Introducing Lori…

I took my twelve-year-old out for dinner last night.

Actually, that’s why I’m up before 6am on a Sunday. Seems my dinner (yummy though it was) and my stomach did have some falling out and the food found itself evicted. But we won’t go into that.

Anyway, Lori (the twelve-year-old) chatted continuously all through dinner. As is her art. She really is quite an entertaining eating companion. If you can keep up with her, that is. She speaks with incredible speed. I think it’s because she has so much to say about the world and it’s dog.

And she can eat. I know she’s growing, but the portions at the restaurant were huge. She polished off a starter and a main and then had an extra portion of wild potatoes. Then inquired politely about dessert. Luckily for my wallet, my stomach and my starter had commenced battle, so we made a sharp exit.

But sitting here now, alone, in the middle of the night, there’s a line I feel the need to tell you about from the whole conversation.

I asked Lori how she’s feeling now about her EUR 100, stolen by the post (Outraged by the post) and she answered:

“I just keep thinking how much of the rain forest that money could have saved, dumb isn’t it?”

Wait a moment. I have a tear in my eye.

OK. That’s better.

Did I tell you that Lori used her Christmas money to join the WWF?

Introducing Lori… Our environmentalist. 😀


Mr. Pat Lettermann
Human Resources
Deutsche Post AG
Poststr. 222
12345 Berlin


Dear Mr. Lettermann,

I am writing to apply for the position of part-time Post Person – Indoor Sorting at the Distribution Centre, South Germany. For your perusal I am enclosing details of my previous experience.

The opportunity presented by this position is very interesting to me, and I believe that my keen eye for valuable content will give me the edge at protecting your customers’ precious parcels.

I believe that my dealings with the postal service have already educated me with the inner workings of the centre, thus making me a very competitive candidate for this position.

The key strengths that I possess for success in this position include:

  • I am a quick learner
  • I am able to seize an opportunity when it presents itself
  • Should accidental ripping occur, I am a dab had with a roll of tape

I would not require a high salary, as I’m sure that the job itself will provide ample reward.

I would appreciate you taking the time to read through my enclosed experience.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to speaking with you about this employment opportunity.


Sars M

The million dollar question…

WordPress asked today:

What would you do with a million dollars, tax free?

Well, firstly I’d change it into Euro’s.

Which is EUR 733,837.

Sounds a lot, right?


Because we have four whole children and children are very expensive.

This article in the Guardian on 23rd February 2010 states that the cost of bringing up one child has now reached more than £200,000.


Which is EUR 238, 237 per child. Times four. That’s EUR 952,948.

Of course, the Guardian is basing their article on British children and in Britain, parents receive a lot less child benefit than here in Germany. But then here, we have to pay for school bus passes and supplement school costs.

Parents in Germany must provide some books, all paper and exercise books, paint and other art materials. Scissors, glue etc. To top that children’s clothes and shoes are generally more expensive.

For the sake of the argument, let’s just call it even.

Now, in my case, I would not need to spend the full million dollars on child rearing because being 15, 12, 10 and 4 years old, they are somewhat invested in already.

An added bonus is that I’m a stay at home mum. So I haven’t, in general, had to spend much on child care. Reducing my overall costs of raising my children.

Thus meaning I might, from a million dollar windfall, have enough money for a nice family holiday.

My new concept

I have developed a new, exciting concept. It is called ‘The Big Clean.’

It came about as a result of our cleaner – who used to dissolve all of our dirt here once a week, with fantastic amounts of cleaning product (OK, not so fantastic if you’re an environmentalist) – just evaporating. Please note: I’m not BLAMING the cleaning products for the sudden disappearance of our cleaning lady. She just vanished. Gone. Puff. Just like that.

I didn’t sack her. No. Even though she arrived late on many occasions. Some occasions she didn’t actually arrive at all. But when she did appear at the house, I became alive because I knew that all-of-that-nasty-dirt-would-just-disappear. Without me having to do anything.

Well, apart from tidying for the whole of the previous day. And then for another three hours in the morning before she arrived. And naturally, I would make sure the sink wasn’t actually too dirty. Or a ring hadn’t formed around the bath. Or an unclean towel didn’t hang on the rail. Apart from those small, un-exhausting things, I didn’t prepare at all.

My children paid particular attention to aid and abet me in my un-preparedness, with exceptionally high standards (not that I like to brag): leaving crap lying in the freshly tidied hall, including used underwear, of course; spilling dairy and non-dairy items across the once clean dining table; abandoning litter items in close proximity to the bin but not actually in it.

But in place of all this family wear and tear, our cleaner would provide shining surfaces and space in which to breathe.

Finishing at lunch time, she would wave us a fond farewell with those magic hands and truthfully, for an hour or two the house looked and felt lovely and I had an inner peace. My husband experienced none of this because by dinner time he couldn’t tell the cleaner had actually been. In the early days, he did sometimes feel the need to ask me if we really needed a cleaner at all. Can you believe that?

Anyway I had my cleaner. I loved my cleaner. But sadly, like most good things, that period has come to an abrupt and somewhat distressing end. I knew the end was nigh, of course. I only hired her because I had a knee op and I couldn’t cope with a house and crutches and four kids and no afternoon school and a garden and trying to remember what an iron is for and cleaning too.

Then I had a few difficulties ‘letting go’.

Between finger operations, shingles, ADHD impulses, purpura, getting to know doctors in various clinics and hospitals on a first name basis, homework, washing, shovelling snow, cooking for a family of 500 six (The Hungries) dealing with hormonal outbursts (true, they were mostly mine) and did I mention general exhaustion? I hadn’t found the time to come to the realisation that we couldn’t really afford a cleaner.

I have been living in a delusional, idyllic reality that I could actually afford the support that the cleaner brought.

But folks, it was good while it lasted.

Now, if you can attempt to comprehend the level of my fantasy then perhaps you will also have some compassion for the length of time it took for me to bump down to reality.

At first, I assumed that the cleaning lady would return at some point and magic the growing level of dust and not-so-good bacteria away.

Meanwhile, in a brave attempt at assisting her, I tried sneezing some of the dust aside.

But she did not hear the call of my sneezes or the muffled squeaks of the bacteria (now somewhat engulfed by dust) and at some point the penny dropped and I just knew: I had to clean the damn house by myself.

And that dear people, is when I came up with the most amazing, truly wonderful, incredibly clever plan.

‘The Big Clean’.

It goes like this:

  • I write out a list of all the jobs to be done
  • I write on a small piece of paper the title ‘Points’ and underneath the names of each of the children and stick it up for all to see
  • I allocate jobs to the children and when they are done WELL they receive 1 point which is then noted on the points paper
  • I sit back and eat chocolate I also allocate jobs to my husband and myself
  • The children are not given points for tidying their own mess i.e. their room, washing etc only for the communal jobs
  • Cash prizes are allocated dependent on points received, in our not so rich situation that is: EUR 2 for the winner, second place EUR 1, and third and fourth both earn 50 cents
  • Lazy non-committed helpers are not rewarded
  • I offer encouragement by yelling who has the most points around the house

The benefits of the scheme are:

  • We save a shit load of money
  • The children learn how to look after a house
  • It’s much quicker than me doing all of the work on my own
  • It’s much easier than me doing all of the work on my own
  • I like it MUCH BETTER than doing all of the work on my own
  • Everyone sees just how much work I have to do
  • I have more time to blog
  • I don’t have to go through the rigmarole of finding another cleaner and learning to trust them in my home
  • I can’t afford another cleaner, so now I actually live in reality
  • The children (sometimes) earn some money
  • The house is clean and I’m not embarrassed when an unexpected visitor rings the bell
  • The children don’t like their hard work being messed up and are then more clean and tidy (OK that bit isn’t off to a flying start, but I’m being optimistic)
  • During the clean, I enter a room and people are trying to fix it rather than mess it up after I’d fixed it only 15 minutes before.

‘The Big Clean’ scheme is copyrighted. Should you wish to partake in ‘The Big Clean’ yourself with your own family (and the writer very much advises it) payment should be made to Sarah May. She takes money in any form. Whatever the currency or payment type she accepts PayPal, Cash, Credit or debit Card (for your information she is also partial to flowers, chocolates, cake and gold bars).

So as not to bore the children completely, we decided to partake in ‘The Big Clean’ once a fortnight. I alone am responsible for the little cleans that take place throughout the week.

So far the concept works perfectly. Well, apart from a little glitch at the weekend. Joni found herself absorbed in a birthday party, a book, long lies, homework and thus couldn’t take part. Reini, exhausted from being at home for three weeks needed to prepare for going back to work. Akasha followed the call of the play park. Lori sort to make things rather than to tidy them away.  Aden found more fun in trying to burn the house down.

And me? Er… I just forgot!

The ‘Hungries’

I set out on the dinner table this evening:

1 whole baguette
1 whole olive ciabatta
1 whole head of lettuce
8 tomatoes
1/2 a cucumber
Some radishes
1 large box of mushrooms (along with garlic, butter and olive oil ;-))
1 packet of feta cheese
Sliced herb cheese
1 tub of goats cheese
Some pickled onions
4 boiled eggs
1 packet of sliced turkey
1/2 a packet of sliced ham
1/2 a packet of sliced chicken

To clarify:my husband is on holiday at the moment, and had been present for lunch – lasagna – and the girls had both had several courses of school lunches, hubby looked at my offerings, shook his head and stated, “You’ve made far too much!”

But, what do I have left over for tomorrow?



Not a grain of salt or a fleck of basil.

Our twelve-year-old daughter actually stated that she’d drink some extra milk to, “Fill up the little hole that is left in my stomach!”

Last year, she grew through four whole shoe sizes and is now the proud owner of a size 42, that’s a British size 9, boots.

I have informed her she’ll either be a clown or a giant.

Please watch this space. It may be in the near future that I am forced to sell one of the four children as a down payment for some more food. And if not in requirement of our daily bread, then at least for some new shoes.

A little bit of controversy

Recently I flew to Britain for a moment. The moment can be described in three sections: a wedding (the actual reason for my visit), glancing at a couple of friends (if you’re a friend and I didn’t have time to glance at you, please believe me, I am sorry, but you know, a moment only lasts for a moment and that is that) and a crazy shopping spree (which evolved into a trying to fit everything into a suitcase frenzy, involving such things as big bottoms on said suitcase and strained looking zips. In other words: it was not pretty).

Being British I’ve grown up with the phrase ‘rip off Britain’ and so my expectation followed thus: my pounds would not have the ability to buy me very much. But that assumption is very, very wrong. In fact, the more I saw the purchase power of my pound, the more I wished I had paid Raise Your Airfare Ninefold RYANair another thirty quid for a second suitcase.

Britain is cheap!

At least in comparison to Germany it is.

Let me give you an example. My 15-year-old daughter informed me she needed new jeans (I arrived with a full-blown shopping list, actually). After friendly consultation I ambled into Asda, already laden with bags. Wowed by low price party dresses, cheap nightwear and bargain-basement undies, nothing could prepare me for the denim department. Having reached my destination the price tag poking out at me screamed £2. No I didn’t miss any digits. Yes, you do read me correctly: £2!!!

No. I didn’t buy them. They were, in fact, the ugliest jeans I have ever seen in my life. I would not have insulted my daughter with them. But that’s not the point. The point is the original price (not the reduced price) of a full, adult size pair of trousers constructed in denim, with a zip and even rivets is £2.

Now, I’m no financial genius, but even I can work out that since the first jeans sold in 1885 for $1.50 and with some allowance for inflation over the last 125 years, the numbers just don’t add up.

I know some of the supermarkets promote subsidized products. But on my search around the shop the most expensive jeans I actually found were £4. The subsequent resulting image in my mind being that of a sweatshop in a far off land, employing three-year olds for peanuts. Or even crumbs…

Back home now, I’ve been searching for a snow-suit for our youngest so as she can embrace the upcoming cold weather. She needs something that will keep her warm enough even at temperatures of -15°C. Therefore, I wanted something of reasonable quality, so I set myself a budget of EUR 30.

You can laugh now.

I have spent the best part of the last week shopping. I have been to various towns and many, many, many shops. I even surfed the net. But in total I managed only to find two in my price bracket. One paper-thin number at just shy of EUR 10 and another that also seemed to be of poor quality, for the complete budget.

Yesterday, the temperatures dropped to below zero and I ran into a wall of panic. I had no idea where I’d seen the best cheapest solution, but after talking to a friend I had learned of some reduced winter articles in yet another shop, in yet another town. I ended up purchasing a winter jacket (note: not a snow-suit) reduced from

Please take a deep breath:

EUR 60 to EUR 45.

Truthfully, it is the Mercedes in terms of winter jackets. It has every possible function to keep her warm and dry. The sales assistant made sure she informed me of them all. And I bought each and every one of them… But now I need to buy snow trousers too. Even with the assistants wonderful powers of persuasion I managed to reject her EUR 40 trousers.

OK. I have a little more to confess. Ever the bargain hunter, I have throughout the week also purchased a few other articles. Long sleeved tops and trousers to be precise. All reduced, you understand.

Just so we’re clear, I’ll tell you a little more.

Thick cotton trousers. With a zip and a plastic button and pockets. Almost like a pair of jeans. Just no denim or rivets.

Original price EUR 19,95.

Reduced to? EUR 10.

Made in? China.

Now, I don’t know about you, but for me the realization that my rather more expensive product (originally ten times the price of those Asda jeans, to be exact) leaves me a little confused and to be perfectly honest, rather pissed.

Could it be the reputable company who outsourced the manufacturing of my daughters new top to,  (let me read the label)  – Bangladesh, actually paid those workers a Western style wage? I suspect not.

But still we’re paying Western style prices.

So, having had the Asda shopping experience first hand, I have discovered prices in Britain nowadays to be particularly low. Perhaps even artificially low at times.  In comparison I suspect the German prices to be artificially high.

And whether or not you agree with poor working conditions being offered to those in the Far East is not the point of this article. The point is, that at least those at Asda are being quietly honest about it.