Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ring out the Old...

Over the past week, I have felt about as informative and entertaining as an old stick, hence the non-blogging. I think the pre-trip stress has smothered my creativity/xmas cheer/good will toward men, but I can tell I’m back on the upswing, because 1.) my eye-tic has disappeared (knock on wood), and 2.) we’re getting on a plane Thursday morning and I haven’t freaked out (much) yet. (Ok, maybe a little, but it was all John’s fault.)

I noticed that the loss of my tic coincided with surviving the Lucia-fest we attended over the weekend. I got us thoroughly lost on the way, and Hannah had a bit of a meltdown after she took part in the Lucia procession, and our friend saved us seats that she unwittingly stole from another family, but otherwise it was a fairly innocuous event. There was a drawing for door prizes, so we bought 7 tickets, 2 of which Hannah promptly lost. She did win one item—a tube of caviar. “Oh, well--at least Dad can eat it,” she thought, but alas, there was a small hole of unknown duration in the metal tube. Rather than risk salmonella, which John would have gladly done if we weren’t traveling the same week, we threw it away and washed the stink off our hands. We also found a cat-sitter that night (finally!), so maybe that also helped reduce the pre-trip stress.

Winter has finally decided to grace Germany with its presence. We had our first frost last week, and the temps have been hovering around 5C (41F). Hannah won’t always wear her hat, and on those days, she says her ears feel like popsicles that ice bears (=polar bears) are munching on. Another sign of winter: I can’t touch anything in our home without shocking myself. The VCR is the worst.

We made it to the Xmas Market this week but didn’t buy anything but food. I swear, John and Hannah are constitutionally incapable of walking down the main street without needing to graze along the way. *She* wants sweets—it was 5C out, and she spent the whole time pleading, “Ice creeeeeam!”—and *he* wants to try every kind of roasted nut offered (if I were Mimi Smartypants, I would write an essay about my husband’s love of hot nuts, but instead I will just amuse myself in my head), so almonds and chestnuts this time. And it’s not like I didn’t feed them first.

Our suitcase o’ presents is basically packed, so there shouldn’t be too much to remember when it comes time to pack except clothes and personal stuff. That doesn’t mean I’m not making a list, but I’m only including the most important things. I can buy a new toothbrush if I leave mine behind, but we can’t get on the plane without our passports, so the passports are on the list and the toothbrushes are not.

Hannah’s school offered photos this year for the first time, and they came in yesterday, so we will be spreading the joy as much as possible while we are in Texas. When John saw them, he wondered why we ever let her out of the house looking so mussed. I reminded him that Hannah had gotten herself ready and didn’t want our help and thought she looked *very chic*, so grin and bear it, baby.

I wanted to make an elf of myself, but I think I am out of time, so here are some other fun xmas games and stuff (check out You Got Elfed) from Office Max (who would have thought!).

And with that I will sign off for the rest of 2006 and the first week of 2007. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

Tuesday sucked ass. There is no other way to describe it. Everything that could go wrong did, up to and including my thermos of coffee leaking through my bag and down my jeans. I didn’t even bother to go to my afternoon class, because with my luck, a piano would have fallen on me. That’s how bad it was.

Wednesday’s fantasticness was in inverse proportion to Tuesday’s suckitude. Everything that failed on Tuesday succeeded on Wednesday. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a chorus of fairies had appeared to rub my feet and sing me to sleep.

Now I am hoping to just maintain an even keel between now and our trip a week from today. I am a little concerned about an intermittent eye-tic I have developed; this only happens when there is more stress than I want to admit bubbling deep below my surface. Did I ever tell you that I had a tic for the first 6 weeks we lived in Germany? Every new thing I encountered, every new person I met, my eye spasmed the whole time. What a first impression I made.

I don’t think I was being particularly goofy yesterday, but Hannah told me it was time for her to put me in a retirement home for nutballs. Thanks, Honey.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Busy Bee Nee

I have finished all my xmas shopping! (Thanks to the power of the Internet.) You all will be happy to hear that no one will be receiving pornographic marzipan (probably Not Safe For Work), or an apron depicting a busty barmaid in a dirndl (although it was a close call, LilSis). If I asked you for advice on what to get a loved one, rest assured that I immediately changed my mind and got something completely different. That’s just how I roll.

All my shopping sleuthery (shoppery sleuthing?) has left little time for those pesky chores like blogging and homework and housekeeping, so I guess I will be playing catch-up this weekend. Hannah is about to go to a birthday party, so that should free up some time. I have taken on a proofreading-esque job/favor for John, and despite being annoyed at the formatting quirks (which are not part of the correcting job), I am enjoying the work. If I could just get through with my stupid degree (yes, the luster is gone), I could get back to doing stuff I like, like working.

I recently told John that I am surprised I haven’t flunked out of school because I am not a self-starter. I guess I am especially gifted at cramming. *g* This makes me think that freelancing might not be such a good career choice for me. I’ll definitely be looking for an office job when I’m done with school. [BTW, WesTexGirl: Welcome back to the ranks of the studious!]

I know some people scoff at the idea of global warming, but you cannot deny that the weather has been excessively weird this year. They’ve already had snow in North Texas, while we haven’t even gotten below 40F yet. Rose bushes are blooming. The geraniums are still alive in people’s window boxes. Remember this tree?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

It’s now covered in fuzzy buds. You need a heavy jacket to leave the house, but no hats or gloves or wool coats. Trust me, Germans live in mortal fear of drafts and break out their scarves in October, whatever the weather, so they are not exactly prone to underdressing, unlike my husband and daughter. It is nippy in the mornings, but you’ll be sweating under your sweater by lunchtime.

12 Days ‘til Texas!

Monday, December 04, 2006

‘Tis the Season to be Greedy

Is it wrong for me to drool outside the showroom window of this kitchen boutique?

A few doors down, though, my eyes were accosted by an evening gown that appears to have been constructed out of a ball of foil covered in sequins. Hannah liked it.

Hannah is counting down the days until we fly to Texas. Literally. I went in to wake her up this morning, and she opened her eyes and said, “Seventeen days ‘til we go to America.” On Thursday, she called out from her room, “Are you going to wash underwear soon?” Fearing the answer, I asked why she already needed more underwear when I just finished the wash on Monday. Turns out she had already packed for the trip. The early bird runs out of clothes, eh?

I hate it when you think of the perfect gift, then discover that everyone is sold out until after xmas. grrrr.

If anyone is looking for something to read, I highly recommend Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island. I was laughing so hard during the scene where he was trying to order a beer in a Glasgow pub that I was crying. That will get you some funny looks when you are sitting at a garage, waiting for your car to be inspected.

My iron levels turned out to be in the acceptable range (if on the low end), so we (the doctor and I) have decided to keep the IUD. I am perfectly healthy in every other respect, knock on wood, so there’s no need to start chopping out or burning off completely healthy bits when I could just eat more meat. For those in the know, my ferritin is 47 (normal is 13-150) and my hemoglobin is 13.7 (normal is 12-16, and I started at 7).

Totally unsolicited, here are a few tips on shopping for Hannah this year, if you are so inclined:
No earrings, please, as her piercings have grown up.
She wears a size 10.
Barbie stuff is still ok, but she’s also into Legos.
We now have a DVD player (thanks to the generosity of Mr and Mrs Jooge (I couldn’t come up with a good nickname for Mr J)), so DVDs are now an option.
Hannah has more books than shelf-space, yet she still complains about not having enough to read, so books are always welcome.

Voila! Xmas is served!
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Already an Evil Genius at 9

Hannah was telling me in the car yesterday that if she were the bad guy in Superman, she would grind up the Kryptonite really fine and put it in his soup. As far as I know, she has never read a Superman comic or a Superman movie, but she knows his one weakness and how best to leverage it. Evil!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Home on the Range

I told John that one day I want a house with enough space for an office, even if we have to share it. (1) But I want my own desk, and by “desk”, I mean “kitchen table.” I need lots of space to spread out when I work. It doesn’t matter if I’m studying, editing, sewing, or balancing the checkbook; I want to be able to have everything I need right at hand. I think a low rolling cart for holding my collection of office supplies and loose bits of paper that I could store under the table would be the perfect accessory. And a Mac, but definitely not pink. I hate pink more than I hate Brussels sprouts, and wouldn’t you know it—I got a “raspberry” Mac at my old office when our computers where updated. AAARGH!

(1) Technically, we have an office, but since it is tiny with a ceiling that slopes down on both sides from the middle and isn't well-insulated or well-lit, it is more like a detention cell than a workspace.

I’m a bit concerned about my daughter. For homework yesterday, she had to rewrite Little Red Riding Hood from the perspective of LRRH herself. I was reading what she had written after she and John had left for Swedish school, and I almost wet myself laughing:

Grandma looked dumb, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. “What a big ass you have, Grandma.”
“The better to toot with.”
“What big peepers you have, Grandma.”
“The better to stare with.”
“What a big, fat, stinky mouth you have, Gr—“


Monday, November 27, 2006

A Couple of Fun Things

I wanted to embed a YouTube video of the Helsinki Complaints Choir, but I couldn't copy the whole tag over at YT, so you'll just have to follow the link, but it is hilarious in a thoughtful way.

And here is something that is funny in a less thoughtful and more silly way: the Holiday Snowglobe. Shake it!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Turkey Day to Us

We didn’t have time to cook a big dinner on Thursday or room to store a turkey in the fridge last week, so we shopped for the bird yesterday and I cooked it today. Here are the results of my meager efforts this year (all from scratch): turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, rolls, tea. Plus Hannah, who improves any photo.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And here is the lemon meringue pie I made from scratch this morning. Hannah has been begging for one for weeks, so I let her juice the lemons while I took care of everything else pie-wise. I’m not normally a good pie or meringue maker, but this time I had success!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I am not much of a risk taker normally, but I cannot resist using an untested recipe off the Internet when I want to make something new, even for holiday cooking. This is the turkey recipe I have been using since the year we lived in Sweden, and this is the lemon pie recipe I printed out yesterday before we went shopping.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Green Thumbs R Us

My Xmas Cacti are both in bloom!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I managed to force the Poinsettia.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

My citrus plants I grew from seeds have survived the summer.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

We bought some plants in late summer. This one never took off, so I figured it was just a dud. But apparently it really likes the warmer-than-normal temps and rain, because it went into overdrive recently.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here’s one of the other plants that we bought at the same time and which bloomed and died on schedule.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

TMI Alert!

My doctor’s appointment went fine. Everything looks good, including the IUD I complained about. I had it put in to reduce my period because I was suffering from severe-ish iron anemia. Technically, it has reduced my period—if not for something called hygiene, it would be possible for me to use only one thin pad on most days and a mini-pad on others. Sweet, eh? Except my periods last 12-15 days. (1) Even the doctor agreed that is a drag, but since it is not unheard of, and since the *total* blood loss is less, she highly recommends I keep the IUD. We’ll talk about it again when my blood-work comes back next week (the phlebotomist didn’t maim me this time).

(1) When I called 2 weeks ago to make my appointment, it was the first day of my period. I thought I’d still be on it when I had my check-up, based on 21 months experience (and the longest period to date the month before). But my body betrayed my brain once again: it lasted only 5 days! That was probably the shortest period I’ve ever had, except maybe my first one at age 11.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hannah Fannah Po Pannah

Hannah specifically asked for this advent calendar this year (usually she gets one like this). Unfortunately, she wanted the hottest item this xmas season; the department store I went to yesterday was sold out, and they reported that there weren’t any to be had for love or money. Rats. Hannah declared that she’d just take the normal chocolate calendar, but I think I can improve on that with something like this.

I would have gotten her one from our local gummi-bear shop (how cools is that? We have a shop that sells nothing but gummi bears), but I’m afraid Hannah was swapped at birth, because she doesn’t like gummi bears very much and therefore cannot be the fruit of my loins.

One thing that makes me very proud of Hannah is her congenital resistance to peer pressure. She is not merely impervious to it, she is actively hostile to it. She and her best friend (1) were talking about participating in a local parade, which is usually a low-key affair around here. St. Martin rides his horse at the head of the procession, and kids and their families follow carrying paper lanterns. Hannah mentioned the lanterns, and the friend said that teenagers don’t carry lanterns (she is 10). Hannah bluntly pointed out that they are not teenagers. Neither ended up going after all (we just caught the tail end of it from our balcony), but it was reassuring that Hannah understands about and approves of age-appropriate behavior.

(1) Back before she and the best friend had a flaming row and broke up.

Gotta Be Me!

Probably once a week (and now it really is only once a week because I’ve restricted my blog-reading (except WesTexGirl) to Saturdays—oh, the agony!) I read about the "10 weird things about me" meme that is making its way around the blogosphere. That got me thinking about my own level of weirdness.

I don’t have webbed toes or a third nipple; I think I’m physically normal (although some people might argue that my long toes disqualify me).

But, I know that maybe I, uh, think about things a little differently from my nearest and dearest; I really don’t think I’m *weird*, deep in my heart. I’m just a person who likes to hum while she walks.

I noticed recently that when I am washing the dishes or taking a shower or otherwise doing something that doesn’t require a lot of attention, my mind wanders. Back to Austin. And not Austin as the backdrop to a big chunk of my life, but *Austin*. Burnet Road, Lamar, South First, the Party Pig, HEB. *Every HEB I’ve ever been in.* No kidding. Instead of thinking about Hannah’s second birthday party or her first steps or our wedding or John’s graduation, I think about the produce section of a supermarket I haven’t seen in 2 years, alternating with driving directions to said store.

But that’s ok, right?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Not for Children

Here are a couple of links that I have been saving. They depict the Teletubbies and Sesame Street, but they are definitely NOT for children. Wait until your kids go to bed to look at these.

Teletubbies kill
A shooter game. Enough said.

Sesame Streets
A "trailer" for a "film" by Martin Scorcese. (Which means audio from _Taxi Driver_ tacked onto video for Sesame Street. Sacrilicious!)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gobble! Gobble!

The turkey and I will have a lot in common on Thanksgiving Day:

We’ll both be lying on a table with our legs in unusual positions.

We’ll both be stuck with metal implements.

We’ll both have more of our insides seen than we might like.

We’ll both be glad the day only comes once a year.

Guess what I’ll be doing, and I’ll scrounge up a prize for the first one to guess right.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Man, it is a gorgeous day!

The sky is clear and blue,

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

the sun is warm and blinding,

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

and the trees are orange and yellow and brown.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

What more could you ask for? Fog?

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Yes, those last two are actual recent photos.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More Online Quiz Results

You Are the Swedish Chef

"Bork! Bork! Bork!"
Your happy and energetic - with borderline manic tendencies.
No one really gets you. And frankly, you don't even get you.
But, you sure can whip up a great chocolate mousse

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blah to the Blah

Winter struck right in the middle of Hannah's school vacation last week, so we've been getting acclimated to the cold. But today it is also raining. Ick. At least I don't have to get out today (my class meets every other week). And Hannah is home sick with a tummy ache. I don't know if it is due to the tiny portion of pinto beans she had last night, or the lingering post-nasal drip, or some stomache bug, but she really does seem (mildly) ill, which means she doesn't feel well enough to flop. That is how we assess her level of illness: if she starts flopping, she's not as ill as she's claiming to be.

I made a big ol' to-do list (my short-term memory is not what it once was, although it is still better than John's) yesterday, and the checking off of many, many items was quite thrilling. Of course, I went to show Hannah how I had whittled down my list, and there was still 2 Palm screens worth. *sigh* But not all of it is pressing stuff.

And that's about it. It's been a dull, dull week.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quiz results

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The West

Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

The Midland
North Central
The South
The Inland North
The Northeast
What American accent do you have?

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Sometimes I wonder why I even jot notes in my Palm when I never go back and write them up in blog form. So in the interest of freeing up some memory on my Palm, here are the bits and pieces that have been floating around in there.

One of John’s former classmates visited us while she and her husband were on their “memory tour” of Germany over the summer. Hannah loves to play hostess, and she proceeded to tell them all about our apartment and to introduce them to our cats. “Eliza is a big titty baby.” John’s friends are so cultivated that they didn’t even know the expression. This means that John is a cracker x 2, because I certainly didn’t teach her to say that.

I was waiting to cross the street one day, and I heard someone singing along at top volume to Tenacious D’s “Tribute” (aka, The Best Song in the World). It was the last place in the world I expected to hear it. (Usually I listen to it at home on our computer.)

Why did the guy sitting behind me on the bus smell like cigarettes and melted gummi bears? Who can say?

In reference to the class-hijacker: WANKER! (Wish I were British so I could pull that off properly.)

Hannah had a temporary hatred of xmas candy recently. She desperately wanted me to buy her some Jelly Bellies (Bellys? Hell if I know) so she could try out their recipes, and she had finally talked me into it. Except the department store we went to—where we both knew there were floor-to-ceiling bins of jelly beans—had blocked access to the bins with their displays of xmas candy. For 2 days, Hannah would randomly burst out in an angry hiss, “I hate xmas candy!” until I found her a mixed bag of Jelly Bellies at the other location of the department store. Now xmas candy is AOK again.

We sometimes hear some loud scuffling around coming from upstairs, and we used to think it was our 2 cats. Lately we’ve noticed that it also happens when Missy Cat is downstairs (i.e., Eliza Cat is alone upstairs), so John and I naturally assumed that Eliza was merely possessed or deranged or otherwise having some sort of episode. Case closed. But Hannah has a better explanation (or at least more entertaining). An evil gnome who formerly lived on the roof managed to get into our apartment through an open window and now spends his time terrorizing and trying to eat our cats. It’s as good a theory as any, as far as I am concerned.

Hannah found her Disney princess paper dolls while on school vacation this last week and has gotten a surprising amount of entertainment out of them. Each princess—Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty—comes with a prince—labeled “Prince”, how helpful—and girls and boys both come with their own outfits for mixing and matching. The first thing Hannah did was to grant each couple a divorce and pair them back up with a new partner. One prince has gone AWOL, so I think Cinderella is still single. Then she arranged them on the couch so they could 1. watch the video of Cinderella with us, and 2. act in a movie of Hannah’s own devising. I don’t know what the movie was actually supposed to be about, because Hannah spent more of her time on her cell-phone (drawn on paper by herself), telling the producer to get off her back, she’s trying to work! And who can work with the producer calling every 2 minutes?! Sheesh! She quits!

I couldn’t find a correspondingly hideous photo on the Internet to illustrate the horror that my classmate unleashed on the rest of us, so you will just have to use your imagination to fill in the spaces in my description. Picture a purse, made of red “leather”, of the roundish, pouchy variety. Add a ruffled edge, still red “leather”, to the top, along with 2 dark-brown handles. Now add a wide stripe across its width, slightly below the center, a stripe made of leopard print, edged with more ruffles of red “leather”. Did you sprain your brain? Me, too.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Halloween in photos

Halloween baking
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Edible pot of dirt plus worms and frogs (aka chocolate cake with chocolate sprinkles and marzipan pot and gummies).
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Hannah’s first try at a costume. We guessed “chimney sweep”, but she was really a witch (note the broom).
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Hannah attends a Halloween party thrown by her best friend
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Hannah sorts her loot
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy happy, joy joy

Sometimes it is good to unload and get all the hate out—kind of like lancing a boil. Even though John claims people enjoy my occasional overflow of vitriol, I thought I would take this opportunity to help you get the taste of hate out of your mouth by listing a few of my favorite things. (In the interest of full disclosure, there are no kittens or packages or string on this list.)

You already know how I love the M song and “Mahna Mahna”, but here’s another Muppet classic, “Never Smile at a Crocodile.” I laugh like a toddler in diapers every time that croc munches up one of the frogs.

(Peter Pan)

Never smile at a crocodile
No, you can't get friendly with a crocodile
Don't be taken in by his welcome grin
He's imagining how well you'd fit within his skin

Never smile at a crocodile
Never dip your hat and stop to talk awhile
Never run, walk away, say good-night, not good-day
Clear the aisle but never smile at Mister Crocodile

Hannah. Enough said.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Halloween, which will get its own post soon.

Christmas socks.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nee Hates on Everyone

I don’t know why I’ve been in such a bad mood lately. It’s like I had a double-portion of hate and a side order of annoyance, but it’s still sitting in my gut like a lump of poorly digested hate. Or something. Maybe it’s hormonal, or the start of winter, or the time change. You choose.

Or maybe it’s all of the above PLUS my husband. There is a perfect word for him in German: Nervensäge (lit. “nerve saw”). When I’m already in a foul mood, like yesterday, he likes to push my buttons until I’m literally raging with clenched fists and gritted teeth and everything, then he says, “You’re scary.” GAHHH! He’s lucky I didn’t smother him in his sleep last night, but I always fall asleep first, so it’s not likely that is ever going to happen.

Giving Hannah a nibble on the cheek often helps me calm down, unless I have just noticed that she’s put a clean and folded pair of socks in the laundry (for the third time), or that she hasn’t put away her clean laundry and has instead thrown it on top of the tower on her play bed. GAHHH!

What else? Oh, yes. The cats’ very existence. Other drivers. Other bus passengers. That lady with a baby. That old lady. *Our downstairs neighbor*! Our new next-door neighbors. Our landlord. And a bunch of people I’m too tired to hate on right now.

Except I went to class and hopped right back on the hate-train. This jackass, who is not even officially signed up for our course, keeps jumping up and literally taking over every class (I mean, picking up a piece of chalk and drawing on the board and dominating the instructor). Hate! I’m bumping him above the neighbors on the hate-list. And he has a deep voice and makes a lot of sub-vocal comments and hmmms and ah-has, so it sounds like someone below us has the bass cranked up. I was on the verge of jumping out of my chair and throttling him, except I didn’t want to disrupt my classmate’s presentation (which this guy had already interrupted two or three times).

Let the healing begin!

Hannah the Chef

Hannah is the sweetest sweet little monkey-face! (She likes it when I call her that. Really!) She is still enamoured of the idea of becoming a restaurateur, so in furtherance of her career dreams, she offered to cook us dinner one night. The whole thing.

She planned the menu (see below), went grocery shopping with me, prepared the food (including a salad dressing from scratch), folded the napkins (into paper airplanes—unique!), set the table, lit candles, and generally provided a delightful culinary experience for us. She may have gone a bit overboard with the place settings (says the chief bottle-washer): a plate, a salad plate, and 2 bowls *each*. We ate salad, roast chicken, and mashed potatoes. There were more items of china than items of food! She also provided spaghetti eis (vanilla ice cream pushed through a press into “noodles”) for dessert. Yum!

I tried to convince her that all chefs have to train on dishwashing, too, but she didn’t believe me.

She wanted everything to be as fresh as possible, so if you ordered orange juice, you got an orange with a hole poked in it sitting atop a glass. You don’t get any fresher than that!


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Putting on the finishing touches

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Monday, October 30, 2006

Photos galore

Am I the only one that thinks this poinsettia is turning red(dish)?
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I love the views at the end of our valley (the back of the hill where the castle is located), especially in the evening and when there’s fog. I’m tempted to do a photo essay on fog, but I’m just not a good enough photographer.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Real content soon, I hope.

Friday, October 27, 2006

In my head

I have spent most of the last four days singing the following to myself. But that’s all right, right?

Before that, it was this one:

I have finally discovered the perfect solution to my xmas music predicament: John Denver and Muppets! The great taste that tastes great together!

And for your reading enjoyment:
Around a dozen Japanese tourists a year need psychological treatment after visiting Paris as the reality of unfriendly locals and scruffy streets clashes with their expectations, a newspaper reported on Sunday.

Halloween crafts made of tampons

An interview with Velvet d'Amour, a plus-size model who was in Jean Paul Gaultier's fashion show during Paris Fashion Week.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Rubbing It In

Don't hate me for living in such a beautiful corner of the world. Hate me for gloating about it. ;-p

View from our study
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

View from our upstairs bathroom
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Teaching the Teacher

I am taking a teaching methods course and have already enjoyed our first two meetings. I’m not nervous about teaching per se—as John says, tongue in cheek, it’s one of the few jobs where people have to listen to everything *you* say, but you don’t necessarily have to listen to them. :-) And I am teaching two classes this semester on topics that I feel fully qualified to instruct others on—American English pronunciation and how to put together a presentation.

I am not quite up to terrified about teaching German, more like very, very nervous. I know my German is leaps and bounds better than when we moved here, but good enough to be able to help other people improve their German? I’m not so confident of that. Fortunately, I have from now to January to prepare for my 45-minute crack at teaching a German as a Second Language class; also, we are learning how to organize a class-hour so as to minimize any unpleasant surprises.

As part of our class, we are watching and analyzing videos of other people teaching. After we watched the first video yesterday, some people in my class were complaining that the teacher in the video didn’t give his students any rules about the grammar topic they were working on (past tense). This was a beginner-level class. They gradually worked their way up to the actual grammar topic via some introductory exercises (that were old-fashioned but surprisingly ingenious), and the way the teachers organized the lesson, the students came up with a simplified version of the grammar rule on their own, based on the earlier exercises. Some of my classmates thought the teacher should have given them the full set of “rules” regarding past tense at this point, and we debated it a bit. As I pointed out (*buffs nails on shirt*), this is not the last time in their German-learning that these students are going to work with past tense, so why overload them with rules? Maybe the teachers wanted them to have more a feel for how past tense works at this point, and then another time they can get additional examples that demonstrate some exceptions to the rule they came up with.

I came up with an analogy while walking to meet my tutee this morning. Learning a foreign language is a bit like learning to ride a bike. You wouldn’t give a 3-year-old a 27-speed mountain bike to start out. Instead, you give him something like this (which is what I saw a small child on this morning and which kick-started this train of thought):

When he gets really good at balancing and is tall enough, you move up to something a little bigger, maybe with training wheels.

It may take a while to build up to that mountain bike, and some people may never make it past 10 gears, but most people can learn to get around on a bike. Same thing with a foreign language. You can’t expect a person to be able to handle a whole pile of rules right away; you have to give him a chance to find his balance and get familiar with this new way of doing things.

Well, duh!
To Lower Costs, Hospitals Try Free Basic Care for Uninsured (NY Times)

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Wheels on the Bus

All I wanted on Wednesday was to get from point A to point C via point B, but that was the point at which Mr. Itinerant Preacher Crazy Man got on the bus. His non-stop diatribe really killed my enjoyment of being squashed between the window on one side and 80 other standing passengers on the other. At least we got the entertainment of catching each others’ eye and cracking up.

Mr. IPC Man was in fine form: (translated from the German) “G is for God. God is great, ja ja. G is also for great. God is good, which also starts with G, ja ja. This is NOT about Hitler!” And so on and so forth.

By the time we got to my stop, I had prayed more in the 6 minutes he was on the bus than in the last 20 years. I was able to tune him out a little by thinking, “Christ Jesus and Baby Jesus! Get me off this bus!”

The next morning, I was forced to partake of a fellow bus rider’s iPod playlist. I didn’t really want to be at a funky disco bus party; I just wanted to sit and be surly as usual.

Thursday afternoon was a bit better, bus-wise. One stop after I got on, a whole kindergarten got on the bus (in Germany, kindergarten = pre-school/daycare and not the grade before 1st grade), so there were about 40 kids, toddlers up to about age 4. Cute! I shared my seat with the two tiniest, and one of them fell asleep on me. I had forgotten how tiny they can be. I actually ended up riding one stop further so I wouldn’t have to trample my way through kinders or wake up the little punkin on my arm.


When we moved here, I planned to be done with my master’s degree in 4 years. Looking recently at the list of coursework I had completed and had left to complete, I saw that I would be able to finish all my coursework by the end of next summer semester, right on time. Except I wouldn’t be able to *get* my master’s by then, because you can only apply for admission to candidacy (basically) once all the coursework is complete and grades are turned in; at that point you can write your thesis and take your exams (2 5-hour written exams and 2 1-hour oral exams—ouch!), which you have a total of 12 months to do. So even if I finished all the coursework as early as possible, I would not be able to complete the other requirements by the end of the summer semester.

This put me in a bit of a conundrum. If by conundrum you mean a day-long crying jag. Should I go on bended knee to the department head and try to get her to pull some strings for me? Which meant I would have to cram in the coursework, thesis, exams, and quite probably packing up our household into one semester. Just thinking about it makes me want to die. Or should I drop out?

Finally, I realized that although the MA after my name would be nice, it doesn’t define who I am and wouldn’t guarantee me the job of my dreams later. So I have decided to continue with some of the coursework (dropping one upper-division class, whew!) that would be most useful to me in the case that I had the chance to teach German in the future (a teaching methods course plus student teaching, a course on second language acquisition, and a conversation course). I woke up the next morning feeling a sense of total-body relief (you know it if you’ve felt it). If events conspire to keep us in Germany longer, then I will finish up. If not, then I still haven’t wasted my time here.


I needed to get out and stretch my legs today, so fall photos from our village here.


Furniture made out of books! Why didn’t I think of that!?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How do I love lists? Let me count...

Now that the semester and “real life” have started up again, I am back in list-making mode. You all know that I love me a list, uh huh, but I just realized recently that I am a really sucky list-maker. Here’s an item from my Palm To-Do list: “Start reading for class.” How helpful is that? When can I consider that item completed? 2 pages into the text? 5 pages? It has finally occurred to me that I have to be specific, and I am allowed to break jobs down into their constituent parts, which means more things on the to-do list, but the list gets whittled down faster because I am not waiting for one big thing to be completely finished. So that list item became “Read Chapter 1.” Much better.

John is one of those people who has a routine, and he deals with new things by making a routine out of them. That is *really* hard for me to do. Taking my vitamins? Sporadic. Forcing the poinsettia? Thank the seven dwarfs the days are getting shorter anyway, because I often forget to cover that puppy until it is already dark out. List-making is one way I deal with this; if it is on the list, at least I am reminded of it once a day at a minimum. We’ll see how smoothly this semester goes with my new outlook on lists.

Gnome-fanciers unite!
“Man vows to fight garden gnome arrest threat”

I first read about this in a German magazine!
World’s Ugliest Dog Contest

“In contrast to an earlier finding, it does not appear children who watch a lot of television wind up with behavior problems in school, researchers reported Monday.”

Monday, October 16, 2006

Christmas in October

Germans already have Fasching/Carnival for their big dress-up holiday, so they don’t really do Halloween except for the occasional costume party for adults here or there. That would explain why the xmas cookies and candy are already on the shelves at the grocery store—there aren’t any buffer holidays like Halloween or Thanksgiving (in September in Germany) to slow down the train-wreck of xmas advertising.

Personally, it doesn’t matter to me what time of year it is, any time is good for humming xmas songs. I like the tacky songs, while John is more a religious-carol-type guy. I don’t think my love of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" is going to jinx our relationship, but it does put a cramp in our holiday music buying.

Last year in December, I went into a Starbucks for the first and only time—a classmate invited me, I swear!—and not only did I drink a large cup of their coffee, I also bought a CD of xmas music. I felt my soul shrivel even smaller than usual on that day, but the CD turned out to be not quite what I was looking for, so that made me feel better. Here’s what I got:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Sleigh Full of Songs
1. I Like a Sleighride (Jingle Bells), Peggy Lee
2. Deck the Halls, Nat King Cole
3. Winter Wonderland, Dean Martin
4. The Christmas Waltz, Nancy Wilson
5. Do You Hear What I Hear?, Bing Crosby
6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Aimee Mann
7. 2000 Miles, Holly Cole
8. The Little Drummer Boy, Lou Rawls
9. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Lena Horne
10. Merry Christmas, Baby, Charles Brown
11. Silver Bells, Wayne Newton
12. O Come All Ye Faithful, Ella Fitzgerald
13. Peace on Earth / The Little Drummer Boy, David Bowie & Bing Crosby

I realize that practically every recording artist prior to 1980 recorded at least one xmas song—my mom had complete albums of xmas music by Elvis and Jim Neighbors--but I’m not too keen on some of the artist/song combinations on my Starbucks album. In theory, I find it awesome that David Bowie and Bing Crosby did a duet, but in *practice*? Meh.

So if I were to compile a perfect xmas album—and this might be perfectly within my means via the magic of the Internet—here is what I would require, but not by any particular artist (I find that generic is usually better):

Sleigh Ride
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Up on the House-Top
Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth
Jingle Bells
Jingle-Bell Rock
Walkin’ in a Winter Wonderland
Let it Snow
Silver Bells
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
Blue Christmas
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Any additions? n.B. This is the camp-only list. Non-campy songs should go to John.

Speaking of xmas, has anyone successfully "forced" a poinsettia? Mine is 2 or 3 years old, and this year I am covering it with a black trash bag 6 pm to 8 am. After 3 weeks of this, one leaf looks a little blotchily red; the only other impact I can discern is that other leaves are turning yellow and dropping off. I don’t know if that might be due to changes in watering patterns after I brought it inside, being enclosed in plastic half the day, or being man-handled into the bag twice a day. Otherwise it looks mostly healthy (once I cut off a branch that had some kind of boils on its bark). According to the web site I linked to above, the whole process can take about 8 weeks; I’ll keep you posted.

New to Nee

I come across a lot of interesting things via my Internet reading, but I am loathe to forward them via email, because it seems like the modern version of my grandmother the bag lady clipping and mailing bits out of the newspaper. But since I have a blog, where people can decide for themselves whether they want to follow a link, I can put up items of interest whenever I like. Ha ha ha!

John is the real debater in our family. He can formulate a position and make logical arguments, and he doesn't get all worked up the way I do usually (depending on the topic and the other person). So for now, I will put up links with a short bit from the text itself, and maybe a quick explanation in case the topic is more controversial, and save the personal commentary.

My first article is from the New York Times (you probably have to be registered to read, but it is free--I've used it for about 5 years, no prob):

Married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have finally slipped into a minority, according to an analysis of new census figures by The New York Times.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Halloween, part 3

I think I’ve already mentioned that Hannah and I wanted to make a Halloween version of a gingerbread house since we will be in Texas at xmas-time this year. Yesterday we got busy and put one together. (1)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here are our building blocks. I made the dough from scratch out of an xmas-themed German cookbook; Hannah designed the house, and I made a pattern for cutting out the pieces. Then I whipped up some “mortar” made of egg whites and powdered sugar.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I can’t remember if this is before or after the house fell apart on us. I think it is the first assembly. Here’s a tip, if you should ever want to build your own g-bread house: let the walls set before putting on the roof—it is surprisingly heavy and will knock the whole structure down if the mortar is still wet.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here is a front view of the finished product. Note how the edges of the walls curved while baking, so we had to fill in the gaps with lots of mortar and candy, “so the rats can’t get in,” said Hannah. Here’s another tip: be careful while adding the baking powder, or the walls will end up much puffier and rounded than you intended.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Here is a back view. Hannah didn’t really like the sugar-egg glue, so she pulled apart some Brach’s Halloween candies and used those to attach additional decorations onto the back wall since it was looking a little bare.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This morning Hannah got out some marzipan and sculpted a witch and a broom out of it. She got them to stick to the front of the house by impaling them on a toothpick. Gruesome!

(1) John is so sweet. He thought it was ingenious and original to come up with a Halloween version of the xmas favorite, but I had to disabuse him of that idea. A google search came up with 434,000 hits for "Halloween gingerbread house" and 125,000 hits "+kit". At least I didn’t try to market the idea, because some of the kits are really cool.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nee: Entertaining and Informing Since 2004

I have a bunch of photos I wanted to put up, so consider this post educational.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This scary item is Mortadella sausage for children. See how the package looks all cute and slightly appetizing, while the reality makes you glad it is going to be smothered in ketchup and covered with bread? Hannah specifically asked for this lunch meat.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

To the uninitiated, this may just look like a bucket of water. But for your information, it is the amount of water that comes out of 1 week's worth of whites and underwear in our condensation dryer.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

(Sorry for the blur.) This is the one and only bud to form this year on the xmas cactus I bought last winter. I had been watching it diligently for about a week, giving the plant plenty of water and verbal encouragement, but one morning I found the bud lying in the pot. I don't know if it dropped or if a cat had anything to do with its untimely removal, but I was slightly heartbroken. The other xmas cactus has bloomed regularly ever since I got it (hell, it has flowers and buds on it right now), but I had high hopes for new hot-pink flowers.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Halloween, Part 1. Hannah was in charge of drawing on the jack-o-lantern's face. We are not going to carve it until closer to the 31st, because I hate having a pumpkin deflate before the big day. Doesn't this guy look dapper? I think he just needs a beret and a cigarette in one of those long holders.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Halloween, Part 2. The other side of the pumpkin is a bit abraded, probably from lying on the ground, so Hannah couldn't make face 2 opposite face 1. This is a girl face (note the long hair), but to me, it still looks like a clown.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ding Dong, The Paper's Dead

So I turned in my paper yesterday. It's basically garbage, but at least it is gone. I got off the bus to go to my department 25 minutes after the last page came off the printer, and things I meant to put in the paper started popping in my head. Also, a better conclusion. Also, a better section on paranoia. At this point, I will take a C and a note to never enter his classroom again. That is how sick of it I am.

On the plus side, I found this lovely line in Underworld that just really clicked in my brain:
...and he bucketed up to the bar car, filled with people who more or less resembled Charlie, give or take a few years and a few gray hairs and the details of their evilest dreams.

Even after reading it several times, it gives me a shiver.

My daughter has a mouth on her that would please my mother to no end (her and that "mother's curse" and all). I rubbed Hannah's cheek, and she claimed I scratched her with my "old lady skin". It's not that bad, yet! So now I feel no compunctions against bringing up her flabby armpits and stinky feet. Take that, young one!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

You asked for it!

I hadn’t realized how much like a transsexual I was starting to look until I tried to take a hair photo this morning. Yikes! The photo below is the best out of about 5 or 6 attempts, sadly enough.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And I had been thinking about posting a grey update anyway, so here is the new photo, taken in natural light in the sunroom:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And here is a photo from almost exactly a year ago:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I knew the shorter hair would show up the grey, but it still makes me a little sad to see how *mature* I look. *sigh*

Monday, October 09, 2006

15 minutes

That's how long I have until John and Hannah get home and want some dinner! So I must blog fast-ly and furious-ly (but not like that crappy Vin Diesel movie *shudder*).

I am still writing on my paper. I know. Don't say it. I am plugging along with an outline and everything. I have a sneaking suspicion the whole thing might be garbage, but it's too late now!

Hannah and I want to make a gingerbread house, Halloween style, but one of the main ingredients is only available at the whole foods store. Despite that setback, we forged on with making Halloween cookies!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Hannah was actually only home for mixing the dough and cutting out one batch of pumpkins, but I put her to work frosting the un-candied cookies the next day:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

She's got to earn that allowance somehow! (Wow--how exclamation-mark heavy can this post get?)

I have been very dissatisfied with my hair lately. It is tiresome always picking up one-and-a-half foot long hairs that I've shed, so in the grand tradition of my grandmother, I picked up a pair of scissors this morning and gave my hair a good whack. Goodbye, hair! It turned out pretty good for being self cut; even John was impressed. Now if I can just keep it out of my eyes...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Navel: It's What's for Gazing

I realized last night as I couldn't sleep that my recent "Shame" posts are what is known as the opposite of helpful. All this online self-flagellation is not actually helping me to write; it's just providing a distraction that I had mentally labeled as acceptable.

John needed to work on the computer this morning, which sent me to the table with paper and pencil, and I actually got a lot done. Today I feel like I'm in a better place mentally for working, so that's what I am aiming for: steady progress. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Shame Game--Tuesday, Part 3

(What a waste of a 400th post, eh?)

I make a little headway on my paper, then I flounder a bit. And I hate the whole thing.

I would rather be watching movies with Hannah (and I did stop to watch part of a Jimmy Neutron movie--the shame!), but instead I flail about on my paper, then take a break to help Hannah with her tooth-removal efforts, or get a snack, or more coffee, or go to the bathroom.

John is working like a fiend upstairs, and I...mmm...not so much. Rats.

The Shame Game--Tuesday, Part 2

It's 2:30. I have almost 4 pages of paper, plus bibliography, plus a couple more pages of hand-written graphs that won't be included with the paper, so why the hell did I do them after all?

John is diligently plugging away on his reading.

Since I last checked in, I have fed Hannah lunch, ate an apple and some peanut butter, taken a shower, made more coffee, washed a load of towels (in the dryer), and checked out Hannah's Polly Pocket plane that she made herself. And written a bit on my paper, but probably not enough to finish the goddamned thing today.

Feeling frustrated and ready to give up. Why did I think a paper about a book *827* pages long was a good idea?!

The Shame Game, Tuesday--Part 1

So here we are again. It is 11:30, and I am just getting started. I slept in, despite John's attempts to boot me out of bed starting at 9. I got Hannah up, started reading my email, cooked breakfast, finished reading email, and now I am going to work on my paper.

It has been raining for 2 days, and Hannah has a mild cold, and John is leaving for a conference on Thursday, so he has a bunch of reading and preparing to do for his presentation at said conference. I put Hannah on the couch and turned on the tv. We usually try to limit her tv intake, but today I will just add that to the shame list.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Shame Me Once...

John and Hannah got home, so we fixed a quick salad dinner, and now I'm back to looking at what I was doing when they got here.

I'm at the bottom of page 3, plus some notes on page 4. I had already abandoned the computer for my notebook and novel before the monkeys got home, and I think that's what I'll continue to work on this evening, but no all-nighter. That is never helpful.

I will check in tomorrow morning when I get rolling.

Self-Shaming Update

I had to take a quick break to empty the dryer (but not fold the clothes!), so here is the update:

I have another 3 paragraphs or so. In one hour. But considering that the novel I am writing about is 827 pages long, and even with a whole pad of post-its marking pages in the novel itself and about 15 pages of notes, it can sometimes be difficult to find what I am looking for. But the ideas are there. An outline would be nice, but I don't know if I am that far.

Onward and upward!

Oh! The Shame!

My paper is still not done. I wrote my professor over the weekend and told him I would turn it in today, but it is 4:30, and I barely have 2 pages. Tomorrow is a national holiday, so the department won't be open, but that is a lame excuse for putting off finishing the damn thing.

John has been really supportive and tries to give me positive reinforcement, but it is obviously not working. He and Hannah went into town to run some errands and see a movie (and give me uninterrupted time to work), but I am such a jerk, I am not getting much done.

So! I am going to have to take up the slack and shame myself into working. Here, for all the internet to read and tsk tsk at me. Feel free to tsk tsk in the comments, or just aloud when you read this. I will report back regularly today as I work.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Excuses, excuses

1. Check out Hannah's new video.

2. No new blog-love for a few days until I finish my literature paper. Being the smug smart-ass that I am, I started too late, and now am both super-late and stuck.

3. Hannah has no school on Monday or Tuesday (Reunification Day), so maybe there will be hijinks to report on.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Out of the Mouth of my Babe

"I think I got rid of the toe fairy. First she was in my toe, then I accidentally shook her out in my shoe, then she climbed up in my sock, but there was sweat in there and not-so-good-smelliness, and she cracked." (accompanied by a finger across the throat)

"The toe fairy has 50 daughters"--she had one a year starting at age 50, according to Hannah, so more toe fairies might move in later.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

In Germany.1 (a series)

In Germany, there is no grape jelly, or corn tortillas, or pecans.

We can buy plum jelly, flour torts, and walnuts, which are all fine in their own right, but it’s just not the same.

Also, no Kraft Mac n Cheese.

Cookie Crisp—yes.


Peanut butter—yes.


As you can guess, we have a much healthier diet than when we lived in Texas, mostly due to the lack of Tex-Mex ingredients.

Of course, German cuisine is not renowned for its low-fat-ness (cf. 800-ish varieties of sausage, about 20 varieties of fried pork, i.e. Schnitzel, and countless brands of beer), but we don’t actually cook German at home much, so it balances out.

This is not a cry for people to mail us American food—far from it. That shit is heavy (i.e., expensive to mail), and we can always put our most brazen face forward and ask our neighbors who work on the Am. military base to pick us up a few things at the commissary. We just don’t, so that is our own problem.

No, this is just a small whine about the junky junk-food that we love and miss and will whole-heartedly embrace when we are back in the States.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Another tacky Nee quote

"If we're made in God's image, he could really use an Epilady."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Moody Mom

I had forgotten that Depressive Irritable Nee tends to accompany Super-Manic Nee. They’re kind of like conjoined twins. My mood was not helped today by losing a piece of paper from our bank that I kind of needed. I was able to order a new one, but I didn’t until I had torn apart the study looking for it. That and a sense of not-accomplishing-anything-useful today and some serious absent-mindedness have put me in a foul mood. Fortunately, I can remedy it somewhat by cranking Smashing Pumpkins in the kitchen while I cook dinner and drink mint tea. Droning, loud, noisy music makes me happy.

I am in such a bad mood that I am throwing away my lists, because they just make it worse. Usually they help me get a grip, but I just might lose it if I have to look at another one.

While I was cutting Hannah’s hair, she was already formulating plans for using it. First she tried to talk her dad into using a chainsaw to cut some small pieces off the walking stick he is carving.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Once she realized that wasn’t going to happen, she took matters into her own hands. She found some cardboard—crap! I meant to take that to the recycling center today—to fashion a handle out of, a chunk of her own (pre-cut) hair, some tape, and presto! She has a paintbrush. Here is the first artwork it has produced.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting