Three Days, Three Quotes – third time lucky

I was nominated for this challenge a third time, this time by Irish Procrastinator (ages and ages ago!). She is currently taking a break from blogging, but hopefully she will see my contributions at some point.

The rules, once more:

1. Thank the person who nominated you – thank you kindly, my dear.

2. Post a quote for three consecutive days (1 quote for each day).

3. Nominate three bloggers each day.

Today’s quote is from the song “No Time to Sleep” by Tina Dico. I find it quite thought-provoking.

Tina Dico quote

I’m breaking rule number three again and not nominating anybody but if you would like to do this (again) consider yourself nominated!

If you would like to listen to the song, here you are:

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2014 Winter Reading Challenge – Month 1

It’s the first day of December today (how did that happen?!), which means it’s also time for the first monthly check in for the Semi-Charmed 2014 Winter Reading Challenge. You’ve probably already noticed that I’ve reviewd a few of the books I’ve read, but this post is the place for a roundup of the categories I’ve completed so far. And points, of course. Points are important!

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books.
Coastliners by Joanne Harris – Joanne Harris has written 16 novels (plus 3 cookbooks). I always enjoy her novels, so I knew I would like this on as well. It’s not as good as The Lollipop Shoes or Blue-eyed Boy though, so I’m giving it 4 stars.

10 points: Read a book of short stories
St. Lucy’s Home for for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell – I was originally going to read Different Seasons by Stephen King for this, but I was worried a book of four novellas might not quite count as short stories, so I chose this one instead. All the stories in this book are set on the same strange island, and all are surreal/not quite normal. I really enjoyed some of the stories, a few just confused me – it seemed like they ended too soon. 4 stars, because the good ones were really, really good but I can’t justify giving 5 for stars when a few of the stories bored me.

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – I’ve already written a full review of this one, so I won’t say too much here. it’s shocking and disturbing and well worth a read – not only for the teens it’s aimed at. 5 stars (rounded up from 4.5).

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you.
The Various by Steve Augarde – I’ve already reviewed this one as well. It’s basically a children’s fantasy adventure along the lines of Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood/Faraway Tree series, but more modern and much better written. A full 5 stars for this one – I LOVED it!

20 points: Read a “bookish book” (in which books play an important role).
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows – Hey… it looks like I’ve already written a review for this one, too. I’m on a role here! Another book that I really enjoyed… 5 stars.

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title.
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea – Ah, no review for this one yet 😉 This is the story of nineteen year-old Nayeli who works at the taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to “the beautiful North” – the United States – to find work. When it dawns on her that almost all the men have left, Nayeli decides to go North herself and recruit some men who are willing to come back to the village with her. I found this story really interesting, mostly because I know nothing about Mexico and life there. It was also interesting to read about crossing the border (illegally) from the perspective of the person trying to cross. Some parts of the story were a bit far-fetched and my Spanish unfortunately isn’t good enough to understand all the Spanish interjections that cropped up (and not all of them were explained!), but overall this was a pretty good read. 4 stars.

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster – Part 1 of this book is the story of Lucy Honeychurch, a young English woman visiting Italy for the first time with her older cousin as chaperone. While out there, she meets two young men, one totally unsuitable for her and one who she has been acquainted with for years. In part two, she gets engaged to one of the two men, but then has to decide which of the two to actually marry. I had mixed feelings about this book. I found the first half of the book fairly boring (with one or two more interesting moments), and half the time I wanted to slap Lucy (the main character), but then in the second half things picked up and towards the end I really enjoyed reading this. By the way, if you pick up the version of this book with a foreword/description of the novel, do not read it! The one in my copy contained a major spoiler for the plot. I’m giving this one 3 stars.

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams – You can read my full review here, but basically there are Norse gods, exploding check-in desks and a strangely intelligent eagle… what’s not to love? Five stars for this one.
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements – I mostly found this book boring, although it did have some funny moments.Admittedly it is a children’s book, and 10-12 year olds might like it, but it was not to my personal taste. My full (although not much longer than this) review is here. Three stars.

And that’s all I’ve read so far. If I’ve calculated correctly, that leaves me on 140 points so far. It would have been more, but the book I read for my local author turned out to only have 190 pages so it’s back to the drawing board with that one!

Finally, here’s the song that the lyric “a room with a view” was taken from. It’s by Danish singer Tina Dico and bears the same name (I hope this works…).

2014 Winter Reading Challenge

Remember when I took part in a reading challenge this summer? Well, it was so much fun that I knew I would have to take part in Megan’s next reading challenge. The categories for the winter challenge have just been released, and I’m excited to share my preliminary list with you.

First, the rules:

  • The challenge will run from November 1, 2014, to February 28, 2015. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on November 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on February 28 will count.
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audiobooks are fine, as long as the print versions meet the page requirements. Large-print books are also acceptable, as long as the regular-print version exceeds 200 pages in length.
  • A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once. If you want to switch the category of a book during a later check-in, that’s fine, just be sure to account for that in your point total.
  • Rereads can be used for a maximum of three books in the challenge. This rule is meant to encourage you to try new books while still allowing you to revisit books from your childhood or young adulthood that you might get more out of now. Please reread the entire book within the timeframe of the challenge in order to count it; no simply finishing old books or partial rereads (unless the category explicitly states otherwise, of course)!
  • The highest possible total is 200 points, and the first five people who finish the challenge will be invited to contribute a category for the next challenge.

And now, here are the categories and my first ideas on what to read for them:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules. – I’ll decide this later

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books. – So many authors! I’ll have to let you know on this one too.

10 points: Read a book of short stories. Do novellas count as short stores? Because if so I have Different Seasons by Stephen King waiting to be read…

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title. — Does coffee count as a food, I wonder?

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you (so no rereads for this one!). — I don’t have any ideas for this one yet. Suggestions anyone?

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language. — I’m thinking of reading a book in German that was originally written in French for this. I hope that doesn’t make me seem like a show off!

15 points: Read a book written by a local author (either an author from your state if you live in the United States, or from your country if you live somewhere else). — Megan has clarified that she wants us to choose an author local to where we are currently living, so that would be Germany for me.

20 points: Read a “bookish book” (in which books play an important role, e.g. the setting involves a bookstore or library, a major character is an author, or a book that celebrates reading and books. Examples: The Book Thief, The Shadow of the Wind, The Thirteenth Tale, etc.) — I now wish I hadn’t already read Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop as soon as it arrived! I’m probably going to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows for this one since I’ve had it on my list for a few years now.

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title (e.g. north, south, east, west or any combination of those). — Not sure about this one yet either.

25 points: Read a book from a genre you don’t usually read. — This is difficult because there aren’t really any genres I won’t read – if a book sounds good (or is the only one available to me), I’ll read it. The genre I read least is probably science fiction though, so I suppose I’ll choose something from that. Or maybe a war story.

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title. Be sure to tell us the song name and artist as well! — Submitted by Daire, who was kind enough to provide several example books, as this challenge is quite tricky! A few possibilities include: Pop Goes the Weasel by James Patterson (English nursery rhyme of the same name), The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (“Girl You Left Behind,” Pixie Lott), or Somewhere Only We Know by Cheyanne Young (“Somewhere Only We Know,” Keane). – The book doesn’t have to have been named after the song, or even have come after the song so I’m thinking of reading A Room With a View by E. M. Forster (as long as it has enough pages!) The song A Room With a View is by Danish singer Tina Dico. Alternatively, I may read Between the Lines by  and Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer. The song of the same name is by Sara Bareilles.

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, brunch). — I want to read The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams for this one (tea time is a meal where I come from!). Again, it depends whether it has enough pages though. And I haven’t found a second book for the category yet.

If you would like to join in, Megan will be hosting a link-up on Wednesday, 22 October for people to share their preliminary reading lists. In the meantime, you can read up on the rules and categories again on Megan’s blog, Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. Use the hashtag #SCWBC14 to talk about the challenge on Twitter, Instagram, etc.

Final Friday letters before 30!

This is the last time I’ll be writing Friday letters as a twenty-something. Let’s all take a moment to consider that, shall we?
……
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OK, enough considering. On with the letters!

George VI Postbox, Stragglethorpe, Lincolnshire
George VI Postbox, Stragglethorpe, Lincolnshire (Photo: Lincolnian (Brian))

Dear twenties.  You were an interesting decade. I graduated with 2:1 for my Bachelor’s degree, completed a Master’s, spent a year abroad in Germany, lived in Austria for ten months… then moved back to Germany, both loved (in Austria) and hated (in Germany) being a language assistant, decided I wanted to be a translator, completed a year long internship, worked for a not-so-nice company before finding my current job (which I’ll have been at for 4 years in September), travelled a lot, became an older sister for the third time… aged 23!, lost some friends, found out some other people never were friends… but also gained some friends who are way more amazing than those other people ever will be!! It’s been a rollercoaster, but overall the highs have outweighed the lows. I wonder what the next ten years will bring?

Dear readers. Sorry that first letter was so long! I hope you’re still with me 😉

Dear Frauenarzt. (Oh, alright – gynaecologist for the non-German speakers amongst you ;-)) Thank you for being so nice and patient… and from understanding that the scary Frauenarzt chair of doooom is kind of disturbing if you’ve never seen one before! (Yes people, I actually did it… I went and got my smear test done in Germany and lived to tell the tale!).

Dear work. I’d appreciate it if you could be less busy next week! I have two days off and I’d prefer not to spend the evenings of the other three doing overtime to catch up…

Dear Googlers. (Yes, that is a word!) Why have so many of you have found my blog recently by searching for “Tina Dico pregnant”? I’m just a fan… I have no idea whether she’s pregnant or not! She did have a baby last year though…

Dear Rocky Horror Show. I’m excited to see you on Sunday, but also intrigued as to what you’re going to be like in German!

Right, that’s it. I have things to do now. Have a great weekend everyone!

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My 2012

I have seen a few blog posts reviewing 2012 and since the last few days haven’t exactly been filled with exciting things to blog about (all I’ve done is purchase and wrap gifts for the first few birthdays of the year – I have my sister’s, dad’s, grandma’s and two friend’s birthdays all in January – it’s like Christmas present shopping all over again!) I thought I would do one too. Because I have no mind of my own imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So here is my 2012 in a nutshell.

January

I started the year in Salzburg, Austria, which made me very happy. I think Austria may be my favourite country ever (sorry Germany!). It was sleeting on New Year’s Eve but we stood on a hillside and watched the fireworks anyway:

Salzburg fireworks
Salzburg fireworks

The rest of January was pretty uneventful. I finally completed a birth announcement cross stitch intended for the baby of a good friend – right in time as it turned out. The baby came two weeks later! Right at the end of the month there was some bad news – Barney, my family’s Yorkshre Terrier, had been ill for a while and on 30 January I received a message from my sister telling me mum had had to have him put down that morning. RIP little fellow. We still miss you!

Barney in 2009
Barney in 2009

February

February saw Jan and I celebrating 8 years together along with the birth of my friend’s baby boy he missed out on being a Valentine’s baby by one day, much to his mother’s relief!
At the end of the month I finally managed to visit my friend in the Netherlands – a mere 2 and a half years after she moved there! She has since returned to her home country (America) so it was about time we visited! We saw Delft (where she was living), Leiden and the Hague.

Delft from above
Delft from above

March

Jan had his birthday on 1st March, but we didn’t celebrate due to him being ill. On St. Patrick’s Day, Jan was away but I went to the Irish pub with some friends. Then work sent me to Göttingen for a seminar. Other than that, I don’t think anything happened that month.

April

In April, I finally paid off the overdraft on my English bank account – a relic from my student days. Easter fell in April last year and on the Saturday Jan and I took a trip to Würzburg.

Würzburg, River Main
Würzburg, River Main

A few days later our relationship hit probably its lowest point, with me telling Jan that if things didn’t start improving I would move out at the end of the year.  I was encouraged to have a little hope though as Jan actually listened to me and seemed to be able to see my point of view. As you may have noticed, the end of the year has now been and gone and I’m still here. We still don’t have the perfect relationship (but honestly who does?), but things have improved.

May

1 May is always a public holiday in Germany – it’s not moved the the nearest Monday like in England – so in 2012 it was a Tuesday. I went to the theatre with some colleagues to see an English play. The advantage of working with translators is that they’re always willing to watch things in English! This was followed by two more public holidays: Ascension Day on 17 May and Pentecost Monday on 28 May.
Jan was away with work for most of the month, first in Munich then in America, so I was left to entertain myself  On Pentecost Monday (or Whit Monday if you prefer) I went to the annual Hoepfner Burgfest –  a beer festival at a local brewery – and, through a complete coincidence, met someone who has since become my friend. Not bad for someone who really doesn’t make friends easily!

June

In June I had visitors! Two of my housemates from when I was at uni came to see me. We caught up on what’s been going on in each other’s lives for the past seven years(!!) and I got to show them around my adopted home town.

Karlsruhe Marktplatz
Karlsruhe Marktplatz

For the rest of the month I watched a lot of football (European Cup!) and worked way too much, resulting in me feeling the need to get out of Karlsruhe for the day. So Jan drove me to the beautiful Calw, birth place of Hermann Hesse.

July

July brought another round of visitors – my sister and her boyfriend came so we could watch cars speeding round in circles at Hockenheim. Oh alright, there’s more to Formula 1 than that, but not much 😉 We also went to Heidelberg, saw Maximo Park at Das Fest and took a trip to Europapark, a theme park about an hour and a half from here which I had never been to! Guests are good for something, it seems 😉

Rollercoaster at Europapark
Rollercoaster at Europapark

August

August was my birthday month – the last one in which my age will have a 2 at the beginning. This year I’ll be turning 30 (help!!). I insisted on going out for cake, but other than that we didn’t do a great deal because we had to leave for Stockholm early the next morning. I adored Stockholm, but I’m not sure I could live there all year round – I hear it gets stupidly cold in winter! I could definitely have a summer residence there though.

Stockholm
Stockholm

September

September brought with it a personal record for me as I realised it had been six whole years since I moved back to Karlsruhe. This also marked the month in which Jan actually started letting me know when he wasn’t going to make it home in time for dinner. About a month later this then became texting me at a reasonable time to say he was on his way – meaning we’ve actually been able to eat together for the past few months! A genuine breakthrough in our relationship (and part of the reason I did end up deciding to stay).

Towards the end of the month we went to England, the first time in over a year that I had been back! I spent my time seeing family, eating way too much and also got to meet three of the babies that various friends had given birth to in 2012. Also it rained a lot. The stereotype would say that this is normal in the UK, but believe me this amount of rain was far from normal!

York. The footpath along the river is completely under water.
York. The footpath along the river is completely under water.

October

In October I joined in with the Friday’s letters linkup for the very first time, went to see the wonderful Tina Dico in concert and, of course, celebrated Halloween. I went as a bat in a homemade costume.

November

All Saints Day (1 November) was yet another public holiday in my part of Germany, so I took 2 November off work, giving me a four day weekend to start the month with. Hurrah! We took advantage of the bridge day to go to Schwäbisch Hall. I then came down with the evil cold from hell, spent most of the rest of my four-day weekend in bed and even ended up working from home later that week because I just could not stop coughing. So much for November! I did manage to go to a Wise Guys concert on 17 November, but I wasn’t fully over my cold until a few days after that. I always went to Mosbach to see a friend perform with her choir and got slightly overexcited about Primark opening in Karlsruhe.

Primark fox scarf
Primark fox scarf

December

I won’t go into too much detail about the final month of 2012 seeing as it’s only just happened and I’m sure you can all remember exactly what it consisted of. If I were to sum up December in just a few words I think I would have to say Glühwein, baking, gift wrapping and way too much time spent at the post office!

The year ended the same way as it began – with fireworks. This time they were in Luxembourg, the second new country I visited in 2012 after Sweden.

Fireworks in Luxembourg
Fireworks in Luxembourg

2012 had its low points, but overall it wasn’t such a bad year. I made a new friend, travelled a lot more than I had expected and was able to spend time with people who I hadn’t seen for a very long time. Put in context like this, I can actually see that I had a pretty amazing year. Now let’s see what 2013 brings!

The state of my relationship

Those of you who have been reading for a while are probably wondering what’s going on with my relationship since I made this decision earlier in the year. Or I could be flattering myself and you’re not actually interested ;-). For those who don’t know what I’m talking about and don’t want to go and read my previous long (and – I see now  error-filled) post, in a nutshell I told my boyfriend of nearly 9 years that if he couldn’t decide what he wants from our relationship by the end of the year I would move out. To quote myself in the post I wrote at the time if, by that time, “he still doesn’t know what he wants, then I don’t think he ever will“.

Well, it turns out I am weak. Jan has been trying really hard recently to show that he does appreciate me and what we have. He has been calling to let me know when he’s on his way home, letting me know when he’s going to be late and I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve actually eaten together in the evenings!! If you’ve been reading for a while you will know actually getting to eat a meal with my boyfriend is a major deal!! He has also said he enjoys living with me and wants me to stay. He is still unable to tell me what he wants and if there is any chance of our relationship going anywhere. Despite this I’ve decided to stay – because I’m not ready to be single (once we break up, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll want to find someone new). Because I love him. Because we have argued so little over the past few months and life has just felt good. Because I am too weak to do what is best in the long run

...Hope...
…Hope… (Photo: ĐāżŦ {mostly absent})

knowing it’s going to hurt me right now. And because, deep down, I still have hope – that he will eventually want to settle down with me, that “eventually” will turn out to be sooner, that we can somehow find a way to compromise and make things work. Hope is  a bitch!

I am aware that, by making this decision, I have basically given him free rein too do what he likes. Obviously I don’t follow through on my consequences, so what reason does he have to believe me in future? I am also aware that I’ve basically forfeited my chances of ever getting married or having children. Please don’t rub that in – I’m having enough trouble coming to terms with it anyway! But even if I decided to leave, I’m not sure I would even want to be a mother any more. I’m 30 in less than a year and the last thing I ever wanted was to be an old mother. Having my first child when I’m already past 30 is just not for me. A second or third child after 30, okay. But the first? How old would I then be then by the time any more came along? And while it’s fine when they’re babies, the only reasons I was in any way able to get along with my parents as a teenager was because they were young enough that I felt they could understand (I wouldn’t have wanted to have kids as young as they did though – my mum was only just 20 when I was born!). 25 was the perfect age for the first child, I thought. Upon reaching 25 I realised there was no way it would be happening any time soon and changed to the very vague “before I turn 30”. Now that I’m coming up to 30, I’m becoming less and less certain that I am even cut out to be a mother. New borns terrify me (they look so fragile!) and if I never have any children I can’t mess them up for life, right? If I were to get pregnant by accident then that would be nice, but since that is highly unlikely I would rather be in a childless relationship with someone I love and genuinely enjoy being with than live alone with neither children nor a boyfriend.

As Tina Dico says, not much is so much more than nothing. And despite how this post sounds, I am happy right now! So even if failing to stick to my decision is weak and I may be making a rod for my own back in the long run, right now I choose being happy with my non-comittal boyfriend over being miserable and alone. I’ll have plenty of time to do that for the rest of my life.

Heart Candle
Heart Candle (Photo credit: Bob.Fornal)

Thank god for this beautiful view

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to work from home yesterday to give my colleagues a break from my coughing and myself a chance to recover.

At work, I regularly share a room with one colleague (there is also a spare computer in our room, which is occasionally used by interns and the like, but usually there are two of us). My colleague has the window seat, while I sit by the door. Occasionally I will look away from whatever translation I’m working on to try to give my eyes a break from the computer screen. Naturally, my gaze tends to be drawn towards the window on these occasions but, being so far away, I can’t really see much – just the top of the building next door. Not that I would anything more interesting if my desk was closer to the window. Our office looks out on a concrete courtyard which is usually full of cars. And because our room is almost the last one in our corridor, we tend not to get much sun in either. In fact, at this time of year we need the light on pretty much all day. So, while working from home, it was quite nice to have something else to look at than the various postcards I’ve stuck above my desk at work. Here is what I currently see outside the window when I look over to it from the computer desk in our spare room:

At that point in time, the sky was completely white with clouds, although there had been some blue sky early in the day. But despite the clouds, there is some sun coming from a place I can’t see, causing the trees to light up in all their autumn glory. The desk in our spare room is also at the opposite side of the room from the window, but the trees are tall enough to be seen from over there. And actually, if I was to go over to the window, the view would consist of a road and tram tracks (plus some grass a little further away), so it may, in fact, be a good thing that the desk is so far away from the window. This way, I only get the nice view (plus, if I am working from home, I’m less likely to be distracted by people watching opportunities. Unless someone starts walking along the roof of the building opposite there aren’t really any people to watch!). Despite the fact that my cough was annoying me a lot, I actually managed to gain some pleasure from gazing out at the pretty coloured trees (during my lunch break, obviously. I did get some work done as well 😉 ).

Have I mentioned recently that I love my flat? 🙂

By the way, the title of this blog is a line from possibly my favourite Tina Dico song, A Room With A View. Here’s the YouTube link for you: