Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where Has He Been?

I envy all those people who can put out blog entries on a regular basis-- I have permanent Bloggers Block which makes me agonize over what I can or should put up here... I constantly find myself thinking, "Oh, it would be great to put those pictures up" but then (because most of my pictures are of people) I resist because I don't want to do it without their permissions.
That said, because it is Christmas Eve Eve, I am reporting in here because I don't want you all to think I have died or lost interest.
There have been... things... happening here, most notably I am now half a thyroid lighter. This was a real scare but thankfully unfounded, and I now have the uncommon luxury of being able to draw a salary and not having to work for it, until the end of December! I love the German health system!
My Christmas tree is now in place and decorated, much to the horror of the Germans, who traditionally don't put up the tree until Christmas Eve.
I baked my first Christmas cookies, under the stern supervision of the Ossie, for whom there is no deviation from recipes.

We will be going to her sister's family for Christmas Eve (as I have for the last few years), I alternately anticipate and dread it-- the Christmas Cult (as even she calls it) is rigidly adhered to; it involves meticulous rituals of the unwrapping of presents and takes hours. But on the other hand the food is excellent and it is the closest thing I have to family here in Europe.
There will be lots of loud arguments (mostly about differing interpretations of the proper Christmas Eve rituals) and --for Americans-- rather strange presents: there will be (if the past Christmases are any indication) nothing made of plastic, nothing made in China, nothing that takes batteries. Books. There will be books. And homemade things. Odd little sculptures.
I will try to give a resume when it is all over, but now I have to go out shopping, try desperately to find something that is neither plastic nor made in China.
Wish me luck.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

An Institute I am Not expecting Great Things of

Soon-to-be-ex-President George is working hard already to protect his fragile legacy.CNN reported today:
Bush and his handlers are mapping out this phase of the president's post-White House years. Plans are well under way for a "Freedom Institute" that will aim to promote democracies abroad.

The institute, where Bush is expected to play a significant role, is expected to be unaffiliated with an academic institution. Its members are expected to be analysts whose views are in line with the neoconservative outlook that shaped the president's approach to foreign policy.

"This is going to be Bush vision." Brinkley said of the institute. "Bush has never liked the academics, and this is a nonacademic institute aimed at cutting to the core of things: only pro-democracy foot soldiers who are green-lit by George and Laura Bush are in the mix."

As someone who is not "green-lit" (whatever that may be) by these folks, I don't expect to be in the mix. But it appears he is putting together an organisation for making statements and judgements about world affairs, but is excluding anyone who has any kind of expertise.

This seems to me an exercise in idiocy.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Thanksgiving, Belated; Male Rivalry

A few weeks ago, I took in a homeless American clarinetist, Mike, whose marriage is not functioning properly... anyhow, he loves to cook, and asked if I didn't want to organize a Thanksgiving dinner. OK, I said.
I am not a great cook; my repertoire extends to hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. But in the event, I found myself cooking a 12 lb turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes with maple syrup and walnut caramel sauce. Mike did squash, stuffing, and mashed potatoes.
Mike brought home the turkey. "Give me the giblets and I will make the stuffing and the gravy", he said, "and you can cook the bird."
"Where are the giblets?" I asked. "Don't know, look inside the bird", he said.
I rummaged around inside and found a little packet and handed it gingerly to him.
"Where is the other kidney?" he asked indignantly. "how should I know," I said.
"those Germans have stolen one of my kidneys," he sputtered. I should add that he says he needs to drink while cooking. He was working on the red wine.
We never did find the second kidney, but there were no complaints from the guests.
A half hour later, I was still trying to stuff the bird. I had to ask him whether one put the stuffing in at the front or the back. He looked at me very pityingly.
Meanwhile, he was making gravy. He announced, "The gravy is done!"
I looked, and there were about 5 tablespoons of gravy for 8 people.
"Am I allowed to stretch this?" I asked.
"Just how were you thinking of stretching it?"
"Don't know, milk and... red wine?"
"If you must.."
I pour a half bottle of merlot and a quart of milk into the saucepan, and stir like crazy. I REALLY want to throw in a package of mushroom soup mix but he is watching me like a hawk.
The guests arrived at that moment. German style, that is at 7:30. Not a minute earlier or later. Simultaneously. There are no excuses with Germans for being late. (Strangely enough, only one of the guests was German, the others were Australian, English, Indian and I don't know what else.)
I am not ready. Not dressed, and don't have drinks poured for the guests. I throw some Glühwein on the stove.
They generally refuse the Glühwein: the Australian and English girls have just come from the Christmas Market and are somewhat illuminated already, and the Englishman has turned Buddhist and doesn't drink.
I realize I have not started the cranberries, which are lying resentfully in their packages on the table. I throw them into the rejected boiling Glühwein, which turns out to be an inspiration for preparing cranberries. I intend to do them this way forever after.
The gravy, which now tastes like red wine and boiled milk, is going to be a problem. I start shaking the contents of a bag of flour into the pot. This doesn't change the taste but it does change the texture, which goes from merely disgusting to lumpy disgusting. Mike is not taking his eyes off me, I suspect because he knows if he looks away for an instant, I am going to add mushroom soup mix. This seems like a good time to put in pepper and salt and a dash of Worchestershire sauce, which is pronounced "Wooster" Sauce in England, just like the name Featherstone-Haugh is pronounced "Fanshaw".

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Monday, December 01, 2008

What do you Call This?

Does this exist in America? Found it at the local supermarket and it is wonderful: a plastic pouch filled with, uh, "Moor-Mud"... you stick it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and it stays warm for hours, you use it as a hot water bottle, only it is much less of a hassle.
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