February 28, 2013

A little bit of Munich

It's been about 7 months living in Munich, and while I am still adjusting to the language, this city has started growing on me quite a bit. If the language wasn't an issue, I wouldn't hesitate to say this city was probably one of the best places to live in. Munich is both charming and cosmopolitan. It's called a big village due to it's feel of a relaxed town or village, rather than a busy city.The main city is not that huge either; most destinations around take you no longer than 30 minutes on public transportation to get to. The public transport system is actually pretty darn amazing. Imagine having GO trains running to the east and west suburbs frequently enough while only costing what a TTC ride would cost - that amazing.  

Summer time in Munich

the chess area - pic credit here.
i haven't got around to taking pics
of the area i live in.
I have to say that the best part about living in Munich is the ease of traveling. Being able to get on a train whenever you like and go to a completely different place - it's awesome. And most of my last summer weekends were spent doing just that. So in some ways, we didn't even spend that many weekends doing much around Munich. But Munich in summer is absolutely gorgeous. There's a stretch of an area called Munchner Freiheit, about 8 minutes walk from our place, and it's all so Europe like (for lack of a better word) with adorable buildings, side street cafes, variety of restaurants, some cute stores and even some clothing stores like Zara and H&M. All just an 8 minute walk away! They've also got a big chess game on the ground. It's too cold these days, but during summer, I enjoyed just walking around there or taking a book with me to one of the cafes. 

There are a few ice cream places around here too, so during summer, we always had after dinner walks to one of these ice cream places. I love post dinner walks! And it's just so great that within a 10-20 minute walk from our place, we've got a lively and happening place with tons of ice cream and dessert choices. I know this probably isn't limited to just Munich. If you live in Toronto downtown, you can probably do the same but I've always lived in the suburbs of Ajax and anywhere we needed to go, we'd have to take the car. So I am personally really liking just being able to walk everywhere (although during these winter days I do miss a car). I miss summer time and cannot wait for the weather to get better so we can resume our daily ice cream walks! If you walk 30 or so minutes further down, there's an area filled with some great restaurants from all different cultures. The walks around are also picturesque, including a big arc in the middle of the street, that we would just walk to those restaurants for dinner during summer. And then there's the huge English Garden right in the middle of the city, again only 15mins walk from our place. Whether it's picnicking or BBQing in the beautiful English gardens, or going for a run or strolling around the lake there, or eating at the beer gardens - that place is just always buzzing with people. 


oktoberfest 2012. and this is just one small section of it!
I had heard so much about Oktoberfest and was really excited to check it out, and to buy myself a dirndl. It wasn't easy understanding how to buy a dirndl at first - a dirndl consists of more than just one piece of clothing! A short blouse, the actual frock, an apron and an underskirt. So when we first went dirndl shopping, I was completely lost. So many different styles, colours, options; regular cotton dirndls, fancy satin dirndls,  lace blouses, cotton blouses...you get the picture. Some stores have them all assembled for you, whereas in some stores you pick your own separate pieces and put them together. After looking through a few stores, I finally decided on buying the pieces separately. I opted for a lace blouse and cotton dirndl.  It was my first time and I didn't want anything fancy. Plus with the crowd Oktoberfest has, you can't really wear fancy ones anyway! I loved wearing the dirndl, it's just so feminine and pretty. 

My very first time at Oktoberfest was the very first Sunday - and boy was it packed! I don't recall seeing this many people in one place at one point in time. It was insanity! The next few times that we went were weekday evenings, so it was slightly less crowded but even then at one point in time there would be about atleast 10,000 people there. I did get the chance to sit inside the tents a couple times but I personally enjoyed the outside atmosphere more. The food stalls, the lights and the rides! I loved the rides! My favourite was the olympic roller coaster with 5 360degree loops! I dragged Umair 3 times to that ride, I think. Of course, my head was spinning by the end but I love roller coasters! I also really liked Toboggan. It's a conveyor belt ride and it's just so amusing! It's got the biggest crowd of watchers. People just stand there watching and cheering or being amused. Here is a video of what it's like:

For the ladies, they actually hold their hand and glide them up, and I wasn't in the mood to embarrass myself so that's how I did it. It's fun, and then you get to go up and there's a really good view of the Oktoberfest. The slide back down is fun as well.

Okay this ended up being much longer than I intended it to...so the rest of my 'little bit of Munich' will continue in part 2 later; which will consist of the adorable and fun Christmas markets and the horror that is New Year's Eve in Germany.

February 27, 2013

The Book Thief and Harrods

"She said it out loud, the words distributed into a room that was full of cold air and books. Books everywhere! Each wall was armed with overcrowded yet immaculate shelving. It was barely possible to see paintwork. There were all different styles and sizes of lettering on the spines of the black, the red, the gray, the every-colored books. It was one of the most beautiful things Liesel Meminger had ever seen.
With wonder, she smiled that such a room existed!

The quote above is from the book I recently read 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak. It's set in the backdrop of Nazi Germany and tells the poignant tale of a little girl, Liesel, who lives just outside Munich. She steals books, learns to read and in the process discovers the power of words and language. It's the story of a little girl who lives a life clouded with danger, threat, bombs and uncertainty, yet still manages to enjoy the little pleasures in life; such as close friendships and reading. The book has an unusual narration - the narrator is death. It does take some time to adjust to the narrator, and there were times I was slightly annoyed by the narrator because it spoils the ending. However, the book is  compelling and just utterly heart wrenching. I cried like a baby while reading through the final chapters. There were times I needed to put the book down and just stare into space and try absorbing everything. On a fun note - some of the sentences were in German, translated as well, but I was able to understand the German! Yay for that! 

I personally also really liked the book because I share almost the same kind of enthusiasm that Liesel felt when looking through books, or finding a new book. Just admiring them, and touching them and smelling them! Old or new, I love the smell of books. I do read, but not as much as I would like to. But I love stepping into bookshops and just going through the books - even the ones with topics that don't interest me. 

We were in London a couple weeks back, and went to Harrods. Umair decided to go check out the Men's section. As for me, instead of going to the HUGE multi-storied women section filled with shiny designer bags, clothes, shoes, I found myself gravitating towards the bookshop. Yes, I checked out the Harrods bookshop at Harrods. Books > Fashion. Shiny leather bags don't give me the kinda joy a leather bound book with shiny pages would (don't get me wrong, I still love shopping!). At Harrods, I found a book called 'Romantic English Homes' and decided to buy it because it had beautiful pictures of adorable English homes. And home decor + shiny pretty book = naima's ultimate heaven. Anywhere we go, we try buying a little something something as a souvenir (however we've missed quite a few places, including Paris!). This book was the perfect memorabilia and it's the perfect coffee table book! 

February 25, 2013

Cheesecakes and chicken

If there's any dessert out there that I absolutely love and can never get tired of, it's a cheesecake. I don't have a big sweet tooth, in fact after a little something sweet, (yes that includes chocolates too) I am usually done. But cheesecake is the one thing I can never turn down! I have always wanted to try making them but never really got around to doing it. So this weekend, both Umair and I did just that. 

We had this recipe that we used, but with some adjustments. First of all, it was just a plain cheesecake that we wanted. I am not a huge fan of fruits on my cheesecakes! So there was no cranberry or glaze. For the cake, all the ingredients were the same minus the chocolate. I didn't really feel like chocolates in my cake.  For the crust, we substituted Leibnitz Vollkorn biscuits (German whole grain biscuits) for Graham Crackers because those are not available in Germany. Also, instead of using white chocolate, we used Lindt milk chocolate in the crust (which really enhanced the taste of the crust).

For first timers, I gotta say it turned out quite delish! The cake wasn't as high because we used a big baking dish instead of a springform pan. And we could've probably used more biscuits for the crust. But it was nice and moist and no cracking! We pretty much finished the entire thing in a day! Maybe time to buy a springform pan and start trying to make different kinds of cheesecakes?!

While we are at the topic of cooking and experimenting, we also experimented with chicken a little yesterday. Well, it was Umair's recipe. We can call it Minty Chicken with Peas for naming purposes. Basically, stir-fry chicken and peas with spices of your choice (we used: red chilli powder, salt, garlic and ginger powder, oregano and rosemary) and once chicken was almost done, Umair suggested throwing in yogurt mixed with mint chutney and sour cream and voila...yummy minty chicken! 

Apart from being a testing and trying recipes weekend, it was also the Oscar weekend! Actually, more so an Oscar Monday morning for me. Argo winning = complete awesomeness!! I have seen 5 out of the 9 nominated best movies (not seen: Amour, Lincoln, BotSW and Les Miserables) and was really rooting for Argo. It was a little baffling though that they did not nominate Ben Affleck for Best Director! I really want to see Amour. Also, Adele's performance was brilliant and so happy she won!  

February 21, 2013

...these are a few of my favourite things

Menu hidden inside vintage books at Mad Hatter's Tea, London.

  • the smell of the pages of a book
  • chocolate croissants for breakfast
  • looking up pictures of beautifully decorated homes
  • getting on that train (or plane) to travel to a new destination
  • snuggled on the couch, sipping green tea and reading a good book
  • having a Breaking Bad marathon with Umair, and being the first to figure out Heisenberg's master plans ;)

The Year That Was (part 2)

I think the year 2012 can be divided into two perfect halves. The months leading up to June were filled with planning, packing, chaos, panic, nostalgia, excitement and fear of the unknown. There was not a single day, I think, where I did not have something wedding related to do. The wedding that consisted of three different events. Whether it was running around to get my wedding dress altered, or getting makeup trial, meeting up with the vendors to decide on the details, or searching up ideas for wedding favours, experimenting with various flowers and LED lights to get the center pieces right, or planning seating charts for 400+ guests...you get the picture! Heck, I even remember running errands till the very last day before the wedding events were supposed to begin. In my case though, it was not just the wedding planning. My then-fiance, Umair, lived in Germany. And we were to fly to Germany literally 1 day  after the wedding. So apart from the wedding planning - there was also the moving and packing! And amidst all the chaos, there were moments of nostalgia and an overwhelming range of emotions. I have always been very close to my family and the thought of leaving them made me anxious. I had also never set foot in Europe, and that too in a non-English speaking country! What's it like in Germany? Will I like it? What if I get homesick? I was one big ball of anxiety, stress, excitement, nostalgia all rolled into one! 

However the wedding weekend itself (we had three events, Fri - Sun!) was relaxed and just perfect. All the fears that I had of things going wrong - well, none of that happened! I didn't fall during my entrance, the photographer was not late to the events, the center pieces were done well ahead of time (thanks to my lovely family and friends!), and no kid ran into the wedding cake! If there were little things that might have been off, well, I felt  too happy, chirpy, pretty and bride-y to care! I remember while having dinner, at our wedding reception, just looking around the hall remembering all the planning and waiting that had gone into bringing that day to life, and thinking '...well, this is it!.' Everything had come together so beautifully! 

Our Reception Day - June 3rd, 2012

The second half of my year was quite the opposite. While the phrase for the first half of the year was 'so much to do, so little time', the second half was mountains of free time and not much to do! Well, unless you count traveling as a thing to do. Then oh yeah, there was lots and lots to do! I was in Europe and there were little cafes all around and cobblestone streets and pretty pink and yellow buildings. There were no deadlines to meet, no events to plan, no clothes to alter! The second half was more relaxed and slow. My husband surprised me with a trip to Edinburgh a day after we landed in Munich. I had once mentioned to him that I'd always wanted to go to Scotland. So you can imagine my excitement when he surprised me with Edinburgh tickets. And after Edinburgh, there were many weekend and some non-weekend trips. In just six months, I had seen Edinburgh, Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Zurich and some medieval little towns around Munich. I love how easy it is to travel within Europe. I mean, we did all these places just on weekends! Minus Paris/Belgium. Also, it's amazing that in just a few hours on a train you end up in a different city where people speak different languages and have different cultures. You go north west a few hours and you hear Dutch. Go south west a few hours and you hear French. Go straight south and you hear the pretty pretty Italian! I love it! Actually now that I think of it, there is so much to see in this world that 'so much to do, so little time' pretty much describes life. So yes, my second half of the year was spent traveling, learning German, learning to cook new dishes, absorbing different cultures, gaining new experiences and meeting some great people. We then welcomed 2013 in a war zone-ish city center where Germans were throwing rockets and fireworks in every direction possible. I can not say I wasn't scared for my life that night! But what a firecracker of an end it was to an absolute rollercoaster of a year! 

February 19, 2013

The Year That Was (part 1)

I know it's already almost the end of February of the new year but I cannot help but think back and reflect on the year that was 2012. For some, it was just one of those routine years. For others, it was the year they reached a milestone; graduated, got a new job, got married, had a baby. For some, this year opened up doors to wonderful possibilities and opportunities. For others, it was a year with the looming fear of the world ending! For me, 2012 was the year of leaving behind familiarities, walking into the unknown, embracing new opportunities, learning a tiny bit more about the world. Three major things that happened in 2012 for me:

  • Got rid of my glasses
  • Got married
  • Moved to Germany

After wearing glasses for as long as I can remember, I finally parted ways with them earlier in 2012! Getting laser eye surgery was probably the most impulsive decision I have ever made. I did not spare even 5 minutes to really think about it! It was the beginning of March and work was slow. I was looking up various wedding related things online when I thought to myself - how awesome would it be if I didn't have to always either wear glasses or contacts? And that very second, I emailed my fiance asking him how he went about his laser eye surgery. He told me the place he got it done. I called them right then and there, asked them the cost + procedure; they said they needed me to come do a free consulting session. I figured why not? I told them I was getting married in June and I needed this done ASAP. So that very week, I got my free consultation, and the doctor booked me for surgery which was to take place in a week and half. Crazy!! I didn't even know the procedure for laser eye. I had no clue what they do, or what the side effects are. I just knew I liked the sound of no glasses. And I knew if I looked too much into it, I'd chicken out. It probably doesn't sound smart but yes, one of the biggest decisions of my life - that too concerning the precious eyes - was made out of the blue, 3 months before my wedding, just because work was slow that day. And I do think it's one of the bravest things I've done in my life. Now, I know for most people laser eye isn't a big deal, but if you know me then you'll know that I'm a bit of a chicken! I start crying real tears at the sight of cockroaches and I run far far away from dogs, even those little fluffy guys. I was terrified the day of, I even told my dad to drive back once we got there. And I cursed myself for not thinking this through. I also started panicking about whether I'll be able to wear eye makeup for my wedding. But I went through with it. It was a quick, pain-free process. However, there were post-surgery hassles to deal with! Multiple drops at multiple times of the day, sleeping with sunglasses on, no water in the eyes and a few more. Not to forget, every time I would like in the mirror, my bruised eyes would freak me out. In the end though, I am really glad I took that step! It took me some time to adjust to the fact that I did not have glasses sitting on my nose anymore. And It just feels so great to not fumble around for glasses first thing in the morning. Sometimes, in life, some decisions need to be impulsive! Maybe not ones that deal with your eyes though.

The other two bullets were of course much more bigger, life changing events of my life. I feel like this is getting too long, so they will follow in part two of the year that was. 

February 15, 2013

My first blog!

As someone who likes to read blogs of various people, I figured it was time to start one of my own! This space will mostly contain my musings on travel, books, food, life in Germany (where I moved just a few months ago from Toronto), home decor and other little things that go through my mind. 

To start off with a little something, on my mind today is the sale HauteLook is having on wood art. These are cute, inspirational and totally something I'd love on my wall. My only issue - I can't decide which one to get! Some of my favourite ones are: