Ready for {major} change

September 27, 2013

Short platinum hair by Jean Marc Joubert at Estetica via UKhairdressers
I don't know if it's the recent worry and resulting sleep-deprivation, or if it's a deep desire to feel more hip for our move to super-hip Berlin, but when Garance posted her recent hair cut, it was like a light suddenly went on in my brain. I so quickly tired of the clavicut - and the ombre - I did several months back, but I am also tired of this, just, hair, as my mother used to say. Longer hair is so often just hair, with no real style or anything. Sure, it's decently shiny and healthy, and I've managed to find a box color that manages to look pretty good, most of the time. But frankly, I'm bored. I want a change.*

I found it funny when Garance worried about this kind of cut feeling too 'soccer mom', as I think it doesn't get more boring-I've-given-up-mom-hair than the look I'd been rocking for the last few months - that medium-long length that's been neglected, rarely styled and just sort of sits there there unceremoniously on my head. I think this hair says edgy, cool and a little bit tough. In short, perfect Berlin hair. As if Garance wasn't enough to convince me, Michelle William's latest campaign had me pining to chop it all off the instant I opened that spread in my InStyle. The trifecta was complete when I saw that H&M's latest campaign boasts a model sporting the same short-but-longer-on-the-top cut. I think it's a sign. Or at least a bandwagon.

Although, maybe I'm just looking for a decisive move in light of our apartment situation still being a little bit up in the air. Maybe after we settle things this weekend, and maybe after I start getting some worry-free, good night's sleeps, I'll realize how totally out there this is. I mean, my initial research has already informed me that platinum might be one of the most expensive, high-maintenance hair colors there is (and I thought red was a pain!), not to mention that a cut that short would also require frequent professional upkeep. Or maybe, like our decision to move to Berlin - or even more crazy, our decision to up and move to Germany in the first place - it's better to just jump in and sort it all out later. After all, it is just hair...

*As I was writing this yesterday, the ennui around my hair became so strong, that I took matters into my own hands. Not the whole shebang I'm still considering above, but a decently good amount that I literally feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Just the mindset I want to head off to Berlin with this weekend!

Hair by Jean Marc Joubert for Estetica, image via


September 23, 2013

So I know this video has been making the rounds already for a good month, but I couldn't help but think of it today in light of all the chatter around the Louis C.K. clip from Conan on cell phones and my general exhaustion from stressing about our (likely, hopefully) Berlin apartment - not to mention the need to focus on purging and organizing everything we own in preparation for the undoubtedly-ridiculously-priced movers' quote later this week upon evaluating the effort required to haul all our junk up and down stairs and across the country. After getting rid of about half of what we owned before our move over here, I'm rather ashamed to admit that we still have so much, we're going to have to half all our stuff once again. I guess it only makes sense: half the square meters = half the space for all our crap. Oh, how I wish I was one of those minimalists, but I'm just not. I have some tough decision ahead, especially where my shoes are concerned...

And so I am unplugging myself for the next few days in order to tackle everything that is in front of me right now, taunting blog editorial calendar be damned. Hell, I might not even post again until next week. My problem where unplugging is concerned is not only around missing all the amazing, life-changing updates from friends and strangers, but the fear that if I disappear for awhile, I will cease to exist, virtually-speaking. I suppose there's a big difference between falling off the blogosphere for months at at a time and taking a week to focus, and you know - Get. Shit. Done. But you never know, people can be surprisingly fickle, and I think social media only exacerbates this.

What are your thoughts about unplugging? Are you one of those who has a hard time putting the phone down (me, here, guilty!), or do you not even (gasp!) own a smart phone? Do you fear all the things you will miss, or more so, that perhaps people won't actually miss you? Furthermore, do you think there's something to this idea of fearing feeling alone and sad without the comfort social networking provides? Or that we really are all alone, regardless of how many Facebook friends we have?

Update: Apparently the backlash against being constantly plugged in is becoming mainstream. Who knew? Admittedly, I wouldn't have, had I not been plugged in when I said I wouldn't be. Ahh, the tangled web we weave...

Big Bag Roundup

September 20, 2013

City Life Carryalls

City life is a funny thing. Some days, it's easy to leave the house with just a pocket stuffed with money, phone and keys (dog walks, small grocery trips, coffee runs). But other times, you're out all day, running errands, meeting friends, enjoying some down-time in a park, or just exploring. Being the overly-prepared person I am, this means packing away anything and everything I think I might need for the day, which often includes a bulky DSLR. I mean, you never know when you're going to stumble across something extraordinary when exploring, right? Add to that a bottle of water if it's hot, a scarf and gloves if it's cold, and of course the ever-present need for an umbrella, since German weather tends to be a bit temperamental. Then there's weight, pockets, straps, ease of access, waterproof abilities (again, that weather...) and a plethora of other needs to consider. So you can see where urban life requires just the right bag.

Now that Berlin is almost within reach, I've already begun daydreaming about what life will be like, most especially these days spent discovering our new expansive city. At nearly 900 km² (about 345 sq miles) with over 3.5 million inhabitants, that's a lot of places to see and people to meet! With this very full life ahead, not to mention a nice chunk of birthday money headed my way, I'm trying to decide which bag will be able to keep up with me. I'm a bit torn between the chicer leather choices - oh, Marc Jacobs, how you have taunted me for years... - or the more tough, urban-looking options made of canvas. I'm sure whichever route I go, that bag is going to accompany me to some great places.

clockwise from top left:

A note on worrying...

September 18, 2013

worrying will never change the outcome chalkboard
Fresh off our latest Berlin apartment-hunting trip, I am full of angst as we wait to hear from the apartment we applied to, as well as finishing up the application to the second one we liked. What if the first responds and demands a signed contract before we hear back from the second, more affordable one? What if accepting the more expensive apartment means giving up too much, including the spending money with which to enjoy our new city and probably half our belongings? Or worse yet, what if we don't get accepted by either and have to start the whole process - including trekking all the way across the country - all over again?

Then I have to remind myself to breathe... and know that all these things are out of my control. Worrying will not solve anything. It will not make these people respond any faster, nor will it somehow make them realize how desperately we want to live there and accept us out of pity. Waiting is the worst, isn't it? The best I can do for now is to try to get back into my regular routine and know that whatever happens, happens. It will all work out in the end, and we will make it to Berlin.

Although, there's no harm in crossing fingers - or for Germans, pressing thumbs - in the meantime (you know, just in case)...

image via

Berlin apartment hunting

September 16, 2013

Corner in Prenzlauer Berg Berlin
Coming from the land of crazy-inflated SF/Silicon Valley rent prices, I know I should be nothing but grateful for the opportunity to live in Berlin, where rent - while rising rapidly - is still incredibly affordable when compared with other great cities around the world. Whenever I start to get down on trying to find an apartment here, my friend (who has lived in London and Paris) reigns in my expectations and says "but you get to live in Berlin". She is so right, it's true. But I can't help but lament sometimes. Finding a good flat in Berlin is hard.

We began this apartment trip with a long list of prospects. By the time we got here, the lack of response from our inquiries became clear when we checked the listings again, only to find that they had already been pulled. The good places go fast. And in typical German customer service fashion, the people showing the apartments act as though they are doing you a favor. For example, if there are showings scheduled during the week and we say we just drove nearly 600km to spend the weekend looking at apartments, do you think they would be willing to show it to us during the days that we are here? Of course not. Finding a good flat in Berlin from all the way across the country is even harder.

I admit, I fall prey to the glass-half-empty mentality at times, which can make this process especially trying. Add to that a failed birthday on Saturday (not for any lack of trying - I just got viciously ill), and I've been feeling a bit down about the whole thing this trip. It seems like we are thwarted at every turn. An apartment directly above a giant kid's playground? OK, maybe it wouldn't be too loud... until we hear the neighbors scream down to their children playing from their balconies. Discovering a new Kiez that we really like, only to find out the listings there overlook a giant, dingy abandoned lot or is on the fifth floor, no elevator (I swear we're not that lazy, but we do have an aging dog to consider). Finding a new home in a massive city that you are just barely getting to know - really difficult.

When I've asked other Berliners how hard it is to find an apartment here, the consensus seems to come down to where you want to live and how picky you are. Well, we want to live in what many consider to be the most 'desirable' neighborhoods and as far as picky, yes, I want to love my home. We are no longer capricious young people who want to bounce around with no care as to where we land. We're a small family that wants to find a place to call home. An apartment that makes us smile whenever we walk in the door. A neighborhood that we can relax in and enjoy, maybe even a regular coffee shop where they come to know our order before we even say it. We already did the depressing little apartments we could barely stand - that was called being in our 20s. I think we've passed that stage in our lives and whatever place we decide to call home next needs to reflect that.

Not to be all doom and gloom, we have found one place that we absolutely love. It's got everything going for it: the perfect neighborhood, close enough to major public transport yet on a smaller, quieter street, my husband would get a home office and extra exciting for the interior designer in me, it is being renovated (not the German 'renovated', like painted and refinished floors kind of thing, but like knocking out walls and gutting rooms) and they are willing to work with the next tenants to make the place what they want it to be. While there are really minor things to gripe about - like wishing the bathroom was bigger or that there would be a kitchen included when they're finished - the only real downside is that it is at the very top of our budget. I suppose when you get everything you are asking for, that's the price you pay.

After spending the weekend (and months online, and a previous scouting trip) looking at countless places, we're ready to jump on any apartment that we can get that excited about. It will be the first application we will have put in for a Berlin apartment, so actually getting it would be a miracle. But who knows? Maybe the glass will be looking more half-full for us very soon.

Recipe | Cake Batter Truffles

September 13, 2013

 photo cakebattertruffleswithwhiteandmilkchocolate_zps9c01ac55.jpg
About two years before we moved to Germany, my mom bought a frozen yogurt shop and I helped her run the place while I was back in school pursuing a second degree. Without a doubt, one of the most popular flavors was cake batter. Like the introduction of cookie dough ice cream so many years prior, I think this flavor taps into that sinful idea of eating the buttery-rich dough and batter of baked goods before they're baked. Sometimes all you want to do is lick the spoon, right?

Since we will be on the road for half of my birthday on Saturday, and at apartment-viewing appointments for most of the other half, baking something is pretty out of the question. These little gems, which I discovered and made for my birthday last year, are the perfect little birthday treat that I can easily carry all the way to Berlin without the fear of any sort of travel-related frosting disaster - or the pressure to finish off a whole cake/batch of cupcakes ourselves. Not that I wouldn't be up to the challenge... So here's to birthday goodies and the hopes of finding a new home in Berlin!

Cake Batter Truffles

1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup yellow cake mix*
1/2 cup/ 125 g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp milk
round rainbow sprinkles

for coating:
16 oz/ 450 g white chocolate**
4 tbsp yellow cake mix
more sprinkles

For truffles, beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until combined. Add flour, cake mix, salt and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add 3 tablespoons of milk, or more if needed, to make a dough consistency. Mix in sprinkles by hand. Roll dough into one-inch/ 2-1/2 cm balls and place on a parchment or wax paper-lined tray. Chill balls in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to firm up, or if possible, in the freezer for 30 minutes. While the balls are chilling, melt chocolate in a double boiler, stirring well. Immediately stir in cake mix and incorporate completely. Dip truffles into the chocolate and gently shake off the excess. Place truffle back on the parchment and top with sprinkles. Repeat with remaining the truffle balls. Chill the cake batter truffles in the refrigerator until serving.

Makes 24-30 truffles.

*I have yet to find this in Germany, so if you live outside the US, you probably gotta import it. Trust me, it's worth it for these.

**You can also coat these in milk chocolate, if you prefer (omit the cake mix though), but I find the cake batter flavor is much better with the cake mix-laced white chocolate.

Recipe adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

DIY Polka Dot Jeans

September 11, 2013

polka dot jeans on sunny brick wall
With my mind stuck on printed pants and an awesome tutorial bookmarked for the longest time, I finally got to work on my DIY polka dot jeans after seeing very similar pairs show up at not one, but two retailers recently. I'm a sucker for the siren song of 'everybody's doing it', it would seem. So, the polka dot denim trend is still going strong and lucky for me, I had a pair of jeans just waiting for a makeover. And now that the weather has started to turn chilly, I can actually wear them.

In the end, I'm really quite happy with them. Sure, my technique could have been a little better (again, so not a crafty person), but ultimately, I got a new pair of pants with jeans that were likely headed for the donation bin as it was. I'm considering taking them one step further and adding some distressing, you know, to break up the cuteness of the print, but I hesitate ruining them after all this work. Also still a little apprehensive about how loud they are, I'm pairing them with understated neutrals for now, but who knows, one day I might even work up to putting them with stripes. I know - crazy talk, I tell ya.

polka dot jeans outfit on graffit wall polka dot jeans in sunlight
Sweater: J.Crew Men's (old) similar | Scarf: Gap (old) similar | Necklace: J.Crew (old) similar 
Jeans: Gap (old) similar | Shoes: Clarks UK | Glasses: Warby Parker

So now you think you want to make your own? Well, it's not hard, I promise. Since Andrea Fairservice (guest posting for Breanna Rose) already created such a fantastic tutorial - and I'm not about to take credit for someone else's creative genius - I'll let you refer to her for the step-by-step. I did a test run with a pair of very old cut-offs a couple months back and actually liked the way my spots turned out on those even better. Unfortunately, the pair was so old, they ripped gloriously down the crotch on my third wear, so I deemed it time to take it to the next level and make a full-on jeans pair.

The toughest parts, I found, are punching out all those perfectly spaced holes in all those templates (they get saturated and warped very quickly, so be prepared to have several on hand) and then mastering just the right amount of paint on the sponge so as not to smoosh it out under your carefully-made template (again, another crafty fail for me - please ignore my imperfect, goopy spots!). But really, the hardest part is having the patience for them to dry so you can wear them. I had the added pain in the butt of cutting my own 8-1/2 x 11" (21-1/2 x 28 cm) sheets for the templates, as I could only find vellum in large rolls here in Germany. For those of you in the states, you have the advantage of a super-crafty culture and very well-stocked art supply stores. Where this project was concerned, I was lucky to even find what I needed.

polka dot jeans web tutorial polka dot jeans lining up the template
polka dot jeans materials
Let me know how they work out if you make these for yourself. Hope you enjoy yours as much I do mine!

polka dot jeans walking away
Also, a huge thanks to my hubby for photographing my first-ever outfit shoot. It was a learning experience, but it can only get better from here! Honey, if you promise to always use the natural light, I promise to stop making such retarded faces.

Phillip Lim x Target... six more days!

September 9, 2013

Phillip Lim x Target collaboration favorites

I don't know about you, but I tend to get overly excited for designer collaborations with affordable powerhouses like Target and H&M (anyone else thinking about camping out come November, 'cause I sure am!), only to be let down by the fit or quality. Designing for the masses is a far cry from actual designer wares, so it can only be expected that for the masses to be able to afford it, something's gotta give. Plus, so often they are designers that are a bit out there for my tastes (Versace and Missoni come to mind), the pieces just read too costume-y on me.

Perhaps I'm an optimist, at least where fashion is concerned, but I can't help but have high hopes for the Phillip Lim x Target collection launching this Sunday. Not only is he one of the few collaboration designers that I would actually want to wear regardless of cost (you know, if I could actually afford the real deal), but the preview of every single item shows a collection full of classics with a twist, equal parts wearable but also special. In essence, pieces I would wear whether they came from a sought-after designer collab or not. I'm especially smitten with that amazingly-printed peplum top and the very Céline-esque little yellow bag. Of course, one can never go wrong with just a dash of classy sparkle either.

The only tricky bit for me now is being all the way over here in the Target-less land of Germany. I hope my mom might be willing to fulfill this birthday wish and scout it out in person for me, as I foresee this collection creating a craze similar to the Missoni one - which means a crashing website and no hope of ordering online. When are the techies at Target going to realize we women go mad for affordable fashion and beef up their servers accordingly? I mean, really, guys.

What do you think about designer collaborations? Just a lot of hype, or are you willing to line up for a chance of snagging some designer duds at real-people prices? Are there any pieces in this collection you would brave the likely mob for?

Next up: the countdown to Isabel Marant for H&M...

Recipe | Oatmeal Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cookies (gluten free)

September 6, 2013

Peanut Butter Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies cooling
The lack of good peanut butter in Germany is appalling. Sure, Europeans consider Nutella practically a religion, leaving little room for that American grade school staple. But for a country that embraces the Erdnuss Flippie (essentially, a peanut-flavored cheese puff), I'm surprised at the outright rebuff of peanut butter as an all-purpose spread and recipe ingredient. Relegated to the exotic international aisles at the grocery, any peanut butter one can find here is in a tiny jar emblazoned with American flags that are somehow supposed to distract from the lack of real roasted peanut flavor inside. For this peanut butter snob, there is no substitute for Jif. Needless to say, I hoard it like an addict.

So when I discovered this recipe - on Pinterest, as most recipe discoveries go these days - I jumped on the opportunity to enjoy more American-imported, peanuty goodness. This was my first time baking anything gluten-free and as an avid baker of cakes and the like, I was surprised at how much this didn't affect my enjoyment of these little gems. Who says flour is integral to tasty baked goods? I, for one, have seen the light and plan to add these into my regular baking rotation.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies Lindt and Jif
Peanut Butter Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies batter

Oatmeal Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cookies (gluten free)

2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 egg
5/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chocolate chips / about 85 grams chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°F/176°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, beat together butter, peanut butter and both sugars. Add egg, vanilla and baking soda. Fold in oats and chocolate until just combined. Spoon large tablespoons of dough 2"/5cm apart on the baking sheet, flattening slightly with the back of the spoon. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Cookies will be slightly soft in the center.

Makes about 24 cookies.

Peanut Butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookie and milk
Adapted from recipe on Trader Joe's rolled oats bag, via Daily Waffle

Madewell bobbie oxford in linebreak

September 5, 2013

Madewell Bobbie Oxford in linebreak_front Madewell Bobbie Oxford in linebreak_back
Madewell Bobbie Oxford in linebreak_top Madewell Bobbie Oxford in linebreak_side

No matter how you look at it, this might just be the perfect modern oxford for fall. My size is, naturally, already sold out, but if you hurry, you might still be able to snag this classic in the making.

Madewell bobbie oxford in linebreak, $165

Fashion | Printed Pants

September 4, 2013

Printed pants - fall 2013
Printed pants have been going strong for awhile now, but I must admit I've been wrestling with jumping on the trend bandwagon. Every rulebook says not to wear prints on the bottom if you are fuller in the hips, as I am, but frankly, I find all these 'rules' to be rather restricting on one's sense of adventure. Who says I need to downplay my curvy hips anyway? It sure seems the entire female cast of Mad Men have thrown that rule out the window and it appears to be working just fine for them.

Since I'm not one for being told I can't do something, I'm on the lookout for prints that aren't terribly loud and speak to my inner tomboy - like geometrics and plaids in more tonal colorways - that can hopefully satisfy my desire to try the trend and flatter my figure. Price point is also a factor, as it is with most trend pieces in my opinion, so the guilt is minimal if they happen to be a one-season-only item. But who knows. I thought my adventurous pleather pant purchase last fall would be a fluke, but I ended up wearing them regularly through the cold weather and am looking forward to putting them back in rotation soon. You never know until you try. So I'm RSVP-ing yes to the printed pant party. Now to find something to wear...

clockwise, from top left:

& Other Stories peep toe pumps with metal detail

September 3, 2013

And Other Stories Peep-toe pumps blue metal detail
How have I gone this long on the new blog and only posted once about shoes?! Shame on me. Here to rectify that is one of the most gorgeous pairs I've seen yet from & Other Stories. Part pin-up girl, part Robocop, they are so stunning, I could cry. I'm still working on getting over the fact that they don't carry size 42s, but if the sandals I bought there several months back are any indication, at least I can manage those of the open-toe variety. Now if they would only expand their size range for those gorgeous autumn boots... (metal-heeled jodhpurs, yeah, I'm talking about you)

& Other Stories peep toe pumps, €75

Travel | Château de Chenonceau

September 2, 2013

Chateau de Chenonceau as bridge over river
When I realized our France trip this summer would be taking us through some of the same countryside I traveled during my high school study abroad trip, I knew immediately what I wanted to add to our itinerary: Château de Chenonceau. It is not the largest or most spectacular of all French castles, but for some reason it's charm stuck in my memory from that first trip so many years earlier. I don't know if it was because of my first-ever trip to Europe, or because of the time I spent there with both new and very old friends, or perhaps it was the little boat we rented and paddled around the river beneath the castle, but I was eager to revisit it all these years later with my husband.

Sadly, the boats were not in service this trip, but the castle and its grounds were just as beautiful as I remembered. We spent a couple hours meandering around in the muggy, hot July weather, taking in the pristine French architecture and gardens. Now living in the land of German castles, it was interesting to see the juxtaposition of these very different royal abodes. Though much like my favorite German castle, I think the captivating part of Château de Chenonceau lies in its unique location utilising the surrounding landscape.

One really nice surprise on our visit was discovering it was the Château's 500th anniversary. I still take much delight in how old Europe is, from the everyday structures (our apartment building hails from the 1890s) to great attractions like castles, fortresses and ancient city walls. It just made our visit that much more special to know that we were there to celebrate such an immense anniversary.

Chateau de Chenonceau 500 year anniversary coin
Chateau de Chenonceau tree arch entry Chateau de Chenonceau tree up close
Chateau de Chenonceau front path
Chateau de Chenonceau front tower
Chateau de Chenonceau front door
Chateau de Chenonceau arched ceiling Chateau de Chenonceau wood ceiling
Chateau de Chenonceau geometric window panes Chateau de Chenonceau faded floor tiles
Chateau de Chenonceau ornate room detail
Chateau de Chenonceau window with view
Chateau de Chenonceau black and white floor tiles and shoes
Chateau de Chenonceau drawbridge and river
Chateau de Chenonceau stone and drain
Chateau de Chenonceau crest
Chateau de Chenonceau decaying tapestry
Chateau de Chenonceau stove Chateau de Chenonceau kitchen
Chateau de Chenonceau pigeons nesting
Chateau de Chenonceau boats
Chateau de Chenonceau garden house
Chateau de Chenonceau Kate Chateau de Chenonceau perfect flower garden
Chateau de Chenonceau flowers in garden
Chateau de Chenonceau garden
Chateau de Chenonceau view from garden
Chateau de Chenonceau sunset

Just in case you were in the mood for a little #throwbackthursday a few days early...

Chateau de Chenonceau Kate 1996
Château de Chenonceau - and me - circa 1996.