Thursday, December 22, 2011

Operation Rolling Pin - Gingerbread

And yea verily, the gingerbread was made, and lo, Operation Rolling Pin is no more.

Lessons in cookie cutting optimisation were learnt:


I rolled the dough out a bit too thin, so my gingerbread is really more like ginger biscuits.

There were stars and trees and angels and santa shapes:


They cooked (perhaps a bit too long) and are indeed quite delicious - the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.


These will remain undecorated because I am a menace to society once I get my hands on royal icing and a piping bag.

Recipe: Gingerbread
Source: Martha Stewart

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Operation Rolling Pin - Cranberry Kipferln

This was the sight that I awoke to this morning.


After a bit of dancing around with excitement, I got down to business; Cranberry Kipferln - phase two of Operation Rolling Pin.

After my issues with the wet and sticky Linzer Sterne dough, these were a doddle. The dough comes together quickly and is rolled into a couple of long cylinders, wrapped in cling film and put in the fridge to cool for about an hour. My half moon shapes lack some consistency, but I can live with that.


After 12 minutes in the oven, the house smells divine and I have 60 or so cranberry kipferln to dust with icing sugar.


A perfect way to spend a snowy morning. What's going on at your place?


Recipe: Cranberry Kipferln
Yield: 45 (I must make them particularly small because I got about 60 from the recipe)

50g dried cranberries
200g light butter/margarine
3 packets vanilla sugar
70g sugar
2 egg yolks
280g plain flour
100g almond meal
icing sugar for dusting

Finely mince the cranberries (I put mine in the food processor and gave it a good whizz).

In a bowl, cream the sugar, vanilla sugar and butter/margarine.

Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.

Add flour and almond meal and mix. At this stage you will have to knead the dough to bring it together. Add the finely chopped cranberries and knead them through the dough.

Form the dough into a couple of long, thin cylinders and wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 175 deg C (160 fan forced)

Cut 1cm thick slices from the cylinder and form into crescent shapes.

Place onto a prepared baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Once out of the oven, dust the kipferln with icing sugar and allow to cool thoroughly. Store in an airtight container.

So, there you have it. Snow + baking = WIN.

Up next....Gingerbread.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Operation Rolling Pin is GO

In an effort to induce an attack of Christmas Spirit ™ , I started Christmas baking yesterday - code name Operation Rolling Pin.

Christmas baking

So, I grabbed the biscuit cutters, a recipe for Linzer Sterne and cranked some seasonally appropriate music and I was off and running baking.

Linzer Sterne dough is wet and a bit of a challenge to work with, but with enough flour on the pin, it rolls out eventually.


A dollop of Rote Johannisbeere Gelle (red currant jelly/jam) and creative hole making with the apple corer and in the oven for 18 minutes.

A quick dusting of icing sugar, being careful to avoid the jam centres and you are DONE. Package nicely and give away.

Linzer Sterne

Recipe as follows:

Linzer Sterne

Yield: recipe says 75, but I only managed to get about 60

250g plain flour (plus extra for rolling out dough)
0.5 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
150g sugar
1 pinch of salt
lemon zest from 0.5 unprocessed/organic lemon
200g almond meal
1 tsp cinnamon
1 knife tip (ie less than a pinch) ground cloves
1 knife tip ground nutmeg
250g margarine
175g red currant jam
icing sugar for dusting

Mix flour and baking powder.

Add eggs, sugar, salt, lemon zest, almond meal, spices and margarine and mix to a smooth dough.

Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for an hour.

Heat the oven to 175 deg C (or 150 deg C fan forced)

Roll the dough out thinly on a WELL FLOURED surface. (This step may induce rage)

Cut star shapes. In half of the stars cut a hole in the centre (I used an apple corer). Dollop red current jam on the stars without holes and place the hole-y stars on the top and gently press the two stars together.

Place the stars on a prepared baking tray and put into the oven and bake for around 18 minutes.

Allow to cool and then dust with icing sugar (avoid the jam holes).


...up next: Cranberry Kipferln.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Poor Planning

After a flawless Halloween campaign which entailed dispensing chocolate bars to:
  • 4 witches
  • 2 vampires
  • 1 ghost
  • 1 generic superhero
I awake to find myself the victim of poor planning.

I should have twigged yesterday at the supermarket, where it seemed that the entire population of Mainz was shopping in preparation for the Apocalypse. I failed to take the step in logic that states: after All Hallows Eve, comes All Hallows Day (Allerheiligen) - which is a public holiday here in Rheinland Pfalz.

Luckily, I always have a few batches of soup or some such on hand in the freezer for times when housewifely ennui strikes and I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a fork than cook dinner. We are saved (by pea and ham soup). Huzzah!

Monday, October 31, 2011


Despite the fact that Halloween is not part of my cultural heritage, I thought I'd get into the spirit this year and carve a pumpkin lantern thingy. A couple of hours of scooping, scraping and cutting yielded fairly pleasing results.


Once illuminated with an old LED bike light it looks spookily festive. (I really need to work on my night photography skills.)
Halloween pumpkin

Fingers crossed that I get some small people in costumes trick-or-treating this evening, as I have an unseemly amount of chocolate to distribute.

On a side note - roasted pumpkin seeds are unexpectedly delicious!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


A little over a fortnight ago we had to make a trip to London for the heartbreaking task of organising a funeral and attending to the affairs of my beloved brother-in-law. As grief is not a spectator sport, I prefer not to write about it here, but I did want to say something about kindness.

Walking to St Paul's

During our two weeks in London, I was often overwhelmed by the kindness shown to us by virtual strangers – friends of my brother-in-law, who opened their homes to us and provided practical and emotional support during that confusing, sad and exhausting time. 

It is perhaps a reflection on the sort of person that he was, that his friends are such good people.  I am glad I got to meet so many of them and I will always be grateful for their kindness.

Be good to each other.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer travels - part I, Zürich

It has been a summer of travelling here at heliospheric HQ.

First up was a lovely week in Zürich. The toll sticker was purchased and duly stuck on the windscreen and we were off, hurtling down the autobahn to Switzerland.

I played tourist, while R caught up with colleagues at ETH and enjoyed some well-lubricated scientific discourse (which sounds dodgy now that I've written it down). Moving right along...

Zürich riverside

Apart from an unfortunate and somewhat unsettling encounter with a random gentleman who thought it appropriate to slap me on the arse as I walked by, Zürich held true to its reputation for cleanliness, punctuality and high prices.

Random highlights of Zürich include:

Bürkliplatz Flohmarkt

Where else can you buy a chandelier, a cowbell and a ukulele all within a 5m radius (and possibly at the same stall)? This flea market is definitely not a bargain hunters paradise, but it has a great buzz and lots of fun things to look at. Those looking for a bargain should check out the Flohmarkt at Helvetiaplatz.

Bürkliplatz Flohmarkt - cows

Kunsthaus Zürich
Zürich even offered up a rainy day, so I could spend an entire day wandering around the gallery being astonished at the size and quality of the collection. It blew my mind.

Lake Zürich
Wandering around the shore of Lake Zürich is tres pleasant on a sunny day. Sailing boats, people swimming, swans swanning - what's not to like?

Swan on Lake Zürich

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

One a penny, two a penny...

hot cross buns by heliospheric
hot cross buns, a photo by heliospheric on Flickr.

Hot Cross Buns!

Obviously, my cross piping skills need some work, but I can attest to their utter deliciousness.

It also pleases my inner pagan that they taste just as delicious sans croix. I had to eat one of each, you know, for science.

uncrossed buns

I used this recipe, with some modifications:

  • 4 teaspoons of mixed spice
  • 1 cup currants & 1 cup of sultanas
  • cooked in fan forced oven at 180 deg. C for 20 min.
  • glazed the buns with heated golden syrup instead of water/sugar combination suggested in the recipe. I love golden syrup.
  • made 16 smaller buns instead of 12.

I made my own mixed spice combo:

  • 1.5 teasp. ground cinnamon
  • 1.25 teasp. Lebkuchen gewürz
  • 0.75 teasp. allspice
  • 0.5 teasp. ground ginger
  • pinch of ground black pepper

There will be more of these in my future.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Almonds and modern medicine

I have my lovely husband to thank for my latest malady – Tonsillitis. He generously shared it with me before racking off to Vienna for a week, leaving me at home and unable to swallow without tears.

I knew he was sick when he willingly went to the doctors and camped out in the waiting room until they could fit him in. The doctor determined that his infection was bacterial in nature and he was sent on his merry way with a prescription for antibiotics and a list of ineffective homeopathic tonics that can only be procured at great cost from the chemist.

When my symptoms showed up, I took myself off to the doctor, armed with the appropriate vocabulary - Mandelentzündung. Yes, I was suffering from inflamed almonds - quite appropriate for this time of year, if the blossoms are to be believed. I can assure you that my blossoming almonds aren’t anywhere near as pretty. The doctor looked down my throat and “hmmmed” while I “ahhhed”. “I think it is viral”, she said. “No antibiotics for you”. She sent me on my way with a sympathetic smile and a list of ineffective homeopathic tonics that can only be procured at great cost from the chemist.

blossoms by heliospheric
blossoms, a photo by heliospheric on Flickr.

Feeling somewhat embittered by being let down by modern medicine, I turned to another doctor for help - Dr Oetker. Dr Oetker’s consulting rooms can be found in the “gelatinous aisle” of the supermarket. I have been self medicating with a combination of raspberry jelly and vanilla ice cream for the better part of a week. Recovery is slow, but steady.

Via Flickr:
Almond blossoms

Monday, March 21, 2011


The second knee surgery was just over 4 weeks ago and I've been busy recovering and rehabilitating.

I feel as though for the last 6 weeks, since my foray into the world of knee surgery, I have been constantly in either the surgeon's waiting room or the physiotherapist's treatment room being poked, prodded, stretched, pulled, pushed, massaged and Pilates-ed. Add to that some swimming and pool work as well as some low key cycling and that fairly well covers my life since mid February.

Of course, as fate would have it, R had planned a 4 week trip to Australia 4 days after the surgery, so I had to hobble around as best I could without him. I will admit to having a cheese sandwich for dinner on more than one occasion.

I've been pondering the idea of continuing with the Pilates portion of my rehab once the proscribed physiotherapy has finished. Lord knows, my 'core' could use some strengthening. I have flirted with Yoga over the years and I must admit, it is not for me. The only bit I liked was right at the end of the class with the meditation/nap.

Is Pilates basically Yoga in Lederhosen?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Did the earth move for you? - Valentine's Day

Magnitude 4.4.

Really, just a short jolt, but enough to make me get up and go outside and check things out. According to the people who know, this was the largest in a series of 4 tremors since yesterday.

There was another tremor just before Christmas (magnitude 3.5) which woke me up. I initially put this one down to a large slab of snow coming off the roof.

The last time I experienced an earthquake, I was thrown across the bathroom and nearly hit my head on the toilet. I had just gotten out of the shower and the only thing my self-obsessed 17 year-old self could think of at the time as the house juddered and shook, was the headline in the paper the next day "Naked Girl found Dead in Rubble".

Monday, February 07, 2011

Modern or Traditional?

Are you are modernist or a traditionalist when it comes to wedding anniversary gifts based on the number of years of marriage?

I used to be a traditionalist and followed the formula pretty closely:
  • Year 1 - Paper - Tickets to a classical music concert (I believe it was a Mahler symphony)
  • Year 2 - Cotton - Table cloth and table runner
  • Year 3 - Leather (ahem, let's not go there)
That is until we got to Year 4 - Fruits and Flowers.

In keeping with my habit of making inappropriate appointments for the day that marks our nuptials, I found myself sitting in the orthopaedic surgeon's office on our wedding anniversary discussing some long-running knee issues with the delightful surgeon. That evening, to cheer me up, my lovely husband took me out for a posh dinner.

So, I've gone thoroughly modern this year and ditched the Fruits and Flowers for knee surgery. Surely it is cheaper and less painful to just buy some diamonds.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mr DeMille, I'm ready for my close up

Dipping into the Family 8mm Film Archive again for some swimming related hilarity to celebrate my rekindled love of swimming.

By the time I came along in the early 1970s, Dad's enthusiasm for recording our lives on 8mm film had dwindled. I can hardly blame him - he now had 4 children and precious little time for such nonsense. The movie camera was retired to the back of the cupboard and life proceeded apace.

The upshot was that there was no footage of me and as a typical youngest child, I registered my displeasure at this grave injustice loudly and often. Eventually, I wore my parents down and a suitable opportunity presented itself in which I could be captured in celluloid glory - our cousins were visiting and I had mastered (in my mind) freestyle. We were off for a day at the pool!

I remember this day so clearly - the smell of chlorine and hot chips with vinegar, the sound of the water sloshing into the overflow drain as I held onto the side of the pool, spluttering after swallowing an unseemly amount of water, the baking feeling of lying on hot concrete with wet togs on; and the squirming as mum caked our faces in the dreaded zinc cream.

While Dad was on camera duty, it seems that Uncle Brian was on 'pulling my eldest sister, S, out of the pool on demand' duty. Everyone is playing true to character - all the mannerisms are there - S is still a good diver, my elder sister, B, is still a comedian, my brother, C, still has that fabulous smile, although not quite so much hair, and I still sit like that from time to time and grin like an idiot.

It is now clear to me why I could never swim in a straight line - I seem to be unaware that I have a right arm - it just kind of flails around not contributing to forward motion at all. I'm pleased to report that my style has improved over the years.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The displacement of water

It appears I have been using cheese as a replacement for cigarettes for the last 2 years. In retrospect, not such a cunning plan.

So, it is back to the pool for me. My motto for 2011 is "fight inertia" because I often find the hardest thing is to get started. This project is no exception. What I've been calling research and planning - which pool, should I buy a season pass/multi-pass/single-pass, flippers/no flippers, is actually inertia. Really, it isn't hard to squeeze into a pair of togs and get to the pool.

So, no more research and planning:
  • Swimmers (uncomfortably tight) - check
  • Goggles - check
  • Swimming cap - check
  • Swimming companions - check and check

After a modicum of pubic topiary, I'm all set to test Archimedes' principle.

I can't wait for that after swim buzz.

Monday, January 10, 2011

42 lines

After living in this fair city for over three years, it is a little embarrassing to admit that Saturday 8th January, 2011, was my first visit to the Gutenberg Museum. Visitors have such a lovely way of encouraging one to get out and about.

I had visited the print workshop for a language school excursion last year and had thoroughly enjoyed inking, rolling, rubbing, type-setting and pulling levers to transfer designs and words onto paper (see some of my handiwork below).

The museum is quite impressive - there were demonstrations of a Gutenberg-style press and an old school newspaper cylinder press, exhibits on books from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, printing presses throughout the ages and sections on paper making and book binding. The jewels, of course, are two copies of the Gutenberg Bible, (one complete copy and one old testament - vol. 1). These 42 line wonders of the 13th Century are quite beautiful works of art as well as a stunning technological advance.

So, thank you Herr Gensfleisch, I can't imagine a world without the printed word.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Zombie Blog

In a reckless and ill-considered act of necromancy (and let's face it, it rarely ends well), I've decided to dust off this blog and attempt to write something this year. Zombies are so 2010, aren't they? I wonder what will replace them in the zeitgeist of internetland in 2011?

Care to place a wager?

I've got an each way bet on something involving Kanye West's twitter feed, a small Marmoset and a controversial Disney remake of The Battleship Potemkin.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Family Treasures

I went home for 6 weeks last year. People, I can't tell you how necessary that was.

Ostensibly, the trip home was so I could attend the Big Kahuna's 80th birthday, but a lovely side effect was that I found my sense of humour.

Thanks to my sister's excellent organisational skills, the family 8mm movie and 35mm slide archives were digitised to mark the occasion. My Dad was a prolific, if not overly skilled, practitioner of the moving image and photographic arts.

I present a snippet for your viewing pleasure.

Happy 2011.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tap, tap, tap - is this thing on?

I’ve sat down to write this post many times over the past year and a half and just couldn’t seem to get my head around it. At first it was lack of internet access, and then it was my inability to make sense of the last year and especially my reaction to it.

Given that no one wants to hear me whinge, I’ll summarise the past year in the form of titles for unwritten blog posts.

If your house were on fire, what would you grab?In the event of an emergency, cats are likely to hide in a flammable box as close as possible to the source of danger.
Wet, Stinky and Uninsured
K11 - Homicide
Cats + Hotel Room = Freaked out Maid Service
People here are actually very nice
Moving Day
A Funeral
Whine and Moan
More Whine and Moan
Insurance Labyrinth - the Trials of Testiclese
Grass Widow (in the English sense)
Dramatic Sighing with a side order of Woe followed by a parfait of Petulance for dessert
Settlement - Finally
Here Comes the Sun, doodle doodle

I can't promise more regular posting, but I feel better for having written this - finally.

Monday, January 26, 2009

our home is girt by sea*

What is one to do, when one finds oneself in a foreign land on the occasion of one's National Day?

One attempts to whip up a batch Lamingtons, of course.

In the process, I discovered a new found admiration for old-school, no mixmaster/kitchenaid cookery. Creaming butter and sugar by hand is a bitch.

How I longed for my old trusty Sunbeam Mixmaster (ca 1960). Ours was a multi-generational machine. When we left Australia I bequeathed it to my sister, so along with the family silver it has become a bit of an heirloom piece.

There was something about the way it sounded when it was cranked up to 10, something about the way it smelled - like machine oil and burning sugar - it always reminded me of a fairy floss machine. Most importantly, there was something remarkably pleasing about the way it creamed butter and sugar together without me getting a tired arm.

I'll admit, they are not the world's best Lamingtons, but not a bad first effort.

*Possibly the most ridiculous line in any national anthem - ever.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Blossoms in the snow
Originally uploaded by heliospheric
It is well below 0°C and forecast to remain that way for the next few days.

The novelty of snow has definitely not worn off.

Perfect weather for curling up on the couch and reading a book and drinking cups of tea.


Monday, January 05, 2009


New Year Checklist:

Cupboards reorganised....check.

House tidy...check

Navel gazing complete...check.

Right, must be time to do that resolution thingy.

I was fairly specific last year with my resolutions and that worked fairly well as I had a number of specific things I wanted to achieve. I'm in a big picture frame of mind at the moment, so I've developed the following mantra:

"Positive, Active, Creative." [repeat]

Chuck in a few well placed "ommmms" and I could start my own Ashram.

What are your resolutions?

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolution Round-Up

Way back on 2 January 2008, I penned my manifesto for the year.

It is now time to have a look and see how I did.

Item 1: The Body
  • Enough with the smoking already - it will kill you. Stop it.
    Result: WIN - although not without some hiccups and obsessive washing-up.

  • Exercise and fun are not mutually exclusive. Get on your bike, back in the pool, join a team. Anything. Make sure it is fun.
    Result: WIN. Longer rides in the summer, and a year of biking around town.

  • Moderation is not a dirty word.
    Result: FAIL. Bugger.
Item 2: The Mind
  • For your own sanity, try harder to learn to speak German. Sign up for more classes.
    Result: WIN. Apparently language acquisition is very good blogging fodder.

  • Write every day.
    Result: FAIL. For proof, check out the online castigation I cop from my blogging friend, jb, over at Mainz Daily Photo (in the side bar under the heading "introducing").

  • Take photos every day.
    Result: Technically a FAIL, as I didn't take photos everyday, but I give myself an 'honourable mention' for my babysitting of Mainz Daily Photo while jb was away.

  • Read something every day.
    Result: Technically a WIN, as I didn't go around with my eyes closed, but I'm ashamed to say, I still haven't finished this book.

  • Get a job. The life of a Hausfrau can be somewhat tedious.
    Result: FAIL. I promise to try harder next year...
Item 3: The Soul
  • Travel, travel, travel - you live in the middle of Europe, you can go to France to buy cheese if you want - do it.
    Result: WIN. Surprisingly, my travels didn't really get a guernsey on the blogging front, but I can assure you there were trips to Paris, Berlin, a brief Belgium drive-through just for the hell of it, Strasbourg and of course the world's loveliest honeymoon in Scotland.

  • Try 3 new things this year.
    Result: Technically a WIN, but really a FAIL. You can't really count; not smoking, speaking better German and learning to love bike riding as three new things, can you?

  • Make a new friend.
    Result: WIN. Internet, you'll be pleased to know that I still meet up with my language school friends nearly every week. Also, mr & mrs jb are ace and I'm looking forward to having dinner with them tomorrow.

  • Write more letters to Dad.
    Result: FAIL. I have thought about this issue and have decided that it is the whole writing with a pen and paper that just is not doing it for me. I'm much more likely to type a letter than to write it. Does this make me a heathen?

  • De-lurk.
    Result: WIN. You know what, Internet - you're really nice.
Given a gaussian distribution, I'd give me a passing grade.

Stay tuned for the 2009 edition.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Ham-ster

On Christmas Day as we were heading out the door to visit some friends, I noticed that the neightbours had constructed a makeshift enclosure, complete with a little wooden hut - the perfect size for a hamster.

My internal monologue went something like...

"The kids next door must have got a hamster for Christmas, how cute."

Closely followed by...

"It's a bit weird that there is no top on that enclosure - free range hamsters, how cute."

Closely followed by...

"Oh My God, the cats are outside."

Closely followed by...

"We really need to get some of that 'just in case your cats eat the neighbour's kids' Christmas hamster' insurance that everyone in Germany recommends you have."

Friday, December 19, 2008


I wish I could blame my protracted absence from this blog on madly studying for today's big test - Zertifikat Deutsch.

Unfortunately, I can't, because I didn't.

I wish I could wax lyrical about the Grammatik and how effortlessly I penned that reply to my 'friend' - full of coherent advice about what she should do with her lazy, football watching brother.

Unfortunately, I can't, because I didn't.

I wish I could regale you, beloved Internet, with hilarious stories about how I deftly steered the stilted set of 3 conversation exercises with my fellow Prüflinger in the speaking exam, giving each of us the opportunity to display our verbal wares.

Unfortunately I can't, because I didn't.

Did I pass? Probably.

By much? No.

You live and learn, Internet - you live and learn.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

In da hood

I have developed a bad habit of listening in on people's conversations on public transport. While eavesdropping is not considered a polite hobby, I justify it to myself by thinking that it is good 'hörverstehen' practice.

Normally, I don't understand a lot of what is said, but yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to two 14 year old boys whose mother tongue is 'Merkin.

It was all 'dawg', 'motherf@#$er', 'bitches' and contained very little agreement between subject and verb with respect to number or tense.

I managed to keep a straight face for most of the journey, but after a particularly colourful passage of conversation, I couldn't hold in my laughter anymore.

They got off at the next stop.

Which was a shame, really - the conversation was just getting interesting.

Monday, November 10, 2008


It appears that I have been ousted from power after 9 long years in government in New Zealand. I, of course, accept responsibility for this defeat and will be stepping down as leader of the New Zealand Labour Party.

In related news, an Australian woman currently living in Germany gets her name back. Hooray.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The movement of fresh air is deadly

So say the majority of my language class. They are convinced that my recent bout of the common cold was brought about by not dressing warmly enough and all that poisonous fresh air to which I am exposed whilst riding my bike.

I missed a couple of days of school last week due to feeling utterly awful. When I returned to class, there was a firm consensus and a fair bit of tut-tutting about my general disregard for just how deadly moving air can be. I was half expecting someone to suggest a course of leaches to rid my body of its ill humour.

I have my own theory on how I fell victim to this pernicious illness. Shall I tell you? I got sick because for the last couple of weeks I sat in a stuffy classroom surrounded by a couple of people who thought it was appropriate to come to class when they were sick. One in particular, I’ll just call him Typhoid Mary, sneezed, sniffed and coughed his way through the past two weeks of lessons.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jobs that my subsconscious mind thinks I should not try

I've really got to hand it to my subconscious mind - it really is trying to shelter me from the heartache and disappointment of taking a wrong turn on the career highway.

Last night, it ever so helpfully expounded to me, while I slept, why I would make a really terrible steam-driven-tram driver. Not only are all the valves, levers and dials so difficult to coordinate and keep track of, there is the furnace to keep an eye on as well - and that old kc543 model is particularly curmudgeonly.

And really, don't get me started on just how rude the passengers were. All because I couldn't work the ticket machine and give them the correct change - isn't that what a conductor should be doing anyway?

So, thanks subconscious mind, I will definitely be crossing that particular profession off the list of possibilities. I owe you one.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Night of the Open Churches

If there is one thing that Mainz has plenty of, it's churches.

Friday evening was the second "night of the open churches", and being a bit of a sticky beak and a non church-goer, I thought it would be a rare chance to visit some of the many churches in town.

As good fortune would have it, I was able to catch up with mr and mrs jb and we wandered around admiring the architecture, soaking up the culture, enjoying the music and art, and generally having a great time.

My favourite was the completely over the top, crazy baroque-a-rama of St Peters.

Also, the 'one-night-only' wine bar in the St Ignaz garden was great. It is a shame that the garden isn't open more often (especially as a wine bar), because it is such a beautiful place, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the Altstadt.

Friday, September 05, 2008


No, not in the University Cigarette way, either.

begin note to self:

A stone -

in the old measure

in neigh on 3 months

must be a new world record.

Bloody hell.

Get back in the pool.

Put down the cheese and back away slowly.

Also, stop being such a lush.

note to self ends.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Tour Der Deutschland

I happened to be in town today when the field whizzed through. There was an endless parade of motorbikes, then a quick flash of lycra and muscle, then an endless parade of support vehicles. Each support vehicle carried about 8 bikes, which I'm pretty sure would cost more than the car carrying them. It is a whacky world.

I checked out who won today's stage:

André Greipel narrowly pipped our Robbie McEwan in a pack sprint at the finish. Poor Robbie, first a less than spectacular Olympics, and now this. Chin up though, there is always tomorrow.

Of course, I didn't have a camera with me today, so no pictures of men in lycra - awfully sorry 'bout that.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Conference Crashing - a guide

Scientific conferences may, on the whole, be fairly boring, but one must be aware that from 4pm to 6pm most conferences provide delegates with free booze and food as an incentive to stick around and look at the posters after a gruelling day of sitting still and listening to boring talks. This is the prime crashing time.

It is helpful to have the inside running on what conferences are happening in your vicinity. In order to keep on top of this, I recommend you marry an academic.

On Thursday afternoon we travelled to Frankfurt to 'attend' the 9th Kimberlite Conference. As rocks go, Kimberlites are fairly rare, obscure even, but since they host most of the world's diamonds, a conference discussing the latest research is bound to attract impressive sponsorship dollars.

Sponsorship dollars = lots of beer.


Step 1 - ensure you blend in, again your academic husband (TM) will prove very useful at this point - if you can encourage him to grow a beard, all the better.

Step 2 - head straight for the bar, this will ensure that you look like a conference delegate.

Step 3 - browse the posters. You will only be able to stand this for 20 minutes before crimes against good graphic design become too much for you to handle. Whoever thought that an A0 poster with a thesis printed on it in 10 point font was an effective means of communication has a lot to answer for.

Step 4 - find some friends. Ideally these will be actual people that you know and like, but this is not essential. Your academic husband (TM) will be able to chat to anyone on any number of not particularly interesting subjects.

Step 5 - once the bar is closed and you have been physically removed from the venue, gather together a posse and head out for dinner.

Congratulations, you are now officially a conference interloper.

Your next mission, should you choose to accept it is the 'conference dinner' - a higher degree of difficulty, but with a higher payoff - dinner and drinks! Be warned this is a high risk strategy. You may get stuck at a table with some of the most boring people imaginable.

As you can see from this post, my 'inner student' is strong and is often unsupervised.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday rides - Budenheim

View Larger Map

Distance - 22 km
Stops for lunch - 1
Number of hills - 1
Number of Pils - 1
Once again calories burnt < calories consumed
Schnitzel size - larger than my head

Friday, August 08, 2008

Personal Shopper

Today I tried my hand at being a personal shopper. My language school buddy, Wagner, is attending a wedding this month and needed to buy something to wear. We discussed at length what he wanted - some black (or similarly dark) pants, a belt, a shirt, some shoes and a pair of socks. Also high on the list of desirable attributes was inexpensive. Cool. I love a good bargain shopping expedition.

So off we traipsed to C&A.

Here is where we hit our first hurdle - I can't for the life my me work out how the folk here size their gents trousers, and neither can Wagner. He has an excuse in that he is blind and can't see the swing tags, but I have no such excuse. After a few random size trying ons, we stumbled across a pair of trousers that fit and then I went a bit Carson Kreesley with the shirt and accessories. 

All in all, a fun afternoon.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


I am a bit wiped out today due to spending most of last night weeping about a missing cat. The cat, of course, made her grand entrance at very early o'clock this morning and yea verily there was much rejoicing.

In my unhinged state I was convinced any number of horrible fates had befallen my beloved Poppy - she had been catnapped, she had been catnapped and eaten (I told you I was unhinged), she had been run over and killed, she had been run over and left to die a horrible lingering death, she had managed to get herself trapped somewhere... the list went on and on.

I had forgotten just how exhausting a quality weep can be. I feel like I've run a marathon.

Anyway, truth  be told - today I just feel like a bit of a goose.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Full up to pussy's bow*

We are on a bit of a savings kick in the vain hope that we will be able to afford our upcoming and very belated honeymoon in Scotland. This means a tightening of monetary policy here at H&R Inc. The convenient, but pricey, Tengelmanns is currently off the list of approved purveyors of goods and the not so convenient, but much cheaper, Aldi has become a preferred supplier.

We are taking this mild inconvenience in our stride, but the cats have obviously grown accustomed to a life of luxury, and turn their spoilt little noses up at anything less than Sheba’s Deluxe Foie Gras with Beluga Caviar in a lightly spiced Gold Leaf sauce™. This means that even Copernicus has been rejecting what he is fed.

Usually, I am a big fat pushover and can’t bear to think of my little darlings starving and cave after one day. I am quite convinced that the cats know this too. You are not alone in your incredulity that a seemingly rational, intelligent woman with a university education can so easily be out manoeuvred by two cats, both of who have been known to prefer drinking out of the toilet.

Not this time.

Maybe it is my inner selfish bitch reasserting herself now that I’ve given up smoking (I really think I’ve become a nastier person since I quit), but this is the only honeymoon I’m ever going to have, so if the cats have to slum it with the rest of us for a little while, then they can bloody well eat what they are bloody well given (OMG - I just channelled my mother, except for the ‘bloody’ – she would have said ‘blasted’).

So the theory is good – when the cats are hungry enough, they will eat. The practicality is somewhat different. I forgot to take into account the veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of Shrews living somewhere nearby and the fact that the cats are pretty decent hunters means that our ‘food bowl stalemate’ will continue for some time. I’ve told them not to snack between meals, but they never listen – Naughty Little Fuckers (sorry Dad, but they are).

*An Australian expression to indicate that one has had more than enough (usually to eat) or of a situation eg. I've had it up to here (the neck) with you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

International Love Story

At some point during today's lesson wedged in between Adjektiven Deklination and Konjunktiv II our teacher asked each of us to tell the stories of how we meet our significant others.

We had it all - high school sweethearts, arranged marriages, love over the internet, star-crossed lovers (thankfully without the deaths) and a surprising (to me) number of cousins who had married - I thought that was the purview of royal families.

Our class is very formal and for many of us German is our only shared language, so getting to know each other is not so easy. These little glimpses into the lives of the people with whom I spend 20 hours per week was a delightful treat.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Flowers and Faces

What better way to spend a Friday afternoon than a leisurely wander along the Rhine, admiring the beautiful flowers and works of art at the Landesgartenshau in Bingen with mr and mrs jb.

jb has blogged about the new and improved Bingen river front over at Mainz Daily Photo.

The last time I visited Bingen it was for the start of the bike ride I took with my sister. I can assure you, the new Bingen river front is a big improvement on the old.

I am now thoroughly inspired to create a little garden on my 2m x 5m terrace.

We topped off the evening with a fabulous dinner at Weingut Kruger-Rumpf. mr and mrs jb sure know all the good places to go.

(edited because one of the pictures was causing problems. I'm hoping that deleting it will fix the issue)

Sunday ride - Nackenheim

View Larger Map

total distance - 30.2km
stops for icecream - 1
stops for beer - 1
calories expended < calories ingested (bummer)
detours - 1
total time - 2 hours
route: bretzenheim - bodenheim - nackenheim - mainz - bretzenheim

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Life with Cats

Just like this, but squared.

For the rest of the series visit Simon's Cat

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Sunday ride - my god two weeks in a row

View Larger Map

Number of hills - 3
Instances of walking bike uphill - 0
Planned distance - 28 km
Actual distance ridden - 32 km (a number of wrong turns)
Stops for refreshments - 1
Total time taken - 2 hours
Total time staring at map - 15 minutes
Acknowledgment of our existence from other travellers - 4 (a new record)

Aus seinem Herzen keine Mördergrube machen*

Ich habe schließlich erlebt der berüchtigten deutschen Neigung zu brutalen Ehrlichkeit.

Letzte Woche, während einer improvisierte Besuche von meiner Nachbarin, war ich informiert, dass ich einiges Gewicht gewonnen hatte, da ich mit dem Rauchen und dass vielleicht sollte ich nicht so viel essen.

Ich habe ihr drei wörter, "hart aber fair".

What I meant to say was.....

Don't make a murder's hiding place out of your heart*

I have finally been on the receiving end of the infamous German propensity for brutal honesty.

Last week, during one of my neighbour's frequent impromptu visits, I was informed that I had gained some weight since I stopped smoking and that perhaps I shouldn't eat so much.

I have three words for her, "harsh but fair".

* A German saying that means to speak frankly.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Es tut mir Leid

Es tut mir leid. Gestern hatte ich keine Zeit zum bloggen. Ich verspreche, dass etwas mehr schreiben heute, wenn ich zu Hause von der Schule.

What I meant to say...

I'm sorry. Yesterday I didn't have time to blog. I promise to write something more today when I get home from school.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Beichten von einer Ausländerin

Wann bin ich zuerst nach Deutschland gekommen, habe ich so viele lustigen Fehlern gemacht.

Zum beispiel, in meine erste Woche in Deutschland, habe ich degacht:

"Wer war "Herr Einbahn", und was hat er gemacht, dass er so viele strassen nach ihm zu benennen war?"

What I meant to say...

Confessions of a foreigner
When I first came to Germany, I made so many funny blunders.

For example, in my first week in Germany I thought:

"Who was "Herr Einbahn" and what has he done in order for so many streets to be named after him?"

PS. Einbahn = one way

PPS: I still make plenty of funny blunders.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Meine Neue Sprachschule

Letzte Woche habe ich eine neue Deutschkurs angefangen. Bis hierher klappt es gut. Die Lehrerin ist toll und erklärt alles sehr schlicht.

Die Leute von meiner Klasse kommen aus viele Länder: Irak, Morokko, Romanien, Polen, Afganistan, Pakistan und Schottland. Ein paar sind ein bisschen lästig, weil sie immer zusammen sprechen sind. Aber, meistens sind freundlich.

What I meant to say....
Last week I started a new German course. So far it is going well. The teacher is great and explains everything very simply.

The people in my class come from many countries: Iraq, Morocco, Romania, Poland, Afganistan, Pakistan and Scotland. A few are a bit annoying because they talk all the time. Most are friendly though.

Corrections gratefully received!

Sprache Woche 2008

All this week for your reading pleasure I will be posting auf Deutsch in honour of Language Week 2008.

Enjoy the ensuing hilarity and poor grammar.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday ride

View Larger Map

Hills - 2
Getting off bike and pushing it up hill - 0
Mechanical failures - 1
Stops for coffee - 1
People we overtook - 8
Overtaken by others - 25 (they were in full racing strip and participating in a race, so we don't feel too bad)
Time for round trip, including coffee break - 1.5 hrs
Total distance - 20.8km

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I'm gunna build me an Ark

My word, it is floody today.

I was riding home from language school today and the water was up to my knees, in places. The town's drainage system obviously couldn't cope with the deluge and water was gushing up and out of the manhole covers, and in some cases the water pressure blew the covers off.

I felt a bit sorry for the people whose cars seemed to be filling up with water.

Pardon me while I go and round up some critters.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The first three days

"So, H, how is that non-smoking thing going for you?" asked jb last week.

"Um, not so good, actually," I muttered shamefacedly.

I thought I was ready - but I may have underestimated the need for some proper planning. It really was a bit rash.

I hadn't even made a list.

No one in my family does anything without first making a list. So really the whole first attempt was mere folly.

With list in hand, and head firmly in the right place, I'd like to reflect on my first 3 days as a non-smoker.
  • Time, it seems, has ceased to progress in the normal fashion. It may, in fact, be moving backward. I'm not sure what the consequence of this turn of events will be for the universe, but on a personal level, it is doing my head in.
  • Wow, my apartment is tidy!
  • In my opinion, it is completely rational to burst into tears at the Supermarket.
  • Did I mention the time dilation thing?
  • Wonder if I am replacing an addiction to nicotine with an addiction to taking deep breaths.
  • Facial ticks are normal, right?
  • I can't seem to get enough of that deep breathing action. It's like I am chain breathing.
  • I seem to be unable to concentrate and I don't really care that I can't.
  • At present I am slightly obsessive about washing dishes.
So, if you see someone with a pronounced facial tick, crying in the Supermarket while buying dish washing liquid and breathing deeply, please don't ask them if they know what time it is. They will likely punch you in the head.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


The season of the Fest is upon us.

Last weekend was the local 'Brezelfest'. After missing out last year due to torrential rain I was determined to experience all that the Fest had to offer.

Up until now I was convinced that the population of Bretzenheim was around 50 - seriously this place is quiet. True to form the Fest brought the Bretzenheimers out of the woodwork and by the time we arrived on Saturday evening the main street was chock-a-block with people enjoying all manner of food, wine, beer and music. They take their Festing very seriously here and the organisers had even managed to slap together a side show alley (of sorts). There was even a lovely bride-to-be and her dearest friends whooping it up in matching t-shirts and red, black and gold lei.

The heart of Bretzenheim was clogged with beer wagons, bratwurst stands, and a host of other stands from local community groups (I'm pretty sure I spotted the German equivalent of the CWA) raising money in the time honoured tradition of selling booze and sausages.

At each end of the street stages were set up and we were able to enjoy the Marching band from Klein-Winternheim at one end and the enthusiastic young boys cranking out hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s at the other.

By the time we left, the locals were dancing in the streets.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

No more

Today is as good as any, I thought.

One of the things that was stopping me from attempting the first item on my new year's resolution list, was the fact that the thought of it terrified me.

"Too hard, too hard, too hard," followed by "la, la, la, not listening" and perhaps a modicum of gentle rocking back and forth were my very grown up response to the simple fact that deliberately inhaling carcinogenic substances was perhaps not the best thing to do and that perhaps I should stop.

So, here I go.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

It's a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll

(the title is only funny if you are Australian)

I went to a party last night.

As it was a party consisting of my language course friends, we each brought along a 'traditional' dish from our respective homelands. After much gnashing of teeth and wishing I was from somewhere that had a readily identifiable national dish, I got down to thinking about what would qualify as traditional Australian cuisine.

Our hosts did not have a BBQ, so my initial instinct for incinerated lamb chops was quickly thwarted.

I weighed my options carefully and tried my very best to channel the spirit of Margaret Fulton circa 1972 (devils on horseback or pigs in a blanket anyone?).

So I made a list of possibilities:

  • Vegemite sandwiches - quickly dismissed as lazy, and let's face it, if you weren't raised on the stuff, it really isn't an appetising prospect.
  • ANZAC biscuits - already made these for this group and while they were a good option for a day time party, not appropriate for a soiree.
  • Lamingtons - lead time too long and I'm likely to eat them all before the party. Also, do not go well with wine.
  • Pavlova - don't have a mix-master, also too hard to transport on the tram.
  • Fairy bread - come on now, that's just being silly.
Leaving me with the time honoured option of party pies and sausage rolls. Brilliant.

Prepared a batch of mini sausage rolls and took them along to the party and heated them up in the oven.

One thing I did fail to take into account - most people at the party were vegetarians.

(Yes, I know, like most iconic Australian things, most of these were probably invented in New Zealand).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I met a real live person from the internets

And I didn't even end up locked in a cellar. Bonus.

For the last little while, I've been helping jb with the Mainz Daily Photo blog while he either flitted around the world, or lay in a hospital bed recovering from surgery. He managed to escape the asylum for the weekend and he and the lovely Mrs jb met me at the market for coffee.

Such excellent fun! It is always great to meet new people, especially when they are as easy to chat with as these two. So, thanks Mr & Mrs jb for being excellent!

Of course, I didn't have the wherewithal to take a picture of them, so the lovely roses that they bought for me with have to suffice (and they smell fab too).

So, without further ado, in the words of the master himself, Herr Udo Jürgens, Vielen Dank für die Blumen!

(As an aside, my favourite bit in the video is the orderly formation of the 'mosh pit'). Also, the video may need a bit of time to buffer, otherwise it is annoyingly pausey.

1 year...and counting

This post has been languishing in draft form for 3 or so months, mainly because on reflection the original post seemed mostly negative and that is not a true representation of our experience.

Sure, there were days when I desperately wanted to take my bat and ball and go home, but those days are fewer now. You know what, I kind of like it here.

With a year under our belts, I wanted to share with you some random thoughts on uprooting ones life and transplanting it to this strange place they call Germany.
  1. Cats tend to be mightily pissed off about being incarcerated in a small box and put on an aircraft for over 24 hours.
  2. Don't expect said cats to forgive you quickly - unhappy cats and jet lag are not the best of bedfellows.
  3. German efficiency is a fallacy, German precision is not.
  4. Patience is a virtue.
  5. If you are a fan of potatoes and pork, you'll think you are in Heaven, if not - welcome to Hell.
  6. Würst comes in many flavours, as long as it is pork.
  7. Queuing is not part of the national psyche - and don't even get me started about the lack of etiquette in relation to letting people alight the bus before trying to board.
  8. German beer is your friend - your very bestest friend ever.
  9. Germans do have a sense of humour (especially when poking gentle fun at the French).
  10. Patience is a virtue.
  11. Charades can be an effective form of communication.
  12. Mein Gott im Himmel, this place is green - just like a big garden - and it rains alot.
  13. Patience is a virtue.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Coming up for air

After a fabulous, but exhausting visit from my sister and her family, things are settling back to a semblance of normality.

We have spent the weekend enjoying the silence. Who knew that 2 small children could create such chaos? I promise to tell you all about it, but for the moment I'm just savouring the serenity.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Top Shelf

After a lovely exchange of comments with G in Berlin about how minimise the affects of cat allergies and what a pain in the bum it is to get a drivers licence in Germany, she suggested I might like to participate in a "what's on your bookshelf" meme-thingamebob. I gladly accept her suggestion because:

a) This week I dusted EVERY SINGLE book in the house (and I mean thoroughly dusted) as well as the bookshelves and EVERYTHING ELSE in the house (including the cats), so the photo gives the impression that my apartment is always this tidy. See how shiny that shelf is!

b) I thought it appropriate that since the initial exchange between us was about cats and how to keep them from killing my visitors, that my cat's obsession with the bookcase should be featured. What on earth possessed us to buy a 'cat cubby hole' bookshelf is beyond me. My only defence is that the bookshelf is from Ikea and I had no idea that "Bjurstå" translates to "you'll have a bugger of a time keeping your cat out of this bookshelf". Those Swedes have such an efficient language - all that in just one word.

c) The cat (Poppy) happened to to jump into one of the more enigmatic sections of the bookshelf - the one that houses some of the more esoteric books in our collection (I must add that these are my husband's books - he has a thing for old books).

d) All I've done is clean for the past week, so this gives me something to blog about.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

It's Official

I have finally gone crazy. I vacuumed the ceiling today.

All for a good cause - I'm in full preparations for my sister and her family coming to visit. My nephew and bil suffer from asthma, and assorted allergies, including an allergy to cats (of which I have 2). The last time they came to stay with us in Melbourne we ended up having to make a trip to the emergency ward. I'm not taking any chances this time.

It is Spring and the cats are shedding like billyo. Lord help us all.

Anyone know how to hermetically seal 2 cats, and for them to be still alive?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tea and Sympathy

Eventhough our Deutschkurs has finished, our little band of intrepid language aquirers have decided that we like each other enough to keep meeting once a week at a cafe for coffee and conversation (in Deutsch of course), or tea and sympathy - or perhaps a little of both. We are all in the same boat - we don't know many people and are looking to expand our circle of friends and improve our language skills.

The last time I was in a similar(ish) situation - new town, not knowing anyone, I had just finished university and moved to Darwin to start my first proper job. Darwin could possibly qualify as the friendliest town in the world. Within a week or so, I had received phone calls from friends-of-friends-of-friends inviting me somewhere - there were even squabbles between people within the same circle of friends as to who had befriended me first (I love a good bidding war). Darwin was way easier than Mainz as conversations were conducted in english, but I don't miss living in the tropics - 50 degrees north suits me just fine.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A photo a day keeps boredom away

For the next little while, I'll be helping out a fellow antipodean by contributing to Mainz Daily Photo - a project in which, yep you guessed it, one posts a photo daily from ones city of residence, in our case Mainz, along with a brief commentary.

It should be fun and gives me added incentive to get cracking on another of my new year's resolutions.

So, any Mainzers out there, I'm looking for interesting stuff to photograph. Any suggestions?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Confusitive Case

You will be pleased to hear that I passed the 'abschluss test' for my Deutschkurs. I can hear your collective sighs of relief.

I understand just enough German to be dangerous....they'll never know what hit them. My verbs continue to be all over the shop, and my grasp on the correct usage of personal pronouns remains tenuous, but I'm ready to go forth and converse - badly.

So, if in the coming weeks you see confused and perplexed locals wandering around, don't be alarmed, I've probably just tried to engage them in conversation. I'm sure they'll recover - eventually.

Friday, March 07, 2008

International Women's Day

Remember when I told you I was helping my sister prepare for a debate?

The debate is held annually to mark the occasion of International Women's Day, and is a hot ticket in Brisbane. The event is hosted by the Australian Institute of Management at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, and is attended by over a 1000 people. Now you know why she donned the 'brown underpants'.

The debate topic was "That heels have a rightful place in the boardroom".

She was on the negative team.

So after her initial plea for help, I set to work doing what I do best - surfing the internet, and coming up with truly appalling puns.

She had sent through her initial ideas and finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing, this was the finished piece. I think she was fabulous and only had a couple of little verbal stumbles, but then again, I'm biased.

(The content is heavily Australian-centric, so it may not make a lot of sense to everyone). Also it is about 6 minutes long.....

So ladies, Happy International Women's Day.

PS. They won.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Galloping Death

There has been a devastating outbreak of Galloping Death at our house. No fatalities yet, but definitely two casualties. It started on Tuesday with a desperate phone call from R at work - "I'm sick. Can you go to the Pharmacy and get me some medicine?"

Surely this could not pose a problem. I think there is a law in Germany that states there must be at least 4 Pharmacies per square kilometre, or 1 Pharmacy per 10 people, whichever is the lesser figure. You can't go anywhere without tripping over one. Either the German people are very vigilant about their health (or are all hypochondriacs) or there is so much scope in their health system to support that many Pharmacists. I'm tending to lean toward the Hypochondriac Hypothesis at the moment.

I managed to procure some medicine without too many dramas, although I do miss the convenience of buying basic medicines like Panadol/paracetamol and cough syrup at the supermarket.

By Wednesday, R had a full-blown 'man-cold' - complete with an acute chicken soup dependency.

By Saturday, I was sick as well, and the standoff had began.

"Can you get me a glass of water?"

"No, I can't. I'm too sick to move."

"But I'm dying."

After several unsuccessful attempts to train the cats to fetch the necessities of life for us, I relented, and got him a glass of water. He was only moderately dehydrated by this time.

By Sunday, I was feverish and firmly ensconced on the couch with the computer and two furry hot water bottles that purred. R was recovering and had to fetch and carry for me.

R has declared himself fit to return to work, but I'm taking it easy today - just me, the cats and our rather substantial DVD collection.

Oh Happy Day.

Friday, February 22, 2008


I really enjoy the challenge of learning a new language. It is bemusing, perplexing, and at times, frustrating. At the moment I'm having a love/hate relationship with the requirement that all nouns must be capitalised.

I put this slightly bipolar attitude down to my laziness. I resent that when I write in German I have to take care to begin all nouns with a capital letter. On the other hand, it does offer the novice/complete hack a helping hand when reading - the nouns stand out like beacons and I find this helpful in untwisting the unfamiliar syntax.

Just don't get me started on separable verbs.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Second speaker for the negative

It looked like such an innocuous email from my sister. There is was, piggybacked on a discussion about a present for an upcoming family birthday, information about changes of email addresses, and potential Skyping opportunities on the weekend.

"I'm participating in a debate soon. Can you help me develop my argument/speech? I'm second speaker for the negative. kthnxbai."

Foolishly, I said yes. There are now two of us wearing brown underpants.

I have a hazy recollection of participating in a debate in high school, but the memory must have been too traumatic and I've repressed it - all that remains is a sense of overwhelming panic.

Debating tips gratefully received.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Originally uploaded by Halans

I rushed home from Deutschkurs today to watch the PM deliver the speech.

It was long overdue.

It was confrontingly honest.

It was sincere.

It was moving.

It had a joke!

It didn't pretend that it would be easy.

It contained that magical word - sorry.

It is the first step on a long journey.

It made my heart glad.

Edited to add: at the suggestion of a commenter, I am adding some more information, for those who aren't from Australia, and therefore were left scratching their heads at this post.

On the 13th February 2008, the Australian Government formally apologised to Indigenous Australians, particularly those who were part of the Stolen Generations, who were forcibly removed from their families as part of the appalling government policies relating to Indigenous Australians from the early 1900s to the late 1960s. It recognised that the laws and policies of successive governments tore apart families, destroyed lives and inflicted great pain and suffering on the original inhabitants of Australia.

More information is available on the BBC news website.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

For the Mens

The Europeans are famous throughout the world for their relaxed attitude to nudity, and I do admire them for this, but you can imagine my chagrin when I realised that the local pool actually has male and female changing cubicles in the not so separate changing area.

This was pointed out to me by my language exchange friend on the weekend when we went swimming.

She pointed to the door of a changing cubicle and translated 'umkleidung' and then pointed to the bit I should have noticed on my first visit to the pool - the internationally recognised icon of a stick figure wearing a dress - "for the womens" she said, and then in the next block of changing cubicles and pointed to the internationally recognised icon of a stick figure not wearing a dress - "for the mens" she said.

I immediately though to myself "Ooops" and distinctly remembered that I had used the umkleidung "for the mens" in my last visit. None of the men I shared the room with seemed to mind though.

When I related this particularly hilarous story to my husband, I noticed that the colour quickly drained from his face.

I say again, "Ooops".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lektion Eins

I'm giving myself a big tick on this item in my new year's resolution list.

I started German lessons today at the VHS. First impressions are good - the teacher is engaging and my fellow students seem quite fun, so it should be a good way to spend the next 5 weeks.

The class consists of people from a delightful array of countries: Spain, Surinam, France, Mexico, Brazil, Romania, Bulgaria, and in lane 8 representing Australia - me.

We kicked off with the traditional interview and introduce your partner to the rest of the class game - and it seems most people like riding bicycles and swimming - except for my partner who told me his hobby was storytelling (Geschichten erzählen). I'm so going to sit next to him tomorrow, maybe he'll tell me a story.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Helau! It's Rosenmontag!

I'm not sure what it's all about but I've never seen such a high concentration of clown suits in my life.

The constant refrain of "Helau" does tend to grate on ones nerves after a while.

I feel sorry for the scantily clad women with pom poms - it can't be more than 2 degrees C.

The locals all seem to be having a whale of a time. Even Gutenburg has donned a festive hat.

365 days

it's official
Originally uploaded by heliospheric

Wow, that was fast.

I'm pretty sure not everyone's wedding day starts with an appointment for a moving consultant to come and work out a quote for moving to another country....

My wedding day went something like this:
  • 7 am - get up and have a shower
  • 8am - appointment with moving consultant to provide quote on moving to Germany
  • 10 am - brunch
  • 4 pm - get hair done with my sisters
  • 5 pm - get makeup done
  • 6 pm - get dressed
  • 6:15 pm - curse my own stupidity for buying the cute, but way too high shoes, wonder it I will break my ankle
  • 7:15 pm - call taxi
  • 7:30 pm - arrive at venue
  • 7:32 pm - crack open first bottle of Bollinger (to calm the nerves - you understand)
  • 7:45 pm - remind Dad that there are to be NO speeches, he seems slightly deflated
  • 8:00 pm - walk through door with Dad and see my family and friends all grinning like maniacs at me
  • 8:01 pm - realise that R must be boiling in the kilt and heavy wool jacket (it was around 32 degrees C that night)
  • 8:20 pm - say "I do", kiss my husband
  • 8:25 pm - crack open second bottle of Bollinger - the rest of the night is a bit of a blur of happiness
  • 3:00 am - go to bed.
To celebrate our anniversary my husband whisked me off to a fabulous restaurant and spoilt me rotten. He is definitely a keeper.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Release the Hounds

I’ve never owned a dog. My Dad could possibly claim that this was his single greatest (some would say only) victory as head of our household. He grew up on a farm, where dogs were for rounding up sheep and definitely were never allowed in the house. The conversation (had biannually) when we were growing up went something like this:

“Daaaad, can we have a dog?”

“No, you kids can’t have a bloody dog. Dogs are for working, not for pets. Having a dog in town is not right.”

Sure, I like the concept of dogs, with their waggly tails and their adorable puppy dog eyes, but I was a bit of a novice about the realities and practicalities of dog ownership.

I am a novice no more. Over the weekend we looked after our friends’ dogs while they were in Austria for a wedding. They live in a small village in the countryside, and I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend, watching English telly (blessing be upon the satellite dish) and taking rambling walks through the vineyards with the dogs.

Our charges were possibly the most comical hounds to ever have graced the planet: a poodle with an endearing under bite, who for all intents and purposes is a cat; and a wiry Dachshund with a sparkle of mischief in his eyes and a penchant for humping EVERYTHING.

For the first day and a bit, I was convinced that the poodle had an incomplete digestive tract. I saw the food go in, and I just assumed at some point it would undergo digestion, the nutrients would be absorbed, and then the waste would be eliminated, but no matter how far, or how often we walked, he simply refused to poo. Finally, something magical happened. It is best described in gymnastic parlance as a “straddle press handstand with splits and poo”. Had I not seen it, I would not have believed a dog could crap with a degree of difficulty of 4.5.

They were for the most part great friends - except for when it came to the humping blanket, which we named Cecile the Saucy Minx (CtSM). This was when things got interesting. It seems they had both fallen in love – in the biblical sense - with CtSM, and they vied for her love and affection, trying to outdo each other, and made sure that the other wasn’t getting any, ahem, special time with her.

The verdict? Dogville - great for a visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I’m pretty happy living in Catland.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Blessed be....this House

While I was in town this morning, Richard had a visit from 3 wise men (well children dressed as the 3 wise men) and a star. Needless to say he was extremely perplexed.

After explaining what they were doing, the children sang him some songs and scribbled the following over our doorway:
20 + C + M + B + 08
Apparently this is a Catholic tradition to celebrate the Epiphany. So, you can all relax, we've been well and truly blessed.

All Richard could think was, "Helen will kick herself that she missed this."

He was right.

Although I suppose it is only fair that he have his share of strange experiences while answering the door, because I had mine during Halloween.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Come the Resolution

Comrades, while the year is all shiny and new, unsullied by disappointments and annoyances, I thought I'd draft my 2008 manifesto, and do so publicly in the interests of transparency and accountability.

Item 1: The Body
  • Enough with the smoking already - it will kill you. Stop it.
  • Exercise and fun are not mutually exclusive. Get on your bike, back in the pool, join a team. Anything. Make sure it is fun.
  • Moderation is not a dirty word.
Item 2: The Mind
  • For your own sanity, try harder to learn to speak German. Sign up for more classes.
  • Write every day.
  • Take photos every day.
  • Read something every day.
  • Get a job. The life of a Hausfrau can be somewhat tedious.
Item 3: The Soul
  • Travel, travel, travel - you live in the middle of Europe, you can go to France to buy cheese if you want - do it.
  • Try 3 new things this year.
  • Make a new friend.
  • Write more letters to Dad.
  • De-lurk.
I'll keep you posted on my progress. Wish me luck.

This Country's gone Crackers

I had noticed the packs of fireworks in the supermarket in the days leading up to New Year's Eve, and thought it funny that in a country where crossing the street against the green man can lead to a slow moving Oma springing into action to affect a citizen's arrest for such a flagrant disregard for the rules and public safety, that fireworks are so readily available to all and sundry.

The sale of fireworks in Australia is illegal, except of course in Canberra, the home of the 3 Ps - politics, pornography and pyrotechnics. They were eventually banned after generations of children had lost fingers, and their sight due to unfortunate accidents with Catherine Wheels and Roman Candles on Cracker Night.

The first salvos of New Year's Eve were fired slightly prematurely at around 3 minutes before midnight by small clusters of people out on the street. It seemed that every household had a cache of motars and they were determined to outdo each other.

I decided to observe this ritual from the safety of our house.

It lasted for around 30 minutes, but by the 10 minute mark, the street was so full of smoke and the smell of gunpowder that you could hardly see anything, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a war zone, rather than a 30km/h zone.

How ever you celebrated, I hope 2008 is a cracker - and that you have all your fingers intact.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

26 Again

A few days ago, I turned 26 for the ninth time.

It is a running joke with a friend, whom I first met when I was 26 and living in Melbourne. She reckoned that to her, I would always be 26, and who am I to disagree? I really like being 26, and I've gotten pretty good at it.

My birthday fell on a Sunday this year, and given that Germany should basically put up signs at the borders on Sundays that say "Sorry, we're closed", there was a risk that nothing would be open other than the kebab shops. Fortunately, things were open, and we did not have to resort to having a birthday kebab at the Imbiss. Champagne and fabulous food beat a kebab hands down.

Having a birthday that falls between Christmas and New Year has always annoyed me, and I had to put my foot down very early and insist that I get 2 separate presents for Christmas and Birthday.

Family lore has it that my sister is to blame for this awkwardly placed birthday. I was born about 2 weeks early. The family was enjoying its annual Christmas holidays at Nelson Bay, and my daring-do sister, at the age of 2, decided that she didn't need floaties anymore and jumped into the deep end of the local pool sans floatation devices. Needless to say, she did need her floaties and promptly started flailing around, prompting my very pregnant mother to make a dash for the pool to perform the rescue. I arrived later that night, forever doomed to celebrate my birthday in the calendar's twilight zone.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A slightly White Christmas

Christmas has come and gone. It was slightly white which was tres exciting. A few flakes of snow fell on Christmas day, but it was mostly a heavy frost providing the whiteness.

We decided to go native for Christmas this year, and celebrate on the night of the 24th with a roast dinner and present opening. Champagne, of course, was a staple.

Christmas day started at 4am with a phone call from my family (Hi Dad). I'm pretty sure they knew that it was 4am here, but didn't really care. They had to get that phone call in before they sat down to lunch! We did manage to get back to sleep just in time for Richard's family to call at 6:45am. I have a feeling that we need to institute a "we'll call you" policy for major events such as Christmas and Birthdays.

It snowed on Boxing Day, which was great. The cats found it very interesting. The humans felt the need to get out in the snow and have a look around the neighbourhood.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Haus Frau Disaster #3

Puff Pastry. Two words that should strike fear into the heart of any sane person. Definitely not to be attempted by the faint of heart. Avoided by the wise.

I am neither faint of heart, nor wise.

It all began with a hankering for an old fashioned meat pie, but without the traditional ingredients of a meat pie (gristle, snouts and bottoms, hooves, the occasional rat and soforth). Our masterful plan came undone on Sunday when we realised that we forgot to buy puff pastry at the Supermarket on Saturday, and there was bugger all chance of finding anything open, so I decided I'd have a crack at the holy grail of pastry from scratch. Never. Again.

Even without the stomach churning, artery clogging thought of ALL THAT BUTTER, puff pastry is not a fun way to spend a Sunday.

The folding. The rolling. The throwing of the rolling pin through the window because the butter continually oozes out the sides or the top or the bottom of the pastry, just as it is NOT supposed to. The chilling. The waiting.

The folding. The rolling. The threats to stab ones husband with a fork for offering helpful suggestions. The chilling. The waiting.

The folding. The rolling. The tears of frustration. The continued threats to stab ones husband with a fork for the gentle hugs and encouraging words. The chilling. The waiting.

Then finally, the torment is over. The pie is in the oven. The delicious meat and gravy sits betwixt its oh-so-simple shortcrust pie base, and oh-so-teeth-clenchingly-annoying puff pastry top. Adorned with pastry leaves and expertly applied egg wash, it cooks. It even puffs a little. It appears that all may, in fact, be right in the land of Pie-donia.

But no. I'm pretty sure that puff pastry should not have the texture of an old boot with mud encrusted laces.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Glee! Schnee!

It's snowing! Kinda. It is definitely non-wet rain, and I think it just may, in fact, be snow! Joy! It won't stick around for long, so no snowball fights are in the offing just yet, but I remain in a state of cat-like readiness - which, if my cats are anything to go by, means I'm about to curl up with my nose very close to my bum and go to sleep.

Counting today, the number of snow experiences I've had can be counted on one hand. The novelty factor is still extremely high. I'm sure it will diminish with time, but for now it is 'Big Kev' exciting.