Tuesday, August 30, 2005

never a dull moment

Taken about an hour ago: hot air balloon fixin' to land in a field a couple of blocks away from our house.



While we were eating dinner we heard a familiar blow torch kind of noise outside and knew it was hot air balloon season once again. When we ran out onto the terrace to take a look, the balloon, its passengers waving wildly, was directly above us. Some days there are four or five balloons at a time. Very colourful. You will NOT catch me going up in one of those things any time soon.

#1 dumbass reporting in for duty, sir!

I may be an awful housekeeper, but I DO usally manage to keep most of the paperwork - bills, school stuff etc. - around here in order. No problem there. Until today. After three days at school, Boy12 informed me this morning that he doesn't have his chemistry book, that in fact he never had one. Because it was 7 a.m. in the morning and I was only semi-conscious, I tried to keep the arguing down to a minimum but insisted that This Could Not Possibly Be My Fault because I had personally gone to the bookstore a couple of weeks ago and picked up the textbooks I had ordered for him. I even watched the woman check them all off on the list (or so I thought). He must have left the book lying around somewhere at school or in his room and would just have to search for it later, I maintained.

After he leaves, I start doing some heavy duty thinking along the lines of how I had only paid €69.55 for all the boys' books in instead of the almost €100 I thought I'd need to pay. To confirm the amount, I dig through my purse for the receipt which I am SURE must be in there somewhere. It isn't. It's lost. Of course.

But by some miracle I still have the book list and am able to calculate that the €69.55 plus the €29.95 (highway robbery, anyone?)for the errant chemistry book would have added up to €99.50. Eureka!! If only I had been paying attention. Mr. M was actually there along with me, but swears he can't remember a thing. We were in a rush that day, doing some quick shopping and preparing for a party so neither of us were really with it, I guess.

So it turns out that this is, indeed, Entirely My Fault and I will have to go back to the bookstore ladies this afternoon (closed from 1 - 3 p.m., thank you very much!) and explain my predicament. Better than paying for a book and then not getting it, though, which is what happened last year when the woman sold me the school books and put all but one in my bag, phoning me later (but only because my number was on the book list I had given her) in a panic to tell me. Duh. Hmm...maybe I should think about sharing my Dumbass Award.

*update* All cleared up. They totally forgot to order that particular book but have now done so. It will be there on Thursday. I know it's not that big of a deal but I was just mad at myself for not double checking in the first place and catching it earlier (the kids get into trouble if they don't have their books with them at school) and for not keeping the receipt which I ordinarily would do.

Monday, August 29, 2005

go me

I am delighted to report that I actually grew something edible this year to go along with all those damn flowers.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

mmm...marshmallows

(First things first: ChicagoKarl has posted an adorable picture of his son on his first day of school. Go take a look.)

Mr. M and I were alone for dinner tonight since the boys were still at their various birthday parties, so seeing as the weather was so nice today for a change, we decided to have our own little Grillfest. Normally we'd use the gas grill, but we had so many briquets left over from I can't remember when that we dusted off the ancient (homemade) charcoal grill and did it the old-fashioned way. *cough cough*



See those long brown crispy looking objects? Those are called Partyfackeln - "party torches". Actually just a fancy way of saying "pork belly on a stick". This delicacy runs a close second to bacon on our list of tasty things that must be eaten in moderation if we want to reach retirement age. Almost pure fat, but worth every calorie. To add some semblance of nutrition to the meal, I also threw in some vegetables, a couple of which look like they are trying to escape. The little foil plate contains snails in garlic butter, one of Mr. M's passions. Poor little things never had a chance.

A couple of weeks ago, I spied some Greek Halloumi cheese in our local supermarket and decided to give it a try. Supposedly it's great for grilling because it doesn't lose its shape. So when the first batch of goodies was finished, the cheese got popped onto the barbeque along with some garlic and coriander pita bread. The bread was lovely. And the cheese? Interesting. And salty. And very, very squeaky. Really.

When the boys finally arrived home, we handed out the pointed sticks and roasted marshmallows as a grand finale to the evening.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

85,000

That's how many children started first grade today in Lower Saxony. I was down at the school all morning handing out Baldwin Bookworm bookmarks on behalf of the school library. Our tiny library now has 1,500 books which is really good considering it was all done through donations and hard work by the parents.

The little ones were so sweet this morning, all dressed up and proudly carrying their Schultüten in front of them. You could see the excitement on their faces. I even saw twin babies, only a few months old, each of them with their own very small symbolic Schultüte to go along with their older sibling's larger one. The big kids put on a great show with skits and music and had everyone smiling. A lot of families had big celebrations planned for this afternoon to mark the occasion. This day is treated very similarily to christenings, confirmation, weddings etc - a real milestone.

I found this reproduction of an old postcard that I thought was pretty.




When German kids start school, friends and family will often say to them, "Jetzt beginnt der Ernst des Lebens." - now life starts in earnest. For me this is an unfortunate turn of phrase because it makes some children so anxious about what to expect from school. The attitude in some circles seems to be that learning is a chore rather than the joy it should be. Hopefully that will change as they try to whip the school system into shape.


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The boys have been invited to two birthday parties each this weekend so we'll hardly see them. Boy12 has a sleepover party tonight at a friend's house and a swimming party tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. so he's just going to go straight there after he wakes up. Boy9 gets to go to a football game - American football, not soccer. He's pretty much a "no sports" kind of guy, but the birthday boy, his best friend, is a sports fan so he goes along with it. I'm sure it will be interesting for him.

Our Spanish amigos are leaving for home again tomorrow and will drop by tonight to say goodbye and return my car. Diego's mother has now officially disowned him, reason unknown, although I'm sure after they're gone she'll change her mind pretty fast and start missing them.

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Just had a visitor a few minutes ago. I was busy typing and nearly jumped out of my skin when I hear a cat meowing right under my chair. Why did it freak me out? Because we don't have a cat. I recognized her though - it was the skinny one that comes around sometimes and hangs out on our terrace, but she's never had the nerve to come inside before. I escorted her out and offered her a bowl of "Happy Cat" cat food from our emergency stash. She of course turned up her nose and went to check out what's going on next door. Now I'm getting all itchy because as much as I love cats, my immune system hates them. Itchy eyes, runny nose - the works. Horses, rabbits and guinea pigs do it to me too. Dogs and cows are OK. Go figure.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

school daze

My little darlings jumped out of bed this morning at the crack of dawn and took off for school again - Boy12 on the bus to a neighbouring town where he attends the Gymnasium, a secondary school for students intending to go on to university, Boy9 on foot to our local elementary school. This will be his last year there - next year he'll most likely attend his brother's school for grade 5 if his marks are good enough.

Summer holidays are staggered in Germany so that not all states are on vacation at the same time. I can't imagine how large the already horrendous traffic jams would be if the whole country headed north to Denmark or south to Spain all at once. Students in Bavaria are still on holiday until September, for example, while those in Berlin have been back at school since August 6. We had our holidays quite late this year and next year will be the same.

Every child in Germany must be registered at and start attending an elementary school between the ages of 6 and 7. There are very few exceptions and homeschooling is illegal.

The Erstklässler, or first-graders, get special treatment. In Lower Saxony where we live, the little ones are eingeschult (literally "schooled-in") with a special ceremony on a Saturday, a couple of days later than the bigger kids.

The Einschulung begins with family and friends attending a church service (optional, but when people tell me that there is a separation of church and state in Germany, I just smile quietly to myself) where each child receives a small cross to hang around his or her neck and a blessing from the pastor.

After that it's off to the elementary school to meet the teachers and check out the classrooms for an hour or so. Usually the older grades will put on a little musical show to welcome their new schoolmates.


It's typical for German (and Austrian, and maybe Swiss?) first-graders to receive a Schultüte or Zuckertüte on the first day of school. The Schultüte is a large, brightly decorated cardboard cone filled with sweets, school supplies and small gifts to make starting school a little easier. They can be bought ready made, but many parents like to create their own according to their child's taste. Sports or princess themes are very popular. Some of the cones end up being almost as big as the children themselves!

The first Schultüten date back to about 1810, children in Saxony and Thüringen being the first lucky recipients. The custom later spread to Jena, Dresden and Leipzig in the late 1800's, and finally to all of Germany. It used to be customary for the godparents to give their godchild a Schultüte, but nowadays it is usually a gift given by the child's parents or grandparents.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

say goodbye to summer

Mr. M was off to work again at 6:30 a.m. this morning but the rest of us slept in just one more time and enjoyed a "last day of summer holidays" pancake breakfast.




In a little while we're going downtown to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and when we come home, we'll be busy labeling all the shiny new school supplies. It's not going to be easy to get the little nippers (or myself, for that matter) to bed at a decent hour tonight after a summer of staying up late and enjoying our free time.

Monday, August 22, 2005

you know what they say about houseguests and fish...*

Whew...all this entertaining has really been cutting into my blogging time!

The visitors came to stay at our place last Thursday and since then I have been able to live out my wildest B&B fantasies. B&B being bed and breakfast, of course, with lunch and dinner and laundry thrown in to boot. Make a meal, eat it, clean up, start all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat. And every time you turn around there's a little Spanish kid behind you asking for a glass of "agua sin gas, por favor". But I didn't mind any of it. I may be a terrible housekeeper, but I'm a fabulous hostess. Hors d'oeuvre, anyone?

They were going to stay until tomorrow but Diego's mother's caught the flu and needs a bit of taking care of so they packed up their stuff and went back to her apartment this evening. We're hoping she doesn't infect them all with whatever it is she has because they're flying back to Spain on Sunday. Having 8 people crammed into a small house wasn't always that relaxing, but they were wonderful guests and we were sorry to see them go.

The language problem, if you want to call it that, sorted itself out perfectly. My Spanish improved in leaps and bounds and I found I could understand an awful lot of what Diego's wife M was saying even if I couldn't produce much. She could also get most of what I said in German and we relied on female intuition for the rest. Much to our delight, the kids all got along famously and weren't at all bothered by the fact that one side wasn't always quite sure of what the other side was saying.

Saturday night we had a little party in our friends' honour - 8 adults, 5 kids - hostess heaven. A couple of the other guests hadn't seen Diego for 17 years and had never met his wife and children, so there was lots of catching up to do. Our friends T and K brought their wedding album since Diego had been an usher on that occasion and we whipped out our own album to prove that we, too, were once young and beautiful. Lots of laughs all around.

I'm winding down now from all the excitement and trying to recharge my mental batteries. That's why I'm still up at 1:45 a.m. The boys start school again on Thursday and there's lots to do.




(*after three days, both of them start to smell. Ha ha!)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

tourists for a day

Well, we had a fun but exhausting day in Hamelin on Tuesday. The rain finally stopped and the weather was just perfect for sightseeing. We didn't end up taking that many pictures but I'll show you the ones I have and then see what turned up on our friends' camera.

These wooden clockwork figures, accompanied by the Glockenspiel (chimes) have been in operation since 1964 and run three times a day. As luck would have it, they are out of order at the moment so we didn't get to see them. Oh well.




We also missed the 40 minute musical "Rats" which shows on Wednesdays. Another reason to go back some time soon.

As we were walking around in the town centre we noticed a sign in front of the Marktkirche St. Nikolai advertising "tower tours". Diego immediately wanted to go, so we all followed him into the church where a funny old man, after collecting the admission fee, pointed to some stairs and told us to have fun. Apparently we were supposed to take our own tour. If only we'd known what we were in for.

Stairs, stairs and more stairs. First a spiral staircase, and then a never ending series of wooden steps getting progressively steeper and narrower as we went up. We all huffed and puffed and Boy9 started to feel quite woozy, as did another woman who was behind us. She didn't pass out but looked as if she was going to. I could feel her pain, heights, small spaces and musty air not really being at the top of my list either. Just when we all thought we couldn't stand it any longer, the steps came to an end and we realized why the old man hadn't come with us - his pot belly wouldn't have fit through the opening we had to squeeze through to get up to the tower windows!

After we took a few deep breaths and got hold of ourselves again, we were able to enjoy the view from the tower, and the trip down wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.


we were way up there behind those small white windows


view from the tower over Hameln


me looking very relieved to have made it to the top in one piece

This is postcard depicting some of the typical architecture in the town. The shops and houses are beautifully maintained and there's a real medieval feel to the place.



This house caught my eye. Many of the houses are inscribed with what looks like the date they were built and who lived in them. This type of building with the white and brown exterior is known as Fachwerk.



Hameln is a tourist town, so there's no lack of souvenirs, especially rat souvenirs. Our guests did quite a bit of shopping and enjoyed the unique, well-stocked shops.


hey buddy, wanna buy a rat?

While Diego and his family visited the museum, the rest of us took a stroll towards the outside of town and ended up crossing over this bridge topped by a giant gold...you guessed it...rat.



A visit to a glass blowing demonstration topped off our adventures. The kids were just fascinated to see how it was done and the glass blower and his apprentice put on a great show. The heat in the place was not suprising, considering that the glass oven was at a temperature of 1200°C and never left to go out. We watched in fascination as the glass blower effortlessly created a beautiful blue vase and a tiny horse right before our eyes, explaining every step of the process, including how long it takes such an object to cool down and cure. Anywhere from a few hours for a small figure to years for such things as optical lenses used in microscopes and such. When the show was over each of the children purchased a pretty glass memento to take home.

The afternoon came to an end with a break at one of the many outdoor cafés lining the streets. Then we headed home, our energy spent. I think it was the tower that did us in.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

rats!

Today we're taking our visitors on a trip to Hamelin (Hameln), home to the infamous Pied Piper, known as Der Rattenfänger (the rat catcher) in German. The town is only a 45 minute drive from where we live, and there's lots to see.



More when we return!

Monday, August 15, 2005

I think you missed a spot

I finally got the *@&#! upstairs bathroom done today. There is NO way it should take so long to clean a room and I swear it's the room, not me. That's one of the things that bugs me about living in this house. Everything is either half finished, totally impractical, or broken and there's no relief in sight. I'm too tired to whine about the fugly, fugly bathroom right now, but I promise I will someday.

After I got over fuming about the bathroom, I decided to start tackling my junk drawer in the kitchen. That drawer is my own private little hell. I don't know how all that stuff got in there, but I'm determined to get it out. Getting it done in one go, however, would certainly cause a mental meltdown, because my brain doesn't do well with visual clutter. So what I'm doing is reaching in there and removing 10 or 15 articles at a time, hoping to find proper homes for them. The garbage can, for instance, or perhaps needy people who live far, far away and can actually use this crap.

What I dug out today:
  • large googly eye
  • partridge in a pear tree cookie stamp
  • bottle cap depicting Leonardo da Vinci's "Vetruvian Man"
  • "Norway" lapel pin
  • totem pole bottle opener
  • sushi mat
  • sheriff's star with Boy12's name on it
  • lobster pick
  • old "Passionate Pink" lipstick
  • heart-shaped balloon
  • plastic vampire fangs
  • half a blue birthday candle
  • Santa Claus earring
  • collapsible cup from the island of Guernsey
  • tiny vial containing preserved specimens of stages 1-3 in the life cycle of the Pacific Salmon

Is there smoke coming out of your ears yet?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

it never rains but it pours

If you know me and my procrastinating ways, you may have guessed that despite my good intentions, I got barely anything done yesterday.

After fiddling around all morning I left the house really late to go downtown and only had a couple of hours before I had to turn around and come back home. In those couple of hours I did actually manage to buy some school supplies and, more importantly, some much needed new make up. I hadn't bought any in ages and it was about time. My natural colouring doesn't lend itself to the no make up look, unfortunately, so I need a little help sometimes. I am now the proud owner of a flawless "Sand Beige" complexion, "Madeira" cheeks, "Drop of Sherry" lips and "Slate"-rimmed eyes.

But what good is being gorgeous when one's house is still a mess, I ask you? Will they be so dazzled that they won't notice the grime? I doubt it.

I also managed to break the insomnia cycle by getting to bed by 10:30 p.m. last night and not dragging myself out from under the covers until 10 a.m. this morning. Go me.

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And now in the "it never rains..." department:

On Friday our German/Spanish amigo Diego, who has caught a nasty cold, called to say that there was "something wrong with the car". My car, that is. The car they borrowed for the time they are here. It was making weird noises. Mr.M knew right away what it was, since the noise was the same noise it had made some time ago when a certain spring thingie had a piece broken off of it. Don't ask me what kind of spring thingie it was - something to do with the steering, I think. Luckily, the last time it happened Mr. M had bought TWO replacement springs at eBay so he had a spare one. My illustrious and talented husband also gets ten points for having had the foresight to do an apprenticeship as an auto mechanic in his younger years before deciding to become an engineer. Men can be so useful sometimes.

Diego brought the car over at about 11 a.m. and the two guys got to work. Well, Mr. M worked and Diego stood there holding an umbrella over his head because it was pouring rain.


my poor little car


the offending part

The broken spring was replaced in no time and they came inside to dry off and have some nice hot soup that I had whipped up in the meantime (my secret ingredient? whatever happened to be hanging around in the fridge needing to be used up).The soup actually saved the day, because when Diego went to phone his wife at his mother's apartment, M reported that the power for the washing machine, the fridge AND the stove seemed to be off even though the fuses looked all right, and that they were heating up yesterday's leftover lentil soup on a camp stove. Diego was almost afraid to go home, since his mother had already been in a fierce mood when he left this morning, and having broken appliances/blown fuses probably hadn't improved her disposition much. Ah, the joys of visiting family. He did eventually leave and we haven't heard anything since so we're assuming things are OK.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

I know you're all just green with envy

Thrilling activities planned for today:

1. Go downtown to get school supplies
2. Deep clean very scary upstairs bathroom
3. Scrub grubby kitchen cabinets
4. Send long overdue e mails to people who have probably forgotten my name by now
5. Have a nap

Wanna trade places?

My appropriate horoscope for Aug 13:

Today is a good day for you to simply get things done. Take care of those annoying tasks that have been building up for a while now. You have a great opportunity to accomplish quite a bit today. People are less concerned with frivolous drivel and gossip than they are with setting a plan towards meeting an important goal. Contribute to this trend by getting serious about the task at hand.

Huh? No frivolous drivel and gossip?? Where's the fun in that?

I've been having terrible insomnia for the past week and am practically dead on my feet. But you know how it is - no rest for the weary. Elbowing my way through the crowds and breathing in that nice polluted city air will be a character building exercise.

Oh yes, and it was no dice on the dogs at the animal shelter. We went again yesterday and the two dogs we were interested in had already been spoken for. Oh well. Hopefully they went to good homes.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Listen up!

J over at Germany Doesn't Suck is in the process of organizing a "Whiney Expat Bloggers in Germany 2005" meet-up some time this fall. The end of October is looking like a distinct possibility, location still to be decided. So if you're an expat blogger living in Germany (or somewhere close to Germany) and are interested in getting together, please pop on over to J's blog and leave a note in the comments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

the silence is deafening

This is the second week of Mr. M's holidays and I must admit that the family togetherness is getting to me. Therefore, all individuals with XY chromosomes have been banned from the house until late this afternoon. The boys, large and small, have gone swimming today, followed by lunch at Mel's Diner (who I see haven't updated their site since 2003) and topped off with a visit to the place that passes for a shopping mall around here.

Boy am I enjoying the peace and quiet. Sounds mean, but being the most introverted of introverts, I need my time alone and go batty if I don't get it. Also? I am one of those "ooh, shiny!" people - I'm very unfocused and easily distracted. Sometimes, in fact, my life seems to be just one big distraction after another and I have tremendous trouble finishing what I start. Take this glaring example: a couple of years ago I thought it would be fun to dust off my brain and do a distance-learning "Introduction to German-English Translation" course for which I shelled out a large amount of money. Eight assignments on a variety of topics, three year time limit. No problem, right? Right. How many assignments have I done? Two. In two years. Pitiful? Yes, most definitely. Do I feel like a loser? You betcha.

So I'm using my time today to get motivated again and finish this damn thing up so I can get my certificate and...um...have another piece of paper to hang on the wall, I guess.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

hard sauce: a contradiction in terms

Antipodeesse has asked me for my recipe for hard sauce and some of you are probably wondering what in the world that stuff is. Well, according to this entry at Wikipedia, it's

a cold dessert sauce made by creaming or beating butter and sugar with rum, brandy, whiskey, vanilla or other flavoring. It is typically served with plum pudding, bread pudding, Indian pudding, hasty pudding, and other heavy puddings as well as with fruitcakes and gingerbread. Though it is called a sauce, it is not liquid or smooth.

As for my recipe - I'm afraid I don't have one, Antipo - we don't really do a proper Christmas dinner around these parts, and it's been a long time since I spent the holidays in Canada. But I looked up several recipes on the net and they all seem to be quite similar to what I remember. So here I present to you in all its artery clogging goodness...

...Hard Sauce

1 cup butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons brandy (or orange juice)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in brandy and vanilla extract, a little at a time, until incorporated into creamed mixture.

Place in bowl, chill 1 hour and serve by spoonfuls over warm cake or pudding.

That is if you haven't already eaten most of it yourself! Must test these things to make sure they are OK.

Monday, August 08, 2005

a meme good enough to eat

So, here at long last is the "Top Five Childhood Food Memories" meme that the lovely and talented Sal tagged me for. This was really fun to do and when I went digging around in my ancient brain I was suprised at some of the memories that popped up. These are just a few.

1. Spending the day with Auntie Joey

I have two younger brothers. Sometimes when it just got to be too much for my poor mother (or for poor me), I’d get to go visit my favourite “aunt” for the day.

Auntie Joey, a very dear friend of my maternal grandmother’s, was from Denmark. Her real name was Johanne, but I don’t ever remember anyone calling her that. Auntie Joey had a cute little house with a wonderful garden in the back and a large kitchen just right for making a mess in.

We had our routine, Auntie Joey and I. First it was Scrabble, followed by a rousing game of “I Spy with my Little Eye” and a walk around the garden. Then came the really important part: crepes for lunch and cookie-making shortly afterward. Same thing every time. I loved it and she knew it. I think I set my own personal record once when I ate 11 crepes spread with homemade strawberry jam at one sitting. Not bad for a 6-yr-old!

When lunch was over we’d set out to make the sugar cookies. She did all the preparations, and I spent the afternoon in heaven. The buttery yellow dough got progressively dingier as I rolled and patted and shaped it with my grubby little hands, and the last cookies on the cookie sheet always took on a grayish hue, but that didn’t bother me one bit. The cookies weren’t for me, anyway, they were for my dad who would come and pick me up when my visit with Auntie Joey was over. When we got home he would eat every single cookie in the tin, praising their deliciousness and telling me they were the best he’d ever had.


2. Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner at home with my parents

Our family’s Christmas routine never changed: Swiss fondue (my father is Austrian) on Christmas Eve and a traditional turkey dinner on the 25th. My maternal grandmother was always with us on Christmas Day, as were an Austrian/Czech couple, close friends of my parents.

I loved Christmas dinner because I got to help my mother with the preparations. Early in the morning we’d stuff the turkey – sausage stuffing in one end, bread stuffing in the other, and to finish it off, a few strips of bacon over the breast to keep it moist while it was roasting. It roasted pretty much all day and it’s that aroma that transports me back to my childhood.

We always started off the meal with either my mother’s homemade antipasto, a mixture of tuna, olives, peppers, tomatoes and other delicious things, or Danish liver pate, courtesy of Auntie Joey.

The turkey was accompanied by braised red cabbage, wild rice, brussels sprouts, gravy and of course the ever-present cranberry sauce. For dessert it was English trifle, mincemeat tarts and Christmas pudding with hard sauce. Sort of a mish-mash of cultures when I look back on it now.


3. The On-On Restaurant in Chinatown

I learned to use chopsticks at an early age.

As far as I know, San Francisco has the largest Chinatown in North America. Vancouver's Chinatown comes in a close second, which means that there are literally hundreds of good and not so good Chinese restaurants to choose from. Back when I was a child, we chose the On-On on Keefer Street. The restaurant itself was nothing to look at, quite the greasy spoon in fact. The food, however, was divine, and judging by the scads of Chinese patrons, fairly authentic. We’d go at least once a month, I’d say, and have a wonderful meal. I even had a birthday party there once, as I recall.

Usually we’d just ask the waiter to bring us what he thought we’d like and what really sticks out in my mind was their sweet and sour pork, a mostly westernized dish, but exotic enough to the young palate. The little bone-in morsels were covered in a sticky bright red sweet and sour sauce that we couldn’t get enough of. The fact that you got to spit something out onto your plate without getting yelled at made it even more fun for us kids.

Another thing I remember about our Chinese dinners out was my grandmother just being herself. Our Nonna (English, not Italian, but spent many years in Rome) could not go near a pair of chopsticks (usually her own, thankfully) without sticking them up her nose and letting them hang there for a few seconds, making her look like some kind of walrus gone wrong. She did this every time we went and my brothers and I were absolutely mortified. So much for being a fine English lady. Now we wish she was still around to embarass us.


4. Finger food dinners

B.C. weather is pretty mild but occasionally there are strong winds or a violent thunderstorm. Because the power lines are above ground, a large cedar tree falling onto a wire can cause a power outage, or a “power perfailure” as my little brothers used to say. This didn’t happen all that often when we were kids, but when it did, it could sometimes take hours for B.C. Hydro to fix the problem. If it happened in the late afternoon, my poor mother was stuck as to what to make for dinner. Her solution: the finger food dinner. We’d get out all the flashlights and storm lanters and candles and she’d get everything edible out of the fridge and arrange it on a big platter so we could choose what we wanted. Although it was pretty scary sometimes, my brothers and I actually used to look forward to the power going out just so we could eat rolled-up bologna by candlelight!


5. Cheez Whiz and Stoned Wheat Thins

There was a new girl in my class in the third grade. She lived on my street and we became fast friends. K was the one who introduced me to the delights of Cheez Whiz and raspberry jam spread onto Stoned Wheat Thins. Sounds horrible, but to two 8-yr-olds there was nothing better. We used to sit out on K's back porch in the summertime and eat cracker after cracker, not worrying about stuff like trans fats or cholesterol or the evils of "processed cheese food". Ahh...those were the days.

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Now I'm supposed to tag four more people to do this meme, but I'm going to be merciful and leave the field open to anyone who wants to participate. If you read my blog and are up to the meme challenge, leave me a note in my comments and I'll link to you so we can all go read your masterpiece.

Here's a kind of history of where the meme came from. If you do the meme, you're meant to remove the blog #1 from the top of the list and bump every one up one place. Then add your blog’s name in the #5 spot and link to each of the other blogs. Got that? I couldn't find the exact meme post on some of these so you're on your own there.

1.FarmgirlFare
2.Becks & Posh
3.Culinary Fool
4.Sal De Traglia's Virtual Tapas Bar
5.Mausi

Saturday, August 06, 2005

dogzilla

Yes, I swear on a stack of tortillas that I AM going to get to the food meme that Sal tagged me with a couple of days ago, but unfortunately I was struck down by yet another killer headache yesterday afternoon (maybe I need my head examined?) and wasn't able to concentrate all that well for the rest of the evening. Today turned out to be busier than I thought. There were many, many things to do. Sadly, blogging wasn't one of them. I'll just write some off the top of my head blah blah here until I can control my thoughts better.

Anyway, as I mentioned, we went to the animal shelter yesterday to check out the new arrivals. Although they don't have that many dogs at the moment, one little guy did catch our eye. As far as they can tell, he's a Terrier/Schnauzer cross, about 5 years old. He smallish, has an all-black, wiry coat and goes by the name of Boris. Boris was picked up roaming about somewhere and as such the shelter staff don't know as much about him as they would like to. We took him out for a while on a leash and he was very friendly and mellow and didn't bark much when other dogs went by. Also didn't flinch at all when a jet flew overhead at low range (the shelter is very close to the airport) so it looks like he could stand a little noise. Right now the poor dear has a sprained elbow (dogs have elbows? who knew?), most likely from accidently stepping into a hole when he was out playing with a couple of other dogs. That's slowing him down a bit right now, however he should be fine in a couple of weeks and they're doing x-rays to make sure everything's healing up nicely.

So that's all just wonderful. Except that there's always a catch, right? The woman at the shelter was very honest with us and told us that Boris' one tiny little problem is that he's absolutely terrified of the vet. The times they've had him examined, he's gone completely nuts, making them think he must have had a bad experience in the past. Oh oh.

We're taking some time to think and will go back next week. If he's still there, we may take him and get him some doggy anxiety therapy because he really is very sweet. If there are other dogs that appeal to us, we'll consider them as well. Hard decision to make. Just looking at all those innocent homeless dogs and cats (and hamsters! and bunnies! and sheep!) brings tears to my eyes every time we go there. I feel like taking them ALL home.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bienvenida en Alemania!

See how good my Spanish is getting?

A long trip via Portugal (cheaper) brought our friends safely to the Hannover airport yesterday. They're booked up with family gatherings until the weekend, but Don Diego (not his real name) came over with his kids today to pick up my car, which they'll be using during their stay. I couldn't believe it had been 7 years since they were last in Germany! We had met their 8 yr. old boy before and were now introduced to his little sister, 6, who we only knew through pictures. The last time she was here she was still in her mum's belly!

Tomorrow we're going to the animal shelter to see if our dream dog has appeared. We're not quite sure what kind of dog we'd like, but we'll know him when we see him. Or her.

After the animal shelter we'll be enjoying a cheap lunch at our local Chinese restaurant. Woo hoo.

[I'm still working on the "childhood food memories" meme and will probably post that tomorrow]

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

green stuff










kennen Sie den?

Here's a silly joke Boy12 brought back from summer camp. It's a play on words and as such can't be translated, and your German needs to be fairly good in order to get it.

Geht eine schwangere Frau zum Bäcker und sagt: "Ich bekomme ein Brot."

Sagt der Bäcker: "Sachen gibts!"

Monday, August 01, 2005

people in other places get a day off today

Well, according to Stella and Marisa, today is Swiss National Day. I can just see them hopping up and down waving their little Swiss flags!

After reading someone else's blog yesterday, I suddenly remembered that the first Monday in August is also British Columbia Day. In (some) other parts of Canada it's known as Civic Day. Nobody seems to really know what's being celebrated. I was always under the impression that the holiday was invented when people started whining about there not being a long weekend in August. An interesting fact: three provinces and two territories recognize the day as a statutory holiday, five provinces as a civic holiday. Two provinces and one territory don't recognize it at all. What does that mean? It means that if you're working today and live in a place celebrating a statutory holiday, your employer is obliged to pay you holiday pay. All the other poor slobs are out of luck.

So this is British Columbia's flag. Isn't it pretty?



The Union Flag, defaced in its centre by a crown, represents the province's origins as a British colony. The wavy blue and white lines suggests B.C.'s position between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and the setting sun reminds us of the fact that B.C. is Canada's westernmost province.

In B.C, the sun appears to set behind the Pacific Ocean. Boy do I miss those sunsets.

Here's a little Canadian rant you might enjoy. And yes, I do talk just like that.

wheee!

I just organized my spice rack. Can you feel the excitement in the air? My heart is still pounding. *nods off for a minute*

My mission today, should I choose to accept it, is to wash all Boy12's muddy camp clothes. Some things actually look clean, but most of them are decidely damp. I'm not taking any chances so will wash the whole lot and be done with it. If you know anything about German washing machines, you'll know that I'll be at this for days.

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