Thursday, 29 December 2011

pumpkins and other gifts

My cryptic German oven still foils ever third attempt at baked satisfaction, so stovetop recipes are welcome.

A friend who lives in a part of Berlin rural enough to have apple trees and pumpkin patches gave me some, just like that, as a gift.

I've never eaten pumpkin. My mother brought with her from the Caribbean an absurd phobia of the plant, expounding only that "something bad will happen" when we eat it.  I dutifully passed on sumptuous pies, ratatouille, and risottos for decades. Until last year, when my sister offered me freshed baked pumpkin muffins before a holiday dinner.  "You eat pumpkin?" I inquisited, already salivating.  "Yeah, it's delicious," my sister replied while applying melted butter to the least perfect muffin she served to herself.

So, since my sister is always right, I accepted the gift and the simple recipe that came with it. I did in the end have to turn on the beast to roast the apples, pumpkin and carrots with sage, salt, pepper and butter.

This isn't first time I've documented myself confronting a phobia, but it was the most delicious.
 
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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

all I want for christmas is you

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If Germany were my boyfriend, Christmas markets would be a bouquet of roses and copy of ELLE magazine on my doorstep.

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We have an "on again, off again" relationship to say the least.  At this time of year, all is forgiven: less than positive experiences at the Auslanderamt (why is it called "outsider's office" and not "immigration office"?), the dog crap on the sidewalks, the cold breakfasts which look like the beginnings of a boring sandwich.

I take you back in my arms, year after year, because you know how to romance me: hot wine with spices (and nuts if you are lucky enough to find a Swedish stand), delicious things roasted and sweetened, and creative variations on the pancake which I long for all year.

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I eat and I drink and I take it all in, because I know tomorrow, Germany is going to leave the toilet seat up again.

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Sunday, 6 November 2011

mr. cohen and me

In his tighty whities, he blew me away with:

"You always have the feeling when you are in a hotel that you are on the lam, and it is one of those safe moments in the escape
It's that breathing spot ...the hotel is the oasis of the Downtown..."


Later, in a leather bomber, he gave me a new mantra:

"I wake up in the morning...my real concern is to discover whether or not I am in a state of grace. If I make that investigation and I discover that I am not in a state of grace, I try to go to bed.
A state of grace is that kind of balance with which you ride the chaos which is going on around you."


Yours to enjoy: "Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen" (1965, dir. Donald Brittain & Don Owen), son Montreal tailors, writing poetry to the city, to us, to God.




courtesy of National Film Board of Canada.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

lock on love

This curious and romantic custom of attaching a chain and lock to a bridge as relationship insurance has made its way to Münster, Germany.  The tradition apparently started in Köln, where bridges are full to the brim with public declarations of love.

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My favourites are the ones with names and dates engraved in sappy "handwritten" fonts.

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Don't forget to throw the key into the waters below.

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Friday, 23 September 2011

fontastic friday: revolutionary road

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I was having too much fun in Toronto to take more pictures.

I've always loved how each neighbourhood gets it's own name and sign. Rather than segregating, it creates a real sense of community. There are signs for Little Italy, Chinatown, and even rainbows for the "gay district" around Church Street. For me, the street street signs represent that great Canadian phenomenon of "ethnicity" vs. "visual minority status". The latter is something other people choose for you, where as the former is a label you choose for yourself.

In the case of the "Africanisches Viertel" (african area) in Berlin, the street names later determined the cultural flavour. In the 1800s, names like "Togostrasse" or "Senegalstrasse" were given to streets to "honour" Germany's colonial past. There was even the idea to create an African themed park/zoo in the area, complete with animals (and people) that you would see on the continent.

It never happened. One hundred years later, immigrants from places like Ghana and Camereon heard the street names and wanted to live there. They invited their families to join them, and now the neighbourhood in Berlin's Wedding district is the only place I can find Afro Shops and grocery stores selling plantain.

Friday, 16 September 2011

fontastic friday: Jesus of Montreal

la maison

artisanal quebecois

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The most vibrant, melancholic, romantic city in which I've had the privilege of being misunderstood.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

colour mix

When I bought my first dirndl, the shop lady insisted on bringing me one size smaller than I usually wear. "The breasts don't go in the dress," she explained. Then she asked me if I were single or taken, which I thought was a bit forward after all this talk about my bosom. Turns out she just wanted to know whether to tie my apron bow to the left, or to the right.

I don't live in Bayern, where it is common to wear a dirndl for everything from farm work to a wedding reception. If I did, I would be adding this to my collection:

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Sisters Darouiche and Rahmée Wetterich started the brand NOH NEE in 2010. They were born in Cameroon and now call Munich home. What I love about the brand is their whole philosophy of "colour mix" - to hear the sisters talk about dresses makes you want to vote them into German Parliament: “(Colour mix) will be of great importance in the days to come....people will get to know each other, they will innovate, and they will see their own traditions in a different light."

In Germany, people talk more about "integration" than they do about "multiculturalism". This dress gives me hope for something in the middle.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

favourite font

I wasn't sure if I am a huge fan, or seriously scared of Tyler the Creator. The video for his song "Yonkers" is self-written and directed, and he apparently also came up with the scenario for the video for "She"...but the upside down cross imagery and candid talk of violence and suicide in his lyrics kind of got to me...

Then I found out he has a favourite font.

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Thing is, Tyler wants to scare us. He's 20 years old, stuck in his own world with his skateboarding, marginalized friends. He talks about all the things rumbling in the back of our heads, only he just turned 20 so he hasn't yet programmed himself to ignore it like the rest of us.

Honestly, I don't think I could choose my favourite font. That's what is so great about being 20-year-old like Mr. Creator...everything is so black and white.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

eau d'recognition

One of my favourite German brands has relauched with a new logo.

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Part of the reason why I loved no. 4711 (the original eau d'Cologne) so much was the old-fashioned packaging. I'm such a sucker for italic and gold...the overindulgent Rococco-esque mishmash reminds me of Florida Water, another "eau" with a pungent smell.

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This stuff has also been around for ages, and it is apparently used in magic spells and special prayers (fine line between the two I guess) to ward off bad spirits and the like. I put it on when I know I will be around grumpy people. I can only find it in Caribbean shops, which unlike grumpy people, are few and far between in Berlin.

I'm not sure if the new logo will replace the old, but lately, my cherished echte Kölnischwasser has also been harder to find. So, what do you do when a brand no longer identifies with you?

eau d'collection
Stock up.

Friday, 5 August 2011

fontastic friday: Roman Holiday

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I did all my shopping at the Via Sannio flea market and a boutiques on Via del Boschetto: five gauzy, sari dresses and a silk scarf. Everything I bought was made in India, which I sort of felt guilty about, until I read that "Indians are the Italians of Asia".

Could Italians also be the Asians of Europe? I think living in Berlin has opened me up to the poetic simplicity of stereotypes.

(ROMAN HOLIDAY, 1953), dir. William Wyler, cast: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

heads of state

I love it when a political moment becomes a fashion moment.

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I wonder if Salva Kiir Mayardit, the new president of the newly-minted South Sudan, was inspired by the custom-made white Smithbilt cowboy hats that are a traditional gift to guests visiting Calgary?

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Here's hoping they meet one day at opposite ends of a bar...

Saturday, 2 July 2011

WAH to watch

I'm convinced Sharmadean Reid is the reason I want to paint my nails tonight. A 24-year old entrapreneur who is rocking the fashion world from her corner in London...


Friday, 10 June 2011

fontastic friday: the last castle

admirals palast

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Pallast

Palaces all over the platz in Berlin, well Friedrichstrasse and some dodgy corner in Schöneberg.

(The Last Castle, 2001), dir. Rod Lurie, cast: Robert Redford, James Gandolfini and Mark Ruffalo)

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

history lesson

Is it just me, or when you read this:

the paris commune street, berlin

...do you think of this?

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I have to admit, I had to wiki this one, but I enjoyed picturing the street filled hippies like me leisurly braiding each other's hair and attempting to macramé a better world...

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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

in and out

I had a birthday last weekend.

In the past, I've said that celebrating into your birthday is the more elegant way to party. But now I'm a firm believer in rocking out of it as well.

The day before my birthday, we had a guerrilla gardening party. Everyone brought flowers, and we planted them in front of our apartment.

This is what it looked like before:
before garden

And this is what it looks like now.
garden after shot

Yes those are little, mini garden gnomes. I swear they are in a different position every morning. Idols (especially those with pointy hats) are a total "no no" in Caribbean culture, but they look adorable, so count this as yet another small step towards integration.

Some people didn't fully understand the concept and brought bouquets of flowers, which was just as lovely because a) my apartment now looks like a blooming oasis and b)"oh, sorry, I thought you meant..." is ususally my line here in Germany, and it was refreshing to be on the recieving end.

It was one of the best days of my life. I tell you, if you are not feeling like getting older, celebrate big, and ask for gifts that aren't for yourself. Nothing like taking the focus off your own existence to make you love life anew.

Since it was so awesome, I was so not planning to stay up past midnight on my birthday. But we went for dinner, and then someone suggested we have one last drink at the Kohlenquelle. Here are some fuzzy impressions of the bar. Lots of vintage-looking signs, sans serif fonts and stern warnings in German.

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This is the barkeep. I'm going to just tell you his real name, because now he is my BFF.
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Dirk told us he was closing, and I told him it was my birthday. We convinced him to serve us juice in bottles, and when they were half done, to mix cocktails directly in the bottle (no washing up!).

He found out it was my birthday, and told us we have to go to Roses. If we helped him close up, he would take us there. We closed the bar and I got to watch my best friend wipe tables and stack chairs while wearing Dior.

We danced until morning, and instead of the post-party blues, when I came home, I was welcomed by a growing reminder that this city is full of angels.

garden angels

Friday, 20 May 2011

fontastic friday: Rounders

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Top to bottom, orthopedic shop on Chaussestrasse, delivery truck off of Weinmeisterstrasse, pub on Putbusser Str.

Rounders (1998) crime drama 121 mins.

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