Friday, November 30, 2007


There truly isn't much that I want for Christmas... which also complicates matters having a birthday close to the holidays. I think last year Stefan and I decided we would simply go on trips because we don't need anything. Of course that doesn't stop me from thinking of things he needs but doesn't realize he needs (like a smaller backpack for our trips). No more waiting at the airport when we can both carry on and go!... That's gift enough to me!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Art Appreciation

As an Art History major it is obvious if I state that I love art. I love the theory, I love the production, I love the gallery openings... all of it is very exciting. Slowly I am becoming more of a patron and purchaser. My first piece is aptly titled 'Portrait of Emily' by Joe Sorren.

My next piece if the exchange rate continues to work in my favor - or if I fall into some cash, will be Corrina. It is simple to merely think something is beautiful, however Corrina moves me. I would love to see her each day sitting in my home. I love her youthful innocence, her fresh from the ocean appearance, and her elegant features. Once again I think Joe Sorren has mastered becoming a contemporary great. Think about it... many artists have to die before they are recognized for their life works, yet here is an artist that people already realize is phenomenal. (Never mind the access people have thanks to the internet).

Living in Europe sometimes seems so contradictory. On the one hand I would really love to go back to Grad school and continue my studies in Art History, while if I am honest with myself I don't really need to do that right now.

Simply living here and being surrounded by stunning architecture, world class museums, and access to design centers is exciting. I am already anxious for our Scandinavian adventure to design capitols. I truly believe that life should be aesthetically pleasing. I feel so happy when I am surrounded by beautiful things. I think it's an intrinsic quality that people innately long for. Maybe that's just my bias coming through. That being said doesn't mean that I think art has to be beautiful. I also love gritty things that pose questions to the viewer and comment on the world according to the artists view.

While I really appreciate modern things, I also see so much beauty in design that is meant to last. I love walking down my street and seeing buildings with character and bright color. There are intricate doors and a unique meld of Bauhaus and Gothic architecture right outside my door. That alone is really phenomenal for me to think about.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The beauty of a week

I just love feeling like I got something accomplished!

Not only did we have a decent Thanksgiving after arriving late, but we also got our holiday plans taken care of and booked.

It's always funny to me how Stefan and my cultures rub off on each other. I hate to be late, while Stefan takes the laid back American approach. Thanksgiving was no different. I just missed the subway I needed and expected that Stefan would be finished with the office. I thought maybe he would greet me outside rather than me having to venture up and sit in on a discussion between him and his colleagues. Our reservations were for 8pm... we arrived closer to 8:30pm. I was having flash backs from our trip to Reims where we wanted the day to be a success but somehow weren't communicating clearly.

On our walk to the restaurant I also managed to step in dog poo. Sometimes life is so comical. As a side note, I also learned that Stefan believed that Black Friday was due to the fact that Americans 'got money' on Thanksgiving. I have no idea where he got this notion. He said 'all of these years I have been telling my brother that'.

Needless to say we made it. Our table was there... the feast was there. I think I was a little overzealous with the truffle sweet potatoes because I ended up eating way too much and feeling a bit sick. What is Thanksgiving for right?

As for our travel plans we have decided to maximize our time (seriously) by going to Copenhagen and Stockholm. We are leaving early in the morning on the 26th and arriving home late on the 1st. Not only did we manage to book this trip, I also found out about an ice festival in Bruges. I have heard such great things about the place and the ice festival was all the more reason to go. So we are going to be heading there for the weekend of my birthday.

I am really excited for all of our trips. Each city has great things to offer that I am really excited about. Copenhagen's bright row houses along the waterfront I know are going to be so beautiful for a color enthusiast like myself. I know that the Little Mermaid statue that is there is supposed to be quite small, but I am still going to go visit her.

From all of the descriptions I have read about Stockholm being the Venice of the North and having unique food similar to Japanese cuisine I am sure it is going to be fascinating. We are going to visit the ice bar and go on an ice wrecking cruise around some of the islands.

We'll have a 3 day weekend in Belgium and I know we'll enjoy the waffles, beer, and chocolate. No stops in Antwerp for diamonds this time.

The Christmas markets open this weekend and I am going to hope Stefan doesn't have loads of work and we can go to Regenburg for their market. I have heard nothing but good things about the place. It was one of the few cities that didn't get bombed during the war, so it's very old old Germany with Roman city gates dating back nearly 2000 years. The markets are so spectacular... this is from Allägu last year. I love how each city has a unique take on things, however some things are standard - like glühwein.

That is one of the exciting things about Europe - they really built things to last and with pride. I wish sometimes that America took more of an initiative to build lasting beautiful structures. People travel to Barcelona to see Gaudi's works, they go to Rome to see the coliseum, Paris for the Eiffel Tower... and while America does have plenty of natural beauty, much of the architecture is seriously lacking. Strip malls and the consumer mentality definitely feed the US. That's probably the art historian in me coming out, but I wish America was more willing to leave a legacy behind through public art. I immediately feel happier when I am in a city that obviously appreciates aesthetically pleasing structures.

I guess maybe even the strip malls give the US character. I try to view it as an outsider as I read books by foreigners who travel to the states. Everything must seem grandiose and over the top, especially considering the places that foreigners travel to - Las Vegas, New York, California, Texas, Florida. Rarely do people get a glimpse of smaller American towns. America is a consumer land. Even the Europeans go to shop there since the quality and right now with the exchange rate it's all very affordable. Days like this make me so happy not to feel the urge to join mass humanity on Black Friday or feeling the Christmas spirit through purchasing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Decisions ... decisions

I wouldn't think that figuring out a place to go for the holidays would be so complicated, yet it seems to be. We have a fair amount of time (roughly a week), so I want to go somewhere that isn't simply a weekend trip.

Stefan and I are deciding between Iceland, Scandinavia (some combination of Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsiniki, or Swedish Lapland), or Madrid and Morocco.

I would like to go to all of the places, and since we have a slightly more extended amount of time it is complicating matters. We can't go too far, or we will end up sitting in airports and waiting on layovers. Plus, with New Years being included in our travel plans many hotels are substatially more expensive and booked. I feel like I've researched every possible outcome and concentrated on the arctic circle darkness, the temperatures, and I am still not getting anywhere.

It's already in the plans for a trip to Athens + Santorini around Easter, but we need to make that happen, because the best hotels book so early, and Easter is in March this year.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thanksgiving around the corner

It is still one of the stranger holidays to celebrate internationally. Probably because it's always on a Thursday and the world seems to keep moving here. I have seen some cranberries at the grocery and thought about making some kind of cranberry dessert. It won't compare to Dorothy Lane Market's orange cranberry mix, but it would be something!

We are going to visit Stefan's parents this weekend and I thought of doing some kind of makeshift thing. I'd probably do a modern take on Thanksgiving, but I know how Germans don't really bring things (even though I ALWAYS bring something when we visit). Maybe if I am ambitious I will make pumpkin cookies tomorrow.

It's funny how the largest part of Thanksgiving (minus being with family of course) is the Turkey, but that is not my priority. I'd rather the whipped potatos and pumpkin dishes. Last year we went to the Perkins' house and since I haven't been very active with the International Women's club we're not going to go this year. She even had trouble finding a place that had a whole bird (you have to visit a special man at Viktualienmarkt) -- and then she had the problem of trying to fit it into her oven, because the ovens are substantially smaller. And don't forget the refrigerators are also smaller, so you make food and don't know where to put it.

It doesn't make sense for me to cook things up when it's just Stefan and I. Last year Stefan told his office it was an 'important American holiday' and he needed to leave early, which was sweet of him. It makes me think about celebrating makeshift 4th of July with our cookout. The humor in all of it makes the holidays great.

I am really thinking that we will probably end up making reservations at a restaurant here called 'The Big Easy'. They try to be New Orleans like, which is even funnier - and they will have live Jazz. It almost makes me have to go because I love to see the German take on thing... such as that Mexican restaurant we went to that had (no joke) marinara sauce for chips as opposed to salsa. I could have taught them a thing or two... how hard is it to make salsa from scratch?! Needless to say we drank many maragaritas that night as we laughed about that.

Isn't the best part of the menu the 'you like' in the top right hand corner? English is widely spoken here... it sounds like something you would hear from a ramshakle shop in Tijuana.

I'm not sure what funny aspects will be this year... I guess spending nearly $100 on Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant ranks up there in ridiculousness, but I'm sure we will have a lot of fun. My other favorite is the 'Amerikanish Salate' - I don't quite know what the difference is with an American salad. I guess we don't pour tons of oil and balsamic on it, and put corn and random things in. We have an English speakers message board where people can share information about anything and everything. I could not stop laughing at one man asking where to get 'an entire Turkey dinner for take-away' - in America you can definitely get Thanksgiving catered and it's not a big deal. Finding the same thing here or even thinking you could is hysterical.

One thing is for sure - we are going to have a snowy winter, because it just keeps coming. That is unless the föhn (warm Alpin air) comes through to warm things up again for a while.


So it has been over a year since I began to call Germany home. There are definitely many idiosyncrasies that I am continually learning about. Whenever I have visitors I notice things more and miss those initial thoughts when I would ponder the smallest mundane detail such as a door knob that doesn't turn.

There are some things that Germans are known for, such as cleanliness, structure, being on time, cars, and engineering. I have to laugh when Stefan tells me about going on business trips and telling coworkers to 'stop being so German' when someone is 5 minutes late.

One thing that I do appreciate is the simplicity, design, and attention to detail. I think everyone that has visited and asked where to shop I have asked 'do you know anyone with a baby?' The reason is I absolutely love their baby toys made of bright colored wood, particularly a brand called Haba. They have produce, beads, and teethers. (I bought the flower teether for Emily's daughter Claire).

They are just so beautiful!

There is however, a large divide as well. You either have great quality or complete crap. Some of the stores I walk into and shudder as I see things that look so archaic and are yet still quite expensive. If I want to go into a time warp I can just walk into our attempt at a Meijer. It's unfortunate that we don't have something like Target that melds design and functionality into an aesthetically pleasing place. I guess Germans go with the adage of if it's not broke don't fix it. You know what you need you go to get it and you leave. Although, if you let a German loose in the US, (this was when the exchange rate wasn't even as good as it is now) you will see a child in a candy store and they are instantly converted into consumers.

I often look at many design websites and save images of things that I like so I can get what I want when I need it (maybe some of the German mentality is rubbing off on me!) I was surprised and excited to find this beautiful baby bed (don't get an ideas - we still want a few years being child free). The great part is that it not only grows with the child and is beautiful, but it also made in the Allgäu! It's comical for me to see it on all kinds of international design websites when it comes for the Allgäu. I think it will fit wonderfully into our simplistic and modern approach at decorating once it's time.

Lately we have been trying to figure out our next few years. It's a funny life that I never imagined I would lead. I feel like a nomad with a home base in two countries. I see my friends from home settling down and putting roots down, while my friends here are typically 30-35 and unmarried, but dating the same person for 6 or 7 years. Or I have the 50 something variety that are spunky and have fascinating life stories. There is something to be said about the way Europeans look at life and especially here in Germany with the most vacation days of any country in the world.

I truly couldn't ask for anything better in life. Even working here feels like early retirement!

images: haba + sirch

Monday, November 12, 2007


Spending 6 weeks in the US is a blessing that I am unsure that I will get to experience again in the near future. I could tell my family was doing all they could to make me happy and give me those simple pleasures of home, like my mom's oatmeal cookies. I couldn't have asked for a better time.

Meem and I had a great road trip up to Detroit, Frankenmuth, Bellevue, Ruggles, Ashland and Mansfield. We met up with Stefan and his coworkers, Emily + her new baby Claire, and Ryan. I was also able to do a little christmas shopping.

Target and Jcrew appreciated that I was back I am sure... as did my family.

We had a lot of fun taking Mieka on daily walks and periodically sprinting with her. I was curious what she would think of randomly running, but she loved it. It was nice to have a dog around again... even if she is slightly neurotic. I also loved being able to photograph her nonstop. Being home is one of the few places I actually take less photos. Except of course for poor Mieka. I know she would love to run like the dogs do at the Englisch Garten. I wish the US was more dog friendly, although I did see the Jeffersonville outlet mall now allows dogs. I'm looking forward to seeing Mieka and the rest of my family again in just a few months. I think the time will pass quite quickly.

Amy and I (and hopefully Stefan too) have a trip planned for Boston / Maine. I always loved the North East and I would love to go back to Stefan and my first trip together and to take Amy to the NE.