Friday 27 April 2012

Guest Post By My Mum: A Sock-Knitting Maniac

When Kay originally suggested I ask my Mum to write a guest post on my blog, I was secretly hoping she would not only say yes, but also like writing for my blog enough to come back for more - and she did! This is her 3rd guest post; if you have not read her 2nd one, you can do so now.

And this one is extra special, because it comes with a giveaway!
But read my Mum's post first, and then I'll tell you about the giveaway:

I am a Sock-knitting Maniac!
Whenever I pass a wool-shop with its pretty baskets outside full of beautiful coloured sockwool, 
I can never resist to buy some!
Then: I do love knitting socks: 
At home while watching TV (because only watching is mostly a waste of time, 
though I very much like some crime & mystery series and comedies), at the doctor's when I 
have to wait (because the magazines there about celebrities do not interest me), 
or in my garden chair, when I have done the gardening. Either reading or knitting then.
All my friends and family get hand-knitted socks from me, whether they want it or not. 
(I suppose, most of them want... ;-) 
It is so easy to post them in a padded envelope, even to people far away, nothing can break or crack.
Here is some of my work, so you know, what I am talking about:
Birthday socks for Meike, 22.3.2009

More birthday socks for Meike (in yellow, her favourite colour), in 2010 or 2011

Some examples of socks that are also fit for a male friend or relative.

Socks made on Meike's request for the newborn baby girl, daughter of her friend Chris, the landlord of Ludwigsburg's Irish Pub where she frequently goes to the pub quiz.

Assorted socks, and back to Meike:

Now, isn't it wonderful to have  a Mum who is not only great company for walks in the park (and drinks of lovely bubbly stuff), a great cook and baker, but also a sock-knitting maniac?
I usually wear her socks as slippers when I am at home (I don't really have a pair of slippers), and the creamy birthday socks in the first picture are ones I wear in my sturdy walking shoes when I go on a hike (all the others are too large to be worn inside shoes).
And wouldn't it be an idea for my Mum to have her own Etsy shop for her socks? Do you think they would sell?

My Mum has kindly agreed to donate a pair of her hand-knitted socks for a giveaway, and here is how it works:

Next week, I'll be in England, only returning on the 6th of May, and I won't be online at all for the whole week. This gives you plenty of time (until the 7th) to leave a comment here, stating whether you wish to participate in the giveaway or not. Several of my blogging friends have added a rule I am nicking from them: If you mention this giveaway on your blog and link to it, I shall add an extra entry for you. If you are a follower of my blog, you get yet another extra entry - giving you a total chance of THREE entries!
On the 7th or 8th, I am going to write all your names down and have my mum draw the winner.
I will then contact the winner for their mail address (please do not post your address in your comment).

Now, let's get started - I wonder how many entries we'll have!

Tuesday 24 April 2012

What I Made Last Week

On Friday last week, I threw a party for those of my friends who had not been able to attend my birthdy party four weeks ago.
I did not want it to be an exact repeat, and altogether make it a less formal affair with food that does not need to be eaten with cutlery, and so I decided to nick Pete's idea and make what he calls breadshots.

There is no recipe on his post, but I imagined it couldn't be too complicated, and simply made two bowls of pizza dough. You can find the recipe for my pizza dough here.

I bought black olives and a small bag of pine nuts and prepared the bruschetta mixture I got for Christmas:
Very practical - it comes as dry mixture in a small jar, and you simply stir one part bruschetta mixture with two parts of water and one part of olive oil, et voilà, you have a bruschetta spread that smells lovely, looks nice and tastes deliciously! (I have two more such jars, one is for alioli and the third one makes a nice herbs-and-spices dip which you can prepare with joghurt or sour cream.)

Shaping the pizza dough into small rolls wasn't difficult, but once I had done the first batch, I realized they were maybe going to be a bit on the large side, and made the second batch slightly smaller. Next time I'll make this, I'll roll even smaller "shots".

With the blunt end of a knife handle, I made deep dents into each breadshot and filled them with the bruschetta spread. (Of course, most people would use their thumbs for that, but my finger nails were a bit long pre-cutting.)

Then I put a black olive and/or some pine nuts in each dent. Since I don't like olives (I like olive oil, just am not keen on eating whole or sliced olives as such), I didn't put one in each breadshot. I think Pete said he used dried tomatos, pieces of chorizo and olives; the nice thing about such recipes is that you can vary and either use what you already have at home anyway, or what you like most yourself.

The two batches of breadshots then went into the oven for somewhere between 20 minutes and half an hour (I always need to check frequently with my oven) and came out like this:
The olives already were black to begin with, so they looked a bit burnt (they were not), but all but one of the breadshots were eaten (I think RJ alone had about three of four), and I had one myself, so I guess they were alright.

This was the first time I ever made this, but it won't be the last time, and they will improve with practise!

Monday 23 April 2012

Fashion Calendar: April II

This month's 2nd post is about something I was wearing two weeks ago, but the general idea behind it is one that applies for me all year round: dressing with a theme, or, even if there is no proper theme, at least wearing items that match in colour or otherwise.

On Friday the 13th (I am not superstitious, so this date has no special meaning to me), I went to work at a trade show. This particular show focuses on Fair Trade, and I worked there for the organization I mentioned here; contrary to when I work on a fair for other companies, I work without payment for them, which is my way of contributing to the whole project.

For the evening after the fair, our regular girls' night out was scheduled; this time, at my once favourite Indian restaurant (see my previous post about that, if you like).

So, it was going to be a day that had somehow Bangladeh and India as its theme, and therefore, I chose my outfit accordingly.
The green skirt is from Monsoon; I bought it in England some years ago and I have never worn it with anything else than black.
You have seen the tights before; I just love their pattern and think they match the pattern on the skirt well enough to be worn together; here is a close-up:
What you probably can not see in the first picture is what I wore for jewellery:
a set of earrings and matching bracelet of tiny silver elephants, a gift my sister brought back for me from India when she visited there several years back, and a necklace with a cut stone (don't know what the name of this stone is) of a light green that goes very well with the colour of the skirt.

Here is a picture of our booth at the fair; if you want to know more about the organization, you can look at their website.
A few days after the trade show ended, I had an email from the very kind lady who organises things at our end; she told me that this year, we sold TWICE as much as last year! Yes, we were very busy that day, and I was lucky to catch a moment without anyone at our booth for taking my picture.
The most popular items proved to be the bags you see in the centre on the back wall. These are made of cement sacks, which makes them extremely sturdy and water-proof, while at the same time making good use of what would just add to the already huge piles of waste there. Because they sport all their original writing, some of which is in what looks to our European eyes like "exotic" letters, they appeal mostly to younger people, while our elderly customers went more for the type of bag you can see on the left.

Do you dress based on a specific theme when there is such a theme to what you'll be doing on a particular day?

Thursday 19 April 2012

Bits and Bobs

On some of the blogs I regularly read (and greatly enjoy), sometimes I find wonderful posts such as Scriptor Senex's Thursday Toddle around his chair, or Silke's Wednesday Mishmash, to name but a few; I always find such glimpses into your lives very interesting, and never leave your blogs without having learnt something new.

Today, I am going to offer some bits and bobs from this month; mostly because there is neither enough time at the moment nor enough inspiration in my mind to fill a full-length post for each of the subjects on their own. So, please bear with this one, or skip it altogether.

I have mentioned how much I like going to the pub quiz before; in fact, I did a whole post on the subject last year here.
Earlier this month, my regular team and I (sans Robert, who has dropped off the planet months ago; he has been replaced by Fabian, who has the jaw-dropping kind of knowledge about Classical music which comes from intense occupation with a subject - I think he once mentioned to me that he has about 400 CDs...) joined the crowd on a Tuesday night once again for the quiz.
Something a little unfair happened: We were one point ahead of our eternal rival after the first round and finished the second round with the same points, so actually, our team was 1st. But then...
...Chris, the landlord, came up to our table before he announced all the results. He confessed to us that he had mistakenly not counted one correct answer of our rivals during the first round, and of course they had complained to him about that; apparently, they had even threatened to never, ever come back again (umm... doesn't that sound a bit childish? Reminds me of a little girl in my neighbourhood; when we played together as kids, and I didn't do exactly as she wanted, she would threaten me with never-ever being my friend again...). So, to appease them, Chris gave them not only the missing point, but another one for good measure. Which made them end up 1st - and us 2nd!
Well, we love the quiz, but we do not take it so seriously as to go to such lengths... it was a little unfair on us, true, but we were there for the fun, not because we insist on winning.
Chris gave us the choice of either four bottles of sparkling wine (the usual 2nd prize) or a bottle of Vodka. Nobody wanted the sparkling wine this time, but I do like my cocktails vodka-based, and so we opted for that - I went home with this little beauty, coming in its own sleeping bag!

A week ago on Friday night, I met my girl friends for our regular night out (yes, you guessed it, I have written about that before, too). This time, we met at what used to be my favourite Indian restaurant in town. 
I say, "used to be", because my enthusiasm for going to this restaurant is rapidly dwindling. The food was good, I can't complain about that. But the lady who served us was rather cold and distant, bordering on the unfriendly; plus she practically had to be begged to come to our table for us to order more drinks, and after we finally were allowed to place our second order, we were left to our own devices for another full hour during which nobody came to our table to ask whether we maybe wanted a dessert, or another drink, until we paid and left. This was, mind you, not the busiest time at the restaurant; during that last hour of our stay, only two other tables were occupied.
Never mind - I'll probably go there again, but it is not my favourite restaurant any more.

On walking home, I arrived close to my street on a stretch of road that is only dimly lit at night. Far ahead on the pavement I saw a lump, and couldn't make out what it was until I was much closer - then I found myself coming up to this little fellow:
He didn't seem to be much bothered by my presence, not even when I cautiously stroked his back. He sat still for a while, and then decided he wanted to withdraw into the garden next to where we were. He squeezed through the fence and disappeared among last year's leaves and the still bare shrubs.

That's all for now!

Monday 16 April 2012

Some More Spring Things

A week ago today, I spent a very lazy day at home on my own; it was Easter Monday and so I did not have to work.
Wasn't it over extremely quickly, the whole lovely long Easter weekend?

On Saturday, my grandmother (Mum's mum) would have been 97 years old.
She died in January 2001, and while none of my family are avid cemetery-goers, my Mum suggested we go for a nice walk across the fields (pretty much the same route I used to walk so many times when I still worked at my former job) to the small town next to ours, where the cemetery with my grandparents' tomb is, to leave some flowers for grandma (Linda, if you read this: yes, we called her Oma, of course!) on her birthday.

And so we took off, with sunshine and a light breeze. It wasn't exactly warm, but pleasant enough, and we enjoyed the walk.

Once we arrived at the small town, it did feel rather nostalgic for me - I walked there so many times, and even more nostalgic it must have been for my Mum, who used to spend a lot of time there since her early childhood; her grandma and many other relatives lived there.

We made our short visit and left the flowers at my grandma's tomb (it is not really a grave, but a compartment in a columbarium) and then walked through the oldest part of the town. That town is a lot older than the one where we live; Ludwigsburg was only founded in 1704, while Kornwestheim is, as far as I know, more than 1.200 years old, and while Ludwigsburg was carefully planned by the duke of Württemberg's court architects, Kornwestheim is a place that grew naturally, starting out as an Alemannic settlement with farms and not much else. Therefore, it is of very different character than my home town, and very picturesque.

Here are a few pictures I took; the Easter decoration on the fountain looked a bit faded on closer inspection, but still pretty enough, and I am glad they left it long enough for us to see it.
We had coffee and cake in an old-fashioned little bakery-café, stopped at a big shoe factory outlet for some browsing (none of us bought anything) and then walked back home across the field. By that time, it looked as if it was going to rain any minute, and the wind had become rather chilly.
But spring is so definitely here now (and well under way - I spotted the first lilac blossoms!), not even some cold wind and rain can stop it!

Just look at this carpet of violets (did you know they come in almost white, too?) in my neighbours' garden (that is the one next to the one with the many pretty primroses):
And the cherry blossoms are still there outside my kitchen window:

Another Fashion Post is in the making, by the way. Its topic will be "Themed Dressing".

Saturday 14 April 2012

Read in 2012 - 9: The Undomestic Goddess

As far as I know, I have read one or two of Sophie Kinsella's books before, and while I found them mildly entertaining, they did not leave a lasting impression with me, and one I remember as having found downright daft. "The Undomestic Goddess", though, I really enjoyed - it is one of those books so readily classified as typical "Chick Lit", but it's all in there: romance, comedy, mystery, and even some good advice on life in general, advice that can be heeded or ignored.
Samantha Sweetings is a high-powered city lawyer in London, coming from a family with similarly high-powered jobs, where career is everything, and even one's own daughter's birthday takes a back seat when work calls. Samantha has dedicated all her adult life to becoming partner in the most distinguished London law firm, practically living in her office and being available for work 24/7, and finally, partnership is offered to her - she is not yet 30, and it seems that she has already reached her ultimate goal in life. Could life get any better?

Well, it could. And it does.
But first, Samantha hits rock bottom: She makes a mistake that costs a client 50 million and wrecks her career. The shock of discovering her own mistake ("I never make mistakes!") is so big that she simply walks out of her office and gets on the next train she happens to catch, without knowing where it will take her or what to do next.
She ends up in a picturesque village in the Cotswolds, and when she comes to her senses and wants to ask for directions at a big, beautiful house, the owners mistake her for an applicant as their new housekeeper. She is offered the job, and everything happens to fast and she is still so much in turmoil that she accepts.

Nothing in her life has prepared her for this - an IQ of 158 and three law degrees from Cambridge do not mean one can cook, organize dinner parties or even know how to make a bed properly or to operate a washing machine, let alone an iron.

Samantha gets unexpected help, though, and her new employers do not guess the truth... until things happen that make Samantha suspect she did not, in fact, make that fateful mistake the day she walked out of her office.

A highly unlikely scenario is described in a way that makes it almost credible; the characters are real enough, and the settings depicted so colourful you can imagine them very well.
Many bits are quite foreseeable - the love interest, what she finds out about her mistake -, but there are some surprises as well. Some of the comical scenes made me almost laugh out loud while I was reading the book on the train yesterday afternoon, and here are a few examples:

When Samantha is first shown the kitchen of the house where she is supposed to work as a housekeeper, the owners tell her she can rearrange all the devices and appliances to her own liking. She has no idea what most of the shiny equipment is for, but of course has to pretend she knows exactly what she is doing. So she says,
"Absolutely," I say in a businesslike way. "Obviously I have my own... um... systems. That shouldn't be there, for example." I point randomly at some gadget. "I'll have to move it."
"Really?" Trish [her new employer] looks fascinated. "Why's that?"
There's a momentary beat of silence. Even Eddie [Trish's husband] looks interested.
"Kitchen... ergonomic... theory," I improvise. "So, you'd like toast for breakfast?" I add quickly.
Not very long after she has met the man who - foreseeably - turns out to become her love interest, Samantha wonders how she should go about letting him know that she fancies him:
Now to the body language. I wrinkle up my forehead, trying to remember the rules from TV. If a woman is attracted to a man, her pupils will dilate. Also, she will unconsciously lean forward, laugh at his jokes and expose her wrists and palms. 
Experimentally I lean towards my reflection, holding out my hands as I do so.
I look like Jesus.
I'll try adding a flirty laugh. "Ha ha ha!" I exclaim aloud. "You just crack me up!"
Now I look like a cheerful Jesus.
In the last quarter of the book, Samantha gets back in touch with people from her former work, and one of the law firm's partners tell her that she has indeed been wronged:
I gape at him in stupefaction. He's admitting it? Getting a lawyer to admit they've made a mistake is like getting a movie star to admit they've had liposuction.
In places, I found the book to be a bit too fast-paced (how things are developing between her and Mr. Love Interest, for instance, and how she seems to have learnt almost everything there is to learn about cooking in one single weekend), and not everything is always logical or consistent, but that does not take away from the entertaining value of this book.
I recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh that is neither too vulgar nor too shallow, but light enough for a good relaxing read.

Friday 13 April 2012

It's All In A Name

This week, Graham's post about names reminded me of a thread I had started years ago in a forum I hardly ever visit anymore (you know, the usual thing - it fizzled out, but it was great fun and very interesting while it was active).
So I decided to revisit the old forum to try and find my old thread, and use some of what was written back then for this post about names.

When I was a kid, I disliked my name, Meike. I wanted a name that sounded like blonde curls and pink satin, in short: a name fit for a princess, with at least three syllables, such as Felicitas, Victoria, Isabella or Amaryllis. Blonde curls and pink satin? I was anything but! My hair was always kept short, it was straight and brown, and since I loved climbing trees and fences and walls and playing in the woods and with animals, none of my outfits was pink satin; instead, I usually ran around wearing jeans and t-shirts, and often wellies.

Today, I feel comfortable about and in my name; with my current surname, it makes a very nice symmetrical sound, and I have no inclination to call myself Felicitas or Graziella any longer. Somehow. though, I have never lost my dislike for the mono-syllable German names for boys, such as Lars, Ralf, Rolf, Gerd, Bernd, Heinz and so on, while some of my friends who I care a lot about have such names, and I certainly do not like them any less for that. I have no children, but I would never have chosen a mono-syllable name for a boy or a girl. My favourite female name is, by the way, Mathilda, and I would NOT shorten it to Tilly! As for a favourite male name, I don't actually have one.

In fact, in the south of Germany, where I live, Meike is not a very common name. You find a lot more Meikes (sometimes spelled Maike) when you go up North. It is an ancient Friesian name (nothing to do with cows), meaning Maria. Now, I know few people who have less Maria-lish qualities than I, but I don't think my parents had those qualities in mind when they named me, since our household has never been particularly religious (and definitely not Catholic).
My sister was my parents' first child, she was born 14 months before me. Her name (which I am not going to reveal here, sorry, she wouldn't like me to) is also of Friesian origin and quite melodious. Had I been a boy, they would have named me Kai. Both our first names match our family name, since it is one found more often in northern Germany as well (my Dad's paternal side of the family are originally from Lüneburg, about 60 km from Hamburg).

Often, my name is spelled wrongly. I am used to have people address me as Mike, or Maike, or even Heike (that does not occur so often anymore). When I receive business emails to "Dear Mr. ......", I always, always correct the sender - and it does make me angry that they can't be bothered to read my email signature properly where my first name is clearly given as Meike. I don't blame foreign customers for not knowing that Meike is a female name; they can easily mistake it for Mike and think I am a man, especially if they have not spoken to me on the phone before. But 99% of my customers are Germans and live in Germany, and they SHOULD know that Meike is NOT the same as Mike.
They simply can't be bothered to read properly, and it is that careless, "get it over with quickly" attitude that I dislike. Even if I spell my name out to someone on the phone, they often get it wrong - because they don't listen properly, just as they don't read properly. What ever happened to the attention for detail?
To me, it is a sign of respect for a person to make sure I spell (and pronounce) their name correctly; if I am not sure about pronounciation, I ask, and if it differs greatly from what I thought it was, I add a little note to this customer's file so that I know it next time I speak to them.
Is it too much to ask for the same respect from others? I think not.

Graham said in his post that an incident in 1965 caused him to have difficulties with names. Now, names are always important, no matter what job you do, but maybe they are even more crucial when you work in sales, like I do. Customers want to be addressed properly, and I am glad to have a good memory for names. Back in February at the fair (you can read about it here), I surprised a customer who I had not seen in years by greeting him at our booth by his name. He said he was amazed that I remembered who he was, and was obviously well chuffed.
That wasn't always the case; there were one or two people visiting I knew I'd met before but could not remember their names, but I had no problem in telling them exactly that - I knew I "knew" them but would they please be so kind and remind me again of their name? And of course, as soon as they'd said it, I knew in what context to place them, and I didn't mind admitting my little black-out.

What does your name mean, and do you have a special method for remembering other people's names? Do you have a favourite name?

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Read in 2012 - 8: The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets

Not that long ago, I read Frances Garrood's first novel, "Dead Ernest", and posted my review here.
In that post, I also mentioned her blog, which is well worth following.
Last night, I finished reading her second novel, "The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets".

Both the story and the characters are very different from "Dead Ernest", but the two novels still have a lot in common: Both go back and forth in time, but in a rather systematic manner, so that the reader always knows where and when they are. Both are several stories woven into one, while never overloading the reader with such a multitude of characters and threads as to create confusion. Both have a very real feel to it, making me convinced Frances worked a lot of personal experience into her books. Both show a kind of down-to-earth humour that never ridicules anyone, but makes hardships somewhat easier to deal with.

In this story, the present time is spent at the hospital bed of the main character's mother. While Cassandra Fitzpatrick is waiting for her mother to die - and for the arrival of a mysterious person who I was wondering about until quite shortly before her identity was revealed -, she mentally goes through her life from childhood to the point at which the reader finds her now.
It is an unconventional childhood, but a happy one.
Then something happens to Cassandra which radically changes her life, both inwards and outwards.
As she grows up, for a while it seems her future is rather clearly mapped out, until once again something happens that changes not only her life, but that of the entire household her mother has set up.
When she decides what to do after school, that decision turns out not to be final, either, but eventually, Cassandra finds her niche in life - it is a life as unconventional as that of her mother, although of a very different kind.

Just like with "Dead Ernest", I am not going to quote anything directly from the book; you should read it for yourself, and I think you won't be disappointed.

Frances, you can be as proud of this one as of your first book, and I do hope to read more from you soon!

Saturday 7 April 2012

Spring Pictures

Yes, I do have some spring pictures, too! They may not be as stunning as some of those I have seen on other people's blogs over the past week or so, but they show what spring is like over here at the moment: a bit too cold, with the possibility of snow (I hope not!), but that cold spell came after almost two weeks of sunshine and mild to warm temperatures, which was all it took for the flowers to come out and the whole spring thing to get started properly.

This picture is from the 27th of March, the by now rather familiar view from my kitchen window:

And here is a close-up of the bit with the little primroses that I find so pretty:

On that same day, I was observing this magpie for a while. It was sitting on the cherry tree (seen through my other kitchen window, and the picture was taken through the glass) and did not move for a long time. Another magpie (its partner?) came to sit next to this one, and I expected the two of them to fly off together, but this one remained after the other one had gone. I thought that maybe this one was sick or injured, and when finally it WAS gone (I did not stay with my nose against the window all afternoon), I checked the ground below the cherry tree to see whether it had fallen down. It was nowhere to be seen, though, and so I hope it simply was taking a well-deserved break from the serious business of nest building etc.

A few days later, on the 4th of April, some of the buds on the cherry tree had opened, and if you compare the trees, shrubs and flowers in the garden below, you can see that quite a lot has happened there as well.

And today, in spite of the cold and grey, the cherry tree and everything else shows even more flowers! Even though summer is my favourite time of the year, spring has so much charm and there is all that delicacy in the flowers and colours, I love it!

Happy Easter, everyone!

Friday 6 April 2012

Guest Post By My Mum: Another Angel Story, or How An Accident Could Change Your Life

This is the 2nd guest post my Mum has kindly agreed to write for me (and of course, also for you!); in case you missed the first one, it is here

Again, I have not altered much except for a very few spelling or grammar errors my Mum asked me to correct for her (keep in mind that her English lessons took place in the 1950s, and I think it is amazing how good her grasp of the language is - she reads almost as many English books as I do, and is never shy to speak English when the situation requires it).
All pictures are, of course, my Mum's property and were chosen by her.

And now, without further ado, here it is - "Another Angel Story", in my Mum's own words:

Another Angel Story- or how an Accident could change your Life

I promised to write another guest blog, and here I am:

12 years ago, on Easter-Monday, my personal guardian-angel (or maybe 2 of them...) had to work hard for me.
We spent lovely Easter-holidays in southern France, in a mountain region called "Cevennes". We were staying at a former silkworm-farm, called "mangnanerie", in an old stone-cottage, at a very remote and beautiful site. There were eight of us, my elder daughter, my husband, friends of us (also the owners of the cottage) and me. 

We decided to go for a long hike through the mountains and woods, with big backpacks, containing our drinks and meals, supposed to be on tour for the whole day. The weather was fine, sunny, not too hot (at least in the forest). 
It was in the year 2000, when mobile phones were starting, and I was quite proud to have gotten one from my mother, to be always reached by her, because she was blind and needed help very often.
So I let pass all the others in front of me and phoned Meike (the librarian with secrets ;-) to hear what's up at home and if Grandma is well. We chatted on, but suddenly I stumbled over a root, and I couldn't get my balance again, so I came to fall and fall and fall. I just could cry out to Meike: "Help, I am falling down", then the call was cut off. 

And now the work of my guardian-angel began, and I must say, he did a very good job: The mountain was rather high, I dropped head over heels down, I could have broken my neck, but fortunately I came to a stop on a bush, over a big rock (my backpack was rather heavy, that pressed me down also). I heard my elbow cracking and felt pain, but I had to call my friends for help.
They rushed to me, helped me up, and at first I asked them to call my poor daughter and tell her, I am still alive, some more blessures (nose, knee etc.) were not grave, because I could imagine her fright, mum's crying: I am falling. 

One friend gave me his T-shirt to make a sling for my arm out of it, and we climbed down to the very next little village (about 1 hour away). The path up into the mountain was so narrow, no car could reach it.
There I sat in the shade of the cemetery wall, my husband and a friend went back to our cottage as fast as they could, fetched the car and then took me to a small policlinic nearby. They x-rayed, then shook their heads: This fracture ist too complicate for us, we will call another doc. 

It was a holiday, Easter, and the doc arrived in a black leather-suit on a big BMW-motorbike, not very amused, he came directly from a barbecue. But anyway he looked at me and gave me what he called "a little plaster", that meant a plaster from fingertips to shoulder. And the next day, I had to go to the University Hospital in the City of Montpellier. And that was good luck again, because he was a very famous Doctor, his operations were always successful, even people from Paris go down to him. I had to dig out all my school-French again, but it worked rather well.

So he fixed my elbow, the OP took 4 1/4 hours, afterwards he said: It was like a jigsaw puzzle, many little bits were to be set together, also many screws, nails, silver and steel were worked in.

They gave me morphine against the pain, but this was really a horror-trip for me, I will never understand how people could take this drug voluntarily. I had bad dreams, but no pain at least. After a few days they cut off the morphine and after one week I went home to Germany with my family. 
It was a bit too early, the threads had not been pulled from the stitches yet, but I wanted to go home. From my room in the hospital I could see the seagulls fly and heard their cries, and I knew: out there is the Mediterranean, and I am stuck here. 

And why did this event change my life? 
Well, before, I always worked, rushed around, was always and for everybody available, never thought of myself, neither in my job (librarian, what else...) nor in my private life. Suddenly I had a lot of time to think things over, and to learn that some things are going also well without me or my intervention. 
I could not work in my job for a few months, because I had to have another surgery a few weeks later, to remove some of the steel bits inside my elbow. I had to do a lot of (very painful) physio therapy and was not able to do all my housework the way I had been used to. 
So my husband reduced his working-hours as well (he always worked up to 12 hours a day), and he also learned that it was alright and the world did not stop turning when he was not at work. He helped me a lot.

And then, when I went back to work at the library, I reduced my hours, so I had more time for myself and for things to do I wanted to. Still I had to look after my blind mother, but while I had the plaster, we employed a cleaning-woman for her, and we kept her, that was a great help for me.
So I made the best of this accident.

And now, I wish everyone a healthy, happy and accident-free Easter!

- - - End - - -

I do remember that fateful phone call so well! Can you imagine what it was like, one moment I was talking to my Mum about her lovely Easter holiday and how things were going back home, the next moment I heard her cry out "Help, help, I am falling!" and then - silence...! I must have been sitting there, holding the phone in my hand, staring at it with huge eyes, saying "Mama? Mama??!!" several times, until finally one of the friends rang back to tell me that she was "alright" (little did I know then that she had managed to split her elbow into a thousand pieces, and that this event was to change a lot in all our lives).

And when my Mum says she had to undergo all this physio therapy and couldn't work for months - well, I don't think I know anyone braver and more courageous than her! She went to this therapy every day, putting all her strength and effort into it, knowing full well she was in for another few hours of excruciating pain. And the result is that, today, if you don't know about the accident and do not happen to see the long scar on her left arm, you won't suspect that this is the same woman who, for quite some time, was not even able to lift her arm high enough in order to comb her hair.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Fashion Calendar: April - Vintage or Retro?

Has anyone noticed that there was no Fashion Calendar post during the month of March?
Somehow, there was always something else happening - either something I wanted to post about (and did), or that prevented me from posting for lack of time, occasion and/or inclination.

But today, I have a special fashion post for you, and while you can simply read this post as you have been reading all the other stuff on my blog (out of curiosity and interest, for entertainment or because you were looking for a recipe or book/film review), this time, you are invited to take a little quiz:

Can you guess which of the four dresses shown on this post are vintage ones, and which ones are retro?

Just give me your answers as comments; there is nothing to "win" or lose here, no giveaway connected to the correct answer, it is simply meant to be fun.

Top left: Pink and white gingham with daisies. The fun bit about this one is that is not really a dress - underneath the front flap, a pair of shorts is hidden.
Top right: can't go wrong with navy and white, can you?
Below left: summery stripes and a fabric that hardly creases - perfect for travelling.
Below right: yes, you've seen it before. I wore this lilac dress for my cocktail party.

By the way, it has become way too cold now to wear any of these - from 20C (68F) less than a week ago, we have gone as low as 6C (42F), so I am back to the stuff I wore for most of the winter.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Read in 2012 - 7: A Fair Barbarian

In my previous post, I voiced my disappointment of a Kindle book about Michelle Obama, which turned out to be not a book, but a summary of her biography, nothing more than an extended article you would expect to find in a magazine (only without the pictures), and that I thought this too higly priced.

Well, that can certainly not be said about the book I finished reading last night: "A Fair Barbarian", by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
The Kindle edition is free, and since I have made it a habit to browse the free eBooks on the Kindle store website, I came across this one and did not have to think twice about downloading it. Until then, I only had known one book by this author; "The Secret Garden" (which I love!!), and of course I'd watched the film adaptations of her books "Little Lord Fountleroy" and "A Little Princess" (my first encounter with Shirley Temple) several times when I was a child.
My impression was, therefore, that Mrs. Burnett had written children's books only, but that is not true. A quick look at her wikipedia entry shows a long (and not exhaustive) list of books, published from 1877 to 1922, and by no means all of them were written for children.
"A Fair Barbarian" was published in 1881, when the author was 32 years old. It is, I think, aimed at young ladies, and if you have ever read any of the highly entertaining Georgette Heyer novels, you will enjoy the "Fair Barbarian", which may well have served as an inspiration to that later author.

The setting of this book is Slowbridge, an English village which prides itself on the modesty of its young ladies - all dressed in white muslin gowns made by Miss Chickie, the village taylor, who adapts the more fashionable styles from London and Paris to the requirements of Slowbridge's strict rules about what is deemed decent attire for a lady. The whole village is, it seems, socially under one particular lady's authority; whoever she does not invite to her tea parties, is not invited by anyone else, but if she starts the round by inviting someone to her house, everyone else follows suit.

One of the lesser mortals living in the village, an elderly lady on her own, receives a surprise visit: her niece (whom she had not even known existed, let alone met before) arrives on her doorstep with five huge trunks, fresh from the US, and announces that she is here to stay - at least until her father, the elderly lady's brother (whom she has not set eyes on for many years) has successfully dealt with a business emergency back home and can join her in England.

This newcomer, Octavia Bassett, causes quite the metaphorical whirlwind in the quiet, modest village; her clothes (not the demure gowns of white muslin the other young ladies wear, but dresses that "fit like a glove", plus - imagine that! - diamonds dangling from her ears and on her fingers, in full daylight and without being married!), her hair style, her general demeanour and frank, open manner of speaking to anyone, regardless of their position in the social hierarchy of the village - all that is cause for plenty of gossip from the elderly generation and much admiration from the younger.

What changes in the villagers' hearts and minds Miss Octavia manages to bring about - without even consciously doing anything to achieve this - and a glimpse of what her and her new friends' future lives may look like, is told in a most entertaining manner; some bits are rather predictable, while others aren't, but even the predictable bit does not diminuish the pleasure of reading this charming story.

While writing this review, I looked up Frances Hodgson Burnett on Wikipedia and learnt a few things about her life, of which I had known nothing before. Because she had spent a lot of time in both her native England and the US, I believe her portrayal of the difference in customs and habits between the one country and the other in those days to be credible and not just added to the story as figments of her imagination to make the character of Octavia more interesting and in contrast to the English girls. 

I shall definitely look for more of her work in Amazon's Kindle store.

Monday 2 April 2012

Disappointed - But I Should Have Checked First

As mentioned in the post about my birthday party, one of the wonderful presents I got was a Kindle. My sister has one, too, and she created a shared account for it on Amazon, where I have created a wish list to which both of us can add books we want to download eventually.
One of the first books I put on my wish list was "Michelle Obama - A Life", and one of my friends was so kind and gave this to me as part of his birthday present.
A few days after my birthday, I used the gift code and downloaded it - without looking at the product information properly. And that was my mistake, which lead me to be quite disappointed:

"Michelle Obama - A Life" is not a book. It is an extended article of about 17 pages (Kindle pages, that is!), a summary of her biography, with very little new information, even for me, who, here in Germany, has not seen or read that much about Mrs. Obama in the news on TV or in papers and magazines.

There is no single author; the Amazon product information says "By the Editors of New Word City", whoever they are. The "book" is not an unpleasant read, and the information in it seems to be well researched and accurate, but it simply was too short when I had expected a full biography - I had finished it in less than an hour, when I had really settled down with it for a long, comfortable read in my armchair.

At 3.53 $, I think it is a bit expensive for just one article; you can buy a whole magazine for less than that.

But, as I said, it is my own fault - I simply didn't check the product details properly. Being new to the whole eBook and Kindle "scene", I have certainly learnt a lesson!

And I still want to read a "proper" biography about Michelle Obama. There are several available for Kindle, but now I am a bit unsure as to which one to choose. Any ideas?

Sunday 1 April 2012

Another Afternoon At The Park

All of this week, we've had sunshine and temperatures up to 20 Celsius (68 F) - in other words, wonderful spring weather. Friday was chilly and grey, and for the weekend, more of that chill and grey was forecast, as well as some (badly needed) rain. But when I got up yesterday morning, it was yet another sunny day; there were, admittedly, some clouds in the sky, but it hardly looked like what I had expected after the forecast. So I rang my Mum to see whether she was in the mood for going to the castle grounds with me, and we decided on the early afternoon, so that we would both have enough time to get things done at home (my weekly cleaning of the flat, mainly; it doesn't take very long because the flat is small and uncluttered, but it wants doing nonetheless).

You have seen pictures of the castle grounds last summer here on my blog; now let me show you how different it looks in the spring, when a lot of the flowers are just coming out and most of the trees and bushes are still without leaves:

The nice thing about going to the park on a Saturday is that there aren't that many people there; usually, the average family here is busy with getting their weekly groceries shopping done, washing their car(s), sweeping the pavement (maybe some of you have heard about the Swabian Kehrwoche) in front of their house, and so on. On a Sunday, we usually avoid the park, especially when the weather is good; we then leave it to the busloads of tourists who are very welcome to enjoy the beauty of it all, and leave some money here while they're at it :-)

After we'd been walking around and looked at all the miraculous progress the flowers and plants had made, we both felt like having a little rest. There are several places dotted across the vast grounds where one can have a proper meal or just a snack, a drink or, like we did, some cake and coffee or tea.
We chose the "Cafeteria am Rosengarten", a place that prides itself on freshly made cakes, fair trade coffee, friendly (albeit a bit slow) service and a beautiful view of the rose gardens (provided the roses are in bloom, which of course they are not just yet).

My Mum had strawberry cake (its wonderful scent filled the room) and I went for the redcurrant one with the lovely baiser (meringue) topping, it was delicious! Instead of coffee (we'd had one earlier at a little stall just after we had arrived at the park), we were happy to find pumpkin secco (a kind of sparkling wine on the base of pumpkin juice, very fruity and summery, we love it!) in the self-service drinks fridge next to the counter, and had that to go along with the cake.
How cool is that - sitting with one's Mum on a sunny Saturday afternoon in a beautiful castle garden, sipping sparkling wine?!

For our way out of the park and back into town, we chose a different route and went through the inner courtyard, pictures of which I posted here in November.

Right in the middle of the courtyard is a fountain, its basin being the permanent home of some very old and very large carp (I am not kidding you if I say they are about as long and as big as my thigh), a handful of goldfish and a sturgeon who comes up to the surface sometimes and does not mind being tickled above the nose. Today, though, the sturgeon kept out of sight, the carp were swimming their silent rounds, and this friendly pair of ducks were quite eager to see whether we had any bread for them. We didn't, but they were still polite enough to pose for a picture.
As you can see, the sun was as good as gone by then, and we went back into town, and I was home just a little before six, when a few drops of rain fell - not enough for what our fields and gardens really need right now, but enough to want to be inside.