February 2021 recap

Hello, hello! Can you believe we are four days into March already? Time seems to be flying by again. For me at least. Maybe not for you.

So, it’s the start of another month and that means another recap post. I sometimes wonder why I still bother writing these. Like everybody else I can’t really do much at the moment. But then I think it might be interesting to look back on them in a few years and remind myself of how I got through the pandemic. Will WordPress still exist in 10 years time I wonder? Maybe I should download my posts and keep them somewhere safe.

Anyway… February. The month started with an egg retrieval. If you read last month’s recap you will know we were doing a stimulation round/I was in the midst of daily injections. At the beginning of February, my follicles duly reached the right size and my hormone levels were where they needed to be, so I gave myself the trigger injection (which is actually two injections – one on either side of my stomach – and whatever solution is in there burns while I’m injecting it! I actually took a photo of my stomach with the red rashes that appeared after the trigger injections plus the bruises from some previous injections that decided to bleed loads but I don’t think anyone wants to see that). 15 eggs were retrieved, 12 fertilised and we ended up with 6 that reached the stage where they could be frozen. So with the one we have left from the first time we have seven embryos. Seven more tries. If it doesn’t work with those that will be it. No more stimulation. No more IVF. Don’t be expecting a pregnancy announcement any time soon though – apart from the fact that I’ll be terrified to announce anything until I at least get past 16 weeks and 4 days (when I lost the twins), I have 2 months of treatment to go through before we even try another transfer. So, that was that. Moving on.

5th February was our anniversary. Of getting together that is, not wedding anniversary. We’re not married – I know some people assume we are, so sorry to disappoint you, I guess? Also if you’re bothered by the fact that we’re a) living together and b) trying for a baby without being married then this really isn’t the blog for you. Anyway… we’ve been together 17 years. In other years we’ve celebrated by going out for a meal but you know. Pandemic. So I cooked. Lamb, roast potatoes, orange carrots (roasted using some orange flavoured olive oil I was given for Christmas). Then the next day we got a car and took a trip to Stein am Rhein. We took disinfectant and kitchen roll and cleaned every surface we might think of touching in the car, then disinfected our hands. In Stein am Rhein everything was obviously closed so we just walked around. It was cloudy and cold but the town is still pretty. One restaurant had set up a grill outside so we got a sausage each then some hot apple punch (alcohol free) from another place. It was nice.

It snowed. And then it got really cold and all the snow froze over. On Valentine’s day we went for a long walk into town (the closest we’ll ever get to celebrating) and the Tinguely Fountain (or Fasnachts Fountain) was all frozen over! A week after the photo below was taken it was suddenly spring and 16°C during the day!

Fasnacht – the Basel version of Carnival/Mardis Gras – was cancelled for the second year in a row but there was a Fasnacht walk with various stations around town, including this giant “confetti” by the river.

On another walk a few weeks later we saw loads of storks and herons in a field – storks are not that unusual, there are lots of them here, but I’ve never seen that many herons at once! Here are some of them (I hope you can make them out):

I made cards for Post Pals – a 4th birthday card for a blind girl and a Sweet Sixteen card for one of the older pals. I also made a few Valentine’s cards for pals – I think about 6.

16th February was Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday in the UK. Obviously we had pancakes for tea. Savoury ones with mince and vegetables then sweet ones with sugar and lemon/sugar and cinnamon. No photo… I didn’t take one and they never look that great in pictures anyway. They tasted good though.

What else can I tell you? Not much. I read some books – 14 if you’re interested. More about that on Tuesday. We continue to regularly watch Richard Osman’s House of Games. I feel like we watched a film as well, but I can’t remember what it was. Jan constantly has the TV on (when he’s not working) but I don’t always pay attention. I also did some decluttering, sorted out loads of craft stuff and put a box outside the building’s front door marked “Gratis” (free) – a very common thing in Switzerland. It’s still down there. Most of the stuff is gone but soon I will have to bring what’s left back upstairs. Sigh. Work has been kind of slow, but should pick up again from next week – I have a couple of things planned in that are yet to arrive.

Coronavirus cases in Switzerland are stagnating at around 1,000-1,200 cases per day (we’ve yet to drop back below the 1,000 mark and numbers seem to be rising in some cantons). Meanwhile vaccination is going at snail’s pace. Actually that’s unfair to snails. Some places are doing better than others but as far as I’m aware every canton is still only vaccinating over 75s and those categorised as “highest risk”. Jan is part of group 1 b (people with chronic illnesses who are not classed as highest risk) and currently he can’t even register for an appointment! The cantons blame the Federal Government, the Government blames the manufacturers. Or the approvers. Or possibly the cantons. And so we go round in circles with hardly anyone actually getting vaccinated. Pfizer and Moderna are currently approved here. Astra Zeneca won’t be approved until Easter at the earliest, and now the Government are saying Switzerland won’t even need it and talking about selling on what they’ve ordered to another country. I’m sure it all makes sense to someone, somewhere…

That’s all I’ve got for you this month. I hope you are all happy, healthy and somehow managing to keep yourselves occupied!

A Photo an Hour: 16 January 2021

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

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

11 a.m. Time for a shower.

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 p.m. Time to make some food.

7 p.m. Tuna pasta bake is ready!

8 p.m. Watching Green Book.

9 p.m. The film finished!

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

11 p.m. Bedtime with Eeyore.

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

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

January 2021 recap

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

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

Snow at the Passwang Pass

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 goals

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

Reading goals

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

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

Cleaning goals

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

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

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

Health goals

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

Social/life goals

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

Learning goals

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

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

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

Did I achieve my 2020 goals?

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

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

Reading goals

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

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

Cleaning goals

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

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

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

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

Health goals

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

Social/life goals

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

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

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

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.

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.