31-Day Challenge: Day 27

The most difficult thing about my age right now…

***

…probably has something to do with other people’s expectations of what a life should or should not look like.

Being from where I’m from in Wisconsin, being over 30, not being married (or divorced), and not having had a few kids, I’m basically a unicorn. People I went to high school with are on their second (or third) marriages, and have kids going to their own high school proms. Or graduating. It’s wild.

When I was kid I remember making the Barbies play wedding, but I also remember throwing a knock-off ‘Ken’ doll that looked like Elvis and came in a bathrobe that wouldn’t have been out of place in Hugh Hefner’s closet, across the room because my Barbies didn’t like him. Apparently they also preferred blondes.

I remember one of the first “couples” getting “married” on the playground on Valentine’s Day when we were in the fourth grade. Some of the teachers got quite angry that they were being disrespectful, but I was mostly confused by the whole thing. After that it was just kids pairing up and having their first boyfriends and girlfriends in fifth and sixth grade, but (as mentioned in earlier posts) this nerd remained puppy-love free. No awkward middle school dances for this girl, and lots of playing look out so one of my less-nerdy friends could hold hands with their crush on the bus.

The first official boyfriend finally rolled into the picture at 16, complete with pink tips and Jnco jeans. The late 90s were really weird. That was a good experience, in the end, but I went to college single. I was especially grateful for that as I watched all my new friends painfully try to hold their high school sweetheart relationships together for the majority of freshman year. Unsurprisingly it didn’t work out for any of them, though many of them went on to enter a series of long-term relationships throughout the four years.

Some even married those guys shortly after graduation. Similar to high school sweethearts, those unfortunately had varying levels of success.

There are a few conversations I distinctly remember having over the years. One of them came when I first met my random roomie (Courtney of the House Hunters extravaganza). She couldn’t wait to marry her high school beau, and had already picked out what sports all the kids would play. She was an athlete in high school and so was he, but the fact that she had put thought into that absolutely blew my mind.

Other girls routinely read bridal magazines, and cried over TLC’s ‘A Wedding Story,’ which mostly made me want to staple things to the subject’s heads. Who were these people?

Another memorable evening of summer drinks led to one of our friends proclaiming that she just wanted “to be pregnant in summer and wear lots of flowing dresses.” Or she said muumuus, and my memory just wants to be kinder to that statement… hard to say. But again, this was something that she had thought about?

For years, I had absolutely no interest in having kids, my rationale being that there were so many dogs in the world without homes. And kids, for that matter. Now it doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world anymore, and some of our friends have created some of my favorite tiny little people on Earth. But I’m over 30 and I’m not exactly panicking that BV and I haven’t taken that step yet.

And yes, I do want to get married at some point in time but again, while it has been discussed… we’ve been together nearly five years so of course it’s come up… not panicking over that either. We’re very happy together, have built a pretty solid little life with each other, and that’s really enough.

I’m also profoundly thankful that the people who know me well are not the kind to be all *wink wink nudge nudge* on these kinds of things. I know a lot of people get a lot of pressure on these matters and “when are you going to get married/have kids/buy a house/get that pony” can get really old really fast. I’ve got no patience for that and if people know that about me and are too scared to ask those questions, honestly, I’m kind of okay with that.

At this point, I’m living a fairly conventional life, apart from the fact that I’m doing it in a foreign country, and we don’t have any paperwork to prove it. And that is good enough for me.

***

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

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31-Day Challenge: Day 5

There’s a great episode of Sex and the City where Carrie introduces the idea of “secret single behavior.” These are the sometimes oddball little things that people only do when they are really and truly alone. All the ladies had their own takes on this idea, minus Samantha who gave zero fucks about what anyone else thought. Go figure.

The problem with secret single behavior is that even when you find yourself in a great relationship, cohabitating or not, there’s another person around! And sometimes you just want to stand in the kitchen and eat your Saltine crackers while reading fashion magazines, am I right?

BV and I have now been living together for more than three years, and have struck a fairly good balance. We’re both the kind of people that need a little space once and awhile, and thankfully our place is big enough to allow for that. We call it “quiet time,” which means that he usually goes into the bedroom and plays computer games or watches sci-fi things that I’m not into, or works on different projects around the house. I usually take the living room and work on paperwork (rarely), write in this space (rarely), or watch terrible, terrible reality television (frequently, it’s my vice, let me have it). I do get the better end of this deal though, as I have a much more variable working schedule than he does and so I still have a fair bit of time during the day when I can come home and do some things. However, most of those I would not qualify as secret single behavior because they’re productive… like washing dishes or other things I become allergic to after sundown.

True secret single behavior for me can only occur on the evenings when he’s not at home, which brings us to today. He’s headed over to our friend the Gardener today, as he’s been busily ordering some devices that they need to repair some of the technical what-not in the nursery. The Gardener’s sister is also visiting from Italy, so he was anticipating a long evening over there of catching up and chatting. Because all work and no play makes BV a dull boy.

This means that I will probably have until at least 11 or so on my own here. In anticipation of this, I stopped on my way home from work and got an interesting-looking bottle of wine, a ball of buffalo mozzarella, and a few other odds and ends. The question now is what to do? The first step will be to make myself my favorite variation on a Caprese salad, and open the bottle of wine. After that? Remains to be seen.

***

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Subtle Differences: Baked Goods

When you are part of an intercultural relationship, you encounter differences both big and small. Today’s subtle difference is very small… in fact, you might even call it bite-sized.

Recently, I wanted to make some cookies. Specifically, I wanted to make a peanut butter cookie recipe that I had seen on Pinterest, but BV had an objection to that. According to him, cookies are something that you only eat around Christmastime.

Plätzchen/Christmas cookies, circa 2012

Plätzchen/Christmas cookies, circa 2012

I replied by saying, okay sure honey, Plätzchen might just be for Christmas, but since Plätzchen just means cookie and I am an American, cookies are for everyday consumption. Just ask the Cookie Monster! They are a year-round option! Plus, what do you pack for dessert in  your school lunch if you don’t have cookies?

From there the conversation spiraled into a whole discussion about how weird it was that I went to a school that we weren’t allowed to leave at lunchtime. He couldn’t believe that we couldn’t nip out to the bakery if we wanted, just to get a snack. Then I had to explain that there really wasn’t anywhere to go except for the Burger King attached to the gas station. Classy. His solution to this was that we should open up a bakery van and park it outside a similar closed-campus rural American school.

My response?

“Oh BV. You can’t just park a van outside a rural school in America without the possibility of being arrested as some kind of child creeper.”

And no, I still haven’t made the peanut butter cookies.

Back to the Grind, German-Style

As I mentioned last week, BV has had a few weeks of “vacation” while studying for his university tests. Today is his first day back to work, and what follows is a paraphrased conversation we had last night.

BV: Ohhhhh, I just checked my company email and tomorrow is so busy! Before I left, I only had two appointments tomorrow and now I have five.

H: Ouch, I hope they’re short appointments!

BV: No, the first one is at 9:45 and they go all day. I’m going to be so busy!

H: Poor kid, it sounds like you need to schedule a massage* for next week already.

BV: Oh no, don’t worry. The first appointment at 9:45 is for a massage.

H: *headdesk* Of course it is.

*They have a massage therapist who comes to the company, and they can get very cheap massages. There are two, and they’re usually booked solid.

Did I mention that he also has Thursday off so we can go to Munich, and Friday is a national holiday? I sure hope he doesn’t over-exert himself during this two-day work week that is starting with a bloody massage.

Sure, his tests were very stressful, but I still think it’s hilarious that he’s going to roll into the office after two and a half weeks off, dump his stuff at his desk, start the computer, and then roll back out for his massage. Boys.

Since I don’t have a picture that accurately represents massage and all the stock photos are a bit creepy, here’s a picture of a pretty flower. Because fall isn’t all about golden leaves.

fall flower

What Not to Say to Your German Significant Other

-or- More Fun Confusion with DuoLingo

Turns out my handy dandy app is not just for improving my linguistic skills; it can also raise important cultural distinctions. The other day I was playing with DuoLingo again, and was working on one of the family or people categories. At one point the sentence “Eine Beziehung ist ein Abenteuer“*or ‘a relationship is an adventure,’ popped up for me to repeat aloud. BV was sitting there, so I said (semi-sarcastically), “oh honey, isn’t that sweet. Our relationship is like an adventure.”

He gave me a confused/funny look and said, “sweet? Why sweet? That’s not really a good sentence.”

Disclaimer: may not apply in DE. VIa

Disclaimer: may not apply in DE. Via Pinterest

Huh? Now it was my turn to be confused. Why? Isn’t that a good thing? Adventure, excitement, spontaneity, aren’t those all desired qualities in a relationship? Don’t I see tons of ‘Pins’ a week touting ’25 date adventures’ and other nonsense cluttering up my Pinterest feed?  Turns out, maybe not so much in Germany. It’s like a whole damn nation of Yodas running around here.

I don’t want to generalize and say that all Germans would agree with the sentiment but he said it was a fairly common line of thinking. He explained it like this: if a relationship is described as an adventure, that means it’s maybe something dangerous or something you shouldn’t be doing, e.g.. having a one-night stand, being unfaithful to your partner, or other “illicit” behaviors. Being adventurous within a relationship is fine, so if you want to go out and get crazy with your partner, go for it! But having an adventure implies that you’re straying from the secure place you “should” be in. Stability and routine aren’t so scoffed at here, which I guess means there’s less bitching when your coupled up friends don’t want to go out partying on Saturday night. This is not a bad thing. But I can’t agree that adventure is bad either.

On second thought, maybe I’m only saying that stability is okay because our last few weekends haven’t involved much beyond pajama pants and amusing ourselves with the cat and her acrobatic hunting abilities…. hmmmm….. Nah. Personally, I say to each his own.

Stability and routine might sound boring to some people, and adventure and excitement might sound like too much to others, but I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. I’d like to strive for a healthy mix. If I can spend a fair amount of time in my PJs watching movies, but still go out and explore new places, that’s great with me. I was glad that DuoLingo brought up this subject because then BV and I had the chance to discuss what kind of adventures we want to go on together. The list was quite extensive; clearly we have no desire to be boring yet (or ever). If others think we are, that’s their problem, not mine.

Unfortunately we are limited at the moment because he really needs to focus on his university program, and frankly the money just isn’t there right now.  But when school lightens up for him and our bank accounts are a little more flush, we’re all over it. There’s still a lot of world to see, and I’m really happy that I have someone who wants to do ALL THE THINGS with me… even if we don’t want to call it an adventure. But honestly? I’d rather just call it life, anyway.

So I’m curious… has anyone else run into this line of thinking? Are adventures bad news or is the real enemy routine?  

Anniversary Eats

On Monday, BV and I celebrated our one-year anniversary by eating as much as humanly possible. That wasn’t really our intention, but it just seemed to work out that way. 

He’s still on vacation – aka, madly studying for his next round of university tests on Saturday – and Mondays are normally a day off for me, so it was nice that we got to hang out together all day. We had a gift certificate for one of the bakeries in town laying around and we decided to give it a try for breakfast. It’s a newer place, and despite having driven past it every time we leave town, neither of us had been in. And I’ve got news for you, bakery that’s conveniently located in the Edeka entryway… you are out. We walked in and immediately started drooling at the rows and rows of choices. Including muffins! Multiple varieties! I’ll have to go back another day and take pictures, but for now let’s focus on the breakfast.

The cafe has a variety of breakfast options ranging from a buttered pretzel with a small coffee to the epic two-person breakfast bonanza… which is what we got. 

Although I got a strange look from the next table, I still immediately took the mini champagne bottle and the orange juice to mix up some mimosas. And the food… oh… the food. Eggs (scrambled for me, fried for him)? Check. Giant basket of bread (that’s about half in the picture)? Check. Meats? Check. Cheeses? Check. Antipasta and jam? Check. Mixed fruit and Greek yogurt? Check. Over-stuffed diners? Check.

Many, many, many, hours later, I decided to get started on dinner. I had found a few things on Pinterest that I wanted to try, and I’ll just give you the results. Pictures are all from my iPhone in the too-dark kitchen, so sorry they aren’t that great.

My original plan was to make this recipe for Roasted Spaghetti Squash. With the weather changing, it seemed like a sure bet. The picture isn’t the prettiest, but as you can see, I ended up having to use a small pumpkin. The store didn’t have any squash, but I will be keeping my eye out. It was delicious with pumpkin though, and I can recommend giving it a try. 

Since that dish was heavier, I wanted to keep the salad light. I had some Feldsalat (lamb’s lettuce), and added strawberries and pomegranate seeds. I also had some leftover roasted hazelnuts, and Parmesan from the roasted pumpkin, so that went on top. I mixed a normal honey mustard dressing with olive oil, and I have to say the results were delicious. 

For dessert, I was determined to put a dent in the giant bowl of pears we had collected from the tree in the garden. 

Oh, Pear Crisp. You were a good choice, and I will be picking more fruit as soon as they ripen. Personally I’m hoping to get some ripe apples soon so I can combine fruit on the next batch. 

Besides all the eating, it was a pretty quiet day. BV studied, while I prepped for the week of classes, and de-spidered the extra room. A carpet installer was coming the next day and if by any chance he was arachnophobic, we would have had a major problem. We also had a visit from his landlord, and we signed an updated lease. Considering that, and the fact that my landlord has filled my apartment already, I guess this is official now. 

Pretty crazy how different things can be in a year, isn’t it? 

Moving On and Moving In

Quick notice before the post… Lately I’ve been trying to comment on some of your blogs on the WordPress platform, and the comments have been disappearing. I have no idea why they’re getting spam filtered or whatever, but if you check the spam folder, you might find some. Have any other people (especially non-Wordpress users) been having this problem? Or does anyone know what to do about it? 

And back to our regularly scheduled post… 

One of the things that happened while on our America trip in June was that BV and I started discussing the idea of moving in together. I’ll assume that means that the trip went well, and that he wasn’t scared off by my sudden proclamations of “Woo America”-type sentiments. Kidding…. mostly.

Maybe premature, but here’s hoping! Via

At first we talked about looking for a bigger place in the city, as there’s no way we can both fit into my 37 square meters… dude has a lot of stuff. But after perusing the internet a bit, we decided to just move me over to his place. It’s not in the city, and will lengthen my commute by quite a bit, but it’s just such a good deal it seems idiotic to give it up. BV rents from a friend of his, which means he pays (what seems like nearly) nothing for the entire upstairs of a house. No-one lives downstairs, so the whole place, including the giant garden, is just for us. It’s about 90 square meters, and even with all his stuff, there’s an entire empty room right now. Pretty awesome.

Side note: when I told my parents that it made sense for us to move in, they didn’t seem to like that reason. Of course, that’s not the only reason…. totally apart from the fact that it does make sense at this point, we are (almost nauseatingly, I hear) happy and all that sort of thing. Everything is sunshine and daisies, even if he won’t let me get 10 dogs because that’s “too many,” or “crazy.” (Like there’s such a thing as “too many” dogs.) But yes, things are good. Just in case anyone was wondering. 

Officially my move-out date is the end of September, but I’ve hardly been at my house at all this last month. We’re trying to get his place a bit more liveable and a little less chaotic in the meantime. We spent most of the first half of the year at my house, which resulted in things getting thrown down somewhere and then forgotten about when he came here once a week to empty the mailbox. Coupled with his love of technical things and lack of shelving, it makes things very interesting. So far, we’ve accomplished the following things…

  1. Ordered an enormous new wardrobe that will hopefully have enough room for both of us. We got it on eBay and need to pick it up sometime at the end of the month. If any of you have a truck and a desire to help BV disassemble it and move it over here, we will happily pay you in beer and pizza. 
  2. Looked at paint. Now we just need to go back to the OBI and actually buy it, a ladder, and assorted other supplies. My job is to paint the bedroom sometime this month, while BV studies for his first semester of Master’s tests. I think I get the better deal. 
  3. Death to the curtains! Full disclosure: he has some really questionable things in this house… the good news is that most of them came from somewhere or someone else, and he’s not all that attached to them. So the red, velvet-y looking curtains that flanked the grandma’s old lace white curtains in the living room are gone. They were quite awful, so much so that a friend asked about their origins when we had Thanksgiving here last year. I advocated for their burning, but he thinks they belong to his landlord so they’re now in a box in the attic. I’d bet 50€ that the next time we open that box we’ll find a cozy red mouse nest. But since his landlord is a category 3 pack rat, they’ll wait in the attic until he can part with them himself. 
  4. Speaking of pack rats, BV has some slight tendencies too. While looking for a place to store couch cushions the other day, I was perplexed to find random boxes of electrical stuff behind nearly every door I tried. I thought it was mostly all in the “office,” but it was everywhere. Our Monday night project thus became “clean out the Wandschrank (a giant piece of furniture in the living room with TV, stereo, wineglasses, fondue pot, etc.) so Heather has somewhere to put her things too!” We managed to make some room, mostly by relocating things… not so much throwing things out. Since my Tuesday classes were cancelled, my project was then to clean/polish/dust the Wandschrank because it would totally fail my grandma’s dust test. Fun! 
  5. This evening we’re going to pick up a small shelf for the bedroom that I found on a moving sale message board. They have two which are similar, so depending how much space we have in the car I’m going to try to talk BV into taking both of them when we get there. Shhhhhhhhh. Mostly I just don’t want to put all my stuff on the floor when we move it over here, because that’s about the best place for it now. Shelves are our friends!

That’s about as far as we’ve gotten and there are a lot more things we’d like to do. I keep reminding him to pace himself, and that we don’t have to do anything in the first 10 minutes, as neither of us are millionaires and things like his tests have to take priority. We looked a bit at bookshelves last night, which are needed pretty desperately. His office has some but they’re completely full, and the rest of the room is full of boxes and toolboxes all piled on top of each other. I don’t have a ton of stuff, but if we want to get it in there, we’re going to have to do some reorganizing. He’s also anti-IKEA and anti-particle board furniture, so any suggestions of buying some cheap shelving usually don’t go over very well. Ideally, we’d have something like this…

Via Pinterest

…because who doesn’t want a library with a ladder? But I think we might have to compromise. One step at a time, right?

Know anyone with a truck who enjoys beer and pizza? Any tips on semi-good quality furniture places in DE? Or any sage advice on moving in with the significant other? Leave it in the comments!

German Gents

Despite the fact that I’ve lived in Euro-land for four years now, I’m a newcomer to the world of ‘Inter-Cultural Dating.’ This is mostly due to the fact that Prague is not a place where people “date” so much as a place where people are “on study abroad/backpacking/Spring Break/stag party” and so “relationships” are not so much on their minds. IfyaknowwhatImsayin. Granted, I did date a Canadian but I’m not counting that because he doesn’t deserve to be counted. Ahem.

But now that I’ve been in a fully-functional and lovely relationship for the last six months, I’m enjoying all of the amusements and challenges posed by our different cultures. He‘s not a fan of the Facebox, and I get that. He wants to eat carp while it’s in season, and I say sure, just please turn it while you eat it because the eyeball is looking at me. Danke. But so far, it’s worked out.

Since I had been here for more than a year before we got together, I’d heard a fair amount of stories both from friends and indirect sources (hi, Internet!) about German gents. And of course, you can’t generalize an entire group of people, but of course, there are always stereotypes. French guys are romantic, Italian guys are suave*, German guys are.… I don’t know… punctual?

But the main thing I heard was that they aren’t very demonstrative, or comfortable talking about feelings/emotions, etc. etc. So when I ran across this a few weeks ago, I got a good giggle…

Via

    

Side note: do all you expat folks know about Itchy Feet? If not, go read it. Hilarity will ensue. 

To this point, BV has been the total opposite of 1) this comic and 2) most of what I had heard about German guys. I thought this comic was pretty funny, so I sent him the link and this is the email conversation that followed…

~BV: I thought we’re really modern and I should turn like this … but Okaaaaay, just for you!!!

~Heather: If you ever draw up paperwork to affirm your feelings for me, I’m going to force you to watch American reality singing and dancing shows. Just a warning. 
~BV: Hey, I was just kidding. But you took out the hard punishments!!! That’s not fair, that’s horrendous! 😉
This is how you can tell we’ve been dating for a while… he’s learned very valuable words like “horrendous.”** I’m sure though that there are plenty of guys like the one in the comic (both in Germany and elsewhere), but I just happened to end up the opposite, and have a guy that will carry a giant windowbox of flowers up four flights of stairs to surprise me. Because he is sehr süss.
So ladies, what do you think? Did I just get the warm and fuzzy German, or are the stereotypes off on this one?     

*Based on my time in Italy I would replace ‘suave’ with ‘short.’  
** See: “Oh my God, those Crocs are horrendous.”

A Quickie

A quick couple of links, that is.  

Since landing on Friday, I’ve spent most of my time unconscious and I still had to promise myself that I would go to bed by 9 o’clock tonight. Today I managed to talk myself out of going to work to make copies for my classes tomorrow, so I have to do it on the way to work, which will involve leaving the house at about 6:20am. Sounds like fun, right? In my defense, I had a pretty solid reasoning… When I got home Friday, I discovered that my key won’t work in the door downstairs. Luckily, a neighbor let me in when I buzzed, but my landlord had no idea if the locks had been changed or something along those lines. And since Friday was a holiday in Germany, there was no chance of him being able to find out until Monday. So this weekend, I decided it was better to stay in the house (minus one complete FAIL of a shopping trip, but at least I got groceries), than to be stuck outside in the cold/rain for any period of time.

Luckily a friend of mine sent me the link for my new favorite web site, and that took up a solid amount of time today. It’s called Thought Catalog and they describe themselves as “a place for relevant and relatable nonfiction and thought.” Sounds good to me. A quick perusal of the offerings will find something for everybody… there are articles about what the Ferris Bueller movie would look like today, New Years Resolutions from celebs (my favorites are Zooey Deschannel, Ryan Gosling and Tim Tebow), a holiday newsletter from a single person (much more entertaining than the smug crap you might read from your 3rd cousin with their 5 honor roll students and adorable puppy-mill Cockapoo**), and a plethora of other scintillating topics that you didn’t even know you were missing until you read them. 

But this is the one that started the journey down the Thought Catalog rabbit hole for me….
Why You’re Beautiful 
The friend that sent this to me has been dealing with a break-up for the last few months, and we’ve had some good chats about our respective situations. Normally, an article like this one would be way too high on the cheese radar for me if I based it on title alone, so I probably wouldn’t have read it unless she had sent it to me. We have some tentative plans to meet up later this year, hopefully in India or somewhere else in Southeast Asia. I just hope we aren’t including becoming an “ashram-cleaning cliché” in this plan. Although that is a pretty good line. 

After the sad-face love post, I moved onto this one and have read it about three times since then today. And I laugh every time. 
Post-Break Up Blog Post Titles 
I fully intend on using one of these after my next relationship. So in the future, look for a blog post titled either “Every Secret My Ex-Boyfriend Ever Told Me: An Illustrated Guide” -or- “On Reality TV Marathons and Sweatpants.” Except I would change it to pajama pants. Because I don’t own sweatpants. And never will… especially after the nonsense I saw people wearing while at home.* And if I’m being honest, the title of the entry will probably be, “How to Ignore Your Feelings Through Prodigious Alcohol Consumption.” So look for that blog post whenever I actually start dating someone.  And by ‘whenever,’ I mean ‘if.’

*I’m talking to YOU sloppy pony-tailed girls with PINK sweats tucked into Ugg boots carrying your Coach bags around the mall parking lot. If you have enough money to buy a Coach bag (or daddy does), you (or daddy) should have enough money to buy normal pants. Jeans, for example, are appropriate pants for every day life. Sweatpants are appropriate for bed or the gym. That is all. End rant.
**I don’t have anything against the Cockapoo specifically. I love dogs, but I hate how these “designer breeds” are mass produced at puppy mills. Get a shelter dog, or research a breeder with a decent reputation. Don’t buy a dog as an accessory, I don’t care how well it fits in your purse. They have four legs, they can walk. End rant.

This Modern Love… Breaks Me.

If you don’t know this song, I suggest you take a listen. Apologies that the video is boring.




I read this great article yesterday on the New York Times. As much as we’d all like romantic stories to end with a ‘happily ever after,’ I always love it when someone can write one that’s beautiful, honest, and something you can relate to. I think I’m becoming a sap in my old age. 

Image via www.postsecret.com