Always look on the bright side of life

January 31, 2013

You know what those Monty Phyton boys always said... Although, this time of year - January especially - it's hard to be bright and cheery when everything around us is so grey and sad. I was beginning to feel  in a  hopeless spiral towards seasonal affective disorder when I met a friend for lunch the other day and she was wearing the brightest yellow cardi I'd ever seen, and then it hit me. Here was the answer - color! And not just any color, but bright, blinding, neon color. Just being in her presence made me want to sing from the rooftops (OK, not really, but almost...).

I admit, when neon made a bit of a comeback in years past, the '80s child in me could only scream no and cover my eyes to ward off the flashbacks of bad perms and Hypercolor shirts (oh yes, I had both). Given time - and three very grey, very dreary German winters - I've started to come around. It's not so garish or '80s when it's a small pop of color, say, that little J.Crew purse or the Marc by Marc Jacobs watch, grounded by neutrals. I love that things now are already coming color blocked (that clutch! those shoes!) or faded (oh, that Madewell sweater...) to tone down the effect.

Right now, I'm thinking that neon yellow and grey stripe tee is the best way to ease into these blinding winter brights. I'm hoping that with the lack of sun, these colors will radiate and elevate my mood. German's aversion to color, be damned. Guess I'm just going to stick out like the Californian that I am.

So farewell January, it's been not-so-fun! I've got color to help me through the rest of winter...

To see all the items featured above, check out my board on Polyvore
Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Things I'm loving this January

January 23, 2013

In an effort to control my spending as we save for Berlin, I thought I would start this new thing each month where I focus on the things I'm loving most at the moment - both things I own (to appreciate what I have) and things I'm coveting (to try to focus my spending, or better yet, quell the urge to spend at all). So here goes...

1. Graphic pillows // Every time I see the awesome sofa pillows on Nat the Fat Rat's blog, I believe our massive sofa looks hopelessly empty and is begging for an equally amazing collection to snuggle into. This one from Ikea is topping my list.

2. Rose gold triangle studs // So simple, so perfect - so affordable!

3. Dr. Hauschka Gesichtsöl // Going from coastal California to super-dry, land-locked Germany has left my sensitive skin positively parched. This stuff works wonders.

4. An Eames chair // Every time I see the classic white version of this chair, the green-eyed monster comes out to play. Then I see the price, and he disappears without a peep. This color - mauve-grau, they're calling it - is gorgeous, not to mention versatile enough to lighten up some of our other heavy furniture - and it's half the price of the white version. Something to look forward to for our new apartment, perhaps...

5. Ginger Beer // We stock up on this at the Kleinmarkthalle in Frankfurt (same place we stock up on my white corn tortilla flour and salsa verde) to make my new favorite drink: this, a bit of Makers Mark and orange peel over ice. Delish!

6. Animal magnets // Another find from Natalie (I think I'm a little obsessed with her blog right now...), I too was charmed by these sweet little magnets. I wish I could try a little DIY action and make my own, but I'm fairly certain I'd be a few fingers short by the time I finished. So for now, I pine for the giraffe one especially.

7. Jacket with faux leather sleeves // I've been stalking this style of jacket since they first started appearing on fashion bloggers last year (already having tried one, which only looked like I was trying way too hard) and this is the first one I've found that really fits the bill. I may or may not have already ordered it with H&M Germany's recent 10% promo... (to which I plan to diligently pay off with the next few weeks makings from afternoons with the Italian girls, promise)

8. Wedge sneakers // Much to the chagrin of my husband, I've become obsessed with the all-black, laced version of this trendy shoe. For the price, I think this Dorothy Perkins version is well worth the trend.

9. Cambridge Satchel in Rose Gold // This limited edition color would make the perfect bag, for a special occasion or just to make every day feel a little special.

10. The Terror by Dan Simmons // This massive tome (nearly 800 pages!) has been at my bedside for several weeks now (admittedly, I picked it up at the English book sale because of the beautiful cover artwork). Reading about the arctic temperatures makes me thankful it is only as cold as it is here. No lost fingers and toes for me, thanks.

Phew! That felt good. More next month...

Scenes from a snowy Sunday

January 21, 2013

Winter weather has finally arrived, complete with airport closures and sidewalks so slippery, traversing them is more a test in ice skating than walking. Signs of the holiday season have officially disappeared from town, although the outdoor ice rink has been broken up and left in the Kurpark for children to build igloos out of the massive chunks of ice. The knitting of town trees, poles and benches was even more abundant this year, adding a much-needed pop of color amidst the grey. This weekend, we all took a walk in the biting cold to take in our first real snow of the new year and Bailey was reminded of her intense love for snowballs

So begins the long, grey months of winter. Here's hoping there's more snow throughout the season to help lighten the landscape. 

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

A slow, bittersweet start to 2013

January 18, 2013

Much like so much of winter, the past few weeks have felt like they have been moving in slow motion. The appearance of snow magically dusting everything in town, coupled with unheard-of blue skies in the last couple days have helped, but the limited hours of daylight still fight against my mood and motivation for accomplishing things. Add to that the scaffolding that's gone up next door, and sleeping in, to make up for often not sleeping through the night - let alone even opening the bedroom curtains - has become impossible. It's only mid-January and I'm already crabby.

But there are things to do this year and I can't let a little seasonal sadness get in the way. After making Berlin our goal, we've become even more antsy to get out of Wiesbaden. So much about life here has changed for us. The dog attacks on Bailey mean we feel we can't go to our beautiful park anymore. The new additions to our friend's families mean a definite shift in our social engagements. Just the realization of what life could be - restaurants, concerts, trains that runs later than midnight - has left us feeling a bit stifled in what was once a city we felt held so much opportunity. Being on financial lock-down as we save up to move unfortunately makes that feeling of being stifled even stronger. I'm not quite sure what do to combat that, aside from making lists, purging belongings that won't make it to what will likely be a much smaller apartment and saving, saving, saving. Not really how I wanted to spend the last of our time in this town we've called home for the past three years, but it is what it is.

It is with a little sadness and even trepidation that we settle into planning for this year. Not only does it bring up all the things we have to do without to make our budget, but it means facing all the things we will do without once we leave: the friends who have become our expat family, our spacious and beautiful apartment (who knows how drastic we'll have to downsize), not to mention this little part of Germany so full of forests, rivers and wineries that we have come to love. The excitement of new things to come is so strong, but the sense of loss that accompanies it makes it that much harder to face head on.

So there will be no list of resolutions for me this year, just the single-minded focus on where we hope to be in the year ahead. Here's to making that happen!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Our Holidays

January 09, 2013

As with our holidays two years ago, I was lucky enough to spend this Christmas with my visiting mother. Unfortunately, as with last year, a white Christmas eluded us. While the lack of snow was disappointing, it's hard to complain when you have family from halfway around the world to spend the holidays with.

We made sure to include some of our favorite holiday things, like trips to our favorite Weihnachtsmärkte (Freinsheim for Portugiesisch Glühwein and Erfurt for Hungarian Lángos, not to mention the amazing setting) and baking more cookies than we could possibly eat by ourselves, but this year brought some new things as well, including:

A new addition to the tree decor, courtesy of an afternoon craft project with the Italian girls.

Homemade caramel apple (my favorite!) ornaments from mom.

A new Weihnachtsmarkt favorite: apple beignets from Freinsheim (oh, so good...).

A random drunk guy encounter that will go down in history. First, he photobombed my mom trying to get a shot next to this cute Erfurt elf (that orange coat barely seen on the left would be her). Then, realizing we were American, kept slurring that his English was 'shit', asked us to come to a party where would be lots of.. (here he mimed tossing back a bottle of spirits in the apparently internationally-recognized symbol for drinking), and referred to my mother several times as a 'MILF' (if you don't know, look it up - I'm not informing you here). After finally ditching him and his only-slightly-more-sober friend and making our way around the Markt, we came to a stage where a woman was singing Christmas songs for a crowd, only to discover, in true, only-in-the-movies fashion, this happening: 

That's right. Our drunk friend had made his way up the steps of the stage and was at first encouraging audience participation, only then to end up singing into the microphone with her. The singer allowed it for one song and the audience played along, but the awkwardness was palpable. Germans are notorious for being able to hold their drink and I've never seen such a display from a German before, intoxicated or not. We laughed about it all the way home.  

A new Christmas cookie based on Land's End's sensational holiday ones, using Ming Makes Cupcakes recipe for Thin Mint cookies, but topping it with peppermint-tinged white chocolate and crushed candy cane. Divine!

What started as just an easy Christmas Eve dinner (in light of the massive, Thanksgiving-like feast we were preparing for the following day) was such a hit, we may repeat it every year: the warm, comforting classic of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Thank you Rebecca of The Daily Muse for an amazing roasted tomato soup recipe. I am in love - and have made it again already and plan to keep it in regular meal rotation. 

A new Christmas breakfast: Sugar-crusted egg nog French toast (a variation on this recipe). I subbed egg nog for the cream to make it more Christmas-y and served it with sautéed cinnamon apples. It was the perfect Christmas flavors, not to mention easy to just take out of the fridge and stick into the oven in the morning. (tip: be sure to separate the bread and get the egg mixture between each slice - ours wasn't soaked through, even overnight, because it was packed so tight)

Christmas Eve and New Year's spent enjoying wine from our neighbor's winery they just bought (check it out here). Not only are they fantastic, but I now see a summer holiday in Bordeaux in our future... 

We had all agreed to a more modest Christmas this year (my mom and I have an especially hard time with things like budget where holidays are concerned), but we were certainly spoiled all the same. 

My stocking was chock-full of American goodies, not to mention a good part of the OPI Skyfall/ James Bond collection (The World is Not Enough - spectacular color!).

Not only was I spoiled with this gorgeous and chic hooded wool coat (the J.Crew stadium-cloth duffle), in which my glasses are fully protected and I do not resemble a giant black nylon rectangle, as I do in my other hooded winter coat,...

...but my husband surprised me with this red Maison Scotch stunner that was a frivolous want, as I had been dying for a red coat for no other reason than the bright, happy hue during our many (many) months of grey. I've since discovered that I share this same coat with a French fashion blogger I follow, who I always look to for style. That's an extra stamp of approval in my book. Also note the fabulous scarf my mom scouted out for me... from Target! Man, I miss Target...

And the pièce de résistance: my custom studded Chucks. I feel like such a bad-ass when I wear them (not to mention get a pretty good leg workout from lifting all those metal studs!). I think I might have the coolest mom ever.  

Bailey-dog had a pretty good Christmas as well. In addition to her plethora of treats, grandma brought her usual present: a stuffed toy. This year, an adorable and winter-worthy stuffed penguin. She's been getting this particular brand of 'indestructible' (ha! do they know my dog?!) plush toys for a few years now, and the limbs of ones from years past litter our home. She never chews or eats anything she's not supposed to (not furniture, not candy out on the coffee table and no, not even shoes, good dog that she is), so it's quite a treat for her to have something that she knows is all hers, with the sole purpose of proving her destruction skills. Here's a little photographic timeline of her process (all within hours of receiving it):

As you can see, a lovely holiday was had by all, especially Bailey. And not to worry: Penguin will continue to get all kinds of love, with years of more limb removal and chewing to be had.

Often forgotten, overlooked or just outright wrapped into Christmas, my husband's birthday comes at that difficult time between Christmas and New Years, when everyone is thinking of other things. I try to do what I can to make him feel special. This year, a massive Martha Stewart chocolate cake was involved (using her spectacular dark chocolate frosting).

New Years was low-key with visits to friends and then a wine and cognac-filled night with our neighbors and their amazing wine-scents game. We were so distracted by the late, but very delicious lamb dinner (second dinner for us, actually - but I'm not one to turn down good food!), we let midnight come and go without going out to light a single firework. I did not, however, forget to wear some festive attire (note sequined skirt, above). 

So we begin 2013 with recent memories of my mom's visit, my two fabulous new coats and even more fabulous shoes, freshly chopped locks (thanks, Mom!) and a plan to move. Moving in Europe, Germany specifically, is quite expensive (hello, having to buy your own kitchen?! not to mention the hefty deposits and massive fees for rental agents), so it's going to take us some time, but bear with us. Hopefully, we will have a whole new adventure and new things to blog about later this year. 

Happy 2013 to all!!

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische