Tuesday 31 December 2019

Good Bye, 2019!

While I was still in bed this morning, my mind slowly and leisurely shifting from sleep to wake mode, I was thinking about what to write in today's blog post, the last for 2019. 

Should I bore you with the statistics of what the past 12 months were like for me? 
365 days, about 220 of which were working days, so and so many of them spent away from home, how many train trips back and forth between my town and O.K.'s village, miles walked or run, numbers of books read (33 - I am four reviews behind at the momment), dresses bought, meals consumed, parties attended?
I could do all that, but it would involve a lot of counting and jotting down, something I am not willing to do today.

Or should I do what I have done some years ago after having seen it on another blog: Look up the first post of each month of the year, and write down the first sentence of this post?

Maybe I could simply give a quick summary of what my year was like, or I could leave that for some time next week, before I go back to work.

Instead, I could just write down what I've been doing since my last post, and put a few pictures in to illustrate.

Tuesday, 24th of December, Christmas Eve:
After a very quick visit to my elderly neighbour (the one whose garden I have often showed you as the view from my kitchen window) to wish her Merry Christmas and give her a little something, I went to my parents' where my sister and I put the ornaments on the tree.
For the first time in 54 years, the tree has no real candles. I regret this, but it was the sensible thing to do; my Dad's mobility is severely limited now, and the room is just not big enough to make it feel safe with so many burning candles in the middle.
You will probably agree with me that the tree still looks very beautiful.

I went back home to have a light lunch (and eat up the fresh food I still had and would otherwise have to throw out) and give my flat a good cleaning, then just before 6:00 pm I went again to my parents, this time with all my presents.

We had the cosy kind of Christmas Eve we all want - our traditional meal of Wiener sausages and spuds salad, then exchanging our gifts, and the rest of the evening spent chatting, reminiscing and talking about anything and everything that comes to mind.

So many presents!!!
So many cards!!!

Wednesday, 25th of December, Christmas Day:
An early start for me, getting up at the same time as on a normal working day. I took three trains to O.K.'s, and both changes had me running with my suitcase to catch the next train - it was all rather exhausting, but I made it in time to O.K.'s.
We exchanged our presents (as usual, I got heaps of lovely and useful things!) at the cottage and then drove the short distance to the village where O.K.'s sister and her husband live, to have a festive meal there with the family.
The sun came out and allowed for an after-meal walk, which was truly welcome.
We spent the evening at O.K.'s watching a film that sounded much better in the TV listing than it actually was. Maybe more about that in a later post.

Thursday, 26th of December, 2nd Day of Christmas (as it is known in our parts):
Family Mass at the village church with the village band (including O.K.) providing the music, as per tradition. It was beautiful and well attended.
After a simple but filling lunch at the cottage, we made use of the free afternoon by walking the circumference of the village (more or less 7.5 km) and then spent a cosy and relaxed evening watching feel-good films on telly such as "Hitch" and "Mamma Mia", drinking G&Ts.

Ludwigsburg's market square after the Christmas market.
Friday, 27th of December:
We slept in as long as we could, catching up on what had not been possible earlier in the week. Some household work was done, and some time after 5:00 pm, the rain finally stopped, enabling us to walk to another village about 5 km away where we were expected to join O.K.'s extended family for a meal at a Chinese restaurant. About 20 of us were there, making for a lively evening.
It felt good to walk back, and even though it was about 10:00 pm then, it was still rather mild.

Saturday, 28th of December:
Originally, we had meant to drive back to my place that day, but changed our plans and had a very cosy day instead. We went for another walk around the village, briefly popped in at O.K.'s parents who had both not been all that well at Christmas, and then spent the evening watching all three "Back to the Future" films in a row.

Sunday, 29th of December:
Driving to Ludwigsburg took us around 1 hour 20 minutes - a welcome change from the train trips I am used to.
The day started with dense fog at the village, but less than half way into the trip, the sun came through, and we took advantage of it with a walk on the fields for about 2 hours almost immediately after arriving at my place.

One of several herons we saw. There were also some buzzards about, as well as numerous crows and pigeons.
This friendly cat from one of the farms walked with us for quite a while.
The nursery never ceases to intrigue me.
For tea/dinner, we met with my sister at the Indian restaurant nearby, and went back to my place for drinks and a chat afterwards.

Monday, 30th of December:
Knowing full well what to expect (crowds, crowds and more crowds), we couldn't resist going to Stuttgart for a browse of one of our favourite shops and a meal there.
In between, we walked in the park and had a good look at the giant construction site of what is to become Stuttgart's new, bigger, ultramodern railway station - eventually (we're talking years here).
At home, we had an easy meal of fresh pasta (a kind of ravioli filled with a mix of pumpkin, herbs and mascarpone) and red wine, followed by salted caramel ice cream and watching a quiz show on telly.

Tuesday, 31st of December:
When I have finished writing this, I will start baking something for tonight's New Year's Eve celebration at my parents'. It will be very low key, just five of us there, but we will clink glasses at midnight and stand on the balcony to watch the fireworks over the neighbourhood.

To all of you, I hope you will manage to keep what good and happy things you have in your lives, and get rid of what bothers you.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Merry Christmas!

To all my readers and friends in the blogosphere,

Merry Christmas!


December 3, view from the office just past 5:00 pm
December 4, view from my kitchen window at 7:30 in the morning
The same day shortly before 5:00 pm on the fields near Ludwigsburg
December 12, sunrise over the Black Forest (picture courtesy of O.K.)
December 14, walking towards Ludwigsburg's town center after the sing-along Concert with my Mum
Ludwigsburg's main road through the town center

Thursday 19 December 2019


I'm going back in time to before my encounter with Santa, just one evening really. It was the 6th of December and the 1st Friday of the month - the traditional date for an annual tradition my girlfriends and I have established many years ago: Schrottwichteln, a kind of Secret Santa. I have posted about this every year since I started my blog; last year's post is here if you want to compare pictures.

Unfortunately, not all of my friends could make it this year, so there were only four of us at my flat. It did not deter us from having fun, though!

I prepared the table for four in my living room, complete with Christmas-themed table cloth and decorations (some of them edible):

Toast Hawaii is a "must" for our Schrottwichteln, as is sparkling wine:

Then the game begins - everybody has their gift in front of them, and the dice are thrown:

After ten minutes (which can be a long time when you are rushing along with this game!) everyone ends up with a different parcel in front of them, and we take turns in opening our gifts:

One of my friends got a projector that throws moving patterns of light on the ceiling or a wall. She said it might help her daughter (3 1/2 years old) to sleep; I have not asked her yet whether the lights do the trick.

Another one of our group ended up with this... erm... interesting candle holder: (remember - the thing about Schrottwichteln is to get rid of something you definitely do NOT want!)

And here is what I got, a small felt bag in the shape of an owl:
It now sits on my kitchen window sill and will be packed away with the other Christmas things on January 6.

We had a fun evening together, and although I missed those friends who were not there with us, I was happy to be with those who were there. We'll all meet again in 2020.

Friday 13 December 2019

Santa is Real!

I know, because I have seen him with my own eyes.
Last weekend, on the way to O.K.'s, I got off the train at Karlsruhe (my usual stop on the way there and back) and met O.K. along with a couple of friends. Someone in our group of friends had suggested we visit the Christmas market there, and there we were.

It was just after 1:00 pm when we met up, so we started our excursion in full daylight.
Karlsruhe is one of those oddly laid-out cities where the main station is far off the actual city centre. It takes a 10-minute trip by tram to get to where the market square, pedestrian area and main shopping streets are. 

A short walk from there brought us to the palace, which provided a splendid backdrop for the temporary ice skating rink.

That was not yet the proper Christmas market,  although there were a few wooden stalls dotted around it with hot drinks and food. We had our first mugs of mulled wine there before moving on to the actual Christmas market in the city centre:

As it got darker, the lights became more pronounced. We had something to eat and another mug of hot drink (punch this time). And then it was 5:00 pm and we noticed that everyone was stopping and looking at a particular building.

A spotlight was directed to the edge of the roof, and there he was - Santa on his sleigh!

He rode across the sky and stopped above our heads, giving a short speech and waving to us. Then the sleigh moved on with sparks emitting from its skids - I was too slow with my camera then and not at the right angle, but it was pretty impressive! The red glow you can see at the front of the sleigh in some pictures is of course Rudolph's red nose.
Well, now I've seen Santa, I once more believe in him!

I was honestly in awe and felt very much like a little girl all over again; it was so well done and beautifully presented.

We had one last hot drink afterwards and then walked back to where we had started. The palace and skating rink looked even more beautiful and romantic now in the dark than before.

As a child and well into my teens, I loved skating, but I have not been on either rollers or ice skates in many years and have no idea how I'd fare nowadays. Maybe it is worth a try next year!

We took the train to O.K.'s shortly after 7:00 pm. All those hours since meeting at 1:00, we had been out and about, and now we were all ready to sit down on the train and almost fell asleep on the ride to Offenburg.

It was a nice excursion, and I enjoyed the Christmas market, but guess what - the one in Ludwigsburg is still my favourite.

Tuesday 3 December 2019

Five Pictures

The first Advent Sunday is already over. I have spent it at O.K.'s, and although the first snow was forecast for Sunday, it never appeared. Instead, after a rainy morning, the sun came out early afternoon, just in time for us to go for a walk before sitting down with O.K.'s family for coffee, cake and Christmas cookies.

Three years ago, O.K. gave me the biggest Advent calendar I have ever had - an entire village! It first appeared on my blog here, and ever since, we have been exchanging it between the two of us from one year to the next. This year, it is O.K.'s turn, and he has set it up on the stairs in his cottage. I think it looks really pretty there, and hope he will like the sweets and small presents I have filled the little houses with.

The weekend before last, my parents, my sister and I went to a garden center where an Advent exhibition was held. Of course, it was not just an exhibition - everything was for sale, and our intention was to buy our Advent wreaths from there. The family who run the center also had set up tables and benches, there was hot food and drinks, coffee and cake, and a brass band were playing Christmas songs. It was all very festive and nice, and I came home with this small wreath - a bit different from what I usually have, but I really like it on my coffee table.

Yesterday, Monday, I had to be in Stuttgart early for my regular eye checkup. A big scan of the retina and the optical nerve was also scheduled, which means I get drops in my eyes that affect my sight for several hours. As the train was nearing Stuttgart, it was announced that it would end one stop before the one I actually needed to get off, and as I did not want to lose time trying to find another train, I simply walked all the way. It took me about 25 minutes, and as it was still early, the Christmas market was not yet open and I was able to get through the pedestrian area quickly. Just as I was walking by the bandstand (already or still lit up?), a flock of pigeons rose.

Examinations and waiting in between meant I was at the surgery for about 1 1/2 hours, and by the time I was home, my sight was still not fully back to allow for work, so I did a few household tasks and then went to meet my family at our Christmas market mid-afternoon.

It was not as crowded at this time of day as it is when I usually get to the market after work, and there was still daylight. In the pictures above you can see the two churches facing each other across Ludwigsburg's market square. The one with the two spires is the Protestant, the other one the Catholic church. 

Last year, we went to the Christmas market shortly after my Dad had come home from hospital. It had been our first outing as a family since then, and was very special. This year, we were glad to be able to stroll across the marekt together again; we had food and mulled wine and bought a few items.

I hope you are enjoying the weeks leading up to Christmas, without getting into too much of a rush.