I like little Waterford.  It's simple.  It's pretty.  It's familiar.  The streets are right where you left them over a decade ago.  After visiting my old friend Kim for the day,  Claudia asked "Can I move to Waterford when I'm a grown up?  I like it here."    It's a charming town, made more so with the addition of this little chap right here.
Little Gavin is bound to steal hearts.  Big brother Ike probably doesn't have any trouble doing so either.
I love being able to pick up where one left off.  The best part of our trip home has been catching up with friends and family.  The interesting thing is how easily we can slide right back into our comfort zones with each other.  It makes it
feel like we've never been apart.
This is the part where my Mom says "It's because we Skype five times a day."
Make Lemonade.
25 cents a cup and the girl pulled in 12 dollars in 20 minutes.  Cars pulled over just to give her money.  I need someone to give her a life lesson to explain that this is not how it normally works, kid.  Meanwhile, inside . . .
I love them.
After spending the morning at The Hamilton Farmer's Market and Public Library, my friend Sarah and I decided to take a trip to Ottawa Street.  Back when my Mom was a child, my Babcia would take her to the Avon Theatre to see movies like "That Darn Cat" and then off to pick up fabric and a stop by the butcher where Mom would get a big hunk of Polish sausage to munch on. 
Like many things in Hamilton, Ottawa Street had a grand heyday and then slowly started to decline.  It's still a beautiful street, but not a destination so much as it used to be. 
Stories like this make Hamiltonians sad.  We hold on to pictures of a bygone era and say "Wasn't this nice, don't you wish we could have this again?"  And sometimes, we get lucky.  Sometimes, a committed group of people get together and try to start up a community movement.  On Saturday, Sarah and I happily strolled in and out of boutique baby shops, antique stores and we were fortunate to finish our stroll at the Cannon Coffee Co.
The two young women who own the shop were friendly and open to talking about owning a shop on Ottawa Street.  The coffee, using beans from local roasteries, was delicious and heady.  The decor was sunny and fresh and I hope that lots of people take advantage of the sunlight that floods the place and grab a coffee and a book and stay a while. As they work out their menu, the current price of a coffee is "pay what you will".  I hope they make LOTS!

Hamilton has a multiple personality disorder.  I can go on and on about the little pockets of loveliness that can be found here and there.  You can walk among looming trees, on quaint streets lined with centuries old estates.  Take an afternoon to stroll the clique that has become James St. North and you'll soon wish there was an American Apparel to don yourself in hipster-esque clothing.  Climb a set of stairs to the second floor Pure on Locke Street and forget all your troubles behind.

But man, are there troubles about.  This is not a walkable city.  Too many parking lots and long stretches of road with abandoned buildings in disrepair. Cars drive too fast and worry about other cars, not pedestrians.  No inner city parks.  Watch out for fucking motorized scooters, they own the place.  Watch your step for phlegm on the sidewalk.  Listen to a family argue over whether the dad can go to the "rippers" so he can "sink his teeth into some ass" while their child swings at the playground.  It's pretty easy to feel disenchanted with the place that you so fondly called home.

Luckily, one sunny afternoon, we escaped to one of the aforementioned little pockets, a place near and dear to me, a mansion called Whitehern.  My Mom had planned a March Break itinerary for the girls, which included a Wizard of Oz themed afternoon there.  We toured the house looking for ruby slippers, ran through the gardens while following the yellow brick road, and made scarecrows in the old stable house. 
The creepiest Tin Man ever.
A nice view from inside the gardens.
Gold tinted windows.
A canning table!
Today we're off to the market and library, in search of cheese and a restored opinion of the potential for this city to be great.  God help me if I get run over by a scooter. 
Whilst Skyping with my Mother a few weeks ago, she asked what type of sweets we should cook up while visiting.  I mentioned that Ellie is gaga for blueberries, and I was soon reading one doozie of a recipe that Mom had found. 
I loved this recipe for it's simplicity and the fact that you didn't need an ice cream machine - let it cool in the fridge- for it to come together.  With a few ingredients, some child labour and a bit of patience, we were quite a happy bunch with bowls of ice cream in our laps.  The taste was exactly what you would hope for, sweet with a bit of tang from the cream cheese.  We ended up popping it in the freezer for a bit, but it would have been delicious either way. 
The Girls and I are back home for a few weeks, visiting family and friends. On this sunny afternoon, there was no warmer place to be than in the company of The Babcia. She loaded the girls up with cookies, chocolate and Polish donuts. We sat outside and made phone calls to Germany to say hi to Daddy. We're now sitting on the couch, watching The Sound of Music and eating homemade ice cream. It feels good to be home.
A note about the wooden egg. When my Dzia Dzia would get a hole in his socks, they weren't replaced, they were mended. A neighbour of Babcia's carved this egg to place inside socks, where they were then darned. I  have always appreciated that resourcefulness, even if I find it hard to follow. I will bring the wooden egg back to Germany and remember to try as best as I can to "mend and make do". 

If you're willing to accept your inner nerd, and then accept that you're going to display it in public, Geocaching may just be for you.  I had bought Aaron a handheld GPS for his birthday a few years ago, with the promise that we would go out and activate ourselves with fresh air, good parenting and financial control.  This lasted about 3 months and then the GPS went into hiding and I focused my energy on retail therapy, medical therapy and "maybe I might benefit from psychotherapy."  If only I could understand what Dr. Deutsch was saying to me . . . 
Living in Germany is expensive, so it became time for us to exercise that financial control thingy.  So we dusted off our GPS and took the kids out treasure hunting around Münster.  I ROCK at finding caches!  What started out as wholesome became a competition, and I won.  Unless I let Aaron win, but even then, I still won.  We saw a lot of the city that we had not ventured to before and the kids really did enjoy themselves.  So, another happy and retail free Sunday marked off.  
Bubble cache! (That I found.)
I forget what this is, but it's pretty and I found a cache here.
Claudia holding the cache that I found.
St. Lamberti's Church. Aaron found the cache but was yelled at from a passing car for climbing on the church "ON SUNDAY!" I would have found this one, but I'm too short.
NERDS!! But i found the cache!
Spring has come early to the city and presented itself by way of fragrant blossoms, flowing water and our first robin sighting.  The girls and I leave for Canada on Saturday and I hope when we come back, the warm weather will be here to stay and we can enjoy more days like this.  
I love popcorn.  The second the girls have stopped their night time rumblings, I'm off to the kitchen to pop some kernels on the stove top.  Then Aaron and I settle happily on the couch and watch old episodes of Arrested Development. Unless, of course, I've forgotten to replace the popcorn and I'm searching in the pantry for something else to munch on.  Enter roasted chickpeas.  
Chickpeas are quite slutty and will happily accept any seasoning your throw at them.  You could go the Moroccan route and add some cumin, cinnamon and ground coriander.  Or you could go Mediterranean with lemon pepper and oregano.  I went a slightly Thai route and the results were delicious.  Crunchy on the outside with a slightly creamy centre.  

Roasted Chickpeas
  • Preheat your oven to about 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a measuring cup add a few tablespoons of the oil of your choice and whisk in your seasonings.  
  • For the Thai flavours, I used a 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil, 3 tablespoons canola oil, a tablespoon of soy sauce and another tablespoon of sweet chili sauce.  
  • Drain and rinse two small cans of chickpeas and put them in a bowl.  Add your seasonings and stir.  
  • Pour the chickpeas on a baking sheet in a single layer.  
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Give them a stir halfway through.    
  • Cool slightly and serve.
The bigger problem now is that we're all out of Arrested Development episodes.  How did this show get cancelled?  I already miss Buster and his hook.  
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There is a German folktale that was told to children about a tree, called a Schultütenbaum, that grows near schools.  At the end of summer when the tree's fruit, or Schultüten, are finally ready to pick, it's time for the children to start school.  
Such a dude!
My little Miss finally started Kindergarten!
Claudia's "school cone" filled with sweets and treats!
I don't think I have a leg to stand on when complaining about the winter we've just been through. Not a flake of snow dropped from the sky.  But I missed the sun. Today, spring came. It was warm, cafe tables came out on to the sidewalks, and these little flowers suddenly appeared from under the fallen leaves. Everyone wanted their moment in the sun.