Friday, June 30, 2006

deutschland, deutschland über alles?

We're just about to leave for our friends' house to watch the Germany vs. Argentina game.

As you've probably seen in the news, people are dressing up in some really crazy outfits. I figured I should assimilate a bit, but I refuse to wear a hat or paint my face. Or put on a bikini in Germany's colours.

I thought I'd go for something ladylike and got myself a black, red and yellow feather boa.



Not my colours at all, but it's only for a day. Unless Germany wins, of course. I guess I should have moved to a country with a more tasteful flag. (Argentina comes to mind, lovely turqoise blue, but now is not the time to voice that opinion)

Boy10 is also displaying team spirit and has chosen this fashion statement.



May the best team win!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

full of beans

Yesterday afternoon Mr. M and I went grocery shopping at Metro, one of those big stores that you need a company card to get into. They sell to retailers and people in the restaurant business and much of their selection comes in case lots or large containers.

As we were checking out the aisle of canned food I saw this huge can of red kidney beans and commented on it.

Me: Wow, look how big this can is! That would be great if you were going to cook for 20 people.

Mr. M: Oooh, I love kidney beans! Let's buy it!

Me: Well, I enjoy them too, but it's like 2.5 kilograms of beans. What in the world would we do with them?

Mr. M: I've always had this dream of buying a huge can of kidney beans.

Me: !!!??? [It's taken him 16 years to confess this? What other secrets does he have up his sleeve?]


So we bought them. Who am I to deny a man his dreams, weird as they may be?

Right. What to do with all these beans. I know I can make chili con carne and soup and three bean salad and all that, but I wanted to try something different. And different it was.

I made brownies. Bean brownies. From a recipe in a cookbook called Full of Beans that one of my sisters-in-law gave to me many years ago. Sis-in-law hails from southern Ontario, prime bean growing country, and the book has all kinds of recipes using every kind of bean you could ever imagine. As the book says "The nutrient profile of beans is impeccable" so why not slip in a little extra nutrition here and there?

The brownies turned out pretty well - nice and moist and not too sweet. The mashed beans replace part of the oil or butter you'd use in a regular brownie recipe, reducing the fat content a bit and adding fibre, B vitamins and important minerals. I put a chocolate glaze on top and since they are already half gone now I'm giving them the Mausi seal of approval.






Bean Brownies (from Full of Beans by Violet Currie and Kay Spicer)

1 cup cooked Romano or kidney beans, pureed
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Spray bottom of 13- x 9-inch (3.5L) baking pan with nonstick coating.

In mixing bowl, combine beans, sugar, flour, cocoa and salt. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Beat on low speed or by hand, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth. Stir in walnuts if using.

Pour batter into prepared pan; spread into corners and smooth top.

Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven for 30 minutes or until tester inserted into centre comes out clean.

Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.

Makes 24 brownies. (Who are we kidding? Let's make that 12.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

life in a northern town

First of all, did you know that if your husband throws his back out yet again and you say to him, "Gee, honeybunch, I'm really sorry your back is bothering you, that must be really painful. I can't even imagine what it's like though, since you know that I never, ever get back pain" that three days later while you are sitting at the computer minding your own business the karma gods will hunt you down and hurl a lightening bolt into your back causing you to nearly pass out? Yep. Friday morning, left side, just under the shoulder blade. I'm blaming it on too much Pilates. It's gone now, but holy moley, I'm going to be choosing my words more carefully from now on.

Searing back pain did not, however, prevent me from enjoying a rip-roaring weekend of fun because last weekend was the annual Dullsville Stadtfest - the village fair organized by the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, a local farmer and a couple of other young men who want to ensure that a good time was had by all.

The first thing you notice when you wander on down to the Stadtfest, conveniently located between the Lutheran church and the elementary school, is the plethora of beer stands. Beer as far as the eye can see with a few cocktails thrown in for the girls and the sissies.

Friday afternoon's festivities began with an appearance by the men's choir that our neighbour sings in - traditional German songs that Germans love to sing along with. Especially those who have had a lot of beer. As soon as they hear these familiar songs, they will lock arms and start to sway to and fro in time to the music. German, being such an economical language, has a word for this action: schunkeln. Remember that if you ever visit Germany. Ask someone "Wollen wir ein bisschen schunkeln?" and you'll get a big smile.

Next up was a surprise visit from Morgenmän Franky, a very popular DJ who does the "Guten Morgen Niedersachsen" (Good Morning Lower Saxony Show) for a local radio station. He autographed postcards for all the kids before introducing Friday's star act.

Billed as the "Mega-Hammer" of the evening, singer Jürgen Drews has been around since the 70's.



He is a so-called Schlagersänger - a kind of a kitschy pop singer very popular here. If you click on the link, there's a picture of him with his lovely wife, 31, who seems to have replaced all her original parts at a young age.

He put on a good show, if you like that kind of thing, and considering the energy he has on stage, I was surprised to find out that the guy is 61. He likes to refer to himself as "Onkel Jürgen" (Uncle Jürgen) and was crowned "Der König von Mallorca" because of his many appearances at clubs and discos on the Spanish island of Mallorca, a popular German haunt.

We left the fair pretty early on Friday, but Mr. M and the boys went back on Saturday evening to watch part of the World Cup game between Germany and Sweden on the big screen while my aching back and I stayed home to rest. I must say that for someone who managed to skip out of gym class for the entire 6th grade, preferring to read Nancy Drew mysteries in the library with her best friend Suzanne, I had developed an alarming interest in sports as of late and MUST watch every single soccer game right to the end. Perhaps I'm coming down with something.

Those who chose to stay until midnight on Friday or Saturday night were treated to an "Erotic-Show", actually just the same tired old wet T-shirt contest as every year. *yawn* I believe it was won by a 54 year old housewife last year. You do the math. Apparently things went well this year and only started to go pear-shaped (as it were) when a person of colour (is that the correct PC expression?) was up dancing on the stage and a few pea-brained neo-N*zis started insulting him and tried to pull him off the stage. The police were right on it and quite a few arrests were made that night. Lock 'em all up and throw away the key, I say.

Among the other treasures we brought back with us from the fair: three German flags, two rubber ducks,an autographed postcard from a member of the Scorpions hockey team and an offical (but very plastic looking) World Cup soccer ball personally signed by...the butcher, the baker and the farmer. Oh well, this IS Dullsville after all.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

the Germans love (almost) everything about the Swedes

We're in the second half of the Germany vs. Sweden game in Munich this evening and Germany is leading 2:0 in the 70th minute, meaning they have a pretty good chance of winning, but both teams are good and this is going to be a really tough game for many reasons.

I was reading this morning in the newspaper that Germans apparently have an obsession with two countries: Italy and...Sweden. Over two million Germans travel to Sweden each year to take advantage of the wide open spaces and the peaceful, joyful Scandinavian way of life that Germany just can't offer them. What they're looking for is a kind of fairy tail anti-Germany, and Sweden is where they find it. Volvo, Ikea, Pippi Longstocking - Sweden has it all.

As the title of my post says, the Germans love everything about the Swedes...except their football team.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

all systems go

At this time of day exactly four weeks from now, my three boys and I will be squashed into economy class on a plane headed to Vancouver. Wheee!

In preparation for our journey there were a few official things that needed taking care of. In Germany that can mean long waits and dealings with impolite, indifferent civil servants. But this time? Fast, efficient, friendly service all around! Things are looking up.

My Canadian passport was set to expire later this summer, so I had to apply for a new one several weeks ago. Godawful picture as usual, but very shiny and machine readable at last. Getting a new passport every five years also means having to go down to the foreigners' office and have my permanent residence permit transferred so they don't kick me out of this fabulous country.

I got to the right address fairly early, along with two really nice Polish ladies who had tagged along with me after stopping me on the street downtown to ask me if I knew where the office was. I must look like I know where I'm going because people are ALWAYS asking me for directions. Little do they know...

Anyway, total time there about 15 minutes. World record. So I got that over with and thought we were done, but then I just happened to read in the newspaper that the kids' German children's ID was no longer valid and that they'd both have to get a "children's passport" which isn't actually a passport but is recognized abroad. They have dual Canadian/German citizenship and have Canadian passports but apparently won't need real German passports until they're 16. Who knew?

Yesterday we all trucked down to our little city hall (open on Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon ONLY, thank you very much) and the guy did the children's passports in about 30 minutes while he told us all about his trip to San Francisco last year.

I don't know what's gotten into these people - they're being so darn friendly. It must be the World Cup. Let's see if it lasts.

So we now have 6 passports between the four of us and I have also documented a few other necessities that I simply cannot be without when we fly to Vancouver.




1. valid travel documents
2. travel sickness pills
3. ancient and as yet unused Lufthansa barf bag (see #2)
4. spare change
5. flip flops
6. umbrella

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

talk about a punchline

I've have a headache since yesterday (which means it's going to last until tomorrow) so I got nothin' for you today except this very silly joke. Just consider it Canadian content.

Three men were sitting together bragging about how they had
given their new wives duties.

The first man had married an American woman, and bragged that he had told his wife she was going to do all the dishes and house cleaning that needed to be done at their house. He said that it took a couple days but on the third day he came home to a clean house and the dishes were all washed and put away.

The second man had married a woman from Australia. He bragged that he had given his wife orders that she was to do all the house cleaning, dishes, and the cooking. He told them that the first day he didn't see any results, but the next day it was better. By the third day, his house was clean, the dishes were done, and he had a huge dinner on the table.

The third man had married a Canadian girl. He boasted that he told her that her duties were to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry done and to have a hot meal on the table three times a day.

He said the first day he didn't see anything, the second day he didn't see anything, but by the third day most of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye. Enough to fix himself a bite to eat, load the dishwasher, and call a landscaper.

Monday, June 19, 2006

oh all right, I guess I'll keep him for at least another year

We had a lovely weekend...



anniversary flowers




anniversary sushi




anniversary strawberry tarts

Sunday, June 18, 2006

did you call your dad yet?

Today is Father's Day in many parts of the world, including where I come from. I just called my dad to tell him that I love him, but he wasn't home. Probably being treated to a Father's Day brunch by my brothers. I guess I'll try again later.

Wilhelm Busch, German caricaturist and poet has a saying that goes like this:

"Vater werden ist nicht schwer, Vater sein dagegen sehr."

A loose translation (and one of the better ones I've seen) would be

"Becoming a father is easy enough, but being one can be very rough."

Hats off to all you fathers out there who have taken on the challenge...

Friday, June 16, 2006

modern bride

Yes, it's that day again - our wedding anniversary. 16 years this time around. Last year, on our 15th anniversary, I wrote a very candid and (looking back on it now) pretty morose piece about my impressions of multicultural marriage. Those impressions still hold true, yet we have survived and will continue to survive. Isn't that what it's all about?

But today I want to talk about another bride, my great grandmother, married more
than 100 years ago at the age of 21.

My mother has a first cousin in England who is interested in geneology and several years ago he dug up a bit of information about his and my mother's shared maternal grandparents and great grandparents. Among the documents were a family tree and a newspaper article describing my great grandmother's wedding day in 1893.

My great great grandfather Charles Rufus was born in England but emigrated to Australia as a young man in 1858 to take up goldmining. It was there that he met Jane, my great great grandmother, whose father, Francis, had been transported to Australia from England in 1830 after being convicted of stealing six handkerchiefs and two dead rabbits(!) Jane's mother Catherine was one of the Catholic brides shipped over to Australia from Ireland.

Charles and Jane had four children in Australia and five more when they moved back to England in around 1875. Their third eldest child and second daughter, my great grandmother Elizabeth Mabel - known as 'May' to her family - was born in Australia in 1872.

I love the following description of her special day in 1893 which I'm assuming took place some time during the summer months. Maybe even on June 16. Who knows?


WEDDING. -- Considerably over 200 persons assembled in S. Peter's Church yesterday afternoon to witness a very pretty wedding ceremony, conducted by the Vicar of Petersfield (the Rev. F.J. Causton), the contracting parties being Mr. Allan Munday, of Heath Farm, and Miss Elizabeth Mabel Rufus, second daughter of Mr. Charles Rufus of the Railway Hotel, Petersfield. The bride, who looked charming in an attire of grey silk with steel trimmings, wreath and veil, and who also carried a handsome bouquet, was given away by her father. She was followed by four bridesmaids, viz., Misses Milly and Emma Rufus (sisters of the bride), becomingly dressed in electric blue, and black hats trimmed with electric blue velvet, and Misses Alice and Beatrice, the bride's youngest sisters, who looked very dainty in cream dresses with old gold sashes, white straw hats trimmed with buttercups and carrying fancy baskets of buttercups. Mr. T.G. Gammon acted as bridegroom's best man. The bride's eldest sister and the bridegroom's two sisters who were present were fashionably attired, as were also others amongst the guests. Upon emerging from the the church, amid the merry ringing of the church bells, the newly-wedded couple were greeted with showers of rice. There was a numerous gathering at the wedding breakfast, the cake for which was supplied by Mr. J. S. Chown. Mr. and Mrs. Munday left for London by the 3:37 p.m. train, en route for Yorkshire where the honeymoon will be spent, carrying with them the best wishes of a crowd of relatives and friends. The colour of the bride's travelling gown was brown and pink, and she wore a hat to match. The presents were numerous and several very costly.



Can't you just imagine all the women and girls in their pretty, fashionable outfits?

When I was planning our wedding I chose this picture for the front of our invitations. I didn't get a hold of the newspaper article until a few years ago so I don't know that I was consciously thinking of my great grandmother May when I made my choice, but I think she may have looked an awful lot like this on her wedding day. The painting is called "Signing of the Register", done by James Charles, a Victorian painter who lived from 1851 to 1905.





My great grandparents had three daughters, Hilda, Gertrude and Kathleen. Hilda was my 'Nonna', my grandmother.

Elizabeth Mabel Munday died in 1917 at the age of 45 of a burst appendix. Her husband Allan passed away shortly after that. Of a broken heart, they say. That makes MY heart ache every time I think about it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

united nations

Today is the 3rd Annual International Webloggers Day. Bloggers from around the world are encouraged to make mention of this day and spread the word.

I myself had a pretty cross-cultural morning. Picture a Canadian (me!) and an American meeting in a German city, having coffee at an Italian bistro and Chinese buffet at a restaurant with a Japanese name!

Ginnie was in town again for a few days after her Scandinavian cruise and we managed to spend a few hours together talking and taking in the bright flags and World Cup souvenirs that are all over Hannover right now. As other bloggers have mentioned, the World Cup in Germany seems to be bringing about a sense of national and international pride and unity. That's a Good Thing.

And of course we all know that blogging is also about bringing people together who may otherwise never have met, online or off. Blogging crosses international boundaries, breaks down stereotypes and promotes mutual understanding. It emphasizes the similarities between us and celebrates the differences.

It's International Webloggers Day. Go reach out to someone right this minute. Because I said so.



why can't we all just get along?

Monday, June 12, 2006

it's a zoo around here

So sorry for the lack o' blogging - I've been a bit off my feed for the past week and busy with real life stuff.

Speaking of feed, we've been having a night time visitor lately in the form of a hedgehog who arrives every evening at dusk to finish off the snack we leave out for our neighbour's cat. Looks like hedgehogs also enjoy cat food. This one is very shy and usually runs away if he sees someone coming, but Boy10 managed to catch a picture of him on Saturday.



Before I moved to Germany I don't think I had ever seen a hedgehog before and thought they were just small porcupines, but they're really quite different. Hedgehogs are very common here and you'll often seen them rooting around in gardens after nightfall looking for worms or snails. Sometimes baby hedgehogs are born very late in the season and if they don't gain enough weight to survive winter hibernation, various nature preservation socities give instructions on how to care for a too-small animal and help it through the cold period.

So we've got the cats, the birds and the hedghogs all in one space. And no one has eaten anyone else. Yet.

Friday, June 09, 2006

I'm just watchin' it for the legs




Not dead. Just busy watching the footy on TV. Germany is off to a great start after winning 4:2 against Costa Rica (who had the better legs, BTW).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

hope is a thing with feathers...

I was quite busy on the long weekend, visiting with friends on both Saturday and Monday, but in between I had time to get out into the garden, and on Sunday we discovered that our baby birds had started leaving their nesting box and were now hopping around in the flowerbeds, learning how to fly. We have no idea how many there were, they disappeared so fast, but I've heard them calling to each other in the trees so I know they must be out there somewhere. Surely they'll come back and visit some time.

We managed to capture this little one on film before he took off on his adventures.



Fluffy flies the coop!


And this morning I found a poem to go with the picture...


Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings a tune without words
And never stops at all.

And sweetest, in the gale, is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That keeps so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chilliest land
And on the strangest sea
Yet, never, in extremity
It ask a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

living proof that women can't read maps

Well, OK, make that living proof that I can't read maps evidenced by me not having a clue where I was going on Saturday afternoon when I was showing J around Hannover. I can do many things, but differentiating between north and south is not one of them.

I swear I have never seen so many people downtown in my entire time here. It was Pfingsten (Whitsun), a public and religious holiday here so there were many travelers coming and going, along with what looked like numerous soccer fans hanging around and waving the flags of unidentified nations (I'm not so great at geography either!)

Anway, right after I met J outside the train station on Saturday afternoon, a funny thing happened. J wanted to drop off his stuff at his hotel so we went off to find it. We sort of knew the general direction, which was somewhere behind the station, so after consulting a map, we found the right street. As we were walking down that street, chatting and minding our own business, we passed by a woman who was waiting on the corner. I didn't really give her any notice, but after we'd walked a few paces, I hear this voice behind me saying "Frau Mausi??" and I turn around to see that it's Boy13's history teacher! Weird! Feeling that an explanation is in order I say something stupid like "Oh, this is my friend from Darmstadt (J corrects me here because he's NOT from Darmstadt)...no, wait...from Koblenz. He's American and we're on our way to his hotel." When I got home and told Boy13, he thought it was hilarious.

Soo...we started our tour at the red line at the tourist office and saw most of Hannover's fabulous sights - three very old churches, the new city hall, the opera house etc etc. It was when we got to the Altstadt (the 'old town) that we (I) got hopelessly lost and went around in circles for a bit until we found our way back downtown. Good thing that J has some sense of direction, 'cause I sure don't and it had been years since I'd taken a tour of the city. After much talk of sore feet we stopped in for a drink at the Holländische Kakaostube where I also went with Jen and Ginnie, and then we had dinner at Henry's, the burger place Jen and I ate at the last time she was in Hannover. There's something to be said for consistency.

In between seeing the sights and eating, J picked up about a year's supply of Mexican food ingredients in the international section of a supermarket in one of the larger department stores. One more point for Hannover.

J took lots of pictures, which I'm sure he'll post when exam stress is over. Someone in the comments on my previous post mentioned that they'd never seen a picture of J and you know what? I think J prefers to travel incognito and wants to remain an International Man of Mystery, for now, at least. And you never know, he might just be a CIA agent and we wouldn't want to blow his cover, would we?

After dinner I walked back to the train station with J and I'm assuming he found his hotel again from there with no trouble. I hopped on the bus and went home to my family where I whined about my aching feet for the rest of the evening.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

nichts ist doofer als Hannover*

*nothing's dumber than Hannover

If you've lived in Germany for any length of time, you've probably heard this expression. Poor Hannover, it never gets a break.

Hannover has the reputation of being a Provinzstadt, a provincial city full of stand-offish, conservative, boring people with no sense of humour. Is it true? Well, not really, but Hannover isn't exactly a bustling metropolis compared to some other German cities and it just can't seem to shake its wishy washy image no matter how hard it tries.

It's said that the purest German in all of Germany is spoken in Hannover, and by 'pure' they mean High German without an accent. That makes learning German up here in the north pretty darn easy. Relatively speaking, of course.

Despite the questionable image, Hannover does have its good points, and I'm meeting up with J this afternoon to show him some of them (hmm, that sounds kind of naughty, doesn't it?) There's a red line, Der Rote Faden, painted on the sidewalks in Hannover, and following it will lead you to all the interesting places around town, be they modern or historic. Beautiful old buildings, sculptures and museums abound. Hopefully it won't rain too much.


our meeting place

On the news a while ago I saw mention of a German duo called The Aroma Boys, supposedly Germany's answer to the spice girls. They had written a song about Hannover and played it live in various pubs around town and many people native to Hannover were incensed that someone was making fun of their city yet again. People with a sense of humour, however, thought the song was pretty funny.

If you click here and then click on 'Listening' at the top of the page it will take you to the Aroma Boys song page. Either the first or second link will enable you to hear them singing the Hannover song. The first link is a video of them singing live, the second is just the music.

I've transcribed and translated the song here so you can sing along.

Ich fühl mich so lala hier in Hannover
Ich habe kein Humor und kein Akzent
Man ist ganz gerne Durchschnitt in Hannover
Das ist das typische woran man uns erkennt


I feel kind of so-so here in Hannover
I have no sense of humour and no accent
We like to be average in Hannover
That's how you recognize us


Die Frauen sind ganz passabel in Hannover
Man verliebt sich nicht gleich auf den ersten Blick
Man fällt nicht gerne auf hier in Hannover
Man kleidet sich gedeckt bloß nicht zu schick


The women in Hannover aren't bad
But it's not love at first sight
In Hannover we don't like to stand out
We dress conservatively - never too chic


Zu häßlich für München, zu dumm für Berlin
Zu trendy für Bautzen, zu männlich für Wien
Zu pleite für Hamburg, zu reich für Schwerin
Drum wohn ich in Hannover, denn da gehöre ich hin
Zu häßlich für München, zu dumm für Berlin


Too ugly for Munich, too dumb for Berlin
Too trendy for Bautzen, too manly for Vienna
Too broke for Hamburg, too rich for Schwerin
That's why I live in Hannover,'cause that's where I belong
Too ugly for Munich, too dumb for Berlin...

Man verläuft sich ab und zu hier in Hannover
Die Stadt hat ein gleichförmiges Gesicht
Die Kirche bliebt im Dorf hier in Hannover
Und alles schreibt sich so wie man es spricht


You can somtimes lose your way in Hannover
The city has a homogeneous face
The church stays in the village in Hannover
And you write everything the way you say it


Zu häßlich für München, zu dumm für Berlin
Zu trendy für Bautzen, zu männlich für Wien
Zu pleite für Hamburg, zu reich für Schwerin
Drum wohn ich in Hannover, denn da gehöre ich hin

Zu häßlich für München, zu dumm für Berlin

Hast Du keine Ecken, keine Kanten, kein Profil
Hast Du keine Meinung, keine Neigung und kein Ziel
Bist Du kein sehr Schlauer, kein sehr Doofer
komm nach Hannover, Hannover


If you have no sharp edges, no profile
No opinion, no leanings, no ambition
If you're not that smart, but not that dumb either
Come to Hannover - Hannover!


Zu häßlich für München, zu dumm für Berlin
Zu trendy für Bautzen, zu männlich für Wien
Zu pleite für Hamburg, zu reich für Schwerin
Drum wohn ich in Hannover, denn da gehöre ich hin

Bist Du zu häßlich für München, zu dumm für Berlin
Zu trendy für Bautzen, zu männlich für Wien
Zu pleite für Hamburg, zu reich für Schwerin
Dann komm nach Hannover, denn da gehörst Du hin


If you're too ugly for Munich, too dumb for Berlin
Too trendy for Bautzen, too manly for Vienna
Too broke for Hamburg, too rich for Schwerin
Then come to Hannover, 'cause that's where you belong...


Bist Du zu häßlich für München, zu dumm für Berlin

Bist Du zu häßlich für München, zu dumm für Berlin...

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