26 April 2008
It was a very nice party, the German was inveigled into playing his trumpet (I think only the second time I have ever seen him play) and it was fun to see him, his sister, and C (G's boyfriend) all playing together (with the rest of G's group).
Like Cinderella we had to run home at midnight to relieve C, but my in-laws didn't get home until after 0500: it amazes me the endurance German's have for parties!
Once we got in, the bulbs were absolutely magnificent. I'm including a few photos here but I hope to find a good slide show to embed so that I can put in more of the (many) photos I took. It was clear that this was a (fantastic) showcase for bulb sale promotion and I made certain that several of my photos contained the name tags for the bulbs so that when I am back in my yard in New York I will know what varieties to order: they are so magnificent in person that I never want to order by catalog photo again.
There was also a lilac (Syringa) exhibition as well. I'm a huge lilac lover and I was enthralled by the exhibit.
It was difficult being "out" in Germany and Holland during Passover: of course, most fast foods here are in some type of bread product. The waffles smelled so good! Luckily they were also selling beautiful strawberries in cups (with fresh whipped cream) and we each had a cup. Then we used those cups to get the home-made vanilla ice cream being sold by the wind-mill, which, with the bananas and apples we had packed, held us over through our visit.
The children spent the usual time at the playground (and I am so grateful that tourist parks here in Europe all seem to have them) and then as we continued walking through the gorgeous and brilliant beds we happened upon a path of rocks through the lake and Thing1 was excited to leap along it. I was grateful that she did not take a dunking because she wouldn't let me hold her hand.
We needed to leave by 1600 in an effort to get back for G's geburtstag party, the primary reason that we were here this weekend. Unfortunately, due to the afore mentioned Corso, the A4 was shut down. Luckily, when we stopped to buy some cut tulips, the women selling them were able to tell us that and which way we needed to go (which was through Den Haag) to get back to Germany. (And wow, were those cheap: 50 tight yellow buds for 5 Euros. G tells me that they are still looking beautiful three days later.)
We only got lost once and the return trip took us 3.5 hours, even with the roundabout of being redirected from the highway. We went by brilliant and beautiful fields of tulips all through the region.
25 April 2008
Then F drove us about for a bit. We had hoped to stop and see Uncle H's lambies, but they were away in another uncle's fields (acting as portable lawn mowers) so we only got to see a few older sheep.
We visited a Bismarckturm (I can't find a good explanation- these are towers built for the 100th anniversary of Bismarck's birth?-there are many around Germany) and climbed the tower and looked out at the countryside. Here's a photo with an explanation: double click on it to expand it and read more closely if interested.
22 April 2008
I put together the Seder plate and tidied up and had a glass of wine (that must be why the charoseth recipe calls for a dry red) and had a good half hour sit down before the family came back from theplayground and it all went well. Thing1 did a great job of doing the 4 Questions, we used her Pesach book as well as the haggadah, and the cat did not get to jump on the table and eat the poultry ( a family joke. I did cut up quite a bit and put it on his plate). We didn't have room for the chicken soup and I expect that we will be eating that for the next few days: I'll need to be making matzoh balls next week. We had the seder comfortably early and the kids were in bed by 9 and then we cleaned up, kicked back, and watched last weeks Oprah's the Big Give.
18 April 2008
I ran out this morning to the Kosher deli and picked up (at price gougingly high cost) kosher-for-Passover wine, matzoh, gefilte fish (yeah- it was labelled Hungarian style so let's see if I actually like it), matzoh meal, cookies and a chicken. I already had the eggs, potatoes and bitter herbs, so now I only need the walnuts for the charoseth and some time and I should be ready to start the preparations by mid-morning. This will be our first solitary Pesach, so luckily the girls are really too young to understand if I do a poor job of it and I am sure that I will get better at it every year.
I also met up for a quick lunch with Snooker : she was going to share a local sushi place with me, but due to my time constraints (darn kids) we wound up having to meet too early and instead did a very nice little Chinese place. My chicken with green curry was nicely spiced and tasty and we enjoyed (at least I did) a pleasant chat and get to know each other session. I'd try for sushi again next week but since it's school break my next week is a yawning span of amuse the children time: perhaps we can do it next month.
It was fun to check out another area of Berlin: I'm starting to feel that I am actually seeing some of it and I'm just enjoying walking around and looking at stores. Amusingly, a store that I had attempted to find last week (and walked in the rain 40 minutes to discover had moved) was a few doors down from where we had lunch. Serendipity. I will be there again next week.
17 April 2008
In a country where the wedding invitations say, give us money because we are already stocked, where I receive a death announcement and am expected to send geld, how can I have to give these poor teachers junk rather than allow them to use money for what they would like?
Also, we just started having soda/drinks delivered: do you tip? If so, how much?
It's “How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story” and it's quite funny. Shareware means that one can pay whatever (that word again;-)) one feels it's worth and Scalzi has given Paypal and Amazon links. He's donating half (aftter the cost or funds transfer) to the Lupus Foundation of America, so I felt comfortable overpaying a bit for a short. I thought it was quite amusing and pulpishly charming. Check it out.
Yesterday had masses of dry time between the rain, so I ran over to pick up my tickets for second seder (held at a large hotel near here). I need haggadot (the 'lesson plan' for the Pesach meal) as well because I left mine at the in-laws and some shmera matza, so I'll be running back on Friday morning to pick them up. We had reserved the tickets earlier and I wonder if the reason we needed to pick them up in person was to ensure that we were not psychotics? I always wonder, here in this country where all Jewish organizations and facilities require a permanent police presence.
I am not looking forward to trying to gather all the ingredients that I need to make a seder with my little trolley this evening. particularly because I need to go to first causes, that is, to make the charoseth and horseradish and all the other underpinnings required. I even need to pick up a seder plate and the local Judaica store is wildly overpriced: I may wind updrawing one with crayon and putting it under plastic!
We would have done both seders out, but first night the community seder starts after 21:00 and considering that the children are in bed by 19:30-20:00, that would make it difficult to share it with them! Second night we have a babysitter.
I am, however, looking forward to hearing Thing1 singing the 4 Questions: I already hear her practising and I can't wait.
Today I finally have the introduction session for my gym. I am writing this here so that I will be too embarrassed to blow it off and sit here drinking coffee instead (I assure you I would prefer that). I need to get going: I am more unhealthy than I have been in years and more physically inactive than I have been in decades. Add that to the inability to get fat reduced dairy here and the (forgotten but high) cholesterol levels I had before I left the States means I had best get going on exercise.
(My goodness, I love wikipedia! How did I live without it?)
16 April 2008
The Keukenhof on the weekend of April 26th. Please let there be a single day without rain!
- We want to go to Venice mid-May. Diane persuaded me that there are decent air rates out there and she's right. But to get them we will be flying out of Duesseldorf, which is a bit of a pain. I've never been to Venice - anyone have any hotel/hostel/B&B recommendations?
- Denver in mid-August (without kids, yeah!). I'm going to the World SF convention. I had thought that I would be going alone but the German has decided that for various reasons he would prefer to come along, so this should basically be the honeymoon we didn't have;-).
- Upstate NY in early October. My niece is Bat Mitzvah and we want to be there.
I need to get a little more European vacationing going here, but it's a start!
Last night, we damaged/broke an Ikea light. I think that the cover must be green point, as it is made of paper and metal. I don't know what I should do with the base. The German thinks I am insane and that the whole thing is garbage and that I should stop thinking everything is Green Point. Can anyone give me some guidance here?
15 April 2008
This is for the US, but I think it's a wonderful resource to share with everyone, so spread the word!
- I am seriously reading addicted. We are talking, read toothpaste tubes if all else fails,to fall aleep. In the olden days, when I would do a 7 day hike, I would bring at least two books and one had to be re-readable.
- I used to smoke. I started when I was 19 (I know, no excuse) and said for years that I would quit when I could replace it with another fixation. I quit January 1998, after dating the German (a non-smoker) for two months (we had met in August). He never asked me to, and now I can't believe how tolerant he was: I hate cigarette smoke and stale smell now.
- The older I grow, the more intolerant I become of intolerance. When I was younger, I might have piped up about egregious bigotry. Now my list of attitudes and (even unconscious) bigotries that I won't let pass has really gotten quite long. Hey, if my opinions are too strong for you, you probably don't want to be my friend anyway. And at least I won't feel complicit.
- I like science fiction conventions. Not media conventions, science fiction cons. They are a place where like minded readers of science fiction can come together to meet with, talk to, and talk about their favorite genre writers, both living and dead. I generally go to at least one major convention and a minor one every year.
- I am a cat lover. I have had cats (generally plural) since I was 6. I moved off campus my sophomore year because I felt my parents weren't giving my girls enough love. Right now, I have only 1 boy: his older brothers passed on before we moved here, at 16 and 18. We all still miss them.
- I am in some things a food snob. I like my coffee and my wine. I drink far more of the former and have had to hurry to drink some of the latter in my cellar as they have over-matured. There really is a difference between types of coffee and Starbucks burns theirs.
- I love sushi but have eaten it only once since I reached Berlin. With the limited time we have to go out (babysitters are expensive) I haven't wanted to waste time and money on the mediocre sushi that was so expensive when I first tried it. But the Vietnamese, Nepalese and Indian I have tried since getting here has both been good and a welcome relief to my blanded out taste buds.
I'm not certain whom I should tag as memes seem to be running about wildly. I'll try my new blogfriend A at My Wintersong, if she has time. I'd love to hear her 7 random things.
14 April 2008
- Of course there is an automatic extension for Americans out of the country on tax day (for filing, and we expect a refund, therefore no need to estimate taxes) but how strange that in Germany if one uses a professional preparer (and we will be using the German's firm) the tax filing deadline shifts to the end of December (ie 12 months later than the year one is filing for).
- I'm on my second load of wash and have put away an overflowing basket of folded laundry.
On Saturday I ran out to C&A, the only cheap clothing store that I know of around here, and bought the girls masses of inexpensive spring things. Can't beat 2 colorful tops for 3 Euros! in any case, I needed to wash everything thoroughly. Not only because I saw the House episode where the children nearly died after wearing unwashed clothes that had been contaminated with a pesticide, but because I had this experience with Thing1 after letting her wear a new pair of pajamas without washing them, and I never want to go through that again. I also now use Persil for sensitive skin.
- I had asked Jenn if it were too late to see spring bulbs in the Netherlands (something I have been saying I will go to see for years and years) and she said, not yet and recommended the Keukenhof . I need to head west with the family over the 26th for the big Geburtstag bash my sister-in-law is having as she turns 30, so I am now planning to take a day of the long weekend we had planned and head over with the family to the Gardens (only two more open weeks after that, so my timing is j-i-t! thanks, Jenn! I would have been really disappointed if I missed this.
13 April 2008
11 April 2008
What this has shown me is that I don't really enjoy reading books on screen. It's not that my screen isn't great: I have the option of a 17" or a 13", both with good clarity. It's that I like to walk around with my book, cook with my book, carry my book downstairs while waiting for the girls, have my book in my backpack for public transport or queuing. I have Mobireader for my Palm and I used to use it while commuting, when the laptop and work literature made carrying hardcovers painful, but now, I just want to hold the book in my hands.
In the past, if I like the book after the first 50 pages, I would just order it from Amazon and have it tomorrow morning. But here, where it can take weeks for me to get English language books (if they are even a bit abstruse, or not yet published in the UK) I am just reading online. And it's annoying.
09 April 2008
You really know that it's spring when rhubarb and its companion strawberries are on the shelves at the fruit market. I bought a large punnet of strawberries and a large bunch of rhubarb on Monday at the market at the Bahnhof when I went back to Charlottenberg to visit Broken English. It was an interesting market: all Russian. I was tempted to try some of their deli, but my bag was already too heavy (I added kiwis and pears to the above). I had been going to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie (can't quite get my mind around pie crust without shortening yet), but the Things demanded strawberries as their due yesterday and today at snack time, so I wound up throwing together compote.
I love the ease of compote: slice the rhubarb, add whatever strawberries you have left, toss in some lemon juice (I was out so I squeezed an orange in), a little bit of water and start adding sugar (or honey to taste). Yumm.
Oh, and it rained again. Is this the 120th day of some type of precipitation?
07 April 2008
- 4 loads of laundry, washing, drying, folding
Some other bloggers have noted that they use a drying rack, but I can't quite figure that out. Either they have far more clothes than we do, or they must have a magic wand: it rains just about every day here and it would take days for jeans to dry on a rack. A load takes hours, with the slowness of the front load washer and then about another 90 minutes to dry. Then folding and putting away, which I generally try to do when the children aren't around:
- 3 loads of dishes, putting away each time
- Made a one pot ground turkey/rice/zucchini meal
- Went grocery shopping (I need to go at least every other day just to get milk. Then I add whatever else I can manage to put in my trolley).
Saturday morning the German and Thing1 (with 'help' from Thing2) put together the playhouse that we had gotten from Ikea (with help from our very kind landlord: we saw the house last week but it wouldn't fit in our rented car, so he picked it up for us this week). The Things love it and it's a help to be able to let them go out and play in it when it rains (again!) and they are begging to go out.
Sunday I sent the German and the Things out to play in the (wonderful) playground at the Zoo after breakfast: I needed to clean up, put clothes away, get dinner/lunch ready and in general reclaim the apartment. It amazes me how rapidly the apartment degrades after a few hours of the children playing.
They came back just after it started to rain (again) and Thing 2 was sleeping so we just put her down for her nap. Then I fed the others and set off for the first meeting of a potential women's book swap/club. It was in a section of Berlin that's quite close but which I hadn't seen: Charlottenberg proper. I quite liked it (and its architecture) and I found myself walking by the Broken English store that Dr. J had mentioned.
The group was nice (although no times were set for another meeting- let's see how it goes) and it was so relaxing to my eyes to see an apartment that was painted and had colors- I am so tired of being in a sterile white environment! But while we never know how long we will be here, we really can't paint. This is the longest (6 months) I have ever lived anywhere without painting the walls.
05 April 2008
Zossener Strasse 25
10961 Berlin (Ecke Bergmannstr.)
691 94 34
taeglich von 12-24
U-Bhf Gneisenaustr.-Bus, 140,341
I love this place. I love it so much that we pay a babysitter more an hour than the cost of one of the extremely reasonably priced entrees. What you see above is a mixed plate of Momo balls. These things are great. the sauce is a slightly sweet chili sauce and the three colors topping the steamed dumplings indicate the fillings: in this case, vegetable, lamb, and spinach mit kase (I think frischkase). The salad is a type of kohlsalat, very light and refreshing (and crunchy). I like these so much that the last two times we have gone to the restaurant I had them as a main dish rather than an appetizer. I started with a Tom Yam Gai (a chicken base soup). I asked for it to be a little spicey (and I'm a person who eats habanero stuffed olives) and it was wicked spicey, so much so that the German could not share it with me, so be cautious if asking for extra spice. Although I'm never certain whether when one asks for extra spice, whether the staff take it personally and really ramp the spiciness up.
I wasn't able to get a picture of this charo tareko, a chicken dish, before the German had dug his chopsticks in. It was very tasty, although he still felt hungry afterward and ordered himself a dal-lindensuppe which he also enjoyed.
We like this place so much that last night the German called an order in and diverted his way home from work to pick up a take out order: we had some guests and I had enthused about my Momo balls, so I wanted them to try them.
What I learned from the experience was: 1. Don't order soup unless you bring your own containers. I should have remembered from our last take-out experience (an Indian restaurant) that Berlin restaurants don't have appropriate containers and that the soup always leaks. 2. Although they gave us lots of extra chili sauce, as I had requested, it was straight chili sauce, rather than the sweet/hot variety that I usually get with the momo balls. (They also come with peanut sauce, but I don't like that so requested to have none). Fortunately, I also like straight chili sauce (not oil-based, yeah!) but I really like the other as well and will request that in the future.
And I missed the Cobra bier I drank at the restaurant. I'm not a big beer drinker at all (would usually prefer cider, apfel schorle or even water) there's just something about a pale ale/Indian style beer (I guess that's a really hoppy beer?) that I think goes really well with spicy foods.
03 April 2008
So, only 4 months after we set the wheels in motion (ie, jumping through all the required hoops) my new Fuehrerschein is here.
It started with having an American driver's license from a state that has reciprocity with Germany. Then having that translated and 'notarized' and taking that to the ADAC with my passport (and all the other official documents that they said they would not need but did). Then we (the German and I, because they were only in German) filled out forms, paid our fees, and went off, expecting to be notified of the license arrival in 11 weeks. We were told it could not be mailed, which was itself problematic, of course, because we were expecting to leave Berlin before it would arrive. I would then, apparently, need to fly back to Berlin to pick it up.That was mid-November.
In mid-January we received notification that the license would be held up because my motorcycle certification could not be transferred unless I took a written and practical test, so I said that I would take the license without the certification.
We received the letter stating that the license was in March 19th. What with all of our illnesses and the holidays, I went to the correct Landsamt, off Friedrichstrasse, to pick it up Monday. It's located just down the street from Checkpoint Charlie (so now I know the U-Bahn stop for that museum).
After going in the wrong entrance and being sent around, providing my letter, my passport, and my driver's license in one waiting room, I was sent to another. In that room a gentleman asked who I was, handed me my Fuehrerschein and bade me a cheery fare-well, while retaining my US license.
In my oh so pitiful German, I tried to explain to him that I actually needed to keep my US license. After my second sentence, he sent me along to another room. In that room, a woman explained to me, in extremely rapid German, that Germany would allow me to have only 1 license and that I should use my German license when visiting the US.
Once again, in my so slow German, I explained that I needed the license, that the German one did not have my motorcycle certification, that US citizens are not allowed to drive on German license, that although my husband, with a visa, could use a foreign license, I a US citizen was specifically not allowed to.
She offered me the option of paying 100Euros every time I needed my USA license and that they could keep it somewhere that would require my asking for it a week or two in advance, which I said was both exorbitant (zu tueur fur mich) and unbelievable (unglaublich). I asked her what she suggested I do, in a city where the average apartment costs 300Euro a month, and she just shrugged. So I said thank you and left.
I assume that the answer is to get another US license when I am in the States and I assume that is what her shrug was suggesting that I do and I think that's just great: to need to break the law in order to be legal.
Another typical German experience where the letter of the law absolutely is more important than the meaning behind it. Sometime soon I will blog about our experience with German banks and with German American Express.
Slouching Mom posted a new meme (originally from Niobe) showing what is on her shelves.
SM felt that was harder than exposing her morning face. Well, I'm not going to expose my face because the German wants to remain anonymous, but SM- I don't wear any make-up either. (In fact, we might be related, looking at our snub noses and uncontrollable hair. Do you have cowlicks too?)
Moving on, here's one shelf. I might add another later, but I am a bit atypical: since we have such limited storage space here, I tend to remove the books I have finished and don't want to refer to later, which is why this shelf is a bit heavy on cookbooks. The Lilydale is awaiting the sequel before it's put away. And the Chinese self-study (unopened, I must add, is the German's). The books are pretty typical of my interests though, and you can look at what I have been reading this year in the Goodreads icon on the left of my blog.
I'm going to tag people for this meme (my first time!), but feel free to pass if you don't want to or don't have the time:
Diana at Martinis for Two
Lynda at Lulu's Bay
Snooker at Snooker in Berlin
Cathy at Planet Germany (your book is on my shelf;-))
Dani at Earth to Dani (looking forward to your book being out)
Dr J at Alien Ted
and Ree at Pioneer Woman, who I expect has too many comments to have time for this (but whose blog is fabulous and you should all check it out).
And anyone else who care to join in: please drop me a line if you post and maybe I can try a mosaic like Lynda did with her window meme and set up a list of links for those who participate.
02 April 2008
After we had been playing for a while, a woman showed up with two small boys, each perhaps a year older than my Things. I thought she was speaking Hebrew, and Thing1 said she knew the boys. But when I asked her what they were called, she couldn't say, so I thought she was wrong. However, when I started talking to Thing1 about her school day, the woman asked if my girls were in the same school (she recognized the teacher's names). Now, that's a small world, because this school is actually out of our area and the girls are bussed to it. And, in an even more comical turn, when we were talking it turned out that R. is the organizer of some classes for children that I had been interested in and I will be taking advantage of them, trying the Judo this Thursday and the Dance on Monday. Both for Thing1 but R. assures me that there are plenty of younger siblings there to keep Thing2 amused while Thing1 has class.
I'm really looking forward both to getting Thing1 into these activities and also to perhaps meeting some moms and kids in the area. It rains too much not to know any other children to play with! (And it is pouring tonight, after an atypically gorgeous day.)