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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Germany's News .... in English

Guten Abend!!!

When we first moved to Germany we watched, well tried to watch German tv. We all found it very difficult tiresome. It was just like hearing a load of NOISE. I know a lot of people advise you to watch tv to learn a new language, but it didn't suit our family! As a result of this we missed out on a lot of news, both local & worldwide. It had it's benefits as the news isn't always the most uplifting, however being totally oblivious isn't the best situation to be in either. This may have added to the fact that everything seems safer here.  I wasn't afraid to run through the forest at the back of our home alone, and did so 2, 3, 4 times a week.  At home, in the UK, you wouldn't have seen me step foot in a woods or forest alone.  But here seemed different, lots of people use the forest for Nordic walking, walking dogs, running, cycling, walking to school or work.  It is so serene despite the traffic and to be honest the only time I have been afraid is when a big dog has come too close to me! Shriek!! After about a year or so of running - alone - through the forest ....

... I noticed a few - well actually quite a few posters nailed to trees & stuck on lampposts of a man. Curious to find out what they were for, I searched the internet for information. That's when I first discovered The Local. It's the local news of Germany online (you can even sign up for other European countries such as France, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland) but in ENGLISH!!
Here's what the opening page looks like ... obviously with different pics depending on the news. ;)

Not only is it good to read what's going on - but actually very important to.  It turned out the man on the poster was Germany's most wanted at that time in 2009/10 ... and he'd only been hiding out in our beautiful, safe (apart from wild boar ... we'll save that story for a later post), serene forest! Yikes!!! He was captured later, further north of Germany. But hey really taught me that keeping up to date with the news is important.  So to the expats out there in Europe, take a look at the link and learn what is happening around you, not for the purposes of scaremongering but I believe a little knowledge can be a huge protection also.

Today's news tells us about a dentist having one of his fingers cut off by a couple of robbers.  How disgusting is that??? You can read that here. Although this post isn't a chirpy post, I hope it makes you aware so that you can live a Happy Life - being aware of your local news.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

iPad 2 Screen cracked, I cried, hubby fixed it!!

My lovely husband bought me an iPad 2, just like this one.
I am a very lucky girl!!
Picture courtesy of ...
A month or so ago I took my car into the garage for it's annual service! As I walked inside, my bag slipped off my shoulder & onto the floor ... No biggy!!! It wasn't until I placed it back on my shoulder, I suddenly remembered that my iPad 2 was in there. I was so scared to look inside to see what the damage was. I told myself not to look until I got home. I didn't want any tears or tantrums whilst out in public!  Well it turns out I don't listen to myself and as soon as I sat down I unzipped my bag & saw the fanned cracks across the screen. My dread had become a reality!

This is how the corner looked and the fanned cracks ran over all the screen ...

Not so bad eh?  sniff sniff
It was still usable with no damage to any of the other workings.  I was very hopeful.  I contacted Apple hoping they would say 'don't worry - come in & we'll replace the screen ...' I thought it may cost about 100€ and that I was prepared to pay. So I started my research on the internet. Some people were saying they had had theirs replaced by Apple for free as a goodwill thing and as I read on further down the forum streams, others were reporting that they hadn't been so fortunate. I didn't mind paying for a repair - I had dropped it after all, there was no fault on Apple's part!! I called them up to be told that the cost for my particular model would be 410€ & then I would get a refurbished model back, not my own particular one!! Yikes, that's really not that far off the price of a new iPad. Saying I was disappointed was an understatement. I had quickly grown to love the convenience of having/using it.

I was eager to find a solution before reporting to hubby that I had dropped, destroyed, smashed this gift he had given me. I researched further & found a great YouTube clip on how to replace the screen yourself, now known as the digitizer! You can watch this clip here.  There was hope! I had found a solution ... hubby would fix it!! hahhaa ... except I still wasn't laughing at this point.

To go down the avenue of replacing this ourselves was voiding any warrantee we had with Apple - but I wasn't concerned with that.  I sourced a digitiser and I chose to go with
Usually I find amazon deliver to Germany from the UK and I don't have to concentrate or worry about getting the wrong end of the stick with the German language as I can do on
I am blessed in the fact that my hubby can pretty much turn his hand to anything and create or fix and repair.  After watching the youtube clip I mentioned earlier, he was happy to give it a go. I purchased the digitizer from a company selling through called ConsoleParts4U.  Here's the link to their actual product.  

Their service was reliable in terms of costs, quality, communication and delivery prices and times. So I would highly recommend them.  Another reason I was impressed with this deal was it came with a tool kit to do the job and also with the pre-cut adhesive strips to glue this back on.  Some companies were charging £5 for these adhesive strips alone.

When the digitizer arrived he made sure he had plenty of time set aside so he didn't have to rush.  And off he went .... Unfortunately I didn't document any of it - I don't think of photographs when the stress levels are high!! The information on the youtube clip is pretty much how it went ... except for .... the wifi antenna!! We damaged that removing the digitizer.  This is what that part looks like.
Seemingly 9/10 people damage this when removing the original digitizer.  If I had read that before maybe I would have purchased one to have on standby - but I found out after we had damaged ours. So after almost being in tears with dread of losing the iPad 2 altogether, I began researching on the internet again and came across this information on Youtube.  You can watch about replacing the wifi antenna here.  These tips on the internet are invaluable!!  

I found a company who would deliver to Germany.  I've just checked their site to share the link with you and can't find the product I ordered, so I must have bought the last one!! It is called an iPad 2 bluetooth antenna as I have the 3G model.  Check which item you need to purchase for your particular model. Search the internet and I am sure you will find another company selling these.  It was really cheap and only cost about £5.  Phew!!

It arrived and again we waited until we had extra time so as not to rush the job! Hubby replaced the antenna and connected the digitizer.  We tried to get some power to the iPad before we stuck down the digitizer just incase we needed to do anything else ... and guess what???????? NOTHING!! I was so gutted!!! Neither hubby or I could see anything else that was damaged ... my fingers jumped on my keyboard and I searched forum after forum to see what could be the problem.  I finally found the answer.  Hold down the home button and the power button until the apple lights up .... duhhhhh!!!

Needless to say it has worked and I have a fully operational iPad 2 once again!! I am one happy girl!! I hope this blog post has helped someone out there in BLOGLAND!!  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gifts made with fruit & love ...

I mentioned the shopping in Germany is very different to that of 'home'.  You can read that post here.  Because of this I find I don't enjoy shopping ... I know! It's a crime right?!! At home in the UK I would know which shops to go for specific gifts for specific friends and family members. Because of missing this familiarity, I decided I would start to make a few gifts instead of stressing about where to purchase things.  Over the past few years I have made a few fruit bouquets as gifts and I have really enjoyed creating something and giving it as a gift to be enjoyed!

Here are a few I have done!        

This one was one of the first ones I made ... this was for my husbands birthday and I delivered it to his work place.  He and his colleagues enjoyed the fruit amongst the cakes I took in too! =)  It's all about balance!

This one was made for friends on the safe arrival of their baby boy.

This one I made as part of our refreshments when some friends came over to craft!! Kind of a mini 'time out for women!' =)

I have just purchased nice tins or baskets and then put melon in there or grapefruit (in their peel or skin) whatever fits the shape of tin and use that as the base to secure the skewers in.  Using good quality cookie cutters you can prepare the fruit shapes.  I like hearts ... so I have used them in each one!! For the baby one I used a duck, bottle and pushchair shape also to make it more specific to the celebration.  Thread the grapes, strawberries and blueberries onto skewers as fillers in between the shapes.   It's really a case of watching the bouquet take shape as you produce your work of food art!! Have a go!! It all contributes to making it a Happy Life!! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

oh to understand the post!!

Many goals we set ourselves include life time pursuits such as mountain climbing, starting a business or becoming debt free.  My goal since living in Germany is to simply read my post and understand it.  What a joy that would be.  We take so much for granted until we are taken away from, or move outside of our comfort zones. Simple things like answering the telephone, chatting with neighbours, locating something you want to purchase in a shop or reading your own post seem near impossible.

I often enlist the help of google translate. Sometimes I hear people knock it but I really rely on it.  Although there are grammatical errors etc, I find most of the time it helps me to understand the general subject and the request that is being made from the sender.  At other times we have to enlist the help of friends and work colleagues to help us to understand and what response is necessary.  It makes you feel like this ....

I got the image from 

... except he's a lot cuter!! haha 

It certainly makes you humble in the aspect of needing help for the simplest of tasks.  I feel it helps friendships form and service is given and definitely appreciated.  One day I will love reading for someone else.  Often people joke and ask me to translate for them, but I yearn to be able to offer that service to others.  I am amazed at how well my children have picked up the language and often translate for me nowadays.  Even our 5 year old translates little Kindergarten conversations with his friends for me.  How thoughtful is that???  I mostly understand his little interactions in German but I never tell him to stop translating because that is a skill he will use all of his life and I don't want to dampen that. It will help him in his progress and understanding of the language.

Yesterday I had a little conversation with a Kindergarten teacher who is leaving.  We will be sorry to see her leave but I was excited to tell my hubby that I'd been able to do it.  You certainly learn to appreciate the simple things in life. Counting these little blessing makes life happier.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Flip flops ....

Here comes the sun!!! The sun is shining on us in Germany.  Yippee!! I was going to talk to you about watermelons again but today's weather has forced guided me to another topic.  The sun just shouts to me FLIP FLOPS!! I am not in control ... the sun really compels me to wear them on my feet!! Who else has a compulsion, love of flip flops?  Not my hubby - well to be fair, if it was summertime - his opinion would be different but he just disagrees with the desire, need to wear them when it is technically still winter!! mwahhhhh.

This morning we were on our way out of the front door and he noticed (DRAT) my footwear.
"Are you going out in those?" (flip flops)
"Ermmmm YES!" (me grinning)
"But it's still cold outside!" (raised eyebrow)
"But the sun is shining!" (grinning some more)
Roll of the eyes and into our multivan we go!  snigger snigger.  There's a slight breeze, but I love feeling that between my toes.  Just realised this might not be the best post for those feet hating peeps out there! SORRY!! ...
It is getting warmer too ... so more flip flop weather on the way!! YahooOo!!  I'm not sure if anything else makes me feel so happy!

These are my favourites ....I bought a pair for my step mother-in-law from here from the UK. She liked the idea  of the comfort around the toe ... I like the fact they hide my very long big toes!! I got really great service.
I first fell in love with these in 2010 on our family holiday in Florida. I am not kidding, as soon as I tried them on I knew we were meant for each other!!  They joined me on this photo ... oh and so did my son!! hahah  ... here they are brand new. =)  SIGH!!

Matty, mum & FLIP FLOPS - Universal Studios Florida

I've been so mad, fortunate to get another 3 pairs (well I need to have stand by's!) in different colours last October. I joined my hubby for a week of his 3 month long business trip to Salt Lake City and hit the outlets as soon as I landed.  I can honestly say these are the most comfortable things I have EVERRRRRRR worn on my feet.  I love them and they seem to love me!! =)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Shopping for a watermelon??

One of our BIGGEST dislikes of moving to Germany was buying food.  I know some of you may gasp because of your love for all of that stinky sausage stuff ... but it just doesn't get my taste buds leaping - I can't stand the look, the smell and here's the confession ... I haven't even tasted it!! mwahhhh Is that bad? So there won't be any picture of that stuff here!! Anyhow the supermarkets aren't like back 'home' or abroad either for that matter.  Almost four years into our stay here, we still miss ASDA & Sainsbury's and the like.  SIGH!! I kid you not, when we travel home to England and enter one of these supermarkets, I feel this urge to touch everything and an even bigger urge to leave with it all too!!

I prefer a one stop shop & that is near impossible here. Our first food shop was the day after we had arrived in the country as residents.  We lived in an area called Bad Vilbel for the first six weeks. It was at the local Lidl there that we realised things were never going to be the same!!

We picked up some groceries for a family of 6 to get by with for a few days!! We loaded our stuff onto the belt for it to be scanned, we started to 'pack' (as you would normally!)... well that wasn't going to work. She scanned that food through so fast like her life depended on it. The space at the end of the till was comparable  to a postage stamp.  Some of the items didn't make it to the trolley without touching the floor first, never mind attempting to put it in bags.  It was so alien to us. Hubby & I glanced at each other and started to grin.  I glanced down the line, expecting to see raised eyebrows and smiling faces in empathy of our experience, only to see that no one else thought it was amusing or even batting an eye.  To them it was just every day-to-day life and it is - they expect, infact demand, such efficiency!  Then came time to pay the cashier. I handed my visa debit card over to make payment and she refused to take it.  "Keine Kredit Karten!" (no credit cards) she snarled at me! 'It is not a credit card, it's a debit card!' came the reply - anyhow we weren't going to win regardless of how much explaining we tried, so luckily there was a bank across the road and my hubby ran across, got some cash and we were able to pay for the food. Phew ... glad to get out in one piece!! haha It was like stepping back in time!  We just had to laugh!

The amusing thing is now we are so used to this speed and lack of "can I help you with your packing?" kind of service now, that when we go back to the UK and experience some customer service and a bit of light hearted chatter with the cashier, as well as scanning through the items SO patiently slowly, I feel like asking them to hurry up!  Especially if we are on our 'stock up' shop just before we reach the Eurotunnel on our return to Germany!  OH how the worm turns!!  =)

Not too long after this initial experience we tried out a Tegut grocery shop.  The sign on the watermelon said 1.99€, thinking that was a great price, we picked it up and headed for the cashier.  Except it came up at 11.00€ in total and was infact quite the opposite.  The price we had seen was price per kilo. Duh!! Then say so!!  Not knowing the language, we were too embarrassed to even attempt to explain that we had misunderstood the pricing and would leave it. We walked out - watermelon in hand, grinning once again at our experience, hoping that it would be worth it once the kids started to devour it!!

I wonder if this experience was the birth of making the most of a watermelon?  Since then I've enjoyed doing some watermelon carvings.  This was my first attempt!

It was for our youngest son's 5th birthday party.  What do you think? I was so pleased with the outcome.  Here's what I used:

A large watermelon
green and red grapes
2 limes (cut in half for the feet)
two sizes of melon baller
raisins for the nostrils on the snout and to layer the grape eyes.
A cookie cutter to cut out the snout.
Cocktail sticks to hold the feet, snout, ears, eyes and tail in place.

I had so much fun creating this pig. I got the idea some time before, after watching Annabel Karmel carving  it with some children on a television program.  I searched 'youtube' for that particular clip but couldn't find THE one.  I did come across this fun tutorial and off to work I went. It is easier than it might look! Try it and share your results with me! It was a joy to see them excited to eat the good stuff!!

I have found some great ideas on Pinterest and have plans to do a lot more of these fun designs when the watermelon gets to a good price this summer. I will share them with you here.   If you would like an invitation to join Pinterest, please leave me your email address in the comments section below.  If you would like to follow me on Pinterest click here.

I am in no way affiliated with Pinterest ... only a slight addiction!! It's a Happy Life!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

what a boy!

I mentioned in my last post that our children's schooling was my main concern when we were facing our new adventure to live in Deutschland. I have also talked about how education makes huge differences in our lives, opens doors and is real privilege!
This is my concerned look! =)

Our relocation package from my husband's employer covered school fees for the first three years.  This meant our two middle boys would transfer to German school after this time. This time came last August and saw these two sons starting their new challenge - German school.  They have both had different challenges, I am going to tell you about our 13 year old, Matthew's experience.

Not long after he had started school, I began to get little stories from his older brothers he had been confiding in, about some unkind things going on at school.  I asked him what I could do to help, but his reply always came back with "it's OK, I can cope!"  He didn't seem anxious and never asked to stay at home rather than go to school.  He was coping extremely well! As things escalated he opened up to me more and shared things that mums dread to hear, such as:
"They tell me to go back to my own country and I have no right to be here."
"I won the race at school today mum, but they told me I have no right to come first!" (seemingly I got this bit wrong and he came second and the winner was the one who told him he had no right to come first.  I stand corrected!! haha
"They told me to go away and not stand with them ..."
"They lock me out of the classroom until the teacher comes ..."
"They hit me today ..."
"They threw all of my things on the floor ..."

It was so heart wrenching for me.  He was still determined for me not to do anything yet.  One morning we discussed things again and he said it had got to the point that he needed some help.  Things had started to taste a little sour!!

We both felt we should address it at school and enlist the help of his class teacher.  He is an English teacher and so we were able to speak English together.  (I didn't want to be emotional and at the same time have to try to find the correct vocab - let alone the correct grammar.)  He was a very good listener and was horrified at our report. He reassured us he would address the situation with the whole class straight away and did just as he had promised.  I am so glad that to their credit, those boys involved, stopped immediately.  Were they all of a sudden friends? No, they just let him be.  I felt his teacher handled the situation perfectly.  

Matthew was and still is a wonderful example to all of us on how to respond in difficult situations and how not to react negatively. He never let their bullying (I am so reluctant to label them as bullies) negative behaviour, affect the good decisions he had to make. His attitude was amazing, never feeling the need for revenge. His energy was spent on his own happiness not on hateful comments or reactions. When we discussed the situation at home, we discussed how he would grow from these experiences and how they were preparing him for challenges he might face in the adult world.   Boys will be boys and wrong choices will be made.  I hope those boys have also learned lessons from this that will help them to become good men! The world needs good men.
Matthew has shown such strength of character during a really tough time.  Well done Matty!! We love you!! xx

p.s. he is now starting to make friends! =)

Monday, March 12, 2012

The grass is greener ...

I love this quote!  The grass certainly is greener where you water it.This frame of mind has helped our family since we relocated from the UK to Germany in 2008.  Only a year or so before our actual departure, we had bought a new home (well new to us!) and we were enjoying making a house a home. We both had jobs we enjoyed and the children were settled in school and we all had good friends. Life was good! We had anticipated we would live in the UK forEVER!

Then we found ourselves facing a new challenge in our lives.  My husband's employer was consolidating two European areas and the main office would be in Frankfurt.  We thought and prayed over the decisions we were facing. My main worry was the children's education. It's strange how your outlook can change so quickly. Initially, our oldest and most cautious of all of us, wouldn't discuss the matter until we knew we were definitely going.  Our second son and I were getting really excited and ready to start a new adventure.  Within months of getting an inclination we could be moving, we found ourselves boarding a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, Germany ... HOME, to start a new chapter in our lives.  It all happened SO fast!!

We arrived on a Friday and starting the following Monday morning, our children were catapulted into starting their new school routine with an early start of 5.45am.  I recall the blue Taxibus pulling up outside of our temporary accommodation and watching my boys get into this taxi with a complete stranger and knowing nothing of the language other than Hallo!! My stomach was doing summersaults!! The days really felt long for me at first and I missed the older children so much.  Our youngest was almost 2 at the time ... My husband's place of work had changed and he was covering a larger area, but he was familiar with most of the people and the work already, so it was a breeze a comfortable transition for him! hahaha

Robertson Family,
Hessen Park
Despite these long days for our children, usually returning home at 6.30pm, I cannot recall one of our older three boys, aged 14, 12 & 10 at the time, complaining.  They took it all in their stride! Their attitude towards this transition was such a blessing to us all! We made new friends and got used to the new culture ... well actually there are some things we are still trying to get used to! ;)  On the whole, it is a great blessing for all of us.  Is it challenge free? No, of course not.  But it's how we face and work through the challenges that makes all of the difference! My main challenge is still the language.  I must sound like google translate half of the time, but I am sure it is improving all of the time ... cough cough! In my next few posts I will share some of our experiences & culture shocks of our transition with you! Some I have found really funny and others heart wrenching.  Just like the lawn at home needs constant watering and nourishment not to dry out or get ruined by unwanted weeds and moss - and so it is with our lives and  challenges we face ... it takes effort and constant 'watering' to make it a Happy Life!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Remember it's a Privilege!!

Today the sun is shining and Spring is on it's way! That's enough to make anyone happy isn't it?!! Well today also marks the day that my husband's dissertation in the post ... it's on its way back to Ol' Blighty (England)! Results aren't in, but hopefully this means an end to the studying days for him and we can start to spend quality time together and as a family again. (Or shall I pick up on my studies?  Errrr no! Not just yet I need a breather!!  =) As I handed that cardboard packaging over to the assistant in the post office this morning, I felt a sigh of relief! How much more relief my hubby must feel?!  Well, we are a team - we are team M&M, and although he has done the hard slog with this, I hope he has felt my love and support to allow him the time and space to accomplish this.  I am so grateful to him for all of the hard work and dedication he puts into things to make our life better and for the wonderful example he is to our 4 boys! 
Not long after starting his MBA, we were relocated to Germany with his employer. This then pushed him into the 'distant learning' category.  It has been easy manageable - says I - but so glad it is finally OVER!! It has meant time away from the home, travelling to attend classes and exams.  It has meant self discipline and motivation to watch the lectures, complete assignments and study for exams.  Have I mentioned it's finished? =) 
Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in the importance of education! I see how it changes the lives of the individual, families and also societies! I am grateful and feel blessed to live in a country where education is readily available to everyone.  You will hear me encouraging my children to appreciate every moment of their education and the privilege, not burden, it is to them.
This leads me to want to share with you the story of  Yeah Samak√©. He is a man who was born in poverty in Southwest Mali.

Son to a selfless, God fearing father who recognised the importance of education and encouraged each of his children to get one regardless of the consequences that would bring. Yeah recalls that when he and his 16 siblings - yes 16!! - would wake in the night with hunger pains, "My mother would tie her handkerchief around our bellies to quiet our stomachs."  No loving mother wants to see their child/ren suffer.  I can't imagine how hard it was for her to witness this.  She was a mother who whilst encouraging her children to attend school for the greater, future blessings, had to see them physically suffer for the privilege.  The sacrifices made were not only time and effort, but an important income which would provide FOOD for the family.  Education has not only blessed his life, the life of his wife and children but the lives of his community and country.  He is running for Head of State!! What a remarkable and exceptional man Yeah Samak√© is to the rest of us searching for that all important Happy Life.  Please read the full story here.