Tuesday, August 31, 2010


The worms are gross.
I thought this was going to be so easy. Badabing, badaboom and presto: compost. Yeah, no.
I should have known I was in trouble when the guy giving the workshop said, "now, your worms are like a 2-year-old. They each batch is different. Some like somethings and other don't. You've got to watch them and take care of them and figure out what your group likes." I was working in my studio tonight (where the worms are at present because it's coolest) and suddenly realized there were an awful lot of little flies. I had checked on my worms yesterday to find several crawling up the sides of the bin. This, I was told, is a bad sign. They want to get away from something. As I looked closer, there they were, little tiny maggots. Eew. I found myself sorting worms and newsprint. Those worms can really scamper when they don't want to be caught. But as I continued I found that the majority of the worms are indeed at the bottom enjoying my coffee grounds and eggshells. It's only a few that are unhappy. So I'm not going to change the whole thing out. I did try to wipe out as many maggots as possible and pulled out things they were clearly not interested in. Beets, some lettuce ends (that's a surprise) and something moldy I couldn't identify. I will check them again this weekend. Let's hope they regulate themselves and stay put. I really don't to have to sort a pound of worms from newsprint. Blech.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Worms

The worms. Yes, I'll get to that.
But here is my finger. Can you believe it? That's all it is. That little cut. But it's deep enough to be a big pain in the neck. It does really hurt - still - three days later. The entire knuckle was green for most of today. I'm doing fine without bandages (even typing!) but every once in a while I bend it to much or expect it to do too much for what it can do. The cure? Three cheers for arnica!
But yes, the worms. I finally was able to make them a home this evening. It's a good thing I'm an artist. We were told to drill very small holes into the lid and base of the bin. Well! yours truly has all of the tiniest drill bits you can imagine. Probably more than the guy at Green's Grow could imagine. This is also good because I can't find my drill bits! Grr. They must be around here somewhere!
Anyway - here I am drilling holes (that the worms can't escape through) in the lid.
My worms are spoiled. They don't just get newspaper, they actually get newsprint without any printing on it. It's shredded and moistened and supposedly they will eat this too. Hmm, talk about a high fiber diet.
Added my composting:
It was about time. Some interesting things happening in there. I just think I'll have more than just worms in there by the time I'm done.
Below is their little home now.
So - at some point I should be getting amazing fertilizer out of them, if they make it through this week. It's supposed to be hot hot hot again. Yay.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Third time in the emergency room this summer. This is getting ridiculous, and expensive. What did I do now? I was trying to fix things! I went into the basement to find that my de-humidifier was, well, not de-humidifying. There was a huge puddle on the floor underneath it because the thing was leaking somehow. In trying to get it off it's prop, and to pull off the hose which was stuck on with silicon (barely), it came off harder than I thought, and my hand flew back and the middle knuckle of my left ring finger whacked against the edge of the metal type cabinet which was behind me. I looked at it - it looked like a paper cut. And then.... I bent my finger - and I'll spare you the gory details. At any rate, I knew, I couldn't help myself. Talk about being really irritated with myself. I had to walk over to the hospital again. Three hours later, I didn't even get stitches, just tape. I'm all taped up, my finger really hurts, and I'm ticked because I wasted another 3 hours sitting in the emergency room. I read a lot of the Secret Garden though.
This is not what I wanted to blog about either! Here's what I really wanted to post:
Last night I bought $20 worth of worms.
Yup, red wigglers. This is so that I can start my wormacompost (I don't think that's actually how it's spelled). Apparently this stuff makes the best fertilizer ever and they eat a lot of your table scraps so that's good. I took a little workshop at Green's Grow, a local nursery that has a lot of great stuff. Too bad I cut my finger today because I wasn't able to get the bin going today the way I wanted to. Tomorrow. I'll let you know how they do for my garden.
We've had two beautiful days in a row. The class last night was held outside in the evening sunlight. The butterflies were all over the "butterfly" bush, a little black kitty kept trying to steal the show from the instructor, who was very cute. Half way through the class a flock of bright yellow orioles flew over the garden. I also wanted to buy some plant-able garlic, but apparently it hadn't come in yet. I'd love to have my own garlic growing. You have to plant it now, harvest next June!
In other news, I changed the buttons on my white sweater. These are some I bought with Dietlind in Germany. I really like them.
Here's the sweater I knitted from last week while I was recovering from my pulled muscle. I really like it, but while trying to take the photos tonight, I realized I sewed it together inside out. Now I get to take that apart again and sew it together properly.

And I have a new neighbor. I don't even know his name yet. But he sure is cute. He and Jacques encountered each other today though. It was loathing at first sight.
I hope this little guy doesn't get too neglected. He's got fleas and I think something in his ears and a huge lump on the top of his head. I don't know if he's been fed in the last few days either. Ugh. There should be some sort of competency test for keeping pets.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A real Vacation

Ah Yes, I did. I took a real vacation. This past week. I didn't really do it on purpose, but I'm sort of glad that it happened.
This vacation was sort of imposed on me by mother nature? Or the fates? Whoever's in charge of pulled muscles made me do it. As I was getting on the plane to come home, I stepped into my narrow row of seats, and facing the back of the plane, tried to lean forward to get my backpack off my back. There wasn't enough room for me to bend my knees, so I just leaned, straight-legged, forward and felt it. It was a snap in my lower left leg, and then something like a bungee chord rippling up my leg. No pain.... but the thought, this can't be good. So I unpacked things I needed for the flight, and sure enough when I stepped back out in the aisle to put my back pack up in the compartment, wow. I decided to get some ice. Thank goodness I was almost to the back of the plane anyway or it would have been a very painful walk. The flight attendants were very nice and gave me a pack of ice. But when I got back to my seat all of the worst thoughts started coming into my head; emergency surgery, crutches for the next six months, permanent injury for the rest of my life.... But there wasn't much to do about it for the next 8 hours. The ice helped a bit, but then later I had to get up again and when I got the back of the plane I new something else - there was no way I was going to make it from the plane to any baggage claim. So the nice flight attendants gave me a hot pack this time, and said they would order me a wheel chair.
Long Story Short: this is the fastest way to get through customs ever. There was an enormous line - and I got wheeled right past all of them and was through security in a blink. My luggage was there already and the nice lady who had to push me all over the place got me into a cab. I got home, the nice cab driver helped get my stuff into my house and took me straight to an emergency room. And to still keep it short - after a two hour wait in the emergency room, all I have is a pulled muscle. But I got ace bandages and crutches and instructions to take 600mg of Ibuprofen. (Which I thought was the same stuff I was supposed to take for my eye - where they gave me another drug to keep me from having stomach bleeding. Can that be true? I'll have to go back and check.) I ignored the Ibuprofen, and just used up a whole tube of arnica. The pain was only there where I tried to walk on it anyway. So, for injuries this summer that makes 3, emergency room visits, 2. I'm done for a while I think.
Thus the imposed vacation. I decided to just go with it. I had movies and knitting and I think I really did need the break. I also looked in my own library and decided I needed to re-read The Secret Garden. I remembered that I had loved that book for a few years and then got over it. Re-reading it now reminds me why I loved it. By Tuesday I was walking without any crutches, but carefully. Stairs and moving fast are still a problem. Not too bad, but I still have to be careful. Not so much standing for me at work this week either.
While I did check out for quite a bit this week I managed to get my syllabus done! Shocking! A whole week and a half early. I just need to fine tune the course book, make some corrections, add some new things and all will be good.
Friday I spent the day with my friend Mary, who just bought a house and quite her job to start her own business. Go Mary! So what do you need to do in that case? Spend money! We went to IKEA to get chairs and supplies for her, and a new set of kitchen knives for me.
It turns out I have been cutting with .... I can't even come up with a good word for it - My old knives, while pretty colors (on the right) are just dull, dull, dull. I've always tried to do the fancy chef cutting of veggies, where they leave the knife tip on the cutting board and I was never able to do it. That's because I always had to saw through everything. With these new knives, holy cow, they just glide through things like butter. I feel like a grown up now.

And then the garden.
Yes, after three weeks of neglect it had pretty much turned into a jungle. Ugh. So I tackled that yesterday But the garden is doing beautifully. I have tons of tomatoes, flowers and... cantaloupes!
Okay, I only have three so far, but I've got high hopes. This vine went crazy and is about 5ftx5ft. It was attacking everything in sight, tomato plant, forsythia, pine tree. I think if I would have let it, it would just have taken over everywhere.
And my celosias are just gorgeous. I will have these all the time in my garden. They are funny lookin' flowers aren't they?
Pictures really don't do them justice. I know I can dry them and if I remember correctly they seed really well. Maybe then I can save some money on the seeds. There was also this funny bug on the stalk. I tried to identify it on whatsthatbug.com but I couldn't find it. Maybe I'll send them the picture and ask.
And Jacques? He's fine. He's happy I'm back. He was fine spending every morning in his basket next to me. But in the afternoons he wanted out. There are always things to guard, cats to chase, and sounds to try to figure out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And wheel goes round and round

Here I am at the end of my visit with my aunt and uncle. They've really pulled at my heartstrings this time.
Sitting in her room for a week for hours at a time gave me time to make a sweater: It's short-sleeved, and while I love the buttons I'm not entirely convinced. There's a button store in Mainz I might take a look at. It's got to be something really special.
But back to my aunt and uncle. Things were pretty peaceful most of the time. Between all of us. My uncle and I usually butt heads, and they usually fight like cats and dogs. But that just didn't happen this time. My aunt comes and goes. I got some stuff that's similar to Ensure - and she drank it over the weekend, and on Monday was pretty with it. But then on Tuesday and Wednesday slowed down a lot. I wish I could be here to help manage what's going on. They really need a baby sitter. It took me a few days to figure out that if you offer my aunt three things to eat, she'll choose one. If you just ask her what she wants, she'll say she doesn't want anything. And then, my uncle has been feeding her and if you do that she'll eat three bites and say she's done. But it turns out if you put a few things on a plate and let her eat it (with her fingers!) she will finish everything. She'll clean the plate. Tonight at the end of it all I realized now I should have bought some baby wipes to help her clean her hands. I just can't think of everything in such a short amount of time. My uncle has also been really sweet the last few days. He has been very glad that I'm cooking, although I don't think he could admit it. The complaining stopped, and we came to a truce about washing the dishes. I do the dishes in the middle of the day, he does the dishes for coffee. We each do our own dishes for supper. Today really clinched it for me - that despite everything, I wish I were closer: he came in while I was getting "dinner" (eaten in the middle of the day here) ready, and I tried to kick him out of the kitchen because he's always in the way and then if anything drips he freaks out a bit - as if a drip is a permanent blemish on the counter. But today he stood there picking his fingernails and said in a very small voice, like a little boy, "Would you also peel the sausage for me?" (sausage is made the old fashioned way here - and yeah, you always take the 'peal' off). It really broke my heart, because it showed me that he was allowing me to take care of him, and that more than that - he really needs someone to take care of him! For the first time ever - I really do wish I were closer.... I said, yes of course I would peel it for him - no problem!
For her birthday, I bought my aunt a prism. It's about two inches across, huge, and it throws rainbows all over the room. Now if only I had time to clean the window....

Monday, August 9, 2010

Spending Time with my Aunt

My Tante Ursula turned 99 today.
So far it's actually been an okay visit. She's not doing well, as far as her physical health is concerned - and some could argue her mental health - except that she is still in good spirits. She still laughs, she jokes and teases, and I've only heard her complain once about pain. I actually don't think she's in any which is really good. She's tired of lying in bed all the time and today I did some physical stuff with her. She was pretty happy about it.
My uncle on the other hand is a mess. He worries and worries, and he cannot give up on the German rules of living. Everything on the plate must be eaten. One must not get oneself dirty. Cake must be eaten with a fork, not with the fingers! We go round and round (all three of us sometimes) and I'm trying to convince him - that if she can and wants to eat her cake with her fingers - who cares if she gets a few crumbs on her self!? Good Grief! you can clean those up and she still has a little dignity in that she can eat by herself. And the poor guy, we had to argue about how a straw with the flexible end works. He was convinced it was a one-way straw. He tried to explain to me how the folds would only let the liquid go one way. I tried very hard to keep a straight face as I explained that that was only to let the top part of the straw bend, nothing more. I wanted him to turn it around because it would make it easier for my aunt to drink out of a glass. And then with food. Oh brother - he complains that I bring too much, cook too much but then, everything I put on a plate for him - he eats. And yesterday was really sweet. I'd asked on Friday if he would eat Weisse Wurst (this is really really yummy stuff - but if you are in Bavaria you must eat this before noon - and you must eat it with sweet mustard! There. Now you know.) Ya - sure he would eat that. And what should we eat with it? Oh - I don't need any more - I said, Bratkartoffle? (fried potatoes) - oh child, you make too much, it's all too much, I can't eat that much! Well, Sunday I asked again if I should pick up fresh Weisse Wurst on Monday. Yes. And what should we eat with that? Without missing a beat he says, "well, if you make Bratkartoffle, I can eat some too" in a way that made me think - he's been thinking about this a bit. I made Bratkartoffle (fried potatoes) but he had a conniption fit about how many onions were in it. He said, I've never eaten Bratkartoffle with onions. There's always a first time and he ate two plates full. I think he's pretty hungry - he doesn't want to admit it. And I think he's thrilled to get food that's different than what he's been eating day-in-day-out. This makes me so sad - I wish I could convince him to get meals on wheels he would love it. But when you are old and set in your ways.... So I will cook up a storm in the next few days and hopefully that will keep them going a bit longer. If I lived here - I could at least bring them some of what I cooked everyday. But Philadelphia's a helluva commute to Frankfurt.
Time is going by very slowly here. I brought yarn from home to knit a sweater and I'm almost done. I just have to knit one more sleeve and the collar tomorrow. Then I'm allowed to go purchase buttons here. We mostly sit in silence. My aunt talks in her sleep and when she's awake she talks in any language she feels like - German, Spanish or English. My uncle probably also needs a hearing aide now, as he has a hard time understanding her - or deciphering which language we're in at the moment. But things have been mostly peaceful.
The last few days it didn't rain in the morning, so I walked down to the edge of the Saale, the "river" (to me it's more like a creek than a river) that runs through the town, and did some yoga. It's beautiful in the morning (see above). The light here is pretty fantastic. There are a pair of swans with two young ones, and a lot of mallards with all of their little ones too - it seems a bit late for that doesn't it? They are super cute. Doing yoga on the edge of the river in the early morning light is wonderful. It's still a bit cool, there is still dew on the grass, and it's very quiet. All you hear is a bit of the river and the little fish jumping to catch the bugs. Maybe that is helping with a peaceful visit as well? Who knows. But I am noticing - for whatever reason - I'm enjoying this time with them. I'm usually counting the hours. But this time - I found my self not thinking about the time at all, just enjoying the moments. I am glad for this.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Berlin - expanded

Berlin is just the coolest city in the world. Really. I think so. New York is too big and dirty. Philadelphia is too small. Berlin is both old and new, it's a Pheonix at the moment. Maybe that is why it is so exciting.
I was lucky enough to be able to meet with a friend. We met several years ago at UArts while I was in grad school. He's involved with the book arts world through a periodical he publishes for experimental text and images. He's originally from East Germany and so having his perspective on things and the development of Berlin was extremely interesting. He's also a bit of an architecture buff. The best tour guide I ever had. We walked all over the place the first evening, back and forth between east and west Berlin. The new Hauptbahnhof is incredible. It's beautiful structurally, and HUGE. It's the large station in Europe now. Uwe told me about the plans that made it all possible which were first proposed in 1904 - but because of one thing and another - weren't possible until just now. They built a tunnel under the city and apparently it's been very sucessful.
One of my favorite things he showed me, just because of the sheer brilliance of it was the Memorial to all of the Jews who died in WWII. Conceptually it ranks right up there with the Vietnam memorial. It's incredibly moving and brilliantly designed.

When one first approaches it, it looks like it is a flat surface which different heights of these blocks which represent sort of tombs or crypts one would find in cemetaries. They are these grey cement blocks at different heights. But as you start walking among them, you realize that the ground slopes down. Quite deep.

Here's Uwe standing deep in the middle of it. You get a good idea of the height of the things around you. And it's amazing. if a person turns the corner - they dissapear. You absolutely cannot see them. It's extremely impressive - in the sense that it leaves its mark - makes an impression upon you.
On a lighter note, there were other things we stumbled on which were pretty fun. After dinner the first night we walked back to my hotel and ran across Senefelder Platz. Senefelder is the guy who invented lithography. Imagine a country that names a whole little corner of their city for an artist! What a concept, eh?
I also like this sculpture because of the small details. If you look closely - the angle on the left is writing Senefelder's name backwards. It has to be backwards on the stone in order to print correctly on paper. The other little angle holds a mirror up to it so that he can read it correctly. how sweet is that?
But probably my favorite thing we just happened to see was the Ritter Sport store. Now, if you don't know Ritter Sport, you need to find out about it. You can actually get it in the states.
In Philadelphia you can get it in the little fake Wawa's and such and in California I've seen it at Cost Plus - or World Market- or whatever it's called now. It's a square bar of amazing chocolate. Anyway - we stumbled on a whole store. A whole store! Just with this chocolate!
So many amazing flavors. I did break down and buy my favorite, Dark Chocolate with Marzipan. Hmmmm. Yup - it always tastes better here - wonder why? We wandered around there and were amazed at all the different sorts we could buy - bigger tablets than we've ever seen, little tiny ones, single squares, yogurt tablets, you name it - they had it. The front of the store was some kind of (what looked like to me) frozen yogurt bar of sorts. However - when I went back before I left Berlin to pick up a few things I discovered that that "bar" is a create-your-own-chocolate-bar bar!!! OMG! How cool is that!? You can mix and match your own flavors (up to four) into a bar of half-bitter chocolate. It's melted and then they pour it into a form. It's ready in about 1/2 and hour. If only there would have been more time. sigh. What a fabulous idea! I'm going to have to go back just for this.
Uwe also mentioned that Olafur Eliasson was having a big show at the Gropius Bau - which is a big art museum. And I love his work. He is a contemporary artist born in Denmark, grew up in Iceland and his work has a lot to do with light and playing with the properties of light. This show was incredible. I don't know how it will travel though, unfortunatly I don't think it will. Eliasson lives in Berlin and the show is very much about that. The title of the show is a play on words. The title is Innen Stadt Aussen. Innen Stadt means inner city - or city center. Aussen mean outside. However, the word Stadt written with a capital S means "city." But written with a small s the word mean "instead of". So the title can be read both ways and it just doesn't translate to English. But it's brilliant.
He set up so many things for people to interact with. A lot of mirrors, lights, shadows, playing with light and color light. Different colors of light which cancel each other out. In one room there is a circular prism hanging from the ceiling, turning slowly. A bright light shines through it and so you get the shadow of the ring on the wall where it should be, a huge circular rainbow which moves around the room, and then a white circle of light which somehow moves and twists down to the infinity sign. This light slips through the shadow of the ring on the wall and opens back up again to the circle of light. In another room he has set up so many mirrors and strange angles that it would be easy if you were along to lose your balance. I liked this peace because of what else it gave us. At the same time this show was up there was a Frida Kahlo exhibit. People were waiting in line for five hours to see that show. But if you looked at the outside of the mirror room, you could see the reflection of some of the Kahlo paintings. Most visible was the one of Frida with the two monkeys. I wonder how many people caught that.
Finally that last mind blowing part of the show was the fog room. It was actually three rooms with "fog" probably dry ice I imagine. The fog was so dense you couldn't see more than a foot in front of you. But you had to move forward to see the change in the light. The whole thing was lit with different colored lights - and of course the light was all around you - you were completely consumed by a particular color. At one point as you walk through a color of red/orange that is so bright and hot that it invades your head. I had to close my eyes. I turned around and walked back into a blue light and felt my eyes relax, the heat went away and I could look around me again. It was also amazing to just stand still and watch people moving around. They would appear out of nowhere and then dissappear.

If you double click on the image above you can probably get a better idea of what I saw. That is a guard I accidently photographed - and then he walked over to me just as I was putting my camera away. Of course I got totally sucked into this room and lost complete track of time. So I was late meeting up with Uwe. But he still took me out to Potsdam to see the Einstein Turm. This is the observatory build by Mendelsson so that Einstein could prove his theory of relativity. It's really a cool little building. Still in use. And when you walk around it - it really looks like a space ship.
We walked around Potsdam a bit to get an idea of the city as well. It's so different from Berlin - which you can walk to from there. It's like West Philly and Center City - but drastically different. Different Architecture - different feeling. The difference is more like the difference between Center City and, oh I don't know maybe Bryn Mawr. It's like the country and the city, but right next to each other.
That evening I got to see another friend of mine I haven't seen in years and years. It was great to see him too, and then.....
To see my great aunt. She is not doing well at all. Last night she pulled herself together a bit for me, but today I saw what was really going on. She's on an air mattress - doesn't leave the bed at all. I found that her thought processes were still pretty clear - but Erich doesn't understand her - and doesn't try to either - so he keeps saying she is talking nonsense. Well, she's not if you pay attention. And wether they like it or not, things go better when she wears the hearing aides. She also still has her sense of humor. Thank god. Even in her much slowed down state of mind, she can tease and make little jokes. So I'll hang onto those things.
And finally - say a little prayer for my Jacques.

Poor Christie (my intrepid intern who is staying in the house - despite the fact that it turns out she's allergic to cats) had to take him to the vet on the train because he had a little bladder infection. Now she has to pill him. So, well, maybe you should say a little prayer for Christie instead. Christie - Ritter Sport is definelty coming your way! :)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Berlin is Awsome!

That's about all I can say right now. The last time I was here was in 1994 with my friend Darcy when we were studying in Denmark. Things have really changed. Highlights were the Memorial for all the Jews who died in Europe during the Holocost (it ranks up there with the Vietnam Memorial. Conceptually brilliant, very moving) and the other thing I got to see was an Olafur Eliasson exhibit. I can't wait to tell you more about it.
However. I'm typing on a German keyboard right now and it's driving me nuts. The y and z are switch so when zou go to tzpe with the y zou get zzzzzz. grrrr. Then there are funny letters like ö and ä where my apostrophy is supposed to be, and the shift key on the left is only half the size of the english key board and instead I keep typing<<<<<< and the one of the right keeps freezing on caps lock. Okay, different country different language, makes sense that the keyboard needs to be different. But this isn't much fun. Hopefully tomorrow. I'll be with my great aunt tomorrow for a week. More then. :)