Thursday, September 28, 2006

is that a banana in your pocket, or...

Well, it seems that there is no shortage of banana protection devices on the market these days. For anyone who's tired of mushy bananas, the following links may be helpful.

Here's the official BanaBox website. (I bought mine from eBay, but never mind.)

Banana Guard offers protection in various colours, complete with air holes!

And I'm sure taking a Banana Bunker out of your purse at lunchtime could get you more than a few raised eyebrows.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

monkey business

You know how it is: you pack a nice, perfectly ripe banana into your purse, briefcase or backpack in the morning, and by the time you're ready for your nutritious snack a few hours later, that lovely banana has turned into a squishy mess. Eew.

But the solution is at hand! A few weeks ago I happened to get hold of a couple of these ingenious contraptions and we haven't had a mushy banana since.





Yes, it's the patented BanaBox®. No matter what shape or size your banana happens to be, the manufacturers promise that the BanaBox® will keep it from harm. There are even customer testimonials (complete with amusing translations!) proving just how popular this thing is. Soon everyone's going to want one!
Banana sales are going to soar! What a great invention!

And while we're on the topic of bananas, Boy10, our budding cinematographer, has been making a lot of little movies lately with the digital camera and this one contains a lesson about not getting too carried away in the fruit department. He usually does his films in German, but this one happened to be in English and I thought it was cute. Aside from me holding the camera for him, he did all the rest himself - animation, editing, dialogue etc. That's his real voice too, he just changed the pitch a bit to make it more (as he explained to me) monkeylike. See what you think.


Sunday, September 24, 2006

yes, my little dumplings, I am still alive and cooking

(Can't sleep, may as well blog)

Soo... just in case you've been wondering where I've been hiding, after talking like a pirate all day Tuesday, I spent Wednesday and Thursday coming down with a wonderful head cold that kept threatening to turn into something worse. But by Friday the sniffles were forgotten when I met up with part-time expat Ginnie in Hannover. We spent the day talking (as usual), exploring a new cafe and restaurant and taking care of various errands - some important and some just for fun. I enjoyed playing simultaneous interpreter and I think we managed to confuse quite a few people, which is always interesting. Ginnie helped me get through the day by lending me some of her boundless energy and enthusiasm for life and I didn't crash until I got home and realized how tired I was.

Not to tired to venture out to IKEA yesterday, though! Ever notice how all IKEAs seem to be about a million miles away from where you live? That's going to change soon, because come mid-October we're getting a brand spanking new store about a 20 minute drive away. This is a Good Thing since it looks like I'll be getting a new kitchen in the next couple of months, and we wanted to see what the Swedish guys had to offer. I wasn't all that enthused with what I saw, but we're still in the planning stages. Once we got going checking out all the stuff, there was no stopping us. Not even an announcement that Pippi Longstocking was visiting the store Saturday and Saturday only could tear us away from arguing about cupboard doors and stainless steel sinks.

We also resisted the world-famous 1 EUR hotdogs because I had planned something special for dinner - Zwetschgenknödel - plum dumplings. Yep, there are those plums again. Still got a million of 'em, but this recipe used up a quite a few.

Plum dumplings are really popular in southern Germany, Austria and Hungary and I grew up eating them every summer because they're one of my Austrian dad's favourite dishes.

To make the dumplings you start with a potato dough made from cooked, grated potatoes, eggs, salt and flour. Here's one recipe and there are many more about the web if you're interested.

The plum pit is replaced with a sugar cube and the plums are wrapped in the dough and placed in boiling water for about 10 minutes and then removed to drain a bit.





The cooked dumplings are then rolled in breadcrumbs that have first been browned in butter in a frying pan.





Here you can see what the dumplings look like inside when they're all done. They're delicious just as they are, but can also be served with a plum compote or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar if desired.



And they're VERY filling. We each managed about three or four at dinner and will be feasting on the leftovers for breakfast.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

avast, me hearties!

In case you weren't aware, today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I don't know about you, but I think talking like a pirate all day could get pretty darn tiring, not to mention how confused your neighbours would be, BUT I did go and get my pirate name, because everyone needs a pirate name, right?


My pirate name: Bad-Rum Madeline

Boy10: Smilin' Lazlo Dregg

Boy13: Pirate Bart the Cash-Strapped

and get this...

Mr. M's pirate name is...

Sea Monkey Garrick

Heh. Just wait until he gets home and finds that out.

Get YOUR pirate name HERE and report back to me, ye landlubbers.

what do Canadians and yogurt have in common? Culture!

Ha ha. I wish. But just so you don't think we spent our whole Vancouver vacation watching reality TV or hanging out at the mall, here's how we whiled away a couple of hours.

Towards the end of our stay my mum took the boys and me to a wonderful rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream presented by Bard on the Beach, Vancouver's annual Shakespeare Festival which takes place in large tents at a beautiful waterfront venue. Mum worked there as a volunteer a couple of years back and said it was a must-see. And it was. As you can read in the "about" section of the Bard website, having the ocean, mountains and sky as a natural backdrop in the open-end Mainstage Tent was absolutely lovely.





You can see where we were if you take a look at the Vancouver Kat Kam. Just to the upper right of the Burrard Bridge you'll notice the Bard on the Beach tents which will be up until September 24th. Pacific Standard Time is 9 hours behind Central European Time, so if it's dark when you take a peek, try again later when the sun is up on the West Coast!

Although the boys didn't understand every word (neither did I!), after I explained the plot and characters to them, they thoroughly enjoyed the play which was put on in a modern, slapstick way. The costumes were gorgeous and the actors were very well cast and Boy13 came away wanting to see more live theatre in the future. As for me, I hadn't seen a Shakespeare play since 1985 when I attended the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon so this was a real treat.

Meanwhile back at the farm, Mr. M joined the upper class by helping my dad to further restore Dad's pride and joy - a 1939 Rolls-Royce Wraith Limousine. My dad bought this car in 1988 and has been working on it ever since with no end in sight. He's always been a fan of vintage cars and has had one old car or another, sometimes two at a time, since I was quite young. Lots of fun to ride around in. And no, you don't have to have buckets of money to own an antique car, you just have to be in the right place at the right time.

Mr. M, who has a background in automotive repair and has therefore been voted Best Son-in-Law of All Time, was able to help Dad with a number of fiddly little problems and accomplished an awful lot in a short time, managing to get the grill and fenders shined up and back on and finishing a lot of the electrical work, meaning that the headlights, horn and side blinkers are now in full working order! A huge load off Dad's mind for sure. As you can see, the bumpers still need work, and the whole car could use a good wash, but here's an up to date photo. If you squint, you can see my little ol' dad behind the steering wheel on the right hand side. See how happy he looks?





This is the Rolls Royce mascot, a radiator decoration called the Spirit of Ecstasy, commonly known as the "Flying Lady". The kneeling variation is typical for cars built in 1939. I like the story attached to the ornament.





Hmm...Shakespeare and Rolls-Royce - I guess they don't call it British Columbia for nothing! Must go make a cup of tea...

Monday, September 18, 2006

molding young minds since 2003

This morning I start back teaching my volunteer English classes at the elementary school library. Even though both of my boys have moved on to a different school now, I thought I'd hang around for a while and help out. I'll have two new groups of 4th graders and I thought we'd start off today's lessons with this useful tongue twister:

If you stick a stock of liquor in your locker
It is slick to stick a lock upon your stock
Or some joker who is slicker's going to trick you of your liquor
If you fail to lock your liquor with a lock.


Very sound advice, no? They'll thank me when they're older.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

what I did today

You can tell that autumn is close approaching because this weekend we ended up with about 10,000 very ripe Damson plums from the in-laws' allotment garden (look halfway down the Wikipedia page for the history of this type of garden in Germany).

I always kind of dread Damson plum season, because Damsons are known as Zwetschge up here in the north, and Zwetschge (or the plural Zwetschgen) is a word I still have trouble pronouncing even after all these years of speaking German. You try getting your tongue around five consonants in a row and see how you fare. And these little plums are everywhere right now so you can't avoid talking about them. But that's OK, I'm used to having my husband and kids laugh their heads off every time I open my mouth.

One thing they don't laugh about, however, are my mad cake making skillz. So today I decided to use up the first of the plums by making a traditional German Zwetschgenkuchen - a plum cake.

This type of cake, a thin layer of slightly sweet yeast dough topped with fruit such as plums, apricots, apples, rhubarb etc. is very popular served with afternoon coffee.

I made the dough in my bread machine and then rolled it out on the baking sheet and topped it with the pitted, halved plums. After baking, the cake can be sprinkled with cinnamon sugar if desired, and tastes even better with a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream.


Preparing the cake for baking (yes, I ruined my nails pitting those plums!)


Ta-da!


everything looks better sprinkled with a bit of sugar

Stay tuned because some time this week I'll be showing you what to do with the remaining 9,950 plums!

Friday, September 15, 2006

it's simply a matter of knowing the right people

Just look at these darling socks my sweet, sweet friend Betty sent me all the way from Florida!



Along with all the other stuff she has going on in her busy life, she managed to find time to knit these beauties. They're so special that they even got to spend a day or two at German customs due to the Germans not being able to translate "socks". Or something.

Anyway, good things come to those who wait and my feet are actually looking forward to winter this year.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

*yawn*

(click on the excerpt to read the whole article at Deutsche Welle)

"A new international study shows Germany's education system has dropped behind those of other industrialized nations. In response, the German teachers' union called for a new education strategy."


Yada yada yada. What makes them think they're going to get it right this time around?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

would you like to see the w(h)ine list?

It's time. Time to spread the news about the Second Whiney Expat Bloggers in Germany Meet-Up to be held in Bonn on November 18-19, 2006. More details, suggested activities (did someone mention bowling??) and a list of those who are interested in attending can be perused at J's blog Germany Doesn't Suck. Just leave him a comment if you have any ideas, suggestions or questions.

And remember, any and all expats from anywhere in the general vicinity are invited. You don't have to live in Germany and you don't have to have a blog. Being a bit whiney would be a real plus, though, because that's what the weekend is all about, right? A chance to let off some steam with people who "get it".

I attended the first meet-up in Marburg last October and had a grand time. Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a very outgoing, social person in real life, so getting out on my own can be quite the challenge sometimes. But I certainly did enjoy meeting other expat bloggers in Marburg and have visited with several new-found friends since then. Not a bad apple in the bunch, I tell you.

So think about it. Even if you're new to Germany. Even if you're really, really shy. Even if the thought of getting on a DB train scares the bejeezus out of you. You can do it. You SHOULD do it.

You won't regret it. I sure didn't.

And speaking of no regrets, take a look at these happy expats that I found over at Ms. Mac's. Too funny.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

wildlife

(Nothing much going on here at the moment so I'm going to continue to post various vacation pictures)

One of the things I love about vacationing in British Columbia is being able to show our kids the huge variety of animals, birds and marine life that I grew up with. My parents are lucky enough to live on a piece of wooded property that attracts all kinds of living creatures, some of which are more like house pets than wild animals.

119 of Canada's 209 terrestrial mammals and 362 out of 462 bird species are resident to B.C. along with 18 species of amphibians and 15 species of reptiles.
Mammals include elk, caribou, black and grizzly bear, mountain goat, mountain sheep, hoary marmot, pika, squirrels, skunks, raccoons, cougar, and lynx. Killer whales, seals, sea lions and sea otters can be found in coastal waters and the fishing industry profits from 5 species of Pacific salmon, red snapper, herring and halibut.

On our previous vacation two years ago, a young black bear appeared in my parents back garden (which is actually a forest) several times and we were able to have a closer look (from inside, of course!). No such luck this year - there had been a bear in the neighbourhood shortly before our arrival but were saddened to learn that it had been shot by the officials because it had been breaking into people's house and garages foraging for food and had become too much of a danger. There are still plenty of bears around, though, and if you walk through Lighthouse Park you'll see signs like this:





Down by the beach we saw Canada Geese



and lots of mussels, barnacles, kelp and crabs





Most mornings we got woken up by these racous birds, Stellar's Jays, who would scuttle across the roof and peck on the skylight in my mother's kitchen to let her know they were ready for their daily ration of peanuts.



As well as seeing black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, finches and hummingbirds at the bird feeder, once in a while we would get a glimpse of a woodpecker.




Here's a bird's worst enemy but Boy10's very best friend.


She'd do just about anything for a tummy rub and a can of tuna.


Raccoons are everywhere in B.C. and we saw this young one having a nap in a tree in Osoyoos.




This guy, a gorgeous black squirrel, came by every day for his share of peanuts and entertained us with his antics. Black squirrels are actually a type of Eastern Grey Squirrel and are not native to B.C. but were introduced in 1914 and decided to stay. They are considered a pest in some areas because they place havock with bird feeders.




You want a piece of me??

Monday, September 04, 2006

hey, my blog is gettin' all dusty!!

Time to start blogging again, but my brain isn't cooperating. They say hyper-sensitive people like me need one day for every time zone to get over jet lag. Vancouver is 9 hours behind Germany, so you figure it out. I am STILL feeling weird, if you can believe it. Will force self to blog anyway before blogging mojo is compeletely lost.

School started for the boys last Thursday and since it was Boy10's first day in a new school (the same secondary school Boy13 attends), the excitement and anxiety were right off the wall. We've now got the books and the backpack and the bus under control so it should be clear sailing from here on in. Public school is free in Germany, BUT I'll just mention that I spent EUR 267 on text books and work books last week. And that's not including regular school supplies. Some books are borrowed (for a fee) from the school and others have to be bought new from the bookstore. What fun.

I have a ton to do today, so I'll leave you with a few more Vancouver pictures.

West Vancouver is made up of four main areas traditionally known as "villages" - residential/retail areas that each have their own character. I've mentioned Horseshoe Bay and Caulfeild (where my parents live) before. Dundarave and Ambleside are the two other ones. Between Dundarave and Ambleside villages there is a very popular 1.7 km watefront walk with many beaches and little parks along the way. There are no dogs allowed on the walkway which makes it quite a refreshing change from German sidewalks!


Dundarave Beach looking west



view of the walk looking west



looking east from the pier



view of the Lions Gate Bridge and Stanley Park, both Vancouver landmarks.



a little about the bridge (click to enlarge)


A short history of the bridge here and more beautiful pictures of Stanley Park here.



Hollyburn Sailing Club



Ambleside Beach at the end of the walk


Can you believe how blue the sky was? We had fabulous weather during our whole vacation and that is definitely NOT par for the course in Vancouver but sure we lucked out this time.

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