Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our Time in Spain

I look back on these and it feels like this was months ago. We have managed to do so much in the weeks since we left Australia.

We landed in Barcelona and then headed south by car for about two hours.

On our first night we were lucky enough to experience the Tortosa Festa. So much food and fun, and by the end of the night, very tired children.

We drove to the top of the mountains where we were staying and I love this view down to the Mediterranean Sea and the beautiful little house in the foreground.

Spanish beaches are a little different to those in Australia. I didn't have to worry about taking bucket loads of sand home hidden in bathers, towels and shoe like I am used to.

The evening view from the terrace was always a fabulous way to end an exhausting day.

The bells! These rang every 15 minutes all day (and night) long.

A day trip to Barcelona was a great deal of fun and very different from the Spanish experience we had been having in the smaller towns. After the most amazing Spanish Tortilla ever in a gorgeous little diner, our first touristy stop was the Sagrada Familia. The size is astounding and the intricate detail leaves you speechless.

Park Guell is another Gaudi landmark. Walking around, you feel like you are in a fairytale or a dream.

The bike paths down the middle of the busy streets must surely make the riders feel safe.

Back to our little town and an early morning wander through the empty streets.

This ferry was fabulous. We are waiting our turn to go across. There is no engine involved, just two wires that run from one side of the river to the other on either side of the little boat. The boat is attached to these wires so it can't drift down stream. Once this car drove off, three cars (including ours) drove on to it, ready for the five minute trip across the river.

After a bit more of a drive we ended up in the beautiful town of Horta, in inspirational town for Picasso.

Take care

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ich lerne Deutsch

Language learning is not something that I find easy. My message always sounds great in my head but then the words just seem to trip over themselves on their way out. Before we left Australia, we were often asked if any of us spoke German. Nup, not a word. The plan was always to learn through immersion.

Today was the start of our two-week intensive German course. 

I think it is incredible important and respectful to try to learn the native language of a country you are living in. We plan to be here until the new year so "Entschuldigung. Ich weiß nicht Deutsch sprechen," just won't cut it for the next 4 or so months. 

Our bit of homework for this evening was to learn 10 new words, this way, by the end of next week we should all have 100 new words. This is something that I think might need to become a bit of a 30 day challenge so that I could actually have at least a 300 word vocabulary.

I have such admiration for multi-linguists. To understand the different grammar and letter sounds of other languages is an amazing life skill.

I'm off to go over my notes and choose my 10 words to learn.

Take care

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reading Recommendations

No, I'm not giving a list of recommendations. I need them.

I have just finished a wonderful book, the latest in the Armistead Maupin 'Tales of the City' series. This is a series that I started reading when I lived in the Goldfields of Western Australia nearly 20 years ago. (Okay, I highly recommend these books, but that is it from me.) Now I need something else to get stuck into.

I have wandered into this and this English language bookshop in Berlin and haven't been able to make a choice. I'm not sure if there is too much choice or not enough. (Both of these shops will buy the books back when you have finished which I just love.)

My request to you is to head me in the direction of some great reading. Fiction or non-fiction, I don't mind. I just need a little direction when I head back to the bookshop.

Take care

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reusing, Ancient Style

Last week we ventured back to Museum Island (yes, there is an island in the middle of the Spree with museums) and in particular the Egyptian and Papyrus Museum. This place had me totally spellbound before I had even walked through the doors. The ornate buildings that house the amazing historical collections on the island have small wounds where they have been peppered with bullets. I find there is history around me so often here.

As we entered the museum we collected the audio player that gives background information on most of the exhibits. Many of the displays have a number on the label and this number is pressed into the keypad to start the relevant track.

I had to share this little piece of history with you as I thought it was a fabulous example of reusing. I must admit that I had a little giggle to myself while I was listening to the information.

Be warned that this is not a history lesson as I have forgotten names and actual dates, but I still think you will like this.

This is a statue of one of the kings that has been excavated. The sculpting is absolutely beautiful. (One little fact: their hands resting on their thighs means that they are praying). You can't see it but on his waistband is an inscription of his name and a bit of information about him. If you have a close look at the face you will notice that his nose doesn't look quite right.

While listening to the audio I found out that about 600 year after this king died they decided to reuse this statue for a new king. A new inscription was added to the back (as you can see below) and they tried to re-sculpt the face to look like the new king.

Why build a new one when you can just remodel one you already have on hand?

I thought that was a great example of recycling from days gone by.

Take care

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sharing the Love

I had spent years being a blog lurker, and then earlier this year I decided to jump on in and join the party. It has been so much fun and a great way to 'hang out' with similarly-minded people from so many fabulous places.

Earlier this week I received a lovely email from Brenna, over at Conscious Earth, telling me she had given me an award

It is now my turn to pass it on.

This award is given to bloggers with under 200 followers. Here are the rules:

1. Thank the giver and link back to them.
Thank you Brenna

2. Reveal your 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

City Hippy Farm Girl (I couldn't find a followers section)

Gooseberry Jam (I couldn't find a followers sections here either)

3. Copy and paste award to your blog.

4. Have faith that your followers will pass the love to other bloggers.

I have faith!

5. And most of all, have Bloggity-blog fun.

Take care

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Küche Show and Tell

This is the last of the cooking posts for a little while. There are other fabulous bits and pieces of Berlin that I am excited about sharing, but just need to get his out of my system first.

The weekend was nice and lazy relaxing, and cupcakes needed to be baked. Following the basics of this recipe, a made a bit of an alteration as we had some of the most amazing Zitrone Joghurt I have ever eaten. I thought that the flavours would be ideal for these little cakes.

Another success. The aftermath of morning tea. Those remaining cakes didn't even make it to afternoon tea as I had planned.

We had a bit of a hankering for burgers and nothing say burger bun more than a deliciously soft roll. This was something I thought I could manage and headed back to the internet for inspiration. (It is amazing how much I am relying on the it as all of my cookbooks are locked up in another country.)

I settled on this recipe and got to work midmorning. I kept thinking, "Give me another week and I am sure there is some sourdough version I could be making."

Don't they just look so soft and burger-like. 

The recipe was wonderful and I even measured each of them out so that they would all be the same size. 

I was doing really well until I got a little distracted Skyping and these ended up a little on the darker side. Whoops. They still had a great taste and were a hit with the burgers.

What does 4 euros (A$5.50) get you these days? Not much, I hear you say. What about this!

All of these little babies came home with me this today after my Tuesday afternoon trip to the market. Most are already in the freezer ready for the days when berries are out of season yet we are all still craving smoothies. 

I think I will need to start stockpiling.

An easy pasta dinner was the call for today, mainly as most of the ingredients were already in the apartment. I spied these cherry tomatoes at the Bio stall and knew that these needed to become past of the sauce. Their sweet flavour added a real zing.

The first sourdough loaf has just emerged from the oven but there won't be any photos. I think a little more work is needed. Is smells great, but aesthetically ...?

Take care

PS Brenna, thanks for the award. I am still working on my 5.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Time in England

I had planned to get his up last week but here was so much that I wanted to be sharing that these seemed to get pushed to the back. There a still a number of half written posts that need to be finished before the content gets too out-dated and needs major editing.

Anyway, back to the travels.

Our next stop after HK was England.

We stayed in a village about and hour and half from London, which was such a contrast to Hong Kong.

On one of the five days we had in the UK, we took the train up to London for a bit of an excursion. There were plans of galleries, museums and general wandering, most of which we managed before the throbbing feet got the better of us.

The Science Museum was where the day started. So many amazing displays but this one caught my eye. It was about recycling and reusing clothing. There were dresses made of newspaper (you've gotta hope it doesn't rain) and other outfits made of recycled bits and pieces. This one below was my favourite though as it was a skirt make of these gorgeous hexagons but there was no stitching what-so-even. Those seamstresses amongst you might like to scroll to the next photo and have a look at how the pieces of felt are interwoven. So clever.

The maritime section was full of models of old ships and figureheads. I loved listening to one little girl dawdling after her dad, pointing at each ship as she passed and asking, "Is that the Titanic?" only the answered by an obviously tired father, "No, darling."

The Maths nerd in me was super impressed here.

Over to the Natural History Museum for our next bit of tourist action. The approach to the building is stunning with the gorgeous gardens.

Once inside we all felt like we were on the set of Night at the Museum. Apparently they even do sleepover tours. Spooky.

What visit to London would be complete without a wander along Regent Street and down to Hamley's? It is really more for the experience as it seems to be full of the same old bits and pieces that you can buy just about anywhere now. I remember the first time I went there were lovely handmade, wooden toys. There were a few Hamley's exclusives but mainly just plastic 'stuff'.

A quick stop by the Palace in between the afternoon showers. It is amazing to think that this whole area had been abuzz with the Royal Wedding only a few months earlier.

The village we were in was now far from the gorgeous town of Lewes. We had been through there about 11 years ago and fell in love with the place. The beautiful architecture and gardens, and friendly people make this such a wonderful place to visit.

Next stop, Spain

Take care

Sunday, August 21, 2011

In My Küche

It took a little longer than expected to get my 30 Day Challenge underway. If I was in my kitchen at home, I would have been onto it a little quicker as I would have had all of the equipment necessary. In the spartment there is a basic supply of bowls, jugs and cutlery but I knew that I really needed a set of electronic scales if this was going to work. Finding the right store that was selling these at the right price took a little longer than I had thought.

So I am now under way. With a mixture of instructions from cityhippyfarmgirl, Sour Dough Baker and Fiona I am now on Day 4 of making the 7 Day Starter. (Fingers crossed)

The cries of horror that rang out around this tiny apartment when I explained that this wouldn't be ready for a week were enough to make me sort out a quick yeast bread that could be on the table by the end of the day. I managed to track down some sachets of hefe (yeast) at the Bio Mart, so with the wholemeal flour I had bought on my first supermarket trip I was ready .

I followed the recipe set out by Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and was thrilled with the results. The two loaves that this recipe made were greatly appreciated during Friday dinner and Saturday lunch. I should mention that Friday dinner was another batch of the Cream of Vegetable soup that I first made last week. So much nicer with homemade bread too.

Pancake breakfast came a day early today as we had forgotten to soak the bircher overnight. Whoops.

The berries are amazing here at the moment. I had wandered through the markets on my way home yesterday and thought it would be a crime to not buy these beautiful raspberries and blueberries. Some of these little wonders stirred through some vanilla yoghurt has become a bit of a favourite late-night snack around here.

The urge to bake took hold again this morning and there was a need to have a go at the butter biscuits that we had made earlier in the week. With a lime, a grater and some raw sugar, all was in place to make a slight variation on the basic recipe.

Once again, the now empty plate tells the story.

Just a little snap. This little space just make me want to cook.

Take care

Friday, August 19, 2011

Loving Apartment Living

Growing up Australia, I always thought that having a house and backyard was the only way to go. Our first house we bought had a small front yard and an equally small backyard, but still, it had a yard.

These last four and a bit weeks of living in hotel rooms and apartments has shown me a different side. We are settling here in Berlin and are loving our apartment. It think it is about 80 square meters which I thought would be quite pokey. Actually it is a great size. There are four rooms - main bedroom, lounge/kiddies room, bathroom/laundry and the kitchen/dining room. Each room is a decent size and the hallway is lined with cupboard space so there is a home for everything. We opted for a furnished apartment as we didn't want the stress of trying to furnish something for only a few months. Everything we could what is here. All we needed to do was walk in.

I was initially a little worried about the lack of back yard as the kids spend hours in their imaginary little world playing games at home, but on reflection there was no need to worry. As everyone is in the same situation, with no real yard at home, the parks are incredibly busy. It is such a pleasant change to see so many people out and about in the fabulous weather, spending time at the many wonderfully equipped parks. My kiddies are thrilled every time we get near a park as they are pretty much guarenteed it will be spacious and exciting. Parks are real community meeting places. On our wander through a park on the weekend we even saw people bringing their portable barbecues on the back of their bikes for a Saturday afternoon with friends. I am amazed with how many people use these spaces.

Picnicking and barbecuing by the canal

I had never been really keen on parks/playgrounds as quite often you could arrive only to find a swing and a slide, surrounded by dead lawn. We haven't come across any yet that hasn't seen the kids either squeal with delight upon arrival or moan in disappoinmemt when it was time to leave. I must quietly admit that we are pretty happy that one of the kids' favourite playgrounds happens to be attached to a biergarten. (We'd hate to disappoint the children by not going to their favourite playground.)

Playground in the foreground, biergarten in the background to the right. Perfect.

I must also admit that I am loving the smaller amount of housework there is to be done in an apartment. As we have very little of our own 'stuff', it is really easy to keep everything in order. Dishes can be done, clothes can be in the washer, the timber floors can be vacuumed and the apartment can be spotless just in time for us to head out on a new adventure.

There are people out everywhere during the sunshine hours. It is quite acceptable to sit on a park bench with a few mates and have a beer in your hand. Many head out to the canal in our neighbourhood and sit and socialise overlooking the water. What a wonderful way to spend time with friends, watching the world go by.

(Take care)

On a totally unrelated note, I received the latest newsletter from Jude Blereau at Wholefood Cooking about the upcoming seasonal seminar. If you are in Perth and haven't been to one before, I cannot recommend these enough. There are also some other upcoming events that may be of interest.
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