Friday, November 30, 2007

WHEW

Can you believe November is over?

Writing every day wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. But don't bet the farm that you'll see a post from me tomorrow.

Thanks for reading.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Wide Open Spaces : Dixie Chicks

Books - November 2007

The Girls by Lori Lansens
A memoir-style novel about a pair of conjoined twins. Proves that an interesting premise doesn't always mean the story will be any good.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
My friends who read this romantic yarn about a Confederate deserter's journey back home didn't like it, but they read it when it was at the height of its hype. My advice: wait to read books when they've gone out of fashion and you have no expectations. I loved Frazier's writing, and the story is a good one.

Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman
My reading pleasure was enhanced by being almost exactly the same age and from the same kind of town as the author of this book. Also, it helped that I still listen to Def Leppard.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Theo Thursday the Fourth

Theo and his dad went out to get some Chinese food for our dinner, so I'm writing in blissful quiet. Our little pterodactyl has recommenced his dinosaur screech during the past few weeks and, frankly, it's giving me a headache.

Also giving me a headache is the aftermath of my visit to the dentist this afternoon. The hygienist cleaned my teeth for an entire hour and I hate to tell you this but it was sort of gory. Do beer and bratwurst cause plaque to multiply exponentially or is it just another example of German thoroughness? I think I might even start flossing just to avoid the bloodbath next time. (Wait, isn't that almost exactly what I said last time?)

Speaking of (no, not bloodbaths) dental hygiene, I bought a weird little baby toothbrush for Theo earlier this week. It has about twelve rubber bristles and I guess I'm supposed to rub it across his little teeth after he eats. So far I can't even get the package open. That, combined with my bad example, does not bode well for his future dental health.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Uncle Scott and Auntie Kerri's Christmas Mix

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Five for Fighting

I've been tagged for a meme! Which is a good thing because otherwise you would be reading a post about the weather or what I ate for dinner or something, and nobody wants that.

1. Post five links to five of your previously written posts, relating each to the key words family, friends, yourself, your love and anything you like.
2. Tag five other friends to do this meme. Try to tag at least two new acquaintances (if not, your current blog buddies will do) so that you get to know them each a little bit better.
3. Don’t forget to read the archived post and leave comments.

Family: Sibling Rivalry

Friends: This one is rated R
It's not really ABOUT my friends, but it was from my friend Daniela and it will give you a laugh.

Jeff: Jeff as Wayne Gretzky

Myself: Tricky Questions

Anything I Like: When country wasn't cool
I hate to say I told her so.

I'm not going to tag anyone because I'm trying to work on being less of a rule-follower. This is a rebellious act. I dare the blog police to come and find me.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: X&Y : Coldplay

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Livin' On A Prayer

Dear Chuck Klosterman,

I tried to find your email address so I could send this letter directly to you, but I'm going to post it here instead. I imagine you've tracked down all the thirty-something bloggers from small towns like yours and that I'll receive a comment from you soon (fingers crossed).

I'm 2/3 through your first book, Fargo Rock City. This is problematic because my master's degree thesis is due in just two weeks, but I can't seem to stop reading your social commentary about small town America in the 1980's as it relates to heavy metal bands. While my thesis topic does relate to small town America, it does not include an analysis of power ballads, so reading your book doesn't really count as research.

You seem like a cool guy who might do me a favor. Well, actually you seem cool now because you have published four books and write for Esquire. You probably were one of the kids in school who initially scared me with his long mullet and Iron Maiden t-shirt (DEVIL MUSIC said my Young Life leaders). But eventually I sat next to you in World History and realized you were hilarious, even though I was surprised you spoke to me in the first place considering how much Duran Duran and George Michael I listened to at that point. So yeah, you're a nice guy. Could you call my thesis advisor and let him know my thesis will be late? And that it's your fault?

Because I guess living in a small town meant that I absorbed waaaay more metal music than I intended to. It was probably some kind of backward incantation by Nikki Sixx that caused me to memorize all the lyrics to "Lick It Up" and "Crazy Train." Or maybe I accidentally watched a few episodes of Headbangers' Ball.

Anyway, thanks for writing such a kickass book. I really appreciate your ironic use of umlauts in the subtitle, especially now that I live in Germany and know what an umlaut is supposed to do. And I'm blaming you if I never get my master's degree.

Sincerely,
Blythe

PS
This is still killing me (P. 21):
"Listening to Clapton is like getting a sensual massage from a woman you've loved for the past ten years; listening to Van Halen is like having the best sex of your life with three foxy nursing students you met at a Tastee Freez." Yeah, we used to have a Tastee Freez in my town too.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Cross Roads : Bon Jovi

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Glamorous Life

We've already had one of those evenings where we wondered when Alan Funt was going to emerge from the bathroom closet.

Jeff arrived home at 6:30pm and by 6:45 all three of us were covered in the remnants of a dirty diaper, bath water, and salty tears. It wasn't anything particularly horrible, just a bad blowout and a baby who was tired and naked and cold and decided he was terrified of the bathtub faucet and therefore must wail and weep and pee all over his parents. Dinner was sizzling in a pan on the stove and the dryer was beeping too. There really wasn't much to do except laugh and mop up the various puddles.

Now, an hour later, our bellies are full (homemade hummus and grilled lamb pitas, yum), the baby is asleep, we've had a wardrobe change, and peace has been restored.

I think I might be in bed by 8:30.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: The Best That I Could Do : John Mellencamp

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Announcement

We are not decorating for Christmas this year. We left the decorations, including the wonderful handmade wooden nativity set we bought last year on Christmas Eve, in the attic. Instead, I plan to bury all three of us in baked goods in honor of the Christmas season. I will post photos of my treats next month if we don't eat everything immediately.

OK, I couldn't resist buying a poinsettia at the grocery store on Friday. But it will probably be buried in the baked goods eventually too.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Skin

Jeff took Thanksgiving off work. After my book group lunch when our new Thursday afternoon babysitter arrived, the two of us headed out for an afternoon of relaxation at a new nearby indoor water park. We decided to splash (ha!) out for access to the SaunaLand in addition to the water slides and current pool and jet pools that we'd tried before with Theo in tow.

This explains how I found myself on Thanksgiving day wrapped in a towel, eating a soft pretzel, sitting in a bar with a two-story view of naked Germans walking around in the freezing weather between outdoor sauna buildings. The facility is beautiful and houses a bunch of small indoor sauna rooms including one in which aroma is pumped on a changing hourly schedule, plus a series of sauna huts in an adjoining yard. After an hour riding the waterslides (strobe lights! inntertubes!), floating in the whirlpools, and paddling around in the steamy outdoor pool, we both could have used a half hour of pineapple-flavored warmth. Instead, we sat around on the benches outside the sauna rooms with our towels cinched tightly around us, soaking our feet in little basins and trying not to make eye contact with anyone, especially each other, as people dropped their robes and strolled around the room. Finally we realized we would never get over our ingrained American giggle reflex and we'd better get out of there. So we went upstairs, ordered pretzels, and realized when we looked out the window that we could not escape the skin display.

I have no problem with public nudity in theory, in fact the whole experience led me to realize how much more realistic American body image would be if we were used to seeing regular people's naked bodies more often. We grow up seeing movie stars and models and other teenagers in gym class naked, but I can tell you with great certainty that those bodies bear no resemblance to the average fifty-year-old. And I admire the idea that the human body is just normal and everybody has one and blah blah blah.

However, there was no way anyone was going to talk me into peeling off my bathing suit and entering a sauna room with three old, nude strangers. It didn't matter how nice it smelled in there.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Slave4U : Britney Spears

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ladies' Day

My international women's book group shares a Thanksgiving meal each year. It's such a nice way to mark the day that isn't a holiday around here. We ate turkey and mashed potatoes made by Americans, veggies by a Romanian and a Filipina, soup by a Colombian, sweet potatoes and stuffing by Germans, and trifle by an Englishwoman for dessert.
(see photos of the lovely ladies below)



THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: 80's Hits Stripped : Various Artists

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Theo Thanksgiving Thursday

Lately, when I sneak in to check on Theo before I turn in for the night, I've noticed that he is usually lying at the same end of the crib where Jeff put him down to sleep. It signifies for me that he's growing up a little. When he first learned to roll over and then to scoot around, I would find him at the far end from where he started, sometimes with his little feet in their footed pajamas sticking through the bars of the crib because he had wiggled sideways. Then, by morning, he would have wedged his head into different corner completely and tossed his binky on the floor. I wondered how he would ever learn to sleep with blankets and a pillow. But now that he has learned to keep his head at the head end of the bed, and his bare feet at the other end (Did you know that jammies in size 12 months and larger don't have feet? Except Carter's brand.), I guess he is on his way.

He has also mastered the sippy cup. Theo has always been happy to drink anything out of any vessel that anyone puts to his lips, but just this week he finally figured out how to tackle the project on his own. This development could be related to the recent introduction of saltine crackers into his diet. Lesson: if your baby won't feed himself liquid, just pour salt down his throat until he's so thirsty he can't help but suck down any water within his reach.

Theo is thankful for turkey, mashed potatoes, bath time, and the fact that cheese is not a traditional Thanksgiving food.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Sinatra Reprise, The Very Good Years : Frank Sinatra

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blablomoblo

I had an ambitious post planned for today. It was going to include links and humor and useful information and possibly an adorable baby picture.

And then today kicked my butt. Not one big kick but forty-seven little prods that made me want to shove it out of my personal space and scoot all the way out of its reach. I'm tired for no good reason and tomorrow is the beginning of the holiday season and we're going to end up having turkey schnitzel for dinner.

Crap.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: O : Damien Rice

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Look!

It's proof that the world really does revolve around me.

NPR recently featured a segment by one of my favorite TV chefs, Nigella Lawson, all about quick breakfast food. Apparently Nigella has been reading my blog and knew I needed some suggestions. (Thanks, Sandi)

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: White Ladder : David Gray

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Matter of Taste

Tonight, we had dinner compliments of Rachael Ray and dessert by Martha Stewart. I am a bit of a cookbook glutton and I confess that at least half of my formidable collection was authored by People On TV. I've had a few bad experiences (that Paul Newman cookbook really didn't do much for me but at least the purchase price went to charity) but, all in all, most of the recipes I've tried have worked out.

I am aware that many, many people feel strongly about Rachael Ray. I watched her 30 minute meals and her travel show and I could see why she might rub someone the wrong way but, whatever. That's what I thought. I asked for a couple of her cookbooks and I use the newest addition (365 No Repeats - what a thrilling title - but who cares) all the time. Her meals are tasty and the recipes work and they don't take three hours to make.

Martha's recipes, on the other hand, are temperamental. They are always detailed and specific but sometimes they don't come out as well as promised. On the plus side, I love that her latest books include photos of all the finished products. I need visual aids.

I used to watch Martha Stewart and while she's interesting, she wasn't must-see TV for me. I think it had something to do with the episode where she pointed out that she only allows her black horses outside for an hour or so of daylight each day because their coats might fade and that wouldn't be aesthetically pleasing. However, I've had good luck with her hors d'oeuvres. But I do understand why the Martha haters exist, though they seem to like her more now that she has a record.

I was never too clear on the vitriol directed toward Rachel, though. Until I happened upon a rerun of her 'new' TV show which is apparently now being broadcast on British satellite TV, lucky me. I tuned in during an innocuous cooking segment, which was fine, there she was with her junk bowl and yumm-o, and turquoise refrigerator just like I remembered. But then, after the commercial break, she started talking with a mother and a daughter who needed help from her in-house Life Coach. And there was cackling and forced humor and hunched shoulders and I started to understand.

So I turned the channel because I really love her Pasta with Chicken Bel Aria and I need to continue using her cookbook without disturbing flashbacks.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: The Hits : Prince

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Cheese Stands Alone

I inadvertently omitted one of Theo's vehement dislikes on that list I made the other day. I had forgotten about the great and terrible cheese.

I'm not sure why we were so delighted when Theo grew big enough to sit in the shopping cart seat. He looks so small and determined clutching its bars and staring around at every shopper, every pair of socks, every avocado that we pass during our weekly shopping excursions. He cranes his neck around so he can see where we're headed and examines the other people in the store solemnly. There's always so much going on around him that he's too distracted to fuss.

Our routine includes a stop at the fancy cheese counter. I usually make a detour into the yogurt aisle while Jeff wheels the cart up to where he makes his weekly request for what we've learned is the most exotic of delicacies - yellow Irish cheddar. The cheese ladies, who wear white paper hats and hairnets and crisp aprons, all know him and start to prepare our order as soon as they see Jeff coming.

The past few weeks, after Jeff parks the shopping cart, just as the cheese lady makes eye contact and starts to speak, Theo becomes as terrified as I've ever seen him. I can usually hear his shrieks as I reach for the yogurt, and by the time I get to the counter, Jeff has picked him up and the cheese lady is backing away slowly. There are tears, there is clutching, there was even, on one occasion, the apparent attempt to climb out of Jeff's arms and flee the scene on foot.

Our block of cheddar tossed across the counter and flung into the cart, we get past the meat counter and all the way to the cereal aisle before Theo has stopped crying. By the time we arrive at the pasta section, he is once again happily ensconced in the cart and smiling at the baby whose mother is shopping for egg noodles.

We have no idea what he fears, but it's happened every time we've visited the grocery story in the past few weeks. His freak-out is, as far as we can tell, usually precipitated by the attention of the cheese ladies. Our one and only theory is that he doesn't like their unusual costume, particularly the pointy hat.

We're pretty sure he is going to love his first encounter with Santa Claus.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Elephunk : Black Eyed Peas

Saturday, November 17, 2007

You are so impressed with my creative wit.

It's Saturday night and I've had a glass of wine (Argento Malbec 2006, if you must know). It's time for one of my famous bulleted lists of unrelated information:

-We went downtown today and noted that the gigantic Nurnberg Christmas market is almost completely constructed, despite an opening day that's almost two weeks away. Again with the overzealous decking of the halls (and/or the German propensity to plan ahead).

-Italy and Scotland are currently battling for a spot in the European football championships. In case you're wondering, Cameronesi has grown his ponytail back since it was so ruthlessly sheared by his teammates after their World Cup victory. (Go Scotland)

-Does anyone have a really good stuffing recipe that doesn't require exotic ingredients like andouille sausage or chestnuts?

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: The Greatest Hits : INXS

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fa la la la la

I'm pretty sure I am not the first person ever to say this, but holy cow, where did autumn go? Suddenly it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and I am still sitting around admiring the cute pictures of my baby dressed as a Halloween pumpkin.

I never expected to hold Americans up as models of restraint when it comes to holiday decorations. My American grocery store used to start stocking the Valentine candy on December 26th, followed by Easter eggs on February 15th and 4th of July napkins on the first of May. But we do happen to be the only country in the world that has that good old old starting-gun, Thanksgiving, and I think it saves us from decking the halls in mid-October. I realize that few retail establishments follow this guideline anymore but some still do (Nordstrom? Are you still with me? CALL ME.) and I don't know any actual, non-profit families who put up a Christmas tree before turkey day.

I acted slightly horrified when I saw the wreaths and ribbons and twinkly lights going up on buildings around town last week. But then something magical happened. It snowed, and we had snow on the ground for three days, and suddenly I was ready to break out the Elvis Christmas CD and don me now my gay apparel.

I wish I knew where I was going with this, besides finding an excuse to announce to all three of my readers that I was so inspired that I finished over half of my Christmas shopping, all thanks to that snowstorm. You may now mock me and hate me and call me a goody-goody who can't handle the crowds at the mall like a REAL shopper. But I'll be off baking gingerbread men.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Greatest Hits : Journey
(Stone in Love is a really underrated song.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I wasn't kidding about Theo Thursdays


Likes:
Ina Garten, my Binky, mouth sounds, swimming, Sandra Boynton, electrical appliances, toes, yogurt, giraffes, naps

Dislikes:
my car seat, empty bottles, the Cuisinart, strained green beans

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: The Legend of Johnny Cash : Johnny Cash

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You're kidding me with the shoes

Lilacspecs has tagged me for a meme, and I know you're all relieved because there might have been another post about shopping.

Rules:

1- Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2- Share 7 random or weird things about yourself.
3- Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4- Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

7 Random or Weird Things About Myself:
1. I still have a better vocabulary in Spanish than in German, even after living in Deutschland for more than two years. I guess all those hours chanting verbs in my high school and college Spanish classes made the words stick after all.
2. If I were a boy, my name would be Cooper, after Gary Cooper.
3. I blew almost an entire month's spending money on a pair of shoes the first week of my freshman year of college. They were brown Calvin Kleins and they cost $75. I had never bought a pair of shoes for over $25 before. (Sorry, there's just no escape from the shoe shopping around here.)
4. Raisins make me gag.
5. I have copies of all the Vanity Fair Hollywood issues except the first one, which I had but threw out before I started collecting them.
6. The name I chose for myself in Spanish class was Ava.
7. I should probably have just changed my name to Ava when I moved to Germany too, since the "th" sound doesn't exist in the German language.

I tag Abby, Katie, Kerri, Daniela, Scott (dude you really need to update your blog), Kendra (you too), and Carol.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Live 1980-86 : Joe Jackson

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mallrat

Silver Shoes
I know, some of you are saying, "Enough with the shoes! Enough with the shopping! Where is your cute baby?"

Too bad. You're just going to have to wait, because I went to the mall yesterday. THE MALL.

OK, there was no Nordstrom there. No Bath & Bodyworks. No Cinnabon (sniff). But it did have a food court, with sushi. And a store that sold nice-smelling candles, and several places to buy shoes. So I bought some shoes.

This mall is brand new and gave me the eerie yet somehow enjoyable feeling that I'd stepped into an American suburb where everyone speaks German and instead of anchor stores the malls have bakeries at each end.

Aren't you glad I'm posting every day this month? Because you can't live without this kind of information.


THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Tidal : Fiona Apple

Monday, November 12, 2007

Amendment

Brown Boots
Did I imply earlier that Germans don't enjoy shopping as recreation?

Scratch that.

Here in Bavaria, the "most German part of Germany," we spend our Sundays walking in the park and frolicking with our families. We never ever spend the day grocery shopping or picking up a spare lightbulb or, heaven forbid, shoe shopping. It's against the law for stores to open their doors on this most holy day of rest. I'm not bitter about that or anything.

I've learned to appreciate some of the quirks of German culture that used to irritate me. I no longer have the impulse to turn right on red, and I even drink half beer/half Sprite by choice. But when someone inevitably tries to convince me how relaxing and healthy it is to have a day off from running errands, I smile tightly and struggle not to tell them my theory that this just creates complete mayhem in the stores on Saturdays as every working person in the country tries to cram his shopping into one day each week. Still, I get a condescending smile, reminding me that Sundays are for resting, just take your American craving to spend spend spend and walk it off. Preferably while sporting some of those Nordic ski poles.

But two or three times per year, each town gets a reprieve from the retail therapy ban and is allowed to open on Sunday afternoon. If my local acquaintances are to be believed, the stores should be deserted, since who wants to spend another day slogging through the terrible chore of buying some new clothes?

Or some new boots, perhaps?

Judging by the tangled mass of humanity at my local shopping area yesterday, everyone does. Don't try to tell me they weren't having a good time shoving one another out of the way to get to that rack of discounted sandals.

Because I had a good time buying new boots. I've been searching for these boots for a while, and it just took a Sunday afternoon of shopping to find them.

Alas, when I'm looking for some fun next Sunday, I guess I'll have to locate some ski poles instead.


THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Hang On Little Tomato : Pink Martini

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Push It

If you are in my address book, you've probably received an e-mail from me at one time or another that says, "This made me think of you," followed by a link to some blog post about your favorite brand of socks, or a website dedicated to people with one green eye and one brown eye, or that YouTube video where the guy does the history of dance in 30 seconds. Because I'm addicted to the internet and I'm a pusher.

Just in case I haven't sent these to you already, here are some of my latest faves:

WantNot is a bargain shopping site that spreads the love of internet coupons and online sales, all topped with sass and good humor. Save yourself from trolling all those scary, blinking, pop-up filled, badly designed coupon code sites that give me a headache and bookmark this one instead.

Don't you wish you could send this version of The Badger's resume attached to your next cover letter? She wrote that a while back. This month, she's posting her favorite song lyrics every day. Wish I'd thought of that first.

I feel like I'm not a real live mommyblogger without a Superhero Necklace, so either I shut down the blog or somebody needs to buy me one. Who's with me?

Someday, when Theo discovers Legos, I'm going to make this cake for his birthday. For now, he seems to be happy eating and playing with the dirt caked on my shoelaces as he scoots past.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Oral Fixation, Vol. 2 : Shakira

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Back in Time

When I was in elementary school I had a friend I'll call Susan. She lived down the street from me so we spent quite a bit of time at each others' houses. We made a lot of plans together, for trips to Seattle on the bus to stay with her grandma, and for moneymaking schemes. We even hired ourselves out as clowns to entertain at kids' parties. (We were terrible entertainment. I think we did a couple of somersaults and handed out butterscotch buttons.)

Susan was in my class and she was smart and funny. We were both in the highest reading group (does everyone know what that means?) and she was really fast with multiplication tables. She loved to play school; she had set up a whole school room with desks and a chalkboard in her basement, and we would take her two younger sisters down there and bribe them with candy to do science projects and read aloud to us. Susan was one of the good kids at school who got along with the teachers and stayed out of trouble. We laughed a lot together.

Even though both of us lived with our moms and had dads who visited periodically, I knew life at her house was a lot different than life at mine. At my house we ate Chips Ahoy after school; at her house we scooped peanut butter out of a big metal can and ate it straight off the spoon. There were no pictures on the walls at her house, just a couple of posters that the kids got free at school taped up in the bedrooms . My dad and I had scheduled visits; her dad just showed up unexpectedly or, more often, didn't show up at all. Her mom, who even I could tell was having a rough time and doing her best, had a younger boyfriend who Susan hated and who looked at the two of us in a way that made me uncomfortable. Sometimes she brought her sisters over to our house with no warning, and my mom fed them dinner and told them they could spend the night.

At the end of sixth grade, Susan's mom decided to go to college and moved the family to a small student house at the state university campus a few hours away. They were going to start a new, better life, or that's what her mom had planned for them. Susan was angry. Her sisters were younger - they didn't mind moving - but she didn't want to leave her school and her friends.

Susan visited me a few times that next year. She told me she'd gone to a party at the university and gotten drunk and done a bunch of things she hadn't intended with some older boys. She was twelve years old.

I lost track of her over the years, though every now and then I'll hear something about her through her cousins that still live in my hometown. Her mom got her degree and is doing really well. One of her sisters is a doctor and the other is married and has several children. The last I heard, Susan was living on her own and her family thought she was drinking too much.

In my mind, she's still a twelve-year-old and I want to go back in time and remind her that she is smart and funny, and that she wanted to be a teacher, and take her to Seattle for the weekend.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: All That You Can't Leave Behind : U2

Friday, November 09, 2007

Ruby Slippers

Red Driving Mocs
I haven't bought many clothes since we've lived in Germany. It's not because I don't like to shop; in fact, I've realized that recreational shopping is (sadly and so stereotypically) the pastime I miss about America on the most regular basis. My current lifestyle doesn't require cute outfits, and I usually find the prices here to be very high for low quality. That's probably due to the 19% sales tax.

But dragging around in the same clothes for two years, most of which I bought at least five years ago, depresses me just a little. Is that wrong? That clothes can make me happy or unhappy? Am I so shallow?

Yes. I think I am.

Which is why these cheery red shoes leapt out at me from the sidewalk sale rack a couple of weeks ago. They are comfortable, they fit me, and they were a bargain. Ten euros, baby. With the current exchange rate, I think that adds up to about thirty-eight dollars. (Kidding. But seriously, the value of the dollar is downright scary.)

(A bunch of people who own much more exciting shoes than I do are sharing their favorites on Flickr this month. If you have a shoe fetish, check them out.)


THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Greatest Hits : Talking Heads

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Theo Thursday!

We haven't had a doctor's appointment in a couple of months, but based on our highly scientific calculations (ie stepping on the scale with Daddy before bathtime and being measured with my sewing tape on the changing table), Theo is about average for height and off the charts for weight. That would be off the low end of the charts. I'm not exactly sure how that's possible, since he eats more than I do at meals. But based on more scientific studies (ie comparing him to my and Jeff's thirty-six-year-old baby pictures) we think he has probably just inherited the scrawny gene. Which should stand him in good stead later when the German doctors notice he's American.

See how my posting every day gives you a little view of the path of my thoughts?
Scones-->Breakfast-->Overweight Americans-->Skinny Baby!

Anyway, at nine months, Theo has finally decided he has had enough of this horizontal stuff and he is ready to GO VERTICAL. Too bad his bony little arms and legs aren't quite strong enough to get him all the way from laying to standing. But that's not because he's not trying really really hard. And then shrieking from the frustration of it all. So we spend a lot of our time propping him against the couch and waiting for him to tip over and loudly request to be dragged to his feet once again.

Speaking of shrieking, he is still a loud one. He hoots like an owl, crows like a pterodactyl, and sobs (with tears) at will. His latest and cutest trick is clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth, which charms both of his parents. This is further evidence that our entertainment standards have dropped to new lows since we moved out of the USA.

Also, he has six teeth.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Kick : INXS

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fettes Brot

On our first day in Germany, someone asked me if I pictured German women as muscular, gruff, and ugly. I deferred to my usual response in an uncomfortable situation, which was to make fun of Jeff. I think I made some comment about his hope that Heidi Klum is the intersection of all tributaries to the German gene pool. But I will admit to having made a few Helga jokes and having heard about a thousand of them from Americans who have never been here.

On the other side of the coin, I'd never thought a lot about the stereotype of American physical appearance before I moved away. I knew we'd get a few questions about George W. and the war, and I knew that American tourists could usually be spotted by identifying their white tennis shoes and loud voices. But I didn't realize that so many people picture the typical American as being fat.

The expectation that we're all bursting at the seams has caused some of the only really prejudicial comments I've heard from Germans in the past few years. Most Americans here who aren't very obviously on the thin side have heard from their doctors, even before a height and weight check, that they need to watch the scale and probably lose a few pounds. When I said I was hankering for American food during my pregnancy, my OB acted surprised and said, "You don't look like you eat like an American." It's come up several times in a friend's German class, and even the teacher argued that most Americans are sedentary and overweight.

Like most stereotypes this one stems from the truth. Many Americans are unhappy with their weight, and our country is, for good or ill, the birthplace of Fast Food (as in the Golden Arches, not fast food as in fresh street food which can be found all over the world. Have I been watching too much Tony Bourdain?). But when I look around at the expats I know, or the tourists I see, I don't notice any more overweight people than I see at my local German grocery store every Saturday. Do Germans think this way because of our exported reality TV? Or because we just can't shut up about it, from celebrity Jenny Craig ads to a million and one diet ideas in our magazines and newspapers?

It has made me consider why Americans imagine German women as Nurse Ratched with an accent, even though most German women - including many, many famous ones (Claudia Schiffer, Marlene Dietrich, Steffi Graf, and our Project Runway Host included) - don't fit that stereotype. Burgundy hair - yes. But burly and frightening? Not in my experience.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Guero : Beck

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Grrrrrrr-eat

I am making an effort to eat breakfast more often. I never used to believe people who say they just forget entire meals, but for a while I was so obsessed with the morning routine (milk/food/play/pleasepleaseplease nap) that I'd look around at 11:00am, realize I was starving because I hadn't even eaten a piece of the banana I'd so lovingly mushed up, and figure I'd just have lunch early. Which led to hunger pangs at 2pm and a downward spiral of fun-size Snickers bars, whole bags of pretzels, and a Pavlovian response to Dr. Phil ("How's that working for ya?" = mmmm...buttered popcorn).

But I've never been much of a morning diner, so I need help. What's your favorite breakfast? Because I can only eat so many lemon ginger scones. (Well, actually I could probably exist solely on scones for a couple of weeks but I'm going to need some ideas for the third week.)

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: The Reminder : Feist

Monday, November 05, 2007

Yum-Day

I am evangelical about good scones and these are pretty great. Try them and you'll become a disciple too.

Lemon Ginger Scones
(adapted from The New Best Recipe Cookbook by the editors of Cook's Illustrated)

2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold unslated butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl or the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Whisk together or process with six 1-second pulses.
3. If making by hand, use two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingertips and quickly cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few slightly larger butter lumps. If using a food processor, remove the cover and distribute the butter evenly over the dry ingredients. Cover and process with twelve 1-second pulses.
4. Add crystallized ginger and lemon zest. Stir in the heavy cream with a rubber spatula or fork until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.
5. Transfer the dough and all dry flour bits to a countertop and knead the dough by hand just until it comes together into a rough, sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Flatten into a disc about the size of a round cake tin, then cut the disc into eight wedges. At this point, the dough can be refrigerated up to 2 hours. (I refrigerate it overnight so I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn to make these for breakfast.)
6. Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.


THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Violent Femmes: Violent Femmes
Lemon and ginger require spicy background music.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Swimsuit Edition

Yesterday we checked out Furth's new swimming pool. It opened last weekend and we were as clueless as usual about it. We saw a sign somewhere announcing the grand opening, figuring they had re-painted the bottom of the kiddie area at the old swimming pool or put up a new diving board or something.

When we arrived we once again realized the benefits of the German penchant for doing everything the right way. Sometimes it's annoying (especially when you are unwittingly doing everything the wrong way, and getting shouted at) but yesterday it was awesome. Because the new swimming pool is basically an aquatic wonderland right in our back yard. I can't even begin to do it justice with a description, so I'll just tell you that there is a two-story pirate ship, three 3-story waterslides, a mini wave pool and an entire wing with five or six hot pools. And we didn't even go into the building housing the multiple sauna and wellness rooms.

You would think we might have noticed this kind of construction project less than a mile from our home. But you would be wrong. And that tells you so very, very much about how we live. Absolutely uninformed, but happy to enjoy the spoils when we finally get a clue.



THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: Duran Duran Decade
His name is Theo and he dances on the sand.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Take A Chance On Me

About this time last year, I met a Scottish woman named Marion. She ran the Christmas market stand where I volunteered to sell festive holiday items and sneer silently at the American throngs who arrived on tour buses and wore nametags pinned to their matching overcoats. Marion was very busy and we didn't have much time to get to know each other, but she was always kind to me and tolerant of my need for extra space for my pregnant self in the tiny market stall. She wished me Merry Christmas on December 23rd and I figured I had seen the last of her, at least until she needed help at the next market.

Mid-February, Theo had just turned one month old and my mother was winding up her three-week visit. I was still sore and unable to predict what might make Theo happy and what would cause him to shriek. When the phone rang and the caller said her name was Marion, it took me a few minutes to put the face with the Scottish accent. Marion was calling to invite Theo and me to lunch at her house the following week. I was simultaneously touched and terrified as I had premonitions of trying to make polite conversation while my baby screamed bloody murder in my arms and I looked wildly around the room for a soft cushion to place under my, um, Self before sitting down. I worried that I wouldn't be able to think of anything to talk about besides reliving my holiday altercation with a group of Gluhwein-soaked revelers who fled from the market stand when I mixed up their change.

My mom left town and Jeff went back to work and I loaded Theo into his carseat and made my way to Marion's house. When I arrived, she gave me a big hug. She'd baked lasagna and wrapped up a sweet gift for Theo, and she asked me all the right questions about how he was doing, and whether I'd been happy with my hospital, and she avoided all the gory details that I didn't really want to re-live, and didn't ask me how he many hours he was sleeping at night. My seat at the table was soft and comfortable and Theo slept like an angel for almost two hours. It was such a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Marion and I still e-mail occasionally and though I won't be able to help at the Christmas market this year I will stop in and say hello to her. She may never know just how much her invitation meant to me. I had just begun to wallow (again) in the knowledge that, if I were living near my old friends, we could easily have gone out for an hour or two to friendly houses with fresh air and friendly faces, but since we lived in Germany we didn't have as many options. And Marion provided the friendliness, and the fresh air, and a warm meal too. It's one of those things I've saved in my memory for the next time I know a new mom who could use a friend and some lasagna.

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: ABBA Gold
(Daddy chose the music this morning. Theo's favorite track is "Fernando.")

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Breakfast Show

I'm not someone who knows about music, or who knows musicians, or who has heard of that band, or who shows up at a club at midnight because so-and-so is staging a secret show. If you doubt me, just recall that I bailed on seeing Gwen Stefani because I found out there wouldn't be chairs at her concert.

However, my life has a soundtrack and it is important to me. Most of the time that soundtrack is hideously lowbrow. For example, the first album that rolls off my iPod is usually from .38 Special. (Shout out to all the "Hold on Loosely" fans out there!) I love to sing along to my favorite songs so much that I go to the trouble of learning all the words. And it irritates me when other people (Hi Jeff!) sing the wrong words to "Hey Mama" by the Black Eyed Peas. I love to dance around the apartment, and slap the dashboard of the car, and pretend I'm Britney. (RIP Britney's dignity, by the way. I really feel for her, and her kids, and her various bodyguards/manservants/exhusbands.)

Now, parents all have dreams for their children. Mine is that Theo will learn to love real music (SHUT UP, Adam Ant is real music), and that he will enjoy dancing around the house with me to something besides "Fruit Salad" by The Wiggles. (It's OK to hate me, parents, because I've put that infernal song in your head for the rest of the day. Yummy! Yummy!) I'm starting early on this project by exposing his tender ears to the tunes on my iPod every morning during breakfast. So, while he's eating his bananas (B-A-N-A-N-A-S), he's being subliminally indoctrinated by Fiona Apple. This has the added bonus of reuniting me with some long lost music that I'd kind of forgotten was lurking outside my usual playlist rotation. It even inspired me to buy some new music last week.

Why do you care? Because, you lucky things, I'm going to share our breakfast soundtrack with you every day this month. Most of the time it will just be a sweet little one-liner at the end of the post, like this, which we listened to this morning:

THEO'S BREAKFAST SOUNDTRACK: "If I Could Turn Back Time: The Best of Cher"
(You should rush out and download "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" right now.)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Blop On

You want HOW MUCH for that pumpkin?
Brace yourselves. You're going to have a November like you've never had before.

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting much lately. In fact, one of my friends asked me yesterday if I was still alive, since she hadn't read anything of substance on my blog. It's good to know that someone is paying attention, just in case Jeff goes away on a business trip and I collapse in a bratwurst-induced coma.

My absence can be blamed on my recent panic after I remembered I'd joined NaBloPoMo, which means I have agreed to write a post every day this month. EVERY DAY, people. So every time I think of something to write about, I think, "No! I must save that idea for November when I am gnashing my teeth and putting up photos of the view out our window for the tenth day in a row." And then I promptly forget the good idea that I haven't yet written about. So I'm still panicking.

I do have some tricks up my sleeve, however. I'm sure you can't wait for Theo Thursdays. And you'll probably see some photos of my shoes.

My fellow BloPpers (credit: Laid-Off Dad) and I are just raring (rearing? is this a horse racing metaphor?) to go. So watch out, November. Here we come.