Nov. 8th, 2013

Happy Birthday, Briddi!

Jul. 6th, 2013

You know when is a really bad time to move a 50 litre bag of wet compost? When you've just washed your hands and put a ton of handcream on.
Apart from that, pretty productive day. Took the car to the local car wash for the first time (I'd been putting it off in a weird attack of what Germans call 'threshold fear' - that's when your're afraid of going somewhere new for no better reason than that it is new). The car wash was actually great fun, much better than the one we used to go to in Reading. There's two guys there guiding you in and hosing gunk and leaves out of nooks and crannies with pressure washers (I can never get all the leaves out of the bit where my windscreen wipers sit), the wash is thorough and gentle, at the end the car gets gently dried of by something that looks like giant terry towelling strips, and then you drive into a big hall where you can park your car and vacuum it. There's also sinks and air hoses for blowing water out of areas you can't reach by hand. They even have a parents corner with a little play area that you can put your kids into while you are detailing your car.

I also finally managed to go to the garden centre and buy a big tub to re-pot my nectarine tree into. Overdue, the poor thing.

Oh, and Nathan mowed the lawn today. It had been bugging him every time he went through, so he said 'guess I should do something about that , then'. And so he did. And he swept the path. I think he may have levered me out of another gumption trap. I'm feeling oddly motivated to do something about the state of my garden now. The weather has been so crap, I have planted nothing this year, not even runner beans or peas.

Em is off for her piano lesson (teacher needed to move two dates), and tomorrow she's got her friend Erik coming over for a week.

Aw, she just rang to tell me that she's not lying crushed under the wheels of a car somewhere, she's just having a glass of sparkling elderberry cordial with her piano teacher and chatting. I'm so glad those two get along so well.

Jun. 28th, 2013

Kids are off to the cinema and I'm having a quiet afternoon in. Nice.
This week I got a couple of balls rolling for doing our house up a bit. I've had some guys round to quote us on front and back doors, plus new basement windows (the old ones are made of iron, single glazed and have no seals on them - it's like an insect highway to heaven), I've had an exterminator up the loft to get rid of a wasp's nest, and next Tuesday there's a roofer coming to quote us for new guttering, a new roof hatch and possibly snow ladders, or whatever those thingies are called in English.
Summer hols started yesterday, and of course the weather is shit. It's dark again, like it was most of the winter and spring. Meh.

Jun. 22nd, 2013

Ow, ow, ow, my back is still not up to driving. Just went to the Weserpark to buy a birthday present for my mum (84 tomorrow), and those five miles were not a comfortable ride. And then, to round it off, on the way back I missed our motorway exit. Because I was thinking about Turkish vocab.

Interestingly, I find thinking about languages not nearly as distracting when I'm driving as thinking about maths. I visualize maths so completely that it takes my brain away from looking at the road. Language processing seems to run somewhere else involving less of my visual cortex. Thinking about maths is dangerous when I drive, thinking about words just makes me get lost.

Learning Turkish is still going surprisingly well. I was actually a bit peeved when I realized that it is so much like Japanese. I mean, why would I have expected that? I thought I was tackling something completely new, only to realize that the structure is so very similar that it all feels kinda familiar. And even the vocab isn't as alien as I expected it to be. Turkish has loads of Arabic, French, Persian, Italian and Greek words in it, and things often ring a bell via some unexpected mental connections.

Take the word 'meydan' = square, open space. I thought, hullo, I've heard that before, and then realized that I knew the word 'maidan' from reading about Kolkata (it's a huge public park with a vast open area). Or the Turkish word for veg (sebze), which instantly brought sabzi curry to mind.

I also like the phonetic spelling of French words, like şoför or aksesuar. Even German gets a look-in with otoban.

Of course, there are some completely new things. Turkish word formation applies something called 'vowel harmony', and I'd never come across that before. It's not all that complicated (the vowels in suffixes are basically adapted to the last vowel in the verb stem/noun/whatever) and does actually make words easier to pronounce.

Jun. 12th, 2013

Emily just made my day. She told us about a mathematical game of tag they played in school. Everyone except for the tagger got a number and the teacher drew smaller numbers from a bag. If your number was divisible by that one, the tagger got to chase you. Em drew hers (73) and immediately said 'mine is prime'. The teacher said, 'do you want to draw another' and Em smiled and said 'no, I'll just sit here and watch the others rund around'.

Apr. 11th, 2013

Just filled in my organ donor card to keep in my wallet. Felt a tiny bit weird, but now I'm quite pleased with myself.

Apr. 1st, 2013

Been more adventurous with my Easter baking this year. I'd wanted to make hot cross buns, which I love, but I'd seen this donut recipe in the Guardian that had really tickled my fancy. I started the dough off the day before yesterday, then put it in the fridge overnight and finally fried them yesterday evening. Out of this world. They weren't meant to have jam in them, and they really didn't need it. I just rolled them in sugar.

Boy, was Adam a happy bunny. He's been missing donuts. They do make them here, but they either have a thin glaze of water icing (icing sugar + water) or confectioner's sugar on them, and he misses the crunch of the sugar crystals.

If you are wondering why I'm classing this as adventurous, I don't like deep fat frying. It makes me nervous. Hot oil in large amounts is scary.

Oh, and Adam and me won the Easter egg hunt this year. The kids win if they find all the eggs without help, and we win if they need pointing out where the last eggs are. Mwa-ha-ha.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Mar. 21st, 2013

Yesterday afternoon, Emily was bored and made some jelly/jello/Wackelpudding. Cherry and woodruff flavour. For some reason or other, she and Nathan decided to ladle it into my silicone muffin molds. Possibly because they wanted to turn the jellies out.

Anyhow, that did not work.

Next thing I know, we are having a 'who can slurp their jelly out of the mold the loudest' competition. At one point, Emily was laughing so hard, she nearly snorted some green jelly out of her nose, the idea of which made her laugh even harder.

I love my family.

Mar. 20th, 2013

One of the worst things about regularly being ill for two, three or even four weeks at a time is getting restarted with my daily life. There's always stuff to do piled up, no matter how much Adam and the kids take over the daily running of the household, and it can feel a bit overwhelming.

The other thing that tends to happen that I totally overdo it because I can finally get off my butt and sort out all the things that have been looking at me accusingly all this time. I think today is one of those days and I need to be careful.

Still, I've scrubbed my kitchen, cleaned my kitchen window and repaired the cracks in the guttering by use of some duct tape, a cartridge of repair silicone and a ball-jointed bathroom-wall cleaner with a telescopic handle.

Proper bodging, that was, but it works surprisingly well. You spread the silicone on the sticky side of a strip of duct tape, lie it on the pad of the cleaner and apply carefully. Hold your breath that you got it on the right spot, and there you are!
It probably could have waited a bit longer, but on wet days that guttering wasn't just dripping, the water was pouring out of there making an astonishing amount of mess on the balcony. Plus, the constant drippy-splatty noise was driving me crazy.

So, result, but I'd better have a break and some lunch now.

Stuff

Eep-moment of the day: Nathan has just left to go to an open day at the local university. My baby boy.

Snow is still being a pain. When Adam went for his walk this morning it turned into something very snowstormlike. He says he was covered in snow from head to toe. His trousers are still on the radiator, and he had to pick icy chunks off the bottom edge of his coat. *is impressed*

It's all melting now. Again. It's six or seven degrees out there. So tired of this up and down with the weather.

The weekend was pretty good. I managed to drag myself out of the house and drive us to the Weserpark (big out of town mall). I didn't actually enjoy the going to the mall part. If the fact that the downstairs toilets are closed and the realization that you are going to have to climb 38 (yes, I counted, on the way up and on the way down) steps to get to a functioning loo is that upsetting, you probably aren't well enough to be out and about yet. But I so did not want to spend another weekend on the sofa. Luckily, things picked up a little after the mall. We went bed shopping (the double in our spare bedroom is just dead, so we are replacing it with two singles) and to the supermarket.

The supermarket trip actually really pleased me, as it turned out that they've started stocking fresh Irish lamb - absolutely delicious. Good lamb is so hard to find over here. And good beef. Topside as a cut just does not exist.

Anyhoo, the house was full this weekend. The kids both had a friend stay over, and I kinda like that their mates like coming here. Shaun (Em's friend) says that he likes eating with us because I cook the same things as his mum but they taste different and that's interesting. I think that's quite an unusual attitude for an eight-year-old.

On Saturday I made carnitas and home-made flour tortillas. I actually use the recipe for Mandarin/Peking duck pancakes and just make them bigger. Works beautifully, plus you cook two at a time like that.

Goodness, I'm waffly today.

Jan. 1st, 2013

Happy new year, everyone!

Oct. 22nd, 2012

Nathan is now 1.7m/5'7" tall.
I told him he'd hit this height before the end of this year, and he wouldn't believe me.

Happy Birthday, Bonnie!

Lang may your lum reek!

I'll try and ring you on the weekend.

Mango Chutney

My local supermarket had mangoes on special offer. 99 euro cents each, the size of canon balls (and as hard).

Obviously, this only means one thing - mango chutney. Tons of it. The recipe I use is a combination I came up with by adapting the one in the Indian cookbook by Shezad Husain and Rafi Fernandez so it tasted a lot more like my favourite commercial brand Geeta's.

Per large unripe mango (net weight of 450g sans peel and seed):
60 ml of malt vinegar
1/2 tsp of chili powder (I use Korean)
6 cloves
6 peppercorns
1 tsp roasted cumin seeds
1/2 tsp onion seeds
2 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp fenugreek seed
2 cloves of garlic, in slivers
12 g of salt (I know, it's a lot, but this is a condiment, not something to be eaten by the bowlful)
175g of sugar

Thinly peel the mango, slice as much flesh as you can off the stone and cut it into small cubes (side length in the region of 5 or 6 mm). While you are doing this, heat up the vinegar with all the other ingredients except the garlic. Simmer to infuse (about 15 minutes, or until you've finished chopping). Add the mango and garlic. Simmer until the mango is mushy and most of the vinegar has evaporated (or check the set like for jam). Store in sterilised jars.

Tastes best after having stood for three or four days. Really nice on cheese sandwiches and FANTASTIC with tostones. I mean, eat-way-too-much-and-beat-people's-hand-out-of-the-way fantastic.

My life in slapstick

So there I was, halfway up the stairs just having finished hoovering the nooks and crannies around the edges of the steps with the nozzle on the end of the hose. Of course, that made the rest of the steps look only dustier, so I dropped the nozzle to fetch the head/tube assembly.

I took on step, and the nozzle got caught in the turn-ups on my trousers. I shook it loose, took another step, and it got caught in the other turn-up. I was just about to get grumpy when I realised that a) my trousers don't have turn-ups, and b) the hoover was on and sucking onto my trouser legs.

Happy Birthday, Timmeh!

Are ya married yet?

Em

Have I mentioned that Emily has a boyfriend? His name is Eric, and she met him at summer camp. She's on the phone to him right now to let him know that we are back from France. He's adorable, and according to Em 'a real gentleman'.

*dies of the cute*

Aug. 19th, 2012

It's hot here. Lovely. We've already spend a day by the lake (L'Etang de Vioreau), and it was marvelous. Tomorrow we are off to the Puy du Fou, which is a historical theme park we've been to before when Em was ickle. Like, three months old. The place is awesome.
Otherwise, there's a lot of lounging around Jen and Tony's pool. They've got this wonderful outside seating area they made by taking two of the side walls off their barn and putting decking on the floor. In summer they practically live there. Jen's got a cooker, a fridge, a sink, a bar, a bbq and tons of other stuff set up.
Sometime this week I want to drive down to Concarneau and Carnac and see the menhirs. Maybe we'll stay a couple of nights.

Aug. 15th, 2012

Made it to France no problem. Even drove through Paris without a hitch. This time of year it really is a ghost town.
Weather is so so - very windy atm and not too hot.

That is all. My bed beckons.

*sizzle*

Lawks-a-lordy, we just spent 2.5 hours waiting outdoors in the screaming heat. Em's bus was so late. Motorway was blocked, so they had to make their way through villages. At one point Nathan and I went to the supermarket and got some water because we were all starting to feel funny. Plus, the supermarket had air con.

I think Adam got sunburnt. He had to go back for more water and something to eat. He'd only had two buns all day.

I've had a cold shower, and I sizzled.

Jul. 27th, 2012

Em's already got her first week in summer camp behind her. She send us a letter, and apparently she is very happy and already has made three friends.

Phew.

Of course, she wrote that letter on Monday, so a lot could have happened in the meantime.

Oh, the series of concerts she was part of? They won a 5000 euro annual prize (set by the Senator for Art, I think). I was impressed.

I'm so glad the weather has finally cheered up a bit. I don't know how much more of these monsoon-like downpours I could have taken. Nathan got so wet last Thursday he had to wring out his underwear. I drove his mate Mirko home because his bus ticket had turned to papier mache in his trouser pockets.

So I'm 47 now, and officially galloping toward 50. Gulp. Still don't feel any different.

Stuff and nonsense.

• Been going through all my cupboards, rearranging and tidying up. Moved all my vinyl from an upstairs drawer to the living room. Emily, interested as ever, poked her little nose in and then politely asked me if she might have a look at a record since she’d never seen one. *makes nasal whimpery noise*

• Nathan did the same thing to me when I told him about Emily, that is, made me show him a record and make me whimper.

• I found the postcard that came with my copy of Wish you were here. I used to have it pinned to the wall next to my bed. I think it’s ‘Let’s make Bettina feel older’ week.

• Em will be off to summer camp in a week’s time. It’s paid for by the city and intended to improve her German. Apparently, they’ve found that a three-week stay does you as much good as a year’s worth of extra lessons. They’ll be doing theatre and languages in the morning and fun stuff in the afternoon.

• Made my first batch of mango chutney yesterday – turned out lovely. I was trying to copy the flavouring of my favourite commercial brand, and it went pretty well. I made about two pounds of it. Should last me a month or two :p.

• Don’t know if I have mentioned it yet, but I got a Weber kettle bbq as an early b-day present. I have already made pulled pork that was pretty durn good (the pork I had was a dream – Bentheimer, a rare breed, juicy as anything) and today I made char siu pork. I had hoped for leftovers so I could make char siu buns, but that was a bit unrealistic. I seem to be spending most of my pocket money on gadgets to go with it at the moment. I’ve already bought a wireless digital food/bbq thermometer that does wonders for controlling the heat and cooking time. Very soon I shall be making ribs. Mwa-hah hah.

• Em is changing schools. She’s just not happy where she is, so I arranged for her transfer to our local primary. I really hope things work out better for her there.

Congratulations Stewart and Tony!

All the best for your married life.

May you be as happy with each other as my parents who made it to the 60 mark yesterday. We put a note in the local newspaper, and one of their neighbours put a card through their door. For a golden wedding anniversary. My parents chuckled, went shopping, and when they came back, there was another card saying 'Here's congratulations for another ten years from your neighbours who can't read.'

Jun. 1st, 2012

Quoth Emily '... I should NOT have put a frozen pea in my belly button!'

Much squiggling ensued.

Nathan has finished his placement at the bakers and is very glad to be able to sleep in to the sinful time of 6.30 every morning. He said he would actually miss the work though. Very satisfying, seeing bread, rolls and cake you have made leave the door.

He even made some strawberry cake for Emily's birthday. His boss let him have it for free, which I thought was really nice. He also brought home some pain au chocolat and some extra-large jammy dodgers with jam hearts (for mother's day and for Em's birthday). I am so proud of him.

So yeah, it's been birthday week over here. Nathan is now fourteen and Em is nine - double digits next year. Em has already had her party (sleepover - never again), Nathan is due tomorrow (26th). He's having a LAN-party with three of his friends. They are all really good kids, to the point that we let Nathie have two of them over when we were away for my friend Linda's birthday/housewarming/separation from her douche husband. When we came home the place was hoovered, the dishwasher was on, and Nathan was fast asleep. That's all a mother could ask for.

Days later: I should really finish and post these entries instead of letting them hang around in Semagic for days...

May. 4th, 2012

Supernatural has been renewed.

The Avengers movie was awesome. I squeed. Then I laughed. Then I squeed again. And I still had a big grin on my face the next day.

briddi wins in the fangirl stakes, though - she's already been to see it twice.

I went on a small but perfectly formed interweb odyssey today. Reading today's Lost in Showbiz (and laughing so loudly that Adam came downstairs to see what was going on) led me to this interview on the Onion AVclub website and via Bronson Pinchot's IMDB page to this movie.

Yes, it's called Kung-fu and Titties.

Yes, its tagline is There Will Be Boobs.

Yes, the trailer is hilarious. And awful. Klick on it. You know you want to.

Apr. 21st, 2012

We've given up and bought a new car. The Multipla has gone to the scrapyard.

Our new car is a five-seater VW Touran with all the mod cons. So many toys for Adam to play with...

Of course, I'm having to relearn how to drive sitting on the wrong side of the car changing gears with the wrong hand. The worst part is actually my road positioning. I've driven sat on the outside edge for so long now that being in the middle again is kinda unnerving.

In other news, Nathie is going to be doing his work experience at a baker's. Two weeks of getting up at three. This should be interesting. I've bought him a new alarm clock already.

Also, is it true that Timmeh is getting married? Will there be bite-size pikelets soon?

I've bought myself a new handbag. Add that to the varifocals I've just had, and the conclusion is that I'm getting old. -er.

Last night I dreamt I wanted to drive to Sainsbury's and couldn't figure out why I hadn't in such a long time. Make of that what you will.

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