A Photo an Hour: 19 January 2019

Hello lovely readers! On Saturday, I took part in the first photo an hour day of 2019 via Twitter, and now I’m finally getting round to also posting the photos on my blog. So here’s what I got up to.

10 a.m. Out of bed and wearing my new slippers. Very cosy they are too!

11 a.m. Aww, my tea mug loves me.

12 noon. Made it to the post office to pick up a package before it closed, now doing a bit of shopping.

1 p.m. “Helping” Jan make the office light work… which at that point manly involved watching and waiting (my main job was to hold the light up in the air while he attached it to the ceiling).

2 p.m. We wanted to go out since it was actually sunny so I started looking up places to go.

3 p.m. Finally on the move!

4 p.m. Emmental! We reached our destination not long after that photo.

5 p.m. Back in the car heading closer to the mountains. We were in Burgdorf, if you’re wondering.

6 p.m. Still in the car. It’s hard to take photos in the dark!

7 p.m. Almost back in Basel.

8 p.m. Fooood! Leftovers from the night before plus some refried beans from a tin. It tasted nicer than it looks 😉 (Inside the tortilla was chicken, avocado, tomatoes, cheese and lots of garlic).

9 p.m. Making us both hot drinks.

10 p.m. Reading in bed.

11 p.m. It’s good night from Eeyore (and good night from me).

And that was all from that day. If it had been up to me, we would have gone out sooner and had time to stop off somewhere else before it got dark, but Jan wanted to get the light sorted, which is legitimate.

How was your Saturday? Did you do anything nice?

Advertisements

Style Imitating Art: Blue Irises

Hello friends! Time for another style imitating art post – the first of 2019.

The inspiration this time was the Van Gogh Painting “Still Life With Irises”:

still-life-with-irises-1890.jpg!halfhd

I love the blue of the flowers! Unfortunately the only item of clothing I could think of with roughly that shade of blue is a summer dress and I didn’t fancy freezing. So here’s what I chose instead:

sia-jan2019

The flowers are purple rather than blue but I thought the flowers plus green leaves were a decent match for the painting. The skirt is the wrong shade, really, but it kind of represents the beige-y surface the vase is standing on. Not the best interpretation, but I quite like it.

My grandma gave me the top last year and it’s actually the first time I’ve worn it. The label says it’s from Dorothy Perkins. The skirt is old and I don’t remember where it came from. I was also wearing purple tights, which you obviously can’t see on those photo but actually the skirt is long enough that you can’t see them at all when I’m wearing shoes.

How would you interpret this painting? If you want to join in, you have until tomorrow (Tuesday, 15 January) to send a photo of your outfit to 14shadesofgreyblog@gmail.com. Flat lays are fine if you prefer not to show your face.

What I read in December 2018

Somehow it is the second Tuesday of the month, which can only mean one thing: book day! December was a fairly busy month, but that did not stop me from cramming in as much reading as I could. In the end, I managed 12 books. Admittedly the majority were children’s books, but reading is reading, so yeah…

Linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books, of course.

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

Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry. I mentioned this book in my round-up of the year as having my favourite cover of 2019. Calliope June has Tourette syndrome, so she sometimes makes faces or noises that she doesn’t mean to make. When she moves yet again, she tries to hide her Tourettes at school on the advice of her mother and a previous doctor. But it isn’t long before the kids at her new school notice she’s different, labelling her a freak. Only Calliope’s neighbour, Jinsong who is also the popular student body president, sees her as she truly is – an interesting person and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public? This is a simple book, but somehow beautiful. Calli’s parts are written in verse, which can be annoying but the format is perfect for Calli’s voice. I wanted to give her a hug every time someone was mean to her, and I was so glad she decided to ignore the bad advice at the end and finally got to be herself. 4 stars.

Forget Me Not

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. Okay, first of all when I read this book I had no idea Daniel Handler was Lemony Snicket! I mean, I’ve never read a Lemony Snicket book so it’s probably irrelevant but I just thought I’d get that out there. Anyway, this book is written in the form of letters from sixteen-year-old Min to her ex, Ed. The letters document their relationship and explain the random items she’s returning to him in the same box as the letters. I don’t know about “why we broke up”…. I feel like the title should have been “why we should never have got together in the first place”. Min is an artist and the entire book goes on about how “different” she is. Ed is a typical jock and so not her type. There seemed to be so many things Min was unsure of about Ed, but then just kind of brushed aside. Anyway, I don’t know how to review this book. The main character was kind of annoying at times but I really liked the concept and a few of the anecdotes from her relationship. I gave it 3 stars because I did kind of like it, but probably wouldn’t read it again.

The Imagination Box by Martyn Ford. Timothy is an orphan who has been adopted by a couple who own a hotel. His mum and dad are always busy and he’s on his own a lot, which is how he meets Professor Eisenstone, a guest at the hotel. The professor introduces Tim to his invention… a box that can produce anything you can imagine (with some restrictions, e.g. you can’t imagine “hot ice” – you would just end up with water). When the professor goes missing, Tim knows he has to investigate, so he sets off with a talking finger monkey named Phil to find the professor. I enjoyed this book. It’s great fun and I LOVED Phil the monkey. A lot seems to happen at the end and I could barely keep up, and some of the characters weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked, but generally I really enjoyed it and I think the target audience would too. It’s the first in a series so hopefully some of the gaps will be filled in later. 3.5 stars.

The Snow Sister by Emma Carroll. The holidays aren’t very joyous in Pearl’s family ever since her sister Agnes died. It’s nearly Christmas and Pearl has a tradition – every time it snows, she makes a snow sister. When Pearl’s father receives a letter about an inheritance, Pearl’s mother sends her to the shop to buy ingredients for a real Christmas dinner, but things don’t go quite as planned and she ends up having to stay the night at Flintfield Manor. Will she make it home for Christmas? This is a cute, heart-warming tale with a lovely message. The old-fashioned setting is perfect for the story and Pearl is a great character. A lovely children’s book. 4 stars.

Dead Scared (Haunt #1) by Curtis Jobling. After being hit by a car, Will finds himself in hospital where nobody can see or hear him and realise he didn’t survive the accident. At his funeral, he discovers that somehow his best friend, Dougie, can still see him and, in an attempt to figure out why Will didn’t move on, the two of them decide to investigate a school rumour – is there really a ghost haunting an abandoned building on the school grounds and if so why? What they discover is a long-buried mystery, which stretches its fingers right into the present. This is a surprisingly good book. I loved Will’ s sense of humour and his friendship with Dougie. This seems to be part of a series so I’m hoping we’ll find out more about how being a ghost works and some of the other characters – and possible eventually who was actually driving the car that hit Will. 4 stars.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. Yes, I read an actual adult book! I started this one in November, then continued when I went to work in December. Apparently four 2-hour train journeys weren’t enough to finish so I forced myself to read the rest in the bath. Ha. Anyway, I suppose most people know what this is about? I had never seen the film (well, I once saw the very beginning) but I had a vague idea. The book is more a series of semi-related short stories than a novel, really, and all told from different perspectives. Half the time I had no idea who was currently narrating or how much time was supposed to have passed… while I can read Scots dialect it made all the voices blend into one so I had no idea who was currently supposed to be talking, and it almost felt like it was only written that way to prove a point. I liked it better than I expected to though. 3 stars and finally another BBC Big Read book crossed off the list.

Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenzie. Lauren has always known she was adopted, but she knowns nothing about her birth family. While researching for a school project, Lauren comes across a website for missing children, where she discovers a girl who looks a lot like her; a girl who was taken from her parents over 12 years ago. Could her parents really be kidnappers? With the help of her best friend, Jam, Lauren makes it her mission to find out where she came from. was a very quick read. The concept was interesting (although it’s at least partly been done before… obviously Sophie McKenzie never read The Face on the Milk Carton) but the writing seemed almost too simple… yes, it’s for teens but I read plenty of teen books with much more complicated writing styles (even those obviously aimed at younger teens like this one is). The main character seemed quite childish for a 14 year old, and she’s also very whiny and self-centred. I also would have preferred it if Lauren and Jam really had stayed “just friends” as they insisted they were from the start. The relationship aspect was predictable and seemed unnecessary. Not a terrible book but not one I would necessarily recommend. 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 on Goodreads.

Plain Jane by Kim Hood. At nearly 16, Jane has lived in the shadow of her little sister Emma’s cancer diagnosis for over three years. But even before that, she always thought of herself as “Plain Jane”, the boring, ordinary counterpart to her talented dancer sister. Now though, with her parents struggling to cope financially and emotionally, Jane’s life in her rural mining village seems to be a never ending monotony of skipping school, long bus rides to the hospital and hanging out with a boyfriend she doesn’t even know why she is with. Nobody seems to notice or care what’s going on with Jane, and in fact even she is finding it increasingly difficult to care. I really liked this book. Some people have said it seemed a bit dull at the start, but that was clearly related to Jane’s state of mind and it was clear (to me) that something would have to give – she obviously wasn’t happy and it felt like something was bubbling beneath the surface. I was really concerned for Jane and kept wishing she would stop pretending everything was fine and give her parents a chance to notice that she needed help.
I always find it interesting to me to read a “child cancer book” that doesn’t focus on the child with cancer but on their sibling, who is obviously also affected by what’s happening within the family. It gives a different perspective to the one that feels like it’s been done a million times. Four stars.

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak. Despite being part-way through way too many books, I couldn’t resist starting this one on Christmas Day! After working in the field for the maximum allowable time, NGO doctor Olivia Birch is returning home for Christmas. The only problem is, she’s been in Liberia treating the deadly Haag virus (seemingly a fictional version of Ebola) and she and her entire family need to be quarantined for 7 days. While Olivia struggles to come to terms with what she thinks of as first-world problems, her frivolous younger sister can think of nothing else but her upcoming wedding. Meanwhile every member of the family seems to be hiding a secret… what will happen when they all come out? This is a quick and quirky read all about how just being related doesn’t necessarily mean you actually know each other. It has its flaws but I really enjoyed reading it. Perfect escapist Christmas fodder. 4 stars.

100 Cupboards by N.D.Wilson. Somehow I didn’t realise this was the first book in a series. Like I have time to commit to another one! Anyway, 12-year-old Henry has been sent to the small town of Henry to stay with his aunt, uncle and three cousins. One night, he hears a bang on the attic wall above his head and wakes up to find plaster dust in his hair and two knobs in the wall, which turn out to be doors. Gradually, a total of 99 cupboards are revealed, and Henry and his cousin Henrietta (yes, really!) soon discover that they are not just cupboards, but portals to other worlds. This is a creepy children’s fantasy book. Parts of it are a little slow and confusing, other parts are really good. There are some Arthurian-seeming elements, which I enjoyed and the whole going through cupboards thing made it seem a little Narnia-esque. If I had realised from the start it was a series I might have given it a higher rating, but as it was I gave it 3.5 stars. Hopefully some of the confusion will be cleared up in book 2!

In the Night Room by Peter Straub. This book started off well but then just got really weird. It seems to be some sort of sequel to Straub’s previous book, lost boy lost girl. Or at least that book is mentioned in this one as having being written by a main character in this book? Anyway, the plot:  Willy Patrick, the respected author of the award-winning young-adult novel, thinks she is losing her mind again. The first time was after her husband and daughter were murdered. Now she is haunted by the knowledge that her daughter, Holly, is being held captive in a fruit warehouse. Except she can’t be, because of the aforementioned being murdered thing. Meanwhile, author Timothy Underhill, who has been struggling with a new book about a troubled young woman, is confronted with the ghost of his nine-year-old sister, April (also murdered, many years ago) and starts receiving strange, fragmented emails from dead classmates and acquaintances. There are books within books within books, characters who were dead or maybe not, or possibly were never even real at all. It all just felt unnecessarily confusing. I loved Ghost Story but this one just wasn’t for me. 2 stars.

The Fairy Doll by Rumer Godden. Did I quickly read a 96-page children’s book at the very end of December just so I could add one more book to my total count for the year? As a matter of fact, I did! Nobody is sure where Fairy Doll came from, but she has always been at the top of the Christmas tree. Elizabeth is the smallest in the family. She is always getting into trouble and her brother and sisters are forever laughing at her and bossing her around. She’s convinced she’s useless. Then Great-Grandma gives Fairy Doll to Elizabeth and suddenly she finds she can do things. Is Fairy Doll magical or was it Elizabeth herself all along? Slightly old-fashioned but very sweet and charming. I loved the glimpses into a child’s imagination – sawdust as fairy sand and a shell for a bed. I also like how it’s left to the reader to decide whether the Fairy Doll is actually magical. 4 stars.

And that concludes the round-up of books I read in December. In case you’re interested, the total number of books I ended up reading in 2018 was 168 (plus some I started but never finished and one started in 2017 that I read more of but still haven’t finished).

What have you been reading recently? Anything you would like to recommend?

Come join the link up for even more book talk!

2019 goals

10
Random photo of healthy looking food because it seemed fitting…

Yes, I’m late jumping on this bandwagon because it’s taken me this long to decide on most of my goals for the year. Also, how is it that we’re an entire week into the New Year already? (For the record, I initially typed 2018 in the title so clearly my brain hasn’t caught up yet). My goals fall into three basic categories: reading, cleaning and healthy eating. Here they are:

Reading goals

  • Read 100 books (Good Reads challenge goal). Of these:
    • 10 should be non-fiction
    • 12 should be from the BBC Big Read list
    • 20 should have been on my to-read list before 2019 started

Cleaning goals

  • Deep clean once per month. To include:
    • Cleaning the bathrooms including mopping floors
    • Cleaning the kitchen including mopping floor and cleaning the oven (bolded because I will clean that damn oven regularly if it kills me! Gah.)
    • Changing bedding
    • Dusting
    • Hoovering, taking away recycling, etc. as needed (although I do those things regularly anyway)

Healthy eating goals

  • Eat 5 or more portions of fruit and veg on at least 3 days per week
  • Have nuts/fruit as snacks instead of chocolate and crisps
  • A maximum of 2 cups of black tea per day
  • Drink at least 2 pint glasses of water per day

My one other goal/wish/hope for 2019 is, of course, to get pregnant again and this time actually get a baby at the end of it, but that one is kind of out of my hands (thanks useless body!) and therefore doesn’t really belong here.

I won’t ask what your goals are because I feel like everyone who isn’t me actually managed to decide and post theirs before the year was a whole week old!

December 2018

One day I might go back to my recent doings/currently style posts, but for now I think I’ll stick with a rambling review of how I spent the previous month. Maybe I’ll add in some “recent doings” posts at random in mid-month? Anyway, for now let’s talk about what I did in December. Advance warning: this will probably be long.

Linking up with Kristen, of course, to talk about what’s new with me.

whats new with you

I will mainly be talking about the weekends since that’s when the interesting stuff mostly happens. Plus Christmas, obvs.

Jan came back from his three-week orientation in the US on 1st December. He arrived in the late afternoon, so before that I spent the day doing some necessary shopping and making Christmas cards for Post Pals children. I totally forgot to mention in my November recap that we finally got a shelving unit for the home office right before Jan left (it actually wasn’t supposed to arrive for another week so score on that point!). We put it up before he went away – by which I mean Jan mostly put it up with a little help from me (in fairness I was working at the time!) – so during that first December weekend he sorted out some of his stuff that needed to go on it, which involved unpacking two boxes that had been in the spare room this whole time. Yes, I am aware that we moved here 3 and a half years ago. *Shame* There are still two boxes in that room.  I need to work out what’s in them…

Xmas card

The second week in December Jan had concerts. By which I mean he had a rehearsal in Zurich on Thursday evening, a concert in Bern on Friday, a concert in Basel on Saturday and a concert in Zurich on Sunday. There were three choirs involved, one each from Basel, Bern and Zurich, hence the performances in different cities. We also had visitors that weekend, a friend from Karlsruhe and her boyfriend, so I hung out with them while Jan did choir stuff. And of course we went to see Jan perform on Saturday evening.

The following weekend was concerts again… with a different choir this time and only in Basel – one on Saturday, one on Sunday. I went to see the Saturday one. You can see what else I did that day in my Photo an Hour post, if you’re interested. That weekend, another blogger was in town… Jordan from Wayfaring with Wagner (check out her blog… she takes the best photos. Honestly, I defy you not to want to visit places after seeing her pictures of them). We met up for breakfast and then took her on a whirlwind tour of Basel, including a trip to the Christmas market. The place I had originally suggested for breakfast was full so we ended up going to Markthalle, which ended up being an excellent choice. I will definitely be having breakfast there again! (Hoping the Z’Morgeland brunch buffet is a regular thing!).

Bloggers in Basel

The weekend after that was the one before Christmas. Jan was invited to a birthday party in Geneva on the Friday night. For those who aren’t familiar with the geography of Switzerland, Geneva is at the other end of the country. I mean, it’s a small country, but that’s still a three-hour journey. I had the day off because I had appointments at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and working in between only to have to rush off again seemed silly. Jan was at work though, then he went  straight to Geneva so I didn’t see him that day. I finally posted my final parcel of Christmas presents to England (which of course meant those family members did not have anything to open on Christmas Day. Oh well… extended Christmas all round!). On the Saturday, I continued my pre-Christmas clean then when Jan arrived home shortly after 2 p.m. we went to buy a Christmas tree, brought it home and then decorated it. The living room looks so pretty with the tree lights on and I’m always sad when it has to be taken down. On Sunday, the 23rd, Jan slept late while I continued cleaning. I finally got round to cleaning the oven… a task that I’m sure would be much easier if I did it more often! Then in the late afternoon we went to visit my dad’s cousin, who lives in Germany, about a 40 minute train ride from Basel. His parents (my great aunt and great uncle) were visiting as well as his wife’s parents, and they also have three kids so they had a full house! It was an enjoyable evening and we had baked potatoes for tea, which is always certain to make me happy 😉

Christmas tree 2018

On Christmas Eve, I spent the morning pottering around, drinking tea, scrolling through social media, reading a bit. At 1 p.m., just as I was putting my coat on to go for a walk, Jan got up (to be fair to him, he had been up at 6 a.m. to go jogging then gone back to bed). He claimed he had stayed in bed for that long because he had a headache, then said I should have woken him and he could have gone for a walk with me… but when I pointed out later that if I had woken him he would have just said he had a headache and not got up he agreed that he probably would have. Anyway… I went for my walk then stopped by a supermarket for some last minute bits… milk, clementines, that sort of thing. In the afternoon we watched Santa Claus: the movie, which I hadn’t seen since about 1992! Dinner that night was Bratwurst and potato gratin. Then we opened our gift from Jan’s dad so Jan could thank him when he called. Jan phoned his parents and we watched Only Connect (a quiz show, for those who don’t know). Then it was off to bed.

Bruderholz Basel

On Christmas morning we were both up by 9:30 a.m. Yes, you read that right! After a cuppa followed by breakfast (bread rolls and jam), it was time to get down to the serious business of opening presents. Between us we got 3 films and 4 series for Christmas so we won’t run out of things to watch any time soon! After presents came showers, then we both headed out for a walk. We stopped by the cemetery to say happy Christmas to the boys then went and visited the cows at the farm. Then we headed back home to start making Christmas dinner, which Jan ended up doing most of because my dad called part way through. Beef, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, pigs in blankets (chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon) and honey roasted carrots and parsnips were consumed. And gravy, of course. After dinner, we watched some TV, tried out a game that Jan had received for Christmas, spoke to my grandma on the phone and finally ate some Christmas pudding that my dad’s cousin had given me.

baby calf

On Boxing Day (26th December for those not in the know ;-)) we decided to get a car and go for a drive. We went to Murten near Fribourg, a small town with a very well-preserved town wall and beautiful old streets. After a walk around the town and along the parts of the wall you can access, we headed to a pub for a dinner of delicious Flammkuchen. Back home, we drank hot chocolate and watched The Big Bang Theory.

Jan was back at work on the 27th, and although my office remained closed until after the New Year, it was still back to reality for me. First a trip to the post office to pick up a parcel I had missed, then shopping, cleaning and laundry. I also made chicken broth for tea and it was delicious. While Jan was at work again on the 28th, I cleaned the kitchen and went into town before taking a train to Zurich so he could show me his new place of work. The next day was Saturday and we took a trip to IKEA where Jan bought containers for storing all his cables and I attempted to buy a mini set of drawers but failed because they had sold out. I did, however, manage to get a frame which we later used to frame a jigsaw puzzle (now hanging up in the spare room) and of course we consumed Swedish meatballs while we were there. You can’t go to IKEA and not eat the meatballs! On the Sunday, the 30th, I don’t think we did anything much. Watched Big Bang Theory and had cottage pie for tea… that’s about it.

And finally we come to New Year’s Eve. We had invited a friend over to eat raclette so while Jan worked (from home) I went out and bought all the necessary ingredients. Our friend had been in Finland for the holidays and was returning from Hamburg, where he had spent the night. First his train was delayed leaving Hamburg and then there was an accident between Offenburg and Freiburg so it was just after 11pm by the time he arrived at our place! It would have been later if he’d gone home first, but we told him to just come here with all his stuff and stay the night at our place. This meant we literally ate our way into the New Year, which is just fine with me!

We had a nice, quiet festive period, which was exactly what we wanted, and have already managed one day trip in 2019. And today it’s back to work and back to reality for me. Only two days until the weekend though… I’m sure I can cope with that 😉

And what’s new with you? I hope you had a good December. Come join the link up and see what everyone else got up to over the holidays.

2018 travels

I seem to have neglected my travel posts in 2018… by which I mean I think I wrote about maybe two of our trips? We didn’t have a proper holiday (well, Jan did – 10 days travelling to Vienna, Sofia, Belgrade and Istanbul with his choir), but we did manage a few days out and weekends away. So before I entirely forget what we actually did this last year (almost forgot!), I thought I would write a round-up post of all our travels…

We started the year in Geneva, where we got very wet watching the New Year’s fireworks! We had arrived there on 29th December (I think) and left in the evening on 1st January. There was a festival of lights happening, which was nice, and we had a lovely walk around the lake, where we saw a woodpecker (which I didn’t manage to photograph), several robins and lots of different duck species, but overall I wasn’t that impressed with Geneva. It seemed dirty and despite not being particularly huge felt kind of like a large city, with lots of traffic going right through the centre. I much prefer Basel, as provincial as some may find it!

One Saturday in February we decided to head to Aarau, since it’s close by and we had never been. We discovered a cute little town where the undersides of the roof eaves are beautifully painted.

It was freezing and when it started to rain we were pleased to find an open cafĂŠ where we could have a hot drink and some Flammkuchen.

Later in February, we headed to Dijon for a weekend. The Sunday happened to be photo an hour day, so miraculously I actually posted about part of that trip! Dijon is quite a charming city but a lot of the old buildings could use some renovation. Best known for its mustard, the Dijon region is also the home of Kir – a French cocktail made with a measure of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped up with white wine (Kir Royal uses champagne) – and, being in Burgundy, Boeuf Bourguignon and Coq au Vin. Those two dishes are what Jan and I ate on the evening we spent there and both were delicious.

We didn’t actually go anywhere in March… or at least I didn’t – Jan left for his trip at the end of the month. But on Easter Monday, which fell on 2nd April in 2018, I took a tram to the nearby town of Aesch and walked up to some castle ruins above the town. It was a cloudy day, but I still had a great view of Basel from the top.

At the end of the month, when Jan was back, we decided to go up to St Chrischona. Once again, it happened to be a photo an hour day, so I actually have a post about our walk!

At the beginning of May, we drove down to just outside Munich for my cousin’s confirmation. On the way, we stopped for lunch in Bregenz, Austria and the day after the confirmation we went to Partnach Gorge near Garmisch-Patenkirchen with my uncle who lives near Munich plus my aunt and uncle who came over from England for the confirmation.

We also did the 24 stops walk in May, which is a sculpture path between Switzerland and Germany.

Basel 24 stops
One of the 24 Stops sculptures

On 26th May, Jan got a car and we drove to the TrĂźmmelbachfälle – a group of ten glacier-fed mountains inside a mountain. On the way back we stopped in Spiez to see it in the light, since the last time we were there it had been night time.

At the very end of May, we flew to England for a few days because we had been invited to a wedding on 2nd June. On the last day of May, we went out for the day with my mum and brother, first taking a walk around the lake at Druridge Bay, before stopping in Warkworth for lunch and finally visiting the beach at Amble. I my have lived abroad for most of my adult life, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Northumberland’s breathtaking beauty.

Later in the month, we took a day trip to Wasserfallen, where we took a cable car up a mountain, walked around and saw some people returning from llama trekking. No photos from there because I appear not to have them on the computer! Then on the weekend of 30th June/1st July, we had a mini-break on Lake Lucerne. We stayed in Vitznau, directly on the lake, and the next day took the cable car from Vitznau up to the Wissifluh – part of Rigi – before driving down to Stans to head up the Stanserhorn. On both mountains, we saw lots of butterflies.

I was actually pregnant at that point but had no idea.
The following weekend, we spontaneously decided to drive to the French-speaking part of Switzerland, specifically to St Ursanne, then later headed on to Neuchâtel where we ate dinner.

August was my birthday month but didn’t involve any travel for me – although Jan had a rehearsal weekend with his choir. But in September my mum, her friend and my brother came to visit and on one of the days we went to Mount Rigi and Lucerne for the day with our visitors. We got cheap deal day tickets and took ordinary trains, cogwheel trains and a boat. It was a long day but really nice. (Those last two sentences are copied directly from the draft post of my September recap, which was all written and just waiting for me to add photos. I never ended up posting it because the day before it would have gone up was the day I lost the twins and the post included pregnancy talk).

We didn’t do much travelling in October, for obvious reasons, but eight days after I was released from hospital we went to France, first stopping in the fortified town of Neuf-Brisach and then visiting Riquewihr, which was absolutely gorgeous but also absolutely packed full of tourists. Although I was still slightly weak from lack of iron, it was a much needed day out.

in November we wanted to get away from it all and went to Yverdon les Bains for a weekend. We ate delicious food, walked a lot and toured the castle. Back in Basel, after a meeting at the town council with the person responsible for bereavement, we got a car and drove part-way up a mountain then walked the Geissflue circular route. It was a beautiful day and the autumn colours were stunning!

At the end of November, while Jan was in the US, my mum and sister visited and we took a brief trip to Freiburg im Breisgau to see the Christmas market.

December was an incredibly busy month between Jan’s choir concerts and Christmas, but we did manage one day trip… on Boxing Day we drove to Murten – a small medieval town near Fribourg. It was cloudy and cold but we still had a walk around the town and along part of the wall before heading into a pub for some food.

And that concludes 2018’s travels. Despite all the ups and downs of the year, we actually managed to fit quite a lot in. There was only one month without any travel at all! We spent New Year at home this time, but I am hoping to kick off this year’s travels with a trip out to somewhere tomorrow. And beyond that? We have no plans as yet, but I am hoping for a proper holiday in 2019. Stay tuned!

2018 – Didn’t We Almost Have It All?

Usually at the end of the year, I write a month-by-month summary of the things we got up to, places visited, etc. Clearly I’m not going to do that this year… mainly because I wouldn’t have a single good thing to say about October. But I do still want to do a recap of the year, just for closure. Or something. Apologies in advance if this gets long.

Even after all that happened, I can’t just write off 2018 as a terrible year. Yes, it ended horribly, and yes I will be glad when it’s over and we can start a new chapter, but before everything went wrong, I had a few short weeks of genuine happiness. Basically, the entire year has been a roller coaster.

To start with, in January we switched fertility doctors, which meant going through most of the same tests again (I did get to skip one though). I am so, so glad we made that decision though… I mean, the clinic sent us a sympathy card when we lost the boys! I can’t even imagine the first doctor doing that! Plus they have done a much better job of explaining everything throughout… although my final diagnosis still ended up being “unexplained infertility”. *Sigh* The testing went faster this time around, and by May we had made the decision to pursue intrauterine insemination (IUI). Since we were going to the UK at the end of the month, I was put on progesterone for slightly longer and we ultimately ended up starting hormonal treatment in June, with the actual insemination taking place towards the end of the month. On 7th July 2018, I found out it had worked… then two weeks later I had my first ultrasound where we discovered it was twins.

wedding outfit
Me at my friend’s wedding in England

While all that was going on, things were also happening with Jan’s job. Towards the end of last year (I don’t remember exactly when), a colleague of his who also happened to be a friend of ours announced he was quitting his job. He was just one in a long time of people who had left, which was rather worrying… we were both slightly concerned that the company was going to fold, sooner rather than later. So at that point Jan decided that, while he didn’t want to start actively looking for something new, he would at least make a linked in profile and put out some feelers to figure out what was even out there. This led to him being contacted by a company based in Zurich. I don’t even remember exactly when that was, but I do know while we were in the England he was supposed to have a phone interview with somebody at the company, which then ended up falling through. He had definitely been in contact with the person doing the recruiting for at least a month at that stage, but it was the end of July when he finally actually signed the contract. So that in itself was a bit of a journey. As it happens, the old company managed to replace all the people that had left and currently seems to be doing okay, but so far the new job is also going well (still early days though) and there are definitely a lot more perks!

SIA-ANna Atkins
I was around 10 weeks pregnant here, but most people had no idea.

I spent most of my first trimester waiting for the other shoe to drop. After everything we had been through, I thought there was no way everything could be working out so well… not just one but two babies, a new job for Jan. Something had to go wrong, right? But with every ultrasound that still showed two babies and every week that passed I started to feel more confident. Once I reached 13 weeks, I told the team at work (bosses already knew), gave my mum permission to tell the extended family, and finally announced the pregnancy on my blog. I still had a lingering fear of something going wrong, but my fears all centred on the third trimester… premature babies, a stay in intensive care, possible complications from that. The second trimester was where I finally stopped feeling nauseous and started to actually enjoy being pregnant. My mum, her friend and my brother came to stay and we had a really nice few days. I started working on some cross stitch for the babies’ room and I even bought them their first book. For those few weeks I actually allowed myself to get excited about what was to come. This was going to be it for us… we were finally going to be an actual family.  Then I started spotting.

October ended up being probably the worst month of my entire life. We lost the babies, my grandma died (exactly a week later), my other grandma had to have a pacemaker fitted (which went well, by the way, but at the time it just felt like more bad news). And on top of all the bad news I felt physically terrible for a few weeks thanks to the blood loss, residual hormones and for the first ten days also the antibiotics. A few good things did come of it… I had so much support and learned just how amazing the people in my life are, and Jan and I had some really intense talks and I honestly think the whole experience brought us closer. But all in all it’s not a month I want to remember… although I of course never want to forget my boys. While I would  obviously prefer it if we had never lost them – by this stage I would have been able to feel them moving inside me and thinking about that still makes me sad – I am still so glad I got to experience being pregnant with them. Even with the sad outcome I cannot and will not say I wish they had never existed.

candles

In November we said our final goodbye to the boys, laying their ashes to rest at a memorial for babies born too soon. Jan’s last day at the old job was on 31st October, then we had a few days together before he started the new job with a three-week trip to the US (and I have to say I am very glad I didn’t lose the boys while he was over there… I absolutely could not have coped with it all without him by my side). Another family member also got a not-good diagnosis while Jan was in the US, because apparently the universe didn’t hear me asking it to please just stop! Once Jan returned, he started properly at the new company, commuting to Zurich every day and staying relatively late for the first few nights while he got settled in and set everything up. That combined with 5(!) choir performances and the associated rehearsals meant I barely got to see him for about the first third of December. I also worked a lot in December… right up until almost the very last day (when I luckily didn’t have too much left to do as our system failed completely and I was only able to complete the few translations I had left because one co-worker could access our team email inbox and forward me the corrections from my proofreaders). Christmas was relatively quiet, just the two of us, which was what we wanted and Jan went back to work on the 27th. And now the year is almost over. Just a few more days and then it will be January and the dawn of what I hope will be a better year. Although maybe I shouldn’t say that given I ended last year’s recap post with the words “Bring it on 2018. I’m ready!”. I’m not sure I actually was ready for what 2018 brought…