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!

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Being an introvert

My stomach is in knots over New Year’s plans right now, and I hate that. I just want to enjoy Christmas and then deal with the inevitable depression I (and many others, it seems) go through every January but not have to deal with worrying about what to do on New Year’s Eve on top of that. As things stand, I’ll be at my parents’ who will be celebrating with my aunt and uncle at home. I will tag along awkwardly, 24 years old, a party scrooge who’d rather just read or watch a movie or walk the never-ending online world every single night than socialize and get drunk. It’s just who I am. I understand the benefits of getting together with a bunch of people to ring in the new year and that it can be fun; I’m just not comfortable at typical New Year’s parties. More to the point: I don’t know any people in my hometown (not anymore) or in Cologne that I would enjoy socializing with. People who like what I like, who understand where I’m coming from when I say “I don’t like parties” without judging or patronizing me or finding it weird or different or boring. And of course that’s a huge part of why I’m upset right now. The realization that you don’t really have people around you that you want to spend time with, who get you, is sad. Painful even.

I have friends like that. But they are nowhere near me, geographically. It normally doesn’t bother me as much but right now it would be damn nice to have a couple people here at home, or even anywhere in the same country as me, that would think it’s a great idea to get together on New Year’s and cook and watch a movie and chat and have champagne and count down to 2013 and be in bed before 6am. I considered escaping to Sweden, where I have several friends who would enjoy an evening like this and where I already saw myself greeting the new year with a long early morning walk through the fresh snow, but since the idea was so last-minute, said friends already had plans. I would just hang out in my Cologne apartment but I had agreed last month that my roommate could “rent it out” to her dad and his girlfriend because I didn’t expect to be in Cologne for New Year’s.

And so mostly, I think, I’m just upset that I didn’t make plans earlier – plans I would look forward to because they’re not just What People Do On New Year’s but what I like doing. I’m upset that I actually care what my parents and aunt and uncle think when I end up spending New Year’s with them, that I already feel embarrassed about not knowing what to say when they will ask the inevitable question: “How come you’re not partying with your friends tonight?” I so badly need to work on these ridiculous insecurities, and work towards creating a life that makes me happy, rather than trying to fit whatever only acceptable mold I think exists.

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.

It snowed

It snowed on Tuesday. A tiny bit. Almost not worth mentioning. Tiny flakes; none of them actually stayed on the ground. For two blissful hours, the lovely white drifted down from the gray-blue sky, tossed about by the strong winds, and died before it hit the pavement, yes, but lifted my spirits nevertheless.
I watched “Lawless”, which was much better than I had anticipated. To give you an idea: a bond between three brothers, Virginia during prohibition, bootlegging, guns, violence. Also, Tom Brady. It sounds too easy, too predictable, and yet it’s fast-paced with a few unexpected turns and I would absolutely watch it a second time.

I’m going home tomorrow. I plan on spending as much time with my family as I can this Christmas season, making the most of my being unemployed. This means a lot of traveling back and forth by train and I just hope that the entire network of German railway won’t just break down as it tends to do as soon as it gets colder outside.

The end of November and NaBloPoMo has killed any inspiration for blogging I may have had (which is the opposite of what I had hoped would happen) so I don’t know when I’ll come back and write here. Expect photo posts, rather than words. And send me snow, if you’re lucky enough to have any.

Seafood dinner


My mom hosts a semi-fancy seafood dinner once a year, usually in October or November when it’s dark and cold early, and sitting inside indulging in a good meal with people you love is just the right thing to do. Think of it like a substitute Thanksgiving but with less gravy and more champagne. In recent years, what was originally a seafood dinner has morphed into a mussel feast of somewhat worrying proportions. If you can’t handle OD-ing on protein, do not attend, is all I’m saying. Or rather: know when to stop, do not OD in the first place. (This cautionary note is brought to you by my dad who had too many mussels one year and to this day is unwilling to speak openly about what happened after.)

In any case, it’s always a wonderful affair. My mom and I ordered and picked up 8 kg (about 18 lbs.) of mussels at a local seafood shop. We made some sauces and got baguette and German Pumpernickel, which I hate but apparently goes well with mussels. We had wine of course – well, my dad and grandma did. I did whiskey + coke along with my uncle; it’s our little tradition, no matter what kind of food is served. My aunt had also brought champagne because why not. The mussels, although not especially photogenic I’ll admit, taste delicious when cooked in a vegetable broth with tons of different herbs. My mom has her own recipe that she’s perfected and kept secret over the years. And like every year, it was a big success this year as well.

Have you ever tried mussels? Do you like seafood in general?

Prepping for Christmas

We’re officially past mid-November so it’s officially ok to listen to Christmas music, bake Christmas things and buy Christmas stuff. Everyone knows these are the official rules from the official guidebook.

So say hello to these guys:

Aren’t they ADORABLE? They’re Christmas tree ornaments and will go up on my parents’ tree this Christmas (since I will spend Christmas with them and won’t have my own tree).

My parents left early for some shopping in a neighboring city this morning while I slept in late. My brother and I ended up spontaneously deciding to join them and drove out there as well, and- it turned out to be so lovely. So gloriously unplanned and relaxed. It was cold today, a real winter day, and by the time we got there the sun was already hanging low, making for some beautiful light in the small shopping streets. It reminded me so much of Gothenburg – not sure why that specific city, and not any other Swedish town – and I loved it. My mom tried on coats and I bought the ornaments and we looked at snow globes. (Why am I not collecting snow globes yet? I should. It would help me get through the 10 dreadful months of the year that we don’t see any snow here. It would also cement my Weird Nerd Lady status.)

My mom and I also baked a Gundulakranz when we got home – recipe to come tomorrow, if I can stick to my blogging plans for once – which bookended our family centered Saturday perfectly.


These people. I can’t even-

My host family in Kentucky and their friends, neighbors and extended family are the kindest people I have ever met. Good-hearted to the core, forgiving, accepting, loyal – and they give and give and give, without ever expecting anything in return. There’s 7.000 kilometers of ocean and other countries between them and myself. It’s been five years since I saw them last. Sometimes I forget how much they mean to me, and how huge an influence they’ve had on who I am today. Sometimes it feels like everything I do in life is just to distract me from how much I miss them and how much I want to go back.

Just booked train tickets back home. Yesterday I suddenly realized that I’ve got a long weekend ahead and no plans yet. When I told my dad, he very adorably said he’d pay for the trains no matter what it might cost. So I will spend Thursday through Sunday at my parents’. I feel like I haven’t been home in a long time, even though that isn’t true at all.

My brother is coming home from a week-long motorcycle trip around Switzerland and Italy on Saturday and the first football games of Euro 2012 are happening as well.

Perfect time to be home.