Friday, 30 November 2012

Fashion Calendar: November

November only had 30 days, so today is my last chance for a Fashion Calendar post this month.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, it is often a grey, foggy, wet and chilly month - therefore, it needs colours! Bright colours, and plenty of it! (See this post for some more about the topic of colours and how they can affect our mood.)

One of my favourite autumn & winter outfits is this fuchisa or magenta coloured dress by Mexx:

The above outfit was my choice for an evening out with my girlfriends. Yesterday, for this season's first stroll across the Christmas market, I wore it with the dotty tights you first saw here.

I bought it four or five years ago and still love it. It is very versatile in that I can either wear it with really warm woolly tights and a turtle-neck sweater underneath, or with a pair of more chic tights, big earrings and matching lipstick.

When I saw it in the shop back then, it was one of those occasions where you see your name written all over it and simply have to buy it! Since it wasn't expensive, I never thought twice.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

November Sun

In this part of the globe, November is usually not associated with sun - it is supposed to be a grey, wet, foggy and cold month, and (if one can believe the statistics) the month with the highest suicide rate of the year.

Well, we did have nice sunny weather this month; last Sunday, for instance, was so mild and sunny, if it had not been for the lack of flowers and birdsong outside, one could have been fooled into believing it was March or April.
I went for a run and almost regretted wearing the red fluffy zip-up you saw here, but going short-sleeved would have been inviting a cold, and I have only just managed to finally get rid of that nasty cough (took me almost four weeks!).

When I woke up on Monday morning, this was the first view that greeted my eyes:

Since then, though, I'm afraid the weather has changed and is now more like what November is supposed to be. We've had non-stop rain for two nights and two days now, which has kept me from visiting the Christmas market (it opened on Tuesday).
It is nothing like the flooding I have read about in parts of the UK, though, and seen on Friko's blog, so I really should not complain.

Tomorrow, according to the forecast, we can expect it to be dry, but with quite a drop in temperature. We might even have some snow for the first Advent weekend. Anyway - I'll go dancing on Saturday night, and will be putting up some Christmas decoration in the morning, this being the only time of the year where I allow for my beloved clean, empty spaces to be covered :-)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Read in 2012 - 41: The American Claimant

Like most children, for a long time the only books I knew by Mark Twain were the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn books, largely made popular by television during my childhood in the 1970s. Only a lot later I learned more about the author, whose real name (and I am sure everybody knows that) was Samuel Clemens. He lived from 1835 to 1910, and the book that became my 41st read of this year was published in 1892: The American Claimant.
Picture of the first edition, taken from Wikipedia. Mine was, of course, the free Kindle edition.

It shows Twain's humour very well, and although I must admit I skipped some of the lengthy speeches made in the book, and some bits were rather predictable (especially the way the love story goes), I much enjoyed it.
Just by the way it starts, you can see what I mean:

No weather will be found in this book. [...] Many a reader who wanted to read a tale through was not able to do it because of delays on account of the weather. [...] Of course weather is necessary to a narrative of human experience. That is conceded. But it ought to be put where it will not be in the way [...]. And it ought to be the ablest weather that can be had, not ignorant, poor-quality, amateur weather. [...] The present author can do only a few trifling ordinary kinds of weather, and he cannot do these very good.
So it has seemed wisest to borrow such weather as is necessary for the book from qualified and recognized experts - giving credit, of course.
This weather will be found over in the back part the book, out of the way. The reader is requested to turn over and help himself from time to time as he goes along.

The story begins with the introduction of an elderly English Earl and his son. The family have been receiving letters from American relatives claiming the Earldom for many years; now one of the last remaining relatives has died, and the claim has moved to the hands of one Colonel Sellers, who sends a most extraordinary letter. 
The Earl's son, with a strong sense of justice, wants to put things right (because, actually, the claim is apparently justified) and decides to travel to America and renounce his own claim to the title, to become a man just like everbody else, to make a living by honest work.

Does he succeed? Yes and no.
Colonel Sellers, who comes up with all sorts of quirky ideas to make money and better his and his family's position, does not know of the Earl's son's plans. At the moment of the son's arrival in his town, he is trying to capture a bank robber to earn the reward. A fire at a hotel leads to the Earl's son being taken for the "resurrected" criminal (who really died in the fire), and a chain of all sorts of events, some funny and some less so, is set in motion.

All ends well, though, and everything in between is interesting and fun to read: from the political and humanistic ideals of the Earl's son to the inventions and schemes of Colonel Sellers to the thoroughly described living conditions at a humble boarding house for working class men in those days.

Read it, if you want something truly different; amusing, but not without some deep thoughts, presented in humoristic disguise.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Old School

This post is a combination of letting you know about what I did on Saturday and an inspiration taken from this post on Monica's blog, "Beyond The Lone Islands", which I liked very much. Therefore, Monica, I hope you don't mind me nicking the idea and adapting it for my own purpose!

My hometown Ludwigsburg often features on my blog; you have seen the parks, the palace, the Christmas market, the fields surrounding the town, and of course my own place.

So far, though, you have not seen my old school.
On Saturday, I went back there. This was an official event organised by the school itself. Everybody they could find was invited - everybody who either finished school 25 years ago or attended the school during the years leading up to the finishing class of 1987 (I left before that, in 1984 at the age of 16). Now, it is never easy to find people from the past, and it is particularly difficult with women who, more often than not, have changed their surname with marriage. In my case, I have changed three times (married twice, divorced once and taken my maiden name back for several years until my second marriage), but since I happen to come across some of my former school mates at the gym every now and then, we were already in touch and so I was sent an invitation as well.

Going back to my old school was not so unusual for me; a branch of our town's library is in the same building, and so I have been there many times since leaving school. But, unlike yesterday, I have not been back inside any of the old class rooms, and certainly not with so many people from my class and others from the same year!

It was great seeing them all; some I did miss, some others I must admit I wasn't sorry about them not being there. It would have been nice to meet some more of our old teachers; only two of them (neither of them my favourites) made it to the reunion.

We shared old and new stories, some had brought old photo albums (which made for much mirth all around - did we really wear our hair like that, and go out in those outfits?!), there was coffee and soft drinks and snacks, and of course the entire event started off with some officials making speeches and showing us round the old familiar place.

A group picture was taken out in the yard, where every year we had to assemble for the school photographer to take our class photo. I don't have that new picture yet, but I'll show you what my school looks like:
Approaching the school, this part of the ground floor is the library, serving both the school and the public.
Looking across the yard, the building to the left is the school I went to after I left that other school, and the older building to the right is where I went to elementary school.
Coming up towards the main front doors of the school. Of course, it only looks so deserted because it was a Saturday.

It was built in the 1970s (as if you needed telling) and was state-of-the-art back then. We were told that, in a few years (2016 is the current estimate), the entire complex will be torn down and rebuilt according to modern standards. A lot has changed since the 1970s, mainly in terms of how energy is used in modern buildings to keep them warm or cool, and it would cost more to adapt the current building than to erect a new one.

You are probably wondering by now what my post has, so far, to do with Monica's post.
We are getting to that now: I am going to show you some of the various hair styles and colours I used to wear in the 1980s - not to mention my specs! There were some rather wild hairdos (think short, red and spiky) before that time, but only a few photos exist of me from those days, and none of them in digital format. Still, I hope you will find my little excursion into the past entertaining enough:

From top left to bottom right: 20 years old, 1988, when I finished Librarian School; same year, but a more cheerful picture; aged 19, looking daft; me at 17, when for a short time I thought I could be a blonde; 19 again and back to red Henna.

Since that time, I have seen a bit more sense and know that my hair is not meant to be long - it is far too thin for anything more than chin-length. And while for most of the 1980s I never wore my natural colour, I stopped the colouring at some stage, and it turned its mousy brown again. These days, I'd be almost entirely grey/white, were it not for the help of some cheap chemicals regularly applied. I keep saying that I'll stop it at 50 - but who knows what I'll really do in six years' time!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Read in 2012 - 40: Peterkin

Have I ever mentioned that I like reading children's books? Maybe you wouldn't think so from the reviews here on my blog, but I really do. There are several children's books authors I would name as my favourites, Edith Nesbit and Astrid Lindgren being top of the list.

The book I recently finished, "Peterkin", is by an author who, every now and then, reminded me a bit of Edith Nesbit: Mrs. Molesworth. Her full name was Mary Louisa Molesworth, and she did not only write children's books but also adult fiction, the latter under the pen name of Ennis Graham.
Mrs. Molesworth lived from 1839 to 1921; she was married (later legally separated) and had, as far as I know, no children.

"Peterkin" was published in 1902, and we are introduced to the upper middle-class Lesley family with their six children by Giles, the second son, who writes the story from his own perspective as a 12-year-old two years after it happened. Peterkin is his youngest brother; the other three siblings are girls. And it is Peterkin who sets the story off by disappearing one night in November.

Giles' older brother Clement has an idea where the 8-year-old boy may have been gone, and the two boys set out to find him. They are successful, and the story could have ended here, had it not been for Peterkin's discovery of a most mysterious parrot, speaking of a little girl in the house next door to his. The two younger boys' imagination is vivid enough that they take it upon themselves to "rescue the enchanted princess" they think they have stumbled upon, and although all ends well, the story does not lack suspense, and humour.

The writing from a child's perspective is, I think, rather credible; the adults are presented in a manner that makes you believe they would really act that way and their actions would really seem to have those special meanings to the observing children. The children among each other are not always full of brotherly love; they do get cross sometimes, as children do, but when it comes to obstacles, they stick together.

Some of the expressions in the book I had not come across before: To be "as happy as sand-boys", for instance. Nicely enough, the young narrator does not know what it means, either, and frankly admits to it.

So, this was an entertaining and enjoyable read from times long gone; 110 years later, I am glad to have come across this book as a free download from the Kindle store and wouldn't mind finding more by the same author.

Thursday, 22 November 2012


As mentioned in this post, I spent last week in Munich, working at the "Electronica", a trade fair that is all about - you guessed it - electronics and electronic parts.

I do like working such fairs, especially when there are so many visitors from all over the world and not just German ones. It gives me a chance to practice my languages, and I had plenty of occasion to do that - in fact, we had only very few German visitors to our booth. There is a surprisingly large amount of people from Italy and from the UK in this industry; Russia and Turkey are catching up, too, and we had at least one or two visitors from Israel every day. 

Our booth was similar to the one we had in 2010, but not exactly the same. Here are some pictures:
The booth.
Ready for the first visitors. 
Behind the scenes - never underestimate the importance of a well-equipped back room to run a booth smoothly! Thankfully, the friend whose company I was working for here understands very well what is needed and what is not, and she always makes sure there is enough room there for me to move, and enough of everything we and our visitors may need. I've worked other fairs where the bit behind the scenes was so cramped you could hardly get in, especially when everyone else thought they have to double-use it as a wardrobe, personal conference room and storage for all the giveaways they have collected from other booths.

The majority of you have probably not heard about the power outage we had on the Thursday morning during that week; it was on all the German TV news that night and you can read about it in English here.
We were affected in that the two underground lines that serve the fair were not running for some hours, and it was impossible to get a taxi - we couldn't even get through to the taxi companies by phone, since all the lines were either down or busy. In the end, we split up so that some of us went by car (it took them an hour to get there), one of us who had the keys to the booth was able to go with some other hotel guests in their car, and I chose to wait until the trains would be running again, and arrived at the fair at 20 past 10 instead of 20 to 8.
Since hardly anybody got to the fair in time that morning, it wasn't a problem that I was later than usual - so were the visitors! And the power outage provided the perfect icebreaker in conversation; you instantly had something to talk about, comparing stories about where you were, how you eventually made it to the fair, how long it took you and so on.

Altogether, it was an interesting week, and my last fair for this year.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Read in 2012 - 39: Miss Theodora

A book written in 1898 by Helen Leah Reed, an author who has no entry in wikipedia, although from what I can see on various websites offering free ebooks, she wrote quite a lot, and it is funny that someone like Mary Jane Holmes (see my previous post) would have been so popular, while Helen Leah Reed seems to have vanished without leaving much trace in terms of biographical information.

Like I said at the end of my previous post, not all books aimed at girls and young ladies from that time were as overly sweet and dramatically religious as "Aikenside"; in fact, there is quite a lot of humour in "Miss Theodora", and the characters in that story are neither entirely good nor entirely bad. 

Miss Theodora is an elderly lady who lives in Boston's West End, taking care of her young nephew Ernest. The book spans Ernest's life from when he is a toddler to the time when he is a happily married man, satisfied with his work and career, so different from what his dear aunt originally had in mind for him.

In the course of the book, the characters undergo the development one would expect from real people, without ever changing their core - just like real people. They come to change their opinions and their plans, their loves and their dislikes, and behave quite credibly throughout. For a book so old, some of the ideas presented in it (in the disguise of what the characters think, say and do, of course) are quite modern and would not feel out of place in a book written today.

There is material greed and disappointment in love and other matters; there are young people who are astonished to find out that the elderly ladies of their acquaintance have once been young and fun-loving just like themselves; there are people prejudiced against others for their race, or their social standing and profession, and there are people with sound heads on their shoulders who take no nonsense from anyone.

I enjoyed this book and was really pleased to see the outcome for both Miss Theodora and her nephew. It wasn't all completely foreseeable, although there weren't any extremely dramatic events, either (at least not presented that way).

Sadly, I could not find out much about the author; one page simply states "Ms. Reed was an early graduate of Radcliffe College in Cambridge, MA.", not even giving the years of her birth and death, which are given on another page as ca. 1860-1926. That's all!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Read in 2012 - 38: Aikenside

When I was doing research for writing this review, I was amazed to find out that the author of "Aikenside", Mary Jane Holmes, at one time was almost as popular as Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the number of books she sold was second only to the latter. 

Mary Jane Holmes lived from 1825 to 1907. She was one of nine siblings and had an economically modest but intellectually encouraging upbringing in a small town in Massachusetts. When she was only 13, she started teaching school; her first short story was published when she was 15. Considering these activities at such an early age, I was surprised to learn that she was already 24 when she married, and 29 when her first novel was published. Although the marriage was childless, it must have been a good and happy relationship, because (according to Wikipedia) she often modeled the good man-woman relationships in her books on the one she and her husband Daniel enjoyed.

Of the 39 novels she wrote, "Aikenside" was probably first published around 1881. Wikipedia states that 
"Portraying domestic life in small town and rural settings, she examined gender relationships, as well as those of class and race. She also dealt with slavery and the American Civil War, with a strong sense of moral justice. Since the late 20th century, she has received fresh recognition and reappraisal, although her popular work was excluded from most 19th-century literary histories compiled by men."
All this sounds very noble, doesn't it?
But I am not ashamed to say that more than once I considered not finishing this book, since sometimes it was really too hard to bear. I have no problem with sentimental stuff in books or films, but a lot of "Aikenside" was just too religiously sweet and dramatic for my liking. Still, I read it all, and it ended just like I guessed it would - all things came together in the end to make life good for Maddy, the heroine who has her faith strengthened by the hardships she has to overcome.  

When we meet Maddy for the first time, she is 14 1/2 years old and applies for the job of school teacher in her small rural community (sounds familiar?). While she is not accepted, the two men who form the impromptu school committee both fall in love with her - involuntarily, and unnoticed at first, even by themselves. Now, if you ask me, men in their mid-twenties have no business wanting a girl who is not yet 15 for their wife, and yet that is exactly what at least one of them soon admits to be feeling.

Maddy (who is, of course, a beautiful orphan and grows up with modest and god-fearing grandparents in a humble cottage) is so desperate because of not getting the coveted teaching job that she falls seriously ill. That illness becomes a turning point in her life; she ends up becoming indeed a teacher/companion to the little girl living at Aikenside (the manor near the small town where she lives), and receives herself an education in New York which transforms her from naive little cottage girl to sophisticated beauty - who then has to abandon the luxurious lifestyle when her grandmother dies and there is nobody who can take care of her grandfather and her mentally ill uncle back at the old cottage. 
Ah, the obstacles seem unsurmountable, but by spending endless nights on her knees in fervent prayer, Maddy is rewarded by getting the husband she wants and loves so much, and her happiness is untarnished when we find her again in the last chapter, a mother of two, and proudly installed at... well, I think it won't surprise anyone if I tell you that it is Aikenside where she reigns then.

In between the events of Maddy's life, the reader encounters a lady who carefully guards a secret from her past (something that is screamingly obvious almost from the first time said lady appears in the story), and of course, that lady undergoes a transformation for the better, too.

So, all that improvement, coupled with sentences such as this one:
"...the hallowed memories of her puritiy and goodness - memories which would yet mold the proud, impulsive Guy into the earnest, consistent Christian which Ludy in her life had desired that he should be, and which Maddy rejoiced to see him."
made me not want to read another book by Mary Jane Holmes, I'm afraid.
I'm glad that not all books from that time are like this, as you will see from my next review.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Another Guest Post: Brimham Rocks

Just like the guest post about growing orchids, today's guest post was, once again, not written my my Mum or anyone else I know personally. Instead, the author offered it to me by email. Well, strictly speaking, she offered any post related to travelling, either about a particular destination or some other aspect of travelling. Since I was given the choice, I asked her to write about Brimham Rocks, a place not too far from Ripon, where (as you will know if you have been reading my blog for a while) some of my Yorkshire family live and I spend some time every year.
In 2011, my sister-in-law took me to Brimham Rocks for a very nice day out. We had an aunt and uncle with us and enjoyed walking and climbing about (not too much climbing, though; we left that to those better equipped for it).
To my amazement, I found that I never wrote about that beautiful place on my blog, and therefore, this guest post offers some of the information I could have given you last year.

First, here is a short bio of the author:
(Note: I was asked to include the link to the vacation rentals website. I am not getting any payment for this, and the website in itself is not making any money by you clicking on the link and having a look round.)

Angela Harpert is an avid traveler and adventurer by nature. She quickly falls in love with new places, new cultures and undiscovered "treasuries", constantly finding inspiration and fascination behind every corner. For more or useful tips on your perfect vaction please vitit

The Brimham Rocks

Unlike the art of rock balancing, which is something absolutely amazing (look it up, I dare you) balancing rocks are a natural occurrence. The Brimham rocks are one such formation of strange rocks you'd expect to tip over at any moment by just looking at them. Now I have occasionally seen similar formations during my travels, though nothing so amazing and precariously balanced as the idol rock among this formation.

For those of you not familiar with where these are, they are located (as the name suggests) in Brimham, not far from the Brimham moor. If you have a vivid imagination you can see all sorts of amazing shapes in the rocks, from animals to human beings. Kids and adults love climbing all over them and even though this may look dangerous in reality they are firmly connected since these are rocks usually carved by the elements which only look this way. You might think of the rock as a flower with a stem, where the lower part of the Idol Rock for example is the “stem”. This is not uncommon among people who have seen these rocks all over the world. The area is absolutely gorgeous and serene thanks to its relative distance from the local civilized areas. There is a gift shop and a visiting centre on site, however they are closed throughout the week and only open during the weekends.

Geologically speaking they are formed in various ways since they may vary with size and structure. The Brimham rocks are what we call pedestal rocks and for many years it was apparently believed the reason for these formations was simple wind abrasion. As more time passed however scientists have finally concluded there must have been chemical weathering at the base of each of these rocks to produce such an effect. Sometimes these rocks are also referenced to as hoodoos. The term is geological, however the name probably originated in North America where they were compared to totems because of their unique shapes. Whatever the case people's imaginations have been running wild here for centuries. These rocks were often said to have been connected to a number of magnificent ideas such as druid worship, connection to the Devil himself and even the English soothsayer Mother Shipton among all things.

What shaped the Brimham rocks however is believed to have been the result of sand blasting the bottom of the rock in the case of the Idol Rock and with the others it was the continuous act of freezing and thawing which resulted in the curious shapes we see today.

If you haven't visited this place before this is something you shouldn’t miss if you're in the area or in Yorkshire in general. It is a nice, serene place where you'll be able to enjoy nature's touch everywhere around you. The sights are beautiful and the air is clean and lovely, so this is a perfect place for a nice picnic or some time just contemplating and relaxing.

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When I visited this beautiful place, I took many pictures. You can see the great view I had from there, as well as some of the unusually shaped rocks, by clicking on this picture View from Brimham Rocks and then "next" in the top right corner above the picture. I hope you liked this short excursion into the great wide open!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Gone For A While...

...are my upstairs neighbours, who have featured on my blog before (you'll find several posts if you simply type "neighbours" into the search bar in the top left corner of the page).

They are an elderly couple from Turkey, and have gone to spend the winter in Antalya with one of their three sons (the other two sons live here in the area with their families) - a wise move, if you ask me, since Antalya on the Meditarranean will certainly have a more pleasant climate at this time of the year than Germany.

Not long before they left, Muslims all over the world were celebrating Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice), and so were they. This holy day in the Muslim calendar commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac on God's command, a story from the Bible's Old Testament most of you will be familiar with.
As is their habit on such festival days - much like what we do for Christmas and Easter -, a lot of food is prepared at home, and almost every time, my kind neighbours bring me some of it.
This time, I was given a plate of Börek (which came right in time for my lunch break!) and a smaller plate of Baklava - very sticky and very sweet, and utterly delicious!

Now they are gone, which means the house is MUCH quieter, with no door-banging and furniture-shifting going on above my head early every morning... I know they don't mean it, they don't even realise I hear their every move, and since I really do not want to be on bad terms with them, I usually don't say anything. Maybe I am wrong there, maybe not.

Anyway - I'll be gone for a while, too:
Tomorrow evening after work, I'll get on a train to Munich, where I'll be working at the "Electronica", a trade fair, until Friday evening. This time, it has nothing to do with my regular work, but a friend of mine runs a company distributing printed circuit boards (do I hear someone stifling a yawn?) for a Chinese manufacturer. The booth (and my work) is being paid for by the Chinese company, and like two years ago when I first worked for them, several of the Chinese staff will be with us. It was my first experience working closely with people from China (who, for the most part, had never been to Europe before), and quite interesting.

November 2010, Munich, Electronica

So, if I don't post on my own or comment on your blogs all of next week, you'll know why.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Read in 2012 - 37: The Messengers

This was another one of the many free ebooks I downloaded on my Kindle earlier this year, and from its length (or, should I say, shortness), I hesitate to call it a book; it is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel, so maybe you could call it a novelette.

The author, Richard Harding Davis, was a journalist who became mostly known while working as America's first war correspondent, covering the Spanish-American war, the second Boer war and WWI. He lived from 1864 to 1916 and must have been quite a gilttering character; Wikipedia says, for instance, that his influence extended to the world of fashion and he is credited with making the clean-shaven look popular among men at the turn of the 20th century.
Picture from Wikipedia, taken in 1890, when he was 36 years old

The list of his works is rather long and comprises novels, biographies, journalistic notes and collections of stories. One such story is "The Messengers",which I found listed on many ebook publishing and other websites, but nowhere could I find its original publishing date.

The main character is Ainsley, a young man who is so much in love with a girl named Polly Kirkland that, when he finds she does not return his feelings, retreats to a lonely place in the country, where not even his friends can stop his brooding. When Polly announces that she will leave for a cruise to Egypt, Ainsley knows that this will mark a turning point in their relationship, and urges her to send him a message if she has a change of heart and discovers her love for him.

Polly agrees to send a message, but she does not specify by what means that message will reach Ainsley, and what it is going to say; she only states that he will "read it in his heart".

After a long time of waiting (and several letters from Polly which, much to Ainsley's disappointment, do not seem to contain any special message for him), when he is about to resign himself into staying single for ever because he feels Polly will never love him back, a group of unusual messengers arrive at the lonely country place. Their message is non-verbal, but they convince Ainsley that this is what he was waiting for, and he sets off to find Polly in Egypt the same night.

And indeed, when he reaches Polly, she confesses his love for him - but he is still in for a surprise.

Because I don't want to spoil the story for you, I am not going to tell you more about the mysterious messengers or the ending; just let me tell you that this was a pleasant and unusually poetic read for me without it actually being poetry (which is not really my genre anyway).

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Who Won?

Not the presidential election; we all know that by now, I guess.
No, I'm on about the Cold Season Giveaway my Mum and I hosted here a few days ago.

The drawing was yesterday at lunch time and took place under supervision of my Dad at my parents' place :-)

As we've done in our previous giveaway, all the names were put into my Mum's sun hat:

And then she drew one piece of paper...

...unfolded it...

 ...and the name on it was...


Here's to you, Frances - congratulations!

We had this smiling cake and clinked our glasses of pumpkin sparkling wine for you.

Now, to claim your prize, all you have to do is go to my Mum's Etsy Shop (you should be able to get there simply by clicking on it in the top left corner of my blog) and make your choice. Once you know which item you want, just go through the normal purchase process - with the exception that you don't have to make a payment, but so that my Mum has your address for shipping.
If you can't find anything you want, let us know what colour, pattern, shape or size you'd like, and my Mum will knit something specifically to match your request.
In case something doesn't work with the purchase process (you know - the wonders of modern technology...), just get in touch with me by email (the address is on my profile).

This, by the way, is true for all of you - if you were not lucky this time with the giveaway, you can still get one or more of the pairs of socks, hats, beanies etc. my Mum makes, either for yourselves or as a present - she will be happy to welcome new customers :-)

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Comfort Of Sunrise

You can still participate in my giveaway if you haven't done so already - simply click here to get there.
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My kitchen has two windows, and the one facing East is where I take all those pictures from that you get to see on my blog, in all seasons and all kinds of weather and time of day or night.

Some mornings, the sunrise is so beautiful it tugs at my heart the same way the cry of the buzzard does; it was like that about two weeks ago:

And even more spectactular on the next day:

Seeing such a glorious sunrise gives me comfort in a way I find difficult to explain, but maybe just looking at the picture makes you understand what I mean.

Anyway, this is what I see when coming into my kitchen on a sunny morning - doesn't that give anyone's mood an instant boost?

There's a new day every day, ready for me to fill it with work and play, pleasure and joy - or I could just be grumpy and miserable (which is the case very, very rarely).

Monday, 5 November 2012

Guest Post By My Mum: A Sad Memory

Many are familiar with the lines "Remember, remember the fifth of November"; my family and I will always remember this date for a different reason: it was on Nov. 5th, 2009, that I returned from work and found my husband dead on the floor in our living room.

Several times I have written about this - for me -  most life-changing event; for instance here and here.

Today, it is my Mum's guest post that commemorates Steve's death on my blog:

A Sad Memory of a Lovely Evening

Once a week I go to a kindergarten, to read and show picture-books to the little girls and boys. There are about 45 kids between 2 1/2 and 6 years old. It is always very cute and pleasant for me, and, so I hope, for the children as well.
I am quite integrated in every event the kindergarten starts, such as Christmas, Santa Claus (here called Nikolaus), Easter, not to forget the summer fest and the good-bye-party for those children who leave the kindergarten in autumn to start school. 

And one of those nice events is every year at the end of October: The kids have built lanterns of paper and light them with a candle inside (mostly with a battery-light nowadays...) and then all meet in front of a small palace at our home town. A lake belongs to it, it is called Monrepos, that means "my rest". We meet there at dawn, and all the parents, grandparents, siblings, aunties and uncles are supposed to come and celebrate the lantern-procession together. 
The kids baked apple-bread in the kindergarten, the parents bring children's "punch" (of course without alcohol, a mixture of hot tea and juice, honey and spices), and we ate and drank after walking around the lake with the lanterns lit.

Three years ago, the same event was going on, and I enjoyed it so very much, to be among them all. We walked around the pond in the dark, our way lit only by the lanterns, singing songs, one dad played the guitar, one granddad played the accordeon, it was really something for the heart! And I was so happy there. 

One of the teachers drove me home, I hurried up to our flat to tell my husband about my evening- and then: He was waiting for me, saying: "Don't take your coat off, we have to go to Meike's, her husband died a few hours ago." I was so shocked, I couldn't even believe, but I had to. I wonder, how could I be in such a good mood, while my son-in-law died nearby without feeling anything about it?

At once, the world stood still, nothing was as it was before, especially for Meike, of course, but also for me.
Since this time, they always invite me to join them again for the walk with the lanterns, but I refused, I could not do it, the memory is too bad. Maybe I can manage it this year, when the day repeats for the third time.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Read in 2012 - 35: Nights of Rain and Stars

Note: If you have missed my Cold Season Giveaway, you can still participate; just click here.

It was on Nan's blog that I first learned about Maeve Binchy's death, and Nan has also posted several reviews of her books; this one is among them. You can find her review easily, because Nan's blog is very well organised - of course, you can simply put the book title in the search bar at the top left corner of the blog and find it instantly.

"Nights of Rain and Stars" is a pleasant read without much challenge or suspense; there are no gory details, thrilling murder hunts or steaming sex scenes, but some good character studies and descriptions of places and events. While it can certainly be classified as a Summer Read, it is by no means limited to that; the book can be a good travel companion, or simply enjoyed at home after a day's work in the comfort of your favourite armchair.

The familiar concept of throwing a group of strangers together and see what happens, strangers who under normal circumstances would not have met, let alone become friends, works well here:
Five strangers (one couple, the others each on their own) happen to be at a modest taverna overlooking a harbour and small village on a Greek island, when a fire breaks out on a boat in the harbour, resulting in the death of several locals and tourists.

Watching the tragedy from afar gets the strangers and their host talking to each other, and it is through their conversations that the reader starts to know them all, and, as the story unfolds, some more people from the village are added to the cast.

The five strangers are not simply tourists on a Greek island vacation; each of them has chosen to travel in order to get away from some situation or other back home, and for each of them, the trip becomes a turning point in their lives.

They come from the US, England, Ireland and Germany, from different walks of lives and with different expectations for their future.

Decisions are taken, phone calls made and letters written; the outcome for most of the characters is not all that much of a surprise, but still interesting enough to keep wanting to read on.

Like I said, the character studies are well done - with one exception; Shane, a young Irish man who is on the island with his girlfriend is depicted a bit too black-and-white with nothing likeable about him at all. While such people probably do exist, I found his character rather one-dimensional.

A lot of how the local people go about their lives is very cliché; I have never been to Greece myself but I wonder whether people really drink raki, retsina, ouzo and coffee all the time, whether they really dance to the bouzouki at every occasion and have blue and white checked tablecloths on every table.

Maeve Binchy's writing flows at a very pleasant pace, neither too slow to get boring nor too fast for the reader to lose track of who is who and doing what.

There are two bits where a little research would have helped in getting the facts right:
At the funeral service held after the boat fire, the village children's choir sing hymns in the languages of the victims. The German hymn they choose is "Tannenbaum"  ("Oh Christmas Tree") - which is a popular Christmas song and certainly not what is sung at a funeral. And when two of the characters, a German lady and a man from the US, have the word "Reisefieber" come up in conversation, the explanation is wrongly given as it meaning "being in a panic at airports and railway stations". Reisefieber literally means "Travel fever" and refers to the "itch" to pack up and travel, to have a change of scene, of feeling unable to stay at the same place for a long time.

Don't get me wrong - I do not want to complain about the book, it is just that such details bother me, and I think they are better left out (they aren't necessary for the story itself) than being in the book and being wrong.

Overall, I liked this book well enough to give it 4 out of 5 stars on my Amazon review.