Friday letters

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are all well? It has got cold here recently, which gives me the perfect excuse to drink lots of hot chocolate. Except maybe not because my sister’s wedding is three weeks tomorrow and I have a bridesmaid dress to fit into? Dilemmas! Also, I have agreed to work for part of the weekend because apparently I am insane?! (It’s the only way we could actually accept this particular job and we really need to not be turning down jobs right now!). Anyway, let’s get on with some letters shall we?

Friday letters

Dear Christmas. You are creeping up too fast and I can’t think of gifts for half the people I have to buy for. Aargh!

Dear boyfriend. Thank you for not complaining about me being even worse than usual at keeping up with housework because I’m too busy making Christmas cards!

Dear birds. I’m pleased to see you seem to be enjoying your new food. We’ll keep putting it out as long as you keep coming to visit!

birds
Three little dickie birds sitting on a wall…

Dear self. You really need to stop buying new books before you’ve read the ones that are already sitting on the bookcase. For the sake of your bank balance if nothing else!

Dear magpies. Could you please stop flying around singly? I’m ready for some joy please!

Dear sun. It was nice to see you when I went out to buy lunch. Think you can come back tomorrow when it’s the weeeeekend?

Okay, that’s it. Lunch break over – gotta get back to work. Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

Friday letters

Good morning! I hope you’re all well and that those of you who haven’t guessed already are busily wracking your brains for guess the Christmas cross stitch round 3! I’ve been suffering from a horrible cold all week. It started on Sunday with a bit of a sore throat, on Monday I didn’t feel any worse, which gave me hope that a sore throat was the worst I was going to get. Then on Tuesday I had to actually go into work for various meetings, which involved two hours on a freezing train. Why must Deutsche Bahn turn the air conditioning up so much?! I’m sure that didn’t help matters at all, because by the time it came to the journey home swallowing really hurt and I could not get warm at all! I went to bed with a cup of Lemsip and woke up feeling so terrible that if I was still actually going into the office regularly I would have called in sick. But since my “office” is only a few metres from the bedroom and my colleague was already off sick (for the second week), I wrapped up warm and powered through with the help of ALL the hot drinks and several packets of tissues (I could not stop sneezing!). It seemed to work as yesterday I wasn’t sneezing as much and my throat was back to being more scratchy than sore. How today will go remains to be seen, but I’m consoling myself with the fact that it’s almost the weekend and then I only have to work Monday and after that I’m on holiday – finally! Apart from one day for my cousin’s wedding, I haven’t had any time off since April, when I took a week to move! This cold just better have gone by the time I have to get on a plane… Anyway… sorry to ramble on so much. I know you’re only here for the letters 😉

Mail boxDear cold. I was serious with what I said up there. I fly on Thursday and you had better be gone by then! My ears hurt enough on planes without a half blocked-half runny nose getting involved in matters!

Dear British food. I am coming to eat you, oh yes I am!! Proper chips, pies, decent bacon, pasties and yummy crisps… get in my belly!

Dear godson (and your mum). It’s been far too long! I can’t wait to see you.

Dear October. I’m actually not going to complain that you’ve arrived far too quickly (even though you have) because with you comes holiday!

Dear rugby matches we’re attending. Please be as exciting as the South Africa vs Japan match. We want some action! (For reference, that’s the three that are taking place in Newcastle. Now get on it, rugby Gods).

Right, that’s all from me for today. Keep placing your guesses on this week’s cross stitch post and I’ll get the next picture up for you soon. In the meantime, have a fantastic weekend!

Friday letters

Wow, it’s Friday again already. These weekends keep rolling around so fast! I can’t believe we’re almost half way through June already! I thought I’d got rid of my cold, but this week either it came back with a vengeance or I caught a new (worse!) one. Luckily Jan had to go to Germany yesterday so I enlisted him to buy me some Erkältungstee (tea for colds) since the only one I’ve discovered here so far was incredibly expensive and contained only thyme. I have thyme tea already from my foodie penpals package and I haven’t noticed it doing anything for my cold! The one Jan fetched from Germany contains thyme as well, but at least it also has willow bark, which has the same active ingredient as Aspirin and at least has a chance of helping. Obviously I would prefer real medicine but I’m down to my last sachet of Lemsip and I’m reluctactant to use it unless I’m so ill I can’t get out of bed. When it’s gone it’s gone! I found out this week that I’m actually not covered by my German insurance because I work from home and the Swiss class that as working from Switzerland (even though my employer is German!), so now I have to sort out Swiss health insurance and try to get an exemption from t he German one so I’m not paying twice. Swiss health insurance is, of course, more expensive and covers less, so that sucks. Will things ever actually be sorted?! Oh well, letters!

letter boxDear health insurance woman. Thank you for calling me to let me know you wouldn’t cover me before I received the official letter. That way I was at least able to be prepared.

Dear “cold” tea. I hope you work because you’re all I’ve got right now!

Dear Alyson Hannigan. I saw a iny bit of How I Met Your Mother while flicking through channels the other day and I swear you haven’t aged at all since my days of watching you in Buffy. What’s your secret?

Dear weather. It would be nice if you could actually stay the same for more than two days in a row some time!

OK, that’s all from me. I hope you all have a great weekend! Tomorrow (20 June) is another photo an hour day with Jane and Louisa – you really should join in! I’m planning on heading to a street food festival so I will actually have something to take photos of for a change!

What season is this again?

It’s hard to believe that a mere two weeks ago the temperatures were still in the high 20s (degrees celsius, that is). The day we went to the wine festival was the last nice day we had here. Since then, it’s been raining… and cold. So cold, in fact, that last night I took my trusty blanket (the one that got me through the first few days of post-wisdom tooth removal pain) to bed with me. Curled up under both that and the quilt I was actually able to warm up enough to sleep!

This is what autumn is supposed to look like...
This is what autumn is supposed to look like…

I know it’s September, and therefore an autumn month (although not officially until Sunday), but is a temperature drop of more than 10 degrees really necessary? Right now, it feels more like the beginning of winter than the first weeks of autumn (which makes me wonder how I’m going to cope when winter actually does arrive!). Early autumn is supposed to be about brightly coloured trees and piles of crunchy brown leaves that are just perfect for stomping on. How are the leaves supposed to get crunchy when they’re wet all the time? Temperatures are supposed to be mild… well, cool mornings and nights are to be expected, but during the day I should be able to get by with just a cardigan or light-weight jacket. A cardigan, my raincoat and a scarf is not autumn attire! And on the way home from work last night, I even found myself wishing I had some gloves with me. I cannot remember a September this cold in my entire six years in Germany! Here’s hoping the sun comes back for at least a day or two before winter kicks in!

And on an entirely unrelated note… I managed to sleep without a painkiller last night and swallowing seems to be much easier today. My stitches come out tomorrow, so hopefully it will be all up hill from there!

Friday letters

So, it’s Friday again. This week has been a bit of a weird one. On one hand, it feels like only a few days since I was getting ready for last weekend (which, of course, went far too fast). But  at the same time, I’ve had so many texts to translate that by Wednesday I already felt like I’d done at least a week’s worth of work and the weekend would never come.

Anyway, on to Friday’s letters…

English: This is a cast iron letter box design...
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Dear boyfriend. I hope when you return from your week-long dissertation conference you’ll be able to relax a little. Having you come to bed at 4 a.m. has not been fun for me, and I can’t imagine you’ve enjoyed it very much either!

Dear flat. Jan is away for a week from Sunday–Saturday, so it’s just you and me. I’m actually quite looking forward to having you all to myself! Just so you know, I have major spring cleaning plans (and no, I don’t care that spring isn’t even on the horizon yet. You are getting blitzed!).

Dear boyfriend’s dissertation professor. Was it really necessary to schedule this year’s conference thingy so that my boyfriend is away on his birthday? Not impressed!

Dear organic spelt cookies with ginger and chocolate chips. Why must you taste so good? You’re seriously not helping with the healthy eating thing! Treats in moderation are fine… but it’s impossible to eat only a moderate amount of you!

Dear Pride and Prejudice. I promise I am going to start reading you this weekend. I would have got to you sooner if I hadn’t been too tired to read my previous book on my morning commute. I’ve finished that book now though, and will be moving on to you next!

Dear readers. As you may have noticed, my 35 before 35 list now has its very own page (click here). However, I still don’t have 35 items. Please keep your suggestions coming!

Dear February. I know you’re technically one of the winter months, but was it really necessary for the temperature to drop back down to 4°C this morning?

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Sometimes staying home alone is the best policy

In September, Jan’s choir took part in an event called “The Westside Festival”, a musical and culinary event that took place in and around a square in the western part of Karlsruhe. One member of the choir was involved in organising the festival, which is how the choir came to be involved in the first place. The “headliner” (so to speak) of the festival was a group calling themselves “The Westend Girls” and because those who were organising it weren’t actually able to watch the performance – being too busy dealing with organisational matters – the group are performing again, just for those who were involved in arranging the festival. T – the choir member who was one of the organisers – managed to get the rest of the choir invited as well, so that’s where Jan is as well. Apparantly there was some space for extra people (although it would quickly run out if everyone brought a plus one), so he invited me to come along. After much deliberation, I decided this morning that I didn’t feel like it. I was tired and didn’t think I’d be in the mood for staying out late.

This evening, waiting on the platform to come home. I was pleased I had decided against going out. It was cold, my train was delayed and every now and then a gust of wind would drive a flurry of snow into my face. Not pleasant! So instead of listening to a group of singers on the opposite side of town, tonight shall consist of pyjamas, nice hot tea and my latest cross stitch project. Sometimes, staying home alone is the best policy!

Tea anyone?
Tea anyone?

Surviving winter in Germany

Here’s a photo that I took on the way to work this morning.

Cold!

For Americans (and anyone else who uses Fahrenheit… do any other countries use Fahrenheit? Genuine question…) that’s 24.8°F. Oh, and this was taken after my commute – it was actually -6°C  (21.2°F) when I left the house. Those of you who leave in really cold places are probably now thinking “What? That’s not cold!”. Well, I am British and being an island nation, we don’t do extremes of temperature. Wikipedia tells me the lowest temperature ever recorded in England was −26.1 °C (−15.0 °F) in Shropshire… and that was in 1982. I wasn’t even born til 1983! The lowest for Scotland – which has a reputation among those in southern England for being cold – is −27.2 °C (−17.0 °F), measured in Aberdeenshire in 1895 and 1982 then in Sutherland in 1995. Compare that with Germany’s low of −45.9 °C (−50.6 °F), measured in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria as recently as 2001 and you may begin to see my point. I do not do cold!! (I don’t do hot either, but that’s a story for another day.)

During my first winter in Germany I was woefully unprepared. I am lucky in that I ended up in one of the warmest areas of Germany, and the year I did my year abroad was unseasonably warm, so it was still fairly mild in November. But the winter did come eventually, and I was not expecting it at all! (Two years later I moved to Austria, where it was even colder! But at least I was expecting it there.) So in case you, like me, have come to Germany entirely unprepared for the cold, here are a few tips for surviving the winter…

    • First, buy a thick, warm and – most importantly – long scarf. Then take this scarf and wrap it around your neck twice (this is where the long part is essential!). The first loop needs to fit snuggly against your skin (but don’t pull it too tight – you want to be warm, not strangled!). Leave the second part slightly looser, but not too loose.
    • Invest in a nice warm coat. Preferably a waterproof one – snow is not just pretty, it is also wet. Plus, it rains a lot here in winter. Now, fasten your coat up, making sure it comes right up to you scarf. Leave no gaps for chilly winds to get in! The bottom loop of your scarf should be covered by your coat, the second loop can be slightly over it. This part can be used to cover your skin when it gets really cold.
    • Boots are essential! Ankle boots are ok, but longer ones are better. I have Gore-Tex boots, a bit like these ones except mine have a zip down the side and they are AMAZING! They cost me about €100 but it was so worth it. They’re waterproof, have grips on the bottom (very important for snow/ice) and a lambskin lining to keep me warm.
    • If (like me) you wear thin trousers for work, you really need to put something under them. And if you prefer skirts, sou will need to invest in some warm tights (which Leo tells me are called “pantyhose” in America. Really?! That sounds so… weird!). I recommend C&A thermal tights for this (I swear, I am not being sponsored to write this, they really are good!).
    • Tea is your friend. Drink it as much as possible. There are sooo many sorts of tea in Germany that there is bound to be at least one you like! (The fruit ones are technically infusions as they contain no actual tea whatsoever, but never mind.) Glühwein is also your friend, but not recommended for drinking at work. Save that one for the Chistmas market. Hot chocolate is also good for warming up. Drink it with whipped cream for that added bit of decadence.
    • Buy a hat, and make sure it covers your ears. I don’t care how stupid you think you look in hats – when it’s -11°C you won’t care what you look like as long as your ears are warm!
Penguin Santa Hat
Penguin Santa Hat (Photo: chiaralily)
  • Soup, soup and more soup! There’s nothing like it on a cold day, and the Germans do it so well. I had a delicous chesnut soup yesterday, but potato, creamed leek, pumpkin, lentil stew with or without little sausages in it and even Gulasch soup are popular. You can even get soup at most Christmas markets, at least in larger towns.
  • Close the door! Sorry if this seems obvious, but if you close the door to the room you’re in, the heating will warm it up much quicker – otherwise everything the radiator produces has to heat up all the other rooms it drifts into as well!
  • Bake! Not only is it fun, but all the heat from the oven will warm you up in no time. I haven’t had the radiator in the kitchen on once this year, because every time I’m in there I’m either baking or cooking, which produces enough heat to warm me up nicely.
  • And if all else fails, go to bed. Sometimes under the quilt is the best place to be. If you’re not sleepy, take a book with you. Reading in bed is one of my favourite pastimes!

Real medicine!

♪ Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme  ♪
♪ Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme ♪ (Photo credit: Jill Clardy)

After an entire week of trying the German solution to colds – basically lots of hot drinks and throat sweets made with natural ingredients like sage (just add some onion and you could call me a Christmas turkey!) – and feeling absolutely no better and if anything slightly worse, I finally caved and sent the boyfriend out to get me some real medicine. I mean, I’m sure the tea drinking thing would have cured my cold eventually (if only because my immune system finally won the battle) but when I’m ill I want medicine, not parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme! (Actually, only sage and thyme were included in my many “natural” remedies but I couldn’t resist gettng that in there).

After some searching on the Internet (not sure why it took me 6 years to think of it?!), I discovered that Germany does sell a hot drink that contains actual medicine, like paracetamol and some other stuff that I can neither spell nor pronounce but basically one thing to help with coughs plus something to clear the nose. It’s called Cetebe – for those of you who speak German, it’s pronounced like the letters c, t, b auf Deutsch, as the boyfriend informed me after my failed attempt to say it. Cetebe also do other products, such as some capsules to help the immune system. The cold powder stuff is called antiGrippal. So, fellow British expats in Germany, if you ever find yourself in the grips of cold/flu and don’t have any Lemsip/Beechams cold and flu powder, this is what you need to look out for! As is usual with anything that contains even the merest hint of something that is actually medicinal and not something that is actually meant for cooking with, it’s “Apothekenpflichtig” (i.e. can only be bought at pharmacies).

Apart from Cebete, the other thing I asked the boyfriend to purchase for me was cough medicine. The one I still had from last time I had a cough was out of date, plus it was not from the chemist and therefore again contained no actual medicine – the active ingredient in that particular one is Spitzwegerich (ribwort in English apparantly – not that the translation helps, I’ve still never heard of it!), which I cannot stand the taste of! Not that cough medicines in England taste particularly nice, but I can put up with the horridness if I know there is actual medicine in that is going to make me feel better! So I got Jan to buy me some medicine from the chemist’s. It doesn’t taste all that nice, but it isn’t awful either.

I can’t say the medicines worked instantly, but it’s not like I was expecting them to! But within an hour I had a throat that only hurt when I swallowed, eather than constantly, my coughing fits had become less frquent and I was coughing for shorter stretches at a time and, for the first time in days, my nose was clear enough for me to be able to taste. Woo hoo! I celebrated by making myself a cheese toastie. After being woken up by a coughing fit at 6 o’clock this morning, I got out of bed, took my medicine and then actually managed to fall back to sleep until 11 (I know, sooo lazy! But it is Sunday and I am still ill, albeit recovering). And today even the boyfriend has commented that he hasn’t heard me cough as much. Real medicine! You can’t beat it.

So remember, if you’re ever feeling coldy/fluey in Germany and find yourself wishing for Lemsip, the equivalent is called Cetebe.

Friday letters

As pleased as I am that it’s the weekend, I could swear it was only just Friday! Somebody seems to have fast forwarded my week! Oh well, I guess there’s nothing for it but to give you my second ever episode of Friday letters. Here goes…

Dear weather. I understand it is nearly November and cold temperatures are to be expected, but going directly from 21°C to 14°C was a bit of a shock to the system. That’s a difference of 7 whole degrees! Following this by dropping to 9°C today was just plain mean!

Dear brain. I’m not sure what’s possessed you to wake me up half an hour before my alarm on almost every work day for the past three weeks, but I would really, really appreciate it if you could stop now!

Dear portable DVD player thing. PLEASE stop skipping when I put a CD in you! You are currently ruining the music I’m trying to listen to and I am not at all impressed.

Dear Halloween. You are just around the corner and I can’t wait! I plan on spending this weekend sorting out costumes for the boy and I. And I really don’t care if we end up being the only people dressed up on Wednesday. It’s going to be amazing anywaqy – especially since the next day is a holiday in this part of Germany, which means lie in. Woop!

Dear Jillian Michaels. Your no more trouble zones DVD is excellent, but I don’t think I’m EVER going to be able to do the full 40 minute workout! So far the most I’ve managed is two circuits and Oh. My. Word. I thought I was going to die! Yes, I really am that ridiculously unfit. I will persevere though...

Dear Galaxy chocolate. You were sent to me a while ago, and I’ve been sooo good about not eating you that it seems you’re now technically passed your best before date. I guess that means I’m going to have to much what’s left of you this weekend. Such a shame… I do not think 😀 (Errm, sorry Jillian…)

That’s all from me. If you want to join in or just read more Friday letters click below:
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Alright winter, you’ve made your point!

I am sooo sick of being cold!

09 04 03
Photo credit: mattjiggins

In English (or at least in the UK) we have a saying – more like a proverb – “April showers bring May flowers”. The German equivalent is “Der April macht was er will” – April does what it wants (April is pronounced A-prill with an A like in the word “alphabet” and to rhyme with will). I’m starting to think the German version is more accurate. This April certainly has no intention of sticking with one kind of weather! We’ve had dark, threatening clouds, we’ve had fog, we’ve had lots and lots of rain, we’ve had a tiny bit of sun peering from behind the clouds (mostly while I was at work), but what we’ve mostly had is cold. Today the temperature got up to a whole 10°C (Google tells me that’s 50°F, non-European readers), but mostly it’s been somewhere between 5 and 8°C. I’ve had to get my winter coat back out and have been wearing a scarf in bed (oh… I forgot to mention that I’ve had my hair cut and my neck now feels incredibly exposed…. and cold!). Did someone forget to tell the universe that it’s actually spring now? You had your chance winter… April is not your month!

On a brighter note, my team came first in the slightly-delayed-due-to-Easter pub quiz last week. The next one is on 8 May when we shall have a title to defend! We then went out on Friday night to watch our quiz master’s band perform, and got in free in exchange for doing the door for them (taking people’s money) as the person that usually does it couldn’t this time. All together now: “It’s not what you know…”.

Also, Newcastle United are currently fourth in the Premier League and it’s looking more and more likely that they’ll be coming to Europe next year, either in the Europa League (which I only recently found out is what they’re calling the UEFA Cup these days) or the Champions League. Jan and I are actually kind of hoping they end up with an Europa League place, that Stuttgart get one too, and that they happen to play each other. In Stuttgart. So we can travel to Karlsruhe’s greatest rivals, wearing Newcastle shirts and cheer on my football team. Unlikely, but the fact that I can even dream about it shows how far the Toon has come this season.

Life is good. But it would be sooo much better with a bit of spring sunshine!