Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Confession is good for the soul, or so I've heard

This week started out pretty good but has since headed straight into the crapper. On Monday, I got some good work in for some school stuff, and then I went to class. I had given my presentation the week before, so there wasn’t anything traumatic waiting for me there. Or so I thought.

I may have told this story before, but one semester, while some classmates and I were waiting for an exam to start, one girl suddenly realized she hadn’t turned in a paper for a class the previous semester. What a way to start a test, right? Guess what happened to me in class on Monday? While the teacher was droning on about sentence constituents, I remembered that I was supposed to do a make-up presentation for a master’s colloquium I took last semester. Our department was one professor short that semester, so 2 classes worth of students were crammed into one class, and there were not enough presentation slots to go around. So those of us who got the shaft were supposed to arrange to do it this semester. *Supposed* to. *sigh*

This is a course we are supposed to have completed before we can apply to take our master’s exams/write our master’s theses, so I had a horrible sinking feeling beyond the normal self-recriminations for being so disorganized. This whole debacle feels like the pigeon-poop icing on the cow-patty cake that has been my education in Germany. I am going to go talk to the professor on Thursday to see if I can salvage what’s left of my dignity and school career.

I have felt extra-scatterbrained ever since Monday afternoon. Small things slip by me all the time, but I eventually manage to get them done. Today, I wanted to work on my laptop while holding my office hour in the English Department, only I left the cable at home, so I could only work for about 55 minutes. I neglected to go to the post office, and I totally forgot to write Hannah an excuse for her school-absence yesterday. That didn’t help either. She woke up with a tummy ache and promptly barfed (just a little). I could have sent her to school, but it is hard to tell with her whether a little barfing first thing is a cure for what’s bothering her or just a preview of what’s to come.

So having her at home yesterday and my bummed-out-ness over my presentation weren’t very conducive to any sort of effort at anything on my part. I was the sluggy-est slug to ever get addicted to Cake Mania on the Nintendo DS.

But today I vow to do better. I came home from my only partially successful morning in town and started hacking away at some of the household-y stuff I have been needing to do. Hannah should be home any minute, so after I get her fed and started on homework/amusement, I need to work on a heavy edit of an article one of my professors sent me. Just reading over the first paragraph made me want to beat my head against my laptop, but I shall perservere!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

176 White Trash

176 White Trash
Originally uploaded by .eti

My Flickr friend from the Netherlands put up his Lego White Trash scene, and I almost died laughing. Go look--you know you know these people.

Tat your kid

Man, this would have been useful when Hannah was smaller--although she only ran off enough to scare the bejeezus out of me once, in a department store: the safety tat. It's a temporary tatoo that you personalize with your cell phone number. Maybe it's not as sure a thing as a harness/leash, but you get fewer funny looks in public.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dead Russian Composers R Us

If I were a Dead Russian Composer, I would be Pyotr Chaikovsky.

I AM the Real Chaikovsky! Considered by most Westerners to be the greatest Russian composer of all, most late 19th Century Russians think I'm actually too Westernized in my musical tendencies. Despite this criticism, as well as the flak I had to take for my preference of Y-chromosomes, my ballets "The Nutcracker" and "Swan Lake" are upheld as among the greatest and most popular pieces of all time.

Who would you be? Dead Russian Composer Personality Test

Food, glorious food

We knew when we moved to Germany that we wouldn’t be able to buy a lot of the foods we were used to eating in Texas, like Tex-Mex cuisine. But we were surprised at how few pre-packaged/processed foods were available. We hadn’t really thought of ourselves as especially big consumers of pre-packaged/processed foods before we moved here, but having to go without mac-and-cheese in a box or cornbread mix showed us how much we were relying on them before. (I can’t imagine any self-respecting German eating mac-and-cheese at all, and cornbread is more of a regional Southern thing, kind of like Tex-Mex, so maybe these aren’t the best examples.)

Since we can’t get any of the mixes we were accustomed to using, we have combed over recipes in all our cookbooks and on the internet to find approximations of the stuff we like. Fannie Farmer has taken care of our cornbread and pancake recipe needs, Hershey is keeping our arteries well if infrequently oiled with its cake recipe off the back of the cocoa box and a brownie recipe, and everything else we are figuring out by trial and error using random internet recipes. Recently, John wanted to make beef enchiladas, having imported many, many corn tortillas from Texas on our last trip, but alas, we had not remembered to buy any sauce mix. I got online and found a recipe, and it turned out pretty good, even though it didn’t call for tomato paste. As you can tell, my enchilada sauce-making experience is basically limited to opening a package of seasoning, adding water and tomato paste and stirring.

One side effect of having to make every imaginable type of dish from scratch has been to make me more aware of what exactly goes into our favorite foods. You might die on the spot if you knew how many eggs go into yellow cake—the recipe I tried with good results calls for *8* yolks, and I think I was trying to get away with as few as possible when I picked the recipe. I’ve found that some dishes are a ton of work—I let John cook those *g*--and others are much simpler than I would have thought.

Don’t get me wrong, we still eat processed foods, like frozen fries, breaded and frozen fish, and spaghetti sauce in a jar, but even those seem simpler than their American counterparts. For one thing, I don’t think they contain corn syrup the way they would in America. My German friend wasn’t even familiar with corn syrup when I mentioned it to her.

Over at La en vie, Sedulia was talking recently about the prevalence of corn syrup as an additive in American processed foods, and how this wasn’t the case in France (she just moved back to the States within the last year). I know that here in Germany, people are pretty picky about what goes into their food, and I can imagine that the sentiment is the same, if not stronger, in France. As John has often noticed, this might explain why a lot of German snack foods don’t taste as good as, say, Doritos—Germans just haven’t figured out how to load their snacks with additives yet.

Hannah is probably the biggest consumer of processed foods in our house, because we stupidly let her pick (mostly) what she wants in her snack at school and her lunches at home, so there is probably a can of ravioli and couple of packages of ramen in the pantry right now. I can get her to eat fresh fruit if I chop up apples and offer them to her with peanut butter or Nutella, or if I eat a banana and beg her not to take any bites, in which case she will hurry over to eat half in one gulp. Yes, I am a paragon of parenting. She is not fond of cheese (I think she must have been switched at birth), and is *meh* about meat. As I constantly tell her, I am surprised she doesn’t have rickets yet. I guess her love of milk is about all that is keeping her healthy, and the dairy farmers are threatening to gone on strike. *sigh*

Fortunately, she does like strawberries and has managed to eat most of a pint by herself in the not-too-distant past. And even more fortunately, it is now strawberry season. You can’t walk more than 10 feet in town without seeing displays for fresh strawberries. My friend gave me a recipe for a refreshing cold drink—necessary since the temps have been creeping up near 90F, with no AC: blend strawberries, add mint leaves (I’m going to add lemon balm), and freeze in ice trays. Add a couple of cubes to some mineral water, and presto! Summer drink.

Hannah does *not* like asparagus, the other in-season produce, so I will have to come up with a way to serve them that makes them an optional part of the dish. I’m thinking crepes with ham, asparagus, and hollandaise sauce. Yum! I’ll just leave the asparagus out of hers. Since we are a family of non-smellers, there’s nothing to mar our enjoyment except Hannah’s likely commentary during dinner.