Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Calendar 2012

In February (a little late, I know), I bought a calendar published by my favourite blogger Sarah von at Yes and Yes.  Ever since making the purchase, I have looked forward to the first of every month when I get to fill in my favourite bits from the month and make a new list for the new month.  Fantastic!  (Since you know how much I love making lists!)

So you can imagine my excitement this week as she has just announced the publication of her 2012 calendar and it's better than ever with special cut out and do activities that seem to fit right in with my new craft hobby!  As soon as I clear some of my Christmas bonus into my English account - that baby is mine!!  Here's to a fabulous 2012!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Monday, 28 November 2011

Hayley's Visit

Hayley was here from Thursday until Saturday last week.  She was just in time for the Christmas Market which opened on Thursday.  We spent Thursday evening and most of Friday there.  Gluhweins were consumed, Starbucks Christmas specials too, Christmas shopping was started and we ate some of the delicious offerings including chocolate covered strawberries.  I'm not sure if the markets get better each year or if I just forget how magical they are.  I can't wait for the next visit!

Of course, it was also great that Hayley was there and we even found some time to hit all my favourite shops and start buying some presents.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Happy First Advent!

Today is the first Sunday of Avent.  I learnt about this in primary school as it was a catholic tradition but here in Germany it's not religious.  Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas and it's when people start decorating so in true German style we have started with the decorations.  Here's the advent wreath which we will be lighting tonight and we'll also be putting out the other decorations.  The tree will be coming next week...

So happy First Advent!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Saturday Update

This week I have stayed the same again.  This is another miracle given the complete lack of planning, the start of the Christmas markets and the reintroduction of alcohol.

The highlight of the week was Hayley's visit, timed perfectly for the start of the markets.  I love the markets in Bremen.  The medieval section on the Schlachte is my favourite.  We had our first Gluhwein of the year there and kept our new little bootie mugs as souvenirs.  I got some Christmas shopping done, made some more cards and found out that I'm getting a whopping bonus which will pay for Christmas and cover another debt!  

The only downside was coming down with a pretty heavy cold yesterday.  Haven't felt this ill for a while.  Actually cried like when I was a little kid this morning.  Unfortunately we're out of lemsips now but vitamin C hot lemon drinks and a mix of other drugs are keeping it at bay.  

Next week is another full work week and payday so more Xmas shopping and keeping an eye on the Cinemaxx site to see when Happy Feet 2 is out in 3D!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Something New Week #2

This week I made my own Christmas cards for the first time ever.  After literally days of stocking up on materials at Idee in Bremen, I finally sat down and got a little bit creative.  Here are some of the results.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Happy Birthday Grandma!

Today, my Gran turns 88 years young.  This is the lady who swore blind that she wouldn't reach 80!

I'm sure many people feel this way about their Gran's, at least I hope so, but really, my Gran is a true inspiration.

She was born the second of eight children in a small two bedroom terraced house in Morley, just around the corner from where she lives now.  At the age of seventeen she signed up to the army, to get away from her family and her job in the mill.  While the war wasn't the best experience for many, she really came into her own during those years.  Her 'this is the life' moment was eating beans on toast in a cafe in Bristol.  She made great friends and probably had the kind of experience that most of us have at university these days.

She has had three husbands during her lifetime.  She was divorced from the first after he made her give up her post-war army job and tried to make her work in the family owned shop.  The second, my grandfather passed away after a struggle with cancer, but leaving her with her only child - my mother.  The third gave her a new lease of life in retirement but sadly also passed away due to a heart attack.

When she did reach the age of eighty, she found out she had cancer in her womb.  It was a very difficult time for our family and even though we stayed positive for her, it was hard not to worry, especially as she continued her predictions of not reaching her next birthday.  However, she beat it and has had the five year all clear now. 

She's now a great-grandmother - something many people don't achieve.

There are many more stories and many more ways that she has inspired me but she probably wouldn't want me sharing them on here!  She's not always positive and she does feel down at times (who wouldn't after outliving three husbands and six siblings) but whatever she says and feels, she has more fighting spirit than anyone I know and IF I live to see my 88th birthday, I hope I have half the happiness and spirit that she has.

Happy Birthday Gran!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

On Bilingualism

Sometimes, especially before I moved to Germany, I feel really proud of myself for being able to communicate in more than one language.  I completely believe that it's great exercise for a whole different part of the brain and one which it's now hard to switch off.  I dream in German and have even started to create my own Gerglish language!  It makes me feel especially proud of myself given my home country's lack of ambition when it comes to foreign languages.  I must admit though that since being here, I have realised that my second (and third and fourth) languages isn't as good as I thought and I still have a long way to go...I'm working on it though.

My ultimate ambition would be to be like this amazing man who unfortunately passed away this week but left us with some great entertainment.

Not only did Georg Kreisler come up with some pretty amazing word play in his own native language, but then moved to America and did it all over again in English and so well that you can barely hear his accent.  R.I.P.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


I went to my second yoga class last night.  I've switched to Mondays and what is officially the beginners' class.  It was indeed much easier although we seemed to move more and do more.  My back and my tummy both felt great afterwards.  I especially liked the cool down session with special eye packs and blankets.  It's a great workout and relaxing too.  Great way to start the week and I even upheld my clothes buying ban despite the gorgeous collection they stock.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Baking Sunday

For a change we had a productive weekend and both of us spent a good deal of yesterday cooking and baking.  First I made a new batch of my celery soup for the week.  The exciting bit came with the new recipe for gluten free mince pies!  You can see it here.

It's always a bit of a pain with dough when it's gluten free because it just doesn't hold together the same way but it wasn't too difficult with this one although it didn't go as far as the recipe said.  We had dough for ten pies and mince for fourteen.  They were really delicious but a little bit bitter with so much zest so Nico very kindly iced some for me to sweeten them up.  Mmmm, delicious.

At the same time Nico prepared these gluten free breadsticks which I will be eating with my soup this week.

All gone!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Como Agua Para Chocolate

I spent this week reading a Spanish novel.  This is something I haven't done for a while.  In fact, since I was at uni, I can think of only two others I have read.  I bought this when I was feeling bad about not keeping my Spanish up and only picked it up this week as part of my drive to read all the books I own before I buy any more but I was totally surprised by it.

It's a brilliant story of a girl, Tita who falls in love but is forbidden by her mother to marry because of a family tradition that the youngest daughter should remain at home to take care of the parents in their old age.  It's also linked heavily to cooking and some Mexican recipes and remedies.  The story is beautiful with so many twists and turns, like many family sagas.  I won't spoil the story but it's definitely worth a read.  (It's available in English - Like Water for Chocolate).

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Saturday Update

It's been a busy week again with parents' evening/day at work, my evening classes and trying new things!  I've been shopping in the city three times in preparation for next week's new thing, and generally keeping busy.  It seems to have paid off as I have lost two pounds this week despite not tracking and some heavy snacking.  I'm putting it down to the lovely celery 0 points soup we had again this week (for four lunches!!).  You can find the recipe here

I've also started the Christmas decorating!  Or flat decorating.  I'm trying to get more into the German tradition of decorating the flat all year round.  So nothing specifically linked to Christmas has come out yet but it's already looking nicer.  I also need to get cracking on the Christmas shopping too.  It's twice as complicated this year, since I need to do a lot of it online because we are flying back to England without luggage (thanks to the extortionate charges) and don't have space to take much with.
Next week it's going to be even more hectic with more lessons and meetings at work, a visit from Hayley, the start of the Christmas markets and my other something new project so I am making the most of relaxing this weekend.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Something New Week #1

As promised I have tried something new this week.  On Wednesday night I made me first homemade moussaka!  I'm not going to say it tasted amazing - I am not the spice woman and had to rely on Nico to add those for me later - but it tasted much better than I had expected.  I think it's the cheese...mmm.  The best discovery was that it is a gluten free dish which I didn't know!  So I didn't have to adapt it and it was really quite straight forward!


1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, finely chopped   
1 clove Garlic, crushed   
1 medium Courgette, chopped   
175 g Mushrooms, sliced   
1 can chopped Tomatoes
1 teaspoon Mixed Herbs, dried 
1 Vegetable Stock Cube, dissolved in 125ml hot water   
1 tablespoon Cornflour, blended with 2 tbsp cold water   
1 medium Aubergine, sliced   
600 g Potatoes, par-boiled and sliced   
250 g soft Cheese  
50 g Cheddar Cheese, grated   
1 medium Egg
1 pinch Salt, and freshly ground black pepper   


  • Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas Mark 5.
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic and courgette for 3 - 4 minutes, until softened. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs and stock. Bring up to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer without a lid for 10 minutes. Add the blended cornflour and cook, stirring, until thickened. Remove from the heat and season.
  • Spoon half the tomato mixture into a large baking dish. Layer the aubergine slices over the top, then spread the remaining tomato mixture over them. Arrange the potatoes over the surface in an overlapping layer.
  • Beat together the soft cheese with the egg. Season with salt and pepper. Spread over the potatoes, then sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Bake in the oven for 45 - 50 minutes, until the topping is golden brown. 
This is a Weightwatchers recipe that comes in at just 9 Propoints per serving.  (The recipe is designed to make four servings)

My favourite class of the week

One day, when my job becomes really boring, even to me, I'll stop giving you crazy updates that probably don't convince you how much I love teaching.  That day is not today though.  I had another great evening yesterday with my adult classes.  The advanced class are both really good and a little bit scary in that I'm not sure what I can teach them, they are so advanced.  Last night they debated for one hour the pros and cons of facebook.  I have never felt so lazy in my work.  I didn't make a peep.  At the end of the day though, it is a speaking class and they all put themselves out there and made points and argued their case - it was brilliant.  It was a different mix of students from last week with four new faces but it worked really well.

My only concern was one new lady who hardly spoke.  I thought she might ask for her money back or something but at the end of the lesson, she hung back and told me (in English of course) that she had really enjoyed the lesson and even thanked me!  That kind of feedback is amazing as a teacher.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Something New

I recently read an article that said in order to stay young, we should try to do something new once a week.  I'm already trying 27 this year but I've decided to try to put this into practice too.  Hey, it can't hurt can it?  

(Okay so yoga did hurt a little the day after but not enough to put me off!)

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Parents' Evening

I'm half way through parents' evening/day and it's one aspect of my job that can be quite depressing.  In England, I always found that the parents who make appointments to see you and turn up are rarely those that you really need to speak to.  They're normally the responsible ones whose children are equally responsible and are doing fine in school.  In a way, it's nice to be able to feedback the positive and to guess whose parents you are speaking to if the pupils don't come with but I have too much of a glass half full attitude to ignore the fact that those who don't turn up to appointments or don't even bother to make them are the reason that their children behave the way they do in class and it's a really negative reflection of society.  

Having had a brilliant up bringing, I was shielded from the kind of thing I see in my job now.  I'll never forget my first parents' evening where I had one hyperactive pupil and I told his mother and step-father that his German was good but would be improved by better concentration and the step-father told me to call home straight away next time and he would beat it out of the pupil.  It really opened my eyes and the kid in question could have run riot the rest of the year and have behaved much worse and there's no way I would have called home.

I guess I just have to take from it that the kids need all the help they can get and that that makes my job worthwhile.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Morning Routine

This has been my morning for the past week or so now.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

27 things...try a yoga class.

On Friday I took the latest step in my transformation into a hippy and went to my first yoga class!  A friend of mine has been going for a while and as I have Friday afternoons free, we decided to go together this week.  

I have to admit it wasn't exactly as I expected.  I went to pilates last year and really enjoyed it and thought it would be a little more like that.  It's not completely different but it is more relaxing.  The centre itself is really nice.  I think it's a fairly new company.  You can see for yourself here.  The floors are all wooden, there are some lovely changing rooms and shower areas.  There's a reception with sofas where you can drink tea before the class (included in the price).  The yoga studio itself is a reasonable size, the lights were dimmed and there are candles and scented oils everywhere.  

The class started with a few words from the teacher on the theme of the week - love and a reading from Buddha.  Then there was a little bit of quiet time or meditation.  The exercises themselves are strength building and stretches that relax and strengthen the body.  The best way I can think to describe the difference between yoga and pilates in my experience is that yoga is somehow more relaxing, although not by any means easy.  The teacher makes it look easy but there were a few positions that it will take me some time to learn.  We also had the advantage that she translates the instructions into English when she can see that we haven't understood something.

I've signed up to go once a week and next week we're going to meet before hand for a drink.  I find it a great way to end the week and get into a relaxed mood for the weekend.  I also think that once I get back to cycling and have my fitness training that way, yoga will compliment it nicely and hopefully help to build my strength.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Saturday Update

This week I have stayed the same.  I'm a little disappointed as I have been totally on the plan and counting points since Monday and I have been racking up the points through walking even though I haven't gotten back on my bike yet.  I am going to stay motivated and on track though.  I plan to make some more 0 points soup and cut some points that way.  I am still off alcohol, so that should be helping too.  Fingers crossed for next week!  We also tried a new, delicious tofu and spinach salad recipe for lunch one day and I am going to make that again next week too.  Lookout for it this week.

Aside from that it's been a busy old week.  I went back to work on Monday despite not being 100%.  I lost my voice on Tuesday which led to losing my rag a little bit with my afternoon classes but apart from that, work has been good and I've been giving a lot of lessons on Guy Fawkes!  I also used those resources for my adult classes which got a little more interesting this week as I started delivering the advanced course too.  I'm really enjoying Thursday evenings at the moment.  

This week I also caught up with the other Native Speakers and the new ones who I hadn't yet met when we had the official get to know you drink at Cafe Classico in the centre on Thursday.  I discovered that two of the ladies who are new here are feeling quite homesick and finding it hard to meet people.  To be honest if it hadn't been for Linda when I first got here and Nico ever since, I would probably be feeling the same so I am going to try to arrange more get togethers and social things to make them feel more welcome and settled.  It's always great to meet new people and having discovered that only three of us have stayed from last year's group, I want to try and change that this year.

So next week is going to be busy too.  I have a full work week including parents' days which are always fun and a few social items on my calendar too.  Have a good one!

Friday, 11 November 2011

On teaching adults...

Last night I started my second evening course - Advanced English.  I'd had a bit of trouble in the class beforehand due to my bad planning.  It's supposed to be Easy English Conversation but I have some very strong students in there and I'd been aiming my material too much towards them.  Now that the advanced class has started, I've recommended that some move to the later group and hopefully that will let me plan more focused and productive lessons!

The new students make a really interesting group.  This time there is a guy from Brazil who doesn't speak German and a woman from Russia.  (who coincidentally work at the same place but didn't know each other)  There are also two police officers - so it went down well that I had planned an activity on police corruption in Mexico!  But regardless of background, they were all keen to learn and to speak English.

I'm really looking forward to next week.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Crafty Christmas

A couple of weeks ago, Nico introduced me to a new shop in Bremen.  I'd seen the shop from outside but considering that it consists of the sign below and a downward heading escalator, I'd never trusted myself to go in.  It's actually a craft shop!  

Now that I've finished a couple of my big projects, I've decided I'm going to have a crafty Christmas and make my own cards and some decorations for the flat.  I already have a few ideas and my Irish penpal has a wonderful blog which has a lot of creative ideas that I might adapt and use myself!  I could do with some more inspiration though - any ideas?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Strictly's Back

Ok, it's not news, it's been back a while now but I wanted to give it a mention on here - Strictly COme Dancing 2011 is here!  Just like last year, I love tuning in on a Monday to catch both shows.  I love the glamour of it all and as soon as it starts, you just know Christmas (and a visit home) is on it's way.

This year was a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the celebrities and for the first time, I didn't really have one favourite from the start.  I think Russell Grant is brilliant!  I don't expect him to win it or anything but he is great entertainment.  In terms of a winner, it's still such a close race.  Jason has been looking good for weeks but the last two weeks haven't favoured him with the judges.  Chelsee has come from no where to be really brilliant and Holly and Harry are front runners too - very exciting.

It's so inspirational too.  Here in Germany, a lot of people learn ballroom dancing at school and I felt totally out of place not being able to dance at Nico's grandparents' wedding anniversary because I don't know the waltz.  If I can find a class I can attend, i.e. not the same night as the evening classes I teach, I'll be there!

Keep Dancing!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Latest Crossstitch

It's amazing what sick leave can do for your hobbies.  I bought this three years ago and just finished it this weekend!

Monday, 7 November 2011

27 24 in 24.

I made the most of my last sick day on Friday and ticked another item off my 27 list.  I watched series 3 of 24 within 24 hours.  I had intended to just watch a series of 24 but the way we go through TV shows, it wasn't much of a challenge.  I started at 11am and finished at 5.30am on Saturday.  

On the whole I have enjoyed the first three series but I do feel it's getting a little bit repetitive and to be honest some of the storylines just make me want to scream at the TV.  Father and daughter working in the same office in such a job?...Husband and wife working in the same office in such a job?...and when will the President learn to stop asking his crazy bitch ex wife to help him?  It always goes horribly wrong when she's around (though I guess that last point has answered itself now).  

Maybe I'll get round to the other series' some day but for the moment I'm all 24d out!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

27 things...finish my MA.

While I don't want to jinx this in the slightest, technically my MA is finished!

I submitted my dissertation this week and it is the best feeling in the world!  While it's been a great experience and I have enjoyed it, I've really felt like it's been hanging over me these last few months on the last module.  It's an experience I would recommend to anyone, especially teachers as it's a really great way to improve your practice.

So now I am just waiting on the results - provisionally in January and should graduate in July - keep your fingers crossed for me!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Saturday Update

Well, I really wish there was more to report this week but unfortunately Nico and I have both been signed off work sick all week.  At first a couple of days sounds good and relaxing - especially after how busy our holidays were but honestly?  I hate sitting around doing nothing.  So I have been fairly busy catching up with our series' and on Friday I had a marathon of 24 in 24 and cross stitching.

So that's another tick off the list of 27!  I'm past half way now and while I'm not sure I'll manage everything by April feels good to have so many new experiences this year!

On a positive note, the crazy temperamental scales which said I had gained 4lbs last week claim that I have lost 6.5lbs this week so that's good!  Of course when I start doing more next week, I expect to gain - it seems to be the way these scales work.  Though avoiding cheese and alcohol can't have hurt. 

Next week it's back to work - completely fit or not and back to my French studies now that the MA is submitted.