I’ve been promising you a home tour for ages now, so ready or not, here it is! There are still a few things that are unfinished — like I need to find a drill in order to hang up that painting propped against the back of the couch, I’m waiting for a hanging lamp for the dining area to be delivered, and someday I will buy actual dining chairs instead of sitting on the folding balcony chairs — but that’s just the way homes are, right? Constantly evolving.
A work in progress or not, I’m so happy to finally be surrounded in one place — no more commuting between cities! — by everything I’ve collected during my travels and stints abroad over the last nearly 20 years. It really feels like my personal history is reflected in my home now.
Although everyone remarks at how steep the steps are coming up to my little (55 qm/590 square feet) attic apartment, you’re always rewarded with a flood of light from the large south-facing windows and balcony and a wonderful feeling of airiness. At the same time, the relatively low wood beam ceilings offer a lovely coziness.
Currently in the midst of Whole30 (more on that in another post), I’ve really been putting the kitchen to the test, and while a bit more counter space would be lovely, it mostly does the trick. There’s another window to the left of this photograph that looks directly onto the balcony, so there’s of natural light in here. And the glass door is perfectly for containing cooking smells but still giving you a sense of belonging to the rest of the apartment.
The balcony might be my most favorite aspect of the whole apartment! Even towards the end of October, my flowers and plants are still going strong. (P.S. I took these pictures several weeks ago — today those trees in the background are beautiful shades of orange and yellow!)
Finally, the sleeping area is a bit awkward to photograph because of the slanting walls, but you get the picture. My current bed frame is actually in the cellar because it was too tall to fit against the slant, but sleeping low to the ground actually fits this space perfectly I think.
So, there you have it! My humble abode. Still a work in progress, but it’s home.
What home improvement projects are on your to-do list?
I started this year with the goal of getting my half-marathon time under 2 hours. But while training for the Berlin Half Marathon over the winter — coinciding with prepping for my PhD defense — I was burnt out and decided to train and run without a watch, to take the pressure off and simply run for the love of running. It was fabulous!
Although I started diligently reporting my training for the Bremen Half Marathon over the summer, my training quite honestly fell apart a few weeks before the race — a mixture of work stress, catching a cold, and generally lacking motivation were all to blame (sounds like classic burnout here too, right?). While I was hitting my prescribed paces during the workouts I did manage in those weeks, I knew they were too few and far between to really have a chance of breaking 2 hours.
And here’s the spoiler alert: I was right. I didn’t come in under 2 hours, and I didn’t set a new personal record. But I did end up with my second best time ever (2:06:00), running about a minute and a half slower than my best time (2:04:32 from last year’s Bremen Half Marathon).
My goal for the race was just to try as hard as I could and see what happened. I calculated all the paces I would need to reach my different goal times and printed out a pace band — though generally good at math, my running math during races sucks, so I love having a pace band to refer to and know exactly where I stand.
Basically, I can sum up the race with two words: it hurt. Every single freaking kilometer hurt. Unfortunately it was not the same kind of hurt that comes from pushing your boundaries based on strong training (hurts so good!), but more like the hurt that comes from being undertrained and having no business trying to maintain those paces. But I’m pretty stubborn when I want to be, so I didn’t ease up (my paces for the first 10 miles were: 9:27, 9:32, 9:26, 9:28, 9:30, 9:33, 9:35, 9:33, 9:39, 9:34)
That is, until I had to — around 17 km/10.5 miles — when the side stitches that had plagued me from the beginning became too sharp to run or stretch through. So I did something I haven’t done in at least 10 years during a race — I stopped to walk. Up until that point, I was more or less maintaining a pace that would put me close to or under my best time from the previous year. While of course a personal record is always tempting, the pain was slowing me down even more than it would have to take a quick breather. So I took maybe a minute or so to catch my breath, walk and stretch out my side. Afterwards, I was able to continue on running the last 4 km as strong as I could and still enjoy the rest of the race (my paces for the last 3 miles: 10:32, 9:43, 9:39). Totally worth it.
All in all, I have to say I was pretty satisfied with the race. Of course it’s frustrating that I couldn’t get it together to finish out my training strongly before the race — because I think I could have at least run a personal record — but such is life. I’m glad I got to see where my base fitness more or less sits, even with being under trained. I’m also pleased that it’s quite a bit faster than the half marathons I was running even a couple years ago!
So what’s next? Per usual after a long training period, I’m spending some time concentrating on strength training for awhile. And I’m letting myself dream big about my running goals for 2016! More on that to come later…
Over the past several years I’ve taken part in two Fotomarathons in Berlin, billed as a photo “competition under extreme circumstances: One city, 12 hours, 24 themes.” Always exhausting, but always a fantastic experience. So imagine my delight when I heard that Bremen was organizing it’s own Fotomarathon in mid-September: 9 hours, 9 photos, 9 themes. A little less extreme maybe, but still a proper challenge — I signed myself up immediately!
The Start – Schaulust, 11 am
The Bremen Fotomarathon kicked off on a Saturday morning. Over 200 photographers were there to learn the overall motif for the day: Stadt im Fluss or Flowing City. Definitely appropriate given Bremen’s maritime and Hanseatic history. We were also given the first set of three themes, plus the place and deadline for the first check-in point: 2pm at the Botanical Garden.
Before getting started, however, I sat myself down at a cafe with an espresso and a sandwich and put some thought into my strategy for the day. Although I only knew the overall motif and the first three themes, I decided that my set of photos for the Fotomarathon would also have a transportation theme in some way or another…
My first stop for my first photo was the main train station. An additional challenge for this photo was that it needed to included my start number for the competition. So number 126 of the luggage lockers seemed fitting!
Next I headed to the Europahafen to see the “Alex”, a well-known, beautiful boat visiting for the next months My aim was to make use of the figurative use of the theme in German, meaning overly made-/dressed-up, as well as it’s literal meaning. Although I love the Europahafen, I later ended up kicking myself for taking the time to travel out there.
For the third photo I stayed at the Europahafen and did my best to capture the effervescent energy of the Golden City Hafenbar. Then with plenty of time to spare until check-in, I made the 45-minute journey back into the city center and over to the Rhododendron Park and Botanical Garden.
Check-in point 1 – Botanika, 2 pm
After checking in, I received the next set of themes and sat down with a slice of cheesecake to mull them over. Immediately I noticed that the next check-in was at 5pm at Lloyd Caffee again in the Überseestadt near the Europahafen. Doh! Well at least I had time to make my way back out there. But first, I decided on this shot in Schwachhausen near the Botanical Garden. The sign reads: private path, not a thruway.
After reaching the city center again, I headed straight to another well-known boat that serves as a restaurant and is always anchored in the Weser along Bremen’s Schlachte — a true Stadtpflanze!
My final photo of this set was composed along the train tracks in the industrial section of the city’s harbor area. I took my inspiration from those adventurous souls hitching rides on freight trains. Again, with plenty of time to spare before the deadline for the next check-in, I wandered around the Kaffeequartier and took some non-Fotomarathon photos of the loads of cargo containers. Now that’s my idea of heaven!
Check-in point 2 – Lloyd Caffee, 5 pm
Picking up the final set of themes, I immediately head back into the city. Continuing with my transportation motif, my next photo was overlooking Bremen’s main train station — most definitely the city’s pulsing hot spot.
Ok, around this point, I was starting to feel the effects of many hours on my feet and my inspiration was lagging. Looking up, at the front of the main train station. Please don’t ask me what that has to do with the photo’s theme!
Finally, I headed into the heart of Bremen: the Markplatz. I definitely wasn’t the only Fotomarathoner with the same idea. There were several of us propped up on the stairs across from the Rathaus to get a good view of the square. Unfortunately, we all waited there quite a long time for a good shot because an ugly white van was ruining the shot for at least 20 minutes. Good thing I was still ahead of schedule!
The Finish Line – noon, 8 pm
Nine hours after the start, I was at “noon” in the Viertel for the final check-in. I took a few minutes to select my favorite photos for each of the themes for the day before handing my SD-card over to be scanned. Geschafft! (No editing was allowed and all photos had to be in the same order as the themes were given out.)
Another fun, but exhausting Fotomarathon under my belt! I was so glad to be able to participate this time in my own backyard and have a chance to explore all of Bremen’s different sides. I also became a fan of the 9 themes, 9 photos, 9 hours structure — somehow it felt much more manageable and less hectic than the other Fotomarathons I participated in.
A Photo Exhibition
Now I can’t wait to see how everyone else interpreted the themes and faced the day’s challenge! If you’re in Bremen this weekend, all photos are being exhibited at Schuppen Eins (Konsul-Smidt-Straße 20-26) and admission is free:
Tis currently the season when beer usually receives way more attention in Germany than wine. But living in Northern Germany, I’ve managed to tune out Oktoberfest this year and instead hosted a small wine evening — the first official gathering in my new apartment. The theme of the evening was a comparison of German and American wines, so I invited a nice group of German and American friends over, along with a couple of other nationalities to keep things interesting!
For the event, Ludwig von Kapff sent over this fantastic selection of German and American reds and whites…*
In total, there were two German white wines — a Riesling and a Chardonnay/Weißburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc) mix — and one German red — a Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir). Personally, I’ve always found Germany’s Spätburgunder wines to be my favorites, but I kept my mind open for the evening! The American wines consisted of one white — a Chardonnay — and two reds — a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Syrah mix and a Zinfandel.
Anticipating that the actual wine tasting might get a little lost as the evening wore on, I created a placeholder for each wine with some important information, like: key tasting notes, grape sorts, vineyard, awards, and so on.
Without a doubt, there are plenty of differences between American and German wines. Growing up near Washington State’s own wine country, I somehow arrived at the perception that European wines are more sophisticated and refined, while American wines are more innovative and bold. This might have to do with typical American preferences for a flavorful wine that can be enjoyed on its own, as compared to a more European preference for a subdued wine to complement a meal. It also seemed to me that Americans as opposed to Europeans were typically more than happy to experiment with wines from less traditional regions of the world, like South Africa, Chile, and Australia. These are huge generalizations, for sure, which I wanted to put up for discussion.
An Argentinean friend with an admitted bias towards Argentinean Malbecs, said if he was going to drink a white wine, he wouldn’t hesitate to reach for a German Rieslings, even in Argentina. For him, it’s about recognizing the strengths of countries’ wine regions. One of the most surprising insights of the evening was the professed love of some of my German friends for Californian wines — indeed, you might even call it a guilty pleasure! Why so? With all of the outstanding German and European wines at their fingertips, the ecological footprint left by shipping wines from the US to Germany may indeed induce a bit of guilt among the eco-conscious. While the environmental consciousness of Germans in general has always impressed me and doesn’t come as any surprise, I was quite happy to have my wine preconceptions blown away by my Californian-wine-loving German friends!
With that said, perhaps the clear winner of the evening will come as less of surprise? The Fetzer Zinfandel — brand new to Ludwig von Kapff’s selection of wines — was a definite crowd pleaser. Hailing from California, this full-bodied wine boasts a strong note of dark berries and slight hints of spice and black pepper. Earning them bonus points in my book, the Fetzter vineyards pride themselves on starting a “winemaking revolution” and are committed to environmentally sustainable practices in wine production. Maybe that will help take some of the edge off of that guilty pleasure? :)
All in the all, it was an outstanding evening full of conversation with great wine and even better friends!
* Many thanks to Ludwig von Kapff for providing the wine for this evening, and to my friends for sharing their thoughts on wine.There are no affiliate links in this post. *
It’s officially been two months since I’ve moved into my new apartment. The dust has definitely settled and everything has more or less found its place. While I still owe you the “after” post to match the empty “before” one, first I thought I’d offer you a sneak peek in the form of this month’s Urban Jungle Bloggers challenge — plants and art.
For my birthday I received some gorgeous plants which help make my apartment warm and inviting. One of them was supposed to go to my office, but I gotten way too attached and have kept them both at home. :)
One of the benefits of finally having my own place is that I have plenty of space to hang up all my art and prints, both old and new. One of my new prints (above) is a silkscreen from Sleater-Kinney’s show in Berlin not too long ago, kicking off their European tour. I love how all the green leaves make the colors in the print just pop! Below I’ve paired another birthday plant with two older pieces of art that I’ve had seemingly forever: a painting from my trip to Nicaragua in 1998 and a gorgeous map of Uganda that I bought while I lived there in 1999.
I don’t want to give away too much of the apartment just yet, but I hope these two photos give you a good idea of how my plants and my art just naturally pair together. Curious to see what other Urban Jungle Bloggers have to share? Check them out here...
When I lived in New York I went through a long phase where I attended classical concerts at Carnegie Hall at least a couple times a month throughout the entire concert season. So I find it highly ironic that since moving to Germany, the birthplace of some of the greatest classical composers in history, I’ve only been to a handful of classical concerts at most. I was quite happy to remedy that situation during Musikfest Bremen — a three-week long music festival celebrating its 25th anniversary and featuring performers from around the world, big names as well as the rising stars of everything from jazz to classical, from world music to opera.
Just a few nights after the festival kicked off, I attended a fantastic concert by the famed pianist, Sir András Schiff at Bremen’s Art Deco concert hall Die Glocke. As we arrived, normally casual Bremer were dressed to the nines and streaming into the concert hall. The Großer Saal was completely packed. Of course photos weren’t allowed, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say that our seats in the 11th row offered the perfect view of Schiff’s hands as they graced the keys of a 1921 Bechstein concert grand. The concert focused on variations from Mozart, Haydn, Schumann, and Beethoven, with my personal favorite of the evening being “Variations sérieuses” by Mendelssohn Bartholdy.
It was so meditative to watch Schiff play and to listen to the sounds of the piano. I haven’t felt so relaxed in ages! Although I’m no classical expert, judging from the thunderous applause and stamping of feet afterwards, it seems my fellow concert goers enjoyed themselves as well! Schiff responded in turn by playing a brief encore — which I didn’t recognize, but would love to identify in case anyone happens to know what he played.
The whole evening was fantastic and inspired me to get back into my old New York habits once the concert season officially starts up again. But in the meantime, the Musikfest Bremen continues until September 19th, so there is still plenty more time to get a few more concerts in, classical or otherwise!
This past week was the last hopefully for a while that I had to combine a full-time job with big freelance projects and intensive training. I definitely need a bit of a breather! With too much stress and not enough time, I’ve fallen into a terrible cycle of too much coffee, sugar, and processed foods. So I’ve been reading It All Starts with Food and thinking about Whole30. I’m not interested in losing weight at all, but I am looking for the reset button on my nutritional habits (after the half marathon). I’m just starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together and connect my nutrition to some issues related to my immune system. Anyway, has anyone had any personal experiences with Whole30? Is it all just a fad or can it actually serve to reset your health and nutrition? I’d love to hear!
Monday: Rest is good.
Tuesday, yoga: Was suffering from a seriously stiff neck and some neck pain, so I traded my speed training for yoga focused on the neck and shoulder. Wise decision.
Wednesday, speed training: 10-minute warm-up, 2 x 1200m @ 6:40, 6:42, 4 x 800m @ 4:17, 4:19, 4:20, 4:27 (2:00 RI), 10-minute cool down. I was so exhausted afterwards that I collapsed into bed at 9pm.
Friday, strength training: Again, the Seawheeze strength training workout.
Saturday, run: Just a standard 5-mile run, plus some strength training with the Nike Training Club app.
Sunday, long run: With 8 miles on deck, today was supposed to be an “easy” long run day, but it felt so much harder and it was so much slower than last week’s 10-miler. Part of it definitely has to do with the 100% humidity since I ran directly after a thunderstorm, and part of it probably has to do with Saturday’s run. But still.
That’s it from me! How was your week? Any thoughts on Whole30?