Recent doings #19

Once again I start with an apology to the blogosphere. Sorry I disappeared again! Work last week was just horrible. I kept having more and more things planned for me until I ended up working 10 hours on Thursday because there was no other way to get everything finished in time. And once I was done I still had to pack because I was spending Friday night at a hotel in Germany. Friday/Saturday I was at a course on legal translation for work, which was actually more interesting than it sounds. Anyway, despite my recent crapness I have not forgotten that today is link-up day with Kristin and Gretch. So here’s what I got up to in June when I wasn’t drowning in work…

whats-new

Eating. It’s been too hot for proper food, so we’ve basically been living on salad. That makes me sound way healthier than I actually am, so I should clarify that one of those salads consisted of new potatoes, spring onions, chicken, Greek yoghurt and seasoning. What? It’s a potato salad! I also have to confess that my diet has involved rather a lot of ice cream in June…

Watching. I started watching that new Channel 4 drama Ackley Bridge. I couldn’t watch yesterday’s though because Jan was home and he doesn’t watch stuff like that (I once watched an episode of Casualty while he was there and he asked me why I was watching a soap).

Reading. I actually managed to finish Sophie’s World. Woo! I also finished The Sense of Style, read four other books and started Three Men in a Boat/Three Men on the Bummel (and finished the Three Men in a Boat part, which is the only part that’s on the Big Read list so yay!). Much better than May’s tally! With Erin‘s challenge now on, I am hoping July will be an excellent reading month.

Listening to. Welcome to Night Vale. Yay! It’s been forever since I said that. We hired a car for our trip to Champagne and car journeys mean time for Night Vale.

Seeing/hearing. The Swiss Youth Choir performing at a church in Basel. Jan is in a choir with some people who are also in that choir so he wanted to go along.

Travelling. To the Champagne region, where I drank champagne (of course) and crossed another item off my 35 before 35 list.

Growing. Chilli plants. Our friend gave them to us when they were just little and they’ve grown and grown,  flowered and are now starting to produce  little chillies. Yum! Also parsley and thyme outside, although the thyme isn’t doing so well.

chillies
Hi little chillies!

Buying. Books, stickers, writing paper. Oh, and since I was in Germany on Friday, I popped to Primark for some tights to replace all the ones I’ve ruined and came out with a cardigan. It had bees on it so I couldn’t possibly not buy it! (Plus it was reduced to €5).

Swimming. In the Rhine, the week before last when it had been really hot for ages. It then rained and cooled down a few days later plus work went crazy so I haven’t been back in yet.

Cross stitching. A new baby card for a friend and lots more cards for Post Pals.

dragon card

Wishing. Time would slow down. It’s my birthday next month and the month after is the official start of autumn. Where is this year going?!

I can’t think of anything else I’ve been up to… as previously mentioned, the main thing I’ve been doing recently is working (are you sick of hearing about that yet?). So I shall leave this here.

Check out what’s new with everyone else here and let me know what you did in June in the comments.

My 2014

For the past two years, I’ve done a kind of month-by-month recap at the end of the year as I way to remind myself of everything I’ve done that year – where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved. Here’s this year’s version. I’m keeping photos small for this post so as not to overwhelm. Clicking on them should make them bigger.

January

We started the year on a high note watching the fireworks display in Madeira, which just happened to be on my 35 before 35 list. Woo hoo! I also counted that as my January trip for the take 12 trips challenge. And that was pretty much it for events in January. It was the first month of my English colleague’s maternity leave, and while my German colleagues complained of having very little to do, I was utterly swamped!

The famous Madeira fireworks
The famous Madeira fireworks

February

On 5th February, Jan and I celebrated our ten-year anniversary, which is quite frankly terrifying! A decade! What? How? And soon we’ll be celebrating 11 years. I just can’t get my head around it. We didn’t do anything on the actual day as Jan had a paper to finish, but a few days later we went for a (rather disappointing) Italian meal.

A week, later, I received a phone call from England with the news that my grandpa was seriously ill in hospital and wasn’t expected to last much longer (abdominal cancer). Thanks to my boss being lovely, I managed to get a week off at short notice and fly to England to be with him one last time. As it turned out, he survived for longer than the mere days or weeks that had been predicted, but I’m glad I saw him before he went really down hill so I was able to actually speak to him and have him know who I was.

At the end of the month, I took a spontaneous day trip to Bruchsal (the next larger town to the North of Karlsruhe) so that my trip for February wouldn’t have to be watching my grandpa die! It isn’t the most exciting town, but I did manage to see a few pretty things.

A stream running through Bruchsal
A stream running through Bruchsal

March

Jan’s birthday is the 1st of March, and this year I made him chocolate cupcakes to take to work. I’m informed they went down well.

Cupcakes
Cupcakes

Also in March, my grandpa was moved to another hospital (coincidentally the one where my mum works as a nurse – my grandma had to give her permission for my mum to work with him!).

17th March is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Our favourite Irish pub did a full Irish breakfast the day before and on actual St. Patrick’s Day (a Monday) there was a party at the pub with live music. This year I was actually clever enough to take the day after St. Patrick’s Day off work so I could party all night!

Full Irish breakfast
Full Irish breakfast

March was another ridiculously busy month at work and involved lost of overtime, but I still managed to fit in my monthly trip. I went to the Gutenberg market in Karlsruhe for it. The next day, Jan and I took a trip to Colmar in France which is gorgeous!

April

April was Easter month, which meant a much-needed long weekend. Yay! Jan, K and I took a trip to Amnévile zoo. It was K’s first time there, but for Jan and I it was the second. The falconry display is amazing! On the way home from the zoo, K introduced us to Welcome to Night Vale, and we both instantly became big fans.

Amneville zooAlso, Jan and I looked after some friends’ pet birds over Easter weekend and succeeded in not killing them. Achievement of the year! 😉 At the end of the month, I took a trip to Heidelberg to meet up with some fellow English speakers in Germany. It was a great day out! Hopefully we’ll be having a winter meet up in January.

Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle

May

May 2014 will forever be known as the month my grandpa died. When the phone rang before I’d even left for work in the morning, I knew immediately what it was going to be, and I was correct. Again, my boss allowed me to spontaneously take time off (only 2 days this time) so I was able to go home for the funeral.

Before heading to England, I took part in my first reading challenge with Megan from Semi-charmed Kinda Life and Jan and I took a trip to Speyer to see an exhibition celebrating 40 years of Playmobil.

Playmobil "Indians"
Playmobil “Indians”

Also in May, I published my 1,000th post on this here little bloggy! Unbelievable! At the end of the month, another public holiday meant a long weekend, so Jan and I took a trip to Konstanz for a couple of days.

June

In June, we went to see a charity concert in Karlsruhe featuring Fish of Marillion fame, among others. We also went to the Hoepfner Burgfest (a beer festival at Hoepfner – a local brewery) and almost melted! It was hot. In the middle of the month, I attended a seminar in Mainz for work and managed to snap some shots of the pretty old town area.

Hoepfner beer
Hoepfner beer

For our anniversary, I had bought Jan tickets to see Pearl Jam in Vienna, and in June it was finally time for our trip there. Since the concert was on a Wednesday, we decided to go for the entire week. Last time we were in Vienna was for New Year and it was freezing, so it was a treat to be there when the weather was nice! We also popped across to Bratislava for a day trip.

The UN headquarters in Vienna
The UN headquarters in Vienna

July

My little brother came to visit us in July and we went to lots of places… Strasbourg, Basel, the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Not bad for a week! I also made crumpets while he was visiting, based on a recipe that my dad’s cousin gave me.

Römerplatz, Frankfurt
Römerplatz, Frankfurt

August

My birthday month… in which I turned 31! I didn’t do much for it though – worked all day then headed to the Irish pub for curry and a few drinks that night. I was working the next day as well so we didn’t stay out too long.

A firned in the UK sent me this lovely card and mini Smarties cake, along with other British goodies
A firned in the UK sent me this lovely card and mini Smarties cake, along with other British goodies

At the end of the month, Jan had to go to a conference in Taiwan, so we decided that he would take holiday and stay out there for an extra week, and that I would join him for that week. I had never had Taiwan on my radar, but I’m so glad we went! It was amazing and beautiful and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Also, Jan keeps telling people it’s like “China for beginners”, so if you want to go to China but aren’t quite brave enough for something that’s so different to the West, try Taiwan first. I just wish we could have stayed for more than a week, but I was short on holiday after all the time spent in England.

View of Sun Moon Lake from Wen Wu Temple, Taiwan
View of Sun Moon Lake from Wen Wu Temple, Taiwan

The end of August also marked the end of the summer reading challenge. Sadly, I didn’t complete it, but I was only one book away!

September

5th September marked 8 years since I moved to Germany, which came as a bit of a shock to me once I realised it! I accidently marked the occasion by heading to a cocktail bar I’d never visted befoe with Jan and K.

cocktails

Travel-wise, we didn’t do a great deal – I think we needed to recharge our batteries after the insanity of June, July and August! But we did manage to go the wine festival in Bad Dürkheim again and also fitted in a day trip to Weinheim so that I could complete my take 12 trips challenge.

October

I spent most of this month trying to figure out exactly why my stomach was hurting practically every time I ate (culminating in a gastroscopy in the middle of the month). On a day when I was feeling okay, I managed to go to a new café in Karlsruhe and sample some delicious scones. We then went there again later in the month for breakfast. So much deliciousness!

Sukie's cake shop
Sukie’s cake shop

The fact that my 12 trips challenge was over didn’t stop me from travelling! Jan, K and I took a day trip to Bad Bergzabern one warm Sunday then we spent Halloween in Paris watching a live show of Welcome to Night Vale. So amazing!

Meeting Cecil Baldwin!
Meeting Cecil Baldwin!

November

On the first of the month, we were still in Paris. We took in a few of the sights then visited an incredibly cool bar. And I decided to take part in another reading challenge with Megan. I started reading my first book on the train home.

November was also the month of my annual Christmas dinner for friends. Usually I don’t have it so early but all other dates were taken!

Christmas dinner 2014

On the final Saturday of the month, Jan and I took part in a culinary tour of Karlsruhe, which could have included more information but did not disappoint in terms of the food!

Delicious dessert at Zum kleinen Ketterer
Delicious dessert at Zum kleinen Ketterer

December

That brings us to this month, which is currently still in progress. I’m sure I don’t really need to remind you of what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks seeing as they’ve only just happened 😉 But this is supposed to be a reminder for my future self, so I will quickly mention a few things. December is, of course, the month of Christmas markets here in Germany and we kicked things off in style by visiting one at a castle! The following weekend, it was off to Speyer for their Christmas market.

Burg Hohenzollern Christmas market
Burg Hohenzollern Christmas market

Other than that, December has as usual been a whirlwind of gift buying, gift wrapping and queueing for hours at the post office to send said gifts. This year, I’ve also had the added stress of trying to get Christmas cards cross stitched and sent on time. I’m not sure what I was thinking there, but I’m starting to make the things in about March next year!

Santa and snowman card

We were planning on heading to Jan’s mum’s on Saturday for Christmas, but after he failed to organise things in time, it turned out his dad is away from 23-29 December and his mum informed us that she has a full house, we decided to spend Christmas at home. We’ll be heading up North on boxing day instead then after a few days with Jan’s family, we’ll take the train from there straight to Zurich for New Year (the original plan of Iceland was vetoed because it was too expensive, then Bruges fell through because we left it too late and there were no more reasonably priced hotel rooms available…)

This has been a bit of a rollercoaster year to be honest… or maybe more like a yo-yo? It’s definitely had its ups… but there have been a few downs as well. Obviously losing my grandpa was devastating and will forever cast a shadow over 2014, but visiting Taiwan was absolutely amazing! I also feel like Jan and I have grown closer again this year, which is obviously good. 🙂 On the other hand, I had no idea just how much extra work was going to result from my colleague being away for an entire year! I can’t wait for February when her baby turns one and she comes back to work!
Next year is mostly definitely going to bring changes it with it, and I’m both nervous and incredibly excited to see where life is going to take me next. Here’s to a fabulous 2015, for me and also for you, dear readers.

Friday letters (the train strike edition)

Good morning! I am currently working from home for the second day in a row thanks to the German train drivers’ strike. Surely you must have heard about it? It even made BBC news! For those that haven’t, a brief summary: goods train drivers have been on strike since Wednesday, those on passenger services since 2 a.m. yesterday. The strike will continue until 4 a.m. Monday, which has meant those who commute had to find alternative ways to get to work… or been forced to use holiday days (not exactly a fun prospect this close to Christmas!). Luckily I have an employer who set up a remote server and allows us to work from home for a few days when such things happen.
Other than that, this week has been fairly uneventful. We got back from Paris on Sunday to find bright sunshine and temperatures of 22°C… which then promptly changed to around 13°C and rain the next morning. I cannot keep up with these constant about faces! I’ve been working hard again and managed to add some more overtime to my tally – soon I’ll have enough to take a day off! And when I haven’t been working I’ve managed to complete another few Christmas-themed cross stitch pictures for cards and read the first two books for the winter reading challenge. I’d be halfway through the third by now if I hadn’t been denied my commute yesterday and this morning! Also, it was pub quiz on Tuesday and my team managed to come second with a mere 53 points! The questions were really difficult this month!
And now, letters.

letter box

Dear GDL/Deutsche Bahn. I really hope you agree on something soon, because after a four-day strike I’m a little worried about what the next step might be. Striking for an entire week? No trains right when people want to head home for Christmas? The possibilities are endless (and scary!).

Dear Christmas markets. I can’t believe you will be starting in a mere two weeks! It’s only just started to feel like autumn… I can’t possibly get my head around the idea of winter! I am looking forward to the Glühwein though.

Dear Welcome to Night Vale. I’m glad your live show was just as amazing as I had been anticipating! Please come back to Europe soon.

Dear self. Stop spending money on things you don’t need!! Christmas is really not far away and many, many gifts need to be purchased!

Dear stomach. After weekes of seeming just fine, you hurt again yesterday after I ate some sheep’s cheese. Please don’t let your problem be with sheep’s/goat’s cheese. I love that stuff!

And now here are some links:

Lucy went to see the poppy exhibition at the Tower of London and took some great pictures. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t go so I’m having to live through all the bloggers who did make it.

This recipe for Chorizo, Parmesan and Sun-dried Tomato Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Mediterranean Vegetables and mozzarella looks amazing! Just the thought of it is making me feel hungry.

This article about learning to speak German and having to send verbs to the end of a sentence amused me greatly. So many times I’ve joked that by the time you get to the verb you’ve already forgotten what it was you were trying to say!

I love my job, but sometimes the unexpected overtime and requests from customers to “just quickly translate this tiny file (which isn’t really tiny at all) by the end of today” can get tiring. This post on 5 things translators do better is the perfect antidote to a long and frustrating work day!

I thought I had more links for you but I can’t actually remember any more/find where I’ve saved them so that’s just going to have to do. Have a great weekend everyone!

*I’m linking up with Kate for Daily Diaries.*

Welcome to Night Vale: The Librarian

The entire point of our trip to Paris was to see a live show of the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. The title of the show they’re currently performing in Europe is The Librarian. I went with Jan and my friend K, who is the one that first got us into it. Amazingly I was the one who told her about the European shows though! All the performances in Germany were either too far away (Hamburg!) or in the middle of the week, but Paris is only 3 hours from us and the show was on a Friday, meaning only one day off was needed. Perfect!

For those of you who don’t know the podcast, a brief summary. Night Vale is a desert community somewhere in America (presumably the south-west – that’s where all the seserts are, right?). The premise of the podcast is that it’s community radio, so each podcast contains things like the community calendar, traffic, local news and announcements  about things that are happening in town, all read out by narrator Cecil (voiced by Cecil Baldwin). But all is not as it seems in Night Vale. For instance, there are angels… or at least beings claiming to be angels and a dog park that neither dogs nor humans are allowed to enter. Also, beware of helicoptors, librarians and hooded figures. Basically listen to it! It’s free to download, so at least go and get the pilot. If you don’t like it, you haven’t wasted any money.

As I’ve said, the show we went to see was entitled The Librarian. I won’t tell you too much about what happens because a recording will be released at some point in the future, and also the tour isn’t even over yet! I will, however, say this much: it all starts when the town council decides to renovate the public library and one of the librarians gets loose. Also, creator Joseph Fink shows up as new intern Joseph… and we all know what happens to interns! Seeing Night Vale live was an amazing experience. The shows are always good, but Cecil’s facial expressions and gesticulations added a whole extra dimension. In fact, everyone did a great job (other performers included former mayor Pamela Winchell, who called a press conference (what else?) right in the studio and Deb as one of Night Vale’s sponsors, played by Meg Bashwiner better known as the voice of the credits). Here are some photos of the show:

The weather was performed by Mary Epworth, a British singer-songwriter who I liked a lot.

There were quite a few people with the Night Vale moon drawn on them or extra eyes, but there were also some really good costumes. One of my favourites was an excellent girl scout! Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of her, although Jan did get one of a different girl scout. K went as the glow cloud, and was quite rightly hailed/worshipped all night. I think every single audience member wanted a photo either of or with her! I went as Tamika Flynn (as I’ve already mentioned) and was very disappointed by how few people actually knew what I was supposed to be! Especially considering Tamika is one of the few characters who is actually described even vaguely. And you would have thought the librarian head would have given it away! Most people only understood after I showed them my sticker chart, which had “my” name on it. One group of hooded figures actually thought I was supposed to be a librarian, which was a bit weird! Here are a few photos anyway (some taken by me, some by Jan). I have included one of K which I hope gives a good enough impression of her costume without revealing her identity too much (yes, I know it seems hypocritical to care about that considering I’m using photos of a bunch of strangers, but being strangers it’s less likely that people will figure out who they are via me!)

At the end of the show, we hung around for a bit waiting for the performers to come out. I bought a CD by Mary Epworth, which she signed for me, then eventually Cecil Baldwin and Joseph Fink showed up. I got them to sign my ticket (Cecil also signed my sticker chart) and got a photo with each of them. They were both lovely 🙂

After the show, we decided to go for a drink with two other girls we had met there. One we met in the queue (she came over to meet the glow cloud) and she ended up sitting with us and the other we met after the show when she wanted a photo with K. Appropriately enough, she was wearing a glow cloud T-shirt. All in all, it was an excellent night and I’m glad we went. It being on Halloween was just an added touch of brilliance. If there is ever another tour of Europe, I would definitely think about going!

You can download all the episodes of Welcome to Night Vale here or also on iTunes.