Monday, May 27, 2013

The Freiburg Sacristans!

Last Saturday, I went to go watch the Freiburg Sacristans play a home game. They are the local American football team. I really enjoyed watching the game, even though the Sacristans lost.

It was very interesting because the players were adults, but the whole vibe was more like a community youth team. There were no bleachers, and few spectators. When one of the players got injured, all the other players "took a knee" as we used to say until he was able to get up again, and everyone applauded as he limped off the field.

I took some photos, which unfortunately didn't come out quite as well as I had hoped they would, but here they are anyway!

There were two groups of cheerleaders, one called the Nuggets and one called Native Gold. To me, those both sound like types of potatoes. Then again, they were cheering for a football team called the Sacristans...

The backdrop of the game was the lovely forest. On the other hand, those threatening clouds did in fact start raining on us during halftime.

I tried to dress in Sacristan purple and gold. I really did. But once I put on my sweatshirt over the purple T-shirt, I somehow found myself wearing the burgundy and gold of the Redskins! Old habits die hard, it seems.

The final score. Ouch.

You might notice that that is a weird football score. I saw only one attempt to kick the extra point, and only a few punts. I think that both teams must have exclusively poor kickers--they always went for a two-point conversion (and usually failed) and almost always went for it on fourth down, even in the middle of the field. No one ever tried to kick a field goal. As a result, most of the scores were either 6 or 8 points.

I believe there are two home games left this season, and I hope to go to at least one more!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

May Bible Verse Photography Challenge

Ok, challenge number one seems to have been trying to do something with the formatting, which decided to throw a temper tantrum and then be unfixable. (What are the defaults on these posts?) I gave up and deleted the whole post and am now starting over. Here is the verse:

"And I commend enjoyment, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and enjoy himself, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of life which God gives him under the sun." Ecclesiastes 8:15

Here are my photos:

I was invited to participate in a wine tasting with a friend and his family. We tried eight wines. One sparkling wine, three whites, three reds, and a dessert wine. All were local. The winery is fun to tour because they are an experimental winery which is working on "shaping the wines of the future," as well as training new winzers and winesalesmen. They showed us their current experiments with a netting to protect the plants from hail and a different way to prune the vines. The last red they gave us was the best wine I've ever had in my life, but it cost 29E per bottle. So I didn't buy it.

In terms of photography, does anyone have a good website to recommend that will teach me how to make better use of my camera? I can use the presets (like "auto" and "fireworks") but I'm sure the camera is capable of doing more, since it lets me customize almost every setting. Is there a website tutorial that will teach me how to do this, or do I have to get a book?

Head over to Flowers Round The Cross to see the rest of the photos!

Friday, May 24, 2013

7 quick takes, volume 6

I think I am doing the numbers right. Based on the fact that every blog I read is on a different volume number, I'm assuming that the volume number is based on how many times I have participated. Which would be 6 now.

Today is one of those days where I realize how out of touch I am with the US. Basically all the blogs I read are American, and almost everybody has said something about military people and families in the last few days. There was also apparently a military-themed Google doodle (which of course I didn't see because stupid Chrome insists on redirecting me to, and then offering to translate the page into English). What a coincidence, I thought. Or maybe a soldier died overseas and I just missed it.

I finally figured it out, though. Where I am (historically Catholic state), Pentecost vacation is coming to an end. Where everyone else is (in heathen Protestant America), Memorial Day Weekend is starting. Hence the focus on the military.

I could never be an expat. And I'm just kidding about the heathen Protestant thing.

Theoretically I am writing a paper right now. I'm roughly halfway done with it. Luckily it's a first draft, because I am starting to get the feeling it's turning into a combination of three things: structural hot mess, grammatical nightmare, and a bunch of BS where content is concerned. I feel bad for the poor teacher who has to grade these papers.

The closer I get to time to go home, the more I worry about packing. I think I have accumulated a lot of stuff here that I want to bring home as souvenirs. On the other hand, since I brought so few clothes, the ones I brought are beginning to look rather the worse for wear, so maybe I can just throw a lot of them out before I go, freeing up some space for souvenirs. We shall see. I am open to the possibility that I will have to pay for an extra bag on the way back, although I am hoping to avoid it.

As these takes get more and more scattered, I can feel my blood sugar dropping. Forget about my lack of coherence in this post, and go read the other takes while I go eat some breakfast. Thanks!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pretty, happy, funny, real

I've never done this before! I almost never have enough photos that would work. However, today I do, so here we go! The idea, which was created by the lovely ladies at Like Mother, Like Daughter, is to post four (or more) photos, one each for each of the words pretty, happy, funny, and real.

It's finally getting warmer here. These flowering bushes are on the way to the streetcar, and they are so pretty! Anyone know what kind of flower this is?

I do know what this is--it's a gray heron. I took advantage of a few rain-less hours to do some birdwatching, and this is the first bird that Kevin and I saw! It stood there forever, so I could photograph it as well as identify it.

I mean, really, if you're going to graffiti a dorm, it *should* be in Latin. The highlighter wasn't a good choice, though. It's hard to read, and the transmission of your message is hindered.

This week, I have two reals:
I missed my brother's Confirmation because I was in Germany. So I made him a cake and celebrated anyway. Flourless chocolate cake, with strawberries to look like tongues of fire. It didn't occur to me until after it had already been decorated that a chocolate cake with white icing is maybe a bit more Lutheran of a metaphor than I was going for. Oh well.

My desk has the dubious honor of being my other {real}. Can you tell I'm trying to write a research paper? I did clean it up, but it already looks this bad again!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I have already done three of the things on my summer fun list! This is what I have done so far:

1. Read The Name of the Rose. (Spoiler-free review coming up!) I thought this book was fascinating, for sure. It was recommended to me by a dear friend who I have had many a philosophical and theological discussion with. The basic setup is a murder mystery set in a medieval monastery. The detective is a monk who is interested in the philosophy of Francis Bacon and reasons much like Sherlock Holmes. At times, the prose got very thick and I felt like I was wading rather than reading, but I did enjoy reading this book anyway. I don't think there are any characters I agreed with completely, but there are some very interesting threads of thought running through the book. The two threads I found most interesting were the questions about heresy and the question of whether books and knowledge should be restricted and/or censored.

9. Try gluten-free beer. I found gluten-free beer at the health food store across the street, so I thought I would try it. It wasn't amazing, but it wasn't terrible. I would say it tasted like a standard American beer. Or maybe the Americans I know don't drink the standard American beer. Anyway, it was not tooo expensive (1,19E for a bottle) and I will be keeping it in mind for things like cookouts where beer is far and away the most appropriate drink.

25. Go to the Augustiner Museum. This is an awesome museum if you like medieval local art. It had lots of stained-glass windows and statues that were taken out of the cathedral at some point.

I doubt I can keep this rate of completion up, but we will see! Every time I post one of these updates, I'll update the original list with the date I completed each thing.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Summer Fun List

Catholic Caitie Rose had a great idea: a summer fun list! I am going to borrow this idea and make my own list.
However, I am going to declare that summer starts now. Of course, it isn't summer, but I want this list to include things to do in Freiburg, and I only get about a month without classes this year anyway. So this is not so much a summer list as a list of things to do before senior year starts. I don't necessarily expect to complete this whole list, as that would require doing (roughly) 3.6 things a week, but we will see.

1. Read The Name of the Rose. Completed on May 20th, 2013.
2. Ride the Schauinslandbahn.
3. Ride the Sauschwaenzlebahn.
4. Do a wine tasting at one of the wine places one stop away from my house. Completed on May 22nd, 2013.
5. Spend several hours birdwatching in the woods near my house.
6. Spend several hours birdwatching at the Seepark, where ducks hang out. Completed on May 30th, 2013.
7. Run 10 miles at least once.
8. Finish a bottle of calcium pills. I have been so bad about taking those recently!
9. Try gluten-free beer. Completed on May 18th, 2013.
10. Have an American-style cookout with friends for the 4th of July.
11. Read Part II of the Jesus of Nazareth series, in German.
12. Finish reading Plato's Gorgias in Greek.
13. Get a grad school writing sample into at least first draft form.
14. Finish reading the Gospel of Matthew in Greek.
15. Go to Rome.
16. Get a rosary blessed by Pope Francis.
17. Visit the relics of my patron saint, in either Rome or France. (They were divided.)
18. Preferably both!
19. Organize all the pictures I took in Germany.
20. Post them all on Facebook.
21. Send a postcard to everyone I am supposed to send a postcard to this semester!
22. Fix my bicycle's loose handlebars.
23. Mail my sister the baby socks I made her.
24. Go hiking.
25. Go to the Augustiner Museum. Completed on May 21st, 2013.
26. Sew myself another piece of clothing.
27. Make some more jam.
28. Go to Ikea just to have lunch there.
29. Ride the Oldtimerlinie. Completed on June 1st, 2013.
30. Reread Plato's Republic.
31. Take a tour of the Cathedral.
32. Climb the Cathedral tower.
33. Get a haircut.
34. Do something about the sad pathetic state of my house plants. Completed on May 28th, 2013.
35. Save money towards an icon of my patron saint.
36. Go 24 hours without using my computer at all, for anything.
37. Make a scrapbook of my semester in Germany.
38. Pray all four sets of mysteries of the rosary at once. Completed on June 2nd, 2013.
39. Do a facebook friend purge.
40. Go to a Freiburg Sacristans game. Completed on May 25th, 2013.
41. Buy a gluten-free cookbook.
42. Go a week without using Facebook.
43. Figure out what to do with the condensed milk in my fridge that I bought by accident.
44. Clean out my backpack.
45. Fix the broken hook and eye on my skirt.
46. Make a loaf of gluten-free bread from scratch.
47. Come up with a budget for next semester that involves concrete numbers.
48. Take my little siblings fishing.
49. Get another turtle.
50. Buy a copy of the Bible in German.

Friday, May 17, 2013

7 quick takes

1. I finally got my picture to upload, by using Chrome. Have a heart, Firefox. I want to like you better, if only because you have my usernames and some of my passwords stored, but if you don't even work, that's not good for your continued usage. Anyway, here is the photo I was trying to upload:

2. I am not familiar with the products of this clothing store, but someone should have rethought this advertising campaign. When I walk past this store IN MAY in a coat, with an umbrella, wishing I had a scarf on, seeing this window just makes me want to break the window politely explain how this advertisement is insensitive to those of us in climately-challenged regions of Europe. Like, you know, all of Germany.

3. However, we are now past the feastday of "cold Sophie," so now it's safe to plant your crops because the ground is unlikely to freeze. Hear that? The ground probably won't freeze any more. IN MAY. Joy of joys, people.

4. Don't get me wrong, I like cold weather, but I like cold weather that comes in the form of snow and ice, not in the form of constant damp dripping. So, of course, the part of me that wants whatever weather I haven't got is planning a warmer vacation, namely...

5. Rome! I can buy a 5 day, three country Eurail pass for 234E. This will take me to Rome, back from Rome, to Berlin to visit my cousin, back from Berlin, and then to Duesseldorf at the end of the semester to fly home. Sounds pretty good to me! The catch (you knew there was one) is that all three trips have to be done inside of a month.

6. With that said, I think it's doable. I need to talk to my cousin in Berlin about coming to visit her, and talk to the friends who may well be traveling with me, but I think this is a plan worth pursuing, and I'm super excited! I've never been to Rome. I have a rosary JPII blessed that my grandparents gave me, and a rosary BXVI blessed that Kevin gave me, so now I need a rosary that Francis blessed too.

7. And last but not least, oh, how I wish Pope Francis had an abbreviation! Talking about JPII and BVXI makes me feel like I belong to some group of insiders who know the Vatican slang and sit around debating the relative merits of the OF and the EF, with references to VII and the GIRM, or NFP with references to TOB and HV. When talking about Pope Francis, I get no such sense. #catholicproblems?

Head over to Conversion Diary for the rest of the takes!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Photo issues?

I can't upload any pictures any more! If anyone knows what might be wrong, let me know. The pictures just refuse to load into the upload window.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

7 quick gluten-free takes

1. Here are seven tips for starting a trial to see if you are gluten intolerant. I wrote them for my sister, and thought I would share them publicly as well. Note that I wrote them with her in mind--so this is a list for people who suspect a gluten intolerance and want to run a test to see if they have one. I'm sure the process is different for people who start out with a diagnosis of celiac. I don't know how long the test process takes. I noticed results immediately and it was clear to me within two weeks that I wasn't going back.

2. For the first few weeks, the test weeks, stick entirely to things that are normally gluten-free and also normal foods. Don't buy gluten free bread, and don't buy xantham gum. Eat potatoes, rice, vegetables, nuts, and meat/dairy if you do those. Keep it simple or you will get overwhelmed. I promise you will spend those weeks noticing other people's food and realizing that if this fixes your problems you will never have X again. That is more than enough to worry about without mixing tapioca starch with rice flour in a special ratio.

3. Don't cheat at all, so you can be sure that you are getting accurate results. I don't worry right now about eating moderate amounts of things that "may contain traces of gluten" or of taking the occasional bite of a glutenous thing, but during my trial I definitely did. (If I do turn out to have celiac, I guess I will have to start worrying again.)

4. Google is your friend. If you can't (or don't want to) read all the ingredients of something you already have, google "is X gluten free." I have never failed to get an answer about a product that is sold in the US this way. (Off-brands from German Aldi often remain mysterious.)

5. Keep track of your calories. I lost six pounds in six weeks by accident. I did track calories for a while, but when I came up continually short, I assumed that I just needed fewer calories. I traveled all the way across town to access the only scale I know the location of after I noticed all my clothes were too big and I had lost over an inch from my waist.

6. With that said, don't let the calorie website bully you. I assume that when eating gluten-free, I will be eating fewer carbs and more fat. I don't worry about that, because most of the fat is from healthy things like nuts and olive oil. However, the website I use wants me to eat what I consider a ridiculously low amount of sugar. I can't eat fruit and stay under the sugar goal. One banana and one apple put me way over. I think this is crazy. I only use the calorie part to check that I am eating enough.

7. Expect that your friends will continually offer you food you can't eat and will constantly forget that you don't eat gluten or what things have gluten in them. Recently, a friend invited me over for pasta, followed by fried dough! (This is a situation where it might be good to buy something like pre-made gluten free noodles, because then you can just cook them in a different pot and share the same sauce.)

(Bonus 8th take: I have some good gluten free recipes, if people besides Teresa are interested I can put their links in a post instead of an email.)

Head over to Conversion Diary to see other quick takes!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Why I stopped reading body-positive websites

As someone who loves to sew, I find myself falling into the world of fashion at times. I don't usually read things that are about designers specifically or anything like that, but one non-sewing related area I used to find myself reading was websites about positive self image and loving the body you've got.

Some of these blogs I then started reading more regularly. They were written by intelligent and funny women (always women). Then I realized that they were doing more harm than good, and perpetuating the lies of our culture. These women, clearly all well-intentioned, were accepting the framework society gives them and trying to feel good, and help others feel good, inside of the framework.

As a Catholic and an Aristotelian/Thomist, though, I think this framework is based on a lie.

First, while trying to talk about beauty, they strip the word of all meaning. Beauty is a wonderful thing, and a necessary thing, but it comes in so many more shapes and sizes than what our culture tells us. Body image blogs try to step outside this framework by saying that everyone is beautiful, but that's a mistake too. First of all, saying that everyone is beautiful is like saying that everyone is smart. You water down the original word until it doesn't mean anything any more, so it can be applied to everyone. But those are words that are used to pick out things that are more special than the others. If we all looked like supermodels, we would find another criterion to use to call people beautiful. Being beautiful can, and should, be used to refer to more than just blond-haired blue-eyed bathing beauties, but if we expand it so everything and anything is beautiful, it loses all meaning. Which brings me to my second point.

It doesn't matter if we're beautiful. Our value does not come from our beauty--our beauty comes from our value. Of course, all other things being equal, being more beautiful is better, because it is one step closer to perfection, but there are other, more important ways, to improve yourself. Would you rather spend time with someone who spent their days getting waxed, trimmed, shaven, colored, dyed, and primped, or someone who spent their days reading or helping others? Me too. Of course there's nothing wrong with using some tools to make yourself more beautiful, but moderation is lacking in so much of it these days. I read the comment thread to a blog giveaway where to enter to win a gift card, you had to complete the sentence "I feel most confident when..." Almost all the entrants were woman, and almost all the entries talked about clothes, hair, or shoes. This is a pretty sad state of affairs, people, and I think this overemphasis on beauty is to blame. We need to focus more on inherent human dignity and less on beauty. Because really, some people aren't beautiful. They don't need to hear "Oh, if you buy all this stuff and spend four hours a day, covering up what you really look like, then you will be beautiful." They don't need to hear, "You're beautiful the way you are" because they know that that is based on a redefinition of beautiful and does not mean what it means for other people. What they need to hear is love for them as a person, not for them as a body which could be attractive if it were stuffed full of silicones and painted over with chemicals.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I am convinced that the phrase "love your body" itself is harmful. It encourages a Cartesian mindset where you are not your body, and your body is not you. This is a trap I find myself falling into all the time: My body prevents me from running more than ten miles a week. My body prevents me from eating noodles. My body hates me. And I hate it. But this is all wrong, and this, I am convinced, is why we have such a body image problem. You are your soul AND your body. Your body is a part of you. Life is full of enough necessary divisions and distinctions. Why let society and bad philosophy divide us in two, and turn us against our very selves?

At this point, I am often challenged by someone to give my own fix, then, if I know so much about it. So I will.

Stop worrying about it.

Be healthy, because that is part of basic self-care. I'm not giving you license to eat whatever you want and never exercise. Be sensible and healthy, but just stop worrying about how your body measures up, either to others or to some societal standard. It really doesn't matter, because this is the body you were born in, and this is the only one you get. It can do what it can do, it looks like what it looks like, and that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Stop worrying. There are more important things to worry about.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Readjusting thinking

So I spent the last week rather frustrated, because I feel like this semester is a bit of an academic waste. Two of my four classes have almost zero work involved, and the other two are not super challenging either, although I have high hopes that that will change. I was getting cranky about this, and wondering if it was a bad decision to come to Germany.

Then I had a conversation with my father, who managed to cheer me up and give me a new way to think about this semester. He said that I should look at this semester as an opportunity to learn a lot about something I want to learn about. Rather than being frustrated that I'm not learning a huge amount in class, I can use my extra free time to learn a lot outside of class!

Since hearing that, I have been so much more cheerful. It makes perfect sense, and yet I never thought of it! I don't want to spread myself out too thin, so I picked two goals for this semester, besides the inevitable improvement of my German skills. Here is what the goals are:

Work on my Greek. A lot. And hopefully improve it substantially. I have been reading the New Testament with Kevin, but I am also going to get a copy of the Gorgias and read that, since I'm taking a grad class on it next semester.

Get my writing sample for grad school in order. I need to pick a paper I already wrote and lengthen, expand, and polish it. I hope I won't need to write a whole new one.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life!