Friday, July 03, 2015

Off to Frankfurt

Today I am driving Hannah to Frankfurt to pick up the keys to her room in a boarding house. That's where she'll be living for the next 3 years while she completes her apprenticeship to become a cook/chef.

(Sorry for the briefness, but I've decided that microblogging is better than no blogging.)

Monday, January 05, 2015

Avoidance as a lifestyle

Urgh--I soooo do not want to grade papers and presentations, but I have a rather big backlog, and people are going to start wondering about them since classes start back on Wednesday. I'm at the point that I'd like to just set a match to all of it (and Hannah's room while I am at it--I wasn't kidding when I mentioned her hoarding tendencies).

During the xmas holidays, it is traditional for me to subsist mainly on candy and then have to change gears back to normal food in January. This year, I have decided to also cut back on the places where I would normally add sugar--coffee, for instance. I've discovered that I really only need some milk to cut the bitterness. I'm not keen on the idea of how much processing it takes to produce sugar, and cane sugar has the added drawback of not being produced in Europe. I don't actually imagine I can have a modern diet and still only shop locally, but I can make minor changes in both my diet and my shopping habits to feel like I am making some kind of contribution to my own health and the health of the planet. (Maybe it is a drop in the bucket, but I might go more crazy than usual if I don't do anything at all.)

My aunt and mom "fought" for years over ownership of a certain cookbook that contained the recipe for my aunt's famous divinity recipe. I finally got the recipe from her, but in such a stripped-down form (only ingredients, and no specific directions) that it has been a disaster every time I have tried it. So this year I did my own research and found my own recipe (from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook, which is fairly dependable), and I still ended up with egg-white-and-walnut-flavored taffy. I forgot the cardinal rule--no candy-making when it is wet. That is hardly ever a problem in the deserts of West Texas, but in Central Europe, on the shores of a river, during a misty December--yeah, another disaster was inevitable. Moreover, corn syrup, as an American product, is not available here, so that will be my last-ever attempt at divinity, I have decided, for most of the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph. Otherwise, my stubborn-slash-stupid side would not let me quit until I had finally conquered it.

In the process of wasting those egg whites and so much sugar, I managed to destroy my hand-mixer (stupid, heavy divinity), so now I need to shop for a replacement. I may just get the same one again, if it is available, as it was very reliable, except when I wanted to mix something that was clearly beyond its capabilities. I may get a stand-mixer, too. And a larger food processor. (I currently have just a food-chopper.) John bought me a multi-device several years ago, but the blender function ended up being its downfall. I didn't get the base threaded on properly, and when I tried to blend ice cream in it, the motor ended up soaked in eggs and canteloupe; I couldn't get it open to clean it properly, so I've only used it a few times, when I've felt ambitious and forgetful. Inevitably, it either overheats or the clutch (?) doesn't work properly and it turns too fast, again leading to too much heat. So if anyone has any recommendations, I am all ears. Actually, I will probably just buy a German brand; Bosch is pretty good, and I think I can get it in our local kitchen shop.

We went to our favorite German restaurant last night, and on our way in, we overheard some people in the street talking about "flood tourism". I guess some people had come into town to see the Neckar overflowing its banks. That's an odd reason to come, but if it brings business to our local restaurants afterwards, who am I to complain.

My adventures in puttering this morning included halfheartedly pulling some (but not all!) of the ornaments off the tree, shaking the needles out of the tree skirt so I could put it away, and sweeping the rest of the needles off the floor. Tree pick-up is not until Saturday, so I may have it all done by then at this rate. Now I need to get my shopping list finished so I can go to the post office and the store. Tomorrow I have to be in Frankfurt first thing in the morning with Hannah, so I need to finish up a few things so I don't have anything left to do for our outing.

-Nee in Germany is digging the sunshine that's finally appearing

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Puttering as an extreme sport

Seems I have taken my puttering to a new level. Today I accomplished a lot of little things that needed to be done, but not necessarily right.this.minute. Some of them were to protect my sanity--finding 3 books I know I own but haven't been able to put my hands on in some time, clearing away my literal "to-be-read pile" that had become a tripping hazard next to my bed--while others would be due soon anyway--quarterly tax payments, etc. And others were things we'd been promising to do but just hadn't gotten our asses in gear on; now that my puttering has managed to procure bookcases for Hannah's room, it's her problem to clean out her hoarding and to fill them.

I finally broke down and bought myself a smart phone, since the Crushinator had done in my brick phone and John and I were getting tired of not being able to reach each other since we were passing the other brick phone back and forth. I still haven't actually been carrying it around since 1) I haven't gone anywhere, and 2) my SIM card has only been partially activated, but now that I'll be going back to work next week and the last of the paperwork for my SIM card should go into the mail tomorrow, I'll finally be forced to take it for a spin soon. Maybe I can figure out how to work the Blogger app...

I think I mentioned all the snow we've had. It's been warming up, so we've had a lot of melt-off, then we got a little rain and a lot more snow yesterday. By yesterday evening, the city was warning people to move their cars because the river was expected to flood. Sure enough, the water was up over the divider at the locks this morning. With all the new rain and snow yesterday, we made the executive decision to just eat out this weekend and to do our weekly grocery shopping on Monday. It's my turn, and I wasn't keen on driving down our steep, unplowed, cobblestoned street. It also bought me some more time to make a grocery list.

I spent one whole day catching up on laundry over the break. When it got to the point where I couldn't find one particular pair of pants that I had just had on, I knew I needed to do something to get the mounds of clothes reduced to a livable level.

Hannah's laptop is driving me mad. It acted like it wanted to implode around xmas, and we finally got it up and running again, and now it is starting some of the same shit, 5 hours before she has a paper due. (Yes, she has homework over the holidays. Germany is not quite Korea when it comes to school pressure, but in her final year, it is starting to get up there.) Grrr...

-Nee in Germany is avoiding the inevitable--work

Friday, January 02, 2015


Well, it's that time of year again, when the holidays are past and work is looming before me again. That means just one thing in these parts: Brain-flail!

Luckily for anyone reading, I find writing about the brain-flail as boring as you must find reading about it, so I will just skip it and move on to documenting life in the slow lane.

John's been spending all his free time (that falls outside of the local quiet hours) carving in the cellar. He's already got 2 panels done for the door of his garden shed/stave church and has been posting pictures like an obsessed person on facebook. Weatherwise, he can't do much up in the garden itself, so this is the next best thing for preparing to build the garden shed in the summer/fall.

Hannah has her school-leaving exams this spring, and every academic assignment this school year has inevitably led to tears at some point. I think it's the same for most of her classmates, though. German schools are notoriously difficult, but the stress has been ratcheted up for Hannah's cohort because the state changed the number of school years but not the graduation requirements right before she started high school, so she and her classmates have had to learn 9 years of material in only 8 years. We had already heard horror stories about kids having nervous breakdowns in their last year, but it could get even worse for the kids in Hannah's group.

Despite the best efforts of my colleagues, I wasn't able to get a new contract in the English department, but I applied for and got a contract in the translation department instead. Now I'm kind of wishing I hadn't. Translating (which I actually feel confident in my ability to do) and teaching translating are two different beasts, and I feel like I am letting everyone in the department down. That being said, I've already realized that it is not totally on me: they dumped 8 courses on me for my first semester, without any materials or curriculum beyond course titles. [FLAIL deleted]

We finally made it to the xmas market in Michelstadt. That is a little town up north of us in the Odenwald, and we had heard good things about it but had never managed to go. We went with another family on the last Sunday, and despite the rain, it was crazy crowded. We ate delicious wild boar sausage and visited a really cool museum while we were there, but the rain and crowds put a bit of a damper on the trip.

Then we were invited over to the same family's for New Year's Eve, which is our tradition. This year we played a dinner murder mystery game (John was the only person to suspect Hannah, that sneaky murderess!) and then stayed the night to avoid driving home in the snow. None of the chicks wanted to go outside in the cold to shoot off fireworks, so we stayed in while the dudes went outside. They didn't stay out long, though; a new roof on your house will make you loathe to play with fire near it, it turns out.

[Here's where we pretend I have managed to pull together these disparate elements into a satisfying conclusion.]

-Nee in Germany

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Busy busy boring

Life has been hectic recently, but in a boring way.

I had a ton of grading due last week, exacerbated by my usual procrastination, so that wasn't fun.

In the middle of that, John and I had to travel to the other end of our administrative district to take care of some paperwork (the glamorous life of the immigrant). Anything to do with bureacracy around here can get very complicated very fast, but it could have been much worse. I'd like to spend more time there in Heppenheim if we get a chance. There was half-timbering out the whazoo, which I hadn't been expecting.

We had our 19th anniversary and finally found some decent Mexican food a thirty-minute drive away.

We have paying guests in our vacation apartment at the moment, so we had to clean in preparation for them coming, plus we had to replace a curtain rod and install some new lights we had bought. (One of the perqs of the vacation apartment is that now I have a place to put all the crafty stuff I like to come up with. I can thank John for that realization. On to the doily patterns!)

Our friends came over 2 Saturdays in a row, first to brew some beer and then to bottle it.

John and I also tackled the plants growing up our house. He trimmed and trained the roses and the grape vines, and I cut back this other mystery ivy on the north side. I also planted some carnations in a stone planter outside the vacation apartment--also on the north side, unfortunately, so there might not be enough sunshine there for them to be really happy. We'll see.

-Nee in Germany is actually getting shit done!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Garden planning, back corner

When we bought the house, there were already several kinds of plants in the garden, mostly flowers. Most of them were kinds we weren't familiar with, like this:

While very pretty and colorful, they took up a lot of space.

And they harbored and sustained the mortal enemy of the vegetable garden, the gastropod.

Sure, they look all cute and interesting, but they can get almost anywhere. We once saw a tv program about an escargot farm, and the snail farmers demonstrated that the snails are able to crawl over barbed wire and knife blades without injuring themselves (thick layer of slime, ftw!). I found this one

on this thorned berry vine (in the middle of the picture) hanging 20 feet or more down a stone wall behind our house.

Moreover, they ate the hell out of the plants I actually wanted in the garden. I tried using this "slug-away" gel, but it is a pain to encircle every single plant, and then it washes away too fast to really protect the seedlings.

Luckily, pumpkin plants can mostly grow fast enough to replace what gets eaten, but not so much the pumpkins themselves.

So last fall I spent a backbreaking half a day digging up those flowers at the top of this entry to deny the sluggy assholes a shady bower to snack on while they wait to denude my garden during the night. I am planning to put tomatoes in there instead, because I have been assured that they (as members of the nightshade family) repel slugs.

-Nee in Germany is planning while the sun don't shine

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

I had a good 41st birthday. My family told me "Happy Birthday" first thing rather than "saving it up as a surprise" (John's excuse in the past). (News flash--not a surprise.) Hannah wasn't even all the way awake when she told me "Happy Birthday."

John and I went down the street and had steaks at the local German cuisine restaurant (Hannah was at a par-tay) on my actual birthday. The next day, we had a strawberry cheesecake.

My two punkin's were so sweet. Hannah bought me a card and put it in the actual mail to me.

John got me a sweater I had said I liked (I only had to tell him how to find the shop 3 times *g*).

And my seestor's gift came in the mail today. Behold!

She knows me so well.

-Nee in Germany likes the little things (especially socks)