In which I go slightly overboard on the brackets…

Work was pretty good today, but busy. Very, very busy. It’s only Tuesday and already I’m exhausted! So instead of doing some washing (which was my plan for tonight) I’ve spent the last 20 minutes ordering books from Amazon as a “treat” to myself (for what I’m not sure). This Internet shopping malarkey is really bad for my bank balance! But on the plus side it means I’m actually getting somewhere with one of my goals… I’m up to 9 books read from the never-ending list (5 of them in January… no wonder the past month seems to have flown by without me even noticing – I’ve apparantly spent most of it with my nose in a book!) plus one German children’s book, whcih I am counting towards the 101 things list even though I technically read it for my dissertation and not because I desperately wanted to read a book by Eric Kästner. I really need to start reading some non-fiction books though… I’ve been saying for ages that I want to. Instead I find myself going through my Amazon recommendations, adding even more books to the list (can you believe the boyfriend actually has the never to tell me he finds it difficult to choose birthday and Christmas presents for me? There’s a ready-made list full of the perfect gifts just sitting, waiting for him to pay attention to it!). I failed on the monthly photo theme again (maybe 50 photos was a little too ambitious?) so it’s good to know I’ve managed to get somewhere with something…

I’ve also started to get back into cross stitch lately. A few weeks ago I picked up a project that I stopped working on months ago and I’ve come surprisingly far since then. It was supposed to be a birthday present for Jan’s mum in 2008! Hopefully I’ll actually manage to get it to her this year. I have until November, which should be do-able as long as I don’t stop again…

Ooh, and I’ve just realised, the package that arrived for me today is probably another cross stitch kit that I ordered… a wedding sampler for one of the couples I know who are taking the plunge (Yes, you read that right. I said one of the couples. There are a few…) I hope it is – I’m really looking forward to getting started on that one.

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Recent reads

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I got books for Christmas then I went and ordered some for myself from Amazon. There were three in particular that I found myself eagerly reaching for every time I had a spare minute (and it just so happened that all three of them were on The List. January has been a good month for crossing off books – and it’s not even over yet!). Since I enjoyed these so much and I’m sure none of you want to read about how I unblocked the shower all by myself I thought I’d make today book review day instead. Enjoy!

Emma and Me by Elizabeth Flock
Told from the point of view of Caroline, known a Cariie, an 8-year old girl living wih her family in Toast, North Carolina. For Carrie, life is divided into the time before her father was killed, when everything was good, and the present, where she has to put up with a drunken, abusive stepfather and a mother who doesn’t seem to care. The “Emma” of the title is Carrie’s little sister, who seems to be the only person who really cares about Carrie. When Richard announces that the family is moving across the state for his new job the two girls try to run away, but Richard finds them and after that they are treated worse than ever. In the new town Carrie befriends a neighbour, Mr. Wilson, who teaches her to shoot. From then on the book rapidly moves towards the crash that has been coming since the story started, and a surprising truth is revealed. I can’t say any more without ruining the ending, but the twist certainly came as a shock to me!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
I’ve been meaning to read this one since it came out, but somehow never got round to buying it so I was very pleased when I received it as part of my Christmas present from Jan.
Nine-year old Oskar Schell, ameteur inventor, jewellery maker, tambourine player and pacifist, finds a mysterious key left by his father who was killed in the September 11th attacks. The key is in a container labelled with the word “Black”. Realising this must be a name, Oskar decides to go and talk to everyone in New York City with the surname Black, hoping to find out more about his father in the process. As Oskar searches New York, the story of his Grandfather, who survived the Dresden bombings, is woven into the book. Eventually the two stories come together and the story ends on a hopeful note. It’s a sad book, which is only natural considering the subject matter, but it’s also humorous in places with a lot of touching moments. Recommended.

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
17-year old Karen makes love to her boyfriend, Richard, for the first time at the top of a mountain. A few hours later she goes into a coma, which she stays in for 17 years. 9 months after falling uncious, she gives birth to a baby girl, Megan. Richard chooses to stay close to Karen, visiting her regularly in the nursing home and taking care of their daughter, with the help of Megan’s mother. Karen and Richarrd’s group of friends from high school drift in and out of the story, but eventually all end up back in the town where they were all born. Then, one night, when he entire group have ended up at the hospital for various reasons, Karen wakes up. To Karen, the world seems to have changed for the worse, while her friends have barely changed at all. Nobody seems to have time to relax any more and people are getting shallower and shallower. A short time later, a plague sweeps across the world until the group of friends (plus Megan) are the only ones left. They adapt, as humans tend to do, ending up sitting around watching TV and eating tinned food. Then they are told that there is a way for them to go back to before the world ended and stop it from happening…
I wasn’t too keen on the end of the book… the solution is a little too simple and the tone of the last few paragraphs doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest, but overall I thought this book was excellent and it certainly makes you think! (Karen definitely has a point with her remarks on technology and lack of leisure time!).

… and it still isn’t Christmas

Does anyone else feel like “the season” has been going on forever? The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of buying and wrapping presents, trips to the post office (the last of my parcels to England finally went out last week), parties and Christmas markets. And in between all that I’ve had to do the assessment for my science course (a last minute job which I’m dreading getting the result for), work and keep on top the mundane every day things like cleaning the flat and making sure we have actual food to eat. The upside is that I now have lots to tell my blog. Unfortunately I still don’t have any time, so it’s going to have to be another boring bullet point list. Sorry about that…

  • I want to Mainz last Saturday with my ex-colleagues. I had never been to Mainz before. We went to the Christmas market, where the Glühwein was much cheaper than everywhere else I’ve been. Mainz is a bit of a strange town. It’s really pretty around the market square then you walk into the shopping street and it’s all horrible grey concrete buildings and huge glass monstrosities. The Christmas market was nice though.
  • It’s been snowing here on and off for the past few days. This is worth mentioning because it’s so unusual. Not that Karlsruhe never gets snow, but the little bit that does come is not usually this early. It’s also freezing. Yesterday it was -12°C! I had to go out in it to buy stuff for a Christmas party I hosted last night. It was so bad that I actually got on the tram to go one stop, which I usually think is a waste of time.
  • I had a progress meeting at work last week. There are a few things I’ve been asked to work on, but the verdict was generally positive (and no mention was made of my social skills… or lack thereof. There is something to be learned from this I’m sure…)
  • Last week we went to both my work Christmas meal (at an Italian restaurant) and Jan’s work Christmas party. Mine was more fun, although we missed the last train home and ended up having to wait until 1:06am for a train that would take us to Bruchsal, where we had to change onto an S-Bahn. I also had to work the next day. Tired is not the word…
  • I received a parcel last week, from the lovely Katyboo. It contained a Christmas card and a book – The Children of Green Knowe. Unexpected and very nice – I’ve been wanting to read that book for ages! 🙂
  • On Friday I went to the Christmas market in Mannheim with my colleagues. It was nice but so cold that we only stayed long enough to have something to eat and drink one Glühwein. I was back in Karlsruhe by 9pm!
  • Two more days at work then I’m off for Christmas. We’re staying in Germany this year (at Jan’s dad’s place) then going to Italy to visit his sister for New Year. Exciting stuff.

And now I have to go and do something about my flat, which is still suffering from the after effects of a Christmas party. It may take some time…

Home alone again

Most people who haven’t seen their other halves for 5 days can’t wait to get back and see them again.
Unfortunately, my boyfriend is not most people. Which is why, despite the fact that he came back from Vienna today, I’m spending the night alone, again. It seems putting the washing machine on is way more important than seeing your girlfriend.
I suppose I should just be grateful he didn’t bring the laundry over for me to do. Oh yes, there really is a bright side to everything…

Remind me why I spent 25 euros on a king size quilt then another 30 on a sheet and pillowcases when 90% of the time I’m the only one sleeping in my bed anyway? Come to think of it, why did I even waste my money on a double bed? If I’d got a single one I might have been able to afford a sofa as well…

Oh, and I’m fairly sure I’ve failed my photo challenge for the third month in a row. Which makes me wonder whether there’s even any point in continuing with this 1001 days thing. I probably will though. Because I’m stubborn like that.

The Door in the Lake

The other day I read a book from the list, The Door in the Lake by Nancy Butts. That’s 4 books down and another… oh, at least two hundred to go. And I’m adding new ones all the time. (Just so you know, the link up there takes you to the short version of the list. The actual list is a physical one… meaning it’s hand written on paper. The pieces of paper live in a ring binder… which is now about half full. Will I actually get round to reading them all? Probably not. I’m going to give it a damn good try though… )

This book is a children’s book (yes, i read children’s books…). Amazon recommends it for 11-13 year olds. I’d say its suitable for slightly younger kids as well, providing their reading skills are up to it.
So what’s the book about?, you ask.
12 year old Joey Finney disappears while camping near the lake with his family and best friends. Two years later he walks into a shop, sees his own face on a milk carton and passes out. He has no memory of the time that’s passed and doesn’t look a day older than when he disappeared.
I enjoyed most of the book. Joey’s struggle to fit back in at high school while coping with the addition of a baby sister to the family and the fact that his younger brother was now taller and appeared older was well written and interesting. It was over a bit too quickly for me (I could have done with more answers!) but overall it wasn’t bad. I’m sure I’ll read it again some day…

I do love a good bargain…

I bought a quilt today. I wasn’t intending to, but I happen to spot some as I was walking past Tchibo so I thought I’d pop in and have a look. When I discovered it was actually the size I was looking for I became very excited – I’ve been looking since the beginning of the month and so far only found ones that were too small. And they’re all stupidly expensive. I’m talking around 69 euros in the sale. What is that all about? It’s only a quilt, not an entire flipping bed! This one was only 40 euros full price. Then when I took it up to the counter I found out it was reduced, so I ended up oly paying 25 euros. Result! It also just so happens that “buy a quilt” is on my 101 things list, but I wasn’t even thinking about that at the time. Now I have I can cross it off though. One step closer to the finish line 😉
Now all that remains is to be a cover for my lovely new quilt and I’ll be all set for winter…

Science and Sunday dinner

I made a sort of Sunday dinner yesterday. Why “sort of” you ask? Well, there werre no Yorkshire puddings and the meat (pork steaks) was fried rather than roasted because I don’t trust my oven at all (there’s something wrong with the thermostat – no matter how high a setting you put it on it always claims to be at most 150°C. And I really don’t want to risk putting meat in an oven that I don’t actually know the temperature of…). We did have both roast and mashed potatoes though. And after my recent trip to England I have actual proper gravy granules. German “Bratensosse” is just not the same. Sure, it goes well enough with wild boar or Schnitzel but for a proper Sunday dinner you’ve gotta have English gravy!
We had a starter as well. I’m currently doing an Open University short course called Science Starts Here and this weekend I had to do an experiment which involved putting sliced potatoes in the oven and weighing them every hour to find out what percentage of a potato is water. The end result was something that looked a lot like those potato skins you get as a starter in restaurants so we covered them in salt and pepper and ate them. I also dipped mine in allioli (garlic sauce) which was dee-licious. While we were waiting for the main course to finish cooking I happened to mention to Jan what a shame it was I had no dessert to offer him. You see, one of the things on my 101 things list is to cook a three course meal for my boyfriend (3 times!) and as I had done all the work with dinner I thought if I had dessert I could let this count (even if the starter was originally a science experiment). Having had the thought I naturally couldn’t rest until I’d at least tried to carry it out, so I got onto Google and started looking up recipes that only use ingredients I actually had in the house. It being a Sunday in German I would have had no chance of getting anything that was missing – only the petrol stations and the tiny little shop at the train station are open. Luckily I found a recipe for golden syrup dumplings, so I made that. Mine looked nothing like the picture on the website but they tasted good and that’s all that matters, right?

We were going to go to the cinema after dinner to see the German film Der Weisse Band (The White Ribbon – read about it here) but Jan decided he was too tired, so we stayed home and watched two episodes of ER instead. We’re up to season 3 now. I love the old ones – Noah Wyle (Carter) looks so young!