It's cold and snowy outside, but at least they're the big fluffy flakes at this point instead of the small frozen ones we had yesterday afternoon. Another one of those days when staying inside, knitting and drinking tea sounds like a very good idea - however, there's ponies who want to be taken care of. In fact, we're currently taking care of a friend's horse (because she has to be on a boat in the North Sea for her job - brrrr), so there's three ponies wanting attention instead of just two. But yesterday, Aramis (the friend's horse) actually recognized me and seemed happy someone came to visit him, so it's all worth it :-)


You really notice the lack of a significant November holiday here... Christmas season is in full swing, and Christmas market season has officially begun. We went to our first (of a couple planned ones) on Friday, and despite the kind of crappy weather, it was rather pretty. Located around a small castle (of which we have many around here, though we don't have a castle each), Winterträume was quite lovely, especially since we got there in the dark and were able to enjoy the lighting and atmosphere without having to see the mud we were walking through :-P Sadly, my camera doesn't like the dark at all, so I stole a couple of pictures from the website.













Sadly, many of the booths looked pretty similar, and there was very little we were interested in buying. We did get some really nice tea though, as well as some Italian cheese and salami from a Venetian who apparently spends most of his time traveling around Europe, selling delicious snack foods. There's a couple more markets coming up, including one medieval Christmas market and one in a little forest outside historic farm buildings. Maybe for those, I can actually take my own pictures :-)

This past weekend, I walked into a restaurant, opened the menu, and was very irritated by the fact that most of the descriptions were in German.

I should back up and explain that. On Sunday, we were watching one of the gazillion zoo shows they seem to show on German TV. They were showing a zoo in Gelsenkirchen, which is pretty close to here, and mum said I should look into applying there, because it's more of a modern zoo, not the old-fashioned kind that still needs to be improved and modernized. I looked at their website, really liked it (their head of PR is a biologist, so that's a good start), and said we should go check out the zoo sometime soon so I could have a better idea of what it was like. Half an hour later we were on the freeway to Gelsenkirchen :-)

On the way to the parking lot, we saw a sign for StarChief Diner, which ended up being right on the path between the parking lot and the zoo entrance. We were hungry, so we decided to have lunch before the zoo, instead of waiting to eat somewhere inside with all of the other tourists :-) A picture of the diner is likely to explain the confusion with the menu:



The food was fantastic, as were the milkshakes. They even imported a satellite radio station from the US, although the choice of a country station was a tiny bit off. Something from the fifties would have been more appropriate, I think.

The zoo was nice, very American-ish, in some cases slightly off (just a couple of little things, nothing specifically bad besides the weird reindeer), but overall very nicely done. Here, have some animal pictures, which is really what you're all here for, isn't it? :-)

    

    

    

    

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to figure out how to write a job application that doesn't get me rejected. Without giving up after five minutes and working on freelance projects or knitting instead :-)
I'm back from Germany, and as usual I totally wasn't ready to go back to work... getting home at 11:30pm on Sunday may have had something to do with that, of course. But it was a fantastic week, and worth every minute of semi-drowsy driving on dark highways ;-)

Mum had found a really good deal on a Lufthansa flight back in April when we planned the whole trip, and let me tell you, fifty extra dollars bought the flying experience from heaven. The United flight to O'Hare had me in their Economy Plus section, which may not be worth whatever they charge extra for it, but when you get it without knowing about it, the extra legroom was wonderful, even for a short flight (up, drinks, down). I didn't have to run through the entire airport to get to the next plane because for once the next gate was in the same terminal, and while I had a lot of time between flights, it was a terminal with actual food, and places to sit. I think they build special terminals for the expensive airlines... anyways.

I never end up sleeping much on airplanes, so mostly I watched movies for six hours and then napped before landing - I had two seats to myself, so there was actual room to spread out a bit. Saw "State of Play," which was better than expected, but still not as good as the John Simm version :-P Also watched "The Soloist" and "Ice Age 3" on the flight back, which were much more entertaining, even if I did miss Simon Pegg in "Ice Age" until they showed his name in the credits. I meant to look that up...

We visited grandma for a few days, and went shopping in town. Yes, I came back with clothes. They were a birthday present, and I love them. In fact, I'm wearing them right now :-) It was nice to see grandma again, and just as nice to have some fabulous German/Italian ice cream... yeah, we had ice cream for dinner. It was awesome.

The rest of the week was mostly spent with horses and cats, and one day in town with mum for more shopping. I came back with a whole lot of wool, mostly sock yarn (it costs half of what it does here, I couldn't help it), but also yarn for a jacket thingy for mum. I really need to learn how to knit sweaters now... at least there's no deadline for this one. And she's also getting socks, so I can get those done first. Yes, I may be avoiding sweaters... not sure why, but I am. Maybe the first one can be an OWL project to make me get it done. Nothing like the pressure of competition.

The cats were uncharacteristically happy to see me, to the point where they spent the entire week talking to and screaming at me whenever the chance presented itself. I don't know what I did, because I definitely didn't feed them all the time or anything, but apparently they were rather pouty after I left. You know, because nobody ever talks to them or pets them or plays with them when I'm not there. Poor abused animals. I'm also still finding cat hairs in everything I took with me - we couldn't adopt shorthair cats, could we? No, we had to rescue the fluffiest ones available, the Sealpoint Ragdoll and the freaky Persian mix with the squirrel tail. I also got no knitting done because the cats took up most of my attention whenever I sat down for five minutes. At least they're cute :-)

The horses were also doing pretty well, especially Malaki, who's sort of being ridden again despite the deteriorating lung, and who seems to enjoy it way more than you'd think of the lazy little pony. (The lazy little pony's back is as high as my eyeballs, just FYI. I forgot just how big he is.) Dante wasn't doing very well, so we took the chance of having two people around and took him to the vet, where he had a complete mental breakdown or something. He's the sweetest horse at the barn, and it takes effort to get him to move, but take him to the vet and he turns into a wild stallion who has to protect his herd or something. Freak. He settled down after a good talking to, and the three dead horses (including one just out of emergency surgery) that day probably didn't help his nerves, but it's aggravating when he just won't stand still for two seconds. Of course, afterwards he walked straight back into the trailer as if to say "please just get me out of here." Likewise, Dante. Likewise. We love you, we really do, but good grief. Turns out he has COPD, which at least is pretty easily treatable - no mystery illness this time around.

Friday night I got an early birthday present - we went to a mystery dinner in an actual little castle (think Versailles, but smaller) with mum, my aunt and my cousin. It was a really fun evening, based loosely on Edgar Wallace stories, about murder and intrigue (and pudding) in a Scottish castle. The food was incredible, I got my first (and definitely last) taste of absinthe, and "close your eyes and think of Scotland" has to be my new favorite "get over it" line ever. I'm usually not a fan of fancy dinners, but when there's entertainment, I can deal with it quite easily. And it's fun to pretend like you're actually invited to some Scottish lord's birthday dinner when all of the actors are really entertaining. The main actress had the most incredible deep smoky voice, and the butler in a kilt was hilariously snarky. Definitely worth it :-)

And then the long flight back - 7.5 hours to get to Germany, 9 hours back... stupid jetstream. At least I could sleep for a little while, and the food was decent. Even if I had to sit in Chicago for four hours again... why is immigration always efficient when you don't need it to be? Oh, and another first: I officially have gone through the fingerprinting thing so many times that I no longer have to do it all again - I did the first set and the computer went "oh, you again. Just keep going." It was awesome :-)

In the past month, I've made it to Germany and back, gotten my visa, and done a whole lot of other stuff none of you probably care all that much about :)

Germany was great, it was good to see the family and animals again, even though they're all crazy - the animals, not the family. Murdoch has started to fall off the couch on a semi-regular basis (asleep, sliding, sliding, sliding, THUNK), Ming screams for treats when you come home like she's going to fall over from starvation any second, and when Malaki wasn't limping, he decided to cut his eye open... fun stuff as usual with the fuzzy ones. Christmas was fun, apparently getting smaller presents has made us all more creative, so we all get fun stuff :) Everyone pretended to love their knitted stuff, so I can be happy about the gifts I gave too.

The visa interview was a lot faster and easier than I expected... stand in line outside the embassy for half an hour (go in the summer, it's much more comfortable), go through extremely paranoid security, stand in line inside the embassy to have your paperwork checked, sit in the waiting area of the embassy until an interview person shows up, and then make sure to tell that person that you have lots of family in your home country and how terribly you miss them. Ten minutes later, walk out with a visa and figure out what else you can do with the rest of the day in Berlin. Fun stuff :)

I moved into my new office at work today, and whoever set up my laptop deleted my account profile... I lost every single email since December 2006. Let's just pray they can restore the darn data... otherwise it'll get pretty darn ugly. Poor IT guy feels really bad... can't really be pissed at him either, I think I was the only one with a profile that was set up weirdly in the whole company. At least the new building looks like it'll be nice, once they figure out how to set the heater to "not 80."

Sara and I are starting to plan a 2009 vacation in the UK... London, Cardiff, Blackpool, Glasgow, Edinborough... or as much as we can do of that in two weeks. I wish I could go see Hamlet this summer, but sadly, I have to save more before I can do that without killing my savings. Hopefully we'll be able to see something fun when we go next year, although I'm not sure there's much that can beat Patrick Stewart and David Tennant in Hamlet. But we'll have fun either way, and I can finally see Scotland... wanted to do that for years now, and I guess I'll just have to do it and not keep putting it off.

Vacation this year I think is going to be Boston with my mum and a friend of her's for a couple of days, and not much else so I can save for 2009. No yarn until I've worked through the stuff I have, promise! *mumble* England, keep thinking England *mumble*

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January 2017

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