Monday, 12 January 2015

Thunder on the mountain

I am at the university, waiting for the clock to strike 17.00 in order to talk to a man about an upcoming exam. All very exciting. Outside the wind is howling, with trees struggling to remain rooted in this wet earth. In order to concentrate, I am listening to the rain. Not actual rain outside, but a collection of rain sounds on my iPod. The rain sounds drown out the voices of the other students in the common room discussing their various projects, it drowns out where I am and what I somehow still need to do today. The rain sounds mute whomever is snoring in the room at the hostel we booked, they make my roommate watching TV in another room less audible, they surround my head in a space of white noise crafted for thinking and concentrating. 

I wrote to a friend of mine that I wished we could all turn off the social media, our phones and tablets and gadgets, since often they distract us more than they help us. My task app keeps reminding me of tasks that I know I still need to do, making me more nervous and feeling as though I can't accomplish anything. Whatsapp messages, spam emails, FB messages, they all distract. And not because I am actually that popular and receive a lot of messages, but rather because once I have the phone in my hand I will check all social media channels and emerge 30 minutes later wondering what I was even scrolling through. It is making meaningless meaning, continously reposting outdated information to satisfy our desire for constant online stimulation. 

Then again, I am reliant on exactly these media to remain in touch with friends an family in far away places. Without Skype, FB and WhatsApp living far away would mean restricted communication. Perhaps a resolution here is not to give up these media, but to gain controll of them again, to not be reliant on the to maintain contact, to not be a voyeur in the lives of people who could just as well tell me the stories that fit whatever it is they posted on social media. 

20 minutes left. 20 minutes of possibly answering emails, of prepraring for a meeting when I would much rather just be at home already. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Reminders, Defeats

This year, man, this year.
The days a twisted game of Jenga,
with stacks of bureaucratic paperwork
and nothing really to look forward to.
Alas, this is just what everyone feels like
when big changes
are just around the corner
ready to shout "BOO!"
when you least expect it.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

No Rest

2015 gives me great pangs of anxiety before it has even begun. This is perhaps not the right way to start a new year, but what is a new year? Just a change of a date, not the clean slate most purport it to be. Little rays of sunshine in the form of Skype sessions with friends and family interrupt the permanent sensation of panic (that is, in part at least, self-inflicted through my procrastination and weak prioritisation, which goes a bit like this: hmm, we should read those texts. Ja. Let's bake cookies instead and iron the clothes that have been gathering over weeks. Smart move.).

Yesterday I spoke with two friends, both currently in Pretoria, both complaining about the heat and the mosquitoes, both in summery clothes. Then there was me, heater turned up, with a cup of peppermint tea in one hand and an enormous sweater wrapped around my body. We talked as though distance did not exist about the trivial things, the everyday embarrassments and tiny bits of gossip. My one friend was knitting and laughing as I told him about a series of cringe-worthy events from the past week. It was wonderful.

Sons & Daughters

My mother.
My mother makes the best food.
Sometimes she'd make Spätzle, and my sister and I would steal a few noodles before they went into the oven until the cheese melted over them.

Because I found some Spätzle flour in our cupboard (and after the insects-in-flour-scare of the cookies), today I made some. It was easier and quicker than expected, although there were a lot of dishes involved. Spätzle are a Swabian noodle type, originally made by scraping the dough from a wooden board into boiling water where they float to the top when they are done. These days there are Spätzlepressen if you are making a potato kind or Spätzlereiben for the egg-type. I have a Reibe (it looks a bit like a flat grater that attaches to the pot), so I made the egg Spätzle with some added parsley in the dough.

The recipe is quite simple:
One egg for every 100g of Spätlzeflour, plus some water to make the dough more elastic
I used:
300g flour
3 eggs
120ml water
A pinch of grated nutmeg

You need to beat the ingredients together until the dough becomes elastic, quite a task for the arms. After letting the dough rest for 10 minutes, beat it again.
Then use the Spätzlereibe to drop the dough into boiling water.
When the noodles float to the top after a short while, use a ladle to scoop them off.
I then fried an onion and added the Spätzle and some cheese to a pan until the cheese had melted. Some salt and pepper and it's a done deal.

Elastic dough. 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Orange sky

Breakfast of Champions.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 
Breakfast Club, Breakfast at Tiffany's, He stayed for Breakfast, Breakfast in Paris...

The list goes on as breakfast becomes a social and cultural institution. People eat in the mornings, simple as that. Or at least grab a muffin and a large coffee on their way to work. On weekends people brunch, Mimosas in hand. 

And yet I am not a fan. Never have been, never will be. When my parents were separating my grandmother came to live with us, and she would have none of my nonsense. Everyone has to eat breakfast, me included. For a while there I ate yesterday's leftovers, preferring pasta to corn flakes or toast. Then I progressed to weetbix, and from there I discovered instant oats, preferably the strawberries & cream flavour. 

Somehow, my grandmother forcing me to eat in the mornings has remained with me, so now I do it without thinking too much about it. The best thing is overnight oats, where you marinate an equal amount of oats (with a tablespoon of linseed) in water or milk (so 1/2 cup of oats in 1/2 cup of milk) the evening before, and the next morning you have a delicious porridge. Add some yoghurt and fresh fruit or compote and boom, it's going to be a good day. 

My other favourite is muesli, the crunchy kind. In store it is superexpensive and has raisins, which I also don't like that much. By comparison, a 500g pack of oats costs 0,39€, so I now make my own muesli. It is easy peasy and you can adapt it as you want (or with whatever you have at home). 

You need: 
- 1/4 cup  honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup oil

- 3 cups oats
- 1/2 cup bran flakes
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup finely chopped hazelnuts (or almonds)

- other nuts
- cranberries
- dried apple
- linseed
1. Preheat your oven to 150°C.
2. Heat the honey, sugar and oil over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. 

3. Mix the dry ingredients together before adding the sugar-honey-oil mix. Mix well, ensuring that the oats are evenly coated. 
4. Spread the mixture on greaseproof paper and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring one after about 15 minutes. 

5. Let the muesli cool. As it cools it will harden and little muesli clusters will form. 
6. Store in an airtight container. 

Tadaaa. muesli. Easy. 

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Don't you worry about it

No one has a clue what they are doing. What the point is. And yet most people pretend at it so well that it intimidates the few who are ready to admit they realise no path is final, no choice set in stone. As a tween I wanted to be a chef, then a marine biologist, then a lawyer. When I started studying, I still had notions of becoming a lawyer. Luckily, what I felt was bad luck intervened at the time and I was presented with a way that I was not even aware of.

2015 is the year of big decisions that weigh heavily on the heart and mind at night. After this place of friendly people, water and small universities, where do I go? What do I do with my stuff? WHAT IS THE PLAN SABINE. And always, always this question, ghost-like behind everything I do: what do you want from your life?

I don't know. I honestly don't know what it is I want.
I want to learn. I want to teach. I want to make it better, not worse.
I want to spend Christmas with my mom and sister. I want to get to know places, not merely travel them. I want a room full of books. I want a dog (or 2) again. I want to smell yesterday, today, tomorrow in spring. I want to have my own space. I want to have things but not be bound to them.
I want to find a place that again feels like home.

Monday, 5 January 2015


During December everything seemed to happen at once. I had an additional job working at the Christmas market, suddenly the lecturers at the university decided that we needed to complete everything we hadn't done in the past months in a few days and yet it was the month of Christmas parties and having to be social when all you want to do is sleep for eternity.

I spent the 24-26 at my friend's mother's place in Göttingen where we played boardgames, ate too many cookies and sweet things and hung out by the Christmas tree. As a present I had gotten a very cool cookie cutter, so when my friends came to Flensburg for New Years I had to bake some cookies.

The recipe was for Jamie Dodgers, which I found attached to some Jamie Oliver cookie cutters I had bought earlier:

- 250g softened butter
- 140g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 375g flour
- 30g caster sugar (for sprinkling the cookies when they come out of the oven)
 - 170g jam (I used watermelon-strawberry jam that I had made in the summer)

1. Mix the butter and sugar until it is fluff. Add the vanilla and the egg and beat well. Then sift in the flour and work the dough into a ball with your hands. This took a little while because the dough is rather dry. Then cover the dough ball in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for an hour. I left it there overnight and had to let it soften quite a while before it could be rolled out.
2. Turn your oven to 190°C. Prepare 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper or spray 'n cook.
3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until it is about 3mm thick.
4. Here I multitasked: I used the 'eat-me' cookie cutter to just cut out some plain cookies, and used the other round cookie cutters for the Jamie Dondgers. You need to cut out an even amount of cookies and then Jamie uses a mini cookie cutter to cut a shape in the middle. Since I did not have a mini cutter I just used a knife and attempted to shape little hearts. It worked fine.
5. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until they are pale gold, not golden brown.
6. Sprinkle them with the caster sugar and wait for them to cool.
7. Once they have cooled, use the jam to sandwich together the cookies.

And now for the bad news: I had to throw ALLLLLL the cookies away, because I used 'Dinkelmehl' (Spelt flour) and the brown pieces which I had thought to be the actual spelt turned out to be... little insects. So ja. In the end my friends saw the cookies, and then they were quickly dumped in the trash. NOOOOOOO.