Monday, December 1, 2014

Book lovin' #MicroblogMonday

The idea of being in a book club always appealed to me and earlier this year I set one up with other English speaking ladies living here. Anyone can make suggestions what to read, then we have a poll and whatever gets the most votes wins. The aim is to meet up about every six weeks to then discuss the latest book over a few too many glasses of wine!

The great thing about being in a book club is that I get to discover other books and authors that I probably wouldn't have come across otherwise. That said, everyone's tastes are very varied and there have been a few books that may have won awards but we just couldn't get into or ones that some people loved and others didn't at all! This leads to some interesting conversations though.

Our most recent book is "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn which I just finished reading. I had heard quite mixed reviews with some people loving it, others hating it. It's about a woman who goes missing under suspicious circumstances and is written alternating from her point of view to that of her husband's.

There are some great twists in Gone Girl which I'm not going to go into as I don't want to spoil it for anyone but I will say I really enjoyed reading it and found it original and full of suspense. I could barely put it down and I'm looking forward to watching the film! It's usually better to read a book before watching the movie adaptation, I find.

Have you read Gone Girl? Are you in a book club? Any good book recommendations?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving #MicroblogMondays

One of the things I love about being an expat is that you also get to experience traditions from other cultures within the expat community. For instance, I always bring my American friends out with me to party on St. Patrick's day and they invite us to celebrate Thanksgiving with them.

And since the GerMann and I have lots of American and Canadian friends here we sometimes even end up getting invited to two Thanksgiving dinners! I love getting to try new dishes such as sweet potato casserole, corn bread and pumpkin pie which we don't typically eat in Ireland and it's also just a lovely evening hanging out with friends.

Happy Thanksgiving if you are celebrating where you are!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Acupuncture fail #MicroblogMonday

A few friends had recommended acupuncture to me and I decided to give it a go last week. It began with a consultation where I was given lifestyle and dietary advice. Normally I eat a big dinner at lunchtime in the canteen with colleagues and then in the evenings I just have something smaller like a salad or Abendbrot (Bread and cold cuts, a typical German supper).

However, my chinese acupuncturist told me that I'd been doing it all wrong, that I should be eating a warm meal in the evenings (her suggestions: soup or noodles) and that I need to cut out dairy completely (milk, cheese, yoghurt and even chocolate).

After the consultation she put the acupuncture needles in (some painfree, some hurt) and left me in the room for about 20 minutes. One of my friends had told me that acupuncture makes her feel like she's floating so I was expecting some sort of amazing experience but I didn't find it particularly relaxing. (And I couldn't help being reminded of that time Charlotte from Sex And The City tries acupuncture but can't quiet her mind).

Afterwards I went to work and at the end of the day I felt a bit itchy under my top below my neck, and while scratching I realised that the acupuncturist had forgotten to remove one of the needles!! So that also didn't exactly warm me up to the whole experience!

To be honest I suppose I just feel a little cynical about the whole thing and wonder if it's actually worth doing or if it's all just a placebo effect. I know some people rave about it but I think it's not for everyone. Spending the money getting a massage would be a lot more enjoyable and relaxing! I guess I could cut down on dairy a little but there's no way I'm giving up chocolate!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The spookiest night of the year #MicroblogMonday

Traditionally Germans don't celebrate halloween at all. However recently with the influence from other countries I've noticed this is starting to gradually change, but it's still not a big event here. Some kids might dress up and a few even go out trick or treating (in German Süßes oder Saures) but it's not something that they all do. There also wouldn't be any firework displays, bonfires or other halloween traditions such as bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving or barnbrack.

Halloween first originated in Ireland and then all the Irish immigrants introduced it to the States from where it became even more popular and widespread. When I was a child I always looked forward to the 31st of October when you would dress up and go around to your neighbours' houses collecting goodies.

I think it's a shame that it's not celebrated that much here but I guess the Germans have Fasching which is enough for them! We had visitors over from Ireland last weekend and we all got dressed up and went out to a halloween karaoke night in the local Irish pub, which turned out to be really fun! Where else would you get to see zombies rocking out to Bon Jovi?

How do you celebrate halloween?

Monday, October 20, 2014

A little Liebster love

I was recently nominated for a Liebster award by Nearly Irish. If you haven't seen her blog yet, you should really check it out!

A liebster award is a way for smaller blogs to get some recognition in the blogging sphere. It's also a little like chain mail - someone nominates you and at least 4 others and they each answer questions made up by the initiator and then nominate at least 5 more bloggers in turn sending them new questions to answer and on and on it goes around the internet world! Liebster actually comes from the German word for "beloved". I was also nominated two years ago, but back then I didn't realise I was also meant to answer the set questions (I think an alternative seems to be just listing 10 facts about yourself). So this time I'll do it properly!

1. Name one thing that you always bring back from a holiday in your native country (and why)

Just one thing? Then it would have to be a box of Barry's tea bags. German tea just isn't the same or as good so it's comforting to have a taste of home! If I have lots of room in my suitcase then I also pack Tayto's cheese & onion crisps and McCambridge's irish soda bread. And recently I've also been bringing over Odlum's brown bread and scone baking mixes.

2. What is the most unusual question you've been asked about your expat experience? And what did you answer?

That's a tricky one actually. Nothing too crazy springs to mind. The questions I hear most frequently are; why did I come here? Why did I leave Ireland? Do I get homesick? How long am I staying? Am I a student / studying here? I suppose I always find the student question a bit unusual, as it surprises me that so many Germans assume I'm only over here to attend university and don't consider the fact that I could be working and living here.

3. What do you miss most from your home country?

The people! I miss being able to see my family and meet up with my friends more often. From living in Dublin I miss the fact that there's always something going on - shows, musicals, festivals, concerts and new interesting restaurants and bars opening up. And also that you don't need to go that far to see lovely sights - a walk along the Dun laoghaire pier, Killiney Hill, or the Wicklow mountains. And I miss just being near the sea, even though it's often too cold to swim! And even the small towns have stuff going on, a local pub at the very least. Here a lot of the suburban areas don't have much so you need to go into town for pubs and restaurants.

4. What cultural or lifestyle aspect of your host country did you embrace straight away?

Beer garden culture springs to mind. I love that there are so many outside places where you can sit and have a coffee or a beer in the sun. Also there are more outdoor activities in general such as cycling and hiking. It's a healthy lifestyle.

5. What local custom or tradition surprised you the most?

Hmmm. That they celebrate Christmas day on Christmas eve! I'm still getting used to that! Instead of celebrating Christmas on December 25th like we do with the presents under the tree which Santa put there the night before, here the Christkind comes on the 24th of December in the afternoon to leave the presents. That took some getting used to. Fasching was also totally new to me. That's a festival which takes place normally around February or March when people dress up and there's a big parade.

Ok, now I would like to nominate the following blogs for a liebster: Any my questions for you are as follows (if it's too many, just pick 5 from the list to answer!):
  1. What do you mostly blog about?
  2. What do you love about blogging?
  3. What is your favourite movie?
  4. What makes you happy?
  5. Tea or coffee?
  6. Do you have a favourite song?
  7. What's the last book you read?
  8. Name three places you would love to travel to, if money were no object.
  9. Why did you start blogging?
  10. What’s your favourite post that you’ve written? (Link, please!)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

We're not joined at the hip, you know!

Arriving at my gym the other night, I was immediately asked "Wo ist Ihr Mann?" (where is your husband?). The question took me by surprise. I would have liked to have answered something along the lines of; "we're not joined at the hip, you know!" but I couldn't figure out how to say something like that in German quickly enough so I just mumbled something about him having to work.

It struck me as an odd question. I know that we often go to the gym together when it works out with our schedules but we're capable of going there without each other! When I mentioned it to the GerMann later he said he often gets asked at the gym where his wife is when I'm not there! We're not the kind of couple that feels like we have to do everything together. We both enjoy our independence and have our own friends and interests. I also think it's good for the relationship. That way you have more stuff to talk about when you do spend time together and a little absence now and then makes the heart grow fonder!

I couldn't help being reminded of a time in the late 90s when I ended up being on the same flight as Andrea Corr, from the well known Irish folk music group, The Corrs. We got talking on the shuttle bus from the plane to the airport and were having a lovely chat until I made the silly faux pax of inquiring where the rest of The Coors were. I'm pretty sure I didn't even mention them by name! The question naturally didn't go down well and she answered a little frostily, "we're not joined at the hip, you know." Whoops!

I totally get it though. if I were her and being constantly asked where the rest of the group are whenever I actually ventured out alone, it would bug the hell out of me too!

Anyone else have any awkward celebrity encounters? Do you spend lots of time with your significant other or also enjoy time doing your own thing?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Black Forest for the weekend

The great thing about having visitors when you live abroad is that it forces you to go on trips. Not that I need forcing as I love to travel and see new places but you know how it is, unless you actually make plans to go do stuff time passes quickly while you're busy with day to day life and you suddendly realise you've been living somewhere for ages and still haven't gotten around to go see the local tourist attractions or nearby cities.

So when my family came over last weekend we took the opportunity to explore some of what the Black Forest has to offer. We choose Triberg which is home to one of the highest waterfalls in Germany.

It was beautiful! Just to warn you though, the walk up to see it is very very steep! Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared. Then afterwards we had a nice lunch in a beer garden followed by some Black Forest cake, the local speciality.

My sister was hoping to do some shopping while she was over but I don't think these were the sort of stores she had in mind! The black forest shops were mainly full of traditional clothes and trinkets. If you are looking for wooden ornaments, Christmas decorations or cuckoo clocks though, this is the place to go!

When you are staying in the Black Forest region you get a guest card from your hotel which also gives you discounts at tourist sites and enables you to travel for free on buses and trains in the area. We bought a so called 'Baden Würtemberg ticket' for travelling there which covers you for all journeys in the region, just not on the really fast trains and it only cost 39€ for 5 people. The views from the train were also fantastic.

Apart from the hiking and walking around, eating cake and relaxing, there isn't actually loads to do in the black forest so for us two days was the ideal amount of time.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What to wear to Oktoberfest #MicroblogMonday

Oktoberfest season is nearly here so it's time to dust off those dirndls and lederhosen! Actually you can pretty much wear the gear to most German festivales, even the Spring and Summer ones. And we recently went to an Oktoberfest themed birthday party where the dress code was tracht, meaning traditional German costumes.

In other words Lederhosen with checkered shirts for the men and dirndl for the women. Although in recent years it has gotten a lot more casual and I've even seen girls wearing cute lederhosen shorts or skirts.
Married or attached women are meant to tie the bow of the apron on the right hand side, and single ladies wear it to the left. Guys often wear hats and girls wear their hair in intricate plaits.

The outfits don't come cheap though and a nice dirndl normally sets you back somewhere between 70€ and 200€. Which is a lot considering you might only wear it once a year. They are lovely and flattering though and it's fun to get dressed up and get into the whole Oktoberfest atmosphere. And if you don't wear one you'll be the odd one out!