Sunday, 19 March 2023

A Fresh Start

My old PC served me well for at least 15 years. I used it mainly for playing my favourite computer games, but also for blogging, reading and writing emails and doing my tax stuff.

Of course I kept maintaining it; I regularly opened the case to dust the fans etc., cleared out unnecessary data, upgraded the OS and software as available, and generally had nothing to complain.

Over the years, the little old machine became slower. It was state of the art when my late husband originally bought it, but of course you all know that in the world of electronic devices, even two years is "old" - 15 years is positively ANCIENT, like Mesopotamian clay tablets with cuneiform writing.

Still, I was happy enough with what my machine could still do. But when February turned into March, I discovered that my favourite game did no longer work. In order to make it work again, I would have to change the app on which it runs, and that new app only works on a 64 bit OS. Needless to say, mine was a 32 bit OS with no way to upgrade it anymore. 

What to do?

Well, for a couple of years now I have been saying (O.K. will confirm this) that it is time for a new PC. In February, I received a bonus from work, and my birthday is next week. Therefore, my birthday present to myself was going to be a new PC!

Last week (March 7), after work I went to the computer shop just down the road from my house. I told the helpful man at the counter what I wanted, and he looked up the requirements for the new computer game I will have as a birthday present from O.K. (Hogwarts Legacy, in case you want to know). Together, we configured the machine to suit my purposes, and I placed my order. We agreed on me coming for pickup on Friday afternoon.

When I arrived at the shop on Friday (March 10) at the arranged time, much to my disappointment I was told that the man's colleague had accidentally sold my computer to someone else that same morning. I wasn't pleased, but it wasn't really a problem, either; I was going to travel to O.K.'s two hours later and would not be home all weekend anyway.

On Monday evening, I found a message on my answering machine that the computer was now indeed ready. As soon as I returned from work on Tuesday, I went to the shop, paid for my computer and - with much puffing and panting and several stops to give my arms a rest - carried the big, heavy parcel home.

Since then, the unopened box has been sitting in my bedroom; for something like setting up a new PC, I need time and a focused mind, neither of which were really available together until today.

I have only just finished - the most time-consuming bit was finding a cable in Steve's huge fundus to connect my old screen (yes, for now I am keeping monitor, keyboard, mouse and sound system - they work perfectly well, and there is no reason to replace them).

Finally, Draco comes out of his box.

My little old white tower is going to go. *sniff*

Draco's side is made of glass.

He's a true gaming machine with fancy lighting in the front...

...and at the side. It even changes colours! (Silly, I know - I didn't NEED that, but it was what the machine came with.)

New set up on (very) old screen.

Here we go - ready for blogging!
Writing this blog post has been my first deed on the new PC!

Now I am going to look at getting my games to run... Wish me luck :-)

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Two Weekend Walks

Saturday, the 11th of March, was another beautiful sunny day with cobalt blue skies. The village band where O.K. plays the trumpet were holding their annual general assembly that evening, and it is their custom to attend Saturday evening mass before the assembly. At that mass they provide the music, and the names of all band members (some of them long retired from active music making) who have died in the last year are read out and commemorated that way.

As O.K. had to be up and ready to play at church late afternoon, we did not venture far from the village, but just had a nice walk around it. Spring is definitely here, and even if there should be (and there have been since) some more frosty nights or the occasional snow fall, it can't and won't be stopped.


Meteorologists say it has been much warmer than average this year, but I can remember a February more than 20 years ago when it was so warm we went out in short sleeves and had ice cream by the lake. Anyway, it was a beautiful afternoon, and we enjoyed it.


It was still mild and sunny on Sunday (March 12), but there were clouds as well, and the sky did not have quite the same brilliance as the day before.

In 2020, O.K. had his 20th anniversary working at the same company. Normally, the company invites all those with "big" anniveraries to celebrate together, hosting a dinner for them and their partners. In 2020, this was not possible; restaurants were closed because of the pandemic, and other restrictions in place, as we all know.

Therefore, O.K. was given a voucher for a restaurant in Prinzbach, a small village near the town where he works. The voucher was valid for 3 years, and so it was time to use it or lose it.

We had booked a table at the restaurant for midday, and arrived well in time. The food was excellent and staff friendly, and we put the voucher to good use.

Prinzbach is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Black Forest, and popular with walkers and hikers. We had a leaflet with a round tour and, after wrapping up our sumptous Sunday lunch with an espresso, donned our hiking boots and set off.

At first, following the sign posts was no problem. Then we arrived at a point where road work had been done recently, and trees cut down. Unfortunately, the signs originally fixed to the trees had not (yet) been replaced properly, and the map on the leaflet was not detailed enough to give us more than a general idea of the intended route.

Please note: Somehow, the following pictures were added to the post in the wrong order. What you see first are the last pictures I took that day; I suggest you start from the bottom up. 

The castle on the hill in the distance is Hohengeroldseck, where we've been a few times in the past 7 years. Our last visit was in October 2021, and you can see the pictures here.

Trees are still bare - won't be long until the first tender green leaves appear.

Tiny wooden chappel at a crossing, next to a dairy farm and cheese maker

I liked this house particularly. We think it is only used on weekends, not permanently lived in.

It's amazing how autumnal the woods still look.


Looking at Prinzbach from half way up to the woods

Prinzbach Church

To cut a long story short, we took at least one wrong turn but still ended up on the right path after a while. We were back at the car after about 11.5 km instead of the full 19 km the leaflet suggested, but that was enough for us, and we were home at about 5:30 pm. 

O.K. did not feel all that well by then, and on Monday morning we knew why... But that's for another post.

Friday, 17 March 2023

A Windblown Week

Last week was VERY windy here - so much so that I did not go for a proper walk until Thursday; it just did not feel good to be out there for longer than necessary.

On Monday, the 6th of March, it was grey and cold; apart from going to Aldi (5 minutes from my flat) and the meeting of my volunteer group after work, I did not leave the house. I made up for it partly by taking out my skipping rope. But I was out of breath much quicker than I used to be, and only managed about half the number of "skips" that were my standard.

Tuesday (March 7) was not much better weather-wise, but the sun did manage to poke through the fast-moving clouds a little. I went to my Mum's for lunch break, and we enjoyed the fried sandwiches she made as much as our chat.

After work, I went to the nearby computer shop where I go for all PC-related stuff, and ordered a new PC - an (early) birthday present to myself. The computer I am still using for personal things is at least 15 years old, and it shows. As some of you know, I have a few favourite computer games, and because the OS on this PC can not be upgraded anymore, they have become unplayable. Of course there are workarounds, but I don't want to go to such lengths; after 15+ years, I don't think I need to justify a new computer. For now, I keep my screen, keyboard and mouse.

Leaving the shop, I did not walk straight home but took a little detour; that and the walk to and from my Mum's at lunch time were my only walking that day.

O.K. sent me these two pictures from his walk near the village the same day. Don't the clouds look like waves crashing onto cliffs, throwing up froth and spray?

I went to work at the office on Wednesday, the 8th of March. The weather had it all that day: clouds, sun, rain and once again plenty of wind. I arrived home with a slight headache that got worse in the course of the evening.

It was my mother-in-law's birthday (Mary turned 89), and so I rang her and we had a pleasant chat.

Thursday (March 9) was milder, but still windy with a mix of sun and cloud. I worked from home, which allowed me to go for a good walk after work. 

Taking in the ruined castle I first wrote about here and then walking through vineyards and orchards to Benningen, where I caught the train back home, took me about 2 1/4 hours with frequent photo stops. The app on my phone said I ended up with just under 12 km, and I felt so much better for it.

View towards Marbach
View across the river towards Neckarweihingen
I made it off the fields and into Benningen just before it became too dark to see where I was going:

Friday, the 10th of March, was more eventful: 

I was told to pick up my new computer from the shop at 3:00 pm, but I arrived there only to learn that the colleague of the man who had configured the  computer for me had accidentally sold it to someone else that same morning. I was a little disappointed, but not too much - I was going to be away all weekend and so would not have had time to set it up anyway.

Back home, I did the usual cleaning and packed my little red suitcase. As I was getting ready to leave, there were rain and sun at the same time. I thought there should be a rainbow and dashed to my kitchen window, and I was just in time to witness the building up of a beautiful rainbow! First there was just one bit in the north-east, then the entire arc, double for a brief time, until it disappeared again. The whole show lasted only a couple of minutes, and I am so glad I cought the "message"!

It was then time to go the train station. My trip to Offenburg was in two parts; the first leg was cancelled (but I had seen this in time to change plans), the second train was delayed by about 40 minutes. It meant a late supper for us but at least I was there!

The Saturday and Sunday will have their own post.

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Read in 2023 - 7: Four Winds Farm

Four Winds Farm
by Mary Louisa Molesworth

It was my third read by this author; you can find my older reviews and some information about Mrs. Molesworth here and here.

First published in 1887, this children's book had elements that reminded me of "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm", which I have read and reviewed earlier this month.

Both stories have a child growing up on a remote farm as their hero or heroine, and both have something particular about them, different from other children. Both children have an important decision to make, and both decide the same way, with the outcome being ultimately happy in both cases.

Other than that, the books differ greatly:

"Four Winds Farm" would not be possible without its element of fairytale, while "Rebecca" has nothing supernatural. Here, the main character is Gratian, a boy of 9 years old, the only child of hard-working farmers, while Rebecca comes from a family who is rich only in the number of their children. Four Winds Farm is located high up on the moors in Northern England (no reference at a specific location is made, but it could be Yorkshire), while Rebecca's story is set in rural and small-town America.

Gratian goes through life quietly and largely content with his lot; he has no siblings or friends other than his parents, the old shepherd and his dog, but that's enough for him. From the day he was born, he has had a special relationship with the four winds constantly blowing about the farm, and by the time he is nine, he realises that he can actually understand their voices.

In more than one instant, the four winds help him; each of them has their own way and personality, but they are sisters, and act as godmothers to Gratian. 

He makes a new friend and finally becomes interested in learning more about the world around him, without forgetting his love of Four Winds Farm, his parents and his four godmothers.

The book is not very long, nor does it make for a challenging read in any way, but I did enjoy the gentle story and quirky, sometimes humorous ideas in it.

Monday, 13 March 2023

Trees, Treatments and Treetops

Saturday, the 4th of March, was our only full day in Zavelstein. The weather was a mix of sun and clouds, and it was rather cold. We had spa treatments (facials and massages) booked from 11:00 am onwards, which gave us enough time for a walk around the village - this time, not the castle - after breakfast.

view from our room just before 8:00 that morning

into the woods behind the village
The rest of the day was spent at the spa, with a brief stop for a mid-afternoon snack. Resting after each sauna turn was not as easy as the generous rooms would have allowed; there was one notorious group of women non-stop talking loud enough for everyone to hear them, in spite of there being discreet signs asking to keep conversations quiet and at a minimum. But this was only a minor negative point in what was generally a really good and relaxing day. 

Our time slot for dinner was at 7:00 pm, and like the day before, the food was excellent and service as friendly as it was attentive.

We had to check out of our room by 11:00 am on the Sunday (March 5), and enjoyed a luxurious breakfast before loading our bags in the car and driving out of Zavelstein under a cold, grey sky.

Instead of heading straight to Ludwigsburg, we took the scenic route through the Black Forest and stopped at Bad Wildbad, where we knew they had a treetop walk similar to the one we'd been to in 2018 (clicking on the year will take you to my post from back then).

We arrived at the treetop walk after a short walk from the car park, paid our admission fee, and started on the walk.

Most of the time, one walks at about 20 m above the ground, on sturdy boardwalks. Every now and then, these offer short alternative detours where one balances on thick ropes, hops across moving wood blocks or walks across a mesh. There are many information boards along the way, aimed at young visitors but really interesting for everyone.

Many birds and squirrels were about, and one squirrel in particular was so intent on emptying the feeder next to the walk that it was not at all bothered by us.

The most spectacular part was the "tower"; it rose gently to a great height, and it was amazing how much stronger the cold wind blew up there! We did not stay long, as it was really cold and windy, but the views were great.

Unfortunately, the spiral slide in the metal tube is closed until April - otherwise, we would have made our way down very fast!

Looking down inside the "tower"

views from the top in all directions

that's the way we've come

We so would have liked to slide down!

Back on the ground

one last look back at the treetop walk
It was still only about 1:30 pm when we arrived at my place. We did not stop to unpack but went for a walk on the fields, taking in the cemetery with my Dad's and friend R's bird markers, before visiting my Mum who was expecting us for coffees and cake.

Back home, we ordered pizza from a place that has recently changed hands; to be honest, it was not very good, but it was edible, and at least it meant O.K. did not have to start the long drive home on an (almost) empty stomach! He left a little after 8:00 pm, and I settled down for a bit of TV. Our mini break was over, but it had been really good and felt like longer than just a weekend.