I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and you're still enjoying the holiday season! Berlin didn't have a white Christmas (it came a few days too soon then disappeared the day before), and Munich had some unusually warm temperatures, actually, but I still had a fabulous time and felt very Christmasy and in the spirit of the holidays. Of course, with Christmas markets scattered about town, seasonal baked goods' scents wafting about everywhere you go, and dozens upon dozens of holiday films and tunes ringing about the apartment all month long, how could I not?
I'm a Christmas enthusiast. I don't mean a "normal" enthusiast: someone who buys a tree, puts the gifts under it, turns on Kenny G's Holiday Collection, and tosses back a couple of slices of Christmas Cake (aka- Stollen, in Germany. The best cake ever!) No, I do all that a thousand-fold, and I love it. All December long it's Christmas music, movies, and decorations. I simply can't get enough. The neighbors thought I loved Kenny G before. Hahaha.
And every Christmas I pull out all of my holiday themed cookie cutters and I bake way too many sugar cookies. I figure since I really only bake these once a year, why not go whole hog, you know? I frost them with flavors like anise, cinnamon, mint, orange, lemon, and vanilla. It's been a family tradition of sorts for some years now, making some strange icings for these cookies, but my they're delicious! If McCormick makes a fun flavor, I'm on it! (Last time I was in the US I spotted a root beer flavored oil, but I knew that that one would not go over well in Germany so I left it on the shelf. I can barely hand off my anise flavored cookies here. Root beer in Germany would be akin to peanut butter and anise...possibly mixed together.)
American-sized vs. German-sized Baking Powder. No wonder it took me forever to find it.
Lots of powdered sugar for the cookies!
Aside from breaking out my handy dandy Kitchen Aid that I had shipped over to Berlin upon our move from Oklahoma nearly three years ago (really, where does time go?), I also got to enjoy some traditional home-decorating. That meant a small Playmobil Santa-in-the-Workshop scene in the bookshelf, my Christmas village complete with faux snow in all nooks and crannies, an adorable, miniature nativity scene I picked up in Nice, France when I was backpacking years ago (a cute story I'll have to share one day), and, of course, the Advent stuff.
A big thing in Germany during Christmas is Advent. The four Sundays prior to Christmas Eve you light one candle. So week one is one candle, week two you then light numbers one and two, and so on, leaving with you with a very beautiful display of all four candles lit right before the blessed eve! Last year, since I love bargain-shopping, I picked up this...well...what some might call "rather tacky" Adventskerzen display, but I love it. It's brightly colored, but I like it a lot.
And since the Germans are an order-loving people (for which I'm rightfully placed over here, I must admit), they also do a countdown to Christmas Eve from December 1-24 with the Adventskalender. This is a rather well-adopted tradition in the States, so the 24-window gadgets probably aren't too surprising to see. However, I did spot quite a few, if not all of the ones, for sale in the US with 25 windows. Over here in Germany the 24th is the big night--Heilige Abend (holy night)--and that's when we break into the gifts. The 25th is also a holiday, as is the 26th, but the 24th is the big deal, hence the 24 windows. It's the date when family comes together, maybe goes out to a special church service, even puts up the tree (a bit late for my taste), and then tears into the gifties.
Which, by the way, I must say my husband did very well in the gift department this year. He always does, but this year I was giddy as a schoolgirl. I really wanted the new J.K. Rowling book and was elated when I unwrapped it. And boy was I surprised to find the Harry Potter movie collection, too! Yes, seriously awesome. I even got the Freakonomics book I wanted to accentuate my dorkiness, and he delivered there. He even surprised me with a new computer, which we got to open early and tinker around with. It's making book-cover-making a lot smoother for him, so I know he's really enjoying that (constant computer crashes are never fun), and it's so lightweight. I love it! It's going to make writing in cafes so much more doable, not to mention just everyday work and writing in the office. Technology really amazes me sometimes. Heck, I'm still fascinated by the iPod. Really, the greatest invention next to PB&J!
But, I digress... The Christmas tree, or Weihnachtsbaum, or, as many Americans may know thanks to forced-to-learn songs from time in grade school, the Tannenbaum, was purchased in American time this year! That's right. There was no waiting until the 24th to put up our tree. We got it as soon as we could.
Okay, rewind. I wanted to get it the weekend after Thanksgiving, and I was positive I had seen banners at the usual Christmas tree lot around the corner advertising Tannen. So the hubs and I trekked over to the lot and all that was to be found were grave decorations. False advertising, right? Where were the Tannen after all?
Well, the lot did have Tannen, as in the word used apparently for the non-tree part of the Tannenbaum--not the actual Baum (tree) part. These Tannen were all that were on display in the lot. Really beautiful, I might add, to decorate a grave top, but not the Tannenbaum I was searching for.
That's when the wise words I'd heard earlier in the week from my hairdresser rang clear when I told her of my Thanksgiving weekend plans: "It's against the 'rules' or 'tradition' (in Germany they're the same, honestly) to decorate for Christmas before Toten Sonntag (Dead Sunday)." Only after the graves are decorated can you buy a Tannenbaum, evidently.
Now, I thought this was just a recommendation. I totally did not mean any ill will or disrespect to anyone, I figured I could just kindly find a tree and call it the beginning of holiday decorating, and move along my way. I didn't figure that the lots just wouldn't have any to sell. At all. German rules for ya! Anyway, we finally got one the following weekend and we've really been able to enjoy the tree. It's all dried up, naturally, but I think it can last another week or so.
This year's tree decorations were a little different--something to spice up the routine. Instead of our traditional bronze and gold and merlot-ish ornaments, I went with something...shall we say...a little bolder? Like the Advents candle holder thing, the touches of bold pink that I threw up on the tree was a fun splash of color. I say threw up in the sense that I bedazzled the tree beautifully. Tossed here and there. My dear husband, however, would probably agree with the other literal sense of the word. I think the pink peacock really did him in.
But I love birds, what can I say? And I love pink. So when I also saw this ditty on a 50% off sale at the department store's Christmas blowout last year, I couldn't pass it up. What did my husband say about the shiny bird? Something along the lines of: "50% off? You still paid too much for it."
But what was the best part about this little peacock of mine? It wasn't the only tacky bird added to the Tannenbaum! My mother-in-law also picked up some birds to deck her Christmas tree with, and she had as many as 8, complete with fun glitter and wildly colored feathers. I thought mine was bold! We didn't use all 8 of them at the insistence of my husband when he spotted the brightly colored, foil and feathered fowl. (And I think even my mother-in-law became cautious of using them when she realized they might have looked better in the box than on the tree.) But we did use a handful and I really adored them. A little burst of color or pizazz, you know? Something fun and unusual. Like anise-flavored sugar cookies and buying a Tannebaum before Dead Sunday. Traditions are made to be kept...and spiced up a bit.
So that was a lot of random Christmas-ness in Berlin this year. Hopefully I've entertained to some degree. :) Complete with some festive photos. I hope you had a great holiday, whether you chose to decorate with pink-feathered birds or jolly St. Nick, or bake licorice cookies or classic chocolate chip. And I hope you, most importantly, enjoyed the company and companionship of dear friends and family during this special season.
It's tough to see, but this is how you get a Christmas tree in Berlin. Stick it in the baby carrier that's attached to the back of the bike, make the kiddie walk, and head on home!
Well, as usual, the Christmas blog I wanted to share today ended up being yards long. But I promised you lovely readers a Christmas blog post and I wanted to deliver before 2013 sprang upon us. Can you believe it? I'm pinching myself. I've really loved 2012. It's easy to type on the keyboard. Now I have to add in another key with 2013 and...well...I'm being anal-rententive, that's all.
Before I head off and wish you a happy New Year, I wanted to let you know of a few things.
1) Chick Lit Plus, this super awesome site that reviews chick lit books, hosts book tours, and much more, shared their review of When Girlfriends Step Up. The reviewer, Sara, had such kind things to say about it...I'm still tickled! And 4.5/5 stars. So delightful! You can check that out HERE if you like. I'll be doing a book tour with Chick Lit Plus this spring so more news on that as the time draws near.
2) Every Free Chance Book Reviews recently read and reviewed When Girlfriends Break Hearts and that was another lovely and glowing review! Many thanks to Chrissy for her review. You can check that out HERE. She really sums up exactly the intent I wished to convey with my group of fictitious girlfriends.
3) A portion of all book sales--ebooks and paperbacks alike--throughout this month are being donated to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy victims, so if you made a purchase or even an Amazon Prime borrow of any of my books this or last month, you've helped out those in need!
4) Freebie! Today and tomorrow When Girlfriends Break Hearts is FREE on Amazon.com only.
5) Last little bit of news here...the third book in the When Girlfriends... series will be coming soon. Mid-January When Girlfriends Make Choices will be out. I just got word from my editor that things are going well, AND, my husband/book cover designer, is currently working on some really fabulous artwork. I sneaked in a peek about an hour ago and I can't wait for this baby! It might be a new fave...
Okay. I'm signing off for the year. I wish everyone a very happy rest of 2012 and a superb 2013! And, as always, thank you kindly for reading and for your support. I couldn't do this without you!