The Hive European Bloggers Conference

May 31, 2013

Last weekend was filled with some intense double-duty in Berlin: me attending The Hive European bloggers conference and both of us doing some serious neighborhood scouting and apartment hunting for our move. It was a bit much to cram into five days, but somehow we managed - and managed to have a great time in the process.

Since I had not been to a 'professional' event in some time, I was just eager to get out there and feel, well, professional. With a sense of purpose - not to mention some awesome free business cards from MOO - I left The Hive with a bit of a fire lit beneath my ass, which is just what one needs when feeling a little alone and afloat amidst about a million other digital personas vying for blog readers' attention. Speaking of so many bloggers, what I wouldn't have given for a list of attendees before the conference to study who would be there and who best for me to connect with. There were so many people, it was impossible to chat with everyone.

In addition to getting a serious butt workout (sessions were either on the first or fourth floor - no elevator) and some really great inspiration, I also left with some great technical tips and tricks, particularly on growing your community from Deborah Beau of Kickcan & Conkers and SEO from Georg Seebode of Android/ Linquisite / Digital Cosmonaut. Coming from the world of marketing and communications, I found much of the content to be a bit of a review, but it never hurts to brush up - especially after being out of the game for so many years!

Perhaps the best part of the conference was connecting with other bloggers, both new and those I already knew. After years of chatting online with fellow American expats Mandi of No Apathy Allowed and Tiffany from No Ordinary Homestead, we finally got to meet face-to-face. I also had the pleasure of meeting the very sweet Melanie of Dejlige Days and the not-too-far-away Sharon of Travel Meets Food, not to mention the 'what a small world' moment of meeting Nina (of the soon-to-be Pinspiration blog), a Berliner who is originally from Wiesbaden, and many other great bloggers. It was so great to meet everyone I did - and I hope I get the chance to cook for Natali of Kochen, Kunst & Ketchup as soon as we move to Berlin!

Tina Fussell of Flying House  //  Katja Hentschel of Travelettes

Deborah Beau of Kickcan & Conkers

More from Tina's presentation

A somewhat narcissistic highlight was when I discovered that Luisa Weiss of fabulous food blog The Wednesday Chef had anonymously Instagrammed a photo of what I was wearing on day two of the conference. It was kind of like when major blogger Nat the Fat Rat commented on my food Instagrams that she wanted me to come to New York and teach her to cook. I got all humbled and giddy, like the nerdy girl who gets asked to prom by the captain of the football team. But seriously - what an ego boost! (though I am still kicking myself for missing Luisa's presentation to wait for Pantone's contest winners that were never announced)

Going home with a seriously generous goodie bag and a prize in the Pantone contest for my blog entry wasn't too shabby either. I admit, it was a bit of a let-down to be given my prize as more of an afterthought, after the conference had ended, rather than getting any of the recognition outlined in the giveaway. But hey, free chair.

All in all, The Hive was a good experience and I left ready to dive into about a million things for my blog - both for my current blog and as I set to work on my new one. After some more rest first, please. Phew!

Presentation from Desiree of Vosgesparis

All images are mine, except the Instagram from The Wednesday Chef

Arrested Development & A Berlin hangover*

May 29, 2013

Utterly exhausted from apartment hunting and attending The Hive European bloggers conference in Berlin this last week, I'm spending the next few days recuperating from information overload - and a horrendous drive home. Before I dive into all the blog work I have assigned myself, or start a new apartment search in another neighborhood (hint: #welovecharlottenburg ), or sift through my hundreds of photos, I am looking forward to indulging in some much-needed sleep and as many new Arrested Development episodes as I can watch before I can't keep my eyes open any longer. Anyone else as excited as I am that they finally answered our plea for more AD goodness? This party is going to be off the hook!

*While a hangover might have a negative connotation, I always return from Berlin rejuvinated and beyond excited about our move, albeit usually exhausted and overwhelmed with all the possibilities. I am still counting the days until we call this great city home...

image via Huge Ego, Sorry.

Music Monday: Wild Belle

May 27, 2013

I have been obsessed with Wild Belle since I first heard of this brother and sister duo after their breakout debut at 2012 SXSW. There's just something about that jazzy-reggae sound, not to mention singer Natalie Bergman's unique vocals, that I can't get enough of. Thankfully, I no longer have to have the same three songs on repeat - I can listen to their whole album! This song, Shine, is one of my favorites.


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Apartment Wishlist: A good first impression

May 24, 2013

The old adage is: it's what's on the inside that counts, but I think there's something to be said for a lovely exterior. I'm sure a big part of my desire to live in a pretty building is the fact that our current apartment has the crappiest, most run-down facade on the block, if not the whole neighborhood. Sure, it's nice on the inside, partly due to the three-meter-high ceilings and ornate mouldings, but it's a bit of a downer every time we walk up to it - especially when there are such amazing architectural details all around us.

We're kicking off this Berlin trip with our very first apartment viewing this afternoon and I'm rather excited about it. The possibilities for old period details or colorful modern exteriors are abundant. Here's hoping Berlin can give us that first impression we have been pining for in the new place we call home!

The first photo is from a listing on, the rest of the photos are mine

Back to Berlin

May 23, 2013

We are hitting the road today, heading back to Berlin for some more apartment scouting and for me to attend The Hive European Bloggers conference. Once again, Bailey is along for the ride, so I can only hope the weather is halfway decent and she can be outside most of the time (though it's not looking good...). At the very least, I hope we hear back from a few of the apartments we want to see so that we can at least get the ball rolling with our hunt for a new home.

While we are of course headed back to some of our favorite Berlin eateries, the one thing we have not heard about or found is a good pizza place. If anyone has any recommendations, I would love to hear them!

image from & Other Stories

The weekend / Gambling with the weather

May 21, 2013

The threat of rain has been hanging over our heads for nearly a week. And not just rain, I'm talking about a little lightning cloud icon on the forecast every day of the week. Knowing this weekend would likely be the breaking point for the weather, we headed outdoors as soon as it looked like any bit of sunshine was peeking out to enjoy whatever we could before it hid its face again for who knows how long.

Saturday was a mostly glorious day with afternoon sun so brilliant, we decided to take a drive down to Eltville to stroll its picturesque streets, sit on the banks of the river and enjoy a glass of wine from one of the ubiquitous wine stands along the Rhine. We sat out so long, we both ended up a bit sunburned and a little lethargic, but it was so worth it.

Sunday was more an exercise in trying to beat the weather, running out for an short afternoon hike before the grey clouds that had been threatening for some time finally did unleash a downpour. Lucky for us, the rain not only stayed at bay, but blue sky even managed to make an appearance a time or two. It was the warm mugginess that promised the rain we knew was coming.

Not wanting to stray too far from home, should the weather apocalypse indeed show its face, we wound up in a new green space that once again, impressed me with its vastness and proximity to a regular neighborhood. Bailey went nuts for the tall grass and off-leash privileges, while we enjoyed the hushed calm before the storm. I just love getting lost in nature mere minutes from where we live, as it reminds me of the way my hometown used to be for several generations of my family before me. Now it is a crowded, overdeveloped and overpriced suburban mecca, where real estate prices trump any green space.

I am so thankful this was only my second snake sighting ever in Germany (and we spend a lot of time traipsing through nature over here). I've heard two recent accounts from California folks of rattlesnakes, one which ended in someone being bit. This tiny guy might have been poisonous for all I know, but at least I don't have to fear anything major here (goodbye, CA mountain lions and bears!) when we're out in the forest.

It was a good thing we got out when we did, as our holiday Monday looked like this...

Which meant cuddling up indoors with Scrabble and Game of Thrones. At least we can say we made the most of the weekend otherwise.

Hope you had an enjoyable weekend as well!

Currently obsessed: Black & white graphic prints

May 17, 2013

Don't get me wrong, I am a color fanatic. When we first moved to Germany, I stuck out like a sore thumb in my bright California color, so visible amidst the sea of khaki/navy/black-clad Germans. Now, I happily rock my neon pink pieces and playfully patterned dresses because I love how color makes me feel more than I worry about being looked at as an outsider.

Even with all this color love, most especially after my many recent acquisitions in the neon family, I have found myself drawn to graphic black and whites. While they may not be technically colorful, these bold patterns stand up to even the most saturated tones and blindingly bright hues with the strong statement they make. It's just the pop of something new and fresh my bright wardrobe and colorful home needs.

Apartment Wishlist: To kitchen, or not to kitchen...?

May 15, 2013

This is what people generally envision when thinking of what a kitchen might look like in their new apartment: cabinets, at least some counter space and somewhere to cook. To many, this might not be considered a 'luxury' kitchen, but to us renters in Germany, anything above and beyond an empty room is a luxury.

I'm not sure where the concept of the Einbauküche, or 'fitted kitchen', being entirely optional and downright rare for rented apartments came about, but it is the most ridiculous concept ever created (note: this is not the first, nor will it be the last time I rant about this subject). Renters are supposed to buy and install an entire kitchen - as in, cabinets, countertops, sink, appliances, the whole deal - each time they rent a new apartment. Because let's face it, how many kitchens are exactly the same layout and amount of space? Therefore, how likely is it that the kitchen you invest thousands of euros into is going to come along with you to your next place of residence? Exactly. For practical Germans, this is one of the few areas that they have left me completely stumped.

So as we delve into our Berlin apartment search, here's what we might expect to find in a 'kitchen'...

Even this 'unfitted' kitchen is pretty luxury in terms of space and designer accent tile. The average German kitchen tends to look something more like this:

Clinical-looking and boring. From what we've been told, Berlin apartments are now required to be outfitted with a stove and a sink, at the very least. But if this is what that is going to look like...

Well, you see where I'm going with this. I think I'd rather start from scratch, buying the appliances and sink and counter space that work for my needs. But the idea of being able to make my kitchen whatever I want it to be is also financially daunting, especially as expensive as it is just to move in this country: hefty deposits, hefty rental agent fees, that truck that will get our belongings all the way across the country. Any decent-looking installed kitchen, even from budget-conscious Ikea, is going to require a significant chunk from our moving budget. So what to do? There is Ikea's standalone kitchen furniture, which could be easily be moved from apartment to apartment, but I admittedly had a bias against it for not being 'serious' enough... that is, until I saw what Anna over at Door Sixteen did in her house in New York:

Uh, stunning, right? A far cry from the janky, 20-something's studio I envisioned those Ikea pieces belonging in. Not to mention those stools and that salvaged table she refinished and amazing tile walls she did BY HERSELF. Okay, I think her significant other probably helped, but still (I am not worthy!). Seriously though, she made pieces that many people might not even consider for their rented apartment, let alone their home, look seriously stylish. I am already leaning towards one of those empty rooms for a kitchen so I can create my own version of this hip space.

The real downside here is that we already had to buy a stove/cooktop and dishwasher when the ancient ones left behind we bought from the previous tenants (hey, they were already installed and we were moving halfway around the world - seemed like a good idea at the time...) quit working properly soon after we moved in. So a portable kitchen such as this would mean ditching them - or at least trying to sell them to the next tenants of our current apartment - and buying new again. Save on the cabinets, spend on the appliances. *sigh...* So much to consider...

It's almost enough just to raise the white flag and declare 'Einbauküche only'! We could luck out with something as decent as one of these:

And then that's one less thing to stress about for our move. Frankly, anything is better than the decades-old Ikea kitchen we have now, complete with grid design in the cabinet glass and mold growing rampant in the wood counter tops. I guess we shall see what apartments we find and which landlords deem us, and our sub-par German, worthy of renting a highly covetable Berlin apartment to...

All images, except the one from Anna of Door Sixteen, are from Berlin apartment listings on and

My favorite cookie recipe: Mrs Fields Krispies

May 10, 2013

I have a confession to make: cookies are not my favorite thing. For the most part, I could take them or leave them. If I'm going to have something sweet, I would much rather have some amazing ice cream or a moist cupcake or some of my favorite candies. There's something about the often dry, overly-sweet, 'blah' texture of a cookie that just doesn't do it for me. That is, except for these gems which I discovered in a Mrs. Fields recipe book circa 1994.

Krispies are the perfect marriage of sweet and salty, crunchy but chewy. I know most people are very particular about their cookies - nuts, no nuts, milk chocolate, dark chocolate - so I'm sure these aren't for everyone. But for me, these are the cat's pajamas, the cream of the crop and the cookie I would request if it was the last one I ever got to eat.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Mrs. Fields Krispies

2 cups all-purpose flour (I use German 405)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed 
1/2 cup white sugar
3/4 cup salted butter, softened (I use 3/4 of a standard European butter and add a pinch of salt)
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (no substitutions)
1 cup Rice Krispies cereal
1-1/2 cups (8oz/227g) crispy rice chocolate bar, coarsely chopped (see below for my recommendation when you can't get your hands on a Nestlé Crunch bar)

Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and soda. Mix well with a wire whisk and set aside. In a large bowl, blend sugars with an electric mixer at medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste. Scrape down sides of bowl, then add egg and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add flour mixture, Rice Krispies and chocolate chunks, blend at low speed until just combined (do not overmix). Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, two inches/ centimeters apart. Bake for 22-24 minutes. Immediately transfer cookies with a spatula to a cool, flat surface. 

Here in Europe, Nestlé Crunch bars are nearly impossible to come by and every rice-related chocolate bar in Europe seems to favor the puffed variety, rather than the good crunch of crisped rice. This is well and good for snacking, but puffed rice just makes these cookies fall flat. I was at a loss until I found these babies: Rapunzel's Crispy chocolate bars, which I buy at Alnatura. If you happen to find another great substitution for this chocolate, I would love to hear about it.

And also, these cookies are best enjoyed thoroughly cooled for that perfect crunch!