Saturday, August 31, 2013

Week In Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (7)

After this week, I really, really contemplated to make a sacastic list. But to be honest, this recap of last week is way too precious for me to be spoiled with some of the negative things that have happened last week. So, here are once again ten things I am thankful for this week:

1. The hubby. I know, I mentioned him last week, and actually, being thankful for him and our girls is a given for me all the time, I have the need to mention him again this week. He has been such a wonderful support after my less-than-pleasant conversation with my coworker on Thursday.

2. All the wonderful people who have offered their support throughout the week!

3. My boss being back. Certain colleagues do not act out any more and I actually can focus and get work done.

4. My coworker bringing me his second copy of the 2014 IKEA catalog. I am such a crazy IKEA fan, and with moving into a new house sometimes between December and February (hopefully), we'll need new stuff. IKEA, here we come!!

5. Hubby's final visa arriving this week. No more making sure we don't miss a deadline, now he's with us for good!

6. A postcard arriving from Australia

7. The library at my work.

8. The good feeling of helping others.

9. Red wine

10. Cuddly girls in my bed in the mornings

Ten Things of Thankful

Thank you so much for hosting, Lizzi!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Not Feeling Scottian At All

Do you know the Wakefield Doctrine? It's the theory of the clarks, scotts, and rogers. If you don't know it, you should check it out, it's really interesting, and they are just setting up a test to make it easier to find out which type you are, the thinker, the doer, or the feeler (are those words??).

Well, in a preliminary test, I was named a scott. I read up about it, being slightly confused because I remembered that I couldn't decide between a roger and a clark when I just read the types. I'm NOT a scott, I'm not an alpha-girl, I am not a leader, and I am definitely not the center of the party (unless I'm drunk out of my senses and puke like you wouldn't believe!). This is what happened today that makes me feel even less like a scott:

I was out in town during my lunch break to get a couple of things I need this weekend. I wait at the check-out, already kid of late-ish getting back into the office. As I stand there, keeping my polite distance from the person in front of me (and my incredibly large personal space uncluttered with other people and stuff), a lady just sails in from the other side and gets right in front of me. EXCUSE ME (I think), but just suck it up, building some anger against this unthoughtful lady, who doesn't look left or right to recognize the end of the line. Just as she is done, yet another lady comes sailing, and gets right in front of me, yet again. Now the scott makes a quick appearance, as I slightly annoyed put in that it was actually MY turn, just to be put into my place (where is it??) by the cashier, who had already started to ring up the other lady's stuff, and told to just wait at the other register, because that cashier would be very quick as well (yes, she really said that! I really feel like writing a letter or email to the store and complain about the lack of manner with their cashiers - rogerian or scottian??). So I wait in line at the other register, being really annoyed, buying my stuff and walking briskly back into the office.

Wakefield people, please re-evaluate me!!! Am I a disgrace for all scotts or simply something else??

Thursday, August 29, 2013

... And Then It Went South

Today was such a good day! At least it started out that way. Violet slept through the night without her nucki, which she has lost properly (nucki and the spare) and came into my bed for some cuddles shortly before I had to get up. I was productive at work and the morning just flew by. A good day all together, until I was sitting with my coworker, going through some old emails to figure an older case out, when he suddenly asked me if I was pregnant. EXCUSE ME?!?

He explained that a coworker, who he would not named, had asked him about it. When he said that I wasn't, to the best of his knowledge, the anonymous colleague mentioned that I must have just eaten too muc recently.

BANG! I have to admit, I almost started crying. I managed to compose myself, but it seriously ruined my day. I was at a point where I was feeling comfortably about myself, my body. And this delicate construct just crushed within this moment. I know, it's pathetic that I feel that way, that the careless spoken words of this moron can have such an impact on me, but they did. I felt insecure, I almost went out to buy a complete new outfit that very moment., I barely dared to think about food for the rest of the day. And come 4:30 pm, I almost ran out in my uncomfortable shoes to head home.

How comforting it was to just sink in hubby's arms. We talked about it, and he told me that he would have totally supported me slapping  the impertinence out of this guy (even though I bet the employee's council would not have supported that course of action, and I kind of need that job right now). I am glad that hubby is so wonderful; just being in his presence makes me calmer, more confident, feel loved for who I am, not who I could be.

I can't wait to curl up next to him tonight, and hope for a better tomorrow!

Modern Cooking - Creamy Salmon Pasta

The weather is cooling off, so my stove is getting some action again! To be honest, who wants to cook if it's in the 90s? In the summer, we eat a lot of salads and other "cold" meals for dinner.

I'm lucky enough to have a family who likes fish, even the girls like it (quote this Tuesday: Daddy: What shall we make for dinner??  Lily: FISH!!). So I tried this absolutely yummie-looking salmon pasta from the pasta cook book I picked up from the library:

Not my picture, but it looks like that! (Source)
1 medium onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
1 T butter
1-1/2 c cream
1/2 lb salmon, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
fresh dill, chopped (or substitute fried dill or marjoram)

Bring water to a rolling boil and add pasta. Melt butter in large skillet until foaming and add onion. Reduce heat and cook onion until soft and only slightly browned. Add cream and stir while reducing (make sure the cream does not boil or it will separate and curdle). When the sauce has reached the desired creaminess, add salmon and heath through. When pasta is al dente, drain and toss with sauce. Add dill and mix well. Serve with freshly-grated parmesan.

People, it was so yummie and received praise from the entire family!

As a variation from the original recipe, you can use the cream sauce as a base and add cooked chicken with thyme or basil, or as a vegetarian, add chopped broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and mushroom (definitely trying that one as well!).

If you're trying more variations, please let me know how it turned out!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wonderful Wordless Wednesday - Hello Sweetie!

The Mommy Blog Hoppers

Linking up with the Mommy Blog Hoppers for yet another Wonderful Wordless Wendesday. I know, Dorcotr Who is somewhat a theme here for me, but couldn't help...

This marriage RULES!! (Source)

Dear Bullies...

After last week's Sunday Social, I’ve thought a lot about the time back in high school. I know that many people have fondest memories about that time, having fun with their friends and living the care-free life of teenagers. My high school years were plain hell. Sometimes I’m almost surprised that I have actually made it through those years alive, and this is not an allegory. And all that pain because of a few popular kids, who couldn’t stick to the simple rule “live and let live”, I will call them The Bullies.

It all started back in 3rd or 4th grade, when my mom, for many still an “outsider” because she had not been born and raised in this little town, had an argument with a mom from my town’s “high society” (yes, it is as pathetic as it sounds, being the “high society” of a town of about 5,000 people). Her daughter went to school with me, and from then on, she and her clique were against me. I thought that switching over to high school would change things, because a lot of new people would be joining, and I’d make friends and be left alone. But while I hoped that things would change, with a whole bunch of new people in our class, she took her opportunity and made sure that things would change… for the worse. Back then I was probably even more so a shy kid, not really one who approaches people, more the introvert; she, on the other hand, was the polar opposite and before I knew it, she had a huge circle of new friends around her, who hadn’t barely spoken a word to me but thought they’d knew all about me.

I went through all the stages of a bully victim, from trying to shrug it off, trying to talk to them, trying to talk to teachers, showing them that I am stronger, to eventually publicly crumble to pieces.

I still remember this afternoon. I was sitting in class after lunch break, eating a chocolate ice cream bar, and minding my own business. At some point, a piece of the chocolate mantle of my ice cream bar broke off and fell to the ground. I had planned to finish my ice cream and clean it up then; this was not to happen, as just seconds later, the crowd jumped at me. The demanded that I pick the chocolate up at once, which I refused. They started coming at me, pushing me off my chair, trying to force me to lick the chocolate off the floor. I don’t know how I got away, but I did, locking myself into one of the toilet stalls. I broke down, sobbing violently; in this moment, I did not want to go on. At that point, I never wanted to leave the school bathroom to face my tormentors again. Some of the “neutral” people came in to talk to me and see how I was doing. I said that I couldn’t go on like that, that I simply couldn’t any more, and that I wanted to kill myself. Once the words have come out, I heard movement outside the door, and one of the bullies ran back to the crowd for a status report; I heard him yelling “she’s finally going to kill herself”. I felt even more humiliated than before, but also the realization set in that by no means I can let them win. I cannot let them get the better of me and destroy my future. I won’t give them their ultimate victory.

Don't ask me how I managed to get out that day, and return to class, but I did. And I returned the next day, and the one after. I got back into my routine. I showed up for class, did what I needed to do there, and besides that withdrew even more. I spent my days, summer like winter, at home reading, finding solace in the world of books. I appreciated the few friends I had even more, and I started to build myself a life outside school, with friends who went to different schools, and enjoyed the activities I did. Even during the last 2 years of high school, when there were a lot of fundraisers going on to finance the prom, the yearbook, etc., I stayed away. By then, the bullies had basically lost their interest, especially since their leader was no longer in our grade due to mal-performance, but the damage had been done years ago. I took part in the yearbook club because I enjoyed writing. I delivered my pieces and left while the others enjoyed themselves, drinking until late at night. The few times I actually hung out with them (there was honestly still a piece inside me left that WANTED to fit in), I drank myself into oblivion early on, just to not feel or remember.

And then graduation and prom days came and went, and I was free. I moved forward from then on, and hardly ever looked back. I’m still in contact with my best friend, of course, and with a few others who had remained neutral. In 2008 I received an invitation for our 5-year reunion; of course, I didn’t go, living half a world away and just having had a baby. This year was our 10-year reunion, and again I received an invitation. I planned on going at first, with hubby and the girls as support, but then decided against it. My friend and the other people I still talk to all didn’t go, and why put even the least effort forward to impress someone who isn’t worth it. Sure, I’ve made it. I have a wonderful family, great education, and a job that many only dream of. Some have never finished college or a job training and now work in a factory somewhere, or are simply unemployed. Some of the girls’ best bet is hoping for a good marriage. So they have spent the best years of their life feeling superior by making me feel the worst I ever did, but that skills didn’t help them in any way. Today, they are on the loser-end of the equation, while I have risen above them. I still bear my scars; I still suffer from depression and a feeling of worthlessness. But I know that I am lovable and my life is worth living when I am with my family, who loves me for who I am, unconditionally.

To all these bullies: you have tried to break me, to bring me down, to elevate yourselves. You may have won battles along the way, but not the war. I have risen above it, and even though it still hurts thinking about it sometime, not having many fond memories of this time in my life that should have been one of the best times of my life. But to be honest, it doesn't matter now, because the best time of MY life is right now; I am surrounded by so much love that your hate does not affect me any more. I don't wish you anything bad; I know that some of you have gone through horrible pain throughout the years. I don't expect you ever to think back about this awkward girl you tortured so casually. I will remember you for the rest of my life, but I am beyond your grasp now. I wish you the best for your life, but never care to see any of you again.

If you or someone you know are a victim of bullies and you would like to share experiences or need support from a survivor, please feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Challenge 2013 - Book 8: Snow Wolf

I'm usually not too much into thrillers, but wanted to try something different, et voila!

The Hard Facts:
Title: Snow Wolf
Author: Glenn Meade
450 pages
Publisher: St. Martins Pr. , First Edition (May 1996)
ISBN: 978-0312144210

Find it on Amazon
The Story:
In 1952, Anna Khorev escapes from a gulag and manages to flee over the Finnish border. Jake Massey, a CIA agent convinces the US ambassador to grant a visa to Anna to take her to safety in America against the will of the Communist regime in Russia. There, she is integrated until Jake Massey is introduced into a highly confidential plan of the US secret service: the assassination of Joseph Stalin. His team consists of one of the most skilled killers in the service of the CIA, several contacts on the way to Moscow, and Anna, who agrees to return to Moscow and support the mission with the promise that she will be able to get back her daughter, who was placed in an orphanage upon her and her husband’s arrest. However, Anna is still being followed by Russian agent, who plan to abduct and return her to Russia. While training for their mission in a remote cabin in January 1953, the situation escalates for the first time when the agents attack the camp and burn it down before being killed themselves. Jake Massey decides to start the operation immediately, without informing his superiors and Anna starts her journey back to Europe together with her partner, the killer Alex Slanski. They do not know that the plan was discovered by a second team of Russian agents; when it turns out, Jake’s superiors order him to stop the operation at all cost, even if it means killing the agents on the mission. Meanwhile, Anna and Alex are always a step ahead and travel via Estonia and Finland into Russia. Soon, Russian agents are on their heels and Yuri Lukin is reactivated as an agent to hunt the two down, knowing that his own life is endangered should he fail. Eventually, after Alex and Anna separate in Moscow, Anna is captured and questioned by Yuri, who tries to get all necessary information from her before his sadistic superiors are getting to her. However, Anna stays mum and the hunt for Alex continues, who, in the meantime, has found a safe place with a woman who is going to leave Moscow with Anna hidden in a train transporting furs for a French business man and honorary Russian citizen. In order to free Anna, Alex abducts Yuri’s pregnant wife; during the exchange, Yuri tries to shoot and kill Alex, however both he and Anna manage to escape and find cover at their safe house before planning their respective final missions: Alex to kill Stalin and Anna to free her daughter from the orphanage and once again flee from Russia. In the meantime, the pressure on Yuri to present a success in his mission increases, as his wife is yet again in danger, this time threatened by his own. In a showdown at the safe house, Jake Massey finds himself finally eye to eye with Alex and Anna again; however, he is shot and mortally wounded during the shooting. Alex and Anna leave, chased by Yuri, who has finally found the missing information from Alex’s file and learned why he was put on the case: Alex and he are brothers. After the violet death of both of their parents, Alex, Yuri, and their sister were taken to a orphanage for party-conform re-education, from which Alex escaped and fled into the west. As a macabre and sadistic twist, the highest party leaders determined that his brother should be the one taking Alex down, without even knowing it. Re-united, Alex and Yuri decide to cooperate on their final suicidal mission; however, Alex knocks out Yuri just before they reached Stalin’s country house and Alex enters the compound by himself, disguised as Yuri and with the dead US agent, Jake Massey on his back seat to present to Stalin. Yuri is shocked about his brother having left him, however, he manages to reach the train that is to transport his wife and the other women into safety to Finland. In the meantime, against all odds and expectations, Alex succeeds in his mission killing Stalin before shooting himself to not be captured by the KGB agents. In the wake of the ensuing tumults, the two US agents are removed from the villa and buried in unnamed graves at the cemetery of a nearby monastery to cover up the events. 

My opinion:

I read a little on Amazon what others thought about it, and there seemed to have been quite some (avoidable) factual mistakes. Even I wondered how a one-handed guy can so easily ride a motorcycle. But let's give Glenn Meade some literary freedom, won't we? To be honest, I really enjoyed reading this thriller, written from Anna Khorev's point of view, as the tells the story to Jake Massey's son, many decades after the events of 1953. It feels a little unrealistic at times, Meade seems to try a little too hard, and by editing properly and cutting out some bits and pieces here and there would have made the book even a little more cohesive and realistic. The afterword points at the mysterious circumstances of Stalin's death; even his relatives back then question the official cause of death. In general, this book is great for a rainy weekend (or two) with a hot cup of tea. Definitely recommend it, even if you're usually not too much into thrillers (I'm not).

Monday, August 26, 2013

Five Things (Old School Blogging)

Monday is over already! One day closer to yet another weekend, and this week will be busy, once again. My weekend was not too exciting, just running some errands, and making blackberry jam with Lily, after sharing a favorite Washingtonian (or Northwest?) past time with my big girl: berry picking (more about that later!). And of course a lot of relaxing on a rainy Sunday.

In order to not bore you to death, here's a little fun blogging game, which, rumor has it, originated from the early blogging community. The wonderful Erin at Searching for Sanity tagged me in this game, and here I go:

5 Things I have a passion for:
- the family
- words and language
- music, especially when it's from hubby's orchestra
- lazy weekends
- cooking / baking

5 Things I'd like to do before I die
- travel to many, many more places
- raise the girls to be responsible, independent, and most important of all happy adults
- growing old with the hubby
- find out who I really am
- learn at least one more language

5 Things I day a lot:
- I love you!!
- Stop that!!!!!!!
- Violet NO!!!!
- Have a wonderful day.
- You're a nerd.

5 Books I've recently read:
- Snow Wolf (Glenn Meade)
- The Whisperer in the Darkness (H.P. Lovecraft)
- Wolf Hall (Hillary Mantel)
- The Jewel of Medina (Sherry Jones)
- The Book With No Name (Anonymous)

5 Favorite Movies:
- Forrest Gump
- Tangled
- Stardust
- The Graduate
- Heroes

5 Places I'd like to travel to:
- Albuquerque, to visit our friends there, and maybe have an "adopted family reunion"
- Cornwall
- Tuscany
- Provence
- New Zealand

5 Blogs I'll tag:
I take Jen's approach here: there are way too many good blogs out there to just tag 5, so I tag everyone! If you'd like, please take part in this fun game.

Thank you again for tagging me, Erin! I loved taking part in this fun game!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Social - When I Was Little...

Sunday Social

Can't believe it's Sunday already! I hope to be able to catch up on sleep and maybe get a run in with my neighbor. Besides that? Some cleaning, going through the girls' clothes and make a list of stuff we need for the coming seasons (consequently, that means shopoping!!). Hope to get at least some of those things done today. To wrap up this weekend, I'm once again linking up with Ashley for Sunday Social, this week it's all about my childhood:

1. What do you miss most about being a kid?
 The possibilities. That (almost) everything is possible. And not worrying about anything. But that was me as a very small kid, before the depressions hit. After that, I don't miss much.
2. Did you have a nickname growing up? What was it?
 Yes, but I won't share, because it's not been a nickname by friends but more by bullies, and I want to leave that behind. My mom still calles me "Nene"; she says that's what I called myself as an itty bitty baby, and it stuck.
3. What was your favorite thing to do at recess?
 We didn't really have recess, we had breaks in between class blocks. I'd say I liked most the first *illegal* snowball fights in the school yard after the first snow fall of the year.
4. What did you want to be when you grew up?
 Many things: vet, fire fighter, a princess. Definitely not a financial accountant  ;-)
5. Did you participate in any school activities?
 Not really. Remember the bullies? Didn't want to deal with them in my free time. I participated in things I had to, and that was it.
6. What is the funniest thing you did as a kid that your parents still remind you about?
Nothing real. I will think about it and share if I remember something...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Week in Review - Ten Things Of Thankful (6)

Last week wasn't the best for me. I had troubles in the sleep department, was feeling under the weather a lot and couldn't quite focus at work. Since Friday, I have the first sinus infection of the season, yay...  The gift that keeps on giving. I'm really thinking about getting the surgery done soon, so I won't have another cold season like this past fall/winter. But this morning, I finally got to sleep in, and I'm feeling much better. Despite the lack of sleep and the cold, there are still plenty of things this week to be thankful for:

1. Our house making great progress; the roof beans should be put up sometime next week!

2. The hubby being simply the best. He usually is, but this week he's been especially awesome, for no special reason.

3. Tiramisu

4. Good nerves; definitely needed them at work this week.

5. Getting showered with beutifully colored pictures from Lily all week long.

6. Having a library at work.

7. Lily's tooth patiently waiting for me to finally make her the pillow before falling out (somtime within the next 1 or 2 weeks or so).

8. Fish and Chips for dinner!

9. A great run earlier this week, and the feeling that I can indeed complete the run on the 6th. Plus a friend potentially running with me!

10. A friend returning from her trip to the USA next week. We have only met once before, but already can't wait to intensify that new friendship.

Thank you so much for hosting again, Lizzi!

Ten Things of Thankful

Friday, August 23, 2013

What Only Did I Think??

Finish the Sentence Friday

It's finally Friday! I thought I wouldn't make it through the week, but here I am, and you know what? We don't have ANY plans! I've had a playdate scheduled, but now both Violet and I have the first sinus infection of the new season and we unfortunately had to cancel. So I guess we're just heading into town tomorrow to get some shopping done and relax a whole lot! I'd like to try a new recipe from the pasta cook book I got from the library, we'll see. Today's "Finish The Sentence Friday" cue by Janine and Kate:

I wasn't really myself when I...

... decided to give birth unmedicated and actually followed through with the plan. At least this was what I told myself when I was there, pushing for over an hour, having one contraction right on top of the other without a moment to rest. Great, Stephanie, good job; now see what you got yourself into! I want meds NOW, no matter what, just give me SOMETHING!! This luckily only played in my head as the hubby told me later how proud he was of me for going through with it without complaining once.

But what did it get me? A baby who was alert from the moment she took her first breath in this world. A (somewhat) peaceful birth experience with wonderful midwives who gave us all the space and privacy we needed. No needless hustling and bustling when the birth was imminent, no doctors called to “help”. No birth injuries due to over-medication and unnatural pushing. A much faster recovery time. And after all (with some time passed since above moment) an overall beautiful experience I would not want to miss for anything in the world.

Violet's first morning, at home of course!

Was there ever a moment in your life when you SO wanted to slap yourself, face-palmed about something you did, or simply wondered “WHY??” ?  Please share!

House Update - There's (Half) A House!

I guess it's high time for an update on our house, especially since things have finally moved forward. A lot!

If you remember, the foundations were supposed to be laid July 29, just before our vacation. Later this week I learned that we were delayed for a week, because the building company had to finish another house before starting on ours. Since we were still having issues with the power line, I did not mind this last delay too much, especially because this would give me until after our vacation to deal with the matter.

After returning from our trip, we stopped by the site and indeed found the foundations being laid! We were really excited. It also looked (to me, who has absolutely no clue of building or construction sites) as if we finally had power on the property!

The foundations are done!

A fee days later, while being out to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday, I received a call from the building site manager, letting me know that according to their last information, there was no power on the property yet, and that we would have discuss options on how to continue. Our options were simply waiting for another months or so, hoping that power would be set up by then, but in that case, the building company would have to remove all their equipment from the site again and it would cost us more time, of course. The second option would be to at least finish the main walls with the help of a generator, which would cost us between €400 and €500 and hope that power would be set up by the time the house was done. The last option would have been putting down temporary power lines to the next power station, which would have cost us about €2.400 for the rental of all the equipment. After a quick discussion, hubby and I opted for number two. About an hour later, the manager called back, informing me that renting a generator would not cost €400 to €500. But closer to €1.000 or more. In this case, we decided to stop the building until power was available. The manager offered to try and get the cost down by discussing a cost sharing plan with the building company and his own company, but didn’t have much hope. But luckily, the building company did not want to move all their equipment yet again and decided to take over a chunk of the cost. Lucky us!

The building manager told us to send us the bill and to inspect the building site one last time before ordering the generator. For whatever reason, we have neither received the bill for the rental cost of the generator nor a call back from the manager. Instead, surprise!! the company must have built the first walls that Wednesday, and by Friday, the ground floor was done, waiting for the ceiling to be delivered early this week. Unfortunately, I have not had the chance to take pictures yet, but after our outing with the neighbors on Friday, we all stopped by on the way home and we took them on a “tour” through the downstairs. I can see it coming together, and it is SO exciting!

In the course of this week, the second floor was built, and we expect to have the roof beams put in place next week, and then it's time for the roof tiles!

Our house! With clear view to the sky from the second floor  ;-)

Not so exciting was the meeting with the electrician last Friday, where we had to discuss all the wiring for the house. I somehow assumed they would put in the wires for lamps and power outlets according to a certain standard model. Nope, we had to discuss every single outlet, plus some additional options such as wiring for a photovoltaic system to put down on the roof later and a satellite dish. Another €1.300 later, we’re all set in this department. The next step will be picking out all the bathroom sinks, toilets, and the bathtub and shower, which we are get out of the way next Tuesday. Appointments, appointments, appointments! But we are really happy that things are moving forward at this point after months and months of just waiting.  At this point we estimate to move in sometime between late November / early December and February. Wish us luck!

This weekend, I get to dip in the area of technical drawing and draw the kitchen set-up for the electrician to be able to put in the electrical hook-ups in correctly. Hope it's not going to be a disaster  ;-)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ready For The Run

After weeks of feeling like that:


I finally broke down the wall and feel like that

I ran for over 9k without a running partner today, which I feel very proud about, since I've had major issues motivating myself lately. There was definitely potential for a couple of more kilometers tonight; I'm really pumped right now and ready for the run! Another two weeks until I finally run my first race and am able to check one more item off my 25 'till 30 list! Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review - Clacking Castanets By Tinocchio

While browsing Etsy, I came across these absolutely adorable musical toys, clacking castanets by Tinocchio; and lucky me, the shop owner, Yael, kindly agree to send one to me for review. How exciting!

Just after my vacation, while I was out shopping, a little package arrived all the way from Israel! And here they were, a pair of clacking castanets. 

Yael added a hand-written address to me personally!
They were so adorable, just as they were in the picture on the shop, or actually even better, because I could examine all the little painted details. At first, I could barely inspect them properly as the girls grabbed them and clacking began.

Note the detail on the inside of the castanet!

These clacking castanets are of a great size for little hands. The wood looks beautiful and is so smooth even without being covered in paint all over. The little faces painted on the top are just adorable, as is the details on the inside. Even my 5-year old commented on it when I said what she liked best about it. Violet enjoyed the clacking sound and made the castanets “eat” her shirt, paper, pillows, etc. Lily made it “talk”, and loved to dance like a little flamenco girl.

Clearly having tons of fun!

As a mom, besides the fun factor, quality and material are very important to me. The castanets are crafted perfectly, without rough edges or any other imperfection. The paint used is non-toxic and environmentally friendly, therefore I do not have to watch Violet constantly to make sure she does not put the castanet in her mouth. When I first opened the box, the castanet had a faint smell of wood glue that had dissipated after a few minutes; now it only smells like beautiful wood.

We are so in love with Yaels beautiful craft work, which clearly shows her passion for her work, which far exceeds my expectations. It's simply beautiful and due to its exceptional quality, the girls will have many years of fun play with this musical toy!

About Tinocchio:
Yael, a mother of three from Israel, opened this amazing shop backin 2005. After not finding fulfillment as a graphic designer any more, she decided to start a training as a carpenter to follow her love for this natural material. Her passion led her to start her own busines,s and Tinocchio, a word play of the Hebrew word for baby (tinok) and everyone's favorite wood puppet, Pinocchio, was born. Yael sells a number of beautifully crafted wooden toys (and we all know, wooden toys are the best!!) for young children aged 0 to 10, from wooden puzzles and memory games via musical toys and baby rattles, to threading dolls and stick horses. All of her wooden toys are hand-crafted, painted with water-based, lead-free paint and finished with water-based lacquer. 

Please visit her shop at or on Etsy. Should you be as much in love with her beautiful work as I am, you're lucky as Yael offers 10% off your first order with the coupon code thanks.

Thank you again for sending us this beautiful toy, Yael!

Disclaimer: I received a clacking castanet musical toy from Tinocchio as exchange for an honest review. The opinion is solely my own. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekend Recap - I Need More Time Off

Recently, our weekends are so busy; maybe I'm not that boring after all??

We were just pulling in the driveway after our appointment with the electrician when one of the twins from downstairs came running, asking if we wanted to go out to one of the local beer gardens. After being annoyed royally, this was just what I needed, so I changed into something comfortable really quick and headed out a few minutes later. We had such a great time, enjoying good food and just hanging out while the girls all went to play at the playground there. A great way to de-compress. On the way home we stopped by the building site, as our neighbors wanted to see the house, and we inspected the newly-built ground floor. I am about to get excited about the whole thing again I think! We took the girls to bed long after their usual bed time and relaxed for the res of the night.

Proof: Even I can be found outside after dark  ;-)

I got up around 8:30 to get ready for a run with my new running partner. I pushed the distance by about a mile while she managed to improve her time; and we both had a lot of fun, even though my legs hurt quite a bit afterward. Once I was back home and showered, the girls and I baked a large batch of muffins for the birthday party that afternoon. After a quick lunch we all headed out; arriving at my friend’s house, they were just about to leave for the wildlife park where the kids would go on a guided “Stone Age” tour. A quite adventurous short drive later, we parked and rounded all the kids up for the tour; I volunteered to go with them. The guide first took us to a house to start the introduction and show the kids a number of tools the stone age people used. After the rain shower stopped, we moved on to the late Stone Age long house, from where the kids headed out to collect nuts and grains to make food. The next hour was spent peeling wheat kernels from the ear, making brushes by crushing one end of little twigs with stones, painting the walls of the long house. The tour ended with the kids sharpening small branches to spears and having a little throwing contest. On the way back to the meeting point, we got to feed the goats, boars, and sheep with hazelnut branches. Once we got back to where the cake and other snacks were set up, I quickly confiscated all the spears (seriously, which sane person considers it a great idea to let seven mostly 6 to 8-year olds sharpen branches to spears and let them run around with it?) and we all had cake, doughnuts, muffins, and soft pretzels, yummie! The kids went on to play at the huge playground for a few more hours until the party drew to a close. After the other kids were picked up by their parents, we stopped by at my friend’s house for a little bit before heading back home. The girls were exhausted and couldn’t wait getting into bed after a quick shower. We spend the evening putting our feet up and relaxing after a busy day.

Violet painting the wall with earth paint and a self-made brush
We started our day around 9:00 to get ourselves ready and the houses cleaned up a little. Around 10:00, the girls from downstairs came up for practicing some English. An hour and a half later, I prepared lunch for the girls and picked up some more before heading out for a visit with my grandparents. We had a great time talking to my grandparents while the girls played in the yard. My grandma made home-made plum cake for us, and we all pigged out. Unfortunately, we had to cut our visit short because in all the excitement, Violet peed through her outfit twice and due to a lack of more clothes, we headed home around 5:30. Back home we prepared dinner and after the girls went to bed we enjoyed a quiet evening hanging out and doing a whole lot of nothing.

After this weekend, I'm not really surprised I overslept today, flex time is awesome! Note to self: check the alarm clock tonight!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday Social - Plans And More

Sunday Social

Sunday already? I'm not quite sure yet if I'm ready for a new week yet; actually, I'm ready for a true day off, just sleep in and wedge, even though it was a good weekend, I just feel drained. Anyways, I'm wrapping up this week as so often with Ashley's Sunday Social:

1. What is something you've always wanted to do but are afraid of?
Not sure. I've done so many things I wanted to do, and I did it, even if it was scary. My goal is to not have regrets or wonder if I missed something that's close to my heart. Something that is left might be taking a year off work. It is scary, worrying about the finances, but I would like to take some extended time off to spend with the family. We'll see what time brings...

2. Where do you see yourself in five years?
In our house, with nice neighbors, maybe a step up the ladder at work, just enjoying life...

3. What are you looking forward to before the end of 2013?
The things I'm always looking forward in the second part of the year. Fall, the holiday season. Maybe getting the house done and move in before the end of the year, but that's still a BIG maybe.

4. What are your hopes for your blog?
To continue having fun writing, keep up the relationships with other bloggers I was lucky enough to establish. My focus on what is important in blogging certainly has changed in these last few months, but I actually like it better how it turned out than the scenario I had planned for initially.

5. Do you always see yourself living in your current city or town?
Maybe not exactly this town, but definitely this area. We're currently living in a small suburb and love it here, it's perfect for raising a family. But once the kids are safely out of the house, we might want to move into the city just to be even closer to everything.

6. What is your morning routine?
Getting up, brush my teeth, make-up, getting dressed, packing breakfast and coffee, kiss the hubby and the girls good-bye and head out around 7:40 to catch the bus. Sometimes, there's brushing teeth with the girls, making kindergarten lunch for the girls, morning cuddles, etc. My mornings are never the same  ;-)

Ok, ready to take on this new week!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Week in Review - Ten Things of Thankful (5)

I have to say, this week just flew by. We were so busy, unexpectant things have happened, and it finally seems that we might have a house there pretty soon! More details on that later. Here are my top ten of things I am incredible thankful for:

1. Having 30 days of paid leave per year. I love having so much time off for spending time with the family and decompress.

2. Getting to sleep in - sometimes.

3. Running partners. So much better running with someone than by myself.

4. The genius who invented caprese salad.

5. The Bridget Jones movies.

6. Sunshine and parks.

7. German beer gardens and play grounds.

8. Awesome customer service.

9. Silliness in all its facettes.

10. Birthday parties in wildlife parks.

As always, thank you so much for hosting this link-up, Lizzi! Can't wait to read all the other posts!

Ten Things of Thankful

Friday, August 16, 2013

Some Things Do Change

Finish the Sentence Friday

A Friday after a two-day work week somehow does not feel like a Friday, but it obviously is, because it's once again time to link up with Janine and Kate for Finish The Sentence Friday. Today's cue:

I used to love...

... going out and party. I would be looking forward to the Thursday nights in Bamberg. It was €1-shot night at the local Irish pub; two of my friends would buy ourselves one drink, and then drink the rest of the night on the soldiers' tabs and end the night dancing at the Green Goose. I got about 2 or 3 hours of sleep before going to class on Friday and was ready to hang out at my second living room, the Graffiti at Saturday night, playing pool and having fun with my friends, meeting new people or catching up with acquaintances we would meet by accident. Saturday night would either be the Graffiti again, it just never got old, or we would head out and dance the night away in one of the clubs. I could not have imagined my life any different, until it started to get old. I did not feel like clubbing any more or get hammered.

Nowadays, I sometimes feel old when I need at least 8 hours of sleep to function. I feel old when much older colleagues tell me about partying on the weekends. But I am much happier. I love my life of spending weekends on the couch, or hanging out with friends. Having a family to come home to instead of partying my loneliness away. I have found myself, and I have found love.

PayBack - Writing For "I Can Say Mama"

Last week, while I was away, Joy kindly filled in for me. While she's visiting a friend in Austria with her sweet littly Sunny, I'm repaying the favor and filling in for her today. Head over to Joy at I Can Say Mama to find out my personal top three of things NOT to do while travelling with young kids, all tried (and survived) tips. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Family Vacation Recap

After my first day of work today, I’ve really settled in back home after our vacation. Even though it was stressful for hubby and me to entertain the girls all day long, we all had such a great time. Here’s a little recap of our first real family vacation ever!

After packing and cleaning in the morning, we headed out shortly after lunch. The car ride was easy;  we arrived after about 2.5 hours at our destination and moved into our vacation rental. The girls got the bedroom while hubby and I took the fold-out beds on the gallery. After some unpacking we went into town for some exploring and learned that the store closes in this neck of the woods even earlier than everywhere else and we would not be able to shop until Monday. We had a light salad dinner before getting the girls ready for bed and enjoying some couch time.

Violet having fun at the slide

 It was a really hot day, so we decided to spend it at the local lake. The girls played at the playground in the morning and spent the afternoon splashing. The water was icy and we had to pull Violet out a few times to avoid hypothermia. We had a picnic lunch at the lake and returned to the apartment for naptime in the late afternoon. Before dinner we planned on exploring the local labyrinth and eat at the outdoor restaurant, but just as we headed out, wind picked up and it cooled down a lot. The sky promised a nice thunderstorm, so we decided to return to the apartment and have pasta and tomato sauce for dinner there. Yet another quiet night for mommy and daddy, watching the thunderstorm, catching up on "The Unoverse", and discussing physics.

Lily taking a dip in the lake

We finally got to go shopping in the morning and stocked up on fresh fruit, veggies, and yogurt. In the late morning we headed out to explore the tree path, a bridge-like construction at tree level only a few minutes’ drive from our vacation home. We all loved it, even though I became really uneasy at the panorama point, when people started to really sway the bridge. Besides the walkway, there was a nature path for the girls to learn a lot about the forest as a natural habitat; before the summer break, Lily’s kindergarten class covered the topic “forest”, so she especially liked to tell her sister about the different trees, animals, and mushrooms. We had fun at the cave of visual illusions and at the petting zoo, where Lily met llama Lilly. After lunch we checked out the upside-down house, which was not too good an idea for Lily, who became rather nauseous. We returned to our home rather exhausted in the early evening, had a light lunch and turned in for the night fairly early.
The girls with the owl

Walking at tree-level

We were all very excited and decided to have a break and spend the day at the playground, explore the park, and just relax. We really needed this break! Hubby and I spent the evening after the girls had gone to bed trying to figure out a new role playing game that he had owned for years but never unpacked. We did not find it very playable unfortunately, and hubby was quite disappointed.

Fun at the playground

I had found a flyer on a wildlife park a good 45 minutes away. We packed in the girls after their nap and headed out. There were a lot of animals from the local wildlife and a little petting zoo with goats to feed and the cutest little bunnies you can image! We all had fun, even though Lily swears that she was SOOOO bored (how will she be as a teenager, I wonder??). We decided to forgo watching the wolf feeding to feed the bunnies a little more (to be honest, I was out-voted by the family..). On the way home we picked up salad makings and had a quick dinner before the girls turned in for the night. We played some games and enjoyed just being together.

The girls feeding the goats

Yet again, a morning at the park. The girls just loved the playground and spent most of the morning playing with a couple of other kids, running around and just enjoying themselves. That gave the two of us a much-needed break. After an early afternoon nap we headed out to explore a local curiosity, a little labyrinth with a riddle to be solved. It was a lot smaller as I had thought, but the girls had fun; the riddle was solved at the end and we all rewarded with fresh popcorn. The girls went on to play with other kids there, and hubby and I enjoyed the view. We had dinner there and headed back home for the girls' bedtime. We enjoyed yet another beautiful thunderstorm with racing clouds in the valley.

Violet navigating the labyrinth

Lily sharing her seat with the cat

The weather was overcast and cool this morning, but Richard was convinced it would clear up and get warmer later. So we packed up the kids and headed to a nearby amusement park with a summer bob sled. I was scared and Violet enjoyed the speed, so much she rather went with daddy the second time around. The girls enjoyed the arcade games, the trampoline, the playgrounds, and all the other fun stuff there. During lunch, it started to rain and cool off even more. When even an hour later, it still hasn't gotten better, we decided to head back to the vacation rental, pack up and drive home a day early as there was not really much to do for us any more and our beds were not very comfortable. 
Daddy and Missy Violet in a speed rush

Lily on the trampoline

We were exhausted when we arrived home, and slept so well in our own beds that night. Lily and Violet were happy to have their toys back and Violet has been sleeping with her new pink elephant ever since. We are so glad we had the opportunity to go on this vacation to decompress, have a change of scenery, reconnect, and last but not least have a new appreciation for home.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It's Time - And I'm Unprepared and In Denial

Folks, the title says it all. On Sunday, I had to face a truth that I neither expected nor was in any way prepared for: My latest craft that needs to be started (and finished this week).

Preparing for the visit of the tooth fairy here VERY soon!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I'm Back!!

Hi everyone! A few days later as planned, but I'm back and ready to continue. Thank you all for reading and commenting throughout the week, I was amazed! Special thanks to my awesome guest posters last week.

It took me a few extra days to be back on due to internet issues here. In case anyone wonders, I can happily recommend Telecom, their customer service was outstanding!

While I am "settling back" into my routine, here are a few pictures of our vacation last week:

The lake

Upside-Down House (with furniture inside); Lily was VERY uncomfortable

The three of us on one of the thrones of the wind spirits

The girls with the mascot of the wildlife park

Feeding duckies

Having fun at the theme park