Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Definitely Dotty!

After yesterday's musings about whether I am going nuts or not, it is now official: I am definitely dotty!

At least today.
Look at all the dotted things I brought home from town yesterday!

The muesli bowls were a gift from my sister, I've had them for at least half a year or longer, and when I saw the Cath Kidston paper napkins in the shop, I asked my mum whether I could have them (and I could). Don't they match the bowls just perfectly? They'll make a nice addition to my Sunday morning breakfast table.

The tights I wanted because tonight, for my Dad's birthday party (he is 70 today), I am going to wear the grey dress I showed you in my "Fashion Calendar" post. The tights and shoes I wore on that first picture are not warm enough today; I woke up to the scratching noise people make with their snow shovels.
And a grey dress with a simple cut and no pattern can handle colourful accessories, such as the dotted tights. The plain midnight blue tights to the far left were simply a necessity, to replace a pair that has developed some pilling and is not really sightly anymore.

The dotted ones were at half price, they are very nice, warm and comfy, and I can wear them with my fuchisa dress... (adding a pair of black boots, of course, and wearing a long-sleeved black t-shirt underneath the dress, as well as *ahem* combing my hair...)

or with the purple satin blouse and a pair of shorts.

Now, I wonder which way I should go tonight:
reasonable...

or bold?

I think I'll be bold! (And I promise, I'll comb my hair before I leave. Actually, I've combed it maybe ten minutes after having taken the pictures this morning.)

Yes, another shallow fashion post. And beware - there is more to come in the course of this year...

Monday, 30 January 2012

Am I Going Nuts?

Dealing with lots of people at the same time and keeping an eye on the big picture is usually not difficult for me; I am quite used to it from having worked at fairs for almost ten years now, and my former work place was in an open-plan office with many comings and goings, phone calls and other noise surrounding me every day.

So maybe I am either going nuts or getting old or both :-)

Today, my mum came to meet me around lunch time for a quick dash into town to get a few things she wanted for my dad's birthday do (he is 70 tomorrow). Since I have made it a point of leaving the house at least once a day ever since I have started working from home, I had offered to come with her.

It is not far from my house to the centre of our small town (less than 90.000 inhabitants), just down the road really, and within 10 minutes, you can be at the shopping mall.
So, off we went, well covered in padded coats and scarves and woolly hats.

By the time we reached a particular part of the road leading towards the centre, all of a sudden, everything seemed to be happening at once - and it was almost getting too much for me for a second or two:
Someone wanted to park on the pavement right next to where we were walking, while someone else was just vacating that same parking space. People coming towards us and people walking in front of us were undecided about which way to go, plus they were a lot slower than us, so that we could neither go past them nor comfortably stay behind them. A small kid on a bike, accompanied by his mum pushing a pram, kept frantically ringing the bell on said bike, in spite of there not being anyone in his way. And my mum, walking half at my side, half in front of me (for lack of space), kept turning halfway round to me, telling me about my aunt who had rung three times on Sunday about my dad's birthday party, and somehow she managed at the same time to ask what, if and where I wanted to eat anything, it being lunch time and all.

Right there and then, I was ready to stand still in the middle of the pavement, put my fingers in my ears, close my eyes and shout "STOOOOOOP!!!", but of course I didn't - instead, I pulled myself together and kept walking, answering mum's question(s), dodging the other people on the pavement, looking ahead to see where the narrow space allocated to us pedestrians would broaden again.

Moments later, the episode was as good as forgotten, and we had an enjoyable hour in town, finding the things we wanted (more about that tomorrow), and when I was home, I sat down with a cup of coffee and was ready to get back into working mode again.

Why I reacted like that for a moment I don't know; am I not used to being surrounded by many people every day, all day, anymore? Am I getting too old for that? (My mum is older and wasn't bothered in the least!) Or am I simply going nuts?

Maybe I just wasn't in the right set of mind for crowds. Next time I'll go into town at lunch time, I'll remember to switch into crowd mode first :-)

Friday, 27 January 2012

An Update and Questions To You

Good morning!
(Yes, I know; it won't be morning for everyone who reads this, when they read it, but I am typing this at 9.00 in the morning, just before I'll start work, and therefore, good morning it is!)

Quite a long time ago, I posted about the blogs I follow, and a bit about the stats regarding my own blog. Strangely enough, that particular post has proved to be, to this day, the most popular one on my blog, even though it only received four comments back then.
A lot has happened since then; I have started following many more blogs and the number of those who follow my blog has increased to 60 (although I must admit one of them is myself, and some others never show up and have probably long left the blogosphere since having clicked the "Follow" button on my blog), something I am well chuffed about! 
I have published 240 posts (this one being No. 241), and there have been a bit over 20.000 page views.

What I still find really interesting, and I do that about once a week, is to check on my stats under "traffic sources" what search words people have used that eventually lead them to my blog.
Presently, the search words are:
old armchair









porto emp├ędocle









my bikini friends









old armchairs









talk to the hand lynne truss









armchair reading









old arm chair









palermo









polishing shoes









small castle
Interesting, isn't it? I am especially intrigued by "my bikini friends" - to my knowledge, there isn't any post about "bikini friends" here, unless I am suffering a severe bout of blog-amnesia. That so many people have stumbled on here while looking for old armchairs is funny - and I did indeed post about my grandma's armchair from the 1950s which was given to me by my parents in the spring of last year. It still is my preferred reading and eating place for my lunch break, when I am not going out.

And now for the questions, which I hope some of you will take the time to answer:

1. Would you like me to change the font size on my blog? Would you prefer my typing to be larger? Or smaller?
2. Someone recently asked whether my blog was turning into a cookery column. The question surprised me, because I actually have not that many recipes on here; a lot less than some of the blogs I follow. But it made me think, and so I am asking you:
Should I sort my blog into categories, such as "recipes", "book/film reviews", "travel reports", "general musings", "shallow fashion posts" etc.?
After all, my blog is called "From My Mental Library", and every library should have some kind of systematic to it, some order to allow the reader to find quickly what they are looking for.
3. If your answer to #2 was "yes", please tell me how to do that. I've seen it on some of the blogs I follow, but I have not discovered yet how it works, although I have looked at all the options under "layout".

And now, it is your turn!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Quiche, Quickly!

Quickly made, but not quickly done: Quiche Lorraine.
You'll see what I mean by this apparent contradiction when you read the recipe.

I had been wanting to make a quiche in a long time; my last one was at least 5 or 6 years ago, and I threw out my old baking form some time after moving to this place in 2003 and never bought a new one. Last week, then, my mum kindly gave me one of hers (still brand new and unused, in its original packing), and so on Saturday, I made Quiche Lorraine for RJ and my dinner.
You need for the crust:
200 g flour
100 g soft butter or margarine (I used the latter)
1 egg
a pinch of salt

For the filling:
around 200 g of ham or bacon (again, I used the latter, and the laziest option at that,  readily diced)
150 g Emmental cheese (lazy again - I bought it already grated)
3 eggs
200 g cream
pepper, salt, nutmeg

(You can find a very useful converting tool for weights, measures and temperatures here)

Put the flour in a bowl and add the margarine or butter in bits. Then add the one egg and pinch of salt. For the first bit, it is best to use a kneading mixer, like the one in the picture above, until the mixture is crumbly like this:
From there, using your hands works best. Work the dough into a nice, homogenous buttery (or margariney) ball like the one below, and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (see what I mean? Although it is quickly made, it is not quickly done, because the dough needs to rest, you can not use it instantly upon making it).

Grease your baking form.

When the dough has rested in the fridge long enough, work it into the form. You will need a bit more than half of it for the bottom, and a bit less than half of it for the rim.

Now comes the mysterious bit; I found this instruction in the recipe and have no idea why it is necessary, but I did it anyway: take a fork and make tiny holes into the bottom, like this:

Put half of the bacon or ham bits on the bottom.

Add half of the cheese, and repeat until you have used up all the bacon/ham and cheese.

Mix the three eggs and the cream, spice with salt, pepper and nutmeg (I use fresh nutmeg, as you can see). Caution: go easy on the salt, the ham/bacon will be salty already.

Pour the mixture over the quiche and put into the oven at 175 Celsius for about 45 minutes - but keep checking after 30 minutes.

The Quiche is ready when it looks like this:

We had salad with it, and enjoyed our dinner very much!

And the nice thing about quiches (just as with pizzas) is that you can use just about anything you find in your kitchen and larder for the filling; you can make it a vegetable one, for instance, by using brokkoli and sundried tomato bits, or green asparagus, or whatever you prefer.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Read in 2012 - 2: The House By The Sea

After the non-fiction book about Russia which was my first read this year, I was happy to spend several cosy evenings tucked up in bed with my duvet and heavy blanket, balancing a plate of sandwiches on my knees and reading "The House By The Sea" by Santa Montefiore.

It was one of two books sent to me a few weeks before Christmas by my mother-in-law from England, the other one being "The Lady's Maid", with its review to be found here on my blog.

"The House By The Sea" is, essentially, a love story. Or, rather, several love stories in one. I won't say too much, because it would mean spoiling it for you in case you wish to read it. Let it suffice to say that the story moves between the 1960s and the year 2009, between a magnificent country palace and its even more magnificent gardens in Tuscany and an old mansion, converted into what sounds a truly wonderful hotel, on the coast of Devon. The places are described in a manner that allows you to see them in front of you, and also hear and smell them. Yes, the author is, in my opinion, very good at describing places and their atmosphere, as well as people.

The plot is predictable, and it was quite obvious from the start who the people really were, with plenty of hints for the reader to have an idea of the "secrets" the main characters are carrying. The only surprise for me came when, quite towards the end of the book, the identity of a "gentleman thief" haunting big houses and posh hotels along the Devon coast is revealed.

This predictability does not deter the book from being a very pleasant read, and I like Santa Montefiore's style and her choice of words, most of the time. Although I gathered the meaning from the context, I looked up several words - something I do not need to do very often. Those words were, for instance, "cerulean" and "foppish". The overall feel at the end is rather a bit too sweet - everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, works out well, for everybody, and that simply does not happen in real life, much as we wish it did.

Here are some bits I liked enough for wanting to share them with you:
"I don't know you well enough to know if you're being ungrateful. But I know human nature enough to know that you will never be happy living your life for other people. You have to go your own way and work it all out for yourself."
When I read that, I was reminded of a close friend of mine who has been struggling with the tough decision between staying in an unhappy marriage or starting anew, alone.

This little gem I find very true - even though I am still decades from being really considered "old" by others:
"You know, when you're young you don't ever imagine you're going to be old. But it falls upon you quite unexpectedly and then, there you are: one of the old people you rather despised."
(Note: I do NOT despise old people, but I think you get the idea, why I chose to quote this bit.)

One of the characters falls in love and this is how it makes her feel:
Above all, she liked who she was when she was with him, as if, in his eyes, she was a better version of herself: braver, wittier, prettier.
The personal philosphy of one of the characters is, I think, something most of you will agree to:
"During our lifetime we have many choices which affect those around us as well as our own futures. Imagine a pebble dropped into a pond. You may think that the pebble simply sinks to the bottom, but you are wrong. The pebble causes ripples that run to the edge, where they nudge a leaf off the bank. A bumble bee is drowning in the water, but now he is able to climb onto the leaf and save himself. The bumble bee flies off and lands on the arm of a child, who watches in wonder and thus develops a love of nature. The child's parents are fighting, but the mother sees the bee and panics that her child will be stung. Both parents ruhs to help the child and forget their argument, united in their love for their child. The bee flies off and... well, you can invent whatever story you like."

If you want to know more about the author, her website is informative and set up well.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Thunder, Lightning and Self-Discipline

What do these have to do with each other, you may wonder. Let me explain.

The very first post I ever published on here was about sleep, which goes to show how important that is to me. Maybe I do need a bit more of it than others; I can function with 5 hours, but only for a few days, then I need to get up to my 7-8 hours again, otherwise I'll be useless and walk around all day like a zombie.

Usually, during the week, I switch the lamp on my bedside table off between 11.00 pm and midnight, most of the time quite close to 11.00. When I have had a particularly exhausting day, or the night before was too short and I am very tired, it is lights out earlier, sometimes as early as 10.00 pm.
Sounds like plenty of sleep until 7.00 am, when I wake up from the sound of the bells from the nearby church that serves as my alarm clock, doesn't it?
And yet, there are times when it is nowhere near enough.

Take last night.
I went to bed, read a little, and switched the light off at half eleven. For a few nights in a row now, my mind has been whirling with fragments of thoughts and ideas; nothing troubling or worrying, but apparently enough to keep me from sinking into my friend Morpheus' arms as quickly as I'd like to. The same happened again last night, but eventually, of course I did fall asleep.

As is my habit, the bedroom window was open to a crack; I was warm and comfortable enough underneath my duvet plus a heavy blanket. On falling asleep, the last thing I consciously heard was the sound of rain, something I find very cosy when I can snuggle deeper under my duvet and do not need to be out there in the cold and rain. It had been quite windy all afternoon and evening, and the pattern of the rain changed with each gust blowing between my house and the neighbour's.

At some stage very early this morning, I woke up because the sound had changed yet again: now it was a prattle of what I am sure was icy rain, clattering on the roof of my neighbour's bike shed and my metal window sills only a few metres away from me. The blinds where moving with the wind, too, and then the thunder and lightning started, all at once.
There was no slow approach, with the gap between thunder and lightning narrowing as the thunderstorm came closer, no, it was right there on top of us when it broke loose.
I was too comfortable to get up and watch the spectacle from my kitchen window, so I stayed in bed, awake and listening.

By the time the church bells chimed seven, I was so tired the temptation to stay in bed for another half hour at least was really big. But - and this is where the self-discipline comes into play - I got up.

When I first started working from home back in May 2011, I was determined to stick to a realistic schedule of working hours, and so far, I have not had any trouble doing just that. By the time I start making my phone calls at around 9.00 am, I have already been up for two hours, having coffee, reading and replying to emails (business as well as personal ones), reading (and sometimes writing) blogs, I have fed the cat, showered and dressed properly, had breakfast and washed the few dishes I used for my muesli and coffee.
This morning, the temptation to get up later was certainly there, but that's the point of self-discipline - you just don't. (Or, depending on what it is about, you just DO).

By the way, this is what I saw when I came into the kitchen a few minutes after seven this morning:

Monday, 16 January 2012

Moon Show

Who reads my blog more or less regularly may be under the impression that my flat only has one window, facing East from my kitchen. Well, it is not so; there are two in the kitchen, one in the bathroom, one in the livingroom (where I work during the day), two in the bedroom and one in The Third Room.
But the view from my kitchen window is simply the best one, and that is why it features on here so often.

The other night, I was watching a spectacular full moon show from it.

My camera (or, rather, the photographer, i.e. myself) was not capable to really show 1:1 what my eyes saw, but hopefully these three pictures give you an idea of just how spectacular it was. They were taken within seconds from each other; it was a very windy night and the clouds were moving rapidly across the nightly sky. I did try to take a close-up one of the moon, but not having a tripod, even with the anti-wobble-thingy on (don't know what that feature of my camera is actually called), all I managed was at best an egg-shaped white blob instead of the beautiful silvery sphere I saw with the naked (well, not totally - I was still wearing my specs!) eye.





It is times like this I wish I could paint.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Read in 2012 - 1: Russland

Russland is the German term for Russia, as you have probably guessed if you didn't know already anyway. This book about Russia was written by Thomas Roth, a German journalist who worked and lived in Russia for years, being the official correspondent of one of Germany's national TV stations.
(At present, he is head said national TV station's office in New York.)


This gives him the unique position of knowing a lot more about the country and its people than an average tourist or business traveller would know, but at the same time still keeping an outsider's perspective.

At no time in the book does the author pretend to know something he can not prove; there is an appendix of foot notes with information regarding the documents, articles, books and TV programs he quotes. 
The book is mostly well-written - I say "mostly", because there are bits I find surprisingly bumpy for someone who is a professional writer and has been doing this for a living for many years.

In German, there are two forms of addressing someone; the informal "Du" for people who we are on first names terms with, and the formal "Sie" we use when we address someone as Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so. This difference in adressing others is not exclusive to German; many other languages know it, too. In German, the third person plural is also "sie", but with a small s, as opposed to the capital S in the formal address.
Now, throughout this book, only the "sie" with the small s is used, even where it should correctly be a "Sie" because a person is directly addressed.
At first, I thought this was an error of typesetting, but as it never changed, I now believe this was done on purpose - for whatever reason, I can not fathom. It did bother me.

On the other hand, the whole book is very interesting and fascinating. I learnt a lot about how events past and present influence not only everyday life in Russia, but how that influence stretches to all of Europe, including, of course, Germany. The author manages to bring the big picture into an understandable context with the small detail, and I enjoyed reading it.

The book is not a travel guide. The subtitle reads "The True Face of a World Power", and that is what Mr. Roth has attempted, and, as far as I can tell, well achieved.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

More Glimpses

Several times on my blog, I have written about glimpses we catch of other people's lives, in various circumstances. And today, while I was waiting at the checkout queue at Aldi's during my lunch break, I realized what a good occasion for such glimpses a visit to the supermarket or groceries store is.

While you wait your turn, you can't help but notice what the person in front of you is putting from their trolley on the conveyor. But have you actually ever stopped to think about the items others buy, having exactly the same choice of products as you have? And what their choice reveals about them?

Take the contents of my shopping trolley, for instance; most of the time, when I am on my own and do not expect anyone for dinner, mine is the typical middle-aged-single-woman-with-cat kind of mixture: cat food (always!), yoghurts, chocolate, bread, cheese, the odd shower gel or washing up liquid in between. Nothing exciting, nothing expensive, nothing that will take a long time to prepare.
When I have guests, it is a different matter entirely, not only in that there is more of everything, but also healthier stuff such as fresh vegetable and fruit, eggs and so on.

What would you think if you saw me putting a packet of finger bisquits, mascarpone, sugar, eggs and a bottle of amaretto on the conveyor? Or a packet of flour, yeast, tomato, mozzarella and a potted basil plant? You would rightly conclude that the woman buying these items is about to make a Tirami-Su or, in the second case, a pizza.

Sometimes there are whole families doing their shopping together, but sometimes you can tell from the sheer amount of things as well as the kind of products that the one person doing the shopping has a family in the background who will consume all this - at least that is what I assume. I could be wrong, of course, and the person buying a lot of food is just a hearty eater and stocking up the larder. 

Today, the customer in front of me, a woman of more or less my age, very skinny, unremarkably dressed, put a packet of ham, two nets of clementines and two large parsnips on the conveyor, as well as a set of 50 envelopes that came from the special offer section of the super market. Nothing else.
My mind instantly started to spin out possible scenarios for her rather unusual mixture of products; was she just going to get the envelopes and then saw the clementines and the parsnips and the ham and thought, 'hmm... I haven't had any of this in a while, they look nice,' and taken them? Or did she have a particular dish in mind to prepare with the parsnips and the ham, and while she was there, saw the cheerful colour of the clementines and couldn't resist, and the envelopes were the kind of thing one can always use anyway?

There were more such mini-stories playing in my head, but then she paid and left and it was my turn.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Fashion Calendar: January

Months ago, fellow blogger Frances wrote something about clothes that made me start to collect pictures for my very own "Autumn Wardrobe" post - the pictures are all here on my computer, taken over the course of several months during autumn and winter 2011, but somehow* I never wrote that post.

Now, 2012 is already seven days "old", and I think it is as good a day as anyone to start on my own personal fashion calendar. As much as showing off in a rather childish manner, this is supposed to serve also to keep track of how much I actually spend on clothes, regardless of whether I "need" them or not. Maybe it will help me remember, looking back, how many nice things I already have in my wardrobe, and that I really do not need any more.

On the 2nd of January, RJ and I went for a walk; as it was quite wet and windy out there, we decided against the fields and walked into town centre instead. As is probably the case for most of the areas where you live, sales have already started in the shops; they all want to get rid of what was not sold before Christmas, to make room for the stuff that is specifically ordered and produced for the "proper" Winter Sales.

Without actually looking for anything specific, I found this dress at half price (50 Euros instead of 99) at the comma shop - and in my size, too, which is not to be taken for granted, because I am of such average size that it is, most of the time, the first to be sold out.
I tried it on, liked it, and bought it. Only later I looked it up on the internet, and saw what horrible, absolutely non-matching  shoes they made the model wear with it - would anyone in their right mind wear such ugly shoes in the first place, and then with this dress?
Instead, I am going to wear it with the shoes I wore on New Year's Eve, so that it looks like this:

Now, of course my hair and face were not "done" for the photo, but I guess you'll agree with me that it is a versatile dress that can be toned up or down according to the occasion and fits both work and play. Does a new dress (or, if you are male, a new suit, shirt or anything else) also fill you with anticipation? Do you know the feeling as if a new piece has been yours for a long time already, and you feel very much at home in it? That is exactly what my new dress, my first fashion acquisition in 2012, is like!

*That "somehow" actually means fear of criticism. I have had many (at times rather harsh) critical comments from family members who read my blog and are either of the opinion that what I write is of no interest to anyone else or they think it is downright ridiculous. So far, said critique has not deterred me from keeping to write what I want to write about, with the exception of information such as personal names and pictures of those who have expressively forbidden me to reveal anything about them. Let me assure you (you = anyone who happens to read this) that, whenever I sit here at my computer to write on my blog, I never, NEVER set out to hurt anyone or spread private information about them. This is my blog, a mixture of journal, book and film reviews, recipes, musings inspired by my hardly very exciting, but comfortable daily life, and by what I read, see or hear elsewhere, and a few short stories (the oldest entries).
Perl wrote about his reasons for blogging here, and what he says expresses a lot better than I can in my own words what is, in part, my motiviation for keeping this going. Oh yes, there is a portion of narcissism in me, more than maybe in a lot of other people, and it would be a lie to say that the attention I get here through your kind comments was not most welcome. But, writing for the reader (who I can never be entirely sure of, really) is only one half of the story. More importantly, I write because I need to, I enjoy it, and as I lack other talents such as painting or composing music, it is my creative outlet (not very creative when it comes to listing recipes and books I've read, I can hear you say, and you are right - but I think you still get the idea).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Filling My Diary

Although I have all the technical possibilities to keep a paper-free diary for my business and private appointments, I still work best with an old-fashioned paper one.

The one I used all of 2011 was originally given to me as a Christmas present by one of the suppliers at the company were I worked until March of last year.
It came in very handy, especially when I quit the former company and was off work for seven weeks from the middle of March until my first day on the new job, on the 2nd of May 2011.
During those seven weeks, I did a lot - I travelled, I worked (playing secretary for a friend and earning a little extra money, which was very welcome!), I blogged, I saw friends, started to train for the CityRun, and more.
It would have been difficult to keep track of everything without the help of my diary.

And when I started working for the new company, I began using the diary for business, too.
My job mainly consists in keeping in touch with my customers by ringing them and, every now and then, acquire new customers from various sources, such as after I have met them for the first time at a trade show or conference. It is important to stay in touch with them after the initial contact, and I always put the customer's name down in my diary on the day I plan to ring them again. 

Not only is this - for me - a much better way of planning my work than putting appointments into Outlook, where they would just keep popping up, only to be clicked away by me and eventually forgotten, but this system also gives me the satisfaction of "seeing" my work getting done, because every time I have made a call and reached the person I wanted to speak to, I cross their name out.

Something else this diary allows me to do is keeping small reminders of special events, such as tickets for an exhibition my sister invited us all to on her birthday, or the fireworks display in the summer, and so on.

The menu of the posh dinner we attended on New Year's Eve is in there now as well!
 

For 2012, there are already quite a few entries in my diary, the cover of which is currently making my header picture (as you have undoubtedly guessed).
The ones I am most looking foward to this month are my sister's birthday on Tuesday and my dad's 70th birthday on the 31st.

How do you keep track of all the minor and major events and appointments in your day-to-day life?

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Four Days Ago...

...it was the last day of 2011, and I was getting ready for New Year's Eve.

As mentioned a few posts back, one of my Christmas presents was a dress I chose with New Year's Eve in mind, and another present was going to a posh restaurant here in town with RJ for a 6-course dinner. Pictures of the restaurant can be found on their website. This picture from the outside was obviously not taken on New Year's Eve (and not by me), but it gives a pretty good impression of the kind of place it is:

I love clothes, and most of all, I love dresses. And of course, any occasion for dressing up is most welcome! And so I got my brand new dress and brand new shoes and brand new pair of tights out (even make-up!) and got ready for New Year's Eve:

RJ and I were placed at a table large enough to seat four (I hate it when they cram people in at restaurants), and there was plenty of space between the tables, so that nobody was listening in on conversations at other tables, and the staff was able to move around well while serving and removing used plates etc.

The menu was very good; it was nothing of the utterly ridiculous kind like "stuffed pea on jus of some-unheard-of-exotic-stuff" (although I must admit I am not opposed to culinary experiments as such). It was plenty, and fresh, and delicious. One course I found very special and refreshing was a sherbet of quinces and calvados.

Twice during the evening, the chef came to every table to ask if we were happy with everything. The lady who owns (?) the restaurant greeted everyone personally and also came to every table to ensure all was well.

The meal ended at about 11.00 pm, and there wasn't anything else planned from the restaurant's part, such as music or fireworks. So we drove to my parents' and sat with them and my sister and a friend of my parents and waited until it was time to get the champagne out. At midnight, we stood on the balcony, clinking glasses on 2012 and watching the fireworks all around.
It was beautiful and moving.

And now, 2012 is already 4 days "old"!