SylkeWeb – Sylke’s mutterings to herself on an island not so far away

Minecraft cake

My son wanted a Minecraft cake for his birthday. What is a mum to do who is not keen on playing around with icing and the like?

After some googling of other people's ideas, I opted for a two coloured dough to make Minecraft grass blocks. I made a chocolate cake dough to go at the bottom and a normal dough with green food colouring to be the top layer.

Two kinds of dough

These went into a flat oven pan and were baked for roughly 30 minutes. When finished it didn't look like what I had expected. I hadn't realised that the outside would not look green – it was browned like any regular coloured cake. Oh no!

At this point the options were to either cut off the top to reveal the green dough or to use icing after all. After doing some tests I decided that taking off the top was a no go – as the cake looked seriously mouldy:

Mould cake

Icing it was:

Icing on the cake

The next problem was that the edible cake toppers that I had ordered more than a week ago had not arrived. I had contacted the eBay seller and they had sent out another set on Thursday afternoon. I was baking on Friday and the party was going to be the next morning at 11. There was only a very slim chance the toppers would arrive on time. The only solution was to use Google again, find some images and make some non-edible paper cake toppers with tooth picks. Luckily I'm much more handy with paper and scissors than with icing and I thought these had turned out quite well.

Homemade toppers

The next morning we had very little time to get ready (we are late starters on weekends) and I still wanted to make a cake base from cardboard and some green paper to put the cake pieces on. While I was busy doing that, miracle over miracle, the edible cake toppers arrived about 30 minutes before we had to leave! They were supposed to be stuck into the cake pieces to stand up, but now that I had made my own standing up ones (which looked much better than the bought ones, even if I say so myself), I decided that they had to be 'glued' (with icing) onto the cake blocks. This meant another quick job before we could go:

Edible toppers

Everything was packed up and off we went. At the party place I arranged everything on the green base and was actually quite pleased with the result, even though it was far from perfect, and the children loved it:


Categories: Homemade, Life with Yannick, On an island not so far away, Parenthood, Parties!
Time posted: 14:46h GMT  
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Growing up and managing arguments

Since his seventh birthday I've really noticed how grown up my little boy has become. He is really starting to take things into his own hands when it comes to behaviour of his parents that he doesn't like!!!

Ever since he was four, whenever Yannick showed behaviour that I didn't find very friendly, I have made a point of asking him whether HE would like to be treated like that by me or others. He's always responded well to that cue, thought about it, and over the years this has taught him to stop in his tracks and if possible to apologise and start over in a nicer way.

Recently I have noticed that Yannick is actually using that method on me and Frank! And very effectively too! As some of you know when I'm grumpy (especially when I'm hungry) I tend to growl (especially when I feel stressed by something). Yannick doesn't like that and these days always asks ME whether I would like to be treated like that by him! Stops me right there, and I apologise and start over.

Yesterday he surprised me even more. Twice.

After school he told me that the teachers had been asking what methods of punishment parents use on the pupils in his class to get them to behave right (I am sure they worded it slightly differently!). He gave me some examples (that I don't want to repeat) and then I asked him what HE said. His reply was 'nothing'. At first I thought I misheard as I thought he meant that he didn't say anything, but, yes, he meant that I do nothing. Hm. That sounded wrong and weak! I quickly thought about it and yes, in a way it is true as I don't 'punish' as such. So my answer to him was 'we talk about it, don't we?' and he agreed. And that is what we do. We talk about it and try to come up with ideas for better behaviour for the next time when he feels the urge to behave in a certain way again. Sometimes I have to give him a bit of a push by saying that he cannot do something as much as he likes to if a certain kind of behaviour doesn't stop – but we never ever get to the point anymore that I have to enforce this threat. I am also always trying to tell him why I want him to do things in a certain way so that he understand my requests better. Of course he is not a model child and sometimes I let the reins slip a bit simply so that he can get a little silly and mad; he is such a cautious and composed child normally, he needs that!

We used to use the 'naughty step' when he was much smaller but these days I really don't like this kind of thing as in my mind it doesn't teach a child very much apart from that when I don't like your behaviour I don't want to see you. I believe in modelling the behaviours I want to see in him and thinking about alternatives together. Not that I am always doing the right thing – but we are pushing each other into the direction of mutual respect that we both want. I saw that clearly when this happened:

Again yesterday, Yannick was playing on the iPad and got hungry. So out came for the fourth time and slightly impatient 'I'm hungry'. As I had served him some snacks already I realised it was time for tea but I was busy myself trying to figure something out for him(!) about how something web related worked (don't ask!), and I didn't like his tone, so I just growled back 'so do something about it'. He went off to find some sweets from my bag which I wasn't happy with either so I intervened and said 'no, it's time for tea, leave that alone'. This lead to more bickering from both sides while we were in the kitchen trying to sort out a sandwich. All the bickering got me so cross that I started with 'I'm going to be really cross…' when he stopped me and said 'mummy, let's stop this and forget everything, let's not talk about this anymore'. This surprised me so much that I completely snapped out of my mood! He did too and the evening was just fine after that!

Somehow he must have realised that this argument was really about nothing. I was very impressed!

Sitting in a tree

Sitting in a tree

Categories: On an island not so far away, Parenthood
Time posted: 9:31h GMT  
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Homemade – fun with boats

Let me start my new Homemade category with our most recent adventure, the Flotilla!

In the summer holidays my sister came over with her family and brought over a German book about craft projects that can be used with wind and water (Wie der Wind geschwind…), for example parachute jumpers, sponge crocodiles for the bathtub, planes, and of course several types of floating objects including boats. While I didn't make anything from the book as such, it inspired me enough to go through our 'box of boxes' (a bigger cardboard box that contains all sorts of metal containers, plastic jars, smaller cardboard boxes that seem useful for crafts) and see if we had enough stuff to build some riverworthy boats. We had tried before with simple folding boats from a sheet of paper but those soak up the water way to quickly and just sink after a while. This time I wanted something that actually stayed afloat!

I found a number of old waterproof and airtight containers that would work well as a base for larger cardboard boats. To make them last even longer I got out my box of sticky tapes and we covered the outside of our boats with those to make them more waterproof. My sister cut up an old milk bottle to get some interesting shapes which were also used. To avoid arguments I gave the two boys involved roughly the same elements to build their boats from and my sister and I did some "free form boat sculpting".

Felix' boat Elke's boat
Yannick's boat Sylke's boat

We took the finished boats to our local stream/canal in the park and with the help of a rather large stick (half a branch of a tree) that we found on the way there, we were able to retrieve the boats from bushes at the side of the canal that tried to hold on to them (evil bushes!).

Big stick to the rescue Off they go

Of course the boys had made some bets at whose boat would be fastest. Both of them thought my sister's boat would be sinking first – but hey, not only did it not sink, it was also leaving the other boats way behind.

Micro King Kong on a boat

At some point my sister's boat got sucked under a very low foot bridge and we thought we had seen the last of it but it came out unscathed on the other side. Phew!

In the end we decided to let some of the boats go on their own adventure but Yannick was very upset by that idea: those poor boats all on their own, and they are so beautiful!!! OK, only one was allowed freedom, the others had to be taken home.

Little boat on its way into the world

I wonder where it got to?

(See the complete Flotilla photo set on Flickr.)

Homemade – an attempt at giving some life back to this blog

How suitable that my last post here was called Procrastination. That one was posted one and a half years ago. Shame on me!

Right, on with it: I thought it would be nice to present all of our homemade craft/projects/stuff here to have a record of it. A lot of my friends will have seen these already on Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, or Pinterest but I don't care, this is my blog, this is where they should have been presented first.

Here we have a list of what I'm preparing to post about (could be more, could be less), simply to remind myself:

  • Bento tea attempts
  • Flotilla (boats from cans and cardboard)
  • House renovation project
  • Yoshi keyring
  • Cars playset made from cardboard boxes
  • German cake attempts
  • Octonauts Kwazii costume
  • Quince jelly
  • Transformer costumes
  • Octonauts birthday cake
  • Chestnut animals
Categories: Homemade, On an island not so far away
Time posted: 9:55h GMT  
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What a lovely word. For my German friends, this is Aufschieberitis.

I'm currently suffering of a bad bout of this. Now that Yannick spends so much time in school (three full days and two half days) I should really be starting to look for a job. Instead I'm concentrating on other things that are on my to-do list. They need to be done too but are possibly slightly less important (things like fixing the halogen lights in the kitchen, oiling squeaky door locks, etc.) At least I called the doctor for an appointment this morning on something that should have been looked at already six months ago, to get that out of the way.

OK, last night, in order to at least pretend I'm doing something, I looked at two job sites. As not to be expected any other way, there was nothing there that would fit as the jobs advertised were all full-time. Several months ago I spoke to a friend who is managing a recruitment agency and she said that all they job ads they get in are full-time. Lovely.

This won't be easy any way because ideally I don't wont to work more than 15 hours a week, and those at times suitable for me to do the school runs. Those 15 hours would cover three full school days nicely and I would still have time to get on with household things that I frankly can't see Frank get his hands onto. And really why should he? He has got a good job, is earning good money and spending time with his child admirably after work, I can't fault him. Alternatively I could try to get a household help but then that costs money that I would have to earn, and I still couldn't do much more than 25 hours a week unless I put Yannick in an after school club. Then our son would hardly see his parents during the week. That is simply not worth it.

It doesn't help that I still don't know where I fit into the job market at the moment. With only 15 hours a week I can't be a supervisor like I used to be. I could possibly do any kind of office job where you need MS Office skills (they used to call me the Queen of Excel in my old job), I think I'm good with numbers but I have never got any official qualification in that area (I have a Diploma in Information Technology Royal Society of Arts Level II but that's from 1994). The kind or work I like would be centred around web pages, possibly multilingual web pages, like in my old job. That one was almost ideal. Sigh. I did look at a leaflet with adult education course, none of them seemed to fit.

Of course I do know what I DON'T want:

- a call centre job, never ever again!
- a job that takes more than 30 minutes of getting there.
- anything that involves travelling.

I guess I need to start and update my CV. And possibly get myself to go to the Job Centre to find out if there is anything they can help me with. But first I'll have lunch! *grin*

Categories: On an island not so far away
Time posted: 12:33h GMT  
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Another Christmas done and dusted

Apparently we were quite lucky to fly out to Germany on Thursday 16 December, as after that there was more snow here in the South of England and a lot of flights couldn't go as planned.

In Germany the first thing we saw from the plane was snow! Lots of it. And guess what, it didn't shift for the whole two weeks that we spent there. I've never seen that much snow at home ever since I moved away from Germany in 1992. Yes, we saw some snow over the last winters too but not that much. However, Frank who hardly visits Germany in the summers says it's hard for him to remember his home town Berlin without snow by now, for him it seems to have become something close to a polar town.

As not to be expected otherwise, my mum was wishing the entire time that the snow would simply disappear as it bothers her when driving. But to be honest, I loved it – even digging out my sister's car was kind of fun! Of course the snow didn't look too great around the roads, it always gets slightly dirty there, but since it wasn't thawing at all, the snow never became that really slushy mess that I'm far too familiar with from my German winters.

My little snow proof man   The first day in Germany was spent buying warm clothes for Yannick. We were really lucky getting the very last pair of snow boots in the local shoe shop (somebody had returned them earlier as they were too big). We also found some reasonably priced thermal underwear, a huge anorak, and padded snow trousers. Yannick threw himself into the snow in these clothes many times and usually stayed very dry and warm. At times he tried conquering snow mountains bigger than himself, sinking in quite a bit. Very funny.

Before Christmas Frank and Yannick went off to visit Oma Karin in Berlin and I had three days and most importantly nights to myself. Bliss. The two of them were quite lucky with the trains despite the weather, always getting to where there wanted to get with not a lot more than about 60 minutes delay.

At Christmas eve, Yannick finally got the present that he had been waiting for patiently for the last two months, another Optimus Prime, but this time with trailer! To find it, he started unpacking the biggest presents first, almost discarding the first two when they weren't what he was looking for, and then stopping altogether with unpacking when he found what he had been searching. I think he only got back to the other ones a couple of hours later.

Unpacking Yannick playing with Optimus Prime

We had planned to go home Thursday 30 December. Yes. Planned. We made it as far as to the gate at the airport. There was no plane. It was supposed to land but all of a sudden things changed and we were told that it had been diverted to Düsseldorf as there was too much fog in Hanover. We were told to get our luggage and then go and rebook. We had to wait for quite a while for the luggage and while doing so there were these announcements about an exhibition at the airport that made people roll their eyes: 'enjoy the magic of the airport… ' Yeah. Right. Anyway, we had the option to fly out later on the same day – but only to Birmingham. That would have meant a subsequent bus trip back to Southampton airport and then a taxi ride home to Winchester. Frank suggested the he goes and we stay behind to take the next available Southampton flight which was early on 1 January. My mum was flabbergasted when I called her with our news but of course came to pick us up again. Frank arrived home at 1:30 am. As the trip for Yannick and myself was kind of early I tried to sleep through an hour of excruciatingly loud German New Year firework noises, Yannick never even woke up. We flew out as planned on the Saturday. All went well.

Funny thing was that while queuing the second time round at the airport in Hanover, I started chatting to a young Romanian woman in front of us. When we arrived at the gate we had worked out that we only live five minutes from each other in Winchester – the world is small. We gave her a lift home.

Categories: On an island not so far away, Travel
Time posted: 11:46h GMT  
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December already and cold ears

This year absolutely flew by. How are the upcoming years going to be? If this goes on like this, I'll blink and Yannick is grown up. I need to keep that thought in my mind when we are going through our next argument – in hindsight those things will just be a blip.

Yesterday morning I lost it.

The day before Yannick had been mentioning that his ears felt funny after being outside on the bicycle. I take him to school on the bicycle as it only takes about five to ten minutes that way, whereas walking takes about twenty, time we don't have when we also have to do at least five minutes of play before leaving. He is usually only wearing his bicycle helmet but I was already thinking it is getting too cold for his head like that. During the evening he was still saying he had a pain in his ear every now and then, so I knew we had to do something the next day on the bicycle to keep his ears warm – and also told him so.

(That evening I ordered a couple of headbands for him, they should arrive soon.)

So yesterday morning we were all dressed up, only hats and helmets were missing. I showed him a fleecy hat that I thought would fit under the helmet. I knew it would be a VERY tight fit, his head is nearly at adult size at 53 cm (adult's seem to start at 56 cm) and there isn't much space left under the helmet for anything but the head.

Well, he didn't like the hat.

I showed him some other stuff: the hat that he used to wear last winter under the helmet (didn't cover his ears properly any more), my fleecy headband (just not right because it was mine), his big winter hat from Berlin that nicely covers the ears (too big for helmet).

Nothing was approved of and it was getting late. At that point I opened the door and shouted at him, go outside, feel what it's like and then tell me what you want.

I also threw in the fact that he couldn't go to the birthday party that he is invited to this Friday if he had earache.

He stumbled out, angry with me for shouting but still realised just how cold it was and desperately wanting to go to the party he asked for his big Berlin hat.

OK. I put him on the bicycle with that, and without helmet. I thought we could go now.

But alas, he wasn't happy. He wanted the helmet as it was not safe without. Crying.

I was angry and getting even more stressed – but of course that's what we have been telling him all these years. Only on this day I would have happily traded safety for warm ears for once! There is nothing worse than an ear infection.

Tried to pull myself together, got the helmet and tried to put it on top of the big hat. He looked like a mushroom but surprise, surprise we were able to close it! Phew. Everybody happier and off we went to school.


I guess I'll have to investigate children's bicycle helmet sizes next and see if I can find one that will fit nicely with a big fleecy hat underneath.

And here we have a Devastator built by Yannick in school:

Yannick's Devastator, built in school

Categories: On an island not so far away, Parenthood
Time posted: 10:32h GMT  
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And more soup!

With Yannick spending more time in school I've been trying to make sure that I don't forget my own needs in terms of healthy eating – without cooking every single day. The solution is to make a big pot of soup on Yannick's first long day of school every week and then to enjoy this every day when I'm on my own at lunch. I usually have a bowl of soup and a pitta bread filled with various things.

I am used to a warm meal at lunchtime and I need it as we usually have a simple German 'Abendbrot' (rye bread with cold meats and/or cheese) in the evening. At this time Frank also gets some soup. Yannick has his hot dinners at school, so he doesn't need one at home.

Both Frank and I are greatly enjoying the soups. Here is my newest addition: Spicy Carrot Soup.

Categories: Food, Recipes
Time posted: 22:49h GMT  
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