Friday, August 31, 2012

Foreigner Friday: At the Post Office

I used to hate going to the post office. In fact, if I could avoid it in any way, I would! You see, in Germany, things are a bit different than in the southern US (can’t speak for other areas) Germans, especially those in Frankfurt, are more impatient and generally a little on the pissed off side.
A typical visit to the post office would go like this: Circle around, trying to find somewhere to park. Enter the PO, hoping there won’t be a million people in there. Bump the line of people with the door because it is just that long. Argue with the person you bumped because he/she feels you really should have known that he/ she was standing there. Somehow find a way to squeeze into the line. Wait for about a thousand hours.
During the wait, EVERYONE in line is grumbling and complaining. The people are like an angry mob. People are shaking their heads in disapproval, clicking their tongues, tapping their feet, etc. You can feel it getting hotter in there. Someone speaks out: “I can’t believe this is taking so long! What an impertinence! Why do they only have two people working? TWO!?!” General agreement from the rest of the people in line. The mob grows angry…
Finally, the next person gets their turn. Unfortunately, he didn’t fill out the right form and has to do so now while everyone shoots hateful stares at him. “He could have filled that out when he was in line! Now we have to wait even longer!” “Why don’t you mind your own business!” And an argument develops. If you’re lucky, you get to see some pushing, etc.
It’s finally your turn in line. The person behind the counter won’t even greet you or look at you to acknowledge your existence. He/ she complains about something or other while serving you, such as having a headache, being burdened with too much work, or something else you really aren’t interested in hearing as a customer. The specific stamps you came to purchase have been sold out, but you can come back another day and check back.
As you try to make your way back out into freedom, the line of people behaves more like a wall, reluctant to move even the slightest to let other people through. You finally make it through the door and swear to never come back again.
When I moved to the US, I was scared to go into the post office, but there came the day when it was no longer avoidable. I entered after comfortably parking my car in the parking lot and nervously took in the line of people, preparing myself for the bickering and complaining. And then came the surprise: there was none! Nobody said a word about having to wait. Nobody became pissed off. There were no bad words said. In fact, people in line made pleasant conversation with each other to pass the time. It was almost fun.
Of course, they also didn’t have the specific product I came to buy. But I hadn’t expected them to.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Easy Canvas Prints - Review and Giveaway

I love having photographs in my house. To be quite honest, photos are my favorite form of art. Therefore, when Easy Canvas Prints asked me to review one of their products, I jumped right on the opportunity. So far, we had only hung the regular framed prints up on our walls and I was excited to have a canvas of one of our family photos to display.
Equipped with all the info I needed, I sat down at my computer to place the order. Having designed Christmas cards and birth announcements on various online printing sites, I prepared myself for a long and tedious ordeal. I even brought snacks... The ordering process was such a pleasure! It was simple, straightforward and super fast. I was done within five minutes. All I had to do was pick the size and quality canvas I wanted, upload my picture, choose the type of border style I preferred, and enter my shipping information. That’s it.
Too good to be true? I thought that these canvases must be printed in China to be offered at such a low price. The answer I received from the company in response to my inquiry: “All of our canvases are proudly printed and mounted in our production facility […] in Austin, TX.”
I prepared myself for a long wait, since I chose the cheapest shipping option. Despite delivery delays due to the hurricane, my package arrived sooner than anticipated.
It was so wonderful to rip open the box and find a great quality product inside! The canvas far exceeded my expectations.
The original picture is here (taken by the amazing Ashley at Joyful Images Photography):

And this is a picture of the canvas print:

And a close-up of the texture:

Though you can see the textured surface, the picture quality has remained excellent. I was anticipating some sort of pixelly version of our family photo, but the resolution is fantastic. I am by no means an expert when it comes to print quality, but I have seen bad prints and great ones and this canvas definitely falls into the latter category.
Easy Canvas Prints is offering 25% off all canvases and free standard shipping at the moment, so now is definitely a great time to check out their website and products at
As a special treat to my loyal readers, Easy Canvas Prints is giving away one free 8x10 canvas! To enter, just leave me a comment on my Facebook page telling me what kind of picture you would want printed on your very own canvas. You can earn extra entries by referring friends to my page- they just need to mention you in their comments. This giveaway will close Friday 09/07/2012 at noon EST and I will announce the winner on Friday evening.
If you are interested in other products this company has to offer, check out one of their other websites:;;

I received a free canvas for my review, but the opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Analyze What?!?

A fellow blogger, Mommy Boots, decided to host a blog hop today about what our readers search for in Google to end up on our blog pages. With the help of Google Analytics, you can find out a lot about your readership, such as their geographic location, what device they read your blog from, etc. I use Blogger as my blog host, so a lot of the Google tools are already built in. There are, for example, the ‘Search Keywords’- anything people type into their Google search engines that then leads them to my blog.
Many of these are interesting, as they let you know what kind of interests are leading new readers to your site. And sometimes, the things people are looking for are bizarre and outright funny.
Unfortunately, my current list of keywords is a little drab. For a much funnier list, check out the Mommy Boots post Analyze This. Well, here’s mine anyway:
·         “Mark Nelson money schemes” – It’s actually quite ridiculous how much traffic I’ve had from a post I wrote about some spam email I got. Lots of people receive the same email and thankfully research the sender before getting involved in some shady stuff…
·         “won’t wear panties” – Ok, so this one I’m not sure about. Did someone search for this because they were having issues with their child’s potty training (which the post they found was about) or is it something more pervy. I’ll never know…
·         “daddy does daughter” – Um, I don’t even quite know what to say about this one. Gross, ew, and WTF?!? Oh, and it leads to a post I wrote about letting dads do their own thing. Which did not involve incest (just to be clear)
And, my all time favorite:
·         “pussies and fannies” – This made me so happy and makes me laugh every single time I think about it. How disappointed the searchers must have been when they found a post inspired by the nicknames my parents use for each other…

There you have it. I think I’ll have to start writing posts with random key words in them to get some more interesting traffic. I guess I could start now: mommy strippers. If you found my blog by searching this on Google, welcome!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Is My Baby Ready for Solids?

Many parents are confused about when to start feeding their babies solid foods. No wonder there is confusion- the recommendations moms and dads are given vary drastically. Some people may suggest starting to give baby rice cereal in a bottle at just a few months of age (without medical necessity), while other may say that delaying the introduction of solids until the first birthday is beneficial.
Unfortunately, there is no specific age at which a baby is ‘ready’. Each baby is different and their little bodies are geared up for solid food at different ages. Thankfully, there are physical signs that baby will display when she is ready for solids. Usually babies can start solids around the middle of the first year of life, i.e. around six months. Your baby will let you know when it’s time by reaching the following milestones (see also La Leche League International):
Baby can sit up without support. Nowadays we have so many ways to artificially sit a baby up, e.g. in a highchair or a Bumbo, etc. It is important that baby is able to sit up unsupported, i.e. by herself on the floor.
Baby has lost the tongue-thrust reflex. This is a great reflex babies are born with- objects are thrust back out of the baby’s mouth by her tongue to prevent her from chocking. As long as this reflex is still present, baby is not yet able to keep solid food in her mouth to chew or swallow. Food will be pushed back out of the baby’s mouth, which can be very frustrating for parents when they are trying to introduce solids.
Baby has developed the pincer grasp. Babies learn to pick items up between their thumb and forefinger, including food. You’ll quickly realize when this skill has been learned- baby will be sticking every little crumb she finds on the floor in her mouth.
Baby is constantly hungry, despite frequent nursing. At a certain point, some babies are no longer satisfied by the calories they receive from breast milk (or formula) and additional food may be necessary.
If your baby is showing these signs, you can start introducing some solids. Ideally, baby will be able to feed herself and you don’t have to bother with spoon feeding. Breast milk/ formula will remain the primary source for calories throughout the first year and in most cases, solid foods are not necessary, but most babies like to start experimenting with foods for the tastes and textures.
Some babies show signs of being interested in food, grabbing at the parent’s plate or making chewing motions, before they are physically ready. Just remember that there is no rush and breast milk (or formula) is the main source of nutrition during baby’s first year. Of course, if baby just grabs food off your plate, chews and swallows it, she might really be ready.
If you are interested in learning about the concept of baby led weaning, check out this website:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Crazy Winking Lady

Winking is an acquired ‘skill’. It’s actually hilarious watching little children try to shut only one eye- it’s hard for them and takes a lot of practice. Here are some questions: Why did humans ever start winking? Is there a certain purpose to the wink?
The reason I ask myself these questions is because I have a winking problem. It’s not that I am unable to wink- I wish that were the case. It’s that I wink uncontrollably when I find myself in socially tense situations.
Let me give you an example. I’m sitting in a room with other job applicants, waiting to be interviewed. You can feel the tension and people are visibly nervous. I feel bad for the others and want to give off reassuring vibes. One of the people smiles at me. Suddenly, it happens: I smile and wink as a gesture of encouragement. I immediately feel like an idiot. Who winks at strangers?!? I start to panic. What if the other person thinks I was hitting on him/her. I try to look in another direction, hiding my flushing cheeks. Why, oh why, did I have to wink?
Another example. We’re having a breastfeeding support meeting. One of the mothers is really upset and I want to make her feel better. Again, I have some sort of anxiety arise within that is urging me to act in some way. As soon as I make eye contact with her, there it is: I do the weird smile/ wink. I immediately feel like an idiot once more. I’m embarrassed and want her to know that I’m a normal person, so I make it a point to speak to her as soon as the meeting is over. Of course, I’m not completely sure what to say to make me look less like a crazy lady and the conversation is just awkward, until the other mother makes up some excuse to leave. She does so quickly.
The worst of the compulsive winking happens in public places. E.g. when I see a homeless person on the subway. I feel sorry for him/ her and wish there was something I could do to help. I’m studying him/ her discreetly, but I get caught looking, so I panic and bam! There’s the wink. Naturally, the homeless person sees this as an invitation to come over and talk to me. For a long time. It’s uncomfortable and awkward and all kinds of levels of strange.
On a happy note, I told my husband I was going to write about this and he has never witnessed it. Naturally, he thinks I’m a bit of a weirdo now (which is probably quite accurate), but I think he still loves me. At least I’ve had lots of subway conversations this way…

Friday, August 24, 2012

Foreigner Friday: The Love of Guns

It’s been ages since I’ve written a Foreigner Friday post. I have no explanation or excuse other than my lack of inspiration. However, quite a few of you lovely readers have expressed the wish for me to write another one and of course I cannot resist. Let me start this one off by saying that I don’t intend to piss anyone off or cause major uproar- these are just my European views of the way things are in America…
I’ve lived in the US for almost five years now and one thing I just can’t wrap my head around is guns. I come from a big city in Germany and guns just weren’t present- nobody had them, nobody talked about them, they were just a non-issue. It’s not that guns are illegal in Germany- you can own a gun if you get a permit. It’s just that nobody WANTS to own a gun. I think in the 28 years I lived in Europe I knew two people who owned a gun, one of whom was a collector, the other a criminal who is now in prison.
Don’t get me wrong, I think shooting is fun. It requires a lot of concentration and precision and is a great stress reliever. And I would fully trust myself and my husband with a gun. But other people? Not so much. I don’t like the idea that pretty much any person above a certain age can legally purchase a gun here, the main reason being that I don’t trust people. People can’t figure out which form to fill out at the post office or when to use their blinker in the car- do they really need a gun?!?
And people don’t just have guns here. They LOVE them! They collect them and go to shows and conventions and join clubs and associations. They dress their tiny children in combat gear and let them hold a huge deadly weapon to take a picture that they find ‘cute’. When tragedies happen (again and again), like the one today, people are up in arms (I hope you appreciate the pun) defending their guns. ‘It’s not the guns’ fault!’ or ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people!’- which are both true. I could also say that atom bombs don’t kill people, people kill people- that doesn’t mean that everyone should have atom bombs readily available to them. Also, since it is the people who are the killers, do we really want to make their task easier and faster by giving them effortless access to guns?
I get it- the Second Amendment protects gun ownership. The Bill of Rights is a crucial part of the US Constitution and I have studied it extensively during my time at university. I just think that maybe it would be useful to look at the structure of the US in 1789 vs. today. We have police now. And the biggest military force in the world. All territories within the US have been ‘discovered’ and there is no more unknown frontier, no more Wild West.
Many people say that they want to own a gun for protection. Others want it for hunting. I find both of these reasons absolutely understandable and justified. However, I do not understand why people are against having some sort of license to own a gun. You need a license to FISH- and I don’t mean the crazy dynamite kind, I mean the innocent throw-your-hook-in-the-water kind. As my idol Judge Judy said: “You have to take a test to give a pedicure! […] But you can go and buy a lethal weapon, including an assault rifle, with nothing more than your driver’s license.”
After all, I guess that’s what Europeans don’t understand about the love of guns here- they are lethal weapons. They’re not like knives that serve lots of other useful purposes. A gun’s sole purpose is to injure or kill a living being. I am always painfully aware that e.g. the person who I had a disagreement with over a parking spot could be a nutcase with a gun. In my case- and I think it’s the same for a lot of Europeans here- guns everywhere don’t make me feel safer, they make me feel more afraid of my fellow humans.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Favorite Place

My favorite place to be has always been the beach. I love everything about it- the smell, the sound, the sand, the waves, the wildlife. If I had a million Dollars (or ten- let’s be real, one million doesn’t really get you all that far…) I would spend my life on the beach.

The ocean has such a soothing effect on me. It makes me feel small, insignificant, but in a good way. As though I am part of bigger whole and my imperfections and mistakes aren’t that big in the grand scheme of things.

The sea is so powerful. It is always moving, always changing, harboring within its depths so many living creatures that we have never even seen before. While it is essential to our survival, it can also kill in an instant with its ferocious waves and hidden currents.

Listening to the waves and the wind is like meditation. I could just sit and watch the ocean for hours without getting bored. A walk on the beach is a priceless way to clear my mind and make me feel at peace.

I am so lucky to be living just a short drive from the beach now. It’s a dream come true for me to be able to hop in the car and drive to a stunning beach whenever I feel like it. The kids are still a little unsure about it, scared of the movement of the water and disapproving of the sand that gets into every crevice. However, I am convinced they’ll come around and look back fondly on a time when they were so fortunate.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Don't Eat Me, Don't Drink Me

A lot of people, myself included, have decided to start eating healthier and become more aware of the foods that they put in their bodies. Unfortunately, this process can be extremely frustrating and overwhelming. It can definitely cause a kind of fight or flight response, where people either choose to learn more and make real changes, or they become so overloaded with information that they stop reading anything about the subject and carry on as before.
The truth is that the things the majority of people in our society eat on a regular basis aren’t healthy. They are mass produced, chemically altered, and artificially enhanced. We have come a very long way from real food.
It’s hard to face the truth. I, for one, was always a loyal and trusting customer, unwilling to believe that anyone would sell a product that might be harmful. Unfortunately, I know better now. The mass production of food has called for the cutting of corners in all areas. Animals in the food production chain are mistreated, plants genetically altered, pesticides used to maximize profits, flavor enhancers, preservatives, colors, etc. chemically produced and added to our food. Our environment is suffering the consequences and so are we in the form of food intolerances, allergies, obesity, cancer, etc.
In theory, the solution to this problem is quite a simple one: we have to stop eating mass produced, highly processed food. I always think of it this way- if a product contains an ingredient I do not know and/or that did not exist a few decades ago, I shouldn’t be eating it.
A lot of people are reluctant to make changes, since they see these changes as a form of sacrifice. What we as a society have forgotten is that we truly are what we eat. The whole purpose of taking in nourishment is for the production of cells and to provide our bodies with energy. If the food we take in is not ideal, the building blocks our body uses to produce its cells are substandard and illness is a logical consequence.
I see numerous reports pop up daily all over the Internet about how xyz is not healthy and abc causes cancer, etc. People seem surprised to learn that e.g. the chips they love so much actually aren't good for them. I have seen people express sentiments such as: ‘What else is there left to eat?!?’, after discovering that the fast food chain they love eating from isn’t serving them the healthiest of foods after all, despite what they advertise.
We as consumers have a choice. A product that doesn’t sell will no longer be produced. It is in our hands to lead the way when it comes to food consumption. We can each make an effort to gradually cut out more and more of the highly processed foods we have become accustomed to eating. If my grandmother wouldn’t have known what an ingredient is, I now refuse to eat it.
We can all do our part by making better choices. Shopping locally for our meat, dairy, eggs, and produce. Trying to stick with produce that is in season over green house grown fruits and veggies. The more healthier choices we make, the more the food industry will have to adjust to our change in demands.
Becoming a healthier eater should be a fun task, not a stressful one. Try not to overload your brain with too much information or you might end up feeling as though there is no food that is truly edible anymore. Most of us don’t have the luxury (or is it?) of growing our own food, so we must stick with the options we have. It really helps to take a relaxed approach and even splurge every once in a while. I think a nice restaurant burger every once in a while is a must! (vegetarian or meat)

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Cat Lady Review

Before I purchase pretty much any product, I research it and read reviews. It’s actually become somewhat of an annoying habit, since it still doesn’t help me make a decision quickly and it makes my head spin. However, occasionally I stumble upon a rare comedic gem, which does make it all worth while.
Of course, I don’t just read the positive reviews. The negative ones are actually more important, since they highlight all the flaws the product has. In this particular case, I was interested in purchasing a stick vacuum for hard floors that promised to be great at removing pet hair, as our new house doesn’t have any carpets and we have lots of animals. Out of the 182 reviews for this particular vacuum, only two people gave the product the lowest rating of one star. Before I even got a chance to read them, my husband called out: “You know they’re going to be cat ladies, right?” And, indeed, he was not mistaken.
I love cats! We have two of them here and I have volunteered at a local rescue organization to help cats in need. However, cat ladies still amuse me. In this case, the first cat lady complained about the air flow out of the vacuum. The second one- well, read for yourself:
I purchased this in April, 2010 because I have a sanctuary for special needs cats and I am tired of using the vacuum I have that uses bags.
Totally immature, but I already cannot contain my laughter. I am picturing a post-war type scene in which cats are sitting around with bandages and walking on crutches.
 I use this 95% in my litter box room because I cannot stand the floor being dirty.
Oh wow, a room just with litter boxes. First of all, I’m sure it smells lovely in there. Secondly, if these special needs cats are anything like my healthy ones, half their litter is catapulted from the boxes each day in the process of digging/ scratching/ covering stuff up (ok, my cats actually never manage to cover anything up, but they must be trying…)
 I clean the vacuum out every two weeks so that all the filters, etc. are cleaned, and still I have no more suction. I can vacuum over and over on a single piece of floor and it just moves the litter around.
At this point, I am shocked! Does this lady mean to say that this lovely machine for under $50 is not able to function anymore after being clogged up with clay litter on a daily basis?!? Ludicrous! What a piece of garbage! I hope she sues these criminals for producing such a useless machine.
It is a flimsy machine, so it doesn't do well on edges. I called Bissell last week and the only thing they could suggest was that I drive 45 minutes to their authorized shop to bring it in.
What? Bissell isn’t sending out their special unit that takes care of household emergencies like this one? I was under the impression that this would be part of their service when buying the vacuum.
I've purchased a lot of Bissell products over the years, but this was the last. I now use a rubber broom and a dust pan - that does a much better job than this vacuum.
And there you have it. So, if you expect a cheap household product to be highly efficient in an area it is not made to be used in, you may be disappointed. If you are and you write a review, please be sure to let me know so I can have a good laugh.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Someone Stole My Child's Picture

It is 1:30 am. I am sitting at the computer and have to take a short break from what I’m doing because I have so many feelings running around inside of me right now that I just need to write something short about them.
Just as I got into bed earlier, I received an email from a kind man, alerting me of the fact that someone was using a picture of my son on their FB wall. I was skeptical about this, but checked it out anyway, just to be sure. I still can’t believe what I found. A man on FB- a random stranger- has posted a picture of my baby boy and is claiming that he ‘may be his’ own son.
I am shocked. I am hurt. I feel guilty and foolish and naive.
I am now in the process of eliminating every single mention of my children’s names as well as every picture of them on the Internet. I feel badly burned and will not let this happen again.
Make no mistake about it- when it comes to my children, I don’t play. I am not someone that should be underestimated. This person better fix things quickly or else there will be consequences.

Let this be a warning to all of you wonderful bloggers and FB enthusiasts- people cannot be trusted…

Update from 08/17/2012:
It has been one week and despite my numerous reports to Facebook, this strange man still has a picture of my son in one of his Facebook albums. Because I felt as though something about the whole story was just a little too fishy, I reported the incident to authorities. I don’t expect them to be able to do much and surely they have bigger fish to fry, but I felt that if something more were behind this than just the misuse of my son’s picture I would never forgive myself for not having alerted someone.
Some of you may think I’m overreacting- after all, in the high technology world we live in everyone can take pictures of my children and share them however they want all through the Internet. This incident just hit too close to home for me. I think I may post pictures of my children again some time in the future, but not until I have fully thought through all possible consequences. I am in no way suggesting any of you should stop posting pictures- I love seeing them! I just hope that we can all be aware of the possible dangers when opening our lives to the public eye.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

My Monthly Writing Challenge

I love challenges. Lots of people do weekly or monthly photo challenges and benefit from them because they force one to practice and improve their skills. I’ve decided that I really need to do a writing challenge. And because I love you all and I hate doing things alone, I would like to involve all of you!
I’ve tried hosting things before and have been painfully unsuccessful. However, I am reluctant to admit defeat and am giving this one last try. For the next year, I will be posting monthly writing challenges.
Anyone is welcome to participate. You can either email me your submission to or you can link up at the bottom of each post. Submissions can be made anonymously, if you wish.
On the first of each month (or the second, if there is some reason the first doesn’t work), I will be publishing my own piece of writing along with all of the submissions I received, in the order I received them in. I will also be posting the theme for the next challenge.
Doesn’t this sound fun? I think so! Now go and write something! It can be anything you want- fiction or non, poetry, short stories, etc. I just want people to get creative and put some words on paper (or a screen, in this case)
The theme for the first challenge is: Something Green.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BlogHer Book Club: The Chaperone

(We are still in the midst of moving and have no Internet at home, so I am publishing this courtesy of a fast food restaurant’s free wifi…)
BlogHer kindly chose me to review another book for their book club. This time, it was The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. The reviews I read praised the book tremendously and the synopsis sounded interesting, so I had high hopes for this novel.
Unfortunately, I just didn’t like it very much. From the very first pages on I couldn’t get past the language the author used. Having read many books from the 1920s, which The Chaperone is supposed to take place in, I felt as though the author was writing in a much too modern way. Moriarty attempted to make it more authentic by constantly referencing historic details or items that were widely used during this era, but it always gave me the impression of being staged.
The story was relatively engaging and interesting. However, since I hadn’t heard of the actress Louise Brooks before reading this book, all the non-fictional details had no importance to me. Louise could easily have been replaced by a fictional character without making a difference to me as the reader.
As I mentioned earlier, the reviews have been great for this novel. I feel almost like a snob because I let the language of the book get in the way of my liking it. Therefore, I have decided to let you be the judge and am giving away a copy of the book. Please leave me a comment on my Facebook page (you’ll have to like it, too) and I will randomly select a winner on 08/08/2012.
Please also check out the BlogHer discussions surrounding The Chaperone- you will find that most readers did not agree with me…

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions expressed are my own.