Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ice Bar

After a long day of walking around town and visiting the Vasa Museum, we made our way back to our hotel where we went to the ice bar. We were promptly given capes and gloves and then directed in. The floor was quite sticky from people's drinks spilling over their ice cube glasses. Holding a glass made of ice took some getting used to. During our stay there were several empty glasses on the table that would occasionally slide off and onto the floor. I am sure the bartender's don't mind not having to do dishes.

I ordered the Absolut Copenhagen - a mix of vodka, watermelon liquor, and sparkling wine.

There were so many options and it wasn't terribly cold. We had considered staying at the ice hotel in Kiruna, Sweden during this trip, but we didn't plan ahead enough. The rooms there book quickly. It's only open during mid-Dec until February I believe, so perhaps next year.

They give you 45 minutes in the bar, and the time passes quickly. We had a great time!

Saturday, December 29, 2007


We arrived last night and decided to make it an early evening. Our hotel lobby was booming, due to the ice bar that is also located here. We got a bite to eat in the bar and then planned for today.

It still takes some getting used to with the lack of real day light. It gets dark here around 3:30pm and it makes my body feel as if it's 8pm. I also noticed how fast the escalators move and a strange smell in the air that was similar to elmer's school glue. I know that's strange, but that's what it smelled like, and I have no idea why. Another funny thing is that Stefan's mom tells me that I look like Princess Victoria of Sweden. No one has been confused yet, and I hope I don't have that square of a face.

Stockholm is very charming - there are plenty of tiny cobbled streets (particularly in Gamla Stan or 'old town'). We spent a large part of the day shopping, simply because things we weren't sure if things were going to be closed in the following days. We've gotten mixed responses as to what is open and for how long. I think the stretch between Christmas and New Years is a bit difficult for people to gauge.

I've heard Stockholm is compared to the Venice of the North, and I am assuming the older buildings, combination of islands, and the cobbled roads are where those references come from. I think the history with the Nobel Peace prize is nice. I like a city that recognizes positive things that people do. Again, there is a lot of color and vibrant buildings. The architecture is also very regal and stunning.

I found a beautiful book to purchase for our 'around the world library'. It's called 'Min Atlas Jorden Runt' and is has beautiful illustrations. I can decipher some of the Swedish. I felt the same about Danish... they both seem to be on the verge of being understood, but they are slightly off.

The design shops are also wonderful. I've been able to see so many things that I've seen previously online. I think I could spend an entire day (or pay check) in many of these stores. A great one is called Design Torget. I purchased a beautiful trivet, and some great sporks from a company called Light My Fire. These are great for traveling, because it's a fork, spoon, and serrated knife all in one. There are so many times (especially when I am on a tour) where I will want to stop at a grocery, then there is the dilemma of needing utensils... not any more! Here are pictures of the spork + design torget at Sergelstorg.

I loved wandering around town and since Stefan was here previously on business he had some idea of where to find things, such as Saluhall. I love places like this - tons of foods in one area. We decided to try wraps from a place called Planet Food. While the name isn't much, the food was great. It reminded me of Chipotle with an edge. We first got the Bombay wrap (chicken, rice, vegetables, mango chutney) and then decided to buy the Malibu (avocado, lettuce, vegetables, and a little feta) + Santorini (chicken, feta, + veggies) for dinner. It was also nice because they were only about 6€ each.

Another shock to me was constantly seeing the Seven Eleven chain around Scandinavia. We stopped in to buy some drinks (water flavored with cactus and blueberry?!). We had a hell of a time finding Swedish fish. All of the groceries carried a candy brand called Malmo (like the city in South Sweden across from Copenhagen). I recognized the brand from IKEA (where we buy our Swedish fish), however there were no Swedish fish to be found. That was a disappointment.

Something else that surprised me was a vending machine in the train station that sold books as opposed to food. I got a good laugh out of that.

The weather was a little drizzly today, but we managed to stay warm and dry. The hardest part is convincing our bodies that it is still early and we should stay out. I think we did a fair job today... plus coming back to our hotel and having dinner ready, as well as English TV is wonderful.

I can't believe New Year's is right around the corner. Tomorrow we are going to be going to the ice bar, which will be fun.

spork photo: Light My Fire

Friday, December 28, 2007


We spent a lot of our day shopping and enjoying the great design stores - particularly Illums, which loves to tout that the Queen shops there. We spent plenty of time walking around and enjoying all of the colorful buildings.

Last night we had a really great meal at a Vietnamese restaurant down the street from our hotel called Lê Lë Nhà Hang. It is a modern take on street food with really fresh and delicious ingredients. It's a great place.

I started keeping a small list of things I noticed during our visit to Copenhagen...

Beautiful design - but it's the same price as home, just all condensed into shops.

The 80's is back in full force... tight pants / pants tucked into socks (no thanks).

Bright pants - even shiny spandex bright leggings (eek!) - I just kept thinking Richard Simons sweating to the oldies!

The slim fit pants are worn with low converse or vans in a variety of colors and patterns.

Expensive food - dinner is going to set you back at least 50€ or about $75, for a no frills meal.

Dividing by 7 for the price... at least things aren't deceiving - you know it's expensive when it says 700 DKK.

Christmas came and went during our visit - all the decorations were taken down so quickly.

Nyhavn is one of the most picturesque little areas with a great nautical flair. Everyone knows how much I wish my life was a musical and this could very well make a great set... but it's real life!

The grocery had alligator, spring bok, kangaroo, and ostrich meats in the freezer!

Christiania - the independent community, is dilapidated and spray painted. I like graffiti -I'm a big fan of Banksy, but this was pushing the limits for me... it was more of a squatter community than hippie area.

The best meals
were at Lê Lë Nhà Hang + Lagkagehuset (a bakery in Christianshavn and across from Tivoli). I am still thinking about this blintz.

English TV with Danish subtitles - this is why all the Scandinavian people speak English so well.

Today we had a hard time finding a children's book. Typically we buy one written in English or with a lot of great pictures, however it was not as easy to find one. We settled on a pretty little animal lexicon with the danish word for the animal written underneath it.

Our next stop was the Rundetårn or round tower, where we walked up for a decent view of the city. It was a bit foggy so things weren't very visible. After that we went to Christianshavn for a quick lunch and then the the 'Freetown Christiania', which was a big let down.

It seemed more like a ramshackle area than one that I envisioned to be like Yellow Springs back home. The dirt streets smelled of marijuana and run down 'homes' were lucky to still be standing. From all that I have read, the people that live there have fought tooth and nail to keep their subculture alive, which I have to respect. It's just difficult for me to think highly of their abode when they don't seem to care what it looks like - the spray painting is one thing, but the trash littering the area is something else.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Stefan and I arrived this morning in Copenhagen... I should also mention that we left at 5am!

It was a great start because we were able to use Stefan's Senator status and check in with first class and enjoy the nice lounge and delicious breakfast.

Our flight left at 6am and was in to Copenhagen by 8am. Fortunately we were able to check into our hotel right away and we promptly took a nap and then began our day around 11am. I couldn't get over just how dark it was - even at 9am things looked really dusky. The nap was just what we needed after waking up at 4am.

Our first stop was to the tourist info office (this is always my first stop now after learning of the great maps they have). Then we headed across the street to Tivoli Park. It was a kitschy take on international destinations such as Morocco, Asia, and India. There were a lot of carney rides and some beautiful lighted areas.

We continued walking into town and it was quite a hike! We walked past the Råthus (townhall) and down some of the shopping streets - most of which were closed due to the holiday. I saw plenty of beautiful design shops that I am sure we are going to stop at tomorrow.

After wandering about town (and being guided mainly by beautiful colored buildings) we stopped at Gråbrødretorv - a picturesque square where we were alone to enjoy it (photo was taken with the self timer). I couldn't get enough of the colors. We walked past Nikolaj church and towards Børse (the stock exchange) on our way to Nyhavn. I loved walking along the water way and stumbling upon the most serene seascapes. I also loved all of the boats and contrasting colors.

Once we arrived at Nyhavn I was in heaven. It has a lot of row homes and businesses with boats in the canals. Since it is so warm many of the cafes are still open with outdoor seating. We stopped at a beautiful little nautical themed restaurant for a mug of gløgg (similar to Munich's glühwein with almonds bits and raisins in the bottom). I don't think I could take enough photos, but it was really nice to see the sun shining on the beautiful row houses after a relatively gray day.

We walked quite far - all the way past the Royal palace (Amalienborg) and to see the Little Mermaid statue in honor of Hans Christian Andersen's story. Tomorrow we will head to a book shop to hopefully find a beautifully designed children's book based on some of his tales.

I love Scandinavia because of the proximity to water, the cleanliness, and the striking design. Stefan kept telling me that he is happy that I like beautiful things and it makes him happy to buy them for me. Then he snuck in the comments about he appreciates them too and that's why he married me. We love to say overly saccharine things to each other, but as dorky as it is we always have fun making each other laugh with things like that.

We walked all around town for about 5 hours and I was so happy to see the 'S bahn' and come back to our hotel. It also gets dark quite early so around 5pm my body is telling me it's closer to 9pm. I can already tell I'm going to sleep like a baby tonight!

Christmas came and went!

Christmas this year seemed to pass so quick. We went to Stefan's parents to celebrate 'German Christmas' (as he calls it) on the 24th.

We had a wonderful fondue and they gave us a great gift - we are all going to the thermal spa in late January. It was a great evening, and we ended it with church. I was shocked to hear that Catholic churches don't have bathrooms or heating (how could I forget the heat from last year?). I didn't forget the incense though. I think the alter girl shaking the container probably smells of that for weeks.

We got home mid-afternoon to celebrate over the web cam with my family. They had sent us so many wonderful gifts. Unfortunately I didn't have time to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas DVD they sent, but I will be doing that when we are home from our trip. We also received the gift of 'Elf on the Shelf' from the Williams', which is a great new holiday tradition. I can see that mischievous elf providing a lot of fun at the holidays. Stefan gave me the Alessi King and Queen Chin salt and pepper grinders that I loved.

Stefan's backpack was a hit and it was nice to see I was able to surprise him. He also surprised me with two upcoming dinners - one is a completely dark meal. I had heard of a restaurant in Berlin, called unsicht bar(invisible bar), where the waiters and waitresses are blind and the restaurant is entirely dark. The one in Munich is called Essen im Dunkel (literally eating in the dark). The other meal is for molecular tapas. It's really fascinating and inventive. It's a scientific take on flavor, which was started at the Mandarin Tokyo. (We will be enjoying this in Munich). I can't wait to try the various foods and experiences. There are a lot of pipettes and syringes to create the food that is then mixed for interesting combinations.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Euro shoes

I still think back to how surprised I was to walk into the cereal aisle here, and see such a limited variety. Germany doesn't lack variety in teas, honeys, jams, mustards, birkenstocks, and chocolates. Those are among the things I am asked to bring home or refer visitors to for fail proof gifts.

My fail proof gift for myself while living here, is shoes.

I don't do much shopping here outside of consumable goods. While I am decently conservative in my clothing choices (Jcrew adores me), I am not like the typical Metropolitan Münchener with dark things - I love color. I'm the girl with the bright accessories and classic styled handbags in outrageously bright colors. I do believe every woman should have a pair of red shoes. Put them on and you instantly feel happy - if all else fails, you just look down and it brings a smile to your face. That's my theory anyways.

My 'hausschuhe' (Germans love having indoor only shoes) are even red Birkenstock Madrids. I've since bought a white pair for outdoor use. Germans don't really wear Birkenstock's outside very much, but I keep that American side of me and wear sandals and flip flops as soon as the weather hits the mid 60's (15-20 celcius). That is one of the few things I have found in Germany that is significantly less expensive than back home - the quintessential Birkenstocks.

I recently saw this beautiful set of cards on etsy and I will definitely be purchasing them. I'll be framing one somewhere in my home and sending one on to bring someone else happiness. I'm all about simple pleasures.

Why, you may ask, don't I purchase other clothing items here? Call me boring (except for my color loving streak), but the clothes here are overpriced or dirt cheap. We don't have a middle of the road type of shops (ok, there is Zara or United Colors of Benetton). I don't think I am adventurous or trendy enough for many stores here. Not to mention with the exchange rate right now, I'd be crazy not to save up and go on great shopping sprees to cover the year while I am home.

Despite living here for over a year, that American consumer side of me has not left. We arrive back in the states with empty bags and they are pushing the limit when we arrive back in Germany. In all fairness, we aren't bringing back only clothes - books are always a priority as are other things I can't get here (BW3 sauces, enormous bags of chocolate chips, taco seasoning, and ranch dressing to name a few).

Of course it's great to arrive back in the states, with stylish shoes that always garner attention and compliments. Plus they make me happy.

red shoes: etsy flowerpress

Saturday, December 22, 2007

You can win!

You probably have thought you've seen it all... little do so many Americans realize, foreigners are able to 'win' a green card.

Now that I live abroad, I get pop ups (such as the one above) advertising what a privilege it is to come to the US - the land of immigrants. I believe the first time I heard of this, was when Stefan told me Burger King had a contest to win one. It's not as simple as winning however. The new 'winner' must go to the US and go through fingerprinting and investigations... then if they hope to maintain their 'prize', they have to live in the US / come back every 6 months. It still requires a fair amount of resources to sustain green card status.

I've mentioned my German language classmates before (such as the post below). I always think how fortunate I am to have two homes. I can feel safe, happy, content, and healthy in Germany or the US. Sure there are differences, but in grand scheme of things, it's merely surface and superficial.

When I consider what so many of my classmates and other permanent residents have gone through to be here it's really quite amazing and I feel for them. It's easy to be a 'privileged' immigrant. I don't say that in attempts to sound entitled or ethnocentric. Germany does have its kinks and like the US, being inundated with people willing to move here, there are some prejudices as well. I feel advantaged because I speak English. I really avoid doing so at all costs while in public, unless I'm speaking to Stefan though. I know that if I were in a dire situation the language barrier wouldn't be as difficult - particularly in a time of crisis. I don't figure the chances of a doctor speaking Albanian are very high.

At one point I considered becoming an immigration lawyer. Life is a bit too complicated for that, particularly if I am not sure where we are going to live. I also think I see the humanity side of it rather than the paperwork that it really entails. I'm still very intrigued by it all.

When we went to file for my permanent visa renewal the woman was new to the office. Even her tone was pleasant. She said it was 'an easy case' because we had a marriage license (with an apostille), and translations. She said they 'get couples from Afganistan who say they are married because her father said so'. The fascinating thing is that so many people are able to come to Germany. We have great social systems here, which does set things up to be taken advantage of. It's a tricky divide, because I believe in helping people as much as possible, but it's hard to help people who come here simply to milk the system. It's a better quality of life here for much less work for some. The German attitude varies, although it is evident there is a streak of resentment towards these families, especially when the women are oppressed and use their children as translators.

Stefan' mom and I were discussing these issues. It does make it difficult especially when you have children in a school that is diverse. Of course being exposed to other cultures is important. Stefan learned to say 'aya caba neeki' (Turkish that I phonetically spelled) meaning to tie his shoes, while he was in school. - I even said it to a Turkish guy in my class and I could see he was so happy that I would try to learn some Turkish. I'd greet him with a 'Merhaba'. It is a large struggle though, when your child speaks German and comes from a German background and they go to school with children that are there learning the language first. I have had multiple children come up to me with their mothers in tow at the train station asking me something and being the translator.

I've also been told Salzburg also has issues with wealthy Russians coming to purchase homes in the Alps for winter time. They drive up the prices and are only there several weeks a year, so many people living there grow resentful.

The struggles are interesting. It is also obvious they start young. When I was teaching Greek children English last summer I was asking who had traveled to (insert place). As soon as I said 'Turkey' they went from raising their hands to shoving them in between their legs in an act of defiance.

In being here I see things as human struggles more than pinning things on certain cultures. People with money are always going to be advantaged, those without it are going to want a better life for their families, and a lot of attitudes start young and at home.

I enjoyed my German class - it was a small group that was always kind to one another and there unspoken understandings that united us all in being foreign. There were people who unfortunately cheated themselves. They would cheat on tests or want to copy homework. At times I wondered if I was the only one that got the memo that we were there to learn for ourselves. I have to step back and realize that other cultures may take great insult to be held back in a class. It was always obvious though when someone would not be able to speak with basic conversation, or would respond to 'Wie heißen Sie?' (what's your name) with 'Ich habe' (I have).

That being said - there was still a strong religious current. The Islamic men united, and nearly didn't come to the end of the year holiday party for fear it was a Christmas celebration. Two of my favorite classmates were from Morocco and Tunisia. I quickly realize how people must hold on to what is uniquely them when they are thrown into something new. Suddenly basic things like religion and language or nationality are strong uniters. Everyone wants to be understood. I really love the dynamics of it all.

My next 100 hours (to make me half way finished with the required amount) should begin in January 08. I hope this class is able to keep pace for those of us that want to learn. Last time it was really catering towards the lower achieving / unmotivated people.

Doctor + ER in one night

I've always been a bit skeptical of the German doctors and hospitals. I know that they help people, the body is not any different here than back home, and they've done a fine job keeping people alive for eons. It's more a fear of the unknown.

Regardless of knowing all of these things it's always been a worry of mine, that I would encounter some kind of health crisis and then struggle to communicate or understand what was happening to me. I have been warned that if/when I encounter a medical issue it's common to feel a bit of culture shock or panic.

It's such a blessing to speak some German and English. I still think back to the woman in my German class that was pregnant and from Albania. A lot of Eastern European people live in communities here. The ones I have met really struggle to learn German, or simply don't care to, but are required to. That would make me a nervous wreck - but I have to remember if I can't communicate, I have a husband that can help, and I'm in a country with high standards and cleanliness. I start to realize some immigrants are not as fortunate as I am. Even with these complexities the quality of life is higher for them here. It takes a lot of faith to live somewhere like that.

Anyway... back to the purpose of this, before I go on another tangent about immigrants.

Last night was my night. I knew that I was developing a bladder infection and needed to go to the doctor after a week of trying to self medicate with 100% cranberry juice and some medication from the apotheke. When that wasn't cutting it, I knew that I had to schedule things around Stefan - my loving husband and translator's schedule. Fortunately our neighborhood doctor has drop in hours. I had to go then because with Christmas and our upcoming trip everything closes up. I shed a few tears when he came to get me - more for the fear of the unknown than anything else.

I was surprised how small the office was, however we only had to wait for a little while. It was also strange for me to see desks and computers in the doctors office where she saw me. I guess I am used to someone else doing the clerical work where I never see it.

She did some pressing on my stomach and decided that she was worried there could possibly be a problem with my right ovary or appendix. She prescribed some medication for the bladder infection and then told us to double up on birth control otherwise we could get our own 'Christkind' - a funny joke for Christmas. Then she promptly called Dr. Kern and had me sent to the ER at the Rechts der Isar Hospital for an ultra sound, just to be safe.

Yes, I got to experience all of the German medical system in one evening.

Stefan lead me towards where he thought was where the hospital was located and after a couple of wrong turns we made it. The wait wasn't very long and the doctors were all quite young (probably due to the fact that it's partnered with the Technical University here). Everyone was kind and spoke English with me. The most difficult part was finding a vein for blood tests. I was stuck twice and then my last vein dried up before the last vial was pulled, so he had to do it again.

They told us that they think I only had a bad bladder infection, however if I do have continuing pain I will need to go back. I was most concerned about missing our trip and the doctor told me I would have to be in the hospital for three days if I did need an appendectomy. They said they can never really tell unless they go in for surgery, but things looked OK. I almost felt like a tourist attraction because I had to speak with so many doctors. Another woman who worked for a butcher and dropped a 10kg roll of cellophane on her foot also came in and wanted to chat. It's nice to use my German and I know a lot of people love to practice their English. We usually end up responding to one another in our opposite language.

About 5.5 hours from the start of the ordeal we were in the taxi on the way home. We were both surprised at where we were because it's quite close to where we live, however never turn down that street. I was relieved just to be home.

I'm much more comfortable with the doctors here. Now I just have to cope with a few enormous bruises and medication. I'm very happy that our trips won't be affected. Stefan is still trying to get me to visit the German dentist, which I am leery of, because he believes that all old people get dentures. I keep reminding him that if you take good care of your teeth, that dentures aren't essential. I think I'll save the dentist appointments for visits home.

hospital photo: Chirurgische Klinik und Hörsäle

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Hearing my family talk about my dog and how they still have to be cautious at the holidays really makes me miss her. She is so mischievous and will take ornaments off the tree and run so you will chase her. She is a chronic barker and borderline neurotic. She hates things being out of place and will simply stand at alert and bark if she sees the smallest thing that is out of place. Forget trying to pack for a trip... suitcases certainly don't belong wherever you place them.

Germany and Europe for that matter, are very dog friendly. I was so surprised when someone told me that it's a Bavarian law, that dogs must wear muzzles in public. Forget that... you are lucky if they are on a leash, but the funny thing is they are so well behaved. Better behaved than the school kids who are running amuck. (Yes, I realize I sound like a 90 year old).

If only I could be there to watch Mieka tear into her christmas gift this year! I'm thinking of you kleiner hund!

No work... all play (or cookie baking)

... So I didn't have to go to Salzburg and I am spending my day baking cookies and most likely reading or watching a movie.

I went to the train station to meet up with a co-worker this morning, and one thing I am really going to miss are the characters that linger about. There is a woman that I have aptly named Gollum, because she gurgles and groans at people as they walk past. She seems rather strung out, but what is striking is how fashionable she is... one day she will have a scarf with skulls on it or something extra to accessorize with. My other favorite is the French man that works for the tourist board. He was frustrated that no one brough bread for the birds, when my co-worker she said she would yesterday. Fortunately he brought a large bag of bird seed. I loved his accent as he told her, 'zou are a very bad gurl'.

It is starting to slowly feel like Christmas... despite the fact that I didn't go to the Krampus Run this year, and I also haven't frequented the Christmas markets too much. Our little tree is up and our gifts are overflowing, thanks mostly to my family, that just sent an enormous package with lots of presents. (Photo is pre-lots of presents).

I'm still not entirely sure what to make of a German Christmas. There are a few more formalities, less Rudolph and Snoopy Christmas programs, different cookies, a more quiet and intimate dinner... simple things -that are different.

I think back to last year and the trials and tribulations to make Christmas 06 so... unforgettable.

  • Stefan wanting 20 lights on the tree... they were 2 strands of 10 -- the best part - the wiring was white!
  • When I said I wanted two strands totaling 100 lights - he said 'it was going to look like Rockefeller Center'. 
  • Christmas lights on a lasso - as if a string of lights isn't frustrating enough... they have them in a circle. 
  • The oven that wanted to make my cookie baking a memorable, but not so enjoyable experience.
  • The drying boxes that were installed after Stefan flooded the apartment installing our dishwasher.
  • My sister visiting during all of the chaos, and yes -- during the drying boxes.
  • The Krampus that smacked Stefan and many mugs of glühwein at the markets. 
  • Amy + I getting yelled at in German that we must as to take photos of things at Tollwood. Yes, I understood - no I didn't respond. 
  • The Omas having real candles on their trees. 
  • Me guessing my gift from Stefan and making him mad... (I didn't peak!)
I told him we can't have children until his stumping skills improve - who lets someone guess their gift? He vetoed guessing this year... looks like no children for a while longer. I told my sister I was going to have to rent a car and put a huge bow on it and then put his gift in the car one year.

It will be interesting to see what Christmas 07 brings.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Salzburg... noch mal

My Dad recently read that tour guiding is the worst job to have. I am not sure of the reasoning. Probably because it's so unpredictable. There was a tourist that had a heart attack and died at Neuschwanstein this year (not with our groups)... and a co-worker told me about a woman this week, that took the horse carriage up and there is a last bit that people must walk. At this point she decided to tell her that she only had one lung and a brain tumor, so she didn't think it was best for her to go in. Yes, there are quite a few steps in the castle and some serious altitude with bone chilling air. Perhaps we should put a precautionary measure on the brochure.

My last tour group was an American family living in Venezuela for 15 years, a group of 4 young girls from the UK, and a chatty Texan couple that had a lot of pride. It was a nice day and I wished I had brought my camera along. I've already got it packed for tomorrow, which probably means the tour won't go. I am also hoping that it's not so cold. I literally stopped in the middle of one of the Christmas markets and purchased some felt insoles. At the end of the day the man from Texas asked me what exactly I did for the three hours of their free time. A lady never reveals her secrets... I think I do know every chocolate shop in the city, as well as where to get some divine pastries. Not Paris divine, but they will suffice. I also spend a fair amount of time at interio, a fun and affordable design shop. I'm also anxious to try out Carpe Diem, partially owned by Salzburg's own Dietrich Mateschitz... also known as Mr. Red Bull Billionaire.

I'm still a bit behind on my cookie baking. My new favorites are oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with sea salt.

That will be my job for Friday. I am also depressed over the discontinuation of one of the best chocolates - the Domori latte sal (sea salt chocolate).

That is part of my sea salt oatmeal inspired cookies. I am still hoping that's just a rumor, although I am having the urge to start stocking up now!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Defining moments...

What is my most defining moment and what has it taught me... (the answer is probably obvious).

I would say moving to a foreign country - it's an up and down journey that has taught me a lot about people, cultures, partially another language, and most of all about myself.

I've learned...

- living abroad isn't glamorous. I spend way too much time by myself. I get lonely from time to time.

- it's difficult to fit in being a foreigner. I have gained so much compassion for those that come to the US in search of something better.

- there are kind people and selfish people everywhere. Given the chance, I still believe people are innately good.

-The US fascinates people - they always wonder how we can land on our feet, regardless of the situation. It probably sounds ethnocentric of me, but it's a place of hope for so many.

- it is frustrating to not be understood, but on the flip side, body language and mannerisms tell a lot. Smiles work wonders!

- I will never in my life feel complete, there will always be a piece of me missing... I will always miss my family back home, or Germany if/ when we move.

- it's a blessing to move to a country and not be running from something.

- friends say they will visit, some do, many don't.

- there is no right or wrong way of doing things... sure it's hard to see friends sink roots in and buy homes, when I don't know where I will be living in a couple years. As much as I envy them from time to time, I am blessed to be able to travel right now.

- it's difficult to connect when friends lead such different lives, but all in all, good friends remain good friends with plenty in common.

- I've learned to be content with experiences and not things. It's so easy to buy things in the US because it's really affordable. Here there is no middle range. Obviously I don't buy clothes here. I've learned to save a lot of money.

-I realize that even during my lowest days I am very fortunate for what I have. I'm able to really value the time that I have with people I care about.


Lately I keep seeing things about Croatia... they were just in Dubrovnik on the Amazing Race, and then I stumbled upon an insane photo of these many tiny waterfalls spilling over mossy rocks. Unfortunately the more I travel the more I want to continue seeing the beauty in the world.

I am also interested in traveling to:
Croatia > North Dalmatia > Skradin > Krka (Cherca) Nacionalni Park,
as well as The Plitvice Lakes National Park, which is halfway between capital city Zagreb and Zadar on the coast.

To get there...
The closest airport to Plitvice Lakes is at Zagreb which is about 140km away.

It takes about 2.5 hours by bus from Zagreb to get to Plitivice Lakes and 4 hours from Split. However, I want to fly into the touristy Dubrovnik, so we'll see what happens.

Approximately 30 buses pass to/from Zagreb/South Croatia daily.

photo: Jack Brauer

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

German style cooking + baking

Living abroad is fantastic, although it occasionally has it's challenges. Living in Germany has taught me a lot about cooking things from scratch as well as other 'issues' regarding baking.

I always love pumpkin dishes and it is a blessing and a curse. Rather than opening a can of pumpkin, I have to cook a hokkaido pumpkin. If there aren't small ones available we have pumpkin in every shape and form imaginable- with pasta, cookies, bread... you get the drift. I assume it's probably more nutritious not coming from a can as well. Fortunately, I have plenty of time to perfect my cooking skills and to bake my pumpkins down.

We have some of the most spectacular chocolate shops, however cakes and cookies are entirely different - they are much more dry and hard. I'd love if we could get Vosges Naga cookies here -- if you have not tried them I highly recommend it. They are a mixture of Sweet Indian curry + fresh coconut + pumpkin purée + woolloomooloo milk chocolate chip. I should also state that I absolutely love indian food. These aren't overpowering though. Once you try them they are rather addicting.

Last year when my sister was visiting we were having issues with baking Christmas cookies. It turns out Germany doesn't have the same flour or brown sugar. I think our oven wasn't the best either. I've since figured out where to get some similar brown sugar, which recipes to use with which flour (405 is like American pastry flour) and 550 is similar to all purpose flour (thanks to King Arthur). We also got a new oven shortly after.

I'm going to try to figure out a decent replication of the Vosges cookie since they aren't available in Germany. Hopefully I come up with something that's a success. Till (one of Stefan's coworkers) even brought us back some chocolate chips from Barcelona that I will try out.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

More art

I was so excited while looking at a design blog today and seeing something I had searched high and low for. There was a copy of ReadyMade , that had an artist with beautiful paper works. I didn't buy it and of course it was then off the news stands. I checked their website and couldn't find it. I seriously couldn't get it out of my head. Low and behold I saw it again today. The Miami based artist is named Jen Stark. I can't get over the simplicity and complexity of it, which is so contradictory. I also love the use of colors and basic materials.

Here are a few more images and from different angles. There is something so fascinating about it. It does literally burst with energy and effervescence. The engineering mixed with the child like element of construction paper is just genius... and visually stunning.

photos: jen stark

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Trip Around the world...

Stefan and I are considering the option of traveling around the world. It sounds like a dream come true. I have read so many travelogue memoirs that I can only imagine what an adventure it would be to live.

We were already planning a trip through Asia next summer, however it does give us more options to think about. We've also discussed if and when we move back to the US that perhaps that would be a good time. Our flights would be roughly 3,000€ each, or we could book them independently. Even though nothing is a reality as of now, it's still something exciting to think about. There are so many fascinating places to visit. We're definitely making the most of our time here... I was just thinking that November was the first month since May 2007 that we hadn't gone on an international trip together, which is pretty incredible. We'll be picking back up at the end of the month with Copenhagen + Stockholm... then the streak continues with a trip home and to Boston and /or Maine in February, and possibly somewhere in March for Easter weekend!