Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More Adventures in Food

After my foray into delicious tofu spread, I have ventured into the world of cream cheese spread. Basically only for the reason that I am too lazy to go to the organic supermarket and buy silken tofu, not only because it's farther from my house than the regular supermarket, but also because a certain four-year-old I know absolutely loses all control when we go into that place. I don't know if it's that organic earthy smell, or all the natural products, but something about that place makes him go crazy and touch everything and scare me that he's going to smash some Earth-friendly glass packaging. So I've taken to buying my raw materials at the supermarket: regular old cream cheese and delicious discs of goat's milk cream cheese. What I do then is smash and mix together about equal amounts of the two different kinds of cream cheese, then add all kinds of tasty nuts and bolts. So far I've come up with 3 variations:

Green Onion Cream Cheese
For this you start with your cream cheese mixture of equal parts of the two cream cheeses, then thinly slice two or three green onions, depending on how much cream cheese you want to make. You can also throw in a little finely chopped regular onion and some chives. Smash this all up and mix it (I find a fork works nicely) and add in just a bit of milk to make the mixture nice and spreadable. Throw in some salt and pepper to taste, and voila! Super yummy and easy spread #1!

Chipotle Cream Cheese
If you like things hot, then this is the one for you. Mix up your cream cheeses, then chop up about one chipotle pepper (a smoked jalapeno in spicy marinade) and some chili if you want it even hotter. Here I also tossed in some finely chopped onion, salt and pepper and stirred in a little milk. This one tastes great with the smoky chipotle flavor and has a nice slow burn from the hot peppers!

Tomato Basil Cream Cheese
This is a variation on one of my favorite themes: insalata caprese. For this I added two chopped sun dried tomatoes (from a jar, the kind in oil), a handful of fresh chopped basil from my window sill, a little milk for consistency, just a bit of finely chopped onion, salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Yum yum yum.

For some reason I've been on a whole grain bread kick for about the last week or so, and every one of these spreads tastes absolutely fabulous on a slice of toasted whole grain bread (right now I've got sunflower seed bread).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

Here are the results of my latest foray into the art world: an exhibit of photos at a language school. I was approached about doing an exhibit there shortly before they moved to their new office, and quickly agreed with many an idea in my head...landscapes? cities? some of my crazy bird photographs from all over the place? We settled on American cityscapes, and I think it turned out all right. I didn't get all wild and use different colors for the mats around the photos this time around, I was lacking energy this time around. On Friday after 3 trips to the school to get everything organized and put together, everything was finally finished and some clients even came in and gave some positive feedback. And I used the photos as part of a conversation lesson this evening, putting sticky notes over the locations and trying to figure out where the photos were taken, talking about who's visited those places, etc, and by the end I think the students were ready to hop on a plane and head across the ocean!

If you want to make the trip across the river to Friedrichstadt, here's where the pictures are: Fremdspracheninstitut Dresden
Angelika Trautmann
Schäferstr. 42-44
01067 Dresden

Of if you have some naked walls you'd like me to dress up, just let me know. Give me frames and something to hang them on, I'll do the rest!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Obligatory Photos of the High Water in Dresden

That photo was taken on Tuesday, I'm a bit late putting these up since there have been other things on my plate. As you can see, the water from the Prießnitz was right up to the bottom of the little pedestrian bridge by the hospital, and the water from the place where the Prießnitz flows into the Elbe was up on the bike and pedestrian path. People had stripped down their kids and were letting them play in the water on the path. While it's a fun idea (and W was begging to go in the water) it really creeped me out, because one other time when there was high water on the Prießnitz, there was some very unsavory stuff floating in there. For those of you who can't imagine what, it was anything and everything you might flush down the toilet or put in the trash in your bathroom. Not pretty.

The ferry between the Neustadt and Johannstadt sides was closed, because the docking area was under water. I think that's running again, though, since the water has receded.

You can't see the humongous and humongously ugly Waldschlößchen bridge on here so well, but maybe the planners were onto something when they made it so big. Maybe they knew something more about high water in the future than we know! But that's still no reason for it to be so ugly. Bridges do connect, it's true what the CDU says, but couldn't they have made this connection a bit nicer? Maybe they really wanted to stick it to the protesters with an extra ugly bridge at what is otherwise a very beautiful location.

Newsflash from my terrace! It too is flooded! Every time we have a torrential downpour like we did twice today, my stupid terrace gets flooded. I too am in on the adventure! Fortunately we don't have a basement as we did in our old place, there the basement was flooded every time we had rain, which was super annoying. We had some stuff ruined, and other stuff just stank to high heaven.

Friday, August 06, 2010

We love Love LOVE the new Kinderhaus!

After probably one of the worst experiences of my life (sending my poor defenseless kid off to an awful throwback of a preschool where they were convinced that he was disabled and kept trying to convince me of the same, where they went so far as to try to organize a doctor's appointment --as if we don't take him to the doctor ourselves and didn't inform them of every last "?*"*)§/ appointment-- without our permission to "put pressure on the doctor" to put him in a special needs preschool), we have started him in a new preschool that just opened and he is a superstar there. The teachers there actually seem to like their job and like kids, which is completely different from the old place. At the new Kinderhaus the teachers have tons of ideas and already this week started building puppet theaters and houses out of giant cardboard boxes with the kids. They actually let the kids use paint! Real, wet, smeary finger paint! W's group at the old preschool never once used paint with a brush, let alone FINGER paint. Good God, someone could have gotten dirty! And then the teachers maybe would have had to work to help clean up! The most artistic thing I saw there were some colored pencil drawings, and one time one other group used Play Doh. The Kinderhaus has a huge supply of finger paint and real, messy, brown clay. I want to go back to being 3 years old so I can go there and play!

Anyway, our new Kinderhaus is a fantastic place. I say "our" because it's a parents' initiative, meaning that parental work there is required. This could be anything from helping wash hand towels to fixing curtains to bookkeeping, planning parties, organizing photo archives...In our case, I will be providing English lessons for the kids. I like this, because in a way it is a kind of self selection: who is willing to do 4 hours of work per month for their kid to go there? And I can also have a look on the inside and see just what goes on inside this place. At the old preschool I really had the feeling that parents were unwanted. Please just drop your kid off, pick them up as late as possible before closing time please so you don't disturb our day, and we will fix everything you have done wrong with this child in the meantime.

I haven't even touched on the pedagogical concept. They are picking and choosing different aspects (what they consider the best) from various pedagogical approaches, including Montessori, Waldorf and others. The Kinderhaus is also free of mass-produced plastic toys--they only have things like wooden building blocks, dress up clothes, paints, boxes, beads, glue, marbles, tubes, blankets, buttons, musical instruments, books, paper, pencils, scissors, cloths, beanbags...you get the picture. The first day W asked for a car, but soon after, forgot all about cars and was really free to start exploring. This Kinderhaus is also conceived as a place that is colorful, varied, open, international, welcoming and where everyone is equal.

As if that all isn't fantastic enough, the building itself is a low-energy building with solar cells on the roof and they collect rainwater for watering the garden. In the back they will have gardens where the kids can grow vegetables and herbs, and the food on offer is organic and fresh. When I first walked into the building, I wanted to move in. It has gorgeous wood floors, cool windows and colorful rooms.

How do I know that W likes it? On Wednesday when we rounded the corner and the Kinderhaus came into view, he took off running and called out "Woohoo! The Kinderhaus!!!". On the second day he already told me that he wanted to stay there alone. Today he was practically begging me to be able to stay all alone next week. On the first day he took off with his teacher as if I wasn't even there to get water to water the plants and take some banana peels and stuff downstairs to the compost. Today he was playing and singing one of the songs he composed himself. And he talks to people there. He never spoke in the old preschool. I would like to thank Frau G and the others at the old preschool for showing me how absolutely horrible and damaging a preschool can be so I can really appreciate what a wonderful one we have found now! Sorry, Frau G, that I almost always freeze up and start swearing like a sailor as if I had Tourette's syndrome when I see you on the street or at the store, it's sort of like an allergic reaction. Maybe if someone treated the kid you love more than anything else in the world like trash and spoke to you as if you are an idiot just because you are a foreigner (who speaks the local language at least okay and can understand everything), you just might see where I'm coming from.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Hold onto your hats!

I didn't take that picture, but stole it from here.

I found 27 four leaf clovers in about 5 minutes today, and 2 five leafers. I don't know if this counts as real luck, though, because I asked the current inhabitant of the place where I found these, and he said his parents had planted a four leaf clover plant many, many years ago near the spot where I was finding these.

Anyway, if this is real luck, what in the world am I going to do with so much of it? Will we need it for the trip the United States? That will be a long flight with just me and the two little guys. Will we need it to deal with W's new preschool that starts tomorrow? I think we've already been very lucky to get a place there and it seems like he will have very nice teachers (2 people, a man and a woman) and a very small group (5 kids!!!) for the beginning. What in the world else could I/we use so much luck for? I can think of a few of my silly dreams, which I won't even write here because they are so mundane (and I don't want to jinx them), but c'mon, that's not all going to happen just because of a few silly leaves...But I have to say, everything last year worked out pretty darn well, and I started finding four leaf clovers just after we really decided that we were 100% sure about coming back to Dresden. That fateful day last year, I walked out of the door of the house at 1083 McKimmy Drive and saw that first clover staring up at me, waiting for me to milk all the luck out of it I could. Then I found ten more at various other locations in Michigan and Saxony, at very interesting times. And everything worked out better than I could have imagined! What's next?