Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Funny Foto Freitag - special Star Wars edition

Wow! I didn't realize that purse losing & tracking, school, and cooking for 20 little cuties would take so much time from my blogging but I wouldn't forget Funny Foto Freitag!

This picture is horrible but I didn't have much time to snap it. This is a picture of me taking a pictures of a Jedi getting her picture taken in front of the Brandenburger Tor at the Berlin Light Festival. This was taken around 15.Oct so we can't even blame Halloween!

More pictures from the Berlin Light Festival to come soon.

May the Force be with you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

How to Lose and Recover your Purse in 24 hours

After having a most wonderful weekend with my family and friends, I definitely had some drama and it is all the fault of a weird German show.

See here...I don't get as much sleep now that I have a Baby Bird. So, usually deciding when to sleep is not difficult for me. I turn back into Cinderella at the stroke of 22:00 joining the Murder She Wrote crowd.

On Saturday night the most bizarre German show came on and honestly I wish I could tell you what it was about because it would make a very hilarious post but I couldn't figure out what was going on. Frustrated that I couldn't understand it, I stayed up way late (ok - not late to cool people but late for me) to try to see if I could eventually understand the German.

I never did and was very tired on Sunday. On Sunday evening I joined a bunch of lovely Moms for a Halloween party and walked home.

Somewhere between walking home and the train station, my purse flat out disappeared. I was holding Baby Bird's diaper bag, pushing a stroller and holding my purse among other things.

As soon as I got to the U-Bahn station, I realized it was gone. I ran back the way I came to look for it and called the Scientist to come collect Baby Bird.

I searched for a long time and asked at any open business but I knew it was gone. I went home defeated hoping a good Samaritan found it but knowing that the words of one business owner that "a lot of junkies are around here" was probably more true.

Around 11:30 pm, our doorbell rang. 2 Polizei came upstairs and told me my purse had been found!!!!! Yea...except that its current location was near the Schönefeld airport. (What?!?!?) For those of you who don't know Berlin Geography, I live in the Northwest. Schönefeld is in the Southeast. We don't have a car and it is about an hour train ride. EGADS!!!! Here is a map so you can get an example. I live in Charlottenburg near where it says Tegal. See Schönefeld? It is OFF THE MAP folks!


Evidently a good Samaritan HAD found it but was running late to catch a plane and dropped it off with the Polizei there.

So, I trekked to Schönefeld this morning. I did find out there is a Regionale Train to Schönefeld that leaves from the Zoo stop.

Regionale Train = Ganz Schnell!!! (fast) It cut the time in half to 30 min.

The zoo stop is just a few stops away. Since my monthly train ticket was in my missing purse I had to buy a ticket to go just a few stops. I paused at the machine and thought "well-I do OWN a pass and rarely get controlled here (the trains are mostly on the honor system here), maybe I shouldn't buy a ticket. Luckily that thought passed since I was controlled!!!

I finally arrived and walked in the pouring cold rain uphill both ways to the Police Station where I encountered some snarky polizei officers who thought I was a bit..umm...daft.

Polizei #1: This your purse?
Me: Yes! I am so lucky!
Polizei #2 - Yes you are...(insert snarky laugh here)

After collecting my belongings and realizing shockingly, that my belongings were all there, including money and train ticket, I went back to the train station.

To make a long story short, the train, that I basically guessed was correct, was leaving at 10:55 but was still there at 10:56 so I hopped on as soon as I could crossing my fingers that it was the right train (I was still crossing my fingers at the 1st stop it made hoping it was towards Berlin and not away). The next one left one hour later! I ran over there and someone saw me and opened the door. PHEWWWWW....

At that point, I was controlled again. However, the Controller said my "extension" ticket was only valid for 2 hours and I would be getting back too late for it to be valid. Holding my breath, I asked what I could do. She just asked for 1.40 Euro. Hmm...maybe the regionale trains are different? I was expecting a 40 Euro ticket.

Morale of the Story?
  1. For every negative thing that has happened (which really are not many), there will always be my mysterious kind stranger who helped this very busy, stressed out, tired foreigner Mom by doing a random act of kindness. I will try to keep this in the back of my mind next time I feel like telling someone off in my half German/English grammatically incorrect language which they probably don't even understand.
  2. Guys in uniform always look good no matter what country you are in. :)
I honestly do not know what would have happened in the US since I have never lost my purse (except left in a restaurant once) but I would guess the police probably wouldn't get involved as much as they did here. Americans tend to take a more "Do it yourself" approach and would have tried to track down the owner themselves. I am not saying either one is better. Obviously, however you get your purse back, is all good with me!

Thank you again, random stranger...I don't even mind the train ride!

Have you lost your purse or something important? Did you get it back? I am actually pretty curious if anyone else has had similiar stories although as readers of my blog, you are probably all smarter than the average bear. :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Unplug Your Kids - Thin

For this week's project, (remember I strongly dislike adjectives) we decided to make a Fall collage and card. I looked at all of the lovely crafts we have made and realized that Baby Bird's Grandparents' refrigerator has none! We are hogging them all! So this card and collage will get sent to the Grandparents. (If you are reading this Grandparents - pretend to be surprised!)

First, I found these little paper cut-outs with different shapes at the 1 Euro store.
So I folded the thin card in half and let Baby Bird decorate. We used the big "star roller" to roll a corner so that stars were imprinted in the paper.

Then Baby Bird picked different shapes to cut out. The paper AND the cutout shapes were all THIN!


Finally he colored on the card. He informed me he was making "train tracks."
It was nearing bedtime so Baby Bird took a bath and then Jammy-time!

We tried to help teach Baby Bird how to use the kid-friendly scissors to cut out leaves in red, yellow or orange but I think he will need to be a little older to have his coordination down.
Then we pasted them on the brown construction paper (which is also thin).


He also insisted on cutting out more shapes on the collage with the new paper cut-outs.

Finally, his masterpiece was done! The leaves don't all exactly look like leaves but we gave him a lot of creative expression.

We were going to also paste real leaves on it but decided that leaves don't ship well in the mail to another continent.

I had also thought about doing something with Baby Bird's obsession Thomas the Tank Engine because there is a character called the Fat Controller or Sir Topham Hatt. I thought this would be a good way to introduce the concept.

But then realized that the last thing I need right now is little American boy telling people they are like the Fat Controller!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Funny Foto Freitag

I call this "Inanimate Objects that take Lunch Breaks"

What do they need to do between 13 and 15 Uhr???????
(Explanation below if you can't read German)

Germans are big on recycling. On every other street corner are these big domes colored white, green and brown so one can recycle different colored glass. This signs reads:

No porcelain, stoneware or Ceramic.
Only recycle glass between the hours of 7am - 1pm and 3pm - 8pm.
On Sundays and Holidays, recycling is forbidden!

Here are the domes all together across the street from us if you have not seen them before:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ErnteFest or Harvest Fest and a strange Wurst

One of the wonderful things about living in Berlin (or I guess you could say any big city) is the availability of things to do. We found out about this delightful Harvest Fest and decided to see what a German Harvest Fest or ErnteFest entailed. This fest actually took place in Berlin city limits if you can believe it!

We were there right as it began and had a lovely time walking around the fields looking at the different vegetables. The fall colors are so beautiful at this time of year.

While walking through the vegetables, we came upon many animals. We saw sheep, cows, horses. I would show you pictures but German animals really don't look that much different than animals you would see in the US. :) Well, this one looked kind of different. I love the udders!
While walking back to the fest, we came upon some chickens that you can feed. Baby Bird made us feed chickens for like almost 30 min!
After all of that walking, we got hungry. The Scientist decided he wanted sausage. We came upon this stand. German speakers will know what this stand sells.
Yes, the Scientist ate a horse sausage! While not opposed necessarily to different cultures eating horse (as long as it is done in a humane way), I sure couldn't fathom eating it so any questions will be directed to the Scientist.

We sat down and ate and were treated to a show by Feuer Kopf Guy. He also had 2 pre-teens with him who were juggling.
While we were watching and Feuer Kopf Guy show ended, the Deutsch Oompah Musik began!
While listening to this made us thirsty so we treated ourselves to Bio Federweisser or Young Wine. For some reason, German music always makes me want to drink alcohol....

We finished eating and walked around looking at the wares. It was getting pretty packed!
Baby Bird had to have the obligatory "sitting on tractor" and "sitting on horse" pose.

We walked around some more and came upon a Merry-Go-Round. Baby Bird insisted on sitting on the elephant. The attendant there thought we were pretty hilarious because when we asked him how much to ride on the Merry-Go-Round, he laughed like a hyena. (I said gehen instead of fahren)
Gehen - by foot
Fahren - by anything else

The vegetable displays were absolutely stunning.
Then we met this nice Deutsch mädchen as we were leaving!
It was hard to believe, but it didn't rain the whole day!

A lovely day on the farm!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Erkältung or HELP I've got a cold!

It is that time of year again folks! Time for colds to strike unsuspecting children who get sick somehow.

Could it be that they like to run their hands along dirty grimy subway walls? Could the culprit be the dirt they ingest on a fairly regular basis? Or maybe just playing in the sand with jam still on your hands?

Regardless, we needed more tissues. So I went to the store and bought some. Relief...

Ah-choo...

Ah-choo...

more sneezing...??

What is going on?


Have you ever blown your nose with something that smells like the Baby Powder Fairy went overboard on a pine tree and then chopped down the pine tree, ground it up and made tissues out of it???

Expat Morale of the Day: Don't buy ANYTHING (especially things that go near your nose) that says Balsam on it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Halloween Party No-No's

Reason # 409 that I am glad I am not in the US around Halloween!

Thanks to Balloon Juice for finding this from cartoonist Arthur J Pollack.

Muppet Speeding

This thread on Toytown, the English speakers forum for living in Germany, is seriously hilarious. I will let it speak for itself but it involves the below picture (which is real!) Check it out!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Plea for...recipes?

Baby Bird is starting his 4th week in kindergarten (Germany) or preschool (USA) now. Things are going wonderful! He is starting to make friends, he brings home crafts, and even is speaking a little German. He told the Scientist and I "Nein!" last night. (oh great-now he knows how to say no in 2 languages!)

The teachers and other parents are wonderful and supportive. They bring me information on swimming nearby, dancing classes, and even restaurant recommendations. Everyone lives in the neighborhood so I even frequently am starting to bump into them around town! (Although I keep wondering when the "funny foreigner who always makes mistakes" routine is going to wear out for them!)

I also really like it because it is an Parent Initiative Led Kindergarten which is great because we do lots of activities together and there are parent meetings every 6-8 weeks. In fact, in a couple of weeks, there is a lantern festival for St Martin's Day where parents and children walk around in the dark and sing with lanterns. (I don't know any other details yet so don't ask yet)

However, this also means that we cook for the children. The parents take turns cooking lunch. Some parents go there and cook and others cook at home and the school heats it up. (They have a full kitchen there) Since I have school, I won't be able to make it but I thought maybe someone out there has a suggestion of what to make for 20- 2-5 year olds and 4 teachers!!!!

I am not scared of cooking. I LOVE cooking and am often trying out new recipes and ingredients. However, cooking in such big quantities AND for picky children is leaving me a little breathless to say the least!

Anyone out there got ideas? Bueller? Bueller?

Honey Weetabix Muffins

Here is a (very) slightly modified recipe of Weetabix Honey muffins with Cooking in Germany notes!

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour (I use type 405) (170 g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice (called piment in Germany)
5 Weetabix , biscuits,crushed
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed (found in Asian grocery stores in Germany) (65 g)
1 cup plain yogurt (I use 1.5% fat but any kind works)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter , melted (or 57g)
4 tablespoons honey
brown sugar , for topping

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees or 180-200C. I have a convection oven and I use the pastry fan setting.
  2. Grease muffin cups or use paper baking cups.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and allspice. Stir in the Weetabix and sugar.
  4. Mix the yogurt and milk together in separate bowl and beat in the egg, melted butter, and honey.
  5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. (do not overmix!)
  6. Scoop batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle a little more brown sugar on top of the batter.
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes in conventional oven. Convection ovens only take about 5-10 min. (My oven took 7 min) Wait until the muffins have risen and are lightly golden brown.

Unplug Your Kids - Wax

I am going to call on all of the expat sympathy I can muster this week because I was stretching the theme a littlee tooooo much. But here it goes.

Germany does not have wax paper according to this website. (If you are an expat, this site is great for German cooking substitutions) They use parchment paper (which is great) but not for the project I had in mind. After figuring that out, I went to look for wax. Thanks to this blog, I found a craft store chain near me called Idee but still couldn't find any wax. Instead, we are going to do a theme around beeswax!

We found these great markers that write on windows but wash right off.

So I drew bees, a beehive and a honeycomb. I explained to Baby Bird that bees make honey from flowers. The honey comes from the bees home called a hive. (bear with me...here comes the theme) Honey is stored in bees honeycombs made of beesWAX! Yea! After I described this, I told Baby Bird to draw a bee. He wanted to draw a flower instead so that is what the blue circles are.

Then he wanted to continue drawing on the window. Since our first window was full, we moved on to the next one!
Here he is explaiing the picture. The pink circles are flowers. The blue lines are also flowers apparantly.

He also added yellow "bees."
After we finished with the windows, it was time to make some Honey Weetabix muffins!

I gave Baby Bird the destructive job - crushing the Weetabix - perfect job for a 2 year old! He took this very seriously and had a lot of fun.
Then we mixed flour, baking soda, salt and allspice. He was a great helper!
Then we added the crushed weetabix to the "dry ingredients."
We then made the "wet" bowl with yogurt, milk and honey.
Then we mixed them together! Not too much though! Keep it lumpy!
Time to put them in the muffin tin!

As a final touch of love, we sprinkled a tiny bit of brown sugar on top.

Into the oven (don't worry-Mom did this and Baby Bird knows oven is "hot.") It was naptime so I finished cooking them.

When he woke up, it was time for the "King" to enjoy. The Leaf Crown below is an idea that his preschool/kita did. I had to recreate it because he insisted but I can't take credit for the idea. :)
This was a very fun project even though it can hardly qualify as following the theme. The thing that amazed me the most was Baby Bird's coordination. We have cooked many times before and I am so surprised at how adept he is getting at handling the equipment. He hardly spilled at all when he poured ingredients into the bowl. He is growing up so quickly! Before I know it, he will be sleeping in instead of helping his poor old Momma make muffins!

If you would like this recipe, click here. This is a slightly modified recipe from the side of a Weetabix box a long time ago.

Weetabix
(USA site) can be found in the organic sections of most grocery stores in the US.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Funny Foto Freitag

Today's special edition of Funny Foto Frietag is devoted to my FIL. We will call him "K" in case he wants to remain anonymous. He made bacon vodka and was kind enough to send us the pictures! He will be reading the comments so ask away if you have any questions! mmm...looks delicious...maybe for breakfast?

Bacon Vodka

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tip of the Day

I had a bit of surprise visitor this week. A friend from long ago has decided to come to Berlin and stay with us! (she is brave staying with someone with a 2 year old!)

My friend D is probably the most well traveled person I know. She works just to take months off and see the world. She helped with rescue recoveries in the tsunami disaster on the island of Koh Phi Phi in May 2005 and since then has been traveling around on and off around Asia, Africa, South American and of course, Europe. She also occasionally writes for MSN travel and if you want to check it out here.

So when she has living as an expat advice-I listen!

Here is the 1st American Expat Tip of the Day.

The next time someone tells you the the figure that only 10% of Americans have passports, (instead of dissing us unless it is one of those days and then feel free to diss away) point out that the distance from Seattle or LA to New York City is GREATER than the distance between London and Moscow!

Also, when was the last time you needed a passport to open a bank account in the good ole USA? hmm...Never? Well, Europeans need their passports to open bank accounts. They don't use the drivers licenses as frequently.

UPDATE: I stand corrected. Evidently, the "being a foreigner," no matter what country you are in, is the real reason why one shows a passport to open a bank account. Let me also clarify that this information came from other sources and not my friend.

Regardless, this means that I won't be posting much this week but I do have a special Funny Foto Freitag coming up!

How do you deal with conversations like these?

Note: while I agree that Americans need to travel more, I believe that pure geography has a little to do with it! Americans have beaches, mountains, deserts etc....you don't need to leave your country to see different landscapes!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

1 + 1 = ?

Math skills in the US suffer from stereotypes even among those who are talented enough according to a study by the University of Wisconsin. This study was different from others as it tested ability and not just SAT scores.

I would like to add my 2 bits coming from personal experiences. I was not surprised by the outcome at all and was very distressed at the conclusions that it drew especially concerning women in math. Too many people, and especially teenage girls, believe that math is some kind of inherited genetic trait. As though researchers will someday identify a "calculus" gene and those that have it get the A's in class.

The study suggests that while many girls have exceptional talent in math — the talent to become top math researchers, scientists and engineers — they are rarely identified in the United States.


If this is so, how can it be explained that a country like highly ranked Bulgaria (highly ranked in the prestigious math competition International Olympiad) has sent twice the number of female participants to the top math competition in the world as the US? This isn't to say that math may come easier to some than others but EVERYONE, even the smarties, need to practice!
By comparison, relatively small Bulgaria has sent 21 girls to the competition since 1959 (six since 1988), according to the study, and since 1974 the highly ranked Bulgarian, East German/German and Soviet Union/Russian IMO teams have included 9, 10 and 13 girls respectively. “What most of these countries have in common,” the study says, “are rigorous national mathematics curricula along with cultures and educational systems that value, encourage and support students who excel in mathematics.”
You can find the actual study here in .pdf.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Funny Foto Freitag

Now that my camera is back - more Funny Foto Freitag! As seen in a restaurant around the corner from my house. Well, they say if you don't speak German, it is no problem. But what language do they speak then???

I like it when my chicken courts rice...