Happy TARDIS birthday Kezzie!

Hello lovely readers. I am doing something a little bit different today.

It’s the lovely Kezzie‘s 40th birthday (HAPPY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEZZIE! I hope you have a wonderful day) and since she can’t have a celebration she has asked her blog readers to join her in an online fancy dress party.

Kezzie takes part in something called TARDIS Tuesday, which involves cosplaying as characters from Doctor Who and then posting the pictures each Tuesday. So Kezzie asked whether her followers would be willing to take part in TARDIS Tuesday. Now, obviously you will have noticed that today is not Tuesday. She wanted us to publish our posts a few days early to give her a chance to gather all the photos and put them in a master post on actual TARDIS Tuesday.

The idea was that we would try to imitate something from Doctor Who using items from our own closet – so now buying anything specially. After ages and ages of scrolling through photos from all eras of Doctor Who, I finally found an outfit I thought I could copy.

The outfit I am trying to copy is on the very right – that’s Susan Foreman, The Doctor’s granddaughter. As you can see, it’s in black and white – this episode was broadcast in 1964. The man on the left, William Hartnell, is the very first ever Doctor of Doctor Who! So, Susan is wearing a blouse/shirt – presumably white – a pinafore dress in a dark colour and knee high socks that also appear to be white. I then managed to find this DVD cover in which the dress is blue. So this is the outfit I eventually came up with.

I don’t have white knee socks (in fact, the only knee socks I own are highlighter pink with luminous* yellow and green patches, a joke Christmas present years ago!) so I went with white tights instead. My white blouse is different to Susan’s but I think it works and the dress is fairly similar if we ignore the rainbow! I couldn’t find a single image from The Sensorites online that actually showed Susan’s shows, but based on what you can see of her feet in the image above and looking through the galleries on the three episodes from series 1 of Doctor Who we own (episodes 1-3) she seems to be wearing the same shoes as here:

I also tried to tie my hair back in a way that looks short – although not as short as Susan’s!(Story interlude: many years ago, when I was about 11-13 years old, I had my hair cut really short. I then moved schools and was asked numerous times “Are you a boy or a girl?” by people who obviously thought they were original/funny. Since then I’ve hated the way I look with short hair!)

If you want to know where the clothes I am wearing came from, here’s a breakdown: the label in the blouse says “Clockhouse”, which is C&A. I think I bought in when I lived in Austria in 2005/2006. The dress is by Run & Fly. I bought it two years ago and they don’t seem to sell it any more but they do have some other amazing pinafore dresses, including one with a dinosaur print! The tights were most likely C&A or H&M and the shoes came from New Yorker about 10 years ago (and what you can’t tell from the photo is they’re absolutely destroyed!).

OK, that’s all from me. I will add the link to the fancy dress party once it’s up so you can see everyone else’s outfits. For now please pop over to Kezzie‘s blog and wish her a very happy birthday! Oh, and let me know what you think of my attempt at being Susan!

A Photo an Hour: 16 January 2021

Hello lovely readers! Yesterday was February’s photo an hour date, which of course reminded me that I hadn’t actually written my post for last month’s photos yet. And so here I am attempting to catch up. The chosen date for January was the 16th. As usual it wasn’t the most exciting of days, but here it is anyway.

10 a.m. The day always starts with tea.

11 a.m. Time for a shower.

12 noon. Went down to collect the mail and was very excited to find this book had been delivered.

1 p.m. Putting on a load of laundry (having taken an identical photo yesterday I suddenly realise just how boring my life is!).

2 p.m. Quiet time is over so the hoover can come out.

3 p.m. Sat down to read for 15 minutes while I waited for the washing machine to finish.

4 p.m. On the way back from taking away the organic waste and recycling. As you can see, we had snow.

5 p.m. An appropriate candle for the whiteness outside!

6 p.m. Time to make some food.

7 p.m. Tuna pasta bake is ready!

8 p.m. Watching Green Book.

9 p.m. The film finished!

10 p.m. A spot of reading before bed.

11 p.m. Bedtime with Eeyore.

And there you have it. Another boring lockdown Saturday* Hopefully I will get this month’s post up faster!

(*Disclaimer: we are not actually in “lockdown”. Although shops (other than supermarkets/DIY stores/flower shops), museums, zoos, galleries, restaurants, bars are closed we can go out and meet people if we want to, hairdressers are open, public transport is running. We can’t do much but we are not in lockdown. And personally I don’t want to go to crowded places anyway.)

Book Review: The Crowns of Croswald by D. E. Night

Hello! Ages ago, the publisher of this book (Stories Untold) contacted me on Instagram to ask whether I would be willing to read and review this book – which I thought meant they would give me, it turned out I had to sign up Netgalley and request it with the guarantee of approval. Then I had to download an app to my tablet so I could actually read it, the first one I tried kept asking for authentication but wouldn’t actually let me set a password. And once I found one that worked it took me far too long to actually read the book because I discovered I hate reading on my tablet. Basically I’m saying my days as a Netgalley reviewer are probably over before they’ve really started because who will ever approve me again? (Plus the whole reading on my tablet thing…).

Anyway, since this is a Netgalley review, I thought I’d better give it its own post instead of just adding it to me February round-up. So here we are.

Plot: Ivy Lovely was found as a baby and has spent 16 years working as a Scaldry Maid (I may have spelled that wrong) looking after the scaldron – a special type of dragon that is used in the castle to produce heat for cooking. Ivy is blessed with the ability to remember her dreams, a photographic memory and the ability to perfectly sketch whatever she sees – all traits of a type of magic-wielder known as Scrivenists, which is everything Ivy dreams of being. But her castle is hidden among the slurry fields – a substance that suppresses magic. After a series of unfortunate events leads to Ivy and a scaldron (who she names Humboldt) leaving the slurry fields, she is whisked away to the Halls of Ivy, a school where those with magic learn how to use it. When Ivy’s magic – and her life – is threatened by the Dark Queen, she quickly has to uncover the mysteries of her past and save her friends and all of Croswald before the truth is swept away forever. This is book one in a series of currently 3 (I don’t know if any more are planned).

My review: This is a fun book but I found parts of it confusing and other parts obvious(view spoiler). The pacing is all over the place. Sometimes a lot happens very fast and then at other times you turn a page and it’s somehow the end of year ball when I swear the year had only just started? Parts of it definitely reminded me of Harry Potter – mistreated young person (girl in this case) who has no idea who she really is gets an invitation to attend magic school and discovers powers they never knew they had. Even the shop where Ivy bought her school supplies wouldn’t have been out of place in Diagon Alley! But the magic system and powers are different enough for her to have managed to make it her own. I feel like the characters could have been fleshed out more – I never fully felt connected to Ivy while she was running around doing whatever and as for the other students, all I know is one is mean and snobbish, one likes to eat butter, and Fyn is mysterious and constantly shows up wherever Ivy is but I can’t work out whether it’s just because he fancies her or there’s more to it. Rebecca, Ivy’s room mate/supposedly best friend seemed like a fun character but all I can really tell you about her is she apparently doesn’t want to be royal and can’t control her magic. I assume some things will be cleared up in book 2 but it’s a little disappointing to reach the end of a book and realise that 90% of the characters are entirely forgettable. There were aspects of the book I really enjoyed though and overall I liked it but it’s far from being a new favourite.

☆☆☆ – 3 stars

What I read in January 2021

Hello and happy Show Us Your Books day! I am linking up with Steph and Jana to tell you what I read in January.

I read 14 books and interestingly 5 of them had people’s names in the title. That was not intentional! Here’s what I thought of them:

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. Chloe Brown is chronically ill and still lives with her family. After almost being hit by a car while out for a walk, she decides she needs to “Get a Life” and comes up with a list of things she feels she “needs” to do, number 1 being get her own place. Other items include riding a motorbike… enter Redford ‘Red’ Morgan, her building’s maintenance guy. There’s just one problem: Chloe and Red hated each other at first sight! Can they get past their initial assumptions and learn to like – or even love – each other? This is sweet and sad and sexy. I really enjoyed it. There were a few strange phrases though – who refers to their nipples as “slutty batteries”? Lol.

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley. Uncle Montague lives alone in a big, creepy house and whenever his nephew comes to visit he tells him the scariest tales he knows. But as the stories unfold, another even more spine-tingling narrative emerges, one that is perhaps the most frightening of all. This was fun to read. The stories are creepy in an old-fashioned, gothic kind of way. Some were better than others. A few ended a bit abruptly and the final, bonus story, was rather underwhelming, but overall it’s enjoyable. I would certainly have been deliciously creeped out and entertained by it as a child – this was exactly the kind of thing young me enjoyed. 3.5 stars

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, a deadly strain of flu sweeps across the world wiping out most of humanity. Kirsten sees Arthur die as a child actor, and fifteen years later she’s part of the Traveling Symphony – a group of actors and musicians that tours the small towns of the post-apocalyptic landscape. Arriving in the town of St. Deborah by the Water, the troupe encounters a young man calling himself “the prophet” who threatens to destroy the life Kirsten has come to love. Moving back and forth in time the book tells the actor’s story from his early days as a film star to his death, and Kirsten’s story in the present, post-apocalyptic world. I thought I would fly through this book but parts of it were really slow. I did enjoy the post-pandemic parts, but I couldn’t have cared less about some actor’s marriages and affairs. I did appreciate how it all tied together in the end. 3 stars.

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. Michael is a half-Jamaican, half Greek Cypriot boy growing up in London. All his life he knows he’s different, first because he’s mixed race, then because he would rather play with dolls and his female friends than participate in traditionally “male” activities, and because he’s gay. When he gets to university, hethinks he can finally be free but he still feels out of place, until he discovers the drag society and finds his wings as The Black Flamingo. This book is wonderful! I loved Michael and it made me so happy to see him figuring out who he is and who he wants to be. Being neither black (/mixed race) nor gay I obviously couldn’t “relate” as such but this book gave me so many insights into how it must feel to be different (I have often felt different/out of place but never because of my race or sexuality.) For some reason I thought this was set in America so it was a nice surprise to find it took place in the UK. 5 stars.

Do Not Disturb by A. R. Torre (Deanna Madden #2). In book 1 we met Deanna Madden, a camgirl who hadn’t left her apartment for 3 years for fear of what she might do. Until she had to leave when she believed one of her clients was responsible for a girl’s abduction. Now Deanna is back in her apartment and back to following the three simple rules she’s set for herself: 1. Don’t leave the apartment. 2. Never let anyone in. 3. Don’t kill anyone. Well, mostly. She does allow herself to leave occasionally with Jeremy, the delivery driver who helped her in the first book and now – dare she say it – her boyfriend. But somebody out there has become obsessed with Deanna’s alter ego, Jessica. If he manages to find her, who knows what might happen. I enjoyed this just as much as the first one! It’s a little repetitive at times – Deanna thinks about killing. Deanna distracts herself with cyber sex. But when the tension picked up I was hooked, even though the “bad guy” is a bit of a cliché. I also loved Deanna’s developing relationship with Jeremy. It’s am looking forward to finding out where things go in book 3. 4 stars.

The Unadoptables by Hanna Tooke. The rules for baby abandonment at Little Tulip Orphanage are simple. The baby should be wrapped in a cotton blanket. The baby should be placed in a wicker basket. The baby should be deposited on the top step. Not once have they been broken, until a few months in 1880 when five babies are left in outrageous circumstances: one in a toolbox, one in a coal bucket, one in a picnic hamper, one in a wheat sack and one in a coffin-shaped basket. Those babies were Lotta, Egg, Fenna, Sem and Milou. Twelve years later, their cruel matron has dubbed them “the unadoptables”, but they know their individuality is what makes them special. When a sinister gentleman appears and threatens to tear them apart, the gang make a daring escape across the frozen canals of Amsterdam. I’m o torn on this book. I loved, loved loved the characters. The story itself is fantastic – the writing, the adventure. But I could not in good conscience give it to a child. Based on the blurb, I thought the evil matron would hate the five children because they were quirky and curious and bright and wonderful (and they are all of those things) when she wanted drab, obedient, conforming orphans. And while it’s true that she hates all orphans, it becomes clear that these particular ones are labelled “unadoptable” because – for want of a better word – they have something “wrong” with them. One is mute, one has extra fingers, one is Asian. And it would be fine if only the matron, who is clearly the bad guy, thought that way, but very close to the beginning a couple come looking for someone to adopt and almost physically recoil when they realise Lotta has six fingers on each hand… and nobody ever explicitly points out how wrong that is. Yes the five orphans are the heroes of the story and yes there is one adult later who is kind about Lotta’s extra fingers, but the subtle message is still there that it’s okay to discriminate against people for being different. As an adult I know it’s wrong, but as a child? I most likely wouldn’t even have noticed (just like it never occurred to me that, in the Narnia books, the only people described as having dark skin are the bad guys!), but subconsciously taken onboard that it was absolutely fine to be racist or ableist or just plain cruel. And as for children who look different themselves, or have a disability, or are clumsy and not traditionally cute… how could reading a book like this NOT make them feel awful? It’s a shame because the story itself really is wonderful and I genuinely enjoyed reading it. *Sigh*
Note: I am aware that it’s historical fiction and that’s exactly how things would have been in those days, but I still feel like there should be something, somewhere that explicitly lets children know that THIS IS NOT OKAY. As an adult I know things weren’t great in the past, I can look past it and simply enjoy the story for what it is, but this is a children’s book and it really should be made clear that just because this kind of thing was common in the 1800s doesn’t make it right!

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying. What to eat, where to go, who to love. But one thing she is sure of is that she wants to spend her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. Then Lea dies in a car accident, and Rumi is sent away to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, feeling abandoned by her mother, and the aching absence of music. With the help of her aunt’s neighbour, teenage surfer Kai who doesn’t take anything too seriously, and old George Watanabe who succumbed to grief years ago, Rumi seeks her way back to music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish. This is a very emotional book, as you can probably guess from the synopsis. Rumi is a difficult person to like. She’s prickly, sour and prone to childish tantrums. And the way she spoke about her mother is awful – I understand that she’s grieving but even before Lea died, in her flashbacks, she often seemed to be mean to/about her mother, basically accusing her of being neglectful and forcing Rumi to be a substitute mother to her sister. But at the same time I could really relate to Rumi – I have often been guilty of not thinking before I spoke and saying something cynical or sarcastic that came across as mean. And how many times have I wished I was a naturally sweet, cheerful,kind person who everybody loved? Rumi’s love for her sister shines through at all times and I truly felt for her in her grief (even if I wanted to shake her at times), which is a testament to how good the writing is. 4 stars. (Also Rumi is probably asexual and possibly also aromantic – she’s still working things out. I don’t want to comment on how good the rep is since I am neither of those things but it’s something people might want to know is in there.)

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montogomery (Emily #1). Emily Starr never knew what it was to be lonely–until her beloved father died. Now an orphan, she left in the care of her mother’s relatives at New Moon Farm where she’s sure she won’t be happy. Emily deals with stiff, stern Aunt Elizabeth and her malicious classmates by holding her head high and using her quick wit. Things begin to change when she makes friends, with Teddy, who does marvelous drawings; with Perry, who’s sailed all over the world with his father yet has never been to school; and above all, with Ilse, a tomboy with a blazing temper. Amazingly, Emily finds New Moon beautiful and fascinating. With new friends and adventures, Emily might someday think of herself as Emily of New Moon. There was quite a bit I enjoyed about this book but also a few things I didn’t. It’s definitely darker than Anne of Green Gables – one character’s mother KILLS ANIMALS because she thinks her son is getting too attached to them and she wants him all to herself. Wtf? Dean Priest is creepy and actually so is Mr Kelly (I think that’s his name). Who tells a 12 year old she has “come hither eyes”? I don’t care which century it was! I did really enjoy Emily’s friendships (with people her own age!) and her love of writing – in some ways she reminded me of myself as a child. I actually like Emily better than Anne. She felt more real to me. Other than Anne’s supposed “red-head temper” I always thought she seemed too sweet and perfect. Emily with all her faults is much more human and interesting. My favourite character in this book is cousin Jimmy. I also really liked Great Aunt Nancy – she just didn’t care what people thought of her and it was AWESOME! 3.5 stars

Birthday by Meredith Russo. Eric and Morgan were born on the same day, at the same time, in the same place. They’ve always celebrated their birthday together, but as they grow up they begin to grow apart. Everyone expects Eric to get a football scholarship, but no one knows he’s having second thoughts. Former quarterback Morgan feels utterly alone, as she wrestles with the difficult choice to live as her true self. Both of them are struggling to be the person they know they are. Who better to help than your best friend? I loved this book, but it’s so emotional. It made me cry – more than once. But despite the sadness it’s also heart-warming and I adored the ending. 5 stars.

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukaemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate – a life and a role that she has never challenged…until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister – and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves: she hires a lawyer to sue for the rights to her own body. This was a re-read for me. I would have been in my early 20s the last time I read it. This time the ending felt almost emotionally manipulative but it did still make me cry. I’m not sure what the point in the Campbell/Julia side story is (I’d forgotten about that to be honest). I do still think Jodi Picoult is a good writer though. So I’m downgrading my former 5 star rating to 4.

The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig. Meet Ginny. She is 14, autistic, and after years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her. Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape. Because Ginny has a secret – something happened, a long time ago, something that only Ginny knows, and nothing will stop her going back to put it right… I don’t want to say I enjoyed this book because the subject matter is not enjoyable! Poor Ginny has been through so much and she deserves the world. I don’t know how authentic Ginny’s autism was (this is not own voices but the author does have an adopted autistic daughter) but she felt like a real person to me. Most of the adults in this book are despicable though! Well, Brian I guess is at least kind of trying. Obviously the birth mom is supposed to be an unfit parent but the adoptive mom (“Forever Mom” in Ginny’s words) made me so mad. You don’t get to get rid of your adopted daughter because you have your own baby now! She wouldn’t even give poor Ginny a chance. Also I guessed Ginny’s “secret” almost immediately so how NOBODY figured it out – including the therapist she had been seeing for about 5 years is beyond me! 4 stars.

The Winter House by Nicci Gerrard. When Marnie receives a phone call that summons her to the side of a once-beloved friend who is dying, she is wrenched from her orderly London life and sent back into a past from which she has fled but never escaped. Ralph, Marnie and Oliver once knew each other well, and now they meet again in Ralph’s secluded cottage in the Scottish highlands, to spend the precious days that Ralph has left with each other. As they reminisce, Marnie is taken back to the summer years ago when everything changed between them and heartbreak and desire broke up their little group. Will Ralph finally say what needs to be said before it’s too late? I had read this before but I didn’t remember much of it.
The best word I can think of to describe this book is “melancholy”. And not just because somebody is dying. Marnie takes us back through her memories, telling Ralph the story of their lives together, but there always seems to be an undercurrent of sadness even in the supposedly happy times. And I did not like Ralph! While he was obviously troubled and fragile, and honestly could probably have done with some therapy, he came across as really selfish. I wondered how Marnie’s life would have turned out if she hadn’t spent most of her teens trying to protect Ralph and his feelings. Lucy also deserved better (and thankfully seemed to have got it – I think she was the only character in the book who did manage to escape the teen drama!). The ending at least seems hopeful and the writing is beautiful. 3 stars.

Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely. Blanche White is a feisty, middle-aged African-American housekeeper recently returned to South Carolina from NYC. When she is called into court for a bounced check after a client fails to pay, she goes on the lam, hiding out as a maid for a wealthy family at their summer home. Although distracted thinking about how to deal with her own problems, Blanche gradually realises that her employers are acting strangely, even for white people. And when there’s a murder that Blanche fears she could be blamed for, she’s forced to use all her savvy, sharp wit and her old-girl network of domestic workers to discover the truth and save her own skin. wasn’t what I expected. It’s pretty slow until almost the end (the murder that the synopsis refers doesn’t even happen until over halfway through!). I was expecting a bit of actual detecting, but all Blanche seemed to do was gossip with her friend (which did lead to some answers but Blanche herself wasn’t involved and we didn’t see any of the information gathering process), worry about her sister’s kids (who she is guardian for) and then finally sit down and properly listen to someone at the very end, which led to her solving the “mystery”. I really liked Blanche but the story itself was too repetitive and honestly a bit boring. 2.5 stars.

Gargantis by Thomas Taylor (Eerie on Sea #2). There’s a storm brewing over Eerie-on-Sea, and the fisherfolk say a monster is the cause. Someone has woken the ancient Gargantis, who sleeps in the watery caves beneath this spooky seaside town where legends have a habit of coming to life. It seems the Gargantis is looking for something: a treasure stolen from her underwater lair. And it just might be in the Lost-and-Foundery at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, in the care of one Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder. With the help of the daring Violet Parma, ever-reliable Herbie will do his best to figure out what the Gargantis wants and who stole her treasure in the first place. In a town full of suspicious, secretive characters, it could be anyone! This was another fun adventure. It’s very atmospheric and you get a real sense of danger. I was truly worried for Herbie at some points. I really enjoyed Herbie and Violet’s friendship and it was nice to find out something of where Herbie came from and what happened to his parents, although I definitely have more questions. It doesn’t quite have the spark that would make it 5 stars, but it’s a solid 4-star read. I highly recommend this series.

And here’s something new I’ve decided to do this year… I’m keeping track of how many books I read by BAME/BIPOC authors. This month it was 4 – not good enough.

TL;DR. I highly recommend The Black Flamingo and Birthday, recommend Get a Life, Chloe Brown and the Deanna Madden books (in both cases only if you don’t mind explicit sex scenes). I also really enjoyed The Original Ginny Moon and Summer Bird Blue. The Eerie on Sea series is excellent for children (and adults) who like an adventure. I really enjoyed The Unadoptables but I’m not sure I would let a child read it without adult guidance and I recommend that you look into it yourself before giving it to the children in your life.

What have you been reading lately? Don’t forget to check out the link up for more reviews!

January 2021 recap

Phew, January is finally over! It went quickly at first but by about the 25th it was really starting to drag!

Jan and I both had the first week and a bit of the month off work. I couldn’t really tell you what we did though. Went for walks. Played board games. Finally watched Season 12 of The Big Bang Theory (which Jan got for Christmas 2019!). I read some books. One day we went for a drive in search of snow because I was jealous of everyone else’s pictures.

Snow at the Passwang Pass

We actually got out own snow later in the month, and our downstairs neighbours (parents and two kids) built a snowman.


The 11th was my first day back at work and also my first fertility clinic appointment of the year – at 7am! Admittedly the early hour was my own choice but I still didn’t appreciate it very much. As those who read my recap of 2020 know (hi to all 5 of you, Kezzie sorry for making you cry!), we are doing another round of IVF stimulation before starting treatment to hopefully he’ll with my adenomyosis. The appointment on the 11th was just to make sure I had actually ovulated and start on progesterone to delay the start of my next cycle. I had to go out in the evening to pick up the prescription and also another repeat prescription that was at a different chemist. So lots of rushing around. Sigh. After that I put myself into semi-isolation. The last thing I wanted was to experience any coronavirus symptoms and have to cancel the cycle partway through! So once I had the progesterone I stayed home, apart from one walk where I stayed on the opposite side of the road to other people at all times. I went to the cemetery to see the memorial in the snow and was sad to see that a new name has been added. I hate that another family has had to experience the loss of a child before they even had the chance to meet them.

Where the snow has been cleared is the new little name plaque. Someone has put a candle and little decorations on it, which I didn’t think you were allowed to do (there’s a separate area at the front where you can place plants, etc. but I didn’t think you were allowed to put anything directly on the name). If you’re wondering, out boys’ little name plate/plaque thing is to the right of the one you can see and further from the carving, more towards where I took the photo from. I’ll never show you it though because we decided not to make the names public. (We have told a few people privately but Jan didn’t want them on Facebook or anywhere so they definitely won’t ever appear on this blog!)

This next bit is mainly about IVF appointments and it’s pretty boring. Skip if you’re not interested – I’m only writing it down because I regret not having a record of my last stimulation cycle to refer to now!
The following Wednesday I ventured out after work to pick up the rest of my prescription – the actual IVF drugs this time. Pergoveris in a pre-filled pen to make my eggs grow and Orgalutran in pre-filled syringes to stop me from ovulating. Since it was rush hour, as well as keeping my distance as much as possible I wore an FFP2 mask. After picking up what I needed I went to the supermarket and stocked up on as much food as I could carry. Then it was back into isolation until the Friday when it was back to the clinic for my first actual IVF appointment. This involved a baseline ultrasound to find out how many potential follicles I was starting with and a blood test to determine my starting dose for Pergoveris. Since I had already picked up the meds, I only went to the clinic and then home. Then it was back into semi-isolation apart from my weekly walk on the Sunday. The nurse called in the afternoon and told me to start with 200 units of Pergoveris. It has to be injected at the same time every day and I decided on 5 p.m. this time (it can be between 4.pm. and 6 p.m. – for my last IVF cycle and the IUI cycles before that I chose 4:30 p.m. so that on the days I had to go into the office I could do the injection before leaving for my train home). The first few days the Pergoveris gave me a headache, but by day 4 it wasn’t as bad and after that I was fine. I guess I got used to it. Four days later, on the Tuesday, I had my next monitoring appointment. Again I only went to the fertility clinic and then straight home, before going back into semi-isolation. I ventured to the postbox once but that was it. Everything was pretty much on track, and in the afternoon I was told to increase my Pergoveris dose to 250. Appointment number 3 was on the Friday (29th January). This time I had to get another Pergoveris prescription since I only had enough left for that day’s injection. My appointment that day was later, meaning the chemist was already open, so I picked up the pen immediately after the clinic appointment, saving me from a second trip across town that day. I learned very early on not to bother trying to get fertility meds from my local chemist when they first stared at my prescription like they had never seen one before, then said they had never heard of Orgalutran and would have to order it before finally trying to bill me for it twice after I picked it up! Now I only go to the chemist near the clinic. Once I got home, I had to give myself my first Orgalutran injection since I was now at the stage where my body could potentially try to ovulate. I remembered that it burned going in but had forgotten about the itching! Oh well, it only lasts about an hour. I can handle anything for an hour! From then, I had to inject Orgalutran every morning until trigger day. After work, I had to come out of my self-imposed isolation for a supermarket trip – again I donned an FFP2 mask and stayed as far away from other people as I could. On Saturday I was very silly… while preparing my Pergoveris injection I got distracted by Jan talking to me and put the needle on but forgot to set the dose, so I stabbed myself for no reason! It then decided to bleed loads when I pulled the needle back out. I actually had to give myself two Pergoveris injections that day since I was coming to the end of one pen, so after switching the needle I got the first part in no problem. I then had another 175 units to inject with the second pen… and that injection site decided to bleed loads as well, so now I have matching bruises on either side of my stomach. And I had been doing so well this time with barely any evidence of the injections! My fourth monitoring appointment was yesterday, 31 January – you might have noticed that they get closer and closer together as things progress. But the remaining appointments were in February so that’s it for now.
OK, end of boring IVF talk. You can continue reading again now if you want, although the rest of my month wasn’t much more interesting.

That first week of work I had enough to do thanks to a job from the end of last year, but the rest of the month was a bit up and down. A few orders trickled in, but mainly short translations. There are things I can do when we don’t have many proper jobs, but it meant things felt verrrry slow and I was often pleased when the working day was over. The last 2-3 days of January were a bit busier so hopefully things are starting to pick up now!

Apart from work and IVF appointments I didn’t really do much. Switzerland finally decided to close most shops on 13 January (restaurants, bars, gyms and museums were already closed) so I there wasn’t really anywhere to go even if I hadn’t been isolating myself. I read all my books for Erin’s current challenge – you can see my list at the end of this post – then read a few more. We watched a German film called Angst essen Seele auf (apparently the English title is Ali: Fear Eats the Soul). It’s apparently a classic. I found odd and a bit melancholy, but I’m not sorry I watched it. We are also still watching Richard Osman’s House of Games during the week. I love it! I stitched a birthday card for my grandma, who turned 82 on 27th January. (My dad and sister also have January birthdays, but I didn’t make them a card. I did send them a gift though – they both got a book.) I also sent New Year cards to Post Pals families – most were shop bought but I made 5 to send to blind pals. For each of them I cut numbers for 2021 from part of a cardboard box, coloured them in then added glitter glue to make them nice and tactile. I then stuck them on a card together with some kind of decorative element that could be felt.

I made scones, but we didn’t have any clotted cream so we had to eat them with butter and jam.

They didn’t rise evenly and some of them look more like rock cakes but oh well. They tasted good.

I bought two new folders (one for everything to do with the fertility clinic and one for some miscellaneous stuff that there isn’t enough of to justify a whole folder to itself) and finally sorted out some papers/documents that have been lying around for way too long. I would like to say I had a real sense of achievement and relief when it was done, but actually I just felt dusty, exhausted and had a headache. The last of those may have been caused by the fertility meds though.

I honestly couldn’t tell you anything else I did last month so I’ll leave this here. How was your January? Anything interesting to report? I hope you have a happy February!

2021 goals

Hello friends. Once again I haven’t felt like sitting down and typing up a blog post after being on the computer all day for work, but it’s the weekend now and I think it’s about time I posted my goals for the year! Once again, I’m splitting them up into sections.

Reading goals

Read 104 books (Good Reads challenge goal). That probably sounds like a strange number. It’s two a week, which seems sensible. Of these:

  • 10 should be non-fiction – I failed at this again last year but I’m giving it another go.
  • 20 should be from the BBC Big Read list – I only managed 2 last year and I’m way behinf, do I am upping my game.
  • 52 should have been physically on my to-read shelf before the year started – I have way too many unread books that I really should be getting to before buying even more! I think making half of the books I read ones I already own seems fair.
  • 6 should be in German – I only managed to read one book in German last year. Six is such a small number, but it means I only need to read one every two months. Surely that’s doable!
  • 24 should be rereads of books I already own and need to read again before deciding whether to keep them (the aim here being to hopefully clear some space on my shelves). That’s only two rereads a month – there’s really no reason I shouldn’t be able to manage that!

Cleaning goals

Deep clean once per month. I actually did really well with this last year so I want to continue. This will include:

  • Cleaning the bathrooms/kitchen including mopping the floors
  • Changing the bedding
  • Cleaning the oven (at least using the “cleaning” function even if I don’t manage to wipe it down)
  • Washing the dishes that can’t go in the dishwasher
  • Hoovering and dusting the entire flat
  • Taking away recycling, etc. as needed

Some of those things obviously need doing more than once a month, but the aim is to have one day/weekend a month where everything is done and the flat actually looks semi-decent.

Health goals

  • Have at least one portion of fruit or veg with lunch (a glass of juice or a smoothie counts). I haven’t been doing this so far – because I only just thought of it – but starting from February I’ll give it a go. I failed at having fruit/veg with every meal last year but maybe I can at least manage to have some with lunch? And we always have vegetables with dinner so that should increase my intake at least a little bit.
  • No more than two cups of black tea per day. I started doing this because cutting down on caffeine is supposed to help with fertility and will continue until I successfully give birth to a living child.
  • Drink at least two pint glasses of water per day. Last year I forgot I had made this goal and I’m not sure whether I consistently managed it. Trying again this year.
  • Go for a walk once a week. I actually managed this last year! There were only 2 weeks that I didn’t go for a walk (with good reasons) and since there were also weeks that I managed more than two it balanced out well. So I will be keeping it up this year. I should really think about getting some other form of exercise as well, but we’ll start with the walking and go from there.

Social/life goals

  • Write at least two pen pal letters every month. I did a reasonable job with this last year – in September I only managed one letter, but I wrote at least two every other month. Having this goal definitely helped me keep on top of things and not leave people waiting months for a reply so I’m going to keep it up this year.
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Learning goals

  • Go on Duolingo at least once a week. I asked Jan to think of a goal for me and he suggested a language one, so this is what I’ve come up with. Again, I haven’t actually been doing it ye because I’ve only just come up with it, but starting from February I will give it a go!
  • Learn to crochet. Last year I made myself a goal to take an in-person class/course and the one I was going to do was crochet… but then the pandemic started before I could sign up. I still want to learn to crochet and I’ve already bought a book so I’ll be trying to teach myself this year. Wish my luck!

And that’s it. They all seem achievable and, for the most part, fun. (Not the cleaning ones. Cleaning will never be fun, but will always need to be done).

Do you have any goals for the year? Is there anything new you want to learn while you’re being forced to stay at home? Let me know!

Style imitating art: Nebra Sky Disk

When I saw the inspiration for this round of style imitating art I immediately knew I had to join in. This time the host is Salazar herself, creator of Style Imitating Art, and she chose the Nebra Sky Disk.

When I showed Jan what the inspiration was, he said “Good job you have a dress that’s the exact right colour for the background!” He was referring to one that my mum bought me when I was moving to Austria to be an English language assistant. That was about 15 and a half years ago by the way so it’s held up pretty well! It’s from Primark, if you were wondering.

I added a pair of tights with stars that match the dress (purchased at Karstadt in Karlsruhe, 7 or 8 years ago) then I remembered a necklace that my sister had given me for Christmas a few years ago.

It was Jan’s idea to add the star lights that we still had on the bookcase from Christmas. Please ignore the state of my hair – I thought I could get away with not washing it for one more day but it really does look quite limp and greasy.

Here’s a close up of the necklace. It’s so pretty!

How would you interpret this art in an outfit? If you would like to join in send a photo to 14shadesofgreyblog@gmail.com by Tuesday, 26 January. It can be a flat lay if you prefer not to send a picture of yourself. Then go to 14 Shades of Grey on Wednesday for a round up of everyone’s submissions.

Did I achieve my 2020 goals?

I’ve been meaning to write this for ages, but after working on the computer all day I can’t seem to bring myself to get back on it again in the evening. I do want to finally put a lid on 2020 before January is over though, so here I am – on the computer again after work.

So, what were my goals for 2020 and did I achieve them?

Reading goals

Read 100 books (Good Reads challenge goal). – I read 185 so that’s a win!
Of these:

  • 10 should be non-fiction – Nope. I read 2. One year I’ll actually do this…
  • 12 should be from the BBC Big Read list – I managed 8 last year so I’m going to try and top that. – Again, nope. I read 2. Better than nothing, I guess.
  • 36 should have been physically on my to-read shelf before the year started – I have way too many unread books that I really should be getting to before buying even more! 36 is just three a month, so that gives me plenty of scope for reading newly acquired books I’m excited about. – 88 of the books I read had been physically on my shelf before the start of 2020. So I definitely achieved this one! Said to-read shelf is still overflowing though…
  • 6 should be in German – I have a few German books on my shelves that sound really good but I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading in German so I need to get back to that! – You would think 6 would have been achievable, but no. I read 1 and started another.
  • 12 should be rereads of books I already own and need to read again before deciding whether to keep them (the aim here being to hopefully make room on my shelves for more books). – I managed 6, so half, and I ended up not keeping most of them. So not too bad, but not all that helpful either.

Cleaning goals

Deep clean once per month. I did pretty well on it last year, so I’m sticking with it. This will include:

  • Cleaning the bathrooms/kitchen including mopping the floors
  • Changing the bedding
  • Cleaning the oven (although the new one has a “cleaning” function so that won’t be as hard as it used to be)
  • Hoovering and dusting the entire flat
  • Taking away recycling, etc. as needed

Some of those things I obviously do much more than once a month, but I want to check off that I’ve definitely done them at least once a month. Otherwise I can definitely go several months without ever taking out the mop…

I did indeed do some kind of deep clean once a month, every single month. However, I only dusted three times. And *mumbling, ashamed* I didn’t mop the bathroom floors even once. I am a terrible housewife.

Health goals

  • Eat a piece of fruit or a vegetable with every meal. In 2019 I tried to eat my 5 a day on at least 3 days a week, but it was too hard to track. Someone mentioned they eat fruit or vegetables with every meal (it might have been Hazel? If I’m wrong and it was you let me know!) and I thought it was a great idea so I decided to try doing that in 2020. – Nope. I started well but gave up when I was ill in March then never managed to start again.
  • No more than two cups of black tea per day. – I think I actually achieved this. For a while I stopped drinking black tea entirely and only had green tea in the morning then fruit/herbal teas the rest of the time. I started drinking black tea again in October but I don’t *think* there’s been a single day that I had more than two cups.
  • Drink at least two pint glasses of water per day. – I… don’t know? Honestly, I stopped keeping track.
  • Go for a walk once a week. I did not get even close to enough exercise last year. This will be a start. I will allow walking to the supermarket and back to count if it’s the supermarket at the train station, but not if I walk to any of our local ones. – I only missed two weeks, and I had good reasons for both. Since I also had weeks when I went for more than one walk I’m counting this one as a win.

Social/life goals

  • Write at least two pen pal letters every month. I got way behind last year and didn’t write to some people at all. This year I will be better! I’ve already three in January so I’m winning. – I managed this most months. There was one month that I only wrote one, but since I wrote 7 the month before and at least 2 every other month I’m saying I achieved this.
  • Take some kind of in-person course. It doesn’t matter what, as long as it’s something I have to physically go to and interact with actual people. – Hahahaha. Nope. Clearly not. I found a beginner’s crochet course I wanted to take and had planned to book it after we returned from our trip to Poland. Then came the pandemic. Poland was cancelled and in-person courses were out for the rest of the year. I guess even the universe thinks I’m better off at home away from my fellow humans?

Overall I did pretty well. Apart from the last goal, which was out of my hands. And the fruit/vegetables thing. It’s not as though we ate terribly, but there are definitely days that I only eat one or two portions of veg, so I need to find a way to do better on that. Hopefully I’ll also do a bit better with reading non-fiction and in German this year! Goals for 2021 coming soon.

Do you have any goals for the year? Or will you just be taking things as they come while we continue to deal with everything the world continues to throw at us until the pandemic is over and we can go back to something resembling normal again? Either way, I hope 2021 is all you want it to be.

What I read in December 2020 + My Book Challenge by Erin 14.0 reading list

Hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day with Steph and Jana and I’m here to talk about last year’s reading for the final time. December is always my worst reading month, partly because Jan and I are both off work so we tend to spend time together and also because it’s the one time that I actually watch quite a lot of TV. Jan switches on the TV practically every time he enters the living room but I’m usually perfectly happy to leave it off and get lost in a book. All the fun, heart-warming films are on TV at Christmas though and I like to indulge in those and really switch off. Anyway, enough about that. You’re here for the books – and despite all the TV and boardgames plus getting my Christmas cards finished in the earlier part of the month, I managed to read nine.

One of Us Is Next A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up in the year since Simon died, but in all that time, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts. Until now. Someone has started playing a game of Truth or Dare. But this is no ordinary Truth or Dare. This game is lethal. Choosing the truth may reveal your darkest secrets, accepting the dare could be dangerous, even deadly. Once again the teenagers of Bayview must work together to find the culprit, before it’s too late. I loved One of Us Is Lying and I’m honestly amazed it took me so long to pick this one up. I was immediately sucked back into the world of Bayview and all their drama. I did guess who was behind everything a bit before the end, but considering I stayed up until midnight to finish it despite having work the next morning I couldn’t not give it 5 stars. It’s probably more like 4.5 but I’m happy to round up in this instance.

North Child by Edith Pattou (also published under the title East). According to Rose’s mother’s superstitions, a child who is born facing North is destined to be wild, a wanderer, always seeking adventures. So she lies to everyone – including herself – and claims that Rose was born facing East. But despite her mother’s best attempts, Rose is a North child through and through, and the old stories say she is destined to travel far from home on a dangerous journey. Making a pact with an enormous white bear, Rose travels on his back to a mysterious castle that holds a dark enchantment, a darker temptation, and the key to her true destiny… North Child is a retelling of the fairytale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, but I don’t know the original fairytale. I enjoyed this book overall, but it suffered a bit from being overly long. There were a few parts in the middle that felt agonisingly slow so that when I put it down I didn’t feel eager to pick it up again. It is beautifully told but that wasn’t enough to fully hold my attention. I liked the parts told from the white bear’s perspective. The ending felt both too drawn out and rushed – lots of chapters to explain the happy ending but then it went very quickly from “I love you” to two weddings within a few weeks. I do recommend it though, just be aware that it’s not all action, all the time. 3 stars.

When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Getten. Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – or so it seems. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem – she can’t remember anything that happened last summer.When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she finally has to face the truth of what happened last year. This is such a gorgeous book. I loved the small-town atmosphere and the sense of community. You really get a sense of life in a Jamaican village. Rudy is a great character as well and such a lovely friend to Clara. I’ve read the same twist in another book (although handled slightly differently) so it didn’t shock me but I did think it was well done. I would definitely read more books by this author. 4 stars.

Out of Heart by Irfan Master. Adam is a teenage boy who lives with his mum and his younger sister, Farah. His dad no longer lives with them but is still close by. His sister has stopped speaking and his mum works two jobs to make ends meet. Adam feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Then his grandfather dies and in doing so he donates a very precious gift – his heart. William is the recipient of Adam’s grandfather’s heart. He has no family and feels rootless and alone. In fact, he feels no particular reason to live. And then he meets Adam’s family. William has received a great deal, but it appears that he has much to offer Adam and his family too. This is a quick read and a decent enough story but I felt like it didn’t go into enough depth. There are a lot of serious topics in there but they all seem to be rushed through a bit. I loved the characters, especially Farah and Laila (a girl from Adam’s school). Overall it could have done with either being longer or concentrating on just one or two issues. 3 stars.

The Unlucky Lottery by Håkan Nesser (Inspector Van Veeteren #6). Four friends celebrate a winning lottery ticket. Just hours later, one of them – Waldemar Leverkuhn – is found stabbed to death in is bed. With Chief Inspector Van Veeteren on sabbatical, working in a second hand bookshop, the case is assigned to Inspector Munster. But when another member of the lottery group disappears, as well as Leverkuhn’s neighbour, Munster appeals to Van Veeteren for assistance. Soon Munster will find himself interviewing the Leverkuhn family, including the eldest – Irene – a resident of a psychiatric clinic. And as he delves deeper into the family’s history, he will discover dark secrets and startling twists, which not only threaten the clarity of the case – but also his life. This was a re-read for me, part of my ongoing attempt to decide which books I actually want to keep. I didn’t remember much about it thoigh – certainly not who the murderer was or why. It’s a fairly typical detective crime novel, absolutely fine but nothing special in my opinion. At times the writing style was a bit disjointed – short, almost clipped sentences. I think it was supposed to represent how one police officer thought but it was a bit annoying. As with most series of this type, you don’t need to have read the earlier books to read this one (I haven’t read any of them). Overall I liked it well enough but didn’t love it. 3 stars – and it shall be departing my shelves.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, moves to Ohio with her dad – a move she is not very happy about – and strikes up a friendship with Phoebe Winterbottom. During the course of a road trip to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents, Sal tells the story of Phoebe who received mysterious messages, who met a “potential lunatic,” and whose mother disappeared. As Sal talks, her own story begins to unfold – the story of a thirteen-year-old girl whose only wish is to be reunited with her missing mother. torn on this book. I loved the writing style but I found the story really predictable (I knew what had happened to Sal’s mother from almost the beginning and I had a pretty good guess on what was going on with Phoebe’s mother/”the lunatic” as well) and was NOT impressed with most of the adult characters. The teacher is awful (who reads out students’ private thoughts in class?) and Sal’s grandparents are quite frankly a liability. There were a few parts that had me genuinely invested though and the ending was quite moving. Maybe I would have enjoyed it better if I was 13 years old, but honestly I think there are better teen books out there. I really enjoyed Bloomability by the same author, but this one didn’t live up to my expectations. 3 stars.

What to Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French. Ellie Falkner is devastated to hear that her husband has died in a car accident. To then learn that he died with a mystery woman as his passenger only makes things worse. Was Greg having an affair? Drowning in grief, Ellie clings to Greg’s innocence, and her determination to prove it to the world at large means she must find out who Milena Livingstone was and what she was doing in Greg’s car. But her actions leave those around her questioning her sanity and motive. And the louder she shouts that Greg must have been murdered, the more suspicion falls on Ellie herself. Sometimes it’s safer to just keep silent when someone dies. This book is rally weird. I thought I had read it before since I’ve owned it for ages but literally nothing about it was familiar so I guess not. It was really quick to get through but it felt like not much really happened until about two-thirds of the way through. Towards the end I was enjoying it but then the resolution was kind of underwhelming. Also Ellie is really annoying and obsessive. I understand that people do weird things when they’re grieving but some of it felt very far-fetched. And since when do babies smell like sawdust and mustard? (I think that’s what it was – something bizarre anyway). Definitely not a patch on the Frieda Klein series, which I love. 3 stars.

Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt. Nicolette, or Nicki, Demere is not your average thirteen year-old. She never knew her birth mother, and she hasn’t heard from her father since he was sent to prison seven years. Having been taught the art of pick-pocketing by her grandmother, before landing in the foster system after he death, Nicki developed kleptomania. And now just happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be exactly what is needed. Nicki, alias Charlotte, swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the spectre of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past. I really enjoyed this book. I loved Nicki/Charlotte and I thought her relationship with her new “younger brother” was realistic. Obviously some suspension of belief is required – I don’t think anyone would actually send a child/teenager into such a dangerous situation even if they did come from the foster system and obviously they would never have given said child a taser – if anyone got one it would have been one of the parents. Basically if you can’t suspend your belief this one probably isn’t for you. But if you can manage that then it’s a fun adventure that I think kids will love. There were a few emotional parts – I definitely teared up at one scene between Nicki/Charlotte and her new “mom”. 4 stars.

Heartbreaker by Tania Carver. After years of abuse, Gemma Adderley has finally found the courage to leave her violent husband, after one beating and humiliation too many. Taking her seven-year-old daughter Carly, she leaves the house, determined to salvage what she can of her life. She phones Safe Harbour, a women’s refuge, and they tell her which street corner to wait on and what the car that will pick her up will look like. They tell her the word the driver will use so she knows it’s safe to get in. And that’s the last they hear from her. Gemma Adderley’s daughter Carly is found wandering the city streets on her own the next day. Her mother’s mutilated corpse turns up by the canal several weeks later. Her heart has been removed. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan takes on the case, and his wife, psychologist Marina Esposito, is brought in to try and help unlock Carly’s memories of what happened that day. The race is on to solve the case before the Heartbreaker strikes again. Then another woman is found dead… There is quite a bit of action in this book but oddly it still felt slightly slow at times. It’s part of a series but it doesn’t matter too much if you haven’t read the others (I haven’t) as the author drops just enough hints of what happened before without it feeling info-dumpy. I liked the characters (except DS Ellison – what an odious man) and the writing but the plot was fairly predictable. I knew who had done it long before the end. It’s by no means a bad book though, I just wouldn’t class it as a great one. 3 stars.

That’s it for the reviews, but since I didn’t read as many books as usual this time I am going to tell you my picks for Book Challenge by Erin 14.0, which started on 1 January and runs until 30 April 2021. I have already read some of them.

5 points: Freebie – The Unadoptables by Hanna Tooke
10 points: Read a book you have been meaning to re-read – My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
10 points: Read the first book of a series you have never read before – Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (Brown Sisters #1)
15 points: Read a book with a mostly green and/or pink cover – The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
20 points: Read a book with a male relationship word (son, father, etc.) in the title – Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror but Chris Priestly
20 points: Read a book set in a place that’s on your bucket list of places to visit – Emily of New Moon by L.M Montgomery (Canada)
25 points: Read a book that reminds you of 2020 – Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel (the majority of the population is wiped out by a deadly flu)
30 points: Read a book written by an LGBTQIA+ author – Birthday by Meredith Russo (transgender author)
30 points: Read a book with the name of a bird in the title, or the word bird/birds in the title – Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
35 points: Read a book where the protagonist has a questionable profession – Do Not Disturb by A. R. Torre (Deanna Madden book 2, the main character works as a cam girl)

That’s all from me. Have you read anything good recently? Don’t forget to check out the link up for more book reviews!

2020: Isolation Is Not Good for Me

Actually I did okay in isolation – unlike the rest of the world, I’m mostly fine with having an excuse to stay home and read (yes it sucks that I haven’t seen a single member of my family for over a year, and even more so that this happened when my dad was finally planning on coming to visit me for the first time since my year abroad in 20014, but having to stay at home/not go to bars and clubs really isn’t the end of the world for me and I already worked from home anyway) – but I couldn’t resist using that as a post title. I mean when will I ever get the chance again? It’s a line from the song Lemon Tree by Fool’s Garden if you don’t know. (Apologies if you feel I’m making light of what I know has been a terrible year for both the world in general and many people as individuals. I know not everyone shares my “if you don’t laugh you’ll cry” attitude.)

Anyway. Here’s something I wrote at the end of last year’s recap post:
…the last few weeks I’ve finally felt like I’m starting to emerge from the fog and I am hopeful that 2020 can be a better year, even if I ultimately don’t get my wish to start a family of my own. Here’s hoping for brighter days ahead! (And no renovations, thank goodness – I’m still dealing with dust in unexpected places from the last one!)“.

Ha
Haha.
Hahaha.
So… it looks like it was me that jinxed us all. Sorry about that guys!
But let’s look back at 2020 shall we? This will be long so apologies in advance.

We started the year here in Basel, watching the fireworks with friends. (Well, technically when the year began we were still waiting for the fireworks since they don’t start until 00:30 here). On New Year’s Day the four of us slept late and then had a nice brunch before my friend and her boyfriend headed home to Germany. Remember those days when socialising and crossing borders was allowed? We also met up with a friend of Jan’s later in the month, took a bus to Gempen and then walked up the hill and had coffee/hot chocolate in the restaurant at the top. According to my January recap, we went to the theatre on 4th January. We saw a “Basel musical”, which was strange but entertaining.

View from beside the restaurant in Gempen

After a failed hysteroscopy in December 2019, I had to go in for another attempt in January of this year – this time under general anaesthetic. (I actually had to look that up because I was questioning whether it actually happened in 2020 – it’s been a long year!) I was very pleased to be knocked out for it this time around. Everything went well. The scar tissue that was removed the first time (in August 2019) had grown back over slightly and the doctor also opened up a few cysts (but said there wasn’t really much blood in them). A week later I also had to go for a sonohysterogram (or saline ultrasound) to make sure everything looked good after the hysteroscopy and my uterus expanded as it should. It wasn’t that painful during the procedure – although it felt like it went on forever – but afterwards I had a lot of cramps for the rest of the day and was glad of the Buscopan and painkillers they gave me.

The Good Omens TV series finally came to the BBC and we recorded and then watched each episode during January and part of February. It was just as good as I had hoped – definitely worth the wait. Other than that the only thing I really did in January was read. A lot. 22 books to be precise.

February was our anniversary. 16 years together. We didn’t celebrate on the day, but we did take a trip to Baden the weekend after. It’s known for being a spa town but the entire area of town with the thermal pools, etc. was being renovated when we went. We did manage to dip our feet in a hot pool by the river though. The following week I went to the doctor with acid reflux and stomach pains, resulting in a diagnosis of gastritis caused by stress. I was prescribed proton pump inhibitors, which worked for a while.

We also went to St Gallen – the original plan had been to take a day trip, but after a late start we spontaneously booked a hotel room and stayed overnight. The following day after a walk round town and into the hills we took a train to Rorschach and walked along the side of the lake before heading back to Basel.

Then came March. Oh March! Jan’s 40th birthday was on the 1st. He wanted to go for a meal, so we booked a table at one of the few restaurants that was open on Sundays. (Ahahaha. Now none of them are open on any day at all!) At that point it had just been announced that the Basel carnival (which was due to start the next day) had been cancelled and the waiter we spoke to mainly seemed to be concerned about what was going to happen to all the extra food and beer they had bought. How naive we all were back then! The following Friday I went into the office in Germany and on the Wednesday after that, 11th March, we were supposed to travel to Poland. I had woken up with cold symptoms on the Monday and was feeling worse by the Wednesday so I called in sick to work and was debating whether to still travel right up until I was due to leave for the train to Zurich. I finally made the decision to cancel after hearing that Poland were conducting health checks at the borders and sending anyone with symptoms that could be Covid-related to hospital. The following day I went to the doctor, who agreed that I likely only had a cold (exacerbated by the same stomach problems as in February). I got a sick note for two days so I could get part of my holiday back and then still took the following week as holiday since I had to use those days by the end of March anyway.

Meanwhile, my family decided to still go to Poland, arrived just before the announcement was made that borders would be closing and tourists could either leave or quarantine. Ryanair sent far too few rescue flights, so they ended up taking a taxi to Berlin, spending one night there and flying home via Düsseldorf – during that time Germany closed its borders with Austria and Switzerland but luckily flights to the UK were still unaffected. Basel-Landschaft (where I live) became the first canton to go into a shutdown, in which all bars, restaurants, night clubs, etc. and shops with the exception of supermarkets and pharmacies had to close. Supermarkets were only allowed to sell essential items and actually had to cordon off the aisles with toys or clothing. All but essential medical services were cancelled, meaning the fertility clinic was forced to close just as I had been planning to try another transfer after the two procedures in January. I also had a dentist appointment cancelled – only emergency treatment was allowed. Jan’s employer announced that anybody who could work from home should do so and we set up our spare room as an office for him, and by the time my holiday was over all my colleagues were also working from home. That first lockdown weekend was also the first time in 2020 that I missed my weekly walk, being unsure what was actually allowed (as it turned out walks most definitely have been allowed throughout this entire pandemic, but the early days were full of confusion). It’s strange to think that if everything hadn’t gone wrong our twins would have turned one and I would have finished my maternity leave right around the time everybody started to lock down. Obviously both of us working from home during a pandemic has been much, much easier without two toddlers to care for but I can honestly say I would rather have my boys than an “easy” life!

A friend her first baby in March a daughter – so obviously I had to stitch a card for her. See, some people got good things this year!

April saw hairdressers, garden centres, DIY stores, medical massage practices, physiotherapists and dentists allowed to open again, with customers having to wear masks and limited numbers of people allowed in. Jan and I went for many, many walks in every possible direction – we are very lucky to live where we do, within easy walking distance of both Basel city and beautiful nature.

Those weekly walks and one supermarket trip per week were the only times I left the house in April. Work slowed down quite a bit and I had to finish early a few times. I tried to stay online longer on the days that I actually had enough to do and only ended up having to use four hours of overtime, which I then easily made up in the following months so it all worked out. We started watching Richard Osman’s House of Games (repeats, but we hadn’t seen them the first time round) and I got into colouring again after my friend sent me a colouring book, with the result that I only read 11 books in April – definitely not a bad amount, but very few for me!

In May Switzerland reopened even more and I finally got to go to the dentist… for the appointment that should have been in March! It turned out I needed a filling so I had to go back two more times, first for a cleaning and then for said filling. I jumped on the baking bandwagin and baked Zopf – a kind of Swiss bread – and Jan and I made a speciality of Graubünden called “Capuns.”

I received my new Swiss residence permit – ages after applying for it – meaning I am officially allowed to stay until 2025 no matter what happens with Brexit. Hurrah! We continued going for walks, including driving out to where some friends were staying and joining them for a socially distanced walk, and also drove to a village called Altreu that’s famous for its stork colony. We saw baby storks there. Baby. Storks!

I took part in the second Believathon and read nothing but children’s books for two weeks, which was lots of fun.

The fertility clinic reopened after two months and we got to go back. I had a transfer on 18th May and everything went perfectly. The embryo even managed to implant. Unfortunately I spotted basically from the day of the positive test. I ended up going in for an extra ultrasound on 10th June where they found no obvious cause for the bleeding (but it seemed to be related to the cervix) but I did see a heartbeat. Unfortunately when I went back for my regular scan 5 days later there was no longer a heartbeat. Based on the size they thought the embryo had stopped growing 2 days earlier at what would have been 6 weeks, 4 days. I had to keep taking hormones and come back 2 days later to make absolutely certain that the pregnancy wasn’t viable. The ultrasound at that appointment showed there was no heartbeat again and the embryo had actually shrunk, but my body showed no signs of wanting to miscarry naturally – what’s known as a missed or silent miscarriage. I was given the option of waiting to see whether my body would catch up or taking medication to induce it, and I chose the latter. First I was given mifepristone, which I had to take immediately with the doctor watching. You may have heard of it… it’s commonly known as “the abortion pill” but it’s also given in combination with misoprostol (Cytotec) to induce miscarriage or labour in cases of fetal death – the combination of the two makes it more likely that all the tissue will be expelled so no surgery if needed. So if you are “pro-life” have ever said/thought that mifepristone should be banned please remember that it’s not just for abortion. Without it I would most likely have needed a curettage to remove leftover tissue which is exactly what my already dodgy uterus does not need if I’m ever going to successfully carry a pregnancy to anywhere near term! I left the clinic with Cytotec, to be taken the following afternoon, and a prescription for strong painkillers. The next day, I lost our baby on the day I would have been exactly 7 weeks pregnant.

That was the second week in 2020 that I didn’t go for a walk… I think I had a good excuse though!

I cross stitched cards for two friends’ babies – the second child for each of them born 15 days apart. One boy, one girl.

Switzerland reopened even more and the border with Germany also reopened, although I chose not to go back to the office. Jan went into the office once because he needed to pick something up, so he ended up working there for a few hours, having lunch with some colleagues and then working from home in the afternoon. He also went to a socially distanced choir practice. Covid-19 case numbers at the beginning of the month were around 18 per day and around 60 by the end of the month. Figures that are actually unbelievable at this stage! Oh Switzerland… where did you go wrong?

July started with me having to go for an eye test due to itchy eyes and blurry vision. I ended up being prescribed glasses, although things have normalised now and I don’t really seem to need them any more. I’ve been told to use them as “relief” glasses for when my eyes are tired or strained after working for long periods of time. I then had weird sinus pressure/dizziness/headaches. After several trips to my doctor, blood tests and a referral to a ear, nose, throat specialist, I was told there was no sign of an infection. Although I had lots of mucus it looked clear and my nose was dry but not inflamed. Basically it looked to him like a classic case of allergies. I was prescribed a nose spray and decongestant pills (basically really strong eucalyptus capsules). The decongestant pills made everything taste like eucalyptus but provided almost immediate relief, meaning I could actually sleep! I’ve since had an allergy test (blood test) which revealed I am allergic to absolutely none of the things they tested for! Not trees, not various fruits, not nuts, not grasses, not moulds and not dust mites. However, I think I may be allergic to a certain brand of liquid soap because every time I use it to wash my hands I end up sneezing! For what it’s worth I had no fever, no cough, no sore throat and neither of the doctors I saw thought it was Covid related. My symptoms were very similar to the cold I had in March when we cancelled our trip to Poland, which made me wonder whether what I had back then was the same thing. There’s no real way of knowing though.

On the weekend after my eye test, I decided to rest my eyes (so no reading) and we drove out to Creux-de-Van, a giant circular rock formation in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. We had a lovely walk (staying at least 2 metres from other people at all times!). The scenery was really impressive – my photos do it absolutely no justice.

I went back to the fertility clinic in July for blood tests to rule out rheumatic conditions as a cause of my miscarriage/infertility – you’re supposed to have 3 miscarriages before those tests get approved but my doctor successfully argued that twins plus a single embryo meant I had miscarried three babies even if it wasn’t three pregnancies and that the five failed embryo transfers before the second miscarriage were also a cause for concern. One value was slightly high so I had to repeat the tests a few months later but the second time everything was normal, so that was not the explanation.

August was holiday month. Hurrah! Yes, we went on holiday during a pandemic. Yes I have been told I was irresponsible and selfish for even considering it, that it’s irrelevant that we spent most of the time in a car, kept our distance from other people and always wore masks indoors and that case numbers in Switzerland were around 150-200 per day at the time and most of those were in Geneva and Zurich – two places that we purposely avoided (to put things in perspective in November Switzerland was reporting around 10,000 cases per day and at the end of December the daily figure was 4,000-5,000). Never mind. We weighed up the risks and decided that as long as we were very careful we were okay with it. We had an amazing time touring Switzerland, and also celebrated my birthday towards the end of the holiday which was nice. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be turning 37 still childless but a tour week tour of Switzerland, delicious three course hotel meal, and watching the sunrise from a mountain on my birthday wouldn’t have been possible with young children so I can’t really complain too much.

The rest of August mostly just consisted of work (pretty quiet but I mostly had enough to do), cross stitch (birthday cards plus working on something for my brother’s 30th) and Richard Osman’s House of Games. Jan spent one whole (socially distanced) weekend at choir rehearsals/meetings so I used the time to start making Halloween cards for Post Pals. I also had an ultrasound to confirm that, after two periods, there was no tissue left in my uterus from the miscarriage and I would be allowed to continue treatment.

In September my godson turned 8, I continued making Halloween cards for Post Pals and I finished stitching my brother’s birthday present – unfortunately I can’t show you a photo because I forgot to take one. I had the repeat blood tests that I mentioned earlier (all normal) and started preparations for another transfer. I also went into the office in Germany for the first time since March to say goodbye to a colleague who was leaving. It was okay. The train home was full but not so much that I couldn’t get two seats to myself.

Switzerland decided to allow large events with up to 1000 people – including allowing crowds at football matches – from 1st October even though coronavirus cases had been steadily creeping up throughout September. So we started October with an average of around 300 new cases per day and ended it with around 7000 cases per day… a fact which surprised absolutely nobody except, apparently, the Swiss Government. Remember when I was irresponsible for going on holiday while we had less than 20 cases per day? Yeah…

Anyway, at the beginning of the month we got to do another embryo transfer. This time I spotted literally from the day of the transfer. Neither I nor the doctor expected it to have worked and we started discussing a new treatment that’s recently been improved. But somehow the pregnancy test was positive. Since my second beta hcg number had been pretty high I was given an appointment for an early ultrasound, at 5 weeks, 4 days. Again they could see no reason for the bleeding, no blood within the uterus. It was too early to see a heartbeat but they confirmed that there was a gestational sac and a yolk sac. The next day I started bleeding heavier after walking into town to buy some Christmas presents, but still went to Jan’s choir concert that night (hygiene measures in place, 8 rows distance between the choir and the audience and everyone in the audience had to wear masks) – one of the last concerts before the Swiss government realised their mistake and banned large events again. The following day, Sunday, the bleeding had died down in the morning but when I started passing clots at around lunch time I knew it was over. I emailed the clinic, who called me back and basically said to go and lie down, try not to worry and come for an ultrasound in the morning. The next day I called in sick to work, went to the fertility clinic and got confirmation of what I had suspected… the gestational sac was gone. At least this time I had passed everything naturally.

Jan’s friend started coming over to study a couple of times a week and I bought a table cloth to make the living room table look a bit nicer. At the end of the month I had an ultrasound to check that the miscarriage had completed. Thankfully it had and no surgery was necessary. And I ended the month with my annual autumn walk along the stream near where we live – with coronavirus cases rapidly increasing I was once again very grateful that we live where we do.

In November I made, wrote and posted Christmas cards for every single Post Pals family! That was a total of 44 cards. I also continued cross stitching cards for my own family and friends (I had made a start in October but didn’t get very far). I posted my cousin’s birthday present, plus a card that I had stitched in October, to New Zealand. Her birthday was on 12 December and it ended up arriving 3 days late even though I posted it earlier than usual this year!

I baked Vanillekipferl, attempted to start the pre-Christmas declutter (it made no difference – we still have too much stuff!) and bought myself a new dress. One of Jan’s choirs was supposed to have a concert but with events cancelled again they live-streamed it instead. It was actually quite nice to sit and watch from my living room with a cup of tea and my cross stitch.

At the beginning of December I had to go to the fertility clinic for an ultrasound on day 7 of my cycle to confirm that there was no tissue left in my uterus from the latest miscarriage. Everything looked good, which meant we could move on to the next step – an MRI to get a better look at my uterus and confirm my diagnosis. For a while we’ve been working on the assumption that I have adenomyosis. The MRI provided confirmation, so that’s definitely what caused my first 5 embryo transfers to fail and most likely what caused at least one of my miscarriages this year (with the first one it’s more likely to have been an issue with the embryo itself, but the second time there is a high chance that my uterus was unable to hold on to a perfectly good embryo). Recent studies have shown that an extended period of down-regulation before a frozen embryo transfer significantly increases pregnancy rates in women with adenomyosis, and my clinic has recently approved the procedure, so we’ll be trying that next time round. However, since we only have one embryo left, I’m going to do another full IVF stimulation round first. My doctor explained that affects of the down-regulation last a while, so if the final embryo transfer didn’t work it would be months before we could start a full cycle and get more embryos. This way we will have some waiting already, and if it does work out, we will have some frozen embryos made using my 37-nearly-38 year old eggs waiting for a potential sibling in the future. I will be at least 40 by the time we get to that stage and my egg quality will only get worse with each year that passes. So that’s what we’re going to do. If I’ve worked everything out correctly then in the absolute best scenario we can expect to have a baby in January 2022. And he or she will absolutely have been worth everything it took to get there!

Anyway… I’ve only just recapped December so I’ll make the rest of this quick. Work was busy, which I was actually grateful for. I ended the year with about 20 hours of overtime, which could be very useful with all the appointments involved in IVF (during stimulation there comes a point where I have an ultrasound every single day!). My mum and grandma got their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Many biscuits were baked… too many if I’m honest. I finished my Christmas cards and got them posted, sent my final box of Christmas gifts and then also took the packages for Jan’s family to the post office, where I stood in the longest queue I have ever seen there, and I once had to post gifts for Jan’s family 2 days before Christmas! I decluttered some more, cleaned and tidied everything ready for Christmas, and on the 23rd we finally bought our tree – we went to three places and at the third one bought the very last one they had. It was huge! Jan invited a friend round for Christmas Day and I made a traditional English Christmas dinner then avoided people entirely for the next 5 days (bar one supermarket trip) just in case I had picked up anything while socialising. We did go for walks but didn’t come into contact with anyone. New Year’s Eve involved stuffed peppers for tea, Christmas pudding, a Zoom call with some members of my family and drinking mulled wine on the balcony at midnight while watching the fireworks that other people were setting off (the few we could actually see from there). And then, finally, this incredibly strange and uncertain year was over.

So… what can I say about 2020? I know it was a terrible year for many people. For most people even. The world at large was an absolute shit show and I’m very aware that I haven’t really addressed that here. But honestly, while a lot of things came together this year, there has been a lot of crap going on out there for a while now that I have never addressed in my personal annual recap post so I’m not going to start now. This summary will all be personal to me.

At the end of 2019 I said I felt like I had spent most of the year in my own bubble, licking my wounds from what had come at the end of 2018 (losing our boys, my maternal grandmother dying a week later, my dad being diagnosed with cancer which is thankfully now officially gone). In 2020 I wanted to emerge from that bubble and really make the most of the year – see friends and family (my dad was actually going to visit us for the first time since the end of my year abroad in 2004!), visit places and do things that wouldn’t be an option if we actually succeeded in having a child. And then came the pandemic, forcing me to spend another year mostly at home, not seeing anyone. Which isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world – we are in the very lucky position of having various technologies at our fingertips (I even got to see my mum and brother’s new house via Skype!), I got to spend more time with Jan since he wasn’t commuting and didn’t have choir rehearsals and other things basically every weekend, and we had time to explore our local area on some really enjoyable long walks. And we got to tour Switzerland, which in all honestly we probably wouldn’t have done if we’d been able to actually leave the country for a holiday. I can definitely see the positives in this year. But when it comes to the closing of the fertility clinic, meaning we lost two entire months of treatment (I could have done another IVF round and started the new treatment by now, ready for another transfer this month and potentially been looking at becoming a mother by October of this year), and the miscarriages I just cannot look on the bright side. Yes, I would have been giving birth during a pandemic (my due date for the first miscarriage would have been 3 February and things will definitely not be back to normal by then) but so have plenty of other people and while I’m sure they would have wished for a different birth experience all I want is a healthy, living, baby, and if that meant having to give birth wearing a mask, without Jan by my side, I would happily have taken that over the alternative. Empty arms and no idea whether parenthood is in the cards for us at all. So despite the bright sides, despite the fact that I am in the very, very lucky position of having barely been affected by the pandemic (nobody I know died, we were both able to work from home throughout, we still have our health, our home and each other), or any of the many other terrible things that have happened in 2020, once again this has not been a good year for me. Looking forward… I don’t even know what to say about 2021. Obviously things are not going to get back to any kind of normal until at least the summer, and even then who knows what that “normal” will look like. I already knew that humanity is inherently selfish, but this year has shown me that it’s even worse that I thought. So will things be better this year? I don’t know. Brexit is coming, the pandemic isn’t over, and honestly the whole world is a mess. But I do believe we can all do our bit to make the world a tiny bit brighter. So while I have no idea what 2021 is going to throw at me I am determined to face it with as much positivity and gratitude as I can muster up. I don’t expect starting a new calendar to magically make the world a better place, but I am happy to be able to draw a line under 2020 and look to what’s to come. My hopes for this year? That this new treatment will be the key to me actually getting – and staying – pregnant. (And if it isn’t at least I will be satisfied that we’ve tried all the options that are available to us – bear in mind that surrogacy is illegal in Switzerland and to adopt we would have to have been married for a minimum of 5 years, meaning even if we got married tomorrow it would be a long time before we could even be considered for adoption.) That I will be able to see and hug my family and friends in person. That Brexit won’t be as bad as I’m fearing and that life won’t get any worse for my family and friends in the UK, and that I will actually be able to keep my job despite the fact that I neither live nor pay taxes in Germany. That everyone I know will stay healthy – physically and mentally – despite all the challenges I’m sure are still to come.

I also hope that 2021 brings good things to you, dear reader. If 2020 has been a bad year for you then I hope it’s a better one and if you’ve managed to make it through unscathed and even have a good year then I hope that continues.

If you’ve actually read this far then THANK YOU! I have no idea why or how you read all that waffle, but you are actually, genuinely amazing! Happy New Year friends. Despite everything, we’re still here so if nothing else I feel like we can celebrate that.