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schuetute

Crafting the Schuletüte

June 20, 2017
raepizer

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Last night I spent my evening crafting a Schuletüte at Kindergarten (and very much burning my fingers on hot glue!)

schuetute

schuletute

What? Why? Well it’s tradition here that a child starting school carries a Schuletüte to school on their first day of school. The Schuletüte is a very large decorated cone in which family, friends and neighbours all put treats for the child, which usually includes sweeties and gifts such as rubbers, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and even an alarm clock – all in preparation for school start.

I have yet to really find out what happens on the first day but one little girl is very much looking forward to it and is very excited to be starting school in September. It’s a true rite of passage here in Germany and the whole family celebrates this day.

Children in Bavaria start school mostly in the September after their 6th birthday. However children who have birthdays between September and December are what is knows as Kann-kinder which means they can go to school if they are deemed ready. Isabella falls within that category and has been ‘approved’ to start this year. More importantly, despite most of her class starting next year, she wants to go this year.  And so the preparation begins…

Raspberry Cheesecake Ice cream

January 21, 2017
raepizer
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Ingredients

  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 punnets of pureéd, strained raspberries
  • 1 cup. whipping cream (Shlagrahm)
  • 1 cup. whole milk

Method

  • In a large bowl, whisk cream cheese until smooth; add sugar and continue whisking until combined. Whisk in raspberries, followed by cream and milk until fully incorporated.
  • Pour mixture into ice-cream maker; process according to manufacturer instructions.
  • (Add in chocolate chips)

Too Kool for Skool (yet)

September 7, 2016
raepizer
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Almost two months into my new job and our new phase here in Germany and I have to admit that it isn’t so scary. I’m lucky – I work for a good employer who allow me the flexibility to work from home when it’s needed, and I have great colleagues both here in Germany and beyond, around EMEA and the US. Our Nanny is super lovely and B enjoys spending time with her.

It’s a strange week as all of B’s age friends in England have been starting school, while B has still 2 years officially before she starts school here in Germany, although being December-born she could go next year if she’s ready. I’m not sure I see any advantage to rushing to school, but she shall start Vorschule (the year before school they have special classes each day to help aid concentration and learning to sit still) where she is likely to receive German lessons also. We shall then see how she is getting on before we make any decisions. In so many ways she is growing up fast and yet in so many ways she is still my baby, probably emphasised by my greater absence in her day. We so much look forward to evenings, weekends and holidays so we can spend full days together. Our relationship is still strong. I make time for special time together – last week we went into the mountains with some girlfriends which was awesome. We had lots of fun and it was, as always, great to watch her with her friends.

I will be very interested to see the differences between B and her friends in terms of their development now. In Germany the focus is on learning through play.  Children learn from each other, experiment more and are allowed the freedom to make mistakes, assess risks themselves and learn how to be part of a group. They start school after their 6th birthday when they are so ready to learn that they pick it up really quickly (or so I am told). In England the system is more adult-led. Play is supervised more closely and school starts at 4 where a structured learning environment is created. All the children I know love it so I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way, just different ways.

Bavaria is changing somewhat after the shootings in the Munich shopping mall. Oktoberfest this year is a good example – no bags allowed in and it’s a gated event rather than just wandering in from the underground stations. It’s a bit frightening but I guess no more than my time in London.  For me, I’d rather head south to the mountains for a relaxing day than into the centre. We swam in a pool by Kochel am See at weekend – it was truly wonderful, including the water slides – B’s favourite. It’s almost the end of summer now though and the leaves are starting to turn. Autumn is a wonderful season here so I’m looking forward to some forest walks. Perhaps we’ll sneak in a trip to England before winter is upon us and Father Christmas starts preparing his reindeer.

Dancing in the rain

Dancing in the rain

June 30, 2016
raepizer
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It’s been a week since the UK voted to leave the EU (Brexit) and it seems all the news is talking about. It’s what everyone wants to talk about here – were we for or against and what do we think will happen to us Brits in Germany. Bella and I are lucky enough to be able to benefit from Irish citizenship, enabling us to still enjoy freedom of movement whatever happens, something that we obviously support as otherwise we would not be here enjoying our life in Germany, and so I am not too concerned with Bella’s future from that perspective. For UK children I am sad.  I wait to see what will happen, who the new PM will be, what negotiations are made with the EU, and what that means for my family.

For now though, I have other things on my mind. One more sleep and it’s the final countdown… tomorrow me and my girl fly to England for a holiday – to spend time with some of our friends – however next week she flies back to Germany with daddy and I stay in England for another week to start my full-time job. Never one to just dip my toe, I am leaping into this with a full week away from my family – as if returning to a full-time job and asking a stranger to look after my child would be hard enough, I won’t even be able to administer evening cuddles before bed, or read the bedtime story.

It’s going to be a tough transition for our family; less time to enjoy together, more shared chores and responsibilities, a Nanny for Bella to get to know. I know that it will be a tricky time ahead but as always I am confident that once we find our equilibrium again, our new routine, we will be strong and happy once more. I look at my daughter now and the transition she has made from England to Germany, the language she has learnt, the new friends she has made, the little person she is becoming and she has achieved so much already. I am infinitely proud. I am confident that we will make this work. Thats what we do – we make things work and we enjoy the challenges life throws at us. As the motto on our wall says – “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but learning to dance in the rain”. I love dancing in the rain (probably due to me growing up in Manchester) – which is fortunate as summer so far in Munich has had plenty of rainstorms!

The Birds (April 20, 2016)

May 29, 2016
raepizer
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I was up at 5am yesterday as I had to travel to England for an interview – you know I’ve lived here now for 18months but I’ve never really heard the dawn chorus the way I heard it yesterday – it was almost deafening. The sun wasn’t quite up and I walked down my road next to the forest and I could hear what must’ve been hundreds if not thousands of birds all awake and calling to one another. it really made me imagine them calling “hey George – you awake over there? We’re about to go worm hunting – wanna come? ” – “yeah – just waking up the missus – I’ll meet you there – betcha I get a bigger one than you” … “Never” …    It was truly amazing.

I grew up in a suburb of Manchester, England – it was an exciting day if we saw a Robin or Blue Tit among the plethora of Starlings and Sparrows in the garden- Here the Tits are the commonest birds in the garden – with the Redstarts, Robins, Finches all making an appearance. Today I sit in the garden eating my lunch, feeling the sun on my face and listening to the birds – not as yesterday’s splendour but still I can’t help thinking I’ve definitely fallen in love with this country- and yet it’s a country I had barely visited before our move out here, one I knew little about.

Yesterday as I caught sight of some English schoolchildren all walking hand in hand followed by their teachers, a couple kicking empty beer cans on the ground I realised that it felt really at odds – I wouldn’t expect to see that here where it feels like the countryside and community is respected. I’m not yet sure if I’m still in some honeymoon period or whether things like that really are different.

Everyone can dance…

April 17, 2016
raepizer
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when you find music that you love.

Spring (Fruhling) is here, the gardens are awakening and the animals in the forest are dancing to a new beat. Life here is still good for us.

IMG_0513

Snow season is over and we have packed away the skis and sledges. We love winter here, building snowmen, throwing snowballs, and making our snow angels but this year B started her skiing lessons too. Physically she is growing up so fast, already riding her bike to the animal hide and back (6km ) and now swimming too – she got her Frog badge a couple of months ago. She started the local gymnastics class last week and in September we might even look at Ballet classes. In a few weeks it’s Maimusi, a local festival celebrating May Day and Bella’s Trachtenverein ( Traditional Club) Dance troop will perform again. I’m really very proud of her.

Meanwhile my German is still progressing. I am still not working here yet but making use of my time to learn German (if only to keep up with Bella’s) and to be honest we’ve had a lot of visitors recently, all of which have enjoyed their visit here very much. I feel so lucky to have the mountains so close by. Steve and I bought our first Lederhosen and Dirndl last week – so well and truly embracing Bavarian life. I am looking forward to what Spring and Summer may bring as we grow together in our new life here. – Already it’s been 18months, and I can remember how tough it was to start with but so far worth every bit of effort.

Snowy Road

The path ahead… 2016.

January 10, 2016
raepizer
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And so 2016 – it’s the New Year and for us a very important one. It will be a year of decisions about our future and what’s best for our little family.

It’s funny I would never have ever considered living in Germany – it was only chance that the right job came up for S and it seemed like an opportunity for us to experience something new. We had thought that me getting a good job here was going to be easier but senior roles are few and far between and many require fluent German. That said, I am so much more confident with my German now and only have about another 2 months of school before I should be just speaking it as much as possible. Hopefully this is all a positive step to finding that job.

Meanwhile, I still believe that our location in the world is fantastic. Even on a rainy day I know that soon the winds will push the clouds away and the pure blue mountain sky will be seen once more. The air feels good. The views are beautiful. The people wonderful (mostly). We are happy.

I still remain concerned at the few opportunities women have to keep careers and raise a family, but that for Isabella is a long time away and perhaps there will be positive change by then. What’s important though is that the same sense of community that exists here in our little village remains.

B’s now riding her bike with us, taking proper swimming lessons and continuing her dancing at the local Trachtenverein. She has music lessons at kindergarten and I am teaching her to read and write, the later of which she is already progressing well. She starts her skiing lessons in a couple of weeks’ time too. It’s amazing to watch my baby grow up into a beautiful young girl, and most definitely one with opinions! Her English buddies will all start school this year so it will be interesting to see how different approaches to education manifest should we stay here. For now, I am not worried about the “play’ approach here as it seems to be developing B’s physical skills more when she’s naturally more of a thinker so I think it balances well.

Princess Cake

Ta da… the Princess Cake! B is 4!

January 10, 2016
raepizer
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Two days, burnt cakes, hands stuck together with marshmallow…

but I did it.

Thank you internet for the help. (http://pagingfunmums.com/?s=princess+cake&x=0&y=0)

I first made the marshmallow towers. This was sticky. I used 2 child beakers and a tupperware as moulds. I melted the marshamallow and added the Rice Krispies my parents had brought from UK for me. It was the stickiest, gooiest thing ever and I thought I was going to end up stuck to the towers too. I left these to set overnight. I got onto thinking about stacking the cakes and that I didn’t have any dowels… googling skewers suggested not using them so I found some good wooden chopsticks instead. Hurrah.

I remembered I hadn’t bought ice cream cones so went searching for them – in December! – None in the supermarket.  I remembered a great ice cream outlet nearby and explained to them I wanted to buy some empty cones – they gave them to me for free!

IMG_3341I rolled them in royal icing and dipped them in hundreds and thousands – then left them to set overnight.

I baked my two chocolate cakes – actually I burnt them! And so back to the shop for more eggs and I baked them again. This time they were good.

The next morning I made up some chocolate buttercream for the centres. I sliced the cakes into two (whoops – a bit wonkily) – I was at this point thinking this most definitely will be a cake wreck. I added the butter cream and left the cakes while I started on the base.

Of course I was using a bigger base then the instructions and so I didn’t have enough green. I used jam on the board to stick the fondant – and of course it went everywhere. Okay – this isn’t going to be a perfect cake. I was feeling a bit disheartened. I carried on. I cut a path and filled it with the hundreds and thousands. Next I needed to cover the cakes in fondant. I was very worried.

I rolled the light pink fondant and actually didn’t do too bad a job at cake covering and so I also covered the next cake. I cut the chopsticks down by sawing them to the size I then placed the cakes on the base.

I rolled the darker pink fondant into strips and  used a cookie cutter to cut out the squares for the turrets and the armaments. These were tricky to attach to the cake. I used water only to attach pieces together so lots of holding and repositioning until it was dry/stuck.  I used some lilac fondant to make the  windows and made some brown fondant for the doors.  I also made some flowers and stems from pink/purple and green fondants to decorate although I didn’t do too much as I knew I had the playmobil as decorations. When I was happy with it I arranged the playmobil bits (shrubs, fountain, princesses, etc.

Actually it wasn’t a wreck – it actually looked okay – and the next morning when B saw the cake she was amazed! She loved it. Success. Now I have a year to think of a 5 cake!

 

It’s cake time…

December 3, 2015
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It’s December and in this house that means planning the birthday cake.  Of course B doesn’t remember her 1st and 2nd birthday cakes, and she’s too polite to tell me if she doesn’t remember last year’s but this year she will be 4 and she’s very excitedly asked me for a Princess Cake (much to my dismay), and so the planning begins. But first a look back on the last birthday cakes, and whether i’m learning!

_MG_6007Birthday number 1 – The Owl Cake.

This cake was loosely designed around some wallstickers she had in her bedroom. It was a plain sponge cake with jam and buttercream, covered with ready-made,  fondants. I bought a packet of pre-coloured fondant. It was my first ever attempt and actually I was quite pleased it didn’t turn out too badly. My name piping definitely had room for improvement but as a first go, not so bad.

 


Monkey cakeBirthday Cake number 2
– The Monkey
By Age 2 Bella was very attached to her Monkey soft toy, having taken it to nursery with her every day since starting there at 1 year. Monkey was her best friend and so I decided a monkey cake it will be. Instead of going down the fondant approach I decided to make this an all chocolate affair. I used a cake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery book – the most choclatey cake I found(!), and added two cupcakes for ears. I practised the cake beforehand, though on the day the ganache didn’t quite go to plan and was lumpy. So another attempt it was and here is the result..

 

Island Tea PartyAnd so the 3rd birthday – The Animal Cake

This was trickier as we were planning to move to Germany and so I wanted to throw B a party before we went – and so this meant a cake in October and another in December. By then I’d been inspired by colleagues at work and also by the local cake shop and decided to invest a bit more time.
The cake needed to link with a party theme and the bouncy castle was an underwater scene, so I changed the theme to just animals – any sort to include the jungle animals I wanted to use. I bought white sugarpaste and coloured it myself for this cake, except for the blue sea fondant and the picnic table cloth which the lady in the shop sold to me for a good price.

I used Mexican modelling clay to build the characters and the picnic set and whatever tools I had to hand – playdough tools, a sharp knife and the flower cutter I bought when doing cake 1 – it’s amazing how a petal can be shaped for ears or plates.

I made the lion, elephant and monkey, before my daughter insisted she also wanted a horse and so I had to add a fourth character. I left these to dry in a cardboard box. I then made the cake- again chocolate. I used the base of my Lazy Susan to have a swivelling stand I could use when decorating. I used the yellow coloured fondant first to make the sandy island and then the blue fondant around the sides. I learnt quickly that I should have done the yellow all the way as it became a bit stressful trying to have no gaps between the two – admittedly there was a “patch job” on the side. I positioned the characters and the picnic blanket, and then made all the cups, saucers and cake – a fiddly but fun job. For the fish I had a mould and for the dolphins my child’s playdough cutter. I used silver balls for bubbles and added smarties around the bottom like underwater pretty stones. I just use water and a fine paintbrush for sticking the bits onto the cake and this worked fine. I also used a bit of water to help smooth any lines when smoothing the surface. When it came to piping B’s name, I decided I could make some driftwood, pipe it onto that and then if it was okay I would use it and if not I could try again. Actually I managed it okay the first time and so I could stick the driftwood on too.

I learnt a lot making this cake – it was a big job but I was very happy with it. Still room for improvement though.

 

TPolar Bear Cakehe other 3 cake – the Polar Bear

This was probably my neatest looking cake – see, I’m learning! After embarking upon a challenge for the one in October I wanted to keep it simple. When we first visited Munich, the zoo had two polar bear cubs that entranced me. B and I would visit the zoo often after the move whatever the weather and I would always love to watch the cubs springing into the water and playing rough and tumble with each other. Such a delight. I thought immediately of these as I also realised I hadn’t yet checked out cake decorating supplies. I had some of that gorgeous blue sugarpaste left from the last cake and knew I could buy white at the local supermarket. I again modelled the bears and left them to dry.I bought a ribbon from the Christmas markets and my piping again had improved. I was very happy with this cake, as was my little girl.

However, now she is 4, B is much more involved in choosing the theme and so of course princesses it will be… I have a plan, I have ordered the sugarpaste online and watch this space… each year what really goes through my mind is whether it will be worthy of the Cake Wrecks site (http://www.cakewrecks.com/) or whether I will pull of something my girl can be proud of.

 

 

 

 

Stein’s Fish & Chips

November 5, 2015
raepizer
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  • Plain flour 240g
  • Baking powder3 1/2 tsp
  • Ice-cold water270ml
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Cod fillets
  • Potatoes

Chip potatoes and put into a small bit of hot fat in the oven for about 35 mins at 210degrees.

Mix the ingredients for the batter and put in fridge for no longer than 20minutes. Dip fish in flour and fry in deep fat (160degrees) separately for about 7 mins each, depending on size.

Add tartare sauce, ketchup and peas.

Eat!

Link here

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