Tuesday, February 28, 2006

he'll always be my tiny sweetheart

Thirteen years ago today our first son was born. He was supposed to have been an April baby, but he wasn't having any of that and decided to surprise us by arriving 5 weeks early. 34 weeks and 5 days into the pregnancy, actually, according to those in the know.

It was an easy labour and birth, as far as those things go, despite the hospital's policy of not giving any pain medication. Did it hurt? You bet. Did that stop me from doing it again? Obviously not, since we had a repeat performance with his little brother 3 years later. Post natal amnesia is a wonderful thing.

So there was our little guy, premature but at 6 1/2 pounds a pretty decent weight. Because he arrived before his due date, however, they wanted to check him out and kept him in the children's hospital for two weeks before they finally let us bring him home.


my sweetie at 1 week old and me, 29 (but feeling 89)


It was at that time that I started to call him my 'tiny sweetheart' and the name has stuck to this day.

He grew from a wee infant into a roly-poly smiling baby.



As a toddler he used to crack us up with the funny things he did. Here's one of my favourite pictures of him taken in Vancouver.


Can I have some quiet, please? I need to make an important call.

And now he's a teenager. Where does the time go? We're having a family party on the weekend (it's Mr M's birthday on Saturday! And Boy9's the following Saturday! I know! What in the world was I thinking?) and he's having his friends over on Sunday to hang out.

Happy 13th Birthday my tiny sweetheart!


Barely able to crack a smile at 6:30 a.m. this morning.


Before I forget, today is not only the big guy's birthday, it's also Pancake Tuesday! When I was growing up, my mother always made us pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Traditionally, eggs, milk and fat were supposed to be used up before Lent, and what better way than to make pancakes.

So you know what we'll be having for dinner tonight. Along with lots and lots of bacon. Just because.

P.S. - It's Sparky's birthday too!! Go over to Jen's and congratulate him for making it to 32.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Hannover helau!

That's what costumed revelers were shouting when I went downtown on Saturday. I actually went to shop but ended up watching some of the Karneval parade anyway because the streets were just full of people and getting anywhere was difficult.

"Helau!" is the standard Karneval 'battle cry' and originated in Düsseldorf. If you live in Cologne, however, you need to shout "Kölle Alaaf!" (Köln vor allem) - roughly "Cologne before all the rest!". In Rheinland-Pfalz you'll often hear "Narri Narro!" and in Mannheim they say "Ahoi!"

My kids went off to school today for a bit of fun looking like this





Thursday, February 23, 2006

take my advice and wear a polo shirt

Where we live the Karneval season has been in full swing since November, but Elemmaciltur just reminded me that today is also a very special day, especially in the Rhein and southern regions of Germany. As of 11:11 a.m. this morning, it was officially Weiberfastnacht, Women's Carnival Day. Weiberfastnacht, also known as schmutzige Donnerstag (dirty Thursday) marks the first day of the five days leading up to Rosenmontag, the end of Karneval, Ash Wednesday being the first day of Lent. The kids will be putting on their costumes on Monday morning (yes, there will be pictures!) and going to school for a day of fun.

Today is the day when women can let loose and show the men who's boss. Some women storm their local city hall demanding the keys to the city. Others go around cutting off men's neckties. That's right. A women goes up to a strange man and cuts off his tie, supposedly making him less masculine and therefore less powerful. And if she likes the looks of him she's also allowed to kiss him, or any other man who crosses her path. Whoo!

I may consider kissing someone (The mailman perhaps? Maybe the butcher? Or the produce manager at the market? I just can't make up my mind.) but I don't think I'll be messing with anyone's masculinity. Mr. M, who wears a tie to work every day, has amassed quite a collection of fashionable neckwear over the years and I know for a fact that he would throw an absolute fit if he saw me coming at him with a pair of scissors.

We'll just leave this strange custom to those ladies in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz who really know how to party.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

plagues, pandemics and PISA

A few things bothering me today. Read on to find out what the fuss is all about.

There are no rats in my ratatouille, but there may be some in my garbage any day now.

You see, the garbage collectors in our state are on strike, as are hospital workers, school janitors, kindergarten (pre-school) teachers and various other union workers. We haven't had our garbage picked up since February 10 and it's starting to get nasty.

Of course we're keeping our garbage bagged up and inside the house, but other non-law-abiding citizens are unloading it wherever they please, either leaving it in remote areas, or in front of the gates of the closed recycling centres. It's piling up at at alarming rate. Nice. They say if it goes on we could soon be facing a rat plague. There are already and estimated 500,000 rats in the Hannover area, and many more are going to be attracted by all this rubbish lying around. Apartment blocks usually have large communal garbage containers (which are now overflowing anyway) however out in the suburbs there are no garbage cans - we are required to use special plastic trash bags that are set out onto the street on garbage day. You can imagine how easy they are to rip open. The rats are going to have a heyday.

And what do rats do best besides eat yummy garbage? They carry diseases. And what disease is going around at the moment in Germany? Bird flu. Can rats get bird flu? No one knows, but it's entirely possible. They may not die from it, but they may be carriers. Ugh.

On the European front, bird flu has now reached Italy, Greece, France, Austria and Germany and in the past week the H5N1 virus was found to be the cause of death in over one hundred migratory birds on the island of Rügen in northeastern Germany. As spring nears, more and more birds will be on the move, posing a huge threat to German poultry farmers who have been ordered to lock up their livestock to prevent them from being infected. If the virus is not kept under control, things could get interesting.

I am trying not to worry. Yet.

And last but not least, here's a link to the findings of the UN envoy Vernor Muñoz who just finished up a 10-day tour of German schools to check on the state of the German school system and to determine whether human rights are being violated. I've already mentioned Germany's poor showing in the PISA study, and Muñoz was sent in to analyze the situation and makes suggestions as to what needs to be changed and at what level in order to bring German schools up to scratch.

US Envoy Critical of German School System

I can't quite believe that they needed a UN envoy to figure this one out. Why didn't they just ask the parents?

OK, my rant is over. I am actually feeling sort of human these days after two weeks on my new thyroid dosage. I have (a bit) more energy (worked out twice this week!), the dark cloud over my head has lifted somewhat, I no longer have the urge to stuff my face all day AND I lost 4 lbs! Woohoo! Go me. You know how Madonna re-invents herself every few years? I think I'm going to try that. Look for the new improved me...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

just remembered this

Going back to the topic of the geographically challenged people in my post from the other day. I just remembered the four of us stopping at a full-service gas (petrol) station in West Vancouver when we were on holiday a few years ago and asking the young (presumably Canadian) man operating the pumps to fill 'er up.

Mr M.: I'd like to pay with travellers cheques. Is that OK?

Guy: Sure thing. Just visiting, eh?

Mr M: Yes.

Guy: So, where ya from?

Mr M: Germany.

Guy: Germany, eh? Awesome. That's pretty far away, isn't it?

Mr. M: Yes, it is.

Guy: (Wrinkles brow and thinks very, very hard) So, did you guys, like...drive over here?

(much eye rolling from me and raucous laughter from the back seat)

Monday, February 20, 2006

snap, crackle and pop

Just so no one gets to thinking that we eat large slabs of meat three times a day, here's proof. Last night I made (a reasonable facsimile of) Vietnamese salad rolls with peanut sauce for dinner. The sole survivor was my lunch today.






Tonight we're having salmon and this stir-fry ratatouille which I really enjoy because it doesn't have as much oil or take as long to make as a classic ratatouille. It's great hot or cold as a vegetable side dish and also wonderful on its own or sprinkled with a bit of grated cheese on top, melted under the broiler until brown.





Stir-Fry Ratatouille (from The Lighthearted Cookbook by Anne Lindsay)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 medium mushrooms, halved
1 small sweet red or yellow pepper, cubed
2 cups cubed unpeeled eggplant
1 small zucchini, sliced
2 tomatoes, cut in wedges
1/2 tsp each dried thyme and basil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 fresh rat

In a large non-stick skillet heat half of oil over medium-high heat; add onion, garlic, mushrooms and sweet pepper and stir-fry until tender, about 4 minutes. With slotted spoon remove to side dish and set aside.

Heat remaining oil in skillet; add eggplant, zucchini; stir-fry for 4 minutes or until tender. Return mushroom mixture to pan, add tomatoes, thyme, basil; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.



And then...the ultimate in sophisticated desserts, something I haven't made for ages...



Rice Krispies® squares! Mmmmmm!

There are only four left and guess who ate most of them?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

if only Bicycle Repair Man were here

Well, Vacuum, Hair Dryer, Computer and Dishwasher Repair Man, actually, since those are all the things that have broken since Thursday. So that's where I've been - fixing stuff. The vacuum isn't really broken, it's just missing a small but important piece that must have fallen off somewhere and that I still haven't found. The hair dryer is toast, but since we have three of everything, we had a spare one. The other computer got hijacked by a bunch of nasty malware that needed removing and since I'm the only one who knows how to do that (sad, isn't it, since what I know about computers could fit onto the head of a pin) I was occupied for hours. The dishwasher stopped washing halfway through a cycle and left us with ucky dishes and a big puddle of greasy water inside it. The on/off switch had a meltdown and needs to be replaced, but amateur electrician Mr. M has fixed it for the time being because he can fix anything. Except computers.

Cleaning out Boy12's room on Thursday also kept me busy. We want to redecorate in there some time soon and I needed to get all the stuff out that he doesn't use any more. What better time than when he's not there to throw away useless crapola? And I'm not talking about stuff that he might still need, I mean all the little plastic gee gaws and doo dads and various flotsam and jetsam that just doesn't belong in there and that he never looks at. Last year we got him a bed with drawers underneath it and I was thrilled at the prospect of him not being able to shove extra junk under there any more. Little did I know that behind the drawers there is a big hollow space just right for collecting drawer overflow and the small debris that slips through the space between the bed and the wall. Oh the dust! And the old magazines (computer, not girlie, thank goodness)! and the Yu-gi-oh cards! And the the pencils, coins, little rubber balls, string, books, stray socks, long lost GameBoy games - the list is endless.

The boy in question arrived back Friday from his class trip safe and sound but a bit sore and very, very tired. So tired that he didn't even come with us to dinner at our friends' place Friday evening. He had a wonderful time in the mountains, ate good food, went skiing and ice skating and his team won third place in the snowman building contest (pictures sometime soon if the ones he took turn out). There was tons of snow and it was quite cold.

Before he left:
Me: Look, I got you some brand new snow pants! Aren't they nice?

Boy12: Nooooo, not snow pants! I'm not wearing those, look how fat they are! I'll look stupid. Herr M (his homeroom teacher) said we didn't need snow pants! You don't need to pack those.

Me: Herr M has been skiing exactly once in his life and is generally unreliable so you are taking your snow pants and I'd like you to wear them. There's going to be snow there, nothing but snow. More snow than you've ever seen before in one place. Get it? You need snow pants.

Boy12: OK, OK, you can pack them, but I won't wear them.

After he got back:
Me:Hi Sweetie, did you have a good time?

Boy 12 (in a very small voice): Yup. And I wore my snow pants every day. You were right, Mummy, as usual. *sigh*

He says that now, but will he still be saying it nine days from now when he turns 13?



Thursday, February 16, 2006

diversionary tactics

I'm busy this evening battling various nasties on our other computer so I'll just give you this as a source of entertainment. You've probably seen these before - the questions and answers were taken off an international tourism website and have been swimming around the internet for just ages.


Q: I have never seen it warm on Canadian TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK)
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around and watch them die.

Q: Will I be able to see polar bears in the street? (USA)
A: Depends on how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Vancouver to Toronto - can I follow the
railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only four thousand miles. Take lots of water.

Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Canada? (Sweden)
A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: It is imperative that I find the names and addresses of places to
contact for a stuffed beaver. (Italy)
A: Let's not touch this one.

Q: Are there any ATM's (cash machines) in Canada? Can you send me a
list of them in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Halifax? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Canada? (USA )
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe.
Ca-na-da is that big country to your North...oh forget it. Sure,
the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Calgary. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Canada? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees Contact us when you get
here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Canada? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y,
which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday
night in Vancouver and in Calgary, straight after the hippo races. Come
naked. Bring beer.

Q: Do you have perfume in Canada? (Germany)
A: No, WE don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth.
Can you sell it in Canada? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in British Columbia where the female
population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Canada? (USA)
A: Only at Thanksgiving.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Toronto and is milk available all year
round? (Germany)
A: No supermarkets. We are not able to build large enough igloos to house such a thing. Our food is delivered by beavers. Milk is illegal and you will be shot for even mentioning it.

Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Canada who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: All Canadian rattlesnakes are perfectly harmless, and can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Canada, but I forget
its name. It's a kind of like a big horse with horns. (USA)
A: It's called a moose. They are tall and very violent, eating the brains of anyone walking close to them. You can scare them off by wearing a clown suit and spraying yourself with human urine. Make sure to watch out for
their nests, as they are protective of their eggs.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.


Gotta love those tourists!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

my sweet boys

Just a couple of pictures of the wonderful way I was treated by the men in my life on Valentine's Day.

Check out this assortment of interesting flowers. Quite the eclectic mix, don't you think?




In the back there's an orchid and another pretty plant that shall remain nameless until I look it up. The spring basket is from Boy9 and Boy12 - there's a little bumble bee in it - "bee mine" - get it? And then Mr. M planted two baskets of mystery bulbs. I think they're crocuses. I guess I'll find out soon.

Mr. M and Boy9 got chocolates (Boy12 will get his when he comes back on Friday). Boy9 has eaten his already, but Mr. M is trying to do Weight Watchers and is afraid to check how many points are in a chocolate covered marzipan heart!

The best thing for me was the present Boy9 made me. On Monday night we had a slight...um...altercation about various things and he went stomping off telling me I was a bad mummy and that I could just forget Valentine's Day. He's quite the cranky little guy sometimes but I knew his bad mood wouldn't last long. Later on he scurried off to his room and stayed in there for ages rustling around, obviously making one of his creations.

And yesterday morning I woke up to this.



We had the pot from last year and he made a shiny flower (I'm informed that it's a rose) to go with it. There are little cut-out hearts inside the flower too, and on the larger heart hanging off the leaf it says: "Did you really think I wouldn't give you a present? I love you."

He got a BIG smooch for that one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

well, since everyone else is doing it

Saw this at Ms. Mac's and Tat's and had to try it for myself.


Charming Hottie Readily Imparting Sensual Touches and Intense, Naughty Affection



Gosh, won't Mr. M be pleased.



(Decode YOUR name here)

spread the love


HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!




Consider yourself smooched. Yes, you. And you. And you over there.

Monday, February 13, 2006

surf's up, dude!

Am I the only one who didn't know that snowboarding is an Olympic sport? Very entertaining, but they should really get those boys some pants that fit.

Speaking of pants that fit, I watched the Olympic mens' cross-country on the weekend. Yum. Many of you may disagree, but I must say that for me there is just nothing better than a trim man dashing through the snow in a tight ski suit. OK, call me superficial.

Speaking of dashing through the snow, Boy12's class left this morning for a 5-day ski trip to the Harz Mountains where they will be cross-countrying their little buns off. Even though Boy12 has never been on skis before, I'm sure he'll do fine. Either that, or he'll fall down a lot and have a fantastic time anyway. Nothing like sleeping in the same room with 5 of your best buddies for four nights. I wonder how tired he'll be when he gets back?

They'll be staying in a place called Torfhaus in a really great looking youth hostel and plan to tackle northern Germany's highest mountain, the Brocken, 1142 metres above sea level. I was just reading something interesting about the Brocken - it's noted for the phenomenon of the 'Brocken Bow', also known as the 'Brocken Spectre' or the 'Glory', an optical phenomenon which is believed to be the reason that the Brocken is often referred to as a witches' haven. Read all about it here.

I seem to have caught yet another cold, thus the lack of posting on the weekend, but should be back to my normal verbose self during the rest of this week.

Friday, February 10, 2006

one bottle of beer = dinner for four

Some of my readers are going to think I've gone mad, but last night I sacrificed a perfectly good bottle of beer to make stew. Guinness stew to be exact. I had clipped a recipe from a magazine some time ago and it kept ghosting around in my head so I finally decided to go for it.



The ingredients:
Lamb, onions, leeks, garlic, celery root, carrots, green beans, potatoes, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, beef broth and...a bottle of Original Guinness/Extra Stout.

The verdict:
Mr. M plowed his way through two platefuls.

Boy12 said, "This tastes a lot better than it looks. Can I have more please?"

Boy9 said, "I'm not eating that!"

And me? I'm not really a stew person, but I quite enjoyed it and I'm having leftovers for lunch today.

Status quo has been maintained.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

whatever you eat, eat it with relish

Ever get a little piece of heaven in the mail? That's what happened to me this past Monday when adorable expat hippo_pepperpot (thanks again!) sent me not one but two lovely squeeze bottles if this stuff all the way from England.



What is it, you ask? It's Branston Pickle, the greatest thing since sliced bread. Branston Pickle is what I would call a relish. It's not much to look at, kind of brown and sticky and lumpy, actually, but the flavour is out of this world. Hey, even Catherine Zeta-Jones and Naomi Campbell love the stuff which is sometimes served as part of a 'ploughman's lunch' - a cold meal of bread, cheese and pickle often available in British pubs.

Mmm...just look at what's in there: onions, carrots, rutabagas, cauliflower, squash, gherkins, dates, apples, garlic, vinegar and the list goes on... It's sweet and sour and crunchy and tangy and oniony all at the same time and tastes divine spread on a sandwich. Which is where I'm going to spread it in a minute because it's almost lunch time. I can hardly wait.

So I guess you could say that today's sandwich will be eaten with relish. And relish.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

and bring a barf bag

When I got up this morning, Mr. M and Boy12 were already downstairs and I was informed that Boy12 wasn't feeling too well.

Me: You look kind of pale. Do you want to stay home from school?

Boy12: No, I can't, I have a French test.

Me: Well that doesn't matter, you can take the test another day. Do feel like you're going to be sick?

Boy12: Not really. I just feel sort of tired.

Me: I think you should stay home.

Boy12: It's not that bad. Really. I'm a bit better now. Don't worry, I'll be fine.

Riiiiiight.

7:49 a.m.:I was just about to get into the shower. Three minutes later and I would have missed the call.

Boy12: Mummy, I'm at the bus stop in NextTown and now I feel REALLY sick. Can you come and pick me up?

Me: OK, Sweetie, I'll be there as fast as I can.

Boy12: Good, and bring a bag. I think I'm going to throw up.

Me: *sigh*

So I combed my unwashed hair, brushed my teeth, slapped on some lipstick, found something clean to wear and hit the gas pedal. He was waiting where he said he would be, the poor guy.

Me: Well, I'm glad I was home to take your call. I'm sorry you're still feeling so crappy.

Boy12: I'm glad you were home too. I didn't want to come home on the bus feeling like this.

Me: So, the next time I tell you I think you should stay home, you listen to me, OK?
Mothers know these things.

Boy12: OK. I guess it's true what they say: Wenn der Kuchen spricht, schweigen die Krümel. ("When the cake speaks, the crumbs are silent.")

Monday, February 06, 2006

human pincushion checking in

Well, it wasn't that bad. They only poked me once to take blood and the prodding was kept to a minimum. No thermal scan today either. I guess they figured it wasn't worth it since the thyroid gland was on its way out last time anyway.

Despite wearing my tinfoil hat AND my lucky underwear, it still took an hour and a half from the time they drew blood to the time I actually got to see the doctor. Not unusual at all for this place, though. I think they need to tighten up their scheduling a bit. It's been that way for as long as I've been going there. There was one woman there, obviously a newbie, who got up and whined and moaned and insisted that they were letting everyone go before her. The nurse just told her to stop complaining and get a life. All the rest of us veterans in the waiting room rolled our eyes at her and smiled quietly to ourselves. Number one rule at the doctor's in Germany: The Sprechstundenhilfe (the chick behind the counter) is always right.

To break the monotony a bit, a poor old granny who had slipped and fallen right outside the building and banged her head a bit came rushing in asking for them to help her. The bandaged her up good but had to send her to yet another doctor because doctors of nuclear medicine and internists are apparently not allowed to put a couple of stiches into someone's noggin. Go figure. She'll be fine and we were distracted for 10 minutes.

When it was finally my turn to see the doctor, she checked out the results of the blood work I had done about a month ago at my regular doctor's and agreed that things weren't that great, especially since I had been feeling so lousy. She said she had no problem with upping the meds a bit to see if I felt any better and then she asked me if I had been having any discomfort in the thyroid area. I told her that if feeling like you have a giant frog in your throat 24 hours a day counts as discomfort then, yeah, I was plenty uncomfortable. She then decided to do an ultrasound and found that although there was barely any thyroid tissue on one side, as she had said last time, the minimal amount on the other side had actually enlarged itself a bit to compensate for the missing hormones, thus the weird feeling. That's not good, since the whole idea of taking the synthetic hormones is to give the thyroid a break and keep the immune system from going nuts. She also discovered a small nodule that wasn't there before and needs to be looked at again next year to make sure it doesn't take on a life of its own and turn cancerous. If you're going to get a disease, try not to get this one, OK? It's very annoying.

Armed with a prescription for a higher dosage of hormones than I was taking before and instructions to trudge downtown again in six weeks for a blood test, I set out for home.

I think I'll go take a nap now.

about to be nuked

I have my appointment at the nuclear medicine clinic today to see what's up with the thyroid thing. Not really looking forward to being poked and prodded and scanned but that's life, I guess.

More later...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

no one but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb

In the comments of my last post, Nyana expressed some concern about the hunky fireman's macho attitude regarding his scalding hot coffee. Well, dear, that was actually a feeble attempt at humour on my part. He didn't really stir his coffee with his thumb. But when I was writing down the conversation, an old folk song we used to sing as kids came to mind and I couldn't resist putting it in there.

Anyone else ever heard of this one? I'd forgotten all about it until yesterday and of course the internet came to my rescue once again.

The Frozen Logger

As I set down one evening in a timber town cafe
A six foot-seven waitress, to me these words did say
"I see you are a logger and not a common bum
For no one but a logger stirs his coffee with his thumb

"My lover was a logger, there's none like him today
If you'd sprinkle whisky on it, he'd eat a bale of hay
He never shaved the whiskers from off his horny hide
But he'd pound 'em in with a hammer, then bite 'em off inside

"My lover came to see me one freezing winter day
He held me in a fond embrace that broke three vertebrae
He kissed me when we parted so hard it broke my jaw
And I could not speak to tell him he'd forgot his mackinaw

"I watched my logger lover going through the snow
A-sauntering gaily homeward at forty eight below
The weather tried to freeze him, it tried its level best
At a hundred degrees below zero, he buttoned up his vest

"It froze clean down to China, it froze to the stars above
At one thousand degrees below zero it froze my logger love
They tried in vain to thaw him and if you'll believe me, sir
They made him into axe blades to chop the Douglas fir

"That's how I lost my lover and to this caffay I come
And here I wait till someone stirs his coffee with his thumb
And then I tell my story of my love they could not thaw
Who kissed me when we parted so hard he broke my jaw"


(words and music by James Stevens, 1951)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

no comment or when life gives you lemons

I think my comments are broken. I got a bunch for the last post at my gmail address but they're not appearing here. Blame it on Blogger. In the interest of good public relations I'll just go ahead and comment on some of the comments that didn't show up.

Kiwi said, "You realize of course that now I want to make that cake without the foil just to see what happens."

Well that's the rebel in you, isn't it? :-) The foil just makes it so much easier because after you pour the glaze on, the lemony goodness is supposed to soak into the cake and loosening the foil a bit helps it. If you just did it in the pan and let it cool I'm sure you'd get a big sticky mess that would be really difficult to get out.

Karen said, "Thanks for posting that recipe - I'll have a go at it since I ruined my last cake."

This one is almost impossible to wreck, Karen, as long as you use the foil! It's really more of a quick bread and doesn't keep that long, but the lemon glaze makes it nice and moist. :-)

Lisa said, "I think the peasants call it a "thermos". "Thermal carafe" sounds so much better. Thanks for the recipe! I love everything to do with lemons."

Oh, but it's so much more than just a thermos! It's all shiny and has a spout and a handle and everything. I guess you could also call it an insulated coffee pot. I love lemons too. The lemon and sugar glaze makes the cake all crunchy and irresistable.

euro-trac wrote, "Hi there, you haggis bashing queen you! (is there no end to your talents!?)"

This is going to confuse so many people. I love it! And yes, I seem to be discovering new talents every day. Who know's what I'll come up with next. ;-)

mar said, "Hope you make lots of euros for the library."

Thanks, Mar. I didn't count exactly how much we made, but it looked pretty good and there was tons of cake there.

CanadianSwiss said, "Have fun that te flea market.. What are the kids selling? Old toys or books?"

Yep, toys, books, computer games and assorted other stuff. I think they bought more crap than they sold, though.


We all had fun, but it was just a bit too much socializing for my introverted self and after I got home I had to lie down for a few hours to recover from all the excitement.

And just to prove that men are all the same, no matter what nationality, this was my first interaction of the day.

Me: Hi! What can I get you?
Good Lookin' Father: Good morning! I'll have a coffee, please!
Me: OK...oh...sorry, we only have these flimsy plastic cups at the moment. Someone's gone to get the styrofoam ones if you want to wait.
GLF: Oh, that's OK, I'll just take a plastic one.
Me: Well, if you think so. Owww, that's hot! (almost burns fingers while juggling cheap plastic cup) Are you sure you can carry this?
GLF: Hey, I can take the heat, I'm a fireman! Ha ha ha ha ha!
(Walks off stirring coffee with his thumb)

one lump or two?

Today (I'm writing this after midnight and really should be in bed) is the semi-annual children's flea market at the elementary school so I'll be abandoning my housewifely duties to go down there and supervise unruly kids, serve coffee, juice and cake and clean up afterwards. Hey...wait a minute...

The proceeds from the sale of refreshments are going to buy new books for the library, but seeing as the library ladies, myself included, are providing the majority of said refreshments, I could actually just slip them five euros and stay home, right? But I don't think it works that way.

So this means digging out the coffee machine from the basement (we rarely drink coffee at home) and making up a big thingie of java to take with me. But what is that 'thingie' really called? Hmm, after googling a bit, I find that it's known as a 'thermal carafe' in sophisticated circles, but that just sounds so uppity, doesn't it?

I also made a lemon tea loaf which I am desperately trying not to sample right now. It's so easy and really, really good. But you MUST follow the instructions otherwise you will be stuck with a sticky mess not suitable for impressing guests and significant others.

Lemon Tea Loaf (from Lighthearted Everyday Cooking by Anne Lindsay)

1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup soft butter or margerine
1 egg
2 Tbsp. low fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Grated rind of 1 lemon (about 1 tsp)

Glaze:
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp.)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Line 8 x 4 in. (1.5 l) loaf pan with aluminum foil (don't skip this step or you will pay dearly!); grease lightly.

In large bowl, cream sugar and margarine/butter. Beat in egg and yogurt; beat in milk. Mix flour and baking powder; beat into egg mixture until blended. Stir in lemon rind.

Spoon into prepared pan; bake in 350°F (180°C) oven for 1 hour or until cake tester inserted in center comes out dry. Let cake stand in pan for 3 minutes.

Glaze:In small bowl, combine lemon juice and sugar, mixing well; pour over top of warm cake.

Lift foil and cake together from pan and place on rack. Loosen foil and let cake cool completely before cutting.

Makes 16 slices.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

just four?

PapaScott thrust this lovely meme upon me the other day and I can just imagine the disappointment if I don't do it. Prepare to be amazed. Or not.

Four Things Meme

Four jobs I’ve had:
- Scooping ice cream at the Big Scoop Family Restaurant for $2.85/hour
- Processing reprint orders at a photo lab
- Tending bar at golf club wedding receptions
- Teaching English as a Second Language to Asian immigrants new to Vancouver.

Four movies I can watch over and over again:
Ferris Beuller's Day Off
Monsters Inc.
Finding Nemo
Sleepless in Seattle

Four places I’ve lived:
West Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Victoria, B.C., Canada
Hannover, Germany
Dullsville, Germany

Four TV shows I love:
Fawlty Towers
Monty Python's Flying Circus
Gilmore Girls
Bulle von Tölz (German detective show)

Four places I’ve vacationed:
Ashland, Oregon, U.S.A
Osoyoos, B.C., Canada
Kirriemuir, Scotland
Huelva, Spain

Four of my favorite dishes:
- sushi
- cheese and fruit
- any kind of soup
- peanut butter and banana sandwiches

Four sites I visit regularly:
You mean 400, sites, right? I couldn't possibly name them all. All the expat sites on my blogroll for sure.

Four places I’d rather be right now:
- beside the ocean
- in British Columbia
- in Washington State
- doing this...


108 Mile House, B.C., December 1989

Four bloggers I’m tagging:
Whoever's in the mood!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

phew!

Just got back from the parent/teacher conference and there is still hope! Whee!

Frau N, who is a real doll compared to some of the other teachers at the school, was well prepared and had made a lot of notes on Boy9's performance. As I suspected, she also feels that he has a LOT more potential than his marks are showing and said that with a little push, there's no reason why he can't do better.

The four subjects they look at for the school recommendation are Math, Social Studies, German (as a native language), and English (as a foreign language, except to him). He got an A in English and she said if he could go up a mark in the other subjects, he'd be just fine and could easily attend the Gymnasium. His main problems are his poor handwriting, making silly spelling mistakes like forgetting to dot his "i's" during dictations (which are done in Germany instead of spelling tests), and his lack of oral participation in class. The oral part makes up 60% of the final mark in some cases so he really needs to work on putting up his hand when he knows the answer even though he is an extremely shy child.

I asked how we could improve his handwriting and she said she was surprised it was so poor in the first place because he has an advanced artistic ability that she rarely sees at his age and is able to draw minute, finely detailed pictures and sculpt amazing things with clay and paper. His ability actually gets him lower marks in art class than one would expect because he always wants to go beyond the boundaries the teacher sets as a performance measure. This is also true of his essay writing where he tends to go off on a tangent and let his fantasy take over instead of sticking to the topic. Ho hum. Boring old school.

So we are going to work with him at home on his handwriting and written expression and try to give him a bit more self confidence so he's not so shy about talking in class. At home he's a big motor mouth so we know it's just a matter of making him feel comfortable in his surroundings. Frau N thinks he has a good chance at improving his marks between now and summer holidays and we agree.

As you've probably noticed, I'm feeling a whole lot better about things now!

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