Monday, 30 January 2012

Searching for Fun: Museum Edition

The majority of cities you go to will have a museum that houses at least two (if not more) of the following: History and/or War, Science and Technology, Art, The life’s work of (insert name of composer, artist, or inventor), or maybe even Archeology or Space. This is great, if that’s YOUR thing. I however, have discovered that I really don’t enjoy spending hours walking around a museum, reading the many facts I read/learned about in High School or staring at paintings that are in all the books or all over the internet. To be honest, I wasn’t even really interested in them back in High School.

I have nothing against the Science and Technology Museums. They generally have interesting things to see and allow you to touch the items and be part of the scene. However, I don’t want to see the same thing over and over in each city. So as I research all of the cities I want to see, I find myself checking out the museum section of the tourism sight, looking for something fun and different. Unfortunately, the internet isn’t always pulling through for me. I Google phrases such as the: “Best Museums in Germany” or “Most Interesting Museums of Germany” and the top 5-10 results are for history and art museums. So, I find myself Googling each individual city I may want to visit and book marking those with interesting museums. I am sad to report that a number of sites, while boasting over 30 museums, having nothing I want to see.

So, what is it that I’m looking for? I haven’t completely ruled out history museums…just the ones about city history, war and fur trading, etc.

Here is a list of some of the museums that caught MY attention and they didn’t disappoint.

Learn about the history of chocolate, cocoa farming, and how chocolate’s made. Learn about your favourite products and beauty supplies that contain cocoa and what the old fashion chocolate shops look like. And if you weren’t impressed with that, part of the tour includes touring the Lindt Chocolate Factory where you can get an up close look at how the Chocolate makers make those delicious Bunnies you get in your Easter baskets or those creamy Lindor balls you get for every occasion. The Lindt store is located on your way out and will be sure to satisfy the Chocolate craving
you developed throughout your visit.

Located right beside the Chocolate Museum, you can plan on making this your second stop. A close look at the actual items used in both the Winter and Summer Olympics through the years. These items include, the torches you might have seen in your community, the outfits, clubs, gloves, etc worn by winning or participating athletes, including Shaq O’Neal’s very large running shoe, patches of grass from the stadiums, tickets to the final Canada-U.S hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and the list goes on. When I visited, they were in the process of designing the interior of some new rooms…my guess is that it will be for the 2012 London Summer

3. National Leprechaun Museum in Dublin, Ireland
 While this museum is both quite new and small, it’s the red headed tour guide that made the experience. Learn about Irish mythology and the story of the Leprechaun. Listen, as your tour guide tells you the tales of how he almost caught a leprechaun and feel what it’s like to be a leprechaun as you try to climb into the chairs that tower above your head.

4. Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland
If you like beer, this tour will not disappoint. Discover how Guinness beer is made and pour your own perfect pint of Guinness at the end of the tour. One beer included in the price of admission ticket.It doesn't stop there, head upstairs to the Gravity Bar where you can take in a 360 degree view of the city. Don't forget to hit-up the Guinness Store on your way out to pick up some Guinness merchandise.

And here is the list of Museums that I might possibly entertain, should I have time to explore the location:
1. The Nordic Museum of Daily Life in Stockholm, Sweden
2. The Museum of Bags and Purses in Amsterdam, Netherlands
3. The Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, Netherlands
4. Madame Tussauds- A collection of Wax Figures in Berlin, Germany
5. ModellPark Berlin- Brandenburg in Berlin, Germany
6. University Museum in Krakow, Poland
7. Budapest Memento Park (Statue Park): Gigantic Reminders of the Past in Budapest, Hungary
8. Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany

My ultimate goal is not to hit a museum in every city; they are just nice to visit on a rainy day or a Sunday, when nothing else is open anyways.If you find yourself looking for something similar to I am, I hope you have found this list useful! I would also love to hear about some of the fascinating European museums that others have hit, and where I can find it!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Children: Learning Their Language

Have you ever watched the interaction between a parent and children under the age of 2?

On a number of occasions, I have been in the presence of young children and watched or listened as they babble away, as if they are having a conversation. In the early stages, their parents often respond with things like “oh really?” or “ya” to indicate to the child that they are listening. When the child reaches the next stage, they start to pick up actual words and put them into their conversations. When they use words such as “yes” or “no” I would find that it was generally very clear, but when they start learning more words, I found it difficult to understand. Actually, it still sounded like babbling to me, but then I would hear the parent respond with something like “Oh you’re hungry” or “Is this the toy you were looking for?” and the child would be satisfied. I would look on feeling both impressed and a bit guilty for being the only one who didn’t understand. I felt particularly bad when the child was speaking directly to ME and the parent would then “translate” the request, making it sound so simple.

I have finally learned that it’s like a whole other language and unless you have already learned that child’s particular language, you are not going to understand. Not the type you will learn in a book, but the kind you learn by immersing yourself into it, aka being that child’s parent or working with them every day. The youngest one I look after was at that stage when I first began working with them. She knew a few words, but I found it difficult to understand. I was told it’s important to talk to them at that age because that’s how to learn new words. It felt a bit strange, talking away to a child who wasn’t really responding. So I would just talk about what I was doing…”okay, let’s put on your sweater, now your shoes...first the left foot…and the now the right foot…” Slowly, she started to add new words by repeating something that her mom or I had just said.  For instance, if I said, “would you like some pancakes?” She would respond with “ya” or “pancake”. When I’ve only said 5 words, it’s pretty easy to understand or guess at what she’s just said. Now, having previously heard her say these words, I understand when she says them to me again later because I am familiar with how it sounds when she says it. And now, she is at the stage where she tries to repeat the majority of the words I say. So in the few short months that I’ve known her, her vocabulary has grown and I am able to understand. So, here we are, I’ve finally learned the “language” and looking after young children isn’t so difficult after all.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Transporting a Canadian Style Christmas into Germany

Matt and I stayed in Germany for Christmas and decided we would make our own Christmas Dinner.
We decided we would get a small chicken instead of a turkey and got all of the ingredients to make stuffing, broccoli salad and mashed potatoes. That was the easy part. Neither of us have ever cooked or prepared a chicken with legs and wings, stuffed one, or really ever watched the process so the end result could either be delicious or a huge disaster.

The Baking I Did
I wrote home for the directions to make the stuffing and broccoli salad and asked the family I’m working with how to go about preparing and cooking the chicken. I’ve watched them make it a few times and it didn’t seem overly complicated. I also acquired the directions on how to make chicken noodle soup with the leftover chicken and carcass. I finally received the measuring spoons and cups from home and made a variety of Christmas squares and cookies in advance.

Christmas Day was now finally here and how did everything pan out?
Cinnamon Pull-Apart Bread
I got up and decided I would make a Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread that I found using StumbleUpon for breakfast. I read over the directions for the first time to discover that the dough has to be left to rise for at least an hour and its best done the night before and then left in the fridge over night. FAIL. I guess that’s why you should always read the directions in advance. The initial part 30-40 minutes and then had to sit…so we wouldn’t be having it for breakfast. We decided to have a morning snack instead with our coffee and we opened the presents we had gotten for each other and the ones that our family had shipped over from Canada.

Ernie the Chicken
By this time this was done, the dough had risen and was ready to be rolled out. Overall, It took approximately three hours so we ended up having it around 11:30 with mimosas. It was fantastic and worth the wait.  It seems in Germany instead of giving bottles of wine, people give you bottles of Champagne instead (still a good alternative). Fortunately the three hour bread was the only thing that went wrong all day. That and the fact that the only things we bought at the grocery store were the ingredients to make the big dinner and breakfast. Our European mini fridge would not accommodate another thing. We had pasta the previous night for dinner and no appetizers for Christmas day or too many options for snacks...cookies, squares and some tangerines.

Our Christmas Table
We stuffed and seasoned Ernie the chicken and the rest off the afternoon was spent cutting up and peeling the
rest of the vegetables and skyping with our families.  Everything was ready shortly after six. Ernie exited the oven looking pretty good; upside down and looking as if he might just run right out of the pan, but pretty damn good none the less. The meal was delicious and clean-up afterward wasn’t that difficult. I finished off the evening with my moms family displaying me on their TV screen through skype and having all 10 of them hold their Christmas presents up to the camera to show me their new possessions so I could feel as though I was actually there with them.

Overall, it was a successful first Christmas together and the Canadian traditions lived on!
Matt and I About to Enjoy Christmas Dinner