Monday, October 31, 2011

Gray day

Ooh, I just love the warm and cozy palette from my last entry!  So much color and so much warmth to contrast with the gray skies that usually sit over Germany from about October to May.  (Wow have we been lucky that Mr. Sun decided to stick around this autumn!)  The weather can be so dreary here, that I have always been against the idea of gray decor...

...until recently that is!

I got the idea in my mind a while ago after seeing a couple of cozy pictures of homes with neutral gray or greige walls.  Then, today I stumbled upon this little snapshot from Sweet Home Style.  Typically, modern and minimalist is SOOO NOT my style.  But, I think this room is a beauty and I think it is one of the coziest rooms I have seen in a long, long time.  Something about it is just so inviting to me: all the throw pillows, fuzzy and rich with color, the soft warm light, the honey-colored floors, all those candles on the coffee table, the art, the trows.  I want nothing more than to grab a book and one of those blankets and lay stretched out on that couch all day tomorrow, which just happens to be a holiday ;-).

Colorful autumnal palette

It's officially cozy season here in Germany.  We set our clocks back this weekend, so here it is 5:30 in the afternoon and it's black as night.  Luckily, I have a steaming cup of tea to my right and the flickering flame of a taper candle to my left.  Short days call for extra warmth!

For me, decorating for autumn and winter is all about color.  In summer, I like a lighter, airier feel to my decor.  I love watercolor shades of pink, blue, yellow and orange and red. Of course, pops of color are important in summer, too, but the feeling is more bright garden than moody Victorian.  I use light colored pink and blue candlesticks and throw pillows as the days grow long and bright.  I prefer to keep bright colored fresh flowers in the house and add bright oranges and hot pinks to my art for a very happy feel.  But, as the days grow shorter, colder and the German sky grows grayer, I like to add deep, rich colors to my home to warm it up.  I change out my pillows and candlesticks, I add chunky rusty-colored throws and I light candles everywhere.   We are unfortunately stuck with white renters' walls, so richly colored accents are all I have to transition my space from fresh and breezy summer to warm and cozy winter. 

This year, my color inspiration came from a set of note cards that I bought at Target when I was back home in California in September.  The cards, which feature a large, graphic mum pattern, combine mustard or goldenrod yellow, a light, dark turquoise blue, bright red and moody maroon.  The colors are both modern and vintage--they remind me a bit of the 1970s (very popular this year)--and are absolutely perfect for fall.  The combo is bright and cheery while also being warm and cozy.

I have tried to apply this color scheme to my living room.  I already had some blue and gold but I added even more.  Then I tried to add in red and maroon, formerly colors I have shied away from.  This has worked out quite nicely but, needless to say, I haven't had every wonderful resource at my fingertips.  Oh, if only I did...

So, in an effort to put together my dream room for autumn, I did a little searching and put together an inspiration board, which showcases these beautiful fall colors.  I love all of these pieces individually, but don't you think they would look great all together in a room?  I do!  This is absolutely a room I would just love to curl up in with a good book and a cup of tea. 

All photographs (except center image of note card) from Pinterest.  Unfortunately, I don't know where all of these items come from.  I do know the yellow dresser is from Ikea and I believe the vase with the flower is from Anthro.  The note card, of course, if from Target. 

What are your favorite autumn colors?  Do you find any especially cozy or especially cold?  I am not a fan of pastels in the winter but I know a lot of people like them. What do you think?  Do you like bold colors together or do you try and stick to one family?  How do you warm up cold, white walls? 

Maybe someday...

...I'll wake up to this.  Ultimate coziness!
From Pinterest.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Food on Friday: tortilla soup

Along with the new combined blog, I will be starting a few weekly columns on here.  And, I am starting the first one today.  It is called Foodie Friday and will feature a new recipe every week.  (Feel free to help me come up with a more creative name!)  It will also be our chance to talk about anything and everything food.  I love food.  A lot.  So, I am very excited about this new column.

The first recipe featured is my and Peter's favorite soup recipe of all time!  Peter wasn't a soup person until we made this recipe and he realized that soup could be delicious, dynamic and, yes, a little bit manly.  The recipe comes from a Jamie Oliver cookbook called Jamie's America.  Peter's parents got it for us for Christmas the first year that I moved here and I think it is an excellent cookbook.

The stereotype of American food over here is horrendous and sad.  Ask someone about American food and the only thing they know is McDonalds.  No one knows about the food revolution that occurred in the Bay Area in the 1970s or about down-home Southern cooking.  No one has ever heard of clam chowder and they don't know about the amazing lobster that comes from Maine or the great fish that you can get in California.  (Oddly enough, many of them do know root beer... and they think it is the most disgusting thing ever invented, no joke.)  But, despite the terrible stereotypes of American food in Europe or the general dark people here live in regarding the reality of "American" food, Jamie Oliver's cookbook is excellently done.

Oliver breaks up his book into sections, six to be exact, ranging from one end of the country (New York) to the other (Los Angeles) and everywhere in between.  Because, let's face it...there's really no such thing as American food and no one in America even tries to pretend there is.  There is only regional food: Californian fresh, comfort food from the South, Midwestern grease, Tex-Mex.  Oliver's cookbook includes Jewish and Egyptian recipes from New York, salad recipes from L.A., old Navajo recipes from Arizona, peach cobbler and mac n' cheese from Georgia, alligator poppers from Louisiana and so many other things!  We have tried many of the recipes and have rarely been disappointed.  Finally, an "American" cookbook that does justice to the richness of American culture, the multiculturalism of America and the regional differences that make us...U.S. (pun intended). 

The Rustic Tortilla Soup recipe comes from the Arizona section.  And it is to die for.  But you have to make the chips.  The chips are the best part and completely make the whole thing.  Promise, okay?

Here is the recipe.  I only have the cookbook in German, so I translated it (roughly) for you.

Rustic Tortilla Soup
By Jamie Oliver

Serves 4

For the soup:
Olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 green bell peppers, cored and roughly chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, cored and roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
2 cubes bullion (chicken)
1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For garnish:
1 ripe avocado
1 lime
1 fresh green chili pepper, seeded and cut into small rings
2 large handfuls of tortilla chips
Olive oil
1 tea spoon dried, ground sage

Heat one generous splash of olive oil in a large pot over low to medium heat.  Sautee the onion, garlic, carrot and bell pepper in the oil for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. 

Add in fresh tomatoes, bay leaves, crumbled bullion cubes and the can of chopped tomatoes.  Pour in approximately 2 canfuls of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).  Halve the avocado, remove the pit and scoop the fruit out of the skin with a spoon.  Cut into cubes and place aside in a bowl.  Zest the limes on top of the avocado and drizzle the juice on them to prevent them from turning brown. 

Lay the tortilla chips in one layer on a baking sheet and drizzle a generous amount of olive oil on top.  Sprinkle the dried sage on top of the chips.  Warm them in the oven for a few minutes.  The soup is almost ready.  To give the soup a mushier consistency, mash it a bit with a large spoon.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

Garnish the soup with the avocado, tortilla chips and chili.  Preferably serve with a cold Mexican beer!'s possible that we served our soup and chips with a REALLY large side of cheesy nachos.  Yeah, we're disgusting pigs and, yes, we like it that way.

If you have a  cold, rainy night this weekend, make this!  It will keep you warm and is the perfect food to make for a movie night.  Try mixing it with the hot chocolate and churros or the chipotle chili popcorn (now I am really making you want to buy the book).  Enjoy!

Golden leaves and blue sky

It is a beautiful, sunny and warm day here.  I had been meaning to take a walk with my camera for a while to document autumn at its peak here.  It was absolutely the perfect day for it and I had a lovely time.  The sun was shining, there were lots of birds singing and the colors were fabulous!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

One more

I forgot one room.  Take a look at this beauty...

Ikea heaven

Hello loves!  I hope you are having a fine week and are enjoying these super cozy days of fall.  I sure am.  I am all wrapped up in sweats and blankets.  I have got my hot water bottle and tea.  I am burning autumn-scented candles.  It's wonderful! 

The new Ikea catalog recently came out and I just ordered mine today!  I couldn't wait to get it so I did a little skimming through the online version earlier today and man was I surprised.  Ikea has become softer, more girly and far more creative.  Not all of the pieces look like they were made for a college dorm room anymore.  I was very impressed by what I saw...and totally ready to go on an Ikea shopping spree. 

Here are some pictures of my favorites! 

The new Isala laptop desk.  I am picturing it in an entry hall with a lamp and a basket for mail.  

How cute is this?  The Isala desk with the wallpaper behind it.  The catalog has tons of wallpaper in it this time.  I am not sure if Ikea is selling wallpaper now or not.  But this is so cute and soft.  I love this idea, to do just a small strip of wallpaper in a room.

I love these little shelves.  I mean I love them.  And for 39 Euros?!?!  They are practically giving them away.  I want one for my bathroom and one for my kitchen.  How cute would it be stocked with tea pots and cookbooks?

I think this little bathroom is so pretty and inviting.  I just want to jump in that tub.  I really love the romance of the candles and jar in the window. 

Isala coffee cute is this?

Cute romantic room.  Notice the wallpaper again (I sense a wallpaper post coming on soon).

2 become 1

Wait...where am I you ask?  What is this Gemütlichkeit blog where Nifty Thrifty used to be? 

You may have noticed that I have made a few changes around here, starting with the new name, Gemütlichkeit.  The new name reflects the combination of my old blog Gettin' Gemütlich in Germany and Nifty Thrifty.  I decided that it was time to reduce the two blogs down to one and to start a new adventure here at Gemütlichkeit

This new superblog (ha. ha. ha.) will still have strong focus on decorating and design while also including some more lifestyle aspects, such as recipes and fashion.  It will also be strongly influenced by my life and experiences living abroad here in Germany and will, at times, include stories from my daily life here.  It can be a real adventure, so I think it should be fun.  The point is to share some of my ideas about comfort and coziness, both of which I am a big fan!

All previous posts from Gettin' Gemütlich have been incorporated here, so everything is now under one virtual roof.  I am excited to get started on this new endeavor and I hope you will come with me along the way.  Let's get comfy and cozy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cozy dinner on a cold night

This is what cold nights were made for.  Soup (it's my secret for delicious, super cheap food that will last you days) and tea.  Perfect. 

Hearty Vegetable Soup

5 white round potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (okay, I really have no idea what kind of potatoes, but they were really small and round like red potatoes but not red)
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1-2 Carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 small red bell peppers, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
one can of diced tomatoes
.75 liter of vegetable broth
salt and pepper
generous dash sweet paprika
generous dash spicy paprika
1-2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add potatoes and carrots.  Once potatoes and carrots start to brown, add bell pepper.  When bell pepper starts to get soft, add onion.  Cook for about 2 minutes then add garlic.  Cook garlic about 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Add can of tomatoes.  Stir.  Add vegetable broth, salt, pepper, paprikas and bay leaves whole.  Let simmer for an hour or so until vegetables (especially carrots and potatoes) are tender.  Remove bay leaves and serve.  Keep leftovers...have dinner for days!

Going the distance

I am aware that it has been an insanely long time since I have written anything here.  I  guess it kind of got lost.  Now I am debating whether I should make Gettin' Gemütlich and Nifty Thrifty one or if I should just pay more attention to this little baby.  I haven't decided yet, but for the time being, here is a little something about love.  

So, as previously mentioned here and here, Peter and I are back from our weekend (which turned out to be just one night) away.  We had originally wanted to stay a second night in or near Schwäbisch Gmünd to enjoy our time together after Peter's race.  But, he was called in to work on Sunday so we have been home since last night and Peter has been at work, achy calves and all, since 7 am this morning.  It was a great weekend and it has been a great day, despite the fact that I am now missing my cuddle-partner a lot.

We started our trip at about 1 o'clock on Friday afternoon.  We had a three hour drive that ended up being a four hour drive because of Friday traffic.  But it was perfect and, aside from a little 20 minute break when I fell asleep, we talked the entire time.  We walked around the town a bit in the afternoon and got Peter's race packet.  Then we went to a big Italian dinner.  We went to a really typical German-Italian restaurant and it was pretty good--it got the job done at the very least.  Peter had not one, not two, but THREE entrees that night to prepare himself for the race.  Despite the fact that the service was a bit slow and that we had three entrees to sit through, we had a perfectly relaxed and enjoyable time, again talking non-stop.  I love that about us.  After dinner it was cuddle time and we watched tv until we fell asleep with full stomachs.

It was cold in the morning--all of the racers could see their breaths and all of the bystanders had trouble feeling their toes.  After wishing Peter luck, I stood a little ways beyond the start and saw him take off.  Then it was up to me to kill the next 5 hours.  I ended up walking around, exploring a farmers market, taking a lot of pictures of the pretty town, doing a few errands and having lunch at a cafe (soup and a apple juice for under 5 Euros, yes).  I was so excited to see him come in and was lucky he gave me a time estimate.  Seeing him cross that finish line made me so proud and happy.   He's been wanting to do this for over a year and has been training for it for six months or even more.  It was great to see him accomplish a goal. 

After the race we drove back--another three hour drive--and talked the whole time again.  At home, we watched How I Met Your Mother and drank tea before going to bed early. 

This weekend left me thinking a lot about Peter and I.  We are so lucky to have each other.  We are happy just being together.  Happy to drink tea, happy to go for a walk, happy to cuddle, happy to wake up late and have breakfast together, happy to wake up early and have breakfast together.  We are happy to cook together and eat together, to grocery shop together or to travel together--mundane or exciting, it doesn't matter. 
Plus, look at how great he is.  He has a goal and he goes after it.  He has the guts to run 50 kilometers and he doesn't give up no matter how hard it gets.  He works hard and is loyal to his colleagues.  He isn't scared when I send him link to website articles titled, "100 Best Places to Raise a Family."  He cooks.  He cleans (sometimes).  He doesn't mind my sweatpants...or my kitty-cat noises.  He's smart and interesting and very worldly.  He's passionate and kind.  He's all around just a keeper.

How lucky am I?

DIY: Feather hair accessories

Self-made feather hair band
When we got back from Peter's run late last night, I took out a bag of stuff I had purchased while I waited 5 hours for him to finish.  He ran 50 kilometers so that was a pretty good time, but the last, oh, 4.5 hours were pretty tough.  I tried to do all my errands, walking around to different shops and getting some much needed greeting cards. 

I dumped out the contents of my shopping bag on the kitchen table and Peter, bent over in agony and chowing down on like 70 eggs, laughed at me.  "You bought really weird stuff," he said, looking at the two bottles of fabric softener, bag of feathers, elastic, bubble bath, Chapstick, soap and sweatpants.  But, let's face it, I had to kill 5 hours.  Something weird is bound to end up in my shopping bag.  In this case, I believe it was the feathers, elastic and pinch clamps that seemed a bit strange.  But, I had a plan. 

I have been seeing feather hair accessories everywhere for quite some time now.  And, I have been wanting them myself.  But,  I haven't really wanted to spend money on them or known where to get them.  I read somewhere that you could just use fishing lures from an outdoor store, but those often have little shiny metal things on them, don't they?  Plus, where am I going to find a fishing store in Coburg?  So, when I was wasting time at the run and I saw the crafts aisle of the local general store, I felt inspired.  What if I made my own feather hair accessories?

So I did.  And here is the how-to, plus my results.  Happy crafting. 

Just some of the materials. Notice that the elastic is in the shape of the elastic of a hair band, but it's longer and not connected like a rubber band is. 

Pinch clamps, from jewelry making aisle.  

Sewing kit (with needle and black thread)
Needle nose pliers
Feathers in various sizes and colors
Bobby pins
Elastic string
Pinch clamps

Instructions for hair band: 

1) Pick out two feathers, one slightly longer than the other, that go well together.  Layer the shorter one on top and the longer one on the bottom. 

2)  Making sure the loop of the clamp is facing up and away from the feathers, place the ends of the stems of the two feathers into the pinch clamp and pinch it closed so that they are tight inside. Use the pliers to close it tighter. 

3) Cut a piece of elastic about 8-9 inches long (or longer if you have thick hair and need to make a big band).  Tie the elastic into a circle (like a regular hair band) big enough to wrap tightly around your hair twice.  Leave one end out and longer like in the picture below. 
4) Place the loose end through the hole in the top of the clamp.  Position the clamp with the feathers about a millimeter from the knot so that the feathers hang just slightly.  Tie a knot around the hole so that the clamp and feathers are now tied to hair band. 

5) Ta-da, you have a super new cool hair tie.  Use it in a ponytail, a half up do or in a braid! 

Instructions for bobby pin

1) Repeat steps 1 and 2 from above, perhaps using smaller feathers than you used for the hair tie. 

2) Slip the hole of the pinch clamp over the bobby pin so that it's on there well. 

3) Thread a needle with black thread and use the thread to tie the clamp permanently to the bobby pin (or don't so that you can use the bobby pin again without the feathers). 

4) Ta-da!  You have a new fun bobby pin.  It would be pretty in an up-do, especially a messy one.