Platinum Hair: Maintenance and Care

April 21, 2016

kate wirth platinum hair with ace & tate sunnies

If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen that my platinum hair is already long-gone, but not because this color was anything less than fabulous (I just love change!). Before I took the white-blond plunge, I spent a lot of time on the internet searching for photos and tips, and honestly, a lot of what's out there is enough to scare anyone away from this risky shade. Scalp burns, hair falling out - sounds like fun! But I'm glad I went for it and was even surprised at how well my hair stood up to the beating it took to maintain this shade. After nearly two years of bleaching, it was still decently soft and shiny. To pay forward all my online research knowledge and more importantly, my own experience, I'm here to share what I learned after being a whiter shade of pale:

kate wirth platinum blond pastel hair colors

Get a good colorist

I'm all for doing hair color at home. Heck, the dark auburn I had for years was out of a 4€ box, done in my bathroom every 4-6 weeks. But platinum is another beast altogether. First off, it's bleach. The same heavy duty cleaner that wipes away any DNA after a homocide. It's no joke and used incorrectly, you can get burned or even cause all your hair to break off. Not to be dramatic, but those stories are out there for a reason. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who truly knows what they're doing and can help you out at home, then go for it. But if you're new to this process, it's best to go to a professional you trust. My colorist here in Berlin (Carolin at Friseurladen) took great care of my color, getting out pesky bits of pastel colors I had played with on my own - and with her - as well as toning to perfection. I actually started with another colorist, but she never could quite find that perfect balance between golden and grey, proving not all stylists are created equal. Also! Make sure to have your hair as dirty as you can stand it before every coloring session. The buildup protects your scalp from the burning and itching bleach causes, making it a much less painful experience.

Wash minimally, deep-condition regularly

Like every salon-achieved hair color, shampoo - and even water! - can strip that beautiful shade you just paid your hard-earned money for. Washing hair as little as possible is key, which can be a tough transition if you're a daily shampooer. Understand that it will take time for your scalp to adjust and you will be a greasy mess for a while until it stops overproducing oil. I wash my hair one-two times a week, and it took me several months to not look like a homeless person on this regimen. A good dry shampoo is key, as are the right shampoos in the shower (see my recommendations below). Whether you deep condition with an oil, like I did, or with a mask, do it often and for as long as you can manage to sit at home with your hair wrapped up. Trust me, your hair will thank you.

Hands (styling tools, hair elastics, etc.) off!

That gleaming white shade has been achieved by stripping all the pigment from your hair, including it's strength and a good deal of its volume. Even if you're lucky enough to have thick strands of hair to begin with (in which case, lucky you!), it's going to get a heck of a lot more delicate. Something as simple as running a brush through your hair can be met with a cacophony of snapping. This means wide-tooth combs only and minimal brushing, finger-combing in the morning should be your go-to. Hair elastics, bobby pins and the like will also strain your already stressed strands even more and should be kept to a minimum. Heat tools and blow drying are also torture for hair in this state, and should also be avoided. I was pretty stringent about all these practices and still suffered from a lot of breakage, though my strands were pretty fine to begin with. TLC should be the name of the game with platinum locks.

Protection, protection, protection

Platinum hair is so delicate, it needs more protection from the elements. That means keeping it under knit hats in the drying winter and under straw ones in the stripping summer sun. Additionally, what the sun does to make natural blondes blonder, will only yellow your hard-earned white hue, resulting in toning more often to keep the brassiness at bay. Don't forget thinning the structure of your hair with this process will also leave your scalp more prone to sunburn as well. I never tried any hair sunscreens for fear the ingredients would also yellow my hair, but if you've had any positive experience with this, please share in the comments!

best products for platinum hair care_ lush phyto clairol davines burts bees

Choose the right products

Speaking of products, it's important to remember this is another area that can kill the perfect white in as little as one use. These are the products that worked best for me:

  • Phyto Subtil Elixer: This pre-shampoo oil did great things for the softness of my platinum hair. While the directions recommend to leave on for 10 minutes, sometimes I'd leave it on for over an hour. True, the product is a pretty deep golden that's probably not the best for white strands, but the right shampoo counteracts any discoloring that might occur.

  • Lush Rehab Shampoo: What I originally bought as a deep-conditioning shampoo turned out to be one of my best weapons in fighting against the yellowing effects of the world on my white hair. Almost doing a better job of toning than Shimmer Lights, I was shocked at how one shampoo with this would restore my hair to the shimmering pale hue I left the salon with. It's important to note, this will not tone hair that was yellow to start with, it will only strip away the brassiness that has occurred between colorings.

  • Clairol Shimmer Lights Shampoo: This American cult classic got it's status for good reason - it works! It's pretty strong stuff, both in color and old-lady scent, but it will tone hair all the way to lavender if you let it (which could be good, if pastels are your thing). It can also be diluted by mixing with regular shampoo. Keep an eye on how long you leave it on, as some more thirsty strands will hold the purple stronger than others. If you find it hard to come by or too expensive here in Europe, Lush's Daddy-O Shampoo is a solid alternative.

  • Davines OI Absolute Beautifying Potion: I discovered this through my stylist, first loving the scent when she'd spread it on my hair but then loving the non-greasy softness it left behind. A lot more than I normally like to spend on hair products, I was pleased to find that a very little goes a long way and even the small bottle lasts for-ev-er with short hair. I'd put this on wet hair after getting out of the shower and also for small, smoothing touch-ups to dry hair between shampoos. It is by far my favorite hair product discovery of the last few years. 

  • Burt's Bees Baby Bee Dusting Powder: After discovering my go-to dry shampoo left my new platinum hair a parched, crunchy mess thanks to all the alcohol in it, I knew I'd have to find an alternate way to stretch my shampoos and preserve my color - without turning it to straw. Enter Burt's Bees baby powder. It's talc-free, smells divine and soaks up hair oil well with it's cornstarch base. Frustratingly, it's one of the few items in the Baby Bee line not available in Germany, so I have friends bring me a bottle anytime they visit. (I've been a big fan of this stuff for a long time)

kate wirth platinum hair with ace & tate glasses

Whether you are already platinum or looking to try out this color soon, I hope you find some helpful tips for your best blond!  

The 5 Best Gluten-Free Things I Ate in March

April 12, 2016

The Sugar Hit's cinnamon-sugar buttermilk doughnuts made with gluten-free flour

Let's face it, sometimes it's hard to get excited about eating when you have celiac. It's not so bad getting a handle on satisfying things at home, once you have your go-to recipes and know where to get the best alternative ingredients, but eating out or with friends can be such a daunting task that you avoid it altogether. With so many celiac struggles, I figured it was time to focus more on the positives - all the great gluten-free things that I can eat!

I'm starting this new feature 'The 5 Best Things I Ate' every month not only to help remind myself of all the deliciousness I have enjoyed, but to share safe locations, delicious products and great recipes with you, too. Anyone who knows me can tell you I don't settle for mediocre food just because it's my only option. I always seek out the best, which is why I've also started a hashtag on Twitter and Instagram for further sharing with the gluten-free community: #celiacdoesntsuck. Sure, #celiacsucks a lot of the time (if Twitter's unending feed of the hashtag is any indication), but isn't there enough negativity floating around the internet already? Read on, and be inspired to eat better food, celiac be damned!

GF Jules Limoncello poundcake in bundt pan

1. GF Jules's Limoncello poundcake

I was searching for something bright and citrusy for Easter when I came across Jules's recipe for a limoncello poundcake. With half a bottle of limoncino (the regional version bought on our holiday in Cinque Terre a few years back) still in the freezer, I knew I had found the winner. Since I'm always in the 'go big or go home' camp, I doubled the recipe so it could fit in a fancy bundt pan, perfect for our Easter brunch with friends. Jules apparently was as impressed as our guests, since she requested the photo to add to her recipe post. Thanks again, Jules, for making our Easter that much sweeter!

Truffle pasta in parmesan bowl at Rudolph's in Hamburg

2. Truffle pasta in a parmesan bowl at Rudolph's in Hamburg

First off, finding a place that understands that gluten-free pasta can't just be thrown in the same water as glutenous pasta when feeding a celiac is next to impossible. Bless those Italians who know and understand this stupid disease. Add that safe pasta to some truffle and put it in a crispy 'bowl' made of parmesan, and this lunch special at Rudolph's in Hamburg was not only the best thing I ate last month, but perhaps so far this year. Decadent, but not too heavy. I would consider making the trip there just for this dish, no joke. (I'll be reviewing this place properly here on the blog very soon, so stay tuned because pasta is just the beginning of its gluten-offerings!)

Clementine Daily Instagram of my gluten-free buttermilk doughnuts

3. The Sugar Hit's Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts

I started making these last year when I went on a doughnut-making kick and they are still one of my favorite recipes. The best part? They're yeast-free, so they come together in no time. A few minutes in the oil, roll in some cinnamon sugar and bam, hot, fresh doughnuts! So easy and delicious. No wonder Clementine Daily liked the looks of them! I've tried a couple different gluten-free flour options (just the same weight as glutenous flour in the recipe) and so far, my favorite is the starch-heavy Rewe Frei Von flour blend. Do let me know if you try them and what flour/s work best for you!

Bravo for Paleo plantain nachos

4. Bravo for Paleo's Plantain Nachos

Since my health has been a bit of a struggle lately (any other celiacs go through this regular roller coaster of wellness? ugh), I figured digging back into some of my favorite paleo recipes couldn't hurt, as any time I cut grains altogether (along with coffee and alcohol, which, let's face it, is a lot tougher), my gut feels much, much better. Monica's super easy nacho recipe (I use Fed + Fit's plantain chip recipe, since it's not so easy to come by the ready-made ones here in Germany: easy, but a bit more time-consuming than opening a bag) is such a great weeknight dinner in front of something like The Bachelor. I add cheese (not paleo), avocado, fresh coriander and a good douse of hot sauce - and try not to feel so guilty for eating nachos for dinner.

Lakrids Easter crispy mint licorice candies

5. Easter Lakrids

I first discovered this flavor of one of my favorite candies last year on a sale shelf and have been waiting for Easter to come around again to see if they would be re-released. Thankfully, they were. Lakrid's Easter flavor, with crispy peppermint coating and a layer of milk chocolate around sweet, blissfully gluten-free black licorice, are my favorite way to satisfy my sweettooth. Plus, they're expensive enough to keep me from inhaling a whole jar in one sitting.

Don't forget to tag your positive gluten-free food photos and experiences with #celiacdoesntsuck - and help spread the gluten-free goodness!

On losing a friend

April 6, 2016

Bailey dog in Berlin photobooth

We always had cats. Those independent creatures that come and go as they please, really only caring that you feed them, and pet them (but only when they feel like being petted). To make matters worse, we moved so much, all our cats ran away, eventually discovering new, stable homes nearby, homes with people less nomadic than we were. Bonds with those pets were easily broken, or so they taught the much younger version of myself. With those finicky felines and one brief stint with a family dog that lasted about a week of barking all through the night before my mother relegated her to my father's business as a shop dog, I never got attached, really attached to an animal - until Bailey.

Bailey dog getting treats at the amphitheater at Mauerpark

Wanting that connection to a family pet I saw on sitcoms, I kept regular tabs on the new dogs taken in by a Boxer rescue organization, as I grew up with my grandparents' Boxers and they were what I knew. They were sweet, playful and good with families (there is a photo of a one-year-old me 'riding' my grandparent's ever-patient Amber), and I felt this was the four-legged friend I was meant to have. After meeting my now-husband, he too kept tabs on the rescues taken in by the group, until one day he sent me a photo of a pup born of one of the pregnant dogs surrendered there. So small in the photo, the shiny black coat of her rolling stone, black lab father and trademark Boxer splashes of white on her nose and toes, with hints of pink puppy skin peeking through... and I fell in love. We decided to jump into dog ownership mere months into our relationship.

Family photo with Bailey dog on steps of Sellin Pier on Rügen

Bailey grew up a master of her backyard domain while we worked long, American work hours and spent most of our time together curled up on the couch, with us too exhausted after long commutes and countless hours at our respective offices for much more. Sure, we took weekend trips to the dog park, the beach and to swim in my mother's pool, but it wasn't until we made the seemingly crazy decision to move overseas that her doggy life really blossomed. With me at home to walk her multiple times a day, nearby forest and mountain trails to explore and a generally slower pace of life meant we could all spend more quality time together. While she never quite mastered the art of being a good German dog - laying quietly under the table while we all enjoyed a meal out or proudly carrying her own bag home from a morning run to the nearby Bäckerei - she had a zest for life that none of those well-mannered pooches could touch. Even after being attacked by a neighborhood dog, she never feared other animals - only worrying over my resulting tension every time we passed another dog while on a walk.

Russ and Bailey dog on Sellin Pier bench at Seebrücke Rügen

Four years of forest hikes and vineyard strolls became urban exploring and warm-weather swims in the many lakes once we moved to Berlin. Slowly, Bailey's fear of the street cars turned into reluctant ambivalence, accepting that they would never jump to curb to attack her, as she seemed to fear. While she never took to riding the U-Bahn, we took countless car trips out to parks, canals and lakes all over Berlin, a city we chose in part for how green and canine-friendly it is. By now, we both worked at home, so we enjoyed more time together, and she was even more a part of our daily life than ever.

But everything came to a screeching halt late last summer when some simple warning signs turned into the diagnosis that would change everything: Cancer. I'd been here before, with many friends and family members, and the end result was always the same. Worse yet, basic internet searches told us that Bailey's cancer, adenocarcinoma, was 'aggressive', really the last word you want linked to an already damning diagnosis. We moved forward with surgery to remove the tumor and then chemo to make sure whatever was left was destroyed. Only, after just one treatment, the cancer was still spreading. When the more aggressive treatment options left were beyond our budget - or required temporary relocation across the country - we instead stretched our bank account for a concoction of pills that did all they could to make things easier for her. And for a while, they did.

Photo by the talented and generous Zoë Noble for our New Year's card
Family holiday portrait with Bailey by photographer Zoë Noble

After one last great Christmas together, there was a notable shift in Bailey's well-being. It was a swift decline that we could not ignore, that told us her quality of life was dwindling. Her body was giving up on her and her spirit was finally showing signs of the struggle she had hid behind her happy disposition and unending curiosity for so many months. When things came to head around her 10th birthday in mid-February, a tearful visit to the vet was met with a gentle prompting that it might be time to let her go. So we took the week off and traveled up to the coast to take her for one last trip to the sea, a place she had always loved. Even the restorative effects of being seaside were no match for the agonizing realization that these were our final days together.

Bailey dog watching the sea on beach on Rügen at Jasmund Nationalpark

There is both a comfort in being able to plan for the end and a desperation that permeates those last days and hours. Though knowing the day was approaching didn't make it any easier. After all, how do you prepare yourself to say goodbye to someone who was a constant companion, confidant and family member for nearly a decade? On her final day, she got spoiled with a meatloaf cake - complete with mashed potato frosting, bacon crumbles and strips of her favorite thing: red bell pepper - to belatedly celebrate her birthday, when she had been too sick to eat anything. We finally got ourselves into a photobooth for some family photos. She finished off the last of her bags of treats and we took our final walk in Mauerpark. We tried to keep the mood light for her sake, and while she could never comprehend what was to come, I'm sure she felt the heaviness in our hearts. Walking to the vet, every cell in my body wanted to scream and run the other way, but knowing that selfishness would do nothing for her pain and deteriorating spirit was the only thing propelling me forward. It was over so quickly, proof that her body was even closer to the end than we had thought, the weight of her collapsing onto me once the drugs took over a sensation that will remain forever burned into my memory.

Bailey dog getting a piece of her Lady and Pup's meatloaf birthday cake

Walking home with our bag of her things, without her, was a numbing experience that continued for many days afterwards. I couldn't eat much of anything and I was haunted by the decision we had to make, wavering back and forth whether it was the right one, whether we really did all that we could. Some days I'm grateful the cancer moved quickly and that she didn't have to suffer through years of pain and slowness, or have that ever-present youthful exuberance fade. Other days, I'm just so angry that she was taken from us at what could have been only the halfway point in her life. But as with any loss, there are only so many days of regret and anger before you have to just let go.

We took our time cleaning up her things, a few final items that are still sitting in bags or boxes, waiting for the heart to throw them out. It is true what they say, it does get easier. Expecting to hear the jangle of her tags and click-clack her toenails on the hardwood, or waiting for the barks that don't come when there is a troubling noise in the stairwell or on the street below has faded, replaced instead by a sadness at the quiet these absences now bring - and often a smile at how her arduous barking to alert us to a stranger outside our door would transform into an equally passionate session of tap-dancing and face-licking when it turned out to be friends. She was truly one of the sweetest and best dogs I have ever known.

Bailey dog watching Berlin from a photobooth
Bailey dog's paws in Berlin photobooth

Most days pass with only a few reminders, fond memories that bring a smile to my face, but there are others when a deeper sadness settles in, one I can't shake and usually requires a good cry to satisfy the greedy needs of grief. I'm also can't help but think of my negative feelings towards all the people I've watched swap out their departed pets of notable breed almost immediately with a cookie-cutter replacement, scoffing at how they could just bring in a new one as if the old had never even been there. But now I understand. I understand the hole these animals leave in our lives when they go, and how amazing that unlike people, pets are generally plentiful and new ones can be added into a family with minimal effort. After grieving Bailey, I feel that pull towards other animals stronger than ever before. But there will always be time, a time when I am perhaps more ready. For now, we will focus on the things we have missed during all these years of illness, first mine and then Bailey's, like travel plans repeatedly pushed off and budgets swallowed up by numerous treatments. We are reminded to live a life as happy and curious as Bailey's, one that is full of all the things and experiences that bring great joy. Her absolute love of life will be her greatest legacy, one that we can honor by living in the same way.

And so we will remember Bailey as the most perfectly imperfect dog we could have asked for. We are so grateful she was able to join our family for as long as she could. Thanks for being ours Bailey-dog, we love you!

Photo by Zoë Noble
Family Portrait with Bailey by photographer Zoë Noble

10 Valentine's gifts for friends, lovers ...or yourself

February 10, 2016

10 Valentine's gifts for friends, lovers ...or yourself

Perhaps I'm getting old and cynical - or maybe just married for too long - but I'm getting a little tired of the backlash against Valentine's Day. Sure, it's a bit of a commercialized behemoth, stretched and contorted by capitalistic America so far beyond its original intent (which was what again..?), but really, when is it wrong to celebrate love? Love is so much more than a romantic relationship. You love your best friend, and your mother, right? The parting words of advice on love in Garance's new book? 'Love yourself'. What better than a sanctioned holiday to buy treats celebrating these people in our lives, ourselves included? Now off you go, spread the love.

A funny card - because sometimes the truth is better than sappy romance

A heart-adorned travel case - because near or far, you are loved (and Herschel now ships to the EU)

A personalized piece that isn't her initials - because how cute is 'BFF' on a heart coin purse for your bestie?

A pair of shoes blatantly emblazoned with hearts - because everyone needs at least one pair of totally unnecessary but fun shoes

A sexy pair of flats - because aching feet and back from stilettos isn't really sexy

A pillow that says what you're both thinking - because sometimes you gotta remember to take it easy, together

A ring that tells you whether that incoming text/email/status update is actually important - because you want to spend more time focused on the ones you love, not your phone ...and let's face it, wear something pretty

A fashionable bar of chocolate - because chocolate (Mast Brothers) + fashion (Marc Jacobs) = win-win

A jar of hot pepper bacon jam - because what better way to say 'I love you' than with bacon? (you guys, this stuff is ridiculously good - and gluten-free!)

A sweatshirt that says what she's thinking - because pancakes are a necessary part of life (now make some!)

Genius Gluten Free Bread Now in Berlin Stores!

February 2, 2016

Genius Gluten Free bread assortment display in Berlin Kaisers grocery store

So it took a little longer than we all hoped, but the day has finally arrived: UK-based Genius Gluten Free bread is now available in select Berlin grocery stores! I have been anxiously awaiting this day since I first found out about Genius and its foray into the German market back in November. It was love at first bite. Before that, I feared I would have to move back to the U.S. to ever enjoy gluten-free bread this fluffy and delicious again, bread that was just like that which I remembered pre-celiac diagnosis.

It's been great to order Genius products on Food Oase, but there's nothing like just being able to walk into a store and pick up a package off the shelf to take home. I'm looking forward to grabbing some of its muffins to meet a friend for coffee, seeing as they are conveniently available just around the corner from one of my favorite Berlin coffee shops. In addition to Hannover and now Berlin, Genius is also in several other stores around Germany as well.

As freshly-baked bread, the Genius displays should be found in the bakery department in these stores (see above), but I've seen them set up in produce departments and next to the other gluten-free products, so do ask if you don't see them at first. Overwhelmed by all the options and conflicted about how much bread you can eat before it goes stale?  See my review of the complete German line-up to help you make your decisions. Or just eat baked goods morning, noon and night, like I am this week. Because they really are that good.

As of today, you can find Genius Gluten Free at the following Kaisers:

Genius Gluten Free bread multigrain rolls mehrkorn broetchen in Berlin Kaisers

Do let me know if you see the displays and buy some bread of your own. I would love to hear how the Berlin gluten-free community is enjoying this significant change in our bread options! Also be sure to provide feedback on the German Genius Facebook page and ask other stores about carrying these products so we can increase the availability around Berlin.

And again, about bringing those pain au chocolat to Germany, Genius...

This post was in collaboration with Genius Gluten Free. I received free products for my original review, but all opinions are entirely my own.

The 5 Things You Need to Survive Winter in Berlin

January 20, 2016

The 5 Things You Need to Survive Winter in Berlin

Winters in Berlin have been pretty sedate compared to our first winter in Germany, which met our incoming flight from California - complete with piles of suitcases and a dog in a crate - with -15C temperatures and an absolute dumping of snow. I haven't experienced anything close again until this month. The weather gods answered our wishes for a white Christmas a few weeks late with -20C windchill and turned Berlin into a magical winter wonderland, for a few days, at least. Not sure if this temps this winter will dip that low again, but once is enough to jolt most into reconsidering their winter wardrobe.

After going from spending Christmas biking along the Pacific without so much as a winter coat, to managing regular dog walks in temperatures that make my lungs burn with frostbite, I've spent several years honing what keeps out the cold. Since making more friends who are new to Berlin or hail from places like Australia, which is pretty much California-down-under (just with scarier wildlife), I figured it was time to share what I've learned about keeping warm - and keeping all your digits - in a new and more diverse climate.

So if you're new to Berlin, or anywhere much colder than you're used to, for that matter, listen up. I have got some cold-weather gems for you:

Base layers| When the temperatures get below 0C (or in my case, anything in the single digits), base layers become a necessary part of getting dressed. I've tried silk, cotton, wool and synthetic and I have definite favorites. For years, I swore by Smartwool mid-weight bottoms. They are heavy-duty cold defenders, but do have the downside of being a little bulkier than most underthings and the wool can be a bit irritating if you have sensitive skin. Then I discovered Uniqlo's Extra Warm Heattech and winter life as I knew it was changed. The regular Heattech is fine and good for chilly days (like autumn), but the Extra Warm stuff is no joke, even on the coldest of Berlin days. The added bonus: it's super soft, plush and non-irritating. This year, it also came in a large range of tops as well. Stock up, my friend!

Warm accessories | Winter accessories are key in keeping warm. Good hats, scarves and gloves are essentially the cherry, sprinkles and whipped cream on top of your cold-weather sundae: without them, it's just not the same. I swear by this cashmere hat from COS (I have it in two colors, with hopes of collecting the whole assortment) because it's super warm, yet thin enough to put in your bag or even stuff in a coat pocket if you get too toasty. Double-layer hats, fleece-lined especially, are also a good idea for extra frigid days when you'll be out in the cold a lot. I don't care if losing 50% of your body heat through your head is really a myth, it feels true.

Scarves might be my favorite invention of all time, especially on days so cold that your first breath outdoors threatens to shut down your lungs. A scarf that not only covers your neck, but your mouth and nose as well, can be a total lifesaver. My rule of thumb here: Bigger is better, both in thickness of material and area covered. Something in lush wool like & Other Stories oversized scarf, or my go-to, J.Crew's brushed Italian wool scarf, are great for piling over your face and using your own warm breath to your advantage. Find wool scarves irritating or out of your budget? Zara never fails to make several acrylic ones each year that can double as blankets and keep out cold just as well as the high-end stuff.

Last but certainly not least in the accessories department: Gloves. Some people might say 'but that's what pockets are for!', but they clearly haven't yet hit a patch of sidewalk black ice and tumbled face-first into the pavement because their hands were stuck in... you guessed it, their pockets. In this day and age, let's be honest, they can't just warm your hands, they've gotta be functional too (read: let you keep being your super-productive Instagram/Snapchat/Twitter-self while keeping your fingers from going numb). I find Muji's touchscreen gloves do the job nicely and are priced so well - especially at half-off, as they are now - it's easy to pick up several pairs in anticipation of the ones you'll inevitably drop en route somewhere. I will admit, these babies don't hold up in the frigid temps like what we experienced last week, but it's easy to have them on under a pair of proper snow gloves or my favorite, fleece-lined knit gloves, and slip out of them to access your phone without exposing bare skin to arctic air.

Warm wool socks | In my book, this is a big one. One that can make or break you having feeling in your toes after going outside. This is also an area where you get what you pay for. The good ones are expensive, but can you really put a price tag on finishing up winter with your toes still intact? A few years back, I discovered Wigwam socks (out of the U.S.) and ever since, these have been the gold standard for winter footwear. They are like having your feet wrapped in the cushiest, warmest blanket all day. Falke trekking socks are also very good, and easier to come by in Deutschland, though not quite as plush.

Insulated boots | During the pseudo-Death Freeze the other week, I saw people walking around with sneakers and one girl even with bare ankles, which made me go into hypothermic shock just looking at them (though the sliver of opening between my hat and giant scarf, of course). I don't know who these people are with amazing internal heaters, but I am most certainly not one of them. Don't even get me started about what happens when the snow turns to slush. Warm, dry feet and happy feet and insulated - and waterproof - boots are a must.

Being the shoe girl that I am, I'm pretty particular that my winter footwear isn't only functional, but looks good too. Turns out to be a tall order, as most winter boots are terribly ugly, or at least feel terribly out of place trekking around a city in what looks better suited to an Antarctic expedition. If you can manage to invest in the good stuff, I can't recommend UGGs and Cougar Boots enough. Some disclaimers: By UGGs, I DO NOT mean the elephant feet kind, because (1) those offer no protection from water whatsoever, and (2) they fall into ugly territory. I mean the real leather, waterproof (or at the very least, water repellent) boots that look like they pass for real shoes. I swear by my Broome IIs, which are sadly discontinued, but the UGG Thomsen is very similar in style and insulation factor.

Cougar Boots hail from Canada and are honestly hard to come by outside its own great Northern territory. I've found some here and there in the U.S., but it's hit or miss. Like UGGs, you can also venture into unfortunate-looking territory with these, but there are always a couple pair each year that can pass for moderately stylish, like these Cougar Bang boots. Those Canadians clearly know what they are doing. My plush-lined pair is even warmer than my proper North Face snow-trekking boots, if that gives you an idea.

Portable warmth | When you need that extra bit of heat when out for a long day in the cold, something warm for your pockets is a much-appreciated extra. Standing out in the cold waiting for a tram or trekking through a park or forest means extremities get real cold, real fast. These handy (excuse the pun) hand-warmers from L.L.Bean are just the thing for those frigid days when your body temperature could use the extra boost. I've also seen what are essentially little hot water bottles for your pockets, but nothing beats these for ease and flexibility. Go forth into winter, and have warm hands!

While a winter coat is a given, the type and budget are so varied, that I leave that up to you. You can go with a simple wool number and layer the heck out of it, or choose a waterproof, heavy duty parka and be set no matter what Death Freeze decides to rear its ugly head. I have everything from Italian-made stadium cloth from J.Crew to an inexpensive snow parka from Lands End snagged on super sale, and it all keeps me warm mostly depending on these other factors here. OK, OK, the snow parka would probably keep me warm even if I were naked underneath, but you get my point. A solid coat is a must, but it's really these other details that keep you toasty overall.

Also worth noting: Many people swear by artificial sun lamps to help keep their spirits up during the long, dark winter that can lead even those with the most sunny dispositions into the depths of depression, but I have yet to try one myself (I've found hitting the gym to be a great mood booster). If anyone has any recommendations on this, please share your experiences in the comments!

Currently Coveting: Nike x Liberty Holiday '15 Collection

December 18, 2015

Nike x Liberty Holiday 2015 Cortez sneaker promo

I'm the first to admit I'm not a floral-loving girly-girl, but there's something about Liberty's prints juxtaposed with an urban staple like sneakers that appeals to my softer side. Much like my Nike x Liberty Dunk Sky Hi that I was totally obsessed with a few years back, yesterday's launch of this new Holiday Collection has me swooning.

Offered in the Classic Cortez, Air Max Thea, Rosche One, and Air Force 1 High, these are all pretty fantastic. Perhaps it's the recent resurgence this classic shoe is having or just my preference for more retro sneakers, but it's the Cortez that really caught my eye. Which one do you like?

Not surprisingly, my size looks like it was never even made, so it would be up to Santa to perform a Christmas miracle to make these happen for me. I suggest those of you with normal shoe sizes get a jump on this lovely limited edition collaboration, as I'm sure they won't be around for too long!

Nike x Liberty Holiday 2015 Cortez sneaker photo by 43einhalb Nike x Liberty Holiday 2015 sneaker collection photo by 43einhalb

Top image: Liberty
Bottom imgages: 43einhalb

Holiday Gift Guide: Made in Berlin

December 10, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: Made in Berlin

Ahh, Berlin. It is a glorious place. So full of creative, entrepreneurial energy, which makes it an ideal city to seek out locally-made and designed products for the gift-giving season. Some of these great items I've picked up myself, some have been past gifts and some I pine for on my own wish list, but they are indeed some of the best that Berlin has to offer. Here are my picks (plus, a little background on each):

01. Antikapratika ceramic bowls | This Italian couple and tattoo-artist team started creating art off the skin with this gorgeous line of tattoo-inspired ceramic bowls. While the blue-based tattoo designs are their focus, I must admit I love the black designs that they have produced of late. You can see more at Un Autre Voodoo in Neukölln, and they seem happy to work with customers who want more of a specific design. This one's on my list please, Santa!

02. Maisoap | I first stumbled across this soap at a Christmas shopping market last year and have since noticed it popping up at various weekend markets across the city. Kreuzberg-based, this family business has been in operation since 2006, focusing on quality fats and oils for its soap production. Scents range from subtle basics like olive oil or lavender to the more complex coconut-lemongrass, avocado-mint and the cosmic-looking Berlin Bubble. While they offer essential oils and bath bombs as well, the bars of soap are really the stars.

03. Fluenk leather bags | While I was first intrigued by designer Anna's simple, soft tote bags at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt, complete with straps long enough for my lengthy limbs and an interior closer (thank goodness!), I have since become smitten with the rest of her unique yet timeless designs. Working with cow leather that would otherwise be a waste product of the food industry, the leather is tanned in Italy and made into not only bags, but wallets and other small goods as well. Though Fluenk is relatively new, the quality and craftsmanship speaks to a lasting Berlin business.

04. Atheist shoes | Ironically, I first found out about this company from the Instagram of a US-based graphic designer. Drawn in by the cheeky atheism messages stamped on the soles (and emblazoned on tote bags), I was won over by this concept of handmade, quality shoes. Technically, they're constructed in Portugal, but designed here in Berlin. With leather that is unprocessed, vegetable-dyed and gently tumbled for softness, customers swear they're 'like walking on hugs from baby kittens'.

05. Apfelsina bags | It doesn't get more Berlin than a bag made from photographs of this city's iconic landmarks and street art. Founded over a decade ago, creator Ina Kerkhoff began with a small, colourful collection of bags, and quickly expanded to varying materials and concepts as the inspiration struck. Designed and handmade in Berlin, her Stone Bone and Tempelhofer Freiheit collections are quite literally a pictorial representation of this great city.

06. Belyzium chocolate | A fan from day one, I've been frequenting this Berlin chocolatier for some time. At first, it was for the chocolate bars, now, I'm a regular for its spicy, rich Maya hot chocolate. With the addition of ice cream, hazelnut chocolate spread and even chocolate-infused rum, it has become the ultimate chocolate destination in Berlin. The owners will happily wax poetic about their chocolate, which only makes you fall more in love with the place. Finding out they had US-based partners in the California city I called home for a good part of my twenties felt even more like I was meant to be there. I often stop in when I need a small gift for someone, but have a hard time leaving without something for myself as well!

07. Format clothing | A bit like Atheist shoes, this Berlin-based clothing company creates well-designed, quality pieces from quality materials. Made in both Berlin-Neukölln and Szczecin, Poland, the designs are described as minimalistic, but with some truly beautiful tucking and pleating used in unexpected ways. With such attention to detail and certified organic materials, these are investment pieces meant to last a lifetime. My favorite is this cozy hooded sweater that is the epitome of Berlin winter wear.

08. Kaiserhonig | Anyone who knows me, knows I adore this honey. In two variations: thick honey with various fruit or spice or herb additions, or a creamier 'milk cream' honey with flavors like whiskey creme and salted caramel, they are a delicious treat on breakfast toast. You can also pick up an assortment of three small jars - perfect for gift-giving - at its regular stand at the Mauerpark Flohmarkt. Side note: a jar of the Zimt honey is a regular on my mom's Christmas list!

09. Berliner Winter | Cloudy, organic apple juice, spices and vodka. Drink it warm to stave off that Berlin winter chill. Buy it in bulk to give as gifts or horde for your own warming purposes. 'Keeps you warm, makes you tipsy and tastes so delicious.' What could be better - or more Berlin? Talk about a perfect stocking stuffer.

10. Elicamente jewelry | Hailing from Rome, Berlin-based artist Gabriele di Stefano makes gorgeous jewelery pieces that combine ceramics with wood and brass, drawing on the connection between humans and nature. The simple stud earrings and MRMR collection of necklaces are definite stand-outs. It also looks like he's branching out into other areas, with lovely little concrete planters available for pre-order to ship in February.

*photo of Antikapratika bowls by talented Berlin food photographer Claudia Gödke

Holiday Gift Guide: The Guy

December 9, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: The Guy

Guys. They are notoriously hard to shop for. Never as transparent as women, never gushing 'ooo, I just adore this bag,' sometimes it's hard to know what to get them. Like women, guys are just as multifaceted and unique in their wants, but you've got to start somewhere. Oftentimes, the best way to go isn't with something they necessarily need (not that socks or tools aren't great and all...). This guide touches on cocktails to gadgets to attire, all in a stylish way most men would have a hard time finding fault with. There's a super cool coffee table book, a pullover so soft it will up his huggable factor exponentially and even special batch whiskies made from beer. And don't forget the shoes!

01. Drake General Store Maple Syrup Sampler | 02. Flight001 Guy Stuff Pouch  
03. Food52 Carry On Cocktail Kit (three variations) | 04. Ace & Tate Murray sunglasses | 05. ohw? Gatland shoes 
06. J.Crew grizzly fleece pullover jacket | 07. Boston Harbor Distillery x Samuel Adams Spirit of Boston Whiskies 
08. Corkcicle whiskey wedge | 09. Anatomy in Black by Emily Evans | 10. Native Union Dock Lightning

Holiday Gift Guide: The Homebody

December 8, 2015

Holiday Gift Guide: The Homebody

I believe everyone truly has a bit of homebody in them. Even the most energetic party girl needs downtime every now and then. For the perpetual Netflix-on-the-couch gal to those who just need to make the most of her infrequent nights in, these gift ideas can suit anyone who enjoys where they live. From indulgent coasters and gilded untensils that makes even take-out feel like a special affair, to wooly slippers that have changeable, outdoor-friendly soles, these are the makings of a happy home life. Think Danish Hygge - that untranslatable feeling of coziness complete with candles, couch cuddles and great company - because who wouldn't love that? People draping those sheepskins all over their furniture were really onto something...

01. Chipper Things Should I Wash My Hair Today? Flowchart | 02. Skandinavisk Hygge candle 
03. Click & Grow Smart Herb Garden | 04. Vika Sky serving utensils | 05. Rosanna Booze decanter
06. Jonathan Adler Malachite coasters | 07. Klippan lapp blanket | 08. IKEA sheepskin  
09. Mahabis classic slipper | 10. L.L. Bean plush-lined robe