Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Product Review: Cap'n Crunch Halloween Crunch

Since I'm currently in the US and my Barcelona pictures are back on the computer in the UK, I thought I'd do a few American product reviews until we get home. And seeing as Halloween is fast approaching, there is no small amount of new fall-themed treats in the aisles. Most of these novel products are candies, but some other sugar-laden snacks are getting in on the fun, too. So here we have Cap'n Crunch's Halloween Crunch. Claim to fame? 'Ghosts turn milk green!'
  I used to love Cap'n Crunch as a kid, and I'd happily pick through it to get the tasty red balls (not sure what's in them, but I'm guessing just a higher sugar content than their golden counterparts). So the first thing I noticed upon opening this box is that the good old Cap'n has increased the ratio of red to gold pieces. Smart move, hopping kids up on even more sugar than they were getting previously. I'm sure parents love that.
 These particular Halloween crunch pieces looked about the same as the usual ones, but I was easily able to pick out the 'ghosts': certain red pieces contain bits of green that will tint milk. Does this really excite children? I admit that when I grabbed the box, I wasn't really paying attention to what was special about it (screaming baby being foremost on my mind) but I was expecting something more than "turns milk green". Boooooo to that letdown!
 So overall, what you get is the usual tasting Cap'n Crunch, only with grossly green milk. Oh, and let me clarify that my taste buds have matured since childhood. This stuff is sickeningly sweet! My advice? Don't bother paying extra for the green milk. And if you're even thinking of heading down nostalgia road like I did, do a quick U-turn and go buy some oatmeal instead!

                                   Halloween Crunch: Looks like the usual Cap'n Crunch
Cap'n Crunch Halloween sort of turns milk green....but why do you want green milk??

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Montserrat, Spain: Day Trip From Barcelona

Mid-week during our stay in Barcelona, we escaped the city for a day trip to Montserrat. Only about an hour by train from Barcelona, Montserrat is quite famous and is the most-visited monastery in the region. It's pretty easy to get to Montserrat--just catch a train from Espanya station. Of course, finding the train in Espanya station is another matter entirely. I'd advise getting there in plenty of time (check the train schedule first, as there's only about 1 every hour for Monserrat). Espanya is quite a large station, so we trekked around a bit after arriving via the metro. Basically, just wander around looking for line R5 for Manresa. And most vendors seemed to know where to point us when I'd pathetically question them: 'Donde esta Montserrat?'. Literal translation: 'Where is Montserrat?' (couldn't remember the word for train at the time). Once you do find the R5 line to Manresa, it's quite simple to buy tickets: the ticket booths are right in front of the ticket gate to the R5 line, and they're manned by very helpful attendants who will explain your options in English if need be.
  You've got a few choices when buying your tickets (do you want to take the cable car or the track railway once you transfer from the train at the foot of Montserrat; do you want to add in the funicular trams that take you to various parts of the the mountain once you're at the top, etc). I'd recommend going for the full package, since it's worth even taking just one of the two funiculars and hiking around. If you're really interested in all the details of getting to/from Montserrat, then try this link: It's pretty comprehensive and will walk you through everything.
  One final word of advice on traveling to/from Montserrat: be prepared to jump on board quickly when returning to Barcelona. Otherwise you may not get a seat for the entire ride back! Even if you're in line and waiting, it would appear that normal and civil conduct goes out the window when the train arrives: we were pushed aside several times by people trying to board. Apparently nobody cares if you're elderly or traveling with small children. Actually, a lot of elderly passengers were the ones doing the pushing! Thanks, Grandma.
  As for Montserrat itself: it was great, but I can also see why it's not a UNESCO World Heritage site. I'm not trying to knock it at all, but we just had a bit of a feeling of...'We traveled all this way, and this is it?' We're probably just a bit too spoiled by all the amazing world sites we've seen, however.
 One of the main attractions at Montserrat is the Black Madonna statue, which is housed inside the cathedral. You've got to get in line to view it, and beware if you're joining said line out in the hot, sunny courtyard. That means you've got at least a 2 hour wait ahead of you! We didn't realize this fact at the time, so we stood in line for about an hour before Yuki wandered inside the cathedral (while I held our place) and realized that the line snaked in through the side of the cathedral and up to the second floor, where the statue is located at the back. Now, I was all for seeing the Black Madonna, but not if it meant at least another hour of standing around when we could be seeing all the other great sites. Seemed a bit too much like idol worship to me, for one thing! That, and a big waste of time.
 Soooooo, we ditched the line, had lunch in a cafe there (overpriced so if you're on a budget then be sure to pack a picnic), then took a funicular up to the very top of the mountain and hiked around. This hike was probably the best part of the visit, even though it was sweltering and there's no shade up top. However...the views were simply amazing. Definitely make time for a hike if you go. We took the Sant Joan funicular, which is said to have the best views. (The other funicular, Santa Cova, takes you to a cave and a rock where, according to legend, the Black Madonna was rediscovered).
 A note for those of you with small children: bring a baby backpack. Strollers just aren't going to work up at the top. There are lots of steep steps in areas, plus the paths aren't exactly paved. And to anyone with a fear of heights....just don't look over the edge in some areas. Trust me.
  After sweating away half our body weight up at the top, we came back down and cooled off in the cathedral for a bit. It's a really gorgeous building, inside and out, and if you have a good lens or maybe some binoculars, you can actually see the Black Madonna from inside the main part of the chapel.
 All in all, it was a great day trip, but if you're pressed for time in Barcelona and wondering if Montserrat is a must-see....well, I'd say you won't hate yourself for skipping it.

                           See those people up the steps behind me? That was beginning of the line for the Black Madonna.

                     Inside the cathedral at Montserrat. That cut-out arch at the very back (above the crucifix) along the second-floor level is where you could see the Black Madonna. Steps from along the side of the cathedral lead up and around there.

                                        The top of Montserrat

                                    Some nuns paying pilgrimage at Montserrat. The drop-off to the left was vertigo-inducing.

                           Ruins/cave along the wall of the mountain

                                Montserrat monastery as seen from above

                                                Inner courtyard of Montserrat cathedral

                                    Inside the cathedral at Montserrat

                               Outer courtyard at Montserrat

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Keila is 22 Months Today!

  Only 2 more months until Keila turns 2. I cannot believe that time has passed so quickly! In fact, it's passing so fast that I nearly forgot that today was the 6th already.
  Here's Keila's progress from last month.
 1. Her vocabulary is huge now! She's easily combining words to make small sentences. Some of her favorites are: 'Get ready'; 'Hold you!' (she hasn't quite made the transition to 'Hold ME' yet);  'I riding' (used when riding her zebra, the back of the couch, and sometimes Wasabi); 'Toes dirty!'; '!' and ' home!'. She also knows random words that I haven't particularly taught her. Yesterday she touched her chest and said 'Heart' idea how she learned that one. Oh, and her first full, grammatically correct sentence was on Saturday. It was....drumroll....'I want ice cream!' Oops. That kid does love her ice cream. Go Keila go!
 2. Those back teeth have yet to come in, still chewing on things though. Maybe by the time she's 5??
 3. Oh, sleep. I'm longing for the nights when Keila would only wake up once! Lately she's figured out how to open her bedroom door (if she leans out from her crib she can grasp the handle), simultaneously with figuring out that Mommy doesn't just go to sleep when she does. Which has led to many fits when I tell her to go to bed.
 4. Keila has started playing hide and seek along with her favorite game of 'Chase chase'. She prefers to be the seeker but will sometimes hide for me, too. She also discovered how to go down the slide head-first today, so now I have something else to worry about at the playground!
 5. Potty training has begun! Not in full force yet, but we're taking it slowly and she seems to be doing ok with it so far. Maybe in the next few months we'll have that mastered.
 6. Keila is 12.4 kilos according to our scale. She loves to weigh herself and also her baby dolls on it. Not sure about height but she seems pretty average compared to other kids her age.
 Until the 23 month mark.....