...

And little windows for peeking out:

See Kate behind all the sunbeams?

Will's best picture face.

And an armory that impressed even Will (though he's still upset I wouldn't let him spend 30 Euros on a crossbow at the gift shop):

It was a gorgeous place, one of my favorites of all the castles we've seen so far.  Hot and tired after our day of exploring, we hiked back through the forest to find our car.  The kids were thirsty, so when we saw this little booth we thought we'd just buy them an apple juice before we hit the road:

Just one little problem:  They only served wine -- which, for some reason, they were giving away.  In the parking lot.  Before everyone got in their cars and drove home.  Europe -- gotta love it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I ♥ Luxembourg: Travel Opportunities!

See the motorway sign?  DFB = Germany, France, Belgium, all just a short drive from Lux City

From my house:
Belgium..................16.4 kilometers (10.2 miles)
France.....................22.2 kilometers (13.8 miles)
Germany.................35.1 kilometers (21.8 miles)

One of my favorite things about Luxembourg is how close it is to... everything!  Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in the world (only 998 square miles -- smaller than the state of Rhode Island), and situated smack dab in the middle of Europe, which makes it ideal for traveling.  So far since we've been here, we've visited France, Germany and Belgium (obviously), Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, England and Tunisia.  If we throw in Roger's business travels, we could add Spain, Norway, Denmark and Ireland too.  (But that doesn't really count. He's always in some other country.) Compared to some of our friends here, we've hardly seen anything.  We've got a lot more traveling to do before we go home.  We need to get on that!

Luxembourg is, in fact, so small that some people go to other countries just to do their shopping.  People often grocery shop in Germany since it's much cheaper, and every time I need to go to Ikea I head over to Belgium.   One time I even went to Germany by mistake.  It's surprisingly easy to do, especially since there are no more border controls so you barely notice you've entered a new country.  

As an American from a big state, I still marvel at how compact Europe is, Luxembourg in particular.  In California, it would take us hours of driving just to reach a state border.  And when you cross a state border nothing really changes.  Here?  Not true.  Though, because of the EU, the money stays the same, the language does not.  Yet another reason to be multilingual like nearly everyone here.  Simply amazing.  But that's another post altogether.... 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Leaf printing

The kids and I have been enjoying the beautiful fall leaves and a couple of weeks ago decided to do something fun with them.  Here's the end result:
Kate agreed to model hers.

Will refused.  

We've been gathering and pressing tons more leaves for some future crafts.  I love fall!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Apple Festival

One of our favorite fall outings last year was the day we spent picking apples in Steinsel.  So this year, when the annual apple festival rolled around, we couldn't wait to go.

Will grabbed a wheelbarrow, and we were off to find some apples.

He (recklessly) steered down (off) the path until we found a likely row...

And then the kids raced off to do some picking.

They didn't have to run far.  Unlike last year when the orchard was pretty well picked over, this year there were plenty.

Bright, shiny red apples....

Almost as big as Kate's head!

And apparently really delicious.

After we'd filled our bags, we set off for some cider and apple treats:

This is the cider press that makes the most delicious cider I've ever tasted!

It was, as usual, a great day.  And we came home with tons of apples.  I'm not even going to tell you how many kilos of apples we picked.  It's a little embarrassing.  But that means that I've been busy turning all our apples into delicious baked goods.  

So far I've made two apple tarts (plain, above, and an apple custard one), an apple cake and four dozen apple muffins.  16 apples down, 200 to go!

I foresee a lot of applesauce in our future...