30 December 2008

Tuesday's with Dorie: Real Butterscotch Pudding

This Tuesday with Dorie recipe, from page 386 of her Baking: from my home to yours, was a failure for me.

The recipe was chosen by Donna of Spatulas, Corkscrews & Suitcases . I made this on flying trip moving things from the my in-laws, 6 hours west of here, to our apartment by trailer. I did it in a rush, I admit, but I did follow the recipe. When we got home today and tried it, it hadn't jelled properly and it was so rich as to be inedible. I'll be interested to see if others had the same problem.

25 December 2008

What I've been reading in links: a real hodge-podge, Chanukah, Recipes, Economics, Reading

Some healthier latke recipes (NYT).

Smitten Kitchen's Best Latke recipe.

The Hanukah Market at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, with links to an exhibit on the conflation of Christmas and Chanukah.

A Jewish Parent's Guide to Christmas specials (in the US).

What happened to Michael Vicks' dogs...

Weight loss without gimmicks(NYT).

House parties about health care.

E-books gain traction.

November home sales worse than expected.

A Short History of the Great Depression, with links to many references and original documents.

You know that this is the most perfect movie ever, right?

23 December 2008

Tuesday's with Dorie: Linzer Sables

I'm catching up! I waited to make the Linzer Sables because I was not enamored of the recipe calling for 1 1/2 cups of "finely ground nuts". This recipe was chosen by Noskos of Living the Life.

I looked and looked for any ground nuts, or the almond flour that he mentions but was never able to find any. I wound up grinding walnuts in my (spice) coffee grinder and it was a fine line between ground nuts and walnut butter. After I had that ingredient in hand, the recipe itself was quite easy. It mixed up extremely soft, so I understand why it was necessary to chill the dough for some time.

This is  the first time that I have ever had a recipe call for rolling the dough (between wax or parchment paper) and then chilling it before cutting it (rather than chilling it then rolling and cutting it) and it worked very well. I split the recipe in half, rolled each between two sets of parchment paper and then placed the two pieces on a cookie sheet and placed the sheet outside on the balcony to chill: Berlin in December is quite chilly. It's also quite grey and rainy, so luckily I rescued the sheet just after it started drizzling and was able to shift things about in the refrigerator and fit it in there. Things got busy then and I didn't finish the cookies until two days later.

When I pulled the rolled out cookie dough out of the fridge (after pre-heating the oven to 180 celsius (once again less than the recipe), I found the dough cut and held shape extremely well. I will definitely use this technique for my sugar cookies in the future.

I cut out shapes and filled two trays with the stars. I made half of them cut out (by using the top of the tomato paste tube). While I worked on these, I rolled the scraps (already too soft to work woth) back out between parchment and refrigerated the sheet.

I found that 9 minutes was enough bake time and with the first tray I tried to skip the step of turning the cookies half through and discovered that my oven requires that step to evenly bake the cookies. For the filling I took my favorite seeded raspberry jam, boiled up a bit with a teaspoon of water in the microwave, let it cool and filled the cookies. I had rolled the dough thinner than the suggested 1/4 inch and I still found that the resulting cookie sandwich was too thick. I had 12 filled cookies and with the remaining dough I made 8 single cookies which I dusted heavily with powdered sugar.

The German liked these very much (as did his parents when I brought them over) but the children liked only the powdered sugar and I found the cookies far too heavy. I generally don't like recipes made with nuts and this recipe shows me that I don't like recipes made with ground nuts either. I won't make this recipe again, but I will make a ginger snap to see if the German just likes the cinnmon and the cloves (which I also like very much).

Tuesday's with Dorie: Buttery Jam Cookies

(I'm posting my TwD entries together, although I have had them done for a while. With the girls' illness and the school festivities, then running off to the in-laws, I am running a bit behind. I hope that I find my card reader and get the photos uploaded today, but at least I wanted to get my postings up.)

Buttery Jam Cookies was chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. It's on page 80 of Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan. After reading all the comments and questions on the cookies, I was worried that they would would spread too much, not spread at all, be tasteless or be too soft.

I changed up the recipe a bit by increasing the jam (I added a bit more than 1/3 cup of seeded raspberry jam- because that's what I have and it's what I like), increased the vanilla extract to 3/4 t. (I like vanilla), increased the ginger to 1 teaspoon (ditto).

I also find consistently that the temperatures and times that Dorie prescribes are off. It's a rotten stove, a translation to celsius and I haven't calibrated it, so it may be my fault, but I changed the temperature down to 180 celsius and kept the time at 10 minutes. In addition, the stve has ony 1 rack, so I placed it in the middle and I did turn the cookie sheet at 5 minutes.

The cookies puffed up (from my wonderfully active Clabber Girl baking powder) and spread a bit but they tasted very much like what I would call scones (or what my South African friend called rock cakes) rather than cookies (or what I think of as cookies). I liked them very much and think that they would be great eaten for breakfast or tea, perhaps with a smear of jam added and accompanied by a cup of tea. As smeone else mentioned. we did find them a bit sweeter the second day, but they did not survive until the third to check for progression.

This recipe is a keeper.

21 December 2008

What I haven't been blogging about.

It's been a busy and chaotic few weeks.
It started with Thing2 coming home from school with what looked like a scrape on her arm. By bath time that night the "scrape" had resolved to teeth marks. What concerned us, above and beyond the actual bite, was that I had not been called and told about it.
When we discussed the situation by phone with her teachers and the school director, we felt that the situation was considered seriusly. Then we had two Hanukah parties, on separate days. Both of those required me going by U-bahn and bus to the kita and back, a total journey time of about 90 minutes. That was a bit exhausting, what with trying to shop around them, but it was fun.

Then Thing2 came home with another "scrape", this one on her back. She was bitten through her turtleneck and undershirt. Once again, I had not been called.

I was pretty unhappy.

The German called and spoke to the director and I wasn't happy with her response. Then I spoke with her and since her native language is not English (although not German) and my German is shreklich, we had an unsatisfactory communication with me using my worterbuch quite a bit.

Afterward, the German and I had unsatisfactory communications, then I called the external director of the school and wound up waiting quite a while to receive a call back, which resulted in another call back, and so on. The Chef and I agreed that the lack of communication was a big problem, that more needed to be done to protect Thing2, and we left it there.

Then I spoke to the mother of the child who had bitten Thing2, who stated that although her son had bitter her the first time, another child had bitten her the second. When I inquired as to how she could know that, as I had been informed differently. she told me that the School Director had so informed her. "What, without informing me?" I thought. Another communication problem. Other child's mom didn't seem very considered, so I explained to her that the savagery of the bite was quite terrible. She aid that she "was working on it" but since that particular child had bitten another of her children (also in the back, also through layers of clothing- strange that) the day before, it didn't seem to be successful. It seems the onus of protection will be on the teachers.

In between the bites we had an elternabend, where the bite was a major object of concern because the German and I were one of two sets of parents that showed up. The biter's parents were not amongst us. We also discovered that the biter had bitten another child as well and we discovered that the following Monday Thing2's primary teacher would shift to Thing1's class as a helper and another teacher would start. That was a bit short term and surprising (we will see the reason in a while, I would guess).

In addition, we were appointed "Class Parents", as no one else bothered. Weeks later I still have not been given everyone's name and contact information. Most parents have not paid into the class kasse and although there was a separate collection for Holiday gifts, we paid for 70% of the agreed upon expense (and a bit more, as we felt it was not enough) and expect to not be reimbursed. Ah well. Welcome to Germany.

As the topper to this crazy few weeks, both girls have been ill. First Thing1 was out of school with a high fever, then Thing2 joined her. The German was working late and long, I had no chance to do any type of shopping, let alone holiday shopping. On last weekend, the German went west to pick up the car we had looked up the week before and I also got no time to go shopping. A friend had a baby, I haven't even visited her yet, I feel terrible about it, but I was sick myself and didn't want to run the risk of carrying anyone's germs to her, and then we ran into prior commitments.

The German went on holiday after work Thursday, just in time for me to run out and pick up some chocolates to add to the cards (and cash) that we gave to all the teachers on Friday. We drove over (!!!) on Friday morning to let the girls (still on medication, but recovering) say "Happy Hanukah" to their frinds and teachers before the two week vacation. I also go the chance to speak to the new boy in Thing1's class who has been mean to her (I can't tell why- perhaps he likes her), which embarassed him but which the teacher was glad to hear about and will follow up on.

I'm so glad that we have a car. Although I have in many ways enjoyed being without one and the cost of busing is a bit less (and the ease of putting them on the bus in my pj's has been wonderful), having a car will allow me to interact with the school, the girls and the other parents in a way that I haven't been able to do since the summer, when I took the girls there by foot (but without the pain of the bone spurs).

We are also looking forward to being able to take local vacations in the spring, summer and fall through the kind offices of the in-laws and their trailer.

Whew. More tomorrow now the dry spell is broken and the fourth load of laundry is in, and the beds have been changed, the mess tidied and the clutter contained. I can't even imagine how women an home-school and keep their lives under control: 11 days with the kids home and the husband late and I have been totally frazzled.

I look forward to vacation, although we expect to be busy: moving our remaining "stuff" to Berlin, taking a quick trip to Amsterdam, spending time with the in-laws (which I do enjoy, although I find trying to speak German exhausting), visiting a very dear friend by Muenster (and spending New Year's with them), going shopping without the kids(yeah!) but with the German(double yeah!), perhaps even getting some museum hopping going here in Berlin.

09 December 2008

What I've been reading in links: Sexism, Racism, Misogyny, Misc.

Phthalates cause feminization of male foetus'.

The misogyny continues and is still considered acceptable (by men who think to be offended is to be "too sensitive"): Hillary Watch Sexism 1-114.

The funeral of murdered Jews.

Anti-semitism in Australia: All in Good Fun.

Beating People up creates Respect in Australia, with a side dish of antisemitism.

06 December 2008

The search for a better Sugar Cookie

So far, I have not achieved the cookie I am looking for. I have tried the Dorie Greenspan recipe twice, and it is not the one.

I just made Bellini Valli's Mother's Sugar Cookies, from her recipe at More than Burnt Toast . This was definitely better. (She also has a wonderful seasonal list of recipes up if you want to take a look.)

The addition of the milk added to the flavor and the cookie was moist and tasty. It's still not the solid sort of sugar cookie that I am looking for, one which is to a regular sugar cookie as a gingerbread man is to a ginger snap.

Anyone who has a cookie that they would recommend. please send the recipe my way. The goal is to have a moist and tasty cookie that is firm enough to be decorated with royal icing and even hung as a decoration if so desired.

05 December 2008

I'm in Love.

It's my Philips 700watt variable speed with turbo immersion stick blender. My ghod. How have I lived without this?

I sent the German out (he wanted to look at car radios) and he came back wit this. After the fiasco of the electric mixer with two speeds (hit me in the face with batter versus hit the ceiling with batter) he clearly decided to redeem himself. This thing is amazing!

I made potato-leek soup (with my own stock, and I also made vegetable stock today) and this pureed it, in a full pot, without a single blurp and magnificently. Wow. I can't wait to use it on other recipes.
With this:

03 December 2008

02 December 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

The strangest thing has happened: when I try to connect to Tuesdays with Dorie, I am not able to access any of the regular pages. Therefore, I'll have to link in to the person who chose the sugar cookie recipe after the links work for me. Here are the December recipes: the Sugar Cookie pick is from Ulrike of Kuechenlatein.

This is a different sort of baking month. Because December is so busy, we have been given all 4 of the recipes and we can post them any time before the end of the month and in any order. I have chosen to make the sugar cookies first and next week I will attempt the Linzer Sables chosen by Noskos at Living the Life.

I made these cookies with high expectations: my older daughter was sorely disappointed in the last pie and she has been asking me for cookies. So we made the dough together and while it was chilling she got to lick the beaters and scrape the bowl.

Then we rolled them out and made some stars: I put colored sugar on them. When I cooked them, at 170C, I set the timer for 5 minutes, rotated them and baked for another 5 minutes. I immediately took them off the cookie sheet because they were already browned and the recipe said that they shouldn't show color.

I found them dry and relatively unappealing. I tried another batch that I smeared jam on and a few set with Cape gooseberries, which tasted slightly better due to the added moisture, but still, these were a disappointment. I need to have my mother send me the Betty Crocker recipe because it is far superior to this one. I wonder if I should have added an extra egg, as the recipe called for large eggs and I think that all European eggs are actually small? Could the recipe have been negatively impacted because I doubled it (I was really expecting a great sugar cookie)?

Anyone have better results?

(edit: I made another batch today with my girls-- I still have two more balls of dough in the refrigerator-- I rolled the dough a bit thicker, I lowered the heat to 165C, and changed the time to 5minutes, turn, 4 minutes. The cookies were very pale but tasted better. Still dry though, and not a sugar cookie recipe I will return to.)

01 December 2008

My daughter is an English mother-tongue speaker!

It's strange to think that while I was posting every day last month I didn't have time to write about all the things that were happening. Time just seems to fly. Back on the 25th we had our English test at the "other International School".

What a difference. Thing1 was so fussy and unhappy in the morning that we almost canceled, but I just couldn't take another week of keeping her out of school and forcing her to speak in English with me, watch only English DVDs and TV (hard to do with power cable after power cable blowing out on me).

She settled down when we (the German stayed home for the appointment) walked to the U-Bahn and then she skipped through the snow--- she really loves spending time with us and without Thing2. We were early for the test and ran up and down the halls a bit: the office staff was extremely friendly. We were the first test of the day and the two testers, also British, brought all three of us into the room. One spoke to us about our background while the other spoke to Thing1, showing her a class pet and a photobook about its adventures and just making her feel secure and comfortable. This is opposed to the other school, where the woman took my daughter away without even speaking to us (except to snap that I was not allowed to follow). I asked the teacher not to start speaking to her in German, explaining that once Thing1 thinks German is the language to speak to someone that she won't revert to English and the teacher laughed and said that the test was for English: they wouldn't be speaking any German.

When we left the room, Thing1 was already engaged in an animated conversation with the young women. She apparently had so much fun that they needed to call us in to inveigle her out while they discussed her results. After they called us back in, the lead teacher told us that Thing1 had PASSED! Yeah!

She carefully explained that this does not ensure an admittance and talked a bit about the process and then we said good-bye: it was a bit difficult getting Thing1 to relinquish the stuffed rabbit (probably reminds her of her of her own stuffed rabbit lovey) but then we wandered a bit around the school, showing Thing1 the play area and then out. Across the street was a charming and traditional shop which sells penny (and plus) candy, fresh baked goods, etc, so we stopped in. The German and Thing1 had hot cocoa and I had a milchkaffee. (It turned out to be an early school closing day- teacher enrichment- and there was a constant and adorable stream of children and parents coming in and getting pastry and candy and leaving.)

We were all very happy.(see photo above)

Then the German went off to a meeting at the office and Thing1 and I went home and we watched Dornroeschen (in English). It was a great day.

30 November 2008

The last day of NaBloPoMo.

I was wandering through my reader when I reached CairoTypeO's "End of NaBloPoMo's post" on Wandering the World.

I am also very grateful to reach the end of this time. Although I wound up posting 57 (will be 58) times, I had an easy subject. With the election at the beginning of the month and then the aftermath (and afterglow, etc), I found it easy to post things that I found of interest and wanted to share.
I do think that I learned more about the bloggers that I read through the daily requirement, and perhaps the folks who read me learned more about me through the pressure. Although I never ran out of things to say (there are still all those posts I owe myself- this blog is sort of an open diary for me), I must say that I have lost a desire to continue to push my typing skills (or lack thereof) on a daily basis and I am looking forward to a "What I haven't been blogging about" post or two.

My newest passion is a soup.

A tomato soup, to be exact. I was wandering through Foodgawker (my secret addiction is food porn) and I saw this soup at Lucullian Delights, a lovely ex-pat blog focused on Italian cooking. I have stopped by here before, but I just happened to have all the ingredients for this wonderful soup in my fridge, so I threw it together yesterday. Then, after finishing it off this evening, I made aother pot that is bubbling away on the stove ready for lunch tomorrow.

I have changed the soup a bit from her, I am sure more authentic: Minestra di Pomodori, Patate, Aglio e Timo.


A bunch of potatoes, peeled and sliced relatively thinly, cross wise if large.
500 g. tomato passierte
about two cups of water
lots of garlic cloves, diced
4-6 large tomatoes that actually smell like tomatoes, diced (I use a super dicer that makes it a joy)
a punnet of white mushrooms, sliced moderately thinly.
sea salt
black pepper
fresh thyme or dried thyme that is still strong (should smell strongly or discard and repurchase)
extra virgin olive oil


In a large low pot, place potatoes and garlic with olive oil to allow easy sauteeing without burning. Generously salt and pepper. Sautee until the garlic smells great and potatoes appear a bit cooked. Add mushrooms, toss until coted with olive oil (add more as needed), salt and pepper again. Cook until mushrooms appear a bit wilted.

Add passierte tomatoes (basically, boxed pureed tomatoes) and water, add 2T (or more to taste) of thyme, 1T oregano, some parsley. Simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Serve, salt and pepper as needed. Yum!

29 November 2008

What I've been reading in links recently.

An interview with Terry Pratchett

Senseless murders in Mumbai

And thank goodness that we actually got out of the house and went to see something. I'll write up our touristing tomorrow, after the serious shopping I hope to do with our rental: I don't often have the opportunity to load up on non-perishables and I can't wait (the rental is a mini-van, so we have lots of space)!

28 November 2008

Hatred in Action

I have had a couple of recent posts about racism and anti-semitism (and how easy it is to forget). The blowback has been that the disagreement some feel with Israel's policies doesn't indicate anti-semitism. I disagree in so many ways, because I have never seen a discussion of Israel's policies outside of the US (where people do disagree and yet manage not to be Jew haters while doing so) which did not have one side veer into vitriolic anti-semitism.

But this hideous murder of a young Rabbi and his wife, who have absolutely nothing to do with Israel's policies, who simply held a community center whose only purpose is openness and outreach, who worked for nothing but good within the Mumbai community!

The choice to take, violently, the Jewish Community Center of Mumbai and there to commit murder: what purpose did that serve except Jew hatred?

The same purpose served when my children's kindergarten here has swastikas painted on it, or rocks thrown though the window, or threats made agains it and the community center. This is not disagreement with  Israel's policies. This is an outspringing of the disease known as Jew hatred, taught in the madrassas as cartoon Jews murder bootlegged Mickey Mouses to help infants learn to hate Jews, and taught in Europe through comments, made openly at political dinners by French ambassadors, such as "Dirty little Jews- they are always starting wars" or cartoons such as these pieces of filth:--- Strange how Jews and Israelis have not issued fatwahs or murdered people over these, isn't it? And my heart goes out to the poor people, of all races and religions, who have been terrorized and murdered because of the horrible and disgusting practices of religious psychotics. May they one day come to realize that their own religion condemns them and their actions.

Al-Wifaq, February 6, 2006 (Iran)

Translation: The Jewish\Israeli devil is saying: "I don't admit the limits of freedom of speech except the Holocaust."

Web Site of the Arab European League (February 2, 2006)

Al-Watan, February 3, 2004 (Oman)
On left - Feast of the Immolation
On right - The Islamic World's Attitude?

Tishrin, Apirl 21, 2002 (Syria)
The book in the left hand of the Jewish stereotype is the Torah

26 November 2008

I'm jus too tired to blog tonight.

It's not that I have hit the wall in NaBloPoMo, it's that I am really tired. I still need to post about what happened at the restaurant on Friday, about the boorishness we faced at the Thanksgiving dinner and benefit concert on Saturday and Thing1's experience at her English test on Tuesday: all of these are going to await tomorrow (a non-holiday here in Germany, a favorite holiday in the US) and my being awake.

25 November 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie- Twofer Pie.

This week's Tuesday with Dorie was chosen by Vibi from La Casserole Caree. She has the recipe here. (I tried to use the Google translator, but it failed for me. I will try again, but she has very kindly run a translation for her Anglophone readers.)

For me, this was a very difficult recipe. To start with, Germany doesn't have canned pumpkin nor does it have what we in the US would consider "ordinary" pumpkin: sugar pumpkin. So I baked the above pumpkin to prepare the equivalent of a can of pumpkin puree (a can would be 15 oz, I wound up using the entire amount at 16 oz.)

Europe also does not have (either to my knowledge or to easy acquisition): corn syrup, brown sugar, pecans, shortening, vanilla extract, or pie pans.

Luckily, I brought the brown sugar, pie pans and vanilla extract with me (and will make the latter when I run out). So I made the pie crust with all butter (the recipe calls for a bit of shortening as well). I have always previously made my dough with Crisco and I now know that I don't like pie crust made with fat. I do now understand why I have always preferred my mother's pie crust to any that I have eaten out: there is a taste to a butter crust, and a texture, that I now recognize and I prefer Crisco to that.
On the other hand, considering that I used a pastry cutter (I don't have a food processor here), the actual dough preparation and roll ou went very well. Because butter here has such a high fat content that it remains soft even in the refrigerator, I froze a 250 g bar. I then weighed out 10 oz, cut it into a small dice, and cut the ingredients together. After looking at everyone else's comments, I decided not to pre-bake the shell (and I changed the temperature to 220C for 15 minutes with a foil cover, then 45 minutes at 185C).I had given up on the "pecan brittle"-style mixture that should be poured on top of the pumpkin pie mixture but in the spirit of the Twofer, I studded the top with walnuts. I also used some of the extra dough (and there was almost enough for a whole extra crust) to add some leaf cut-outs to the top.
Here is the pie cooked: it looked great and my daughter was mad to eat it. It baked up well, but I didn't love it: a mixture of not caring very much for the taste and texture of the crust and not loving the taste of this German pumpkin. I don't think I will make it again, although my husband will probably finish it off. I also think I need to run along to the KaDeWe and find me some Crisco. My daughter was sadly disappointed in the taste as well. I think she will be far more appreciative of the next TwD, the Linzer Sables.

(Edit: We liked this pie much more the day after, chilled in the refrigerator. Still couldn't pique Thing1's interest, but the Ger,an and I finished it over the next several days. So, all's well that ends well.)

24 November 2008

What I've been reading recently in links...

"Kosher" Anti-Semitism
"Anyone who tars Israel with the Nazi brush by drawing obscene analogies between Israeli policies on the West Bank and the Warsaw Ghetto is wandering into very questionable territory and is legitimately open to strong criticism," Rosenfeld told the Post.
His essay, "'Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism," which has been translated into German, asserts that vicious anti-Israeli statements and books from a number of British and American Jews are contributing to modern anti-Semitism.

Further commenting on Hecht-Galinski, Rosenfeld cited
the US State Department report "Contemporary Global anti-Semitism," which defines "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" as anti-Semitic.

On this side of the Atlantic, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, formerly known as the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, issued a "working definition of Anti-Semitism" that defines "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" as a manifestation of anti-Semitism.

Citigroup Bailout

Once the nation’s largest and mightiest financial company, Citigroup lost half its value in the stock market last week as the bank confronted a crisis of confidence. Although Citigroup executives maintain the bank is sound, investors worry that its finances are deteriorating. Citigroup has suffered staggering losses for a year now, and few analysts think the pain is over. Many investors worry that it needs more capital.

With more than $2 trillion in assets and operations in more than 100 countries, Citigroup is so large and interconnected that its troubles could spill over into other institutions. Citigroup is widely viewed, both in Washington and on Wall Street, as too big to be allowed to fail.

Job Centers see crush of people in need...
...in the last three months, 36,000 people have come looking for jobs through the one-stop system, an increase of 60 percent over last year, while the number of jobs posted has declined by more than a third.

The number of families receiving public assistance has also jumped by 40 percent.

23 November 2008

Why do my power cables keep blowing?

Now, that's an interesting question. After the first two power cables fried, we put an expensive surge protector and made certain that the electronics were on that.

In addition, because we had had the weird power surge that was the reason for the 2nd power cable loss, we had an electrician out to look at the outlets that had the surge who said that there was no problem with the electricity at all. However, after that I noticed (was freaked out and angered by) that whenever the lights were turned on or off in the hallway, the outlets on the shared wall inside the living room would receive a power surge. This surge did not set off the surge protector at all, but I wonder if it contributed to the failure of this second MacBook charger cable? I do know that it must have contributed to the failure of our 4th power cord, the extremely expensive adapter charger that the Dell was running on. Man, this is just amazing, isn't it?

However, on Friday, after this happened, I threw the computer and the charger into my bag and when the babysitter arrived and the German and I left to meet friends in Prenzlauer Burg, we stopped at the Apple store on the way.

It was a typical German customer service experience. When we walked in, we took a number (electronically) , which is a far sight better than one can expect at T-Com. Then, when we were called the German explained what had happened to the clerk. The clerk misunderstood, thinking that he had purchased a new cable a few weeks ago while what had really happened was that they had given us one (warranty replacement) and it did not go through the Kasse. But the clerk sent the German to the Kasse to get paperwork (which was not there) and when he came back without any, it was not in Ordnung.

At that point, I started to become concerned because we were starting to get late for our meeting (we were still 30 minutes from the restaurant). So I asked what the problem was. When I explained the situation it became clear that the process the clerk had started was incorrect so he changed to looking at the bar code on the computer, determining that I was correct in believing that I still had 4 years left on my warranty, and then telling me that it would be 4-6 days until I would be able to get a new cord: Apple would want to look at the cable before issuing me a new one.

I looked at the clerk in disbelief. In measured tones I informed him that in this country and city where I do not speak the language, that my computer is my life line. I suggested that if they did not have a cord to give me (hard to believe, as they sold computers there!) that he loan me one. (We had already had the conversation where I indicated that I was unhappy with the failure of two cables and he had informed that that it was not his fault and that he worked for Gravis, not Apple.) He told me that the company only had four loaner computers and that they would almost certainly be all out.

I asked him to please check the status and I would wait to be angry until I found out if therewas a reason to be. Then I smiled at him.

When he came back, he gave me a new cord.

That was nice.

More tomorrow about what happened at the restaurant...

22 November 2008

The final frontier.

Now, maybe I am even geekier than Snooks, because I have known about this for some time. But trailer two is just way more exciting than trailer 1. Nimoy doing the voice over is just cool.

Clearly I am not as geeky as some (though I sometimes try;)), but this is a site for the interested.

I am looking forward to it, because I'm just not crotchety yet and I think it will be great, even if the characters motivations and back stories are changed.

21 November 2008

A quick note...

My second Mac power cable in the last- what, four weeks?- has blown. Won't be blogging until it's replaced. Either tonight after the German gets home or tomorrow morning (we are meeting friends for dinner in Prenzlauer Berg and I'm not certain we will have time after the babysitter arrives).

And the friends that were planning on joining us this weekend were ill and weren't able to join us in Berlin:( , leaving us with extra tickets to Tanksgiving tomorrow, and everyone else we know is either ill or out of town for the weeken. Sob.

I hope that dinner tonight makes up for it and I am glad another couple were able to join us as we would have stayed closer to home if it were just the two of us: we can really talk anywhere, it generally takes some other goal to make us go 45-60 minutes out of our neighborhood.

20 November 2008

When I wasn't looking, the last state was called.

Missouri went for McCain. That's not really a surprise. What is amazing is that it went 1,445,812 to 1,442,180. Wow. Down to 3,632 people.

Good for us and good for the people of Missouri, who fought their way until the end and nearly succeeded in overturning their slave holding history. After all, the state (and the ability to own slaves) was one of the proximate causes of the Civil War. So they have come a long way.

The final election results (I think):
67,066,915 Barack Obama (53%, 365 electoral votes) to
58,421,377 John McCain (46%, 173 electoral votes)

A great map to look at, with individual states' totals.

What type of Blog are you?

This site purports to discern what type of blogger you are from your blog. Check it out and tell me what you think- how accurate you feel it is.

ESTP - The Doers

The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

I couldn't figure out how to copy the chart- anyone? It was interesting to see what areas of my brain it felt were active during blogging:)

19 November 2008

What I've been reading recently in links.

An interesting discussion of Libertarianism in science fiction currently.

The Pope speaks on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.(Die Welt.)

Racism in Europe (Washington Post).

Al-Qaeda is racist. Who would have thunk it?

Haider, uncritical admirer of Nazis, dies at 58.

Bruni glad to be French after Berluscon's racist remarks.

Klaus Emmerich, Austria's "Wolf Blitzer", goes off on racist rant.

Euro Zone announces recession.

An interesting review of Nemirovsky's life and Suite Francaise.

The boots I want (by the same company that makes the adorable haus shuhe for the girls).

The University as a home for racism: the last acceptable form.

Here is a good article on the open anti-Semitism that passes as debate in the US. The saddest part is reading the comments. Dare I hope that the majority of these commenters are not US citizens? Or are they part of the minority that voted for McCain not because they agreed with his views but because they agreed with Sarah Palin's?

It nauseates me when I hear someone call Israel's policies analogous to those of apartheid South Africa (because of the lack or any truth or meaning) but when they equate them with Hitler's, then I know that they would love to put me up against a wall and they are practicing the Great Lie concept.

18 November 2008

Why letting the domestic auto industry collapse is problematic.

"There is no denying that the risks of letting GM fail are high. Economists warn that if it fails GM is more likely to end up in Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation than a Chapter 11 restructuring. Given the current credit crunch the traditional bridge loans available to companies in Chapter 11 are all but impossible to obtain. And few consumers would be likely to buy a car — which depends on long-term warranties, service and parts — from a company in a bankruptcy reorganization. The Big Three and their affiliated suppliers account for 2% of the U.S. workforce, or more than 2.5 million U.S. jobs. GM alone employs over 100,000 workers, the same number of autoworkers that have been laid off so far this year. And that's not to mention the hit the federal government would take when GM dumps its pension, insured by the quasi-governmental agency, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.; with nearly a million participants, it is the largest private defined-benefit pension plan in the U.S. Some experts estimate that that hit alone could cost the taxpayers more than $100 billion, with another $100 billion in lost tax revenues and $10 billion in increased Medicaid expenditures annually."

Tuesdays with Dorie- Arborio Rice Pudding.

(Here shown with the plastic wrap to prevent skin formation- although I like skin and will leave it off next time.)

Well, whew. I got it made today and it is sitting in the refrigerator for the required 6 hours chill. I would like to thank Isa of Les Gourmandis d'Isa for choosing a non-threatening recipe for this week, and one for which I actually had all the ingredients sitting in my pantry.

I had hoped to have it up by noon New York time, but I went out and looked at the questions and answers after I put it in the refrigerator to cool (and next time I will look before I make it) only to discover that there was both a problem with the cooking time (needs to be doubled from that in the book) and the ratio of rice to milk (most agreed it should be increased).

So I pulled the two bowls out of the refrigerator, put them back into the saucepan, added a bit more rice and started to cook it again. Since there is a mult-hour cooling time for this, I don't expect I will have the picture up until later, but I will post this now and add them.

From the taste of the rice pudding (soup) I tried, it will be delicious, and if it is actually as simple as it seems (once the cooking time and rice amount hae been adjusted), then I expect I will start making it regularly.

---Here are the pictures- I added a bit of cinnamon and it made a positive difference. I like the pudding very much but I found it a bit more bland than the usual run and next time I make it (and I will) I will try adding raisins or another dried fruit and perhaps even a bit of salt for contrast (ever since I made the NYT Chocolate chip cookie mix, I am in love with salt in sweets).

60 Minutes with President-Elect Obama

Sometimes it's hard to keep up with what's happening at this remove. I was very glad to watch this when I could in my own time zone.

Whew. A breather.

The kids are both in kita for the first time in over a week, I am on my second cup of coffee, watching Boston Legal and cleaning during the commercials. What a relief.

16 November 2008

A video from the President- elect

I have been recovering from the election and haven't been watching as much US news, but now I will remember to check change.gov

15 November 2008

Time for a bit of a rest and a Quantum of Solace review.

It's been a hectic sort of a week, as you know. The running around, the children out of school, the exhaustion. I have two book clubs next week and In the Country of Men made me sad, but A 1,000 Splendid Suns made me weep. I'm not certain if I will talk about them, but perhaps after the meetings.

In addition, we had the German's birthday and to celebrate we got a sitter and went to see Quantum of Solace. It was great but it was fast-paced and very violent. So violent that I remarked upon it and the German felt that it was too violent. I think it was appropriate for the material, but yes, it was extremely violent. (Roger Moore felt that too.) The German also had difficulty following the plot, (although I didn't) and he felt that there should have been more plot and less violence. I actually think that if you put Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace together as a single movie it might be easier for folks to follow.

Something I noticed was how absolutely fabulous Bond's suits were (and how well they fitted Daniel Craig) but I don't think the German will be getting one for his next birthday: perhaps if we win a lottery.

14 November 2008

Yes We Can (reprised) by Will.i.am

You know, whenever I get depressed or sad or stressed out, I watch this again and feel a catharsis and start feeling better about myself and the world.

It's a New Day


by will.i.am










Song Credits:
Produced by will.i.am
Written by: William Adams

Publisher: will.i.am music Inc admin. by Cherry River Music Inc. (BMI)

Drums: will.i.am
Rhodes, Piano: will.i.am
Keys: Lynette Williams
Guitar & Bass: Alain Whyte
Engineered by: will.i.am and Padriac Kerin
Mixed by: will.i.am
Recorded at Ethernet Studios, LA 2008

Video Credits:
Directed by Ben Mor
Editor: Chris Chynoweth
Assistant Editor: Matt Jameson

13 November 2008

My daughter is a German mother-tongue speaker

We are all a bit distressed. It's difficult to understand how she could go from monolingual English to failing her English mother-tongue exam while earning a high pass on the German mother-tongue exam all in 14 months.

We will obviously be examining all the options available (although not the 14,000+ Euro English schools- that would be way out of our reach). There are still the lotteries for the German side and the JFK school test is in April- if Thing1 doesn't get in by lottery we will go back to the US for a month before the test and she will go to kindergarten there. That would just be an expensive pain because we already have plans to be in the US for 4 weeks in May through June and now we would have to go, come back to Berlin, and then return to the US. We will do what's necessary, though. The other unfortunate part of her going in on the German side would be that she would learn English only aurally until 3rd grade, so if we go back as planned in 3 more years, she will be illiterate in English (although literate in German).

In answer to some of the comments: we speak English only in the house, we watch only English/American TV (mainly PBS and Disney), we watch only English language DVDs. It is very hard to overcome the time spent in kita. If I had known the way through this maze earlier, we would have put her in a private English kita. The German and I were just discussing how stressful life is here for people who are not "in the ordinary way". After this is all over, I think I will self publish a book aimed at Amercans moving to Germany, and especially Berlin. It is just amazing how one is constantly given incorrect or false information and how few people in the know actually are forthcoming. There's a lot of schadenfruede here, even amongs ex-pats.

Next week I will write up a nice long post on how this system actually works (here in Berlin, it differes elsewhere), with each school doing things slightly differently and with amts giving incorrect and incomplete information.

(And I may even mention the turd I saw in the little girl's room- I wondered if it were a commentary on the process from another shell-shocked family.)

12 November 2008

Visiting the Reichstag

Today we kept Thing1 out of Kita to spend the day speaking in English. Tomorrow is her English test and we are pretty certain that she is going to fail it.

This entire situation has been a bit of a cluster. When we came to Germany, we were greatly concerned that the girls' lack of German would cause them social problems (and loneliness). After much discussion and speaking to a pediatrician, we put them in a German Kita so that they could learn German and socialize (and so that I could take a German course as well). The German made a point of speaking only Deutsche to the children. When Thing1 had her 5 year check up in July, the pediatrician was concerned that she was still behind with her German and had problems with some vowels.

Now, in November (actually since August, when they spent a week with the grandparents) Thing1 preferentially speaks German and she has lost her "th". I have great difficulty getting her to speak any English (although she still understands everything) and Thing2 is mutter sprache Deutsche. This is a problem because my German is so limited.

It is also a problem because the bi-lingual schools here accept on the Engish and German mothertongue sides differently: there is no problem for English mothertongue speakers and a great oversubscription (and consequent lottery) on the German mothertongue side. If Thing1 fails the test, I am not certain that we can get her into a bilingual school and that would be a catastrophe. We do expect to return to the US and there are really no paths to German integration into the US school system. Since she will already be one year behind the US (children start later here), I can't imagine how damaged she will be if she loses more time to become English fluent when we go back. When I am not so tired, I will write up a long post on how this system works and how totally messed up foreigners are by it.

So we booked lunch at the Reichstag, following the recommendation that doing so would allow us to bypass the security line (which it did- we had no line at all at our separate entrance and the friendly security man allowed Thing1 to use the bathroom while we waited for the (extremely slow) elevator).
We ate at the Kaefer Berlin im Deutscher Bundestag, and as this article states, had a fabulous view. I found the food to be adequate and the German pointed out that we were the only diners not to order the veal Schnitzel. My beef rouladen with knoedel and rotkohl was decent, the German's Venison with noodles and "cranberries" was too salty (though he ate it) and so was Thing 1's Noodles with red sauce (on the side), which she did not eat. Hard to believe anything could be too salty for me, but I gave Thing1 some of my rouladen to eat instead. We had a nice pate of deer with salad as a starter and for dessert Thing1 had a Disney Eis (a Donald Duck mug filled with strawberry and vanilla ice cream, two waffle cookies, and two decorative streamers) which she loved. The German and I shared a creme brulee, served in a high cup and a little too sweet and a little too liquid, but arranged nicely on a plate with some streaks of passionfruit and mango puree.

Then we wandered through the dome. It's just gorgeous.

After letting Thing1 run about (it was more fun than the Habitrail Gem exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in New York) we had to run to get home before Thing2 got back from school. We grabbed the 100 to the Zoo and then a cab home and made it with 6 minutes to spare.

Then I ran off to go shopping (it's at least every other day here) and when I got back the German went to his scheduled haircut. When he got back, he grabbed the two computers with destroyed power cords (remember, we had 3 but the Mac was under warranty) and brought them to the corner computer shop, where he picked up an adaptable power cord (clearly, we expect this to happen again).

A bit of a struggle later, the girls in bed, we return to deal with open enrollment periods that don't allow access from German work computers: I don't know when we will ever be able to send the one from the US back!

Tomorrow, the test.

German Bundestag

11 November 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie-1st Post is a missed week and why.

For those stopping by for my Tuesday with Dorie post, my apologies. I'll be here next week and the week after, as per the rules.

It's been a bit of a difficult start for me, as my book arrived last Tuesday after my kids arrived home from school, then when my husband got home I had a musical to run to and then (since this is Germany) all the stores were closed and I had missed my opening.

I should have made the Kugelhopf on Wednesday, but I was exhausted after 42 hours up watching the election and taking care of the kids and crashed. Then we needed to leave town for a meeting the German had by Koeln (we stayed with friends not too far away) and spent the weekend with my in-laws (and visited the famous Kirmes in Soest- this was a far better year than last year- great weather and no Norovirus). Back on Sunday late and this week is my older daughter's English test (which we are so afraid she willl fail) and we need to register her at 5 separate schools before the open period ends, so once again I have been running around like a mouse in the open. I am spending my time trying to get her to actually speak English and we are taking all day tomorrow to try to remind her that it is her Mother Tongue.

So, please stop back next week to see my Arborio Rice Pudding- I will have it up on Tuesday if I have to send the whole family away on Saturday to allow me to get it done;).

On Veteran's Day and still, for Kristallnacht...

Kristallnacht: We Remember
David A. Harris
November 4, 2008

On November 9 and 10, we mark the seventieth anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “night of broken glass.”

Rampaging mobs, spurred by the Nazi leadership, attacked Jewish targets throughout Germany and Austria .

The damage was immense. Hundreds of synagogues were burned to the ground. Thousands of Jewish-owned businesses were ransacked. Nearly 100 Jews were murdered in cold blood. And tens of thousands of Jews were arrested and deported to Buchenwald, Dachau , and other concentration camps.

Their crime? They were Jews. It was as simple as that. Observant or atheist, Zionist or anti-Zionist, bourgeois or socialist, they were all subject to the same fate.

The Second World War had not yet officially begun. That would start on September 1, 1939, not quite ten months after Kristallnacht. But the Nazi war against the Jews was already well under way.

The goal was to rid Germany , Austria , and, eventually, all of Nazi-occupied Europe of Jews.

The Nazis almost succeeded. By the war’s end in 1945, six million Jews, or two-thirds of European Jewry, had been annihilated. And ancient centers of Jewish civilization, from Vilna to Salonika, from Amsterdam to Prague , had been all but wiped out.

On this tragic anniversary, and every day, remembrance is essential.

We remember the Jews of Germany and Austria , who had contributed so greatly to what they believed to be their homelands, and who became the targets of a genocidal policy.

We remember the new alphabet of annihilation created by the Third Reich, which began with “A” for Auschwitz and ended with “Z” for Zyklon-B, the killing agent used in the gas chambers.

We remember the vibrant lives of Jewish communities across Europe that were extinguished in the flames of the Holocaust.

We remember the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the relentless Nazi pursuit of the so-called Final Solution.

We remember how many borders were so callously closed to Europe ’s Jews when there was still a chance to escape.

We remember that our own country, the United States , yielding to domestic isolationism and anti-Semitism, did far less than it could have to shelter Europe ’s Jews.

We remember a world without the one country, Israel , which could have provided a haven to all Jews seeking sanctuary.

We remember that earlier in 1938, prior to Kristallnacht, Nazi Germany had moved with impunity into the Sudetenland, then part of Czechoslovakia , and Austria , with barely a peep from the international community.

We remember that just weeks before Kristallnacht, the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, traveled to Germany for the third time in two weeks and returned to London to assure the British public that there would be “peace for our time.”

We remember the valiant forces of the Allied nations that ultimately destroyed the Nazi Reich and saved the world from Adolf Hitler’s boast of a thousand-year reign.

We remember the military cemeteries across Europe , and beyond, filled with the graves of young soldiers who fought with such courage and bravery to defeat Nazi Germany and its allies.

And we remember the examples of those few who, at such risk, sought to shield Jews from harm.

Kristallnacht reminds us of the lurking capacity for inhumanity that resides in the human spirit.

Kristallnacht reminds us of nations that prided themselves on advanced levels of civilization, yet had a capacity for barbarism that exploded in ways never before witnessed.

Kristallnacht reminds us of the dire consequences when a targeted people is utterly without recourse to any means of self-defense.

Kristallnacht reminds us of the fertile soil of anti-Semitism, cultivated for centuries by religious, racial, and political ideologies obsessed with murdering, exiling, converting, segregating, or scapegoating the Jews.

Kristallnacht reminds us that there is a slippery slope from the demonization of a people, to the dehumanization of a people, to the destruction of a people.

And Kristallnacht reminds us that, in the face of evil against fellow human beings, never can silence be an option, indifference a strategy, or “never again” a mere slogan.

The American Jewish Committee remembers today, as we remembered yesterday and as we shall remember tomorrow.


with thanks to a friend for the forward, and yes, sometimes it is hard to be in Germany.

10 November 2008

For the uneducated, who think our next President will raise taxes.

This is what happens when we actually have a Depression (and a war). Stop the infantile crying when expected to actually contribute to the welfare of our country.
I believe that the wealthy have a social responsibility. I believe that progressive taxation is morally correct. I am happy to have my taxes increase to ensure that all Americans have a roof over their head, food in their bellies, and access to healthcare. I include childcare to allow women to work, access to education, and care when elderly as basic human rights. I want to believe that we all feel this way.
Strangely enough, when I talk to even the most dedicated McCain voters (no one has ever told me that Palin was a positive factor, which indicates my pool of friends, family and acquaintances does not include any psychotic religious folk) they all agree with this basic premise. They fight about details and whether there may be abuses. Let's start with getting this in order before we quibble over how to enforce fairness.

photo credit Dorothea Lange 1938

Where was everyone yesterday?

I read over 200 blogs in my reader. Not a single one mentioned that yesterday was Kristallnacht. Wow.

09 November 2008

70 Years Later...

BERLIN (AP) — "We must not be silent" about condemning anti-Semitism, German chancellor Angela Merkel declared Sunday as Germany and Israel commemorated the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against Jews.
With concerts, prayers and ceremonies, participants vowed to honor Kristallnacht victims with renewed vigilance. The riots are seen by many as the first step leading to the Nazis' systematic murder of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.

Germany's history, and Berlin's place in it, is something that I never forget. As I walk the pleasant streets I pass the silent markers showing where Jews once lived and were then taken to die, where we once owned property and it was taken from us, where we once worshipped and were buried, before our synagogues were destroyed and our graveyards desecrated.

As I listen to Germans talk about America's faults (and now of their happiness at our "great change" with the election of Senator Obama), I always remember that the country where we were once more assimilated than any country ever (other than modern day America) was Weimar Germany and that they went from being us, our friends, lovers, spouses and countrymen, to being our betrayers and murderers in only a few short years.

As I look at the Polizei guarding every Jewish space (in pairs) and the walls surrounding every kindergarten and official space: I don't forget. I will never forget. And what makes me most sad is that the walls and guards are needed.

Never Forget:
Yad Vashem
Europe Remembers Kristallnacht
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The History Place 

header credit

65,393,358 Obama versus 57,393,728 McCain

Every vote makes me prouder that my fellow citizens have done their civic duty and exercised the franchise. GO USA.

08 November 2008

So much to do, so little time to blog...

I'm writing from the wilderness of NRW, not certain if I will have a chance to blog today, so just checking in to say: it's a great week and I'm still having fun.

07 November 2008

Please look to the right sidebar:

Where you will see a list of bloggers celebrating the Virtual Post-Election Bash through the kind offices of the divine Diane at Martinis for Two. Join us. (I will keep this on top today, so please look below for new posts.)

A quick election update- I am watching as the votes tally.

Every vote counted shows more of a landslide. (Missouri is still out, NC for Obama yesterday at 1 pm.)

364 electoral votes
162 electoral votes