Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2011

At the end of each year (or probably more accurately, near beginning of the new year by the time I can get around to doing so), I like to scrapbook about the good, the bad, and the ugly events that shaped the year.

As scrapbooking alludes me at the moment, I'd like to journal about it digitally so I can come back to it later... so here goes:

My family came over to visit from Australia, spending Xmas 2010 and New Year 2011 with us.

Our great apartment in Strasbourg, right in the middle of the city.

Exploring the Christmas markets in Strasbourg.

The travel we got to do through the Frenchman's work: Bordeaux and Lyon (contributing to make the Little Sausage one of the most well travelled foetuses ever). 

Moving to Brighton and discovering an unexpectedly cool city.

The Little Sausage was born in June in Brighton.

Baby weight coming of within a month...

De-cluttering and getting rid of unused stuff - we've got a bit of a way to go, but slowly getting rid of excess stuff and donating it to charity. I'm not into useless stuff anymore and hate having it filling up the little room we have. I've gone minimalist, contrary to my upbringing and the rest of my family.

Celebrating a "Jedi Baptism" in France with the Frenchman's friends and family. Two parties, lots of gifts, and a lovely time spent welcoming the Little Sausage to the fold.

Starting a market stall, and although it was a bad location, the experience was interesting and something I can say I did.

After finally doing something about it, my skin has probably not looked this good in many years.

Discovering the delights of the BabyLiss Big Hair - laugh you may, but my hair looks good and I'm no longer leaving the house with wet hair.

A good haul of presents this year: I got everything I wanted and asked for and am grateful to have spent it with people I love, a roof over my head, and good food on my plate.

The BAD:
The constant moving: Nice - Strasbourg - Brighton.

The mouse problem in Strasbourg: hearing hundreds of tiny scratchy feet above your head at night and finding little mouse poos in the kitchen was not my idea of fun.

Staying with a friend in Brighton during the last two weeks of pregnancy while waiting for the keys to our new apartment.

Finding out our great apartment in Brighton had not so great neighbours. One smokes pot constantly (which wafts into our apartment), and the other likes loud music. Enough said.

The lack of snow, or the generally warm winter so far (apparently the second warmest winter on record for the UK). *insert sad face*

No Christmas tree or much in the way of decoration. Since our apartment is so small and the decorations are in storage, we sadly decided to leave the decorating for this year. 

... still a bit too chubby - must work on that.

Childcare allowances here in the UK are virtually non-existent and it is not worth Mothers returning to work. They even reported this on the news and said that working mothers would be the hardest hit during the recession and the high unemployment levels. Full-time work is not possible for me because of this and defeats the purpose of us moving to the UK (among other things). See point below regarding me working part-time.

The just plain UGLY:
Ringing in the new year (2011) with food poisoning thanks to the horrible overcharging and crap-serving restaurant in Nice we went to on New Years Eve. That was definitely not morning sickness.

Being so far away from the Frenchman (from December 2010 until June) while he spent an exhaustive 13 hours on an overnight train to be with me on weekends (or me to him).

The horrendous UK moving company that managed not only to over charge us but hold our things to ransom, damaging most of it in return. Knowing that we had a (literally) newborn baby and that we were sitting on camping chairs in an empty apartment, they delayed delivery by more than two weeks on top on the delays we had already experienced. Most stressful experience of the year!

Discovering that UK retail employers aren't as open to employing mothers as they claim... I said I could only work weekends, as the Frenchman got special permission to get weekends off so I could work. They readily agreed that this was perfectly fine with them, and then subsequently made a fuss when I was not able to be flexible with working during the week. Hence, I am no longer employed because of this.

I am making an effort to look at the positives, so I hate to leave this post with a huge list of negatives. I need to find something happy to leave you with. So, below are pictures of the Jedi Baptism for your enjoyment...

* faces blurred to protect the identity of the others in the photo.

Friday, 23 December 2011

A quiet Christmas

This years festivities will be pretty low-key for us here in Brighton. My family is half a world away, and the Frenchman's are in France. Luckily, my sister, who lives and works in London will come down for a few days. Since our apartment is so small, we don't have much room for a full size tree. For me, the lit and decorated Christmas tree is one of the highlights of the season and I am a bit sad we don't have one this year. Instead, we have a small plastic tree from IKEA which looks pretty realistic, so it's not too bad. I tried to make it as festive as possible using the few decorations we bought this year or were able to find easily. All the major decorations are still packed away and too difficult to get at easily from storage, so this will do for this year. 

In my family, we have always observed the German tradition of Heilich Abend, celebrated on 24th December. This is a time for close family and presents unwrapped in the evening together. Traditionally, the tree is unveiled by the parents to the children at this time, but since we liked having the tree up and decorated for most of December, my family adapted the tradition to suit. 

To me, Christmas is not Christmas unless there are potato dumplings (kn√∂del), red cabbage (rot kohl) and some sort of festive meat, like turkey or goose, drenched in homemade gravy. This year, I was really hoping to get a goose, but since it's just the three (and a half) of us, a whole goose for £60+ was out of the question. Instead, I was able to snag a nice turkey breast roast that will be rubbed with marmalade in the last twenty minutes of roasting.

For dessert, my sister loves Black Forest cake, and so I decided to treat her (and us!) with a Black Forest-inspired Trifle. I will layer chocolate sponge cake with chocolate custard, cherry compote, and mascarpone whipped cream spiked with Kirsch. I will post some photos of it soon. 

So, I wish you all happy holidays and a safe and prosperous new year! 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A New Direction

I want to take this blog in a new direction. I've recently found and devoured a bunch of new blogs and the thing I like most from all of them is the honest, everyday life depicted in each post.

It doesn't matter that nothing "interesting" happens to them. They just post anyway. To them, sharing photos and descriptions of their everyday lives and the cities they live in is inspiration enough to blog about. I am very inspired by reading about their daily lives (and honoured to be invited to do so by them making their blogs public). It is escapism at its best!

With this blog, I only write when something major happens and this is mostly centred around baking. I want this blog to become more of a general account of the life of my family and where we happen to be living at the time, and not just centred around food. I feel that I have some interesting stories to share. If not just for my extended family members and friends who read this blog to stay in touch.

I want to talk about life as an expat, my family life, the stuff I bake/make/find, and more. A sort of visual diary, if you will.

I hope no one will object. In fact, I think this blog will become the better for it.

So in the next few days and weeks, I will introduce myself, the Frenchman, and the Little Sausage, as well as give you a glimpse into our everyday lives here in Brighton. It may bore some of you, but this blog is mine and I can write what I want (*sullen teenage voice intended*). And I hope some of you will be happy to come along!

Gingerbread House Blues

It snapped. The front panel, the most important one, snapped as I tried to lift it. So, I propose to bake it longer so it's not so soft!

In the meantime, I need to bake another batch, so it will have to wait until I can find the time/motivation.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Where did my pictures go?

Just a quick update to let you know that I will be blogging again soon - long story.

In the meantime, I need to find all my old photos for the past blog posts, as blogger seems to have lost them and they aren't appearing... no idea what happened there and no idea how to fix it other than going back in and replacing each. individual. photo.... not my idea of fun or way to spend my time, but it needs to be done...

Update 14/12/2012: About halfway through replacing all the lost photos... it's a bit of a pain in the arse but it's either that or delete them and I know that although deleting all the photos would be easier and faster, it's the pictures that tell the story, and I like 'em... so that's that. I will work on the rest later...

Update 20/02/2012: I think I've got them all but if not, let me know.