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A sense of accomplishment comes cheap over here.

Posted by Allison on October 23, 2009

The funny thing about moving to a new country is that no longer do you need big, huge accomplishments to feel like you’ve done something with your day.  This week is Eli’s Halloween party at school and he decided he wanted to be a PARROT for Halloween.  I personally think that is a weird costume choice but I wasn’t asked, I was told.  This is E “helping” me make his costume, every so often he would glance up from the computer and say, “YEP”!

IMG_0763The kids were to find a character in a book and then dress up like them.  Some how Mr Magoo got it stuck in his head that he wanted to be a parrot.  Fine, I’m easy (well i was in 1989) so I can adapt. The problem is I’m in Germany.  I can’t just run down to fabricland, pick up some supplies and sew a costume lickity split.   There is NO fabricland. And I have NO sewing machine!

So this is how the whole thing went…..


1. Look up Fabric stores in Mannheim and Heidelberg to determine how to get to one on the public transport system.

2. Narrow it down to two possibilities within walking distance of each other and google map it.  (send google map to itouch so I can look up route while walking)

3. Look up the word for “felt” in German in case no one speaks English at the store.

4. Draw basic sketch of costume so I have a little bit of an idea of how much fabric to get.

5. One the way to the first location, stumble upon a sewing machine/fabric store with English speaking clerk and buy felt.

I still went to the other two stores because I had a lot of time to kill before I had to pick up Eli at school.  The one store was a craft store, had no felt and so I left fairly quickly.  The other was a fabric store where I picked up a sliver of yellow felt and some fabric glue.  That night I assembled the wings to test out my theory and hoped like hell it would all make sense.  Then came the realization that in order to attach the wings to a shirt I would need to hand sew them onto E’s clothing.

So at the end of day one I had a couple of wings ready to go…and not much else.  Oh, I had pinned the eyes on to a toque but I was stuck on the “bill”.

IMG_0764 IMG_0767

DAY TWO (day before the party)

1.  Pick up E and go to speech therapy, come home whistling all the way.  Step in the house and see Parrot costume and realise that I didn’t pick up a sewing needle and now I’m in my tiny town where everything closes at random times for random reasons and I’m screwed.

2. Although past experience has taught me to write down in German what I’m looking for (see yesterday’s happy easy pleasant experience)  I just decide to walk out the door and go to Vogenstrasse (the main drag) and see what I stumble upon.

*A little side note on the writing stuff down,  I’ve been trying to by baking soda for 3 weeks.  I keep looking in the baking section.  I haven’t written it down and so far I have come home with baking powder and yeast.  Yesterday while hanging out I found arm & hammer baking soda at the chinese grocery and did what can only be called an embarrassing dance of glee in the middle of the aisle.  Feel free to laugh at me from afar..

3.  Three stores later I find sewing needles at NOT the craft store, NOT the drug store but the POST OFFICE!

4. Sew sleeves and tail onto shirt with long basting stitches in hopes to a) keep the shirt from getting wrecked and b) getting the costume done for the party that is now THE NEXT DAY!


Let me telling you, getting those sewing needles made me feel like I’d won a prize.  There is such a sense of accomplishment when completing what is essential a fairly basis task.

And now we have one VERY happy Parrot.  I cannot believe how absolutely thrilled this kids is with his costume.


I have to remember to cut down the bill before I leave for the party at lunch time!  But other than that…success!

60 Responses to “A sense of accomplishment comes cheap over here.”

  1. Meems said

    To me, making the costume *was* a big, huge accomplishment, even if you had all of the necessary tools and fabric to begin with. It just makes it all the more impressive that you had to also navigate the shopping blockades as well. I wonder if the post office stocks needles just because no one else does when it’s convenient?

  2. Kristinma said

    Sewing needles at the post office. I never would have thought to look there in a MILLION years. I’m still working on Andrew’s costume. I guess we need to look at it this weekend or so.

    I remember the days when simply navigating the subway for a ride of only a few blocks and back was an accomplishment and also left you exhausted for the rest of the day.

    You’re doing mahvelously, dahling!

  3. anji said

    what a VERY cute costume, haha!!!

    If you are able to, you should try just going for daily walks, do some window shopping and browsing to get used to where ‘things’ are.

    It’s a good way to get out of the house, learn some german and to check out the sights!

  4. christina said

    That’s an awesome costume! Well done. Yeah, sometimes you find the stuff you need in the weirdest places in Germany. The next time you run out of baking soda, in German supermarkets it’s called Kaiser Natron (Kaiser being the brand and Natron the word for sodium bicarbonate in German) and comes in a green and white package. I think Dr. Oetker also makes it but I haven’t seem it at our market yet.

  5. […] 1. I have a best friend. I have absolutely no idea why she’s still friends with me. 2. We though we were complete. Then this monkey joined us and now we are. 3. Halloween and not a Batman to be found. Normal isn’t normal in our house. […]

  6. Score!! You did an amazing job. I’m so impressed you accomplished that in Germany. Wow!

  7. Sounds like an insane adventure! I would have loved to have seen you doing a jig over a simple container of baking soda 🙂 Again, congrats on being featured for SITS 🙂

  8. Bethany said

    It looks great! I love the colors pop. My husband is 30 and still has all of the Halloween costumes his mother made him; I will probably even use some of them for my son.

  9. Fallon said

    Why would there be sewing needles at a post office? Germany is weird. I love the cute little costume though; I think I wouldn’t mind a shirt myself with a fair of felt wings –it could be fun on a windy day. 😛

  10. Megan said

    Wow, that whole ordeal would’ve been quite the accomplishment for me HERE in the US! haha!! Looks awesome! Great job! =)

  11. Great costume! I can imagine what living in a foreign country should be like – my 4 months traveling in Europe years ago taught me that English is far less used than we might think.

  12. What a great parrot costume you made. I would not have had a clue how do make one. That was a amazing accomplishment. Guess kids can bring out a mom’s hidden talents!

    Congrats on your SITS day!

  13. typeamommy said

    That looks pretty darn awesome to me!!! Good work!

  14. Herself said

    Fabulous! I’m sure he loved it and felt VERY proud!!!!

  15. Yaya said

    Wow! Good job!

  16. You did an awesome shop. It sounds like shopping in a different country can be a challenge.

  17. Christine said

    You rocked the costume. It turned out fabulously. How curious that you found the needles at the Post Office; I’m going to try not to think about that too much. LMAO.

  18. judy said

    oooh! I love that! What an imaginative choice for a costume!

  19. LisaDay said

    I am impressed. A parrot is better than Batman. Way to go for not being ‘normal.’

  20. Cute costume.

  21. Kerri said

    I am seriously impressed! My sewing talents (even in America where they have anything you could possible need almost ANYWHERE) are linited to sewing on buttons. : )
    Happy SITS day again!!

  22. Paula said

    aw such a cute parrot!
    Happy SITS Day!

  23. I always buy my sewing needles at the post office! I’m so glad he was happy. One year my son wanted to be a carrot! So, a carrot he was, but a US carrot…

  24. Shana said

    Awesome job – he looks adorable! I’m very impressed – I would have had no idea where to start!

    shana @

  25. That turned out rockin’! And I think your prize was that gigantic smile you got from him.

  26. Michelle said

    Cute costume! What is your family doing in Germany? Is your husband in the miliatary? We had some friends the came back to the states after being stationed in Germany for 2 years with the Army.

  27. That is such a great idea for a costume. I love making my daughters costumes. I’m a little confused as to why the post office would be selling sewing needles, but I’m glad you found them.

  28. Kearsie said

    Wow, I forget how easy it is to just run down to Walmart for random things like toilet paper and apricot jelly. How tough that must be in another country!

  29. joy said

    What a fabulous costume!

    Congrats on your SITS day!

  30. Great costume!

  31. Apryl said

    I really enjoyed reading this – love your idea for how to accomplish the costume. More importantly, I love how you deal with living in a foreign place, dealing with finding things and the language.

  32. Michelle said

    great costume! And way to go on improvising.

    Happy SITS day!

  33. Lourie said

    Wow! That came out really cute! I would bow to you for doing this at home, but doing it abroad!? I would have just cried. Stopping by from SITS

  34. zeemaid said

    i think the costume is great. how innovative of you!!! I remember living in Europe and having problems buying things. I remember being 18 and having to go the local grocer and buy pads… yeah try asking that in a foreign language *LOL* Do they even have that in the translation book? not my most enjoyable moment I’ll tell you.

    Happy SITS day

  35. you deserve a medal. Seriously. AFter all that, the costume looks great!

  36. gina said

    WOW- love it! The costume and the story- how exciting to be on such an adventure so far away!

  37. Young Wife said

    Wow. I would have been impressed if you’d made it here in the states. I am in awe that you accomplished this in Germany!

  38. So I just have to ask – how many people are in your town that you found needles at the Post Office?

  39. Looks Great!! Good job!!

  40. Day One – Step 3, LOL! Love it!
    Happy SITS day!!

  41. Shell said

    So so cute! Happy SITS day!

  42. Gayle said

    WOW!! You can sew!! I can glue! You are in a new country…I’m just out in the country (but soon to be back to the city) You are an awesome writer, Mom and individual…Glad I stopped by SITS to find you! Happy SITS Spotlight Day!


  43. LOVE IT! Great work and he felt valued and “listened to.” Way better than I could have ever done! 🙂

  44. mrsbear said

    Hahaha. Oh my goodness, what an endeavor. And he made a great parrot. I would’ve been doing the happy dance for baking soda too. I’ll be making a mental note of your advice should I ever live in a country that doesn’t speak my language and I’m in desperate need of baking supplies. 😉 It was a pleasure stopping by.

  45. MARIE COLE said

    He should be thrilled, you did a great job!

    All the things we take for granted in America or at least an English speaking country. 🙂

  46. Etta said

    What a cute costume!

  47. Janet said

    This is so cute! I think you did a fabulous job!

  48. Tanya said

    LOVE this fun story of a foreign shopping adventure!

  49. wcurley said

    Thank goodness that in my move away from the United States I have moved to a country where they speak English. In Australia it used to he hard for me to find simple things: dryer sheets (they don’t use dryers much), tortillas (I never thought I’d say this but yippee for Old El Paso), and Lady Speed Stick deoderant (I used to have my mom mail it to me).

    Australia is catching up (or maybe I’m slowing down) but regardless, I’m able to ask for what I want with out the list or the looking it up.

    Well – you are a great writer. Your storytelling is brilliant. Thanks for the diversion!

    Now I’m off to make a coffee. (I said that 30 minutes ago before discovering SITS – I’m hopeless!)

  50. That is stinkin adorable! Cute kid too!

  51. Oh my gosh. I love your costume. Look what a fabulous job you did! Outstanding! I love the happy smile all that work garnered! I am sure it made it all worth it : ) You are a great Mommy!

  52. Adrian said

    That’s a very cute little parrot. Stopping by from SITS.

  53. Wow. That is amazing, seriously, you did an incredible job! I would have just cried in the corner, which would have been scary, but not Halloween funness…

  54. Julie said

    That is incredible! Great job!

  55. mom2kmjx2 said

    Its so cute. Good Job!!!

  56. Oh my gosh! Wow!! That’s creative! I would never think of something like this.

  57. You are an awesome Mom. And I just caught on that you are Germany. Sweetness. I spent 18 months over in the Leipzig/Dresden area and it is amazing. I can feel your pain on not being able to find things in places or stores that you think they should be. The costume is awesome and I’m sure he was doing a dance of joy similar to the one you did when you found the baking soda! 🙂 Happy SITS day to you!

  58. Amber said

    Yikes, that was definitely an experience for you! Your son looks so cute in his costume!
    My brother used to live in Germany… at Kaiserslautern (the Army base), he said it was absolutely beautiful. I bet you live a pretty exciting life :).

  59. Jessica said

    Great costume. It would have been hard enough with supplies that were easy to come by.

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