Monday, October 31, 2005

happy halloween!

Not too much spooky action going on tonight. Boy9 left on his class trip this morning and we won't see him again until Friday noon and Boy12 is enjoying his brother-free time. The Great Pumpkin paid us a visit last night so everyone has eaten enough candy to last until Christmas, me included. I'm so ashamed.

We had two very small groups of trick-or-treaters today, one at 2 p.m. and one a bit later. At least they got the day right this year.


I took a few pumpkin photos over the weekend:



the boys' creations




on fire




be afraid, be very afraid




my contribution



So you've carved all those pumpkins. Now what do you do with the masses of lovely pumpkin seeds? Why you roast them, of course.



Wash and dry the seeds and mix them with a little oil and salt. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 350F (180C) for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden. These are SO good and very addictive. Here's a link that talks about the health benefits of pumpkin seeds.


And Halloween just wouldn't be complete without one of these, would it?


The only skeleton in MY closet.
For now, anyway.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

boo

We're stretching Halloween out over three days this year because Boy9 is going on a four-day field trip with his class first thing Monday morning and he didn't want to miss any of the action.

We carved three pumpkins today and may do a couple more on Sunday, depending on how well the field trip packing is going. Other exciting activities included:

Mr. M's ghostly tree




Boy9's scary lanterns




Boy12's swamp water to go with dinner




Dinner - bat, pumpkin, ghost and skull-shaped chicken nuggets and fries.




Dessert - lobotomized oranges filled with ice cream and bloodshot eyeball cupcakes. Yum!





I didn't make the following cuties, but I wish I had


If our beady red eyes don't scare you to death, our artificial colours surely will!

More Halloween fun tomorrow!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

big

A couple of hours ago Mr. M arrived home (on time!!) from a two day business trip to Munich.

He brought us all a little snack...


small boy with large pretzel

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

gearing up for halloween


spooooooky!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

lock up your chickens

In this evening's news:

The discovery of more than 20 dead birds at a pond in western Germany has raised fears that avian flu may have already found its way into the country, though officials are urging the public to remain calm.

Doing my deep breathing exercises with my fingers crossed...

and I didn't even whine that much!

Okey dokey - now that I've gotten over my Post Traumatic Deutsche Bahn Stress Syndrome I can tell you about the GOOD parts of the Whiney Expat Bloggers in Germany 2005 Meet-Up. And there were many good parts.

I have to admit I didn't sleep all that well Friday night, being a bit nervous about meeting five people, perfect strangers really, who I'd only gotten to 'know' through their blogs. The fact that I also really didn't have a clue where I was going just added to the excitement. Sure, you can look at where Marburg is on the map, but do you really know what you're getting yourself into?

I dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 a.m. Saturday morning and got ready to go. My bus from Dullsville left shortly after 7:00 and I got to downtown Hannover around 7:30 with enough time for a visit to the facilities before my train to Marburg at 8:00. Can you believe they charge you €1.10 to pee at the train station? The nerve. Keeps the junkies out, I suppose.

I don't travel by train very often, so when we left Hannover exactly on time and arrived in Marburg the scheduled 2 1/2 hours later I wondered if people were exaggerating about how bad the Deutsch Bahn is. They weren't, but I didn't find that out until later.

After getting off the train in Marburg my next mission was to find the Cafe Fiona, our planned meeting place. Seeing that I have no sense of direction at all, I was pleased to actually manage this in under two minutes. It was right where Mr. Haddock had said it would be. Imagine that.

Taking a deep breath and gathering my wits about me, I opened the cafe door and started scanning the place for familiar faces. I spied Mr. and Mrs. Haddock right away and oh my goodness are they adorable! Very soft spoken and so pleasant and easy to get along with. I immediately felt at home with them.

Just after I sat down, J, who had been there for an hour or so, came back around the corner from 'washing his hands' and introduced himself. J is a big cuddly teddy bear of a man with a wonderful sense of humour and a heart of gold. If you read his blog you'll know that this is the kind of guy you want as your best friend. He doesn't take bad pictures either.(Which is why I'm directing you to his site because my pictures didn't come out all that well.)

Someone who I expected to be there but never showed up was ActualFactual. Turns out that something went Terribly Wrong (= The Curse of the Deutsche Bahn) and the poor chap didn't even make it out of the starting gates. I guess we'll have to wait another year to see his floppy Hugh Grant hair.

Last to arrive were Jen and Sparky, who had driven up (or down? darned if I know) from Darmstadt. These two lovebirds are cuteness personified. What a great couple. Jen was just as beautiful and warm and funny as I knew she would be. She kept us giggling the whole time with her stories. And Sparky? Never met a nicer German. Except for Mrs. Haddock, of course.

Our tour around Marburg was delightful and we took in a few of the sites - a beautiful church and the old castle on the hill. I loved the ups and downs of the streets and the quaint houses and shops.

Our restaurant lunch was a riot, with jokes and anecdotes flying back and forth. Here's a tip for ya: if you can't finish your meal, Sparky will finish it for you! Boy can that guy eat! He left the rest of us behind in the dust.

Since it was still early in the afternoon, the Haddock's graciously invited all of us back to their new house for a cup of tea and a chat. The house is lovely - bright and cheerful and still smelling of fresh wood. They said they would never build a house again, but seeing the way it turned out, I think it was worth it.

The Haddock's 7 year old daughter, Juniorette, arrived home a bit later from a day at the Frankfurt zoo and we were treated to an impromptu puppet show/dance routine. Besides being absolutely gorgeous, this little girl is also very talented, not showing any signs of stage fright.

More tea and more talking was on the agenda for the rest of the afternoon. Our conversations topics throughout the day were many and varied. Here's just a sampling:

- California - north vs south
- teaching English
- sex
- the advantages of cats and/or hamsters on cold winter nights
- fluffy sofas
- getting married in Vegas
- expensive passports
- bad German schools
- Valentine's Day suprises
- purse envy
- lousy customer service
- window washing duties
- Inspector Gadget
- correct procedure in the event of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Emergency

And the list goes on. Just let me assure you that no one was at a loss for words.

Soooo...a light dinner kindly prepared by Mrs. Haddock topped off our day, and Jen, Sparky, J and I headed back into town. Sparky dropped me off at the train station shortly afer 7 p.m. and the fun (Bad Part) began...

THE BAD PART...

My train back to Hannover was scheduled to leave at 7:21 from platform 4. Usually there's an electronic sign telling you your train number and time of departure. This time all that was showing was a "Bitte Ansage beachten" which is German for "be prepared for really bad news, suckers."

I waited a while and eventually a tinny voice announced that this train, coming out of Frankfurt, had been cancelled due to Personenschaden, which meant that some poor soul had seen fit to throw him/herself onto the tracks and end it all. Oh dear. Not good news at all.

The announcement had also indicated that there was a train at 7:38 p.m. to Kassel-Willemshöhe, but I didn't have a clue if that was even the right direction or if I'd be able to get another train from there back to Hannover.

The only people on the platform at that time were me and a really scary looking old lady who I thought might slice me up if I approached her. Luckily a tiny little foreign business man eventually sat down beside her so I went up to him and asked what I was supposed to do. Both of them said the train to Kassel was the right one.

As it got closer to the supposed departure time of the cancelled train, more and more people kept coming up the stairs to the platform with peeved looks on their faces. Among them was a Fantastically Attractive Businessman (FAB) in a pinstripe suit. We somehow got to talking and FAB said he had to go to Hildesheim, which is about half and hour south of Hannover, and didn't know what to do either. So I promised to watch his luggage while he went off to try to find someone official to ask. There was no one to ask. No one at all. I guess being the Evil Deutsche Bahn they lock the place up for the night at 6 p.m. or something.

So we were left to our own devices. FAB phoned his parents, who were supposed to pick him up in Hildesheim, and made them check the internet for connecting trains in Kassel. I did the same with Mr. M and lo and behold, there was a train going to Hannover just shortly after our arrival in Kassel. Problem solved. Phew.

While I was on the phone, FAB had somehow hooked up with two adorable university students, a couple, who needed to go to Berlin and were in the same predicament we were. We all eventually hopped the same 7:38 train and had a nice chat on the way, FAB even offering to give the students a good deal on the airline tickets to Sardinia he had bought but couldn't use since he had to work unexpectedly.

The train, a Regiobahn, was about the equivalent of taking the slow boat to China, stopping at every podunk town on the way, but we eventually got there. The conductor had told us that we need to have our tickets stamped in Kassel to allow us onto the connecting trains so we lined up, the students in front of me. The girl student started complaining to the cranky woman behind the counter about how it was the policy of the Deutsche Bahn to compensate passengers if their trip was delayed by over an hour and that she wanted a partial refund. This was the conversation they had:

Student: Look, we're going to get home really late, it's your fault and I think we deserve compensation.

Cranky: Oh yeah, every time some guy throws himself in front of the train, all the passengers who were inconvenienced get free rail passes for life.

Student: Ooooh, really? *eyes lighting up*

Cranky: Of course not. I was just being ironic. Now go away. Next please!

Anyway, I got lucky with my connection back to Hannover, managing to snag an Inter City Express train - Germany's answer to the Concorde. As I couldn't see a thing out the window as we hurtled through the darkness at breakneck speed, I just assumed we were going in the right direction and was overjoyed when I finally arrived at my destination.

Once in Hannover, I called Mr. M and told him I'd be taking the tram to the terminal station a few minutes away from our town where he said he'd pick me up. The cherry on the top of this whole thing was that when I tried to call him on my cell phone, a cheerful voice informed me that I only had 36 cents left on my pre-paid card - not enough to complete the call. Great. I rarely use the cell phone, but when it's on, it somehow manages to connect itself to the internet and use up all my minutes. Stupid thing. I did actually have some spare change with me and found a pay phone so all was well and Mr. M was where he said he'd be. Nice to know you can rely on something these days.

/BAD PART

So that's the scoop. I really had a wonderful time and the day went much too quickly. Heck, next time (date TBA - some time in 2006) I'm going to want to stay three days! Geez - the people you meet on the internet...


Oh yes - Sandra asked why I had my passport with me. It's because the only official forms of identification in Germany are a national ID card or a passport, and foreigners, even permanent residents, are not eligible for an ID card. So if you get stopped by the police, you need to show your passport. It's a hassle sometimes, seeing how much time and money would go into replacing a lost or stolen travel document, but there's not much we can do about it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Deutsche Bahn strikes again

The day was going wonderfully until about 10 minutes after Sparky, Jen and J dropped me off at the Marburg train station on Saturday evening.

Guess whose train back to Hannover got cancelled? Can you imagine how cranky I was?

I'm home safe and sound now, though.

More details after a good night's sleep.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

all systems go

23:41 p.m. - I'm all set for my day trip and will be heading off to bed shortly, only to be rudely awakened by my clock radio at 5:45 a.m. tomorrow morning. That's what you get for living out in the boondocks. I just need to check my purse one more time to see if I have everything I need:
  • train ticket
  • passport
  • cell phone
  • gum
  • kleenex
  • adequate amounts of money
  • travel sickness pills (you never know)
  • camera
  • umbrella
  • emergency granola bar

Yep, that should do it.

Mr. M has managed to get himself and the boys invited to both breakfast AND lunch (usually the main meal in Germany) at his parents' tomorrow with a shopping trip downtown (they only live 10 minutes away from the city centre) between the two meals. I'm sure much time will be spent in the toy and computer game departments, since Papa likes his toys just as much as the kids do.

Full report of my adventures on Sunday.

See ya!


Thursday, October 20, 2005

googly eyes


I couldn't blog yesterday quite simply because I couldn't see straight.

My little monkeys begged and pleaded with me to take them downtown yesterday afternoon to watch The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D. Being such a pushover, I agreed. What could be the harm of a little 3-D kids' movie, I thought to myself, forgetting that the last 3-D film I had seen was Creature from the Black Lagoon at "two-for-one-Tuesdays" way back in the 80's when I was a perky co-ed at the ol' alma mater. Now I remember why I've avoided this kind of entertainment since then. My poor old eyes just can't take it.

I've had poor eyesight for as long as I can remember and had to start wearing glasses when I was only 6 years old. I've heard of people whose vision improved as they got older. Mine did not. I may (reportedly) have eyes the colour of a tropical sea, but that's about all they're good for. Purely decorative.

It wouldn't be so bad if both eyes were equally myopic, but as it stands now, my right eye is much worse than my left, due to pretty severe astigmatism that can only be corrected to a certain degree with glasses or contact lenses. I often have problems with focus and depth perception, and as we all know, 3-D movies are all about depth perception.

So after purchasing the movie tickets, handed to us along with our original Lava Girl 3-D Glasses, we settled down in our seats and prepared for the adventure. When the GLASSES ON sign appeared on the screen, I donned my spiffy cardboard specs and found that my eyes immediately began battling it out as to which one was seeing what. Way too much red (left) and not enough blue (right). My right eye is used to sort of coasting along and letting the left one do all the work, so this new challenge suprised the hell out of it, I guess. I narrowly avoided short circuiting my brain and ended up watching without the glasses most of the time, eventually nodding off. Not surprising considering the lameness of this very cheesy movie. The kids enjoyed it, but I'm thinking my money would have been better spent on laser surgery.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I swear they can see inside my head

Only three more days until my trip to Marburg to meet up with the other Whiney Expat Bloggers, and I'm as ready as I'll ever be. My train ticket has been stuck on the fridge for a week and I dug out my passport just in case anyone wants to dispute my right to hang out in this glorious country. Even bought new boots for the occasion, because we must make an impression, you know, even if it's only with our feet.

So today, like every day, my beloved daily horoscope appears in my inbox, and wonder of wonders, with a couple of minor adjustments it actually fits this time. Looks like the planets have aligned just right:

A trip by air rail may be in the offing, Christina, and you may be making plans for touring distant states or foreign lands. You could be going with friends, or with a group you're associated with.

Oooh, how did they know?

Unusual new interests could capture your attention, enticing you to further study, so you could find yourself enrolling for classes or workshops. You're definitely looking towards expanding your horizons. Just take care not to spread yourself too thin.

Well that's just typical Gemini talk, isn't it? What Gemini doesn't want to expand her horizons? Jack of all trades, master at none. That's me. But the thin part? Forget that.

Also got my hair trimmed today by the lovely and talented Frau B down at Sylvia's Beauty Silo. She complimented me on the rescue job I did on my highlights! Hee! Maybe I should have become a hairdresser.

Monday, October 17, 2005

if you say so

For lack of anything better to blog about, I have taken the World's Shortest Personality Test and come up with this...

Your Personality Profile


You are nurturing, kind, and lucky.
Like mother nature, you want to help everyone.
You are good at keeping secrets and tend to be secretive.

A seeker of harmony, you are a natural peacemaker.
You are good natured and people enjoy your company.
You put people at ease and make them feel at home with you.




Hmm. I dunno about the good natured part. But I am good at keeping secrets. Go on, tell me something!

***************************************************


Boy12 got his first e mail address last week and is now on one computer or the other constantly, checking for mail from his buddies. They're sending funny pictures and jokes back and forth thinking they are just so clever. Now Boy9 wants to get with the program. I figure it's all right as long as I have their passwords and know who they're writing to and receiving mail from. Kids these days. Heck, I didn't get my own e mail address until I was 35! But I've made up for it these past 7 years, oh yes I have.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

nostalgia

A while back Sal in Spain posted a very stylin' picture of himself and his 'Nonnie' and it got me all nostalgic, thinking about my grandparents. Most of the family pictures are still back at my parents' place, but every time we go on vacation, I bring a few back with me, always planning to put them in albums and never really getting around to it.

As I was digging through some old stuff yesterday I actually did come up with a couple of family photos. And, wow, I'm even wearing a dirndl.



If I recall correctly, this picture was taken in 1965 when my Oma and Opa were in Vancouver for a visit. My mother is wearing her dirndl, too, so I guess it must have been a special occasion. I'm the short one in the back, by the way, with my dad and Opa. All of two years old and still enjoying my Queen of the Universe status, completely unaware of what was yet to come. A year and a half later, the first brother arrived. Two years after that the second one. I wept when they took my crown away.

For the first couple of years of my reign we lived in this cute little house on Marine Drive in West Vancouver.



Those were the days.

****************************************

I'm making stuffed peppers for dinner tonight, something I haven't made in ages. Unfortunately, whenever I think of stuffed peppers, I have to think of an old boyfriend of mine who I'd really rather not think about. He was Greek, and in the bloom of my youth (I was 20) he whisked me off to Greece for two months one summer to show me what his homeland had to offer. One of the things we did was visit the island of Rhodes, where parents of a friend of his had a hotel. We didn't get to stay in the hotel, but we did get fed by the hotel owners. Always the same meal - stuffed vegetables. Zucchini, tomatoes and peppers, filled with rice, pine nuts and currants.

The food was good, but the boyfriend turned out to be not so good. Before he dropped me like a hot potato he taught me how to say a few words in Greek, including "I love you, my little kitten." But thinking back I really wish he'd taught me to say "I have nothing but contempt for you, you pompous ass." That would have come in very handy at the time. Loser.

Better be careful what I make for dinner from now on.

So that bit of unwanted nostalgia led to more digging around in old photos and I came across a high school picture of my very first boyfriend, who was a total doll. Nicest guy you could ever meet. I was 16 when we stopped eyeing each other at the bus stop every day and finally got together and stayed together for a couple of years. He used to say things like "Oh Pookie, *smooooch* you're the most beautiful girl in the world.*smooooch* Your eyes are the colour of a tropical sea. *smoooooooch*" How could I resist?

That's the kind of stuff a girl wants to remember.

another gem from mum

My mother still insists on sending me all the bad jokes, chain letters and other cutesy stuff that's going around the internet. Her friends send it to her, she faithfully sends it to me. Yesterday I got this one, which is pretty appropriate considering my current state of health:

**********************************
A Love Story


I will seek and find you . . .

I will take you to bed and have my way with you.

I will make you ache, shake and sweat until you moan and groan.

I will make you beg for mercy, beg for me to stop.

I will exhaust you to the point that you will be relieved when I'm finished with you.

And, when I am finished, you will be weak for days.


All my love,


The Flu


******************************************


Ha ha ha. I'm just killing myself laughing. Wonder what she'll send next?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

typing with one finger

It all started Thursday night when I went to bed feeling really, really dizzy. I think it's my sinuses, but I'm not sure. I never get cold symptoms any more - everything just goes right to my head and sticks there. The dizziness was still there in a big way when I woke up on Friday so after I got the kids off to school I went back to bed. For four hours. Not much improvement but I managed to function, which meant being able to successfully open the can of ravioli at lunch time without passing out.

We thought about cancelling our Friday night dinner date with our friends at our place, but since we were only having submarine sandwiches anyway (aka Make Your Own Damn Sandwich Because I Don't Feel Like Cooking), Mr. M did all the necessary grocery shopping and I only had to do the usual frenzied tidy-up before they got there.

Boy9 had been begging all week to have a little friend of his come in the afternooon and stay over on Friday night so I agreed to that, and Boy12 had a pal over until about 6. You can really tell these kids are growing up because after a couple of hours I found myself flinging open all the doors and windows to avoid having the entire house smell of unwashed boys when our dinner guests arrived.

All the men, little friend included, headed off to the flea market early this morning, leaving me to sleep as long as I wanted to. And sleep I did. Finally made it out of bed at 4 p.m., as I mentioned, and now seem to be on the way to making a full recovery although the head pressure is still there.

If you live in Germany and suffer from frequent colds/sinus problems, This stuff is the bomb. Works great for kids, too, and can sometimes stop a cold right in its tracks. I'm still waiting for it to take effect, but expect to be feeling better by tomorrow.

Starting Monday the boys are on their Herbstferien - autumn holidays - for two weeks. Yay. We plan to take it easy, maybe see a couple of movies, plan our Halloween celebrations and sort out a bunch of toys they don't play with anymore. They brought home another truckload of crapola from the flea market today, so we all agreed that a whole pile of other stuff needs to go.

I slept in until 4 p.m. this afternoon

No, no, not a hangover. Just the same old mysterious tropical disease that's been following me around all week. My sinuses decided to have a party in my head and are totally thrashing the place. More later...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

just my luck

Every year in October we get a little slip of paper like this thrown through our mail slot



That means the Schornsteinfeger - the chimney sweep, is coming. And not just ANY chimney sweep, but the Bezirksschornsteinfegermeister, who is the certified district chimney sweep, the big cheese of chimneys. By law, you need to have your chimney/furnace checked twice a year, and this guy is your man. He's the only one allowed to do it - it's called the Kehrmonopol (kehren means 'to sweep'). Apparently there are whole forums on the internet opposed to the fact that there is some kind of German chimney sweep monopoly going on.

We don't have a wood burning fireplace, or any fireplace at all, actually, but we do have a furnace that runs on natural gas. That's where those big words on the slip of paper come in - Immissionsschutz und/oder Abgaswegüberprüfung - immission control and/or flue inspection. We don't want any stray carbon monoxide flying around the house now, do we? The other check, which we aren't even aware of any more because the guy now gets onto the roof through our neighbour's house (we live in a duplex/semi-detached), consists of making sure the chimney isn't blocked in some way.

The chimney sweep usually comes at 7 a.m. on the dot, because we're the first house on his rounds. So I was showered and dressed long before that. 7 came and went, with me wondering where the heck he was. A bit after 8 the doorbell finally rang. I was expecting the same very attractive guy who's been coming to our house for the past 10 years but when I opened the door - oy! THIS chimney sweep was EVEN BETTER than the usual one. A sort of blonde cabana boy type. Quite a sight in his spiffy uniform, tanned fingers firmly clutching the handle of his little black suitcase. Resisting the urge to yell "Surf's up, dude!" at him, I showed him the furnace room instead where he went to work doing whatever it is he does in there.

All was well with our furnace, and I got a handshake out of the deal (the bill arrives next week, of course). Germans shake hands all the time, but shaking hands with a chimney sweep is considered very lucky, especially if a bit of soot rubs off onto you, since images of fire and hearth are believed to bring good fortune. Here in Germany, as in some other countries, chimney sweeps are often hired for weddings to shake the groom's hand and kiss the bride, giving a little speech afterwards - a good omen for the couple's future.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

actually lived to see another day

Well, after a good cry, a bit of hanky panky and a decent night's sleep (in that order, please) I woke up this morning feeling a bit better. But only a bit. I think I may be coming down with something involving a sore throat and a sinus infection - my specialty. Boy12 has a tickle in his throat as well, so he's probably the one who passed it on to me.

My autoimmune symptoms (muscle and joint pain, extreme fatigue, brain fog, mild depression and blah blah blah I could go on for years) have also really been bothering me lately and that certainly doesn't do anything for my mood. I just wish I could for once make it through the day feeling "normal". Whatever that is. Many of my symptoms mimic those of both Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Not much fun. I've upped my thyroid meds a bit and will need to wait a few weeks to see if it makes any difference at all.

Whine, whine, whine. That's me. Thanks for listening.

Stay tuned for big excitement tomorrow: the chimney sweep is coming to our house for his annual visit! At 7 a.m! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

oof

Despite (or perhaps due to?) eating pumpkin pie for breakfast, I'm having a really weepy, melancholy day. The feeling had been building up all weekend and now it's right on the surface. Missed chances, roads not taken - all the stuff that can make you miserable if think about it for too long. But I find trying to supress it doesn't work for me. I need to let it all out and then I feel better again.

Last week I bought James Blunt's new CD Back to Bedlam and it's jut perfect for wallowing in self pity while sniffling into a pile of kleenex.

I like this song the best:

High

Beautiful dawn - lights up the shore for me.
There is nothing else in the world,
I'd rather wake up and see with you.
Beautiful dawn - I'm just chasing time again.
Thought I would die a lonely man, in endless night.
But now I'm high; running wild among the stars above.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me.

Beautiful dawn - melts with the stars again.
Do you remember the day when my journey began?
Will you remember the end of time?
Beautiful dawn - You're just blowing my mind again.
Thought I was born to endless night, until you shine.
High; running wild among the stars above.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me.

Will you be my shoulder when I'm grey and older?
Promise me tomorrow starts with you.
Getting high; running wild among the stars above.
Sometimes it's hard to believe you remember me.


**************************************

No, I'm not going to go out and get high now, in case you were wondering.

Monday, October 10, 2005

stuffed even without the stuffing

As my grandmother used to say, "We're all FTB - fit to bust." I don't think I'll need to eat again until Wednesday.




Oh yes, one last thing to be thankful for: I have now restored my hair back to a colour found in nature and Boy9 says I can go out in public again.

just say no to giblets

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating today!

How come Canadian Thanksgiving is in October? Beats me. I did some research and learned that the first official Thanksgiving Day after Confederation took place on April 15, 1872 to celebrate the recovery of Prince of Wales' from a serious illness. I guess that's as good a reason as any. Up until 1957, parliament announced a different date for Thanksgiving every year until they finally made up their minds and proclaimed the second Monday in October to be the official Canadian Thanksgiving. Canada also has an earlier harvest than the U.S. so giving thanks when the crops are at their best makes sense.

Our bird (5 kg/11 lbs. - any bigger and it wouldn't have fit) is roasting in the oven and later on we'll be having homemade cranberry sauce, green bean bundles (bacon!!), braised red cabbage and mashed potatoes to go along with it. Yum. You'll notice that the gravy and the stuffing (dressing) are missing. That's because we aren't gravy people at all and everyone except me hates stuffing. If I ate it all by myself, I would have to buy bigger jeans (again).

My pumpkin pie turned out just fine. This recipe is lightened up a bit, using whole or evaporated milk. You could, of course, use half and half (light cream?) or heavy cream if you wanted to be really decadent. I won't give a recipe for the pie crust because pastry is not my forte and the crust seems to turn out chewy (but entirely edible) no matter what recipe I use.

Pumpkin Pie (from Anne Lindsay's Light Kitchen)

2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups cooked mashed pumpkin OR 1 can (14 oz/398 ml) pumpkin*
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk OR 2% evaporated milk
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp each ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice**
pinch salt

1 unbaked 9-inch (23 cm) pie shell

1. In bowl, beat together eggs, pumkin, milk, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Pour into pie shell.

2. Bake at 425°F (220°C) oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F (180°C); bake for 45 minutes or until firm to the touch and knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream.

*if you can't find canned pumpkin where you are, you can cut up a pumpkin and scrape out and discard the stringy insides. Peel and chop up the rest into smallish pieces and cook in a saucepan with a bit of water until tender. Then mash or puree the cooked pumpkin until smooth. It's a good idea to drain it well in a strainer after this step, otherwise your pie may come out watery.

**You can vary the spices according to taste. I like a bit more ginger flavour and a pinch of cloves thrown in there.



gobble gobble

Sunday, October 09, 2005

sunday fun

Last night we had this interesting vegetable with our dinner.



It's called romanesco - a cross between broccoli and wild cauliflower, and I just love the way it looks. Like little trees reaching for the sky. The taste is more cauliflower, than broccoli, I'd say, but there's a certain sweetness thrown in that makes it very delicious if you're a fan of brassica vegetables. While I was surfing around I also found out that the romanesco is one of the vegetables that exhibits the Fibonacci spiral (if you click on fruit and vegetables you'll see the romanesco there). Fascinating.

After dinner, because I just can't leave well enough alone, I decided that I was going to highlight my hair and I asked Mr. M to help me. He did a fine job, except for the fact that instead of coppery highlights I now have weird brassy orangey hair and DO NOT look like the girl on the box. Oh well.

Mr. M: It doesn't look that bad.
Me: No, it's OK. Some people run around looking like this all the time but I'm not used to it.
Mr. M: I know. It could be worse. It just looks a little...
Me: Cheap?
Mr M: Yeah, that's it!


don't try this at home, kids

I'll be scuttling down to the drugstore with a bag on my head early tomorrow morning to see if I can get something to tone it down a bit and if that doesn't work, I'll be seeking professional help.

Mr. M did his usual tennis and sauna thing this morning, stopping off at a flea market on the way home where he just happened to snap up this remote controlled motorcycle. Because you can never have too many remote controlled vehicles, right? And the ten we have now just weren't cutting it. *sigh* Boy9 built a ramp and painted flames and skulls on it and the boys spent the day doing stunts.



whee!

No more time to blog. Tomorrow is Canadian Thanksgiving and I've got two pies in the oven this evening - one pumpkin, one elderberry (an experiment). More excitement tomorrow.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

fair to middling

As the days get cooler, our little town has been blanketed in fog every morning since the beginning of the week. When I send the boys off to school, they disappear into the mist after only a couple of metres. The fog usually clears about noon, sometimes the sun even comes out but by that time everything is covered with a wet film, almost as if it had been raining for several hours. You never know what kind of weather you're going to get from one minute to the next around here. But hang on a second.

A couple of days ago, we became the proud owners of a "weather station" for our upstairs bathroom. It's a digital, radio-controlled wonder with all sorts of buttons and displays. Not only does it tell you the time, date, and indoor/outdoor temperature, it also records humidity, barometric pressure and moon phases. Mr. M is a great fan of clocks, both digital and analog, radios and thermometers. All kinds of thermometers. He MUST know what the outside temperature is at all times, and opening a window or door and sticking his head out will not do at all. This new toy is right up his alley.

Small diagrams of sun, clouds and rain tell you what outfit to pick out for the day before you've even dried off from your shower. The part I like best is that along with the humidity percentage, they've included a tiny "smiley" face, looking very sad when he thinks the humidity in the bathroom is too high, moving to appearing only slightly concerned when the level starts to drop. At about 55%, the little guy actually cracks a smile and stays that way until someone takes a shower again. Very cute.

I have to admit this thing is pretty cool. But sometimes I'm wary of all this electronic stuff - what happens when it malfunctions or the batteries run out and we don't have any fresh ones in the house? How will Mr. M know what the weather's like then? Will panic break out? I doubt it. But if things get really bad, I have my old faithful standby right here. Been carrying it around with me for years and it hasn't failed me yet. Reliable, accurate, no batteries and it works anywhere in the world.

Take a look.


don't rain on my parade

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

this just in

"Vancouver, B.C. is the world's most desirable place to live", says CNN International, reporting on the results of a liveability ranking survey put out by
the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The top ranking doesn't surprise me, even if I am extremely biased. Of course these kind of "who's the best" surveys need to be taken with a grain of salt and I know for a fact that there are many, many wonderful places to live in the world. But if you've never been to Vancouver, do go there some time and I think you'll see what they're talking about.

And now for the 67th time this year, I will proceed to bang my head on the desk and yell "What the hell was I thinking??!!" in a very loud voice. Don't worry, I'll be OK again in a minute.

sixty quid, and eight for the fruit-bat

Here's Boy12's dissected bee. Isn't it fabulous?



Head, thorax, abdomen, six legs, two sets of wings and a pair of feelers - it's all there.

Of course there's absolutely no way I can look at it without John Cleese's voice popping into my head:

Half a bee, philosophically, must, ipso facto, half not be...

In fact, the whole Fish License Sketch had been swimming around in my brain for days now and I can't get it out. Better than a poke in the eye with sharp stick, I suppose.

We never did find a replacement for the missing feeler. Where are all the spare dead bees when you need them? Some other kids in the class were missing way more important parts so we didn't do too badly and Boy12's teacher said he could just draw in the feeler. Now he tells us.

I wonder what they'll get to dissect next? Not so fond memories of fetal pigs and cow eyeballs come floating back when I think about my high school biology classes in the 80's. Are those things still au courant these days?

Monday, October 03, 2005

east meets west

On October 3, 1990, just three months after I arrived in Germany for good, East and West Germany were declared one. Now, 15 years later and a little worse for wear, both of us are still surviving. Today, like every October 3rd since the fall of the Berlin Wall, is German Reunification Day.

Mr. M and I enjoyed a long weekend in Berlin in 1988 and I can remember looking at the Berlin Wall and thinking , "Wow, this thing has got to come down." And come down it did. Some were ecstatic. Others were not. Many are still not. After all these years there's still talk of "Ossies" and "Wessies" and "Zonies". I wonder how long it will take before those words disappear.

We went back to Berlin several years ago and marveled at the progress that had been made. Our small, pleasant hotel in the Pankow district of former East Germany was about a 20 minute tram ride away from Berlin's centre so we got a good look at the scenery as we rode into town each day. We did all the things that tourists do, moving freely between what had once been east and west and it was almost as if that wall had never been there.

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Today is also the last day of Oktoberfest in Munich. A little more than an hour to go before they shoo everyone out and take down the tents until next year. I was looking at my stats the other day and saw that some poor depraved soul had found my blog by googling "wiesn skirt p*rn". Hee! So sorry to disappoint you, dear.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

no, thank YOU!

My calendar say it's Erntedankfest - German Thanksgiving, today so I'm busy counting my blessings (I'm up to three already!). Like every year, Boy9's school had a little service in the school gymnasium on Friday where all the children contributed fruit or vegetables, home-grown if available, to big baskets which are later distributed to needy families (according to a study published in March 2005, one child in ten in Germany is living in poverty - that's 1.4 million children under 18 years of age). I'm not really sure what else the Germans do for Erntedankfest - no big family dinners like in the U.S. and Canada, it seems. We did, however, have to go to the in-laws today and eat an unsuspecting rabbit for lunch, something for which I wasn't all that thankful. Good thing I am not the queasy sort when it comes to food.

Canadian Thanksgiving is October 10. I'll be trying to rustle up a turkey next week - no small feat around here. I always make a pumpkin pie and usually end up eating the whole thing myself. Boy12's reaction last year: "Hmm. It's OK except for the pumpkin part."

Yesterday it rained ALL day. Not that I minded, of course. I enjoy cool, rainy weather. That's what I grew up with, after all. Today was sunny and pleasant but quite chilly. The leaves are starting to turn now, offering many a photo opportunity if I could just get myself motivated.



gimme shelter


Mr. M, who is never really sure when Halloween is, came home with three pumkins the other day. Then he bought three more on Saturday just to make sure we'll have enough. I am a pumpkin carving, pumkin seed roasting fool at Halloween so these guys won't go to waste.


blissfully unaware of their fate

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