Wie, Bitte?!

The pregnancy is giving me an opportunity to learn lots of new German words. I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with root words so that the words themselves are easier to remember. Here are a few of my favorites:

Muttermond – a combination of the words for ‘mother’ and for ‘mouth’, this is the word for cervix. (Don’t think about teeth. Don’t think about teeth.)

Blau – the word for ‘blue’, which is the color that the baby will be when she’s born. Note: this is also the word for ‘shitty-ass wasted drunk’, which she will not be when she’s born unless the midwife we plan on using is actually an anesthesiologist in sheep’s clothing.

Kreissaal – this is the word used for the delivery room where the babe will be born. It, too, is a compound word, made of the word Kreis, or ‘circle’, and the word Aal, or ‘eel’. Easy to remember – it’s a circle eel!

Between trying not to make jokes about how hungry my mothermouth is, and trying not to think too much about how an eel wound up in the delivery room, I’m way too preoccipied to remember which yoga poses help the baby through the birth canal and which are absolutely not to be practiced during delivery. I guess we’ll see!

We’ll see if birth has anything to do with eels.

This doesn’t have anything to do with pregnancy (I think,) but is another fun compound word. The word for mustard is senf in German. On my way home today, I walked by the butcher, who was advertising a Senfsalon. I don’t know what that means, but I’m in.

Take Backs

I spoke too soon, and with far too little self-reflection, about the nesting. This morning as I went to get a cloth to clean the crumbs out of the silverware drawer, I thought, “How did this get so dirty in just four days?” Apparently my silverware-drawer-cleaning impulses have been ratcheted up to twice a week (increased from a previous average of… never.)
Poor Herr R, he doesn’t understand why I am so repulsed when I find a fish scale stuck to the bottom of a ‘clean’ bowl, or a speck of parsley in, of all things, the pastry brush. It’s hard to live with a professional auditor who can’t control her need to apply her newly heightened quality assurance standards to the dishes you’ve thoughtfully cleaned and left in the drying rack.
It’s funny that this cleaning impulse is focused only on the kitchen. It would be lovely to have crisp clean sheets every day, but the twice-a-week-cleaning concept apparently doesn’t apply there. I’ve been using the same bath towel for [redacted due to outpouring of concern for public safety], and I’m happy to wear a sweater that hasn’t been laundered since last year. Let’s not even get started with how infrequently I replace my comfy old pillows, or how I never expect there to be anything but a cloud of lint and some lost socks when I look under the bed.
My reputation as a chilled-out housemate is in tatters, and my pillows are as dirty as ever, but my fingernails have never been so clean.

Sweets and Treats

If by ‘nesting’ you mean making homemade marshmallows and homemade caramels in the same week, then consider me nested! I was hoping that the flat would get less sticky rather than more sticky through the nesting process, but am pleased that ‘nesting’ didn’t end up meaning ‘dust the lightbulbs’ or ‘clean the 1940’s coal dust out of the attic’ or other things significantly less pleasant than marshmallows.

The marshmallows are worth making if you have a [insert technological specifications thoroughly researched by one’s mechanical engineer husband here] stand mixer that you’re dying to try out: the transition from lumps of cold gelatin + boiling sugar water to pure white, super fluffy, not-too-sweet marshmallows is magical, and clean up really isn’t a killer if you have hot running water indoors (we do.) We sent most of them in a care package to The German, Sr., and I am eagerly awaiting his report (Herr R assures me that he’ll think they’re funny because they’re so American. I am now thinking that it might have been wise to send 6 marshmallows rather than 30 to illustrate the idea that they are meant to be a novelty rather than a significant contributor to daily nutrition.)

The caramels are dangerous. Adding a cream/butter mixture to 310-degree sugar is an event I feel lucky to have come through unscathed. Deciding to clean the pan by dipping apple slices in the leftover caramel is a choice that scathed me. Specifically, there are a few spots on my wrist that are worse for the wear, and Herr R burned his toungue quite badly. There are risks inherent in having a pound of caramels cooling on the counter overnight, mainly related to the treatment of said caramel as a potential breakfast food. I would recommend making these if you have a deep, heavybottomed pan and a deep voiced, heavybottomed angel on your shoulder who will steer you away from eating more than one per day.

If you’re now worried about the Smidgen and how her teeth are going to fall out before she’s even born, rest assured that Herr R and I also made whole wheat apple muffins, homemade half-soy burgers, and delicious liver-with-apples-and-onions this week, and we’ve had persimmons and clementines for breakfast instead of candy.

In other news, I receive emails from Groupon Deutschland. Groupon is a company that sends daily coupons via email. In Austin, these are often for 50% off massages, buy-one-get-one-free dinners at local restaurants, and great deals on housekeeping services. The German equivalents include those sorts of bargains, but they also include the following:
-65% off breast enhancement surgery
-a pair of Adidas track pants for 18 Euros (green, pink, or orange only)
-several offers for Fotoshooting, where a professional does your makeup and takes pictures of you just as if you were a model except that you’re paying them and not the other way around
-a 1,000-Euro package vacation to the U.S. where you are flown from location to location for 6 days in a private jet! Here’s the kicker: the locations on this tour include Toronto, Hershey, Allentown and Harrisburg. As in, Toronto, Canada and then Pennsylvania comma Central.

Walking down the cobblestoned streets here in Hamburg, you would never guess that there is such a market for the big-boob, GlamourShots, pink-track-suit, private-jet-in-Central-PA lifestyle. The best part about Groupon is that you can click through for more details on each promotion and find out how many have been purchased so far!
As marketing device that is not reaching its intended audience, the Groupon emails are clearly in the category of junk mail. I cling to the idea, however, that keen and deliberate mocking of the worst of consumer culture is actually the purpose of Groupon Deutschland; in this light the emails are to be cherished.

Note to Groupon: as the owner and wearer of an Adidas tracksuit (black), may I recommend Juicy Couture as a more suitable brand partner?

Stillen and Illin’ in the Neighborhood

The German verb ‘stillen’ means to still, to quiet, to silence. It is the verb that is used for breastfeeding as well. This cracks me up, because I imagine that it means that my breasts are soon to be filled with SHUT UP juice!

There’s a HUGE demonstration going on downstairs, complete with stage, band, loudspeakers, and thousands of people in black sweatshirts, that is lending a ‘fuck the police’ mood to the neighborhood. The protest is against capitalism, I think, and it’s for:
-standing up to facist pigs
-decrying gentrification
-non-violent fist shaking at the police
-cheap beer (the local beer, Astra, is on sale for one Euro per bottle at the local kiosks.)

The bank on the corner has sensibly boarded up its windows. The woman speaking on stage now is a bit over-earnest about the need to get out and protest, and she’s getting a few boo’s from the back of the crowd (one person just said, ‘We’re here, aren’t we?’) I think that folks just want the band to get back on stage.
It is noted that the accordion player who busks on the corner hasn’t taken the day off despite the proceedings. Quite the cacophony!

This whole live-blogging-the-protest would be SO much better with video. Sorry!

With that, I’m going downstairs to listen to the next band. Then I’m going to come upstairs to write a thank-you letter to the makers of our windows. They are impressively soundproof, and will be much appreciated when, at 9:30, I decide that it’s time for old pregnant ladies to quit protesting and go to bed.

Thursday is Truth Day

Herr R and I just had a great time smashing walnuts in the kitchen. Administering a ‘sharp blow with the heel of a heavy knife’ will cure what ails you, if what ails you is a combination of mild frustration with the state of the world and a small case of rainy-day boredom.

If the trends exhibited in my prenatal yoga class are to be believed, the thing to wear as a pregnant woman in Hamburg right now is a snug long-sleeved shirt, a scarf, and a tiny T-shirt that barely covers your boobs and which allows tha belly to figure prominently. I continue to rock my usual workout wear to yoga class, so I’m chanting to the oldies in a jogging skirt and brightly colored, super-wicking, high-performance T-shirts with reflective strips. In a room full of browns, oatmeals, and heathers, I look like a visitor from the future. (The kind of future that’s so bright you have to wear shades. Ha.)

It’s pear season! The pears in the market right now are large, fragrant, and juicy. Delicious, and just dynamite with some good bleu cheese and fresh walnuts.

This week we made refried beans, homemade tortillas, and enchiladas. The beans were great, the tortillas were not, and the 5 kilos of enchiladas are gone already. Yum.

We’re off to the weekly farmer’s market that sets up in the street in front of our building. Here’s hoping that they have black walnuts. I’ve heard those are almost impossible to open…

Foods I Love That I Forget About Sometimes

-Cream of Wheat made with whole milk, a little salt, a little brown sugar, raisins or other good dried fruit, and some nuts on top
-hot cooked wheatberries, given the same milk/nut/fruit treatment plus some honey stirred in
-Fresh walnuts in the shell
-Roasted pumpkin seeds
-Linseeds, flaxseeds, wheat germ, brewers yeast, and other tasty-yet-superbly-healthful additions to hot breakfast cereals
-banana bread, made with lots of nuts, toasted
-savory breakfast muffins with little chunks of ham in them
-quiches of all kinds
-and, lest I sound like a health nut, After Eight Mints by the truckload.

Herr R and I had a terrific weekend in Prague, including long walks in the forest, chats with lovely friends, delicious pork and cabbage, very good Thai and vegeterian food (surprise?!), and extensive use of the excellent public transport system. We stayed in a Swiss-owned hotel, which had an exceptionally good breakfast buffet. The buffet was almost laughably Swiss: zillions of options for hot drinks, from Ovomaltine to coffee with hot milk to special ‘winter tea’, four kinds of slightly sour white cheese spreads (like cottage cheese but smooth, for putting on toast with jam, I think,) and every kind of meusli/porridge topping laid out in an orderly line. There were cut-up apricots, good soft prunes with the pits still in, all sorts of seeds and nuts and toasted oats. The funny thing was that the hot cereals that these super-healthy toppings were intended for were made with both cream and sugar. The first day, I thought that the fresh air and use of an exceptionally efficient public transport system were just making breakfast taste especially good; the following day I tried the porridge by itself and copped to the fact that cooked oats simply do not taste that good by themselves, not even in the warm afterglow of a peaceful overthrow of Communism.

Mostly About Toilets, As It Turns Out

Wha happent? I skipped a month! Sorry about that. Here are some recent highlights:
-at the local pool/fitness center, there’s a sign on one of the toilet stall doors (in German,) that says, ‘Are you a kid? This stall is for you!’ Every time I see it I think, oh man, I want to go into THAT one! The one with the neat colored sign! Too bad I’m not a kid! And then I go into a stall that doesn’t have a wet, kid-sprayed toilet seat and I think, Oh. Got it. Brilliant.
-On Monday, I got semi-accidentally upgraded to Lufthansa First Class on my final flight into Germany before the wee one comes. I was one of only two people in the whole cabin, so I got my very own toilet! More importantly, the flight attendant was very nice, kind of bored, and up for something to do so he encouraged me to pick everything I wanted from the in-flight menu rather than the usual one or two choices. Since the menu featured caviar, corn souffle, and sweet potatoes, I was treated to the caviar/corn souffle/sweet potato dinner of my dreams. Thanks, Lufthansa! Thank you also for putting chocolates on my pillow in the morning. You’re the best.
-Shelly and I went to a restaurant for a 9:45 reservation and left after 1:00am, and we ate pretty much the whole time – things like butter-poached lobster and confit of something that I don’t remember (but wasn’t duck). The best course, oddly, was a malted milk egg cream. Yum!
-This post has turned into an ode to my gluttony, so I’ll make the update on my weekend with cousin Laura brief: it was spectacular, we ate pig’s tails and sea urchin panna cotta, and I love her so much.

And, just to even things out, some lowlights:
-Herr R’s father, The German, Sr., is really sick. Bad sick. That sucks.
-My funny, smart, and empathetic fluent-in-English-to-the-point-of-making-me-forget-where-I-am midwife is not available to provide care during and after the birth due to a scheduling miscommunication. This would be a lot more OK if I spoke German, if I wasn’t 6,000 miles from my support system and/or if I had any kind of clue what the fuck to do with a diaper. Shitty shitty damn damn*.
-I miss my sister and my brother even though they’re really nice about picking up the phone when I call for the fourth time in a week.
-Tomato season is so over here in Hamburg, it’s not even funny.

And back to my-life-is-so-great-I-can-barely-believe-it news:
-Herr R and I are going to Prague tomorrow! None of the flights are longer than 59 minutes, so they don’t really count towards pregnancy-related flying stroke risk calculations, and we get to go mushroom hunting with Marie and Thomas! I’m SO excited! This is going to be better than a dry toilet seat after a corn souffle binge!

*Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, get it? Don’t ever say this alternate phrasing out loud – it’s completely addictive. I find myself wanting to type it again even now…