Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yoga is great...until the feet come in

A bunch of us at work have been taking a yoga class, which has been much fun. It's crazy how sore we all are afterward. There may be some ideas that yoga is not strenuous but believe me, some of it takes a lot of muscle strength!

I have really enjoyed the class. However, I did have a minor freak out. I really dislike feet. They gross me out, majorly. This is weird, for sure, but I do know the roots of it. During class, I looked over to the side and saw my neighbor's feet. I looked away and ended up seeing someone else's feet and actually felt queasy. It's not as if they had nasty feet; they were just regular feet. Yes, I'm weird, but I really, really don't like feet. I do like yoga very much so I'll have to make sure I avoid looking at the feet.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Weather report! OMG, sun!

See the color of the sky? That's been the norm here this winter. 

Maybe Germany WILL surpass the US in sunlight!

The sun actually was out on Saturday. I was not sure what to do with myself because I sometimes forget that it exists here. I did have to squint a bit, for sure.

Perhaps builders are compensating for drab skies by creating colorful buildings.

Faking it...til Ich mache es?

These football players near Kaiserslautern Hauptbahnhof want to know: why I am not speaking German yet?

Living in Kaiserslautern, for an English speaker, is really cheating, at least as far as getting around in one's own language. There are so many English speakers around here that it's almost as common to hear English being spoken as it is to hear German. I did take German lessons before I moved here, but I have been cheating horribly and have used English in my transactions.

I do plan to change that; I will continue to learn German, first, through a Community Ed type course offered on one of the bases. Then, I hope to either study with a US university that has a campus here or maybe even with the Volkshochschule, which is basically like the local community college. The latter option is a bit scary for me though because I think the entire class would be in German. Sure, it's the immersion method -- but I call it the irrational fear method because it seems just too daunting for my pea brain to take on. Then I feel incredibly guilty because I'm coming from a place of privilege; there are so many people who arrive to a new country where neither their primary or secondary languages are spoken and they are forced to a go of it.

I also have the fear of not saying things properly. However, the only way to improve one's foreign language skills is to actually speak the language. I don't want to say things until I can say them properly. I'll just have to get over that to improve things.

In the meantime, I feel horrible about not really speaking German here. Today, I faked that I speak German when I went shopping. Everything was insanely busy as it is on Saturdays; it's a mad dash to get all the weekday needs done since everything is closed on Sundays. To pretend that I fit in, I made sure I kept a total of what I was buying, had the correct change available, and had my German pleases, thank yous, and good days all ready to go. For the most part I faked it; when the clerk went to bag my items, I said "Ich habe" and held up my shopping bag (since I forgot the name for it). She smiled and handed me the items to stick in the bag. Since the clerks were so busy it usually worked. I was stuck when clerks asked me if I needed help and had to respond in English. I look forward to the day when I can do all of this smoothly and not stick out too much.

These players are too busy to care. Logenstrasse, Kaiserslautern

Friday, February 8, 2013

Germany: It's Solar Powered, but the US? Nicht so gut says one news source

I had a horrible case of the giggles today after I heard that Fox News Business reporter Shibani Joshi believes that solar energy works in Germany but would not work in the US because Germany has "lots of sun" and gets "a lot more sun than we [in America] do."

I wonder if Ms. Joshi has ever visited Germany? I would be more than happy to show her around...and show her that the US gets more sun, except for maybe in the Pacific Northwest, or in Alaska, perhaps. Even Michigan feels like it's a sunny paradise, at least from what I can tell in the winter, compared to here. It's so sun-deprived here that, in a fit of grumpy, pasty winter blahs, I tried a tanning machine for 4 minutes. I kid you not - I felt yucky and crunchy afterward, but that's how badly I was wanting some Vitamin D.

I think that the US has as good of a solar opportunity as Germany has -- no, it is a better chance.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Restaurant Review: Flammkuchen Hütte in Mehlingen

Cute, isn't it?

This ain't Pizza Hut, folks, and thank goodness. However, "Flammkuchen Hütte" means Flame Cake Hut, and Flammkuchen is a distant cousin of pizza, so a coworker, being silly, said that it's like a Pizza Hut, in German. Luckily enough for us, it's much better than Pizza Hut!

Flammkuchen Hütte is a small restaurant in Mehlingen, about 5 minutes east of Kaiserslautern. It's a mostly adorable restaurant, though with some somewhat creepy decorations inside, strangely enough. The most important thing is that the food is delicious and service is friendly.

Flammkuchen in German literally means "flame cake" and it is baked in an oven. It is a French Alsatian dish but is also reasonably common in Germany. I have seen two different styles of Flammkuchen so far: a very thin, almost tortilla or cracker-like version at Flammkuchen Hütte, or a style with a thicker crust that is more similar to regular crust on American pizza. The latter version was a treat that my friend and German teacher made for me in the States using a recipe from an old German cookbook. Both versions were very delicious and instead of a tomato-based sauce, they are topped by a crème fraîche style white sauce.

I had heard good things about this restaurant so we gave it a try today. It's a small, very cute restaurant in a log building. Well, I should say that it's mostly cute inside. There are some mannequins used for decoration that are a bit disconcerting. Two of them sit above the bar on a park bench. It's probably supposed to look cute but instead it's strange to have them staring* over dining guests. At the entrance is an old woman mannequin. I've been told that she shakes, which I haven't observed myself.

As mentioned above, the restaurant is quite small, so it would not be suitable for large parties as it probably only seats about 15 people in the main dining area. There is a Biergarten in the back for nicer weather. There is a bar available too.

Besides the strange mannequins, the place is cute, the food was delicious, and service was good. We each ordered our own Flammkuchen; my dining partner had garlic and onions on hers and mine had onions and tomatoes that actually tasted like tomatoes and not some random mush. The crust was thin and crisp. I had previously eaten the thicker Flammkuchen so I was a bit surprised that there's a thinner version but found it very tasty. Two Flammkuchen, a bottle of water, and a cup of tea was EUR 20,20. Our waitress was very pleasant and the food, while being homemade, was still quite fast.

So good...
Besides Flammkuchen, there are some other items on the menu, mostly along the lines of steaks and salads. Just keep in mind that as the restaurant's name suggests, its star feature is the Flammkuchen. The traditional Flammkuchen offerings are savory but some sweet options are available, too. A friend tried a Camembert cheese and cranberry Flammkuchen which straddled the sweet-savory divide and reported that it was quite delicious. Next time I'll give it a try -- this restaurant definitely deserves another visit (and another...)

*Maybe it's the creepy mannequin version of The German Stare?

Super Cute Cabinet in Apartment Alert

I was in town and a friend kindly invited me for tea and to see her apartment in downtown Kaiserslautern. It is a neat apartment; it is retro but in a cool way with dark wood built-ins and a super cute cabinet with an old fashioned paintings on it. My camera made it look really yellow.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Radios and der Stau

Driving along during rush hour, I often hear about a Stau somewhere on the radio. A Stau is a traffic jam. The radio announcements are especially handy because they indicate how long the Stau is in kilometers.

Der Stau makes SuperMoo ANGRY. Rorr!!

Product Review: TSA Fast Pass Leash and Harness

For the move to Germany, I wanted to cross through security screening at the airport with Moo the Cat as smoothly as possible. It is a requirement for the animal to be leashed while the owner walks with or carries him through the security gate (and no, it's not allowed to run the cat through the x-ray machine). At the time I went through this, it was also an option to be screened in a separate room with the pet if the owner doesn't want to carry him through the security gate.

I decided to go through the gate, but doing so presented another problem: if Moo was wearing a traditional cat harness when I carried him through security, the metal on the harness would set off the alarm. I looked at three large chain pet stores and didn't find a harness without metal. Some of them had just one metal loop to attach the leash, but I didn't want to mess with trying to cut it off.

I did some searching online and found the TSA Fast Pass Leash and Harness. It is designed for dogs and cats and has no metal so it won't set off security in the airport. I watched some goofy videos about the product on the website, read how to size the harness correctly, and measured Moo several times with the help of my friend to make sure that I chose the correct size for him (plus he wasn't super cooperative; he kept trying to flop over dead because we were "torturing" him).

Re-enactment of Moo playing dead when we tried to measure him for the harness.

Dry Fur is the company that sells the harness as well as other accessories for pet airline travel, like cage liners, replacement hardware for travel cages so they can meet airline standards, etc. I decided to order the In Cabin Pet Airline Travel Kit, which includes the harness, leash, two collapsible bowls, a metal-free carrier tag and pet ID tag, as well as some food pouches. The whole set was $24.95; just the harness and leash would have been $19.99 so I thought I may as well get some other items with it too. I was especially interested in the collapsible bowls since I wouldn't have room in my luggage for traditional bowls.

Here's a review of the set:

TSA Fast Pass Leash and Harness

Shipping time: I received it very quickly, even though I didn't choose expedited shipping. I think it took about 2 days to receive it.

Pros: being able to get through security without setting of the alarm; thicker panels on the harness to distribute pressure. I really like the collapsible bowls that came with the kits.

Cons: Even though I measured and remeasured Moo and ordered a harness per the manufacturer's size guide, when I tested the harness at home he was able to slip out of it. I had to tighten the harness quite a bit so he couldn't slip out. I think a lot of his problem is that he's really pear-shaped. His chest is narrow but he gets wider past his shoulders, right where the harness sits. The harness gaps a bit in the front. Also, since the harness is sold for both dogs and cats, it isn't made to fit either one's shapes perfectly.

Verdict: I'm glad that I had it for moving Moo through security with ease. I don't know if I would trust the harness to take the cat outside of controlled environments though, since I have concerns about him slipping out.

Look how cute their TSA logo is; he looks like a SuperMoo!

Upper side of the harness (this part goes behind his shoulders).

TSA Fast Pass Harness and leash. Sorry, Moo, for making you wear what looks like a sports bra.

Note: these are my unbiased opinions on these products. I receive no compensation, merchandise, etc. from the company for the review.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Freaky weather

At work today, it felt as if we were in a super freaky snow globe for a while. Before that happened, though, it was raining quite hard. Then, there were some cracks of thunder and it started snowing HARD. Seriously, I think we received about a quarter inch of snow in what seemed like 3 minutes. There was thunder, lightning, and actual chunks of snow. My coworker thought it looked like a snow globe; I thought it was a rather violent one.

After about 15 minutes of dumping snow, the storm stopped. Crews were plowing the roads and within two hours later the snow on the roads was all melted and the sun was even (partially) out. What a strange day of weather!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pimp my...Deutsche Post Fahrrad (bike)??

I was taking a stroll around Kaiserslautern's downtown pedestrian district when I noticed the letter carrier delivering some letters. I did a little staring (tee hee) -- well, no, really, it was a few innocent glances, because I have never seen the German mail (called Deutsche Post) actually being delivered before. I'm always very curious about how daily life goes in a new locale because when one vacations in a place, one often misses out on the little things.

When I rounded the corner, I was in for a real visual treat:

Deutsche Post Fahrrad

Tonight's show: pimp my Fahrrad (bicycle), Deutsche Post Version
Jackpot! I was giggling really hard, imagining the younger guy who had been delivering mail on this bike. It totally does not look like what one would envision him riding.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How do you translate cow?

Another place Moo doesn't belong but he helps himself to it anyway.

Since Moo is also party to my mooove (sorry, couldn't help it) to Germany, I decided that he also needs to be immersed in German culture (aside from eating German cat food that's also labeled in Italian, for some reason).

I decided to translate his name. In German, it is Muh. I think it sounds a bit emo, myself, like "meh," which, for the record, is one of my least favorite words/attitudes.

Someone once asked me if Moo is black and white. I was confused why she'd pick that color combination as a guess until I realized that it would make sense that a cat named after a cow theme would look like a cow. Nope, I named him Moo because he would prance around, begging for attention,"mooing" (meowing, but it does sound like a moo).

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Not too long ago, in a country far, far away...

Surreal experience: watching Stars Wars in German. 

You know the opening credits? They don't work well in German because the words are too long to fit well :)

Pop culture above, Brotkultur below. I didn't know that bread has its own culture. Downtown Kaiserslautern.