Create*Bloom*Grow

Growing through life creatively…


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Christmas in Cologne (Köln), Germany

Continuing up the Rhine, we get to Cologne, Germany or Köln as it is known locally. This was the largest city we visited on our cruise and a fantastic day long adventure. The centerpiece of Cologne is the Kölner Dom or the Cologne Cathedral which is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. If you play your cards right, you can see the spectacular Dom in at least 3 different lights (morning sun, sunset and after dark). I highly recommend planning to spend a long day on Cologne. There is much to see and do. Another interesting note is that it is filled with Roman influence and artifacts.

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Loved the simple, but elegant decorations on this building near the Dom.

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It was always so funny to see the markets boarded up and quiet before they opened in the morning. Definitely, the calm before the storm.

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Something you would be unlikely to see available for sale in the US 🙂

The Christmas Markets are truly a treat for all of your senses. So many amazing things to see, hear, touch, taste and smell!

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As seen outside an Irish pub. Leave it to the Irish to be over it all…

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With so many markets in Cologne, we really enjoyed the different themes. This gnome market was cute.

I highly recommend taking the little tourist train around if you are trying to cover a lot of ground. Cologne is definitely the biggest city we visited and the sights are spread out.

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What happens when Santa has spent too much time at the biergarten.

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Speaking of biergartens, we had a fantastic German lunch at Früh and enjoyed some Kölsch which is the specialty beer of Cologne. Similar to  champagne, it can only be called Kölsch if brewed in Cologne. We have been lucky to find some Kölsch-style microbrews since returning home.

The Lindt Chocolate Museum was really cool. This lovely angel is made out of white chocolate and very large. In contrast to these cute & too cool Santas.

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I love nutcrackers! This guy was awesome!

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The theme of the Christmas Market near the chocolate museum was nautical. Fun and different!

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More fun things to see back at the market near the Dom.

And in case we are hungry….

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It is always good to know that your hot dogs are #blessed.

As the sun sets, it casts a lovely golden glow over the cathedral.

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The lights begin to come on.

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And more magic is sprinkled over a lovely day.

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Christmas in Strasbourg, France

Continuing up the Rhine on our amazing Viking River Cruise along to visit the Christmas Markets. Here are my photos from the day we visited Strasbourg, France. Some were taken during the included walking tour. We stayed in town for lunch and until the last shuttle went back to the ship. Probably my favorite city that we visited.

I just loved how there were decorations over many shop & restaurant doors. Sometimes the whole front of the building was covered in decoration!Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

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The storks are a huge deal in the Alsace (area of France that has gone back and forth between France and Germany and retains characteristics of both beautifully blended into their own culture).

Christmas Market Cruise

Christmas Market Cruise

Not Christmassy, but who doesn’t need one of these? My kids would say that I don’t.Christmas Market Cruise

Another attempt to annoy my kids…. I think I might need one of these dresses.

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Who can pass up a beautiful display of macaroons. Not I!Christmas Market Cruise

There are a number of Christmas Markets in Strasbourg (7 if I remember correctly). One of the markets hosts a guest country each year. This year it is Portugal. There are all sorts of cool Portuguese treats and crafts. I picked up some port wine jelly. Hmmmm…

Christmas Market Cruise

Christmas Market Cruise

The cathedral in Strasbourg is stunning! This was our first glimpse of it. The red sandstone is really something.Christmas Market Cruise

A cute little side of one of the booths in front of the cathedral.Christmas Market Cruise

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Christmas Market CruiseSaw different versions of these funny little guys at a few of the markets.Christmas Market Cruise

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This was the little bistro where we had am amazing lunch. Straight down one of the side streets on the opposite side of the square in front of the cathedral.Christmas Market Cruise

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Strasbourg is the French Capital of Christmas and I can see how it got that name & reputation. So fun!Christmas Market Cruise

These charming little trains were at many of the markets selling warm nuts, etc.Christmas Market Cruise

We didn’t bother to go into many/any chain stores we have at home, but we did enjoy some of the window displays. We thought it was funny to see a few signs advertising “Black Friday” sales.Christmas Market Cruise

One of the other theme markets in Strasbourg each year is the charity market. Different booths selling different items to benefit a variety of worthy organizations. This big tree is the centerpiece of that market.Christmas Market Cruise

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Inside the cathedral was magical. They had the most extensive nativity display I had seen covering events from the Annunciation all the way to the Presentation. I also like that they had en elephant visiting with the Three Magi.Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

These tapestries are only on display during Advent. They are massive and beautiful and I felt so lucky to see them.Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

I saw a number of places that had really nice selections of Advent wreaths like this. SO much harder to find in the States.Christmas Market Cruise

Hope you enjoyed my tour of Strasbourg at Christmas. It was my favorite stop along the Rhine.


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Christmas in Basel, Switzerland

Just got back from an amazing Viking River Cruise along the Rhine River to visit the Christmas Markets. Our cruise took off from Basel, Switzerland. We had just a quick afternoon trip into Basel, but it was well worth it.

A quick helpful note about money in Basel. We were not sure if we would have any time to go into Basel and Switzerland does not use the Euro. I pondered getting some Swizz Francs, but didn’t want to be stuck with them if we didn’t have any time to explore. People online recommended that they had some cash machines in the area that exchanged Euros. As it ends up, you can pay at most of the markets in Euros. They will ony give you change in Swiss Francs, so you need to be strategic, but at least you can shop :-).

After doing a year’s research preparing for this trip, seeing one of these giant pyramids was high on my “Christmas Market Bucket List”. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little excited when this in was my very first glimpse of a Christmas Market.

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They had adorable boot shaped mugs for the gluhwein & hot chocolate which we enjoyed!Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

These guys were animated and singing. I felt like I was back at Disneyland back when they had the Country Bear Jamboree.Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

This was a decoration on top of one of the booths. They also had these in mini sizes you could buy. The prices were far better than anywhere else we saw later in the tip. This is a little odd because Switzerland is known for being super expensive.Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

The Christmas Markets in Basel wound up, down and around the streets with a main one in front of the church.Christmas Market Cruise

I really enjoyed some of the different spice booths at the various Christmas Markets. Christmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

I never made it to an official Kathe Wohlfahrt shop, but this mini one in the main Christmas Market was handy. I also saw one like this in Strasbourg.

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The pretzel we got here was larger than our heads! Super yumChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market CruiseChristmas Market Cruise

I was intrigued at how often they decorated with stuffed animals. Not sure how well these would withstand the weather, but we were early in the season so they all looked good.Christmas Market Cruise


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You want to be WHAT for Halloween?!?!?! A Wii Remote

When I was growing up I always imagined how cool it would be to make my children’s Halloween costumes. My Mom made some fantastic costumes for me (although the beautifully painted cardboard butterfly wings did not fare so well in the rain). My daughter has given me a number of opportunities to flex my creative muscle, but it wasn’t until last year that my son wanted anything other than an “off the rack” costume. Or perhaps it could be better explained that this Mommy was not up for re-creating a Star Wars character herself when it could be easily purchased.

Rewind to last September when I asked my son what he wanted to be for Halloween. He said a Wii Remote. Excuse me? Come again? A what? A Wii Remote. OK….

I thought he was kidding. I thought be might change his mind. Then I suddenly realized this was a Golden Opportunity to actually create a super cool costume for him.

I started with making the basic costume out of 2 shipping boxes. I left the flaps opened on the side so he would be able to stick his arms out. I also cut a hole in the front so he would be able to see. I also left the bottom flaps separate so that walking would be easier. I duck taped the heck out of those 2 boxes to keep them together. My daughter was gracious enough to help me model this part of the process.

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We quickly realized that having a box rest on your head was not going to be a comfortable scenario for Halloween success. I was able to add shoulder straps inside so that the costume rested evenly on my son’s shoulders instead of on top of his head. Sadly, my photo of this great idea is missing and the costume has been passed on to someone else to enjoy.

After getting the structure of the costume finalized, it was time to start the design aspect. I covered the entire costume with white contact paper. Then it was time to make the buttons. Wanting to have a something that was raised off the costume, I cut out pieces of white craft foam. The symbols on the various buttons were cut from vinyl. When I could, I enlisted the help of my trusty Cricut to cut the shapes. I attached the vinyl designs to the white foam “buttons”. I then painted over the entire button with Triple Thick Gloss Glaze to give it a glossy, finished look. I then attached the buttons to the costume with super strong Glue Dots.

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The need to have a cut out in the front so my son could see out did get in the way of my designing a bit, but I found a solution. I made the opening smaller (working hard to line it up so that where his eyes were while wearing the costume lined up with the design) and covered it with sheer fabric. Viola! An here is the finished product…

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It ended up being a really cool costume. Everyone wanted to know who the Wii Remote was. He was a man of mystery. I think my son liked that he was wearing his own clothing underneath and could take the costume on and off as needed instead of struggling with wearing his costume all the time. As I dropped him off at school I told him, “Don’t let the other kids push your buttons!”. I think he rolled his eyes, but I don’t know because I could not see his face.

 

 


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100% Not Irish

I know they say that, “everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day”, but I am not so sure. I grew up going to Catholic school. Generally, at Catholic schools (especially back in the 70’s and 80’s) there are a lot of Irish and a lot of Italians. I am a quarter Italian and 0% Irish. I often felt fairly out of place not being 50% or 100% one of those 2 nationalities. Today is the day that I am reminded I am 100% NOT Irish.

I love the enthusiasm. I tend to be pretty spirited about whatever I am doing, but have found that I just can’t quite pull off much for St. Patrick’s Day. I always wear green and we eat the requisite meal. I am happy my kids are past the leprechaun trap stage as that was a special kind of torture for me.

At any rate, I am thrilled to be invited by much-more-Irish-than-me friends to their house for dinner. I was asked to bring dessert, so in the spirit of my Lenten crafting challenge, I had fun with it. I started yesterday and am done by noon today which is huge for me as I am the “Queen of Procrastination”. I did Thin Mint Truffles and Minty Mini Cupcakes.

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These are the Thin Mint Truffles. Throw a box of Thin Mints in the Cuisinart and combine with a block of cream cheese. Roll balls and dip in chocolate. What is not to like? This is probably a good time to mention that while I am fairly crafty with a lot of things, cake pops (or anything rolled and dipped) are not my strong point. I doubt anyone is going to complain!

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Next up the Minty Mini Cupcakes. Homemade double chocolate mini cupcakes topped with fluffy mint butter cream. They are topped with pieces of Andes mints which did not come out of the bag quite as pretty as I imagined them.

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I bought these at Walmart before Christmas and they never ended up in any of my Christmas cookies. I think they will be quite tasty and I look forward to using them again soon.

I hope all of you have a wonderful St. Patty’s Day however much Irish you are!

 


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Wishing you a Wii-ly Happy Valentine’s Day!

I guess I’m on a roll with the digi scrap program this week. In addition to using it for my Girl Scout Cookie thank you notes, I’ve also used it for my children’s Valentine’s for a number of years.

I love that they can have really personal Valentines to hand out to the class. Again, I make them as 4″x6″ cards (or sometimes 3″x5″) which I can print out as pictures.

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I usually start “bugging” my kids about what they want to be for Halloween sometime in August. I am the “Queen of Last Minute” (no joke, I think the first pin I ever pinned on Pinterest was a sign that said, “Don’t rush me, I’m waiting for the last minute.”), but I do not like being left in the lurch for Halloween costumes. My son has pretty much always opted for something he can buy at the store. That was fine with me because I was not going to attempt to make a homemade Star Wars character anyway. This past year, he told me early on that he wanted to be a Wii Remote. Um, excuse me, you want to be what?!?!?!? I thought he was kidding. I also thought he would change is mind. No such luck, he had decided what he wanted which presented Mommy with the awesome challenge of making his dream come to life. I am happy to say that I met the challenge and he ended up with a really cool costume! I will do a post on the making of this crazy costume later this summer.

For now, I hope you have a Wii-ly Happy Valentine’s Day!