Saturday, November 21, 2015

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

21 November 2015

A fellow student in my German conversation class often brought in the most wonderful Bundt cakes made by his wife. One Christmas he gave several of us copies of the cookbook, Kiss My Bundt by Chrysta Wilson.

I read it cover to cover and even bought a special bundt shaped pan, but with one thing and another... I somehow never got around to baking one.

So yesterday, for my dad's birthday, I decided to bust out the bundt. I made the Pumpkin Bundt and modified the vanilla buttercream frosting with brandy flavoring. It turned out perfectly!

And I'm totally hooked! The recipes are simple but creative, and the texture is perfect. Love it!

Now, like my colleague, I will have to buy a special bundt cake carrier so I can bring them to work instead of leaving temptation at home.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Walking the Berlin Wall: Bornholmer Strasse

26 September 2015

On this trip, I took the time to walk a good portion of the former Berlin Wall. Most of it I walked alone, which was perfect as it allowed me to see, read, absorb and think at my own pace. This was such an important part of German history that it wouldn't do to rush through it and not take it in.

I began at the Bornholmer Straßse bridge, which was the site of the checkpoint that was the first to open the gates and allow people to cross between East and West Berlin.

The bridge crosses over the railroad... interesting note that many railway stations were completely shut down while the separation was in effect, and were known as "ghost stations".

Now called "Platz des 9. November 1989 in commemoration of this event which changed people's lives so dramatically.
Nearby are several "life size" signs with images taken on that day as well as descriptive information and maps.

The next 2 photos depict the site of a former guard tower. Looks like prison to me.

Looking from the guard tower up toward the Bornholmer Straße bridge.
Placed at intervals along the ground are metal plates with text demonstrating the timeline of events on that day.

 Memorial plaque next to the bridge.

This is not really anything to do with history, just the little garden houses which are common in Berlin and which I find interesting.

Those of you who have read my blog before know that I found the variety of manhole covers interesting... unlike in the US where they all look identical.

A bit farther into the city, at the Berlin Mauerpark (Berlin Wall Park). Not much in the way of remnants to be seen, just a nice park that follows the line of the former wall.
Park maintenance buildings. Or maybe something to do with the streetcars. Anyway.. DUCKIES!!!!
A memorial to some of the victims of the Wall.
I wasn't sure I was walking the right way, as I was following a main street, until I saw this. (Mauer = wall)
And here is the East-West Cafe, complete with Trabants which were so common in that era.
To be continued...

Friday, September 25, 2015

Random photos in Berlin

25 September 2015

No special occasion, just some random memories.

My favorite food in Berlin, which is sold in many shops owned by Turkish immigrants: döner kebab. a HUGE salad in a pita-like bread, with roasted meat and the sauce of your choice. You kind of squash it together to eat it and hope that the bottom won't start leaking until you are close to the end. Meanwhile messy bits of veggies are leaping out all over the place.

There is no way to eat it without making a mess, but it's worth it.WHY DON'T WE HAVE TURKISH FOOD IN CALIFORNIA???

Back at my favorite Sarotti Cafe, this time not drinking chocolate but mint tea. Made with fresh mint leaves straight in the cup. How pretty is this?

Train station architecture.

Half price bookshop, looky what I got! I can combine language practice with yoga, double win!

This sign on a trash receptacle is really weird "Denglish". Nothing to do with food - apparently it's part of a campaign for people to pick up their dog poop from the sidewalk.

That's all for today, folks!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Viktoriapark Berlin

24 September 2015

I have been here before, but I really like this little park. The lower part is on a steep hillside and has been artfully designed to look natural, with a forested area and twisty footpaths throughout.

At the top you can look down and there is a lawn for recreation. There was a drum circle going on down there, and people playing football (that means soccer for the American readers). I really have to wonder, though, who saw this lovely park and thought that the one thing that it needed was giant size sculptures of toothpaste tubes?

This is not a terrific photo for detail, but looking straight downhill, there is an artificial stream with waterfall, and it is pointing in a line toward downtown Berlin. I could see the TV tower, the Domes, and the golden angel in the distance.

At the top is a monument commemorating famous battles. It is really beautiful and feels like the top of the world. I sat with a friend on the steps of the monument in the late afternoon sun and fed the begging sparrows crumbs from our snack.

Here is the view up the stream from street level, at the top is the monument.

Couldn't resist the chance to stop by Sarotti Cafe again as it was nearby.

Ended up going to a different cafe for tea, just to try something new, but it was pretty ordinary. I'll be going to Sarotti's next time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spy Museum Berlin

23 September 2015

Today's adventure: a visit to the Spy Museum Berlin. The museum just opened on September 19th, so it's  brand new and many of the locals hadn't even heard of it yet. Here we are, ready to give it a go!

I failed the first spy test, getting through the door after paying the fee. After stepping inside you have to stand perfectly still.... NOT turn around so a friend can snap your photo. I had to come back out and go through the ordinary door.

I really do intend to read or watch "The Da Vinci Code" one of these days.

The Enigma machine. I didn't know anything about it when we were in the museum, but, as I'm writing this after the fact, on the plane home they showed the film "The Imitation Game" which was about the British team set to break the code generated by this WW2 German encryption machine. Really interesting film.

The following are several examples of manual decoders.

I regret that I was educated after the sliderule went out of use, I would love to know how to use one.

Who remembers punch cards? Me!

The museum has on display loads of cool spy gadgets, the briefcase looks a bit bulky but for its time it was pretty genius.

Tie clip camera, glass eye, lipstick pistol. The eye looks painful, ugh.

Notice the tiny handwriting on the button and on the back of the stamp.

I am impressed that not only could someone write that small, but with neat penmanship as well.

It seems that the airplane wanna-be shoe bomber of a few years back wasn't very original after all.

Must... take... photo in car!

I had one of these! I wish I had known it was a secret spy device, that would have made math a whole lot more interesting.

The German word for poison is "Gift", it gives a whole new meaning to the expression "gift-giving". I like all the old glass bottles.

The umbrella gun looks like a swimming squid. It would be kind of funny to shoot ink.

There was a whole section devoted to James Bond films, including displays of props, costumes and memorabilia.

 Unfortunately, the bookshelves were locked under glass, but there was an interesting selection in the museum shop (should I call it a gift shop?).

There was a laser obstacle course to try, and it filmed your attempt in infrared, with the option to have it emailed to you. My friend got through it like a champion!

I, on the other hand, missed the starting timer, and then couldn't see the laser lines at all and was totally guessing where to go based on the points of light on the wall.

mary hat Level 1 des Laserparcours in 00:23 min versucht, aber leider nicht geschafft
mary has unfortunately failed at level 1 of the laser maze in 00:23 min.

Clearly, I was not meant to be a spy. Oh well!