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.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Spicy Chick-Wheat Savory Muffins

I'm not tremendously proud of this photo. It's supposed to look waaaay cooler. But those are cowboy cupcake liners. That's gotta count for somethin'.

This recipe is from havecakewilltravel. I deterred from the recipe a little bit. Firstly, by adding flax seeds to the liquid mixture because I didn't see anything in the list of ingredients that looked like it was working as an egg replacer. I don't think that the flax would've been needed in the end. I don't know why I didn't trust Céline.

Secondly, I didn't have agave nectar (that shit's expensive!... and addictive!), so I used sugar in place of it. I think, though, that agave could've added a certain richness to the muffs, or just smug healthiness. Whatevs. I got a little dose of omega 3s thanks to the flax.

Thirdly, I'm thoroughly convinced that all spices bought in Germany are lame and dulled down for the bland preferances of German taste buds. Even though I upped the spice content a tad, and granted I'm not familiar with garam masala, they still weren't as spicy as I was expecting. Just an interesting, savory muffin. I wish I'd shared them with more friends so I could've gotten more of a consensus. Me and the girlfriend that tried them thought, "not bad," and, "different."

In sum, I'm not sure how much my changes effected the taste of these savory treats or if the recipe still needs some tinkering to better suit my desires. It may be worth another try, though, if anyone'd be interested in sharing with me.

p.s. You know you're vegan when you've got chickpea flour on hand. laughoutloud.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Greets n' G'byes

You know you have lots of international friends when you're saying your "hello"s or "goodbye"s and you've no idea what's appropriate for the given situation.

I remember learning the bisous in French class back in 8th grade. That's a sort of kiss wherin you touch cheeks with the person you're greeting or saying your au revoir to. My 13 year old self had to walk around the room, exchange "Bonjour!" or "À tout à l'heure!" with everyone and actually touch the cheek of another person - even boys in a few of the cases! My cheeks were burning by the end of it. Our French teacher told us that in France, people only hug if they're sleeping together. All that full-frontal action seemed, to her and her wannabe culture, perverse.

I'll tell you something perverse. When you get mixed up between the different cultures' bisous (some start on the right side, some on the left, some go once, others twice, some obnoxious Frenchmen just don't know when to stop...) and you end up touching lips. I did that once. I was so embarassed, I had trouble looking at him for the rest of the soirée.

Germans, although you may not expect it, are born huggers. They want to hug to say "hello" and they'd rather hug than wave "goodbye;" even if you aren't sleeping together. Sometimes I feel them moving into it and I know to keep a respectful, one meter distance, with a single hand raised to move from side to side: my friendly wave.

Americans are also known huggers. I'm not averse to hugging per say, I just need to like you a lot before we move that far. I recall being perturbed more than once in the States by someone hugging me hello or goodbye and I felt like, "What is this? I don't know you."

Americans also give good handshakes. I'm a huge fan of a good, firm handshake. Along the same line: If I have to move into The Hug, it's not so bad so long as it's somewhat meaningful and firm in its own right. There's some dude I know who gives the emptiest hugs. Now that's just wrong.

I honestly wish that everyone did the bisous. To me, it feels meaningful, but not too close. I feel like you can express emotion through it quite easily, and just as lightly leave it to formalities. I don't even mind the inconsistencies of this gesture in different regions and cultures; it adds a little bit of excitement to the experience. Germans will sometimes do the bisous when thanking you formally for a gift or something. That's if they know better than to hug you.

I think it'd also be cool to live in a culture where bowing was commonly used.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What do I do?

I'm sitting here at home having just completed some washing and ironing. I tried contacting a few people about plans for this evening (I'm a social whore of late), organized a few things and left a few messages. It doesn't feel empty right now, my afternoon, it just makes me realize that I'm normally doing things at this time of day, during this time of week. Now, I can't help but wonder: What do I normally do on Saturday afternoons?

The family normally has breakfast at 10AM. A normal German breakfast is Brötchen, which my host mother hidiously translates to "bread rolls." We then lay out a handsome spread of sliced tomatoes, cucumber, salami, other meat that I don't know how to identify, buttah, nutella and sometimes jam. I'm okay with just tomatoes and cukes, but I like to plan ahead of the week-end so I can enjoy something flavorful for week-end breakfast. Sometimes I'll buy a cheap just-happens-to-be-vegan spread at the store (Germans love their spreads), make some hummus, or go for my latest kick: MARMITE!

A friend of mine brought a jar back for me from the UK. The high amounts of Folic Acid or something don't correspond with some countries' health codes. I'm pretty sure the only countries that sell it are the UK and Australia (there called "Vegemite"). It's a pretty exclusive little fetish; you love it or hate it. Do you think that Lady Sovereign is singing about Marmite, then? I'll certainly persue this quandery for the remainder of the afternoon.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Prodigal Parnsips

I haven't made parsnips in ages. In fact, the last time I remember even having them was about 10 years ago at a Thanksgiving in South Carolina. I remember them tasting simple and potato-y. These ended up tasting rather sweet. I made a lot and really enjoyed the first bit, but towards the end... I dunno. They kind-of lost their charm. So I'd certainly recommend this for a simple, yet impressive, side dish.

What I did:
peeled and then grated them with one of those fantastic box metal graters. if you're fancy, you could use a food processor. That would certainly keep you from grating a knuckle, like I usually do.

Threw the grated parsnips on a pot on the stove with a little water (just to cover the bottom) and salt. I added tomatoes for colour and cooked it on med-low heat until the 'snips were soft.

now it's properly photoshopped