Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Shopping for men

I hate buying gifts for boys: it's always so difficult! Men are a little bit like kids: they want toys and gadgets with buttons and cords. Clothes and books can be popular, but how do you know which ones? I bet most women end up buying men bestseller books, colourful socks or funny t-shirts as presents – I know I do. Every Christmas, every birthday. It's my dad's birthday on Friday, and because I've been working hard, I didn't get around to even buying a card yet.

Not far from our house is a funny shop called Männer Gift, gifts for men. I've always thought it's a bizarre concept, but today I decided I have to go in and see if they have a quick fix for me: a nice card and something I can mail in an envelope. I was pretty impressed: it's a big shop and they sell kitchen knives, frying pans, chocolate, towels, bathrobes, books, notebooks, underwear, bags, interior design knickknacks and jewellery. I bet I could have found many presents for my dad, my brother or boyfriend here – but nothing very cheap. I ended up buying a card and some "Louisiana Barbecue Spice Rub" for fish and meat (€9,50) in a convenient metal tin, because my dad loves to barbecue all summer long. Phew, I'm glad that's sorted (until next Christmas)!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010


It's production week in work again which means long days and a tightened atmosphere at the office. It also means we eat more meals at the office, mostly in the shape of cookies. But usually, at least once every issue, we treat ourselves with food from Dolores, our favourite Mexican food joint. I think tomorrow might be the day! Mmm... quesadillas with guacamole or maybe the new soft tacos I hear they started doing...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Pizza trials

We got up early (at 10, hehe) to view an apartment on Knaackstraße. It was painful to be out in the cold with icy rain hammering down. It's +24°C in Helsinki – how is that fair? I was emailing with my friend who lives in Lisbon and she told me it's only +15 there too, which made me feel a little better. The apartment was just ok, 60 square metres for €590, "warm", but not our dream apartment. We still have time to search.

Even if we are trying to act as poor as we are at the moment, yesterday we went out. A few weeks ago we invited our friends R and S to A Magica in Prenzlauer Berg for what we have reason to believe are the pizzas in Berlin. S has her own favourite place in Friedrichshain, Il Ritrovo, and we decided we must try their pizzas too, to see how "ours" measure up. Il Ritrovo is a part of a three-restaurant chain that also includes I Due Forni in Prenzlauer Berg and Il Casolare in Kreuzberg – and I have also heard rumours that the best pizzas in Berlin could be the ones in I Due Forni.

So yesterday we did an excursion to Friedrichshain and enjoyed our pizzas in great company. The restaurant is pretty big, very chaotic and not very inviting. In fairness, it was a Friday night and the place was packed. A and I shared a potato pizza (we just had to try) and on the safer side, a pizza with aubergine, zucchini (courgette), cherry tomatoes, spring onions and mozzarella. They were good, the tomato sauce excellent and the dough good. We agreed that A Magica still does them just a little bit better – maybe it's the type of cheese they use? I don't know. A Magica is also a smidge cheaper, which is nice. I do think we will eventually be drawn back to Il Ritrovo just to have the potato pizza again; it was delicious and the generous amount of rosemary made it special. Yum!

And today we're making pizza at home – topped with white asparagus if we find nice ones :)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Making the most of it

At least some signs of early summer are here: rhubarb, asparagus and new potatoes.

The plan for today was to make asparagus pizza and drink rhubarb beer, but to celebrate the bizarre German men's day, Männer-Tag, and the official holiday, Christi Himmelfahrt, we're going to Wok Show with L and S instead.

Berliner Weiße mit Rhabarber, €2,80.

And rhubarb beer? Yesterday I met S for a language tandem in St Oberholz, on Rosenthaler Platz. I had been raving about the delicious Berliner Weiße mit Rhabarber they serve, and so we got ourselves a little afternoon buzz going, like proper Berliners. We realised that they mix the beer with home made juice, rather than with an additive-filled syrup like most bars use for the red and green beers. I have a pot full of rhubarb simmering on the stove as I write, to make rhubarb juice and try to mix it with beer myself. All I need to serve my concoction is some sunshine!

Rhubarb juice (Makes about a litre of juice and jar of rhubarb sauce)
1.5 litre chopped rhubarb, the reddest ones you find (roughly 10 skinnier stalks of rhubarb)
1.5 litre water
½ lemon
about 150 ml Fairtrade raw cane sugar

Rinse the rhubarb stalks well. Don’t peel them, just chop to small pieces. Measure the water into a pot, bring to a boil, then toss in the rhubarb and let simmer for 30 minutes. Sieve the juice and pour it back in the pot. (Spoon the soft, sieved rhubarbs into a bowl, purée them if you want, and add sugar to taste – voilá; home made rhubarb sauce!) Pour the sugar into the pot and let it dissolve before you lift the pot to the side, stir in the lemon juice and let the concoction cool. I added a bit of water to the juice later, as it can be quite strong. Chill and serve!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Constant freezing

I hate to be the one to always moan about the weather, but come on!!! Wtf? It's May!

Monday, 10 May 2010

The end of spring

It feels like spring is coming to and end.

But where is summer? It's again constantly around +10-15°C and gloomy. I'm freezing all the time. This is not great May weather, even to Finnish or Irish standards.

My old phone gave up on me: it would only wake up, but not tell me anything, just give me a blank, well lit screen. I reluctantly spent money on a new Nokia. It can surf Facebook, check Google Maps and be charged by USB, but I would rather have spent money on something fun. For the cost of the phone A and I could have eaten at least five nice meals at a restaurant. Sigh. To compensate, I'm not spending any money or doing anything right now – until next weekend, when my step-sister's class is coming to Berlin, or the next one, when my favourite former colleague from Finland will be here with her husband, or the one after that, when my brother will be here... :P

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Intensive German

This past weekend I learnt funny new words in German:
pullern = to pee
rumeiern / herumeiern = to wobble, to not walk straight, to ramble, literally: to move forward unevenly as an egg would roll
schnurrstrax = immidiately

Last night I was at M's hen party. It was one of the nicest hen parties I've attended. I'm a bit against the whole tradition, particularly when it involves drunk girls, wearing pink outfits, roaming the streets and singing Oasis songs out of tune. Luckily M's a classy girl, so this Wednesday night get-together was merely an excuse to eat olives and drink champagne with strawberries. I brought blue cheese cookies that got a lot of compliments, so they are definitively going in my permanent recipe collection.

My tandem partner S was also invited, we haven't met in forever, so I was happy to see her. Today we had a tandem-date, so now we're properly caught up again. S promised to have a few tandem-dates with my mom, who comes to Berlin for an intensive German course for the entire month of July. It's a good deal, since my mom teaches Finnish to foreigners and can answer all grammar questions S might have – and it gets her out of my hair for a few hours at a time :)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Ost, ost, ost Berlin!

Apparently I had said yes an invitation to a football game while drinking my third caipiroska on a drunken night in Wohnzimmer. So I went. I didn't even know Berlin had a second team besides Hertha until I was told I owe €10 for a ticket to see FC Union play Arminia Bielefeld. FC Union, or Eisern Union, is the East German football team, from Köpenick. And they really, really hate Hertha.

It turned out to be a fun experience, shared with over 17 000 other viewers in the small Köpenick stadium, also known as Die Alte Försterei. It did suck a little to stand for about four hours in a row, but I enjoyed observing the routines and rules that the audience and fans obeyed by. When the FC Union players were announced, the fans yelled out "FUSSBALLGOTT!" after every name. The fans knew about ten different songs with lyrics to support their team, the oddest one being to the melody of Pippi Longstockings. The funniest was a song for midfielder Torsten Mattuschka to the melody of "Can't take my eyes off you". The Eisern Union hymn is also pretty funny, a song by legendary punk singer Nina Hagen, YouTube video below. I haven't seen other sports events live, so to me the FC Union fans seem to be the most dedicated fans I can imagine. Our team won and the applause, the songs and the shouting just wouldn't stop!

A phenomenon new to me was group sarcasm: When the opposing team was warming up and kicking the ball, the Union fans would unanimously go "uuuuuuh" in the most sarcastic tone you've heard. And when the opposing teams names were announced, the Union fans would yell "und?" after every name, as to say "so what, is that all you have?". As a long time admirer and user of sarcasm, I loved it! We were lucky to be at the game with a group of German friends, who happily explained and translated the details for us.

Getting home by S-bahn was pretty annoying though, as there were a lot of police prepared for riots, it seemed like. I guess it was lucky FC Union won 3-0!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Baumblütenfest, Werder

We were lucky enough to be invited to tag along to the Baumblütenfest Volksfest in Werder with S and R yesterday. Werder is about 40 minutes south of Berlin on train, just past Potsdam. The festival is the second biggest Volksfest in Germany, after Octoberfest, and the Baumblütenfest is celebrating it's 131st year – pretty impressive. We went, because S told us that the rhubarb wine is really good :) The festival is on for a week and ends today. With the guidance of an experienced Baumblütenfest-goer, we avoided the crowded main festival area on the island, and headed straight on top of the hill, where along a looooong little road people sell food and home made fruit wines. Some have even set up beer gardens in their private yards! For us it felt pretty unique, and we were completely in love with the wine and the atmosphere. Baumblütenfest means "a celebration of the trees blooming", and we were literally surrounded by blossoming trees – we even had our folienkartoffeln sitting in a cherry orchard...

We had to endure some schlager-music, but it made us feel pretty German.

We were there for the wine!

The residents turn their yards into beer-gardens and restaurants.

We had our lunch in a cherry orchard.

Our favourite wine: strawberry-rhubarb!
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