September 2020 recap

And just like that September is over! I feel like it’s flown by, even though I didn’t actually do anything. Seriously, I have no idea what I’m even going to write in this post! Obviously I did not manage to find the time or energy to blog… sorry about that. I didn’t mean to promise holiday photos and then disappear for a month. I will try to get something up soon. But today it’s the first Thursday of the month so I’m going to give you a recap, even though the What’s New With You link up doesn’t seem to be up yet. I hope everything is okay with Kristen!

So what is new with me? Honestly, nothing much. In September I read a lot – a total of 18 books, or I read 17 and listened to 1 if you want to be precise. I cross stitched a lot. My godson turned 8, which is scary. Surely he’s still a toddler? I made Halloween cards to send to Post Pals children (I still have another 10 left to do!).

I watched Richard Osman’s House of Games almost every week night – except when they moved it because of stupid athletics. On Tuesday I went to the office in Germany for the first time since March because a colleague was leaving and I wanted to see her one more time and say goodbye. It was fine. The trains weren’t too full – the one on the way back was more full than on the way there, but not to the extent of people standing in the corridors, crammed in like sardines (I specifically took an earlier train home because my usual train one is of the sardine variety).

I had to have more blood tests to rule out certain things after every attempt at IVF so far has either failed entirely or ended in miscarriage. When I first had it done back in July one value came back high so the tests had to be repeated. This time all was normal though, which means I don’t have to inject myself with blood thinners every day if I ever do get pregnant again (yay!) but also means we’re back to having no real explanation for why things aren’t working (boo!). I guess most people would give up at this point and say the universe doesn’t want them to be a mother, but we have two embryos left and I have every intention of using them!

I am continuing to going for walks once a week, even if it’s raining. Most of September’s weren’t too exciting though – I just went into town and stopped by the free public bookcase to drop off some books. One Sunday Jan came with me and we went for a walk in the woods, stopping to say hi to the horses.

Switzerland added the UK to its quarantine list, but it doesn’t matter because Switzerland was already on the UK’s quarantine list so I couldn’t have gone there anyway. It’s lucky we spent last Christmas in England since who knows when I will be able to see my family again? Germany added some parts of Switzerland to its list of risk countries, but Basel is currently okay. Cantons Geneva, Vaud and Fribourg are currently on the list.

And on a non-September related note, my brother turns 30 tomorrow (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!), which makes me feel ancient! So annoying that stupid covid means I don’t get to celebrate with him.

That’s it from me. What’s new with you?

August 2020 recap

Hello everybody! Here we are on the first Thursday of another month… is it just me or has September come around fast? As usual, I am linking up with the lovely Kristen to talk about what I did last month.

August was automatically a good month because we spent the first two weeks of it on holiday! We decided not to risk leaving the country, and instead did the Grand Tour of Switzerland (but in reverse – apparently you’re supposed to do it a specific way, which is why all the road signs only point in one direction. How does that make sense?!). We had an amazing time – drove over many mountain passes, saw lots of lakes, avoided people wherever possible. I know some of you are waiting to read all about our trip… by which I mean one person (who just happens to be Jan’s sister – hi!). I promise to get round to it soon. Sorting/resizing photos is just such a pain – but here are a few for now.

It was my birthday while we were away, so that was nice. We spent the night before in a mountain lodge so we got up ridiculously early to see the sunrise then went back to bed for an hour before breakfast. The next (and final) hotel wasn’t that far away, so even with a few stops it ended up being a day without too much driving, so we made it a fairly relaxed day and spent the afternoon in the spa at the hotel. In the evening we had dinner at the hotel, and Jan convinced me that I had to have dessert since it was my birthday. So overall it was a nice day – and in all honestly it kind of feels like the entire two weeks was one long birthday celebration so I can’t really complain!

August also marked the start of birthday cross-stitch season… which leads directly into Christmas cross stitch season (I am already late starting my Christmas cards!). Basically 90% of my free time for the rest of the year will be dedicated to cross stitch!

Other than that I didn’t really do much in August. Work, obviously, once we got home. I mostly had enough to do, but some days were a bit quiet. I finished ten books, which is less than usual but not bad considering I didn’t read a single page for the first 10 days of the month (despite taking two books on holiday with me!). Richard Osman’s House of Games came back on TV (repeats, but I only discovered it relatively recently so they’re still new to me) and we watched that. I love it – it’s the most fun thing currently on TV! I started making Halloween cards to send to Post Pals children. Jan had a socially distanced choir rehearsal/meeting/thing for the whole of last weekend (Friday evening, all day Saturday, most of Sunday – he came home for dinner on Sunday) so I used the time to stock up on craft stuff and then make cards.

That’s about it. Apart from the holiday my life remains as boring as ever. At least I was healthy in August! (Mostly – during my holiday I was still on the meds the doctor gave me so the allergies or whatever it was making me stuffy/dizzy in July and it took a while for them to fully work.)

I hope you’re all doing well. What’s new in your lives? Remember to check out the link up/say hi to Kristen.

What I read in July 2020

Hello friends! It’s book day again. Hooray! I’m linking up with Steph and Jana to tell you what I read in July.

The Childfinder by Rene Denfield (Naomi Cottle #1). Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now – if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to a private investigator. Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, she’s the one families call. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own experience of being a missing child, that allows her to succeed when others have failed. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. As Naomi relentlessly pursues the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce defences that have protected her for so long. If she finds this child, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? Haunting is the best word I can come up with for this book. It’s dark in a way that creeps up on you, hidden behind beautiful writing and the power of imagination. The other case Naomi ended up working on alongside Madison’s was so sad. This is not your typical thriller or crime story, but it’s one I highly recommend. 5 stars.

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle (Time Quintet #2). Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi – those who hate – and restore balance and harmony to the rhythm of creation. The very universe itself depends on their success. I really enjoyed the first part of this book. Charles Wallace thinks he sees dragons, later Meg goes looking for said dragons and finds a Cherubim instead. After that it becomes too overtly religious for my tastes – fallen angels, hell, love concurs all and we have to learn to love everyone (including mean teachers). It’s also somewhat repetitive. There was a lot I enjoyed though – I loved the Cherubim and the snake. And Calvin is a great character. Will I continue the series? I’m not sure. 3 stars.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo. Sade and Femi’s father is a political journalist who refuses to stop criticising the military rulers in Nigeria. When their mother is killed, twelve-year-old Sade and her little brother have to flee the country, immediately, with their father promising to follow. Abandoned in London by the woman paid to bring them to England as her children, Sade and Femi find themselves alone in a new, often hostile, environment. What will happen to them and will the family ever be reunited? This book is heartbreaking. I really just wanted to make everything better for Sade and Femi. It shows all the hardships of fleeing to a new country without being too graphic. I feel like this would be a good book to teach in schools. 4 stars.

The Strangeworld’s Travel Agency by L. D. Lapinski (Stranegworld’s #1). Imagine being able to travel to different worlds just be stepping inside a suitcase? When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she discovers that it’s possible to do exactly that. There are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours! Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it. This book is wonderful! It sort of felt like a modern version of the Faraway Tree, except the different worlds are inside suitcases instead of at the top of a tree. Flick is a fantastic character, very much a child but with a good head on her shoulders. She is often forced to look after her little brother while her parents work, and everyone just assumes she’s so responsible and mature. At one point she says she isn’t a naturally grown up person – she was made to be that way – and it reminded me so much of me as a child. As the eldest, I looked after my younger brother a lot and everyone always praised how mature and sensible I was, but inside I felt just as vulnerable and lost as any child would. I can’t wait to read the second book – there are still mysteries to be solved! 5 stars.

This Lovely City by Louise Hare. London, 1950. With the war over and London still rebuilding, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for labour. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s rented a tiny room in south London and fallen in love with the girl next door. Playing in Soho’s jazz clubs by night and pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery – a baby, dead in the pond. As the local community rallies, fingers of blame point at those who were recently welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy that threatens to tear the city apart. This is a very difficult read at times. The way the Windrush immigrants (and black people in general) are treated is awful. The author makes you really care about the characters so reading about what happens to them is horrible. I felt truly ashamed of how my country treated the people they had asked to come (and I wasn’t even alive at the time)! It’s basically a love story set against the background of the post-war years with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The story with the baby really shows just how easy it is to ruin somebody’s life even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. Some people have said the plot is predictable, and maybe it is but I still think it’s an important book to read and I really liked it. 4 stars.

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson. May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through – no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving may actually be an option after all. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I expected this book to make me cry, and it did. I really felt for May, even though she wasn’t actually very nice at times. I agreed with her best friend Lucy when she said May was self-centred and refused to even consider how other people might feel – just because May was actually in the room doesn’t mean she has a monopoly on grief. The way she treats Ann is particularly awful. While grieving her brother she never even thinks that maybe Ann could feel just as bad about losing her sister? Lucy was the absolute highlight of this book actually. Such an amazing friend! And despite May’s faults her obvious PTSD and survivor’s guilt broke my heart. 4 stars.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1). A young girl named Rose is out riding her new bike when she falls through the ground into an underground chamber filled with gleaming symbols , shaped like a giant metal hand. 17 years later, Rose is a physicist in charge of a research team struggling to determine the hand’s origins. When another giant limb is discovered, she quickly devises a method for unearthing the hidden pieces, convinced there is an entire body out there waiting to be found. Where did the pieces come from and what are they for? This book is written in the form of interviews and case files, which made it a fast read but meant I didn’t fully connect with the characters, so when something happened to one of them I was kind of detached and not really upset about it. I was fascinated by the story though. Who is the interviewer? And what on Earth was that bit at the end? So unexpected! I have so many questions and I desperately need the second book to hopefully get some answers! 4 stars.

The Emperor’s Babe by Bernadine Evaristo. Meet Zuleika: the daughter of Sudanese immigrants made good sassy girl about town, hellraiser, bored ex-child-bride. Married to a fat, rich absent Roman, she is stranded in luxurious neglect, until, one day, Septimus Severus, the Emperor himself, comes to town, bringing with him not just love – but danger… This is written in verse and some pages only have a few words on so I got through it in a couple of hours. I kind of liked it but at the same time I feel like I was missing something. The modern slang and references to Armani togas or whatever were amusing at first but eventually started to grate. And the whole part with the emperor was over very quickly considering it’s in the title. I loved Venus and the whole little friendship group around Zuleika and I appreciated seeing how truly multicultural Roman London really was but I somehow just couldn’t love it. A solid three stars but definitely no more than that.

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #2). I won’t day too much about this one since it’s a sequel, but Stevie continues investigating the case of the kidnapping and murder that took place at her elite boarding school years before. I liked this one more than the first one. Even though it’s another cliffhanger it didn’t feel as abrupt as the first one. At least we actually got some answers first! I need to know what a certain person’s deal is – I have a theory but I could be very wrong! 4 stars.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (These Witches Don’t Burn #1). Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But when evidence of terrifying blood magic starts cropping up all over town and Hannah’s coven won’t believe her, she’s forced to team up with Veronica to save their coven. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was the perfect mix of supernatural powers and real life issues. I was expecting something quirky and fun, and it was, but it also got quite dramatic at times (in a good way, although there is also plenty of teen drama in there as well!). I will definitely be reading the next book. 4 stars.

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm. A collection of stories about Professor Branestawm – the most absent-minded inventor you’ll ever meet. No matter how hard he tries his brilliant ideas never seem to keep him out of crazy scrapes. I got this book as part of a Puffin 50th Anniversary set as a child. Back then I remember thinking it was vaguely entertaining, amusing in places, but kind of silly. And reading it again now I have to say I agree with child me. It was a quick read with some good stories and some less good ones. Not a bad read but I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. Some kids might enjoy it. 3 stars.

Eric by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #9). Eric is the Discworld’s only demonology hacker. The trouble is, he’s not very good at it. All he wants is the usual three wishes: to be immortal, rule the world and have the most beautiful woman fall madly in love with him. The usual stuff. But what he gets is Rincewind, and Rincewind’s Luggage into the bargain. This is Terry Pratchett’s take on the Faust legend although I’ve never read the original so I can’t comment on that. It’s not the best of Pratchett’s books – although admittedly the Rincewind stories have always been my least favourite, much as I love The Luggage. There are some funny and clever moments but overall it feels incomplete and not up to the usual standard. It’s a quick read though and not really bad as such. Just not really memorable either. 3 stars.

If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman. Martha Aguas kind of has it all–she’s an accountant who loves numbers, an accident-prone puppy that loves her, and the perfect wardrobe. Yes, she wears a dress size 24, her bras don’t fit and she’s never had a boyfriend, but so what? It becomes a big deal when her perfect cousin Regina announces her engagement to Enzo, the only boy she’s ever loved (he doesn’t know, so don’t tell him!) Suddenly Aguases from all corners of the globe are coming for the event, and the last thing Martha wants is to be asked why she still prefers her lattes with a waffle on the side. Thank god for her best friend Max. Goofy, funny, dependable Max, who finds himself playing the fake boyfriend at the family festivities. But why does it feel like only one of them is pretending? The first half of this read a bit like a teenage girl’s diary but it got better as it went along. I was so happy when Martha and Max *finally* got together! Not really a spoiler – it’s fairly obvious that’s where it’s going. 3 stars.

All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard.

Tragedy came as if so often does: a teenage party, emotions running high, followed by a horrific car crash. A girl is left dead and a boy is forced to leave his home town, with a secret that he will carry with him forever… Years later, when Summer’s mother disappears one day, she is left with her father. Obsessed with an accident from years ago, he slowly descends into mental illness. And as he becomes more disorientated, he reveals small fragments of a secret that has been hidden since his youth, a secret that changes everything. Summer supports her father as much as she can but eventually realises that she has to escape. She finds refuge with her great-aunt, Stella. Feisty, fun-loving, and dying of cancer, Stella holds parts of the family secret. Slowly, things fall into place for Summer – or at least so she thinks… was fine. There were parts I liked more than others. Summer is actually kind of annoying though. She goes through life just assuming things about everyone, making all these sacrifices that honestly to me felt like an excuse not to decide anything for herself. Also despite the synopsis claiming this was Sara Sherpard’s first foray into adult fiction it still read like YA to me. 2.5 stars.

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are on their way back to England from Manaus when the plane they’re on crashes and the pilot dies upon landing. For days the children survive alone, until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret. This is a fun middle grade adventure story. There are a few perilous moments that might scare a sensitive young reader buteach time the children work it out. I loved how the all did things that were out of their comfort zones – eating bugs, climbing trees. Max is hilarious, although I think if I’d been stick in the jungle with him I might have been tempted to drown him at some point! The writing is amazing – such vivid descriptions of scenery that made me feel like I was actually there. Even though it’s over 400 pages (admittedly with illustrations) I read it in one sitting. 4.5 stars.

That’s all for today. Check out the link up for more book reviews and please forgive any weird formatting – I had to finish writing this post on my phone since I only managed half of it before leaving for my holiday!

July 2020 recap

Hello friends. It’s link up day with the lovely Kristen, so let me tell you about last month.

My July started with a trip to the eye clinic. I had noticed my left eye itching more than usual the week before, but didn’t really think anything of it. Then on the Monday I had a headache after work. When I logged on to the system on Tuesday, everything was slightly blurry (although interestingly reading books and looking at my phone was fine). Luckily I was able to get an appointment at the eye clinic the next day. After a thorough vision test, the doctor decided she wanted to test for latent far-sightedness and told me I would be given strong eye drops first. People, she was not kidding about them being strong! It took until Friday evening for my pupils to be mostly back to normal (bearing in my mind I got the drops on Friday afternoon). It was Cyclogyl, if you’re wondering. Anyway… after looking at my eyes through the machine thingy, I was told to make an appointment with the optics department upstairs to see about getting glasses for reading and/or computer work. They actually had one appointment left that afternoon, so since I already wasn’t going back to work (considering after the drops everything was blurry and it was impossible to read), I took the appointment. First I had a looong appointment with some kind of assistant, who took a thorough history and then had me do various things while she held different lenses in front of my eyes, then I went to see a second doctor. Her verdict was that I do have latent far-sightedness, which my eyes generally accommodate for, and the blurriness was caused by eye strain/dry eyes. I got a couple of sample packs of artificial tears (which I later bought more of) and was told to come back in 2 weeks. If things didn’t get better with the drops I would need glasses now, otherwise she would expect me to need them in a few years, once I reach 40. After using the artificial tears for two weeks I didn’t notice much difference so I now have glasses for working on the computer. Yay!

The day after I dropped off my glasses prescription I woke up with pressure behind my nose and a vague “coldy” feeling. It gradually got worse through the week until I had pressure my ears as well. When I woke up feeling dizzy on the Sunday night then felt dizzy again when I went online the next morning I contacted my doctor. I ended up going there twice that week because I felt dizzy/had headaches every time I tried to sleep, then I got a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist and was luckily able to get in on the Friday. He was pretty sure it was all the result of allergies (no sign of infection, my nose looks a little dry but otherwise healthy and not inflamed) so he proposed treating the symptoms first to give me some relief then doing allergy testing at a later date. The decongestant he gave me worked well enough that I was actually able to sleep for a stretch of more than an hour for the first time in 3 days which was nice, although it makes everything constantly taste of eucalyptus. So that’s where we are now. I’m taking the decongestant and a nose spray and while I still don’t feel 100% fit I’m much better and definitely well enough for a holiday. (For the record I’m not coughing, no fever, my symptoms are sinus related plus itchy eyes and when we’re not in the car we will be keeping our distance and using masks.)

People, I am almost *never* ill (didn’t have a single day off work for illness last year) so I am not loving the irony of having to visit multiple doctors (and not forgetting needing a filling back in May) during a flipping pandemic of all times! I’m not sure who I offended but I’m very sorry and I would appreciate it if you could lift whatever curse you’ve put on me now…

On the weekend after my first eye doctor appointment I decided to try and rest my eyes (so no reading and little phone time) and we drove out to Creux-de-Van, a giant circular rock formation in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. I saw a description of it as “the grand canyon of Switzerland” and while I wouldn’t go that far it’s pretty impressive.

The 26th July was my mum’s birthday and since they are moving soon I had flowers delivered to her rather than sending something she would need to pack.

And that was basically my July. I did manage to read quite a few books but other than that and our one day trip it was pretty much terrible – thanks unconfirmed allergies (or whatever you are). Oh, I hung some bunting on our balcony that I bought from Etsy ages ago. We still don’t have balcony furniture, but at least it’s a bit more colourful out there now.

Currently I am on holiday – this post was scheduled so hopefully will have actually posted – which means August cannot help but be a better month! (Right? Please let August be a better month!)

I hope you are all doing well and staying happy and healthy. Don’t forget to check out the link up!

May 2020 recap

whats new with you

So another month is over. I can’t say another month of (semi-)lockdown because at this point we’re barely even in lockdown any more. The government still keeps asking us to stay home and for those who can work from home to continue doing so but kindergartens and primary schools, all shops, restaurants, museums and galleries (but not zoos or botanical gardens) opened again on 11 May. The shops have to limit the numbers of people allowed in at one time and restaurants are only allowed four people to a table (exception: parents with 3+ children) so it’s not entirely back to normal but not really any sort of lockdown either. Masks are “recommended” if you can’t keep 2 metres apart but are only mandatory at hairdressers, massage parlours, physiotherapists, etc. Not on public transport. For me, not much has changed though. I don’t feel the need to go in any shops even if the government says it’s okay. So I am continuing to only enter supermarkets and pharmacies – I don’t need new clothes or electronics! And I can’t go into the office (yet) since the border hasn’t reopened. A few of my colleagues have been going in occasionally though, only ever a few at a time so there’s never more than one person working in a room.

One place I did go was the dentist  – for an appointment that was originally supposed to be in March! I had to get a filling and also have my teeth cleaned. It was my first visit to the dentist since moving to Switzerland and the dental assistant (hygienist? technician? What are the ones who clean your teeth called?) wasn’t satisfied so she made me come back 2 weeks later for her to finish the cleaning. Yes, it’s shameful. Consider this me outing myself publicly. The filling wasn’t my fault though – I have two teeth that overlap and even the dentist said it’s really difficult to properly get in there and make sure the surfaces are properly clean.

I finally managed to buy yeast – after trying for 3 weeks! I originally wanted to make hot cross buns for Easter, but figured that ship had sailed, so we made Zopf – a kind of Swiss bread that’s plaited/braided.

We also made Capuns, which are a speciality of Graubünden and involve wrapping a dough/meat mixture in chard leaves then cooking them in a creamy/cheesy sauce. The first time we only had spinach, which worked out well but was so fiddly and took forever. We then tried again actually using chard and it was much easier (but still took a while). The end result was worth the wait though! Two Swiss things… am I integrated now? 😉

Speaking of being integrated, I received my new residence permit – slightly belatedly. I am officially allowed to stay for another 5 years, no matter what happens with Brexit. Hurrah! (I still don’t know whether I’ll be allowed to continue working in Germany after the transition period, but details…).

Apart from that we are continuing to go for walks. We decided to walk into town once (the Saturday before the shops/restaurants were allowed to reopen) to see what it was like and decided we won’t be doing that again any time soon. There were so many people walking by the Rhine without even considering social distancing! Plus joggers, cyclists. Nope… I’ll stick with my walks here in the “countryside”. We also got a car a couple of times and went for a drive, once to a village that’s famous for its stork colony (we saw baby storks!) And once to where some friends (a couple) are staying with his family. We met up and went for a walk in the woods, staying 2 metres apart at all times. This has been allowed in Switzerland from the beginning by the way – the rule was you could meet up outside in a group of up to 5 people, but at the same time they asked us to please stay home whenever possible. We hadn’t met up with anyone until now but with the relaxing of regulations and new cases in Switzerland having stayed consistently under 100 per day for a while now (actually mostly under 40) we decided it would be okay, especially since we know they’ve been isolating and we stayed further away from them than a lot of people bother to do in supermarkets!

We also had an electrician come by last week to look at a light in our corridor that hasn’t worked since the renovation last year. Something had changed and we couldn’t figure out how to make both lights work again. We all wore masks and we even provided hand disinfectant for him to use. And now we have two working lights in the corridor again and the useless dimmer switch that somebody installed in probably the 90s has gone so we can actually use both switches! Also, we supported a local tradesman so yay.

I attempted to dye my hair, but as I mentioned in my latest Style Imitating Art post, it didn’t work out as planned.

On Saturday we walked to the zero-waste/refill supermarket close to the train station and bought some bits  – mainly washing powder, shower gel, shampoo, washing up liquid. Not much food since we still have loads of rice and couscous from a previous trip. We took the tram back since the bags were heavy and the first one was totally full. It’s like lockdown/social distancing never happened! The tram we changed onto was fairly empty, but that’s normal. Not as many people come out to where we live.

I took part in the second Believathon and had lots of fun following the map and reading children’s books for two weeks. I finally read The Neverending Story! You’ll have to wait for Show Us Your Books day to find out my thoughts.

Believathon-tbr

That’s all I’ve got for you. We’re continuing to stay home as much as possible so there isn’t really anything exciting to report. But we’re plodding along and managing not to get on each other’s nerves so far 😉 I hope you’re all doing well and staying happy and healthy!

Don’t forget to go on over the Kristen‘s blog to say hi and check out the link up.

p.s. I’m aware I haven’t addressed everything that’s going on in the world, and particularly the US. I am horrified by the images I see on TV. I have shared things on Twitter and signed various petitions, but beyond that I don’t know what to say. While not racist, I am far from perfect, and I know I have a lot of learning/reading to do. I am also very aware of my own privilege – especially as someone living abroad who has always been accepted without question because I am white and British. Even to the extent of being asked why I wanted to live in a certain part of town in Germany when “that’s where all the foreigners live”. Please don’t think I’m ignorant for continuing to post as normal.

April 2020 recap

Well, I’ve made it through the first full month of semi-lockdown. Hurrah! Switzerland actually started lifting a very few restrictions towards the end of the month  – as of 27th April hairdressers, garden centres, DIY stores, medical massage practices, physiotherapists and dentists have been allowed to open again (I went to a dentist appointment yesterday that was originally supposed to be in March!). Of course, all of those things could only open with strict measures in place  – limited numbers of people allowed in, markings on the floor to show people where to stand while queuing, hairdressers and their customers must wear masks  – but we are slowly creeping towards a new kind of “normalcy”.

Anyway, I’m here to recap what I did in April so I shall get on with that. Linking up with Kristen, of course.

whats new with you

We went for a lot of walks, in every possible direction from our building. Once we walked along the stream until we were two towns over and saw maybe 8 other people, another day we went into the woods and it seemed like all of our town and half the city of Basel were there jogging, cycling and in some cases picnicking  (despite signs telling them not to). We won’t take that route again!

Apart from our weekly walk, the only other time I left the house was once a week to go to the supermarket. One socially-distanced walk a week plus one supermarket trip a week seems like a reasonable compromise between staying home and not getting completely sick of being indoors!

Jan has been sleeping late, starting work between 10 a.m. and noon, and obviously then working late. I’ve been starting work as normal (between 7:30 and 8 a.m.) but occasionally had to finish early because I had nothing to do. On days that I do have work I try to stay logged in for longer to make up for the shorter days, with the result that I ended April with only 4 hours of overtime fewer than I hard at the start. That means I still have plenty I can take if things don’t pick up.

Jan usually takes a break in the evening so we can eat together, then we watch Richard Osman’s House of Games. BBC 2 is currently showing repeats but I discovered the show late so I don’t mind that they’re old ones. It’s such a fun distraction from everything that’s going on! Apart from that I don’t watch a lot of TV but Jan always has it on when he isn’t working so he made me watch two Indiana Jones films. I had never seen them before and could have happily lived my life without ever seeing them. Terrible films! We also watched Wonder, which was actually good  – but not as good as the book, obviously.

Speaking of books, I read a mere eleven in April (I thought it was 10 but it turns out I missed one). Nowhere near as much as usual! I can’t say they were 11 particularly long books either. A couple were 400ish pages but some were really short. Mostly I got distracted by a colouring book my friend Naomi sent me and took way too long to remember that audiobooks are a thing. Plus Jan being here on weekends instead of at 12 million choir practices and events leaves me with less reading time (but more time with him so overall a win). I will tell you which books I read on Show Us Your Books day.

We wanted to support local businesses and we had been planning to look for frames for some art for months so Jan ordered some from a place in Basel then framed and hung the pictures. Seeing them on the walls makes me so happy! I ordered a book from the only independent book shop I’m aware of I’m Basel even though I could have got the same book for cheaper including delivery costs if I’d ordered it from the UK! So that’s my contribution to the local economy.

Sometime towards the end of the month I decided to swap my usual black tea for green tea. It’s really not the same but I’m sticking with it for now. Green tea is supposed to be a little healthier – although I’m not sure it can make up for all the chocolate I’ve been eating in lockdown! Speaking of which… I made cheesecake. It was supposed to be this but I couldn’t get the right caramel and ended up using the sauce you get for ice cream which obviously did not work! I think I know where I can get something better but it’s in town and I’ve been avoiding going into Basel while we’re in this isolation/lockdown situation. We have 5 supermarkets in our town (slightly weirdly given its size) so there’s no excuse to go further away!

cheesecake

I spoke to my dad a couple of times and we skyped with my mum and brother. Luckily all my family are healthy so far. My sister and brother are able to work from home and my little brother is doing his assigned school work. Shout out to my mum and her colleagues who are out there on the front line every day! (My mum’s ward is not a covid-19 ward but they still get patients who have it, and they are also a trauma ward now so are very busy and stressed while also dealing with staff shortages.)

That’s about all. Easter obviously happened in April but we didn’t do anything special. I wanted to try making hot cross buns but I couldn’t find yeast anywhere!

Oh, I forgot to mention in March that I made a card for my friend’s new baby. I posted it on 1st April – along with a gift, obviously – so I’m going to cheat and slot it in here because I want to show off ;-). It arrived after a mere two weeks (after something I sent to my friend’s sons in March took nearly a month) so it seems the postal service is somewhat getting back on its feet.

baby card

How was your April? I hope you are staying healthy and happy in these trying times! Check out the link up to see how everyone else has been spending their time at home.

A couple’s day in lockdown, April 2020

I saw a few people doing “my day in quarantine” on their Instagram stories and I thought it would be fun to do something like that here, but a couple’s version. Also, I don’t call mine “quarantine” because people in quarantine don’t get to leave the house. My uncle was in quarantine for potential exposure because he had been in Tirol and he had to stay in his flat for 14 days and his daughter wasn’t allowed to come home from her mum’s for that entire time. If you can do your own shopping and see family members you’re not in quarantine! Anyway… rant about semantics over. This was Easter Saturday – I’ve just been too lazy to sort out the photos until now.

10 a.m.

Jan: Sleeping. (I took a photo of our bed the night before specifically for this purpose!)

Me: Making a cuppa, because that’s how I always start my day.

11 a.m.

Jan: Still sleeping.

Me: Getting some reading in before Jan emerges and the TV goes on.

12 noon.

Jan: In bed. Where else?

Me: Thought it was about time I actually ate something!

1 p.m.

Jan: No change 😂

Me: Time for a shower.

2 p.m.

Jan: Apparently got up while I was in the shower. No watching TV and eating breakfast.

Me: Reading is out, so now I’m colouring.

3 p.m.

Jan: Watching the news while playing a game on his phone.

Me: Watching the news and continuing to colour.

4 p.m.

Jan: Even when all live sport is cancelled, my boyfriend manages to find football!

Me: Finished my picture.

(Immediately after I took those photos Jan went for a shower and I hoovered the flat, but at photo time the above is what we were doing)

5 p.m.

Both: Our for a walk. Hello ducks!

6 p.m.

Both: Still walking. Said hi to some goats.

At 7 p.m. we were still out, walking towards home, but I forgot to take photos. It wouldn’t have been very interesting anyway since we came back along a busier road.

8 p.m.

Jan: Ordering food for us (and then he went and emptied the dishwasher).

Me: Getting started on my blog post for April’s Show Us Your Books.

9 p.m.

Both: Food came – and we also ordered some Italian soft drink things (that is actually not Coke!)

10 p.m.

Both: Watching Indiana Jones, apparently?! I had never seen it before. It was terrible! (He made me watch the next film the following night. It was even more terrible!)

I stopped taking photos after that. I took my book to bed and read until it was finished. Jan stayed up watching TV until I don’t know when.

And that is a snapshot of how each of us coped on one specific day in lockdown (or semi-lockdown really, since we’re still allowed out to buy food and go for long walks).

I also have an “official” photo an hour post still to come. That one will just be what I was doing. This couple’s was just something I thought would be fun.

I hope everyone is doing okay out there. Keep staying home. It will be worth it in the end!

It’s all the same to me (but also not)

As everyone else laments everything that’s changed for them recently, it occurs to me that my life is mostly continuing as before.

I’ve been working from home for almost five years now. My two trips to the office in Germany are on hold for the time being, but basically my situation is the same as always… at least for as long as there is work for me to do. So far I’ve had just about enough to keep working me normal hours, so keep your fingers crossed that continues to be the case!

Jan working from home as well is, of course, unusual. He has occasionally in the past but never for multiple days in a row. But since he’s set up in the spare room and seems to have multiple conference calls with California  (which means they take place pretty late in our time zone) I think I’m actually seeing less of him than before. At least when he goes to the office once he’s home for the evening he’s generally done. Now more often than not he’ll emerge briefly to eat whatever I’ve cooked then disappear back to the spare room until long after I’ve gone to bed.

I only ever managed to make two friends here… or possibly more acquaintances. They are the other half of our quiz team. But even before the pandemic we hadn’t yet managed to find a date this year when all of us had time for the pub quiz. The only other people I know here are from Jan’s choir, and while I occasionally get to join them to socialise (and even hosted one of them who needed a place to stay when Jan wasn’t even in the country) they’re really his friends. This was never more clear than when I decided to join them for a virtual beer last week only for it to end up as the three of them speaking Swiss German while I contributed nothing because I was too busy concentrating on trying to understand what they were actually saying! The rest of my friends and all my family are in other countries so not socialising regularly is nothing new for me.

Most of my hobbies are solitary, indoor activities. I read, I cross stitch, I make cards, I read blogs. My friend recently sent me a colouring book so I’ve been working on that. All of those are things I can still do.

bookcases
I won’t run out of books any time soon…

Day to day, my life is the same as it always was, except that I no longer go for walks on my lunch break, but only venture out to the supermarket once a week (whichever day we run out milk) and stock up on all the foods we’ve used since my last shop, hoping each time that what I buy will ensure I don’t have to set foot in the supermarket again until the following week.

The things that have really changed for me are more long term. I may not socialise regularly, but my friend K – who lives in Berlin – and I had been making plans to meet up in the summer. Who knows whether that will be able to happen now. I also had tentative plans with another friend and her boyfriend  – we went to the Christmas market in Baden-Baden last year and thought it would be nice to meet there again when the weather was nice for a look around the town. Now the weather is stunning but the border to Germany is closed and we’re all supposed to be staying at home anyway.

Speaking of nice weather, now is the time of year that we would be starting to go on day or weekend trips whenever Jan wasn’t busy with choir practices. And on the weekends that he wasn’t around, I would take long walks by myself or explore local places. That’s all out the window now  – we can still go for walks, we’re not in total lockdown yet, but we’re supposed to only take short walks close to where we live and avoid popular places where other people might want to go, so it will be a long time before I even get to see the Rhine in Basel again never mind anything further afield!

basel-rhine
One day I will get to see this view again…

Finally, my mum had been planning to visit us in June. Will some of the restrictions in Switzerland have been lifted by June? Maybe. It’s possible that at least some businesses may be able to open again by then (like dentists). Will the UK be back to normal by then? I doubt it. Will there be flights? Also doubtful. When will I get a see any member of my family again? Who knows.

But while I am sad that I am not going to be able to take any trips or see friends and family who live in other places, I feel like I am actually comparatively lucky. I have a job that I can still do even while self-isolating and a life that was already mostly spent indoors, alone (sometimes with my boyfriend). For other people, staying home is a much greater adjustment. Take Jan for instance: no going into the office every day and seeing colleagues, no practice every Monday with one choir or on several weekends and evenings a month for another, no regular meetings for another project he’s involved in, no going for beers with his friends. And his one choir’s trip to Sweden in May is also cancelled. How long do we think it will be before he’s entirely sick of only having me for company?  😉

I feel for all those of you who have had to cancel plans and are missing spending time with your friends, family and even co-workers. I hope this is all over soon and you get to be with them all again. And as for me… well, I’ll be just fine. I’ve been training for this situation for years. Who knew being anti-social and terrible at making friends would one day turn out to be a super power? 😂

How much has your day-to-day life changed since everybody started to stay home?

March 2020 recap

Hello friends! It’s time for my monthly recap. I’m linking up with Kristen for “What’s new with you?” – although I expect my answer is the same as most of yours, namely some form of lockdown. Nonetheless let me start at the beginning of the month, when life was still relatively normal.

whats new with you

1st March was Jan’s 40th birthday. He’s didn’t want a proper celebration but there were gifts and I made malted chocolate cake. We walked into town and had a coffee then in the evening we ate at one of the few restaurants in Basel that’s actually open on a Sunday. At that point Basel carnival, which was to have started at 4 am the next morning had been cancelled a few days earlier (along with other events with over 1,000 participants) but there was no indication yet of how much worse things were going to get. We briefly spoke to the staff about the situation and they were mainly worried about what they were going to do with the extra food and beer they had bought.

cake

The Friday after that I went into the office in Germany, then on Wednesday 11th June we were supposed to take a night train to Vienna and then continue on to Poland. After having mild cold symptoms starting on the Monday I woke up that day feeling much worse and called in sick to work. That day Poland also announced the closure of all museums, galleries, libraries, etc. Right up until I was supposed to leave for Zurich I was debating whether to risk travelling, but when I read that Poland were conducting health checks at the borders I decided not to  – also because I really didn’t feel up to spending 10 hours on a night train just to have to turn back. My temperature was higher than normal (when you’re infertile you get to know your normal temperature very well!) but never higher than 37.3ºC (a fever would be 38ºC). The next day I read that the Czech Republic  – which our train would have passed through  – had closed its borders for non-Czechs. Jan cancelled his holiday and worked from home on the Thursday then went into the office on Friday while I went to the doctors on the Thursday (who agreed I had nothing more than a cold) and got a doctor’s note for two days, which meant I got those 2 days of holiday back. I kept my holiday for the following week though since part of it was days I needed to use by the end of March anyway.

My family decided to still fly to Poland on the Friday since their flight wasn’t cancelled. An hour after they arrived the Polish government announced that bars and restaurants would close and there were also plans to close tge borders. Any foreigners still in the country at midnight on Sunday would have to go into quarantine. So on the Saturday MY family headed to the airport and were initially put on standby for the lsst flight out that day. Ryanair then announced two rescue flights so they were taken off the standby list to be placed on a rescue flight only for the employee to realise the flight was already full and put them on standby again. For a rescue flight where anyone who had managed to get a place was in the actual airport. So how exactly could there be standby places? Anyway, they also booked a place on a bus to Berlin for the next morning only Flixbus to also cancel all bus services to and from Poland. After hanging out at the airport all day they were finally told all flights had gonr and they should leave the airport. Luckily they were able to go back to the apartment they had booked! They had also managed to find a taxi driver who was willing to take them to Berlin and booked new flights from there. The next day there was briefly talk of them being dropped at the border between Poland and Frankfurt an der Oder then walking into Germany and taking a train to Berlin but the taxi driver then decided he would drive them all the way  (good people are out there! I hope he’s got back into Poland without issues!). After a night in a hotel in Berlin, my family caught their flight to Düsseldorf and transfer to Newcastle without issues. In the meantime Germany had closed its borders with Austria and Switzerland but flights to the UK were unaffected at that stage.

Meanwhile,  here in Switzerland, my canton  (Basel-Landschaft) became the first to announce that all bars and restaurants and all shops except pharmacies and supermarkets had to close. The national government then announced on the Monday that the rest of Switzerland had follow suit. I was supposed to have a dentist’s appointment in March but it was postponed until May! Emergency treatment only (no pain = no emergency) and that dentist isn’t actually able to open at all – only designated emergency dentists can see patients for urgent cases.

I spent my week off work mainly making Easter cards for PostPals  – with no idea how long the postal service would continue functioning or what delays there may end up being I wanted them all out as soon as possible. I also managed a bit of reading  (but less than I would have liked). And I copied all the necessary documents and sent off the form to renew my residence permit. Who knows when it will actually be processed now though! Jan’s work announced that anyone who could work from home should, so on the Monday he got a car and went to Zurich to fetch all the equipment he would need and then set up the spare room and has been working from there ever since. For most of that week the furthest I went was the post box (probably 3 minutes away) and a single trip to the supermarket (approx. 5-7 minutes walk), but on I think the Wednesday I had to take a tram to near the train station to pick up a prescription – I have a repeat prescription at the chemist next to my doctor’s surgery (the ones for IVF stuff are near the fertility clinic but I obviously won’t be needing any of that for a while!). The tram was basically empty but there were about 10 people at the pharmacy (queuing out the door since they had to keep their distance and there was a system in one place where you entered through one door and left through the other).

Weirdly, during that week it was the one year anniversary of my due date. So if things hadn’t gone wrong I would have had two 1-year-olds now and been returning from maternity leave in the middle of this pandemic. Not sure how I feel about that. It’s weird. However, I will say that I am sick of people either making “hilarious” jokes about a baby boom in nine months or complaining about being at home with their children – and I get that it’s hard being stuck inside and struggling to entertain them while the whole world seems to be collapsing, but those aren’t the complaints I mean. If you’ve seen them you’ll know.

Anyway… I went back to work on the 23rd and discovered that by then all my colleagues were working from home. Luckily that’s always an option so everyone already had everything set up. I also found out the company would be applying for “short term working” at some point and on the Friday my boss spoke to everyone via a Skype call and explained that they would be applying from 1st April and exactly how it would work, although I later learned they can’t apply for me. Luckily I’ve had plenty of work so far – currently I have enough to last until the end of Monday and I also have 24 hours of overtime I can use. That week (which was last week) I went out twice – to the supermarket on Thursday where I bought enough for a week and Jan and I went for a walk on the Saturday. As soon as we reached the field we wanted to walk around I felt guilty for adding to the masses  – I’ve never seen so many people there!

And that pretty much brings us to the end of March. The one other thing I have to mention is that I called the fertility clinic on Friday only to be met with an answering machine message stating they are closed and all current and future treatment is cancelled until further notice. I was expecting it but it’s still a bit of a blow. Who knows when we will be able to try another transfer now? I don’t expect it to happen before the summer anyway.

Let’s end this with something good… on the last day of the month I received mail that I didn’t remember ordering. It turned out to be a colouring book from my good friend Naomi with the message to make it pretty while stuck indoors. I know her in real life (from school!) but she has a blog, which you can read here.

And so endeth the first of my lockdown diaries.

How have you been keeping yourself occupied at home? Or are you one of those that still has to go out for work? (In  which case THANK YOU for ensuring that society keeps running, and if you work in care of the health service for looking after those in need. I for one appreciate your efforts).

One more thing – don’t forget check out the link up!

Reasons to be grateful

These are trying times (especially given that, today, I called my fertility clinic to find that – as expected – they’re closed and all treatments are cancelled until the government lifts its restrictions, so who knows when I will be able to even try another embryo transfer), but I still have a lot to be thankful, so I thought I would make a list. This post is about things I am grateful to have in my personal life, so it won’t mention the “key workers” who are keeping society running – and I hope it goes without saying that I am grateful to the medical professionals/care workers who risk their lives every single day to help people in need (a shout out to my mum who is a nurse here – hi mam!). This post was inspired by Kezzie, who always manages to find reasons to be grateful even in the darkest times <3.

Bee

1. I am not in isolation alone. As much as I am fine with being alone – most of my hobbies are solitary – not seeing anybody at all for weeks on end would be too much even for me! I still don’t see a great deal of Jan – it seems like without a commute he works even longer hours – but at least I know he is here, albeit locked in the spare room on his computer most of the time 😉

2. I love my flat. There are definitely people out there who don’t like where they’re living and I can’t imagine being stuck there for the foreseeable future would be much fun!

3. We have a balcony! Obviously I would prefer a nice big garden, but our old flat in Germany didn’t even have a balcony! Even if I can’t properly go out I can at least get some fresh air.

4. My employer is being very transparent about what measures our company will be taking and there’s a plan in place to make sure nobody has to stop work entirely and we can hold out on full pay for as long as possible. We will be applying for “short-time work” from April but the hope is that our customers will rally sooner rather than later and things won’t end up being as bad as they seem. Also grateful that – as of right now – I have enough work to last me until the end of next week before I even need to start using my overtime. (And this is all I’m going to say about work because I don’t really like to talk about it here).

5. Spring is here! The days are lighter and warmer and even though I can’t see any flowers from my flat I know they’re out there. (And I can see the trees that are budding and growing new leaves – hard times are so much easier when it’s light outside and everything looks alive.)

6. Books. I am always grateful for books, but I’m even more grateful now that I enjoy reading and have plenty of unread books that have been waiting on the shelves for far too long.

7. Solitary hobbies. Cross stitch and card-making are things I can do without even leaving the house, so really I haven’t even lost anything. (Other than the ability to go for hikes before it gets too hot. And, of course, we had to cancel our holiday but this is supposed to be a positive post so enough about that.)

8. That we went to the UK for Christmas. If we hadn’t, I have no idea when I would have got to see any of my family again. Before Christmas, the last time I had seen my dad and grandma was very briefly in February 2019!

9. That we have so much technology for keeping in touch these days. My dad called me via WhatsApp the other day, the boss addressed us all via Skype today, my mum is in constant touch via WhatsApp, and people have even messaged me on Facebook… and of course I’m constantly in contact with blogging friends via Instagram, Twitter and – naturally – their actual blogs. I may not be able to physically see anybody, but honestly I’m probably in touch more now than I would be if I actually lived in the same country as my friends and family!

10. We have plenty of food and our local supermarkets (mostly) do too. When I’ve noticed something missing it has usually been available again the next time I went in – so last Friday I couldn’t get tinned tomatoes but yesterday I managed. (The only loo roll available yesterday was the scented kind but luckily we currently have plenty ;-)).

Okay, that’s it. ten seems like a good number. I hope you all have a good weekend despite everything!

Tell me something you’re grateful for in the comments.