Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lisbon Street Art

Lisbon is special, because they have a large array of street art - from the beautiful tiles to the museums on the streets. Some are very witty, like the sprayed on tiles, wallpaper, and phone above. Whenever we visit a new city I love to look closer and see those unique details.

There is also politically commentary that turns derelict buildings into enormous interesting canvases.

I find it so fascinating to get a glimpse of what the locals are going through and attempt to better understand how they view the world from their vantage point.

There's plenty of street art to see around the city, but the area just North of the Bairro Alto and around Alfama seemed to really have a lot of interesting things.

The hills might not seem super conducive to walking, but there are so many pretty little treasures to reward you along the way.

[Edit: Thanks to Ralf from StreetArt Portugal for recommending the Underdog project from Vhils and the Yellow Pants gallery if you're interested in the Lisbon street scene - we only saw the tip of the iceberg.]

Monday, November 29, 2010


Whenever I read about Lisbon there were words like bohemian, laid-back, romantic, and beautiful thrown into the mix and finally it stated it simply couldn't be put into words.

- Our first view of the city came from our flight. It's really incredible just how close to the city center the airplanes fly. It's a stunning birds eye look onto the red tiled roof tops, over the Tagus river and the 25 de Abril bridge.

- The Moorish architecture and bright colors always drew me in and I knew when I finally made it to Portugal that I'd really want to see Lisbon. It certainly didn't disappoint. There are beautiful shapes and patterns everywhere.

- Immediately this city conjures up a feeling for me of European San Francisco. The two cities have loads in common... their bridges were made by the same company (the Oakland bridge - not Golden Gate), they both have had issues with earthquakes and fires, they both were built on seven very steep hills, have laid back people, strong liberal and political cultures, proximity to water and of course the trolleys.

- While we should have had plenty of time to plan for this trip, since we bought flights months ago, the truth is it kind of crept up quickly. I was so thankful to read what locals recommended. We took their tips to heart and visited many of their favorite shops and restaurants including the Cape Verdean Association for lunch and one of the most beautiful stores called A Vida Portuguesa with everything being made in Portugal.

- One big surprise is that this is such an inexpensive place. There are tons of apartment rentals, upscale hostels, and of course design oriented hotels. Food and shopping are also very inexpensive.

- We stayed in the Baixa neighborhood, which is very central and easy to navigate. The NATO summit on November 19th was right before our visit, so we saw quite a bit of signage in protest.

- Lisbon also appeared to be one of the most diverse cities I've been to in Europe. We were visiting during down season, so I get the feeling many of the people we have seen are natives. It's nice to finally see some cultural mixing around here. Munich is just so homogenous and one thing I miss most is diversity.

- There's a strong artistic presence. Many of the delapidated buildings have been painted with large and beautiful murals. There are bright colored facades around every corner and tons of colored tiles with unique patterns. I'll write about the street art and tiles separately.

- Mornings start a bit later, although everyone seems to love breakfast and makes time to stop at one of the cafes. There are lots of shoe shiners polishing people up and people seem genuinely happy.

- I've always been intrigued by trade routes and it's clear navigating waterways has long been something the Portugese are renouned for. The cuisine exemplifies this. Much of it is meat heavy and relatively carb heavy as well. During one meal I was given french fries, rice, and bread.

- Walking all of the hills helped us feel slightly less guilty for eating our fair share of fried foods. We had cod cakes and paid a visit to Bonjardim Rei De Frangos 'King of Chickens', which was recommended by everyone. I'm not a big meat eater, but when I do eat meat it's chicken. This was really phenomenal and lived up to the hype. Our waiter was very comical and was a tad over generous with the fries.

- One of the most impressive sites we visited was the ruins of the Carmo church from 1423. We were there right before dusk when the light just seems to glow. The church was destroyed in an earthquake in 1755 and later a fire that took much of the city out. The archways have stood the testament of time and weather.

- Buildings everywhere are covered with azulejo (tiles) in a variety of patterns, colors, and shapes. The Bairro Alto and Alfalma neighborhoods seemed to have the most.

- A gamut of things is available the Feira da Ladra Market (Thieves Market). Clearly the market got its name from being able to sell things quickly. There were several police officers around, although we did see one man with a lap top and iphone. The old cameras, tiles, and coins were the most interesting things I saw.

There are several great view points around the city. Here are two we enjoyed most:

Santa Justa Elevator

Castelo de São Jorge

- The city was gearing up for Advent and had lights, music, and chestnuts in the Praça do Rossio.

- There was also wax ice skating, which was a new one. Rather than having an ice rink it was made of some kind of waxy substance.

- We made a trip to Belém for the famed pastéis de nata at Confeitaria de Belém. They were the first pastéis that we sampled. These little tarts are filled with a warm custard and sprinkled with cinnamon and confectionary sugar. After trying some in the airport lounge on the way home we quickly understood how they were different. I'd definitely recommend jumping on the tram to Belém to try them.

- Initially I wondered if we would have time to visit Fatima. I really wanted to buy some wax body part as an offering. Alas there's too much to do within Lisbon, so we'll have to save that for another trip.

Next up I'll write about Lisbon's street art, tiles, and our past trip to Macau.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving + Lebkuchen

With the holidays quickly approaching we had a jump start on Thanksgiving, since we are unable to celebrate on the actual day. I decided to surprise Stefan with a small feast when he came home from work and I made everything on my own from scratch.

This was the menu:
Spinach Salad
Pumpkin Apple Soup
Apple + Onion stuffing
Blood Orange Cranberry Sauce
Whipped Sweet + Mashed Potatoes

...and dessert consisted of Pumpkin Delights sent from my parents in the US. I kind of ran out of time to make a dessert, because I've been trying several lebkuchen recipes.

So far they have all been relatively successful.

The biggest problem is storing them for several weeks so the flavors can intensify, because I keep making cookies and they are continually disappearing. I guess that's a good sign.

I'm planning on heading up to Nürnberg sometime during their Christmas Market to get some of their flourless cookies, which are fantastic. My flourless version are slightly less picturesque, but at least they taste good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Here are some photos from the Frankfurt and their Römer Christmas Market, which will open this coming weekend.

We were in town for our friend's birthday last weekend, which was a lot of fun.

Being there brought back so many memories of my first days in Germany, although it seemed like another lifetime ago. I used to walk all over that city. Somehow I forgot how many tiny little adorable shops and restaurants they had.

Frankfurt is an interesting place. It's heavily run by money and work life, which makes sense since it's one of Europe's largest financial hubs.

Our hotel room had a balcony that looked onto the Commerzbank Tower and it felt very big city. It's probably an easier city to transition to since it is so international, although we were only there for a short time.

At the party people had mixed responses when I told them I lived in Munich. Some called it posh and wished they lived here, too, while others felt it lacked multiculturalism and was a glorified village.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gift guide: Him + Her

1. Graffiti Mug - Draw until it's perfect then bake for a custom mug. (image plastic land)

2. Beer + Chocolate tasting - Find the perfect mix of salty and sweet. (image theo chocolate)

3. Bike spooklight - Charges by USB, enables braking and turn signals for optimal road safety. (image 50 cycles)

4. Buck Stacking game - A modern game of skill. (image uncommon goods)

5. Magwear Helper - A simple way to hold screws and nails. (image spoon sisters)

6. New Skewers - Nature inspired skewers that help foods cook faster. (image nextrend products)

7. Your name novel - Insert the names of yourself, friends, or family in timeless novels. (image u star novels)

8. O'Clock Watch - A beautiful array of versatile watches. (image oclock)

9. Light up books or the enlightenment - Perfect for bibliophiles or as a quirky accent piece. (image light up your world)

10. Tulip USB - More USBs in a decorative manner. (image fred flare)

11. Westelm Manzanita Candelabra - The perfect touch of nature for an elegant table decoration. (image west elm)

12. Colorku - A great Sudoku twist for visual types using color instead of numbers. (image garnet hill)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gift guide: For a Cause

1. Sagaform Fresh Herb pot - Finally an easy way to attempt to have an herb garden that rivals my Mom's. There's also a three pot version available. (image Sagaform)

2. Time Lapse Plant Camera - A fun look at how plants - or anything else - changes and grows overtime. (image Signals)

3. Rose stem cleaner - Another excuse to buy and receive more roses. (image spoon sisters)

4. Origami banks - Pretty banks that donate money to St. Jude when you purchase. (image west elm)

5. J. Schatz Egg Lamp - The only downfall of city living is not having zillions of stars above - bring the stars inside with this dreamy lamp. (image J Schatz)

6. Pigeon Toe Ceramics handmade garden stakes - Pretty markers that are great for those that love fresh herbs. (image pigeon toe ceramics)

7. Kiva small loan - Help someone around the world finance their small business. (image kiva)

8. Gaiam Smart Powerstrip - Stops wasting energy when things are plugged in. (image gaiam)

9. Aladin Bento Box - Save money by packing a lunch. This small bento keeps hot food hot and cold food chilled for up to 4 hours. (image aladin)

10. Silver Origami Crane Necklace - An international symbol of peace that donates food to animal shelters with purchase. (image animal rescue site)

11. Water Pebble - Save water while showering, although there's a catch - overtime it recalculates so it's progressive. (image water pebble)

12. Recycling Bin Cart - An organized way to keep recyclables in order. (image frontgate)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gift guide: Travel

1. Michele Varian Chalkboard Globe - A great planning tool and a pretty decor piece. (image Michele Varian)

2. Sam Hect Jet Lag Alarm - A convenient way to deal with international travel and figuring out sleep times. (image A+R)

3. These are Things 2011 Calendar - A beautiful limited edition letterpress calendar that makes it easy to schedule trips - and made in Ohio! (image these are things)

4. Artecnica KnoWhere Cosmos Clock - Finally a clock that makes it easy to tell what time it is in a variety of global cities. (image Artecnica)

5. Simplicitas Wolf Udo Wagner Picnic Set - Reusable stackable plates that travel everywhere. (image Simplicitas)

6. CARES Child Aviation Restraint System Harness - Lightweight and hassle free way to strap kids into airplanes without hauling a car seat. (image cares)

7. Aerobed Packmat - A portable mattress for quality sleeping virtually anywhere. (image aerobed)

8. North Face Base Camp Duffel - The small version is a fantastic carry-on and weekend bag. We also have the large 'Rolling Thunder'. These bags are durable and easy to pack and unpack. Hands down my favorite and most used piece of luggage. (image the north face)

9. Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky - Unless you're on the list of the Most Traveled People chances are good most of these islands will forever be arm chair travels. It's still pretty incredible to think of all the unique places in this world. (image amazon)

10. Atelier Pompadour Felted World Map - Made to order with your own travel route. (image atelier pompadour etsy)

11. Plastic Land ceramic Paris plates + mugs - A whimsical way to celebrate a romantic city at your own table. (image plastic land)

12. Hapticlab Softquilts - Maps made into quilts that are sure to be heirlooms of special places. (image haptic lab)

Monday, November 15, 2010


It's no surprise one of Munich's swankiest places has some incredible views.

Aren't the Alps spectacular? We certainly don't visit them often enough.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gift guide: Holiday Decor

1. Silver Mistletoe - It's always best to be prepared with a recyclable Mistletoe to bring holiday cheer - and plenty of kisses. (image delight)

2. Pottery Barn Organizer - The perfect way to organize wrappings, tape, and trimmings for those that love to give gifts and stay organized. (image pottery barn)

3. Winter ice canapé plates - A special edition from David Stark, which can be used through the Winter and for other festive events. (image west elm)

4. Gudari Sari Garland - A bright and beautiful garland with some history, since it's handmade from old Saris in India. (image sundance catalog)

5. Bakers Twine - The perfect way to tie up packages and present baked goods. (image crate + barrel)

6. Porcelain Origami Nativity - The coolest nativity I've ever seen. It looks like origami, only it lasts much longer. (image gumps)

7. Silver frame ornaments - A simple way to trim a tree and add some personality. (image crate + barrel)

8. Advent calendar canister set - I wrote about it before, but it is simply my favorite Advent calendar. There are so many ways to change it up, yet it's nice enough to use as decor. (image impressionen)

9. Gourmet cookie book - Sadly, Gourmet magazine wasn't able to continue publishing their print magazine, although they do have an ipod app for those that still prefer something slightly more tactile. For those that still like paper and flipping pages there's this collection of the best cookies in book form. (image Gourmet)

10. Johnathan Adler Relief Menorah - A classic and modern menorah. (image jonathan adler)

11. Dreidel Platter - The perfect dish for baked goods, like Kugel, Rugalach, and Sufganiyot. (image crate + barrel)

12. Hebrew Cookie cutters - Cookie cutters that help with those Yiddish and Hebrew spellings. (image modern tribe)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hong Kong Island

(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).

- Hong Kong is a very busy city. One of their solutions to dealing with the constant traffic is not only their very clean and efficient subway system and the trams.

- They also have the mid-way escalators. Right in the middle of the city they have the world's longest open-air escalator system that helps commuters make their way up and down the mountain side in a timely manner. During the morning it goes down, bringing everyone into town and after the morning rush it ascends the mountain side making the trek a bit easier. It's really helped to revitalize neighborhoods and help the flow of people, since it carries roughly 50,000 a day on the 20 escalators and 3 moving sidewalks! Wow.

- The views from Hong Kong Island are incredible.

- Our hotel on this side of the harbor even had a great rooftop pool high above the city and overlooking the harbor.

- There is also a neighborhood in this area called Soho, which is a large gathering area for the city's expats. It was fun to watch them all mingle and interact. It's a busy night spot and a great place to grab dinner or a drink.

- It's surprisingly green at the top, although the smog line is still visibly present. We spent quite a bit of time there.

- Our favorite place on Hong Kong Island was actually the Peak. It is absolutely breathtaking. The journey up is a bit more difficult. The tram is nearly at a 45 degree angle and it's ridiculously steep. Once again there is a shopping mall at the top, which is a good way to pass time in the afternoon before sunset.

- There is also a really beautiful shop at the Peak Galleria, called Goods of Desire (G.O.D.). It had these incredible fish made of paper floating above the store. I asked if they were available for purchase, which they were not. I'm not sure what I would have done with one, but they made me so happy. I don't think I will ever tire of the paper lanterns and bright colors. Another place we really liked was a restaurant called SML. You could decide the portion size for the entire menu, which is such a simple, but great concept. The food was great, too.

- Even the General Post office had some color - including this beautiful collage mural on the wall, aptly made from stamps. There is so much inspiration around every corner here.

- It was a tease to see ingredients for pumpkin pie, but I did later find a pumpkin cheesecake - complete with 'Happy Halloween'. It's probably due to the strong expat influence, but Halloween seems to have caught on with the locals as well. I've never seen a place outside the US that was so into the decor and costumes, but it was a lot of fun. Even the airport was decorated when we arrived.

- We're constantly reminded how small the world has become, between friends and family being spread everywhere, to the availability of products. Things felt so accessible.

- On the flip side sometimes it seems foreignness comes from the most unlikely of places. I was shocked to see a city of this magnitude using bamboo scaffolding. I also noticed skin bleaching cream in several ladies shopping bags and TV commercials promoting its usage. I guess the beauty market is universal, but still so unsettling.

- Other interesting things during our stay on the HKI side was a migrant worker sit in. One of my friend Jeff's colleagues, who we met at the Oktoberfest, is also part of a German - American marriage with 2 children. They were telling us how even people without children often have help. Evidently many of the apartments in Hong Kong have a room off the kitchen specifically for this. I wasn't sure what to make of that, because I'm sure many of these people (mainly women) easily become indentured servants. It was interesting throughout our stay we would see large groups of women gathered on the streets playing cards, giving each other pedicures, or plucking gray hairs for each other.

Next stop... Macau.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The White City

We've had so much going on for the past few months, and I'm still working on several things... sorry for the jumping topics.

I'm trying to write about things while they are still recent and fresh, although I also want to finish this Around the World recap - like pronto. For some reason taking tons of photos while we were traveling seemed like a good idea, but I didn't account for looking through them all to find my favorites.

We also seem to be adding to more to that. Soon we'll be heading to Lisbon - 'The White City'.

Food seems to be a hot topic there. I'm also looking forward to the Moorish architecture and beautiful tile work. It will be interesting to see how it compares to Macau, which was a Portuguese colony. I'm working on writing about that right now, so it will still be fresh in my mind.

I've checked out Jamie Oliver's travel guide - does anyone have any more tips or recommendations?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gift guide: Toddler + Pet

1. Learning Tower - A stable tower that makes children countertop level so they can help in the kitchen or it can be used for forts and puppet shows. (image learning tower)

2. Little Pim DVDs- Learning language while young is the best method, so these educational DVDs can help. (image little pim)

3. Kalon Studios hut hut - A modern take on a rocking chair. (image kalon studios)

4. KidO stack + nest - Nesting objects for stacking or playing with during bath time. (image KidO)

5. 36 cube - For those older children who love puzzles. (image think fun)

6. Kaiku design wagon - A double seated wagon that's perfect for long walks or going to the market. (image Kaiku Desigh)

7. KidO memory matching game - Two levels of difficulty with extra cards available. The images are beautiful and can be used for learning. (image Kid O)

8. Haba Kaleidoscopic Blocks - Color mixing for budding artists and architects. (image Haba)

9. Uncle Milton Pet's Eye View - Collar camera that allows you to view the world as your pet does. (image Uncle Milton)

10. Spellwell cat toy - A decapitated mouse toy for cats. (image etsy Spellwell)

11. Karlie bunny hop - For teaching your bunny the fine art of rabbit hopping, which is a sport that's gaining momentum. (image Karlie)

12. Nina Ottosson dog brick - Keeps your dog entertained and fine tunes problem solving skills. (image Nina Ottosson)

Other sites for pet gifts:
Olive Green Dog
The Modern Pet