October 2019 recap

Hello friends. October is over and we are already just short of a week into November, leaving us with less than two months left of the year… and of the decade. Eeek! Is anyone else so not ready? I feel like I need to do something amazing before the end of the year to make up for wasting the entire rest of the 2010s, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. Today I’m here to link up with Kristen for What’s New With You. (Go check out her blog – she’s awesome!).

whats new with you

Remembering

That’s a weird heading for this section but it’s the best I can think of so we’ll go with it. If you saw my September recap, you will know that 3rd October was exactly one year since we lost our boys. I was off work that day because my employer is actually in Germany and it’s their national holiday. Most of the day was spent with my great aunt and great uncle, who were visiting their son just across the border in Germany. After showing them all around Basel (we walked a lot) and dropping them off back at the train station, I stopped by the cemetery on the way home. Then on the Saturday Jan and I went up there together. It was the first time Jan had been since their the boys’ had been added to the site… I wanted to say “plaque” but it’s not a plaque, it’s like a concrete strip with the names carved into it and a little star. I would show you but we don’t want their names to be broadcast publicly (Jan doesn’t even want them on Facebook, where only my friends list would be able to see them). After the cemetery we walked into town and went for a hot chocolate, which seemed appropriate considering that’s exactly what we did the day we buried their ashes (which was actually a year ago today). I would have liked to be pregnant again before the anniversary, but alas that was not to be. Maybe we’ll get there before next October. That would be nice. I’m not getting any younger here!

Travel/days out

Jan was busy on almost every weekend in October, but he had a free Saturday in the middle of the month so we decided to go out for the afternoon. After a quick search of the Internet, I came up with the Verenaschlucht (Verena Gorge) in canton Solothurn. Jan got a car and we drove there and parked near the start. We walked through the gorge to the Verena Hermitage and then followed the megalith path to get back to the car. It wasn’t a long walk – maybe an hour in total – but given we hadn’t left the house until 2 p.m. it couldn’t really have been much longer.

 

Reading

October wasn’t my best reading month. I took part in Spookathon but only ended up reading 3 and a half out of my five choices. The three I did read can be matched to all the prompts though so I technically completed it, and I finished reading book 4 the following week when I had to go into the office. But for most of the month I was reading It by Stephen King (which I’m nowhere near finished) or not reading at all because I was distracted by crafting.

Watching

Our Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch continues. We watch an episode most nights after Jan finishes work. I can actually cross stitch while watching, which is useful because I now need to get serious about my Christmas card making.

Craft stuff

I finished making Halloween cards for Post Pals – 14 were completed in September so in October I made 26. I then got started on Christmas – I’ve done the stitching for six so far and I’ve also sorted a few handmade, non-cross-stitched cards that will be sent out to Post Pals families come December. The cross stitched ones are mainly for my family and friends. Post Pals are also holding a craft auction in December to raise money to send the families of sick children (and some who have sadly lost their children) on a glamping adventure at Chessington – you can read all about it here. So I’ve been making Christmas ornaments for that and they will also be getting some cross-stitched cards – I’ve stitched two birthday themed designs for them already. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Quite possibly! At least having some time off work gave me the chance to get a few things done. Here’s an autumn card I stitched at the beginning of October that I really like.

autumn card

Concerts

Jan had performances with two of his choirs in October, and I obviously attended both. The first one was okay but not really my type of thing. The second one was at the Tinguely Museum – coolest venue ever – and I really enjoyed it. They were performing in front of one of the exhibits – here’s a photo I took before the concert started.

Tinguely

After both concerts I got to go out to eat with the members of the choir, which is always nice.

Purchases

I realised I didn’t have any waterproof shoes (other than winter boots and hiking shoes), so, with autumn being the season for rain, rain, and more rain I obviously had to buy some. Luckily I managed to think of it before the current downpour days and I am very pleased with them. Please excuse the teddy bear socks on the photos below 😉

 

I also collected tokens from Coop to buy a Kitchen Aid blender… or technically to make Jan buy it 😉 We got it for pretty much half price, which I think is a good deal. It’s not like I spent more than usual to get the tokens – it was all weekly food shopping that would have been done anyway. We have used it several times to make smoothies so I feel like it’s already justified itself.

Finally, I bought this liquid lipstick thingy (it’s in a lip gloss style tube but looks more like lipstick once it’s on). It’s very autumn and I absolutely love it! It’s actually a bit more coppery than it looks on the photo below but hopefully you get the idea.

me

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

Work was pretty busy again in October, for me at least. Both my colleagues had time off at the beginning of the month – part of which overlapped so I was the only English translator for about a week. I had the final week of the month off – or technically final 4 days since the Friday was 1st November – and I feel like it was well earned. The week before that I literally had 20 translations that had to be completed. Not an exaggeration. Four of them I had actually translated previously so I only had to check my proofreader’s revisions and get the final files ready, but that left 16 that I both translated and entered corrections for in that week. Needless to say, I was relieved when I finally set my out of office message and logged off on the Friday!

I had plans to do many things during my time off, but that entire week was a washout. I don’t mind rain, but this was the pouring down without a break and if you venture out for even a few minutes you will be soaked kind. On the 30th, I went for a walk along the stream so I could take my annual autumn photos. I was out for around 25 minutes or half an hour and had to change my clothes when I got home! The next day was at least slightly more friendly… as in there was enough of a break between rain showers for me to take a bag of books to one of the free bookcases in town without them all turning to pulp before I got them there, so I at least managed part of my decluttering goal. There are still some books in the giant carrier bag because there were way too many for my to carry in one go!

I also had a doctor’s appointment during that week to discuss where we go now that our fourth embryo transfer has failed. It was decided that I will have another hysteroscopy. That will be in December and I am not looking forward to it even a little bit (last time was not fun!). But if there’s any chance it will help then I have to do it. That means we won’t be able to try again until January, so with that my chances of being a mother before my next birthday are out the window.

Oh, the autumn fair also started in Basel last week. I didn’t get a chance to go properly (pouring down, remember?) but while I was out getting rid of books I managed to grab a few photos.

 

That’s all I’ve got for you. I took two weeks off work, but since the second of those weeks (i.e. now) is in November you’ll have to wait for my next monthly recap to read about them. In the meantime, go check out the link up and welcome Kristen back to more regular blogging. She has been very much missed in the blogosphere!

Autumn walk 2019

Every year since we moved to Basel I’ve gone for a walk at the end of October and taken photos of the autumn colours. The second year, it was pure coincidence that I took the photos on almost the same date, but since then I’ve done it on purpose…. what can I say, I like the direct comparison. This year I had to overcome a certain amount of reluctance to leave the house since it’s been raining for days*, but I gave myself a stern talking to (along the lines of “it’s only water” and “skin’s waterproof”), put on my raincoat and got out there.

(* I hope everyone who’s been wishing for this weather since mid-August is currently out stomping in puddles and singing in the rain… I would like to think that somebody is enjoying the fact that my time off work has been a complete washout so far!)

Anyway, enough rambling – here are this year’s (rather soggy) photos.

This year the trees are all either already bare or still green, with the occasional splash of yellow or brown here and there. None of the vivid reds and oranges I found in previous years. Also, apologies for any blurry spots on these photos – my lens got wet!

And now here’s the comparison of the same date on all five years (sadly not all the exact same stretch of path, but you get the idea).

The 2017 and 2019 photos are in basically the same place, so that’s nice. There’s definitely more green in the background this time! Hopefully next year I’ll be able to get out there again and continue the experiment.

September 2019 recap

Before I get into today’s post, I just want to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that today is exactly one year since we lost our boys. I never thought I would reach this date again and still be no closer to being a mother. (And please don’t give me any comments about how I still am my babies’ mama, they are always with me, etc. While true, it is not the same as having a living, breathing child to take care of and love). In honour of this day, I thought I would share the only “bump” photo in existence from my pregnancy – courtesy of my mother who insisted on taking it. I was planning to wait until I actually looked pregnant and not just bloated and frumpy, but I never got the chance.

Bev

This and a handful of ultrasound printouts are the only evidence I have that I was ever pregnant. Oh well, gotta keep swimming, to paraphrase Dory. I’m meeting up with my great aunt and uncle this morning (no work because it’s a holiday in Germany), but I hope I’ll be able to go to the cemetery later.

Anyway, on to my September recap, although honestly the entire month went by in a flash and I don’t feel like I did much at all. I’m linking up with the lovely Kristen, of course.

whats new with you

Travel/day trips

Jan was away on the first full weekend of the month, so on the Saturday I went for a bit of an explore. There’s a place close to Basel called Münchenstein and I had read there’s a ruined castle there, right in the centre of the village, so I went in search of it. I forgot to take my camera so I can’t show you a photo (although I put some phone shots on Instagram, which you my have seen if we’re connected on there), but I found it. The path/stairs outside and the house next to it are private property but there’s a sign saying you can walk there. Nonetheless, a woman standing outside one of the buildings at the bottom of the stairs spotted me reading the sign and glared at me like I was desecrating the place. Rude! The following weekend, Jan was away again, but the one after that was the only one in the entire month where he wasn’t either away with a choir or spending both Saturday and Sunday at rehearsals. We decided to go out for the afternoon on the Saturday, but needed somewhere close since he had to do something with a choir in the evening (literally stand outside the theatre and hum for 9 minutes, then leave. Weird project). We decided on Brugg, which the Internet told me is a “picturesque town”. Spoiler alert: it’s not! I mean, it’s not horrible… there are a couple of nice buildings and the river is pretty, but when I read “picturesque” I kind of expect something more. Windisch, which is either the neighbouring town or a district of Brugg (I never quite figured it out), has the remains of a Roman amphitheatre – called Vindonissa – so that was kind of cool. We had a nice afternoon, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going out of your way to visit Brugg.

Comedy stuff

We went to see John Cleese at the beginning of the month. I think people who didn’t know much of his stuff would have got more out of it since the show mainly consisted of him showing clips from various things on a large screen and explaining how they came up with it/the background to certain things or just showing his favourite clips. It was a bit like a documentary about projects John Cleese had been involved in, but live. Not that it wasn’t good, but I’m not sure it was worth what we paid for the tickets. Oh well.

Cross stitch and card making

I was mostly making Halloween cards in September – I’m now up to 14 completed. Plus a few birthday cards for Post Pals. I meant to start on my Christmas card cross stitching and technically I did, but I only completed one design so I really, really need to get a move on in October!

Reading

For the second month in a row, I read 13 books. I had days where I didn’t pick up a book at all, which is unusual for me. I was tired most of the time and I also got stuck on one book that I enjoyed when I was reading it but never seemed to feel like picking up. Still, 13 is a decent amount so I’m happy.

Watching

I got the box set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for my birthday, so Jan and I started watching that in September. I am loving my trip back down memory lane so far. I’m hoping Jan will have some time to continue watching it with me this month because October feels like the perfect time for demons and vampires and all things undead.

Celebrations

My “baby” brother turned 13 (I officially feel old!) and my godson turned seven. Not that I actually celebrated either birthday since they are in England and I’m not, but they happened. Here’s the birthday card I stitched for my brother (I’ve blurred out the name):

teenager card

Also, I started my current job on 1 September 2009, so it was my 10-year anniversary. Again, I did not actually celebrate but I got a letter from the bosses and will get a one-off bonus payment with my October wages. Perfect timing for Christmas shopping!

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

I don’t really have much to add in this section. I’ve been trying to declutter… using the Swiss method – basically take an empty cardboard box, write the word “Gratis” (=free) on it, fill with things you don’t want and place outside for the neighbours to help themselves. I managed to get rid of a few things that way. I also took about 25 books to free public bookcases in September… I still have a few more in the carrier bag I mentioned in my last post, but I will hopefully be taking those away this weekend. I made apple and rhubarb crumble the other week to use up some apples that we’d had for too long (the rhubarb was frozen) and I decided it should definitely count towards my 5-a-day since I didn’t put any sugar at all in the filling. The topping contained wholegrain porridge oats and pecan nuts. I am a crumble-making genius.

That’s all I’ve got for ya. Like I said, this month went by way too fast.
Let me know what you’ve been up to lately, and of course check out the link up to find out what’s new with the rest of the blogosphere.

August 2019 recap

Hello my lovely readers! I am not impressed that August is over already. This year is definitely going too fast. It’s the ninth month of the year and I feel like I have literally nothing to show for 2019! Aaah. We’re going to see John Cleese tonight and then I’ve taken tomorrow off since it was supposed to be a going into the office day and there’s no way I’m taking a 7 a.m. train after a late night. Buuuut I’m supposed to be recapping August, so enough of that. I’m linking up with the amazing Kristen, of course (if you don’t know who she is then all I can say is why not?).

whats new with you

Sticking with the same format as last month and grouping things into headings.

Travel/day trips

We started out the month by going out for the day on 1st August – which was Swiss national day. I caused some confusion last month by saying I had taken the day off, so I’ll clear that up now. Yes, Switzerland does get a holiday on 1st August, but I work in Germany (or mostly from home, but my employer is in Germany) so it’s not a holiday for me. I get German Reunification Day instead, which is in October. Anyway, to celebrate Switzerland’s birthday we… went to France? Obviously. We chose Eguisheim, which is a really cute little village in Alsace. Since it was a weekday and not a holiday in France, it wasn’t too crowded – not sure what it’s like on weekends or peak summer holiday season. After wandering around the village for a while, we sat and had a drink and a snack then drove up to some castle ruins above the village. It was a good day.

Two days later, it was the weekend and we had arranged to meet a friend and her boyfriend in Freiburg. She lives in Karlsruhe so it’s technically not halfway (it’s a lot closer to us!) but since Freiburg is always worth a visit and they had never actually been that’s the place we decided on. We strolled around the city, had lunch, climbed a hill and a tower to get a view of the the city and then had ice cream. We hadn’t seen each other since December so it was nice to catch up.

Freiburg

Two weeks later we headed to Karlsruhe. For those who don’t know, that’s where we lived in Germany before we moved to Switzerland. We had plans to meet some friends (plus their friends) who were visiting from California on the Sunday, so we decided to go up a day early and see whether anyone else was around. It was all arranged at slightly short notice so quite a few people were busy or away (I mean, August is summer holiday time for most people), but a few people were around. We met up with two friends, one of whom came with his wife and their son (who was exactly 12 weeks old that day – they got married a short time before the baby was born). Later, we happened to bump into two other friends at a tram stop, and they had their two children with them… the second, who we didn’t know about, was born in December. Another person we were supposed to meet up with but who ended up not having time had got married the weekend before. A while ago tagged in a meme that went something like “All my friends are getting married and having babies. I read over 100 books last year!” and it has never felt more accurate than during that weekend in Karlsruhe (never mind the fact that I had actually been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for around a year at the time I was tagged!). Anyway… we managed to visit two of my favourite places in Karlsruhe: Sukie’s Cake Shop (which I wrote about when it first opened) and Soul, which is where I celebrated my 30th birthday. It was also the Schlosslichtspiele that weekend – a festival of light involving projections on the castle – so we briefly stopped by that.

Schlosslichtspiele2019

The next day, we drove to Ottenhöfen in the Black Forest to meet our friends to go hiking. I also got to meet their daughter for the first time (Jan had seen her when he visited them in California in November). She’s 18 months and so cute. We had a delicious lunch and a nice hike – at least until the heavens opened and we all got drenched. But the rain stopped again shortly before the end of the hike and then there was cake so it was all good.

Renovation stuff

I know I promised I wasn’t going to talk about this again, but the final radiator that was missing turned up on my birthday. I was tempted to ask them to put a bow on it for me. LOL. Someone then came a week later to add some kind of stop to the dining room window, and I took the opportunity to point out that one of the (new!) blinds had stopped working. Apparently we’re not the only ones who’ve encountered that problem. He write it down so hopefully someone will come and fix it. But that really is it done now. We’re expecting to receive the information about the rent increase at any time…

Birthday

I briefly mentioned it above so I suppose I’d better get it over with. I turned 36 on 13th August. I can’t say I was really looking forward to my birthday this year – when I turned 35, I was expecting to be the mother of twins by my next birthday, and once we started trying again I hoped I would at least be pregnant again by now (given we had our first IUI after the loss in December I don’t feel like I was being too optimistic. I mean, the fertility treatments clearly worked once before!). It ended up being an okay day though. I got way more gifts and cards than I expected, and although I was working for most of the day I did get to finish early and spend some time reading, then Jan took me out for a delicious meal. So I can’t really complain. Hopefully next year will be an entirely different birthday.

Reading

It was the bonus round of Erin’s challenge so I was mostly concentrating on that. I ended up reading a couple of books that took me days to finish so I didn’t get through as many as usual. I did, however, manage to read Wundersmith, which I loved just as much as I was expecting. If you want to know more about what I read in August, you’ll have to wait for Show Us Your Books on Tuesday.

Cross-stitch and crafty stuff

I had quite a bit going on in August. I had stitched half of a pattern for my friend’s son whose birthday is in August, so I had to get that finished, made up into a card and posted. Then my brother turned 13 on 1st September, so obviously his card had to be made and sent before the end of the month. Plus Post Pals announced that they are holding an auction to send the kids and their families glamping next year and I promised to contribute a few cross-stitched cards. I also had my godson’s birthday card to stitch (his birthday isn’t until the 13th but I needed to post his presents as packages can take a while to arrive). Just like every month, some Post Pals and their siblings had birthdays in August and at the beginning of September. I’ve mostly been sending shop-bought cards recently (no time!) but in August I hand-made cards for two Post Pals siblings. Phew. This month I am finally starting to stitch my Christmas cards and I will also be making Halloween cards for Post Pals, so that will keep me busy for a while!

 

Visitors

As you will have seen if you read my photo an hour post, Jan’s mum and her partner came to see us for the day. Every year they have a holiday at Lake Constance and we always try to meet up with them. This time they wanted to see our renovations, of course. Then we went into town and had food and drinks. They’ve been to Basel before so we didn’t need to show them around and it was too hot to do much walking anyway so we just had a nice, relaxing day.

Miscellaneous/general other stuff

In infertility news… I had to have a hysteroscopy, which is when they insert a camera in the uterus. They told me to take a painkiller an hour beforehand but it still hurt. Do not recommend. (I mean, if you need one I obviously recommend that you go ahead and have it done, but be prepared for pain.) The doctor found some scar tissue (probably caused when I had to have a curettage after losing the boys) and a cyst in the lining, so she removed those which will hopefully mean an embryo is now in with a chance of implanting. Fingers crossed!

This past weekend (which I am aware was only half in August) Jan was away and instead of sorting out the million and one things that needed doing, I decided to reorganise my books. Because of course. I’m still not fully happy with it… specifically with some of the shelves on the right-hand bookcase. But it will do for now. Most of my to-read books are now at the bottom left – both rows of the second shelf up and the ones at the front of the very bottom shelf. Yes, I have problems… (also no idea how they’re going to fit on the other shelves once I’ve read them!)

bookcases

Other than that work has been both busy and far too quiet at different times (obviously). During the last week of the month, whoever of my colleagues and former colleagues/interns, etc. can make it go out for a meal and this time I managed to be in the office on the right day – usually I don’t make it since I’m there on the first Friday of the month and two weeks in a row would be a bit much, but tomorrow I have the day off so I rearranged things a bit. It was nice to be able to join again, even though I had to rush off before everyone else to avoid getting back to Basel even later.

Jan had to work late a lot in August and also had choir rehearsals/meetings on some other evenings, so I was home alone for dinner a few times. As a result, I’ve done a terrible job of eating vegetables this month – I really must stop just shoving something in the oven when I’m eating alone! But thanks to the heat I haven’t done too badly at drinking enough water. I also managed to write I think two penpal letters this month… one was a reply to a letter I received in around February, which pretty much sums up how I’m doing with all my relationships this year. Pen pals, real-life friends, people online… I don’t discriminate – I’m an equally bad friend to everyone this year. Sorry (and not “not sorry”. I really am sorry – although apparently not enough to have a word with myself and start being a better friend?) That’s all I can think of. Probably a good thing… this post is already long enough 😉

I hope you all had a great August! Check out the link up to see what else has been happening recently in blog land.

A photo an hour: 24 August 2019

Hello friends! Saturday was the chosen date for August’s photo an hour, hosted by Jane and Louisa. Jan’s mum and her partner were on their annual holiday to Überlingen on Lake Constance, which isn’t too far from us, so they came down for the day. Here’s what we got up to.

9 a.m. The day always has to start with tea!

10 a.m. I had a shower and got dressed. Wearing one of the birthday presents I bought myself. Toucans!

11 a.m. Some last-minute hoovering before people arrive.

12 noon. Our visitors came bearing gifts.

1 p.m. (ish… I took the photo slightly late). After a tour of our renovated rooms, we headed into town.

2 p.m. Lunch! Kohlmanns is one of our favourite places.

3 p.m. After lunch coffee.

I forgot to take a 4 p.m. photo!

5 p.m. We crossed the river then stopped for a beer.

6 p.m. Taking our visitors back to the train station. This is the Clara church. Look how blue the sky is!

7 p.m. Waiting for Jan to fetch some water.

8 p.m. Decided to get some good. These are potato momos and they were delicious!

9 p.m. Back home and chilling on the couch… since I have no pets I took a photo of an owl cushion.

And that’s all I’ve got for you. At 10 p.m. we were in bed listening to an episode of Good Omens. I hope you all had a great Saturday. Tell me what you got up to.

Have a fantastic day/evening/whatever it is when you read this.

July 2019 recap

Hello everyone. Happy first day of August! I’ve taken today off work because it’s the Swiss national holiday. I’m still trying to figure out how I want to do these monthly update posts, so this time I’m trying out a different style. Let me know what you think. Linking up with the lovely Kristen, of course. If you’re not following her blog yet, you really should!

whats new with you

 

Renovation stuff

Pretty much everything was already done in our flat before the month started – the missing glass wall cover thing for the kitchen having arrived at the end of June. At the beginning of July they painted the stairwell, including our door frame (every time they wanted to do something there they rang the doorbell so I would open the door for them). Then on the 5th the construction manager and the architect came by to do a final inspection – even though we were still missing one radiator and the glass wall for the shower. The letter we got informing us about the inspection requested access to the entire flat so I spent the first week of July sorting out more things so that a) they could get to the windows/radiators and b) they wouldn’t see that we’d still been living like savages after the kitchen and bathrooms were complete. This meant unpacking the final box (which contained bathroom stuff), taking things back out onto the balcony, hoovering everywhere again (how was there still construction dust floating around?!). It doesn’t sound like that should have taken all week but I also had to work, do the usual household chores, make food every day. And it was hot for most of that week. Anyway. The spare room is back to pretty much normal, which means it still looks like a storage room with a bed. Before the renovation, I made Jan help me empty the final few boxes that had been in there so it would have been box free for the first time since we moved in if I hadn’t decided to pack away most of my picture books. I could still move them to the cellar but that feels too defeatist, like I’m accepting the fact that our chances of becoming parents are so remote that there’s no point in having anything relating to babies easily accessible. This week a man came to install the glass panel/door for the shower so finally the bathrooms are completely finished. The only thing missing now is that one radiator, but basically it’s done and I can finally shut up about the renovation 😉

Reading

I was participating in Erin’s book challenge so most of my reading revolved around the categories for that. You can see my list here. I then participated in the Reading Rush, because apparently one challenge in a month isn’t enough?! The list of books I read for that is here. If you want to know what I thought of the books you’ll have to wait until Tuesday for Show Us Your Books.

Cross stitch stuff

In my world summer means the start of birthday stitching season, with two people to make cards for in August (one right at the beginning) and another two in September – although this year might be the last time I make one for my little brother. He’s turning 13… at what point does a cross-stitched card from your older sister become uncool? I stitched one and a half cards for friends’ children in July… I really need to get that half one finished! I made a previously cross-stitched design into a card as well and sent that to a Post Pals sibling. Totally winning!

mermaid card

Travel/days out

On the first Sunday in July we went to the zoo in Basel. I have no photos for you because we spontaneously decided to go in as we were walking past and my phone camera is terrible. It was fun to see the animals (they had baby beavers!) but I counted no less than three sets of twins and every person I saw with a toddler either also had an older child or a baby or was very heavily pregnant and I was so jealous that they had clearly not only been able to get and stay pregnant but apparently also plan to the extent that their children were close in age. I mean, obviously I don’t know their history but emotions don’t do logic. I should really have known better than to go to the zoo on a sunny weekend in the middle of summer!

As I’ve mentioned, today is Swiss national day, so last night we went to the Rhine Falls to see the fireworks display. We’ve been to the Basel one a few times and I just wanted to do something different. We got there early, which was good because there were a lot of people in the end and it meant we were able to get a great spot. It was definitely a cool setting for fireworks!

And that’s about it. We didn’t really do any travelling in July. I did spend a day in the office in Germany, as usual, but that definitely doesn’t count!

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

Jan was participating in the Basel Tattoo again as a member of the choir. I went to the parade on the first Saturday and then attended the Friday night concert. It wasn’t quite as good as in previous years – it seemed like there weren’t as many acts so some were repeated (the Red Hot Chilli Pipers performed three oo four times). But it was still entertaining and the Chinese lions were fantastic!

Basel Tattoo lions

Apart from that it was honestly a pretty boring month, at least I can’t really think of anything else I did. Work was busy again so I did a fair amount of overtime, but other than that I guess I pretty much just read. For this month I have a few plans with friends (yes, I do actually have a few of those in real life) plus August is my birthday month so maybe I’ll have more to say next time.

Meanwhile, why don’t you tell me what you’ve been up to recently? And check out the link up, of course.

Plastic-free July: Sustainability Struggles

Hello my lovelies! We are in the final stretch of plastic-free July now and Steph has asked people to talk about where they are still struggling when it comes to reducing plastic. You can read her post here.

Before I go into the areas where I’m still struggling to find an alternative, I should tell you that I will definitely not be continuing with my efforts to use close to zero plastic beyond July. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop caring about single-use plastic and buy things willy nilly – I didn’t do that before this month either! But I won’t spend the rest of my life basing all my decisions about what to cook/eat on whether it comes in plastic or not. It went okay this month, only because I allowed myself to use things we already had and made exceptions for a couple of things, but not buying any single-use plastic is not sustainable over the long-term. And now some products I’ve had trouble finding alternatives for.

Toothpaste. I have been using the toothpaste I already had throughout this month, but I’ve also had a think about how it could be replaced. I did notice that Lush has dental tab things but they were in a plastic bottle. There was a note saying the bottle was made from 50% recycled plastic, but it’s still a single-use plastic bottle!

Milk. I know milk in glass bottles is a thing that exists, but I’ve checked every supermarket local to me (plus the big one behind the train station) and none of them have milk in glass bottles. I know at least one brand in Germany has milk in glass bottles but going to Germany just to buy milk seems excessive! For the record, milk bottles here can be returned to supermarkets for recycling. The same with PET drinks bottles – I’ve even seen adverts in the tram recently telling people to take their drinks bottles to a PET container rather than throwing them in the bin!

Bin liners. This is one I’m not going to be able to do anything about. The plastic-free July website suggests alternatives to plastic including lining your bins with paper, but that isn’t going to work here. As I’ve mentioned before, general household rubbish is allowed to go in bags of 2 sizes, which you then stick either half a sticker or a full one on based on their volume (one whole sticker for a 35l bag). Also, general waste is incinerated here, so whether I use plastic bags or paper it’s all getting burned! (In Basel city, they don’t have stickers but an official bin bag – called Bebbi Sack. If your rubbish isn’t in a Bebbi Sack they simply won’t take it.)

Cheese. We found one kind of soft goat’s cheese that was wrapped in paper rather than plastic and one brand of flavoured Cheddar (they had smoked and garlic & chive) that was in wax with a sticker on. Other than that, every cheese in the supermarkets is wrapped in plastic. Even if you go to the cheese counter, they have the large blocks wrapped in cling film. Technically I am not throwing away single-use plastic in that case (if I can persuade them to give me my piece of cheese in a container from home instead of wrapping it in plastic) but passing the buck doesn’t make the plastic disappear!

Frozen vegetables. Yes, it’s always better to buy fresh vegetables, but I do like to have some frozen veg on hand, in particular spinach and peas. In Germany, I used to buy frozen spinach in cardboard boxes but I’ve checked every supermarket here and all of them use plastic bags. For the record, fresh spinach also comes in plastic bags here (you can possibly get loose spinach at markets but my local market is on from 7 a.m.-11 a.m. on Fridays and I have to work so that’s not happening).

Meat. I’ve barely eaten any meat this month simply because it is all in plastic packaging. Even if you go to the meat counter, they wrap your purchases in plastic. Admittedly I haven’t tried asking them to put it in my own container – trying to explain in German was a challenge I wasn’t ready to take on – but I suspect there are some health and safety rules that speak against it. And I’m sure at least one person out there is now thinking I could solve most of my problems (milk, cheese and meat) by going vegan – which is sooo much better for the planet anyway. But all the vegetarian/vegan alternatives are packaged in plastic as well. The milk issue applies just as much to almond, oat and soy milk and all the veggie burgers, etc. are packaged in plastic. Also, a lot of alternatives are based on soy, which can affect your hormones. I’m already infertile as it is without adding excess soy consumption to the mix!

Bread. Here, I’m talking the toastable kind. I usually have toast for breakfast but I haven’t been able to do that for the whole of July. I’ve been having organic cocoa porridge most days but 1) it’s too hot for that and 2) it also comes in plastic (the outer packaging is cardboard, but inside there’s a plastic bag). If I hadn’t already had it in my cupboard, I wouldn’t have been able to buy it (which would have made breakfast even more difficult!). Of course I could buy ordinary loaves of bread at a bakers, so bread is not out entirely, but I do like a bit of toast in the morning.

Cleaning products. Tips for this include buying cleaning products in glass bottles (do those exist? Not in Switzerland!) and making your own. I have actually tried the second option before – I’ve used the baking soda and vinegar trick to unblock a shower many times. (It doesn’t work for long, by the way. In my experience once a plunger stops doing the trick harsh chemicals are the way to go. Sorry). In this country, baking soda comes in little packets wrapped in plastic. The kind of vinegar you use for cleaning comes in plastic bottles (and also stinks!). Lemons are pretty much the only thing I can buy without plastic. I will have to take another look at the zero-waster supermarkets, but as far as I could see they only had washing powder, washing liquid, dishwasher powder (we use the tabs) and washing-up liquid. So for now I will keep buying eco-friendly bathroom cleaner in plastic spray bottles.

I think that’s all the things I haven’t been able to find an alternative to. There are a few things that there are alternatives too if I’m willing to go out of my way. For instance, at the supermarkets the organic vegetables are wrapped in plastic while the non-organic stuff is loose. I want organic vegetables. There is an organic supermarket in town that sells loose vegetables, but its opening hours aren’t great if you work full time. I also discovered that the only pasta at my local supermarket that features no plastic is green lasagne sheets. All the other ones in cardboard boxes – including the ordinary yellow lasagne sheets in the same brand – have a little plastic window. Obviously I can go to one of the zero-waste supermarkets and fill my own container with pasta, but again the opening hours aren’t the best if you work full time (actually the one that’s basically at the other side of town has slightly better opening hours, but I shouldn’t have to go all the way across town just to buy some pasta without plastic!). Of course inconvenience is no excuse. Buying pasta (or rice) in a plastic bag because I would either have to leave the second I finish work or sacrifice part of my Saturday otherwise is sheer laziness in my case. But that’s me. Other people don’t even have the option of going to those places. Elderly or disabled people can’t be expected to cross town just to buy some groceries. People in the villages surrounding Basel shouldn’t have to travel into town to buy their groceries. And plenty of people don’t finish work until 6 or later… the organic supermarket and the zero-waste supermarket closest to me both close at 6:30. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get there and actually do your shopping! So while I will, of course, continue to do my bit and save plastic where I can, as of August I will be going back to buying meat and toast in plastic containers. Sorry, but there’s only so much an individual can do. Now if only the supermarkets (or, really, the producers behind them) would start doing their bit to help those of us who are trying our best!