Recent doings #13

Hello everyone! I hope this first week of 2017 has been treating you well thus far? Today is only my third day back at work and already I have a long weekend since tomorrow is Epiphany, and a public holiday in the part of Germany where my work is based. Not a bad first week back 😉

Since today is the first Thursday of the month, it’s also time to link up with Kristin and Gretch again for What’s new With You? So here is what I got up to in December:

Reading. Apart from my challenge reading, which I updated you on in my last post, I also read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry in December. I gave both three star ratings on Goodreads.

Watching. We finally finished the first season of Mr Robot and it was amazing. But now I’m annoyed because we have to wait for the second season to come out on DVD since it’s an Amazon Prime TV series and there is no Amazon in Switzerland. Grr! We also watched Paddington with my sister and her fiancĂ© because it came on TV and none of us had seen it. I thought it was cute but not a patch on the original books.

Eating. Christmas dinner, of course. What else would I eat at Christmas time? 😉 My dad did turkey with all the trimmings and we had more turkey plus gammon and three different types of cake at my grandma’s for Christmas tea. We also ate fish and chips and a couple of pub meals while we were in England. And before we left for the holidays I may have eaten an entire box of chocolate Lebkuchen to myself. Basically, December was about eating all the things. All of them.

Making. Christmas cards. I literally posted the last three the day before we left for Christmas, so who knows when they actually arrived! Here are a couple that I don’t think I’ve previously shown you:

Hosting. My sister and her fiancĂ© came to stay for a weekend in December, so we did the whole Basel tour again… complete with a trip to a bar that’s on the 31st floor of a hotel building.

Buying. Many more books than I should have plus a top that was on sale for 7 francs.

Visiting. The Christmas market in Laufenburg (post to come… soon I hope). And, for another kind of visiting, So many friends and relations in England! We met up with two different friends for lunch on consecutive days, spent Christmas morning with my mum and brother, went to see my godson’s family for a couple of hours on boxing day to exchange gifts, popped round to see my maternal grandmother (who is bedridden and has dementia, but seemed happy enough) and had a look at my sister’s new house. So many people, so much rushing around, but it was lovely to see everyone.

Travelling. To England for Christmas (and we managed to land in Newcastle before storm Barbara came calling, which was nice) and then to Scotland, specifically to Arran for one night and Glasgow for Hogmanay.

Seeing. The Jungle Book as performed by the always amazing Oddsocks.

What's New With You

That’s all I can think of right now. What did you do in December?

My 2016

I’m sure you’re all sick of recap posts, what with my monthly recent doings/participation in the what’s new with you? link up, but I always review my year and I’m not about to break tradition now 😉 If you really don’t care what I did this year, you might want to stop reading at this point…

January

We invited some friends from Karlsruhe down to spend New Year with us, so after a dinner of raclette (So. Much. Raclette) we headed down to the banks of the Rhine and, for the first time ever, saw in the New Year in the actual town that we were living in! I’m not sure whether people were scared of large gatherings after Paris or everybody always leaves Basel for the New Year, but either way there was plenty of space and we had an amazing view of the fireworks.

Our friends stayed until the 2nd, so New Year’s day saw us taking a walk around the local area with them and the 2nd became a museum day since it was chucking it down! We went to the PapiermĂŒhle (Paper Mill). The next day, Jan and I headed to Zurich for a Lego exhibition called The Art of the Brick – such a cultural weekend 😉

The reason we hadn’t spent Christmas in Germany (although it would technically have been my family’s “turn”) was because we planned to go over for my sister’s 30th birthday, on the 7th. I needed to present her with her birthday gift myself because it was awesome! After a few days there, we headed back to Switzerland and I finally went back to work on 12th January. This was also the month that we spontaneously decided to take a trip to New Zealand.. as you do.

At the end of the month, we saw Dylan Moran perform in Basel. He was very funny.

February

February is always such a dreary month, don’t you think? Spring isn’t in the air yet, but it’s been winter for so long that you start to feel it should be! Luckily the weather did brighten up at least once, an occasion we took advantage of for a trip to Arlesheim. We had a look in the cathedral and found two castles.

The people of Basel know how to deal with the dreariness of February! This month also saw us attending our first Fasnacht (Carnival), starting with the Morgestraich at 4 am! Our little town also had its own mini Fasnacht where I managed to collect a lot of sweets and, randomly, a sausage. Right at the end of the month we had some visitors, so we had a fun weekend of showing them around Basel.

February is also the month Jan and I got together, and in 2016 we celebrated 12 years as a couple!

March

Our visitors moved on to Lausanne and, since we hadn’t been there yet, we decided to join them for a day. It was raining when we arrived so we went to the Olympic Museum, then the sun came out and we had a look round the old town. Finally, the day ended with snow! Three seasons in  day… it was almost like being back in Britain!

We then didn’t do much until mid-month when it was off to New Zealand, baby! We had the most amazing time there, meeting up with my cousin in Devonport, exploring the south island (and finding Paradise), visiting my uncle in Rotorua where I met his little daughter for the first time and he took us to Hobbiton… every single minute was just magical! The best spontaneous decision ever.

April

After two weeks in New Zealand, April was a bit of a let down. We did at least manage to buy a wardrobe though (well, order one… we had to wait another 2 months for delivery!) and on the 26th it was exactly one year since I had moved to Switzerland. I only managed to take one trip all month… to a neighbouring town – Allschwil.

May

This was another slow month, although we did manage to go hiking on the 5th. The only other things I can remember doing in May are briefly visiting a street food festival and seeing a concert by the Philadelphia Philharmonic orchestra. I think I also read a lot?

June

There was some football thingy on in June, I believe? 😉 We didn’t actually watch much of the Euros this time and the few matches I did see were fairly boring, but it was impossible to avoid it entirely. I think we saw two Switzerland matches? We also finally received our wardrobe in June, although it wasn’t put up until July because one part was missing!

In terms of travel, at the beginning of the month, we had a weekend away in GraubĂŒnden, so that’s another canton we can cross off the list. We arrived before the hiking paths were officially open for the season but decided to brave the snowy trails anyways. The views were stunning but we didn’t make it to the source of the Rhine.

At the end of the month my mum and brother visited and I had a great time showing them around Basel. We also visited Zurich and the Rhine Falls – you can’t beat a good waterfall – and on another day took a walk from Mariastein Abbey to the ruins of Landskron Castle.

The UK’s EU referendum also happened in June, but we won’t talk about that…

July

Finally the missing piece of our wardrobe was delivered and the wardrobe was put together! As sad as it sounds, actually being able to put all my clothes away properly was one of the highlights of my year (apart from New Zealand, obviously. Nothing tops that). Jan’s mum and her partner came to visit near the end of the month and we climbed the tower in Basel cathedral, and on the very last day of the month we went for a hike around DelĂ©mont before watching the fireworks for Switzerland’s national day (actually on 1st August, but Basel is greedy and has fireworks twice).

We also went to see Travis perform  in Arlesheim during July – a blast from the past!

August

1st August is a holiday in Switzerland, but not in Germany so while Jan slept I had to work. *Sigh* Next year I’m seriously considering taking the day off!

The first event of the month was a wedding in Luxembourg. My former colleague, who is German, married a Hungarian so it was all very international! It was a beautiful day and a fantastic wedding.

My birthday fell on a Saturday this year, which was nice. No need to take time off! K came down for the weekend and we had a fabulous day in Bad SĂ€ckingen in Germany.

We continued the celebrations with cocktails that evening and a barbecue by the river the following day. Not too shabby!

I attended a jazz festival at the end of the month, but it wasn’t much fun by myself.

Apart from that, Jan and I swam in the Rhine a couple of times… because that’s what you do in Basel.

September

In September Amanda from Rhyme and Ribbons hosted a Breat British Bake Off Bakealong and I took part a few times. I even experimented with making a toad in the hole with meatballs. This was also the month that my brother turned 10, my godson turned 4 and my sister got engaged! Lots of celebrations going on.

Jan’s dad visited us in September, which we didn’t think was ever actually going to happen! Every time we brought it up he had other plans, then he suddenly wrote to say “I’ll be there next weekend.” Umm, okay. Luckily we didn’t have plans 😉 After spending a day showing him round Basel, we took him to Rheinfelden and Augusta Raurica. (He and Jan also to Rigi but we won’t discuss that since I had to work that day!)

I took the last week of September off work to use up some holiday and spent most of my time reading and cleaning. I did manage a walk in the woods and a visit to a castle ruin in between though. (Hmm, come to think of it I haven’t blogged about that castle yet…)

October

We started October with a trip to a pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg. I loved the food but thought last year’s sculptures were better.

I also started the month by falling over and hurting my knees, resulting in me spending the rest of the month hobbling around and having to visit doctors. Grr, so silly! Other October events included my other brother’s birthday (I made him a card), a training course on banking for work, and a visit from two friends who wanted to see Jan perform with one of his choirs. And, as you may have deduced from the previous sentence, October involved Jan performing with choirs… and accordingly Jan rehearsing with choirs so I didn’t see all that much of him.

November

Another month, another visitor 😉 No, not really, but it felt a bit like that this year. A friend from Karslruhe came for a weekend and we visited an art exhibition on Kandinsky, Marx and der blaue Reiter. (But of course you know that because I only just wrote about it).

Jan’s mum turned 60 in November and we took a trip up north(ish) for her birthday brunch then came back down and spent one weekend doing not very much (well, I spent it working on Christmas cards) before hosting more visitors the following weekend: my mum, brother and two of my mum’s friends. They got incredibly lucky with the weather and we had a really nice time looking around Basel and, of course, checking out the Christmas markets. Jan and I also went to see West Side Story while they were here (yes, I abandoned my guests but in my defence the tickets were a birthday present and I’d forgotten it was that weekend).

December

After so many busy weekends, the first weekend in December was a quiet one. I mainly cross stitched more Christmas cards and got the guest room ready because… the weekend after that we had more visitors. My sister and her fiancĂ© this time. More showing people round Basel, more Christmas market. Lots of fun.

Also, something I haven’t mentioned on the blog yet because the next monthly recap won’t be happening until next month, while she was here my sister asked me to be her bridesmaid! So I have that honour to look forward to next year.

The rest of December hasn’t happened yet, but let me tell you about it anyway… this evening we are meeting some friends to eat cheese fondue before we all go our separate ways for Christmas. I will work for four days next week, then on Friday we will get on a plane at a ridiculously early hour and fly to England – we change in London this time and while we’re between flights I plan to track down a proper British sausage sandwich. Mmmm! Christmas will be spent with my family, the remainder of the time in England will be spent trying to catch up with as many friends as possible (remember, I haven’t been over since January!) and then, on 29th December, we shall catch a train to Glasgow and spend the rest of the year having K show us all the best places to eat up there. Oh, and at some point some bells will ring and we will welcome another year. Hopefully an awesome one!

Well, for some reason I thought 2016 had been slower than other years (apart from the crazy bit at the end with visitors, visitors and even more visitors), but looking at it all together like that, it has actually been jam-packed! New Zealand was definitely the highlight, of course, but there have been  a few other good times in there as well. And we actually travelled more than I thought we had, even if most of it was local.

Of course, other things have been happening, not all of which are suitable for the blog, and I am really hopefully that some plans will come to fruition in 2017. Fingers crossed!

Lights, camera…

Is it really Wednesday already? This week is going fast!

Today I want to show you the birthday card I made for my brother, who recently turned 26. He did film studies at uni and is really into TV and films, so the popcorn cross stitch that was featured in one of my magazines ages ago seemed perfect for him.

popcorn-cross-stitch

Embellished with a printed out clapperboard, that I added “Happy Birthday” to, it ended up being a card that I’m actually quite proud of.

film-birthday-card

I cut out the hole for the popcorn myself using a punch, which meant there wasn’t a back bit to put over it as there usually is with aperture cards, so I backed it using red and white checked card. I didn’t take a photo of it, unfortunately, so you’ll just have to take my word that it made the inside look more interesting 😉

The popcorn was fairly simple, but I actually quite enjoyed stitching it. It was fun doing the back stitch and watching the pieces of popcorn come to life where previously there had just been a block of weirdly shaped stitches!

Would you like to receive this birthday card?

The Rhine Falls (Rheinfall)

At the end of June, my mum and brother came to visit for a few days. I wanted to take at least one trip outside Basel with them, so on the Sunday we went to Zurich and the Rhine Falls.

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The Rhine Falls, or Rheinfall in German, is the largest plain waterfall in Europe. When we went, it was the end of what had been a very wet spring so they contained pretty much the maximum possible amount of water. On the image above, you see a rock with a flag at the top and a staircase going down. Usually a boat takes you over to that rock, but on the day we went they weren’t stopping there. The platform where you’re supposed to disembark was almost entirely covered with water…

We used a RailAway offer (seriously – if you live in Switzerland and want to visit anywhere check whether RailAway has an offer first!). With this, we got a reduction on the train ticket, entry to the exhibition at Schloss Laufen, the castle above the falls, and a ticket for the glass elevator that takes you down to a walkway on the castle side of the falls. We were also supposed to get a boat ride over to the castle (which would have saved us a not particularly strenuous walk), but the landing place by the castle was closed due to high water so instead we were allowed to go on the small round boat trip, which took us up to the falls and then came back. Actually that was a better option so we didn’t mind 😉

If you take the boat make sure you wear something waterproof!

After our boat trip, we walked around to the castle and had a look at the exhibition. It’s pretty small and basically gives you a bit of information about the history of the castle (also fairly small). Afterwards, we took the glass elevator down and had a look at the falls from another angle.

Tired and thirsty after all that, before heading for the train home we went and had a beer and some cake at the castle restaurant. And of course the little birdy friend that came to join us got some cake too!

Although the Rhine Falls are very touristy and – as you can probably see from the photos – pretty crowded, it somehow manages not to be too much, at least not on a Sunday in June! I can definitely recommend this as a nice day or afternoon out.

Linking up with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey for Monday Escapes, for the last time! Click the button to see lots more travel inspiration.

Travel Monkey

Recent doings #7

Ugh, I’m behind on my blog reading again! If I haven’t commented on your blog recently I’m so, so sorry! We had a weekend away, then visitors and more visitors. This weekend we get a brief break but I need to get the flat sorted for the next round of visitors – Jan’s mum and her partner are here on 16th/17th July.

Anyway, it’s time for another “What’s New With You” linkup… which means another month is over. Where are you going, 2016? I wish I could pause you for a while to catch my breath…
So, what did I get up to in June?

What's New With You
Reading. I already did a check-in post for the summer reading challenge, so I’m not going to repeat myself here 😉 I will, however, say that I’ve now finished The Magus! Woo hoo.
Watching. The news a lot immediately after the EU referendum. I still can’t believe the result. Why you so stupid, Britain?
Travelling. To the Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) with my mum and brother. Jan and I also went to GraubĂŒnden at the beginning of June, so I’ll have lots of travel photos to share with you once I’m done with New Zealand. Here’s a sneak preview:
DSCN8578
Rheinfall
Cooking. Horse steak so my mum and brother could try it. Although technically Jan cooked it on the barbecue. I just made the veg 😉
Waiting for. Our new wardrobe. Actually, we ordered it in April so I’ve been waiting for it a while, but it was finally due for delivery in June. Then it finally turned up but the back wall was missing, so I’m still waiting! The missing part is supposed to be coming next Wednesday…
Buying. Clothes. I went to Germany and purchased a skirt for €6 and a dress for €9 – you wouldn’t get clothes that cheap in Switzerland!
Drinking. Cocktails. We found a cute little bar that does interesting cocktails, so when we met up with two people we’ve been kind of hanging around with in Basel (yeah, I maybe made some friends?) we took them there and then took my mum and brother there as well.
What have you been doing recently? Check out the linkup to see how everyone else spent June.

Friday letters

I know I keep saying this, but where is this year going?! We’re more than half way through June already! Unbelievable. At this rate it’s going to be December and I’m going to realise I’ve achieved nothing all year!

But enough about that… letters!

Basel-postbox

Dear weather. You have a week to improve ready for me to show my visitors around Basel!

Dear mam/brother. Speaking of which… one week til I see you! I’m looking forward to it 🙂

Dear new wardrobe. Can’t wait for you to finally arrive next week!

Dear scales. I’m still not impressed with the number you’re showing me, but at least now it’s moving in the right direction!

Dear cheese. Somebody posted an article on Facebook recently claiming you had been proven to be addictive. Not sure how scientific said article was but I can well believe it!

That’s it for today. I’m off to the shops to find something for tea. Happy Friday, everyone!

Hobbiton, New Zealand

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Our seventh day in New Zealand was spent waiting around at Queenstown airport for flights to start going again (everything was delayed due to morning fog) then picking up a hire car at Auckland airport and driving to my uncle’s place in Rotorua. Once there, we met my three-year old cousin and spent the evening eating takeaway curry and drinking wine/beer. I have no photos or interesting tales from that day, so we’ll skip straight to day 8 when my uncle had booked for us to go to Hobbiton. He had chosen a fairly early tour so that it would hopefully be less busy so we headed off straight after breakfast. I don’t remember our tour guides name,  but he was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. You could tell he had found his dream job and was absolutely in his element. Did you know that there are two versions of some of the hobbit holes – a “human” sized one and a smaller one. The people playing hobbits were filmed in front of the larger/human-sized one so that they looked the right size for it while the actors playing humans were filmed in front of the smaller ones to make them look too big for the little doorway. Obvious when you think about it, but it had never occurred to me before.

Anyway, I’m sure what you’re actually here for is photos. The place is truly stunning and the little hobbit doors are incredibly cute and colourful. I think everyone can agree on that, whether they’re into The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit or not 🙂

Because most of the hobbit holes were only filmed from the outside, there were only a few that actually had an inside, and even those only went back a tiny bit. The scenes inside hobbit holes were, of course, filmed in studios.

Those of you who were hoping to see a photo of me in a hobbit hole are out of luck 😉 The only photos that were taken involve other people. Jan doesn’t want to be on my blog and there’s no way I’m sharing a photo of a three year old for the entire Internet to see! Have some more hobbit holes and scenery instead 😉

I love how there are so many flowers everywhere. They obviously put a lot of work into the upkeep 🙂 Did you notice the bumblebee in amongst the last gallery? I couldn’t resist taking his photo when I saw him buzzing around outside one of the hobbit holes. I love bees! (Not wasps though, nasty vindictive creatures!)

Our entrance fee included a visit to the Green Dragon complete with a drink. I chose the red ale wile Jan went for a stout. There was also a ginger ale for children and non-alcohol drinkers. My cousin didn’t like hers so we all tried it and proclaimed it very tasty. You could also buy food. I’m not sure how you would find the time to eat it though! It wasn’t long before we were being shepherded back to the bus…

I actually thought that Hobbiton was very well done. It could so easily have been horribly commercialised, but it wasn’t particularly (well, other than only being allowed to go in with an official tour which isn’t really cheap!). I’m quite glad they didn’t go the route of having the tour guides dress as hobbits, with other people in costume buzzing around and some kind of “hobbit experience” that would make the whole thing feel a bit like a theme park! Instead we got a lovely walk in the sunshine, a tour guide who gave the impression of just wanted to talk about something he loves, and even my little cousin seemed to enjoy herself despite having no idea what was going on (she liked that everything was three-year-old sized). Overall, I think Hobbiton was worth it… although it’s possible I might think differently if I had been the one to pay for it 😉