Monday, 27 March 2017

A Week of Celebrating

Not the whole week, but almost!

I turned 49 last Wednesday, and started off celebrating by meeting a group of friends - my pub quiz team - at the pub on Tuesday night. We had not been there in way too many months, and apart from having a lot of fun with the quiz, it was simply great to see them all and catch up in between answering questions.
And guess what - we and another team had the most points! It was a draw, so an extra question was asked, and we came second. Actually, we preferred that, as the first prize is a bottle of whiskey and the second a bottle of vodka. Whiskey is something I honestly can't drink; I suppose I am too weak. Vodka I can not drink on its own, either, but I do like vodka-based cocktails, and so my team mates made me take the bottle home. 

As it was only an hour or so until the start of my birthday, the landlord had a glass of champagne brought to me - it was a pleasant surprise and very kind of him!

On Wednesday, my sister and I both had taken the day off. We travelled to Karlsruhe, about 1 hour by train. We went to see an exhibition about pharaoh Ramses II. He was the longest-reigning of all the pharaohs (more than 60 years!), and the exhibition covered many aspects of his life and times. It was well presented, with just the right amount of text - not too much as to become boring or overwhelming, but still enough to give all relevant information. 


At the museum café, we stopped for coffee and cake before walking back to the train station.

Our ride in was around lunch time, so we snacked on sandwiches we had bought. It was nice and quiet on the train, just as I like it. Then the train stopped, and a group of young children with several teachers got on. You can see how the noise affected poor little me in the pictures my sister took with her phone :-D



I was back at the office on Thursday, where one of my customers gave me a box of rather luxurious chocolates and some other people came to my table in the canteen to shake hands and give me their best wishes - I felt like a VIP!
My boss (RJ) and I went for a quick after-work drink at the hotel bar next door before he gave me a lift home.

On Friday, I was in Ulm for a meeting with other data protection officers. It was a lot less boring than it sounds, and I always jump at the chance to go back to Ulm, where I spent such a good time in 2014 for my course for data protection officer.

Saturday was here with plenty of sunshine, and as soon as O.K. arrived at my place, we went out to have the first proper ice cream of this season:


Mine was with peanuts and bits of snickers, O.K.'s was decorated with hazelnuts and topped with Bailey's.
We had a very quick stroll in the palace grounds, where spring is in full swing - look at the wonderful tulips:


Back home, we did the last bits of party preparations, and shortly after 6:00, my first guests arrived. I had a wonderful party, lasting until around 3:00 am (actually, it would have been 2:00 am, but we had the change to summer time that night), with good drinks, excellent food (mostly prepared by my Mum), great presents and surrounded by the people that mean the most to me.

I have many more pictures to show and things to tell you, but right now, I don't have the time.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Early Spring in the Woods

Two weekends ago, I was in the rare situation of spending a weekend on my own, neither travelling to O.K.'s nor he coming to my place. Don't worry, all is well with us - it was simply a case of obligations on his side taking up all of the Saturday and me wanting/needing to do some stuff like cleaning my windows (you really had to open the windows to see whether it was day or night outside) and switching the contents of my wardrobe from the colder to the warmer season.

On the Saturday (11th of March), my Mum, my sister and I went for a walk to enjoy the early spring sunshine. Here are the pictures I took.







By the way, this was almost exactly the same route we took in November 2015, when it was warmer and sunnier than on this Saturday in March! Compare the pictures, if you like - click here for the 2015 post.







After the descent through the woods, the path stretches along the river for a while before, after a slight ascent, it emerges at the steep, rocky, heath-like bit above. From there, it leads along vineyards old and new, with a beck babbling by its side.







You know I have a "thing" for abandoned places, and these former vineyard walls certainly do it for me:







Some are still in use. I showed you these same places in November 2015, too. Click here if you want to see what the vineyards looked like in all their colourful glory then.







We suspect there might be a secret castle underneath all that wild growth, with Sleeping Beauty resting on a bed of faded silk:







We had a break here, with a little snack and some water. It was even warm enough to lay back in the sun, using our coats as blankets:



On we went, now moving back in the direction we had come from, parallel to the path down in the valley where we had been walking before:








Doesn't this look much more like November than March?



At first, the landscape may look rather dull, lacking colour. But if you look closely, you can detect spots of colour everywhere.

Violets:

Helleborus foetidus - it was not at all smelly, in spite of its name:



I will have to rely on my Mum to tell me the name of these - I know they are not aconites:



It was a much more pleasant way of spending a Saturday afternoon than cleaning windows... I still did that afterwards, though. Daylight was fading by that time, and when I looked at my windows again on Sunday morning, I did some of them again.


Now it's time to get some stuff done here at home. I have the day off and will be going out with my sister in about 2 hours.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

At Home in 1903

You know the view from my kitchen window almost as well as I do. Over the past few years, I have struck up a soft of friendship with the elderly lady whose house and garden I see. She sometimes rings me on a Saturday morning and brings me flowers from her garden, to thank me once more for the wall calendar I had made for her a few years ago with photos of her garden.

The other day, she rang to ask whether I would like to come over and have a look at the dolls house and kitchen she and her siblings used to play with when they were children.
I didn't have to think twice and was over at her house a few minutes later.

We climbed the stairs to the attic room where she had it all set up. She explained that the kitchen and house had belonged to her mother before her, and was originally from 1903. (My neighbour is going to be 85 years old this summer.)
Of course not everything you see here is from 1903. Typically, bits would be added as Christmas or birthday presents, or when something would break beyond repair and need replacement. The latter happened very rarely, as the children who played with this kitchen and house loved their toys and handled them very carefully.

Looking at the kitchen in detail, you can detect many things that were in use in real life not only in 1903, but for decades afterwards.


This little "cage" was for storing fresh eggs:
 

"Zwiebel" means onion, and "Wischtuch" means cleaning cloth.
The metal dustbin is very similar to the life-sized one we still used when I was a kid, to put the ashes from our bathroom stove in.
 

The kitchen is a stand-alone one, but the "house" consists of two rooms. Here is the bedroom:


Things such as the wash bowl and water jug, hot water bottle (on the little bed) and chamber pot (in the nightstand) were familiar household items in 1903.



The living room:


A bird in a cage - all so very detailed! And look at  that mirror, a real piece of Art Deco art! It is relatively heavy, because the figure holding the mirror is solid bronze. The entire thing is less than the length of one of my fingers. (Sorry - you can see my camera's handle in the mirror; I didn't mean that to be seen!)


There is even a small balcony at the side of the living room, and all windows and doors open and close properly. The roses were put there by my neighbour and her sister much later, as the original flowers had fallen apart long ago.


The house hosts a big family of dolls. My neighbour told me all their names, but I can't remember all of them. I know that one of the girls is Liesele, and the one in the green dress is Dorothee. The dresses were made by my neighbour and her sister when they were little girls themselves, about 8 years old, and copied from the clothes the dolls originally wore.
Look at the little horse - it is covered in real horse fur, and the mane and tail are real horse hair. The little boy must have been for a wild ride just before we came up, judging from his hair :-)



The house holds a nice collection of books - tiny calendars from 1903 to 1917, with a few missing in between. These were meant to be kept in people's wallets. They had a tiny space to write in for each day, and showed all Christian and Jewish holidays. Each book is less than the size of my thumb.



I felt very privileged to be allowed to look at and touch everything! My neighbour told me lots more than I am repeating here; each piece, each doll has their own little history.
It was a lovely glimpse into the past in general, and into my neighbour's childhood in particular.

(Don't worry - I had asked her permission to take pictures and show them here. My neighbour does not have a computer, and I am not sure she can really imagine what a blog is, but she likes the idea of many other people being able to see her precious dolls house and kitchen.)