Category Archives: Mum stuff

Loading
loading..
schuetute

Crafting the Schuletüte

June 20, 2017
raepizer

No Comments

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…

Too Kool for Skool (yet)

September 7, 2016
raepizer
No Comments

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
2 comments

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
No Comments

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.

Snowy Road

The path ahead… 2016.

January 10, 2016
raepizer
No Comments

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
No Comments

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
raepizer
,
No Comments

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.

 

 

 

 

To be proud

October 22, 2015
raepizer
No Comments

Whilst becoming a “proud parent” is said to happen at the birth of one’s child, I was thinking of the things that make me really proud of my little girl. Sure I am proud of the fact that she’s smart: she could count to 20 in two languages before her peers in her class could manage counting in their mother-tongue, proud of the fact she knew her alphabet at 2, and of her inquisitive mind and constant desire to play with numbers, making up sums from everyday things and some not small numbers either, and the fact that she’s so interested in books. However there is one event that happened recently that I am most proud and every time I replay it in my mind it really makes me that kind of proud that feels like you’re glowing.

Since moving to Germany, the culture transition has been hard for Isabella. Here turn-taking in playgrounds and queuing isn’t really a thing. It’s all part of learning social skills and holding your own in the playground, learning how to stand up to others and join in with the other kids in a more rough-and-tumble way. Some would argue that this approach isn’t so great, but there are benefits as sometimes in life you do need to stand up for yourself, push yourself to the forefront and learn how to deal with all sorts of personalities. And so, I have taken the view that it’s important skill-building for a successful life in Germany; admittedly, more difficult when you are thrown into it without any understanding of the language and what the other children are saying. And of course I am also proud of Isabella for taking this on too. But that’s not it.

We were at Oktoberfest waiting for a “turn” on the high swings. Each time it stopped, B and I raced up the steps to grab a swing, and each time we were pushed and shoved out of the way (by parents too might I add) and back down the steps we descended with our disappointed faces. This must’ve happened about 3 or 4 times and I was getting a bit angry myself, though Isabella not so. I thought as a parent I should explain to her what was happening and as I told her that people were pushing us out of the way as that’s what they do here in Germany, and sometimes people aren’t so nice to each other, she simply explained to me “Mummy we want to be nice so we won’t do that,” and then it dawned on me what a beautiful girl I had before me.

Whilst there are skills to be learned in the playground, I am not going to teach my child to be pushy and rude to get what she wants. She may not get everything she wants this way, but she will have a life full of friends and happiness, and all the success that follows.

Three is definitely the age where you really begin to be proud of who your children are becoming as they start to share their own thoughts and show their true selves, rather than imitating the world around. I look forward to finding out so much more about who Isabella is.

It’s Ada Lovelace Day

October 13, 2015
raepizer
No Comments

It’s Ada Lovelace day again today and what I only just realised is that my daughter shares the same birthday as Ada, albeit 194 years apart. Still, I like that fact. It somehow gives me hope for her.

Hope? I hear you wonder – what are you talking about – women are equal to men nowadays. Well, thats not necessarily the case. We all know that around the world the view of women does differ radically, and that in the West we are the lucky ones. But even in the Western world where we expect equality this is not the case and it’s not necessarily men who are being sexist. So many times I hear parents including mothers telling their children what is for boys and what is for girls, reinforcing the gender stereotypes. And the effect? Each year the percentage of females in the technology workforce is declining, yet plenty of women who at school are great mathematicians.

I’m shocked that here in Bavaria women are expected to choose between career and childbirth. Women who go back to work full-time are frowned upon. I really hope by the time Bella is grown up this view is changing and I for one am going to try to teach her she can be and do anything. She already has a good head for numbers.

It’ll be no surprise to most people who know me that I made sure Bella had cars and building blocks, train sets and books on diggers and fire engines all through her life. What’s actually more surprising to me is that apart from her beloved cars – she is also obsessed with her dolls and princesses and has the pinkest room I’ve ever seen (much to my dismay!) But thats not a bad thing either – I said I wanted her to be anything she wants to be – perhaps one day she is a Princess but the next she’s lining up her cars in a traffic jam (thats what growing up near the M25 does). She tells me she wants to be a Doctor (only because she heard bus drivers don’t get paid as well – there’s that numbers head of hers) and I really hope she has the freedom and courage to follow her dream whatever that may be.

You can read about Ada Lovelace here

Oktoberfest 2015

1 year on: HIgh swings or the rollercoaster?

October 4, 2015
raepizer
No Comments

Tomorrow will be our 1st year anniversary of our time here in Germany. It’s been a roller coaster ride so far and talking to other ex-pat mums here that’s how life can be when you don’t speak the language and you spend a lot of time communicating mostly with a 3 year old. But there’s that famous quote I like so much:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It’s a quote that I think a lot about because I am the only one that can make my rollercoaster ride more of a High Swing Ride. Tomorrow I’m back to school to start my B1 course of German as a foreign language and I am applying to jobs that I like the sound of. I know it will be hard giving up the time I have with my daughter currently – it’s such a luxury to be able to pick her up and take her swimming or watch her at her Bavarian dancing class – but as well as the financial benefit working will provide for our family there is the sanity of my mind and also the positive role model that I want to be for my daughter. I’m told that here in Bavaria a lot of mums don’t ever go back to work – I guess its hard when the school day finishes at lunchtime at most schools here – but if we want to stay here then it’s something I must do.

And that’s the million dollar question – do we want to stay here in Germany? One year in and my answer would be a resounding YES. I loved my life in Hertfordshire, and most certainly believed it was a great place to raise my child. However, now we are here I love the beauty of this country – the wide open spaces, the forests, the mountains and the lakes. I love that the children don their waterproof trousers and jackets and get outdoors whatever the weather. I love that it feels safe. I love that when my husband left his passport, kindle, iPad and wallet in a bag on a train the whole lot was returned to him. There’s lots to love. Yes, there are things that I don’t love. I don’t love that women seem to be expected to stay at home – but then again there is a great sense of community here and always lots going on, something that becomes more difficult when everybody works. I don’t love the fact that communicating can be difficult, but then I need to learn the language in order to make this better. I don’t love that they don’t teach any curriculum at kindergarten, but that’s just a different approach to education, focussing on play until the child is 6. It doesn’t worry me very much as I can supplement this and teach Bella myself how to read and write – something I’d have to do for her English anyway, and as she’s bright I’m not concerned.  My husband is enjoying his job and asks me where else can you take your team 30 minutes away from work on a team bonding day and find yourself at the top of a mountain looking down on beautiful turquoise lakes? He’s right and so it’s up to me to make this work for me and my family.

Step one of our move is complete – Bella is happy at kindergarten, having made friends and is well on the way to speaking German fluently. We all have friends here and are enjoying our new life. Step two will be a new challenge – my re-entering the workforce, the challenge of childcare and becoming fluent in the German language. Bring it on! Prost!

mountains

Layout mode
Predefined Skins
Custom Colors
Choose your skin color
Patterns Background
Images Background