Archive for January, 2008

Bavarian Jackalope

Bavarian Jackalope

I saw these critters in a Munich shop window. They look like fairy tale versions of the American Jackalope. My apologies for the grainy pictures. I left the battery for my Nikon D40 back in the states.

Munich’s Fasching

Dancers dueling at the Viktualienmarkt.

I’m in Munich for a conference which has kept me inside the Bayerischer Hof for most of the week. When I got the chance to walk around today I headed straight for the Viktualienmarkt for a bratwurst and pretzel. I ate my sausage with a crowd watching rapier wielding dancers, part of Munich’s Fasching (Carnival) festivities. All around town stages and decorations, including a giant clown across the city gate, are being erected. Unfortunately I’ll miss the Dance of the Market Women at the Viktualienmarkt on Shrove Tuesday.

Owl Pellets

The inside of an owl pellet.

Today Nettie and Peabody broke open a couple owl pellets. A pellet is a regurgitated hairball full of the undigested bits of a bird’s meal. Carefully opening the ball usually reveals a selection of mouse bones. Identifying the bones is a lot of fun. They found intact skulls, mandibles, ribs and a variety of smaller bones. Both are taking their finds to school to share with their classes. We bought our pellets at a park nature center, but they’re available online for under $3 a piece.

Emil and the Detectives

Nettie read Emil.

Peabody has a bad cough and it’s damp outside so Nettie is reading us Emil and the Detectives as we brunch on carrot cake, coffee and tea. Emil is a classic children’s story written in 1929 by German author and screenwriter Erich Kästner.  In the story, a couple dozen boys try to recover money stolen from Emil on his train ride to Berlin. The book has been made into several movies including a 1931 version filmed during the Wiemar Republic and a Disney TV special released in 1966. I’m heading to Munich soon and will be looking for Emil movies to bring home.

The Little Farm

Feeding the sheep at the Little Farm.

I’ve been reading Freddy and the Dragon at night. Sometimes when we read about Freddy and the other Bean farm animals, we visit “The Little Farm” near our house. The Little Farm in Tilden Park was built in 1955 and is home to a variety of animals including cows, sheep, chickens and pigs. Nettie loves watching the rabbits and Peabody likes feeding the goats celery and lettuce (but nothing else).

The Family of Silly Walks

Peabody has been asking for a new bike.

The wet weather finally broke and we headed out with camera for a walk through the neighborhood. Along the way we stopped to take silly pictures: Peabody riding a bike (above), Nettie holding up the Campanelli on Cal’s campus, and the two of them with Annabel striking an alt rock band pose. The camera gives us a reason to look for funny situations to put ourselves in.

The Best Lego Catalog Ever?

A boy and his catalog.

What could be better than Lego Star Wars? Nothing. But a close second is the new Lego Indiana Jones sets that are featured in this month’s Lego catalog. Peabody and Nettie couldn’t wait to show it to me when I got home. In fact we skipped our usual bedtime story and just poured over it. As they guessed, I was blown away by the new sets. The Indy Minifig has a bull whip, fedora and ammo bag. There is Belloq the bad archaeologist, Jack the pilot, Professor Henry Jones and an assortment of “guards” (they’re not called Nazis in the catalog). The Minifigs are flesh toned instead of yellow which looks weird. But the Lost Tomb set even has an R2-D2/C-3PO hieroglyph, the famous Easter Egg from Raiders of the Lost Arc! Brilliant!

More exciting to Peabody and Nettie, who haven’t seen the Indian Jones movies, is the new “Town Plan” that recreates one of the original Lego sets from the 50s. The set, which has a movie theater, gas station and town hall, is being released in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Lego bricks. It’s available on January 18. So far 2008 is a great year for Lego fans!

Kooza

The Grand Chapiteau.

We headed into San Francisco for the Cirque du Soleil’s new show, Kooza.  This was one of the best Cirque performances we’ve seen, full of traditional circus acrobatics and physical humor from a good group of clowns. Not the big shoes, red nose, squirting flower variety. Just funny comic characters that kept Peabody on the edge of his seat. The costumes were amazing, especially the King’s guard which looked like Chinese terracotta warriors. After San Francisco, Kooza heads to San Jose, Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston. Sign up for the free “Club Cirque” at their web site to get advance ticket sales and the best choice of seats.

Next Stop: Plasticville

Plasticville

This Christmas, Annabel’s dad set up his Plasticville train set in the basement. Everyone was mesmerized by the train’s trip around the little town. Peabody especially liked his turn at the controls. There is something about the automatic motion, sound and smell of an electric train that magically brings the scene to life. We love miniature worlds and our home is filled with Legos, Playmobil, Calico Critters (Sylvanian Families), Brio and Plan City, but we have no electric train. So we’ve started considering our train options.

Both Lego and Playmobil have train sets. The Playmobil sets look wonderful, but they’re big. The Lego sets have the advantage of being smaller and customizable. Much to the sadness of adult train geeks, Legos’ designers decided a couple years ago to move away from the hard-core 9V train system to a more kid friendly RC (remote control). To add to the confusion, Lego recently announced that they will unveil a new train system in 2009. Our choices are 1) invest in the old 9V system which is still available online; 2) purchase an underpowered RC system which may not be supported in a few years; or 3) wait until 2009. We’re going with 3.

Can’t Fail in 2008

Nettie and Peabody at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe

Last night we ate at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, a diner frequented by Pixar employees and other Emeryvillains. The food is decent. There’s a kid’s menu, daily specials and you can get breakfast all day. We like the row of Barbie Dolls and the clear tables with posters, games and green army men implanted inside. As we left, we fulfilled our Photogamer assignment of the day by grabbing a quick shot of Nettie and Peabody with their eyes closed.