Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My week: June 28 ed.

I had German lessons and a lot of stress in the beginning of the week. I had so many things to get done at home and realized the enormity of some of our upcoming projects at work. My brother and sister-in-law were visiting at the end of the week. I wasn't sure how I would get everything done until I had the liberating thought: instead of trying to work a couple hours before I picked them up in the afternoon, I would just take the whole day off. Duh. I stress myself out so much by trying to do all the things. As it was, I was up until midnight the night before working on things and then spent two hours the next day preparing. I was so glad that I didn't try to go into work!

-I picked up my family at Frankfurt Hahn, which is not really anywhere near the actual Frankfurt. However, the drive is pleasant; I take the 63 to the 61 to the 50. My GPS was bound and determined that I should take the 6 to the 62 and I told it absolutely not. The construction that way is just awful right now!

We headed to Bingen, where we sat under a tree near the ferry and enjoyed the delicious, vegan picnic I had packed for us (based on this meal that I made for friends) since SIL is vegan. Following lunch, we took the ferry across the Rhein River to Rüdesheim am Rhein and basically repeated the trip I took there in December, minus the Christmas market part. This gave my family the chance to see a twee German town with fachwerk buildings.

-We continued to Cologne, where we walked around, had dinner at Cafe Especial (which is some of the better Mexican food I've had in Germany), and viewed the Cathedral.

The next day, we wandered around Cologne some more, stopping to eat lunch at a vegan restaurant (which had delicious quiche and a "milk" shake with cookie dough that we shared). We also browsed a record store and Saturn, then had to get on our way back home.

Originally, I had planned to meet with my friend R in Kaiserslautern, but we got stuck in a nasty Stau on the 61 and would've been too late. Instead, we met in Mainz and ate at Im Herzen Afrikas, which is a delicious Ethiopian restaurant. I've been meaning to try the Frankfurt version for quite some time. Even though we didn't have a reservation, they were able to tuck us into a corner.

-On Saturday, we got a late start and headed to Heidelberg. Just after arriving, we were stuck in a fierce thunderstorm so we hung out at Red, a vegetarian restaurant where we had purchased lunch.

When the storm had abated, we continued to the Heidelberg castle, taking the Bergbahn (mountain rail) to get to the top. It's possible to hike up there, too, but it's steep, we didn't have time, and we had no interest in coating ourselves in any additional sweat. Unfortunately, we were too late for the English tour, but my family was content with wandering the castle grounds.

Afterward, we walked around Heidelberg and stopped by the Kulturbrauerei, a beer brewery and restaurant.  My brother had wanted to visit a beer hall but this region (and points west) is known for wine and beer halls aren't so common. C, who used to live in Heidelberg, came to the rescue with the name of the brewery. There wasn't any dancing on tables or any lederhosen, but they enjoyed the beer, nonetheless.

We grabbed a train home and ended up back in Kaiserslautern around 11 p.m. My family was hungry but it can be difficult to find a restaurant whose kitchen is still open that late, even on the weekends. We lucked out and convinced the staff at Spinnrädl to cook us something, even though most of the staff had gone.

Everyone was happy with the place; they were able to put together a beautiful vegan salad to my SIL's specifications; I ate some Kaesespaetzle, and my brother ordered some incredibly regional food, liver dumpling soup and Saumagen (a Pfalz specialty that former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl loved to foist upon visiting dignitaries). 

I'm not a huge fan of German food normally (it's too heavy and not always so vegetarian/vegan friendly) but I do like visiting Spinnrädl with guests upon occasion because of its ambiance (it's the oldest surviving fachwerk building in town); it serves traditional, regional dishes that are tasty (well, to the meat eaters); and while it's tourist-friendly, it's somewhere that the locals eat too and prices are in line with other restaurants.

-The next morning, we got up early so I could drop off my family at the airport again. I'm so glad that they visited and I was able to share my life here with them. I hadn't seen them for 2.5 years and won't see them again until next year when I visit the US.

-Following that, I had some work to do, went strawberry and cherry picking, ran to the store to pickup some household things, and even made strawberry jam using hot water bath canning. Phew! 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Getting my forage on

One of my new goals is to learn more about foraging, preserving food, and improving homesteading skills. I'm not 100% sure why I feel the need to have these skills, but I like to keep my brain busy by learning something new, so why not learn something that also has the advantage of being practical?

Considering that I live in the city and it's the most cramped place I've lived so far, it's a bit ironic that I'm getting back to basics. For the record, Kaiserslautern is a typical German city that's no more cramped than other cities here, but it's my first go-round with living in Germany and it's more compact than it was in the US, as is expected, or even where I had lived in the UK.

Anyway, I think that a lot of people might foster the idea that getting back to the basics requires a lot of land and aptitude. Let me tell you: I have neither land nor aptitude, but I'm bungling along reasonably well and am enjoying myself, to boot.

Foraging wild foods is not impossible, nor does it necessarily have to take place in the countryside. Now that I've learned about some common things that are native to this area, I've found them easily in the city. I've had even better luck out in the countryside surrounding Kaiserslautern.

On just one stretch of country road a half mile in length, I recently found: wild sour cherries, elderflowers, black berry plants, and rose hips. These are only the things that I know; I imagine that there might be even more things! I look forward to learning just what those things might be.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


A friend and I were talking about rednecks and he called them "hilly billies." I was so tickled that I couldn't tell him that he was just a little bit off ;)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What the Phuket?

We celebrated a friend's birthday at Phuket, a Thai restaurant, and I ordered one of their notorious volcanoes of liquor for our group (complete with a burning centerpiece). I clearly did this in violation of German Birthday Traditions (wherein the birthday boy would have bought everything for his guests) but I'm American so I'm immune on this one ;)

Anyway, we got a volcano bowl with a really weird...hula dancer? Mutant? Mutilated ceramic figure? What is going on with this weird little creature?!

Monday, June 22, 2015

NPR article about seasonal eating in Germany

NPR featured a piece about seasonal eating and festivals in Germany. Check it out; it's well-written and on-point.

What I found to be especially true is the part about shoppers being accustomed to a smaller selection of produce featuring what's in season at the discount supermarkets. Indeed, this is the case at Aldi, Lidl, and Penny. When I'm cooking things that are out of season, I have to visit the big guys like Real or Globus.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My week: June 21 ed.

I'm freeee! Okay, not quite, but I will now have a little more free time since one of my German classes ended this week. Now I'll only have two lessons a week instead of four. It took a lot out of me to have so many classes per week, with just the amount of time alone that it took!

-I met up with my dear friend D for a walk, some wild foraging, and an evening of German speaking, which I normally don't do with my friends. We also ate at my favorite restaurant. It was perfect. 

-I collected more Holunderblüte, or elderflowers, and put together a mix for a fizzy elderflower lemonade-style drink. I'm really enjoying learning more about foraging wild food. While I was looking for some more sambucus (Latin name for the tree), I found some wild cherry trees. Score! It will be awesome to learn more because being able to identify plants and their uses changes one's perception of the countryside.

-I went to a group campout with a dear friend I haven't seen since earlier this year. We had been partners in the "crime" of wearing Dirndl in the Pfalz. We also met up with an awesome guy and fellow cat lover whom I had met in Munich in January. All of us got along fabulously and we hope to meet up in Kaiserslautern...sometime. All of us have such crazy schedules that it's hard to get together. It's hard to say, well, maybe we could all see one another again in August, or...?

I was even more excited when I found out that first friend is planning a trip to the US next year with her boyfriend. They'll be there the same time I will be. My good friend from work, C, had already planned to meet up with me. After some excited conversation and some texting to the US, we determined that all four of us will meet up and go on a road trip. I'm super excited; it'll also be an opportunity to introduce them to my US friends. I love how small the world can be sometimes.

-Even though I was super tired after coming home from the campout, I did drag myself out of a nap and met up with some friends for dinner. That was awesome!

So, this week was tiring but excellent, with a chance to reconnect with some friends I know from all over, and to plan for future adventures.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A capital Experience

I recently learned of an "official" diagnosis for something that I've seen, and I'll admit, drives me a bit nuts: Random Capitalization Syndrome, as explained by Mike Pope here.

It's so strange to me. I've seen things online where people have randomly capitalized things that aren't proper nouns, don't start a sentence, and have no business being capitalized. I've tried to decode these actions. Is it a certain type of word? Why does one do it? Does the person not even know the rule or does she purposefully do it?

Whatever motivates other people to do this, I can't say. However, I've found myself mixing up capitalization lately and it's really annoying. It usually happens if I'm writing in English but mention a German word that fits the best. If it's a noun, I find myself getting tripped up. Should I capitalize it since it's a German noun, even though everything else is English? I do end up capitalizing it but then finding myself starting to capitalize some English (regular) nouns.

I was considering this when I was reading Mike Pope's piece and laughed really hard when I got to his "German 101" Theory. Pope notes that "Sufferers from RCS might have been exposed at a critical time in their writing development to German 101, where students learn that all Nouns are capitalized." Ha! 

Unfortunately, that theory holds no water for the majority of other people I'm seeing who do this. They're native speakers and do not know foreign languages. All I can say is that I hope that they Please Stop.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Milestone in learning German reached!

I'm thrilled because of something that might sound silly, but is a big deal for me: I spoke for several hours in German with one of my good friends.

One might wonder why that would be a big deal for someone who's at a B1 level. I got over my shyness about speaking German with my tandem partner (which is a good thing because what would be the point of having a tandem partner otherwise). However, this was one of the first times that I spoke German with friends from another circle.

I'm not sure why, but initially I was nervous. It sounds weird; after all, my friends are very nice and very kind. Once we got started I lost that feeling and we had a lovely evening. We even had complex conversations, talking about organic farming and wild food foraging.

It was both wonderful to spend some time with a dear friend whom I haven't seen in such a long time and to be able to speak in his native tongue. This is something that I had wistfully imagined when I lived in the US: I had hoped to incorporate myself into German life, meet some new friends (including some Germans), and speak the language.After one year of lessons in the US and two years of lessons here, it feels so good to connect with my friend this way.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

In which learning German is disconcerting

Most of the time, learning German is just time-consuming, but an okay brain workout. However, sometimes the learning materials can be a bit alarming.

Take this worksheet, for example.

"Der Fahrer war betrunken. Der Fahrer hat den Schulbus gefahren."

In other words, the driver was drunk and drove a schoolbus. Is that not disconcerting? Why must such a creepy example be used? Are there seriously no other sentences that would fit? It was a rather general exercise where we rewrote the sentences, combining them and using relative pronouns.

In another class, we were given cards with a picture and we had to "interview" other classmates about the topic. I had the card for cigarette sellers and my card depicted a pen. My classmate had pedestrian crossing lights and her card had two arms on it. We were incredibly confused.

Duolingo adds to the creepiness factor with sample sentences like: "Women love babies." "I like women." "The man runs with the women." "The man and the woman have many children." "Do you have a girlfriend?" "The men follow the women." There are stalker German sentences now? What next! Things got even weirder. "What is your gender?"

Um, what? I'm not looking to learn 'I want to hit on people/start a family/stalk people' style German. At least it didn't have any haughty British people speaking down to German waiters or any stuck up Americans saying how expensive their houses were, as some of my other books used as a basis for conversation.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why I'm not a big fan of AirBnB

Airbnb is a popular alternative to staying in hotels. Through the website, travelers can stay in the home or apartments of locals. Heck, guests can even stay in some non-traditional accommodations such as barges and tree houses.

The reaction to Airbnb has been varied. Many travelers are delighted with it, citing finding good deals on places to stay. Many are happy to have a kitchen for cooking their own meals and an opportunity to stay in a neighborhood of the city they're visiting. On the other hand, sometimes neighbors and local governments aren't keen on it, as it might turn a residential area into a business area with no permission.

Here's my feeling on Airbnb: I'm just not that into it. A group of us have used it before and I have no complaints with the property where we stayed; our host was awesome. However, it's not something that I'll seek out normally. I'll list why I'm just not feeling it with Airbnb. Btw, these are my feelings. You don't have to feel the same way; that's cool, and I'm not trying to change your mind. There's no need to take it personally if you think Airbnb is the best thing ever.

  • Price: the majority of the places I have looked at cost as much, or sometimes more, than a decent budget hotel. If I'm going to stray away from the stability of renting a hotel, I'm looking for a better deal than staying in one. Usually I travel with just one friend so hotels tend to be cheaper. For larger groups, Airbnb might be cheaper. Then again, with the ridiculous amount of extra money that some hosts charge per additional person, it might not be cheaper after all.
  •  Incredibly high security deposits: I've seen ridiculous deposits, such as 400 euros, on many Airbnb properties. I can understand the owner's point of view; it's a risk to take on an unknown person in his home. However, I'm not keen on such a huge hold being put on my credit card. I just want to sleep at the place, not tear it down, for goodness sakes.
  •  Ridiculously high cleaning fees: I've found places that seem to be a good deal, then I read the fine print. One place was 40 euros to stay per night (in the middle of nowhere) but an additional cleaning fee was another 40 euros! This was completely nuts to me; I could have stayed at a decent chain hotel with more amenities in a bigger city for that much. The only cleaning needed would be to wash the linens and that costs nowhere near 40 euros. 
  • The inconvenience of not having a reception desk: this usually translates to having to play phone tag with the host to be let in. This is a pain in the neck when you don't have a cell phone that will work in the area or it would be excessively expensive to use mobile minutes. Then comes the fun of trying to find a pay phone; many don't accept coins any more so have fun with that one and trying to figure out where to get a calling card. When I roll into a city, especially after a late flight, the last thing I want to do is try to figure out how to call someone to be let into the property. Then, what happens if the person doesn't hear his phone? I also don't like to set an exact time to meet someone. I prefer the convenience of having a reception desk where I can roll up within a chunk of time. It can be hard to figure out how long it'll take to arrive somewhere, from the airport for example, and I don't want to stress about being late. I enjoy the freedom of making my own schedule and not having to check it against a third party.
  • The added time and effort it takes to find a place: I tried to find a place in Paris, about 3 weeks before we were there. I carefully read the description of the property, made sure that the host's calendar showed availability for those dates, and then would write a pleasant message to double check that everything was available. I wrote to about 20 people. Even though I had carefully checked to see that the dates were available, I either received a response that it wasn't available after all or I received no response. I had spent hours doing this and found it incredibly frustrating. Even worse? After I received the "no" answer, I checked the host's calendar a little later and saw that the date was still available. What the heck! Why even have a calendar when the person isn't going to keep it up to date? After wasting days on this (between searching for places and waiting for responses), I said "forget it," found a place on Booking.com, and was set within minutes. Ain't nobody got time for that.
  • Many communities are banning or restricting Airbnb: to be honest, I can understand many of the reasons why they do it: it can be disruptive to neighborhoods; properties might not be zoned for business like that; homes aren't inspected for safety of the guests; and often the owners aren't paying taxes on their Airbnb earnings. From my point of view, I don't want to have the worry of my booking being cancelled last minute because the host has run afoul of regulations.
When I travel and I'm going to pay to stay somewhere instead of staying with friends, I want a simple, hassle free stay. I'm looking for easy check-in and check-out times, no ridiculous fees or policies, and a standard experience. For that reason, I find a hotel instead of using something like Airbnb.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My week: June 14 ed.

Well, this is somewhat of a first: I ran out of steam by the middle of the week. Usually it's the end of the week when that happens. I attended 3 of the 4 German classes but one evening, when I was sitting in my first class and nursing a headache, I started to wonder how I was going to make it through another almost three hours before I'd get home. I then had a liberating thought: I was going to go home and relax instead of going to class. I very much had needed that!

-I also met with my tandem speaking partner. I finally downloaded a free app on my phone so I was ready to make a request of her: would she say my weekly vocabulary words for me? She indeed did and now I have a very handy recording of that chapter's words with the English definitions. I just don't have any time to make and review flashcards right now so this is an excellent alternative that I can listen to in the car.

-After getting home after 10 pm one night, I realized that I really needed to get cracking on making the strawberry freezer jam. I didn't have time to stop by the commissary for pectin so I bought Gelierzucker from Lidl, which is what Germans use for making jams. It's sugar mixed with the pectin.

This was a rather impatient move and a great way to stretch my already overburdened brain late on a work night, right? Yeah, it makes total sense (rolling my eyes here). Take my advice: if you're not good/experienced at doing domestic stuff, don't have a lot of time, and are stressed, it's not the best idea to try to make something new especially using instructions in a foreign language. Thanks to the kind help of a lady in an internet forum, I got it all figured out and put up some jam.

It was delicious but very, very sugary. I recently read about a different kind of pectin that uses a calcium addition and one can use minimal sugar with it. That warrants further research (and probably ordering it online from the US).

-I went to the Lange Nacht der Kultur in Kaiserslautern with my sidehugging friend (inside joke), J; we later met up with his friend H. Lange Nacht is an evening of culture, entertainment, and performances. Cultural (and not so cultural) institutions throughout the city throw open their doors (well, to those who've purchased the entry wristband) and welcome visitors. We were out until about 1:30 a.m. then called it a night.

-I spent a day at home, relaxing followed by cleaning and working in the house. I washed my kitchen floor by hand, using a scrub brush and rag. I usually steam mop and was surprised at how much cleaner the floors were after hand washing them. Word to the wise on those: if the tile floors have a texture to them, the steam mop doesn't do the best job ever.

I also finished making the elderflower syrup. Mmm, is it good! I froze it because it is not shelf stable when homemade. Continuing on the domestic loop, I dreamed up ways to use the kilogram of spinach I bought (only 2.50 euros at the farmers' market!). I ate a spinach omelet for breakfast, a spinach smoothie for lunch, and made spinach spaetzle for dinner. It barely made a dent in the bag so I have to figure something out for freezing the spinach because I won't be able to eat it fast enough.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Making Elderflower Cordial with locally foraged flowers

 --WARNING: this blog entry is for entertainment purposes only. If you are interested in foraging wild foods, please check with a professional first. Use plant identification guides from a reliable source to make sure you are foraging the right plant to avoid toxicity.--

Walking through the woods in May and June, one might come across an interesting smell. It's slightly flowery, ranging from a sweet scent to one with slightly bitter undertones. Following the scent, one might come across a bushy tree exploding in clusters of creamy white flowers. The flowers themselves are beautiful little creatures, with lovely petals adorned with five jaunty yellow stamen  jutting up like a 60s-influenced satellite design.

Oh you pretty little elderflower you! Please use a plant ID book to be sure you're foraging the right thing.
Hello elder shrub! Please use a plant ID book to be sure you're foraging the right thing.

These lovely bushes are Sambucus, or elder shrubs. They can even begin to look like trees. Those who've watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail might have to stifle the overwhelming urge to holler, "your mother was a hamster and your father smellt of elderberries!"*

Even better than the Monty Python reference is that these bushes can be harvested to create some delicious things! For those living in Germany, one might be familiar with Holunderblütensirup, which basically translates to elderflower syrup, made from the shrub's flowers. It's often used in Hugo cocktails, a refreshing mix of sparkling wine, the elderflower syrup, fizzy water, mint leaves, and lime juice. 

Since I'm on this weird Susi Hausmacher kick lately, I decided that I too would make some elderflower syrup (often called cordial). I'm very lucky in that I have access to an area that has a plethora of lovely foragable treats so finding elderflowers was a breeze. Now that I know what they look like, I have also seen them all over, even within the city limits of Kaiserslautern.

I found a recipe online and made a sugar syrup to start the Holunderblütensirup making process. Since I'm new to this, I bugged out a bit when I found out how much sugar one would use: this particular recipe called for four pounds of sugar to a little more than five cups of water! I guess that's where the syrup part comes in. After the syrup had boiled, I poured it over the flowers, oranges and lemons, and their zest. I will steep it for a day and then bottle it and freeze it. The recipe didn't call for citric acid so I have to be careful with storage and handling even with the high sugar content and citrus fruits. I can't wait to make my own Hugo at home, with the elderflower syrup that I made myself.

*Oh, wait, let's be honest: I did quote the Monty Python line, quite gleefully, in fact. We were obsessed with this in high school and even watched part of it as part of our Humanities class. I'm not entirely sure why, except maybe because...um, the Crusades or something? I went to a Catholic high school so it's ironic they'd show it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Hovering lady face above dolphin: fine art in Nuremberg

I saw this interesting piece at a Syrian restaurant in Nuremberg.

I am always curious: what prompts a painter to include a disembodied head? Is this some sort of metaphor? If so, what for??

I am also curious: why is the dolphin giant?

It all reminds me of the painting I saw at the Schatzkiste. There was another disembodied head and an animal (a cat) with skewed proportions. Maybe it was the same artist.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My week: June 7 ed.

-German lessons x4, plus meeting with my tandem speaking partner.

-It was a busy, tiring week and many things needed troubleshooting at work. Despite my tiredness, I decided to invite some friends over for dinner on Saturday night.

-I ran around like crazy on Saturday. I started the day with getting a haircut and picking up a few last minute things. Then I hurried home, prepared everything for dinner, and cleaned the house, which took the whole afternoon.

My friends came over and dove into dinner, enjoying it with gusto. Moo pranced around, begging for attention, which he received in spades. After dinner, two of the friends left but K stayed and we went for a walk along a trail and then stopped for a beer.

The next day, we went strawberry picking at Selbstpflückfeld Kaiserslautern, which is located at the eastern edge of town. We both picked a huge amount of strawberries; I picked three kilos. That then left me responsible for cleaning them and hulling them at home. Hmm, it looks as if some freezer jam is in order. That will be my project in the upcoming week.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Picking strawberries in Kaiserslautern

Late spring is bringing wonderful things to Germany, and that includes strawberries and Spargel, two culinary favorites as the cold of winter is forgotten. Fans of fresh produce can enjoy a delicious treat by picking their own strawberries.

I took advantage of the strawberry fields in Kaiserslautern. Just through the industrial park on the east side of town, the fields are located above the highway. Take Wartenberger Weg and follow the "Erdbeerland" signs, which wind through fields and even takes one under the highway to the cowpath that leads to the red treats.
Just follow the Erdbeerland signs!
At the top of the hill, there is a clearing for parking and in the middle of the fields is the cashier's hut. In the hut, one can purchase strawberry wine and already picked strawberries.
View from strawberry fields, looking toward the A6 & 63 junction.
Even better yet, though, is picking one's own strawberries. They're less expensive to purchase. Before picking strawberries, give your container to the cashier to be weighed. The cashier will give a receipt; keep it, because when paying, the customer presents it for the weight of the container to be deducted. From there, the fields, and the delicious strawberries, await! Pick to your heart's content.

self pick strawberries
The fruits (har har) of my labor.
This website has more information about the strawberry fields mentioned, as well as additional fields in the region.

Erdbeerland Ernst & Funck

Here is the Kaiserslautern location:

Wartenberger Weg
67657 Kaiserslautern
Open Monday through Sunday 0800-1800;
open Thursdays until 1900 during the harvest season

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Meze dinner success!

I had three friends over for dinner on Saturday and pulled together a tasty dinner of Lebanese-influenced meze, light appetizers. I made so many of them that there was no threat of leaving the diners hungry, for sure!

Here are the delicious, fresh dishes we ate:

Falafel (bought from Vitamingarten)
Lebanese salad
Red beet hummus
Fresh veggies for dipping
Homemade pita chips (sorry, Stacy, but mine are so much better ;)
Tzatziki sauce
Spargel strawberry salad (this is German)
Hugo cocktails
Unsweetened iced tea (I'm a Northerner so we don't ruin it with boatloads of sugar ;)

With the exception of the tzatziki and falafel, I made everything else from scratch and dang was it delicious! I impressed myself, especially since I'm not a person with domestic skillz. My friends enjoyed everything, but didn't talk too much during the meal. They were too busy chewing. All in all, it was a success and we enjoyed one another's company and a very fresh, summery dinner.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Java alarm, dinner for four, and more

It's not the day for my weekly update yet, but I will admit early: this week has me running out of steam. Then again, I've been running around like crazy and getting maybe 6 hours of sleep a night when I'm more of a 9 hours type person so it's not such a big surprise, I guess.

Some of our technology isn't functioning as it should at work so my coworkers and I have been trying to wrangle everything. We have a really good rapport and work well together so it's a great thing to be part of that team. I hope not to sound too much like one of those stock photo teamwork posters.

We had an utterly hilarious moment during a slew of frustration: my coworker (IT guy) was installing Java on my computer because I need it for some training I'm managing. We were talking about how I thought Java was blocked. Just as I said that, an alarm went off. Our other coworker (legitimately) asked if it was an alarm because of installing Java. Deadpan, coworker 1 said yes, it was. Coworker 2 believed him for a beat. We burst out laughing. I said that the guys use the coffee machine in their office as the Java alarm.

Since I'm worn out and don't have much oomph after spending 15 hours a day away/doing things and all I want to do is to laze around, I thought it would be a great idea for this weekend to...

 ...invite three friends over for a dinner of Lebanese food, made from scratch, then host one of the friends since she lives in a different town and we'll make plans for the next day too.

I'm not Lebanese.

I am seriously deficient at being domestic so I can't make up from myself not being Lebanese in the sense of preparing authentic Lebanese food.

I really didn't want to go to the store to pick up things but I've gone twice so far.

My house is in quite a state and needs a good cleaning and tidying.

It makes perfect sense to do this, right? Well, I have hardly seen some of my friends lately from being so busy so I think it'll be worth it. I did show a small amount of intelligence and didn't attempt to make homemade falafel because I haven't been successful with that before. I picked up a bag of frozen patties from Vitamingarten. Some good company should perk me up a bit.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Der Ampelmann goes on another adventure

Meine Mutti dachte, dass "Ampel" bedeutet, etwas wie "Amish."

Der Ampelmann sieht wie ein Amish Mann aus.

Mutti ist so süß.


Der Ampel Amish?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Ampelmann went to the bathroom, and this is what happened

Apparently it's a thing in Germany that dudes are supposed to sit when they use the toilet, for all activities that one would do on a toilet. As far as I know for how things are done in the US (without being a dude myself), I understand that American dudes (tend to) stand up when they are urinating.

Take this as a warning, American guys: the Ampelmann wants YOU to sit down at all times when using the toilet. I saw this jaunty little sign in the (unisex) bathroom of a thrift store in Kaiserslautern.

(I am also super curious about the images. Did someone hijack some Ampelmann images and Photoshop them or are there official images like this?)

Monday, June 1, 2015

My week: May 31 ed.

Whew! May just blew by for me. There were a lot of things happening this month, with a work trip, several trips for fun, a holiday weekend trip to Budapest, and the departure of my good friend/colleague C. The month ended as such...

-I arrived home late on Monday night from Budapest. The next day, I felt rotten in the morning, experiencing flu-like symptoms. I nursed myself back to help with OTC meds and managed to make it through the workday but I felt quite awful.

-The next night, C came over to stay until her upcoming move on the weekend. We had a girls' night in with vegetarian food from a fave Heidelberg restaurant, followed by macarons (both items she thoughtfully brought), an epilator demo (and some wine because really, who comes up with such a dumb idea without wine?), and making handmade, non-toxic lotion bars from natural ingredients. We're weirdos and the strange chain of events suited us well ;)

-We saw the new Pitch Perfect movie. I'm not really a big fan of American comedies but we were just going to see our German actor/comedian crush, Flula Borg. The movie indeed was dumb with crude and base humor, but hey, there was Flula, so that counts for something.

-It was a whirlwind of goodbyes for C. We planned a farewell lunch with some people in our building, then a cake reception for everyone in our division. Our coworker S made another fantastic carrot cake and decorated it in an exciting way, surpassing even the awesome cake she made for my birthday last month. We also went out for dinner and drinks one evening for further celebrations with C. Phew! C has been my closest friend here in Germany and I'm sad to see her go, but she has an excellent new opportunity so I'm happy for her about that. We have already have plans for a road trip next year so it's "see you later" instead of "goodbye."

-After I drove C to the airport, I came home and took the train to Neustadt an der Weinstrasse to spend some time with my other friend C and his partner, K. They welcomed me with a delicious dinner of Spargel wrapped in savory pancakes and covered with Hollandaise sauce. It was excellent and I felt very spoiled to be eating the area's favorite spring dish prepared by awesome folks.

The next day, we visited Erpolzheim for the Kulinarische Wanderung um Obst, Spargel und Wein (Culinary Hike around Fruit, Asparagus, and Wine). It's in the Weinstrasse region and offers guests the opportunity to hike through the Spargel fields and fruit orchards to try various regional specialties. It was both a delicious and relaxing hike. We bought some fresh, local strawberries; they made me wonder why on earth I ever bother to buy the supermarket kind because the local ones are so much better.

Following the hike, C and K dropped me off at the train station, hugging me and sending me on my way with a cactus, a gift from C, who's a huge gardening fan. It was very sweet of him; I just hope that the cactus has a good life with me (Moo and my opposite of a green thumb, I'm looking at you).

-I had a bit of time at home, so I worked on the yard, during which I started another project that has been of interest to me: learning more about foraging wild foods. I had plenty of stinging nettle plants, which are a combination of something useful and something bothersome. Egads, is it ever unpleasant to get scratched by them! However, I have read that one can eat them, make tea from them, or even create tinctures from them. I weeded the yard and brought some inside to dry and use for tea. I'll have to give an update on how that one turns out.