Archive for March, 2014

  • Sunday Selections

    Berlin welcomed us home on Tuesday after a long 24-hour transit with a hailstorm of all things! Needless to say, I was less than impressed. The weather Gods have more than made up for it this weekend, however, spoiling us with the most gorgeous spring weather. I even wore a t-shirt out today! How exciting is that?

    Falkplatz Cherry Blossoms

    WATCH: I’m super pumped that one of my favourite journalists and broadcasters, Louis Theroux, is back on air with his brand-new documentary series, ‘LA Stories’. Whilst I’ve only seen episode one, ‘City of Dogs’ so far, already I’m hooked and can’t wait to follow the rest of the series. Theroux has such an inquisitive and forthright way about him that naturally creates trust between himself and his subjects, therefore resulting in a greater divulgence of information between the two parties. This all makes for great viewing. This series examines various aspects of LA life ranging from mental illness and crime, to life and death. Sunday nights just got a whole lot better. Thanks to my friend Jess for the heads up!

    READ: I can’t wait to head to Street Food Thursday at Markthalle IX again after reading about all the yumminess there in Stil in Berlin’s recent blog post. The Mogg & Melzer pastrami sandwhich is looking mighty fine.

    COOK: If you’re lacking on the cooking inspiration front right now and you’re somewhere around Melbourne, you absolutely MUST book a table at Añada, my most favourite restaurant. With such generosity, our dearest friends, Jess and Nick, took Ben and I out to dinner here for our birthdays last weekend when we were in Australia. I’m still dreaming about the soprasada with honey and the Otway Ranges pork belly with fennel seed and smoky aubergine. Too good.

    MAKE: My skin is feeling a little dry and flaky from getting a tad sunburnt from that strong Aussie sun. This DIY Homemade Mandarin Body Scrub could be just the thing it needs. The oil found in mandarins has been found to aid in the production of new cells and restoration of tissue. Perfect.

    DREAM BUY: How dreamy does the Palazzo Avino on the Amalfi Coast in Italy look? A week here with these sweeping sea views would do so much good. Ah, a girl can only dream…

    BUDGET BUY: I love visiting the Turkish Market in Kreuzberg on either a Tuesday or Friday to stock up on the freshest and cheapest local produce. It gets crazy busy by mid-afternoon, but it’s oh so worth it. This week’s highlight was the beautiful punnets of fresh strawberries and raspberries for €1 each. I love the fact that summer berries are available again!

    GO: I’m currently looking into booking a couple of long-weekend escapes in May. Not making the most of the long-weekends over here would just be a crime wouldn’t it? Italy is looking mighty tempting, albeit a little pricey. Can I really say no to Italy though? No! Let’s go!

  • On Belonging

    It’s a funny thing, this living overseas business. I don’t think I realised how much change would occur in me when I made this move and it certainly wasn’t apparent to me in any case. That is, until I came home to Australia for a visit this month.

    Ben and I longed for this little break for so many reasons — we were missing family and friends dreadfully, we desperately needed some sunshine and vitamin D after the long European winter, and we generally just needed to re-set in anticipation of what the rest of 2014 in Berlin would bring. Our three-week ‘holiday’ met all of these needs wonderfully.

    I couldn’t help feeling that something was amiss, though. I found difficulty in describing how I felt at first and put this strange feeling down to jet-lag, feeling as though I hadn’t properly adjusted. But as time went on and the feeling didn’t vanish, I came to realise and was able to articulate what this sense of strangeness was all about.

    I felt as though I lived in two worlds and was living two completely different lives. One was in a foreign place that had come to feel somewhat familiar and comfortable; the other, an exceedingly familiar and comfortable place that now seemed strange to me. Everything in Australia was easy, predictable and comfortable. Nothing was ever difficult and we were forever surrounded by people who loved us. But, strangely, I wasn’t settled when I was there. I felt as though I had come back to a place that was the same as it had always been, but that somehow, I was a little bit different now, and slotting seamlessly back into my old life was more difficult than I had anticipated.

    I know without a doubt that the experiences I’ve had over the past nine months living abroad have caused some deep-seated change within me. I’m seeing things with fresh eyes and I now know that I’m not ready to come back home yet. I feel like there’s unfinished business to attend to over here in Europe and that’s an exciting prospect. I’m restless and hungry for opportunity. And I know, more than ever, that I need to make the most of this time of my life, before the constraints of a mortgage or family inevitably arise. I know that this is where I’m supposed to be right now. So I’ll continue to push forward and savour every moment of this extraordinary life.

    Besides, can one really argue with Einstein of all people?

    ‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.’

    Passport Melbourne Airport

  • Sunday Selections

    I can’t believe we’ll be heading back to Berlin tomorrow! The past two and a half weeks have flown by. Saying goodbye to our lovely family and friends is always the hardest part, but I have to say that I’m also pretty excited about the opportunities that the rest of 2014 will bring.

    Lonely Planet Magazine

    WATCH: HBO’s new production, True Detective, is the talk of the town right now and I must admit, I’m hooked. With a stellar cast featuring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, whose performances are of the highest class, the production value of the series is exceptional. Season one follows the story of two Louisiana State Police homicide detectives’ hunt for a serial killer across the timespan of seventeen years. There is an eerie tone within the complex structure of the production which makes for great viewing. I’ve only had the opportunity to watch a couple of episodes so far but I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds!

    READ: I was so excited to get my hands on some English language magazines upon returning home to Australia. When I saw the cover of the Lonely Planet Traveller magazine above, I just had to buy it. With a feature of ’52 Best Weekend’s Away’ which includes some of the must-visit destinations on my travel wish-list for 2014, how could I resist? This heavenly description of Granada in southern Spain makes me want to pack my bags right now!

    ‘With the shadows of late afternoon lengthening, a soft lilt of birdsong mingles with the raucous laughter of schoolboys playing with marbles in the shade. Around them sunlight reflects off mosaics adorning centuries-old fountains. Arched cedar doors are set deep into white-washed walls carved intricately with geometric designs. And from secret walled gardens wafts the scent of figs, pomegranates and plums, the fruit hanging low from overladen boughs. Underfoot, the long mule steps are awkward to anyone on two feet — a throwback to the days when pack animals plied these narrow lanes.’

    COOK: Back in Melbourne, I always used to be stuck for ideas for yummy and healthy work lunches. Luckily I don’t have to worry about lunches anymore, as one of the perks of my new job is a healthy midday meal provided for both students and teachers. How great! For those of us still struggling, however, here are 20 great ideas for lunch in a box.

    MAKE: Aren’t these DIY paper succulents brilliant? I’d love to make a few of these for our apartment! How succulent-realistic my attempt would be, however, is another question!

    DREAM BUY: Now that spring has finally found it’s way to Europe, I’m looking forward to a change in footwear. All of my pairs of boots have been worn to death over the past six months. It’s still too cool for flats, but I’ve fallen in love with the perfect in-between shoe: brogues! These hand-crafted Electric Curbside brogues by Wootten are just divine and I especially adore them in ‘Malva’. Ben went to University with Jess Cameron-Wootten, lead cobbler and owner of this beautiful business. I hope I can afford a pair of hand-made shoes one day. In the meantime, I’ve settled for a pretty cute pair from Wittner.

    BUDGET BUY: I am so happy to get my hands on my favourite, affordable skincare brand, Simple, again as I could never seem to find it in Germany. I have super sensitive skin and really need to use products that are completely free of fragrance and colour, otherwise my skin protests with angry rashes, blotchiness and dryness. I love their Regeneration Age Resisting Day Cream (SPF 15) and the matching Night Cream.

    GO: Can you tell that Granada is pretty high up on my wanderlust wish list right now? I’m thinking a four-day weekend in late May, before the temperatures climb too high. Sounds perfect.

  • To the Coast, Day 2

    Day two of our little coastal getaway was no less perfect than the first (see what we got up to on day one here). We woke to find the sun hiding behind a moody sky that promised rain later in the day. Desperate to make the most of our precious time here, this nudged us out of the house for an early morning stroll down to the Portsea back beach in the warm, humid air.

    Portsea Beach View 2

    View of Portsea Back Beach

    Nick Ben and Jess Beach

    Jess on Beach

    Portsea Beach

    Jess and I Beach Walk

    Aren’t beach walks the best kind of walks?

    A few spots of rain, a darkening horizon and rumbling bellies told us that it was time to head back. Ravenous for breakfast, we headed into Sorrento for a morning bite at The Sisters — Kitchen Garden Cafe. What a delightful little place! A nursery had previously occupied the site and this little cafe has kept with this theme. Lots of the delicious produce used in their dishes is freshly picked from the portable veggie patches surrounding the cafe. Jess and I enjoyed the red quinoa and organic oat bircher muesli with baked apple and walnuts and our men couldn’t go past the tempting savoury options. Coffees all round too, of course.

    Appetites satiated, we were ready to pack our bags and then head to the Merricks General Store on the way home to meet the lovely Heidi (from Apples Under My Bed) and her partner, Ben, for a refreshing drink and to share exciting plans for 2014. The perfect way to top of a beautiful few days.

    We arrived home from our little coastal getaway feeling happy, energised and recharged. It was just what we needed.

  • To the Coast

    Heading down to the coast was pretty high up on my list of priorities during our little visit home. I haven’t set my eyes on a beach since I visited Barcelona last September and haven’t swum in the ocean since we spent a week in Santorini in July. And let’s be honest, Australians just need the beach. It’s in the blood.

    So, together with some of our most favourite people, we packed the car and headed on down to the Mornington Peninsula for a couple of delightful days. Peta, a dear friend of my best friend, Jess, was so generous to offer us use of her family’s beach house in Portsea for an overnight stay. Isn’t that just so lovely of her? Our first little stop was a delicious lunch at Dee’s Kitchen in Dromana and a little wander along the pier in the sunshine.

    Dromana Pier 2

    Dromana Pier 1

    Fisherman Dromana

    Dromana Pier 3

    Dromana Pier 4

    Dromana Pier 4

    Energised from the beautiful food and warm kiss of the sun, we moved on to Portsea where we literally threw on our bathers and slapped on some sunscreen before dashing off again to make the most of the glorious weather. Shelley Beach was where we wiled away the most perfect afternoon swimming, reading, walking and sunbathing. Bliss.

    Shelley Beach pier lookout

    Private Jetty

    Kayaks Shelley Beach

    Tin Boat Shelley Beach

    Sail Boat Shelley Beach

    Ben in the Sea

    Sea Water

    After a splendid couple of hours it was time to head back to the beach house for a couple of apéritifs before dinner. What a perfect day. Day two of our coastal escape will be up soon!

  • Sunday Selections

    My little sojourn back to Melbourne is flying by! Only one week to go and I’ll be on the plane back to Berlin. I’m definitely looking forward to making the most of next week which is now looking pretty full with delicious dinners and happy catch-ups. All good things!

    Melbourne flowers 2

    WATCH: Earlier this week I was lucky enough to attend the Alliance Française French Film Festival with a lovely group of girls. One of these sweet people was Peta, who has just returned from living abroad in Paris. Amazing, right? It was her suggestion that we head to the Palace Cinema Como to see ‘Me, Myself and Mum’, a French comedy directed by and starring Guillaume Gallienne. It was such an amusing and clever film and I’m so glad I went. What a lovely way to spend a Thursday evening.

    READ: My mouth is watering reading about San Francisco’s ‘Off the Grid’ street food fair which kicked off on Friday, in Condé Nast Traveler magazine. With a huge selection of gourmet food vendors, cocktail-makers as well as live music, DJs and games, what isn’t to love? I’d just love to go to San Fran one day.

    COOK: I’ve been living in fully-furnished rentals in Berlin for the past eight months which has been so convenient and hassle-free in lots of ways. The one thing that I’ve always found frustrating, however, is the lack of cooking equipment and supplies, for baking in particular. Back in Melbourne, I used to adore my Sunbeam Mixmaster, which I only owned for a few months before we jetted off. I would love to get it out again, dust it off and try Nigella’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake-how heavenly does it sound?

    MAKE: Don’t you just love this DIY photo booth for parties? What a great idea for fun photos! And what a bonus-not having to remember to take photos of all of your important people.

    DREAM BUY: I’ve kinda got a thing for backpacks at the moment and would love to replace my handbag with one. Isn’t this Tory Burch Kerrington Backpack great? I love the vintage ’60s feel of it. How perfect for cycling around Europe as the weather gets warmer.

    BUDGET BUY: As I’ve mentioned previously, Ben and I were in need of a new camera before we head back to Europe in a week’s time. Unfortunately, a top-of-the-line SLR is a little beyond our budget at the moment (one day!) and so today we purchased one of the best compact cameras on the market, the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 II. I can’t wait to start shooting with something other than my iPhone, which is all I’ve had for the past seven months!

    GO: Travel planning is the best kind of planning and my mind is so full of possibilities right now. Aside from the Easter break next month (see what I’m planning here), there are two long weekends in May-amazing! I really want to make the most of any opportunity like this and so I’m busy thinking about where to head in Italy then. Can you believe I still haven’t been to ‘The Boot’ after eight months of living in Europe? This needs to be rectified asap! I asked my dear friend, Jess, who adores Italy and can speak Italian, what her recommendation would be for a long weekend. Of course, anywhere in Italy would be amazing for a little weekend escape, but Florence, with a side trip to San Gimignano was her prime suggestion. I can’t wait to go!

  • Melbourne Days

    It’s so lovely to be home in Australia for the next little while. Ben and I touched down in Melbourne last Wednesday evening and I must admit that for the last week we’ve been spoiling ourselves with all the good stuff. We’ve spent our days catching up with our nearest and dearest, satisfying cravings for the amazing food and coffee we’ve been missing, as well as wandering around our favourite neighbourhoods of Fitzroy, Collingwood and Carlton.

    I am loving my little Australian ‘holiday’!

    Charles St Graffiti

    Smith Street Graffiti

    Smith Street Alimentari Coffee

    Greg and pastry

    Carlton Gardens

  • Sunday Selections

    This week’s edition of Sunday Selections is proudly brought to you from Australia. I’m struggling somewhat with jet-lag at the moment and I’m still in a little bit of a haze, but this glorious Australian sunshine is definitely helping!

    Melbourne flowers 2

    WATCH: 21 hours is a long time to be in transit from Europe to Australia. Between bouts of fitful sleeping and terrible airline food, there was plenty of time to watch movies at least. I was delighted to find ‘Midnight in Paris’ (2011) on offer — one of my favourite movies set in Paris. Essentially it follows Gil’s (Owen Wilson) great love for the city and his wish to lose himself in the charm of it. Caught up in the illusion that another era is more romantic and exciting, Gil spends his nights with the great names of the 1920s: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali and Gertrude Stein just to name a few. It’s such a charming, feel-good film that just makes me want to book a flight to Paris soon after we return home to Europe!

    READ: Can you tell that I’m dreaming of Paris at the moment? The city of light is looking absolutely breathtaking at the moment in the newly arrived springtime. It’s cherry blossom season! Reading Nicole Warne’s ‘Postcards from Paris’ on Gary Pepper about the beauty of this city at the moment, paired with Carin Olsson’s (author of one of my favourite blogs, Paris in Four Months) incredible photos, certainly makes it hard to stay away!

    COOK: Now that we’re back in Australia, Ben and I are being spoilt with amazing home-cooked meals. Spicy curries are Ben’s dad, Greg’s specialty and he loves cooking delicious food from Rick Stein’s incredible cook books. This pork curry with green chillies and tamarind would be one such example of the incredible feasts we are lucky enough to enjoy.

    MAKE: The elements and heating have taken a toll on my skin over the past few months and it’s in desperate need of some care and hydration. These three DIY beauty recipes look super easy to make and affordable too.

    DREAM BUY: Ben and I are in the market for a new camera after our previous SLR was stolen around six months ago. Unfortunately, we were under-insured on our travel insurance policy, meaning that we only received a fraction of the original cost of our stuff (lesson learnt!). If we weren’t limited by funds and if money were no object, we would buy this Nikon D800 D-SLR in a flash. At the moment it’s beyond our budget but one day!

    BUDGET BUY: I’m looking forward to buying a few lighter jumpers now that spring has arrived in Berlin. I think this soft pink, fine knit sweater from H & M is so feminine and pretty. And at €14.95 can I really go wrong?

    GO: Sticking with the theme of Turkey from last week, Ben and I are planning a second trip in late July. We’re thinking it would be just fabulous to spend a few days sailing around the Turkish coast. A few of our friends in Berlin have done similar trips in the past and can’t recommend V-Go Blue Cruises highly enough. These guys offer a wide variety of cruises ranging from two nights to seven at very reasonable prices. We will already have purchased a multiple-entry visa which is valid for six months, so wouldn’t it be a shame not to make the most of it?

  • Home Comforts

    It’s been eight months since Ben and I packed up our lives, jammed all our worldly belongings into a couple of suitcases and migrated to the other side of the world. It took a lot of guts and it’s been a roller coaster of an adventure so far. Now that we’ve committed ourselves to remaining in Berlin for a little longer than we had initially planned, a visit home to Australia was in order.

    Here are 10 things that I miss about home that I am absolutely going to indulge in whilst here in Australia for the next 17 days:

    1. Our beloved family and friends. We miss these special people so much, living half a world away. They are the reason we came home and we are savouring every moment we have with them.

    2. Melbourne breakfasts. Nowhere in the world quite does breakfast the way Melbourne does. My all time favourite spot to start the weekend right is at my favourite café in Collingwood, Bluebird Espresso. I’m a french toast girl all the way.

    Bluebird Espresso

    3. Collingwood coffee. Back when we lived here in Melbourne, Ben and I were coffee addicts simply because there was too much of the good stuff everywhere we turned. While I’m happy to say that I’m no longer addicted to coffee, I’m worried that I very well may fall victim again now that I’m in the coffee capital once more.

    4. Lucas’ Paw Paw Ointment. This stuff cures everything and most especially chapped, overly dry lips from months of braving the harsh European winter.

    5. Sunshine. Ben and I are pretty certain that we have Vitamin D deficiencies (self-diagnosed of course) having battled through the cold, grey and dark winter months (read more here). My memory of the beautiful European summer seems only a dream now. The average sunshine hours over winter in Germany are merely 165 in total and, if I’m doing my sums correctly, that works out be a minuscule 1.83 hours of sunshine per day! Conversely, the lucky Australians on the other side of the world at this exact same time of year enjoy a whopping 737 or 8.18 hours per day. Ben and I are making it our mission to soak up as many rays as possible to rejuvenate and recharge.

    6. The close proximity of the ocean. Being close to the beach is something that I’ve always known. Berlin isn’t anywhere near the ocean. In fact, the nearest coast is more than 200km away. True, we spent some glorious days in Barcelona last September and of course, how can I forget the spectacular Greek islands in July? But that all seems like a lifetime ago now and Ben and I are itching to take a trip down the coast as soon as we can. The Mornington Peninsula is looking mighty tempting right about now.

    7. Fresh Australian produce. I miss the freshness, variety and quality of Australian ingredients and nowhere around the world compares in terms of the access we Australians have to this. In Berlin, the Ökowochenmärkte (eco-weekend markets) on Saturdays are one of the few places to buy quality produce. For Melbournians, there really are many more options in this regard.

    8. No language barrier. Whilst my German is coming along slowly and I’m understanding more and more every day, I must admit that it’s a nice little break to be able to read, listen and understand everything at the moment!

    9. Tap water. Although the tap water in Berlin is safe to drink, few Berliners actually drink from this source and instead much prefer the taste of bottled mineral water. Tap water in Berlin is high in mineral content but is also very chalky, leaving a white residue on the bottom of kettles and saucepans. Ben and I prefer to drink bottled water, figuring this kind of residue can’t be good over the long-term. In 2012 Germans spent 3 billion euros on bottled mineral water—hardly an environmentally friendly habit even if their recycling system is super effective.

    10. Old haunts. Back when we lived in Fitzroy we loved our favourite old pubs: the Union Club Hotel and the Grace Darling. Weekend coffees at De Clieu or Proud Mary were ritualistic as was a lunch that involved an Italian meatball wrap at Brunswick Street Alimentari or a fresh Banh Mi at N. Lee Bakery on Smith Street and we would always enjoy the perfect dinner at Añada on Gertrude Street. Cravings for these Melbourne delights must be satisfied ASAP!

    Union Club Hotel

  • Wannsee Escape

    Now that the weather in Berlin is becoming a touch warmer and we have officially ticked over into spring, I’m already dreaming of the idyllic summer days of July and August. Summer here is a time of great delight for Europeans, a time to be cherished and savoured because everyone here knows it will be gone all too quickly.

    When the temperature in Berlin creeps beyond the 30 ºC mark, Berliners will most probably head to one of two places to cool down: the Badeschiff in Kreuzberg (literally meaning ‘bathing ship’, an über cool swimming pool in the middle of the Spree) or the Wannsee Strandbad. While I’ll have to wait until this coming summer to give the Badeschiff a go, last August at the suggestion of a few dear friends, we headed down to Wannsee to check out Europe’s largest outdoor swimming area on an inland body of water. I love getting out of the city and exploring new places and this was a perfect little day trip on a hot summer afternoon.

    Wannsee is easily accessible from Berlin, the journey taking only 30 mins by S-Bahn to Nikolassee Bahnhof. From here you can either take a bike or stroll through the beautiful forest to the Strandbad. How gorgeous is this little road we wandered down towards our destination?

    Wannsee Forrest

    Once we had paid our 4.50 € entrance fee, we descended down through the main plaza area and onto the beach. With a total beach length of 1,275 metres, there is enough room for literally thousands of sun-bathers at any one time and in the summer this place is swamped. We found a patch of sand to settle on and feasted on our little picnic of goodies we had found at my favourite market at Kollwitzplatz earlier that day.

    Wannsee Strandbad 1

    Europeans always ensure that their main swimming holes are well-equipped and there’s certainly no shortage of activities to amuse you at Wannsee Strandbad. Naturally, there are plenty of Strandkorbs (those big wicker chairs you can see in the photo above) to shelter you from the sun and encourage relaxation. Or, if you feel so inclined you could hire a little rowboat and paddle around the lake. Of course, friendly games of soccer and volleyball are happening everywhere you look. For the more playful amongst us, a giant slide built in the middle of the lake offers up hours of entertainment.

    Wannsee Strandbad 2

    When the sun disappeared behind the clouds that had been slowly rolling in, it was time to make our way back to the city. I can’t say that Wannsee Strandbad can really compare to the pristine beaches we are blessed with in Australia, but when the Baltic Sea is three hours away from Berlin by Autobahn, this little lakeside retreat really isn’t too bad. Come summertime, I’m sure we’ll be heading down this way again for another mini city escape.