Friday, March 31, 2006

that ain't no lake!

To get the full effect I stuck a couple of the previous pictures together to make a sort of panorama (click on photo to get a larger view). How I wish we'd had a digital camera back then!

No, it's not a lake, it's the Pacific Ocean, but a fairly sheltered part of it known as Howe Sound, North America's southernmost fjord which runs from West Vancouver up to Squamish. There are numerous islands in the sound, some of them reachable by ferry, others by private boat only. The Sunshine Coast, actually part of the mainland, is also only accessible by boat, plane or helicopter.

Just below the trees in the picture is Highway 99, also called the Sea to Sky Highway . It's a winding, unbelievably scenic route to Whistler Mountain where the Winter Olympics will be held in 2010.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

feeling blue

No, not really, but I think I may be coming down with something (too much ice??) and my brain isn't quite up to blogging today.

I was digging through some pictures earlier and found these from 2002 when my parents still lived in Lions Bay near West Vancouver. I grew up in a different house, but looked out on a similar view every day and I really miss it sometimes.

This was the view from their deck when we were there visiting. I love the different shades of blue and green.

and a sunset thrown in for good measure...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

my balanced breakfast

Equal parts ice and Diet Pepsi.

Life is good - no doubt about it.

As I was enjoying my (very, very cold!) liquid refreshment this morning, this article from the Daily Om popped up in my gmail inbox and since it was all about balance, I thought I'd share.

Personal Harmony

Like pieces of a puzzle, the many different aspects of your being come together to form the person that you are. You work and play, rest and expend energy, commune with your body and soul, exalt in joy, and feel sorrow. Balance is the state that you achieve when all of the aspects of your life and self are in harmony. Your life force flows in a state of equilibrium because nothing feels out of sync. While balance is necessary to have a satisfying, energetic, and joyful life, only you can determine what balance means to you.

Achieving balance requires that you assess what is important to you. The many demands of modern life can push us to make choices that can put us off balance and have a detrimental effect on our habits, relationships, health, and career. In creating a balanced lifestyle, you must ascertain how much time and energy you are willing to devote to the different areas of your life. To do so, imagine that your life is a house made up of many rooms. Draw this house, give each part of your life its own room, and size each room according to the amount of importance you assign to that aspect of your life. You can include family, solitude, activities that benefit others, healthy eating, indulgences, exercise and working on self. You may discover that certain elements of your life take up an inordinate amount of time, energy, or effort and leave you with few resources to nurture the other aspects of your life. You may want to spend less time on these activities and more on the ones that!
fulfill you.

A balanced lifestyle is simply a state of being in which one has time and energy for obligations and pleasures, as well as time to live well and in a gratifying way. With its many nuances, balance can be a difficult concept to integrate into your life. Living a balanced existence, however, can help you attain a greater sense of happiness, health, and fulfillment.

Something to strive for today...

Monday, March 27, 2006

ice age

Sorry, didn't have time to post on the weekend. I was too busy opening and closing the fridge doors and sighing. And besides that, the weather was so great on Sunday that I actually ventured outside for minutes at a time. After a couple of rain showers in the morning, the sun came out and it remained a balmy 18°C (64°F) the entire day. T-shirt weather has finally arrived. If I had been able to find a pair of shorts that still fit me (reminder to self: more power walking, less peanut butter) I would have put them on.

Now back to the matter at hand. Yes, we got the thing of beauty into the kitchen on Friday with a minimum of fuss. Taking the fridge doors off was a piece of cake, and by doing that, we got it through the door frame with about thismuchspace to spare on either side. Mr M pulled from the front, I pushed from the back and Boy9 held the water hose thingie down with a spatula, and all of a sudden the planets aligned and we were home free.

When we first looked at the fridge we weren't quite sure where we were going to put it or if we'd be able to hook it up to the water supply. But since the model with the ice maker was on sale, making it less expensive than the model without, we took it anyway. After Mr. M had made a bit of room in the kitchen by moving the dishwasher over slightly and removing a work surface that I never really used, we found that the fridge would fit perfecly into that space. Right next to the water hook up. Yes!

Saturday was all about transferring everything from the old fridge/freezer (which was still in the kitchen as well, but in a different location) to the new. The old fridge then got banished to the basement where we'll probably continue to use it for beer and other essential items.

A couple of people mentioned in the comments of my previous post that this would be no big deal if we lived in N. America and that's so true. There, if you told someone you got a new fridge, they'd probably start yawning. It's just a regular, if somewhat high-tech, fridge. Here, it's like all the neighbours have to come over and take a look at the utter decadence. Our duplex neighbour was suitably impressed and called it a Luxuskühlschrank - a luxury fridge. Heh. We may start charging admission.

Naturally I have no peace in the kitchen now with everyone running in and out every five minutes to fill their glasses with ice cubes or crushed ice, my husband being the worst culprit. I'm hoping the novelty will start to wear off in a week or two. Mr. M, however, is looking forward to a long, hot summer filled with iced cocktails and little paper umbrellas.

But my better half hasn't always had such an easy relationship with ice cubes. He's German, remember, and Germans have a thing about cold drinks. It's a well-known German old wives tale that if your drink is too cold, you will immediately get pneumonia and die. Oh yes, it's true. Just ask my in-laws.

When I first moved to Germany, I asked Mr. M where his ice cube tray was and he replied, "Ice...cubes? What are these 'ice cubes' of which you speak?" They do actually sell ice cube trays in Germany, so we went out and got one. After that it was a cautious "You mean I won't get pneumonia and die if I put ice in my drink? Promise? Cool!" And the search for the perfect ice cube tray was on. Over the years we must have collected about ten of the things - all different shapes, sizes and materials.

I guess we really have no more use for them now, but maybe I'll keep a couple for old time's sake - to remember the day when Mr. M finally moved into the ice age.


Friday, March 24, 2006

all this and crushed ice too!

Some time between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Friday, they said. I was up and beautified long before 9. Around 11 the doorbell rang and there they were - the Refrigerator Delivery Guys from MediaMarkt, all ready to bring in our fabulous brand new side-by-side fridge! Wheee!

One guy looks at our front door and says "Gee, do you think it's going to fit through there?" and the other guy says, "I dunno." How reassuring. After whipping out the tape measure, they decided it would. But it didn't.

The first attempt was up 4 steps and through the front door where the fridge promptly got stuck in the entryway and wouldn't budge. They had already removed most of the packaging so there was no more leeway. After inspecting the situation, I told them they'd probably have to go around the back of the house through the garden. After a bit of wiggling and lots of grunting they did manage to get the fridge back outside the door, down the 4 steps, into the back garden, up 4 more steps onto the terrace and through the double doors into the living room. Everyone very sweaty by now. Why they only send two smallish men to deliver a 117 kg refrigerator is beyond me. I wonder if those guys have hernia insurance.

We hadn't planned on having a fridge in the middle of our living room so the next step was getting it through the door into the hallway. Oh, another door. Think it'll fit? Sure, if you take the door off its hinges. More grunting and manoeuvering ensued and just when I thought there was no way that fridge was going to get through, they gave one final shove and...mission accomplished! They were suprisingly cheerful through the whole thing and I gave them a large tip which I'm sure was quickly converted into a couple of large beers at lunchtime.

I guess normal people would first plan their new kitchen (did I mention I'm getting a new kitchen??!!), install the cabinets and then order a fridge and have it delivered. The truth is that we have no clue what we're doing with the kitchen yet, or even where the fridge is going to go, but were were out looking at appliances on Wednesday night, and this baby caught our eye. It was even on sale and I can't tell you how tired I was of chipping away at the iceberg that kept forming on the back wall of our old fridge which we bought in 1992, I think. There is just no saving that sucker.

The new fridge is a Daewoo. Yeah, I know, you thought Daewoo only made cars and electronics equipment, but apparently they also make refrigerators. This one has an ice maker, Mr. M's dream, and something called "nano-silver technology", a marketer's dream. Probably just another gimmick, but it's supposed to kill bacteria and keep food fresh longer. Who knows? The inside of the fridge also seems to be set up more to my liking and I have a feeling I'll actually be able to find stuff more easily. And we chose silver because...silver was all they had. I think I can get used to it though. Take a look.

pretty sexy, eh?

When Mr. M gets home from work this afternoon, he's going to start doing some prelimiary moving of stuff in the kitchen to make room for the shiny giant. This is going to involve shoving the dishwasher over to the left so it's under the sink and moving the boiler somewhere else and all sorts of things I don't really want to think about but will probably have to since I'll be his little helper.

Oh yes, and there's also that little problem of getting the fridge through the kitchen doorway, which is narrower than the other doors. So convenient. Mr. M figures it'll work if we take the fridge doors off first and work as a team. After seeing this morning's performance, I'm not so sure. But I shall try to remain optimistic.

Amazing what lengths people will got to get a little crushed ice.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dr. Phil rice pudding saved my marriage!

The author of the cookbook I got this recipe from claims that when the recipe was first published, she got mail from many people saying that this dessert had saved their marriages. Well, I'm not sure it could replace couples counseling, but isn't rice pudding one of the ultimate comfort foods?

I used a leftover mix of cooked basmati and wild rice for this. The recipe actually calls for short grain rice, but any rice you have on hand will do. Raw rice triples in volume when cooked, so I skipped the first step and used 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice. I also left out the raisins because no one but me likes them.

Creamy Rice Pudding (from Simply Heartsmart Cooking by Bonnie Stern)

1/2 cup raw rice (preferably short grain)
1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
pinch salt
5 cups milk
pinch nutmeg
1/4 raisins (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp cinnamon

1. Combine rice with boiling water in a large saucepan. Cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes, until water is absorbed.

2. Combine sugar with cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 1 cup milk. Stir until smooth.

3. Add sugar mixture and remaining milk to rice in saucepan. Combine well. Add nutmeg and raisins. Stirring, bring to a boil.

4. Cover and reduce heat to barest simmer and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the mixture is very creamy. Stir occasionally.

5. Stir in vanilla. Transfer pudding to a serving bowl and sprinkle with cinammon. Serve hot or cold. Makes 8 servings.

Note: If you like crème brûlée, place chilled pudding in a flat, ovenproof dish and sprinkle with sifted brown sugar. Place under the broiler until sugar melts (watch it closely so it doesn't burn!)

I attempted to get a picture, but you know what? Rice pudding is about as photogenic as, well, rice pudding. Trust me, it really does taste much better than it looks.

We like to serve this pudding with sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top (Mr. M's favourite because it reminds him of his childhood) or with a fruit compote as pictured here.

Rice pudding: delicious, filling and a whole lot cheaper than alimony!

Monday, March 20, 2006

this is going to make a lot of Germans really happy

Being friendly to customers makes you ill

tulips and two lips

Well, well, well - what do we have here? Ahh, today is the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere? Hmmph, doesn't look much like the first day of spring to me. Outside it's still as cold and grey as ever. OK, maybe we should take a look inside then, because not only do I have spring in my heart (la la la!), I also have these pretty, pretty flowers in my living room. They're going to make it just a little bit easier to wait for those first rays of sunshine.

Speaking of rays of sunshine, guess who I ran into downtown on Saturday? It was Jen, Darmstadt's cutest expat! Oh, all right, we didn't just run into each other. We'd been planning this visit for weeks and finally made it a reality. Jen braved the perils of the Deutsche Bahn all by herself and arrived right on time at 10:17 a.m.

We met right outside the Hauptbahnhof Hannover - the main train station, where the statue of Ernst August I, King of Hannover from 1837 to 1851, is located. The bronze statue, which depicts the king on horseback, is a popular meeting place and you'll often hear people say, "Ich treffe dich unter dem Schwanz" - "I'll meet you under the tail."

It was pretty cold outside - freezing, actually, so we decided we needed a latte macchiato or two to warm up and ended up sitting in coffee shop for at least two and half hours. Times flies when you're talking your head off. A certain expat blogger who was in on our plan had warned us to take an extra set of lips along in case the original ones got all talked out. I think he was right.

After a while we got hungry and decided to search out Henry's Griddle , an "Authentic American" restaurant I had been to several years before. It was still there and we found a booth in the back and started talking again after the waitress (who we forced to speak English) took our order. Two California Burgers (bacon and guacamole - yum!) and two giant glasses of Diet Coke later, we were STILL talking. We talked about nothing and everything and it was WONDERFUL.

Soon it was time for Jen to think about catching her train home, but we still had one more stop. The Hello Kitty store! I am informed that there is a severe lack of Hello Kitty merchandise in Darmstadt. We browsed for a while, but Jen didn't find exactly what she was looking for, so we strolled on back to the train station and had a look at all the drunken soccer fans returning from a Hannover 96 vs. FC Köln game. What a bunch of rowdys. You definitely don't want to get in their way, especially if their team lost.

Jen's train left shortly after 6:30 p.m. and I still don't think we'd said all we had to say, despite the worn-out lips so we're busy planning another get together very soon.

Thanks, Jen, you're a doll.

Friday, March 17, 2006

there's a bit o' the Irish in all of us

Top o' the mornin' to you! It's March 17th, St. Patrick's Day.

Many, many years ago, my maternal great-grandparents emigrated from Ireland to Nova Scotia, living there for a while and finally settling in Massachusetts, where my grandfather was eventually born and where several of our relatives still live today.

So you see there actually is a little bit o' the Irish in me and I'm celebrating today with "the wearing o' the green". When I was a child, anyone at home or at school who didn't wear green on St. Paddy's Day got pinched! Ouch.

St. Patrick's Day was originally a Catholic holy day that evolved into a more secular holiday and a celebration of Irish culture. It's an official holiday in Ireland, Montserrat and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. But that sure doesn't stop people from making it an unofficial holiday elsewhere. The oldest and largest St. Patrick's Day parade is held in New York City and I bet there are celebrations going on at every Irish pub in Germany today as well.

Since I'm not all that keen on green beer, I think I'll make myself one of these later.

Irish Coffee

1 c coffee, freshly brewed
3 sugar cubes
3 tbsp Irish whiskey (1 jigger)

1. Pour coffee into large mug. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add whiskey and stir to combine.
2. Top with whipped cream and serve.

And now I'll give you this to take on your way.

Old Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the rain fall softly upon your fields.
And the sun shine warm upon your face.
And when you die, may you be in heaven
Half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.

May the luck of the Irish be with all of you today!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

attention bilingual/bicultural families...

The Bilingual/Bicultural Families March Newsletter is now online with many interesting and varied articles for your reading pleasure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

byte me, CeBIT

At 6 o'clock this evening in Hannover, the CeBIT Messe - the world's largest information technology fair - closed its doors for another year. It was a busy week - 450,000 visitors to the fair, people coming and going all day. Hotels, restaurants and stores full of the world's citizens. It's going to be a quiet weekend after they've all gone home.

Every time the CeBIT rolls around, I get a bit of a stomach ache. Because I worked there once. That's right. I, a gal who couldn't tell a bit from a byte until the late 90's, spent a week as a hostess at the CeBIT Hannover in 1991.

As many of you know, I arrived in Germany in the summer of 1990 and by the time spring 1991 rolled around, someone, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't me, thought it would be a cool idea for me to get my first job. I was in between German courses and the CeBIT was coming up, so a friend of Mr. M's suggested I put in an application. C was a university student who had worked at the Varta stand at CeBIT for years and she had access to all the companies hiring students for the week.

I sent out my illustrious resumée to all and sundry, not really expecting a reply. Then the ominous letter came. Epson had hired me, along with a bunch of other students, and wanted us to travel to their headquarters in Düsseldorf for a training session about a month before the fair.

Can you say panic attack?

I made it to Düsseldorf and back, still not quite sure if I knew anything at all about computers or scanners or plotters, and fairly positive that if I did know something, I wasn't going to be able to communicate it to anyone else.

But I must have looked like I had two brain cells to rub together because instead of being banished to a week of making coffee and sandwiches for VIP visitors or handing out promotional articles, I was to be right out on the floor dispensing information and fielding questions about Epson's products. My partner in crime was a certain Fräulein N, a young business administration student whose main goal seemed to be to spend as little time at the Epson stand as possible. Every time you turned around, she was on a break somewhere. In my mind I christened her "The Man Magnet" because when she was actually at the stand, she was usually surrounded by hoards of men trying to get a date with her in the evenings after work. No one had told me that the CeBIT is also a meat market. All those lonely men away from home, all those pretty hostesses. Oh oh. Of course as an old married lady I had no part in all that, but it sure was fun to watch Fräulein N doing her thing.

Between us I think The Man Magnet and I managed to do a decent job considering how little we knew. Every day from 9 to 6 we'd do our very best to convince people that they absolutely, positively had to have our products. If the going got tough, we were allowed to refer visitors to our technicians, but we faked our way through most of it. And all in German. I got to speak English exactly once, to a British journalist whose German was worse than mine was.

To be honest, I can't even remember which products we were assigned to - 326 processors, I think - but I can tell you that what was presented there was light years behind what you'd find at the CeBIT 2006. Technology has come a long, long way since then.

It was an interesting experience, and the money was great, but my feet hurt so badly by the end of the week that I swore never to go back there again except as a visitor.

These days, being a hostess in my own home is much more my speed.

By the way, Ginnie attended this year's CeBIT and has some great photos to show for it. Go take a look.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

got cake?

We spent most of the day today recovering from Boy10's birthday party on Saturday. There were four rowdy little friends. There was pizza, a movie downtown (note to self: do not repeat next year if you know what's good for you), a piñata, and cake. Lots of cake.

As a budding artist, Boy10 has always been particular about his birthday cakes and as he gets older, he likes them to make a statement. I don't mind, because fiddling around with icing is one of the great joys in life, right?

Here are a few of the cakes I've managed to capture on film.

When you turn 2, a teddy will do...

When you're 9, Sponge Bob's just fine...

And when you reach 10? What then?

Look, it's a giant hamburger! And yes, I know I need a haircut but I was hoping you'd be distracted by the cake.

Just like every year, we ended the party by smashing an unsuspecting piñata to bits. It's a testosterone thing. This year Boy10 and I came up with the following creation.

go ahead, make my day

Now that the February/March Birthday Extravaganza is over for the year, we can all get back to normal. Whatever that is.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

and all of a sudden, there he was

Our little guy is 10 today. Born 3 years and 11 days after his big brother and a week after Papa's birthday. He wasn't in a rush like his brother, at least not at first, and a whole week after my due date still showed no signs of wanting to vacate the premises.

But thanks to my patented method of labour induction (which can be yours for only €19.99 and a stamped self-addressed envelope!) - something involving sauerkraut, several flights of stairs, half a loaf of banana bread and a hot bath, he changed his mind and started on his way in the wee hours of March 11.

Feeling guilty about keeping us waiting for so long, he decided to speed things up again, and labour and delivery took less than three hours from start to finish, during which time I had managed to shower, get dressed and bundle up Boy13, (then Boy3) to go to Oma and Opa's. Mr M floored it to the hospital and by the time we got there, I knew things were getting serious. You haven't lived until you've had amniotic fluid sloshing around in your shoes.

We should have known he was going to be such a big boy, because when New Year's Eve '95 rolled around - I was about 7 months pregnant at the time and feeling like a beached whale - I could have balanced my champagne glass (OK, it was actually a mug of warm milk, but I like to pretend) on my belly.

4090 g was the final verdict. Just over 9 pounds of bouncing baby boy. We were overjoyed to welcome him into our family.

A few months later he looked like this.

Ten years later he looks like this

He has thinned out and grown tall, but inside he's still our cuddly little boy and he'll always be my baby.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

can we talk?

If you look down near the bottom of my sidebar you'll see a link to the Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network in Seattle. They recently asked permission to link to my blog because my husband and I are raising our two boys bilingually. Or at least we say we are. But where's the evidence? Can those boys really speak two languages fluently? Well, yes, they can, and I'm going to tell you all about it, now being as good a time as any especially since some people may actually be following the link and coming here only to find that I've been going on (and on!) about everything under the sun except bilingual education.

It was clear to us that we wanted to start raising our children bilingually as soon as they were born, and the method that made the most sense for our family was the so-called OPOL (one parent/person, one language) strategy, in which each parent consistently speaks his or her (usually native) language to the child no matter where they are or who is present. That's the way we chose to do it and it has worked well for us, but of course there are many variations on the theme and we're not saying that this method is suitable for everyone.

Boy13 was born in 1993 but we didn't get a computer until 1998 so I was pretty much on my own in regards to resources and methodology. My first exposure to parents who were successfully raising bilingual children was through the Bilingual Family Newsletter , which I still subscribe to today, and through a book, Zweisprachige Kindererziehung (raising children bilingually), given to us by friends when they found out we were expecting our first child. Although the book dealt with a French/German family in Germany and did not exactly mirror our situation, I found that it gave me the confidence to go on and disproved a lot of myths surrounding bilingual children.

So I spoke the minority language (ml), English, to our new baby wherever we were, and Mr. M spoke to him in German, the majority language (ML). Mr M and I continued to speak to each other in German, as we had done since I moved to Germany (you know, when in Rome...).

One common myth is that bilingual children will almost always be late talkers being that they are exposed to two languages at the same time and (supposedly) can't process all the information as fast as a monolingual child. Well, I say that if a child raised bilingually does indeed seem to have a language delay (and most parents start to panic much too early) it most likely has another cause and should not be a reason to give up the two languages.

Boy13 started saying his first words at about 13 months, mostly words that sounded similar in English and German - ball/Ball, banana/Banane, no/nein - but it was clear even then that he knew the difference and had figured out that what came out of Mummy's mouth was different than what he heard from Papa.

He started speaking two-word sentences in both languages at about 18 months and by 24 months could string together many more words. On his 2nd birthday we have a video of him sitting in his highchair with a little cake in front of him and saying, "______ blow out da candle! More blowing, Mummy?" Funniest thing you ever saw.

His German pediatrician, who (like much of the medical profession) obviously knew very little about bilingualism, kept assuming that because I spoke to Boy13 in English only, that that was the only language he spoke or understood. When it came time to check his German language development at the 2-yr-old check up, I was very relieved when the little guy looked out the window, pointed to the sky and yelled "Ahh, da kommt die Sonne schon wieder!" ("The sun's coming out again!") Phew. Another myth busted.

A further misconception is that children will get confused when they hear two different languages being spoken within the same family and will have trouble switching back and forth. I can't agree with that at all. I think consistency is the key here. If the child has no idea which language is going to come out of a parent's mouth on any given day, well, yes, that could become confusing. If the child knows that the same parent is going to speak the same language day in and day out there's really not a problem. Of course my children know that I speak German fluently, they hear me speaking it to my husband the rest of Germany all the time, but they also know that English is 'our' language and that I expect them to use it with me at all times. Sounds like a case of 'tough love', but believe me, it worked for us and was in no way detrimental to the boys' development.

There are a lot of things to worry about and fuss over when you're thinking about raising your children bilingually, but our policy has always been "stop worrying and just do it, already".

To be continued at a later date...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

news from the hearth

My parents are celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary today and I think they still kind of like each other. 46 years - that's a long time. I asked Mr. M (whose parents will be married 48 years this August) if he could imagine being married to someone for that long and he said "Oh, I don't know. I suppose you get used to it after a while and at some point it really doesn't matter any more." I see. Anyone interested in a slightly used husband?

On the health front, my dear old dad is doing much better. He's not as depressed any more and has been getting out and doing things again. His arm had to be re-broken, but he has his cast off now and is going to physiotherapy to regain full movement so things are looking up.

I also talked to my youngest brother on the phone the other day and found out that his kidney stones were not, in fact, as big as coconuts. Our mother tends to exaggerate at times. If you reduce everything she says by about 2/3 it usually comes out right.

There has also been a change in plans for the summer holidays. We were thinking of heading to southeastern B.C. for a week at a lakeside house, but that was no longer available, so my parents booked a cabin at Ucluelet on the West Coast of Vancouver Island not far from where we stayed two years ago. I am greatly looking forward to this because living close to the ocean is something I dearly miss.

That is all. For now.

who doesn't like cheesecake?

Ooh, this is going to be fun because I rarely follow a recipe the way it's written down.

Anyway, the recipe I used is from a German cooking magazine and they called it "Amerikanischer Cheese-Cake" (American cheesecake). Way to mangle both languages at the same time, eh? Using cream cheese in cheescakes is becoming more popular here, however the regular German cheesecake, Käsekuchen, usually uses Quark, a type of fresh unripened cheese similar to cream cheese but with a lighter consistency and lower fat content. But I digress. This cheesecake was made with good old Philadelphia cream cheese.

For those of you living in Europe and using metric measurement, I'll give you the recipe the way it was printed, then explain some of the ingredients and then give some variations for people in N. America

Amerikanischer Cheese-Cake

125 g Zwieback
40 g butter, melted
grated rind of one organic lemon
600g cream cheese
150g sour cream
100g sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbsp flour

My addition: 4 cans (the small size) mandarin oranges in light syrup, divided (2 for cake, 2 for topping)
1 package Tortenguss

Reduce the Zwieback to crumbs by either whirling it in the food processor or putting it into a freezer bag and whacking it with a blunt instrument - rolling pin or hammer will do. Line the bottom of a 26cm (10 inch?) springform pan with parchment paper. Melt butter, mix together with crumbs and pat mixture into bottom of pan. Put in fridge to chill.

Combine lemon rind, cream cheese and sour cream. Add sugar and mix with electric mixer until sugar dissolves. Blend in eggs and flour. Drain 2 cans of mandarin orange sections (reserve juice for later) and stir into mixture.

Pour cream cheese mixture into prepared pan and bake in preheated 175°C (not quite 350°F) oven for about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 150°C (300°F) and bake for 40 minutes more. Turn off heat and let cake rest a further 15 minutes in oven. Remove from oven, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cake and let cool. Chill in fridge until cold.

OK, so that's the basic recipe. Zwieback are rusks, those small, crunchy twice-baked toast thingies. We don't have graham crackers in Germany so we have to improvise. I've seen some recipes that use Zwieback and other that use crisp ladyfingers or another type of neutral tasting cookie (biscuit) or cracker with perhaps a bitter of sugar added along with the melted butter. If you can get graham cracker crumbs, use 1 1/2 cups mixed with 3 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 cup melted butter for the crust.

Cream cheese comes in 200g packages here, whereas in the U.S. the packages are 250g or 8 oz. 100g of sugar is about 1/2 cup. I found that this cake could have used a bit more sugar.

Actually, if you're in the U.S., rather than fiddling around with the above recipe, I would use the standard Philadelphia cheesecake recipe, leaving out the sour cream and adding the orange sections.

So that would be:

Philadelphia 3-step cheesecake

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 Tbsp sugar

3 8 oz. (250g) packages cream cheese
3/4 c sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
(Plus the 4 cans mandarin oranges I mentioned above).

Mix crumbs and butter, press into bottom of springform pan and bake at 325°F for 10 mins.

Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed. Add eggs and mix just until blended. (Add drained orange sections at this point). Pour over crust in prepared pan. Bake at 325°F (160°C) for 50 to 55 mins. Run knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

If you don't have a springform pan, I think you could make this in a 9-inch pie pan using 2 packages of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 eggs and only 1 can of mandarin oranges. Of course you can also use a prepared graham cracker crust if you can get one.

Are you confused yet? I know I am.

Let's move on to the final step - the fruit topping.

After the cake had been chilled for a while, I arranged the remaining two cans of drained orange sections in an artistic pattern over the top. Then I put a glaze on it. We have this stuff here called Tortenguss - it's a powder consisting of starch and gelatin that you mix with sugar and water or fruit juice (in this case about 1 cup of reserved juice from the oranges), bring to a boil and cook until thickened. It comes in two colours - red and clear. After it has cooled for a minute, you spoon it over the fruit on your cake. It gels at room temperature and the cake can be cut after about 2o mins. I have no idea if it's available elsewhere. If you can't get it, you'd just have to improvise by thickening the orange juice with cornstarch, as you would for pie filling, and then pouring it over the cake.

Amazing how something so easy can be so complicated, isn't it? Sorry if this is a bit garbled. If you have any questions, fire away.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Germany is still freezing its buns off. We've had a bit of snow up here in the north, but it's nothing compared to what's been going on down south. Nevertheless, I would be very, very happy if it would start warming up because I'm tired of being cold. Below zero temperatures in March are not my idea of fun.

Here's a bit of silliness I came across the other day. But I'm pretty sure they can't mean me. They must be talking about Those Other Canadians.

(If you're into ice hockey, you'll get the last reference too)

The Official Canadian Temperature Conversion Chart

50 F (10 C)
Californians shiver uncontrollably.
Canadians plant gardens.

35 F (1.6 C)
Italian cars won't start.
Canadians drive with the windows down.

32 F (0 C)

American water freezes.
Canadian water gets thicker.

0 F (-17.9 C)
New York City landlords finally turn on the heat.
Canadians have the last cookout of the season.

-60 F (-51 C)
Mt. St. Helens freezes.
Canadian Girl Guides sell cookies door-to-door.

-100 F (-73 C)
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Canadians pull down their ear flaps.

-173 F (-114 C)
Ethyl alcohol freezes.
Canadians get frustrated when they can't thaw the keg.

-460 F (-273 C)
Absolute zero; all atomic motion stops.
Canadians start saying "Cold, eh?"

-500 F (-295 C)
Hell freezes over.
The Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

party on, Wayne!

Mr M asked me to make him a mandarin orange cheesecake for his birthday yesterday.

The cake is now history but the celebrations continue. Boy13 had six of his best pals over today for movies and pizza.

The usual suspects arranged in descending order

I made two large sheet cakes and three huge square pizzas and within minutes they had washed it all down with Coke and Fanta and were begging for more. Where do those boys put it all?

While they were eating they watched two of our favourite movies - Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2 . Well, OK, there's no accounting for taste but our whole family enjoys both of these films. And I kind of have this thing for Mike Myers. I can't help it because 1) he's a brilliant comedian, 2) he's cute as a button, 3) he and I share a birthday - same day, same year, and 4) he's Canadian. Nuff said? Excellent.

"I think we'll go with a little 'Bohemian Rhapsody', gentlemen?"

Saturday, March 04, 2006

my old man

All hail to the one who brings home the bacon, for he is 44 today!

Can't get much more German
than this, can you?

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Schnucki!

Yes, there will be cheesecake.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I walked three miles in my pyjamas

First thing I did this morning after the boys left for school was to fire up my 45- minute aerobic walking tape. Since my pyjamas were going to be thrown into the wash today anyway, I just left them on rather than searching through the piles of clean laundry for a workout outfit. 3 miles (just under 5 km) later, my pyjamas and I were slightly sweaty but I was feeling pretty good. This exercise stuff isn't half bad once you get into it.

Sometimes I find it really difficult to fit exercise time into my 'schedule' of daily activities. Not that I have a lot to do, just that there are other things I'd rather do than exercise, and they always seem to take priority. So now I've decided to take a kind of "pay yourself first" attitude to getting fit. You know how financial advisers often suggest that when you get your paycheck you should put something away for yourself first rather than blowing it all and putting whatever's left at the end of the month (usually not much) into your savings account? That's what I'm trying to do. What little energy I have will go to exercise first and other priorities later. Sort of like making a deposit towards my future. I plan to be on this earth for quite some time to come and I figure I better make the best of what I have and keep it in good running order.

I have never been and will never be particularly athletic. When I was a child my mother tried to get me to move occasionally by enrolling me in all sorts of terrifying lessons - swimming (OK, I have to admit I do enjoy swimming), gymnastics (lord have mercy), tennis (never again), ice skating (well, at least I got to wear a pretty red dress while I was falling down), jazz dancing (recreation centre went on strike after the second class - thank you karma gods) and so on.

While I was exercising today, I was thinking about one physical challenge that I actually did enjoy. Once, and only once I climbed a mountain. Really. With a backpack and snowshoes and an ice axe and everything.

It was in 1979, I was 16, just a little slip of a thing in the 10th grade at a girls' private school when our headmistress decided it was time for something more adventurous than singing hymns at morning assembly and flirting with the boys on the bus on the way home every afternoon. She signed up all three grade 10 classes for some 'experiential education.' Yikes.

We travelled to Strathcona Park Lodge on Vancouver Island and took part in an outdoor education program that involved things like walking across logs, repelling off tall buildings, canoeing and mountain climbing. No stiletto heels allowed.

We were divided into two groups, those who wanted to take a canoe trip, and those who thought they could climb a mountain and live to tell about it. Not being that keen on canoeing, my best friend and I had put our names down for the 'Mountaineering Expedition' a 2-day trip up Mt. Myra, about 2000 metres at the summit. There were 8 girls in total along with our very, very patient guides J and M.

Most of the gory details have been washed from my brain, but I do remember large amounts of whining and complaining and even a few tears along the way. It was freezing cold. There was snow everywhere. Our snowshoes were big and cumbersome and took quite a while to get used to. And we drove poor J crazy by referring to our ice axes as ice picks. "Girls", he said " I've told you once and I'll tell you again. We are climbing a mountain here, not drinking cocktails. Ice picks belong in bars."

After spending an uncomfortable night in two-man tents and managing to cook up some disgusting-looking but nourishing food with our camp stoves we continued our journey. Going up was much more difficult than coming down and we were all completely exhausted when we did finally make it to the summit. The feeling of accomplishment, however, was overwhelming and the wonderful stillness and breathtaking view at the top of the mountain was enough to make even a bunch of giggly teenagers stop talking for a while.

Our descent was more like slipping and sliding than mountaineering and we arrived back just before nightfall, happy to still be alive and sorely in need of a hot shower and a decent meal.

The final night at the lodge was dedicated to dressing up and performing a bunch of funny skits and songs about our experiences. J got out his guitar and composed this little ditty in honour of our conquering Mt. Myra. I wrote it down at the time and saved it. Brings back a lot of good memories.

Hypothermia Blues by J.R.

My fingers, my toes, my ears and my nose,
They used to be pink, it's true.
But ever since I've been climbing,
They've been hypothermic blue.

I'm freezing, I'm freezing, I'm cold.
I'd enjoy myself, I was told.
As I lie in my tent, my energy spent,
I'm freezing, I'm freezing, I'm cold.

They gave me a party of schoolgirls,
Young ladies of culture and birth.
But one night with them in the mountains
Was more than my job was worth.

The mountain we climbed was called Myra,
Quite pretty and covered with snow.
I pulled with a rope at the front end,
And Marcia whipped from below.

The dinner we ate was fantastic,
A regular gourmet spread.
We at with a spoon by the light of the moon,
And then we rolled into bed.

They had trouble finding a bathroom.
They were bursting for a pee,
'Til I told them that in the mountains
You can go behind any tree.

The second day we went for the summit.
We climbed and we climbed and we climbed.
Up steep slopes, gullies and ridges,
We were scared spitless most of the time.

Some hung on with their fingers.
Some bit their teeth on the rope.
But when they called it an ice pick,
I knew we hadn't much hope.

But amazingly we did it,
And then on the summit we stood.
And I knew that these girls were the best in the world,
And that climbing was part of their blood.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

ever have days like this?

© John Wagner

*Oh great! © Martin Zak

Copyright © 2005-2012 by 'Mausi'. All rights reserved. It's not nice to steal.