Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I've been wondering the last couple of days why it is I find it so difficult to keep up momentum on doing anything. All in all, the year has started off alright and slowly but surely I've been keeping up with and implementing some things that I really want to do. Normally, those small successes reinforce the desire to keep doing them, since feeling good feels, well, good. And yet I struggled somewhat at the weekend, yesterday was a mixed bag of just doing things and struggling. Today feels like it has been an exhausting struggle and even the fact that I've just had some of my homemade chicken and vegetable soup for dinner isn't feeling like any kind of a success at all.

I'm going to head to bed shortly and maybe read a few pages of something before sleeping. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. On the surface, there isn't much actually wrong. I'm beginning to suspect that I've just reached a place where dealing with the next level of issues is possible and so things are coming to the fore in my mind, even if they're still mostly in my sub-conscious and even if otherwise life is pretty good. I've been buying frozen fruit and making a smoothie to bring to work every day. This has meant that I've eaten almost no sweet things at work at all. That is huge for me. And I've been eating a lot of soup as well. So my intake of fruit and veg is way up and if most of it is in liquid form, that's actually suiting me at the moment. I almost feel like my digestive system has recovered from the excesses of December. Next week I'm going to start a few weeks of the blood-sugar diet and I'm looking forward to it and hoping I'll feel as good doing it as I did last year.

I even got some walking in over the weekend. The women's march in Heidelberg might have been a slow walk through town but it did mean that when it was over, I had to walk right back to the other side of town again. And I actually walked a bit further and crossed the bridge towards the tramstop before the very busy one in the centre of town. Then on Sunday it was back into town and a brisk walk to the church where my choir was singing. I didn't sing with them this time but went in to help out on the door and listen afterwards. Then I helped with dismantling the stage and rearranging chairs again and walked back down the town. I actually used my app that time and was surprised to see that it's just over 1km from that church to the centre - it feels like longer. Heidelberg, like many valley towns, always feels very long and getting anywhere seems to involve walking along the very long main street (or one of the parallel streets, which I have been trying to do recently in an effort to avoid crowds and get to know the town a bit better). The main street is 1.8km long in total, so it's not the shortest street I've ever know by any means. I just looked that up to be able to put a figure on it and will believe what Wikipedia says. Also interesting to note that the street was first built in 1220 (not quite as long as today thought) and although it has seen some changes, it still follows the same path. I've only ever known it in its current incarnation as a pedestrian zone (which it became in 1978). It's hard to believe it used to have cars and two-way tramlines on it all the time.

So, I've walked a bit. And my knees are only starting to hurt a little bit so I think if I go easy for the rest of the week, maybe I'll be able to go for a longer walk at the weekend. And I'm eating pretty well. I'm even studying a bit, as I started a five-week online course. And yet...things just feel like a struggle. The unrelenting, unremitting task that is life just keeps on going and that is just how I seem to feel at the moment. Here's hoping it won't take too long before life doesn't feel like so much of a task again. At this stage, I'd settle for this stupid coldsore going away. I think that may be what's bothering me more than anything really!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday 15th January 2017

It's too early to say that the dark days of winter are behind us but, after someone else commented on it a couple of weeks ago, I have to admit to having taken to checking the sunset and sunrise times on a weather app I have on my phone on an almost daily basis. It is definitely helping me to know there is a minute or so more daylight today than a few days ago, for example. Even if you can't really see the difference. Still, we are almost up to five o'clock before the sun sets and I think it is also helping me to remember to look out the window and enjoy the sunset - I have a tendency to be so firmly in my little world of hibernation that I nearly forget that it isn't actually just permanently dark out. And today's sunset was really beautiful.

This evening I am:
Course materials for an online course I've started. I actually signed up for this a few months ago but missed the starting few days for one reason and another and decided to give up before I even started and just wait for the next time round. It started again last week and so I've spent some time going through the introductory module yesterday and today and now am reading some of the extra materials they linked to. It's all about sustainability and the green economy and so far it's very interesting. The book I'm reading at the moment is one a friend bought for me recently by Jonathan Bardon. It's called Hallelujah, the story of a musical genius and the city that brought his masterpiece to life. As you might imagine, it's about Handel and the premiere of Messiah in Dublin and I'm really enjoying it. Especially as it'll only be another few weeks before I head off to sing Messiah in Halle again.
Listening to
When I haven't been listening to lecture videos for my course I've had Beethoven on in the background (5th and 6th Symphonies in case anyone was wondering).
I finished rewatching Jericho yesterday and really enjoyed that as I realised that I never got to see the last three episodes before. It has made me want to re-read Dies the Fire again, too. And maybe World Made by Hand as well. I'm planning on watching a film this evening but haven't decided what yet.
I made a huge pot of vegetable soup earlier, so I'll have some of that for dinner. I also made and tried chia pudding for the first time today. Well, I say made but really I just put some chia seeds into a cup of milk and left them in the fridge overnight and had that for breakfast this morning. Wasn't a huge fan of it. I think I'll try just adding a few to smoothies instead.
Happy I accomplished this week
I got my bullet journal started and have even made some progress on getting some things on my to-do list done. In order to do one of those things I cleared a space in the kitchen that became a kind of dumping ground just after I moved in. Once I had that cleared I could move the stuff that was stacked on the floor. Baby steps but sometimes I need to live with a mess for quite a while before I change it. And having lived with the mess I really appreciate the new non-mess an awful lot. I also brought back some DVDs to the library on time and handed over the book that I bought for them. They have a great scheme coming up to christmas where they put up a huge poster with details of books they'd like to have and you can tear off the little tag with the details and buy the book for them. You get a donation certificate from the town hall for your tax return and a small-town library gets to improve their selection of books a little. And I'm very happy that I've managed to keep on top of the washing-up again this week. I may leave things lying but it all gets done and cleared at least once a day.
Looking forward to next week
There's a lecture on in the university tomorrow evening that I'm going to try and get to. It's about citizen's rights for minorities in Europe so should be interesting. And next Saturday I'm going to join the Heidelberg version of the global women's march. Is anyone else joining in their local march?
Thinking of good things that happened this week
It snowed on Friday evening and night and things looked picture pretty. And then it had mostly melted from the streets and paths by morning, leaving just the pretty to look at white on the distant hills and on rooftops, while allowing everyone to walk around normally without slipping or sliding. And I had some good chats with my boss on a few different topics. We also got the paperwork started for extending my hours to 30 per week from April.
Grateful for
The fact that even though we might be close to the edge, the apocalypse hasn't actually happened yet and I get to live my life in warmth and relative security. Also, chocolate. I don't think there's ever really a week where I'm not grateful for chocolate. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Another recipe attempt and some brain unloading

Recipe first. This involves the pork fillet that I bought at the beginning of December and have had in the freezer. Inspired by Two and a Half Men's recent post and feeling like there's a good joke about how their loin was bigger than mine but not finding it, I decided to try to do something with it. I don't have a meat thermometer though and wasn't going to be able to use that method of timing the cooking. So I read through a couple of books, thinking I might do it in the slow cooker but rejected that in favour of amalgamating a few things from a few different places, memory included. And I've added meat thermometer to the list of things I need to buy.

So, I've lined a dish with some tinfoil, oiled it with a small amount of olive oil and put a good layer of sliced apples on the bottom (two fairly big Boskoop apples). I chopped and fried and onion in some butter and sprinkled that on top of the apple, adding five cloves of garlic that I roasted yesterday but didn't finish eating with the rest of the veg. Waste not, want not. Then I poured some olive oil into one of my little yellow bowls (probably about a tablespoon, maybe a bit less) and added herbes de provence, probably about the same amount. I rubbed that all over the pork and laid the pork on top of the apples, onion and garlic. I poured about a mugful of water over the apples and then wrapped the tinfoil loosely over the whole lot. Well, tightly sealed but not tightly packed, if you know what I mean. It has been in the oven at 190C for twenty minutes and I think I'll check it in ten minutes or so.

Since the oven was on anyway, I also roasted 200g of unblanched almonds for ten minutes. I bought a kilo of almonds months ago to try making almond butter and have slowly but surely been eating them but never actually making almond butter. Really want to try it out once and for all. Not least because it's one of the ingredients in these genious ginger cakes and they sound delicious.

Otherwise, I just really wanted to post something. I miss blogging (I first of all wrote writing there but that's not entirely accurate) and amn't sure why I've been so sporadic in doing it recently. I don't quite feel up to any kind of every-day-challenge but I want to try and make a bit of an effort to do things I enjoy more.

I had a very lazy break over the holidays and have done exactly the same this weekend, including on the bank holiday on Friday. It's a bit funny really. It's not the kind of lazy lying around that is just being lazy. I really feel like I need it to unwind. Even though it seems like there are probably better, more active ways to unwind. When I finished work just over a year ago I spent weeks not doing much  and wouldn't have done anything at all except that I had to (sorting out stuff with social welfare, tax office, and doing translation work that came in). It was March before I really started to feel like I was getting over work and starting to actually do something every day, like going for long walks and really looking for a new job. It almost feels like I found a job too soon now. I could have used another four or five months I think. Recovering from overwork and chronic overstress takes a long time. And having to go through an extremely stressful time like I had during the move just took so much out of me. If I hadn't had those few months inbetween, I don't think I would've managed it.

It was my guest from hell in July that really threw me for a loop and, since that visit was unfortunately timed for just before a really busy period in my new job, it took me a few months to get over it, even as I tried to really, consciously, fight it and not just let myself be dragged back down into a hole of depression. It's hard to explain really. I suppose the analogy of a piece of elastic fits to a certain extent. After years and years of being stretched too far, I just can't bounce back to where I was before. And I have less stretch in me now, too. My head is, for the most part, however, pretty clear. It's not quite the same overwhelming, grey cover on my brain feeling of depression - so I'm hopeful that I really have made strides forward and am now getting to a stage of needing to just look after myself a bit, cherish myself a bit and allow myself the time and space to realise and accept that in between depression, long-term overwork and stress, and being able to lead a more normal life, there's a whole lot of space and I can't just go from one to the other. I have to keep focusing on the amazing and positive changes I have made in my life in the past year and keep moving in that direction. Even if I'm not there yet, I'm much closer than I used to be so even though it feels like I'm letting time just slip past me, I need to be kind to myself and give myself this time that I obviously still so desperately need.

Monday, January 02, 2017

2016 year in books - the stats

A summary of what I read last year - see the same thing for 2015 here, 2014 here, 2013 here2012 here and 2011 here.

  • Books by male authors:21
  • Books by female authors:40 (15 of those were the "research" romances)
  • Fiction: 54
  • Non-fiction: 7
  • English books:71
  • German books: 0
  • Books re-read:22
  • Book club books:2

Fiona asked me in a comment on the previous post whether or not I used an app to keep track and I thought I'd just add in a bit about what I do here. Although it seems like the answer to anything you might possibly want to do is "there's an app for that", I really do just work better with pen and paper. The first year I did one of these lists, I cobbled it together from what I remembered, receipts from the library or from Amazon, emails arranging book club and so on. Nikki from bookpunks/clickclackgorilla mentioned that she kept a note in the back of her diary and since I thought that sounded like a good way to do it, I started doing that and have kept it up ever since. Like so:

It's nice to have it in the diary for each year, even if the only other things in the diary are appointments. I do still hang on to them and it's nice to look back. I'm just about to run out of space in the one box that I have designated for this purpose though, so will need to make a decision about whether or not to get rid of the earliest ones.

I did join goodreads when that came out but I'm not great at updating it and, after a few months of spending hours trying to add all the books I have ever read (an impossible task), I now mostly use it for making a note of books other people mention and that I might like to read sometime. Although I use an amazon wishlist for that, too, so I'm a bit all over the place really. Which proves yet again that if I want to actually do something, pen and paper will usually work better for me!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

2016 - the year in books

Still not posting a lot and living in my head a little bit too much, but it all feels right at the moment so I'm just going with it. Couldn't miss out on posting a list of books, though, even if it feels like 2016 has definitely been another lacklustre year for reading. With the stress of the move, however, I actually spend long periods of time essentially reading nothing at all. I should get myself some books of short stories for periods like that in the future. For times when I had a bit more time again but still not much in the way of mental capacity to take in anything new, I did a lot of re-reading in 2016.

Looking back at the new books on this list it really was all pretty forgettable. The stand-out was definitely Radical Homemakers. I had heard so many people raving about this book that I nearly didn't get it. So often when that happens, even if it's a good book, it just can't measure up to the hype. I may not agree with absolutely everything in it (mostly stemming from growing up in a more socialist than purely capitalist environment, I think) but I've marked about a gazillion pages to take notes from and just have to go ahead and join all of those who have raved about this book. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. I'll be re-reading it in 2017 and trying to get some of my reactions down on paper.

I didn't manage to read even a single German book, although I did start one which I will finish soon (had to bring it back to the library before I was finished). Like last year, I also read quite a lot of romance novels - all part of the research/procrastination process as preparation for writing my own. I did actually write a few pages this year so there will be even more reading of romance novels in 2017 and hopefully a whole lot more writing, too. Just need to find some more euphemisms for penis, 'cos the internet is full of slang terms for penis but not so much euphemisms and there's only so many times you can say throbbing member.

If you're interested in seeing lists for previous years, click 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 or 2010. I haven't yet seen a bloghop-type thing started on bookpunks this year but if you're posting a list of books that you've read this year, or about your favourite book or similar, feel free to comment here. I love books and I love lists so the more the merrier.

(BC) = Book club books (barely got book club restarted in 2016 before I ended up moving away)
(RR) = something I've re-read - there are some books, such as by Georgette Heyer, that I invariably read every year when the escapism of new fiction isn't enough and I want to escape into familiar stories that always make me laugh or cry.

  1. Having the Cowboy's Baby - Judy Duarte
  2. How to Build a Girl - Caitlin Moran
  3. No Dress Rehearsal - Marian Keyes
  4. Seedless in Seattle - Ross O'Carroll Kelly as told to Paul Howard
  5. The Husband She'd Never Met - Barbara Hannay
  6. The Widow's Bachelor Bargain - Teresa Southwick
  7. Unlocking Her Boss's Heart - Christy McKellan
  8. This year it will be different - Maeve Binchy
  9. If you could see me now - Cecelia Ahern
  10. Steelheart - Brandon Sanderson
  11. The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson
  12. Tickling the English - Dara O'Briain
  13. Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson
  14. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand - Helen Simonson
  15. We are all completely beside ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler (BC)
  16. Firefight - Brandon Sanderson
  17. The 8-week blood sugar diet - Michael Mosley
  18. Out of the shelter - David Lodge
  19. Calamity - Brandon Sanderson
  20. Burial Rites - Hannah Kent (BC)
  21. Cooked - Michael Pollan
  22. A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin (RR)
  23. A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin (RR)
  24. A Storm of Swords Part 1, Steel & Snow - George R.R. Martin (RR)
  25. A Storm of Swords Part 2, Blood & Gold - George R.R. Martin (RR)
  26. A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin (RR)
  27. A Dance with Dragons Part 1, Dreams & Dust - George R.R. Martin (RR)
  28. A Dance with Dragons Part 2, After the Feast - George R.R. Martin (RR)
  29. Cinderella on his Doorstep - Rebecca Waters
  30. Mr. Right, Next Door! - Barbara Wallace
  31. Soldier on her Doorstep - Soraya Lane
  32. Words of Radiance - Brandon Sanderson
  33. Intense Blue - Lynn Wood
  34. Poison Study - Maria V. Synder
  35. Magic Study - Maria V. Synder
  36. Fire Study - Maria V. Synder
  37. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (RR)
  38. The Kerry Babies Case: A Woman to Blame - Nell McCafferty
  39. Do you know who's dead? - Paddy Duffy
  40. Blink - Malcolm Gladwell
  41. The Rowan - Anne McCaffrey (RR)
  42. Damia - Anne McCaffrey (RR)
  43. Regency Buck - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  44. The Toll-Gate - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  45. The Masqueraders - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  46. Lady of Quality - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  47. Unlocking her Boss's Heart - Christy McKellen (RR)
  48. The Fix-It Man - Vicki Lewis Thompson (RR)
  49. Serendipity - Judith McWilliams (RR)
  50. Hero at Heart - JoAnn Ross (RR)
  51. Bath Tangle - Georgette Heyer (RR)
  52. Radical Homemakers - Shannon Hayes
  53. Thirteen - Kelley Armstrong (RR)
  54. Otherworld Nights - Kelley Armstrong
  55. Otherworld Chills - Kelley Armstrong
  56. Peaches for Monsieur le Cure - Joanne Harris
  57. Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Achidie
  58. Memories of Gold - Ali Olson (RR)
  59. Merely Players - Patricia Thompson
  60. Wild Rose - Betsy Talbot
  61. The One Kingdom - Sean Russell (RR)