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Kindergarten Fun (TGC)

Yes, this is a German Chronicles post on a Friday. My week has been kind of topsy-turvy.

For the first time in a long time, I have a FAQ that I want to answer. Why isn’t Kayla in a preschool/nursery school/kindergarten?

The short answer is because Germany. I’m guessing that’s not what you want, though.

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On Excess

We entered 2017 to a chorus of whistles, glittery explosions, pops and sizzles. Fireworks. Hours and hours worth of fireworks.

Just to keep you in the know – in South Africa, fireworks are pretty much illegal. The minority of people still shoot these pretties to celebrate the new year, but on the whole, it’s a big no-no where I come from. For the greater part of my life, I only saw fireworks on special occasions, and then never on a large scale.

You can imagine how weird it was when we came to Germany. Here, tradition dictates that you shoot away all the bad things from the last year, so that you start the new year with a clean slate. The fireworks start when the first early watch says it’s midnight and pretty much continues well into the next morning – this year, it was about 6 o’clock on January 1st.

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Snow Day

If you’ve hung around the blog, you’ll know we’re a family of South Africans living in Germany. Johannesburg is our hometown, and is overall not a very snowy place. In fact, we’re used to truckloads of sunshine all year round, with some thunderstorms in the warm season.

We find European weather a strange phenomenon. Here we have misty drizzle and near-constant overcast in the winter, with weather patterns that shift because a baby farted. One thing we’re particularly fond of, though, is snow.

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Neuschwanstein Trip

We’ve been ogling this castle for a looooong time. You know how I feel about castles to begin with, but this one was kind of special, and not just because it’s the template for the Disney castle. Imagine this place, with its majestic spires and pristine white bricks, keeping its vigil on the side of a snow-covered mountain, rising above a thin veil of mist. It’s the kind of thing fairytales are born of.

Even if you ignore the incredible imagery that the area has to offer, the history of Neuschwanstein is really interesting – a fairytale backstory in itself. The castle was commissioned by a mad king, who was so indebted to his people because of his obsession with building this castle, that he was taken into custody. While under arrest, he was mysteriously killed while strolling with his psychiatrist, and both bodies were found in a lake. To this day, nobody knows what happened or who killed them. Read more on Wiki.

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Munich Zoo

Hello, all you lovely folks. Hope you had a good weekend.

As I mentioned on Friday, our trip to Munich ended in a zoo, because of a three-year-old’s heartfelt request. For this reason, we braved the cold, ignored the patches of snow on the ground, and went to see some animals.

The highlight of the zoo trip was the aquarium, because it took us out of the cold (win!) and Kayla ADORES fish. Might have mentioned that before.

This zoo was interesting in that it has a lot of indoor areas, built to simulate the climate of the natural habitats the animals would typically live in. With this came the plants, birds etc that would be grouped in each area. Zoo visitors can enter each of these spaces and observe the animals through massive glass panes.

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Sightseeing in Pöking and Munich

I mentioned on Wednesday that our journey to Munich began on a rainy Sunday morning. We’ve never been to any other German state, so this was a big trip for us, especially considering how much we wanted to see Bavaria.

We’ve been told on many occasions, by both Germans and non-Germans, how incredibly different Bavaria is from the rest of Germany – so much so that they speak a completely different dialect of German there and have their own customs and laws. Maybe it’s because we convinced ourselves it would almost be like another country, but we didn’t find it so unfamiliar.

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Book Review – The Babylon Eye

When I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it, because the story seemed so unique. So, when I was sent a copy to review, I was pretty much over the moon. Also a little worried, because I so hate giving bad reviews. I’m one of those people who’ll praise the things / people I like until I run out of breath, but avoid talking about something I don’t like rather than give bad crit. I know, I suck. Still, I was worried – what if this book didn’t do it for me?

Well, Masha du Toit delivered! I’m happy to tell you The Babylon Eye is an amazing read, anyone will enjoy. In fact, it’s one of my favourite books of the year, with one of the most interesting settings / plots I’ve read in a long time.

Oh, I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? 😛 I’ll try to do this review without spoilers, but I can’t promise anything.

The first thing that drew me to the book was the cover. I mean, look at it! This is so beautiful IMO, that it’s impossible to ignore.

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Surviving German Christmas Markets

So, the time of year is officially here, as I mentioned the other day. Today I want to talk about the markets in depth, and maybe give some advice to first-time market-goers, because this stuff can be a little overwhelming.

The markets are a pretty amazing part of the German Christmas experience, even if you don’t like Christmas. Or the cold. Or crowds, for that matter.

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Kayla’s Birthday Blog

My baby turned three yesterday, folks. Three. I can’t even.

I baked the cake on Monday afternoon, cleaned the house, wrapped the gifts and then Jan and I decorated the cake in the evening.

We woke up to Kayla bellowing something about her birthday party yesterday morning. 🙂 From there on, it was gift opening, playing, crafts, skype sessions, her friend coming over, cake and waffle eating. We ended the day with a stroll through the city centre and a happy meal – which I didn’t photograph.

 

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My WIP – Tree Decorating and Tower-scapes

We spent Kayla’s first two Christmases in South Africa, but for the one she was 6 weeks old and for the other, just over a year. So I doubt she remembers much. Last year, we didn’t want to make too much of a fuss, because our apartment was still temporary and we didn’t want to buy too much stuff to have to move with. That meant we had no tree. Still, I think she was too young to really appreciate all of the Christmassy stuff.

This year though, Kayla demanded that we buy and decorate a tree.

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The Threes

My kid will turn three in under a week, can you believe it? I struggle to.

Kayla is a happy, sweet little person. She loves to cuddle and kiss and say ‘I love you, Mama’, which obviously melts my heart. She and I have a blast together, and that’s a good thing, considering she’s home with me all the time. Honestly, I adore her and being her mom.

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To Be Proud

When I first started writing, I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t, but I’m growing. If there’s one thing in life I hate, it’s stagnating. I’ve mentioned this before.

Where writing is concerned, I really think I have grown and I try to learn more with every word squeezed out through my fingertips. All I want to do is share the stories in my mind with you, in such a way that you and I pass something between us telepathically, like Stephen King says. I want the stories that keep me up at night, to keep you up too.

So, growing.

These are my first babies.

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My WIP – Where Did Autumn Go?

First of all, I apologise for missing yet another blog post on Friday. I went to my German lesson as always, then received the bad news that one of our doggies in South Africa passed away. I was really sad and shocked by the news, which really just jumbled my mind, I accomplished nothing for the day.

Along with that, Kayla is almost three and Kayla approves of nothing because she is almost three. Good grief, sometimes motherhood is difficult.

Anyway, this weekend went in much the same fashion as our weekends tend to go lately. We met with Mario and Plamena for coffee on Friday afternoon. I totally had ice cream, because, reasons.

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South Africanisms

We seldom think about our unique English dialect. Or at least, we didn’t think much about how we spoke in the past. Then we moved to Germany.

It was first brought to my attention that we have a quirky way of speaking, due to the word shame. Of course I’d known that South Africans say things with their own flair, but that was the first time this uniqueness was brought to my attention. Because what was a shame?

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The Things That Repeat in my Mind

It’s been ages since I updated you on any of my obsessions. Today, I’m going to fix that.

As many of you know, I’m currently revising The Physician’s Apprentice. My editor‘s advice was to flesh out some scenes, so I’m adding words. This means a particular kind of madness has come over me. You know how I get. 😛 At this point in time, it looks pretty much like this.

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Day in Düsseldorf

Hi there, folks. Good to have you back here!

After dashing off to write on Friday, a severe case of writer’s block made my life miserable. I pretty much wrote a few words, deleted them, wrote a few more and deleted them too.

It sucked.

Jan saved the day on Saturday, by arranging a Dad and Kayla trip. While the two of them had a ton of fun at the River Ruhr and Ruhr park, I smashed out over 5000 words. (Sit down, sanctimommies, this was the first time in 3 months that I didn’t spend the entire day with my daughter.)

As a reward for my uber-productivity, we headed to Düsseldorf with some friends on Sunday.

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 10

Hi there!

I’m happy to report that I’ve broken the 10,000 word mark for this week. Coming up for air to type this post feels strange, as if I’m going to be struck by lightning for doing anything other than work on my book. This isn’t even really coming up for air, because I’M STILL TYPING! Good grief, I’m strange. I think this is the problem anyone with a naturally obsessive personality will face. And also, that obsessive personality is going to make me hurry this, so I can get back to work. 😛

So, this our hero this week:

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My Long WIP – After the Rain

Hello there!

Hope your weekend was good. Mine sure was. I didn’t take so many photos, but the family and friends will be glad to hear that this post will officially be Kayla-fest. As any typical mother, there will always be tons of photos of my kid. 😛

Inktober is in full swing, but I have honestly been skimming on the drawings. I’m revising and writing. Focusing on more than one project at a time drives me insane – it’s the reason why I rarely read more than one book or watch more than one series at the same time too. Still, I’ve been drawing in the between moments, and I think the added creative endeavour is good for my writing too. It really does help me focus.

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 9

Hello there.

You may have noticed that things look a little different here. This is due to a bout of website-altering creativity that took me by surprise during the week. I was never completely satisfied with the way things looked on the website, but I’m glad to report that I feel a lot better about all of it now. So, please, jump around the site and let me know what you think, where it can improve and what you like. Also, stick around to the end of the post for some announcements.

Week 9’s hero looks like this:

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Oktoberfest Facts

Yes, folks, it’s officially that time of year. Oktoberfest is in full swing and ends on Sunday.

Now, I’m not a beer drinker, but I would love to go over to Bavaria and experience this festival at least once. Until then, I’ll write about it.

Going on with the theme from last week’s post, here are some weird and wonderful facts about Oktoberfest.

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Visit to Kaiser Park

So, Oberhausen has a schloss (this word can be used to describe anything from a castle to a manor house – in this case, it’s a manor house) and a park, but we’ve been putting off going there. First of all, the schloss is not that impressive (in our opinions) and we had no idea that Kaiser Park existed, because it doesn’t have a website. Secondly, when we have so many cool places to visit in and around Germany, why would we go to the local spots?

Yeah. We were idiots.

Kaiser Park is amazing and Schloss Oberhausen is quaint. Yes, that’s the word I’m going with. The locals call it the schweinchen schloss – schweinchen being ‘piglet’ – because the schloss is pink. Oink. OK, fine, ‘whimsical’ may have been the better word choice.

Kaiser Park has a free petting farm (we’ve been finding these all over), beautiful river views and hiking trails, and a nice kiosk next to the schloss. There’s also a restaurant and beer garden, if that would tickle your fancy. We’ll go visit the schloss art gallery sometime.

We had a lot of fun here, but nobody loves seeing and feeding the animals as much as Kayla. And then riding in a fire truck trumps all.

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 8

Hello there.

So, this is week 8 of the #storycubechallenge. Once again, I left my story to the last possible moment. I don’t know why I do this to myself, but in my defence, it was a crazy week with a sick 2-year old. At least I wrote something.

I’m also working on a short story that I plan to submit to an anthology and I got back my editor‘s notes on The Physician’s Apprentice. A lot of brainstorming and prep for a new round of revisions have been happening. Watch this space.

If you missed the place where all of this began, here’s week 1. Also, week 7 and the Pinterest board for the story cubes.

Here’s our hero for week 8:

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My WIP – I See You

I’ve always had pretty good eyesight, but recently it’s been a mission to read the signs at the station, or the subtitles when I watch anime. Plus, the headaches. I knew it was time to have my eyes tested looong before I actually had them tested, but, you know, anxiety. You can guess by the way this story is going that I finally had the test about two weeks ago.

It’s the weirdest thing, getting glasses. For a few minutes after they put the glasses on me, I struggled to focus on anything. Don’t worry, it worked out eventually. High Definition has a new definition to me now. 😛

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 7

Hello there, friends!

So, this is week 7 of the #storycubechallenge already. This week, I actually wrote something. Yeehaw for schedules. The cubes for this story certainly made more sense to me than those ones did last week. 😛

If you’re new to this, here’s where it all started. I also have a Pinterest board for the cubes, check that out here. If you’re participating in this challenge, please use the #storycubechallenge on social media, and I’ll go have a look and thumbs up!

OK, this is how our hero will look in week 7:

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My WIP – Forests and Food

Welcome back!

I said this last week somewhere and I’ll say it again – I feel as if a train ran over my head, realised it was on the wrong course and then reversed. I’ve been unable to stay fully awake at any given time for about 8 days solid. Hello, Monday.

This weekend was a pretty packed one.

My German lessons usually fall on Friday late mornings, but my teacher was on vacation last week, so I had the day off. This meant getting acrylics up to our elbows. Kayla and I both adore art and painting, so this change in schedule fit both our needs perfectly.

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TGC – A Year

It’s difficult to believe, while it feels much longer at the same time. We’ve finally passed the year mark.

I’ve been turning this post around in my head for weeks now, but I still don’t really know what to say. I’m late in posting as it is. 🙂 Tomorrow we’re already at a year and two weeks.

This immigration-thing has been a strange and wonderful journey.

Year one was the perfect example of a proverbial emotional roller coaster. And the truth of it is, the ride isn’t over yet. I think the emotional part is something that will differ from person to person, because it’s certainly hit me a lot harder than the hubs. People deal in different ways.

Most of the advice we got from other immigrants was that the first *insert time here* is the most difficult. Many of them used the year mark as that point of reference. I’ve learned that this is another thing that will differ according to personal perspective.

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 5

You’re not going to believe this.

This week, I actually wrote the story cube story on Monday. No, not so late last night that I couldn’t focus on the keyboard anymore, on MONDAY. What’s happening? I feel like I don’t know myself anymore.

I don’t want to jinx everything by saying that writing all of this getting easier with time. Especially not after seeing the cubes for week 5.

Good. Grief.

Not to discourage you, or anything. 😛

These are the hero cubes for week 5.

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My WIP – Heatwave

You would never guess from the title, but we had one hellishly warm weekend. In fact, all of last week was the kind of weather where your clothes are perpetually stick to your skin – moist and glistening. Yuck.

All I can say is that a lot of ice cream was involved.

On Friday, our landlady offered to look after Kayla so that Jan and I could have a date night. It was honestly the sweetest thing anyone has done for us since coming to Germany and, considering that Thursday was our year-aversary, it was perfect timing. Yes, friends. Kayla and I have officially been in Germany for a year.

This date night was literally the first one Jan and I have had since moving.

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 4

Hello there. It’s that time of the week again!

I seriously hope someone out there is doing this challenge with me, because I don’t have anyone to complain to. 😛 It’s challenging, that’s for sure. But it’s also kind of fun. It is getting easier to get the story going, once I have a basic idea of what the story should be. My husband has been an incredible aid in working out that part. He comes up with the story and I just write.

In case you missed it, click here for last week’s cubes.

This is how our hero looks this week.

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Quiet Time Book

By this time, you probably know what a creative genius my mom is. No? Click here and here for a reminder. Pretty cool, huh?

This time though, she totally outdid herself.

When I forwarded my mom a video of a quiet time book in January, I have to admit it wasn’t even a subtle hint. I was preparing to rewrite The Physician’s Apprentice and I could use something to occupy Kayla for those moments when I had to work. So when Mom told me she’s going to try to make a book, I was ecstatic. I mean, I knew it would be good.

I never imagined she’d make this.

It literally took 6 months to make. I have no idea of the cost involved, but I imagine it was a pretty penny. And my mom’s poor hands and shoulder suffered for this work of art.

Prepare to feast your eyes on the mother of all quiet time books.

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My WIP – Girls’ Day and Legoland

This title is probably a little misleading, because everyday is ‘girl’s day’ in my house. You know, because I stay at home with Kayla and all that. The difference is that we don’t usually have girl’s days on weekends when Jan is home.

Last week from Thursday to Sunday was Gamescom in Cologne and, being the calibre of geek that we are, Jan and I really wanted to go. Unfortunately, they don’t allow kids under the age of three, so Jan went on Saturday, leaving me and the Kayster to our own devices.

And… as always, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 3

Why do weeks move so quickly when you’re supposed to be writing for a story challenge you created yourself? I find myself doing anything BUT working on the cubes, until the night before. I really need to time manage better and procrastinate less. In the words of my friend Charlie Brown. Good. Grief.

Before I get to the cubes, I’ve created a Pinterest board for the challenge, because a reader asked me to. You can follow the board if you want to, so you’ll have all of the cube photos in order and in the same place. You know, without having to search through all of my random waffling. 😛

Here’s what you’ve missed if you’re new.

Week 1
Week 2

Please remember to use #storycubechallenge if you’re planning to upload your story somewhere, then I’ll have a look and give it a like.

Create a hero :

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Castle Hopping – Part Two

This second instalment of castle hopping reached over two countries. So exciting. 🙂 You can see day one here, if you haven’t yet.

Maastricht in the Netherlands was our first destination. This is a pretty amazing place, with cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings. You must be getting tired of the words ‘cobbled streets’ and ‘old buildings’. I’m sorry, but I absolutely live for the architecture (specifically Baroque and Gothic, but all of antique Europe makes me hyperventilate). And then, castles and or churches / cathedrals. But you already know that and I’m getting ahead of myself again.

The beginning.

This is what happens when I tell Jan he never smiles for selfies:

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 2

Well, that was more interesting than I anticipated…

Here we are in week two of the story cube challenge. I’ll just say that this thing lived up to it’s name. Making a story out of pictures was challenging, but heck, I did it! Woot woot! Did you? Please link me to your story, I’d love to see what you got out of it!

If you want a recap of last week’s cubes and the rules, here’s the link.

This is what our hero looks like this week:

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Story Cube Challenge – Week 1

This year for my birthday, I wanted something different. When Jan spotted Rory’s Story Cubes on Amazon, I was immediately sold.

You think I’m mad, don’t you? What would a 31-year-old mom want with story cubes? Well, inspiration. I find, as a writer, that the writing prompts online are few and far between, and the ones that are available are so, so tired.

So, I got story cubes for my birthday.

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American Muscle Cars

The other day, we went to this muscle car exhibition at CentrO, Oberhausen.

Jan is a pretty big car enthusiast. So when he found out about this car show, he was firing on all cylinders to get there. Especially when he heard there would be Mustangs, among the other American-loved cars. We saw Oldsmobiles, Dodges and Buicks, Fords, Chevs and much more.

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South Africa Trip – Recap

Hi there, folks! I am indeed back in the northern hemisphere and back to blogging / work. Of course, before I can get to blogging about other stuff again, I know you want to see my vacation photos and hear about what we got up to.

First of all, I have to warn you that we didn’t really do anything other than be with family and friends. As in, we didn’t go sightseeing or exploring. I mean, we’re from South Africa, so we’ve seen a lot of what Johannesburg has to offer. Also, we wanted to soak up as much time with our loved ones as possible. This means that I tried to be in the moment and experience the moment, without looking at the moment through my cell phone screen.

This means that most of the photos I’m going to share with you today were taken by friends and family. For the most part, you’ll see the faces of the folks we love and little else. But I know you don’t mind. 😀

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Visit to Duisburg Zoo

On a sunny Thursday, we took Kayla to the zoo. Duisburg zoo is one of the biggest zoos in Germany and it has a pretty cool dolphinarium and Koala enclosure. Check out the Wiki page for more.

It’s much different from zoos in South Africa, but it was still a pretty cool experience. In SA, the zoos are bigger and tend to have a greater variety of animals. It makes sense, because a lot of the animals are native to Africa.

Don’t get me wrong,  Duisburg zoo still had a good variety of animals. What I liked most is that the enclosures tend to be more open, so you can see the animals easily. The lemur enclosure is completely open, so the animals can run in the trees over your head. Instead of fences, the predatory animals are kept behind glass panels, so you don’t have to strain to see through wire.

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A Visit to Schloss Broich

20160507_103735These photos are actually from my Mother’s Day weekend. It’s late, I know, but I was writing a novel! Yes, the keyword in that sentence is ‘was’. More on that soon. 😀

With the amazing spring weather, we’ve been sightseeing a lot lately. There are some pretty awesome sights to see right in our back yard, a fact we didn’t know until recently. You can’t blame us for sticking to indoor activities in our first European winter!

But anyway, sightseeing is how we came across Schloss Broich. It’s like 4 km from our apartment and is adjacent to one of the most beautiful garden parks we’ve been to so far.

Inside the Schloss itself is a mini museum with some treasures from the area in olden days. In fact, as far as we understand, they’re still excavating antiquities on the site, while restoring the tower.

You know how I feel about castles by now, otherwise you must be new here. Welcome! As always when faced with a castle, I was pretty giddy with excitement. Add to it the fact that there’s a museum inside, FREE OF CHARGE, with chainmail and all the old weaponry you can think of, and all my weaknesses were exploited. 🙂

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Japan Day (and other stuff) – WIP

Japan Day is a big thing in Düsseldorf every year. Massive crowds of people dressed as their favourite anime / manga characters (or even some characters that don’t fall into that category), good food, fireworks and a lot of fun is to be expected. It’s a highlight on the calendar! But then, going out to Düsseldorf is a highlight on its own. You know how I feel about that city if you’ve been around my blog before.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The most of my weekend was spent writing. Yes, I’m still not done, but I’m getting there. If all goes according to plan (and it had better), I should be done by the end of next week at the latest. So then stuff on the blog should go back to normal again, I promise.

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Visit to Werden

On Ascension Day, we hopped a train to Werden. This picturesque place is a suburb of Essen and is seriously gorgeous. The buildings are still in the old style and there’s almost a fantasy-type vibe to the old taverns turned cafés. Walking through those cobblestone ways certainly piqued my creative flow.

Then, there’s the parks and greenery. I could tell you how brilliantly green the grass is, or how amazing the trees look. I could tell you how warm the sun was and how tranquil the flow of the river made me feel. But then, I’ve recently been instructed to ‘show, don’t tell’, and you know what they say about pictures and words. 🙂 So, have a look!

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A Visit to Schloss Styrum – TGC

We’ve been living in Germany for seven months. Can you believe that?

It’s been interesting. We’ve been adapting. There are still better days and worse days, but overall, we’re finding our feet. Jan is starting with German classes soon, and our landlady has undertaken to teach me too. Once he learns, I’m sure my own learning will accelerate. Honestly, I’ve been so caught up in my book, that I haven’t focussed on learning German like I used to. It’s my fault, I know. I just have divided priorities between my kid and hubs, my writing and keeping house. Being a work at home mom is difficult enough without adding learning a language to that. 😛 But as soon as the book is in for round two of edits, I’ll throw myself at learning German again.

OK. Obligatory update out of the way. (If you want a more detailed update, let me know.)

So spring in Germany. I mean, WOW.

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London Vacation Pics

20160326_145458Fair warning, this is going to be an image rich post. 😛

We set out for London from Düsseldorf airport in pretty much perfect weather. The flight itself was only 55 minutes, but of course we stood in the line at passport control for over an hour and a half. 🙂

I honestly don’t blame the airports for the higher security than usual, with all of the terrorist activity lately. Having said that, waiting in line with an exhausted and irritated toddler is no fun for anyone. Including the people waiting in a radius near said toddler. At least some people made the best of the situation and tried to keep Kayla occupied by playing peek-a-boo with her. Awesome people still exist.

Anyway. We were lucky enough to be able to rent a car for the week. I love public transport, but having wheels for a week was still awesome. It makes me miss having a car at our disposal, not that I would drive it personally. 😀 So, after we got through passport control, we met Willem and picked up the car.

Obviously, there was a lot of wedding stuff happening during the week. This means that our sightseeing time was limited. Not to mention the fact that we were sick. Don’t ask me how these things happen, but I reckon our vacation illness was a pre-runner to our back-home illness (more on that here).

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You want to put that where?

We’re safely back from our trip to London, of which I promise I’ll share some photos this week. I just wanted to let you know I’m still alive, even if I was unsure for a minute there.

We arrived back in Germany last Monday night and on Tuesday, the floodgates opened. Kayla was super ill, straight through the night. All of the laundry I’d brought back from vacation and done so neatly paled in comparison to the mountain of vomit-stained linen I now had to wash.

But still, the laundry was the least of my problems. Seeing that little person so sick is the worst thing ever.

 

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Write What You Know…

I’ve been following a lot of writing coaches, editors and authors via social media and blogs lately, and I’ve learned a TON about writing. The things to avoid, to embrace and habits to form to become a better writer have really impacted me. It also scares me.

When I sit down to write now, I’m so caught up in what not to do, that I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write. 😛 Even so, I have to admit that there’s a notable improvement, though it still isn’t flawless. I’ll keep working at it. There’s no such thing as a perfect writer, but we can aspire.

One of the most freely floating bits of advice is to write what you know and that’s what I want to talk about today.

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My Weekend In Pictures – Carnival in Düsseldorf

This weekend was a sunny one. After the rainiest two months of my life, we’ve been extra thankful for every ray of sunlight coming our way. Hopefully, that statement didn’t jinx it…

Anyway, all of the sunshine means a lot of outdoors activities, even if it’s still chilly out. This weekend, we went walking a lot and we went to Carnival.

Now Carnival, or ‘Karneval’, is usually around Rosenmontag in February. Of course, I mentioned the rain in the first paragraph, and that meant that the main event for Karneval had to be postponed. Sunday was the big day for the carnival to take place, and we headed to Düsseldorf with some friends to see it unfold.

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My WIP – Grandma’s Memorial

This weekend was a sad one, because it involved a final goodbye. It was my grandmother’s memorial service on Saturday, in Durban, South-Africa. Thanks to modern technology, we could be part of it from thousands of kilometres away via a Skype call. It pulled at my heartstrings that the pastor used my tribute as a part of his sermon. It still felt surreal though.

Being away from my family during this time has been extremely difficult. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult times we’ve had to endure since immigrating. I still wish we could have been there to hold hands and give hugs, be hugged when we cried and just be a part of it all. At least we got to see the whole family while we skyped.

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It’s Chaotic

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for their condolences and beautiful words concerning my grandmother. If you missed it, my gran passed away last week. It wasn’t a surprise, because she was sick for a long time before she passed. It still hurts though. I wrote a tribute to my grandma here.

Since this is a current chaos post, I want to start you off with the song I’m listening to on repeat at the moment. It’s called ‘Build me up from bones’ by Sarah Jarosz. It’s amazing.

If you’ve been following the blog and had a look at my social media (check it out in the sidebar), you’ll know that my editor, Nerine, suggested I flesh out the world where my new series will take place. This added work is my own fault, sure. I finished The Physician’s Apprentice’s first draft in seven weeks, after all. If I had done all this stuff I’m doing now to begin with, it would have meant a lot less double work. Lesson learnt.

So, for close to two months now, I’ve been focussed on adding details and working out those things that don’t make sense in my world. Paired with my tendency to obsess, it’s been interesting.

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Tips to Help You Adapt After Immigration – Part Two

Yesterday, we chatted about things you could do to make the immigration process easier before you actually get on the plane. Today, we’re going to chat about things you can do to adapt more seamlessly once you get there. This is obviously going to be different for every person, but these are the things that worked for us, or things I now wish we had done.

If you’re planning to move to another country, you’re pretty stressed and anxious especially in the weeks before you leave. Personally, this was amplified by the fact that my husband had to leave before my kid and I could, so that made me freak out more than a little. I had a horrible flight experience, which gave me super saiyan mode anxiety on its own. You kind of expect to have just as much stress in the first few days after you arrive, right?

For me, this wasn’t the case. Upon arriving, I felt amazing (when the airsickness let up and I’d eaten/slept). For the first few weeks, everything was rosy. The weather was fabulous, sightseeing was great and it all felt like an amazing vacation in a new country. Along with that, domestic life just went on. Okay, so it felt like the kind of holiday where you hubs still works and you still have to cook and clean. Haha. But I mean, we were just soaking up new experiences and relaxing as much as we could after the drama and tons of things that needed to be done before we left.

Then reality sunk in. We had left everything we’d ever known. This is how we survived and are still surviving.

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Tips to Help You Adapt After Immigration – Part One

Can you fathom this: Jan’s officially been in Germany for 6 months, and Kayla and I will have made the 6-month mark on the 25th of Feb. Mind. Blown. I bet I’ll say this with every milestone, but I can’t comprehend that it’s been ONLY six months. It feels like we’ve been here forever.

Obviously, the people in South Africa (and some who read the blog) want to know how we found this first chunk of time. How did we survive? Do we have tips? Would we do anything differently? So, after thinking about it for a bit, I came up with some things that made our life easier and some things that could have.

I also bet that this post contains some helpful tips for tourists, so, if you’re planning a vacay in some other country, there may be something in here for you. Because I have so much to say on the subject, I’m splitting the post into two parts. Today we’ll talk about what to consider before you leave and next time will focus on what to do once you get there.

Let’s get started.

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Go Fish

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Continuing on the other day’s shape-thing‘s wave, my mom made a second cool gift for Kayla. This one is a fishing dam with glittery fish and fishing poles.

And it’s just as easy to make and effective at occupying little hands as the shape-a-ma-jig.

What makes this one great is that Kayla can fish on her own or one of her parents can join her. She loves fishing with Mom or Dad and then mimics what we do. If we catch a green or purple fish, she’ll aim for one of the same colour. The concentration on her face is priceless too.

Once again this is a great teacher of colour and awesome for fine motor skills. It also installs concepts about magnetism and movement, because Kayla realises now that when she moves the fishing pole too much (AKA wildly), she can’t catch fish. She knows she has to move it slowly. Slow is a big thing for a two-year-old. 😛

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Fun Shapes for Kids

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When my folks came to visit, my mom brought some cool hand-made gifts for Kayla. I mentioned in a post that I would share more about these gifts with you, so I’m doing that now.

As a mom of a two-year-old who still has her own things to do and ambitions in life, I’m always looking for educational and effective ways to keep my kid busy so I can see to other things. The house doesn’t clean itself, after all. Note to self, I really need to invest in a Roomba.

Anyway. My mother had this genius idea to make Kayla a shape chart? A shape puzzle? It’s a shape-a-ma-jig. She probably found it on Pinterest, knowing my mom, but I’m giving her full credit for this awesome invention. And the best part is you can make it too. You’re welcome. 😛

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First Snow

Coming from Johannesburg, I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t seen real snow before in my life. Sure, there were two occasions, but I’ve never seen enough of it to cover the ground. This is why moving to Europe had me hopeful for some snow this winter.

Of course, it doesn’t really snow in our part of Germany. According to all of the people we know who have lived here all of their lives, it only snows here once every three or four years, and then never for more than three days at a time. This year, the forecasts for snow were few and far between, and the locals never believed it would really snow.

Until one fateful morning.

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Current Chaos – The Editing Game

So, it’s finally happened. I got the notes back from my editor a while ago and since then, only writing has been on my mind.

Let me first fill you in. I went through a bit of a bad patch last year with an editor. Not because of bad critique, but because of the complete lack of critique (there were only a handful of corrections throughout the entire novel). I don’t want to make a bad situation worse by muddying someone’s name. But I will say that when you pay someone for a service and they don’t provide that service at all, anyone would be angry.

Taking the step to hire an editor is a big one. Anyone in a creative field – or any field where your work will be dissected and scrutinized – will know how difficult it is to trust someone with your creative baby. Editors are there to tell you where you screwed up, whether it concerns grammar to characters acting crazy. It’s their flipping job to pull your work apart and tell you where you can improve it. THAT is what you pay them for.

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Random Vacation Photos

This post is to show you all of the vacation photos that didn’t make it into other blog posts. Because if you know my family at all, you’ll know that very little is ever done without cellphones or cameras in the air, clicking away. Pictures or it didn’t happen, right?

So here are some of the ones that you haven’t seen already. Enjoy.

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New Year in Germany

img_7533We used to live in a country where fireworks are illegal. So imagine our surprise when we first saw different kinds of fireworks for sale in basically any shop you can imagine in Germany. Here, it’s a massive tradition to shoot fireworks on New Year’s eve (more than anywhere else I’ve ever heard of). The people believe that they’re shooting all the bad stuff from the last year away, so they can start the New Year on a clean slate. This means that millions of Euro’s are shot into the air, in one of the most spectacular fireworks displays I’ve seen in my life.

Being as crazy about animals as I am, it did freak me out more than a little that they were firing so many crackers and fireworks, while so many people have pets here. I bet they pay just as much in animal sedatives as they spend on the actual fireworks.

Before Kayla went to bed, we took her outside and lit some sparklers for her. She slept through the firework display by some miracle. I still have no idea how.

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Vacation Day-by-Day : Schloss Burg

20151230_100958Everybody who knows me is aware of my absolute fascination and obsession with castles. There is something mystical and magical about castles and the age they were constructed in.  I often find myself at the base of one of these structures and I wonder how it’s even possible that they exist. How did those people with their ancient technology manage to build these massive, MASSIVE buildings and have them survive the passing of time.

Schloss (German word for castle) Burg was the first castle I’ve seen in its particular style. Unfortunately, the larger part of the castle was destroyed in a siege and was left to decay for a long time after that. It was restored in the 1920’s and is now a museum and tourist attraction. More on the history of it here.

We chose one of the coldest days of the vacation to visit this incredible place, but though our fingers were freezing, we had a blast. Painted ceilings, suits of armour, potsherds and ancient weapons fill the interior spaces. And once we were done exploring, we had a lovely waffle at the Wafflehouse.

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Vacation Day-by-Day : Amsterdam

20151229_104417While my folks were here, we spent a day in Amsterdam. The last time I was there, the place absolutely stole my heart. I mean, it’s not only beautiful, but the people were incredibly warm towards us and understood when we spoke Afrikaans. I loved the sights there.

This time was no different. I still love the vibe in Amsterdam, the amazing beauty of the place and the friendly people. What got me down was the sheer amount of people. 😛 With the holidays around the corner at that stage, Amsterdam was packed to overflowing. In fact, I remarked on more than one occasion that the entire population of Amsterdam (almost 800 000 people) were in the city plain at the exact same moment. It felt that way for sure.

The other difference between my first and second visits to Amsterdam was the weather. The last time we were there it was all sunshine and warmth. This time it was pretty much freezing. Did that take away from the experience? No.

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Vacation Day-by-Day : Aachen

Aachen is a beautiful town in Germany on the border with Belgium. It’s one of those typical European places, with the most beautiful building style and cobbled streets. The Aachener Dom is a picturesque cathedral, though not nearly as magnificent as the Cologne Cathedral. It’s still pretty though. It was being renovated on our visit, so we hope to go back one day when the renovations are complete.

Aachen is famous for the printen biscuits. It’s a type of soft Lebkuchen (gingerbread), sweetened with honey or syrup and often covered in chocolate or marzipan. Some varieties are decorated with various fruits and nuts. This stuff? Amazing. Like seriously, amazing. I’m not a gingerbread fan overall, except where my mother in law’s gingerbread cookies are concerned, and then I only want them on a good day. But the printen biscuits are seriously yummy. We got ours from the prettiest bakery you’ll every lay your eyes on, the Nobis Bakery near the cathedral.

To round off our visit in Aachen, we made a stop at the Lindt factory.

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Vacation Day-by-Day : Cologne Cathedral

Am I addicted to great architecture and lead-glass installations? Why, yes, I sure am.

That statement means cathedral and church-hopping is on my A-list of things to do and sights to see. The Cologne Cathedral (Or Kölner Dom, as the Germans call it) is AH-MAZE-ING. It is, without any trace of a doubt, the biggest structure I have seen in my life.

The Gothic style has always been one of my favourites. The detail, arches, gargoyles and just everything about it screams to me, and I feel a deep affinity with it. The Kölner Dom does not disappoint. The structure took over 600 years to build (with a time of rest included in that period) and was only complete for a short time before the Second World War, which saw it heavily damaged by bombings. The tall peaks of the cathedral were easy targets in the war, so it was often attacked. This tragedy means that a lot of the structure as it now stands is the work of modern repair, clearly distinguishing the original stones from the new ones.

Having said that, the building is still absolutely majestic and unbelievable. The sheer mass of it is mind-blowing and has already inspired magical stories in the back of my mind. I would recommend it to any lover of architecture and anyone else who wants to be awed. It’s absolutely worth the trip.

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My Weekend in Pictures – Fun with my Folks

The title should probably have read ‘all the same places’, because that’s where we went. But we wanted to show my parents the places we like to go, so that means Christmas markets. We had some delicious gluhwein and gluhbeer, some traditional food and sausages, and just enjoyed the sights. The only difference is the vast amount of people that showed up since we saw the same sights with Willem. If you thought it was busy then, you were wrong. It’s like an anthill now.

My mom brought Kayla a variety of home made gifts (great fun for the kiddies!!) and Kayla adores it. Her favourite is a felt fishing pond and fish. I’ll do a post on this specifically if you want it, but it’s so simple to make and it keeps her busy for long stretches of time. Thanks Mom!

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Dortmund Christmas Market

Yeah, I know. ‘Yesterday‘ ended up being a week. Humblest apologies. Our pictures with Willem from the Christmas market at Dortmund will feature today.

Can I just say that I love Christmas markets? One thing we’ve noticed fairly quickly here is that Christmas celebrations in South Africa pail in comparison to those in Germany. Goodness, the people here go all out. I love the lights, the vibe, the gluhwein and the general feeling in the streets. Not even the rain can bring the people down from their reindeer-driven Christmas sleds. It’s awesome! We’re taking my folks to see it for sure.

The Christmas tree in the market is made up of 1700 individual fir trees and is 45m high. It has about 48000 lights!

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Geronimo

I’ve been in a weird place for too long now.

I used to adore blogging, but in the last year, I’ve struggled to keep it up. I don’t know what to write about a lot of the time, and the other times I don’t have the drive to sit down and write something here. To be fair, it’s been a weird year for me. 😛 But I realise I need to get my head in the game again.

My interest in makeup has been more personal over the last while, so I haven’t been sure exactly what to blog about when it comes to that topic. Besides, you can only write about the same old trends (*insert no-makeup-makeup or red lips here*) and ways to apply a smoky eye so many times. I did it for three years (or however long it was), every day. You run out of ideas. Haha. Besides, I think there are some amazing blogs to follow about beauty trends for the ‘die hards’ out there; ones that are quite frankly better than mine ever was.

I got some bad feedback last year sometime and I’ve been kind of afraid to blog about things other than my personal life or makeup since. It’s been holding me back and I know I need to build a bridge and get over that one. I’ve always had hoards more interests than just beauty stuff and I love sharing things I enjoy with other people. I still just want to write.

Maybe a change is in order?

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Amazing Fun in Oberhausen

Continuing from yesterday, I’m going to share more pics with you from my brother in law’s visit.

On Sunday we went to CentrO’s Christmas Market and on Monday we visited an amazing indoor kid’s playground in Oberhausen. Kayla had a blast, but I have to admit that we ‘adults’ had just as much fun. I know a few people who would love it there too (AKA Franco and Lorenzo). We’ll definitely be going back there when my folks arrive.

We had some yummy treats at the Christmas Market and I bought my first gifts for my loved ones back in SA. Here are some shots of that.

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Playground Fun and Christmas Markets

Hiya folks!

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying a visit from my brother in law. It’s been amazing to catch up and explore Germany together, with the added bonus that Jan’s taken a few days off to spend with us. We’ve done all kinds of awesome things, and before we head out again for the day, I want to share some of the things we got up to over the weekend.

Today’s post will share photos from Friday and Saturday. We spent some time in a playground on Friday and went to Essen’s Christmas market on Saturday. Limbecker Platz has the coolest Christmas décor, with a massive Christmas ball made up of balls hanging from the ceiling. I also had my first gingerbread latte from Starbucks on Saturday. Can you say ah-may-zing!?

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Three Months – The German Chronicles

It’s probably about time I give you an update on how things have been here in Germany. It’s been almost three months now (we’ll reach the official 3 mark month on the 25th of November) and a lot has happened in that time.

First of all, we’re going to stay in the furnished short-term rental for a while longer. I’ve mentioned that finding a permanent place has been a struggle and this is still the case. But at this point in time, I don’t mind. We’ve settled in here and we like it. The neighbours are amazing people, we’re close to shops and the train station, and there are some pretty great parks in the area too. With the idea that we’re staying here, the knot in my stomach has loosened. It’s less stressful when you’re not constantly worrying about where you’re going to move to next.

Overall, we’re adapting.

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TGC – Why we Decided to Immigrate

This wasn’t some overnight, half-baked scheme. Oh no. Years went into this endeavour of ours. Years.

You see, my brother in law left South Africa in the year Jan and I got married (2008). He quit his job and set out to London a month later, just following his gut. I’ve always admired him for just doing it and not looking back. It isn’t an easy thing, just packing up and leaving, but he did it and made it work.

About a year after we got married, Jan and I decided that we wanted to go too. There are various reasons for this decision now, but at the time, it was a general kind of thing. There was some political turbulence around that time and it scared us. (Africa is always in a state of political turbulence, no matter which side of the Equator you look, known fact. :P) Make no mistake, we love South Africa. We grew up there, we speak two of the 11 languages, we knew how things worked. The people are our people. The food and traditions are our food and traditions. This was our entire circle of reference.

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What’s Different? (TGC)

The question I get asked most at the moment is “How different is living in Germany from living in South Africa?”

The answer is, it’s different. But seeing as so many people don’t like the vagueness of that statement, I thought I’d quickly highlight the basics. Or at least the things that stand out to me.

1.) The Obvious Things.

This includes the language (see #2), the weather, the building style, culture. The weather, for example, is like a toddler here, fluctuating between an array of possible moods (if I can call weather moody). It can be sunny one moment and rain the next, just before the wind rolls in and blows away all of the clouds in minutes. In half an hour, it might rain again.

Un. Pre. Dict. Able.

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My First Week in Germany! (TGC)

Wow. Here we are, aren’t we? Last week this time, I was getting ready to get on a plane. I was a bundle of nerves mixed with insane excitement. Since then, a lot of people have asked how we are and if we’re adapting.

The answer is good and yes. But I’ll get there.

The flight was interesting. First of all, Kayla apparently likes flying about as much as I do. This means not a bit. It also means she was crying and moaning basically constantly, didn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time and was soaked with sweat for the entire flight. Also, a lot of things went wrong.

For example, I had to handle Kayla and two hand luggage bags, as well as Barney (where could any parent of a toddler possibly dare to go without a Barney toy?) on my own at all of the airports where we landed. Both of us were airsick, so I skipped breakfast. Not a smart move, as I’d later discover. At Frankfurt airport, I had to be patted down at passport control, because Kayla refused to let go of me for an instant to be scanned. This meant stripping down and having my shoes and things scanned too. It also made me late for my flight.

Now, at this point, both Kay and I were exhausted. Neither of us had slept on the flight and I was still nauseous. But there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Jan had taken a train to meet us at Frankfurt and fly the last part with us to Dusseldorf. I clung to this, knowing everything would be OK once we were together again. I promised Kayla over and over again that she’d see her daddy there.

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The German Chronicles – an Update

I’ve been without a computer for a while now and I’ve barely switched on my laptop. It’s been so hectic here that I’ve only visited social media sites maybe three times in the last week and a half. I would say I’m sorry, but I haven’t had time to be sorry since we moved into my in-law’s place on the 2nd.

I wanted to update you on the German-move, which is why I’m popping in today.

Last night, my husband got on a plane without me and Kayla. While his visa is obviously ready and currently in use, mine and Kay’s isn’t. We have no indication of how long it will be, because the allotted time-span they initially gave us has now been lengthened greatly.

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The German Chronicles – What’s it Like?

People want to know how I feel and what I think at the moment. As in “Is it difficult to pack up and leave?” or “What’s going through your mind?” or “Aren’t you sentimental about the stuff you’re leaving behind?” One I get a lot is “I’m too attached to my family to leave them behind.”

Ouch.

Because what you’re basically saying is that I’m not attached to the people we’re leaving in South Africa. You’re wrong.

But let’s start at the beginning. My mind is an explosion at the moment. It’s a stormy and weird place, with things moving around like a whirlpool. On the whole (AKA non-moving, normal Yolandie), I’m borderline mad. Add the stress, the goodbyes, packing up what we own and still having to be a mom to an almost-two-year-old, plus day-to-day life, and it gets… well… chaotic. I feel like a lunatic at the moment.

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The German Chronicles : Our Experience with the German Embassy

If you didn’t pick up on it in the title, I’m going to call the posts relating to our move to Germany ‘The German Chronicles’. Hope you like it. 🙂

Obviously, one of the first things you do when you go to a new country is to get a visa. Or not, depending on what country you’re coming from. In South Africa specifically, the visa thing is required. It’s also one of the most difficult countries to get a visa. Believe me.

We were forewarned that the German Embassy is very effective, but very strict. “If you have only one page missing, they turn you away,” we were told. Before this, we had been to the English and French Embassies, so we had a little something to compare it to.

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Confessions of a Writing Addict

I’m obsessive. Very, very obsessive. It’s just the way I’m wired. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll probably recall other instances where I’ve admitted to this flaw in my personality. Maybe it isn’t always a flaw, but still.

Just the other day, I told you that my new novel is done. I wrote the whole thing in seven weeks, and that includes a complete revamp of the plotline and a mini write-over when I’d gotten to chapter 17 (which is just short of halfway through). Even if you add the actual planning stage of the novel, it puts me at just over three months. Sure, the idea for the novel came to me even while I was writing The Queen’s Fury, but I only started my research and plotline drafting in February.

You would think that the sight of a keyboard would send shivers of repulsion down my spine at the moment, wouldn’t you? I mean, honestly.

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This Mothering Thing

I often wonder when the exact point is when a person becomes a mother. And I don’t mean the ‘having the kid’ part. I mean the internal shift to ‘mothering’. Is there a moment when you suddenly just know instinctively what to do? Do you have to learn how to mother? It’s probably different for everyone, so I can’t claim to know the answer.

What I do know is that I was that woman who never handled babies before they were at least three months old. I never changed another kid’s diaper (and I still haven’t) and I gladly gave them back to their mommies when the tears started coming (and I still do).

And then I had my own kid. I was terrified before she was born, because I had so little experience with babies. What if I couldn’t dress her, because she’d be so little? What if that I sucked at changing diapers or couldn’t bathe her? What if she cried and I couldn’t soothe her? What if I couldn’t feed her? What if she woke up in the middle of the night and I didn’t? What if, what if, what if?!?!

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