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.