Posts Tagged With: Christmas

The Magic Kingdom

I thought long and hard whether I was gonna blog about this year’s trip to London. Because, honestly, we didn’t do much. With my mom still being on the sick and slow side and me on the ‘OMG, OMG, OMG, she’s gonna pass out again!’ one, things were veeeerrrry slow. Also, the traffic was a lot worse than it has been in previous years and we got stuck a lot, so we weren’t actually in the West End before noon. Well, huh.

You guys know I love London. If a fairy appeared before me and said I could move to London but I would have to go now without goodbye, I would. But hands down, this year’s highlight wasn’t the city, it was the hotel. Normally, we stay in average business chain hotels, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis, that sort of thing. But this year, for some magical reason, we were booked into the amazing (!) Aloft London Excel. At first, we were doubtful. It’s way outside the city center and you actually have to switch from the tube to the DLR to get there. I have a love-hate relationship with the DLR, learning more towards hate. The last time I had to get on one of their trains, it only arrived once per hour and I almost missed the one I was supposed to take. Which was due to bad planning on my side, granted. But their stations are also pretty much deserted, you rarely find a staff member or a proper information desk or even just some stupid info board. This year, the line we needed had frequent service but due to some wrong information, we got off at the wrong station and, you got it, there was no one we could ask. I didn’t know London actually had areas where you wouldn’t pass a single soul for more than ten minutes but naturally, we found one. But anyway, the hotel was so worth it. It’s a hotel chain, too, sure but it didn’t have any of that average just-good-enough air. The outside was beautiful, with a shimmering front that looked a bit like a mermaid’s flipper, shimmering in different colors depending on light exposure. The lobby was so stylish, I felt underdressed. It had a lot of lounge areas, a huge bar and even cute little details like a sleep and water spot for dogs. And the rooms, oh my god, the rooms! If you’ve ever been inside a hotel room in London, you’ll know how tiny and cramped they can be, even with quite expensive hotels. Great Britain is a small country, London is a comparably small city and space is luxury, so you don’t really expect a ballroom when booking a hotel room. But the Aloft rooms are just that huge. We had a twin room and there was so much space, it actually had two (!) desks and then there was still so much space around the beds that we could have waltzed in there. Also, our room was on the seventh floor and the beds were facing the windows, so you can enjoy a wonderful view over the city right from your bed. It was amazing and I wanted to move in there.

Other than enjoying the hotel, we didn’t do all that much. Not much more than shop. I also finally got to see what’s supposed to be the oldest Starbucks in…England? Europe? I don’t know. But it’s also set in a nice old building off Regent Street and you feel as if you were in a 19th century café rather than an international coffeehouse. They had the most gorgeous bathrooms with their own wallpaper pattern design that looked vintage but upon closer inspection, you’d see that it said Starbucks and Seattle on it.

I went a little wild inside House of Fraser where I only meant to buy Urban Decay’s Primer Potion but ended up buying that, another eye shadow for my palette and a make up setting spray that I technically don’t really need but always wanted to try and hey, who cares if I just blew twenty pound on it? I also didn’t get my favorite perfume, Agent Provocateur’s Maitresse that I fangirled about in great detail in my post about last year’s trip to London. It’s a shame because it seems impossible to get here, too. So I’m ashamed to say I got a bit reckless with my shopping and bought several nail polishes and a new bag. Can I just say that it is unfair that England has such great drugstore brands? I mean, we have Catrice and P2 which are also quite decent. But they’re nothing compared to Rimmel or Barry M! They had so many matte nail polishes and I could have bought them all. Instead, I settled for a dark blue and a blood read one, thinking I was such a smart shopper…and then I hit the basement of the huge Boots on Oxford Street and went wild buying shampoo and Carmex and I don’t even know what else. I also really need to complain about Germany’s aversion to Carmex. It’s become really hard to get here. I heard some places took it off their shelves because there were rumors about some fishy ingredients but I don’t know. I’m a buyer and I don’t care. So there’s only one place that I know that still carries it. And then you walk into any old Boots or Superdrug or even just Sainsbury’s and there it is. And not just the pots or the tubes, either, but both and a bunch of different scents. I picked up the mint one, just because it was there.

When we returned to our hotel, we witnessed a little crazy scene. When we tried to exit the DLR station, several police officers were gathered around a girl who had curled up on the ground. At first they wouldn’t let us through but then realised they couldn’t just tell a bunch of people to take the train to another station. Still, they made us wait for a while. I have no idea what happened but suddenly a bunch of people spoke up who were apparently involved with the whole thing and it looked like some real drama. My personal guess is that it had something to do with the Britain’s Got Talent casting that was going on in the convention center right next to our hotel. Maybe the lady didn’t accept that nope, she wasn’t gonna be the next Lady Gaga.

So yeah, that’s it. As I said, not much to tell this year. What I absolutely loved, though, was the Selfridges Christmas decoration, so I went a little crazy trying – and failing – to get the perfect picture. Normally, I find their decoration a bit tacky but this year, it looked amazing.

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Categories: Wanderlust | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Half-Way There #3

It’s just one more day til Christmas here in Germany. I think most other countries celebrate on the 25th and even though we’ve been introduced to this by American and British movies, we still hold on to the tradition of having a fabulous Christmas dinner followed by unwrapping and quality time spent with the family on the 24th.

And of course, I finished most of the items on my little to-do list just in time.

  • Write piece for a Secret Santa due on Dec 25th 
  • Finish making mixtape + cover for another Secret Santa
  • Write another Christmas piece I’ve set Dec 24th as a deadline for
  • Buy last piece of gift for friend
  • Buy gift for mom
  • Buy Christmas cards
  • Mail gifts and cards
  • Put up last pieces of Christmas decoration
  • Tidy up and clean living room
  • Buy ingredients for baking
  • Bake Christmas cookies
  • Plan meal for Christmas Eve and look up recipes
  • Finish Goodreads reading challenge for 2013

As you can see, the only thing left undone is the baking. I had bought the ingredients last week but forgot the butter and then never got around to it. Now I plan to bake some last minute cookies after work tomorrow. I’m gonna make Vanillekipferl, a German Christmas treat. As the name suggest, they taste of vanilla and they’re very crumbly and taste best – like most things – when they’re just out of the oven! Knowing me, I’ll forget, but I may take some pictures when I’m actually done.

I was gonna make white chocolate rum balls, too, but those are just too time-consuming so instead, I’ve decided on using the white chocolate I bought for those to make cupcakes for the Christmas movie night and dinner my friend and I have planned for the 26th. I’ve never actually made proper cupcakes (I tried once but only had an American vegan recipe and ended up using all the wrong German alternatives), so I hope that’s gonna turn out fine. Watch me buy some candy from the gas station and bring that instead!

I bought my mom’s gift today, with her in tow actually. I know that was a last minute run but I had tried to buy it on Friday but couldn’t find it anywhere. She’d asked for a gift certificate, preferably Amazon. But would you believe they had no affordable Amazon gift certificates left anywhere. Only the really big ones and while my mom is worth more than money could even buy, I simply can’t afford to spend that kind of money. So I decided to go and look for one again today. But when I mentioned that I had to drive to the mall before work, she tagged along. Zing! Luckily, I managed to slip off and get her gift at one point.

The writing also went fairly well. Once I put my mind to it – and I actually like the piece I’m working on – it’s easy for me to keep going. So I had my actual Secret Santa piece done yesterday. And I literally just finished the other piece a few moments ago. All this writing has really fired me up again and I’ll try to write more. I’ve never been one to pop out another piece every few days but I used to write way more (and actually finish some, too) and I’d like to get back there.

For now, though, I’m really damn pleased with myself. I think this is the first year that I’m actually

Merry Christmas to Me

Merry Christmas to Me

finished with everything before Christmas. I’m not even counting the last item on my list now because baking is fun and it will be even nicer to enjoy the warm cookies tomorrow, on the actual Christmas Eve, so I could as well have planned it. And everything that had other people involved was finished more than just in time. Could it be I’m actually growing up? And, oh yeah, because I’ve been such a good girl – and also, maybe, because I was getting slightly pissed off with the crazy people at the mall today and still didn’t kill anyone – I treated myself to a new bag. Oops! But hello, gorgeous! Welcome to my pretty little army of bags! I regret nothing and it was on sale anyway and it has little skulls on them which my old favorite bag also had. And let me tell you, I loved that one. So much that I carried half my life around in it and that may just have been a little too heavy because the straps got ripped off. Tragic, I know.

Anyway…Merry Christmas, you guys! Or Merry Whatever-It-Is-That-You-Celebrate! Hopefully everyone who reads this has wonderful holidays.

Categories: Foody, Me Myself and I, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Half-Way There #2

I almost feel like I deserve a medal for how well I’m doing at working my way through this to-do list. To hold myself accountable, I’ve decided on posting a little update.

  • Write piece for a Secret Santa due on Dec 25th 1/3 done
  • Finish making mixtape + cover for another Secret Santa
  • Write another Christmas piece I’ve set Dec 24th as a deadline for
  • Buy last piece of gift for friend
  • Buy gift for mom
  • Buy Christmas cards
  • Mail gifts and cards
  • Put up last pieces of Christmas decoration
  • Tidy up and clean living room
  • Buy ingredients for baking
  • Bake Christmas cookies
  • Plan meal for Christmas Eve and look up recipes
  • Finish Goodreads reading challenge for 2013 (1 book left) only 60 pages left

That damn mixtape really, really got me stuck, though. So even though I’ve only ticked off three more items on this list, I feel like I’m almost done. It took me four hours to finish the cover and I wish I could post it here without giving away who it is for. But I’m really proud of it. I put a rough The Nightmare Before Christmas theme on the thing and included both Christmas and Halloween songs with a few of my general favorites thrown in. So, keeping the cover in line with that, I used red paper, wrote The Nightmare Before Christmas in black glitter on it (and a nightmare that was!) and then added some artwork in which the two seasonal festivities were mixed, i.e. a jack-o-lantern with a Santa hat. Altogether, I’m really proud of how it turned out, despite myself sucking at crafts so much!

Categories: Me Myself and I, Music is my boyfriend | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Half-Way There

I just opened another door of my advent calendar and it reminded me that it’s only ten days til Christmas Eve. Cue a hysterical panic attack on my part.

So far, I thought I was doing really well. I thought I was on time.

Haha, yeah, right.

Truth is, I’ve started everything that needs to be done but I’ve finished very little. The only thing that ever helps me in this situation is sitting down and thinking about what exactly it is that needs to be done, write it all down in a to-do list and then tick things off. I’m a visual person, so as long as things are just thoughts in my head, I lose track and fool myself into thinking I’m okay.

So, the to-do list for this Christmas / End of Year is:

  • Write piece for a Secret Santa due on Dec 25th
  • Finish making mixtape + cover for another Secret Santa
  • Write another Christmas piece I’ve set Dec 24th as a deadline for
  • Buy last piece of gift for friend
  • Buy gift for mom
  • Buy Christmas cards
  • Mail gifts and cards
  • Put up last pieces of Christmas decoration
  • Tidy up and clean living room
  • Buy ingredients for baking
  • Bake Christmas cookies
  • Plan meal for Christmas Eve and look up recipes
  • Finish Goodreads reading challenge for 2013 (1 book left)

There you go. I’ve ticked off the one point I’ve already finished to motivate myself.

Later today, I’m going out to buy the cards and hopefully the gift for my friend. Then I’ll make the mixtape, wrap it all up and write cards, so they can be mailed next week. That’ll keep the pressure of the mail coming in late off my shoulders. I’m half-way through with the last book for Goodreads, too. And I’ll be buying ingredients for baking later, too, so hopefully the cookies will be over and done with by tomorrow, as well.

The most annoying part, as usual, is the writing. I’ve finished both pieces in my head so often already. Whenever I’m in bed or in the shower or in the car, I ‘write’ it all out. Then I sit in front of my computer and words just fail me. But at least those don’t need to be finished way ahead because I can literally finish them a second before they need to be posted. Or at least finish proofreading then.

Categories: Me Myself and I, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Hate You, Jillian Michaels

As you are reading this, please picture me stretching and burping contently, like a satisfied newborn.

On second thought…don’t. Just imagine how relaxed and happy I am after all this time off. And how stuffed and bloated I feel after five days of food, food, and more food.

Christmas Eve was alright. My dinner was fanbloodytastic, even though I cringed when I was touching the raw meat. I think with all the sauce hollandaise and the cream in the dessert, I fed myself just about the same amount of calories that a baby elephant needs to walk from here down to South Africa. Roughly. It was worth it, though. It’s a shame I cook so rarely because I really am quite good at it. I’m definitely not the water burner type.

If I thought my Christmas Eve dinner was massive, though, I felt slightly better listening to my friend’s tale. She’s Polish and apparently, they have a tradition in Poland that says to wait until the first star can be seen on Christmas Eve and then you start eating. Twelve courses. Without break. And not just tiny snacks, either. Full courses. Soup, mains, desserts…full plates. According to my friend, she couldn’t even walk afterwards. Suddenly, my filet and panna cotta sound like light snacks.

The unwrapping and unboxing of gifts was nice as usual but I really do notice that I’m an adult now when it comes to this because it’s not the one and only thing I look forward to anymore. My mom gave me a Tomas Sabo charm, a Pegasus. I’ve only been throwing in the word ‘Pegasus’ in conversation at random times for about a year so she would remember. And trust me, it is not very easy to find reasons to bring ‘Pegasus’ in. We don’t really discuss Greek mythology a lot in our family, believe it or not. So for the most part I kept telling her about the tattoo of him I want (not the serious kind of adult, obviously!) and at one point, there was even talk of her paying for a part of that. But I don’t know, it makes me really uncomfortable when she does that. She paid for a part of my last tattoo and it felt strange. I know she hates tattoos and while I appreciate her trying not to give me long rants about how only criminals and prostitutes have tattoos, I don’t want her to pay for something she disagrees with, either. So the charm is just fine.

Christmas Day and Boxing Day were spent sitting on my butt. I didn’t leave the house once. I didn’t stop eating, either. I don’t know about traditions in other countries but in Germany, we get a plate or bowl full of candy and treats. The idea is to eat a piece here and there and it’ll last you into the new year. Weeeelll…I almost emptied mine in those two days. And barely ate anything else. Not only the intake of calories is shocking but also my laziness. Rather than taking the five minutes it’d take to make myself a sandwich or a bowl of cereals, I had chocolate for breakfast.

Then, on the 27th, the horror story continued when I met my friend for lunch. We met at noon and I slept so late, I didn’t even have breakfast. So, my breakfast were fried chicken, peppers and cheese from the Chinese buffet. Afterwards, we went shopping and I put myself to more shame when I bought shoes, books and cosmetics and then had some froyo and a drink from Starbucks.

And the next day, I met yet another friend for yet another Chinese buffet meal (what is it about my friends being obsessed with Chinese? I’m not even such a big fan!).

Needless to say I feel like Miss Piggy. I haven’t even stepped near my scale in weeks. I am blushing just thinking about it. Whenever I enter the bathroom, I can feel it glaring at me. So it was this kind of shame that made me go on yet another shopping spree yesterday and I bought a sports bra. For some reason, my mom even bought me a yoga mat. She’d wanted to buy one for herself and because they were on sale, she bought one for me, too, despite my protests. I’m not being ungrateful here but I’m running out storage space so I would have preferred to borrow hers. But anyway, now I had a (breathtakingly tight but bright pink) sports bra, a yoga mat, 0.5kg weights and the 30 Day Shred DVD, so there was no excuse. Today, I let my shame talk me into giving it a try.

I am so freaking embarrassed that my cats had to witness this!!!!

I started with level one (obviously), and I made it through about ten minutes before I started feeling sick, seeing stars and hearing a ringing in my ears that came close to the one and only time I nearly fainted in hospital. I watched the rest of the workout from the couch, unable to move, let alone get up. For about three hours afterwards, my legs were shaking. My knees felt like they were giving in with every step. Jillian Michaels well and truly whipped my butt!!! I wasn’t able to move but my mind was coming up with quite colorful ideas of what I wanted to do to her and her two sidekicks. Especially the skinny one with the amazing abs who never got out of breath or showed any signs of exhaustion but was still doing the “easy” version of the workouts. Bah!!! I know I have to keep doing it and it will get easier and blablabla but today, I seriously wanted to die. How is it so easy to gain weight and so hard to lose it? I’m not sure I’ll even make it out of bed tomorrow…

Categories: Couch Potato, Foody, Me Myself and I | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy (Quiet) Holidays

A Rodney Christmas

A Rodney Christmas

Look, what the cat dragged in! It’s Rodney, the raccoon! He hasn’t had a proper introduction in this blog because, frankly, I all but forgot about him until a moment ago. Rodney used to be my trusted company for years. He’s come on road trips and other travels with me and pretty much lives in my bag. He’s in a lot of pictures I’ve taken over the years but at some point, I just forgot about him and he went into an extended hibernation, I guess. But I came across his little Christmas hat today (which used to adorn a chocolate Santa) and thought of him. Expect to see a lot of him on here.

Anyway…

It is done. My final shift at work this week is through. It was pretty painful with about twice as many calls as we had in the previous few years, and most of them from Grinches and Scrooges. Quite surprisingly, there are still people in this country that forget that Christmas exists. If it was for me, we wouldn’t even be open today but when is it ever about me? My reward now are almost ten full blissful days off. Time to unwind and relax.

…or commit yourself to so many things that you’ll end up stressed and rushed anyway.

At least for today, that’ll have to be the case. I’m so glad that I don’t have a large family. As I said, I promised to do the cooking this year and it already stresses me out when it is just for my mom and me. As soon as I got home today, I got the dessert ready, only to find out that it would have been a good idea to do so yesterday. But with all the baking I’ve done all Sunday (mmhh, cookies! Happiness straight out of the oven!), there was simply no time (or space in the kitchen). Now I can only hope that my cinnamon panna cotta will be firm enough anyway and that the five hours the mandarins will spend soaking in orange liqueur will be enough. It did smell awfully good anyway. Cinnamon, mmmhhh!

This gives me the time to work on the other project I’ve, stupidly, committed myself to. I have to write a Secret Santa story for a girl on a forum. What was I thinking? In the past months, my writing has consisted of this blog, a failed attempt at NaNoWriMo and a few illegible scribbles on scraps of paper. But thing is, I’m co-admin of said forum and it’s loosely based on writing as a general theme so I would have found it a little rude to leave myself out of the Secret Santa. It wasn’t even like I could have played the no time-card. Time wasn’t an issue. I’ve had so many late shifts that allowed me to write that the 1,000 words minimum seemed almost laughable. And the prompts I was given are pretty gentle, as well. I could think of a dozen different plots. Problem was, when I sat down to write, no words would come. So in the past week or so I’ve written about 2,500 words that I’m halfway okay with. Or at least I wouldn’t feel like hanging myself from the shower rod in shame after publishing them. I’d guess that I’m about 2/3 done now. Yes, it was a real quickie, as was the idea of this Secret Santa. So I’ve sat myself down at my desk (I spend ages finding the right desk and chair, created my little writer’s nook in my living room, and I swear, I never sit here! Ever!), I’ve made myself a chococino…and then I opened WordPress and started writing this blog entry instead. Gah!

What I have noticed while typing this, though, is how rarely I get to enjoy the silence (DM-related pun intended) and how alien everyday life sounds are to me. The slow hum of the heating, the buzz of my cats purring on their pillows, people talking in the street below…I never really notice these things because there’s always either the TV or music on. And I’d make it sound overdramatic and say that Christmas is making all the poor lonely souls kill themselves because I keep hearing the sirens of ambulances but I don’t think it’s so unusual here. There’s a fire station right across the bridge from where all the ambulances and fire trucks get sent out. I suppose there’s a fair amount of sirens to be heard on any given day of the year. Still, aside from a couple not so pleasant sounds like that, I think I should try to pay more attention to the small things in life. Maybe keep the TV off more often.

Anyway…I hope all of you guys have a wonderful Christmas, whether it’s quiet and peaceful or full of the buzz that comes with being surrounded by family and loved ones. Enjoy yourselves and have a cookie or two without thinking of calories and carbs. It’s Christmas, after all!

I’ll go and think of which book I should read next finish that story now.

Categories: Foody, Me Myself and I | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Auto Pause

I still owe this blog part two of my London trip. And about half a dozen other entries. But it’s Christmas soon and this year, things are going upside down. When you’re working in or with retail, you come to fear Christmas quite quickly. After almost seven years in this job, it doesn’t come as a surprise anymore. But it’s never been as bad as it is this year. People are either pissed off or upset or both and they forget all manners. A broken ATM becomes a tragedy and you find yourself hoping that 12/21 will be the end of it all. In addition, we also have doctors practices and hospitals as new clients who put additional pressure on us because their whole admin work will have to be finished by the end of December. Work is no fun. And it’s all so new that no one really knows what’s going on so we’re constantly stressed out. I blame the horrors of the last week on that. Otherwise I’d have to say that it was an absolute nightmare for no reason other than people stabbing my back. I admit I’ve been complaining a lot and I may be so upset with it all that I exaggerate a lot. I understand that it might be a bit annoying for my co-workers. But the thing is, the two who complained with my team leader (who happens to be a friend of mine) are those who are the most stressful people to work with themselves. One is the hard to entertain guy mentioned here, the other is the kind of co-worker everyone has. The guy that no one likes because he’s too ambitious, too much of a shmoozer. He’s not a superior of any kind but he’ll control you and point out your errors and flaws. So after this really, really stressful week, I’m sure you can imagine the last thing I needed to be told was that I should try not to complain about it anymore.

That’s the work-related stress. The other was trying to get all the gifts together without spending too much money this year. I’ve had quite a few unexpected costs in the past six months that left me struggling a little. And I know Christmas gifts aren’t about money but if you’re not all that great at DIY, it’s hard not to spend a nice sum. But I think I still got nice things for all my friends. I hope they’ll like them either way.

Homemade and yum!

Homemade and yum!

I even did get into a little bit of DIY-ing by making my own Christmas treats this year. I was gonna bake cookies but then I found this amazing recipe for white chocolate rum balls and I just can’t resist white chocolate. I made the ‘dough’ yesterday and let it cool in the fridge overnight, then formed the balls today. It was really messy and took a long time but they’re delicious. I may have gone a little overboard with the rum, though, using five spoons instead of the recommended three. Delicious, though. I may still bake a batch of cookies next Sunday to take into work with me on Christmas Eve since it’s bad enough that a co-worker and I have to work then, so I wanna give him a little bag of cookies as a gift. I hope I can find the motivation since I will have to work from noon to eight on Saturday as well.

After all this stressful up and down, I took a day ‘off’ yesterday and just relaxed on the couch. It came at the right time because I started the latest book in Simon Beckett’s David Hunter series last week and it’s so good! Oh, the suspense! But I forgot how good it feels to just curl up with a book in a quiet room. People pay thousands to go on extended holidays in the sun and I’m sure they don’t get to relax more than I did yesterday.

The plan for today was to clean the bathroom and then take a nice long walk along the Christmas Fair in town. But my plans were ruined when (TMI!) I stood up from the toilet seat around noon and felt a stabbing pain in my lower back. Turns out I dislocated it again and it only got worse and worse throughout the day. I managed to make my rum balls but only while sitting down at the dinner table. After that, I made it to the couch where I’ve been sitting ever since. Interrupted by painful, torturous trips to the bathroom. I wish I could crawl there but truth is I can’t even make it to the floor, so I just walk like the hunchback of Notre Dame. I only had this a couple months ago and I’m starting to worry that something is seriously wrong with my back. I went back to the gym last week and actually, I felt fine (only did cardio, though) but now I’m starting to think I may have to change my routine. Either that or do even more. I just hope it’ll be okay enough to make it to work tomorrow. Last time, it was bearable the next day, so here’s to hoping it’ll be the same this time. I’m not pleased about being stuck at home today, though. This is interfering with my plans!

Categories: Bookworm, Couch Potato, Foody | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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