Talking politics and why that involves traffic lights

Don’t click away again! Yes, I’ll talk politics for a bit but I will not even once use the name of a certain person currently gving many of you in the US headaches and causing outsbursts of frustration. Instead, I’m back with another episode of my little series hightlighting differences between Germany and the US. Given we’re about to elect a new Bundestag [the political institution deciding pretty much everything in our country], I thought it’d be interesting to give you a little glimpse into how we do things over here. Plus a few more fun little bits and bobs.

Thinking out loud again here.

Thinking-Out-Loud

President who?

Unlike in the US, the president is barely present in most Germans minds on a daily basis. Actually, I’m tempted to guess the majority of us wouldn’t be able to tell you the current president’s name – Frank-Walter Steinmeier if you’re curious and no, I didn’t have to look that up; proud moment? 😉 – or his functions. Yet ask for the cancellor’s name and hey, sure thing, Merkel! Angela Merkel has been the German chancellor for what feels like forever now and is very likely to be re-elected once again on September 24th (our “Bundestagswahl”/ elections for the German Bundestag that take place once every four years). Elections themselves – there are multiple; this ‘big’ one for the Bundestag all Germans vote for on the same day and individual ones for each Bundesland [federal state] – are a huge topic in themselves. For now, I’ll just list a few interesting facts and won’t go into the details about the actual voting system – think Überhangmandate (“overhang mandates”), the “five per cent hurdle” etc. – since not even all Germans understand it. It’d take some more time to explain but let me know if you’re interested.

Stay however long you please! 

The above is true for the Chancellor. As I said, Angela Merkel has been ours for a long time – twelve years or three voting periods – and is very likely to win again in this election. Rumor has it she won’t candidate again yet if she wanted would be free to do so.

Reichstag Berlin at night

The ‘Kuppel’ of the German Reichstag, meeting place of the Bundestag. // Source

Small but mighty

While in the US, either Democrats or Conservatives end up winning elections and as such filling the seats in parliament, Germany is more divided. Yes, here, too, the ‘main’ players are two big parties – the SPD (Social Democratic Party) and CDU (Christian Democratic Union) – but them aside, the field is much more varied. Among the very small ones on the sidelines are – to name just a few – Die Piratenpartei (Pirate’s Party; no joke!), Die Violetten (The Violets), the Feminist Party and even a vegetarian party.  Why these small ones are still important? Because they create a larger spectrum of opinions presented in the Bundestag. Plus, the more established ones who get a certain amount of votes force the big ones into coalitions.

What Jamaica and traffic lights have in common

Answer: They’re names of German coalition types. Because multiple small parties get a right to seats in the Bundestag, too, the ‘big’ parties can’t play the policits game alone (no majority of votes). The coalition names stem from the colours associated with the various parties (i.e. green for Die Grünen, the environmental-focused party, red for the SPD, black for the CDU, …). Meaning that the Ampel-Koalition (traffic light coalition) would be the SPD (red), FDP (yellow) and Die Grünen (green) forming the government.

So once the election is over, the big party who won the majority of votes – sssh: this is going to be the CDU once again this time around – gets together with the smaller parties who managed the five percent hurdle. Eventually, those long discussions result in who gets which ministry and the new government is complete. As I’m sure you’re fed up with talking about politics now so let’s move on to a different topic.

 

Bring back, bring back oh bring back my baby cart to me, to me

Disregard the unfortunate rhyming above. The hidden statement here: German groceries want you to bring your shopping carts back. Orderly. That’s right: no just randomly leaving yours somewhere in the parking lot or around the store. Their tactic? Money. Want a cart? Bring a coin. Outside stores, carts are strung together and you can fetch one by inserting a coin – usually 1 € – into a slot on the car, by this untying it. No worries: if you’re a good customer 😉 and bring your cart back to where you got it, you’ll get your money back. No losses for the store = no losses for you. We’re fair players here. And because we want our every penny back we also …

Return bottles to the store

Yes, that’s right. Stores don’t stop at the carts there. Thirsty? Grab a bottle of your favourite beverage from the shelves but be aware that the price noted there isn’t what you’ll actually have to pay. At the check-out, the store system automatically adds a so-called ‘Pfand’ – typically 0.15-0,25 € per bottle depending on its size – to the price stated on the shelf. Don’t worry, though: you get your Pfand back when you return your empty bottles to the store. And if you’re anything like me you feel just that little bit feisty in getting a – actually only mental – discount on your next purchase that way. Imagined benefits are still benefits, right ;)?

… and that’s it for another post on those small but significant differences in everyday life in Germany vs. the US.

Happy Thursday!

Happiness-inducing today: Many little things from the past few days like a conversation with one of my colleagues, another long-ish one with a – rare exception here! – friendly cashier and sunshine amidst a stormy and rain-heavy day.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

 

Share your random thoughts with me!

What’s are some differences you’ve noticed between your homecountry and other ones you’ve visitied in the past?

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Virtual Coffee Date #2

Picking up where we left in my previous post because it was a joy talking to you that way, I decided we should get together for tea/coffee again. For once because coffee dates with friends are always a good idea, no matter the day.

If we were having coffee,

I’d start by saying thank you to everyone who asked summer to come back and stick around a little while longer. The result? Starting on the weekend – despite forecasts predicting a 90 % chance of rain – we’ve been having the most amazing sunny days. Granted, the mornings have gotten yet more frigid but on work days I live for the afternoons in anyway. Speaking of which, I’d also tell you …

Blue bike

About the wonderful early evening bike ride I took with my mum on Tuesday. She’d originally asked me if I wanted to meet her to take a little trip to walk around a place adorned by beautiful flowers this time of the year. Yet then she ended up having to stay at work a lot longer than expected and we changed our plans. An evening bike ride through sunny fields and along a river isn’t the worst backup plan I could think of. Add a gentle warm breeze, a conversation about anything and everything – you get the recipe for pure bliss. Pity the weather forecast from now on is seeing us face a 90 % chance of rain, a huge drop in temperatures and barely any sunshine. Summer’s been good while it lasted.

If we were having coffee, I’d also …

Talk about an amazing website I’ve known for years yet somehow hadn’t used in a while until now. If you knew me in real life, you’d know I’ve never been one for online games or even game apps on my phone. This one I can get behind, though. FreeRice is an interactive vocabulary synonym game [edited to add: they’ve sinced added different subjects to quiz you on if vocabularly tests make you cringe ;)]. The clou: for every correct answer, the organisation behind the website donates  10 grains of rice to the poor. Refreshing your vocab and donating for the good cause? Killing two birds with one stone for sure.

Oh and if we were having coffee, I’d also excuse myself at least once and truly mean it – for interrupting you. Because that’s a bad habit that runs in my family. Conversations at those family gatherings are all about being the loudest at the table in the right moment. It’s tough, I’m telling you

What’s also blissful is raspberry season starting earlier this week. No, not a typo. Ever since I can remember, my mum has been growing ‘late’ raspberries in her garden. When the season is just about over for reguar ones, these are starting to grow and they’re the best. Especially the yellow ones I’m always claiming dibs on. Definitely a reason to visit my parents’ garden more often despite it being mosquito territory. This sweet happening is ever so slightly making up for the sad kabocha situation.

Red raspberries and Essie Manhattan Ave-hue nail polish

If we were having coffee, I’d …

Mention that I might be the last person to do so but watched P!nk’s Video Vanguard acceptance speech about her daughter earlier today. Whatever you think of her music, that performance was amazing. I’m not sure if it’s a general trend but I thought these acts of female empowerment might have become more frequent since a certain not-to-be-named moved into the White House? It’d proof the theory a former head teacher of mine brought up: Having a mutual enemy at times works wonders for solidarity, even among people who might not usually agree on other issues, Whether or not it’s this: it’s much in today’s society.

If we were still sipping on our beverages now, I’d express the disbelief and sadness I feel regarding the current situation in Houston. Being one of the lucky ones who haven’t been affected by natural catastrophes before, I can’t imagine what it must be like for the many people who are. When things like this happen, it sometimes feels unreal to me that I can go on about my days as usual while others are going through extreme hardship and losses. Even writing a casual blog post almost seems … wrong.

And now for the question that’d actually have been my first one: How has life been treating you lately? The good, the bad – whatever is on your mind.
Joining Amanda for the weekly dose of thinking out loud.

Happiness-inducing today: The [likely] final day of amazing summer weather.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

What would you tell me if we were having [insert beverage of choice] today?

 

 

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Virtual Coffee Date

It’s been a while so some catching up on each other’s lives seems in order. And what better way to do so than over a cup of coffee – or tea in my case?. So if we were having  coffee, tea or any beverage you prefer, I’d tell you that …

The end of summer always brings up lots of feelings for me.  While the sunshine and warmth of mid-summer days brightens my mood and lightens my thoughts, the shorter and colder the days get, the more melancholia sweeps in. Resentment about chances passed and not taken because there always seemed to be so much left of summer – until there suddenly isn’t anymore. Longing for a move, a different job. Melancholy, thinking about summers past when this was the time of the year school or later on university were about to start again. A time of change and the excitement it brings along – something I’m craving in my own life, too.

Monday felt like the first day of autumn and I wasn’t neither a fan nor prepared when I headed for work, dresses decidedly summery. Oh summer, please come back and stay with us for at least a few more weeks. Will you, please?

Tea_Cafe Gleichklang

After taking a sip because I don’t like my tea to cool down too much, I’d also tell you …

That we celebrated my dad’s birthday with pretty much the whole family the other weekend  [i.e. 10th through 12th of August]. It was a big gathering and really nice celebration despite the weather literally raining heavily on my dad’s parade. Nothing that would have dampened our overall mood, though. The family spent the whole weekend together and friends joined for the ‘official’ celebration – concert (one of my relatives is a jazz singer), dinner, dancing – at one of my parents’ favourite restaurants. Given this isn’t the most accomodating place for vegetarians, I, I wasn’t expecting much from the buffet. involved eating the most amazing vegan lentil ratatouille that I’m set on recreating. So good. No pictures because I apparently got so lost in a conversation I didn’t even think about it.

Speaking of my dad’s birthday weekend, I’d also tell you that …

I may or may not have changed my opinion on cheesecake [I wasn’t a fan prior to this]. I think this actually was my first time ever baking cheesecake, at least the American kind [German cheesecake is made from Quark rather than cream cheese and I’ve always found it too dry this way]. Using Amy’s recipe for Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cheesecake Bars,  I had my first encounter with this classic. While I couldn’t try a slice of the finished cake – no eggs for me – I sampled my fair amount of the filling before adding the egg and if that alone is any indicator of the finished products taste: so good! I quadrupled  the recipe with just a few changes:

  • Using lower-fat instead of non-fat cream cheese [we don’t do the fatfree thing in this family ;)]
  • a good tablespoon less sugar
  • a whole egg because it’d have been wasteful to use just the whites [white for the crust, yolk for the filling]
  • And it turned out beautifully.

Mmh. It was a hit with my whole family and my colleagues – I brought a few leftover pieces to work – despite it being a ‘healthier’ option. We have a winner here and I’m keen on trying to find a good sub for the egg here because I want to have my [cheese]cake and eat it, too. If you have any ideas – Aquafaba? Flax eggs? More cornstarch in the filling? – let me know in the comments. Egg-free cheesecake has to happen.

If we were having coffee, I’d also tell you …

that I bought a new cake pan. This is an accomplishment both for the fact I spent money on myself without much contemplation and for the fact it’s my first 8 × 8 inch pan. Now this might not sound exciting or special to you but we simply do not use these size pans around here. Try finding one of them in stores – or spare yourself the frustration and order it online. Now I just need to decide on the first recipe to bake in my shiny new pan. Anybody else finding those ‘first time’ uses weirdly … exciting?

If we were having coffee, I’’d …

Tell you that I harvested the first kabocha of the season in my mum’s vegetable patch on the weekend. Yet also that it’ll also have been one of the last. For some unknown reason, my mum’s kabocha plants – she’s been sweet enough to grow them for me for years now – are dying prematurely, leaving just a handful of mature squashes. It’s particularly sad as kabocha is very hard, at times impossible to find in stores over here.

Homegrown kabocha squash

And then – or actually as the very first thing; we had this conversation in reverse order – I’d ask you how -you- are. How you really are. Because I deeply believe that a true friendship is built on sharing the good and the bad in life with each other. No need to pretend there was sunshine where you currently feel clouds hanging over your head. So: How are you?

Joining Amanda in letting the thoughts dance today.

Happiness-inducing today: Reading out in the sunshine after work – it’s colder but not yet too cold for this.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

 

What would you tell me if we were having [insert beverage of choice] today?

Coffee or tea? Which kind/flavour?

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Truth be told …

Oh hi there! It feels like forever since the previous time this little blog here saw some action. Avout time to change that. eh? Thursdays always feel like the perfect opportunity for returns from [un]ntentional breaks. The day we’re wholeheartedly encouraged to just share some random thoughts, no further explanation needed. So here’s getting back into the game with a few current truths in my life.

Truth be told  …

This post was supposed to go online – and get written – yesterday already but then my sister and P. arrived  at my parents’ a day earlier than expected so … priorities ;).

Truth be told

I’m still heads over heels in love with P. Maybe even more so than before if that’s even possible. He’s starting to actually talk more and more now – he has been communicating with us for a long time but it’s now his vocabulary seems to broaden by the day. It’s the. cutest. thing. ever when he says his own name, pronouncing it in a somewhat Swedish way. Melts my heart. See: I’m already gushing again. Somebody stop me. Well, …

Truth also be told …

As much as I love – look at me making an exception and using this word – the little boo, I had to resort to my cheater ways when he wouldn’t stop crying for his Mama during babysitting time. Sometimes, a sleeping toddler is cuter than an awake one. Anybody agreeing?

Truth be told …

One of the main reasons I haven’t been posting a lot anymore these past weeks is that right now is a time in my life that wasn’t made for sharing. It’s not my intention to appear as a negative Nancy yet I also didn’t want to paint my days in brighter colours than they actually are right now. That’s still not to say I didn’t have my happy moments. Just that my heart overall has been feeling a little heavier.

Truth be told  …

We don’t need hundreds of friends if we do have a few really good ones. Meeting one of this amazing kind on Friday evening was a definite highlight of my week. She’s a friend from school days and has the ability to both make you laugh and pour your soul out to, building you up while sharing her own insecurities and struggles. I’m not a small talk person – well, most of us Germans aren’t – so these deep conversations are my favourites.

Truth be told …

Despite having done my fair share of healthier baking before, I was doubtful of the success when I sent my sister the link to this Peach Streusel Cake. You might remember my family being super picky and critical towards healthified baked goods. And my sister might want to eat a little healthier but she still won’t eat anything she doesn’t like [which I can honestly fully understand]. Verdict? It’s her new favourite cake.

Truth be told …

Fly swatters are worth their price times a million for me right now. I might be a vegetarian but mosquitoes are the one exception I make in killing other living beings. #sorrynotsorry

… and that’s it for me right now because – truth be told – it’s pretty late already around these parts and I need to make an effort at getting to bed earlier still. See you on Sunday for some good good links!

Happiness-inducing today:  Sunshine. Time with the family.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

 

Tell me some truths from your life!


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Why competitive eating challenges are so wrong

It’s been a while since I joined Amanda’s Thinking out loud Thursdays with a big old rant, getting some thoughts on a sad phenomenon in today’s society off my chest.

Thinking-Out-Loud

Sometimes I think I should start an entire series on here called “Why [insert topic] is making me sad.” That’s not to say I felt sad 24/7 but I do think there are quite a few unfortunate trends, topics and happenings in the world. The one I’m addressing today being a very popular YouTube phenomenon. Let’s face it: we all like to eat, right? And as bloggers we also don’t hide our curiosity about what others eat. All fine and well because everybody has to eat and food can be fun. Until it’s not anymore. Which is the case with the phenomenon gaining popularity all over social media, especially Youtube: Massive cheat days. 10k calorie food challenges. If you’re unfamiliar with those: they’re people – usually muscular athletes or tiny ‘fit girls’ shoveling massive amounts of [junk] food into themselves within a 24h time span.

And yes, it’s totally normal and part of intuitive eating to occasionally eat past the point of fullness. Just because we want to or the food is too delicious. Nothing to criticize here. But: 10,000 calories. Let that sink in. That’s a lot of food. More than just having seconds and thirds at Thanksgiving. 10,000 calories: A lot of food that could – depending on their needs – feed many people. People who actually need it.

It’s disrespectful behavior towards food and those in need of it

Food is meant to be enjoyable. Quickly skipping through a few of those challenge videos I didn’t get that impression it was for the people doing it. So you say you’re stuffing yourself to the point of near-vomiting [who knows what happens after the camera is turned off] only to say …What, really? That you did it? That you’re one particularly awesome person? Or: “Look how much I can eat and not gain”? It is not an accomplishment. It’s not worthy of praise or admiration. In my opinion it’s disgusting. A disgusting disrespect towards the value of food as nourishment. And while, yes, I find this particularly horrible when meat and as such disrespect for living beings is involved, I do not approve of vegans doing these eating competitions, either.

It is different if somebody struggles with bulimia or is experiencing extreme hunger in recovery from any kind of eating disorder. In a way, these people do need the calories. Making up for months or even years of restriction. Explaining the background on this would take too long here so if you haven’t heard about this find a good explanation. I just want to differentiate between needed versus wasted food. Speaking of eating disorders:

It’s triggering for people with eating disorders

Now you might think that gee, everybody’s responsible for the content they consume. However, if you’ve ever spent time on YouTube, you know that videos like these, especially considering they gather lots of views, appear on the front page and high up in the suggested videos. Add curiosity to the mix and people will watch these videos.

While I personally have no experiences with binge eating, I can see how ashamed somebody struggling with it might find these videos. Extremely toned people shoveling thousands of calories’ worth of food into their mouths and not gaining an ounce from it yet talking about how they’re going to ‘clean up’ their diet afterwards. Perfectly in control while you’re continuing to struggle. Those on the opposite end of the spectrum, having to eat past fullness to gain weight might feel gross for the amounts their eating; wrong even.

[Note: I personally am not triggered by these kind of videos but everybody has different triggers and this might just be one for some people]

It glorifies food waste

What I find concerning about food challenges is that they show on a small scale what is true in the world as a whole: when something becomes too cheap, we devalue it. Food is too cheap these days. Fact. Yet: just because a loaf of bread is available for next to nothing [obviously exaggerating here] doesn’t make it any less nutritious. We as a society need to regain appreciation for food. 10,000 calorie challenges and ‘mega cheat days’ encourage the opposite.

If it was just one person doing these challenges: still sad but oh well, there are some idiots in the world and it could be worse. However, this is a major trend that doesn’t seem to stop. If not 10,000 calories, then “major cheat days” or eating contests. It’s a disrespect of food. Glorification of it even. And I really cannot see anything worth celebrating about these challenges.

We won’t get into what competitive eating does to people’s intestines though if you’re interested, here’s a quick explanation on that.

If you agree but think that oh well, It’s just what it is and there’s nothing we can do about it, I beg to differ. We have more influence than we give ourselves credit for. We can choose to not watch and as such support these kind of videos. Supply and demand, friends.

This has gotten lenghty but if you read all of it: Tell me your thoughts!

Happiness-inducing today: An amazing summer day before the massive downpour that’s predicted to last all throughout today set in.

Stay in touch!
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

 

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My kitchen must-have and acknowledging food privileges

Bloggers, raise your hand if you’ve been in a writing rut lately. Well, that’s been me these days and I’m not enjoying it. Some weeks thoughts and ideas are flowing through my brain faster than I can grab a pen – or access my phone – to write them down and others nothing goes. Ironically, just when I had mentally decided to give in and simply do some random Thinking out loud, one of the points I initially noted got my mind churning again. So I’ll reserve that one for another day but share some other randomness today to avoid falling out of the blogging loop completely.  Let’s get going!

Tell me: how do you – especially those of you in the US – prepare your tea? Or more specifically: how do you heat the water needed for it? A little birdy told me electric kettles aren’t really popular which stumped me because I’d never used anything else. Until now because – cue the tragical music – my kettle just quit its services [read: it broke]. On Sunday of all possible times obviously = no chance to get a new one right then and there .  Thrifty as I am I wasn’t ready to invest in a new one yet so have been relying on cooking water on the stove. I won’t lie in saying it first felt – okay, still feels – like a huge inconvience. But at that it also made me appreciate the daily convience I’m blessed to have every single day; hardly ever acknowledging the whole of it. If it’s between me and you, though, I do feel so priviled every time I just have a glass of tap water without worrying about germs and simply looking at the fact it’s so readily available to me.

Another thing in my kitchen I couldn’t don’t want to live without? Hands down my dishwasher. While I do a few dishes by hand if I want to reuse them again that day, just putting everything into the dishwasher at the end of the day and waking up to clean and dried dishes is amazing. A privilege I’m thankful for every single day.

Speaking of privilege: I stumbled upon this article the other day. It’s about the British chef Ruby Tandoh pointing out that the healthy lifestyle many people – particularly those striving for high protein intake and low-carb – live these days simply isn’t affordable for some. Now I know there are many posts out there sharing great advice on how to eat healthy on a budget and it’s definitely not impossible [but might require more time, knowledge and careful planning than some people have or can bring up]. I encourage you to read the full post to see the points Tandoh makes, though. What I agree with and have noticed myself is – through my own experience as somebody eating lots of fruit and vegetables – that fresh produce can easily make up a good chunk of your grocery bills. For families with multiple children – like Tandoh’s and many of those living on the brink of or in poverty – getting adequate amounts of food in on a budget doesn’t allow for such luxuries. So shaming any foods (think potatoes, white rice, grains in general) is plain wrong and I wish society as a whole did less of it [if at all]. We’re all just trying our best in this world and don’t all have the same chances. Just some food for thought.

Just like the privilege to buy almond butter. Thanks to Jen for the advice of keeping the unopened jar upside down for a day – it makes stirring so much easier. No huge oil spillage like on past occasions here and just a few clumps to smoothen out. Easy.

Something more light-hearted on my currently very heavy/deeper thought-filled mind is seeing my sister and P. again on the weekend. It’s been a few [too many] weeks since the previous time and will be my first time babysitting P. all by myself. I won’t lie in saying I’m a little nervous [and hoping for no necessary diaper changes in those few hours ;)]. Coming up for you on the weekend: more good good links!

For once not turning this into an endlessly wordy post – you’ve had a lot of these coming from me lately – I’ll end this here. Happy Thursday! We’re –this- close to the weekend!

Happiness-inducing today:  My current book and an unexpected smile.

Stay in touch!

Twitter: @MissPolkadot21
Pinterest: MissPolkadot21
Bloglovin’: Let’s get living

Share your thoughts on any or all of the above points with me!

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