Thursday, November 29, 2012

Party Party

I am a good time girl.

I love a party. The whole thing, thinking about it, planning it, inviting people, putting lists together, deciding what to wear (always the number one priority) what to eat, what to drink, the music, as I said - the whole shebang.

Since moving to Germany we've had a few parties, there was the Royal Wedding party which was R's fault, she was desperate to watch the whole day, thought it'd be great to share with people but didn't have a big enough TV - even the press got wind of that party (thanks to another friend). 
Then following on from that there was the Jubilee party, not quite the day long champagne fest that the wedding had been but fun despite the rain (it wasn't only London that got that crappy weather). 
Next weekend is our third Christmas Cocktail party (a friend (Ian, that'll be you) insisted that it was an annual tradition and he would happily time his trip over to the Weihnachtsmarkt to coincide with it.

One German lesson M and I got onto the subject of parties, what makes a good one and why do so many German ones (in our opinion) miss the mark, (personally I think they take it all too seriously, and don't relax) then there was a kerrching moment. 
You know how in cartoons a lightbulb appears over a character's head?
It was just. like. that.
Why didn't we set up a party planning business? There's no initial outlay, only time and our creativity, and it could be so much fun, so why not?

Today we went 'live', first we had to get everything approved by some Amt or other, on the off chance that we make enough money to be taxed.
The Facebook site is available for all to see as is the Tumblr site*, so now we just have to it and see, as Aqua said "Lets Go Party"

* Tumblr is some modern new gizmo that can be used like an electronic noticeboard I think, according to a friend of M's, Tumblr is the current way to self promote, and you don't have to pay a website hosting fee.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Under the influence

One balmy summer evening there was a group of us at Lulu's for the monthly expat quiz night.

Normal behaviour at quiz nights is drink and chat, quiz, bicker about who got what right or wrong, more drink and chat, then home to bed.

This particular evening followed the same routine, no surprise there, but where it deviated from the norm was that in the morning six or so of us woke up thinking, "did we just make fairly firm plans* to go to London to see naked men**?"

And the rest is history, or it will be this time next week, seeing as we intrepid five fly off on Friday afternoon.

The planning was pretty speedily done, thanks in part to our keenness for our little Ausflug***, it was helped along by the fact that we didn't have to organise accomodation as one of the six, H, actually lives in London and KM was quite keen to book the tickets on a specific card (points mean prizes).

So that was it, flights booked, husband kicked out of London for the weekend, all husbands/children in Germany organised, tickets for the Saturday evening show booked (not Naked Men, but Crazy Horse Cabaret instead) and even the train tickets to get from the airport into central London are booked and waiting for collection, what can possibly go wrong?

Apart from the fact that two of the travellers are U.S. citizens who will get stuck at immigration while the rest of us, as British passport holders, wont.

Apart from the fact that one of the travellers has extreme allergies to so many food groups she'll be lucky if she gets anything other than salad with no dressing for three days.

Apart from the fact that two of the six passionately hate shopping, and where are we going? Central London. Which is full of? Shops...

Apart from the fact that the longest time we've ever spent in each other's company was maybe five hours of dragon boating and here we are planning three days of enforced sisterhood.

Apart from the fact that one of the group was demanding to go dancing while the rest of us were more inclined to bar hopping.

Then add into this the actual composition of the group, we have two yanks, 4 brits, 1 scot, 4 bloggers, 1 blipper**** and 2 non shoppers, but the one thing we do have in common is friendship, that and a love of having a good time, so we should be fine.

Watch out London, we're on our way.

* diaries were consulted and dates organised.
** Naked Men Singing to be precise, it's a legitimate show in London, honest, you can google it if you don't believe me.
*** der (or possibly die or das) Ausflug - little trip/excursion
**** so there's absolutely no chance of "what happens on tour, stays on tour"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Snaps 138

The Christmas market opened last week in Essen, so we felt obliged to go, afterall guests expect us to know where the best stalls are...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

2012 Award for Bad Mothering

Goes to me!

I am officially crap in the art of being a mom, you'd think I'd be better at it by now, wouldn't you, afterall Ben is 15, so much practice and still rubbish. Ho hum.

Let me list my misdemeanors...

1) Constantly trying to feed children food stuffs they don't like, carrots and chewey meat (Jas) sweetcorn and tomatoes (Ben). I have clearly given up trying more adventurous foods, I'm merely listing here the things that on a weekly basis both are forced to eat, because I think it's good for them.

2) Not restocking the fizzy drink stash from the Getränkmarkt* which means if they want to drink anything other than tap water or fruit juice they can't. I don't restock as often as they want because in my opinion there are healthier things to drink, also, I don't drink any of that stuff, if they're so desperate for it then they can come with me to the shop and help haul the crates from the car to the shop and back**.

3) Sometimes there's no apple or orange juice in the upstairs fridge for breakfast, usually because one of three people finished the last bottle and didn't replace it from the store in the cellar. Not really my problem, I rarely drink apple or orange juice, I do make sure there is enough in the house though.

4) Ben/daddy finished the cereal. Always my fault, always.

5) The top that I wore yesterday isn't washed and ironed already. How slack am I? I refuse to do the ironing more than once a week. I'd not do it at all if I thought I could get away with it, but no, every Friday afternoon I get to smooth wrinkles out of clothing.

6) Not waiting in my car at the school on time. It takes 20 minutes to walk between our house and the school. Ben seems capable of doing this without help, Jas is a lazy moo. Monday I had a German lesson later than usual and so was still engrossed in the subquamperfekt*** when the phone rang, "where are you?" "just leaving to fetch you" I bluffed "so you should be" came the cheeky retort.

7) Jas has a brace that she has to sleep in, she keeps taking it out in the middle of the night (the dentist is NOT happy) so as I go to bed I check it's still in, if not then I wake her and make her put it back in. She doesn't like this being woken up nonsense, but I equally don't enjoy getting a tongue lashing from the dentist.

8) The clementines are all mushy/dried out. I am clearly supposed to check them before I buy them, haven't worked out how that is possible, without getting thrown out of the shop for fruit molesting.

9) Someone ate all the chocolate in the fridge. Guilty as charged. I buy it for the people in the house, but if I hear it calling to me then I will eat it (in secret, when they're in bed)

10) Today I made my son late for school. Not on purpose, I'm daft but not suicidal. Jas has two days a week when she has a first lesson, Ben has one day a week when he doesn't have a first lesson. This morning should have been a lie in for Jas and a get up early/normal for Ben. Except that I got them both up at the same time. Oops. In my defence, as soon as we/Ben realised I offered to drive him to school at the same time as pointing out to him that the lesson he would be late for was French, which is not his favourite. I'm sure I haven't heard the end of it.

* large warehouse style shop that only sells fizzy pop, bottled water, beer and basic wine.
** all the bottles are recycled, you take them back to the shop, get your money back and buy more, it increases the hassle but is better for the environment.
*** or is it the plusquamperfekt? German grammar, shudder.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

34 days to go

At the weekend my eye was caught by a number on a website, it said that the number of days to Christmas was 37...

That couldn't be right, that sounded far too close for comfort.

So I checked (the internet might be the font of all knowledge, thanks to the great god wiki, but its disciples are notoriously fickle and are wont to change facts at their whim) and I was shocked to find out that Christmas IS just around the corner.

How the hell did that happen?

I mean, I understand the laws of space and time etc. but what I don't get is how I went from being über organised with a Christmas present list* under construction and some presents bought to the flat out panic that was induced at the weekend.

I blame Al.

I emailed her children (whose names are on my list and who will therefore be getting presents from me, don't worry, they're too old to still believe in Santa) to ask for suggestions as to what I could get for them, and one of them blabbed to mommy dearest, who told me in no uncertain terms that I was getting ahead of myself and should take more wine. So after the initial flurry of activity nothing has happened, the list has stagnated and now I have to get my act together because otherwise gifts will be late (not the end of the world I know, but German punctuality is clearly rubbing off on me, not that I was ever slack in the time keeping department)

On the other hand, presents aside, Christmas plans are proceeding at a steady rate...

# Christmas cake is hic-ing to itself in its foil coat, awaiting its marzipan slip before it gets its royal icing frock on for the the big day (note to self, source 'ready to throw onto cake' marzipan - this will require the aid of a friend or a trip to a (not) supermarket that I don't usually go to)

# first lot of mincemeat has been made, will be made into mincepies this week which I can freeze and then make more mincemeat (have only one jar suitable for the storing of mincemeat). I foolishly put my name down to take mincepies to Jas's Christmas thingy at school, it's worth it just to see the parent's faces as you try to explain the concept of mincemeat that isn't actually meat.

# Christmas crackers are hiding somewhere downstairs (I admit, I have forgotten exactly where they are) This is an issue every year, because crackers on Christmas day are essential in my book and you can't reliably get them here and nor can people flying over bring them as hand or hold luggage (something to do with the fact that they go bang I think). Personally I'd have crackers on Christmas Eve too but as I only have 6, carefully sourced crackers (thanks Emma & Hannah) we will have to make do.

# The first Sunday of Advent is December 2, I had a mini panic when I thought it was this coming weekend (can't you just tell I'm an atheist) but google tells me Dec 2 and who am I to argue. I have the candles for the Advent 'crown', just have to put it together next week sometime. You probably think this odd, a household of atheists having an Advent crown, I blame Jas, who is turning more German every day. The Advent crowns are pretty essential to any German household during December and as I'm not averse to lighting candles why not? Admittedly our crown isn't crown shaped, being more of a rectangular nature and it also doesn't include any of the traditional greenery, ours is full on sparkly, but it does have four candles.

# And the diary on the run up to the day itself is full (which might be a problem) This weekend we'll go to the Essen Christmas market, the weekend after I'm away on a girlie weekend in London, the weekend after we're having a Christmas cocktail do (seems to be becoming an annual event), the week after is an evening of carols at friends and the weekend after is literally the weekend before Christmas (a Tuesday this year). Time is running away.

As long as it doesn't snow before Christmas, everything will be OK. If it snows, as it did two years ago, then the world slowly grinds to a halt, although everywhere does look very festive! Can't have it both ways I guess.

* this being the list of presents I need to buy and probably send off to people, as opposed to the list of stuff I want (complete with website addresses and article numbers to make the list as fool (i.e. husband) proof as possible)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Snaps 137

Late night last night, partying down at Lulu to celebrate a friend's birthday, much fun was had, much wine was drunk and much nonsense spoken.

Friday, November 16, 2012


I hate wearing a cycling helmet. I suffer from really bad hat hair, so the only time I'm happy to wear my helmet is when I'm cycling for exercise, safe in the knowledge that I'm not going to stop anywhere and have to take off the offending head gear to reveal reshaped hair*.

However, with children you always have to think of the example you're setting and so each bike in our garage has an accompanying helmet. Children here take a bike test in their last year of first school and part of passing that test requires a fully functioning bike with lights (they get checked by the cops) and a helmet.

The kids seem to start off quite happily wearing helmets, it's only when they get older and suddenly need to appear cool that the problems start.

My 15 year old doesn't use his bike regularly, I think it's more used in situations when he needs to go somewhere and he doesn't want to be seen being dropped off by mom or (probably the more likely scenario) doesn't want me to know where he's going**. But when he does go out it has become apparent that the helmet is being left behind.

He was planning on going out with friends this afternoon on their bikes, to dig out an existing bunker (don't ask). He'd be back too late to babysit for the neighbours at 6:45 he said.  To which I put my foot down, it'll be dark by 5:30 I told him, you have to be home by then.   I was informed that he had lights (well, his old bike did, whether he transferred them to the new bike I don't know, although I was planning to check before he left) and that he'd be on the roads...and how that was supposed to put my mind at rest I don't know, German roads to my mind are not very well lit, if he'd said "I'll wear a luminous vest and ride on the pavement" I'd have been happier.

Then I brought up the subject of the helmet.

I thought I had a good argument.  As you can see from the side bar, I blip (I have blogged about blipping if you're curious) and someone who also blips 'fell off' his bike last week.  He doesn't know what happened (I don't think he's innately clumsy) one moment taking his turn to overtake a stationary bus, the next in an ambulance.   But like any blipper would he clearly thought 'well this will provide at least a week's worth of blips', so day 1 was in the hospital - a very dramatic, bloody shot.  I showed this series of graphic photos to my too cool for school son, in the faint hope that this would give him pause for thought and he might realise that the ugly helmet had saved this guy's skull.

No such luck.

So I wasn't looking forward to this afternoon, the prospect of watching the sun disappear as I waited for my darkly clad son to return through the gathering gloom, while the bike helmet waited in the garage.  Fortunately one of the friends cried off with a bad headache and the digging out of the bunker clearly requires all boys to be there at the same time.  Phew.

Angst postponed, until another day.

* I should point out that I happily confess to being vain and that my hatred of head wear is not confined to bike helmets. The only time I wear a hat is if my ears are in danger of freezing off due to sub zero temperatures or if the sun is so strong that I might get sunstroke.
** Damn secretive these teens, they make 007 look like a Girl Guide.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Picasso meets Putzfrau*

Saturday morning I had to go to school.

I foolishly volunteered to help with the 'renovation' of Jasmine's classroom**.

Fortunately it wasn't a hideously early start, only 11am, but I can think of pleasanter ways to spend a weekend morning.

The majority of the classrooms 'belong' to a class for three years, so it seems to be the thing for the class to put their stamp on the room, a sweet idea, but then the incoming class has to either live with the bileous yellow and slime green of the outgoing class or nag their teacher/parents into doing something about it.

The children were allowed to choose the colour that we had to paint (they weren't allowed to help) which is why I guess we ended up painting over bileous yellow (the vomity green was allowed to stay as it was only on one wall and most of that wall is window).

But just because the children had the choice didn't mean the parents were silent on the matter.

Oh no, these are German parents, they have a (very vocal) opinion about everything. The emails were quite amusing (that's if I understood them correctly!) One mother was concerned that the 'mint' colour favoured by the children was rather 'psychedilic' when combined with the blue floor. Then there was the mother who invoked the F word, feng shui...she was ok with the light blue and mint suggested by the children, but thought that maybe lilac could be introduced as well. She was keen however to retain the existing bileous yellow because "Feng shui experts say that yellow represents the earth and thus generates heat and a feeling of home"...The next mother to email the group pooh poohed both Fung shui and psychodelic concerns, stating clearly (and concisely, shall have to try and befriend her) that surely as the children get to spend most of the time there, then as long as they are happy with the colour choice, fine.

So after weeks of debate finally it was the day of reckonning and everyone turned up in appropriate clothing (I had wisely taken the precaution of buying a disposable overall, having used them before when I painted the kitchen, others had 'proper' work overalls) apart from the one mom who seemed to think a pink fluffy sweater, jeans and Uggs were ideal. The tasks soon became divided by sexuality, as the women took to cleaning windows and the men to unscrewing stuff and filling in holes, afterall the surfaces have to be prepared before the child friendly colours can be applied.

I'm not sure when, or even if, the windows were last cleaned but the dirt on the frames was so ingrained that it could only be shifted by special sponge style dirt erasers, I managed to drop one out of the window, oops (we were on the second floor, that didn't get retrieved) and with three huge windows to clean we got through two packs of six of these fancy erasers. By the time we had finished the windows the menfolk had taken over the painting and the first coat was done.

I was there for two hours, long enough to have done my bit and certainly long enough for my slothenly weekend inclinations, wont have to do that again anyway!

* Putzfrau = cleaning lady
** bear this in mind the next time you're complaining about the cuts in education, bet you don't have to clean and paint your kid's classroom?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Snaps 136

Christmas cake, stage 1, soaking the very dry fruit in copious amounts of brandy. This is never cake for the under 18's!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Me and Mr Williams

That's Robbie Williams clearly, there can only ever be one Mr Williams.

I have long had a soft spot for Robbie, although not during his Take That years, saw him at Knebworth about 10 years ago and although it did take us almost all night to get out of the car park, it was still an amazing experience.

But this week I feel even closer to Robbie. Both he and I have been cast aside, cut adrift by BBC Radio 1, because we're too old. His current (number one) single has not been put on the station's play list because they say 'he's too old'. The single is however on the Radio 2 playlist, so maybe I should retune my radio*.

A couple of months ago (it feels longer though) Radio 1 ditched my favourite DJ, Chris Moyles. It was dressed up as a mutual agreement, and between you and me I think he was ready to jump but that doesn't make it any easier to bear. I used to enjoy listening to his show whilst out walking with Logan and then at the weekends downloading the week's podcast. Now that pleasure is gone and I don't feel I can, or even should, switch my allegiance to the new breakfast DJ, Nick Grimshaw, because the BBC made a huge song and dance about his appointment, wanting to appeal to the younger audience, they clearly don't want me anymore.

And I can't be alone in feeling abandoned, I was surprised when my brother was here in the summer to hear him express his similar disappointment at Chris Moyles' imminent departure. There was a shared feeling of 'where do we go from here?' 

This is uncharted water. I have always listened to BBC Radio 1, my dad worked for the BBC so it was kind of a given, and I have grown up despising commercial radio because of all the advertising. Yet now I feel almost as though I'm not allowed to listen, as though it's off limits and out of bounds, just because I've had the temerity to grow older. 

But what can I listen to? The black box was being coy the other day and when I was trying to find Radio 1 it offered up first Radio 2, so I selected it. It wasn't on for long, Steve Wright was the DJ, I detested him when he was still young enough for Radio 1, he's just as irritating now but now plays music from the 60's, and I'm still averse to commercial radio.

So I'm lost and adrift, paddling frantically on the trail of decent music.

* Except that it's not one of those old fashioned radios with knobs that were easy to tune, this is a black box that's connected to our computer and so to select anything to listen to takes a great deal of patience, button pressing and scrolling through menus - either that or a technologically adept teenage son.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Snaps 135

Somehow I managed not to post a snap last Sunday...very odd, seeing as I thought I had.
Anyway, here's this week's offering.
It was Allerheiligen on Thursday, a bank holiday in this area to allow everyone time to go and buy a revolting floral arrangement to put on their dead one's grave, this is one of the more tasteful ones.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Halloween seems to have lasted forever this year. Or a week anyway.

It started a week ago, there was a party at the Irish bar in the Düsseldorf altstadt organised by the American Ladies Club (or whatever their title is). As Americans take Halloween far more seriously than the rest of the world we knew it would be a good party and it didn't disappoint.

Everyone, without exception was dressed up, from the mundane (green wig and weird mask) to the traditional (Blues Brothers) to the ridiculous (I'm not sure which was the most odd, the flock of six or so flamingos or the woman wearing a silver outfit that was supposedly an American football trophy)

When it came down to it though the traditional won, Julie dressed as a zombie, it was the eyes that did it, she'd got some spooky contact lenses from somewhere and whenever anyone asked for her photo she rolled her head to the side and just stared in a very undead dead way - perfect!

After the judging of the fancy dress the evening kind of went downhill, but in a good way...with karaoke.  Fortunately (or maybe that should be unfortunately for those with sensitive ears) enough beer had been consumed by this point to loosen inhibitions, I have a vague recollection of singing something by the Spice Girls, and a far more firm memory of a friend murdering a Backstreet Boys number as her husband winced alongside me.
As I said, the party was in a bar, the rest of the bar was full of 'normal' punters who were quite bemused by the flamingos, showgirls and vampires that walked through the main bar to get to the loos - but I think we raised more eyebrows walking along the street to and from the car park, afterall it's not Karneval time yet.

Sunday was pumpkin carving time, I heard a report on the news that 90-95% of pumpkins sold are used for carving, I can believe that - in England & the U.S. however here?  They tend to buy the pumpkins and display them whole...kind of looks like an arty display at a harvest festival, odd.

Wednesday itself was Halloween, Jas and her friends went out en masse, but so did most of the children.  She complained that they didn't get much but I think that the concept of trick or treating here is still in its infancy and while the children 'get it' the older generation haven't got a clue. We had loads of kids turning up demanding sweeties, which was fine as I was well prepared, I have my trusty sweetie bowl (smuggled back from England about three years ago) and pumpkin lights for the window which date back to when we lived in England, then of course there were the pumpkins on the wall acting as beacons to all the little scroungers. But this year I took it one step further, I dressed up too, hooked, witchy nose, black witchy hat and cloak as well, the children weren't impressed.  Clearly the unwritten and unread rules state that only those begging for sweeties are allowed to dress up and entertain themselves.

Meanwhile no. 1 son took himself off with a mate to cause mayhem with chinese firecrackers, having chosen not to go to the party they were invited to because some of the (13-14 year old) girls were intending to bring vodka so that they could get drunk the way they had at the party in the summer (at that party the parents of the girls had to be called to collect them as they were falling down drunk)  Consequently I spent the evening giving away free sweets and praying not to get a call from the cops asking me to come and collect my hellraising son, whilst awaiting the call from Jas to go and collect her and her stash.