Friday, July 30, 2010

Feasting: Last Meals in Heidelberg

We've had some fantastic German food here in Heidelberg.  Let's reminisce:

A traditional Bavarian Weisswurst breakfast. At Zum Franziskaner.

Traditional Palatinate blood sausage and liver Knödel, always with buttery potatoes. At Kulturbrauerei.

Lots of wonderful beers: zum Wohl!

One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday: hike to the monastery and eat fresh cheese, bread, and olives there in the open air.

But I've got to say that my favorite German thing to eat here is Schweinshaxe: roast crackling pork knuckle - 
the one above is at one of our favorite restaurants, Vetter, served with sauerkraut, Semmelknödel, and mustard.

As you can see, this ain't for the weak of heart - or the weak of stomach.  I will miss all this hearty goodness.  But we still have this weekend in Munich!  Let's see what they have on offer there...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wandering: The Road Goes Ever On And On

Dusk at the Jesuitenkirche.

This is my last week in Heidelberg... I won't be flying back to the States for another week or so, but after this Friday I'll be traveling around, first to Munich and then to the UK, then back here to pack up and go.  I can't tell you how sad this makes me!  I never expected to live in Germany or to become so fond of it, but Heidelberg has really become home in the last year.  I will miss:

the view from my apartment onto the rooftops of the Altstadt and the hills of the Philosophenweg,

 peering into bakery windows to see what ridiculous pastries they're hawking,

 meeting friends for lunch in plazas,

wandering around on little trails,

pausing on the Old Bridge to look at distant hills and to wonder what lies beyond...

But aside from these things, I will miss the home this place has given me.  It really has been a haven after a very tough couple of years.  It has been an ideal place to study, think, explore, recover, and take delight in life and the world.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Making: Designing!

These are my Pilot Choose 0.7mm gel ink pens, which I purchased through Jet Pens, a fabulous online store stocking all sorts of wonderful writing, drawing, and drafting instruments.  I was given a gift certificate last fall and these gel ink pens, along with a very chic fountain pen, were my happy little purchase.

The reason I pulled these out this last weekend is because I'm designing a little knit project - very simple, actually - that needs a bit of embroidery to give it that final flourish.  If you're my sister: STOP READING NOW.  If you're not, the gift is a Kindle cover, two very simple rectangles knit together, with a buttoned envelope flap.  But I need something small in a corner to make it sweet.  I couldn't settle on anything for the longest time.  Should it be floral?  A little bird?  Birds are such the rage now: I see them on everything from tote bags to jewelry.  An owl would be fitting with the book theme.  What about a pattern from tiles I've seen in Istanbul?  Or is a simple heart too twee?

There's also the question of color.  The cover is a charcoal gray on the back and the flap and a creamy off-white on the front - where I'm imagining the embroidery to be.  Red stood out to me at once as the color of choice for a little embellishment.  So, a parade of red-colored possibilities began presenting themselves to me: a little apple?  Too simple - and reminiscent of the brand.  A strawberry?  To difficult to capture with yarn embroidery, especially the little seeds.  Okay, how about flowers?  I wanted something streamlined, not too folksy or granny, not too mod.  Simple.  Pretty.  Ugh.  Let's play with the  roving in that little paper bag instead!

Oooh!  I didn't know there was that much roving in there!  Come to think of it, I don't think I had taken the wool out of that bag since I bought it last fall at the Heidelberger Herbst festival.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I could felt something instead of embroider.  But I've never felted.  And I don't have any felting needles.  Probably a bad idea to try something for the first time when a gift is involved.

But the roving presents such lovely color combinations.  Whoever packed that little bag has a gift.  Let's look at it again!

It looks like sorbet colors! How about something food related, then, for the embroidery?  A cupcake?  Soooo overdone.  Cute but inelegant.  Lollipops?  Cute...but how to group them?  How many? 

This could go on forever.  I think I've settled on a group of very simple star-shaped flowers in red.  But maybe on the gray side of the cover, with a red blanket stitch around the perimeter of the cover to pull it all together.  Or not?  If you have any ideas, send them my way!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Feasting: Lunch in Sevilla's Barrio Santa Cruz

Baked cod with muscat grapes

Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the restaurant, but I remember that it was right on the edge of the Santa Cruz neighborhood in Sevilla (maybe along  La Avenida de Menéndez Pelayo, but I'm not sure anymore).  Anyway, my sister and I stopped in this bright bistro-like restaurant for an amazing tapas lunch.

Spinach with chickpeas and garlic

Tomato and mozzarella "napoleon"

Fritto misto - including calalmari, sardines, and cod

And then we took a stroll before the day got too hot (we ducked indoors everyday in Seville at 2 or 3 in the afternoon).  The residents of the Barrio Santa Cruz say it's always 10°F cooler there because of the whitewashed, thick walls and narrow streets.  I wouldn't say it was cool, but the little streets were definitely a welcome relief from the sun-baked thoroughfares near the cathedral.  And they make a lovely labyrinth to wander through...

with niches for mini-altars,

small plazas with citron trees and tinkling fountains,

past old doors, hiding cool, dark secrets.

Here's to a mellow, breezy summer weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wandering: Old Farmsteads in Bavaria

Right on the southwest border of Germany, in Bavaria, there's an open-air museum or Freilichtmuseum that exhibits several old Bavarian farmsteads, some dating back as far as the 16th century.  At the time I was visiting I had already spent two rain-drenched days with my friends touring around Salzburg and other sites nearby: we were cold, miserable, and water-logged.  An "open air" museum was about the last thing I wanted to see in the misty drizzle.  Thank goodness, then, that we were given free rein to explore inside all the quaint farmhouses and workshops.

We all squealed when we saw these feather beds upstairs in one old house.  How sweet!  How simple life was!  How Little-House-on-the-Prairie and Anne-of-Green-Gables!  But then one catches a glimpse of a chamber pot in the bedroom corner.  Oh.  Hmm.

I can't imagine working with this stove.  I just don't have the strength to stoke 
the fire and manage those heavy iron pots, day after day after day.

This seems a bit more manageable.

But the work is never done: these rags must be ripped into strips, sewn together, and wound.

Then they're woven on this enormous loom to become floor mats.

 Wool must be carded and combed, then spun and knit!

Then there are plants to sow, weed, water, and harvest...

Fruit to be canned and pickled, wines to be fermented and stored.

I say I would love to do all these things... but only as hobbies.  I don't think I could bear the physical weariness I would feel if I had to do them, day in, day out.  And without central heating!  No, I suppose I prefer the life I lead, in which I only dabble in these things, then return to my books and writing.  But who know what may happen someday?  Maybe I'll turn farmwife...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Making: Bits and Bobs, Odds and Ends

I said I would post my Opal Hundertwasser Socks when I finished - well, here's one of them.  The other is languishing, half-knit, in my knitting bag.  It's a jolly looking sock, no?  And, yes, that is a toy mouse in the picture.  I can't always get Mr. Tubs to puts his toys away.

You'd think I'd have gotten more knitting done in the last month, what with all the planes and trains I've been on.  But I just can't do certain things when traveling, i.e. I can't knit lace or follow a more complicated pattern unless I'm at home.  And now that I'm home, and now that I'm supposed to be working 1) on a book review already a bit late and 2) gearing up for my dissertation proposal, I find myself caught up in all sorts of lace nonsense.

This chalice pattern isn't anything extremely lacy, but it requires some concentration and a lace-chart.  I'm enjoying knitting it as a superb form of procrastination.  It'll be a baby blanket, to be gifted next month, so I have a bit of time.

What I haven't enjoyed is wrangling this yarn: Misti Alpaca Lace.  It actually isn't the fault of the yarn at all, which is lovely and soft.  I just have woefully big, clumsy needles not at all suitable for laceweight yarn.  I have already attempted two projects with this yarn and, trust me, you do not want to ssk or even k2tog with dull needles.  I thought my head was going to explode.  I will just have to put off knitting with laceweight until I get myself some proper needles.

Which means I can't fool around with this skein of Malabrigo Lace, either.  Harumph.  Well, it's probably just a sign that I should get back to work.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wandering and Feasting: Churros con Chocolate!

A paper cone full of freshly fried churros, in Sevilla, in the Santa Cruz barrio.

Before this trip to Spain, when I thought of churros I thought of the Mexican version, deep fried and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  While still quite, quite fond of that version, I have found a new love: churros con chocolate.  We first tried them in Madrid: deep fried dough, dipped into a cup of hot chocolate so thick it was like a pudding.  A traditional Spanish breakfast food.  "A very powerful breakfast," as our waiter said.

This was in Granada, enjoyed in the lovely Plaza Bib-Rambla.

One side of the beautiful plaza.

One more look.

Happy Weekend and Happy Feasting!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Making: Mazapán in Toledo

June has come and gone - an altogether crazy month for me.  I managed to take (and pass!) my qualifying exam and stop over in five different countries in four weeks . . . something I probably won't do again.  I'm not complaining - I know I've been thoroughly spoiled in having the opportunity to see and experience so many different places.  The last two weeks of my travels I spent with my sister, wandering through Spain, one tiny, meandering, hot, and colorful street at a time.  Don't you just love the hydrangeas and colored tiles of that balcony above?  We found that on a little random street in Toledo.  But I said this post was going to be about mazapán, and so it shall.

Mazapán is the Spanish version of marzipan, made of sugar and finely ground almonds.  I'm holding a couple Toledan mazapán confections baked either plain (left) or with fruit perserves (right).  Toledo's mazapán is famous, and it can be bought at virtually any street corner in that beautiful little city-on-a-hill. 

Nuns are often the artisans behind the little confections, as this little diorama in a storefront shows.  Actually, nun-made-sweets were a theme on our trip through Andalusia: there were many convents that offered sweets for sale.

This is a sign we found on the walls outside a Franciscan convent.

And there's the door you'd knock on to purchase some sweets!  We found this to be the case also in Madrid, Granada, Córdoba, and Sevilla.  Sometimes you had to ring a buzzer and give the password, dulces, to be let in for a purchase.  Other times you could just buy nun-made-sweets pre-packaged at a confection shop.

 This, my friends, is a detail on a mini-cathedral made entirely of mazapán.  The cathedral was on display at a Santo Tomé shop - one of a couple in Toledo.  If you're ever in Toledo, I'd recommend buying a box from Santo Tomé.  Their mazapán is excellent and always beautifully boxed for travel.

A dragon crafted of mazapán in a handy tin in a Santo Tomé shop.  Of course I packed a few sweets to take home myself!