Belated surprise

on December 30, 2010

There are some traditions that I really love. Christmas calenders for example. Year after year my mom keeps asking me "Surely you're too old for that stuff now, aren't you?" - But of course I'm not. For some things you never get too old.

So year after year I would hang up my very special Christmas calender that my mom had previously filled with all kinds of chocolate and sweets that she knew I liked. No matter if I lived anywhere near home, further away in Germany (I'd make her come and visit me before December to make sure my calender gets to me on time) or even overseas (like the US). My calender was always there.

Not so this year. My mom had earlier tried to send chocolate to New Zealand - the parcel took EIGHT WEEKS and by the time I received it the chocolate had gone all manky :-( And she didn't even ask about me wanting a calender this year. Some people suggested I just buy one for myself - but see, you just don't do that. You buy Christmas calenders for someone else. But you don't buy them for yourself. It's just wrong...

Christmas has been over for almost a week now. I did survive without a calender, of course. But imagine my surprise - and my pure joy - when I received a letter yesterday from my former neighbors in Leipzig which also included A CHRISTMAS CALENDER *woohoo* Sometimes it's amazing how much pleasure small gestures like this one can bring =D Thank you so much, lovely ex-neighbors!

Meet the family

on December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010 is officially over. I had a wonderful weekend though it never really felt like Christmas should feel like. At least when it comes to the atmosphere, the cold, the snow, ... you know what I mean.

But it surely felt like Christmas in the sense of spending time with loved ones, bringing each other joy and happiness. After all Christmas is the season of love. So what did I do? I started Christmas Day with a yummy sparkling-wine-and-salmon-breakfast with my host family. After that the kids finally got to open their presents. Gosh were they excited! So many wrapped parcels under the tree...

But you'll never guess which of their presents the kids actually liked best... Just look at this picture...

Pia and Philip got me a beautiful necklace that perfectly matched my outfit for the day...

Of course I also had something for them. Since they've been really awesome host parents I had wanted to say thank you in a special way - and decided on a piece of art. I'd taken a picture of a shell where I'd written something upon... put that on canvas... then with the help of my soccer friend and local artist Kathy Mortimer added some more personal touches to the picture. et voilà - here is the result :-)

The rest of the day it was not "Meet the parents" but "Meet the family". Since Daniel's parents and sister with family are in Australia there was "only" the less immediate relatives to meet. We started with his mom's side for lunch. How awkward... After being single for so many years I had completely forgotten what a terrifying feeling it can be to meet the family. But I think it didn't go too bad...

The afternoon was a bit easier because I already knew someone - Dan's cousin Ryan an his fiancé Amy whom I also play soccer with. The two of them had even got me a birthday present - as had Dan's grandpa. He gave me a piece of Kauri gum which might be about 1000 years old? He turns that into pieces of art like jewellery and such. I'll have to have a look at his collection and show you some pictures!

With our tummies full we finally came back to the farm for dinner at Paul's and Helen's place. It was "only" leftovers but HEAPS of them... Daniel fit in really well I'd say. Philip's brother Noel told me today that he thinks Dan's a really nice guy. Isn't that sweet :-)

Also managed to talk to my family back home on Skype for the first time since I left Germany! So far it's only been phone calls. Everyone seems to be doing fine back home and they are looking forward to coming over here next year. Yep, it's true - my mom and my brother are actually flying to New Zealand in March. I still can't believe it!

German Christmas Eve vs. Kiwi traditions

on December 24, 2010

Every country has its own traditions during holidays such as Christmas. In Germany Christmas Eve is the most important day of this festive season. We'd put up the Xmas tree in the morning and decorate it. When I was younger my mom would actually lock herself into the living room and not let anyone in until the job was done. I later adopted the same routine - I would lock her and my brother out until the tree looked exactly as I wanted it to be :-)

If we hadn't already done so the days before we'd bake some Xmas cookies - "Vanillekipferl" - and of course prepare the food for the same night and the following days.

Christmas Eve we'd always have potato salad and Wiener Würstchen (Vienna Sausages) at approx 6pm. We couldn't wait for dinner to be finished - because afterwards finally Santa would come and deliver our presents. Yes - in Germany (and many other European countries in fact) Santa already comes on Christmas Eve. And he doesn't slide down the chimney either. We get to see him in person =D As kids we always had to recite a poem, sing a song or do something like that in order to get our presents.

And guess what naughty kids get instead of presents: a sack of coals and a whip on their bottom with a brach of the Christmas tree. So you better be good =D

Today I had my first Christmas Eve in New Zealand. Normally in Germany by this time I'd be anxious and excited and full of Christmas Spirit. But I'm afraid Christmas in the summer time just doesn't feel like Christmas. More like a summer party - but then that's just what it is down here...

I spent my morning at the physiotherapist to work on my whiplash/concussion problems that I've had for a while now. Went to town after that to get my last presents sorted out, then back home to do some more cooking, clean the house and spend the afternoon with the kids, watching the puppies and relax a bit.

Then we headed over to the gliding club for a Christmas BBQ with family and friends. It was really nice. We had mussels *yummy* and steak of course, sausages AND POTATO SALAD (which I just had to make to not break with tradition entirely). Then there was cake and ice cream afterwards. So much food... and it's just the beginning...

I didn't open a present today. Not sure if I'm getting any *lol* But I got a nice card from Daniel and have another one to open tomorrow... Only one more hour til Christmas Day *woohoo*

Playdough Adventures

on December 23, 2010

The last few days the weather has been rather awful in the mornings so I thought about some fun stuff for the kids to do. We all kinda got tired of playing "The Amazing Moa/Mammoth Hunt", "Monopoly" or "Muumin Lotto" all the time. So today I made my first ever playdough with a recipe that Pia always uses.

It's rather easy - just mix up the following ingredients:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tbs oil
2 tbs cream of tatar

Cook it in a pot on medium heat and stir around until it's stiff. Let it cool down, knead until the dough has the right consistency and add some food color. Ready to play =D

Just make sure you use gloves while adding the color otherwise your hands will end up like mine...

There are more playdough pictures on Facebook...

Tub, Spotty-Wotty, Rascal & Co.

on December 21, 2010

Our puppies are now a little more than four weeks old and getting bigger every day. After moving them into the garage where they have more space we started letting them out a few days ago. And they are LOVING it!!! They're very adventurous and exploring their surroundings. But we have to watch out - they now have teeth and are using them whenever possible. Toes, ankles and anything else they find will be licked and then chewed on...

Oh - and we started feeding them too because Tip's milk is just not going to be enough anymore. Look how they are enjoying that...

You'll find heaps more puppy pictures on Facebook...

Name and address, please...

on December 16, 2010

What happens when two foreigners join two Kiwis for a pub quiz night where most of the questions are New Zealand based? Right - they lose... Tonight's quiz night was far from successful, but at least Johanna and I actually got a few answers right AND our team scored 9/10 in the geography round. WOOHOO!

Had another first tonight, too: On the way out of town I actually got stopped during a routine police control and had to give my name and adress for the alcohol test. That was exciting =D I did pass by the way...

And I'm slowly getting into the Xmas mood. Started some baking yesterday after my mom gave me her recipe for traditional German Vanillekipferl. They turned out so yummy I had to make heaps more today. Since Eliza is already on holiday she helped me make them and did such an amazing job!!! Here's the proof...

And here is the recipe for Vanillekipferl - try it, it's soooo yummy!!!

400g butter
560g flour (it works perfectly with gluten-free flour mixes, just use approx. one teaspoon of Xantham gum for every 100g of flour)
120g sugar
200g ground almonds
120g vanilla sugar (4 packages in Germany)

* knead the dough until all the ingredients are combined
* roll out little mountain-shaped Kipferl as shown in the picture below
* bake for 15 to 20mins in the oven at 180°C until golden yellow
* let Kipferl cool down, then roll in a mix of icing and vanilla sugar
* enjoy :-)

Oh Du Fröhliche...

on December 14, 2010

There is a saying in German called "Die Vorweihnachtszeit ist die schönste Zeit" which basically means that the time right before Xmas is the best of all. Well true - somehow. It gives you enough time to get yourself in the right mood for Christmas, think about the year that's about to be over and make wishes for the one to come.

However, the pre-Xmas-season is also one - if not THE - busiest time of the year. How on earth could I ever think things are slowing down now? They are not - actually the opposite is the case. That's one of the reasons why I've been slacking a little with my writing lately.

Another reason is - life *lol* Or kind of like a friend of mine said today. "Rather fill your life with wonderful experiences than just writing about them." So I'll just tell you briefly what's been going on around here lately. The kids had swimming lessons the last two weeks. Funnily breast stroke is not the first style they learn.

I also went to another pub quiz night and guess what - no, we didn't win again. But we came third *heehee* got us a 10-dollar-voucher for dessert next time. Which will be this Thursday. After that - as basically all the activities I've been doing in the past few weeks and months - there's no more quiz nights until whenever. Soccer finished last week too, we lost again ;-/ I didn't play...

That reminds me of another reason why I haven't been writing much lately. I had to go the doctor's again last week after spending yet another two days in bed. My personal goal - seeing less doctor's over here - hasn't worked out so far as I've needed medical aid five times in the last five months. That's actually worse than in Germany!!!

But at least this time I actually have reasons to go. What happened this time? I woke up last Tuesday and my whole world was spinning. No matter if my eyes were open or closed. I felt like having emptied three bottles of whiskey - only there had been no alcohol involved at all. Yet that condition lasted for several hours and only slightly got better. I couldn't get up without getting really dizzy and queasy and sick. When walking I was staggering along having to hold on to the walls for balance. My neck really hurt too and felt sore and stiff.

The diagnosis: concussion and whiplash (for the Germans: Gehirnerschütterung und Schleudertrauma). And all from a soccer injury that is almost 1.5 months ago ;-/ Now I'm swallowing a couple of different pills and get physiotherapy hoping it'll soon be better. I still feel dizzy most of the day but at least I can walk normal again. Just feel constantly slighty drunk - only without the fun of consuming any alcohol... doctor said it could take up to a couple of months for all the symptoms to disappear. Hallelujah ;-/ But I guess I can be happy nothing worse happened!

Well, it's getting late and I should head off to bed. Just a few more short things before I go. We decorated our Xmas tree last weekend and the kids asked me to put the star on the top. That was sooooo sweet :-) Also Eliza had prize-giving at school last night and she won a cup!!! She's the best artist in her entire class *proud* She also got a very good end-of-year-report and will be in year 3 next year *woohoo*

Will be going to Rotorua next weekend with a few friends who are doing part or full triathlons. I'm just watching just so you know *lol* Will stop at the mud pools there and probably go to Lake Taupo on the way back. So next week I might have some more adventures AND pictures for you. Still have to upload a few from last week. Will let you know once they're published...

News on the puppies...

on December 06, 2010

Tipi's puppies are now 14 days old and they have grown sooo much! Some of them started to open their eyes so I thought it's about time I took some more pictures. They are so cute and cuddly and adorable and I can't wait for them to start crawling around and be old enough to play with.

This is just one snapshot...

You'll find heaps more on Facebook.

Bon Jovi live in concert!!!

Went back to Auckland this weekend to see Bon Jovi live in concert *woohoo* The tickets were only 100 NZ dollars (approx. 50 Euros) so I didn't have to think about it much. And what shall I say - IT WAS WORTH IT EVERY SINGLE CENT!!!!!

Of course the concert at Vector Arena was completely sold out. And thanks to YouTube I can give you an idea of what it was like... The video was taken from near where I was sitting so you see what I see. Here is Bon Jovi's final song of the concert - Living on a prayer...

Considering that Jon Bon Jovi is getting close to 50 (less than 2 years to go!!!) it was AMAZING how he rocked the stage. Looking at his face you can tell he gets older - but man that guy still has the moves and the groves and he can jump and shake and wiggle... I really enjoyed the show and he did all his great songs like Bed of Roses, Runaway, Shot through the Heart, Keep the Faith, It's my Life, We weren't born to follow and many, many more. I've never considered myself a big fan, but I sure do love the music and don't regret going to the conert at all.

By the way... would you have thought that the first time Bon Jovie ever played in New Zealand was already in 1987?!?!?!?

Christmas in Kiwiland

on December 05, 2010

Usually when I think of Christmas I have pictures in my mind of building snowmen, having snowball fights, Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Markets) with Glühwein (mulled wine) and Feuerzangenbowle (basically flaming spiced rum), woolen hats and scarves and gloves and the permanent wish to snuggle up in front of a fire to escape the cold. When I think of Christmas I certainly don't associate that with beach, sunblock and BBQs.

Yet that is exactly what the Christmas Party I've been invited to on Saturday was all about. We played cricket at the beach, went for a swim, later had a BBQ with sausages, steak, salads and lots of sweets. it was FANTASTIC!!!!!

We also did a secret Santa. Everybody was supposed to bring a present worth 5 to 10 NZ dollars. Since there were mostly girls on the list of attendees I got the following...

Too bad there was actually one little girl participating. She must have been two or three, not more than that. And guess who got my secret santa present ;-) That was SOOO hilarious! She actually got to keep it - only they filled it up with juice instead of whiskey *lol*

I got a few little things in my present - among it a little teddy bear which found just the right new owner. Since my last stuffed animal is still somewhere between Germany and New Zealand I was really happy to receive this one. I didn't think I'd miss Wuschel that much... but how did a friend at the party put it? "It's nice to have something familiar in a strange bed." How true...

Anyway... even though Pia has put most of the Christmas decoration up and the kids request Christmas songs almost every single day it still doesn't feel like Christmas. And it's less than three weeks away... At least I've bought most of my Christmas presents AND I'm planning on making some Vanillegipferl - typical German Christmas cookies. Just waiting for my mom to send over the recipe as her's are the best =D

By the way... did you know that New Zealand has its own version of Jingle Bells? The chorus goes like this...

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way
Christmas in New Zealand on a sunny summer's day, ah!
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to have a Kiwi holiday!