Welcome to the end of 2021.
For some people 2021 was a year to forget because of all the problems of COVID-19. For Klaus and I, however, the year has been quite good – with naturally the highlight of our wedding in August. What has also been good is my new job, where I am much happier, and of course the opportunities we have had to visit different places, particularly as part of our mini-honeymoons.
But we made the decision, at the beginning of December, to cancel our December mini-honeymoon which was to be in Thüringen. This area was badly affected by COVID-19 and we felt it was not sensible to travel into this part of Germany, particularly as vaccine hesitancy is high there so the number of vaccinated people is lower than here in Nordrhein-Westfalen. It was very disappointing not to have our mini-honeymoon but health comes first.
And this also meant that the planned visit of my Mum, sister, brother-in-law and two nieces for Christmas, which was postponed from last year, was postponed again – this time to Summer 2022. We have given up with Christmas visits from the UK in the time of COVID. It was good that we cancelled as in fact Britain was put on the red list for Germany the day before they were due to travel, so they would not have been able to come anyway, but this way we had time to make alternative plans.
And of course for me there were some very important plans if the English contingent were not arriving – I needed to get the British food that is not available in the normal supermarkets here!
There are in fact many online shops that sell British food in Germany but the prices are mega high (as one might expect). However, I considered it worth it for Christmas dinner, so as soon as the decision was made that my family were not coming over I placed my order and it arrived a week before Christmas
I had to pad it out a bit with extra items to get free delivery, the extra items being Paxo stuffing (so I can have stuffing at other times of the year) and the syrup sponge puddings which will undoubtedly be horrendously sweet to my taste now but will be a treat with some custard sometime!
I am personally a bit untraditional for Christmas as I don’t like mincemeat or dried fruit so I don’t eat mince pies or Christmas pudding. I also don’t like alcohol so don’t have brandy butter. However, on Christmas Day Klaus and Lara would be willing to give them a go (they have eaten British Christmas fare previously) so in order for the correct English Christmas I bought them.
And I noticed that the brandy butter was from Tiptree, down the road from where I used to live (but interestingly not Wilkins & Sons).
So the food for Christmas was sorted.
So what else happened in December 2021?
The first great piece of news is that I got my booster vaccination.
I had wondered when I would be able to get it, and then Gudula our landlady told us she had seen an advert that they were doing booster jabs in the Rathaus in Kempen on a Sunday. So we decided to go along and see if I could have one. At that time in Germany they said booster after 6 months, so Klaus was eligible but I unfortunately was not (it had been just 4 months 3 weeks since my second jab). However, as my first jab had been AstraZeneca I thought it worth going along to try.
There was quite a queue for the vaccinations, snaking around the clothing shop on Buttermarkt and onto Judenstraße. We ended up waiting for about 35 minutes before we got into the reception area of the Rathaus. One lady had been turned away as her last vaccination was four months ago, and she said they were saying it needed to be five months since your last jab, but I stayed in the queue to see if they would let me. And fortunately they said yes, so I got my jab – this time Moderna. As you can see from my vaccination book, I have definitely had a good mixture!
The next day I went to work but felt a bit rough by 11am so went home early and went to bed. I was completely normal the next day.
Since that time, of course, Germany has said you can have the booster at 3 months. At the moment we are hoping that the Omicron wave will not be too bad here in Germany as at the moment the number of infections is reducing, but we shall see what happens in the New Year.
Work Christmas party
I was rather surprised but our work did indeed have the Christmas gathering.
They were very careful about it, only allowing fully vaccinated people to attend and giving us all a lateral flow test to do that day to check we were all corona negative.
I had gone home at midday as normal but returned for the party at 5pm, having baked some English Shortbread for everyone in the meantime. They had cleared an area in the packaging section of our factory and set out some beer tables and also some standing tables.
As usual for a German event, there was alcohol!
And also pizzas for everyone…
There was a tombola where I received a wrapped present which ended up as my only Christmas present this year (we don’t do presents any longer).
The party was a good opportunity to chat to some of my new colleagues as I started work right at the beginning of the busy season so everyone was working flat out. A bit of social time is always nice with colleagues and I get on well with them all.
On the last working day of the year, December 23rd, those of us still in the office had a small gathering with Glühwein (well, I didn’t partake as I don’t).
A colleague brought in the ingredients and had dished most of it out by the time I took this photo. Apparently it was VERY alcoholic so they only drank a very small amount.
Although I work four hours per day officially, as the time from September to December is much busier it was agreed that I could do overtime and then take it off in lieu in the New Year. When I clocked out on the 23rd (an hour and a half after the official finish time) I had 45 and a half hours’ overtime (Gleitzeit) – that means over 11 days’ overtime. So we might look at increasing my hours to 5 per day next year if it’s tricky to work off the overtime with days off!
As mentioned above, I had my Christmas Food from England sorted. But we had two Christmas Days!
This is because in Germany the main celebration is 24 December, so on that day Klaus and I had German Christmas. The next day was English Christmas with Lara in attendance.
It seems in Germany there is not such a specific Christmas meal. I asked various German friends and some said potato salad, others steak, but Klaus decided for our German Christmas he would cook Bratwurst und Rotkohl. This is very traditional German fare – sausage and red cabbage.
One extra item we now also have is a butternut squash and pea puree. It tastes really great and is of course much lower carb than potato mash. So Klaus prepared the food and we sat down to a very tasty meal on the 24th.
The dessert was an English staple, a trifle! I exchanged the Birds Dream Topping for real whipped cream and overall it wasn’t a shockingly high carb dessert.
We had a portion each, leaving four portions for the next day, English Christmas Day.
We woke to whiteness outside – yes, we actually had a white Christmas!
I had done a 5k run on Christmas Eve but Klaus went out cycling in Emily on Christmas morning.
It was still white in our little hamlet near St Hubert when Klaus went to collect Lara at midday, although the snow had melted elsewhere.
I was fully involved with the cooking of course. I had been lucky enough to find a turkey breast (weight 1 kg) in Aldi 10 days before and had bought it as I remembered last year having to travel to 4 supermarkets before I found one. It was clogging up our fridge all week but at least I knew the turkey was sorted! Having only to cook 1kg of breast was just 1 hour in the oven, and then I did the roast vegetables and stuffing and sausages afterwards whilst the turkey was resting.
Here was the result!
Yes, I even did brussels sprouts (fried in butter so they were tasty!)
It’s tricky getting the gravy and bread sauce ready at the right time as everything else but we managed it.
Klaus and Lara enjoyed some wine with their meal.
After the main course we didn’t have room for anything else for an hour or so, but then it was time for the Christmas Pudding.
I still had some brandy remaining from the Christmas I did here six years ago but an induction hob is not much use for heating the brandy before lighting it. Klaus had to use our firelighter gadget for rather a long time before it was warm enough to light the brandy. Lara filmed it, as you can see below!
I had a slice of my blueberry Schmand cake instead, which you can see here fresh out of the oven and then a slice.
This is not very Christmassy but it was tasty! We also had some trifle of course.
We had just a few presents – mostly for Lara (she got a couple of Alexa Echo Dots and some smart plugs from us) but my sister had also sent us an enormous box of Lindt chocolates!
After all the food it was time to go for a walk. The snow had mostly melted and it was a beautiful day.
The next day I was able to enjoy leftovers.
Klaus also ate the remainder of the Christmas Pudding. Both he and Lara found the mince pies too sweet so we gave the rest of them to Gudula and Frank.
Other cakes this month
I have now got 3 great low-carb cake recipes which I make in rotation so we always have something good in the fridge! There is the blueberry Schmand Kuchen which I included in a photo above, my cheesecake, and my Apple Cake (below).
Lara also really likes the chocolate tart that I made but I am less keen on it and don’t generally make it now. She makes it at home regularly. I also have my excellent blueberry soufflé dessert but it’s me who particularly likes that, Klaus and Lara are less excited by it (but still eat it!)
However, talking of cakes, we had two cake experiences in December. Klaus, Lara and I went to Büllhorsthof one weekend to use the voucher they gave us for our wedding – this was for two Etagères and two teas/coffees. We shared it amongst the three of us and, as always, it was a very tasty option!
Klaus and I also went to visit his father in Mannheim just before Christmas. We had lunch with him and then headed into Mannheim for a piece of cake. The place that we wanted to go to had the eat-in area closed so we went to a standard Grimmiger Bakery and had perfectly decent cake there.
We also went out for an evening meal in Kempen just before Christmas when we had Lara with us. We tried out the new Sushi place in Kempen (which isn’t new at all, but we hadn’t been there before); Klaus and Lara shared a sushi platter and I had some duck in hoi sin sauce. Yummy!
Activities in 2021
It is interesting to see how my sporting activities have changed over the last 12 years since I took up cycling.
In the year 2009 I set out to cycle 12,000 miles – and I managed it. That was 19,501km.
This year, 2021, has been my lowest mileage year on bikes since I started, a paltry 2,348km. Klaus has ridden way more than me and is over 4,600km and was not able to commute to work on his bike at all (they have removed the cycle path over the Rhine bridge that he could use with his velomobile).
It is also notable that my longest ride this year was 82km. However, I don’t feel bothered by this change in activity as our hobbies in life change and grow and then come back again.
My whole life I have been a regular walker and this continued in 2021, although as Poppy tore her cruciate ligament in May we were unable to take her for long walks after that date and she has become a bit arthritic too.
Last summer I started running for the first time in my life and this year I carried on well. You can see my 2021 running statistics below, 643km.
I also set myself a challenge to run at least 5km for every run in July, and as this worked so well I continued on for the rest of the year. So for six months I ran 5k three times per week, apart from three weeks off in November when I had a dodgy back and a bad cold. I hope to continue the 5k runs in the New Year of course, although I might allow myself some shorter runs if it’s particularly cold!
With the running and regular cycle commuting to work I did some exercise on most days of the year, as you can see below – there were only 20 days when I did not record a cycle ride, walk or run.
And here is the total activity for 2021, just a shade over 4,000km in total (this also includes walking and hiking).
My all-time stats are a bit more impressive, I have almost reached 140,000km since I started in mid-2008.
And as a summary, Veloviewer’s Infographic for 2021:
The walking/cycling holiday in Austria in June is fairly obvious as we suddenly had hills on our doorstep!
Anyway, my summary of 2021 in terms of sport is less distance, more variety, and I like it like that. Klaus and I haven’t ridden together very much compared to normal, but this is partly due to my running and because I was less inspired to cycle the velomobile for leisure this year. However, we hope to do some more trike tours in 2022 and, if COVID allows, to start doing some of our weekend cake runs again.
I am typing this in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve and we will eat Filet steak tonight, followed by a trifle. I doubt we will stay up until midnight as we normally go to bed by 10. Undoubtedly we will be woken up at midnight when the fireworks (which are banned again this year!) start…
Anyway, I wish all my readers an enjoyable New Year’s Eve and a good start to 2022. Health and peace and good friendships!