Pantone Emerald = Spring's splendor

April 29, 2013

For many years, I believed that green was not the color for me. I avoided all lime, grass and emerald hues, thinking that they somehow didn't work for my pale, Irish coloring (clearly, I needed to branch out). But then one day a little over a decade ago, I tried on a bold green sweater on a whim... and what do you know? I fell in love. These days, I have quite a collection of emerald pieces in my wardrobe.

As spring has sprung this year, after a particularly long and grey winter, I am reminded of how Pantone's color of the year is also the color of the season. Sure, there are blooms of varied colors and glorious blue skies, but emerald is the color that arrives first, leaves last and shines with the most brilliance and abundance in the season's sunshine. It is the color that breathes life into the world around us, waking it - and us - up after months dominated by grey and white. I for one feel recharged by this shade and am inspired to pull more emerald out of my closet and go wiggle my toes in the green, green grass.    

*This post is a submission for Pantone's Do You Feel Emerald? blog contest

A few Friday things

April 26, 2013

Of course this beautiful weather we've been having was too good to last... Looks like we are back to rain and grey skies for the coming week, so I'm channeling my hopefulness into a return of yesterday's picture-perfect, summer-like day very soon.

Wishing you a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend, wherever you are! Any exciting plans..? We are going wine tasting at a few of our favorite wineries' open cellar days. If there is not going to be any sun, going underground to sip wine amongst the barrels has got to be the next best thing!

Here are a few things on my radar this Friday:

This funny little tumblr illustrating people's Facebook statuses (via Man Repeller).

Kind of wishing a new dress was in the budget for this summer's wedding - not to mention some new shoes.

Daydreaming about what I could do with a new German kitchen I got to design from scratch... like this green kitchen.

With rainy season getting underway, I'm really feeling this right now.

Being late to the everyone-and-their-mother-has-a-dSLR show - not to mention in a major budget crunch - I figured this might be a good place to start. Thoughts..?

Anxiously awaiting a shipment that contains these Tattlys. At least, until he agrees to do the real deal for me.

White Faux Taxidermy is awesome. If European shipping didn't cost an arm and a leg, I'd make that moose head mine.

Happy Friday all!

Martha Stewart's buttermilk waffles

April 24, 2013

I was on the lookout for a Belgian waffle maker for a good year into our life in Germany, as they are mostly those flat, shallow waffle makers and the ones for deep, thick waffles are rather hard to find. Once I did acquire the right kind of appliance, I was naturally on the hunt for the best waffle recipe I could find. Not surprisingly, I have found Martha Stewart's to be, far and away, the very best. Waffles make me nostalgic for childhood and have become a staple of our weekend breakfasts. The bit of cinnamon and brown sugar in these makes them a stand-out amongst basic waffle recipes.

Martha's Buttermilk Waffles

8 tbsp (1 stick) melted unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use German 405 flour)
1/4-cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (hard to come by in Germany, but a must)

Pre-heat waffle iron. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Pour into dry mixture and stir until just combined. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until firm but not dry. Fold whites into batter. Ladle about 1/3 cup into waffle iron, depending on size, and spread batter almost to edges. Close lid and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on iron. Transfer waffles to a plate and pop into toaster for a few second to rewarm just before serving.

Martha's recipe says it serves four to six, but unless you're eating an entire platter of waffles, I find this makes much more. As in, 15 single square waffles. She also recommends buttering the iron, but I find that my waffle iron traps too much moisture and this makes my waffles too soggy.

Because this recipe does make so much, and the egg whites deflate unless you use the batter immediately, I cook the entire batch and then freeze them for homemade frozen waffle breakfasts through the following week. A quick pop in the toaster and they are nearly as good as they were on the first day!

adapted from Martha Stewart's Buttermilk Waffle recipe

The Great Hair Experiment: DIY haircut + L'Oreal Wild Ombre hair color

April 22, 2013

After hemming and hawing over my hair for quite some time now, I finally took the plunge on Sunday and did a whole at-home cut and color. First and foremost, not only am I not a professional (yikes!), but I had no idea what I was doing. So here's how I tackled this challenge and how it turned out...

Since I had cut my bangs at home many times, I was actually less nervous about the cut until the morning of when I realized I had absolutely no idea how to go about an entire haircut. True to form, the great wealth of knowledge that is the internet offered some suggestions. I found this nice little tutorial that seemed simple enough... that is, until I started cutting. Seeing as I also decided to cut my hair dry for fear of cutting off more than I intended, it meant chopping through a ponytail full of half my hair - and I have a lot of hair. I quickly started to see how this would be much easier when wet, but I had started down this road and was now committed (in case you were wondering, I was using proper hair-cuttings scissors, so the issue was clearly my hair).

I managed to get through the ponytails as even as I could, but had to enlist my husband's help evening out the back (to avoid that v-shape). I was so nervous, I cut little by little until I was just too scared to cut anymore and made the whole process an hour longer than it needed to be. It's probably a touch longer than what I was shooting for, but better that than too short. My first finger still bears the blister and bruising from all this effort with the scissors, but hey, I didn't have to shell out €100 for a haircut, so I'm sucking it up. I evened it out a bit more when it was wet from my post-color shampoo and I think that helped. Luckily, I also had a hair-cutting-experienced friend who offered to help out if the cut went to awry.

I decided to go ombre with the color because of it's low commitment (no roots to touch up!) and because I'm still not sold on getting rid of my natural color all together, even as just a base for highlights. So, I watched several tutorials on the L'Oréal Wild Ombrés colors (I believe these are under the Féria line in the States, but over here, it's part of the Préférence line) and it looked even easier than regular hair color. I also liked that the 'after' photos on the all the reviews I saw weren't crazy drastic, but more of a subtle lighter color. I also chose the less drastic Ombré N°2 (070 in the Féria line), for dark blond to medium brown hair, rather than the lightest blond, so that my results would err more on the natural side. I figured I could always go back over it with a lighter color if I wanted it more dramatic.

The one thing I did notice on all but one review of the product was that everyone seemed to follow the instructions literally, which resulted in more of a dip-dye look as opposed to a fading ombre. Since I wanted more of a fade, applied the color higher and higher up my hair in ten minute increments, so that the color on the bottom was on for the longest and therefore would be more processed (read: lighter) than the next section higher. I had my husband help a bit with the back (so as not to end up with a color-v as well), but mostly just brushed it in haphazardly so that it would result in what I hoped would be a naturally-highlighted fade. I brushed some higher in the pieces that frame my face for even more color variation. In all, I would say I had the color on some part of my hair for nearly the maximum amount of time (45 minutes) before I washed it out.

In the shower, I could already see how blonde the ends looked and this was only magnified as my hair began to dry. But after my hair was totally dry and styled, the blond no longer seemed as light. Perhaps it was because of the curl in my hair or the rapidly fading daylight, but it was harder to see the significantly lighter ends.

Some close-up shots, as well as seeing the color in various lighting, helped demonstrate the color results a bit better. It is definitely on the warmer, brassier side of blond, but because my hair still has a fair amount of red tones from my time as a redhead, it works nicely with the color I already have on my hair.

Overall, I'm very happy with the results of my little hair experiment. I got fun new hair for the cost of a box of color (€6,95) and a bit of a bruised finger. While I may decide to brush some even lighter color through the bottom section and may have to enlist the help of my hair-cutting friend once I see the cut on a more straight hair day, for now, I am a convert to this whole DIY hair concept. I'm sure my wallet is too!

Musings on change (and being a girl)

April 19, 2013

My favorite episode of Top Model, always, is the makeover show. Sure, like most members of the female sex, I get off on a great transformation, but really I'm in it for the haircut meltdowns. The whiny little bitches who cry as if they are cutting off an arm, unaware they could actually be one haircut away from $5,000 runway gig. I take a little joy in the ridiculousness, but mostly I'm just baffled. I mean, what fun is it being a girl if not for the multitude of ways we can alter and play with our appearance? Ever since I learned that I could - as in, chopping my waist-length locks to a short bob for the start of the first grade - I have reveled in the transformative power of changing my hair.

But now, nearly thirty years later, I've found myself stuck again in that long hair rut. I suppose that is just sort of the way with long hair though. You grow it and grow it (and grow it...) until one day you think, okay, now what? Well I've hit that point a few times, so I've cut it and took it from auburn to dark blond - and dyed the tips blue at one point - and I'm still saying 'now what?'. It's clearly time for something new.  

I have really been loving the blunt, long bobs - or 'lobs', if you will - that have been popping up all over the place, especially on Emily Blunt (no pun intended). Then when J.Crew posted its little St. Barths shoot with the model with the collarbone-grazing cut, I became obsessed. So I'm not sure what's been stopping me. Well, money for the usually nice haircuts I insist on, for one, but I'm thinking of just going all Man Repeller in my bathroom and chopping it myself. Then there's still the color to contend with...

My shift back to a golden dark blond/light brown with honey highlights has brought me closer to my natural color, but as you can see from the many months of grow out, it's nothing to write home about. That dull, mousy hue hasn't been dubbed 'dishwater blond' for nothing. I now remember why I started dying my hair all those years ago... So I can either pick up where that pricey colorist left off and do my own roots in the closest thing I can find to this warm dark blond, or I can run with the grow out and lighten just the ends for an ombre effect. I'm afraid anything more involved - i.e. all-over highlights or a new color altogether - would require a professional. With our strict savings plan for our Berlin move, I'm strictly in DIY territory here.

So readers, what do you think? A cut? A color? Am I crazy for trying to take this on myself..? I'm open to suggestions and opinions!

top images from (clockwise): Zara, Getty Images, J.Crew, Splashnews

Glasses + Shoes = My dream come true!

April 18, 2013

After yesterday's realization and subsequent post that Simon Baker and I have worn the same glasses, I couldn't help but be reminded of these shoes. I about died when I saw the result of the new collaboration between Keds and Taylor Swift: a pair of shoes with glasses on them! Just in case you somehow missed this little fact about me - I am obsessed with shoes. My shoe collection is of Imelda Marcos proportions. Okay, not quite, but it's serious. Add to that my love of glasses, and these limited edition sneaks might have to join my ever-expanding shoe collection. 

Simon Baker and I are kindred spirits

April 17, 2013

That's right - I'm glasses twins with the handsome and oft-bespectacled Simon Baker. Okay, with his character in I Give It a Year, but I'm not splitting hairs on this one. Thanks to the amazing Warby Parker for making such great frames - not to mention doing such great work - and to Lunettes de for bringing this to my attention. I don't think I'm taking these frames off all week...

(I Give It a Year is just hitting German cinemas this week and looks to be quite funny)

photo of Simon Baker by Jules Heath ©Studio Canal, via

The weekend / A little bit of sun, a little bit of flu

April 15, 2013

Unfortuntately, the glorious almost summer-like weather that arrived this weekend coincided a second, and much worse, bout of the flu this season. After five days of body aches, sneezing so violent I worried I might actually dislodge a lung and a pile of tissues on my beside table that rivaled the leaning tower of Pisa, my excitement even for 20-degree temperatures was lost somewhere inside my foggy, fever-addled brain. 

But my husband, fresh back from walking the dog Sunday afternoon, was so inspired by the amazing weather - and equally concerned about my being shut up inside the apartment and miserable for nearly a week - that he insisted I put on some clothes so he could, at the very least, drive me around in the sunshine. Somehow I managed a swipe of mascara, pulled my hair up in a ponytail and dusted off my sunglasses that hadn't seen, well, sun in many, many months. Even better than finally being able to break out sunglasses was the fact that I slipped on my Minnetonkas without socks. Without socks! For me, that is the first true sign of spring. I even kicked them off in the car and wriggled my bare toes in the warmth with glee. 

While I didn't last terribly long before I started sneezing uncontrollably and my eyes started watering to the point of blindness, it was worth it to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the sights of springtime coming to life. My husband even noted I was smiling for the first time in several zombie-faced days. The endless parade of bicyclists down the riverside paths, the masses out walking their dogs and just strolling through town, the hillside castles standing a little taller in the bright sun, the Seilbahn back in commission, taking people up and down over the hillside vineyards in Rüdesheim... all signs that this is only the beginning. And that perhaps it is finally time to put my snow boots away for the season.    

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

...on second thought

April 12, 2013

 photo youknowyouregermanwhen_zpsc30de867.jpg

I think I am actually a long way off from being German, after all.

Image from You know you're German when... tumblr

I think I'm turning German...

April 11, 2013

The first thought I had when I saw this weather forecast for the weekend, after a week of rain, mind you, was: I am going to the park on Sunday, taking off my top and laying in the sun. After three years here, I can finally understand the desperation that sets in after months of wondering if the sun has in fact burned up and now ceases to exist. That appalled shock I used to feel when stumbling upon German women casually soaking up the springtime park sun in their white, lacy bras - which is not because I'm a prude mind you, topless beaches are OK by me - has turned more into an intense desire to take my own clothes off the minute the sun graces us with its presence. Take the time to go home and change into the more 'appropriate' bikini top and it could be dark and stormy by the time you return. It's also inspiring to see Germans, the wonderfully anal planners and rule-followers that they are, do something so spontaneous just because it feels so damned good.

So until the cursed rain stops and the sun shows its face this weekend, I will be tucked away indoors, nursing a serious case of SAD, and now unfortunately, also a bit of cold/flu. But as soon as that sun shows its glorious face and the temperatures reach 20C, I'll be running to the nearest patch of green, throwing down a blanket and soaking in the vitamin D with the rest of the Germans - bikini top or not.

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Exploring Berlin: Pankow and Kreuzberg

April 04, 2013

Our latest Berlin trip was mostly about getting Bailey there to get her take, but we also went with the intention of expanding our Berlin neighborhood knowledge. For those of you unfamiliar with the city, it is massive. Like many other big cities, it has many different neighborhoods, each with its own greatly differing vibe - from busy, touristy Mitte to the quiet, spread-out surburbia that makes up the city's outskirts, so far out it's hard to believe that one is still in fact, in Berlin. After our initial trip, we fell in love with Prenzlauer Berg, but our apartment search has shown us that this neighborhood is definitely desirable - and has the rent prices prove it. A firm believer in the adages 'you get what you pay for' and 'location, location, location', I was admittedly hesitant to widen our search to other, as-of-yet unexplored parts of town in search of getting more for our money, but off we went with open minds...


Our second full day in Berlin, we decided Bailey was ready give a longer train ride - U-Bahn and S-Bahn - out to Pankow a shot, mostly in search of a new coffee shop with amazing-looking baked goods that I had learned about via someone I follow on Instagram (have I mentioned how much I love Instagram?). While Bailey certainly appreciated the less-crowded and view-filled ride on the S-Bahn, the time it took to get all the way out there got us thinking... That's how long it would take to get into the middle of town if we wanted to go out. Hmm.  

Sure, it took a while to get out there, but our arrival at the ridiculously beautiful Pankow station and initial wanderings through the neighborhood had us changing our tune. The buildings were all gorgeous and well-taken care of. Graffiti was minimal. It actually reminded us a bit of Wiesbaden, with a slower pace about it and the sidewalks filled with small children and older couples. After making our way through a little park and past the most gorgeous Rathaus I have seen in Germany, we found our destination: Stück vom Glück

Initially worried we would have to get everything zum Mitnehmen and eat out in the cold, on account of our overly-excitable dog, a peek inside showed a wide open space with minimal patrons that would be perfect for our not-always-so-well-behaved pooch. While not quite the sprawling food choices one might find in an American shop, the carefully curated selection proved to be delicious. We got something savory - a warm vegetarian quiche with a beautiful salad - and something sweet - a perfectly crunchy blueberry tart with fresh cream - and were quite impressed with both. The coffee was some of the best I've had in Berlin, the space was well-designed and inviting (the white and hot pink walls fondly reminded me of my mother's frozen yogurt shop, painted in the very same color scheme) and best of all, the proprietors were warm and full of smiles. No matter where we end up settling in this city, this is definitely a place I look forward to frequenting. 

Sufficiently warmed and fed, we headed towards nearby parks to feed our four-legged family member's need for running and exploring. Per usual, we were impressed. The amount of space in Berlin dedicated parks never ceases to astound me. It's as if there is NYC's Central Park every few blocks. Not only are they abundant, but they seem to go on and on, to the point of getting lost in them. I think this was what won Bailey over in this city.

We decided to spend some more time exploring the neighborhood by walking to an even bigger park several blocks further out - which ended up resembling more of a forest than an urban green space - taking us through a picture-perfect suburban-looking part of town. While the yards were enviable and the wide, quiet streets held a kind of serenity, it just felt a bit like what we were trying to get away from. Ultimately, we want to live in Berlin to be in the middle of all the things going on, not to rediscover the suburbia we left behind in California. 


We decided to stay in Kreuzberg this trip because of it's proximity to both Tempelhof and Viktoriapark, for Bailey's sake. We knew such a big city would be a bit of a shock to her, so we figured easing her in, rather than plopping her right down in Mitte, would be the best plan to win her over. We stopped at Tempelhof first thing after getting into the city so that Bailey could get out the pent-up energy from five hours in the car. She was an immediate fan. It was the first time she had been able to roam free in a fenced in dog area since leaving California. The first morning, we began by walking to Viktoriapark, which was of course a winter wonderland on this first full day of spring, with the fresh dumping of snow the city was getting. Like most places after a heavy snowfall, it was hushed and magical, so we felt the neighborhood was off to a good start.  

The more we walked around Kreuzberg though, the more we started to see the reason behind its 'up-and-coming' status. Some blocks were beautiful - clean, well-kept architecture, nice-looking people - whereas some blocks were much more dingy, with layers of overlapping graffiti, broken sidewalks and storefronts that were merely cardboard boxes piled on the sidewalk with chintzy wares (the antique doorknobs below were a rare exception) like some sort of third-world market. It's one thing to have these as parts of the city to visit, but it's another to have it right on your doorstep. Being so new to the city, it was hard to know where the respectable addresses end, and the decline begins...

Our final morning in Berlin, I got a hankering for doughnuts - real, American doughnuts, not Berliners - after realizing Dunkin' Donuts populated this city in abundance, so we make the trek down Gneisenaustrasse and Hasenheide in the bone-chilling, -6C windy morning air - albeit, beautifully sunny - to grab coffee, doughnuts (which like most American treats I crave, wound up being mildly disappointing) and a place at the nearby Hasenheide park to enjoy our breakfast in the sun. 

While the park was a beautiful expanse of white beneath the shining blue sky, and even had a surprising little menagerie whose inhabitants ranged from sheep to ponies to camels, there was something about that part of town that morning that turned us off. Perhaps it was the shady-looking guys outposted at each path crossroads, trying to look inconspicuous, or maybe the dirty, slurring trio of guys who tried to reach out to Bailey as we walked past, one of them cleaning his bloodied hands in the snow, but these negative elements made us feel that this neighborhood was still a bit on the other side of transitioning for our liking. There's a fine line between a little city grit and being stabbed in broad daylight, and this seemed to hold more of an opportunity for the latter. 

Of course, like Pankow, just because we might not want to settle here does not mean we didn't find things to love. There was a street of charming shops with promising-looking contents and a bakery containing the best bread I've ever had in Germany. The unassuming storefront, the giant domed bread oven in the corner, the selection of not only dense, dark German bread, but white fluffy loaves and brioches... I knew this would be worth traveling to for weekend morning breakfast makings. I will continue to dream about the brioche french toast I made from that bread until I can get back for another loaf...

Until next time Berlin.... We'll see you in May!

Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische