Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Books - April 2008

Property by Valerie Martin
Another interesting premise, another strangely disappointing execution. Momentum picks up slightly halfway through, but I never got a really good sense of the narrator and couldn't sympathize with her. There were also unexpected moments when it felt like I'd been dropped into a horror novel.

The Gatheringby Anne Enright
More of a description of one woman's reaction to her brother's death, including the emotions and memories it evokes, than a story. By the end, I didn't feel that I was in a different place than where I'd begun, but the characters were vivid and the language fluid.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Peek Inside My Brain

-The guy who answered the phone at the IRS office in Frankfurt (why yes, there is an IRS office in Frankfurt) sounded like he'd taken a Valium and was locked in a room by himself just waiting for the phone to ring. He didn't want to stop talking to me, and I couldn't interject and get off the phone because he was speaking verrrrryyyy slooowwwwlly and slurring a little.

-Ate mall pizza for dinner last night. Not quite Sbarro, but it worked for now. If anyone can find me a Panda Express or a Chik-Fil-A, I'll buy you an egg roll or some fries.

-Got a little depressed this afternoon when I learned that two of my favorite bloggers are getting divorced. Someday I'll learn that most of my "internet friends" probably think of me as a "stalker," but that doesn't stop me from getting emotionally invested.

-I'm a little cranky about the Miley Cyrus photo flap. Methinks her apology has less to do with her feeling exploited and more to do with Disney's conservative target audience. Annie Leibovitz probably doesn't need my defense, but I am here for her if she needs me.

-Making hummus for dinner. There will be food besides the hummus, but who cares about that? When there's hummus, I mean?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Twinkle Toes

I've been American Idol-deprived this season, because we are too lazy/cheap to buy a a big-enough satellite dish. The little saucer we own is, apparently, insufficient to pick up the warblings of Kristi Lee Cook most weeks. Maybe I should be grateful. I did manage a couple of blurry episodes, just enough to become a big fan of Michael Johns right before he was undeservedly booted. I expected him to make it to second place, because that's where my favorites usually seem to land (BO BICE! Holla!).

In case you thought I might take this opportunity to spend my newly-freed three hours per week learning Pilates or teaching Theo to recognize the Periodic Table, I'll confess that my reality TV jones has been met by an even more addictive and less impressive fix. Yes, I'm addicted to Dancing with the Stars.

I'm rooting for Jason Taylor (hot! and graceful! and tall!). I almost stopped watching because Priscilla Presley freaked me out, but she is gone now. Carrie Ann Inaba is my new Simon Cowell (she's always right) and I totally believe Shannon Elizabeth and Derek Hough are getting it on. Kristi Yamaguchi has an unfair advantage (Figure skating involves a bunch of dance training, doesn't it? Kind of like being in a boy band. I'm looking at you, Drew Lachey), and Marisa Jaret Winokur is actually less annoying than I expected.

As you can see, it's hopeless.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die

I loved hearing what we were all like in high school. It's too bad we couldn't have formed our own clique, quoting Star Trek and dating underclassmen who listened to They Might Be Giants and feeling awkward together. If only I had heard of They Might Be Giants in high school. This exercise just reminded me of exactly how isolated I was. I recall asking my mom to buy whatever cassette tape was on the top of the charts at the record store in Billings - I didn't know or care what album it was - when she visited there, just so I could listen to something popular and new. It's no wonder I'm an internet junkie now; I feel like I need to know everything, all the time, since I spent my formative years feeling like I was missing out on the big world outside my hometown. Of course, now I like to go back and unplug the computer and look at the mountains. Just for a while.

Thanks again for playing.

CN Heidelberg:
I love that you think of Ames, Iowa as a big city. If I had lived anywhere near a college town (or Omaha!) I would have been hanging out there every weekend too. (If I'd first received full parental approval, of course, because I was all about following every rule to the letter back then. It was good training for living in Germany.)

I am so impressed that you received an official slacker notification letter.

Me too.

I quoted The Cure and tried to seem dark. Which just confused people, since I was usually sporting a perky perm and wearing pink socks that matched my pink Esprit sweatshirt.

Eric? Is that you? It must be. I'm glad to know that you will forever be remembered in the Polson High School trophy case.

I'm still waiting for my pound of flesh to appreciate. Any tips?

I had no idea you were dating freshmen. Who came in second?

I could have joined your 'honest & good' club. My best friend and I used to leave campus and get frozen yogurt when we were supposed to be helping grade papers in the study hall. We were living ON THE EDGE.

I'm pretty sure it was below freezing on my high school graduation day. In May.

I heartily agree. I was so grateful at my ten-year class reunion when everyone was nice to me. I half-expected them all to glare at me because their memories revolved around me trying to get everyone to Just Say No and to attend pep assemblies. But they had apparently forgotten (or forgiven) all that and we had a good time just being happy to see each other. That's how life should work.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The gummi bears are in the mail and other important updates

While I was away, the following was accomplished:

-I spent my thirty-seventh birthday in Croatia, visiting the town my great-grandparents left to begin a new life under the stars and stripes.

-I read the latest Vanity Fair and was frightened by Madonna's footwear.

-Theo learned to say "yucky."

-I picked a winner from your comments on my last post. Congratulations to our big winner, Erin, who I'm certain will thoroughly appreciate receiving some German treats. Erin, leave a comment or send me an e-mail with any special requests. I loved reading all of your responses to my question. I'm mulling over a post on this topic. I know you can't wait.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Your Turn (and a contest! with prizes!)

I'm headed out for a little vacation (WHAT? You don't think I deserve a vacation just three weeks after my last vacation?) so I'll be MIA for a short while.

However! That doesn't mean you can just ignore me. It's your turn to answer one of my favorite questions from the Q&A series. And, as a reward, I'll randomly choose one commenter to receive an assortment of his/her favorite German treats! If you don't know what you want, I'll pop a wad of Haribo in the mail and you can thank me later.

Here's the question:
What were you like in high school?

Those of you who asked questions in my earlier post are obligated to participate. The rest of you, well, you want a prize, don't you?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Q&A Part 4 - Family, etc.

What's Jeff's most endearing quirk or habit?
He can never remember how to sing any particular song (words or melody) so he makes them up. His version of My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music includes the line "raindrops on noses and soft subtle kittens."

When do you think Theo will get hair?
I'm kind of hoping he stays bald until he is old enough to wash his own hair.

Does Theo know any German?
I'm not sure. Maybe that's why we can't understand half of what he says.
Seriously, though, the words he's learned are all English as far as we know. He doesn't hear that much German on a consistent basis - we speak to him in English and our TV is in English - so probably not. I know you're dying to know what words he says, so here they are:
Car (assigned to anything vaguely mechanical)
Ball (assigned to anything vaguely round)
Gigi (his stuffed giraffe's name)
Bye bye
Uh oh

Do you prefer Jeff's hair long (like now) or short?
I really like it long.

How did you choose Theo's name? Do you pronounce it in both the English and German ways? What other names did you consider?
We wanted a name that was slightly unusual yet familiar and pronounceable. We pronounce it in English (The-o) unless we're introducing him to a German-speaker; then it's just easier to say it in German (TAY-o).

A man is hiking up a snowy mountain and comes across a cabin. Inside the cabin is a small fire and two dead men. How did they die? (They did not burn to death)
Asphyxiation from smoke inhalation. There was a dead varmint blocking the chimney.

Q&A Part 3 - Life in Europe
Q&A Part 2 - Pop Culture
Q&A Part 1 - About Me

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Q&A Part 3 - Life in Europe

What's your favorite place in N├╝rnberg?
The whole Altstadt is picturesque and pretty. I also love the Furth Stadtparkt, particularly the cafe and surrounding gardens.
Least favorite?
The stairwell in our apartment building. Most days, I'm practically dead by the time I reach the top.

What is Easter like in Spain? It looks really quiet. But Easter in Italy was a loud affair, so I'm surprised the Spaniards aren't more wild.
We've visited Spain twice during Easter weekend; two years ago we were in Barcelona, and this year we were in Madrid. Good Friday seemed like the more important holiday in both places - stores and attractions (including the Prado) were closed. The somber Good Friday processions in Madrid attracted medium-sized crowds. It was back to business as usual on Saturday and Sunday (stores closed on Sunday but everything else was open). I can't report on the nightlife since we went against every Spanish cultural custom and went to bed early.

What about you has changed the most since you've been in Germany (besides having Theo)?
To steal a phrase from my pal Katie, I've become much more comfortable with ambiguity. I still don't enjoy being clueless about my surroundings, but I can live with the feeling. That's a big change for a planner-organizer like me.

If/when you move back to the US, what will you miss most about Germany?
The pace of our life here is slow and quiet. We don't have many nearby options for things to do or movies to see or friends to visit or restaurants to try. That can be the worst thing about living here, but it keeps our days simple. My stress level is very low, and I more readily enjoy small activities like taking a walk or getting an ice cream cone.

How do you suggest a person meet new people when moving to Germany?
Take a group language course, and be open to making friends with anyone, even those younger/older/different than you. Your language skills will match, and you'll be able to explore your new home together. Invite someone in your class to visit a museum or shop for groceries with you. Activities smooth the way when you can't communicate well.

What's your favorite German pastry/dessert?
I love the hot waffles sold at outdoor markets. They usually have a yummy nutmeg flavor and I usually get them dusted with powdered sugar.

Where else in the world would you like to live?
London or New York, if I could also be guaranteed a huge salary.
I would give almost any large European capitol a try. I haven't traveled much outside Europe, so it's hard for me to say if I'd like to live in Asia or South America, for example.

Q&A Part 2 - Pop Culture
Q&A Part 1 - About Me