Friday 31 March 2023

My Birthday Week

It was my birthday last week, and a full working week, too. Much of it was dedicated to a course I was on, but I did not forget to celebrate and have fun!

Monday, March 20, was a chilly day of mostly grey skies with the sun poking through occasionally. Between work, a brief chat with my upstairs neighbour  and the regular fortnightly meeting with my volunteer group, I did not have time for a walk.

It was much milder with more sun on Tuesday (21st of March). I know that our calendars show the 20th as the beginning of spring, but in my mind it has always been the 21st, the spring equinox.

It was also the beginning of a course to gain an additional qualification for work. For the rest of the week, I was going to spend every morning until around lunch time in online sessions to learn more about data protection for insurance companies.

Each day would follow that pattern; after a lunch break, I would work as usual: answering emails, talking to my boss or attending regular online meetings for work. On that first day, by mid-afternoon my mind needed a break, and I walked on the fields for two hours.

It was my 55th birthday on Wednesday (March 22), and the sunshine my sister had ordered specifically for me was promptly delivered :-) At 18C (64.4F), it was mild enough to make me look forward to meeting my Mum and sister after work at the palace grounds.

Just as I left the house and was walking down the street, a car pulled up next to me, the window went down and a voice said "Hallo schöne Frau" - it was O.K., having driven 150 km just to be with me on my birthday!! It was the loveliest surprise, and really made my day.

The four of us enjoyed a stroll in the palace grounds before going to a restaurant for our evening meal.  Afterwards, a taxi took us back to Mum's place, where my birthday presents were waiting for me - and a little later, at my home, O.K. had stacked even more gifts from his family.

Birthdays are fun!

Palace grounds

One of my Mum's gifts, now adorning my kitchen window

I almost had to use the panorama feature on my phone's camera to get everything in!
It was a wonderful day, even if tinged with some sadness as it was the first time in my life that my Dad could not wish me a happy birthday.

O.K. drove home on the Thursday (March 23) morning while I was on my course. After work, I took what has become sort of my default or standard walk to Benningen. There were a few drops of rain, but it was partly sunny during the day, and rather mild.

On Friday, the 24th of March, O.K. was back; he arrived early enough for us to enjoy a late afternoon/early evening walk with beautiful light and the sights and sounds of spring all around before sitting down to our evening meal of Shakshouka, crusty bread (courtesy of O.K.) and Merlot.

Close to sunset on Friday

Venus was very close to the moon that night, as seen from my Mum's balcony...

...and from her friend's garden in another part of town. With the magnolia in bloom and the cypress trees, it rather looks like somewhere in Tuscany, doesn't it!
A small birthday celebration was planned for Saturday (March 25) at an Italian restaurant close enough for my Mum to walk there. Two friends were also invited, and the six of us had a good evening with fine food and plenty of talk. 

During the day, O.K. and I had been to town in order to get one of my birthday gifts, a pair of New Balance trainers (my favourite kind of shoe for everyday walking). Between that and the meal at the restaurant, I did about an hour's revising for my exam on Monday.

Sunday, the 26th of March, was very windy and unsurprisingly brought a mix of sun, rain and back to sun several times. We wisely wore our rain coats for the walk across the fields in the afternoon. Stopping by at the cemetery, we found my Mum sitting on the bench near the bird markers of Dad and friend R, and continued with her for a bit before we took our separate ways home. 

I did another couple of hours of revising and then started on our evening meal.

From O.K.'s Mum, I still had a butternut squash, and at my local Aldi, a batch of organic carrots of various colours had been on offer that week. As soon as I saw the colourful bundle, I knew I was going to turn it into something (hopefully) good.

So on Sunday, I peeled and diced the butternut squash, carrots and two small onions, added olive oil, salt, freshly ground black pepper and ginger, and put it in the oven long enough for all of it to become soft enough to eat. For the last 10 minutes, I laid strips of bacon on top. The veg tray took care of itself while I was making a creamy dip and a small pot of couscous, laid the table and brought out a bottle of rosé.

Before adding the onions and butternut squash

I went to bed relatively early, as my exam was scheduled for 9:00 the next morning, and I wanted to take one last look at a certain topic and be at my computer early enough to sort out all the technical stuff (which, as I knew, was NOT going to go smoothly at the first attempt). 

That was my birthday week!

Friday 24 March 2023

A Varied Weather Week

This week is nearly over, and I have not yet written about last week. Time flies when one is having fun...!

On the morning of Monday, March 13, I arrived home from O.K.'s with both my trains on time. It was a very windy, rather warm day reaching almost 20C (68F), and so the thunderstorm that arrived late in the evening was not surprising. It was very brief, though - I heard precisely one thunder clap, and was aware of lightning only once, too. 

Unfortunately, it was also the day O.K. found out that a co-worker had managed to pass COVID not only to him but to half the department. Of course, I self-tested immediately (and repeated that daily for the rest of the week), but I remained negative and had no symptoms. The four jabs I have had must have done the trick.

My sister and I spent the evening at our Mum's, enjoying her excellent cooking and each other's company.

It was another suny and windy day with some rain on Tuesday, the 14th of March. I worked in Marbach, training the employees of the Literature Archive in data protection. Two time slots were offered, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so that everyone had a chance to attend. We'll do that again in April, and most likely one more time in autumn.

Giving those trainings/interactive talks to an attentive audience is one of the things I like best about my work. Questions arise, and the most interesting discussions ensue. It is also nice to go for a different walk than usual during my lunch break.

The Schiller National Museum is part of the Literature Archive.

View towards Ludwigsburg from the terrace next to the museum

View towards Benningen from the same spot

A foot bridge connecting two parts of Marbach

Back home after work, I went to pick up my new computer (see previous post).

After the mild days, Wednesday (March 15) was cold enough for snow! There were only a few flakes forming among sleety rain, and there was also sun before and after - a day that had nearly everything in terms of weather.

I was expected at the office and eventually made it there, but trains were again not running to where I needed to go, and I had a combination of walking and taking a totally overcrowded bus which I heartily disliked. Instead of the 17 minutes according to the local trains time table, each way took me one hour.

It was good to work from home on Thursday, the 16th of March! After a frosty morning of -2C (28.4F), the afternoon was much warmer at 12C (53.6F). My Mum, my sister and I met up after work; there was a French Market in town, with about six (really tiny, but nice) genuine French stalls on the courtyard behind the town hall. 

Sunrise from my kitchen window on Thursday

Bread and cheese were bought, we had something to eat and drink and did a bit of people watching before it became too chilly for our liking.

By Friday (March 17) we knew for sure I was going to be on my own for the weekend, with O.K. still having symptoms. After work, I took the train to Marbach for the second time that week. This time, it was for the walk I have mentioned often on my blog, that used to be my Mum and my favourite walk together back when my parents still had their allotment near Steinheim.

After Steinheim, I climbed the hill and walked past the allotments before reaching the woods. A deliberately long loop took me back to Steinheim first and then to Marbach, where I boarded the train home about 18 km, 3 hours and 15 minutes later.

The river Murr in Steinheim

Old vineyard

It was more or less here that I watched the dance of the Red Kites.

One of the most memorable moments of that walk was when I observed a couple of Red Kites on their courting flight. It was like watching a superbly choreographed dance, with every swoop or dive, every flapping of wings perfectly synchronised.

Saturday, the 18th of March, was another sunny day of about 18C (64.4F). A former colleague (now retired) and his wife were hosting a little "spring fest" at their home. The wife is an accomplished storyteller who regularly gathers groups of people at their home, or is booked by various institutions, to tell stories.

The stories are not hers, but fairytales and other stories she has read somewhere and adapts for telling (not reading). It is a wonderful way to spend an evening, and a very different form of entertainment: It is not like reading a book or listening to audio books or podcasts, and it is totally unlike watching TV or Netflix etc. 

Did your parents or grandparents tell you stories when you were little? If they did, do you remember how much you enjoyed that? It was exactly like that, and the buffet was very nice, too :-)

Earlier that day, I spent a couple of hours with my sister at her allotment, getting things ready for spring. It was so warm in the sun that I worked in shorts for the first time this year!

Taking a break around lunch time
Another spectacular sunset near O.K.'s village that same day.
I spent a quiet day on my own on Sunday (March 19). After a 2-hour-walk to Pattonville and back, I rested a little before starting to set up my new computer, as mentioned on my previous post.

O.K. was much better by then and had been testing negative since Saturday. What a relief!

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.