the sky across the street

A grey day in December in Montreal makes me miss my windows in Berlin. White wooden beauties framed my views of the outside.
I especially enjoyed when the view looked like this.


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a horse that travels from berlin to montreal



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chanel on acid


About one year ago Berlin was lit up like a Christmas tree and I was counting down the weeks to mid December. It had been a year and a half since I left my Heimatland and December was to be the reunion. My head was heavy with predictions, with anticipation, and with butterflies and doubt.

The chic shops of Friedrichstra
ße were the perfect distraction, I found peace in the food section of department stores. Just one floor up, I found this purse. A real beauty made by Angel Jackson, one that reminds me of Chanel just enough to be classic, but not enough to be monochrome. It was the first thing to make the cut when the packing began. Although not sure of what parts of myself to bring back, I knew what I would be wearing.

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before leaving, after arriving


Before leaving and after arriving there is always food. I am not good at saying good-bye, but I am excellent at eating (and excellent enough at cooking) and so I bid my aufwiedersehen to Berlin with a feast. It does not make leaving or arriving any easier, but it does it make it all the more delicious and easier to swallow.

a) chunky watermelon, red onion and cucumber salad with feta and fresh mint
b) pea and parmesan dip with pine-nuts
c) blackbean salad with feta, toasted almonds and a lime-chili dressing
c) baked artichoke dip
d) chili hummus with walnuts
e) balsamic-fig chicken wings
f) olives from the Turkish Market
g) olive oil, lemon, pepper crackers
h) and a cherry peach patchwork bake



Arriving means a new kitchen.

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the desert in poland


Why we travel:
Many have been seduced by the prospect of a backpack, a few maps, and a string of train tickets. In fact, there are few things more seducing that diving head first into a foreign environment. There is always the opportunity to taste a new flavour of life and to embrace a new side of one's self. That said, the highlight of any of trip for me is the unexpected. Eating pizza in Sienna is delicious and wonderful, but I am more easily seduced by Korean food in Cairo, deserts in Poland, and drag-shows in Prague.



Slowinski National Park stretches across 33 km of white sand beach west of Gdansk and east of Germany. The park itself is much bigger, spreading south in both directions to claim four lakes and a Polish version of a desert. 5000 or so years ago, the fierce Baltic winds began to blow sand from the beach further and further into the forest. What has resulted is a striking landscape that juxtaposes endless white sand with a lush green forest. After walking five kilometers from the eastern entrance of the park, one is greeted by green trees peaking over piles of sand. The landscape is one that would inspire poets and artists to new heights, that is if the Polish desert was a bit more on the radar of more travellers. Its rather emptiness, however, makes it more charming, more mysterious. What one experiences is lush forests (full of wild blueberries to boot), sand that recalls a desert, and an endless Baltic Sea perfect for washing sand away or cooling off. The Baltic Sea provides the sound, with notes of the whispers of a Polish family vacationing here and there.

Flanked by spending the night in Bismarck's former Baltic Sea summer "shack" and buying wild blueberries and mushrooms from the edge of Polish highways, the Polish desert was the star of my summer road trip.
Deserts in Poland, who knew?


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sweet, sweet, sweet potatoes


I am far from joking when I say that I can eat sweet potatoes for lunch, dinner, and dessert. From sweet potato fries (baked with olive oil, salt and a dash of rosemary) to sweet potato and rum-soaked raisin bunt cake, to sweet potato stir-fry (drizzled with butter, garlic, and fresh sage), this orange little vegetable is pretty much my favourite one around.

Now you can only imagine my delight when I saw sweet-potato hash on the breakfast menu at a cafe in London a few months ago. I went to the city armed with a suspicion of high prices and of food that wasn't curry or a pretty-packaged sandwich from Mark & Spencer, or so go the warnings I heard about eating in London on a budget. And what silly warnings they were! My visit to London-town was one of culinary sensations - red velvet cupcakes at the Hummingbird Bakery next to Portobello Market, crisp duck in China town, curries in Brick-lane, and veal served with a gourmet twist at a Gastropub in Notting Hill. But perhaps my favourite culinary delight of them all was discovering that I can add sweet potatoes to my breakfasts, all the reason I need to wake up.

I first had sweet potato hash served with baby spinach, red peppers, some chili-pepper and an egg on top. Everytime I make it, it changes a little. I add prosciutto instead of baby spinach, or I just use a bouquet of red and yellow peppers. But aren't these recipes always the best, the ones that you can add to and subtract from, making something new each morning come breakfast time.

Sweet Potato Hash with Poached Eggs

For Sweet Potato Hash

a sweet potato, peeled and chopped into cubes (I use half of one if I am making it for myself, and a whole one when sharing. On weekdays the cubes are smaller in order to cut back on cooking time and on weekends they are often a bit more generous in size)
a small onion, chopped
olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
half a red pepper, chopped into rather big chunks
2 or so slices of prosciutto or another smoky ham (optional)
a small spoonful of sweet paprika
a dash of chili
a few chopped sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
baby spinach (if you have it, it oddly tends to be quite expensive in Germany)

For Poached Eggs

a small pot of boiling water
white vinegar
one or more eggs

For topping (optional)

parmesan cheese

Instructions

If you are making your sweet potato hash smoky, start by heating olive oil over medium heat. Add the prosciutto, or other ham, and fry for a few minutes. Add the sweet potato. Once the sweet potatoes have become slightly soft (the amount of time depends on their size, but small pieces cook rather quickly and will take about 6-8 minutes), add the onion. In another minute add the garlic. In another minute or so, add the herbs and salt. Then add the red pepper and cook until all is soft and flavorful.

For the poached eggs, I have discovered two ways of poaching that I switch back and forth with depending on my stove and time. The first, and more common, is to add a dash of white vinegar once the water is boiling and to cook the egg in the water for three minutes. The white vinegar helps to keep the egg intact. Furthermore, it can also help to first crack open the egg into a narrow drinking glass and then to pour the egg into the boiling water. Keeping track of the minutes precisely is a must if you want to avoid a non-runny yolk! The other method is to turn the heat off once you have added the egg and to cook the egg for five minutes.

Serve the poached egg(s) over the sweet potato hash. Top with salt and pepper and (optionally) some Parmesan cheese. Sweet potatoes are much healthier than regular potatoes (not to mention they are anti-oxidants!) and breakfast is just one of any meal that they taste pretty damn sweet in.

Guten Appetit!

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where do you keep your letters?


A recent letter from a friend and artist in Halifax filled my week with Polaroids, small dolls and demons for decoration, paper made from hair, and a question. One of the Polaroids gave me a key-hole glimpse of a wall collage, one composed of letters, postcards, and envelopes. Below the picture, written in thick black marker on the shiny, white frame, was the question:

"What do you do with all of the letters you get?"


Mine are wrapped up in string.

In Montreal they were wrapped up in purple ribbon. Once used as a substitute shoelace for my Docs, the ribbon was reincarnated to hold letters together.

In Berlin they are wrapped in a very thin, red and white string. A string from a stationary set that I bought at the oh-so dangerous Louisana giftshop outside of Copenhagen. Stationary that is a copy cat of the nautical maps of Nordic waters.

This red and white string connects the letters and postcards and cards from the last two years. From four addresses. From three countries.

Where do you keep your letters?



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shades of spring

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turkish market tuesdays


I like my life to be filled with as much food as possible. This does not necessarily mean just food for my tummy, or frequent visits to well-stocked grocery shelves. Perhaps it is more fitting to say that I like my life to be filled with the idea of food.

Food is a common need and a common enjoyment that can be easily be shared. However, industrial packaging processes have colonized the process of holding an apple and examining it from all sides. Cheap prices have hidden the roots of fresh produce. Meat is too often presented between saran wrap and an expiry date. Such processes disconnect us from food and food from its origin. There is little room left for much more interaction than filling grocery bags and swiping debit cards.

Luckily it seems that people and their appetites are moving back to a more holistic relationship with food. After having been a frequent shopper at Fakta Grocery Stores in Copenhagen (but only because of price) where instead of handing the teller coins to pay, one must put all coins into a plastic tube that looks like a funnel and then take out any change at the bottom of the funnel, I think that shopping for food should once again be more personal.

With an economy in the pits, consumer habits are going through much needed reforms. One result seems to be more of an interest in organic (sometimes) and local (especially) products at regular prices. This seems to be happening much faster in Europe than in North America. A recent article in the Globe and Mail about how if one columnist sees another "self righteous shopper" carrying resusable tote bags to the grocery store is going to scream only is further proof. Most European grocery stores charge a few cents for plastic bags (a way to also decrease the cost of groceries) and so even non-hippies are seen with eco-friendly tote bags on the continent.

Furthermore, buying organic in Germany has been normalized. At first organic food was sold in speciality mom and pop stores for the prices of fine, exotic speciality goods. Then the big chain grocery stores, Kaisers, Lido, Plus et cetera, made way for organic sections. Now there are big chain organic grocery stores, Bio Markt that are frequented by all, families, students, punks, and well-suited seniors.

Grocery stores aren't the only places to do so. Rich in flea markets, Berlin is also rich in fresh produce markets. Not all are organic, but all have at least a few organic stands selling walnut bread, locally-made goat cheese, and fresh baking pumpkins. Here are some great places to eat, shop, and ask people passionate about food the best way to prepare pumpkin flesh for baking, or the best way to steam a whole fish.


Türken-Markt Every Tuesday and Friday, this crowded market is the place to buy cheap produce, organic pasta, fabric, and a delicious African lunch. On the Maybachufer in East Kreuzberg.

Bio Markt Every Saturday organic stalls take over Cahmissoplatz in West Kreuzberg. A great place to indulge in organic German sausages, buy fresh cream, or eat a spelt waffel with organic berry jam.

Marheinekeplatz Markthalle Open six days a week, this covered market in Kreuzberg is one of my favourite places to eat and to buy things to eat.

Winterfeldtmarkt An outdoor market in Schoeneberg open Wednesdays and Saturdays.


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spring shadows


Just a touch of sunlight can easily transform white walls, a thyme plant, and a pile of postcards. Not to mention, pale skin, long weekends, and outdoor meals.

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cupcakes and bullet holes


Berlin fills Sundays with the bizarre and the beautiful.

In an attempt to fill a memory card with inspired pictures of Berlin flea markets, the rain came to visit. With an umbrella safe and at home and having made the premature decision to wear a jacket without a hood, I had to seek shelter somewhere. A few blocks later and I was in cupcake heaven. Well. Almost. Berlin has two cupcake shops that I know of, one in between the clearly marked borders of Prenzlauerberg and Mitte, the other further east in Friedrichshain. The former serves cupcake baked by sweet american girls in printed skirts and strawberry aprons. Even the plates look like icing. The latters serves cupcakes baked by tattooed bikers that play punk music and sell beer. Having been raised myself on ballet and rock ballads, I tend to prefer the latter. However, with rain in the picture I did not have the luxury to decide.

Two delicious cupcakes later, banana with chocolate icing and peach with vanilla icing, it was off to use a rainy Sunday the way all rainy Sundays should be used: museum hopping.

And so it was cupcakes followed by bullet holes.

Living in Berlin provides the enlightening experience of witnessing two sides of Germany: a Germany that was built up again after the second World War and a Germany that hung out for a few decades and then was built up after the fall of the Wall. Museuminsel, Berlin's prestigious island of museums, falls into the second category. East of the Brandberger Tor, one of its finest museums, Neues Museum, became the home of trees and plants during the DDR. Once regarded as one of Germany's most important, it slowly became an indoor park.

Reunification marked a massive renovation project. Efforts to reconstruct the former home to ancient art and artifacts, first began in 1986, but at rather a communist pace. In the 90's, things began to move a bit more in tune with a capitalist pace.

This weekend, from the 6th to the 8th of March 2009, the doors of the musuem were open to the public for the first time since the Second World War. To celebrate, the public was invited in for free to take a look at the building before its former objects of display are reshelved and it returns to its function of a museum in the fall.

The rain did not prevent Berliners from lining up, myself included. However, both the wait and the wet socks were worth it. In the process of restoration, the English architecht, David Chipperfield, decided that the building would not be returned to its pre-war state. Instead, the building should function as an artifact itself, a witness to war.

Thankfully I had a sweet taste in my mouth to mix with the reality of history.

For cupcakes

www.cupcakeberlin.de
(bikers, cupcakes, and sock monkeys)


www.cupcakebakery.de
(pretty cupckaes and pretty girls)

For bullet holes:

http://www.smb.spk-berlin.de/smb/standorte/index.php?lang=de&p=2&objID=25&n=1&r=3
(a very long and very german address)

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how to spend a lover's birthday

a) coffee und cinnamon
b) sekt und orange juice
c) poached eggs on potato latkes with creme fraiche, avocado, and parmesan
d) grilled tomato
e) fresh figs
f) grilled Turkish beef sausage
g) raisin bread
h) walnut bread
i) cold cuts and cheese
j) greek black olives
k) fig mustard
l)over

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cooking in Tuscany



I am a distraction junkie. This is perhaps why I keep my walls a close cousin to white minimalism, but still scatter about small distractions for the eye. This is also perhaps why I take my time in writing about past, present, and future distractions.

A few months in and my apartment is becoming a shrine to all that is small and distracting. Strips of photo booth pictures crawl up bookshelves, fabric birds sing in vintage bird cages, and an old coffee sack drapes itself across the wall. However, my favourite visual distraction, thus far, is skinny and wide and comes in the form of a border, but in the colours of Tuscany.

One of my fall flea market adventures led me to a market of local Berlin designers. Taking advantage of Berlin fashion week and a city wide sudden intense attention to the detail, the crafty and the artistic Berliners were taking to the street. This is when I first truly fell in love with Tuscany. It wasn't when I was studying philosophy in Sienna, or tasting wine in the country side, but when I realized that I could hang Tuscany up in my very own kitchen. The landscape never meant as much to me as when I realized that it could be a scarecrow to the greys of a Northern European winter.

Extratapete is a Berlin powerhouse for all that is beautiful, distracting, and sticks onto walls. With wallpaper, panoramic borders, and the possibility of custom designs, my walls have never before been so wonderfully distracting.
http://www.extratapete.de/

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christmas in canada


At my first German Christmas I first heard the song. I was the novelty guest, a German family with a Canadian about half the height standing in the picture. Naturally someone sat down, hands to keys, and started to play "Christmas in Canada". It was one of those sweet, but awkward cross-cultural moments, yet another chance to smile and say "Danke".

This German Christmas thing quickly became routine, or at least Christmas with a German. So many years and so much red meat, one tends to crave a turkey Christmas and a lobster New Year.

This weekend I unpacked my suitcase (after having converted it into a drawer for two weeks) which means that I am back to food, fashion, fantasy, and the words that they court.

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