January photos

Some bloggers write a weekly photo post sharing a photo for each day of the previous week. There’s no way I’m going to remember to take a photo every single day, but I do like the idea of sharing random photos that don’t fit into a whole blog post, so I’ve decided to just write a post at the end of each month where I can dump all the photos I took. Here’s January’s.

It snowed and actually settled enough to still be there at the weekend so I went for a walk and found this guy:

red-squirrel

I also tried to take photos of snowy Basel from on top of a hill, but didn’t do very well:

baselbasel-markthalle

A few days later it snowed again and someone came to visit our balcony:

robin

That was the best photo I managed to get before I was spotted…

I then went out for a walk during my lunch break and discovered it’s quite difficult to take good photos while the snow is actually in the process of falling!

Look how deep it was though:

dscn0151

Finally, after disappearing for a few weeks, birds started visiting our balcony again. Here’s one sitting in a tree, having just taken a seed from our feeder and flown away to a safe distance to eat it:

bird

And that’s about it for January. Snow and wildlife… that sums up my month pretty well, to be honest.

Friday letters… and some links

It’s Friday again! The weeks always seem to drag by while they’re actually happening, but looking back it feels like no time has passed since the last time it was Friday. I haven’t been doing much this week, so along with my letters I’ve decided to include some links for you to have a look at… otherwise this would have ended up being a very short and very boring post.

Eye'm watching you...

Dear Rossmann employee. I’m not entirely sure why you gave me a free bottle of shower gel when I went to pay the other day, but thanks. (I just hope it wasn’t a hint… did the cheesy feet smell rub off on me?!)

Dear clotted cream. The fact that I discovered you in Karstadt the other day is clearly a hint that I need to make scones this weekend. Home-made afternoon tea here I come!

Dear January. I’m not sure what happened to you this year… it seem like I’ve just given up on you. Since we got back from Madeira, I’ve done basically nothing. No trips, no events. Now I’ve finished writing up our holiday, I’ve no idea how I’m even going to think of posts for my blog! And so much for my “travel more” resolution. Here’s hoping February is more interesting…

Now for some links…

Happy Friday everyone! Have a fabulous weekend.

More Friday letters

Yep, it’s that time again! I haven’t really had much to post about this week (as you may have noticed…). January is such a blah month, don’t you think? Nothing really seems to happen – at least not in my life. Nevertheless, here are my Friday letters for the week…

English: Wormgate letterbox 19th century lette...
19th century letterbox in Wormgate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear snow. You are very pretty, but must you also be so slippy? I’m sure I’m going to break my neck before long!

Dear self. I know Amazon is really tempting with its e-mails full of recommendations and ridiculously cheap second-hand books, but  you really need to stop spending money… at least until pay day!

Spending Money
Spending Money (Photo: 401(K) 2013)

Dear weekend. I’m so glad you’re here! I know we’re going to have lots of fun together.

Dear exercise DVD. I have done a circuit from you three times this week (I skipped Wednesday for no other reason than laziness, and tonight I seriously don’t have time! Been home long enough to type this and as soon as I’m done I’m off to put some washing on and start cooking tea). When do I get to start seeing results?

Dear self (again). The answer to the above question is when you stop allowing yourself a treat every. single. day.

Dear new gloves. You are soft and fluffy and, most importantly, warm. I think I’m in love!

Dear brain. One day you are going to produce a translation in which my colleague doesn’t have to suggest stylistic changes in every other sentence. Please work with me on this because seeing so many corrections every single day is starting to make my wonder whether I’m actually in the right profession.

Dear lips. I know it’s cold outside and central heating sucks the moisture out of everything, but please could you stop being dry and chapped and sore? I can only put lip balm on so many times a day, you know!

Dear tea. You (and chocolate) have kept me sane this week. Thank you!

For more Friday letters, see: http://www.thesweetseasonblog.com/2013/01/fridays-letters_18.html

Happy weekend, everybody!

January brings the snow

We used to sing this in junior school:

January brings the snow,
Makes your feet and fingers glow.
A Happy New Year has just begun,
So sing this January song.

That’s all I remember – not sure if there’s more to it. Junior school was a long time ago!

This January certainly has brought the snow, at least in Karlsruhe. Shame – I was quite enjoying the milder temperatures we’d been having.

Snowy Karlsruhe
Snowy Karlsruhe
Snooow!
Snooow!
Snowy branch
Snowy branch
Behind the Natural History Museum (Naturkundemuseum)
Behind the Natural History Museum (Naturkundemuseum)
A snow-covered fountain in front of the Vierortbad
A snow-covered fountain in front of the Vierordtbad

I wonder how long the snow will last this time?

The month of tea and soup

I read recently that January is apparantly National Hot Tea Month. I’m assuming the “National” here must refer to America – I’ve certainly never heard of it! Mind you, being British I have no need for a tea month. A nice cup of tea, according to we Brits, is the answer to everything, therefore every month is tea month!

January is also supposedly National Soup Month. Again, I can only assume the nation in question is America. I think this is one I could get on board with though. What could be better to counteract the awfulness of January than some nice hot soup? (I know it’s an utter cliché, but I think January is my least favourite month of the year, closely followed by November.)

World soup month is the way forward, I feel. Admittedly it’s not exactly soup weather in Australia and New Zealand, but there’s always Gazpacho and… other cold soups. I’m sure there must be some.

Homemade soup!
Homemade soup!

Since tonight, for me, is quiz night (the first one of the year!) here are some random facts about January for you:

questionmarks
Question marks (Photo credit: makeitgreat)
  1. The birthstone for January is garnet.
  2. 8 January is the birth date of Elvis Presley, Dame Shirley Bassey (a Welsh singer) and David Bowie.
  3. The United Kingdom claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands on 1 January 1833.
  4. January is named after the Roman God Janus, God of beginnings and transitions
  5. Traditionally, the Roman calendar consisted of 10 months totalling 304 days, with winter as a “monthless” period. January and February were only added in around 713 BC, which explains the seeming weirdness of October, November and December – which mean eight, nine and ten respectively, despite, in fact, being the tenth, eleventh and twelfth months!
  6. The London Underground, the world’s oldest underground railway, opened in 10 January 1863. That means the oldest section, which went from Paddington Station to Farringdon Street via King’s Cross and is now incorporated into the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines, will be celebrating 150 years this year!

In which I go slightly overboard on the brackets…

Work was pretty good today, but busy. Very, very busy. It’s only Tuesday and already I’m exhausted! So instead of doing some washing (which was my plan for tonight) I’ve spent the last 20 minutes ordering books from Amazon as a “treat” to myself (for what I’m not sure). This Internet shopping malarkey is really bad for my bank balance! But on the plus side it means I’m actually getting somewhere with one of my goals… I’m up to 9 books read from the never-ending list (5 of them in January… no wonder the past month seems to have flown by without me even noticing – I’ve apparantly spent most of it with my nose in a book!) plus one German children’s book, whcih I am counting towards the 101 things list even though I technically read it for my dissertation and not because I desperately wanted to read a book by Eric Kästner. I really need to start reading some non-fiction books though… I’ve been saying for ages that I want to. Instead I find myself going through my Amazon recommendations, adding even more books to the list (can you believe the boyfriend actually has the never to tell me he finds it difficult to choose birthday and Christmas presents for me? There’s a ready-made list full of the perfect gifts just sitting, waiting for him to pay attention to it!). I failed on the monthly photo theme again (maybe 50 photos was a little too ambitious?) so it’s good to know I’ve managed to get somewhere with something…

I’ve also started to get back into cross stitch lately. A few weeks ago I picked up a project that I stopped working on months ago and I’ve come surprisingly far since then. It was supposed to be a birthday present for Jan’s mum in 2008! Hopefully I’ll actually manage to get it to her this year. I have until November, which should be do-able as long as I don’t stop again…

Ooh, and I’ve just realised, the package that arrived for me today is probably another cross stitch kit that I ordered… a wedding sampler for one of the couples I know who are taking the plunge (Yes, you read that right. I said one of the couples. There are a few…) I hope it is – I’m really looking forward to getting started on that one.

Recent reads

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I got books for Christmas then I went and ordered some for myself from Amazon. There were three in particular that I found myself eagerly reaching for every time I had a spare minute (and it just so happened that all three of them were on The List. January has been a good month for crossing off books – and it’s not even over yet!). Since I enjoyed these so much and I’m sure none of you want to read about how I unblocked the shower all by myself I thought I’d make today book review day instead. Enjoy!

Emma and Me by Elizabeth Flock
Told from the point of view of Caroline, known a Cariie, an 8-year old girl living wih her family in Toast, North Carolina. For Carrie, life is divided into the time before her father was killed, when everything was good, and the present, where she has to put up with a drunken, abusive stepfather and a mother who doesn’t seem to care. The “Emma” of the title is Carrie’s little sister, who seems to be the only person who really cares about Carrie. When Richard announces that the family is moving across the state for his new job the two girls try to run away, but Richard finds them and after that they are treated worse than ever. In the new town Carrie befriends a neighbour, Mr. Wilson, who teaches her to shoot. From then on the book rapidly moves towards the crash that has been coming since the story started, and a surprising truth is revealed. I can’t say any more without ruining the ending, but the twist certainly came as a shock to me!

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
I’ve been meaning to read this one since it came out, but somehow never got round to buying it so I was very pleased when I received it as part of my Christmas present from Jan.
Nine-year old Oskar Schell, ameteur inventor, jewellery maker, tambourine player and pacifist, finds a mysterious key left by his father who was killed in the September 11th attacks. The key is in a container labelled with the word “Black”. Realising this must be a name, Oskar decides to go and talk to everyone in New York City with the surname Black, hoping to find out more about his father in the process. As Oskar searches New York, the story of his Grandfather, who survived the Dresden bombings, is woven into the book. Eventually the two stories come together and the story ends on a hopeful note. It’s a sad book, which is only natural considering the subject matter, but it’s also humorous in places with a lot of touching moments. Recommended.

Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
17-year old Karen makes love to her boyfriend, Richard, for the first time at the top of a mountain. A few hours later she goes into a coma, which she stays in for 17 years. 9 months after falling uncious, she gives birth to a baby girl, Megan. Richard chooses to stay close to Karen, visiting her regularly in the nursing home and taking care of their daughter, with the help of Megan’s mother. Karen and Richarrd’s group of friends from high school drift in and out of the story, but eventually all end up back in the town where they were all born. Then, one night, when he entire group have ended up at the hospital for various reasons, Karen wakes up. To Karen, the world seems to have changed for the worse, while her friends have barely changed at all. Nobody seems to have time to relax any more and people are getting shallower and shallower. A short time later, a plague sweeps across the world until the group of friends (plus Megan) are the only ones left. They adapt, as humans tend to do, ending up sitting around watching TV and eating tinned food. Then they are told that there is a way for them to go back to before the world ended and stop it from happening…
I wasn’t too keen on the end of the book… the solution is a little too simple and the tone of the last few paragraphs doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest, but overall I thought this book was excellent and it certainly makes you think! (Karen definitely has a point with her remarks on technology and lack of leisure time!).