Thursday, April 30, 2009

Right Now I Am Dreaming....

Right now I am dreaming of the Atlantic coast of France. I wish we were going there again this summer.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Can Do Without Platinum

This past winter was hard. Often bitterly cold even for Berlin, I also had to pack two babies into snowsuits which meant it always took at least 20 minutes before I could even leave the house. Now that spring is finally here I have been spending time in a lot of different areas of the city for a change of scene. Some of them are places I haven't really been for years. So typical of city life, that you choose your neighborhood and more or less stay there....

Last week I went for a walk around Savinyplatz in Charlottenburg. Although the area is a bit too conservative for my taste, it really is one of the best places to get a feel for posh, old school West Berlin (Mommsenstrasse between Knesebeck and Wieland is the best example of this.) For anyone interested in design there is plenty to offer, even Stilwerk which is a sort of mall for design goods.

Anyway, when I was strolling around in the area under the S-Bahn tracks I noticed a shop with great designer objects and clothing where everything was 50 to 70% off because they were going out of business. I quickly went to the clothing section and found a lot of really beautiful pieces from a Japanese label called Personal Affairs that I had never heard of. I tried on a beautifully cut pale pink knit jacket, 90 Euros marked down from 245, that was a size 42 (US 12.)

All of my adult life I have worn between a size 10 and a size 12 (even dipping down to a size 8 for a year or so). That is, until I had two babies only 18 months apart. Since I first got pregnant in the summer of 2007 until now I have gained around 30 pounds and wear between a 14 and a 16, on the very border to plus sizes. I suppose there is hope that I will someday loose the weight but, as I've told my husband, I'm not sure how likely it is since I'm not especially fond of exercise but love to both eat and drink (luckily, he likes me curvy so he's not complaining....) That being said, I knew a size 12 was, literally, a stretch but I thought, why not? Sure enough, it did not fit over my milk-laden breasts. At this point the snooty sales lady came over.

Snooty Sales Lady: "What size are you now?"

Me: "Around a 44(14)." (going for the modest estimate.)

Snooty SL: "Oh, well we do have other sizes in that jacket, but defintely not anything
larger than a 42."


I did end up buying a purple sweater (an XL, thank you very much)the whole time thinking ha, ho bag, your shop is going out of business!

I've always had a fantasy about sewing my own clothes, but ever since my sewing machine blew up last year and I was the dunce of my sewing class, I've decided to let this dream die. If I could loose the post-pregnancy weight I would so buy each of these handmade clothing pieces on etsy.

Then again, I'm sure most of them can still be ordered in a size 14/16 but there is still the problem that I am also on a rather limited budget. My grandmother, who a was very old school conservative diva (a lot like Charlottenburg come to think of it)often said you can never be too rich or too thin. Though I don't actually agree with her, I wouldn't mind being a size 10 again and having a gold card. I think I can do without platinum. ;)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hats Off To Anna May Wong

A friend of mine recently got a 1930s style flapper bob. Though she is not Asian, something about the hairstyle and her face reminded me of Anna May Wong.

You are not alone if you have never heard of Ms. Wong. An actress who started in the 1920s, Anna May was the first Chinese American actress. Though she was incredibly beautiful and talented, she is not as famous as she should be due to racism. During the silent film era she was not allowed to kiss a white man on film and, since there was only one Asian male actor at the time, this limited her roles greatly. At some point she moved to Europe because, as she said: "There seems little for me in Hollywood because, rather than real Chinese, producers prefer Hungarians, Mexicans or American Indians for Chinese roles.

Hats off to the gorgeous Ms. Anna May Wong, a sufferer of racism during her life who is not as well-known as she deserves.

Beauty Is In The Name

A few days ago, when we were strolling down Bergmannstrasse, my husband said to me, "You know, as far as flowers go, pansies are pretty spiessig." Spiessig is a German word that is pretty much untranslatable. In English, I would say it would be something like bourgeois, nerdy, small-minded and uptight all mixed together. The German word for pansy is Stiefmutterchen (little step-mother)which goes to show that the German language also agrees that they are not the funkiest of blossoms.
About 20 minutes later my husband said, "Wait. That's ridiculous. Flowers can't be spiessig. It must just be my perception of them." We agreed that maybe it had to do with all the plastic window planters and old lady balconies that are full of them. "Maybe pansies are actually beautiful and we just can't see it anymore."

Funny that the two languages agree with the mood of many different flowers. Daisies are Gänseblumchen (little goose flowers)which suggests the same cheerfulness and all around good humor. A rose is Rose (said Rosa), a name that is feminine and yet also prim. Tulip and Tulpen both sound colorfully plastic-fantastic. Though a common weed, both dandelion and Löwenzahn (lion's tooth)suggest that we like the yellow rascal's wildness. Then again, the mod, geometric seed casing probably does help and is amazingly in the spirit of Buckminster Fuller.

Today, while walking to an apartment a friend just bought in Graefe Kiez, I came upon a concrete planter filled with pansies. I looked at them closer. Though they are a bit stunted, their face is lovely, the center (like many flowers)startilingly clitoral. Little step-mothers, strut your sexy stuff!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Vanity Is My Favorite Sin

Let's face it: Writing a blog is a pretty vain thing to do. The idea that you gather together your thoughts, musings, rants, beliefs and photographs and then post them on the web for other people to read definitely involves a fair degree of self-love. There are also those who monetize, adding advertisements to make a little money (or a lot) on the side. Vanity mixed in with greed equals two mortal sins for the price of one.

I will be the first to admit that I am indeed vain (hence, the blog...) Another way my vanity has always shown is with the self-portraits. Ever since I got my first camera at 15 I've been taking them. My first digital camera I bought when I was 30 and, for the past 5 years my computer has gradually been filling up with pictures I took of myself. I have it programmed so that the screen saver is a slide show. Inevitably the slide show goes like this: Photograph of me, me, me, a tree, a street in Berlin, me, me and Mia, Lilly, the pacific ocean, Noe Valley, me, me, me......

I have noticed in pictures taken of me by other people that I look a)fatter and b)less intense than I do in my self-portraits. The logical conclusion would of course be that I AM fatter and less intense than I imagine, but I prefer to believe that only I can take real pictures of myself. Silliness aside, there is also a somewhat serious side to the portrait snapping. I've always admired the photographer Cindy Sherman. Although I would never go as far as to dress up in costume and then take photographs of myself, I can appreciate the idea of using your own body as a prop. In front of the camera you're always on stage. You can be anyone you want.

The following are six self-portraits, one for each year from the age of 30 to my current ripe old age of 35.

Of course, the fair thing to do would be to add another picture taken by someone else for comparison but, no, I'd rather not. After all, this is my blog where, as should be, my alter-ego always trumps the everyday. ;)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wallpaper City Guides

A week or so ago I volunteered to write a design guide for Berlin for the website Design Sponge. I've been having so much fun traipsing around the city, visiting places I haven't been in so long in order to gather tips. Luckily I really know my way around Berlin. You might think this would be obvious since I've lived here for ten years, but that's not really the case. I know lots of other Expats as well as Germans who really only spend time in their own neighborhood. But my first husband was a Berliner (from suburban Spandau nonetheless!) Through him I got to know the chic but not at all trendy areas in old West Berlin.

Though my current husband is originally from Hessen, he has lived in Berlin for over 20 years. He had an apartment on Oranienstrasse when the wall was still up and the squatters were still hurling stones at the po
lice. When the wall fell he moved for a while to Prenlauerberg. He lived near Helmholtzplatz, at the time a warzone filled with drunks and druggies (now the most dangerous thing that might happen to you there is that someone runs over your foot with their 800 Euro baby buggy.)

Being an adventurous gal by nature, I've also discovered many a place by myself.

Yesterday, while in Charlottenburg, myself pushing a baby buggy (though it cost far less than 800 Euros and is unfortunately not at all chic)I took a stroll through the great art and design bookstore Bücherbogen on Savignyplatz. There I ran into a display of Wallpaper City Guides.

I remember seeing these guides before, but at the time I didn't really pay attention. They are specifically made for those interested in art and design and have a lovely design themselves. The covers are in different colors depending on the city and inside they are attractively divided into such catagories as shopping, design, and architecture.

90 guides will soon be available (in either English, German or French) and they cover everything from major metroplises like Paris and New York to lesser known and exotic places like Reykjavik and Kyoto. They also have the appearance of an artsy novel so you won't look like a fanny-pack-wearing-hick tourist when you carry one around.

Click here to take a look at their website.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thank You, Spring

As a native Californian, spring never really meant that much to me. Winter was a few stormy weeks in January and then "spring" came in February meaning the weather was more or less back to being perfect. I know a lot of people who move there from places that actually have weather are always complaining about the lack of seasons. As for me, I'm glad there is no such thing as winter. Winter, and snow for that matter, should only exist in mountainous places where it is beautiful and picteresque and people can go crazy skiing, relaxing afterwards with a cup of hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire. Hot cocoa with those little marshmallows on top. Don't forget the marshmallows...

But I digress. Since I have lived in Berlin
I have come to truly appreciate spring. Those last few weeks of winter are so brutal. Everyone is fed up and at the point of cracking. If they have to put that freaking down jacket on one more time, they just might go over the edge. Then spring comes and plants are growing and birds are singing and flowers are blooming. Sounds like a cliche, but ain't it grand!

April is being good to us this year. There is a saying in German, April, April, der macht was er will: April, April it does as it pleases. Sometimes the month can be hellish- cold, wet, sleet and hail. But recently we've even had summer weather.

Spring, here's looking at you kid!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Odyssey through So36

If my neighborhood, Kreuzberg 61, is a late 30s graphic designer with an 18 month old daughter buying apples at the organic market, then Kreuzberg 36 is her younger punky brother making sculptures out of old tin cans.

Yes, the weather was great again, so once I dropped Mia off at pre-school I was itching to wander into different lands. All winter I spent either trapped indoors or by taking walks in the local graveyards (as seen in various posts in Jan. and Feb....) Today I walked over to Oranienstrasse, into Wrangel Kiez, finishing off the journey with a jaunt through the back end of Görlitzer Park.

Style wise, SO36 is heavy on the urban grit. It used to be the center for left wing radicals and house squatters (and thank god for that. If they hadn't been squatting, all of the old buildings would have been torn down, the 70s monstrosities pictured here taking their place.) You can still see a little of the lefty, hippie thing, but mainly it is hipsters with a punk edge and Turkish families. They say Kreuzberg is the third biggest Turkish city after Ankara and Istanbul.

The good news, if you get sick of all the grit and graffitti, nature is never that far away.

SO36: 2 good 2 be 4-gotten! ;)


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