In Germany, we might not have Valentine’s M&Ms in the stores right now, but we do have something just as tasty and fun. May the Force be with you!
While my sister and I came into this world as undeniably cool little people (pictures don’t lie, we were really little), our development into the dazzling women we are today can be attributed to several factors including the Dirndls in our closet, the Beatles music rocking from our tape deck, and our eclectic movie education.
Let’s skip the Dirndls and Beatles for now and go straight to the movies. I herewith present to you the Top Ten Best Movies of all Time, according to me, plus a few favorite quotes that not only pepper our conversations but most likely influenced the very (fabulous) style with which we communicate.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)
- The gods are awaiting her. They would be angry if we sent up a smoked virgin.
- Stand aside everyone. I take large steps.
Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)
- I thought it was a costume ball!
- To pull the tail of a lion is to open the mouth of trouble and reveal the teeth of revenge biting the tongue of deceit.
Blazing Saddles (1974)
- Excuse me while I whip this out.
- My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.
Young Frankenstein (1974)
- Look at those knockers!
- With such a specimen for a body, all we need now is an equally magnificent brain.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
- I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.
- That’s no ordinary bunny!
The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
- Does the noise in my head bother you?
- I’m normally quite normal.
Romancing the Stone (1984)
- That was the end of Grogan…the man who killed my father, raped and murdered my sister, burned my ranch, shot my dog, and stole my Bible!
- I can’t hurt my favorite pig!
- C’mon Mikey, give me a lickery kiss!
- I know when my stomach growls there’s trouble.
Princess Bride (1987)
- I’m not a witch. I’m your wife!
- There’s a shortage of perfect breasts in this world. It would be a pity to damage yours.
- It’s my industrial-strength hairdryer, and I can’t live without it!
- Prepare ship for ludicrous speed! Fasten all seatbelts, seal all entrances and exits, close all shops in the mall, cancel the three-ring circus, secure all animals in the zoo!
On a related note, our dollhouse was stocked with original Star Wars action figures. C-3PO and R2-D2 could often be found having tea by the pool with a duck, and the Millennium Falcon was parked ‘out back.’ I told you we were cool…
What’s the best summer treat? Ever? Watermelons, frozen margaritas, and ice cream sundaes got nothin’ on it? Twelve full days with A!!!
I was so happy to pick A up from the airport – I had tears in my eyes. Same for her. We spent that afternoon at my favorite coffee house, talking and enjoying the simple fact that we were breathing the same air. Conversation flowed like always, with each of us finishing the other’s thoughts. For the next 11 days, we never ran out of things to talk about, even in the more heated moments (it’d be boring if we didn’t challenge each other a bit).
Time flies when you’re having fun. And boy, did we have fun! I showed her our new hood and my new work. We rode our bikes with Toby along the Rhine on a sunny day and in the rain on a not so sunny day (the true Düsseldorf experience). I of course showed her all the favorites – the coffee house, the bakery, my chocolate croissant dealer, our little Italian place, the Mexican restaurant, the Devil’s of Düsseldorf. We discovered gummy bear heaven. I tried to take her to boot heaven, but we were about a month early still. We spent a Wednesday night on Ratinger with Altbier and Wienerschnitzel. Toby cooked for us, and we played Yahtzee and Boggle. For a bit of adventure, A and I took the train to Berlin, and A, Toby, and I took the convertible on a road trip to the Netherlands.
Before I was ready, it was time for A to go. I was so sad to leave her at the airport – I had tears in my eyes. Same for her.
It. Has. Finally. Arrived. Summer is here! It’s amazing what a difference it makes to be greeted by the shining sun first thing in the morning. Here are some of my favorite things about the beginning of summer in Düsseldorf:
- Blue skies and sunshine
- People everywhere (where were they all winter?)
- Drinking coffee at an outdoor street cafe
- The crowds on Ratinger Straße (Düsseldorf’s ‘party’ street)
- Shorts, sandals, and sunglasses
- Daring to leave the apartment without a scarf or a real jacket
- Grown men eating gelato with ridiculously dainty, brightly colored plastic spoons
- The pasty bodies of sun worshippers speckled all over the bright green grass of the Hofgarten
- The air filled with swirling white seed heads from all the blooming trees
- Riding my bike along the Rhine
I love it, love it, love it!
As a lucky twist of fate would have it, Toby’s birthday and the quarter-finale for the Champions League (soccer) landed on the same day. A perfect excuse for a party on an otherwise normal Tuesday! Because FC Bayern München was playing Olympique de Marseille, we hosted a Bavarian-themed party replete with Toby’s favorite Bavarian beer and typical beer garden eats. The evening went splendidly!
The creation of our menu items was a full day of adventures in the kitchen for me.
First up was a trip to the bakery to buy pretzels and rolls. Note – Bavarian pretzels disappear in Düsseldorf very quickly; they must be acquired first thing in the morning. With my baked goods safely stashed away, I could concentrate on the other tasks at hand – Emmentaler squares, Obatzda, potato salad, accordion-cut Radi, and other simpler but important accoutrements such as mustard (store-bought, I’m not that ambitious), little tomatoes, and radishes. The crowning Leberkäse was brought from the butcher by Toby.
I started with the easiest thing – Emmentaler squares. It’s all about building on the small successes, right? Emmentaler is a slightly nutty cheese with holes in it (think Swiss cheese). At the beer garden and Oktoberfest it comes served in cubes, salted and peppered. A delight with a fresh pretzel!
Next up – Obatzda. This is a very traditional Bavarian spread made of Camembert cheese, cream cheese, and butter flavored with finely cut white onions, sweet paprika, caraway, salt, and pepper. The mashing of the Camembert with a fork is a heck of a workout (note – it goes much easier if you leave it out for an hour or so), but the effort is worth it. Obatzda makes the perfect beer-soaker-upper.
The potato salad was a special request from Toby – “the kind with pickles and an oil and vinegar dressing.” Fortunately it’s an easy request to fill – cook and peel potatoes, cut into small pieces, add diced pickles, add diced red onions cooked in vegetable bouillon. Oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper come right before you serve your bowl o’ potato salad. A perfect companion for your cheese and pretzels!
The most adventurous task of the day, by far, was the cutting of the Radi (a long root, with a flavor like a radish). It’s usually served in a very thinly sliced spiral. But, because you need a special machine to do this, I voted to try the accordion-cut version (I could have cheated with regular thin slices, but where’s the fun in that?). All I can say is, You Tube rules. I won’t bore you with the details, but it requires a great deal of concentration, limb control, and the exact knife angle. Once you have your accordion, you salt the crap out of it – the Radi’s flavor comes out when you make it “cry.”
The anchor for the meal was Leberkäse, something like a Bavarian meatloaf that you eat with sweet mustard on a white Kaiser roll. While Toby and I aren’t big meat eaters, this was to complete the menu for our guests. And they ate it up, literally!
Wash everything down with Hefeweizen (wheat beer) and Pils (Pilsener) for the boys and white wine for the girls – a raving success!
It’s been a while. A lot has been going on. All good. Where to begin…where to begin…?
We got back 10 days ago from a fabulous trip to Egypt for an escape from the end of winter. Go figure – the day we boarded our plane, it was sunny and warm. Isn’t that just how Life toys with you? No matter though. The five days we were away were just what the doctor ordered – we soaked up the sun, read our books, hung out with Toby’s parents, slept too long, and ate lots of food. Perfect!
When we got back, the sun was still shining. I survived my first Düsseldorf winter (let’s ignore the fact that it was a pretty mild one aside from the two weeks of -10°C weather), and now spring is in full force! While the next few days are forecast to be cold and rainy (just a glitch in the system, I’m sure), it’s turning out to be amazing. The view of the Hofgarten from our living room windows lets us watch the approach of spring. The park gets greener by the day as new trees decide it’s time to get their photosynthesis on. It’s all so fresh and alive, and I can’t help but feel more fresh and alive too.
Another happy side effect of spring and that funny thing known as Daylight Savings Time is that it now stays light until almost 8pm. It makes the day so gloriously long! Toby and I have been taking advantage of it by adding a morning bike ride along the Rhine to our daily activities.
And now for the biggest news – I am no longer a bum. Yes, I have landed a job! I had an interview the day after I passed my fitness trainer test, and by the end of the interview I had a job at one of the local gyms. And all of this within the last four days, mind you. I know, right?!
Now comes the real test – will Christina like her newly chosen career path? Oh, such a big question for a smart girl who’s dumb enough to try to doubt herself….
Exciting times, indeed!
(a cry of excitement to greet fellow revelers)
Carnival/Karneval is finally here! Toby has been talking about it ever since we moved to Düsseldorf. According to him, this beloved tradition is what makes the second half of winter bearable. While Karneval officially marks the beginning of Lent (if you do that kind of thing), it also serves to break up the monotonous cold with a long weekend of free-flowing Altbier, dancing, and crazy costumes.
I have been awaiting my first Karneval with a mix of excited anticipation and ever-so-slight apprehension. I am by no stretch of the imagination a beer drinker, at all. But no worries – I don’t usually need a lot of (read: any) alcohol to get me dancing. The costume aspect was slightly stressful; I’ve never been a big fan of events requiring a costume. I don’t think I have enough creativity or willingness to spend money on something so fleetingly useful. I kind of like what I came up with though – 80s workout video star, complete with leotard, leg warmers, and neon. But how to not freeze your butt off while waiting to get into the party? Luckily it ‘warmed’ up to just above freezing again. Scales are tipped – anticipation is greater than apprehension!
Yesterday was our first day. I had to make a grocery store run over lunch to make sure we had enough post-party snack food at home. The streets were already teeming with all sorts of wild characters getting an early start – muscle men, a shark, a kangaroo with his pouch full of bottles of beer, what looked like the Arizona lottery elf, the grandmother from Little Red Riding Hood (inside was a man). I couldn’t help but giggle my way down the street.
In the afternoon (why not get the party started early?) we met friends to head over to one of the parties. It was me, a fully decked out 70s tennis player, and Snow White and some of her Dwarves. Standing in line wasn’t so bad – the vintage tennis case doubled as a mobile bar (I said he was fully decked out). Inside the atmosphere was fabulously festive! Everybody in costume, loud music, flashing lights. Eight hours later (if you’re going to party, you might as well go all in!), we headed home, me a new fan of Karneval.
The countdown to tonight’s party has begun!
We just got back from a fabulous 10-day trip to Arizona! It felt so good to be there again, and, in a strange way, as though we had never left. My sister and I instantly tuned into the legendary hive mind. Conversations with friends seemed to pick up where they left off. Hip hop music, drinks, and ESPN still set the stage for a good mood. In one word, the trip was perfect.
That’s not always easy to accomplish when you have a list of people to see and things to do but a limited amount of time, yet somehow we managed to find the right balance. What do I remember best from the trip? The love of family and friends that were so happy to see us again. How good it felt to be around my sister and to see her flourishing on her own. Saguaros, rocks, and the smell of creosote. The warmth of the desert sun on my face. The feel of driving my old 4Runner. SomeBurros burritos and the smile on Toby’s face as he ate one. Even the rain (yes, ironically it did rain), which has a totally different quality than in Düsseldorf.
And then a funny thing happened (no, not on the way to the forum). I started calling Düsseldorf home. I don’t really understand why, but something about being in Arizona helped me get there. Maybe it had to do with the realization that leaving a place doesn’t have to mean you’re gone. Or that it’s the people that make a place home. Or that I was living out of a suitcase.
In any case, Toby and I are back in our apartment. Although we already woke up to snow once (it was washed away by the rain), it’s nice to be in Düsseldorf again. It’s slowly becoming home.
I guess home really is where you hang your hat (and soon, hopefully, a few new lamps and pictures).
Some of you will be surprised to hear this, but I actually skipped an opportunity to go to the gym last night. My excuse – it was raining snow. I don’t know what the official term is, but for a few minutes in the middle of a crazy rain storm yesterday afternoon, there was white stuff falling out of the very dark sky. I said to myself, no way am I going out in that. Rain? Ok. Snow rain? No way. I have my limits, people.
Fine. I guess it’s time to face the cold, hard, inevitable reality of winter. Noooo (she says, kicking and screaming on the floor)!
The one good thing about the onset of winter is that with it comes Christmas, and with that comes a whole bunch of fun stuff. The store windows are filled with Christmas decorations. Although I must happily say that either I’m going to the wrong places, or Christmas music is not as prevalent here because I haven’t been annoyed once yet by a Mariah Carey Christmas song. We have an advent calendar from Toby’s mom hanging in the apartment that provides a daily dose of chocolate. I’ve been busy gathering the perfect Christmas presents. And Toby and I are making sure to enjoy the local Christmas markets.
German Christmas markets are famous the world over. Along with stands selling Nutella crêpes, Dutch french fries, and Christmas tree ornaments is the beloved Glühwein – probably the best reason to visit a Christmas market.
Glühwein is the German’s answer to a cold winter evening. I don’t actually know who invented the stuff, but it’s pretty awesome. It’s essentially just spiced red wine served hot, but it has magical powers, I tell you. It brings the people out in droves, despite the cold. Even I don’t mind a nippy walk to sink myself into the warm mass of fellow Glühwein drinkers. There really is no better way to spend a cold pre-Christmas evening – with friends and good conversation over a steaming mug (or two) of Glühwein.
I know this doesn’t sound like a title that could possibly relate to Düsseldorf in November, but soon it will make sense. In the last week, Toby and I went out for an evening of drinks and dancing, on two separate occasions. It was a lively change of pace from our slightly more domestic lifestyle as of late and a fun revival of our first Thursday nights together back in Arizona. Occasion number one – adult dress-up, i.e. Halloween. In Germany, Halloween is a dark holiday. There are no cheerleaders, angels, or walking telephone booths, unless they’re dead. So the group of us headed out, ashy-faced with dark circles around our eyes and blood dripping from our mouths. Sounds sexy, huh? Occasion number two – Toby’s brother and his girlfriend came to visit. We spent some nice time with them walking along the Rhine, visiting a photography exhibit, and drinking beer on Ratinger (Düsseldorf’s party street). Why not throw in a little dancing?
We certainly had some good booty-shaking times! And it really was hot and sweaty. And crowded. Crazy crowded. Neighborly backside rubbing was unavoidable. But everybody stays friendly. You’re all after all going for the same thing – a strobe light-flashing, bass-pumping escape from the daily grind. As the night progresses, at some point you stop dancing for yourself and just sway with the rhythm of the crowd; you have no choice. It’s very moving. Literally.
I don’t know what it is about a night of dancing, but it really does wonders for the soul. I certainly plan on partaking in a few more of them. Besides, a sweaty dance floor is one of the few places where I can wear my favorite tank top, without a sweater over it. I love tank tops!