Tuesday, December 13, 2005

29 Again...

F and I decided to finally have the oft-talked-about-but-never-planned party on Saturday night. It was advertised as a holiday party, but some friends already knew that it was my birthday on Sunday.

I was quite excited, as this was my first real party - my apt. in Brooklyn is big enough to accommodate a maximum of 4-5 adults (and one Cam) semi-comfortably. So I really have not had much experience planning one of these things...I started to get all Martha Stewart the week before: cutting out silver snowflakes to hang from the ceiling, getting a variety of lights (snowflakes, red stars, multi-colored, white) to hang around the apt to make it a little cozier. And of course, candles.

The day of the party was a bit stressful. Well, not at first, actually. Since I had hung all the lights and snowflakes on Friday night, I felt like the most time consuming part was over...


Because I thought I had all this time, I spent more time than I should have in the city getting some last minute noshy stuff, and also looking for something new and sparkly to wear to the party. Yeah, not so smart. By the time I got home I was beat, and then had to deal with the sudden mess that seems to accompany F's return home from a week away at work. Plus dealing with all the little things that the cleaning people (yes, you read correctly) rearrange when they are here. If you've seen me under stress, you know that I am not always the most pleasant person to be around...F told me that if I didn't calm down, he would leave and go stay in a hotel (!).

Of course, the first folks showed up before I was ready, but my friend C helped me get other things ready while F tended to the guests. I finally got ready (changed my shirt, put on some makeup) about an hour after people showed up. I was also still cooking during the party - I had to make the Spicy Cheese Crisps from the Everyday Food Mag (I will post the recipe shortly - they are really easy to make and very yummy - like homemade Cheese Nips, with a little bite). But in spite of my stress, everything went really well.

One of the best parts of the evening? After most folks had left, F & I were hanging with L & A, two of my friends from school. A is one of the new German teachers - he's young, very laid-back (picture a German surfer dude with shoulder-length blonde hair, who's got a funky VW van). Well, he was getting ready to leave (he'd just brushed his teeth and was going to go sleep in his well-furnished van) when L noticed that he had his accordion with him. Yes, you read correctly - his accordion. We begged him to play us a song. We were treated to 2 songs, the second of which was the theme from 'Amelie' (one of my favorite movies). What a great way to end the evening.

P.S. If you click on the Flickr montage on the left, you'll connect to a small, but soon to be added to, group of pics of life here in D'dorf...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Witness above rarely seen footage of the intrepid panda-cuddler, A.M. This photo was taken on one of her early expeditions in search of the elusive miniature panda. She is pictured with her trusty assistant and fellow panda wrangler (note his rugged vest and his knit cap to keep warm during those long hours waiting for the miniature panda to emerge from its lair). As you can see, even then she demonstrated a clear knowledge and aptitude for handling the panda; keeping it close to her while supporting it from the bottom.

She continues her successful career with the descendants of that first miniature panda. Her work has come into focus again because of the increased desire to cuddle pandas due to the birth of the baby panda at the National Zoo.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Pottery Painting

Last year, while out exploring with my friend J, we discovered the most lovely little alleyway leading to a courtyard off of a busy street in Derendorf (a neighborhood in Dusseldorf). The alleway is cobblestoned, and opens up into a lovely courtyard. In this courtyard we found a flowershop, an antique furniture store, a little French cafe, and a paint-your-own-pottery place called Manufattura! The places are so rustic and charming. When J and I were there last spring, we sat and had a wine outside of the cafe and marvelled at the charm of this little hideaway.

It turns out that my friend A also knew of this place, and she and I talked at length last spring about going to paint some pottery. Well, we finally made a date and did it on Saturday! It was great fun - it's a cozy little space, and you feel as if you are in someone's converted small barn. You sit at old wooden tables (there are 3 of them in there - one of them is a long one that probably could seat about 10-12 people; the other two tables seat about 4-5 people), armed with colored glazes, brushes, pencils (for sketching your designs beforehand), and unleash your artistic self. Added bonus? The cafe will bring you your cafe latte. It was so great to just forget about everything and focus on something creative for a few hours.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

My First Star Sighting Here!!

Coming from New York, one gets used to the weekly (or sometimes daily) brush with celebrities. Since I've been in Dusseldorf, I have not had any star sightings at all; in order to get my fix, I read Gawker and live vicariously, thinking, "Oh yes, I remember that time when I also ran into John Turturro on 7th Avenue...".

So...today F and I met up in the city to go to the Weihnachsmarkt to walk around and have a little Flammkuchen and Gluehwein. We were doing a little shopping afterwards, and I was waiting for him outside of Galeria Kaufhof, one of the department stores here. He called me to let me know that he was just waiting to pay, and then he stage whispered, "Guess who's in front of me in line?" "Who?" I asked, thinking, "Who the hell is going to be in front of him? It's not like it would be a celebrity..."

Well, I was wrong. After trying several times to say this person's name (it's someone who goes by their first name only) in that stage whisper, I finally understood what F said. I excitedly asked him where he was, and then I was off into the store, bounding up the escalator to the 3rd floor.

As I came came up to the 2nd floor, I came face to face with my target. I had to think quickly, and so I just said, "Excuse me, I'm sorry." And then I think I touched his arm. I stammered, I had no idea what to say, so I just said, "Uh, I think you're great." Doh. He said, "Thanks, that's very nice of you to say." Then he cocked his head to the side and asked, "Where are you from?" I told him I was from New York but was now living in Dusseldorf. Then he shook my hand and said, "Thanks again."

I found F upstairs, and breathlessly told him what just transpired. He just chuckled. So we went back downstairs and then saw my new friend having his gift wrapped. F wanted me to go over and take a picture with him (I had my camera around my neck just like a dorky tourist). I tried to retain a shred of dignity and just ushered F out of the store.

Oh, I forgot to mention who he was - have you figured it out? It was none other than Heidi Klum's husband, Seal. And let me tell you, he is quite dashing and debonair in person. Sigh.

I'm Dreaming of a White...Thanksgiving?

It's been a week now since the expat Thanksgiving. The morning of the big day I woke up to find Dusseldorf blanketed with snow. It had started snowing the night before, but I had no hopes of finding any left in the morning; usually when it snows here, it doesn't last long (because of our proximity to the Rhine, I believe). This time, however, we were all surprised.

I quickly grabbed my camera because I wanted to preserve this moment (and because it also looked so purdy). This is the view out the living room window.

After a day of snow, we were all in a cheery mood when we arrived at A's place for dinner. There was so much food: pumpkin soup, turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, homemade sage/apple/bacon stuffing, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, corn, fresh baked biscuits, cornbread, homemade cranberry sauce. Here's the turkey, just out of the oven.

And then there was dessert: 2 pumpkin pies (one with rum, one without), 1 apple pie, and 2 banana breads.

It was a really great evening - very mellow, with lots of good conversation, and many laughs.