Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 2014 books

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the WorldBanana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Basically, bananas run the world. Who knew? I liked that the author was willing to keep things interesting even at the cost of uneven chapter lengths and sudden transitions. If a banana-related topic was veering into boring territory, he was not afraid to move on.

Good thing most banana-related topics are interesting! Also, I learned the following from this book, and I consider it to be the most mind-blowing fact I've learned from a book this year (at least):

"The Philippines also grow several close banana relatives. Manila hemp, woven from the fibers of the Abaca plant - a cousin - is the raw material for the strong, thick rope used to secure boats and ships to docks. Our most familiar application of the fiber also derives from the substance's strength: it is the key ingredient in our Manila envelopes."

I had never spared a thought to why we call Manila envelopes, well, MANILA envelopes. Wow.

Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of AmericaCandyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A candy memoir! I couldn't decide where the author was at his best - childhood memories of candy, discussions of the candy trade, or describing his visits to candy factories. How about all of the above? I loved that he portrayed the people he met with (candy company presidents and factory workers) favorably. I think authors of books like this are sometimes tempted to get snarky at the expense of their interviewees.

Like my friend Amanda said, I don't think I would be friends with this guy in real life, but certainly this is someone who understands candy and therefore understands ME.

Hattie Ever After (Hattie, #2)Hattie Ever After by Kirby Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars for me; probably four stars for the target audience of people 20 years younger than me.

By the way, the whole book I was so distracted that she kept spelling it "lead" instead of "lede," but it turns out that the second spelling was invented after the time period of this book so as not to be confused with other senses of the first. Huh.

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5)City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I said of one of the previous books in this series that it was effortless and smart. This one, not so much. It was mostly people agonizing about their love lives. The villain was squicky-creepy rather than straight-up evil, and the only people (in the loose sense of the word) I really care about at this point are Simon and Isabelle, not even as a couple, just as themselves.

So, yeah. It's been a year or two since I read the previous book. I picked this one up in a weak moment between library holds. I think I'll wait another year or two (for another weak moment, perhaps) before picking up book 6.

Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices, #3)Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a book about its own characters, and if you don't care about them, WELL. The main conflict/bad guy of the entire series is vanquished at about the 75% mark. The remainder of the book is just sitting down and having angst-ridden fireside chats with the characters, in old-timey English. It was a big ol' pile of meh for me.

A Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at SeaA Captain's Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pretty dang riveting. I was glad I watched the movie first, since it helped me to visualize some of the more technical aspects of the ship and lifeboat (like pirate cages and the truly awful conditions in the lifeboat).

The Eye of Minds (The Mortality Doctrine, #1)The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

I really liked The Maze Runner by the same author, but I seem to recall a lot of people complaining that it was juvenile, simplistic, and poorly written. I still don't agree with that assessment of The Maze Runner, but it was certainly true for this book. I'll recommend it to the next 10-year-old boy who asks me for a book to read, but for me and my house, it's a DNF.

The Friendship DollThe Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WHAT a treasure. It's the perfect book to read to my daughters. I can't wait to start!

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29th, outsourced

What your junk drawer reveals about you.

The wettest place on earth. Two words: LIVING BRIDGES. [HT Ashi]

Back to School: the 1970s vs. today.

Back to School: The Onion.

A man lived in the woods of Maine for 30 years and did not have contact with other human beings (until he was caught stealing food) and I wasn't informed (until now)??!??! [HT Liz]

Here's what happens when you Like everything you see on Facebook. [HT Andrew]

My favorite link this week: tracking state-to-state mobility in the US. I was clicking through a few states and wishing I could see where people from a certain state ended up, too, and YOU CAN (here). The influx of Californians into Oregon isn't as dramatic as I expected it to be (though I suppose there could be plenty of Californians in Oregon who weren't born in CA and therefore would not show up as such on the chart). [HT Kathy]

In defense of the Knee Defender. I'm team Knee Defender myself. I routinely do not recline my airplane seat, out of courtesy for the person behind me. It provides so little additional comfort for me, and causes great discomfort for the other person. I had never thought of it as the airlines double-selling that space, but it's kind of true, isn't it?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dusty playground

Since most of our neighborhood travels during the summer (and due to the fact that it's 120F during the day), the playground down the street gets woefully neglected during these months. Every year when we come back, it's covered in a thick layer of dust. There's no immediate hope of rain to wash it off, either, since it never rains earlier than November-ish.

It's almost like a standoff - between the playground and the neighborhood kids; between the kids themselves. Who will go down that slide first? Who will sacrifice their clothes and bare feet to the coating of dust? Who is willing to risk the wrath of whoever does their laundry?

Every year, I think that I'll have the girls put on their swimsuits, grab a few buckets and sponges, and give the playground a good scrubbing (or at least rinsing). This year, I think we may actually have done so except for Magdalena's broken arm.

In any case, we were at the playground tonight (see 120F during the day, above) (and yes, it seems so unwholesome to be playing at the playground when it's dark outside, but it is fairly normal here) and someone had already plowed a path through the dust. No need for the bucket-and-sponge treatment this year!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A highly scientific analysis of Milka chocolate varieties

I was inspired by the book Candyfreak to write brief reviews of all the Milka chocolate bar varieties that I tried in Germany. Consider this my candy magnum opus.

Milka Chips Ahoy. I don't like Chips Ahoy, so this was just meh for me. My kids liked it, though!

Milka and Oreo. This is one of my favorites! The Oreo bits are suspended in creamy filling so it's like having a bar of chocolate, a glass of milk, and a stack of Oreos, all in one. I do prefer mushy, milk-saturated Oreos, though, so the crunchy texture sometimes made me sad.

Milka Strawberry Yoghurt. Another one of my favorites, though I think I prefer Ritter Sport's rendition of the same (they put little crunchy bits in theirs). The Milka yogurt is more creamy than tangy, but deliiiiiiicious.

Milka and Daim. I prefer my Daim unencumbered by a Milka bar. This combination cheapens both of its elements.

Milka Whole Hazelnuts. This is Jeremy's favorite. It is very good, but apparently I prefer the novelty fillings rather than the classics.

Milka Cream-Crème (Sahne-Crème in German). Like a regular Milka bar, but silkier, almost like mousse. Really good.

Milka Alpine Milk Cream. This is the grown-up version of those Kinder milky chocolate bars. It's nice for those times when you feel like chocolate, but not too much, you know? Bonus: illusion of chocolate being good for you because milk.

Milka Yoghurt. Again, I prefer Ritter Sport's version because it is tangier, but there is always a place for this milder cousin.

Milka Grape Nut. I do not need fruit bits in my chocolate, GOOD DAY SIR.

Milka Caramel Cream. Another gem. Not too caramel-y, not too creamy, not too chocolatey. Just the right balance of all three. Bliss. You used to be able to buy this one in the UAE, but I haven't seen it in years.

Milka Toffee Ganznuss (whole nut - hazelnut). This is my favorite when I'm feeling sophisticated - a single hazelnut on top of toffee (caramel?) and cream, surrounded by chocolate.

Milka Choco + Cakes. This is a Milka bar with cream and a biscuit/wafer/graham cracker thing inside. It tasted like a S'more to me, especially since I ate it when it was all melty. I can see this becoming a favorite, were I allowed the honor of further acquaintance.

Milka Raspberry and Cream. I found this one in Romania - I'd never seen it in Germany. And it is vile. It tastes like raspberry jam inside of chocolate - like those awful cherry cordial chocolates that no one ever eats in the big box of See's. I think I would like it if they incorporated the raspberry into the cream, or made it a straight-up yoghurt flavor like the strawberry.

Looking through the other varieties of Milka available, I am ashamed at how many there are that I didn't try. It was a case of having the old favorite standbys, and always going back to those instead of trying new ones. I promise to give them more of a chance next time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor visits

I was going to title this post with the number of times we've gone to the doctor in the past week, but I have lost count. I do know that I have been to the hospital four of the last seven days.

Miriam had a suspicious mole removed (biopsy normal) by a surgeon, plus she saw a dermatologist for some skin issues, plus when we went for the follow-up visit today, she had full-blown Fifth Disease.

Magdalena had a new cast put on, which involved seeing an orthopedic doctor and a radiologist. She is over her Fifth Disease.

Sterling came along for some of these visits, though none of the appointments were for him. He is just starting his own case of Fifth Disease.

Our family is a walking ball of sickness and injury.

The good news is that all of these doctors are in the outpatient wing of the hospital that is seven minutes from our house. What could be separate appointments at separate buildings at separate times is thankfully just a matter of walking down the hall. I am so grateful for this.

I am also grateful for the really wonderful nurses and doctors. Everyone is so helpful and so nice about getting everything taken care of in the most efficient way possible. For example, Miriam needed to get her stitches taken out today. We already had the dermatologist follow-up appointment scheduled for this afternoon, but the surgeon's open hours were only in the morning. No problem - he just had his nurse page him in the afternoon when we were already going to be at the hospital, and he came and removed the stitches then.

And we are lucky to be getting to know all the nurses well. I showed up today with all three kids in tow. The nurses saw rash/stitches girl (Miriam), broken arm girl (Magdalena), and nascent rash boy (Sterling), and asked me, "who is the patient today?" And then they got'r done.

Let's hope WE get'r done - all of this sickness and injury - before school starts on Sunday!

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 22nd, outsourced

Inside a helicopter crash on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq.

Beautiful new Harry Potter covers!

I don't know any of the backstory, but this whale playing (I assume) with kids is mesmerizing. That third fake-out it does is perfectly timed and eerily hilarious.

I did not expect to read an entire article on the history of Trapper Keepers...but I totally did.

I don't know what circles you run in, but in mine, we've been talking about the one space/two spaces after a period debate. Here are two germane articles: link and link. (For the record, I remember using two spaces in my undergrad; ten years later during my MA, it was one space. I don't think one or the other is better or worse. I just do what the university's guidelines tell me to.)

I have always wanted to see what flight attendant chillaxation spaces look like. Luckyyyyyyy! [HT Ashi]

Dubai is up and Damascus is down: The Economist's best places to live index.

"The Guardians of the Galaxy shirt is a boy’s shirt, which is why it does not include the female character of Gamora." FLAMES. ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE.

A helpful quiz to determine whether you should be a SAHM, WAHM, or WOHM. Problem solved! NOT.

In Moscow: one of the Stalin Sisters buildings is painted in Ukrainian colors, and four McDonald's restaurants are suspiciously closed. [HT Jeremy]

Is there a secret code in Google Translate?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

German Summer vs. American Summer

In a moment of sadness that we didn't visit the US this summer, I got to thinking about all the things we love to do there. And then I realized that while it wasn't an authentic American Summer, we checked quite a few boxes on our preferred activities list in Germany. Like Such As:

County fair. Except it was Königstein's Marktfest (village party). County fair, German style.

Library binge. This was thanks to our friends' access to a library on base in Grafenwöhr. We took full advantage.

Hiking. Lots of hiking. More than we would do in the US, in fact.

Also: playing outside. So much.

Eating food. Specifically, pork products, fresh milk, ice cream, bread, and other delicacies we don't have in the UAE or don't buy because of prohibitive prices or poor quality. Our friends with access to the base even gave us some American treats like plain Cheerios, Gushers, Hot Tamales, and root beer.

Hanging out with (pseudo) cousins. OK, maybe I need to write a whole post about our friends Anna and Chris and their three kids. Because being in the same village as them for a month was the next best thing to hanging out with our siblings and their kids in America.

U-pick berries.


Cheesy entertainment park fun. In Germany, it was Playmobil Land instead of Enchanted Forest.

Cold, rainy weather. What is the opposite of "I died a little inside"? Whatever it is, that is what I did when it rained so much while we were in Germany.

Music tourism. We got to know a few popular (?) German songs, and also renewed our acquaintance with quality Madonna, Michael Jackson, Genesis, and Neil Young oldies.

Turns out, German Summer did not mean giving up some of the things we most enjoy about American Summer!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This is Your Life at the hospital

Miriam had to have a suspicious mole on her leg removed at the hospital this morning. For such a minor procedure, they sure did roll out the red carpet. Miriam had her own pre-op room, a gown and cap, a rolly bed, and discharge instructions. Over the course of the morning, we were in and out of several departments at the hospital. It was the same hospital where Sterling was born, so for me, it was almost like an episode of This is Your Life.

We walked through the same front door I came through when I was in labor on September 27th last year.

Miriam's pre-op room was in the same corridor as the recovery rooms. It looked the same as the one I was in for 36 hours after giving birth, and then we got to walk by the very one on our way upstairs to the surgery ward.

That walk retraced the path (albeit in the reverse direction) that I had taken in a wheelchair in the early morning hours of September 28th, holding brand-new baby Sterling in my arms.

We took the same elevator up that I had taken down almost a year ago, then we passed by Labor & Delivery.

As I waited for Miriam's procedure to finish, I saw a nurse who had been assigned to me in the recovery room. We chatted for a few minutes.

Finally, on our way out of the surgery area, we ran into the very doctor who delivered Sterling! In the throes of labor, she and I didn't always see eye to eye, but I was genuinely happy to see her again this morning. We embraced, and then she surprised me by saying that she's always telling her Emirati patients about the American woman who birthed like a boss (note: she did not use those words - it was something more like "how strong and quiet you were" during labor). It was one of the nicest things anyone's ever said to me.

I have a thing for walks down memory lane, and this morning's retrospective was as lovely as it was unexpected. How many of us get to revisit the places and people of such a special day?

And Miriam's procedure went fine. It was a great morning.
Four-month-old Sterling and I at the hospital where he was born, in February.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Two tired days in Bucharest

We spent last Sunday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon in Bucharest, Romania, on our way home from our six weeks in Europe. It was our misfortune to show up just in time for the two hottest days of the summer, which put a damper on our daytime outdoor activities, but we managed. We kept our itinerary pretty unambitious, but here's a sampler of what you do in Bucharest when you are hot and tired and dragging three kids along with you.

First was The Long Walk to dinner. We were exhausted and starving. What better time to set off on a walk of indeterminate length through an unfamiliar city to a restaurant whose location you are not entirely sure of? We wanted to stop because we were hungry, but we knew we wouldn't get food unless we kept going, etc. It was rough, but we made it.

PARK. It had been a few days, so we went to this famous park in Bucharest for the girls to get their playground on. It was fun hanging out with the locals.

Tramming it to the Village Museum.

The outdoor Village Museum was actually really cool. It was full of houses and churches from all time periods and areas of Romania. Some were reconstructions, but some were actual dwellings that were removed from their original remote locations piece by piece and put back together in the museum park. We spent half a day here; in cooler weather, I think we could have spent the whole day.

After a sweltering siesta back at our ho(s)tel, we went on a walk to the Palace of Parliament. By some metric that I'm not sure of, this is the second largest building in the world. And it was BIG. Communists do that really well.

Just down the street, we found the playground version of the Palace. It was a great last night of vacation. We people-watched and played and enjoyed spending time outside as the sun went down.

Maybe someday we can go back and do Romania more justice, but we enjoyed taking it easy in the capital for two days.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blustery Bayreuth

You never can tell what will make a day of travel memorable. We were on Richard Wagner Straße in Bayreuth, Germany some Monday in July, having a Bavarian lunch with a colleague of a colleague. The sun was shining and we were having a perfectly good time digesting our delicious food and strolling through the pedestrian area of town.

Then a massive rainstorm blew through - thunder, lightning, rain falling in sheets, wind knocking over sidewalk displays, the works. We don't get much rain in Sharjah, and we were not prepared with an umbrella or raincoats, so it was especially dramatic for us. We sought shelter under some store awnings with the Bayreuthers and watched the worst of it pass. Then the sun came out, and we went on our way.

That's it. That's all that happened. But looking back - and even at the time - it was such an exciting travel experience. And it's one we could not possibly have planned.

The reverse is true, of course - that sometimes our best-laid plans go all to crap and ruin a day of travel - but how delicious it was to have a straightforward walk through Bayreuth turn into an afternoon of adventure.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15th, outsourced

Things children do that are unacceptable for adults to do, in a video.

How to save Gaza. Interesting thoughts. [HT Jeremy]

I'm saving this for future reference when the school-lunch-packing doldrums set in: school lunch ideas.

The war photo no one would publish (and yes, the article shows you the photo, so watch out).

I remember hearing about the prototype for this 24/7 wearable baby monitor a year or two ago. It should be available soon. I wish I had had this for Sterling instead of making myself crazy with a spreadsheet!

Oh my gosh, you know those vacuum-y gusts of air that happen in underground metros? Well, one of them blew a stroller onto the tracks in London and the mom had to rescue the baby!

Global parenting habits that haven't caught on in the US.

Here's a cool little video that shows you more about how sunscreen works on your skin.

Two GoPro videos: Duncan the two-legged pup (!!!) and a surfing pig. [HT Crys]

This touching video explains the experience of a foster child, from the point of view of the child. Warning: you will probably cry. [HT Ashley]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Could this be (could this be) the most beautiful place in the world?

I like to think I've been a lot of places in my life. A lot of beautiful ones, even. But as far as edifice + setting goes, the most beautiful place I've ever been is Hohenschwangau (and Neuschwanstein). You probably know Neuschwanstein as the Sleeping Beauty castle. Of all days, my camera was running out of batteries on that day (last Wednesday), so I don't have many pictures. Just Google it if you want an image unsullied by the faces of my children.

This is at Hohenschwangau Castle. Behind the girls, you can see Neuschwanstein in the distance. We went inside Hohenschwangau but not Neuschwanstein, which I've heard is prettier from the outside, anyway. (Can you imagine an interior more beautiful than that exterior?)

This is the lake near the castles, with actual swans swimming in it (a few are in the background).

We hiked uphill for 40 minutes and then waited 10 minutes in a heaving, sweating line of tourists to see this view from a narrow bridge over a gorge. Totally worth it.

The actual most beautiful sights, I wasn't allowed to take pictures of since they were viewed from inside Hohenschwangau Castle (you can't use your camera there). It was breathtaking.

I know that my cultural background and upbringing have conditioned me to view this place as my most beautiful, but I was still caught off guard by how amazing it was to be standing in an honest-to-goodness castle (Hohenschwangau), in the original, untouched, unrestored writing room of a king, looking out a window onto a swan pond surrounded by green grass and the dramatic inclines of forested mountains.

What is your most beautiful place?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Home time

We got home late last night. WHAT an adjustment. With the scope and duration of this vacation, I hardly spared a thought to home the whole time we were gone. Thus I find myself disoriented in my own home. It's so hot and humid! Everything is in Arabic! We own more clothes than just the three pairs we've been wearing over and over again for the past six weeks, plus a washer in which to clean them, hooray!

The flight home (again on Wizz Air) was bizarrely easy. It took six weeks, but Sterling apparently just figured out how to take a decent nap on the road, while being transferred from backpack to taxi to arms and back again. So he was cheery and content on the flight. The check-in agent gave us priority boarding (which normally costs extra), we think because of Magdalena's arm. Plus, we had some Romanian lei to burn and only the paid in-flight menu on which to spend it. We splurged on ramen noodles, Mars milk, and a candy bar each. It was one of the most decadent things I've ever done.

There is always a post-vacation letdown when we come back from a summer away, but this one might be harder to shake. We don't have suitcases full of American delicacies or fond memories of time spent with family to distract us. The jet lag is almost nonexistent (Bucharest is only an hour behind Dubai). But I suppose that by the time we emerge from this funk, school and work will be starting up again and all will be well.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fat Tire Bike Tours with kids

Our family of five went on a Fat Tire bicycle tour of Berlin yesterday. The concept  of these bike tours is fairly straightforward: ride a bike around the city with a guide, stopping at major sights and enjoying life on a bicycle. Here are some notes about our experience on a bike tour in a big city with small children.

To accommodate your children, you can choose from rumble seats, tagalong bikes, bike trailers, or kid-sized bikes. I had read in a Fat Tire brochure that they were happy to have families along on their tours, but I did wonder if they meant it. Turns out, they did! They hardly batted an eye when we showed up with an 8-year-old (tagalong), a 6-year-old with a broken arm (trailer), and a baby (also trailer). They set us all up and we were ready to go.

Be prepared for any weather. We didn't do so well at this. Fat Tire has ponchos you can use, but only in adult sizes. It ended up being lucky that we had the trailer (with waterproof cover), because a massive rainstorm drenched the rest of us on our ride. Then, since our tour continued into the early (ok, late) evening, the light summer clothes the kids had on during the day were no longer quite warm enough.

There is a lot of stopping and starting. I had this idea that we would load the kids in the trailer and they would stay there the whole time. However, we ended up taking them out at almost every stop. Our guide was good about letting us know how long we'd be at each location so we could decide whether it was worth letting them out (or whether there was time for a diaper change or feeding session).

The tour won't slow down for kids. I didn't mind this - there were a dozen other people on the bike tour and I would have felt bad if I thought the guide was dumbing things down. That said, make sure your kids go to the bathroom before the tour, because there won't be a lot of chances once you get going. Also, make sure you bring your own snacks and water. There is a food stop 2/3 of the way through, but I was glad I had food to give my kids on my own schedule.

The ride could be more strenuous than you think. One of the advertised aspects of the Fat Tire bike tours is that they are not difficult. However, children riding their own bikes could get tired more easily. In addition, since I was pulling a trailer with two kids in it, I was sometimes working hard to keep up. I loved the exercise, but it could be a surprise to someone who was expecting a leisurely ride!

It could last a long time! Our tour was supposed to last about 4.5 hours. It ended up being about six hours. It was six hours of fun, but even fun can be tiring for little ones.

We had a great time as a family on our bike tour of Berlin, and I would recommend the experience to anyone. I hope to go again myself, in fact! There is something about riding on a bike that just makes everything better, and I was glad to share the experience with my kids.

Saturday, August 09, 2014


Leipzig was wonderful, after the broken-arm drama was taken care of. On Friday morning, everything looked so much brighter than it had the night before as we stress-waited in the ER. So much of your experience as a tourist in unfamiliar cities depends on your mood. Munich found us grouchy at having to leave the village where we'd been staying for a month, grouchy because there were no bathrooms, grouchy because of the rain, and grouchy because the toy museum failed us. I'm sure it's a lovely place, and that on another day, I would be raving about it here.

But instead, I'm raving about Leipzig because it's the place where I woke up after a decent night's sleep, happy that my daughter was OK, happy that we were all together, and happy to be in Bach-land. So Leipzig was wonderful.

I did notice, though, that Leipzig has a thing about the Mc- prefix. We stayed in a hotel called McDreams. We saw a sign for a gym called McFit. And a bathroom at the train station - where I paid 1 Euro for the privilege of performing a basic human need - was called McClean. Just interesting.

Since we spent so long in the south of Germany, we are actually noticing some differences about the north. Or it may be that we are noticing differences about the former East Germany, who knows? It would take a trip to the northwest of Germany to find out. It feels a little more like Russia here. Just a little.

We are in Berlin now. Starting tomorrow, we begin the trek back to Romania and then the UAE. It will take several days, and I confess I'm not looking forward to the end of our summer vacation!

August 8th, outsourced

Man vs. Food - one man's experience trying out six diets. Excellent food for thought. [HT Kat]

What kind of parent forgets a child in a hot car? (Note: I read the Washington Post article she links to years ago and I can never forget it - and I can never read it again. I think of it almost every time I load/unload my kids from the car.)

A video exists of Helen Keller and I was not made aware of it until this week. So cool. [HT Jen]

Eight reasons children of the 1970s should all be dead. Even though my own daughter fell off a trampoline and broke her arm this week, I am still laughing at this article. Jarts?? [HT Suzanne]

Speaking of: broken bones stats. I appreciated this. Anecdotally, neither me nor any of my four siblings ever broke a bone while growing up, which seems kind of amazing in retrospect. [HT Andrew]

Modern Seinfeld plot ideas. Spot-on. [HT Sarah]

I love seeing what technology can do for linguistic research. This Twitter-based analysis of superdialects is so interesting! [HT Kaylee]

Friday, August 08, 2014

It's not vacation until somebody has to visit the ER

Magdalena broke her arm yesterday. She was jumping on a trampoline and fell off. We spent this afternoon and evening on a lovely "tour" of the Universitätsklinikum children's ER in Leipzig. It wasn't exactly Thomaskirche, but it certainly was memorable.

Amidst all the arrangements and wrangling with our insurance company back in Sharjah, the following happened:

1. I had to dictate the address of our hotel to a non-German speaker, over a crappy phone connection. And of course it had to be something crazy like Zschochersche Straße. Of course.

2. Then, later, because the hospital wanted our bank's wiring codes so they could send our guarantee money (?) back to us (?) after the insurance comes through (?), I had to dictate a random string of numbers and letters to a German man over another crappy phone connection. Note to self: consider learning the German equivalent of the NATO phonetic alphabet (Alpha Bravo Charlie, etc.).

We are all really tired, but here is the proud owner of a cast. Good night.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Look into bathrooms.

Dear Europe. Look into bathrooms. People gotta pee. And sometimes we don't have the bladderinial fortitude to wait (because five years old) or 30 Euro cents, in precisely 10-cent coin denominations (because INSANE THAT IN THIS DAY AND AGE YOU SERIOUSLY ARE USING CASH). (FOR A BATHROOM.)

Can you tell we've been in Munich, that most stingy withholder of bathrooms? I swear we spent more time looking for a potty for someone or other than we did actually enjoying the sights. Plus, it was pouring down rain. At one point, we caught sight of a Spielzug Museum (Toy Museum), and decided that it was the answer to all our problems - indoors and out of the rain, with a high likelihood of a playroom for Sterling to fulfill his lifelong dream of being put down to play, and precious bathrooms that we could use.

Unfortunately: indoors but extremely cramped, crowded, and boring for kids (it was just piles of old-timey toys with tiny interpretive signs in German, but we did warm up to it a little), no playroom, and no toilets. Fail fail fail.

I get that no one wants to become the free bathroom destination for hordes of tourists, but seriously. This is something the UAE does right. Toilets are almost always free. Sometimes they are beautifully maintained and sparkling clean. Sometimes they are a tiled hole in the ground. But dad gummit, they are FREE.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Some German food

We've been eating a lot of food here in Germany. Since our kitchen here is not stocked with all the staples and equipment of home, our meals tend to be very simple. Here are a few favorites (candy not included - that gets its own post someday).

Almdudler - an apple-based carbonated herb drink from Austria. A nice, cold glass of it is just the thing after hikes. My favorite thing about it is that it tastes good, but not so good that you want more than one glass of it at a time.

Wurst in bread. The lunch/snack/dinner of champions, or travelers like us.

We call this stuff Almighty Yogurt, for obvious reasons. What you can't tell from the picture is that Almighty Yogurt is the best yogurt I have ever had in my life. I don't know what is so different about it, but it is so dreamy. This particular flavor (orange mandarin pomegranate) was especially delicious. One time while I was taking a nap, the girls ate an entire jar of the raspberry flavor.

I mentioned earlier that two of my favorite words in German are "zum fertigbacken," where you put the bread in your own oven to finish baking it all the way. I have consumed zum fertigbacken bread of some sort probably every day here.

Schwip Schwap, Mezzo Mix, Spatzi, whatever you want to call it - it's orange pop mixed with cola. When I was pregnant with Sterling, this stuff tasted like toilet bowl cleaner, but now that my taste buds have calmed down, I love it. Pro tip: try a Schwip Schwap float with vanilla ice cream. A little bit coke float, a little bit orange creamsicle. Mmmm.

Miriam made this sandwich and took this picture. That's zum fertigbacken bread and real pork salami.

We are certainly enjoying the food component of our vacation!


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