Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 + 2012

In 2011, we visited :
Paris • Marrakech • Essaouira • Croatia • Bosnia + Herzegovina • Montenegro • Moscow
 Iceland • Boston • Ohio • Venice • Burano • Gaisberg • Florence

We celebrated 5 years of :
marriage • life in Munich • enjoying Oktoberfest

We made a huge array of ice creams and I had some success with macarons, too.

2012 will be another year full of love, excitement, travels, and sweet treats, including:

• Celebrating the New Year in San Francisco
• Going back to Iceland - hopefully to see the aurora borealis!
• Taking an Indian cooking course
• Traveling to Istanbul
• Being part of the lantern world record in Poznań, Poland [I can hardly handle the excitement!]
• Making baked goods from Tartine, Momofuku Milk Bar, Les Petite Macarons, and Heston at Home
• Several weddings
... and I'm sure plenty more surprises we don't even yet know about.

I hope 2012 is a special one for you, too! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


While raclette is a traditionally Swiss meal it's still very popular here during the Winter months and great for gatherings.

Even though we've only had snowfall a few times it's still a nice excuse to get out our raclette grill for some Alpine comfort food.

The raclette cheese is the important part. It's stinky, nutty, and surprisingly quite mild, but it melts beautifully and works really well with an array of ingredients.

I'm sure it's due to tradition and the lack of fresh produce, but many of the accoutrements are canned and preserved. We try to add fresh things when possible.

Whenever I think of Switzerland I hear Stefan saying "all Americans go to Interlaken, which people here don't visit."

I'm also reminded of when we visited Zürich while we were back in college. That was a quick way to feel extremely broke. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cookies + Markets

One thing I desperately miss about the US around the holidays is how everything centers around food.
It's an excuse to gather, to enjoy, and to eat a bit more than usual with pot-luck style meals and cookie exchanges.

Here people tend to do it all on their own.

I'm always impressed when we visit Stefan's family and there are an array of different cookies all meticulously put together and perfectly bite sized. His Mom has a legendary fondue, which has become a fantastic family tradition, too.
Each year I think I should organize a cookie exchange, because I love variety, but the holiday chaos usually gets in the way. It gets a little trying to make an array of cookies on your own. This year Stefan joined me for a glühwein and evening of baking, which was a lot of fun.

I try to make new recipes, old favorites, and learn some German varieties with lebkuchen and the standard Mürbeteig base.
There seems to be a distinct difference from celebrating in Germany and the US. As with many things I wish that I could meld the two together.
Here people celebrate oftentimes outside and away from their homes. They gather with strangers, neighbors, and friends for Christmas markets and festivals.

The US is a bit commercial with a strong emphasis on gifts, family, and individual traditions.

If we ever move away from Germany I'm certain we'll have an annual Christmas market party - complete with lebkuchen, glühwein, spiced nuts, spätzle, open fires, and undoubtedly our own traditions thrown in.
Here are a few photos from the Tollwood festival, which is an enormous organic around the world style Christmas market, similar to Yellow Springs back home. It takes place on the same grounds as Oktoberfest.
We had some incredible schupfnudeln and spätzle, which came in edible dishes. Isn't that ingenious? 
...and of course our fair share of feuerzangenbowle, which a glühwein with rum over pressed sugar that is then lit on fire. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Florence or Firenze is a city of prestige, style, and art.
This was the most powerful city in Europe for 250 years or so and really helped Europe come out of the dark ages with currency. It's also credited with creating opera, the most authentic Italian spoken,  and Pinocchio. The Renaissance and Neo-Classical architecture from Brunelleschi and Alberti changed the way cities would be built forever. As we walked through the streets I kept thinking it would have been incredible to live during this age of discovery and creativity.
One of the most memorable courses I took in my art history studies was Italian Renaissance art. Seeing many of the things I learned about with my own eyes was really something special.
The landscape alone made such a gorgeous tapestry of colors with the late Autumn leaves, purple mountains, and rolling hills. It's certainly clear to see why it's an inspiration for artists.
We were lucky to visit during the off-peak season. The city itself while sprawling, has a concentrated area for the touristy things, so it probably doesn't take much for it to feel slightly congested. Before our trip I read the Florentines are their own type of people: elegant, cultured, and sophisticated.
Our apartment was right at the Palazzo Vecchio (where the David originally stood) and the Uffizi in the Santa Croce district, which is reputed to have some of the best restaurants.
I think we ate cannolis every morning for breakfast... and maybe a small one after dinner if we weren't enjoying the cantuccini + vino santo.
There seemed to be no shortage of Americans celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy - from the college students biking around to the older tour groups.
I was able to cross a few things off my list of impressive art and architecture to experience: Bottecelli's Birth of Venus, Michelangelo's David, Brunelleschi’s dome, and Giotto's Tower to name a few. We also picked up a kitschy ornament of the David he'll remind us of our trip for holidays to come.
It intrigues me how so many artists had patrons with ties to the church, powerful families, and endless amounts of money. Seeing how art, math, and engineering combine to create some very impressive works makes that money well invested.
We pre-booked tickets to the Galleria dell'Accademia and Uffizi, which turned out not to be necessary since there weren't so many tourists. A little tip if the pre-booked tickets are sold out is to head to this little window between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Cathedral. They have tickets from cancelled reservations for the various museums.
Here are some of the pretty things we saw, ate, and experienced: 
Ponte Vecchio
Meats, Cheeses, Cantuccini + Vino Santo
Baptistry Doors
Catholic street art
Giotto's Tower + The Cathedral Façade
Osteria Pepò ... for a terrific wine filled lunch
Medici Palace
The view from Giotto's Tower 
gelato + pastries
The Florence Marathon... one of these two won
The Occupy Florence movement
Pretty street decor
Ospedale degli Innocenti by Brunelleschi
Ospedal degli Innocenti details
Motorbikes along the Arno
Ponte Vecchio's jewelry shops
Christmas lights

Uffizi Gallery
Palmanova Starfort... something cool we spotted from the plane window.

As always, I wish that we had more time to explore the city and to visit the outskirts as well. 

The Tuscan area certainly has an allure to it. 

I'm looking forward to looking at some of the photos my parents took (slides actually) when they visited Italy and Florence on their honeymoon. I'm sure the fashions from the 1970's alone will be a treat. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

2012 calendar

This vintage airline tag calendar is such a great way to look forward to and keep track of upcoming travels. 

We already have 3 more trips planned between now and April. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gift guide: Travel

1. design ahoy typographic letterpress map - be still my little heart
2. Knopf map guides - these are fantastic little fold out maps
3. Rimowa cabin trolley - sleek, professional, and lasts a lifetime
4. travel leather stickers - for letters, photos, and journals
5. sylvansport trailer - for versatile adventures
6. aurora borealis overnight - experience watching the northern lights somewhere special
7. airmail magnet frames - fun reminders of travels past
8. foreign language blocks - it's never too early to get the travel bug
9. city silhouette coat hanger - available in a wide array of cities
10. mini USB cable kit - no forgetting chargers or hauling bulky cords
11. special places map - for the adventure of life
12. The Sinner's Grand Tour - a journey through the historical underbelly of Europe

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gift guide: Him + Her

1. wallee ipad wall mount - for hands free viewing, as a picture frame, TV, or out of the way cookbook
2. duluth canvas backpack - for a quiet weekend away
3. PB Swiss Tools hex key wrench set - form meets function for the handyman
4. swiss measuring spoons - bringing it back to the boy scout days
5. beer tasting glass set - prepared for any beer that comes his/her way
6. lytro camera - tiny and practical for focused photos every time
7. ice ball mould - stylishly chilled cocktails with ice that melts more slowly
8. personalized air mail stationery - for love letters and other correspondences
9. Fjallrave Kanken bag - perfect for a picnic, day trip, or city exploring
10. holga iphone lens kit - creativity at your fingertips
11. macbook pocket mirror - a comical solution to the compact
12. silver Hendrikka Waage earrings - another reason to fall in love with iceland 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gift guide: Children + Pets

1. Kid O cutting fruit - it's never too early for good eating habits and training a sous chef.
2. likeabike - learning to ride a bike and balance
3. Alphabet magnatab - letter learning and penmanship
4. iwood / first laptop - creativity over technology
5. log pillow - for indoor camping and those that love nature
6. eames elephants - whimsical and beautiful elephant benches
7. giant ice cream lamp - who doesn't love ice cream?
8. green toys sandwich shop - for foodies in the making
9. pocked microscope - take a closer look at the world
10. sound effects machine - 20 sound effects for comedic situations
11. dogface army man toy - childhood favorite for dogs
12. wire + dine bowls - minimal and various heights for dogs of all sizes
13. you bake `em cat treats - for feline friends
14. dudley the dog - balloon shaped dog toy
15. laser cat toy - entertainment for hours

More pet sites:
nip and bone
Pet Solutions

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gift guide: Cooking

1. Belkin Kitchen stand & wand for tablets - makes digital recipes easy to view even with messy hands.
2. Wesco Grandy bread box - keeps bread fresh and has a great retro design. We have this and love it. 
3. Bew Kitchen Mat - multipurpose mat for drying dishes or keeping bowls from sliding while mixing.
4. Crate & Barrel cheese and cracker server - an excellent way to display and serve. 
5. Weck canning jars - for storing, canning, or baking. 
6. Ring molds - make a variety of cakes at once.
7. Schnaps decanter - a great hostess gift 
8. Triple slow cooker - for entertaining or a variety of meals 
9. Sous Vide water cooker - home cooking with gourmet results
10. Thermapen - temperature precision for grilling and pastries
11. Adjustable rolling pin - great for pastries and pizza for uniform baking. 
12. Table top pizza oven - fun for entertaining and crisp crust pizza.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gift guide: Art

1. sneaker customization kit - for those that want customized shoes or love to design
2. digital time lapse camera - video making made simple and weather resistant!
3. michelle armas calendar - or a painting if someone's been extra good this year.
4. ona camera bag organizer insert - camera protection and organization in a bag you already own
5. coptic marker sketch set - refillable and with replaceable nibs
6. peas USB hub - sleek, practical, and useful
7. uten.silo - organization for offices, studios, or kitchens
8. brush vase - for flowers or paint brushes
9. ipad CF & SD card reader - makes storing photos on the go simple.
10. slice scissors - gorgeous steel scissors
11. iphone case - find something pretty, or design your own
12. pebeo porcelaine 150 - paints to decorate your own ceramics at home

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bird's eye: Venice

As soon as the weather starts cooling off we tend to venture somewhere warmer.

On our latest trip we spotted Venice down below.
(By clicking to enlarge it, you can read the island names.)
Here's the another map I made of the Venice Sestiere.

And while I'm at it, I found a few more vintage photos of Venice amongst my collection.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Autumn & the Isar

This is why I wish Autumn never ended...gorgeous blankets of golden leaves at the glowing Isar are just magical.