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!).

… and it still isn’t Christmas

Does anyone else feel like “the season” has been going on forever? The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of buying and wrapping presents, trips to the post office (the last of my parcels to England finally went out last week), parties and Christmas markets. And in between all that I’ve had to do the assessment for my science course (a last minute job which I’m dreading getting the result for), work and keep on top the mundane every day things like cleaning the flat and making sure we have actual food to eat. The upside is that I now have lots to tell my blog. Unfortunately I still don’t have any time, so it’s going to have to be another boring bullet point list. Sorry about that…

  • I want to Mainz last Saturday with my ex-colleagues. I had never been to Mainz before. We went to the Christmas market, where the Glühwein was much cheaper than everywhere else I’ve been. Mainz is a bit of a strange town. It’s really pretty around the market square then you walk into the shopping street and it’s all horrible grey concrete buildings and huge glass monstrosities. The Christmas market was nice though.
  • It’s been snowing here on and off for the past few days. This is worth mentioning because it’s so unusual. Not that Karlsruhe never gets snow, but the little bit that does come is not usually this early. It’s also freezing. Yesterday it was -12°C! I had to go out in it to buy stuff for a Christmas party I hosted last night. It was so bad that I actually got on the tram to go one stop, which I usually think is a waste of time.
  • I had a progress meeting at work last week. There are a few things I’ve been asked to work on, but the verdict was generally positive (and no mention was made of my social skills… or lack thereof. There is something to be learned from this I’m sure…)
  • Last week we went to both my work Christmas meal (at an Italian restaurant) and Jan’s work Christmas party. Mine was more fun, although we missed the last train home and ended up having to wait until 1:06am for a train that would take us to Bruchsal, where we had to change onto an S-Bahn. I also had to work the next day. Tired is not the word…
  • I received a parcel last week, from the lovely Katyboo. It contained a Christmas card and a book – The Children of Green Knowe. Unexpected and very nice – I’ve been wanting to read that book for ages! 🙂
  • On Friday I went to the Christmas market in Mannheim with my colleagues. It was nice but so cold that we only stayed long enough to have something to eat and drink one Glühwein. I was back in Karlsruhe by 9pm!
  • Two more days at work then I’m off for Christmas. We’re staying in Germany this year (at Jan’s dad’s place) then going to Italy to visit his sister for New Year. Exciting stuff.

And now I have to go and do something about my flat, which is still suffering from the after effects of a Christmas party. It may take some time…

I do love a good bargain…

I bought a quilt today. I wasn’t intending to, but I happen to spot some as I was walking past Tchibo so I thought I’d pop in and have a look. When I discovered it was actually the size I was looking for I became very excited – I’ve been looking since the beginning of the month and so far only found ones that were too small. And they’re all stupidly expensive. I’m talking around 69 euros in the sale. What is that all about? It’s only a quilt, not an entire flipping bed! This one was only 40 euros full price. Then when I took it up to the counter I found out it was reduced, so I ended up oly paying 25 euros. Result! It also just so happens that “buy a quilt” is on my 101 things list, but I wasn’t even thinking about that at the time. Now I have I can cross it off though. One step closer to the finish line 😉
Now all that remains is to be a cover for my lovely new quilt and I’ll be all set for winter…

Science and Sunday dinner

I made a sort of Sunday dinner yesterday. Why “sort of” you ask? Well, there werre no Yorkshire puddings and the meat (pork steaks) was fried rather than roasted because I don’t trust my oven at all (there’s something wrong with the thermostat – no matter how high a setting you put it on it always claims to be at most 150°C. And I really don’t want to risk putting meat in an oven that I don’t actually know the temperature of…). We did have both roast and mashed potatoes though. And after my recent trip to England I have actual proper gravy granules. German “Bratensosse” is just not the same. Sure, it goes well enough with wild boar or Schnitzel but for a proper Sunday dinner you’ve gotta have English gravy!
We had a starter as well. I’m currently doing an Open University short course called Science Starts Here and this weekend I had to do an experiment which involved putting sliced potatoes in the oven and weighing them every hour to find out what percentage of a potato is water. The end result was something that looked a lot like those potato skins you get as a starter in restaurants so we covered them in salt and pepper and ate them. I also dipped mine in allioli (garlic sauce) which was dee-licious. While we were waiting for the main course to finish cooking I happened to mention to Jan what a shame it was I had no dessert to offer him. You see, one of the things on my 101 things list is to cook a three course meal for my boyfriend (3 times!) and as I had done all the work with dinner I thought if I had dessert I could let this count (even if the starter was originally a science experiment). Having had the thought I naturally couldn’t rest until I’d at least tried to carry it out, so I got onto Google and started looking up recipes that only use ingredients I actually had in the house. It being a Sunday in German I would have had no chance of getting anything that was missing – only the petrol stations and the tiny little shop at the train station are open. Luckily I found a recipe for golden syrup dumplings, so I made that. Mine looked nothing like the picture on the website but they tasted good and that’s all that matters, right?

We were going to go to the cinema after dinner to see the German film Der Weisse Band (The White Ribbon – read about it here) but Jan decided he was too tired, so we stayed home and watched two episodes of ER instead. We’re up to season 3 now. I love the old ones – Noah Wyle (Carter) looks so young!

The list! The list!

OK, before I get on to the actual topic of the day, which is my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, there is something I have to share with you.
According to my stats someone found me last night be searching Google for penis shaped friendship bracelets. I can think of only one thing to say to that, and that thing is WHY?!!?

And now, without further ado, I shall move onto the list.
I am also going to make a page with it on, so in future you will be able to see my progress without having to search for this blog post. Errm, that is, of course, if anyone’s actually interested in my progress. Other than me. Right. Anyway. The list!
I have split it up into sections for ease of reading and stuff…

The Places I will Go
1. Take an intensive Spanish course in Spain
2. Visit 5 places in Germany that I’ve never been to before
3. Eat frog’s legs in France, fondue in Switzerland and goulash in Hungary
4. Go to Europapark (theme park near Freiburg)
5. Go for a ride  in a hot air balloon
6. Go to the Christmas market in Ettlingen
7. Go to 5 other Christmas markets (not including Karlsruhe)
8. See the Northern Lights
9. Go on the London Eye
10. Go to Berlin with my boyfriend
11. Go to Luxembourg
12. Buy a 24 ticket for the Karlsruhe transport network and spend the day visiting different towns
13. Go on a boat on the Rhine
14. Go on an overnight train journey and spend the night in a sleeping compartment
15. Have a picnic in a town I’ve never been to before

Reading, Watching, Listening

16. Read 50 books from the list of books I want to read (which you can find here).
17. Read 15 non-fiction books
18. Read the Little Vampire books in the original German
19. Read War and Peace
20. Read all of the Anne of Green Gables books
21. Read 5 biographies/autobiographies (these will not count towards the 15 non-fiction books!)
22. Read 5 German children’s books
23. Watch every episode of ER – to make life easier for me I will count it down by season.
24. Watch 27 films from the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” list
25. Watch a film in Spanish
26. Go to the cinema 10 times
27. Watch 5 films from the year I was born
28. See a Shakespeare play (not Oddsocks!)
29. See a German play
30. See Eddie Izzard live
31. See a musical
32. Discover 3 new (to me) bands that I like and buy an album of theirs
33. See 3 bands/artists live (not at Das Fest)

It’s All About Us
34. Kiss my boyfriend under the mistletoe
35. Cook a 3 course meal for my boyfriend on 3 different occasions
36. Bake Jan a birthday cake
37. Go for a nice meal together at a restaurant we wouldn’t usually go to; get dressed up for it
38. Kiss outside during a thunderstorm
39. *Secret* (No, it’s nothing naughty. Just something I want to surprise Jan with. Keeping it secret until after I’ve done it in case he decides to read this)
40. Get a flat with my boyfriend

Getting Creative
41. Complete a cross stitch picture converted from a photograph that I took
42. Complete 3 other cross stitch pictures
43. Hand make 10 birthday cards and send/give them to family/friends
44. My photo challenge! Assign a theme to each month of the 1001 days & take 50 pictures during that month.
45. Make something and sell it
46. Make a dreamcatcher
47. Take a photo for each letter of the alphabet and make an alphabet book with them (A is for…)

For My Health
48. Eat a portion of fruit every day for 2 weeks
49. Do not eat chocolate, cake or sweets for 1 month
50. Be in bed before 10pm 50 times
51. Walk home from the train station instead of taking a tram 10 times
52. Take vitamins every day for 30 days in a row
53. Go to the dentist

Learning and Education
54. Take 2 more OU courses (apart from the one I already have booked for October)
55. Learn calligraphy
56. Learn basic Russian
57. Learn basic Japanese

Eat Me! Drink Me!
58. Find 10 restaurants in Karlsruhe that I’ve never been to and have a meal there
59. Bake 10 different cakes
60. Make jam
61. Have sparkling wine for breakfast
62. Go vegetarian for 2 weeks
63. Make lemonade
64. Drink a cup of green tea every day for a week
65. Eat fish twice a month for all months of the 1001 days
66. make gingerbread people
65. make mango chutney
66. Find a recipe for garlic soup and make it
67. Find 6 recipes that use avocados and make them
68. Attend a wine seminar
69. Eat one meal with chopsticks every day for one month

Because other people are important too…
70. Host a pancake party
71. Host a tea party
72. Give (at least) 50 euros or pounds to 3 different charities
73. Visit someone I haven’t seen for a while (= more than a year)
74. Bake cookies, put them in a nice tin and give them to someone as a birthday present
75. Write a letter to my grandparents
76. Send 20 postcards for no particular reason

Getting Organised
77. Get all my photos from Hamburg, Prague, belgium, Paris and Rome printed and put them in albums
78. Sort out my underwear drawer. Thow away anything that is holey, losing its elastic or just generally looks shabby.
79. Sort out the clothes I still have at my dad’s. Give anything that is too small or I’m obviously never going to wear again to charity.
80. Find all my recipes and put them in a folder. No more searching the entire flat every time I want to make something!
81. Do my taxes
82. Find all my bank statements and put them in a folder

Money, Money, Money
83. Pay off my overdraft
84. Buy a pair of red shoes
85. Buy a printer
86. Pay Jan back
87. Start paying off my student loan

The Flat
88. Get a new quilt to go with my new bed
89. Get tubs/jars for everything in the kitchen that evil moth beasts might be interested in
90. Get curtains for the bedroom
91. Wash the dishes on the same day I use them for 3 weeks

I like making  lists!
92. Identify 101 things that make me happy
93. make a list of 101 quotes that I like. The list can include song lyrics.

Other stuff, or the I couldn’t be bothered to think of more categories section
94. Build a snowman
95. Buy a colouring book and colour in the whole thing
96. Do a jigsaw puzzle.
97. Join trip advisor and write 10 reviews
98. Go bowling
99. Buy myself flowers
100. Release 10 bookcrossing books into the wild… the proper wild that is, not official bookcrossing zones!
101. Leave the computer off for an entire weekend. Not when on holiday – it has to be a weekend where I am actually at home!

That is it. And I must tell you it took ages to come up with 101 things!
If you decide to do your own 101 things in 1001 days list let me know in the comments box so I can come and look at your ideas 🙂

I will be starting to 1001 days on 13th August 2009, which makes my end date Thursday, 10th May 2012.