Friday, 31 December 2010

the youth of today

Uch... enough of these New Year posts. Here's a thing: what's with all the 'young' folk and their mobile phones? (And, isn't it horrid when you realise you no longer belong in that category? Pass me something that'll reduce the 7 signs of ageing please...and the Pringles while you're at it)

Stevie and I jumped at the opportunity to go to the pictures (that'll be cinema for you non-Scottish folk) when we were back in Scotland. It was offered and we just went "Great. That'll do us. Not got a clue what's on but give us a starting time and we'll find something (that doesn't involve children acting (one of Stevie's pet hates))". So we got there and sat down and, ok, I haven't been to the cinema for a while, but it was aglow with the alert screens of about 100 mobile phones.

What's with the 20-somethings of today? Who are they talking to all the time? What do they have to say? Don't they ever run out of stuff to talk about given the fact that they're updating their pals on their every hair flick? It seems so excessive. We were on the bus as well and there were girls travelling together but each on their respective phones talking to other people. Wouldn't they be better being with the people they're on the phone to, rather than the people they're on the bus with?

My father-in-law has a new joke. He's a taxi driver in Glasgow and has started telling passengers he has a son in Berlin earning a fortune (uh, huh, where's my new lens for my camera then?); another son buying a £300,000 house; and a third son living at home who's a sex machine. The story goes that the passenger says "So tell me about the sex machine then".

So here's the thing. Son number 3 is living at home after the break up of his relationship which is the result of as my Father-in-law puts it 'too much of that texting'. Anyway, son no.3 is a popular guy. His phone never stops. If I had to live with him I'd be tempted after a week to put it on silent with a hammer such is the frequency of his text alert. Anyway, Frank apparently walked into the bathroom one day to find no.3 son in the shower talking on the house phone. Is it just me? Am I so out of touch? Or are you all so busy multi-tasking that you're making toast as well in there?

It's all about 2011

New Years Eve or Hogmanay as it's called in Scotland. It's Silvester over here and I've just checked Wikipedia to see if there are any odd traditions I need to be prepared for:

Since 1972, each New Year's Eve, several German television stations broadcast a short comedy play in English (recorded by West German television in 1963) entitled Dinner for One.[20] A line from the comedy sketch, "the same procedure as every year", has become a catch phrase in Germany.[21] Every year Berlin hosts one of the largest New Year's Eve celebrations in all of Europe which is attended by over a million people. The focal point is the Brandenburg Gate and the fireworks at midnight are centered on that location. Germans have a reputation for spending large amounts of money on firecrackers and fireworks, and so fireworks are to be seen all over the country on this night. When the clock strikes midnight on Silvester, Germans toast the New Year with a glass of Sekt (German sparkling wine) or champagne. 'Bleigie├čen' is another German New Year's Eve custom, which involves telling fortunes by the shapes made by molten lead dropped into cold water. Other luck bringing things are touching a chimney sweeper or have him rub some ash onto your forehead for good luck and health. Traditionally jelly filled doughnuts with and with out liquor fillings are eaten. An finally a tiny marzipan pig is consumed for more good luck.

Probably no odder than anything that's done in Scotland. Today we have fought the crowds in Edeka (where I met my fish counter friend who I haven't seen in ages) and Orla & I have been into town to look for boots. I think we left it a little too late as all the shops were closing when we got there. So we gave up and came home and made some cakes.

The fireworks have started already. There were some last night, but now they're starting off in earnest. We have heard that in some parts of the city you have people just letting off fireworks in the streets and they're flying all over the place. The Canadians downstairs are going to the Brandenburg Gate tonight with a million other people and were it not for the kids, we'd probably join them. Instead, Stevie is nursing a temperature and I'm considering nursing a packet of shortbread over a big cup of tea. I could watch that English language programme mentioned above, but if "the same procedure every year" is the funniest part, I think I'd be better off with the White Heather Club...

Incidentally, I have made a nice big list of new years resolutions/plans which you can have a nosey at here. There's also a link on the side bar entitled somewhere...somehow...

Happy New Year everyone xx

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Previously, in my life....

Christmas came, and we went to Scotland, opened presents, played with them for 24 hours, and then horrid mummy packed them away in 2 big 30kg boxes and sent them away badly packaged for the contents to be scattered casually across Europe. After the present opening, chocolate eating, boiler/radiator argument on Christmas Day we went down to the beach and played in the truely excellent swing park.

Then we went to Granny Margaret's and did a lot of present opening, crisp eating, dancing, and playing with cousins. And a fair whack of shopping.

And all the children were in their element, and mummy went to bed at 7:30 most nights and felt very happy about this even though she missed most of the good tv programmes and would really have liked to have seen Gavin & Stacey, and really should have studied her German.


And then we came home and Santa had been and we were all shattered, but we did it all over again. And now we are resting and food shopping and putting on washings, and getting ready for the new year. Shortbread? Check. Sparkling wine? Check. New Year's resolutions? Hmm...




Sunday, 19 December 2010

Freezing inside & out

Oh dear Stevie, looks like you're only getting 3 old fishfingers this year seeing as you've been so horrid of late. Impatience never pays. Let that be a lesson to you young man.


Present hiding in this apartment is so hard. There are very few cupboards and those I have are constantly being explored by my two little helpers. I started getting myself organised for Christmas tonight and began the wrapping of the presents. Orla's are the red and white, Hamish's the blue and white. It looks like I'm going for an American theme, but really, it was just the case that the nicest paper I saw was in IKEA. I have really pretty German ribbons to tie them up, but I got bored so that'll be tomorrow nights task.

That, and putting together the Playmobil. (At least I can hide that in the now defunct washing machine)

P.S. This freezer has never been on, so I am not actually freezing the presents. I brought my freezer with me, and since the fridge above this frrezer is crap, I didn't see the point in trying it out.









Saturday, 18 December 2010

Saturday-Shoplifter Stevie

So at the end of my last post I mentioned that I had thought I'd had my purse stolen and then I tried as I thought, unsuccessfully, to cancel my Commerzbank card, and got the neighbours upstairs involved in the cancelling before Stevie came up holding the purse that had been sitting on the sofa.

As things turned out I had quite a lot on my mind the next day what with people poking about with my eyes and then an afternoon split between entertaining the kids and mulling over the prospect of needles in my eye every 8 weeks. Apparently what I should have been doing is going down to the Commerzbank and checking whether I had actually managed to cancel my card. But I didn't. I reasoned that I either had done it, or I hadn't. If I hadn't then, great, next time I used my card all would be fine. If I had cancelleed it then my card wouldn't work and no doubt a new one and a new PIN would be making their way to me some time around Christmas. Or New Year, knowing the Commerzbank.

Am I too casual about things like this? We had cash and I wasn't in any immediate need to take money out. I didn't really give it much thought, and to be honest by Friday I'd forgotten about it. So by today, it was a near distant memory.

Until we went to IKEA. (Why is it that when you combine IKEA, me, and the Commerzbank things go hideously wrong?? Should I change my bank to get out of this horrid cycle?) We had gone sledging nearby and the kids were starving afterwards so as IKEA was handy we stopped off there for some meatballs and I managed to pick up a few storage boxes for the growing Playmobil collection which (note: I handily stacked so they were easier to carry). Oh and they had the kids basket of fabric vegetables back in so I got one of those, and then as we were passing I also thought I should get a new storage jar for my risotto rice. And then because Stevie was getting impatient to the point of not coping with IKEA on a Saturday and because the vegetables were for Orla, he went to the express checkout to pay with his card and I wandered over to the meatball freezer with the kids.

The first thing that really pissed off Stevie was getting accused of shoplifting. It's easy done when you only listen to the first half of your dear girlfriend's conversation regarding toy storage. "Should I get 2 of these? Would you be opposed to me buying another of these storage units in the New Year? Do you even care? Ok, I'm getting 3! Because I am definetly buying that when the car isn't full of sledges and crates of empty bottles.". So he scanned 1 crate twice, and then he got collared and the first I knew about it was him screaming across at me "What? 3??? You never told me you were getting 3? Moan, moan, moan". At this point I could tell that Stevie was getting to the point where he can easily be tipped over the edge of reasonableness into a foul mood not because he was now being classed as a shoplifter, but because the transaction was taking too long.

So I shouted back, "Just forget it then, just get 2. It really doesn't matter", you know as you do, because even though you really want something you'd rather just have an easy life. And then we got to payment. If I had known better I would have walked out of the shop with my children and run for the hills and never returned. But you see, I'd forgotten all about Wednesday night. But I remembered as quick as a flash when his card got rejected and he got directed over to a 'colleague'. Shoplifter and card stealer!

Well, what can I say? I forgot it was a joint account and that he might be affected. Curse the Commerzbank! Curse my successful telephone cancelling!

I am going to end up with a terrible guilt complex. Not only do I feel bad about cancelling Stevie's card, but when we got home I put on the washing machine (with a final big bag of Playmobil in it) and now the washing machine is broken. It isn't able to drain, and we can't find the blockage, and even though there is no substantiating evidence, I think we all know that there is a high probability that a pride of lions are more than likely the cause of our soaking wet floor. Has anyone got a dark hole I can crawl into before the downstairs neighbours come round to complain about the massive costly damp patch on their ceiling?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Conceptual eating

Taking my mind off things, last night we went out for a final goodbye meal with our friends who left Berlin today to return to Derby. Stevie has been desperate to try out Vapiano which is a chain of restaurants across Europe selling pizza and pasta. There is one not far from where we live and every time I've passed it it has been really busy. As you walk down the street you can look in the window and see chefs making the pasta by hand, and that has made me quite keen to try it too.

So that's where we went as our friends hadn't been there either. When we arrived we noticed that most of the seating is at high tables with high stools. Not ideal really for a 2 and 3 year old (complete with sledge). But we were also pleased to note that the place was mobbed - that's got to be a good sign when eating out, right? We eventually found a table with seats at a height that would not cause spinal injuries if the kids were to fall from them and a lady at the front desk gave us 4 swipe cards and menus and nicely explained to us how ordering worked. The menu is split into price bands (totally pointless to be honest) and once you have decided what you want you queue up at any of 5 or 6 stations to place your order and watch it being made right before your eyes. Everything about it was just a bit gimmicky. I think you are meant to be impressed by the 'coolness' of standing in a queue to watch your food being prepared, but 1 minute in you can't help but think it's an awful lot like standing in a queue in McDonalds and that's not really that cool.

Once you get to the top of your queue you get to watch your very own meal getting prepared. Again this is fun for about 30 seconds. The sullen chef asks you to select which pasta type you want and then you get to watch him take it from a shelf and tip it out of a takeaway container into a wok-like thing. Once he's made your meal you hand him your little swipe card and he adds the cost on to it. I was queueing with my friend and Hamish and I got my food first along with the kids. I went back to the table and then the guys went up and ordered their pizzas. By the time my friend got back to the table with her meal I had finished mine. And 20 minutes later when the pizzas were ready she had finished hers. Call me old fashioned but I quite like eating together and being served by someone.

The food was ok though, there was just a bit too much concept going on.

Oh and then I thought I got my purse stolen. But it turned out I'd left it on the sofa at home. But not before I 'may' have cancelled my Commerzbank card and got confused by the German recorded message on the 'cancelling your card' phoneline and then went upstairs and disturbed my neighbours and got them to phone the Commerzbank to make sure it really was cancelled. Then we got disturbed by Stevie at the door, who it turned out had been sitting looking at my purse the whole time. But it was worth it because I got to check out the inside of their flat which I hadn't seen before. (Sparse, nice wood floors, extremely large abstract art on the walls, and a running machine in the corner - in case you're wondering)

Eye spy something beginning with Aaaaaahhhh!!

check out that pupil dilation!

I had my proper eye clinic appointment this morning. I was meant to go when I arrived here as I had seen my own opthalmic surgeon the day before we moved here and he suspected that I might need some additional laser surgery. It has taken me 6 months to actually see a doctor. At first I went to find a GP and I got that crazy woman doctor that loved clowns. She seemed to be reluctant to refer me to anyone and as I didn't know the system here very well I just didn't really do anything about it. Eventually on my second or third time seeing her she told me that I could just go to any clinic and get it done, saying there was even one on the corner.

At that point I realised that she probably didn't know what she was talking about as the 'clinic' on the corner turned out to be more or less an opticians who also carried out laser vision correction surgery - not the same thing at all. The thought of letting some Saturday boy loose on my eyes doesn't really appeal.

Then I changed doctor (GP) and at the same time found myself a diabetes consultant. I asked my diabetes consultant for a name/recommendation and she gave me a card for a woman who she said was understanding (for those with phobias) and would be qualified to do my laser surgery. I made an appointment with her and then looked up her website. Isn't the internet a wonderful thing? I found out that this doctor practised cosmetic eye surgery and acupuncture. Yes, quite. I do have massive bags under my eyes that need seeing to, but once again, not quite what I was really after.

Throughout all this I was having lots of appointments where I kept having problems with not having my passport with me, or my health insurance company wasn't being recognised as a proper health insurance company and of course the language barrier was a little troublesome. With my phobia I like to know exactly what is going to be happening to my eyes and I like to be able to ask to administer my own eye drops, and I generally like to explain that I am not mental, I just don't like people near my eyes and that I find it all quite difficult. So there was a bit of me that really wanted to delay the appointment until I could scream "Woah, what do you think you're doing to me???" in German.

So, I ended up going on the Toytown website and found a recommendation for a doctor at the eye clinic in the Red Cross hospital. So today was the day, and I managed to answer nearly all the questions in German despite being a nervous wreck. I assumed my German would go out the window when I felt so nervous, but I think I did ok. Luckily I recognised most of the equipment so I knew what tests were being done, and the words for 'vitrectomy' and 'retinopathy' seem practically identical.

The doctor when I eventually saw him spoke very good English (though when I made the appointment my number one concern was more that he was a specialist in the area that I needed him to be a specialist and not his language skills), and he had a really lovely manner and was very gentle around my eyes. The good news for me is that I got away today without needing to get anything done. The bad news is that I have a new problem at the back of my right eye where I have some liquid pooling that if it gets worse would require me to have a drug injected into my eye every 8 weeks. I go back in 3 months to see how the situation is, but as long as I take good care of my diabetes and watch my blood pressure then it should be no worse. I will be accepting donations of high strength valium and diazapam in the event that eye injections become necessary.

Thank god it's over for now. I am shattered with the stress of it all.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas in its component parts


I have 3 sodding bags of Playmobil requiring my attention. Literally sodding. I decided I should start getting ready for Christmas whenever I have a chance in the evening as otherwise I'll run out of time. Amongst other things I have got the kids, I have managed to buy them a whole load of second hand Playmobil.

Hamish was desperate for the zoo and I was lucky enough to find it in the second hand shop round the corner from my language school, along with extra elephants and brand new in box pandas.

Orla was throwing desirous glances at the princesses sets, and I managed to get a small/medium set of that at a great price. And they both rather fancied the farm, and lo and behold the very next day after buying the zoo they had a box of farm bits and bobs with the largest herd of cattle imaginable. Well there're about 12, I'm sure you can imagine more, but you get the picture.

I also walked past another second hand shop in Charlottenburg one Sunday and spied what I thought might be a massive selection of zoo animals. So when Hamish was off Kita with the sick bug (but in recovery) I walked 3 miles there and 3 miles back, and all just for a family of polar bears and a camel.

My German teacher recommended washing it in the washing machine on a 30 degree wash, and that is what I have done. I have 3 bags which have zip closings and are washable and I stuffed them each full of Playmobil last night and washed them today.

The result is handbags full of Playmobil chaos. Everything has come apart. Down to all the little flowers coming off the princess garden foliage (I kind of expected that), but I also have a camel missing a leg and anything that can be broken down into smaller parts is in smaller parts. It took us ages to make up the zoo and we broke it back down into more manageable sizes for washing, but I can see I have many hours work ahead of me.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

25% - part two

*NEW!* Follow my blog with bloglovin


From this...



to this... (to well, not much tidier 6 months later really).

I have made my P E A C E with the whole food shopping thing. Ok, maybe not entirely, but I did find Rice Krispies today, so you've caught me in an upbeat mood. The whole supermarket/food shopping thing has been one of the hardest things to get to grips with. But I'm getting there. When I first arrived I was having to have conversations with the woman behind the meat counter along the lines of "...und das ist alles 'moo'?" because I was living in fear of buying horsemeat thanks to my dad, and I didn't know what beef was called, or what the difference between 'rinderfleisch' and 'hackfleisch' and 'rinderhackfleisch' was. You go out for a 'hack' on a horse, don't you? That's the kind of word that made me pretty wary. As it turns out, really, you're going out for a 'mince' on a horse. Make of that what you will.

Now though, I'm getting to grips with most of it. I still have difficulties with the fish. I was never very good at recognising fish in the first place, so seeing it with unrecognisable names and with it's head and skin and fins and malarky on, rather than in a neat skinned, de-boned fillet, vacuum packed on a Tesco shelf has me a little lost. I am also just a little fish-phobic. I really can't bring myself to touch a fish with it's skin on, and I honestly can't see the day when I would be willing to chop ones head off. So with the help of my lovely fish counter friend in Edeka, I have learned to ask for the salmon that I need and to have it skinned.

Despite all my moaning on and on about the state of the crisps market here and how very little has changed in the past 30 years, I have discovered that I actually like paprika crisps. I had some about a month ago, and I was actually quite surprised. For a moment I thought I must actually be turning into a German, and then I realised that if I'd only had them for the past 30 years, I would hate them with a passion.

Today I went to Real for the very first time. There's one out by Rolls-Royce. I'd heard talk about there being bigger supermarkets that are more along the lines of British supermarkets where you can buy lots of non-food items as well, but to date the only place I'd been was Kaufland and it's just a pale imitation of an Asda or something. Stevie has been to Real a couple of times in his lunchbreak and to be honest I can't believe he hasn't told me about it before now. They have loads of things that we could have been doing with, not least of all the Rice Krispies, which are a viable alternative for Hamish who is sick of Weetabix and has gone off Cheerios.

The kids fell asleep in the car on the way there and I went in on my own. Always a mistake in Stevie's eyes. Apparently I was in there for "120 minutes? Did you watch a movie or something??". To me it felt like 20, and I thought I was rushing. Still it gave Stevie a 2 hour window to nurse his tired hangover.

We were out last night for dinner with some friends who are leaving Berlin after nearly 4 years here. Stevie used to know the guy back in Derby and when he ran into him quite early on in the canteen over here he thought he was just over for the day. Shows how quickly time flies without you noticing. Anyway, we've seen a fair bit of them and we have really enjoyed their company, but we've known from the start that they were hoping to get back before Christmas. And so it has come. They have the relocation team coming on Monday to pick up their stuff, and they've got our old relocation service provider, Heidi, sorting out their paperwork, and they're leaving on Thursday.

I'm really going to miss them, and I'm also just a little envious of them. Our move is still fresh in my memory, and I enjoyed it and it was all quite exciting, and I can well imagine that they are feeling quite excited about going back. Perhaps not about the fact that they've both still got to sort out the jobs that they'll go back to, but this has been a long wait for them. I hope that we meet some more people just as nice as them while we're here, and I am already looking forward to being good friends again when we return to Derby.

Roll on the next 6 months!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

My green fingered son





My neighbours will be the people with green and blue stains around their mouths until the days they die.

I thought it would be a nice thing to do to make Christmas biscuits with the kids and give them as a little thankyou gift to our upstairs neighbour in thanks for the Dec. 6th gifts she gave the kids. Especially as I wanted to experiment with these pre-made biscuit mix things that I've seen loads of in the fridges of the supermarkets.

We had great fun this afternoon with cutters and the kids could quite happily have made biscuits all afternoon. Hamish's were a little more rustic in style compared to Orla's. Then we baked them, let them cool, and I unleashed the coloured writing icing.

By the time we got to the icing stage the kids had started stripping off. Orla managed to keep her t-shirt on, but Hamish prefers to decorate in the nude. It wasn't until right at the end i.e. the icing was all finished, that Hamish moved from decorating biscuits to colouring in his tummy. Then when I went to get him cleaned up it was nice to discover that in fact it was more like food colouring than just icing. If Kita ask I'm going to tell them it's vegetables that have stained his fingers and stomach. Excessive broccoli ingestion.

Monday, 6 December 2010

25% - part one

From here...



...to here.

ONE WHOLE Q U A R T E R OF THE WAY...

We have completed our first 6 months in Berlin. In some ways it seems to have flown by, where did the good weather suddenly go? Yet, in other ways, it seems so long ago that we lived in Derby. Looking back on the past 6 months, I think I would sum it up by saying that I really like it here, but I'm not exactly sure why. As my life is so much harder here.


Getting the negative out of the way: I HATE THE MEDICAL SYSTEM HERE!

I am 100% sure that they have great doctors here (and also 100% sure that they have some lousy ones too, like that weird clown-loving GP that I saw first), but I really would like to just see one GP, and not have to find my own specialists, and it is probably much better to have a paediatrician, but to be honest, I find it easier to just drag us all to the doctor together and get us all over-innoculated at once.

Oh that's right. Should you decide to move abroad with your children, I'd advise you to make sure that their red books are completely up to date with all their information and innoculations. I had just assumed they were, and even if they weren't I never really realised that it would really matter. Not that it does. Just that Orla has now just had an extra polio injection than the rest of the European population.

We've only just got a letter from Price Waterhouse advising us about forms we need to fill out that will make the whole health insurance annoyance easier. Instead of me having to take my passport, and nearly every other item of ID with me along with my private insurance card and my European Health Insurance Card every time I either need a repeat prescription or need to see a doctor; get them all photocopied (every single time!); see the doctor; get billed; go to the bank to pay the bill; give the bill to Stevie to claim back through the insurance company; then wrangle with the insurance company that it is something that is covered. This will all change (supposedly). We will be issued with new cards which the receptionist will swipe and hopefully that will be that. We'll wait and see. Call me cynical, but I can't quite believe I won't be showing them 3 cards, my passport, and all my ID, etc etc.

What do I like about being here? APART FROM THE CHOCOLATE...

Well, the chocolate is good, and I never knew how much love I could feel for Choko Liebniz. I know you can get them in the UK, but with so much (ahem..) choice in British supermarkets, I never gave them a second glance.

But what I really like about here is that there is so much to do. Hell, if I wasn't filling my days dropping off kids, picking up kids, learning German, seeing doctors, and arguing with the Commerzbank, I think I'd be having a great time. We generally fill our weekends with something new and different to do. At home I think we just got into a routine and we did go places with the kids a lot but it's less enticing when you have an hours drive in front of you to get to a zoo, compared with a 10 minute walk, or the closest aquarium is in Birmingham, and the closest dinosaur is in London. Here, it feels like we have everything on our doorstep, and that is the best thing about living in a capital city. In the summer it was great because we went out every evening when Stevie got home from work and we went places and saw things and ate out and generally had fun in some really nice weather.

I feel like we packed in quite a lot of sightseeing and activities over the summer and I still have a big list of things that I HAVE to do next summer. Our plans over the winter are to see the museums and galleries, though I am sure there must be some ban in place for taking toddlers.

Celebrating the 6th




On the 4th of Decmber it was our 6 month anniversary of life in Berlin. We have all celebrated this with a delightful sick bug that has had us running out of sheets (Hamish keeps being sick in the bed) and we've all felt utterly hideous for the past couple of days. Orla is much better and seems to have had it the mildest and I am finally getting over it today.

Anyway, today is the 6th of December, don't you know. As in the day that (not Santa) Nikolaus lets us know how good or naughty my children have been. Sadly I missed my 'discussion' with my upstairs neighbour on this topic: I'm hoping the sound of wretching coming from downstairs stopped her from ringing our bell. Nonetheless, I dragged myself to the door this morning out of pure nosiness, and to see whether we really were going to be stick recipients. But no! She had used the childrens boots and put these little felt Christmas bags in them.

The contents included: a Kinder chocolate Santa; Lindt chocolate squares (I think Nikolaus might have meant some of these for me); a bag of Christmassy biscuits; and a healthy little bag of raisins and nuts. You're disappointed aren't you? You thought we'd get sticks, didn't you?

Update:
I've just read a really good explanation of the 6th Dec Celebrations in 'The Local' (Germany's news in English)




Thursday, 2 December 2010

I'll keep you warm in December.

Cuddle in Hamish, it's going to be a cold winter

There are a lot of things to get used to in Germany for the avid consumer. God knows it's been tough for some of us to get our heads round the shops being closed on a Sunday - taking it one day at a time my friends. One day at a time.

Shopping is more my specialist subject than Stevie's, so why I listened to him saying that we should wait a while before buying the kids snow suits I simply cannot fathom. Oh, yeah, that was it: it was September.

So I left it till yesterday, last night to be precise to go and get them. I was a little anxious before we set off as a guy in my German class had said that he'd heard that once they sell out of things here, they don't instantly replenish the stock like they do in other shopping-friendly nations.

First stop was Karstadt Sports. We got Orla's snowflake outfit there as modelled in the photo above. But nothing in Hamish's size. Then we went to C&A (I'm sure one day it'll make a comeback in the UK, and you'll all go 'Yessica'-mad, and shed a little tear for the fact that you're now in the Yessica category. Best face it now. You are no longer welcome in 'Clockhouse'.). There was nothing there either in small gentlemans size.

After that we went to H&M - nothing, and then we started working our way along the length of the Ku'Damm. The thing about the Ku'Damm is you start off with H&M and Zara and then you get into your slightly more expensive Esprit and it's like, and then you end up like us in Timberland and The North Face. Neither of these had anything for children under 5, but if they had we would have bought whatever they had. We were in the dangerous mindset where desperation had set in, and we had realised that it did in fact seem to be true that stock replenishment is not really very popular. Even normally super-practical Stevie would have handed over a stack of money if there had just been something suitable to buy. I know this because I am now the proud owner of the most expensive gloves I have ever owned in my life.

While we were in The North Face I started to realise that our next stop was going to have to be Chanel or Louis Vuitton. The further you go along the Ku'Damm the more designer-y it gets. It was lucky that we ran out of time and the shops were shutting. I don't know if I could take Hamish to Kita if he was decked out like Posh Spice on a skiing holiday.

I ordered Hamish a more reasonably priced ski suit online when we got home. Sometimes I just don't know what I would do without the internet. E-commerce is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Advent-ure Twins


-6 outside today. I have no idea how we will go out when it's -20 or worse. The kids are moaning how cold their faces are at this temperature. I can see us all wearing those terrible balaclavas that only have eyeholes and a mouthhole. Never thought I'd be working the ye olde terrorist/SAS look this year.

As you can see we got the Playmobil advent calendars out. I started off with just the Santa one, but Stevie pointed out there would be an awful lot of arguments about who opened the door.So we also have a nice horsey one too. If there's one thing I utterly love about this country it's Playmobil.

I am looking forward to seeing how these scenes pan out. Already we have a horse visiting Santa's office keeping the post box company.

I met my upstairs neighbour this morning on my way out. She was telling me she wanted to leave some old boots outside our door for the kids, and then started talking about books. I left feeling a bit confused, and later I asked my German teacher for more information. She told me that this is a celebration on the 6th December. The boots are left outside the door on the evening of the 5th and if you've been good then you get presents. According to Wikipedia if you've been naughty you get left a tree branch. My neighbour is coming down tomorrow afternoon to discuss this with me, presumably to remind me why it's sticks all round for us lot.

My two would be overjoyed to find they'd been left sticks. All the better to poke each others eyes out.
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