Puzzles

There’s been a bit of a puzzle-mania at our house. 6 weeks off my feet and then 4 weeks recovery leaves lots of time for getting caught up with reading, getting tired of streaming movies, and doing nothing. Since I was able to sit, puzzles became the big thing. First my friend Ginna dropped off a bunch of puzzles and then our friend Dawn did the same. And if that wasn’t enough, our friend Mike was the latest to leave a stack of puzzles in front of the house.

And ok, I’ll admit it, I bought myself one, too. As it turns out, I bought myself two puzzles. How can that happen? One was meant as a present but that friend said she’s set with enough puzzles before I even presented the puzzle. Immediately it was mine. But, I already wrapped it and I hate destroying my stellar job.

My favorite puzzle ever by far is one of birds. Though it was 1,000 pieces it felt like several mini-puzzles instead. I like working on areas and this one was perfect for my approach.

Mostly I do 1,000 piece puzzles but at times I will indulge in a 500 piece one. Stephen calls them palate cleansers. It seems an apt description. They give my head a break, probably should be called head cleanser, and give me new energy to go to bigger ones.

I now have a connection to the artist of this puzzle. A friend of ours who moved to New Mexico bought their house from this artist. In other news, I’m enjoying my 75% weight on my leg. Doing my new exercises. I want to be compliant with my rehab. The doctor did a good job and deserves my cooperation.

My heart. Doing very little and putting very little stress on my heart did it some good, I hope. At least it felt good in all that time. Instead of giving my heart a workout to get stronger, I need to give it a rest so it can live longer. A new theory of mine.

I have been so lucky with our neighbors and it has been a good relationship during my recovery. They love my food and especially chocolates I make and I love their flowers and eggs from their chickens. A very good trade. Though we’re now vegan, I still like playing around with baking, but would hate to buy eggs from a store. Now I have new flowers on the tables every week. It cheers me up. I sure come a long way from hating to cut flowers, essentially killing them in my opinion, to appreciating them.

I want to plant some flowers come spring, especially zinnias. How does one grow them? From seeds? And when do I start them? There is always the internet for these kinds of questions. I do know now how to save the 2 geranium plants I have for over-wintering. Soon, perhaps when I get to 100% weight on my foot again it will be the perfect first job outside.

Have you heard of FODMAP? I assumed it was a way of eating. But no, it’s a compound found in foods that can cause intestinal distress. Wheat has FODMAPs. But, if the dough rests for 4 or more hours, the FODMAPs disappear. Most commercial bread nowadays rests perhaps for 10 minutes. Is that why so many people are gluten/bread sensitive? Find a baker who rests their doughs or bake it yourself. Of course you can also go with wheat free bread.

Arnold got into the habit of pushing his face into mine while I am asleep. I guess in order to wake me up. But why? He wants my spot on the couch or bed. But he does keep me warmer at nights now that it’s getting cold. Perhaps I should shove my face into his.

A Good Day

This should go down in history as a good day. The day started a little rudely with Arnold jumping on the bed and pawing me. He wanted to go for his morning walk for which Stephen is the designated walker. I don’t do mornings very well. But I did sing him his morning song.

That’s the first song I learned in English class. It goes like this: Good morning, good morning, good morning to you. Good morning Mister Arnold and how do you do? Of course we sang Mrs. Miller as she was the English teacher. Her name was Steinmüller but she translated and abbreviated it.

Then I indulge myself in my German cooking competition watching German TV online. What a treat! Like the Great British Baking Show it is very civilized and everyone is nice to each other. No shouting.

You’re always able to download any recipe that was cooked that day and I did just that. Cooking it now. I changed a few things and will take a photo to show you. It will be at the end together with the recipe. There were some changes to this blogging program and I don’t have total control yet.

I’m also cooking a sweet potato that is one of 4 ingredients for a chocolate pudding. Let’s see if it’s worth a try. The ingredients are a nut milk, sweet potatoes, chocolate powder, and dates.

The other good news is my leg. Starting today I get to put 75% weight on it. As exercise I get to use our living room bike, stand and sit with the help of both legs and hands free, spin myself some yarn. I love my physical therapist. We come up with the same ideas. He suggested I use a bar stool when cooking. I was already doing that.

Breaking a femur is bad news. No walking or weight on the leg for 6 weeks and then 25% weight on the leg after that and after another week another 25%, up to 50% now, and so on. Total recuperation is over 10 weeks.

With the help of friends I had all the tools necessary to survive. From wheelchair in the beginning to a walker nowadays, a fancy shower seat, a high rise toilet, you name it, I had it. And let’s not forget the steady supply of puzzles.

This is a cold salad with red bell pepper stripes, snowpea stripes, green onions, rice noodles, ginger, a little toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, lime zest and 6 tablespoons lime juice, tamari, a little vegan fish sauce, maple syrup, hot peppers, and topped with peaches because i had no mango. add roasted cashews, cilantro, hot pepper, and sesame seeds.

And the success story of the vegan pudding recipe. It would need raspberries on top to make it perfect.

4 ingredients: coconut milk, but almond milk or oat milk, any milk really, would do, 6 pitted dates, 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, and 2 cups of cooked sweet potatoes. Put in the blender and you get this:

1480 Waller

When I met Stephen in 1980 I lived at 1480 Waller Street in San Francisco. Later that year we moved in together. We were a match made in heaven.

At the time, we read to each other. The book that left a big impression on us was Helter Skelter. Apparently Manson had lived in our building or a few houses down from ours, but this was the Haight Ashbury and it seems every house had its myth.

But back to Helter Skelter. In our impressionable 20s it was quite a story, and living on the first floor, though with bars across the windows, and bars across Manson himself, we nevertheless freaked out when we heard a noise.

For whatever reason, imagination rampant, we were convinced someone was trying to get into the apartment from the hallway window or perhaps the kitchen door that led to a garbage area via some stairs. The door had a big wooden bolt across it, a la castles in the 1800s. And perhaps we forgot to bolt it? Or was the little hallway window left open? Damn if either of us volunteered to check it out, mere babes we were.

Instead we devised a plan where we took turns staying awake and protecting each other. I wonder what we thought we would be able to do should an intruder surprise us. We never found out because we fell asleep on the job.

When we checked out the situation in the morning, it turns out that the hallway window had bars and the big wooden bar across the door was secure. The noises we had heard through the night were raccoons in the garbage.

Forward almost 42 years later. Stephen posts a song from the Ace of Cups on his Facebook page. A friend comments with a video of the band. As Stephen is watching the video, he gets all excited and shouts 1480 Waller, they lived at 1480 Waller!

He does a little research and finds the dark sides of 1480 Waller, too. And very dark they are. When reading this article one can see the sociological changes for women from then. Though times seem to be going backward right now, the horrors of this story in the courts make me sick. Read and weep.

The victim is called promiscuous, taking drugs, having tattoos and a hippie lifestyle. The gang rape was called an orgy in the SF Chronicle headlines. Our block of Waller was called “Terror Terrace.” The detectives working on the case were the same ones that worked the Zodiac killings.

We had no idea how many ghosts were in our building, on our block. We might not have fallen asleep that night.

Back Again?

It has been a while and it seems the whole world has changed. Certainly my life has.

At the beginning of this pandemic I saw a chance that we’re all coming together. Being in the same boat/world provided an opportunity to put our differences aside and root for each other. What other option was there?

I look around now and wonder why I had such faith in people. Shouldn’t I have known better? Didn’t 4 years of Trump prepare me for the divide and hate and idiocy? Apparently not.

There is a certain kind of idea of freedom that only exits in this country I live in right now. An underdeveloped idea of freedom, a freedom as a toddler might express. And it goes hand in hand with the belief that this is the freedom other countries can only dream of.

They have no idea that many countries have moved beyond and come together as a community where everyone is valued and that freedom comes with the responsibility to others. OK, only sometimes. I see that in Germany we have the same idiots spouting the same bs as here. It’s discouraging.

In the meantime it’s a grueling and tiring experience to slog through a pandemic that some don’t even believe in.

Although first worried about covid, my personal experience shifted pretty fast. At the end of 2020 we moved in with my father-in-law. After several visits to the E.R. he needed more care and after interviewing several caregivers we decided we would be a better choice.

Though that was true, we didn’t realize how limited Stephen’s work time would become. Or that we basically lived in one room only, the bedroom. Or the kitchen for cooking.

The living room was taken over by the television tuned to the news or sports. Neither of which we had an appetite for, especially 24/7.

There were good times, too. We always ate dinner together with lots of talking and remembering and discussing. And afterwards we would watch Shtisel, a show we all enjoyed. It was fun creating this routine.

Several months later I had a heart attack and landed in the E.R. I had a stent placed, diagnosed with congestive heart failure and eventually with an ejection fraction of 24%. Not good. At the time I was also struggling with bad knees and had hoped for knee replacements. So recovery didn’t include a lot of exercise. Knee replacement was now out and the only way to walk was with a brace a friend had given me. The shortness of breath I now experienced did not help either.

A few days after my release from the hospital, I think it was only 2 days later, I was back at the E.R. with a partial bowel blockage. Talk about pain! And the indignity of having a tube placed through your nose and into your stomach.

What else could happen? Right? Well, a few months later, I fell and broke my hip or rather the neck of the femur. After waiting 2 days in E.R. for a hospital bed I finally got the surgery I needed with 3 screws holding me together right now.

Sorry about all the boring medical details, believe me, I’m as tired of it. Because, here I sit on the couch or lie on the couch or am in a wheelchair on my way to the bathroom. Exciting, yes? Not! And all this for 6 weeks in order to heal the fracture.

My first thoughts were, great, all the streaming catching up with shows and all the books at the library at my disposal. That only sounds good until you do it. But no whining. A lot of people are locked up as much as I am still trying to find the exit to this pandemic.

I still can cook with the help of Stephen. I sit at the table and call out the veggies I would like to appear in front of me. I ask help for a million little steps that involve cooking. And I should be forever grateful to Stephen for being so generous and being part of every process in my recovery.

I hope I’ve broken the ice and will post a little bit more on here.

Let me at least tell you about a book I recommend and one I don’t. Only recently in my life have I started reading mysteries. Henning Mankell being one author I really enjoy. His book The Man from Beijing came as a surprise. So much more than a mystery. I love how he weaves history and social issues into most of his novels.

And the book I don’t recommend is The Push by Ashley Audrain. Unless you have an urge to feel depressed and down. In spite of the darkness I could not stop reading the book. But stay away.

The Baking Experiment

I love baking. But we are only a 2-person household and during Covid 19 we’re not about to launch parties or get-togethers. I also love cooking, but it’s easier to have leftovers guilt-free for days, whereas cakes and pastries etc. are not fooling anyone’s health.

The idea of baking through the Dr. Oetker baking book has tapped on my brain before, but this time I opened the door and it actually settled down in a comfy chair. To make the baking healthier, I decided to offer what we couldn’t or didn’t want to eat on Facebook.

There was only partial success. And every time there were leftovers for us. That’s when I decided not to bake until all was gone and even give us a day of rest here and there.

Though the intention was to go from page 1, actually page 1 is only the title of the book and several pages follow with no recipe in sight, only the promise of things to come.

The first recipes showed various waffles, also not what interested me. So I skipped right to page 20 and what are called “Amerikaner” in Germany. With research I was hoping to discover the name’s history, but no luck, there is no definitive answer.

They turned out ok, though had a very different flavor from the ones I remember from my childhood and our neighborhood bakery. Thanks to Covid 19 I can’t hop over to Germany and do a taste comparison.

Never one excelling in the art of decorating, let me present you with a photo of my “Amerikaner.”

The next recipe was one I didn’t feel like making so I decided to include another book into the baking experiment. A chocolate book: Cocolat, by Alice Medrich.

Cocolat was a chain store in San Francisco in the 1980s that featured her chocolaty delights. Stephen’s apartment was right across from her little shop on Steiner street, and the bathroom window above the tub let me glimpse at it during after-midnight showers when I got back from an evening/night shift at Harrington’s in the financial district.

Alice Medrich is also the person who inspired my chocolate truffles. I think it was she who introduced the bigger-size truffles to an American audience. Her story is a sad one, as she eventually got embezzled by an employee for $500,000 and a fire destroyed her Berkeley headquarters. I have no details but am happy she continues with cookbooks after she had to give up her chocolate chain, or actually sell it, with all the financial troubles she was in.

So I switched it up and went straight to the first recipe in the book on page 34: Chocolate Hazelnut Torte. Being a sucker for hazelnuts, I actually had enough to make this cake. And a success it was. I eventually added tons more hazelnuts to the decoration but didn’t take another photo.

The experiment paused for one day as we tried to stuff our faces with chocolate. Two people who were interested in their portions reneged. One never answered and the other decided on a last-minute trip. I have to say: their loss. This was a good one.

Then back to the Dr. Oetker book. Let me tell you something about Dr. Oetker. His books and products are omnipresent in Germany. He dominates the baking industry and now the frozen pizza industry.

But there is history. Dr. Oetker collaborated with the Nazis. He was a national socialist and part of the Waffen SS, the military branch of the Nazi party. It took his son to finally face the past and admit Dr. Oetker’s part in it. The company funded a book by a German historian that uncovered the ugly past. I have not read it and don’t know the details.

Below is a little more information about this infamous company from this web site: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/dr-oetker-nazi-connection

“Dr Oetker is a family-owned frozen pizza and processed foods firm that was run during World War II by Rudolf-August Oetker, a member of the Waffen SS. Oetker supported the war effort by providing pudding and other food mixes, and manufacturing howitzer shells and machine gun parts for the Nazis.

“After hiring historians to document this relationship, the company subsequently began to investigate the provenance of its art collection. A silver goblet, for example was discovered to have been the original property of Emma Budge, a wealthy Jewish socialite, philanthropist and art-lover from Hamburg.

“The company’s board, which includes members of the Oetker family, commissioned the audit by historians in 2015. As of August 2017, four artworks were restored to their rightful owners, including the goblet.

“Dr Oetker’s researchers say it may take decades to determine how many more items in its collection are due for restitution.”

It’s way too late for me to boycott Dr. Oetker, I own several books and throughout my life have bought their products. Recently I have switched to cheaper identical products from another company. But since that company was founded in 1920, before WWII, who knows what’s hiding in their mixes. Though I have found no information. Best to make my own puddings and whatever else they offer.

But back to the Dr. Oetker baking book. Next recipe was “Buttertörtchen.” They didn’t look all that exciting to me and I came up with a new method to choose recipes. Random number generator with input of the recipe pages, or perhaps a random opening of the book, or just pick a recipe where the photo speaks to me. I decided to keep on going for now, and those little “cupcakes” with almond topping were a delight. Definitely something I’ll bake again.

Due to not enough takers, we are on day 2 of eating these little precious marvels. And now I need a break from sweets and am craving something with a totally different flavor. Perhaps Chinese?

Thanks for letting me share this here. I wish I could just beam these to you. One day perhaps.

There’s an Arnold in the House

Let’s try this again.

Covid 19 may have made this the worst year in my history but it also brought some good. I’m talking Arnold here, our foster dog that we finally adopted.

There were so many reservations why we should not do it, but with Covid 19 they evaporated. What did anything matter when we could not travel or socialize.

So yes, he is dog aggressive. But it’s not like we are going to dog parks or are letting him off his leash. We are not traveling to to visit our daughter Liana in Denver where his type of dog is a strict no-no. And traveling on a plane is a strict no-no for me now.

Going to Europe for a few months? Not happening either. So no dog sitter needed. And we had already kind of given up our dog-sitting business.

Instead we have a lovely dog who has ground down his teeth on a cage or a chain as the doctor tells us. No vampire look for him. He had to go as a regular dog for Halloween.

He insists he fits into Daisy’s bed and I quit arguing. He’s some sort of Amstaff pitbull mix and he loves stuffed toys that squeak. He does take them apart and is thrilled when he gets to the hard plastic that encases the sounds.

He’s what gets me out of the house every day. Or most days. He gets Stephen out twice a day. Did I ever mention I’m not a morning person?

When I fell during the summer and ended up with, among many other aches and pains, a broken kneecap, I did not walk anywhere. I installed myself in bed with reading and streaming materials. My broken finger prevented me from knitting or any other useful activity.

But here I am, all better. Well, the knee is better, but the broken finger combined with my osteoarthritis is still causing issues. No fists, at times a trigger finger, tasks that involve hands are a bit more laborious, but overall, I was lucky.

Here is a photo from our neighborhood walk. I love the leaves in the trees, let me share with you.

When not outside and not reading or streaming, I have started work again on the quilt for Toby, our son. I’m trying to motivate myself to get going today. But already I have been baking instead and restarted this blog. That should give you an idea how much I’m in need of motivation.

My eyes have been bothering me a lot lately, especially after reading 3 books in 3 days. Now my sight is a bit blurry and they’re watering when I try to focus, which I’m doing right now while writing this.

Let me give you the three book titles in case you need inspiration:

  1. Isabel Allende – A Long Petal of the Sea
  2. Leah Remini – Troublemaker
  3. Delia Owens – Where the Crawdads Sing

It’s been fun being back and reconnecting.

Bureaucracy

What every organization or department wants from me is a pound of flesh or two. Doesn’t matter what country.

Of course it all began with a death. My “father” died in Germany. But he’s an American. It got pretty confusing but I was determined to do this myself. Hubris? Perhaps. But one shouldn’t need a lawyer to make it through ordinary life events.

It taught me patience, a character thingie I was lacking. Most requests for yet another piece of paper were met by me taking a deep breath and rolling with it. Even Stephen suggested at times to get a lawyer. NO! This was now a challenge. I was the dog with the bone who couldn’t let go.

After 9 months plus I’m almost at the end. Sounds like a pregnancy, except pregnancy was much more predictable and enjoyable.

I thought I submitted the last documents to the bank, including an Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung; yes that is a word. But the reply should have been predictable: one more piece of paper. No problem, by now I had every paper imaginable and off it went.

On Friday I get another notice for one more piece of information. Again, no problem since I already had sent it to them. And then today happened.

I need more papers. I screamed. Perhaps there is life after death and Jack is having a good time somewhere taunting me. This is what he would do if he could. And why else are there so many absurd requests?

Here is the latest. I was born to a young single mom. My name at birth was Marianne Rohlederer. She then married and at 14 I was adopted by her husband Jack Iames. Now my last name was Iames. When I married Stephen I changed my last name to Greenberg.

The email from the bank I received this morning asks for my mother’s death certificate that I can’t find and might not even have since no one ever asked. But I have a document that names her as deceased. Fingers crossed.

Get this though: “One more question for you, was your maiden or married name Rosenberg? We see a Marianna Rosenberg mentioned in the Will and wanted to make sure it was you. If so, could we also please have a copy document such as a marriage or divorce decree showing the name change? “

Is this a case of Greenberg, Goldberg, Rosenberg, what is the difference? Or are they serious? And now I’m doubting their legitimacy. What if they want all this information to rip me off? Or someone at the bank? They have just about every document needed to take over my identity. (I just called to make sure this is all legit. So far it seems to be.)

The latest documents are on their way. What could go wrong? Everything!

I’ll keep you posted.

Everyday Life

This blogging gets in the way of life. Yet when I look at older posts it’s always such a nice reminder and memory. So I stumble along and do my best.

The last days, since Monday, Stephen is by my side. He thinks he’s got jet lag beat with a special diet, or rather a fast followed by a high protein meal if I understand correctly. Yet he fell asleep during a boring conversation in German I had with an official at the former dementia home my father was at before he died. I kicked Stephen under the table afraid he would fall out of his seat.

As Stephen keeps saying, we could be tourists and enjoy ourselves visiting various sites, but it’s also good to just be part of life here. A day going to the bakery and grocery store, strolling along the river that runs through town, discovering some adult size swings and finding out Stephen never learned how to pump a swing. Lots of food here and there and realizing that an Eiskaffee has nothing to do with an iced coffee but is a magic concoction of vanilla and chocolate ice cream with unsweetened coffee and topped with whipped cream and a thin wafer. I believe Stephen had one every day since.

He got to visit infamous spots of my youth. Visited with friends where I ate all their pretzels and we might not be welcome back. 

We always did errands to various government offices and found out how all important data protection is here, unless they want something from you.

Finding my brother has been one focus today. At the office they offered his whereabouts after he left home as a youth, over 30 years ago. That would be €10. Of course he has moved many times since and I’m supposed to go from town to town until I reached his final residence, unless he’s homeless and without residence. Can’t you just tell me where he is? Data protection. 

In Mannheim today at a homeless hangout I asked about my brother. Everyone was so friendly and word got around quickly at the square, but no one knew a Robert.

Stephen had an introduction to a Döner and likes them. We also hit the organic store and ended up with tons of new teas. Oops. A refreshing drink of apple juice with rosemary and other ingredients totally fit, as they say here: es passt.

We’re loaded down with photos from my fathers belongings. Everything else I donated, from furniture to about 10 tubs of clothing, some of it still wrapped and never worn. The photos were emotional baggage enough. If you visit us you’ll see a photo of my mom as a youn’un on the ancestry wall.

We visited the Turkish section of town and found a vegan place. It’s so sad we’re not here long enough to eat at every interesting place we see. Vegetarian and vegan food has taken off in this area, not just fries and a side salad anymore.

I’m running out of energy and typing with two fingers on an ipad gets old, old, old. 

Friday we’re heading to Heidelberg where our friends are waiting. I’ve known them since I was 17 or so. Lots of history and stories.

Surviving

Ask me how hot it was today in Germany. So hot I considered having myself locked into the grocery store. Their air conditioning was superb. I lingered and pretended I couldn’t make up my mind what to buy. I already had some beer in my basket, a non-alcoholic hefeweizen and a radler. I love the latter which is a combination of beer and lemonade. Radler, could be translated as bicyclist. It is meant as a refreshment during a bike ride, or for lightweights like me. But I returned both bottles and traded them in for ice cream, fruit, and yogurt.

The weather is suffocating at the moment. Over 100 degrees and humid. So what does one do? Binge Versailles on Netflix in front of a fan. Not making any unnecessary moves, except to raise a glass of water once in a while and the resulting trips to the bathroom.

Feeding the turtles is a highlight every day. They love dandelion flowers, except there aren’t any anywhere in this town, but I scored some mint for them and hibiscus flowers which they supposedly love.

If at all possible I eat on the balcony that looks out on to the neighborhood. Let me illustrate with photos.

Success

The biggest con at my age? I don’t need to write this down, I’ll remember. There are two other cons I thought of and didn’t write down and now I forgot. I remember one, check the time again for the appointment and don’t rely on memory. 

Acceptance with the loss of memory I can accept. Why is it so difficult then to just remedy the situation with pen and paper? The answer as so much nowadays to anything is : age. But I shall work on that.

Today was a good day. I climbed a mountain and just about reached the top. The bank. I have so much paperwork you would think I even outshine the german bureaucracy. They manage to surprise me each and every time.

This time no surprises. I had it all except the Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung. And the bank is going to get it themselves. A big YEAH! In the meantime they released some money to me to pay back funeral expenses and a little extra for travel right now.

It’s getting very hot here and will be getting hotter throughout the week. As it is I’m a constant puddle of sweat and sticky. Humidity! Germans can be very accepting of nudity, but no one wants to see me running around town naked. But I’m close to not caring.

Shopping today for my daily bread, or rather Brötchen and yogurt and fruit and pickles, I ran into a former neighbor. We stood in the heat chatting for almost an hour. Here in this town we are the locals. Very strange feeling that. My dialect is in full bloom and I’m enjoying it. It’s like speaking another language. And so often I get: you talk without an accent. Not sure what to make of that.

Yarn. Yes, I have one skein along. Am I crazy? At least it’s only 100 grams of the 44 pounds I’m allowed. Norwegian finally came out with their winter schedule, and yes, it looks all flights leave from San Francisco now. But they’re alive and kicking flying.

The last two days were white asparagus days. I’m from the asparagus growing region in Germany, but the season has ended. A good german household has enough frozen to last until next season. That’s how I scored my favorite food. No time to take a photo as I devoured, or was it inhaled, the food.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a bit more exciting. With the heat it’s hard to go beyond existing though.