31 December 2009

What I am reading: December 2009

These are a bit out of order as most of them were Kindle reads and already deleted off my list- more on a later post as to the Kindle itself:).
  1. Already Dead by Charlie Huston- Amazingly good and a wion for Amazon's practice of giving out free e-books in the attempt to get serious new readers addicted to authors they may have not yet read. Noir vampire in the city. Great, great stuff.
  2. Anne of the Island
  3. Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery-- I now have all the Anne books sitting on my Kindle and expect I will have reread them all by the end of next month. I was distracted by The Five Little Peppers, though:).
  4. Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe- I read this on the way to London, to get me in the mood.
  5. Mossy Creek by Deborah Smith- Pleasant genre romance, short stories, wholesome.
  6. All God's Creatures by Carolyn McSparren- Took me right back to my childhood, when I read every vet book and animal book I could get my hands on. A little rough in the writing, but the "memor" style novel of a female vet's life before female vets ere common, was interesting.
  7. An American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson: This and the Harris below were the only books I actually purchased. Very funny and I have wanted to read this since I heard him discussing his life a bit on his talk show.
  8. Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris- The next in Harris' Harper Connelly series. I am enjoying the character and relationship development and the premise (that after being stuck by lightning, the lead can "hear" the last moments of the dead when by their bodies). This was a big and surprising wrap-up of a major series plot line. I'll be interested to see where it goes after this because Harris could choose to use this as the series ender.
  9. Murder Takes the Cake by Gayle Trent: Nice cozy mystery. I'll probably pick up the next one if the price comes down a bit. I like to think of these as twofers- first one free, next cheaper than pb, makes two extremely gunstig books.
  10. Once Bitten by Kalayna Price: I liked this enough to go out and look to see if the author had written others. Since she hasn't, I'm a bit surprised that Amazon chose it as a freebie, but I enjoyed this well-written vampire premiere anyway.
I'll try to finish all the other posts piled up in drafty mode, but gosh- it has been a crazy year end! And my Kindle addiction seems to have used up the time when I would normally be watching TV and blogging at the same time.

30 November 2009

What I am Reading: November 2009

  1. An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon: If you haven't been reading this series for the last, what, 18 years?, there's probably little to say. Most of my other books are boxed up and sitting in a storage unit in New York, so I can't go back to revisit them, as I often do when a new book in a long running series comes out. I enjoyed it and at 814+ pages in the British edition, that says something. This book was especially interesting to me as it was set in my home area and I enjoyed the immediacy of reading about events that I know well in an historical perspective. For those who might be intrigued, check out the wiki article and go from there. The concept is time travel through standing stones and other "holy areas", a well-used fantastic concept, but the novels are gritty, interesting, romantic, and well-researched. 
  2. Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells: The first in a running trilogy that uses the concepts that vampires are one of the branches from Adam through Lilith and that all red hair is a sign of blood attachment to that root. The beginning of a war between the Vampires and the Mages, with some mention of the Faery. Interbreeding, divided loyalties, etc. A decent read a first sale for the author, I think she will get better and look forward to reading the next.
  3. Venetian Dreaming by Paula Weideger: The author, a writer, falls in love with Venice. This is the story of her growing attachment to the city and most especially her love of the apartment she rents (in a palazzo) and her interactions with the noble owners and other members of "high- read rich" society in the arts and culture areas.  Very interesting in light of the current news especiall as regards her view of the "moos". Yesterday was my first German class of the semester and I spent far too much of the chatting with the Italian next to me about my love for his area of Italy (he's from outside of Venice) and we spent 10 minutes talking about the actual deployment of "the moos" and how the decision to build it was Mafia controlled.
  4. The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett: Not certain if I've reviewed this before, but since I reread it, I'll mention it again. I love Terry Pratchett. I am never disappointed in one of his works and it is a modern tragedy that he is now a victim of early onset Alzheimers, becuase his command of language and humour are his life. I met him many years ago at an SF con in San Antonio, before I really understood how important his work was, and he was just as modest and funny and charming in person as one might expect from his works. This is a Discworld novel and I was grateful for every one of its 459 pages. Everyone had an opportunity for character development, with special emphasis on Vimes and Lady Sybil, Carrot and Angua, Nobby and Gaspode, and a deepening understanding of Uberwald and it's three-legged balancing act between dwarves, werewolves and vampires as Vimes is sent by the Patrician to Uberwald to act as Ank-Morpork's ambassador to the crowning of the Low King.
  5. Dragon Actually
  6. About a Dragon and
  7. What a Dragon Should Know by GA Aiken: Terribly guilty pleasures. These are three slightly more graphic romance novels than I am used to— there's clearly been a change since the Mills&Boone years— but my gosh, these were fun. In each book there were multiple laugh out loud moments. The novels tell the stories of three brothers and how they each meet their mate, while interacting with a large and amusing family in a well-drawn out medieval period fantasy world.  The women are interesting, amusing, intelligent and with skills of their own. The gods occasionally stick their noses in. And the brothers (I can't say protagonists, because the women are really the stars) are dragons. Great, great fun for those interested in this genre of amusing romance. I hope that there are more forthcoming.
  8. Me and My Shadow by Katie MacAlister: Another Silver Dragon novel, but closely tied in with Aisling, as she and Efrijim are secondary characters throughout the book.May Northcott, a doppelganger, develops into her own person in the paranormal romance. I definitely am seeing a turn to the romantic from the fantastic.
  9. Chalice by Robin McKinley: I love McKinley's writing. Another re-telling of Buaty and the Best and yet different. I could almost hear the buzzing of the bees and feel the warmth of the sushile, golden as honey.

26 November 2009

Steeleye Span...

If you know the name, they are celebrating their 40th Anniversary with a tour and I just can't miss it. So I'll be taking a quick 19 hour trip to London and back to see them at the Barbican on December 7th. The German will be taking the day off to watch the kids, so anyone who would like to see the show and meet up, or meet before or after, drop me a line. Even by myself I expect to have an absolutely glorious time.

25 November 2009


Thing1's fever has finally broken. It  reached 104.1, or just over 40C and it did not respond to Motrin all day so I was getting quite concerned. T2 had the same on Monday night, but it responded beautifully, so she never got over 103F and I never felt that I needed to call the doctor. Today the German spoke to him in the forenoon and I spoke to him in the late afternoon, at home (another of the good parts of the German versus American health care system) and the doctor was able to reassure me that the high temperatures would not hurt her, in and of itself. I've never had a child stay up at 104 for any extended period of time and it's been quite frightening. I researched around and the new literature all seems to say that fevers in and of themselves will not be damaging, but it was very reassuring to have a doctor discuss it with me, offer to come over if I felt it was necessary, but explain why it wasn't at that point. Some cool showers and Motrin and swabbing down later it seems that it may have broken on exactly the same schedule as T2's. Looks like being on the waitlist for the H1N1 vaccine may no longer be as important. T2 back to kita tomorrow, if her health maintains and perhaps T1 can return on Friday.

09 November 2009

Still in Blogger...

Here I am, back on the Blogger platform. I was able to restabilize my computer by de-installing the auto update of Firefox, then deleting all my preference folders and then re-installing (using Opera). Right now, all three of the browsers I was using during that trying time have become stable.

However, when I look at Wordpress' dashboard, it is showing me slightly more than double the posts that I see here in Blogger. So I am going to take (yet another) step back from Wordpress until I figure that out. However, I miss the concept of pages, so I think that I will start to create page equivalents to enable an easier conversion when and if that occurs and I will continue to run these blogs parallel, as I have for yoinks. In that effort, expect to see me remove blogrolls and instead create a single post with links, remove my recipe sidebar and create a post with links and probably add a post that accumulates my monthly book reviews.

I am still having a problem changing categories and tags in Wordpress and really don't like what happened with the export, so anyone who would like to pint me at some way to handle that, I would be grateful.

02 November 2009

My 400th post is actually a move: from Blogger to Wordpress

For some strange reason, I am having major crash problems within Google, both in Reader and here on the Blogger platform. It's been so bad that I actually shut down Firefox and installed Opera, but it's still happening. Right now, I can't even open my own web site to look at it and even though I have come in from the back end and deleted a number of widgets, it hasn't helped.

So here is my final kick in the pants to make me move. Please follow my blog over to


Maybe I will learn how to automatically transfer incoming browsers there, but I doubt it:).

If anyone can point me at a "tag to category" converter/plug-in, I would appreciate that as well.

I'm not certain how long I will run these parallel- if Google straightens out this week I could move back. Otherwise I am in the market for a new reader as well. See you in WP.

01 November 2009

What I am reading: October 2009

  1. My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme: Although I haven't seen the movie yet, I understand that it is a mix of Julie and Julia and this book. I read the former in ARC from the BEA and quite enjoyed it, but really, I love Julia Child. What a woman she was, larger than life in all ways. She came to Europe in her mid-30's and she really travelled and lived with a gusto as large as her frame. I had also ordered her "Mastering..." books before I left the US, but they were back-ordered, I'll pick them up next time over. This book only whetted my appetite to read ore of ehr works as well as to read a real biography, rather than a short memoir: what a long and loving and exciting life she lead.
  2. Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs: the third in Briggs' Alpha and Omega series- a good read.
  3. The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede: I really liked this. Basically post-Revolutionary expansionism, with Magic being wild and dangerous past the Mississippi
  4. On the Edge by Ilona Andrews: This is a new series by the author, who is also three books into her Magic..., series, which I am also enjoying. It seems to bear out my belief that tropes run in groups: it's set. as the above book, on the edge between magic and not, although this book is in modern times. There is an "edge", the ribbon of land that runs between the never touching realms of magic and "the broken", where magic does not work. Rose is an Edger and she can move back and forth between the two, unlike most residents of the "real" realms. But she is also strongly talented with magic and that presents a lure to some. I really liked everything about her and her story: a strong, independent woman. The only thing I disliked was the effiminate woosiness of the depiction of the male lead on the cover, so please ignore that.
  5. You Suck by Christopher Moore: I actually read the "prequel" to this, Bloodsucking Fiends, some time ago and although I liked it, I didn't enough to keep an eye out for more (by Moore). I picked this up in Barcelona and I do like it enough that my initial tepid response to Moore will have to be put aside and I'll keep an eye out for another. It's the continuation of the "love story" between C.Thomas Flood and the girlfriend who turns him. His friends are an issue, the ancient vampire who originally turned Jodie is an issue, and there is a giant shaved cat in this book as well.
  6. Momo by Michael Ende: I was looking for The Neverending Story originally, in translation from the German, but this was what I found in Barcelona.Really quite timeless story of a girl and a race of grey men who attempt to stael time. Very good read.
  7. Must Love Hellhounds by Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook: Four independent novellas. I purchased this for the Andrews story and was very happy with it. It's an important piece of backstory to a secondary set of characters in her Magic... series. The Harris and Singh were ehh, the former a particular disappointment and the Brrok was quite interesting, though I'd never heard of her. If you read Andrews, worth buying the book for her story. Otherwise, buy an Andrews book and after you have read those and liked them, consider buying this book.
  8. A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi: Obviously purchased as I was leaving Venice. I really enjoy this genre: the expat travel book, as it were. When it includes recipes, even better. I really enjoyed reading about Venice through de Blasi's eyes and was particularly amused when she mentioned of the track areas where we had wandered.  
  9. A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena de Blasi: I picked this up in Rome, as the Harris book on Pompeii was not finable in English translation. De Blasi and her husband move north, to Tuscany, as he undergoes basically a mid-life transition. As I understand, through looking to see if her herein mentioned Tuscan travel tour actually exists, there is a great deal of exaggeration in her "memoir". I don't care, though, because I enjoyed reading it.
  10. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett: I pre-ordered this from the UK, of course. Wonderful book. I read it non-stop. The general theme being that one can change oneself, that one is not doomed to be what one was made to be, and that it is possible that society can understand and change as well. As a Jew in Europe, and especially in Germany, the theme resonates strongly. The world is not quite as easy as this, I think, but still: Pratchett's writing, the Unseen University, Vetinari.... Top form. And football as well, for those who care as opposed to myself, who looks at it only as a tool of the writing.
  11. Wild Robert by Diana Wynn Jones: What happened here? A hard cover book that appears only to be the first few chapters of an actual novel? What a tremendous disappointment.

12 October 2009

Can it be Sunday already?

As is evidenced by my lack of blogging, I've been more chaotic and all over the place than usual.

We have had New Year's and Yom Kippur and Sukkot and a sadly great amount of time spent in synagogue was on the weekend rather than during the week. Sad because it has meant that I have spent the weekends being busy and therefore started each new week already tired.

We took a quick run to Dresden to use a free Starwood night before it expired and had a really lovely time at the Westin in Dresden: wonderful views, walking distance to the Center, on the river.
Dresden September 2009 Dresden September 2009

Thing1 lost an upper front tooth but has refused to allow the tooth fairy to visit and now she seems to have lost the little box she had that tooth in.

Last Friday we finally came to a decision on the move to Munich: it's really been on the burner, going back and forth, since June. The final result will be that the German will work no more than 4 days a week until January, that we will have a bit over three weeks of vacation between now and then and that after the 1st he will go to 3 days a week, which is manageable until the end of the school year. So the girls keep their friends, as do I, and all our arrangements will continue and I can start to relax: those of you have moved in Germany know just how horrifying and stressful the concept was: giving three months on this apartment and only having apartments available to view in 1, 3 months notice on utilities and gyms and ballette classes, having to uninstall and reinstall lights and renovate.... Yes, although at this point I was almost psyched at the concept of Munich I was definitely still more than unhappy with the thought of moving!
Great companionship checking out the new W on the beach:) October 2009
So after finding this out, I ran away from Friday to Sunday to Barcelona (as previously planned)and it was wonderful: weather, architecture, food, companionship and weather. Walked a lot and looked at things from the outside and had a great time.

Came back from low 80's to chilly and high 40s and a late end and early start to the week.

The best tuna tartare I've ever had, at the new W in Barcelona October 2009

The girls were exhausted this week: Thing1 was so tired on Tuesday that when I picked her up at school she actually wept and begged me not to make her go to swimming. I'm going to guess that she must have been a little sick, although she had no fever. In any case, we stayed home and had an early night with movie. On Thursday I was called in to pick her up from school early because her remaining upper front tooth was so painful and we stayed home again. That night, her tooth came out and now she looks like the cutest little vampire in the world:). It brightened her mood. We had some negotiation over what would inveigle her to allow the tooth fairy to take her tooth and we determined "something with ponies and fairies".

Luckily, here in Germany there is no shortage of such and she wound up with the new Lillifee DVD and a Ponyfee book. Perfect for her reading age and I am finding it useful myself- now I know that I can, sortof, read in the 6-8 age group.

This week culminated with Simchat Torah and another weekend in synagogue. The girls were pretty happy with this, as there was definitely candy being tossed about. The German was a bit wobbly as l'chaim and kiddush
were being made with Russian vodka!

We also made a quick run to Ikea- T1 and T2 adore going there. Another blogger mentioned that she had been there this weekend and was overwhelmed by lost and rowdy children and Germans with no idea of personal space.
I certainly agree that many Germans have no idea of personal space- I particularly loved the man who thought that stepping between my crying child and her mother and not moving was a good thing to do- while standing in line himself at the childcare area! But I have never seen/heard announcements for more than lost child or two, because the main reason that folks go to Ikea with their children!) is to take advantage of the free supervised spielplatz. Often we go have a coffee and chat for that hour, although this time we picked up another Benno (in schwarz-braun) for downstairs. Then we all went up and ate salmon and boiled potatoes and frites. That after a lunch of grilled steak and mashed potatoes. T1 said it was "the bestest day".

Only two more days before my German class is over and a two week vacation until the next one starts--- yeah!

07 October 2009

30 September 2009

What I am reading: September 2009

  1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (tran. Lucia Graves): Wonderful book. I am so glad that one of my book clubs chose this. Very dense and reminiscent, strongly, of Dumas, particularly The Count of Monte Cristo. Particularly appropriate as it was set in Barcelona and I'll be there the first weekend of October.
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow: I thought this was a charming epistolary novel. It made me think of childhood and Daddy Long Legs (the book, not the movie!). A quick read and for my book club- I loaned it to a friend from Manx and she says that it was irrtatingly clear that it was written by an American, so I look forward to hearing why she felt so and how she felt it might have been done differently. I was glad to read it though, and can recommend it.
  3. The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt by Wilhelm Genazino (tran. Philip Boehm): Genazino has won several German literary awards and I'm not quite certain why. This book was originally called Ein Regenschirm fuer diesen Tag, or An Umbrella for this Day and it perhaps was more apropos when reading this lachrymose stream of consciousness novel. But it was extraordinarily tedious. 132 pages and it took me 5 days to force myself through it.
  4. Curse the Dawn by Karen Chance: Another in the Cassie Palmer Pythia series. Well done, no falling off in quality at all, imho.
  5. Spirits that Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: Another good Hoffman read. A "normal" freshman at college discovers that her roommate is a member of a clan with powers. But Kim is not exactly normal: as an extremely talented artist, she's been targeted by anoter of the races that share the earth with humans, one that feeds on emotions and has become unhealthily addicted to negative emotions. Lots of fun.
  6. Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce: A YA novel by a writer whose work I always enjoy. Done first as an audio book by FullCast Audio and written especially for that production, she later wrote the actual novel of the audio play. Enjoyable maturation story of a Sone Mage and a look at Stone magic and the threat of a volcano on an island. As I plan on seeing Pompeii next month, I enjoyed that aspect very much.
  7. Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce: I have waited for a long time for this sequel to Terrier and I wasn't disappointed at all. Second in the 'Legend of Beka Cooper' I am really enjoying theis (adult) series about the growth of Rebakah from the slums into the Hounds (the King's "police" force) and the exploration of the society she lives in. I hope Mastiff doesn't take as long to arrive!

23 September 2009

An Expat Meme...

Ian ran this meme and I thought it would be interesting to answer these questions as well. I won't tag anyone, but if anyone runs it, drop a line so we can check it out.

  • How long have you lived away from your home country? It's been 26 months now.
  • Do you still feel like you’re just visiting? Gosh yes. Although, I lived in NYC for years and sort of felt like I was still visiting as well. I am pretty comfortable now, and it has taken the two years to be so. But the lack of language skills and the behavioral differences will always let me know that I am not a native.
  • What do you notice the most has changed about your home country when you go back for a visit? The great recession has had an extremely negative impact on the economy. Lots of empty houses, closed businesses, sales at prices that my Euro accustomed eye find terribly low. But also more poverty and more visible poverty and decay.
  • If you were to move again, would it be back to your home country? Not sure. For family sake, perhaps, but there are many other countries I wouldn't mind being an expat in. Right now, we are here for the kids and for social interaction with my husband's family and it has worked extremely well.
  • Do you ever get homesick? Not really. When I run up against a really awful German interaction, yes. Generally (except for certain things, most importantly the food), I like it here. That's because I can watch American TV and movies and local news: if I couldn't, I think I would have failed at this.
  • If you read the news, do you read it in your native language or that of your host country? Watch it on my local (US home) station, read it in US (and UK and English language German) on-line papers.
  • What do you like the most about Germany? I love the social system. I admire it and hope the US achieves it. With that is the respect for children and women and their lives, as well as that shown for immigrants and minorities. This is exhibited though support to parents, to children, kitas, schools and universities, mandated vacation and quality of life regulations, integration courses and the medial and other support systems. I am happy to pay taxes to support this system and think it to be fair.
  • What grates you the most? The thing that bothers me most is the German desire to follow the letter of the law rather than to arrive at a conclusion which is desireable to all parties. That need to follow the rules, no matter how silly or wrong or resulting in the wrong finish, pervades almost everything. Which, annoyingly enough, is matched with the German way of finagling the rules through personal connection and rules bending. As an American, I find it unfair. I think my national characteristic has me exclaiming: That's not fair or equitable, while a German might cry: Das ist nicht in Ordnung!--- That's followed closely by my hatred of the Sunday shopping rules, which cause problems to those of us who would like to keep the Sabbath on Saturday, although it's much better than it was 10 years ago.
  • Did you speak the language of your host country before you arrived? Not more than 10 words.
  • How long did it take before you felt comfortable speaking the language? Although I will speak in it readily, I always know that I am doing it badly.
  • If people switch to English when you speak to them in their language, how do you react? Only folks of good will do that, and I therefore am grateful- may I note that Beamtors actually, rather than switching to English, appear to switch to a form of German that is even harder than the regular sort. Although Beamtors have no problem understanding my (admittedly horrible German), they appear incapable of helping me to understand them in any way. If I want to practice my German with the regular sort of nice folk, I have plenty of opportunity at my childrens' schools, where most teachers and parents speak German in dialogue. In fact, most folks I interact with, even if they speak English, will pretend not to do so, although understanding me when I fumble and throw some in. I think that goes to national character: they desire not to display a less than perfect command of the language. Perhaps my experiences are different because so many of the people that I come into contact with are not business people or Anglophone expats.
  • What has been the biggest change you’ve had to make in leaving your home country?Not going out to work, living in a world where I don't understand the ambient conversation, finding hidden pork in many products (e.g. jello-equivalent and Haribo), inability to speak to the general population fluently and understanding that general friendliness is considered a sign of weakness.
  • If there were a button to improve anything about your expatriate life, what would it say on the button?I'll echo everyone else and say-"Free trips home"- the cost(in time as well as money) of flying overseas to see family is very high. Or second best: University level Understanding of German.

12 September 2009

The unblogged period...

I've started several posts in varying stages of completion, but if I don't actually finish one, I think I could just stay there, in the never ending search for completion and perfection while life continues.

It's been busy.

  1. We came back.
  2. My younger daughter went back to kita and my older was allowed back, but I spent a bit of independent time with her.
  3. We went to the Olympic Stadium swim baths twice, the first time with both girls meeting a friend and her daughter, and the second time T2 was at kita while T1 and two of her friends came with me. That was an intricate juggling act, dropping 1 off, using a spare car seat and running 3 girls to the bathrooms and back. It was great and the weather has been absolutely amazing. The view in that link is from the diving platform and adult pool but there are two children's pools out of shot that are great, one shallower than the other. I had been a bit chaotic that morning, throwing everythig together and I wound up leaving my beloved spray on sunscreen at the kita after spraying T2. that lead to me obsessively slathering all three girls with cream sun block, but forgetting my own back: my first sunburn in 20 years and I get it in Berlin, land of perpetual grey. Amazing. We stayed for about 4.5 hours and it was great and exhausting.
  4. I had to purchase the 27 specifically (to the brand of the oil crayons and the color of the schnellheftes) required items for T1's schulranzen and find her uniform in local stores.
  5. T1 had her einschuling, followed by her first day and week of school, including her first trip to a sportshall.
  6. We are continuing our ballete and swimming lessons start next week, twice a week.
  7. We are also attempting to survive having to get up over 1 hour earlier. Poor T2 needs to be woken by me every morning and they are at school 1 hour plus earlier while I pick them up an average 1 hour later every day. T2 has been falling asleep i the car on the way back. On the plus side, although still a bit annoying in the evenings (crany from being over tired) she's going to sleep better and not annoying T1 with wanting to play after lights out.
  8. I had a bookclub (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon). It was fun to get out, but exhausting. The book came late, and I really enjoyed it, but it was long!
  9. I started another German class, this time at my local VHS. I took the placement test and we talked out whether I should go A1.2 or A2.1. I know quite a bit of grammar, but after a year without really speaking German or taking classes, it's clear that I am missing a real ground in my articles. So I started the same day as T1 in my new school:). Although I know the grammar already, I am being pounded with using it correctly, and with the proper grammar following from the correct articles, which is just what I need now. (although now the teacher is discussing whether I should move up to A2.1. It would be more challenging, but A1.2 is moving too slowly.)
  10. The German has been gone 9 of the last 11 days and I am not too happy with it.
  11. T1 had an allergic reaction to one of the school uniforms and we had to change some fabrics.
Maybe if I publish this, I will overcome my inertia enough to start posting regularly again...

11 September 2009


I spent today in class and dropped off and picked up the children without a single person seeming to remember the date.

It took me quite a while to get over my PTSD after 9/11, not helped by the waves of layoffs at PwC that caught me in their third wave.

When I think about it, I still feel the emotions roll over me in waves. Yet I lost no one personally, only friends of friends, a person met in training, people from my town and from my neighborhoods, co-workers a division removed. I commuted through there, worked there, had friends and loved ones who have also done both. The smell permeated my neighborhood for months. The loss is personal and universal and my remembrance is both visceral and involuntary.

I remember September 11, 2001.

31 August 2009

What I am reading: August 2009

  1. You're so Vein by Christine Warren: Another in her series of Other books. This time Ava finally meets her match. Fluffy airplane read.
  2. Storms Can't Hurt the Sky by Gabriel Cohen: I was reading this at the same time as The Lizard Cage and I found that to be a lucky chance. This book is sub-titled A Buddhist Path through Divorce and it has some relatively simplistic but readable descriptions and explanations of Buddhist thought. I ordered it not because I am contemplating divorce, but because the favorable reviews I read said that it was a very helpful guide to overcoming or dealing in a healthy way with, problems in relationships and I thought that would be a useful skill to start practicing. I found the book useful although shallow and it has definitely given me food for thought and the desire to continue reading, in a deeper way, on Buddhism.
  3. The Trouble with Demons by Lisa Shearin: I really liked the first two, but I am finding what I consider to be anachronisms (using the term Miss) and modern attitudes and sentiments without an understanding of why they would exist in the magical, medieval milieu, too distracting.
  4. The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff: Anew, fantasy, series. The protagonist is a witch from a family of witches and clan associated with rituals reminiscent of Wicca. Enjoyable and sets Alysha Gale up to star, with a supporting cast, in future books. Set in Calgary and I enjoyed the magic.
  5. The Lizard Cage by Karen Connolly: A read for my book club, I just told a friend (and another blogger)that this is the best book that I have read so far this year. The context is mid-90's Burma, the protagonist is a political prisoner and the subject matter is dire, but the lyricism of the words lifted me through the narrative and allowed me to read without needing to stop and go away. The chapters were also very short: it seemed that when I reached a limit where I might otherwise have put the book down for a while, I reached a chapter ending that allowed me to take a deep breath and start again. I was reading it at the same time as the next book, and I think the understanding of Buddhism that I gained was helpful to me in understanding certain contexts within this book. I thought it was a very authentic and moving book.
  6. A Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (2002): This was more what I had been looking for when I read reviews of Hoffman that compared her to Zenna Henderson, although more modern and less classic in writing. Also interesting in the difference between a people lost here on this Earth from another and a "native race" of magic holdiners. Loved it. It's exactly the type of thing that I enjoy and better than the above noted Huff.
  7. A Red Heart of Memories by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (1999): I had already read Past the Size of Dreaming (2001) (reviewed last month) and this is the book that led into that, where we meet Matt and Edmund (and they meet each other) for the first time. I like it and am rereading the sequel right now to settle the details that I missed (such as the "magic gold" and why it was gone) and am glad that I brought these all back from the US with me. Although I read the sequel without realizing that I needed to read the first book, I now know how important it was.

27 August 2009

Books people have read...

This is a Facebook meme that a high school friend put up: I think I saw this once described as books that people say that they have read versus those they actually have:). I think it's a bit more substantive than the last book list and I have read, I think, a smaller percentage of them. I am really enjoying my book clubs as opportunities to stretch my reading muscles (although Crime and Punishment has literally been sitting in the TBR pile for 9 months now...)

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES. Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read and a * after those you loved.

Tag other book nerds.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen -X*
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien -X*
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte- X*
4 Harry Potter series - JK RowlingX*
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee- x
6 The Bible- X
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte- X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell- X*
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman-X
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens-X*


11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott-X*
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy-X
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller-
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare-MISSING A FEW
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du MaurierX
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien-X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger- X*
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot


21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell-X
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald-
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens-X*
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy-
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams- X*
26 The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner-
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky-
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck-
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll- X*
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame-X*


31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy-
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens- X*
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis-X*
34 Emma - Jane Austen-X*
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen-X*
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis- (this is part of 33)X*
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini-
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden-X
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne- X*


41 Animal Farm - George Orwell- X*
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown-X
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez-
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins-X
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery-X*
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret AtwoodX*
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding- X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan-


51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel- (COULDN'T FINISH-YEGG)
52 Dune - Frank Herbert-X*
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons-
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen-X*
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth-
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens- X*
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley- X*
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon-
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez-


61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck- X
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov-X
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt-X
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold-
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas-X*
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac-
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy-
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen FieldingX
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie-
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville- X*


71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens-X*
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker-X*
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett-X*
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson-X*
75 Ulysses - James Joyce-X
76 The Inferno – Dante-
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome-
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray-X
80 Possession - AS Byatt


81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens-X
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker-
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro -
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert-
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry -
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White- X*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom -
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - X
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton


91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad- X
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery-X
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams- X*
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole -
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas-X*
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare- X*
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- X*
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo-


Total: 58 of 100

25 August 2009

100 most beloved books...

The BBC list of the most beloved books. Here's what I have read (those with an x), with notes:

x1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien (7-8 times, I think.)
x2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (5-6 times)
x3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (Only the first two 0f the trilogy: lost interest when I couldn't reread and remember the earlier books.)
x4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (all of them and the Infocom game as well.)
x5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling (All of them, obviously.)
x6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (Haven't all Americans?)
x7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne (Haven't all Westerners? All of them, and to my kids as well.)
x8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell (Haven't all Anglophones?)
x9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis (All of them, of course, and without concern for the underlying Christian allegory.)
x10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë (Yes.)
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
x12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë (Same year as all of Austen and 10.)
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
x14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier(ditto 12.)
x15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger (ditto 6.)
x16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame (Wonderful book, although Waterbabies was better in this vein, I think.)
x17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens(Love Dickens!)
x18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (Reread recently while reading March)
19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (I have problems getting into the Russians that I need to overcome...)
x21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
x22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, JK Rowling
x23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
x24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
x25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien(goes with 1).
x26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy(And therefore no other Hardy. Should I give him another try?)
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck (really want to read this as we languish in our own small depression.)
x30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll(and through the looking glass.)
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
x33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett (for my book club this month-which I then missed- and realized that I had read it about 10 years ago.)
x34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
x35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl (I think I have read most Dahl in print.)
x36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson(early childhood influence, with The Black Arrow)
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
x38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
x39. Dune, Frank Herbert
x40. Emma, Jane Austen
x41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
x42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
x44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas(perhaps 6-7 times, and various movies.)
x45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
x46. Animal Farm, George Orwell(Some animals are more equal than others...)
x47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
x51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
x52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
x53. The Stand, Stephen King (Sometimes I think the 6 hour mini-series was better. I would have liked it more without the God-Devil thing.)
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
x56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
x58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer (Loaned to me by a friend here, on the shelf TBR.)
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
x62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
x63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
x64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
x65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
x68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
x69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
x70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
x73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
x74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
x75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding
x76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
x77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
x78. Ulysses, James Joyce
x79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
x81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
x82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
x83. Holes, Louis Sachar
x84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
x87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
x89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
x92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
x93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
x96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
x99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

20 August 2009

Nintendo Wii help- Germany and US regional issues: Help!

So, we have a German Nintendo Wii and we have American games (because that's where we are from!) as well as German games (because that's where we are currently).

Can anyone help with how to resolve this issue that does not require throwing either one region (and the player) or the other region away? Because one day we expect to be back in the US and will have the issue there as well. At the moment, we have only a few games on each side and the Wii is still returnable (surprise gift from husband- much wanted, but leaving us with this quandary) so we need to decide quickly.

Please e-mail me if you have any possible solutions, thanks to anyone who can help us out.

(bigappletobigbear at googlemail.com) take out the spaces, of course.

Thanks to everyone... for the e-mails and after talking to Nintendo US, I sent back the German Wii and accessories and will bring over the US version. There was once a software solution to the problem, but Nintendo rendered it ineffective with their last firmware upgrade and I don't want to roll the firmware backwards and need to prevent automatic upgrades. I think it's terribly annoying and also amazing that Nintendo Germany and Nintendo UK don't respond to e-mail queries, but it is what it is.

31 July 2009

What I am reading: July 2009

  1. Regenesis by CJ Cheryh: Wow. It was great. I put aside everything that I was supposed to be reading and just made my way through this sequel to 1988's Cyteen. Since my copy of that is, of course, back in the US in storage, I ordered a copy (in 1 volume and without the iconic Whelan covers) to reread before digging into the 585 page (and boringly covered) sequel. But I couldn't wait. I remember the original (I think I must have reread it two or three times) well enough that I just plunged into the sequel and I didn't feel the lack (although Cyteen is now waiting on my night table to be reread RSN). It's just classic Cherryh and I love it. The new Invader novel is somewhere much deeper in my TBR pile: this brought me back to the basics of why I used to love SF so much (and makes me sad- I read so much fantasy now because I just can't find enough SF to be passionate about anymore). My gosh. This is just great stuff. Genetics, cloning, birth labs, "reincarnation" through cloning and mind-tapes, societal engineering: this is what made science fiction so exciting and it still is exciting.
  2. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews: Sequel to Magic Bites and Magic Burns by a husband and wife team writing urban fantasy as Ilona Andrews. Their writing is improving and their story is as interesting and exciting as it has been. The concept is that waves "post Shft" of magic and technology sweep across the world, and that the protagonist, Kate Daniels, has abilities only partially known to her friends and allies. The plot keeps developing, the back story keeps filling out and I become more interested and invested in the characters each book.
  3. Past the Size of Dreaming by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: This author was suggested to me (was it Amazon, was it someone's list?) as being similar in thought and flavour to Zenna Henderson, whose work I love (and which has been "copied" by others such as Alexander Keys). This novel- not so much (another I picked up more so), but I liked it very much. The background is of a world where magic lives, where it can be awakened, and where it operates in a hidden parallel with mundanity while also being "mundane" in itself, or natural. I like her writing and I like her "voice. I am sorry to see that most of her current work is short stories because they are so much harder to track down than novels. I will try to pick up the rest of her work while I am in the US next month. (I just popped over to Amazon, where I see she has a new novel out in a few months and I have ordered it.)
  4. The Silent Strength of Stones by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: This is much more in the style of Henderson. YA, as most of Hoffman's work is. The protagonist helps his dad run a general store in a recreational area and gets his kicks watching the summer people and renters, but this time the family he watches is quite extraordinary: they have Magic and they don't enjoy his watching. But Nick is not ordinary either. This book is why I jave ordered the rest of Hoffman's work.
  5. M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman: I saw Stardust recently and loved it and some others of Gaiman's works are sitting on my TBR pile, so I thought I would start with this, a collection of short stories primarily in the YA accessible range. In the preface, Gaiman mentions that Ray Bradbury chose his more YA stories to put into collections called R is for Rocket and S is for Space and that he asked permission to call this collection M is for Magic. I don't think the permission was required, but the conceit is lovely and brings back memories.
  6. Nation by Terry Pratchett: I love Pratchett. A really good book. The protagonist is on his manhood journey when a tsunami destroys his entire homeland. He is the last. As others float up on his Island, the interactions are wonderful. A parallel world, with a few familiar faces. A good read. (This just won a Globe/Hornbook award and will debut as a play this year.)
  7. Why we read what we read by John Heath and Lisa Adams: Interesting discussion of what Americans have been reading in the last decades. A bit frightening to see the change, which seems to actually be similar to the degradation of the national psyche as seen through the rise of Fox News and the declination of CNN.
  8. Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi: A look at Scalz's last book through the parallel story of Perry's daughter Chloe. Well-done, was nominated for the Hugo this year. (edit: lost to Neal Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.)
  9. Cyteen by CJ Cherryh: After reading Regenesis, I went to Cherryh's blog and have added her to my reader. I enjoyed rereading Cyteen and will probably reread Regenesis in a few months (to have read it after rereading Cyteen): I am glad to see that Cherryh thinks she might write another (without the 20 year wait). Cyteen was as good as I remembered it, but I think Cherry's writing now is even better and smoother.
  10. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett:
  11. tales of a fourth grade nothing by Judy Blume: While wandering around the Interwebs some time ago, I wandered through circuitous paths to Judy Blume's website. I really loved her work when I was young and I am looking forward to starting to share it with Things 1 and 2 soon. I picked this up and felt as if I had fallen into my childhood, Freaky Friday, Disney movie, Bewitched. I loved it and will pick up the rest of the (re-issued) series in the matching covers when I am in the US.
  12. The Language of Bees by Laurie R King: Since King's last Martinelli book (her other, contemporary detective/police series) used the Baker Street Irregulars as a primary plot ingredient, it was like a warm-up to this, the next in her Mary Russell/ Sherlock Holmes series. I always enjoy them and this was interesting and brought in what will be interesting new series characters. For this first time ever, King has closed this with, really, a cliffhanger and I hope that I don't have long to wait for the sequel and to really get to meet the new characters.

29 July 2009

What am I doing today? And miscellaneous catch up.

I just got back from an hour round trip, most on the A100, to Kinder Bauernhof Pinke Panke, where Thing1 left her rucksack yesterday. It looked really cute and the area itself was way out- I saw more bike trailers than I have since getting to Germany. Lots of green. We may check this out as a family in the future, on a weekend. It looks more "animally" than Domain Dahlem, which we frequently go to.

I ran a bit late because the farmyard doesn't open until noon. Today has been another shockingly good day. Warm and no rain yet, with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

I have been consolidating and finding photos on my miscellaneous computers, hoping to get them all on the Mac and then backed up before the next hideous crash (it's about due). I think that I'm doing my iPhoto bck up in a painfully slow way, but at least I am backing it up. Right now I am pulling all the non-application material off the Dell that I use as a Slingplayer thrower (and which has had a defective battery for 18 months) and putting it on my Western Digital back-up drive. It will take 31 minutes, it seems. Then I will pull all the photos off that material and put it into iPhoto, after which I will burn a DVD of the library. When I did that last week, it took over 40 minutes. I think there must be some way to make a smart folder to do that, but I haven't figured it out yet.

This week I have been watching the last half of last season's Heroes, and today I am at the second to last episode: it was really good. I'm trying to clean the DVR off a bit before I start travelling and perhaps overrun my available space. I have also been taping a few movies and look forward to watching them.

A friend here in Berlin has been telling me how great Mad Men is: I have also read good reviews of the series but never started watching it. She has the first season on DVD and I said that I would pick the second up while in the US and we would each catch up. I think I will enjoy the series: it's a period that I know from books, particularly Kuttner, Kornbluth (with and without Pohl)and Bester (whose wife was herself an "ad man").

I was saying recently that I think Americans are ingenuous and naively optimistic in their views of human nature: I think this is recent and a result of the warped (although charming) view of humanity shown on TV and the general decency of American society. I think people were more cynical in the 50's and more in touch with reality and I am curious to see how the show bears my view out.

Shatner Does Palin (07/27/09)

Come on. Can it be more perfect?

28 July 2009

Tuesdays without Dory and what's up.

I'm glad that TwD is optional this summer, because I am 1. exhausted and 2.not making icecream without an icecream maker.

The girls are at day camp this week and last and they have been having a good time. I think they have seen more of Berlin than I have! Although I will be off in the morning to check out one of the more interesting spots, a children's farm yard because thing1 left her rucksack there. When I got to camp to pick the girls up, she was sitting there crying. She did, however, look glorious. I think they had a hair session today, while waiting for the park to open before leaving, because her hair was done in the most wonderful updo, with two small braids, one on each side and the rest of her hair drawn up in the most adorable bun, puffed around rather than twisted. I think she had as many pins in her hair as I did at my marriage ceremony (no- she had only 16, I think I had 35:)). I took pictures in hopes that I can reproduce it for her.

So tomorrow off down the autobahn. This will be good for me because I don't like driving on the autobahn, so what does not kill me will make me stronger. Thank goodness I have the GPS.

When I was cleaning up last week for Thing1's party, I finally finished all the seasonal clothing shifting as well as packing up and away two boxes of clothing thet Thing2 has outgrown (I don't put away T1's clothes because T2 is so close behind her). I used a lot of party favors that I had brought over from the US and I can see that we are actually running through some of the supplies that we brought with us from the US 23 months ago. Without surface air, I don't think that we are going to be able to keep up with our appetite for Annie's Organic Mac'n'Cheese or Crystalight.

We have already resupplied with coffee twice and I just ground the last of my Costco Jamaica Blue beans. I have been out of Dunkin Donuts decaf for almost a month. Luckily, I am so tired that even when I drink caffeinated coffee at night (I love the taste, I like the warmth) it doesn't keep me up. Thing1 can't seem to get over waking me before 6 am and without the German to take occasional duty getting up with her I have an awfully early start to my day.

We are also running out of craft materials and small toys, so I checked Idee out last week and it's really a great craft store. Not as good (or as wide ranging) as Michaels, but the best that I have found here. They have such wonderful supplies and patterns for making a Schultuete that I feel a bit guilty not making one. Howver, Thing1 chose her schoolcone and her schule rucksack from her painfully thumbed and lovingly studied happytoys.de catalog.

The German school bag custom is amazing. The bag is so large that German pediatricians hand you a brochure warning you of the dangers of its size and weight to your tiny 6 year old child, But what can one do? Every single child has the same bag, and generally the same brand (Scout is preferred).
When I went to the school orientation for parents, I was given an unbelievably long and unbelievably detailed list of items that needed to be contained within the requisite rucksack (as well as ancillary items), all the way down to the size of the Pelikan pen and the # of the 3 separate paintbrushes. There are 10 notebooks, all to be specific colors. As I was looking over the list, another parent asked why so many and why so detailed and I burst out laughing. My response: This is how Germans are trained to be German. A few of the non-Germans laughed, but the Germans didn't understand the joke:).
Luckily, the regulation rucksack came with a number of the required items, like the two separately sized pencil cases, the sport bag, the colored pencil set (with space for the specified Pelikan left empty), the required water color set with three differently sized brushes, the bus pass holder. The bag is rigid and there is enough room for the 24 books and notebooks that she will be using next year. If I weren't dropping her off and picking her up, I wouldn't in conscience be able to let her use it. As is, I expect to carry her bag for her every day for at least the next few years.

21 July 2009

Here and gone again.

I pulled my last post, so it's interesting to see who can comment on it:). I did so not because anything I said was too strong or because I didn't mean it, but because I was afraid that someone involved might recognize themselves and I didn't want that.

It's at times like this that I really think about moving over to Wordpress.

14 July 2009

Summer Plans...

It's been a little harder making summer plans than I thought it would be.

First, the German keeps working Fridays. I thought I signed on to be a single parent Monday through Thursday and having him show up on Friday after the girls are in bed is breaking our bargain. The girls are pretty good, kita is wonderful and we are all trying, but it seems that I am just starting to recover from the flu/bronchitis/pneumonia that started mid-April and felt like it nearly killed me. I am still easily exhausted and I am pretty certain that what I had was originally an undiagnosed and untreated H1N1. After all, I started the entire process of my illness with IV antibiotics and things just went down from there. Clearly should have attacked with the Tamiflu. So by the time the weekend is here I am too tired to do anything and then I feel bad about not doing things. And the German keeps scheduling Friday off, then changing his flights and working.

I hope that next week mellows out, as day camp starts for the girls and it's just walking distance. I will visit a museum next week, I swear!

In bigger news, it took me three days of intense pain (and melting ear drums) to book our trips to the US. We had talked about going for some weeks ever since we decided to up our stay here for at least another two years. I worry about the fact that my children are forgetting Nana and Grandpa, particularly Thing2. Since they just won't get on a schedule to Skype, the kids are obviously going to have troubles remembering them. After all, Thing2 has lived in Germany longer than she lived in the US at this point.

But booking the tickets was a lesson in Catch-22 and circular logic. See, I wanted to book the girls' tickets with (you can't believe how much) money and our tickets with frequent flier miles (half a gift from the parents). But one cannot book children's tickets over the internet without purchasing an adult ticket at the same time. I couldn't book my ticket without knowing the children's tickets because, you know, it might be a bit awkward if 1. I couldn't get them seats on the same flight(s) or 2. if the only way to get them such tickets would be to pay so much for their tickets that I could go ahead and pay for all 4 of us for the sme price.
The second option came up three times with AirFrance and KLM. I spent hours on the phone with agents in the US and Canada (because with our rate plan it was way cheaper than speaking to people here in Germany, which I did just long enough to find them unhelpful at .14 Eurocents/minute). I'm not kidding: three days of spending hours on the phone after the girls were in bed, my brain melting and sweat pouring down my jaw from my melting ear. I got transferred, told to speak to other groups or airlines, repeatedly told to do things that were not doable, apologized to for lack of technical capacity, lied to, put on hold, transferred, dropped, lied to, told how I could do something (on the basis of which I transferred miles and wound up not being able to do that thing and freaking out), was multiply offered tix for the girls that were the same price as the schedule I'd found on momondo or other sites for the girls plus an adult... you just can't believe how horrible the experience was.
Then I spoke to someone at NWA. She was like an angel from heaven. She was able to find me a reasonable flight for the kids (versus the one I had on hold for the price of 3 of us). She was able to book it for me with the note that I had another FF flight with the required adult. She was able to seat the kids with a space next to them that I could fill in. She was able to book it as a KLM flight so that they would stop f***ing with me.
When I went back to KLM and asked them to re-book my FF flight to match the confirm number of the childrens' flights, the call center woman said,"No, it's not possible."

I lost my temper. After I explained how it was possible, the lady was actually to change my reservation to math the childrens' so that we are actually travelling together.

This process should have been easy. It was made extremely difficult and even with my saving angel of NorthWestAir I was required to pay the "over the phone" booking extra fees for the children, which really wasn't fair as it was their own systems which made it impossible to do what I would have preferred: booking on-line.

I haven't booked the husband's ticket yet: that's waiting for the transfer of yet more miles to allow me to do that. Transferring the miles from my AmEx account was problematic because we ditzed out this past month:our AmEx cards had expired and they had a no forward on the replacements. We hadn't noticed because there really isn't a lot of use for credit cards in Germany. But one can't transfer miles without a current AmEx card. So last month we had ordered new cards. They had arrived when the groseltern were taking care of the children and I had them put away where they would be safe.

I can't remember where that place is. Luckily, AmericanExpress' Mileage Rewards has a US based customer service model, and with some discussion theyw ere able to transfer the miles for me. So sometime tonight I should book those flights for him. He will be staying with us for two weeks, with my parents, and then I will be staying on another week.

With us staying here for who knows how long, we thought it was important that they know my parents, my brothers, their cousins. The trip is hideous and I'll be coming back alone with them, which is a horror I wish not to contemplate, but we think it's necessary. I'm not sure we will be able to afford the time or expense next year so I hope we can get some enjoyment this year with everyone.

I'm not looking forward to the 18+ hours travel time, though.

Tuesday's with Dorie: Not this summer. And what's up.

I'm taking the opportunity offered to take the summer off. I just can't seem to get ahead of myself with the German out of town what is working out to be 5 days out of 7. Particularly with all retail shops closed on Sunday, this makes doing things a bit crazy.

This past weekend we went on a family religious retreat. Although it was fun and refreshing, it didn't make coming back to a very busy week without another set of adult hands any easier.

This week is Thing1's birthday party at kita (and the last week of kita), a good-bye "party" for Thing2's class, as some children leave for Israel and other places and as they move up to another group, and on the weekend Thing1's "real" birthday party.

This is the first time I have attempted a birthday party here in Berlin and I am finding it a little daunting, primarily because of the kosher issue (as, I can't cook anything here because my stove is not kosher, etc.). A friend is bringing a cake and I am not certain what else I will be doing- I'll tell you next week:). Then there is the "theme" issue: party novelties in Germany are poorly made, extremely expensive, and back-ordered. Yes, I should have brought more with me from the US and I really should have pinned T1 down to her desired theme earlier so that I could trans-ship novelties (send them to a friend in the US, have them shipped here). But I didn't. So I mixed (Disney) Princess themes and I'll do the best I can with that. But I can't bake a cake myself, which is really disappointing. I hope the weather remains good and then we can take an hour in a spielplatz around the corner.

Now I'm off to draft a dunning notice for the 2/3 of parents in T2'sclass who haven't paid their dues: really- was 3 Euros a month too much for them? Won't catch us being class parents again.

04 July 2009

Life with a weekend spouse, casual injury and tipping in Germany.

It's been 5 weeks since the German started commuting to München. The commute is supposed to run fro early Monday (leaving before 5 am) until lateish on Thursday (sometimes after 22:00) but a few times it has run into Friday.

Last night was one of those and when he got in, very late, we thought twice about joining some other expat bloggers for a mini-meet-up in Hannover (about a 2.5 hour ride from here). When I heard early in the day that he would be late, I had already called and cancelled the hotel room, as 18:00 was the deadline and I knew he wouldn't be back until much later. We decided to sleep on it, set an alarm, and decide whether it made sense to leave at 7 am.

We did in fact get up at 6:30 (Thing1 gave us no choice), but the German begged to be allowed to sleep and I did accede to his request (and you can bet that I will be sleeping in tomorrow, at least as much as possible). We gave our friend Alice in NRW a call to break the news, only to find out that she and her son had strep and that they had cancelled as well. When I called Christina to apologize at 10, when we were to meet, I discovered that two other couples had cancelled and I felt just awful about it.

But the commuter marriage is really dragging me down. It's all the little things. I am tremendously grateful that the girls are in kita, so I can run errands, get some groceries, go to the doctor, go the the car shop, deal with some stuff. But on the other hand, I always need to get up early and I always need to get them in to bed alone (hard with Thing2, who still naps and thinks that since it's still light at 22:00, she can wander out of bed and say she needs the toilet. Sometimes 4 times within the hour).

And the girls miss him, especially Thing2, who sometimes has meltdowns about his morning absences. I have no help tidying up after them, or amusing them, or with any of the things that he is alwys so very helpful with. I am much more tired than I would have thought and sometimes need to remember that I was extremely ill not so long ago. This week's 5th day just kicked my tush.

So instead of meeting fellow American's, Canadian and USian for the 4th, we went to a biergarten in Dahlem to have a Turkey salad, baby potatoes, pommes and an ice (with the girls playing between eating).

Interesting note: here was the second time in 8 days that a waiter in Berlin has cheated us.
The first time was last week. Alice (who was in Berlin with husband and kids for 2 days) had lunch with me at a place around the corner that we frequently go to, often with the kids, so we know it is family friendly and have enjoyed it. The baby had a fuss and we decided to eat at her apartment so the children could go down. They went ahead and I remained to pay the bill, which I did, with a nice tip. I was in a hurry because as folks know, getting something wrapped to go here in Germany is not a fast activity.

As I walked to Alice's place, I started thinking about the amount of the bill and not being happy. I had taken the receipt and when I started reading it (while crossing streets and walking) I became quite angry when I realized that we had been billed incorrectly in three items, resulting in an overcharge of 4€ (more than 12%). I tipped more than 4€ and it was quite clear to me that the waitress had billed herself a good tip, expecting me not to tip. 4€ was not enough to make me go back and yell at the waitress, but it was enough to make me angry and resentful. I will remember that waitress and now I understand the expression on her face at my answer to her question as to where I was from, when I answered: A few blocks away, I eat here regularly.

Today, at the Biergarten in Dahlem, the German paid the bill while I was rounding the kids up and getting their socks and shoes on. When he got back, I asked him what the bill had been and when he told me the answer I said that the bill was incorrect and asked to see it. Another waiter had attempted to give us a Bolognese, so I assumed they had added that to the bill incorrectly.
I asked to see our copy of the bill and when the German told me that the waiter had simply told him the amount, I knew that the overbilling had been deliberate: our order was taken on a handheld device that itself prints out the rechnung. When the German discussed the bill with the waiter, a "mistake" of 3.5€ was "discovered. Since, once again, he had tipped 4€, it was again clear that the waiter had chosen to "tip" himself about 15%. The German was aghast. Since he did all the ordering and this was in a neighborhood local, I can't even blame this on the desire to rip off tourists: it's just a clear trend.
I think that we are going to become more German in our ways. I will know read my bill very closely, no matter how crowded or tired I am, and my new plateau will be the German no-tip, with only extraordinary friendliness and/or helpfulness making me tip above the round-up. I'm just tired of the crap. This never happened to me in the US, although I know it does. And two times in one week!

Moving onward to the injury:

We then went to T1's lieblingsplace: the marienkafer spielplatz otherwise known as Ikea(because the Smaland inside uses the ladybug as their logo). In the parkinglot T2 ran under my feet and I went down hard: so hard, that passersby stopped to ask if they could call for help (perhaps it was my scream, followed by whimpering and ankle clutching?). I didn't really notice as I was busy pressing very hard against the ligaments on both sides of my right ankle- the one without the very painful heel spur- and praying that it wasn't broken. It wasn't, but omigosh it is sprained. After I was through whimpering we limped our way in and signed the girls in for their hour of joy and we went upstairs to split a soda and chat.

Afterward, off to our evening's entertainment of shopping at the suburban (yet still in the huge city that Berlin is) mecca of Kaufland. One hour+ later, with a shopping cart piled above and below, the cost was about that of my little wheelie bin from Lidl in the center of the city. It's a beautiful thing to have a car when shopping and now I am stocked up on boxed tomatoes, pasta and such like. We didn't go to Selgros because I also wanted to stock up on milk and H-milk and they don't have Bio full milk or H-milk.

Then home and so tired that after we put the children to bed I forgot to set the DVR to record the celebrations in NYC. :(. This year was especially exciting because it's the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's exploration of the river, so I am disappointed.

But then to bed, with a compress on my foot and a few tablets of ibuprophen.

03 July 2009

Have you ever...

marked all the posts in your Google Reader as read because you are just too hot and tired to deal?

30 June 2009

What I am reading: June 2009

  1. Fire by Kristin Cashore: pub date 9/09 ages 14 and up. This is a book that I got at BEA and it is wonderful. This is the first book I have read that makes me wish that I had picked up a second galley, because it's so well written, the world is so interesting, that I want to give it to others. This is listed as a prequel to Graceling, but when I looked up Graceling the description wasn't very interesting. Bad description! I will be ordering it this week and only hoping that the writing is as intense, the characters and world as exciting as that of Fire.
  2. Night Huntress by Yasmin Galenorn: Next chapter in the three Fae sisters saga. I am still enjoying the story, but the level of graphic sex is just about to interfere with my enjoyment. It's not LKH, but I like my paranormal with more story.
  3. Made to be Broken by Kelley Armstrong: This is the new series by the author of the Otherworld books. The protagonist is a hit-man, but she has a conscience, and was pushed into the career after being pushed past her limit as a policeman.
  4. The Guinea Pig Diaries by AJ Jacobs: written by the author of The Year of living Biblically, this is a collection of essays detailing other experiments in living that AJ undertakes. I found it very funny and am passing it along to the spouse as an easy read that he can pick up and put down.
  5. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson: A memoir of Bryson's youth in the 1950's and in Des Moines, Iowa. The best time in the world to be a white , male US citizen. Laugh out loud funny, even more so than his other also amusing works. (Or perhaps I just felt it more, in Berlin in 2009.)
  6. Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong: #8 in the "Women of the Underworld" series. I enjoyed it, but I would recommend starting with Bitten and going from there.

23 June 2009

Macintosh help?

Any geekish folk who might be able to help me with some Mac issues? Particularly, problems with Picasa 3, duplicates when importing from Iphoto, setting up dates files/folders for ditto?. And installing Adobe Editions.

21 June 2009

Cherry (and raspberry) Clafouti

I saw this recipe on Simply Recipes and it looked good: tasty and simple. It also looked very much like a recipe that Christina was doing in her series of German recipes on her blog An American Expat in Deutscheland, in this post. Her version is a Blankenhainer Cherry Cake and the major differences seem to be that the German recipe has more eggs, more flour (of various types), more nuts, and much more effort. As another commentor noted, I don't see much point to separating eggs and then putting the whipped eggs back in the batter and beating them: whipped egg whites are meant to be folded gently into a batter or there's no reason to have whipped them. I may try this recipe sometime, or I may just keep playing with this clafouti, which was indeed fast and easy.

Cherry Clafouti

  • 2 cups of fresh sweet cherries, pitted (I used tart- they were fabulous)
  • 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds don't like almonds, threw in some frozen raspberries
  • 3 eggs made it 4, as eggs are small here in Germany
  • 1 cup of sugar- left it it at 2/3, started at 1/2 but with the sour cherries needed a bit more
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar- I threw out the German version, it was too terrible. Used American brown sugar.
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of whole milk fettarme- 1.5%
  • 2 teaspoons of Amaretto -or- 3/4 teaspoon of almond extract No Amaretto with the kids, and I don't like almonds anyway, so I upped the vanilla
  • 1 2 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

    1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour a 9X9 or 10X7 baking dish. Toss in the cherries and slivered almonds.
    2. Whisk the eggs, sugars, salt, and flour together until smooth. Add the milk, Amaretto (or almond extract, if using), and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth. Pour into the baking dish.
    3. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When you pull it put of the oven it will wiggle a bit which is normal. Place on a wire rack to cool. The clafoutis will have puffed up quite a bit and will deflate while cooling. When cool dust the clafoutis with powdered sugar. Serve.
Serves 6.

    I found that this served 3+ for breakfast (and a lovely breakfast it was). Next time I will double the batter and retain the same amount of fruit to get more of a meal rather than fruit surrounded by a dab of eggy custard. The German, Thing2 and I all liked it very much- Thing1 stuck with toast and marmelada (which is raspberry jam here in Germany).

13 June 2009

Pasta Vegetable Salad

I have started so many posts and not finished them: some serious, some (perhaps) funny. I just don't have the energy right now. Perhaps I will work on them this coming week: don't be surprised to see posts popping up that appear to be old.

So here's what I made for lunch on Monday.

I used to own and run two restaurants that primarily focussed on salads, potatoes and other healthy foods. This resembles the primary salad we made and I had forgotten how much I missed eating it several times a week (I had it every day for the week). We served it on a bed of lettuce, but here I served it by itself.

Pasta Salad:

This was all done by eye, but the gist is:
make pasta (according to the instructions), either shells or spirals.
(In my place, we would have several stockpots of boiling water going at once, but here in the house, I cheated by adding the vegetables themselves to the boiling water so I didn't need to blanch them and add them later.)
cook vegetables al dente (always carrots -which need the longest cooking time, green beans, and peas, which use the shortest. Also good with asparagus, broccoli, and snow peas.
Add the vegetables at the time which will allow them to be finished cooking at the same time. To make it even easier, use good frozen vegetables. Just make certain not to overcook and to chill and drain as rapidly as possible. (Of course, fresh tastes better and it's easier if you have a kitchen machine.)

Important: drain and run under cold water, while stirring the mixture to allow it to get as cold as possible, as fast as possible. You can also plunge into an ice bath, or have done so with the vegetables before adding them to already drained pasta.

Makes a cool, crisp and refreshing salad that I usually have with fat-free Catalina (if I have it) or a simple Italian vinaigrette.