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

Monday, January 20, 2020

We can't all have marriages like the Obamas #MicroblogMonday

Would you believe I'm still not finished reading Michelle Obama's book, Becoming? I first mentioned it back in October. The thing is I have been really enjoying it and I am almost at the end of it by now, it's just been so hard to find time to sit down and read without interruptions. Anyway I need to finish it soon as my book club have already started reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.

There's a section in the book where Michelle talks about the now famous date with Obama where they flew to New York for dinner and a show which caused some controversy among their opponents. Anyway she writes about how much they enjoy each other's company and conversations and constantly erupt into laughter when together. The day I read that passage hubby and I had just been squabbling about some household thing as usual. I presume other couples also have countless silly arguments about things around the house - who hasn't put their laundry away? why haven't these dirty plates been put into the dishwasher? I could easily go on but you get the idea.

There are many times when hubby tells long stories about work while I'm barely paying attention. I know he often doesn't listen to me a lot of the time either since I end up having to repeat myself. This just felt like a stark comparison when I imagined the Obamas sitting there during their dinner dates finding each other totally fascinating! They seem to have a strong happy marriage which I admire.

Recently when hubby and I did finally get a moment to ourselves we ended up talking about how parenting a young child means our minds always seem to be distracted and elsewhere a lot of the time! It's rare to have opportunities to give something our sole focus (apart from when we are in work). So I think (and hope) that it's pretty normal that these days we don't have a perfect marriage like the Obamas but hopefully one day again in the future we will!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

5 things I love about Christmas

Spending time with family and friends
Without a doubt, for me the best part of this season is spending quality time with loved ones. Hubby and I typically take turns spending either Christmas or New Years with each other's family and it's always so nice to spend that time together. Considering the fact that I live hundreds of miles and overseas from my family in Ireland, this makes the time we do spend together even more special. Now at some point we will choose to stay at our house in Germany and create new traditions around that but in the meantime we'll be enjoying going back and forth between our relations. 

Creating your own traditions 
I love the fact that everyone can decide for themselves what traditions they would like to uphold. For instance with my family in Ireland we have taken to wearing our silly Christmas jumpers and taking funny pictures. We'll also play games like trivial pursuit or Cluedo and watch Christmas movies. Or maybe we'll spend all morning in our winter pajamas. The nice thing is, anything goes! I've written a bit about our traditions in Ireland versus Germany before.

The food
Ah the food, the glorious food....! Germans don't do mince pies and that's one thing I really miss each year so when we make it over to Ireland we'll go crazy eating them and buying some to bring back to Germany. (Hubby loves them now too!). Heated mince pies in custard or cream are even more delicious. The Christmas dinner itself is also yummy. We typically serve turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, roast vegetables, roast potatoes...And because it's the holidays, there's always an excuse to eat lots and lots of chocolate.

The Christmas spirit
This time of year it's nice to make an extra effort to think of others less fortunate. There are usually collections for Christmas hampers where you can donate food items in the supermarkets and at work. You can give to charities and/or visit your local nursing home. Now of course people can do charitable things all year around but I'm often busy with various things and this time of year really reminds me to stop and do something nice for others. 

Being off work
I like my job but it's still work and it is nice to have time off to relax and regroup! The way Christmas and New Year's fall means you can usually end up with two whole weeks off without having to use up too many of your annual leave. 

Honorary mentions - all the Christmas parties and get-togethers - it's a nice excuse to catch up with friends before the end of the year. Germans celebrate Christmas like no other with their wonderful markets - they are really beautiful.

Those are the first five things that came to mind.. What would make your list? Maybe I'll follow up with the five things I *don't* enjoy about Christmas, haha...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Sustainable living

Inspired by Greta Thurnberg and also wanting to reduce my carbon footprint, this is what we have been doing. 

Reducing flights
We plan to only fly to Ireland at most twice a year instead of three or even four times. Ideally we would aim to stay there longer each time to make the most of our visit. Flying is one of the worst things you can do for your carbon footprint but as an Irish person living in Germany, of course this one is difficult for me! I make the most of Skype and Whatsapp for keeping in touch but spending time in person is always the ideal. 

We plan to also cut back on holidays abroad in general. Honestly I love travelling so this sounds hard initially. However living in Europe is a great base for visiting other places and we should still be able to plan some fun trips by train/car.

Cutting back on the amount of new clothes we buy
Ok, to be honest ever since having my daughter I've mainly been too busy to find time to shop like I used to. But the fact is I realised I already own plenty of clothes. I saw a video about how many fabrics and shoes can end up in landfill and it made an impact on me. I'm planing on organizing a clothes swap party with a bunch of people here which seems like a great idea!  I rarely buy new clothes for Mini either, instead getting lots of second hands things from other people who don't need them anymore. It was often only a matter of asking around. There are also many flea markets in Germany worth checking out.

We have been making an effort to reduce plastic waste
We don't use plastic straws. When we go shopping we always bring our own reusable bags. Some supermarkets here are also including a section where you can bring your own jar for dry foods like nuts and pasta. We also don't own a car, mainly using public transport or cycling (and occasionally doing car sharing).

I'm aware there's probably a lot more we could be doing as a family but it's a start! I am continually on the lookout for other ideas for little changes we could do that would make a difference.