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In the morning S packed a box full of snow and placed it in the freezer, chortling in anticipatory delight of taking it out in June. Then we went to join the sun-dazzled snowy streets. Lunch was a butch, bloody steak at Filetstück for me, a heap of perfect mashed potatoes for her. (We ate apples on the train, I murmur in my defense.) In the glass box that is the kitchen, we glimpsed the staff stealing spoonfuls of an anonymous dark mass in a metal bowl. S screwed up her courage and asked the waiter what it was when he brought us our change. Wollt ihr probieren? he said and when we shyly begged off, he brought us a bowl of buttery ground poppyseeds and two spoons.

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The snow was shin-deep at the cemetery playground. Swooping curves marked the course of wooden sleighs. We made our way north. When we arived, we sank into the embrace of a familiar royal blue sofa and listened to the Weihnachtsoratorium as the candles burned down.

New Year's Morning Outtakes

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As a coda, two outtakes of the frozen duck pond at Rudolph Wilde park: light, a lone bottle of Rotkäppchen.

And goodbye to 2014

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The most beautiful New Year's Day, spent walking in and around tranquil Volkspark Wilmersdorf. Welcome to 2015! (The snowflake card is designed by Sylvie McGowan for cut&make.)

 

Advent notes

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Every morning I walk to work and pass four or five of these enclosures containing Christmas trees ready to be netted and sold. I speak so often of trust and these trees are another marker: placed, there, waiting patiently, open to the skies. Also, there is something lovely about the scent of pine that fills the surrounding sidewalks.

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When I reach my office, I make myself a cup of Yunnan tea to drink by the window while I gather my thoughts for the day: such are the pleasures of routine. When Paper and Tea asked if they might send me a box of tea treats, I said of course. The texture of the furled, crinkly tea leaves in the  packet of Savanna Gold delighted me. The surprise of its smoky, precise flavor made me notice what I was drinking for the first time in a while: the pleasure of a break in routine.

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A French-British trio invited us along for cassoulet, and I brought a friend. The lamp above our heads was gilt and gave off the warmest light. Antoine played the guitar; a tow-headed toddler demolished the tiny sausages set out in bowls. I came away with a glow, reminded of the joy of gathering with strangers and friends around a table at home.

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I came away with a recommendation too. A guest at the dinner table told me of a children's book his wife had produced, created in 1945 by the German Dadaist Hannah Höch. She went to visit the nephew and took away this priceless copy of her manuscript, now it's a book and I've bought it from S.

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When I took out these three cookies (handmade Zimtsterne) to take their photograph by the window, a spicy cinnamon scent wafted up to me from the windowsill. They are definedly nutty beneath the brittle layer of fleeting sweetness. I suggest, if at all possible, that you take yourself to Das süße Leben and buy yourself a packet before Christmas.

And here's wishing you moments of quiet delight in the days to come.

Letterpress redux: A giveaway for a gray day

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My friends, oh, how life bustles on: a belated happy first Advent to you. An Italian mother spent a morning with S's class building up this lovely nativity scene and we lit the first candle on our wreath at suppertime yesterday. Meanwhile, quite unexpectedly, we may just have stumbled onto the flat that we have dreamed of finding for years now: one we can sink into, that feels like home. It's a lovely thrilling thing that has dashed our plans for a sleepy, peaceful Christmas season. On that, stay tuned.

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But today I wanted to pop back into this space to congratulation the talented Sabrina Sundermann on the fifth anniversary of her letterpress studio Small Caps. I remember my delight when I discovered her work, at a time when the renaissance of beautiful handmade paper goods was just beginning in Berlin. She's gone from strength to strength, adding workshops and albums to her offerings, as well as this delightful Berlin guide, which supplies suggestions on places to visit while leaving space for the user to add her own impressions.

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To win a copy of the guide plus a 'Hello Berlin' card, just drop an email to hello[at]berlinreified[dot]com with the subject line 'Small Caps'. We'll choose someone on Saint Nikolaus day (this Saturday).

Thanksgiving 2014: Turkey on the town and a pumpkin report

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Short days and the early dark is back. Are you filling your kitchen with good scents too?

We got talking about Thanksgiving some weeks back. What is the best pumpkin to use for pie? Who's cooking up a Thanksgiving meal this year? In a fit of industry, a few friends and I have updated my old Thanksgiving post for 2014. And reviving the spirit of scientific inquiry, we baked up a storm, making not one but three pies to test which German pumpkin yields the best puree for pumpkin pie. Details below.

Continue reading "Thanksgiving 2014: Turkey on the town and a pumpkin report" »

Vienna Pictured/Not Pictured

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Off the night train from Berlin to Vienna and straight on to Cafe Sperl for crisp rolls slathered with apricot jam and steaming plates of ham and eggs. (Baffled and delighted that that's what they're called, rather than Schinken und Eier.)

We stayed in an anonymous, central hotel that let us walk almost everywhere, from the Naschmarkt to the prettiest stationery shop I have seen south of R.S.V.P.

An exhibition devoted to a single color is my sort of exhibition. I trailed up the concrete stairs in time to Kind of Blue

The weather was miserable which meant we were happy to linger in all the obvious places. These included Café Prückel, Café Hawelka, and Die Halle. One blessed day we escaped to Langenlois where we lapped up soup dark with pumpkin seed oil and sipped the prettily named Sturm (an Austrian Federweißer) while Loisium guests plashed about in the outdoor pool.

We came home laden with jars of apricot jam from Wachau and the prettiest bags of sugar I have ever seen.

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