Monday, 19 December 2011

somewhere in amongst 2011

When exactly does life change from a year taking an interminably long time to pass, to each year zipping by to the point where you are in December saying to yourself "But January was only a little while ago and I haven't even done anything yet!!"? I can't remember when this might have occurred. It seems to be somewhere between my teenage years where I simply couldn't wait to be 14, 15, 16, 17 all the way up to 22, and now. Was it having kids? Do they do this to you? Probably. I am pretty sure they are to blame for the wrinkles under my eyes too.

And so, here I am at nearly the end of 2011 and I'm not sure that I have actually managed to get much done. Why, I haven't even finished tidying up yet! I'm pretty sure there is ironing still to be done from 2010. (Actually, I have barely ironed since 2007, but I like to keep up a pretence of domesticity, so stick with me on 2010 at least).

I went and had a peek at my 'somewhere...somehow...' list of things I wanted to get done in 2011 to see how many/few* (*delete as appropriate, or maybe not as I don't want to be seen as a complete procrastinator - and that's putting it nicely). So what exactly have I done? Not much it would seem at first glance from the list. Things will definitely be sliding on to my 2012 list. Here's a quick recap:

  1. improve my cooking skills
    Well, I tried. Honest I did. And I think I have gotten marginally better. At the very least I would say we are eating FAR less pork than we started out on when we moved here. And that is something we are all VERY grateful for.
  2. learn to properly use my camera
    Alarmingly, I have only got very slightly better with my camera. I was so very chuffed with my attempts at tilt-shift effects (not even done on the camera but in Photoshop!), that I got a bit lazy. I have started using different settings on it though and I adjust my exposure more, but still... oh, and I don't think that I really have improved over the course of my 365/Photo-a-day project which is what I heard would happen. Bah humbug.
  3. enrol on an evening course for something creative (in German)
    Well, not an evening course, but I did go on a sewing course - I still want to go to pottery classes. 
  4. take my sewing machine OUT OF THE BOX and learn to use it
    Yes! I did! See above. At the lovely sewing cafe Kinkibox in Friedrichshain and while my skills are limited, I did still make a dress for Orla.
  5. make cushions for the living room
    No. I haven't even got the fabric. Maybe next year....sigh.
  6. sort out my horrible hair
    Well, I have certainly had some hair cuts and highlights this year with varying degrees of success. I *thought* I had it sussed by finding an English hairdresser at Toni & Guy in Berlin. At the moment my hair is brown...but it seems to have been done poorly and already is fading out a bit and showing where my old highlights were. Will I never be hair-happy here???
    No.6 I haven't many photos of the brown hair with fringe. 

  7. read more books
    Oh yes! I really have! And I am so pleased with that. I still go to bookgroup as well. I didn't bother with the BBC's Big Read list as I knew I wouldn't either be able to complete it, or give up on it - do I really want to read a stack of Jacqueline Wilson books?? Not overly. But I have managed 35 so far! 
  8. get to at least B2 level in German
    Alas no. I stopped for a ahem...short break at the beginning of B1 and haven't returned. I may go back if we get an extension.
  9. set up an etsy shop
    The shop is set up, there's just nothing in it yet. Total laziness on my part. No excuses. 
  10. travel round Germany - Regensburg, Bamburg, Augsburg
    We saw a good bit more of Germany this year. Our summer break took us right down to the south and we worked our way back via Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Stuttgart on the way home. 
  11. see at least 4 other German cities - Hamburg, Munich,
    Yup. Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and I can't even think where else. But I know I did.
  12. earn some money from illustration - take part in Kunst Supermarkt 2011
    Well, I have sold some prints this year, just not through my etsy shop or through Kunst Supermarkt. So a partial success I think.
  13. start a 365 photo/sketch blog
    Tickety tick! Not only did I start and pretty much complete (I have no idea how I am missing 20+ photos) my Flickr 365, but I have also maintained my fiona gray . paints blog and FB page
  14. do something different - The Night of the Jumps - The Harlem Globetrotters
    Yes. And I have to say it's been lovely having the opportunities on our doorstep to do this. We plan on trying more things next year too. Starting with 'going to a show' - I have been to theatres and things but variety and these sort of Blue Man Group shows, never. It's time to try it, I think.
  15. make a concerted effort to do more artwork
    As no.13 says - yes. It's all here.
  16. paint Orla's dolls house in pretty colours
    Yes. I think I got that done quite early in the year. Best to start with an easily achieveable one, eh?
  17. hang pictures on the living room walls
    Hmm... I have hung a couple, but the reality is that our walls are huge and our pictures look silly and far too small. But I have hung my Tiel Sievl-Keevers 'Patch Apple' and some artwork by Orla that I framed.
  18. get a lovely photo taken of the kids
    I kept meaning to get my friend Sarah to do this for me, but I kept forgetting. But I did like my photos of the two of them jumping on the bed rather a lot.
  19. make that Cath Kidston handbag!
    Not done. I keep looking at it and I immediately think: "I will rush this and make a complete mess of it. " And so it slips into 2012. Maybe I'll start with that.
  20. get round the Berlin museums and galleries - the Kennedy Museum, the Bauhaus Archiv, the Jewish Museum,
    Yes! Since my holiday from German classes I have managed to see an awful lot more than I ever could do with the kids in tow. So nice! I have a list of places to visit in 2012 already. Can't wait.
  21. make some kids duvet covers and pillowcases
    No. Of course not. I blog. How would I have time for that????
  22. get more organised - cupboards, toys, clothes, etc
    Marginally. I have given stuff (clothes) away to friends, books to the school, cleared out a few cupboards, but *still* haven't done the toys because the kids keep playing with the things I think they are finished with. Orla has just re-adopted the Fisher Price house for Polly Pocket and her friends who will be joining her at Christmas. I must be stricter about doing this (preferably before Christmas, but who am I kidding??)
  23. sell things on German eBay, starting with the highchair!
    No, but I have nearly bought stuff on german eBay. I have at least changed my account settings. I am getting rid of that highchair in 2012 FOR SURE!!!!! It is currently being used to hold coats in Hamish's little bedroom. 
  24. have just a little bit of a nice bright colour in my hair
    No. And I am kind of going off this idea. Probably won't happen. I can imagine getting fed up of it fading and having to re-do it.
  25. find a good babysitter & have a night out with JUST Stevie
    YES! YES! and thrice YES! In fact we have had 3 different babysitters. Our first and male babysitter is moving to Ireland in january, so we have started using the girl of Hamish's dreams before she goes to Uni next September, and then last week we used our neighbours daughter after speaking to her mother who said she was looking for babysitting work. It wasn't until she arrived to do it that we found out she was 13!!!! Luckily, they live literally across the hall, so her mum was on hand, and I guess she probably had most of the same toys as the kids..... :-S
  26. do more creative things with the kids
    Oh, yes. And it's so traumatic to me as they rip and manically glue and glitter that I can't even bring myself to talk about it.
  27. have my nails done
    Alas, no. A definite for 2012 I think.
  28. do more cooking/baking with the kids
    Yes. With really quite ugly, unappetising results most of the time. But we've done lots and they really enjoy it, and Orla eats more dinner if she's involved in the making of it and gets to taste along the way.
  29. look after a plant & not kill it
    Still not my forte. I've tried. But I am sticking with cut flowers. My fake orchid is still doing well though...
  30. to read the rest some (I've read 38 so far) of the '100 book challenge' listed on Facebook. I can't read 62 (when it includes War & Peace) in a year.
    Not a one. But I have read lots of books. See no. 7 for details.
  31. cycle more after winter, to the point I consider 1 of those trailers for the kids
    Oh yes, I cycled. And every time I had one of the kids on the back moaning about it, I hated it. The sooner they can both cycle unaided the better. And I didn't get a trailer. Couldn't bear the thought of them both moaning away behind me.
  32. read a novel in German
    Ha! You're kidding right? I still have half of my book of German fairy tales to read. I have barely read a German newspaper - though to give me some credit (well very little really) I do occasionally buy German Elle Deco. But I'm much more of a fan of looking at the pictures unless something catches my eye.
  33. be continued....
    Yes, I think we can say it will have to be continued. Roll on 2012...I hope it brings less procrastination, more magic telly, speedier blogging (I spend far too much time on the internet), and good health and happiness to us all - you too fellow reader. Hope you had a lovely 2011.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Let's hope Santa is real

Last year I was in a panic because I felt like I had left all my Christmas shopping until way too late, and the way things were looking it appeared I only had about 3 shopping minutes until Christmas, and that was going to have to be done in the airport. Toblerone, anyone?

But that was November. November! What I wouldn't give for November and all it's juicy shopping days now. But here we are, beyond mid-December, less than a full week until we fly back to the UK, and I am so behind schedule that even if there was a schedule, I might as well crumple it up into a ball and eat it.

It's hard to believe I am in a worse-organised situation than I was last year, but there you go. It's hard to emulate those people who announce on Facebook that they have completed all their Christmas shopping, have it all wrapped, cards written, and are sitting with their feet up drinking wine, and spraying the internet with their smugness at the beginning of November, when all I can do is feel sharp, stabby, feelings of hatred curdled with jealousy towards them. It's just not me either. How can you feel festive in December if you don't have the joys of frantic impulse shopping,very late night present wrapping, and glorious panic, if you have nothing left to do in December.

If only I had known that we would have had weeks of children (ok, child, but one is enough) with bronchitis and pneumonia, followed by visitors, followed by adult illness, horrid events, more visitors, more illness combined with a complete inability to actually undertake any task beyond trying not to appear to my guests like I might just drop to the ground... and there you have have it. A month where it might have been nice to not have to do anything.

Normally the internet is my friend. He saves my present-buying bacon time and time again. But I seem to be lacking the patience to trawl and price check and go back to other sites and blah, blah, blah. I have a pile of presents for my nieces sitting in a corner of the dining room that I should have posted at least last week. But I still need to find a box the right size and that seems like a task requiring too much energy and brain-time.

So, I am reaching a place where nausea and tiredness are taking over and strangely giving me an inner calm. I can hear them chanting "None of this really matters. Put the internet down, give the children all the Christmas chocolate you have gathered, and go and lie down in the bed beside the man with the raging temperature. And sleep.".

Monday, 12 December 2011

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

But it's hard sometimes.

I have found myself lying to our neighbours in the past about our shopping. I don't know if it's because all of our neighbours tend to shop daily with bi-weekly trips to the market for fruit and veg, but none seem to do a weekly supermarket shop, and if any of them catch me unloading the car and loading the lift with a weeks worth of groceries they tend to have something to say about it. Most times I tend to get caught when we have visitors coming, and then I suppose we do have a bit more shopping to do, but with 4 adults and 2 kids (or more) in the apartment that's only to be expected, right?

The first time a neighbour commented on the quantity of shopping I was loading into the lift I felt really guilty. I have no idea why, it wasn't any more than a normal UK weekly shop - less even than a full trolley-load, but when someone actually says to you that you seem to have bought an extraordinarily large amount of groceries, well, I can't help but feel that I have somehow made an error. So I lied that time and said that we not only had friends staying for a week (true) but that was our groceries for the month, totally not true, but it seemed to satisfy her.

Anyway, we have friends staying with us again this week, and I went off to buy the shopping. I was just taking the last of the bags into the apartment and was heading out of our door and up to the lift when I saw our upstairs neighbour eyeing up our crate of beers. I said 'Hi!' and she said "That's an awful lot of beer!" in a quite accusing manner. I did that quick look across, look up multiplication and saw that I had bought a crate of 20 as requested, but still felt the need to say "We have friends staying for a week this week" - totally making sure I said friends in German in the plural. And she looked at the crate of beer in my hands again and said "That's still an awful lot of beer".

What can you do? I haven't the patience to even say in English "5 beers each does not make us alcoholics", so I just smiled and said goodbye.

Later that evening Lucy, our unlucky downstairs neighbour came upstairs to collect the kids to take them back to her apartment so that they could feed the cats. I have mentioned Lucy before as she is one of the 'Canadians' a race seemingly much loathed by the rest of our neighbours. I told Lucy about the beer thing. She told me that I'm lucky that they like me enough to even speak to me. They just get cheeky notes through their door and if they get a 'Guten Morgen' on the stairs then they're lucky. We don't really know what it is that has made our neighbours despise the various Canadians that have lived here, but maybe they shop and drink even more than we do. Good grief!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Mr & Mrs Matching Coat Mystery

How does this happen? 

Mrs: "I want a green coat"
Mr: "Funnily enough, I was just thinking the same thing"
Mrs: "What style were you thinking of?"
Mr: "Oh you know something with a huge pleat from the top of the back, you know making it 'swingy', and long, with great drape. Lichen? What were you thinking? Lichen or moss?"
Mrs: "No WAY! Oh that's freaky. Do you want a fur collar too?"
Mr: "Yeah, but make mine detachable, you know so we don't look like freaky twins."
Mrs: "I'll call our tailor"

I was just heading to the shops when I saw this lovely couple outside the KaDeWe. There are moments when I am glad I am lugging my camera around in my bag instead of other probably more vital items. I probably wouldn't even have noticed them had it not been for the huge darts on the back of their coats. But it made me wonder: where do people go to get his and her matching coats?

I'm not talking about the his and her Berghaus brigade. That's easy enough done. And I guess it wouldn't be too hard to rock the his and hers Burberry mac look, but these are like, proper normal winter coats. (Well, maybe not normal, but you know what I mean). Where are these shops? Or do you have to have a tailor?

It's a total mystery to me. And I'm not even going to start on the subject of why you would want to be wearing the same clothes as your partner.  

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

2011: The year I wanted to lick my son.

Farewell to longish lie-ins on Christmas.
I was woken at 5am by someone shouting "I need the front door open!"
For it is Nikolaus, the 6th of December, fill your boots with chocolate, don't confuse him with Santa, time.

Marek? Who is Marek??? Who cares. You had me at "hello".
I believe in Nikolaus. Mostly because this year he seemed to have been thinking of me too. The kids put their boots out just before they went to bed, and just before I went to bed I handily remembered that I had forgotten to fill them. That would have been a bummer for the early risers this morning. I would have had to have said that patently their behaviour hadn't been deemed good enough this year and empty boots meant that they were in for a darn good spanking. However, when I opened the door last night to my delight, the boots had already been filled! With Lindt Santas. And not just that. But 'Marek' above was sitting on the doormat. In true Cinderella style, I know Marek was left for me, because he fits in my boot. And as for all this sharing nonsense the kids are coming away with, well, it's funny how I only hear that word when they're not the ones skipping in circles up and down the hall, cradling their Santa-shaped-built-for-diabetics-who'll-happily-take-another-zillion-units-of-insulin-just-to-cover-this-breakfast. Uh-huh, you want to share? You can have the ribbon at the top. 

Orla, who seems to have inherited Stevie's self-control has gone off to school with a small chocolate hippo (that would have been from me obviously - totally off-theme) which she's keeping until lunchtime. Hamish on the other hand, sat in a huff because he wanted to eat all the chocolate for breakfast and was being forced to eat at-least-some-toast before being let loose on a Lindt Santa. I don't know who he takes after to be honest. Must be some distant relation on Stevie's side...

There goes at least 50 cents worth down the drain.

And I can honestly say, this is the first time ever that I have thought "I'd quite like to lick your hands clean" and had to steel myself to say "Let's get you to the bathroom without touching ANYTHING on the way".

'The Local' gives the lowdown on Nikolaus (

Thursday, 1 December 2011

But most of all, I don't want this...

I just read on a blog about a gift giving service called which uses your Facebook eh...'stuff ' to select presents for your friends and family... or yourself.

Sounds like my idea of fun! So I went on the site and allowed it access to all my details and ran myself through their ginormous computing might to see what the perfect gifts for me would be. After all, we need to test it's accuracy, right?

I have the feeling that status updates and comments on other people's statuses are not probably that indicative of the kind of gifts that you like. Unless of course each day your staus is something like "Today I would like a Kitchenaid mixer in ice blue".

Alas, I seem to talk about messenger pigeons quite a bit. I don't know why either, but there you go, I'm complex like that. But let me tell you what came up with for me. Before you go getting your credit card out and asking for my delivery address, here's what I don't want.

Dear Santa,
I really would be quite saddened if you were to 'make' me:

This book: 'Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird' (I'm swithering on this, it could be a good read couldn't it? Actually having just looked at it on Amazon, it get's fantastic reviews - I shall post an excerpt of one review below)
Mermaid Songs (I have never heard mermaid songs, but I am 100% sure they would make my ears bleed)
Kushion Kraft Void Filling Paper (though it would be handy for packing the boxes I have to ship back after Christmas, but hey let's save that special one for Stevie to get me)
A Somalian 10 shillings rope edged coin on an 18" chain (honestly save the US delivery charges - they have this kind of crap in the Argos catalogue, and I would have a better chance of returning it)
4, yes 4, commercial sausage stuffers (Honestly how much sausage chat do I do???)
Palm Tree Crystal Necklace in Monkey with Banana Gift Box (I know it has crystals on it, but that's still not selling it to me)
A Huntingdon Snubber Hard - I don't know what that even is, but if you want to send me the $92 I will definitely, probably not, order this for myself. Sadly the link to buy it doesn't work.

But most of all, what could possibly make you think that I would ever want
a Solid Brass Rodent Jaw?

I wouldn't say no to the 48 Cadbury's Creme Eggs though. That would make up for having to send back all that other guff.

Need I say, this is not a sponsored post?

Excerpt from one Amazon review on the Pigeon book:
"Though I must also confess that the revolting chapter related to the gutting and lung-ing of squabs elicited a whole series of voluminous UGHS! and BLECHS! The mental picture you provided was gruesome enough to force me to consider going totally vegan.

The man who wrote his doctoral thesis on spider hearing was intriguing, can you write his biography too? 

And you also left me wanting to know more about the man who wrapped himself in tinfoil to keep himself warm. Sally Bananas was fascinating and I was riveted by the chapter devoted to Mike Tyson. Despite never meeting him you captured something NO ONE has ever done before... You showed his subtle and poignant humanity and made me wish the whole world could know him THAT way. "

Sounds like a fun read, huh? I might suggest it to my book group.

*Giveaway!* on Fiona Gray . Paints!

Come on over and 'like' my Fiona Gray . Paints Facebook page, leave a comment, and share the love, and you could be in with the chance of winning a lovely print!
I dream of greeny
‎*GIVEAWAY!!* Now that Fiona Gray . Paints has 100 Facebook fans, it's time to celebrate with a GIVEAWAY! All you need to do is share the Fiona Gray . Paints page on your FB wall and encourage your friends to come along and 'like' too, then leave a comment on my FB page telling me you've done it and what your favourite Fiona Gray . Paints image is. Easy! *
The first person drawn out of the magic hat on Monday 5th December will win a lovely print of 'I dream of greeny' - my rainbow paint tubes (above). Then 2 lucky runners up will receive either a print of the green paint tubes ('The greeeenest of greens') or the blue paint tubes ('Blue in the face'). 
*P.S. All new followers who join before the 5th December and leave a comment with their favourite image will also be entered.
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