Wednesday, July 29, 2015

This is how I feel right now

I have a lot of things to write about.

I have a lot of things to do.

I have what is, for me, a lot of free time.

This is how I feel right now:

Yes, I feel like a giant blue Godzilla. I want to DO ALL THE THINGS and LEARN ALL THE NEW THINGS but I'm also feeling a bit..."meh." (let it be noted that I can't stand that word but it does sum up how I feel.)

Although I have a long list of errands and things to learn in my personal life, I mostly just want to sit around after work and cuddle with Moo while I read some books on foraging or nature. Am I a lazy bum or is this just the fallout of a busy year filled with classes, up to four times a week on top of full time employment?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My week: July 26 ed.

-Whoa, double weekly updates! What does it mean? So intense!

-Sorry. Now I'm done double-rainbowing. I was very happy this week because a good deal of it was somewhat cold (well, compared to 85-99 degrees it had been earlier in the month; I don't like hot weather!).

-In the world of homesteading and foraging, I made fruit leather out of unsweetened wild plums by using solar dehydration via placing the pan in my car's front window. I also found what I'm rather sure is Giant Hogweed so I did my Girl Scout best and contacted the facility manager to deal with it since it's toxic.

-I had my last German classes from the Uni's Verein. On the last day, we brought in snacks to celebrate. I brought a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. I figured they would be popular and indeed, they were. People seem to love Doritos and true ones aren't really available in German grocery stores. The bonus is that I don't like them at all and was not tempted to have any.

I did, however, eat some delicious Indonesian fried corn fritter things and Spanish fried milk that my classmates made. Yes, fried milk is totally a thing and it's good; it reminds me of bread pudding but without the bread. That's the cool thing about multicultural classmates: one can learn more about their culture and cuisine.

On Saturday, I took the exam for the class. I don't think I did so great on it. Part of the recordings from the listening tests were homemade and incredibly difficult to hear because of poor recording quality. In another part of the exam, the instructions were very unclear and even when I asked about them, the test monitor wouldn't clarify it. Oh well.

-On Sunday, I went with a new tandem partner for a short hike at Karlstal, a nature area just south of Kaiserslautern (about 10 minutes by driving). The path cuts through a forested area with rock formations and a creek. It's an easy hike (though involves steps, bridges, and slightly uneven ground) and makes for a nice, short hike. There is also a historic mill that's been turned into a restaurant too. We enjoyed some warm drinks too, watching the sheep in the adjacent pasture. I was thrilled to be able to finally drink something warm after a spate of horribly hot weather! I also enjoyed conversing in German. It's awesome to be able to have somewhat complicated conversations now.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Some recent foraging moments

I'm totally digging foraging and developing traditional homesteading skills right now. I've recently had the following experiences, which (to me, at least) are a funny juxtaposition of the natural world and the not-so natural world.

-I was foraging some wild raspberries at one of the installations and was thinking about how I'd like to learn more about botany to really interact more with the wild environment. Suddenly I had to retreat into the foliage to avoid being squished by a Humvee.

- I was driving a coworker in my car so we could go pick up our work vehicle. At the installation's gate, we stopped to show our IDs. The guard looked into my backseat and said, "What IS that?" I said, "Do you know what fruit roll-ups are?" (he was German, so he might not have). He answered in the affirmative so I said that I was making cherry fruit roll-ups. He cracked up and waved me through. Indeed, I am using the foraged cherries and am dehydrating them in the car (which is said to be a hack when person doesn't have a dehydrator). Crazy Homesteading Using One's Car Level Attained: 8.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Week: July 19 ed.

Ha! I'm a week behind on writing this up. I think that the heat over the past few weeks sucked up most of my motivation.

-In addition to my regular German meetings and tandem meeting, I also hosted a native German speaker for the weekend. She visited the past winter so it was a pleasant reunion even if I was lazy and didn't bother to speak German with her.

-My friend had a game night and invited some of our mutual friends. We spent most of the time speaking German since there were only two non-Germans there. It was great practice and I understood most of what was going on, even as we played the German version of Cranium. Woot woot!

I had a total MacGyver moment before the party: I made homemade caramel corn. Not only did I make the caramel topping myself (which is remarkably easily done with a microwave), I also ended up making homemade microwave popcorn, too! My air popper died on me and I was feeling stubbornly devoted to making caramel corn so I asked Mr. Google and found out it's easy (and much more healthful) to make one's own microwave popcorn: take popcorn kernels, mix a little bit of oil (I used canola) and put it in a paper bag and pop for 2-3 minutes. Of course, don't make the mistake that I made and burn the heck out of the first batch of caramel corn though! That part wasn't so cool, but impressing my friends with the product I made correctly was fun.

-We also had a potluck, where I played Cards Against Humanity for the first time. I like Apples to Apples and CAH is the same idea but beyond wrong, with awful examples. It was hilarious and disconcerting to have to explain some of the concepts to non-English speakers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A forest at the bus stop in Hannover

I saw this really cool bus stop in Hannover. There are small trees/bushes growing on top of it.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Galeria Kaufhaus and the Very Alarming Steiff Bear

This is definitely not going to be the title of a children's book! When I was in Hannover, my friend S and I stopped by Galeria Kaufhof, which is a department store. In the toy section, we found a giant Steiff teddy bear. Push the button and he'll talk about animals. Cool, huh?

Well, it was not so cool. If anything, he was a bit creepy! As he spoke, he gyrated his hips. I was a bit in shock as he was going on like Elvis when he was talking about turtles. By the time I had regained my composure, he was done. I pushed the button again and he talked about chimpanzees. I recorded this but noted that he was much more restrained in his gyrations this time around.

I pity da Post!

Remember Mr. T and his most awesome catchphrase from the 80s, "I pity da fool?"

Well, there is an awesome customized post box in Kaiserslautern that makes one want to exclaim to unsuspecting passer-bys: "I pity da Post!"

Here's the Deutsche Post's normal logo, just for comparison,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's a great time for Michigan music

I enjoy listening to music and there are some bands that really have caught my fancy, but I can't say that I'm a total audio junkie. However, this month has yielded some news of upcoming releases from several of my favorite musicians, who also happen to be from my home state of Michigan. I'm super excited about this!

Before I get to information about the new releases, though, I recently heard that Dixon, of Dixon's Violin, made his entire catalog available for free to listeners as a special gift. He plays ethereal, haunting, and beautiful electric violin that he loops to create exquisite soundscapes. I've seen him at several venues, joining my friends as we sat under the stars, listening in awe. You can check out his collection on Band Camp with this link. Like his music? Download some and consider making a donation.

On the new release front, I joined my brother and sister-in-law in being excited to wait for the new release from the Crane Wives, an indie-folk band from our hometown of Grand Rapids. While the band is starting to tour nationally, it still feels like a hometown celebration of great music to welcome their new release, which is called Coyote Stories, available for pre-order here. We've attended their concerts, which are just amazing and great energy. My family members have even chatted with the band before a show, not as any special privilege, just as a result of the band members' small-town roots and approachability. I have a special fondness for the band because they were playing at the New Year's Eve party at a local bar. I went with my siblings and it was the last big event we enjoyed together before I left to live in Germany. We were dancing around the table and jamming to the music. What a wonderful memory!

To top off the awesomeness of this month, Tunde Olaniran, a native of Flint, is releasing his next album, Transgressor, in August. I'm not even sure how to begin describing his music (other than to say that it's awesome) so I'll quote the description from his SoundCloud page: "The fictional lovechild of Prince, Kanye, and Robyn, Tunde Olaniran crafts hyper-modern pop music." Even NPR is buzzing about his upcoming album; check out the article here.

The cool thing about Tunde is that not only is he a great singer, he's also talented in many other areas, creating many of his own costumes and jewelry, as well as working on music videos too. He's also a social activist. How many artists are so multi-faceted like this?

It's been a great summer for some local Michigan music. Why not try out some of our local sounds?


Please note: this article was entirely my opinion and I received absolutely no incentives for writing this. I'm just totally geeked about some fantastic music to get me through the rest of the summer!

Monday, July 13, 2015

A forager's delight: raspberry pie!

I baked mini raspberry pies from wild raspberries I foraged and crust I made from scratch today. I have mad skillz; what can I say? Just ignore the sad looking lattice work on the pies. Despite that, the pie I had tasted great and even the gnome would love to dig in with his trowel.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

My week: July 12 ed.

-German classes: we're wrapping up the class and are preparing for the test at the end. Last time I thought that the test wasn't required so I didn't take it. It seems as if it is needed to go to the next level so I'll participate this time. Cue the studying!

-I met with my tandem partner and we ate at Caribean II in Siegelbach. The food was okay and the service was quite good.

-The weather was nuts this week. I was thankful to see the end of the scorching week before. This week was so much cooler; I ended up wearing my sweater at work a bit because I had the windows open and it was cold outside in the early part of the day. I'm not complaining by any means; I was soooo glad to cool off. I don't like hot weather at all.

-I traveled to Hannover this weekend to visit a new friend, S. He had visited me in Kaiserslautern and invited me to see his hometown. He was a wonderful host; he showed me around the city, talking about is history, as we rode his bikes. Along the way, we ran into many of his friends, who also welcomed me warmly. Maybe I'll write more later and post some of the photos. It was a great time and I look forward to him visiting again this fall!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

It's all relative

I had some lolz at a training recently where the trainer  (American) was talking about how "extreme" weather in Germany could be, referencing the Pfalz region. Yes, we had recently had a strong thunderstorm with some hail and there was even a tornado north of here but usually the weather is quite mild.

I do not think of German weather as being extreme. There are a few isolated events throughout the year in the Pfalz, but it's not all that often. Coming from Michigan, I'm accustomed to quite cold winters with a ton of snow countered with crazy thunderstorms, hot and humid weather, and some tornadoes during the summer. When I lived in the country, I found myself stuck without electricity at least once a year after strong storms. Sometimes it was even for days since I lived in a weird spot and the electric company wasn't particularly worried about one customer on that particular piece of the grid.

Even my take on weather is relative. I'm sure that people from Alaska have something to say about getting a lot of snow and people in the south can speak even further about hot and humid weather. Heck, they have hurricanes, which totally top our tornadoes! Isn't the range of human experiences and points of view a strange thing?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Spiderman! Stop doing that to the Cologne Cathedral!

We stopped at Saturn, a Best-Buy like store, when we were in Cologne. Near the entrance, a wall was decorated to look like the Cologne Cathedral. Spiderman was on top of it, squatting.

Does it not look as if he's squatting squatting, if you catch my drift? How rude, Spiderman!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Get all your vices at one convenient corner in Cologne

This isn't the first cigarette machine I've seen next to a roadside candy machine, but the placement is a bit absurd. It's obvious what the placement is trying to sell first. Maybe the goal is to have children be distracted by candy on the lower level while their parents are buying cigarettes above them. What marketing!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

This Heidelberg academy got a little saucy

As many times as I've visited Heidelberg before, I never noticed this building until I visited the city with my family and they giggled about it. Located near Bismarckplatz, it is a bit striking!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My week: July 5 ed.

The theme of the past week was: friends, being way too hot, the swimming pool, and hanging out with some doggie friends.

The week was miserably hot, with some days hitting almost 100 degrees. Since air conditioning is rare here, it's hard to handle the heat. My apartment felt like an oven and all Moo could do was lay around. Oh, wait, that's what he always does anyway.

-I met my (German) friends at Volkspark later one evening. Usually I would just ride my bike but it was so hot that I couldn't bear the thought of making any exertion so I drove instead. We sat around in the grass and I was forced to speak German. Therefore, I understood about 75% of the conversation since my friends were speaking so fast. They taught me some expressions that we definitely would not learn in class ;) It was a nice evening but I was an itchy mess when I got home because I'm allergic to grass and stupidly let it touch my legs.

-I hung out with two of my little doggie friends. They wanted to cuddle and smoosh me, which is cute, but it was rather hot for that. Plus, I'm allergic to dogs too. I'm sure my doctor just loves that I am always practically bathing myself in animal hair. Oh well, YOLO, and the doggies did get some cuddles.

-It was 4th of July weekend. Normally I'd travel during the American holiday but this year I just wasn't feeling it. I was supposed to go to a camp out but it was just too dang hot. I don't want to do anything, much less travel, when it's hot like that.

Instead, I ran errands on Friday and then met my friend J for lunch at Urban. It was great to catch up with him and I do like Urban so it was good to catch up while they were actually open (they close too early, at 7 pm, so it's hard to get there for dinner).

-My friend Cl. and I spent the good part of Saturday at the Freibad Waschmühle (swimming pool), in Morlatuern, a northern suburb of Kaiserslautern. It's the biggest outdoor swimming pool in Europe and was an excellent place to escape the heat.

On Sunday, I was feeling physically ill from the heat. I couldn't stay in my apartment any more so I returned to the swimming pool. I alternated between swimming and reading my book in the shade. When I was there, I thought to myself, hmm, wouldn't it be funny if I ran into my coworker here, since she likes to swim? It's funny that I thought that because indeed, I did run into her a bit later! I love not living so far from work any more so different parts of my life can be more connected. That might sound strange, since most people want to escape from work, but I'm very thankful for a job that I like and exceptionally nice coworkers whom I enjoy seeing outside of work too.

All in all, it was a sweaty but mostly relaxing week. I enjoyed the balance of seeing some friends but also having a lot of time to myself. As an introvert, I like to recharge during the alone time. I haven't had much quiet time alone since...well, I can't think of the last time, so hanging with the dogs and going to the pool by myself were a nice diversion. Maybe it's funny that I was surrounded by other mammals at those times but also felt alone in a good way.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

In which this pizza enthusiast has a wheat sensitivity

Germany is the land of delicious, artisan* bread products and cakes. It's amazing just how much bread people eat here; it's not uncommon for it to either star in or accompany most of a day's meals. I stayed in hospital for fewer than 24 hours once here and in that time, I was offered 7 (!!!) pieces of bread as my meals. To be fair, I think that they had no idea what to give me because I identified as a vegetarian.

Anyway, I do find the bread here very tasty, but I started to realize that I didn't feel so well after eating it. I thought that maybe it was just a coincidence but once found myself feeling quite ill after eating pasta for breakfast. At that point, I figured that there weren't any other intervening variables on what could be making me feel sick so I asked my doctor for an allergy test for wheat. I think he rolled his eyes a bit because Americans are obsessed with wheat allergies/sensitivities and many people don't actually have them but munch on gluten-free bread nonetheless. Since I'm allergic to a ridiculous amount of other things, I figured that it was worth a try.

Indeed, I did register as slightly allergic to wheat. I had the same allergy score for wheat as I have for dogs. With dogs, I can be around them and pet them, but if I really snuggle them, I end up with itchy eyes and skin, even if I've taken an allergy pill that day.

Since I don't have an extreme allergy to wheat, I can eat a bit of it and I'm basically okay. However, I was a dummy today and ate some delicious pizza. Within a few hours, I had a pounding headache and lots of sinus congestion. I've also been hanging out with some doggie friends and my eyes are itchy. It's a carnival of allergic reactions!

I know better.

*egads, is that word obnoxious when used in American advertising, but it's apt in Germany because it actually is artisan.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Friday letter

I think I'm going to write a Friday letter, because why not? I can't see this becoming a habit because usually I've turned into a total slug by Fridays after work and various activities. I don't want to promise (or threaten!) anything by then.

Dear Germany: please, please stop being so freakin' hot! We're melting here with the temperatures in the 100s. It appears that high temperatures will continue in the next week. Ugh.

Dear stores that actually have air conditioning: why in the world do you keep your front doors open with the air on? That is DUMB and wasteful! These same stores keep the doors open during the winter, too. As environmentally conscious as Germany normally is, this behavior is completely out of line.

Dear German citizens who were wearing long sleeves/long trousers today, and the guy who was wearing a vest when the temperatures were in the high 90s: how on earth do you do that? Is there a secret? I was in capris and a t-shirt and was roasting.

Dear Volkspark: thank you for being a lovely, green oasis to sit on grass with friends.

Dear grass: I offer you no thanks for turning me into an itchy mess before I fell asleep. Dear self: I also offer you no thanks for not being smarter about the fact that you are allergic to grass and should have predicted this.

Dear people at the Volkspark who were doing...uh, something that you shouldn't have (to what percentage, I don't know/care): get a room. The Volkspark is not that room.

Dear little dog friends who are my company right now: you are rather cute, despite burping/snorting/panting in my face.