Wednesday, May 31, 2006

is 'subsidiarity' a word?

And if it is, what the heck does it mean? OK, I know what it means but I had to look it up first, all right?

My translation assignment this time is about social/political/European Union stuff. Here's some of what I'm wrestling with. This particular excerpt consists of only two German sentences.

Unter Bezugnahme auf das do. Rundschreiben vom 10. April 1997 beehrt sich das Amt mitzuteilen, daß die in den übermittelten Unterlagen beschriebenen Aktivitäten grundsätzlich gegrüßt werden. Im Hinblick auf die Subsidiarität der Materie und dazu in ausreichendem Ausmaß bestehenden gesetzlichen Regelungen und Vorkehrungen sollte jedoch darauf geachtet werden, daß das Ergebnis der diesbezüglichen Bemühungen nicht in Form einer EU-Richtlinie gebracht wird, sondern als allgemeine einheitliche Information für die Mitgliedsländer zur Verfügung steht.


It's not that difficult to get the definition of the individual words or to understand the intended meaning of the text in your head. It's dismanteling the whole thing and putting it back together again to make coherent English sentences that's the fun part.

I need to get this done today. I'm almost finished. Wish me luck.

A-E-I-O-U (and sometimes Y)

Not much time to blog today. Yesterday I was working on the next assigment for my translation course and managed to permanently delete 3/4 of it (yes, I had it saved but it disappeared anyway) which means I'll have to fire up the ol' brain cells again today and try to retrieve the data from my mental hard drive. I know it's in there somewhere and this time I'll save it in 17 different places just to make sure.

In a feeble attempt to tide you over until my next real post, here's a weird, language-related (well, sort of) 80's video for ya.

As the song says:

There are 178 parent languages on our planet with over 1000 dialects. It's amazing we communicate at all. Languages and dialects - with this one thing in common...

(is it just me, or did everyone back in the 80's look just slightly unwashed?)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

the 80's was one of my better decades

Now that I've discovered the wonders of YouTube I can go live in the past any old time I like.

One of my favourites from 1985. Sentimental value and all that.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Every year we put up a couple of nesting boxes in our garden for the birds, but we never really saw any action until now. This year we were delighted when a pair of our favourite little blue and yellow birds starting building a nest in the box right next to our deck. They would go in out all day, carrying feathers, twigs and bits of fluff in their beaks, making a nest for the female to lay her eggs in. About a week ago, we started hearing faint chirping noises and we knew that the eggs had hatched.

These birds look like what I would call a chickadee, but when I did some research, I found that the chickadees I know from British Columbia are the black-capped variety. We have similar ones here, but the small ones that are nesting now are in fact known as European blue tits. Heh. ( yes, yes, insert myriad jokes and puns here.) I think I'll still call them chickadees.

I adore these birds. They're always so cheerful and full of energy and love to hang upside down on a branch and swing away. They are so tame that we have sometimes had them hop from the deck right into our living room to pick up stray crumbs (of which there are plenty!). Once in a while when I'm sitting outside on a garden lounge, they will even come and land on my toes! These guys have definite personalities.

Anyway, this particular pair has been busy feeding their offspring many, many times a day and keeping the nest meticulously clean, often scolding us if we get too near. We can't wait until the chicks actually emerge so we can take a look.

Mr M took these photos and I think they turned out really well. (As usual, click on the pics to biggefy)

a little rain won't stop me!

Mmm...a crunchy daddy-long-legs

And even better...a nice green worm

must. find. more. bugs.

bird on a mission

The colours in the pictures reminded me of the West Coast and then I got started thinking about the differences in the birds here and there.

When I first moved here, my mother kept sending me hummingbird feeders. We lived in an apartment for the first five years so we didn't have any use for them, but when we moved to this house we hung the feeders outside and waited. And waited. Where were all the hummingbirds? Well, guess what, Mum? There ARE no hummingbirds in Europe. Hmmph!

My parents have lots of hummers whizzing around in their garden in Vancouver, and my kids loved watching them when we were on vacation. Once in a while one would fly into the house, but usually found its way out again with no trouble. Last time we were there, however, one did get stuck high up on a beam at the back of the living room one day and needed our help. We caught it in a small net and then I held it in my hands until it calmed down. It was quite awesome to feel a heart beating in that warm little body.

Black-chinned hummingbirds are common to southern British Columbia, the western U.S. and northern Mexico and I believe the one I got to hold was a female because of the white colouring under the chin and on the tail feathers. These tiny birds (about 3 in/7 cm long, at most) are suprisingly feisty and pretty fearless when it comes to humans and this one was no exception. She sat there for a while and rested, cool as a cucumber, and then took off back into her favourite tree without even a backward glance.

Ain't Mother Nature grand?

Friday, May 26, 2006

spoiled rotten

In Germany it's customary to make (or buy) your own birthday cake(s) and be ready to entertain any and all guests who may drop by, even if they don't call first. But since I'm not German, I can do what I want, right?

Last year I did actually make my own cake, while my loved ones slaved over a hot stove all day.

This year I just wasn't in the mood, so we went out and bought a couple of cakes. Germany gets points for having really high quality frozen cakes that taste like they came right from the bakery after you thaw them. We chose a chocolate layer cake and a German cheesecake. Yum.

I did make dinner, though, and we tried a side dish that was new to us: black squid ink linguine in a garlic and olive oil sauce accompanied by herbed chicken breasts and stir-fried broccoli. The black pasta was delicious and I'll be making it again soon.

The boys made me sweet cards and gave me a gift certificate for a tea pot I'd been wanting for a while but wasn't yet available.

And what about the great present from Mr. M? No, it wasn't a diamond tiara or tickets for a Caribbean cruise. If you run your mouse over the picture, you can see what was inside the bag.

I know, I know, everyone who is anyone already has an iPod and I'm probably the last one to join in on the craze, but this marks a big step forward in Mr. M's gift giving strategies. He's not one to go out and buy me jewelry or fancy underthings and in the past I've sometimes received "useful" gifts, you know, like household appliances or garden utensils. But this time he really thought about what I might like and chose just the right thing and that made me very happy. Now I just have to go and find 1,000 songs to upload and I'll be set for life.

This year getting older didn't hurt a bit.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

how many Gemini does it take to change a lightbulb?

Yes, it's my birthday today and I woke up to these beautiful flowers this morning.

Mr M also gave me a lovely present that I wasn't expecting at all, but more on that later.

This was my horoscope for today:

Some time alone with the man in your life is definitely called for today, Christina. The social whirl of recent weeks has put you into touch with a lot of old friends, and enabled you to make new ones, but now it's time to relax at home and spend the evening together. You might discuss your plans for your future together, perhaps with regard to possible changes in your living situation. You might also give considerable thought to your career.

Ooooh, they always get it right, don't they?

I'm a Gemini, and if you know anything about astrology or the signs of the zodiac, you'll know the traits associated with having your sun in Gemini. Here are a few interesting tidbits I found on the net. I'll let you judge for yourself how accurate they are.

Gemini and Mercury main motivations: curiosity, observation, perception, analysis, learning, dealing with details, debating, duality, connecting, communicating, conversation, collecting facts, categorizing, informing, intelligence-gathering, reporting, reading, persuading, moving around, making contacts, changing, adapting, being versatile, using the intellect, avoiding boredom.

Whew. Makes you tired just reading that, doesn't it?

And how about this one:

What attracts the Gemini woman?

The man who attracts you is clever and changeable, and a great conversationalist. If he can keep you guessing, then he'll keep you interested.

"Communication" is very important to you, so the man who can share information and ideas appeals to you. If he says interesting things and stimulates you intellectually, he'll spark a romantic interest too.

You respond to clever conversation and things that arouse your curiosity. Double meanings, sexual innuendos, word-games, and witty flirting arouse your interest.

You can be a sucker for the "smooth-talker", but also for the "good listener" who seems interested in everything you have to say. And you do have lots to say.

If you have Mars in Gemini, you may be especially drawn to men who arouse your curiosity or offer a variety of experiences. Being "interesting" is more important to you than being exceptionally attractive.

At times you may find yourself attracted to, or involved with, more than one man. Juggling two relationships may require some quick thinking and convincing story telling - but that comes naturally to a Gemini type like you.


And last but not least, did you know that there are actually light bulb jokes for all the signs of the zodiac? Gemini has a multiple personality, so of course there are multiple answers to the eternal question.

Q: How many Gemini does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Two. Plus a portable phone, an Internet link and a copy of the "Bluffer's Guide to Changing Lightbulbs."

Q: How many Gemini does it take to change a lightbulb?

A:At least two to take out the old bulb, two to shop for a new one, two to write a book about it and two more to discuss it on a talk show.

Q: How many Gemini does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: Two (of course) but it will take all week and when they're done the light bulb will do your homework, speak French and shine in any colour you want it to.

Yep. I guess that's why the light bulb changing in this house is left to someone else.

As well as being Ascension Day, a public holiday, today is also Father's Day in Germany. As I mentioned last year, it's not really a day for fathers to spend time with their families, but rather for fathers to spend time with each other. And that means getting drunk, a popular German pastime, especially when it's a holiday. However Mr M, being a family man, is home today and we're about to make him a big brunch with lots and lots of bacon. Later on this afternoon there will be cake, cake and more cake in honour of ME. Because I am so very fabulous (aren't we all?) but mostly because I have made it this far without killing anyone.

I wonder if the 43 candles will set off the smoke alarm?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

everyone knows the Dutch have the best grass

Big excitement at the FIFA World Cup Stadium in Hannover yesterday as the new grass brought in especially for the World Cup 2006 matches was rolled out. Only 16 more days to go! Do I care? Well, not that much, but you can sort of feel the energy in the air. As someone who doesn't have tickets, I'm sure I'll be glued to the TV like everyone else, especially near the end of the championship. Lucky bloggers Ginnie and Claire will both be attending games in Hannover, and James and Greenhaddock have snagged tickets for other locations.

The grass, which took a year to cultivate and will be used in 7 out of 12 of Germany's World Cup stadiums, comes from Holland. It will be (or has already been - I'm not quite sure) installed in locations ranging from Dortmund, only 90 minutes away from the Netherlands, to Munich, which is a nine-hour journey during which the grass must be kept cool at all times.

Apparently some Germans were a bit upset at the prospect of having Dutch grass on German soil. This discomfort stems from the intense rivalry between German and Dutch football teams and fans. I'm sure they'll get over it though when the fun starts.

Here's the schedule in Hannover in case anyone's interested.

27-Jun-06 1H:2G

Real German grass direct from my garden says, "Hey, what am I? Chopped liver?"

Monday, May 22, 2006

instant rapport - just add sangria

Well, what can I say that everyone else hasn't already said? I had a lovely, lovely weekend seeing old friends again and meeting new ones.

Wikipedia tells us: Rapport is one of the most important features or characteristics of unconscious human interaction. It is commonality of perspective, being in "sync", being on the same wavelength as the person you are talking to.

I think the rapport between us all was phenomenal. I mean, you don't want to sit around in your pajamas with no make-up on with just anybody, right? It was like we all already knew each other and could talk about anything and everything. And believe me, we did. In fact I could have gone on talking for days.

My train arrived a mere 10 minutes late and Sparky was there to meet me. Only Sparky was at the front of the train station where he was supposed to be, and I, due to having zero sense of direction, landed out back. A quick phone call remedied that situation and I was whisked off to Jen and Sparky's wonderful home.

That place is awesome. Beautifully designed and decorated and on a gorgeous piece of property. They obviously made the right choice in moving there.

Lisa had arrived before me and was already talking up a storm with Jen and I just joined right in. I was so glad to finally meet her after reading her great writing day after day. She's just as wise and warm and unpretentious in person and it was incredibly easy to spend time with her.

I think Claire totally blew us away. All that life and youthful energy even after hours and hours on the train! Lisa compared Claire to sunshine, and she was right. When Claire walks into a room, a little ray of sunshine follows her. A certain German is a very lucky guy.

Jen, our beautiful hostess with mostest, is just pulling your leg when she claims she can't cook. She prepared four delicious meals, with drinks and snacks in between without batting any eyelid. That girl makes a wicked sangria, I tell you. I rarely drink, but I had to try some and I was impressed. I believe Jen is also available for private and group relationship counseling and psychotherapy sessions. She sure got my head straightened out. I feel like a new woman. In addition, she is also the source of many interesting and intriguing words and concepts that I swear I had never heard of before. I won't go into detail but if you visit Darmstadt, both your mind and your vocabulary will be expanded tenfold.

I only got to see J for about an hour before I had to head on home. He came bearing gifts and kept us well entertained. I look forward to meeting up with him again in a few weeks and taking the grand tour of Hannover because I know how much he likes to see those sights. There may be nachos involved.

And last but not least - Sparky, our Master of Ceremonies. What a great guy. I think all the girls will agree that he is now our Virtual Boyfriend, 'cause he's just about as close to perfect as you're going to get in the virtual boyfriend department. He took such good care of us and catered to our every whim. No, not what you think, but he makes a great cup of coffee and everything was very, very shiny at all times. Sparky, you did good, real good, and we all appreciate your kindness.

You know, every time I meet an expat blogger, I find a little bit of myself that I thought I had lost. As Jen said when we were talking on the weekend, meeting up like this gives you the chance to be yourself again in a world where you're constantly being pushed and pulled to fit in and be someone else. Meeting and talking in depth with other people in your situation gives you a renewed sense of hope and makes you able to go on, even if the going gets tough sometimes.

You guys are fabulous. Thank you.

back to reality...

Got back last night in one piece and I have to tell you that I had a WONDERFUL weekend. No time to do a real post at the moment - real life is calling. More details on the fun will come later. All I'll say now is that bloggers make the BEST friends.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

putty in the hands of the Deutsche Bahn

My train leaves Hannover tomorrow (well, today now) at 8 a.m. and with any luck I should arrive in Darmstadt around noon. I say "around noon" because although the train is scheduled to get in at 11:53 a.m., you never really know when you're going to get there, or even if you're going to get there at all. I'll be wearing my lucky underwear and thinking postive thoughts.

When you book your ticket online at the Deutsche Bahn site and ask them to send it to you by mail, you receive a very official looking envelope from the DB "Fulfillment Center" aka the ticket office. I'm wondering who the heck made that up, and also what else they could do for a person. Hmm.

The girlie count is up to four now, although with birthday #43 coming up in a hurry, I'm wondering if I can still really classify myself as a girl. But what the heck, eh?

I've heard tell that Sparky, Jen's lovely and talented partner in crime, will be playing the role of the butler this weekend. This should be veeeery interesting. There have been rumours of Mexican food, sangria, cookies, cake and lots of other delicacies. We have been advised to bring comfortable clothes. I have a feeling my yoga pants are going to come in handy.

If I don't check in on Monday, you'll know that I had such a good time that I decided to move in with Jen and Sparky and their three cats. The more the merrier, right?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

plus ça change, plus ça reste la même

Ever felt like you were running around and around and around in one of those little hamster wheels? Yep, just call me Fluffy.

Taking a wee blogging break to gather my thoughts. Back in a couple of days...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

call your mother!

Happy Mother's Day!

My sweet boys spoiled me this morning with breakfast and lots of lovely treats.

And as someone with two brothers and two sons I got a kick out of this short video.

Govern a family as you would cook a small fish - very gently.
- Chinese Proverb

Friday, May 12, 2006

money for nothing, and your chicks for free

Remember that Dire Straights song from 1985? I'm afraid that's what it's going to be like around here from now on. Because Boy13 informed us a couple of weeks ago that he's starting up a band and wants to be a rock star.

It'll be K on electric guitar and M on the drums. And Boy13? Well, he absolutely, positively MUST learn how to play the bass RIGHT NOW and has been scouring eBay for good deals on a suitable instrument and amplifier.

Nothings settled yet. K has little idea how to play the electric guitar and M's drumming skills are questionable at most, but they've already been furiously ICQing each other working on logos and graphics for their first CD and I crack up every time I look at them.

This is how Boy13 pictures himself.

And here's the rest of the band.

The Partridge Family they are not. (Yes, yes, I'll admit it - I too was once deeply in love with David Cassidy. David, however, had other plans.)

We'll see how far this project goes. Hey, I'm all for it. As long as they don't practice in MY garage.

how to make men happy

Boy10 comes up to me the other day, gives me a big hug, breathes deeply and says, " smell like cake!"

Best compliment I've ever had. From a 10-yr-old, that is...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


My head is much better (thanks so much for all the sympathy) but now a sinus infection and a cough have made me sick as a dog and I can only muster up enough energy to post this photo of the cat from down the street.

Why the cat? Well, I know he's gorgeous and all that, but what I'm really looking for are some recommendations on allergy medications from people living in Germany.

You see, next week I'll be visiting Jen in Darmstadt. I understand that she has myriad cats, and seeing as Mother Nature has graced me with a wicked cat allergy, I want to be prepared instead of being reduced to a sniffling, sneezing, itchy mess. That's no fun.

I am Paul. Fear me. I have the power
to make you sneeze on command...

I'm familiar with Lorano (loratadine), which I've taken before in Canada under the name of Claritin, but I'd like to know if anyone has had a good experience in Germany with any other kind of antihistamine.

That's all for now. If you need me, I'll be the one snuggled up to a big bowl of boiling water with a towel over my head.

Oh, just one more thing - were you aware that when Germans sneeze it's "hatschi!" instead of "achoo!"? Fascinating, no?

Monday, May 08, 2006

fragile: handle with care

Oh yes, you probably all thought I was off having a good time this weekend and had no time to post. Well, what happened was not my idea of a good time at all.

The weekend started off just fine - we went to our friends' house for a barbeque and ate lots of pork. Nothing unusual there. Our friend T built himself a nice grill out of an old washing machine drum. The machines here are usually top loaders and have a perforated drum rather than an agitator so he used that as the base of the grill and then hung the round grill rack from chains attached to a triangular frame so it swings back and forth over the the coals.

So that was great, but on Saturday morning I woke up with a really sore left shoulder and could hardly move my arm all day. No idea how that happened, I must have strained something somewhere. But that wasn't the worst of it. The real fun started when I went down to the basement on Saturday afternoon.

We have these metal utility shelves in our laundry room and two of them are pushed into a cornert in an L-shape. On one side we keep paper products, extra dishwashing tabs, detergent etc and on the other side...light bulbs, lots and lots of lightbulbs. Mr. M's idea, not mine - I've always hated the way they were all crammed into these shallow plastic crates that stuck out way beyond the edges of the shelving. This has been a bone of contention between us for a long time and I wanted those things out of there as soon as possilbe. I especially hated the long neon light tube that was just lying on top of the rest of the bulbs. I hate it even more now.

See, I was preparing dinner and ran down the basement to get some more paper towels, and without thinking I bent down really fast to reach the bottom shelf and suddenly felt this searing pain in my forehead just at my hair line. Totally stunned I grab my head and look up to see that that stupid neon tube had reached out to attack me with the little metal prongs it has on each end. I look at my hand and notice I'm bleeding. The sight of blood doesn't faze me at all and I have a pretty high pain threshold, but somehow this really got to me and I started sobbing really loudly, sending the kids running to see what was wrong.

When I got up to the bathroom I took a look and saw that I had blood running down my forehead. Nice. I'm shaking by this time, partly because of the pain, but mostly because I'm so damn angry, at myself and at certain other people who didn't have the foresight to see that this kind of thing could be dangerous. Took a whole hour to get a mumbled apology, too. Men.

The bleeding stopped fairly quickly and the punctures are not that big. If you didn't know any better, you might think I had been bitten by a very small vampire. But it's still swollen and hurts like the dickens. I have put any kind of facial expression on hold for now for fear that my head will crack open.

And just to add insult to injury, yesterday morning I woke up with a killer sore throat, the beginnings of a cold that I had obviously caught from Boy10 who had been sniffling since Thursday. Thank you SO much. shoulder hurts, my head hurts and I have a mother of a head cold. I have a feeling this week isn't going to be one of my best. Now where did I put that ibuprofen?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

naughty footwear?

Our local discount supermarket has these spiffy slip-on sandals on offer today...

(NOT my beige shag carpet - photo borrowed from their website)

Is it just me, or do the green ones seem to be sending out an interesting message?

I'm a well-rounded individual in every sense of the word

Calories don't count after midnight, right? Because those crackers spread with cream cheese and mango chutney were just soooo good. I think I'll go get some more...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

a meme to the nth power and a language lesson

Dixie did this meme a couple of days ago:

Comment and I shall give you a letter. Go back to your site, and write ten words beginning with that letter, including an explanation of what the word means to you and why.

I asked for a letter and got N, BUT, because I am so special, Dixie says I'm supposed to supply ten German words starting with N and tell you their meaning in English.

Here are some of my favourites. German is a fusional language that tends to squash together morphemes to create a different meaning. If one of my N words is made up of two parts, I'll give you the meaning of those as well.

1. Nilpferd
(Nil = Nile + Pferd = horse)
= hippopotamus

2. Nashorn
(Nase = nose + Horn = horn)
= rhinoceros

3. Nudelholz
(Nudel = noodle + Holz = wood)
= rolling pin

4. Nörgler
(nörgeln = to whine or complain)
= someone who likes to complain

5. Neider
(neidish = to be envious)
= people envious of the accomplishments or possessions of others)

6. Naschkatze
(naschen = to nibble + Katze = cat)
= someone who enjoys nibbling or snacking, especially sweets

7. Nichtsnutz
(nichts = nothing + nutzen = to use)
= good-for-nothing, ne'er-do-well

8. nichtsdestotrotz
(nicht(s) = not,nothing + trotz = despite)
= nevertheless

9. Nasenloch
(Nase = nose + Loch = hole)
= nostril

10. Nabelschau
(Nabel = navel + schauen = to look or peer at)
= navel-gazing

If you want to do this one in any variation, just leave a comment.


According to Site Meter, here's a few of the searches I've had in the past few days.

- pictures of German pork chops

- Bavarian costume p*orn (tsk! not on my blog, pal!)

- refrigerator won't fit through door

- law for burying cats in yard

and of course the ever-popular...

- girls stuck in the mud

It's 26°C outside today. Whoo! What am I doing sitting in here? Time to go get a tan!

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