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Earlier this week, I made a trip over to the Turkish Market on Maybachufer to buy some cheap fruits and vegetables. For those who aren’t in the know, this is a great place to buy produce, with prices far below those in the supermarkets. I was hoping to pick up a few avocados and possibly some jalapeños, as I got a big bag of them for 76 cents just before New Year’s. Sadly, they had no jalapeños and avocados were three for a Euro (which I still snapped up because that’s cheaper than the supermarket price), but one stall had lemons on sale for 10 for a Euro. I greedily bought the whole 10, but then I wondered, “What am I going to do with 10 lemons?” My first thought was lemonade, but as I looked out the window and saw the ground covered with snow, a cool glass of lemonade didn’t seem appealing. I’m currently reading, “Winter’s Tale,” by Mark Helprin, and the book is full of descriptions of hot traditional drinks (some real and some made up). After reading about hot cider for the umpteenth time, I had an idea of my own. I would make a hot, spicy version of lemonade.

Hot Spicy Lemonade Recipe

Makes 1 glass

Ingredients:

-Juice of 1 or 2 lemons, depending on how strong you want it
-1 tsp maple syrup
-1 tsp sugar
-1 pinch cinnamon
-1 pinch nutmeg
-A dash of brandy (optional)

Method:
Combine the ingredients in a mug and stir thoroughly. You can use any sugar you choose. I chose a mixture of maple syrup and white sugar because I’m Canadian and therefore know that maple syrup makes everything wonderful. You can add a dash (or even a shot) of brandy for flavour, but it’s not essential to the recipe. Top off the mug with boiling water and stir the mixture again.
Optional: Stare out the window listlessly and listen to folk music (Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, Leonard Cohen, and early Bob Dylan make excellent choices).

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HipstersvsBeats
Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Corso in the ’50s*

Has anyone noticed that hipsters these days are starting to look a lot like the Beat Generation (who also frequently used the word “hipster”, by the way)? I see a lot of comments about them dressing like slightly cooler “nerds,” but just look at these guys. Ginsberg’s glasses and sweater, Kerouac’s plaid shirt, Corso’s haircut. If you transported them forward in time 60 or so years, no one would notice.

*Image via Google Image search. I’m not sure of the original source, but it comes up in several blogs and pages.

I was recently approached by an interesting website called Multicoolty to do an interview about my experiences as an expat living in Germany. I happily participated, and you can read my full interview here.

I also recommend checking out the other stories on the website. If you’re interested in life in Germany or what it’s like to be a foreigner in this country, there are lots of interesting first-hand experiences to give you a good idea. You can find the homepage here.

Happy reading!

Last year, I wrote a piece with reflections on 2012 along my 2013 New Year’s resolutions. I vowed to reflect on them in the coming year and to continue the tradition each following year. Well, it’s that time again, and I did not improve my French, I stayed in shape until May (after that I got pathetically lethargic) and I did not finish most of the stories I wanted to (although I wrote many other ones). I did travel to a couple of new places, but other than that, I pretty much sucked at keeping my resolutions. I think most of us do, which is why I’ve decided not to make any this year. Although it seemed like a good tradition to post them last year, I now believe it’s a terrible idea. Either I won’t keep them and I’ll feel like I failed somehow, or I will keep them and feel smug while everyone else realizes they failed in keeping theirs. Neither of these seems very positive or attractive, so I’ll just leave the rest of this post for reflections say that in 2014, I want to keep growing in my work and relationships and lead a healthy, happy life, which is really less of a resolution and more of a lifestyle.

Resolution failures aside, 2013 was an interesting year. Career-wise, I settled into post-grad life and started working for myself. I now work full time as a writer, a job I love and hope to continue. I freelance at the moment, but I’m keeping myself open to any opportunities that come my way.

My personal life saw a lot of changes as well. My living situation changed drastically, in a good way. I won’t write much more about it because the other person involved is quite private, but I’m sure you can guess what happened. Although it was tricky to reorganize the space I’ve been living in for the past four years and I was forced to purge all the stuff I didn’t need all in one go, I settled in again quickly and I’m very happy.

In sadder news, in September, my kitty Petzi passed away. He died of old age. His body just started shutting down and I had to put him down, because as the vet put it, “he didn’t want to live anymore.” He was 19 years old, so he lived a full and happy life. I didn’t have him his whole life; we became roommates of sorts when I moved into his old apartment at the end of 2005 (he belonged to my roommate). When she left to travel, I became his caretaker and he went with me when I moved out into my own place. He was a wonderful companion who loved to cuddle and purred all the time and I still miss him sometimes. Letting him go was one of the saddest moments of my life so far. Here are a few pictures of him, for the sake of remembering him:

Wet Kitty
(He was old and had to get washed sometimes. He did not like it)

Cuddle Kitty
(He loved to cuddle)

Puzzle Kitty
(He also loved to take over everything I did)

Cone of Shame
(He had to wear the cone of shame once after he had an allergic reaction to his thyroid medicine)

A couple of months after that, we decided to get a new kitty. His name is Albert and he is now 7 years old. His previous owner didn’t have time for him anymore, so he came to live with us. He’s pretty hilarious; he loves exploring, playing, and getting into mischief. Here are a few of his finer moments so far:

Albert the Cat
(He looks sleepy and peaceful here. Do not be fooled!)

Kitty in a blanket
(He loves to crawl under blankets)

Kitty trying on shoes
(Once a friend came over and he randomly decided to try on his shoes)

Cat in a box
(Cat in the box)

Cats love yarn
(Kitty vs. knitting)

All in all, 2013 had its ups and downs, but it was far from boring. I hope to keep moving forward this year.

Sometimes, I get into pointless trains of thought before I go to sleep at night. Usually, this happens when I’m really exhausted but I can’t get to sleep. By “pointless”, I mean that I start thinking about philosophical concepts that I used to mull over when I was 17. Apparently, tired me is about as complicated and intellectual as 17-year-old me (i.e. not very). A few nights ago, I jotted down a few notes making fun of myself and I thought I’d share them, because I don’t mind making people chuckle at my own expense.

Brain: What does being conscious mean, anyway?
Me: Shut up.
Brain: No, I mean it. Like, what’s the point of being self-aware? Does it add anything in the whole context of the universe?
Me: Not now.
Brain: Why are we here? Why are you who you are? Did you become who you are? Or were you born that way?
Me: I give up.
Brain: Is any of this even real.
Me: …
Brain: You should totally write about this on the Internet.
Me: Time for an audio book.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I need to listen to something before I go to sleep.

(The solution to many of my problems)

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My computer has been acting up a lot lately. The WiFi cuts out on a regular basis, it freezes every few days, it’s slow, Word crashes a lot, and sometimes it gives me the “sad Mac” face. I guess I’m not surprised; it is nearly 6 years old, which might as well be 50 in computer years. Still, I’m reluctant to get a new one. When people ask me, I usually say it’s a money issue, but it’s sort of more than that. When I really think about it, I’m just too comfortable with my existing one.

In a way, it’s like moving into a new home. I hate moving, even when that move is an obvious improvement. Like a cat, my home becomes my territory and I get comfortable in my own space. When I move, I feel jolted. It takes me weeks, sometimes even months, to feel that level of comfort in the new place.

A computer is a space too. It’s a digital one rather than a physical one, but it’s a space nonetheless. I work online, so I spend a lot of time on the computer, so this is kind of important. I know where everything is, all my files are organized and ordered the way I like them, and everything I need is installed. The keyboard feels comfortable, even if the writing on the “N” key is completely worn away. Mostly though, I’m just used to it. The idea of getting a new laptop gives me the same feeling I get when I have to move. I’m not sure I’m ready for it yet.

I’ll eventually get a new computer and when I do, I’ll get used to it. It will become my digital “home.” I just don’t think that time has come just yet.

This may be controversial for some people, so I’d like to apologize in advance. I don’t like to offend people, but those who know me also know that it is not my nature to keep my mouth shut when I feel strongly about something. I feel very strongly about war, so here we go.

Today is Remembrance Day (or Armistice Day) in Canada and many other Commonwealth countries and Veterans Day in the US. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the date marks the Armistice signed on November 11, 1918 that effectively ended World War I. In Canada, it’s sort of a veteran’s day meant to remember the men and women who fought for Canada in various wars and conflicts. It’s also a day to reflect on the horrors of war. Many people wear red poppies on their shirt collars or lapels to signify remembrance of wars and those who fought in them.

This year, there was a controversy surrounding a group who decided to wear white poppies instead of red. The poppies were meant to signify peace instead of war. Some people were outraged and found it very disrespectful. I originally wanted to talk about this because I think it’s one of those cases where both sides are wrong. The red poppy does not mean war, but that doesn’t mean that the white poppy is wrong either. However, the whole thing reminded me that what Remembrance Day means or how it is observed is not up for discussion. Why is that?

On Remembrance Day, the common tone is usually that of veterans as heroes. Although I don’t have a direct problem with this, I do have an issue with seeing people who fight as the only heroes of war times. What about the resistance movement in Nazi occupied France? Moreover, what about resistance members in Nazi Germany? Or resistance fighters of any oppressive regime, for that matter. Are they not heroes too? What about people who struggle in war zones, trying to live their daily lives despite the danger. What about refugees who risk everything to get out and live a new life? On a day dedicated to remembering the hardships of war, why don’t we remember these people?

Talk about heroes always implies a villain, although this “villain” is never really explicitly mentioned. Wars always involve an “enemy” side, but war is not so black and white. Sometimes you have a clear-cut case where one side is wrong, such as the Nazis in World War II. However, sometimes there are cases like World War I, where “right” and “wrong” really depended on which side of the battlefield you were on. Even when there is a clear “bad guy,” not everyone behind enemy lines is really part of that. War teaches us to see the country we are fighting as the “other,” but really, the other country is full of civilians just like us, who are trying to live their lives.

In the past, veterans were often seen as victims of war. This makes sense, seeing as conscription forced many people to fight, whether they wanted to or not. They ask for the hardships they faced, and sometimes these were completely unjustified. However, victims of war are not limited to people who fight in them. Victims are often civilians who get caught in the crossfire and lose their homes, family members, and often their lives in the process. War can also affect people long after it ends. People still step on landmines in Vietnam. Here in Germany, bomb squads are still called in to deactivate live WWII bombs found in construction sites; in 2010, one of them went off in Göttingen, killing the squad that tried to disarm it.

My point is not that we shouldn’t talk about the hardships that veterans faced or show them respect on Remembrance Day, but that we need to expand the dialogue to include the various ways that war touches peoples’ lives. That’s part of why I liked the white “peace” poppy. It was something different, and even if its message was somewhat misplaced, it does beg the question of why we can’t expand how we view the day. Some say that talking about other war experiences and talking about peace should be left for another day, but what better day than one designated to reflect on the tragedy that is war?

Canada is a diverse country and there are many people there touched by war who never fought for Canada in a global conflict. Some people come from countries that were the enemy in conflicts. Many others come from refugee backgrounds and have had their lives torn up by war. Many people came from Bosnia in the 1990s, for example, and the country will accept many refugees from Syria in 2014. If we, as a country, are going to remember how war has affected our lives, why can’t we bring other experiences into the dialogue?

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