Dixie Peach: December 2005

Cooler than the other side of the pillow.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Landing on my feet

2005 started out pretty well for us. B and I tend to be pretty comfortable and content with our lives and we thought this year would be much of the same. And it was until Easter came and with it the most horrible excuse for humans moving into the apartment above us. Even having my kitchen remodeled and having it turn out exactly right couldn't make up for the anti-social dogshit living above us and not even the idea of breaking up my beautiful new kitchen could keep us from moving to get away from them. There's not a kitchen in the world that would tempt me into remaining there and so we moved.

And I'll admit that I was a little bitter about it. I thought it grossly unfair that my husband would have to be forced from his home of twenty years because of that family. And even though I would take my new kitchen with me, it would be modifed into a shadow of its former self and it irked me.

Still though, while it's unseemly to brag, I think we've done pretty well. I managed to sort through and pack up our belongings, mostly by myself, while still caring for a quadriplegic. We managed to find a much better, if smaller, apartment in a much better neighborhood. Our new home is quiet and clean and convenient. We don't sit every evening cringing and just waiting for the ruckus to start. We don't have to dread confrontations in the hallways. And most importantly we don't have our sleep interrupted by someone taking a crap in the middle of the night and during it screaming so loudly that it can be heard on the street and in apartments seven floors away. No longer do we have our intelligence insulted when we're told that they have special rights because this particular neighbor is handicapped and somehow my husband's total paralysis doesn't seem to carry much weight against that.

Should I be grateful to these people that their horrible behavior ended up having us living in a better home than before? Not a chance. I still wouldn't spit on that bastard if I found him on fire. What I'm grateful for is the ability B and I have to make the best of things when we're given shitty circumstances.

I'm considering begging the family that lives above us in our new building to never, ever move.

Friday Shuffle - Best New Year's Eve Edition

Shuffled from what I was listening to on the best New Year's Eve I ever had - December 31, 1979.
  1. One Way or Another - Blondie
  2. Roller - April Wine
  3. Cool Change - Little River Band
  4. Jane - Jefferson Starship
  5. I Don't Like Mondays - The Boomtown Rats
  6. Dog and Butterfly - Heart
  7. Renegade - Styx
  8. Fool in the Rain - Led Zeppelin
  9. Don't Do Me Like That - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  10. Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin' - Journey
Seventeen, in love, perky boobs and a flat stomach. No wonder I loved that night so much.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Snowing: Three inches. And that crap stings when it gets blown in your face.

Shopping: Stocking up on stuff before the holiday weekend. Can't be facing the new year without nacho makings and cheap sweet wine with a screw top.

Wearing: Capri gym pants under my jeans. Bulky perhaps, but warm when you're being dragged around by your dog in the snow.

Opening: Christmas package from my family. Among the goodies are a wooden handpainted snowman pin, a hand carved wooden candlestick holder, two squeeze bottles of Hellmann's mayonnaise, a box of Splenda (they don't sell anything remotely that good here), two squeeze bottles of pickle relish (again, something not sold here - what gives?), four pounds of black licorice Twizzlers for B, Wanda Sykes' book, gorgeous wooden trivets from Berea College Crafts, two skeins of handpainted sock yarn and a new sock monkey with a little stubby tail. Lottie is thrilled.

Dining: Chicken lo-mein and really, really crispy spring rolls.

Drinking: Water. Liters of it. Damn lo-mein makes you thirsty.

Listening: Firecrackers and rockets in the distance. Legal fireworks sales for New Years Eve began today. And my dog likes to eat the charred paper remains she finds on the sidewalk.

Watching: Six Feet Under. The last season finally started here. Too bad I already found out a few months ago what happens at the end of the series.

Knitting: Mollie's basketweave scarf, 1 1/2 skeins finished.

Smelling: Burberry Weekend. Dreamy.

Laughing: Poppy Mom. And to think I know her!

Napping: One hour. No drooling reported.

I call today a success.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Auf Brüderschaft

On yesterday's entry I made the comment that not everyone you're friendly with in Germany is someone you call a friend. You can see the person often, work with him, live next door to him, even see him on social occasions but bestowing the title of "friend" to someone isn't as common as one may be used to in another country.

This isn't to say that Germans aren't friendly or don't make friends easily. My MIL is an example of this. She can and will talk to anyone. Get in a taxi with her and within three minutes she'll have a lively conversation started with the driver. She's lived in her new apartment for a little less than three weeks and she already knows a good portion of her neighbors. It's very seldom that I can be with her in the city shopping that she doesn't run into someone she knows and it doesn't surprise me when it's someone she first met forty years ago and hasn't seen them in thirty - she still remembers them and they remember her.

But with all that she has maybe three or four people she calls friends. The rest? She would refer to them as her neighbor or a former co-worker or simply an acquaintence. Unlike in English, calling someone an acquaintence doesn't mean that you know them only in passing. While it does cover that event, an acquaintence also covers those who you know well but don't share that close bond that ties you to them for life. To be called "friend" by a German takes it to another level - a level that says this relationship is for life and that there's a loyalty there that doesn't apply to acquaintences.

Changing from acquaintence status to friend status in Germany used to be a serious matter - so serious that it demanded a ritual - the Brüderschaft trinken - literally, the brotherhood drink. The people involved would decided that their relationship was one of actual friendship and one or the other would suggest that they drink on it. A drink is poured, the two link arms and each would say "My name is____.", drink, perhaps exchange a peck and that was it - you're friends for life. Of course this was common back in the day when you didn't call anyone by their first name ever unless you were invited to by this little ritual. Now it's not so serious. Often times the Brüderschaft trinken is only done when everyone is drunk and being silly and you feel uninhibited enough to profess your loyal friendship to your buddy.

Else, how do you know that the person you hang out with is your friend and not just an acquaintence? It's a little like love - you just know it. Often times when it's a person you see often, you're very involved in each other's lives, and they're someone you'd call if you opened the trunk of your car, found a dead body in it and didn't know how it got there. If they'd bring over a shovel and didn't ask questions, they're someone you'd call "friend".

And after all that you're definitely going to need the Brüderschaft trinken. A lot of them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Those few last minute things

James is fixing to move to Germany in a couple days. Ahhh, I know that feeling. Those last minute things to consider and wondering what your life will be on the other side of the ocean.

His partner is German so it's not like James will be thrown to the wolves but maybe a few last minute tips can be helpful. Expats, add your own!
  1. Don't dick around with getting your driver's license changed to a German one. You have a limited amount of time to get it changed. Unfortunately, a California one can't be exchanged outright (one advantage of me being from Mississippi is that all I did was trade mine in) so you'll need to take the written and practical driving tests. Fortunately you can find driving schools for English speakers.
  2. Most common restaurants are self-seating so you're on your own to find a table. When a restaurant is full it's common for strangers to share a table. Often times the people sharing a table politely ignore each other but I've met some rather interesting folks by sharing a table in a full cafe.
  3. Nothing is free in a German restaurant. If you want an extra packets of ketchup at McDonald's you have to pay for it.
  4. Get used to greeting people when you enter a place like a doctor's waiting room or the hairdresser. A general "Guten Tag" will do.
  5. Get used to greeting everyone pretty much everywhere. Say you've been invited by your neighbor for a grill party. When you arrive it's expected that you'll greet/shake hands with everyone there. The exception to this would be if there are people seated at a table and you can't get to them to shake their hands. Rapping on the table and saying hello is sufficient.
  6. Take this tip to heart. When learning German nouns, for God's sake, learn the correct article that goes with it. If you don't know if a noun is der, die or das then the rest your grammar will never be correct.
  7. Want books in English? Check on Ebay under Englische Bücher or use the English books section of
  8. People you are merely friendly with in Germany are not your friends. They are your neighbors, your co-workers, your acquaintences but only rarely do they get the honored title of friends.
James, you'll love it here - once you get past the fact that it's much colder here than in San Francisco.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Just 'cause it's expected

Here's the rundown of how our holiday weekend went.

~ I got fourteen books for Christmas. I couldn't be more tickled. Nothing of any real substance - it's mostly fluff reading - but few things are better than a fluffy book and a cup of tea when it's puking snow outside.

~ When I was opening the grand stash of books I received for Christmas, B's aunt couldn't resist asking if they were in German or English. She knew the answer already but she had to set up her saying to me "You should read more in German. It's good for you to read in German.". I'm sure it is. And I'm sure it's also good for you to learn a few manner and to not come into my home and tell me how to conduct my life.

I just looked at her and smiled and said "When I want to read in German, I'll pick up a newspaper.".

~ My MIL is thrilled to have her Andre Rieu concert tickets. She's treating one of her friends to one of the tickets - a nice lady who could never afford a ticket to the concert and who always does lots of lovely things for my MIL.

~ Thank God and all His happy angels for satellites. Satellites enable me to call places like Australia and the US and talk to family and friends for a couple hours each and my phone bill still be less than 30€ a month.

~ Since the pressure of knitting for holiday gifts is gone, I've been knitting like mad this weekend. Two eyelash yarn scarves are finished (one for me, one for B's aunt for her birthday) and I re-started a scarf for Mollie. Originally I'd starting making her Wavy but the yarn I've chosen doesn't show the waves very well so I've pulled it out and started a scarf in a nice basketweave pattern. Looks better and I'm enjoying the knitting better. And if this pace keeps up I can send it to her by the first week of January so she can actually wear it this winter.

~ All in all no disappointments for Christmas. I've relished having some peace around here, especially when one considers that were we at our old place we'd be being driven mad by the Loud Family, and I've enjoyed keeping things simple. Hope the rest of y'all have enjoyed your holiday weekend just as much.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Let it begin

Just a few more final touches and I'll be completely ready for Christmas. Normally by now I'm in full Christmas fever but this year I'm not quite as revved up. I'm not disliking the holidays this year but my normal over-the-top enthusiasm hasn't made its appearance.

We host Christmas celebrations at our home each year because B can't get into the apartments of others. Normally Christmas Eve morning finds me frantically scrubbing the toilet and stashing out of place stuff wherever I can find place to stash it but this year, due to us having just moved in, I'm more organized. Everything's clean and with the exception of sending the wine and champagne glasses through the dishwasher's rinse cycle and ironing a tablecloth, I'm ready for the holiday to begin. Oh, and I have to run to the store first thing in the morning. My MIL's oven seems to be crapping out and she's ruined three cakes today on the strength of it. Coffee and cake time is de rigueur on Christmas Eve and I don't have time to bake a cake tomorrow so it looks like it'll be Coppenrath und Wiese to the rescue.

B's aunt and uncle join us for one day of the celebrations and this year it's Christmas Eve. I tend to dread her constant loud talking and his incessent nose blowing but I've resigned myself to grit my teeth through any little irritations, just as long as their dog keeps her ass off my new sofa. Contrary to the delusions of B's aunt their dog isn't our "cousin" and doesn't get to romp all over my furniture. It's only four or five hours and I can manage to not roll my eyes during that time. They're really not such horrible people. It's as though they have some sort of deal worked out with God that if they're normal for ten minutes they then get to spend two minutes being completely annoying.

It's after they leave that I'm looking forward to. I want to put on my jammies, get on the sofa next to B, watch Christmas movies and eat popcorn and cookies until I'm half nauseated and then at midnight I want to stand on my balcony. Every church bell in the city will ring at midnight and since I'm now surrounded by churches - many more than in my old neighborhood - it should sound really wonderful.

And that's my very favorite part of Christmas. The gathering of family and exchanging gifts and eating cream cake and being warm and comfortable at home is wonderful but then when I hear the bells of Christmas it touches my heart.

May the peace and joy of the season be with you and your family.

Friday Shuffle - Fourth Advent Week Edition

Go stand under the mistletoe and dig on this shuffle.
  1. All Alone on Christmas - Darlene Love
  2. Merry Xmas Everybody - Slade
  3. O Holy Night - Il Divo
  4. Bizarre Christmas Incident - Ben Folds
  5. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan
  6. Do You Hear What I Hear - Bing Crosby
  7. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear - Aaron Neville
  8. All I Want for Christmas is You - Mariah Carey
  9. I Saw Three Ships - Sting
  10. Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives
Don't forget to leave out nachos and beer for Santa.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Chaos

When I was growing up I thought we had a somewhat disfunctional family. In a way it sort of was but when I got older and met people who really were from disfunctional families I figured that mine was only semi-disfunctional and was mostly just loud, hectic and chaotic.

There is something about special occasions - birthdays, holidays, important family gatherings, vacations - that seemed to bring out my family's special talent for turning things into complete shit. Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't have been complete if my oldest brother and my dad hadn't started their let's-push-each-other's-buttons screaming match. My birthday, my sister's birthday and my oldest brother's birthday are on the 18th, 19th and 20th of January so there was keen competition between us to gain the most attention - and you get attention when you're the loudest. And how we managed to stuff six people in a station wagon and drive 800 or so miles on vacation each year and not maim each other is beyond me. But Christmas really brought out the hectic nature of my family. Some of my most vivid memories surround the chaos of the Christmas holiday season.

~ When I was four my father was on the screen porch attempting to saw the bottom of the Christmas tree into a shape that would fit into the ancient tree stand we had. The saw slipped and my father gashed the back of his hand. He came in bleeding like a stuck hog, my mother hustled him into the car to take him to the hospital and my then eleven-year-old sister was put in charge of me and our two brothers. The boys were fascinated by the gore and spent time predicting that Daddy would have to have his hand amputated. Being four-years-old I didn't know what "amputated" meant. I asked.

Cut to my parents coming home an hour later to me in a hysterical crying fit because my brothers accurately but without any tact defined "amputated" as "chop off his hand and he'll only have a stub".

~ Santa Claus presented me one Christmas with a blackboard and a box of colored chalk. I loved the board's smooth black surface and while tempted to try it out, I kept the box of chalk closed and just admired my gift in its pristine state. A few hours later I came into the livingroom where our Christmas bounty was still surrounding the tree to find my sister writing on my blackboard. How dare she! That blackboard was mine. I not only wasn't going to be the first one to write on it but she was getting it dirty and she didn't even ask permission first! I screeched for her to stop and lit into her for daring to spoil my gift. Shrieking and whining and crying ensued. And when she could get in a word edgewise she told me she only wanted to write "Happy birthday, Jesus" on the blackboard. I had ruined Jesus' birthday greetings. It's hard to enjoy Christmas after you've spoiled the baby Jesus' birthday greetings.

~ My father worked for an engineering company and on occasion he would be out of town for weeks at a time to oversee projects on off-shore oil rigs. It was the day before Christmas Eve and my mother had been furiously getting things ready for the holiday and my father's homecoming that evening. Cleaning, baking, cooking, keeping four rowdy kids from killing each other - my mom was doing it all and was exhausted. She finally had a few minutes to get a bath and get ready to head to the airport to pick up my father and we were admonished to stay out of trouble while she was in the tub.

One of my brothers decided this would be a good time to take a pencil and throw it up in the tree to see it plunk down the branchs until it landed on the ground. Over and over he did this until he didn't see the pencil come down. Convinced that it was stuck in the branches my brother hauled out the step stool and began hunting for the pencil. I knew better. I could see the pencil laying among the gifts under the tree and told my brother as much. I, in turn, was told that I didn't know what I was talking about and to shut up. There was more pencil searching, more advisement that the pencil was not among the brances, more yelling to shut up and this continued until...


You knew that was coming, didn't you?

There was swearing coming from the bathroom where my mother had been seeking ten minutes of peace and in what seemed like a matter of seconds she came flying out, towel wrapped around her and saw that our tree had fallen on the tile floor and virtually every glass ornament was smashed.

It's been reported that the screams from my mother were heard all the way in Memphis but I have no confirmation of that. And I was convinced that she was going to brain my brother for this stunt but there was no time. It was late Saturday afternoon and as this was back in the day when stores closed around 5 or 6pm on Saturdays and weren't open at all on Sundays, we had to hurry and get to the five-and-dime to try to scrounge up some ornaments to replace what had been broken. And get the tree cleaned up, upright, and re-decorated. And fetch my father from the airport. Each Christmas after that saw us decorating the tree and pointing out which ornaments were the emergency purchase dime store ones.

As loud and hectic as my family was and as crazy as celebrations could turn out, I don't have bad memories of Christmas. I love Christmas now as much as I did when I was a kid and these memories of chaos have been smoothed over like a pebble in a riverbed. They're now stories we remind each other of when we talk of Christmases past and we laugh at how we were in those days.

Our quiet Christmas celebrations we now have seem almost dull by comparison.

No more lounging on kitchen chairs

My new sofa and overstuffed chair arrived today. They're lovely and cushy and very beige so they're going to need some brightly colored throw pillows to spiff them up. I was also able to take the first nap I've had in weeks and weeks and it's the perfect nap sofa. Such a mighty nap that I was on the verge of drooling.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Everything but the oink

I love my mother-in-law. I feel very priviledged to have such a loving, generous MIL, especially since I have a lot of friends who have beastly ones.

However I'm calling my devotion to her into question ever since late this afternoon. That's when she threw the Schweinezunge into my shopping basket. That, ladies and gentlemen, would be a pig's tongue.

I liked her better when the weirdest thing I knew of her eating were smoked eel sandwiches.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What I want under my tree

Christmas is the time of year when you get to ask Santa - whoever your Santa may be - for something you really, really want. You wait and wait all year long for gift getting heaven to arrive and so if you're going to ask for something for Christmas, you'd better make it something you've got your heart set on. It doesn't have to be useful. It doesn't have to be practical. It doesn't even have to be expensive. All that matters is that it's your heart's desire.

So this is what I want for Christmas. A Dirndl.

Ever since I moved to Germany, I've wanted a Dirndl. I can't say it's something I've had my heart set on exactly but it's just one of those things I've always wanted to someday have, just because. I have a list of things of stuff I'd like to one day posess before I die and right after diamond earrings and a convertable I've got "Dirndl" on the list.

What a stupid thing to want.

Dirndls, naturally, aren't stupid. Lots of women have one. Lots of women have a few of them. No, what's stupid is me wanting to have one for my own. Why?
  1. I don't live in Bavaria.
  2. Women in my part of Germany who walk around in a Dirndl and aren't visiting from Bavaria look about the same as someone sitting on Waikiki Beach in chaps, cowboy boots and spurs. It's a look that belongs somewhere but not here.
  3. I have no place to wear a Dirndl. This isn't something you pop on to go grocery shopping.
  4. I never have been to and likely never will go to Oktoberfest and therefore have no excuse to wear one in a proper setting.
  5. Good Dirndls are sort of expensive. Too expensive for just a lark.
  6. I have no idea what shoes to wear with a Dirndl.
But there's something that overrides all of that. They're cute. They're damn cute. And I have yet to see a woman look bad in a pretty Dirndl. Doesn't matter how tall you are nor how fat or thin you are, you'll look good in one.

And so I secretly pine for a Dirndl. Even though I may never wear it more than just to admire myself in the mirror, I want a one. I'll even get the proper shoes if I must.

So Santa, if you read this, please put a pretty Dirndl under the tree for me. Or if you think it's more, you know, practical and I'll get more use out of it, you can leave diamond earrings instead.

Think my Santa's gonna fall for this?

[A Best of Holidailies exceptional entry]

Monday, December 19, 2005

Yes, Susan - I suck at email

Pardon that personal message. My friend, Susan, left a comment in yesterday's entry asking me if I ever read and answer my email and the short answer is no. The more truthful answer is "I get to it eventually but I mostly spend a good week telling myself that I'll do it later and then eventually when I come across it again weeks later I finally answer the email.".

Here's the thing - Susan already knows this. I am the master procrastinator and Susan knows this as well as she knows my name.

Susan is one of the people with whom I have the longest friendship. I met her back in 1989 when we both worked for a utility company. We worked in the same department and were a notoriously incorrigible duo who escaped getting into trouble because our supervisors liked us so much. Except that Randy dude. He hated us. Of course the feeling was mutual and when we both quit to go work for a large online service company we didn't even wave buh-bye to him.

There's a certain comfort in having longtime friends. They have likely seen you at your very worst, helped you become your very best, know your quirks, remember all the goofy stories about you and know the cast of characters from your life. Remember Frank, the guy who enticed me to pull a plastic coat hanger over my head? She knows that guy! She didn't see the actual braining I took but she knows that story. She knows my ex-husband. I know her ex-husband. She's the one who talked me into adopting a cat and she's the one who was with me when I bought a good third of my Christmas tree decorations. She's cleaned my house. I've helped her move. If I said to her "...she had a good beating and it didn't do her any good!" she would not only know to whom the phrase refers but she knows who said it and why. We've shared fun times shopping and going out to lunch and taking road trips and we've shared frustrations and anger and depression. Friends like that with whom you've created a history are priceless if for nothing else than they know you inside out and like you in spite of it.

I lost touch with Susan for a while. My suckiness at email and calling when I should led to us disconnecting for a long while but as well as Susan knows I am pathetic with keeping in touch I know she's fabulous at making sure she keeps in touch. She called me out of the blue one weekend and we reconnected. She's always been that way. Susan would be the one to arrange for our group of girlfriends to get together and she'd hammer out all the plans. That's her all over. Planning and organizing come second nature to her and I am so grateful for it because it's kept me from stepping off the edge more than once.

Got an old friend you've lost touch with? Be like Susan and try to get in touch with them. I'll bet they'll be like me and be thrilled and thankful.

Back to the personal message: I'll answer the email! Promise! I wanted to download the pictures you sent to my computer but my hard drive crapped out and then I had it replaced and I've been working on loading stuff back on it and I didn't want to answer until I saw the pictures. How'd the move go?

Oh. Sorry. I'll take the rest to email.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

So much nothing it doesn't even get a title

I have nothing today. Hand to heaven, nothing has happened in the past twenty-four hours that merits being reported here and yet due to the Holidailies thing and the idea that I don't want to mess up my streak of updating my blog each day I'm here. Ridiculous, isn't it?

Two weeks ago if I had nothing to write about I wouldn't have worried about it in the least. Or if I had only the merest of fleeting thoughts - one or two sentences at the most - but it was amusing in some way I'd come here and share it and not give it another thought. Regular readers know this and expect it to happen on occasion. But now that on a daily basis I'll have at least a couple new readers I don't feel right doing that. I feel the need to write more than just a few lines even when a few lines is the best I can muster.

I now have to ask myself "For whom am I writing?". I know who my regular readers are. Some are people I've known for years, some are online friends that I've also known for years, and some are new folks who I've come to know through our respective blogs. They've come to know my background story, my writing style, my sense of humor and my quirks and faults. I believe we feel comfortable with one another but with the addition of readers who find my blog through Holidailies I feel a loss of that sense of comfort. I feel the need to impress, some strange need to charm and lure new readers. It's as though I've come to a party with a couple of friends but we're in a huge roomful of strangers and I'm trying to impress all that I meet. And that's going to be impossible.

So for whom am I writing? What's my aim? Am I supposed to keep my focus on my regular readers or shall I be mindful of new readers and set my sights on them? Do I forget about the new folks, write as I always have and hope they get their bearings and catch on as they go along or do I make every entry something that any newcomer could follow with no background? Who am I trying to please and why am I even trying to please anyone?

This blog isn't for everyone. None are. I just write about what I experience. Sometimes it's ordinary, sometimes it's sentimental, sometimes it's funny or frustrating. Some people love the way I write and say so, some hate it and say so. I consider how much credibility I give and respect I have for the person giving the opinion and take the compliment or curse to heart based on that.

Regardless of how a reader found my blog, they'll stick around and become a regular reader if they find something in my writing that resonates with them and if it's going to resonate with another person it's got to resonate with me first.

So to that end know that sometimes I have nothing to say and you'll be the first to know it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Seeing and bringing it home

I've been all revved up for a couple of days for us to have crappy weather. All over Germany it's been windy and snowy with a little freezing rain thrown in because you know the Autobahn just isn't quite exciting enough with only the odd 240 SL climbing up your ass as you try to pass some dickhead in a Fiat Twingo - dammit, you need some ice on top of it! Like all well prepared Hausfrauen I made sure I had groceries to carry me over for days and all pressing errands completed. All that was left to do was sit and wait for the storm to start and wonder whether to bake cookies before or after I vacuumed and cleaned the bathroom and wait for the Bayern-München game to come on TV.

And as is par for the course for Magdeburg we didn't get anything. The merest dusting of snow and by 8:30 the sun was up and breaking through the clouds. Forget cleaning and baking - today was too good of a day to people watch to pass it up.

On the corner by Karstadt a guy sits and plays his accordian for spare change. He's very good and I always drop a euro in his hat as I walk by. I think he's beginning to recognize me because while he's always thanked me, he now gives me a big smile and a nod of his head. Sometimes if it's not too cold when I'm out that way I'll sit on one of the benches behind him and listen to him play and watch the people passing by. I often make a guess as to whom will give him some change and who will just look and who will completely ignore him and more often than not I'm right.

I like to see old couples together. They're people who have probably lived in this neighborhood all their lives and since I see the same folks day after day I'm guessing that getting out to do some business with the street merchants is a big part of their day. The best part is seeing them hold hands. I have no real proof but it seems to me that elderly couples in Germany seem to hold hands more often than couples in the US. Maybe it's because they spend more time walking than being in cars.

I like the smells around here, especially when the Christmas market is around. As you walk around your nose will find within the space of a few meters the sharp, vinegary smell from the pickle seller with his large barrels of Spreewald Gurken, the acidy scent of oranges and tangerines that seems to make your throat tighten a little, fried fish and chips that make you think that "crispy" can be a scent as well, the peppery spice of salami as you pass the Hungarian food stand and above it all the cinnamony, sugary scent of Schmalzkuchen. I'm convinced that you can get fat on the air around here.

Weaving through the crowds are young people, likely university students trying to earn a little money, dressed as angels or elves or wearing Santa outfits and whose job it is to pass out samples or hand out leaflets or try to entice others to subscribe to the local newspaper. I figure the ones in the Santa outfits are the goofiest looking but have the warmest costume. The angels often have trouble trying to keep from smacking others with their wings but it's not likely they'd make someone angry. Who can fuss at someone wearing a wire and tinsel halo?

It was tempting to stay out a bit longer. While the rest of the country was getting slapped around by the bad weather we merely had a chilly wind and it seemed a shame to waste the daylight but my feet were beginning to get cold and I could use a cup of tea and I needed to tell B what I'd seen before the game started. Coming home and telling him what I've seen and smelled is like bringing him back a souvenir of the day.

Look, she made me do it!

The Barefooted One, that is. What, you think I'd disobey her and her tag? She knows where I live!

Four jobs you have had in your life: Clerk/presser at a drycleaners, bank teller, secretary, customer relations agent.

Four movies you could watch over and over: Oh now, how 'bout we mix it up and list four movies that are complete rubbish that I could watch over and over? Joe Dirt; A Knight's Tale; Kevin & Perry Go Large; Ali G Indahouse.

Four places you've lived: Memphis, Tennessee; Manassas, Virginia; Corinth, Mississippi; Magdeburg, Germany.

Four TV shows you love to watch: Desperate Houswives; Lost; Deadwood; Medium

Four places you've been on vacation: Williamsburg, VA; London, England; Rehoboth Beach, DE; Lake o' the Pines, TX

Four websites you visit daily: Poppy Mom; The Not-So-Ordinary Life of Kara; Fluid Pudding; The Geek Inside.

Four of your favorite foods: Shrimp; crab; pizza; Corky's barbecue

Four places you'd rather be right now: My sister's kitchen; Mollie's livingroom; London; Memphis.

Four bloggers you are tagging: Everyone's been pretty tag happy with this so if you haven't been tagged yet, consider yourself tagged now. Exept for Brandi. You get specific tagging, lady. And you too, Zoe. You could stand a good tagging yourself.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday Shuffle - Third Advent Week Edition

Got that wrapping started yet?
  1. What Child is This? - Julie Andrews
  2. The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole
  3. Merry Christmas - The Ramones
  4. Blue Christmas - Elvis Presley
  5. Jingle Bell Rock - Bobby Helms
  6. It's Not the Presents Under My Tree - Eva Cassidy
  7. O Holy Night - Andy Williams
  8. Merry Christmas, Darling - The Carpenters
  9. Winter Wonderland - Tony Bennett
  10. It Must Have Been Old Stanta - Harry Connick, Jr.
Pass the eggnog.


...but no runny goo to speak of.

Belinda has given me the tag. Y'all know I'm all about the tagging.

Post 5 random and weird facts about yourself, then at the end, list the names of 5 people whom you in turn infect. Also, leave a post to these people letting them know they have been infected.
  1. The minister who baptized me was years later arrested, convicted and jailed for child molestation.
  2. I have very short pinky fingers. They come only halfway up my ring fingers.
  3. I love to watch MGM musicals.
  4. I like driving over bridges. I could be one of those people that get hired to drive people who are scared of bridges to the other side.
  5. I have so many first cousins on my father's side of the family that I don't know the names of them all.
Tags? Brandi, you of course. Miz, Sari, Katya and Katy, you too if you wish.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Home for Christmas

I've lived in Germany for just over eight years and there are times when the pangs of homesickness get to me. When Christmastime rolls around it's guaranteed. It never fails that when the packages from my family and friends arrive I'll have that stab of homesickness that makes me wish I were spending at least some of the holidays with them.

My first Christmas in Germany was a blur. I'd only just arrived on November 30 and everything was new and confusing and stressful. I was already so homesick that special Christmas homesickness seemed to blend in and I couldn't tell whether I was crying because I was spending Christmas away from home or simply because I was away from home.

The next year I was in Mississippi for Christmas. I didn't feel as though I could spend two holiday seasons in a row away from my family so I insisted that I fly back home and I insisted that B go with me. I don't know whether it was ignorance of the difficulties of traveling with a quadriplegic or sheer determination or both that got us through it but I managed without any outside help to get B to Mississippi. He caught a bad cold that turned into brochitis and came home with a raging kidney infection but we had Christmas with my family.

Traveling so far with B proved to be too difficult and too dangerous to his health for us to ever repeat so I was destined to spend the next Christmas in Germany. By now I had been in Germany for two years, B and I had been married for five months and I was feeling at home. I was certainly more independent than I'd been two years prior and I was fully into the preparations for Christmas. Gifts for my family and friends had been bought and shipped, I had my home decorated, menus planned, parties lined up, guests invited - it all felt familiar to me. I missed my family of course but I was content in my life and they were pleased and happy for me.

The evening before Christmas Eve found me, like many others, at the grocery store getting a few last items before the festivities began. As I walked the aisles I listened to Christmas songs over the store's sound system and hummed along with the music.

I was in the canned vegetable aisle deciding on whether to buy peas and carrots or just peas when it happened. The song playing in the store changed and Christmas in Dixie by Alabama came on.

My mind was suddenly filled with memories of Christmas in my hometown. The downtown area decorated with garland and lights, my hometown's Christmas parade, doors decorated with wreaths of magnolia leaves, Christmas church service, the open house hosted by my cousin Wanda every Christmas Eve, opening gifts with my family and then Christmas dinner with my kin. I could see it all so clearly as I heard the words of the song and I simply fell apart. I choked back sobs and tears streamed down my face as I gripped the handle of the shopping cart and tried to keep myself from being noticed by other shoppers that may pass by. The wave of homesickness I felt at that moment simply overwhelmed me and I would have given all that I had to be in my hometown at that moment to celebrate Christmas.

But I wasn't in Mississippi. I was in Germany and I had a choice to make. I could either be miserable and homesick or I could start making new, happy Christmas memories. I've always loved Christmas and if I didn't start seeing things in a new light I was headed towards finding Christmas to be a sad, painful time every year. It was okay to miss my family at the holidays but if I was going to obsess over not being with them then I was destined to be miserable.

So I found a tattered tissue at the bottom of my purse (I never seem to have whole, clean tissues when I need them), wiped my eyes and threw a can of peas in my cart. Meltdown over, clean-up on asile four.

I can't say that the homesickness doesn't get to me during the holidays - I'll never get over not being with my family at Christmas - but at least now I can hear Christmas in Dixie without becoming a sobbing mess.

Christmas in Dixie, its snowing in the pines.
Merry Christmas from Dixie to everyone tonight.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A few kinks, a few snags

Let's check those loose ends and see how well they've been tied up.
  • Overhead kitchen cabinets installed but I need to have finishing trim put along the tops and bottoms of the cabinets. A trip back to Höffner. Those people wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't in there every other week to buy more shit for this apartment. Also the range hood isn't working. I suspect it wasn't plugged in but I have no energy to get my ass up on a stepladder tonight to look.
  • No more unpacking was done before the empty cartons were picked up today. I think after all the money I've shelled out in the past ten weeks I can afford another 6€ for twelve boxes.
  • A new front was put on B's computer today. The drawer for the DVD burner would work only when I'd pet it and talk dirty so while it's under warranty I had the front replaced. Unfortunately this ten minute job took well over an hour for the repairman to complete so I had to be entertained by a Laurel and Hardy DVD playing in the waiting area. I find Laurel and Hardy to be no more funny in German than they are in English.
  • The man at Höffner from whom I purchased my kitchen is on vacation and when I tried to get help ordering the cabinet molding I was given a pantload of lip from his associate. Silly bitch. Is she not aware of the thousands and thousands and thousands of euros I've spent at Höffner in 2005? Screw her. I'll come back after the new year and talk to my regular kitchen guy, have him place the order and tell him what a cow his associate is.
In all things are coming along with only minor snags. Since my hanging cabinet configuration is quite a bit different than when there were in my old apartment I need to figure out what needs to go where. This is when I really hate living 5000 miles away from my family because this is the exact sort of thing for which my sister has a real talent. Know what that means? It means that I will spend the next seven months making do with whatever I settle on and then when my sister comes to visit next July she can redo it all and I can sit back and say "Ohhh yeah! Oh yes, that's much, much better!".

One more week and y'all will finally see photos of my new apartment. Just let me get my new sofa and chair delivered.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Maybe I'll even find time to knit!

All the little loose ends seem to be coming together to be tied up once and for all.
  • The corner hanging cabinet for my kitchen has been delivered. Tomorrow Kitchen Dude will install all the hanging cabinets and I can stop storing my dishes on a table in the back sitting room.
  • The furniture store called and said my new sofa and armchair will be delivered on December 22. I ordered them so long ago I've pretty well forgotten what they look like but at least they'll be delivered in time to avoid everyone sitting on kitchen chairs as we gather 'round the Christmas tree to open gifts.
  • All of my outside-of-Germany Christmas shopping has been completed and it will all be delivered by Christmas. How did I function before there was reliable online shopping? Oh yeah, I remember! I spent time buying gifts for my friends and family in the US, hunted for a couple boxes that I could safely cram everything into, lugged the awkward boxes to the post office, realized that I'd taken too long to shop and pack and would now have to send everything airmail if I wanted even a remote chance that it would be delivered for Christmas, spent twice as much on airmail as what the contents of the boxes were worth, called my family on a near daily basis to ask if the boxes had arrived, consoled myself with "Oh well, it extends the season when things arrive after Christmas." when the boxes aren't delivered by Christmas Eve.
  • Tokytokytokytoky computer no longer tokytoks. The hard drive has been changed, the repairman partitioned it for us and B is right now reinstalling some programs. And thank God and his band o' chubby angels, the internet sharing works!
  • I still have boxes left to be unpacked and I doubt I will have them finished before the empty cartons are removed tomorrow by the moving company but it's fine. There's not much left and I'll just pay the moving company for the boxes I'm keeping. I'm not going to get overwhelmed with this and once the kitchen is finished I can get that crap out of my way and unpack easier.
If all this keeps up I'll be able to start baking Christmas cookies by the weekend.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A dry patch but at least it's sparkly

I've got nothing today. Went out to buy tickets to see Andre Rieu for my MIL's Christmas gift but the only highlight of that trip was seeing the Peruvian flute players doing their flute thing and a group of toddlers getting down with them.

So to make up for the lack of writing material, take a look at my Christmas tree. See if you can discern what ornaments I have hanging on it.

Image hosted by

And before we leave the subject of my Christmas tree, I'd like to declare that tree lights in Germany blow. No end to end stringing, ridiculous amount of wire - it's no wonder there are people here who still put live candles on trees.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Slipping Away of the Day

This afternoon around 3pm I took Bonnie for her mid-afternoon walk. It was cold today - near freezing - but the sun was glorious, low in the horizon but bright and warming. We walked down towards the river in an attempt to walk her around some green spots and just south of where I was walking the Christmas market was in full swing. The clear weather must have tempted shoppers because the streets were filled with people dumping their cars wherever possible and heading towards the festivities.

Bonnie is under the impression that all people find her adorable. She's also under the impression that any shopping bags are filled with goodies for her. I try to keep her at a distance from people but with the numbers on the street this proved to be difficult. I'd tug at her leash and she'd careen along making a beeline towards anyone near her who even sort of looked like they might wish to stop and pet her. She's a petting whore. Pet her once and she's your loyal friend for life.

Finally after a good 40 minutes of this and after Bonnie'd sufficiently stretched her legs I headed back towards my street. The sun was slowly dipping behind the apartment buildings in the distance and I took advantage of the remaining minutes of daylight by sitting on a bench. I kept Bonnie held close to me to keep her from bopping over to old ladies and toddlers in an effort to get her head patted and I watched the scene around us.

As the sun sank lower lighted window decorations in surrounding apartments became visible and the thousands of twinkling bulbs illuminating the Christmas market gave their own warmth. Four o'clock came and the bells in the cupola of the Rathaus chimed the hour and then played Kling, Glöckchen, kling. Shoppers with stuffed bags struggled under their weight and fussy toddlers in dire need of a nap bucked in their strollers and then would happily shriek Wau Wau! when seeing Bonnie. Gangs of teenagers furiously pecking out SMS messages while laughing with their companions lurched by and old couple making their way home held hands. I mindlessly scratched Bonnie behind her ears in that way she loves and drank in the scene - the people and the lights and the tinny Christmas carols played over loudspakers and the fading chime of the bells.

This part of the city is very close to the Elbe and as the sun was on the verge of vanishing and the temperatures dipped, fog from the river rolled in thickly. It came along suddenly and shrouded the area in a sort of damp veil. Lights became blurry and sounds more muted and as I sat the cold and damp began to creep though my thin jeans and under the collar of my jacket.

So Bonnie and I headed up the street to our apartment. I opened the door and Bonnie dashed in, anxious for a drink of water. My glasses fogged up from the sudden burst of warmth and I slipped them off while I took off my jacket and removed my shoes. The blanket of fog was now even thicker and despite its chill I felt warmer with it surrounding me.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

You get what you give

Taking the sage advice of " will probably derive much more satisfaction from writing your rebuttal in your own weblog than you will from e-mailing us." provided to readers of Trainwreck I'll spend my time rebutting their recent review of not just an entry I made on my blog a few days ago but a paragraph of an entry.

Let's not even get into how your reviewer didn't get the entire point of the blog entry I wrote. Let's not discuss that the paragrah was to set up a sense of irony and to show avoiding certain behaviors doesn't always do one any good or that it should made the reader feel a relation to the fear - a sense of "Oh I hate that too!". It isn't that the paragraph was criticized. I never said it was a brilliant piece of prose. It may very well be a clumsily written humorous paragraph that gained its humor in a way I never intended. It's the piss poor attempt at criticism that's annoying. Not reviewing the entire piece but merely a bit of a paragraph taken out of context and the criticism (both of them actually, one being in the comments) being nothing more than pissy nitpicking.

And that's the problem with the execution of the entire website - the lame, obtuse reviews. We're promised trainwrecks - blogs that are so truly terrible you can't avoid looking at it. Entire blogs that are bad, are filled with poor grammar and spelling, ridiculous writing, unoriginal thought, horrible graphics and eye gouging templates. It's a straighforward concept and certainly not an original idea as it's already being done Shitty Blogs and I Talk 2 Much. But we don't get any real trainwrecks. Instead we're treated to nothing more than half-assed jabs at snippets of blog entries that are written without even an ounce of wit. We don't get trainwrecks but instead are treated to nothing more than a few cracked windshields.

You advise that blogs turn into trainwrecks because "’s all about self-delusion." but what could be more delusional than self appointed anonymous reviewers without a shred of credibility thinking they are the final word on what's worth reading? In the end no one really gives a damn about your reviews, especially when they're so painfully executed.

As this will be my daily entry on Holidailies you can direct your thanks to me for the increased traffic to your site. Maybe finally you'll have commentors other than the other reviewers on your site.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The small and gritty pieces

Nothing of particular significance to report today so you'll just have to settle for the crumbs I'm proffering.
  1. My MIL moved to her new apartment today so after a couple more trips to the old place to fetch a few things I'll never have to go in that shithole where our old apartments were located ever again. And I understand from our former neighbors that the Loud Family is worse than ever. Happy eviction proceedings!
  2. Recently seen at the Christmas market: one young man with long, long dark blonde dredlocks in the company of another young man sporting a dark blonde, massive Angela Davis afro. One was eating Schmalzkuchen, the other cotton candy. You can be a rebel but never lose your inner child.
  3. The rest of the unpacking will commence this weekend without fail! All shall be unpacked and the boxes ready to be removed by Wednesday as that's the day Kitchen Dude is coming to finish installing the overhead cabinets and he can take the empty cartons with him when he leaves. I know I've been promising to finish this unpacking for three weeks now but this time I'm serious!
  4. When I called my MIL this afternoon around 3:30 she said that she'd finished unpacking fifteen boxes and would be finished with all her unpacking by Monday as that's the day she told the moving company to pick up her empty cartons. You know, she's making me look bad.
  5. I've called Fujitsu/Siemens to get my computer repaired and we came to the conclusion that the harddrive is crapping out. I'll get a call from the repairman next week for him to come change it out. No, I did not describe the noise it makes as "tokytokytokytoky". I know you were counting on me doing that.
  6. While I'm unpacking I hope I can find the receipt for the sofa and chair I bought in November. They still haven't called to give me a delivery date and I'm half afraid there's not an order in for it. Can't wait to celebrate Christmas sitting on kitchen chairs!

Friday Shuffle - Second Advent Week Edition

Music for Santa to polish his sleigh by...
  1. White Christmas - Bing Crosby
  2. Rocking Around the Christmas Tree - Brenda Lee
  3. Little Drummer Boy - Vienna Boys Choir
  4. Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses
  5. Happy Xmas (War is Over) - John Lennon and Yoko Ono
  6. Navidad - Loona
  7. Thank God It's Christmas - Queen
  8. There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays - Perry Como
  9. Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming) - Melanie Thornton
  10. Pretty Paper - Roy Orbison
A shuffle shinier than the electric candles in my window.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Thursday Kinder Egg Blogging

My most recent discovery from my Kinder Egg advent calendar. You know the drill - pass your cursor over the photos to make them change.

Now that you know what's inside the wrapper, let's see what was in the capsule. And by the way, the chocolate was yummy. My advent calendar was sitting a tad too near the stereo and so the chocolate had gotten a bit soft and squishy. Mmmm.

Tape dispenser. Excuse me, Santa's elf themed tape dispenser.

German engineering at its finest.

In my life

My first year of college was not what we'd call a great success. I'd spent my time doing everything except what I was supposed to be doing and shirking responsibilities was becoming second nature to me. Still I was not giving up completely which is why the late evening of December 8, 1980 found me at the kitchen table furiously typing a paper for my interpersonal communication class that was due the next morning at 8am.

I listened to the radio as I typed and I heard John Lennon's voice singing #9 Dream and was thinking how much I loved that song. Of how my dreamy teenage self would play it over and over as a way of escaping my chaotic, hectic family. And when it was over I heard the DJ tell me that John Lennon was dead. That he'd been murdered. And my heart broke.

I have no memory of a time when I didn't know of the Beatles.

While the Beatles formed before I was born, my birth and their transformation from scruffy boys playing in loud clubs in Hamburg to the polished image we came to know happened roughly around the same time. As I grew, they grew. As I changed, they changed. And then they stopped being and for an eight year old this was somewhat puzzling. I didn't realize they could exsist without each other. I'd outgrown my notion that they lived together, a la Help but I didn't really get that they could be anything else but Beatles. I'd been hearing their music virtually my entire life, thanks to my seven years older sister, and it didn't seem possible that they could do anything without each other.

As I got older and began to explore more varied kinds of music than standard Top 40 pop or old school country music I began to see John in a new light. He was taking his famous break from making music and I was using that opportunity to discover his solo work in depth. Imagine and Walls and Bridges were favorite albums of mine by him and the images and ideas his songs provoked stayed with me. Then John began recording again and I was so anxious for more and more new stuff from him. He seemed so happy with his life and with what life had brought him and we were hearing about it. The world had John's music again. And then it was all taken away on a December night.

I spent the rest of the night typing and crying.

So long ago
Was it in a dream, was it just a dream?

[A Best of Holidailies exceptional entry]

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

But I can't help falling in love with you

This evening I took a walk down the street to the Asian bistro - cleverly named Asian Bistro - to pick up some lo mein for supper.

I tell you, in the three weeks since I've moved I've cooked very little. This has simply got to change.

Anyway, as I was approaching the restaurant I saw a little boy about six years old and a little girl about four years old up on the ledge of a fountain. The fountain was turned off and drained for the winter and the ledge is quite wide - wide enough for people to sit on it. The kids were walking around the ledge and the mother said "Careful, kids. Don't fall!".

I understand this mother's concern. The edge of the fountain was about two feet high, concrete, and the ground below was nothing but concrete tile.

I hate falling. It's one of those basic fears I have. I go out of my way to avoid situations where my chance of falling is increased. When I was a teenager I fell down an escalator and since then I have a fear of going down one. Going up is okay but I will avoid going down one unless I have absolutely no other alternative and even then I have to talk myself into getting on. I once fell down a hill when I was in college (and completely bombed at the time) and since then I avoid walking down hills with more than the merest incline. I fear ice. I fear snow once it's become packed down an icy. Should it rain in the winter I fear the temperatures dipping below freezing and turning the sidewalks into a skating rink. I'm very careful walking down steps and stairs and when I take the streetcar I always hope the one I need will be a new one with no steps.

So imagine my surprise when at the very moment that I was thinking that I understood this mother's concern for her children potentially falling off this fountain ledge I myself lost my balance. I must have caught my shoe on the tiniest edge of concrete tile - I certainly didn't feel it. All I knew was I was pitching forward out of balance, my arms windmilling around me and thinking "Get your balance! Get your balance! Hang on! Oh shit! Oh forget it, I'm doomed!"

Blame my being top heavy. Blame my terrible sense of balance. Blame it on me being born under an unlucky star. Blame it on Rio, if you must. All I knew was that I was headed face down for concrete. Hands out to catch myself as best I could I slammed down, banging my bad knee but avoiding smashing my face.

I must have made some sort of "Ooof!" sound because a young lady turned around and asked me if I were alright.

Taking a moment to assess myself I replied that I seemed to be okay and took that opportunity to silently ask God to send his angels to help me up so I wouldn't flounder around on the concrete like a beached whale.

I drew my knees up (painfully!) underneath myself and hoisted myself to a standing position. The young lady asked me once again if I were alright and I said that I seemed to be and was only terribly embarrassed.

"Oh don't be," she replied. "That can happen to anyone."

I thanked her for her concern and said good bye and went on to the bistro, not daring to look around me to see if anyone was snickering at my mishap.

I walked inside and waited for the cook to come from the sit-down part of the restaurant and gave him my order. I paid for my food and before he turned around to make it he said "Are you the one who just fell outside?".

Red faced, I replied that I was but that I was okay. He gave a cross between an understanding smile and a stiffled smirk and turned around to start stir-frying.

I'd almost be too embarrassed to go back but they make such fabulous chicken lo-mein.

As a side note, today starts Holidailies. From now until January 6th I will do my very, very, very best to update my blog daily. I'm pretty good about near daily updates anyway so this shouldn't be such a burden.

And if I don't do my very best to do daily updates you can make me ride an escalator.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Must have new yarn. Must knit.

Must find which box has my needles. Forget it. I don't have 10mm needles anyway so I'll have to buy some.

I have to knit this shrug featured in the new edition of Knitty. Tell me this isn't the perfect thing to wear when you're snuggled up on a cold, snowy day with a good book and a cup of tea.

Image hosted by

Image hosted by

And I happen to know I kick butt making bobbles.

It's natures way of giving me a clue

I just spent the better part of an hour writing a blog entry. Nothing much has been happening as of late so it was just a series of snippets. A sort of sub-standard blog entry, if I do say so.

My computer, ever wishing to bedevil me, has been acting wonky lately. This isn't the computer that I sent to the shop to be repaired and there was nothing wrong with it. The wonky computer is our second one and for a good two months it occasionally gets its ass up on its shoulders and begins making sounds that say "Start to worry. Soon I shall break and leave your ass high and dry.". In reality it makes a sound like "tokytokytokytokytokytoky" over and over and then just as suddenly as it starts it stops.

As the computer still has five months of warranty left I'm looking forward to calling the Fujitsu/Siemens service center and saying to the person on the other end "...and then it goes tokytokytokytokytokytoky...".

So as I was finishing the blog entry I was working on I heard a brief "tokytokytoky", got some cryptic error message screen that I couldn't read and B just groaned when he spied it and then I rebooted. All is fine again. No weird noises, no further cryptic messages.

And no blog entry to be recovered.

Count your blessings. My computer was probably just keeping me from boring the crap out of you.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Know before you go

James is moving from San Francisco to Düsseldorf in a little over three weeks and he's asked me if I have any tips to hand over regarding moving to Germany.

To make this a bit easier on me I'll just assume that you've not lived in Germany before - that way anyone reading this can use the tips. And you expats - feel free to chime in with your own!
  1. Carry fifty cents with you at all time. Not only will you need it for the pay toilets but you'll need it to use a shopping cart.
  2. Learn to network. Finding someone to hang wallpaper or lay carpet for you is much easier when you learn which of your friends knows the proper people.
  3. Become a soccer fan. And if you're going to be fan, be a fan of an 1. Liga team. Don't bother with being a fan of Köln unless you like having your team go from 1. to 2. Liga every couple years, plus being as you'll be in Düsseldorf it'll save you torment from your neighbors . Just go for the best and become a Bayern-München fan.
  4. Check your calendar twice. Most calendars in Germany start with Monday as being the first day of the week as opposed to American calendars that start with Sunday. Don't just see a date in the middle of the week and automatically assume it's Wednesday - it's probably Thursday.
  5. Learn which holidays your state celebrates - not every states has the exact same holidays. Not only will it keep you from showing up to work when you're supposed to be at home but it'll keep you from realizing it's a holiday and you don't have any food in the house. Should that happen, you can find grocery items at the gas station.
  6. Alternatiave food purchase site on Sundays and holidays: Video rental stores.
  7. Learn the bottle deposit rules. Some bottles go back to specific stores, some go back to any store that uses mehrweg Flaschen and some bottles drinks don't require a deposit.
  8. H-milch - the milk that's super heated to kill germs and therefore doesn't need to be refrigerated until it's opened - is okay. It's real milk and it's not weird. You'll be glad you've got H-milch in the house when you realize it's a Sunday and the stores are closed.
  9. Check your newspaper or your local cinema's website for their schedule for showing movies in English. Most of the big cinemas show big release movies in original language at least for the first couple weeks after its release.
  10. Learn who Thomas Gottschalk, Günther Jauch, Harald Schmidt, Johannes B. Kerner, Dieter Bohlen, Peter Kloeppel, Oliver Geissen, Til Schweiger, Verona Pooth, Michael Schumacher and Franz Beckenbauer are. It's more important than knowing who the Bundeskanzler (or Bundeskanzlerin, as is the case now) is.
  11. Don't trust your TV guide 100%, no matter which one you use. Shows start early, start late, end late or aren't even what's listed.
  12. Most important for someone moving to Düsseldorf: For God's sake it's Helau, not Alaaf!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Observed at the Christmas market

On Sunday afternoons during avent we light our advent wreath, watch some goofy Christmas TV programming and have coffee, tea and cake. Today I was out of cake so I hightailed it down to the Christmas market (yet another opportunity to cheer over living downtown) to pick up some fresh, warm Schmalzkuchen (similar to beignets but spicier).

Seen along the way:

Peruvian flute players packing their Mystery Machine-like van to head home. I was imagining them scaling the heights of the Andes in their humble yet packed to the gills vehicle until I looked at the license plate and was reminded that they're just headed down the A-14 to Leipzig.

Two teenage boys eating half- meter- long bratwursts - a food item marketed strictly to the 12-25 year old male population. You'd never see a girl eating a half-meter-long bratwurst and if you did, it's for certain she'd have a line of boys watching her ever move with not just a little lust in their eyes.

Five different young teenage couples wearing matching lebkuchen hearts around their necks. Bless young love. I adore my husband and would gladly give my life for him but he shouldn't bother asking me to wear a lebkuchen heart around my neck.

Wee little children doing that bouncy little dance wee little children do while in line for the carousel. Adorable, except the music playing was the Pussycat Dolls. Now there's some authentic Christmas spirit.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Welcome ex-pats!

Belinda over at born lippy has found my blog and has kindly introduced it to her other ex-pat blogging buddies. What a nice thing to do!

I'd told Belinda that I don't have an ex-pat friends in Germany but that's not completely accurate. I do have one American friend in Germany living in Thüringen - she tutored me in German years ago when she was working in Magdeburg. She married a German man and now she's working part time as a teacher and has two sons. Unfortunately I only get to see her once a year or so when she's up this way visiting her in-laws. With the exception of her, I don't know any non-Germans...with the exception of a few Turks and Russians but they've all lived here nearly their whole lives.

I know there are some Americans living in Magdeburg - I mean there's got to be because the idea of it just being me alone is ridiculous. Still, I never seem to run into any. English people either.

Still once in a great while I will hear English being spoken by a native speaker. A few years ago I happened to be in the mall. It was around Easter and the mall was teeming with people. As I wove my way through the masses I suddenly heard a man's voice in passing saying "Where is she?" and a woman replying "I think she's over there. Can you see her?".

Americans! Or Canadians - it's hard to tell with just a few words being spoken. Either way, I was hearing English from a native speaker.

I immediately turned around to see if I could see who was speaking. I am normally reticent to approach complete strangers for virtually any reason but these were native English speakers! By God, that practically makes you family!

I scurried around listening for any signs of English but I couldn't hear anything further. Evidently they got away and I didn't even have so much as a chance to ask them about why they'd happen to be in Magdeburg. There would have to be some reason - Magdeburg doesn't really stand out as a lure for American tourists.

So any of you ex-pats who are coming here for the first time, welcome! I hope you enjoy your reads here and hope you'll come back often. I'm looking forward to knowing others who live the ex-patriate life.

Oh - and get your hips on over to my Frappr map and stick in a pin. Bitte.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Friday Kinder Surprise Egg Blogging

I don't know whether to refer to them to y'all as Kinder Eggs or Überraschung Ei. I personally go with the German name but maybe it's easier to read if I just say Kinder Eggs.

So Kinder Eggs it shall be.

I have treated myself to a Kinder Eggs avent calendar. Be prepared for lots of Kinder Egg blogging if I run dry on subject matter.

Roll your cursor over this pile o' plastic bits to see what I made.

Yikes! Scary red haired Frankenstein dude in a weency car. Shouldn't he have been in the Halloween Kinder Eggs promotion?

I'm digging his glow-in-the-dark head though.

Friday Shuffle - First Advent Week Edition

It's Christmas music Friday Shuffles from now until the fat man takes to his sleigh!
  1. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland
  2. Mary's Boy Child - Harry Belafonte
  3. Hard Candy Christmas - Dolly Parton
  4. Do They Know it's Christmas? - Band Aid
  5. Weihnachten bin ich zuhaus - Roy Black
  6. Little Saint Nick - The Beach Boys
  7. Silver Bells - Kate Smith
  8. The Holly & the Ivy - Natalie Cole
  9. Merry Christmas, Baby - The Beach Boys
  10. Leise rieselt der Schnee - Heintje
Christmassy as a candy cane.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Downtown, mid-town, old town - whatever you want to call it, it's where we live now. Right in the center of the city in the oldest part of the city. Baby, it's where the action is.

It's making me downright giddy.

I had to get a little Christmas gift bag for the gift I'd bought our doctor for Christmas. Last night while washing dishes I thought "Dang. I hope I can get out long enough tomorrow morning to go hunt down a gift bag!" and then it dawned on me "Hey! I'm downtown! I'm in the place where things like gift bags are in plentiful supply! And by golly 1000 Dinge (1000 Things) is...what?...fifty yards from my apartment? Maybe even less! And they have things like gift bags! I can get there and back before the morning coffee stops brewing!"

It was as if all of life's problems were suddenly solved for me.

Anyone who knows me well knows my love of Christmas, knows my love of the Magdeburg Christmas market and knows how I was all a-twitter to now be living within literal rock throwing distance of it. Christmas market goodies and fun and festivities right down the street from me! I can go bathe myself in Christmas market revelry every day if I wish!

That's just what I did tonight. Not so much for merry-making but for bratwurst.

B's been pinging at me since the Christmas market opened to finally have a bratwurst. Nothing is as good as a fabulous Thüringer bratwurst from the grill at the Christmas market. Bratwurst done until it's a deep dark brown and the casing is all wrinkly and split and crispy. I can take one bite and say to myself "I moved to Germany for love but I think I'll stay here for the bratwurst.".

Normally B has to wait until he's able to get downtown to even entertain the idea of a fresh from the grill bratwurst but no more. I just walked down to the market, asked for some bratwurst to go, had the piping hot wursts wrapped in some foil, walked back home and by the time I tossed them onto a plate and got out the mustard and ketchup, they were at the perfect temperature for eating without blistering the roof of my mouth. Heaven! And reaffirmation that living in Germany is gooooood!

All the headaches, expense, frustrations, disappointments, anxiety, irritations and backbreaking work it took to move was forgotten and I once again proclaimed that I love living downtown.

Pass the ketchup.

St. Nick in the nick of time

Yay! Something to do! Christmas meme swiped from Kara!

When is the best time to open presents?
I'm a Christmas morning sort of gal but the tradition in Germany is to open them on Christmas Eve afternoon. I like Christmas in Germany but that part blows.

Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Nice. The Louds are still alive and unharmed, aren't they?

Real tree or imitation tree?
Fake. Fake all the way. I'm a freak for things symmetrical and real trees just don't do it for me.

Favorite Christmas cartoon character?
You know in A Charlie Brown Christmas that scene when Schroder's playing the piano and they're all dancing? Those twins bopping their heads to and fro? I like them a lot.

Did you ever write Santa a letter?
I have no memory of doing that. Probably did though.

Buy any Christmas presents online?
Most of the Christmas presents I give were bought online.

Save the ribbons and paper or rip right through it?
I rip the paper. This is no longer East Germany were gift wrapping paper was a scarce commodity.

Sharing Christmas with family this year?
As opposed to barging into a strange family's home and plunking myself down in the midst of their eggnog orgy? Yes. With family. Husband, mother in law, husband's aunt and uncle, husband's aunt and uncle's dog that will be banished to the balcony if she pees on my brand new carpet.

Ever ride in a one horse open sleigh?
No, but I did ride in a 1972 Pinto. The one horse open sleigh would have to be a warmer riding experience.

Ever roast a chestnut on an open fire?
No, but I have busted my ass slipping on them after a November rainstorm. Damn slippery pods.

Favorite Christmas pie?
Christmas isn't a pie holiday. Christmas is a cake holiday and that cake is a red velvet cake.

Favorite Christmas movie?
Like making a mother pick out her favorite child. Okay. It's a Wonderful Life. Or White Christmas. Or Miracle on 34th Street. Or Love Actually. One of those. Or maybe something else.

Favorite Christmas song?
O Holy Night, Stille Nacht, I'll be Home for Christmas, The Angels Cried, lots of others.

People on your Christmas list - more or less than ten?
Ten times two.

Will you have a white Christmas this year?
Hard to say. Probably a fifty-fifty chance.

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Who would you like to kiss under the mistletoe?
My husband.

Who gives the best gifts?
I don't look at gifts being good or better or best. They're all good. Someone took the time to choose a gift for me and that makes it wonderful.

Do you send Christmas cards?
Usually. I should be better about it but I sometimes let time get away from me.

What color best represents Christmas?
Shouldn't this be a no-brainer? Red and green!

Do you own any Christmas music?
At least 20 CDs, plus dozens of mp3s. I found some CDs during this move that I hadn't even taken the shrink wrap off of yet.

How many Christmas parties will you attend this year?
None. B can't go to parties because he can't get into other's apartments.

Does the postal worker get a gift this year?
No, but I get gifts for B's doctors and his physiotherapist and I bake cookies and/or cake for our building super and my hairdresser.

Giving a present to a pet?
Bonnie doesn't really play with toys so I tend to get her special snack treats.

Your shopping: All done, halfway done, just started, not started yet?
Just started.