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.

And at once I knew I was not magnificent

Wow, you guys sure do like photos of baked goods, don’t you? Heh. A hearty welcome to everyone who felt inspired to follow this blog after yesterday’s post! I’m back in Cologne – back in the daily rut of unemployment, back to a roommate who likes to annoy me, back to not knowing just what the hell my life is supposed to be right now – and I’m not thrilled to be here. Although not exactly a life saver, it always boosts my mood to know that some of you out there enjoy my photos and my words. So thank you.

I spent the 2.5 hour train ride back to Cologne reading “Fall of Giants” which I mentioned a couple posts ago I’ve really been getting into. I forgot just how interesting and confusing and messed up the First World War was. The second book in the trilogy deals with WW2 and the third with the Cold War, and I feel like by the end of it my head will have exploded because, good god, TOO MANY TERRIBLE DECISIONS MADE BY EGOCENTRIC, POWER-HUNGRY MEN. I mean- obviously. But it somehow becomes even more clear when packaged into a novel, rather than taught as plain facts in history class.

The appointment for which I came back to Cologne was canceled while I was on the train back here (I was STOKED) (not) and the new appointment is next Monday so I could’ve stayed at my parents’ for another week, had I known this two hours earlier. Just the kind of thing you’d expect from a damn Monday but still frustrating.

Once back in Cologne, I went for a walk to the closest city park (see photo), thinking I should really pick up running again, admiring the beautiful sky, hating the traffic noises that you can’t see in the photo, recalling what Living And Working In Cologne was like last November, wondering what the fuck happened between then and today. Twenty-twelve should’ve been the year, you know. Things should’ve finally come together and instead they fell apart.

Sometimes it feels so much more dramatic than it really is, and today is such a day. (Using a largely unrelated Bon Iver quote in the title is always a strong indicator of unjustified whining to come.) Back to happier things tomorrow.

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.

Too many words on grapes

Apparently, according to my dad, grapes are in season in Germany right now so we’ve been eating them like crazy. Breakfast wasn’t quite enough? Let’s have some grapes. Wouldn’t mind a small dessert after lunch? OH I’LL JUST EAT THESE GRAPES LIKE A BOSS. (I don’t know how to use “like a boss”. It’s awkward every time I do.) And how about something to snack on while we enjoy this football game on TV? Well, are there any grapes left? (We continue to have grapes left. We bought ALL OF THEM.) Seriously. These grapes, you guys. I always thought grapes are just about as bland as cucumbers because usually they are. It turns out, if you buy stuff the time of year it’s grown locally instead of being flown in from Morocco, it tastes NICE. Like- these grapes- they’re all big and plump and a light purple/blue-ish color (GO AWAY WITH YOUR INNUENDOS, CHILDREN) and so sweet. So sweet. With just the right amount of tartness. I didn’t eat anything but grapes until 8pm today, at which point my body was like “Are you kidding with this? STOP WITH THE GRAPES.” But no. There can never be enough grapes. There can be enough words on grapes, though. So: moving on.

I’m reading Ken Follett’s “Fall of Giants” which follows five interrelated families through the dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women’s suffrage. It is fantastic, you guys. It is a difficult read, yes, mostly because I tend to read at times when history and politics are somewhat indigestible to me (like right before bed or when my eyes are too tired to stare at Pinterest pins anymore) and when I started it, I felt the same way I felt about “War & Peace” which is: too many characters, too many similar names, too many places I don’t know, too many parallel story lines, JUST STOP. But of course “Fall of Giants” isn’t quite as challenging as the Tolstoy classic and I’m actually really enjoying it now that I’m past the first 100 pages. The book is part of a trilogy, the second part of which was released this fall and I’m already impatient about the paperback coming out.

What else. I mentioned eating grapes (DID I?) while watching football. Football is important in this house, especially international matches – even if they’re friendly matches that don’t technically matter in any way. Germany played Holland last night and we watched it and it was terrible, just absolutely terrible, and it ended 0:0 and JFC wasn’t that a waste of an evening. BUT Sweden played England at the same time and THEY DELIVERED. My glorious Swedes, you guys. All royal-like and handsome and cool/collected and KILLING THE BRITS. Heh. I followed live match updates on a Swedish newspaper’s website while my dad refused to change the channel to what was clearly a better game than Germany vs. Holland, and only understood a quarter of what was being said, except GOAL over and over and over again. Long story short: they turned a 1:2 into a 4:2 – the fourth goal, scored in overtime, being especially delicious. To top it off, this was the very first match in Stockholm’s brand new sports arena, which made the Swedish win even more meaningful.

So, grapes and Swedish football and WW1 novels. That’s all I got. I don’t know. What do you usually do on Wednesdays?

A day (of shopping) in Holland

I went to Enschede today which is a Dutch city that sits right at the border to Germany. My parents go there about once a month. We often eat at La Place which is a chain usually located in the large Dutch department store V&D. They have lovely fresh food, and their blackberry tea is amazing so of course I had it today. We walked around the big farmer’s market on the central square for a bit, and then my parents went their way while I hit the stores.

Remember how my goal for the summer was to just look good in a simple white tshirt? Well, I finally bought the tshirt at H&M today. Step one: complete. Step two: er, on hold? I really need to start working out. — I also bought Rituals “Yin Organic White Lotus & Yi Yi Ren” body mist. I KNOW that just made you throw up. I hate these pretentious names of bath and beauty products as well but whatevs, it smells delightful. I also found new sunglasses (super cheap ones from H&M again) and a cute necklace that has a guitar pendant. Granted, that sounds a little ridiculous but just wait, I’ll post pictures at some point and YOU WILL SEE, YOU’LL ALL SEE! (Phoebe on Friends, anyone? No?) And then I just got some random stuff, like a headband, and tiny containers for shampoo and whatnot that you’re allowed to take on a plane in your carry-on luggage (within the EU). I’d been looking for these forever and could never find them here in Germany.

We always bring home food and pastries from our trips to Enschede as well because it’s obviously a little different from what we can get here and, well, better. And more affordable. I dread spending half of tomorrow on the road again when I’m driving back to Cologne but shopping made me happy today which counts as a huge success because it normally just makes me tired and aggressive.

I’ve been going for walks in the fields behind my parents’ neighborhood. In the midday heat, it’s peaceful and lonely out there, and I’m a little addicted to it now; to the scorching sun on my naked shoulders, the dry path beneath my Nikes, the waves of grain, and the wind in the trees. I come home with more freckles, darker tan lines, stronger legs, and sweat soaked clothes every time – and it feels glorious.

I’m going back to Cologne on Sunday so here’s what else I’ve been up to during my week up North:
eating farm fresh strawberries • staying up until sunrise and sleeping in until noon • cruising around in an Audi Q3 (dad’s current rental) • breakfast date with grandma • abandoning all make-up (want to continue this throughout August) • trying to get paid for my last month at work, meaning lots of emailing back and forth • going out for burgers at a lovely local place…

Cologne, I miss you. You too, lovely empty apartment of mine. I’m so ready to come back.

I know, I know, I know

Sadly, I want everything but for my parents to be able to say, “See, we told you so.”

All I do is guided by that. I am, I guess, still a stubborn teen at 23 years old. I just cannot follow the advice they give, because they may end up being right. Their tips, their experiences, their lessons learned, their warnings make me so angry. Let me make a mistake. Let me fall and stand up on my own. Let me get hurt and let me taste true success that isn’t, in some roundabout way, of your making.

My own pride and insecurities, my inner rebel, my naive belief in a life outside of what everyone expects, or maybe something else altogether, make it impossible for me to want to please them. I cannot stand the thought of the self-righteous smiles on their faces, as their predictions prove true; as life proves tied to the same patterns it has been tied to for generations.

I want to yell at them. I want to have irrefutable proof that I know better, that I’m smart enough to know my way, that everything they think of I have already thought of. I feel smothered and belittled. I’m angry at them and myself that I leave promising doors closed just because they told me to open them.

Get over it, I’d like to tell myself. I can’t, though. I can’t.