Friday, 30 September 2011

German Online Banking

Another little rant...

I love my German bank account.  I can access it online, I can transfer money to my English account without having to pay fees and they give me free credit.

I don't love that they recently decided to beef up their online security with an electronic TAN generator.  I have one for my English account, but unlike that one, I have had to fork out nine Euros for my new one.  Had I not bought it, my internet banking would have been cut off.

Apart from having to pay for it, it has just taken me an hour, a phonecall, and being on the point of throwing the thing out of the window, for me to work out how to use it!  First I got a message saying I had to contact the bank, then the woman said I didn't have to call her, I had to register the thing myself online.  Having done this it said in order to transfer money, I had to put my card in the machine and hold it up to some flashy lights on the screen.  When this did nothing, time and time again, and after reading some pretty useless instructions, I realised that it gives me the option to generate a TAN without the flashy lights but it took me three attempts to work out how to insert a comma on the machine which locked me out of the machine!  Having registered it again, I managed to complete three two minute transactions an hour after I started the process.  Great...


I survived my four days in the wilderness with 7a.  On the whole it was a lot of fun as highlighted by the kids claiming never to have seen me laugh before in over a year of English lessons!

Day one ran fairly smoothly.  We arrived at about 11 and unpacked the bus.  I have to say, even though I knew I was going on the trip with one of the nicer classes in the school, they completely surprised me with their ability to get on with practical jobs quickly and without complaining.  The bus was done in no time and the music room set up and ready to go for the afternoon.  We took them on a walk through the woods and showed them the boundary line for any walks.  The area where the house is is lovely.  It reminded me of the countryside where Nico's family lived but it had the big advantage of being just half an hour away which was handy when two pupils had to be picked up.

We then had our first lunch - pasta bolognese.  The pupils had been divided into groups for kitchen duty and again, here they were brilliant at doing everything.  We had three different meat sauces and everybody enjoyed their lunch.  In the afternoon they had the first of three music sessions in three different groups while I kept an eye on the other two groups.  In the evening we had dinner and a little too much free time as this was when things tended to get load and by Tuesday we were kicking them out of the building!  One pupil, the real lads' lad of the class allowed the girls to dress him up in make up and stuff his top and proceeded to wander around the building in drag all afternoon which was quite amusing.

Tuesday morning did not start well when the pupils were running up at down the corridors shouting before my alarm had even gone off.  Breakfast went smoothly though and we set up a treasure hunt for the morning session.  We split the group into three and each group was sent into the woods with a map an a camera one after the other.  When they found post one they had to sing a song and video this on the camera.  At post two they had to build a teepee with branches and photograph it, at post three film a group dance and at post four film a set of impressions of a famous person.  They found their treasure at post five and brought it back so the next group could start.  We then judged the pictures and videos and awarded a prize for the best group.  After a lunch of eggs, potatoes and spinach, the groups had their second music sessions.  One of the great things in the kitchen was a giant frying pan that was built into the kitchen where you had to wind a lever to tip it up and get things out.  We did the eggs and later the pancakes in there.  In the evening the pupils were due to have a night walk in the woods with torches but they were so loud all afternoon and evening that we had to cancel it.  

Unfortunately two pupils also had to go home on Tuesday.  One girl had been ill since we arrived and really wasn't enjoying herself so her brother came to collect her on Tuesday morning.  She's now in hospital with two slipped discs so it's hardly surprising she was having such a hard time.  We filmed some messages for her on the way back in the hope of maybe cheering her up.  One boy was quite homesick and insisted on going home on Tuesday evening which was a shame but seemed to be what he needed at the time.

On Wednesday it was my turn to lead some activities with Nature in English Bingo.  Pupils had to find a number of things on their lists in the woods e.g. a leaf, an animal.  Instead of bringing back hundreds of leaves, twigs and poor animals, they were to have a partner sign their sheet to say they had seen it and then add any extra (in English) on the back of their sheets for bonus points.  One girl won with 29 items seen and signed.  However, it turned out to be more eventful than expected with kids bringing back frogs, a slug and an animal skull!!    At lunch time I was 'in charge' for the pancake making session which I was dreading as we only had one normal frying pan (which one girl had brought herself) and then this giant one.  It turned out great though.  The kids worked in teams of two with a bowl of batter and we had way too many pancakes in the end but it's better than too little.  We really had fun doing it too.  In the afternoon there was one final music session and I listened to the pieces they had prepared over the two previous days.  Again here they really amazed me, this time with their talent.  The music was brilliant and there are some great singers in the group - a talent which I am seriously lacking and therefore always a little envious of.  One pupil also taught me a couple of boardgames in the afternoon and proceeded to thrash me soundly in both so I will be practising in time for the next trip. 

On Wednesday evening, the social worker for that year group came to visit.  The kids loved seeing him.  One group performed their version of the hit 'Hellelujah' renamed 'deine Mutter' - very funny.  He then organised a chocolate marshmallow eating competition which induced the afore mentioned lads' lad to throw up all over the table.  As a response, all the other pupils ran from the room, closely followed by the teachers.  They also had their disco for an hour on Wednesday evening which gave us a little break.

Finally, on Thursday it was back to reality.  An extra early start (and the only morning the kids didn't wake us first), and a lot of cleaning.  Yet again, the kids were absolutely brilliant with cleaning.  What really surprised me though was how the boys were way better than the girls!  Especially when they found the vacuum cleaners and I actually had to go in there and make them hand one over to the girls.  I would have taken photos for their mothers had I had a camera.  The journey back was smooth and all in all it was a great trip.  I was glad to have been invited and to have taken up the offer.  

The house where we stayed is actually owned by the school who employ a neighbour there to manage and clean it.  I think every school should have one.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Recipe Update

Recently Nico has been experimenting with some new cooking techniques and as ever, I have been benefiting from the process.  He has recently bought a Roman Cooking pot and a pressure cooker. 

The Roman pot is amazing.  The heat that it cooks with just makes all the flavours blend together and similar to a slow cooker, it's so easy to just chop everything up and throw it in the oven for half an hour to an hour.  We have tried two different recipes so far, one with chicken and one with fish - both delicious.

Here is another delicious meal we had last week - vegan gyros.  I actually preferred it to the meat ones.  Even though it's a soy based substitute, it really soaked up the flavour of the spices well - Yummy!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

From Print to the silver Screen

As you may have noticed, some of the films I've watched this year have followed a reading of the novel.  I always try to read the book before I see the film because on the whole, I feel the books are better and I'd rather get to know the 'real', good story before it's spoilt for me.  

Sometimes I am more let down than others.  Sometimes, I can completely understand the changes, for example with Harry Potter, some parts had to be cut or the films would have lasted many more hours.

However, as I said some films seem to be ruined.  For example, My Sister's Keeper which completely changes the ending and I really don't understand why.  Another example for me was the Eclipse series where the film just can't get inside the character's head the way a book can.

Either way, it's always nice to see the characters brought to life on the screen - sometimes, I find myself imagining who would be cast for each character as I am reading.  As long as I have read the book, I always want to see a film adaptation when there is one, but you can't beat a good book.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Pancake Sunday!

Yesterday, I did something else completely new for me and made pancakes from scratch for breakfast!  After a little research (thank you Nico) and converting a recipe into Gluten Free I got to work and we had a lovely breakfast.  I also feel better about letting the pupils cook them on our trip this week.  If I can manage not to burn them, they can.

We used:

40g Buckwheat flour
40g Corn flour
120g Rice flour
200ml soy milk
4 eggs
100g sugar
1tsp baking powder
50g butter

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Saturday Update

It's been another hectic week with taking on all of my classes at last, and having numerous meetings about particular pupils, and planning for the residential trip next week.  It's finally weekend and I have an MA tutorial and still lots to do if I am going to hit my 1st November deadline.

Next week is mainly about the residential trip Monday - Thursday and a nice relaxing weekend to follow it hopefully.

Last week I forgot to mention putting on a pound which wasn't surprising.  I cut out alcohol during the week this week but not enough snacks apparently because I have stayed the same this week.  Let's hope that being in the middle of nowhere sans alcohol for most of the week will give me a boost next week!

Friday, 23 September 2011


Happy Friday Everybody!

I now have my English in Nature lesson planned with a scavenger hunt Bingo!  Should keep the busy.  The form teacher has informed me today that he has also agreed with the class that we can make pancakes for lunch even though neither he nor I know how!!  So I will be spending some time this weekend making gluten free pancakes and watching you tube instructional videos to try this out!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

English in Nature

Next week I am heading to Ristedt from Monday to Thursday with 24 year seven pupils and their form teacher.  I'm quite looking forward to it because although they are a lovely bunch, they're also a nice class and it will give me something of a break from the rest of my job.  The house is also situated in the countryside so a bit of fresh air, exercise and good music (played by them, not me) will be good.

The slightly worrying side of this at the moment is that I have agreed to teach a lesson on Wednesday morning - English in Nature!  I have no idea what to do with them.  At the moment, I'm stuck on the idea of some kind of scavenger hunt in the grounds with an English list of things to collect.  However, I haven't got a longer list than stone, twig, leaf....  There's going to be some stress before Monday!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Cross Stitch

One hobby of mine is cross stitching and I've been doing quite a lot over the last year or so.  Last week I finished my latest project which I am especially proud of because, although it doesn't fit in to my usual Beatrice Potter / literary theme, I did learn two new stitches.  I don't always have a lot of patience, and sometimes cross stitching does get a little tedious for me but when I see what I've made and the picture beginning to emerge, it's very rewarding.  I always feel satisfied with the finished product.  Here's my latest and some I made earlier.

The Chinese Lady - my most challenging yet
Dove Cottage - Home of Wordsworth in the Lake District

Benjamin Rabbit

Jemima Puddleduck
Peter Rabbit Bookmark (the camera stopped playing here)

Monday, 19 September 2011

27 things - Run a 5K

I've now taken part in the Race for Life three times.  The first year was with my Mum at Temple Newsam in Leeds.  It was a really charged atmosphere and a great experience.  I was so inspired by the other people there, I decided I wanted to run it the following year.

So in 2009 I signed up early for the Harrogate race, I didn't do much training but I did convince my Mum and colleague that this time, we should jog it.  However, I was struck down with flu the week before and barely managed to walk around without collapsing (although I shouldn't have been there at all considering I was off work).  Again I was inspired by others there including colleagues who ran around and promised myself that I would do it.

After a year off, I signed up for the Wakefield race with my Mum and her friend.  Although I didn't really train again, I had been doing a lot more sport and felt better about letting Mum and her friend walk while I ran this time.  The previous two years, I completed the course in around an hour.  I was aiming for 45 minutes which I had been able to run a couple of years before.  I was delighted to come in at 38 minutes.  I did push myself and I was exhausted after but it was very rewarding and inspired me to apply for a 10K next year.  (I tried to enter the Bremen one this year but was too late unfortunately).

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Saturday Update

It's been another busy week with work and being physically exhausted.  The trip on Monday turned out to tire me out more than expected which set the tone for the whole week but it's finally Saturday and we've made it through.

This week I sold my car, paid off a credit card and some other debts - always a great feeling-, and caught up with some old and new friends on the Native Speaker programme over coffee.  Ed was one of the teachers who started at the same time as me and I haven't seen him since before the holidays, during which he got married to a lovely Spanish lady named Loreto who I also met yesterday.  We are going to meet up soon to speak Spanish, I definitely need the practice and it will be nice to have a new friend in town.  We also met Sophie who is starting on the programme this year and is loving the experience so far.  The other new teacher, Ben didn't make it as he had a meeting at work but his wife Rachel was there.  Both Loreto and Rachel have inspired me to make a bit more effort to get out and about in Bremen and maybe get some more things ticked of my 27 list in the next few months, but more about that later.

Next week I am picking up the last of my new classes, giving my first exam results back to my other new class (only one grade 4 and no grades 5 or 6 - first time in any of my classes!) and planning for the class trip the week after.  I will also be picking up my course folders for my new courses at the Volkhochschule and hopefully meeting up with Loreto - all exciting stuff.

Friday, 16 September 2011

27 things...Pay off a Credit Card

One very positive thing about selling my car earlier this week is that it has allowed me to pay off one of my credit cards and complete another thing on my 27 things list.  Okay, I admit it hasn't gotten me completely out of debt but it was a great feeling to pay that off, pay off my Masters fees and get on top of my other bills.

I've been following some great blogs with tips on cutting back.  I imposed a book ban on myself as I was buying them every week when I first arrived in Germany.  I decided I shouldn't buy any more until I'd read all the ones I had.  I read an average of one book per week and I've still got plenty to go at.  On top of that, I haven't bought any new clothes since October and I'm working my way through the stock piles of Avon make up and toiletries that I have before buying any more.  It feels great getting rid of the clutter while saving money!  Looking forward to paying off my next card already!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


Yesterday I accompanied 8a and 8d on a hike to the Werder Stadium.  I was hoping for an easy start to the week and while it was mentally, not so much physically.  That aside it was also more educational than I expected.  I learnt the following things:

  • some pupils are dumber than I knew - walking barefoot along public footpaths is never a good idea - I'd rather have bad blisters than glass in my foot (as I have proved on numerous occasions and in previous posts).
  • some pupils will find trouble to make wherever you take them - cue half the boys in the class digging rocks out of the damn along the river to throw in, then cue the Bremen police boat coming along and telling them off.
  • my old 'dreaded worst class' now speak constant English thanks to two new pupils from Greece and Russia who don't speak much German (so that's where I went wrong?!)
  • The Werder Stadium is quite a sight up close and personal...maybe attending a game should go on my 28 list...

Monday, 12 September 2011

Goodbye to my Faithful Friend

I bought my first car less than a week after passing my test (third time lucky).  I hadn't told my mum or dad that I had passed so they were both suitably surprised when I pulled up in the new car.

I rushed into buying the car because it had taken me three attempts and almost six years of learning to pass my test and I didn't want to forget how to drive!  Also, it was so useful for getting to college, to my training schools in Garforth and Bradford, my first job in Harrogate and even Heckomondwike (although not entirely necessary there, I do admit).

I also insisted on bringing the car with me when I first moved to Germany.  Even after my experience in Oldenburg five years ago, I hadn't really realised how easy it was to get about in Germany without a car and I certainly hadn't realised how difficult the German government made it to be a car owner!  Gggrrrr.

So my car (which I unfortunately never named) has been with me through thick and thin the last three and a half years but I have finally taken the leap and sold it to hopefully a good new owner in order to lead a healthier, greener, and financially better off life.  

Goodbye old friend.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

The Saturday Update..on Sunday

So it's been a busy week again with work.  I have observed my new class that I will be taking over in two weeks time, improved my German in doing so and been invited on another class trip - namely the England trip trial - tomorrow.

The trip is the same one I did last year but with the new year eight.  Basically we walk the kids around Bremen for the length of the school day, while speaking as much English as possible so that they realise how much walking and speaking English is involved in the London trip in May.  This year, I am officially in the year eight staff team so I feel a little bit more a part of this and although I'm going with the two classes I don't teach at the moment, I hope it will be fun, just fingers crossed for the right weather.

Yesterday I was training at the Volkhochschule for my new job which I am starting next month teaching English evening classes for adults.  I was a bit put out when the compulsory training took place on a Saturday and a very nice, sunny one at that but actually it was pretty useful and it was great to meet other teachers from all walks of life in the same boat as me.  I feel more prepared and excited about the experience already.  

In the evening we were at Madlen's surprise housewarming party.  She moved to Neustadt the week after I moved out of there.  The flat is great, very nice for Neustadt and she has it all set up nicely already.  She also has two gorgeous cats who were sneaking around while totally confused at all these people turning up in their new home!  

Just our flat warming to plan now...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

German Film Revival

Just lately we have been getting back into more German films in our flat.  I probably haven't watched that many since I was at uni.  We've also watched quite a range, from some of the old slapstick, to the more typical European cinema to this one which is my favourite so far.

For the record, I love European cinema and this one kind of breaks out of that box a little and goes more in the Hollywood direction but I loved it.  It's a bit like Big Daddy (my favourite Adam Sandler film) with more girl power!

Definitely worth a watch if you can get it.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


I really love my yesandyes calendar with it's little bits of inspiration and funny days to make me smile every month.  This months quote:

"The grass is always greener where you water it." 

simple but smart, I love it.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

The Saturday Update

You may have noticed the lack of weekly updates lately.  I haven't been too happy most Saturday mornings with my progress diet wise.  I've stayed the same for the last five weeks.  This morning by some miracle there was a change...I lost a whole 1/4 of a pound!  Yes, I am seriously questioning the reliability of my scales.  The important thing is that I feel good with all the cycling and am starting to get back into some of my smaller clothes.

It's been another busy week.  I've had a relatively normal week at school although year six are away on a trip so I have had some relief there.  Our house guest Frankie was in school with me this week to check out the school system and practise her German.  I did have another run in with the girl who is big on her toilet rights so there may be another run in with her mother before long...we will see. 

I've gotten back into watching German films and finished watching series two of 24 at last so I'm gearing up to tick another off my list of 27 with series three!  

Today is actually a year since Nico and I first met so we are celebrating with a quiet day together and so far the weather is sunny and nice too - touch wood.  

Next week will be relatively busy with year six being back.  On Saturday I have a training course for my new job which starts next month teaching adults again.  Let's hope it's a good week.