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us in berlin


(relaxing outside Brandenburg Gate)


(exploring the grounds at the Berlin Wall Memorial)


(clutching his pretzels)


(lipstick on his cheeks and an oversized hat—business as usual!)


(explaining to his da why he's just too busy for hugs at the moment)


(outside the Neues Museum)


(cozying up in his sling after a long day)


off to berlin

We're off to Berlin bright and early tomorrow morning, and Aaron's ready! I'm looking forward to visiting the Topography of Terror museum, seeing Checkpoint Charlie, wandering around our neighborhood (we're staying at an apartment in Prenzlauer Berg), seeing Legoland (!!!), and relaxing in the morning with some coffee while Aaron plays with German toddlers at Berlin's kindercafes. Those other kids better watch out — those toddler Docs hurt if he steps on your toes. 


eat like you give a f-ck.

With all the hoopla surrounding the updated nutritional guidelines that are forthcoming this year, I thought it'd be a good time to ask . . . have you read this vegan cookbook? Underneath the hilarious commentary and the colorful language, there's actually a really good and simple philosophy: eat like you care—about the quality of your food, about the pleasure you derive from your meal, about the environment, about your body. If it doesn't positively check most of those boxes most of the time, don't put it in your mouth.

For a variety of personal reasons, I'm strongly against cutting out entire food groups for non-essential health reasons, although I know many people say doing so helps them reset after an indulgent few weeks, like the holidays. This book's going assumption is that eating is the highlight of your day—it is one of mine!—and is helpful in finding a compromise point where you're still looking forward to the food you eat, but it's good for you. In a word, sustainable. 

We're  not a vegetarian—much less vegan—family: we generally don't eat meat during the workweek, but indulge on the weekend. Sometimes I'll swap in a can of coconut milk for a dairy product if that simple of a switch will make the meal vegan, but that's about as far as I go. However, you certainly don't have to be vegan to enjoy this book (or the blog!). It'll get you thinking about your food, and for those lucky enough to have the resources and time to be choosy, it'll make you far pickier about what you eat—in the best way possible.

(Also: a great documentary, and the problem with home-cooked meals.)


tips for istanbul, installment nine: on improving the wine

Here's a weird tip that's got us through a wine drought here.

(We all know that the reasonably priced domestic reds aren't that good, right? I'm just gonna say it. Some of them can be borderline undrinkable, and I am generally not fussy about wine at all.)

In the summer, chill it. And in the winter, heat it.

Well, heated wine is just mulled wine. But, as for the chilling, hear me out: 

When we moved here, we thought it was incredibly weird that any red wine served to us at a restaurant would be served cold. And, I mean—sometimes, it was ice cold. We also thought it was incredibly weird that we'd order the house red at a Turkish restaurant and it would taste pretty good, but then we'd get a nicer bottle to drink at home, and three quarters of the bottle would remain untouched. It took a few months to make the connection. Seriously. Chill your reds here. Maybe it numbs the taste buds a little bit? 

And, in the winter, mull that wine. Buy a cheap bottle of red. After all, you're dumping sugar, orange peel, cinnamon, and cloves into it: it's gonna taste good! I tend to be flexible with my mulling spices and fruits and whatnot, but my ingredient list normally resembles something like this: 

1 cup of water 
1/2 cup of sugar
zest from 2 oranges
1 3-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
15 cloves or so
3 cinnamon sticks
1/2 lemon 

(You can reduce the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, of course. I like my mulled wine really spice-y.)

I dissolve the sugar in the water first. When it's simmering, I drop in the orange zest, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and the juice from 1/2 lemon. Then I add the bottle of wine, cover the lid, and heat on very low heat for 20 minutes or so. Don't let it boil!

And, okay, I also like to add a bit of brandy at the end. For me, whenever I'm making mulled wine, I'm always sputtering somewhere between "Must! Let! Simmer! Longer!" and "But, but! The alcohol!" (Greedy, I know.) So I tend to let it sit over heat a little longer and—in case I get overenthusiastic, forgetful, or distracted and some of the alcohol boils off—I make up for it with a generous pour of brandy at the end.

How much?

I mean, I dunno. How tough of a day have you had? How cold is it outside? Nobody's judging here.



snow day

(snow kangaroos)

(giant snowmen)

(slushy sidewalks)

(grocery shopping)

(before the snow! brunch at the ciragan)


the ghost town of beijing

Look at this cool (and completely surreal, if you've ever been to Beijing) photos of the city after everyone has left for their hometowns to celebrate the new year. More here

Have a wonderful holiday, if you celebrate.

(image via the Shanghaiist)