Friday, December 30, 2011

RIP, Missy (2001-2011)

We lost our 10-year-old cat, Missy, on Tuesday. She had been getting thinner, which we hoped was due to the new feeding regimine, but on xmas day she started breathing heavily. An hour before her appointment at the fill-in vet (ours is closed over the holidays), she had some kind of seizure and died.

The wound is still fresh, and we all find ourselves on the verge of tears at different times as we go back over what we could or should have done differently regarding her care, or we find ourselves looking for her at times when she could be counted on to turn up.

Hannah called her a furry puddle, and sometimes I called her an annoying asshole, but she was a good cat, and we are all already missing her companionship. As I have pointed out to John, Hannah and I are effectively pet-less since Eliza won't let us touch her. We are hoping she will come out of her shell a bit more now that she is an only child, so to speak, but she has spent a lot of time under the bed since Tuesday whenever we go to check on her, so it is hard to say.

RIP, Missy. You will be missed.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Less Golden October

I have been stupidly, horribly busy pretty much since we set foot back in Germany after our Texas trip in August. Hence the lack of posting. But I am taking a few minutes for myself this morning before I have to start the next batch of insanity to put up a few bits and bobs.

When we got back from Texas, my plants were in surprisingly good shape, although the few tomatoes on the vine had problems probably related to the uneven watering over the previous month. So I chucked those and went back to watering regularly and my little plants, all grown from seeds, started really putting the tomatoes out.

I waited until the weather forecast said our Golden October was going to be over to pick them, but now I've got a good couple dozen (large) cherry tomatoes ripening in the kitchen.

Hannah totally cracks me up. One Saturday, she woke up extra early, even before the cartoons were on, so the only thing on tv was informercials. When I asked her about it, she said, "Yeah, now I need a Nicer Dicer and some of those pills."

When we were in Texas, I managed to buy the last of the supplies I needed for a Halloween cross-stitch project for my very own, but I have been so busy that it has languished in a corner. I finally had to admit to myself that I just won't have the time to work on it before this Halloween. I guess I should put it away properly so none of the bits get lost before I can start work on it.

I am going to be teaching 5 classes this semester, which starts tomorrow. I'm kind of regretting signing up for this gig, but there is nothing for it now. I've already told them, though, that there is little chance I'll want to be hired on again after this semester, so that is one less thing to discuss at the end of my contract.

And now I have to get back to chipping away at my pile.

-Nee in Germany wishes she had a Time-Turner like Hermione

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Boring...boring...but not gone

After a whirlwind, uh, four weeks through Texas, we are back home and getting back in the groove. Although we haven't picked up our keys from the catsitters yet. Another thing to put on the to-do list.

Hannah is attending tutoring every morning to make up the hours she missed (and we paid for) during August. This is actually a very good thing, because it is getting us back in her school routine early, which should make next Monday, the first day of school, less painful.

Yesterday I met with the gastroenterologist to get the low-down on my upcoming colonoscopy. I already knew about the procedure through the power of his own web site, so it was basically the assistant telling me everything I already knew, giving me a prescription for the pre-procedure drano, and taking some blood, which hurt like a bitch. Surprisingly, I didn't bruise, but it wasn't fun. It made me think back on my pregnancy wistfully, because my OB had a phlebotomist who must have come down from heaven on a cloud, she was so good.

John is going back in to the office today. Classes don't start until October, but he needs to take care of a few things and go by the bike shop to buy a new bike chain. His broke right before we left on vacation, so his only exercise for the last week has been jogging and washing dishes.

The cats were healthy and whole when we got home, although Missy seems to have lost some weight. I can now feel her various bones through the fur. I don't know if there was a problem with the feeding schedule while we were gone or if the low-fat cat food we bought is finally showing results. In either case, she now looks more like a regular cat and less like a landslide of fur.

John and I have very full to-do lists for this fall, so we are going to be busy busy, but I think I prefer it that way.

Nee in Germany is glad to be back out of the Texas heat

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hello and goodbye again

Well, it appears I have been absent from here for more than 7 weeks, and I just came to say I'll be gone for another 5. Texas here we come! But to tide you over, I'll just post a few pictures of us.


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Insert witty title here

Since last I wrote, Hannah turned 14 and had a small (thank you baby jeebus) sleepover to celebrate. She is now powering through her birthday money by swimsuit and sandal shopping, although we are still tussling over the height of the heels on the shoes. Fourteen still seems too young for stacked heels, although 15 sounds a-ok. I found a good compromise at a shoe shop that was having a summer sale, but they didn't have them in Hannah's size. I saw I can get them online, but she'll have to agree.

I was saved the indignity of accompanying her and her 3 friends to the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie by the expedient of making up some shopping I had to do (it wasn't THAT pressing). Karma came by and kicked the shit out of me for that; no sooner had I procured some tank tops and a new blouse for myself than my right knee went on strike. I think it was the shoes I was wearing. Anyhow, I had a book on me (of course) and was able to find a bench off the beaten path to sit on and get a little pink because I had forgotten to put on my day creme with sunscreen. Then I limped halfway to our rendevous point and sat and read a bit longer until it was time to go, by which time I could walk again, although gingerly. For that, I was rewarded with some Pizza Hut pizza, our old birthday stand-by.

I'm in a minor panic about a shit-ton of work I've got bids in for or have already agreed to do. I've got two book-length editing gigs signed up starting this month and going through mid-October. Then there are 2 large (and I mean LARGE--800+ web pages and a technical report) translating jobs that I've put in for. If you don't hear from me any time soon, it is because I am working my butt off or hyperventilating in a corner.

I did manage to procure some software that should help me with the translating jobs, though (if I get them). That should take some of the pressure off. A tad. A smidge.

I'm still going to physical therapy, but there's been more exercising and less massaging recently. It is taking some getting used to, trying to adjust my posture and stuff. You wouldn't think that just holding your breastbone in a different position, or your head, would make you so sore, but you'd be wrong.

My balcony plants are growing and making me happy. Except the bunch on the top floor that the cats have been nibbling on. Assholes! At least it is raining right now and sparing me the need to water today. But I have to get out and get groceries, so that is less fun. It's only a light rain, though.

E. coli is messing up my grocery planning. There's been a bad outbreak here that's been traced to imported cucumbers (and maybe tomatoes and lettuce) from Spain and also Holland, I think. Cucumber and lettuce (with ranch dressing) are almost the only vegetables Hannah will eat, so it is really putting a kink in my shopping list. I am waiting for her to get home so I can get her started on studying for her physics test tomorrow before I leave. I need a hot drink while I wait.

-Nee in Germany is unraveling at the seams, but just a little

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ketchup? Catsup? Catch-Up!

Hannah is home sick today. She got overheated during the night, even though it wasn't terribly warm, even in her closed-off room, and had to go find a bucket. She said she spent some time spitting in the toilet but hadn't actually puked, but I let her stay home anyway. In the past, she has power-puked on the bus and at school after a night like that, so it's better to give her a little rest. It was also very good timing, school-wise, because she had a lot going on this week except for today, and then she has 2-3 tests next week. Birthday-wise, she should be all better by Sunday, but even if she weren't, it wouldn't be so terrible since we have put off having her birthday party until she gets through all these tests.

The only wrench in her day off is that she is on restriction from all electronics at the moment. A note was sent home before her last school holiday (1-1/2 weeks at Easter) that she had failed to turn in her homework x number of times, but she neglected to give us the note until after school had started back. She claimed she didn't want to rule *our* holiday, but we saw through that pretty quickly. She then proceeded to give herself the above-mentioned punishment, to last 3 weeks. Oddly enough, she went way beyond the punishment we would have meted out for this particular offense, but we decided that we would make her stick with it. It's funny--the missing homework was tallied up from all of her classes, so it's possible she only missed one homework per class. I know for a fact that all but the last one were from the period before we had the come to Jesus meeting with her after we got her report card, and that one she did, but she was so disorganized that she couldn't find it when it was due. I'm obviously a mean mom, because I pointed out that her bad organization habits were having the same effect on her at school as her bad attitude earlier. Anyhow, I am letting her off one day early for her birthday. Let's just say that when she opens her presents, she may find the transition from no electronics to a plethora of electronics overwhelming.

I have been going to physical therapy for the last 2 weeks. The office is close to our house, and most of my sessions have been me lying on a heating pad for 15 or 20 minutes and then getting a massage. My doctor only prescribed 3 weeks (6 sessions), but I think I could stand doing it even longer. I've also gotten a couple of simple exercises and some good advice about my posture. I hadn't even noticed I was slumping a certain way until she brought it to my attention. It feels weird trying to correct it, like I have to assume a superhero stance all the time. (I noticed that John stands that way naturally.)

I can't wait to go back to the regular doctor and hopefully get off some of these stupid pills she's got me on. Just this morning, after checking on Hannah and starting on my coffee, I said to myself, "I'm so glad I haven't puked up any of these stupid things yet" (gag--yes, puke--no), and of course I ended up barfing in the sink. TMI, perhaps, but it just goes to show that it is easy to jinx yourself.

--Nee in Germany should make more notes when she goes so long without posting

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mother's Day recap

Mother's Day was a pretty low-key event around here.

Hannah brought me a pale yellow rose on Thursday, which she tried to dye pink on Monday once it had served its Mother's Day purpose, but I think it is too late for it to draw up the food coloring added to its water.

John told me "Happy Mother's Day" before noon and sent me an ecard in which my "hotness" was stressed, so I am pretty sure it was not vetted by Hannah before her name was added next to John's.

Hannah gave me a handmade, illustrated book of coupons, "only to be used after May 8th". Here are the contents of the coupons with the illustrations described inside of brackets:
  • One free hug
  • One free kiss on the forehead (with squat) [+ lips] ← that's *me* kissing *her*, who is tall enough to need to squat in order to be kissed
  • One free cooked meal by Hannah [+ plate with steaming food]
  • One free compliment by Hannah when you're feeling down
  • One free hour of Hannah studying of your choice [+ Hannah with book]
  • One free turn at dishwashing by Hannah [+ stack of dishes + flies]
  • One free pamper day organised by Hannah [+ lady with towel on head + nail polish brush]
  • One free choice of movie (without objection by Hannah) [+ cover of Barbie Swan Lake] ← my secret shame!
(And on the back cover: Hannah S****** Productions, with a graphic that would appear to be a star on top of two crossed light sabers.)

The three of us started the morning with a rousing game of Killer Bunnies, which was a family xmas present that hadn't even been opened yet. Just unwrapping all the plastic on the various parts of the game kept Hannah busy long enough for me to finish straightening up.

Afterward, Hannah wanted to put together a 1000-piece puzzle but got frustrated right away. In an attempt to keep her at it--we're trying to help her learn not to give up at the first opportunity--I offered to help her get it started. 6+ hours later, and with a little help from John in the final stretch, we finished it.

Oi, that was a slog, but we had a good time doing it. After that, I was asked what I wanted for my Mother's Day meal, but of course the only possible answer is "anything I don't have to cook." I think John was hoping for a restaurant visit, but I just wanted to sit or lie somewhere long enough to unkink my back--which is what happens when you put together a puzzle on the coffee table and must therefore sit on the floor--and then have some dinner. So we had homemade bean rolls with some ground meat added and some pepper pops.

And it was a great day.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ranting at the man(ufacturers)

As mentioned in one of my more recent posts, we broke down and bought a new washing machine. We were able to get 2-year, 0% financing and delivery of the new machine plus removal of the old one for 1 buck, so we went with basically the same, relatively inexpensive model with a 4-pound higher capacity.

Even though replacing it was made as painless as possible by the store where we bought the new one, I still feel guilty about tossing out a machine that was in almost perfect physical condition as far as the casing, drum, door, and seal were concerned. I think John feels like the old machine would have ended up being a money pit if we had decided to keep repairing it, but to me, it feels wasteful to throw it out. More than that, it feels like we are the dupes of the manufacturing industry and their brilliant idea of planned obsolescence. A washing machine used for 3 people that couldn't make it to 10 years? My grandmother had perfectly functioning kitchen appliances that were older than I was as an adult!

At lunch today, I was watching a television program on exactly this topic in France. The producers of the show interviewed a spokesman for some unnamed manufacturer (or perhaps for some manufacturing organization--it was hard to keep track of the labels since they were in German and French), and he denied that there was any such thing as planned obsolescence, much less that his company had anything to do with it, but then they had on a woman who researches the lifetime of products. She was able to show that since the 1980s, household appliances have a lifetime that is shorter by 30% than before the 80s. And a historian gave the example of the lightbulb as the first instance of this: the original lightbulb could burn up to 2500 hours, but to move more of them, manufacturers reengineered them to last no more than 1000 hours.

This pisses me off to no little degree.

I don't know how to go about getting the manufacturers to change their dastardly ways, but I do know that they are not going to do it to me again. When our washing machine went on the fritz, I swore to John--who agreed--that when our condensation dryer gives up the ghost, I am just going to buy a second rack for hanging our laundry on and say "screw it" to buying a new one. And wonder of wonders, our dryer now seems to be gasping out its last breath. Within only a month of the same-brand washing machine. What an amazing cooincidence!

So, when it's cold out, I'll share my office/sunroom with a drying rack, and when it's warm out, I'll tuck one or more out of the way on one of the ends of our long balcony. Now I just need to investigate into a good fabric softener for our towels...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The wages of sin... a second showing of Nuns on the Run. Hannah has bought into John's view that we are only getting our money's worth out of our DVD subscription if we watch the videos twice before sending them back, which is why I am upstairs at my computer instead of hanging out with Thing One and Thing Two (and Cat One and Cat Two, probably).

I think Hannah is also wrapping her gift for her friend's birthday party this weekend while she watches the movie. Since most of our gift wrap is xmas themed, she only had 3 non-xmas designs to choose from: pink and blue baby shoes, garden gnomes, or grapes and wine. I don't know why she was so opposed to the garden gnomes, but I think she wanted something more "classy". Then she is going to tape pieces of chocolate all over the outside; the ones we bought are wrapped in foil painted to look like lady bugs.

The birthday girl has invited Hannah and friends to go bowling. I wasn't even aware there was an alley in this town, but I am thankful, because we always get lost when we have to find something in one of the nearby little towns. I'm also glad that Hannah is going with someone who is not me, because I pulled something in my ass the last time we went bowling (in France, because that is just what you do when you go over the border, right?). It took a week to be able to go upstairs without limping the last time, so I think I will postpone any possible reoccurences until a much later date.

Hannah and I went into town before her tutoring session and took care of the gift shopping, plus buying a skirt she had tried on with her friend last week and going to the library. I want to redo the wallpaper on a few walls and paint, so I went looking for a do-it-yourself book; on a nearby shelf, Hannah found a book about XXSmall houses and flipped through the whole thing while waiting for me. John and I had seen a segment on CNN International a while back about a micro-house in Tokyo, but it wasn't nearly as interesting as some of these. That one was tiny but functional, while some of these were more like architectural experiments. Hannah and I agreed that we probably wouldn't enjoy living in the house that had glass walls all the way around that could be slid back, leaving one whole side of the house open to the elements (and a sloping hill, if I remember correctly).

I think we will be getting a new washing machine soon. Ours has stopped spinning. I had to finish washing the last load by hand, and it was a complete pain in the ass. Thank goodness for technology! I just don't like the idea of tossing out the old one when it looks like it is in such good shape. But as John said, the repairs are so expensive (400+ last time for a heating thingie), it kind of doesn't make sense to keep paying to repair it when it is probably designed for obsolescence by year 10 (we are in year 7). I don't know--it just seems so wasteful to toss all that metal and other material. I wish I knew how to repair it myself.

I *did* manage to improve our toilet situation, I think. (So far, so good.) During the change of seasons, the handle tends to stick. I think it has something to do with warmth + humidity. Anyhow, it was sticking, and then it wasn't, but it was still gurgling for a long time after flushing. I pulled off the wall cover (the handle is set into the wall above the bowl and the tank is inside the wall) and discovered that it was just really gross back there in the tank, with lots of brownish goop and blackish moldy stuff on the bits. I sprayed everything down with bleach water and scrubbed as many pieces as I could reach with an old toothbrush, then I poured bleach into the tank and let it sit for a while. I also found a valve that controls the amount of water flowing into the tank and turned it so it would fill faster. A few flushes later, and everything seems to be back to normal.

While I was messing with the bleach, I also cleaned some gunk off the rubber seal at the top of the bathroom window, above the shade I put in there a while back. I had to pull the shade out of its brackets to do it, but now it won't roll up all the way. The stupid thing is *designed* to let you pull it out of the brackets without breaking it, but I guess no one told the shade that. grrr...

I haven't decided if I am going to watch the royal wedding tomorrow. I'm sure that it will be on several channels, so I will probably see some of it in any case, just during the course of Hannah's last day of school vacation and tv freedom.

--Nee in Germany is too tired to think of a pithy sign-off

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Shopping and nature and more

While John was away in Rome, the biker boots he ordered from the U.S. came. He has been wearing these Doc Martens for several years with his dressy work clothes, but a hole has developed where there is a crease across the top of his foot. For some reason, he fixated on buying biker boots as a replacement (after determining that it there are no Doc Martens to be found here in HD), even insisting that they'll go with his work khakis. Riiiight. Anyway, he and Hannah are the clotheshorses of the family, so I guess they can do what they like. I just wish it wouldn't entail special ordering things like biker boots from the U.S. and having to pay the price of the boots in shipping.

We have a bat up under the roof of our upper balcony again. Or rather, we had one; I haven't seen it in the last week. I tried to take a photo of it, but our camera couldn't handle the dim light and extreme contrast between white stucco wall and dark brown wood ceiling, so I ended up with a blurry blob. I am actually not all that sad it is gone, because I just got around to cleaning up *cough* a few years' worth of bat poop off our balcony floor. Luckily, it was concentrated in one area under that crack in the wall, but still.

John was excited to find a salamander on the parking lot when we came home from lunch with one of his colleagues and a trip to the grocery store yesterday. He insisted that Hannah run upstairs and get the camera, even getting a bit shirty when I refused to let him put it in the cooler with our frozen foods to take it upstairs. He loaded the video Hannah shot on his computer, so I don't have it here to post, but if you are friends with him on facebook, you can get a look at it.

I pointed out several escargot crawling around in the weeds and along the wall edging the parking area, but I guess he didn't find them worthy of being filmed. If you're not bright black and yellow, you're nothing, is the lesson to take away from this.

John makes sure we have our queue at LoveFilm updated so we don't miss out on any classics like Nuns on the Run. He and Hannah had already started it when I joined them, right as Hannah was complaining about the lack of nuns when she had been promised nuns, right there in the title! She has pretty high standards, you see.

Today is Easter. As one of the high holy days (or whatever they're called), it has a special status around here; by law, public dancing is illegal. I think that may vary from state to state, but I saw a couple of different tv programs last week where dance club owners and others complained about what they saw as an out-of-date and biased law (museums, opera houses, and movie theaters are allowed to stay open and provide other forms of entertainment). Hannah is already planning to learn to river dance so she can dance in protest next year. I'm surprised she's not trying to master Dance Dance Revolution for this year, but she found it challenging and gave up pretty quickly when she got it for xmas this past year.

The lunch yesterday with John's colleague was nice. She is from northern Germany and made us a couple of specialties from there: Scandinavian-style shrimp soup, shrimp on toast covered with melted cheese, and pickled herring. Hannah is not a fan of melted cheese or chunks of fish, but she managed to eat enough or decline politely enough that our host's feelings didn't get hurt. I think Hannah was able to make the extra effort because our host had made a special point of telling her how displeased her own children were that we were coming on a day when they wouldn't be there (due to custody arrangements) and how earnestly they begged her to arrange a time for Hannah to come hang out with them. So Hannah is going to go over tomorrow afternoon to play video games and such. They are really nice kids, and I am glad they all hit it off so well when we've visited back and forth in the past.

--Nee in Germany promises not to let John buy chaps or a leather vest next, even if she has to hide his credit card

Friday, April 22, 2011

Better than nothing...

John is home from Rome, safe and sound. He had a good time and took 245 photos and videos! It will take a while to sort and load all of them to Flickr, but they'll be there in a few days, I imagine.

I was enjoying some sunshine on the lower balcony this morning, when suddenly I detected a scent like tire air. Yuck! My brain finally came to grips with the stank after a few minutes and determined it was fish. It is ironic that the smell made me say, "Jesus Christ! What is that smell?!" on Good Friday, which is why there was the smell of fish cooking in the first place. I thought maybe it was the downstairs neighbors, but the absence of cooking smells in the stairwell made me think instead that it was the restaurant next door.

Hannah is on school vacation and is taking her loafing responsibilities very seriously. She had to get off the couch to set the table for dinner and said her head hurt and her neck was sore. That's because your brain juice seeped out with all the lounging around, I told her, but she was sure that wasn't it.

I cleaned the downstairs balcony a couple of weeks ago, the shared stairwell yesterday, and the upstairs balcony today, and I don't want to look at a broom or mop again any time soon.

Hannah loves the A-Team movie that was actually an xmas present from her Aunt Kee to John. She was rather put out yesterday that I didn't want to watch it with her, but was gracious enough to accept Goonies as a substitute. So she watched it by herself today while I did various other things upstairs. I'm not sure what the attraction is; probably an initial interest in anything with one of the actors from the Star Wars franchise--in this case, Liam Neeson--furthered by the attractiveness of some of the male stars.

In other Star Wars news, Hannah is addicted to a web video series about Chad Vader, supermarket assistant manager and Sith Lord. When she's not watching season 7 of Scrubs online (which hasn't been released here). She's managed to cram a lot of entertainment into 2 days of vacation so far.

--Nee in Germany says she'll take the general spring smell + marauding puffs over fish smell any day

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Draggin' Ass

I hadn't even noticed, but my last entry was my 800th post here. (!) I know I haven't been posting as frequently the last couple of years as when I first started this blog, lo those many years ago, but I wouldn't have guessed I had gotten within waving distance of 1000.

I am pooped out today after 2 bad nights of sleep. John is at a conference for most of this week, and I usually go to bed later and sleep lighter when he is not there. That was night 1. Last night, I was attached to a portable EKG monitor and woke up every time I wanted to change position and had to move it so I didn't lie on it or pull the cables out. I also discovered that I couldn't lie on my left side because one of the leads would press on a nerve or something and cause such a powerful buzz that it woke me up, twice. I think I was done with deep sleep after that.

While I had the device on yesterday, I did as many tasks as I could think of that might set off the fluttery feeling I've been trying to describe to my docs: washed dishes, fed the cats (which requires some flexibility due to the cat-food storage situation and the locations of their bowls), straightened up in various rooms, vacuumed, cooked, hell--I even quilted. For some reason, sitting in the recliner with my knees up and leaning over my work sometimes sets it off. Then this morning before taking it back, I did my Wii routine (earlier than usual) since some of the yoga positions also sometimes trigger it.

I got home from the doc a little after 10 and have been pretty useless since then. Good thing I didn't have any work waiting for me. Hannah's on Easter vacation as soon as she gets home from tutoring this afternoon, so we can veg out a bit this evening (I'll give her a break on the studying tonight, but then it's back to the coal mines tomorrow). [Speak of the devil and she calls you on her cell phone to tell you she is on her way home.]

Also, I still smell like that awful hospital combination of antisceptic and baby powder, so I need to get in the shower at some point, if I can find the energy to get off this chair.

I had to get up to let the blind down against the late afternoon sun and discovered that Eliza (aka Poofy, aka Scaredy Cat, aka You F*cking Furbag) has been napping on the extra chair in my office the whole time. This is the cat who is so skittish, she has only in the last year worked up the nerve to come into the living room while we are sitting in there ("we" includes her favorite person, John), who had to have her cat dish placed under the stairs in order to ensure that she has a fighting chance at some wet cat food each morning since my running the water to rinse out the cat food pouch or to make coffee scares her out of the kitchen. We are not sure if she is the "who" that somehow dribbled cat nibble on John's side of the bed, but since that is her normal hideout, it is possible.

In gardening news, I got the empty flower boxes on the lower balcony filled with dirt and seeded about 2 weekends ago, and now I have seedlings! I think the fastest seedlings are from seeds I harvested myself from our flowers last year. That would be an exciting turn of events. I also cleaned the ashes off the balcony floor, and John would like me to point out that when I talked about how they got there last time, I somehow magically described the whole thing without managing to mention specifically that *I* was the dastardly, ash-spreading villain. Unfortunately, in the week-and-a-half since then, we have entered that time of spring when anything left outdoors for more than 5 minutes will be covered in a fine dusting of yellow pollen and surrounded by a swirling cloud of puffy plant matter. I guess I'll be cleaning that up in another couple of weeks.

I was supposed to clean the common stairwell earlier this week (officially, we are in charge of it for this week, but earlier in the week is encouraged), but I ran out of energy yesterday and don't think I'll be finding any more today. Complicating the matter, we have new neighbors below us, and I think they may still be moving some stuff in. Oh well, I'll do it tomorrow and keep my fingers crossed no one slips.

--Nee in Germany says it's better to be pooped out than pooped on

Thursday, April 14, 2011

So proud of our girl!

When the half-year report cards came out in February--yes, Hannah is only notified of her grades twice during a 10-1/2-month school year!--John and I were shocked to see that Hannah had officially been labeled as being in danger of failing the year. Most of her grades were ok in a but-we-know-she-could-have-done-better way, but she was failing two classes that are key to determining if she passes the year.

At that point, we talked to her teachers and discovered that it wasn't just the fact that she wasn't putting in enough study time that was likely to doom her to repeating the year or even to changing schools, but that her attitude to school was so bad that it had become a block for her. This led to several come-to-Jesus type talks with her and her enrollment 3 days a week at a tutoring center. I have also been working with her on those 2 subjects to make sure she is getting in enough repetition to make it all stick.

I am thrilled to say that it seems to be working. She has a much better attitude to studying, homework, and tutoring than I foresaw, and her homeroom teacher has verified that it is carrying over into the classroom. (Perhaps not in math, but I've met her math teacher and can't say that I blame her.)

Best of all, Hannah herself is able to see the results of all this hard work: she has gotten a B on each of the last 5 Latin vocabulary quizzes (a B+ even on the last one!), and an A on her English vocabulary quiz. Here she is with the proof of her diligence, in the place of honor (which is also the only place in our apartment where magnets will stick):

Hannah and her good grades

I'll admit that I'm not above giving her the occasional treat--so far, just a set of Star Wars patches--but I make sure not to give them to her after she brings home a good grade; that should be a reward in and of itself. Instead, I gave them to her on a day when she had worked really hard and had not complained about all the work I had given her. That's the behavior I am trying to encourage.

Last week, Hannah's physics class took the rockets they had built down to the fields by the river and had a contest to see which group's rocket would fly the highest. Regional media sent a camera man, and a picture of Hannah's group "tinkering" (at the camera man's suggestion) with their rocket made it into the paper. (Unfortunately, the scan came out very grainy, and I couldn't find the article online, so no picture here.) Hannah pointed out that there was a quote in the article from a boy in a different class (or a different school?) predicting that his group's rocket would go much further than the girls'. Haha, boy, the joke's on you, because Hannah's group--3 girls and a boy--got second place! Here's Hannah with her rocket and a few goodies she received as part of her prize:

Rocket Girl!

She just got home and was telling me about her hands-on chemistry experiment in class today, and not once did she sound or say something sarcastic. Once she finishes her lunch, we'll be hitting the books. There's a lot to get caught up on between now and the last 3 tests in the 2 classes she's failing, but I am feeling a lot more sanguine about it now than I was a mere 6 weeks ago.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Poking along...

Not much has been going on around here. I did buy some more soil for starting my window boxes, but it is chilly and overcast today, so I may put it off for now. Same thing for cleaning the lower balcony. At one point this winter, I noticed that something that appeared to be ashes was blowing onto our balcony and assumed it was coming from one of our neighbors' chimneys, somehow. It turns out that ashes from OUR fireplace had gotten dumped into a bucket on the balcony instead of carried down to the garbage at some point and then when the wind picked up, they were blown all around. D'oh!

I probably also need to look into some advice on caring for my poinsettia. It is getting bigger, and the "flower" parts are coming out, but I don't know why now instead of at the holidays when I was covering them. Also, the edges of the leaves are turning brown, but just the green leaves.

Both the pink and the white Thanksgiving cacti are in bloom at the moment, adding to my general enjoyment at sharing an office with my plants.

I spent part of Friday and Saturday wrestling with a sewing project but seem to have things under control now. John is a movie junkie, so once I had things sorted, I sewed while watching a movie he streamed from our German Netflix-type movie provider. Right now, he is watching No Country for Old Men, but I just can't get interested in it, especially since a lot of what I'd heard about it was the violence/gore. I can handle those things if the story interests me enough, but this one just doesn't.

John rode his bike clear across town yesterday in search of a tennis court. For most of the courts he has found, you have to be a member of a club, and John doesn't often have someone to play with or time to play, so the idea of plunking down anywhere from 200 to 400 Euros per year for the opportunity to even get on the court doesn't sit well with him. He found out about one place online that has hourly rates and no membership requirements, so he headed over there to have a look at it (and en route to return the opera video he insisted I check out for him).

I had my annual exam, and everything seems ok, but the GYN wanted to check both the placement of my IUD and a fibrous spot in my breast with the sonogram machine, so I ended up feeling rather sticky and gross from all the gel in play. And that is all I will go into there.

We just "sprang forward" today, and it is shocking to find that it is already pushing 4 p.m. Getting Hannah off to school in the morning is going to suuuuck, I can already tell.

I think the time change has affected my brain. I'm pretty sure that there has been slightly more than that going on, but I can't seem to recall at the moment. Oh, well.

--Nee in Germany likes to blame factors outside her control for her mental decline

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The joy of the sunroom in spring

In the American university system, we would talk about this time when John is not having to teach as being between semesters, but in the German system, the semesters run into each other and include lecture periods and lecture-free periods. Students can still be on the hook for work during this period and often have papers to write that are due when the next lecture period starts. So even though John is not teaching right now, he is not really on vacation, either. But he does have more time available for things like taking care of various paperwork that living abroad entails.

All that to say, we got German driver's licenses! John is sad that we had to give up our Texas licenses, but I photocopied them so we have proof of how young and cute we were when we got them. Now we're looking forward to our first German traffic tickets.

We decided to take our new licenses for a spin this weekend and drove over to Lorsch, where there's a building still standing from the Carolingian period (Charlemagne's grandchildren are thought to have been there after it was built; he was there before it was built). Since John was good enough to load our photos to Flickr and label them, I went ahead and wrote it up over at my poor neglected travel blog. I also found a new 30 spf sunscreen that goes on more like a lotion and without making my face first white and then shiny, so I was able to wander around without feeling self-conscious about my shiny face but confident that this wouldn't be the sunshiny time that tipped the skin-cancer scale.

I called Hannah briefly during her lunch break today to ask her about her lost pencil case, and she told me that she got a B- on her Latin vocabulary quiz last week! I am so excited for her--to date, she has failed all of them. She took another one today (it's a weekly event) and felt that she may have done even better. I am so proud of her for sticking with the work; I think this kind of positive feedback is going to only make her eager for more. It would be lovely if she could have this kind of result in math as well, but there are fewer opportunities for it as they only have 4 tests and no quizzes or graded homework for the whole year.

It is starting to warm up, and I am loving the extra sunshine. Come on high pressure system, don't fail me now! I put our drying rack out on the balcony for the first time this year and now have a couple of windows open, not even for airing out a bathroom after a shower or a catbox cleaning. If the weather stays this good, I think I will buy some more soil this weekend and get Hannah to help me seed some more window boxes with various flower mixes I picked up at the grocery store. I am not holding my breath about John's yearly proclamation that he is going to buy geraniums to plant, which he has only managed to do once in 7+ years. Besides, it is ridiculously expensive to fill all the boxes we have, and if the summer is wet, which it was the last time and very well could be again, the geraniums molder. I am perfectly happy with the seed packets that cost less than 2 bucks and hold enough seeds to fill 2 boxes with a profusion of different flowers that bloom at different times.

I didn't bother with my Wii game over Hannah's spring break, and last week I eased my way back into it with a lot of yoga exercises, but this week I am pushing the pedal to the metal. Today I ran for 20 minutes and made it 4 km (barely). When I passed the 2-mile mark, I had to scream for joy a little. We'll see how I feel when I wake up in the morning, but I have felt great all day, with lots of energy. It would be cool if I could jog outside, but since we basically live on the side of a long hill, I don't think I'll be starting from my house. It would be nice to be able to jog along the river, but the near side is all ripped up due to road work. Not if I ran in the other direction, though...

I am itching to start some repairs around here--there are holes in and chips out of the wallpaper in places (not all made by us!)--but our landlord said something about replacing some windows last year (or maybe the year before?), and I don't want to start my project before they come in and make a new mess. I may just do one wall at a time, as time and expense allow it.

I managed to cut my coffee consumption down to one cup a day, but failed at reducing it to half a cup. We weren't driving for a bit for various reasons, so we were limited to shopping at stores within bus-reach and buying what we could carry; I wasn't able to get my usual mix of 1/2-caff coffee, so I have been drinking a full cup of full-caff. The horror! Once we run out of this kind, though, I won't feel so bad about my full cup of 1/2-caff. I am also trying to cut out chocolate and black tea, but it is haaard. Fruit tea is just not cutting it for me in terms of a fortifying mid-day hot drink. I have some instant decaf (to use in making a kick-ass tiramisu); maybe I should try that.

--Nee in Germany likes her drinks like her man--hot!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lazy kind of Sunday, except for all the work

Hannah has been on school vacation this week for the start of Lent, and I think she has gotten plenty of loafing in, although she claims she didn't get in half of the loafing she had planned. She went to tutoring 3 afternoons and had a dentist appointment one morning, so there went some of her loafing time. We didn't do much sleeping in, though, so I am hoping that getting her up at just past 6 tomorrow morning won't be too much of a headache.

I wanted to go over more of her school stuff with her this week, but just didn't get around to it as many times as I had originally thought I would. I realized yesterday that if I don't sit down with her and get her started, she will just disregard my many, many reminders, just like when I ask her to put away her laundry. Rather than blowing my top, which is my usual m.o. to finally get her to put up her clothes, I need to put my money where my mouth is and show her that her education is worth my time.

I also had a bit of work come in at the end of the week, and it was haaard switching gears. I am looking forward to getting back into my work/exercise/Hannah routine tomorrow. I didn't manage to exercise all this week and missed it. Running errands isn't nearly the same as rhythm kung-fu or skateboarding on the balance board (no whacky music, for one thing).

John and I also had our 16th anniversary on Friday. We tend to be low-key about these kinds of holidays for the most part. I made breakfast tacos for dinner, and John bought me flowers from the grocery store on his way home from the library. Then on Saturday I got around to sending him an e-card. (BTW, Hallmark now has a German online presence--woo!) John and I were bickering about something (we're in the throes of acquiring various paperwork for some German bureaucratic this-and-that), and Hannah was astonished that we would fight on our anniversary. Bickering waits for no one, kid, even on such a hallowed occasion.

I spent most of yesterday on two tedious projects, one rather gross and one rather extensive. I don't think there is much of anything between the wood paneling that constitutes our ceiling and the tiles that make the roof, and I know for a fact that a bat or two has called the space between the balcony roof and the outside wall home during the warmer months. Who knows if anything else is up there right now, but more than once in the past, I have heard the scritch-scratch of something scrabbling around above our bathroom ceiling when heading for a night-time pee. So when I saw that something black-ish and very dirty looking was escaping from the crack between the paneling and the tile wall in the bathroom, I didn't know whether it was rodent poop or just dirt. It had to be cleaned off, though. While I had a bucket or two of hot, soapy water on hand, I cleaned the shower stall, too. Luckily, it hasn't been that long since I scrubbed the shower floor, so I was able to give it a quick slosh with the left-over water and call it clean.

My other project was an organizational one: I put all of the digital photos I could get my hands on into one file on the external drive we have for backing stuff up. I found photos people have sent me, photos from our old digital camera, photos from various old film cameras that were put on CD as part of the processing, photos from CD back-ups, photos that had already been backed up to various files on the hard drive, and photos from John's old Palm device. I even managed to get them organized to some extent, but it took quite a bit of the day.

Now I need to go help Hannah, whose iPod was abused by iTunes and lost a bunch of music she had saved from our CDs. I think there is a copy of one of her older libraries on the external hard drived (spotted while searching for more photos) and we are going to try to fix it.

--Nee in Germany is already kind of tired

Friday, March 04, 2011

I wish it were so, JFK...

We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.
-John F. Kennedy, 35th US president (1917-1963)

From the A.Word.A.Day mailing list.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Computer stuff

I am not fond of having to download software to be able to use a web site, but I am kicking myself for not having installed the Flickr Uploadr sooner. Rather than selecting the photos you want to upload, waiting for them to upload (which can take a while if there are a lot), and then having to come back and label them, you can select and label them first using the software, which them uploads them directly to Flickr without you having to go to the site and log in first, and when it is finished, all the labels, tags, and sets are already done.

I don't know if I mentioned it already, but we used our xmas loot to buy a new digital camera. Our old one was about 5 years old and had already been in the shop twice when it gave up the ghost. The new one is a Fujifilm camera that has a way-more powerful zoom feature than the old one and uses an SD card instead of whatever the old one had (for which I had to buy a separate reader when the cable croaked since our computers only have SD slots).

Right now I have some photos loading from February, so head on over there later if you would like to see them.

And on that note, I need to get back to translating.

--Nee in Germany is only uploading photos right now as a favor to John

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Let's see...

Getting lots of stuff done lately, here and there. Yesterday, Hannah's class had a hot dog stand at their school festival / open house for incoming 5th graders. John and I took a turn through it, dutifully buying hot dogs for lunch--24 of which we had already bought and donated for selling--and washing them down with a chocolate milkshake to benefit a school in Uganda and chocolate-dipped bananas on a stick (well, John ate those).

Here you can see the classroom a little better. Hannah and I spent half a Saturday in January painting it green. It started out a rather distressing yellow, but this is a big improvement, even if all of the adults involved on painting day said, "Better the kids than us," regarding having to sit in such a bright green room.

Then we walked over to the library to return 3 books. Now I remember why I don't take John with me--he checked out 3 dvds and 8 cds. That means one of us has to go back in a week to return the dvds and in 2-1/2 weeks to return the cds. You get books for a month, so there's no pressure to hurry back until you need more reading material.

After that, we got some groceries so we could make aloo baingan (Indian eggplant and potato dish) and gumbo and tamales. John found the ingredients for tamales in a kit when we went to the commissary a while back and wants to try it out.

I finally got the floor of the shower stall good and clean after trying out various cleaners and spending way too much time on my hands and knees scrubbing. When the cleaning bug bites, you just have to go with it.

Every year at xmas, I am inspired to make a gingerbread house. My attempts at making one from scratch in the past have always failed, so I aim to buy a kit as early as possible in the season and hold onto it until Hannah says, "I'm bored!" Next year, I'm going to let Hannah munch on it the first time she asks, because by the time I decided we no longer needed it as a decorative holiday element, it had gotten so hard that Hannah had to saw through it with a serated knife and scraped her gums trying to chew it. I finally threw it out this morning.

We have been eating our way steadily through the American food bought on post, but it has not all been as good as we remembered. I made a strawberry cake for VDay from a mix; not good. Looked good, but tasted odd. And I mentioned John's canned chili recently--yuck.

I spent a big chunk of the day on Friday labeling photos from our Italy vacation in 2008(!). I don't know if I am ever going to manage to be done. There are so many photos! And I am still only on day 3 out of like 12 days. This may end up being my new neverending project.

--Nee in Germany doesn't seem to be making as much headway with her projects as she thought

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Movin' on up

As of yesterday, I am 38. I'm not feeling any particular anxiety about getting older, I don't think, especially not with John announcing to facebook that he finds me hotter than ever. :) I cut my hair short recently, and the compliments I got on it (also on facebook) were a nice boost to my ego. I have also been running the 14-minute game on Wii Fit every day (I managed it in 13 minutes the last 2 days), so physically I am feeling pretty good. (I highly recommend the B52s "Private Idaho" as exercise music.)

I imagine I'll be getting off the St. John's wort soon, too. I made a little health journal when I was feeling funny recently, and although I didn't have a way of taking my blood pressure, I checked my pulse a couple of times a day for about a week and a half, and it was up over 100 for the whole time. It was back down to 80 yesterday for the first time and was still at 80 this morning before I exercised. I wonder if it has something to do with my menstrual cycle, or if it has been off and on for a while and I just never noticed it? In any case, it hasn't stopped me from doing what I want to do, so maybe I just shouldn't worry about it for now.

Let's see... Yesterday I hand-wrote notes to all the customers I had last year (in English and German) and sent them out with my business card. I am between jobs at the moment, so it seemed like the perfect time for marketing myself. I also did 3 loads of laundry, helped Hannah prepare for a Latin test on Thursday, and baked cupcakes, half of which were a disaster, although I am not quite sure why. We bought yellow cake mix at the commissary recently, and it should have been a snap, but I think they were not arranged optimally in the oven (all 24 in one go); I should have waited to put the second batch in by itself. Hannah's been eating batch 2--flat and crunchy on the edges--so they can't be too terrible. Well, edible at least. I mixed up chocolate frosting from scratch and slapped that on the "good" cupcakes, but there is still some left for helping the "bad" cupcakes go down.

John has already spilled the beans on facebook about Hannah's school problems. She's doing really bad in 2 subjects, bad enough that she could have to repeat the year. We have gotten her into tutoring, 3 times a week, but it may be too little, too late at this point. She is pretty far behind in math and Latin and may not be able to catch up. We were rather surprised to hear from her teacher, though, that Hannah's attitude seems, to her, to be one of the biggest impediments to her learning. The math teacher we've heard such terrible things about only has 4 students doing as poorly as Hannah. (Latin is an unqualified disaster for all of the students, but that has more to do with them starting so young and having to learn more due to changes in the curriculum.) Apparently, at the beginning of the school year, Hannah put up a sign on her desk, in all of her classes, "I am on strike." I have no idea why she did this, and she only stopped when her homeroom teacher pointed out that she was only hurting herself and her grades with her strike. I had never heard a peep about it until the teacher told us about it on Monday. That made me want to cry. Then yesterday, Hannah came home from school and told us that there was no vocabulary quiz in Latin, which we had been studying madly for for days, and instead she had a major test (the 2nd of only 4 for the whole school year) on Thursday on 2 totally different chapters. I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry at that, as well. But I managed to pull myself together and help her study the "new" material. It is impossible for her to get a top grade at this point, but I gave her some tips about making lots of notes on the test so the teacher can see what she does know, even if she is not able to apply it on the test. Knowing the material and knowing how to use it are not always the same thing, so that is something I am trying to address with her. I've steeled myself to giving her my afternoons to help her with her school work; she won't be able to get caught up otherwise. But with her school schedule and her tutoring schedule, it shouldn't eat too much into my working hours. I will just have to be sure to buckle down when I am working and to be as effective and efficient as I can.

--Nee in Germany is trying to be Zen-like, but fears she is probably more like Cornholio

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Doing and spending...

Right after I finished my last translating gig, I was offered 2 short jobs back-to-back. I got the last one out the door on Monday and have been trying to get crap done ever since, with mixed results.

For one thing, I went back into my list of bookmarks to clean it up. I have a new system now that I have a new laptop: permanent links are filed in folders. Links that are actually reminders (to buy a replacement light bulb for the microwave, etc.) are unfiled, but I delete them once I take care of what they were reminding me to do (the bulb came in the mail today).

I have a few paperwork-type things to do. I have some marketing-type things to do. And I have some Hannah-type things to do. I'm going to be busy for a bit, but I have a heads up on more work in a couple of weeks, so I know I can't dally in getting my stuff done.

Hannah is home sick today. We all used it as an excuse to sleep in, which was nice, but now my mental clock is off by about 2 hours. Hannah has a bad cold: red, watery eyes, clogged sinuses, light sensitivity (she dug out her shades to wear in the house), sneezing, runny nose, cough. She hasn't been running a fever to speak of, though, so I think a little rest today will go a long way. She has to give a very short presentation in English tomorrow, which I have been making her work on and practice today, and we both hope she's up to giving it. I made her take a steam shower (head over sink) this morning, and that seemed to help, so maybe we'll repeat it this evening before bedtime.

We're having some lovely sunny weather, and the bulb flowers are starting to come up next door, but it doesn't quite feel like spring because there isn't any water flowing out of the neighbor's yard. We had a bunch of snow around the holidays, then a thaw and a bunch of rain, leading to the Great Flood of Winter 2011 in January:

Normally that kind of flooding doesn't happen until later in the year; I wonder if the change is going to affect the farmers in the area.

We went to the commissary on base on Friday and stocked up on 200 dollars worth of crap, to put it in the most accurate terms. This was after eating at Taco Bell. (I was pleasantly surprised by the fresco burrito I had; I think it had real pico de gallo in it.) John didn't seem to think that the 4 cans of Wolf Brand chili I had bought would be sufficient for his chili-eating needs, so he threw in another 4 cans. After eating one can for lunch on Saturday, he wondered why I didn't keep him from buying something that is suspiciously similar to pet food and contains the nutritional equivalent of a jar of lard. I'm sorry, but if my calling Wolf Brand chili "dog food" for the last 10+ years has not turned you off of it, John, I don't know what else I can do but try to sabotage your chances of getting back on base. Since John's contact is moving back to the States, like this weekend, I think it is going to be a long time. But now I have 7 cans of "dog food" and a husband leery of eating them. Maybe I'll donate them to a food pantry....

I must admit I folded like a cheap card table and threw in a few items myself--oh, Nutter Butters, I am your bitch--but I tried to stick to the list we had made in advance. John was *so sloooow* going through the store; on each aisle, I would get whatever was on the list, then I would send Hannah back to the previous aisle to tell her dad he needed to get X on the next aisle, because he hadn't specified on the list what type or how many of X he wanted. Then he would catch up with us 2 aisles later with a grumpy look on his face and 20 pounds of chips and dip perched precariously in his arms.

When we got home, I had to find a place for all the crap, which means that not only is the pantry closet and the snack cabinet packed to the gills, but also the top shelf of the spice cabinet, the freezer shelves, and the cabinet above the stove, plus the corn chips stashed on top of my baking pans in a drawer, not to mention the cookies and candy I just left on the counter. Good thing I had already started working out with the Wii!

Then on Saturday, we needed a little R&R (and pants), so we ventured into town for a little shopping, movie-viewing, and pizza eating. We did manage to find pants for Hannah and John, but H&M almost derailed us. It was crazy packed in there, and Hannah refused to wait in line to try on the pants she had picked out, and I refuse to let Hannah buy pants without trying them on, so we ditched H&M and found a couple of nice, quiet department stores up the street in which to spend our money.

Hannah wanted to see Black Swan, but 1. it is for 16 and up, and 2. it has a late-ish showing, so we ended up seeing the first part of Harry Potter 7. Now, I am one of those people who will almost always prefer the book to the movie, no matter how well made the movie (I'm looking at you, Lord of the Rings), and I have really not enjoyed the HP movies since after the first one. I can't remember exactly, but I think I blew off seeing one of the later ones in the theater, because I just couldn't bear seeing how mangled it would end up. But I was pleasantly surprised at how 7 turned out. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared. I still had to explain several things to John (who hasn't read any of the books) and Hannah (who hasn't read book 7) over dinner, requiring a pen and paper and some charting to make it all clear. I'm sure the 2 bored-looking girls at the table next to us in Pizza Hut were thrilled to hear all the specific details of the Harry Potter universe, plus spoilers for the second half of book 7.

--Nee in Germany passed on the Trix and Lucky Charms to have plain old muesli for breakfast

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Quote of the Day

Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.

- Abraham Lincoln, 1809 - 1865

from Quotes of the Day newsletter

Friday, February 11, 2011


I finished my translation work for the day, and we are going to meet John's "connection" to do some grocery shopping and fast food munching on the base, so I suddenly found myself with a little free time.

So here, in no particular order, is a bit of what has been going on around here lately:

I think I mentioned getting the Wii Fit game, and I have been "playing" it for 30 minutes, 4-5 days a week. I woke up with a bit of a headache yesterday (stupid weather) and didn't feel up to exercising, but I kind of missed it. The wacky music and weird situations seem to have grown on me. For instance, in one game, my Mii character (an animated avatar of myself) is wearing a little penguin suit, and by shifting my weight from one side to the other, I can make my Wii slide on its stomach from one side of an iceberg to another to catch (and presumably devour, but they just disappear) fish. Or the soccer game where I am supposed to head balls that are kicked at me left, right, and center, but avoid being hit in the head with soccer cleats and panda heads. Mostly I like jogging, although John thinks I am mad. Most of the routes are rather short, 4-5 minutes, but even the 14 minute route is doable. I didn't think I would enjoy exercising this much, but I also don't try to do a specific routine or target certain areas. I just do what I feel like, whether that is yoga poses, jogging, balancing games, or snowball fight.

John bought me a food processor (at my request) for xmas, and I have been trying to finagle our uneaten fruit and such into new and delicious recipes. Banana cream pie was a win, although I was disappointed in the meringue topping. I've got breadmaking down, but eggs seem to be my Waterloo. On days when I don't have a lot of work, or I'm between gigs, I try to get more from-scratch cooking in. I have even managed to make some things that are rather healthy and get Hannah to eat them, like the blueberry muffin recipe I modified by using frozen mixed berries. She ate those in her school snack every day that week. We've gotten through about 3 loaves of fresh bread since xmas. I have even been making homemade yoghurt, just to see if I can. I found tips online at Salon in the food section and have had one ok batch and one quite good batch. I wonder if I could use straight cream to make some? Don't want it to go bad on me. I also made up my own muesli to eat with my homemade youghurt, and it is just sweet enough (thanks to the granola in it, I think) that it complements the sour yoghurt perfectly, or vice versa.

Some cooking has not gone so well, especially American recipes that call for very specific ingredients like corn syrup. It is not to be found here, and the sugar syrup I tried to make as a substitute was a disaster. Oh, yes, and anything based on eggs, like baked meringues. They were tasty, but the middle was way too chewy to me. With John's dental problems and Hannah's braces, I've just given up on making them for the foreseeable future.

John can't decide whether to be amused or horrified by the notes I make on my recipes: "J & H bitched about the lack of nuts" on a banana bread recipe. Seems like a perfectly legitimate reminder to myself, as far as I am concerned.

Last year, I planted carnations in my window boxes, but then I read on the seed package that they only bloom in the second year. The weather has turned warm-ish lately, so I went out and checked them, still in the box hanging on the balcony, and they seem to still be alive and generally unharmed. Plus there are a bunch of seedlings coming up in the other boxes, so I pulled all the dead stuff out of there to give them a little space, now that they seem to have taken root. I may not have to shell out much for plants this year.

My indoor plants seem to be doing ok, too. I think I didn't keep my poinsettia's covered long enough, though, because they didn't finish putting out the actual flowers in the middle. You can see here how they look stumpy.

Plus, I think this was originally a red poinsettia, which you can see streaks of on one of the bracts in this photo:

So it was a semi-success for xmas 2010. There's always next year, I guess.

The mystery citrus has pleasantly surprised me, once again. This is what I was looking at all fall and winter to date:
mystery citrus

I mean, look at that tangle of bare twigs! But then this started to happen just a week ago or so:
mystery citrus is budding!

Baby leaves! Now I'm glad I didn't start hacking away at like I had planned. I guess I will wait and do that in the summer when it has put out all its leaves and I can tell what is really dead.

I also finished reorganizing my office. I did it in two stages, well three, if you count swapping my desk and plants so the far end of the room is a hothouse and the other my office.
office reorg 2

office reorg 2

Now I have a handy bookcase with my work materials, two outlets for my gadgets, and I still have the great view. Plus, my stuff is out of the way for when the chimney sweep comes (only once a year, but still).

-Nee in Germany spends a lot of time at home

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Quote of the Day

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.

-Herman Melville, novelist and poet (1819-1891)

From the A.Word.A.Day newsletter (more info at

Friday, January 28, 2011

And now for something different

I like reading about regional issues, especially those having to do with the logistics of feeding urban areas. Here is a well-written refutal of the persistant myth that there are no grocery stores (by which is meant *national chain* stores) in Detroit, by James Griffioen.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I don't know sometimes...

I recently took part in an exchange on Facebook with a teenaged relation (not one belonging to any of my readers) that bothered me. She started off by saying that she wanted a boy who would call her sweet names, among them "baby girl". One of her friends (a guy) said he thought all the names *but* "baby girl" were kind of derogatory, and I responded that I thought that was the worst one. When her response included "...the day i stop wanting to be treated like a woman...", I had to disengage or my head would explode.

Does she really think having a man call her "baby girl" makes her womanly? To me, it is infantizing her and putting him in a father-like role. That is the patriarchy, plain and simple. Is this what girls are learning about love relationships and gender roles? I know she is only 16-ish, and has had a rather odd upbringing, but isn't anyone telling her about the joy of a relationship based on respect and equality?

I love John, but I've already told him that the first time he calls me "baby girl" (or "wifey", another usage I've seen from a relation), I'm punching him in the gonads. It's actually already kind of a joke between us; sometimes he'll exclaim that I'm just so cute (in the kind of voice you use to talk to/about very small children or kittens), and I'll flip him the bird, just to make sure he knows that I consider that the very least of my attractions.

--Nee in Germany is a woman, not a baby

Thursday, January 20, 2011


In the spring and summer of 2009, I was writing my master's thesis and thought I knew what stress was. I was eating poorly and sleeping less than I would have liked; I had lots of weird dreams; I had hot flashes during the night a few times; my eye tic returned; I stopped having my period for 3 or 4 months. To me, that is what stress should physically look like.

In the fall of 2010, I started having weird feelings in my chest and ended up at the doctor's office, where I was given a variety of tests and some beta blockers. I finally landed in the offices of a cardiologist and a gastroenterologist. Even after all the poking and prodding, the only thing that came up was gastritis and H. pylori. After I was done going nuclear on the H. pylori, I discovered that I had a lot more energy, but the weird chest feeling was still there.

When I ran out of beta blockers, I went back to the doctor, but this time I saw someone else in the same practice. This was in the run-up to xmas, and I had been having a hard time emotionally. I cried baking cookies. I cried listening to Abba. I cried washing the dishes. At that point, I had spent a little time each day that week crying, often in the shower so I wouldn't upset my family. I felt like I needed a way to get the sadness out of me, and since do-it-yourself primal scream therapy probably wouldn't win me any friends in our 4-family house, crying seemed like the best approach.

The doctor's office was the emptiest I had ever seen it, so I guess that is why the doc spent so much time talking to me--there was no one else waiting. I had a hard time keeping it together in her office, and she gave me a prescription for St. John's wort. She said it would give me a bit of distance from the emotional problems. It has worked as promised in that respect, but I have to say, I was not expecting to suddenly feel more mentally alert or sharp than I had in a long time. That's not to say that I've been feeling stupid, but suddenly I was able to take all my post-antibiotic newfound energy and direct it in a way I hadn't been able to for a while. Like I told John, if that is what St. John's wort does, I am never going to stop taking it. I wonder if I could plant it in my flower boxes...

I also mentioned at that visit that the weird chest sensation (palpitation-like) had been more or less replaced by a kind of muscle-burning sensation that goes from my sternum to my back, but she thought that was a back/posture problem and suggested a physical therapy course just for strengthening your back muscles. I found several courses through the city's web site, but I just missed the enrollment dates, and they were all offered on the opposite side of town from where we live. It would have taken 45-60 minutes to get there by bus. So using my newly sharpened mind and my reignited sense of direction, I went into town on a whirlwind shopping spree that included buying a balance board for our Wii and a Wii Fit Plus game (used, so it was only 15 bucks--woo hoo!). I've been doing 30 minutes on it every day this week but haven't noticed any difference in the burning sensation, except that it is stronger when I am tired. I'll mention that when I see the doc again next week.

After I had been at the doctor's office, I was working on a translation about job burnout and came across this online stress test:

"The Life Stress Test, also known as the Holmes and Rahe test, was first created in 1967."

It has events that could occur in 8 different areas of life (finances, living conditions, etc.), and you are supposed to check off how many of them occurred to you in the last year.

"If your score totals 150 or more: You have a 50-50 chance of developing an illness."

"If your score totals 300 or more: You have a 90 percent chance of developing an illness."

My score was 257.

I was floored, because I hadn't experienced the same kind of physical response to stress in 2010 that I had in 2009. (Of course, once I started a "real" period this month, I realized that I had been having a "barely there" period all fall, which I had wanted to attribute to changes in my hormone levels as I am getting older interacting with the Mirena IUD I still have.)

I had also been discounting stressors that I had not viewed in a negative light, like finishing my degree (after months of antsy waiting for my results) and starting up my freelance business. Those things, on top of losing my grandmother in March (which was not unexpected, but still...), John's uncle in July (he was only 58 and had a series of heart attacks), and Shannon in September, apparently were enough to push me into the danger zone as far as my own health goes.

I know that time heals all wounds, and eventually I will get there, but I am trying to just take things one day at a time, to be productive, eat better, exercise every day. Not to take my friends and family for granted and remember to tell them I love them every chance I get.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quote of the Day

Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.
-Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)

From the A.Word.A.Day newsletter (more info at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Notes to myself

There are certain things that recur year after year, but I haven't come up with a reliable way to leave myself notes about them. For example, when we went to set up our xmas tree this year, we found the base in the cellar, but there were no screws in it. John found them upstairs in the tool box. Why? No idea, but there must have been a reason for it last year. Then once we got the tree set up, water started leaking out of the base. That must have been the reason. (After the drying of the floor and tree skirt and the siphoning off of the rest of the water in the base, our tree was tinder dry.) But after xmas, I went over that base with a fine-toothed comb and tested it with colored water, and there was no leak. So I can only assume I filled it too high and it overflowed. That would be a good thing to know next year, hence this entry.

I could make a note in my Palm organizer or in one of my many journals, but I don't use my Palm for much outside of jotting down appointments while out and about or noting library call numbers for books I want to pick up, and rereading my old journal entries makes me sick to my own ass, all the whining and navel-gazing, really. But I generally find myself rereading my old posts here a few times a year (or more, shhhh), so this might be the most convenient method. Maybe I will also jot a note on my paper family calendar to look this post up in the fall. Hmmm...

Item 2: John is supposed to check the mystery strands of lights in the xmas box. I think they are our outdoor lights, but I don't think they work. He refused to address it this winter--his doom is sealed for next winter.

Item 3: Pat the chicken completely dry before breading and frying. I have a little burn on my forehead from popping oil that is scabbing over, and I would like to avoid that in future, thx.

Item 4: Buy an advents wreath *before* the first Sunday of advent, because there won't be any afterward. One day I will manage this. Same with advent calendars, although they might be cheaper if we wait, but all the good ones will be gone.

I may be coming back and adding more to the list as it occurs to me, but this is a good start, if not completely seasonal.

--Nee in Germany needs a steady stream of reminders in order to maintain her sanity

More small victories

I've been trying to take care of small repairs and replacing defective items around the house. Recently I had to buy a new flashlight due to corrosion in the old ones (no idea how that happened), but it is currently only being used for one thing--illuminating the contents of the microwave through the glass in the door since the bulb went out. And of course the microwave manual says to take it to a certified repair person to *change the lightbulb*, which is ridiculous, even if you have to take off the entire casing to reach it. As soon as I can get to the hardware store, I'll be looking for a replacement bulb to do it myself.

I also have to find the proper knob for the radiator unit in our living room and exchange the one I bought last weekend. Ages ago, I was able to pop off the knob from the radiator in the dining room and snap it onto the one in the living room, and it worked just fine, but the stuff I found all had ventilator valves and extra bits and pieces I don't need. Unfortunately, everything in this apartment is rather outdated, so I don't know how easy it will be to find "just" a knob for this particular radiator when neither the radiator or the knobs that are still intact have any part numbers or other identifying marks.

Speaking of light bulbs, John replaced the light bulb in the fridge, lo these many years ago, and it never lit up again. While fiddling around with the microwave, the unfairness of it struck me: John had gone through who knows what ordeals to find the stupid bulb, had stuck his hand at an uncomfortable angle into the frige to remove and then replace the bulb because the cover would not come off, and then it didn't even work. So I fiddled around with it and finally got it to work by some combination of tightening and wiggling. Now we can finally see everything in the fridge, and boy is it a mess!

I think I mentioned that John is the president of a local club for Swedophiles. This club does not have an office or a fixed location for events; they just have to rent out space on an as-needed basis. This means that anything the club has accumulated--books about Sweden, leftover items from parties and events, coffee and tea thermoses and decorations for their annual xmas event--has to be divided up among the members of the leadership committee for storage. We seem to have gotten more than our fair share of this stuff, but since our apartment is rather snug, storage-wise, and our cellar rather, eh, *earthy*, we've been stashing boxes under a patio table at one end of our sunroom, which currently doubles as my office. I think I mentioned that John and Hannah moved our stuff in the cellar to a slightly less moldly corner, so that led to us reorganizing the Sweden stuff under the table and moving some of it into the cellar. Yesterday, I got some more of it pared down and into a smaller box that I hope to move out of the sunroom soon. As of right now, the space under the table is clear. My plan is to clear out, at least partially, one of the bookcases in the downstairs study, move it upstairs to my office (where it will provide storage for my books and binders and a surface on which to put some of my plants), and move the table onto the lower balcony. I want to claim the whole room as office space, and although I have been using the spaces between the plants on the table to hold papers and office supplies, I think it is better if I am not using a sizeable chunk of the room for storage.

I was relieved to find that I had stored my notes about our Italy trip in the folder with our digital photos, so that survived the great involuntary laptop-purge of 2010. I think I will work on labeling those photos this weekend.

--Nee in Germany likes to plan ahead

Monday, January 10, 2011

I am a buzzing bee... buzzzz...

Let's see--I've been busy busy lately.

Yesterday I spent the whole day cleaning out my side of the closet (not even the clothes, just the storage) and my side of the bed (the floor and shelf have been such tempting storage places in the past). I bit the bullet and tossed some things I am never going to use (ugly crochet pattern for Barbie "antebellum" gowns, articles from class on prepositions of space, a plethora of amazon boxes). I downsized, reorganized, and redistributed, and now everything fits with space to spare. I even vacuumed upstairs when I was done, although it was 8 o'clock at night.

Saturday John and I drove across town and got lots of errands done while Hannah went into town with her friend and bought make-up. She got home before us, of course, because even make-up shopping can get old after an hour-and-a-half and 15 bucks worth of nail polish and lip gloss (thanks, Gwamma!). But she was perfectly cool and collected when I called from the store to tell her we were on our way home, almost 2 hours after she had gotten there herself. Recently she had told me she thought she was old enough to spend a few hours by herself in the evening if John and I wanted to go out. Our 16th anniversary is coming up in March, and we didn't get to celebrate our 15th because I was at my grandmother's funeral in Texas, so we might just have to take her up on that.

Last week I spent my evenings saving every blog entry and accompanying comments for Shannon's blog. I had saved it on my old computer (whose data has now gone bye-bye) as a series of pdfs, minus the comments, but this time I wanted to get everything, in case Blogger decides to take it down. By the time I was done, I had 674 pages in Microsoft Word. That was a mighty output for 5 years.

I thought I would be a lot more torn up reading back over her posts, which is one reason why it took me so long to start. (The way I had done it before, I was able to save a year at a time without having to go through every entry.) One thing that probably helped was this new prescription for St. John's wort, which I got just before xmas. The doc said it would help me feel a little distance from things. So far, so good. But reading back through all the entries, I was reminded of just what a wonderful person Shannon was, and how much love she had for so many people, myself included. That is something to feel good about, not sad.

Last Wednesday, we had some friends over for coffee, so the whole day was taken up with baking (me) and cleaning (John and Hannah--woo!) in the morning and visiting in the afternoon. But that meant I lost a day of translating. Today I more than made up for it. I have been aiming to get through 5 manuscript pages a day--this is for an informative brochure with lots of big pictures, so most pages are not solid text--but today I got through 11! Granted, one page with *just* a photo, but there was still a header to translate.... The next bit of text could be more challenging, since it is 3 or 4 pages of glossary to explain the medical jargon used in the brochure, but I think I have a pretty good handle on all the terms by now, 35 pages in.

And now I have to go finish up the stroganoff so we can eat.

--Nee in Germany loves dairy and mushrooms, so stroganoff is right up her alley

Saturday, January 08, 2011

In the New Year

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
- Carl Bard

This quote kind of sums up my philosophy for 2011. I'm not usually one for making New Year's resolutions; this just kind of came up during my time off over the holidays. You have more time for thinking once things begin to settle down after xmas.

I have made up my mind that there's no use having regrets about things I can't (and probably wouldn't) go back and change, so why let them take up so much of my mental real estate? I can't go back and practice more so I don't choke during the school musical or state music contest; my master's thesis is never going to be any better; I can't go back and not put off the small thoughtful gestures I thought I would have time to get around to doing.

So now I am trying not to put things off, even if it is just something small, like sending a donation to the proprietor of an email newsletter I have been receiving for years or filing papers in their proper place instead of stacking them on top of the file box. The big things are made up of the small things, and maybe by accomplishing enough of the small things, they will add up to something big.

--Nee in Germany resolves not to be such an ass, but she makes that resolution every year

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Baby steps

My friend Shannon, who passed away in September, was a big fan of quoting song lyrics. She was always much more in touch with her emotions than anyone else I know, and could find links between what she was feeling and certain songs.

I, on the other hand, have only rarely been struck that way, but I wanted to share this video for "Firework" by Katy Perry, because it reminds me of Shannon.

Monday, January 03, 2011

This and that

Hannah and John still have a week of vacation, so to combat all the loafing around, he took her down to the basement and made her help him clean out our storage area and move everything into the space vacated by our downstairs neighbors when they moved a couple of months ago. Our stuff in cardboard boxes had been sitting on an earthen floor for 7 years, and the boxes were moldering. The neighbors' space was at least lined with some kind of rough tile, and they left behind a storage rack (minus shelves) that I think John was able to get some use out of. He also found a few bottles of mead that he had made back in the day, maybe 5 years ago, and one beer. Unfortunately, he also found a couple of framed items that I could have sworn were with the other framed pictures behind the desk in the study. I guess they got left in their box from when we moved here because they were relatively big. One is a drawing John's high school friend made for him and seems to be in ok shape; the other is the cross-stitch my mother made us when we got married. It looks a little moldly around the edges--I just hope I can get it clean. Any tips, LMIL?

I managed to get a decent amount of work in today, even though I slept in this morning after a less-than-decent night's sleep. The cherry on the top was checking my bank statement and finding out I had been paid for my last 2 jobs. Whooo!

I've been saving up my veggie scraps in a freezer bag to make broth, and I had a full bag, so while the soup for dinner cooked yesterday evening, I had a pot of broth simmering on the back of the stove. Then I got busy doing something else after dinner while it was cooling, but Hannah was kind enough to remind me on her way to bed that I needed to strain my weeds.

I also made goose broth from our xmas dinner carcass, but it might be a bit strong for soups and such. Maybe in rice? That carcass also provided some nice grease, with which I made a crust and the rue for a sauce to go into my chicken pot pie a couple of nights ago. Yum!

Last year, John started keeping track of all the books he had read for pleasure since we moved here, and he started an account at Shelfari (sp?) for this. I wasn't willing to go that far at the time, because it would have taken me ages to enter all the books I remember, after learning how to use it, but I did make up a list in Excel. Which I lost during the great computer debacle of my own making of 2010. Alas. But I am going to start from scratch for 2011, seeing how I got some books for xmas and all. So if I manage to get it set up, I will try to add a gadget (widget, whatever) to the side bar so you can see what I am reading.

--Nee in Germany didn't seem to mind the snow as much this winter