Friday Links

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

So while the world watched and celebrated with the 25th anniversary of the Falling of the Berlin Wall, the 9th November was also remembered by many for the beginning of the atrocities committed against the Jews many many years earlier.

This is so cool – Berlin photos now and before – just click on the photos :)

More Berlin related links, here’s an article about an art group who removed Berlin Wall memorial for their own border protest

Great article about stereotyping ‘dumb dads’.

Anyone interested in volunteering their time for the shoe-box campaign in Berlin can register here.

OMG get in my belly now!!

Apparently 1/10 sausages carries risk of Hepatitis – hmmm… I must be full of the disease then, living in Germany ;)

Anyone else remember these cartoons from the 1980s? I used to watch Popeye and Rude Dog all the time! Blast from the past!

Cute way to learn German with an image a day.

And last but definitely not least, 30 reasons to go to Japan before you die.

Share Button

Mega Pumpkin Soup

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate
The first one said, “Oh, my, it’s half past eight!”
The second one said, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one said, “Good folk, beware!”
The fourth one said, “We’ll run and run and run!”
The fifth one said, “Let’s have some fun!”
OOOOOOOH, went the wind
And OUT went the light
And the five little pumpkins
Rolled out of sight.
 ___
So tonight I made a pumpkin soup and a half. As a child who loved baking cakes, I got Delia Smith’s cooking books as a present one year. After trying her Butternut and Corn Soup, I never looked back (although her recipes include the most ridiculous amounts of posh food and end up ridiculously expensive – I remember making a cheesecake that cost me £40!!).

As I’m sure you are aware, it’s pumpkin season and I’m happy to eat away. I don’t like winter, the dark or the cold, but this year I am trying to find some love within me for this freezing season and I think it will have to be via soups and mulled wine. I LOVE butternut squash and I normally make this soup with two butternuts and a can of sweetcorn, but today I jazzed it up:

photo 1 (1)

Recipe:

3 onions
Generous helping of olive oil
3 different pumpkins (I used 2 Hokkaido and 1 butternut squash as they were on sale)
1 large can sweetcorn
Seasoning
500ml milk
500ml boiling water
3 tsp chicken stock
1 jar of Frankfurter sausages

Peel pumpkins and cut into chunks. This can take absolutely ages. With the varied pumpkins I chose, I was literally in the kitchen preparing the pumpkins for an entire hour. I saw diced butternut pumpkin sold at M&S a while back and nearly danced in the aisle. Pumpkins are unbelievably delicious, however they will make you work hard for the taste!

When you are finally done, rough cut the onions and fry them in lots of olive oil for about fifteen minutes. I normally throw in a little water to steam them, as they mustn’t burn – otherwise your soup will have lots of black marks inside it and we obviously don’t want that!

Next throw in all the pumpkins you desire and the whole can of sweetcorn. Season until your heart is content and mix gently – I don’t use a lot of salt, usually none at all really, but pepper is a different story – I can’t get enough of it! If you can get white pepper it will keep the orange colour of your soup, but we didn’t have any in, so I had a few specks of black in the resulting mixture. No big deal.

Pumpkins take a long time to soften, so put the heat on nice and low and be patient. I’m sure it would be fine in ten minutes, but from experience I had some pumpkin that was still hard and difficult to blend. So now, after many years of practice, I leave the veggies to sweat quietly for about half an hour with the lid firmly on.

Next, put the kettle on. While it’s boiling, pour in the milk and sprinkle in the stock. If you prefer, put the stock into the hot water, mix and then pour it into the soup, but I find this a hassle, plus my way means less to wash up! Genius, I know… ahem.

photo 2 (1)

Leave the lid off and put heat on the lowest setting and let the whole mixture gently bubble away for around fifteen minutes but don’t go away – if the milk bubbles over, the soup will not taste good – so give it a gentle stir now and then.

Next, the sausages. Jason often lifts an eyebrow at my obsession with sweetcorn and how I add it to every single thing I make (soup, salad, pizza…) and I saw the eyebrow quiz me yet again when I mentioned sausages in the soup, but he trusts my weird way of making wonderful things blend together perfectly (I think he does anyway – haha). The Frankfurters only need a couple of minutes, so cut them up small and chuck them into another pot with boiling water.

In the meantime, take your soup off the hob and blend it like crazy. Some people like ‘bonus bits’ at the bottom, others don’t – it’s up to you – I love finding a random chunk of pumpkin at the bottom of my bowl. So blend until you get the consistency you like. Drain the sausages, and put them with the soup into bowls, add a fresh cut baguette, friends, pajamas and enjoy!

photo 3 (1)

*Dried fried onions are also the most amazing addition to this soup!

Share Button

The many meanings of 11th November

Today is November 11th and this is a very special day for me. The date has many different and important meanings as a result of family, friends, choices I’ve made and places I’ve been. I hope to share with you some of the different things that November 11th means for me.

Firstly – Birthdays

Birthday Candles

The first thing that always comes to my mind on this date are two important birthdays. My late Grandfather’s and one of my closest and longest friends. I’ve never forgotten their birthdays because as soon as I remember one, I remember the other. Happy birthday to you Tony and John!

Remembrance Day

Back home in England and across Commonwealth nations, November 11th is known as Remembrance Day as it was on this day in 1918, famously on the 11th hour of the 11th day that fighting in the First World War came to an end. 2014 is an especially important year as it marks the 100th anniversary since the start of the war. Remembrance Day exists to help us to remember all those suffered and died fighting during the war.

If you spend any time in the United Kingdom in early November, you will see lots of people wearing paper poppies on their shirts/jackets. Poppies grew all across the worst battlefields during the war and their stark red colour was seen as symbolic of the blood shed fighting. This beautiful flower was immortalised as a flower of remembrance due to the famous war poem, In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders fields the poppies grow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Towwr

If you are around London right now – be sure to check out the incredible Tower of London installation memorialising the fallen in World War One. There are 888,246 ceramic poppies, each of which hand-made individually, to represent each British military fatality during the war. Seeing the scale of the installation is completely mind-blowing and really puts the scale of the war into perspective.

Jam Doughnuts or Berliner

Berliners

 

In Berlin and across Germany, Austria and Switzerland – the 11th November marks the start of Karneval or Fasching as it is known in Berlin. This always begins at 11:11am on 11th November to mark the start of Karneval (or die fünfte Jahreszeit- Fifth Season) and continues until Ash Wednesday.

People across Germany have a tradition of tucking into a delicious jam doughnut at 11:11am to celebrate. As you all know, Jam doughnuts are known as Berliner across Germany, EXCEPT for in Berlin, where they are called Pfannkuchen (literally Pancakes). We missed the moment today but I’m sure no one will complain if we enjoy a jam doughnut tomorrow instead!

Pocky (Mikado) Day

pocky-boxes2

Finally, over in Japan – the 11th November is known as Pocky Day. Any guesses as to why?

Yes – 11/11 resembles a bunch of of these delicious Japanese snacks!

Pocky are thin biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate and can be found in almost any Asian supermarket around the world. They are actually distributed in the United Kingdom and Germany under a different name – Mikado. Before you run out and buy yourself a packet or two, I have to warn you now… they are extremely addictive and it is physically impossible to eat just one pocky and walk away!

That’s about it for my wrap up of November 11th! Does this date hold any important significance for you? I’d love to hear about!

Share Button

The Berlin Wall – 25 years later…

Let her go…

I still remember watching images of the Berlin Wall coming down on TV. I was just six years old, but I remember the scenes vividly and I remember also that my parents were glued to the TV screen.

However, I didn’t really understand what was going on.

Most of my education was at the German School in London. People often ask me how I don’t know anything about English history, especially as I’m English. However, at school, I felt like we almost exclusively studied the Second World War. We covered it every single year. All year. Constantly.

I have always read books about history and autobiographies about World War Two are my absolute favourites, however, I hated my history teacher and so I did my best not to learn anything in class at all. It seems I excelled at that, because it was only when we started living in Berlin that I finally understood what I had seen on TV all those years ago.

We have a lot of visitors. I mean a LOT. I don’t know anyone else who seems to have a house constantly full of people like us. I often feel like a hotel service with an added bonus – our guests get the full tour guide service included as well. We have visited the East Side Gallery probably over 50 times, if not much much more. The East Side Gallery is the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall that is still left standing.

I am tired of showing people the sights of Berlin, except for the East Side Gallery. I love walking that one mile stretch of concrete, explaining to people what happened all those years ago. And the best bits of our story go something along these lines:

photo 1The Berlin Wall was erected overnight in 1961. People went to sleep, a normal night, and woke up divided. Within a few hours, couples were separated, families torn apart and friendships destroyed. Children who had slept at a friend’s house for the night could no longer go home. The division was sudden and unexpected.

After the Second World War came the Cold War. Germany had lost the war and was subsequently divided into four parts: Russia, America, the UK and France. The latter three countries formed an Alliance, whilst Russia (and Communism) took control of Eastern Parts of Germany which encompassed Berlin. The city of Berlin was also quartered, and Russia took over the East part.

As people began to see how prosperous Western Germany was becoming, whilst the Eastern Communistic area was slowly coming to a stand-still, people starting flocking out into the West in droves. Educated families, rich people and people with power rushed as fast as they could away from the East.

Russia noted this mass-exodus of talent and quickly decided to build a Wall around their territory – basically locking people into the East. Russia needed these people and didn’t want to let them out.

At first, people didn’t really believe the Wall could last a long time. The first night, huge numbers of soldiers constructed a Wall of barbed wire. Many people escaped in these early days, creeping across the border at night, running quickly, jumping through the prickly wire. Slowly over the years, the Wall was reenforced with concrete. And then more concrete. Until it was impossible to escape anymore. No one knew how long it would take before it would crumble, or even if it would ever crumble. In later years, people still tried to get across the Wall, some with success hiding in the engine compartment of cars, rowing across the river or even building underground tunnels, but many were shot, impaled and killed during their attempts.

About half-way along the East Side Gallery, you come across an open part of the Wall and you can still see the second Wall that ran behind the main part. In fact, there was not just one Wall and the best way to imagine it, is like a road in the middle surrounded by two high walls. This road was covered in sand to conceal land-mines and to show foot prints. Soldiers patrolled this area with tanks, as well as on foot. It was yet another deterrent to escaping safely.

As you walk along the East Side Gallery, you see large blocks of concrete that have been painted on by artists from all over the world. They have interpreted what they feel the Wall means to them. At the start you see the Israeli flag mixed with the German flag. Moving on, there are images of other Walls that still need to be destroyed, roses representing people who died trying to cross the Wall, smiling happy faces, a massive Berlin sign (the one we use at the top of our blog actually) and many many more.

photo 3However, slowly, the Wall is getting smaller and smaller as real estate buys the land and high rise buildings become necessary. People are flocking into Berlin (like us) – the rent is cheap, the cost of living is much less compared to other major capital cities and the vibe is unique. Because you can survive on so little, artists, musicians, photographers etc from all over the world arrive in this city and bring a culture and interest that cannot be found anywhere else. Coming from London, I have always loved how multicultural my home-city is, but Berlin is different. It’s dirty and poor but alive. You can feel a pulse here that beats like crazy.

Of course, this city is slowly changing. Rich people are coming here, upmarket housing is coming, technology is arriving with highly intelligent students, but it’s not quite there yet. Just in the year I have been here, I have experienced the changes occurring. A wonderful bar called Yaam used to take up a large area behind the Wall. There was a sandy beach, a basketball area, stalls selling Caribbean food… but it’s gone. The city sold the land. And this is happening at an extraordinary pace in Berlin, as this city grows and gentrification comes quickly.

photo 4In 1989 the Wall was finally torn down. I remember watching those images 25 years ago today, as Germans brought hammers to chip at the Wall, tearing it down. The images of jubilation are something I have come to understand as we stood there, in the middle of the celebrations of the 25th year anniversary yesterday. The installation of balloons along the path where the Wall used to stand was a lovely idea. We walked along the East Side Gallery at night, taking in the atmosphere. It’s crazy to think that friends of mine were born the year the Wall came down. They have lived in Berlin their whole lives, influenced by history, but never experience a divided city. Their parents have many tales to tell and I’ve enjoyed listening to them recently. My own grandmother’s family is from the East and last week she was telling us how they waited for 20 years to get their own Trabbi car under the Communist regime. I love these stories.

So, even though I hated my history teacher, I have always enjoyed history. But I think you have to experience it to really appreciate it and to understand it. We are so lucky to live in Berlin, a city that is still alive with history and a past that is so recent, the people you meet have been greatly influenced by it. I hope maybe you learnt a little bit about the history we are currently experiencing in this blog post and I would urge you to come and visit this amazing city as well, before the history starts to disappear as quickly as the Berlin Wall. You too can touch the Wall and feel the history, before it all disappears, just as it finally did exactly 25 years ago, just we did last night.

photo 2

Share Button

Friday Links

Don’t Stop Moving…

My friend is working for MSF and sent this great article over. It’s crazy to think how many people can name one or two people’s name who have Ebola or died from the disease in America, however I’m sure not a single person I know can name one of the thousands who have died in Africa.

Did you know one in ten Europeans are conceived on an IKEA bed? Haha – here are some great facts about IKEA.

London property prices on a tube map that’s interactive. COOL!

Some of the Christmas Markets have already opened here in Berlin, for more information, check out this link.

Awesome article about Berlin and the Wall – read it people!

Share Button