Good resolutions…

peonies

…to post more …. Ehm…!! And I really wanted to take you all on the road to how we went about plannig our summer holidays and leave the island without a car, but with a dog.  This was pretty much our main point of focus over the past months. Let me say this much: you’ve got to be a good researcher and/or be persistent or both – or have money, which – as we all know – solves a lot of problems.  Micro is not going to travel as far as one of his girlfriends, Grace this summer (well, he only has two girlfriends, probably in case one is not at the dog park… ) otherwise he loves a (tennis) ball best of all. Anyway, Grace will spend her summer with her family in the States (can a dog have a frequent flyer pass?), and Micro is coming with us to Spain – and since we can’t disguise him as our hairy cousin Fred to take him into the Eurostar (no animals allowed), we needed some other options.

First of all avoid under all circumstances (unless you want to pay a lot of money) renting a car and leaving the UK with it. Because of driving on the other side of the road, the breakdown cover cost will turn your hair white. So leave the island and rent a car on the other side:

Solution (1) There is one ferry that takes dogs in kennels on the boat, so you don’t need a car: LD line ferries Newhaven to Dieppe or Portsmouth to Le Havre.This is, if you want the South of France, Spain or Portugal, like we do.

Solution (2) for those who want The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland or some other country in that part of the world, you can go from Harwich to Hoek van Holland, Amsterdam or Rotterdam.

Solution (3) You can pay a cab in Folkstone to drive you (and your furry friend) onto the train and through the channel tunnel.

Solution (4) There are numerous agencies (no, really lots and lots of them) that take your pet and drive it to its destination all over Europe. But unless you’re moving and selling your car, what’s the point? Travelling together is much more fun (hopefully).

This website is an absolutely amazing resource in case you want to know more. I’ve also done a lot of reading on the German side of the dogforum – why is the UK side not nearly as active? – to find out what sorts of things we need to buy/ask the vet before we go. Thankfully, people at the dog place have been amazing with tips and tricks on what to do and what to buy and what to avoid. If you leave me a comment or question, I’ll let you know what we thought would be useful to have for Micro.

And after carefully listing all the options/solutions and costs … we went for solution (5) and signed the contract on a car lease. Micro has since learned that he is the owner of a small car that takes him to fun places like Richmond Park or (probably even better) Wimbledon Common, where he had a play date with two other dogs. It does make you feel like arranging play dates for little kids, though… :-) We also had to learn that our landlord carefully withheld the information that this flat wasn’t going to get a parking permit (so that you can park the car on the street, without paying a fortune or not at all in some areas), even though we asked the agency about that when we moved it. This confronted us with a complete new set of problems, and (in my case) sleepless nights. It gives you that nice special feeling of stupidity, when you go up to the person at the counter in the council office asking for a parking permit and they tell you that you live in a no-car-flat… which should technically be in the contract you signed. But this being the island and not Germany, where we would certainly have called the Mieterschutzbund the same day, you’re left to fend for yourself. After the mouse infestation in January, more than 2 months of building works, letting people go into our flat without giving us the tiniest notice before, accusing our dog of soiling the communal hallway, which he has not done ( and which, btw I’m the only one to clean, not only regularly, but at all) -  for the first time in my life I did understand tenants that trash a place. It shouldn’t be like that. Anyway, you live and learn. Now we can sit back and figure out which way we will be driving down to Spain, so that we can stop for little doggie and some walks on the way. We have a lovely walk through a pine wood in Spain and I’ve also found that there is a dog beach (squeeek!) super close by. Although we can only take him in the morning or evenings so he will not burn his little paws.

Now you know what we’ve been up to over the past weeks. Hope your weeks were more full of ups rather than downs.

 

Rain and sunshine

microthedogThis week might have been shorter, but it surely felt like it had 3 Wednesdays or so, and the on-and-off rain didn’t help. Hiding at home with a dog is not an option as you will know if you have one. Why, why can’t he keep himself busy like a cat? Oh, yes, he’s still a young dog…. (sigh). If it rains, he’s not going outside (he’ll give you the my-fur-is-going-to-be-wet-you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me look), but he will happily sprint into the little pond in Richmond Park to go for a swim…go figure.  The weather app has never been so useful! Right now doggy pretends to be sleeping by snoring loudly… how is anyone getting any work done with such a funny dog?

The great event this week, however, was that I have become an auntie for the second time. Favourite nephew no.2 made his entrance on Wednesday morning at 2am: excellent date: he shares his birthday with Johannes Brahms, Peter I. Tchaikovsky and Gary Cooper – great music and good looks day :-) He is very long and thin like his brother was, and my sister and BIL are still pondering names, so currently he’s still #Minimum. I haven’t spoken to anyone yet (I was on the phone with my sister until about 3 hours before she gave birth, though….which meant I didn’t sleep much either that night, but, hey, these things don’t happen every day, so what!). My sister sent texts and everyone emailed tons of pictures. My parents drove over literally in the middle of the night to be there when little A woke up (who was in the care of the landlords/neighbours who adore him). A little sad that we live too far away to just go over, but very happy that everything went well and everyone is healthy! Welcome to the world little man!

Long weekend ahead

Technically, this is a birthday weekend (my mom and sister), but since we are already back on the island, we’re going to celebrate them (and tea) from our living room. (On this note: G discovered a Mariage Frères counter in Selfridges, how cool is that! And, I guess we’re probably the last ones to find that out!)

What’s on the list for this weekend? Hmm, we will be attempting to put out new plants on the balcony.  Weather and paint on balcony permitting (please put down that second coat of paint, so that we can get rid of the plant pots from the living room table!). This time we’ll purchase expanded clay (or similar) with the new compost/potting soil. Almost all the plants drowned this winter, because the soil was soaking wet. I also would like to buy scented pelagonium(s) – I wanted some for years, no idea why I completely lost that thought and here is the place to get them. What exactly am I waiting for…? New lavender and rosemary (which had some weird black bugs in their roots killing them off), maybe some sempervivum (or sempervivi rather, one by itself looks a bit forlorn). The Latin name is prettier than the German Dachwurz or Hauswurz (not easy words to pronounce for English speakers…but, I digress), although G’s not terribly fond of them. Maybe some Bamboo or medium high grass, definitely some chicken wire (or similar) to prevent Micro from having an accident by squeezing his head through the balcony bars….

And then obviously, depending on the weather, reading, knitting or sewing or going on walks with Micro – and with rain on the radar again, maybe we should really invest in rain boots…? Well, that sounds like a lot to look forward to. What are your plans? Hope you’re having a fantastic weekend!

Easter Roadtrip 2014

roadtrip2014

Roadtrip 2014 – about to leave the island

We had been planning to go home for a while and show Micro to our families – somehow it felt really weird that they only saw the dog on pictures or via skype while he became such a big part of our lives. BUT (sorry for shouting, it HAS to spelled with capital letters) leaving or retuning to the island (as we call it) with a pet is not an easy task. The options if you don’t own a car are:

1) By plane. Should be ok, with the exception that no one knows if the dog is traumatised by the loud noise. Going to Germany would be fine, Lufthansa allows dogs up to 8kg (including carrier) in the main cabin, but coming back – that is a whole other story. Pets only travel as cargo to the UK and can only be transported by specialised firms (cost: about £800 each way for a small dog such as ours) and you can’t travel from every airport. For us that would have meant travelling down to Frankfort to be able to fly back. Plus, you need to be there 4 hours before the flight (or something like it). Not an option, then.

2) By train. One would think this an easy choice, however, while pets travel for free on trains in almost all European countries (depending on the dog’s size, you might need a children’s ticket), there are no pets accepted on the Eurostar (service dogs, of course, excluded). This is currently the only option to leave the island by train. Deutsche Bahn is going to offer direct trains, but despite having been granted permission and having run a trial in 2010, this is only pencilled into the diary for 2016. So for now, that’s a no, too.

3) Sharing a ride (e.g. via blabla car), a good option, however, with two people and a dog in a crate travelling together, plus luggage, it’s not easy to find a person which that much space, and of course you never know if you agree with how the other person is driving or if the driver’s going to be annoyed if the dog needs a lot of bathrooms breaks (which is difficult to predict with a young dog)… suboptimal solution, but possible.

4) Multiple trains and ferry to avoid the Eurostar – a lot of stress for everyone involved, not to mention that carrying the dog in the crate is not an easy task in itself. Suboptimal solution.

5) Book a rental car. Doable – except for the extra fee that you need to pay, because one does drive on the wrong side of the road (here or in the rest of Europe, depending on how you see it) which means that you cannot leave the car at any other rental point, but instead have to have special off-the-island roadside cover. Hertz offered us a good deal with no extra cost… until we arrived at the rental station and got forced to pay an extra £105, despite having a paper that said ‘price guaranteed’ and having being upfront when renting over the phone, that the purpose of renting a car was taking it our of the country … according to the person working at the Heathrow rental station, one needs a piece of paper authorising the person who rents the car to leave the country with said car – or one would be send back at the border. (Am I the only one who every so often gets the feeling of being lied to at these rental stations?) Bottom line: no one wanted to see this piece of paper when we left and re-entered the country, which was supposedly oh-so-important to have…. we’re working the small issue of wanting reimbursement for Hertz either mis-selling or outright lying to us – whichever it may be.

So, our road-trip started off a little tense, but as soon as we were on the ferry (despite being slightly worried to leave Micro all alone in the crate in the car) we enjoyed watching the sun bouncing off the water while happily chatting away.

Micro did great on his very first long road trip, managed to cope with being in a crate, going for small walks and eating on service areas or being driven around in his very own doggy buggy at the outlet centre.

VID – Very Important Dog

In Germany, we threw a very small ‘big brother – little brother party’ for little A, which basically consisted of him unpacking presents over a longer breakfast. We had bought him a book and I designed a poster for his big boy room (see here for my inspiration). The heading was ‘Dragon Boy Found’, since this was his costume for carnival. He was also allowed to unpack the presents we had made for his little brother (onesies) and the nursing cover sewn for my sister.

big brother – little brother

We had sewn a onesie and a t-shirt and designed a matching dragon/dinosaur logo (first time ever working with freeze paper, G did an amazing job cutting it all out!). Becoming a big brother is definitely something that occupies little A’s mind and I got all sorts of questions at random times about what a big brother had to do (I’m the big sister), like would he have to look after his little brother. He would then wander off and ponder the answer in his little head. It must feel a bit surreal, since he can see his mother getting bigger, but he can’t see the ‘final product’ (if you want) just yet, though he knows babies and is generally good with them. Helping to get his future brother dressed in matching shirts was definitely something that he was looking forward to – one down, loads more to conquer, I guess….

G drove off to see her parents for a couple of days and took Micro with her, so they got to meet him as well and he got to play with their dog, Balou.  He learned how to settle down by himself if he is tired, and generally gained a little more confidence. It was definitely weird being dog-free, since I’m the one who is usually around Micro all the time!

Now we’re back here (and in the midst of a tube strike) waiting for the first May bank holiday. Lots more road-trips to plan!

Squeek

via hellopetersen.com

…isn’t he cute? I wish I would feel half as lively as this little fellow today! We’re back from our trip back home, very happy but slightly exhausted: two late birthdays, one big brother shower and two birthday preps, everyone cuddling with Micro (maybe not G’s parents’ dog, but the two of them did play together),  little A experiencing what it means to have a dog (going on walks with A holding the end of the leash and Micro connected to the other end of the leash makes one feel like a circus director in the middle… lots of fun), still waiting for ‘Minimum’ to be born (although there were moments we thought it would happen right there) and therefore lots of back-rubs for my sister, starting the grilling season in my parents’ garden and trying to buy a basket for the bike (and huge thanks to my favourite bike shop Hanssen for cutting out all the crap we heard in the pet shop and giving us clear advice, like always, even though this time we couldn’t buy anything- you guys rock!). This gives you a glimpse of what we squeezed into last week.

If you follow us on instagram you’ll have seen that we posted some pictures. I’m trying to write a longer blog post, but the flat needs cleaning … the house is being painted…and this is all I’m going to say about it – this time.  If it doesn’t rain we’ll try to take Micro to Richmond Park (now that we have a 10-metre leash and a Frisbee) on the weekend, and there will be new coffee (and I have a feeling there could be blueberry waffles as well) – have a wonderful weekend!

Happy Friday

So happy it’s nearly the weekend! Currently I’m sitting on the observation post sofa with little doggie curled up on my lap in order not to miss a delivery that I’ve expected to arrive from home (the other home) since last Monday already! Between Deutsche Post and Royal Mail they manage to not find me here at home (well, no idea where they were, but not here: they didn’t even post a missed-you-will-deliver-again-card, I conclude: they weren’t at my place) and then professed that my address didn’t exist…. We will see if DHL will come through – at least they text in advance…

This also means that my Friday cleaning schedule is somehow off, since there is no point in steaming (or even, God forbid, hoovering). Also, no point in working since this requires headphones, and I know that I won’t hear anything else around me once I start this. On the upside, I’m upgrading my knowlegde about how to get rid of secondary smoke (or better insulate the apartment) thanks to this great post on apartment therapy. Some really cool stuff, like this door draft excluder (which would also work against the mice – must keep that list updated too!). The shop also sells sash window gap seal (aaaahh, yes!!) and a floorboard gap seal. OMG! How I wish, we had that when we were still living in the house (no more snails in the kitchen, J!)! Now I know! Still need to figure out how to insulate the electrical outlet. Is it safe to use spray foam? Any ideas?

The weekend to-do list foresees a lot of sewing. I have already finished the nursing cover (though not totally happy with the tension the machine gave me for the finishing seams, need to work on that one) and a travel document holder for little doggie (it’s more like having a little child….document-wise). We still need the plastic bag holder chicken, the matching big bro/little bro t-shirts/onesies and perhaps new passport covers for us (the privacy insulation cover is very effective, but just plain ugly). There is one more very important point on the list: sample the new coffee (which also should be delivered today) tomorrow morning, together with blueberry pancakes. (With our dog you can forget about sleeping in – you need the coffee! – although he does occasionally sleep until 8:30, which is way longer than my sister gets with her three year old son). In the absence of a waffle iron, which died after the last event of ‘beautiful failures’ when the dough stuck (or fused) to the waffle iron, it’s pancakes instead of waffles, but hey, they still taste great – and we should not forget the bacon to go with it! Hope you have a happy Friday and a great weekend!

Spring A-Z

Hello spring, how much I missed you! Is it safe to say you’ve arrived in London without jinxing it…??  I really hope so! Getting to enjoy the sunshine, eating ice cream, watching the little green leaves grow….  these are my a-z things I would like to do:

A – affogato – people, it’s time for ice cream again!

B – babies  – or rather visiting babies (+ my own little new nephew; ETA: next month and current code name: Minimum – that’s what favourite nephew no. 1 calls his new brother…)

C – coffee – we get it delivered every 2 weeks now by pact coffee – best coffee we have had. We choose to get a different one every time, keeps it fresh (and no, this is not a sponsored thing; they have no idea that I’m writing this)

D – daylight, we see much more of you!

E – eau de parfum, I’ll need to choose a new one – difficult task.

F – family, we’ll see you for Easter!

G – Germany (see road-trip/family) going home so that everyone can get to know the dog, the dog gets to see deer (not sure that is a great thing, but they live in the woods around my parents’ place, so we’ll have to live with it…), going to the zoo (and yes, doggie can come with us, just not into the open cages – and since he’s mellow enough, we might try that), throwing my sister (or better my favourite nephew no. 1) a ‘you’re going to be a big brother’ party

H – hope. Always in spring: hope in general and hope for a small garden, preferably not too far from town, alternatively for a stunning balcony – which has to wait since the house will be painted this month.

I – ideas. We have lots of ideas and new projects, I would really love to see some of them coming through.

J – jam, make some jam for breakfast, we have saved so many jars, it should be possible.

K – knit and finish this jumper – before it’s too warm to wear it.

L – live, rather than exist, which I have done the past 8 months and I didn’t like it at all. It felt like my life and my health were slipping though my fingers, and quickly. This month marks my 18th anniversary in my second life: 18 years that I should not have seen, time to remember not to waste it.

M – meet people, old friends, make new friends.

N – nuts, make more granola and enjoy the smell of drying nuts sifting through the flat (and have something lovely for breakfast)

O – organise or stay organised – this would help in case of a new mouse invasion… with this in mind I upgraded our ‘cleaning park’ and bought a steam cleaner – after my Dad pragmatically said, if you rent the steam cleaner more than twice you might as well buy it… well, what can I say? He’s right.

P- pancakes for weekend breakfasts – need more of them (and weekends, they are gone too fast)  the blueberry pancakes go very well together with bacon as I discovered. Try it, you’ll see.

Q – quince, figure out a way how to do quince jelly without using preserving sugar… it’s not the season right now, but it might be a good time to investigate that.

R – road-trips – love them, try to do more of them and visit places, take the dog for a ride, go to the sea (see: vacation)

S – sew – sit. down. and. sew! Use the high from the sewing bee series to sew more again. Just do it! (Hmm, sounds a bit like the Nike slogan…)

T – twigs, get some in the house, hang some Easter egg on it, see the flowers coming out.

U – unpack summer clothes (hello, good-weather-shoes!)

V – vacations (see road-trip) go to France and pick up all the things we love and can’t get here (or only overpriced) in supermarkets and pharmacies. Go back home and do the same. Do things for fun (novel concept…)

W – write more regularly

X – xylophone – avoid! Go for bird song instead (do you have any idea how many words with x exist… not much choice here)

Y – Yoghurt – use the yoghurt maker – much – more!

Z – za’atar try to find more recipes to use this in the kitchen,  so far we only have the amazing chickpea salad – there must be more.

That’s my list for spring. What are you going to do?

 

Welcoming the new Glossybox

If I needed any proof at all that I am constantly running behind, this blogpost is further proof: almost two weeks after the event, I am finally getting to blog… so lean back, grab a cup of coffee and take a minute for a little smile (or smirk):

15th February, and the new Glossybox has arrived! Micro was (at least) as excited as we were: some lovely things to play with. And while he helped us to unpack the box, I think he might just have been a little more excited about the box than we were about the contents… Do you know the feeling of popping bubble wrap bubbles? If you get into it, it’s really quite addictive – and once started, you will not stop (and definitely not have any ‘emergency’ bubble wrap for posting emergencies…). Well, Micro’s bubble wrap is a cardboard box. He is in love…

Micro is at least as excited about the arrival of the Glossybox as we are….

… and the box was expertly dis-assembled as he proceeded to “help”…

… until it was finished to complete satisfaction.

 

Anyway, M, Micro and I wish you a happy Friday!

Meet Micro

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. Whilst the war against our very own terror (read: mouse infestation) was still raging, it's been a time of endings and new beginnings at what feels like lightening speed. I'll let M write about endings – as the saying goes: 'Besser ein Ende mit Schrecken as ein Schrecken ohne Ende'…. translates something like 'Better to have a dreadful end than dread without end'.

One of our 'new beginnings' is called Micro (short for 'Microbus' or a small French bus) and officially became part of our family a couple of weeks ago! We are the proudest, most happy, and slightly over-tired adoptive 'parents'. Ever since I ventured out after finishing high school – and I won't tell just how long that's been – I have been dreaming of having a dog again one day. There were many good reasons not to, with extensive travel and long working hours amongst the most pertinent ones. M and I have been sharing a home for over 11 years now, and the plan was to have a cat and a dog when we had settled somewhere (likely not in the UK) with a nice – slightly larger (!!) – home and a garden. But with everything that has been going on over the past year – the relationship ups and downs, professional challenges (to say the least), and health struggles, M put the question out there: 'what are we waiting for? Why aren't we looking into what it would take to adopt a rescue dog?'.

Well, we asked our landlady for permission, which was gladly granted, and started doing our research, looking at rescue centres and RSPCA websites, etc….. Two weeks after meeting Micro at the RSPCA kennel, he came home with us, and we haven't looked back :-)

He is quickly learning new tricks, loves to cuddle and use us as human sleeping cushions, and has made friends with staff and owner of our favourite cafe (see above), which is perfectly located half way to the park. I (almost) don't mind that he wanted to go for a walk and a wee at 5am this morning…..

Anyway, got to go…. Micro has woken up and it's time to head into the park for the second half of our Sunday walk. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!! And let us know if you can think of good games to play and tricks to teach.

Proofing the flat or discovering the horror

New Year, new game. When I wrote: change will come in January, this one wasn’t one I had in mind! Let me set the scene for why we are not dog-, but mouse-proofing our flat…. it all started out when we came home last week (in a movie this would be the time for rain and scary music, but in real life there was jazz music playing and the sun was shining, well, I guess that’s life contra movie, but if you want to, you can switch on scary music while you continue on to read this).

Before our first breakfast back here (and can someone please explain, why I always find these things before breakfast??) we discovered that unbekownst to us, we apparently ‘sub-let’ the flat to what now feels like a cohort of mice (going back to Roman times: a cohort is 1/10 of a legion, which was about a 4,000 men – means a cohort is about 400).  That first day (that Sunday, before breakfast) all we had to throw away were our (still unopened) bags of ground almonds (Waitrose: your brand of ground almonds are no challenge to the teeth of mice, let me tell you), the IKEA Branäs baskets – apparently willow and acrylic paint are on the mouse menu as well as our loose tea (still unopened bags as well). Not sure what they did with the tea, but it looked like the Boston tea party in the baskets. All the rest of the food (i.e. unopened bags of nuts, etc that hadn’t been attacked or discovered by the mice) was stored in the fridge or in glass/hard plastic containers. We thought (naive as we were) we had managed to keep them away. Not really… Next day the two other Branäs baskets were chewed and some signs of mouse presence were unmistakingly left there and on the carpet (eeeeeeeek!). G casually mentioned we needed to check behind the sofa as well…and I was still thinking, no way they were going there as well, and forgot about it…until Friday, when I looked behind the sofa for the toolbox, in preparation for the weekend January Cure chores. I quickly got the picture that I was completely wrong and mice had had a party behind the sofa- they also read (or shredded) a couple of old editions of Die Zeit (the German newspaper), which I had kept under the sofa in case I needed paper for protection (e.g. painting projects). The Brigitte magazine, however, hadn’t been touched – should we now conclude that these were male mice (Brigitte is targeted for women) or that Brigitte uses mouse repellent paper/colour print…? Working my way around the sofa, I found a (suicidal?) mouse that passed away in a our large glass vase.  At this point, I lost it (completely) and made G come back home from work to help clean up – which is what you see in the picture. Some time spent on the beloved internet search machine told us that mice will eat –  wait for it – EVERYTHING and (German) pest control sites advised to store everything in glass or plastic containers. This includes (but is not limited to) clothes and shoes. We also learned that gap from about 0.5cm upwards is not a challenge for a mouse to squeeze through. Happy times! Thankfully, all our wool and fabric stash was stored away safely in hard plastic boxes, but as I found out yesterday, the private letters in my chest of drawers were not so lucky. They will all have to go, too. To give you an idea of what I have to part with: a card from my first boyfriend (when I was 17) and a cheer-up letter from my sister from the time I was really ill.  Things that I kept with me even when moving here, because they meant so much to me. Heartbroken! But I can’t keep chewed, peed and xxx (hm, censured) on things at home, especially not, when there is a warning about a growing risk of the hanta virus in mice sh… hmm, legacy. I am not sure what to do if they go into our books and the sheet music…

In Germany it is the landlord’s task to make sure that no pests (that includes mice) are in the property, and rent can be withheld up to 100% if this isn’t done, but apparently here that’s not the case – so we deal with it step by step. We can get the pest control in, but because of the layout of our flat it wouldn’t make sense to just do our flat and not the one above and below (and, no, funnily I don’t want to pay for those, too).  We are still completely baffled why we had what feels like a cohort of mice in the first place. We left no food lying around while we were away, except for unopened bags (like the ground almonds), but we have done this here, as well as in other places, many times and there was never a mouse in sight.  Did you have similar experiences? Did you find anything that helped? If you have any tips for us, please leave a comment!

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