Fell’s Point, Baltimore

Baltimore is hard. Its an older, more established community – older than Irvine anyway – and I wonder if anyone really needs me to write about things I do with my daughter. Its harder to break through, as well, again because it is an older community. Everybody already knows everybody and who are you? Why should I help you?

Getting passed the negativity is hard. Getting passed the lack of fresh, organic produce is hard. (Seriously, does California just hoard ALL THE VEGETABLES?) Its another season of culture shock.

We went to Fell’s Point, because I heard Fell’s Point is cool? I think whoever told me this left out some other pertinent information, because we found a ghost town. There was a small group of people waiting for the water taxi, but S wasn’t interested. We walked around a bit, but didn’t find the shops, restaurants, and general hustle and bustle I expected.


There were some beautiful brick buildings, though.




There are always things to jump over.


Is there a certain time of day you’re supposed to go…or not go? We went just before lunchtime.



Daily Grind, 1720 Thames St: a local coffee shop with plenty of seating. Perfect for studying or working (or at least it seemed so when we were there. Maybe its noisier at night?)




Our new apartment (Yes! That’s right!) has a vanity space in the master bath (!!), so I decided to liberate this charming fellow from my parent’s basement. He’s been down there for almost ten years and he’s starting to look it. This, and the fact that my mother and I have wildly different tastes in everything has led me to do something I have never done before.

I’m going to give this stool a makeover. New fabric, new paint. Do you realize what this means? It means I’m going to do something, something “crafty.” This is a blog, right? I suppose I’m just accepting the fate associated with my online presence.

So meet Berthold.


I considered going with the rope design around the base, but honestly I don’t like it. So let’s just ignore what I can’t change and run with what I can! Sure! Why not?

I am being so crafty! (At this point, Jon is shaking his head and wondering why I don’t just buy a stool from IKEA, I do love IKEA.)

Here are the materials:

– a screwdriver

– something to wash your furniture. I just squirted it down with the hose.

– sandpaper I found in my Dad’s garage

– oil-based spray paint for metal

– a staple gun, also found in my Dad’s garage

The first step, if you are like me and have been living in apartments your whole adult life, is to raid your parent’s garage for all f the home improvement implements that you have never had room for. I managed to make off with a drop cloth, sandpaper, and the very important staple gun. Not having the room nor the keys to our new apartment (just a few more days!), I set up in their backyard with my lovely assistant.


She was ever so helpful while spraying down the base. She bravely put herself between it and the hose, but then, when she realized that was only a small part of what Mom was doing outside, well, my lovely assistant gave up on me. I sanded down the rope design and legs, going over it two or three times to make sure the paint would adhere to the metal. Then, I sprayed it down again and patted it dry.


Would you believe this is also my first time spray painting something? I don’t know why it took so long; it was so easy. No aging furniture will be safe from me ever again.

After the first coat, I left it on the patio to dry and came back in the morning to do touch-ups. Then came the hard part, stapling the new fabric to the round seat. I needed to staple and then make small, tight pleats to get all the way around. I gave up around three staples in.

Jon took over. He really did.


He says it was “just math” and math being something he might actually consider fun, he went with it. So not only was it my first home project, it was his,too.


And that fabric – its from IKEA.

Weleda in den USA

Imagine my surprise, way back in January (gah, I really am suffering from some serious blog-block) , while searching through a pile of discounted gift sets in Target when I found:


Weleda is a Swiss-German, all-natural cosmetic company that’s widely available in Germany. I first came across it at our local DM (German rite-aid) and tried a bunch of their lotions and washes. While none of them measured up to my favorite brand back home, I liked the rose scent enough to make it my go to Pflegedusche (easily one of my favorite German words. No I can’t explain why. Just say it PFFFLAY-GUH DUUUUSH-UH)

The pomegranate set was the only one and there were no signs indicating where it had come from or where its companions had gone. Nostalgia – or possibly just the power of Target – took over and I tossed it in my cart.

Then a few weeks later, I read about another Weleda product on Refinery29. Their Hautcreme – oddly known as “Skin Food” auf English – was apparently the thing to use on overworked model skin, and apparently, readily available at my local Whole Foods. So I set off on a little recon mission to see what else I could find.



IMG_3316It took me two trips before I could stop thinking about how much less expensive it is in Germany. I still can’t convince myself to pay their prices for Dr. Hauschka. Its expensive even in Germany, highway robbery here.

Despite the fact that I paid twice as much for my tube of Hautcreme, I’m very glad I did. Tis is the lotion to end all lotions. Wen your hands are so dry you can feel them cracking, when you think you can see scales, just slather this on (Its oily. Do it when you have a few minutes to wait for it to absorb) and in a few minutest our hands will magically look human again. Do it a few more times and your hands will look almost as nice as they did before you started potty training.

Of course, right after I gave in at Whole Foods, I saw this at Target. More Weleda! and much better prices than Whole Foods — as if that needed to be said.

I probably won’t buy anymore regular lotion – too thin for me – but I will still check back every once in a while to see if anymore of my regular german products pop up on American shelves. At least until I can get back to Germany. Then, I’m bringing an empty suitcase and stocking up. Vividrin Akut Augentropfen I’m looking at you…or not the pollen may have swollen my eyes shut.

german lessons

S’s german acquisition has been shaky at best. I don’t really mind (for now) since sharing a second language with one’s spouse is incredibly useful when raising a child. She’s three. How else are we going to coordinate our late night snacks?

But sometimes she surprises me. Like when she says she wants my to paint her Nägel or when she told me that “Blue’s Clues” is fantastisch! 

Then we had a breakthrough. We were driving down the coast when suddenly she asked “What’s poop in German?”

Did I mention she recently turned three?

  Kacke,S. That’s “poop” auf Deutsch. 

Then she started asking about the things she saw passing by. Die Strasse, der Baum, die Ampel. I’m so impressed. I think this is going to be the start of something amazing. I wonder if she’ll start answering back in German. Then, it all comes circling back.

– and POOP ATTACK! What means POOP ATTACK in Guh-mun?

Kid was just winding me up.

By the way, I think it might be Kacke-Anschlag, but Its possible that I just made that up.


five things

A few days ago, my friend and fellow Ami-expat mom in Berlin, Mama Melch of Midwestern Berliners , blogged five facts about her family. Inspired by this, I wrote five of my own.


1 – I thought of my blog name pretty quickly, but went back and forth for a while, because I was worried people might think it was inspired by the Kardashion empire of reality television. I was actually inspired by the Leonard Cohen song “First we take Manhattan.” Only later did I realize that it was about the Red Army Faction.

2 – I don’t like ice cream. That’s right; I’m a freak, but there are so many better options. Other things that other people like, but I don’t include: beaches, swimming, dangly earrings, summer time, Los Angeles…ok, maybe I just don’t like anything related to warm, sunny weather. I’ll be making plans to move to Siberia now.

3 – There is no such thing as too many british period dramas. My recent favorite: “Edward the Seventh.” Its on Netflix if you’d ever like to spend some time with the House of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha.

4 – When we’re out people tend to assume I’m not my daughter’s mother and it makes me stabby. You know what, you’re right. Yes, I did manage to notice that she has blonde hair and she looks nothing like me. Do you know why? Because she looks exactly like my husband. Now please go away.

5 – I’ve lived in Detroit, Louisville, Baltimore, New York, Paris, Orange County, and Berlin. Please don’t ask me where I’m from and please don’t look so put off if you do. So I haven’t spent my entire life in one area. Its really not that weird anymore.
Wow, this skewed surprisingly negative. Blame that sunny, California weather. Seriously! Look, even my Trader Joe’s is ocean-adjacent…
 Blech! Somebody get me out of here!


Yesterday, I went to Loehmann’s looking for a bathing suit cover-up and left with a new, wool jacket.

What can I say? I’m geographically challenged.


We’ve spent the past month in a state of constant over-drive. There was the sinus infection that would never end, the musical that wasn’t (see previous item), new shoes for S (its a big event – she’s gets very attached to her shoes), an out-of-town conference for Jon, his dissertation, a trip east, dissertation, and, oh yeah, THE DISSERTATION.

We’ve also spent a lot of time wishing we weren’t here. This hit particularly hard last month when Germany is at its second-best: Weihnachtszeit.* Even if you don’t celebrate christmas, there are the Märkte, Baumkuchen, snow, and bickering with Jon over whether or not Glühwein is any good or just plain awful. I made my own Brezeln from scratch in addition to my usual rotation of Schnitzel and Rotkohlsalat. I even made a desperate search through the paltry german section of World Market and managed to come home with some Niedregger marzipan and a few packs of Dr. Oetker’s Vanillazucker. What I’m going to do with vanilla-flavored sugar, I don’t know, but its in my kitchen now, so I better think of something.

I also need to think about what I’m doing with this blog. I will always write about German-related things in my life, which shouldn’t be a problem for someone married to an almost German professor, and I will always write about travel. I’m not going to write about parenting, because no one needs another blog about potty training (it sucks, by the way), but I will write up restaurants or other places that I find to be child-friendly. Of course, there will also be the occasional quatsch, nonsense.

To end this housekeeping post, here’s a photo of S shopping at the Container Store, because we love to contain things.


Especially toddlers.

*absolute best is in the summer. Warm weather really brings out Germany’s good side…or maybe just its less stern side. Incidentally also a lot of naked sides, but that’s something else entirely.

walls and bridges

Hey, Art.com. It worked. After months of reading sponsored posts on all of my favorite blogs, I finally bought something, and as much as I’m slightly creeped out à la Ron Swanson by your very spot-on marketing I also LOVE my print.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Brandenburgertor, 1929. The original belongs to the Städel in Frankfurt, but this one hangs right over my dresser.

Kirchner has been one of my favorite artists since I first saw Berlin Street Scene at the Neue Galerie in New York. Other things I learned at the Neue Galerie include: I am the only person in the world who does not like Klimt and that if you order a Sachertorte from Cafe Sabarsky you should probably just go ahead and spring for a cab. You probably shouldn’t try taking the bus for the first time alone while toting home your precious viennese dessert, because it will probably rain and you will probably get off at the wrong stop and then have to choose between your cake and yourself and if you are anything like me you will probably choose the cake. Its a really good cake.

And a really good print. Jawohl, Art.com.

PS: Obviously, I am not a professional blogger and as such was not paid or even asked to write this. I’m just very happy with my print and if I were more clever I would say something about the art of die Brücke and the Brücke this print builds between Berlin and here etc etc usw.

The (pumpkin) spice of life

This year will be S’s true first Thanksgiving, the first one she will actually be able to enjoy as a fellow diner of all things turkey. She was too young to partake her first year of life and then last year we were in Deutschland. (Have I told you about our German turkey day? A story for another post). So this year, this year I am very excited, because I plan on drafting her for my team. Nay, converting her to my beliefs. You see, I love pumpkin pie. I believe in pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie is something I look forward to every year and despite this it’s something I don’t always get to have at my holiday table. Because I am in a mixed-marriage. My husband is vehemently anti-pumpkin pie, oh, he’ll eat apple and even Oreo mud, but try to hand him a forkful of my favorite orange stuff and he ducks.

He DUCKS to get away from a dessert.

This is just a very long winded way of saying I very much like is traditional holiday dessert, but I think I’ve reached a certain limit. I just don’t understand the proliferation of pumpkin spice flavored, well, everything. When I was little, we had pie, we had pumpkin muffins, sure, but none of this other stuff. Must everything be pumpkin flavored? Really? Well, today my curiosity got the better of me. I picked up this:


Do I need to tell you it was awful? No, I think this year Jon is just going to have to put up with pie and hopefully I’ll gain a little ally for the years to come.

“do pay-doh”

It’s been hard keeping ourselves busy without a city and castles to explore. The castles have been easily replaced by “Tangled,” but wandering Berlin? We’re still working on that one.

In the meantime, there’s always play-doh.

I’m something of a sculptress myself. Here’s my latest creation, a green puppy as requested by S. She put the pink blob on its head. I thought it was a flower, but apparently its the puppy’s eyeball.

We’re quite a team.