Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gift guide: Him & Her

1. Leatherman 830850 Skeletool CX Multitool - a sharp serrated knife, a carabiner clip/bottle opener, full size pliers that boast wire cutters and an interchangeable screwdriver. It's also very lightweight. (image amazon)

2. Microspikes - great for outdoor sports and people who live in very snowy areas. (image kahtoola)

3. The Sanctuary - a nicely designed catch all that also features a universal charger compatible with over 1500 electronic devices. (image blue lounge)

4. Polimaster watch - a radiation monitoring watch for the health and environmentally concerned. (image Polimaster)

5. Collar Stays - cute hidden messages so he can carry your love notes all day. (image red envelope)

6. Cub Cadet 173 CC Chipper Shredder Vac- the do it all machine for men that enjoy / hate doing yard work. It vacuums and shreds saving time. (image home depot)

7. Kiel Mead Forget me Knot ring - This is a sweet and dainty little reminder of a loved one or a special time. (image kiel mead)

8. The Mandate Press calling cards - 200 beautiful letterpressed business / calling cards for less than $100. (image mandate press)

9. beautiful day coat rack - such a simple way to start the day, with a reminder of optimism. (image urban outfitters)

10. Teavana teas - a special and practical gift for the tea lover. (image teavana)

11. iposture - a small gift for the health conscious that alerts them to their posture with a gentle vibration. (image iposture)

12. Year of Seeds - beautiful and simple pots to grow flowers throughout the year. (image red envelope)

Other gift related websites:
Red Envelope

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Haba Recall

Since I am constantly saying how much I adore the toy brand Haba, I thought it would be important to note today I learned that some of their toys have been recalled since August. You can see which toys are affected below and by clicking here. The link includes a form for postage paid refunds and exchanges.

No children have been injured, but it appears the problems are mainly with the toys that have prism and mirrors attached. Unfortunately some of my favorites are included in this recall - like the Bonita rattle.

While I assume the recall is global, I'm still not sure. The German site does not refer to the recall, but earlier this month despite picked over shelves, I was still able to purchase several of these recalled toys in Munich. Regardless, if you buy Haba toys I thought I would spread the word.

(images Haba)

Heirloom cookbook

While I was on the internet hiatus I was able to really work on a rather large project.

I decided to make an heirloom cookbook filled with our favorite recipes as well as family favorites from Stefan’s family and mine. I have had this in mind for some time and thankfully I had a large stock of photos that I have taken of various dishes over the years. At the last minute my Grandma gave me some of her recipes that I didn’t have photos for. I improvised by taking images of ingredients and her.

Once I was finished making the book, I decided to add photos of the people that gave me the recipe, as well as little quips about occasions when we eat the particular food or what it reminds me of. After that was completed I added a simplified family tree in the back. It’s rather amazing, but I can track some of my mother’s family back to the 1500’s!

Rather than tackling this again, because it was much more time consuming than I could have ever expected, I will continually make pages of new favorite recipes and combine them for a second book once I have enough.

My sister said the book has already arrived and she said it's absolutely beautiful. She sent me these pictures until I am able to pick it up next month. I'm so excited!

Charley Harper

I just learned that Old Navy is selling Charley Harper clothing for babies and toddlers. They also have board books and puzzles with his gorgeous illustrations on them. I love that my home state can claim him...

(images from Old Navy)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Photo scavenger hunt

Here are my finds for the November photo scavenger hunt.

The words chosen this month, by Lane, were: breakfast, sleepy, manners, winter, and waiting. The photos can be viewed larger by clicking them.

Feel free to join in - and please let me know if you do! I love seeing the results.

I'm finally back in the loop

Due to a combination of wanting what you can’t have and feeling as though everyone else knows something that you don’t, not having the internet for a over a week was extremely difficult (we just got it back this morning - finally!). Suddenly I had to find other means of figuring out the weather forecast, contacting family and friends, and relying on good old fashion cookbooks for recipes.

As much as I hate to admit that living without technology is difficult, it's a lot harder than I expected. Living in a foreign country definitely doesn't help in feeling cut off from virtually everything.

I'm currently trying to catch up on emails, blogs, and what is happening in the world. I'll be posting quite a bit in the coming days, although my posts will most likely be back dated in the order events happened, so check back!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The days of Christmas are near when Krampus makes an appearance. My sister came for the Christmas markets the first year I lived in Germany. We had read about the Krampus Run and were intrigued when we learned about Krampus and Knecht Ruprecht, who join St. Nick on December 5th, only with more sinister intentions. Of course being good little American girls this was something we had never encountered.

When we went into the market I was horrified at how scary the Krampus actually were, even though I knew they weren't 'real'. We also got at good laugh out of a mini-Krampus who was a child dressed in a similar furry suit and his larger companion that smacked Stefan with his switches. Nothing delighted my little heart more than seeing my husband singled out for being a naughty one.

Salzburg gets an early start on their Christmas markets and started theirs on the 20th, while Munich will begin theirs on Friday the 28th. As I meandered around Salzburg's markets I was constantly struck by the devilish grin of Krampus on everything from masks better suited for halloween, to chocolates and gingerbread.

Then there was my favorite - an entire Krampus army made out of dried fruit. I also saw my other Christmas favorite - decorated apples.

On occasion we also have the 'Frohes Weihnachten' variety, as well as the hearts. They are made with stickers while the apples are ripening. I still have to admit they are pretty fascinating, which they should be considering they cost about 2€ for a single apple.

I decided to surprise Stefan with his annual advent calendar, which are quite a big deal around here. I thought the less traditional 'tea a day' was more interesting than the random chocolate. Besides, we don't need an excuse like advent to eat chocolates!

I was reminded on my tours that I absolutely love Salzburg in the winter. I'm not sure how I really forget it, or if I block it out so that it's always something magical. Mirabell gardens slowly take the back seat as all of the stunning colors fade to brown and the rest of the city shines with beautiful lights.

They have a large variety of different kinds of glühwein and plenty of warm mugs to go around. Then there is the ice skating rink in the middle of Mozartplatz that makes my inner teenager squeal with delight. All of it combined really make for a romantic atmosphere.

This year, only half of the Christmas market is up due to the continued excavations, which hold my interest. They must be fielding many questions because they have put up a sign denoting what exactly is happening there. It makes me wonder where they will sell their pitifully small and completely adorable christmas trees this year. The best items at the market that I saw were the wood carved animal pens. They have everything from rabbits, frogs, flamingos, and dogs, to sea horses and sting rays.

I'm really looking forward to getting paid to shop around at the Christmas markets, sample all of the seasonal foods, and of course being able to share this little gem with tourists from around the globe.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Make it mine

In my ample amounts of time between working, cooking, and doing little side projects, I decided to turn on the TV. I’m really not a TV watcher, but I do like to know what’s going on in the world.

I realize it's awful to admit that on occasion I will watch MTV or Viva (German MTV) when I get tired of listening to German and dubbed voices. It’s a bit tragic to see how America is perceived and what programs they spend the time and money on dubbing out, but that's a topic unto itself.

All of the suffering paid off when I saw the new Jason Mraz ‘Make it Mine’ video.

It features many popular places in Munich including Viktualienmarkt, The surfer’s wave on the Eisbach river, Schubeck’s ice cream and the Platz’l area, the fountain outside the university, the Chinese tower, Gartnerplatz, and the Isar river banks.

It really made me happy and provided one of those moments where I sit back and think I’m so thankful to live in such a beautiful city!

As a side note, I told my mom about it and suggested she look on for the video. It appears he has two - I don't know if it's a US version and a European / German version or what. I haven't found the Munich version online - what a bummer.

If you see the video, I hope it brings a smile to your face.

EDIT: You can watch the video here or here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanksgiving comes early

Stefan and I decided we would prepare a Thanksgiving feast this weekend since we won’t be together on Thanksgiving Day. He surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers, which was super sweet of him. It was really amazing how fast we were able to make a rather large (and delicious) dinner together.

Our menu included:
Wine we brought back last year from Liechtenstein
Pumpkin soup
Blood orange cranberry blueberry sauce
Knödels (a stuffing substitute)
Chestnuts in a sauerbraten sauce
Sweet potatoes
And pumpkin pie cups

We were very full at the end of the night, and had plenty of leftovers the next day - just like Thanksgiving should be!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lacking Technology

We won't have internet for the coming week, however I am going to try to randomly check my emails and post a few more gift guides in the coming days (whenever I hit up a place with wireless). Just wanted to let you know the internet will be sporadic if you email me or look for new posts!

Hope you had a fantastic weekend! I'll be posting shortly about the project (massive undertaking) I've been working on.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gift guide: Art

I love art and being creative. These are a few things I've seen, that enable those who believe they aren't artistically inclined, to see the art in daily life and find some inspiration.

1. Speedball printing kits (screen printing + block printing) - A nice way to decorate or create printed textiles. (images urban outfitters)

2. Lomo- Unique cameras that automatically create interesting effects. (image lomo)

3. Ork Designs- Typography lovers, designers, or people with cities close to their hearts will appreciate these posters. (image ork designs)

4. Pup Casso Paint Kit for Dogs- Everyone can create art, so why not your dog too? (image art casso)

5. Kid's Art Project - Have artworks from one child or many combined to create a poster. This is a great idea of art teachers, but also for families who want to preserve children's art work. (image kid's art project)

6. Spoon Flower - custom made fabrics, based on whatever you can imagine. This is perfect for creating clothes, bags, and pillows of your dreams. (image spoonflower)

7. 20x200- upcoming artists sell their photos and prints starting at $20. There are 3 editions / sizes typically ranging from $20, $200, and $2,000. Popular prints sell out super quick. (image 20x200 Balloons by artist Juliane Eirich)

8. Olympus Stylus 790SW- This claims to be the most durable point and shoot digital camera. My mom has this model, which does not need a housing unit to go underwater (in both salt & fresh water). While I love my olympus stylus verve, I am really in love with this one. If only olympus wasn't so dependable... I'll be waiting for a long time for an excuse to buy this. (image olympus)

9. etsy - If you don't have a creative bone in your body (which is doubtful... everyone needs an artistic outlet!) you can admire and purchase other artists' creations. Search for your favorite city, color, or to find something made in a certain area of the world. Be cautious... this can become an addiction.

10. Memory Games Berlin - modernized matching games. One is using colors, while the other using all things that are round in shape. (image MoMA)

11. Table Topics - conversation starting questions for dinner parties or just to get people talking. This is also great as a hostess gift.

12. Paint tube door stop by by Tetsuya Shibuya - simple, functional, and colorful.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gift guide: Travel

We do a lot of traveling, so I am always on the watch for innovative new products that seem practical and user friendly while you're on the go.

1. Liquid Image camera mask- This is great for those who love to snorkel. It allows you to swim and take photos and video of exactly what you are looking at. (image Liquid image)

2. Built NY wine tote - We have one of these and it's wonderful. The secret is to bring it in your carry on and then purchase wine at the airport AFTER you have gone through all of the security checks, so you can carry it on. The only hang up is this won't work if you fly intercontinental with a layover and need to recheck bags. (image built ny)

3. Flexible Tripod - This is another gadget we travel with. I appreciate it because it securely wraps on virtually anything for self portraits. The camera base screws onto the top and is also removable, so you don't constantly have the tripod attached. It comes in two sizes for small cameras and also for SLR's. (image joby)

4. Trunki - Although I don't have children, this looks functional when children on the go get tired and it's not worth hauling a stroller along or they are too big for one. (image trunki)

5. Personalized Hometown Necklace - A great way to remember a special place (provided, of course, that it's in the US). (image signals)

6. Chronicle books city walks - These are so portable and helpful in navigating a new city. Each small map contains a path with information regarding sites and historical information. (image chronicle books)

7. MoMA World Time Clock - This was designed by Charlotte van der Waals and together there are 24 cities representing the 24 world time zones. It's simple but very practical for those who are globetrotters. (image MoMA)

8. Visual dictionaries - depending on where you are traveling you may want Point it (a wordless image heavy book) or if the language is more readily available I love these bilingual visual dictionaries. They are nicely laid out in categories and it's small enough to carry through day to day life. I always recommend these to new ex-pats. (images DK + amazon)

9. Door stop alarm - Great at insuring safety and privacy. It functions not only as a door stop, but also as an alarm (which can be deactivated). The only potential issue is that once it is in place medical or emergency works are also unable to enter. (image amazon)

10. Lonely Planet Books- These are such a beautiful coffee table books that double as planning tools. One of my favorite features is that they tell you what the area is known for and current issues facing each place. I consult mine before I we travel to a new city. 'The Europe Book' is the newest edition.

11. Moleskine city notebooks - I tend to take a notebook when I travel to write observations, experiences, names of restaurants, directions, and general thoughts. These notebooks take it one step further and include tabbed sections, subway maps, city maps, and places to put ticket stubs and other ephemera. In essence, you write the guide yourself. (image moleskine European Paper Company)

12. Lewis N. Clark Passport case - I really love this because its bright color makes my passport easy to find and provides a bit of anonymity. (image Lewis N. Clark)

Other Travel sites for gift ideas:
Flight 001
Travel Smith
Baggage for Less
Stop Over Store
Le Travel Store

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gift guide: Babies + New Parents

So many of my friends are having babies, so don't get too excited that I've been more aware about baby things that are now on the market. I love finding the perfect gift for people - little ones who aren't even born yet are included.

1. Candleloo lanterns by Vessel Inc.- These are so cute and come in a variety of shapes and colors. They work automatically when taken off the charging base to provide a flame free lantern and a bit of light. (image vessel inc.)

2. Itzbeen - a multifunctional timer that allows parents to keep track of important times - how long it's been since the last feeding, changing, medication dose or how long the baby has been sleeping. It's probably good for sleep deprived parents. (image itzbeen)

3. Goosie cards - I am always on the watch for things that pertain to education and that can bridge distances. These are great for teaching about the rest of the family, who might not always be near by. I've read they are also great for children with autism. (image Goosie cards)

4. Coocoose - an apron for parents givings baths, and it doubles as a towel (provided your child isn't a splasher). (image coochico)

5. Babyprints keepsake - A timeless and simple reminder of how fast children grow. (image amazon)

6. Orbit labels - make it easy to identify cups, bottles, and cups. They are reusable and can be personalized. (image inchbug)

7. RaZbaby Silicone teether - The entire pacifier is a teething toy with various textures. It can also be frozen. (image RaZbaby)

8. Beaba babycook - French baby food maker that steams, dices, and blends food. It also works as a warmer. (image Williams Sonoma)

9. Mimi Lou wall stickers - these are so simple and so adorable. It's even possible to have them custom made into portraits. (image Mimi Lou)

10. Blurb books - You can design a book telling a personal story, creating a family tree, or simply to contain photos of the new baby. The possibilities are endless and you can really get creative with these. Besides, it's never too early to start loving books!

11. Etsy baby leather Moks - This website has beautiful handmade gifts, clothes, and shoes for adults and children for sale by independent sellers. These little shoes are so sweet. (image etsy seller scandeez)

12. Haba - one of my favorite things in made in Germany. Please read this post before purchasing! Several items have been recalled.
These wooden toys are simply stunning. Best of all - they are all natural. They have a large array ranging from clutching toys to architectural building blocks. Make sure you check out the grocery items! (image Haba)

Other fantastic baby / parent gift websites:
Red Envelope
Zac and Zoé
Baby Geared
Modern Nursery
Modern Tots
Baby Wit
Eden Home
Noonoo Design

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gift guide: Cooking

I absolutely love the holidays... it's great to get together with friends, family, and of course eat insane amounts of delicious foods.

Some people aren't as enthused about the holiday shopping, so I decided to compose a bit of a gift guide for some of my favorite areas. Today's is about cooking and food related products that have caught my eye and would suit a variety of people.

I continue to do a lot of my shopping in the US, simply because I can mail things directly to people there and not deal with wondering if Deutsche Post is going to lose something again. (I apologize in advance to international readers, however some of these companies may ship internationally.)

Happy Cooking!

1. Buddha Bowls- I think it is fantastic for versatility - for soup, cereal, and drinks, with an ergonomic fit with the added function of your hands. Also comes in a smaller 'baby' version. (image flavour design)

2. Tastebook - this is a really inventive and fun way to present heirloom recipes. It would be especially fitting for a bridal shower. What I also love about being able to put your own recipes in, is that you can also put your own photos in too. (image tastebook)

3. Precision Spoon Scale - while I am not a chef, I can see a myriad of ways this could come in hand in the kitchen. Not only that, it also switches between grams and ounces, which is so helpful if you're using a variety of recipes or live internationally. (image thinkgeek)

4. Flor de Sal d'es Trenc - I realize if you even remotely read this blog you might realize I have a salt obsession. Contrary to popular belief, all salts are not equal. What I love about these is that they come in a variety of enhanced flavors and it's not something people typically purchase for themselves. (image flor de sal d'es trenc)

5. Microplane graters - These are a major life saver if you are grating anything. You won't know how you lived without it. I use mine for cheeses, chocolates, and zests from limes or other citrus fruits. (image microplane)

6. Vosges chocolates (and cookies!) - These are fantastic for people who are adventurous with chocolate. The combination of flavors is never dull or lacking variety. I've also had the cookies (which I love) and the drinking chocolate (which is very rich). (image vosges)

7. Bubble scrubber & Equal measure measuring cup- Totally frivolous, but it helps to make cleanup and cooking a bit more fun. The measuring cup has equivalents to random measures, such as the volume of half a human brain. (image world wide fred)

8. Design House Stockholm carrie basket - This little basket definitely makes grocery shopping more fun and you can use it in place of plastic bags - everyone wins! It comes in white (my favorite), black, and green. There is also a bike basket in the same style. (image design house stockholm)

9. Days ago digital day counter - This seems like such a basic idea, but it's so easy to forget how long things have been open in the refrigerator this makes everything easier. (image how many days ago)

10. Blue leaves flatware - designed by Jean Pradelle. These are available at one of my favorites in Amsterdam - Egg Mercantile or stateside at Tabula Tua (image blue leaves)

11. Alessi Mediterraneo Fruit Bowl - I obviously have a thing for red (hence my red refrigerator), but this bowl is just so simple and beautiful. (image alessi)

12. Herb Savor - a great product that allows you to keep herbs fresh longer. (image herb savor)

Other great sites for food and cooking related gifts:
Sur La Table
Le Sanctuaire
Williams Sonoma
Chefs Catalog

Check back in the coming days and I will have more of my favorite gifts for the year. 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

autumn's end

I'm fearing this is the last week before colder temperatures come for good. While I don't mind completely, I will be sad to see the beautiful foliage come to and end... and for the days to get shorter.

I have been very fortunate considering I was able to spend some time in the beautiful Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg. I can't get enough of the horticulture and the colors of the changing leaves. It's really something special.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Congratulations Obama!

America undoubtedly likes to keep people on their toes... and it always seems to land on it's feet.

While I think Obama has his work cut out for him, it will definitely be an interesting time for the US, the citizens of America, and of course the rest of the world, whose interest has been captured once again.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Molecular Cooking Course

Stefan and I attended a molecular cooking course last night, which was very interesting, informative, and delicious. Chemistry has never been a high point of mine, but I love seeing the interesting things the reactions are able to do in the kitchen. As soon as food is involved I'm hooked!

We were the only couple from Munich among the sea of characters. I am certain I took way too many photos and Stefan asked for the chef to repeat ingredients multiple times, but we were there to learn so we took advantage of being students.

The course began with an aperol apéritif. The aperol was dropped to form small liquid filled spheres, which were then covered with an orange juice foam.

What I love about these is that you can use any liquid, alcohol or alcohol free. Also, depending on the width of the syringe you could vary the size. The process of making them was also a lot of fun. These can be used in a variety of ways and even be put into drinks.

The longer it was kept in the solution the thicker the skin of the aperol would be. We were intrigued and it was a great way to start the evening.

Next was a hokkaido pumpkin soup that was changed into solid forms. We enjoyed them with chestnuts and an infused chestnut sauce mixed with olive oil. They were so simple and so pretty.

It was a very autumn type of meal and I loved it. It also gave me something new to do with all of my silicone baking molds.

Not only did we learn how to make foams and spheric creations, but we also learned how to make tagliatelle from liquid, frozen yogurt using liquid nitrogen, low cooked vacuumed packed meat (cooked sous vide), and espumas.

Stefan quickly became a pro at making and cutting the tagliatelle. Depending on how thick the liquid was poured it would create a thin film or a thicker noodle. Again, this could be adapted to making any kind of liquid a solid and slightly gelatin.

The liquid nitrogen frozen yogurt, which was very creamy and delicious. I think watching it be created was a lot of the fun.

This was also one of the points where a pet peeve of mine particularly regarding Germans came out - double dipping. People continually stuck their used spoons back into the bowl, which completely disgusts me. Call me a germaphobic (Thanks Mom!), but I don't understand why it's necessary to contaminate things with saliva when there are plenty of spoons available.

Next was the main course, meat cooked sous vide. I'm not one for meats, although I did try this since it was supposed to be so special. It was very moist and flavor infused, thanks to the lemon leaves and seasoning that it was packed with. I gave the rest to Stefan to finish. The moisture and tenderness was due to the vacuum sealing, so the liquid couldn't escape.

Dessert consisted of fresh mango slices that were covered in our espresso tagliatelle, chili strands, and a coconut milk espumas. It took some time to create, but was also very good.

I really love the versatility and interesting things that we learned to do with everyday foods. It's especially nice that many of the recipes simply call for liquids, which can easily be exchanged to create more variation. I can't wait to learn more about all of this.

Hopefully we'll be experimenting in the near future and will create some fun new fusion meals. It looks like it will be quite some time before we make it to elBulli - reservations for 2009 are already booked.

Edit (May 09): It appears as though Molecular cooking is catching on here in Germany. Since attending this course I have seen several stores carrying the needed mixtures to achieve the interesting results.

Here are a few resources that you may be interested in:
Molecular Cooking + Restaurants Resource
Texture Pro
Molecular Fun (German)
A cook book called 'Alinea' by Greg Achatz (from the restaurant Alinea in Chicago)