Sunny days

I love when the sun shines here. There’s something special about it. It’s like a treat. The air has a different quality to it. It somehow feels more alive. Maybe it’s just that the sun makes me feel more alive. But there’s something more to it. A sunny day brings out the people. All of a sudden there are more errands to run, more cups of coffee to drink, more friends to share lunch with. The Hofgarten is filled with the sounds of kids playing, and the bars along the Rhine hum with day-drinking action. I think people are thankful for every single sunny fall day we get, especially after such an epically crappy summer.

I’ve been wondering about something – am I more likely to age from the sun in Arizona or Germany? In Arizona, the sun is definitely stronger and shines way more. But, I religiously used a minimum of spf 15 on normal days, and for things like hiking or running I used spf 50 (it’s not as extreme as it sounds – I brown like a piece of toast and therefore require proper protection). In Germany, the sun is definitely weaker and very unpredictable. Because it’s easy to get caught in an unexpected patch of sun, even this safety-first Arizona girl sits out without abandon or a hint of sun block. And yes, I do get a little brown, even in Germany. I guess I’ll just keep religiously using my anti-wrinkle cream and hope for the best!

While my sun block use has definitely dropped, I do still wear sunglasses when the sun shines. Although I’ve noticed that I’m often among the few. It’s funny because I have the feeling that people are staring at me. I’m not sure if it’s because I look glamorous (come on, shades totally up a person’s glamour factor!) or because I look silly (like, what’s that all about?). Or maybe I forgot to zip my pants? Who knows. In any case, I like busting out my sunglasses because it feels like a little bit of Arizona every time I wear them.

And that is, after all, the key to our newest adventure – incorporating the best of our past experiences into our new surroundings.

Caffeinated happiness

Today I experienced a very tangible reason for why I really think I’d like to try a stint working at a coffee house. Let me explain…

Now that the apartment is pretty much set up I need to find something that gives my days structure and my life purpose. It’s making me slightly nervous that I spend so much time alone, on my computer, with occasional neighborhood wanderings to buy food, toilet paper, or cashmere pantyhose (a decadent winter treat for legs!). So I finally scraped together the courage to ask at two different gyms how I might go about getting a job with them and what their qualifications for group exercise instructors and personal trainers are. The first gym couldn’t tell me because the various contact people for my questions were all busy. At the second gym I spoke with someone who was very helpful regarding the licensing requirements for personal training. Unfortunately, I also found out that they don’t need new personal trainers at that specific club anytime soon. My phone number is also being forwarded to the person in charge of group exercise classes, although the comment was that with my lack of experience it would probably be hard to get a class. Not a lot of positive forward movement, yet.

Back at home I found a letter saying I was denied for an online checking account I’d applied for – no income. What a weird feeling to be 33 and not able to open a checking account on my own. I’m seen as a financial liability!

In a slightly depressed state, I went to the coffee house for some introspection. I was greeted at the door by one of the regular waiters with a smile and three simple words. “Hallo! Latte macchiato?” Immediately my spirits were lifted. It’s nice when someone remembers you and your drink; it’s like you belong somewhere.

While I’m sure there are less glorious aspects to working in a coffee house, I love the idea of bringing a little caffeinated (or not) happiness to others. Which is why the coffee house calls. Besides, how cool would it be to learn how to make milk foam art?!

The breakfast dilemma

Initially, my biggest food-related goal was to find peanut butter, the kind that’s just made out of peanuts, pure and simple. No added oils, sugars, or salt.  I yearned for a spoonful of peanut butter on a cracker – just a hint of salt from the cracker, the feeling that you’re doing something good for yourself, and the satisfying smack of licking it from the roof of your mouth for the next 5 minutes. I think I might have even started dreaming about it. I wouldn’t let myself buy the obvious substitute – Nutella. I know I said that all the walking helps with a few extra calories, but me with a jar of Nutella and not much else to do is just too dangerous. And then I found it, at the organic foods store. It’s called Erdnussmus, like apple sauce (Apfelmus), but with peanuts instead of apples. No wonder! In any case, I finally have my favorite protein-packed power snack back.

You know what else I miss, besides consistent sunshine and the freedom to wear tank tops? Trader Joe’s granola in the blue box, with just the right balance of dried fruits and nuts and oh so versatile – yummy with milk and even better sprinkled (heavily) over Breyers natural vanilla ice cream.

It’s funny how we can get used to things – the same noodles, salsa, toilet paper. I didn’t know you could get into a granola rut, but I definitely was in one. In those first few weeks after moving, I often found myself standing in the cereal aisle of the grocery store trying to commit to a new combination of grains with nuts or grains with dried fruit, preferably in a crunchy version (there’s nothing like a good crunch to get your brain going in the morning!). Because I couldn’t find a crunchy granola offering both nuts and dried fruit, I just didn’t eat granola. Breakfast sucked for a while – remember, I also didn’t have peanut butter – but I’ve slowly been opening my horizons and taking risks. My newest breakfast concoction has me feeling slightly witch-y. It’s basically yogurt with some not-so-crunchy granola in it, but it requires the careful mixing of several key ingredients to get it to the right consistency, flavor, and added health benefits. Now it’s my new power breakfast!

I guess that’s what a change of scenery does – it has ripple effects all the way down to your first meal of the day. So now I’m on the lookout for the perfect stand-ins (or upgrades?) in other areas, and I’m certain that with a little sleuthing and exploring I’ll find them!

Mostly cloudy with a chance of sun

With this simple statement, I have finally found a way to neatly describe the weather in Düsseldorf, which, for an Arizona girl, is at times depressing and nearly always inconvenient. I’ve decided that I definitely need to buy a bigger purse for carrying all  of my daily necessities. Even if I’m just going out for a little trip this includes an umbrella for that nearly 100% predictable daily rain shower, space to put my onion layers of warmth, a book in case I get tempted by a coffee house, and, if I’m feeling particularly daring, a pair of sunglasses. Who knew one day could offer so much weather?

Depressing is probably too harsh of a word to use because I’m finding many things to keep me happy, not the least of which is my current state of freedom (i.e. lack of a job) – Arbeitslosigkeit as the Germans call it. For example, you can get an awesome latte  macchiato at every bakery or coffee shop, and since I choose to walk or ride my bike everywhere (driving will come at a later date), I can drink them without fear of a few extra calories. How cool is that? Also inspiring is the constant contact with other humans. It’s unavoidable in the small spaces this city offers – in public transportation, on the streets, and at eateries. It’s so real.

So, even without constant sunshine, this Arizona girl is making a home in Düsseldorf. I like the words of wisdom from Toby’s mom – ‘you’re good if you have sunshine in  your heart.’ I’ll only add ‘and a scarf in your purse.’