There was so much in the last days, it might be better just to list what was going on. And sometimes I will need to improvise because as hard as it is to believe, sometimes I seem to have forgotten to take a single photo.
The Christmas Market season was officially opened. I love the Essen market but the weather has been unfair this year - too warm, too wet. I always get a thrill to see the first day of opening and to get the first smell of Glühwein.
Yes, another year older And I don't have a single photo of the night before when we out for a romantic dinner, nor of the day itself. Guess I was just too busy enjoying it!
Jacqui came to visit us and arrived hours late and missing her case. However, she came bearing gifts (recovered from her case the next day although someone had helped themselves to an array of her belongings - hairbrush, trainers, night shirt, bras, costume jewellery etc etc). Having just been to Russia on business, there was a theme going on which was adorable.
Mmmm not sure I will be wearing this very often (maybe I need to get the rest of the outfit??)
And take a look at these lovelies! 10 of these incredible Matryoshkas, all looking serenely gorgeous! I was delighted and they now have pride of place on my dressing table. I can't believe how tiny the smallest one is and yet, she still looks wonderful! Jealous?
Did I mention last minute panics? Well that would be when I decided to check that the dress I had planned all year to wear at the big event still fitted. Yes, you guessed it... It didn't! We tried everything to squeeze my hefalump status into it but it wasn't budging. So this was the day, and the only day I had, to go and find a suitable dress. I was definitely hyperventilating and generally dissatisfied with my bulk which seems to have appeared overnight (NOT!!!) but within an hour of arriving in Dusseldorf, I had found this sweet party dress. The day or rather, night, was saved although I was still to discover that my outfit was cursed! More later.
** have you noticed that all these photos are rather staged? Evidence of the fact that I didn't take my camera out to take a single photo of the party preparations, me and Jac together or anything to do with my birthday. And so it continues
The English guests started descending on Recklinghausen which we had been so excited about. Libby and Jon and all the Chance family arrived via Disneyland Paris and when I saw those Minnie Mouse ears, I just couldn't get enough of the little monsters! (Again, no photos. Don't know what sort of black hole had decided to take over my brain at this point!)
But it was so lovely to see them all and it kind of kicked in then that this was it! The party ball was rolling and there was no stopping it! I felt a bit like that scene on the comedy film Airplane where the waitress is hysterical and everyone is queuing up to slap (literally or with baseball bats etc!) some sense into her. Jac did this to me on a regular basis through the week, although not physically I hasten to add. She kept me firmly on the ground all week and kept giving me doses of reality which helped and in return I was a total control freak which was good for her too.
Although at the end of the day it was only a party, I wanted it to be something rather special as Ralph had given me such a wonderful 40th celebration. He deserved it to be even greater and I was determined to get as much of it right as possible.
At this point I would like to add that Ralph is such a party animal that he was unable to stay awake on the 26th until midnight to welcome in his birthday. I sat there listening to the bells mark 12 and his gentle snoring simultaneously! Who said romance was dead?
27th November - the birthday itself
It is a well known coincidence that Jon and Ralph celebrate the same birthday and therefore we had decided to host a reception for all the English guests at our flat to mark the day for both of them. 25 people in our flat? Gulp! But it worked and I think it was a lovely evening. I was so lovely to see everyone and to welcome them to Germany once again. We hadn't seen some of them since the last party two years ago and some even longer ago, so there was a lot of catching up to do.
And of course, I prettied up the flat for everyone (well, basically pretty much for me but I used our guests as an excuse to get out the decs!)
R mixed cocktails, I got confused speaking English the whole time, and the noise level indicated that everyone was relaxing. There was a cake for the two birthday boys and I might even have instigated a round of "Happy Birthday" too - not sure about that.
Cam and Maddie conked out on my bed in a way that only children can and I didn't get a photo which I regret - anyone out there take one? And Isabella just kept going and going and going! She had more energy than all of us put together. Libby posted this photo on her blog today and I love it so I have pinched it for here:
28th November - the party
The party was a great success. The venue was wonderful, the staff were great, the food was delicious, the music was suitably funky (although some of the Germans were disappointed that there was no German folk music for them to dance to!!!), the karaoke was rocking and everyone danced, drank, ate, chatted, sang and generally partied on. Who can ask for more?
I made a short speech which didn't come out exactly as I had planned - partly because I had a huge lump in my throat trying to say lovely things about R but everyone seemed to understand the general message I wanted to express! It's not so easy in two languages. I was so confused all evening and kept getting the language muddled up, speaking German to the English and vice versa.
We got back to the hotel at 4.30 and after only a few minutes sleep, the whole farewell process started which made me sad. Such a long build up to the big event and then it was all over and people were leaving already! It was so lovely to see everyone, even if for just a short time and we are so thankful that everyone made such an effort.
Ok, now the panic really started as I realised that this is it - party over, Christmas just down the road and not a single present bought or card made. (And as I write this, I can confirm that no progress has been made in this area - AT ALL!)
I finally managed to drag Ralph to the Essen Christmas Market with the intention of partaking in the deliciousness of Glühwein, Reibeküchen and some good old Bratwürst when it started raining and an already grumpy R insisted we went home... (oh well, there's always next year...)
We collected our leftover decorations from the party venue and this happened...
An upside down sea of balloons - don't you just love them?!?
St Nikolaus. Ok so not such a big event for us this year because we haven't done presents at all, but still a day that needs to be marked. We had a lovely festive advent dinner at Helga's and it was nice to slow down bit and just take some time to pay attention to the time of year.
Finally sat down to write my blog post - long overdue and probably way too long! And got some happy post to bring a smile to my lips. My Shimelle Christmas kit - scrumptious! Way too nice to use. Now I am just waiting for my very first yellow box to arrive sometime next week! Yikes - I'm so excited!
And to round off, I made a mention of my cursed outfit earlier. These lovely shoes were also bought at the last minute to go with the last minute dress...
And nearly two weeks later, my piggies are still in pain. Now there is suffering for my vanity for you.