Hot Sauna & Cold Spring Rolls

Hot Sauna & Cold Spring Rolls

We had a nice evening at the Blankenese Pool and Sauna this week. You’ll have to go to the link as I couldn’t hijack any images to show. We started with a few laps in the 25 meter pool to stretch out. Whether alone or surrounded by excited children, we always enjoy this beautiful floor to ceiling windowed, light filled  building. France too has wonderful pools throughout the city but Germans really prioritize health through hydrotherapy and wellness centers. One can even take an insurance paid ‘wellness’ trip.

Followed by a swim we head to the steam room a little before 5.30pm to get warmed up. I like to open those dirty, clogged pores that I’ve been slathering with creams and oils to fight the cold weather. We breath in humid, steamy air while we wait for the attendant to come with little bowls of salt.

Armed with salt, we scrub that layer of dead skin with little remorse .. the bodies largest organ of elimination (the skin) rewards us feeling as silky as a baby’s butt. Each of us have a go at our own bodies, and O and I finish doing each other’s backs. We sit on little face cloth sized towels in a small room and I do my best to remain silent. The salt pulls beads of sweat out of our skin and we are soon seriously dripping. If we time it right, little pots of honey are offered next. I could do this every week. Great stuff.

I’ll mention here, there are a few beauty care pieces I’ve yet to pull together in this country. For instance, I wanted to ask the lady who entered the steam room just after us, where she gets her bikini wax but a) it’s hard to get the right words out in German and b) it might leave her feeling a bit hesitant to take the last seat on the tiled bench next to me. So I didn’t. I’ve really learned to think before speaking since living here. This has been a very positive lesson for me. Normally I am a serious/funny kind of a female wise cracker and it doesn’t always work… in English. And forget it in German.  Click here if you want to read about my first and only waxing experience… Wax on wax off- an experience. This is optional reading… not just something you want to accidentally scroll to at the bottom of the page.

Let’s continue…Next is the main hot dry sauna. Each hour there is a special aroma and steam procedure. Citrus, eucalyptus, lemongrass. I was one of three women and eleven men sitting naked and close together. Large, thin, hairy backs,  all shapes and sizes but nobody cares. We had a chamomile/ elderflower mix. These guys do an ausbildung(internship/training) for this… Most German people who don’t attend University will complete an internship in something, even if you work at the grocery store. I’ve only seen men doing this job. They come in with towel skirts or shorts and scoop scented water onto the hot coals, then wave and snap a towel (not the one on their waist). The scented heat wafts across my face. I cover it with my hands, feel the heat, breath deeply and concentrate on nothing. Sometimes, ice chips are offered. I eat them and hold them against the souls of my feel and back of my neck, feeling them instantly melt.

In the fifteen minutes, that had felt like sixty, I had moved from the third step to the first.  Heart rates up, we exit with the sauna guy. We head to the showers and choose warm, ice cold or my favorite, the rain cycle. A mix of warm and cool water that varies between a pitter patter and pelting against my skin. With skin washed, we don our robes, take an apple or grape juice, sometimes a tea over to the lounge chairs and rest. I try to focus on a mantra.. om nama shivaya… instead of writing this post. But I also try not to fight my thoughts. I try to let them flow through. If I say the mantra in my head I can stop thinking for a few minutes and I feel relief.

We relaxed here for a good 30-40 minutes. Sometimes we go for a second round but that night Chloe was at home on her own and had been on a bike ride, or so I thought. I’m a bit of a paranoid and since we couldn’t be reached by phone – I was not 100% relaxed. So we called it a night and headed home for spring rolls, green salad and quinoa salad.

I used rice paper, glass noodles, napa cabbage, red cabbage, orange and purple carrots, red and yellow peppers, cilantro, mint and basil.

Here’s the process of dipping the rice paper in warm water. The trick is getting it wet and elastic but not over doing it or it cracks. These photos were taken by Chloe :-)

Swish it around in the water then carefully let the excess water drip off. Then I lay it on a stone tile or a plate would work.

I’ve got all my very thinly sliced veggies, cooked shrimp, rice noodles and herbs ready to fill the wraps. I start with the shrimp and mint leaves. Honestly though, sometimes I forget the order between the one hundred and twenty seconds it takes from one roll to the next. Like this one for instance, I put the mint on first and didn’t notice till processing my picks…

Then some cooked glass noodles…

Your veggies, cilantro and basil….Thai basil is the best here but couldn’t find any this day.

Now we begin to roll. I pull the ends up on each side…

Then fold the side closest to me up…

Tuck it in and roll…

Roll it as tight as you can without busting the wrapper. This might take one or two practice rolls…

Here’s what you’ll have on the inside… note shrimp coming out. These were my rolls shot the next day as I ran out of good light. They still tasted great but the wrapper degrades a little. They are a super lunch though. You want to wrap them tight in plastic wrap to store.

These were so much fun to take photos of and edit. Glorious color. Think of all the vitamins!

I eat them with thai chili sauce… I could drink the stuff. love it so much.

Ok last one… probably..

Valentines… bath,duck and kumquats

Valentines… bath,duck and kumquats

Ok not the rubber kind and it was the car that got the bath. Happy Valentine’s day honey. Right? What do we get for our loving husbands? Mine isn’t into power tools but how about washing and vacuuming the car, I thought. It was my first car wash in Germany. I was returning from dropping Chloe off at school.. which on a side note is so totally American. These kids here are trained young for church, getting themselves around, and crossing streets only when the green guy flashes. We see 5 year olds out there rain, sun, snow walking to school. They’ve got backpacks as big as their little bodies and until they leave home at 18, they are independent. It’s great. But you have to start straight away. Like with church. My choir did a couple songs for the kids service today and these kids start so young going to church. It is just something you do on Sundays. You start them before they realize they have choices.  It’s not like a “hmm… should we go to church today?” It’s just what you do. By the time they hit puberty it’s part of a structure that just is. I’m not religious per se so it’s not about going to church… but the principal of training, ya know?

You can read further about my car wash experience down below. It was pretty funny. But now here are a couple ideas for a lovely Valentine’s Day meal or weekend dinner.

  Continue reading

Sunshine and rotten bananas

Sunshine and rotten bananas

I remember when Chloe (aka Alice)…ok the cat’s out of the bag… but now that I’m trying to morph into (or go back) to Chez Chloe – and obviously I haven’t been shy with using my entire name… and it’s not Chloe… you could guess where I may have garnished the name…. Chloe was about two and a half. Yes, we still slept in the same bed. Each morning, she would ever so gently nudge my cheek with her chubby little index finger. She glowed as my eyes opened and I whispered, “Good morning sunshine.” It was another glorious day to be alive, to be loved and to be entertained or provide the entertainment. Many mornings were spent in the kitchen baking, making pancakes and singing. Chloe’s singing and dancing always required an audience. I was happy to oblige. They were sweet days I remember with utter fondness.

Fast forward eleven years. I gently tap on Chloe’s door. I wait. No sound. I peek in the room to see a balled up floral flannel comforter hiding a full size body with a flash of blonde hair streaking from the edges. If I dared to tap her gently and whisper “Good Morning Sunshine,” I’d risk a good slap upside the head. So instead I turn on the lights, shine them directly at her head and grab only a wad of foot. “Hey you, good morning,” I say as I squeeze her foot and deftly step away. I try to maintain some sort of civility, express a mother’s love and protect myself. This is repeated in ten- minute intervals until she rises from the dead.

The first words I heard this morning when she made it to the kitchen for something other than eating breakfast, were “God, those look disgusting.” and she was referring to these beauties. Of course you and I know what’s on the agenda.

Continue reading

Tarifa

Tarifa

We spent over 2 hours winding through the mountains. Never ending views of white washed villages, houses posed on sides of mountains, terraced almond and olive trees…. and me trying unsuccessfully to snap photos from a moving vehicle, hoping to catch one tenth of the beauty we witnessed.

We drove southwest from Ronda and as we approached Algeciras, we could already see Gibralter and its infamous rock. Oh how we wanted to stop. But it was already inching towards 4pm and if we made another stop… monkeys or no monkeys, I think the teens might have rebelled. Traveling with two teens, albeit lovely and respectful, fun and adventurous to a point, you must have some limits of how much you fit in. As our necks craned behind us, the rock got smaller, and we decided in wasn’t in the cards this trip, and we put it on the list for next time. The girls were happy knowing after 2.5 hours driving, we’d be in our next destination for 2 days. (So no, we really weren’t going to squeeze in Gibralter. Period.)

Tarifa, located at the southern most tip of Spain is only a 45 min fast ferry to Tangier. (also being saved for next trip)

Arriving in Tarifa, the first thing I saw were the wind energy generators. You know, those big 3 armed white steel things sticking in the ground. My picture wasn’t so hot but check out this photo of a wind farm. Spain is the 4th largest producer after China, US and Germany. Then we came round to the ocean… yes still from the moving vehicle. Continue reading

What motivates us?

What motivates us?

My alarm went off this morning at 7am (very reasonable). Today I sprang out of bed excited about ideas generated last night before closing my eyes. I’ll back up… before turning the light out, I day dreamed (or before sleep dreamed), of clever food blog names, struggling to discover something original. This is no small feat in this overflowing, or one might say saturated, depending on how you look at it, blog age. I held my arm in the air, waited for smart phone to find service and patiently waited for the answer to load each time I checked availability on a domain name. We have our internet on auto shut off 9pm- 7.30am for our ahmmm… teenager. But last night I just couldn’t wait till 7.30am. I came up with sugar and sauerkraut, trying to reflect food and the fact I live in Germany. Please don’t tell me if you think it’s ridiculous because I still like it and it’s available. Well, ok tell me because I haven’t paid 12.99/yr for it yet…and there’s still time to keep me from wasting my $. So as I was saying…I was motivated to jump out of bed today because I was excited about an idea. [SUCCESS/EGO]

                                                       Here from Pyschology Today:

“Motivation is literally the desire to do things. It’s the difference between waking up before dawn to pound the pavement and lazing around the house all day. It’s the crucial element in setting and attaining goals—and research shows you can influence your own levels of motivation and self-control. So figure out what you want, power through the pain period, and start being who you want to be.”
 Sign me up! The who I want to be part… not the lazing around the house                                all day (well maybe some days)
  

The next thing I was motivated to do was take my pooch out despite constant wet rain and umbrella buckling wind. Why? 1) I want him to feel good/relieved 2) I didn’t and don’t ever want to clean up pee and poo. Who does? [NEED BASED]

I then was motivated to go to the gym. Out of sheer desire? Unfortunately not. Because I know it’s good for me? Sort of. Because I’ve gained 10 pounds since moving to Germany and barely fit in my bra or pants? Getting there. (I still love my body and am grateful for my health and mobility…[forced smile]). I could always buy new clothes- but I don’t love shopping for things i cannot eat and society leads me to believe I should be thin… and fit… for my health. [SOCIETY] The biggest reason? Because after trudging through horrible class taught by a woman whose neck would look stunning with my low resistance blue exercise band tightly wrapped around it, especially after she traded her easy resistance blue one for my medium resistance red one IN THE MIDDLE of class, feigning concern and handing me humiliation, “nur noch sechzhen” (only 16 more) she shrieked as I squatted next to my bench shamefully avoiding eye contact. Because after all that, I knew I would experience a sense of accomplishment. And because best of all, afterwards, I knew I would have coffee with a friend who would have shared aforementioned  hour of torture. [SOCIAL]    And let’s face it. Has anyone ever ever thought after working out. “God that was a stupid idea.” No. Period. (Note to self… blog post on german gym class:-)

And today I was motivated to write this post on motivation. [CREATIVITY] Actually, due more to the fact I’ve thought about it a lot lately. We are trying to figure out how to motivate Alice (fake name to protect identity- even though so far only friends and family actually read this and know my daughter’s real name – I’m planning for the future and you might not have known she loves the name Alice). Right… I’m trying to figure out how to motivate Alice to get out of bed in the morning. But frankly it’s damn hard. I can’t say I was particularly motivated in 8th grade to get out of my warm cocoon five mornings a week to knock elbows with other awkward 13yr olds. I decided money wasn’t a particularly healthy option and would get expensive for the next 4 and 1/2 years. Now I work with persuasion and pleading, not always met with success. [UNKNOWN] Feel free to give advice.

Now throw in the motivation to eat when hungry… [PHYSICAL NEED] eat when I want [NO PHYSICAL NEED] eat when I’m sad or bored [ NO PHYSICAL NEED]. And the other bodily functions I won’t go into detail about even though I do crave a good discussion on said matter now and again. I was after all a nutrition major and we love what and how it goes in and what and how it goes out. (yet another future post.)

We’ve covered in one day all but security in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There could very well be a part II to this post. But I can’t commit to that….(will have to see if mood strikes)

Coming soon to your area…..

Iron Maiden

I recently took up a new hobby. Ironing. I thought about bridge but it seemed awfully social. Ironing you say? What’s the point? Are you crazy?…  Really. Try it. It’s like a free meditation class and provides instant gratification. Granted most normal working or sane folk probably can’t be bothered. But if you have the time it provides a sense of satisfaction and order to one’s life. Not to mention my husband loves and appreciates it. Oh stop rolling your eyes.

I set up in our tiled hallway with a cheap board in front of me, wondering if it too should be replaced, now that I have a new, moderately expensive, blue, steam sensor iron by Siemens. Will my new iron be offended passing over this stumpy, girth lacking wafer of a board? Would I be that much more efficient if I spent another 75 euro on a new plank? One always needs the right equipment.  Wrinkled t-shirts, undershirts, dishtowels, sheets and pillowcases, awaiting their creaseless destiny are piled on the short IKEA side table. The one with 4 conspicuous drill holes on top, relegated to the hall, unseen by visitors, punished for being wrongly fastened together. It now has a purpose. I take each piece of clothing, drape it or lay it on the board and together with the hunk of metal, we work magic. Do you know why gap outlet t-shirts are so cheap? You would if you ever ironed one with the seams that don’t match up. Ever tried ironing viscose pretending to be cotton? Can’t be done. It’s like sliding on glue at a 180° (yes that’s a straight line). Don’t run your hot iron over rubber/plastic team numbers or appliques- you can guess why. I’ve also found an excellent way to iron sheets. Email me for more info (I won’t hold my breath). This is also  a gorgeous time to indulge in the new series Once Upon A Time. O’s  music stand turned flat serves as a platform for my laptop. Streaming and steaming. Sweet. And the opportunity presents itself every week.

I didn’t come up with this ironing idea all on my own. It was one morning whilst having coffee with a friend who told me she irons everything except underwear and jeans. Feeling like an underachiever, I thought I’d have a go at it. Besides my mother would be so proud I thought. Not really, she thinks it’s a phase because I’m a newlywed…. Maybe during the first marriage… But now it’s serious business and I will do it forever. Ok. Lastly, it’s probably not burning as many calories as some sports or other housework for that matter, but I’m standing and my hands are full of something besides food for an hour , so that counts for something.

Here’s my new tool.

MCSA034537_TB26130_def.epsWho Can Argue?

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