Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Life lately

Well this pandemic isn't going away anytime soon unfortunately so we certainly haven't been doing as much as I would like but we still had a few fun events recently. Mini was invited to a friend's birthday party. It was one of her little pals from daycare who was turning five. Hubby wasn't sure about whether it was a good idea since it would be indoors but I spoke to the parents and they were vaccinated and had only invited us and one other family who were also vaccinated. The kids aren't vaccinated as they are too young but they are in the same daycare group anyway.

The party was fun. Mini had a great time playing with her two friends and of course she love the yummy treats and cake! It was nice for me to chat to the adults and we all ate lunch together. Naturally the topic of the pandemic came up. Sadly, their neighbour had recently passed from Covid sadly. He was only forty-five and healthy with no precondtions, however he was unvaccinated. Germany has quite a low vacine rate unfortunately, compared to other countries. Ireland has one of the best Covid vacine uptake rates with over 90% of adults fully vaxed!

Apart from that party, we have minaly been avoiding indoor events to keep Mini safe as the Covid incidence rate is really high in our area at the moment. However we try to bring her out for bike rides and to the playground with her friends several times a week if possible and recently we took her kite flying for the first time.

December 6th is known as Nokolaustag. This is a tradition that was new to me as we don't have it in Ireland. The evening before Nikolaustag the children are meant to clean their boots and leave them out and Nikolaus comes around and fills them with little treats/presents. Technically it's only meant for kids but as you can see from the picture, I left my boots out too and I received a vegan choclate Santa Claus.

I would have loved to have visited the Christmas markets with Mini this year but the rules for visiting them are only vaccinated adults who had been freshly tested which was a bit awkward and hubby doesn't want me bringing her on public transport to get there. I walked past by myself one morning and took a few pictures. However they have since been closed completely.

I have flights booked to Ireland for a short trip just by myself in a few weeks time. It would be two years since I've been there last. However, I'm not sure if I will end up needing to postpone the trip because of this new Omnicron variant. I don't want to risk having to quarentine in Ireland and not being able to come back to Germany! So right now I am just waiting to see how things play out and what the current travel restrictions will be before deciding.

I hope you are all having a nice Christmas season!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Pandemic TV

We recently watched the third season of "YOU". It's a good show. It centers around a guy named Joe Goldberg who becomes fixated on certain women in his life and does a lot of creepy stuff. And worse. He's not someone I'd want to know for real!

He does have a sad backstory and can be quite sympathetic at times so that you almost forget he's basically a sociopath. I'd describe it as a dark comedy.

It can be difficult for TV series to continue to be as gripping after the initial season but so far it has remained entertaining.

What struck me though, was how the characters in the third season speak about the Covid-19 pandemic as if it is already over. I guess when they were filming the show, they assumed life would be totally back to normal by now..

No such luck!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Invisible Women book review

We read "Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men" by Catoline Criado Perez for my book club at the start of this year and it's taken me this long to get around to writing the review but I didn't want to miss this chance to talk about it because it's such a great book. It's based around the premise that the standard human is always considered to be a roughly 70 kilo man and all the negative repercussions that has for women when they are discounted.

At the start of the book I found it very interesting hearing about how even language affects sexism. Countries that have more gender neutral words such as "doctor" in English versus "Arzt / Arztin" in German for instance tend to be less sexist in general. There were things that didn't surprise me such as how women's trousers generally don't have pockets and phones are designed to fit perfectly into a man's hand. However as I kept reading, I eneded up feeling more and more angry about how much women have been overlooked and how far reaching the affects of this are.

For instance crash test dummies are based on men's bodies and so car seats are designed based around that, meanding women end up with higher chances of being badly injured in a car crash. The medical world studies "human anatomy" which is all based on men and their symptoms and then usually only have one course on "women's health". I was reminded of a tiktok video I saw recently where a male doctor clearly hadn't a clue about how periods work! Time and time again research grants aren't given in areas that primarily affect women such as period pain since issues that affect women are considered less important.

There was a lot in the book that I could relate to and could see happening to my friends. For instance it spoke about the challenges for women who want to work after having kids. In Ireland there is good maternity leave, however the cost of childcare is extremely high and it's rare to be offered part time options so there are many women who quit their jobs afterwards. In Germany childcare is generally affordable and by law you are entitled to work reduced hours until your child is a certain age which helps a lot. However it is generally the mother who has to miss work and stay home if the child is sick. All over the world a significantly higher proporion of unpaid work falls on women - childcare, household tasks and care work. There are many women who end up having to leave the workforce in order to mind elerly or disabled relatives for instance. Being off work affects women's pensions naturally. Women tend to be exposed to more chemicals which also negatively affects our health.Not to mention women are more at risk of suffering sexual assult and abuse.

I also learned how much representation matters. When young children are asked to draw a "doctor" for instance they were equally as likely to draw a male or female doctor however past a certain age, then they are way more likely to draw a male doctor. Young girls seeing images of female scientists in their school text books helps them see that this could be a career for them and something as small as that can make a huge difference. Having a female quota in certain jobs actually helps weed out the mediocre men while including more competent women.

The book is incredibly well researched and it feels very sciency and heavy and times to read but overall well worth it. In fact I think it should be conpulsary reading for everyone! It did make me feel angry and upset at times at all the injustices to women. However the book gives many positive examples of things that are changing for the better so it's not all negative thankfully. The more women there are now in leadership roles for instance, the more younger women will see that as an option for them. Let me know you're thoughts if you've read the book or are thinking about it!

Friday, September 10, 2021

August photos

The first two pictures are from the Center Parcs resort at Lake Bostlesee in Saarland where we stayed for several days.

The next pictures are from Ettlingen a pretty town near Karlsruhe where we visited. I ate some delicious duck and potato gratin at a French restaurant.

It's rare to see hippos out of the water so I enjoyed seeing this Mama hippo with her baby going for a walk at the zoo.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Summer 2021

The good news is I'm fully vaccinated! Such a relief. I got the Biontech (Pfizer) shot both times. Hubby is fully vaccinated too.

The bad news is the pandemic is far from over.. The Delta variant is raging through Europe but at least the hospitalization and dealth rates are decreasing as more and more people are vaccinated. Even though young children generally don't suffer badly with Covid-19 from what I've read, we are still trying to be cautious for our daughter's sake as we'd rather she doesn't catch it. On top of that we also don't want to contribute to the spread of the virus.

That said, my Dad is planning to visit us soon which is exciting and we're even going on a little holiday within Germany for a few days. I've also been out a few times to outdoor beer gardens to meet friends which has been really lovely. Here are a few photos from a family boat trip we went on recently and some strawberries growing in our garden.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Working from home

For some people being in a position to work from home is the dream. They love the flexibility it gives them and it probably doesn't hurt that they don't have to change out of their pyjamas unless they want to! I have never particularly been drawn to the idea of working from home myself. I'm generally a social person and enjoy interacting with colleagues. For me, it's also important to have a good balance and to be able to keep my work life separate from home. I love when I can shut down my computer on a Friday evening and not have to think about work issues until the following Monday.

Due to this pandemic, I have now been working from home for over a year and I thought I would share what I've found to be the pros and cons.

  1. No commute
  2. This has actually been a mixed blessing. It's been great having extra time since I don't have to travel to and from work. Plus it saves money. However, on the down side, I've realised that the journey home was a nice way for me to have a bit of time to myself to think. On days I finish working from home and then immediately take over from my husband minding Mini, I feel more drained without that tiny bit of "me time".

    Also, I used to occasionally cycle to and from work which was a nice way of getting some exercise in. I'm lucky to have a relatively short commute to the office usually though. I've spoken to people who are delighted to not have their long commutes while the pandemic is allowing them to work from home.

    Verdict: it's a tie

  3. Comfort factor
  4. When working from home, you don't have to spend as long getting yourself dressed and ready as you usually would. Personally, I prefer to make a certain amount of effort and still wear make-up most of the time even when I won't see anyone. Additionally, I generally prefer to wear smarter clothes as it makes me feel good. However, there have certainly been days when I wore comfy tracksuit bottoms or leggings and that was really nice. Working from home, I usually eat breakfast at my computer to save time which I didn't do before. That could be interpreted as a negative point though.

    We still have video meetings so I do tend to make an effort to look somewhat professional still! However it's nice that for instance when my grey roots are showing, it's not as obvious over the camera as it might be in real life. I can also pop into my kitchen for snacks or drinks without ever worrying a colleague might be secretly judging what I'm eating. (I often wonder if they are thinking, "oh she's having ANOTHER snack!" Or "Chocolate again?!").

    Verdict: pro to working from home

  5. Handy for housework /deliveries
  6. It is really convenient working from home when you are expecting deliveries. I remember how awkward it used to be trying to be home at certain times and still missing them. And you'd often need to go to the post office to collect parcels or go to your neighbours to collect things. Another benefit to being at home is that you can get some household tasks done. Like occasionally I might put a wash on before I start working, or tidy away laundry while taking a break. On the other side, it also bugs me when I am trying to work from home and I see a messy house. Whereas if I'm in the office, I can focus on work without noticing annoying things such as- oh, hubby STILL hasn't put away his laundry!

    Verdict: pro to working from home

  7. The social aspect
  8. This was something I missed a lot at the beginning. It is a big adjustment going from working in a busy office and spending lunch breaks chatting to colleagues to being on my own all day with no interactions apart from emails and occasional meetings. I definitely had some days where I felt quite isolated and the house felt really quiet. I've even gotten used to playing music or radio in the background at times, just to feel less lonely.

    I miss all the other social events too - such as team lunches, Christmas parties and so on. The surprising thing is that as time has gone on I've gotten used to working on my own and these days I don't miss the social aspect as much. That said, I can't imagine being content to continue working from home in the long run.

    Verdict: winner is working in an office

  9. Working parent
  10. Ok, there are definite advantages to being able to work from home when you have a child. When the Kindergartens were closed during lockdowns we were able to keep Mini with us. Don't get me wrong, it was incredibly stressful at times trying to juggle working and minding but it was an advantage to have that option. There was a phase where she wasn't napping anymore at the daycare but would happily nap here so working from home meant I was able to collect her during my lunchbreak, then while she napped I was able to get some more work done.

    On days she was sick, it didn't automatically mean my husband or I had to take time off work to mind her. Sometimes when we compared schedules we found we were able to take turns looking after her and still get our tasks done. Working from home means being around more for Mini too which is a nice bonus. Even if I still have a few more hours to work and hubby collects her from Kindergarten, I can still take a short break to welcome her home with a hug and ask about her day.

    Verdict: winner is working from home

  11. Work/life separation
  12. Ok this is a point in favour of working in an office. As mentioned above I used to love the separation between working me and home me. Being able to turn off my computer in the office and not have to worry about work issues until the next day. That said, occasionally I would end up checking work emails on my down time but thankfully it was usually rare. I get the impression for Americans there is less of a separation for them. Correct me if I'm wrong, friends from the US, but it seems to me that it's typical there to check work emails on weekends and even holidays. In Europe that's rare and certainly not expected.

    Now that my "office" is in my house, I can't get away from work as easily. I don't have a room available to dedicate to just my desk -instead it's a multi-purpose room. So I pass my work to-do list and reminders whenever I'm going to my wardrobe for instance. It's tempting to switch on my pc in the evenings or even weekends to see if I got a response to something.

    Verdict: winner is working from office

  13. German practice
  14. Not being in the office means I get less opportunities to practice my German with my colleagues so I have found my language skills can be a bit rusty.

    Verdict: winner is working from office

  15. Distractions
  16. Initially I thought working from home meant way more distractions but that is only because when I first started the Kindergartens were closed due to the pandemic. Even when hubby was minding Mini so I could focus on work, there would still be many interruptions. For instance I'd have to take a break to mind Mini while he cooked lunch, or often he'd forget where things are and ask me. When I left the room to get myself a cup of tea, Mini would want to play with me. However, when she is in her Kindergarten then there are generally far less distractions at home. You aren't interrupted by your colleagues phone calls or other office noise.

    Verdict: winner is working from home

The interesting thing is that reading through these reasons it's clear that working from home is the winner. And yet I know I wouldn't be happy doing it long term. I guess for now it is working out very well overall and I am happy to have this opportunity. I'm aware that it's a privilege to even be able to work from home during a pandemic. When the offices do eventually open up again (this Summer? Next year?), it will also be a big adjustment getting used to commuting back and forth and being around colleagues again.

However, I do miss the work/life division and social aspect. So overall I will be looking forward to going back. Plus it adds a bit more variety to your day going into the office. Perhaps the ideal solution would be some combination of both. For instance if you had the opportunity to work one or two days a week from home.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

St. Patrick's day in lockdown

It is already the anniversary of one year since the first lockdown in Germany during the pandemic. I certainly had no idea how long it was going to last! Recently Facebook reminded me of a post I shared a few years ago. It was a collage of how I celebrated St. Patrick's day in Germany over the years. What struck me now looking at the pictures was just how sociable a day it is.

Every picture shows me and my friends having fun. Last year I had planned to throw a little Paddy's day party at my house but that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. This year we won't be able to meet up with anybody either unfortunately.

However I still plan to make the most of it. I'll be cooking shepherd's pie for lunch and baking scones for dessert. Mini and myself are both wearing green. (The GerMann says his only green top is in the wash!). I read her a story about how St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland last night. My family and friends have been messaging me with photos of how they are celebrating the day.

Check out previous Paddy's days in Germany
Happy St. Patrick's day everyone!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Christmas in lockdown

Since December 16th we have been in our second lockdown here in Germany. Similar to the first one in March, we suspected beforehand it might happen but then it still seemed to be announced very last minute. I wasn't really meeting up with people anyway due to Covid-19 restrictions, although I had planned to meet a friend in her garden for a mulled wine and another friend for a playdate. Both had to be cancelled once the official lockdown started. Since then hubby and I have been at home with Mini most of the time. We get as much as possible delivered to us. We only leave the house for walks or to go to the playground. Life can feel quite repetitve at times! Like I mentioned in this post I was determined to make Christmas special despite being in lockdown.

This was our fist Christmas away from both of our familes and the first one where Mini, who is now almost 3, had a basic understanding of what was going on. It actually feels a bit surreal being on the "other side" of the experience. There is a certain amount of responsibilty in making sure that Santa's presents arrive, are hidden and then are wrapped and under the tree on time! At one stage in December I realised that Mini knew all about Santa and presents but didn't know about the birth of Christ! We didn't have her baptised but I still have been trying to teach her a basic understanding about God and the Catholic faith. Luckily I had a nativity book which we read. The next day she told me her doll was called "Baby Jesus". I couldn't help laughing when I heard her say "Baby Jesus, do you want to build a snowman?"

A women I knew was collecting stuff to bring to a local womens shelter and when she mentioned there was a 2 year old there at the moment, I was able to use it as an opportunity to go through some of Mini's old toys and clothes and ask her to help pick out some things I could give to the little girl who didn't have as much. I'm trying to raise her to be grateful for what she has and also be charitable to others. Apart from that I also tried get into the Christmas spirt as much as possible myself! We decorated the tree (although that was put up already in November), we baked cookies, read wintery stories and sang and danced along to Christmas songs as often as possible.

We celebrated both Christmas eve (which is the main day here in Germany) and Christmas day (which I'm more used being the main day coming from Ireland). It ended up being a really nice Christmas. We didn't have to fall in line with anyone else's schedule or timings, so that made the day very relaxed for one. We opened presents, wore out Christmas pjs and watched movies. We weren't able to get a turkey delieverd unforuntaltey so we had roast chicken but it was very tasty anyway! I also found a jar of sweet mincemeat so was able to bake my favourite Christmas dessert, mince tart!

I also celebrated a birthday myself over Christmas. It was a little disappointing, I'm not going to lie. Last year I had been able to meet a bunch of close friends and go for birthday brunch and this year I wasn't able to meet anyone due to the pandemic. We had a cake though and I drank my favourite wine so that was still nice. Hopefilly next year I'll be able to have a much bigger celebration!
I'd love to hear from my readers, how was your Christmas?