Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A Book I Did Not Finish

The last time I did not finish a book was last year in summer; I wrote about that one and my reasons for not finishing it here.
Yesterday, I decided to stop reading "The Second Coming" after getting as far as chapter 8 (page 57 of 376). Why?

This book by John Niven was recommended and lent to me for it being cleverly witty and funny, and I must admit it is. I really like the idea behind it: 
God takes a short holiday, being of the opinion that things on Earth are going pretty well, only to find upon his return (for him, it was only a week of going fishing, but on Earth, several centuries have passed) that all hell has broken loose. There have been two world wars, genocide, famine, new diseases have developed, slavery is still around, mankind has managed to make a hole in the ozone layer and almost empty His oceans of fish, people are killed for ridiculous reasons in the name of religion (not much different to the Dark Age, really), and there are so-called "Christians" everywhere, making a farce out of what God truly meant when he chiselled that first beautiful stone plate in slanting copperplate with the words "Be Nice".

There are two ways God can go from here: Start all over (that's what John and Peter advise him to do), or send His son down again, giving His creation a second chance to learn the true meaning of "Be Nice". God decides on the latter, and Jesus is sent to Earth once more.

There are some brilliant bits in the conversations between God and His team in Heaven. As I said, I really like the idea behind the book, BUT I don't like how that idea is executed: there is such an inflationary use of the f-word, and there seems to be quite a fixation on all things anal, that I honestly couldn't bear reading the entire book, brilliant ideas or not. Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not a prude and use the occasional expletive myself, but there is something like overdoing it. And in my opinion, unfortunately, John Niven has been overdoing it in this book. There is hardly a paragraph without the f-word in it; hardly a sentence, come to think of it.
So, although I fully appreciate the humour (and, at the same time, seriousness) in the descriptions of what our world has come to, I will not keep on reading this, but am going to return it to the person who lent it to me.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

It's Been Ages...

...since I last did a "Fashion Calendar" post, or so it feels; in fact, it was November, and I never wrote one for December. Never mind; as much as it was fun to do this kind of post for (almost) an entire year, it would be a bit too boring to have yet another Fashion Calendar this year, wouldn't it?
And anyway, I already showed you some of my business outfits earlier this month, so it's not as if I've suddenly come off clothes altogether :-) (I can't imagine that ever happening!)

In fact, I have something new to show you: Gloves!

These were RJ's Christmas present to me. Now, Gloves are like shoes; you can't just go ahead and buy them for someone else, they need to be tried on so as to fit perfectly. Before Christmas, we didn't have (or make...) the time to hit the shops together; between Christmas and New Year, we didn't feel like it, but last Friday while we were both at our biggest customer's office, I spontaneously suggested we go shopping after work, and we did (plus had a very nice meal afterwards).

It had been a typical Meike-week, I was out four nights out of five, and so I had a quiet weekend on my own.

The black gloves are lined with a black, very soft fleecy fabric which makes them a lot warmer than what they look like. The brown ones have a lining of orange-coloured cashmere; have I ever mentioned that I absolutely love cashmere? (And silk, for that matter.) The lady at the shop suggested I can turn the cuffs over when it is not too cold and fits the rest of my outfit, to show off the orange lining, like I have done for the picture.

Both pairs of gloves are exactly the right size for me. They are very soft and lightweight, and allow me to move my fingers almost as if I wasn't wearing them, so I won't even have to take them off when I get out my train ticket to stamp it before boarding the train to work. I will take them off when I arrive at the office, though; typing might still be a challenge while wearing them :-)
First time I'll be wearing one of the pairs today - haven't decided yet on which one, probably black, because it is raining and I don't want the velvety brown leather to get wet. 

PS: Have you noticed that my Mum has put some new, very cute socks and hats in her Etsy shop?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Possibly The Last...

...snowy pictures on my blog for a while!
The weather forecast for my area says that by Wednesday, we can expect up to 16 Celsius (that's around 60 F) - seems too good to be true when for the last weeks, we were always below zero (in the 20s F) and I was only able to leave the house bundled up in layers of clothing, feeling as immobile as the Michelin man.

Dare I hope that was it, winter-wise?
No. I wish our seasons were as reliable as that! It is safe to assume instead that, after a short, mild spell, there'll be more cold and snow, or cold and rain.

But right now, I am looking forward to the middle of next week, not only because of the promised rise in temperature: it is my Dad's birthday on Thursday, and although we won't have such a big "do" as last year for his 70th, it will still be an evening spent with friends and relatives, good food and conversation. 

The pictures were (obviously) taken at various times of day, and not all on the same day. The next-to-last one with the falling snow was taken from my bathroom window, and the one with the icicles shows the cherry tree outside my other kitchen window (the one where I feed the birds, as I showed you the other day).

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Read in 2013 - 4: Ludwigsburger Welt

A non-fiction book about my home town of Ludwigsburg, this was one pleasant and very interesting read for me.

The full title reads "Ludwigsburger Welt der 50er und 60er Jahre", meaning "Ludwigsburg's world of the 50s and 60s". The author, Dr. Volker Gantner, talks about his memories of Ludwigsburg from his childhood and youth during those two decades. A lot of what he mentions in the book is familiar to me from what I've been told by my parents; they are the same generation as Dr. Gantner, and that is why his book made a perfect Christmas present for my Dad from my sister.

There are photos, too; I am sure both my parents looked at them and knew exactly what it was like back then!

You find me talking about Ludwigsburg rather often on my blog; for instance, I showed you what my home town looks like from above here, gave you some glimpses of details that are often overlooked here and took you for a walk in the park here.
All this shows, I hope, that I love my town and like living here. It is no wonder, therefore, that I enjoyed reading about Ludwigsburg's more recent history; the 1950s and 60s are not that far away, and yet, how much has changed since then!

We are now a town of almost 88.000 inhabitants (just the right size for me); not everything that has been done to modernise the place has resulted in making it a "better" or more beautiful place. But it is very much "my" town, I was born and (mostly) raised here, and I like exploring its past and making the connection with its present.

Actually, this post is supposed to be a book review, and if you have been reading my blog for a while, you already know that I tend to be rather picky about mistakes, typesetting errors or the author's style. The author of this book is clearly not a professional writer (nor does he claim to be), but simply wants to give an account of what his childhood and youth were like in relation to this town. Therefore, I can forgive him the lengthy sentences with way too many commata, and the at times rather repetitive style. It was a good read, and I wouldn't have minded for the book to be a few chapters longer! 
If I were asked to give a ranking, I'd say four out of five stars.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Better Late Than Never... my motto for this post, which was supposed to be up and ready last Saturday in time for Vicki's "Grow Your Blog" party.
However, I had a house guest for four days and did not want to be so impolite as to retreat to my computer, leaving my guest to his own devices. Thankfully, Vicki has allowed me to still participate, and here it is, my contribution to "Grow Your Blog":

Still relatively new in Blogland (I started in March 2009), I soon realized that I had found THE literary genre for myself.
Lacking the stamina for a novel (a draft has been in my head for at least 20 years) and the necessary time and funding for a non-fiction work, but feeling an essential need for writing, there is nothing that fits the bill (for me) as well as blogging. Here, I can go on about whatever I have in mind, for as long or as short as I want to. I can show my readers pictures, share recipes, voice my opinion about any subject under the sun, write book reviews and publish my own short stories, all of which I have done in the past and hopefully will keep doing.

My readers are very important to me, and I appreciate each and every comment. At currently 94 followers (one of which is myself - something I don't think should be technically possible, but there you go!), I know that there are huge numbers of other bloggers out there with a really impressive list of followers, but what matters for me is that I am able to keep in touch with those select few who seem to like returning to my blog, and have something interesting, funny or encouraging to say.

Where does it all happen?

My personal computer is in my bedroom, and it is mostly here where I read other blogs and write my own, and also where I play my favourite computer games, The Sims 2 and The Sims 3.

Originally, I was trained as a library assistant many moons ago. My love of books is not quite as evident in my flat as it could be; I have downsized considerably when I moved here in October 2003, and nowadays mainly get my reading on my kindle, lacking both the money and the space for buying as many books as I'd like to.

Here is a closer look at my book shelf:

On the lowest level are old childhood friends such as the Narnia books, and several photo albums.
The 2nd level from the bottom contains my collection of space and space-travel related books, as well as some works about and by Wernher von Braun.
Then comes a shelf filled with the "Insel" (German for island) series, which I used to collect when I was younger. A lot of those are ex-library books that were about to be thrown away.
Above those, another level full of childhood friends, namely by Edith Nesbit and Astrid Lindgren, two authors whose influence on children's literature in general and my childhood in particular was and still is tangible.
Next is my M.C. Beaton shelf. Yes, I know - this is not for the high-brow literature lover, but these are books I enjoy, and I keep getting more and more from my mum, and also from my mother-in-law in the birthday and Christmas parcels she sends from England.
Most of you will instantly recognize the colourful backs of the Harry Potter books on the top shelf, and above that, all the large-format books which you sometimes find classified as coffee table books.

A lot of my reading happens here:

This old armchair was part of my grandparents' living room furniture, and it is so comfortable that I spend many of my lunch breaks there, when I am not going out for lunch.
The armchair even has its own blog entry!

The recipes you will occasionally find on my blog have been tried, tested and photographed here:

And one of the very first blog entries I ever published was about this little old lady:

Pukky died last year in March; she was frail and had a heart condition, but for 10 years, she had a good and happy life with me. If you go through my blog and pick the occasional recipe or an entry under "Daily Life", you will see more of her.

And if you want to see the Librarian Herself, all you have to do is check out "Fashion For The Shallow-Minded".

Once again, thank you, Vicki, for giving me and so many other bloggers the possibility to tell others about our blogs, and gain new readers, while at the same time find more blogs to follow in return!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Guest Post: The Medieval Beauty of Fountains Abbey

This is the second time Angela Harpert is responsible for a guest post on my blog; you can read her first one here
Her offer came at the perfect moment, since I had a house guest for four days and did not want to leave them to their own devices and retreat to my computer for blogging. I chose the topic, because Fountains Abbey is a place I like very much and make sure to visit every time I am in Ripon to see my relatives. 

Last year in May, I wrote about Fountains Abbey here; there are also plenty of pictures with that post. The picture on this post "...has been bought from shutterstock so be rest assured that no copyright restrictions will occur.
The article is 100 % original and has been written exclusively for your blog so I hope it is informative reading to your audience", Angela wrote.

She has also asked me to include this short bio of herself:
(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.)
This material has been a guest post by Angela Harpert- an adventurer and seeker of inspiration who finds beauty and uniqueness in every new place she explores. For more information visit :

The Medieval Beauty of Fountains Abbey

In 1132 after a riot thirteen Benedictine monks were expelled from St. Mary's Abbey in York and taken under the protection of Thurstan, the Archbishop of York. After many ups and downs they managed to join the Cistercian Order and they were given land on which to survive. For the next ten years the monks here lived in wooden buildings in accordance to the traditions and tenets of their new order, however they eventually began slowly building up what we know today as Fountains Abbey. Albeit only a shadow of its former beauty one can still see the efforts that went into the construction of the abbey as well as the surrounding buildings. If you're visiting Yorkshire this is an excellent place to relax and behold the local history.

The abbey itself is a gorgeous place and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The local countryside is especially beautiful in springtime and the ruins themselves have become part of it. You can simply stand and contemplate the old buildings while enjoying one of the most serene places around Britain. Nowadays Fountains Abbey is under the supervision of English Heritage which have done an admirable job at keeping the area well-preserved and protected.

When you visit the ruins of the abbey you should visit the Porter's Lodge exhibition so you'll have a chance to find out more about its inhabitants and the history of the area. The architecture of the abbey's ruins are simply breathtaking as you can almost feel what it was to be a monk here, living a quiet life away from the world's troubles in this nice and serene place. The haunting beauty of this place has attracted many artists as it captures the imagination. It has served as the set for a number of films throughout the years precisely because of its impressive looks.

While you're here don't miss the chance to take a walk around the Studley Royal Water Garden. You will have an unforgettable experience spent on the shores of the beautiful pond. The garden was made according to the plans made by John Aislabie who bought the abbey while he was creating his garden inspired by the works of French landscaping. Not much has changed in the way the garden looks even after more than two hundred years after its construction as you will see for yourself if you visit this masterpiece. The graceful swans frequenting the water here will be a sight to see for all who love birds as well as the numerous deer living in the area as well.

The abbey has a nice tea room where you can enjoy a decent breakfast and lovely, delicious homemade cakes, ice creams and a much more. Lunches are also available with traditional English recipes served daily from 12 PM to 2:30 PM for visitors and guests. You can enjoy a nice variety of lunches most of which don't accommodate vegetarians and vegans however. If you have any special requirements for food you can let them know however and they will do whatever they can to suit your needs.

Don't miss the guided tours offered here every so often – the most recent ones at this point are between the 12th of January and the 24th of February. You will have a chance to find out more about the history of the abbey and the monks who lived here as well as some interesting stories. Apart from those the local area offers much in terms of cycling and walking opportunities for those who love the outdoors as well as a chance to enjoy a truly wonderful picnic.

- - - End of guest post - - -

Some time this year, probably in late spring or early summer, I'll be going to Yorkshire again. And I am pretty sure I will once again walk from Ripon to the Abbey, enjoying the wide open spaces and the peaceful atmosphere (and then some chocolate cake at the tea room!). 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Read in 2013 - 3: Educating Jack

The last one (so far) in Jack Sheffield's series about his life as the headteacher of a village school in North Yorkshire, book # 6 is "Educating Jack".

The academic year 1982-1983 provides the framework for all the various strands of stories; there is, once again, a lot of humour in the book and a lot to trigger the memory:
"Fame" was in the cinemas and caused a general trend for legwarmers, the pound note was replaced by the pound coin, the first mobile phones were introduced, compact discs started to appear on the scene, and a jar of Nescafé was 96p.
Of course, at the beginning of the book, it is revealed who was victim of the accident that so dramatically ended the previous book. And at the end of this one, a life-changing event takes place in Jack's life.

I enjoyed this one for its familiarity - the same characters plus some new ones, in the same surroundings; people get older, take on new jobs, move house, fall in love and have anniversaries, children grow, make new friends and learn a lot, both in the classroom and out.
This time, there were a few more of the small errors/inaccuracies that should have been eliminated by good editing. Did I just not notice them in the previous books, or has the editing become sloppier for want of faster publishing?

Here are some examples:
Friday, 17 September 1982 starts with Vera (the school secretary) taking out her baking dish and recipe book in her kitchen to make an apple cake. She writes a list of ingredients needed from the village store... and leaves. The baking is never done, and next time we see Vera, she's already at the school office.
Vera is also involved in the next error: Chapter Eight starts with her and her brother setting off on Friday, 17 December " their little white Austin A40 for the last day of term...". And how does Chapter Nine start? "It was Tuesday, 21 December, the last day of the autumn term...". Now, which one was the last day of term? Friday or Tuesday?

Then there's the issue of a few less-than-well formulated sentences. Once again, I am probably just being overly picky, but I think Jack Sheffield can do better than this:
"... Petula Dudley-Palmer, complete with a green leotard and matching headband, had just completed her morning workout...", and later on in the book, a herd of Friesian cattle are "contentedly chewing grass to their hearts' content".

The humour in the book made up for those, though, and although some of the jokes are probably considered rather "old", they still made me laugh:
Henry Fodder, recently retired Canon Emeritus from York Minster [...] had come to live in the village. [...] he had not been blessed with a sense of humour, which would have been useful, particularly when you were addressed as Canon Fodder.

Deke Ramsbottom [...] had just completed the repair of the weather cock [...]. Emily Cade was passing by, pushing her elderly mother, Ada, in her wheelchair. In a loud voice Ada shouted, "Isn't it nice to see the cock upright again, vicar?" and Emily, red-faced, hurried on.

In the window of her hair salon, Diane Wigglesworth was putting up a photograph of Joan Collins next to one of Kevin Keegan, as both were sporting the same hairstyle.
So, all things considered, I am looking forward to reading the first three books in the series once my mother-in-law swaps with me. And as far as I know, book # 7 will be out some time this year.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Just a Quick One

Just a very quick early morning greeting with a picture taken yesterday through my other kitchen window (not the one where I so often show you what the view from it looks like) while I was waiting for the kettle to boil:

I had put a handful of muesli out on the window sill, and it was soon discovered by the birds living in the trees around the house. Very politely, they took turns and always waited until one of them had finished before the next one went up to have their pick.

Watching them for a few minutes, I could clearly make out several individual birds; no two are really alike in the colouring and pattern of their feathers, even though some of them were of the same kind.

It was very difficult to get a picture, since they tended to flutter away as soon as they noticed me moving in the kitchen, and of course I was working and did not want to wait more than a few minutes. But I got at least this one shot and will try again next time I am home during daylight hours.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Back in Winter Wonderland

It is only January, after all, and so it is hardly surprising that winter has come back after what was - apart from the first week or so - a very mild December with spring-like temperatures and the birds singing as if they were about to start nest-building over the next few days.

Last night, while I was enjoying some excellent food at a relatively posh Italian restaurant with friends, it started to snow. It is still snowing now; not much, but enough for the world outside my kitchen window to look like this:

If you look at the bottom of the large house on the left of the picture, maybe you can make out a row of shrubs forming a short hedge.

These are gorse, I think, and for the past few days they looked beautiful with their yellow flowers, creating a spec of colour while no other flowers were out just yet.

As you can see in the close-up (sorry about the somewhat blurred quality), the gorse is now covered in snow, and I'm afraid all the flowers will die.
But such is nature's way, and all I can do is wrap up warmly before I leave the house, and be glad about the heating system working so well in my comfortable flat.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Read in 2013 - 2: Please Sir!

This is my 2nd read out of Jack Sheffield's series of books, and actually the 5th instalment.
(If you have missed my review of book # 4, which was the 1st book I read, you can do that here.)

"Please, Sir!" starts where "VillageTeacher" left off, just after the summer holidays in 1981, and I enjoyed it just as much. 

Again, the author manages to combine the (relatively) slow and peaceful pace of village life with the historic events and changes of the time. Rubik's cube was selling like there was no tomorrow, girls modelled their looks on Toyah Wilcox, a few daring young men began to wear black eyeliner, and the Falklands War was on the horizon.

In the previous book, the future of Jack and his fiancée Beth looks uncertain - and I must admit there were times when I really thought they would soon be going seperate ways, and I would have been happy for Jack. This part of the story is wrapped up now, but I won't tell you how.

Two recipes are part of the book, one is for bread and the other for bread pudding.
They both sound rather rustic, but probably well worth a try. These recipes do come as part of different chapters about lessons for the children at school. The bread is prepared by two brothers in their 80s, and the bread pudding by an elderly lady. Along with their recipes, these characters share part of their life stories with the staff and the children, and I can easily imagine that Jack Sheffield really knew these people (under different names, of course).

Seems like I find one little blunder in each book; last time, it was the "sparkling" pearls, and this time, I found a small inconsistency here:
Gentle rain was sweeping over from the Hambleton hills, but it was a quiet rain. Droplets caressed the bare branches of the avenue of horse-chestnut trees at the front of this lovely old school and I recalled the first time I had sat at my headteacher's desk.
Then, a few pages further on and still on the same day, said bare branches of the same trees seem to have suddenly acquired new leaves and the weather has undergone a rapid change:
Bordering the front of the school was a row of tall horse-chestnut trees, heavy in leaf and spiky fruit, and I stood under the welcome shade and watched the village come to life.
I guess I should not take too much notice of such detail, but it matters to me. Thankfully, throughout the book, everything else (all that matters to the story, anyway) seems to be right.

The book ends on a dramatic note that made me eager to start on the next one in the series: A car crash, and the reader does not know who the victim is, whether they have survived or how badly they are injured - all we get is this:
Jo replaced the receiver as if in a dream. "It was Dan," she said quietly. [...] "There's been an accident... water on the road... a lorry skidded... two cars are involved."
"Is anyone hurt?" asked Sally.
Jo took a deep breath, as if searching for the words, and stared at us for what seemed like an eternity. "Yes," she said simply. [...]
And in a heartbeat our lives had changed for ever.
Quite the cliffhanger, isn't it!

Saturday, 5 January 2013


That I changed jobs last year, starting in December to become a consultant for data protection and IT security, is old news already.
My first three weeks on the job went very well; then, there was the break for Christmas and New Year, and on Monday, both RJ and I will be back at our customer's again. We are looking forward to that, and for me, it will mean wrapping up the project I worked on all of December.

Shortly before Christmas, I went to stock up on my business clothes and brought six tops (four shirts/blouses, one jumper and one long-sleeved t-shirt) home from H&M.

They will come in very handy with my business wardrobe:

The shirts are all the same style; I bought them in white, black, light blue and pink with a white stripe.

The blue one is a perfect match with this suit, I think.

The pink-white striped shirt fits underneath my bouclé dress.

The brown light-weight jumper goes well with this suit.

And the brown-grey long-sleeved t-shirt is just right for wearing underneath my "Librarian" dress.

Well, looks like I'm all ready for Monday!
But before that, there'll be some dancing to do tonight :-)

By the way, I spent just under 80 Euros for all six pieces together... I do like H&M, I really do!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Read in 2013 - 1: Village Teacher

My Christmas parcel from England contained three books this year, all by Jack Sheffield, and all part of his series about a village school in North Yorkshire during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Mary, my mother-in-law, bought the (so far) six books that make up the series; she kept books 1, 2 and 3 and sent me # 4, 5 and 6 with the intention of swapping them round once we've read our half.

I finished # 4, "Village Teacher", last night. Good job one can enjoy it without having read the first three! And enjoy it I did:
Not only because I know many of the places mentioned in the book (Ripon, Harrogate, York, Leeds and some more), but I also remember that time from my own childhood and early teenage years quite well. Of course, some things were a bit different in Germany, but we, too, had the first Sony walkmans; computers and electronic typewriters were making their way into most offices; people were watching "Dallas" on TV, and many here were avidly following the newspaper stories about Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and were part of the 700 million viewers watching the live broadcast of their wedding on the 29th of July in 1981.

Jack Sheffield's writing style is simple enough to befit the kind, simple rhythm of village life (which is, by no means, always kind and simple, but can turn rather complex!); it makes for pleasant and relaxing reading but is not without a bit of drama and suspense. 
In this story, village schools are undergoing evaluation, and some will be closed. Right until the end of the book, the reader does not know whether Jack's school is facing closure or not. His professional future being uncertain reflects on his private life as well; while at the start of the book, Jack is very much in love with his fiancée and very certain about their future together, things start to change in the course of the year, and more than once I expected the next chapter to bring about a serious conversation between the couple. But the book ends without Jack's dilemma being solved, making one eager to read the next instalment.
There were only one or two bits that weren't quite right, but they didn't take away from the overall pleasant reading experience. One example is this:
I looked up and there on the first floor, leaning over a wrought-iron Juliet balcony, was an aristocratic lady with grey hair tied in a neat bun, a warm cardigan covering a smart cream blouse, a calf-length tweed skirt, thick stockings and smart leather brogue shoes. The string of pearls around her neck sparkled in the bright sunshine.
Well, call me picky if you like, but pearls never sparkle - diamonds do, yes, but pearls shimmer, or maybe they gleam or glow; anyway, they do definitely not sparkle. As I said, though, such minor stuff does not occur often enough in the book to diminuish the pleasure of reading along as the village and its school go through their year, with Christmas, Easter, a pancake race and many other events that make up village life on top of the daily goings-on.

The author clearly knows what he is writing about: he used to work as head teacher of village schools himself, and the books are based on his own experiences, although set in a fictious village and with fictious characters. You can find out more on his website.

I am definitely going to read books # 5 and 6 next - I want to know what happens to Jack and Beth, and to the school!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

2012 - A Review

Oh no - not another one, I hear you groan. Yes, there have doubtlessly been too many reviews of 2012 and previews for 2013 on telly, in papers and magazines, and of course, we of the blogging folk are not immune to them.
Still, I am going to do one now, and if you're sick and tired of anything that reads "...of the year" (such as "Actor of the Year", "Sportsman of the Year", "Most Tragic Event of the Year", "Game of the Year" or "Funniest Joke of the Year"), I promise there won't be any of that in my review.
Instead, I am using this post on Kristi's blog as an inspiration, plus adding my own bit to it.
For every month, you'll see the first sentence of the first blog post of that month, plus a picture of my diary with the first week of each month.
(Of course, a month does not only consist of its first week, and if you want to find out more, you can always read the post full length by going through the blog archive to the left of the page.)

Ready? Here goes:

Four Days Ago... was the last day of 2011, and I was getting ready for New Year's Eve.
The month started with a very quiet week; I did not work again until the 9th. RJ spent the first part of the week with me. We played Monopoly (I have a Star Trek edition, complete with tiny figures of the main characters from "The Next Generation"), I had physiotherapy twice that week, went to the gym twice, for a walk with my sister, did my groceries shopping - you get the idea, nothing out of the ordinary.

Today, I have something special to report: I (or, rather, my blog) has been featured!!!

Strictly speaking, the highlight of that week was still in January and not in February: my Dad's 70th birthy on the 31st. What you see on the right of the diary page is the invitation to the party (of course I didn't need one, being family, but it was still nice to have one!). The picture on the invitation is a print-out of a drawing a friendly soldier made on the train in 1942 when my Dad was a newborn baby and his mother was travelling with him through war-torn Germany. It shows a train with a pram in the middle as one of the waggons, and bears the headline "Wolfgang's erste Eisenbahnfahrt" (meaning "Wolfgang's first train trip"). I find it quite touching that this piece of family history still exists - how easy it would have been to lose it, misplace it, or just chuck it out.

I spent one day of that week at the office, 2 1/2 hours by train from my home. I wrote "Chaos!" there, and remember that there was something going on with the trains, and it resulted in me arriving at the office over an hour later than planned. The crossed-out stuff you see on each working day are the names of customers I had planned ahead to ring, and crossed them out after I'd made the call.

A week ago, I was physically and mentally desperate to get OUT after not only a whole week spent mostly indoors but what felt like months and months of inclement weather that made it necessary to prepare for even the shortest venturing out of the front door as if it was a polar expedition.

Joy and grief were closely together for me during the first week of March: My poor little old Pukky died mid-week, and on Saturday night, RJ and I went to my first (and, so far, only) ball. Also, on the Monday of that week, I received news that someone I consider to be one of my closest and dearest friends was in hospital for something that could have very well meant the end of his life (thankfully, it didn't!).

All of this week, we've had sunshine and temperatures up to 20 Celsius (68 F) - in other words, wonderful spring weather.

On Tuesday (after another day at the office, this time with smooth travelling), my team and I came 2nd in the Pub Quiz. The weekend saw RJ giving me a dance lesson in my living room on Saturday (we had wanted to go dancing, but the place where we usually go to was closed), and Sunday for an Easter family gathering at my parents'.

The daftest thing happened - and I do fully well understand now how John and Graham get so fed up with blogger sometimes.

With my sister, I spent the week in Ripon (Yorkshire), visiting family and getting to see many beautiful and interesting places. It was freezingly cold, but we still had a great time.

Yes, that's it, the last post about our week in Yorkshire.

The first week of June saw me travelling again, this time to Lake Garda in Italy with RJ.
This post is going to be rambling style, taking a leaf out of Scriptor Senex's book, so to speak; if you have not yet been to his blog, please make sure you go there, and I am quite certain you will not regret it.
A rather typical week for me: I worked, went to the gym, went running, dyed my hair, had lunch at my parents', went dancing with RJ Saturday night and had great fun earlier the same day playing adventure golf together.

Does it sometimes happen to you that you start reading something and never finish it, because you are too bored or the style is too awful (or for some other reason)?

It was once again time to dye my hair, to work, go to the gym, do some running, have lunch at my parents', and travel: to France this time, where my sister and I were to meet up with our friends from Australia.

Before August came to an end, my Mum and I did what we so enjoy doing and went on our favourite walk together, just like we have done in 2011 (you can join us on that walk here) and in 2010.

A busy week with a lot of work, sports, an appointment at the hairdresser's, RJ staying over (and cooking dinner while I was out running) and, on the Saturday, the book sale.

Something I had not eaten in... oh, at least ten years: Polenta.

A decisive moment during that week was when I handed in my notice with the former company during a visit from my boss. Apart from that, I went to the gym twice, to the post office three times (you can tell I was doing some stuff on ebay at that time!), and to my parents for lunch. Sadly, RJ's grandmother died that week, resulting in a change of plans to our weekend.

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. 

RJ and I spend a lot of time together that week. We attended a privately hosted première of the latest Bond film, went for dinner at a Turkish restaurant and had plenty of fun on the dance floor on Saturday night. After a late and lazy start on Sunday, RJ worked (with me helping a little bit) until 11 pm.

With these two finds of free ebooks on Amazon's Kindle store I was really lucky - they were both very good reads, and I am glad the author, Tamara Hart Heiner, did not stop writing after "Perilous" but instead wrote a sequel, "Altercation".

The first week of December was also the first week on the new job. On Tuesday night, my Mum, my sister and I took a course in making your own pralinés. Friday was a day spent working from home, with an routine check-up appointment at my doctor's in the morning and a massage appointment in the evening. I went visiting RJ on the Sunday.

Well, that was my little review of 2012, based on my blog and my diary.
If you are still awake and have not yet fallen asleep out of boredom, I hope you'll keep reading what I'll post here over the next 12 months - right now, I know no more about what it is going to be than you do :-)