A merry little Christmas

I’ve been home for a while now, and it’s been (mostly) perfect. No matter how little I miss home when I’m not here and how few traditions or memories I connect with this place, Christmas always feels more like Christmas when I’m with my family at my parents’ house.

This & that
We had a single day of snow over the past couple of weeks so Christmas here most certainly was not white. It was rainy and warm. We spent Christmas Eve as we always do, though: setting up the tree and decorating it in classic red and white, doing a long walk at the widlife sanctuary in the (relative) cold at dusk, and then coming back to a warm and cozy home to exchange gifts and eat good food. Instead of lamb, which we usually eat on Christmas Eve, my dad made duck and deer this year (photos to come) which was delicious!

Over the holidays we also read in our old children’s Christmas books that our parents used to read to us throughout December when we were little. We had Glühwein and fresh mint tea. We met the extended family at restaurants to eat more and promise to see each other more regularly next year (which we never do). I tried the Toffee Nut Latte at Starbucks and decided it must be their best pretentious Christmas novelty drink yet. I spent many evenings playing cards with my mom.

Material Christmas
I got some lovely Christmas presents, some of which I had mentioned to “Santa”, some of which were a wonderful surprise. I got Stephen Fry’s book “Moab is My Washpot”. It’s his autobiography and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since I got obsessed with his television show “QI”. I also got a gift card to a bookstore, and a couple other gift cards. My mom gave me my favorite perfume (“Glow” by J.Lo) (don’t judge, it smells really fresh and light and soapy). And my brother, sweet guy that he is, somehow remembered that I mentioned this particular H&M sweater a couple months ago and got it for me. Oh, and San sent me a lovely handmade Christmas card that made me so happy! I love getting regular mail – thank you, San!

Meeting old friends
On Thursday I went to a breakfast meet-up at a small local café with a bunch of old girlfriends from high school. We don’t usually see each other during the year because we’re never in the same country, much less the same town. But we always meet on the day after the holidays (December 25 and 26 are Christmas holidays in Germany), when everyone is here to visit their families back in this little town that we came from. By now, our group has grown to include two husbands and a little baby girl who tag along, and it’s just- lovely. We don’t talk about the negative stuff; we skip right over all the everyday complexities of growing up and creating a life because we don’t see each other often enough to fill everyone in on the details. And so it’s nothing but old memories and jokes and banalities. Just the right thing after a Christmas spent with extended families who excel at asking exactly the wrong questions about How Your Year Has Been and Your Plans For The Future.

We did a short trip to Holland yesterday (is it odd that I mainly miss the Dutch supermarkets? I loved them most when I lived there, their selection and quality of food somehow is so much better) and hit the Christmas market again. I just made a last batch of Christmas cookies and will pack for my trip to Sweden later. Am trying really hard to enjoy all of this as much as possible!

If you celebrated, I hope your Christmas was wonderful!


December at home

I’ve been at my parents’ in Northern Germany for a few days which appears to be the only place in the entire country where it hasn’t snowed. (Cologne, meanwhile, was covered in a blanket of white as soon as I left it. Figures.) So that bit’s been rather disappointing but I’ve been to two of our local Christmas markets on most of my nights here and that has almost made up for the lack of snow. It has been crazy cold and that, too, put me in a good mood.

I met up with my aunt and my grandma for some Glühwein. I bought a new book; I’m almost finished with “Gone Girl”. I hung out with my brother and helped him buy Christmas presents. I got obsessed with “QI” because of Stephen Fry and have been watching too many episodes a day on YouTube. I baked cookies that are already gone.

I like December so far. I have to get back to Cologne tomorrow for a meeting about the potential freelance opportunity I mentioned a couple weeks back but right now it looks like I might get to spend the rest of the month with my family – which is nice after having spent the past four Decembers out of the country or working.

Goodbye autumn, I hardly knew ya

Christmas markets open in Cologne tomorrow and with that winter is officially here. All the major squares around the city will be crowded with little huts covered in fake snow, Santas and Rudolphs climbing up their roofs, and the smells of all the delicious foods will be everywhere. I cannot wait for the first Glühwein of the season; my freezing hands wrapped around the hot cup, cheeks red from the cold and the wine and the joy all around me.

But I’m also a little sad to say goodbye to fall. It came and went in the blink of an eye. I love the colors of fall, days getting shorter and colder, the late September sun, my birthday, cozy nights at home – all of it – and somehow this year it all passed me by without my really noticing or appreciating the season.

All the more reason to dive head first into winter, then, and make the most of it before my favorite half of the year is already over again!

Places I’ve Lived: Aachen, Germany

I lived in Aachen for one year during my first year at university. It’s the first place I moved to when I moved out of my parents’ home. Aachen is Germany’s western-most city and a spa town. It is known for its cathedral, where 30 German kings and 12 queens were crowned between 936 and 1531. So much history! The city sits right on the border to both Belgium and the Netherlands, making it an interesting destination for tourists.

I didn’t actually see much of Aachen while I lived there because I spent my days across the border in Maastricht attending uni. The 70-minute commute each way meant all I wanted once I got to Aachen was get to my apartment and relax. This is why I eventually ended up moving again. But what a special apartment I had in Aachen!

It was a tiny place but it was inside a building adjoined to the cathedral which easily made it the most central apartment in Aachen and gave me a spectacular view of the cathedral’s main entrance and tower as well as the cathedral yard. I would get annoyed sometimes at the hordes and hordes of tourists passing through there, and having to hear the tour guides tell the same stories over and over again. And it took a while to get used to the cathedral bells ringing every fifteen minutes at such close proximity. But looking back, I’m just thrilled that my first apartment was such a special place!

While so much of Aachen is just Regular Medium-Sized City Ugly, its old town – which is all I ever really saw because of where I lived – is really nice and cozy. I loved the farmer’s market and the bakeries selling Aachener Printen (a specialty of the region) as well as the truly beautiful Christmas market. The latter of which, to be frank, is pretty much the only thing that would draw me back to Aachen now.

(Not all the places I’ve lived were covered in snow all the time. Sadly! Heh. I just tend to take more pictures when it’s snowy because it’s beautiful so this is what I have of Aachen.)

Have you ever been to Aachen, or heard of it?