December 2019 recap

Hello friends. It is the first Thursday of the month, of the year… of the decade. Wow! I have some 2020 goals to tell you about, but before I do that I want to draw a line under last year – starting with telling you what I did in December.

I’m linking up with the wonderful Kristen, of course.

whats new with you

Days out and socialising

We don’t do much travelling in December, so I’m lumping a few things in together. On the 7th we went to Baden-Baden to meet up with my friend and her boyfriend and to go to the Christmas market. None of us had been to the Christmas market there before and it turns out it’s a nice one. And it’s always nice to catch up with friends. The same friends then came to us to celebrate New Year. They arrived in the afternoon of the 31st and we played board games together before indulging in some delicious raclette. We then went into town to watch the fireworks, which start at 12:30 a.m. here, so technically that part belongs in January’s recap.

Baden-Baden Weihnachtsmarkt

In between those things, I met up with a pen pal from New Zealand who happened to be in Basel for one day only. I showed her, her husband and their sons around Basel a bit, which of course also included a visit to the Christmas market. It was nice to put a face/voice to the person behind the letter.

Basel Christmas market

On 20th December, my last day of work for the year, I finished slightly early I went to Zurich to meet Jan after work. I wanted to see the lights on the Landesmuseum (which Lyndsay had posted a photo of on Instagram). We decided we didn’t want to join the very long queue though, so instead we walked down the Christmas market in front of the opera. By the time we got there it was raining heavily, but I found myself some food and we huddled under a crowded shelter while I ate it. Jan wasn’t hungry and neither of us felt like drinking Gl├╝hwein in a downpour so we gave up and took a tram back to the train station. So much for celebrating no more work – I might as well have stayed home and cleaned!

The next day was a friend’s birthday (Jan’s friend really, from one of his choirs). She celebrated at Klara, which is a cool place with a bar and various different food stands. That day was photo an hour, but I haven’t written my post for that yet so stay tuned for that one!

Apart from that (and going to England), the only travelling I did was on the days I had to go into the office, which doesn’t really count. One of those occasions was for my work Christmas meal though, so that was nice at least. I stayed the night in a hotel and worked in the office the next day.

England and Christmas

After all the crap that went on this year, I decided I wanted to spend Christmas in England for once… especially since this could be the last time Jan can actually travel there easily! Since we had the birthday party on the 21st, we flew on the 22nd. As always, there were a lot of people to meet. On the 23rd, we went to Morpeth in the morning, where we met up with my mum for breakfast. I also saw the Tree of Light. For a small fee (the money goes to charity) you can write a message to hang on the tree. My grandma hung three messages on it – one for my grandpa, one for my step-mum, and one for our boys.

Morpeth Tree of Light

We then decided to drive around for a bit before it was time to meet my friend and her sons to exchange gifts. We had a walk along Blyth beach before driving up to Tynemouth for a brief glimpse of the priory. Then it was time to meet my friend and exchange Christmas gifts. Her eldest son is my godson so I needed to remind him what I look like ­čśë It had been nearly two and a half years since I last saw them. In the evening we headed to Newcastle to meet up with another friend and his girlfriend. I can’t even remember the last time I saw him, but I know I had never met his girlfriend and they’ve been together two years! Crazy how time goes by. We met for food at a place called Nudo, which was delicious. I had the most amazing fried dumplings.

Tynemouth castle and priory
Tynemouth Castle and Priory

 

Christmas Eve was actually a relatively free day. We got to sleep in for a bit, then we had to pick up a package from Jan’s sister that had arrived the day before. We then joined my dad for a brief drink – he was meeting up with my former brother-in-law, who I hadn’t seen for about 10 years, give or take, came home for dinner and just chilled in the evening. I think maybe we watched some documentary.

Christmas day started with presents, of course. My dad gave me a book I had asked for, Jan got my board games and my friend gave me some beautiful Christmas tree decorations with the boys’ names carved on them. They will definitely be going on our tree the next time we have one! Christmas dinner was the usual feast – turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, both mashed and roast potatoes, bread pudding and various vegetables. Afterwards my dad, his partner and my brother went to visit her family while we drove to my mum’s to spend some time with her and my brother. More gifts were exchanged, of course. One of mine was Lush bath bombs, so now half the clothes that were in the suitcase smell like Lush! The evening was spent back at my dad’s playing Cards Against Humanity.

Boxing Day, or Saint Stephen’s Day if you prefer, was more of the same… presents and way too much food. We went over to my grandma’s in the morning for gift-giving followed by lunch. We were joined there by my sister and brother-in-law as well as a friend of my grandma’s.

Boxing day lunch
“Light lunch” grandma style – there was also soup and a giant chocolate and pear trifle

Later we met my mum and brother in the pub before walking up to their place for more drinks and some snacks. It was a lovely chilled afternoon/evening. My dad picked us up, along with my sister and brother-in-law (and their dog) at around 10 p.m. as we were all staying at his place that night. I gave my brother-in-law an Only Connect (TV quiz show) book for Christmas and we had a go at some of the puzzles before heading to bed. We actually did reasonably well!

On the 27th, we had arranged to meet with yet another friend and her husband. We went for lunch at a pub called The Snowy Owl… you can see Christmas consisted mainly of eating! They got married last year (we went to the wedding), bought a house this year and she is also pregnant so obviously they’ve had an exciting time and had a lot to talk about. The pub was having an issue with the gas so the food took a long time to arrive, but once it did it was pretty good. Back at my dad’s, I went through some of my boxes of books that were still there (I was looking for a locked-room mystery for Erin’s challenge and ended up also taking a few more), then we packed the suitcases and walked up to a local pub with my uncle, sister, brother-in-law and the dog. My brother joined us there as well as some friends of the family. It was another nice evening catching up with people. My dad came later and, since he can’t really drink at the moment, acted as designated driver for various people. Once we got home, we basically went straight to bed since we needed to be at the airport by 10 a.m. the next day. And that was Christmas. Not too much rushing around, but still lots of catching with family and friends and no time to dwell on the fact that this should have been our twins’ first Christmas.

Craft stuff/cross stitch

Obviously all my December crafting involved Christmas. I cross stitched many designs and then made them up into cards. Here are a couple of my favourites:

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

Obviously the majority of December was festivities, but there are a couple of other things to mention as well.

– At the beginning of the month, I had an appointment for another hysteroscopy. Unfortunately the doctor ended up not being able to carry it out – apparently my cervix was in a weird position, then once she figured that out there was too much resistance and she didn’t want to force it and end up doing more harm than good. So after 4 or 5 attempts she gave up and I have to try again this cycle. That means at least another month until we can do another embryo transfer, but hopefully once the hysteroscopy and associated cyst removal is done our chances of the transfer actually working will be increased.

– My dad was declared cancer free the week before Christmas, and his hip pain is also slowly improving. Hopefully that marks the beginning of the end of my family’s run of bad luck! That will most likely be the last time I mention what’s happening with my family on here, since as I said last month I find it unfair to write about other people on my blog.

That’s it, I think. I will post a round-up of what I read this month on Show Us Your Books day, but I can tell you now that it isn’t as many books as usual – partly because I was busy, but also because I was mostly reading It and that book is long!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, surrounded by the people you love the most, and have entered the new decade refreshed and ready to face whatever life has to throw at you (preferably more good things than bad, and only minor bad things!). Don’t forget to check out the link up, say hi to Kristen and see what’s new with everyone else.

Friday letters on Remembrance Day

It’s Friday at the end of what has been a bit of a weird week for me. On Monday I had a doctor’s appointment, one that had been arranged for a while and was nothing special. Tuesday I called a doctor because my left knee had swelled up again after being almost normal for weeks. They had no appointments and suggested I call their emergency clinic, which I did and was told to come by in the early afternoon. I duly did so, waited around for 20 minutes, was shown to a bed and had blood taken to check for signs of inflammation and thrombosis then waited around for even longer to see the doctor before waiting around some more for the results of my blood tests to come back. Luckily I had a book with me! Bloods were all fine and I was referred to an orthopaedist. On Wednesday I called my GP for a referral, which they promised to send me, then contacted the orthopaedist they recommended. They managed to fit me in yesterday afternoon. The doctor says nothing is broken and he would expect an injury like that to take at least six weeks to heal. So I have some gel and instructions to be patient. So hopefully that’s the end of the knee saga! And now for some letters.

mailbox

Dear rain. Okay, you’ve made your point… you can go away now! (And take your friend sleet with you.)

Dear Christmas market. I saw some of your stands already up and waiting when I passed on the tram the other day. Only 13 days to go!

Dear birds. You don’t seem to have seen the nice ball of fat we’ve hung outside for you now that the temperature has dropped again. I hope you discover it soon!

And, to end on a more serious note:

Dear soldiers and veterans. I don’t have a proper Remembrance Day poppy, but I’m wearing my poppy earrings and poppy necklace. To all of you who are still fighting somewhere, or who are out there on peace-keeping operations. To all of you who gave your lives for your country, or who made it back home but will never be the same. To all of you who have made sacrifices. We shall remember you!

I hope all my readers have a wonderful weekend, despite everything that’s going on in the world. Love and virtual hugs to everyone.

 

Karlsruhe Christmas market 2013

I did go to the Christmas market last night, but my train was delayed so I went straight into town from the station and had no time to pop home for my camera. It was dark and my phone has no flash, so photography was impossible… but I had to go into town today and I made sure to put my camera in my bag before I left. Sooo here are a few impressions of Karlsruhe’s Christmas market for you…

There's always a children's carousel at German fairs...
There’s always a children’s carousel at German fairs…
Gl├╝hwein pyramid
Gl├╝hwein pyramid

The Gl├╝hwein pyramid may look cool, but be warned… they make you queue twice for your Gl├╝hwein! First you have to buy tokens at a stall off to one side, then you queue again at the actual pyramid to order your drink.

Just a few of the yummy treats on offer...
Just a few of the yummy treats on offer…

 

All the stalls have something on the roof...
All the stalls have something on the roof…

KA Weihnachtsmarkt

Mainz

We are now over a week into the third month of this year, which is exactly the kick up the backside I need to continue with my 30 German Towns Before 30 series.
Today’s location of choice is Mainz.Mainz

I went to Mainz with some ex-colleagues of mine from the place where I completed a year-long internship. For a while, all the southern branches of this major translation firm would meet up a couple of times and do something together, inviting ex-colleagues and (ex-)interns along as well. Sadly, the people who organized these outings have since left the company so they don’t happen any more.

On this occasion, it was the turn of the Mainz branch to organise the day, and so the rest of us converged on their town. The plan was that the locals would show us around before we all headed to the Christmas market for yummy Gl├╝hwein (this meetup being in December). I actually mentioned the trip briefly here, but now it’s time for a proper post.

Mainz is a bit of a strange place. Parts of it are really pretty, with gorgeous buildings and views of the Rhine river (not the Main, as I originally thought), but then there’s this random square full of clothes shops/office buildings that’s just awful. All concrete and steel and glass with no character whatsoever. It’s right around the corner from where the Weihnachtsmarkt was being held as well, so if you stand on that square and peer through a gap between the shopping center and some other building you can just about see the prettiness on the other side. Most bizarre. You’d think they’d have at least tried to make the shops fit in with their surroundings!

One of the first things we found on our walk was the Narrenbrunnen (Fool’s Fountain). Mainz is one of the carnival towns – along with Cologne and D├╝sseldorf – so of course it has to have a Narrenbrunnen – although this particular one calls itself a Fastnachtsbrunnen, Fastnacht being the word for carnival in that part of the world (in Karlsruhe I’ve most often heard it referred to as Fasching, and occasionally Fastnacht, but Karlsruhe doesn’t really do carnival).

Fastnachtsbrunnen

Behind the Fastnachtsbrunnen is the Sch├Ânborner Hof – former home of the sovereign princely Sch├Ânborn family. Apparantly it now houses a “Maison de France” – an institute that aims to make French culture, language and France itself better known in Mainz. The University of Mainz also uses parts of the building.

Sch├Ânborner Hof

The next stop on our walk was the cathedral. It’s quite an impressive building, towering above the old town of Mainz. And inside is quite nice too.

Mainz cathedral

Organ

We also found this guy in there… kind of creepy.

Headless statue

Once the cathedral was done, it was time to head to the Christmas market for lunch and Gl├╝hwein. The Gl├╝hwein was average, but cheaper than at most other Christmas markets.

Mainz

Later I went and looked in some of the clothes shops on the ugly steel and concrete square (no photos of that!) at the suggestion of another ex-intern. I didn’t buy anything though, and after a while we headed back to the Gl├╝hwein stand to join the others.

In the evening, we headed to another part of town for a meal, walking down Christmas-light adorned streets on our way.

Mainz street

After our meal, which took a while with such a large group (and I can’t remember where or what we ate), we had to take taxis back to the train station to avoid missing our trains home, so I didn’t get to see any more of Mainz. Not that I would have anyway – being December, it was dark by that time.

Mainz seems like an okay town, although as I mentioned it’s a bit of a weird mixture of really pretty and really, really not – mostly the fault of the second world war, I’d imagine. I also didn’t get to see as much of it as I would have liked, being with such a large group of people and having mostly been invited there for the Christmas market. I think this is a town that I might have to visit again in order to form a real opinion of it.

Freiburg Christmas market

Wares at a stall on the Kartoffelmarkt
Wares at a stall on the Kartoffelmarkt

Last Saturday we went to Freiburg Christmas market. (Yes, a week ago. Despite blogging pretty much every day, I’m totally behind. *sigh*). I had been to Freiburg once before, during my year abroad. Jan and I went to visit another girl from my uni who was doing her year abroad in Freiburg. However, as our visit basically consisted of going for pizza with her friends then heading to the Messe (fun fair) which was in town at the time, I took zero photos and saw just about enough of the town to decide I had to come back some day.

Jan and I had been planning to go to a Christmas market in a nearby town one weekend, and when I spotted a giant poster at the train station informing me that Freiburg Weihnachtsmarkt is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year, it was settled. So off to Freiburg we went (Jan, myself and my Scottish friend K, that is).

Freiburg im Breisgau, to give it it’s full name, is known for being the warmest place in Germany. Not that that means anything at this time of year ÔÇô it was still -2┬░C when we were there! It is also actually in the Black Forest (whereas Karlsruhe only almost is).

Freiburg’s town centre is full of pretty little streets and, being December, naturally they were all decorated with Christmas lights.

Freiburg Christmas lights

Freiburg lights

I’m sure they would be much more impressive at night ­čśë As for the Christmas market (our reason for being there!), you could certainly tell that Freiburg attracts a lot more tourists than Karlsruhe. Our first stop was for food, which just had to be Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes). I chose to have mine with garlic sauce (I love potatoes and garlic, remember). Along with German, the stall we went to listed its wares in French and English as well. Yep, touristy! After my potatoes, I was still hungry so I decided to be a traditionalist and go for a Bratwurst in a bun. Yum! After food, it was time for Gl├╝hwein! ­čÖé But first Jan had to find a bank and I had to take this photo:

Freiburg Martinstor

The tall tower thing you can see is the Martinstor (Martin’s Gate). Note the Macdonalds as well. Although the cuty council couldn’t prevent them from putting up their sign, they were able to stop them from using their usual horrible yellow logo, which I think is excellent! (The only thing better would have been no Macdonalds at all in such a lovely old building.)

After a few Gl├╝hweins, the natural response to lots of liquid kicked in ­čśë so we headed off in the direction that the sign for “WC” was pointing. After using the facilties, we spotted some stalls that I don’t think had anything to do with the actual Christmas market, but were selling some pretty things so of course I had to have a look. I wanted to buy this hat, but decided not to in the end.

It's a lion!
It’s a lion!

Since we had a while to wait before we could get a train home, we decided to go and check out the Christmas goings on at the Kartoffelmarkt (literally: Potato Market). It’s basically a pretty little square which, as the name suggests, was once used for the selling of potatoes. It has its own little Christmas market offshoot, which is smaller and slightly less crowded. Here’s a photo:

Kartoffelmarkt Weihnachtsmarkt

After a quick browse of the stands, we finished our trip with more Gl├╝hwein ÔÇô blueberry for me and cherry for K (I’m not sure what Jan had). Very tasty ­čÖé

The market was pretty crowded, but not nearly as bad as we were expecting (or as bad as Heidelberg for that matter!). I would say it’s worth a visit if only to get yourself a cup with 40 Jahre Freiburger Wiehnachtsmarkt on it (ok, that will only work for another week ;-)). Freiburg itself is pretty, too and certainly worth a visit even when the Christmas market isn’t in town.

It’s Friday letters time!

Another Friday, another chance to write letters to life, the universe and everything…

Letters
Letters (Photo credit: alto malt├ęs)

Dear spammer. Thank you for giving me a laugh this morning. “Your website is like an encyclopaedia for me, thanks“. That’s very nice, but I’m still not clicking on your casino link!

Dear post office. You have made a small fortune off me this week ÔÇô and I’m not finished yet! Still three packages to be sent…

Dear Karlsruhe Christmas market. I haven’t been to you once yet (passing through doesn’t count). Something needs to be done about this very soon!

Dear new cousin. Welcome to the world, little baby girl! I hope I get to see you one day, even though you live in Australia.

Dear relatives. Only 10 days til Christmas! The chances of my packages reaching you in time are now slim. I hope you don’t mind opening New Year’s presents instead! (Actually, I know at least one person who will. Sorry Grandma!!)

PhotobucketAnd now I’m going into town. In the pouring rain. I need to get at least one of the aforementioned parcels sent (at the only post office that’s still open… and just happens to be halfway across town!) then try to get presents for the last few remaining people on my list. Right now, I’m just not feeling the Christmas spirit!

Need more time…

I can’t believe December is a week old already. Where is the time going? I could have sworn it was only just summer…
Anyway, I’ve been a really, really bad blogger lately. Between illness, seminars and Christmas shopping I just can’t seem to find the time for anything! The good news is that I’ve almost finished buying all my Christmas presents. The bad news is I’m also almost out of money and I still have to send several packages to England. Oh, and then there’s the little matter of paying the electricity bill but we won’t talk about that…

I put Christmas decorations up in the flat at the weekend. Very exciting! I’ve never had a place of my very own to decorate before ­čÖé Between that and all the presents I’ve wrapped the living room currently looks a bit like Santa’s grotto. A very messy Santa’s grotto admittedly (I desperately need to tidy the flat but the whole no time thing just keeps getting in the way!) but it’s all very festive. Jan and I also went to the Christmas market on Saturday and I tried some cherry Gl├╝hwein, which was delicious. Definitely getting in the spirit over here ­čÖé

I promise to come and visit you all soon, but right now I have to go and do the computer marked assignment for my science course. I haven’t been able to work on it much lately but I refuse to fail now that I’m so close to the end!
In the meantime, why don’t you leave me a comment and let me know what you’ve all been up to….