My 2013

At the start of 2013, I wrote a month-by-month account of what I’d been doing the year before. It helped me remember that I had actually done a few interesting things in 2012 and made me really look forward to the year ahead. I enjoyed writing that post, so I’ve decided to do it again this year. Photos are being kept small to avoid an overload (and the crashing of slower computers… i.e. mine!).

January

Jan and I have a tradition of spending every New Year somewhere different, and in 2013 it was the turn of Luxembourg, so I saw in 2014 standing on a bridge over a giant gorge watching fireworks.

Fireworks in Luxembourg
Fireworks in Luxembourg

Later in the month, we took a trip to nearby Schwetzingen to see a talk about the making of marionettes. We had a brief look at the gardens, but it was cold so we decided against going for a walk. We’ll have to go back some day when there isn’t snow on the ground!

In Schwetzuingen castle gardens
In Schwetzingen castle gardens

Not much else of note happened in January. I seem to recall spending most of it eating soup, drinking tea and trying my best to stay warm!

February

At the beginning of February, with my 30th birthday rapidly approaching, I came up with the idea of thinking of 35 things to do before I turn 35 and made a start on adding things to the list. On 5 February, Jan and I celebrated 9 years of being in a relationship. Considering my previous “longest relationship” lasted about six months, nine years seemed like quite an achievement! Shrove Tuesday also came around in February, so naturally pancakes had to be consumed. Yum yum!

Pancaaakes!
Pancaaakes!

At the end of the month, Jan went away with work… and came back minus his appendix! Not my favourite week of the year…

March

Jan’s birthday was in March, but he was still in Turkey so there was no celebrating. St Patrick’s Day was spent in the Irish Pub, of course. We all dressed in green and wore silly hats… and winter coats! Despite the fact that March is officially spring, it was still snowing as late as the 25th!

25 March 2013
25 March 2013

Easter arrived at the very end of the month, and Jan and I made use of the long weekend for a trip to Rastatt and the Schloss Favorite.

April

The first day of April was still the Easter weekend, so we took the opportunity for another day trip. This time the destination was Bad Dürkheim, home of the world’s largest wine barrel (which has never actually been used to store wine…).

Bad Dürkheimer Weinfass

Three days later, we headed off on a trip that I had been looking forward to for ages… Berlin and, most importantly, Eddie Izzard live!!

Force Majeure

While I was there, I also managed to cross something off my 35 before 35 list – play blacklight minigolf. And that was pretty much it for April…

May

May is one of my favourite months in Germany, purely because there are sooo many public holidays, starting with  the Maifeiertag on the first of the month!  This year, it was on a Wednesday so Jan and I took the Thursday and Friday off work and went to visit his dad for his birthday. Also in May was a trip to a wheelchair rugby Champion’s League match, which was happening in Karlsruhe.

Wheelchair rugby 1

The second of May’s public holidays was Pfingstmontag, aka Whit Monday. A long weekend… hurrah! Jan and I went to his colleague’s wedding celebration and I baked a cake for it. The following week, Jan and I went hiking in Baden-Baden and I discovered I can walk a lot further than I think I can!

Geroldsau Waterfall
Geroldsau Waterfall

June

June 2013 can basically be summed up in one word… Ireland! I had been to Dublin before and enjoyed it, but now I’m head over heels in love with the entire country. So green! Such friendly locals! And they do proper Sunday roasts just like back at home in England. Also, while I was away my blog turned five!

The River Nore and Kilkenny Castle
The River Nore and Kilkenny Castle

July

In July, I started to get serious about trying to lose weight (after going on about it since about February!) and began a new series on my blog– Weigh-in Wednesdays. Also in July, Jan and I visited Nagold, Rottweil and Horb am Neckar all on the same day, meaning I had now visited all the towns I needed to be able to complete my 30 German Towns Before 30 challenge… all that remained was writing up the last few in time for my birthday!

Buildings down by the river in Nagold
Buildings down by the river in Nagold

The rest of the month sped by, and before I knew it, it was time for me to visit England (Jan was supposed to come too, but he fell ill the day we were due to fly and ended up in hospital with some kind of “mystery virus”). I spent my time in the motherland becoming godmother to the most gorgeous little boy and celebrating my mam’s 50th birthday. On the way back, my connecting flight from Amsterdam was cancelled! I was able to transfer to a flight to Stuttgart, but unfortuately my luggage never made it on to the plane! Luckily the suitcase quickly turned up and was delivered to me at home two days later.

August

My birthday month!!! Cue major panicking. In the event, turning 30 wasn’t so bad… apart from the minor drunken meltdown after drinking lots of whiskey on the actual day. I didn’t mention it at the time (and wasn’t fully aware of it myself until a few weeks later), but that little episode almost cost me my relationship! Jan was definitely not a happy bunny. We’re all good again now though. When I wasn’t getting drunk and emotional, I celebrated my birthday with the Rocky Horror Show auf Deutsch and a birthday party (or “bee-day” party) that was made extra specially amazing by my wonderful friends and boyfriend (even when he was mad at me, he made sure my party was good!). At the end of the month, I decided to stop my weigh-in Wednesdays series at just above my goal weight.

I'm covered in beeees!
I’m covered in beeees!

The annual Bierbörse also came to Karlsruhe at the end of August.

September

September 2013 will forever by remembered as the month that I got my wisdom teeth out. But I did manage to make it to a wine festival in Bad Dürkheim before my diet was restricted to nothing but soup for days on end! Oh, and it turns out being practically incapable of eating was exactly what I needed to finally reach my goal weight. I wouldn’t recommend the wisdom teeth diet though (and I’ve since put half the weight back on. Sigh)! The rest of September went by in a blur of pain, dental appointments and work, leaving me with the feeling that I’d done nothing all month!

Wine in Bad Dürkheim
Wine in Bad Dürkheim

October

At the beginning of October, Jan and I went to Trier to meet a friend and go elephant hunting. A few weeks later, my favourite Irish pub celebrated its 5th birthday… on a Wednesday! Cue a night of drinking and live music followed by a day of feeling like a zombie at work after getting roughly three hours of sleep. That weekend brought sunshine with it, so Jan and I took advantage of one of the few nice autumn days and took a trip to Triberg im Schwarzwald – apparantly it was the month of visiting places beginning with Tri…
Near the end of the month, my maternal grandma ended up in hospital with pneumonia… and I only found out by chance via Facebook!

A blue elephant in Trier
A blue elephant in Trier

November

November started with a trip to the place I used to live in Austria. It turns out Feldkirch hasn’t changed much! I really enjoyed getting to spend a weekend away with my boyfriend and meeting my friends’ adorable baby boy! While we were away, we also stopped by Garmisch-Patenkirchen, Neuschwanstein Castle and Augsburg. Later in November, I went to a whiskey tasting at my local Irish pub – on the same day that I’d signed up to take a photo an hour with Jane of Is That You Darling. Anda few weeks later,  I made blue cake with a Dr. Who theme for a friend’s birthday party. November was also the month that my grandpa (dad’s side of the family this time) went into hospital to have his right kidney removed after a cancerous tumour was found on it… and the month Jan left for South America for two weeks, leaving me all on my lonesome!

The view from our hotel room window in Feldkirch
The view from our hotel room window in Feldkirch

December

Since it currently still is December and I’m sure you can still remember what I’ve written about over the past few weeks, I won’t say too much here 😉 Basically, this month consisted of a lot of overtime, stressing over the buying of Christmas gifts and several trips to the post office to spend way more money than I had bargained for on sending parcels. I also visited the Mediaeval Christmas market in Durlach, and my boyfriend returned from South America. I also made my annual Christmas dinner for friends. Currently, I am in the UK celebrating Christmas with my family.

Overall, I don’t feel as positive after writing this post as I did at the end of 2012. Despite my trips to Berlin and Ireland, I don’t feel like I’ve travelled as much this year. Instead, 2013 basically seems to have been a whirlwind of work and illness… between Jan’s hospital stays, illnesses within my family and getting my wisdom teeth out, this hasn’t been the greatest year healthwise. And with all the extra hours I’ve been doing at work, it feels like there’s been very little play. Obviously the year hasn’t been all bad – my personal highlights being seeing Eddie Izzard, two weeks in Ireland, becoming a godmother, my birthday party and meeting my friends’ baby in Austria – but I have to admit I will be very glad to see the back of 2013! Jan and I are going to Madiera for New Year though, so hopefully the year will finish on a high note and January will herald the start of a much more nicer year!

*Please note: This is a scheduled post as I am still away for the holiday season. I will reply to comments as soon as possible*

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My bee-day party

Yesterday was an interesting day. First, I left my purse at home and only realised when I was sitting on the train ready to go to work. Luckily I was able to get back off the train just before the doors closed, then I power walked home, got my purse and took a tram back to the station in time for the 8 o’clock train… all within 24 minutes. Miraculously, I actually got a seat on the second train… I tend to avoid that one because I always end up standing in the corridor, which is not what I want that early in the morning. Then, after work, I arrived at the train station ready to go home only to find police on my platform and the Bahn personnel telling everyone to go away. I headed back up to the departures boards to wait for them to announce where my train would be arriving and decided to treat myself to a Magnum while I waited. To get to the new platform, I had to pass the steps leading up to my original platform, which I saw were now taped off with Deutsche Bahn employees standing at the bottom stopping anyone from getting up there. As soon as I got home, I googled to try and find out what was going on, but the Internet had no information. Nothing in the news this morning either… curious!

But that’s not really what I want to talk about today…
What I do want to do is finally tell you about my birthday party! But first, some background.

I like bees, and one of my nicknames used to be Bee (for the first letter of my name, but written out), so a few years ago, I mentioned to Jan that one day I would like to have a “bee-day” party. The idea was that I would get people to dress in either black, yellow or black and yellow (black and yellow stripes would, of course, be perfect), decorate the flat with bees and have bee-themed food and drinks. I then didn’t have a birthday party for a couple of years for various reasons (last year I went to Sweden the day after my birthday, for example) and kind of forgot about the idea… until I found bee glasses at Claire’s in Dublin. I bought them, saying “these would be perfect if I ever do decide to have a bee-day party!”, then found myself explaining my idea to the friends who were travelling with me.

Bee glasses
Bee glasses

Fast forward to my 30th birthday… Jan’s gift to me was a dress with bees all over it. He made me try it on straight away to make sure it fit, then said he would like me to wear it at my birthday party that weekend. I had originally planned to wear a dress my mum bought me, but was easily persuaded to go for the bee dress instead (did I mention I like bees?!)

The Saturday after my birthday was the day of my party. We had arranged to have it at a relatively new bar/café called Soul, which does interesting cocktails and excellent food, including delicious homemade ice cream and excellent mozzerella Maultaschen in garlic butter. If you live in Karlsruhe, you should, check it out! We had the room from 7 pm, so Jan and I went a little early along with a friend who was staying at mine that night (it’s difficult for her to get back to where she lives late at night). We arranged the few last-minute details, then settled down outside with a portion of ice cream each. Then, at just before seven, Jan went off to see whether anyone was coming yet (the plan being to move inside when people started arriving so they would find us).

He was gone for quite a while, and my friend and I had started to joke that he’d run off leaving us to pay the bill, then he turned up with the group of friens I go to the quiz with. All of them (including Jan now) were wearing yellow and black striped T-shirts and my friend K (I really need to think of better pseudonyms for people…) was carrying a cake. This cake:

bee cake

How adorable is that? Underneath the icing is chocolate Guinness cake… which is delicious! Don’t let the Guinness put you off – it really does taste good! They also had bee-themed gifts… despite the fact that I had already received my gifts from them on my actual birthday (a Tina Dico CD and a bunch of flowers, in case anyone’s wondering). I got some honey, a bee-shaped ballon and this:

My pillow pal
My pillow pal

I’ve named him Johnny Bee (geddit?).

Jan had arranged with the bar owner that he would pay for everyone’s first cocktail plus crostini for everyone, and I had asked for everyone to be given a glass of Prosecco when they came in so we could do the glass-clinking thing. The crostini were really good – at least the tomato-mozzerella and the red pesto ones were. I didn’t try the others (the toppings contained things I don’t like) but they seemed to go down well… they disappeared quickly enough anyway! The cocktails were tasty too, and as far as I can tell everyone had a good time. I know I did!

Thank you to my amazing friends and boyfriend for arranging it all! ♥♥

And now I have to go cross stitch… my friend most inconsiderately went and gave birth and I’m not finished yet 😉

Friday letters… again?!

This has been one of the longest weeks of my life (colleague on holiday + large translation job = stress) but it still seems like only two minutes since the last time I posted Friday letters. With only nine days left until the end of September, I find myself wondering once again where on Earth this year has gone!! And it’s showing no signs of slowing down. *Sigh*.  Anyway…

Letters

Dear friends (and boyfriend). Thank you for the amazing “bee-day” party. It was a lovely surprise.

Dear Amazon seller. Please hurry up and send me my goods so I can post them to England in time for my little brother’s birthday…

Dear little brother. I cannot believe you’re turning 7 already! I remember you as a tiny baby who had to stay in hospital for weeks because you came way too early. Time flies!

Dear weekend. I am hoping you will be less hectic than the last one! No plans for you so far… other than the usual shopping/cooking/cleaning, that is…

Dear boyfriend. I basically haven’t seen you this week, so I’m pleased we’ve made a few tentative plans for September. I just hope we can find the time to finalise them!

That’s all folks. My lunch break is over. Have a great weekend!
(I’m including Ashley’s button although she probably won’t be hosting Friday’s letters for a while seeing as she’s just had a baby and all!)

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Weigh-in Wednesday: The post birthday edition

Well, it’s been two weeks since my last weigh in, and since then I’ve not only celebrated my birthday with delicious cakes in Strasbourg, but also had my proper birthday party (which involved more cake, nachos (mmm cheese!) and cocktails. Then there was the Mississippi Mud Pie, which I obviously had to try to make sure the rain hadn’t completely killed it…

Needless to say, I haven’t been doing particularly well on my calroie goals recently. So it’s quite surprising that my weight this morning was pretty much exactly the same as it was two weeks ago. I was actually down almost a kilo on my current weight between the last weigh in and my birthday, but sadly it all came back. And I fear this delicious birthday gift from my uncle is not going to help me get back on track…

Sweet hamper
30th birthday sweetie hamper

Never mind, on with the measurements. Body fat percentage this morning was at 29.1%, which is 0.5% less than two weeks ago at least. Still only about one percent away from the danger zone though…
And as for the waistline… it’s the same as two weeks ago on 77 cm. I actually measured 76 cm the day before my birthday, but there was obviously no way that was going to last…

On the exercise front, I have nothing to report. As in I have done nothing in the way of exercise for the past two weeks. First it was too hot, then it was my birthday… and the past few days I’ve just plain been too tired! Work has had me stupidly busy this week… to the extent that I was convinced yesterday was Thursday… I’d been so busy that my brain simply couldn’t believe I’d fit all that work into a mere two days!

I will try to be better over the next week, but with the sweetie hamper to tempt me I’m not promising anything!

It wasn’t supposed to be an actual mud pie…

Yesterday, I fulfilled my “provide sweet treats for your colleagues after you’ve had a birthday” obligation and made Mississippi Mud Pie.

Crushing 600g of chocolate biscuits took a while!

Biscuit crushing in progress
Biscuit crushing in progress
Crushed biscuits and melted butter
Crushed biscuits and melted butter

These marshmallows came with a warning to only eat one of them at a time!

Not sure I'd like to meet the person who could eat more than one of these at a time!
Not sure I’d like to meet the person who could eat more than one of these at a time!

The last time I made this, I was still young enough to require supervision in the kitchen and I’d forgotten how annoying marshmallows are to melt!

Melting the giant marshmallows
Melting the giant marshmallows

Yes of course they stuck to the bottom and started to crystallise because I had the audacity to leave them to their own devices for 30 seconds while I sorted out another ingredient…

My dad’s instructions called for one pint of double cream (this dish is not for people on a diet!). My jug, being German, only does millilitres, so I measured the cream in a pint glass:

A pint of cream
A pint of cream

Finally I was ready to start mixing all the ingredients together.

Melted marshmallows and melted chocolate
Melted marshmallows and melted chocolate

Once everything was well combined, I poured it onto the biscuit-crumb base (which had been hardening in the fridge while I made the topping) and the whole thing went back into the fridge while I headed to the train station to buy something to decorate the pie with. I’d forgotten I needed decorations the day before and, being a Sunday, all the supermarkets were closed. At home, we always used Milky Bar Buttons for decoration, but no such thing is available here. Also, being a crappy train station shop, the selection of decorative streets was rather limited, so I ended up going with M&Ms then adding some sugar confetti that I still had in the cupboard. The result wasn’t too bad:

Colourful Mississippi Mud Pie
Colourful Mississippi Mud Pie

Now all that remained was to let the pie set overnight then bring it into work this morning and hope my colleagues didn’t object to finding the occasional piece of caramelised marshmallow in their pie… oh so I thought. I hadn’t reckoned with the torrential rain when I got off the train this morning… or the little holes where the handles of my cake carrier met the rest of the plastic…

My colleagues were willing to give the cake a try anyway, and pronounced it good… despite the fact that the M&Ms had been completely washed clean of colour! Poor cake, as Jan said when I texted him about it…

Friday letter(s): Older

As you all know, my 30th birthday was on Tuesday, which means I’ve now been older than my step mum for a whole three days. Well, technically I’ve been older than her for a while – she died just over a month after her 29th birthday – but that’s something about the number changing that makes it seem more official. So I’m dedicating this week’s Friday letter to my step mum. I apologise now for any abundance of emotion, and also for the length.

Broken heart
Photo credit: johnkoetsier

Dear Shirley,

It’s weird to think that I’ve now reached an age that you never did. For all these years, I’ve thought of you as the adult and me as the child. And now I’m 30! I wonder what you would think of me now? I was 12 the last time I saw you. You didn’t see me though… you were in hospital and although you’d woken up that morning, by the time we came to see you in the afternoon, you were sleeping again. It was the 23rd of December, and the next day my mum was picking us up to take us home. The plan was to come to the hospital before making the drive back down South, and my last words to you were something like “See you tomorrow”.  I never saw you again. At 1 a.m., you stopped breathing and quietly slipped away. Christmas Eve – your favourite time of year. I still can’t remember if I told you I loved you before leaving the hospital that day, but I hope you knew.

We didn’t always get along. Of course we didn’t! I was an argumentative child and you could be incredibly stubborn. But I never once resented your marrying my dad. You made it perfectly clear from the start that you weren’t there to take my mam’s place – to this day, I remember you saying “You’ve already got a mum. I’m always here if you need me, but your mum is mum. I’m Shirley.” So instead, my sister and I would make you mother’s day cards labelled “To the world’s best step mum”, and in my eyes you really were. You were always interested in what we were doing at school, you listened to me recite my times tables for hours (although I’m sure it must have bored you senseless!), and whenever we came to stay, you were perfectly happy to bake and do crafts with us – no matter how much glitter we got on the dining room carpet! It’s true, you were not our mum, but there was a time when you were more of a mum to us than our real mother was. I  wondered why somebody so great did have kids of their own, but you always told us my sister and I were enough… and I’m sure that was true. But It wasn’t until later that I discovered breast cancer ran in your family and now I believe part of the reason was that you didn’t want to leave your children without a mother. Losing you broke mine and my sister’s hearts as well, but like you always said, we at least still had a mum.

After I moved to my dad’s at 13 (just over a year after you passed away), I would have loved to speak to you on many occasions. I love my mam, but 360 miles is a long way, and back then phone calls were expensive. I love my dad, too, but as a teenage girl, there were some things I just didn’t want to discuss with him. Since then, there have been many occasions that I wished you could have been around for. My 18th and 21st birthday parties, the day I graduated and, more recently, when I became a godmother. I always wondered what you would think if you could see me in whatever situation I was in … finally becoming a legal adult, getting a degree, moving abroad, being chosen as a godmother. Not being religious, I have trouble believing in a “heaven”, but if you can somehow see me now, I hope I make you proud.

You’ve been gone for more than half my life now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember you. I still think of you often. You may not be here, but I still love you with all my heart, and always will.
Love from your now-older-than-you step-daughter

Beverley

Birthday shenanigans

No weigh-in Wednesday today. Instead, I am going to tell you all about how I celebrated my 30th birthday yesterday.

As you already know, the day started off well with sausage and bacon sandwiches, provided by Jan. YUM! My friend then turned up bearing cupcakes with candles on them! For the record, I suck at blowing out candles… and there weren’t even 30 of them!

Jan and I then drove to Strasbourg (one of the great things about living where I do is that I can very easily just pop to France for the day! We walked around a bit then went and ate cake at a place called Christian’s, which is apparantly famous. Here are the cakes:

French cakes
French cakes

We choose two different cakes and halved them both. And because I am so dedicated, I even took a photo of the insides for you:

cake 2

cake 3

On returning from Strasbourg, we both went for a nap, then it was time to hit the pub. First we went and ate food at another place then we headed to the Irish pub. It was (mostly) great fun. I was given a bunch of flowers and a CD by my wonderful friends. Then I drank wine and waaaay to much whiskey – none of which I ordered or paid for myself. Then in a drunken state, I started telling people about my blog (mostly because our waitress is someone I originally knew through blogging). Despite me telling them it’s not particularly interesting, they all wanted to URL. So, that was the fun stage of drunkennes…. then the whiskey really kicked in and the tears started, as I told Jan he doesn’t care about me and I’m doomed to die alone and childless while all my friends get married. NOT pretty… and I’m sure I made one or two people very uncomfortable. If any of the people who were there last night have decided to read this, I hereby apologise most sincerely for my behaviour last night!! I don’t really remember most of the journey home. I ended up walking back with my neighbour, wailing and complaining at him all the way, then he came in with me because Jan wasn’t back yet. At some point, I decided I felt sick (classssy!!) and went into the bathroom, then I got a text to say Jan would be home soon so I sent the neighbour away and Jan arrived to find me sitting on the bathroom floor. I never was actually sick by the way, but it was embarassing nonetheless. Alcohol is evil people!!! Avoid it!

So that was how I turned 30. A good day surrounded by lovely people… until I ruined it all by being a drunken mess. But I wasn’t a mess until after midnight, so technically my actual birthday was all good 😉