Friday, August 28, 2020

Staycation


Typically I try to save my holidays from work up in order to go on trips back to Ireland. This August I had some time off planned and initially it felt rather sad strange not to be travelling due to the pandemic. We had thought about the idea of going somwhere within Germany but hubby had a Covid-19 scare (negative thankfully) and we didn't get around to planing anything. So we ended up having a two week statcation instead and.. it was great!

It was refreshing not to have the stress that comes along with travel actually. The planning, packing, unpacking, train and/or car journeys. I've heard that a lot of holiday spots around Germany have been extra packed lately as everyone has the same idea which carries a higher Covid-19 risk. The past few months have been so busy that I hadn't seen some of my close friends here since before the pandemic so I decided to use this free time to arrange meetups - some with kids and some without (having my hubby finally available for more minding was great!).

We also filled up our days with some nice family trips too - going to feed the ducks, picnics in the park, getting ice cream, walks in the woods, spending time at lakes. Lots of cycling and time outdoors basically which was good for the soul. Having a break from work deadlines and stress is always welcome too, of course!

Here are a few random pictures from my camera roll.

How have you been spending your Summer?

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Feeling the distance


It is over ten years since I moved to southern Germany. Life has, for the most part, been good. There are many advantages to living in Germany. Of course there are times when I miss Ireland, although it is mainly the people there I miss the most. I think back nostalgically on my memories of growing up in Dublin. However, I am settled here now and Germany feels like my home.

It has always given me great comfort knowing that if I ever want to go back to Ireland for a vist, I could. Flights usually cost anything from around 80€ to 350€ return depending on whether you book last minute or whether it's peak season. Between travelling to the airport, the flight and getting to my family home in Ireland, it takes around eight hours in total.

Flying back to Ireland for every event I am invited to there of course isn't possible (unfortunately!) but over the years I have been able to make it over roughly 3 times a year. Friends and family have also visited me here which has been lovely, and between the various visits back and forth and the help of technology to keep in touch (whatsapp, skype/google hangout, phonecalls), Ireland hasn't felt all that far away.


However, now with the current Coronavirus pandemic, all that has changed. Suddenly Ireland may as well be as far away as Australia, because that's how it feels. I am still in touch with family and many friends but it's frustrating and even heartbreaking at times not knowing when it will be safe to tavel again. Other expat friends I have spoken to here feel the same way. I have been comforting myself with the thought that once there is a vaccine widely available (maybe by next Summer?), we will plan a really long trip to Ireland to try to make up for all the missed moments now.

Totally unrelated to the pandemic, my father has put our family home on the market. He had been talking about it for a several years so I did have lots of time to get used to the idea but there is something really sad about the thought of not being able to stay there when I do eventually make it back to Ireland..

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Life during a pandemic

It's been almost three months since my last Coronavirus post which goes to show you just rare it is to have a moment to blog these days! During this time I feel like I have experienced the full range of emotions but these are some that stick out...

Anxiety

Initially hubby and I both felt very anxious about the situation - how could you not? We worried about our loved ones getting sick and were upset hearing about all the people worldwide who had lost someone- or even several people to the disease. Being an expat living in Germany I now feel even more isolated. Before the pandemic, Ireland was still "only" a plane ride away if need be, whereas now I have no idea when I will be able to see my family again. I would love if it could be this year at some stage but I am struggling with the decision because I don't want to put myself or others at risk of infection if I were to fly over there.

In the early days of the lockdown, I had a recurring fear about my husband and I both getting sick and having to go to hospital and I worried about what would happen to our daughter in that case. There was also a time when my Dad had potential exposure to Covid-19 and I was convinced that he had it and I felt really worried until he was in the clear. I had heard horrific stories about people dying alone in hospital devoid of any visitors. Thankfully, my loved ones haven't been affected by Covid-19 and Ireland and Germany are managing to flatten the curve. This has helped with my anxiety over time.

Stress

The first month or two was extremely stressful as we were adjusting to life during the lockdown. For me the hardest aspect has been trying to keep up with my job without having any childcare. Initially husband and I were both working from home and we were able to take turns minding our daughter while the other one worked, even if it meant working in the evenings or at the weekend. I found it really difficult at times to focus on my assignments with all the distractions and my productivity was suffering though.

Later on my husband was required to be physically present at work, initially only on certain days but then later full time making things more challenging for me. So my days would generally be spent working and only taking breaks to help mind my daughter or do housework. Barely any time to ever unwind for a moments. Hubby and I had a lot of arguments as is probably to be expected when you have two people who are extra stressed! I remember hearing that in China once lockdown was lifted there was a spike in people considering divorce and I could understand why! We mainly argued over things such as the division of labour and what we could or couldn't do due to Coronavirus. Anyway, thankfully hubby and I are communicating and getting on MUCH better lately.


This graphic is just tongue-in-cheek by the way, I realize there are many people who have less free time during Coronavirus times, not just parents- for instance health care and other essential workers. It's just when I see so many suggestions on social media about how to use all "the extra free time" on projects such as de-cluttering your house or learning foreign languages, I can't help thinking how different that is from my house at the moment. I don't mean it as a complaint, having my daughter at home more is wonderful, it is just also difficult at times when I don't have any opportunities to do things for myself such as exercising. I have decided that I'm not going to feel guilty about the extra screen time my daughter is being exposed to, because sometimes it's the only way I can find a moment to prepare food for us or just sit on the couch and switch off after a long day. I will say, that Mini and I both love the movie Frozen two and Netflix's Boss Baby tv series!

Lonely

There have been times where I've felt lonely and isolated. During the first six weeks, the only people I saw were my husband, daughter and strangers out walking. Thankfully there were some Zoom calls organized with friends which did help but I barely had time to attend them since I was already so busy juggling everything. And then, once people were allowed to meet up outside at a social distance, we still couldn't do that much - we don't have a car and were too nervous to use car sharing, travelling using public transport was advised against and I was having some issues with my bike so I still wasn't able to see most of my friends. Even if it were possible to get together, I found that many people were still too nervous to meet even once it was permitted. That's still how it is actually. I did manage to meet a few friends individually over the past few weeks thankfully but it was been lonely and isolating at times. My daughter is great but you miss adult conversation..

Appreciation

It hasn't all been bad though. Since I haven't had to be anywhere by certain times, we have been able to move at a slower pace. I don't have that crazy rush in the mornings trying to get myself and Mini ready to leave the house early to bring her to daycare and go to the office. I realize now that I used to over plan my life a lot in order to maximize my time but that didn't leave Mini with enough moments to just have "free play". For instance I had signed her up for a gymnastics class but I think that she's too young to get much out of it and she's actually much happier with simple things such as going for a walk or playing with mud in the garden! We also feel very grateful to have each other and that none of our loved ones have gotten sick.

Resourceful

Since we were trying to avoid going to the supermarket as much as possible we would try to only shop once and get enough to last us for 2-3 weeks. This meant having to meal plan and use up items in our cupboards. We have been cooking much more often which has been a nice side effect. My husband even started baking bread.

Initially the playgrounds were closed in Germany. Devoid of play groups or other structured activities, I had to come up with lots of crafts and imaginative play we could do at home. It has been fun teaching Mini to paint and baking with her.

Gratitude

I guess this is similar to the appreciation post. Being able to spend this extra time with Mini has been something that I will always treasure. Her general development has come on in leaps and bounds and I do think the extra individual attention has helped her. Her English language skills have now overtaken her German which has been nice for me to see.

It has been such a strange time in general. At this stage, several months in, many people are getting frustrated with the restrictions. I can completely understand that and of course it is a very difficult situation. However, I also know for the sake of those in the high risk groups who are in danger of becoming seriously ill if they catch the virus, it is a bad idea to let ourselves become too complacent at this stage.


One positive aspect I notice is that without the distractions of a busy social schedule, I get the impression people have been being given an opportunity to examine everything around them and think about what new world we want to build after all this is over. Instead of just "going back to normal", let's create a better society for everyone! The coronavirus has been a tradegy for humans, no doubt about that, but there have been many positive effects on the environment which I hope could lead to real action against Climate Change for one. I also fully support the peaceful protests for racial equality and against police brutality that have been happening around the world and hope we will continue to fight against injustice until all lives are valued.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Mini turned two

It's goes to show how busy life has been that I'm two months late writing this! Here's a link back to Mini's one year update . Year one to two was really all about her becoming her own person and her personality shining through.

Over the last few months Mini's talking and development has come a long way. Now she usually repeats new words after we say them to her and she has a great memory. There are still quite a few words and sounds that she can't pronounce properly but we have learnt from context what she is trying to say. We are able to have little conversations now which is fun! For instance, sometimes if a toy is broken, she might say "Dada fix it!". When doorbell rings she'll say "doorbell - delivery man". We've been getting a lot of stuff delivered since the Coronavirus isolation started haha. Then if I ask what's in the box, she might answer "food".


She definitely knows her own mind and can be very determined. She has strong opinions about what she wants to wear some days. I usually let her wear what she wants, within reason. Like if she insists on wearing a "party dress" but it's a cold day, then I'll just make sure to put on a long sleeved top underneath and leggings/tights. She has one doll who's her favourite and she brings her everywhere. She calls her "Dee-doll". It's very sweet.

She loves music and sings along to nursery rhymes now. She enjoys imaginary play do we'll play games such as doctor where we pretend her toys are sick or we have teddy bear picnics. Reading is also still a favourite activity and she will patiently listen to the story now instead of always turning the pages herself.

She is currently transitioning from one nap to no naps but it seems to be a very long process! Some days she flat out refuses to nap so then we bring her to bed early. The danger is when she doesn't nap but then falls asleep too early. There was one day she was out for the count at 5.15pm already so I brought her to bed then. However she ended up waking up for the day at 3.15am which wasn't so great as you can imagine! So now we try to keep her awake till 7pm on those days she skips the nap. When she does nap, sometimes she can sleep for up to three hours which is quite handy when I'm working from home. On those days she then stays up late and doesn't go to sleep for the night till around 10pm.

I was worried about how the current situation would affect her but she has taken it in her stride. I think she's enjoying not going to daycare and having more attention from us. She sometimes asks about the "Kita" (German daycare) and I just say that it's closed and on holidays for a few weeks and she accepts that. When the weather is nice we try to spend some time in the garden or go for a walk around the block.

During one of our walks recently she saw two little girls from our neighbourhood playing and she ran over to them before I could stop her, longing to join in. One of the girls then shouted "Abstand halten!" (keep back) to her. Of course the other girl was right, we are meant to keep kids apart but I couldn't help feeling a bit sad for Mini who is too young to understand.


Lately it can be real struggle for my husband and I trying to juggle home office and looking after Mini and the household. She's ending up having more screentime than we would like and our house could badly do with a good clean. However we are making the most of it as best we can. She's such a fun and sweet person and I feel so grateful having her in our lives.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Life on hold

Well that escalated quickly.. I just wanted to give a quick update on the situation in Germany at the moment. Since my last Covid-19 post, things changed drastically. Schools and daycare have been closed in Baden-Württemberg since March 17th and employees are advised to work from home where possible. Social isolation has been ramped up. The amount of cases of the virus went from around 20 to over 20,000 in just three weeks!

Now there is an almost complete lockdown. We are only allowed to leave the house in groups of less than three (apart from family members or people in the same house). You have to keep a minimum of six feet distance from everyone else. Walks or cycles outside for exercise are permitted but otherwise you are only meant only to go out if you really have to - to buy supplies for instance. Since Friday two weeks ago I have only left the house for walks around the neighbourhood. I am doing my part to "flatten the curve" as much as possible.


It's been hard. I'm a social person and miss meeting up with friends and I tend to get cabin fever when stuck at home for a long time. Every event we had planned this year has been cancelled or postponed. I get so upset reading about the amount of people who have lost their lives already to this deadly virus. Naturally, I am also particularly anxious about my own family and friends here and abroad. Being an expat in Germany makes this harder as I know that if something were to happen to anyone back in Ireland, due to the current travel restrictions, I wouldn't be able to fly over there which makes me feel extra helpless.

So far Germany has a lower death rate than other countries, possibly due to their very good standard of health care, and I am hopeful that in a few weeks after everyone has been isolating themselves, that the situation could look a little less grim. I find it particularly hard without an end in sight to the current lockdown. However, we are well and safe right now and that is something to of course be grateful for! It feels like life is on hold in many ways but we are still trying to make nice memories with out daughter. I've been able to do skype and whatsapp video calls to keep in touch with people and there is a virtual get together planned among some of my friends here this weekend.

I hope you are keeping safe and well wherever you are in the world!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Coronavirus - concern levels rising

Initially when the Coronavirus begun in China I felt awful for the people affected but wasn't that worried about it affecting us. As time went on I saw articles saying that there is no need to panic because it's just like the flu versus articles saying people should be freaking out more! Hubby had been following the news religiously and keeping me constantly updated.


Now the Coronavisus has reached Baden-Württemberg the state where I live and people here are starting to panic. Disinfectant products are sold out from many of the local pharmacies and the stock market has plummeted. Schools, daycare and even some businesses may end up being closed. We are being encouraged to work from home when we can. I'm not so much worried for myself but hubby has lots of elderly relatives and our daughter is only two so something like this could be hard on her immune system.

It seems like Germany is taking it seriously though and mainly has a handle on things but time will tell how much it will spread. We have already started to change our behaviour- avoiding crowded places and washing our hands more often. How has it affected you?

Monday, February 17, 2020

Avocado pasta #MicroblogMonday


Catering for vegan guests is always that bit more challenging. There are some really delicious recipes out there but so many of them require a LOT of preparation time. While searching for something easy and vegan I came across this recipe for avocado pasta. It sounds a bit strange when you first hear it but I remembered enjoying something similar in a restaurant once. The instructions looked straightforward to follow and the ingredients easy to procure so hubby and I decided to give it a go last weekend.

It only took around a half hour or so to prepare and cook and we were both happy with how it turned out! Hubby added some chilli flakes to his portion in the end but I'm not a big fan of very spicy food and was happy with the taste as it was. The picture probably doesn't do it justice but it really was quite tasty. Handy if you are avoiding dairy too! If you wanted to make it non vegan you could always serve it with some Parmesan cheese / grilled chicken or prawns.



Monday, January 27, 2020

101 things in 1001 days



There was a video I saw awhile ago where they asked people of all ages what advice they would give to someone younger. It starts with the youngest person being interviewed and ends with the oldest. One thing I couldn't help noticing was that most of the older people tended to give advice about doing the stuff you want to do now and not putting things off. Recently, I've been feeling inspired by Bev's 40 before 40 and Risha's 101 things in 1001 days lists and I loved the idea of doing something similar. Sort of like a short term bucket list. Initially coming up with 101 things was quite hard so I ended up looking at other people's lists for some inspiration but I have been trying to choose things that are relevant to me.

I'll be starting in February as January is almost over at this stage. So 1001 days from then would be October 29th 2022.. At that stage I'll go back over my list and see what percentage I accomplished! Ideally at least 90%. Realistically maybe only 70%. As you'll see I tried to put a mixture of easy and difficult to accomplish tasks in there.

I've divided my list into categories.

Health & Well being
  1. Exercise more (ideas- swimming, dancing)
  2. Eat 2-5 portions of vegetables a day 
  3. Get eyes tested again to see if eyesight has worsened
  4. Get skin checked for moles
  5. Flu vaccine
  6. Check all vaccines are up to date
  7. Train for a 5k
  8. Do a 5k run
  9. Cut out dairy for at least 2 weeks
  10. Cut out processed sugar for a month (or at the very least go a week without eating dessert)
  11. Dentist checkup and teeth cleaning

  12. House
  13. Hang more paintings and photographs
  14. Declutter our entrance hall
  15. Declutter our bedroom
  16. Declutter Mini's room
  17. Declutter attic
  18. Declutter basement
  19. Declutter living room
  20. Declutter kitchen
  21. Get rid of old clothes
  22. Tidy up bathroom cabinets and find better ways of storing things
  23. Plant some flowers
  24. Create a vegetable patch

  25. Self improvements /style
  26. Update my style
  27. Get a makeover
  28. Try out several new hairstyles
  29. Read some self help books
  30. Improve my upper body strength. Not sure what a good goal here is. Would be cool if I were able to swing from monkey bars at a playground or do a decent number of push ups without collapsing(10?)

  31. Family
  32. Take Mini to local swimming pool once a month to get her used to the water and teach her about water safety
  33. Get a yearly zoo pass and use it
  34. Create a photo book /milestone book
  35. Reduce screen time - no phone during mealtimes
  36. Connect with family abroad more often
  37. Get professional photographs taken
  38. Bring Mini to a kid friendly museum
  39. Bring Mini to an aquarium

  40. Marriage
  41. Take a class together
  42. Try to have a regular date night
  43. Write a love letter
  44. Read a book about marriage together
  45. Celebrate our wedding anniversary
  46. Try 5 new-to-us restaurants for dates

  47. Travel
  48. Go on a holiday by the beach
  49. Visit Barcelona
  50. Go on a trip away with friends
  51. Visit other parts of Germany I haven't seen yet such as Hamburg
  52. Travel to other parts of Ireland
  53. Go camping or glamping

  54. Fun
  55. Get a massage
  56. Get a facial
  57. Go for afternoon tea
  58. Take more photos
  59. Make pancakes
  60. Bake scones
  61. Build a snowman
  62. Bake and decorate a cake
  63. Create some artwork/crafts. I used to enjoy painting when I was a child but now I can't even remember the last time I painted or took on a creative project
  64. Sort of random but I've always loved the idea of dressing up like I was from another decade - 1920s or 1950s probably being my favourite looks. Would be a fun photo shoot
  65. Go to a show /play
  66. Plan a party for someone else

  67. Blog
  68. Write a featured blog article
  69. Update old posts and labels
  70. Post at least twice a month
  71. Finish and publish posts in my drafts folder
  72. Join in more blogging challenges
  73. Write at least one MicroblogMonday post a month
  74. Post pictures of recent meals I've enjoyed
  75. Get my blog or part of it printed as a hardcover photobook

  76. Hobbies / skills
  77. Read at least 15 books
  78. Write a short story
  79. Submit my writing somewhere, e.g short story competition
  80. Learn how to cook a turkey and make stuffing for Christmas dinner
  81. Try 10 new recipes
  82. Create a family recipe book ideally with photos
  83. Get some driving practice in Germany
  84. Do something that scares me (eg. public speaking) /get out of my comfort zone
  85. Watch 5 films in German
  86. Read 3 books in German
  87. Learn a new skill (e.g. dress making/ cake decorating/ photography)
  88. Take a class
  89. Learn 100 new German words - write down new words or phases into a notebook

  90. Friends
  91. Get in touch with some old friends
  92. Host a dinner party
  93. Host a game night
  94. Mail someone a birthday card
  95. Have friends over for brunch
  96. Throw a birthday party
  97. Send a card to someone “just because”
  98. Send someone flowers
  99. Skype a friend abroad

  100. Making an impact
  101. Donate to at least 3 charities
  102. Offer my time to help others
  103. Give away old stuff to charity
  104. Use less plastic
  105. Throw a clothes swap party
  106. Vote
  107. Use bamboo toothbrushes
  108. Write to a politician about something I feel strongly about or campaign

  109. Admin
  110. Write a Will
  111. Scan old photos so I have digital copies
  112. Save old photos to a hard-drive or buy storage space online for photos and keep them all in one place