"Life is too important to be taken seriously."

-Oscar Wilde

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Once upon a time in a land far away,
There were skies that were oft cloudy and grey,
They didn't stop the children wanting to play,
But they did halt the Kindergarten's "Sommerfest" day!

Late yesterday - all parents were phoned,
And advised that the fun would be postponed,
The children grizzled, whined and moaned,
And demanded expectations be well atoned.

So, better be thinking of some other fun plans for today then...

UPDATE: The Kindergarten's Sommerfest/ Sports day has been rescheduled for Sat. 16th August.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Is it a postbox? Is it a fire hydrant? No -

but it's new, it's shiny, and the Caspi-man has to (at least 18 times a day) make sure it's still in working order. (Think there's a very strong possibility we may end up utilising the "10 year warranty".)

Is it wrong to feel so enchanted with something designed to contain waste?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Never ever trust a translation program!

Last Friday, we had few people over for dinner, including Monika- our beloved neighbour - who doesn’t speak much English.

I had taken the opportunity to finally try out a recipe (one that my sister had been raving about for ages) for apricots poached in Orange-blossom water, filled with crème fraiche and sprinkled with ground pistachios.

They were, indeed, delicious. Melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious. Monika – kindred spirit that she is – was also very taken by them, and requested the recipe. (And not in the vague way that some polite people do to indicate they enjoyed it - but in the way of someone who really, really loved it and has an upcoming occasion for which to make it.)

So, tonight, I finally got round to translating it for her. Or, rather, as I can sometimes be resourceful (?) - oh ok, then - a bit lazy - typing it out as simply as possible (while trying to ensure correct grammar) and entering it into a web-based translation program.

This process was followed by a very, very brief “proof-read” - during which I corrected a few really obvious mistakes. (For some reason the program I often use translates saucepan as Kasserolle- which is a casserole dish –and not - the same thing as a saucepan at all. And this recipe really requires a saucepan rather than a casserole dish.)

I then spent a few (longer) minutes playing with the font and formatting – and plonked the laptop in front of the Ger-Man, who was (and as I type this – still is) engrossed in the Eurovision Grand Prix on TV, with a quick “Can you please, bitte, bitte, cast a quick eye over this for me?”, and then dashed off to the loo.

Next thing, I hear the Ger-Man laughing hysterically.

So I quickly dashed back- so as not to miss whatever country's musical/theatrical embarrassment on TV had prompted such mirth.

But when I got there it wasn't Eurovision he was laughing at.

"If this is how the Apricots are made - I'm not eating them again," spluttered the Ger-Man.

It wasn't really the "Aufschlag"( 'to land', or 'to serve' but only in tennis) that was the problem, nor was it the "Nieselregen" ('misty-rain' ie. 'drizzle' over) - no- the real problem was the 'bring to the boil' - "holen zum Blutgeschwür". ( As in: 'bring to the red painful swelling with a hard pus-filled core caused by infection of the skin').

Heed my warning: Never ever trust a translation program!

At this time, the results from Eurovision aren’t in – but I can share with you that if I had 12 points - they’d be going to Bosnia & Herz????ia and that the Ger-Man would be allocating his to Finland.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ich sehe etwas - was du nicht siehst!

"I see something that you can't see!"

This is the German version of "I spy with my little eye" and in the version that we play - we don't use the first letter - but rather the colour of the 'something'.

eg: "und das hat die Farbe - _____" (rot, weiss, schwarz, blau, grün, etc).

The Caspi-Man enjoys this 'Spiel', but very much takes after his Godmother (my darlink sister), who in childhood would play like this:

"I spy with my little eye - something beginning with Tree!"

"Um, is it a tree?"

"Yes!!!! My turn again! I spy..." etc

With the Caspi-Man it goes like this:

"Ich sehe etwas was du nicht siehst und das hat die Farbe - rot. Eine rote Couch!"

"Ummm, is it the couch*?"

"Yes! My turn again!!!"

*in the interest of accuracy - I just wish to clarify that our couch, while once red, is these days more of a mixed palette - ranging from faded pink to nondescript crimson and featuring splotches of-you-don't-wanna-think-too-much-why-brown. Am longing for some big name interior designer to take 'shabby chic' to the next step - & make 'toddler-tainted' interiors the next big thing. We'd be sooo ready for our feature in Homes Beautiful!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ssssshhhh - don't tell the Ger-Man...

But I have developed a bit of a crush.

His name is Kevie. (Not usually the sort of name to get hearts all a fluttering – but - there you go.)

Kevie is a rather special bloke. He may not be conventionally drop-dead gorgeous - but in his own way-he’s rather cute. And he has a witty, self-depreciating sense of humour – which as we all know - is always a very attractive trait in a man.

And Kevie doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has on many occasions been heard to make jibes about his hairstyle and general lack of dress sense. I think Kevie’s a bit hard on himself as (in my opinion) he really doesn’t scrub up too badly.

Kevie does, however, seem to take what he does quite seriously. And he also seems (in my opinion) to be doing it quite well. Over the last 6 months or so, Kevie has achieved some quite remarkable things. Here are but a few examples:

  • Making a visit to the “historic family home” and having a quiet, gentle chat with “mum” to sensitively break the news to her that, because we’re all grown up now, it might be time for us to start seriously planning to “leave home” for good.

  • Honoring a promise and signing a high profile pact. And also understanding (unlike those that came before him) that sometimes the vision, principle and commitment of these things is (similar to marriage contracts) more important than the specifics contained within.

  • Humbly admitting past mistakes, even for truly appalling atrocities. Taking full responsibility, sincerely asking forgiveness and thereby paving the way to restoring a sense of resolution and rightful justice. (Always something to make a girl swoon a bit .)

  • Getting himself invited into a very wary country to speak directly to the young future leaders (fluently in their own-tongue) about how they may be being perceived by the wider world and (ever the diplomat) planting seeds on how it’s up to them to improve things in the future.
But more than this – Kevie has restored both my faith in, and my hope for, the future of my “mother-land”. (Both had been sorely tested over the past decade.)

He has ensured that I can safely continue procrastinating on filling out the application forms (that have been sitting on my desk for the last 3 years) for a legitimately entitled passport from my “father-land”. (And thereby, also saving me from any future dilemmas about how to pronounce 'fish&chips' and having to choose who to back in the rugby…)

Yeah, I think I’ve really developed a bit of a “thing” for Kevie.

Pity my sister got in first:

My Darlink sister with kevie (at a policy development conference prior to last November’s Rudd-slide).

Explaination (for those not familiar with recent developments in Australian politics) Kevin Rudd is the Prime Minister and since coming to power last November he's:
1) Officially met with Queen Elizabeth II about Australia's intention to become a republic.
2) Signed The Kyoto Protocol.
3) Formally apologised to the Stolen Generation (for decades it was government policy to forcibly remove aboriginal children from their families).
4) Addressed leading university students in China ( in regard to human rights).


I knew I shouldn't have mentioned the "brilliant"summery weather last week. I've gone and jinxed it. Today was back down to 14 degrees and rainy.

Probably just as well though. Another week of warm and dry - and the locals would start fretting about the 'drought'.

Am thinking I wouldn't actually mind a pair of Gumboots though. Then I could join the Caspi-Man in jumping in puddles.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tyranny of distance -no.2

Right now - while I'm typing this - my beloved Darlink sister & her husband "Barry" (which is - incidentally - NOT his name - nor what other people call him - but is how he chooses to identify himself in most public spheres - and before anyone asks - NO - I've no bloody idea at all why) should be boarding a plane to Sydney.

They are heading down there for the weekend to attend celebrations for my Grandmother's 85th birthday. (Which incidentally is NOT this weekend - my Grandmother actually turned 85 last Tuesday. But the celebrations are tomorrow night.)

Needless to say I (& the Ger-Man, & the Caspi-Man) won't be there. (Although we do plan to phone in and ensure that we're passed around so everyone gets to hear the Caspi-Man's hybrid rendition of "Happy Birthday/ zum Geburtstag Viel Glück" ).

It is (especially) on occasions like this that the "tyranny of distance" really sucks.

So: here's a request for whoever's taking the happy-snaps tomorrow night: please photoshop the 3 of us into the pictures you take before developing them? Please? (Because you know we are really there in spirit.)

Some of the usual suspects (+ Capsi-Man & me) who'll be partying tomorrow night.
(nb: b-i-l "Barry" & the Ger-Man absent from this pic!)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Routinely muddled

It’s an odd week, this one.

Monday was a holiday. An extra day off for Pfingsten/Pentecost/Whitsunday (although why the observance of a special holiday for a group of islands off the North Queensland coast is a bit beyond me). May certainly abounds with public holidays in this region.

And today (while not a holiday) there is no kindergarten for the Caspi-Man. The workers are having a ”professional development” day. Hence I also have a holiday from my English Course – but alas no professional development for me. Unless you count watching “Playschool” DVDs with the Caspi-Man.

The brilliant thing about all these “days off” is that have been accompanied by brilliant weather. If you’ve been wondering why I have failed to moan about weather lately it’s because over the past fortnight we’ve been experiencing warm sunny days. An average high of about 25 degrees and not a rain-cloud in sight. (So not much watching of DVDs, then, with the Caspi-Man.) Some have already started moaning about the "heat" (not gonna specifically mention the Schwierig-mutter here).

So far, we’ve had 3 BBQs (or “Grillen” in local tongue) at various locations, 2 picnics in our “backyard”, and plenty of struggles with the Caspi-Man applying suncream to his exposed bits. He insists he can "do it ganze (completely) alone"
- but he's not very thorough. And he's developed a bit of a taste for it - so some always gets eaten in the process.

So, am afraid there's no chance this week of us getting into routine (as much as I like to pretend we actually have one).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh Mother!

After learning about the illustrious history of the Germanic Father's Day - I was curious to find out what the origin of Mother's Day (as celebrated here) might have been.

This is what I discovered:

"Germany's first Muttertag observance took place in 1922, Austria's in 1926 (or 1924, depending on the source). Muttertag was first declared an official German holiday in 1933 (the second Sunday in May) and took on a special significance as part of the Nazi motherhood cult under the Hitler regime. There was even a medal—das Mutterkreuz—in bronze, silver, and gold (for eight or more Kinder!), awarded to mothers who produced children for the Vaterland. (The medal had the popular nickname of "Karnickelorden," the "Order of the Rabbit.")"

Yes, um, well...

Absolutely no chance of any "Order of the Rabbit"s in this household, but this morning, I was presented with this (all together way more desirable) card:

The Caspi-Man was also very excited to present me with a (truly gorgeous) pair of silver stud earrings he’d bought himself. With his own money. It would seem his money-box was carried into the shop and coins were counted out at the counter. So, he understands the value of my present (against his personal conversion rate: the number of “goes” on the Helicopter ride down the street).

How very, very lucky am I?

Happy Mother's Day, Mum.
(Don't tell the Caspi-Man - but if I could've - I'd have brought you lollies in bed for breakfast "if you wanted"!)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Very fishy...

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks - you've probably heard about the colossal squid captured and deep frozen in Antarctica - then shipped to the New Zealand Museum for defrosting and dissection by an (excited) international team of scientists. They were broadcasting (pod-casting?) live on the net early last week -but every time I remembered to check in they were still in the "thawing"stage - which didn't really make for riveting viewing.

(Apparently the specimen's a girl. You can read all about it here.)

I've had a bit of an interest in huge squid since I was very young - (believing for awhile they were a fabled creature - like mermaids) although my father banished this misconception early on telling repeatedly the story of wagging school when he was a boy to go see two that had been washed up on the Kapiti Coast. A few years ago I read in National Geographic (my mum used to organise annual subscriptions for the Ger-Man's birthday) that numbers of the "Giant" variety were increasing exponentially and no-one knew exactly why. Scientists believed it could be due to rising sea temperatures.

But, aside from general squid interest, this whole "colossal" adventure has unleashed in me, a seemingly insatiable desire for calamari.

To be honest, seafood in Germany is, well, a completely different kettle of (um?) fish, to what it is in Australia. I so very, very much miss reef-fish; red emperor, rainbow trout, and also barramundi (although not quite to the same degree that I miss fresh tiger prawns, sand crab, and moreton bay bugs) and I'm afraid that smoked eel and Matjes are really no substitute.

We have a very good fishmonger in the food hall of the Department store (that is conveniently located a mere 50mtrs or so from our apartment building) so I do spend a fair bit of time gazing confusedly at the unfamiliar northern species (presented ever so invitingly on their bed of ice).
I even ask questions. I purchase and cook to instruction - and occasionally it's even nice - but it's not the same.

However, the fish counter also often have baby calamari and squid tubes (all under the name of "Tintenfisch"). And these DO TASTE THE SAME! And, compared to most local fish fare, they are cheap!

So today, being Friday, I decided to ignore the Ger-Man's protests (along the lines of "haven't we eaten enough? do we have to have it AGAIN???") and make some for the Schwierig-mutter.

I have two secrets to share when it comes to making succulently tender calamari; the first is milk, and the second is cooking time.


Soak prepared calamari (eg rings, or small scored flat pieces + tentacles, etc) in milk (in the fridge) for at least an hour before cooking. (This completely negates any rubber band tendencies.) Some advise adding a few tablespoons of lemon juice -but this is optional. The milk soaking is not.

Then, drain, pat dry, coat in mixture of choice (my basic is cornflour mixed with salt & pepper, sometimes a few breadcrumbs too, occasionally for a change -some added five spice).

Heat oil (designed for high temperatures) in a fry-pan (1 cm deep is all that's really required if you're prepared to turn the calamari). When the oil is truly hot (some cookbooks describe this as "when a bread cube browns in 15 seconds") place individual pieces in the pan for a total period not exceeding 90 seconds. Drain well.

Serve immediately (with sliced lemon, aioli, fresh bread, salad and - if you're like the Caspi-Man - you'll be wanting a few "pommes" too ).

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A recent question I've been pondering...

Is it officially in the Police's position-description to return the eager waves and smiles of young children?

Or is it a specific component of their public-relations campaign?

(Regardless - it is heartwarming that they all seem quite happy to do it!)


Unlike some of his contemporaries, the Caspi-Man has not (as yet) entered the stage of constantly questioning "WHY?" that all the books say is a normal phase of development.

Actually, it must be stated that the Caspi-Man has not read most of the baby & toddler development books and has therefore (to date) been woefully ignorant and neglectful of how he is 'supposed' to behave.

So, although he has not yet embraced the "WHY?" - the Caspi-Man has recently become master of the (not so well documented) "WHAT IS IT? AND WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?" stage of development. (Most recently asked in regard to a feminine hygiene product - I defy anyone to be able to muster a plausible explanation that's easily understandable to a 3 year-old. I certainly failed miserably.)

He is also working hard on the "WHAT IS IT? AND WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?" stage. (And I'm afraid that "the shop", will not suffice as an answer for the Caspi-man. This will merely prompt further "AND THEN WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?" s - with most products requiring description back to primary elements. )

And just recently he has added the "WHO IS HE? AND WHAT IS HE DOING?". (Often loudly, in full earshot of the said "HE").

Perhaps it's all just part of the parental development phase preparing us for the inevitable "WHY"s (mostly our own!) to come...?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Brilliant things about Germany no.219

Introducing the "Rührblitz".
(Translation: Stir-blitz).
For anyone who likes to cook - this very funky looking, masterpiece of German engineering eclipses the ordinary whisk. For gravy, roux-based sauces & anything prone to lumping - this utensil is beyond brilliant.
Nothing gets stuck in the corners of the pan (or edges of the saucepan) and lumpy clumbs don't stand a chance. Have personally exported at least 6 of them south of the equator. (Unfortunately -it is not so effective on cellulite).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A day of Witches, Workers, and Fathers.

Today is the first of May.

It is traditional in these parts to dance your way into May. Perhaps in more traditional times a Maypole was even involved. But these days, many (presumably those without young children) choose to do this at parties, or nightclubs, or on the crowded streets of the Altstadt, assisted by great quantities of alcohol to keep them jiving through to full daylight.

The Ger-Man and I honoured this tradition in our own special way. By donning pajamas and shuffling towards bed assisted by hot cups of tea. Boy, do we know how to party or what?

I think the night of the 30th April is called Walpurgisnacht (in these parts) and Freinacht (down south in Bavaria - where they talk funny).

Walpurgisnacht is named after an English girl who ran away to Germany in the eighth century to become a nun, die and become a Saint. As one does. (Can imagine it's even easier these days with the whole EU set-up). Anyway the first of May is her saint day. But earlier than that - a pagan festival to scare away Hexen (witches) and Teufel (devils) was celebrated on the night of the 30th April and somehow - post Christianity - this festival attracted the saint's name.

Whatever you wish to call it - it's basically an all-night festival of dancing & drinking to scare away evil spirits. No wonder early unions of workers wanted the next day off to recover.

This year, Labour Day, has also by some freak of the calender, aligned with Christi Himmelfahrt. Which literally translates as Christ-Heaven-Drive. (Or what we from Antipodean lands would call Ascension Day - if we weren't mostly such a mob of heathens.) It is usually also a public holiday. The workers have been ripped off this year!

During the middle-ages it became fashionable here in Germany to have a religious procession on Ascension day, honouring "Gott, den Vater". This very quickly turned into a day to honour all fathers and by the 1700's Father's day was well and truly a tradition. (So it would seem the Caspi-Man and I cannot ever invoke the "imported American commercialism" clause).

So there you have it. The 1st of May. A day of Witches, Workers, and Fathers.

Happy Father's Day, Ger-Man!
the Caspi-Man
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