Friday, December 31, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Right after Christmas we headed to Austria for a fun getaway with friends.

Spectacular views of the Alps

Serious snowboarding

Lots of aprés ski glühwein

Fantastic sledding

The perfect skiing weekend

This is exactly how Winter should be.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

`Tis the Season

Our advent calendar is winding down, which I am actually going to miss. It's been fun to surprise Stefan each morning before he heads off to work. My aunt sent me the Elf on the Shelf a couple years ago and he's been making surprise appearances all around the apartment as well.

This past week we visited the Tollwood, had a candle light cheese fondue, bought and decorated our tree, watched a Christmas movie, and had a delicious breakfast to name a few of the advent calendar surprises.

Since I haven't seen many of our ornaments for the past two years there were some great treasures to rediscover. Somehow I forgot my angel that always makes me smile. I picked her up my very first Christmas in Germany at the Weltladen while my sister was visiting.

I also forget how so many trees here resemble bushes and for some reason the lights come as a lasso. I can't quite figure out why this is a good idea. Untangling Christmas lights is never fun, but when there isn't even a single end to work from things get interesting rather quickly.

Whenever we travel we like to pick up an ornament or something small that can be hung from the tree, which has lead to a really fun collection. Each year I love to unpack our Christmas decorations and reminisce over the exciting things we've done together.

I've wrapped Stefan's gifts and they are nestled so nicely under the tree. I'm very excited for him to open them, but I might make him wait until American Christmas on December 25th.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Olympic Sites + Temple of Heaven - Beijing

(This post is a follow up from our trip around the world. I will be writing a recap for each place we visited during our 4 month trip. Prior to Beijing we also visited India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau).

A trip to Beijing wouldn't be complete without visiting the site of the 2008 Olympics and the futuristic Bird's Nest + Water Cube.

- Inside the Bird's Nest each support creates the most interesting shapes and shadows. Even the minimalist signage and paintings to denote bathrooms are beautifully done. We sat in the seats for a little while and could see that watching the events live must have been a fun time.

- The Water Cube is closed for visits, which is not a big deal as the outside is what is fascinating. It looks like a giant wall of big bubble wrap, which can be illuminated at night. Unfortunately we did not get to see it lit up at night this time around.

-The entire park area is very large and seems to go on and on. They again have a lot of pride and loads of souvenirs available ranging from gold medals to jewelry and tea sets inspired by the Water Cube.

- Elsewhere in the city there was some neat Olympic inspired street art for Adidas.

- After the Olympic sites we stopped at the Temple of Heaven (or Tiantan), a vast temple park surrounded by an even larger area.

- It was here that the emperors came to pray for for good harvest and weather, which is a little tragic considering the thick smog in the air. It continually felt like dusk at midday.

Next up... The Great Wall + The Forbidden City.

Monday, December 20, 2010


(This post is a follow up from our trip around the world. I will be writing a recap for each place we visited during our 4 month trip. Prior to Beijing we also visited India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau).

- With just a few short months to plan this monstrous trip we had decided to follow good weather, which made packing relatively simple - or so we thought. Our flight to Beijing was delayed due to snow, which meant leaving sun and sweltering Hong Kong (90 ˚F / 32C) and arriving in dark and snowy (30˚F/ -1C) Beijing.

- That wasn't the only part of the bumpy start to China. No taxi wanted to take us to our hotel. We lucked out by waving a business man over to take the cab that rejected us and he instead talked to the driver and helped us on our way. The problem was our directions to the hotel weren't very helpful, and although he knew of the neighborhood he wasn't sure on the exact street. At one point he got out of the car to smoke a cigarette, because he was clearly frustrated. Thankfully we had a phone and were able to call the hotel. Twenty minutes later it was clear to us why he did not find it, because it was down a tiny alley way. As for the cost of the city tour - a mere 3€.

- We all laughed and he was so incredibly nice - speaking Mandarin to us while we had no idea what he said. It was probably along the lines of this being the last time he picks up Westerners at the station. So if you come to Beijing and encounter cab man 233355, he’s great.

- During our stay in Beijing we split the time two different hotels, one is a traditional courtyard style and a super modern design hotel near the Forbidden City. While changing hotels probably doesn’t sound like too much fun to most, we like that it gave us a base is different neighborhoods. They were very interestingly different.

- The first neighborhood was really cute with a lot of character and provided to be a great place to discover an authentic area of Beijing. Our hotel even have a tiny rabbit in a bird cage and fish near the water for good feng shui. The area seemed to be serious China and I was more than happy I packed a point-to-it-style icon dictionary. Everyone was so helpful and even somewhat excited to practice their basic English.

- Beijing is super easy to get around and navigate, even if your Mandarin isn't so hot. Incredibly the subway only costs about 20¢, so it's also very affordable.

- ‘The Chairman’ Mao dominates the skyline and red flags are flying everywhere. It was difficult not to get distracted from the little Chinese children with their slit pants - even in the freezing weather. There were a few children whose parents wanted them to have their photos with us, however the children were afraid even with us getting them with a 'Ni hao' and smiles.

- The area is really impressive as it is huge and very regal feeling, despite it's not always pleasant history, where hundreds of people were killed. We walked the entire square and passed various monuments included the mausoleum of chairmen Mao. A funny thing was that the entire time they played a 60th anniversary of new China movie on big screens in the middle of the square; we could definitely see that they take their country seriously. There were not a lot of people around which added to us feeling we were in a massive place.

- The oldest gate of Beijing is towards the South side and has a quite touristy, but beautiful street called Qianmen Street. It was interesting to see the old side streets coupled with the new modern area that was built to look older. It really felt like a movie set.

- One of the most famous places to have Peking duck is also on this street. That was one of the things Stefan constantly talked about before we came. He had to have duck in Beijing. I almost lost all hope as I looked at the menu and saw duck tongue, duck gizzards, and an endless array of other duck and animal bits. I settled on some shrimp. Stefan was very excited to receive a certificate from his duck that was raised on wheat and spring water.

- Even with the cold temperatures I couldn't turn down a tea ice cream. We ordered both a jasmine and a matcha cone and they were great. I will probably be dreaming about them for a while.

I will write separately about the Olympic sites, the Great Wall, and the Forbidden City.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Spirit

Getting into the Christmas spirit seems to take more work than it used to, although that's probably because I'm now the one responsible for creating the magic. It also takes some work to figure out ways to incorporate my traditions while living abroad, as well as learning more about the Bavarian ways of celebrating. I'm certain much of it is self induced, because I love traditions and making things just so.

We've also worked at creating our own family traditions, like simple gift giving with 4 principles: want, need, wear, and read. It's pretty incredible how encompassing those 4 things can be and how much thought goes into finding 4 gifts that suit the categories.

In the recent weeks Munich has been blanketed with snow, which helps with the Wintery feeling. We've been trying to visit as many of the Christmas markets as possible, although my favorites are at the Rindermarkt + Chinese Tower.

The smell of spiced nuts and glühwein waft through the air and the lights seem to glow while people huddle around and complain about their numb toes. This is one aspect that is quintessentially German and absolutely delightful at this time of year. I also appreciate that eating lebkuchen and pomegranates for breakfast is acceptable.

Here are a few of the pretty scenes around town:

The Chinese Tower Christmas Market

Sledding in the English Garden...
How many cities have such a charming downtown park that people can use to cross country ski or go sledding?

Rindermarkt + Haidhausen

The Krampus Run


Ice Skating at Karlsplatz

Hope you're also feeling the holiday glow!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


We are gearing up for another trip. This time we'll be heading back to North Africa for a week in Morocco. It will be a really neat trip for a variety of reasons.

We'll be fresh from trips to Lisbon - with the Moorish architecture, and in Paris we can brush up on our French. It's always nice to get a dose of sun in the middle of the cold winter, too.

All of those beautiful patterns, colors, and markets already have us very excited.

Our trip will begin in Marrakech and we're not quite sure if we'll venture to Essaouira or Chefchaouen as well, but we're open to suggestions and tips!

So far I've been checking out Hip Morocco and the beautiful Riads, like Dar One. All of the photos I see look absolutely incredible, which doesn't make decision making any easier.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Homemade Glühwein

To start the weekend right how about some glühwein, homemade soup, and cuddling up to hibernate with a good book.

My dear friend Cait sent me the most perfect surprise, the book Just my Type, which is a great collection of stories about fonts. I should have probably waited until Christmas to open it, because it's proving to be a distraction from getting things done and I can't put it down.

I have to will myself out this weekend, because I really want to enjoy the Christmas Markets while they are still here and before the snow turns to slush. We also have to finally get and decorate our tree.

As for the glühwein...I tend to buy the tea bags filled with spices to cheat a little bit, however not everyone has that luxury, so here is a recipe that anyone and everyone can make at home.

I prefer my glühwein less sweet, and I don't add much sugar, although those with a sweet tooth can always add more. It's very forgiving, so you can omit or change spices according your preferences, too.

If you want to make this alcohol-free, or a Kinder Glühwein, simply replace the wine with a combination of cider, cranberry, and or grape juice.

If I really get ambitious I might try to make these glühwein truffels (recipe in German).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas [post]cards

Last year we didn't send Christmas cards, because we were just coming off our enormous trip and there really wasn't time to whip something up. This year my friend Emily and I created a few packages for our families. It's so nice to have such creative and encouraging friends.

I must say they turned out rather nice, even if they cost a mint to ship.

In attempts to get into the holiday spirit, and to celebrate some of my American traditions, I made postcards like I did in 2008.

Wish we could be there to celebrate, but we'll be thinking of you all with our warm mugs of glühwein and incredible Christmas fondue.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Elisen Lebkuchen

Since not everyone is able to make it to Munich for the markets I translated this recipe and made a cute little card to match, so you can have some German Christmas cookies, too.

I've made these several times and Stefan claims they taste like his Oma's, which is clearly a good sign. Best of all they don't have flour or hirschornsalz (baker's ammonia) in them.

The illustrations were so much fun to draw. I'm working on a second edition of my cookbook and debating if I want to do use them as opposed to photos.

I'll post a recipe for homemade glühwein in the coming days as well... homemade is the way to go. The only trouble is it tastes better than most at the Christmas Markets, but the ambiance and warmth keeps drawing me back.

Friday, December 10, 2010

1933 Christmas

I was looking through some of my vintage photos and came across this Christmas tree from 1933.

Notice the German details - real candles as opposed to lights and the bushy shape, which I had never seen before moving here. I'm curious what types of gifts were given during this time.

Hopefully we'll get our tree up in the next week or so, but we won't be going so traditional with real candles.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Color of 2011: Honeysuckle

What do you think of Pantone's color of 2011 - Honeysuckle?

It's certainly vivacious and bright!

It reminds me of lipstick, a sunset, my sister, and of course flowers.

Having such an energizing color will definitely help people's moods, although it's probably best in small doses for clothing.

We saw this beautiful flower somewhere along Highway One in California last Winter. I'm not sure what kind of flower it is, but the shade is very similar to Pantone's Honeysuckle.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kinder Kunst

I love these delightful and simple letterpress poster prints from Studio on Fire. They just came out with the new Golden Rule Poster drawn by a 6 year old.

And the classic Wild Air Poster, which has the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: 'Live in the Sunshine, Swim the sea, Drink the wild air'.

[images studio on fire]

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nürnberg Christkindlmarkt

Day 5 of the advent calendar meant a short trip to Nürnberg to check out one of the most famous Christmas Markets.

There were plenty of bratwürsts, lebkuchen, and glühweins consumed. The variety of glühwein was immense and included blueberry, elderberry, and white wine. The consensus was elderberry was the best, because it wasn't so sweet.

We brought back some of the 'bruch' (broken) lebkuchen, which actually aren't broken at all, but the package presentation isn't as nice as those that are giftable. We also picked up some white glühwein that was named after Albrecht Dürer - the famed printmaker and painter from Nürnberg.

I love the markets, however there are a few things I would improve upon - adding a soup stand for a food option and those outdoor restaurant heaters or fire pits. Spending a few hours outside in the snow means even with several layers the elements begin to really take their toll. We were all frozen to the bone as we ventured back to the train station.

The Christmas season always passes too quickly, but I'm looking forward to visiting more christmas markets before we have to miss them for another year. I'll post photos soon!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


(This post is a follow up from our trip around the world. I will be writing a recap for each place we visited during our 4 month trip. Prior to Macau we also visited India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong).

Macau is Asia's answer to Las Vegas. It has more casinos than Las Vegas and people evidently drop fists full of cash while there.

- It's very easy to get to Macau from Hong Kong - both by boat and by helicopter. Yes, there is a helicopter every half an hour for those that seriously need to gamble and cannot wait for the hourly boat.

- Our first stop was the Fisherman's Wharf, which is really kitschy. I guess that's typical for gambling cities like this.

- They even have a fake Colosseum for those that need a quick dose of Rome. The restaurant and shopping area that is modeled after ports around the world, including Amsterdam, Venice, South Africa, and New Orleans.

- Since it was Halloween time they had music being pipped through and people dressed as zombies walking around. I loved that. The eerie thing was there weren't many people or tourists around. It really felt a bit like a ghost town. That was exciting for about 10 minutes, until we realized many of the store fronts were actually closed or vaccant. That made finding dinner not so simple.

- The major sites tend to have a Portugese influence. Of course there were tiles galore.

- There were several Catholic churches that again seemed misplaced, but the architecture was beautiful.

- The European influence mixed with Asian signage, foods, and faces was really fascinating. I loved all of the bright colors and even the Portugese tarts weren't in short supply.

- Our hotel had a casino, so we decided to stop by, because that's a must when in Macau. I tried to channel my Grandma's winning streak, but there weren't many games we recognized and being the only Westerners in the place didn't help since we can't read Mandarin.

- We noticed many shops had a strange array of golden figurines - only they were made of real gold. I'm guessing these are seen as lucky or perhaps people win boat loads of money and have nothing better to spend it on.

I'm glad that we've since been able to visit Portugal and see how Macau was strongly influenced by traders. There were definitely moments when I couldn't believe we were still in Asia.

Next stop... Beijing and The Great Wall.