31 March 2008

The Horror! The Horror!

I pulled out my hoarded Fluff, spread it on a slice of sandwich bread. On the other slice I spread "Barney's Best" peanut butter, purchased at great expense at the KaDeWe. I placed the slices together, closed my eyes, took a bite and chewed.

Then I ran to the garbage and spat it out. Germans put sugar in their peanut butter! My gosh, that's even worse than putting it in their mayonnaise (because I just eat French mustard instead).

And now I am running out of my last box of Lucky Charms.

So, if anyone wants to send me a care package, remember that Lucky Charms and extra-chunky Jif or Skippy are welcome additions to my pantry (and Louisiana Hot Sauce, of course).

Another day, still more laundry...

  • 2 loads of laundry

  • 1 load dishes

  • 3 loads laundry folded and out away
And it rained.

30 March 2008

Some family time, some "me" time...

Today we used the car that we rented yesterday to visit the Biosphere in Potsdam. The German took the scenic route to get there and it took 45 minutes and a very pretty drive past bike trails and pretty buildings (I only realized that when the return trip was on the Autobahn and took 15 minutes).

This is only of import because we totally didn't realize that last night was Daylight Savings Time and when we woke up today we were already an hour behind our departure time.

After (a late)breakfast (and putting the carseats in), we scooted out. It's another chilly day here in Berlin and we were looking forward to the tropical atmosphere of the conservatory. They were having a focus on orchids and I am really enthralled by orchids: I had a co-worker that raised them in our office window, but until the German gave me a Phalenopsis recently, every orchid I ever had died. This one has lived beautifully for over 6 weeks and is still gorgeously in bloom. That leads me to believe that my orchid black thumb is not personal but locational and that our current apartment, with its radiators (and therefore not central air) is more conducive to orchid health.

Thing2, above right, is enjoying running around before we enter the dome.

To the right is one of many gorgeous orchids that we saw.

There was a section of seascapes and this was a particularly nice one, with anemones and clownfish. This really made Things 1 and 2 happy (Nemo is one of 2's words). They were lovely and made me wish that I either had the knowledge or the money to have a salt aquarium set up, complete with anemones and anemone dwellers (they all seem to be beautifully colored). I also have a real fondness for sea horses, but I believe that they are difficult to keep in captivity.

Because this was the last day of Easter vacation, there was still an indoor playground set up, with excitingly large and interesting bouncy castles. The girls had a lot of fun with everything (1 helped 2 out a goodly amount of time.) Thing1 also got to to try out the "climbing wall" That didn't work out too well because sheis too small to reach between the holds, but she went from being afraid to try to doing it, so I think that was a victory.

I visted the shop on the way out but wasn't interested in buying the very exotic orchids ( because, of course, I can't take them back to the States with me) so I picked up a Vanilla plant and a Kaffee plant (the former is an orchid, of course) and will see how they do.

Then a bit of a rush home because I needed to go to a book club tonight (first meeting for me of an ongoing club) but the German needed to unload the car seats and return the car first.

I got lost on the way to the meeting place, which was a bit silly: the street I needed started with a different name and changes after a block and so I kept heading the wrong way and being given bad directions by shop kepers and passers-by. When I finally found the building (asked a woman on a bike if she knew where it was- she pointed at the building across the street!) the correct name was not on the door/buzzers and the two I tried without names did not answer.

Then, my handy didn't work (another story which left me with a handy whose pin I did not have on me) and Berlin is not a city of public phones and the three folks I accosted to ask if I might make a local call (like to that building there) from their handy for a Euro said "no". Finally, a restaurant owner directed me to a pay phone, I reached the flat holder, and discovered that there was a second door, which did have her name. Phew!

The club meeting was interesting. The book, The Girl who Played Go, was set in the late 30's Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the protagonists are a Japanese soldier and a Manchurian school girl. The last question was whether we would recommend this book to others and my answer is "Yes, but I don't know to whom." There are scenes of graphic violence that make it unsuilable for some but the writing is lucid, the book is easy to read, and I found both the setting and the characters interesting. There is, however, a tragic ending. The nextbook is one by Amado and I look forward to reading it.

Another exciting Saturday...

  • 2 3 loads of laundry
  • 2 loads of dishes
  • Cleaned the apartment
  • Made breakfast
  • Made lunch
  • Watched the rain beat against the French doors
  • Rented a car to:
    • Visit Ikea to
      • return a defective lamp,
      • purchase some 'containers' for clothes, etc
      • buy plants
      • get a corkboard (it was out)
      • and a metalboard (because my fridge is not metallic)
      • get a vase tall enough for tulips
      • pick up some candles and
      • some picture hooks and
    • Go to Kaufland ( a large supermarket)
      • to get a case of Apfel schorle (applejuice mixed with soda water and bottled)
      • beef
      • putenwurst (turkey sausage)
      • cheese
      • bread
      • milk
      • apple juice
      • canned tomatoes
      • 6 klapp boxes (to use inside our Ikea wardrobe in place of our missed drawers)
      • frozen rasperries and frozen vegetables
    • Tomorrow go to the Biosphere in Potsdam (where there is an orchid sale I would like to frequent...)

29 March 2008

I am doing a bit of backfilling this weekend...

I want to start filling in a few of the missing posts from vacation because this blog is, in a way, a diary. So excuse the lack of current blogging as I go forward into the past!

27 March 2008

Learning new tricks...

And a big thank you to Dixie for the help.

26 March 2008

A quick aside...

I was wandering through some of the bloggers I like to read when Charlotte caught my eye with the cover of one of my old favorites : Anne of Green Gables. So of course I needed to take the quiz. Try it yourself, why don't you?

You're Siddhartha!

by Hermann Hesse

You simply don't know what to believe, but you're willing to try
anything once. Western values, Eastern values, hedonism and minimalism, you've spent
some time in every camp. But you still don't have any idea what camp you belong in.
This makes you an individualist of the highest order, but also really lonely. It's
time to chill out under a tree. And realize that at least you believe in

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

And we are back...

Clearly, I am not very good about filling in blanks, so I just need to get going.

We got back Monday early, which was an adventure in itself. Because we needed to drop the girls (and the cat) with my in-laws, we flew to London out of Dortmund, rather than leaving from here, which would have obviously been easier and cheaper. Also because of that, we wound up flying into Luton because that was just so massively cheaper than Dortmund-Heathrow, even though the convention was at a Heathrow hotel (and a very pleasant one, too).

I booked early flights for two reasons. 1. I didn't realize when I booked the flights that Easter weekend is a 4 day weekend in Germany and I wanted to arrive at the airport before rush hour, and 2. cost. The early flights were extremely cheap in comparison to later ones. Little did I realize that there was no public transportation way to get from Heathrow to Luton at the early hour required Monday, so we wound up taking a taxi. On the plus side, the cost of the taxi was only about 20 GP more than taking the coach and other transport required would have been if we had been able to do so. We were a bit late at Luton, but didn't realize it and stopped to grab a chocolate cow and a monkey purse for the girls at M&S. Then we had to jog a bit to get to the gate.

We got to the house by 11 am and the girls were very happy to see us. This was the first time that we had ever both been away from them overnight and they were very good, although I think F and G were a tad tired out by them. My Things have a bit more energy than sister-in-law C's children, imho. After greetings all around and admiring the artwork and the crafts done over the weekend, we packed everything up , grabbed a few more items from the garage (where boxes of our household goods still reside- in this case we took a box of diapers and 6 Costco boxes of cereal, as well as a box of my scrapping materials and a box of spices and kitchen goods), we then had lunch.

After lunch, F and G had hidden the eggs that the girls had made over the weekend (Thing1 was very excited and had shown them to us almost as soon as we got there)and they found them as the snow started to fall.

We then got going by 2 so the girls could nap while we were driving and to avoid the weather, which was snowing quite heavily behind us most of the trip. In Berlin by 6ish, car returned by 7 and laundry running, so that bags unpacked (although apartment not ordered) and kids in bed by 9 pm. I had picked up a re-issue of Bite the Sun (an omnibus of Drinking Sapphire Wine and Don't Bite the Sun) and finished it that evening (very early Tanith Lee and amongst my favorites).

Very excited to have tomorrow be the beginning of my integration course break and to be able to spend the week getting things in order while the girls are in kita. Friday is short as usual, but Tuesday through Thursday should give me some real time to get things done.

23 March 2008

So, what does it take for an author to get a new reader?

Without the children, I have been taking the opportunity to actually attend panels. I find the British style of science fiction convention very different from the American. In many ways, it is closer to the roots of fandom, and at least as I see it at Eastercon I like it very much.

Some differences:
  • The British form is generally smaller. This was apparently the largest since Seacon (a Worldcon) in 1987 at around 1300 people.

  • The organizing committee had a great deal of empathy for attendees, arranging a great con rate at the hotel, including a buffet breakfast in the room rate, arranging a prix-fixe buffet dinner.

  • British people absolutely drink beer. This is actually a huge diference, which the Brits will probably have trouble understanding: Americans generally don't drink. So American conventions tend to have a general function room, open 24 hours a day, with free munchies, coffee, tea and soda, where fans gather. Here, there was a general atrium where convention priced bheer and cider (and also OJ and water, which my poor tummy appreciated) was sold and where, like the Champs Elysee, the entire convention passed by.

  • The tag line was "a convention run by fans for fans" and it really was. This was, even at this size, the coziest and friendliest convention I've been to in years. What with my stomach ailment I spent a lot of time sleeping but even so, I loved the atrium where everyone, from veriest neo to adored pro hung out, drank, and was accessible. I wil definitely go to more British cons.
The title refers to a post a while back that John Scalzi made (and I'm not sure in which of his zillions of posts) where he talked about how an author gets a fan. There was some discussion of hand selling, or through blogs (and Diana Peterfreund had some things to say somewhere in her blog as well, I think) and through personal referral as being the best way. To that I need to add: listening to a good speaker.

The German is not much of a reader, but after listening to Charlie Stross' Guest of Honour speech, he dragged me downstairs to the Dealer's Room and bought two of his books. Stross was so funny, so dry and amusing, so absolutely in control of what he was saying and so erudite with it that it was no wonder that the German was enthralled. I wanted to buy several books as well. And, interestingly enough, it was after hearing Scalzi (different reference here), another funny and intelligent speaker at a panel at a Worldcon some years ago, that I started reading his books and recommending them.

We again braved the frigid environment of the Commonwealth room (the largest meeting room) to hear Neil Gaiman's Guest of Honour speech. Now, interestingly enough, I had liked Gaiman's work back in the Miracleman days, but didn't like his collaboration with Pratchett and had stopped reading him. Here's a link to his journal of Eastercon.
He was so wonderfully amusing and then, later on, so wonderful at reading a chapter from his new book, that I am certain that I will be buying that new book. I had already picked up a copy of Stardust (mainly because I was sad not to be able to see the movie until it comes out on DVD) and I cleverly left it in Berlin rather than bringing it with me to have it signed. But the convention kindly passed out a poster that we could use at the mass GOH signing and I was able to have that signed instead.

We also went to see Tanith Lee (another GOH) speak at two separate panels. She was one of my earliest favorites, back in my salad days, and it was a pleasure to meet others who are great fans of hers and to hear her speak. I actually discovered that she had put out a 'sequel' to one of my favorite of her books: The Silver Metal Lover which is now followed by Metallic Lover 24 years later.

An amusing incident that took place at the con: while the German and I were standing in the (long) line to have our posters signed by all the Guests of Honour, I was reading one of the (few) newsletters and noticed that there had been a case of chickenpox in the childcare facility (another sign that the convention was run well and even though I did not bring the children, a real sign that British fandom is 1. more family friendly and 2. more likely to have membership expand naturally).

I exclaimed aloud at how grateful I was that the girls had been left with the in-laws and how terrible it was that the other children had been exposed when the couple in front of us turned around and said "She's in quarantine with Grandma now, we didn't know." What are the odds that I castigate someone at a convention with 1300+ people and they are standing next to me at the time? Anyway, we all chatted for a bit and I simply said that since Thing2 is too young to have been vaccinated, and the German has not had it, I was truly glad not to have had the girls exposed. Turns out that in the UK they don't vaccinate against Varicella. I'll need to be making certain that the girls are adequately and promptly vaccinated on the CDC schedule here, I can tell.

The other thing was that even with my stomach ailments, I had the best ordinary food that I have had since we left the States. I mean, we don't eat out so much here in Berlin, and we have not been able to find a 'regular'. But just around the corner from the hotel was The Pheasant. We had a meal a day there and the one day that we had the convention buffet dinner we groaned with disappointment that we weren't eating there. We expressed our gratitude to the owner and told him that Berlin was crying out for another restaurant like his and that if he came, we would eat ther 5 times a week. The salads were so wonderful, the masalas, the quiche, the cider, the ploughman's... why isn't there anything like that here?

22 March 2008

It's London calling...

Or rather, I am blogging from London, where the German and I are staying at Heathrow for Orbital2008 , which is a British science fiction convention. One of my favorite authors is a guest of honor, Tanith Lee, and I'll probably put up a few photos when I get home.

I developed Thing2's illness last week, so I've been roiling in my intestinal misery, but it seems that today I am finally starting to improve. Probably the large amount of sleep I got yesterday finally helped me to feel better. Of course, I missed my last week of German class and the party, but I am starting to expect that. At least this time I didn't bring refreshments to the party and not get to go, the way I did last time.The illness started slowly, but yesterday morning I was just wondering how Thing2 had been managing, so I'm glad that the German finally pointed out that Imodium exists for these exigencies. I can't believe I hadn't thought to take medication!

We drove to my in-laws on Thursday after work. I had hoped to get to a Purim party before going, but I just wasn't feeling well enough, and that was just as well because we arrived just around midnight and since our flight was at 7:30 that didn't leave us much time to unload the girls, the cat and the car and get some sleep.

Up at 5 am on Friday, kissed the girls and the cat good-bye and off to London.

17 March 2008

Sick again...

Thing2 had a bit of a Durchfall on Sunday, so today I kept her home from school, which meant that I needed to stay home from school as well. With only 2 more teaching days left, I guess it barely matters. I hope that this semester at least the girls don't take ill on the last, party, day. Especially because that is the Purim party day and the evening that we will be leaving for the Sauerlands, preparatory to our London trip...

  • And it snowed (but did not stick)
  • 2 loads of laundry
  • No cat vomit, but Thing2 vomited last night

16 March 2008

My class Trip to Dresden

We were scheduled to leave at 7:31 from the Berlin Hauptbahnhof. Because of the U-Bahn strike I was concerned that it might take me a while to get there, so I left home quite early and was bummed to discover that the S-Bahn to the Hbf is quite sppedy: I was there 30 minutes early. That gave me time enough to become concerned when I didn't see anyone else and when the destination notation at the platform we were meeting at was not Dresden. So I called the information line but the gentleman at the other end, when I asked him to speak "Langsam, bitte" send me to the main information booth at the other end of the station, rather than simply telling me, more slowly, that the reason the destination was not Dresden was that we would be switching trains part way. Sigh. Some Germans just can't deal with speaking to non-native speakers slowly and clearly. Luckily, when I ran up the stairs I bumped into a classmate and he was able to get the information gentleman to give him that information.

This is the August the Strong bridge: it's very pretty. I also want to point out the sunshine. the entire day was beautifully sunny: it was almost like being in an entirely different country. I took off my jacket and unzipped my sweater and sat in the sun eating soft ice-cream (as did all the Germans I could see).

I think that this is a cherry tree- all over Dresden trees were blooming, flowers were blooming, and people were basking in the sun. One of my classmates said that there was a Mediterannean feel but I think that she was just drunk on sunshine.

A view of the Schloss across the Elbe. That's the boat next to which we sat and ate our cones.

Statue of August the Strong on a horse on the boulevard leading to the Aldtstadt.

The Frauenkirche. And it really is. All baby blue and baby pink with trompe l'oeuil everything. So pretty and non-threatening. Not a tortured body in sight. Interestingly, this is a Protestant church but my teacher (German Protestant by birth, professed atheist) thought it seemed more Catholic, because of the general ornateness and opulence. I said that to me the absence of the crucifixion was proof of the Protestentness of the building and that the opulence was simply due to the building having been built for the wife of an Emporer (although of course this is completely a recreation, as almost all of Dresden was completely destroyed in February 1945).

Some of my class mates went to the museums in the Schloss (which looked lovely) but Y and N and Y and I instead decided to find a table in the sun and grab a bite to eat: it just didn't seem like there was enough time to make it worthwhile to go to the museums.

We kept on looking but couldn't find an open table so we wound up approaching some older Dresdeners and asking if we could share their table, which they very kindly agreed to.

I had been wanting Linsentopf (I love lentils)and two classmates chose the same. When it arrived, it had meat in it and Y asked if it was Schwein, because she doesn't eat trayfe. I hadn't thought so, because I generally read all descriptions in Germany in re food to be sure that pig is not in the product, but one can never be certain here. So she asked the kellnerin, who, in a very unbehilflich way said yes and then left. Y agonized for a bit and other Y and I were concerned and then Y called over the kellnerin and asked to exchange the soup for another because she could not eat Schweinfleisch. I was amazed at how passive aggressive the waitress was, but she finally agreed and we all ate when the new soup came. Of course, by that time I had reacquired the menu and noted that the Linseltopf did not include swine: it was beef.

Well, that broke the ice and the Dresdeners asked where we came from and we had a lovely chat for the next half hour or so, culminating with the gentleman buying us all a round of a local Dresden white wine. It was so nice, he and his wife and their friend displayed such Gastfreundschaft, that it more than made up for the information man and the waitress and made me realize again how nice some people are here and how appreciative so many Germans are to those of us who try to speak German! We wound up being a few minutes late to meet the others, having to run, and then we had to dash for the Dresden Hbf.

So, I was up at 5:45 and I got home again at 21:00. A long day. I will definitely do it again, but next time I think that we will go and stay for the weekend.

The German and the Things also had a great day, they spent most of it at the Zoo.

14 March 2008

Free books and e-books

In a lighter vein, I hope that you folks have discovered that Tor books has a great new sign-up, in preparation for the future launch of its new fansite/website where they are posting free e-books of current listed novels by writers whom I enjoy (although I was not invited to be on the selection list).

John Scalzi explains it well here and today's novel is an alternative world novel by Jo Walton. It appears (just downloaded it, haven't read it yet) to be a mystery in the style of Josephine Tey in a world where the Third Reich was only contained at certain borders. the protagonist is an actress in London in what appears to be the late 40's or early 50's. I will look forward to reading it. Earlier books have been from Scalzi, Lackey and Wilson.

13 March 2008

I have a temper...

and I know how to use it.

Yesterday there was a great confluence of events that lifted me over the edge of my self control. I know it may be hard for some to believe, but I used to be rather volatile.

Yesterday, when I went to my German class, the theme was cliches and Meinung. This was perhaps a bad idea. I had arrived late and I had noticed a strange atmosphere in the class, which had not been there last semester and had started in a minor way in the last few weeks, but which had apparently blown up while I was gone. Some weeks into this semester we had had several new folks join. One in particular, let's say A, has a habit of taking the class off tangent and not using what we are learning. When I am partnered with A in exercises I have flatly said that I am interested in doing the exercises and will not add to them or attempt other grammatical structures: I learn through repetition and I am quite happy with my teacher and her pedagogical method. But I told A to A's face.

Another person in my class, B, has taken to eye-rolling, slumping, sighing and acting like a put-upon infant in response to some of A's behaviors. While I was gone, this apparently turned into such a habit that when A is absent, B turns this behavior on others, passing notes to C, whispering in their common third language, and generally showing tremendous disrespect.

During the break, my friend shared with me that person B had written a note about something my friend had said, which my friend had seen, and had passed it along to C. The note was dismissive and rude. I was very angry. What had started as an amusing development of cliqueish behavior had now, in my opinion, turned to bullying.

So after the break, when the assignment was to discuss what each of our nationalities had as cliches in rethe other's nationalities, it was a dangerous topic. It allowed individuals to air what in some cases were ignorant and hurtful beliefs and in others actually devolved into misogynist and racist cliches. Rather than discussing cliched behaviors (loudness, drunkenness) they discussed physical characteristics. I wonder whether it is because I am American that I find discussing things that are not actually behavioral (color, hair, eyes, weight, height) to be offensive. I come from a melting pot and I am proud of it. But I let that go.

Then, to be non-specific, a friend aired a term which she thought was a cliche about Americans (as the teacher had requested) but which was rather both misogynistic and anti-Semitic. I was certain that she did not understand the connotations (being herself both Jewish and a woman) and I rather clearly explained why that term 1. was not pertinent in a discussion of cliches about tourists from different countries and 2. was offensive and should not be used. My friend understood this, but B, an American whose family emigrated to a third country and is thus cognizant of the term in all its aspects, smirked. I'm not certain whether she was smirking at my passion (and I assure you, I am passionate about responding to slurs against my religion, my gender and my nationality) or whether she was smirking at my friend, but I turned to her and unleashed my +5 Tongue of Vitriol, stating that I was old enough and had worked long enough to have been discriminated against as both a woman and as a Jew, and that perhaps she hadn't, which would explain why she found my explanation and passion amusing. She said nothing, and C, who has done human rights work, agreed, perhaps undercutting whatever response she might have made if she had the gumption to actually speak face to face rather than traduce behind backs. I needed to leave at that point to pick up the kids and apparently after I left, B turned to C and in her language said that she was offended by what I said.

Whew. So I was still frothing and simmering after I got home. My friend stopped by to drop off a paper that I had missed and told me that she no longer wanted to go on our class trip to Dresden because she didn't want to be on a train trip with B and C and my anger notched up another level. I said that I would speak to our teacher about this that evening.

Then I called my Dad to say hello, and I can't even go into how that led to an argument with my mother and how she then used her +10 Tongue of Vitriol against my dad. I got her acid and quickness to take offense and my Dad's volcanic temper. My gosh, the German is a brave man. Luckily my general happiness usually keeps the lid on and I do try! While she was hanging up on me (her general reponse when her bad behavior is pointed out) I heard a muffled noise from the other room and found Thing1 strangling 2 with a plastic cord that my landlord's workmen had left after putting up blinds. Not that she was doing it on purpose, of course. Rather that she was using it as reins on her sister the horse and unfortunately had twisted it so tight that the screams of 2 were being muffled. After I yelled and 1 still did not drop the reins I actually picked her up and tossed her on her bed, then comforted 2. Then 1 was in hysterics because I had yelled at her and thrown her in her room. Then we were all crying.

Then I called the German to vent and he couldn't talk. And that was after he couldn't talk after class either, or in the morning. So then I yelled at him and hung up.

Then I put the Disney channel on and read blogs while both kids sat on me.

Then I made dinner and did another load of laundry.

Then I fed the kids, the German came home with flowers and we ate, and this morning I spoke to my teacher about the atmosphere and my discomfort, she said she felt it as well and would speak to B and C and she apparently did. At least C made a real effort today to be friendly and my friend says that B and C have changed their demeanor to her. But I usually sit by B and C and I sat by A today and I am not sure whether the feeling I had toward class, that it was a refuge from the kids, has not been ruined.

I am sour right now. And I needed to vent, as Thing 2 still won't sleep at night and is padding around the apartment at 11 pm. I need my nights child-free!

The mundanity of life

  • Sunday: 3 loads laundry, sunny, cat vomited
  • Monday:2 loads laundry, 1 trolley food,1 wurst dinner, class cancelled so unloaded and put away suitcases. Chicken dinner, raining, cat vomited
  • Tuesday: 1 load laundry, 1 bag food, 1 beef/noodle dish, 1 batch chocolate chip cookies, German class, grey, cat vomited on chairs
  • Wednesday: no laundry, German class, 1 bag food,chicken soup and chicken dinner, massive argument with my mother, who doesn't fight fair, telephone problems, blinds installed (3 months late!), flowers from my husband xxxooo, intermittent rain, cat vomited on bed
  • Thursday: 3 loads laundry, German class, cleaning trashed apartment, 1 bag food, raining, cat has not vomited (yet)

12 March 2008

It's raining again...

Wow, after two days of sunshine I had begun to think that my belief that Berlin is grey and rainy was wrong. But it's pouring out there, whipping rain and wind. Lovely.

11 March 2008

Twelve Steps...

75%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

And I had actually thought that I was addicted--- clearly I have a way to go! I saw this over on Maria's blog.

I will fill in the space between posts later

but right now I am just luxuriating in having finally unpacked. 6 suitcases, three carry ons, two lap top bags, a purse, a double stroller, two toddlers and a husband through multiple flights and airports. There were a few times we thought that we had lost an item here and there, but we did all make it back to Berlin (although we left the suits and toiletries at the in-laws by accident).

Came back to a general transport strike here in Berlin and my class was cancelled yesterday, so I was able to finish the unpacking we started Sunday morning and do my 5th load of laundry. I am sorry that I didn't run about a little in the highly unusual sunshine, but I just wanted to get things done. Hopefully the sun was a harbinger of days to come.

Also came back to find that my landlord had taken care of some odds and ends we had requested, which was great. Unfortunately, while setting up the phone system to be slightly different (allow for caller ID) something happened which makes all my incoming and outgoing calls cut off somewhere around the 3 minute mark. This is especially frustrating when calling the US. I am hoping that can be fixed today. Also, the lack of curtains in the apartment, which was to be rectified in January, has become a serious problem: it is too bright in here! With the glare on the screen, I can't look at TV in the day and the kids are being awakened too early. I'll need to be following this up today as well!

For amusement's sake, this is a partial list of what we brought back from the States:

  • molasses
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • chocolate chips
  • brown sugar
  • corn meal
  • vanilla and lemon extract
  • ginger snaps
  • cream of tartar
  • ground pepper
  • swim diapers
  • camcorder
  • eagerly awaited, back ordered zoom lens for D70
  • 12 dresses for the girls from Costco (each no more than $8), 2 sweaters and 4 pajamas as well
  • wet wipes from Costco
  • Pampers from Costco
  • Diego sippy cups from Costco
  • 2 nanopods- 1 from Costco, 1 from Apple (with an inscription- thanks, hon!)
  • 12 T-shirts, 12 undershorts, 2 shorts, 3 shirts for the German from Costco
  • 2 shorts, 2 capris, 6 socks, 2 shirts, 2 sweaters from Costco for me
  • Advil, children's motrin, dental floss, tampons,toothbrushes, Desitin, neosporin, 1% hydrocortisone cream from Costco for all of us
  • 3 suits and a tie from the Hugo Boss outlet for the German
  • 2 shirts for me, 1 for the German from the Hilfiger outlet
  • backpack, sweatpants from Adidas outlet
  • Swimmies and a noodle from the KB outlet
  • Snow White costume, gloves and purse from Disney
  • Cinderella gloves and purse from Disney
  • Earrings for me from Disney ;-) (have to love the little Mickeys)
  • miscellaneous Disneyana, scrapping materials, pens, cups, t-shirts, gifts
  • extra suitcase from Walmart!
  • and Connect 4
  • 5 lbs of Decaf Dunkin Donut's coffee
  • 5 lbs Jamaica Blue coffee beans

You can see why we had trouble keeping track of things and why we hit the weight limit! Luckily, we went over with 5 suitcases, but mainly with all the suitcases inside each other and empty- ready to be filled!

This leaves out the 59 pounds of books that I send back by M-bag: I am looking forward to seeing them soon! And the car seat that we sent over to be a spare for the school bus. Whew. I hope to start downloading pictures tonight and start filling in posts this week, but it has been a little difficult with the jet lag: Thing 2 seems to want to get up and start playing around 2 am.

03 March 2008

Dear Friends...

What a day we had, leaving Florida.

First, we set out really early, because we know what it
is like to travel with both lots of stuff and children.

In this case it was extremely lucky that we did, because after we dropped the rental off and were ferried by van to the airport, we discovered (after curb checking our bags) that we were missing a bag. It was the laptop, so that was bad. It was in the new backpack we had gotten at the outlets, and apparently it had missed our bag count.

(Things were a bit hectic: 6 suitcases, two backpacks, two carseats, a purse, a diaper bag, two children with their backpacks and bottles and sippycups and snacks, a double stroller and a (swim)noodle- which kept wapping people as we went by, but which Thing1 didn't want to give up.) So we had a bit of stress going, looked around, asked around, talked to security and then called the rental place. That wasn't easy because, of course, our cell phones did not work in the US and we were using pre-paid calling cards. Luckily, it was still in the van and the driver was able to circle back and meet the German at the gate. And luckily we had given ourselves enough time that we could actually get the bag and still make our way through security without missing our plane.

When we flew into the local airport in NY it took us quite a while to diembark and then even longer until our minivan was pulled up. At least the service rep was courteous and apologetic (something I found soothing and extremely strange after my time in Germany, where customer service is relatively non-existent).

After we finally got our Toyota Sienna (and boy, did it make us miss our old one- this was even better with two automatic sliding doors) we loaded up and set out to visit our dear friends (and Thing1's best friend). J greeted us with, as you can see above, themed treats;-), as well as a smorgasbord of food and warm wished. She is so unbelievably talented! Thing1 was overjoyed to see everyone and most especially Princess and her daddy A. This family is what we miss most about the States: our other friends are further away and we can always talk to them by phone or e-mail, but we miss walking over to their house just to say 'hi'.

And, of course, the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of J's labors: she is the most talented baker (amongst other skills) that I have ever known. Just look at those cookies- aren't they amazing? And better yet, my favorite: Gingerbread! They fed us and played with us and then sent us on our way with all these goodies. I spent the next several days watching my stash dwindle as first my parents, then my husband, and then my in-laws ate my luscious gingerbread: I'll be needing to figure out how to do them myself with the molasses and vanilla that I brought back from the States with me.

01 March 2008

Sunny and 73...

It was (and is) raining in Berlin and snowing in upstate NY, but here was cool, clear and sunny. The Floridians keep apologizing for the cold, but the pool is warm and we are enjoying ourselves. Thing1 is getting comfortable in the water again and Thing2 is enjoying the heck out of it.

Today was a lazy day, breakfast, swimming, playground and some shopping (nowhere interesting for me- SuperTarget) and the German is off (still) at Prime Outlets. I expect that he will be coming back with a suit or two. Tomorrow I hope to hit Oililly for the girls and maybe the Gap outlet for myself.