Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy International Book Giving Day!

You might remember my post announcing that February 14 isn't only Valentine's Day, but also International Book Giving Day. We had a lot of used books in good condition in our house, and I sorted through all of them. Since I wanted to give some to places that weren't open on Sundays, I cheated and began giving them away a bit earlier.

Sorting through the children's English and German language children's books....

Half went to the bilingual kindergarten and half went to an experimental bilingual first grade class in our village (too bad my kids are too old to take part!).

My daughter picked out four books and gave them to the family hairdresser so kids have something to help keep them sit still while getting their hair cut.

I also took several bags of books to work and gave them to colleagues. Especially the English books were a huge hit, and I ended up disappointing some people who came after they'd all been taken.

I hope everyone who reads these books has as much fun with them as we did!

Finally, I bought one book for each of my kids—a Magic Treehouse book by Mary Pope Osborne for my son and Holes by Louis Sachar, which was just recommended to me on Twitter, for my daughter. I also decided to give myself a book, so I pre-ordered Beyond the Red by Ava Jae. I can't wait for it to be delivered!

To find more information on International Book Giving Day, see the IBGD website, twitter account or facebook page.

Did you give away any books for International Book Giving Day? Or did you receive one?

All pictures taken by me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

German tax ruling turns e-books into "services rendered" (and I rant about it)

Today, I read something that turned my writer's blood into liquid TNT.

image by Sean Kelly via Flickr
On the surface, it sounds like a boring article—a decision to tax e-books differently than printed books. In Germany, books are considered "cultural assets" and are therefore taxed only 7% instead of the standard 19% (yep, that's one-nine!) for most other goods.

Now the decision has been made that Germany must follow the European Union's ruling that e-books are not "cultural assets" but "services rendered." In order to be a true book, in order to be a cultural asset, the words must be printed on paper.

So what does this mean? It means I could sprinkle grain on a keyboard and let chickens peck away until enough letters came together to fill 250 pages. Then I can self-publish this masterpiece. As long as it's printed, it is a cultural asset. That's what the Finance Court says.

However, if I spend a year writing and polishing a novel, and it is accepted by a respected publisher, who publishes a digital-only version, then all I have done is provided a service. 

A service. Like cutting the neighbor's grass or painting a fence. 

In my opinion, this ruling is not only old-fashioned, but is downright insulting.

What do you think? Am I overreacting here?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Imported (aka How Much Would You Pay for a Peanut Butter Cup?)

When you think of the word "imported," what do you imagine?

A fine pinot noir from Italy?
Dark Bavarian beer?
Melt-in-your-mouth Swiss chocolate?

Now, I love living in Germany and there are some amazing foods here, but sometimes I have a craving for a delicacy—hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder—from home. My kids have also vacationed in the States and long for the taste of the US.

Luckily, there are a couple of shops in Germany that stock a tiny selection of imported American foods.

But they come at a price. I thought you might like to see some examples. To make it easier for you to feel my pain, I added the price in US dollars according to the current exchange rate.

Let's start with this 4 oz. (!) container of Cheetos. It costs 4.99 EUR ($5.40), but my daughter just had to have it, so she sacrificed two weeks worth of her allowance. When she carefully lifted the lid for the very first time, she sniffed inside the can and sighed, "That was American air in there."

When we went to this shop, my daughter was hoping for a Hershey's Oreo candy bar too, but it cost EUR 2.19 ($2.37) and she said it was "as thin as paper." Guess she's used to the thick German chocolate bars. Anyway, she didn't have enough money for that and the Cheetos.

I've been tempted by American cake mixes. But even the standard Betty Crocker yellow cake mix costs 5.50 EUR ($5.96). You can add frosting for an additional EUR 4.55 ($4.93). I make cakes from scratch now.

Both of my kids would kill for a simple box of Kraft Mac & Cheese. The cheaper one with the powder goes for 2.90 EUR ($3.14) per box. In the US, you can get five boxes in a carton for $4.98.

And this...this is the one that really hurts. It's the reason I hardly ever eat my absolute favorite: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. This is a normal size bag of mini Peanut Butter Cups. The cost? A whopping 12.99 EUR ($14.07).

So bake a cake, crunch some Cheetos, and chase 'em down with a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Do it for me. I'll drown my sorrows in a bar of Swiss chocolate.

If you're an expat, what food do you miss from home? If you're not, what food do you think you'd miss the most?

All pictures taken by me.