Thursday, December 24, 2009

‘This the Season to Blow Up Like a Dirigible

I may have gone a little overboard with the xmas baking. In the last week, I have made, from scratch, 3 loaves of bread, lemon shortbread, fudge, 2 batches of rice crispie treats, banana bread, butter caramels, and popcorn balls. I am sad to report that the majority of the items didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. Even though I managed (or rather, I sent John to a particular store and he managed) to find marshmallows for my never-before-failed fudge, it failed. Well, maybe not failed, but it was definitely not up to my normal fudge standards.

Then I made rice crispie treats for Hannah’s class on their last day of school, and the German kids turned up their noses at them. Hannah brought about half of them back home. She claims that a lot of her classmates were dieting in the run-up to the holidays, but I suspect marshmallows are not a big part of holiday items here like they are in Texas. More for us!

The recipe I had for butter caramels wasn’t very precise, so I don’t think I boiled everything long enough. It turned out grainy. I didn’t want to waste *5 cups of sugar*, so I tried to use the caramels as the basis for some caramel balls, but they wouldn’t stick together, so I got Hannah to pour in some peanuts, and now we have fiddle faddle.

And since I didn’t have any whole lemons, I used lemon extract in the shortbread. Bad idea.

Next year, I am just going to buy all my goodies from the bakery and find something else to do with the time I’ll save.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Speaking of cards...

We got our first xmas card right around Thanksgiving. Complete with Chick Tract.



You get 2 points and some virtual divinity if you can guess who it was from. :)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

'Tis the Season to Miss Hallmark

Germans don't seem to require greeting cards that have pre-printed sentiments inside, so I have to buy blank xmas cards and come up with my own text. I miss the old days, when I could buy cards that said something seasonally appropriate and I only had to jot off a quick personal remark a line long or so and sign. With this new system, I have to think up the whole thing on my own. Except when I run it past John, he always criticizes it. So now I have come up with 2 possibilities, neither of which I will actually use:

This holiday season, I was *going* to wish you
gift wrap,
warm cookies,
good friends,
and family,
but John thinks it's crap.


Merry Xmas, Bitches!

Maybe I will just draw a picture.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Wah wah wah

To the guy with the rainbow fish on his car who almost crashed into my bus yesterday morning:
I'm glad you are proud to be a gay Christian, but you still drive like an asshole!

I know, I go AWOL for ages, and when I show up again, it is just to bitch and complain. Such is life.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

quote of the day

Man can be the most affectionate and altruistic of creatures, yet he's potentially more vicious than any other. He is the only one who can be persuaded to hate millions of his own kind whom he has never seen and to kill as many as he can lay his hands on in the name of his tribe or his God.
-Benjamin Spock, pediatrician and author (1903-1998)

from the A.Word.A.Day newsletter dated Dec. 1, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

quote of the day

Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.
-Abraham Flexner, educator (1866-1959)

from the A.Word.A.Day newsletter dated Nov. 25, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

No comment

Is it wrong that this video cheered me up a little when I was in an existential funk? If so, I don't want to be right.

Victim In Fatal Car Accident Tragically Not Glenn Beck

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Barbies, Barbies everywhere

Hannah got out of school early on the last day before the fall break started, but I had to teach until 2, so she hung out at home with her dad. When I got there, she had taken every single Barbie item out of her room and set up a Barbie world in the living room. Our apartment is “compact”, as a friend so tactfully put it recently, so the colonization of our living space by all the sexy chunks of plastic is a real imposition.

Starting from where I am sitting in the recliner in one corner and moving clockwise around the room, I can see:

  • A Loving Family House filled with Barbie squatters, who have also set up extra, Barbie-brand dining room and bathroom sets out front

  • A camper, opened up so the living space and bed are extended

  • A Kelly treehouse

  • A classroom

  • A pink, plastic rolling tub, about 20 inches on a side, chock full of Barbies

That has brought us to the television in the other corner. Taking a bend and following the wall:

  • A Barbie boutique, complete with mannequins and customers, which can be a little hard to tell apart

  • A grocery store, including plastic fruits, a register and cashier, and a Kelly pushing a kid cart shaped like a race car

  • A bakery full of plastic cakes

  • A purple carriage pulled by a white-pink-purple horse

  • A pink throne holding a king, queen, and tiny princess

From there, the sectional couch acts as a barrier to further Barbie encroachments.

Hannah basically emptied out the 3-drawer storage tower in order to ensure that every detail was perfect, like the tiny stuffed animals on the bed or the globe on the teacher’s desk. She spent hours beyond that Friday, as well, dressing the Barbies in scene-appropriate clothing—one has the perfect “grocery shopping” outfit—and combing out their ratty hair, which then had to be trimmed, colored, gelled, etc. No stylist could have done a more thorough job.

Unfortunately, she freaks out every time we bump something (see “compact”, above) and some tiny object is moved. We are currently fighting about her Barbie house blocking the door to the balcony, where the dryer lives. Since I can’t get through that way, I have to go through her room, but she pulls down the industrial-strength blinds to block out the light from the nearby street lamp at night, so I have to pull them back up to get out. And then she has a little conniption about the blinds being up. Anyone need a 12-year-old?

When I first saw the incursion by the Mattel corporation into my living room, I felt a little nostalgia, thinking that this was maybe a last gasp of Hannah’s childhood. But the more I think about it, I think it was just an extension of her still-active love of the Sims and all Sims-like games (like Animal Crossing). If there is ever a need for a social architect, I think Hannah has had more than enough training in order to get the job.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I just read in a German source online (Handelsblatt via yahoo) that McDonald's is closing in Iceland. Apparently, the chain's headquarters required the 3 restaurants in Iceland to import basically all of their supplies and ingredients from Germany, but with their economy tanking last year, costs of the imports have doubled. So now the company that has the franchise is pulling the plug on the 3 restaurants.

I like to eat at McDonald's as much as the next fat-and-sugar-addicted person, but I think it is kind of cool that Iceland is going to be a McDonald's-free country after this. Not many places can say that. In addition, the company that has run the franchise in Iceland says that they will probably reopen the restaurants, but as local affairs using local supplies. And it all comes down to money--the company will do whatever it takes to make money, and if that will hurt/help the local economy doesn't even make it into their equation. In this case, though, I hope it will help.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Of “Frying Pans and Bunsen Burners”

That is the title of the course Hannah is taking during the fall school vacation. She just got home and said there was “too much chemicals” and not enough cooking. But they are supposed to spend all afternoon on Thursday cooking, so that should make her happy. Right now she is rotting her brain with some tv, which I told her she was allowed to do after such a long day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Well, that was a short month

So I obviously did not manage the full month of blogging as planned, but to tell you the truth, I am not too upset about it. It takes a while to form a new habit, and half a month is not a bad start. Besides, a lot of my posts were drivel. Which is better, post every day but every post is crap, or post less frequently and hope the posts are more substantive.

The first day I missed, I had been watching a movie about Gandhi when I realized it was the end of the day and no post. But really, compared to the life of Gandhi, what does it matter if I blog or not. I am trying to be philosophical about it. Maybe I'll do the NaBloPoMo again next month, give it another try.

In the meanwhile, I have been all Betty Crocker. I made turtles from scratch, and they turned out perfect. I took a photo of the halfway point, where the pecans were covered in caramel, so I could post it. Ha ha ha. I forgot that John's Palm doesn't play well with my laptop because my laptop doesn't have an infrared port and the USB connection for his Palm doesn't work properly, so I can't get the photos off his Palm. *sigh* We've got to send in the camera for repair soon.

I also finally denuded my basil plants for the winter. The leaves filled our stand mixer, and after chopping them up with a little water, salt, and olive oil, it was enough to completely fill an ice tray. I hope we remember to use the cubes of basil in the freezer before they get freezer burn.

I am also trying to force my poinsettia to bloom. I know the odds aren't in my favor, but it doesn't take too much effort, as long as I remember to cover it at night. (Only forgot once! Better than my blog this month.)

My pink Thanksgiving cactus is in full bloom and the white one is covered in buds. Yay for color on a rainy day!

Hannah starts a week of Fall Break tomorrow. We signed her up for a cooking class, so she will be occupied from 9 to 4 every day. At the end, the parents are invited to come taste the fruits of the kids' labor. I can't wait to see what Hannah comes up with.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thoughtful Article

I don't think it is a secret that I lean left-ward, but that doesn't mean that I am close-minded (I hope). I just read an article in the Associated Baptist Press--not a source I regularly read, but I followed a link from Jay Lake's livejournal page--that I found to be a thoughtful look at the psychology of chain emails:
Fear Not: What does virtual rumor-mongering say about Christians? by Robert Marus & Ken Camp.

Friday, October 16, 2009

This Just In

I was reading to John from my email:

"Happy anniversary, Bill O'Reilly! Five years ago yesterday, the Fox News Channel host was named in a sexual harassment lawsuit brimming with lurid details about vibrators, phone sex, threesomes, masturbation, Caribbean shower fantasies, a Thai sex show, falafel, stewardess trysts, vehicular coupling, and Al Franken."

His response? "O'Reilly eats falafel?!"


(from the Daily Media News Feed email from

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Favorite Web Site

Regretsy: "Handmade? It looks like you made it with your feet"

A takedown of some of the "products" for sale on Etsy. Many are not safe for work or children in the room. At least not if you want them to grow up with a healthy sense of sensuality.

My favorite so far is Kitten Head on Amputee. I don't know which is better, the title--I Can Haz Stump--or the last line--"Depends on the frame." I have been laughing so hard I feel sick to my stomach. Yes, it is *that* good.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

So tired

Had my first class today in a too-small room with too many extra people. Too many things to complain about, so will stop before I say something libelous.

Had lunch with John and his American colleagues today. Fun was had by all.

Ate popcorn with Hannah, who swears that the sweet microwave popcorn we get here can't hold a candle to kettle corn. Aunt Kee made her kettle corn, and she knows from kettle corn.

Cooked dinner late after the popcorn, but John was later still. At least he got home before we were done eating.

And now I am off to bed, where I am reading a book about widows in Early Modern England remarrying. Fascinating!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Got the blahs

Today's weather: cold, wet, occasional sunshine interspersed with hail. Not the fine fall weather we were enjoying just a couple of days ago.

This afternoon, Hannah and I got flu shots and got new vaccination "passports" for keeping track of our shots. Since she is due for at least one more round of boosters and is out of space on the little card from her Austin pediatrician, this will be very helpful to us, to have space for everything on one record.

Now my shoulder is sore and I don't feel like doing anything. Not a good run-up to my first class tomorrow.

Good night.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Texas, Our Texas: 2009, Part 1.5

Ok, I forgot a few things from our visit to WF, like waking up in the middle of the first night because I didn’t know if the truck got locked after we unloaded it and remembering that Hannah’s portable DVD-player was probably laying out on the back seat and trying to decide how I could get outside to the truck in the dark without killing myself on the stairs or being eaten by the guard dog. And then I remembered that my mother’s truck (loaned to us for the 3 weeks we toured the southern US) had one of those key-fob-thingies, and lo and behold, it worked from the second-floor bedroom, so I avoided death by dog or stairs. It took me so long to figure out because our car here in Germany, the one we are used to, can only be locked or unlocked by putting the key in the door. I know, positively Paleolithic!

I also forgot sending the kids to the pool with John and Mr. Jooge in the air-conditioned car—too bad, no room for Nee and Jooge, so sad (or not)—and taking over the tv remote to watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and having a lovely tear-fest while Jooge went crazy in the kitchen and whipped up an apple pie. *Whipped up a pie*, I say! The woman is a master of fruit-filled desserts.

We also drank pot after pot of percolator coffee. These are *my* people.

And we got the grand tour of the chicken ranch. The layers are lovely birds, healthy-looking and active. The fryers were sad hulls of flightless birds. They basically sat there, listless and semi-featherless. There will be no more fryers in future, I have been assured. *shudder* They looked sad.

And we saw the fledgling garden. You know I can’t resist a garden. Sadly, their large tomatoes had fallen victim to the tomato blight, may they rest in peace.

Finally, we tried to avoid injury by pre-schooler, but weren’t always successful, damn those little push-cars.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Once again, I have managed to only get around to blogging when it is basically time to go to bed. In my defense, in reality I only got around to blogging when it was time to make dinner, and then Hannah wanted to use my computer, and now it is bedtime, without any noticeable blogging having taken place. I did manage to do some research for my courses I am teaching, and some laundry, and some sewing, so today wasn't a total wash, but it really wasn't blog-worthy, either. Oh, well. Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Texas, Our Texas: 2009, part 1

Our trip to Texas this August started out well enough. We left in plenty of time, and we remembered which exit we needed to take for the long-term parking … where we found that the lot was closed. Apparently, it had been closed for a while, because grass was growing up through the asphalt. And there were no signs there telling us where it had moved to, or if holiday parking even still existed (which it does, I just checked, but in a very different place). So we parked at the airport in the garage, knowing it would probably double our parking costs. Unfortunately, neither the airport signs on the road nor the itinerary from the travel agent indicated which terminal we would be flying out of, so we ended up parking at the very far end of the parking garage and hiking the length of Concourse A before discovering that we had to fly out of Concourse C. At least we were in the right terminal, but we still had to get up to the top floor to take the skytrain with all our luggage—no trolleys allowed—to get from A to C.

Once we were at Concourse C, though, everything went smoothly. One thing I like about Frankfurt is that when they rennovated their international flight terminal, they added extra security lines. The first time we flew back home, about 5 years ago, there were 2 scanners for the whole area. 2. The lines were at least an hour long, I kid you not. Now, there is at least 1 scanner for every 3 or 4 gates. Easy peasy.

We flew through New Jersey, and as usual, our second leg to Dallas was delayed, but it wasn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. I called my mom with a credit card from a pay phone—DO NOT DO THIS! 11 bucks for a 30-second message on my mom’s voice mail—and let her know we’d be coming in a little late. Got in late in the evening, went home with her, had a good night’s sleep, up at 6ish, and straggled out the door to drive to Wichita Falls later than originally planned, which is par for the course for us. We would have warned the sibs we were on our way, if they hadn’t changed their phone numbers recently and only notified us by email ONCE WE WERE ALREADY IN THE AIR. But no hard feelings, Mr. Jooge. *g*

Driving up I-35, we noticed a lot of faux-German buildings and signs for various German heritage events. Hannah was all, "Aaaugh! We can’t get away from German stuff!" To top it off, we drove through Muenster, Texas, which is nothing like Muenster, Germany. Sorry Muenster, Texas.

When we got to Wichita Falls, we were able to enjoy all the finer things, like taking everyone out for Mexican food lunch to celebrate the brothers' birthdays. Mr. Jooge totally confused the waitress by asking for the filet mignon tacos. (When John was a teenager, his mom was dating this guy who took the two of them out to dinner, so John ordered the filet mignon, on his mom’s date’s dime.)

Mexican food with the family

Notice how Hannah is bookended by her cousins. Now that she is older, she is a highly coveted playmate by the younger kids in the family. She has always been popular, but being a pre-teen now gives her a certain panache among the elementary-school set.

wild and crazy kids

She wasn’t the only popular one, though.


The wee one really enjoyed capturing the attention of the grown-ups; he’s a funny little monkey.

There were also kittens, which always adds to the attractiveness of visiting relatives.

Hannah and kitten

Unfortunately, this cute little kitten gave Hannah and at least one of her cousins ring worm. A little anti-fungal cream later and all is well, though.

Tomorrow, San Angelo.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I can die now

...that I have found the Muppet Wiki. Yay!

Word of the Day

catsturbation: when a cat rubs itself on any available inanimate object--the edge of the coffee table, on a stack of DVD cases--in lieu of a pet from its cat-parents

This is actually my coinage, after watching Eliza satisfy herself this morning. John was impressed and entertained (by my new word, not by the cat).

I love opening email from the Wordsmith

Plenty of kind, decent, caring people have no religious beliefs, and they act out of the goodness of their hearts. Conversely, plenty of people who profess to be religious, even those who worship regularly, show no particular interest in the world beyond themselves.

-John Danforth, priest, ambassador, senator (b. 1936)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

And the lameness lives on

Hannah had an earache and sore throat this morning, so we let her stay home from school and sleep in. I feel like I have an incipient cold, but have felt that way for a while now, so I got a little extra sleep, too, and took it fairly easy today. I did have a proofreading job come in, and I got through half of it before I had to start dinner and make Hannah get online to study her Latin vocabulary. After dinner, we played Scrabble, and John won, but Hannah was a close second, with my assistance. Tomorrow is Friday, and Hannah is going to school no matter what, and maybe I will manage to finish the proofreading and the syllabi for my 2 courses that start next week. Too tired now to think of anything else...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Free from the tyrrany of class-parent-hood

I went to the meet-the-teachers evening at Hannah's school and stepped down as classroom parent. I don't know that I was all that helpful as the number 2 person, but the replacements (#1 also stepped down, but she is a full-time teacher of disabled first- and second-graders and has 3 children, so it wasn't unexpected) only have one year ahead of them because the kids will get sorted into new classes next year. So I don't feel like anyone is getting taken advantage of because I stepped down.

On the way home, I was reading The Joy Luck Club and almost missed my stop. Oops. The meeting had run over, as usual, so it was 10:30 when I got off the bus.

This morning, I got up and got Hannah off to school, then I lay down on the couch and went to sleep for 4 hours. This afternoon, John lay down for an hour or two. We are two lazy--or perhaps slightly ill--people. At least Hannah still seems healthy.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Busy bee

I got up and screwed around for a little while on the Internet this morning before helping John get out the door. Then I washed a whole pile of dishes, which is no fun because we still have that leak in the kitchen sink and therefore have to do dishes in a large plastic bowl that came with pancake(?) mix from Costco or Sam's back in the day. But, our landlord came by (only a week later than expected--huzzah!) and measured the sink and promised to get a chrome replacement for it. Right now it is out of some mystery substance that is an unpleasant brown--very 70s--so chrome is a definite improvement. If only he would replace the dishwasher, too, but since we have never brought it up, the odds are not good. Oh well, it is probably eco-friendlier this way. Maybe.

Then I threw some towels in the wash--oops, gotta go take those out--and headed out to the grocery store. One place we shop is a discount store: they have a certain amount of stock (food) that is always there, but every week they have specials on non-food items or specialty (often foreign) foods. I found some stuff for Hannah's bed I had been looking for a few weeks ago when I blew our budget on some kitchen appliances, so between those things and the shopping, I had a hell of a lot to carry up to our top-floor apartment on my very own (Hannah was at school and John at his office). Oof! Hannah got home just as I was carrying the last 4 bags up the last 2 flights of stairs--she's got that uncanny sense of timing from her dad's side of the family--so she helped me put away the groceries and complained while I ate some tuna salad. While she ate lunch and studied Latin, I put together the new support system for her bed. The American-style box-spring is unknown here. Instead, people use a Lattenrost, a slatted frame that fits into a bed frame and on top of which the mattress is laid. Hannah's looks about like this:

Her old play bed just had a simple arrangement of slats that are nailed directly to the edges of the frame but have no spring to them. Since she is bigger than me now--i.e., grown-up sized--it was past time for her to have grown-up back support.

I also got a mattress pad for her bed, but it is rather thick and cushy, so it is almost like a pillow-top for her mattress. She seems pretty happy with the new set-up so far, although she hasn't slept in it yet. If she falls out tonight, I'll have to go back and pull out the old slats that are still nailed in place under the new system. I really don't want to do that, though, so I hope gravity gives her a break near the edge of the bed.

Now I am a bit stiff and sore from the lugging, sitting on the floor putting the Lattenrost together, and yesterday's turn at cleaning the communal stairwell. Since I have to go to a parent meeting later this evening--which I can't skip because I am one of the classroom reps, oi--I will now go lie down somewhere and veg out.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Last Minute

I was sitting there eating dinner--homemade pumpkin soup, which Hannah refused to eat--and realized I hadn't posted yet today. It would be rather lame of me to lose steam of day 5 of my month of blogging, so here I am while Hannah plays Animal Crossing.

We spent the last 3 days making our way through The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. I can't help myself thinking of The Very Secret Diaries whenever we watch it, though. Highlights: Aragorn--"Still not king." Legolas--"Still prettiest." Everyone: "Sam will kill him if he tries anything."

And that is the lame end to a rather lame day 5.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A Little Bit of This and That

John got all Mr. Fix-It recently and fixed:

1. the toilet seat in the downstairs bathroom, which had been sliding off the rim to the left every time we sat on it, for ages.

2. the light switch in the upstairs bathroom, which had a bit of it snapped off.

3. the light bulb in the car's right headlight.

I was Suzy Homemaker and sewed:

1. a cozy for the new kitchen radio after spraying it with powdered sugar. John mocked me for making a kitchen cozy, since in his experience only grandmothers sew cozies, but when our radio is still clean, functioning, and dust-free in 5 years, he will thank me for it.

2. hems on 2 new pairs of pants I bought in the States.

3. 2 still-secret xmas presents.

4. the second bench cushion, once I figured out the proper sewing machine needle to use on the upholstery.

5. and generally fixed a few things in need of repair, sewing-wise.

Hannah has joined the drama club but skipped the first meeting. She has promised to attend the next one this week on pain of death or loss of Animal Crossing, whichever would pain her more.

She tried to go to the movies today to see a German teenie film called Gangs with her classmates--girls only because the boys acted like "idiots" the last time--but it turned out to be a big event because the cast was there to give autographs, and half the group, including Hannah, couldn't get tickets. Hannah swears some girl shoved the person in front of her in line out of the way and swiped her ticket, which I doubt, but it does sound like it was crowded and crazy. She and her friend came back to our house and are watching Clueless now.

I am finding my laptop super annoying right now. The space bar doesn't always work, and now that I am managing to get in more typing, that means more times for the space bar to annoy me. grrr...

Our camera has crapped out on us, and I don't know when we'll have it fixed. The pictures look smeared, and a little research online shows that it is probably a part that Canon will fix for free, if we send it off to a Canon shop to be repaired. Now we just have to figure out where we can send it. That means I will not be able to inflict new photos on you. Luckily, I have a hard drive full of old photos. bwahahaha! Maybe later.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Littlest Rock Band

Last night, John wanted to play Rock Band, but Hannah was already playing Sims on my laptop and I was sewing, so he had to play with himself.* He didn't have a preference for a particular instrument, so Hannah picked for him--singing, which he hardly ever does. He made his way through some Nirvana, Wheezer, Fu Fighters, and Blue Oyster Cult, and then for some unfathomable reason, he chose a French song. Since we have the German version of Rock Band, we have some additional tracks in German, and apparently this one in French. It's a catchy song, except since none of us actually speak French, we have no idea what is being said. You can have a peek at it here, Manu Chao by Les Wampas.

It's a rather fast song, so even if John could read the French, the words were flying by so quickly on the screen he would barely have been able to sing along (which also happened on the Fu Fighters track). He ended up basically making up words and singing in a horrible nasal tone that was supposed to approximate French; Hannah and I laughed so hard I thought she might wet herself. And to top it off, when his score came up and he had a chance to add his name to the high-score list, he was perturbed to find that he was only number six, since none of us had ever done that song before.

I think Hannah is the only one of us before last night that has played Rock Band alone as a singer, but I never payed attention to the avatars while she was singing (which is basically the only time you get a clear look at them without the guitar/drum line in the way). The only reason I payed attention last night was that I had recently read that Courtney Love was pissed about the way the avatar for Kurt Cobain had turned out for Guitar Hero.

Hannah has always commented on the appearance of the avatars--"Get a haircut, hippies!" (I think she's channeling Richard Nixon)--but I just noticed that one in particular bears a strong resemblance to a character from The Dark Crystal:

"Hi, I'm a Gelfling!"

Uncanny, no?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Post number 2 for October

As promised, I blogged our trip to wine country over on my travel blog. I can't imagine that I will be able to keep up this level for the whole month, but who knows--there are still lots of trips we made last year that never got blogged. That should take up several days of work/writing.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

National Blog Posting Month

I decided to bite the bullet and join NaBloPoMo, which you can find out more about here. If you were to judge by my recent posting, I am sure you would say, "Ha!" And you might still be right, but I am going to give it the old college try.

I was looking for something in my archives the other day and noticed that the number of posts I had up had decreased from one year to the next from when I started, and that disturbed me a bit. Recently, I have felt extra boring and reserved, which I don't find very conducive to writing chatty blog posts. I don't really want to be boring and reserved, and yet, that may be all I have to write about this month. Suffer, Popes!

Yesterday, I granted myself the leisure of surfing the Internet because I had gotten up and worked and taken a walk and just generally been righteous. I waswearing the Empire Strikes Back t-shirt* I acquired while in Louisiana, and spotting the NaBloPoMo badge above seemed like a good sign that joining was the right thing for me to do now. Also, Obi-Wan makes everything better.

Anyhow, this is my official first post, since I plan to blog throughout the month of October as my penance *ahem* project, but I thought I would give my victims a chance to run for the hills for the next month, if the mood strikes you that way.

I am much more likely to do something if I plan it out in advance, so I am cheating by writing this on the last day of September to post on the first day of October, but on the second day of October, I plan to put up a link to a to-be-written (not cheating!) post on my travel blog about our recent outing to the wine festival in Freinsheim.

*I wore this shirt the day before yesterday, too, but yesterday I layered it over a long-sleeved shirt. It is currently one of my woobie items and is in frequent rotation. It caused the pharmacist to have difficulties making change for me because she was mesmerized by Darth Vader.

Mesmerizing, no?

Then she told me about a Lego youtube video where Darth Vader orders a pizza, maybe like this one here:

I mean, what do you expect if you argue with Darth Vader about the pizza toppings? Sheesh.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Vampires R Us

A facebook friend posted this picture:

I love "the section formerly known as young adult", by the way.

Anyhow, I was telling John about it, and he declared that people's fascination with vampires and their perception of them as sensual is kind of dumb, because "no one goes up to a woman and wants to *withdraw* fluids from her."

(He thought this might be too tacky to post, but tacky R Us.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fall into Fall

Now that my balcony garden is gasping its last breath and my once-noble walnut trees look like sticks in a bucket,

nighty night, walnut tree

I thought I would look back on the weeks of pleasure I got out of tinkering with seeds and dirt this year.

When I started out, I didn't have any grand ambitions, such as feeding my family solely from the fruits of my labors or opening a stand at the farmers' market; rather, I just wanted to see if the seeds Hannah and I had been collecting in the kitchen would sprout and/or thrive. I totally love cantaloupe, so I was thrilled to see that it took off

future canteloupe

at first, but it was not to be. I started the seeds in the sunroom upstairs, but after a certain point, they just pooped out, even after I moved them outside.

Fortunately, my pepper plants didn't follow the lead of the cantaloupe.

pepper plant

I just threw a bunch of seeds in a couple of pots and ended up with a ton of plants putting on bell peppers and hot peppers. Luckily, most of them survived our absence in August, so I came back to lovely fruit:

fruits of my labor


balcony bounty

I've since stringed up the peppers to dry, which may or may not be successful since it has been cool and a bit damp recently, but I would like it if my gardening efforts lasted longer than the warm weather here.

I also had cilantro sporadically (sorry, Jooge), which we loved for making guacamole when we could get decent avacados, and some basil that just wouldn't die but surprisingly didn't bolt, even though we heard August was hot while we were gone.


I also made compost, despite John's protests that it would stink and attract flies.


I found some lovely grubs in the soil we bought, so I tipped them into the compost and they cheerfully slithered their way down into it. *shudder* Lovely! I had been trying to turn the compost regularly, but while we were in Texas stuff started to sprout in it. So I came back to a pot full of mystery plants.

mystery plants

I swear a lot of them look like tomato plants, but I don't recall putting tomatoes in there. Oh, well, they'll be dead soon enough when it finally turns cold.

Next year I would like to get more food plants to grow, although I don't have any specific ideas of what I want to plant, just not more bell peppers, although they are pretty easy.

My other gardening love is our row of window boxes. The house we live in has some typical southern German gingerbread trim, complete with window boxes, but it pained me to pay hundreds of dollars to fill them with equally typical hanging geraniums, so I have been buying packets with mixes of seeds to pack in there. What I like about them is that the mix invariably includes early and late sprouters, flowers that like the heat and flowers that like the cold, tall and short, and a variety of colors. In the spring and summer, there is nothing I like better than to get up and get a cup of coffee to take onto the balcony and survey my little seedlings in the early morning sunlight that is special to that time of the year. Sometimes I have an interesting guest

Window box denizen

or two.

Window box flower and big-winged bee

Mostly I enjoy trying to figure out what is going to bloom next. It is always a pleasant surprise.

Window Box Flowers

Yesterday I trimmed all the dead plants in the flower boxes and moved them to the floor of the balcony and then swept up all the dead leaves for the compost. After Xmas I will start sorting through my already purchased flower seeds and planning how I want to arrange them so I can see them through the kitchen window after the spring equinox. I'm looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Feel the Burn

I seem to have developed an aversion to the blank page. A strong aversion. The kind I normally reserve for flan

or Carrot Top.

It's that bad. I find myself opening MS Word and then closing it or even getting up and leaving the room. Same thing with my notebook. I carry it around the house with me but don't actually open it.

I guess I should just suck it up and post what I have, but I can't promise anyone will enjoy it. Here goes:

Title: "The French Braid of Life"

Most of the time, I am pretty dextrous when it comes to keeping all the hairs under control while I weave them into the 'do of life, but lately more and more strands are slipping out of my hands and making a snarly mess of things.

...and that's all I had. After I wrote it, I realized it sounded horribly melodramtic. Mostly I was thinking about how the act of cleaning Hannah's room led to a bunch of other tasks. For instance, I went through Hannah's closet and got rid of the clothes she had outgrown. She refuses to part with almost anything--"the memorieeeeeees!" (shades of her grandfather)--so I just went in while she was otherwise occupied and sifted through her closet. A lot of clothes went to charity, but she had ripped the knees out of all her jeans, so they weren't donate-able. I couldn't see throwing away 5 pairs of jeans, so I cut them into strips

jean strips, piled

(the whiskey cannister became the spool for the finished "thread" later) and crocheted them into a rag rug for my kitchen.

finished rug

That was a whole day of work.

I managed to talk Hannah into giving away her dress-up clothes (heads up to Lil Sis and Jooge: she wants them to go to your little ones), but that meant sorting them and packaging them to go in the mail, whenever that happens. That also meant that I had now freed up two shelves in her closet.

She wanted me to convert her tall play bed into a regular low bed, but first we had to figure out where to put all the stuff (so.much.stuff) that had been under the play bed. Four days of cleaning and sorting resulted in a low bed and a half-empty room, plus a yard-trimming-sized bag of garbage plus 5 other shopping bags worth of garbage. Plus a bunch of mini-electronics (I hate you, McDonald's) that had to go to the special recycling center instead of the garbage can. Plus the rest of the play bed parts that had to be wrapped up and put in the cellar.

Once we had her room under control, it was time to go shopping for a desk to go in it. We headed down south to the opposite end of town from where we live, where we:
1. bought 2 months worth of cat litter,
2. bought a desk and chair and sought in vain for something else for Hannah's bed,
3. bought a mixer, a blender, a kitchen radio, and an MP3 player (I lost mine in Texas, probably on the plane on the way there), and
4. bought corn chips.
As you can see, we have to take advantage of the long trek to do several errands at once.

I put the chair together that night and the desk the next day. Of course, I put it together wrong on the first try (damned unlabeled parts) and had to redo part of it. grrr... Then I had a big pile of cardboard to get rid of, also at the special recycling place. The whole project felt like dealing with the Hydra. And now that I've written it all out, I am almost as tired as when I actually did it. Actually, I just finished the last thing (trip to the recycling place) this morning, so I guess I have a right to feel that tired.

And on that note, I'm off to bed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dipping a Toe In

(Yesterday, upon discovering a Tupperware of pistachios in the fridge):
Me: What are your dad's nuts doing in the fridge?
Hannah: Um, that didn't sound good.
Me: Ye-es, I could have put that better.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Ok, lady I passed yesterday on the street--I know I am not exactly a fashion plate myself, but we have to talk. About your tights. I know you probably think they are kicky or something, but I have to tell you that you look like you were holding a breast-fed baby that then had an ass-plosion all down your legs. Please, for the love of all that is holy, save the tights for at home. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The weather held out yesterday, and Hannah got cut loose from school early, so we went to the pool. I am not a pool person, but I had promised John I would take her if the weather was good, so I found myself waist-deep in cold water--well-water cold--at 4 yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, I only remembered to put sunscreen on my body (50 SPF, baby!), so I had to get out quickly (I wasn't complaining!) and slather up my face. Hannah said I looked like Jasper the Ghost. When I explained it was Casper, she complained that she couldn't be expected to know American culture when we dragged her over here, etc. etc. But then I pointed out that various Casper movies had been on German tv, and that to my certain knowledge she had watched them, and that the name had not been changed. Well, ::bluster::. Sometimes my child is a bit of a blowhard. I hope I am not modeling that kind of behavior, but maybe.

Anyhow, ten minutes of sunscreen-free pool-standing, and now my face is a bit pink. Not even really uncomfortable, but when you are as pale as me, ten minutes is all it takes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Holding down the fort

John is off learning Gaelic in Scotland, so I am holding down the fort with Hannah during her last full week of school. Today she is supposed to do the dialogue for two characters from the Nibelungen; I have no idea what the project is, but she's been practicing her lines and figuring out a way to indicate she has changed characters--jacket, no jacket. I wonder if Siegfried would have worn a tank top?

After weeks and weeks without a tv, and almost as many weeks of Hannah hounding us to please please please buy a new tv, we spent John's last afternoon at home tv shopping. I must say, the mall-like shopping center is much easier to survive on a Friday afternoon than anytime on a Saturday. I wasn't even actively craving death when we left! Of course, we dropped a large chunk of my recent paycheck for teaching 2 courses last semester, but we walked out with a 37-inch flat-screen tv (plus 5-year warranty), a week's worth of groceries for me and Hannah, a water-proof jacket for John, and two new non-stick pans. (Oh, yeah, also about 100 pounds of cat food and cat litter.) So if it was squeaking close to 4 figures, you can imagine why. Anyhow, we came home and set the tv up, and it is great. There are enough connectors in the back that we can have the DVD player, VCR, and Wii hooked directly to it and still have space for one more device and a computer (if we had the right cable for that). Hannah has figured out how to work all the most important functions, such as changing the screen size and switching between Nick and the Wii, so I think we are all set up now, and with a minimum of pain.

John and I used to have a daily routine like this: get up, fix Hannah a snack for school, dodge the minefield of Hannah's emotions at 6:45 am, make coffee, and settle in for some CNN and coffee. Without the tv, we had to resort to talking with each other. The horror! Now that we have a tv again, I tried out the CNN morning routine, but it just wasn't the same without John here. So I flipped around and watched some German news instead, but that was too depressing, so I decided to get to work on my stack of editing that is waiting on me.

Not that I am, but soon, Grasshopper.

I promised John that I would take Hannah swimming if the weather was good, but so far, no luck. On Sunday, it would pour rain for an hour, be miserably dark and wet for a while, then we'd get ten minutes of full sun, just enough for you to wonder if it would be possible to go swimming, at which point it would start to rain again. Yesterday it didn't actually rain, but dark clouds chased each other across the sun all day. Plus, Hannah didn't even get home from school until after 4, and she won't today, either, so that is not so conducive to eating dinner and going to bed at a normal time if we were to try to stuff in swimming, too. And yesterday I was totally wiped out. I almost fell asleep on the bus and didn't even care, I was that tired. I came home and found a spot under the window that got whatever sunshine there was available and took a nap for 2 hours. I feel like I have the tiniest smidge of a cold, which I wish would either do its thing and go away, or just go away, because it is getting really annoying.

Hannah and I have a date with Harry Potter on Thursday (cheap ticket day at the theater). I've heard good things about the film, with the caveat that it is not the film Potter-fanatics would wish for. Fair enough. I didn't even go see the last Potter film; I let Hannah go with some friends, but I wasn't really in the mood to see the latest mangling of the story.

I don't know when I can expect to hear back about my thesis. The whole process was a long string of deadlines, but they don't tell you what the deadline is for the professors who are evaluating your thesis, probably to keep people from harrassing them once the deadline is up. Not me. I am kind of afraid of what I'll get back, so I am actively avoiding them. Oh well, one of them lives in Northern Germany most of the time, so I doubt I'll just run into her at the grocery store, but the other one lives just up the hill from me (we use the same bus stop), so the simple act of taking the bus can be nerve-wracking, wondering if he'll say anything. (Please, no.)

After re-fixing a known crack in the kitchen sink, I discovered that there was a new crack, one that I didn't manage to fix and that was still leaking water. The sink was out of commission for 2 days while I let the silicon dry, and the dishes piled up, and then I had to go and do it all over again for the second crack. Needless to say, when the crack leaked after all that effort, I wanted to cry. But I have finished the piled-up dishes and will take another stab at it while there are only 2 of us generating dirty dishes (and 1 of us is away from home all day).

Another post-thesis project was cleaning my filthy, filthy house. I haven't quite finished in the kitchen (still need to mop), but I think I have managed to get the level of filth to "everyday wear and tear", down from "health hazard." I even scrubbed the tile in the shower, which is not for the weak of heart. All in all, I am enjoying being done with my thesis and having time for a normal life again, even if it is rather boring in a conventional sense.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Dead Have Arisen!

I announced on Facebook that I had finished my thesis, but I couldn’t bring myself to reveal the full extent of my dumbassery to my quasi-friends on Facebook. I mean, most of those people barely know me, so why should I disabuse them of their notions of me? But here, in the bosom of my true compadres, I can tell my tale. It is a tale of dumbassery and academia, so it is not a new tale, but it is mine.

My deeply ingrained habits of procrastination were almost my undoing, once again. The research part of my thesis was very labor-intensive, and I started so late on it that it ate into my time for writing. During the two weeks leading up to the due date, I had been working steadily but slowly, blowing off family outings and such to have more time to work, but going to bed at the normal time. John was very supportive throughout, but I am perverse enough that supportive doesn’t actually motivate me. Once he started to express doubts that I could manage to get it done and in on time, though, *that* is when I started working with the single-minded determination of Paris Hilton looking for a Greek-shipping-magnate boyfriend.

I started getting up an hour early and working until a couple of hours past my bedtime. And in the run-up to my deadline, I pulled an honest-to-god all-nighter, basically writing non-stop for 29 hourse before hopping into the car—dumb, I know!—to get my thesis printed and bound here in our village and dashing into town to deliver it. I was all Run Lola Run, minus the cool red hair and life-saving mission, as I dashed from the car to the administration building. I got it in on the stroke of 12 and went home.

Then, I had to write up a summary of my thesis in German to go with it, due the next day. That led to another fucked-up day, with me running from place to place to get that done and turned in, to proctor an exam, and to grade two presentations in a special class-session.

Then, I had to put together a presentation on my thesis for a workshop in the English department on Saturday. I made a PowerPoint presentation on Friday, tweaked it a bit first thing Saturday morning, and gave it a few hours later to general approval. My thesis may have been wobbly, but I can always nail a presentation. That gave me back some of my confidence.

It has taken me a few days to get my sleep and eats back on schedule. During the last week or so of writing, I subsisted on the contents of our fruit dish, boiled eggs, coffee, and teddy-bear vitamins, so eating real food during regular meals has been quite a treat.

John was preparing a conference presentation and finishing up a book translation during the same period, so poor Hannah was basically neglected for a while there. And our house—John suggested that when the semester was over, we should embark on a round of cleaning, prefereably via firebomb. I like a clean start, and maybe the neighbor across the street will loan us the flamethrower he uses to kill weeds growing up from the cracks in the sidewalk.

While John used his post-semester weekend to chillax, I had the workshop Saturday morning and grocery shopping Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, I woke up at the unheard-of-for-me-on-the-weekend hour of eight and started to clean. I was really intending to sort through the stack of library books I have out, but I did enjoy the freedom to jump around from one thing to another. As it turned it, I managed to balance our checkbook (the first time since early June), wash dishes, clean under the kitchen sink (which is leaking again), water all my plants, wash 3 loads of laundry, and scrub out the silverware drawer, all before leaving in the late afternoon to watch Night at the Museum 2 and eat out. All in all, I woke up this morning generally satisfied with life. I will write more about my thesis later, probably on my writing blog.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dental Update

Hannah's activator was hurting her over the weekend, so I sent her to the orthodontist with John today to have it checked out. The doc was able to adjust the activator, and she was very pleased with Hannah's progress. Her bite on her left side is already almost in place! Hannah also lost her last baby tooth last week, and the doc was pleased with that, too. So maybe Hannah won't be wearing this thing for a whole year. Yay!

Monday, June 15, 2009


I've been rather stressed lately. (I wonder why?!) I noticed that I've more or less permanently developed creases beteen my eyebrows. Even if I don't think I'm feeling stress at that exact moment, the creases are still there. As a matter of fact, I got a little sunburn over the weekend, and I noticed today that I have white lines inside the creases. So I have to keep frowning until my sunburn clears up, or I'll have 2 white lines on my forehead.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

So tired...

Well, now I'm home from Hannah's big party day. Her birthday was last week, but today we took her and 4 friends to Pizza Hut, out for ice cream, and to see the preview of the Hannah Montana movie. John skipped out on the last part, but sitting in a dark theater with 5 pre-teens is something I thought I could handle alone. And the movie was cute, not nearly as wacky as the tv show, which I feel has an excess of wack.

I must say that the party with 12-year-olds was the easiest so far. They all managed to get themselves there and home, and they chatted smartly amongst themselves during lunch, negating the need for John and I to entertain them. Basically, we were the hosts/wallets, but otherwise we were extraneous. Oh, well. I guess I don't mind too much.

Bulwer-Lytton again

Well, it's that time of year, when I send in an entry to the Bulwer-Lytton contest. And here's the (auto-?) response I got:

"Your submission has arrived and will receive the treatment it deserves."

Bahahahahaha!! What a great response for this contest.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cast Update

Hannah got the shoulder-to-hand cast off yesterday, which was a relief to her, but the skin on her inner elbow looks like she has road-rash.

Post-cast scrape

Hannah tried to wash her arm after the big cast came off, but the skin was tender and it still hurt at the site of the break, so she was only able to do a cursory job of it.

When the doctor discovered that it was still hurting, he ordered us back to the cast room to get a different type of cast on her lower arm. I guess it is like a splint—the nurse made a hard form for the top side of her arm and then used a bandage to wrap it on to her arm. She’ll wear it for another week, and hopefully by then the healing will be far enough underway that she won’t need the cast anymore.

New cast

(You can see the cast under the soda bottle.)

So now she’s had a blue, a white, and a pink cast. If anything else happens, there’s only yellow left, and then she’ll have had the full assortment available at our hospital.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Hannah got her activator last Tuesday, and I thought people might be interested in how that is going for her.

The activator looks like what we used to call a retainer. It is removable, with wires that hook onto her teeth and smooth plastic pieces that fit against her palate on top and under her tongue on the bottom. Hannah picked clear plastic with glitter for her activator.

The purpose of the activator is to pull her lower jaw forward, thereby stretching the jaw muscles and training them to hold her jaw in the new position. This is to correct for an overbite, or as the orthodontist explained it, her teeth don’t match up properly. Each top tooth should sit on the crack between two bottom teeth underneath it. Mine do; Hannah’s don’t.

In addition, her jaw was popping. It doesn’t pop with the activator in, though, so that is one area where we can see an immediate improvement.

So without further ado, here is her profile without the activator in:

profile minus activator

And here is her profile with the activator in:

Hannah's new profile

And here is the activator in her mouth:

Hannah's activator

As she says, all she needs to do is sharpen those prongs, and she’ll give herself a tongue piercing! (And no, I have no idea what they are for.)

She is on school vacation for 2 more weeks, so she is wearing the activator most of the day at home. When school starts again, she won’t wear it to school, but she should still be able to get in her 12-14 hours per day. It doesn’t really look all that bad, but she drools something terrible. (You do not want to know about the time she sneezed with it in.) It also affects her speech, as her Aunt Kee discovered on the phone the other day.

Then tomorrow she gets the cast off her arm. Hoorah! She can finally get wet all over, and I have threatened to lock her in the shower and pour shower gel on her over the top of the locked doors if she doesn’t do it herself. Today she thought she had gotten cracker crumbs inside her cast (how?!), so tomorrow’s uncasting may be quite unpleasant. Wish us luck!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

My Girl is Growing Up

Hannah turned 12 yesterday. She says I should remember to enjoy this time, because next year she’ll be a stinky 13-year-old and probably sleeping a lot, eating a lot of pizza, and smoking and taking drugs. I don’t know how many 13-year-olds she knows, but I can’t imagine that describes many of them.

She woke us up the first time at 5. I only went to bed at 1 because I had been reading, so I was not ready for her to be jumping on the bed, all “wakey, wakey!” and “where’s my loot?!” We sent her away, and she watched some Nick Jr. for a while. On her next attempt, I told her to go boot up my computer and surf amazon, since she got a gift certificate from her Aunt Kee and fam. Finally, it was 8 am, and we couldn’t put her off any more. We let her carry her gifts downstairs while we dragged our carcasses out of bed. Only, John poured coffee grounds all into the water reservoir in the coffeee maker, so that caused a further delay while we got it cleaned out. But never fear, she got her loot:

Mmmm... loot!

She got Swedish and German books, some movies, some video games, a model wind-mill, and some Blendy Pens. She put the pens to use right away:

Hannah artwork

She spent the afternoon watching new movies and playing with her new games, but then disaster struck—the tv finally stopped working, after years of things breaking on it one-by-one, and months of the picture flickering out on occasion. So the new Wii game and the 4 new movies—unusable. Except, then I got a brilliant idea: I went online and found a code to change her American portable DVD player into a region-free DVD player. She’s still tethered to the power converter for it, but at least she can watch any of the DVDs we have.

I had run out of flour on Thursday, so Friday afternoon I had to run down to the store to get the last of the supplies for a birthday cake. Hannah was totally patient about it, so yesterday evening we finally had cake.


And in this last picture, I don’t know if you can tell, because of the way she is standing, but Hannah is now officially as tall as I am.

Cutting the cookie cake.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Ok, I don't normally check my spam box, which is why there are 800+ messages in there now, but I am expecting something in my email which hasn't arrived yet, so I had to go check. And I must say, the spammers' kennings are quite impressive, to whit:

I think I am going to start using this one: "Hey, Honey, why don't you and your porksword come over here and..." Or, "Is that a porksword in your scabbard, or are you just happy to see me?"

Hmm... I may need to add a hyphen, because after a few readings, it starts to look like porks-word, and that doesn't make any sense.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sometimes you feel like a nut

...sometimes you feel like throttling your entire family, down to the last cat. I call those times "PMS". John and Hannah have been looking at me askance and laughing half-heartedly at my lame jokes that send me off on laughing jags. Oh, well, if you can't please everyone, you should at least please yourself.

Yesterday we stimulated the local economy. *Five hours* of economy-stimulation later, we made it home in one piece and still speaking to each other, so I think it was a banner day. Hannah has a birthday this week--hint, hint, family members--so we had to do some birthday shopping, plus we were down to the last of the cat litter, and we had to replace a lamp and buy some more potting soil, so we hit the mall, the pet store, IKEA, and the Lowe's-like store. I swear, every time we go to the IKEA is worse than the last time, crowd-wise. It occurred to me this morning that we should have just ordered the damn thing online. I'm making a mental note of that for next time.

This morning I got up and started using the new potting soil to transplant some seedlings and to start some herb seeds. I've already got cilantro, but soon we'll have parsley, basil, and chives. I've got to find some more recipes calling for cilantro before more of it starts trying to put out flowers.

Hannah gets her activator after school on Tuesday, just in time to kick off her school vacation. She will be out for 2-1/2 weeks. Yikes! It looks like there are lots of pre-teen friendly movies coming out over the vacation, though, so maybe I will pony up for movie tickets a couple of times to get her out of the house, otherwise she'll be glued to the couch.

Now I am off to spin the chore wheel--dishes, stairwell cleaning, laundry, editing, Latin tutoring, or thesis writing? What to do, what to do...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

About To Change My Phone Number

There's this woman I know from university, and she is about to drive me crazy. I only hear from her when she needs to kvetch or when she needs a favor. She just now sucked up 15 minutes of my time on the phone, time I can't afford to spend on her right now. I am sure she is a lovely person and has other fine qualities, but I can't deal with her negativity. Maybe I'll start letting the machine pick up when I don't recognize the number...

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Great Big Sucking Vortex of the Last 48 Hours

Hannah came home from school on Thursday at about 2 with two classmates in tow to work on a class project. That's when she informed me that she had taken a spill in the hall at school and her arm hurt, just above her wrist. I wrapped it up with the bandage left over from when she sprained her other wrist last fall and gave her a cold pack and an ibuprofen. She held her arm still all afternoon, but otherwise she seemed ok, ok enough to do a half-assed job on her project and watch videos online with her friends. I tried to call the pediatrician's office but didn't manage to get through, so I figured we'd keep it wrapped and wait and see.

Just before her friends were going to leave, she discovered that her mouse Dickerchen, aka Vanessa, was dead in her cage. That night, Hannah wanted to sleep with us. The next morning, she discovered that the other mouse, Isabelle, aka Pipsqueak, was also dead. Friday morning was rough. When Pipsqueak developed her tumor, we had started discussing where we could possibly bury her. There is no yard attached to our apartment, just a square of dirt next to the front door that is mostly taken up with a giant pine and a bunch of bushes, but Hannah didn't want to put the mice there because she thinks it is full of refuse from passing teenagers. (She has a pretty poor opinion of teenagers for someone who claims she basically is one.) John and I had been thinking we could take them up to the woods, but Hannah didn't want them to get dug up by wild animals, or for someone to come along and mess with the marker she had made, and she thought it was too far to go to visit them. Hannah asked me if we could bury them on the balcony in the same pot with one of the walnut trees, so that is where we interred them.

RIP, Pipsqueak and Dickerchen

John and I had wanted to go for a short hike with the other May Day celebrants in our village, but Hannah complained of grief, depression, tummy ache, diarrhea, and pretty much everything short of plague. She didn't look like she felt very well, but she is averse to physical activity and the great outdoors, so we weren't completely sure that it wasn't a put-on, but we stayed home and went ahead and cancelled our dinner-date for that evening. Then she started complaining that her arm hurt, so we ended up taking her to the emergency room (May 1 is a holiday). An x-ray showed that she has a Radiuswulstfraktur, which I think roughly translates to a green-stick fracture. She ended up with a shoulder-to-hand cast.

Hannah's new cast

The whole emergency room trip took about 4 hours, even though it didn't seem especially busy there. We went back and forth between the examining room and various waiting rooms, and since we weren't sure when we might be called for the different procedures, we didn't want to leave to go find some dinner, even though Hannah was starving. We were finally able to eat at about 8 and then drive home.

I have to do the grocery shopping this morning before taking Hannah back to the ER to have the cast checked again. Then on Tuesday we go to the orthodontist to have a new mold made of Hannah's teeth for her activator. Then on Wednesday we go back to the ER for one last check of the cast, then she should get the cast off 3 days after her birthday. *sigh* This is going to be some long-lasting suck.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Facebook and all that

I have been thinking about writing a post about facebook for a while, trying to formulate my thoughts in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a drooling idiot—too late!—but I guess I will just have to blunder my way through this and hope it makes a little sense.

When I joined facebook, it was at the behest of a friend and former co-worker. She had joined at the behest of yet a third friend. Neither of us did much posting, and I didn’t search out any other potential fb friends. Mostly, I just let it molder. As a matter of fact, if I wanted to check my account, I had to go back through my email to find her original invitation, because I hadn’t bothered to bookmark it. That was roughly my first 6 months on facebook.

Later I discovered that Yoda (formerly known as WesTexGirl, not yet known as a symbol), with whom I’ve been friends since the 6th grade, was also on facebook, so I friended her. I friended my husband, who is probably more the original target demographic since his friends list consisted mostly of friends from his grad school days. I got most of my fb friends after that through one of them.

I’ve been very reticent about embracing facebook: I don’t have my maiden name posted, I don’t look for new fb friends, I don’t use the suggested friend function, I don’t use many of the applications. For one thing, I don’t need another time suck. For another, I don’t see the point of a lot of it. Don’t get me wrong: I liked people I went to school with (or worked with), and they liked me, but it was a vanillla-ice-cream kind of liking. No one actively hates vanilla ice cream. But I can’t see devoting a lot of my time to a big bowl of virtual vanilla ice cream.

I have tried to limit my friends list to the chocolate-covered coffee beans—and if you are reading this, you are a dark-chocolate-covered espresso bean!—but the occasional scoop of vanilla has snuck in. The people who are vanilla ice cream to me might be baked Alaska to someone else, but I don’t know them well enough to be aware of that. And they probably don’t know that I am Stephen Colbert’s AmeriCone Dream. I am loathe even here, in the sanctuary of my own personal blog, to let my freak flag fly, so you can image how much blander I am over there. I really am vanilla ice cream on facebook.

Once you are stuck in the sugar-cone of facebook, it is really hard to break free from the unending banality of "here’s a picture of my cat" and "I had soup for dinner". (Of course, you could say that about 99% of the non-political content on the internet in general.) There have been times when I have wanted to ask more questions of people I have re-friended on there, but I would feel like a tool bringing stuff up after weeks and months of being friended and years of being not-friended. Maybe I am just overthinking things.

The last point was brought home to me by a message I got from someone I had been close with all the time I was growing up in West Texas, but who I had let drift away in the intervening years. We became fb friends, but I felt awkward and didn’t know how to get past the vanilla-ice-cream stage, so I just let it stay that way. She showed me that she is a Frappuccino by making the first move. I really hope that we can reconnect, although I can’t imagine doing it through facebook alone. But I will say that for the Frappuccinos who are brave enough to take the first step (obviously not me), facebook can at least provide you with a place in which to take it.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Britain's Got Talent

By now, most people have seen Susan Boyle's performance on Britain's Got Talent, but I bet you haven't seen this.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fixed for now

Well, it looks like I got my blog graphics organized the way I wanted for now. It will probably be a while before I have time to change it again, so get used to it!

Hannah's mouse was limping around for about a day and generally listless, but she perked up again and seems to be doing ok now. But mouse 2's tumor is getting even bigger. She still moves around unimpeded, but it looks horrible. Hannah is changing their litter as I type.

I went out on the balcony this morning and cleaned all the yellow pollen off the rails, the tile floor, the top of the dryer, the window ledges, and the drying rack, all so I could do a little laundry and use the drying rack and not have yellow mud forming on the tile. Then, since I was already filthy, I repotted some plants, planted some new seeds, and was generally Jenny Green-Thumb. I am stoked because I already have some little yellow blossoms on my canteloupe plants, which I grew from seeds I collected from a store-bought canteloupe. I love melon!

Maybe tomorrow I will be able to do more than one thing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Graphic Disaster

Just a quick note to say that I realize something is amiss with my garden gnomes along the left side, but I don't have the time to fix it right now. I hope to get to it soon, but in the meanwhile, here's a tip: it will sit in the proper place if you open the browser window to full-screen and close the favorites sidebar.

I got a nice note about my editing work (I'm doing a "superb job"--yay!) and am raring to get back to work after being totally useless yesterday due to bad sleep, headache, and allergies/cold.

Ps. Now Hannah's other mouse is looking ill. Will take her (and maybe the lumpy mouse) to the vet later today when Hannah is home (she gets out early today).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What a Cock-Up

I stayed up too late last night, so I didn't get enough sleep, so I didn't work on my editing job this morning before heading out to my student job at 9. But, I did print out some stuff for the editing job and for my thesis to work on while sitting in the student office, waiting for other work to come in. Only, I apparently left the printing at home. So I am sitting here with (almost) nothing to do and an hour to do it in. *sigh*

Plus Hannah is bringing a friend home with her after school, so I have to do a modicum of cleaning when I get home, just to prevent the friend (and the rest of us, I guess) from being engulfed in dust bunnies and killer pollen fuzzies.

And the Romance Languages Department next door is having a student rally to bitch (rightly) about the poor teacher to student to chairs ratio in their department. Did I mention they are right next door? And that we share a courtyard? And that the student office is on the courtyard side of the building? Even with my MP3 player going, there's lots of noise. I guess it is just as well I forgot my stuff at home. It might be hard to concentrate with all the speechifying going on outside my window.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Drive-By the First

I am waist-deep in work at the moment, but I will try to pop in when I can. Right now, I am waiting for some water to boil so I can blanche some tomatoes for soup.

Went back to the orthodontist with Hannah, and we are looking at 3-5 years of treatment, depending on how well Hannah keeps up her end of things. She'll be in a retainer [make that an activator--ed.] for the first year to pull her lower jaw forward. Then she'll get braces. I don't know if she'll have them on the bottom, but definitely on the top to push her front teeth back into position and to pull one of her incisors down into place (it is growing out of the side of her gum right now).

For people who fear socialized medicine: our insurance will pay 80% over the course of treatment, and if Hannah does everything she is supposed to, i.e., has a good outcome, they will reimburse us for the other 20% at the end. Just sayin'...

Friday, April 03, 2009

Adventures in Dentistry

I got Hannah and myself in to see the dentist for some way overdue check-ups, and he referred her to an orthodontist. We went in for the initial x-rays and impressions but have to wait until next time for the photos. I am pretty sure they are going to put her in braces, but we won’t know the full extent until her next appointment during Easter break. She seemed ok with the idea at first, but she had a minor freak-out about it one day when we were arguing about her study habits, so I don’t know how she is going to handle the up-coming consult. Please cross your fingers for her.

My check-up went about the same as always: x-rays, which always pinch my gums and hurt more than any other dental work short of dental surgery; more appointments set for a cleaning and a few cavities. At the cleaning, I started to wonder how long the hygienist could leave her fingers in my mouth before my saliva would start to dissolve them. It’s the first step in digestion, you know. John has been giving me a hard time about that ever since, especially after my revelation at an earlier visit.

At the first filling appointment, I got an old amalgam filling drilled out and a new composite filling put in. It looks really good—you’d never even know it wasn’t my tooth. That was on a molar, and everything went normally. The dentist offered me a shot, but the sound of the drill bothers me more than the actual drilling, and a shot won’t help that, so I said no. He said most women say no. Then I had an appointment to fix some cavities on my front teeth (well, one front and the one next to it to the side—I don’t know tooth names). I thought I was going to get the top of my head pulled off. At one point, there were 4 hands, multiple tools, and maybe a foot up in there. It was crowded! My jaw is still a bit sore up where it hinges, but my teeth look good, so that’s a mercy.

My dentist gave me instructions on a slightly more complicated method of brushing and a prescription for a special toothbrush. It looks like a tiny bottle brush, and I shove it between my molars instead of flossing back there. I had no idea there was so much space between them! So now my dental hygiene routine is ridiculously long. If you have been wondering where I’ve been, probably cleaning my teeth.

Ps. When the dentist handed me a mirror to look at my teeth, I also noticed that an amazingly long hair was sticking out of my nose. I don't normally patrol my nose, I just wait until my immediate family members make some kind of horrified comment before taking any kind of nose-action, but this was bad. And of course, the dentist had been staring into my mouth and ostensibly also up my nose for about an hour, minus the 10 minutes he disappeared and no one knew where he went. *sigh*

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I am a Lush

…fan. Despite the fact that I can’t actually stand going into a Lush shop, just like I can’t stand spending more than 5 seconds near the perfume counter in a department store. Total olfactory overload. But the extreme scent output has a plus-side: I often use Lush as a smell-landmark when walking through town. "Ok, I can smell Lush, so I must be near X." This is one reason why John and Hannah’s birthday gift to me this year was not as much of a surprise as they had been hoping: one whiff of the car’s interior when they picked me up, and I knew exactly where they had been. You don’t forget a smell like that.

But even though it wasn’t exactly a surprise, the big box o’ Lush products was appreciated. The bath bombs are really cool and fizzy, but the Supernova leaves little strips of confetti in your bathwater. Somehow, that had less of a "party in the tub" and more of a "fell in a puddle at Mardi Gras" feel to it, but the water does end up pink. I had to get a drain strainer from the kitchen before I could drain the tub, though.

Lush tries to be environmentally friendly, so they use real popcorn as packing material. Hannah took one look inside the freshly opened box and made a grab for some of it, totally ignoring all the slips of paper warning her not to eat it. "Tastes soapy." *spit* Hmmm … a box full of loose popcorn cushioning unwrapped bars of soap. Soapy, you say? An unexpected bonus: I poured the popcorn in the organic recycling bin under the sink, and the Lush smell neutralized the usual vomit-y smell in there.

I stowed the cardboard box with the dwindling supply of soaps in the bathroom cabinet, and now everything else that is stored in there also smells like Lush: boxes of kleenexes, John’s shaving bag, our table linens. It’s quite refreshing to clean your nose with a Lush-laden tissue. I wonder what the cats think of the scent-bomb in the bathroom…

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Wheels on the Bus

...aren't nearly as interesting as the characters on the bus. Who did we have today?

1. The girl who thinks she is LaFee (a German singer)

but whose make-up ends up looking like one of those Harlequin clowns.

2. This really good-looking African guy who I never notice until he is getting off the bus, and staring at that point is both awkward and futile.

3. A guy in a tri-corner hat, carrying a spear, a sword, and a lantern, and reading a novel. I thought he was going to a Revolutionary War reenactment--in Germany?!--but John pointed out that he could be one of those tour guides in period costumes. Like this.

Yes, a guy in an 18-th century costume and a girl with eye-liner doodles on her cheek have been the highlight of the week. So sad.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nasty Break-Up in the Works

Nick* and I are having a bit of a lover’s quarrel at the moment, and I’ve decided we could really use some time apart. I mean, he said he’d be showing up with a new episode of Winx yesterday, yet when I greeted him at the agreed-upon 3:15 pm, he only had fucking Drake and Josh. I mean, hel-lo? I totally hate that show.** And last week, he told me he’d be there with Winx at 4:45 pm, M-F, yet this Monday he apparently decided he really meant 3:15 pm, and didn’t I check his web site, Baby, he can’t be sending commercials every time he decides to change the programming. Sheesh!

Anyhow, I’ve decided to go with my back-up lover, the master’s thesis. He makes me feel better about myself, although I will miss the excitement and the romance. He is the Colonel Brandon to Nick’s Willoughby.

And I know Nick is thinking I will come crawling back to him when he starts waving Avatar in front of me at the end of the month, but by then, I’ll be all, “Nick who?” Smell ya later, Nick!

* Nickelodeon, duh!
** Drake is supposed to be a hottie who can do no wrong, but he is just a dick. And the little sister, Megan, is a psycho. And Josh is constantly being abused. It is all just wrong!


Day 1

Mr & Mrs Stewart

Day 5114

Mr & Mrs Stewart

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From my reading: the federal spending addition

I just read an article in the NYTimes, "A Zealous Watchman to Follow the Money", about Earl E. Devaney, the inspector general of the Interior Department, who is now in charge of keeping track of the money paid out from the stimulus package. There are two web sites mentioned in the article, both of which will track spending and outcomes:, the Interior Department site, an independent site

I will definitely be bookmarking these sites and checking them often.

And along those lines, here is a site with a poster that shows federal spending:
Death and Taxes: A Visual Guide to Where Your Federal Tax Dollars Go

Monday, March 09, 2009

Super Quick Update

...while the rice is cooking.

I delivered Hannah to the train station this morning for her class trip. She called around 5 to say she was having a good time and had been awarded a "ranger certification" for snowshoe-ing or birdhouse building or something. So 2 nights and 2 full days more of Hannah-less-ness.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

In No Particular Order

I slipped on some ice 2 weeks ago and landed on my knee. I hadn't realized how much kneeling I do around here until my injury, which caused me to jump up or fall over every time I had to fish something out from under the sofa or the bench. The bruising was gone after about 10 days, and I can kneel again now with minimal soreness. Stupid ice!

Hannah's class is going on their class trip starting next Monday. They are going to Freiburg to ski and visit the Roman exhibit at the museum. The teacher decided that his original plan--going to Cologne and Bonn in June--was too ambitious, but the realities of trying to book space at the hostel in Freiburg meant we got kind of short notice (about 3 weeks, one of which was during a school vacation). I forced Hannah to buy a new hat and to promise to actually wear it while outdoors. We also bought new snow boots, not a simple task at the end of the winter season. She wasn't too thrilled about skiing at first--what is she ever thrilled about?--but I think she is looking forward to the trip now.

Winx is back on the air! It must have started on Monday, because on Tuesday we happened to be watching Nick and the second episode from the first season came on. Woo! Welcome back, Nick addiction!

Hannah and friends came up with the idea of joining the school newspaper and talked the older kids on the newspaper staff into taking them on. There weren't any underclassman on the paper, and Hannah and friends thought they would like to be represented. Hannah seems to be the spokesman for the group and has already written a short article about the recent spate of graffiti at the school. She also has 12 pages of a spy novel written, and she says that her alternate career path (to being a cook) is to be a journalist; after she's made a name for herself in that career, she'll publish her novel, make a ton of money, and retire. Riiiight. At least she found an extracurricular activity to take an interest in, since ballet and Swedish didn't seem to do it for her.

We got an auto-parts circular in the our mailbox the other day, and there was a whole section on marten-protection for your car. (I particularly like the photo on this product: it looks like the marten wants to break into the car and steal the radio, not chew on some delicious rubber parts.) In case you are wondering, a marten is like a weasel. Wikipedia (neither in English nor in German) doesn't say anything about it being a threat to vehicles, but then again, we had mice in our AC system once, and I doubt that would get a mention in Wikipedia either.

We're at that horrible time of year when spring keeps putting its head up and then getting whacked back down, like a seasonal whack-a-mole. Yesterday I tried going out without a hat, but by the time I headed home again, I was wishing I had it with me. And don't get me started on the open window in the ladies' toilet in the English Department! Brisk is one thing, but having your ass frozen onto the seat is another. The neighbors facing us across the street have yards that tell us when we are creeping up on spring: the yard on the left floods from an underground spring, and the yard on the right sprouts crocuses. Both are entertaining in their own way.

I recently bought and set up a wireless router for our apartment, but we discovered that John's laptop didn't have a wireless card installed, so he has been tethered to the router with a cable for a week or two. I finally was able to find a card for his laptop in the States, and after a week underway, it got here Tuesday. Since John is working hell-for-leather on a translation job, I had to wait until the evening to try to install the card. I opened up the laptop, plugged in the card, attached the antennae, and... nothing. The next day, I downloaded the correct driver, fired it up, and... nothing again. Argh! John's laptop has a switch on the side for turning on the wireless connection, but the LED never came on when I switched it on. I turned to the Internet, where I found an ingenious solution that involved taping over some of the pins on the wireless card. And it worked! Even though my laptop is newer and came with a wireless card installed, I had a lot more problems getting my wireless Internet up and running than his. I guess that is mostly because I already had to adjust a bunch of junk on John's machine when I installed the software for the wireless router earlier (even though John was using it as a LAN connection). Anyhow, snaps for me! Like I told John, it seems scary to mess around with stuff on the computer since I am not especially computer literate, but I will do almost ANYTHING--cooking, sewing, reading music, computer troubleshooting--if I have some kind of directions. And it paid off! (Sorry, I'm still jazzed about the whole thing.)