All posts filed under “Ready for the Weekend

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Weekend Inspiration: Christkindlmarkt

Christkindlemarkt

Through the rose tinted glasses of my childhood, Christmas in Germany seemed like the best thing on earth. A place where the cobblestones and medieval towns of fairy tales met with a month of pure festivity as snowy nights filled with rich hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, and as many candied nuts as we could eat.

I find myself back in Germany at the start of the holiday season, and I can say with full confidence that my attraction to this country’s celebration was more than childhood memories romanticized. Christmas in Germany is something special. Take for instance yesterday, December 6th, the special holiday of Nikolaus Tag. Children all over Germany clean their shoes the night before, putting them outside the door (as I did growing up). The next morning, the shoes are filled to the brim with chocolates, oranges, and little trinkets—special Christmas treats to start the holidays. The advent calendar here is treated with reverence, from the candle-decked holiday wreath inside churches to the candy-filled paper version sold at every grocery store. And from the first weekend in December, the Christmas markets light up city’s both small and large; more then 50 markets have taken over Berlin’s squares and boulevards, not as a tourist attraction but something thoroughly and completely enjoyed by the locals. Giant trees, nativities, pyramids, and nutcrackers can be found everywhere.

Walk through the carnival-like Alexanderplatz market during a weekday and you’ll see business men enjoying champignon for lunch while Berlin’s mothers entertain their children on mini ferris wheels and roller coasters. At the more beautiful but just as crowded Gendarmenmarkt, cloaked entry guards help lend a historical flair, while artisans offer handmade goods. Nearby our new home in the Prenz Lauerberg neighborhood, the Kulturbrauerei market is a very locals affair. It’s small size is outweighed by authentic flavor, with a Scandanavian/Saint Lucia theme offering food and drink from Finland, Sweden, and Norway.

With endless options for food—pommes, bratwurst, fluffy latkes with lox, stewed green kale with ham, fluffy pizza with bacon and cream sauce, plus the sweet crêpes, waffles, candied nuts, and roasted chestnuts—we could go to a market every night and never get tired. And no matter how cold it gets, there is always a glass of warm gluhwein or hot chocolate to drink. Germany is beautiful in the summer and fall, but I am so lucky to have come now, my favorite time of all.

*Some exciting holiday news to share, I’ve been nominated for FriendsEAT.com’s 2012 Best Food Blogger in the Recipe category. Please vote for my page by clicking the “love” button here http://friendseat.com/lavitacucinare*

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Weekend Inspiration: Balance

Lemon

I’ve only been in Berlin for two weeks and we’ve already managed to do so much! In between sorting out the logistics of moving to a new country—including a rather exciting trip to the local government office for our Anmeldung oder Wohnung (or resident’s cards) and a rather not so exciting, lengthy trip to the customs post office to pick up the eight-50 pound boxes we shipped from the US—we’ve also made time for Christmas markets, shopping trips, and plenty of delicious German food. We’ve already had some wonderful guests and an American Thanksgiving with my sister and friends during their visit to Berlin last week. A German bank account, cell phones, language classes, and our visas are all also in the works. Whoo-hoo!

But in between all that, I’ve had a few moments of panic. It was wonderful celebrating the holiday last week with good friends, but I felt slightly guilty when I didn’t check everything off my to-do list. Although I planned to arrive in Berlin and first spend time in language school, I’ve wondered if instead I should be working to establish myself as a writer here. But these moments of hesitation pass, as I remember that the time has been short, and the longer we are here, the more comfortable we’ll become.

Just as acidity is important in balancing flavor, a little piece of mind can go a long way in balancing the moments when life has been turned upside down. I am trying to keep that idea of balance in mind, especially when I want everything to fall in place so quickly. Balance of my proposed goals and what is actually achievable in a day’s time. Balance between the things we need to do to get settled here and the things we want to do. Balance between my expectations and realities. It’s incredibly exciting to have found ourselves newly minted expats but without a healthy dose of balance, it doesn’t feel quite real.

Lemon juice is my go to seasoning element to add balance—a bright little kick of acid can really help even out a rich dish—and just imaging bright yellow lemons puts a smile on my face. There’s something about citrus—soothing under your eyes, fresh in your water, clean as a fragrance—that offers a balancing thought as well as balance in cuisine. And it isn’t just a subconscious effect; on top of its culinary prowess, lemon juice offers a number of health benefits and actually helps balance our body’s natural pH.  As we head into my third weekend in Berlin with plenty of plans, I’m thinking all about the balance in my life and how to keep my mental scale healthy and happy. A tall glass of cold water, with a nice slice of lemon is the way I think I’ll start.

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Weekend Inspiration: A Berlin Chapter

Berlin

When I was a kid, my mother always told me it would be difficult to find someone who could give me the kind of exciting, world wind lifestyle my father had provided for us. Because of his job in the Army we lived in Germany for nine years, and my parents made good use of the locale, taking us on trips all over Europe—from skiing in the Swiss Alps to hiking up Mount Vesuvius in Italy to watching Shakespeare on London’s stage.

Luckily, I’ve found a partner whose appetite for travel is as insatiable as my own. TH and I just keep taking off, and in the last four years we’ve adventured through Europe, Canada, Morocco, and Hawaii, and explored the new city’s we moved to, including Chicago and New York. And the journey is just beginning. Our next chapter has us fulfilling a dream of living in Europe; we’ve landed in Berlin! I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since I left Germany (after my sophomore year of high school), and coming back really feels like I’m coming full circle. I can’t wait to eat my belly full of German bakeries, beer, and bratwurst. I spent my first few hours here just wandering around Berlin, snapping a few photos, taking in all the sights and smells, and literally pinching myself.

Of course this means a lot of new changes are in store as well. We’ve come to another new city, with a whole new landscape of museums, restaurants, bars, and culture to discover. It also means learning a new language and finding a new path for success in the next chapter of our lives. But I couldn’t be more excited! Have a tip about Berlin? Send it my way! And expect to hear a lot more about Germany in the very near future!