Wednesday, February 27, 2008

German Engineering

Since Germany is known for its engineers, I've decided it would be a good time to focus on engineering. Now we know I'm not easily excited by programming and complex equations so I decided to focus on my inner domestic engineer. Living by myself, I feel more enclined to keep on top of the dishes and vacuuming and cook more. Specifically, I would like to work on improving my cooking skills. I would love to learn some good German dishes, although I can't really think of anything I would put in that category. However, Germans do know how to do sweets and I have an appointment with Patrick's Oma for a cookie lesson the next time we visit and I will be sure to take her up on that. So I'm on a hunt for "grandma recipies". Since I don't have any living grandmas, I need some help in this. So, if there's something that your grandma makes really good will you please get the recipie for me ans send it with some good instructions. I know this does not in any way make up for actually learning from a grandma but I'm too far away to do in person lessons. I also realize that measurements won't be accurate to a measuring cup if your grandmas cook anything like mine did. Some Grandma recipies I already have in my head and can remember right now (too few I must add):
  • hummus
  • italian pizza (Thanks Melissa!)
  • french toast
  • scrambled eggs from my pop-pop
  • BBQ Chicken and potatoes
  • stuffed peppers
  • M, I want your grandma's cupcake and frosting recipie!

Please email me recipies or stories :) thanks

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Subprime Explained w/Stick Figures

This is a neat little slideshow on the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis (Thanks Patrick). All you really need to know to fully understand this is that an AAA bod rating is the best you can get and generally considered a very low risk investment. Enjoy.

Cereal and Economics

So, as I may have mentioned before, my grocery store posted a sign a few months back declaring that they would no longer carry Kellogg's cereal as it did not allow them to make a profit. Instead, the management suggested you may try Nestle or TIP (the store brand). I was devistated as I had only recently started eating Special K since Rasin Bran is no where to be found in Germany. I bought two boxes and paced myself. Finally I ran out of cereal last week. I put it on my shopping list and prepared myself to consider something new as I walked to the last isle (where they keep the cereal). I walked by the Nestle products uninspired and then I found Special K and new flavors. Indeed they did not stop selling it but they raised the price. When reading that sign months before I wondered to Patrick why they would not just raise the price. So now I have a new flavor - Special K Cranberry Vanilla. As I tasted my new cereal this morning I began to think about how expensive cereal is. My 300g box which is equal to about 10oz. cost 2.99 EUR. I looked at to see how much the same cereal would cost from Stop and Shop and Special K is about .27 cents per ounce, depending on the size of the box and the variety. Anyway, that's about $2.70 in the US for the same box I pay 2.99EUR for (I think it used to be 2.69 before they threarened to stop selling it actually) in Germany. In numbers, that's a difference I would never thing about but considering the current rate of exchange that's $4.44 and rising by the minute. This is where the economy comes in. When the Euro was first introduced (begining of 2002), it was intended to be equal or almost equal to the USD. In the begining it was even less than the USD. So, one would assume these prices were set to equal those of the USD in number not value which is evdent in a lot of things like clothing and electronics and even my cereal. However, over the years, the Euro has proved to be valued higher than the USD but prices have not been adjusted to reflect this. American companies love it becasue even now as the US slumpsi nto a recession, American companies with business abroad are making up for their loss of domestic products with foreign sales. This is also an asset to mutlinational companies who have a strong market outside of the US, especially in the luxury goods market. Companies with a US focus in high end goods are seeing the recession while true multinationals with strong markets in Japan and Europe and the Middle East are not hit as hard. So, I feel like ther needs to be a lesson here and maybe it is diversify your assets or invest in currency exchanges or maybe it is don't try to live in an Euro economy on a Dollar income. Or just enjoy your cereal :)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Is It Earth Day?

Today I started efforts to raise the quality of life for all plants in our apartment. With spring just around the corner, it seems appropriate to get my plans in line. So on my lunch break I started with the tree. Patrick and I received said tree as a gift from his aunt. It's a nice tree, however, it is pretty large and we had to transport it home from his parent's house 3 hours away so it was not a practical gift. Either way it became our Christmas tree and was still adorned in tinsel and red and silver ornaments. The tree is constantly shedding leaves but never looks bare. I started by picking up all of the dropped leaves. Without exaggerating, I can say I threw away enough leaves to make a complete other tree! Now that the leaves were gone the coffee table looked much nicer but I noticed a mold growing on the soil under the leaves (from the water). I gave the tree 3 glasses of water and moved on. I also removed the tinsel but left the ornaments on the tree because they're kind of festive and fun. Then I moved onto my miniature rose bush. This was and still remains the first and only flowers Patrick has bought me so I don't want to kill it but I sort of stopped watering it over the winter. I decided to prune off the dead leaves. Aside from where the flowers died, the plant is still green and thriving so I moved it to the kitchen where it will get more light and is closer to the sink. I tried this a few months earlier with my hyacinths from Holland but I think they got confused by the weather and bloomed too early and then froze so they are nice and green but won't flower again. I also watered the tree in the bathroom (given to us by our neighbors before they moved out) which is actually very healthy as it lives in the sunniest place in the apartment. After taking care of all my plants, I decided to attempt to bring Patrick's back to life. Patrick is more of a cactus man. He rescued an overgrown cactus left by the former tenant, trimmed it and brought it to life but he can't handle a proper plant. He forgets that plants need two things - sunshine and water. I bought Patrick a bonsai tree (he wanted one) on the day he handed in his thesis and retired his student status. I gave him the challenge of keeping said tree alive now that he is an adult - he had already killed the one other plant he's owned since we lived here. Anyway, it was a cute little tree and the dirt was covered in moss, when I bought it, the florist specifically recommended I pick one with an all over moss base. When I saw the tree almost completely bare of leaves and in a dark corner of Patrick's room I asked what happened. He blamed the moss for keeping the water away from the dirt although it looked like the plant had not seen water in weeks. Today, I decided to try to nurture his plant back to life in the kitchen window. Here's to hoping and to the weekend!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I recently learned that as of January of this year, Berlin enacted an Environment Zone. Similarly to how London charges a congestion tax to drive in the center city, Berlin requires your car pass a particle emissions test. If your car has passed this test, you get a sticker and can drive in the environment zone, if you drive within the limits w/o a sticker you face a fine. It's really a concrete step in creating harsher pollution standards and helping the environment NOW. It puzzles me how Germany can be so strict and the US can't even get itself in line to make any changes now. Even the candidates are making pledges for the future to reduce 2050 emissions to 1990 levels. To me that says you can continue doing what you are doing but in 42 years you have to make some sort of improvements. Let's face it, that's what companies want to hear but it's not going to help the environment much. My favorite "Green" plan that I saw come out of the US to stop global warming involved builfing a shield piece by piece and sending it into the atmosphere. I read about this plan in an Aeronautical/aerospace magazine published in the US in 2007. I happened to be sitting next to a German gentleman who had an English magazine on the seat between us, as I was previously exposed to british and German strategies, I was intrigued to read about a US strategy on Global warming as a time where not all US political parties were even acknowledging the existance of Global warming but post-Al Gore. By the way, Europeans from France to Germany to Belgium LOVE Al Gore's movie! This is not the exact article I read but it descrribes a similar plan'. The article I read also pointed out the economic factor behind building a shild.

So this shield business got me thinking of other REDICULOUS ways to stop global warming

  • leave your faucets on all day - wasting the water means we'll all be safe from melting polar ice caps and rising tides
  • ship corporate pollution to developing countries where they care more about jobs than the environment - oh wait, this is already being done
  • drive less, fly more, after all the airline industry only makes up about 3% of global emmissions, that not much only the same ammount as 2 countries (UK and Germany)!
  • use only mirrors in new construction, they will send the sunlight back into the atmosphere and save the earth

On a more serious note, some simple energy saving tips I picked up over the last year in Germany:

  • turn off lights when not in a room
  • do not use airconditioners and heat excessively, alter your clothing and activity and keep temperatures moderate
  • turn off all computers before leaving the office or going to bed
  • program better, aparently a lot of energy is wasted in programs that are longer than necessary
  • don't drive if you can walk or ride a bike
  • improve US Public transportation, no one uses it becasue it is unusable
  • insulate buildings better to conserve energy
  • Government regulations to cause energy companies to buy renewable energy will create an instant demand and then supply will come via solar panels and windmills

In doing these things, you will not only be helping the environment but hopefully you will see your energy bill drop.

I'm not trying to be preachy, I just feel like this is a serious issue and it's hard for me to see my country so far behind my adopted one and there's nothing I can do to change big business so why not start by suggesting small changes to my friends and family.

Coming Soon...

Mannheim, Germany It is official, we have the apartment and the internet service has been ordered. March 1st marks the date we can finally move in. What this really means is Patrick will be living in our new apartment sans furniture and sans me for a few weeks. I'll be splitting my time if all goes well, spending a week in the new place and the better part of March here with up to 4 business trips thrown in on a once per week consistancy. The moving truck will come in April (once Patrick makes the appointment). We planned this all out last weekend. I'm trying to psych myself up but it's hard. I am really enjoying playing on a softball team here, or rather practicing since the season has not started yet. I'm finally hanging out with my English teaching friends outside of work and I see my social life forming quite nicely so I'm really not ready to start over. I guess I have the frame work to do it again, I just need to make myself realize it's worth it. I'm really happy in Braunschweig now. With all of my complaining I need to remember our new apartment will be AMAZING and Patrick is already in Mannheim and FRA is much closer. Berlin is further though so I'll have to make the most out of it when I travel to Berlin for work in 2 weeks.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

I've always enjoyed Valentine's day even as a single girl. What's not to like, other than the fact that pink and red seperately are two of my favorite colors but should not be usedtogether. I will admit I wore a pink polo with a red v-neck sweater to my English lesson tonight. However, I get a buy as I was dressed in my capacity as a teacher and it is an unwritten rule that teachers must wear some sort of holiday themed sweater so I tried my best to fullfill my obligations. Anyway, some of my favorite things about valentine's day:
  • conversation hearts
  • pink
  • red
  • love
  • smiles and cheerfulness
  • valentines, the grade school kind with cartoons or barbie on sesamestreet
  • hearts
  • decorations
  • let's face it's a girly holiday
  • dinner with a boy (or best friend)
  • Val - a - grams
  • it's the first fun holiday of the new year
  • it's just a day of love, how can you go wrong

Happy Heart Day :)

Bird Flu

Today after my English lesson, I walked down the street to get a wrap for dinner. As I walked, I noticed a pigeon in my path and it looked like it wasstanding over some bread. Nothing weird here as there were several restaurants on this corner but as I approached, I noticed something off, the pigeon didn't move away from pedestrian traffic. As I walked around the pigeon, I noticed it was not eating but dead and standing over a substantial pile of pigeon vomit.....eww! I know you don't want that mental image and neither did I, especially on my way to grab dinner. I took the wrap to go and only ate when I was home as I could not stomach any food after that sight. Bird flu passed through my mind but I thought it was a far fetched thought based on an article I read about bird flu activity in the Phillipines 2 weeks ago. Then I told Patrick this story because I had to tell someone and he suggested bird flu before I could mention it. I laughed it off as a far fetched thought and he pointed out that there were "not few" cases of bird flu in Germany in 2006. This is how a German would tell you there were several cases. Ahh, I want someone to examine that bird and let me know how it turns out. I'm mentally disturbed but I am not in danger of bird flu even if that is what the bird had as I know from that article that a human needs to be exposed to the bird's blood to catch the disease. I'm trying to do some internet research and find out if vomiting is a sign of bird flu and if birds die standing up on 2 feet!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Flip Flops, Sunshine and Reading

Sunshine instantly makes me happy in Braunschweig. It doesn't happen often and up until yesterday any bout of winter sunshine was a sure sign of false hope. There was something about the sun that came out yesterda, I didn't even need to go outside to realize that this was the first spring sun. I quickly pinted my toe nails to prepare for my flip flops. I had plans to meet a friend around 2 and I left the house with my flip flops and velour hoodie, my jacket was safely packed in my back pack as I knew the warmpth would not last past the sun. I was right and by thr time I was walking home at 7:00 my coat was on and the tips of my toes were cold but none of it matered becasue for a few short hours, I felt spring in February. Today started out much the same with the opening of the bathroom window to confirm that the sun was once again of the warm variety. With this good fortune of two sunny days in a row, I knew I could not stay inside. I fist contemplated a run and then a bike rid but I don't enjoy running and the back tire of my bick needs some air and my book was calling. I decided to pack up my book, beach mat, a bottle of water and my cell phone and wander down to the park where I would undoubtably be able to find a sunny, spot to lay out and read in peace. I was determined to avoid the lake as the duckes and geese were nearby and the ground was moist but as I walked I noticed a bench I had never seen before sitting on a small wooden platform built into the side pond. Sitting there, I was surronded by water and the serenity of nature. Only about 100 yards away from the main road, it felt like I was miles into the countryside. Cars passed along the dirt road behind me and occasionally one would stop and a couple with their dog would get out for a stroll. I looked up from my book and a small boy was staring at me. He looked to be about 9 or 10 and he was just kind of standing there looking at me as if I were out of place. He was soon joined by a father and mother, they had come to feed the birds on my platform. The platform was larg enough that we could share but instead of moving to the left side whil I sat on the right, they stood directly in front of me feeding the ducks. I thought this would be a fleeting task and they would soon leave until I noticed that they had a whole loaf of bread and the mother was rationing it so it would last awhile. Then there was a man with a motorcycle helmet standing in the middle of them. He just kind of wandered the platform and then sat on arock on the shore. Almost as soon as he backed off, a woman wearing a purple loepard top with lace sleeves was on the platform and soon sitting on the edge of my bench. She placed her purse next to my bag and I knew she was not leaving. with all of these people in my space, there was no serenity. The boy continued to sing to the ducks and the platform shook under the movements of these 5 people. My reading was ruined and I knew I needed to finish my paragraph and slink back home. Maybe it was time, I had been there for about an hour. I decided to make the best out of it and stroll home to make a breakfast of fresh baked baguette and scrambled egg.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I was walking behind this woman last week on my first visit to Mannheim. It should be noted that she was not with that man, they just happen to be walking near each other at this time. After a couple of minutes, I realized I needed to take her photo becasue she is the epitomy of 1994. Seriously, when I was in 5th grade, I would have been envious of her Starter jacket (although mine was Charlotte Hornetts), mini back back with beanie baby like keychains on the zipper and black stretch jeans! What you can't see is that she's also wearing knock-off Cons! She's a serious throw back and I bet she does not even have a clue. This was one of three starter jackets I saw that weekend, all with US teams. Germans are either very Euro and fashionable or way off the mark. There's just no middle ground and I see way too many scrunchies on a daily basis! If scrunchies are back, I'll eat my words but I highly doubt that is the situation. I think Germans just love the 1990's. It was a good time for the country and some people just do not want to move on aparently. Speaking of a throwback...
Completely unrelated, here's a link to my favorite internet radio station:

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Inspiration I have loved Virgin Radio since I discovered it in 2003 (when I lived in London). From time to time I listen online and it never disapoints so I thought I'd share. Enjoy my inspiration for the day.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


What is the most important thing to look for in an apartment? Some would argue location location location as the 3 most important things to consider when buying a house. It seems that location is important in renting too the only difference is it is easier to move when you rent so essentially nothing is as important. That being said I love the location of what will soon be my new apartment (hopefully). It is the first floor of a two story house, there’s about a 10 minute walk to the two different strassen bahn stations and the Train station is not far (although not within walking distance). Down town is equally not far and neither is the University of Mannheim which is located in the old castle (it is huge!). The house has a very pretty back yard (landscaped and cared for by the upstairs tenants) and is on a dead end street with a bakery on one corner and a soccer field/running track on the other side of the culder-sac. It’s almost suburban but just when you think it is boring you remember the city is easily accessible and after the strassen bahn stops running it will only be a short cab ride home. Frankfurt airport is 30 minutes and 20 EUR from the train station and Patrick’s daily commute us about 10 minutes each way. I don’t think the location could be much better. From the inside, it’s white with light wood flooring (I believe it’s called laminate) and each room has an interesting light fixture. The kitchen is included which saves us a lot of hassle associated with uninstalling and reinstalling our kitchen. There are 2 bedrooms about equal in size, one will become a shared office. There is also a living room which is slightly larger and then an eat in kitchen. Then we must not forget my favorite feature, the “winter garden” a balcony with glass windows all around and large enough to hold a table and 4 chairs with plenty of extra space. I can already see myself working from here mid day when the sun is shining in or having dinner out here with the windows open in the summer. The last feature I haven’t mentioned is the bathroom. This is my least favorite part as it is small and with a washing machine will be much smaller. However, it is set up as a bathroom and a WC which means the toilet and the bath tub are in separate rooms and can be used at the same time w/o disturbance. However both rooms also include a sink and the WC is quite literally a closet but really, how much time does one spend in the bathroom? I also forgot to mention the apartment comes with a garage (no photo) where Patrick will park his car and hopefully get a reduction on insurance because of it. So enjoy the photos and the video (if I got that up her and working) and keep your fingers crossed that we get the apartment! Beyond anything else, I would hate to have to start over in the search now that we found one so close to being perfect. bedroom (above) living room Kitchen - note the dishwasher and ceramic stove top kitchen - fridge side WC and bathroom