Anne’s Minestrone col Pesto

6 servings
90 minutes

200g dried mixed pulses (e.g. red kidney beans, white beans, pinto beans, spelt, “green grain” (unripe spelt), red lentils, split peas, red or brown rice. I use Davert’s “Bunte Minestrone/ varied minestrone” mix, 49810)
1 large white onion
1 small leek
4 small peeled waxy potatoes
2 carrots
2 parsley roots
2 sticks of celery, or small piece of celery root
2 small zucchinis
2 tomatoes (boiled, peeled, sieved)
400ml good chicken stock
150 g soup pasta (heart-shaped pasta or wagon wheels/rotelle)
4 tbs olive oil
2 tbs pesto
salt, ground pepper
4-6 tbs grated Parmesan
bunch of fresh sweet basil or borage, with flowers

Soak the mixed pulses overnight, for at least 12 hours.
Throw out soaking water, simmer separately in fresh unsalted water for 30-40 minutes.
Slice onion, leek, potatoes, carrots, parsley roots, celery, zucchinis. In a large pot, sauté onions in a drop of olive oil until translucent. Add the other vegetables, and fill pot with 1.5 liters of water and the chicken stock. Skim the foam from the boiled mixed pulses and add them to the soup, along with the boiling water (which should amount to a cup or two). Simmer soup over low heat for 30 minutes. Then add sieved tomatoes to the pot. Finally, add salt & pepper and simmer for another 15 minutes.
Just before serving, bring soup to a boil and add the pasta hearts or wheels, cooking until they are al dente (about 5 minutes). Then turn off heat, mix pesto with a tablespoon of the soup and the rest of the olive oil and add. Serve with fresh basil/borage and grated Parmesan, and have a pepper mill and olive oil to hand at the table.

Bon appetit!

My six jobs before becoming a teacher

Lindsay Clandfield on his lovely “Six Things” blog has invited us to think back to six jobs we held before becoming a teacher. Good question! None of the English teachers I know have had a straight career. Something drives us to do this crazy job, opening up to anyone and everyone as we support them on their often frustrating path to becoming proficient in a language forced upon them, often enough, and making sure they like it, too.

What were the six jobs you had before your current job that gave you your work/life skills?

So about me: I’ve always needed money, so there have been far more than six jobs. I’ll skip the IT company I worked at to earn money for college, and the other IT company I worked for when I was considering giving up teaching, and the bit jobs, to tell you about the ones most closely related to what I do today:

  1. Perhaps I was most successful at being a babysitter. I got an early start at 11 and basically owned the neighborhood. My grandfather had carved beautiful wooden puppets that my mother had sewn clothes for, and I’d put on puppet shows with the children. Or we’d go down to the Smithsonian to see the bees. We’d romp and go swimming and play games. No TV on my watch, but we acted out every cartoon character in the book. I told them stories that they’d have to help me finish. So I never really stopped being a babysitter.
  2. When I hit 16 and was able to move on to minimum wage jobs (to support my expensive record-buying habit), I went into catering. First an icecream parlor that served sundaes with a political theme, called The Ice Cream Lobby. Then a deli. I branched out and did weddings on my own. During college I waitressed, the most challenging place being a football clubhouse just south of the border in Switzerland. Excellent prep for teaching, keeping a cool head among fans speaking Swizzerdütsch!
  3. As a teen, I volunteered in France for two summers restoring monuments and sites with ICOMOS/ REMPART. I tell anyone who still has their life ahead of them: You haven’t lived if you haven’t volunteered abroad. I learned how to really learn a language. Obvious connection to teaching English there.
  4. At college I was a research assistant (political science). Very heady. I loved it, but in time became skeptical about the value of academic learning. That kept me from getting yet another degree when I parachuted into EFL. I keep toying with the idea, to open the door to a more established teaching position, but…
  5. After my MA, I became a coordinator/curator of exhibitions and educational programs at various museums. At the German Museum of Hygiene in Dresden I was involved in exhibitions devoted to Odol (a mouthwash) and Darwin and Darwinism, travelling to the US to research history and artifacts connected to genetics, immigration, racism, the Scopes Trial… Later I ran an exhibition project on the experience of migration at an archaeological museum, with an after-school program for teenagers from migrant families, along with community events, from a panel discussion to a street festival. Or: In Konstanz I worked with artist Rune Mields to develop a tour of her paintings depicting the myths of how the world came into being. Marvellous, life-changing years. Being interested in such a wide range of ideas, and learning to use artifacts to relate them, was probably the most valuable source of inspiration for what I do today.
  6. Being bilingual, I’ve worked as a translator and interpreter ever since I came to Germany in 1981. Once, in Berlin in the mid 80s when I was working for the Museum at Checkpoint Charlie, I translated a talk Johan Galtung was giving in English into German and got it all wrong when I paraphrased in English “What he means is…”

Over to you! Now, please, don’t be shy!


It’s spring. Deep breath. Smile.

On Sunday we built up the catamaran, our Dart 18, the Seebock. It’s now sitting down by the beautiful Ammersee, ready to go. Looks good, but could use a new trampoline and some lines. The water was 7.5 degrees centigrade, brrrr, so we decided to go and have potato-leek soup and tea (me) and dark beer (him) instead in the beautiful beergarden under the little medieval church.

It was First Communion Sunday, the girls in white and cream, the boys in suits, moms in purple and grandmoms in lilac… and a big sister being flaky in green and purple stockings. Photo ops against a blue-grey-green lake and sky. A few white sails. Flowerpots with pansies and forget-me-nots. Sparrows. Perfect.

I didn’t have anything to take a picture with. Sorry. I’m afraid you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Girl games

Sandy and Anne

Today I’m very honored to be a visiting blogger on Chris Adam’s Bits ‘n Bob’s Show ‘n Tell, as part of his Mirror Posts/ Through the Looking Glass series. A post in his great San Francisco blog about a very surrealistic art show, “Altered Barbie”, leading to an equally surrealistic day, set my imagination off. Like Alice going down that rabbit hole, I found myself remembering playing with Barbie, and the cheapness of her clothes, compared to the richness of my mother’s, which Muff made for herself. And then I went and dug out this picture. Sandy and I are playing dress-up one fine summer’s day, way back then, feeling glamorous and serious and strangely wise beyond our years. Thanks, Chris, for the trip.

Do you have any childhood games you remember? Any pictures to show?

Question: What role do elderly parents play in your life?

My mother died last week,Muff near Eastern Market, 20 July 2004 and I’m mourning and thinking back. When I decided to stay here in Germany, an ocean away, I automatically decided against sharing her day-to-day life and being there to help her with her big and small needs. Not being there has felt morally wrong, always. After all, you simply can’t “delegate” tender loving care, no matter how involved you get in your parents’ living arrangements from a distance. Two of my brothers cared for her in Washington, which is very comforting, and I spent time with her recently. But still, she wasn’t a part of my daily life. I’ve always dreamt of a utopia where all of the generations of my family and my and our friends are nearby, but reality is very different.

Can you imagine having, or are you planning to have, your parents live with you and your family? There will certainly be more of that in the next years, as retirement homes will again become a great luxury. As for me, I’d like to find group living arrangements myself, with a small group of like-minded people sharing a house, and kind-hearted professionals to take care of our physical needs. Yet another utopia?

What about you? Are you struggling with arrangements for your elderly parents? Or are you already thinking about how you will handle your own last years?

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What’s my line?

I have a new job, translating for an upmarket agency two days a week. I wanted to do something for my brain that involves longish trains of thought and very concise formulation, and I think this will be good for me. So Tuesday and Thursday I’m over there. Then, on Mondays I’m writing an online course in Moodle – grammar for university students of English. That will take me through into winter. On Fridays I write for Spotlight. The weekends are unfortunately generally reserved for all the other things I promised people I’d do for them, including preparing compact courses, or extra writing and translations, or getting ready for a conference presentation. Somehow that doesn’t leave much time. But I still have my Wednesdays to be a teacher, currently with four very different courses spread out over the day. So, yes, I still call myself a teacher.



to care for someone/ something
to take care of someone/ something
to care about someone/ something
to provide care to someone
to be careful with
to be caring
a careworn face
not to have a care in the world…

… hopefully