Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Critical Mom and Her Mink

Nothing says warmth like mink.  And the moment I found my mink, hanging there in the Second Hand Store for 249 euros, approximately my clothing budget for the year, I scooped it up.  A long, sleek, dark thing in which--were I taller, younger, and far more glamorous, and it a bit longer--Helmut Newton could have photographed me.  Even better,  I can indulge in imagining him photographing me frolicking about in it . . . which is almost as much fun.  So today, a very cold day indeed, a cold that goes to the bones and frosts the air the moment it leaves your mouth, I put it on and wore it as I walked up the hill to the tram stop . . .  now mink is elegant but sweat is not; it was almost too warm then . . . as soon as I had to stand around and wait for the tram, however, it reverted to coziness.  And I can even imagine that I look beautiful in it, when I'm not worrying that some animal rights activist will come up from behind and slosh red paint all over it and me. 
But I tell it not to worry.  We're pals.  It wraps me up, and I love it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Down by the English Teacher's Pronunciation with The Critical Mom

When my kids come home from school with their stories, I wonder how anyone ever learns English around here in Deutschland.  At a good gymnasium too--in fact, they're losing students because parents say they make the kids work too hard.  I don't think they make the kids work too hard . But I wish the teachers would work a little harder on their English pronunciation.  For example:
 "Guess how the teacher pronounced the word "pet," Mommy?"
As in,  "Do you have pets?"
"She pronounced it "pat." 
 I could see how that would lead to confusion .  . . with folks patting their pats instead of patting their pets.  Or even petting their pets.  Or pats.
But the one I liked the most, recently, was "Bowel" for "Bowl."  As I said to my kids, "you really would not want your bowel anywhere near your bowl."
But I do wonder, sometimes, hearing "wizards" for "whistles," and "cloth-ehhhs" for "clothes" and so on, why nobody ever uses their online dictionary, which gives you (YOO-HOOO, GERMAN TEACHERS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE!) and I do mean YOU, a little recording of the word of your choice being pronounced by a native speaker.  You get to choose between British and American pronunciation.  Take the latter, it's cooler, and for your information, does not (and never did) sound like chewing gum. Actually, all ya gotta do is Google "pronounce raucous" or "pronounce espy" or even "pronounce lettuce," which I've noticed grade school teachers pronouncing "Let-oooooss."   It wouldn't hurt to go to English language websites for information about commas, either.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Critical Mom's Pre-Thanksgiving Jitters

There's always the moment when I finally find the fresh cranberries.  One year my husband brought home two jars of "Preiselbeeren" and I said "Noo! Nooooo!" but then somehow we found fresh ones.  Ocean Spray!  Without the logo.  I guess the only source in the world for fresh cranberries is that big bog on Nantucket.
This time at least nobody had to drive for an hour.  I found them, actually, on my fourth try, and that ain't bad.  They weren't in Lidl.  They weren't in the Edeka at Kaufhof because it's no longer there--they seem to have dismantled that particular link in the chain of a very popular grocery store.  They weren't in the Edeka on Gemarkenplatz.  But there they were in Rewe!  The expensive store that has everything.
No McCormack's Vanilla.  That's always an expensive purchase on Amazon, or a gift from friends in the States.
But once I have my fresh cranberries, I stop hyperventilating.  Then the only other thing to worry about is the size of the turkey.  Every year I order a 10-kilo bird.  Every year they say sure, they've got one.  Last year they gave us a 6-kilo bird, which was okay, because we only had a bout ten people, total, but this year we're having 16 or 17.  Not tomorrow, the real Thanksgiving, because Germans never heard of that--last year when they sold me a turkey they said, "Happy Advent!"  We're celebrating this Saturday, so I'm still planning.  And one of my guests, a young Italian, asked, when I invited him, whether Thanksgiving was "a Catholic holiday." No.  I promise to make it make it as pagan as possible.  You'll be comatose after the corn muffins, the bird baked in bacon, the stuffing with celery and onions and butter, butter, butter á la Fanny Farmer, the gravy, the cranberry-orange-cinnamon sauce, the new potatoes, the sweet potatoes, the Swedes-'n-carrots, the Brussels sprouts, the peas, the champagne, the wine, the pies (pumpkin, apple, cranberry-apple) the cookies (oatmeal) and somebody is bringing chocolate mousse.
That oughta do us. 
Mouth watering yet?

P.S.  So now it is The Day Of.  The rest of the world is immersed in Black Friday and Saturday or Advent and my turkey--15 pounds American or 7.5 kilos--is incubating . . . 

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Critical Mom and the Twelve Year Old

Twelve is what is cunningly known as "tween" or pre-adolescent,  Or not so pre.  I'm the one who thought the kid had a sore throat, and no wonder he gave me a fishy stare.  That voice-changing business can take a mom by surprise.  But I'm so busy being taken by surprise all the time that I'm in almost as complete a state of flux as my pre-and nearly-post adolescent kids.
"Mom," asks the twelve year old, a paper airplane in one hand and a lighter in the other, "Can I light this and throw it?  Please?"
"Why not?  Why not?"
This is the most exhausting part, when you're explaining why not and then caving to some compromise, "Yes . . . outside, in the yard, where the grass is still wet, and only if you make sure that you know where it's landed and put it out."
So he starts to open the glass door to the back patio.
"And not in your socks!"  I yell.  "Don't dream of going outside without shoes AND A COAT!"
"Ah, I'm not going."  That was the last straw . . . he really hates to put on his coat.  The one he picked. The one we bought him on a frozen Bavarian morning when he'd lost his other coat.  The one that looks great on him, and is warm, and cost a bundle.  That coat.
The one I insist he wear when the temperature dips to 8 or 9 Celsius  (that's about 46-48 Fº).  And when he didn't, I removed his computer.
I hate taking away his computer.  Someday, when he's forty, I should live so long, I hope he's glad that I made him wear his coat.
P.S. And now back to my novel.  Almost at 30,000 words, though the plot is getting a bit less plausible.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Critical Mom Writes a Novel

It's one of those things I've always wanted to do.  And I've tried, in a half-hearted way, always with results that now seem to me disastrous.  But November is National Novel Writing Month (how?  what?  Who said so? A presidential decree?) Better not question too fiercely.  April, the cruelest month (you know, the one breeding lilacs out of the dead ground or the one where folks are just longing to go on pilgrimages) is Poetry Writing Month, one-a-day, like your vitamins.  Now, I did do the poetry one . . . a poem a day sounds a lot less scary than 50,000 words in a month.  But if you join National Novel Writing Month (and hey, if you're a speed writer, you still can!) you get, for free (but in a burst of enthusiasm I sent them ten bucks) a nifty little word-counting website that charts for you how many words you've done that day.  You get little electronic badges for producing your first 10,000 and your first 25,000 and for selecting a writing buddy.  I find all this delightful.  

Here's what it all looks like:

I am, in other words, now that I'm up to my 27,000th word, just too dang busy to pay attention to my blog.  Which, as a result, now has a readership of about four per day.

Folks, there is nothing more fun than writing a novel, I have discovered.  It's like telling yourself a story.  I love putting my heroine (actually, she's more of an anti-heroine) in Norway and Bavaria and Amsterdam.  It's a gas.  I'd almost say it's better than sex, but then nothing quite is.

The Critical Mom highly recommends National Novel Writing Month, and promises to bring you more news by the end of November.