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Maija's Reports of the Year


December 2012

We stayed in Germany last summer for holiday, but took the train to Berlin for a family trip. We stayed at a hotel – very impressive for the kids – and had some nice walks in town. On our first day there was a city race and Stephan managed it to get a last minute number to take part. I did a morning run every day, one morning Lina, our 11-year-old daughter, joined me. Running we passed the Bundeskanzleramt (house of the chancellar), the Reichstag (house of the parliament) and Bellevue (House of the german president) and we saw about 15 rabbits along the running trail.


One evening I visited my best friend Andrea and we ended up at a bar drinking cocktails and talking a lot. The whole family visited the Zoo and the Reichstag. One day another friend of me, who - as a journalist, writer and expert in city history – gave us a private guided walking tour through former east Berlin. We all enjoyed the week a lot, also as a contrast to the usual calm life in the countryside.


This year we plan to visit „Legoland“, a theme park with motives of the famous brick company. Our kids love Lego and we still consider it to be a good toy.


Also we want to visit some friends living around south Germany, show the alps to the kids and some of the famous bavarian spots we used to visit when we were young.


Last year Stephan was running a lot and did some ultra-trails (60 – 80 km's), now he is still suffering from pain in the ancle and won't do that in 2013. He might do some longer bike-rides instead: there is a network all around Germany, where bikers get free accomodation at a homestay and that's always a good possibility for getting around, meeting people and having a good time. He did this already some years before and really enjoyed it. It's also possible to do it with the whole family, but our kids are not so keen bikers (yet).

So Stephan has his sports and I have my music:

I just came back from another week of practise, where more than 60 musicians between 14 and 58 years played and lived together with a impressive concert at the end. We worked really hard, played up to 8 hours per day and had so much fun while practising and afterwards.


Playing music does effect your brain and your emotions and when you play a lot you can feel a change of consciousness. I mentioned so many different things in that week and even discovered unknown sides of myself, that I still benefit from this highly intensive time.


The most remarkable thing to me was, that everyone can be a teacher to you, not regarding his/her age or grade. It just matter's how open you are and what you are willing to learn from people.


When I got back from this musical week, I was very motivated and finally decided to take professional lessons with a bass-trombone teacher. I already had my first lesson and think I improved, although I know that I have to be patient and that I will experience some fall-backs in future.


I started with meditation short after christmas and did a workshop with a trumpet teacher some weeks ago, both these things fit very good into my personal (and not only musical) development. Maybe that's most important topic in life: you steadily have to learn and be curious about the things you don't know yet.


2005   2008   2009   2010   2011   2012  



December 2011

Remembering the concert at christmas time: my stand overturned and trying to bring it back the slide of my trombone fell down during the "Earth Song". It was my first concert with the big (and old) band and for sure I was quite excited. It was a bit embarassing, but fortunately I'm already old enough to take it not too serious. I had some more concerts since then and I am not so excited and nervous anymore. I'm always doublechecking stands now.


In spring I bought a bass trombone for playing the "First Suite in E flat" (Holst) with a project orchestra. About 50 mostly young people came together for 5 days and did nothing beside of playing, eating, drinking and sleeping. It was pure holiday to me and my normal life as a mother, office worker and housewife. We had a great concert at the end, where we played 12 fine tunes of british and american composers. I enjoyed the time of practising and playing a lot and so I will join the orchestra in 2012, too.

Next year we want to start a music class for adults, where elderly can try out and learn different instruments. I try to learn a bit more about music theory so I can become a conductor one day :-)


Yesterday we had a rehersal and we managed it to play "Tusk" (Fleetwood Mac) nearly on sight. I'm very proud of my class and we had a fantastic year. Now there are more than 20 adults who learn an wind instrument. We quite often played at the usuals spots like sports events or christmas markets, but also at a real concert with experienced audience, where we performed "Light my fire".

Stephan was not biking this year, but he did some really long runs over the marathon distance. Tomorrow he plans to run to Regensburg (30 km's). He learns to play the clarinet and is also a member of our adult beginners band.


Lina@10 is at the "Gymnasium" now, a german school type with regular 7 years. She plays at the local school big band and sings in a choir. She likes reading a lot, especially spooky books and became a childrens book reviewer for a local bookstore.


Zoe@8 is in husbandry with two rats. She is quite good at it and does all the cleaning and feeding on her own. She also started playing the trumpet with powerful sound. She likes school and is quite happy in her class. One day she took a dead rat (not one of her's) to school in her schoolbag.


Julius@6 is a swimmer by now and enjoys playing with lego. Still not at school he likes to play the role of the youngest child and visits us very often during the night for sleeping in our bed.

In 2012 we plan to spend our holiday in Berlin. I was there in October with the brass band and found so many interesting things to visit again and show them to my family. Berlin is still very special to me: I lived there from 1990 - 1992 and experienced so many things of cultural and social life at that time of growing up. I 'm still curious what's going on there.


December 2010

Dear Friends,

Another year passed and it's time again to think about the remarkable events that happened to us.


Personally, it was my "Year of Music". Last year I learned how to play the trombone. This year I got more and more involved into music and enjoyed it a lot. At easter time I had a concert with the kids of a local brass-band which really boosted my musical ambitions.


I started to play a lot with Cris, my brother-in-law. He's playing saxophone and arranges songs we like in an easy way for trombone and saxophone. In summer we had a WWOOFer here, Claudia, who played violin. She joined us for some trios.
We always found good places to practise with different audience: local fishermen, hikers and cyclists when we played at vilshof, runners when we played at a local triathlon. Next year we will do more of these sport-event supporting thing. We also showed up at two christmas-markets nearby, where we played a brandnew arrangement of "Summertime".


Lina learns to play the trumpet in the same band like me and we're having a concert on Boxing Day.


I was working a lot this year, so I had less time for doing sports. However, I managed it to start rock-climbing. My sister-in-law and her friend took me along and in October I faced my fear and climbed the first time without top-rope. I still did a bit of swimming, cycling and running, but not as much as I used to.


Unfortunately too many other things seemed to be more important than climbing last year. But I did a lot of running - and I finished my first race. It was about 5 km's and took me a little more than 30 minutes, so maybe I can reach the 10 km's in 60 minutes next year. That's not really ambitious, probably I'm not too convinced about the health aspect of harder excercise.


I work with an agency which is selling language-courses all over the world (there is also an english translation for that site, just in case you're interested). There I do some html-programming, creative writing and translating (in my opinion pretty much the same) and I really enjoy that job. It's not even a one-minute-walk to get to the office, I get some positive feedback and respect for my work offside the job of a housewive. In addition I'm allowed to organise my office-hours on my own, which means that I can also take care of the kids and be at home whenever they need it.


I increased working hours at sprachkurse-weltweit and still enjoy it a lot. My programming skills get better and that also enables me to update the vilshof website without a lot of effort. Also that kind of work helps me to get a better structure in my way of thinking.


In Summer we've been on holiday in Riga, Latvia. We've spent most of the time at the chalet on sea side, where we built towers and castles out of sand, went for sweets, crackers and icecream to the shop just over the corner and got up early for morning runs along the beach. Like some years before we didn't find any amber.


Also I reduced my garden because of work. I gave up two garden beds and set up another one close to the house, where mainly herbs and cucumbers were growing. We had quite a wet year and so the cucumbers grew really good. We had some WWOOFers here who did great jobs: they established new beds, moved a lot of soil and stones, planted herbs and flowers, fertilized and weeded the beds and cooked for us.


We had some fantastic WWOOFers this year: they've rebuilt the campervan and started the composting toilet, painted walls and extracted huge plants. Besides they cooked, played with the kids and did most of the watering, fertilizing and weeding in the garden.


In October we finally got some chooks, 7 hens and a rooster. Since the they supply us with eggs and finish our left-overs. It's nice to have eggs in the fridge the whole time! Also the kids have fun with them, they feed them out of the compost bin and like to watch them.


One hen hatched some baby-chicken in may. We always have a lot of eggs and the kids now can prepare on of their favourite meal - scrambled egg!


Enough talk about me, now something about the others:

Stephan still enjoys working at a furniture store in Regensburg, he's doing a lot of sports and finished at a triathlon (where we played music) this year. He wants to do another one next year. In summer he cycled to the west of Germany, close to the french border. He's maintaining the house and farm a lot, does repair and building jobs and together we've built the wooden fence around the chicken area. He also started building an indoor climbing wall in the shed, but because of time and temperature that one's not finished yet.


Lina (9) is leaving primary school next summer but has not yet decided where to go next. She swims once a week, does athletics (running, jumping, throwing) and plays the trumpet. Besides she loves to read, watch TV and play Nintendo games.


Zoe (7) started school this year but has more problems than Lina had the first year. She is also swimming and doing athletics (we always stuff the car with kids and take them to training sessions, that's why all of them do the same thing), and loves to play with our cats or the Nintendo. She's not playing an instrument so far.


Julius (5) is still in kindergarden, probably until summer 2012. He joins his sisters with the athletics club (where I'm also engaged at competitions in the office with typing results into the computer) and likes to be outside. He learns how to ride a bike this year, next year we want to make him swim.


That's all, folks. Sure there are more things to tell, but I get exhausted of expressing it all in english. Please forgive my poor knowlege of grammar (esp. the proper use of past and perfect) - hopefully you understand most of my writing!

All the best for christmas and the new year,

Maija and Stephan with kids


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Merry Christmas,

another year passed by and it`s time for me to remember the remarkable events.
In early January a friend asked me to use a spare neopren-wetsuite, because he had organised a winter swimming on the Vils, our local river. It was freezing cold, not only in the air, but also in the water with 3° C. We (about 15 people) managed it to stay in there for 50 minutes, floating down to a village in a 3 km`s distance. My hands and feet didn`t feel and behave like usual after that, but it was good fun and definitely a good experience.


We had an early spring this year with mild temperatures, so I could start gardening quite soon. I established a new bed, planted some gooseberries and a peach tree and raised a lot of crops out of the seeds. This year I had loads of zucchini and found a tasty way of preserving them in vinegar and herbs. We also had some WWOOFers over the year, one couple stayed while the cherries got ripe and they harvested the whole tree. I baked some cakes and cooked sweet dishes and we still got some marmelade left.


There was one major building project, where we also had some help of WWOOFers: the renovation of the veranda. It had a concrete floor and one wood-covered wall, Stephan took the wooden boards off and chiseled off the plaster so the original lime-stone wall is visible again. The floor is covered now with boards of larch, we also removed some of the old steps for getting more space.


The kids keep growing and are doing well. Julius started kindergarden in September and learned a lot of nasty words. Zoe is still a kindergarden-visitor and just recently learned to swim and joined the local water rescue for getting some more swim excercise once a week. Lina and her cousins Leo and Rosie are also in that group; they also organise a camping weekend in June every year where the kids have a lot of fun, probably because nobody there engages them to brush teeth and change underware.


All of our kids are in a sports club for track and field athletics in the nearest town now. There are some competitions over the year, where mothers like me are welcomed to help and bake cake. Also its a good opportunity for meeting friends. This year I socialized a lot, the kid`s activities also made me become more active and visible for other people.


In summer, me and Lina joined a brass-band. This band teaches music at Lina`s elementary school and we considered that as a good and cheap way to learn an instrument. We tried to convince Lina to learn the trombone, because we like the look and sound of it (and my brother-in-law Cris, when he got into his midlife-crisis on his 40th birthday, bought and learned lots of instruments and also had a spare trombone). Lina refused and choosed the trumpet instead.


Meanwhile I was convinced of trombone and started to learn with Lina and 9 other kids between 8 and 11. Some weeks ago I played my first show, when they had a street opening ceremony in the next village. Cris made an arrangement of "Highway to Hell" and together with some other learnig musicians of surrounding brass-bands we performed there. It was good fun. Together with Cris and his kids Leo and Wanda we played on some markets in December, christmas carols are quite easy to learn and play.


As a tribute to the "traditional, historic and romantic" christmas markets, which increasingly take place over the last years simply everywhere, we also had a christmas market at Vilshof with hot food and drinks, christmas sweets, brass music and the visit of Nikolaus and Krampus, the traditional good and evil guy who visit the kids on the 6th of December to bring praise and fear, nowadays some small presents. We invited some friends and there were about 25 kids.


I`m back into paid working business since September, when Julius started kindergarden. I work with Cris in his office, do some programming and accounting. It`s not too much, just 2 to 3 hours a day, but it`s good to have something else beside the familiy and the duties you fulfill on your own responsibility. It structures my day and I better enjoy my free time now, besides I learned a lot about programming the last 3 month, so I could update and take care of our homepage soon (running gag over the last 4 years). I`ll send you a message, when I`m ready!


Stephan has done a lot of km`s this year with the bike, about 8300. He took the bike to work very often (30 km`s one way) and did a trip up north to eastern parts of Germany. Next year he wants to explore the west. He also was running a lot and took part in two triathlon-relays as the bike-rider. I did some running over the year, also swimming and cycling, but not as competitive as Stephan. I prefer my excercise units to be called "movement-meditation". I`m 40 now and have to pay respect on my body!


Hopefully you enjoyed this report of our passed year and you can remember beautiful moments you had in 2009. May there be more in 2010! Health and happiness for all of you! Maija and Family (Stephan, Lina, Zoe and Julius)


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Merry Christmas!

Another year passed and we`re still in good condition! That means, we all are healthy and happy and in best hope for the future.
We had a rather quiet year, without building and major expenses, the car is still running and nothing really broke down. Now while winter has arrived, we enjoy our isolated, warm and bright house, especially today, because it was snowing the whole night and heavy loads of snow bow down the trees and make nature look like a picture-book-christmas.


Stephan`s left for work in Regensburg, he`s selling wooden furniture there. Today is only a short working day for him, after 5 hours he can quit and will visit the christmas-market in town, where they sell decoration stuff for the christmastree, "Glühwein" (heated wine, spiced with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and coriander) and "Bratwurstsemmel" (a roll filled with roasted sausage and mustard) - he tries to get a kick for christmas there.

Stephan loves cycling, very often he got to work by bike, which is not only non-polluting but also cheaper than taking the car. In summer he made three bike-trips: twice he rode along the alpes and once through the bavarian forest. Then he took part at some local time-trials and races, always quite fast and therefor successful. Besides his job he simply needs that kind of competition, I guess.


Lina is 7 years old and visits 2nd class in primary school. She likes reading, right now she`s over the 6th book of Harry Potter, sometimes I read to her, but more than the half of the text she read alone. I`m very glad about this: when she`s going on with reading, I won`t have to worry about her, I guess. She`s quite good at school, swims in the lokal waterguard-group (they watch out for weak swimmers in rivers and lakes, besides they organize a lot of activities such as camping, hiking, artwork and they also have a pre-christmas-celebration tomorrow, where all the kids get small presents) and goes to horse-riding once a week. There is a farm with horses only 1 km away and the owner is a true animal-lover, he "collects" old and neglected animals, mainly horses and cares well for their rest of days.


Zoe is 5 years old and still going to kindergarden. She likes to play a lot, she`s good at painting and acting and has a remarkable memory for air-plays, theater and movies. Also she`s crazy about animals, when the yearly kittens were born, she was sitting and watching them for hours. She`s also interested in insects and small mammals and because there is forest all around our house, the windows are a good place for her to watch deer. Maybe she starts school in summer, but we are not quite sure about that: she was born late in October and could maybe need another year at kindergarden.


Julius is 3 years old and likes playing with tractors, cars and weapons, like boys do. Right now he`s cutting paper, just before he was outside shoveling snow; now he stopped cutting, went upstairs and started building a railway course. He still sleeps at midday and gives me a break, although even in his lively hours he`s quite easy-going.


My youngest sister will give birth to her first child these days, that reminds me how happy I can be that I`ve been through with helpless babies needing me every moment. Of course it`s nice to be needed, but for me right now it`s nicer to have more time for my own. Every day I take some time off for me, then I go cycling or running or walking - the day is really different after that break, I feel like recharged then.


I'm not working somewhere else, that means I'm not earning money out of the house, but there`s still plenty to do: gardening from spring to autumn, shopping, cooking and preparing food for the kids, washing, cleaning, taking the kids to friends and different activities, helping with homework and sometimes entertaining them. In my spare time I like to read and do bobbin lace, so there is no chance for getting bored.


In May we all together made a trip to Latvia. My mother came to Germany as a baby-refugee in 1941, when she was born in Riga, the capitol of Latvia. She still got family there and visits Latvia quite often 4-5 times a year. For the first time now we visited Latvia, spend 10 days in Riga and the countryside, where we met some of our family and had nice salmon and champagne together. We quite enjoyed living in the middle of a lively, crowded city, where you can buy milk, bread and chocolate in the middle of the night. There are amazing art-deco-houses with sculptured plants, animals and humans on their fronts. In old town are also huge buildings of the middle-ages, where you can see that Riga was incredible rich at certain times.


We also spent two days at the beach, it was too cold for swimming, but good enough for a walk and the kids liked to play with sand, sticks and stones, we were looking for amber, but didn`t found some.
I was so impressed, that I returned to Riga in September to spend some days together with my oldest friend, a woman from Berlin.


For 10 days I was travelling alone and really enjoyed that, maybe I still earn the benefit of this family-free time, feel much more relaxed about so-called problems. Especially now, when they all talk about world-economy recession (maybe they complain the loudest here in Germany -as usual), I feel comfortable and secure about the potatoes in the cellar and the firewood in the shed - what more do we really need? The older I get, the more I realize that friends are the mean thing, not money. That might also be a reason for a christmas letter like this: let other people know that you still are and still think of them.


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In these days I traditionally think about the passing year and it reminds me to contact all the people I`ve neglected over the year.
However - I realized the importance of keeping in touch with people. When you get older, you should have people to talk about it.

We both had a good year. There were no bigger projects running, we even didn`t organize a party at our place. I was pregnant until September, when Julius Demian, our third child was born. Our oldest daughter, Lina Bjoerk (4) started with kindergarden, also in September. Today is a theater for kids nearby and she`ll go there with her aunt and their kids, who are living next door.
Right now she and her sister Zoe Katharina (2) have a midday break. I can hear them so they are not asleep as I hoped. Nevermind.


Stephan started work at the carpentry in April and he had a lot of time off during the year, in the middle of November he stopped working again and he will go on not before February next year. When Julius was born, he could be at home, that was a big help for me, so I could enjoy laying around reading.


I had a pleasant pregnancy with a lot of swimming. When it is rainy and you can see the drops falling in the water, I like it best. Then usally nobody else but me is in the pool and it always makes me feel some kind of almighty.

We had an average yield in the garden, due to late frosts the fruit trees and bushes did not produce too much. Stephan built some covers for the beds, which helped the early vegies quite a bit. Concerning lettuce we were self-sufficient this year, in the winter month we rather have Sauerkraut and other cabbages.


In May we changed our heating system, threw the oil-kettle away and established a wood-fired oven. We got some acres of forest around our house and my father likes chopping wood, so it seems to be a wise decision. We also put up a couple of solar panels for hot water. That was quite good during summer, when the sun could heat all our water.


In summer we sometimes packed the bikes in the car and went to Regensburg in the evening. Then we cruised the city, always looking for nice and unknown spots. We don`t go out spending our time in pubs or restaurants anymore, because it`s expensive and no fun. We rather bring a bottle of water and some bananas and have a good time while riding push-bikes through not too heavy traffic.


Julius was born at Vilshof, same like Zoe. My mother and my sister are midwives and stayed with me the last two hours of his birth. He is a very friendly and easy-going guy, right now he`s sleeping in front of the house.


Stephan just came with a lot of building wood, because he wants to build a bee`s house. In spring we want to get three bee-hives, hoping they can supply us with enough honey over the year.


We got more plans for the next year: a composting toilet and a huge renovation of our house, where we put up a new roof and build ourselves a spacious bath, living and sleeping room. We only got a small chamber with less than 4 qm as a bathroom right now, also we don`t have a common sleeping room so far. After building we will also have 4 sleeping rooms for the kids and guests. During building we`ll move to my sister next door.


We wish you lots of enery for all your plans in the next year, stay healthy and happy and always keep your mind open for the small good things in live!


Have a good time,

Maija and Stephan


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