May 2019 recap

Hello my lovelies. Today I’m here to talk about May. Not Theresa May – I have no desire to discuss her or any of the mess that is currently politics in Britain. No, I mean the month of May… and specifically what I got up to in it.

Of course I am linking up with the lovely Kristen for What’s New With You.

whats new with you

In a way, it was a month of two halves. For the first two weeks, we were living on an actual building site while our bathrooms and kitchen were being replaced. That meant our flat had no shower, no toilets and nowhere to cook. We were provided with a portable toilet and a small electric hob, and there was a temporary shower set up downstairs in the drying room. For those who missed it, a couple of photos of what the place looked like, including one of the sink that was installed in the stairwell so we could at least attempt to wash dishes:

During the week, I rented a desk in a co-working space and at night we ate out. Spending as little time as possible at home made things bearable, but it was still a relief when the time came for us to go on holiday! Since we were flying from Zurich airport relatively early in the morning, we decided to go to Zurich the night before (well, Jan just stayed there since it’s where he worked) and sleep in a hotel. I am so glad we did! It meant a night in a dust-free room, a proper shower and a slightly later/less stressful start – we would have had to take a train from Basel at around 6 a.m.!

And then it was off to Ronda, Spain to meet family and friends. We had two full days and an afternoon there with my sister and brother-in-law, sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and my mum’s friend. My mum, her friend, Jan, my brother and I all stayed in a lovely apartment while the others were just down the road.

Everyone else left early on the Tuesday morning, but we had decided we wanted to have more than an extended weekend away, so we had booked an apartment in Cádiz for the next two nights. On the way there, we stopped off for a day on Gibraltar. The town is so bizarre – looking at it, you could be on any high street in the UK – there’s Debenhams, Next, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, multiple fish and chip shops. I even spied my bank (Natwest). The post boxes and phone booths are red and even the bins resembled those I know from Newcastle. But the buildings and trees are all wrong – I’ve never seen purple blossoms in the middle of a British town!

After wandering through the town, we of course took the cable car up the mountain, because what else do you do on Gibraltar? It was amazing being right up close to the monkeys – but also kind of terrifying. Especially when two of them started shouting at each other and it seemed like a fight was about to happen. We were already heading back to the cable car at that point and needless to say we didn’t hang around near those particular apes for long!

We then drove on to Cádiz, arriving around 6 o’clock in the evening, spent the next day there and finally headed to Lisbon via Evora. After two days in Lisbon and a very brief stop in Sintra on our final morning, it was time to fly home. Back in Basel, we stopped for dinner before doing anything else since we had no idea what the state of our flat was going to be…

As it turns out, it was almost finished. We had toilets that actually flushed and a working kitchen (although we waited until after the final inspection to actually use it). I still had another week off work so on the Monday I walked into town very early in the morning so the flat would be free for them to get on with whatever last minute things needed doing. I bought breakfast, which I ate in the park, then went to a café called Unternehmen Mitte where they let you just sit without having to purchase anything. There, I finished the book I had started reading on the flight home. So that killed about 2 hours. I had a wander round town, bought and ate some lunch, then ended up in a bookshop where I was very naughty and bought two books. I then read one of those books sitting at the train station – the only other place I could think of where you can sit for ages without being moved on! My initial idea had been to go back to the park where I had breakfast, but every seat was taken by people on their lunch breaks. Book finished, I went and treated myself to coffee and cake in the restaurant of a department store. Finally, at 4 p.m. I started walking home, arriving to find that the builders had already left. Tuesday was inspection day, so I trailed the construction manager and his assistant as they made a list of all the small things that still needed to be done – cracks to paint over, holes to be filled. I also got official permission to fill the fridge and start putting things back in the kitchen, so that’s what I spent the rest of the week doing. Plus cleaning every single thing. Construction dust gets everywhere! I’ve never hoovered so much in my life Thursday was a public holiday, so on that day I actually had Jan to help. And the new washing machine (in our actual flat!) got used a lot. As did the tumbler dryer, which I am aware is incredibly bad for the environment but with the drying room still out of commission (that’s where the temporary shower resides) and a friend staying over on Saturday, which meant the spare room bedding needed to be freed from dust, we didn’t have much of a choice. You can’t dry sheets and quilt covers on a clothes horse!

Okay, this is already long so just quickly. During those first two weeks when everything was going on, we obviously didn’t want to spend too much time in our dusty, dusty flat, so on 1st May – a public holiday – we went to Porrentruy, which is cute but not that exciting. Then on the 4th the builders needed access on a Saturday (at 8 a.m. – no lie in for us!) so we headed to Lenzburg because it was raining and there was a castle that would allow us to be inside. The following Saturday, Jan had a concert in the evening so we ate lunch in town and did some shopping before he had to leave (and I then followed an hour later to attend said concert).

Lenzburg
Lenzburg Castle

As for yearly goals… I didn’t really keep track of my vegetable intake, but we ate at Markthalle and vegetarian restaurant a lot so I think I got my five portions most days… at least until we went on holiday. Lots of cheese and meat boards were consumed there. I definitely managed to drink enough water for the entire month, which I’m proud of. And I finally actually finished a non-fiction book. I mean, I only want to read ten this year and we’re already nearly halfway through. No big deal…

I think that just about sums up my May. The rest of the time I worked (from a co-working space) and attempted to keep the living room and bedroom free from the worst of the dust – a Sisyphean task if there ever was one! My next post will be my choices for round 11 of Erin’s book challenge, which starts on 1st July. May wasn’t my best reading month (although I managed 9 books, so also not my worst ever) so I am hoping to get lots of reading done over the summer months.

Okay, enough. I seem to have gone back to that old rambling format that I was trying to get away from and I’m sure you’re bored of me by now. Go check out the link up because Kristen is awesome and should be shown all the love. And tell me in the comments what you’ve been up to lately.

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Unintentionally imitating art

As you will know if you read my last post, we recently came back from holiday. The final few days of our trip were spent in Lisbon, Portugal. Since we were travelling to hot countries, I had obviously taken summer clothes with me, but it wasn’t until I was actually walking around Lisbon that I realised the dress I had put on that day had a pattern that would have been perfect for one of the beautiful tiles that adorn many Portuguese houses. So, for your viewing pleasure, here is a selection of photos of Portuguese tiles and me blending in so well you’d think I’d done it on purpose…

(I was wearing blue and that seems to be the most popular colour, but not all the tiles in the photos below are blue.)

Lisbon

I’m not really sure how to end this post so uhh, just I guess that’s all folks?

Have a lovely day/week/evening/whatever.

Photo an hour in Ronda (19 May 2019)

¡Hola, mis amigos! Last Sunday was photo an hour day, and it just happened to fall on the first full day of my holiday. We were in Ronda, Spain, where we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, my sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and a friend of my mum’s. Let’s see what I got up to that day, shall we?

8:30 a.m. Awake but not getting up yet, so here’s the view from my bed.

9:30 a.m. Now out of bed and having a cuppa.

10:30 a.m. Dressed and waiting for the others to be ready to leave.

11:30 a.m. Admiring the view… the day’s plan being to walk down into the gorge.

12:30 p.m. The start of the journey down.

1:30 p.m. We found water! Hurrah.

2:30 p.m. Back at the top and hitting a bar for some much needed refreshments.

3:30 p.m. Crossing the bridge, and looking down into the gorge.

4:30 p.m. We stopped for lunch… and I also had a beer.

5:30 p.m. Wandering through a rose garden.

6:30 p.m. Back at the apartment to chill for a while… how beautiful is that ceiling?

7:30 p.m. A glass of vino before heading back out.

We went out for dinner after that and I completely forgot to take any more photos, so that’s your lot. Maybe I will remember to post more photos of Ronda at some point, but I wouldn’t hold your breath considering I still haven’t posted must of the ones from our trip around Britain two years ago…

As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa. The next one will be on Saturday, 15 June. Make a note of it now if you want to join in!

March 2019 highs and lows

Good morning. Before getting into the link-up, can I just be really British for a second and talk about the weather? On Tuesday we had bright sunshine and highs of 22°C. Yesterday the high was down to 9°C and it was raining. And right now, at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, it is snowing. It’s not really settling (except on car roofs) – probably because of all the rain – but after we barely had snow all winter now it appears?! The Germans have a saying “Der April macht was er will” (April does what it wants – referring to the weather) and this year they’re certainly not wrong!

Anyway…  I’m trying a new format for What’s New With You? today. I don’t want to go back to “currently…” style posts (what I call “recent doings”) but I also felt like my structure-free ramblings aren’t all that interesting, so here’s something else. I’m not sure yet whether I’m going to stick with it. We’ll see how this one goes. Obviously I am linking up with Kristen, as always.

whats new with you

The highlights

  • The month started with Jan’s birthday, on 1st March. He probably wouldn’t count that as a highlight since if he had his way it would be just a normal day and he could just ignore his birthday. He doesn’t get his way though, so there were gifts and I cooked something nicer than usual… chicken breasts stuffed with goat’s cheese and wrapped in bacon. A vegan’s worst nightmare! Afterwards, there was cake. Bought, not baked – I had no time for baking.
  • Fasnacht (the Bael carnival) was at the beginning of May. We didn’t bother with the parades this year, but we did go to see the lanterns on display outside the cathedral. There was a surpirsing lack of Brexit – I guess we’re too ridiculous to even make fun of any more! Lots had environmental damage topics – some with pictures of the Rhine full of plastic.
  • We saw How to Train Your Dragon 3 at the cinema. You’re probably wondering why I’m including that as a highlight… it’s only the second time we’ve been to the cinema since moving to Switzerland, so it felt like something special. I cried at the film, because I’m a big softy.
  • In the middle of the month, we went to Zurich to see Sarah Millican – a British comedian. As expected, she was absolutely hilarious. Her humour is more along the lines of sex and farts than clever observances, but that’s fine. Still funny. In April we have Eddie Izzard to look forward to.
  • Jan and I went to Meiringen with the intention of visiting the Aare Gorge, but it turns out the gorge was still closed for winter (the Reichenbach Falls of Sherlock Holmes fame are also near there, but I already knew the train wasn’t going). Instead we quickly made a plan B and took the cable car up the Hasliberg. That day was also photo an hour, so you can read about it here.
  • Jan’s dad came to stay and we took him to the pub quiz. We did horribly and came second last (better than last, right?). The next day (Monday) was overcast so we thought about going to a museum but it turns out all of them are closed on Mondays! So we walked around the St Albans area of Basel, had lunch then climbed the tower of the town hall. After that we took a tram to the German border, walked across to Germany and then crossed the Three Countries Bridge (which I posted about here) and walked back to Basel via France. The footpath along the river is currently closed at the Basel end so we had to walk along the road, through all the industry. We reached the tram stop just as the rain started. Timing!

The lows

  • At the beginning of the month we found out our third IUI had failed. There will be no 2019 baby for us. We didn’t tell anybody when we were trying, but I can now reveal that we did one round in December, with a negative blood test on 4th January  (yeah – happy New Year to us!) and another in February/March, with one cycle trying naturally in between. Next step is IVF,  which we have to pay for entirely ourselves. I’m mostly excited to be moving forward, but it’s a big step so I have mixed feelings on it. How far is too far when it comes to trying to make a baby through science? Maybe I should just admit that nature never intended for me to be a mother? Who knows.
  • My due date for the twins was on the 16th. I was so hoping to be pregnant again by that time, but alas my life doesn’t work like that. It ended up being okay. Jan stayed in bed until nearly 12 – despite the fact that scaffolding was being put up from 8am onwards with lots of banging and what sounded like drilling. It made me wonder how life would be if we actually had two young  babies right now. Would he sleep through their crying? Of course , chances are they’d have been born early and, depending on how premature,  they may not even have made it home from hospital yet. Anyway… once Jan eventually got up and showered, we went to the cemetery. The boys have a concrete strip now with their names carved on it, which looks really nice. After paying them a visit we walked into town and had coffee and a snack at a café, then in the evening I lit a candle. It was nice to mark the occasion even in a small way.
  • Two days after my due date would have been my grandma’s 90th birthday. It’s still weird thinking of her house empty, waiting to be sold. The family will definitely never be the same without her.

    grandma
    My grandma and little me
  • Then it was Mother’s Day in the UK on 31st March. My mum and her sibling’s first one without their mother and, of course, my first as a mother who isn’t a mother and may never actually be a mother. Seeing everyone’s posts about their children hurt, but I got through it. Now I just have to get through German/Swiss Mother’s Day 😉

Other stuff

  • Since I pointed out to Jan that we have Film 4 he seems to put it on all the time. In March we watched The Seeker, Hugo, Ghostbusters (the new one) and Mrs Doubtfire (which Jan claims he had never seen. Scandalous!). That probably doesn’t sound like much, but I never watch four films in one month – and with the cinema trip it was actually five.
  • We had our radiators and windows replaced last week. At one point on Friday, there were eight builders in our flat, all doing various things to windows or blinds! The windows part got a bit noisy but I managed to mostly work through it, only taking a short break when they were actually drilling in my office. I’m just glad it wasn’t happening today. No windows plus snow? No thanks! The real inconvenience is yet to come – when they replace both bathrooms and the kitchen all at the same time. Obviously I will not be working from home during that time!
  • I did some cross stitch – including a birthday card for my friend’s son and a Loch Ness Monster for a Post Pals child. I’ve also been making Easter cards to send to Post Pals children.
  • Saturday, 30th March was my deep clean day, so I’ve managed to stick to my goal every month so far. I will probably skip April since we will literally be living on a building site and there will be no bathrooms or oven to clean! I did it the day after the windows were replaced and I was actually quite happy to hoover and dust – the builders did clean up after themselves but I felt like everything was still dusty. I also cleaned the oven even though Jan said there was no point if it’s going to be gone in a couple of weeks. But at least this way I won’t smell burning every time I turn it on for those two weeks. Also, if I skip it once I’ll never get back to it.
  • Speaking of goals… I have been doing absolutely terribly at eating fruit and veg. In fact, there have been days that I only managed a measly one or two portions. I’ve also put on wait… only a kilogram, but added to the 3kg I somehow managed to put on in one week in England it’s bad.
  • I read a lot of books again. 17 to be precise. After a slow start to the month I didn’t think I would read very many but I surprised myself. Six of them were books I already owned (two were actually re-reads), so that’s good. If you want to know what I actually read come back on Tuesday for Show Us Your Books day.

That’s about it for March. I’m not sure what format my April post will take – you’ll just have to watch this space! In the meantime, check out the link up and also let me know what’s new with you.

A Photo an Hour: 23 March 2019

Hello friends! I took part in A Photo an Hour with Louise and Jane on Saturday and now I’m finally getting round to writing my blog post. It was one of those rare occasions on which I was actually doing something so 90% of my photos don’t consist of housework and the view from my couch. Hurrah! Let’s take a look at what I did, shall we?

9 a.m. Starting the day with a cuppa, as always.

10 a.m. Showered, now to decide what to wear.

11 a.m. Buying a train ticket while Jan’s in the shower.

12 noon. On a train, about to leave Basel.

1 p.m. Train coffee!

2 p.m. Still on the train, passing Lake Thun.

3 p.m. We changed to a regional train at Interlaken Ost. Photo from somewhere near Brienz.

4 p.m. After three hours on the train we discovered that our detination – the Aare Gorge – was closed. Plan B: cable car up the Hasliberg.

5 p.m. After walking around the village on the mountain for a bit, we’re back in the cable car waiting to head down again.

6 p.m. Reading a book, waiting for the train to leave Meiringen.

7 p.m. On another train, stopped at Thun station.

8 p.m. Still on the train. At least I’ve had plenty of time to read my book!

9 p.m. On the tram home after stopping off to buy a few bits.

10 p.m. Food! There were scrambled eggs as well but I had eaten them all by photo time.

After taking the final photo, I finished my dinner, read the last few pages of the book (in time to return it to the friend who lent it to me the following day) and was in bed before 11.

Next photo an hour is on Saturday, 27th April 2019 if anyone feels like joining in. Simply take one photo every hour and post to Twitter or Instagram using the #photoanhour hash tag or save your photos and write a blog post afterwards.

40 before 40: progress report #1

St Chrischona TV tower

Since it is somehow 13th March already, which makes it exactly 5 months until my birthday and the end of year one of my 40 before 40, I thought I would give you a little progress report. Not that I’ve done much in the seven months since my last birthday, but I do have a few things to report on.

Number 2: Beat Jan at mini golf

Jan always beats me at mini golf and I was determined to beat him at least once. Amazingly, I actually managed this just a couple of weeks after starting the challenge. You can read about it here.

Number 5: Read the rest of the books from the BBC Big Read that I didn’t manage before turning 35

At the start I had 63 left to read and since last August I have finished five of them. Outlander, Trainspotting, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Woman in White and The World According to Garp.

Number 14: Read a book published in each year of my life ( =one book each from 1983 until 2023)

So far I have read books from 20 years, which is almost half (I need 41 in total). You can see them all here. Of course I have read multiple books for some years, but only the first one counts.

Number 16: Try 10 foods or dishes that I haven’t had before

I ate veal kidneys in Yverdon-le- Bains. Admittedly by accident because Jan didn’t know the French word for kidney so I only knew I was getting veal something. But it still counts!

Number 22: Visit a new place in Switzerland for each letter of my first name

So far, I have visited four – Burgdorf, Einsiedeln, Lugano and Yverdon-les-Bains. Not in that order. I actually went to Yverdon-les-Bains first. Nothing like beginning at the end 😉

So only one thing actually crossed off but quite a few in progress. Not a bad start. Obviously I won’t be able to complete number 14 until the year I turn 40 because I can’t read books that haven’t even been published yet 😉 but hopefully I will have a few more things completed the next time I check in… whenever that might be.

February 2019 recap

Hello friends! Welcome to my second monthly recap of 2019. February has mostly been the month of boiling the kettle multiple times but never actually making a cup of tea, or making tea but not getting round to taking the teabag out, resulting in a ridiculously strong, lukewarm cuppa that I only managed to drink half of. I need to set a timer on my phone or something so I don’t end up getting so immersed in my work that I forget I actually put the kettle on.

Anyway, it is the first Thursday of the month, which means it’s time to link up with the wonderful Kristen for What’s New With You?

whats new with you

We started February in England. We flew over on 31st January and then spent most of the 1st February in my dad’s house waiting for our suitcase. Our flight to Amsterdam was delayed resulting in a short connection, so while we made it onto the second flight the suitcase didn’t. According to KLM, the courier was supposed to call to arrange a time, but he didn’t and so we waited. I took the opportunity to go through some of my stuff that was still at my dad’s, which he was pleased about. We ended up with about 30 books, a pile of CDs and a few DVDs that I didn’t want any more. Handily, a charity bag then came through the door specifically requesting books, DVDs, CDs and ornaments – usually they’re all for clothes – so that was cool. And I found a CD of photos that I spent ages looking for last year when my cousin wanted photos of our grandma… I knew it existed somewhere! It immediately went in my bag to come back to Switzerland with us. In the evening we had a table booked for a meal to celebrate my grandma’s 80th birthday (which was on 27th January). The suitcase hadn’t arrived by the time we had to leave but luckily I had put clean underwear in my hand luggage and the clothes I wore on the plane weren’t too terrible ;-). Plus my dad had a spare, unused toothbrush and my uncle picked one up for Jan while he was shopping, so we were at least clean and presentable. The suitcase finally showed up at about 8pm – we were at the pub so my dad’s partner signed for it.

The next day, finally wearing clean clothes, we met up with my mum and brother. We had lunch at a Wetherspoons (non-Brits: a cheap-and-cheerful pub chain that does alright food for a reasonable price) then went for a walk along the river – parts of which were frozen totally solid! When my brother had to go to work the rest of us went back to my mum’s, picked up my sister’s dog (who was staying there while my sister and brother-in-law were in Venice) and then had a walk up to the churchyard where my grandparents are buried. It’s also where Emily Wilding Davison is buried… claim to fame! (If you don’t know your history, that’s the suffragette who was killed by the king’s horse.) Tea was an Indian take away, before my mum drove us back to my dad’s house to finish packing. On Sunday morning we ate bacon sandwiches then my dad drove us to the airport. I brought a few books back with me, including my Narnia box set that I want to reread this year. There is still an entire bookcase full of books that I intend to bring to Switzerland at some point… I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled Jan is about that ;-). For some reason my dad also gave me two packets of mini malt loafs to take with me. I mean, I like malt loaf but it’s not something I particularly miss or crave. It did make a good breakfast for a few days though so I’m not complaining.

Emily Wilding Davison

On 5th February, it was 15 years since Jan and I got together. Unfortunately he had to work late so I celebrated by eating alone, finishing a book and almost finishing another. My perfect evening, tbh. He came home with chocolates for me and we ate the heart-shaped dessert I had bought (the perks of having an anniversary close to Valentine’s Day) the next evening. We then celebrated properly by going for a meal on the Saturday. We went to a restaurant called Rubino where the concept is set menus that are a surprise. You can choose meat or vegetarian and two, three, four or five courses. We went for four courses and I vowed to eat everything they gave me (unless it was hard boiled eggs, which make me sick). I did indeed eat everything – including the mushroom course. There were three types of mushrooms and I can’t say I enjoyed any of them. The pepper encrusted cheese and quince pieces that came with them were delicious though. For drinks, we went with the wine accompaniment, which meant a different wine with each course, selected by the restaurant.  I took zero photos because I just wanted to be in the moment and celebrate our anniversary so you’ll just have to believe me when I say everything looked and tasted delicious (except the mushrooms!). Sunday was rainy and windy so we had a lazy day. I stitched a design for my cousin’s wedding card (no photo because it had their names on it) and finished a book. We were planning to go to the quiz but the friend we were meeting didn’t want to venture into the storm so we stayed home and ordered take away instead. Jan watched TV and I started another book (Mary’s the Name by Ross Sayers, if you’re interested).

The following weekend “Show Us Your Books” hosts Jana and Steph organised a readathon. I had never taken part in a readathon before! It was very relaxed – basically start reading at any point on the Friday (in my case it had to wait until after work), finish at any point on the Sunday, post photos on Twitter or Instagram and tag the hosts. Jan had an all-day choir rehearsal on the Sunday so it was the perfect day to do nothing but read. That Saturday was also Photo and Hour day – you can see my hourly photos here.

And then it was the last weekend of the month. Craziness. After January seemed to drag on for a thousand years, February felt like it was over in a flash. I mean, I know it’s the shortest month, but there were still supposedly four whole weeks in there! I actually had the Thursday and Friday off since I needed to use up two days of holiday from last year before they expired, so it was a long weekend for me. Thursday was appointments all day, so I was only really home for lunch then dinner. Friday was my monthly deep-clean day – second month in a row that I’ve cleaned the oven. Go me! Then Jan came home from work on the Friday and suggested we go somewhere the next day. He suggested Lugano and since it’s a bit far to do justice to in a single day we spontaneously decided to book a hotel and have a weekend away. Saturday was cloudy, Sunday less so, and both days were warm. It was honestly just nice to get away and have a relaxing break, just the two of us.

In between weekends I worked. A lot. This is becoming a theme. At least I’m collecting plenty of overtime, which may be useful at some point. And actually this week has been a lot quieter so maybe March will be the month of normal working hours? I managed to drink more water in February, which is something, but I didn’t manage to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day – or even most days. Must try harder with that!

And that was my month. Going forward, I feel like I want to try out a new format for these catch-up posts because this recapping (mainly) weekends feels like a lot of uninteresting text to force you to read. We’ll see. For this month I’m afraid you’re stuck with my ramblings 😉

Why not visit the link up and see what the rest of blog land has been doing recently? And while you’re at it maybe write a post and link up yourself. Or just tell me what’s new with you in the comments.