Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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No more staying up late and living on cake

I am terrible at being on my own. Absolutley terrible.
For a start there’s the whole making meals just for me thing. I walk into the kitchen, examine the food on the shelves, open the fridge, close it again and think about how long it takes to peel potatoes/slice carrots/chop an onions. Then my mind drifts to all the dishes that will have to be used to make a proper meal. Dishes that will then have to be washed up afterwards. By me. And I decide there’s no point in going to all that effort when nobody else is around to eat the food I prepare. And so, in the 5 days since Jan went away, I have been living on potato croquettes (just shove them in the oven and wait!), chocolate raisins, cake (not even home made cake I’m ashamed to say) and those Knorr instant thingies that claim to turn into pasta in cheese sauce or spaghetti bolognese as soon as you add boiling water.

Then there’s the sleeping thing. I’m used to sharing a bed with Jan. He’s here almost every night. When he’s not at mine I sometimes join him at his. On the nights that he’s at his place and I’m at mine I have trouble sleeping. The bed seems to magically grow… surely it hasn’t always been that big? The room feels colder, the flat emptier (actually that last one kind of makes sense. The flat is emptier…I’m the only person in it). But it’s okay, because usually it’s only for one night. When he goes away though, it’s not just for one night, but for a couple of days, a weekend, an entire week…
Which is why, since Wednesday, I haven’t made it to bed before midnight once. And even after getting into bed I’ve chosen reading until 1 or 2 am over going to sleep.

All that has to chnge now though. I start my new job tomorrow. That means getting up early enough to be showered, dressed, breakfasted and on the train that leaves Karlsruhe at 7:30 am. It also means eating a proper breakfast so I’m not starving by 9 o’clock. And it means preparing something proper to eat for my lunch.

I’m so excited. I can’t wait to be a real, employed member of society again!


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And now for something completely different…

Finally some good news from the employment agency. They have agreed to give me 70 euros of the money I spent on train tickets to job interviews back. That means I now have a whole 100 euros for the month of September instead of a mere 30. Maybe I won’t be reduced to a diet of tinned tomatoes on toast after all (baked beans being ridiculously overpriced in this country).

Anyway, since I have absolutely nothing to talk about today and because Sleepyjane specifically requested it, I’m going to do something I don’t think I’ve ever done on Confuzzledom before and give you a recipe. For chilli con carne. The amounts given here are what I use for two people. For those of you with actual families it shouldn’t be too difficult to adapt.

Basic Chilli con Carne

You will need:
A packet of mince (here that’s 500g) – for any American readers, I believe that would be ground meat
Garlic cloves – how many depends on how you like it. I normally use 2-3
An onion
Dried chilli flakes or chilli powder (but not that horrible ready-made chilli con carne spice stuff). You can also add a fresh chilli if you want.
Tin of chopped tomatoes
Tin of kidney beans
Optional: oregano and tomato puree

Method:
1. Chop up the onion so it’s fairly small. Either crush the garlic or chop it up as small as you can. If you’re using a fresh chilli you should chop that up into small pieces at this point as well.
2. Heat a small amount of oil in a large frying pan (or a saucepan if you don’t have a big enough frying pan). Put some of the dried chilli flakes or chilli powder into the oil and stir it around a bit. Once the oil is hot enough add the onion, garlic ad fresh chilli (if you’re using one) and fry for about 1-2 minutes.
3. Add the mince and fry until all if it has gone brown. While it’s frying season it with salt and pepper. At this point you can also put oregano in if you want. The last two times I haven’t (because I didn’t have any) and it still turned out nice so it’s really up to you.
4. Once all of the mince is brown I usually add about a tablespoon of tomato puree. This will make your chilli more red later, you don’t have to do this though, it tastes just as good if you only use the tinned tomatoes
5. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and the tin of kidney beans (don’t forget to drain the weird sugary-water liquid from the kidney neans first!), stir the chilli well and heat though.
6. The chilli is now basically ready. All that’s left to be done is for you to taste and decide whether it needs more of anything… chilli powder, salt etc.
7. Serve the chilli with rice. Or some of those crispy taco shells. Or inside a jacket potato. It’s entirely up to you.

That’s it. Easy, no?


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Waiting for… what exactly?

In the last two hours I must have refreshed my hotmail inbox at least 50 times. Strangely enough there are never any new emails. Why would there be new emails now when there weren’t any ten minutes ago? It’s better than any of the things I should be doing though, which include working on my dissertation proposal (I was almost reduced to tears by it yesterday), cleaning the kitchen… which will, of course, involve washing the dishes (ugh, ugh, ugh) or handwashing the pile of socks that’s waiting for me in the other room. It’s hardly surprising that none of those things appeal to me. So instead I keep refreshing, in between wandering listlessly around the flat (all two rooms of it). I feel like I’m waiting for something, but I have no idea what it is. I’m too restless even to read.
Roll on the night time. At least then I can go back to sleep…


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Just because you have a job doesn’t mean it’s all sorted…

Let’s talk about the employment agency shall we. We haven’t done that in a while…
So, as regular readers will know, I’m about to start a new job after a period of unemployment. The new job is some distance away from the town I’m living in (an hour on the slow train, about 25 minutes on the fast – but expensive train), but it’s a doable distance, the company seems great and it means no more dealing with the German employment agency – or so I thought…

After signing my contract I downloaded the change of circumstances form from the employment agency’s website, filled in the bit saying I’ve found a job and no longer need to be registered as unemployed and sent it off. A few days ago I received a letter from the employment agency – “since you now have a job and you will be getting paid at some point in September your benefits will now be cut off. Starting from 1st September 2009. If you think you’ll need help for time between us cutting off your benefits and when you actually receive your first months pay there is a loan, which you might be allowed, but only if you apply for it. ” Considering the last payment of my unemployment benefit (ALG II) was on 15th August and my first pay from work won’t be until the end of September I think I might just need that loan. I have worked it out and, despite being very careful, with the money that’s currently in my bank once I’ve paid September’s rent, the electric/gas bill, the internet/phone and bought two monthly tickets – one for the train to work and one for the tram from home to the train station – I am going to ahve about 40 euros left. That’s 40 euros for everything else I could possibly need… like food for example. And toilet roll. I can’t even afford the 6 euros it will cost to send my baby brother the books I bought him for his 3rd birthday. So I emailed the employment agency asking how to apply for the loan. Today I received this reply “I need to see your employment contract and proof from your employer of when your first wages are to be paid. Then we can decide whether or not to give you a loan“. Because obviously there couldn’t just be simple procedure. Now I need to find out whether they will accept a copy of my contract, because if not (which they probably won’t) I will have to go there in person and physically show them my contract. This will have to be done by Monday because I start work on Tuesday and will therefore not actually be in Karlsruhe at all during their office hours. Oh, and I have to somehow get proof of when I’m getting my wages from the new boss. The boss who told me when I signed the contract that she goes on holiday at the end of August and will still be away when I start work.
Oh what fun the next few weeks are going to be…


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A quick note…

For those who were interested in seeing the photos from my 101 Things Photo Challenge, I’ve create a photobucket account to upload them to. I won’t be putting all 50 up for every single month, (so you’ll just have to take my word for it that I actually took all 50 ;-) ) but you will at least be able to get an idea of what I’ve been doing.
Here is the URL: http://photobucket.com/bevchenn (I had to call myself bevchenn on there because bevchen with just 1 ‘n’ was already taken. Unbelievable!)


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Not my day…

I stayed at the boyfrend’s place last night. Then this morning we had a fight. Unsurprisingly it was entirely my fault – nearly all of our fights are my fault. We only partially managed to sort it out before he went to catch a train. He’s gone to his parents, because it’s his Grandma’s birthday soon and because there is some stuff going on with his family that made him feel he should be around. I’m not going to say more than that, I don’t talk about my boyfriend’s private business on here. The only point in mentioning it at all is to explain why he’s gone away, not just for the weekend as originally planned but for a week. So we had a fight and now I’m not going to see him for 7 whole days. What will happen to us when he returns remains to be seen…

Anyway, after he left I walked home in the rain. I arrived in my flat to find that the remains of a cake somebody made for my birthday had gone mouldy. There was no mould on the cake yesterday, today it had a layer of green fur on the top. Wonderful. I’ve taken it down to the rubbish bin outside but I can still smell it all over my flat. And I’ve just discovered that I can’t order a monthly train ticket online because the German rail website will only let me pay by credit card. I do not have a credit card!! It is also possible to pay by direct debit, but only if you register first, which I duly tried to do. After entering all my details I was presented with a letter containing my bank details and asking someone, somewhere to please activate payment by direct debit for my German rail account. Now I’m supposed to print out this letter (xcept I don’t have a printer!), send it halfway across Germany and wait for them to give me permission to pay by direct debit before I can order the monthly ticket, which will then have to be sent to me by post, and whcih I need by 1st September. Even if I had a printer I somehow don’t think this would work. Looks like it’s a trip to the train station for me then. Oh, and I also have to go to the doctors to make myself an appointment because my boyfriend forgot to call and make me one yesterday and I have given up on the idea of trying to phone Germans because I always have to give them my surname and they can never understand it, ever. Even if I spell it out they don’t understand me.¬† Apparantly I pronounce the first letter wrong. This all may have something to do with the fact that I am not German and neither is my name. At least if I go there I can hand the woman something with my name on and tell her to work it out for herself. (This is part of the reason the boyfriend and I argued this morning. He says it’s “about time I started phoning people¬† for myself and if I can’t pronounce [that letter] then maybe it’s time I learned”. He doesn’t understand that I hate, loathe and detest speaking to people I don’t know on the phone. It makes me feel sick with nerves even when the person at the other end is English, in German it’s much, much worse. So it’s off to the doctors I go.
Oh well, at least it’s stopped raining now…


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Let’s talk about CAKE!

Well, the flat-warming-slash-birthday celebration thingy was a success. Jan made guacamole, which was delicious (and also happens to be one of the things on his 101 things list – yes, he’s doing one too). Almost all of my chilli was eaten, and two people even took some home in tupperware tubs so it must have been good. And I made flat-warming cake, which I am now going to share with you, my internet pals, because it’s just too damn good not to. It is also my entry for the cake category of the Belgian Waffle Village Fete and believe me, it beats aubergine bee hands down.

cakePicture number one shows the basic cake, prior to icing. It was supposed to be chocolate cake. It looks more like my Grandma’s Yorkshire Parkin… all dark and sticky. I blame this on the random German syrupy stuff that I used in place of golden syrup. (Note to people living in Germany – if you replace the golden syrup in a recipe with Grafschafter Goldsaft it will not turn out like you’re expecting. Trust me on this one!) Also, notice how thin it is. I expected it to rise more than that, but apparantly using extra baking powder in the absence of self-raising flour (which doesn’t exist in Germany) does not work. Who knew?

cake2Stage 2 in the cake making process… chocolate butter icing. I had to add extra cocoa powder to mine because it was far too ridiculously sweet, even for me. The recipe called for 175 grams of icing sugar with only 75 grams of butter and two table spoons of cocoa powder. 175 g of icing sugar is just insane!

And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for… the finished product.I give you Flat-Warming Cake… or what happens when you let a person with no artistic talent whatsoever loose with M&Ms, little sugar stars and the mini breadstick things from those nutella dip cartons…

cake3It’s supposed to be my building, except one floor is missing because I ran out of space. My flat is on there though – the white window at the top. Also, check out my flower. And my tree. I am totally proud of them… in a half-amused kind of way.


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Preparing for another busy weekend

The other week when Jan and I were in Mannheim we saw a poster (in the window of the tea shop we went in) advertising an English picnic in Ludwigshafen. It’s a cultural event apparantly, organised by Initiative Buchkultur, an organisation whose aim seems to be to promote the publiscation of “nice, good and well-made books” (sorry, I’m translating from the German here) because there are too many “cheap” books (in terms of both content and the way they are made), bad translations and books that haven’t been properly proofread. Fair enough.

So the picnic is taking place this Sunday. There are various different activities taking place… croquet, some performance by a Sherlock Holmes club, English folk music and more. Jan is mostly interested in the English beer tasting session at 2pm; I like the sound of the cream tea at 5. And, one of the items on my 101 Things list is “have a picnic in a town I’ve never been to before”. I’ve never been to Ludwigshafen before (even though it’s only 55 minutes away by slow train!) so that will be another item to cross off my list. Excellent!
That is, of course, providing we actually make it to Ludwigshafen…

I’m having a party tomorrow night, partly as a belated birthday celebration and partly because I’ve been promising to host a flat-warming party for months. So, two birds with one stone and all that…
I’ve asked people to come early (7pm… that is early for a German party!) in the hope that the party will also finish early (around 2am instead of after the sun comes up would be nice…) but we shall see what happens.

Yes, another busy weekend ahead, and today is preparation day. I have been shopping twice… but still don’t actually have everything because I’m running out of money! The living room is swept and the kitchen has been mopped. So now I just need to finish tidying the bedroom (aargh, where am I going to put everything?!), do the dishes (ugh, just kill me now…) and make cheese scones for the picnic. Tomorrow I have to make chilli, nachos and chocolate fudge cake for the party so there won’t be time to make picnic food as well. Urgh, sooo much to do, and seeing it written down like this makes it seem like even more. I guess I’d better get on with it then…


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Today it’s NOT all about me

Today is A-level results day in the UK.
My little brother, who I swear was just a baby the last time I looked, was among those trooping down to my old high school to collect his exam results. And… he passed. In fact, not only did he pass, but he got some excellent grades (much better than mine!), securing him a place at his first choice of university. (Yes, in just a few short weeks my brother will be heading off for his first year at university. How did that happen?! Someone has been fast-forwarding time, I swear). My brother will probably never read this, but I don’t care. I want the whole world to know how proud I – and the rest of the family – are of him.

Well done Jay! You better be celebrating tonight (and tomorrow, and the next night… gotta get in practice for fresher’s week y’know ;-) )


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The games we play

I still haven’t decided what to do with the photos I’m taking for my 101 things challenge. Various people have suggested Flickr, which is ok but annoys me for 2 reasons. 1) They now force you to get a Yahoo account to log in to Flickr. Any what if I didn’t actually want a Yahoo account?! and 2) The free account only allows you to put up 200 photos. Which is fine, but I am clearly going to need to put up more than 200 photos for this challenge. Obviously I won’t be putting up all 50 every time, but I have 33 themes to get through! At the moment Flickr seems to be the best (read as only!) idea I have, but maybe I’ll come up with something.

In the meantime, since a few people have shown interest, I thought I would post one or two of the photos from this months challenge right here on Confuzzledom. Most of them aren’t particularly good, but you did ask… and now you have to suffer ;-)

Clock Patience. I lost this game.

Clock Patience. I lost this game.

Game of rugby anyone?

Game of rugby anyone?

Shoot, shoot, shoot!

Shoot, shoot, shoot!

Poor elephant has noone to play with...

Poor elephant has noone to play with...

help, a UFO! Oh no, it's just a frisbee

Help, a UFO! Oh no, it's just a frisbee

OK, that’s all folks. I have more but I don’t want to use up all my photo space in one blog post…

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