Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What's funny about this picture?

Kulinarische Leckerbissen samt Rheinblick und Ballon-Spektakel erwarteten die Besucher der Mittsommernacht am Wochenende.
This photo was on the front page of our local paper yesterday. The caption basically reads: Guests enjoy cultural treats while awaiting the Midsummer night on the weekend. I asked the 14 year old and a friend who he had over, what was funny about the photo. They each examined it carefully, but could find nothing. I gave them the answer: "It's a midsummer party and they're wearing jackets and scarves!" Oh, I hate you, German summer.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Got A New Apron

The parents went to Rome for three days. I filled in as "mom" while they were gone. When they came back, they had an apron for me. There was da Vinci's Vitruvian Man on it along with a number of other sketches and some fancy cursive letters scribbling "Rome" all over it. It was tacky. Then the mom showed me hers. It was Botticelli's La Venere. Her head was absent and her exposed breasts rested over the wearer's. The mom said, "I assumed I shouldn't give you this one because, you know, you're American...", and then she made the sort of face that one symbolizes by using this emoticon: :-/ . In my mind, she said, "Even though we've been living in the same house for nearly twelve months, I still think you must be a conservative American." The mom continued, "... but if you'd like to trade...." I interrupted her, "Yes! I'd love to trade!!" So now I have a boobalicious apron.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Garlicky Saffron Rice, Zucchini, and Broiled Tofu

From Veganomicon. Sooooo yummy. I think broiled tofu is my new thang. I had this as a picinic dinner with a friend from Aachen who came to visit me here in Neuss. Thankfully, Neuss did not smell like the paper ass that it can sometimes assualt the olfactory sytem with on a perfectly lovely afternoon. We sat in a chilly park by a pond, ate, drank beer and chatted 'til the sun went down. I took him to the train station at 10:30 in the evening.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Den Haag

Erin and I went to Den Haag in the Netherlands this weekend to visit our friend Frank. We was staying in this cool apartment (pictured right). Frank invited one of his Amsterdam friends along, Valentijn, who was named after Valentine's Day. Valentijn drove us to the beach on Sunday. On the way, Erin and I camped out in the back of his van and practiced our cat-like reflexes in avoiding being sighted by the police (politie) because his van was not the sort that was supposed to hold more than two passengers.

The sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and and the water was freezing. Erin, Valentijn and I swam while Frank laid his docile self out on the sand and "watched" after out things. The waves crashed against our bodies with an unexpected force that one should learn to expect. Erin shouted to me from a distance, "I can't stop screaming!" Suddenly, a wave hit me from behind and, surprised by its sting, I screamed. We stayed in the water 'til we were good and numb.

Oh yeah, the city was alright as well, although we didn't spend too much time out and about. We mostly hung out on the terrace and talked all night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

There Ain't Nothin' Wrong with Sweet Hot Sauce from a Bottle

See? Alongside some broccoli, carrots, and crispy tofu, nothing can go wrong.

Potato Spinach Enchiladas

A friend recently gave me her copy of Veganomicon. It feels strange to talk about the book as if it were mine. She's moving to England soon and she has to get rid of a lot of her things-- she doesn't want to spend a fortune on shipping things. I understand that she'd be ditching some of these things anyway, but still, it's hard to accept such nice things. Well, I'm taking her out to a nice all-vegetarian, organic restaurant in Düsseldorf soon. I hope that'll make up for a little bit of it.

I've been dying to get my hands on this book for a long time. I've been drooling at the food porn posts from this book on my vegan forum for ages. Of course there's the recipes that everyone seems to love, that everyone is trying, and have been made over and over again.

I've been wondering, "What will I make first? The Chickpea Cutlets? Vanilla Yogurt Pound Cake?"

In the photo section, I saw a heart-warming picture of Potato Kale Enchiladas and my heart was won.

I subsitituted kale for spinach and some way-too-expensive and "exotic" soft flour tacos for the corn tortillas that the recipe asks for. When I made them yesterday, I was a pretty underwhelmed. Today, I mixed the potatoes and spinach together, served everything at the right temperature, and got the wrap to the right level of sogginess-- then it reached my standards.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dreams 2

I dreamed that I was staying as a semi-permanent guest in my friend Frank's old flat. Everything was filthy as if we'd partied like frat boys the night before. Another friend of mine, Erin, and I were staying in one of the three bedrooms which would normally occupy one of the flat's three residents.

We woke up together to find this chaos. We were woken by a strange man who was short with brown, army-cut hair and too-tan skin who strolled into the room. It might've been his room, but I felt as if it were mine and I was embarassed on account of the mess. He walked back out again and Erin and I began to get ready.

I went to the bathroom for my morning pee. The bathroom was falling apart. The door didn't shut properly. One of Frank's friends came in the doorway in a manner that was both accidental and casual. I don't know which of Frank's friends it was-- they all look the same to mee: skinny, long hair, slanty-eyed, artsy, plaid shirts. He was in the doorway for a short time and then he left. I couldn't pee.

I heard someone else coming and I leaned forward on the seat and moved to shut the door. But the door, in its dilapidated state, fell off its hinges as I tried to swing it shut. Stirred by the commotion or perhaps with the original intent of peaking in, Freddie, one of the flat's residents, appeared in the doorway. In real life, I have a gigantic pathetic crush on this kid whom Frank and I have given the epithet of Cherub Cheeks. My emotions in my dream were not much different. Freddie started to speak to me, but I couldn't listen. I was on the toilet with naught but a T-shirt on and underpants down to my ankles. I couldn't pee, so I got up off the toilet.

Freddie and I were in the hallway. He was still speaking to me. I still couldn't listen-- I was thinking about my underwear. I was sure that I was wearing a thong and was horridly aware of my bare butt standing blatantly in the hallway. Then I remembered that I was wearing a sort of underwear that partially covered my tush and I relaxed a little. I tried to speak to him a little, but I couldnt remember many words in German. (Freddie doesn't speak English.)

Then Erin and I were still getting ready. She had a friend coming over that she knew from her German course. Erin was getting dressed and preparing a mixed tape for the guest on a machine that could've also been a toddler's playtoy. She sent me into the hallway to meet the guest because she was still not ready and she wanted the tape to be a surprise.

Erin's friend was a Pakistani or Indian woman and spoke in heavily accented German. We made small talk for a while until Erin called her in, speaking English. I wondered why the two of us hadn't started with English. Then I couldn't decide the language with which I should speak, flipping back and forth between the two. Then I woke up.


Preface: I read _The Old Man and the Sea_ yesterday.

I dreamed that there was a whale. A beached whale. He was the subject of my dream, although very little of the dream was relavent to him. There were three sets of people: those who desired to do something to the whale, a touist on an island in the sea nearby the beached whale, and some hikers nearby on the mainland, close to the sandbar on which the whale was beached.

My first goal was to warn the man on the island-- he was recieving a massage there and the whale, should it tip in the direction of the island, meant impending doom for him. To reach the island, I had to go through an underground mall. There, I ran into S. and his mother, but he had a different mother-- an American woman who I know through his Kindergarten. I followed them down an escalator and chatted with the mother while she bough S. a cookie. (The cookie purchase was in German, as were a few words taht I exchanged wtih S., for those interested.) I am even loquacious in my dreams.

I found the man on the island, but I'm not sure if he heeded my words. I could only see his head, which was blury, and he was lost in the ecstasy of the massage.

I moved on to the sandbar area where the whale was beached. There were some extreme activists there on a ship. What their intentions for the whale were, I'm not sure, but as for the people they ran into who were not part of the project-- I knew they had only malintent. I did not stay with the activists for long. I had to warn the hikers before they came upon the ship.

It was nearly too late for the hikers-- the acitivsts had spotted them. They may have killed one. We ran away into a barren land, taking a steady climb up a mountain.

I saw the whale one last time. The massive creature flipped itself into the water between the sand bar and the mainland. I am not sure if by this action he was able to save himself or not.

I continued to climb the great, barren mountain with the other hikers. There were many hikers travelling down the mountain. I believe we were the only ones travelling up, but this did not seem strange to me. My new companions knew many of the people who we came across.

One of my companions went to join another group of hikers. His marooning was sudden and by the time we noticed he was gone, it was too late to follow him-- the distance between our groups was rocky and great.

Lastly we lost another crew member. We found him finally. He'd strayed from the path and joined a group of construction workers. The other workers were young- either children or very young adults, I'm not sure. My companion, who like the others was about my age or slightly older, chose to join them and then we moved on.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I went to see a ballet with a friend on Saturday evening. Per usual, neither of us knew much about what we were to see as we walked through the opera house doors. Having just arrived from Aachen, I turned my purse and my full-of-vegan-asian-goodies backpack in to the coat check. The checker gave me a funny look and proceeded to look around for a spot to hide it amoung the mink and Yves Saint Laurent coats of the 60+ crowd. I caught some grandparents eyeing my torn and filthy Converse shoes with disdain and I, in turn, eyed their sparkling cleavage.

My friend and I found our seats-- 9th row, not bad. She said, "I like the stage setting." Two identical, 20-foot-high, famous-looking, Romanesque sculptures stood at either side of the stage. I said, "I rather like the foot long cocks," because, due to the height (and nude-ness) of the statues, their penises were, as one might say, "larger than life." I thought a nearby grandparent glanced my way, but maybe that was because I was speaking English amoung a crowd of Germans. The backdrop was a scrim with a contemporary Roman sacrophagus printed on it, quite like one on today's featured wikipedia article.

The ballet opened with a slightly Eisenstein-esque dance. A group of women danced around each other. Their hair was covered entirely with black cloth and they wore long, flowing black dresses. They emphasized the space around themselves with big, sweeping movements of their arms in front, above, and to the side. A leg lift carried the mass of black cloth with it, leaving a noticable, sweeping expanse of space between each woman's leg. The dance concluded with the women circling around each other, stage center, and one of them emerging with a baby doll, wrapped in black cloth. They were then interupted by Trojan soldiers, who removed their robes to reveal costumes like those depicted in the picture above. The soldiers raped/ had sex with the women, and threw them into cages that had risen from the backstage floor.

The Trojan soldiers had a beautiful dance together. Every costume, aside from the mournful women who opened the ballet, revealed the dancer's abdomen, much to my pleasure. The soldiers had sharper, quicker movements. I particularly enjoyed a momement when all the soldiers did a hip shake from side to side.

There was a beautiful sort-of duet: two pairs of Spartan dancers; the first pair, white and dressed in black, the second, black and dressed in gold. The men lifted and twirled their partners around, making the audience forget about the laws of gravity and that one cannot actually glide across the floor as if on skates. The black male dancer danced with particular passion. I wondered then why it wasn't he who was chosen as the lead, which the white dancer apparently was. I suspected the black man had some Othello-like role to play.

At intermission, I said to my friend, "Well, I think there could've been more nudity, don't you?" We went outside to sit in the grass and drink a can of beer that she'd bought in the train station earlier.

In the second half, the Trojan soldiers appeared less and the Spartans more. The Spartans had a beautiful, magnum-opus scene wherein the groups of men and women danced across the stage, running, leaping, pirouetting, and sashéing (i can't spell that for the life of me, but hopefully we all know what i'm talking about) across the back of the stage at speeds a sprinter would be jealous of. During this scene, a group of Trojans costumed differently than the ones we'd seen before, ran across the stage.

ok, i meant to finish this ages ago and do the discriptions some better justice. still, i think the bit i have is worth sharing until i get around to finish my description of the end, fuzzy though the memory of it is.

Don't you miss...?

I get a lot of the same questions when people find out I'm vegan. One of them is, "But don't you miss x? I simply couldn't live without x." In the secret, dark, vegan closet, I might miss x a little bit, but I know that I have a severe allergy... to oppresion, so I rarely ever think about consuming x.

A few months ago, my friend Timo picked up a can of mock abalone from a sketchy asian shop.
"What's that?", I asked him.
"I dunno," he answered. "Let's try it."
We made a stir fry with the gluten-ous vegetarian meat and it was delicious. After dinner, a quick wikipedia search revealed that abalone is some kind of shell fish.

I found another can of abalone at the aforementioned sketchy shop yesterday, only this time it's a curry version. It was next to cans of mock duck and mock chicken. And then the mock abalone.... It makes you sardonically wonder, "Oh, cool! Mock abalone! I've been wondering when they'd create a substitute for this!"

I made a curry with it for lunch today (and heated it up again for dinner). It was delicous.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

One of Us

It is occasionally, and painfully, made apparent that no matter how much I fake it, I will never make it to true "German" status. No matter how much cool slang I learn, I will always have an accent. No matter how good my grammar gets, my vocabulary will always lack. And no matter how long I've lived here, I will never get used to the German ways.

I was feeling particularly glum yesterday, so I decided that instead of my normal outdoor excersise (cheap), I would shell out the €4.20 and go for a swim.

I rode my bike to the pool, paid for a two hour pass, ran my ticket through the electronic thingamajig, and passed through the turnstile. I get a kick out of German pools. Like a normal German household, they feel very sterile. And like the normal, European non-chalance towards gender seperation, there aren't seperate rooms for the girls and the boys. Instead, there are individual booths that one enters, changes, then a locker area where everyone puts there clothes. The showers and toilets, however, are gender-specific.

One would think that for all the regulations and order that one sees on the Autobahn (the famous, no-speed-limit, German highway), Germans could apply some of that organization to the pool; to circle swimming, for instance. When I walked onto the deck, I scanned for a lane with the least number of people. The first two lanes had lanelines and there appeared to be some sort of a team practice going on there. The other three or four lanes had no lanelines and a plethera of patrons making a free-for-all up and down the length of the pool.

I tried my best to assert myself in my chosen spot. I made my way down the pool with the black line of tiles on my left side, and back to the other end with the black line remaining on my left side. Despite my efforts to subtly demonstrate the efficiency of the circle swim, nobody else appeared to follow. There were people who stuck to their own invented line, others swam old-lady-style, in pairs, side-by-side. I gave up after only about 40 minutes and maybe 800 meters of swimming. It felt like €4.20 gone to waste.

But that's not all! When I was exiting the pool area, I had to insert my ticket into the electronic thingamajig. The disorganized person that I am, I couldn't find the bloody thing. After some fretting and looking through pockets where I doubted it was, I noticed that there was nobody manning the counter, so I decided to slip under the turnstile. Just then, someone came around and spoted my misdemenour. Frustrated by the circle swim, I said, "Look, you remember me. I'm the foreigner who came through an hour ago. I can't find my stupid ticket and I'm leaving now." Although she said, "I see so many faces in a day, how can I remember them all?", I adjusted the pack on my back and walked out the door.

pictured: grilled eggplant with oregano and thyme; one of my current kicks.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Not for All My Little Words

I'm sitting outside in the sun, with an Earl Grey tea and an old copy of The New Yorker. I'd like to go for a bike ride along one of the Rhein River's many tributaries. I'd like to call up a friend and invite him/her out to play frisbee or for dinner, coffee, or beer.

But instead I'm waiting. S. is due to return from a playdate at any time and I told W., the boys' father, that S.'s bike was still in front of the Kindergarten. Although it should be presumed that S.'s bike needs to be fetched via car whenever S. has this weekly playdate, his parents need reminding and I'm obliged to do so. I'm afraid to remind W. to be sure that someone is home when his son returns (he has forgotten before), so I'm waiting until he runs this short errand before I leave this sunny terrace.

There's a good chance that W. will forget to pick up the bike, in which case the task will be left to me.

S.'s mother, K., told me the other evening, "You need to remind one of us about S.'s bike before we leave from work. And if one of us can't get it, you can pick it up, right? It's only.... What? Half an hour?"

It would be a good forty-five minute walk, I knew, and half of that time would be spent hunched over, making awkward steps, holding the handlebars while also avoiding clipping the backs of my heels against the tiny peddles.

"Yeah, no problem." I said, doing my best to fake non-chalance.

I could have said "No." To any other employer, I would have said that walking a child's bike home is not a stipulated as one of my duties, but if he/she would like, I may be paid extra for the task. But this is the plight of the aupair. I am paid to be available for them. I am given food, drink, and a warm place to sleep. I am indentured to their needs and generosity.

Now that S. is home and my tea has been drunk, I think I'll walk to the Kindergarten and pick up his bike now. I don't have any money to go out with a friend, anyway.

As you may've noticed, I've decided to change everyone's names. The internet is a big, potentially scary place and I don't want anyone to get hurt by what I say about them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Just as some cannot grasp calculus or trigonometry, so hault others in their apptitude for other languages. Some can go through the motions with relative ease, others get stuck on minor problems. Some lack confidence and fumble with the concepts before they've barely begun. And then there are teachers.... Some can present concepts and give clear explanation, some can even correct and encourage.

I met my Sascha at the train station on Thursday. In Germany, one can't help but greet another person with the friendly and simple, "Wie geht's?"-- How're you? Our conversation started in German and that was how it stuck.

We made a pizza from scratch. Sascha handled the dough. He'd made a pizza from scratch before and that impressed me. He's still a young student and I found his prestige in home economics both charming and impressive. He also didn't mind that I topped the pizza with basil tofu ricotta (Vegan with a Vengeance).

Sascha is a native of Düsseldorf. That being so, I supplied him with alt beer. Alt is a dark, bitter lager, produced only in the Düsseldorf region. We each drank an alt with our pizza, then we decided to go for a bike ride. I brought two alts for the road.

On our bike ride, I began to wonder, "When will we switch back to English? Is it a pain or is it impolite to stick to German? Am I succeeding at communication so far?" I assured myself that all was fine, but my insecurities remained.

We took a break, sitting on a high wall that overlooked the Rhein. I pulled out the beer and we "prosted," the German way of saying "cheers," but unpretentious and more conversational. While sitting on the wall, watching the Rhein swim by us, we chatted about nothing and everything. The subject that had been nagging me arose: How sufficient was my German?

"You think more than you used to," Sascha remarked. "You used to just talk; say whatever came to you whether it was [grammatically] wrong or not."

I could see some truth in that statement. I never did find out how adequate my vocabulary and grammar was. It had to've sufficed. We conversed, explained our pleasures and our troubles.... But I was still thinking about every sentence, wondering if it was good enough.

pictured: me and Timo in Berlin; a cartoon depicting the Cologne-Düsseldorf rivaly. it says: How Kölsch is brewed

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I finally visited Berlin this past weekend. I uploaded lots of photos to a Picassa page. You can see them here.

Pineapple Right Side Up Cupcakes

A friend hosted a BBQ the other night. I made myself kabobs of fake shrimp and mushrooms slathered in BBQ sauce. It was awesome. I also brought along vegan desserts in an effort to introduce the beer-can-stuffed-chicken-eating omnis to my morally and environmentally conscious ways. I seduced them with these cupcakes. Everyone loved them. Someone said that they looked like boobs.

Monday, April 6, 2009

International Pillow Fight Day

Sometimes there are wonderful things, people, events that are just so beautiful that you don't want to put them into words; they won't do your subject justice. Like Sewanee, like summer camp, like the adorable quirks of your lover, like your new favorite sound.... Some things are better left unsaid. But, at the same time, you feel compelled to share it, and if you're lucky, your listener will understand and they'll give you a sweet smile and share a piece of your heart for a little while.

I noticed this meeting on Cologne's Couch Surfing group page: International Pillow Fight Day. The second anual world-wide pillow fight on the fourth day of the fourth month of the year at four PM. The event organizer said that we'd meet in front of the Dom (“Fuck the police,” were the words that followed that statement.), everyone was to bring his or her own (soft) pillow, and at we would fight everyone and anyone who also held a pillow when then clock struck four. I thought I'd participate. The more the merrier, right?

I checked the event page before I left for Cologne. Someone noted that over a hundred people had signed up to the event on StudiVZ, the German equivalent of Facebook. I thought, “Oh cool. It'll be more than just a few dozen Couch Surfers.”

When I got out at the Cologne train station at a quarter to four, I noticed lots of young kids with pillows. Lots. Hundreds. I saw people toting bulging backpacks, grocery bags, and purses; all of them making their way to the same place. I was filled with gleeful anticipation. I walked to the Domplatz in hopes of spotting some Couch Surfers whom I knew.

The Domplatz was absolutely filled with people! I saw the camera crews of WDR and RTL, the two main television stations in Germany, filming the crowd, asking people questions. I called some friends of mine from my cell phone, asking if they were there. They said that they were in front of the Dom. “You and a thousand other people,” I replied. “Wave your pillow in the air so I can see you.”

I found them, this group of Düsseldorf Couch Surfers. We talked and kept glancing anxiously at our watches. The fight was due to start any minute. I wondered how it would begin. I worried that it would be like a New Year's party where several people are arguing about who's watch is correct as midnight approaches and leaves. Suddenly, a shout rang out in the crowd and, all at once, everyone was swinging their pillows every which way.

here are a few videos of the pillow fight. i couldn't choose which to post.

As I was slamming a hit against someone's back, I noticed that it looked familiar. It was Ulf, my very first Couch Surfing host. He turned around to hit me back, “Oh hi! How're you?”, he asked, landing a blow to my shoulder. “Good to see you here!”, I answered, hitting him on top of the head. I found two more Cologne Couch Surfers like that and then some friends from Bonn. It was hysterical. We laughed and hit and ducked until we were so winded that we could hardly go on, but then someone would swing at us and we had to hit them back; it was part of the game.

Pillows broke open and feathers flew everywhere. We squinted our eyes against the avian snow and battled on. I paired up with a girlfriend against two of the boys. Someone joined in to help and then we were a ring of people. Some found themselves in the middle of the cushioned violence. It was like a mosh pit, but the good kind.

After the fight, I suggested to our group, which had grown throughout the fight, that we walk down to the Rhein to drink beer and play frisbee. We stayed out there, having fun in the park, until it got too dark to see.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Who even knows what bird shit smells like?

I keep telling myself that I need to blog, but I have no desire to write for it lately. It's not that I don't like the blog or that I have nothing to write about; there's just something in there that's getting lost in between, through the transient thoughts.

But it is important to keep all you lovely people, living on contienent far far away, updated on my life (when you care to care). So, here you go:

I've been in Aachen a lot lately, just catching up with the numbers of people who are too numerous to catch up with. I went to Carlos Themen, a thermal spa in Aachen, a few weeks ago. That was really nice and I've been meaning to blog about that.

Simon has been saying some hilarious things lately. Yesterday while we were watching television in the evening, waiting for his mom to come home from tennis and put him to bed, he told his 13 year old brother that he smelled like bird shit. His brother and I burst out laughing because: 1) Simon said "shit," 2) He's never said "shit" before, 3) How did "bird shit" even pop into his head?, and 4) Who even knows what bird shit smells like? Through my giggles, I managed to tell him that "shit" (okay, it was "Scheiße") was not a nice word to use.

Simon has also started using his "please"s and "thank you"s that I've been trying to enforce for the past two months or so. Yay positive reinforcement!

I'm going to Berlin (finally) next week-end! I'm road-tripping it with two friends and will also be seeing another friend who recently moved there from Cologne. Hopefully there will be lots of pictures and other stuff to share.

At the end of the month, I'll be helping a friend move to Amsterdam. It's a very bittersweet sort-of goodbye. He's been kind enough to invite myself and another friend to spend a long weekend up there in his new appartment, which is about the size of a thimble.

All this inactivity has allowed me to save up for these big trips. I'm really looking forward to it!

I will do my best to post pictures in this post later.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Zen and the Art of Frisbee Throwing

I played a good round of frisbee for the first time in ages yesterday. The first throw was way out there. The next, a little closer. We found the right speeds and angles at which to throw. The old muscle memory started to come back.

I played with a buddy in a park in Oberkassel, the über-snooty part of Düsseldorf. There's lots of homes for the people of opulant lifestyles; early 20th century architecture; columns, window sills, and doorways richly adorned as if draped with plastered lace and garland.

Springtime is begining. We played until 7PM, but I wasn't watching a clock. I saw the sky and I felt my arm tiring and said, "5 catches in a row, then we stop." Our concentration, which had been gradually declining, suddenly came back. We threw 5 catches in a row, then I said, "We play until one of us drops it." I smiled wide as I watched one toss float into my partner's hand. He laughed. We completed 10 or 20 more tosses until the frisbee flew over my head and I let it drop.

I knew the park from a time this winter when I decided to explore Oberkassel. It's quiet and open. A place for runners, dog-walkers and the occasional badmitten players. When I walked through there on that winter day, it was snowing; lightly, but constantly. I thought of a line from Bukowski's Ham On Rye: "The air was white." The air then... it was white.

When my friend and I packed up to go, the sun was setting, the clouds changing from their brilliant white against a backdrop of blue, to hues of red against a backdrop of purple, fading to black.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I woke up at 1 in the afternoon, shamelessly. As I've mentioned before, my family eats breakfast together at 10AM on weekends. It's a cute, healthy habit, in my opinion. Well, at 1PM, I had my Brötchen and then I made muffins. Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins, to be precise. Why aren't they simply called cupcakes, you ask? Because there's zucchini in them and that makes them healthy, duh! I made them for a “girls' night in” that I was invited to that evening.

The “girls' night in” was hosted by my vegan friend in Krefeld. That girl is awesome for a good many reasons, but one of them is that we have the same taste buds. We do vegan stuff together sometimes like eat out at veg-friendly places and visit organic grocery stores and we almost always end up getting the same things. When I asked what she felt like cooking on Saturday, she said, “Something Italian themed from Vegan with a Vengeance.” I said, “Stuffed shells?” She agreed. I'd been wanting to make stuffed shells for ages, but didn't want to make them for myself alone. I'm not kidding; there has got to be some vegan-psychic shit goin' on there.

After I finished making the zucchini “muffins,” it was getting time for me to head out. I checked the train times and then left the house with plenty of time to spare so I could buy the pasta shells and basil (for the basil tofu ricotta à la VwaV). I bagged up most of the muffins (leaving a few for my host fam, if they so chose) and took to the road.

Here's the part with an unexpected tangent:

I felt like such a foreigner that day! I didn't realize that specialized shops like organic grocery stores (don't think American-sized, think country-cottage-sized) and health food stores closed at 3PM on Saturdays! I'd seen a package of whole wheat pasta shells at a big organic grocery store in Düsseldorf earlier that week and assumed that I could find the same or similar in one of the smaller shops in Neuss. I never got to find out.

Instead, I opted for lasagna noodles. I feared that the girls would be disappointed in the menu change, but they were fine with it. My friend and host sliced some vegan cheese on top and left the sides sauce-free, making them a little crunchy. Our dinner was delectable. The muffins, though, ended up getting crushed in my bag. I'd meant well, I really did. We were going to eat them anyway with some vegan ice cream, but we got distracted by wine and Black Books. I consciously left the bag of bruised and beaten muffs in her kitchen upon my departure so I wouldn't have to deal with them myself. There are worse weights to leave on friends' shoulders.

p.s. my camera isn't uploading photos right now. i'll post a photo of the zucc muffs later.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Springtime for Hitler in Germany!

I've gotten on this blog-reading kick. I've always stalked them, looking for ideas for astounding dishes that I can make for myself, but lately I started reading them for their stories. These aren't people that I know. I don't even know what they look like. They might be ugly and terrible, but mostly I imagine them as like-minded beings who would probably read my blog if they'd heard of it. But they probably wouldn't.

This was the third photo that appeared when I google image searched "springtime." I want to get a nice photo of the crocuses and daffodils that are just begining to bloom, but until I do, y'all'll have to deal with this junk.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sweet Potato Red Lentil Soup

In Aachen over the weekend I had a nice red lentil soup at a Turkish restaurant. They were so nice at the Turkish place. We were surprised (although one should expect) to not recieve the normal German customer service. Par example, you order a tea, you get it, but there's no sugar. You like sugar with your tea, so you ask your waiter (screw that "server" PC crap) if he could get you some sugar as well. And the waiter complains about making the extra run for you - in front of you! Sheesh!

So the soup at the Turkish place was really good and I felt like re-creating it. I ended up creating something really different that tastes good too. The spicyness of the cayenne pepper accentuates the sweetness of the sweet potato and it's nice and rich with the help of the red lentils.

Sweet Potato Red Lentil Soup (serves 2 or 1 hungry person)
1/4C red lentils
1/8C onion (half a pretty small onion. maybe 1 shallot)
1/2 large sweet potato or 1 small sweet potato peeled and chopped into 1in cubes
2C water
1/2t oregano
1t basil
1/4t cumin
1/4t cayenne pepper (some like it hot!)
1t (heaping) veg bouillon
salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot, fry onions in olive or veg oil. after a minute or two, add herbs. after onions begin to brown/ are soft, add water, lentils, sweet potato and veg bouillon and bring to a boil. I actually cooked my sweet potato in the microwave before and added it once the lentils were soft (about 10min). that worked fine. serve warm or save it for the next day, when it'll be even better!

Marble Cupcakes

There was all this CAKE floating around on Simon's Bday weekend. It kinda made me want a girl with a short skirt and a looooonng jacket, but instead I made my own cupcakes.

Germans like their cake dry. I'll never forget the first time I cut into a German bday cake. I thought that someone fucked up the cake mix from the box. When I cut into it, I had to push down really hard. I asked, "ummm... the cake feels a little... solid," to which someone replied, "It seems alright to me."

The recipe is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. They're good, but not that orgastic, mouth-bursting deliciousness that a lot of those cupcake recipes offer. I wished that my host fam would try some (I made 4), but I guess there was still leftover cake and they'd eaten pretty crappy over the weekend and didn't care to try one. More for me!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Simon's Birthday

Today is Simon's birthday. His is now 6. 6! They grow up so fast! Yesterday, he and his mom baked a big sheet cake and covered it with green frosting and gummy bears: a soccer game. I'll include a photo of it later.

Simon's shoes are getting old. I told him the other day, "Simon, you shouldn't wear those shoes anymore. They have holes in them." And he replied, "But when they have holes, I can tell if my socks are wet." That is beautiful reasoning for two reasons: 1. It makes no sense. 2. It makes perfect sense to Simon.

Simon's mother was looking through a catalogue for a table and set of chairs for our new roof deck. They need to be heavier than the ones that we currently have so they don't blow away in the wind. She pointed one set out to Simon and asked if he liked it. "It only has four chairs," he said. "We'll need another one for Rachel." Now ain't he sweet?

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Brig

I went to see this play last Thursday with my amazing friend, Steffi. The company that she works for can get her free tickets to lots of events in Düsseldorf - and there's a lot of events! Being the sweet girl that she is, she takes me to the not-so-germanic items up for show.

Per usual, we walked into the play not knowing a thing about it. That's generally how I role with these sorts of things. I rarely read the back of a book before I start reading it, seldom check out movie reviews before I watch them.... I prefer making my own first impression and then, if I remain interested, to see what other people's impressions were later (i.e. reviews, etc.).

The play ended up being about as I'd guessed it by seeing the posters and reading a spare few sentences on the back of a pamphlet: American army men and their time in an American army "prison," probably as punishment for some misdemeanor, but we never learn why any of the characters are there. In fact, one could say that we don't learn anything about the characters at all. The play takes almost all individuality away from the characters - we see only guards and prisoners. The prisoners themselves are called by number, not name, and I believe that the guards are refered to by their ranking, but I can't quite remember. One might ask, "A play with no character development? How could that have been a story at all?" But it did have a begining, a middle and an end; of that I am sure, so that makes it a story.

The play was written in something like 1947, so I can see how at the time, it must've been extremely avant garde. I think that the social commentary is just as relevant, only now we're familiar with the genre of media into which The Brig falls. We've all already read 1984 and we've seen Schindler's List and Angels in America. When I encounter pieces like The Brig, I have to make a concious effort to remind myself that it was something special in its time. For that, I respect the play, but then we come to aesthetics - what one finds pleasing to oneself - and for me, The Brig wudn't really my thang.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I Welcome You to March with Bog Water

Just joking - it's curried split pea soup from Vegan With a Vengance. This would've been a great opportunity to finally use up my €0.99 bag of dried peas, but the other day I was adding peas to a marvelous salad and I forgot to return the bag to the freezer. The peas thawed. I thought it would be bad to re-freeze them, so I made this soup with the poor little guys instead. To make the pea soup more split-y, I stuck my immersion blender in at the end and gave it a couple spins.

The soup is very simple, a real no-brainer, but it isn't quite up to Isa standards, which are high. Then again, I don't have the best ingredients on hand. (read: I don't have very many spices in my cabinet and those that I possess are not of the highest quality.)

So now I can say that today I: made soup, took a photo of it, and posted it on the internet. Yay productivity!

p.s. February was a bad blogging month, but I promise you that March will be much better.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sweedisch NotMeatBalls

I got these ballz from the swell vegan blog. I've no idea what sweedish meetballs taste like. These weren't bursting with flavor and were also a bit more crumbly than I'd hoped. They did feel very hearty, though, and I enjoy the chance to eat something like that occasionally. I found that these babies tasted best when I mashed them up with my home-made tomato sauce in the spaghetti. That made it taste like spaghetti bolognese, even though I don't know what that tastes like either.

Even if you aren't vegan, I'd recommend these balls as a high-protein, low-colesterol alternative to their meaty counterpart.

Randomly-Assembled Tomato Sauce
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1.5C cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 package tomato purée (maybe 1.5-2 cups worth?)
2t dried basil
1-2t dried oregano
1t cumin
1t salt
few shakes black pepper

onions in a stock pot 'till they're a little bit soft and aromatic( 3-5min), then add garlic, spices and herbs. stir occasionally until onions brown. add mushrooms and tomato and really let that cook down (as long as 10min, on simmering heat and covered). once cooked down, add the tomato purée and bring it to a steady boil. take off heat. blend with an immersion mixer. if you don't have an immersion mixer, your life is just less good. add some water if you think it's too thick. The mushrooms make this nice and rich and really good.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Broccoli Leek Soup

There was a head of broccoli that I had to use up, so I made soup with it. The soup contained:

1 head broccoli
1 leek
~2 cups veg broth
1 container Alpro soy cream (blach I know! so unhealthy! can't win 'em all, can you?)
2 small cloves garlic
dash thyme
dash basil

I also threw in some lentils that I wanted out of the cabinet.
It's good with celery and maybe I'll hit it up with some roasted red pepper coulis tomorrow.

Here's some William Blake to inspire you:
A truth that's told with bad intent,
Beats all the lies you can invent.

That quote preceded a chapter in The Amber Spyglass, which I was reading today. I'm not cool enough to come up with Blake on my own.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pot Pie!

I made veggie pot pie today! It was good. Well, the creamy veggie part was. In it is: carrot, potato, celery, peas, tofu and a bit o' garlic and other spices. I dumped some Alpro soy cream stuff in after I'd cooked the veggies. I accidentally added too much baking soda to my crust, though, and it turned out nasty. really nasty. How does one do that, anyway? I'm just an idiot. To the right are the pot pies uncovered.

I didn't measure or nothin' but Vegan Dad has two pot pie recipes.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mediocrity Is Not Okay

As I've formerly admitted, I don't know shit about art, but I do know that there are some things that I dig and some things that I don't. I do like it when I feel that a painting, photograh, series, exhibition or whatever inspire some thought on my part, when it requires some introspection.

I went to visit an exhibition of Michel Comte photographs at the NRW Forum in Düsseldorf with an aquaintance over the week-end. I didn't know anything about the photographer nor do I really understand the art of (behind?) photography, but my companion told me that he generally enjoyed that sort of thing and additionally included that he was a bit picky with what he chose to view. I walked into the exhibition open-minded, thinking, "Cool. Ima gonna learn me sommat."

It was the biggest load of bull shit that I've ever laid my eyes on. It reminded me of a visit to McDonald's that I recently made. I never walk into that place willingly (unless I'm making use of their commode), but some friends of mine wanted to get some food there. I didn't order anything, so I just stood there, patiently waiting for my friends to order, examaning my surroundings. I'm perpetually repulsed by what that place means to our society- the people who go there, work there, where the food comes from, the abhorrant success of the corporation, what it does to people.... When my buddies were sitting around, one of them noticed that I had on a particular facial expression; she said, "Rachel! You've got such a sad face on!" I wasn't aware of it and made up a quick lie because I didn't want to tell them that I was disgusted with the act they were engaging in.

That trip to McDonald's was sort of like my trip to the museum, except I did tell the person in my company my actual thoughts and... I guess he disagreed. So I guess the dispute might go like:
"How can you eat this crap?"
"Because I like it. It does something for me."
"Well you're wrong and if we all realized this, the world would be a little bit better for it."
"What's so bad about it?"

It's true that the exhibition and/or McDonald's says something to some of the viewers, gives the visitors some nutrition. We're all entitled to our own opinions, but, in my opinion, some of them are wrong. (winkey face?)

The photos come from the exhibition's flickr page.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Der Medienhafen

I've got no hope of formating this post properly. I'm not even sure if "formating" is the correct word. Well anyway, this morning I'm going to meet a friend in Düsseldorf just to waste some time together and I figured I might persuade her to walk around the Medienhafen (media harbor) with me. That's what all these pictures are from, der Medienhafen. Either me or Dad took these photos way back in August, when he visited.

The brick building on the top left as well as the shiny metal building, in front of which Dad stands, are the Gehry buildings.

This area is a super chic part of the city. Some of the buildings areappartments, some are offices (and there are many office buildings in the area that are not pictured, including my host father's), and there are a few expensive restaurants and bars. Apparently there's a stand where you can get currywurst with a gold leaf on top. They do charge for the gold.

I've read in a guide book before that there's some sort of classy cult nightlife culture out there. I have not personally seen hide nor tail of this and seriously doubt the existance of any kind of "famed" parties. I think that the Düsseldorfers are too dull for that.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

When was the last time you had a beach bonfire?

An Aussie friend of mine asked us to celebrate Australia Day with him last Sunday. I hear that parts of Australia are experiencing temperatures of over 100 degrees fahrenheit right now; for us, it was quite the contrary, but we did our best to pretend it wasn't so and I think we pulled off a darn good effort! I brought a frisbee- one of my favorite fake sports- and got to toss it around with some folks. Some other kids made a make-shift cricket set and had a ball with that. We had it on a beach along the Rhein and made a big bonfire that lasted several hours and kept us fairly warm if we stood close around it like penguins. It was a really fun, cool, international crowd.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This Is What I Did Today

Look at my amazing artistic talent! I printed the posters off the internet and Simon and his friend coloured in the outlines that I'd made. They're talking about how the Pokémon that they're colouring will battle and defeat and destroy the other's. Yay internet!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cookie Monster Eats Broccoli Now

I was invited to a party in Cologne for this evening. The girlfriend I'm going with suggested I make some stuff for it. I made chocolate chip cookies, recipe compliments of Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I shared them with friends last night and we decided they were probably the best cookies ever made.

This morning, I thought I'd make an extra half batch to bring a good ol' American quantity, or, you know, just a bloody plethera. I'm leaving some for the host fam because they agreed that they were insanely good.

I also made hummus for the party. I never follow any instructions on the grounds of hummus-making. I just pour in the basic ingredients, eye-balling the measurements, and flavour it to my fancy. Only problem is, I'm never sure if my tastes are similar to others'. Does everyone have a secret fondness for garlic? Is carrot-dill actually a good flavour combination? Stay tuned for the results (or aftermath) next week.

Isn't it very sad that Cookie Monster is now the Broccoli Monster? Do you think that Obama could change that?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Get Lost in the Supermaket

For those of you that know me, you know that I hate shopping. I hate the crowds, the music, picking through the worthless with a faint hope of finding something sensible, but mostly I abhor the consumerist bullshit that everyone buys into. You might be surprised to find out, however, that I love going to the supermarket. I like going to all the different stores in search of superior prices and particular products.

When I first moved to Germany, you can't imagine how out-of-place I felt in every one of these stores. They felt so small, unorganized, and jam-packed full of products both new and foreign, but all in a package with which I was unaquainted. It felt a little strained and uncomfortable, but I did enjoy the exoticism, the nuance. In my first months, I especially relished a chance to visit one of the bigger emporiums - like Real, for example. Although I've always hated The-Store-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, the high ceilings and knowledge that I could get all my little, random items all under one roof (veganism leaves you looking in strange corners for prized products), gave me a feeling of comfort. Ah, neophobia.

You may not be a foodie or a vegan and you may not live in Germany, so I wanted to give you a way to relate to all the different markets. I thought it'd be funny if we did this in metaphor. Would The Clash approve it if we spoke of boyfriends instead of getting lost in talking about just plain old supermarkets?

Aldi is the boyfriend that thinks an awesome date is sitting out on a lake with a pair of 40s. Sometimes they have specials in there that I'm pleasantly surprised by: asian or italian.

Edeka I'm often surprised to find myself in. It's usually for urgancy or at the insistance or request of my host family. It's the boyfriend who buys (and drinks) some fancy scotch or Jack Daniel's. In addition, he finds it vital to keep Coke and ice in good stock as well. He wears Lacoste and Abercrombie & Fitch (I once read a book about the latter clothing outlet.) or some fancy vintage things for which he paid more money than they're worth. REWE and Kaiser's are like this, but usually a bit smaller and located closer to the city center.

Plus seems to fit a pleasant medium. This boyfriend drives a Jeep, but it's kinda old, beat up, and covered in mud, but it doesn't matter that much because it does it's job, right? He keeps a Lowe Alpine backpack because he knows it's good, but it smells like butt from his last extensive camping trip. I think that Norma may be like this. They're found in smaller towns, I think. Norma can be the punk boyfriend that wears Vans.

Real. "Ein mal hin, alles drin," or, "One time in, everything in." I never go to this store. It's usually on the outskirts of a city because it's so big. This is like the boy that I don't believe I've ever dated. I'd say it's unremarkable, but it does fulfill all most everyone's needs.

Delhaize is a Belgian store that may just be an Aachen thing because that city lies on the border of Belgium and Holland. Delhaize is like the European foreign exchange student. It feels a little fancy, but mostly because there's different products there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Simon on the Subject of Marriage + Other Philosophies

Simon has decided that he'd like to marry a girl in his class. The decision sparked a number of ideas in this 5 year old's head....
"Rachah," (that's how he says my name) "are you married?" In German, though, this question is so much better. It's: Hast du ein Mann? or: Do you have a man?
"No," I replied, somewhat tentatively.
"Then you won't ever be rich."
"Why do I need a man to be rich?" I asked.
"Because men go to work and make money."
"What about Mommy?" I asked. "Mommy goes to work and makes money."
"I know," he answered. "She's going to give me all her money when she dies so that I can be rich and get married."
His mother piped in, "You know, that's going to take a while, Simon."
"That's okay," he told her.

Lukas (the 13year old) and I had a conversation about talent the other day. Lukas is quite good at football. He plays for the regional team. He thinks, though, that his exceptional abilities have nothing to do with talent. He says that he likes playing football because he's good at it. "What about people who pursue goals, activities, or whatever that they enjoy even though they're not good at them?", I asked him. "Then they shouldn't pursue them," he answered. I laughed.

Question: Should I be more careful about revealing identies here on the internets? I read some blogs where the folks are totally anal-retentive about revealing identities of their loved ones. Am I doing anything wrong?

Don't You Eat That Yellow Snow!

It snowed a few weeks ago. It stuck around 'till about a week ago. And I can't believe that I missed a chance to reference the song after which this blog is named! This is the first time that I've lived in a city (which I guess Neuss is, but it still feels a little silly refering to it as such) that got a lot of snow. In Wisconsin, I lived on a campus, so no dogs. In Tennessee, there were pleanty enough paths to not run into concentrated patches of wizz. In Aachen, well, I guess I lived in Belgium when there was snow; I didn't walk through the Aachen city parks so much then. Here in Neuss, though, I had the FZ song stuck in my head pretty much contantly while the land was blanketed in white. It wasn't pretty. And then, it was.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Important Days for Americans to Note

I think that there was something going on in the homeland both yesterday and today, but I'm not gonna pretend to know what.

Me and my buddies having fun with glow sticks for no particular reason.