Monday, January 28, 2013

One weekend in January

This weekend was the best sort of weekend...both busy and relaxed, full of friends, loved ones and lots of good food.  It was coooooold.  At least on Friday and Saturday, it was a bitter bitting cold that only a hot bath and a cup of ginger tea could remedy.  I filled my days adventuring in the city with girlfriends and reading on the couch with Peter by my side.  We had a super slow and nice Sunday brunch.  


This weekend was the kind that makes you feel oh so thankful for all the blessings in your life.  I sure am a lucky girl to have so many wonderful people to look after me.  

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gemütlichkeit is: snowy Tuesday afternoon coffee

For those of you stuck in the Midwest or anywhere else cold right now and braving below 0 (fahrenheit) temperatures, I sympathize with you and wish you a lot of luck dealing with cold of that nature.  (You'll need it.)

I have only experienced such subzero temperatures once since I have lived in Germany and all it did was solidify my theory that if there is such thing as Hell, it is most certainly cold--not hot--and I definitely DO NOT want to end up there.  (Is there anything worse than being cold?  I think not.  I would rather be too hot than too cold any day!)

In those early days of February last year, I learned that two scarves are definitely not enough, sensation in one's hands and face is a luxury not to be taken for granted and snot certainly can form icicles along the edges of one's nose.  Tea, coffee, cocoa and soup may be the only things to get you through this miserable time.  Hot water bottles are a godsend, as are fluffy blankets and thick quilts.  And, for goodness sake, STAY INSIDE! 

Our current cold spell is luckily no where near as biting, but we have had about five consecutive days of below freezing temperatures and lots of snow.  It had been kind of fun up until today when I woke up to yet another frosty, colorless morning.  The sky is gray, the houses are gray, the roofs are whitish-gray and the streets are almost black with dirty snow.  Bleh.  

Truthfully, the only thing that could cure this serious case of the winter blues was as a lot of fat and sugar (and maybe a bright and cozy afternoon coffee with my love).  So, that's exactly what I planned; I picked up some Krapfen from the bakery, set out my most colorful tea towel and coffee cups, lit candles and waited for Peter to get up from his night shift.

Ahh...I'm going to be super cheesy here and say that it was like a little defrosting of my heart.  All that color!  All that coffee!  All that sugar!  All those lovely smiles!  Yay!

I hope you find a way to keep warm and cozy on this late January day!  XO

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Anatomy of the perfect snowy evening

As you must know by now, cozy is my middle name (ok, not literally... but it was, according to my mom, my first word) and my ultimate goal for just about everything in my life.  I put cozy into everything and some days you just need that.  

And, then, there are days like today, where normal coziness is not enough--days where ultimate coziness is absolutely, 100% necessary.  

I'll spare you many of the details (which involve 42 children under the age of 7, singing The Hokey Pokey with my boss, a sore throat, heaps and heaps of snow and trudging through it and, consequently, wet socks) and just say that with the frightful and delightful weather, the beginnings of a cold and so much work exhaustion, tonight simply begged for all my favorite things!  

So, here is my recipe for a perfect get-over-your-crazy-day night in: 

1. Start with your favorite comfort meal.  No, it doesn't need to be even a little healthy.  Usually, I count health food as cozy food (it's almost all I eat and what isn't comforting about a bowl of homemade soup) but the ultimate cozy evening totally requires cream sauce and cheese.  So, I ate my weight in my favorite pasta and sauce (above). 

2.  Make some tea and throw in a couple of throat lozenges for good measure. 

3.  And heck, throw in a glass of red wine.  It was a tough day.  You deserve a little treat. 

4  Curl up in front of your favorite TV show or movie.  

5.  Add in warm socks, slippers and a soft blanket.  At this stage, it could only help to include a hot water bottle.  

6.  Sit back and enjoy your evening and don't even feel a little guilty about all this indulgence.  You worked hard today!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

How to keep busy on a gray day

Instead of turning on the TV, solve these riddles.

Start here: 

There was a farmer who wanted to go across a river. The farmer had a dog, a goat, and some cabbage. The farmer’s boat was very small so the farmer could only take one thing across the river at a time. 

The problem was that if the goat were left alone with the cabbage, then the goat would eat the cabbage. If the dog were left alone with the goat then the dog would eat the goat. How can the farmer get everything across the river?

Then do this: 

Mike, Tim, and Sam were caught stealing so the King sent them to the dungeon. But the king decided to give them a chance. He made them stand in a line and put hats on their heads. He told them that if they answer a riddle, they could go free. Here is the riddle:

Each of you has a hat on your head. You do not know the color of the hat on your own head. If one of you can guess the color of the hat on your head, I will let you free. But before you answer, you must keep standing in this line (see picture below). You cannot turn around. Here are my only hints: There are only black hats and white hats. At least one hat is black. At least one hat is white.

Mike couldn’t see any hats. Tim could see Mike’s hat but not his own. Sam could see Mike’s hat and Tim’s hat but not his own. After one minute, nobody had solved the riddle. But then a short while later, one of them solved the riddle. Who was it and how did he know?

Picture from

And if that is no problem, try this one: 

Einstein's riddle

Albert Einstein wrote this riddle during the early part of the 19th century.  He said that 98% of people would not be able to solve it.

There are no tricks, just pure logic, so good luck and don't give up. 

1. In a street there are five houses, painted five different colours. 

2. In each house lives a person of different nationality 

3. These five homeowners each drink a different kind of beverage, smoke different brand of cigar and keep a different pet. 



1. The Brit lives in a red house. 

2. The Swede keeps dogs as pets. 

3. The Dane drinks tea. 

4. The Green house is next to, and on the left of the White house. 

5. The owner of the Green house drinks coffee. 

6. The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds. 

7. The owner of the Yellow house smokes Dunhill. 

8. The man living in the centre house drinks milk. 

9. The Norwegian lives in the first house. 

10. The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats.
11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill. 12. The man who smokes Blue Master drinks beer. 

13. The German smokes Prince. 

14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house. 

15. The man who smokes Blends has a neighbour who drinks water.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Food on Friday: a resolution against food waste

Most of the time I feel that I am doing my part to save this planet of ours.  I have reduced my meat consumption to about once a week and only buy eggs that are certified organic.  Despite the fact that I dislike the harsh light they usually give off, I have almost only CFL bulbs in my house and I turn them off when we aren't home or using a room.  I try not to buy anything with extra packaging and take my water to work in a reusable metal bottle.  I rarely go by car.  We recycle and, per Nuremberg requirements, sort our trash into compostables, recyclable plastics/metals and paper.

But, when it comes to food waste, all that stuff that goes into the compostable bin, my actions are truly shameful.

Each week I throw away containers of yogurt, full tupperware boxes of leftovers and an uncountable number of bell peppers, onions and potatoes, all because I haven't had the energy, time or desire to use them.  If I had to guess, I would say that I throw away 20% of the food we buy.  In a world that sees hungry children in Africa die daily and that is getting warmer and warmer in part due to industrialized society's food consumption habits,  this waste of food is not only disgraceful, but unethical.

An expired yogurt container I found in my fridge today.  (For those of you in the U.S., we switch the month and the day, so the scrambled date there is the 2nd of January.)

This realization came to me a few weeks ago while perusing through the new issue of Whole Living that my mom had sent me.  In it was an article detailing just how shockingly wasteful Americans are when it comes to food.  (You can read the article here.  Did you know that cucumbers are often tossed before they even make it to the supermarket just because their curves don't fit the standards set by the USDA?) The numbers were appalling: 40% of all edible food in America wasted, making for 20.5% of all waste in municipal landfills.  According to the EPA, that's 33 million tons of wasted food going into  landfills just this year.

I will spare you the entire contents of the article (though you should really read it) and just tell you this: the average American household wastes 14% of all food purchased, about $1,600 worth a year.  That's every 7th apple and almost an entire vacation's worth of money!! But, more importantly, that's one less hungry, malnourished child or adult right there in your city, two grand that could potentially be put into your community, into cancer research, or into education.

And, you will find many other reports to verify these facts.  Reports herehere and here all say almost the exact same thing.  The problem isn't confined to America either.  A recent report claims that the numbers here in Germany are just as bad, with every German throwing away on average 80 kilograms of food per year.  That makes for 11 million kilograms total per year!  (And 235€ wasted per resident each year.)

Now, I am going to make a confession and give you an honest look into my life.  The pictures in this post are all from my fridge and pantry, uncleaned or fixed up for the pictures--the true kitchen chaos we live with.  It isn't hard to see how and why we waste so much food.  In fact, I believe we waste quite a bit more than the average German and maybe even more than the average American.

It's a mess in there, difficult to see what is available and easy for things to get lost.  We buy specific products for recipes and then never use them again.  (Note the asian beansprouts, tahini for homemade hummus and little onions in a jar.)  We buy boxes and boxes of dried product, thinking it will last forever, and then curse as we throw it in the trashcan one year later because it has expired.  I have so many baking products and yet I never make bread.

When I read these articles, I realized that THIS. HAS. GOT. TO. STOP.

So, this year, my New Year's Resolution was a little bit different.  It's not to stop biting my nails, as it was for pretty much my entire childhood.  It's not to follow my dreams or be a better person or something similarly intangible and unattainable.  It's not to lose 10 pounds or tighten up my tush (like it probably is for half of America).  This year, my resolution is to do everything in my power to STOP WASTING FOOD.  

But, it isn't happening overnight and that is okay.  

On January first, I noted a moldy potato in the fridge I had to throw away.  And yesterday I found about a cup of pumpkin I had leftover from making a Christmas pie growing hair (and maybe an arm, a toe and spleen or two) in the very back of my fridge.  I had to throw that away, too (and believe me, it wasn't a pleasant experience).  I almost gave up my resolution, called myself a failure and reverted back to my old ways. 

But then I realized that I was changing 26 (yikes!) years of learned behavior and that it wouldn't happen in a day.  This is something I am really going to need to work on, like changing my diet and exercise habits (both of which I have done in the past year).  It is going to take knowledge, planning and dedication and will include some falls off the wagon along the way.  But, if I am working at it, if I am conscious of it and conscientious about it, I will make a difference.  

I encourage you to do the same. I really don't like posting rant-y or preachy things on here, but this seems too important to me to just ignore.  We, as individuals and families, must recognize and work together to change this culture of waste.  

Here is what I am doing and what you can do: 

1.  Set a food shopping budget. 

Aside from just being good for your bank account, this will prevent frivolous or spontaneous purchases that might later rot in your fridge.  It will also force you to eat leftovers and things that you don't always sound in the mood for or that you tend to ignore for the delights of take out.   

2.  Create a weekly menu. 

I plan my meals so that I can use the leftovers and special ingredients in the next night's meal.  For example, tonight we are having something with parsley in it.  Normally, I would have some left over that would sit in the fridge for ages.  But, I am going to make tabbouleh tomorrow instead.  

3.  Get everyone on board.  

If it's not a family goal, it won't work.  Peter's getting into it, too!

5.  Take stock of what you have.

Before going to the store make a list of things you really need (never go to the store without a list).  Make a list of dry items in the pantry and make sure everything is visible. Don't forget to plan meals using those items.  

4.  Learn about when food is REALLY bad.

There is an interesting guide here.  
Germans can get a guide and ideas here.  
Did you know that if cheese is moldy, you can simply cut away the moldy part and eat the rest?

5. Force yourself to eat the leftovers.  

Yes, they may sound repetitive the day afterward, but it's terrible to throw them away.  

6.  Don't buy in bulk.  

You may think you are doing the right thing.  You may see a sale and think you are saving money.  You may just want to make sure that no one in your house ever says, 'Mom, there's nothing to eat.'  But at what cost to the world and to your pocketbook? 

Be smarter than that.  Buy only exactly what you plan to eat, no more.  (Your waistline will probably also thank you where there isn't a gallon jar of peanut butter and a jumbo box of crackers sitting on your kitchen shelf.) 

7.  Simply be aware, realize it's a struggle and alway try to do your best.  

Thanks for listening and I hope you decide that this cause is worth it and take this journey with me.  I would love to hear any ideas that you have for preventing food waste. 

Okay, I am off now to go use some of that spelt couscous you see sitting on that shelf up there.  Have a great weekend! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Winter walk

On Christmas Eve, the weather in Bavaria was absolutely amazing!  It was quite sunny (for Germany, in winter) and was well above freezing.  It was said to be the warmest Christmas on record, but to me it just felt a little bit like home.  

I took the opportunity to go for a nice, relaxing Christmas walk and was surprised to see that nature was reacting to the high temperatures as if it were spring.  The grass was the most vibrant shade of green I have ever seen, birds were darting back and forth singing the happiest tune and a little bunny was foraging for food in a bush of berries. 

After several busy and often stressful months when I sometimes felt out of sorts, this walk was exactly what I needed.  It brought me back into the moment, filled me with energy and appreciation and was both literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air.  It was a great way to wind down the year. 

One thing I have really learned living in a cold climate is that you should never let the weather keep you trapped indoors.  Having experiences outside, however cold and miserable, is extremely important for one's health and happiness.  Gray skies, a bit of drizzle or big fat snow flakes are no excuse to forgo physical activity and fresh air.  

How do you stay sane in the winter?

The Way of St. James (Jakobsweg) goes all through Germany, including Coburg.  

I fell in love with this mustard-colored moss.  I totally want a bedspread in this color!

Monday, January 7, 2013

January details

Happy New Year from me to you!  I hope you are all enjoying 2013 so that you're getting back in the swing of things after the holidays.  It feels like it has been a million years since I have been on here, but what a sweet time it was.  Full of friends, family and delicious food, the last two weeks have really been indulgent and wonderful--a great way to end and start a year.  

This past Saturday I spent the whole day working around the house, trying to get it back to normal.  The Christmas stuff--which felt so exciting, cozy and magical before Christmas--was starting to feel messy and like waaaay too much.  It was driving me crazy, so I went to in "January" mode and tried to get things super clean and back into order.  

Plus, January can be pretty dreary around here.  While friends of mine in California are hiking outside, taking advantage of the sunshine and mild temperatures, we here in Germany are stuck in a world of darkness.  The sun sets around 4:30 every day and most day it's so cloudy and gray that you need a lamp just to read a book at 1 o'clock in the afternoon.  Bright and cheerful colors and things that you adore are exactly what you need to help you keep your head up.  

I put together this little tray on my dining table and haven't been able to stop staring at it since.  It is full of happiness and beauty.  Even Peter keeps commenting on it (and he hates knickknacks).  Every time I look at it, it certainly lifts my spirits.  

I am in love with these new salt and pepper shakers I got from my mom for Christmas.  They're from Anthropologie and they're black and white!  I LOVE black and white.

The clementines are a perfect pop of fun, sunny color.  Plus, they taste delicious and are a healthy snack (also totally necessary after weeks of Christmas cookies, cheese, whipped cream and Jiffy Pop from my dad). 

The white berry/flower/branchy things are my new obsession.  I cannot get enough of  them and I find myself starting at them all the time.  Everything about them is so... January.  They are simple, white as snow and are fresh and clean with uncomplicated lines and an effortless feeling.  I had them in some evergreen arrangements for the holidays but the way they look bunched together in a little glass jar is so much more refreshing for this time of year.  

Simplicity is key.    

My mother sent me these beautiful measuring spoons (also from Anthro) for Christmas and I am in love with them.  They also bring a some brightness into these dismal days, as does the bunny tea towel (Anthro) and the beautiful new black and white print I put up in my kitchen (Etsy). 

What's inspiring you now that the year is new? Do you crave simplicity this time of year and de-clutter like I do?  Do you need color?  What details are making you smile today?  Leave a comment with your thoughts and your tricks!

Happy Monday and a fantastic week to you!