Thursday, 29 April 2010

Summer and bureaucracy

My head is spinning whenever I step outside because all the trees are blooming and it smells incredible; like summer and childhood. Today the weather is fab, +24°C, which for a Finn definitively is summer – compared to Ireland, I don't even know what to call this. We enjoyed breakfast/lunch at the corner bakery, sitting outside, then took a walk around Falkplatz and Mauerpark. I love working part-time!

A signed a lease for his very own studio space today! He's really excited and I really hope it will be great.

We're also looking for a new apartment and we're seeing our first one today, here in Prenzl'berg. I don't think we'll take the first one we view, but it feels exciting to actually go out there and see something. This one is 62m2 and the warm rent (includes heating, water and so on) is only €462. But it would make a lot of sense for us to try to find an apartment near Volkspark Freidrichshain, since it would be close to the studio, and an equal distance from both our jobs. I emailed four other places today, so hopefully we will find our gem in a few weeks!

Another weight was lifted off my shoulders: I finally have German health insurance! I got my employers to put me on pay roll and now I don't have to worry about hardly any bureaucracy at all. I only needed to get my Lohnsteuerkarte at the Bürgeramt and to go to a Krankenkasse to sign up, which was all fairly painless. Because we want to move, we will face more bureaucracy: we need a Schufa paper (credit rating), a Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (statement from our current landlord that we don't owe on rent) and copies of our passports and bank statements...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

What's for lunch?

It's a pain to try to think of simple work lunches, but on the other hand, it annoys me to spend a lot of money on buying lunches. Usually bought lunches end up being unhealthy crap, because by the time I go to the shop, I'm starving and craving salt, fat and sugar. I often buy a couscous salad from one of the Turkish bakeries: €1,50 for a small plastic box of spiced couscous, tomato and scallions – not too bad. Recently I realised that I can make it myself, make it healthier and make it cheaper! So here goes, my favourite lunch de jour:

Turkish style lunch salad (makes 2-3 lunch servings)
200 ml organic bulgur, coarse
300 ml water
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 organic tomatoes, finely chopped
1/3 organic cucumber, finely chopped
Scallions (spring onions), finely chopped
Flat leaf parsley
Salt, pepper
(Optional: 50g cubed feta cheese)
(Optional: 1/2 red chili pepper, finely chopped)

Bring the water to a boil. Rinse the bulgur until the water doesn't turn cloudy anymore, then boil for 10 minutes – you shouldn't need to drain the bulgur, the water should have all been soaked up or evaporated. Add olive oil, tomato paste, lemon juice, salt and pepper in to the pot, mix well and let the bulgur cool off. Chop your vegetables and when the bulgur has reached around room temperature, mix everything else in with the bulgur. Divide the salad in lunch boxes and refrigerate.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

I found out I like Chinese food

I have never been a huge fan of the greasy, gooey, slimy and mushy things served in our European Chinese food restaurants, but a few weeks ago, I changed my mind. We googled for a suitable, cheap restaurant to meet M&M and their little J in. We ended up going to Wok Show on Greifenhagener straße, in the northern outskirts of Prenzlauer Berg.

Wok Show is famous for it's delicious Chinese dumplings, jiaozis, that make an affordable meal at 20 pieces for €5,50 or 40 for €10 (+€1 if you want them fried). They also serve really interesting cold starters, so far my favourite is a cucumber and garlic salad – us vegetarians are quite well catered for. We were there again last night with friends and I had every intention of trying one of the other portions on the menu, but we ended up sharing the dumplings – again. I'm addicted! Also: what a nice change to not see a single "hipster" or exchange student in the restaurant!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Sun again

The weather is hopefully, finally getting warmer – I have been freezing in the gloomy +12 for weeks now! Today was particularly sunny and we spent the day having lunch on our friends' balcony and then visiting their son's favourite place, the awesome Kinderbauernhof Pinke-Panke in Pankow. The petting zoo is quite big and has donkeys, chicken, pigs, rabbits... On such a sunny day there were naturally too many kids around, but I guess it's their prerogative. We had made scones and ate them picnic-style on the grassy bank of the Panke river. Perfect!

M served us home made spinach knödels for lunch, on their balcony.

We have decided to move house at the by the end of June, so now we need to try to save our last pennies to make sure we can afford the Kaution (rent deposit), and at least the first months rent. Neither one of us has still gotten a proper months wages, so we have absolutely no idea how much money we will have after taxes and health insurance fees. I'm super happy that my employers decided that they will put me on the payroll, and now I don't have to worry about the taxes and bureaucracy myself! I only needed to get a Lohnsteuerkarte (tax card) and next week I will visit my chosen Krankenkasse (health insurance provider) to sign up – that's it.

Next week is hell week in work again... And then my boss is going on holidays for a week, so maybe I won't even need to read my emails! Let's just hope this crazy volcanic ash situation allows her to go :)

Monday, 12 April 2010

Cautiously green

Silly fringe tree by the Spree in Mitte.

The gorgeous maple in our inner yard.

Spring is still furthest along indoors.

My environment turns from cautious shades of green into bolder and darker colours by the day. I have to say that after living in Ireland the past years, it feels like we had to wait forever for this!

Saturday, 10 April 2010

First attempt at clubbing

"What the hell are you doing in Berlin?" "Boy, did you pick the wrong city to live in!" People say this to me often. Why do I get such harsh comments? Because I don't like techno. Sue me.

Yesterday was my first clubbing experience since we moved here almost a year ago. We ended a long, fun night out in Friedrichshain by going to Rosi's. It was a Karrera Club 'Indie Pop Disko' night and the music was pretty mainstream, I thought, not too monotonous or boring. It's a cool bar with lots of outdoor space and I could imagine finding myself there again, if friends or tourists want to go dancing. I got a reminder of why it's at the same time such fun and so annoying to go out with your single friends: boys are hovering, friends disappear to smooch in dark corners of the bar and you end up having the awkward "sorry, but I have a boyfriend" conversations. By Berlin standards we left early, at 6 am, and I was home at 7. It was nice to walk home when the sun was coming up and the birds were singing. It felt like a summer morning – except that it was only +6°C warm...

Tonight my friends invited me to the Russendisko at Kaffee Burger in Mitte, but I don't think I'm up for such madness two nights in a row :) I'm a bad Berliner...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

A poor addict

We have realised that since neither one of us has gotten paid yet, we are on the path to poverty. That's a pity, because I have just found myself a new favourite café, and all I want to do every day is to go to Slörm, drink their amazing coffee and feed my addiction to their cream cheese, carrot, tomato and rucola toasts... I also love any place of business that houses pets, and two cute parakeets live at the back of the café. It's so Berlin: I think keeping animals in places that serve food is a strict no-no everywhere else!

I will have to have a chat at the office about not being a freelancer, but getting on the pay roll instead. That way all my health insurance, taxes and social benefit payments would all be a lot easier to understand, at least everything was smooth sailing for A. I'm not sure my bosses will be over the moon about it – not to mention that it has seemed a bit tense around the office. I hope the long Easter break has made everyone more mellow

We went to see our friend dj last night, so today is a "mini-hangover day". I will now return to the American television shows and candy, while taking huge pleasure in knowing that tomorrow is yet another Sunday ;)

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Existential crisis in asparagus season

Spring food! Asparagus season! Yay!

I'm experiencing a mild existentialist crisis about my blog. I regret not writing about our life in Dublin and so I wanted to make sure to make notes here in Berlin - but is it useful, really? Who am I writing for? Why? It's not much of a journal really, and I don't write anything that isn't already written somewhere else... But in March, this website was uploaded over 600 times. That's somebody's interest. Anyway, I'll continue the crisis on the down low and just wait and see.

Today is the beginning of Easter, and then next week work will pick up the pace again, so I better enjoy myself! We've stocked up on good food and Kinder eggs, if nothing else :)

Simple roasted asparagus
Green asparagus
Olive oil, good quality
Sea salt
Organic lemon
Handful of freshly grated parmesan

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Rinse the asparagus and chop off the woody, pinkish bit of the stalk, about 1-2 cm. Line them up in a neat row, in one layer, in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle the asparagus lightly with olive oil and sea salt before roasting them for about 13-15 minutes. The tips will get colour, but watch out so they don’t burn. Plate the asparagus and sprinkle generously with lemon juice and grated parmesan.
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