Berlin: Teil zwei

If there is one thing Berlin has plenty of, it’s patios. I like this. I don’t think there is any scenario in which I take umbrage with there being unlimited options for outside dining and wine drinking. It’s how I would spend all day every day if I had my druthers. And Graffiti. They like their chaotic street art in Berlin. Patios and graffiti. Oh, and their bicycles. Patios, graffiti and bicycles. And depressing, grandiose memorials.  I should start over….

Truthfully, I was taken aback by Berlin’s laissez-faire attitude. Particularly as it is located in a country who’s people are stereotyped as being strict and rigid and preoccupied with maintaining order. As evidence of its go-with-the-flow personality,  I submit to you their aforementioned lax policy on building defacement, as well as the fact that in Berlin, it’s perfectly acceptable to stroll down the street with a beer in hand–in glass bottles no less! Definitely a no-no stateside. Further, during an afternoon outing to one of the city’s community pools, we witnessed no fewer than 3924761432342 children sliding down a water slide at once. And running on wet cement–an activity the American lifeguard community views as being on par with smoking a cigarette indoors—is not only not reprimanded, it seemed downright encouraged. Then, there’s the part where before Heath jumped off the diving board, he politely asked the pool’s only lifeguard whether doing flips was permissible. He was met with a befuddled response: Of course this is fine. Why would it not be?  Perhaps I’m applying the community pool’s gentle policies a little to liberally to the entire city, but still, Berlin as a whole seems content to let its people be.  It’s likely the result of a long and tragic history marked by a series of oppressive and totalitarian regimes. But Berlin seems to have learned a thing or two from its past, and today enjoys a vibrant and resilient atmosphere.

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Berlin Wall East Gallery

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But I say all this before arriving at the crux of my argument. Berlin–like every place–is made more special by the people you experience it with. Our German vacation was made what it was by the company we kept. As I’m inclined to list off all the things that make Berlin unique, I’m also inclined to include Nick and Melissa on that list—two people who were pivotal to the good times had.

Berlin Breakfast

Berlin Breakfast

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Street beers are definitely allowed in Germany. What a magnificent culture.

Street beers are definitely allowed in Germany. What a magnificent culture.

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I’ll tell my kids about it

Full disclosure, I flaked out like a blizzard when it came time to, how do I say this diplomatically, make efficient use of our aggressive rooster Ruby. We had raised Ruby since he was a chick. Fed him. Housed him. Named him. So it was tough for me to then do the dirty and dispatch of him. That, I gladly left for Heath to endure. (Though I had no problem doing the subsequent cooking and eating and blogging.) Given my lack of participation in that surreal and slightly icky life moment, it seemed unlikely I would sign up for any future endeavors of the same ilk. How wrong you are my friend. For I was front and center when pals Mark and Ranjana made, er, “efficient use” of their three hens and two ducks last weekend.

Like Heath and I, and thousands of other wannabe urban farmers in Austin and elsewhere, Mark and Ranjana spent a good long while providing a comfortable space in the backyard in which Rothko, Benedict, Omlette, Frank and Scott could scratch up and stink up. It’s perhaps what they do best after egg laying and mealworm eating. But, alas, the couple has decided to relocate, and as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you. And “it” includes chickens and ducks. So, a chicken dinner it would be for Mark, Ranjana and their invited guests.

I’m not blind to the fact that to many, it may seem gross and odd and perhaps even cruel to do in your pets. Nor am I obtuse to the cold hard truth that there is an entire industry out there that does this sort of thing day in and day out, and it’s in many ways not such a big f-ing deal. (In fact, the average American eats about 185 pounds of chicken a year, according to this NPR story, so chew on that if you’re a chicken eater of the “that’s cruel” ideology.)  Whatever camp you’re in—Gross, Cruel, Who Cares—it doesn’t change the simple notion that it is important to know where your food comes from, REALLY comes from. So this time, I put on my big girl pants and played an active role in helping Maranjanark prepare their meal.

Why? Well, to help out some friends, for one. But also, I wanted to be there for selfish reasons. I wanted to document the process for the sake of art, or nostalgia or something. And I wanted to be able to tell my future kids about it. “No kids, I haven’t gone skydiving, or set foot on Antarctica, but I did see with my own two eyes, a chicken run around with its head cut off, and it was weird, and startling and magnificent.” I wanted to be there for my street cred.

What didn’t factor into my decision making process at the time I volunteered for this assignment, was the odd sense of fulfillment I would derive from it all. Not from the actual morbid blood-and-guts part, but being a part of the life cycle. For years Mark and Ranjana gave to the birds, and now the birds were giving back. It was all done humanely and gracefully. Mark and Ranjana said a few words to remember and be thankful for the experiences the birds afforded them, and then shared their nourishment with friends who had supported them along the way.

I was confused and conflicted and frankly a little immature when we made a meal of our rooster. But being a part of the experience, the whole experience, with our Austin family was different. It felt right. It felt important. It felt beautiful.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” –Cesar Chavez

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a slideshow of sorts

One of these evenings, I’ll provide a more insightful post about our recent trip overseas, documenting everything from magic shows to night swims to elephant rides.  Unfortunately, that night is not tonight. I can, however, share my favorite snaps from our trip to the enchanting country that is India.

Heath and Ranjana looking for shells on an Indian Ocean beach.

Heath and Ranjana looking for shells on an Indian Ocean beach.

Nick and Mark admiring their first view of the Indian Ocean.

Nick and Mark admiring their first view of the Indian Ocean.

An inside view of a rickshaw, of which there are thousands on any street at any time.

An inside view of a rickshaw, of which there are thousands on any street at any time.

Commercial Street—Bangalore's shopping district.

Commercial Street—Bangalore’s shopping district.

Courtney has to show the monkey she has no more food.

Courtney has to show the monkey she has no more food.

A wide array of curries to choose from.

A wide array of curries to choose from.

The temple elephant.

The temple elephant.

Heath admires a view that was too good not to pull over for.

Heath admires a view that was too good not to pull over for.

Who are you looking at?

Who are you looking at?

A fisherman's boat resting on the beach.

A fisherman’s boat resting on the beach.

One of many "jump pics" we gals had to indulge in throughout the trip.

One of many “jump pics” we gals had to indulge in throughout the trip.

On the sands of Turtle Beach.

On the sands of Turtle Beach.

Masala Tea for sale on a mountain top.

Masala Tea for sale on a mountain top.

Miles and miles of tea.

Miles and miles of tea.

An Indian market.

An Indian market.

Making ourselves at home in a field of rice patties.

Making ourselves at home in a ride paddy.

Smiling faces from a rickshaw on Munnar.

Smiling faces from a rickshaw on Munnar.

Rickshaws adorned in marigolds.

Rickshaws adorned in marigolds.

Cab ride? Anyone?

Cab ride? Anyone?

River fish. As boney as it is delicious.

River fish. As boney as it is delicious.

The men pull on the Chinese fishing nets to see what they have caught (nothing).

The men pull on the Chinese fishing nets to see what they have caught (nothing).

Mark embraces his new bride.

Mark embraces his new bride.

Mountains in the morning.

Mountains in the morning.

Nick and Melissa enjoying the view from the house boat.

Nick and Melissa enjoying the view from the house boat.

Well digging is tough work.

Well digging is tough work.

Temple art.

Temple art.

House boats in the backwaters of Kerala, where we spent a memorable evening.

House boats in the backwaters of Kerala, where we spent a memorable evening.

I can’t wait to share more in words (once they are ready of course).


Blogging from Bangalore

Greetings from India! We depart from India today after two weeks of trekking (and van-riding and train-hopping and boat-cruising) around Kerala and Bangalore. I’ll post more once we return, but until then, I will take advantage of the rare wi-fi connection to share our view of India as seen through the lens of Instagram.

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And now for something completely different

While I’m on a roll here, blogging about my mediocre photography abilities, I thought I’d share a few photos from an East side photoshoot I had with members of Your Friendly Ghost. I figure inevitably, at some point in your life, you wind up making friends with someone in a band. I have done just that with the guitarist of Your Friendly Ghost—a Black Keys-esque quartet trying to make a name for themselves in the Austin music scene. Tristan (more affectionately known as Wolfman) asked if I would mind taking a few photos of the band, and the potential for making four handsome lads pose like members of a boy band was just too much for 14-year-old Kelsey to pass up, so I obliged and we headed to East 6th Street to get our photoshoot on. I’m not sure I have a future in band photography, but I’m pretty confident in my abilities to recreate NSYNC poses.  So there’s always that.

The Motley Crew

The Brady Bunch

The boy band

Trying their hardest to be a stereotypical emo band of on the East side.

Awkward Family Photo

Entourage

The Usual Suspects

Your Friendly Ghost


I majored in brunchology

Yesterday Heath and I had the opportunity to host a stock-the-bar couple’s brunch for our soon-to-be-married pals Mark and Ranjana. It was our first go at hosting a bridal-ish type shower, and I’m not gonna lie, I was a little anxious about it. Normally I’d give myself some prep time before hosting a monumental party for a few friends. You know, spend the day before making a few dishes, cleaning the house, hanging streamers and performing other party prep procedures. Unfortunately, I was shooting a wedding all day on the Saturday before, so party prep would be limited to only a couple of hours on the morning of. That in mind, I opted to forgo dazzling decorations and spend my energy instead on creating a menu that would fill up the masses yet still have the element of intrigue and in vogue you would expect of food stuffs at a bridal brunch.

Here’s what we came up with:

Egg, sausage, jalapeno and cheese braidThis recipe came from MyRecipes.com and seemed like it had all elements you would want in a brunch dish: egg, cheese, meat and spice.  I also like that it included the word “braid” which, to me, screams “HEY!  THIS DISH IS NAMED AFTER A HAIRSTYLE. THERE IS NO MEAL GIRLIER AND MORE APPROPRIATE FOR A BRIDAL BRUNCH THAN THIS.” Of course, when it was all said and done, I didn’t end up braiding the thing at all and instead just sort of folded the dough over the yummy gooey egg filling…sort of like making a bed. Braid or no braid, the dang thing was pretty good. We actually modified the recipe a bit besides just skipping out on the braid. Instead of real sausage, we went with a veggie variety so our vegetarian friends could get in on the action. And we used whole wheat pizza dough instead of regular flour–not out of some grand scheme to be healthier, it’s just all that H-E-B had during our trip to the grocery store. If I make it again, I think I’d try and sub pizza dough for crescent roll dough, which is sweeter and flakier and fits the brunch motif a little better than thick and chewy pizza dough. Either way, served with some salsa, the breakfast braid bread was a winner.

The fixins on the dough before folding it over.

The bread waiting to go in the oven.

On the table and ready to eat.

Migas Casserole. I basically made this recipe up but I love it because it’s fast, easy and flavorful.  The idea is simple enough– sautee onion, tomatoes, peppers, cheese and pieces of corn tortillas with oil and cumin, cover with egg mixture and bake. Voila. in 20 minutes you’ve got a ready-to-eat casserole that feels slightly exotic if not intriguingly spicy. Plus, with peppers and tomatoes instead of sausage and bacon, you can feel a little less guilty about going for a second piece.

Migas Casserole

Banana Cinnamon Waffles.  Heath is the designated waffle maker in the house, and for years has been using a tried and true recipe borrowed from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. But because we were trying to give this brunch a little flair, Heath decided to step it up and add banana, cinnamon and brown sugar–at Martha’s suggestion. It was an incredible addition and we ended up with sweet and moist waffles that mimicked the flavor of banana bread.

Waffles so sweet, syrup is no longer necessary.

We also incorporated fresh fruit, smoked salmon, peach salsa and crackers. And we had a few other friends pitch in with smoked brisket and a crock pot hash brown dish.

The goods.

All of that food paired with either a bloody Mary or mimosa made for a brunch that was almost as delicious as the beautiful betrothed coupled themselves.


Photos for thought

In honor of our upcoming trip to India, I want to share a few photos the endlessly talented Ranjana took of her beautiful homeland. I can’t wait to take hundreds of my own this Christmas at Mark’s and her wedding.

the spectacular view

the cobra with gerry

along the way, we met an elephant and her mahoot

in their nursery - those are all baby coffee plants