31 March 2010

What I am reading: March 2010

  1. Flirt by Laurell K. Hamilton: Ok, every now and then I will read a LKH, even though the actual writing quality keeps heading downhill. Hey, that's what popcorn is for, right? And with the Kindle, sometimes the snack is too tempting.
  2. Shalador's Queen by Anne Bishop: I always like books by Bishop. this is the second Shalador book and is set in her Black Jewels world. We get a chance to see some of the people we care about from her other books and it's a cozy read but you should start with the original series: too much interaction is lost when starting with these.
  3. Blood Magic by Eileen Wilkes: I like Wilkes' world. Deep into the series, start instead at the beginning with Tempting Danger. A cop with paranormal abilities teams up with a lupus, while dealing with the prejudice of the regular world. 
  4. Reckless Jill by PG Wodehouse: One I haven't read. It swept me into that carefree world of a lost time. I loved the retreat and will be searching for more Wodehouse downloads. It's like "Calgon, take me away" for me.
Not much else. March was a very busy month and while I ran around I did a lot of catching up on magazines instead.

22 March 2010

It's going to happen.

Even though women have been stabbed in the back. America will have the first step to a decent and humanitarian health care system. 32,000,000 more Americans covered. 23,000,000 living in the US uncovered, of whom 1/3 will be illegal, leaving, if my math is correct, 14,000,000+ citizens uncovered. A good start.

20 March 2010

What I've been doing (instead of blogging): Decorating, Classes, Listening and Luxuriating

  • We put up two wall cabinets in the kitchen, with glass doors, from Bauhaus. So now I know that the rest of the kitchen isn't from Bauhaus, because their Buche laminat has better grain than our other cabinets.
  • The German also put a face plate on the dishwasher, while cursing the entire time that the included template didn't work. Luckily, he has the heavy duty drill and the end result is great.
  • Only 30 months later (in Germany) plus a few years, we framed the INY posters I got from a co-worker who worked on the program and got them up on the walls. Beautiful. NY is such a fabulously diverse state. The framing was a journey of discovery, because framing is pretty expensive. We went looking for frames at Ikea, but their frames are expensive— even the ugly ones. And the size was way off: Standard German size is 100 x 70, but the posters were actually 91x61. When we went over to Bauhaus (they open earlier than the local frame-shop we were going to check out), we discovered that a custom frame would be in the 200€ range (with a mat being 40€+) and that even having it dry-mounted on styrofoam (styropur) would be 145€. However, Bauhaus had the strange size of 93x63. and the kind framing lady cut a piece of black stock to fit exactly: when we put it together, I'm not even certain the gap would have been visible, but it just went together perfectly. Each frame plus paper was under 28€. I'll e putting 1 more up and then a great Dragon (made of)  Origami poster.
  • I unpacked all four remaining (in the apartment) boxes in an (ultimately unfruitful) search for my last remaining missing appliance — now the German will need to check the cellar but at least the apartment is cleared. After we get back from the Easter hols we will do the clothing changeover and the plastic boxes waiting for the switch-over will also be gone.
  • No, not German classes. When B.1.2 kicked back in the week after we moved, I just didn't want to live in a tip. I contacted the VHS and they agreed to roll my enrollment forward until June, the next time that Berliner Platz 3 will be the text used. I am reveling in my time.
  • First was the sewing class. I have been wanting to learn to sew since before leaving the States. Hard to do when working and then with the baby and then packing up to come here. But a group I belong to had a member just start a series of one-offs and I saw it in time to sign up for the class this month. Fortuitously, it turned out to be sewing for kids and I made a pair of summer pants for T1 and sewed a matching embellishment on a T-shirt. It was fun! Amusingly enough, I found it far cheaper and better (because the instructions were in English) to order my new Brother sewing machine from the UK: even with expedited shipping it was only 2/3 the cost of buying it in Germany, and that with the bonus throw-in of a sewing kit and some extra feet.
  • Then was the Crepes class. It was booked up but I sent an e-mail off to the organizer and she had so many folks interested she ran a second class. Now I know how easy crepes really are, I also know why my stir-frys were always "ehh"— heat not high enough— and I have a large baggy of crepes in the freeezer to pull out, thaw, and use for either savory or dessert.
  • I recently read The Echo in the Bone and at the end, I was so annoyed by the cliff-hanger ending I wasn't certain if the book (in English, purchased in Munich) had been printed properly or if there was a missing chapter. So I started wandering about the Internet and discovered that, strangely enough, Diana Gabaldon would be here, in Berlin next week. Quite short notice to find a babysitter. At first, it seemed that both of our regular sitters wouldn't be able to make it and a friend stepped up and said she would take the girls overnight. But I was concerned that they would not go to sleep early enough on a school night and that it would be a real problem. Luckily, one sitter was able to clear a schedule and I wound up having a very full day: first the crepes class, then grabbing the girls, making dinner, driving to Mitte, finding parking, enjoying the lecture (which I will write up in another post) and then getting back, which was an experience in itself.
  • While running about yesterday (visiting the recycling center— close enough to the apartment that going there with large goods is easy— we stopped at our local McFit and the German fell in  love. An entire fitness center with only weight machines and cardio on the ground floor, with the 1st floor being nothing but free weights. So last night, while I took my first bath in the apartment (it's really deep! the water is really hot! the bathroom is really warm!— two radiators!) with a vanilla pillar candle burning and a Self magazine (is there a more frivolous read?), he went there, registered (in 2 minutes), and worked out for an hour.
  • After which we called our parents and watched Brothers and Sisters. This is what life is supposed to be like.
Earlier in the day I made chicken soup  and an avocado cucumber salad (thanks Alice). So now I have stock for the coming month and chicken for chicken salad. 

I love my apartment. I love my kitchen. I love my full-size standing refrigerator and standing freezer. 

13 March 2010

Jetzt bin ich eine richtige Berlinerin

or, now I am a real Berliner.

We had our hubcap covers stolen yesterday. When we looked on E-bay, the 4 of them cost 29 Euros, so we assume that someone stole them for their own car. We won't be bothering to replace them— luckily the black of the hubs at least matches the trim.

But still, is it really worth it to be a criminal for that little money? I'm just glad they didn't decide to steal our kindersitze (carseats), which are worth far more.

We will report it to the Abschnitt (precinct) on Monday— not because we expect to see them again, but to contribute to the crime statistics for our area.

Berlin is quite famous for car theft (a bit like Boston in the US) because of its proximity to Poland, and also for its crimes against vehicles, so this a light way to be inducted into the family. Better than having it set on fire!

11 March 2010

Back in Black

Today we had a meltdown in the car because T1 is now old enough to walk to her classroom by herself (past the high walls, protective glass and armed Police).

T2 wants to walk in with her. But it was snowing this morning and walking T1 to class means parking 700 m away, usually with T2 asking to be carried. So we took the easy way. Until T2 wouldn't stop crying. That is, until we started listening to her favorite song.

Then she only wanted me to stop singing along and turn the volume louder.

Sometimes I really miss music: I think it's time to stop listening to BBC and start buying CDs again.

09 March 2010

Oh Frabjous Day, Calloo Callay.

And it was.

Every day is better than the one before. Since the day that we moved in to this apartment my attitude has just been great. I really never knew how great a drag the whiteness of my walls and the hideousness of my floors was.

We spent the weekend organizing a bit more, moving a few pieces around, picking up the pieces to make things work a bit more. We couldn't pry the kids out of the house! All they want to do is run around and play. I think they love having a bedroom close to the living room— they have spent more time playing in their room in the last month than they did in the 18 months we lived in the last apartment.

What we have accomplished:
  • Painted the apartment and floored the BR. (Done except for wave.).
  • Found a great matching fridge to our standing freezer. I now have a great refrigerator and freezer.
  • Purchased and set up bathroom cabinets (tall standing and under sink). Love Ikea! And love that for the first time since we moved here we can organize our toiletries and medicines and know what we have and where to find it. That's allowing me to pull out still good products for which we no longer have a use (T1 got over her dermatitis, infant formulations no longer needed) to pass on. I have also found my moisturizer and realize, after using it, how terribly dry my skin has become and how much more comfortable I am moisturizing regularly. The German didn't say anything, but I see some moisturizer going his way, as well as the humidifier running at night!
  • Got rid of our extra desk- the give-away fell through so we ran it over to the recycling center, and got T1's computer and desk set up.
  • Bought T1 a half-height hochbett with draperies and the girls spend hours playing under it, in their "castle". We had gotten T2 a Himmelbett, but it was too big for her standard size bed, so we sent it back. A bit late, so we will have to see if there is an issue that we were 4 days past the return deadline: the company rep said to attach a note that we were moving— and we got that sent back through their special drop-off. We'll get her a different one if there was no issue with the return.
  • That liberated T1's queen size bed to move into the Arbeitzimmer where it serves as an annoyingly wide daybed (with a great view over the balcony) and will serve as a guest bed if needed.
  • Have hyacinths, crocii and narcissi blooming and coming into bloom on the wonderfully wide windowsills over the beautifully warm radiators— we are warm every day and I walk around in the mornings lowering the heat. All the plants are returning to health.
  • Put up curtains in the bedroom, the childrens' room, the kitchen and the bathroom. We still have enough of the curtains (used to cover our wall of windows in the last apartment) touse in the Arbeitzimmer, but we haven't had time yet to drill our Ikea (retained from last apartment)curtain wires up. These things are the bomb: with the attached clips I don't need to hem.
  • Signed up for a sewing class, researched machines, ordered one in from the UK and received it in time for my class tomorrow!
  • Got the wallclock up: I always feel calmer when I have a clock on the wall and I need to get back to showing T1 and T2 how to set times and durations.
I am watching The Legend of the Seeker and I am enjoying it so much that I am rationing myself. I'm still going to be caught up to current episodes within a week and I'm finding that annoying. I expect that I'll be getting the books later this year.

I'm closing the laptop and watching Castle before bed: I love my apartment!

07 March 2010

Fish: Something I really Miss

One of the things I miss most from home is my Koi pond. When I was stressed, harried, and overwhelmed, I would go sit on a rock in my pond and watch the waterlilies open (in the morning) or close (in evening) and feed my fish. If I ever come to light in a more permanent way, we will make another pond (although I doubt we will ever have one as large as our converted farm swamp). These fish will follow your cursor or if you click, you can feed them.

02 March 2010

Drinkable Coffee!

One of the hardest things for me to get used to here in Germany has been how undrinkable I find the coffee.

One of the reasons is that Germans make their coffee much stronger than Americans (or at least I) do: when I watched my father-in-law make coffee for us, I saw that he used just on double the amount of coffee that I do. After he started making a pot just for the German and myself, we started being able to drink it, with the addition of milk and sweetener. But still, we didn't actually like the taste of the coffee and there was no way that I would drink it dark or black. I bought coffee from Dunkin' Donuts (by preference) and sometimes from Starbucks, but it was expensive and required special trips (I don't regularly go to either of those places).

Every now and then someone would offer me coffee that they said was good (and expensive), but I didn't think so.

Finally I have found a coffee that is mild and flavorful and it's not expensive: Movenpick 100% Arabica. Yeah! If you miss American coffee, give it a try. It doesn't replace my Jamaica Blue Mountain (to buy that here I would need to be made of money) but it's a good cuppa Joe.
(added to page of Things I like)