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.

December 2020 recap

Hello friends! Happy New Year! It’s over… we made it! Today I am here to recap last month. Then I will recap the entire year 2020 and write a post looking back at my resolutions/goals for last year. Somewhere in there is the first Show Us Your Books link up of the 2021, where I will tell you about what I read in December, and then I will finally be finished with 2020 and start looking forward to the year we’re currently in! Phew.

So, December. Final month of the year. Christmas, obviously. Switzerland started the month with around 4,000-5,000 Covid-19 cases per day and ended it with around 4,000-5,000 cases per day so clearly we’re doing amazingly over here (/sarcasm). Stricter measures were introduced at some point – so restaurants, bars, museums, gyms had to close. All shops stayed open though because we couldn’t have people not spending money right before Christmas, could we?

Over in the UK, my mum and grandma both got their first does of the Pfizer vaccine – coincidentally on the same day, but at different locations and entirely independently of each other. My mum is a nurse and my grandma is turning 81 in a few weeks, so both of them were in the highest priority groups. Fun(?!) fact: as of 28th December it was exactly a year since I had last seen any member of my family in person. We left England to fly back to Switzerland on 28 December 2019. I’m so glad we decided to spend Christmas in England last year – although it means it’s been even longer since we’ve seen Jan’s family (his dad visited us in March 2019 and his mum and her partner were here in August 2019).

Work was pretty busy in December, which I’m definitely not complaining about. My company has got through this year reasonably well and I am very grateful for that fact.

On the 5th I had an appointment at the fertility clinic and then on the 15th I had to go for an MRI to confirm my probable diagnosis of adenomyosis. Basically it’s where the endometrium (i.e. the lining that comes out when you have your period) grows into the muscle part of the uterus – where it’s not supposed to be – causing cysts and an uneven surface which a) prevents implantation and b) if an embryo does somehow manage to implant causes the pregnancy to end in an early miscarriage. My clinic has recently approved a new IVF protocol for adenomyosis so we’ll hopefully be trying that soon.

As always, I spent the weeks leading up to Christmas trying to organise, declutter and clean. I ordered a basket online (from Butlers) and it now houses all my reusable gift bags – some I bought, quite a few are from Amazon (yes I know what people think of that company but I can’t control where people send me gifts from!). I actually think their bags are really pretty so I like to keep and reuse them. The bags used to live on the shelf above, where they looked a mess and fell off every time I tried to get some wrapping paper or just brushed past them when I went to open the window. That corner looks so much tidier now!

Jan’s friend from choir came round to study I think twice or maybe three times at the beginning of the month. Then on the 13th another friend of his from a different choir invited us round to her place to bake Christmas biscuits. Jan said he trusted her to have been careful, and I knew we had, so we went and made sure to keep our distance at all times. I made sure to both wash and disinfect my hands before touching any dough, and of course it went into the oven anyway, which I am sure would have killed even the most persistent of virus particles! On the 21st the same friend came by for a cuppa and to drop off some of the biscuits from the baking session – we had made the dough for them but had to leave before they went into the oven. Somehow the conversation got round to where we would be spending Christmas (at home, obviously!) and ended up with Jan inviting her to our place on Christmas day. She was very excited to experience an English Christmas so I ended up making a full Christmas dinner for 3… there was so much food that Jan and I had a second full Christmas dinner on Boxing Day and then ate turkey sandwiches for the next 2 days, finally finishing the turkey on the 28th. I had also bought loads of picnicky/snack type things so I didn’t need to cook an actual, proper meal again until the 30th. Yay!

I hadn’t been out much before Christmas – other than the day we baked the biscuits I only left the house for my 2 appointments, 3 trips to the post office (one on Jan’s behalf), supermarket runs (roughly once a week) and a trip out on the 23rd to buy a Christmas tree. And of course my weekly walk, where I try not to come anywhere near people. Jan and I also went for a walk on Christmas Eve and saw about 15 storks in a field – there are 11 on the photo below, but there were more of them further to the left.

Since we clearly hadn’t been able to stay 2 metres apart from Jan’s friend at all times on Christmas Day (my table is too small for a start!), I put myself into semi-isolation in the days following Christmas, only venturing out for a walk on Boxing Day (avoiding people to the extent that I crossed the road if I saw anyone), to the post box round the corner to send New Year cards to Post Pals, and for a supermarket run on the 30th – we needed milk, bread and cereal before everything closed down for 2.5 days. I went at around 4 p.m. and it was pretty much empty.

Speaking of cards, I finished stitching my Christmas cards and got them all posted at the beginning of December. I baked cranberry and pistachio biscuits/cookies on the 9th, then also baked Marzipan-Orange Biscuits and Lemon-Almond Biscuits on the 15th since I had taken the day off for my MRI and apparently didn’t think we had enough sweet stuff?!

We skyped with my mum and brother and Christmas Eve and also spoke to Jan’s mum, mum’s partner and Jan’s sister via WhatsApp video call, then I called my dad on Christmas night after our guest left and my grandma called me on Boxing Day. Jan also spoke to his dad on Christmas Day. And on New Year’s Eve we managed to arrange a Zoom meeting with my mum and brother plus my sister and brother-in-law. Apart from that our New Year’s Eve celebrations consisted of a dinner of stuffed peppers followed by Christmas pudding, then making and drinking mulled wine. Obviously the fireworks in Basel were cancelled and we wouldn’t have gone to them even if they weren’t. We thought about walking up to a nearby hill at midnight but it was pouring down so instead we just went onto our balcony and watched the few private fireworks that made it above the surrounding buildings, then came back inside and watched Dawn French on the TV… but of course by then it was technically January.

What else? Well I can tell you that I read a grand total of 9 books in December, which is a lot for some but hardly any for me. Christmas is the one time that I actually watch a lot of TV on purpose – over the festive period we watched White Christmas (first time I had seen it), The Snowman (it’s tradition!), Shirley Valentine (I stayed up specifically because I’ve been wanting to re-watch it for years), the second half of Grease, the Repair Shop Christmas special, a Pointless Christmas special, Matilda, Frozen… I don’t remember if there was anything else. In addition, Jan got the very first series of Dr Who for Christmas – the idea being that my dad can buy him the next series each Christmas and stop asking me what to get him! – so we watched some of that. Jan’s sister got us a pub quiz game for Christmas and Jan got me a board game called Istanbul and we played both of those.

And that was December. All in all I can’t really complain. It was a fun month filled with my favourite things: cross stitch, baking, and time spent with Jan. I hope you also had a good one and that even if your Christmas had to be different than usual you were able to make the best of it and have a nice time.

A Photo an Hour: 12 December 2020

Hello lovely readers! I’m juuuust sneaking this post in before the end of the month. The chosen date for the final photo an hour of 2020 was 12th December. I didn’t actually realise until I belatedly chanced across a tweet though, so my photos start halfway through the day. Let’s have a look at what I did, shall we?

12 noon. Cross stitching one final Christmas card.

1 p.m. Shower time. Yes I was in my pyjamas until then. Sssh – this is a judgement free zone!

2 p.m. Dressed and heading out.

3 p.m. Walked into town, now to drop off some books (goodbye and good riddance Truly Devious series!). I get quite a few of the books I read from this and the other free public bookcases dotted around town – particularly older books and German ones. I found The Bell Jar in this very bookcase!

4 p.m. Picked up some shopping, now heading home. Cue awkward bus photo – although it was surprisingly empty.

5 p.m. Home, shopping put away… time to hoover.

6 p.m. Finally writing a long overdue blog post (this one, if you’re curious).

7 p.m. Peeling potatoes for tea.

8 p.m. Food is ready. I may have made too many peas!

9 p.m. Back to cross stitching.

10 p.m. Determined to finish a book before going to sleep! I had 120 pages left.

11 p.m. Final photo of the day… joining Eeyore in bed. I took my book with me and did indeed finish it, but didn’t take any more photos.

And that’s it. Not a particularly exciting day. But then again, they never are. Until next year, photo an hour fans!

The book review of 2020

This is my fifth year doing this – how time flies! I got it from Kezzie. The original, with slightly different/more categories was from The Perpetual Page Turner – the link is to this year’s version. I am also linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books yearly favourites.

Best book you read in 2020:

As always, this is a really difficult question to answer. I read a lot of good books this year. But I think it has to be The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. The first half is wonderful and magical and I so wanted to visit Papa Jack’s Emporium myself and play with the toys and meet Sirius, the patchwork dog. Then the second half came along and absolutely devastated me. I read this in February and I am still mad at one particular character!

Best children’s fiction:

I have read a lot of really good children’s fiction this year and it’s impossible to choose just one, so have two: A Sprinkle of Sorcery by Michelle Harrison (this is the sequel to A Pinch of Magic, which I also read in 2020, but I liked the second book better) and Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby.

Best crime fiction:

The Whisper Man by Alex North. There was a bit in the middle that was a little slow, but it was very creepy and overall a good crime/police procedural novel.

I also want to mention Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone here, although it’s not really crime as such but more thriller/suspense. It is an excellent book though and deserves to be mentioned somewhere.

Best classic:

I wasn’t sure whether I had even read a classic this year, but I went through all my books and found two that I think count – at least as modern classics maybe? Of those, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath was my favourite.

Best non-fiction:

It will surprise absolutely nobody to learn that I read a grand total of two non-fiction books this year. I absolutely loved both, but I’m going to go with Born a Crime by Noah Trevor.

Best dystopian fiction:

I didn’t read much dystopian fiction this year… I think real life was dystopian enough! I think Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle counts though – although it’s more apocalyptic. I can only think of one other dystopian book I read and I didn’t love it, so yeah.

Best YA:

This is hard, but I’m going to say With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Most surprising (in a good way) book read in 2020:

Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm. I don’t usually read a lot of space books and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a children’s book set in space, but this ended up being one of my favourite books of the year.

Book You Read In 2020 That You Recommended Most To Others:

Umm… the only book I can remember recommending constantly in 2020 is Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend and I didn’t read that this year. I did read the third book in the series, Hollowpox, in November though so maybe I can count that instead?

Best series you discovered in 2020:

There are two series I could choose for this, so I’m going to use one here and the other for the next question. So, the Pages and Co series by Anna James. I read books 1 and 2 this year and gave both 5 stars.

Favourite new to you author you discovered in 2020:

I have enjoyed books by a few new to me authors in 2020, but for this question I like to use an author I’ve read at least two books by. So Holly Jackson. I have read both of her books and loved them both.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love But Didn’t:

This isn’t a book but a series, although I was also disappointed with the first book in its own right. The Truly Devious trilogy. The first book made me mad with the way it ended on a cliff hanger, the second book was actually pretty good, and most of the third book could easily have been condensed into the second book plus the reveal of who was responsible for the present-day deaths and why was underwhelming. There is actually a fourth book now, but it follows a different mystery and I won’t be reading it – unless someone gives it to me or I find it somewhere for free. But I won’t go out of my way to read it.

Best Book That Was Out Of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre To You

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. A political thriller – not my usual genre at all – it ended up being a three-star read, which is better than I expected. I would never have picked it up if it wasn’t part of the BBC Big Read!

Book You Read In 2020 That You’re Most Likely To Read Again In 2021:

As I say every year, it is highly unlikely that I will re-read a book again so soon. I will hopefully read Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilanwith my kid(s) someday.

Favourite Book You Read in 2020 by an Author You’ve Read Previously:

I feel like I’m choosing too many children’s books, but I think I have to go for Jemima Small Versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter.

Best Book You Read In 2020 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Umm, I picked up Potkin & Stubbs by Sophie Green because it was the Middle Grade Monthly book club pick for September. I had been meaning to read it anyway, but only because of Jade who is a) one of the hosts of said book club and b) the only reason I had even heard of the book in the first place!

Favourite Cover of a Book You Read in 2020:

I love the cover of All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard! Sadly the book itself was disappointing.

Book That Had The Greatest Impact On You In 2020:

This Lovely City by Louise Hare. The way the Windrush immigrants were treated – after being invited to come and work in Britain – was awful and this book will stick with me for a long time.

Book You Can’t BELIEVE You Waited Until 2020 To Read:

The Shining by Stephen King. It actually came on holiday with me twice – the first time we left the suitcase on the train and the second time I found no time at all to read. But I finally read it this year and it was excellent.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. The ending was most definitely a “wait… what?!” moment that had my dying to read the sequel and get some answers. Although I have since bought the sequel and not yet read it.

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2020 (be it romantic, friendship, etc):

Ash and Lunah’s relationship in Escape from Aurora (Frostheart book 2). Actually, I love Ash’s relationship with the entire Frostheart crew and with Tobu as well, but he and Lunah are just the best team.

Most Memorable Character In A Book You Read In 2020:

Would it be weird to say the house in The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson? It really did feel like a character in its own right!

Genre You Read The Most From in 2020:

I actually kept a tally this year and my most-read genre was fantasy – primarily because of all the children’s fantasy books I read.

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2020:

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski. It kind of reminded me of the Faraway Tree books, except the various worlds were inside suitcases instead of at the top of a tree. I really enjoyed reading about the different places and wondering what odd feature the next one would have.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2020:

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathyrn Barker. It’s a slightly bizarre and confusing book that not everyone would enjoy but I loved it and, yes, it made me cry.

Book You Read in 2020 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out:

I’ve never seen anyone else talk about Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan. It’s a story about friendship and being different, and partly also about prejudice (against immigrants, in particular) and I really think more people should read it.

Total books finished in 2020 (so far): 184 (but I am hoping to finish my current read – Heartbreaker by Tania Carver – and make it 185).

Now some statistics: The longest book I read in 2020 was Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb at 757 pages and the shortest book I read was Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke with 82 pages.
The first book I read in 2020 was Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, and as of right now, the last book I finished was Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt.
Finally, inspired by a post Alexandra made on Instagram earlier this year: I read a shameful 29 books by BIPOC/BAME (pick your acronym) authors in 2020. Next year I plan to keep track throughout the year and do my best to read a lot more.

Now go check out the link up and discover everyone’s favourite books of 2020.

Merry, merry

The cleaning is done, the gifts are wrapped, the tree is up – and it’s huge! All that remains is to wish you, my dear readers, a wonderful Christmas. I know it hasn’t been the year any of us expected and for many people this Christmas will be very different but I hope you all manage to have a good one anyway. If you are alone, then enjoy the fact that you can do exactly as you please… and if that means pretending Christmas happening then so be it! I won’t wish you a happy New Year yet since I’ll be back with at least one more post (Show Us Your Books favourites, for which I’ll be doing my usual end-of-year book survey) so I will just say:

Happiest of Christmases to you all, however you are spending it!

A Photo an Hour: 21 November 2020

Hello friends! Today I am bringing you a round-up of my photo an hour from November, in the hope that I might actually get December’s posted before the end of the year… hahahaha. We’ll see. Anyway, here’s what I got up to on November’s chosen date:

10 a.m. Washing some dishes while I wait for the kettle to boil (that spoon is one that failed to get clean in the dishwasher!)

11 a.m. Quickly getting some hoovering in before quiet time starts at 12.

12 noon. Getting on with some cross stitch… not long left to finish those Christmas cards.

1 p.m. Went to get the mail and this book had arrived. Yay!

2 p.m. Jan got up (about 15 minutes before I took those photo), so I could finally put on some washing.

3 p.m. Tea break! Green tea for me since it’s ever so slightly healthier (maybe) and we’re hoping to be able to carry on with fertility treatment soon.

4 p.m. Waiting for Jan to have a shower so we can go for a walk. I was literally just standing waiting so I had no idea what to take a photo of!

5 p.m. Walking through a park. This is the entrance to a Kindergarten!

6 p.m. Home… time to cook tea.

7 p.m. Corned beef hash doesn’t look very attractive but it tastes good!

8 p.m. More stitching – it’s getting there!

9 p.m. Making hot chocolate. Yum.

10 p.m. On to the back stitch!

11 p.m. Final photo of the day. Off to bed with a book.

As always, photo an hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa.

Autumn walk 2020

At the end of October, I went for a walk along the stream near where we live, as I have every year since we moved to Basel. The second year, it was coincidence that I chose almost the same day for my walk, but since then I’ve made it a tradition. Now I am finally getting round to posting the photos from this year’s walk… only slightly too late!

We had such a dry summer and warm October that I’m not sure the trees had even noticed the change in season yet! There were quite a few brown leaves around, but most of those had turned brown during the hot, hot days of August. Many of the rest were still in their summer greenery. And others had given up entirely and were completely bare without having ever changed colour. Last year was pretty green as well, but I feel like there were a few other colours as well. But let’s have a look at the photos shall we?

And, for comparison, a photo from each of the years I’ve been doing this. The ones from 2017 and 2019 were taken in almost exactly the same spot, as were 2018 and 2020 (the 2020 one is a bit further back, but you can see the same curve in the path):

2015 was definitely the most orange – obviously Basel was bringing its best autumn colours for our first year here! Since then it’s been pretty green, although 2017 did a reasonable job with yellows. As temperatures continue to increase, I expect to see even more green as the years go by. Hopefully I’ll be around for a few more Octobers to find out!

What I read in November 2020

Wow, it’s the final normal Show Us Your Books link-up of the year! (There will be a special one later in the month as usual for people to share their favourite books of 2020, but this is the last one that’s just a “what I’ve been reading lately”). I’m pleased to say I’m ending things on a high note – so many good books this month! I was taking part in Believathon, which is a readathon for children’s books, so most of these are middle grade. Apart from that I read one young adult book, one adult crime novel in German and an adult contemporary, maybe romance but not really, novel. If that doesn’t sound like your thing please feel free to come back next time – I won’t be offended. And now I need to get on with the books because I have a lot to get through!

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike #5). Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge, where Daisy’s brother is studying. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College. Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course). After being slightly disappointed with the previous book I was pleased to find that I absolutely LOVED this one. No more silly school girl squabbles distracting from everything that makes this series great. I feel like Hazel is really growing into herself and coming out of Daisy’s shadow. This was a really Christmassy read as well (despite the murder) – I could almost taste the mince pies! I can’t wait to see what the next book brings. 5 stars.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Ten-year-old Hà has only ever known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home, and Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, boarding a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family. This is a quick but powerful and thought-provoking read that’s partially based on the author’s own history. I feel like the verse format made it less detailed than I would have liked but I did enjoy it. 4 stars.

Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (The Jumbies #2). When children start to go missing in her home town, suspicion falls on Corinne LaMer (for reasons you will know if you read the first book). To clear her name and save the children, Corinne goes deep into the ocean to find Mama D’Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea. But Mama D’Leau’s help comes with a price. Corinne and her friends Dru, Bouki, and Malik must travel with mermaids across the ocean to the shores of Ghana to fetch a powerful object for Mama D’Leau. The only thing more perilous than Corinne’s adventures across the sea is the foe that waits for her back home. This is an excellent follow up to the first book. There is definitely more action in this one! I loved the mermaids and it was nice to see some side characters developed a bit more. A couple of times I felt like it was going on for too long – there had already been a whole adventure, they weren’t even home yet and the main problem remained unresolved. But overall I really enjoyed it. I listened to this as an audiobook, which was great because there are songs in it and the narrator sang them. 4 stars.

The Haunting of Peligan City (Potkin and Stubbs #2). Apparently November was the month of continuing series! Three months have passed since Lil and Nedly – Potkin and Stubbs – solved their first case. And now, once again, odd things are happening in peligan City. Strange things are afoot at the doll hospital. But investigation turns up no more than an odd new owner. More important is the mysterious epidemic of deaths at the notorious Fellgate Prison. And when the Klaxon breaks the news that City Hall is hushing up that ghosts are real and are terrorising the city, mass hysteria reigns in Peligan City. Will Lil and Nedly – with the help of private investigator Abe McNair – get to the bottom of the case before any more trouble happens – and will they be the first to the scoop? This is very creepy and atmosphereic with an intriguing mystery. The villains are genuinely scary! I think everyone but Lil probably knew what was going on with her mum but another twist was slightly unexpected. Lil was less annoying in this one – it’s hilarious how seriously she takes herself – and I adored Margaret the dog, especially at the end. I do love that there are actual adults involved in this series when things start to get dangerous, but Lil and Nedly still work out a lot on their own. I’m looking forward to reading the third – and final – book. Not quite 5 stars, but definitely a 4.5.

The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes. Aveline Jones is not looking forward to spending half term with her aunt while her mother visits her grandmother in hospital.But things suddenly get much more exciting when the avid reader of ghost stories discovers a spooky old book. Not only are the stories spine-tingling, but it once belonged to Primrose Penberthy, a young girl who vanished mysteriously, never to be seen again. Intrigued, Aveline decides to investigate Primrose’s disappearance. But now someone… or something, is stirring. And it is looking for Aveline. Another one with a truly spooky atmosphere. I love the writing – so evocative! The small seaside resort in the off-season vibe is spot on. I loved that the adults didn’t dismiss Aveline or treat her like an idiot. I just wish it had been a bit longer with more time for the search for the missing girl. The ghost in this is genuinely scary! I didn’t realise it was the first in a series – I will definitely be reading the sequel. 4 stars

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #3). The first book on this list that isn’t middle grade – this one is young adult. I actually don’t know what to say about this one without spoiling the first two. Stevie has discovered the identity of Truly Devious. She’s actually done it – solved the case of the century. Or at least she thinks she has. Then another accident occurs at the school as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm – and a murderer. Okay, first of all there wasn’t as much action in these books as the previous ones. Honestly I think the plot could have been wrapped up just as easily in the book 2, but obviously the author wanted to be able to sell an extra book. There is a twist at the beginning that I didn’t see coming. Since we already found out the solution to the original murder in the second book this one was mainly about where Alice ended up and who was responsible for the deaths in the present, and the answer to that second part was underwhelming to be honest. I don’t regret finishing the trilogy but I have no interest in Stevie’s next mystery. Overall I found this trilogy disappointing. 3 stars for this installment.

Tilly and the Lost Fairy Tales (Pages & Co. #2). Back to the children’s books! In the first in this series, Tilly and her friend Oskar discovered they could bookwander – actually go inside books and meet the characters – and also solved the mystery of Tilly’s mother’s disappearance when she was just a baby. extreme group of Librarians have taken over the British Underlibrary and they want to restrict bookwandering. Tilly and Oskar believe that The Archivists are the key to restoring balance – but nobody has seen them for thousands of years, and most people think they never really existed anyway. Is a journey to the French Underlibrary and a peculiar book of fairytales, the key to discovering their whereabouts? But wandering into fairytales is dangerous and unpredictable, and the characters aren’t as they seem. Soon, Tilly and Oskar realise that villains don’t just live inside the pages of books. Sometimes, you don’t get to live happily ever after… I enjoyed this book even more than the first one, and I LOVED the first one. Tilly and Oskar make such a great team. Tilly was a little naive and made some silly decisions but I feel like that just made it more realistic – she is a child after all. It was really interesting finding out more about the history of bookwandering and Tilly’s grandparents. I would have loved to continue reading immediately if only I had the third book. 5 stars.

Escape from Aurora by Jamie Littler (Frostheart #2). In the first book, Ash discovered that he was a Songweaver – someone who can do a kind of magic through song. This resulted in him being driven out of the only home he had ever known by the villagers who were terrified of Songweavers. Ash and his Yeti guardian, Tobu, ended up boarding The Frostheart, hoping to find out what had happened to Ash’s parents. Now Ash and the rest of the Frostheart’s brave crew have finally arrived at the majestic stronghold of Aurora – and Ash’s mind is blown. It’s an extraordinary place – unlike anything he’s ever seen – and he can’t wait to solve the next clue that will lead him to his parents. But it’s quickly clear that even Aurora isn’t safe for Song Weavers. A fanatical Pathfinder captain has turned the city against Ash and his kind – and it’s not long before the Frostheart has to make another break for freedom. But when a vicious Wraith attack leaves Ash, and his friends stranded on the ice, they will have to use all their strength and cunning to reach safety. But what they find is even more incredible. I read this book almost in one go (with a break to make food) over the course of about 4 hours because I genuinely could not put it down. It was SO good! It took me on a journey that left me absolutely reeling. I love what we’re learning about the world now and how it was in the old days. And the revelation at the end made me wanting more, RIGHT NOW! Sadly book 3 isn’t even out yet. Aaah, I cannot believe I have to wait! 5 stars.

The Missing Diamonds (Agent Zaiba Investigates #1) by Annabelle Sami. Eleven-year-old Zaiba is obsessed with crime. Her Aunt Fouzia runs a detective agency back in Karachi and has turned Zaiba on to the brilliant Eden Lockett Mysteries. She has every book in the series – and the quilt cover, and the phone case. All she needs now is a crime to solve and she may get her chance sooner than she thinks. At her cousin’s Mehndi party, Zaiba gets her first challenge: to discover the identity of the VIP staying at the same hotel. With the help of her best friend Poppy and brother Ali, Zaiba puts her sleuthing skills to the test. And when the celebrity’s precious dog disappears, along with its priceless diamond collar, it’s up to the trio to save the day! This is a cute, fun mystery. A Secret Seven/Famous Five/Nancy Drew for the modern generation. I love Zaiba, Poppy and Ali. I especially like that Ali is treated as a proper character in his own right and not just the annoying little brother tagging along. It was easy to solve the mystery as you were following along – the clues were all there – and I’m sure kids will feel a real sense of accomplishment if they manage to work it out before the reveal. I also really enjoyed how Zaiba’s aunt takes the three investigators seriously and doesn’t treat them like stupid kids, and I appreciate the step-mum who is actually nice. It’s also great that British-Pakistani children will get to see themselves represented in a book like this, where their race/religion/differentness aren’t the focus. 4 stars.

Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby. Sixth-grader Fig (actaully Finola) loves her dad and the home they share in a beachside town. She does not love the long months of hurricane season. Her father, a once-renowned piano player, sometimes goes looking for the music in the middle of a storm. Hurricane months bring unpredictable good and bad days. More than anything, Fig wants to see the world through her father’s eyes, so she takes an art class to experience life as an artist does. Then Fig’s dad shows up at school, confused and looking for her. Not only does the class not bring Fig closer to understanding him, it brings social services to their door. As the walls start to fall around her, Fig is sure it’s up to her alone to solve her father’s problems and protect her family’s privacy. But with the help of her best friend, a cute girl at the library, and a surprisingly kind new neighbour, Fig learns she isn’t as alone as she once thought… and begins to compose her own definition of family. This book is so emotional. I wanted to wrap Fig and her dad in a blanket and keep both of them safe. I don’t know if the bipolar rep is well done since I have no experience, but I appreciated how Fig is never ashamed of her dad – even if she is embarrassed by his actions occasionally, which honestly just seems realistic and she is always aware that he can’t help it, that he’s sick. It is a lot for an 11 year old to deal with and I was so glad when Mark stepped in and persuaded Fig’s dad to see a doctor. Hopefully it will show kids in difficult situations that it’s good to ask for help when things get to be too much. And through it all Fig and her dad’s love for each other shines through. Fig has a little crush on an older girl at the library, Hannah, and it’s so cute. I definitely recommend. 5 stars.

Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Bushby. 12-year-old Amira lives with her sea-witch mothers and a jinni called Namur, who is a cat-like companion to Amira. She has spent most of her life at sea, but when their dhow (boat) is damaged in a storm, they are forced to dock at an island while they wait for it to be repaired. On her first market day, Amira meets a boy Leo who has his own jinni – something that is very rare. When a giant bird-like creature that seems to feed off people’s emotions takes Namur, Amira set off on a journey to try and find him – and also possibly find out something about themselves and the magical connection they have with their jinnis. This is a magical, heartwarming adventure. I loved the characters and especially the family dynamics between Amira and her mothers. In between chapters, the narrator comes in with little comments or asides and that irritated me slightly at times – I just wanted to stay in the action – but that’s a minor niggle. Overall it’s a delightful book and I definitely want to continue the series. 4 stars.

Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #3). In her home city, Morrigan Crow was known as a cursed child, doomed to die at midnight on her 11th birthday. Instead, in the first book, a man named Jupiter North appeared while she was waiting to meet her fate and whisked her away to a place called Nevermoor where she had to compete in a series of trials against other children to gain a place in the mysterious and prestigious Wundrous Society, and learned that she was a Wundersmith, which means she has special powers. In the second book, Morrigan and the other children who had passed the trials started their studies at the Wundrous Society and Morrigan solved a mystery. In this book, Morrigan and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society and proven their loyalty to each other as a unit. But a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals (special animals that can talk) into mindless, vicious Unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realizes it’s up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox, even if it will put her – and everyone in Nevermoor – in more danger than she ever imagined. This was my most anticipated book of the year and, thankfully, it did not disappoint. first couple of chapters were a little slow and I was worried it wasn’t going to live up to my expectations but once it got going it really got going! Fenestra was fantastic in this one and I loved how Morrigan’s unit stuck up for her. The new information about the world and past Wundersmiths is so interesting and I can’t wait to learn more! 5 stars.

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll. 11-year-old Addie, who has autism, lives in a small village just outside Edinburgh. When she learns about the countless women in Scotland who were killed in the witch trials, including many in her own village, she starts a campaign for a memorial to them. Addie knows there’s more to the story of these “witches”, just like there is more to hers. Can Addie challenge how the people in her town see her, and her autism, stand up to her bullies, and make her voice heard? This is such a powerful and moving book. It made me cry, but parts of it were also so, so heart-warming. I absolutely LOVE Audrey, the new giel who befriends Addie. Every child deserves a friend like her. As for the horrible, bullying teacher, Miss Murphy, I can’t remember that last time I hated a book character this much. She should not be allowed anywhere near children! Every child should read this book – either to see themselves represented or to gain some understanding (and hopefully empathy) for what life is like for people who are not neurotypical. 5 stars.

The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson. All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. But that’s not easy when your grandmother is a Yaga, guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife, and you live in a house with chicken legs that wanders all over the world, often picking up and leaving after just a few days. Even worse, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no parties – and no playmates that stick around for more than a day. So when she stumbles across the chance to make a real friend, she breaks all the rules… with devastating consequences. Her beloved grandmother mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to Marinka to find her–even if it means making a dangerous journey to the afterlife. I loved everything about this book. Marinka, Jack, Benjamin, THE HOUSE! There’s adventure, friendship/found family, unexpected twists. Ican’t believe it’s taken me this long to read a Sophie Anderson book and I will definitely be picking up her others. 5 stars.

Wer Wind Sät by Nele Neuhaus (Bodenstein & Kirchhoff #5). First adult book of the month! There doesn’t seem to be an English version of this, so here’s my translation of the title: He Who Reaps the Wind. Police detective Pia Kirchhoff has just returned from a holiday when her colleague, Oliver von Bodenstein, calls to tell her a body has been found. A night watchman has apparently fallen to his death at the headquarters of a company that builds wind turbines. When the corpse of a hamster is discovered on the boss’s desk, the two detectives start to think it may not have been an accident after all. The plot thickens when a farmer, who refused to sell a plot of land to the company for one of their turbines – despite being offered €2 million for it – is also found dead. Was it is children, who are all broke and wanted him to sell the land , preferably yesterday? The other members of the environmental action group, who appear to have hated the farmer and all have their own motives for not wanting the wind turbine? Or did the turbine company have something to do with it after all? I read the first book in this series years ago and I remember liking it. This one was fine but definitely way too long. There was so much going on, and half of it seemed to be irrelevant. A semi-connected side story involving a woman named Annika was way more interesting than the main murder investigation, but it seemed to end very abruptly without ever being properly resolved. It was still a decent read and I really wanted to know who had done what but it could have done with being about 200 pages shorter. 3 stars.

The Riverman by Aaron Starmer. What do you do when the girl next door asks you to write her biography? Alastair Cleary is the kid everyone trusts, but he doesn’t really have many friends, mainly hanging around with his neighbour, Charlie who is obsessed with video games. Alastair hasn’t really thought about Fiona Loomis much recently. They used to be friends when they were little, but as their families drifted apart so did they. Now Fiona wants Alastair to write her biography. He’s initially flattered, but then Fiona claims that in her basement, there’s a portal that leads to a magical world where a creature called the Riverman is stealing the souls of children. And Fiona’s soul could be next. If she really believes what she’s saying, Alistair fears she may be crazy. But if it’s true, her life could be at risk. It’s up to Alistair to separate fact from fiction, fantasy from reality and figure out what’s going on. This isn’t a bad book by any means. The writing is good and the plot is intriguing, but also kind of confusing at times. I’m not entirely sure who the target audience is – some of the themes seem to mature for middle grade but I’m not sure teens would be interested in reading about 12 year olds. I have no idea what actually happened at the end but there is a sequel so maybe things are explained a bit more there. I haven’t decided yet whether I’m intrigued enough to want to continue though. I think it suffered a bit from me having read it after so many absolutely amazing, magical books that I truly loved. 3 stars.

The Distance Between Us by Maggie O’Farrell. On a cold February afternoon, Stella catches sight of a man she thinks she recognises, which immediately causes her to fall into panic. At the same moment on the other side of the globe, in the middle of a crowd of Chinese New Year revellers, Jake realises that things are becoming dangerous. They know nothing of one another’s existence, but both Stella and Jake flee their lives: Jake in search of a place so remote it doesn’t appear on any map, and Stella for a destination in Scotland, the significance of which only her sister, Nina, will understand. I’m not really sure what this is. It’s not a romance, although the two main characters do fall for each other, I guess. It’s more of a story about two sisters. Or maybe about how what happens to you as a child continues to affect you as an adult. This was actually a re-read for me, but the only thing I remembered was one scene where Stella tries to wake her sister up one morning and discovers she’s ill- Literally everything else had completely gone from my memory, and I’m already starting to forget the details again even though I only finished this about a week ago! Stella and Jake’s stories are given equal attention, but somehow Jake’s seemed irrelevant – it felt like it was really about Stella and Nina, not Stella and Jake. 3 stars.

TL;DR. I can’t say I really recommend either of the adult books I read this month, and I found the Truly Devious series disappointing (if you want a teen crime-solving series, try The Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson. Or go ahead and read this series if you want – it’s not like it was actually bad, just not as good as I wanted it to be). The children’s books, on the other hand, were all amazing or at least good. The Riverman was my least favourite out of all of them but even that I wouldn’t necessarily not recommend. It just couldn’t quite measure up to the others I read in November. A lot of these are sequels, so obviously read the previous book(s) first. But honestly, I think you should read all of them. Especially the Frostheart series. And the Nevermoor series. And A Kind of Spark… I think you get the picture.

I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, as always.

Have you read anything good lately? Check out the link up for more book recommendations – especially if you’re looking for some that aren’t children’s books 😉

November 2020 recap

Hello! Happy December. I’m not even going to bother expressing any surprise about how we got here already. Honestly, I’ve given up trying to understand time. There are days that I have to work and days that I don’t have to work, and my phone knows the difference. (Note to self: remember to turn off week day alarm once work finishes for Christmas). Anyway, today I am here to talk about November.

Coronavirus cases in Switzerland were high at the beginning of the month and slightly less high by the end (still around 4,000-5,000 per day, i.e. way too high, but better than the previous 9,000-10,000 per day!) – mostly thanks to some of the French-speaking cantons introducing stricter measures, basically amounting to a mini lockdown. Although numbers overall decreased, in Basel they actually rose so towards the end of the month Basel-Stadt (the city canton) also introduced stricter measures. All shops stayed open but bars, restaurants, swimming pools and gyms were made to close. I think I only went into town twice anyway – once to the refill/zero-waste supermarket and once to the post office by the train station to send some Christmas presents (we do have a post office in our town but it closes at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and I’m never ready by then). When I did venture out of the house it was either to go to our local supermarket, take away recycling, post Christmas cards or to go for my weekly walk.

Speaking of Christmas cards… I finished making, wrote and posted Christmas cards for every Post Pals family before November was over! When I say I “made” cards that basically means sticking on either cut out shapes (baubles, Christmas trees, stars) or some stickers and adding a greeting. Very simple cards. I also continued cross stitching Christmas cards for family and friends. I actually took two days off at the beginning of the month to work on them. On the first day I made all the designs I had stitched up to that point into cards while listening to an audiobook (Rise of the Jumbies, if you’re wondering) and the next day I stitched my little fingers off. I was hoping to have them all finished by December but I haven’t quite managed it – there’s only about 2 more to do though. I also bought, wrapped and posted most of my Christmas gifts – or ordered them to be sent directly to the recipients. I still have a couple more to sort but I’m mostly finished.

I managed to do a little bit of decluttering in November, although honestly it doesn’t appear to have made any difference whatsoever. I actually made a tiny space on my bookshelves, which I expect to be quickly filled again once Christmas rolls around!

On the subject of books, it was Believathon so I mainly read children’s books. We consistently watched Richard Osman’s House of Games every week day (sometimes Jan had a meeting at 7 p.m. so I recorded it and we watched it when he was finished). I also watched Children in Need and caught an occasional episode of Father Brown. At the end of the month I ended up watching a documentary about Diego Maradona, which I honestly had no interest in but Jan put it on while I was trying to finish cross stitching a card so I didn’t have much of a choice.

I treated myself to a dress from Popsy Clothing (it’s got penguins on it! I wanted the one with multi-coloured reindeer but it had sold out) and also dyed my hair. The box said it’s “mauve”, although as always it didn’t work the way it’s meant to on my hair. Here’s a photo:

Unlike what feels like the entire rest of the world, I did not put my tree up in November – party because I didn’t even see any for sale until the 27th but mostly because Jan will never in a million years let me have one until at least 23rd December – and even that’s a compromise! Apparently “it’s a Christmas tree, not an advent tree!” If he had his way, it would go up at noon on Christmas Eve, just like when he was growing up but I’ve managed to talk him round to the 23rd. I did, however, bake Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents – an Austrian speciality) on the first Sunday of advent and I put up a grand total of three decorations on the final day of the month.

Jan’s friend continued to come here to study occasionally – sometimes once a week, sometimes twice, some weeks not at all. (All very coronavirus safe – she arrives with a mask on, we greet each other from a distance with no physical contact and we all sit in separate rooms to work.)

That’s all I can think of.
Oh wait, I almost forgot. Jan’s choir was supposed to have a concert in November but since all events ended up being cancelled they decided to do it as a live stream. It was actually quite nice to sit and watch from my living room with a cup of tea and my cross stitch. Ha! They fell into a grey area since amateur choirs weren’t allowed to practice but professional ones were and around half of that choir are professional/were actually getting paid for doing the concert.

Right, that really is it now. I hope you’re all well and not too stressed in the run up to Christmas. Stay safe and stay cosy (unless it’s summer now where you are, in which case stay cool!)