Monday, August 31, 2009

heirlooms from the Omas

This weekend we went to visit Oma. I absolutely adore our time with her. She is so full of life and always so incredibly thoughtful. Her kindness is inspiring and she is one of my favorite people. I just want to sit and talk with her for hours.

We left her house with sweets and sekt to celebrate our anniversary and she also gave me a beautiful brooch, which I will always cherish. It made me think about my own Grandmother opening her jewelry box to me and the overwhelmed feeling I had. I didn't want to take her things. Once she passed away I was offered her wedding dress, however I was in junior high and I still regret not taking it. Oddly, I'd go through that feeling once again later in the day.

During our visit we also stopped to visit Stefan's cousin and his wife. I also wish we saw them more often, because we always have such a great time talking and laughing. They are clearing out the other Oma's home after she passed away on their wedding day last year. I cannot fathom having to go through someone's belongings after they pass. We left with some family photos (I can totally see how Stefan turned out to be so handsome), an old typewriter, a handwritten cookbook, and a sewing machine.

I was always sad I couldn't bring my own sewing machine from the US, but with different electricity and it weighing so much it's rather pointless. Hopefully I can figure out how to use hers, which is really built to last. I also want to try my hand at her recipes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

one year ago today

One year ago we were leaving for Iceland + Greenland. I never envisioned what a life changing trip that would be. We were hoping to get back to Iceland during our around the world journey, however there wasn't a logical connection for us.

I'm not overly concerned though, because I know that we'll make it back. Even though it still pains me to say it was already a year ago.

At least there are plenty of beautiful and exotic destinations in the coming months to distract me from missing those beautiful islands.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Whenever I go back to the United States I quickly notice the food differences. I go through this each and every time I return, but it never fails to catch me by surprise. Some ways I am pleasantly surprised -here in Germany the food is so meat and pork heavy (which I'm not a fan of), while other times I crave the produce stands and markets that are quintessentially European (and don't get me started on craving the cheeses).

My old roommate, Julie, just finished working with Americorps at an organic farm in Maine. I also worked in Maine - about 7 years ago, which is when I fell in love with it.

Julie would write to tell me about waking up early to go the farmers market and hanging out with the farm dog. I have a slight envy every time I hear about her adventures - not to mention the blueberries, lobster, puffins, and that gorgeous coast line. She has sent me so many postcards and little packages of things to let me know she's thinking of me, which is so very sweet.

If I had to cash in my city life, I really think I'd love to live on a farm. I know I have romantic notions of what it would be like, but the idea of eco friendly sustainability and having my hands in the soil sounds wonderful. I'm sure it's a thrilling feeling to know you can completely feed yourself on what you grow. Fresh ingredients direct from the plant have become such a luxury.

When we travel back to the Unite States, this winter, I would really like to check out the 'slow food movement' started by Alice Waters of chez panisse. I admire her because she has a fire in her home kitchen that she uses to cook and she encourages having an 'edible schoolyard' where she teaches children to interact with their food - to cultivate it and to be proud that they can grow things. It seems so empowering.

After first moving to Germany I saw a TV show here about the school children here that could not recognize vegetables. I'm not talking a rutabaga or kohlrabi (I didn't even know what that was until I moved here) - they couldn't even recognize carrots. It made me so sad to watch the children run up to the table with excitement when the were told they would able to take these fresh foods home. When they visited one child's home his mother talked about McDonald's and frozen pizzas. Nearly every child could differentiate which fast food restaurant something came from and what it was called. Is that not absolutely heartbreaking? To me it's important to learn how to cook, and to teach early on what healthy eating is.

The Whitehouse / Obamas tried to get in on having an edible landscape. It was planted on March 20th on the south lawn and was 1100 square feet organic herbs, fruits, veggies. The idea is great, but the soil was found to have very high levels of lead.

Sometimes I step back and really consider how much progress has been made and how much things have changed in the last century, but it comes with obvious disadvantages. People no longer need as many children to work on the farms. They've traded family for a faster pace of life and even then there are still population issues. Everything has gone prepackaged and people don't even take the time to feed themselves or their families healthily. Foods (meat especially) are injected with growth hormones. I listen to my friends whose parents are farmers and I know that it's not an easy job to be a small town farmer, especially now that factory farming has entered the game.

I really want to see the movie Food, Inc., which addresses these issues and more.

Although my sister, Stefan, and I went to Maine in March 2008, I dream of going back.

I'm very curious what types of foods I will be encountering through the next few months on our trip. I hope I don't come home too skinny!

(image: food, inc. poster - magnolia pictures)

2 tickets to paradise

Our Star Alliance around the world tickets won't cover all of our flights since there are several locations they don't fly to or we wanted to use extra 'coupons', so there are a few side trips that we will be making.

One stop I cannot keep a secret. We just booked tickets last night to... Aitutaki in the Cook Islands! We decided to go with a far less touristy island, as opposed to Fiji or Tahiti. National Geographic even named it one of the top 12 adventure islands in the world!

After spending our honeymoon in the Maldives we're very accustomed to gorgeous beaches, so we'll see how the Pacific counterpart lives up to things.

Aitutaki's biggest claim to fame, besides it's incredible lagoon, is that it was featured on Survivor: Cook Islands in the United States.

This entire trip will be a complete dream.

(image webshots travel)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

clothing + packing

I have a pretty predictable style, at least according to my friend Cait, Stefan, and my sister. Stefan has even gone as far as coining the term 'Emil-ish' if it looks like something I would wear or not.

My friend Lauren tells me I'm not trendy and before I know it I will end up wondering why I never ventured into fashion risk territory while I could be young and adventurous. I prefer to think I will appear slightly more timeless and less dated in photos down the line. That's my theory anyway. I love theme parties and odd costumes... just not on myself. I'd rather have my life be a musical - with normal clothes. Who wouldn't love if people broke out into song in the middle of the streets?

Predictable or not I love simplicity, femininity, and dresses. One side of my closet is entirely devoted to dresses. I have something for every occasion - even down to two dirndls. I'm an over planner. Who knows if I have a friend visit that needs to borrow one, or heavens forbid I'm at Oktoberfest multiple days in a row or someone spills a beer on me.

I think I'm much like any other girl. I can always justify why I would need another dress... never mind the fact I have four that are different styles and just slightly different shades of slate gray. It's one of my favorite colors. It's neutral without being as bold as black. Sometimes I really cringe when I walk down the street and see a woman that looks as if she's dressed to go to a club - at noon.

Packing for this trip is already getting the best of me. Thankfully I am not alone. Stefan keeps reminding himself, or perhaps trying to remind me, that we aren't going to be incredibly far off the beaten track and if we need something chances are good we can find it. Even so, I like to be prepared.

Cait, who is also planning an around-the-world trip of her own (for an entire year!), told me she read it's smart to have long skirts. They are good coverage if say you are on a bus and it stops at a field for a restroom break. I can't think of too many instances where we will be on buses, but better safe than sorry.

I was delighted to find a long lightweight jersey skirt at the store every ex-pat American woman misses - Target. Not only that... it is so versatile that it can be worn as a tube dress or a long skirt. Once again I bought two, of course in different colors. When I find something that works I often purchase it in two colors. I'm sure that can be attributed to my Americanness.

Other travel clothes that I love are Columbia's World Traveler Pants. They look like normal pants, except they are moisture wicking, quick drying, and water repellant. It's amazingly difficult to find clothing that is made for outdoors without looking like you are going on a fishing expedition with massive cargo pockets. I just know I will appreciate feeling feminine and yet remaining modest during our months on the road.

While I was in the US, in June, I also was excited to find a feminine rain jacket. It has frilly shoulders and looks more like a chambray jacket as opposed to something made for rain. Every time I put it on Stefan instantly complements me on how adorable I am. That I will certainly not tire of.

We are wholeheartedly tourists - and I am OK with that. I don't expect to appear local, however I do like to respect and obey local customs. It's so much nicer to blend than to stick out. Even a slight bit of flesh in an Islamic part of the world seriously stands out in attracting unwanted attention. I don't even own one pair of shorts, so it's strictly dresses, skirts, and pants for me.

Alaska won't be included in this trip due to the weather change and not being able to pack for frigidly cold seasons, but we do have many other stops and several exciting events along the way.

I will need a nicer dress for a special surprise event with ~ 70˚F / 21˚C weather, however I can't decide which one to wear... any opinions?

These are my choices... or at least a few of them. I was able to get the subway dress in my size. I am super happy about that.

(images - skirts: Target, pants + jackets: Columbia, dresses: dvF, jcrew, francis, jcrew)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reeperbahn, St. Pauli, + the port

A visit to Hamburg (at least for first timers) isn't complete without a stop near the St. Pauli / Reeperbahn area. It's Europe's largest red light district - even bigger than Amsterdam's, but it's not as showy. Sure there are plenty of shops advertising things you've never thought of, but visitors also come for other things - like seeing where the Beatles got their start.

In the book Outliers, which I mentioned before, you can read all about the early days of the Beatles in Hamburg. While I'd like to show you pictures of all the places they played at the beginning, we didn't stay in the area too long. We did walk past the Herberstaße, a gated street where women and children are forbidden to enter, where I'm told ladies work the windows. We also saw a woman, presumably a tourist, getting kicked out. Odd. It all seems a bit sensationalized.

From St. Pauli we headed down to the Fish Market and near the harbor. Along the way there are tons of bright houses with interesting paintings, street art, and graffiti.

The area around the old fish market was one of my favorites. The buildings and brick work are much different than in Southern Germany. Even the repurposed buildings are amazingly taken care of and the mixture of old and new blend so nicely together.

A fantastic restaurant, called La Vela, is right near the old fish market - and the food is impeccable. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

The more touristy St. Pauli waterfront still had plenty of action. There are all kinds of interesting boats, including police, customs, and this old fire boat turned biergarten.

We decided to go on a harbor boat tour, which was really interesting. It's amazing to have these enormous shipping boats right next to tiny boats taking tourists around.

There were boats undergoing repairs on floating docks where the water is drained and refilled. It sort of made me feel as though I was in a children's book as we passed all of the bright colors and admired the details.

There were also many cargo containers being moved and loaded. It was amazing how simple it all looked, as if they were building blocks. Hamburg has around 40 of the big cranes to move things in the harbor - each one costing a cool €8 Million.

We were also lucky to see this oil rig that had recently come in from the North Sea. Our captain was telling us what a difficult job it was to work on that particular boat.

We'll definitely be back to visit Hamburg again. It looks like the gesellen aren't the only ones that love it! (I saw another one here in Munich last week - and this lonesome fellow while in Hamburg.)

You can see his traditional walking stick and a bit more of his costume than in the last photos.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hamburg + Hafencity

Our first stop was to visit little Moritz and his parents. We had a great time with tons of friends, conversation, and lots of babies. We were the only couple without children. I can't say I envied people when it was time to eat and I didn't have a baby whining or wanting food from my plate. Eating in peace must be such a luxury once children are in the picture.

The day was absolutely sweltering, but everyone had a great time playing yard games after brunch. Later in the afternoon was a big potluck style cookout, which felt so similar to the American cookouts I'm accustomed to. It was really nice. Moritz enjoyed feeding Stefan and everyone was happy. (side note: he doesn't quite fit the lederhosen yet... hopefully next year - in time for Oktoberfest!)

Early Monday we went to explore Hamburg. I immediately loved that it's a decently large city (6th largest in the EU). It seemed like there was a lot more variety in terms of stores and products available.

Right by the train station was Mutterland, which was on my list of places to stop. It's a bit of an upscale grocery / deli / restaurant. Everything is absolutely beautiful - from the displays and product packaging to the food at the restaurant.

It melted my heart when we saw a dog come in and lay near our table while his owner went to get something. I couldn't help but pet him. I desperately need a dog! Instead of leaving with a dog, I left with a full stomach and some beautiful silver decorating sugar from a company called Zucceroo.

The salad was one of the best I've had in a long time. And what I loved most was that everything felt like you were visiting a friend - a friend that makes delicious homemade organic foods. If only we had a Mutterland in Munich.

We also got ice cream - you know I had to sample that. I love Stefan's expression of anticipation (and his Midwest fo Life shirt, being an Ohio girl and all).

After eating quite a large lunch we decided to walk around town and discover some of the sites, particularly near the water. I love cities that have distinct character and Hamburg is certainly one of those.

I noticed these stamps in a shop window - and the lovely handwriting on the card. So pretty! It reminded me of the ones I saw just the other day in Munich.

Once visiting Speicherstadt / Hafencity (warehouse district) it was official this was a charming place. Speicherstadt is the area where the warehouses and the beautiful architecture are surrounded by little canals and new construction.

There are tons of new apartments and lofts and it really integrates new and old very well. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have a beautiful loft in that area! It's one of the big rebuilding projects in Europe, and I can only imagine how cool it will be upon completion, but I was so happy to see it in progress as well.

It's really neat to think about all the produce and goods that are stored within these walls, including the largest storage of Oriental carpets in the world - worth over €1 Billion!

There's always something going on in the harbor and it's really quite fun to watch the ships at work. We stood in awe of how many containers many of them were capable of transporting. Funny to think the containers themselves also occasionally are turned into homes. I'd take one of those too, you know if the loft doesn't work out.

After being adequately worn out we stopped at Engelke for dinner. Throughout this trip I was constantly impressed with the quality, variety, and how reasonably priced food was. I think I need to move to a bigger city... I could really get used to these little luxuries.

Another blessing of being in a shipping town is the availability of products, including some delicious macaroons from Ladurée - direct from Paris.

Tomorrow I'll post about the port tour, the infamous St. Paul district, and the interesting urban details.

Monday, August 17, 2009


This weekend our friends invited us to Northern Germany and we decided to spend a few days in Hamburg.

Plenty of people have told us what an amazing city this is, but seeing is believing and now all I can say is that I'm one of those people that says - 'give Hamburg a visit, you'll love it!'

I'll write more once we get home later this week (in addition to plenty of photos), but there are so many charming details here, including:

  • an enormous ship yard filled with loads of boats
  • a sprawling and diverse city with canals virtually everywhere
  • tons of adorable little shops
  • amazingly delicious and inexpensive restaurants
  • Speicherstadt + Hafencity - my favorite up and coming areas. All I can say is once this is completed it's going to be even more amazing, which is hard to believe. I even kind of wish I could move there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

handwritten letters

I saw this window at the Schreibwaren-Fachgeschäft Schreibmayr window, in Fünf Höfe, here in Munich. I love the nostalgic feeling with the beautiful handwriting and postmarks. This would be a perfect way to decorate for an anniversary party.

I'm definitely storing the idea away, especially because Stefan and I have boxes and boxes of letters from each other from our 2 years of long distance.

It reminds me of this image, from the now defunct Blueprint Magazine by Martha Stewart. It's a great way to display a special letter.

I've combed through some of the letters at the flea markets - such as the Auer / Jakobi Dults, but I think it's probably better if there's more personal meaning to it.

Maybe I'll get my hands on one from a grandparent or Stefan's Oma who was once quite the world traveler herself.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I can't believe I haven't shared this one. We went here to celebrate after we purchased our around the world tickets. That's definitely cause for a celebration.

nero is a great little restaurant tucked away near Isartor. Their wood fired pizzas are definitely worth a stop if you're in the area. Some days I simply cannot stop thinking about them (like today).

The restaurant itself is very modern and has a great community feeling to it with the long bench tables.

If you're a tourist, my bet is that you'll be the only one among locals - and that you won't leave disappointed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gesellen - auf der walz

Every year I spot these young guys around town that are doing their traditional wander. They aren't exactly hard to spot due to their distinctive costumes, but I never had a camera with me to capture them - until now. (The man in the pink is wearing his own costume of sorts --only in Salzburg I tell ya.)

They are called Gesellen and said to be auf der walz - on the road.

After they finish their carpentry apprenticeship they head off to learn about life, working, and to get a bit of free time before starting their careers. Their journey lasts 2 or 3 years and 1 day. During their journey they are not allowed to go within 50km of their hometowns / villages, nor can they stay in any one place longer than 6 weeks. Hamburg is said to be filled with them, so I might get to see more next week.

What is incredible is that they rely entirely on the hospitality and kindness of strangers, as depicted here. Evidently this is a dying tradition, so I am amazed that I see them so frequently, but it is nice to see they have the support of the community.

I also get a good laugh when I think about gesellen, because I was trying to tell some of my language school classmates about them and was met with puzzled looks. We even taught one the word hobo after drawing a bag on a stick. That was about as close as it got. My other friend from Spain thought they were from some strange religious sect when I pointed a pair out to her here in Munich.

Der Spigel has an older article about them (in English) or there is another from the German Times that is worth a read.

I love the yesteryear traditions and the helpful nature of people helping people.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

light graffiti

I keep being drawn back to the beautiful images that light graffiti artists have been creating (check out some of their beautiful pieces here: 10 Light Graffiti Artists ).

Despite being able to do this with a standard flash light / pen light and a long exposure camera, a French artist named Aïssa Logerot created Halo - a spray paint light. How ingenious!

It works like traditional spray paint - you can achieve a subtle spray of light or one that is more illuminous and it must be shaken when it's running out of juice. What's even more is that the light is interchangeable and you can simply replace the nozzle for different colors.

I can't wait to see what other artists are able to do with his idea.

(images Aïssa Logerot)

Monday, August 10, 2009


This is one of my favorite places in Munich. It's such a colorful tranquil place that beckons you to take a few minutes of your day and let out a sigh as to how wonderful life truly is.

Even though it was a rainy day, I really appreciated the drops of dew on the flowers and watching little ones enjoy playing in the drizzly weather.

The flowers in this area are all so mesmerizing, but if I had to pick a favorite I think I'd pick the ruffled ones that seem so festive.

Another thing that I love about Gärtnerplatz are the characters. If you're really lucky, you may even see the Bavarian Santa doppelgänger who typically wears very small lederhosen shorts. He always seems to be between this area (including today) and Viktualienmarkt.

He's the type of guy that legends are made of, and alas - once again he escaped without me photographing him. Looks like you'll have to make a trip yourself and keep an eye out for him, but so far many of my visitors have also been fortunate enough to be graced with his presence.

Friday, August 7, 2009

camera zoom

This past week I joined one of our groups down to Neuschwanstein - the fairytale castle that Germany is so well known for. Can you believe it would have costed roughly $280 Million / 200€ Million to build now?

I was able to try out my camera's mega-zoom and was really impressed with the results. This camera is also capable of panoramas (like my Olympus stylus verve), so I included that as well. The photos are scaled down because they were too big to upload!

It appears as though Christo + Jeanne-Claude got ahold of it, but it's just undergoing renovations.

Here's another one of Hohenschwangau - the castle that was the summer home of the Wittelsbach family.

It looks like I'll be able to take a lot of fun photos during our trip.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cooking with Beer

Since beer is plentiful and wonderful here in Munich, I often try to find new ways to cook with it. In this recipe I decided to combine it with another love of mine - cheese.

(click the image to enlarge recipe)

While fondue isn't typically thought of as a summer dish, this is not incredibly heavy and does not need to be served super hot. If it becomes too thick, simply add a bit more beer while on the stove.

I also used an herbed salt for a bit more flavor, but it's an easily adaptable recipe and leftovers can be eaten cold the next day.

If you live in Germany, I highly recommend it with the Provence style potato wedges in the freezer section - they are excellent.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Railway city maps

Be still my little heart.

I cannot look at these maps without drooling. They are from 0 / 0 (Zero per Zero), and now I think I need them all - framed in a little corner of our apartment. They were designed by two Korean university students.

The illustrated maps and subway networks are just striking. The difficult part is that the fronts and backs and both gorgeous... how do you choose which side to display?

I'm sure they are also very useful for travel purposes.

Available cities include:
New York City

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Summer in Munich

Here are a few of little details I've appreciated over the past couple weeks.

I cannot believe it's already August.

We have plenty to do this month:
- finish getting visas
- our final round of vaccinations (The tetanus shot sure did our arms in)
- figure out a packing list
- book hotels
- celebrate 3 years of wedded bliss! (I'm definitely looking forward to that one)

But in the meantime, I love reading a good book at the park and stopping at the biergarten or for some gelato on the way home.