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.

09 June 2009

Tuesday's with Dorie: Parisian Apple Tartlet

What I made is actually Berlin Rhubarb Tartlet, as I cook along with Tuesdays with Dorie. Jessica of My Baking Heart chose the recipe this week, and it is posted on her blog.

I was very grateful to see a recipe without chocolate and a recipe that I could make from ingredients in the house as I am dealing with single Mum-hood during the week: this is week 2 for the German being in Munich. So far it's been okay, except for the occasional weeping fit (by Thing2- I am old enough to get by with Skype and Thing1 falls asleep very quickly). We are still deciding whether to move down or continue the commuting for the next 6 months to a year.

In any case, the Tartlet. I have Blatterteig in the freezer (oh, I love my freezer) but I was out of apples and I am seriously in a rhubarb mood. I actually made a rhubarb turnover this weekend (that was the first time I used the puff pastry) and thought this would be a simple throw together. It turns out that my oven ran a bit hot, though, and my pastry blackened a bit on the edges at 190C and 15 minutes. I'll lower the rack next time.

For the filling I just diced a rhubarb stalk, added some sugar and macerated in lemon juice for the 15 minutes that I thawed the sheet. Voila!

It was delicious, even with a bit of blackening, as I am sure it would be with any fruit filling. Watch out for the dripping of the caramelized sugar, though, it can cause an oven mess if you use a flat (German style) cookie tray rather than a jelly roll pan.

07 June 2009

A quiet weekend with President Obama

The German got back last night from Munich and we spent today doing the ordinary things: a big shopping trip, a hot afternoon meal, laufradding and rollerblading.

Thing2 is developing a cold (gosh, we have been illness free for almost a week!)but she has finally decided that she will take medicine. This is an exciting new development and makes dealing with fevers easy: she was very funny as I finally persuaded her to taste the children's Motrin, and she curled the tip of her tongue into it. (Meanwhile Thing1 was throwing herself at me, begging for medicine: she loves Motrin and Tylenol.)

Then we had a lovely evening dealing with paperwork and faxing off a backlog of information in all different directions. We are winding up watching (re-watching, in my case) President Obama's speech in Cairo. It is such a good speech, so very carefully and so very intelligently written and so well-delivered. For those who have not had a chance to watch yet, it's well worth the almost one hour. Did you notice how very careful the distinction is between the political state of Israel and the religion of Judaism? How carefully he spoke to the difference between the religion of Islam and the acts of extremists? How careful he was with the differences between ethnic groups and political entities. What an intelligent man, how grateful I am that he is my president. How greatly I agree with his views.

Here is the transcript

"America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.


And finally, the Arab states must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state, to recognize Israel's legitimacy, and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and we will say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. (Applause.) We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have been shed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra -- (applause) -- as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)


The sixth issue -- the sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights. (Applause.) I know –- I know -- and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. (Applause.) And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now, let me be clear: Issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we've seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons. (Applause.) Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity -- men and women -- to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.

I know there are many -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort -- that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There's so much fear, so much mistrust that has built up over the years. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country -- you, more than anyone, have the ability to reimagine the world, to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort -- a sustained effort -- to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It's easier to start wars than to end them. It's easier to blame others than to look inward. It's easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There's one rule that lies at the heart of every religion -- that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. (Applause.) This truth transcends nations and peoples -- a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the hearts of billions around the world. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us: "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Applause.)

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now that must be our work here on Earth.

Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)


05 June 2009

Mother's Day Redux

It's only been 26 days since Honeypiehorse at Our Feet are the Same tagged me to talk about five things I enjoy about motherhood. You can put it down to illness, travel and motherhood itself that had me go this long without responding, although I have been thinking about it....
  1. One of the best aspects of motherhood is the all-encompassing change as a result of it. I thought that I cared about the world and my place in it, but as I have two people who will continue to live in it as women, Jews, feminists and humans, my concerns with the political, feminist, humanist, environmental and economic world become more focused and important. I no longer let things go because I would rather try to deal with certain aspects than leave those for my children to inherit.
  2. I love the way that even when the children are completely irrational, when they blow up at me and rage, at the end, all they want to do is sit in my lap and have a good hug.
  3. They make me more patient. For those who think I have very little patience, just imagine how I was before I had two children!
  4. Perhaps everyone has already said this- I haven't read all the posts yet- but I love the children with a visceral love, from my kishkes. The smell of them, the feel of them, the heat of them.
  5. And lastly, I love them as a part of myself. An extension of my parents, and their parents. Of the family and life and ancestry and history and culture that were stolen from me and from the world. A theft which my life and the lives of my children and family are a living symbol of repudiation to and a sign of victory over. Every step that we make is a step through and over those who would have rejoiced at our annihilation and I rejoice in our happiness and in our continuation.
And I am just awful at tagging folks, but if anyone would like to join on, please feel free to, just post here and at Honeypiehorse's post as well.

04 June 2009

Would I lose my head if it were not attached?

When I got back from NYC, the German asked me where the single stroller was. I looked at him. Had he thought I had taken it with me? I asked him where beloved Pooh was. He said that Thing2 had not asked for BP, which I said was not the point. (She has since. My response is: vacation. As a good German, she accepts that.)

It's been a real conundrum. How can one lose a stroller? It's not the first item one would expect to be stolen and it's also not an item one would expect to be left when one has taken it somewhere. I wondered if a child could have pushed it outside and someone might have taken it? The girls said no. The husband said no.

Today I thought: Hmm. Last Wednesday we took the girls to a function and they left from the function by bus while we walked home. Voila. I only hope beloved Pooh is still there when I pick it up. And I think I need to put our name and number on it: we are clearly not to be trusted!

03 June 2009

Shall we stay or shall we go?

...Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
An if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

This indecisions bugging me...
So, while  I have been recovering from the pneumonia from heck, dealing with some kita problems, and running off to the US for a long weekend to go to BEA (my favorite time... it's a fantasy of free upcoming books, ARCs in all directions...) we have also been dealing with some other items.

One of those leads to the above question. The German has been off to Duesseldorf and to Munich interviewing for another long-term project. This project is being spearheaded by another country and the leads have been looking for a German co-lead for some time. After more interviews, at a faster pace, than seems possible, they made him an offer. They actually wanted him to start last week, but what with me being out of town Thursday through Monday, he actually started in Munich yesterday. So. Shall we stay or shall we go... from Berlin to Munich, that is.

I sent this out to a few fellow expat bloggers and received some feedback but I'm still not certain what to do.

I am very fond of Berlin right now. I have my halal shops, my decent Asian food and markets. We have friends, the children have playdates, my gosh- I have playdates! Today I had my first date to tandem (language) with a mom I met at ballette and we had great fun and then I ran across a neighbor and we had spontaneous coffee and kuchen (she ate the TwD Cinnamon squares, although I need to query her for her opinion...). I really have friends right now, more than I have had in years, and the children do too. We have playdates as often as we like, and at least twice a week. A schoolmate has just moved 4 doors down and another is around the block. The girls have a friend from ballet and her mom (a different one from my tandem partner) is great and reads the same type books that I do. I was asked to be on the board of a women's group. I love my apartment and we could never afford anything like this in Munich (floor to cathedral ceiling windows, roof deck with tomatoes and cukes and a kiddie pool....

The groseltern come in two weeks to give me three days to look at Munich- a city I have never seen. I have appointments with what would be the girls' kita and grundschule, because if I don't like them that will give me an easy answer and then I need to look around and see whether the quality of life (for me and for us) in Munich can be good enough to go against the quality of life here. It's a strong point that here I would be a single mum for 4 days a week, but here I can also drive the girls to school. I can change my mind about which school to send Thing1 to and keep her in the attached grundschule, which would make my life so easy! She loves the environment, both girls love their classmates and teachers, the new school director is absolutely wonderful and has created a real change in the school, with expectations of parental involvement....

In Munich, the schools are in the Altstadt and I understand that there would be no way to drive them in, so then we need to expect weather with pick-up and drop-off and to not be in walking distance. We would need to look for a place on the lines that give us easiest access and then expect to walk, in snow and rain, in dark and cold, to and from subway stops. I have no idea where best to look and what I do know is that housing is about 3x the cost from here to there as well the schools being significantly more pricey and requiring us to be enrolled for Kirchgeld rather than simply paying fees (a very significant amount and one without a cap that we will see, unlike the cap on other income related taxes, payments, and fees).

The school year starts September 14th in Bavaria and September 1st here, so all our decisions need to be made at what Germans would consider the speed of lightning (rather than the normal German housing decision speed, which I would consider the speed of molasses in an Upstate NY winter). We have already had estimates on moving, but we cant really do anything else until we (that is, I) have gotten out there and at least looked around. I would also like to make sure that the German is enjoying the project, because if it were only for 6 months, we definitely wouldn't bother to move. For longer and it becomes vastly more important.

The reason I want to decide rather rapidly is primarily for the sake of the girls: Germans don't move very much. Please, don't tell me you know individuals who do: I married one. But the general German does not move and children know each other from nest through gymnasium. It will be hard enough on the children if I move them and they lose the dear friends they now have (especially Thing1, who still misses her American friends) and their familiar routines and loved activities: what I don't want to do is to move them after the beginning of the school year, so that they are not only the odd ones, the new ones, the ex-pat ones, but also the ones who didn't become part of groupings and cliques that might actually have a bit of lee-way at the beginning of the year.

Any folks have recommendations? We are lokking for a sunny three BR, garden space (to actually plant in), easy commute/walk to Marienplatz/Altstadt, nice area for a family with playgrounds and safe bike/rollerblade areas? Help?

02 June 2009

Tuesday's with Dorie: Cinnamon Squares

Well, it has been a while! Even though I just got back from the States yesterday, I thought that now I am well again (or at least well enough), I needed to start posting my Tuesdays with Dorie again. Tracy of Tracy's Culinary Adventures chose today's recipes and it is linked here.
My husband is in Munich and the house is a wreck (not so much from my being away in the US, as from getting home and unpacking and doing laundry and dealing with the children alone) so I was grateful that I had all the ingredients in the house (except esspresso powder, which I really don't think exists here) and threw it together. (Photos added after the kids are asleep.)
A few thoughts:
  • When will I learn? Even though I knew that I would not add the chocolate frosting (my goodness, I really don't like chocolate), why did I add the chocolate chips in the center layer? It really detracted from a decent cinnamon breakfast cake.
  • I generally find Dorie's cakes too sweet- I lowered the sugar by 1/4 cup, but perhaps should have decreased it more.
  • I often find the temperature/time incorrect- this time I turned the pan at 20 minutes and at 40 found it done. I might have been able to take it out at 35.
  • Dorie's cakes are frequently not spicy enough for my taste: when decreasing the sugar I should have upped the cinnamon. I did increase the salt and the vanilla and felt that to be better.
  • I dislike attempting to melt tablespoons of butter when I live with grams here and there are no sticks: I substituted 1/3 cup of olive oil and found the cake moist. I may continue to do this although in the case I think I would have preferred using 1/3 cup of unsweetened applesauce. I may try this again with much less sugar, yogurt instead of milk, applesauce and a real crumb topping (because sugar mixed with cinnamon is ehh in comparison).
As you can tell, it's ok. I have a coffee guest tomorrow and will hope she enjoys it. The girls don't love it, husband's not here and for me the streaks of chocolate damage my enjoyment (and I used a lot less than the recipe). It's a learning experience.

What I've been reading in links: Anti-Semitism and veiled Jew Hatred

Time to pull these off my desktop.

A discussion of arguments against the opponents of the Isareli academic boycott, and how choosing to dismiss the introduction of anti-Semitism as an argument is "non-productive and thereby should not be used.

This examines how ordinary it has become for those we consider our peers to dismiss their own and demonstrated anti-Semitism. Here's a long quote, because it so epitomizes how I feel myself.

Nothing so surely confirms the growth of anti-Semitism today than sentiments like these - not from neo-Nazi thugs, or Islamist hate-mongers, but from members of polite liberal society and the international left. Whether denying or minimizing the evidence of increased attacks on Jews and the spread, everywhere, of anti-Semitic tropes in public discourse, such voices themselves testify to a willingness to cushion those guilty of blatant anti-Semitism with an understanding tolerance and a willingness to look the other way. Instead of 'never again', their watchword is 'What on earth are you talking about?'

Jews of my generation grew up not only with a sense of the disaster that had so recently overtaken the Jewish people, but also in a climate of opinion in which anti-Semitism had been more or less marginalized, driven into the sewers of the political far-right and into coded and 'genteel' forms elsewhere. It was possible to believe that its National-Socialist manifestation had discredited anti-Semitism beyond recovery. No more. That turns out to have been an illusion. Anti-Semitism is back - not that it ever went away completely, but I mean back out of the sewers and from the shamefacedness and the self-restraining codes - in all its ugly colours. It still bears the stink of what it essentially is. (Via Z Word.)
Another tremendously well-reasoned discussion of why using the "Nazi-Israel" analogy is intrinsically anti-Semitic (as the EU has declared, and as is clear to  objective readers of the words where that analogy is used).
 ....these Nazi-analogy critics don't generally apply their favoured analogy elsewhere than in the Israeli case, they don't often use potentially apt comparisons between Israel and other cases that would be less hateful to Jews, and they use the analogy precisely to magnify the parallels and minimize the discrepancies between Israel and Nazism. I submit, therefore, that there are strong grounds for seeing a certain malice in use of the analogy, and as this malice is aimed specifically, aimed by the very particularity of its shape, at Jews, it is hard to know what else to call it but anti-Semitism.
 As I so frequently find (and mentioned recently in my review of Foer's book), many people here find it easy and comfortable to take cheap shots at America. Anti-Americanism is even popular with American ex-pats, as I found the day that I moved into my apartment, when an ex-pat I had never met before told me how the International school was better than the American one, beause he (an American) didn't much like Americans (said to an American he met 20 minutes before). I understand the desire of converts to be even harder than the "born into", and how, in a casually anti-American atmosphere it is seductive to say:" I'm a different type of American- everything is better here and I acknowledge that immediately." This is an interesting glance at that atmosphere in the European left. This is a quote from quite a famous American,
[I]n Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what's bad.
When the Times concludes that the disproportionate targeting of minorities in stop and search is so egregious as to prima facie prove racism, the question is raised as to whether the disproportionate focus in the UN on Israel's actions is proof of the same (my opinion is that it clearly is and has always clearly been so).
Must we not then conclude also that the UN Human Rights Council is institutionally racist because of its singleminded focus on the Jewish state? And that political campaigns - of boycott and such - which target Israel and only Israel are racist in effect? Well, people could argue that such narrowness of focus is not on account of Israel's being a Jewish state, but on account of its human rights offences. Couldn't they? Except that if human rights offences are the reason for this focus, then there's a disproportionality here easily as great as in the police stop-and-search statistics today reported, with human rights violators of an entirely non-Jewish complexion thick on the ground globally.