Friday, May 27, 2005

dumb as cheese

I forgot - I need some advice from all you brilliant people out there. I've been using Hello to post my photos here and I want to know how to post a picture or two within an entry instead of having it be a separate entry posted by the blogger bot thingy. Is it possible with Hello or do I need to switch to Flickr?

No husbands were killed in the renovation of this room

Today we painted. It's very, very green, but Boy9 loves it. The new laminate flooring goes in tomorrow and then we're home free. Good thing too because the house is an absolute mess. More than usual, I mean.

The morning started off wonderfully when Mr. M. charged into the bedroom again after getting up at some outrageous hour.

Me: Whaa??
Mr.: Um, I wanted to get going. I guess I'll do it all myself then (and never let you forget it).
Me: No! I said I'd do it. Why didn't you wake me up earlier?
Mr.: I thought you wanted to sleep. I'm going to turn off the electricity now. I need to finish the outlets.
Me: But...but...I wanted to have a shower first.
Mr.: Well, you can have a shower, you just can't turn on the lights or dry your hair.
Me: *looks around for a carving knife which luckily we don't keep in the bedroom*

We eventually got the job done. Not a great job, but good enough. I am very big on good enough. It was such a hot day today. I was sweating the whole time and my bra straps kept slipping down (and we all know how annoying that can be) and I couldn't hoist them up all that often because I was wearing paint smeared gloves. AND I got paint on my shorts that I thought were covered by my painting shirt but weren't. Note to self: paint naked next time, it's easier.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Oh well

Yesterday's good mood was replaced by the usual black cloud today. I knew it couldn't last. My better half and I spent the entire day attempting not to murder each other while we wallpapered (is that a word?) Boy9's room in preparation for painting. Yes, wallpaper first and then paint over it. That's the way it is here most of the time because the walls don't seem to take to paint too well on their own. The wallpaper usually used is called Rauhfaser (raw fibre) and is made up of paper and tiny little wood chips which gives the wall a stucco-like texture when you paint over it. But it's a bugger to hang and rips really easily. All very complicated and inconvenient if you ask me. And doing this thankless task just reminded me of all the other complicated and inconvenient things that make me hate living here. Thus the thunder cloud over the head and the totally negative attitude to just about everything today. This blog is helping me to focus on the positive things in my life (and there are many) but sometimes it's really hard not to be bitter about the choices I've made. I'm in dire need of an attitude adjustment, I'd say.

Just when I thought my pants couldn't get any tighter

(started writing this before midnight - now it's way past)

Oh god, I'm so full. When Mr. M. said he was going to take care of all the meals today, he really meant it. First it was homemade waffles and fruit salad (lovingly created by Boy12) for breakfast. What seemed like only minutes later on the fullness scale but in reality was really around lunch time, I was presented with a giant roast beef/egg/bacon/tomato/lettuce baguette followed shortly by cake and coffee with the in-laws in the afternoon. The neighbours hopping over the fence for a glass of wine in the early evening offered some respite but then it was time to eat yet again: bacon-wrapped goat cheese, grilled tuna steaks and scampis, sesame noodles and a green salad. Strawberries and ice cream for dessert. And all this from a man who cooks about three times a year. I was so proud of him. Must go buy new pants tomorrow.

You know, I think this was the best birthday I've had since I moved here. Other years hadn't been so good or so restful for one reason or another. This time I could see that a lot of thought had gone into the preparations. I received many lovely gifts, but that wasn't it at all - it was the feeling that someone was really, truly making an effort on my behalf instead of just going throught the motions. I could get used to this.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Let them eat cake!

Ooh, did I finally find the meaning of life??

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Because I'm worth it

Yesterday morning I ventured into the Big City for a couple of hours because I needed a few things that you can't get here in Dullsville and ended up spontaneously buying myself the birthday present seen below. It was a bit pricey, I thought, but when I got home I checked it out on the internet and found that the quality is quite good. It just called out to me and I had to have it. I'm not normally impulsive about buying things, in fact it usually takes me ages to make up my mind. But isn't it cute? It makes me smile every time I look at it. I just love strawberries, don't you? Strawberry season has begun here so in about week we'll be able to pick our own at the field nearby. Yum.

Well, Boy9 has decided on a colour for his room. Kiwi green. Oy. Should be interesting. The walls have been stripped and we'll be putting in a couple of new electrical outlets and a new folding door to save space because the kids' rooms are incredibly small. German houses, older ones at least, usually don't come with built-in closets, so along with a bed and desk you also need a wardrobe, so it can be a tight squeeze. On Thursday the painting starts and the floor should go in on Friday if we're lucky. We haven't done any major renovations in quite a while, excluding the powder room which was finished just before Christmas and is now actually the nicest room in the house. Isn't that pitiful? We've been working on this house for 10 years now and still haven't got it right. Maybe someday.

Off to bake some stuff for my birthday tomorrow. The in-laws will be over for coffee in the afternoon and after we toss them out, Mr. M. has promised to make me a nice dinner. He fusses quite a bit when he has to cook but I'm sure he'll be fine.

tea time

Monday, May 23, 2005

nice weekend

Friday we had dinner with the friends we've been having dinner with almost every Friday for the past 15 years. Sometimes it's an elaborate dinner, sometimes just sandwiches but we always have fun.

Saturday was my dear old dad's birthday. I tried phoning him at what would have been about 9 a.m. his time only to get the answering machine. Finally got hold of him on Sunday and found that he had been out hiking with my mother and some friends for his birthday. Not bad for a 76- year-old. I sure hope I hold up that well. My 4-year-old nephew (aka The Holy Terror) was also there on Sunday and wanted to talk to me on the phone. So I say hello and he says, "Tina? I have to tell you something. I went to Science World and saw a giant hippopotamus. OK, bye, I love you." Short and sweet. He's a handful but he tells the most hilarious stories.

My dad is Austrian so he loves all that traditional Austrian/Southern German food. Last night in his honour we had something that I wouldn't normally make (see picture below): Weißwurst mit Sauerkraut und Knödel. That's weißwurst (a special kind of Bavarian sausage), sauerkraut (duh) and potato dumplings accompanied by a bit of salad to give it some colour. I know the whole thing looks pretty unappetizing but it tastes OK. Really. We sent Dad a picture to let him know what he missed, poor guy. My mother keeps him on a short leash as far as food is concerned. I guess that's why he's still doing as well as he is.

We spent most of Saturday at various building centres looking for just the right colour of laminate flooring for Boy9's room, which is badly in need of renovation. His present floor had a bad run-in with some indelible markers and a bottle of glue and needs to be replaced. Mr. Artistic insisted on having a green floor, which would have been fine, except they didn't have any so I persuaded him that a nice rustic brown would be wonderful and that it would look like a ship's cabin. So of course then he wanted a porthole, and what do you know, Mr. M. dug around in all his junk and came up with a round mirror framed with wood that matches the floor exactly. A few bolts glued on and it's a porthole. This should be fun. We're going to start tearing up the room tomorrow since Mr. M has the whole week off after today as part of his holidays for this year.

I was really suprised yesterday to get an email from my uncle (dad's younger brother) and his girlfriend in Montreal. He's 74 and has had way more health problems than my dad but he's still going strong. I've only met him twice in my life, the last time being in 2000 when I went to Ontario for a wedding reception for my youngest brother and his wife. I'm happy he has email so we can talk more often now. He and my dad are total opposites and it's always fun to see them together. He may come out to Vancouver next summer when we're there so we can meet his companion.

To top off my weekend I got a pre-birthday e-card from someone who is very, very special to me so I'll be carrying that great feeling around with me all week. Lucky me.

Guten Appetit? I'm no so sure.

Friday, May 20, 2005

watch your step!

Our daily newspaper, which covers regional and international news, also includes a smaller, local paper with information from the many small towns surrounding us. Today I read an article about one neighbouring community being so tired of trying to avoid the dog poop on the sidewalks that they've decided to take action. Doggy doo seems to be a very large problem here. There are by-laws, but I have rarely seen them enforced, and machines put up to dispense those little plastic bags have been immediately vandalized. Not everyone lets his dog go just anywhere, of course, and I have seen some people pick up after their animals, but there are still large amounts of canine excrement coming from somewhere. It must happen late at night under the cover of darkness because you never actually see the culprits in action. Taking an early- morning walk down the street, however, you'll find a whole bunch of fresh piles that you swear weren't there yesterday. It's something I can't really understand since right across the street there are a ton of bushes and a lovely field just begging to be pooped on.

I don't know if this is a problem all over Europe, but long ago in my previous life I had a Greek boyfriend who lived in Nice, France for a while and he used to tell me stories about unbelievable amounts of poop on the promenades and no one doing anything about it.

Anyway, the new plan is to sell humorous little laminated signs that people can attach to their fences reminding dog owners to either watch where the dogs are doing their business in the first place or to at least dispose of said business if it does land on the sidewalk. They've thought up a few snazzy sayings to make the whole thing just a little bit more fun:

"Excuse me, haven't you forgotten something?"
"Your little darling is embarrassed. How about you?"
"Good boy! Pick it up and dispose of it properly!"

All very nice. My contribution would be "Sh*t happens. Just don't leave it on the sidewalk for me to step in!"

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Gimme dat

My headache is gone, as predicted. This morning the nice biology student came over for tutoring and told me all about her new horse. Her old one died of an undetected stomach ulcer a few weeks ago and she was beside herself but now she seems a bit more chipper. I've never been very partial to horses. First there's the falling-off-factor and then they also make me sneeze like crazy. This new horse of hers sounds all right at a distance. Small, white, French and easy to train, she said. I'll take her word for it.

Lately we've been studying the differences in levels of politeness in German and English and how German people may come across as being rude and impolite when they speak English, not because they mean to be, but simply because they're unaware of the correct English usage. It's the difference between "Hand me that file." and "If it's not too much trouble, I wonder if you could possibly be so kind as to hand me that file." As a mild-mannered Canadian I'm still sometimes bowled over by German directness and the feeling that people are ordering me around. I've learned not to take it personally, though, because I know it's not directed at me in particular. It's just the way the language works and when you translate that into English, you may end up offending a few people.

I was supposed to tutor a friend's daughter this afternoon but she's suddenly developed some mysterious teenage ailment so I can go to the bookstore with the boys instead and pick out a book for a school-mate's birthday present.

Since last Friday I managed two three-mile walks using this tape ( Super Fat Burning! - cheesy, totally annoying and very effective) and I may attempt some Pilates (I LOVE this tape and isn't everyone doing Pilates these days?) tonight if I'm feeling up to it. Looks like my exercise mojo is slowly coming back. Mr. M. will pleased. He likes the curves to be in the right places.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Doctor, my brain hurts!

Killer migraine today. Started on Monday, really, but has now reached the ultimate all-over body pain stage. Yuck. I may go lie down, or I may just ignore it and try to get something done around here before the whole house goes to pot. Have I mentioned what a crappy housekeeper I am? Beautifully crappy, though, because I coloured my hair last night and had it cut this morning. My hairdresser is a bit boring (but then so am I) but at least she doesn't make me look like a debutante. That has to be worth something, doesn't it?

It's my birthday next Wednesday. Mr. M. is freaking out about what to give me because he's only been married to me for almost 15 years and claims to have absolutely no idea of what I might like. We have resorted to me ordering some books from Amazon that he can wrap up and say are from him. Woo hoo. I'm sure he might think of a little something on his own as well but you never know. Boy9 (our resident artist) is drawing me a "Super Carrot" comic book at my request and Boy12 is sure to have something up his sleeve when he can see to taking some time out from being a surly pre-teen. Did you know that in Germany you're supposed to bake your own birthday cake and be ready to receive any guests that might just drop over unexpectedly? No getting away and having a quiet day to yourself - they will hunt you down and demand cake and coffee no matter what you do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Hang on a sec while I take off my wellies

Hey! It stopped raining for 5 minutes. Actually the weekend (three days because of Pentecost/Whitsun - Germans love their religious holidays) was pretty good weather wise, with sunny periods between the torrential downpour. I heard a German saying yesterday: "Wenn's im Mai viel regnet, ist das Jahr gesegnet." Rough translation: if it rains alot in May, it'll be a blessed year. Well, let's hope so.

I had a bit of time this morning so I scuttled down to the local supermarket to get a few things for dinner and snagged that little pot of herbs you see below. All organic and only €2.99! Frog not included. Most of my herbs usually croak (ha ha) on me so I'll see how these ones hold up.

In a matter of minutes I have to get on over to the elementary school library for my volunteer class. Two of the boys in last week's group were so awful that I'm afraid I'm going to have to kick them out. They're becoming increasingly disrespectful to me and to the rest of the group who are trying to enjoy the class and I don't think it's my job to yell at the top of my lungs every five minutes to get them to shut up. So out they go. People always tell Mr. M. and me how polite and well-behaved our boys are (in public, anyway - heh) so I'm thinking that teaching kids good manners must be the exception here judging by some of the behaviour I've seen. That's a shame. It's pretty much a "me first" society here and that really depresses me sometimes.

I better get going. I cooked up some whole wheat noodles for Boy9's lunch already because his classes get out the same time as mine ends. Having your kid get out of school at 12:45 p.m. every day really cuts into your free time, you know?


Saturday, May 14, 2005

Size matters

Those bizarre creatures you see in the picture below are white asparagus, for white asparagus season is in full swing here right now. The stuff is everywhere, you can't get away from it. Before I moved here I never paid much attention to it. Green asparagus was what we ate. Some people loved it, others hated it. Seems like the whole of Germany is in love with white asparagus, though. The bigger, the better. Some of those spears are like tree trunks. Our neighbour passed 3 kg of these giants over the fence to us yesterday so I was busy trimming and peeling for hours. Mr. M. adores these pale, weird-looking stalks. To me it's just another vegetable. A bit blah, to be honest. It's usually served with butter or a Hollandaise sauce, boiled potatoes and some thinly sliced ham or a nice pork schnitzel on the side. Today I attempted a cream of asparagus soup using the trimmed ends and peels as a base and it turned out wonderfully, so that was my dinner. I'm sure we'll be getting another couple of truckloads of the stuff before the season is over, although I still can't figure out what all the fuss is about. But who am I to argue with the Germans, eh?

My asparagus is bigger than your asparagus!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Just 5 more minutes

I’m tired today. I’m always tired. I can’t even remember a time when it wasn’t so. No matter how much or how little sleep I get, I wake up feeling the same – like I’ve been run over by a truck.

I’ve been living with chronic autoimmune thyroid disease (more specifically Hashimoto’s, one of the causes of hypothyroidism) since I was about 8 years old. The diagnosis came about when my mother finally convinced the doctors that it was perhaps not quite normal for a second grader to come home from school in the afternoon and go straight to bed until dinner time every single day. I was labeled “sensitive”, “a child who needs a lot of time for herself” (both very true, but not in relation to this situation). But my mother stuck to her guns and after extensive testing the diagnosis was finally made. Hashimoto thyroiditis. A little white, or yellow, or pink pill every day and you’ll be just fine, girlie. Right. Sure.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system sees the thyroid gland as the enemy and sets out to destroy it. The thyroid gland controls the metabolism and many other functions in the body. Because of being attacked constantly, my thyroid gland was never able to produce enough hormones to keep me going, thus the little pill every day containing synthetic thyroid hormones. Without those I would die. My demise wouldn’t be immediate, though. After maybe a couple of years my metabolism would eventually slow down to the extent that I would fall into a coma and experience organ failure. Then I would die. Nice. So you can imagine how faithful I am about taking my meds.

Anyway, it seems that the older I get, the more this condition bothers me. At my last check-up last year, my doctor of nuclear medicine told me that according to the scintigraph and ultrasound she had just done, my thyroid had finally given up the ghost. It was gone. Gone, I tell you. That was a weird feeling. Where the heck did it go? How can an organ just disappear? And wouldn’t I now feel better if it was the thyroid that was giving me all the trouble? Some people have their glands removed on purpose when they act up too much. No such luck. The thyroid is gone but the autoimmune symptoms remain.

I think it’s the fatigue and the “brain fog” that get me the most. The feelings that I'm just barely going to make it through the day. Mood swings, depression and difficulty concentrating can be part of this disease as can frequent joint and muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, brittle fingernails, slight hair loss, water retention etc etc. I have all those problems and more – just lovely. This morning was the first time in about three weeks that I felt well enough and had enough energy to exercise after I got up and the kids were off to school. I NEED to exercise to control my weight. Just watching what I eat doesn’t do it for me since my metabolism is so low in the first place. I need to boost the metabolism and build up muscle, but sometimes it’s so damn hard when you can barely get off the couch. Today I got off the couch and I feel good about that.

I am NOT a morning person

Monday, May 09, 2005

You know you're from British Columbia when...

My mother sent me this on the weekend:

You know you're from British Columbia when:

1.You know the provincial flower (Mildew)
2.You know more people with boats than air conditioners.
3.You know more than 10 ways to order coffee.
4.You feel overdressed wearing a suit to a nice restaurant.
5.You stand on a deserted corner in the rain waiting for the"Walk" signal.
6.You don't consider it a real mountain unless it has snow on it.
7.You can point to at least two ski mountains, even if you cannot see through the cloud cover.
8.You notice "the mountain is out" when it is a pretty day and you can actually see it.
9.You know the difference between Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye salmon.
10.You know how to pronounce Squamish, Osoyoos, Ucluelet, Esquimalt, Sooke & Nanaimo.
11.You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese,Vietnamese, Korean and Thai food.
12.In winter, you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark while only working an eight-hour day.
13.You consider swimming an indoor sport.
14.You never go camping without waterproof matches and a poncho.
15.You are not fazed by Today's forecast: "showers followed by rain," and Tomorrow's forecast: "rain followed by showers."
16.You cannot wait for a day with "showers and sunny breaks".
17.You have no concept of humidity without precipitation.
18.You know that Dawson Creek is a town, not a TV show.
19.You put on your shorts when the temperature gets above 5°C, but still wear your hiking boots and parka.
20.You switch to your sandals when it gets about 10°C, but keep the socks on.
21. You have actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.
22.You think people who use umbrellas are either wimps or tourists.
23. You recognize the background shots in your favourite movies& TV shows.
24. You buy new sunglasses every year, because you can't find the old ones after such a long time.
25.You measure distance in hours.
26. You often switch from "heat" to "a/c" in your car in the sameday.
27. You use a down comforter in the summer.
28. You carry jumper cables in your car and your wife knows how to use them.
29. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit under a raincoat.
30. You know all the important seasons: Almost Winter,Winter, Still Raining (Spring), Road Construction (Summer) &Raining Again (Fall).

I miss you, B.C.!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mother's Day Madness

Happy Mother's Day! I was spoiled today with three beautiful bouquets of flowers and various other treats including some lovely scented bath products and a jar of stuffed grape leaves, my favourite. It was quite the improvement on last year's Mother's Day Incident where the kids weren't reminded about the whole thing and Mr. M. tried to get out of it by explaining to me that I wasn't his mother. I have forgiven that, but I certainly haven't forgotten it and he has learned to be a bit more thoughtful.

Despite being adored by all my men today, I was still feeling generally weepy and hormonal about various things and managed to have a few good cries while I spent hours folding (and folding and folding!) the laundry, so just imagine my suprise when I checked my e mail inbox and found this little gem waiting for me:

Your Daily Horoscope (courtesy of Astrocenter)

Whatever work you do today, Christina, may go more slowly than usual, as you are apt to be a bit distracted. You may be preoccupied with the past, especially with feelings and events you thought you'd long forgotten popping in and out of your head, affecting your mood in various ways. If you can, this might be a good day to concentrate on routine tasks that you can do automatically. That way you'll be as productive as always.

That about sums it up. Except for the productive part. Sometimes I wish I could just stay in the moment and take my life for what it is. Must work on that.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Mouse count: 4

Still recovering from the in-law's visit on German Father's Day on Thursday. No idea who decided that having Ascension Day and Father's Day on the same day was a good thing, but the dads seem to like having a day off. It's the day where they're supposed to get as drunk as they can and sing loudly while pulling each other around in wagons. Go figure. Since my better half is a family man, he spent a nice day at home playing street hockey with the kids and entertaining his parents. Mother-in-law is fine but my father-in-law is, shall we say, somewhat difficult, so we didn't shed any tears when the visit was over.

Today I went to visit my dear English friend a couple of villages over from us. She's really one of my best friends here and we've known each other since the beginning. I suppose it's the Anglo-Saxon WASPish background that makes us get on so well. She's a soon-to-be single mother raising a 2-yr old who was born profoundly deaf and is now doing incredibly well. Germany and Germans have certainly not been kind to my friend, but she is one of the strongest people I know and I'm postive things will turn out all right for her in the end.

Four mice so far. We're hoping that was the last one. Now it's time for a big clean out in the basement to see what other little treasures we may find.

Rhubarb Meringue Cake for Father's Day

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Is it Tuesday already?

The weekend was hot and sunny and we spent the better part of it in the garden relaxing and doing some much-needed weeding and re-locating of plants and also a bit of landscaping. May 1st marked our 10 year anniversary in this house and we STILL haven't got it the way we want it.

Sunday's sunshine gave way to a giant thundershower yesterday evening and this morning the fog was so thick you couldn't see the car in front of you on the road. Welcome to the weather in Northern Germany. I had to drive Boy12 to school because the buses are on strike so I was up and dressed early for a change. In about half an hour I have to go tame the wild beasts at the library and then in the afternoon it's tutoring the bored and indifferent teenagers.

And just to add to the excitement, we have rodent visitors in our furnace room. Field mice, to be exact. I am not afraid of mice and these ones are particularily adorable, but I still don't want them down there. We got rid of our oil furnace years ago and switched to natural gas which left us a very large room in the basement where the oil tank used to be. We use this room to store extra food and other junk. Someone (=Mr. M.) managed to spill some birdseed on the floor awhile ago and he said it looked like something had been nibbling on it. I wasn't sure until I came face to face with a mouse on Saturday night when I was going down to put something in the second fridge. Of course I was a bit shocked but I didn't scream or run around in circles like I would do with my other 10,000 phobias. We borrowed a humane trap from a friend, and using half a marshmallow as bait, caught the little nipper and set him free on the field near us. Just to be safe, we kept setting the trap and lo and behold, the mouse count is now up to three. There could be a whole army of them down there. Maybe it's time to throw some of the junk out and see what's behind it? Scary thought.

Here's a few pictures I took in the garden on the weekend.

Rock Garden

Bleeding Heart

Chicken and Hens

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bless you!

The highest bid on ex-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger's old car is now €62,595.00 at German eBay. Wow.

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