Wednesday, November 29, 2006

talk about multitasking

Jen is one of the lucky ones who will be heading back to the Mothership for Christmas. She's leaving Friday so right now she's very, very busy making last-minute preparations. BUT she wasn't too busy to report on the meet-up in Bonn, her trip to Amsterdam and the successful Thanksgiving dinner she hosted and shared with a couple of expat bloggers.

It's worth clicking on the link to Jen's blog just to be able to view my Virtual Boyfriend Sparky wearing nothing but an apron. Now that's something to be thankful for!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

time to put down that latte and start shoveling

16°C (60.8°F) in Dullsville today. The sun is shining and I'm dressed in a t-shirt and jeans. Meanwhile, my hometown of Vancouver, B.C. got buried under a 50 cm (about a foot and a half) blanket of the white stuff yesterday.

Many schools were closed and driving has become a problem. Expat Traveler is snowed in, as are my parents and brothers. There have been power outages and it's getting colder, but I've been informed that all is well so far.

Once the roads are cleared again, the three ski areas on the North Shore are going to be doing a booming business.

If you've got a broadband connection and some time on your hands, you can take a look at this report on the situation from CTV news.

I don't envy all the poor people who have been inconvenienced by this, but I still would have liked to have been there.

Oh, to be a ski bunny again...

100 Mile House, B.C. - January 1992

Monday, November 27, 2006

if you're cranky and you know it clap your hands

I had a very cranky weekend. I'd like to blame it on hormones, but the timing wasn't quite right for that, so I'm blaming it on everything and everyone else.

Being cranky tends to brings about one of two reactions in me. I either take to my bed, or I cook. This weekend I cooked.

Mr M didn't play his usual game of tennis with a friend on Sunday so he was home in the morning and requested a "nice family brunch but with no bacon, please." Fine. I made something that looked a bit healthier but is just as artery-clogging.

Know what that thing is? It's a giant, puffy oven pancake, aka a Dutch Baby or a Big German. Don't ask me where in the world it got those names. Mr M says we can't possibly call it a Big German around our house. In true Highlander fashion he claims "there can be only one", and I guess he thinks he's it. Heh.

It's really just your basic Yorkshire Pudding or popover batter of eggs, milk and flour minus the beef drippings. It can be served with fruit, maple syrup or a squeeze of lemon juice and a dusting of powdered sugar. This time I made caramelized apples to go with it and it was really good. It puffed up nicely but was already making its way downward when I took the picture.

Of course after downing all that you think you'll never be able to eat another bite. But then dinner time rolls around and you find yourself feeling a bit peckish after all.

Boneless chicken legs with a sausage, breadcrumb and parsley stuffing, basmati and wild rice mix and sauteed mushrooms, zucchini and grape tomatoes.

Yes, I did de-bone those chicken legs all by myself. It takes a while, but it's not difficult and I liked the result. The stuffing is very filling and one leg per person will usually suffice unless you are a Big German and then you might need two.

So my family was satisfied and I'm slightly (but only slightly) less cranky today.

One more thing - if you're as tired of looking at my boring old kitchen countertop as I am, take heart, dear reader. As of February 2007 I'm getting a brand new kitchen. Whooo!

If that doesn't cheer me up, nothing will.

Friday, November 24, 2006

after the meet-up is before the meet-up

Hey, for more expat fun, get yourselves on over to Sal's and check out The Official Song of "Expatapalooza 2007".

Sure made me smile.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

bloggers behaving badly (in Bonn, no less!)

Now that I have fully recovered from the fun I can tell you all about it. This is going to be a very me-centered report, so if you get tired of my big fat ego, go eat some turkey and come back later.

5:30 a.m. Saturday: my alarm clock went off and I staggered out of bed all tousled and bleary-eyed, wondering if it was going to be worth it. I am not a morning person. My mornings start at 10 a.m. when I reach full consciousness. Until then I'm on auto-pilot. Since I had packed the night before and organized my stuff, all I had to do, though, was shower, dress and beautify myself before we all hopped in the car. Mr. M dropped me off at he Hauptbahnhof Hannover (main train station) on his way to the flea market with the boys.

The only train combination I could get to Bonn had a mere 7 minutes between connections in Cologne. Keeping Deutsche Bahn's track record in mind I wondered if I'd be able to leap from one train to the next within that time frame. My worries were unfounded. It wasn't the first train that was late, it was the second, so I ended up having lots of time and was the last person to arrive in Bonn.

The first thing I usually do when I arrive somewhere is to get good and lost. This time I got lost before I even made it out of the train station. Was that "turn right and head for the coffee shop" or "turn left and head for the coffee shop"? I couldn't remember and ended up somewhere completely different from where I was supposed to be. I'm thinking of having a navigation system permanently affixed to my forehead for occasions like these. My cell phone had to do this time, however, and I called J who appeared out of nowhere and rescued me.

So there we were, all 14 of us (Jennifer first arrived on Saturday evening) gathered together. I knew Jen and Sparky, J, and the Haddock family from previous meet-ups but Belinda, Hamish, Andrea, Heather and D, and Christina and Rainer were new to me.

What a lovely bunch of people! Everyone seemed to get along really well and there was MUCH laughter and joking and very little whining going on. I think we all enjoyed hearing about each other's experiences in Germany and the "where I'm from/why I'm here/where I'm going" stories were fascinating. All sorts of different personalities but all connected by that common "expat thing".

After those who were staying overnight checked into the hotel, we all spent some time walking around Bonn, which is known as "The City of Beethoven" since the great man himself was born there in 1770. I'll have to admit that although I'm usually very good at multi-tasking, I cannot sightsee and talk at the same time. Talking was my top priority on the weekend, so I really didn't take in all that much of the city, other than to note that it had a very cozy feel and was a scenic place that I'd like to visit again.

who was paying attention and knows what this is?

I heard rumours of rogue bloggers doing strange things to total strangers but I wasn't witness to this and can't report on the naughtiness. Hamish or Belinda could tell you more, I think.

Lunch took place at a German restaurant where Beethoven was said to have hung out with one of his girlfriends. We must have been sitting at their favourite table, 'cause I was definitely feeling the love.

Belinda departed right after lunch, claiming an uncontrollable urge to buy some cheese at the local open air market as well as having "stuff to do" (knitting!), and the three Haddocks had a family function to attend further south so our numbers were somewhat reduced at that point.

It was quite a grey, dreary day, but that didn't stop us from walking along the Rhine River for a bit. I loved being near the water and the fall colours were beautiful despite the drizzle.

Bonn is home to over a dozen museums, like this one, the Museum Alexander Koenig, one of Germany's most important natural history museums.

We didn't visit there, but we did go to the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany) which was very well done and documented Germany's history in a user-friendly, understandable way. But as with all things, when you've had enough, you've had enough. It was way too warm inside the museum, and the ladies of the group were done at about the 3/4 mark. After watching Sparky follow through on the "I dare you to lick that post-war Mercedes" challenge (you'll have to ask him about that one!) the female bloggers decided to go upstairs to the cafe and have a drink while the menfolk kept on going to the bitter end.

The afternoon went by quickly and I got to know quite a bit about my fellow bloggers and their "significant others". Soon it was time for dinner and we headed to a Mexican restaurant back in town where our tour guide J had made reservations. Nice atmosphere (except for the cigarette smoke), good food, great people. We had a LOT of fun and the conversation covered a wide-range of topics. Going to a blogger meet-up is an education in itself, I tell ya.

The smoky environment eventually got to be a bit too much for some of us and Andrea made an early departure. Surprise guest Jennifer from Cologne joined us mid-evening and fit right in with the crowd. We made our exit soon after the meal and looked for another place to hang out because it was still early and we still had lots to talk about. Christina and Rainer decided not to stay and left for Rainer's brother's house in Bonn, so it was down to Jen and Sparky, Hamish, Heather and D, Jennifer, J and me. We found a cafe where we could sit outside under the heaters and have a nightcap before seeing off those who were headed back to Cologne.

So it was just Jen and Sparky, J and me back at the hotel and I kept expecting Jen to yell "Pyjama party in J's room!" Much to J's relief, that never happened and we all retired to our separate quarters and locked our doors for the night. I have no idea what the others did, but I brushed my teeth, put on my jammies, watched about 10 minutes of TV and then passed out on the bed until morning. I had been up since 5:30 a.m., you'll remember.

One of the high points of the hotel was the sink in my bathroom. I liked it so much I almost took it home with me. Just look at that colour! Want to make me happy? Buy me a green sink!

On Sunday the four hotel-overnighters met Christina and Rainer for a brunch buffet at a trendy restaurant/club on the Rhine. All the cool kids were there and it was great pretending to be hip for a couple of hours. After we ate, Christina and Rainer left for good and Jen and Sparky went to make their mark on Amsterdam, leaving J and I to fend for ourselves. My train didn't leave for another few hours and J had no desire to return back to boring ol' Koblenz quite yet so we decided to walk around for a bit and see some more of Bonn. The museum we had planned to go to was closed, but we finally ended up at the Poppelsdorfer Schloss (Poppelsdorfer Palace)and discovered that the Minerologisches Museum, the Minerological Museum, was open to the public.

The exhibit of precious stones, meteorites, crystals etc. was right up my alley and brought out my esoteric side, which I think confused poor J somewhat. He now knows that if you've got a rose quartz in your pocket and an amethyst under your pillow, you're set for life. And we won't even mention the sea salt purification ritual, right J?

There was still a bit of time to kill, so we chose a place close to the train station to have a final cup of tea and a chat. Like we hadn't all been talking non-stop all weekend. I really should get out more often.

But this weekend reminded me of the reasons I don't get out more often - all the smoke. Smoky restaurants, smoky cafes and bars - not really my thing since cigarette smoke causes me actual physical discomfort. Despite sitting in the non-smoking section of the train going home, I spent four hours breathing in the fumes from the smokers' section which was only separated by a glass partition with a door in it. People were constantly going in and out so the partition was basically useless. Oh well. My eyes stopped burning yesterday and I'm not coughing any more so I think I'll live, but pleasant it was not. Get with it, Germany.

However, the weekend's positives far outweighed that one negative point and yes, it was worth it. We really missed all those who couldn't attend and next time there will be no excuse not to.

Start packing.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

this sounds like a job for Bicycle Repair Man!

Have run into a spot (a rather large one) of computer trouble and won't be able to continue my Bonn travelogue until later today. The sad thing is that *I* am the one in our household who knows the most about computers. Mr. M can fix cars, toasters and washing machines. I get left with the technical stuff. Stop laughing.

Back later if everything goes well.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bonn Part 1

Real life stuff to do today so I thought I'd first post a list of meet-up participants. It was a mixture of the usual suspects and some great new people whom I really enjoyed talking to. Here you go, in no particular order just as they pop into my head:

J ("Ass is everywhere!")

Jen ("Hee! Did I just say that?") and Sparky ("Go on, dare me!")

Christina ("I was a geek in high school and just look at me now!")and her husband Rainer ("Who ARE these crazy people?")

Mr. and Mrs. Haddock and the Juniorette ("Cover your ears, Juniorette!")

Hamish ("You know, I feel taller than this.")

Belinda("I promise not to make anyone knit!")

Heather ("I was only supposed to be here for 6 months. *sigh*") and her boyfriend D ("Call me anything you like. No one in Germany gets my name right anyway.")

Andrea ("I'm not quite sure what I've gotten myself into here but I kinda like it.")

Jennifer - a fellow British Columbian who will be starting a blog any day now. ("I can see right into my neighbour's apartment and believe me, you DON'T want to know!")

And li'l ol' me who was as shy and retiring as usual. NOT. Had to tell myself to shut up a few time so other people could talk.

More later.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

a little worse for wear and tear but happy as a clam

I got home 1 1/2 hours ago. You wouldn't believe how tired I am.

It was a weekend of old friend, new friends and good times. There's only one way to describe the meet-up and that's FABULOUS.

More news after a good night's sleep.

there's still time!

I'm leaving this up as a "sticky note" until the weekend. Look for regular posts below this one.

Soooo...The Second Whiney Expat Blogger in Germany Meet-Up™ is this weekend and J has the final details up on his blog in case anyone else wants to come along and needs the scoop on where and when. E mail me if you need hotel information. I'm pretty sure there are still rooms available where a few of us booked.

Do join us if you can. The more the merrier.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

mausi has left the building (for a change)

I'm off to Bonn. Full report on Monday!

Friday, November 17, 2006

what would JLo do, and how many Happy Meals does it take to fill up a 10-yr-old?

Right now I'm deciding what to wear to Bonn tomorrow and I've come across a bit of a dilemma. I've already got a top and some jeans picked out. Now it's the feet I'm worried about. According to J, we're supposed to bring an umbrella (check!) and wear "comfortable walking shoes". Well, that's just fine since we'll probably be do a lot of walking. BUT what if something unforseen happens? What if George Clooney suddenly appears and invites all us unaccompanied ladies out for drinks at Bonn's hippest new cocktail bar? What good are "comfortable walking shoes" going to do me then?

See my problem? As we know, I like to be prepared for any occasion. That's why I'm torn between these, purchased a couple of weeks ago by yours truly,


and these, presented to me some time ago by someone with quite a vivid imagination. Times worn: 1


I know, I know, It's a tough choice, but I suppose I'll need to be boring and sensible and wear the walking shoes in the hope that if I DID by chance meet George, that he would love me for more than my footwear.

In other news, Boy10 came up to me the other day and said "Mummy, I'm kind of sad that you'll be gone for two days because I'll really miss you. But I'm kind of happy too, because Papa's taking us to McDonald's for lunch on Saturday and I get to eat anything I want! AND he's making us pancakes for dinner, isn't that great?"

I don't even want to KNOW what they're going to eat on Sunday.

Must get packing...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

what's a little saturated fat between friends?

This is the second year that our local elementary school library has sponsored visits from two German children's authors. They will be reading excerpts from their latest books tomorrow and in between readings there'll be a "healthy breakfast" dished up by volunteer mothers for all 260 kids. Being a member of the Baldwin Bookworm Library Volunteer Team (they gave me a laminated card and everything!), I have no excuse not to be there. I did it last year and it

So "healthy breakfast" means just that - no bacon, no Eggs Benedict, no Tang and definitely NO Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs. Just fresh fruit, dairy products and whole grains as far as the eye can see. I'll be there at 8 a.m. sharp tomorrow morning weilding a paring knife and an apron.

But let's be realistic about this "healthy" stuff. Sometimes you're happy if your kid eats anything at all. When our first child came along, I thought I must have done something right, since he ate absolutely everything and still does. Then his little brother appeared on the scene and blew my theory right out of the water. This kid, whom we have christened The CarbMaster, would happily exist on apple juice and pasta if we let him. Not unhealthy choices as such, just too one-sided in the long run.

Mr. Picky has been expanding his food choices as he gets older, however, and the following recipe (and I use that term loosely), while not exactly healthy, is something that he WILL eat.

This is what I call Not Your Mother's Pigs in a Blanket.

First you cook up a bunch of breakfast sausages, the small Nürnberger Rostbratwurst in my case, since that's what passes for breakfast sausage around these parts.

Then you fire up your trusty sandwich maker. You do have one of these, don't you? If not, go out and buy one. I'll wait.

Now make your favourite pancake batter and spoon a bit into each compartment of your brand new appliance, lovingly placing one of your wee sausage friends on top. Top with more batter, but not too much. Rumour has it that if you use too much batter, the excess will squoosh out the sides of the machine and dribble down, making an unholy mess of your countertop and causing you to swear like a fishwife in three different languages. If course this has never happened to me.

Where were we? Oh yes, close the lid and twiddle your thumbs for about 4 minutes or until that familiar pancake aroma comes wafting out.

Now, open the lid and look at what you created - fancy little golden brown pockets of pancake-y, sausage-y goodness just begging to be dipped in real Canadian maple syrup.


Bon Appetit, eh?

(P.S. These freeze well and can be reheated in the microwave.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

there's a first time for everyone

Last night it was his turn.

Sal, Spain's nuttiest expat bar tender and blogging buddy extraordinaire, tells us all about his life-changing experience right here.

Warning: you may need to wear sunglasses to shield your eyes from the cuteness.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

the inevitability of it all

It was bound to happen sooner or later.

As most of you know, my illustrious husband and at least one of my sons go to the flea market regularly. Every Saturday morning, in fact, and sometimes on Sundays. We have more Stuff That No One in His Right Mind Needs than anyone else in the neighbourhood, most of it in triplicate. Despite the house bursting at the seams, I put up with this behaviour'm not actually sure why I put up with it, I just do, even though there's barely enough room for me any more.

Yesterday the guys found something we didn't have yet.

Gahhhhh! Shield your eyes! It's a giant Kenny from South Park and it's living im my house. This thing is three feet tall and very, very orange and I was truly horrified to see it come through the door.

After much begging and pleading, Kenny got to stay, but only on one condition - the status quo had to be maintained. As the acting CEO of this family business, I sent out a memo to all other family members demanding that superfluous crapola equaling or preferably exceding Kenny's volume must be thrown out immediately. They complied and I can breathe again.

So everyone was happy. And what do I do when I'm happy? I bake.

Because there's always room for cake, right?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

shuffling along

Yesterday was not a good day. Very early Wednesday morning I came down with some sort of mystery illness. One that totally knocked me off my feet and didn't allow for any kind of movement, much less walking. It left me dizzy and shaky and about 10 shades paler than usual. I hate it when that happens.

This morning, however, after almost 10 hours of sleep, I felt a whole lot better and was able to get outside for a bit.

I'm a big "be prepared", "just in case", "what if" kind of person, so when I go out walking, even close to home, I have to drag a bunch of stuff with me. What do I take? Well, let's see: my keys, my cell phone, my passport, some gum, some Kleenex, a cough drop or two, a small umbrella to ward off any nasty dogs and/or their nasty owners, iPod nano, of course.

I love my iPod. I've had it for almost 6 months now and I honestly don't know how I ever lived without it. There's only one teensy little thing I DON'T like about it, but I'll get to that later.

Right now we're going to play a game. It's one of those "I can't think of much to write today, so let's let other people do the thinking" kind of games. Lots of other bloggers have played it, and now it's my turn.

I have a playlist of songs that I walk to. I'm going to shuffle those songs and give you the first lines of the first 10 songs that come up. If you can guess the song and the artist, leave a comment and I'll tell you if you're right. Googling is strictly verboten.

So here goes nothing:

1. Would your love in all its finery tear at the darkness all around me...
Dixie correctly guessed "Train Wreck" by Sarah McLachlan

2. I like to get out with my partner in crime...
"Jane's Getting Serious" by Jon Astley

3. Well, I'm trying to lose you, leaving my heartache at your side...
"Lose You" by Engine 54

4. I met a devil woman, she took my heart away...
Dixie again - "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" by Bachman-Turner Overdrive

5. I'll stay with you until the end, I'll say you'll let me be your friend...
"Don't Tell Me" by Blancmange

6. I put on a fake smile and start the evening show...
Dixie is on a roll! "Dear Madam Barnum" by XTC

7. The walls are built up stone by stone, the fields divided one by one...
Go Betsy! "Driver 8" by REM

8. Never been near a university, never took a paper or a learning degree...
Kurt gets it right! "Mayor of Simpleton" by XTC

9. I hope it doesn't show, it'll go 'way...
"Angst in My Pants" by Sparks

10. Big brown eyes and a gust of wind, and a cherry burns a corner of the page that says the end is comin' soon...
"Big Brown Eyes" by Old 97's

So guess away, and while you're busy taxing your brains, I'll also ask for your advice on another matter. I'd like to know what kind of earphones/ear buds you guys and gals use with your mp3 players. I use the ones that originally came with my iPod and they are just killing my delicate shell-like ears. I have really senstive ears anyway, and these things are starting to HURT. Any suggestions?

Thanks for playing!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

hey, you're in my space!

As part of my new "Mausi gets a life" program, I've taken up power walking. Don't get all excited - for me, power walking means just walking a bit faster than usual and not stopping to smell the flowers so often. So far I've been enjoying it.

We live in a pretty rural area. The best place to do any serious walking is on the tractor paths between the fields. Perfectly straight, no curbs to trip over or street lights to worry about. It's just you and your choice of music for the hour. Of course if you have your iPod turned up too high, you do run the risk of being mowed down from behind by a combine, but luckily that hasn't happened to me yet.

I've seen cabbages and cows, sugar beets and sheep, a very impressive pig and hundreds of little birds flying together from tree to tree in a cloud of tiny wings. The one thing I haven't seen is people. On my walks I see maybe one or two human beings, tops, and that's unusual, but just fine with me. I need my space.

Coming from a country with plenty of room for everyone, one of the things that suprised me when I moved to Germany was the population density. And what surprised me even more was the way people deal with that density. Foreigners, especially those from North America, often find it alarming that there is so much pushing and jostling going on in crowded areas. Some say that walking in Germany is a contact sport. After a few months of getting shoved out of the way, stepped in front of or rammed in the small of the back with a shopping cart on a weekly basis, they start saying to themselves, "Hey, what the heck is going on here? Don't people have any manners? Are all Germans this rude?"

Well, are they? The answer is no, not really. I'm a member of various "expats in Germany" mailing lists and message boards where topics like this have been discussed ad infinitum. The conclusion was that this behaviour is neither right nor wrong. It just IS. Germans simply have a different perception of personal space. It's a survival instinct, a "me first" attitude. You know, the guy with the pointiest elbows wins. They don't call Germany an Ellbogengesellschaft (elbow society) for nothing.

Once you realize this and learn not to take in personally, it's a lot easier to deal with and can be quite amusing at times. One fellow on a message board I frequent even joked that living in Germany would give you the perfect opportunity to film your own version of The Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony".

I agree. And I also love this song so take a look.

Walk on, Germans!

Monday, November 06, 2006

my mind is a blank

Well, you're thinking, what else is new? No, actually my mind isn't a blank, it's so full of this and that right now that I can't think of a thing to write about today. I'm in the process of re-inventing myself. You know, like Madonna does every couple of years, but without the personal trainers and the nannies and the English country manors. I'll let you know when the new me is ready to be revealed, but for today I'll leave you with a few more warm and sunny photos of a place that's very dear to me.

More beach...

More garden...

this one cracks me up...

and this one reminds me of my dear old dad...

Friday, November 03, 2006

a picture is worth...

Almost two weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing my dear friend Ginnie again. She found herself in Hannover once more after a whirlwind trip to British Columbia, my home province, where she visited the west coast of Vancouver Island and Vancouver itself, even meeting up with Expat Traveler and ET's husband P for a day. Small world, isn't it? Bloggers are everywhere!

I was getting all nostalgic for B.C. this week and wanted everyone to go take a look at Ginnie's beautiful photos of her holiday. If you go to her posts here, or here, you'll be directed to her photo albums where you can see why I'm so attached to the West Coast. (BTW, Ginnie has also started a new photo blog here with some of her favourite photos)

I was going through my own photos of our summer vacation today and these are just a few of the images that are swirling around in my head...

view of the city lights from a friend's house

wide open spaces

finding a starfish on the beach

my mother's beautiful garden

I miss you, B.C.!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

oh, the weather outside is frightful!

Good thing I got out and took those fall pictures last week, because it looks like winter has arrived. Driving rain, hail and gale force winds in the north yesterday followed by ground frost overnight and a bit of snow today. Brrr! It's very cold all of a sudden!

I think this piece of artwork done by Boy10 a couple of years ago sums it up nicely.

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