Saturday, November 30, 2013

An expat Thanksgiving...times two

For Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to spend with those who are special and to be thankful, of course. Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday and besides Christmas, it's when most* US stores and businesses are closed so people can spend time with family and friends.

This is the second time in my life when I've been thousands of miles away from my family for Thanksgiving. The first time, I was a student in a suburb of London (England). I spent the evening with two of my friends, who also happened to be American. We took the train to London and ate dinner at Cheers (yes, it's based on the show!). As we walked through the park and to Buckingham Palace after dinner, I called my family to wish them a happy holiday. It was a neat experience.

That was thirteen years ago. I now live in Germany and faced another Thanksgiving far from my hometown. It was not a lonely Thanksgiving, though; thanks to the connection that expats feel and to my friend's kindness, a bunch of us gathered at her place for a lovely meal on Thursday evening. We had a late dinner since only the two Americans had the day off. It was to be quite an international event, with Americans (just two of us), friends originally from the UK (the largest group there, strangely enough, and I teased them that we had this holiday because the Pilgrims had been trying to get away from their forefathers), a Romanian, and some Germans. It was really fun to share our holiday with them.

In the wonderful way that merging social circles goes, my friends from town were also invited along. My two groups of friends met through a party at my place and then at subsequent events.  We left for Heidelberg a bit early and dropped off the pies that I made (more to follow about them in a future entry!) and some of ingredients for the other dishes I was going to prepare. Then, we headed to downtown Heidelberg to take a peek at the Christmas market. It hadn't officially opened yet but the booths were open, regardless. It was very pleasant to wander through them and not have to fight crowds.

Since it was going to be a few hours yet before dinner and I hadn't eaten much all day, I grabbed an ice cream cone from Gelato Go. It was quite cold out so it makes total sense to eat something even colder, huh? I don't always make the wisest choices in this regard but I didn't care because the ice cream was delicious! I ordered a scoop of marizpan (I think) and a scoop of Spekulatius, which had bits of chopped cookie of the same name. I forgot how huge the scoops of ice cream are there so I had quite a bit to eat! Some people complain about the price for the ice cream (mine was 2,20 euro for the two scoops) but I don't think that the prices are bad considering how much they give per scoop and that their offerings are organic. There are even vegan offerings!

We walked around a bit more and I did some scouting for the upcoming trip that I'll be taking there with my cousins, who will be visiting from the US in December. It was then time to head back for the dinner.

In addition to the pies I made, I prepared green bean casserole (which I personally detest, but it's such a typical dish that I felt that I needed to make it or else I'd be denying my Midwestern roots). I also made a dish of seared brussels sprouts with gorgonzola, pecans, and cranberries from this recipe. If I were to do it over, I'd probably bake or steam the sprouts first, then sear them in a pan, adding the cranberries almost at the end. I felt that they were slightly bitter since they didn't cook as much. The cranberries split open so that's why I'd add them later. It was a tasty dish, nonetheless, and I wouldn't mind adding it to my painfully slowly expanding repertoire of things I cook for events.

This was our hostess's first time cooking a turkey. She made a gourmet turkey, taking the time to prepare it in a brine. I don't usually eat meat, myself, but I took a small bite and it was quite nice, flavorful and moist. The meat eaters raved about it.

As we sat down to eat, I told the guests that we had to do our very special and typical American Thanksgiving ritual: a special prayer, okay even for the nonbelievers. We even taught the guests the super important hand gestures too. It went as follows: rub a dub dub (rubbing one's belly); thanks for the grub (holding hand out); yea god (doing jazz hands). I wish I could have had a video of this.

We then commenced to eat way too much and it was entirely delicious! Our hostess made a wonderful meal, pulling out all the stops with homemade cranberry relish, cornmeal stuffing, mashed potatoes with bacon (for which I will always make an amendment to my usual disinterest in eating meat), homemade cornbread muffins with bacon and sundried tomatoes, a lovely salad, my side dishes, and for dessert, a cheesecake she made and my pies (pumpkin and apple).

The company was lovely and the food delicious. My friends commented that they didn't that they have ever been so full before! Just before midnight, the three of us who live in Kaiserslautern waddled back to the train station to go home. I was in bed by 2 a.m. It's funny because the last time I celebrated Thanksgiving abroad, I was out really late too. In the US, I'm usually in bed by 10 p.m. after Thanksgiving festivities, probably because of the food coma.

The fun doesn't stop here, though. Another friend invited me to his Thanksgiving celebration, which will be today. Most of the other guests are Germans so it made sense to have it on a day that they wouldn't be working or in school. I purposefully didn't eat much on Friday because I needed a break in between two days of feasts. I must say, though, that I feel lucky to have such great company :)

*too bad it's not all of them! This is an example of where the US can really take an example from the Germans and allow everyone to celebrate holidays with their families instead serving corporate greed.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Getting it WRONG: street buskers and regalia

Germany has had a fascination with American Indians for quite some time, especially after German author Karl May wrote stories at the turn of the 19th century about Winnetou (a fictional character) and the American West.

It's not surprising, then, to see some street buskers dressed in what is supposed to be American Indian clothing. However, it is a strange juxtaposition as the performers, who are not American Indian, wear cheap knock-off costumes meant to look like ceremonial regalia. This is rather disrespectful to the American Indian culture, to create a cheap knock-off of special dress that has spiritual importance. The music is not accurate, either.

We saw a group in Heidelberg doing this. It especially bothers my friend. I hadn't really thought about it much before; I tend to ignore buskers. However, I see her point.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Three things that no man needs

The sign below was hanging in a store. I understood most of it, except for the last word, when I first read it (and was quite pleased with myself). The last word is idiomatic so I don't feel so bad about that.

Three things that no man needs: dish brush, toilet brush, and a prickly character [the word also means a wire brush].

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Some More Art Learnin': Symbolism

Symbolism began as a literature movement in France in the 1880s and the art movement soon followed.  Jean Moréas’s manifesto, published in the Le Figaro art supplement in 1886, helped to inaugurate the name “Symbolism” for the movement (Myers). It was a reaction against Realism’s triviality, the crudeness of materialism and “the conventional mores of industrial and middle class society” (Kleiner 819). 

Symbolist artists sought to move beyond the superficial surface of things and find a deeper reality. They painted a fantastical and imaginative world where the artist’s subjective experience, including emotions and ideas, was paramount. Artists incorporated “…exotic, mysterious, visionary, dreamlike, and fantastic” elements into their paintings (Kleiner 819). 

Even before the term “Symbolism” was used, artists such as Pierre Puvis de Chavennes, Gustave Moreau, and Odilon Redon initiated works with elements in the style. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes did not call himself a Symbolist, but Symbolists considered this French artist the “prophet” for the movement (Kleiner 819). In his painting, Sacred Grove, Puvis painted “statuesque figures in timeless poses” in a “tranquil landscape with a classical shrine” (Kleiner 829). With the unnatural stillness in the scene and shallow modeling of the figures, this painting is the antithesis of Realism. Puvis appealed both to the French Academy and the government with his classicism, as well to the Symbolists because he moved beyond the current, material world and looked into an imaginary world (Kleiner 820). 

Gustave Moreau was another contributor to the Symbolist movement. His 1874 painting, The Apparition, shows the Biblical character and femme fatale Salome dancing before her stepfather Herod. She desires the head of St. John the Baptist. To drive home this point, the head, in a hallucinatory manner, floats above her, staring. Moreau’s style is very original, with a “combination of hallucinatory imagery, eroticism, precise drawing, rich color, and opulent setting” (Kleiner 820).  His works are a precursor to the paintings of the Surrealists in the 20th century.

A third Symbolist was Odilon Redon. His painting, The Cyclops, shows Polyphemus rising from the sleeping Galatea. With Impressionist techniques, such as the same color palette and stippling brushstrokes, Redon painted a fantastical image about a dream that could have come from a dream itself (Kleiner 820). Redon rendered imagination as an image, which was very groundbreaking at the time.

Works Cited
Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: a Global History. Vol. 2. 14th ed. [Australia]: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013. 

Myers, Nicole. "Symbolism". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (August 2007)


Also, here is my disclaimer: the following is copyright 2013 by Around the Wherever. Do not reproduce in any way (especially if you're writing a paper for a class; don't be academically dishonest and copy this in any form). 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Asian Markets in Kaiserslautern

As part of my walks through town where I check out all manners of stores, I came across several Asian grocery markets in Kaiserslautern. I don't know much about these types of stores or what constitutes a good one (sorry about that), but here are some pictures and information that I hope will be helpful.

Asia City

Pirmasenser Str. 22, 67655 Kaiserslautern
Hours: M - F 0900-1830; Sat. 0900-1800

This is a small store on the west side of the pedestrian shopping area. I saw a sign that they sell fresh tofu. I also found a container of coconut oil for 3.50 euros, which seems to be a good deal. When I'm ready to make soap again, I'll probably stop by to purchase some. 

Karl-Marx-Straße 6 67655 Kaiserslautern‎
Hours: M-F 0900-1900; Sat. 0900-1700

Toward the middle of town is Orient. I've stopped in before and bought wasabi peanuts. I guess that's all that I can say as I don't usually eat/buy Asian food :)

Tam Asia
Karl-Marxstr.20, 67655 Kaiserslautern 
M-F 0900-1800; Sat. 0900-1600
Close to Orient is Tam Asia. This store seems to be the brightest and the largest of the three.

Monday, November 25, 2013

It has begun! The Christmas (gangsta's paradise) market in Kaiserslautern

I was downtown tonight to do this crazy, rushed outing to shop for boots (and I was stupid enough to try to speak rushed German, too -- that was a mess and the relieved store employees were practically begging me to return to English).

Once that was done, I wandered around the fußgängerzone, which is the pedestrian shopping area. It was wonderful; the Christmas market had just opened today and a jolly mood permeated the crowds of people visiting little huts and sipping glühwein (hot, mulled wine). 

Look! Does this blurry cell phone picture show the fun, or what?!
Around the corner, the sounds of a band greeted me. I walked up and jammed to some of the upbeat music, which, by the way, was not the least bit Chirstmassy. There was something about it that seemed familiar though.

Suddenly it dawned on me: they were playing a cover of Coolio's Gangster's Paradise! I was cracking up and reminiscing about being in my teens and roller skating to the song super fast and thinking just how cool I was (yeah, don't you wish you could've had such awesome teenage years too?). Were you expecting some om-pa-pa music or old German carols? This is modern Germany, bro.

Anyway, it was a pleasant little visit. The funny thing is that I still don't really feel in the Christmas spirit yet. The party vibe downtown is pretty much the same for most of the markets and events. Don't get me wrong; I love me a good party atmosphere and it was fun, especially with the Coolio references. I might just need to play some American Christmas carols at home to get into the swing of things.

Thrift Store Review: Lieblings, Kaiserslautern

Lieblings - Second Hand Laden Kaiserslautern
Richard-Wagner-Strasse 25
67655 Kaiserslautern
Hours: M-F 1000-1800; Sat. 1000-1300

I think that the tagline for my take on this store should be "Lieblings: I'm not lovin' it."

Actually, "lieblings" means "favorite." It's also accurate to say that this is not my favorite thrift store in town (my favorite is Die Schatzkiste, while we're on that subject). That's harsh, but it's how I feel.

Anyway, the store is reasonably large with a selection of men's and women's clothes (I don't recall seeing children's clothes and the sign didn't mention them so I don't believe that they carry them). There are also jewelry, shoes, accessories, some household items, and books.

Many of the items were name brands. The reason this store just doesn't do it for me is that I feel that the items are way overpriced. For example, there were t-shirts for 12 euros that I'm sure retailed for around the same price! Shoes with obvious wear were around 25 euros, and they weren't expensive shoes when they were new.

I think that the store may be a consignment store as I saw bags of clothes packed up with names on them. They also had tags with codes. I've consigned clothes before and it looks similar.

Either way, I don't recommend this store. It's just too overpriced.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Visiting Primark in Saarbrücken

On Saturday a friend and I took a trip to Saarbrücken. I needed some boots for an upcoming trip and we also wanted to visit Primark, an Irish clothing store that is similar to Old Navy in its offerings (inexpensive sweatshop stuff). I popped into the Frankfurt store once but was so frustrated by how busy and crazy it was that I popped right out again. This time, I planned better and we had a more peaceful visit.

For any newbies to Primark, I would suppose it is a good idea to prepare yourself first. Seriously. Blogger Charlotte from Sherbet and Sparkles wrote a helpful guide here. I had read this before my trip to Frankfurt so when I checked out that Primark, I kind of knew that it would not be enjoyable to visit on a Saturday afternoon. Thus, I knew that my next Primark visit would be early, not too long after opening.

We arrived at the Saarbrücken Primark around 9:40 am. I marveled at how pleasant it was to move freely through the store and for the most part, not having the other shoppers slam into us. We enjoyed ourselves, oohing and ahhing over the velour-lined fleece leggings. I absolutely had to buy some; wearing them is what I imagine being a teddy bear must feel like. Or maybe not, since their velour is on the outside? Hmm...

A display of animal-shaped mittens and hats captured our attention for way too long. I was deliberating over which pair of mittens to buy when I solved the issue by choosing none of them because I remembered that I hate wearing mittens. I should have thought of that sooner.

Following that, we lost ourselves in hilarity. There were escalators throughout the building; the main floor to the next floor had a normal sized escalator but between the next levels there was an escalator for a height of seven stairs! It seemed so ridiculous for such a short distance (and of course we rode it, giggling all the way).

Really? An escalator for this short of a distance?
I then managed to get semi-stuck in a sweatshirt while trying it on. It didn't help that it was a cowl neck sweatshirt and I couldn't breathe for an interval. Even worse was that once I could breathe again, I was doubled over, laughing because it was so ridiculous. I finally got it all together and my friend helped extricate me from the sweatshirt.

We then found an even more "charming" sweatshirt:

How special is this? We both lived through the 80s and remembered when people would cut off the sleeves of sweatshirts (but we were both too young to know why this happened). This Primark sweatshirt is awesomely retro and has the cut off sleeves, just like in the 80s...but then has additional sleeves sewn back in. Even though I'm an adult now, I can't explain this phenomenon. Is it an Irish tradition, perhaps?

After the strange sweatshirt, we hit the jackpot: a whole wall of weird adult-sized footie pajamas that were also costumes. Oh my awesomeness. If I didn't panic when I wear such things, I would have really had to hold back from buying one. I missed out as being Spider(wo)man, Super(wo)man, Santa Claus, or even a tiger. Darn!

We felt that our opportunity to shop in a less hectic environment was waning so we scooted downstairs to pay for our choices. It was in the nick of time, too; more people had flooded in during the forty-five minutes when we were shopping. We were pretty excited about our purchases: awesome velour (and non-velour) lined leggings and a cowl neck sweatshirt (that actually fitted me). Then we got the heck out (we both realized that we don't enjoy shopping a lot, even factoring how much fun we had with exploring the store).