Friday, August 29, 2014

Catching Up - Part Two


Warning to the weak of heart: I’m sick, and this post is going to tell you about it.


Yesterday, right after writing up my last blog post, I went out to the city to see if I couldn't find a place with wifi and a plug in so I could finally get my blog caught up. While I was out, I also stopped by the library to find out just what exactly I needed to bring in to set up an account (passport and registration form: I’m set). But about an hour out I started feeling ill. It was hot, so I figured it was just a bit of a heat thing. I have a tendency to feel ill if it’s really hot – and this wasn’t really hot, but I hadn’t had much water, so…yeah.


 But I kept feeling worse, until every whiff of cigarette smoke made me feel like I was going to lose it, and I finally thought, to heck with it, I'm going home.


And then, about halfway home, I did lose it. In the middle of a very public pedestrian shopping area. I managed to stagger to a trashcan, so at least I wasn’t humiliated by leaving a mess all over the sidewalk, but now I had humiliation piled on top of the whole “I don’t feel well” thing. I hurried away from the scene of my crime, only to become a repeat offender two streets later.


I swear, I felt like everyone in the world was staring at me. I hate drawing attention to myself in public, and this is way worse than having an overly-loud laugh, or suddenly realizing your fly is unzipped. The one thing in my favor is that no one wants to look at a sick person – people instinctively look away. And I certainly wasn’t looking closely at them. So even if I were to run into any of these people again, they woulnd’t remember me.  The worse part was how long it took to get home, and how I didn’t know what to do – it’s not like there are public restrooms around here. And all my senses were turned up on high: everything was too bright, too loud, too smelly, too much.


And I had to stop a third time (this time, I found a secluded place in the park to unceremoniously dispose of everything I'd eaten in the last three days) before I got home. Then I spent half the night shivering so hard I thought I would shake to bits, even thought I was bundled up in a sweater and buried under five blankets. The other half of the night, I felt so hot I could have power an industrial oven.


I do NOT deal well with being sick. I'm generally a healthy person – I haven't been stay-in-bed sick in nearly five years, and haven't been tossing-my-cookies sick in even longer than that. So, of course, I feel quite sorry for myself. I am glad, however, that this happened while I was alone and technically on break, so I didn’t have to also deal with guilt of “missing work” or Anna feeling like she had to take care of me.


I’m hoping that the whole ordeal is nothing more than a little bout of food poisoning – not sure what gave it to me, but I have a few theories (frozen pizza that may have not been entirely frozen now that I think about it, potato soup that sat out overnight, a bad tea bag – is that a thing?). And I feel much better this morning – the fever is pretty much gone, and while I haven’t eaten anything the thought of food isn’t just entirely off-putting. So we’ll see.


Fascinating update, no? And here you thought you were reading this blog for the pictures of foreign cities and witty observations on German culture. Didn’t realize you were getting in for a bucket-load of complaining too, didja? LOL.


Honestly, the most annoying thing right now is that I don’t really have Internet access (I can see Facebook, barely, and I can look stuff up if I need to but it takes longer than dialup) so I can’t even post this blog entry until at least…Well, probably, like, Monday. Because nothing is open (therefore: no wifi) on Sunday.


Sorry for the rant – I should be back to normal blogging-ness soon.

~Mags

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Catching Up - Part One


I will have all the blog posts for my trip to Bavaria/Austria up soon, I promise. I just have to find a wifi connection that I can stay on long enough to upload them. :D
 

Not much to blog about the last few days. Mainly, I’ve hung out around the apartment, doing some cooking and a heck of a lot of reading (last night I read Cruel Beauty, a beauty-and-the-beast retelling that really reminded me of Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, which as it turns out, was a bit inspiration for the author). Monday I made potato soup (turned out quite well, considering how long it’s been since I attempted potato soup), and Tuesday I went to the mall, hoping for some free wifi.
 

Unfortunately, due to the super strict anti-piracy rules and things that Germany has, it’s almost impossible to find a place with free wifi. The mall has it, but it’s only strong in the middle of the building, and not on the edges. And there are no plug-ins in the middle of the mall. My dear old laptop only has about 20 minutes of battery unplugged. So I can’t find a place where I can both a) be plugged in and b) have an Internet signal. :) Go figure. I’m going to check for another Starbucks today, see what I can find.
 

Wednesday night, I got to chat with some of my friends back home over Skype – Jaimie, Sadie, and Evie back at College of the Ozarks (school just started for them – best of luck, guys!) and my erstwhile-roommate Emily. Emily’s moving to Alaska for her new job, so this is probably the last chance I’ll get to Skype with her for a while, since there’s a 9 hour time difference. (Three in the afternoon here, is six in the morning there. We’ll have to coordinate carefully. :D) So we chatted until nearly 1 in the morning my-time, and I slept in until, like, noon on Thursday. :D I did nothing Thursday. Ok – scratch that, I made cookies.
 

They’re a variation on the turndown cookies they serve to guests at the Keeter Center, where I used to work at CofO. These don’t have the pecans they’re supposed to (because pecans are freaking expensive) and I forgot I needed brown sugar, so they’re straight up white-only. Also, I can’t find “normal” vanilla extract here, so I had to buy these little packets of something called “Bourbon-Vanilla Aroma” (???) which is a lot thicker and stronger-tasting than the cheapo-artificial-stuff I’m used to. Oh yeah, and there’s chunks of dark chocolate, rather than milk-chocolate chips in there.

However, in the end, they turned out ridiculously good, and go very well with a mug of Earl Gray tea. Want the recipe? Sure, why not – try these yourself and tell me what you think.

 

Non-Keeter Turndownish Cookies: German Edition
 

  • In a bowl, cream together half a cup of butter and not-quite-two cups of granulated sugar.
  • Add in 1 egg, a tablespoon of milk and a teaspoon of something vanilla flavored. Extract, bourbon-vanilla aroma…whatever. :D (And I literally used a spoon for the table and a spoon for tea, because I don’t have measuring spoons.)
  • Stir in two cups of flour, a dash (erm…a teaspoon-ish?) of baking soda, and a sprinkle of salt.
  • Last, mix in one and a half cups of oatmeal, and a cup of shattered bits of a chocolate candy bar (I like dark, but some people don’t. Up to you.)
  • Scoop into ping-pong-ball sized dollops (they’ll spread as they bake, and get about twice as big) onto a greased cookie sheet (or better yet, parchment paper) and bake on 350°F for 10 minutes, or until the edges start looking brown. Remove immediately from pan and let cool – they’ll harden as they do.
  • Yields about 18 cookies.

Enjoy!

~Mags

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Into the Wild, Blue, Austrian Yonder



Ok, guys, this is going to be a short post because I got distracted and didn’t realize how late it was. I’ll do my best to catch up in a week or so.

Which is my first announcement: in all likelihood, this blog will be dead for the next 7-10 days. Anna and I are taking the kids to her parents’ near Austria, and I probably won’t have Internet access. However, I am taking my journal and my camera, so I will have plenty to blog about when I get back. I’ll  probably do something similar to what I did when I first started this thing and just backlog everything so it looks like I actually posted it on the day that it happened. For my sake, more than yours. :D But don’t panic if a) I disappear for a long time or b) you suddenly log on and I’ve got, like, 12 new posts up. Just a warning.

Me, Tiyana (left) and Marina (right)
Ok, so really fast, what’s happened in the two days since I blogged last? Well, on Wednesday, I came home early again to help with the bitties (Daniel’s almost better, but Elsa got something in her eye that messed her up and made it all swollen. Poor kiddo. L) and we pretty much just played with them all afternoon. 

Wednesdays (along with Saturdays) may become a day that I don’t often blog on, unless I can get it done early in the afternoon, because that’s now officially my Skype-with-the-folks evening. Unfortunately for you, my loyal readers, due to my schedule and the 7-hour time difference between Frankfurt and Missouri, I don’t usually talk to them until about 9 PM here (that’s around two in the afternoon for those of you who were reaching for the calculator). Since I’m almost always in bed by ten (except tonight, but I had a nap…) that means that by the time I get off with them, I’m ready to hit the hay and not really in the mood to blog. So… yeah. Wednesdays and Saturdays are often going to be skip-days.

Today was the second-to-last day with the Deutsch 1 course, so everyone was a bit antsy. The teacher (Marie) had a headache and I could tell that it was really hard for her to work with us today – there was no concentration at all. But it was fun, in a hectic way, and tomorrow we’re taking a half-day to go to the Kleinmarkthall for lunch together. We took a bunch of pictures with each other, and Paula (one of my classmates, who is from Italy and is an arts teacher) did a portrait of me in chalk. I love it – it’s very flattering!

Oh yeah – and the flower story. I’ll end with that tonight, I think.

Wednesday was rainy all day, but since the kids were sick and I had worked overtime, Anna let me free for an hour or so to run to the store. By the time I got there it was pouring, but I enjoyed the walk. I got my orange juice (to fend off the sickies) and some bananas, and went to pay.

I’m generally able to do quite well in shops with just a “hallo” and a “danke,” but today the clerk girl had something else to ask me. It was super noisy in the shop (just off a busy road and full of businessmen and such on their way home from work) and not only could I not understand her, I could barely hear her. The only word I caught was “blume” which is “flowers.”

With the rapier wit and intelligence I’m known for, I looked at her and said, “Huh?”

She looked at me, and kind of smiled, and said (in German) “You don’t understand me, do you.”

My brilliant reply: “What?”

She laughed, and reached down to grab a bouquet of half-wilted florist’s flowers. “Here,” she said (this time in English). “These are for you.”

“Oh.” I took the flowers. “Um. Thank you. I mean – danke shön. Um.”

The police officer behind me in line was laughing so hard he nearly dropped his pretzel.

But I got these very nice flowers, and they perked up right away when I put them in water. Now I really want to get something growing in here. I think when we get back from Austria-ish I’ll buy a few little plants and see if I can’t keep them alive.

Alright, that’s it for tonight. Later!


~Mags

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Consolidated Update



Ok, ya’ll. Sorry for not posting the last – what is it now, three days? My only excuse is that Saturday was exhausting and Sunday I finished the second chapter of The Bell Tower instead of blogging, and Monday distracted by Jane Austen’s Persuasion and never got around to writing. So here it is, Tuesday evening, and I have quite a bit to catch up on.

Saturday was pretty uneventful, just tiring. Anna and I took the bitties out for a long, long walk to tire them out in the afternoon, and we stopped at the most American place I’ve seen since Newark: a shopping mall. Like, an honest-to-goodness, they-even-had-a-Claire’s shopping mall. They did not, unfortunately, have a Hot Topic, which is where I buy all my geek supplies, but there were several stores I’d love to go back to. If I had friends around here, we’d totally spend all our free time hanging out at the mall and the train station. :D The station is like Grand Central meets the CofO cafeteria meets Branson Landing, only with more people and fewer places to sit. But I would love to just sit and people watch for a few hours. Maybe take a sketchbook.

Anyway, other than a few hours at the playground, that was Saturday.

Sunday, because I was exhausted and had a headache the size of the Louisiana Purchase, I stayed in bed until nearly 9:30 and didn’t go to church. Bad girl, shame on me, but I felt so much better when I finally got up. Anna took the kids out somewhere (it’s my day off, so she didn’t say where – the zoo, maybe?) and I spent the morning baking more pizza-pocket-pies. No gouda or corned beef this time – I used this cheese that tastes mainly like fresh parmesan (sharp, dry, a little tangy) and a jar of Italian tomato sauce I got at Aldi. Unfortunately, as I pulled the last tray out of the oven I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to add the salt to my pie dough! So they’re a bit bland. But a step up from the first batch. I’ll just keep improving, and by the time I move home I’ll have pizza-pocket-pies worth a blue ribbon. :D

Sunday afternoon saw me finishing up the end of The Whispering Gallery, chapter two (which you can read here) and trying to catch up on some emails and things. Mostly failing, but – whatevs. :D

Monday was interesting. It’s my second day off (I get two) but when I got out of class I couldn’t go home because at 3:45 I had an appointment at a registration office to officially say that I’m a resident here. So though my class gets out at noon, I didn’t quite have enough time to go home and come back – but it only took me about 20 minutes to get from the school to the office. So I walked another couple of blocks and hung out for a few hours in the library. I can’t get a card yet, but I had my Kindle with me and I began to read Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I’ve seen the movie, but never read the book (actually, I’ve read a grand total of one Jane Austen book before this. I’m a failure as a female English major). So far, I’m very much enjoying it, though – a word to the wise – the Gutenberg epub is riddled with some sort of weird error in the text that adds in a gibberish word every few paragraphs. Ah, that’s what you get when a book’s in the public domain. No quality control anymore. LOL

So I got registered, and the fellow was very nice – he mostly talked to Anna, but when he directly addressed me he spoke very clearly and slowly and I understood him well. When we left, he gave me a book of coupons for Frankfurt, including a few buy-one-get-one discounts for museum admissions, some touristy things, and a 10% off my next language school course, which will come in handy.

Today was a bit different than the normal routine, because Daniel’s come down with some sort of cold and had to be sent home from the crèche. So I came straight here after class got out and took over for Anna so she could go back to work. The poor kid woke up from his nap in a terrified rage because mom wasn’t there. He wandered from room to room looking for her and wailing in this way that was more just a shout of rage interspersed with tears than actual crying. I got him a bottle though, and he calmed down again until she came home. Apparently the kid likes Needtobreathe – I put on “Rivers in the Wasteland” thinking the white noise would help keep him calm, and he ended up dancing all over the room because he liked it so much. Except he’s still so little that his dance is more like this shuffling bounce thing – seriously adorable.

I think I’ll sign off this for tonight and save my more introspective material for another day – sorry for the itinerary post. Have a great day/afternoon/evening, everyone!
~Mags

Friday, August 8, 2014

Confession: I Sketch in Class



Ok, before I continue, a quick shout-out and “I LOVE YOU” to my wonderful readers – especially my dad, Granma E, and Mrs. Turner. Your comments make my day, and I miss all of you! Thanks so much for reading – and I’m glad you’re enjoying my entries.

Sorry for not posting yesterday – I was so tired that I ended up going to bed nearly an hour earlier than normal. I had decided to take a (very) long way home, walking along the river for nearly two miles before heading north and west into an area of the city that I hadn’t explored yet. Not much of interest, once I got past the train station (which Anna took me into today – and I found a Christmas present for my sister. Not telling what it is though! lol) and all the sketchy folk who hang around it, but I walked to what has become my favorite sky-scraper and took a few pictures. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, this building is to me the perfect skyscraper. I just love to look at it – I don’t have a clue what makes it so great, but it just feels right

Anyway, since not much happened special today, I thought I’d show you some of the people I see every day on my way to school. I can’t take pictures, of course, because I’m not a creeper, but I can sketch. So here are a few of the people I pass every morning on my way to Ostend, and also two of my classmates that I drew when I’d finished the others. :D
 

 
First is Mr. Accordion Man. That’s what I call him in my head, anyway – though he looks a bit like a George. He plays at the entrance to the park most mornings with his cup out for change. He sits right where the exit from the subway-station lets out, so lots of business-people pass him. I suppose he must make fairly good money – or else he enjoys it a lot – because he’s always in the same spot. He always smiles at me and gives me a “Guten Morgan,” even though I never drop anything in his cup.



Next is Mr. Smoker. I pass Mr. Smoker nearly every morning at the same street corner, right after I get out of the main banking district. He wears a sharp suit and a contrastingly-ratty cap, and he’s always putting out a cigarette as I pass him. Our schedules must be perfectly aligned so that I always meet him just as he’s about to cross the street and is stamping out his smoke and popping a bit of gum into his mouth. He always seems quite cross, and glares at me as if I’m responsible for his smoking habit. I don’t care for him too much.



Right after I pass Mr. Smoker, I walk past a restaurant where Carlos is putting out the tables and chairs for the day. I have no idea what his real name is, but he looks like a Carlos and I was getting tired of thinking of him as “that waiter guy I pass every morning right after Mr. Smoker.” So Carlos it is. I think Carlos has noticed that I pass every day, and a couple of times he’s given me this kind of half-smile-and-nod of greeting. There’s also a blonde waitress who works at the same place, but her face is so normal that I can’t ever remember what she looks like – other than she’s blonde, tall, and wears overalls half the time.


 

Lastly, there’s a mother and her little girl that I see nearly every morning – though not all the time. The kid seems pretty well behaved, but mom always looks frazzled to me. I noticed her first because she looks just like a girl I knew at school, only about 20 years older. I smile at her most of the time, but she always looks right through me – it’s not normal to smile at strangers in the street here. Her kid is cute though, these big blue eyes and blonde ringlets.


Ok, now here are two of my classmates: Jia Lin (CHI-ya LEEN, from Taiwan) and Natasha (from Moldavia). 
 
Jia Lin is really sweet and has a great sense of humor, and seriously the prettiest eyes I have ever seen on a human being. It’s hard to see from a distance, but when you’re up close her eyes are actually gold. Not like yellow or just a pale brown, but like molten gold and dark chocolate somehow mixed together. Seriously gorgeous. 




 

Natasha is adorable in manner and appearance. She has the look of a hard-core punk (her hair is raspberry-red, and she wears heavy shoes, short, flouncy skirts that look like she may have handmade them, and relatively plain blouses) but she’s actually very nice and has a laugh like a viola – lower than you’d expect, and sweet.



  
Anyway, that’s it for tonight. More soon! (Well, maybe not until Sunday – Saturdays we have the bitties all day long, so they can get pretty exhausting.)
~Maggie

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Zeil



 Well, friends, today was an extremely long day and it’s only just now three in the afternoon. It’s eight in the morning at home, so most of you haven’t really even started your day yet (though by the time I post this it may be lunchtime or after there).

Deutschkurs (German class) was good – we learned mostly words about the weather today, which is a popular topic of conversation here, as it is anywhere. Speaking of which, it was a very nice, cool day – perfect for all the walking I did.

And did I do a lot of walking! From home to the school (1.7 miles), from the school to this discount market I had seen a guy carrying a bag for (1.2 miles, and it turned out to be not worth the trip – I think the stuff there was some of the highest prices I’ve seen so far. >.<) Then I walked from that store to a second-hand shop where I again found nothing really interesting and from there to a place called the Zeil (1.3 miles – because I went the wrong way and had to take a long-cut).

The Zeil is a mile-ish long stretch of shops, malls, and restaurants, very similar in setup to something like the Branson Landing. There are cars and bikes, so it’s not just foot traffic, but it’s mainly shoppers and tourists, not much traffic. You can find just about anything around the Zeil if you know where to look – even an American-style shopping mall called MyZeil. I’ve even passed a McDonalds, a Pizza Hut, and a Burger King, all of which seem to do pretty cracking business, at least with tourists.

I hadn’t explored some parts of the Zeil as well as I’d wanted to, so I wandered around there for a bit, popping in and out of shops – a paper shop, a couple of stalls selling scarves and hats and things… But to be perfectly honest, I was mainly watching people. :D

From there, I knew my way home pretty well, but I stopped in a bunch of shops looking at things. I needed to buy a new card for my Internet thingie, but though I checked three different DMs (a store very like Walgreens) and a Rossman’s (another similar store, with somewhat better prices, I think) I didn’t find one.

I did, however, manage to ask the cashiers at both shops – in German – if they had what I was looking for. And I understood their answers. I’m getting much more confident with this whole interacting-with-strangers-in-a-foreign-language thing. So long as the conversation is short and I know the topic, I’m usually able to keep up fairly well. Responding is another thing altogether, and I’m sure my halting German is hysterical to native speakers, but people are generally pretty nice about it.

Let’s see…what were some of the interesting things I saw today?

– A tall man in an expensive suit and rumpled, graying hair, stalking down the sidewalk with his nose three inches away from the pages of a cheap paperback philosophy book. Its garish, red-and-yellow cover contrasted amusingly with his generally well-to-do image, but he was reading that book as if his life depended on it.

– A Nepalese shop full of scarves and incense and little golden figurines I suppose were probably gods/goddesses. I went in to look at a shelf full of intricate boxes, but they turned out to be incense storage containers and nothing special. However, I may go back to look at the scarves another time – they had some very nice ones for decent prices, and I have a certain weakness for scarves.

– A shop selling Chinese lucky cat figures – any Sherlock fan could describe to you how their right paws wave up and down (probably in some kind of blessing). All I could think of was the scene from The Blind Banker when the lady in the shop asks John, “You buy lucky cat? I think your wife, she will like!” I took a picture for you. :D
  

– A gigantic mural on the side of a building showing several scenes of what might be happening inside – I can’t really make sense of the pictures, but it was interesting.
 

– A second-hand bookshop with heart-breakingly beautiful old books. I held a French book that was older than the United States, and in near-perfect condition. Absolutely marvelous. The proprieter asked me if I was looking for anything, and I didn’t know how to say, “Just browsing, thanks” in German. I need to learn that phrase – it’d be a useful one.

– I came home past the Alt Oper (the Old Opera, which is actually a newer building than the New Opera, because the old Old Opera was destroyed and rebuilt as an exact replica. So… yeah. It looks old, but it’s actually the newer of the two. Go figure.)

– And while I was in the Zeil, I watched a young couple playing music for a few minutes, the guy playing the euphonium and the girl on flute. Their sign said they were raising money to get married, so I took a quick video (I’ll see if I can post it sometime soon) and dropped in some change. Best of luck to them!

It’s almost four o’clock, but I babysat Sunday night so I have the rest of the evening mostly free. I think I’ll either crochet or read – or maybe work on The Bell Tower. Chapter two is nearly finished.

Later!
~Mags