November 30, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

After the excitement of the conference and the whirlwind activity of Thanksgiving we’re enjoying a quiet weekend of hanging at home and simple errands. Tomorrow is Sunday before December, which in Germany is the first Advent day. I’m not so well-versed on the religious history (something Catholic, I think) but you light one candle on the first Sunday, two on the second, and so on. Family and friends come by and there are coffee and cookies. It’s nice.

Soon we will have to get a tree and try to find a spot for it in our living room, which now has all our California furniture. Ralf will pretend we’re not getting a tree this year and I will half believe him and bug him about it and one day he’ll just come home with one. We will decorate it together with the same decorations we’ve used since before K was born. We will play Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby and drink tea and eat cookies. The kids will fight over the fragile ornaments and at least one will get broken. I will sneak off to my computer to check my email every few minutes. Ah, Christmas!

We have other Christmas traditions. For example, we invite all our friends over for Christmas coffee sometime in December. This year was hard to organize because we’re going to Ireland for a company Christmas party but now the date is set. I will make egg salad sandwiches with extra dill because Gesine likes them and Irish stew and everyone will bring their mom’s Christmas cookies (German Christmas cookies are pretty elaborate and no one in our generation knows how to make them). We will crack hilarious jokes about the relatively lame excuses Ollie's girlfriend uses not to show on such occassions. Chances are Kaye will come by to play and I’ll invite her mom over as well, who after spontaneous invitations on L’s birthday and Thanksgiving probably thinks we do nothing but cook for twenty people every night.

We will also visit the Weihnachtsmarkt, which is the Munich Christmas market. Actually there are several in Munich and they offer live music, handmade decorations, various delicious foods and hot drinks and other things of that kind. Each has it's own specialty, like the Flammbrot (flat bread with cream cheese, ham and chives) at Sendlingertor. It’s one of the nicest things about living in Munich.

On Christmas Eve we’ll go to Ralf’s parents for coffee then dinner (meat fondue with 12 sauces) and after dinner Ralf and his mom will play Christmas songs on the piano - badly, but that’s part of the tradition. Then I will play my one Christmas song, 'Greensleeves', which for some reason I can play perfectly with two hands and everything. Greensleeves is the last lonely remnant of my expensive musical education. Then there will be champagne and presents, mostly for the girls, who will be overwhelmed after the first three. Later a couple of Ralf’s best friends whose families don’t do a big Christmas Eve celebration will come by and they will drink and talk about old times. I won’t be able to contribute much – they’ve all known each other for more than twenty years and I wasn’t there the night Ralf stole the car or got drunk and fell down the hill into the poison ivy. But that’s OK because I usually crash and burn by 11 anyway.

On Christmas morning we’ll go for a brisk winter frog march after breakfast, which I will pretend to enjoy but not really fool anyone. There’s a German word for people like me: ‘Warmduscher’, which means ‘someone who takes warm showers.’ In a land where 19 degrees Celsius is considered acceptable swimming temperature this is a fairly insulting thing to call someone and in some situations may be considered fighting words. I prefer the term ‘LA girl’ but it hasn’t really caught on.

After traipsing up and down the winter landscape and getting plenty of fresh winter air into our lungs we’ll head home to relax, which means that Ralf and I will collapse on the sofa and the girls will climb all over us and giggle. It will be annoying and divine.

Another Christmas. We are blessed.

November 29, 2008

John Doerr on Green technology

Check this out - it's important.

November 27, 2008

The Commenter's Meme

My husband informs me that all this talk about the Commenter's Meme with no action is annoying, especially for people who have no idea what I’m talking about. I guess he has a point.

According to Wikipedia a meme describes any idea or behavior that can pass from one person to another by learning or imitation. Memes propagate themselves and can move through the cultural sociosphere in a manner similar to the contagious behavior of a virus.

If that didn't scare you off, here are the official rules according to Charlotte:
  • List the last 10 commneters on your blog.
  • If you’re in this list you’re tagged. That means you should do the Meme on your blog.

I also added the following rules of my own:

  • I only included commenters who are bloggers.
  • I only mention each commenter once in the first order of appearance.

And here’s the list of those special bloggers who take the time to keep up with other people’s blogs in addition to writing their own:
1. Natalian of Twaddle & Twak
2. Naturelady of Borealkraut
3. G in Berlin of From the Big Apple to the Big Bear

4. Meg, who I believe mainly blogs for family and friends so I'm not going to include a link unless she OKs it.

5. Patty of Blog 200
6. Emily of Telecommuter Talk
7. Jeanne of Cook Sister (link to my favorite recipe)
8. Charlotte of ???: No blog link (I use free blog software, which doesn't include fancy extras), so I’m going to assume this is from THE Charlotte of Charlotte’s Web
9. me - Yes, I commented on my own blog
10. PeterAtLarge of The Buddha Diaries

Now for the questions:

1. What’s your favourite post from number 3’s blog? Hard to say. G is a diverse blogger who includes a wealth of current events, social and political commentary, book reviews and YouTube links in her blogs. She also refers to her husband as The German, which I love. I guess if I have to choose a favorite post I’ll go with this one .

2. Has number 10 taken any pictures that moved you? As it happens, Peter has taken a number of pictures of Helsinki and Russia and the pictures of the Hermitage were a pleasure to view since I was there as a college student and will never forget it.

3. Does number 6 reply to comments on his blog? Definitely – Emily is a very reciprocal blogger.

4. Which part of blogland is number 2 from? I think Naturelady has carved out her own space due to her unique profile – she’s a German mom married to an American living in Alaska. For me the name of her blog Borealkraut says it all.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 7, what would it be? Jeanne is an amazing cook with all kinds of blog awards so I really can't think of any useful advice. Check out her mustard chicken pasta recipe, that's my favorite.

6. Have you ever tried something from number 9’s blog? Since #9 is me I would have to say, pretty much everything.

7. Has number 1 blogged something that inspired you? It’s a toss up because Natalian has written some great historical and family stuff like ‘Full Circle’ but I really loved the picture she posted of her baby’s feet, which inspired me to take some pictures of my own kids’ feet. I just love baby feet. In the words of Vicky Iovine, they look like little pork chops with toes. And it’s so true that the time flies by and suddenly they’re not babies any more!

8. How often do you comment on number 4’s blog? Never I’m afraid although I enjoy following her kids’ adventures.

9. Do you wait for number 8 to post excitedly? Charlotte? Of course, don’t we all?

10. How did number 5’s blog change your life? Patty is a professional ghost writer who by day is the voice of CEOs. Her writing is fantastic and reading her blog gives me new ideas about how to relate situations, family life, work and just about everything. To give you an idea of her versatility and humor check this post out. I love the list she leaves for her husband when she travels.

Midnight reflections

I can’t sleep. I still have jet lag. My head is full of thoughts. I sneak downstairs because if I lie in bed awake my kids will sense my mental activity and wake up. Especially L. We are this closely attuned.

I like to joke that I grew up on a barrio, which I suppose is a bit insensitive to people who actually grew up on a barrio, because when I was very young my street ended in a Hispanic American slum complete with about a dozen dilapidated old cars in the front yard . Mind you, if you walked in the other direction away from the slum you soon entered Taluca Lake, which is where stars like Bob Hope and Henry Winkler live. So it’s not like I didn’t know about money, we just didn’t have much of it in those early days. Spanish was spoken at my school in first grade, there were occasional gunshots during the night and my first loves had Hispanic last names. I lived in Sacramento for several years after this before moving back to LA so my subsequent first loves had last names like ‘Wong’ but that’s another story. Suffice it to say that my love life - such as it was back then - didn’t feature all that many blond guys, although I was engaged to one before I ran off with a German. But that’s another story, too.

Anyway, growing up a poorish neighborhood in LA I learned to run away when strangers talked to me before I learned to swim or tie my shoelaces. So for me living in a German small town has a certain appeal now that I have kids of my own. Imagine my dismay when I recently heard about a bank in another small German town that was robbed at gun point by a gang of Austrians! The bank was situated in the local town center, right near the local grocery store and pediatrician’s office. Shots were fired and a policeman was injured. The gang was captured, no one else was hurt and I assume the money was recovered.

My first thought upon hearing about this is that the Austrians should rob their own banks and not come here to rob ours. Although actually, with the exorbitant price you pay to drive through Austria to get to Italy, they don’t technically need to come here to rob the Germans. But I digress. The question is, what’s up with a small town in Germany being held up at gunpoint? Is it a sign of the times? Are the - insert your favorite scary people here - coming?

As it happens it is none of these things. Apparently this particular gang has been robbing German banks for 20 years and they finally got caught. Someone noticed a bunch of people with masks and guns going into a bank and called the police. The miracle is that they were never caught before, since the Germans of all people know how to report suspicious activity.

So there you have it. The people in that small town have now seen more action than I saw in all my years in LA. Thank goodness.

Good night and happy Thanksgiving.

November 25, 2008

Thought for the Day: German Men Don't Do Scented Candles

I know I implied that my next posting would be the Commenter's Meme but I just had to share this great commercial from Deutsche Bahn:

Female voice: 'Honey, the weather's so awful I thought we could do a romantic night at home instead of going out. I bought scented candles, Rotbusch tea and the collector's edition of Dirty Dancing.'

Announcer's voice: 'Need to get away? EUR 29 anywhere in Germany.'

Ralf thought this was hilarious. Bit unfair, really, since I've never attacked him with scented candles OR Rotbusch tea. . .

Commenter's Meme

This is just a quick note to thank everyone for your comments and say that the Commenter's Meme is coming soon! Thanks to you all I now have enough comments to do the Meme but I have a couple of work deadlines I have to meet this week. So, stay tuned. . . the folks who have been commenting here have some great blogs and I'm looking forward to introducing them to anyone who hasn't seen them yet.

November 23, 2008

Thought for the Day: Barefoot Contessa

My friend and I were eating scones the other day and we were talking about how delicious they are and what a great chef the Barefoot Contessa (hereafter to be referred to as the 'BC') is. How does she do it? I'll tell you how: The BC's scones taste fantastic because she uses TWO full sticks of butter and about a barrel of powder sugar icing. My cooking tastes great too if I use a ton of butter and sugar and if I looked like Giada I would probably be in a different profession. But I do love the BC because she's not afraid of real ingredients - when you eat one of her scones you've been properly sconed and you typically don't go looking for other food after that.

So here's the takeaway: eat real food, be full, stop eating.

November 18, 2008

The Commenter's Meme

As a new blogger I was deeply proud to be mentioned on Charlotte's Web as part of the Commenter's Meme: here

Charlotte is an established mommy life blogger with a wide and loyal following. She is also a true community builder with a kind word for everyone in the virtual blogger world. Anyway, I've gotten quite a bit of traffic on my own little blog since she referenced me and now I am 'tagged.' This means that I'm also supposed to do the 'Commenter's Meme' and answer questions about the last 10 commenters on my blog.

Unfortunately, although I've had over 1000 hits since I started blogging in September, I don't yet have enough comments to do the Meme.

Bloggers, help me out: I still need 5 more comments! If you are one of the next 5 commenters on my blog I will comment on your blog in one of my next few postings.


November 17, 2008

Going back to Cali

This week the company I work for is having a user’s conference and as the product manager for our compensation solutions I am presenting. Ralf is also presenting at the same conference, which means we can travel together sans kids. In some ways, it’s almost like a vacation and it’s nicer to sit by your husband on an international flight than some stranger. We set out Saturday at 4PM and 24 hours later were still en route. . . Since one can normally get from Munich to SFO in less than 24 hours, you’ve probably guessed that there’s a bit of a story there.

After a pleasant family morning that involved Sportscheck, a new shower head, some gardening and lots of snuggling with L, who is a very snuggly baby, Ralf’s parents picked up the kids and we made our final preparations before heading out to the airport. What to wear, what to wear. . . actually since we’re not totally finished unpacking this wasn’t such a big question, I pretty much packed everything business casual I could lay hands on and hoped it would somehow: a) fit; and b) match when we got there.

On the way to the airport, reveling in the sensation of traveling with no one under 6 years of age, I inquired about our flight. An experienced business traveler from my pre-mommy days, I was dismayed to hear we would have a stopover in London. ‘But. . . that means Heathrow!’ I exclaimed. ‘You need at least two hours for every connection and we only have an hour and forty-five minutes. They always post the wrong gate or change it at the last minute without announcing it. And,” I concluded triumphantly, on a roll about the evils of Heathrow and flaunting my superior travel acumen, ‘they’ll probably lose our luggage.’ My pleasurable tirade was momentarily interrupted by vivid pictures of me presenting in torn jeans and a faded Lewis & Clark sweatshirt and I remembered this was real, not just something to blog about. Ralf, ever the optimist, pointed out that thousands of business travelers pass through Heathrow every day without incident. But I was an international consultant before leaving the glamour of global project management to be a sleep-at-home mommy and I know better. Still, for the moment there wasn’t anything to be done so I shrugged it off, took a page out of Ralf’s book and prepared for the best rather than the worst. I did have to have the last word, however: ‘You’ll see.’

As it turns out, it was in fact a bad idea to stop in London but not because of Heathrow, which was on its best behavior (i.e., rotten but nothing worth relating here) but because of something else.

At Munich airport we had a bit of confusion about what line to stand in and ended up waiting in an unattended line where no one seemed to be working because it said “Lufthansa economy United States’. Needless to say, none of the Lufthansa employees at any of the open ticket counters said anything to us because this is Germany, where spontaneous friendly inquiries like, ‘That desk is closed right now – where are you flying?’ never happen. Once we got the check in location sorted, however, the check in process went smoothly. Until our luggage rolled away and Ralf suddenly noticed that our connecting flight was for 9:30 AM the next morning rather than 9:30 PM the same night.

I’ll fast forward through the next tense five minutes (‘You suck! You SUCK! You really, really suck!!’ – later I would move on to, ‘I told you so,’ and other rants of that type but the shock was still fresh) and just say that thanks to iPhone and duty free shopping we were able to salvage the situation. We booked a room in London, bought some toiletries and then I marched into Esprit to buy the most expensive pair of underwear I now own (EUR 20!) although I have to admit they’re quite nice and I probably deserve some nice underwear. I can only imagine what the shop girl thought about me buying a single pair of underwear while muttering, ‘I told you so!’

A high-quality comedy of errors should involve disaster from start to finish to be truly entertaining so I am sorry to report that everything else was fine and hope you don’t feel cheated. The only bad thing about the flight was the book club book I’d brought, Dirt Music, which was typical of its kind: well-written, sad and uncommonly boring. This particular author’s claim to glory is that he’s Australian and never uses quotation marks to show when people talk, which is annoying as hell but preferable to writing everything in the present tense.

Once in London we arrived at our hotel without a hitch and like many reasonable British business hotels, the room was clean, the bathroom gleamed with understated luxury and the bed was soft and comfortable. There was even a curry house across the street, where we went promptly and ordered something with chicken and something with chick peas. At first glance the restaurant seemed to be full of dangerous, tatooed thugs but they all turned out to be quite pleasant and uninterested in killing us for our few worldly possessions (which, thanks to Ralf, were 2 laptops, one toothbrush and a fabulously expensive pair of underwear). When we got back to the hotel and climbed into bed there were even two back-to-back episodes of Red Dwarf on TV so the day ended quite satisfactorily. And the next morning we caught our flight without a hitch.

They didn’t even lose our luggage.

November 15, 2008

Thought for the Day: Our Cat

This is K's thought: "Mommy, I love Guthrie soooooooo much!!! When he dies can we get a dog?"

November 14, 2008

Chicken, Sun-Dried Tomato and Mustard Pasta

I found this recipe on a cooking blog by Cook Sister - I admit I haven't tried it but it has all of my very favorite ingredients so I'm going to go ahead and reference it on faith. Nancy I know you'd love this one: click here


Two nights ago during a storm the doorbell rang wildly. When I answered it, there stood Kit with her mum, wrapped head to toe in some sort of wooly fleece blanket coat and clutching a tiny blue envelope. This was then proffered to me with a deep, chesty cough. I accepted it gingerly between two fingers and raised my eyebrows in inquiry at her mom, who explained that Kitwas sick but wanted to deliver her birthday party invitation to K. Good nights and 'gute Besserungs' were then said all around and they departed.

Fast forward to last night, no storm but more wild ringing, and there stood Kit again. But not for long. As soon as the door opened she sidled past me and announce that her mom had said she could stay until 6:30 and promptly began removing her boots and coat. I actually didn't mind since I was trying to unpack boxes in the attic and was glad to have the distraction for K and L. I did wonder about that cough, however, and eyed her narrowly with each sniffle. As far as I could tell, though, her germiness seemed limited to a few juicy nasal sounds.

Up she went to spread the plague to my kids while I continued unpacking and I had a very interesting hour listening to their conversation. Kit is 6 going on 7 and my K is only 5, although she is almost as tall as Kit. K is bilingual but her German is still in catch up mode, given that she learned everything she knows from me while we were in California. Her inability to express herself perfectly puts her at a slight disadvantage with Kit, who is now comfortable enough in our home to drop the obsequious act.

I won't bore you with the minutae of each toy they fought over but what it came down to was this: both girls are used to getting their own way, but Kit will go off and do her own thing if she can't get to yes whereas my K needs to be right. So basically Kit either ignored or barked orders at K while K followed her around and whined at her. I refrained from getting involved because at some point kids have to fight their own social battles. And so, although I personally felt that Kit was being a bit of a tit, and K's whine was starting to hurt my head, I bit my lip and held my tongue.

Unexpectedly, after some highly tedious and high-pitched minutes of this, K suddenly morphed from a helpless, frustrated little girl into this righteous headbobbing girlfriend who practically snapped her fingers at Kit to make her point. She really blew me away, standing so tall and proud and sticking up for herself. In that moment she struck a blow for all of us who have ever been bullied by an older, cooler girl. It so happened that Kit had right on her side in this particular instance but details aside, K was magnificent and Kit was a lot nicer to her for about 5 whole minutes.

I refrained from saying, 'You go, girl!' but did I think it? Yes, I did.

November 13, 2008

Web Counter Stats

I'm very excited by the fact that my blog has international visitors - aside from the Germans and Canadians my first non-American visitor was Danish so I want to give the Danes a special mention. Aren't Danes great?? Great Danes!! I found this out by using Web Counter Stats and you can, too: stats

Letter to the Editor

I just wrote a letter to the editor:

Let's Repower America: America faces some big challenges but has already shown a willingness to learn and change with the recent presidential election. In order to solve our economic, environmental and security challenges we need to get away from dependence on dwindling fossil fuels. Let's follow Al Gore's plan to repower America with 100% clean energy in 10 years. Other cities and countries that have followed this course are thriving economically, breathing clean air, not to mention saving money on fossil fuels. WE can do it, too. Yes, we can.

You can too: goforit

For more information about the We Campaign (started by Al Gore) go here: wecansolveit

November 12, 2008

Do I actually like Facebook?

Last week I registered for Facebook in response to an invitation from one of my colleagues. It wasn’t the first invitation I’d received but I’m the classic late adopter – I tell myself that this helps me design great software because I’m designing for other late adopters. Anyway, by now virtually every person I’ve ever so much as shaken hands with is on FB so I went ahead and signed up. Then I spent two days almost exclusively on FB, looking around, trying things, seeing what works (for me, that is) and what doesn’t.

5 things I like about Facebook:

  1. Seeing what people are doing right now. For some reason I love knowing that Christine is moving an armoire or that Jenny just posted pictures. This is way more fun than Survivor or other reality shows because it’s not just random average-looking people off the street mugging for the camera, I actually know these people.
  2. It’s a great way to get information fast, like the ‘Machine is Us(ing us)’ video Michael posted or comments on Prop 8. In just 2 days I’ve learned more stuff than I ever get from chatting with people.
  3. Getting pinged – it’s almost as good as having real friends! Maybe even better, since I can take my time with those snappy comebacks, which you can’t do in face-to-face encounters.
  4. Having virtual contact with friends and colleagues way out here in Bavaria. And having an easy way to remind them I exist.
  5. The plug ins, like how compatible my movie taste is with Sandy Voypick. Run far, Sandy, we have nothing in common.

4 things I don’t like about Facebook:

  1. The search results list doesn’t show enough info the members to actually find the people you care about unless they’re already connected to you in some way – for example, maiden name, graduation year, etc., would be extremely helpful when I’m sifting through the 20+ Aaron Baars to find my Aaron. – which sucks in many other ways - does a way better job of connecting you to the people you’ve lost touch with that you’re actually interested in.
  2. I joined 2 groups I was once part of (The JET program and Judson School) and have no friggin’ clue if anyone I know is also part of those groups. Also when you view all you have no idea where you are in the list, no way to organize search results and by the time I got to # 7 in the Next list I was starting to see repeats.
  3. The overall usability isn’t that great. Sure, billions of people use FB every day, but who are you going to believe, them or me?
  4. It’s way too easy to spend too much time being virtual and not enough time being real. After only a day on FB I found myself shushing my very real daughter while responding to something someone wrote on my virtual wall.

I wanted to come up with even lists of 5 things I like and 5 things I don’t like but as it turns out I like more things than I dislike about one of the most popular and accessible Internet applications of our time. Facebook is a fun social networking tool and there’s no doubt it has shaped how people use the Internet to network. And I definitely think there’s a place for it in the workplace, where your success may well be dependent on your social connections.

But is it more than that? Does FB represent the future of business applications?

For example, could you use Facebook as a team management tool at work? Interesting idea, but challenging when you get down to it because it doesn’t seamlessly include the business applications your teams probably use, like document management, etc.

I’ve also heard rumbles about using FB as a core system of record for business applications but I don’t see it – the information that, say, a global HR system needs isn’t there and even the information that is there is spotty. For example, if my company wanted to get my employment history from FB it would look like I only ever had one job.

So, as a business application I don't think FB is quite there, at least not in its current form. But it is definitely meaningful for business. Which means that the question ‘Do I like FB?’ that I started this posting with is the wrong question because the answer doesn’t matter. Somehow this little application that allows you to ping and poke people you seldom speak to in person has scratched a deep collective social itch.

Business is about people, after all, so business can't dismiss anything that has captured the imagination and mindshare of so many people.

And I think that the journey of collective intelligence/networking/thinking/sharing has just begun.

Thought for the Day: How does he stay so tan?

This is not my thought for the day - credit must go to Italy's top statesman Berlusconi, who observed that Obama is handsome and even has a nice tan. Good eye, Sylvio!

November 11, 2008

Thought for the Day: Working Mom

You know you're a working mom when you have to shake sand from the playground out of your high heels every morning.

November 10, 2008

Living on the Edge

We were in Sudtirol this weekend, which is the Germanic part of Italy next to Austria. It’s gorgeous there, a perfect example of what is possible when fabulous mountainous land meets industriousness and cultural pride. We had two wonderful days at a family B ‘n B we really like joined by some Italian friends with three kids of their own and did all kinds of hiking and wine drinking and that sort of thing.

On the last day we stopped for lunch at a tiny prosperous hamlet called ‘Graun’ and drove up to what seemed like the top of the world to eat. It was so gorgeous I wondered if God feels like this when he looks down. Of course there were perfect apple trees and grape vines that you could eat off the branch, and an old church, and a tree house. So we wandered around a bit before lunch with an easy, rambling pace.

I fell back a bit with L, who is smaller and was tired from all her hiking the day before. The others were following a narrow path that led a bit down, and when I got to it I saw that it ended on a cliff. Yes, a real cliff. Two adults were there with six children, one of them mine, and I almost ruined the serenity of the day by screaming when I saw K picking her way carefully toward the others less than 5 feet from the edge of eternity.

Of course nothing happened. Ralf caught up to us and got K away from the edge and we all went back to eat. But later I had some vivid reflections about this. The first thing that occurred to me was that this would never happen in the US, at least not with the people we call friends. Those kids would have been shepherded back from the edge so quickly you would heard the air popping. American adults are preoccupied with what might happen to children on their watch, whereas the European attitude is more like, “Why should anything happen?”

Who’s right? Possibly the Europeans, since the child mortality rate isn’t higher here than in the US. And yet. . . if K had tripped and gone over that edge that would have been it, no second chance, no more K, an unbearable thought that will continue to keep me awake nights until the next near miss.

What occurred to me later once I had calmed down a bit is that you can’t personally prevent everything bad that might happen to your children. Sometimes you’re not right there and your child has to cope, whether on a cliff face or crossing the street on the way home from a friend’s house. And it is at these times that the lessons you have imparted to your children will be tested. K passed this particular test – she was calm and careful on the edge of that cliff and came away from it quietly. So I guess I have come around a little bit to the European way of thinking, although if we ever find ourselves in such a situation again I will of course stick to K like glue and screw those crazy European notions.

A guy I studied with in graduate school was a single father raising two kids on his own. He once shared with me that he had a gun and was teaching his youngest daughter, who was seven, to use it responsibly. I, childless, was horrified and asked him if he wanted her to grow up and join the NRA? No, he said, I want her to be competent. That stuck with me and I feel like I finally understood what he was talking about.

So the moral of this story is that I will be gun shopping next time I’m in the States.

Not. ;-)

Willowy Weasley

Is that tall girl my 5-year-old? Can it be? How did I produce such a willowy child? I’m not bad looking or anything but no one has ever called me willowy – picture Cybil Shepherd in her Moonlighting years with a generous dash of Mrs. Weasley and that’s me. K, however, is the first person in my family to resemble a gazelle.

K turned 5 in September and in so many ways she’s all grown up now. She’s gotten more self-sufficient, she remembers things I’ve forgotten (like where my keys are) and sometimes she’s the one to reassure me when I’m worried about something. For example, last weekend we biked down to the lake with our neighbors, K’s BFF Kaye and her mum Annette. It was a gorgeous day and the kids played for a good hour before L started getting tired. Annette offered to watch K and bring her home later. It was the first time I’d left K anywhere public with anyone besides her grandparents and she was on her own bike so I wasn’t totally sanguine about it all, even though I was looking forward to an afternoon nap myself. So I started lecturing K about all the things she should be careful of (strange men, strange women, anyone at all she doesn’t know, cars, the lake, etc.) when she calmly broke in. “Don’t worry, Mommy,” she said kindly. “I’m Kaye’s best friend now and Kaye would be sad if anything happened to me so I’m sure her Mommy will take care of me.”

Well, now. What could I say to such a well-reasoned response? I had to laugh at the idea that our neighbor would only guard our child against predators, traffic and the elements for fear of Kaye being a bit put out by the loss of her best friend, though.

In other ways she is still a very little girl. If things aren’t just so she cries bitterly and has been having a rough time of it in the morning because she believes that her socks don’t fit her perfectly enough. Or her sleeves aren’t rolled up symmetrically. Or her shoes aren’t tightened quite right. I like to call her ‘My Little German’ when she behaves like this. Of course, she doesn’t get it. Ralf also doesn’t quite see my point and wants to know what I’m implying.

Her latest bit of adult wisdom (when I praised one of L’s scribbly pictures): ‘Mommy, would you still like L's picture if she hadn’t come out of your tummy?’

November 5, 2008

Amazing Salmon Chowder

I made this based on a recipe in Jolynn Spinelli's 'What's the Soup' and it is amazingly delicious and pretty easy. I adapted it a bit because 3 cups of cream is a bit much.

1 tbs fennel seeds
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 med yellow onion
2 ribs celery (or I prefer fennel), diced
1 tbs rosemary
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
10 small red potatoes,cut into 1 inch cubes
3 yams, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
10 cups veg stock - or whatever you prefer, I think I used chicken
2 cups plain tomato sauce (I didn't have any so I used spaghetti sauce)
3 lbs salmon fillets, no skin or bones, frozen is fine
1 cup cream
5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

toast fennel seeds in frying pan then remove and set aside
Melt butter in large soup pot
Add onion and celery or fresh fennel, stir about 6-8 minutes until translucent
Add toasted fennel seeds, cayenne adn rosemary, cook another minute
Add potatoes, yams, stock, garlic and tomato sauce
Bring to boil, then simmer about 15 minutes until potatoes done
Add salmon and simmer at least another 15 minutes (I think I did 30 because I was bringing kids to bed)
Add cream and salt to taste

That's it!

One more important milestone

I have one more important milestone to report: WD Germany has a new office! So anyone who wants to visit us in Germany doesn't even need to take vacation days.

To all my fans ;-)

OK I know you're reading this - why not leave a comment?

Happy Birthday, Little Pea and Congratulations America

Yesterday was L's 3rd birthday. She was so excited to be the birthday girl and flirted with her guests and played with each of her presents for hours. Her grandparents also organized a spectacular Kaspertheater.

It was a bit of a crazy day. In the wake of the moving craziness last week, I had spent 2 days running around procuring enough ingredients to make cake for 25 children at Kindergarten, another cake for family and enough food to feed a dozen people. We ended up having a few drop ins so there I was baking cake, lasagne and chicken pepperoni for everyone in the kitchen while the doorbell kept ringing. I intentionally made too much food, thinking we could eat leftover for the rest of the week but I thought wrong - every crumb was consumed.

Unfortunately, now we have no food until Monday, which is my regular shopping day. So as I write this I am a bit peckish.

Yesterday was also an important day for other Americans besides L because that's the day America elected Barrack Obama as president. We explained to L this morning that she got a new president for her birthday but she was more impressed with her new Lego zoo. Ralf and I are terribly relieved, however. George's 2nd term in office was hard on us - Ralf was plunged into depression after the last election and although I was not a particularly political person at the time, I fumed inwardly at anyone I suspected of having Republican connections. See, it was the first time I had cared enough to vote and I was devastated that the election didn't go my way.

Looking back, however, I am grateful to George and all the idiots who voted for him because I think without him change would not have been possible. Of course, Obama is not the change but his election signals a willingness to change and perhaps a belated recognition that the Republican party no longer stands for the fine conservative ideals it used to stand for back in Eisenhower's day. Also I think nothing will pep up the US economy right now like a charismatic president.

So, thank you, George. And thank you, idiots.

Just another day

Last Thursday all our stuff came from California: circa 157 boxes, 3 sofas, a queen bed, 2 kids’ beds, various kids’ furniture, chests of drawers, coffee tables and side tables, televisions, clothes, shoes, toys, kitchen stuff. . . which would have been great if we had been sitting her in an empty house. However, we left our old furniture in our German house when we moved to California and bought all ‘new’ stuff on Craig’s List so finding space for everything has been a challenge and our living room is as crowded as a Turkish opium den.

But let me back up a bit, because receiving a gimongous container of stuff isn’t that exciting and wouldn’t normally merit more than a passing mention. But there’s more: As I explained in my last posting, Ralf was in Dublin for a couple of days. He was supposed to come back Wednesday night but missed his flight, which also meant we missed our chance to schlep the furniture we know we’re getting rid of into the garage. It also meant that at 8AM Thursday morning I was facing 4 burly young Bavarian men and one scrappy one who kept saying ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you’ to me in English but nothing else. German blue collar workers don’t generally like dealing with the lady of the house - I gather this is because 'she' tends to be indecisive and wants to try out all the heavy stuff in several different positions before committing - and these guys were no exception. Me being American wasn’t cutting any ice with them, either, except maybe the scrappy guy. They ignored me as much as possible until Ralf got home before lunch while I slunk around after them trying to make sure they didn’t break anything and feeling very much in the way.

Anyway, a lot of hard physical lifting and sorting was done by all and somehow the trucks were unloaded (but not unpacked) shortly after 2 PM. I had a call at 4 and was in a tizzy because I’ve been ‘applying’ for an international mommy group and didn’t want to miss their Halloween party. In the end I called in a few IOUs and sent Ralf, who was of course delighted to go and didn’t have anything else to work on. Unfortunately, my call got canceled so it ended up being a lot of logistical stress for nothing. This was not such a bad thing for me because I had plenty of work to catch up on but from Ralf’s point of view the afternoon was a wash. When he later asked me how my call went I considered lying but ended up blurting out the truth and watching various expressions cross his face, none of them good. Finally, after sharing a few pointed observations with me that I will not repeat here, he stalked out of the room only to have his dramatic exit blocked by piles of boxes.

I’ve been trying to create the impression of a fairly stressful day but amazingly, it got even worse. toward the end of the day. Once the kids got home, wired from the Halloween party, K’s friend Kaye came over to play and the first thing they did was climb up on the highest piles of boxes containing glassware and use them as a sort of high, dangerous path around the room with L standing underneath the most rickety pile of boxes and K rocking back and forth overhead. This activity was quickly forbidden and segued into the less dangerous but more annoying game of opening boxes at random and pulling everything out that looked interesting.

Still doesn't sound that bad? Well, then K gave one of her Halloween candies to Kaye, who immediately began choking and gasped something about a peanut allergy. Then, as I was frantically searching the Internet to find out if Twix actually has peanuts I heard a strange popping sound, which later turned out to be exploding potatoes that I forgot to poke with a fork before baking. Meanwhile in the background L was running around with no diaper screaming, ‘Caca! Wipe me! Wipe meeeeeeee!’ This would have been the right moment for the cat to drag in a dead mouse or throw up on the new carpet - a car crashing through the wall or a massive pipe bursting would also not have been out of place - but fortunately the exploding potatoes seemed to herald the end of the destruction.

Now for the good news: You’ll be happy to hear that in the meantime we have unpacked many of the boxes and the rooms where we do most of our living are inhabitable now. You will also be glad to know that Kaye lived and in fact never swallowed any peanut products at all. And that L’s caca scare was also a false alarm. And that I was able to get most the potato bits out of the oven. And finally, I am sure you will be relieved to hear that Ralf was a hit with the other mommies and we have been officially invited to join the group.
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