Tummy Thursday: It’s Pokémon Birthday Cake Time

The kid’s birthday was already at the start of the month, but of course with my body being an asshole again I couldn’t make a cake for her actual party. Thank goodness teenagers mostly require insane amounts of food and not attention, so she could have her friends over for a small party.

Last weekend we celebrated with our friends and she got her cake for that day. She went for her favourite Eevilution, Leafeon.

©Giliell, all rights reserved      The eyes are not my best work.

©Giliell, all rights reserved Yes, that’s a ton of individually cut and applied grass blades

The inside of the cake is a standard vanilla cake with a cream cheese and cream filling. The filling was really easy and tasty: I used a packet of lemon flavour jello to mix with the cheese and the whipped cream, added some lime zest and cut canned peaches. The only problem that I had was cooling it down quickly enough for the jello to work so it wouldn’t run all out on me. I then covered the whole thing in a thin layer of buttercream before adding the fondant.

Because a German buttercream (butter with custard) has too much liquid for fondant and an Italian meringue buttercream (my usual go to buttercream) was too much work for the state of my recovery, I made an American buttercream. I usually consider American buttercream the symbol of everything that is wrong with American cake making: It’s just butter and sugar, too heavy and too sweet. I love watching cake videos, but quite often the American ones leave me a bit puzzled: Yes, this looks amazing, but all you have in there is cake and buttercream. Where’s the flavour? Do Americans really spend 200 bucks on a cake that looks great but doesn’t taste of anything but butter and sugar? Please do tell me.

It did work well here, btw, because it was only a small layer to get the surfaces even and it contrasted nicely with the tart lemony filling.

Goldfinches Come for a Visit

This year I planted some cornflowers that grew in front of the window. They were planned as degu treats, but with one thing and another, I didn’t get around to harvesting and drying them. They do look pretty sad to human eyes now, but they look damn delicious to the goldfinches. I rarely get to see them, so I was all the more surprised to find them within 30 cm of my nose, happily munching the seeds.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved This one’s grainy because I took it with my phone

The USA are burning, Germany is drowning

Well, how to write this post? First and foremost: I’m fine, in case anybody was worried, I thankfully live about 100 to 300km away from where this is happening. I don’t know about or other German regulars. If you see this, please check in.

Maybe you heard it on the news, but the Southwest of Germany is currently experiencing extreme flooding. So extreme that even the climate scientists who expected something like this to happen are shocked by its scale. The effects are dramatic. There are over 100 confirmed deaths so far, with thousands still being unaccounted for, though authorities are hoping that they’ve been merely cut off.

The worst happened in two states: Rhineland Palatine and Northrhine Westphalia. In Rhineland Palatine the river Ahr, usually a small meandering river that runs between vinyards, has swollen dramatically. The catastrophe there isn’t a result of sealing large parts of the ground or straightening the river. That region is usually one of those brother Grimm fairy tale landscapes: middle high mountains with wine on the slopes, forests ion the heights, a castle at the top, and a nice medieval town in the valley. After weeks and weeks of heavy rain, the ground was soaked and couldn’t take any water anymore. It all rushed down into the Ahr. And now there are places that basically no longer extist.

Description: muddy brown water with half a bridge. The other half has been destroyed .

Description: Pictures of the town Dernau. You can see the muddy brown water in the whole town.

In Northrhine Westphalia it was flooded dams that could no longer hold the water. They tried to prevent the worst by causing smaller floods beforehand, but no avail. The Wupper, usually a small river, flooded town and completely destroyed neighbourhoods.

Description: cars buried to the windshield in rubble and water

I’ll spare you my thoughts on our politicians, climate change and so on. I’m preaching to the choir anyway.

Most Boring Game of “Find That Lizard”

In case you don’t already know, “Find that lizard” is a fun game Dr. Earyn McGee is hosting on Twitter, where you get a photo of a yard or something with a lizard hidden somewhere, often showing how well these creatures blend with their environment. Well, my own lizards are lazy, which is why I got to take this shot:

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As you can see, the little fellow lost its tail and is currently regrowing it. You sure deserve a break, buddy!

Have some Flowers

While we took a look at the cultivated garden yesterday, today it’s time to look at the wilder side with some flowers.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

These poppies are just amazing. Too bad the rain ruined them all.

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Here’s some simpler ones.

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Last year I threw some cheap flower seeds on one area. They turned put top be white mustard, which bloomed last year, and alfalfa, which is growing like mad this year. The bees love it, the degus love it, I’ll let it flower so it can seed next year’s crop as well.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved

And a colourful beetle. It was somewhat shy and I only had the mobile, so the pic isn’t great.

Garden Update: The Big Growing

The heavy rains with nice temperatures basically made the garden explode.

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What I thought was squash were actually the two courgette seeds I had planted. Turns out they are more resistant to frost. We’ll, have a lot of them over summer…

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One of the three sisters beds with the monster squash/pumpkin/whatever. I bought a small, withering plant for cheap and gave it soil and water and it is a very grateful plant.

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I planted two different breeds of corn and it’s very noticeable.

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Look at my tomatoes! By now I have to put in multiple sticks to support the whole plant. The first fruit are visible and they made it through both storm and rain alike.

 

Salads are bad for your health

At least if you manage to cut your finger half off.

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Last night we wanted to make salad for dinner, cutting up a lettuce and tons of veggies and somewhere in this process I cut myself badly. The most likely culprit is the avocado, since they often lead to bad cuts, and the fact that I wasn’t using my usual knife, but acting like I did. Honestly, I can’t tell. The family says the avocado was still on the cutting board. Mr drove me to the hospital, almost threw a temper tantrum because he was not allowed to stay with me due to Covid restrictions, and picked me up again later. A nice doc sewed me up with three stitches and gave me dire warnings about not letting it get infected because though I thankfully missed the sinew, I was close to it.

Well, so much about finally having put up the pool. No swimming for me for the next week at least.

Tummy Thursday: Making Saitan

I think I mentioned before that I’ve reduced our meat consumption drastically over the last year or so. I’m not trying to become vegan or vegetarian (and no, I don’t want to hear why I should or how I should. This is not your post. Go somewhere else), but I think that meat should be a special treat.This is also possible since meat replacements have become so good that the family will eat them, when a few years ago they still tasted like underseasoned cardboard. One problem remains, though, and that is that many alternatives are based on soy and I’m allergic to soy. But I can totally eat gluten, so I tried making saitan.

You can just buy gluten by the pound, but you can also make saitan from scratch. add one part water to two parts flour and knead for 5 minutes. Let it rest for 30 minutes and then wash out the starch, This is messy and will lose you most of your mass. There are apparently people who then try to recover the starch from the washwater but not me.

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This is the gluten left from 2 kgs of flour and yes, it looks like a pig’s stomach used for wrapping roasts. At this point you can add seasoning and some salt and then you have to cook it. It can be baked or steamed, but I like to cook it in a mason jar with spices in a salty brine.

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Each jar contains about 500 ml in total, so you see that it’s not much, but one is also a good size serving for us. It needs to cool completely to get to the meat like consistency. This time I made pinchos. They were nice, I just used a little too much salt.

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It is pretty neutral in taste, which is why it’s often compared to chicken, so you can season it to your heart’s desire. Enjoy your meal.

Teacher’s Corner: Can I Go to the Toilet, Please?

Periodically I come across post and articles on social media where schools have punished kids for going to the toilet, especially girls on their period. And while in all the cases I came across outrage is more than warranted, there are always people who think that all rules about bathroom visits are bad, and surely, if you look at it from the outside, this seems reasonable. After al, we all have to pee and we rightfully class it as a human rights abuse if people are denied sanitary breaks. So why do schools still need at least some rules?

The first and major issue is safety. When you send your kids to school, you expect them to be safe there. You would object if we let strangers into the school yard and talk to your kids, or let them just run out into traffic. That’s why some of us always spend our breaks in the school yard, supervising breaks. If a kid leaves during lessons, we cannot guarantee safety. I once posted about a kid who went to the toilet and came back with dog shit on his shoes. That kid had definitely left the school premises. And even a simple accident could go unnoticed for quite a while. If there’s something all teachers dread it’s a kid getting hurt and then you having to justify yourself as to why this could happen on your watch.

The second one is that it simply disrupts class. Even very quiet systems where kids just get up, pick up the “toilet pass” and leave, create noise and disturbances. Doors are opened and closed. the kid misses part of the lesson and then comes back and needs to ask others or can no longer follow your explanation because they missed the start.

Number three is linked with number one: vandalism. It’s not unusual that toilets get damaged, walls get smeared, stalls get flooded, it’s a huge mess, somebody has to clean it, somebody has to pay, and the culprit is never found. Everybody suffers. Including the idiot who damaged the toilets.

In the end, it’s also not unreasonable to ask kids above primary school to use the breaks. Exceptions can and will always be made (nobody here will ever deny a bathroom break. But if it happens too often we’ll ask your parents to take you to a doctor), but in the end, 45 minutes is not that long a time. They manage to play video games 4 hours straight, travel for an hour or more, and of course they can hold it for an entire lesson plus the entire break, just to ask you the very moment you start teaching.

 

Why Grow up When you Can Be an Axolotl Instead?

Axolotls aren’t just every cool animals, they are also extremely cute, so when the author Seanan McGuire posted the current project of a Patreon creator whose monthly pattern was an axolotl, I couldn’t resist. Also, 7,50 each month for a sewing pattern including machine embroidery files is dirt cheap. I know I’ve paid three times that money for some. I also like the idea of having a new small project every month. So please meet Seanan, named after the lady whose fault it is.

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©Giliell, all rights reserved Bulbasaur approves!

I’ll have to make a second one for my sister, but not in black, because tracing a pattern on black minky is a job for people who murdered mother and father. If your sewing fingers are itching, give NazFX Studios a try.

Teacher’s Corner: And suddenly you’re dealing with sexual child abuse

Very obvious, very big CN for this post, but no graphic descriptions

A long, long time ago, I decided to study two foreign languages in order to become a teacher and teach those languages to children. And I learned how to structure a lesson and got graded on how well I worded my questions and I almost got failed and nothing in that whole time prepared me for the reality of school. No lesson ever mentioned “and then there might be the day you accidentally discover that there might be a video of a former student being sexually abused that is making the rounds amongst year 7”. And of course nobody told me what to do. Or how to deal with it myself, especially when the supposed victim and the kids passing it around are the same age as your daughter.

What happened? Well, a girl in grade 7 complained that the boys were spreading a rumour about there being a sex video of her, so we talked to the boys, who then said “oh no, we don’t know anything about a sex video of her, we only know the video of K”, which was the point when the week collapsed to a single point. K is a former pupil. She was originally from Hungary, lived with her mum in Germany in very difficult circumstances, and then went back to Hungary with her dad in a rushed move which left all of us powerless and with a very bad feeling, but she kept in contact with a few of the girls. And apparently she’d kept sending one of them increasingly sexualised content. From dick pics grown men had sent her via social media, to a video that she claimed showed her having sex with an adult man. Which then got passed around…

At this point I needed to update my ideas about “child pornography”. Because when you hear the term, what you think of are men raping young children and then passing those videos around. What you don’t think of is teenagers filming their own sexual activities and then passing the video around to other teenagers, all still under the earliest age of consent. And you just. don’t. know. what. to. do.

We do have a “crisis team” and I’m a member of it, so this was our first “test” as a team and damn, it was a hard one. One thing was that we were very unsure about what we had to do, and what we mustn’t do. Basically we were left with the feeling that we were with one foot in jail in all directions. That we were liable for doing things, but also for not doing things. The rules about mandatory reporting in Germany are difficult and essentially for teachers they are “it depends”, which leaves you exactly as clueless as before, especially since the stupid guidelines from 2020(!) don’t cover anything about internet and social media.

What kind of “saved our necks” was the fact that the kids passing around the video are under 14 as well. That makes them children who are victims of sexual abuse as well (because showing pornographic material to children is sexual abuse), and talking to the kids, you could see how some of them were harmed by something they didn’t want to see, they didn’t consent to, they knew was wrong. The police watched the video, saved it on their devices and removed it from the phones, thus covering the legal aspects.

We are still left with the social aspects. How to deal with the kids who watched it, who sent it. How to prevent such things in the future. How to deal with the parents and how to get help. The police say the face of the girl/woman in the video wasn’t clearly visible, thus they can neither verify nor rule out that is was our former student. They also say it wasn’t a girl under 14, they have experts who can tell that. Yes, I’m just as confused about these statements in combination as you are. We still informed social services who can possibly get a track on her in Hungary, because whatever the matter with the video, that kid is in danger of sexual abuse/being sexually abused. I think it entirely possible that this was her way of calling for help. We also informed the school psychologist and will contact organisations that can help us doing workshops etc. to prevent such things from happening in the future.

What left me pretty shocked and clueless was the reaction of the parents. We had to call 4 parents to inform them about what had happened, about the fact that the police was involved and what was happening / going to happen. Out of those 4, exactly one reacted the way you would expect, with shock and worry about their own child. One was: “OK, never mind, actually I wanted to talk with you about whether my kid can go to the advanced courses” (no, the kid can’t, the kid is getting regular Fs for refusing to work). The other one was: “I really don’t agree with her not having her mobile. She needs to have her mobile, when is she getting her mobile back???” (this is why we sealed the mobiles in envelopes and handed them to the police without touching them. Sadly the police returned the mobile the same day). The third one laughed about the whole story. Were there any legal consequences? No? Oh, and which kids had sent the video to their kid? (No, we don’t give out names of other kids and this is why). It also shows one of the big problems we’re having: school is supposed to deal with issues we have no control over. Apparently it was our fault that we didn’t know what was going on, but of course we’re also not supposed to touch the children’s mobiles (and no, I don’t want to touch them anyway) because that’s private? I mean, how about the parents taking some responsibility for their children’s social media activities?

I just hope you had a better week, I could do with a refund on this one…

What HAVE you been doing: an update

First of all, a profound sorry for being such a bad blog host recently. During the week I mostly just crash after coming home and then I put in some hours for chores and lesson planning and then I watch some senseless TV and then I crash again.

I also need to apologise to the people whose mail i still have here, all ready to go if only I could drag my ass to the post office…

School’s crazy right now. We were closed for a week on short notice, kids going missing, kids being found again, spending hours on the phone, exams, tests, colleagues collapsing in the staff room (it’s that time of the year. For some reason, that colleague always collapses in late spring, but is unable to just stay the fuck at home and call a doctor)… And now we get a week of break for pentecost and then  all kids are coming back and we all hate it.

At the weekends Mr and I have been very busy in the garden, which is my current delight, or would be, if the weather wasn’t what it is. It’s currently 7°C and raining, and it has been like this for weeks and it’s supposed to last for at least another two weeks. The cats tail is having a party… So yeah, I’m not a fun person right now…

Anyway, at least we finished the big project and I could now start the planting if I wasn’t at risk of drowning on dry land. But I’m really proud of what we built and it will look great once I do manage to plant stuff.

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That’s the whole slope finished, still with the plastic bags on top of the last row so it won’t wash away the concrete. The thing on the left is our to be torn down garage, I just hope they won’t completely ruin the garden when they do (in a couple of years). Those three windows you see at the top are my office, btw, so all your posts are coming from there.

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That’s just the top part. The lower terrace is already prepared for planting, by doing a good dig and mixing our sandy soil with (peat free) planting soil. The top part is still trampled flat. No wonder the cats tail is having a party: Nutrition poor compressed soil and the two weathers of “it’s raining” and “it’s about to rain”. I also did some first planting. The two top terraces will be a three sisters planting. The corn is ready and my mum promised me some more squash.

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Here’s a view downwards. Just for scale: each stone is about 20cm high, so you can get an idea about the height difference. Of all the squash I already planted only three survived and only one survived well..

I did manage to finish one small resin project. The problem is that it’s still too cold to work with epoxy, and it’s too light to work with the UV resin, as it cures before I can use it.

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A little fairy garden. And I made some new friends:

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Let’s just hope that summer will come, even though spring got cancelled and we can spend some time in the pool with them…

 

When your neighbour knows you too well…

 

New Pokémon Snap, Source: Nintendo

The end of last month saw the release of a new Pokémon game for the Switch. #1 had asked for that game for Easter and was damn happy when it was released. And, to be honest, it’s a really nice game. No hard storylines, fights, tournaments… You travel on a fixed course and take pics of Pokémon, like on a Legoland Safari.

Anyway, my neighbour, who’s just as massive a nerd as I am, asked me how the game was, and if I had taken nice pics and if it was worth the money. We chatted a while and I offered him to come over and try it out. Inside again I asked #1 if she’d talked with B about the game, since he knew that we had it.

“Mum, do you really think I’d voluntarily talk to other people???”

Seems like our neighbour knows us quite well by now….