Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Saturday Update

Well it has been a great first week to the holidays.  We had a nice weekend sorting out the balcony and discovering Huchting's very own zoo.  Then we had two more productive days.  I got my paperwork handed in for translation so I can pick that up next week and finally have my meeting at the office next week and be one step closer to that contract!

Of course the best part of the week was the last three days which we spent in the Harz.  It flew by but we had a great time discovering Goslar, Altenau and the surrounding areas.  We have spent all of our hypothetical lottery money already!  The are is just beautiful and so peaceful.  The cabin was gorgeous with a lovely wooden fire.  More on all of that later.

Today we are relaxing back into being home.  We have to pick Pete up this afternoon.  I have to say, it has been great to keep an eye on him via the webcam on the first and last night he was there (we, very happily, did not have an internet connection in the Harz).  Hopefully he won't be too traumatized when we get him back later.

The bad news is that this post is coming to you from Nico's laptop as mine has given up on me this morning.  I hope it will be resurrected later, we shall see.  Next week will be about my birthday, working on that contract and preparing for Dad's visit.  (and possibly researching new laptops, but keep your fingers crossed that I might not have to). 

P.S. Forgot to mention that despite all the exercise (average 3pt per day), I have eaten way too much of what I want this week, and stayed the same.  However, it's now Sunday morning and I had a sneaky jump on the scales this morning and lost a pound!  

Friday, 30 March 2012

27 things...grow a mini garden!

With the arrival of Spring we have been working hard on our balcony to get things ready for the rest of the year.  We have planted lots of little seedlings for both flowers and herbs.  The bulbs are starting to come through too.  We even sat out on the weekend with a book and a glass of warm punch each - it was bliss.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Another new hair colour!

Here's my latest hair colour.  I decided to go dark like last time but now with a bit of red to it.  I like the results.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Huchting Zoo

On our trip to the garden centre at the weekend we made an interesting discovery - Huchting has its very own zoo!!  We saw the signs before but thought it was maybe a garden centre that sells some animals but it's actually a garden centre with its own zoo.  I was talking to Nico about which soil to buy when over his shoulder appeared the cutest little thing that looked something like this:


I ran over and we had a chat!  He made the cutest little noise and when I made it back, we got into quite the conversation.  Following some more internet research, it turns out that the monkeys are only the start of it and now, we have to plan another visit next week to see the rest!  I can't wait!  I can't believe we have been living so close to monkeys for six months!

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Card Crafts Project

I used the first day of the holidays to get ahead on my birthday cards for April and try some new crafts.  Here are some more of my girly card ideas.

 The one on the left is a design idea that came with the flowers and cards but the second is my own idea! 

Since I started making my own cards and buying supplies at Idee, I have struggled to find ideas for cards for boys and men as the best supplies are flowery and pink.  I've also been reading into some crafting blogs and was really inspired by this article.  I tried to combine both these things in one and came up with the following:

I'm pleased with the results!

Monday, 26 March 2012

New Quiche Recipe

Following the success of my first gluten free quiche last week, I decided to try out some new fillings and the new baking tin that Nico bought last week.  We were really pleased with the results again.  Here's my recipe:


50g corn flour
50g rice flour
50g butter
5 tbsp water

200g creme fraiche
2 eggs
salt and pepper
cafe de paris spice mix
50g bacon / ham pieces
50g mushrooms (chopped)


  • Mix the flour and butter together until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the water.  (If you add too much water as I usually manage, add some more flour to balance it out.)  Wrap the dough in clingfilm and let it rest in the fridge for thirty minutes.
  • Mix the creme fraiche, eggs and spices in a bowl.  Add the ham and mushrooms and mix well.
  • Line the dish with the pastry and fill with the egg mixture.
  • Cook in the oven on 180 for around thirty minutes until the pastry is brown and the filling has risen and is more solid.
  •  Enjoy!
We ate this with a nice salad on the side as the quiche is very filling and needed the refreshment.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

And Spring has sprung!

It's been coming for weeks, ducks waddling round the streets, lighter mornings, chirpy birds, butterflies everywhere!  Now finally, the plants are joining in too in proof that Spring is here!

Nico's chili seedlings

My bulbs making an early appearance!

The plant I bought last year and thought I had killed, in full bloom again!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Saturday Update

Another quick week come and gone and it couldn't have gone fast enough this week.  I have noticed a big improvement in my energy with doing more sport, eating better and enjoying the lighter mornings but despite all that, I started to flag this week.  It's been a long slog since the Christmas break and luckily this holiday will be longer than the last and give us lots of time to recuperate!  With the energy levels flagging, I only got half an hour of Zumba in this week, although I did cycle to Roland Center every day this week and clock up some walking points.  However, not being strict enough on the diet too, has led to an expected gain of 5.5lbs.  I'm not too worried though, as I plan to Zumba every day in the holidays, and get some yoga in.  Plus, we are going to be hiking for three days in the Harz so I hope to have a much better report for you next week!

We got a fair few jobs ticked off this week.  Pete is booked into a lovely professional cattery for our holiday next week.  The woman is a qualified vet so that's reassuring.  We upgraded our telephone package to include international calls and faster internet which will save us some money.  I also headed into town on Thursday for a good news bad news evening.  First I headed to the translation office to get a quote for the documents I need for my new contract and they said it would be 400 Euros!  I've reviewed which documents I need and hope that it might just be five instead of thirteen so I'll be heading back on Monday to sort that properly.  The good news was that I found my new walking shoes for the Harz trip and they weren't too expensive.  If I'm honest, the colour description also swayed me - chocolate brown and sangria!!  Have a look...

Yesterday I put the first lot of washing this year outside to dry - and overnight.  It's so nice to have more space in the flat as we also put out the plants that we had brought in for the Winter and the rest of the balcony boxes ready for today.  This also led to Pete's first adventures on the balcony and some worried moments for us!  We are looking into getting a net so that he doesn't have an accident although this article was quite reassuring.

This morning we woke up at 6.30!!  We did have an early night though and I suppose it will make the hour clock change tonight less of a trauma!  It's been a very productive morning so far, I've read sixty pages, cleaned the flat, trained my brain, done my weigh in and now updated the blog!  For the rest of the day we're planning to sort out the balcony with a trip to the garden centre and next, I'm going to be getting my first daily Zumba of the holidays in!  Have a good one people!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Just say no!

One of my 27 things was to pay off a credit card before my birthday next month.  As I have already blogged, I achieved this in Autumn and I called in December to close the account.  I knew at the time I was being conned but when the woman on the end of the line asked me if I wanted to claim my £20 credit for being a loyal customer, I thought why not!  Even though I confirmed with her that I was closing the account, obviously it wasn't closed as I still kept receiving statements with the credit on there.

As part of the Reinvention Programme that I took part in in January, we were to look at our situations and see where we might have money that we weren't claiming.  I had three things on my list - my tax return, my deposit from my last flat (which I am still waiting for seven months later!  More on that later) and this £20 on my credit card.

On Wednesday, I was sorting some finances and I finally called Barclaycard, got the money transferred and closed the account.  In order to close the account, I had to speak to a special closures department and I now know where all the pushy, annoying people work.  (I would say in Britain but I'm not convinced it was in Britain).  Every time I asked her to close the account, she came up with a reason for keeping it open.  In the end, I had to raise my voice (albeit with a please on the end) to get her to close the account!  I think that it this day and age, with so many people in such crazy debt (and yes, I belong in that group) that companies are so pushy in order to keep you in debt.  Anyway, I am proud of myself and bracing myself for the same call to the next card company in a few months!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Something New Week #18

On Sunday I tried my very first homemade gluten free quiche and was pleasantly surprised by the results.  First of all, I used creme fraiche instead of fromage frais as I can never find that here in Germany.  I'm not sure of the difference but it didn't matter.  The quiche was nice and now I'm trying to come up with different fillings for next time!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Something New Week #17

Last weekend saw St Patrick's Day all over the world and of course there were celebrations here in Bremen too.  This year I joined in the celebrations too with my very first Guiness.

I didn't expect to like it at all but now that I am used to European beer (since my days supporting FC Bercelona as a local), it wasn't a huge leap and I quite enjoyed it.  It's a good job too as there are still five left in the pack!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Der Kaufmann von Venedig

On Friday evening we had a lovely night out at the theater to see the Merchant of Venice in German, by the Bremer Shakespeare Company.  When I booked this at the beginning of March, I was in two minds as to whether I should book A Midsummer Night's Dream, because I already know the story so I should be able to follow even if I don't understand the German, or The Merchant of Venice which I have never read or seen.  In the end I'm glad we went to see the latter as I did follow the story and even better, I picked up phrases I have heard many times and never knew that they came from this play.  It's amazing the impact Shakespeare had on our language.  

You can see a trailer and pictures from the play here.

The theater itself was a little strange.  First of all it is behind a restaurant which we went into at first thinking it was the theater.  The waiters acted all surprised but they must get it all the time!  Anyway, we found it in the end.  It was kind of a rough and ready theater.  It's very old.  It was built as a theater in the forties and then became a cinema and is now a theater again.  The seating area, as in most theaters, was not very comfortable for a two hour show but there was more leg room than in other theaters I have visited.  The company is moving later in the year though to a new venue in Neustadt so I hope they do something productive with this theater.  It really needed some work.

When show started, I thought immediately that I was going to hate it as it was a modern take and they used video and lighting effects but actually in the end it wasn't too much and it helped me with the story more than it hindered it.  I'd definitely like to see more of the Company's work but next on our list is the Crime Theater in Bremen.  I'll be checking that out for April...

Monday, 19 March 2012

Latest Craft Project

One of my 2012 goals is to get into three new crafts.  I have started with this one.  It's kind of a paper mache idea.  I bought the box last year to hold all my craft goodies and it was always my intention to decorate it at some point.  As you know, Idee is my favourite craft shop and while browsing last week, I came across this funky, bright paper which is designed for this kind of use.  Last weekend, I started work with the lid.  It's a little bit more fiddly than I expected but I am pleased with the overall effect.  The glue really works with the paper and also functions as a kind of gloss. 

This week, I worked during the evenings to finish the project.  First I papered the rest of the box.  Then gave the box a second coat to make sure the paper was properly stuck and to eliminate some bubbles.  Finally, I'd also invested in some little stick on jewels to add a bit of sparkle.  I'm really pleased with the final result.  What do you think?

Sunday, 18 March 2012

It's the small things

Sometimes in life, it really is the small things that make a difference.  This week I found a perfect example of that.  For the first couple of weeks back on the bike this year, I've been really struggling as my heavy school bag falls off my shoulder as I cycle and I end up polling up at the Roland Center doing what appears to be some serious drunk-cycling!  Last year, when I was cycling, I had a back pack which is now broken because my school stuff was so heavy, or a bike basket which I still have but don't want to carry on the tram and can't leave on the bike all day in case it is pinched.  

In order to put an end to this problem, I invested in this new school bag which I can wear across my body so that it doesn't fall off every two minutes.  (I know I am on a spending ban but this was also my treat for reaching the one stone marker on my weight loss goal).  You may not think the bag could make such a big difference but it honestly does - I look forward to my morning cycle now and feel nice and summery with these beautiful bright colours.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Saturday Update

It's been another fast and busy week this week.  At work my time has been consumed by the year six exam, which for the first time has to be the same in different schools.  I wouldn't mind, had we had a hand in writing it but as a native speaker, giving out a test with mistakes in the English in both the questions and answers goes against the grain a little!  Anyway, that is almost over and done with. 

On a lighter note, I spent my evenings finishing my latest craft project - more on that next week.  I cycled to Roland Center four out of five days and did three more Zumba sessions which have borne fruit in a one and a half pound weight loss this week.  I feel like I've really gotten back on track this month so far.  Although the weightlosses aren't as drastic as they were in January, at least I'm not gaining like I was in February!  I got an extra bonus this week when I played 'let's try on all the clothes in my wardrobe and see what fits now' and can get into a pair of jeans and two tops that didn't fit in January!

Thursday's English conversation was short and sweet with just one student and being kicked out of the cafe for closing time after just half an hour.  We headed to my favourite book shop so that I could advise her on some good English books for her level.  It also led to me buying a book for work and a book for me - Educating Rita.  It was a bit of a laugh because the student is called Rita and we both bought the book.

This week we also made more of a Friday effort and went out for dinner and a play last night.  We saw The Merchant of Venice by the Bremen Shakespeare Company.  It was a lovely evening.  I also got a refund bonus on my health insurance this week so it's been a good one all round!

Only down side is that my sister is in hospital with a mystery illness, so I hope she gets well soon.  

Next week holds a lot in store as it is the last week of term (thank goodness).  As today is St Patricks Day, we are heading out to celebrate later, as well as do a little shopping and go to a concert to support a youth home in Bremen this evening so it will be a busy weekend all round!

Have a good week everybody!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Home Improvements

At the moment it seems like we are continually working on the flat making it better and more comfortable for the Spring and Summer.  Here's what we have been doing this week.

Our new Ikea full length mirror.  As I have lived without a full length mirror since I moved to Germany, I really appreciated having one again.  Especially as it  means I can see the progress I am making on my way back to goal much better!  If you look closely, you may see a furry little friend in the pic.

Here's one of our six new balcony boxes for when the serious outdoor gardening gets underway.  Can't wait to have some nice bright piccies to show you when we get planting!

Nico also got around to hanging his Valentine's Day present to brighten up the office and make it a bit more geeky...

 I really love that we have different subjects so the office is a real mix of ideas.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Web links

Checking out Yes and Yes' Sunday Web Time Wasters took me way longer than usual this week.  I always look forward to the weekly slot as there is always something of interest to me there but this week just about every link spoke to me.  Check it out here.

Another very important cause brought to my attention this week is the campaign against Kony.  I felt like I've had my head buried in the sand a little lately, not knowing about this sooner:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

28 things...

I know it's a bit early.  I haven't even rounded up my year of 27 things yet and set out my new 28 things list but after running my first 5km in 2011, one of the big things on my 2012 list is to run a 10km. We just missed out on this last year and so I've been an early bird this time and this weekend, I booked me and Nico a place each in the Bremen 2012 10km race.  It takes place in October.  Excited but also quite scared.  Better get training!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Gardening 2012

At the weekend I got back into gardening as Nico bought me these lovely Valentine's Mix bulbs.  It's a little early to plant them but we are keeping them indoors for now so they should be good as long as a certain feline friend doesn't dig them up like he has been digging up some other plants around the flat - it may be time to get the chili powder out again.  So hopefully come June/July we will have some lovely flowers, like those in the picture, on our balcony!

Monday, 12 March 2012

A note on reading

I updated you on my classic reading last week and this week I wanted to let you know about some of the non-classic but nevertheless exciting reading I have been doing lately and have coming up.


At the moment, I am 650 pages into this saga - Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett.  I got into this author when I read and watched Pillars of the Earth last year which I couldn't recommend highly enough.  Fall of Giants is very different but equally brilliant.  Set during WW1, it follows the lives of an interlinked group of people from across Europe and America and how the war effects their lives.  For me, it's really brought my GCSE and A-level history to life.  I've even ordered it for my grandmother as I think she will love the story, especially the parts set in the Welsh mines and the 'upstairs, downstairs' manor house storyline.

When I finish this novel, I'm looking forward to getting into the Fire and Ice saga having watched the first season based on the books - Game of Thrones.  I didn't realise they were based on books when we watched it and I want to get ahead of the game before the next season makes an appearance.

My next book buy will be another Ken Follett, the follow up to Pillars of the Earth - World Without End.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Duck Face

Brilliant take on those facebook profile pics.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Saturday Update

Good morning!

I can't believe it is time for another update already, this week has just flown by.  It's been mainly good in that my Gran and my student are both out of hospital, I've had a quieter work week with no year nine and I've lost two pounds, making it to my one stone marker for the year!

Last weekend, we had a great time in Oldenburg as I posted this week.  Sunday was then a nice quiet one to recover.  

On Monday, I had a lovely lunch with the girls in Knigge, during which we were actually asked to keep it down!  To be fair, I've been expecting that for weeks but it didn't go down well.  Oops!  Monday also saw the great news that Gran is home again.  They played with her pills a bit, got her breathing and heart rate sorted and she's back how she was before she went in now.  The important thing is that she is still mentally strong and stubborn.

Tuesday seemed a heavy day even though I had no meetings this week.  I'm a lucky girl though and Nico spoiled me with a ready lunch and a delicious dinner.  

On Thursday we had our second English group coffee.  This time we went to Lisa's as she is still recovering from the scolding last week.  The good news is that she doesn't have to have a skin graft, the bad news is no exercise for six weeks and no sun for twelve months!!  The conversation itself was really good, so good in fact that we lost track of time and it turned into a late evening.  

Yesterday, I invested in a new trowel and got on with some more indoor gardening - more on that next week.  Pete hasn't dug it up yet so let's hope it stays that way!  

I also finished Fall of Giants this week and ordered it for my Gran to read.  I can't wait for the next book of the trilogy to come out later this year.  In the meantime, I'm going to be buying Ken Follett's World Without End next.  I've now started on A Game of Thrones which is a good book but slightly spoiled by the fact that we watched the series already...I still want to read them all in the right order though.  We'll see.

I've done zumba three times this week and cycled to Roland Center every day which explains my good results despite the diet cheats.  I plan to keep up the fitness next week.  Next week is another nice work week with no year nine, and we are going to see the Merchant of Venice on Friday evening.  Also trying to plan a games night with Loreto but we will have to see how soon we can squeeze that in!  Have a good week!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Der Dativ Ist Dem Genitiv Sein Tod

Completely inspired by my multilingual friend Loreto this week and embarrassed by how much grammar I've forgotten, I bought this game this week.  I haven't tried it yet - need to inspire Nico or have a German learners get together!  Will keep you updated!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Harz

It was really quite a productive weekend as we finally got around to booking our next trip which we have been planning on doing since Christmas.  Last year, Nico visited the Harz with some of his old school friends and I've wanted him to take me there ever since.  The area looks like one of the most beautiful in Germany and I haven't been there yet. 

Anyway, we have booked for a couple of nights in the first week of our long Easter holidays and I can't wait.  Here are some pictures of the kind of things I am expecting from Altenau.


And here's where it is:


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A real life working well!

While we were wandering in Oldenburg we saw something that I don't believe I have ever seen before... a real life working well.  I think I must have seen a well at some point, though I can't remember any so I was quite amazed to come across this one in the garden of a rather posh house in the park.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


This weekend we headed back to our old stomping ground - Oldenburg.  I find it really strange that Nico was studying there when I lived there and that we could have had dinner at the same table in the uni cafeteria and we'll never know!

Anyway, one of Nico's old university friends is heading off to Africa for a year to complete a chemistry project for his Masters or Doctorate, not sure which.  Saturday was his leaving party and we decided to make a day of it.  

First we headed to Saturn to redeem Nico's five year old credit note!  That was a fun conversation!  We invested in some new tunes, or for me some older ones in the form of Whitney's Greatest Hits and Michael Jackson Number Ones.  I can't believe I've gotten to this age without owning one of these two.  Maybe it's something to do with being forced to listen to their work on repeat as a child (Whitney in the car, thanks Mum and Michael at Auntie Carol's during the Summer hoidays).  Anyway, I'm sat here chilling out to Whitney as I write.

Afterwards we headed up to the uni.  Although it was dead, being a Saturday, it was a great time to look around.  Nico showed me all his old buildings and of course my favourite - the library.  We also had a stroll in the park behind the uni which was nice while the weather stayed dry.

We had a lovely Chinese meal in town and a cheeky cocktail at Cafe Bar Celona before heading to the party.  

The party was nice.  For me, the best bit was seeing where Nico used to live, as his friends are still in the same flat.  It was strange seeing what a lads pad it is and comparing it to both his last flat and our flat.  It's hard to believe how long ago uni was for us both now!

Monday, 5 March 2012


Last week I received my new driving license.  The DVLA asks that you return your old one by post so I headed to the post office on Thursday to sort this out.  The address was quite short DVLA, Swansea, postcode, Wales.

When I handed it over the counter, the woman said I needed to write England on the end of the address.  I told her, Wales isn't in England.  I was quite aware that it may well end up it the bin at the hands of an angry Welsh post worker if I wrote it on so in the end we compromised by writing Great Britain on there.  

Now, I've written to Wales before, since living here and never had this problem.  I was looking so confused that she decided to explain that there's more than one Wales.  There's actually one in Africa and she didn't want them to get mixed up and send it there.  It was a surreal conversation.

I've been researching since Thursday and so far, I haven't found a Wales in Africa.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Crafty Update

I've been getting back into my crafts again this week.  I started last Sunday with this update to my summery boot plant pot in the kitchen.  Just need to order some seeds for it now!

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Saturday Update

What a week!

Last weekend, after the update, we had a lovely dinner with Ed and Loreto which was great fun and led to such new discoveries as La Batamanta.  We then had a nice lazy Sunday.  No walk this week due to bad weather but it was a lovely day.  I finished two classics over the weekend - The Importance of Being Earnest and The Catcher in the Rye - so it felt productive anyway.

On Monday I got back into Zumba which felt great.  I'm planning on doing it more often last week as I only managed it once this week but it was better than not at all!  I also got on the bike again this week.  I've started off lightly by just cycling to Roland Center instead of getting the bus there.  I'm hoping that building it up steadily this time may help with the weight loss.  I missed it on Tuesday and Wednesday as something fell off the bike (to do with gears) and Nico repaired it for me so I finished the week off strong.

On Tuesday I spent the evening correcting my year eight exams and getting them all entered online which I finished around 9pm.  I also caught up with my best friend in England which was great as she has been in South Africa for almost three weeks for a wedding and had lots to tell me. 

Wednesday was a nice normal day.  (And payday so booking a trip is on this week's to do list.)  I also had a bit of free time at work today so I managed to fit in re-writing the year nine exam.  They had stolen a copy of it from my desk last week and although they eventually returned it, I'm quite sure they were smart enough to photograph it first so it felt great to be able to pay them back a little and while half of them didn't turn up, of those who did write the exam, about half got a grade 5 or lower.

Thursday was the first of my new informal English conversation group session.  It turned into quite a drama when one of the ladies spilled a boiling hot cup of water on her lap and we had to call her an ambulance.  She was okay but had to spend two nights in hospital!  What a palaver - hope next week is less dramatic!

Friday was a nice end to the week.  It's been such a productive one that we could relax in the afternoon and crack on with my new read Fall of Giants by Ken Follett which I am really enjoying.  Unfortunately my Gran was admitted to hospital yesterday though.  She's been having breathing difficulties since she went to two funerals on Monday and her heart rate is erratic but she was in good spirits and keeping the staff and other patients entertained the last I heard so hopefully she won't be there for too long.

This morning showed that the cycling and zumba has paid off (it must be that because I have been naughty enough with the diet) and I lost 5.5lbs which puts me at my lowest weight for the year!  I'm planning on making March count more than February did so no slacking this week.  My goals are to do Zumba at least twice, three times if possible.  To cycle to Roland Center every day and weather permitting, to school one day.  To get to yoga at least once this week. 

Have a good week!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Dinner for Four

On Saturday we also had our first dinner party in the flat since we moved in.  That is to say our first guests that didn't fly in from England to visit us!  It was so much fun, I hope it's something we'll be doing more often.  Ed and Loreto came over and we had a wonderful dinner that turned into a giggling fit akin to what we have every Thursday in Knigge. 

They are moving into their new home soon which is unfortunately a little further away but we have already arranged Friday lunches instead of Thursday coffees.  Can't wait!

It was also a great opportunity to get out the new fancy matching dinner set as you can see above!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Back on the Bike...Again!

Saturday also saw me unlock the bike for the first time since October to take it for a short spin to the Roland centre and back.  It's much quicker than getting the bus or walking and obviously it's a way to get me moving more again so I am going to be doing this on a morning too until I build back up to cycling all the way to school and back again.  It's finally feeling a bit warmer so it's not as scary a prospect to go by bike but I don't want to go from 0 to 100% all at once like I did at the start of the school year as it did nothing for my weightloss and I'm hoping this will!  I'll let you know on Saturday!