A Photo an Hour: 22 April 2017

Saturday was April’s photo an hour date and I decided to join in on Twitter, and now on my blog. If anyone was following along on Twitter, you may notice that some of the photos here are slightly different. That’s because I used my phone for the Twitter photos but these ones were taken with my camera. In the case of the shots taken from trains, the scenery had already moved on by the time I took the second photo 😉

Here’s what I got up to:

8 a.m. Up way too early for a Saturday since we have a visitor coming. Tea is desperately needed!

9 a.m. Feeling more awake after my tea and a shower. Time to decide what to wear!

10 a.m. Jan went to meet our visitor from the train station since he needed to pick something up from a chemist near there, so I did some cross stitch while I waited for them to arrive.

11 a.m. We left the day’s plans up to the visitor and he chose a trip to Fribourg. 11 a.m. saw us on the bus to the train station.

12 noon. On a train,

1 p.m. We had to change trains in Bern, so we thought we would have a walk around there before continuing our journey.

2 p.m. Back on the train, just about to leave Bern train station.

3 p.m. In Fribourg (or Freiburg)

4 p.m. Jan knew some people who were performing in this festival thing, so we stopped by to see some of it.

5 p.m. A break between acts. I thought these lights were really cool!

6 p.m. This is the group where Jan knows a couple of people (they also sing in another choir that he is part of).

7 p.m. Waiting for the train home (or rather to Bern where we had to change again)

8 p.m. On the final train of the day, just about to arrive in Olten.

9 p.m. Time for dinner at the street food festival in Basel.

10 p.m. Still at the street food festival. Meat on sticks!

11 p.m. Back home having a much.needed glass of juice. I was thirsty!

After that we chatted for a while before heading to bed at around midnight. I could have taken a midnight photo, but I didn’t because I already had an even number to end with.

Linking up with Jane and Louisa, as always.

How was your Saturday? Any interesting happenings?

Friday letters

Friday, Friday, Friday! I am so pleased you’re here! You would think after a four-day weekend I would be happy to do plenty of work this week, but in fact I’m really looking forward to the weekend. That probably makes it sound like I hate my job… I swear I don’t! But I’ve spent most of the week working on a single not all that interesting translation and I could use a break from it. Plus it’s looking like some fun things might be in order this weekend, and who wouldn’t look forward to fun things? I still have a full day of work to get there before that though. So for now let’s have some letters.

Letters

Dear scales. I very much appreciated you’re sticking to the same number despite all my indulgences in Berlin, but it’s been nearly a week now so it would be nice if you could start moving in a downward direction again…

Dear plants. I wish there was some way I could make you grow faster. I’m so excited for you to look all pretty on my balcony.

Dear Easter chocolate. I hope you know how much willpower it cost me to ignore you now that you’re half price in all the supermarkets! Please hurry up and sell out so I can no longer be tempted!

Dear home office. If I were to look up the word “chaos” in the dictionary I’m sure a photo of you would appear! I’m so sorry. One day we will find the right piece of furniture for you…

Dear Switzerland. In 5 days I will have been living in you for 2 years. Time flies!

Right, that’s it for today. Have an amazing weekend everyone!
p.s. Tomorrow is April’s photo an hour day with Jane and Louisa. Who’s playing?

 

March 2017 photos

I think April may end up being the fastest month of this year so far. Somehow it is more than half over already. How did that happen?! I’d better post my March photos before I blink and realise it’s June or something!

For those who don’t know, this is just a random post where I throw in all the photos I took during a particular month that don’t fit in anywhere else. Nothing particularly exciting, just an excuse to show off my photography “skills”.

Jan had a birthday, so I made cupcakes.

Once again, most of my photos were of birds.

Crows are very cool (although less so when they’re cawing on outside the window at 5 a.m.!).

I can never seem to resist taking photos of the birds on the balcony. *Sigh*. For those who have asked what a “lard ball” is, that would be the thing the birds below are standing on/eating. Also, notice the leaves on the tree (which was still pretty much bare in my February photos). It’s almost fully green now 🙂

I heard this next bird before I saw it:

Sadly the blackbird was not outside our window, but in a garden I walked past on my way home from town.

Our friend came to visit and we went to the animal park. I didn’t actually take many photos there, but I did grab one of the little red fox, all curled up in a ball. So cute… but so smelly!

fox

And that’s about it for March. Cupcakes and animals seem to have been the order of the month.

I have to say, the final photo is my favourite in this collection! How about you… any favourites here?

The books I read in March 2017

It’s hard to believe I’ve never actually participated in this link up before! Usually I would have some other opportunity to list recent reads and I wouldn’t want to have too many book posts. But I’m currently between reading challenges and the next one isn’t starting for a while, so I might as well tell you about the non-challenge reading I’ve been doing recently. I know some people break things down into categories, but I’m just listing my books in the order I read them.

I am linking up with Jana and Steph.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

First of all, in case anyone hasn’t already seen my final check-in post, I read all these books in March for the bonus round of Erin‘s challenge.

And now on to the other books I read in March…

The Lying Game by Sara Shepherd – For some reason I didn’t realise this was part of a series, then I was really confused when the end came (especially because my copy contained a preview of book 2, so I thought there was more left than there actually was…) then just as it started getting interesting it ended. Aargh! Most of the plot wasn’t really believable to me (how could anyone not realise that their daughter wasn’t, in fact, their daughter – especially after she literally told them at the start!) and 90% of the characters just weren’t likeable. But once I suspended ALL my belief it was actually kind of interesting. 4 stars.

The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood (book 2 of the Incorrigible Children series) – This one was even better than book one, and I really liked book one! The first book spent a lot of time setting the scene though, whereas more seemed to happen in this one. I was slightly annoyed by all the entirely unsubtle references to book 1 – it was like the author assumed I hadn’t actually read the first one! But apart from that it was great. 4 stars.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix – This book has been on my wish list since about 2008! The idea sounded so intriguing – the life of a family’s third son in a world where the law forbids people to have more than two children. Unfortunately the book was a lot shorter than I was expecting and took ages to really get going. In such a short book I would have expected the action to start sooner! There are about a million books in the series though (well, 7) so I suppose it gets going properly later. Also, I think it’s aimed at younger children than I thought – I was expecting YA but it seems to be more for 11-12 year olds. 3 stars for this, but I will probably still give book 2 a chance.

Smart by Kim Slater – I loved this book, enough that I read it in one sitting even though it was pretty long and I ended up reading way past my bedtime. It reminded me a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but I loved that book as well. I loved Keiran, the (presumably autistic) narrator and was really glad things worked out for him in the end. An added bonus was the setting – it takes place in Nottingham, which is where I studied. 4 stars.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – I initially intended this to be my “genre you rarely read” book for Erin’s challenge (science fiction), but I had to rearrange things after I’d already read it. I enjoyed this one more than I expected. It’s one of the more interesting disaster/end of the world books. For some reason I was under the impression that the “Triffids” were alien plants that came to Earth on a comet and started attacking/blinding people, but actually they are very much man-made… 4 stars.

Never Have I Ever by Sara Shepherd (book 2 of The Lying Game) –  I decided to give this series another chance, and I’m glad I did. This book was much better than the first one. Finally the “mean girls” are starting to show that they do have some personality under all that nastiness. I will have to keep reading because I really want to know whodunnit! 3.5 stars (4 on Goodreads because I tend to round up).

The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood (book 3 of the Incorrigible Children) – Still enjoying the series. I think they are getting better as they go along. This one still referred back to the previous two, but in a much less annoying way. More secrets are coming out, and I think I am starting to guess some connections but I need to keep reading to be sure. 4 stars.

The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood (book 4 of the Incorrigible Children) – I had an evening to myself so I read this immediately after the previous one. This has been the best installment yet! Finally we got one or two answers, although I wish Miss Mortimer would reveal what she knows already. Only two more books to go (and book 6 isn’t even out yet!). How will I cope? 5 stars.

Super Awkward by Beth Garrod – Just snuck this one into March, as I read it on the 31st! I thought this was going to be like the Georgia Nicholson books, and in a way it was, but Georgia is much funnier – or maybe it’s just that I was younger when I read Angus, Thongs, etc. and could relate to it more? Anyway, at first I found this book really annoying. I kept thinking do teenagers really talk like that these days? In text speech? Do they really say things like “obvs” OUT LOUD? Am I old? Honestly, I thought about not finishing it, but I was reading in the bath so I didn’t really have another option to hand. Then things started to pick up more and I decided I did kind of like it after all. I would probably have loved this book to death at 15, but at almost 34 I’m afraid I’m too old for it. *Sigh*. 3 stars.

And that’s it. March was a most excellent reading month!

In case anyone is actually still here and interested, I  am currently reading The Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. It’s really good so far, but I’m useless at reading non-fiction so I’m getting through it at snail’s pace!

Have you read anything good lately?

35 Before 35: Mini Egg Easter Cookies

After nearly two years in Switzerland I still hadn’t baked anything for Jan’s colleagues, so this weekend I decided that needed to change! With Easter coming up, something relating to that seemed appropriate, so I found this recipe, bought Cadbury’s Mini Eggs and got to work.

The dough looked pretty with all the colourful bits of shell:

cookie dough

I didn’t have brown sugar so I used ordinary granulated sugar. It seemed to work okay. Here are some cookies waiting to go in the oven:

cookies

And here they all are, cooling on a rack:

Easter cookies

There weren’t enough for me to try one and for most of Jan’s colleagues to get 2 each, so I couldn’t tell you how they taste. They looked good though and my entire flat still smells yummy even as I type this (after the cookies have already left the building). At least there were a few Mini Eggs left over for me to munch on 😉

And that makes biscuit number 8 for my 35 before 35 challenge!

Recent doings #16

Another month has passed (it’s already April!), and that means it’s time to link up with Kristin and Gretch to talk about what I’ve been up to recently.

whats-new

Here are my March doings:

Reading. So many books. So, so many. First, I finished the bonus round for Erin’s challenge. Plus I read The Day of the Triffids intending for it to be my book for “a genre you rarely read” (science fiction), except then I had to change it because I didn’t have 5 previously chosen books on my list. And I read the next three books in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, two of them on the same day. That’s how much I love them! In total I read 16 books in March and started another.

Watching. Some film called “Planet 51” that Jan found while flicking through channels. It was cute. Also Come Dine With Me (guilty pleasure!) and I recently discovered the Father Brown TV series so I’ve been watching that occasionally, when I manage to catch it.

Learning. About Wales, but no Welsh yet because I haven’t got to the language portion of my OU course. Also to loom knit – my latest hobby. I have made a few practice hats that wouldn’t even fit a newborn and also one sock for myself. It is recognisably a sock and even fits me, but I haven’t made the second one yet because I ran out of wool – or I suppose I should say yarn now like people who know what they’re talking about.

Celebrating. Jan’s birthday, on the 1st of the month. Not that we celebrated much since he doesn’t care about his birthday (weird, right?) and went to work, but he got gifts and I baked cupcakes so there’s that.

Attending. Fasnacht stuff, including the fire parade in Liestal and the 4 a.m. parade (“Morgestraich”) in Basel.

Trump lantern
Morgestraich. Trump featured on quite a few lanterns…

Eating. Do you know what… you can just look here if you haven’t already. That’s basically our diet, with a few other dishes thrown in (three bean chilli, various soup/broth type things, curry, cottage pie…).

Drinking. I’ve kind of given up on the caffeine avoidance and been drinking a lot of ordinary black tea… I will get better at that again, but lately I’ve been so tired that a proper cuppa in the afternoon has been the only thing that kept me going long enough to actually make dinner!

Buying. Uhh… what haven’t I been buying more like? Books, wool (yarn), crafting supplies, a turtle necklace (too cute to resist!), a Mother’s Day gift for my mam. I have been very bad and I should feel bad, but I really don’t. Must curb my spending this month though…

Seeing. Or hearing? I’m never sure what to say when it comes to concerts! Anyway, we finally saw The King’s Singers, which I gave Jan tickets for at Christmas but the concert was only this month. Plus Jan performed with his choir so of course I went to one of those performances (but not all 4 because seeing the same concert four times would have been slightly excessive!)

Hosting. One friend who came to stay for the weekend just to see us and then four people from Jan’s former choir who came to watch him perform with his current choir.

And I think that’s all. At least nothing else comes to mind. It should give you a pretty good idea of how I spent my time in March anyway.

What have you been doing recently?

10 day 10-a-day challenge

I recently read a post by Kezzie in which she challenged herself to see whether she ate 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, based on recent news that scientists say we should actually be eating 10-a-day and not 5 as previously advised.  That post inspired me to take the challenge myself and see whether I manage 10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day (although I was already fairly sure I wasn’t even reaching the originally advised 5!).

Coincidentally, I had read the news myself a few days before seeing Kezzie’s post and, after a discussion with Jan, ended up on the NHS website reminding myself of what constitutes a portion. Prior to that, I had assumed we were at least reaching the 5 on some days thanks to the amount of beans and chickpeas we eat, so I was horrified to discover that beans and pulses are only allowed to count as one portion per day no matter how many you eat! I had already decided then that I would need to start relying less on beans, but for the purposes of this experiment I stuck with our “normal” meals to give you an accurate picture of how we eat. So now you get to see just how awful my diet actually is…

Quick note: I’m not going to get into ridiculous fractions, so where an amount was less than 1 portion but more than half I will count it as half a portion. For instance, 7 cherry tomatoes is a portion so if I only had 5 I’ll call it half a portion.

I didn’t take photos of all my meals, so the collages are just a random selection. You can try to match the photos to the meals if you like 😉
I will also apologise in advance for the quality of my photography… I’m no good at food photos! Right, without any further ado, here we go:

Day 1:

Breakfast: Greek style yoghurt with honey and walnuts -> 0 portions
Lunch: Scrambled eggs with 5 cherry tomatoes -> ½ portion
Dinner: Tuna pasta bake containing:
– chickpeas and kidney beans (only allowed to count as one portion all together. Booo!) -> 1 portion
– Courgette -> 1 portion
– Tinned tomatoes -> third of a tin, so maybe 1½ portions?

Total: 4 portions

Day 2:
(I was in the office on this day so breakfast and lunch were purchased on the way and Jan was in charge of dinner!)

Breakfast: Chocolate croissant -> 0 portions
Lunch: “Veggie” baguette with avocado and feta -> I think it was ½ an avocado, so 1 portion
Dinner: Bread with cheese and ham -> 0 portions
Snacks: Dried apples and berries -> ½ portion
2 mini cakes -> 0 portions
Capri-Sun (contains fruit juice but definitely doesn’t count!) -> 0 portions

Total: 1½ portions

Day 3:

Breakfast: Nothing (naughty!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Leftover tuna pasta bake (see above) -> 3½ portions
Dinner: Chilli con carne made with
– Kidney beans (not allowed to count because I had beans earlier in the day) -> 0 portions
– Red pepper -> 1 portion
– Tinned tomatoes -> half a tin, 2 portions?
Served in whole wheat tortillas with cheese and iceberg lettuce -> hopefully ½ portion
Snacks: Sweet potato crisps (sweet potato counts as veg. but I hardly had any crisps) -> o portions
Orange juice (can only count once no matter how much you drink!) -> 1 portion

Total: 7 portions

Day 4:
(We had visitors this day and dinner was at a restaurant)

Breakfast: Toast with jam (fruity but doesn’t count!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Sausage roll -> 0 portions
Carrot, orange and ginger smoothie -> 1 portion
Dinner: Pizza with courgette and aubergine -> maybe ½ a portion
Panna cotta with a few bits of fruit -> 0 portions

Total: 1½ portions

Day 5:

Breakfast: Bread rolls with jam and chocolate spread -> 0 portions
Blood orange juice -> 1 portion
Lunch: Bread roll with cheese -> 0 portions
Dinner: Roasted butternut squash risotto
– Butternut squash -> 3 portions (it was a big vegetable!)
– Leek -> possibly ½ a portion
Snacks: Magnum ice cream (and I regret nothing!) -> 0 portions
Apple with almond purée -> 1 portion

Total: 5½ portions

Day 6:

Breakfast: Toast with jam -> 0 portions
Blood orange juice -> 1 portion
Lunch: Some just-add-water couscous thing -> 0 portions
Mango -> 1½ portions (I think)
Dinner: Corned beef hash. I always make it with baked beans, and this time I added borlotti beans as well to stretch it a bit since there weren’t as many potatoes left as I thought. -> 1 portion
Snacks: Mini packet of gummi bears -> 0 portions
Chocolate chip cookie -> 0 portions

Total: 3½ portions

Day 7:

Breakfast: Porridge (apple & cinnamon flavour, but not enough apple to count!) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Lemon pepper fish with potato croquettes -> 0 portions
Dinner: Pepper stuffed with a quinoa/bulgar wheat mix and feta cheese -> 2 portions
Served with salad consisting of the remaining feta cheese plus:
Lamb’s lettuce -> ½ portion
Apple -> ½ portion
Avocado -> 1 portion

Total: 4 portions

Day 8:

Breakfast: Nothing -> 0 portions
Lunch: Leftover stuffed pepper -> 2 portions
Orange juice -> 1 portion
Dinner: Sausage casserole containing:
Cannellini beans -> 1 portion
Carrots -> 1 portion
Tinned tomatoes -> 2 portions?
Served with sweet potato mash (counts as veg. Yay!) -> 2 portions
Snack: Chocolate brownie (and now you also know why I’m failing to lose weight…) -> 0 portions

Total: 9 portions

Day 9:

Breakfast: Chia & cashew muesli bar (contains raisins, but not enough) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Lemon pepper fish (yes, again!) -> 0 portions
Crackers with hummus -> 1 portion
Dinner: Chicken enchiladas made with;
Kidney beans (don’t count because of hummus for lunch) -> 0 portions
Courgette -> ½ portion
Tinned tomatoes -> 1 portion

Total: 2½ portions

Day 10:

Breakfast: Crackers (what? It’s a perfectly good breakfast 😉 ) -> 0 portions
Lunch: Orange juice -> 1 portion
Leftover enchiladas. I had half the amount I’d eaten the night before but I then had the other half for dinner since Jan didn’t eat his before he left for the weekend soooo….
Dinner: Leftover enchiladas. Dinner + lunch enchiladas combined -> 2½ portions
I ate my dinner enchilada with an avocado -> 2 portions
Snacks: An apple with almond purée -> 1 portion

Total: 6½ portions

So, what have I learned? Well, nothing that I didn’t already suspect: most of the time I fail to get up to 5 portions, never mind 10! I actually managed 5 portions 4 times (less than half the days *sigh), and all of those days were actually over the 5 (although once it was only over by half a portion!). I came closest to 10 portions on day 8 – should have replaced that brownie with an apple 😉

In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that I drank more juice this week than I usually would because I bought for breakfast when we had guests and I needed to get it used up, so apart from on day 3 (when I had a small carton) every day that I had juice I would normally have had one portion less. Usually I tend to shy away from juice because I feel calories that are used for drinks are wasted calories (mostly I drink water and tea – the tiny bit of milk in tea doesn’t make much difference to my calories). Juice is an easy way to get an additional portion though, so maybe I should consider drinking juice every day and getting extra exercise to make up for it? I do sometimes drink smoothies

So, what can I do to improve my fruit and veg intake? Well, apart from consistently drinking a glass of juice, I need to replace some of my pulses with other vegetables since I now know hardly any of them are allowed to count. There goes my lazy tuna pasta bake that doesn’t require me to chop any vegetables *sigh*. I could also replace most of my snacks with fruit – in February I ate an apple with almond paste most days, and that’s something I should probably try to get back into. An apple a day and replacing half the beans in meal with another vegetable would add two an extra portions and hopefully push those days that I do exceptionally badly at least up to the 5 mark! Finally, during these 10 days I ate leftovers for lunch three times (because Jan had forgotten to take them to work with him – which is why I ended up being left with 2 day old tuna pasta bake!). So another idea would be to make enough dinner for both of us to have some the next day and have leftovers for lunch more often instead of shoving some fish in the oven or eating a convenience meal containing few or no vegetables.

Do you eat 10 portions of vegetables a day? Would you be willing to take this challenge?

Check out Kezzie’s post for an example of someone doing a much better job at healthy eating 😉
And if you’ve actually read all this please feel free to award yourself a virtual gold star!