Monday, December 31, 2007

Guten Rutsch!

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Or, in English - have a good slide into the new year!
A German tradition is to watch the following video on New Year's Eve. It's in English, so anyone who can read this can watch and understand!



We went into town today to pick up a few things. I had the idea of buying ourselves a new outfit at H&M for the new year, since we almost never purchase clothing anymore so we can save to travel a little bit. I would say the clothes we wear on a daily basis are 3-4 years old on average so we are looking and feeling pretty frumpy. However, we had just picked up a few things for Damon when the store announced it was closing at 2pm! So I didn't get anything except an overcoat that was on sale for 15 EUR. Then we picked up a few groceries (store was insane - closed yesterday and closed tomorrow) and got some new year's goodies - these little marzipans in lucky shapes, and a new year's prezel. A guy standing at the counter with us told us we're supposed to break it like a wishbone. We were laughing that he could have just made that up to tease the foreigners...or it might be true. I guess we'll do it. :)

We got back from Rome on Thursday night and I will hopefully have something to put up here about it soon. I don't really know where to start in condensing five full days in Rome into one blog post, really!
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Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's a little bit warmer in Rome.

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So, we are going there.
Hopefully it will be pretty cool! Damon has been there before, but I haven't. I've been trying to get some info. Everybody I know from the US that has gone had really good things to say. It's Rome, so there's a bit of obligation to go there, although I know a lot of people here in Germany who have never gone. Italians seem kind of "meh" about it. If you ask them where you should visit they don't mention it at all but skip straight to Prague, Paris, and Barcelona. And here's what the internet has to say "OMGZ THEY WILL STEAL ALL YOUR SHIT NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO! Don't have your money in an obvious place! They will take it! But if it looks like you are trying to hide your money they will think you're a tourist and try to con you! You can't win you pathetic non-Roman!!! You will never fit in! Go home!" Mm, cheery!! Well hopefully nothing bad will happen. :) I'm really looking forward to all the awesome churches, and a few extra degrees of warmth!

Here's a photo of our sad little tree to bid you a Merry Christmas. :)
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Brilliant Idea for the Manufacturers of Products with Non-Stick Coatings

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How about packaging your non-stick pan with a few plastic utensils that can be used with it, since the metal ones, which scrape off the coating into your food, are forbidden? The world isn't exactly overflowing with nice sharp plastic/rubber/wooden knives for cutting bars, you know. We could use a hand.

In the meanwhile, I'll have some non-stick coating with my food. I figure this can't give me cancer, since it doesn't stick to anything and will therefore pass through my system without touching a thing.
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Heidelberg, I really hate you right now.

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So I've been vaguely under the weather for a while. I kind of wish I would just get really sick and get it over with, instead of feeling for six weeks like I'm about to get crushed with a horrible cold. On top of that, Damon was up at a work Christmas party until 2 am and I couldn't sleep until he got home. At said party he ate/drank some combination of things that caused him to keep me up with a variety of smells and climbs out of bed to the bathroom all night. Then, Heidelberg, THEN, at SEVEN FREAKING AM you decide it's a good idea to get started with some construction project on the river. Construction involving incessant rhythmic pounding much like the throbs of a headache, louder than a jackhammer, amplified probably hundreds of times by the Neckar Valley. It's so loud we can't even hear the alarm clock right next to the bed when it goes off.

Much appreciated.
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Monday, December 17, 2007

The Music Post, 2007

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I've contemplated doing an "expatriate music" post for a while, putting out some ideas (and collecting some ideas from comments) of some songs to which expatriates in particular might (or might not...everyone is different) relate. I also contemplated doing a "favorites of 2007" post to share some of the music that came out this year that I liked, since I have been on a music binge the last few months after subscribing to emusic.com. Of course that isn't relevant to my blog subject of being an expatriate in Germany, but I thought I could work in a tie by indicating which of the songs come from German artists. Then I thought it was funny to sit around yapping about the best songs of 2007 when I've only had such a short time to digest them. The real prize is a song that you've been listening to for ten years and still love. So how about highlighting a few favorite songs from the last ten years?

SO! To keep from bombarding the world with all these different music posts when not everyone is really interested in that sort of thing (especially if they have already written my taste off as hopeless after seeing the Rufus Wainwright and Dan Deacon posts), I will just bombard the world with one big fat music post. And that's all you'll hear from me this year about music. Maybe.

First, the expatriate tunes. These songs include one about getting out of the US because of political irritation, one about just having wanderlust, one about being North American in Europe in particular. And, I would like to call for more songs in this vein, if any fellow expats out there have some that strike them as being relevant!

(Sorry, some of these are clips only. Embedding youtube videos would have taken so much space!)





Now for some 2007 favorites! This excludes the 3 songs above which were also all released in 2007.
2007 favorites by German artists (these turned out to all be electronica, so skip if you know you're not into that):





And from non-Germans!:












(Guess Devendra Banhart doesn't like imeem - I really like this song, "Seahorse", so I caved and did youtube. The video is sort of terrible, though. Double click to open it in a youtube window - otherwise it will tell you it's no longer available, even though it is:)


Representing previous years! (Sorry for any incorrect years. This is just what iTunes tells me the year is.)
2006:


And, couldn't get on imeem or youtube: "I Don't Need It" - Arling & Cameron

2005:



2004:



2003:



2002:



2001:




2000:



1999:
(This one is mislabeled; it's actually about the superiority of the metric system! :) )



1998:




1997:



Care to share your favorites, of any time? German or otherwise? :)
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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Public Service Announcement Regarding the Neuenheimer Landstrasse

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Dear Bikers on the Neuenheimer Landstrasse sidewalk:

The sidewalk along the Neuenheimer Landstrasse is not a bike path. The bike path ends near the bridge in Neuenheim. It's quite clear where. Painted lines show you that it's time to join the cars on the road. There's no room for you AND pedestrians with all those trees and concrete blocks on the sidewalk. I don't appreciate having to get out of your way because you can't obey the rules and I would lose in a pedestrian vs. bike crash. I especially don't appreciate getting yelled at if I don't get out of your way fast enough or in the direction that you expect me to go. You're in the wrong, not me. I don't care if you don't have a light on your bike and that's why you're on the sidewalk. You need to get a light. I understand that the amount of traffic in that area makes riding on the street suck, but that is not an excuse to be a major pain in the ass to pedestrians. If you need or want to be on the sidewalk instead, get off your bike and walk it. And if despite all this you continue to be an ass and ride on the sidewalk and expect me to step aside for you, the least you could do is say thanks as you whiz past.

Love,
Grumpy Pedestrian
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Humans are the Best Translators

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Behold our Christmas gift to ourselves!


Our very own Christmas pyramid. Damon swears he wanted one since he was a kid. I don't think I knew about them as a kid. Yes, it's a bit on the small side. These things are way more expensive than I ever would have guessed, so a bigger one was definitely outside the budget. In case you haven't seen one of these before, the heat from the burning candles spins the big propeller on top, turning all the little figures around in circles. This one has a little nativity scene on it (bottom layer, holy family, three wise men, and a couple of barn animals; top layer, random shepherd with two sheep) but you can get them with all variety of things on them.
I know it's kind of kitschy but I love all the little wood painted ornaments and things you can get here. They're so colorful and cheery. No, I am not turning to the dark side and hope that I will not soon start liking plates with kittens painted on them, giant cat sculptures, and glitter-covered six-armed realistic dragon candle holders. (I actually saw that last thing at Woolworth yesterday. You have to see it to believe it.)

In other news, one of the companies that manufactures said cute ornaments and other cute wood things really needs to hire a human to translate their instructions. Or, at the very least, a human to read over the instructions after they have it translated by Babelfish. See right - it's a bit hard to read so here is the text:

"Please remove carefully and without power the package. Be careful that the package doesn't hang at the small wooden parts.
Please removes the protectiondisk from paper between pyramidaxis and glassbearing.
Use only tea-candles diameter 37 and high 16 mm.
The pyramid is not a toy and cannot be used by children.
Doesn't leave the burning candle without control. Eighth please on it, that the wingwheel with burning candle always rotates. If the wing-wheel comes through unfavorable circumstances to the halt, the wood can burn."

Ok, this was a pretty awful translation from the start, but one might be able to figure it all out without knowing German. Until we get to the bolded sentence, "eighth please on it". This brings this translation to a whole new level of awful. Only someone with some knowledge of German is going to have any idea what is going on there. (They want you to please pay attention, keep watch, something along these lines.) Nice job, guys!
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Friday, December 07, 2007

Adapting the old recipes

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Earlier this month we decided to have a few people over to our apartment as a late birthday celebration. We anticipated doing something like this when we were back in the States in September, so we brought back a box of fudgy brownie mix, a jar of peanut-butter-we-know-for-sure-is-good, and a jar of marshmallow fluff - all ingredients for a recipe I used to make a lot in Boston that was really popular. (Credit to my aunt, who gave it me the recipe at my bridal shower!) The other recipe requirements were all things we knew we had in the cupboard in Germany, or thought we could buy in Germany.

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients
box of fudgy brownie mix for a 9x13" pan
jar of fluff
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 cups chocolate chips
3 cups Rice Krispies

Instructions
1. Make the brownies in a 9x13" as directed on the box and let cool.
2. Spread the jar of fluff over the brownies.
3. Melt together the peanut butter and chocolate chips.
4. Stir in Rice Krispies.
5. Spread the chocolate-pb-Krispie mix over the fluff.
6. Let chill. Store somewhere cool (otherwise they get melty). If you live in Germany, "somewhere cool" might have to be your windowsill since your fridge can't fit any more than a box of milk and tomorrow morning's yogurt in it.

Some mistakes were made in this whole project.

1. Falsely remembering that we'd seen Rice Krispies in Germany and could get them there. This wasn't the case, at least in the places that we are able to quickly look. Quickly, I say, because the other related mistake was completely forgetting to buy the Krispies. I was already throwing the chocolate chips in the pot to melt them when I realized it. It was the day of the party and there wasn't time to do anything but send Damon out to look for some while I continued making the other food. He tried all the stores we usually shop at in Heidelberg, but there were no regular Rice Krispies. The only thing available was Choco Krispies, which aren't like Cocoa Krispies in the US, but are much larger. They're about the same size as grape-shaped Trix. (Although I heard Trix are round again, so there goes that.) I was hoping for something without the flavoring, but the only option was flakes of some kind. All the other cereals here are sugared. So, Choco Krispies it was.

2. Thinking that we could find something close to a 9x13" pan here. No luck with that either. Damon did find the below contraption in the bin at Lidl. The contraption is adjustable. So, I got out a ruler and made it 9x13" and set it on the cookie sheet and poured the brownie mix in.


Minuses: Well, it didn't hold in the batter. They turned out pretty thin, and it was exaggerated in one corner because our oven rack isn't level.

Pluses: The edges of the brownies that stayed inside the rectangle were nice and soft! Or it could just be the oven. I had a lot of problems in our Boston ovens keeping the edges from getting mysteriously rock-hard.

The thing might work if lined with foil or baking paper or something to hold in the mix, but I'm not sure how the results would be because I haven't tried it yet.

Then the pan didn't fit in the fridge and they had to cool NOW to set in time for the party, so we had to put them out on the deck to cool. This wouldn't work in the summer, so I guess next time I should plan ahead a bit further!

I didn't think they'd go over that well, what with PB/chocolate being such an apparently American taste, but I love them, so I made them anyway. As it turned out, they were really popular and I already got three requests to make them again for the office Christmas party. So, my sister is mailing me a 9x13" pan and some fluffy. And some brownie mix, because I know I like that specific mix for this recipe (fudgy Betty Crocker) and don't want to mess with it by using homemade brownies or any other mix! In return, she gets a round-trip train ticket to Paris when she comes in January. :)
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