Coming home

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. You can read more about it on San’s blog the in between is mine. #nablopomo2022

The yellow house

Whenever I go up to the steps of our front door I feel happiness. For one: we have a red front door now (it was red before but it was more of a brownish red, now it is a red red) and red doors make me happy. Our house is yellow now and yellow houses always make me smile – yellow houses feel like sunshine.

I feel so fortunate that this yellow house is ours. I still remember how stressful the whole house buying process was. It’s crazy in the whole Bay Area, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Berkeley, you name it. When I stepped in the front door I just knew that this was it and it was perfect (at least to me). It was an off market sale and in our price range and everything fell into place. Sometimes you just have to be lucky. Before we moved in I chatted with the previous owners and the woman said she felt the same way – maybe that’s just how some houses are?

This yellow house is home now. I love the neighborhood that we walked for many hours during the pandemic. I can ask our neighbors to get the mail and water my garden when we are gone. Even when visiting my family in Germany now, I don’t mind leaving anymore because I am coming home to the yellow house.

There is this German word that I did not find a good translation for: Heimat. If you look it up it comes up as home country or home town or just plain home. But in German it means more than that. It’s a place of belonging, a place where you put down roots. It’s an emotion as much as a word to me. I am glad to say that now it finally feels like my Heimat is in both places.

When I came up with the blog title it was more or of a wishful thinking but now it feels real. I guess that also means I need to come up with a new subtitle since I think I know where I belong – it’s with family here and there, both places home.

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The hat is back

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. #nablopomo2022

The hat is back

At the beginning there was a post about a hat and I commented that I lost my favorite hat but that it eventually would show up again. And it did! I knew it had to be somewhere. I found it in between my daughter’s hats when I was looking for something else. The pattern was the Milanese Lace Topper. I used it before but the 2nd time around I actually blocked it and guess what? The rim does not roll up. Oh the revelation.

I am a friend of shortcuts, and sometimes they do work, sometimes they don’t. Beginning to actually block my knits definitely improved the outcome (no real surprise there). Also ironing like crazy when sewing something is another thing that I tried to skip in the past – not so much anymore. Sometimes people who know are actually right 😉

The hat was made with Malabrigo Yarn Rios and was a leftover from my Foxtrot Cardigan, another project I am very proud of, because it turned out how I imagined it would.

I do love knitting. Somehow I feel better if I can do something with my hands. It makes TV watching feel productive or sitting through a class. I still remember my history teacher in high school being mad at me because I was knitting a sweater in his class (he actually threw his keys at me missing on purpose). I had good grades though and was paying attention after all and used wood needles (which was quiet) so he gave in in  the end. I actually fell like I can concentrate better.

As I am finishing up this post I am getting back to my latest project, the Aliso Creek Top. I so hope it turns out.

Tell me, do you have a favorite hobby? Are you currently working on anything?

Taking a walk on campus – the Campanile

The campanile on a rainy day

When the kids had their engineering class on the UC Berkeley campus this weekend, I had another little walk. It was raining in the morning, so it was quiet and beside s a couple of walking tour groups there were almost no people around.

The one building you almost see from any corner of campus is the Campanile or Sather Tower. It was completed in 1914 and is the third-tallest bell-and-clock-tower in the world what I find impressive. It has a carillon at the top made up of 61 bells. I had to look up what a carillon is and Wikipedia describes it as pitched percussion instrument. You can see how the one in Berkeley is played if you get up the tower in time for the daily concert. The observation platform you can access through an elevator is at the same level as the keyboard that plays the bells (which sits inside a glass box). On our first trip to Berkeley, we stayed in a hotel close to campus and I still remember hearing the bells each morning what was really lovely.  As far as I know there is a special class and most of the players are students at Berkeley. One of the undergrad students who worked in our lab was one of them and he told me that there is an identical keyboard on the lower floors to practice with headphones (what is probably a good thing because I imagine it sounds awful when you don’t get it right). You can hear the daily concerts even in my corner of campus (what probably means you can hear it anywhere on campus). The viewing platform also gives you an incredible view of the bay including San Francisco. It’s worth it in my opinion and almost all visitors we had so far were taken there. It’s nice that for university employees and students the ride up to the top is free.

What is one thing you usually do around where you live if you want to take someone sighseeing?

Fun fact: since 2017 there is a pair of peregrine falcons nesting at the campanile. They have their own website and if they hatch their eggs again next year it might be fun to watch since there is a webcam.

Worded out

Rainy day joy

It was raining, so I just took a step back and took out the watercolors – just for me. I needed a little relaxing after my son’s German homework (we are both taking a break now). Sometimes staying calm through all the complaining and arguing is so exhausting, but I did it and he even finished the story he had to write (he hates writing even in English with all his heart). I am going to be back with more words and comments but am all worded out for today.

Weekend plans – November edition

I am so glad it’s the weekend. The week always goes by in a blur and on Saturday I feel like I can take a moment and finally breath. I am trying not to schedule anything on Saturdays since it’s mostly my catch-up day – catch up on house cleaning, grocery shopping, phone calls with the family in Germany, garden clean ups, laundry, you get the idea. And my plant babies are taken care of, too. Until we bought our house in 2018 I never got plants. Somehow, I was always hoping we would move back to Germany rather sooner than later and it was more thing to give away if we would. Leading up to the house purchase we had some serious conversations about the plans for our future and where that would be and well, ended up buying the house. That settled it (at least for now) and I started getting plants. I never had a green thumb but now most of them are thriving (and multiplying). They seem to like the weekly attention even though I don’t do anything special. Maybe I should not write this down not to jinx it? I can be a little superstitious sometimes.

Some of my plant babies

Actually, I take it back that I never make plans on Saturday. Today I signed the kids up for an engineering class where they get to make a prosthetic hand out of cardboard and straws. It’s run by UC Berkeley students, and I hope they have fun. It’s not enough time to go home and come back so my plan is to sit somewhere in a café while I wait for them. Maybe read a little (I am inspired after reading all the book posts yesterday)? Or take a walk on campus? Berkeley has a beautiful campus. I will show you sometime.

UC Berkeley

And then next Saturday I am organizing a little early birthday gathering for my daughter with a couple of her friends. So there it goes, no Saturday off for me. But with Thanksgiving coming up and a week long school break it’s a special month.

The other plan for this weekend was to get family pictures taken. Usually, I have the kids pictures taken each year but I thought it would be nice to have the whole family for once. We do have family pictures here and there but it’s hard to catch a good one. And I so want a good one with all of us looking our best. We will see if it happens this weekend as there is rain in the forecast. It already got moved to Sunday instead of today. Do you ever have a professional take you family photos? It’s the first time we do it.

Last view of the bats for the year

I also should take down the bats in our big front window and finally finish the t-shirt that I already cut out and that is waiting to be put together. Last weekend the dining room table was still filled with Halloween costume and art supplies but those are gone for now so there is space for a new mess. For us those things always happen at the dining room table. We have a little breakfast nook next to the kitchen that we use for our meals so no need to clean up every time.

And I want to read some more of the blogs I discovered this week through NaBloPoMo. The list got a little longer and you can find all participating blogs on San’s side the in between is mine who got everyone organized. Thank you for that again! I am glad I decided to go for it even it is overwhelming at times. It’s starting to become a little bit of a fun routine but I have a whole new appreciation for people who do this on a regular basis.

What are your plans for the weekend? Are you as excited about it as I?

Wandering the city

Bridge view from Cragmont Rock Park

The title is maybe a little misleading. When you look at the population (~117,000 in 2021) it sounds big but there are some parts that don’t feel like it at all.

I work at UC Berkeley and parking around campus is painful. The days I do take the car to work (because I need to pick up my son from school or aftercare right after work or because I have a doctor’s appointment or need to do grocery shopping or…) I park in a free parking zone where I can leave the car for the day. That leaves me with a 30 minute walk each way if I don’t want to take the bus what is totally fine with me. I always try to exercise more but most days lately seem not to have enough hours to make it to the gym or to go for a run. This is my little trick to get at least some more steps in. On days when I have some extra minutes, I may take a little detour and explore. Berkeley has some really nice areas especially up in the hills. Leading up to our house getting painted I was wandering around taking pictures of houses I liked, and I still do that sometimes always having the next house project in mind. Berkeley’s hillside is dotted with secret staircases that still surprise me. Just google it and you will see.

Yesterday was a beautiful morning and I decided to visit one of the rock parks to enjoy the view for a moment. I meant to walk to Grotto Rock Park but ended up at Cragmont Rock Park instead. They looked close enough on the map and I guess I did not really pay to close attention. I am so glad I didn’t though. Cragmont is a little higher up, so the way ended up longer than anticipated. It was a new to me park and the views were amazing. The pictures don’t really do them justice but maybe you get the idea? It was such a clear morning. During the day the view hazes over and in the evening we sometimes get the fog so this was perfect. We had the first real rain of the season on Tuesday and Wednesday (hopefully many more to come, we need it) and that means clear skies on the following days. I said for a long time California does not have a real fall, but that is not true. It’s just different. We even turned the heat on the other day and the evening light in the fall is just magic. Do you like fall or do you prefer another season?

I ended up getting to work later than planned but it was so worth it.

Lost in translation

In the clouds

I still do a double take when I hear the phrase “Talk to you soon”. It really confused me quite a bit when I first moved to the US because sometimes, I would not talk to that person again for a week or even longer! It took me not too long to realize that it is just a way to end a conversation and does not necessarily implicate the plan to actually talk soon – it may happen, or it may not. Also confusing was the friendly “Hello, how are you?” when entering a store. I never knew how to reply to that and always felt awkward. Now I know that in those cases it’s just a form of greeting and it’s completely ok to just reply “Good” (even if that is not really the case).

I knew English from taking it in school for eight years before moving to the US. Coming here though took my understanding (or not understanding) to a whole new level. And I did not understand quite a bit – everyone was talking so fast and not everyone learned the same English I learned in school (I was convinced of that). The absolute highlight was when I was finally able to turn the subtitles on the TV off. Now I can hardly believe that was ever necessary. But it did prove the point that you need to use a language to become good at it. Maybe some people don’t need that but I certainly do.

Sometimes I still feel like some things are lost in translation and there may be certain nuances that I don’t catch. I am afraid that happens in both languages these days. After 17 years in the US my German is still ok (and I am happy to report my friends in Germany are still surprised when I talk without an American accent) but using it almost the whole day (except at home) sometimes the English word comes faster than the German one. This still happens the other way around, too. My husband is German as well and we speak it at home with each other and the kids, but we developed our own little Germanglish vocabulary what is kind of fun (even though I sometimes forget that it’s a made-up word and my German and/or American friends look at me confused).

Explaining something at work comes more natural in English for sure. From every once in a while we will have a German student in the lab but when I try to explain an experiment to them I always switch to English.

I am sorry to report I still have my German accent and mispronounce a word here and there to the amusement of my kids. I think I am one of those people who always will. But that’s ok. Living in the Bay Area and working at a university it does not really stick out that much as it is a very international crowd in general.

I was a little worried when the kids started school that they would have a hard time with English since we were speaking German at home and at least my daughter did not know much English at first since her preschool was in Japanese. I am happy to report they are doing just fine. It actually requires way more effort to keep up their German over time.

Have you learned another language in school, and did you get to use it at some point? Maybe on vacation or an extended stay in another country?

Where I am from

Winter sun in Wietzen

Since I have not written in long time, I thought I start from the beginning. You probably already know that I am originally from Germany. I grew up in a very small town (when I was born it just had shy of 2300 inhabitants) called Wietzen in Lower Saxony.

It has:

  • a church that goes back to the 12th century
  • a preschool (I think by now it has two) where I went to for one year from ~9am till lunchtime
  • an elementary school I went to
  • a small museum that looks at life how it used to be run by volunteers (my dad being one of them)
  • a cemetery that I visit each time I am there to say hi to my mom and my grandparents
  • a swimming pool where I used to spend my summers
  • a gym that is part of the school where also different clubs run programs (when I was little there was gymnastics, soccer, handball, judo, table tennis and jui-jutsu if I remember correctly)
  • a soccer field and tennis courts (the tennis courts came later though)
  • a fire station that is also run by volunteers
  • a grocery store
  • it used to have a bakery separate from the grocery store where we could get rolls fresh from the oven before getting on the bus to the upper schools, but that is closed now

When I finished school, I moved to Hanover for my education but still came back almost every weekend to spend time with my family and friends. I even moved to the next small town over for a brief time but just could not stomach the commute (taking the train to Hanover at 6am in the morning was something I never got used to). The visits became less frequent but every holiday and birthday I would be back. Since we moved to California I still visit every year because I love my family and dearly miss them and because I want my kids to know their relatives. It’s always going to be part of me no matter what. Would I move back? Likely not. Most of my friends moved to other parts of the country including my siblings so when we go back we spend some time in Wietzen but also elsewhere. It really bugs me that you need a car living there (well, I do need a car where we live now for certain things but if I tried hard, I could manage without). I like the idea of country life more then the reality of it. Also, I would always need to go to work in the next bigger city what would be Hanover or Bremen there and it would involve at least an hour of commute each way – too long for my taste and I tried that before. I work in research and I love that kind of work. That also means either biotech companies or a University. Not that we have currently any plans to move back.

It does have a couple of other things, too, but it’s a pretty small town and mostly everyone knows everyone. I spend a lot of time with the youth program from the church growing up (I am not part of any church anymore now, but that is a different story) and I had a lot of fun during that time. My grandparents from my dad’s side lived with us and we had a big garden with apple and plum trees. I still remember harvesting potatoes, strawberries, currants, beans, peas and all kinds of other veggies and fruits and watching (and sometimes helping) my grandma and mom making jams and canning. There are two huge oak trees in front of the house. The leaves in the fall are still driving my dad crazy but we loved collecting the acorns and doing craft projects with them. When I was little there were two houses in our street and the street was still paved with bricks instead of smooth. It made for a painful experience learning how to bike and roller skate, but we did it anyway with pleasure. We spend our early years roaming the town and the garden with the neighborhood kids. Sounds idyllic, right? And looking back it really was. I still sometimes get asked by friends of my dad’s, when we are moving back. We likely never will.

Fun fact: the distance from my hometown in a straight line is 5530.14 miles or 8899.90 kilometers.

What about you? Do you live close to where you grew up or would you move back given the chance?

NaBloPoMo here we go

Bye, bye October…

November is here and its National Block Posting Month (short: NaBloPoMo). This means 30 posts and 30 days and I have been going back and forth if I should give it a try. I came across it again through San and her blog ‘the in between is mine‘. She wrote about the history behind it on her blog post today so go check it out if you want to know more. Or even give it a try yourself?

To be honest, I am a little scared. I love the idea of writing a blog. When it comes to pulling through though and posting with consistency I fail. Same is true for writing letters these days or longer e-mails or keeping a diary. There never seems to be enough time in the day and if you are putting it out there in the world, I feel the pressure of making it meaningful.

When I was in school (so many years ago now – sigh), I really loved writing. I spend hours writing long letters to my friends. I even had a book with my best friend that we passed back and forth writing down what happened in our day when we started going to different schools. Was that interesting to anyone other than ourselves? Likely not, but at least I had a lot of fun doing it and it gave me some peace of mind putting words down on paper. Maybe this trying to post something every day will not give me peace of mind again but hopefully give me back a little of the joy of putting things down on paper (or the screen in this case).

If you are joining in what is your motivation? What does it mean to you writing a blog?

New year, new plans

This blog has been dormant for the last years. There was a lot going on and there were to many words in my head and I just did not get them organized. I don’t really want to explain right now and just start over (nothing bad, just busy life).

One thing I want to do more this year is read. I started out posting the books I read on my Instagram account but thought it would be nice to write up a short summary here. Just to be clear: no New Year’s resolution but just trying. No pressure please. Especially not right now, right?

One book I just finished is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It was one of the books I turned over at the book store a couple of times and then got it as a Christmas present from a friend. I am glad I did!
At the beginning the actor Arthur Leander suffers a heart attack onstage and dies. From there it moves quickly into the beginning of a flu pandemic that wipes out most of the population and ends civilization as we know it. This sounds way more dramatic than it really is in the book. 20 years later Kirsten Raymonde, who played in Leander’s last production as a little girl, travels with a group of actors and musicians from settlements to settlement and performs Shakespeare and music to its inhabitants. The book jumps back and forth in time between the after and the life of Arthur Leander and the people in it. Throughout the story it becomes clear that the characters are interconnected, sometimes in surprising ways. Reading about the end of the life as we know it in normal times can be a little disturbing and it made me uneasy in stretches because of our own ongoing pandemic. In the end though the pandemic in the book is not the main storyline but just the backdrop to some of the people we come across in. Yes, it talks about how life changed through the pandemic but also about how people cope (or not) and it felt oddly “normal” if that makes any sense. I really enjoyed it. Maybe you will, too? If you already read it, what did you think?