Friday, December 21, 2012

Underwater Dogs

This hilarious book caught my eye while scrolling through Amazon, trying to find a good last-minute gift for some family members...

...and it has instantaneously skyrocketed to the top of my Christmas list.

These two little guys are totally my favorites:

Is there anything cuter than water-loving puppies having a merry old time underwater? I don't think so.

Book and photos by Seth Casteel

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Cookie-Baking, Beer-Brewing Kinda Weekend

This past weekend we invited friends over on Saturday for the start of a cookie-baking marathon. Sara and Kathi and I whipped up four different types of cookies in the kitchen, keeping ourselves energized with homemade glühwein (Sara's hidden talent) and entertained with my plethora of non-traditional cookie cutters. Meanwhile, in the guest room, Micha and his happy helpers, Christoph and Volker, put their brewing skills to the test cooking up Micha's very first batch of beer. We have high hopes for this new hobby of his. (The one downside to this endeavor: the brewing beer in its giant container has to be kept in cold temperatures for a week before it can be bottled, so its kept in the coldest room in our apartment: the bedroom. Right next to the window on my side of the bed. Oh happy day...)

The day was long and relaxed, just what we needed, and we headed over to Kerstin's on Sunday for even more cookie-baking and girl talk. Ok, the girl talk was just for Kerstin and me; Micha got some quality iPhone- and occassional Hendryk- (who was taking care of a sick baby) time during that. ;)

And now it's already Thursday and I'm so grateful that the next weekend is already almost here because this is the week that seems to never end at work... Hooray for the holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Inspired By...

...the perfect anytime gift tag.

...perfect holiday gift tags.
Photo and DIY by mer mag

...clever and adorable DIY gift boxes (with glitter tape! I need to find this stuff asap).
Photo and DIY by Salsa Pie

...a non-gift-guide set of great gift ideas for anybody that could not be more spot on.
Graphic by Old Sweet Song

...a genius homemade concoction that I need to put into action immediately, due to a lack of liquid vanilla extract in Germany (it comes in powder form and is usually not pure).
Photo and DIY by The SoHo

...eggnog macarons aka what you eat in heaven during the holidays.
Photo and recipe by Penguin says Feed Me

Image credits: Calligraphy gift tag by milia via sodapop design  Photo gift tags by mer mag | Glitter gift boxes by Salsa Pie, pinned by Victoria | Easy peasy holiday gift ideas by Old Sweet Song | Homemade vanilla by The SoHo | eggnogg macarons by Penguin says Feed Me, pinned by Ez

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent Calendar Care Packages

Care packages: I love them. Both getting them from people and sending them to people. What makes them even more fun is when you have some awesome friends - or an even more awesome twin sister - who just as thoroughly enjoy gathering care package goodies and shipping them off at random intervals for no particularly good reason other than to say, "hey. Remember me? I like you."

So last year, when I hopped on the homemade advent calendar bandwagon, I knew two pleased-as-punch recipients would be Natalie and Liz in the US (since they like ridiculously useless things as much as I do and are super easy to shop for) and decided to give myself the challenge of putting together a shippable advent calendar that had a weight and size limit.* Here's how I went about it.

Step 1: Collect a bunch of ridiculous things (and some practical ones). The grocery store, the 1-euro shop, and the drugstore are my sources of choice, but you could obviously go classier if that's how your friends roll. ;)

 Items included: Cheesy chocolate advent calendars (you have no idea how embarassed I was when purchasing that Sexy Xmas! one at our local grocery store...), glow-in-the-dark cups and straws, drinking-straw glasses, Spongebob paper streamers, 2012 paper glasses (to wear on New Year's Eve), glühwein spice packets, hot-chocolate bars, mini cheese grater, mini face cream, mini deep conditioner, gold eyeliner, Labello lip gloss, tiny notepad, colorful sugar packets, and an assortment of their favorite German candies.

Step 2: Gather your supplies. Simple is good, especially if you already have a lot of packing and gift-wrapping material lying around. I went with craft paper and gold tissue paper for wrapping, red twine (a last minute switch), and holiday-colored washi tape.

Step 3: Include items to hang the tiny packages up with. I like mini things, but the wee clothespins I had were a bit boring, so I spiced them up with some gold glitter, cuz you can never have too much glitter.

Hint! If you paint over the glitter after it's done drying with clear nail polish, it won't come off all over the place!

Step 4: Wrap your goodies individually and include little personal notes on each one. Such as "Sister, here's some cuticle remover since I know how much you hate cuticles!" or "Liz, I think your life will be more complete now with these mustaches."

Hint! Make the bows on each present long enough so that they can be hung up. And also don't forget to include extra twine or string/yarn/garland of sorts for hanging and numbers for putting the presents in order (I wrote small numbers on the wrap and printed out prettier letters to be hung from the clothespin with the corresponding present).

Step 5: Box it up and ship it! And don't forget to decorate the package with plenty of confetti, tissue paper, and more little notes. (I shipped these last year on November 23 and they, very very sadly, did not arrive until mid-January. SO SHIP REALLY REALLY EARLY.**)

And here's how they looked after finally arriving at their destinations. Yes, Nat and Liz each merrily hung up and opened their advent calendars daily in January. Which is why they rock.

Nat's sparkly package on the left | Liz's hanging calendar on the right

*Note: this year I'm even wiser and have discovered that if you can fit all your stuff in a large (like 60 x 30 cm) padded envelope, it will 1) cost you almost nothing: 3.45€ for up to 500g, 7€ for up to 1kg, and 16.90€ for up to 2kg, and 2) be sent by priority air mail to arrive in the US in 3-5 days. (This is all from Germany, of course.) LESSON LEARNED.

**Or forego the box and use a padded envelope instead. Or two. Or three. Still cheaper and quicker than the box! (You can ship it this week and it'll still likely make it there for Christmas. My advice only working from Germany to the US again.)

Update: This, apparently, does not work in the US, as sadly confirmed by sister today when she found out that her padded envelope package to me cost $8 more than boxes usually do! Boooo, US postal service!

Monday, December 10, 2012

December Goals

Following up on my November stats, here are my rather random and not particularly life-changing December goals.

{1} Read more than one book (aka finally move on from Wuthering Heights and Game of Thrones). I need to be more diligent here about reading books on my commute instead of catching up on social media on my phone. Because, you know, I'm a grown up and all that jazz.

{2} Hit up two Christmas markets a week. In this past, I’ve aimed for one per day but let’s face it, when you’re working full time, that is just plain stupid crazypants. Two a week should be doable and ideally, at least a couple of those will be ones I haven’t been to before.

My kind of holiday decor: chalkboard perfection | A snowflake wonderland

{3} Rehang the map in our office/guest room with something beyond just thumbtacks and maybe even give it a frame. I have ideas, but we'll see which one will pan out...

{4} Swim or go to spinning once a week. Now that registration is officially open for the Berlin tri next year, it’s time to start varying up my workouts again. Luckily, I have Kai as my new swim buddy to force me to get to the pool, and cute, spunky spinning trainer is good motivation to get my butt back on the bike as well.

{5} Finish knitting something. I have quite a few half-finished projects and a whole box o' yarn, but Sister also has a particular request that really should be easy enough to finish in a month. Ideally, I'd like to not make her wait two years for it, like I did for Micha with his scarf.

Chalkboard Christmas card by Lily and Val Winter wonderland by Bhind Glass

Friday, December 7, 2012

Old School Prints

I've been pondering new ways to decorate our bathroom lately, as we don't have much art in there at the moment and I like big art in the bathroom (you spend a lot of time there!). The walls are troublesome as they're primarily white tile with a blue stripe and only the two feet-ish of wall space above the tile are suitable for picture hanging. Plus the ceilings are ridiculously high and the room is, in typical old Berlin style, long and very narrow.

But once I discovered that canvas prints hold up well in damp areas (thanks to this post), I've been on the prowl for inspiration in canvas form that would fill up the space and thought black-and-white could be a nice change of pace for us along with keeping things from getting too busy in the narrow space.

Then I came across a bunch of absolutely fantabulous old school pictures (while hunting for prints of Berlin from the '20s) that I've fallen madly in love with:

How cool would some of these look together on our dark teal bathroom walls? (Also, Micha gave me the promise of taking swing dancing lessons together for our anniversary this year and now I think it's official that this has to happen asap. It's on the interwebs, so there's no turning back!)

Other random pictures I heart: Dance marathon LA, Sailors, Cute mini munchkins, Mustachioed men with beer, Hollywoodland

Thursday, December 6, 2012

November Stats

All right, let's look back at November and the random goals I gave myself this past month. Here goes.

Books read: 0.75 (darn you, Wuthering Heights!)
Morning workouts completed: 8 (runs and Hot Iron class)
Kilos of turkey roasted (to perfection): 8.8 + 3 extra legs
Vacation days enjoyed: 2
Kilometers traveled: 1216
Babies cuddled: 4
Trips to Ikea: 3
Cars flooded (by leaving the sunroof open overnight while it rained): 1
Coffee tables purchased: 0 *womp womp* 

{1} Finish my Christmas shopping and shipping // Well... I’m giving myself a break on this one mainly because we’ve opted for a different kind of Christmas gift for sister this year (that I think she’ll be mighty pleased with). And I'm primarily letting good old Amazon do all the hard shopping and shipping work for me these holidays. So all in all, I'm just going to make things simple and say I did ok on this goal.

Work out in the mornings // I’ve still been doing pretty darn good with this (except this snowy week) and am rather pleased with myself. To further spur me on, I read this post yesterday about how to train yourself to get up in the morning and now am seriously considering putting it to the test. The only question is if I have the willpower to start during the holiday season...

November according to Instagram

{3} Read one classic book for every "normal" book // Check! I mean, I’m still reading Wuthering Heights. And still hating it (my teenage self was right for not finishing it after all!). So far, there is not a single character that has invoked my sympathy - in fact I pretty much can’t stand any of  them - and I only have 40 pages left to go. I don’t get it! But anywho, next on my list is The Ask and the Answer followed by The Pillars of the Earth (which Micha is kind of forcing me to read, but I trust his literary judgment), so the pattern continues.

Put pictures in all frames that are lying around the apartment // Darnit! I was thisclose to getting this done before Thanksgiving but then the terrible-yet-fabulous neverending project took over my life and I stopped. And then I bought even more frames at Ikea thanks to Kerstin, my enabler (she totally gets full blame :). So I can’t check this one off quite yet, though I did manage to frame the third of four giant posters from (woohoo!).

Get crafty at least once a week // Oh, I got crafty all right. Again, I spent most of my time on one project, but I cut, folded, and hot-glued up a storm in November. One day I’ll actually even blog about it...

Other random accomplishments: Got a new, giant passport (with 52 pages!); purchased some exciting plane tickets; visited Rheinland-Pfalz for the first time; joined my company’s small caroling group (to perform, somewhat terribly, at our holiday party tomorrow); didn't break a single glass, plate, or bowl.

I think I’m now finally ready for December!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Weekend in Pictures {A Secret Wedding}

(not ours :)

We headed to the teeny town of Osthofen (semi-near Frankfurt) last Thursday to attend the small, somewhat secret wedding of Micha's best friend, Nico and his awesome ladyfriend of 14 years, Claudi. (Secret's out now!)

The primary appeal of this wedding - not that weddings need one for me, I love other peoples' weddings, provided I never have to go to six in one year again - was that it took place in the wine region of Germany and the program included a wine tasting directly following the ceremony. Why didn't anyone thing of this genius idea sooner?!

Micha was sad to see that, although the winery was called Karl May, they did not have a wine named Winnetou (don't worry if you don't get that reference; pretty sure only Germans will).

I like to match the mother of the groom (and when the mother of the groom is a former Olympic swimming medalist, I cannot complain).

The groom's electrician brother-in-law, helped make sure the ceremony would not take place in complete darkness.

The ceremony was short and sweet, just the way I like 'em, and included a whole lot of giggling, primarily from Nico and Claudi themselves (because they're awesome like that). It took about five minutes for them to finally complete their first kiss because Claudi kept breaking out in laughter!

Classy first kiss

Sweetest picture of the day (Nico and dad)

I loved that Claudi rocked pink shoes | Wee half-Swedish Teo (the bride's best friend's baby) was resistant to the elements

After plenty of picture taking (made extremely convenient by the fact that Claudi's best friend, Doro, is a photographer), it was on to the wine tasting. Of EIGHT wines, to be exact. Eight. 

Nico's precious (and adorably sassy) niece, Kimmy, smelled all the wines with them

You can probably imagine our state when we left the tasting however many hours later (I have zero idea how long we were actually there but I do know that my nap right afterwards was a lovely hour and a half :). Most hilarious moment of the walk to the hotel? When Doro and her husband, Eric, jumped in one of the cars and casually left baby with the rest of us to meander home with! Thankfully, Kimmy was all over playing stroller-pusher (little girls are so cute).

We did not see any of the turkeys on the farm, but we did make some horse friends

Dinner that night was at the hotel restaurant (that boasted a semi-famous and definitely very good chef) and was not only extremely delicious, but also ridiculously adorable thanks to cute little big-eared, blue-eyed Teo (and yes, Liz, he has the same name as your cat!)

I may have had three of those creme brulées over the course of two days...

One of Micha's happy places includes holding a wee baby in one arm and a beer in the other

When little guy got a bit grumpy, it was Kimmy to the rescue with a wondrous foot massage!

We woke up to a bit of snow and a lot of frost on Sunday and our whole troop - which included Nico and Claudi, their parents, each of their sisters plus partner and Kimmy, and then a best friend with partner  (and one baby) on each side as well - headed to Worms for a city tour. Can we just stop right there and reflect on the fact that there is a town in Germany called Worms? This delighted me to no end pretty much the entire weekend.

It'd be very easy to play Where's Waldo with pictures of me...

My favorite part of the cathedral - and the whole tour - was the wiener dog statue hanging out near the entrance with all the gargoyles. The story goes, that he belonged to the architect that led the rebuilding of the cathedral and was always on site and always a good little guy until one day, when he started acting a little nuts and then went to bite his master's leg. The architect jumped back as the dog lunged at him and right at that moment, a huge piece of stone fell from the top right on to where he had just been standing, just barely missing both of them. For saving his life, the architect put this adorable memento of his trusty companion on the cathedral. 

Stained glass reflections | The Dackel!!

The oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe (where men are supposed to wear hats). Apparently, Prague says they have the oldest, but Worms (hehehe) says that is a big fat lie.

After the tour, the bride and groom headed home, where they then spend the rest of the day with massive stomach issues that Germans love to tell way to many details about but which I will spare you here. Suffice it to say, our second wine tasting was canceled. Which certainly didn't hinder Micha and me from trying three different kinds of glühwein at the Worms (hehehe) Christmas markets.

Then we had one of those classic moments where I had to yell-whisper to Micha to "pretend to take a picture of me but actually take a picture of that evil little boy pointing a pretend gun at the baby Jesus!!!" (in the manger scene). By the time I had explained to Micha what a manger scene is and that I actually meant gun when I said gun, boy had moved on, but was still wielding his weapon! If you're ever in Worms (hehehe), don't mess with that kid.

We all went to dinner at an adorable restaurant with a Christmas market on the second floor without Nico and Claudi that night (poor things) and those of us who did not lose our lunch were rewarded with a lovely sunset over the vineyard followed by some moon and stars viewing with Claudi's dad's massive telescope. That he keeps in the car, just in case.

And on Sunday, it was time to head back home on a snowy, snowy Autobahn. Needless to say, Micha did all the driving. I'm still Californian enough to know I do not even want to attempt to drive in the snow (like all Los Angelenos, I can barely drive in the rain).

(One day I'll get back to a more regular bloggy schedule, really!)