Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Nearly every year I decide to create something for Halloween at the very last minute. Finding decorations here isn't so easy, so I decided to make my own. Stefan helped me hang the bats since I can't reach our ceiling even with a step ladder. They turned out very cute.

Our friends Allison and Jamie are visiting for the long weekend, we received a card from the Great Pumpkin, and it's the end of daylight savings time so we get to 'fall back' an hour and have more sleep... so we've already had several great treats.

Here's to hoping your Halloween is just as fun!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Merging traditions is especially important around the holidays. It's difficult to be away from family and not be able to enjoy the festive foods, great company, and different ways of celebrating.

Since moving to Germany I've learned Christmas isn't complete without glühwein, lebkuchen, spiced nuts, Christmas markets, a fondue, and advent calendars.

My friend Emily and I are working on creating a great glühwein spice mix to send home to family. I have my Mother in law's fantastic lebkuchen recipe (Vielen Dank!) - my mom even used it last year and they turned out quite nice. The spiced nuts I make whenever it's even remotely chilly out, and the Christmas markets, well, they can't exactly be recreated. It's magical to stand under the glowing lights with the snow falling and a warm mug of glühwein.

Last, but not least, is the advent calendar.

Germans adore their advent calendars. It's a fun way to add some daily excitement to the Christmas season. I've seen plenty of calendars available, however this one takes the cake... it's so simple, pretty, and modern. The simple typography is stunning. Plus, you can easily reuse the tins year after year and for birthdays.

Stefan has since developed a fondness for American Christmas tunes, my Mom's cookies, my Grandma's baklava, having a Christmas stocking, and blinged out trees with an array of ornaments from our travels. He also appreciates the fact he gets to celebrate twice, since German Christmas is actually celebrated on Christmas Eve.

I'm already thinking of the fun things I'll be filling these tins with, which incidentally begins one month from today!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stereotype Maps

An interesting look at Europe can be seen through maps designed by Bulgarian designer and illustrator Yanko Tsvetkov. He's compiled some of the perceived views from various countries about themselves, their neighbors, and fellow EU members.

According to him here's:

Germany's view of Europe

... and the US's view of Europe

More countries are listed on his site, which provide lots of thought provoking topics for conversation.

You can even buy a t-shirt for the German speaking world. Nothing like being seen as the European savings bank, but that is a widely held sentiment here.

Also note the Balearic 'German' Islands (including Mallorca)... that's pretty accurate too. We even overheard a man telling a woman working at a café in Palma that spoke Spanish to him, 'No, alemán' (No, in German). Unreal.

[All images from Yanko Tsvetkov]

Monday, October 25, 2010


We just got back from an extra dose of Summer weather, which was greatly appreciated.

Last time I went to Mallorca it was a bit of a girl's getaway trip. This visit was nice, because I could share some of the places I discovered with my favorite travel partner - Stefan. It was his first visit to the island.

We went without any major plans other than enjoying fantastic weather, eating delicious foods, and seeing beautiful architecture. None of which are difficult to find in Mallorca.

[This is a great pdf. for restaurants and island activities.]

They also have beautiful trees speckled around the city. The olive trees are especially impressive with their winding trunks. I love nature.

Here are a few more things that we enjoyed:

La Seu - the beautiful cathedral, which was built on the ruins of a destroyed Arab Mosque.

The horses outside the cathedral with their beautiful red carriages

Watching the lizards, although they kind of made my skin crawl

The residential courtyards

Gaudí's works and buildings inspired by him
This is a fantastic visual book of his projects

Street art

Quiet streets + plazas

Bright colors juxtaposed on earthy toned buildings

The beach + sand on our toes

Taking the vintage train through the orange and lemon trees to Sóller

Riding the tram to Puerto de Sóller

Pintxos + Tapas at El Pirata... the Cava Sangria was great, too.

Watching a little boy fish in Puerto de Sóller

The blue and green sea toned shutters on homes in Sóller

The winding streets + intricate church in Sóller

I found the exact earrings I saw 2 years ago, but didn't purchase. This time I bought them. We also brought back some limited edition red beet + paprika salt from Flor de Sal d'Es Trenc. The 'paper bag' hand bags were incredibly gorgeous and simple, but a bit expensive.

It's been quite some time since we've been traveling, although that is once again going to be changing. We have quite a few fun things planned in the coming months.

Thursday, October 14, 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 Hong Kong we also visited India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam).

As a rather large city Hong Kong is split by Victoria harbor into two areas - Kowloon + Hong Kong Island. They are slightly different from one another, although both impressive. There are countless skyscrapers and it's an interesting mix of Chinese meets Western culture. It is densely populated with a very capitalistic mentality, which is so different from China.

- While many of the buildings do have lit ads on the top, it seems to lack billboards and ads that you'd expect to see in a city of this size. The building height in combination with the proximity to mountains and water make the city so visually stunning. It's been given the title of 'Most vertical city in the world', which is easy to understand.

- Something we enjoyed was staying in various areas of the city. For the first few days we stayed on the Kowloon side. We took a short trip to Macau and then came back and stayed on Hong Kong Island. It gave us a better idea of what Hong Kong was about by having a base in various areas of the city.

- Much of the city seems to be underground. Once again it's mall after mall and many of them are connected underground. It's a shoppers paradise, although I'm not sure who is buying everything. Many of the stores are higher end and after seeing our third Burberry store in 10 minutes we no longer batted an eye at it. Brands are evidently the way people here demonstrate their status. After seeing everyone plastered in Louis Vuitton and the like it felt rather trite.

- We ventured down to the Harbor / touristy area called Tsim Sha Tsui (TST). Of course a large mall was waiting in the midst. Thankfully they not only contain shops, but also restaurants and grocery stores. One quick walk through the grocery assured us that anything and everything we could ever want would be attainable.

- A few unexpected Autumn surprises came for us. We were able to meet up with my friend Jeff who was studying in Hong Kong and we celebrated at - Oktoberfest!

- We were a bit disappointed they were serving Löwenbräu, especially since there isn't a shortage of German beer... but that didn't ruin our fun.

- Their Oktoberfest is filled with more games and odd songs. Some of the band was from Rettenberg in Allgäu, while other members came from Munich. I'm not really sure what their streaker pot dance was about, but the crowd was certainly hysterically laughing.

- Although we are partial to Oktoberfest in Munich, we have to give it to Hong Kong for giving a full hearted attempt with one stunning background. It's funny to think I've celebrated Oktoberfest in Cincinnati, Chicago, Hong Kong, and of course Munich. This was said to be Asia's biggest Oktoberfest.

- The Kowloon side is busy with shopping, restaurants, and markets oriented towards electronics, gold fish, and jade.

-We even stopped by the night market to see the city awaken. All of our thoughts about being able to obtain virtually anything were reiterated. It's amazing how international the city is while still retaining it's Chinese spirit.

- The array of foods, goods for sale, and smells in the air is immense. It's a bit of sensory overload, but in a good way.

- If the smells and sights aren't enough stimulation there is also a spectacular light show along the harbor with lots of lights and colors every evening.

- The light show is most dazzling from the Kowloon side, but it's definitely worth checking out.

- Jeff gave us several tips that we took to heart, including a restaurant for dim sum, which was a really great meal. I was enamoured with their fish tank and all of the little ones that would come up to check out the fish.

- There were a few interesting things outside of the lack of ads, that we noticed around Hong Kong. One, was that the money was issued by different banks and had different apperances. There was even a $10 coin and a $10 note. Strange. Another thing was the free internet in the public parks, which we greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

25th Munich Marathon

This past weekend Stefan participated in the 25th Munich Marathon. His parents came to visit and cheer him on, too, which was great. We were able to stop and see him at several points throughout the race.

We're all so proud of him - what an incredible accomplishment!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wa*haka Taco Libre Mexican

Yesterday my friend Emily and I went to try Munich's new taqueria, Wa*haka (Edit: it's now called Taco Libre). If you live here you've probably had one too many interesting experiences with strange and supposed Mexican food concoctions... I'm talking marinara sauce as salsa, yogurt sauce as a topping, and carrots in a quesadilla without any queso.

I like their nod to Frida Kahlo, but even better is the food is actually edible and does resemble Mexican cuisine - down to black beans, pico de gallo, and queso blanco. I had the quesadillas and she ordered a burrito and we were both pleasantly surprised [here's the menu].

My only slight complaint is the food could be seasoned better, but they have bottles of hot sauce so you can spice things up yourself. I have to remember I'm in Germany, where people don't do spicy. We're lucky to even have a Mexican Chipotlesque restaurant here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lucky Dog

This is an incredible commercial for the New Zealand Lotto.

I need a trip to India's blue city - Jodhpur and a dog like Wilson!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


While my friend Cait was visiting we headed down to Viktualienmarkt and visited Schiffmacher. It's a beautiful shop that reminds me of a Parisian café and they serve Balla Beni's famed gelato. This could turn out to be a lethal combination, because I pass through there frequently. I'm just hoping they continue to serve it through the Autumn and Winter months. I love gelato - even when it's cold out.

Dear Mr. BallaBeni - if you read this, please consider the following flavors: glühwein, pumpkin pie, lebkuchen, and cranberry.

Sincerely yours,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mỹ Tho + The Mekong

(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 Vietnam we also visited India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia).

Our trip to the Vietnamese country side meant getting up at 6am and taking a bus 3 hours through the city and suburbs to reach the boat quay at the Mekong.

- This time our guide was named Hai. He informed us on why the motorbikes have become so popular. Evidently there is a 120% tax on cars, which easily makes even the cheapest cost $35,000 USD. The alternative motorbikes can be inexpensively knock off Hondas from China costing as little as $250 USD. Thankfully helmets are also easily accessible and cost $1.25 USD. He told us the helmets were very important, because they drink a lot of rice wine after work.

- Once on the boat to Mỹ Tho and Bến Tre (Bamboo Port) saw how active the Mekong Delta is. One of the biggest exports in the Mekong is actually sand, which has made the water as deep as 40 meters. They dredge the bottom and ship it to countries like Singapore. Many of the residents make roughly $1,000 USD annually and 90% of their income is from exporting rice. It costs $200 USD / year for children to attend school, so many families simply can't afford it.

- We stopped at one of the bigger islands, Unicorn Island. Here we got were able to visit a small bee farm where they make honey and sample a cup of tea. Stefan even held the honey comb and thankfully wasn't stung.

- We walked through small orchards to a tropical fruit tasting, which felt tailored towards Western tastes. A couple from New Zealand that we befriended sat with us and the consensus was that we all hate papaya. Many of their fruits are also served with a chili salt, which I enjoyed with my perpetual love of salt.

- After the island visit we boarded a long boat to Turtle Island. The canals along the mangrove swamps were very beautiful and all of the foliage made us feel very small.

- We arrived to the larger boat in time to get stuck in a major storm. When I say rain, I mean pouring rain as in “I feel like I stand in the shower with my clothes on” type of rain. We had been lucky so far with the rain, but it rained every day in Ho Chi Minh City. Somehow up until this point we were able to avoid getting wet, so I guess we kinda had that coming for us.

- Even though it was still was 90 degrees, we were happy not to have luggage with us to get drenched. It was even kind of fun. Definitely a moment where it is good to have a sense of humor and a good laugh. Getting off the boat we all knew there was a slim chance we'd have an inch of dry clothing by the time we arrived to the local coconut candy making area.

- There aren't too many industries around and it's evident the people of the area are resourceful. Coconut candies (Kẹo Dừa) are made on the island and many women gather around folding them into their paper wrappings with lightning fast speed. We bought some to support them and send back to family.

- At the final island of the day we stopped for a quick lunch and were startled to see this bull trying with all of his might to keep his head above water. Thankfully after we ate someone had tied him to a tree instead.

- The island lunch consisted for some 'Elephant ear fish' (Tai tuong), which is a local speciality. There were plenty of stray dogs doing speaking the universal dog language of trying to look sweet in hopes of getting some scraps.

- For the way back to Ho Chi Minh City, we decided to take the speed boat, which took about 3 hours. The trip was nice, we were able to see the sunset and all the things that people transport on the Mekong.

- Many of the families even live in their boats - complete with dogs, which is really difficult to comprehend. People on the banks would wave and children would get especially excited. I can't envision what our lives look like to them. We get bused in, we wave, and are probably seen as rich and unconcerned.

All in all, it was a funny day, not really what we thought it would be, but nevertheless a fun one.

Next stop... Hong Kong!