May was a pretty exciting month for me. I started a full-time job as a technical writer, which is quite a bit different from what I had been doing. And going from teaching a few classes a week to working 40 hours a week has pretty much wrecked my routine, but after a month, I think I’ve settled into a new one.
The beginning of the month was especially rough, as I wasn’t yet comfortable driving to work (stick-shifts are rough!), we weren’t sure exactly when we would get our second car, and we still had to get the insurances all worked out. So, I took the train, which takes twice to three-times as long as driving. I was looking at a total of three hours on public transportation a day, which is doable, but not enjoyable. In my naivete, I had hoped to work on blogging during that time, but I had to change trains and buses multiple times during the trip, rarely staying on the same one for more than half an hour. I did play a lot of Trivia Crack, though.
We did get the car stuff worked out about halfway through, though. The shorter commute has really helped to get my life back on track, but I’m still exhausted when I get home – and then I can’t sleep because I’ve had five cups of coffee to keep me going. It’s a bad cycle.
But as I get used to the route, and the job, things are getting better. Mr. Faultier helps out a lot with his general life organizational skills. And the security of a steady job that I enjoy has helped to settle a lot of my worries and stress. That stress may come back when I’m no longer new and being offered help left and right, but for now it’s nice.
I’ve got makeup and skincare products I want to review, as well as what I think are clever observations on life in Germany I wish to share, so we will hopefully return to your regularly scheduled program soon.
In the meantime, here are some poorly designed shirts:
For whatever reason, the process of getting a Christmas tree has really brought out my Americanness. I hadn’t considered myself a big stickler for traditions, but suddenly, I’m trying to recreate an American Christmas tree. I’ve made compromises, but I’ve also promised myself to stock up on certain decorations the next time we go to the US.
Despite spending Christmas here before, I’ve remained pretty clueless as to how O’ Tannenbaum works here. These are some of the important questions I’ve been irritating my husband with.
1. Do you know what a tree-skirt is?
I tried to find a tree-skirt on Amazon (Amazon.de that is. Amazon.com has a whole section of them!) without much luck, so I decided to ask my husband if he even knew what one was. He did not. I tried describing it, and he seemed to have no clue what Germans actually put under the tree. When I asked him how he intended to keep needles and sap off of the floor, he suggested we put a trash bag under it.
His lack of a proper solution made me question whether his lack of knowledge about tree-skirts was a German thing or just a Mr. Faultier thing, so I asked a friend whose family had lived in both the US and Germany. She wasn’t sure if they could be found here either, so we asked her mother who informed us that Germans usually use blankets. Not trash bags like Mr. Faultier suggested.
If you don’t know what a tree-skirt is, it’s usually a round blanket or small, festive tarp that is made to wrap around the bottom of the tree. It’s got a hole in the middle and a split from the middle to the outer edge that can usually be tied or velcroed together.
Essentially like a skirt for the tree. I had planned on making my own from a table cloth until we stumbled upon a small round rug. It goes under the tree and stand instead of wrapping around, but it has the same look and makes it easier to water the tree. I’d call this a cultural-compromise win.
2. Where can I get a star for the top of the tree that lights up?
Apparently like tree-skirts, light-up stars are not a thing here. The most common top-of-the-tree decoration I’ve found so far are these fancy spike things that remind me of Prussian helmets that saw pictures of in history class. There are stars, too, but they just sit on top of the tree and might be covered with glitter and not lights.
Growing up, we always saved the star for last when decorating the tree, and plugging it in was our big sign that the tree was finished, and we were ready for Christmas. I don’t normally get very homesick, but the idea of not having this moment with our tree in Germany made me miss home quite a bit.
I haven’t found an adequate replacement yet. My current plan is to buy one of those sparkly stars or spikes and to hunt down a light-up star for next year – even if I have to pick one up over Thanksgiving and make it work with our electricity.
3. Why are all the trees so fat?!
German Christmas tree people seem to leave the trees as nature intended, instead of grooming them in to full, symmetrical cones. This means that they end up puffy on the bottom and sparse on the top, sometimes with empty sticks reaching for the sky at the top that you have to trim off yourself.
We weren’t looking for a big tree, but we needed a fairly narrow one for our apartment. Unfortunately all the small and medium ones were quite wide. It seemed that the width did not vary much, just the height. We managed to find a big one that looked like it had gotten squished on two sides, which ended up fitting into our space perfectly – after we cut off the top bit. It’s much bigger than Mr. Faultier expected. I think he wanted one shorter than me and ended up with one taller than him!
We do have these weird bits growing up at the top that I suggested cutting off. But apparently it’s a ‘King Tree’ and I’m not allowed to cut his crown.
I’m pretty happy with the tree, even with my conflicted feelings about its crown. It makes the apartment feel very homey – and it smells good, too!
Yesterday I got to run around to two different places to pick up packages. It’s that busy time of the year where we are ordering presents for other people and receiving gifts from our family in America. If I were still living in the US, this would mean that I would come home to a stack of boxes on my front porch. Because I live in Germany, this means that I come home to four pieces of paper in my mailbox – one saying to go to one post office to pick up a package, one saying to go to another, one saying that my neighbor has a box for me, and the last saying that they will come back tomorrow. What a headache.
Here it seems that requiring a signature for a package is a default instead of an added security measure. I’m used to delivery people squeezing in boxes behind my screen door, or just leaving things out for the neighbors to walk off with. Mr. Faultier was quite nervous abouut this when he ordered something expensive to be sent to me in the US. I left a note for the UPS person, asking them to kindly leave the box in my shed and lock the padlock, which they thankfully did. Asking for a signature in some areas can be more of a hassle than it’s worth. Depending on who is doing the delivery, they may not hold it for you and just insist on coming back day after day when you are not home. Or their location is quite far away.
Most of our packages here get left with neighbors, which I find a bit odd. I feel like I’m imposing on them, and because our apartment building is locked, I don’t see why the box has to be left with a person and can’t just wait in front of the door. But the almighty signature is needed!
We’ve been feeling bad lately because our neighbors have had to take so many packages for us. We’ve bought chocolate for them, but I don’t know if that makes up for the annoyance. We aren’t able to return the favor of holding their boxes for them, because we seem to always be gone at delivery time.
When the package is left at the post office, it’s not that convenient for us, but I at least don’t feel like I’m inconveniencing others. I am worried now, because you need to show your ID to pick up your package, but I’m in the middle of the process of switching names. I get packages sent to both names, and I worry that I’ll have to go pick up one that I don’t have an ID for. You can fill out a form on the paper they leave you allowing someone else to pick up the package for you, would I have to do this for myself? It hasn’t happened yet, but delivery season is still young. Family who may be reading this – if you send me something, either send it to Mr. Faultier or put my maiden name on it, please!
And we do have the equivalent of a PO box, but I keep forgetting to use it. It would be more useful, I suppose if we did.
My German family has been so kind as to indulge my need for American holidays and has help put together Thanksgiving dinners for the past two years. It’s fun introducing them to American foods, and seeing how baffled they were last year at the idea of sweet potato casserole as a side. I think Germans like to keep their meals savory and their desserts sweet, so mixing in a sweet dish with the main meal just felt wrong to some of them.
Both years I made green bean casserole. I’m not very handy in the kitchen, so once I figured out how to make something decent, I stuck with it. My main problem was converting the recipe to be useful for getting ingredients from a German grocery store. When cooking and baking, Germans tend to stick to measuring ingredients by weight while Americans tend to measure by volume. So I was stuck trying to figure out how much 4 cups of green beans weighed. I was able to find out how many 14.5 oz cans of green beans equaled 4 cups and then converted that to grams (822!).
What was more difficult was figuring out the soup. I used the official Campbell’s recipe, which, of course, recommends using a can of one of their condensed Cream of Mushroom soup. Maybe I could have found it in a larger grocery store, but my Lidl does not carry condensed soup in cans. They carry powdered soup instead. Using my powers of logic, I deduced that if I added half the water to a packet of soup, it would make condensed soup. Voila! Success!
I also substituted Maggi for the soy sauce, because that’s what I thought we had. Turns out that when I thought Mr. Faultier was complaining that we were almost out of Maggi, he was actually complaining that we were completely out of Maggi. Good thing we had this mini one lying around.
So, per the instructions. I mixed everything together, saving some of the fried onions to put on top at the end. Not going to lie, even though I do have American measuring cups lying around, I did not actually use them for the fried onions. I just put half of the package in to cook and the other half on top at the end. Mr. Faultier was disappointed that I did not leave him any to snack on.
I neglected to get a decent picture of it fresh out of the oven. I just snapped a quick picture on my phone to send to people. I did however make sure to take some pictures of it and the other food once I was at my mother-in-laws house. We hosted last year when our guest room was empty and we could put a picnic table in there, but now we are almost finished renovating and there is stuff in there!
We didn’t have pumpkin pie, because the ingredients were too hard to track down. But we did have some muffins and these adorable berry parfaits made with yogurt quark and strawberries.
While I missed my family back in America this Thanksgiving, having it here reminded me how wonderful my German family here is. They do so much for me and I’m very grateful for them helping me feel at home here.
We all make mistakes, especially when we’re younger and just figuring out what looks good for us. I’ve looked back through old pictures and brought out the top 3 beauty mistakes I felt that I was making back when I didn’t know any better. These may work for some people, but they definitely were not working for me.
1. Heavy Eyeliner
There’s no problem with a dark, smokey eye, but I did this every day for school and put pretty much nothing else on my face. It ended up pretty unbalanced and washed me out. I clearly liked it back then, but I tend to go for lighter looks for day and save the heavy eyeliner for special occasions.
2. Frying My Hair
I used box dyes for a long time without really knowing what I was doing. I ended up with black hair and red roots at one point, which led me to use a kit from Walmart to strip the dye from hair in my college dorm room. I then immediately covered it up with red dye. The end result is in the middle top picture, and sure it looks nice from my old, crappy cell phone camera, but it was a mess. It was very patchy.
Eventually I got it evened out by putting more dyes on top of it. I kept trying to go lighter and lighter with mixed results, but my hair was not happy about it. I finally gave up and dyed my hair as close as I could to my natural color and let it grow out.
I’ve decided that I won’t use peroxide on my hair anymore, unless I go to a professional for it. Though, semi-permanent dyes are still fair game.
3. Messing Up My Eyebrows
I managed to survive the Great Overplucking of the early 2000s, but in an attempt to avoid a dread unibrow, my eyebrows slowly grew further and further away from each other. I’m sure I liked it then, but I don’t think such far apart brows look that great on my face. Unfortunately, now I am having trouble getting them to grow closer together. One side seems happy to give it a go, but the other side has a small patch where nothing will grow anymore. If only big brows had been in when I was younger.
What are some things that you used to do beauty wise, that looking back now, just looks like a big mistake?