Monday, April 28, 2008

White Dishes

It's probably jumping the gun a bit to get more dishes and serving ware, after all we don't entertain too often due to having a quaint but sweet apartment. Sometimes I can't resist myself. I love beautifully designed things and dishes are no different -especially if they are white.

When we went to Vienna I even wrote down the dish ware brand at our hotel, the Levante Parliament, because I was that impressed. (If anyone cares they have Alchemy fine china, Mepra silverwear, and Dedon patio furniture... unfortunately I didn't get the maker of the bed + sheets - which were also phenomenal.)

Stefan will be delighted to see I made a few purchases while he was gone. Today I stumbled across a few pieces that compliment my collection... and to think just the other day I was saying 'I think I need some more serving pieces'.

I've developed a new love for the German porcelain brand Kahla. They have some seriously beautiful things that have won quite a few design awards.

Funny how a trip to the post office and bakery can turn into lugging dishes across town. I was also pleased to find a tiny pitcher perfect for coffee creamer (which I don't drink) and milk for tea (another love of mine). It reminded me of being a tiny child and getting the biggest thrill when my mother would fill her tiny pitcher and let us pour milk over our own cereal. Aren't the simple pleasures in life always the best?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Being the Newcomer

Last night we had dinner at our friends Dirk + Constanze's apartment. I love visiting with them although I sometimes feel I start to zone out after a late night combined with drinks and endless German. One of the trickiest aspects of learning another language is not behaving the same as you do in your native tongue. My reactions are definitely off - especially if someone tells a joke or has a word play, and I don't speak as much since the conversation flows. Keeping up with that for hours on end takes a lot out of me. We came home around 2 am, which is extremely late for the couple that is usually in bed by midnight. Then we had a hurried morning while Stefan packed his last minute things and loaded up his ipod with movies for the flight.

Today is a bittersweet kind of day. I'm left to enjoy the beautiful weather on my own.

I decided to head to the Prater Insel, which had a Newcomer's get together with loads of helpful and informative booths ranging from consulates, international schools, and insurance, to tourism for Switzerland and India. I picked up plenty of literature to read in hopes of gaining some more knowledge about the city, and a few free pens to jot down my thoughts, which will help pass time while Stefan's gone. I also love the M♥Dich promotion, so I was happy to pick up postcards with stickers on the front. Another clever ad was from the International Herald Tribune using percentages from one to one hundred of statistics around the world. Certain areas were in bold print to create the world. A few of the statistics that it listed are: 4% of the world does not live in its country of birth. 15% of the world lives on less than $1 a day. 50% of the world's languages have been lost in the last six years. 61% of the world's births take place in Asia.

I always have high hopes that are a bit unfair for these types of events. I always envision that there is an enclave of newly married young women and other young people that I simply have yet to run into. Rather than that being the case, it's typically families and couples that are 40+. My ideas of then heading to a beer garden and chatting about life before Munich and in Munich don't come to fruition. Instead I spent the rest of my afternoon tracking Stefan's flight and waiting to hear that he's arrived safely.

It always seems more difficult to be the person that is left behind. I spend time wondering what new and exciting things he's encountering while I have the small reminders that he was just here. I am happy that I have my upcoming trip to get excited about and focus on rather than dwelling on the fact he's not here. The goodbyes never get easier, but they do make the returns that much sweeter.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Piranske Soline

I am getting ready for my upcoming trip to Ljubljana, which I continually hear good things about. It will be a quiet couple days to myself, enjoying the Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau ambiance. I'm also very excited to visit Piranske Soline, which is supposed to be a renowned salt shop. The salt is gathered by hand using the same technique they used in the 14th century. It makes me wish I was going to be closer to the Adriadic and able to do it myself. They say,

“Only sea, sun, wind and the hand of the salter are involved in this procedure.”
There's something so romantic and simple about that for me. I love things that technology is unable to replace or replicate that require human hands and take time to create. You can read more about the park where the salt is harvested here.

Sometimes I find it funny how certain aspects of my life seem to crop up time and time again... like salt. I give tours to Salzburg, which is a city that made it's riches from salt. The word salt is derived from the Latin word 'salerium', from which salary comes from, since salt was white gold of it's time and often how people were paid. It continues to pay me!

I am also going to enjoy the Piranske Soline salt flower and dark chocolate bar. That alone is worth the trip for me. They even have a line of body products called 'Lepa Veda', which is the title of a France Prešeren poem about a young woman who goes to live abroad only to miss home. The more I learn the happier I am to be going... it's definitely kismet.

I'm already so impressed with Ljubljana and I haven't even been yet. And I'm sure that my salted coconut oatmeal chip cookies will be even more delicious while enjoy them and think of my trip to Slovenia.

(photo courtesy of Ljubljana Tourism)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

German kinder bucher

Whenever we travel we always pick up a beautiful children's book. Sometimes they are in English, while other times we'll find something in the native language of the place we're visiting. I was walking down the street the other day and stumbled upon these two books and was drawn to them for different reasons.

'Mouk' is about a little character that travels around the world sending postcards back to his friends and family. I just love the illustrations by Frenchman Marc Boutavant. I'm always drawn to the maps and information about other cultures, even for tiny readers. His illustrations remind me of the Richard Scarry 'Tiny Town' books that I read as a child, except his have a Japanese feel to them. The busy pages are sure to garner attention and curiosity. Unfortunately this book is not available in the US, which is more the reason to buy it here.

'Noch eins' is a board book that is for smaller children and focuses on counting. It includes the work of Wayne Thiebaud and combines his paintings of cakes and confections with numbers, which is terrific. I've always been a fan of his work which delights my inner desire to be a pastry chef. Besides, what child wouldn't be enamored with images of sweets while learning to count? His paintings are so pretty.

My all time favorite German children's book is one I purchased on one of my first visits. It's called 'Ich' by Philip Waechter. I've not read the English version, however the German version is so delightful. It's the simple tale of a brown bear who tells the reader how beautiful, smart, brave, and special he is although sometimes he feels small and lonely. At the end he says how he runs and runs into his loved ones arms and feels safe. The illustrations are sweet and the story is really charming.

Reading these children's books even helps me improve my German.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Today I met up with Brock + Manuel and we decided to head to Frühlingfest, which is basically a small sampling of what Oktoberfest is about. It's located at Theresienwise, and has loads of carney rides and one lone beer tent. I never quite understand why these events aren't marketed towards tourists much at all because there also aren't many locals that go either. It seems like a lot of effort to put everything together and not have more customers. (At Oktoberfest the above tent would be difficult to even find a table in.)

For some reason these festivals always have airbrushed signs with American icons, flags, and awful Cowboy / Native American stereotyped imagery. Isn't it nice to be associated with such kitschy and tacky items?

I'm already looking forward to celebrating Oktoberfest and having friends visit. I can't wait to hear what they think about all of it. I don't think people usually expect the carney twist. Today we even saw a ride that spun and flipped that looked frightening. On the sign it had the universal struck through red circle denoting vomiting and urinating on this ride is 'verboten'. I'm curious how they prevent drunkards from partaking in these rides. Regardless you couldn't pay me to get on one.

We also appreciated the flowers as we walked through the city. There always seem to be new ones in bloom and familiar parks often look different from the new colors and varieties, although the white ones remain to be my favorite.

Anouk Omlo

When I was teaching art I always loved projects that elevated it by intertwining it with math and science. Milan design week was just a week ago and I fell in love with the work of Anouk Omlo. Not only does she have a cool name, her work is beautiful and based on mother nature's golden rule and the Fibonacci sequence. There's an innate appeal that organic things carry, even if they are man made.

Perhaps I am also drawn to her work because it is similar to that of Jen Stark, the paper artist that I am in awe of. What's unique is that Omlo uses ceramics to craft her ‘Helica Series’. I love the delicate balance and the attention to detail in both artists work and how logical and mathematical equations are able to create something so organic.

I should also note that Omlo is Dutch. There seem to be so many great artists coming from the Netherlands. While the Dutch artists tend to be creating different work from artists of Scandinavia, it's surely a hot bed of great design and makes me look forward to our trip to Amsterdam even more.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Day at the park

One of Munich's simple pleasures is a Sunday afternoon (particularly one with good weather). When I initially came to Germany I wasn't sure about everything besides neighborhood cafes and restaurants being closed every Sunday. It's something that I have grown to love. Life slows and leisurely afternoons at the park are a perfect way to end a weekend with friends and family.

The parks here are a beautiful thing. I never grow tired of seeing the dogs run about, the parents playing with their children, teens flirting, and the old men playing chess with crates of beer near by. Another interesting fixture at the park is ping pong. Many parks have permanent ping pong tables, which gave me a good laugh when I first came. I always bring a book, but inevitably end up people watching and adding dialogue to what I think they would be saying.

Warmer weather also calls for working out - not because I am one of the nude sunbathers that also frequents the parks, but because I bike to the beer gardens and the maß (1 litre) of beer gets heavy. That is undoubtedly what I would miss the most if we were to move from Munich. Here even the dogs are not forgotten. The labels underneath denote different kinds of beer, although the bowls are filled with water.

What's fascinating about the beer gardens is that they are not unruly and full of drunkards (that's reserved for Oktoberfest), but it's a lot of community camaraderie. Tables are shared with strangers who may strike up a conversation, but it's very enjoyable and lends to the special spirit of Munich.

Our park and beer garden of choice today was at the Michaelibad in the Ostpark. What I like about this park is that it's a cultural meshing with a lot of diversity.

Upon entering there was a faint sound of beating drums, which I told Stefan could have been my heart pounding since I'm so out of shape. Fortunately it wasn't. We rounded the corner and saw a large group of Middle Eastern men dancing and enjoying their afternoon. My other favorite sight was a group of tiny Asian boys, suited up in jerseys of their favorite soccer teams, that were trying to keep up with a man that was running them up and down the hills.

I love Michaelibad's ponds and beautiful flowers. I'm happy that Spring has finally arrived!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Maldives revisited

Stefan and I went to the Maldives in January 2007, which seems like ages ago. Not long after I had met him he was telling me that when he got married he was going to spend his honeymoon in the Maldives. I wasn't entirely certain what the Maldives were about until he was showing me images on the internet. I instantly became envious of his future wife and thought she would be one lucky woman. Thankfully I'm that lucky lady.

While on our trip we loved the mango chutney they served each night with the freshest fish I will ever have. I did feel guilty admiring the fish while we snorkeled and then eating them at dinner, but I realize it's the island way of life.

There isn't much to buy at the resort and taking shells and corals from the island is illegal, but we took many photos and several jars of mango chutney back with us.

While shopping at one of the Asian groceries I came across Tiger beer, which we were served on the island. It was a tiny surprise for Stefan, but something that made us both smile while we recalled the sand at our feet while we ate dinner.

It's a nice reminder of our trip and I'm hoping once we run out of chutney we'll just have to make it back to buy more. If only it was that simple.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mysterious date

Stefan called me from work today and said to meet at the Starbucks near the Opera house, where he would then take me to our dinner reservations at 7:30pm. I wasn't sure if I should be more surprised that he was taking me on a random date, or by the fact that he was going to be off work around 7pm.

It turns out we went to Cosmo Grill, which I had just written about. Oddly enough I had just walked past it earlier in the day after I was curious of where exactly it was located. Then I recalled seeing it when I first moved and thinking 'we need to go there'.

When I looked at their website I assumed that since it said it was open until 6 that meant PM... evidently it's 6AM. Stefan called for reservations and then was surprised when we arrived at just how tiny this place is. It has 5 tables and definitely draws people in. I'm sure it gets a fair amount of business from the near by Höfbräuhaus and Opera as well.

As for the burgers, they were quite good. We also sampled the salad and sea salt potatoes. Everything is very fresh, beautiful, and simple.

Stefan had the Cosmo avocado burger, while I opted for the Ziegenkäse (goat cheese) burger, which was slightly sweet. I think next time I will try to Wasabi tuna, because the wasabi sauce I tried from Stefan's was great.

I'd definitely recommend it for a nice gourmet burger that is fresh and light. I'm certain we'll be back. Now I'll need to plan a fun surprise date!

As the German's say: 'Ein guten!'

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pizza + Intelligence

Lately I have been loving pizza. Unfortunately Germany doesn't do carry out pizza like the US. I have had one carry out pizza here and it was horrible. Instead we typically get them at an Italian restaurant or enjoy a frozen pizza. My favorite brand is 'Wagner's La Pizzia Rusticale'.

Coincidentally Stefan was recently telling me about a new German book titled 'Generation Doof' (Generation Stupid). There was even a write up about it this past weekend in the Abendzeitung. The authors, Anne Weiss and Stefan Bonner, are worried German youngsters are stupid since they instantly think pizza when they hear 'Wagner' as opposed to King Ludwig II's inspiration Richard Wagner. Many children also believe Frankfurt is located in the middle of the Black Forest, but they can recognize the annoying Jamba 'Crazy Frog' ring tones.

What I found comical in the article were the comparisons to the US. At first they were saying that similar books had come out in the US, then the last paragraph of the article said:

"Und, noch ein kleiner Trost für uns: Die Amerikaner sind angeblich noch viel dümmer. Da denkt immerhin jeder Fünfte, dass sich die Erde um die Sonne dreht."
translating to:
"There's still a consolation for us: The Americans are even more stupid. Since every fifth person still thinks the earth revolves around the sun."

I'm not sure if they were trying to be smart rather than saying four out of five people don't realize it does, or if they simply miswrote and therefore don't look intelligent. Thankfully Stefan wasn't sure either.

So perhaps I will read this book and challenge myself with the German and understanding more of their psyche.

In other pizza related things, tonight I made a Pomodori apple dessert pizza. Pomodori's is a delicious wood fired pizza restaurant located right by the University of Cincinnati. However, since we're not anywhere near Cincinnati, I decided to make one tonight.


Which reminds me of the cultural differences... When Stefan first came to the US he didn't realize people don't order an entire pizza to eat themselves, and that a few slices is plenty. We were ordering pizza one night and deciding if one or two was enough for us and my house mates. He was being polite and going with the flow, but he was afraid he'd still be hungry - that is until he found how different the pizza is. I miss those naïve days, but they still make me laugh.

Cosmo Grill

It's probably quite obvious that I am not a big meat eater, however I do appreciate a veggie burger from time to time. I often try to make my own black bean burgers, which always come out a bit too moist, but they suffice.

I was reading a design website a while back when I came across a small restaurant that was up for design awards, which immediately piqued my interests.

I love good architecture, design, and a delicious meal. It just so happens this little gem is in Munich. I've yet to visit... I'm adding this one to another date list, however the ingredients look seriously delicious. You can check out the menu here: Cosmo Grill Menu.

I think my picks would be the Wasabi Tuna burger or the Goat Cheese burger, although I'm still amazed a black bean burger is so hard to find around here.

I'd love to hear if anyone has been.

It looks like Stefan + I will need a home town vacation soon to enjoy Munich's simple little pleasures.

(images from Design Build Network)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Book Love

Imagine my surprise and happiness when I read about Good Stock custom books this morning on Oh Happy Day, one of my favorite blogs.

I've written about my obsession with books and making books, but this has been taken to an entirely new level. The website is beautiful and the limitless options are beyond comparison for a beautiful and personal heirloom. And the first year baby book? - It's stunning.

It makes me think about the boxes and boxes of letters that Stefan and I have written to each other, in addition to all of the family mementos, photos, and old letters that can be beautifully preserved.

As soon as family gets involved I get so nostalgic. What an excellent job it would be helping people preserve their memories.

Monday, April 14, 2008

New York Times does Munich

According to the New York Times yesterday, Munich is 'Germany's Hot Spot of the Minute'.

I found it funny that they open talking about Zerwirk, a vegan restaurant - considering Bavaria loves it's meat. It also happens to be on my list of favorite things in Munich.

However I must comment once again, that the food there is quite delicious. We celebrated New Years Eve 2007 there. It's the kind of place that you might feel slightly strange walking into if you are wearing leather shoes and not wanting to offend those that live the Vegan lifestyle, however I wasn't openly looked down upon for wearing my leather shoes.

It has a homey feel complete with a little dog scampering around and is cosy with clean lines and bright open rooms. Yes, I do realize that I wrote about the dog before, but I never get tired of seeing dogs in places where my American upbringing tells me they should be 'verboten'.

The photo above is of dessert, which was a marzipan ice with pistachio cream and kumquats. Don't ask me how they make a cream without using dairy products.

It's ironic that the restaurant is in the building of an old butcher. As of the first of February the restaurant has changed slightly by now also including raw foods and adding the 'Saf' moniker. It looks like Stefan and I will have to visit again sometime soon... especially with their new Thai curry, which sounds amazing.

We also need to check out the Anish Kapoor's (of Chicago's Cloud Gate fame) instillation at the Haus der Kunst.

Sounds like a great date night this weekend!

Foreign languages

Learning another language can often be a daunting task, particularly when you're not living in a country where it is widely spoken. Sometimes I feel as though I have ample amounts of time to burn so I'd like to do something productive and invest in myself. Sure I'll always have more German to learn and need to brush up on grammar, but you can only do so much. The trick is trying to keep it light and fun.

While attending language school is one way of learning, I also appreciate a site called Live Mocha. It's an interactive website that offers courses in reading, writing, listening, and communicating with other members. The German is a bit too basic for my needs, but I'm able to take online courses in Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, French, and Spanish, which is a nice break from being inundated with German.

It's also nice to for travels, although I don't know how often I would need to say 'You are a man' to someone in any country. I must be honest though - in addition to the picture dictionaries that I am very fond of, I also will sometimes print out a cheat sheet from Single Serving. You can even download the mp3's and listen to them for additional practice.

Happy Learning!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mixology course

I've complained before about the lack of 'plus one' invitations to German after work functions. Thankfully partners and spouses were included in this event.

We went to a golf course where we had dinner and were instructed on how to create cocktails of our own by the Skyy Flair Boot Camp. It was a unique event and a great time to socialize with Stefan's co-workers. The golf club was a bit different than the ones in the US. It was a combination of golf course and horse track. I also loved that their bar stools were golf tees.

At the workshop we were taught how to make variations of the beloved Caipirinha, as well as other saccharine drinks.

They also told us Pitu Cachaça isn't very good compared to what is in Brazil, but it's well marketed. Instead they suggested a brand called Don Diego if you don't want a hang over.

I must say I didn't wake up with a hang over, but I wasn't drinking much, which led some of the new fathers to speculate why. One even mixed me a non-alcoholic drink. I had to laugh. I'm just not into sweet drink mixes. If they would have had real margaritas the night may have ended differently.

It was fun watching the secretary get into it and I was beginning to wonder if she was going to quit her day job to join the Skyy team. In addition to mixing drinks they also were teaching us how to make exotic drink decor, like the banana dolphin. It was a fun evening and great to get together with everyone.

It's also always interesting when there are new employees that don't know me. One was visiting from Hanover and didn't know I was American, while another introduced herself and said that I'm known around the office for making baked goods and she was happy to finally meet me. One of the mixologist instructors thought I was Dutch. It's always slightly strange to meet people that know more about me than I know about them.

It was a great evening, but don't expect me to quit tours to Salzburg for bar tending.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I've been spending a lot of time thinking about interior design and redecorating as we consider moving. The most important part, being the apartment, hasn't been decided upon... but I still plan what I would like to do with the space when I have it.

Stefan gets annoyed with my collection of design magazines and I confess it is time to part with them. I tear out the things that I like and neatly organize them into transparent folios for future reference so the magazines don't take up space.

While looking through the pages, I came across an ad about there not being enough art in our schools and it said 'no wonder people think Caravaggio is a guy on the Sopranos'. The art enthusiast in me makes me read the entire ad, agree, and then think back to my own art education, which I absolutely loved.

My entire life I have been blessed with interesting characters as art teachers. They are usually an eccentric bunch with right brained mentalities. I even had a theory growing up that tempera paint had something to do with pregnancy, because my elementary school went through so many art teachers who became pregnant and moved on.

Something I miss about attending a university are the dynamic professors. Of course they are few and far between, but once you have class with them you never forget. My philosophy of art professor has had so many professions in his life including aerospace engineer, patent lawyer, and professor. He also had fascinating stories about growing up in an orphanage, having a best friend there that murdered his entire family, teaching himself to read, surviving a plane crash, nearly going blind 'so everything looks like a Monet painting' - it goes on and on.

His lectures were always filled with random comments, like 'if I were a homosexual I'd say Michelangelo's David was pretty well hung', or stating that in college 'you party and have fun, but then you search for something more to life, which is when you find art'. I would always write down his strange quotes along side my notes.

Needless to say I went on to double major in art education and art history. It was my art history teachers in college that I loved the most. They were personable, creative, articulate, and very observant. Even with their PhD's, they always insisted you call them by their first names.

One of the best teacher's I've ever had was Roger. He was studying to be a lawyer when he decided to take an art history course and then found his true calling. He always would remind us to stop and consider who the patrons were and how ideas and materials were transfered through trade routes. We would discuss the processes of making art and paint during the Renaissance versus today and there was never a dull moment.

So as I looked at this Caravaggio ad and think back to Roger, since his specialty is Italian art. Now it seems ironic to me to look at interior design magazines knowing I will most likely pick the majority of furnishings, upholstery, and decorations, while the paper trail leads back to my husband. Sometimes I have to laugh at how history repeats.

I love art history's ability to connect cultures and time periods, which unites humanity in the search for what life is about.

Interestingly there are many replicas of Michelangelo's David around the world, including the one above, which we were surprised to see in Copenhagen. I'm sure he never imagined his works would be replicated and made into kitschy tourist mementos.

Now I'll have to send that ad to Roger.