June 19: Work and play

I didn’t write the blog yesterday because I was having too much fun! 😉

Work went well, I was there for four hours and played around on the ‘back end’ of the website, learning what does what. I’ll go back again on Monday to learn about the email orders.

Afterwards, Pastora, Iva and I went to Cafe Pyrennes, our favourite bar, and had another excellent afternoon which turned into early evening. Sandra and Kanjana joined us as well, and we saw Marion, who we’d met there a few months ago, and met Werner, who at 70 is still fighting fit and working as a stage designer in European theatres. All very interesting people!

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On the way to the bus. I think that’s potatoes growing?

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So many slugs and snails on the walk!

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Looking back at the steps down to the Dojo. There’s another set this long at the top, to the right. They’d make a good workout

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Recent rain has made the Aare brown again

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Can you see the patterns in these pieces of wood embedded in a fence?

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Iva and Pastora on the footbridge over the Aare

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Sandro with Pastora. I forgot to get a photo with Kanjana, silly me

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Werner, the theatre stage manager/designer

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Pastora and Marion

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Cows on the way home

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Corn and lovely light over Wohlen

Wishing you a wonderful day.

June 4: A bit of everything kind of day

Today was an achieving kind of day. So many lovely things happened.

I received my new second-hand phone in the mail and spent a few hours setting it up (but it still doesn’t seem to be complete). But, wow, does it work faster than the one I was using in the interim, after mine died. While this was loading, I spoke with my sister on the home phone for about 40 minutes. Thanks for calling, Judy!

Then I met my friend Leonie for lunch which is always a good laugh. And then I went grocery shopping, because from Monday next week I start the I Quit Sugar program.

Recently, Leo has mentioned (in a lovely way) my skin has been looking less than glowing, and I’ve also been feeling less than energetic (despite all the garden work). The I Quit Sugar blog and program has been on my radar for a long time – a long time – and until now I’ve never thought it would be beneficial had the nerve to attempt it.

But in the guise of 2015 being the year of fitfor15in15, I thought why not give it a try?! It’s another experiment, and it will be interesting to see if giving up unnatural sugars for eight weeks will make a difference to my energy levels, my moods, my skin and my general well-being.

I have been eating a fair bit of sugar lately (hello M&M Peanuts!), so after years of thinking about it, it’s time to have a go. A few months ago, I did the 5:2 Diet, which was interesting, and I did lose two kilos in that month, but it’s not so much the weight I’m worried about, it’s the sense of feeling good. And I hate counting calories – boring!

So, here’s to the new experiment. If it’s as good as all the testimonials say, then I’m looking forward to jumping out of bed in the morning and not having any afternoon slumps. (Maybe I should put down that phone first thing in the morning too!)

This afternoon, I started filling in all the holes in the lawn, where the weeds used to be. While in the back part of the garden, near the forest, I found this wonderful, small, empty, pale blue and brown speckled bird’s egg. I did an internet search, but am still unsure as to which species it belongs to. Do you know?

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Not the best quality, sorry. Can you identify which bird it comes from?

It was a lovely thing to find, while tipping and patting dirt into holes. I just hope the baby hatched of its own accord, and wasn’t eaten by a falcon! When my back was hurting after an hour of being in the garden, I lay down on the grass, looked up to the clear blue sky, and watched a falcon swirling overhead. They really are magnificent to watch … I just hope that baby bird lives!

When I called it quits in the garden for the day, I had a beer with our neighbour Liliane, sitting back and relaxing and enjoying the wonderful warmth. Alas the Alps were covered in mist and cloud, but it was still so lovely to be soaking up our wonderful surroundings.

And last but not least for today, I’m on a mission to learn new things.

With help and encouragement from Freda, I’ve decided to join the 30-Day Challenge, from zenhabits. Well, I haven’t so much as signed-up on that website, I’m just doing my own thing, so to speak. I like reading Leo Babauta’s blog, it’s one of the minimalism blogs I mentioned here.

My challenge is to learn the names of three to four new plant varieties per day. The goal is to be able to recognise and name more than 100 new plants, which is about 94 more than I currently know.

Freda was quick off the mark to help with yesterday’s post – they are white campunala and pink thrift or sea thrift.

The two new ones for today are the tiny creeping phlox ‘candy stripe’ which I have in a heavy pot as part of a mixed gathering of perennials (its flowering days are just about over for the year), and the tall and hardy crocosmia x crocosmiiflora which is in my little garden. I love the colour and its long, majestic, slender leaves.

Creeping phlox 'candy stripe' which flowers early spring

Creeping phlox ‘candy stripe’ which flowers early spring

Crocosmia which flowers July and August

Crocosmia which flowers July and August

It was quite fun typing things into Google, such as “perennial plant with long green leaves and red or orange flowers” and seeing what pictures came up. What would we do without the internet?! The creeping phlox I stumbled upon by accident (looking for another plant, which hopefully I can name tomorrow!).

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 29: Physical and mental

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Outdoor dining! Our first for the year

A short post for today (because I’m writing this on the 30th, because I ran out of time yesterday, because I drank too much wine :))

I cleaned Liliane and Rene’s house in the morning, then Pastora came over after she finished work, and we cooked a chocolate cake, then had some beers, then Jaime arrived, then my Leo arrived, then Pastora’s Leo arrived, then Liliane arrived, and then the party started.

It was so lovely to sit outside until 11pm, in the relative warmth (had to put jackets on at about 8.30pm), soaking up the sunshine and twilight, enjoying a barbecue on our terrace.

A morning of physical fitness (it appears I’ve lost one kilo this past month) and a wonderful afternoon with friends for mental fitness = a great way to end the week.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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Donna Tartt’s third book divided critics but still won the Pulitzer Prize

“Maybe sometimes–the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?” Boris, p. 835.

Well, I really don’t know what to say about The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt … apart from thank goodness that’s over.

The subject matter is … depressing. The main character, Theo, is depressing. What happens to him is depressing. His outlook on life is depressing. His self-loathing is depressing. His best friend, Boris, is a maniac, drug-addicted alcoholic whose psychotic ideas of a good time are really destructive … and depressing.

Please don’t read this book if the weather’s bad and you need something to do. The rain exacerbates the depressing depression.

At 864 pages, it’s too long; there are slabs of ‘intellectual’ waffle and navel-gazing which could/should have been cut for the sake of brevity and the reader’s sanity. It felt like Tartt was trying too hard to be smart and clever and life-changing. My eyes started glazing over towards the end.

The story is about a stolen valuable painting. Just hand the bloody painting back and stop all this agonising and soul-destroying angst. It just didn’t wash with me and I felt it was never really explained well enough as to why he thought he had the right to keep it.

What also didn’t wash was the mix of Theo’s sensitive and destructive sides. In the first half, I struggled with the believability of this really being the mind of a teenage boy, because he was incredibly clever and deep one minute, and the next a complete buffoon.

Some others also found the whole experience less than enjoyable, despite it winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014. I really don’t understand how that happened. Not that I’m a literary critic, but wow … I’m shocked!

The characters of Welty and Hobie were wonderful, the rest you wouldn’t waste ten minutes on at a backyard barbecue. I did enjoy the random way Boris talked, I could hear his Ukrainian accent in my head, and clearly see him when he was raving on about 10 unrelated stories that somehow had a connection, so I tip my hat to Tartt in that regard.

But it’s really disappointing when you love an author’s debut novel and expect a similar reaction again. Tartt’s first, The Secret History, sucked me in hook, line and sinker. For me, The Goldfinch sucked; this book, it’s storyline, was a stinker.

May 25: No Monday Runday

It rained pretty much all day today, so not much to report. We didn’t put the tent up near the pool and there was no chance for Monday Runday. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be much better tomorrow either! I’m taking it as an opportunity to recharge my batteries.

I had a terrible night’s (lack of) sleep with hayfever, and didn’t wake up til about 10am. I did finish potting the geraniums (photos to come when it’s not raining), we watched silly programs on television, I read my book and Leo cooked dinner.

We ended the night watching Samuel L. Jackson and Emilio Estevez in National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, which I’d pretty much forgotten existed (odd, because I love that sort of humour). Hot Shots, with Emilio’s brother Charlie Sheen, is one of my favourite films.

Lines from Loaded Weapon which stand out for me for their cheesiness include a heated conversation between Estevez, who wants to find out who the bad guys are, and Jon Lovitz. “Give me a name!” “Weren’t your parents supposed to do that?” 🙂

And I also chuckle when Jackson is showing a t-shirt, which has a photo of a woman (Whoopi Goldberg) on the front, to a guy. Jackson explains they’re looking for information about her. When he sees the t-shirt, the guy asks, “Is that her?” “No, that’s a picture.”

And on those bombshells, I wish you a wonderful day!

May 24: Exercising my confidence

It’s been quite a few months since I’ve been on the Vespa, because of winter and so on, so this afternoon we went down to the local gardening store and I did a few refresher laps of the carpark.

I did three days of lessons last summer and rode it quite a few times around our neighbourhood (haven’t ventured into the city yet) but I lost some confidence in the last session when I dropped the bike coming to a slow stop.

No fitfor15in15 physical exercise today, but I mentally exercised my brain and nerves. I’m sure it will all come back to me (not that I ever had it in the first place!) and a few more lessons would be good as a confidence booster.

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Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

Leo was very patient, standing on the sidelines watching me do figure-eight moves. I have real issues with tight right turns. Tight left turns, no problem, but being right handed and turning sharply right causes some problems – the nerves come and I don’t have enough speed and then I get the wobbles, and the nerves come and so on and so forth in a circle.

But hopefully I’ll master it. I’ll never be Valentino Rossi and that’s fine! Leo asked if I wanted to ride home with him as the passenger – no way!

We finished the tv series Luther tonight. Unfortunately, I have to say “don’t bother”. We then started watching more of Derek, by Ricky Gervais, which is a comedy about the title character working in an old people’s home. How can a show be so funny and make me cry from sadness in every episode?? It’s brilliant. His mate Kev is really starting to annoy me, I love how blunt and honest Douglas is and Hannah holds it all together. Well worth watching.

Hopefully the wind stops enough tomorrow so we can clean out the pool and get the communal outdoor area set up. It’s a public holiday here tomorrow too, so Leo will be in charge!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 22: Late post after a great night

Oops, I didn’t write yesterday because we went to visit friends Leonie and Bjorn, and their two kids Maya and Sebastian, and got home at midnight, way too tired to write.

I spent a few hours with Pastora in the late afternoon then caught the 5pm commuter-crazy-hour train from Bern to Brügg, near Biel. (Wow I do not miss that kind of commuting. In Sydney, in the last place I lived, it was a 20 minute walk or short bike ride to work!)

Leo picked me up from the station at 5.30pm and we drove to Leonie and Bjorn’s traditional Swiss house, which they’ve been renovating over the past few years. Six hours later we left – those hours just flew! I feel bad as they would have had to be up early this morning with the kids. Oops!

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Maya and Bjorn preparing the garden room for dinner

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Leonie and Maya

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of Sebastian. At first he was shy, but after our discussion about whales and sharks, he was very entertaining. It was the first time Leo had met the family and the first time I’d met Bjorn and the kids.

Leonie is a friend of a friend in Melbourne, and she’s been living in Switzerland for nearly five years. We’ve enjoyed our weekly Tuesday lunchtime catch ups for about two months now. Thank you for a great night guys and we look forward to you coming over in summer!

Will write more, for today’s post, tonight.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

May 17: Mentally fit with a book

A very relaxing day with absolutely no exercise whatsoever. Well, I finished putting the new plants into the garden this morning (and promptly forgot to take photos) so that could be classified as exercise. Now there’s some colour behind the hedge, in the garden, on the outdoor table and a window box next to the front door.

The hammock had its first workout; I started Donna Tartt’s new book, The Goldfinch, and lay under the umbrella for a while before the cool breeze sent me back inside. There’s nothing like a swing in a hammock for relaxation I reckon, preferably under palm trees with a blue ocean and white sand close by, but hey, the forests of Wohlen bei Bern and that sensational fresh-cut grass come a close second.

I need to finish the Cary Elwes audio book too, I’ve been neglecting it a bit because his voice is just so jolly posh you can only handle so much of it for so long! If you’d like to see short reviews of the books I’ve read this year, click here. Unfortunately, I’m well behind on my goal of 52 books in 2015. Can it be salvaged? The Goldfinch is going to take me a while to get through – at 864 pages, I won’t be ripping through it in a few hours, like the past few books – so maybe I’ll have to choose some shorter ones to get back on track … is that cheating?!

We also started watching a new Netflix series, Luther, tonight. It’s about a London detective with many problems and some questionable techniques trying to do his job. I’ve been a fan of the main actor, Idris Elba, since he was in The Wire but so far the recurring storyline of series one has me shaking my head in disbelief. I only hope it gets better!

Still having small problems with my right butt cheek muscle, but it’s slowly feeling better and I hope I’m up for Monday Runday tomorrow!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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Someone’s clever “rockwall” garden on the walk into Einsiedeln. It was high and long!

May 6 #2: An assortment of bodyweight exercises

It was a busy day, mostly on the computer, with a bit of time in the soggy garden. The grass still has many boggy sections, which reminded me of stomping across the Moors, which reminded me of this article about lovely gardens from The Guardian website. I’d like to go to Cerney House.

Even though the sun was shining and I should have gone for a run (even just to the tulips and back!), I decided to stay close to home and do 15 minutes of assorted exercises with my body weight.

Using video resources from various Instagram fitness accounts and the happy.challenges Instagram account, I mixed up mountain climbers, push-ups, squats and crunches with four sets of 15 repetitions each. Enough to get the blood flowing, for sure, but not enough for 15 minutes.

So I’m going to have to split my fitfor15in15 into two categories today – mentally fit with the book review and travelling light story (which took longer than seven minutes to write!) and physically fit with eight minutes of exercises. Cheating a bit? Perhaps!

I felt a bit cheated yesterday – two hours after eating a slice of very dense chocolate cake to finish off my lunch with Leonie, I felt quite ill. I think my body is trying to tell me to lay off the sugar! Which reminded me of this report from the Australian ABC.

Rocketing obesity is being blamed on poor diets laden with excess sugar and carbs, rather than a lack of exercise. Makes sense, although the opening line of the report made me feel dejected!

Fitfor15in15 is all about being fit in all its forms, with exercise playing the major part. Now I’m thinking I should forget shifting those pesky few kilos through exercise, and focus more attention on the role of healthier food.

Just writing it out makes me feel a bit silly, because it seems so obvious. Of course, moving everyday is beneficial for my overall health, like heart and bones, and I would never stop that. But is it time to totally cut out the crap from my diet? Could I live without chocolate cake and Berliners? Maybe, but would it be any fun? More food for thought.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

April 29: What a great afternoon!

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Enjoying the intermittent sun with Pastora

It feels like Pastora and I have a good-time angel or a fairy godmother or something/one looking out for us. Every time we go to Cafe Pyrennes in Bern we always meet entertaining people.

We’ve met the Everton Football Club fans, a famous Swiss sculptor plus many more. It’s a hub of activity. Today we sat near (but didn’t talk to) the Swiss singer Polo Hofer (you can just see him to the side of Pastora in the photo) and shared a bottle of wine with his friends after he left.

My exercise today is a bit of a cheat – I had to run for the bus this afternoon before meeting Pastora. It took me 12 minutes to get to the bus, instead of 20 minutes walking, and I wasn’t puffed when I arrived early. I also walked 20 minutes home again.

Normally I don’t count walking to the bus and back as part of my fitfor15in15 but today I’ve been blessed with other kinds of fitness – mental fitness. It was a classic afternoon chatting and laughing with new people and that’s always good for my soul.

Wishing you a wonderful day.