Monday, January 30, 2012

DIY - New Chairs! Neue Stühle!

About 9 months ago, Bryan came home from work with a huge cache of furniture he picked up on the side of the road, also known as Sperrmüle. Several times a year here each neighborhood of the city has a Sperrmüle day where everyone is allowed to toss their old furniture and large household items (old TVs, computers, broken vacuums, etc.) on the side of the road and over the next day or two different official departments will come and pick it up.  Some trucks come through and only take appliances, others only take metal, wood, or plastic, etc.  But, usually the night before the official collectors come there, there is a frenzy of activity in these neighborhoods where thrifty people sort through everything and find treasures to bring back to their homes.  Until each neighborhood's Sperrmüle day, everyone is required to keep their old furniture in their house and it is absolutely not permitted to try to toss this stuff out with the regular garbage.

This one day, Bryan came home with several items - 4 dinner chairs, 2 night stands, and a small dresser.  Since we know eventually we will move out of this apartment and need to furnish our own apartment, we have slowly been collecting things and taking advantage of Sperrmüle whenever we can.  It always seems like Sperrmüle in our neighborhood falls on a super rainy day, and they're nothing worse than going through other people's trash, I mean Sperrmüle, in the rain.

These chairs that Bryan brought home were in good condition structurally, but they were really ugly.  The white paint was all scuffed up and the seat cushions looked like someone has systematically spilled a glass of apple juice on each one.  Realizing that I spend a ridiculous amount of my down time zoning out to other people's DIY blogs, I thought surely I can put some of this knowledge to use and improve on some of this stuff that Bryan brought home.  So, I focused my attention on the chairs.

Here is the before:

They were just really dingy and in need of a refresh.  So gave them a fresh coat of white paint and recovered the seat cushions and voila!  New chairs!

They're not perfect, but it was a good first effort at recovering a seat cushion and using spray paint.  My next project is to give this little bookshelf a new paint job.  Any color suggestions?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First Interview's in German

Since I was 15, I have done somewhere between 200 and 300 interviews, mostly with the newspaper, but quite a few also for TV and radio.  My best quote to date happened as a freshmen in high school when I said (talking about a really bad game I had played earlier in the season), 'I did everything wrong that game but pee my pants.'  I received a package of Depends Men's diapers from a friend after making that remark.

Last weekend, I did something new in an interview: I spoke in a foreign language.  (Actually, I tried to do a newspaper interview in Spanish down in Mexico after a basketball game a few years ago, but answered the reporters question about the game with an answer about how beautiful the city of San Cristobal was. My translator stepped in and did his job after that.)

Anyways, last Sunday evening after a tough loss to Recklinghausen, I sat down and spoke my friend Jan, who is a radio reporter for Radio WMW here in Borken.  He started the first question in English and I answered in (very poorly spoken) German.  We continued our dialogue in German for the next 10-15 minutes.  Halfway through I even though to myself, 'which language are we speaking? Oh right, we are doing this in German and I am actually totally following along!'  Well, not totally, but enough to keep going.  I needed clarification (in English) on a couple of the questions, but overall it was conducted in German.  

My embarrassment is for your pleasure.  Poor Jan had to edit our 10-15 minute conversation down to 20 seconds of coherent sound bites. Here is the link of the interview if you want to hear it for yourself. It's only two minutes long. 

22.01. Einem US-Basketballer gefällts im Kreis by user9198427

I followed up that interview the next morning with a short newspaper interview in German (ok, I needed some help with clarifying a couple questions there as well.)   The article is attached here.

Since we are on the subject of basketball (something that isn't talked about on the blog too much.)  Here is a quick update and a couple of pictures from the  season.

The team that I play for, RC Borken, is currently 3-8.  We had to forfeit the first game that we won because one of our players wasn't registered properly.  Only in Germany can a clerical error cost a team a game.  So instead of being 4-7, we are down at the bottom of the standings, trying to stay in the league.  Remember: the last two teams in each division at the end of the season go down a league.  If you win the championship, you move up a league.  If this were the case in American football, the Detroit Lions would be playing at the High School Junior Varsity football level.

Hopefully, we can win a few more games the second time around (we have played each time once) in the new year.

The team that I coach is currently 7-4 halfway through the season and is tied for third place.  We have been playing well at home, but our away games have been generally tough.  We need to keep winning these next few games in order to have a shot at the Championship towards the end of the season.

Here are some photos from this season so far:

Bed head and unshaven.  Sorry ladies, this guy's taken

Christmas Game with Saint Nikolas

I will pretend to say that this shot was not blocked by the guy with arms two feet longer than mine.  

Fadeaway.  I need to tuck the elbow in more. 

Recklinghausen Game
Dortmund Game

Actually going to not shoot it for once.  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vet Time For Oscar

I've been a terrible pet owner since moving to Germany. We've lived here for nearly 1.5 years and I have never once brought Oscar to the vet. I know, I know - it's probably technically animal abuse, so a few weeks ago I finally made an appointment and took Oscar to get his vaccines updated and to talk to the Dr. about his mysterious barfing.

What's that, you ask? Oh yea, Oscar barfs occasionally. Usually on the days when he refuses to eat breakfast, his stomach gets all nervous and acidy and he barfs bile. Most of the time he does it outside and there's almost always a crowd of school children nearby who get thoroughly grossed out. To keep the barfing at bay, several days a week I slip him a 1/4 Talcid pill (German for Pepcid AC) and that has taken his barfing down from nearly once a day to once or twice a month.  The barfing started shortly after we moved here, and I think the plane ride so royally freaked him out that he's had a nervous stomach ever since.

Anyway, I had a of things to discuss with the doctor. Including the barfing and outdated vaccines, the Rathaus (city hall) has been sending me reminder letters to turn in something called a "Certificate of Competency." I think I was on my last notice before getting fined, so this was an important one. I had assumed that this was a certificate that the vet authorized certifying that Oscar wasn't a danger to society, but when I finally got my hands on this allusive form, I realized that it was a multiple choice quiz to prove that I am a competent dog owner. There were about 6-8 questions like the one below:

It is not possible to teach an old dog new tricks.
a) I completely agree with this statement.
b) I think you can teach an old dog new tricks, but it is easier to teach them when they are young.
c) I think you should always wait to train dogs until they are older because younger dogs are unable to learn.

Thankfully I passed the test and the vet certified me a competent dog owner - phew!

I mentioned the barfing to the vet, but he was really more concerned about the complete lapse of keeping Oscar's vaccine's updated. Not only did he give him all new shots, but we have to go back in a month and get the shots all over again. Procrastination stinks. When we go back in February for more shots, we'll tackle the barfing issue.

The other thing the vet issued was a Pet Passport, which I thought I already had. Note for people moving to the EU with a pet - the Pet Passport you get to bring your animal on an airplane is NOT the same as the Pet Passport that you need to get issued by a vet in your destination country. This new Pet Passport is where the vet keeps a record of Oscar's vaccines, his microchip number and other important details and we must bring it with us if we take Oscar into a different EU country. Oops - guess he's traveled illegally to Belgium and The Netherlands. Every time we go to the vet I need to bring this little passport with me so his records stay up-to-date.

Oscar's little vet trip only set us back 122 Euros, which is really not bad. I think a trip like this in the States would have cost several hundred dollars.  The low cost made me wonder if the 80 Euros we pay each year in Hundesteuer (dog tax) goes to subsidize the vet bills.  Any German reading this who knows the answer to that, please comment!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Christmas in Maryland

Oh boy, it's taken a while to get back to the blog since our holiday in Maryland with my family.  After being there for 3 weeks (and taking nearly a week to get re-adjusted to the timezone in Germany), it's about time something was put up regarding our trip there.  

Here's a brief re-cap in pictures:

We took Dylan to Homestead Gardens to check out the train garden.  He was bonkers about trains (and still is) for the rest of the trip.

Lots of fun (and some arguments) happened around the ping-pong table.  Even Dylan wanted to get in on the action.

Although he preferred being spun around in Dad's office chair.

After being there for so many days Dylan tried to be "just like Oma" and insisted on standing like her, eating like her and imitating her.

Bryan and I snuck out and took the train to DC where was saw Jersey Boys from the front row in the National Theater.  

Uncle Dan is always good for a laugh.  Dylan is particularly impressed with his shenanigans. 

One of Dylan's favorite Christmas presents came from Uncle Dan and Aunt Robyn - a fireman's costume!  He walked around the house pretending to put out fires.

Santa gave all the ladies the same sunglasses.

We brought Dylan to the Baltimore Train Museum which had - you guessed it - more trains!  We even took a train ride with Frosty the Snowman through what appeared to be the area of town that is the basis for the TV show The Wire.  It was an odd train ride listening to happy holiday songs and seeing Frosty meet and greet with little kids, then to look out the window and see burnt out shells of buildings, crack houses and a dump slowly passing us by. 

We managed to bring Dylan to a sports bar (God bless the iPad for keeping him occupied) so we could watch some college football bowl games.

My parents live on a golf course, so when the weather was nice enough - which was most days - Bryan would take Dylan out there to swing the club around .
Our good travel fortune had run out, however, when we headed back home to Germany because we incurred one of the worst and longest travel days I've ever experienced.  It started out all right and Dylan even fell asleep on the airplane, which is in itself a small miracle.  About 45 minutes before landing in Amsterdam the flight became really turbulent and by the time we landed at least three small children around us (thankfully not Dylan) were barfing their brains out in the loudest most grotesque way possible.

After getting off the plane we learned that all flights to Germany were cancelled due to high winds and we were instructed to pick up our luggage and retrieve train tickets for the rest of our journey.  3 hours later, we finally got our luggage and train tickets but proceeded to get on the wrong train.  This, in my opinion, was not entirely our fault since pretty much everyone else from our flight who needed to get to Düsseldorf did the same thing.  The Schipol train station had scheduled two trains to leave from the same gate 2 minutes apart going to the same destination, except one was faster than the other.  There was no indication which was which, so we got on the first one to arrive ... which happened to be the slow one.  It dropped us off in Utrecht 25 minutes after our train to Düsseldorf left, leaving us stuck there for 1.5 hours until the next train departed.  Finally on that train, we got off in Oberhausen, then switched to Essen, then got on the train to Borken.  Finally at the Borken train station we tossed all our luggage (3 large suitcases, 3 backpacks, 1 carry-on roller bag, 1 diaper bag, and 1 stroller) into a taxi and finally got home after about 27 hours of traveling.  Dylan was a champion traveler until the very end and he pretty much screamed from pure exhaustion (voicing what Bryan and I were feeling) for the taxi ride and went right to bed when we got home. 

It's no wonder it's taken us a full week to recover and get back on the right time schedule.  Glad to be back in Germany and back to our  normal routine.  Stay tuned for new posts coming up soon!