Patchwork Times: Banker cat does not approve ur loan

Since I don’t want to come roaring in here with a rant at the moment, especially after being absent for a week, this will be a (probably long) newsy, update sort of post. (I’ll save the rant for tomorrow or the next day, when the red mist in front of my eyes may have died down to a calmer color.)

…what the answer really is is that we could be forced to move, but it’s not a quick process…

On the landlord front, Jane Ann reminded me that I’d left you all hanging out over a cliff on the banker issue. I did contact the legal office, and truth, they weren’t much help other than to say that if there turned out to be some big problem, like foreclosure, that we couldn’t be forced to move, and that we’d be instructed to pay our rent to a custodian for the bank. After further questioning on my part, what the answer really is is that we could be forced to move, but it’s not a quick process, and if the house is sold while we’re in it, the new owners have to “show” that they really need to live in the house before we can be asked to move. I wonder who decides whether they’ve “shown” that they need to live in the house satisfactorily?

So the banker came and went, and so did the landlord’s friend, and I think the banker thought it was all pretty strange. I just let the friend handle it, and ignored the whole process. The banker asked me no questions, and when they left, the friend made some weird hand motion to me (when the banker wasn’t looking) like she wanted me to call her on the phone to discuss. Um, no. I decided that if she wanted to chat about what her friends my landlords were up to, she could call me on her dime.

I’ve heard nothing from any of them since. I still don’t have any contact information for the landlords in Canada which they promised to forward to us once they were settled (I only have the phone number of the friend here in our area), the “handyman/yard guy” hasn’t shown up to prune the cherry tree or whatever it is in the backyard like they all told us he would the day we received access to our garage, and yesterday we received yet another strange letter in the mailbox for the landlord, though not from the Finanzamt in Sinsheim this time at least. *shrug* I think the saga isn’t over, but I’m at a complete loss to predict what will happen next.

Fast forward to the last week or so: GuitarGirl’s new job is taking some major getting used to. The job is going great for her, but the Taxi Mom job is a total productivity killer for me, and it makes meal planning for dinner, um, “interesting” is not quite the word I’d choose, but nothing else I can think of is fit for company. ITMan ends up picking her up from work sometime between 7 and 8 p.m., which really blows the usual 6:30 p.m. dinner time out of the water. One evening last week we actually had just finished eating at 8:45. Not my idea of how things should go, but hopefully with better planning things will get more coordinated in time.

I did get the Arts & Crafts Manager and one of the other long-time employees alone and ask them if I could be a mom for a minute and ask how she was handling the job. They both were very complimentary about her, and said she was doing great. All my happy mom buttons got pushed, and I was feeling all warm and fuzzy for her. She seems to like the job and the people she works with, though she’s going through a bit of adjustment as well, of course, and learning to balance school and guitar practice and work and what free time she has left without being a grouch! She’s definitely looking forward to that first paycheck, but if she keeps borrowing money from me in the meantime, she won’t get to keep much of it!

In kitty news, Shadow’s been ill, with some non-specific tummy troubles. Much vomiting since Monday morning (what a way to spend Labor Day, eh?), two trips to the vet, $200+ later, and I’m still not sure he’s getting better, though I have more hope this evening than last. He did eat his special diet food this evening, and managed to keep it down and wants more, so things are looking up, but I’ll not be convinced until I get through a night without waking to the wonderful sounds of, well, … never mind. I’m sure those of you who are owned by one or more cats know exactly what sounds I’m talking about here.

he sniffed once or twice and looked up at me as if to say “Seriously?!?

After Monday’s visit to the vet clinic, we were instructed to feed him a special diet of boiled chicken and rice. Yeah, right. I got up early Tuesday to fix said diet of boiled frozen chicken thigh and white rice, which he sniffed once or twice and looked up at me as if to say “Seriously?!?” After the second trip to the vet clinic Wednesday evening, we came home with a 3 Euro small can of Royal Canin food for sensitive stomachs. 3 Euros!! 😯 That’s $4.30 for a can of cat food the same size as a can of Friskies from the Commissary that costs 39 cents! The vet also gave me some matching (coordinating?) dry food in sample bags that were free, thankfully, so we may try him on some of that later tonight or tomorrow. Oh, and we got pills, lots and lots of pills, which I have the dubious pleasure of shoving down his throat. I’m just hoping that this stomach issue doesn’t turn into a sudden and severe allergy to regular cat food, forcing us to purchase “special diet” food for him for the rest of his life at a cost of thousands per year. Then he’ll be even more of a money pit than he’s already been for most of his short life.

All of this rigmarole with the cat has my fun meter pegged, I tell ya. I’m such a nice mommy that I let him sleep on my chest or stomach at night, and I don’t make him move like I usually would after a bit since he feels so rotten and I’m such a sucker. The result of this is that my back is totally unhappy, again. It took me a couple of days to even figure out what I’d done to my back, but then it finally dawned on me that 11 pounds of sleeping cat is probably not a great thing to leave on your stomach or chest for extended periods, like most of the night. And I’m not a back sleeper anyway, so it’s no wonder I’m waking up needing a wheelchair, hot packs and muscle relaxers. And a massage. Is there a masseur is the house?

Quilt days like that are golden, and go a long way toward offsetting the rest of the dreck that life has a habit of tossing at you.

Oh, and I suppose since this is ostensibly a blog about quilting, you’d like to know if I actually do quilt or if I just prattle on (or rant?) about all this other stuff that goes on around here. Yes, I have been quilting, and as a matter of fact last Sunday (before cat/vet drama and in between Taxi Mom duties), I was a maniac. I had the most productive quilting day in months, working on about three different projects throughout the day, and progressing on all of them. A little sewing here, some pressing there, a bit of embellishment in the middle, and everything went as well or better than planned. Quilt days like that are golden, and go a long way toward offsetting the dreck that life has a habit of tossing at you. I wish I could figure out the magic formula for those golden quilt days, but I’m sure it’s just a spontaneous thing, like all nine (or is it eight? ten? I can’t keep up) planets being aligned or something.

Okay, there, you’re all caught up on the minutiae, and I can plan on letting fly with a good rant on the morrow after the redness clears a bit. I’ll give you a hint: IQA and Quilt’s Inc. have just been permanently bumped from my “happy quilt show” list after the return of the last quilt I sent them for exhibit. I won’t promise to be gentle, but I will be accurate in the details.

And about Banker cat? Well, that phrase just popped into my head, and it seemed to fit all the disparate themes in this post. I went looking for the source, and all I found was this LOLcat pic at I don’t know whether that’s where this little phrase originated, but I did get a chuckle out of the cat!

funny pictures
more animals


More Interesting Times

In addition to the landlord issues, another not so fun thing happened with the kids the other day. The girls have been more likely to go out walking in the neighborhood since we moved here than they ever were at the house in Stuttgart. The only place they ever went in our neighborhood there was to the little shop/gas station down the street to buy packaged ice cream, because that was the only place there was to go. Here at the new place, there are three bakeries, a drug store, a castle with a lovely park and an ice cream shop, all within walking distance of the house so they’re more likely to go out and about a couple of times a week or so.

All was good until the other day when they went on their usual “bakery-then-ice-cream-then-to-the-park” walkabout. Some punk kids shouted anti-American obscenities at them outside the ice cream shop because they heard them speaking English between themselves. Evidently these were fairly young children, but if the children are spouting it, you can surely figure out where they’ve learned it. I realize these are just kids, but it seems this little town has some residents that don’t like Americans so much.

I should note that we’ve been very lucky to have escaped this type of attitude for the 14 years we’ve lived in Germany, but that doesn’t make it feel any nicer. In France, yes, it’s almost a given thing that Americans are not well liked (especially when a bus load of us descended on a restaurant one night during a Paris tour; some French patrons actually left, loudly complaining “Too many stars and stripes in here!” on their way out the door) but I’ve never experienced this is Germany, nor have my children ever been on the receiving end of such anti-American sentiments, at least not so overtly.

The sad thing is that the girls are now a bit uncomfortable about going out and about. I told them what to do if it ever happens again (leave the area quickly, go to a different store and explain the problem to the store clerk, and call me on the cel phone. I will drive to get them with baseball bat in hand; don’t mess with my kids), but they’re probably going to stick close to home for the nonce. The next few times they want ice cream, either ITMan will have to walk with them, or I’ll maybe take them by in the car on the way home from some other outing. It’s not like they’re young, they’re 11 and 16, but they’re not exactly streetwise toughs, my girls. I could probably say in all honesty that they’ve been sheltered from the ugly parts of the world as they’ve grown up, as it should be.

I’ve never really felt unsafe in Germany overall, and I do my best to blend in. Well, except for that car thing. Mustangs are sold in Germany, but not in great numbers so they’re pretty much a giveaway, but at least I do have real German license plates now, as opposed to how it used to be. When we arrived here in 1994, we had plates that were obviously only on American cars; I felt like I was wearing a sign that said “Shoot me, I’m an American” with those. I do always feel like people look at us when we’re in public, especially if we’re at restaurants talking amongst ourselves and can be overheard speaking English.

Sure, ITMan and I aren’t exactly fluent German speakers (far from it), even after living here so long, but we do try. In our defense, we never thought we’d be here this long, and I just don’t want to spend the time to learn more of it than I have. The kids are pretty good at it, with LittleOne near fluent after being in German Kindergarten for two years, and having classes since then. I could tell the kids to speak German even between themselves when they are out without parents, but that still doesn’t address the real issue, I think.

So I’m not too sure what to think about this development here in our little town. Our immediate neighbors have probably all figured out by now that we’re American, though not military, and they seem okay with it. Not that we’ve been asked to the neighborhood barbecue or anything, which is fine too, but at least they’re not throwing eggs at our house or shouting mean things as they drive by. It’s funny; the American community is soooo much larger here in the Heidelberg area than it is in Stuttgart, and yet our first experience like this happens in Heidelberg.

Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that Stuttgart is a larger, more internationalized area, with more large companies that have international employees than Heidelberg. There could be more non-DoD associated Americans in Stuttgart than Americans who are associated with the military, and maybe more Germans in the Heidelberg area just have it in for the American military and DoD associated folks, because there are soooo many of them here. In other words, in Stuttgart, German people wouldn’t automatically assume you are associated with the American military if you speak English; you could be working for DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes, Bosch, etc. and if you don’t know if someone works for the military, why target them with hatred for the American military?

Whatever it is, I’m definitely not feeling good about it all. What’s your view? Have you experienced this type of thing, whether vacationing or living abroad? How would you feel?

May You Live in Interesting Times

Whoever cursed me, can you please retract? After six months of being in “move mode” I’m ready for some uninteresting downtime please. I just want to live my life unencumbered by drama, thank you very much. The latest? Ever since we moved in here, the landlords have been a bit weird about the mail. She kept one of the mailbox keys, because they were staying in a vacation apartment until they left for Canada, and so their mail was still being delivered here, ostensibly so that she wouldn’t have to change addresses with all these correspondents twice.

I had at least two separate mail delivery people ask about the landlords and where they were, and I tried my best to explain that they were still around but only temporarily before they went off to Canada, and that I was collecting their mail until then. She never did cough up the other mail key even when they left, so we only have one. The last day they were here (the day they finally turned over the garage keys), she said that we couldn’t tell the mail delivery people that they weren’t here, because one of the delivery companies was a private company, and they couldn’t change their address with them. HUH?? She expected that they would be getting a few more letters via this company, and that we should just accept them, and call her friend to pick them up.

Well, I was a bit nonplussed. Why should we be accepting their mail, and “not telling” the delivery people that the landlords no longer live here? When these letters showed up, they were from the Finanzamt in Sinsheim; our little town is part of the bigger Sinsheim city, and the German Finanzamt is the equivalent of the United States IRS. Stranger and stranger.

That’s where things stood when the landlady called me Friday afternoon to tell me some big story about how strange the mortgage laws are in Germany now, and that a man from their bank would be visiting the house Monday afternoon at 2:00 to have a look around inside and out. And oh, by the way, we should definitely NOT tell this banker that the landlords don’t live here. Um. What?? The landlady is sending her friend by to meet with the banker, and I should not talk with him at all, she says. Wow.

I’m not getting warm fuzzies by this time. Not at all. This banker is undoubtedly not stupid, and I’ll bet that he’ll figure out double quick that we’re American. Nothing inside my house looks German, I have a very un-Germanlike car in my garage, and when I open my mouth to say hello (well, what else am I supposed to do when I open the door??) it’ll be a dead giveaway and he won’t even need to guess. I called the housing office, since they helped us get involved with these crazy people in the first place. They recommended to answer truthfully when questioned, and contact the military legal office. Now I really don’t have warm fuzzies.

I have no idea why the landlords don’t want their tax bureau and their mortgage holder to know they don’t live here anymore, but I’ll bet it’s not a good, perfectly legal reason. I keep thinking about what it could be, and wondering if all hell will break loose shortly here, and if we’ll be forced to move house, again. I asked the housing office about that and who’d be paying for the move if it got to that point, and they said that of course, it would be our responsibility to either move ourselves or pay someone else to do it. Great. Just what I wanted to hear, but not unexpected knowing the military as I do. Of course, they should be expecting to hear us screaming about it as well if the worst happens. Not that they’ll care, but they should, IMO.

So, I’m interested to see this banker this afternoon, to see how this all goes. Interesting times indeed.

Pod Invasion

Pod invasionI’m not much of a coffee drinker when it comes to drip brewed coffee. It’s bitter, and even with milk and/or sugar the average cuppa joe doesn’t do anything for me. My morning poison has been Orange Cappuccino from GFIC for 20 plus years, though I do like “regular” coffee if it’s made into something like a real Cappuccino, Latte Macchiato or something equally frou-frou and high maintenance.

ITMan started drinking the Orange Cappuccino instant coffee by default at some point shortly after we married, since he’d make a pot of coffee and drink one cup and the rest would still be sitting there when he came home from work. He doesn’t hate the instant (he’s not that picky), but he still might prefer brewed coffee in the morning. The “cup at a time” solutions we tried over the years tended to be too much fussing around for him to use just to make a cup of coffee before work.

Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker

The last single serve solution we tried was an AeroPress from Aerobie, which really does make the absolute best cup of coffee ever with no bitterness whatsoever, but it’s just too much work and too many steps in the wee hours of the morning no matter what they say about 30 seconds from start to coffee in your cup. I love it for making cappuccino in the afternoon or after dinner, but I almost can’t push the plunger myself with my weak wrists, I’m always afraid that the cup is going to tip over under the pressure during the pushing stage and leave a giant mess all over, and ITMan just isn’t going to go there in the morning and I can’t say I blame him.

Enter the Pods. ITMan’s been raving about the coffee maker that someone in his office has and lets everyone use. He says something about it at least three times a week, how simple it is, how good the coffee is, or that he must go buy more pods to contribute to the communal supply because he’s been drinking more than his fair share. I nod and smile, knowing that he’s less picky about bitterness, and even more of a techie gadget guy than I am, and that the machine is undoubtedly a “gadget.” Despite all that, I knew it was only a matter of time and opportunity before the gadget would arrive on my counter top.

Philips Senseo Pod Coffee MakerSure enough, while shopping for an air conditioner at Media Markt (more on that later), ITMan couldn’t resist the call of this very special machine. I finally just shook my head at him, insisted he get a silver one instead of bright blue, and watched while he collected half a dozen bags of pods in all different types and flavors to go with his new gadget.

And does it make the grade? Well, as single-serve coffee solutions go, this one ranks high for ease of use, and the coffee itself is pretty good, though still rather bitter, to me. Part of the “big deal” about this type of coffee maker is the foam, or “fine crema layer” it leaves on the top of the coffee, though not being a coffee aficionado, I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal. I will give it high marks for making cappuccino, since it’s ever so much easier than the AeroPress, and when you add the frothed milk and sugar I can put up with the bitterness a bit better than if I was drinking black coffee straight up. Cost is a factor though, since the Philips Senseo Coffee Machine costs 5-6 times what the AeroPress does, and of course, there are those special coffee pods to consider, which naturally cost more than even loose ground gourmet coffee. Surprisingly though, the Pods are quite a bit cheaper here in Europe than in the States, even with the dollar being as weak as it is these days.

My coffee cabinet has now been invaded by little bags of pods in seemingly infinite varieties, and using the new coffee machine is the deal of the day for everyone in the house. You can get pods to make Cappuccino and Latte Macchiato (without having to froth your own milk), and even tea if that’s your poison. Not wishing to be left out, LittleOne even uses it to make her SwissMiss hot chocolate, by running the water through without a coffee pod in the machine. I may try to get a different brand of pods, since the Senseo brand is made by “Europe’s renowned” Douwe Egberts, and I wasn’t too awfully impressed with that brand before it was sold in pods. Perhaps Illy would be smoother and less bitter. All in all, I’d give the machine an A++ for speed and convenience, and the coffee it makes a B.

What does all this have to do with quilting, you ask? Sometimes quilting requires chocolate, coffee, and Cosmos, though not necessarily all at once or in that order. Anything that makes coffee quicker or saves cleanup time is a good thing. Now, if only Cosmopolitans came in pod form, I’d be even happier. 😉

Feasting and Festing for Mother’s Day

Our sleepy little town of 5,000 woke up and partied all weekend, and continues to party today since it’s Whit Monday here in Germany. We’ve discovered that there are advantages and disadvantages to living three blocks from the local castle.

WasserSchloss in Angelbachtal

The great part is that we’re able to walk to the fests that take place on the castle grounds, like the Angelbachtaler Pfingstmarkt that’s been going on all weekend. We were treated to fireworks on Saturday night, and we didn’t even have to leave the house for a great view! It was really the best view of fireworks we’ve had in years.


(Note: I didn’t take these pics. They came from the brochure for the fest, since the pics I tried to take of the fireworks didn’t turn out well, and an aerial view of the castle is quite beyond my capacity…I also forgot to take my camera when we wandered over to the fest for lunch on Sunday, my bad. I do tend to be quite lame when it comes to pictures…the brochure is great though, even if you can’t read German, since there are lots of pictures of the fest and the goings on.)

After ITMan fixed waffles for breakfast for Mother’s day, we all went to the fest for lunch. The girls promptly disappeared to ride the ferris wheel, and we headed for the food tents. The local associations and clubs provide food and drink for the fest, and we discovered that the tennis club makes very good Schupfnudel mit Sauerkraut (my favorite fest food: potato noodles with sauerkraut and bacon or sausage bits, or both which is even better), and some yummy cakes and tarts as well.

We passed on the nighttime festivities at the castle, which included a music and laser light show, not being so in the mood for crowds and figuring we could always catch it next year. It would have been a pretty late night for all of us, since Monday wasn’t a day off for Americans, of course. We probably should have just gone anyway since as it was, we heard the whole thing loud and clear, which would be one of those disadvantages to living so close! The other downside would be the traffic: it seemed like every single fest-going car full of people parked on the streets in our neighborhood, or tried to at least. It was quite the full house.

The girls are headed back over there today for lunch, since they fell in love with the pizza they had on Sunday. Maybe I’ll have them bring back some more Schupfnudel mit Sauerkraut for me!