Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Another Room I Forgot!

Here's one I forgot to post with the other pictures of the flat last week - our little guest bedroom!

Monday, 29 August 2011

More Wildlife!

After ducks, wasps, dragonflies... here is our latest vistor in the neighbourhood - a stork!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Recipe Update

Here are some of the delicious recipes we have been trying out lately:

Vegetable Frittata

Fish with mustard sauce, broccoli and potatoes

Salmon with a delicious sauce and hot rice

Southern Style Chicken with wedges, corn and tomatoes

Summer Vegetable Risotto

Roast Pork with spinach peppers and potatoes

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Cycling in all Weathers

So even though I have stayed the same for three weeks running in terms of my weight, I have been cycling for an hour a day to school and back.  The weather over the past two weeks has been totally changeable.  Whereas some days like yesterday, it's been scorching hot and I've wished I had a change of clothes at school, other days, I've been caught in thunderstorms and thought the same.  It's to this end that I borrowed Nico's old rain poncho to try and minimize the damage.  Luckily for you, Nico thought this was so funny, he got up early to take pictures.

PS I'm not a hunchback, there is a backpack under there too until I get paid next week and can buy bike bags!

Friday, 26 August 2011


On Sunday we took a trip to Cuxhaven with Nico's family for his dad's birthday.  We were lucky enough to have glorious weather and everyone had a great time (well, ... except little Melvin who had to walk too much for his liking).

Cuxhaven - Alte Liebe

Looking out for the others arriving

On the boardwalk

 This bit of the coast line on the North Sea is one of the busiest waterways in Europe.  The speaker announces interesting facts about each ship as it sails by.

Nico with his parents

Sat by the sea

Nico's cousins Jan and Melvin making good use of their cameras too

We were given a lift there and back by Nico's aunt and uncle.  The best comment of the day came from the two little ones in the back.  They had individual DVD players so it was as though they weren't there for most of the journey but at one point Melvin, the older one said something about wanting to get home quickly to which little Jan replied "Why?  We can watch the DVDs for longer!"  I bet my parents wish we had had DVD screens in the car for all the road trips to Cornwall!

The Balconies!

As per special request here are a few piccies from our balconies.

At the front

The front again
The Back Balcony

The Back Again

On the Back Balcony

Sunday, 21 August 2011

New Flat Pictures at last!

Here are some long promised pictures of our new place.

The Dining Area

Living Room


Bathroom & Washroom

Guest WC

Main Bedroom

Main Bedroom

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Saturday Update

This week I have ... stayed the same.  I am not impressed.  I have been having three square weightwatchers meals per day with fruit as snacks and cycling for at least an hour every day.  I have never been so good on weightwatchers and had such a bad week.  :-(  

I had a bit of a snacking session at lunchtime out of anger but am back on the wagon already.  I'm hoping that it is just taking a bit longer to kick in.  Nico is trying to convince me that the fat has started turning to muscle with all the cycling but I'm not won over yet.  I'm wondering if the scales may be broken since that weight hasn't changed since the move - and it measures to the half pound!  They may get some vigorous testing later...

First week at work wasn't bad.  With the meetings and pupils not having subject lessons until Friday when I only have one class, I had a fairly light week so we will see how it develops this week with a normal timetable.  On the positive side, I've been invited along on the class trip to the school centre in the forest with my favourite class in September so looking forward to that and on a personal note, became an auntie again when my little sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy - Lucas.  

Tomorrow we are taking a trip with Nico's family to Cuxhaven, where I have never been before so I'm looking forward to that and must remember to take the camera!  Photos of the flat will be online tomorrow now that we have tidied up a bit but the office is not on yet, for that very reason!! 

Friday, 19 August 2011

Lucas Ramsden

Here's a pic of my baby nephew Lucas born yesterday at 2.08am weighing 7lb4.
Congratulations to Briony and Karl on the new addition and welcome to the world little man!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


One of the best things about living in Bremen is that it is so green.  Not just politically and in terms of recycling and things but literally.  Wherever you are in the city you are never far from somewhere natural and relaxing.  At my old flat it was the Werder lake and for Nico it was a lake just over the main road.  Even in the city centre you have the green parks where the city wall used to be and Burger Park.

Huchting, where we live now, seems to be the greenest place yet though.  On our very first journey here to view the flat, we noticed immediately the sense of being out of the city and into the green with the allotments, lakes, trees,...  However, since moving we've seen it more and more every day.  We took a walk in our first week here and were in a park in about one minute flat.  There's a water channel right by our building so we are often woken by ducks.  Having the top floor also makes us more at one with nature.  When we've been sat on the balcony, we've noticed it's not just wasps that fly this high, birds, butterflies, even dragonflies are all around here.

This week that border between city and green has been all the more important.  I really get a sense of gearing up for work on a morning and winding down on my way home because of the cycle route - lovely!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Cooperative Learning

Five and a half weeks of holidays flew by and in that time my brain did take a complete break.  I had completely forgotten everything that was said at school in the last few days, even down to the time we were supposed to be in yesterday (luckily I checked that with a colleague on Saturday).  This is why it was a really nice surprise to find out yesterday that not only did we have a later start of nine and an earlier finish of two but in between we were training on one of my favourite topics at the moment - Cooperative Learning.

I say my favourite, I first came into contact with this concept at my first school where it was a really big new idea that everyone was expected to adapt to.  We were given plenty of training and I really like many of the concepts but being a typical Aries, I don't like being made to do anything.  There have been times, up to and including last week when I have cursed the whole theme bitterly, it being the basis of my dissertation for my MA.  However, yesterday was really inspiring.  As well as a reminder about all that is good in Cooperative Learning, it gave me new ideas, lots of useful related German vocabulary and the inspiration to start afresh and really get cracking with my dissertation project so it's about to be a busy two and a half months!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Attack of the Militant Wasps!

As I wrote the other day, since moving into the new flat, I've been surprised by the number of wasps flying in and we had found the cause.  After our kitchen being a little wasp highway straight to the sugar source that is our gingerbread hearts from the festival last year, I decided enough was enough.  These little insects had literally trained themselves to negotiate the window on tilt, to get in and find their little ways through the plastic wrapping to their prize.  We decided to tape up the holes in the plastic so that they couldn't get in anymore.  Did that stop them?  Nope, shortly afterwards, an especially big bug clapped itself onto the side and literally ate its way through the plastic!  We've taken the next step now and sprayed the whole thing with hairspray which seems to be doing the trick for now...just as long as it doesn't encourage them to explore other rooms in the flat again.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Goodbye Summer!

So it's the last day of the 'Summer Holidays' already.  I knew it would go fast but that really has crept up on me!  In a way I'm quite happy to go back and ready to get back into a good routine with work, especially since the weather is so rubbish.

I know the English are famed for talking about the weather but it's also a bit of a teacher phenomenon - especially when we have to put the heating on to keep warm in our homes in the holidays.  

I'm looking forward to cycling to and from work this year.  I know I will regret saying that but it will save me a fortune in gym membership and transport costs and it will also give me time to build up to and wind down from school.  I am having to search for a rain poncho though - especially given the weather this morning.

I've heard rumours of an Indian Summer.  Part of me wants them to be true so we can appreciate our two balconies before next year, but I'm not looking forward to working in that.  We will see...

Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Saturday Update

Yep, I'm back with my weekly updates.  After some weeks off the diet to get used to being gluten free and with the move, I'm back on Weightwatchers and trying to get into a routine. 

This week I have stayed the same.  Actually, despite good intentions last week it's been pretty rocky and apart from still being on holiday, it's been up and down emotionally so I think with all the comfort eating, staying the same is a good result.

This week it's back to school and hopefully back into a good routine.  After a quiet week exercise wise, I will be cycling too and from school every day so hopefully that will give me a good boost.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Wise Words

This prayer was related to us in an assembly at my secondary school and it's something I've always remembered and tried to live by...

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. 

I'm not a very religious person but I don't think it's necessarily linked to religion, just a little reminder which makes life easier sometimes.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Wasp Invasion

When we got the keys to the new flat the agent told us that there had been a nest of wasps but it was taken care of.  Since we moved in though, there seems to be another one in here every day.  Nico assures me it isn't the nest, it's just stray ones looking for the nest and we have had the windows open most days so I can understand it.  Unfortunately, they seem to get stuck in here and just get more and more drowsy until they die.

However, yesterday we found one cheeky chappie who went straight for the goods in the kitchen as you can see here.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Riots

Ever since I moved to Germany, there has been a big balancing act in my mind.  Sometimes the way things are in this country have made me question my decision to move here and sometimes things happening in England make me glad I made the move. 

Despite these mental disputes, I have always been proud of my heritage and nationality.  This morning though, was possibly the first time I have ever been ashamed of my country.

I am a believer in freedom of speech and of the press and am quite interested in finding out exactly what happened to Mark Duggan and why but I'm not sure on what planet an unjustified shooting (if it was that) can justify burning people in their beds!  

I also saw a video on Facebook this morning showing the looting of a Curry's store.  If it were purely a sign of protest, I would have expected every other store on the street to be looted too yet it was the only one.

I just hope that for the sake of other residents of London and the other cities involved, either people come to their senses or the government get things under control soon.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Magic Mushrooms!

Look what showed up on the new balcony last week!

Back on the Wagon

As of yesterday I am back on the Weightwatchers Wagon in terms of food.  (I can't promise anything on the drinking front until the holidays are officially over)  We got of to a great start with a delicious pork Sunday roast.  When Nico said he wanted a nice meat dish and not just mince and chicken that we normally eat, I have to admit I did wrinkle my face up a little bit.  I am not a fan of red meat, and of all red meat, pork is probably the last I would pick out.  I eat it and if it's well cooked I really enjoy it but it's not the first thing I pick from the menu or in this case, the latest Weightwatchers magazine.  Yesterday, I was proved wrong. 

This delicious recipe involves cooking the meat for a long time which is perfect for my taste and with all of the veg and spices, it was delicious.  Here's what we did:

  • Preheat the oven to 180c.
  • Put 300g of potatoes (cut into wedges) and an onion (also cut into wedges) in a casserole dish.
  • Pour over 50ml of white wine and 50ml of vegetable stock.
  • Lay 250g of pork on top of the potatoes and onion and season well with salt and pepper.  
  • Roast for 1 hour 15 minutes.
  • Add 3 quartered peppers and four garlic cloves to the vegetables and lay the pork back on top.  Season again and add some thyme.
  • Return to the oven for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile cook some spinach.
  • Rest the pork and serve the vegetables.  Add sauce thickener to the remaining juices.
  • Carve and serve the pork with the sauce, vegetables and spinach.
There are also lots of other great recipes in the August edition - take a look!

Friday, 5 August 2011


Being English, it's only natural for me to tell you all about the weather here.  One thing I loved about my past experience in Germany is that the country has proper seasons.  Winter is cold, and Summer is hot, certainly the latter part of that seems to have disappeared in England.  However, even here in Germany the weather is starting to get temperamental.  

As I have already mentioned, the weather has been glorious since we arrived in the new flat.  It's been in the high twenties most days and even with our balcony doors and all the windows open, we don't get much relief.  Then on Wednesday night, the weather broke after all the humidity and we had one hell of a thunderstorm.  So much so that Bremen looked like this yesterday:

Many Bremen students, our house guest Frankie among them, struggled to get into uni yesterday or basically anywhere north of the city centre, where roads, sewers and cellars were all filled with water.  What really surprised me on the news reports were the number of car drivers who really thought they were better than all of the other (sometimes bigger) cars turning around and actually tried to drive through it!

One sad little part of the whole thing was right on our doorstep.  Although we didn't have flooded streets, we do have a water channel running up the side of our house where we had been observing a mother duck protecting her eggs in the nest since we moved in on Saturday.  Unfortunately there is no sign of mother or eggs. 

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Low Point of the Week

One reason we still haven't finished unpacking is that we had to clean up both our old flats this week before we handed the keys over.  I have to say it was not fun in 27 degree weather and with us both feeling under the weather on Monday but we managed it.  

It was a little sad saying goodbye to the old places.  There were a lot of good memories in both of our flats.  However, the whole process was made a lot easier in a way on the second handover (my flat)...

We both were surprised that although we handed over cash deposits, we'll only get them back by bank transfer and when the landlords get round to it.  There are so many rules and regulations but it seems most landlords are out to get you on some level.  We're a little worried about Nico's because the meter is in a neighbour's flat and she hasn't given the landlord access yet but he wants to carry some work out in the flat before the new tenants arrive which is worrying since we just have to take his word for what the meter said and when it was read.

Mine was even more complicated as the landlady didn't come to the handover but just sent her lawyer husband and another man.  They had a look around and then asked for my new address to send the bill to.  When I asked what bill, they explained that costs would be deducted from my deposit and the balance transfered to my bank.  It turned out that the costs were for getting rid of mould that was already there when I moved in.  Now, I've rented before in England and we never had to have paperwork to state the condition of the flat when I moved in.  Apparently this is normal in Germany but I didn't know this and never asked for one.  You would think that a lawyer and his wife would know that this should happen but why not take advantage of a foreigner and then sting her for what you can when she moves out, right?  I had it verbally from the landlady that the water stain in the kitchen and the thermostat in the hall would be fixed soon after I moved in, neither of them were but I didn't complain because it didn't really affect me.  What did affect me was when the hot water went off in December and they fixed that really quickly.  However, in the same way, I'd never reported the mould because we managed to stop it getting any worse and killed most of it off.  

There was mould in both the bathroom and the bedroom.  In the bedroom it was caused by some boards that had been fixed to the wall for uplighting so the landlord agreed I wouldn't be charged as it was a structural problem.  When I pointed out that I had done everything possible to keep the mould out of the bathroom, including keeping the windows and doors open so that air could circulate (and basically this was also a structural problem), he wouldn't agree although he couldn't tell me what I should have done, and therefore how I was responsible.  When I asked how much it would cost, he explained that that was what the second man had come to assess (so he did know the mould was there previously) and when I asked if he could give me an estimate, he just laughed.  I was so thrown.  He wouldn't even give me the date that I could expect the bill to be ready by.  

As I was so confused, and worried that something may have been lost in translation, I asked Nico to speak to him so we went back up to the flat and at this point the man turned really aggressive.  He started shouting that he had already explained it ten times and if we didn't leave it, he would go back round the flat and find hundreds more problems for me to pay for, because that's his job!  We left soon after but it really got to me.  

So the lesson is, always ask for a protocol so you have proof of everything.  Luckily Nico is much more aware than I was so we already ensured we were thorough in the new flat.  A second lesson is to look out for who you are renting from, especially in a foreign country where laws are different too.  I was more angry at myself than anything else for being so naive but the lesson is learnt and I will just have to wait for my bill and put the whole thing down to experience.  At least it made me even more glad to be getting out of there. 

On the Move

Well we made it!  After a whole week of packing up boxes, our army of helpers arrived on Saturday and helped us transport the whole lot from our two flats across Bremen to Huchting and our new haven!

We've since spent the last few days unpacking, cleaning and putting up furniture.  We have finished with the furniture this very minute and I'll post some pictures once we have finished with the boxes!  It's incredible how much stuff two people can accumulate!

The new feeling has not worn off yet, we've had a week of almost glorious sunshine until last night when the heavens opened and Bremen actually flooded!  (I've witnessed all weathers here now!)  Today it's beautiful again and we have had the windows open since we got here.  The two balconies are amazing.  All of our plants are on the back balcony and my little tree pot is also growing mushrooms!!  Eek!

We had a little ride around Huchting on the bikes yesterday and discovered all kinds of shops including a big shopping centre with my favourite book shop.  Still got more to discover and settle in properly but so far it's going ok and as you can see, we have finally been reconnected with the wider world via our phone and internet today!