Five of the Week #20

“You can hear it in my accent when I talk…I’m German” – well, it was something like this, wasn’t it? Anyways, Germans have problems (and sometimes a terrible accent) when talking in their second language. But so do others. What I find quite remarkable however is the fact that we tend to “germanize” words we adopted from foreign languages. Maybe doing so the words don’t feel too strange anymore. I don’t know. What I do know are some of the words we “germanized” by pronouncing them in a funny or strange way. Well, here they are (or at least some of them).

1. Bonbon
This is a french word which, translated literally, means good-good. The ‘o’ is a nasal vowel and the ‘n’ is not pronounced. German people tend to neglect these facts. Actually we add and substitute letters (m and g) so that Bonbon becomes Bombong.

2. Chillen
“Chillen” derives from the English word “to chill”, the ‘-en’ showing that it’s the infinitive form of a German verb. I guess I don’t have to explain how it’s pronounced in English, do I? However, many Germans (especially older people but also many teenagers) pronounce it like ‘shillen’ (the ‘sh’ is pronounced like the ‘sh’ in “shift” or “ship”).

3. Container
Another English word Germans use to pronounce in their own way as we usually say “Contähner”. The ‘ä’ sounds like the ‘a’ in “bad”. So, just say “bad” and stretch the ‘a’ for a second or two, then try to pronounce the ‘ai’ in “container” the same way. It’ll sound quite strange.

4. Thriller
This is one of my favorite words. A lot of people, not only from Germany, have problems pronouncing the ‘th’ so that “thriller” becomes “sriller” (the ‘r’ can be pronounced in a German way too).

5. Psycho…
Take any word containing ‘psycho…’ and you’ll see that in English the ‘p’ is silent – in German it isn’t. However, we Germans tend to substitute the ‘Ps’ by a ‘Z’ which we then pronounce like ‘Ts’. Consequently, ‘psycho…’ becomes ‘tsycho…’.

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Five of the Week #19

“Trick or treat!!!” – that’s what we’re going to hear today. Today’s Halloween and the shops are luring us into the scary trap by having as much costumes on display as before Carnival. Why buy an expensive costume for just one day? It doesn’t make much sense to me. Anyways, tomorrow’s Halloween and I wanted to know exactly why we celebrate it. So I asked myself some question and tried to find satisfying answers. I hope some of you want to know about Halloween too and I can extend your knowledge (extend your knowledge I will :-)).

1. Where exactly does Halloween come from?
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica Halloween has its origins in ancient Britain and Ireland. The Celts celebrated a festival called Samhain (End of Summer), held on November 1st, where they believed the gods were visible for mankind and playing tricks on them. Therefore, the Celts brought sacrifices because they believed that this way they could counteract the behavior of the gods and overcome the dangers of the winter.

2. How did Halloween spread around the World?
When we think of Halloween we automatically think of the USA. But how did Halloween get there? Irish immigrants to the US retained their old customs in the foreign land. The Americans seemed to like the idea of celebrating Halloween and so they adapted it into their own culture. Today it has become on of the most important holidays in the US and Canada.
Since 1990 France seems to be the point from where Halloween spread over Europe. Why France? I don’t know. But since the 90s one can see Halloween influencing regional customs, e.g. the so-called “Rübengeistern” in Germany, Austria and Switzerland is influenced by Halloween.

3. Why do people carve out Pumpkins and light them?
The Irish did so because they believed that once there had been a villain called Jack Oldfield. Oldfield is said to have caught the devil and later released him under the condition that he, the devil, would never again step into Jack’s way. When Jack died he was, of course, denied access to heaven (as he was a villain) but he wasn’t allowed into hell either (for he betrayed the devil).  However, the devil had mercy and gave him a turnip and live coal so that Jack could wander around in the darkness. With the years the turnip was exchanged for pumpkins because there were so many of the latter grown in the US. The pumpkins became known as Jack O’ Lanterns. Their scary faces shall keep away bad spirits.

4. Why wear a Costume?
As mentioned before Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain. At Samhain gods, fairies and spirits were said to be alive and wander about the earth. As some of those spirits were harmful it is a common belief that the people disguised themselves as a protection from the bad spirits.

5. Trick-or-Treat
Who hasn’t heard this sentence before? Today it means that the children go from house to house, say their line and are, most often, rewarded with candy. “Trick” is a threat posed to the homeowners “perform mischief [on them] or their property” (quoted from Wikipedia). However, the wandering from house to house was already know before in Great Britain and Ireland where it was called “souling”. This means that children and poor people went from door to door singing and saying prayers for the dead in return for cakes. Even the wearing of costume is known for a long time. Children disguised themselves in Scotland as early as 1895, then known as “guising”, and went from door to door to be rewarded with cakes, fruits and money. However, saying trick or treat has only recently become common.

Happy Halloween!!!

Five of the Week #18

Halloween is approaching and those of us who don’t do any trick-or-treating might search for another pastime. If you hate Halloween just turn off your doorbell and enjoy a quite evening. Maybe you should switch the light off in order not to have your house pelted with eggs by pissed off trick-or-treaters. Anyways, if you like Halloween, and maybe have some little trick-or-treaters running about your house or you’re invited to a party, you can do yourself and the people around you a small favor: start baking 🙂 Honestly, I’m not the most creative baker myself, however, last year I tried some recipes and I guess it didn’t turn out too bad. You can see for yourself below.

So, this “Five of the Week” is about 5 (hopefully) scary Halloween pastries/sweets.

1. Chocolate Spiders
200 g Dark Chocolate
100 g Chopped Hazelnuts
75 g Butter
100 g Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Pinch of Salt
1 Packet of Vanillin Sugar
250 g Flour
1 Pinch of Baking Powder
3 Packets (à 75 g, à 32 pieces) Chocolate Sticks
100 g Icing Sugar
44 Pearls of Sugar  (blue, green or red)
Baking Paper

Takes 1 Hour, Makes 22

1. Chop the chocolate and melt half of it. Then melt the butter and mix in: sugar, egg, salt and vanillin sugar. Stir in the flour and baking powder. Then mix in the melted chocolate and afterwards fold in the rest of the chocolate and the chopped hazelnuts.

2. Take two baking trays, cover them with baking paper and put 11 small heaps of dough on each of them. Then put one tray at time for 15-18 minutes into the preheated oven (Electric Cooker: 175 °C/Gas: 2/Fan oven: 150 °C). Divide the chocolate sticks in half. When getting the spiders out of the oven immediately put in 4 sticks on each side of the spider’s body. Those are the legs. Let the spiders cool.

3. Mix the icing sugar with 1 tbsp. of water. Put two small white sugar dot on the spiders’ heads and add two pearls for the eyes. Use the icing sugar to draw crosses on some spiders’ backs.

2. Zombie-Fingers
My personal favorite as they look so disgusting (in a positive way 🙂 )

11 Sliced Almonds
1 Egg
250 g Marzipan Paste
60 g Icing Sugar
30 g Flour
1 Pinch of Baking Powder
1 Tbsp. of Whipping Cream
Baking Paper

Takes 40 minutes, Makes approx. 22

1. Separate the egg. Stir the egg white, marzipan, icing sugar, flour and baking powder until smooth. With wetted hands form approx. 22 fingers (with varied lengths, 6-8 cm). Put them on a tray with baking paper and push in the sliced almonds at on end of the finger to form a fingernail. Mix the egg yolk with the whipping cream and brush the fingers with the mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven (Electric Cooker: 175 °C/Fan: 150 °C). Afterwards let them cool on a cooling rack.

3. Brains-and-Eyes Muffins

250 g Flour
2½ tsp. Baking Powder
½ tsp. Baking Soda
1 Egg
125 g Sugar
1 Packet Vanillin Sugar
8 tbsp. Rapeseed Oil
¼ l Milk
1 tbsp. Strawberry or Raspberry Jelly
120 g Double Cream Cheese
400 g Icing Sugar
Tube Icing (red and brown)
6 Chocolate Beans (green or blue)
24 Baking Forms for Muffins

Takes 1 Hour, Makes 12

1. Put two baking forms into each “hollow” of a muffin tray. Mix flour, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk the egg in a mixing bowl, then add sugar, vanillin sugar, rapeseed oil and milk. Stir until well mixed and mix in the flour-powder-soda-mixture.

2. Spread the dough evenly into each “hollow”. Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven (Electric Cooker: 175 °C/Gas: 2/Fan oven: 150 °C). Afterwards let them cool an a cooling rack, i.e. take the muffins out of the “hollows”.

3. Warm the jelly, then let it cool a bit. Mix the double cream cheese with the icing sugar and take away 1/3 of the mass. Mix the rest of the mass with the jelly. Spread the white mass on 6 muffins and decorate them with tube icing and chocolate beans so they look like eyes. Put the rest of the mass (the one mixed with jelly) into an icing bag with a small round tip and spread it as “brains” on the 6 remaining muffins. Let them cool for 1 hour.

4. Finger Sausages
Unfortunately, I don’t have a recipe but these sausages are quite easy to make. Break in half as much sausages as you like and put sliced almonds on the “undamaged” ends. Put some ketchup on the damaged ends and you’ll have beautiful, severed fingers.

5. Eyeballs
Take stoned lychee and put cherries in their middle. Pierce the “eyes” with toothpicks. Fill a bowl with the cherry juice and put the eyes into it.

Happy Halloween!!!

Five of the Week #17

As a student I don’t always have the possibility to have dinner at home. While searching for a good place with decent food I stumbled across a very good canteen. It’s a nice place where they offer good food for a fair price. Another good thing is that the range of meals on offer is quite wide (from traditional rice pudding to deer stew) so that choosing between three meals never gets boring. Lately, I’ve been there around 10 am, had a coffee and saw the breakfast they offer. It made my mouth water so this is the next thing I’m going to try. Eating there on a regular basis for three years now, I happened across all kinds of eaters. Here are five of them.

1. Eat and Leave
The first type of eaters enters the canteen, grabs a tray, cutlery and a glass of water. He orders, pays and walks to the empty table he aimed for since he entered the canteen. Sitting down he bolts the meal without losing any time with chewing. That’s what the water is for. He finishes his meal, wipes his mouth, downs the rest of his water and leaves. This type of eater spends not more than 10 minutes in the canteen.

2. The lone Eaters
You’ll find them sitting at a single table in the corner of the room. Some of them even stare absent-mindedly at their forks and it seems that they don’t make any progress at all. When you look at their plates now and in five minutes you can hardly see any difference. The lone eaters kind of hide in the corner although they always seem to hope that someone might sit down at their table and bear them company.

3. The (Over)Talkative
You’re hungry, you’re eating and suddenly someone approaches your table and asks if the seat’s taken. Polite as you are you tell him: “No, sit down. Enjoy your meal.” and then they start talking. In fact, your new canteen companion starts to babble without breathing which is pretty annoying after two or three minutes. And as you’re (in his opinion or perception) best buddies now he will tell you the most uninteresting things that have bothered him for a long long time.

4. The Messy/Clean One
Both types of eaters are rare as most of the people are somewhere in between the two extremes. Nevertheless, they shall be mentioned here.
The clean one organizes his plate as much as possible (peas on the left, meat on the right etc.) and even his tray is wonderfully arranged. The plate can be found in the middle of the tray, the drink on the right and the dessert on the left side. Of course the clean one eates with pleasure and watching him cut his meat always reminds one of a surgical precision. When he’s finished the plate looks like it’s never been used and one won’t find the slightest piece of meal where the clean one just ate.
The messy is quite the contrary. His tray looks like a village after a bomb attack and so it might be that the dessert already becomes part of the main course. When he eats he gobbles more than anything else. If you are lucky enough the messy even smacks and slurps. When he leaves you can tell what he ate by looking under his chair.

5. The Blatant Beast
This is nothing against old people but it’s mostly them who bitch about other people. I witnessed an old lady talking to a friend of hers about one of the canteen employees. The employee was a bit chubby and the lady said something like: “Look, she walks like a bear.” or “I don’t think she’ll be able to work here without her mommy.” (who worked in the canteen as well). Anyways, the lady went on like this for I don’t know how long but it became pretty annoying.

Five of the Week #16

“I’d kill for a burger.”
“A kingdom for a bed.”

We say something like this every day to express our urgent need of something. When we’re watching a movie and a child gets abducted the parents (mostly the fathers) tell the police they’re “going to kill the bastard who took my child” and the TV viewers say “Right, I’d do the same.” But, how far would we really go in extreme situations? This was the question that came into my mind. I mean it’s quite easy to sit in your comfortable armchair watching something you never expect to happen in your life and comment on it. What if it would really happen? I wish nobody ill, however, these things happen around us all the time.
So, this time I’m going to keep this post rather short by just posing the questions and I encourage anyone who might read this post to answer (at least) one of them.

1. Would you give a kingdom (i.e. all your worldly possessions) for a good night’s rest?

2. Would you kill for a burger before starving?

3. “If you break my heart, I’ll break your legs.” Would you?

4. Would you “kill the bastard who took my child”?

5. Would you pay somebody back in kind (i.e. fight fire with fire)?

Think carefully as you’re answering these questions from an outside perspective.

Five of the Week #15

Some people say that men are born evil. I don’t want to discuss this here but still I think that there’s some truth to it. Most people turn out to be good, others don’t. However, even the good people are left with some evil in the backs of their minds. Most people might not be aware of it as it is no voice screaming at them to go slaughter their neighbors. No, I think it’s something more subtle. Something we might not recognize immediately because we never knew it was there until it surfaces. And then it startles us, maybe even scares us because we don’t recognize ourselves, don’t recognize our actual way of thinking, and we regret what we thought.
So, here are some thoughts we would never admit we have or had. If you read them I dare you to be honest to yourself and tick a mental box for each evil thought you had (at least once).

1. Shut the f**k up!
Imagine yourself being totally tired or just really pissed off. We all have these days where we get up on the wrong side of bed. Everyone you meet tells you some (in this moment) uninteresting things which annoys you even more. At the end of the day your glad the day is over and then comes someone you really hold dear, telling you something more or less interesting/important. However glad you might be to be at home, the place where you hoped to be able to relax, these words are the straw to break the camel’s back and you just think “Shut the f**k up. I heard enough of that gibberish at work.” Some time after that you’ll be startled you ever thought something like this in the same or in similar situations.

2. You deserve this!
You’re standing in the kitchen, looking out the window and your neighbor is mowing his front lawn. His new car, which he is washing every day (or so it seems) is standing in front of his house. Of course he has showed it to you an annoying hundred times and told you that when he overtakes you, you’ll feel like your cars not even moving. Suddenly, there comes a car down the road, too fast of course, hits your neighbor’s new car and drives off. Your neighbor’s shouting at the escaping driver and you think: “You deserve this, you stupid show off.”

3. Beat it!
Do you have kids? Well, I don’t but I imagine they can be pretty annoying sometimes. OK, I do some private tutoring, so I know they can. However, as parents you have to be with your kids 24/7. When they get older that might change but for it’s different for a long time. And kids can be very insistent when they want something. I know that from personal observations and it even annoyed me although it’s interesting to watch. Now your kid asks you something for the hundreth time and I can imagine a lot of parents saying “no” and thinking “Why don’t you just beat it?”

4. Get a Job!
When you live in a city there’ll be homeless people around. Homeless people, we all know that, beg to get some money. As long as they don’t get pushy that’s no problem. However, if your walking about the city and the third or forth street persons asks you for a dollar, it might become annoying. Especially if it happens on three or four consecutive days. It’s nothing personal against these people as they are just trying to get through the day somehow, but  how often have thought: “Get a job!”

5. Do us/me a favor and die!
We all have these neighbors. They’re old, bored and resentful. And whenever they feel slightly bothered by someone they call the police or threaten you with their lawyer. I know that a lot of direct neighbors do suffer from someone like this. Sometimes they feel like this man’s watching their every step, phone in one hand, camera in the other, 911 already dialled so that he only has to press ‘call’. Some day it happens that they take it too far, threatening their neighbors with police and lawyers, telling them how awful they are and what a bunch of spoiled brats they are raising. Do you know a situation like this? Well, some people might think:”For peace’s sake, do us a favor and die!”

 

Five of the Week #14

It took me a long time to find something I could write about. All kinds of ideas were flying around in my mind but somehow I wasn’t able to grab one. Finally, I made it. So, here I am, writing again.

People like complaining. I’ve seen my share of people doing so with good reason or just for the sake of complaining. Well, I guess you can meet people like these anywhere at any time. They’re everywhere. In the supermarket, in the bus or just sitting in the same café as you. Sometimes they’re even in your own family. Actually, we all have something to grumble about, don’t we? I don’t necessarily mean the obvious things like the gas price or almost everything becoming more expensive. No, it’s the small things to beef about. It’s got to do with our being too hard to satisfy. It’s the things that bother us with time. However, when these things are gone we start complaining about their being gone. I guess it’s better to begin now before I start to confuse anyone with my explanation.

1. Sunshine/Hot weather
It’s summer and the sun is shining. The temperature outside is around 30 – 35° C (approx. 86 – 95° F) and the sky is all blue. Let’s say we have this weather three days in a row. People will start complaining about the weather being too hot. You can only do things (shopping etc. ) in the morning or in the evening. However, because everyone thinks this way, the shops are crowded with people and shopping will take longer than usual. During the day everyone seems to be at the nearby lake, swimming in the cool water or having a barbecue, thus, the lake’s crowded, too. Last but not least, when you’re not on a day trip to the lake, you’re relaxing in the back yard until your neighbor starts to have a barbecue. As “the idiot from next door” is “too stupid to barbecue correctly” all the smoke will be in your garden. And because your neighbor “doesn’t know when to take the meat from the barbecue grill” your garden will smell of anything but summer.
It’s then that people start longing for some cool rain to make the heat go away “and the idiot neighbor stay inside”.

2. Rain
Now the desired rain sets in, the temperature drops and it rains for two days or a bit more. The sky is gray and opening the shutters in the morning becomes more and more of a torture. Well, what happens now? People will start to complain again because there is too much rain. It’s too wet to go to the lake and too cold to sit in the garden. And anyway, “why do the idiots next door have to rediscover their libido?”
Why did these people wish for rain in the first place? Why not be as content with three days of rain as with three days of sunshine? It’s strange, isn’t it?

3. Music
Music at a party is as safe as the Bank of England. People like to sing along or just dance. However, here too, we have the party poopers who don’t like the music. Tastes differ and that’s good. But do some people, therefore, have to start to beef about everything they don’t like? Either “the music is too loud” or it “simply sucks”. For once, I’d like to see these people at a party with no music. I’d bet my behind they’d start to bitch about there being no music. But once the music starts…I think you know the rest 😉

4. Nothing on the TV
How often have you heard someone saying “there’s never anything good on the TV”? Quite often, right? There is never anything on the TV when one has time to watch it. That’s why people start complaining. However, if there’s anything they might like to watch and you tell them “Hey, today’s this and that on the TV” they say something like “I don’t feel like watching TV today”, “Let’s do something else” or “I think we’re (I am) watching too much TV lately.” The last sentence is really important/annoying because how can one watch too much TV when there is, supposedly, never anything good on TV?

5. Children Living Next Door
“Can’t that effing brat shut up for once? I’m trying to read the newspaper, goddammit!” When you have children living next door you might have heard that sentence from your husband/wife/boyfriend etc. In their opinion children are always crying, screaming, jumping…in short, children are loud (which holds true to some extent). The people who tend to complain about the neighbor’s children’s behavior are often those who were the same when they were little. They’re always talking like “if he doesn’t learn to play the guitar until tomorrow, I’ll call the cops”. But once the neighbors kids have grown up and/or moved out everything’s become quiet. There are no sounds of a badly tuned guitar to be heard, no little wanna-be pop star screeching songs into the hair dryer. Silence settles down. A silence that makes the once complaining husband feel uncomfortable although he’d never admit it.