(Fifty Shades of) Grey Pullovers

January 31, 2014

Grey pullover collage with text With all the spring stuff hitting the stores and winter's constant greyness covering Berlin in an oppressive blanket, you would think I would be ready to start buying up the pale spring knits and floral patterns with a vengeance - but you'd be wrong. Somehow, this bleak weather and my new urban landscape are having a major effect on my fashion decisions, meaning I can't get enough black and grey. The recent boom of embellished and textured casual pullovers has me hooked - and it seems I'm not the only one.

After getting a taste with my long-coveted Garance and some metallic triangles, my love has grown even deeper. I'm especially loving the sweatshirts with details that makes them prettier than basic sweat attire, but not so fussy - or high-maintenance - as a sweater. The easy-to-match hues makes dressing a snap, not to mention, pairing them with those bright kicks that are also having a major moment right now makes for the perfect spring statement.

Currently Coveting: Nike Internationalist PRM in Glacier Ice

January 29, 2014

Nike Internationalist PRM Glacier Ice_image via 43einhalb sneaker store I think it was some time around the sixth grade when I started to hate sneakers. Those rubbery playground essentials of my youth had become futuristic atrocities as we neared the new millennium, with silly details like air pumps that purportedly made you jump like basketball stars. So while I've always been a die-hard for the classics, like Chucks and New Balance 574s, and considered most new sneakers to be unfit for my consumption, there is just something about the recent streetwear movement in which sleek fashionistas in tailored attire and a $5,000 handbag on their arm don wildly colorful and athletic footwear. Perhaps it's the accessibility or perhaps it's the comfort factor now that I'm trekking all around this urban jungle until my feet ache, but I'm on the bandwagon in a major way.

With such finickiness around athletic footwear - absolutely love my Nike Dunk Sky His and the old-school chic Air Pegasus 83, but detest the Free versions with a passion - when I see a pair I actually like, the desire to possess it becomes insatiable. This occurred most recently on a trip to & Other Stories when I spied the beauties above. Knowing that they do not carry my shoe size (get with the program, H&M brands - do you know how much money you'd make off my shoe purchases if only you gave me the chance?!), I found them elsewhere and am fighting the urge not to press the order button for something I do not necessarily need nor can I realistically afford. But there's something in my shoe-loving soul that just cannot let these go. It could be the bright color combination that is so well-suited for dragging oneself out of the grey depths of winter and into the lightness of spring, or maybe it's that in both hue and name, they're a dead-ringer for my all-time favorite ice cream flavor.

Whatever the reason, they are topping my coveted list right now. One can only hope that there could be reason enough to make them mine...

A snow day at Volkspark Schönholzer Heide in Pankow

January 27, 2014

Snow Day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide sun through line of trees The saying goes, 'when it rains, it pours'. Well, when the temperatures finally got down enough for us to get snow in Berlin, they plummeted to ridiculously cold. While we haven't gotten a ton of snow, the temperatures have been in a steady decline for over a week, bottoming out at -12°C (about 10°F) in Sunday's bright sunshine. With apartment windows frozen over with a sheet of ice, a dog eager to get out and run, and our hearts heavy with multiple hits of bad news from family back in the states, it was time for an outing in the fresh air, despite the bone-chilling temperatures.

We had been to Volkspark Schönholzer Heide in Pankow once before on a trip to Berlin last winter while exploring the neighborhood and looking for good places for Bailey to get out some of her anxiety at this new exposure to big city life. The entrance to the park is on a pretty major street, but so much of the massive, forested space is set back from any streets that it gives the impression of being a forest unto itself, rather than just another park in such a populated German city. Apprehensive about minding the 'dogs on leash' signs (ever the good, rule-following German am I), we quickly realized that once a safe distance from the street, all dog owners were unclipping the leads and letting their four-legged friends gallivant through the snow, as they were meant to do. And so Bailey, already acquainted with the snow this year - she's a little nervous every season, but once she realizes what snow is, again, she can't get enough - began her frenzied circles through the trees, chasing sticks we threw and thankfully behaving like a good Berlin dog by listening to us and being generally friendly with the other dogs.

The bitter cold that stung our cheeks and numbed my double-gloved fingers - not to mention my double-socked toes and triple-layered legs - was at least some fresh air in our lungs and a good reminder of how bright and rejuvenating life can be. So we let Bailey have her fun until the numbness turned into outright pain and we headed for home. Anxious for a little something ourselves, we dropped our exhausted pup at home to curl up in the warm apartment and headed to a warm spot in town for some coffee and a snack. After exploring some amazing, new-to-us shops in our Kiez, we went home warm, with bellies full, grateful for the day.

frozen bedroom windows Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide sun through trees and houses Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide people with sled Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide knarled trees
Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide snowy tree Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide Bailey running with stick
Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide snowy hill Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide other dogs Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide Bailey on path
Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide Bailey beauty shot Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide bundled Kate
Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide snowy plants Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide crossed trees Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide crazy Bailey dog with stick_cropped Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide Bailey ready to go Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide line of trees Snow day in Pankow Volkspark Schönholzer Heide frozen Bailey jowls Sunset through the trees at Helmholtzplatz Berlin

Eating in Berlin | Burgermeister

January 24, 2014

Burgermeister Berlin cheeseburger and nacho cheese fries I've said it before and I'll say it again: finding a good burger - by American standards - in Europe is hard. It's not that they are bad (OK, some are bad), they are just not those thick, juicy patties sandwiched between a fluffy, but substantial - preferably sesame-seeded - bun and dripping with just the right accoutrements that make your belly happy. Something just always feels, off. Burgermeister is one of the few that can satisfy the massive, double-cheeseburger-sized demands (yes, that's on the menu) of the American burger appetite.

First off, the meat is good, which as every burger-loving patron knows, is the foundation of a good burger. It's not quite on the level of The Bird or Le Camion Qui Fume, but it's most definitely got the 'meatloaf' burgers of Germany beat. What I love most about the burgers here are the thick, fluffy buns and American-style processed cheese slices that feel like you are grilling with friends in the backyard. The classic burger choices - from the gluttonous chili cheeseburger and BBQ bacon burger - are offered alongside specialty burgers - like grilled onions or mushroom, or even a tofu burger with mango or peanut sauce - for just the right amount of options for quick decision-making at the almost always crowded walk-up window.

But the burgers are not the only reason to visit Burgermeister. The fries are not only good, but they come in cheese and chili cheese versions. Now, these are not the cheese fries so often seen in Europe, taking it literally with real shredded cheese on top. No, no, no. These are good ol' nacho cheese fries, with warm and spicy nacho cheese dumped on top. And the chili cheese fries? The same with thick, hearty chili and even hot jalapeno slices for good measure. Like any good American that grew up on healthy amounts of processed spicy cheese, I am in heaven every time I have this gooey goodness in my greedy little hands.

As if the food wasn't reason enough, Burgermeister's location and history are worth coming for. Housed in a century old former toilet, this completely refurbished location sits on an island in the middle of traffic, directly underneath the rumble of the U1 tracks. While the germaphobe in me tries not to think about the kitchen's former use, the kitchy spot and delicious food always have me coming back for more. Another bonus? They're open into the late-night, post-bar hours, so that 2 a.m. processed cheese fix is just an u-bahn stop away.

Burgermeister Berlin former city toilet
Burgermeister Berlin stickers on window Burgermeister Berlin sticker Berlin hustles harder
Burgermeister Berlin chili cheese fries

Oberbaumstrasse 8 (under the U1 at Schlesisches Tor)
10997 Berlin Kreuzberg
Sunday-Thursday 11:00-04:00
Friday-Saturday 11:00-03:00

Eating in Wiesbaden | Dale's Cake Café

January 22, 2014

Dale's Cake cake case The cupcake craze arrived in Germany just about the same time as I did, with McDonalds advertising them on every street corner and a couple of more modern coffee shops offering a small selection of the ubiquitous American treat. But as so often is the case with many exported food fads, there was something lost in translation. German cakes are traditionally drier, less sweet and good buttercream frosting couldn't be more foreign. So as you can imagine, an American expecting an American 'cupcake' would be sorely disappointed. That is of course, until I discovered Dale's Cake. An American making American cakes is the way to go for something so iconically, well, American. His was one such cupcake that could be found in the aforementioned cafés and was soon selling pre-packaged sets in the Karstadt grocery.

So when I saw that the maker of such satisfying treats in a sea of sad attempts at American baked goods was opening his own shop right on the little side street I used to take on my way into the Stadtmitte, I couldn't be more thrilled. The location itself was just as exciting, as he was taking over one of those fantastic old German cake shops, where little old men would sit out front for hours, smoking and eating cake with other little German men. It was also the spot where during our first year in Germany, a visiting friend and I walked down the street only to be met with camera crews surrounding the shop and a recognizable actor who's name we couldn't quite remember standing outside. Well, the actor was Danny Huston and the movie was Playoff (which I finally saw last week and was only so-so) in which a big part of the plot centers around this picturesque little café and nearby parts of Wiesbaden.

Taking over such an iconic - and now immortalized in film - location meant that Dale took special care in updating and modernizing the space, without taking away from the old-world feel and details. Even the original store front and amazing rolling pin door handle remain. What did change most notably though are the offerings. Not only is there a staggering assortment of cakes, cupcakes and other baked goods (caramel-apple sticky buns or iced cinnamon rolls, anyone?), but there's also a few savory options for the makings of a proper lunch date. My German friend and I decided to do exactly this just before I left for Berlin. A recent covert to Banh Mis, this was what I had my heart set on before I'd even arrived and they very kindly whipped up one with chicken, despite only having the tofu option in the case. Vivienne bravely chose the quiche with chorizo and jalapenos (German cuisine is notoriously devoid of hot and spicy elements). The quiche was apparently pretty hot, at least by German standards, and the Banh Mi was fresh and tasty with nicely pickled vegetables, though I felt it could have used a bit more heat and flavoring in the meat, as other Banh Mis I've enjoyed before. My coffee drink was pretty on par with the rest of the coffee in town (as was referenced in the movie shot in the very same café, German coffee was jokingly referred to as 'black water'). It's no surprise that the real standout at Dale's is in the dessert department. While we enjoyed a cinnamon roll and a cupcake this trip, I've tasted many of his cakes before. One of my favorites - a Guinness and Bailey's cupcake - has gone unseen since I first ordered it at Helmut Spiegel years ago, but you can't go wrong with the chocolate-coconut cupcake or one of the very generous pieces of carrot cake.

As my friend and I left the café that day, a nice man in an apron who was headed inside stopped and smiled at us taking photos out front. He asked how we liked everything and we asked if he was Dale. He nodded, shook our hands and kind of sheepishly pointed at the silhouette in the store's logo, saying 'that's me'. And it was, down to his ribbon-tied ponytail, though it didn't quite capture his jovial nature or great baking skills. Next time I am in Wiesbaden, Dale's café will most definitely be on my places to stop.

Dale's Cake original Konditorei exterior Dale's Cake interior Dale's Cake wall detail Dale's Cake Banh Mi sandwich Dale's cake interior and customers Dale's Cake cakes in the case Dale's Cake rolling pin door handle Dale's Cake sign

Dale's Cake Café
Nerostrasse 12
65183 Wiesbaden

Eating in Mainz | Mexico Lindo

January 20, 2014

Mexico Lindo margaritas all around Coming from California, one of the first things you start to miss overseas is great Mexican food. Seeing as Europe is half a world away from this country, when it attempts to recreate flavors and recipes so far from where they originated by a culture who believes in entirely the opposite approach to spicy food, too often it lands in the category of major disappointment, especially to those who know and love the real deal. Mexico Lindo though, is a game-changer.

We were introduced to Mexico Lindo by some of the first friends we made in Germany - a German-American and her American husband. Not only are both of them very well-traveled, but she spent a good deal time growing up in Texas. So when our new friends wanted to take us to the best Mexican food around, at a place run by a Texan, we figured it had to be legit. And we were not disappointed. Mexico Lindo became our go-to restaurant during our time in Wiesbaden. It's where we took visitors (even Hispanic friends from Los Angeles gave it their seal of approval), where we convinced German friends that Mexican food is actually great and where we had our farewell dinner with all our friends before our move to Berlin. Even our goodbye with our regular waitress was filled with hugs and tears.

Mexico Lindo is a bit like the Mexican food I grew up with, with its long plates of portioned off beans, rice and the various entrees you decide on. Here, it's less build-your-own dinner and the stand-outs are clear. The carne asada, especially in a land who's beef pales in comparison to the US, is hands-down the best thing on the menu. The enchilladas verdes, fajitas and fajita quesadilla were also in regular rotation for us. Also recommended, go on a week night to score two for one frozen drinks and splurge on the house-made cinnamon tequila shot to end the meal. Both are worth the extra cab/train fare you'll need to get home. Oh, and be sure to pick up a stamp card because, trust me, you'll be back.

Mexico Lindo carne asada Mexico Lindo mariachi doll

Mexico Lindo
Adolf-Kolping-Strasse 17
55116 Mainz
Tel: 06131 228060

Simple. Monochromatic. COS.

January 16, 2014

Monochromatic + COS

Perhaps city life is going to my head, but I think I might be turning into one of those grey- and black-loving urban folk. That color-obsessed girl who was revolting from a decade of an entirely neutral, solid-colored wardrobe for a job at Pottery Barn, has found herself once again being attracted to that simple and chic way of dressing in monochromatic hues after moving to Berlin. It might have something to do with wanting to become one with my grey surroundings, or maybe there's something to city-dwellers propensity to keeping a streamlined wardrobe amidst the bustling life all around them. Calm in the middle of the storm, you might say (not to mention much less closet space).

Whatever the reason, I must admit to falling deeply, madly in love with COS. I'd only ever ventured into one of its shops once before and since I wasn't immediately drawn to anything, I kind of forgot about it. But after spending some more time perusing the racks and trying things on here at the shops in Berlin, I couldn't fight its undeniable, urban appeal. The pieces are modern, simple and colors like grey and black account for most of the store. I've already managed to snag that wide roll-neck top and gold oval earrings, but I'm sure I will be back soon enough to further citify my wardrobe.

Christmas. In January.

January 14, 2014

Christmas in January begging Bailey dog After waiting and waiting for a cooktop that seems as though it will never work, in addition to some after-Christmas Christmas shopping, we finally called it: it was time to celebrate that holiday that most had already observed and packed away weeks before. Sure, my usual over-the-top, too-much-food feast would have to be culled down to whatever could be prepared in just the oven and holiday decor would just have to mingle with the moving boxes still stacked high, but it was long overdue. And the Christmas spirit was looking as lost as the piles of dead trees abandoned on every corner.

So last weekend, nearly three weeks after real Christmas, we declared a holiday do-over. From my silly traditions like hot bean dip for breakfast while opening presents and stockings full of goodies well into adulthood, to traditional Christmas sugar cookies and a roasted bird, we managed to create a day that still felt as fulfilling and enjoyable as the real deal. We spoiled each other with good presents, but none was as spoiled as the four-legged member of our family. Perhaps because she has no grandchildren of the two-legged variety, my mother's holiday package that arrived just in time for our celebration was mostly full of toys and treats for Bailey. It seems we have become those dog owners (though we do draw the line at doggy attire).

Cooking is most definitely a passion of mine and at least for me, the holidays center around all the wonderful things to eat. I surprised myself by actually being able to make many of my favorite recipes and we certainly didn't feel like the feast was lacking. I cooked the bourbon-cranberry compote (critical, without the ability to make gravy) in the oven, whipped up the herb biscuits (so good, I don't know why I only manage these for the holidays) in the morning and got the sweet potato casserole (baking, rather than boiling the potatoes first to soften them for mashing) and the delicious corn souffle (recipe via my step-father's family back in Illinois, now the star of many a holiday feast), complete with crunchy bacon and fried onion topping, were perfectly timed to cook just after the turkey came out to rest. The whole thing was perhaps a little makeshift and more trouble than it would have been with a complete kitchen, but it definitely tasted just as good - if not better because of appreciating the effort.

So while next year's holiday festivities will likely be more planned out, perhaps even with some Berlin friends to take part, and most definitely occurring closer to actual Christmas, this wasn't a bad start to the first of many celebrations that will take place in our new Berlin home. We had ourselves a very merry little Christmas and have a new year in one of the greatest cities in the world ahead of us, for which we are most grateful.

Christmas in January presents under the tree Christmas in January Ritter sport chocolate for fudge Christmas in January making sugar cookies Christmas in January cookies Christmas in January stockingsChristmas in January Russ opening presents Christmas in January Merry Christmas languages wrapping paper Christmas in January Berlin books presents Christmas in January California wine present
Christmas in January antique German-English dictionary_vertical Christmas in January antique German-English dictionary font_vertical
Christmas in January Wonder Weiner ready to fly Christmas in January Bailey possessive over her new toy Christmas in January Bailey playing with new cat toy Christmas in January dinner spread Christmas in January herb biscuits Christmas in January dinner on the table