Thursday, 4 February 2016

How many kids can you fit in the roof of our camper van?

The answer is at least three! We picked up Jacob 's friend Gustav yesterday, the perfect opportunity to try out the new mattress. The foam arrived Tuesday so on Tuesday evening I knocked up a cover from it out of an old duvet cover. It was actually a hit of a faff. When I ordered the foam online they offered the option to order it with a fitting cover. But the cover was gonna cost more than the foam so I decided I would make one myself.

I have the necessary sewing skills but what I hadn't banked on is how difficult it is to manoeuvre a 125x130 piece of foam inside a material cover. It sort of sticks and gets caught and just frustrates the living hell out of you. So I ended up making a cover which pops together on one end - the opening end of the old duvet cover - and a long velcro strip down the side. This hopefully means we won't have any problems getting it in and out to wash. And if I ever feel like making another one I can just make a pattern from that one :-)

We put it in on Tuesday night and it just fell into place as if had always been there with a rather satisfying mini plop sound. The upside of having one big mattress with a cover is that sliding things in and out is now super easy as they just glide across the top.

And as you can see the kids live it up there!

Monday, 1 February 2016

First trip

We took our first trip in the van as a family! I'm still amazed at how much space there is. The kids can't physically fight anymore. They can only just about reach each other. It's so spacious I'm gonna have to work really hard not to fill it up with crap :)

We headed north out of Berlin not really knowing where we were going except that we wanted to eat ice cream and Rob wanted to try out Mandy on the Autobahn. 

We ended up heading to Oranienburg and had ice cream on the side of a lake in a boat/harbour restaurant here. 

A bit of a grey one, but we had fun all the same. Looking for signs of beavers at the waters edge and running obstacle courses through the woods.

When we got back to the van post ice cream and walk the kids wanted to try out their bed. So this is them. The reason Jacob is blurry has nothing to do with my camera skills and much more to do with how mush the sugar rush and excitement contribute to him wriggling about :)

That was when we had our idea for the second trip of the day. The idea was we would go home and get the two mattresses we had been planning on using on our bed, the computer so the kids could get comfy watching a film up top, and some bits and bobs so we could picnic in the van. And that is what we did. Picked up some chips on the way and parked in a nearby glamorous location (an Aldi carpark with a view of the canal :)). I then introduced the Germans to chip butties - an instant hit I might add- and we set about converting the van for sleeping, just for fun.

The kids lay down in the roof and watched a cartoon. We converted the seats into a bed to find that the folding mattresses we use for kids guests fit perfectly side by side to turn the folded down seats into a really comfy bed for us. We closed all the curtains, opened a beer and imagined ourselves somewhere other than Aldi car park. Then the computer ran out of battery and kids started kicking up fuss...

But the first inklings of the fun we are going to have in the van have been planted in all of us and now we only have to put up with Jacob asking daily why we can't sleep in the camper van tonight!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Welcoming Mandy to the family

So here she is: Mandy! Now officially ours. Now we just have to put up with the kids asking every single night if we can sleep in the camper van. Well she does have auxiliary heating but I don't think we'll be making our first overnight stay for a few months yet.

The van has the high-top roof we wanted. It's actually a good compromise for us as we wanted a van we could drive every day but realised how tight space might be in a California travelling with the four of us and only having a pop-top. The roof on ours is a bit low, so not sure the kids will be sleeping up there for long, but on the upside as Mandy is a Multivan the bed is almost as big as ours at home once folded out, and most nights we end up with one or both of them squeezing between us at some point in the night. The other upside is regardless of where anyone is sleeping, or not as the case may be, this kind of roof gives us loads of extra storage space. This means we can shove all duvets, sleeping bags and alike uptop and still have moving about and breathing space downstairs.

Anyways I have ordered a custom size piece of foam to fit in the roof bit for the kids to sleep on. I'll make a cover or two once it arrives, as the ones on the website were extortionate :)

We didn't actually let Lyra drive, though as in most situations this doesn't stop her thinking she's in charge.

And call it karma if you wish, but the van has heated seats and mine (generally passenger) is the only one that works. This makes looking out the window at all the snow just twice as nice.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Kuehne Triangle

This is the Kuehne triangle. Well it's more my triangle really but we all live our lives around it. Born in Bath, where I lived the first 20 years of my life, spent my twenties in the Gers where I met the love of my life, and now Berlin where we got married and made two amazing little people, Jacob and Lyra.

If I had the knowledge and power to align my moons and stars I would probably be able to divine something very significant from these lines. As I'm looking at the map now I'm wondering what is right in the middle - is it Belgium? What significance could that possibly have?

If all goes well and Mandy plays ball this could be the basis for our summer trip this year, which also marks our 10 year anniversary. We would do Berlin Bath first. That's where my family are based. Then a bit of travelling about maybe Wales, then down to Cornwall to visit friends. At some point we could then get the ferry across from Plymouth and make the drive down to the Gers. I think the journey down the Atlantic coast could be great. Some friends dd it last summer and had a wonderful time.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Berlin Blues

Don't get me wrong, I love Berlin but...

I'm a country gal at heart. The husband grew up in 'burg, Brandenburg. We met literally in the middle of nowhere - we met in the Gers, which is the least populated department in France but also the most beautiful - so we both have a bit of a dilemma when it comes to bringing up kids in the big smoke.

On the one hand Berlin is one of the greenest cities ever. We live a mere ten minutes from the Volkspark Rehberge, 70 hectares of green, with meadows, woods, animal enclosures and gert massive lake with a beach where you can swim in in the summer. Not forgetting the obligatory, and I realise this may be the British in me and I may be going a bit Carry on, ooh-er nudist area! We're also right next to the U-bahn, all shops, theatre etc. We literally couldn't have it better. And to top it all off our building has a wonderful courtyard with play areas galore, trees a-plenty and kids even a-plentier.

BUT. And here's the but. I crave space and I often feel like I'm constantly telling the kids to put stuff down, to be quieter, to not throw stuff all while safely in the knowledge that I had a lot more space and freedom to explore and throw stuff and break it and injure myself without my parents seeing. That's just the way it is when you grown up in the sticks. You do get to make more decisions about what is or isn't a good idea because you have a context in which you can do so. That's what nature gives you. As well as an overwhelming respect for all the things that are greater than you.

I love my life here. We all do. But a big part of me wants my kids to have that too. Hence the van.

I feel a road trip coming on...

Kuehne Clan Find Mandy Van

Oh Mandy!

So it has happened....well almost! We've been looking for our van for the last few months and have finally found it...ah hem....her. We had narrowed down our VW T4 search to engine size, roof option, seats etc. And we had just about given up on finding what we wanted without modifications when along came Mandy. (She already had the name.)

Vw T4 Mutlivan '96 2.5TDI with a high (but not so high) roof for the kids to sleep in and a convertible rock 'n roll bed for the grown ups.

If Rob had been a girl, he would have been a Mandy. And now we have one of our very own.