Saturday, December 27, 2008

Weird to be back

Hey, y'all! (As Britney Spears would say. Or Britney Spears as interpreted by the Fug Girls. Which is actually weird of me to bring up, because I have only looked at, like, 3 blogs since I went cold turkey a month ago.)

All those asides aside, I seem to have survived my horrendous semester so far. I still don't have a grade back on my one exam, and I still have to study for and pass my second exam, so there is still plenty of time for me to crash and burn scholastically before the end of the semester, but for now I am not worrying about it. John and Hannah have toddled off for groceries, and I am trying to remember how this thing called "blogging" works while I have some time on my hands for the evening.

For xmas, John bought me a chocolate fountain, which I hope works as cool as it sounds. Hannah insisted on going with John to the store this evening--we normally have to bribe her to come along--so she could pounce on the left-over choco-Santas to feed into the fountain. We have unverified plans for company at New Year's, and we were thinking of using the choco-fountain as the dessert centerpiece, with fruit and such for dipping into the cascades of cocoa-y delights.

In other xmas-y news, Hannah hates the city's decorations downtown.

"Death Stars"

These lights hang over the middle of the street her school is on, and she calls them "Death Stars": "I am afraid those death stars are going to fall down and puncture my flesh." Yes, that is something we are all afraid of.

Another thing she hates about winter is the Winter-scented Charmin her father mangages to sniff out (ha ha! see how I did that?) each year and drag home by the car-full. "Great! Now bears are going to be attracted to my pine-cone-smelling butt." Not too many bears in this neck of the woods, but maybe Hannah should stay away from Bavaria and the Tirol.

We had a nice, quiet xmas at home this year. I color-coded the wrapping paper this year, and Hannah didn't manage to guess which color was hers before the big unveiling, so I guess I was successful. She was guessing blue, because there was a big package wrapped in blue under the tree. In kid logic, big=kid's, right?

xmas gifts

What she didn't know was that the red package next to the big blue one held a Wii. The big blue one just held a Wii game--Rock Band. Unfortunately, the instrument pack did not come with the game software--I managed to not notice the large, red sticker on the package announcing that--so we had to make a special amazon-run yesterday. It should be here on Monday, and then we will rock!

Until then, we'll have to make due with Samba-ing.


At John's request, I made a goose. It was really easy to roast, and I made some delicious roast potatoes in the drippings, but it was a bitch to cut up and serve, and there wasn't really all that much meat on it. And it was rather expensive. It cost me about 8 bucks per person, which hurt my penny-pinching little soul. It was pretty, though, no?


At least we got some sunshine on xmas day.

Xmas sunshine!

Hannah thought that if we couldn't have a white xmas, we should at least have a dismal gray one that looked like it was trying to be white. I, for one, was glad of the sunshine, even though it only lasted part of the day.

After being extra good and loving for two whole days, Hannah was starting to show a few cracks around the edges yesterday evening. I called her Grumpy Smurf, and she replied, "No, Smurfette-on-her-period-grumpy." Hannah identifies so strongly female that she refuses to be called male in any form or fashion, so she had to come up with a grumpy alternative, even if it meant thinking about Smurfette in a completely new way.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oral Exams are Done!

Yay! That means 6 topics are over and done with. Hooray!

I took the English exam last week and made a pretty good grade. Which is weird, because I was super nervous the whole time, and I started shaking toward the end like I had caught a chill. Also, I started my period 5 minutes--not joking--before going into my professor's office, so that was a good start to an hour-long exam.

I did the German exam today, and I totally choked. That faint gagging sound that woke you up around 3 am? That was me. I passed the exam, but I am so glad it is over. I told John I'd have to wake up with the plague in order to surpass last week's pre-exam unpleasantness, but really I was hoping I'd wake up with the plague so I wouldn't have to go through with it.

The strange thing is that after the English exam, I felt all elated and tearful and just overly emotional. Today, I felt completely empty afterword. No music in my head--as opposed to last night when I was trying to get to sleep--no sense of relief. Just nothing. I guess that's better than self-recrimination, because I know if I had gotten on the ball sooner, I could have pulled it off in German. Well, that's water under the bridge now.

So next up is catching up on all the proofreading I promised people this month and all the housecleaning I've put off over the last few weeks. But first some lunch. Cheerio!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Somebody's Checking Out!

I am giddy with relief that the presidential election is over and that Obama has been elected our next president.

Moving on, I am putting my blogs on hiatus at least through November. I have so much to do, I feel like I am coming apart at the seams. I still have half of that dissertation to edit, plus a 30+ page article to edit for my student job, and 3 English courses per week to teach, on top of studying for my exams. And in case the last bit doesn’t actually sound too bad to you, check out my schedule for the rest of the semester, *just for the exams*:

Nov. 11: 45-minute PowerPoint presentation in German on suppletion and morphological markedness

Nov. 20: 1-hour oral exam in English on 4 topics
15 minutes on Toni Morrison
15 minutes on 18th-century women writers
15 minutes on cognitive semantics
15 minutes on language change

Nov. 26: 1-hour oral exam in German on 2 topics
30 minutes on locative adverbials
30 minutes on cognitive approaches to second language-learning pedagogy

Dec. 18: 5-hour written exam in German on topic from Nov. 11 presentation

Jan. 8: 5-hour written exam in English on a linguistic topic (TBA)

Thinking about all the above, plus normal day-to-day stuff, makes me want to curl into my natural pill-bug form and sleep the winter away under a log somewhere. But since that is not really an option—since I want to finish my degree and my family likes clean clothes and eating—something else has to give. And that something is my Internet addiction. Bye, bye, blogs. Sayonara, favorites list. Catch you on the flip side, World Wide Web. I won’t be checking the email account for my blogs at all, and my personal yahoo account only infrequently. Since my students contact me via my gmail account, that is the only one I’ll be checking, and only once a day. I hope to be back, if only briefly, around Thanksgiving.

And to keep you from being too bored while I’m gone, here is a photo riddle.

John brought home flowers. What do you think?


An interesting rose?

Overly trimmed cabbage?

NOT a rose after all

Audrey II?

Discuss. See you in a few weeks.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Hannah was very excited about Halloween this year. She made, unmade, and remade plans for the big day, including having a party, going to an amusement park's Halloween day, and finally setting for plain-ole trick-or-treating.

Getting a costume for her turned out to be a logistical nightmare. It's not like you can run out and get any type of costume here. Your choices basically boil down to witch or vampire, with the occasional skeleton here or there. Hannah insisted she wanted to be a Storm Trooper. **insert sound of dismayed silence** And of course she found a costume on an expensive, American costume site. I thought Toys R Us might have it here, but Hannah insisted they wouldn't. She also claimed that she had gone to a department store at the bus stop and checked their costumes with no luck (see witch, above). Finally, since I was ordering her some clothes from Target, I checked their costumes, and there was the Storm Trooper, on sale even. Target doesn't mail internationally, so LMIL forwarded the stuff to us last Thursday via Express Mail.

So far, so good, right?

Wrong. The package came before Halloween, but it is sitting in Customs. We got the notice in the mail ON Halloween AFTER the Customs office closed for the weekend.

BUT, on Thursday, Hannah and I had found--wait for it--a STORM TROOPER COSTUME at the department store she had previously been to, but in their toy department. So on Friday afternoon, I ran out and bought the local costume:

Hannah, storm trooper

She caught the bus down to her friend's house later that afternoon, and they trick-or-treated their way back up the hill to our house. They managed to get a pretty good haul, despite the fact that Halloween is not a big holiday here. People who didn't have candy dug into their pantries and refrigerators and change purses: I think they ended up with 2 new packages of cookies, a full bag of gummy bears (not individually wrapped), and over 9 Euros in small change.

Halloween Loot

Then they hung out here until her friend's mom came to pick her up after 11. Our doorbell only rang 2 or 3 times, despite having a glowing jack-o-lantern on our balcony. I expected it to act as a beacon for the little sugar-fiends, but there was a light rain all evening, so I guess that kept them indoors.


I cut the lid into this pumpkin, but Hannah did all the other work: scraping out the guts, designing the face, even making a mole hole next to the nose. She doesn't seem to have inherited my tendency to self-inflicted injuries, thank the 7 dwarves. We have lost the skull on our plastic skeleton, so Hannah did a little mix-and-match decorating with what we had.

Jack, the pumkin king

The kids spent the rest of the evening gorging themselves on candy and watching Tim Burton movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice. I am such a wiener that I was having trouble staying awake until the friend's mom came, so who knows what they were doing between the end of the last movie and then, but the house is still standing this morning, so it couldn't have been too bad.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

In the German as a Foreign Language Department:
“Monolingualism is curable”

In the copy room of the English Department:
“Reading is hazardous to stupidity”

Best. Warning sign. Ever.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Speaking of "fiscal conservative"..

I just came across this video on Salon from the Wasilla Project--yes, Sarah Palin's hometown--about how she spent their city government into a hole during her time as mayor.

Personally, I think it shows not only that she has a weak grasp of basic economics and doesn't understand what an appropriate role for the government is, but also how she doesn't care who she craps on once she gets the next bit of power she craves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pissed Off

John and I have a pretty set morning routine. We get Hannah up and make her a snack for school, then once she's caught the bus, we drink coffee and watch CNN International until it is time to hop in the shower and gear up for the day.

Today, they had part of an interview with Sarah Palin. For once, she didn't sound like a complete moron, but that doesn't mean that the words coming out of her mouth were any more accurate. What finally pissed me off enough to say something political on here--which I generally avoid--was her assertion that the Democrats were tax-and-spend. How in the hell are we supposed to fund our government, if not with taxes? And as for those "fiscal conservatives", I think this comic by Steve Greenberg at the Ventura County Star says it all.

I mean, the fucking National Debt Clock RAN OUT OF SPACES. There are too many digits in our national debt to fit on the clock. It is now 10 TRILLION dollars and climbing. Who was the majority in Congress for over 10 years from 1995 to 2007? Not the tax-and-spend Democrats.

There is a fantastic blog called War or Car that suggests other ways the 3 trillion dollars(!) that is the estimated total cost of the Iraq war could have been spent.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Got Nothing

I’m having what I like to think of as “life block” right now. It’s like writer’s block, but it applies to everything. *sigh* Unfortunately, I have to start teaching tomorrow morning, so I have to gather up all my stuff, make a few print-outs, that kind of thing before 10 am.

I also have to make an appointment with my profs for my oral exams, which I think I have to complete before mid-November. **anxiety...rising**

Before I start having a psychedelic freak out, let me leave you with the wisdom of Hannah:

We were watching a commercial on tv for a sharing game for little kids, “because children sometimes have problems sharing.” Hannah said: “I don’t have a problem sharing. I just don’t like to.”

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Hannah the balloon artist

No, not like a clown on the sidewalk twisting weenie dogs out of balloons. She likes to draw on inflated balloons. Here is a portrait of our family in balloon format:

John, Hannah, Deanna

That's John on the left, Hannah in the middle, and me on the right. Don't you like the forehead wrinkles and unfeminine lips? Hannah thinks it is a good likeness, but I think it looks like Hans Moleman. Don't you think?

Here she has two members of the Evil Wienie (her spelling) family:

Evil Wienies (including Hannah)

Evil Wienie, Jr. is on the left and Evil Wienie Dada is on the right.

Evil Wienie Momma

And to round out the family, Evil Wienie Momma. I like to see a Wienie Momma looking so evil.

Don't forget the family friend, Mr. Rich Italian Wienie.

Mr. Rich Italian Wienie

All this started with an experiment she saw on tv that she wants to demonstrate for her Natural Phenomena class. You put some soda and vinegar in a bottle (like making a volcano) and top the bottle with a balloon. Depending on how much stuff you put in the bottle, the balloon will expand to varying degrees. See?


Anyhow, she was hoping that the balloon would float if she put enough stuff in, but we never got enough stuff into the bottle for that. She ended up with extra balloons, and we booted her off the Internet last night so we could hog up the Internet connection ourselves, and the above balloon art was the end result. It's nice to see her entertaining herself without electronics for once.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

At Chez Nee

I kind of wish we were recording our home life some way—hidden microphones, live-in camera crew, whatever—because Hannah is constantly saying hilarious stuff, but my mind is too sieve-like to remember it. (Really. Just ask John how successfully I am able to convey the contents of something I just finished reading.)

Hannah seems to be overly concerned with the logistics of death recently. She keeps asking us about inheritance lines in our family, and we finally had to tell her we found it gruesome and to just stop. On the other hand, she has some elaborate plans for her afterlife. She has changed her mind about being “burned up” and thrown in the ocean; now she wants a double-decker casket with tv, internet, fridge, etc., etc. She even wants an international power converter to ensure that her power needs after death will always be met. She thinks of everything! This lead, of course, to a talk about theories of the afterlife. Hannah thinks it would probably be too crowded up in heaven. Anyhow, she seems to have a very ancient-Egyptian mind-set, minus the patience to wait for the afterlife in order to start enjoying her grave goods. I think she is leaning toward voodoo and zombie-ism in her conception of religion and the afterlife.

I don’t know if I have told this story here, but if I have, too bad—here it comes again:
Hannah is keeping a running tab of the various old-folks homes in town, so she can pick a nice one for us when we get old. I think she has her heart set on one near the city library; she keeps mentioning how convenient it will be for me. A while back she asked about how homes are funded. I pointed out that the people have to pay for it themselves with their savings or social security, or their near relatives, like their children. While we were in Italy, Hannah hatched a new and improved plan: if we let her live with us while she finishes cooking school and starts up her restaurant/hotel, she will buy a house and we can live with her until we are too senile to remember who we are or who she is, then she’ll dump us in front of the home and make a get-away. That way we end up well-cared for, and she doesn’t have to pay for it. Sweet, eh?

When we were in Texas, my mom noticed a mole on the inside of my upper arm and suggested I get it looked at. It didn’t look too weird to me, but I made a mental note to get it looked at over the summer. Luckily for me, German insurance companies were required to pay for a skin cancer check once every five years for everyone over 35. Well, what with one thing and another, I haven’t been yet, but I guess it has been praying on my mind more than I had realized, because I recently had a dream where I looked down at my arm and a grey-ish brown mole the size of silver dollar had formed on my upper arm, and it had *tentacles*. I slapped a large band-aid over it and made a bee-line for the doctor, but I kept getting intercepted along the way. (After I told John about my dream, he told me how weird it was to get these insights into my psyche. Thanks, Honey!)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thoughts from yesterday

I am all hopped up on hormones and a severe lack of fat, salt, and sugar, which has lead me to raid the tiny stash of ancient, wizened Halloween gummies. Trust me, this is not satisfying when what you really want is something deep-fried and smothered in chocolate.*

John has been pestering me to make brownies, but 1) I have been trying to work on a huge editing job, and 2) we don’t have enough butter. So sad. After 2 international vacations this summer, we are reduced to a state of brownie-less poverty. John actually has some money coming in, but we are still waiting on it. So annoying.

*Yes, I am shamelessly stealing a line from Shrek 2. That’s just how I roll around here.


I came down off the hormone high yesterday evening with a crash. Today I've been on a little more even keel. *whew!*

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hannah, Temporary Cripple

Hannah’s first week of school was pretty hit or miss. We overslept the first day thanks to setting the alarm clock to 6 *PM* instead of AM, oopsie! The second day Hannah was in tears over the new note-taking training. On Friday during P.E., a kid kicked a ball that Hannah was making a mad dive for and drove it right into her hand, bending it backward. I ended up taking Hannah to the doctor, where she got her wrist wrapped up in a lovely hot pink bandage that she picked out herself. She made us sign it when we got home, then I had to help her make a sling out of a scarf, see?

Milking It

The doctor had told us to go into the clinic for an x-ray if it was still hurting or swollen when the bandage came off over the weekend, but fortunately it was just a little sore and wrinkly from the bandage. That doesn’t mean that Hannah wasn’t going to milk it as much as possible: “Mom, would you get me a drink? I would, but my hand…”, said with the most pitiful crying clown puppy-dog eyes you ever saw. She also asked about how one would go about getting a handicapped parking permit. Well, first, you have to be handicapped. See how that works?

Of course, her "injury" didn’t stop her from playing with Legos all day on Sunday.

Hannah and her Lego House

Then she wanted a note for P.E. today, which I was cool with, because I don’t want her re-injuring it just 2 days after we were at the doctor’s, but she seemed disappointed that I worded it so it only applied to sports. After she left for school with her note bitterly clutched in her hand, John said, “Why doesn’t she laminate it?”* Oh, the hilarity that ensued at our dear child’s expense.

Afterward, John confessed that that line came from Heaven Help Us. For some reason, I can never remember the name of that movie (even after typing it here and not 2 minutes later trying to look it up on the Internet Movie DataBase *grr*), or the word “fiberglass.” I can tell you who is in the movie and the general plot, and I can tell you about the composition and uses of fiberglass—tactics that usually allow me to associate my way to things I’ve forgotten—but there are apparently 2 big holes in my brain in the shape of those names. *sigh*

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Brain Dump

When we left for Italy, I still had that cough, but it seemed to be improving. I don’t think I disturbed too many of our fellow travelers with my night-time coughing in our various hotel rooms. I do remember that one night before it completely cleared up, I rolled over in bed and there was this weird *sucking* sensation in my sinus, as if something were detaching itself slowly from one wall of my sinus and flopping down on to the other side. Think one of those gummy-toys that you slap against the wall. Yes, it was *that* pleasant.

The cough got better, and I didn’t think much more about it. Then on about day 7 or 8 of our trip, when we were on the Mediterranean coast, I bent over to pick something up off the floor, and it felt like someone had sprayed my sinuses with salt water. Wow!* I chalked it up to the salty sea air and tried not to bend over any more. But then, the salty sinus feeling never really went away, even when we went further inland and away from the sea.

While walking along the Reuss River in Lucerne, Switzerland, I felt a little dizzy, but at the time I thought that the water rushing by was giving me vertigo. Since then, I’ve had minor headaches, a slight sore throat, and a painful spot that I think is a swollen gland at the back of my throat.

As you can tell from all this whining, I do not like being sick. No sir, I don’t like it. I am hoping this laundry list of maladies clears up quickly so I can move on to complaining about other more interesting things.

*I can hardly write “Wow!” without thinking about that comic strip dog Fred Milton, the beat-poetry reciting poodle.

Hannah has been back in school 3 days, and it has been a mixed experience for her. On day 2, she called home in the middle of the day to inform us that her teacher had already brought her to tears. It wasn’t completely clear what kind of dastardly deed he had done, but she was hoping he would get hit by a bus. I fussed at her about saying that, but she wouldn’t budge on her position. This is going to be a long year.

While taking care of all our last-minute trip preparations, including cleaning the cats’ litter box and the mice’s cage, we discovered that one of Hannah’s mice had *something* sticking out around her mouth. Hannah thought she had a bit of hard, carroty food stuck between her teeth, but on closer examination, we decided it was her tongue. It wasn’t going back in, so we rushed the mouse to the vet, who was able to get us in. It turns out that it was some kind of swelling or growth on her lip. It had probably been growing inside her mouth for a while but got so big that it flipped outward. Somehow this mouse, who has been safely ensconced in Hannah’s closed room for 15 months, picked up the papillomavirus from somewhere. The vet said it would probably go down and that we should just keep an eye on it. Ok, but we’re leaving on vacation tomorrow, said I. We had a pet-sitter, but that seemed like too much to ask of him: Please observe our sick mouse, thx bye. So the vet snipped the growth off. Hannah was concerned by the lack of anesthesia, but I told her to let the vet do her job. Then I had to run out and buy another cage for a little mouse quarantine—a travel cage did the trick—plus another food bowl and water dish (and cat food, because somehow John overlooked that when cat-litter shopping earlier. Good thing I remembered, or we might have come home to a gnawed-on pet-sitter). The mouse survived her surgical procedure and our absence just fine and is now back in the big cage with her mouse friend.

Hannah keeps coming out with weird stuff. Part of it is her; part of it is her age. At the beach, she would get in the water, then run out to cover her feet in sand a little, then run back in the water. If John and I lay out on the blanket, she flopped down next to us in the sand and wallowed around. Because she was breading herself, you see.

Then while we were walking around in Siena in Tuscany, she asked about dieting. I explained about how food is made up of different components, and how those have different caloric values, etc. Then I pointed out that eating healthful food and exercising is the best way to stay in shape, not by restricting your food input. That is when she said that she wants to diet “so I don’t end up like you”. (Lil Sis—you can forward that to Mom, if you like. She’ll be pleased.)

I was offended for a few days until I realized that my fluorescent orange swimsuit, which I thought fit me pretty well, probably wasn’t the most flattering when I was bending over to wash off my hands at the beach. As a matter of fact, it probably looked like my ass had gone supernova. So if Hannah doesn’t want to look like me, more power to her. Fortunately for her, she seems to take after John’s mom in body shape. No ham-shaped calves for her.

Today was a deeply sucky day. I had to go into town for my student job, so I made a little list of things I could take care of while I was there. It was sprinkling when I got off the bus, and an hour later, when I got off work, it was raining lightly. And of course I did not have a jacket or umbrella, just a long-sleeved shirt over a t-shirt. So I walked through the rain to John’s department for a couple of things, then over to the stationers for Hannah’s school supplies, then over to the bank. I was wet and my throat hurt, so I was going to call it a day and head home, but then I noticed that the rain had let up, so I decided to take care of my library errand while I was already in walking distance. Except when I got to the library, it was closed for a service day. *sigh* Then I was about 3 minutes too late for the bus—I saw it at the other end of the bridge as I approached. At least I could sit under the bus shelter while I waited 17 minutes for the next one, but it turned out that I had walked the length of the shopping district and back—in the rain—for naught.

I did laundry for 3 straight days after we got back from Italy, but I think the last 2 loads will just have to wait for a less sucky day to get done. And the organic garbage to get taken out. And maybe the stairwell to get cleaned.

I need to go into my YouTube account and close the comments on the couple of videos Hannah and I have up. I haven’t specifically said, “Video made by small child,” so people can’t know that when they comment, but typing “fagfagfag” isn’t really constructive criticism. Yes, I agree that that is the swishy-est undead cephalopod to come nancing down the pike, but your comment is not really adding to the discourse. *delete*

Hannah sometimes goes to this Halloween costume site where she will spend hours—if given the chance—looking at costumes. We have started a list of themed costumes for her, me, and John to wear, ignoring the fact that we don’t go trick-or-treating or to costume parties. But anaways (as my Grammy would have said):
Tropical theme: monkey, banana, hula girl
Natural enemies theme: cat, mouse, cheese
Garden of Eden theme: Adam, Eve, apple with worm
Half of the fun is arguing about who has to wear which costume.

And now I may go lie down before making dinner. Ciao!

Monday, September 08, 2008

We're Ba-ack!

Yes, we made it back from Italy on Saturday, no worse for wear.

Hannah started school this morning, but we overslept, so things were a bit hectic--did you know we can wake up, get ready, make a snack, and run out the door in 3 minutes?--but she made it on time.

I am still hip-deep in laundry and receipts but will be back in the saddle again soon.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gone with the Wind

I seem to have brought a bad cough back from Sweden with me, so I am working at about half-speed on everything. I have 4 days worth of photos up on Flickr and 2 days blogged over on the travel blog.

Tomorrow is dedicated to cleaning in preparation for a house guest from Texas who is going to house/cat-sit for us while we are in Italy.

On Monday, John is going to pick said friend up from the train, and Hannah and I have several errands to do to get her started on school supplies--she goes back on the 8th--and to turn in some paperwork for a job I'll be doing when we get back.

All in all, it's not the best time to be under the weather, but it is not affecting my sleep too much--except for the first night when I coughed so hard I saw 2 rings of light, probably my retinas coming loose around the edges. I can still see, though, flash-free, so they probably aren't completely detached yet. Since then I have been careful to sit all the way up in bed if I have to cough, just to keep the pressure in my eyes somewhat even.

At least I have coffee to help cut through the slime. It was a close call, though. We left for Stockholm on Wednesday. On Tuesday morning, the coffee brewed, but the hot-plate under the pot didn't get hot. No prob, pour the coffee in the thermos. On Wednesday morning, while getting ready to go, nothing happened when we turned the coffee machine on. *sigh* I didn't have any coffee until we got checked in at the airport at about 1:30. John and Hannah are lucky that I didn't eviscerate them in my uncaffeinated state.

After we got back from Stockholm, John ran down to the local bakery for pasteries and coffee, may blessings rain upon him, and then went out and bought a new coffee maker. He was talking about an instant, big, fancy espresso-making thingamabob, but it turns out that those are muy expensive, so he went with almost the exact same version we had before.

The coffee maker is dead.

old dead coffee maker

Long live the coffee maker.

new coffee maker

Also, I was going to call people this weekend, but this stupid cough makes it hard to get out more than a sentence or two. So if you need me before 4 am on Tuesday (9 pm on Monday, Texas time), when we are leaving for Italy, send me an email.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We're back!

We made it back from Stockholm yesterday with a minimum of fuss. The cats were alive when we got home, so it was a win all the way around.

After the second day there and the first day of walking around, my thighs were sore. After the third day, my knee hurt and I was starting to get a sore throat. The knees seem fine now, but I have a bit of an icky cough. John and Hannah are healthy as horses, and of course I was the only one to get sunburned on the one sunny day. Woe is me!

I am in the process of uploading our 357 photos (or at least a sizeable portion of them) to Flickr, so feel free to check over there for updates. I hope to start getting posts plus photos up on my travel blog tomorrow, but I'll keep you posted over here.

To tide you over until then, here are a few tidbits:

Not too confident, are they?

A Carlsberg beer truck. Confident, aren't they?

And for Mr. Jooge:

for Mr Jooge

Here is the wrapping paper for John's belated bday present from me:

Swedish gift wrap

He says licorice tastes like ass (how does he know?), so it is ironic that he gets the licorice mix wrapping paper.

Inside was this t-shirt:

John's birthday tshirt

Now I just need to figure out a way to get rid of his old, dingy, ratty Viking t-shirt.

Speaking of licorice, I never had to share my Swedish gum:

the best gum in the world

Mmmm... salty licorice gum. And sugar-free!

Finally, a tutorial in European toiletry for my American homies:

Swedish toilet

Push on the left for full-flow, the right for low-flow. It depends on what has been deposited. Now you can travel internationally without making a bathroom faux pas!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We're off to Stockholm!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I love my mini-garden

But rather than bore you all to tears with non-stop photoblogging of my balcony garden, I'll just keep adding photos to my new Flickr badge on the right, you lucky devils.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Clothes, Glorious Clothes

Once Hannah was out of school for the summer and I had finished my paper, it was time for us to do a little clothes shopping before all the summery clothes were gone. BTW, can you believe that the shops are already putting out the fall clothes?!

I haven’t bought Hannah much in the way of summer clothing the last couple of years because 1. she still had some stuff that fit and 2. one week of hot weather spread over three months does not a proper summer make.

But this year, her t-shirts have gotten obscenely small, so it was time to replace them. Maybe I can smuggle some of the old ones out of her closet now without her noticing.

As for me, I was down to one pair* of rather threadbare denim shorts and wanted something lightweight but with a little more coverage, like capris, to wear in the tropical climate of Italy later this summer. So in between Hannah grabbing everything in sight off the racks and whining that I wasn’t buying her jeans and boots (in the fall, I said!), I tried a few things on.

I am not really all that big, although I do have proper womanly curves in the right places, but apparently you have to have legs like dowel rods to be able to buy pants in the women’s or juniors’ sections here. I guess they just don’t design pants for the weeble wobble-shaped woman here, or I need to find a w-w shaped woman to follow into the right shop for that. Anyhow, I finally found a pair of pants that mostly fit. In the children’s department. In the huskies section. Yes, I had to adjust the *elastic in the waistband* of my *huskies children’s pants*, but now they fit. I mean, screw it. John likes the way they look on me, and Hannah can wear them next year (they are only one size larger than she wears) if she starts getting husky on me. The end.

* I actually found another pair of shorts in the back of the closet after I had gone shopping. They are dark blue heavy twill, but the waist is lower than I am generally comfortable with. Unfortunately, that was all I could find last year when I was looking, and I’m not sure that I even got to wear them last year because the weather changed again as soon as I had bought them.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Hitting the pool

On Wednesday, it was brutally hot--33C (about 92F) outside and 28C (about 83F) inside--so we drug our carcasses to the local outdoor pool. John complained that we found a spot in the shade under a tree. Hello? What is the point of going somewhere to cool off if you don't--sit somewhere cool? John and Hannah swam a bit, then John took his towel to go lie in the direct sunlight. I love the heat, but hate sunbeams--I can feel my skin sizzling in direct sunlight--so I stayed on the blanket under the tree.

not dead

No, I didn't smother him with a floaty. He was too lazy to sit up while taking his turn at blowing up Hannah's alligator. He worries that it looks like he is pleasuring a blow-up alligator, but I assure you, he never does that in public. (Ha ha, Honey!)


Now that Hannah is careening toward the teenage years, I fear that all her photos for the next, oh, 10 years will look like this, just with different clothes. Oh, well.

Here is something I jotted in my notebook at the pool:
"Old ladies, middle-aged ladies, young women, girls--all wear two-piece swimsuits, bikinis even. The men wear trunks, speedos, a prosthetic leg. There are none of the long t-shirts of my youth, no beach cover-ups. I find myself staring at someone's back in line at the snack bar. Does that spot look cancerous? Should I say something? She walks off holding ice cream."

Sorry about that--I was reading Margaret Atwood at the pool.

Anyhoo, about 5 minutes after we got there, a big black cloud settled over the sun and floated back and forth over it for the next 3 hours. Have you seen my recent post "Murphy's Law"? Yeah, that's my life. I thought I also heard thunder, but that turned out to be the sound of children flopping themselves down the new big, plastic pool slide.

If we were to chart Hannah's level of enjoyment of a pool outing, it would look like a big V. When John suggests a trip to the pool, she gets totally gung-ho, gathering up everything without being reminded, grabbing the car keys so she can pack up and wait for us in the broiling parking lot, being extra polite. We get to the pool, she gets into the water, gets a snack (with her own money), and then she is ready to go home. No, there is no reason to stay, life at the pool is an unremitting hell, etc. etc. Finally, she stalks off to get back in the water, just to get us off her back. That would be the bottom of the V. Then she finds her friend's brother. A boy about her own age to pester? Nirvana! Back to the top of the V until it is time to go.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Murphy's Law

We are trying to do our bit to reduce our energy consumption, both for the environmental benefits and also because the cost of energy keeps going up. John reminds us constantly about turning out unused lights. I do my bit in the area of laundry.

Al Gore recommended not using the hottest setting on the washing machine, so I have already given up 90C for whites. (A lovely side effect is that the strata of deodorant on John's t-shirts doesn't get melted onto them; they have never been more deodorant-free.) I also bought a drying rack to reduce our use of the electric dryer.

laundry on the balcony

I don't think I've used the dryer more than about once a week in the last couple of months.

Of course, the weather here tends to throw a monkey wrench into my laundry plans. We either have a long stretch of cool, wet weather, which means I have to either find room for the rack indoors or use the dryer, or we have unseasonable, unpredictable storms. Recently, we have woken up to sunny, hot weather. Perfect for drying jeans, think I. So I shove the jeans in the washing machine on cold. I drag the wet jeans onto the balcony and arrange them on the drying rack. Thirty minutes later it clouds up. Thirty minutes after that it starts to pour rain. Or, as happened on Saturday, it begins to hail:


I wonder if I have inherited my Grammy's weather-influencing ability. She lived in Houston with my Gramps and had always heard about how dry it was out in West Texas. Alas, every time she visited us in West Texas, it rained. She didn't believe him about the desert conditions.

Hannah really didn't want to go on a class outing on the next-to-last day of school, so she got busy on the Internet looking for tips on rain-making. She spent all of Monday evening in her raincoat and galoshes, shaking her home-made rain-maker and spinning and chanting. Unfortunately, the rain did not hit until *after* the class had reached their outdoor destination. Fortunately, they went back to school early to watch a movie, and Hannah had dry clothes in her backpack.

So the moral of the story is that Mother Nature will always kick you in the proverbial nuts.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Camera fun

We have had our digital camera for 3 or 4 years now and have never figured out how to take close-up photos without them coming out blurry. Just recently, I noticed a setting with a little tulip-shaped flower and the letters "MF". I don't know why we hadn't ever tried it before. I thought it turned on the date-time stamp--Monday through Friday--and John only thought "motherfucker", although I can't see how that is an automatic setting on a camera. Usually that is user error. Anyhow, I finally noticed and tried it:

pink flower, close up

Motherfucker, indeed. (Except on me.)

So without further ado, I will now bombard you with photos and commentary about my balcony garden, because I love the satisfaction of coaxing things to grow.

All the flowers in our window boxes were planted as seeds, so it has taken awhile to get actual flowers. These were one of the first ones to put out blooms:

yellow flowers

I don't know what any of the flowers are called, because I wasn't very good about labeling the pots when I started them, and Hannah was helping me, and some of them are from mixed-seed assortments that didn't specify what was in them beyond "summer assortment" or "butterfly assortment" or whatever.

white flowers

These are on one side of the yellow flowers. The flowers are tiny, but there are lots of them, and their perfume really attracts the insects.

purple flower

This is on the other side of the yellow flowers. It is only one plant, but it is putting out clusters of purple buds at every node. It is also an insect-pleaser.

salmon flower

I have a variety of these in different shades of pink and orange in the next planter over. This is the latest one to open up--I just love the salmon color! The flowers look very delicate, but the petals are quite thick and firm, and the flowers last a long time without discoloring or wilting. I think the oldest flower is about 3 weeks old and is just now getting brown around the edges.

weird plant

I made this picture a little larger so you could see the weirdness of this plant. It looks like a succulent, with fleshy leaves, but it needs lots of water. The underside of the leaves and the stems are covered in tiny bulges that look like water droplets. Occasionally this plant puts out a spiky--something--that has fine hairs sticking out of it. Not knowing what this plant really is, I guessed that it was some kind of ground cover and that the spiky things were its flowers. But then one of these popped up:

flower on weird plant

It only lasted a couple of days, but the lovely color and delicate petals were a nice contrast to the fleshy leaves underneath.

lemon balm

Lemon balm. I've been using it in frozen concoctions instead of lemon or mint. Delish!

Hannah saved some seeds from the kitchen, and now we have these:

bell pepper?

I wasn't sure which kind of pepper I had been chopping when Hannah asked for the seeds, but I'm guessing bell pepper. The 2 plants that survived have put out a ton of flowers, so we should get quite a few peppers over the summer. The go nicely with the tiny citrus trees

citrus tree

and gigantic walnut trees

walnut tree

that stand next to them in that corner of the balcony.

chili plants

Last year I bought seeds to plant chili-peppers for John. We didn't manage to use all the chilis, and I didn't get around to composting the dead plants, so a few weeks ago I went out and harvested the seeds from the leftover chilis. Voila! New plants. I love recycling.

John was waxing optimistic about growing half our own produce, but that is hard to imagine in our circumstances (no actual garden). But, it will be nice to go out on the balcony and snag the occasional pepper to throw into some spaghetti. And although our flowers are few in number, they give me a lot of enjoyment on a cool summer morning.

Saturday, July 26, 2008



I turned in my final paper on Friday, after writing seriously for 4 or 5 days. I ended up with a 19-page linguistics paper in German. I call that quite an accomplishment.

I am still trying to get caught up on a few things around the house but will be back soon, promise!

Friday, July 11, 2008


I went downstairs this morning to wake Hannah up and discovered that _somebody_ (of the 4-footed variety) had deposited a dead bat at the foot of the stairs. Fortunately, it wasn't mangled or anything. On the other hand, I doubt it flew into our house and then had a peaceful heart attack while lounging on the tile floor.

Anyhoo, I couldn't get John to get his lazy carcass out of bed and come deal with it before Hannah saw it--which was a close thing anyway because she suddenly got a nosebleed and came out of her room before I could go in there to wake her up--so I scooped it onto the dustpan and put the whole thing out on the balcony.

While I was fixing Hannah's snack for school, John came moseying downstairs. "So, did you remove the deceased?"

Hannah: "Huh?"

Me: *mind racing* "Hannah, we're speaking obliquely."

Hannah: "Hello, people! Eleven-year-old kid, here! I haven't read the whole dictionary."

And thus we avoided the topic of the dead bat until Hannah had to leave for school 3 minutes later.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Don't have much time...

John needs to get to work, so Internet fun and games is over for me for now, but I wanted to point out that I put a butt-load of pictures up at Flickr this weekend for your viewing pleasure. Feel free to look around over there (via the widget on the right) in lieu of reading anything here.

Friday, July 04, 2008

TMI = Comedy Gold

(I told John I was going to blog this, but I don't think he believed me.)

We were in bed, and the sheet had slid off, and I asked John to pull it back up because I didn't like the cats looking at my ass. "They can see right up my crack!"

John: "Those cats can't tell the difference between your crack and your face."

Way to be reassuring, Honey!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

minorly annoyed

The last few days have been beset with minor annoyances. While getting some milk out, Hannah knocked a cup of yoghurt out of the fridge, which then exploded lemony dairy over half the tile floor. I left the mop propped against the counter in the kitchen, and Hannah bumped it, causing it to fall onto the cat’s ceramic food bowl and smash the edge of it off. Etc. Etc. Sometimes it seems that my life is just a string of minor annoyances.

On Monday, I turned on the TV briefly while I was eating lunch, and in the middle of a tourist ad for some African country, the picture narrowed down to a couple of colorful stripes in the middle of the screen. I turned the TV off and back on. Stripes. I turned on the DVD player. Stripes. I turned everything back off and thought. Then I vacuumed the back of the TV. Bingo! We are bathing in the electric glow again! One small success can really turn my day around (for a little bit, at least).

In other news, John found flights on Ryanair to Stockholm in August for 0 Euros (I think the roundtrip total for the three of us is 150 Euros in fees), so we are going to Stockholm for about 5 days for John’s birthday in the middle of the month, then a week after we get back, we’re driving to Italy for 12 days. I am planning on putting our adventures in European travel up on my travel blog; I’ll keep you posted.

It’s a shame that the bulk of our extended family’s birthdays are in the late summer/fall, because we are going to be as poor as church mice after all that traveling. Thank goodness for our American visa—we sure can’t use it over here with the horrible exchange rate. But we have it in case of emergency.

Hannah has an infection in her toe. We had been treating it at home, and it was getting better, but then after she spent the day doing the equivalent of the Presidential Fitness Test, she was complaining about it, so I took her in to the doctor. Who then gave me a prescription for iodine and curd soap (?--Kernseife). So unless her toe swells up or really starts to hurt, we continue with the home treatment. Plus she has another plantar wart, so I spend way more time than I enjoy messing with her right foot.

Except for me bitching and moaning about writing my paper, and John working his heart off (as he put it on the phone today) on several projects at once, and Hannah waiting impatiently for the end of school in 3-1/2 weeks, that is all that is happening with us. Our life is one big party, no?

Friday, June 20, 2008

The internet is bringing up Hannah

Hannah was playing an RPG online, and some guy claiming to be Zach Efron was trying to pick up some girl on the rebound. So of course Hannah had to ask: If you're Zach Efron, aren't you dating Vanessa Hudgens, and what are you doing trying to pick up this girl?

Hannah is learning some important life lessons via the internet.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wow--this really is me!

Your Ice Cream Personality:

You are an incredibly modest person. You don't feel comfortable bragging about yourself... or even receiving complements.

You are incredibly cautious. You rather miss out on something than make a mistake. No one would ever call you wild... but they would call you responsible.

You are a somewhat open minded person, but deep down you're fairly conservative. You don't like trying new things very much. And if you do find something new you like, you stick with it.

You are a natural multitasker. You feel alive when you're doing more than one thing at a time.

You are fun loving and sweet. You tend to enjoy joking around and teasing people.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

Hannah says:

"I just want you to know that I wear brown pants to show my dislike for Thursdays."

Don't we all?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hannah is a glamour queen

Hannah has long had a love of shiny shoes.

silver Pippi Longstocking shoes
Shiny silver Pippi Longstocking sneakers, bought in Sweden when she was 3.

diva sandals, 2
Shiny pink platform sandals, bought in Sweden when she was close-enough to 4. (Diva-tastic!)

(I am now wondering about all the shiny children's shoes available in Sweden--probably a response to the dreary winters.)

And now, to complete the trinity of shininess:

Shiny silver flip-flops, bought here in Germany to replace her old, worn-out, pink rubber flip-flops.

Oops, I forgot the tennis shoes, which I think I may have already shown here:
Shiny gold swooshes on white leather, bought here in Germany, but American all the way, Baby!

Hannah is quite demure in all other aspects of her dress, so I don't mind buying her some flashy shoes if she wants.