This book, passed on to me by my Mum, was everything I hoped for. I read My Sister's Keeper several years ago and I know that Picoult is excellent at making the big issues real on a personal level.
Small Great Things tackles the issue of racism from several perspectives on so many levels. The events of the story are so close to home, it's unreal, following the story of baby Davis who dies before he is even a week old, leading his white power parents to blame and sue the African American nurse.
Picoult writes in such a way that I could identify with all of the characters at times and of course, it was a tear jerker.
Murder on Pilgrims' Way - Julie Wassmer
Another book passed on from my Mum, I enjoyed this murder mystery set just outside of Canterbury.
It was a quick and easy read but it kept me guessing until the end and had some clever twists.
I skipped two of the series but look forward to catching up and I'm enjoying hearing that there's even a TV series in the works!
Nico bought me this book as he is currently reading and enjoying the German translation. It follows the life story of a world-class assasin with Japanese, Russian and German roots right up to his current tete-a-tete with the American government.
It covers such an eclectic and eccentric mix of topics from the game of Go to the Basque language and was a fantastic read, not at all dated by the forty years that have passed since it was written.
For months, I've been looking for a round mirror with a wooden frame to fill this odd shaped space on the wall in our room.
Finally, on a trip to Ikea with my Mum last month, I spotted this on sale for just thirty euros!
They have a funny system for end of the line products so it cost us in nerves what we saved in money but it was worth it in the end and I'm so pleased with how it looks. It really changes and completes the room.
I find myself starting this post in the same way every week but this week really has been a whirlwind.
After a fairly quiet weekend with a nice Sunday afternoon visit from friends, Monday was a day of chores, Kindergarten runs and dance class.
On Tuesday I had a visit to the job centre, an observation for a third company I'm hoping to work for in the new year and a Christmas night out with the girls from my postnatal class. It was a really lovely evening and we were the last ones out of the restaurant.
I started my second new job on Wednesday and it went really well.It felt good to be back in a classroom, especially a quiet one with kids who want to learn (kind of). In the evening I went to Zumba which was also quiet. Lots of things seem to be winding down for Christmas.
Thursday was the one quiet day this week and between the usual daily grind I did a bit of work getting to grips with LaTex software and preparing some school materials.
Yesterday was the usual Friday chaos of baby swimming and housework. It was also Nico's Christmas do with work so I took the kids to the Christmas market by myself.
Joshua is doing well, getting settled at nursery and Isabella is loving Kindergarten as always. We're all still struggling with coughs and colds and I am really looking forward to both the quiet weekend and the start of the holidays on Friday to recover!
I'm so glad I signed up to this fitness studio back in September. I try to go two to three times a week and I'm always glad when I do.
Usually I do Zumba and a weights class but I recently took part in some different dance classes which have been really fun too. Even though I danced when I was younger, I do struggle to remember the steps so it's a good mental workout too. I'm really looking forward to keeping this up in 2018.
For the last few years I have joined in with Ali Edwards' One Little Word project. I have intentionally chosen a specific word and built my goals and ideas around it for a whole year, using it to stay inspired.
For 2017, I chose the word 'Create' and it has certainly felt very appropriate. This year I completed my knitting course, started crochet, made most of the birthday gifts we sent to people, made all my own cards, started calligraphy, made my own soap and tried lots of new recipes.
I made sure that I created an average of one thing per day, be it a set of Christmas cards or a letter, a crochet patch or a new Project Life spread. It has certainly been a busy year.
I didn't complete everything I set out to do. By Christmas I felt completely overwhelmed and resorted to buying many gifts, but I certainly made more and learned more this year than I would have done without focusing on this word.
On the whole I feel like I have acheived a lot this year. Not the least of those things has been creating a safe and comfortable environment for the children. It feels like this has been my year with Joshua, as I was on maternity leave throughout 2017.
Looking forward, I am excited about this new phase of our lives, just as much as I am worried about it too. Joshua is starting nursery, and I am finding my feet in a very new work environment which will be better for us as a family in the long run. I'm thinking a lot right now about my goals for 2018 and what my One Little Word should be. I'm not decided yet but I know I will be following this project for another year and look forward to sharing it with you soon.
I was rereading this one after about ten years and while I honestly could remember nothing about it, it was a good read. It wasn't your average page turner but it was interesting.
It follows the story of a New York art dealer who is tipped off to a huge undiscovered collection of brilliant artwork only to discover that it is linked to a series of brutal, unsolved murders. The story flicks back and forth through time to tell the story of the artist.
It's really well written and I enjoyed reading it again.
Rules of Deception - Christopher Reich
It's almost difficult to review this book without giving away any big plot twists. The novel tells the story of Jonathon Ransom who discovers that his wife has been leading a double life when she suffers a fatal mountaineering accident.
For me, there were one or two holes in the story but generally, I enjoyed the book and the various twists and turns. A good international spy story.
The Saint Plays with Fire - Leslie Charteris
Among the free books I picked up a few months ago are a whole range of The Saint books. I vaguely remember the television series but did not realise there were books too. I picked this one out at random.
It is a typical detective story set early to mid twentieth century. It was a quick and easy read but it also kept me guessing. It reminded me a little of Sherlock Holmes. I enjoyed the story and look forward to reading the others from the series.
Our tree seems to get fuller every year and I don't really think we need a bigger one. I aim to buy one decoration per year and we've received several as gifts. I like a tree that tells a story. There are memories on there from our first Christmas together, the first in our flat, our engagement, our first as Mr & Mrs, our first in the house, Isabella's first Christmas and Joshua's. This year we bought a small wooden decoration on our Harz holiday and I used my Gonis products to make two that I'll share with you soon.
As a result of this, and since the lower part of the tree is a bit emptier due to our curious one year old, I decided to repurpose some of the basic baubles. I bought a bit of greenery on sale at Netto, trimmed it down and filled four vases with that and the baubles. It was simple but effective. I love that it ties in to the tree and spreads the Christmas feeling around the room.
It makes a lovely centrepiece for the table when we host my in-laws on Boxing Day too. The best part is the beautiful smell of the real fir tree branch. I'll be making this a new tradition!
...attending meeting after meeting about work.
...worrying about an unwanted intruder in the house.
...making great plans for 2018.
...loving/hating settling Joshua in at nursery.
...reading this page turner.
...cycling again and enjoying it.
...enjoying this season through Isabella's eyes.
Somehow, our baby turns one today and I'm left wondering where the time has gone. He is such a joy and brings light to all of our lives.
The stages have flown by. The year started out tougher than I expected as Joshua is so different to his sister. He was and is much more clingy and we were almost inseperable for six months which was exhausting.
He is such a funny little character though. I think he gets a lot of it from observing his sister but he does make us all laugh. He's walking, playing and eating for himself at the moment and starting nursery next week!
Today we're celebrating with family and I'm feeling reflective and grateful. It's so true what they say - the days are long but the years are short.
Sunday started with a lovely Skype catch up with my friend and her new baby. Mum arrived at lunchtime and the kids were over the moon.
Nico went away for his school trip on Monday. We had a quiet morning and took the kids out for cake after Kindergarten.
Tuesday was an adventure with a trip to Ikea, visiting a new kindergarten class and treating the kids to ice cream.
We kept Isabella off on Wednesday and went into Bremen. They are getting ready for the Christmas markets. We had lunch, did a spot of shopping and visited the cathedral.
Thursday was busy with the car going to the garage. We walked out for a coffee and food shopping. In the afternoon I picked up Nico and we had a takeaway.
Yesterday was an early start to get Mum to the station. Then I drove out to pick up a prescription and enoyed a nice breakfast out with Joshua. I'm exhausted and not feeling 100% so the weekend will be about recovering and sorting the house out.
In the last seven years, I've learned that Germans take advent to a whole new level. It's not just about chocolate (although there is that), parents find different ways to treat their children daily in December.
Last year we found a 24-piece jigsaw, which was fun but difficult for her to understand, and four little toys for the weekly one.
This year we've got Playmobil mad for Christmas and I'm planning to break up one of her sets into 24 pieces. I can't wait to see her face.
I'll be putting toys for both kids in the weekly one too. I'm looking forward to cracking on with that next week although my head is spinning at how fast the days are going right now!
1. Fry the onion, leek, carrots and mushrooms in the butter for five minutes.
2. Add the garlic, thyme and seasoning for about a minute.
3. Add the rice for a minute or so, followed by the wine.
4. Add the stock, ladle by ladle until it is soaked in and the rice is no longer crunchy. Check the seasoning, add the cheese and serve.
As I mentioned last week, I've been making a special gift for the new baby girl of one of my best friends. I've made similar bunting for her first baby and my nieces.
This time I was going for a pink theme and while it is a darker shade than I was planning on, I do like the finished product. New this time, I added some buttons to the ribbon, I think it breaks up the ribbon nicely, while keeping the theme, and with the shortest name I've made bunting for, the little sweetheart deserved a little something extra.
I also added in some simple bunting. I make the name section double sided, to give it a bit of extra strength. The extra was single sided with a narrower ribbon, just to tie it in and brighten up her room a little.
The last of my children's classics, this one took a while to get into but once I did, I really enjoyed it. It tells the story of Huck Finn and his friend, the runaway slave Jim as they sail down the Mississippi. The language is difficult at times but fits the story.
Nothing to Lose - Lee Child
This was a nice, easy read to break up the classics. Unlike the last Jack Reacher, this one kept me guessing. The books do follow the same pattern, Jack Reacher on the road, gets dragged in to a case, sleeps with a local, solves the mystery, moves on. I personally preferred the first ones with more history and personality involved but the books are fun to read anyway.
The 158-pound marriage - John Irving
I came across this book in the 200+ free collection from the classifieds. I knew and liked the author already from Owen Meany.
The novel is the story of two couples who indulge in some partner swapping. It follows the relationship and looks back on the histories of the main characters too.
I found the histories and the psychological side of this story really interesting. The characters were engaging and the book left me wanting more.
A simple but effective one this week. I recently got an acrylic block to use with some stamps I've had for a while. My idea was to use it for Christmas cards but I had another opportunity this week to cobgratulate some friends on the birth of their second beautiful baby girl.
The stamps worked perfectly. I used pink ink of course and while it was simple, I think it looks really effective. I like to use images in threes and I think it uses the space well.
Next week, I'll be sharing the gift I sent with the card.
One day this week, I was cycling past the high school on my way to pick up Isabella from Kindergarten when I saw two boys in the cycle park. By this time school was finished, most of the students had left school and there weren't many people around.
One boy had the other in a headlock and they were struggling. As a teacher, I often see children 'playing' in this way and I know that I am too likely to boss strangers about based on my job. I often have to remind myself in public that these loud/naughty/inconsiderate teenagers are neither my children nor my pupils and because of that I almost carried on past these boys on this particular day.
Then I heard the boy in the headlock cry out and I realised, this isn't just two kids messing about, it's one child hurting another and while they're still not my responsibility, if another child did that to one of my children, I'd want the stranger on a bike to do something.
I stopped and asked the boy to let the other one go. He claimed it was just a bit of fun but the victim said otherwise. I repeated my request and as another woman came by from the car park and also confronted the boy, he let go and left.
Part of me wishes I had done more, part of me thinks more would have been overkill and possibly caused more problems for the victim. However, the whole incident stuck with me somehow. It made me realise more than ever that parenting changes you in so many ways and gives you a whole new perspective.
Bullying is never going to go away unfortunately but it's something to which I never want to turn a blind eye. The whole incident reminded me of this post from one of my favourite mummy-bloggers whose daughter stood up to bullying in an incredibly brave way. That's how we should be bringing up our children and it starts here and now.
Despite, or maybe because of the long weekend, it feels like we've had a mad week here.
We spent the bank holiday at Nico's parents' as his Mum had her birthday. It was lovely as ever to catch up with family.
Since then it's been back to the routine - Kindergarten, work, cycling, sport, baby swimming. It feels good and I'm finally enjoying the new season and cooler weather.
Yesterday was Isabella's lantern festival and a good opportunity to get to know the other Kindergarten parents better. The rest of the day was spent preparing for the clothes party we hosted this morning. We had fewer guests than I thought but it was really good and our house looks better for it!
Next week is even busier but I'm feeling ready for it!
...sorting out baby clothes (Joshua's getting so big!)
...enjoying our wood burning fire.
...celebrating a friend's new baby.
...accepting the changing of the seasons.
...looking forward to lantern festival tomorrow.
...struggling through my latest read.
This month I managed to mix it up a bit. The most exciting one for me was the one you see on the right. The other two use techniques I've used before while this one is for an older man. I found the creativty to mix old stock and new, and I like the results.
Another one from the 200+ freebies, I took this one on holiday with me for a quick read and it certainly was that. It was enjoyable and interesting but I didn't enjoy it as much as some of his other works as I had the twist figured out much too early. Either I'm reading too many of these books or I'm getting clever!
Veni, Vidi, Vici - Peter Jones
I started reading this on holiday. From the non-fiction section, it explains everything you wanted to know about the Romans and then some!
At first I found it very interesting, especially the linguistic tidbits but towards the end, it was very dry and hard work to read.
Jackdaws - Ken Follett
This was a fantastic read. I love Ken Follett's novels but I've never read his earlier works before.
Jackdaws follows the female protaganist Flick, and her mission behind enemy lines towards the end of World War Two. There was no cross over with his other works and it was a real page turner. Cannot recommend it enough.
This was my first big crochet project, the first that wasn't from my subscription course, and I loved it. It's from Mollie Makes and I made it for my friend's baby shower. She's expecting her second daughter next month and I couldn't be at her shower but I sent this gift.
The wool is beautiful, so soft and thick. I also made my first pompoms for the corners. I love the end product. It's going to be my go-to gift for future babies. I think blue would look just as cute and I'm considering making some to sell. Even the ladies in the post office loved it. Hopefully my friend will too!
We've had a pretty good week in our new routine here.
On Monday I took Isabella to Kindergarten and stayed until she'd had breakfast. While she played out, I whizzed over on the bike to meet some mummy friends for a quick coffee.
Tuesday was similar but I didn't stay for the breakfast. On Wednesday she was sick which means 48 hours off. I was worried she wasn't liking Kindergarten as she'd complained about the noise but she was keen to go back on Friday which was her best day yet. They had gym and she had lunch there too. She loved it.
I'm feeling good with cycling every day, even in the pouring rain yesterday. Joshua had baby swim at the new time so he was shattered too. I've fit in a fair bit of studying and read a whole Ken Follett novel.
With Isabella's return to Kindergarten comes a barrage of events for our calendar. The first was the lantern workshop last night.
At nursery this was always a chaotic afternoon with Nico and I rushing from work so one of us could distract her while the other cut and stick a lantern together.
I have to say, I prefer the Kindergarten's method. I got there at seven pm, on edge after a crazy afternoon with the kids and was promptly served a cup of mulled wine!
One of the teachers had made example lanterns and the kids had been asked to choose early in the week - owl or shark. All but one of the girls picked owls, and all but one of the boys picked sharks.
I was in the owl room which inevitably had all of the glitter and pink card. First I cut all the pieces. This took longer than expected as I forgot that owl lanterns need four wings, two heads and four eyes! Then came the sticking, and finally the decoration.
I am really pleased with my two hours' work. It was also fun watching and listening to the dads who had been sent along to make their girls' lanterns. I've never heard so many wonderings about shades of pink and glitter!
As I mentioned, I was invited to a Gonis party last week. I had no idea what to expect other than a craft party. I had never heard of Gonis.
It was along the lines of a Tupperware or Avon party. The friend had about ten guests there and a rep. Everyone had a catalogue and a Christmas flyer. The rep highlighted various products from the catalogue and showed us different projects we could use them for.
I put in an order and booked a party for next year. If my German was better and I knew more people, I'd consider becoming a rep myself.
The projects really inspired me with some ideas for Christmas and I'm looking forward to sharing them here. My goodies arrive on Friday and then I'll be off!
...drinking nutmeg milk.
...stressing about exams.
...enjoying school holidays.
...recovering from our mini-break.
...feeling inspired about crafting.
...reading about the Romans.
...getting into the autumn spirit.
...working in the garden.
1. Boil the pumpkin, drain and blend.
2. Add the milk and butter and stir well.
3. Add the remaining ingredients. Knead well. Transfer to a baking tin and rest for thirty minutes.
4. Bake at 170℃ for about fifty minutes.
We've had a nice, if somewhat washed out, week away.
We had a lovely weekend visiting Nico's family. The sunshine was glorious on Sunday.
On Monday we drove to Altenau in the rain. The accommodation was very spacious and had everything we needed though sleeping in a family room was an adventure! We had a short walk around the town and a little climb to a viewpoint.
We tried to get out for walks twice on Tuesday but didn't get far due to torrential downpours.
Wednesday was our big walk day. Four hours around the beautiful outskirts of Altenau and no complaining from the kids, plus we got our first stamp in our Harz Wanderpasses!
Thursday was terrible again so we drove out to do a bit of shopping, took the kids swimming at the local spa, and went to a small wood museum. A lovely day despite the weather.
Yesterday, we drove home, picking Pete up on the way. The house was still standing despite the storms and I was glad to have cleaned before we left.
Before picking this book up, I only knew the Disney version of Aladdin and I was honestly surprised at how different the original is. Just the fact that it was knew an unknown made the adventure story more exciting for me.
It was branded as a children's classic but from the language I'm not surprised I never picked it up as a child.
The 'other tales' were the seven voyages of Sinbad which were new to me as well. They were varied and interesting too.
The Stretch - Stephen Leather
Another of my freebies, I probably wouldn't have picked this up otherwise. It tells the story of a crime boss' wife and how she handles the business while he's in prison.
It was an easy read and the point of view was interesting but this one didn't really grip me.
Coral Island - R.M.Ballantyne
Another fake 'children's classic', this one tells the story of three men shipwrecked on an island in the South Pacific. It was actually an interesting read and I really enjoyed following their adventures. I'd recommend this one.
As I mentioned, we were at a kids clothes party at the weekend. A friend of a friend sews children's clothes and sells them in a shop in Bremen as well as online. She also offers these parties on weekends and evenings.
This was the second one I have been to. At the first I bought a top and trousers for Isabella. This time I got her a hooded jacket and skirt, and Joshua trousers, slippers and a hat, all for 48 Euros.
Now I am planning my own party for November. I'm going to invite all the mums I know from different groups and hope to get a few of them together.
It's nice to feel like we're really putting roots down and building up contacts through the children.
20th September is World Children's Day. Here in Germany, they make quite a big deal of it.
Our local area plans a range of events for children. We've taken Isabella to the children's theater at the local high school twice and we'll be doing it again in October.
On Sunday, for World Children's Day they planned all sorts at the mill in Südweyhe. We were there right on time in glorious sunshine. It started with a play which was fun. It was 50 minutes long but Isabella did well with concentrating.
The mill itself is a museum so Nico and Isabella had a look while I waited with Joshua. There were games and toys, food and drink, badge making, a rally and face painting. Isabella had her face done with pink glitter as a princess. Later there was a magic show and a musical performance. Unlike the usual Sunday theaters, this was free (except the food and drink).
We saw lots of people we know - the youth volunteer from nursery, a child from nursery with her dad, Nico's colleague, my friends from post-natal fitness, mums and kids from kindergarten and even mums from other kids events like the theater and library.
It was a lovely morning and a great way to celebrate the kids. Joshua even stayed awake the whole time!
Recently I've been delving into my family history again and, as those of you following my 40 things list may have noticed, lately my Mum and I have made some real progress.
As long as anyone in our family can remember, there has been a big mystery about my great-grandmother - Isabella Allan. We knew she came from up towards Jarrow and left her family there to move to Yorkshire in the twenties. There she met my great-grandfather and started another family.
We never knew why she moved or what happened until recently. With the help of my Dad's cousin who is a semi-professional genealogist, we have found some long lost cousins - the descendents of the children Isabella left up north.
Here's what we can piece together. She married Joseph Patterson at the age of seventeen and had two sons. Joseph went of to fight in World War One. When he came home on leave he discovered that Isabella was having an affair resulting in a third pregnancy. He took their two sons to live with his parents and returned to war where he was killed in Belgium.
Isabella gave her third son up for adoption but he did make contact later in life.
The next years are still a bit of a mystery but at some point she moved to Thorner and once settled, sent for her fourth (!) son to join her.
In Thorner she met my Great-Grandfather Willie and had three children with him before she passed away in the late 1950s.
It is a story full of scandal and shame and we've certainly had mixed feelings while learning all of this but I do believe it's the right time for this to come out. We're so over the moon to find that we have more cousins and that Isabella's older sons had good lives despite the tragic start.
I don't judge Isabella for what she did. We will never know why she had an affair but she was young and alone with two children in very unstable times. I never knew her so I can't say what kind of person she was. Plus, if she hadn't had this background, I wouldn't be here! Families and family histories are full of this kind of 'scandal'.
I'm so glad we finally know more about her and now we can start to look further back too.
Last week I started my new calligraphy course and this was the first exercise. Lettering is quite an individual thing and I usually consider my projects something that looks very childish but I took my time with this and I really like the finished piece.
I'm going to put it up in the hobby room to keep me inspired.
We've had a very quiet week here. It was a quiet weekend. Nico was home sick all week but is on the mend now. It was a week of little jobs at home, sticking to my new health routines and keeping the kids busy.
There was a playdate, library visit and baby swimming.
The weather was rubbish at the start of the week so we were a bit stir crazy and Isabella's discovering Disney - so far Peter Pan is the only one that doesn't make her cry! Little softy.
I've been doing more family history, picked up my crossstitch after months, and did more C1 revision.
We'll see a change of pace this week with Skype calls, World Children's Day, Kindergarten visit, parents' evening, brunch... all as well as the routine stuff!
In August I started a new fitness routine. The dance school where Isabella had a trial offers a programme for adults. For under 30 Euros a month I can visit two classes per week. (For ten Euros more I could take part in unlimited classes but I can't fit in more than two because of the kids at the moment.) The system is very flexible. If I can't make one class, I can choose another one in the week. This is perfect for me at the moment.
So far, I've tried three classes: zumba, hot iron and drums alive.
Previously I'd only done Zumba at home with a DVD. It's difficult to keep up at times as most of the others have been going for longer but I'm getting there!
Hot iron is a session with weights. I didn't expect to enjoy this one but it is a nice change of pace from the other courses. I ache for days after but I feel good for it.
Drums alive is the course I visit if I've missed one of the others. It's a fun course and combines drumming on a fitness ball with different disciplines. The one I took part in was step-aerobics which brought back memories. In this class, we built up new routines which made me feel more capable and engaged my brain too!
I'm feeling really good after workouts and losing weight. I'm looking forward to seeing how the next few weeks go.
...binge-watching the I.T. crowd.
...loving my routine and quality time with the kids.
...feeling great thanks to my new workout routine.
...looking forward to our family holiday.
...enjoying hobbies old and new.
...drinking hot milk with honey and nutmeg.
...reading like a machine.
...filling up my calendar for the next few weeks.