Book Resolution No. 1

Or my goal to read more than 43 books between Christmas 2012 and Christmas 2013

Here is my progress list

No. Author Title
1 Joanne Harris Peaches for Monsieur Curé
2 Cecelia Ahern One hundred names
3 Guillaume Musso Demain
4 Marc Levy Un sentiment plus fort que la peur
5 Caitlin Moran How to be a woman
6 Bettina Gaus Der unterschätzte Kontinent – Reise zur Mittelschicht Afrikas
7 Chris Cleave Incendiary
8 Christie Watson Tiny Sunbirds Far Away
9 Stephen Kleman Pidgin English
10 Vanessa Green Les petites confidences du Tea-Club
11 Antony Horowitz The House of Silk
12 Chris Pavone The Expats
13 Audrey Niffenegger The Time Traveller’s Wife
14 Paige Toon Baby Be Mine
15 Nora Roberts The Search
16 Anne Fortier Juliet
17 Melissa Hill The Charm Bracelet
18 Sue Watson Fat Girls and Fairy Cakes
19 Kate Atkinson Case Histories
20 Monica Ali The Untold Story
21 Monica Ali In the Kitchen
22 Dan Brown Digital Fortress
23 Dan Brown Deception Point
24 Aravind Adiga Between the Assasinations
25 Jonas Jonasson The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared

And my bucket “to read” list

No. Author Title
26 Tom Hillenbrand Rotes Gold
27 Nora Roberts The Next Always
28 Caitlin Moran Moranthology
29 Aravind Adiga Last Man in Tower
30 Tracy Chevalier The last Runaway
31 JK Rowling The Casual Vacancy
32 Robert Gailbraith Cuckoo’s Calling
33 John Grisham The last juror
34 Andrew Miller Pure
35 Rosie Alison The Very Thought of You
36 Clare Morgan A Book for All and None
37 Kate Ward Girl Reading
38 Zsuzsa Bank Die Hellen Tage
39 Mario Vargas Llosa Der Traum des Kelten

Celebrating the last week of summer – Part 2

Technically speaking, according to the calendar, it is not really the last week of summer, that won’t be until the end of September. But looking at the weather forecast ahead, temperature wise, it might well be. This doesn’t matter though, right? Also yesterday was Wednesday so the 3rd day of my so called last week of summer, not the second. I know exactly though why I got confused about the day of the week: I did not work on Monday – the first Monday in September is the day where the traditional Braderie – a summer sale street market – happens in Luxembourg City, and our office is closed that day. This is pretty cool, you know, because a) I get a day off, b) It is a paid leave day and c) I am allowed to go shopping. Reason c) would actually be every girl’s dream, right? Just not really this girl’s.

I actually hate shopping (with “shopping” I mean clothes shopping, because I LOVE grocery shopping as well as shopping for the flat – especially kitchenware.) But in my eyes, there is nothing worse than being in those changing rooms, having to dress, undress, go look for a different size and repeat the whole process again. Clothes shopping was always a traumatic experience for my mum and me, and our shopping trips usually ended tears and arguments. That is why I tend to go shopping on my own, at my own pace, not upsetting anyone with my grumpy shopping mood and only then when I really need to (or more accurately when the poor state of my wardrobe’s content forces me to the shops), which happens about twice a year (but believe when I do go shopping I return home with an incredible amount of bags.)

A quick look in my drawers a few weeks back established though the dreaded time of the year had arrived: I needed new clothes, and as I had nothing better to do last Monday, I decided to go to the Braderie – the annual summer-sale street market in Luxembourg City. But frankly why on earth I decided to go shopping on the busiest shopping day of the year in the Grand Duchy’s capital, is in to some sorts beyond me, I mean I hate crowds, they scare me, I feel like I could suffocate. However, somewhere in my subconscious, I had this idea in my head that I might be able to get a good deal – I soon had to realise though that the stuff I really needed was not the stuff that was on sale. Great! What I needed were new towels to match my new bed sheets and some picture frames so I could make my chateau more homely with some nice photographs on the wall (yes it seems that I have turned into one of those people who now talk about “colour schemes”). What I found on sale were winter boots and children’s clothes….However the fact that I had a gift voucher for my favourite home and furniture store made the prospect of shopping in a claustrophobic setting way more bearable. To avoid the biggest rush of shoppers, I got up at a decent time in the morning and a had a clear list in mind of what I needed to buy – that strategy worked really well and within a couple of hours I was on my way back home with these “babies” :

Shopping Bags

However, no trip to the Braderie is complete without the compulsory “Letzebuerger Grillwurscht” (a Luxembourgish hotdog) so I headed back out for my sausage with mustard, followed by desert of pasteis de nata – a Portuguese egg custard pastry – which was really nice, but not as nice as the ones baked by Mr Guitar-Heartthrob. J

So, all in all, I have to admit that my shopping trip was actually a really pleasant one.

And now the more important things in life: ICE-CREAM.

The two flavours I tried on Wednesday were Kiwi

Kiwi Ice-Cream


Tobletto Ice-Cream

Tobletto ice-cream, which MFC described to me as a frozen chocolate moelleux (chocolate cake with a liquid centre) melting on your tongue. So my expectations had been built up really high, only to be crushed and remain unfulfilled – the scoop just tasted purely artificial. Sorry MFC J, however your company was worth a lot more than a flavour related to my ice-cream resolution (and thanks for all your professional help this week, my dear).

What worries me a bit though is the fact that I seem to be losing my taste for ice-cream as well, bad enough that I do not seem to like chocolate that much anymore (unless it is rice-cakes with a dark chocolate coating), but not liking sorbets and or other chocolate and nut flavoured ice-creams (last week I had a walnut ice-cream and was not keen on that), just makes me sad. I keep wondering whether chemo might have had a long-term impact on my taste buds. Maybe on Friday, for my last new flavour, I should keep to another yoghurt flavoured ice-cream as I liked the one with the peach swirl I had on Tuesday.

But as Allan Karlsson keeps saying, in the The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared, “Things are what they are, and whatever will be will be”.

Celebrating the Last Week of Summer?! – Part 1

I have to admit, I am a bit ashamed of myself. I cannot believe that it has been 4 months since I have posted something on my blog…. Apart from the one insomnia-induced writing session two months ago, I had not felt the urge to write again. But nevertheless I missed my writing routine, in a way without it I felt incomplete. So that is why tonight, on this beautiful summer’s day, 11 months after my cancer diagnosis, I am sitting on my balcony, writing again as I need to get some random ideas on paper, or excuse me, on screen I guess is the more accurate word.

Random Idea No. 1 –I will dedicate this week to ice-cream. The weather last week was really cold and rainy, so I thought, this is it, summer is over, autumn is coming, and I might as well consider putting my summer clothes away. But oh no! Summer came back with beautiful sunshine and blue sky yesterday. There were around 25 degrees today, and it is meant to go up to about 30 by the end of the week. Great, this means that my skirts and dresses can have a quick comeback (good thing summer decided to reappear at a time when my ironing basket is overflowing with jeans – I guess I can put that chore off for another few days J). So this might well be the last proper week of summer, so which better way to celebrate than with ice-cream? Right? That is why I have decided that rather than going with my usual ice-cream choices, I should try at least one new flavour every work day this week! As soon as that resolution was made, I decided to put it into practice straight away. On today’s menu: apricot and yoghurt-peach, what a yummy delicious combo.


I have to admit though I preferred the yoghurt ice-cream with the swirl of peach sauce over the apricot, maybe I am just no longer fond of sorbets that much, even though the fruitiness of the apricot was quite refreshing…. I cannot wait for tomorrow’s scoop! Plus the trip to my favourite ice-cream parlour (on foot) and back to work nearly takes me an hour (with a quick stop at the library to pick up a book in between), so I am literally burning off the calories with my walking and I get the benefit of soaking up some sunshine. I have to admit, I am genius for having had this idea.

Random Idea No. 2 – It occurred to me that it would be an absolute fabulous thing to have a reunion at my alma mater, the University of East Anglia in Norwich, so I went on my favourite social media site and contacted a dozen or so people from the class of 2007 (yep we graduated 6 years ago, and we started studying 9 years ago, does that make me old now? Naaaah…), to see if anyone was up for catching up over a pint at the uni pub (or any other pub in the fine city of Norwich). And guess what – there is genuine interest. A date has been suggested, and at first I thought, I cannot do that weekend, as I will arrive back in Brussels from Liberia (ooooh another piece of news, I am off to Liberia for a bit less than a week to visit some of our projects out there) that same Saturday, but now I am like, hold on, I can actually get a train from Brussels to London and then another one from London to Norwich, I do not need to fly…. And trains are more flexible than planes, and I get more time to read! So…. Ok, right I have not been that crazy that I have booked anything, but a trip to my beloved “home away from home” is shaping in my head. Excitement is in the air!

Random Idea No.3 – So I got myself library card – which is in no way a breach of my Book Rule No.1, which states that I shall not buy any new books until I have read all the remaining ones I have at home unless a) it is from one of my favourite authors and b) it is for book club (yes, I have joined a book and wine club last month, hence why the Book Rule No. 1 had to be amended slightly, but the amendment passed unanimously in the House of the Warrior of the Pen). Because you know, with a library card, I can actually decide to pick up something new to read, if I need a break from the reading material at home, without actually having to buy the book. This is also a) better for my bank account and b) makes me happy. Moreover, and this is where we are actually coming random idea no.3, this week’s daily trip to the ice-cream parlour will have also help me to keep my Book Resolution No. 1 with which I have set myself the target to beat my 2010-Book-Reading Record, which stands at 43 books. To keep track of this I have compiled My 2013 Book List (well more accurately it should be named My Christmas 2012 until Christmas 2013 Book List), which so far features 24 books. This means that I have to read at least another 20 books in just 16 weeks, a daunting task, which is pushing the limits a bit, but I think that I should be able to manage. I have been making good progress on book No. 25 – The hundred-year-old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, which I am reading for this month’s book club. It is fantastic, and I really have to work hard at not giggling aloud on the bus (my daily reading time).

Right, it is becoming chilly out here on the balcony, and my bottle of chardonnay should be chilled by now as well. So if you will excuse me, I have some more reading to do while sipping on some wine (so no free hands to type!)….

The In-Between Life AKA Life between the last radiotherapy (24 April 2013) until the last Herceptin IV (19 December 2013) An introduction

So, the majority of the really hard-core cancer (lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy) is done. WOW. I initially wrote this sentence without giving it much thought, but when re-reading it, I realised that it is a big thing. I have made it, I have made it through the treacherous waters of cancer treatment; I have come out of it, alive, breathing, walking upright with a big smile of my face. I just need a minute to let the enormity of this sink in, contemplate it and embrace it. YES! (Just imagine me doing a symbolic, figurative victorious punch in the air, Rocky style, or even better doing one of happy warrior dances)

But what now? What will I be writing about now?

Technically speaking, after having referred to my medical treatment plan, I still need to go into hospital every 3 weeks to get hooked on the Herceptin IV. However, this does not give me any serious side effects, I just a get a bit tired afterwards and for a few days following this treatment I have cold/flu-like symptoms, but that is already about it. So this will not provide anything exciting to write about.

Having pondered over this state of affairs, I have decided that I will label the time frame between my last radiotherapy, which was on April 24th, and my last trip to hospital for the Herceptin IV on December 19th, as my trial period for my life as a cancer survivor. It is a phase where I can gradually learn how to rebuild my life again while still receiving support from various medical and hospital staff, who will be coaching me along the way.

I guess this will also be my more philosophical part of my cancer journey, where I can consider some big questions like: What are my dreams? What are my goals? I have been asked these questions a few months ago and I found it really difficult to answer them. From October 2012 to April 2013, my life was pretty much suspended. In a way I only lived, or functioned, with a single goal in mind: beating cancer. During this very intense period of my life, my most singular important dream was to become healthy again – I was aiming for a life without regular hospital visits and frequent medical check-ups. Having to some extent accomplished this, I now need to refocus my life again – what do I really want to get out of life? What do I want to accomplish? I need to figure this out, and I guess the remainder of the year will leave me enough time to reflect on this.

Over the next 6-9 months I will probably also have to acquire the skill of dealing with the fear and anxiety attached to every check-up visit, adhering to the maxim of “Learn to live WITH the fear, but do not live IN the fear”.

It will also be a time where I can explore and discover new topics for my blog, work on some new material that I can write about, reworking and posting all those ideas on which I have notes on – at the moment I have a notebook filled with scribbles that can easily fill 4-5 travel memories, one on love, and a couple on a few books and then there are enough pictures to document my culinary achievements in the kitchen.

I am back on a journey to normality, and that is a journey I want to take you, dear readers, with me… It is a bit scary, but also massively exciting and if the next 5 months will continue in the same fashion as the past two and a half month (involving a long weekend in London, spending a week for work in Innsbruck, Austria; moving flat, spending a lot of time with the Scouts and having friends coming to visit from all over the world), then all I can say is that oh yes, Life indeed is wonderful.

P.S. This entry was written in early July…. Shame on me for not posting it earlier.