What I’ve Learned in Fifteen Years


, , , ,

On November 30, 1997 when my plane landed in Hannover, the third I’d boarded during that trip, and I gathered up my five suitcases and headed for my new home, I never really thought so far ahead as fifteen years.  I knew I was here to stay and yet I never pictured myself that far into the future.  Maybe it was because I had so much to learn and get used to that seeing myself much past Christmas was too overwhelming for me.

But I have learned a lot in my decade-and-a-half in Germany so let me share some of it with you.  Because you never know.  Maybe one day you’ll pull up roots and move to Germany too.

1. Be prepared to get asked very often from your non-Germany family and friends “Why do Germans worship David Hasselhoff so much?”.  They don’t.  He’s actually the subject of as much snickering in Germany as he is in the US or anywhere else.  But there’s just one thing: he did have a hit song in Germany twenty-some-odd years ago.  Which brings me to my next point.

2. The German public has, at times, atrocious taste in music.  It blows my mind how a country that could produce Handel and Beethoven can make crap like David Hasselhoff singing I’ve Been Looking For Freedom into a chart topping hit.  Or this gem:

There’s a story behind that song that would go into details you probably wouldn’t get if you don’t live here.  Just suffice it to say it’s a prime example of how Germans can get fixated on some sort of amusing event and run it into the ground until it’s no longer funny. For whatever reason, novelty songs and one hit wonders can make it big in Germany, which may explain why I eschew German radio.

3.  If you’re sensitive to nudity, Germany may not be the place for you to live.  I wouldn’t call myself a prude but the amount of bare boobs and butts on TV alone is staggering for someone who came from the United States.  Actually I don’t notice it now but fifteen years ago it took me by surprise to see a naked ass on a margarine commercial.

4.  Hospitals are among the most unprivate places I’ve ever been in Germany other than a gym locker room.  You’ll be in a room with two or three other patients and curtains between the beds?  Not happening.  Now all that aside, if I were ever truly seriously ill or injured I’d rather be in Germany than anywhere else.  I fully appreciate living without any fear that illness or injury will bankrupt me.  And I love my doctors.

5.  At first Germans can seem humorless and stiff.  Unfriendly.  I have learned though that Germans have a fine sense of humor – it’s just that what they find funny differs from what most of us are used to.  Once you get used to how Germans think, you can understand their humor better.  You may not find it all that funny yourself but at least it won’t seem completely alien.  And perhaps I’ve been lucky but I have encountered relatively few unfriendly Germans in comparison to the ones who have been perfectly pleasant.  And that brings up the next point.

6.  Germans take their friendships seriously.  It’s true that they don’t call everyone they know their friend, and when they do, it means something.  I don’t call a lot of folks in Germany my friend, but those I do I literally would trust with my life.

7.  As with anything else, Germany has its good and bad sides.


  • Bureaucracy and paperwork.  They’ve made it into an art form.
  • Lack of air conditioning although after a while you do see that it’s mostly an impractical luxury.
  • Even if they are such lovers of order, Germans cannot seem to get through a grocery store without blocking up aisles and banging into you with their baskets.
  • Don’t look for free drink refills.  It’s a rare thing in Germany.  Heck, many fast food places make you pay for packets of ketchup and mayonnaise.
  • Graffiti.  It’s everywhere.  And not even clever stuff.
  • Germans have not fully come to terms with co-existing with other races and cultures.  I’ve noticed improvements over the years but there’s still a long way to go.


  • What is called artisanal bread in America is just called bread in Germany because fresh bread from the bakery is a staple.  It’s pretty inexpensive as well.  And it’s found everywhere.  I may have to drive two miles to get to a gas station but I live within a five minute walk of ten bakeries.
  • Plentiful, easy-to-use public transportation.  And even if we complain about Deutsche Bahn, we at least have a nationwide rail system that’s generally quite reliable.  I’d rather take a train to most places in Germany than drive my car.
  • German beer.  Do I really need to elaborate on this?
  • The orderliness of Germans.  People point to this as being a somewhat undesirable trait of Germans, mostly when there’s a rule they’d like themselves to break, but orderliness ends up making things just run more smoothly in Germany, keeps things tidier and, frankly, keeps others from shitting on you with abandon.
  • Germans love their animals.  It’s a bit weird to see at first, but it’s not at all unusual to find someone with their dog on a leash in a department store.  You’ll even see them under the tables of some pubs and cafes.
  • You can find wonderful festivals and celebrations all over Germany.  Whether it’s Oktoberfest, Karneval, the Weihnachtsmärkte, or assorted city and village festivals, there’s always a party somewhere, and you’re welcome to join in.
  • Soccer, or as they call it, Fussball.  I didn’t know a thing about soccer when I moved here but I’m a diehard fan now.  And I watch a ridiculous amount of it any given week of the club season or during international tournaments.

I moved here for love and to marry my husband but I didn’t expect to fall in love with Germany as well.  And just like the person you love, you know their faults and strengths and become protective of them.  And that’s how I feel about Germany after all these years.  It drives me mad sometimes or makes me angry but I find myself defending Germany from those who may not know or understand it.  And I’m able to see and appreciate the sometime subtle things that make it a wonderful place to live.


Magdeburg Weihnachtsmarkt 2012



I suppose if there’s anything that can spur me back into updating my blog it would be the opening of the annual Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).  With pictures.  You didn’t think I’d go to the opening and not take pictures, did you?

I hate standing around in the dark waiting for the grand illumination at 5pm so since I live a block over from the Weihnachtsmarkt I just wait until the last moment and dash over.  Yeah, I get there too late for the kids choir singing and all that but I’m all about the lights anyway.

At first there’s very little light as the market stalls aren’t open yet and the lights decorating everything aren’t yet on.

Just before 5pm the countdown to the grand opening begins!

And then like clockwork, the lights go on and the market stalls open.

And then all is bright!

After that there’s a mad scramble as people begin to move away from the stage for the opening ceremony and start their enjoyment of all the wares and fun within the market.  That was my opportunity to move around and get more photos, which was a bit like swimming upstream sometimes.

The market square Christmas tree.

Magdeburg’s Rathaus (city hall)

Even the Magdeburger Reiter is looking festive!

It’s not a Weihnachtsmarkt without a giant Ferris wheel…

…or a Glühwein (mulled wine) stand. This one is more like a Glühwein mansion. I saw on our local news how they assembled it in about two hours.

Does your Weihnachtsmarkt have a singing moose head? Ours does! The original caught fire last week but luckily the replacement was installed just in time!

I slowly made my way back towards the front of the Weihnachtsmarkt, taking some last photos as I went. It was tempting to stop at the stalls along the way but the Weihnachtsmarkt will be here for about another five weeks and since I live just a stone’s throw away, I tend to spend time here every day.

This was as close as I could get to this carrousel as the kids were piled up to get on it.

I love seeing these lighted stars from my kitchen window.

My favorite Backfisch stand is on the right. Best. Fish. Ever.

The department store is gussied up for the holidays as well.

And the giant Pyramide – with a Glühwein stand in the bottom, naturally.

And that’s the opening of Magdeburg’s Weihnachtsmarkt.  There’s more to it, especially the medieval section over in the park next to the Rathaus but that’s for another day.  Until then – Auf Wiedersehen!

Come visit us sometime!

That First Day


, , ,

In honor of Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month I’m continuing to answer questions about living with an SCI or caring for someone with an SCI.  Today’s questions come from Darling Mollie:

What were the first hours of Burkie’s accident like?  Was he conscious?  How soon did his parents find out?

Burkhard’s accident happened very late in the afternoon.  As it was it was just after Burkhard had a visit with his parents and his first wife.

During the entire time things were happening after Burkhard had his accident, and was pulled from the swimming pool he’d fallen into, he never lost consciousness.  And he was in a great deal of pain.  Burkhard claims that the pain in his neck was so bad that even if he’d had pain in his head or another part of his body, he wouldn’t have noticed it.

A military doctor saw Burkhard as he was laying on the door that was being used as a backboard and he immediately called a civilian hospital in the nearest town to say a soldier with a possible spinal injury was being loaded up in an ambulance and being sent there.  Once inside the ambulance Burkhard began the slowest ride of his life.  The hospital was only about three kilometers away and it took perhaps fifteen minutes to drive there but he claims the ride felt like it lasted fifteen hours.

Getting Burkhard’s injury assessed was the first priority once he arrived at the hospital.  X-rays were taken of his spine and the chief of surgery made his diagnosis.  Burkhard had a spinal cord injury at the C5 level but no fracture to his spine.  His scalp was also split open from the impact of his head on the floor of the pool so a local anesthetic was given to him and his scalp stitched closed.  The chief of surgery then wanted to attach weights to Burkhard in order to pull his compressed vertebrae into alignment again so they worked on that before the local anesthetic wore off.

When I first met Burkhard he had somewhat longish hair.  I have found that longish hair and a person who spends most of his time with his head on a pillow doesn’t mix well so we now keep Burkhard’s hair cut quite short.  The first time I washed his hair after getting this short haircut I noticed he had small scars on either side of his head about an inch over his ears and asked him about them.  “Oh, that’s where they drilled into my skull to attach weights after my accident”, he answered rather nonchalantly.  I assumed it was done during some sort of surgery and he replied that no, he was wide awake for the procedure.  It was done with a hand cranked drill, the first hole by the chief of surgery.  The second one was done by some medical student that Burkhard swears couldn’t have been more than twenty years-old.  “Be careful!”, the chief of surgery warned her.  “Don’t drill in too far, your’ll punch into his brain. Just a few millimeters more.”  At that point I’m not sure if Burkhard was more panicked about not being able to move or by some kid drilling millimeters away from his brain.  Burkhard now says “I wanted to jump up and run, but I couldn’t!”  He claims that it didn’t really hurt but the funny crunching-squeeking sound the drill made as it slowly gnawed through his skull was unnerving.  After the screws were in place, a metal halo was connected to his head and eighteen pounds of weights attached to the halo.

In the meantime Burkhard’s family was in the dark about what had happened to him.  Almost no one in the former East Germany had a telephone in their home and Burkhard’s family was no exception.  A messenger was sent to Magdeburg to inform them of Burkhard’s accident and he didn’t arrive in Magdeburg until somewhere around midnight.  The messenger went to the address of his parents but no one was home as Burkhard’s parents would spend the summer in their garden bungalow located just outside of town.  The messenger also went to the home of his first wife, but as it was after midnight she didn’t answer the door.  The next day when he called on her again he gave her the bad news and she was also able to go with the messenger to where Burkhard’s parents were to let them know.

The next day his parents and Burkhard’s first wife went to see him in the hospital.  Even today, all these years later, Burkhard’s mother is horrified at the idea that when she went into the ward where he was, she didn’t recognize her own son. Between the metal halo and the weights, the tubes and bandages, and his hair shaved off, she didn’t recognize her twenty-four year-old boy.  She thought he was some little old man laying there.

Burkhard remained in the hospital for about five weeks of one of the hottest summers he can remember.  And then it was time to go to the rehabilitation center and learn how to live a whole new life.

Got a question about living with a spinal cord injury?  Leave me a comment and I’ll answer it in a future post.  Ask me anything about it and I’ll give you the real deal.

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month.

Being Heard


, , ,

I suppose no one ever wakes up and thinks, “Today is the day when something unexpected happens and my life will change completely.”  I’m certain that when my husband woke up the morning of his accident, falling into a swimming pool and coming out paralyzed was the last thing he thought would happen.

In 1983 Burkhard was a draftee in the East Germany army.  He was in the swimming hall with other men in his unit.  He slipped, fell into the pool and landed on his head.  What compounded the problem is that Burkhard is 6’4″ and he fell into a little over 3 feet of water, landing straight on top of his head.  He knew immediately he was in terrible trouble, unable to move or get his head out of the water.

Luckily, one of the soldiers in the swimming hall worked as a medic and recognized the problem right away.  He got Burkhard turned so he could breathe again and instructed the other men to remove a door from the hall to be used as a backboard.  That one act saved Burkhard’s life.

On my last post I made the offer to answer any questions that readers may have about living with and caring for someone with a spinal cord injury.  Here’s the first question:

Does your husband speak and think the same way as he used to before his injury?

Burkhard does retain his ability to speak and think as he did before because he didn’t suffer any sort of brain injury.  His skull wasn’t broken at all.  His spine wasn’t even broken in the accident.  When Burkhard fell into the pool and struck his head his spinal cord jumped out from between the vertebrae at the C5 level, became pinched causing the injury to it and then it popped back into place.  Luckily the quick thinking of the medic who was on the scene prevented Burkhard from being deprived of oxygen long enough for him to suffer any brain damage.

This isn’t to say that Burkhard didn’t have trouble with talking in the weeks after his accident.  Luckily he was never dependent on a ventilator so he never had to deal with the problems that using one can create with talking.  But since the diaphragm is a muscle and his injury affects the muscles from about his chest down, it took him a few weeks of physical therapy to be able to gain control of his diaphragm enough for him to speak at a normal volume.  Still Burkhard doesn’t have the same control of his diaphragm he did before his accident.  For him to be able to scream, it would take a tremendous amount of effort on his part and he wouldn’t be able to do it for very long.  To even talk very loudly is quite difficult for him.  This lack of full control of his diaphragm also means he can’t cough deeply like he did before.  That causes a problem if he gets a cold because coughing up phlegm is very difficult and it can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia.

It’s been my experience, however, that many people encountering Burkhard outside while he’s in his wheelchair believe that he’s also mentally disabled.  They speak to him loudly and slowly and sometimes put their face up to his as though he’s a toddler, and they seem genuinely surprised when he responds like an everyday adult.  He understands that some people simply don’t know any better but that doesn’t mean he likes it.  It’s probably a good idea not to automatically assume that a quadriplegic has also suffered a brain injury as well until one has confirmation.

It was a great question and I invite anyone who wants to ask anything about living as or caring for a person with a spinal cord injury to leave a comment.

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

One False Step


, , , ,

Oh my.  Look at you!  I’ve neglected you dreadfully and yet you’ve come back to read my paltry offerings.  I’m so sorry I’ve left you readers in the lurch for the past two months.  I feel as though I’m a terrible hostess.  It’s like I’ve invited you to a cocktail party and instead of mingling as I should I’ve instead popped upstairs to watch a few episodes of Breaking Bad while you’re downstairs wondering whether I’ll ever return with more mini-quiches and shrimp puffs.

I’m back now and I’m feeling more renewed and dedicated to paying attention to you all.  So let’s not dwell on what I’ve been doing this summer.  Summer is over so let’s forge ahead! On to a whole new topic!

I’ve heard it said that a human walking is a dance of near disaster with every step taken.  The act of taking just a few steps takes such balance and coordination – things that come automatically to us once we learn how to do it – that we’re always just mere seconds away from catastrophe.  How often in our lives do we ever trip over our own feet, crash over unseen obstacles in our path, skid on a slippery floor, step off a curb wrong, miss that last step on a stairway? We flail around our arms and sometimes land on our butts, but most of the time the only damage is to our dignity.

And sometimes that stumble has consequences we cannot imagine.  In the United States a person becomes paralyzed every forty-eight seconds.  Yikes!  That number seems shockingly high to me.  Obviously not all instances of paralysis come from tripping and falling.  Spinal cord injury (SCI) can occur from not only falls but vehicle accidents, sports injuries, combat injuries, and so on.  There’s a lot of folks out there who have an SCI, but it’s been my experience that there’s a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about what it’s like to have a spinal cord injury and what it’s like to love and care for a person who has an SCI. Obviously incurring an SCI is life changing, and often in ways you may not have previously thought.

In the United States September has been declared Spinal Cord Injury month.  As with any month dedicated to a cause, the purpose of this is to increase awareness of what SCI is, how people live with it, how people care for those with an SCI and what resources are out there to give assistance.  It’s also a good time to discuss treatment, research, and what’s needed to give better and more effective assistance to those with SCI.

My husband suffered his spinal cord injury in a swimming pool accident on June 28, 1983.  I’ve been his caregiver since I moved to Germany fifteen years ago.  While every person’s SCI is a little bit different depending on how and where the spinal cord was injured, and how each person is cared for differs depending on their needs, Burkhard and I have deep and long experience with SCI.  And since September has been set aside to raise awareness of SCI I’d like to take this month and write posts about our experiences.  I’ll show you how he uses a computer.  I’ll show you what gadgets we have to help Burkhard be more independent.  We’ll talk about some of our experiences of living as a family with Burkhard’s SCI at the center of it.

I’d also like to make you an offer.  You may have lots of questions about what it’s like to be paralyzed or how a paralyzed person is cared for.  You may have questions about how things work.  What things feel like.  How normal of a couple we are.  If you have a question for Burkhard and me about his SCI and our situation, leave me a comment here and I’ll be answering them throughout the month.  If you’re one of my Facebook friends and want to ask the question there, go ahead but it will be answered here on the blog.  Same thing with Twitter – if you want to leave the question on Twitter, I’ll answer it here.  And you may ask anything.  I want to be as up-front and honest as possible with my answer and I want to clear up any misconceptions or mysteries about SCI.  If you’ve ever wondered about someone with an SCI, here’s your chance to get some information from the source.  I’ll answer as openly as I can manage.  All I require is that you ask your question in a dignified manner – any abuse will not be tolerated.  You may ask personal questions and I will be open in my answers but I will say that if I feel that the answer will compromise my husband’s dignity, I may not go into brutal detail.

Someone in the US is paralyzed every forty-eight seconds.  That’s a sobering number.  And an SCI can happen to any of us on any given day.  This September take some time to learn more about it because you may need the information someday.

That one false step.  It’s not the fall that gets you.  It’s the landing.

Bound for Glory Project – Chapter Two



The following is my impression of chapter two of Woody Guthrie’s autobiography, Bound for Glory for the Bound for Glory Project in honor of his 100th birthday.  The chapter is titled “Empty Snuff Cans”.

Chapter two of Bound for Glory introduces us to the Guthrie family and his hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma.  It begins with his birth in 1912 and he explains that he was named Woodrow Wilson Guthrie in honor of the soon-to-be President Wilson.

Okemah, in his childhood, was a small farming community of around 1,000 citizens.  Woody claims that everyone knew just about everyone else and the reader sees as the chapter progresses how that fact can be both an advantage and disadvantage.  Much is made of the reputation and impressions people living in Okemah leave on each other.

Woody had two older siblings, Clara and Roy, and an amusing part of the chapter tells of how a toddler Woody attempted to follow his brother and sister to school.  It reminded me of my own envy of seeing my older siblings go off to school each morning and I was left to entertain myself.  Woody composed his first little song while waiting for Clara and Roy to come home, the pickets in the fence his audience.

In the chapter Woody’s father, Charles, was a successful businessman dealing in land purchases and it was a source of pride for the family that they were able to live in a fine home and were able to purchase anything they desired at local merchants just by signing their names to a charge slip.

As in the first chapter, we see the theme of conflict in chapter two.  Charles Guthrie is described by Woody as being a fighter in his land deals.  Woody writes, “Papa was a man of brimstone and hot fire in his mind and in his fists and was known all over that section of the state as the champion of all the fist fighters.”  Woody’s mother, Nora, seems to have a more gentle nature.  Woody describes her as one who taught the children songs and ballads and stories and to “…always try and see the world from the other fellow’s side.” His father, however, “…taught us never and never to allow any earthly human to scare us, bully us, or run it over us.” It seems that those early lessons from his parents taught Woody to use his love of music and storytelling to fight for and demand fair treatment and to encourage others to stand up against wrong.

Another theme continued from the first chapter is one of cooperation between others in order to solve a dilemma that, on the surface, seems near impossible.  Woody tells a rather funny story of him trying to best a playmate and in his eagerness to be higher and therefore superior to his playmate, Woody finds himself literally up a tree and unable to get down again.  It’s the cooperation of other children in town, along with the incentive of a reward, that gets him back on the ground.

Although chapter two has charming and lighthearted stories contained within (the conversation Woody has with his mother after his tree rescue is especially sweet), there’s a dark cloud that seems to be gathering along the horizon for the family.  It seems that sadness will come to the Guthrie family before too long.

Book Review – Gone Girl


, ,

Are we always our genuine selves when we’re around family and friends?  Do we look at others, especially those we don’t personally know and make assumptions based upon brief views into their lives?  What is unrequited love?  Should love have limits?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn starts out as a mystery but before it’s over the story evolves into one that asks those questions and many more.

It’s the story of Nick and Amy Dunne, an exceptionally attractive couple in their thirties.  They live in New York but after a combination of job loss by both of them and the illness of Nick’s parents they move from their home in Brooklyn to Nick’s hometown in Missouri.  Things were starting to become a bit sour between Amy and Nick before they made their move.  Now that they’ve been settled in Missouri for a couple of years the cracks in their marriage become much deeper.

On the occasion of their fifth wedding anniversary Nick comes home to find his wife missing, the front door of their home wide open and things are out of place inside.  Nick calls the police and many questions are asked.  Searches are set up.  Press conferences are given.  A candlelight vigil is organized.  And with each event, each interview by the police, and each public appearance by Nick, his innocence becomes more in doubt.

It’s easy to draw similarities to the real-life Laci and Scott Peterson case in California.  After all when a wife goes missing it’s natural to look first at the husband and a great deal of time the husband is indeed the guilty party.  And while many of the characters in Gone Girl have their real-life counterparts, this isn’t a book that reads like a true crime story or a police procedure novel.  You may believe that you know where the story is headed but that’s what is so effective about Flynn’s storytelling.  Just when you think you see the path ahead, things turn on a dime.

Flynn has created characters that aren’t necessarily likeable – and some are distinctly unlikeable – but it doesn’t detract from the story.  The reader may hate some or all of them, but feeling the compulsion to read on doesn’t hinge on any character’s likeability.  Instead the reader will find him or herself turning pages deep into the night because the reader simply needs to find out what will happen next and where things are going.  Like the meandering Mississippi River that always seems to be in the background in this novel, the reader can never be sure of what’s waiting around the bend.  Just when the reader thinks all is plain, everything shifts.  Until the very end the story twists and turns and leaves the reader gasping at many points in the book.

We’ve all seen police press conferences and tearful pleas from the spouses of missing people or victims of murder.  We’ve all discussed such things around the water cooler.  It’s what true-crime TV shows thrive on.  But after reading Gone Girl, you may never again have such a discussion without first thinking that things aren’t always as they seem and we aren’t always able to discern the character, motivation and actions of another – even those we think we know so well.


Tasty Accident


, , , , ,

One of the lovely things about summer is all the fresh, delicious seasonal fruit available.  One of the lovely things about good neighbors is that they share things with you.  And in the summer these often combine so that neighbors will share with you their bounty of fresh, delicious seasonal fruit.

The other day my doorbell rang and I found my neighbor’s five year old son (one very adorable little boy that I call “Little Guy”) holding out a bowl of very lovely looking cherries.

Fresh off the tree!

Little Guy’s mom, Gabi, explained that a work colleague of her’s came in with an enormous harvest of cherries from her garden and she got a portion to share with me.  See what I mean about good neighbors?

I enjoy cherries very much but cannot eat so many on my own.  Burkhard loves cherries as well but since his accident – and I have no idea why – he’s become allergic to many fruits and berries except for exotic or citrus fruits.  However, if the fruit is cooked, he can eat them.  Isn’t it weird how a spinal cord injury can really mess up one’s physiology?

The natural solution was to cook the cherries so that we both could enjoy them.  They weren’t enough to make a pie from but they would be good in a cobbler, except what I make probably isn’t really a cobbler.  It’s more of a mistake that just turned out well.

I suppose there are as many ways to make fruit cobblers as there are ways to make chili.  Some employ a biscuit-like drop dough.  Some employ batters that bake up from the bottom of the pan and encase the fruit.  Some use a crust that’s more like a pie crust.  Many cobbler recipes call for making a cooked fruit filling that resembles pie filling.  I don’t do any of that.  Instead I don’t do much to the fruit itself and the crust is sort of a half-ass cross between a batter and cookie dough.

Here’s how the accident got started.  Years and years ago I was chatting online with Darling Mollie one afternoon and she was giving me a recipe for peach cobbler that she and her sister-in-law had worked out or read somewhere or something like that.  Anyway, she was giving me the recipe in a somewhat shorthand manner as it was being presented to me in a chat window.  I, in turn, took down the recipe in a somewhat shorthand manner so I could hurry up and grab it and I figured I’d remember any holes in the recipe my dictation made.

It seems my ability to remember isn’t as good as I gave it credit for being because when I got around to making the cobbler a few weeks later, I couldn’t really understand the instructions past the actual ingredients.  I still don’t know how it was really supposed to be but when my cobbler-like creation came out of the oven, it was still really rather good.

So here’s how I made my cherry accidental cobbler:

Since I had fresh cherries I needed to pick off the stems, wash, slice and pit them.  If you’ve ever done this you’ll know that cherry juice can stain your hands.  Luckily taking care of a quadriplegic insures I have access to vinyl gloves.

Stain prevention!

I don’t care for those automatic cherry pitting things so I relied on a paring knife and my fingers to split and pit all those cherries.  The cleaned, split cherries were then put in a baking dish.  I’m not sure of the dimensions of my baking dish but a 9″x9″ pan would do fine.  After spreading the cherries out evenly I sprinkled them with about 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Maybe it was less.  I dunno – I was winging it.  These cherries weren’t particularly sour so if you are using more sour fruit you may want to sprinkle on more sugar.  At this point if I’m using a firmer fruit I will put on a few dots of butter.

Just using plain fruit and a bit of sugar for the filling.

Then I make the crust.  This seems to be the point where Darling Mollie’s recipe went off the rails.  I somehow thought all the ingredients were supposed to be combined so that’s what I did  It seems in reality some of the ingredients were to go under the fruit and some over the fruit or some such thing.  Anyway, in a mixing bowl I combined flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, melted butter, and an egg.

After getting all the ingredients blended, evenly spread the dough over the fruit.  It’ll be a very soft dough so it’ll spread easily.  Then sprinkle a blend of cinnamon and sugar over the dough.  A tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon ought to do it.

Then it’s time for the oven.  The original recipe calls for about 40 minutes in a 350°F oven but I yesterday I baked it on the convection oven setting and it baked up in about 25 minutes.  My suggestion?  Watch it and take it out when the crust is a deep, golden brown.  When it looks like this:

Fresh from the oven!

it’s done.  And it will smell wonderful.

Those lovely cherries nestled in that crispy, sweet crust.

The result?  The fruit is fresh and tasty on its own without too much sweetness and no thickeners added.  The crust is crispy-buttery and sweet and around the fruit it’s slightly gooey.  Let it cool some and then spoon it into bowls and enjoy.  A little ice cream or whipped cream on top would also be yummy!

At its tastiest when it’s still a little warm.

And now for the real recipe:

The Accidental Cobbler

3 cups fresh sliced fruit or berries

1 cup flour

1 cup granulated sugar (plus more to sprinkle on fruit and top of crust)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/2 cup butter, melted

Spread sliced fruit in 9×9 inch baking dish.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar (or mixture of cinnamon and sugar if you prefer, depending on the fruit you use). Dot lightly with butter (optional, also depending on fruit you use).

In a mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, egg and melted butter.  Stir with a flexible spatula until combined and a soft dough is formed.  Spread dough evenly over sliced fruit.  Sprinkle top of crust with blend of cinnamon and sugar (about 1 tablespoon of sugar to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon).

Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for approximately 40 minutes or until crust is a deep golden brown.  Serve warm.  Makes 5-6 servings.

Now you have a quick dessert to make with all that tasty seasonal fruit.

Two Million of Us…


, , ,

…and we all have lots of sharp, pointy and/or hooked sticks within reach.

If you’re at all involved in the fiber arts community, are a member of Ravelry.com or even just know a knitter or crocheter, you’ve probably been made aware of the shit that the US Olympic Committee stepped into the other day and can’t seem to scrape off its shoe.

Brief background: Going back to 2008 the knitters and crocheters at Ravelry have been putting on what’s been called Ravelympics that’s held during each summer and winter Olympics.  The basic way it works is this:  You pick an “event” based upon what you want to knit or crochet.  You can even join teams based upon groups and forums to which you belong on the website.  Beginning with the lighting of the torch and ending with the end of the closing ceremonies you knit or crochet your “event”, publish a photo on the site when you’re done and if you complete an event, you win.  What do you win?  Essentially bragging rights and a little badge to put on your Ravelry profile.

The USOC now seems not to like this and sent a cease and desist letter to Ravelry telling them to knock it off.  And you know even though I’m a knitter and a member of Ravelry since a couple days after it started in 2007, I still could maybe understand the USOC’s viewpoint.  Not necessarily agree with it, but understand it.  That is until I read this part of the letter:

We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

Big mistake.

Nothing, but nothing tends to piss off a knitter or crocheter more than acting like knitting and crocheting are activities that take no skill, no planning, and no intelligence to perform.  Acting like knitting can be accomplished with as little effort as eating a bag of chips.  Failing to recognize that knitting and crocheting require not only manual dexterity, but a knowledge of math and geometry.  Knitting patterns aren’t written as much as they’re engineered.  If there is any group that recognizes and appreciates the energy and effort an athlete needs to achieve their Olympic dreams, it’s a fiber artist because you only become an accomplished knitter, crocheter, weaver, or spinner with a shitload of practice.  Lots and lots of seemingly endless practice.  Ask anyone who’s knit lace with cobweb weight yarn about the practice it takes before taking on such a task.

So it seems that today when the USOC figured out that they’ve offended a whole hell of a lot of chicks (and dudes) with sticks, they issued another statement.  And unlike what a proper apology would do, this one just dug the hole deeper.  You see, lines like:

To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.

don’t comfort us in the least.  Let’s see if I have this right.  For the USOC to show their support of Ravely, they want Ravely members to knit and/or crochet free shit for them.  Did I read that correctly?

Of course I did.

Again it shows the incredible ignorance of the USOC and the twerps they have writing their letters and making their public statements.  To act as if hand knit and crocheted items are something that can be whipped out in just a couple hours and are cheap to create is ridiculous.  I knit items for gifts.  I knit items for charity fund-raising drives. And believe me, when I do these things it’s a way of showing my care and concern for others, not as a way to let someone show their support of me.  Please USOC, don’t lecture members of Ravelry for “failing to recognize or appreciate [the Olympic athletes’] hard work” and then completely dismiss the hard work, effort and expense we put into the art we create.  You want us to respect you but you twice disrespect and insult us? And ask for free stuff to boot?  It doesn’t work that way. USOC, you had a golden opportunity to make yourself look less petty and schmucky.  Less greedy and money-grubbing. Instead you put a bad taste in the mouths of two million people.

And, USOC, if you want to know how it feels to be shamed by the members of Ravelry, just ask Mo Rocca.  We’ll wrestle you down to the ground.

Bound for Glory Project – Chapter One



I’m participating in the Bound for Glory Project to help commemorate the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie.  Folks are reading Woody’s autobiography, Bound for Glory, and will be writing for the blog their impressions of the book.  If you haven’t already, check out the website.  There’s an awful lot there, including some great stories from my friend, Robin, who’s been traveling around the country and reporting about Woody Guthrie events.  Every road trip with Robin is an adventure!

I’m writing my impressions of each chapter.  Here are my thoughts on chapter one:

Chapter one of Bound for Glory finds Woody Guthrie traveling in an incredibly cramped, hot, dusty boxcar with dozens of other men.  He’s armed with his guitar, trying to keep it safe as he struggles to get a little cool air to breathe and a little more comfortable place to continue his trip.

Woody talks with some of his fellow travelers, trading a few brief details about who they are.  The boxcar in which they ride had held bags of cement and the dust is choking and the hot air stifling.

Throughout the changing scenes during the ride, the pervading feeling I had, besides the discomfort the men were experiencing was the feeling of conflict.  In fact the chapter is titled “Soldiers in the Dust”.  A man Woody meets early in the chapter talks about how he can just tell which men will get into a fight and tips off those who are willing to bet on it.  Tempers are hot, men are irritable, curses fly and the arguments slack off only to heat up again at the slightest provocation.

And then when you think every man is for himself, we see examples of men willing to set aside their anger for the moment and help another.  Men stand aside and let others by the door to get a breath of fresh air.  Woody defends a young man trying to sleep.  Still the conflicts rise up again, harsh words and threats are thrown around easily.

Eventually Woody, along with another man, are shoved from the car and end up climbing to the top of the boxcar.  It’s not comfortable up there but at least there’s fresh air to breathe and not a crowd of fighting, pushing men to contend with.  It’s this part of the chapter that made the greatest impression on me.  As Woody and the other man ride on the roof of the boxcar, along with two young runaway boys, a wild, fierce rainstorm begins.  They’ve traded in one set of conflicts for one that’s wilder and potentially more dangerous than the ones they left inside the boxcar.  But this is also the time when cooperation eases their plight.  They huddle together to fight off the rain and the men and boys have sacrificed their some of their clothing to protect Woody’s guitar, lest it become soaked and ruined by the rain.

Woody rails against the storm and and says “See if I care!” and it that line I see his determined spirit.  His determination to continue in the face of adversity and the little group on the roof of the boxcar illustrates the idea that if we’re going to face a seemingly unbeatable conflict, we need to pool our resources and band together.