26 July 2008

What a nice weekend.

What a nice weekend it is shaping up to be.
First, it's warm. Over 80F and sunny and yet not too muggy.
Second, we had folks over for dinner on Saturday and had a great time (as I hope they did;)) and
today, we went sailing on the Wannsee. A co-worker of the German's on his current project invited us all (including the girls) and we had a great time. We got to swim a bit off the boat and to see Angelina and Brad's huge mansion in the process of construction (I'll add photos later, perhaps- the thing is huge: so far they have excavated the hillside and built the infrastructure inside the hill as well as a boat garage that looks like it can handle 20 inside boats). Oh, our new neighbors;).

We ate a bite at the marina and then took the S-bahn home.

24 July 2008

Can my life really be this chaotic?

I can't find my passport. This is very bad for two reasons.
One: I'm leaving for the US, from Duesseldorf, extremely early next Friday morning.
Two: That was the best ID photo that I have ever taken and I do not expect to see its like again, two children and 6 years later (and thirty pounds to the worse) and many, many sleep deprived years later.

On the plus side, since we live here in Berlin I will be able to get an emergency passport with very little trauma. On the negative, that passport will be good for only one year and I will need to replace it almost immediately with a permanent replacement so that I can get my German visa replaced, which will lead to more standing in line and monetary penalties for my carelessness.

21 July 2008

Things that are annoying...

  1. My Google Reader is acting up. I have deleted it, exported it, and re-imported it and still the darn thing doesn't give me preview (reads as "marked read") and when I actually mark it as read, doesn't update. I know this seems a small thing, but it is annoying me to no end. I may need to switch to a different Reader if this continues.
  2. I want to switch to Wordpress, but I can't bear to give up Feedjit and my WeatherPixies.
  3. We have a new TV (32"LCD, very nice). This is after Karstadt confirmed delivery, did not deliver, would not explain why it would not deliver, citing EU "privacy regulations", would not respond to e-mail questions after stating that it would only respond to e-mail questions, would not confirm that the order had been cancelled by them, and so on. So the German went out this weekend, picked up a great JVC floor model, negotiated a super price and we are watching the Lost season finale (yes, we are really that far behind on it) because he was able to get the correct cables to allow us to watch the computer through the TV. But, we still can't get the TV to recognize our code-free DVD/VHS player and it's making the kids really mad to not be able to watch the DVD of Happy Feet that we bought two weeks ago.
  4. It's rained every day for the last 8 days and the average temperature has been in the high 50s- low 60s.
  5. My refrigerator is a total piece of schlock, as it seems is standard in Germany. In college, I had a 40 year old fridge that was better than the standard German refrigerator, where water customarily runs down the back wall, freezes, and destroys delicate produce. I don't want to store it for the next several years in my basement and doubt that I can get the landlord to split the cost, so I will put up with it for as long as I can. One reason to put up with it is that it seems to be SOP in any case: my in-laws and our prior fridge and all the refrigerators I have seen here operate in this manner. Hard to believe that a 1st world country finds this acceptable.
  6. I made chocolate chip cookies today and they came out very flat. I just can't adjust to all the extra fat in the butter: should I add baking powder to help it rise? There's already soda, of course, as I am using the Tollhouse recipe.
  7. I took Thing1 to camp today and when I went to pick her up, discovered that she had been on a field trip, by bus. This would not be a problem, per se, except that I had been told that the youngest class wouldn't be going on field trips and I was concerned that there would not be car seats in use. Luckily, when the bus arrived I saw that it was a charter and that the seats were safe for the children, rather than the usual small shuttle bus.

And there are a whole lot of other, smaller annoyances. The plumbing problems, which will require another visit from the plumber after he gives warning to the whole building that the mains need to be shut off, the re-keying of the locks as the prior tenant absconded with the internal keys, the co-tenant in my building who has found it amusing to rip my name off the mailbox (we added it while waiting for the landlord to put in a new tag with both our names, and someone pulled it, with all its tape, off three times).... I need to stop and start thinking of more enjoyable things.

I will go watch Dr. Horrible and put myself in a better mood.

Where is Summer?

While New York is sweltering in an elongated heat wave, the weather here in Berlin as, well, quite chilly. And wet. Will this be last summer all over again?

Yesterday when we ate lunch outside, we had to ask for the patio heater to be turned on (as were all the others next to outside diners). This is really taking the fun out of summer.

16 July 2008

Things I haven't been blogging about...

Wow, it's been a lot. I'll probably add photos when I can find the card reader, which is buried in one of the 2 boxes of jumbled cables and wires. Here are some miscellaneous things that have happened in the past three weeks:

  • We had the closing party and open house at the children's school. We enjoyed being there, picnicking and seeing some of the parents of the other children (the few we know). We saw a CD loop of the school year and (for a very nominal fee) bought one for each grandparent as well as picking up the school photos that were available. Somehow (hey, my German is not that good) I had missed the notice for the day that they were made, but I'm glad to see the girls look presentable.

  • I met another ex-pat blogger, D, who has a son Thing2's age and I've gotten together with her several times. Thing1 just loves B and made him a picture this evening. I think she loves having another little one to boss around. And he's just 10 days younger than Thing2 so she plays well with him as well. It's so great to meet another parent: even the nicest of non-parental ex-pats can't quite understand the circumscription that having young children put's on one's activities and it's wonderful to have someone to chat with while the children play. Because, sometimes, I just don't want to play.

  • I met F for lunch in Kreuzberg, where she introduced me to her (wonderful) Pennymarkt, which is chockfull of great fruits, bio products and the dangling carrot that had brought me there: unsweetened applesauce. I bought their entire supply of 14 jars and topped it off with 2 inexpensive carton of Johannesberren(sp?) (I love red currants). We then went to lunch at Mt Everest, after she walked me past herr new Kaiesrs and Liedle, both open til midnight (oh, the envy) where the food was as wonderful as ever but the service was uncharacteristically lacking. My momo balls were served after F had finished her entire meal. I know that it takes a while to prepare those, but the acceptable method would have been to prepare both our meals to be finished at the same time, so that I didn't spend 30 minutes watching her eat so that she could then spend time watching me eat. New (and bad) server.

  • The German and I, and D and her husband C, with the children, all went together to a "International Festival" which, strangely, turned out to be just another street fest. But it also had several kiosks which were handing out information on the Wilmersdorf-Charlottenberg section which have already turned out to be useful: one was a compendium of all the spielplatz' in the area and there turns out to be one that I missed just on the other side of my block (there are 5 in my area, 1 quite large and the others varying). I also got a listing of all the Vereins (or sports/fraternal/sororal groups) and will be looking at these soon. Thing1 also got the opportunity to bungee jump again (she did it at the Embassy Opening Street fair) and she loved it. Then we all went to Nollendorf platz and took food from Habibi to the spielplatz til the kids were exhausted. A really nice day.

Summertime Meme (a bit late)

It's been 22 days since Diane tagged me and I am finally starting to breathe again and think of responding! Maybe I can even start blogging again soon. In the meantime, this meme, originating with Fabulous Me (who is such a funny read- go and see) and through Diane, will give me a chance to think about this rapidly passing summer.

So, What Couldn't I live without this Summer?

1. A chance to sit down.
I thought that I wouldn't get that and I've been running on my last dregs of energy. This is my 'week of freedom', when the kids are in school and I have no class and yet my idea of a great time is sitting here, for the first time, and just opening Google reader and catching up on everyone and grabbing a minute to actually blog myself.

As Diane mentioned, fans are a necessity. Here in Berlin, we rarely have warm weather, or anything other than chilly (to my upstate NY senses). But it seems to veer from cold and dank to hot and humid quite rapidly, without passing through temperate. So much so that at one 95F and humid point, I sent the German out to purchase a Klima. I came to my senses the next day and we returned it and got three fans instead. The very few ceiling fans available in Berline don't have extensions (and our new ceilings are quite high) so that's a point on my list for this week: order two ceiling fans/lights with meter extensions and then have them installed when they arrive.

3. Room Darkening Shades
I could look up at what latitude Brelin is and sound erudite, but I'm too tired. Suffice it to say that after suffering SAD during the winter, we now have 19+ hours of sunlight here and I am suffering the children's inability (and lack of desire) to sleep when it's tremendously bright outside. When it started, I got a burst of manic energy (as I've read happens in Alaska during the summer) as the natural cues to wind down disappeared and now I'm just tired. We have had the girls sleeping in our room (which came with shades as the windows are slanted) until we had the opportunity to run a curtain line in their room. Now the flannel sheets from the US will go up to darken the room and we will bring more back from the States (yeah LLBean!) next month.

4.Cottage Cheese
This, along with unsweetened yogurt, is allowing me to survive the German concept of breakfast. That is, they don't have any decent cereals and it's a little warm to be eating imported Irish oatmeal every day.

5.Drinkable Yogurt
Without this, my children would starve to death or I would go insane. My picky older girl will have nothing else for breakfast every day.

And that's about it, because the other things I require are required at all time (books to read, an occasional English language program to watch, US magazines, people with whom to socialize, etc.)

This is so late I'm not going to try to tag anyone. But if you would like to pick this up and run with it, pleaes post back here so I can be sure to check your summer necessities out.

10 July 2008


I'm off to the last day of this session of German class: we are having a field trip to the Stasi museum. I'll be sure to let everyone know what it's like;)

added: It was an interesting trip. The museum itself was put together not by the State (which was ashamed) but by a people's group that wanted to preserve the apparatus of the Stasi and eastern Communist regime before it was dismantled and hidden by the apparatchiks.The building itself was a bit grey and 1950's office style because the head of the Stasi was born in the first decade of the 1900's and distrusted modernity. I had an apfelschorle in the canteen and watched the Discovery channel documentary on the Stasi that was playing on loop there (narrated by Roger Moore:)) and that, rather than the museum, really brought home what life was like in that period. They had a listening device that could be attached to your pipes 7 floors down and follow your life upstairs. they really did have cameras in false rocks in woods, and if you count unpaid informers, the Stasi had 500-700,000 informers watching and reporting on 16,000,000 people. That's a number unequalled anywhere else. I need to see The Lives of Others. Also, I'm told that the Stasi prison is more meaningful and I will try to make it there.

08 July 2008

I'm back...and I'm very, very tired.

600+ entries cleared out of my GoogleReader queue (I just marked off the food entries, no way was I going to catch up), a few phone calls later, and a look at local upstate NY news and I am starting to feel a bit more in control.

Over the last 10 days we have:
  • Put together 29 pieces of Ikea furniture.
  • Bought a couch and a washing machine from a discount outlet in NRW (the couch is a nice, angled black leater. The european style that allows pulling a hidden section out to form a bed).
  • Brought all our belongings (that could be fitted in the trailer) back from the in-laws. We are still missing the coffee table, end tables and bookcases, but at this point they may stay there (we got a 9.99 end table at Ikea and the ottoman would be in the way of a coffee table).
  • Brought all our belongings from the "furnished) apartment we had rented to our new apartment. Lucily, we had only bookcases (they seem to breed around me), printer stands, file cabinet, etc, there in addition to clothing, books and toys.
  • Put together "closet" shelving for the closet under the stairs- the only one in the apartment. We still have some commercial shelving to put together for the keller, at which point some of the things stacked up here will go downstairs. This is the first time in 10 months that I have seen my kitchen implements and had the foodstuffs that we brought all unpacked: I have been revelling in Trader Joe's Indian food and whining that Aldi (which owns TJ's) doesn't carry anything remotely spicey.
  • Had 6 lights installed and a curtain line put up, on which we have strung 6 curtains. I need to put 6 more up here in the wohnzimmer and then we need to put up lines in the dining area, the vorkuche and the children's room: right now, they are using our room because they couldn't sleep without room darkening curtains or blinds, as the sun is up here past 10. Our room (with slanted windows) came with rollshades.
  • We have installed the washing machine and the dryer (which we had brought with us from the US: it was a fortuitous gift from a German family that had brought it to the US only to discover that one cannot retrofit German dryers to work in the US). The washing machine has a distressing leakage problem that we can't seem to fix so we will need to call a plumber in. Perhaps at the same time we can find a way to run a water line to the terrace, which I had hoped to have planted by now, but which I am starting to think will not happen until next year.
  • We ordered a kitchen island from Bauhaus: the price was 40% of the analogous price at Ikea. I can't wait until it gets here. We are exploring kashrut right now and the tiny kitchen (that was what I gave up in order to have the area, the light, the windows, and the outdoor spaces) has no place to allow separation of milchig and fleishig. The first 6 months will be a trial and if all works out well, I think we will kasher the kitchen, dishes, et al.

I have unpacked all except for 6 boxes which are living in my cornfield (the vorkuche) right now.

We need: to get the lines up (I am going to use flannel sheets to darken the windows in the girls' room), get some more lights up,get a toaster, CD player/radio and a coffee machine. I think we have done pretty well for this short time, though.

We also need to get a TV. Although my sister-in-law generously gave us her older TV, it can't support our DVD/video player and I need to be able to let the kids see movies and to see the subtitles myself (I find it useful when watching German to read English, and even to read the German while listening to it). I'm also looking for a staning freezer on sale so that I can actually cut back on the 5 days a week that I go shopping with the ability to buy meat only once a week and to prepare meals ahead of time as well as to be able to actually store left-overs.

Enough of that..I hope to talk about at least a few of the non-boring things that we have done recently in the next few days. Tomorrow is my next to last day of German and the last day is an ausflug (field trip) so I hope to have some fun next week, during my week of freedom: it's the last week the kids are in school and yet I won't have class!