Happy New Year!
I would like to wish all my readers a happy new year 2021.
For those of you who comment or send me messages through the Blog, I really appreciate it. It’s good to know that people are reading and what they find interesting.
But before we get stuck into 2021 which will be a big year for me (my 50th birthday looms!) I should recap a bit about December 2020.
I reported last month that I was delighted to have been informed I was eligible for German citizenship, following the process of applying for it early (due to Brexit). I had to take a language test, to prove I was especially integrated into German life (the head of the local ADFC bicycle club wrote a letter to the Foreigners Office informing them of all the voluntary work I had done) and had to also gather lots of other information about salary, pension, knowledge of German life (the Citizenship test) and various other bits. It was a complicated form but in the end I was informed my application was successful and that my Urkunde would be available soon.
The process was very quick for me, and eventually I received my letter from Stadt Kempen to say I needed to come and collect my certificate. There was a little ceremony (socially distanced!) where I agreed to abide by the German laws etc. And then I was handed a very handsome pack of information…
What does this mean for me? Well, I am writing this blog post on 31.12.2020 as a European Citizen with all my rights. Tomorrow, if I didn’t have German citizenship, I would no longer be a European Citizen with the right to move to a different country, study in a different country, live outside of Germany for more than six months without losing the right to return, etc etc. So it’s really important to me, especially as I am living with a European and it’s a possibility that he might one day get a job in a different European country.
The day after I got this certificate I had my appointment at the Rathaus (Town Hall) to apply for my German Passport and my ID Card (Ausweis).
I had had to get new photos taken of me, which were fortunately a lot better than the last lot! I had my fingerprints taken too.
The passport and ID Card are ready for collection and I have an appointment to pick them up at the beginning of January from the Rathaus (all these kinds of bureaucratic things are done in the local town halls in Germany, rather than in a central place such as the UK uses).
Christmas in Germany
This year’s original plan was that my sister, her husband, two of her children and my mother would all come over for a week at Christmastime and we would celebrate British Christmas on 25 December (as usual). Klaus’s daughter Lara would come over for British Christmas, as the Germans celebrate their main Christmas event on the 24th. That would all fit well.
Of course, due to Corona my family could not come over from the UK (I wrote in October about having an early Christmas with my sister and Mum during my weekend visit to the UK). Fortunately Lara was still keen to come for Christmas Dinner. I confused them by informing them that Christmas Dinner was around midday – surely ‘dinner’ is an evening meal. Not at Christmas. Right.
Klaus is not one for decorating the house but I wanted to get a tree to put the presents round so bought a very small one and fixed some coloured lights to it and a few decorations I already had here.
The presents were for Lara (she was getting an iPad and an Apple Pencil with contributions from several family members, plus a foldable bluetooth keyboard from me) and some presents for Klaus and I from my sister. She sent us a care parcel before Christmas which included some much-needed items, such as stuffing mix and bread sauce.
The whole Christmas Decoration thing was made more manageable to Klaus with a bit of assistance…
And for me, of course…
I had originally planned to have six days off work at Christmas, which was almost two weeks in total with the public holidays, but it was so busy at work I was asked to work those days and so worked up till December 23 and then three days between Christmas and New Year too. I was back in the office for the first time in several months, and in the New Year I think I will probably be in the office also – sharing a relatively small-ish office with a colleague, which isn’t ideal in these Covid times. But there are some advantages to be back in the office – the connections with colleagues are hard to keep by email alone!
Anyway, so for Christmas Eve we planned a relaxing day as I was tired from work. However, I wanted to make the trifle that we would have on Christmas Day (using some custard I bought back from the UK in August). Once again it was an Anglo-German trifle, so not entirely authentic. Trifle sponges aren’t really a thing in Germany so I used a lemon Gugelhupf which did a reasonable job of the base. We have dozens of sachets of Hartley’s Sugar Free jelly that we brought back from the UK as I make Klaus some Keto Gummibärchen with jelly every couple of days, so that was authentic. The custard layer also, of course. And then we had the issue of cream, as the Germans don’t have double cream like we do – so I whipped up some whipping cream instead. I used some defrosted Fruits of the Forest in the trifle too.
So I made that on Christmas Eve, and then started to think more about the Yule Log I had promised Lara. Normally my sister makes these (I never have) and she buys a chocolate swiss roll and then ices it with butter icing. Swiss rolls aren’t so popular in Germany but they were available in larger shops (according to the supermarket websites) so I went to the huge Real Futurestore in St Tönis but they had sold out. So I bought a random cake thingie I hoped I could use. The next day I was in another supermarket and saw they had jam swiss rolls there but no chocolate ones.
But on Christmas Eve I started thinking that to ice this cake I had bought wasn’t great as it looked rather dry and plasticky – and not very log-like. So I did some googling and decided I would have a go at making a real swiss roll.
I didn’t have a swiss roll tin but I had a smallish square shallow baking tray which I thought would work for a half-sized swiss roll. I found a reasonable-looking recipe on the internet for which I had the ingredients and had a go.
It worked surprisingly well! The buttercream is so shockingly calorific that I found an alternative recipe for the inside of the swiss roll that used Frischkäse (cream cheese) in place of half the butter. So the finished cake would be marginally less shockingly calorific!
For the icing I did of course use the full monty buttercream icing. And then I made a beginner’s error of cutting two logs off, rather than one, so it looked a bit weird at the end. But…
It then proceeded to take up way too much room in our fridge, so I had to get out the coolbox and use that for the cake.
So my very relaxing Christmas eve was slightly less relaxing than planned but I was happy to have created a couple of traditional UK desserts for Lara to try (she’s had my trifle before and she likes it a lot!)
In the evening Klaus cooked Bratwurst mit Rotkohl (sausage with red cabbage) which is really easy and quick. It’s not particularly a traditional meal for Christmas Eve in Germany – that is usually a Kartoffelsalat mit Wurst (potato salad with sausage) which can be prepared before everyone goes off to church and then just the sausages are heated up after church (and German sausages can just be popped into a saucepan of boiling water for a few minutes as they are pre-cooked). But Klaus fancied Bratwurst and it’s a nice easy meal and we enjoyed it.
Christmas Eve in Germany isn’t actually a bank holiday for the whole day, just a half day. I presume people used to work in the mornings, then come home, put up the Christmas Tree, go to church, eat the Kartoffelsalat and then send around the presents. Father Christmas doesn’t leave stockings on the bed in Germany, instead they have Niklaus who gives some presents on 6 December.
I woke on Christmas morning with a familiar feeling of a weight on my feet – I remembered it well from my youth, the feeling of a Christmas Stocking bulging with satsumas, nuts, chocolates and a few small wrapped presents. But this time it was the dog, as Father Christmas hasn’t come to me for decades now but the dog has taken to sleeping on my feet.
I made a start on food preparation whilst Klaus went to pick up Lara. I had to turn this:
into Christmas Dinner for 3.
I had started looking for turkeys in the local supermarkets a week or so before Christmas. Turkey crowns aren’t a thing in Germany, and there were few turkeys in evidence, but a week before I noticed Aldi were doing a 1kg turkey breast joint and that would definitely be enough for three of us. I waited a few days so I could buy one with the correct expiry date and went on my way home from work on 23rd December to buy one. Disaster! Aldi had sold out. They had chickens to roast but it should be a turkey!
It was turning dark and I don’t drive in the dark (my vision isn’t good enough) so I decided I had enough time to pop to Lidl in Kempen to see if they had turkeys; if not I would get a chicken. So I drove to Lidl and fortunately they had the 1kg turkey breast joint too. Phew! Christmas disaster averted!
But I wanted to attempt to stuff this turkey. Anna had sent me some Paxo (hurrah!) but I decided I also wanted some sausagemeat in it. You can’t seem to buy sausagemeat separately in Germany so when Klaus bought the Bratwurst I asked him to get one extra which I could use in the stuffing. And he did. I had also bought some very small pre-booked Bratwurst for pigs in blankets; I thought they wouldn’t be that good, and the bacon isn’t really quite right either, but actually they turned out fine!
Preparation started at 09:30 and I served up just after midday. I didn’t take any photos as I was too busy being the chef but I will tell you what we had:
- Roast turkey, stuffed with sausagemeat stuffing
- Pigs in blankets (small sausages wrapped in bacon)
- Roast potatoes
- Brussels sprouts (steamed)
- Cauliflower (steamed)
- Carrots (steamed)
- Roast onion
- Extra roast stuffing
- Roast courgette
- Bread sauce
- Onion gravy
I personally don’t like cranberry sauce so said to Anna not to bother sending any.
It actually turned out very well. It was a bit tricky managing everything to be ready at the same time as I had to stir gravy and bread sauce whilst checking everything else – plus we didn’t really have anywhere to warm the plates and serving bowls. Klaus carved the turkey with the posh new knives he has bought this month.
So we sat down to eat and Lara seemed to enjoy it very much. I certainly did, I loved the bread sauce… I made enough for 8 people and we ate two thirds of it that day (I had Christmas Dinner Mark 2 reheated for Boxing Day).
Lara is actually a vegetarian but had decided for Christmas she would eat meat as a treat (she’s a veggie for animal welfare reasons rather than not liking meat). Which was rather convenient as we had three different types of meat with our meal! Nut roasts don’t seem to be a thing in Germany.
We ate far too much of course and Klaus and I aren’t used to carbs so found the bread sauce very filling. He felt like he had overdone it a bit, I was OK ! So Klaus waddled around for the afternoon and Lara and I, who were both OK, just took it easy! We needed a break before the dessert which was…
Yes, Christmas Pudding. I don’t actually like this so it was just for Klaus and Lara. For those who don’t know, Brits make this pudding about three months or more in advance and it includes dried fruits, carrot, stuff like that, and it’s often got alcohol in it (this one had cognac). It’s a very rich, fruity cake thingie. And then you pour flaming brandy over it. I took a short video below of the brandy conflagration.
Klaus and Lara ate the Christmas pudding (they were sharing one tiny one that my sister gave me when I visited the UK in October) and I started on the Yule Log which had turned out rather well!
I explained to Lara that presents normally happen after Christmas Lunch but she was so excited about her iPad that we decided we would do the presents in the morning. She was thrilled by it, and Klaus and I had a few presents from Anna too… including this wonderful embroidery she did for our loo!
Anna showed photos of her renovated bathroom at home a few months ago and I saw this and requested one. Her bathroom only has 4.5 stars so ours is a step up!
We had a relaxing afternoon watching the film Notting Hill and then helping ourselves to trifle and Yule Log. We ate almost the whole Yule Log on Christmas Day!
I think Lara enjoyed her English Christmas and I really enjoyed the food. As I said above, we had Christmas Dinner Mark 2 on Boxing day, with trifle of course. We didn’t get chocolates or anything as gifts so were back to our normal keto food on the 27th December and we felt better for it.
Cycling this month
Another very poor month for cycling although I have done a lot more walking and running.
And here is the list below of all activities in December.
Just five cycle rides, and two were to-and-from work. Total 87 km.
And running, 42.88 km.
Notice on 14 December I did my longest run of all time (again), this time 7.6 km running with a warm-up and cool-down walk tacked on. I was pretty pooped after that for a couple of days though.
And the overall statistics for exercise that I have tracked in 2020:
Not even 6.000 km in total! So this has been one of my lowest years of cycling distance since I took it up in 2007 but it has been an unusual year for many of us. Anyway, I’m not chasing records or distances anymore, I just want to enjoy my cycling and other activities. I took up running in July so I am pleased with my distances there too.
I remember many, many years ago talking to Andy Allsopp, another recumbent rider in the UK, and he told me that my cadence (pedalling speed) was too slow and that I should really try to increase my cadence.
I hadn’t actually measured my cadence at that time but he could see it was slow. The thing was, I tried to pedal faster but I just couldn’t really do it – or not for more than a minute or so anyway. It made me extra tired and felt unnatural. I am a lady with large thighs and moving them that fast just felt wrong. This is clearly a me thing as friend Jochen here in Germany also has impressive thighs and he has a really high cadence. But over many years people recommended I increased my cadence but it just wasn’t possible – pedalling at anything over 70rpm made me exhausted very quickly.
Here is a screenshot of my velomobile rides up till August and I have highlighted in pink the average cadence column. This is only rides over 10km as other rides might be commuting where things are a bit different (not wearing cycling clothes, for example).
Since I bought a cadence sensor a year or two ago, my average cadence has been around 60-64. If I look at our long tour to Bodensee my average cadence was as follows for the days: 66, 63, 61, 61, 59, 60, 62, 62… you get the picture.
And here is the equivalent for the last four months of this year:
As you can see, there has been a big increase, particularly my last two rides.
Do you know why? I think I do. It’s the running!
What I have discovered since completing the Couch to 5k programme, and having continued running 3 times per week, that I automatically pedal faster in the velomobile. Not only that, I have found myself often switching off the motor as I don’t feel that I need it. The higher cadence means that the motor is not providing as much power anyway (my version of the Bafang doesn’t like spinning at much more than 70rpm, from what I understand) so it isn’t helping me as much anyway. Plus with the limiter at 25 km/h it’s off a lot of the time anyway.
I feel a lot more energised when riding the velomobile now, and it feels much more natural to cycle at a higher cadence – and it is not exhausting me. So for anyone else out there who struggles with a low cadence and wants to try to increase it a bit, maybe a bit of cross-training jogging, if you haven’t tried it before, might help!
On the 6th December Klaus and I did a mini Nikolaus Tour (the ADFC run one every year!) to visit Ralf. We hadn’t seen him – or anybody else really – for months. So we arranged to cycle to Grefrath and meet him there and then we would pick up a cake somewhere and eat it at his house.
Ralf no longer has his velomobile but he has a lovely new Ebike and so was able to ride with us, except for on the very fast downhill towards Lobberich.
The place we had planned to buy our cake was closed but we went on to a bakery which had a colossal queue outside but it was worth the wait!
We enjoyed spending time with Ralf and his wife Anke, socially distanced within their house of course. We really hope that next year we will be able to see more people and start some of the social activities again, but we are very aware how fortunate we are to still have jobs, a home and to still find each other’s company great!
Poppy had to go to the vets this month as she had a weird ear – I thought it was an ear infection but it turns out she has grown a wart in the ear and so it’s not cleaning itself properly. We’re keeping an eye on it and cleaning it out a bit ourselves – she is not impressed by this.
However, despite the vet visits her life is still pretty good. She has become very helpful in the kitchen.
She is also quite good at fending for herself when out and about.
Klaus and I didn’t have many cakes this month but we did do a short 20km ride to St Tönis to collect a slice of their Himmelstorte (Heaven’s cake).
And Gudula experimented with a new cake which was very tasty (we got two very large portions of this one!)
I found some Nori Blätter in the cupboard so made Keto Sushi for when Lara visited.
It’s very tasty and filling. The cauliflower rice works well too.
On the six days I had back in the office this month, I got a lift from Klaus 3 times, walked twice (with Klaus collecting me) and cycled once. Walking through the underpass under the Kempener Außenring I noticed this graffiti:
I thought the writer of that had a point.
As the year draws to a close I haven’t planned any resolutions for next year. I am setting no cycling or running goals. We both hope that we will be able to have a few holidays next year but will see how that pans out. Klaus’s divorce should hopefully take place in the beginning of January (it keeps getting delayed!) and we will be pleased when that chapter of his life is closed. I look forward to getting my German passport and ID Card – at the moment it doesn’t feel that I am any more German than I was before I got my citizenship but now I can vote in the general elections here and play my part in society more.
And in seven or so hours the Brexit Transition Period ends. I hope the next few months aren’t too bad for those in the UK. I know postage between the UK and the EU will be very difficult to start with and that lots of bike parts suppliers from NL and DE have said they won’t ship to the UK until it all settles down. Fortunately my M&S order got here before everything got blocked at Dover. But with Covid and Brexit it all seems a bit stressful at the moment. Here in Germany the Covid situation is not good. Two colleagues at work have had it but are now recovered; having worked from home for nearly three months I was pretty safe but now I will be back in a shared small office and my colleagues (I work with several, often in their offices) don’t like to wear their masks all day. We will see how it pans out!
Best wishes to you all for a relaxing, healthy and blessed 2021.