The Mysterious Woods of Whistleroot by Christopher Pennell

Another book review for the Summer 2014 Reading Challenge with Megan from Semi-Charmed Kinda Life. I read this one for the category “Read a book from the children’s section of a library or bookstore”, which is worth 10 points. Depending on the source, the age range is given as 8-10 or 9-12. Either way, it fits into the category.

book4The plot:
Eleven-year-old Carly Bitter Bean is an orphan. Since birth, she has only ever been able to sleep during the day. No matter how hard she tries, once the sun sets she just cannot sleep. Understandably, this has led to having a rather lonely life – it’s difficult to make friends when you’re only awake when everyone else is sleeping. All that changes when she meets Lewis, a talking rat who appears at her window one night asking her to join his band, and is then befriended by a mysterious boy at school, Green. Together, they set out to find out why the owls – who had previously enjoyed listening to the rats’ music – have suddenly started killing them instead…

My review:
I wish this book had been around when I was a child! I would have devoured it right around the time I was in my Faraway Tree/Wishing Chair/Narnia phase. But that’s not to say I couldn’t enjoy it as an adult. I really liked how the characters were drawn, and that the aspects that weren’t obviously fantasy (like talking rats) were realistic. In so many children’s fantasy books, the protagonists don’t seem to have any connection to real-life activities, or they manage to miss school for days on end and nobody even asks why. I liked that Carly still had to go to school (where she was constantly in trouble for falling asleep and also teased by her classmates for being “weird”. Not that I’m advocating bullying, but a girl who was constantly falling asleep in school and never came out to play (because after school she had to use the remaining daylight hours to sleep) would be teased). Also, when Green missed a few days of school, he returned with a note for the teacher explaining his absence… just like in real life! I also like the fact that, although Carly’s aunt (who she lives with) wasn’t a particularly likeable character, she wasn’t portrayed as some charicature of wicked with no redeeming qualities. Yes, she neglected Carly and made no effort to stay awake with her, but she did leave food out and make sure she went to school. The plotline was interesting, fun and adventurous. It wasn’t exactly a challenging story, but that’s hardly surprising considering the age range it’s actually meant for! Many adults would probably find it a bit childish, but personally I would see that as a good thing in a children’s book! I would recommend this one for fans of The Faraway Tree series, Narnia and any other stories that involve talking animals or fairytale folk come to life.

Now you see me, now you don’t!

I am very briefly back in Germany. Today, we shall be unpacking the suitcase then repacking it ready to fly to Madeira tomorrow. A flying visit home, you might say. Christmas with the family was full but fun. While in England, i managed to munch my way through a tonne of bacon, some chips and battered sausage (sadly no gravy because the chip shop had run out), a Sunday roast, Galaxy Minstrels, several packets of McCoy’s crisps, Christmas dinner, trifle, banoffee pie, some good old English sausages and mash inside a giant Yorkshire pudding, corned beef and potato pie and gallons and gallons of tea! A successful trip, I think.

As for Christmas gifts, my friends and family seem to have been conspiring this year. Much as I love owls, I don’t think I’ll be needing any more for a while!

A parliament of owls?
A parliament of owls?

None owl related gifts included a food package from a friend, the film Philadelphia on DVD, a poppy dress from Jan (which I had very unsubtley asked for), a gorgeous snood from my mum, a book and a bracelet. Jan and I also received a sheep doorstopper that I asked my dad to buy for us when M&S had them on sale. Basically I was spoiled rotten 🙂

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas full of tasty food, great gifts and festive cheer!

Home alone!

 

Jan had to leave for his dissertation conference thingy at 5:30 this morning (yawn!), so I am now boyfriend-free for a whole week. Of course,most of that time will be spent at work, but for today it’s just me and the flat. Her are my plans for the day:

A whole pot of tea and some biscuits all to myself. No need to share!

Tea and biscuits

Two new cross stitch magazines for me to read – and pick out projects that I’ll probably never get round to stitching!

Cross stitch magazines

A selection of my favourite music playing on my BlackBerry!

Currently playing: Poets of the Fall - All the Way/4U
Currently playing: Poets of the Fall – All the Way/4U

(By the way, it’s incredibly difficult to take a photo that actually shows which song is playing rather than just the reflection of my face/the camera/the ceiling…)

Staying in my pyjamas, fluffy socks and slippers all day!

PJs

And just because it’s so cute, have a bonus picture of my teapot dressed in an owl tea cosy:

owl cosy

Later, I shall be starting my spring clean, but for now it’s time to relax and enjoy having the place to myself.
Have a great Sunday everyone!

 

Rhodt unter Rietburg

Time to return to my 30 German towns before 30 series…

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Jan and I went to Rhodt unter Riedburg in April 2011 on the recommendation of a friend. The village is located in the Südliche Weinstraße (Southern Wine Route) area of Rhineland Palatinate and they’ve been making wine there for more than 1,200 years!

A field of future wine!
A field of future wine!

The Rietburg in the place name is a castle (now ruins), which is located on the Blättersberg, a small mountain (some might say hill) just outside the village. Hence, the name of the village literally means Rhodt under the Rietburg.

We were told that the path leading up the mountain through the woods was a nice walk, so after parking the car in the village and grabbing an ice cream (YUM!) we set off to check it out. Our route took is through the fields of grapes. Here, you can see our destination Рthe top of the mountain Рand on the right Villa Ludwigsh̦he, which was the summer residence of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.

Blättersberg and Villa Ludwigshöhe

Part way up the mountain, we spotted these guys, who I just had to take a photo of:

Owls in the woods

Now that’s the kind of art that appeals to me! It was a nice, sunny day but thankfully not too hot – climbing mountains (or even hills) when it’s boiling is no fun!

I kept stopping to take photos and catch my breath (I was – and am – sooo unfit!), which annoyed Jan slightly. But how could I not when it was all so pretty?

Eventually, we did reach the top though. The remains of the Rietburg castle are now a restaurant, and there is also a platform from where you can see the view.

We decided to eat at the restaurant there, and I tried Saumagen (sow’s stomach) for the first time. Well, it is a speciality of the Pfalz (Palatinate), and you know what they say about when in Rome… It was quite salty but not as bad as it sounds. I’d probably give it about an 8 out of 10.

Behind the castle, there is a wildlife enclosure, so after eating we went to have a look at that. Aren’t the deer pretty?

 

 

There was nothing more to see on the mountain, so we took the chairlift down and walked back to the village via the vineyards again.

Grapes

On the way back through the village, I spotted this. I thought it was rather nice.

Sign

And then I had to take a photo of this little street because I loved the blue shutters on the house on the right!

Rhodt unter Rietburg

There wasn’t a great deal to do in Rhodt and I can’t imagine it being very interesting on a rainy day, but our friend was right about the Blättersberg being a great place to go for a walk. The food at the restaurant up there was good (and not too expensive) and I also tried some local white wine, which I really enjoyed. The Villa Ludwigshöhe usually has art exhibitions, but was unfortunately closed for a private event when we were there, and they also have a Fest des neuen Weines (New Wine festival) in September of each year. On a sunny day, I would recommend not only climbing the mountain, but also having a look around the village. There are some really pretty buildings! And if you don’t go on a Sunday (as we did) you might even be able to buy a few bottles of the local wine…

Buying things for the flat makes me happy

Close to Schwetzingen, there is a huge furniture store called Höffner. As we were leaving Schwetzingen on Saturday, Jan suggested for drop by there to see if we could find any of the bits we still need for the flat (I love that I have a boyfriend who’s not only willing to shop for furniture with me but actually suggests it himself!). When I agreed to stay I told him that I wanted to get back to sorting out the flat this year, and he obviously took it to heart.

Here’s what we got:

A cupboard to go under the bathroom sink. Jan had to saw its back legs off so it could go on the raised ledge thing that runs the length of the bathroom.

Bathroom cupboard
Bathroom cupboard

I love how neat the bathroom looks now that our toilertries are inside the cupboard and not lined up along the entire length of the ledge!

I wanted something to store wrapping paper in, so we ended up taking this:

Giant vase? Nah... gift wrap holder!
Giant vase? Nah… gift wrap holder!

I saw a beautiful umbrella stand that would have worked just as well, but I refused to pay €75 for something I planned to store wrapping paper in. (I wouldn’t have paid that if I was going to use it for its intended purpose either!)

This basket now holds all my self-help books:

Basket for books
Basket for books

They were previously stacked up under the bedside table, partly because there’s no room left on the bookcase for them but also because I don’t think every visitor to our house needs to know I have those books. It was difficult to move the pile when I wanted to hoover… now I can just pull out the basket.

A gorgeous table runner, or more fuel for my obession with owls:

Owl table runner
Owl table runner

They had bedding with the same owl on, but only in single bed size which is no goo to us.

Jan also got a frame for a poster of his that refused to stay up with simple blu-tack. It looks much nicer framed anyway!

Not a bad haul for a couple of hours shopping.

A good day after all

After not sleeping very well last night then having to get up while it was still dark this morning – a fact that I had somehow managed to bloc from my memory during my two weeks off – I was really not in the mood for going to work this morning. Monday has never been my favourite day and first Mondays back after two weeks spent relaxing are never going to get a reputation for being particularly fun. But then my colleague arrived bringing with her an unexpected gift for me and suddenly things looked a lot brighter.

I got a mini Henry desktop hoover! He’s just like the ordinary Henry hoovers (you know, the red vacuum cleaners with the face), but battery operated and much smaller. So very cute! Every time my very boring translation made me start to wish I was anywhere but at my desk, a quick glance at Henry soon put the smile back on my face.

I then arrived home to find that two things had arrived. First something I found last week while looking for a gift for a friend’s birthday. I immediately fell in love and after showing it to Jan he agreed that I could buy it:

Owl tea cosy
Owl tea cosy

Isn’t she beautiful? (Yes, I’ve decided it’s a she). More fuel for my current obsession with owls. And it goes very well with the owl cushion my Grandma sent me before Christmas.

The second thing I found in my mail box made me squee very loudly to myself in excitement:

Eddie Izzard tickets!!
Eddie Izzard tickets!!

You probably can’t tell from this photo, but these are in fact my tickets for Eddie Izzard in Berlin this April!! I wanted to take a close up photo but my camera battery died immediately after taking this one.

The excitement of receiving my tickets was even enough to give me the rush of energy I needed to do some of my exercise DVD. Admittedly only one circuit (well, 3 if you inlude the warm up and cool down) but I did the thighs and triceps one which always kills me! I’ve no idea how I’m going to cope when I eventually get round to trying out the entire 40 minute workout!

So a potentially bad day that actually turned out well. Isn’t amazing what a difference a visit from the postman can make? 😉 (Not to mention lovely colleagues who know exactly what gifts will make you smile).

Overexcited about owls

I know I’ve already posted once tonight, but Jan has an extra choir practice and there’s nobody here for me to share my excitement with so you’re just going to have to bear with me.

The DHL man has just been – the second time this week that they’ve managed to arrive late enough for me to be home from work. Could it be that they’ve finally realised normal people aren’t waiting around to receive packages every day between 10 am and 2 pm? – and with him, he brought this:

Naturally, I had to try it on straight away and… it fits! I think I may be in dress heaven! Now I just need to take it for an outing in public. I’ll have to give it a wash before then though – right now, for some reason, it absolutely reeks of furniture polish…

New project

This shall have to be a quick post as it’s already 9:45 pm and I want to get an early start at work tomorrow, which means catching the 6:51 train! I’m a bit behind on a translation I’m doing and it’s quite long and waaay out of my area of expertise, so every extra minute counts!
So, I’ve thought up a new project for my free time. After completing quite a few cross stitch pictures from preassembled kits, I’ve decided it’s now time to start making my own! Obviously I’ll continue using the kits for large projects (at least for now), but I want to make some smaller designs and use them to make greeting cards and things. The only downside is that I can’t draw at all. I started experimenting with owls… nothing fancy, just simple little things, basically made up of circles. They look ridiculous! Jan thinks if I keep trying I’ll get better with time. Personally I have my doubts… surely constant repetition will never be a good substitute for actual ability? But try I shall. So if you don’t hear from me for a while don’t worry. I haven’t dropped off the face of the Earth… I’m just holed up in my room practising drawing owls! I also want to learn calligraphy, which I’ve ordered a book for, and we’re in the process of trying to decide which Spanish course to do next, so hopefully soon I’ll be very, very busy, which can only be a good thing. After all, I can’t spend the rest of my life doing nothing at all…