Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Royal Wedding Eve!

Oh hey, so yeah, Patrick and AJ came to visit. We went to Munich, Forchheim, Nürnberg, Bamberg and Vienna. But let's move on to the more pressing issues: tomorrow is the royal wedding!! 

I arrived in Manchester late Tuesday night and it was immediately apparent that the entire country is abuzz with excitement. There have been flags strung outside every pub (which Gemma assures me is not normal... to my disappointment), every shop window has posters offering their congratulations to the happy couple, and royal wedding paraphernalia is always within reach. 

(of course I've seen and done other things in the past 2 days that didn't involve eating, sleeping, and breathing royal wedding, but at this moment that's not important!) 

I'm going to bed now with the excitement of a small child on Christmas eve. My crown is neatly in place and my royal wedding mug (a gift from Gemma's grandmother) on the side table with William and Catherine watching over me - waiting for royal wedding Santa to come spread the joy and cheer of this momentous occasion. 

Tomorrow's activities are plentiful as we start the day early with the actual wedding viewing, to be followed by a gathering of family and friends, and an array of royal wedding games from pin the crown on the princess (Gemma's genius idea) to royal wedding quizzes. 

Wishing the happiest of Royal Weddings to you and yours! 

Monday, April 18, 2011


So, I feel like everybody has this idea of Germany being constantly gray and depressing and there is just never any sun. I would have to politely disagree with this notion. Perhaps it is the only the region I'm living in. But, aside from the well deserved rainy days and occasional bouts of cloudy weather, I would have to say that Germany is waaaaaay more sunny than I expected. 

One of my students told me that he wanted to move to the US because the weather is nicer (we won't even go into that obvious generalization). And his proof was that it was raining outside when he said this. However, his rainy day validation was totally unwarranted as it was sunny and gorgeous both the days before and the days after said statement was made. 

Anyway, I'm back in Forchheim for a few days with Patrick and AJ before we're of to Vienna! Lots of good stories from Munich... none of which you get now. Sorry!! 

**Celsius, people

Thursday, April 14, 2011

a tribute to our barbed wire toilet seat.

As I approach my eighth month in Forchheim, I would like to take this moment to reflect on some of the things that have really made the last seven months so special. Now I don't want to go all mushy on you, but sometimes there are things that make such a big impression on you at first, but eventually sink into the background as part of normal life. You begin to take these things for granted, and forget how special they really are

To avoid making that fatal mistake, I want to reaffirm my love and appreciation for a very special part of our* life here in Forchheim by dedicating this post to our barbed wire toilet seat

I remember my first day in Forchheim. Giving myself a tour of the apartment. Wandering through the halls of the place that would become my home over the next year. I still remember the surprise/fear/shock/wonderment I felt when I first saw the toilet seat, in all its glory. I remember it as if it were yesterday. 

But over the months, I feel as though I've neglected showing the barbed wire toilet seat the gratitude it deserves. I've forgotten the impact it has made, nay, is still making on my life and the life of everyone who has had the honor of sharing in its splendor. 

Dear Barbed Wire Toilet Seat,
Thank you for only looking scary.
 and not actually being scary.
Sure, you're a little strange, but we love you because of it.
not in spite of it. 

*I generally only speak in plurals as everything here usually refers to both Gemma and I 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A game a day: Tick

This game is from my friend Jennifer who currently lives in Erlangen (you should check out her blog, it's like totally famous... and she's kind of my blogging role model). She introduced Tick to us back in the fall and, although we don't get the opportunity to play as often as Uncle Stuart's Game or the Dice Game, it's still one of our favorites! Jennifer explained that this is a game her Grandmother claims to have invented. Of course, with any card game, it usually exists under many different names or with slightly different versions, but after many years of intense internet searches, Jennifer said they had found nothing to disprove her grandmother's claim.

Of the games posted so far this week, this is the most complicated to explain, but I also think it's one of the easiest to catch on to once you've played a hand or two. It involves a good bit of strategy, but also a little luck.

TICK (2 - 6 players)
What you need: two regular decks of playing cards, with jokers
Objective: to have the least points
Scoring: 2 - 10 are face value (that is to say,  2 is worth 2 points, 3 is worth 3 points, etc.), Jacks = 15 points, Queens = 20 points, Kings = 25 points, Aces = 30 points, Jokers = 0 points
How to deal: this is the tricky part of about Tick, the game changes with every deal. In total you play 11 rounds, and each round your are dealt a different number of cards. For the first round each player is dealt 3 cards; for the second round, 4 cards; 5 cards for the third round; 6 cards for the fourth, and so on until the eleventh round when you are dealt 13 cards. After everyone has been dealt a card, place the top card up for the discard pile
Wild Cards: this bit is similar to the dealing, in that it changes with every deal. There are two kinds of wild cards in every deal. Jokers are always wild through all 11 rounds. The second wild card, however, depends on the round. But, also like the dealing, it's pretty simple: first round 3s are wild, second round 4s are wild, third round 5s and so on. 
*Hint: If you arrange the score sheet like in the picture (with each deal labeled 3, 4, 5, etc.) it helps to keep track of how many cards to deal and which card is wild!
Taking a turn: To begin every turn you either draw from the deck or take the top card off the discard pile. To end your turn, discard a card. You should always have the same number of cards in your hand throughout the game. 
Getting a Tick: To get a tick means all the cards in your hand and no more (that means in the 3rd round you can only tick with 5 cards, in the 10th round you can only tick with 12 cards, etc.) are used in a set/run. Sets and runs are the same as Uncle Stuarts game in that you need at least 3 of a kind for a set or a straight of at least 3 (in the same suite) for a run. This means for the first 3 rounds (up to 5 cards in your hand) a tick can only be made with all cards of the same number or all cards in one straight. When you begin to have more cards in your hand, you can tick by having any combination of sets/runs. The only requirement is that all cards are used.
*Note: You keep all cards in your hand at all time, whether or 
not they are used in a run/set. You only show your hand 
when you have a tick/the deal is over.
Ending a deal: After the first player gets a tick for each deal, he/she says "Tick" and each other player gets one more turn. 
*Note: it is possible for more than one player to tick in a deal, if 
he/she is able to use all his/her cards in a set/run during the 
last turn. 
Counting points: If you'll remember, the goal is to have the LEAST amount of points, so when counting the points in your hand, all sets/runs of at least 3 count for zero points (whether or not you ticked, if you have a set/run of at least three you remove those cards from being counted). This also means if you have ticked, you have 0 points for the round (so please don't try to count your cards). After you've taken out all the sets/runs, add up the leftover points in your hand. That's your score. 

Like I said, this is one of my favorites, so enjoy!

Tomorrow's Game: Golf 

Monday, April 11, 2011

I got 99 problems, but the britch ain't one.

Let me preface this post by saying that I love my school in Forchheim. And, except when they're really horrible, my students are really great! 
Oh hey, that's my school! ^
I had an 8th grade class today, and there is one kid in there who is super enthusiastic and always excited to participate, but (bless is heart) he just can't spell! Now, I can't fault him at all here (let's not even talk about how many spelling errors I have in my blog), compared to German - in which everything is spelled EXACTLY how it sounds, English probably seems like the most ridiculous language ever when it comes to spelling (take a moment, reflect... you'll realize it's true). There are absolutely no spelling rules, or any rules there are probably have more cases that are the exception than the rule. 
Anyway, he was writing out some questions for an activity they were doing, so I came to his group to read them over for mistakes. In the middle of the stack I catch a glance of a question that appears to say "how many bitches are..." whoa. Whoa.  Now I've had students curse in class before (pretty much all the time), and I've had students write inappropriate things before, but this struck me as really strange for this kid! So I calmly go through the stack of questions waiting to get to this one and see if it really says what I think it says. Finally I see,
"How many britches are in New York City"
I'll be honest, I still had to double take (I'm sorry, how many whats are in NYC?!), then I had to think... britches? Pants? britches, britches, britches, britches?? OOOOH! You mean "bridges"! 

Go ahead, say it out loud, you'll see where he's coming from.  

A game a day: Uncle Stuart's Game

This game is a Hotel Baptistella staple. It's one of the many versions of rummy (perhaps you'll recognize it by a different name), and is a family game brought down to the mainland by my island friend Gemma from England. As for the etymology of the name, it is called so because the game was introduced to Gemma's family by none other than Uncle Stuart (who, I am excited to say, I will get to meet in a couple short weeks - shake the hand of the genius who has provided hours, days and weeks of entertainment for Gemma and I).

Uncle Stuart's Game (for 2 or 3 players)
What you need: a single deck of cards, no jokers (a for real 52 card deck, 2-10 Jack Queen King Ace, in case you come from a country *ahemgermanyahem* where strange and unusual decks of cards are used).
Objective: Be the first player to reach 500 (for a shorter version play to 300, or for a never-ending version - like the one Gemma and I play - play to 1,000,000) 
Scoring: Cards 2 - 9 are five points each; 10s, Jacks, Queens, and Kings are 10 points each; Aces are 15 points each.  
How to deal: 7 cards are dealt to each player. Note that the dealer should start the deal with him/herself and is also the first player to take a turn. The dealer also deals him/herself an extra card in place of drawing a card for the first turn
Taking a turn: Each turn is started by drawing a card from the deck or discard pile, or scooping and ended by discarding into the pile*. During your turn you may lay down new sets/runs or play on other's sets/runs. 
 *the discard pile should be organized as shown in 
the picture below, with each card showing and the
 earliest card discarded on the bottom and the last 
card discarded on top. 
Getting points: All cards in your hand are negative points, while the cards laid out in sets/runs in front of you are positive points. To be able to lay your cards out, they must be either in sets of at least 3 of a kind or runs (in the same suite) of at least three. No player is allowed to lay down any cards during the first round. On a players first time laying cards out he or she may only lay out one run/set (the number of cards used, as long as at least 3, does not matter) but can not lay down a 2nd run/set or play on another players set/run until the next turn. After this players may lay down as many cards, sets or runs as they have during any turn. 
Drawing from the discard pile: there are two ways to draw cards from the discard pile: either by picking the last card or scooping. Both options take the place of drawing a card from the deck to begin a turn.  A player may pick up the last card in the discard at any point during the game, the player does not have to use this card immediately. A player may only choose to scoop from any point in the discard pile if he or she already has at least one set or run laid out. If the player scoops, he/she must immediately use farthest card to which he/she scooped. For example, if scooping from the discard pile in the picture, if the player scoops to the 3 of hearts, he/she must immediately play the 3 either in a run, a set, or on another players run/set. The player may then choose to use any/as many other cards from the scoop in the same turn. 
*the player can use any number of cards from 
the scoop to make a run/set. For example, in 
the picture, if a player has one 5 in his/her 
hand, he/she may scoop all the way to the 
first 5, gaining two 5s to make a set of 3. 
Playing on another player's set/run: You may only play cards on another player's sets/runs when you have at least one set/run laid out. There is no minimum number of cards required to play on another player's hand. When you do play on another player's hand lay the card(s) out in your own pile (you get the points for any cards you play) and specify which set/run your card now belongs to. Once assigned to a set/run, a card cannot be changed. 
Ending a deal: each deal ends immediately when a player has no more cards in his/her hand. At this point, the players count all the points left in their hands and subtract that from all the points they have played on the table. Any sets/runs left in the hand when the first player goes out, must be counted as negative. (Negative scores are possible)

It is slightly more complicated than yesterday's game, but relies a lot more on strategy. Gemma and I have been playing our "never-ending game" since November (she's kicking my ass), and can still sit and play it for hours on end! 

Tomorrow's Game: Tick 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A game a day: The dice game

I'm currently on day 2 of my 8 days of down time for the month of April. I had a fabulous week with Kristen - we visited Bamberg (twice [I mean, she did study abroad there]), enjoyed a few good beers, and played the dice game pretty much everywhere we went.  I don't know how Kristen knew that Gemma and I LOVE playing games (definitely not from this post, this post or this post...), but she showed up armed and ready on Monday with a bag of dice and a, as we would come to discover, very addicting game. 

What is "the dice game"? Well, that's what I'm going to explain. I've decided for the next 4 or 5 days until I leave for Munich I'm going to share a game a day of games (mostly cards) that I have learned from my Franken friends and a couple that were my favorite from home (what can I say, I was raised with cards in my hand). We'll kick things off with the game that has been consuming my time for the past week. Unfortunately it doesn't have a real name yet, so we'll just call it "the dice game" (however, I am open to suggestions). 

THE DICE GAME (2 or more players... although you can play by yourself. I will neither confirm nor deny that I've done that at some point in the last week)

What you need: 6 regular dice (6 sided, that is)

Objective: to have the highest score

The total possible value of this roll
would be 550 points, the extra 4
holds no point value and must be
rolled again or the turn ends
accepting the 550 points
Scoring: dice showing 5 dots = 50 points, dice showing 1 dot = 100 points, 3 of a kind* = the number showing x 100 (e.g. three dice showing 4 dots is 400 points), a straight of 1 through 6* = 1100 points, 6 of a kind (on one roll) = Game over, you win, you probably just kick-started the apocalypse. To count your score for the turn, you must roll at least 300 points, for your first score on the board you must roll at least 400 points. 

*Note: the only score sets are 3 of a kind or a straight of 6.  4 or 5 of a kind or a straight of less than 6 hold no extra value. Also, combinations always take the highest possible point value; therefore, if a player rolls three 1's, the score would be 300 points,   while a player rolling three 5's would count it as 500 points.   
with this roll, the player
must count the 5 to
continue rolling
Taking a turn: players take turns rolling all 6 dice. For each roll you must have at least 1 scoring die* to continue your turn. Each die you count towards your score may not be rolled again until all 6 dice have been counted towards your score, at which point you start again with all 6, taking out dice as they continue to add to your score. Your turn ends in one of two ways: 1. you don't roll any points. Once you have a roll with no points in it (i.e. no 1's, 5's, 3 of a kinds or straights of 6) you automatically lose all the points you saved during that turn and your turn is over. 2. Once you reach the minimum of 300 points (or 400 for the first time scoring), you have the option with every roll to either stop and take the points or continue rolling and risk ending with no points. 
 *Note: you do not have to count every scoring die in a roll.  For example, if the player rolls a 1 and two 5's, he or she  may choose to only keep the 1 and re-roll the 5's for a  better chance of  scoring on subsequent rolls. 
Ending the game: Once the first player reaches 5000 points, the game ends and each player (besides the player to reach 5000) gets one final turn. In their final turn they must roll until they a. gain no points by rolling a turn without scoring or b. surpass the original winner's score. Once a player surpasses the original score he or she has the option of continuing and risk losing his or her entire score or stopping to count the points. Even if the original player to reach 5000 points has his or her score surpassed by another player on the final roll, he or she does not get a chance to roll again. 

I hope you enjoy this very simple game as much as we have this past week! 

Tomorrow's game: Uncle Stuart's Game  

Friday, April 8, 2011

Something I don't miss

Remember that time I told you April was going to be crazy? I wasn't lying! I have been loving having my friend Kristen in town for the week and there are so many stories to tell (plus, I'm still behind on Berlin... need to get those cameras developed) and oh so little time to tell them all.

Yesterday we ventured out into the Kellerwald (one of Forchheim's biggest attractions [where the Annafest is {that festival in the end of July everyone has been telling me about since I got here }]) to enjoy the beautiful spring weather... and a beer or two. 

my normally dark green car during a GA spring
Suddenly, while sitting outside, I realized there was a total absence of something I'm very accustomed to during the spring time... Excessive amounts of pollen. Having spent most of my life in Georgia I'm used to the springs with pollen counts in the thousands (didn't we break records with 5000 or so pollen count last year?). Keep in mind a "normal high" pollen count for spring is usually around 120 or so.  And since Georgia isn't exactly known for having the wettest of climates, you are powerless as you watch the world around you turn a nasty mustard yellow during the month of April. 

 Luckily Forchheim does not seem to suffer from the same problem, meaning we were able to enjoy our warm spring day outside without so much as a sneeze (let alone the fear of an allergy related death)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

ready, steady, go...

Those damn British and their butchering of the phrase "ready, set, go." Everyone at school says "ready, steady, go" and a little bit of my soul dies every time I hear it. 

But no matter what form it takes, this phrase is incredibly appropriate for the month of April. Although I've spent the first 3 days of the month taking it slow, basking in the warm weather, even getting some spring cleaning in (you'd be proud, mom!),  tomorrow starts the marathon that will be the next four weeks - and I couldn't be more excited!

Kristen, my friend from UGA, is arriving tomorrow for 5 days in beautiful Forchheim (I mean, where else in all of Germany would you want to visit, really?). We both did our study abroad in 2007/08 - me in Zürich, Kristen in Bamberg. Over the past 4 years that we've known each other we've been partners in crime in the UGA German department, we've been afternoon beer buddies, we've been each other's encouragers of going for crazy dreams and idealistic goals. Basically, I couldn't be more excited she'll be here for the week! 

After her visit I have about 6 days to prepare the arrival of Patrick and AJ. We'll be spending a couple days in Munich, a couple days in Forchheim, then the last few days in Vienna. 

When I get back from Vienna I have 2 days then I'm back off to Manchester (sometimes I don't know if I'm doing my Fulbright in Germany or the UK) to visit Gemma and her family... and celebrate the royal wedding! 

It will be a busy and no doubt very quick month, but I'm so excited for all of it! 

Friday, April 1, 2011

OMG! only the GREATEST thing ever!!

But it is a picture of a chocolate bunny sitting in a photo booth. 
and you have to admit, that is pretty great.
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