Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Book Cake Tag

"People don't read enough nowadays. It is such a shame." that is what my lecturer tells us basically every week. Personally, I never feel affected when he says that. I  love reading despite the fact that I am very slow. It is impossible for me to have a long reading session, but I have to read at least a few pages every night before I go to sleep.
Reading is a pleasure and because I love to discover new titles for my "to read list" I thought I might share a few of my favourites and warm recommendations with you. So, when I found the "Book Cake Tag" I figured it might be the perfect chance to finally do it.

1) Flour - a book that was a little bit slow to start off, but that really picked up as it went along

 First of all, let me rephrase this sentence: A book that was a bit hard to get through, but still worth the while. To me this would be "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" by David Mitchell. This book caught my eye at the book shop, because of the gorgeous cover which already promised a Japan set story. It deals with Jacob de Zoet, a Dutch trader who stays in Dejima/Japan at the end of the 18th century and who falls in love with a Japanese woman.
Sadly,  I have to admit that David Mitchell might not be my favourite author. His style of writing did not appeal to much and it made the story tedious at times. However he manages to depict a quite accurate picture of the Japanese country and it's peculiar relationship to foreigners during the late Tokugawa period. The love story between Jacob and his love interest Orito is grown-up, but still romantic.
All in all you should give this book a try if you are interested in (historic) Japan as it is quite insightful.

2) Butter (yes, I don't use the term margarine) - A book with a rich and great plot

For this category I chose Rachel Johnson's "Winter Games" which follows an English girl who goes to Germany during the Third Reich to go to school. It combines her story with the one of her grand daughter who tries to reveal the happenings of that time. The title of the book refers to the Winter Olympics of 1936 which were held in Germany.
Being German myself the entire topic of the Third Reich, Hitler and national socialism was discussed at school more than enough, but even to me this book offered an entirely new approach to this rather difficult, often dull subject. Sometimes you are surprised by the lighthearted atmosphere in the book, but you still feel that something is "wrong".
3) Eggs - A book that you thought was going to be bad, but actually turned out quite enjoyable

To be honest, I did not know which book to pick at first, but then I decided to chose one which was just unexpectedly good. My choice: "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett.
Before reading the book I watched the film featuring Emma Stone and I loved it and last year on my birthday my friend gave me the book. I did not expect it to be bad, but I also did not expect that I would love it so much. As I said in the introduction, I am a slow reader, but I positively devoured this one. It has humour, but remains earnest and Kathryn Stockett really knows how to play with words. A must read for everyone this summer!

4) Sugar - A sugary/ sweet book

This category was the easiest. I mean, when a book it already called "Paris my sweet" isn't that the moral imperative to mention it just now? In this easy breezy Spring/Summer read Amy Thomas talks about the experiences she made when she lived in Paris. You can not expect a deep or profound storyline, but if you are looking for something to get your mind off of your daily life and just indulge in everything Paris, food and living the good life this book is perfect. Furthermore it features Amy Thomas' favourite places at the end, in case you are planning a trip to Paris yourself.
I read this book on my flight to Japan last year, while waiting for my connection flight: best way to spend my time there!
5) Icing - A book that covered every single element that you enjoy about a book

I love Oscar Wilde - his plays, his poems and his biography. When I came across Gyles Brandeth's "Oscar Wilde Murder Mystery Series"a few years ago, I immediately figured out that this would be just my cup of tea. And I was right. Written from the perspective of Oscar Wilde the books deal with different periods of his life and of course there are crimes to be solved. So far there are six novels. Unfortunately I only own the first three of them so far. They are witty, clever and captivating. Gyles Brandeth's novels are a wonderful way to bring the famous playwright and poet back to life.

If you are capable of the German language, I can always recommend the historic novels by Rebecca Gablé, especially "Die Hüter der Rose". They are my favourite books to read. One of them, "The settlers of Catan" was actually released in English a while ago.

6) Sprinkles - A book you kind of turn to for a little pick me up when you're feeling down

When I am in a bad mood, I usually like to skim through books which do not consist of a heavy storyline, but which are easy reads with short chapters. Books you can open on any page without thinking about it. To me, of these books is "What would Audrey do?" by Pamela Keogh. It is a mixture of a biography about Audrey Hepburn, my favourite actress, and a lifestyle-guide. It offers nice, little episodes about Audrey's life mixed with subtle advice and lovely illustrations to top it off.
Sometimes I also like to read through cookbooks and cooking magazines. They always calm me down.

7) The cherry on top - favourite book this year

Sadly, this one has to be a German title and another Paris related one: "Madame ist willig, doch das Fleisch bleibt zäh" (Madame is willing, but the meat stays tough) by Sigrid Neudecker. In this book the author writes about her experiences when she moved to Paris with her husband all centered around her efforts to learn how to cook. Being not really a chef myself, I enjoyed this book a lot and it made me laugh a lot. A lot, a lot. At the end you will also find several French recipes, tested and approved by Neudecker and a useful blogroll.

At the moment I am reading Bernard Cornwell's "Azincourt", which I truly enjoy. It could be a potential favourite this year, too.

What are the ingredients for your Book Cake?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Appreciation Sunday #7

Thursday was the day to oppose my strongest enemy: Japanese translation exam.
Well, to be honest it was not as bad as I thought it would be, but it was stll something, that had occupied my mind for quite a few weeks. We has to prepare a translation of the "Tosa Nikki", which is a very old, very confusing text and another article, so actually not too much to prepare. However you never know what the prof will make of it.
Eventually everything went quite smoothly, so afterwards we went out for sushi, ice cream and beer (yay for a nice, cold Guinness). Even though the weather was not willing to cooperate with us all of us had a great time. It was actually kind of nice to socialize with all those people I had been seeing at uni for almost a year without really talking to them.

On Friday I took the train to Solingen to visit one of my best friends as it was her birthday. We went to the cinema to watch "How to train you dragon 2". It was a really good film. Compared to the first one it was a lot more mature and dramativ, but it kept it's humour, giving us plenty of opportunities for a good laugh. Ruffnut was just too hilarious! Likey!

However some might want to bring some tissues with them. I had a hard time fighting back the tears behind my 3D-glasses, while I heard some manly sniffles in the background.

I spent the night at my friends' house and it was was of those nights, when you are really tired, but once the lights go out you end up talking for hours anyway.
Because the weather was so good the next day we went for a long, long walk. We came across only a few people, so we were having a great time talking about this and that, fooling around like the little children we are inside of our hearts.
That moment, when you expect Mr. Darcy to show up
Greetings from the Bunny Man, I guess??

I hadn't seen her properly for a long time and in a weeks she will move to Munich. So, I was utterly glad that we had the chance to spend some time together.

Today consisted of cleaning up the apartment from top to bottom and eating brownies and I was also able to work on some posts, that will be coming your way. Pretty productive, right? *cough*

What are you grateful for this week?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Thoughts on "Villette" [Book Review]

My first book review was about Anne Brontë's "Agnes Grey". My second one, written by her older sister Charlotte Brontë follows a similar theme:
A young woman, in this case Lucy Snowe, leaves behind her home to work somewhere else. She even leaves England to go to a unkown country and finally ends up in a supposedly French city called Villette. There she starts to work at a girls' school, first as a girl for everything, then as an English teacher.

At school she is surrounded not only by interesting, but also vain students, but she also makes closer aquaintance with Dr. John Bretton, a fellow Englishman whom she falls ins love with and then there is this passionate, but also very peculiar professor Emanuel whose position in her heart rises as the novel goes on.
"He took my hand in one of his, with the other he put back my bonnet; he looked into my face, his luminous smile went out, his lips expressed something almost like the wordless language of a mother who finds a child greatly and unexpectedly changed, broken with illness, or worn-out by want. A check supervened." (p. 492)
Being written from Lucy's point of view, you get a deep insight into her thoughts and how she slowly changes her mind about certain people - most importantly about M. Paul Emanuel and Dr.Bretton.
You can easily follow the development of her character from a rather timid and unsure girl to a more confident, young woman, who soon starts to follow her own path.

One of "Villette's" stanger aspects might be the envolvement of a ghost - a nun Lucy sees several times throghout the story. Even though this book is mainly realistic this point really stands out, as it gives the whole story the slight undertone of a gothic novel.

Compared to "Agnes Grey" I enjoyed this book a lot more. Apart from the fact that it is longer, thus providing more room for action, it shows a lot more character development. While Agnes Grey stays a bit flat throughout the novel, Lucy Snowe changes slowly, but constantly.

I also want to mention the end of the novel, as it was really surprising. The book had the tendency to drag on without memorable events,but the last pages had a quite fast pace of storytelling with an unexpected end that made up for some of these deficiencies (even though it was not the end I had hoped for).
"Villette" was first published in 1853 as Brontë's third novel
Even though I might not consider "Villette" as an easy read, I can truly recommend it for those who enjoy novel that provide deep insights into the main character and involve a romantic twist. I almost regret reading it during the summertime, for I imagine it to be a nice Autumn-read, snuggled up on the couch.

P.s. For those French-speaking folks out there, it might also be a nice chance to polish your French up, because some parts of the dialogues are written in French.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Appreciation Sunday #6

One of my major highlights was probably watching Hayao Miyazaki's supposedly last masterpiece "The wind rises" (風たちぬ). I was especially glad when I heard, that our cinema would show the film in Japanese with subtitles.
Compared to most of the other Ghibli-films it was a rather long one with a length of over two hours and I have to admit, that it was a bit lengthy at times. However the music and the beautiful animations made up for it. It is a quite mature film and less amusing than Ponyo for example, but it still captures so much of this well-known and loved Ghibli-charms. Also I have to say, that being German gave this film a very different feeling, because parts of it are set in Germany and one of the supporting characters is German (they even tried to incorporate the German language).
Overall I really enjoyed watching this film and to me it is a worthy closure for Hayao Miyazaki's series of memorable films. It might not be my favourite of the bunch (Howl's Mocing Castle all the waaaay!), but I will purchase it nonetheless.

Another favourite this week was discovering a new café in my hometown. The town where I come from is not one of the most exciting places I know and people rather prefer to leave than stay there. Things hardly change for the better until my mother and I found this new café called "Lax Legere". Being only two weeks old by now it has a very charming and cosy vintage feel to it.
Having Oscar Wilde as one of it's major themes is also a big plus point!
I really hope that this café will stay around for a long time, because it differs so much from the regular cafés in the area and it reminds me a lot of the cute places I saw in Korea.
PB&J-Sandwich at Lax Legere
Yesterday was my friends' birthday party with the theme "The 90's". While most of the girls opted for a tacky neon style, I was the only one who showed up in Doc Martens and a grungy attire, but it was so much fun to rummage through the old teenager-magazines while listening to the Backstreet Boys and the Cure. And of course we can't forget about the marshmallows!
Sadly the weather was so good, that it was too hot to dance. After just one song everyone was already exhausted to death!
Fortunately there was some rain today and the weather report announced rainy weather for the next few days, as well. Yay for me!
The calm before the rain
Until Thursday there is nothing left for me to do apart from working and studying for my exam. I hope there will be some rainy evenings in between to snuggle up on my couch and watch films.

What are you grateful for this week?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

What we are now

"We have to talk.... about us."

It is a question nobody wants to hear. It leads to a kind of conversation most of never want to have. We all know what eventually derives of this.
It is a long discussion about how feelings changed, how things are not the way they are supposed to be and how the status quo can not be kept up.

When I heard this sentence tonight, I felt relieved. I knew what would happen, what he would say afterwards, but I was relieved anyway.
Photo by Unsplash
Almost a month ago we asked ourselves what we are. We came to terms with playing wait and see.
We waited, we saw and when he came over today to return the umbrella I had lent him a few days ago we talked it through.

Both of us feel like we get along really well and spending time together is always fun, but that certain spark of romance is missing. We laugh, we tease each other and we talk a lot - about ever nonsense possible, but even about more personal things, which I am usually not very good at.

 Particularly during the past week I had the feeling that something was wrong. I truly enjoyed being with him, but I still hesitated to call him my partner. I always found a way around introducing him to my parents, because I was not sure.

However a stable relationship needs certainty. It needs confidence and intimacy. All of these things were somehow lingering in the air without being tangible.

When he told me that he thought I am an amazing person and that he still wants to see me, I was glad, because I feel just the same about him.

Taking this step instantly felt right and it was not about losing the prospect of the first true relationship in over 5 years, but about gaining a new, special friend.

Photo by Unsplash
We are not in love.
We are not a couple.
We are not friends with benefits.

We are friends helping each other on our way to happiness.
No emotional fuss, no drama, no complications.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Appreciation Sunday #5 (on Monday)

Well, what should I say? This week, especially yesterday was just crazy! Germany won the World Cup after a long, exhausting match and I could not be happier. This game had everything: tension, class, sweat, blood and emotions. Argentina was a more than worthy opponent. They made it very hard for us to win. At times I really thought it would be impossible. I already expcted a penalty shoot-out until Götze finally made the deciding goal. This sudden feeling of happiness and losing all the tension that had built up during the last hour can not be described.

Of course this match can not be compared to the overwhelming victory on Tuesday against Brazil, which is still unbelieveable, but what should you expect from a final? It is not supposed to be easy. It is not supposed to fall into one's lap just like that.

After the game the entire city seemed to be engaged in one big party. Some people were of course a bit too enthusiastic, but the bottom line is, that everyone was having a great time.

Apart from football which was the most important aspect of this week, I went to see a play on Tuesday as well, which almost kept me from making it home on time to watch the game.
The Bonn University Shakespeare Company played "The Twelfth Night", a play I didn't know until then.
First off, I might have to admit, that I'm not too much into Shakespeare. He does have a nice kind of humour, but watching one of his plays can be very strenuous, as the language is quite complicated for a non native speaker.
However I really enjoyed watching this play. The story had a few very good twists and the last act was just hilarious. The actors did a great job at portraying the different characters - the most memorable being Malvolio.

Next week, I will be at the cinema for Hayao Miyazaki's final masterpiece "The wind rises" (kaze tachinu). Also, there will be a birthday party on Saturday. The theme? Let me just give you a few keywords: Clueless, Pokémon, Backstreet Boys and The Big Lebowski. So, stay tuned for that!

What are you grateful for this week?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Perfect Night

I am lying on my bed as the rain is pouring down heavily, making a soft sound as it is hitting my window. Occasionally there is the low growling of thunder.
I pulled away the curtains to get a better view of the night sky being lit up. Except for a few cars, there is nobody to be seen. There is such a peaceful quietness hanging in the air with the thunder trying to break through - trying to unsettle my nerves, but how could it?

It is the most beautiful music to me and I could listen to it all night.
This slightly melancholic, soft tune is too beautiful, the thunder too moving and still too calming to cause a feeling of uneasiness.

Oh, how this weather makes me want to wander through the dark halls and hidden paths of an old manor. How it encourages my curiosity, how it fires my imagination.

This is the perfect night and I wished it would never end.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

A smile to change your life

When I went out to eat at a restaurant with my parents, there was this really unfriendly waitress.
She never really searched for eye contact. Instead her eyes were glued to the little computer-thingy that she used to take our orders.
She rarely smiled and even when she spoke, you could tell that she did not want to be here.

My mother was quite agitated by her behaviour and there were some very harsh comments from her side whenever this particular waitress was near us. My stepfather and I tried to calm her down. There was no need to make such a big fuss over something so small. Besides my mother's shift of mood started to affect ours as well.

While I was not very satisfied with this service, I started asking myself:
"Is she always like that or is she just having a bad day? Maybe something happened? Or is it a hard shift for her?"

Of course it not a sign of being professional to let your customers know that you are in a bad mood, but you can never look inside their heads. You don't know why the behave that way, which is why I always try to hold back with my judgement.
So, what so I do instead?

I smile.

A smile can do so much good.

Sometimes it is that little bit of encouragement people need to keep on doing what they do.
It can lift their spirits in a way you might not expect.
Nowadays people are so focused on themselves and when in public they either look down or on their mobile phones. They barely even notice the person they are talking to.
When was the last time you smiled at a stranger? (Photo by Unsplash)
A smile is not the universal solution for every single social problem you come across, but you should always try it out. When you go out grocery shopping and you make your way to the cashier, smile at him/her while them wishing a good day. Even if the queue is long. Even if you just want to grab your stuff and get the hell out of there, make this little extra bit of effort. If you are lucky, they will return your kindness - if not, well at least you tried.

About that waitress: I did smile at her, always thanking her when she did something for us, but did it change anything? No. Except when we were about to leave, she came to our table with a big smile on her face (she looked so much prettier than before!), but not because I had tried to be kind, but because her shift was over.
It was a bit deflating, but it did not change my philosophy at all, because even though it did not affect her at all, it had a positive effect on myself. I did not allow myself to get angry. I kept a feeling of kindness. I stayed calm.

So, even though a smile does not change the world, it definitely changes you.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Appreciation Sunday #4

Honestly? I can not believe, that this is already the fourth edition of my Appreciation Sunday. This year is slipping through my fingers way too fast. Eating cake at Paris Baguette to celebrate my birthday in the middle of a bustling metropole called Seoul feels like it was just last week, but it was already four months ago.
Where the hell does time go? 

But anyway, let's not waste any more of it by complaining about how we are getting old and time just flies.

This week was particularly special for me, because yesterday was actually my graduation ceremony. It was just a formal thing. All of us had already received our real diplomas, but this was just a fancy occasion for us students and our families to celebrate.
I even got to wear a cap and gown and a prussian blue sash. For many people this might not be too special, as it is the proper way to end up your university career all around the globe, but here in Germany things are quite different. We study for a few years until we are done and then we go to our examination office to pick up our degree - and that's it. You might want to do something nice with your loved ones afterwards, but the process itself is very dull.

That is why a professor at our university decided to change things up a little bit. That was just ten years ago and we are still quite special in this regard in our country.

So on Friday I went out to pick up my robe and the cap and when I put them on it really felt like something. Even though I am still at uni to do my master's degree, there was this feeling of achievement. I mean, it's just a bachelor's degree, but so what? It was still work!

It was a bit exhausting to sit there for more than two hours, listening to various speeches, but some of them were very witty and nicely presented. So, it was not as bad as I had initially thought it would be. 
However the most important thing is, that I will never forget how proud and happy my parents were this entire day, which was probably the best part about this day (right next to the amazing Japanese food).

My stepdad kept telling me the entire evening after the ceremony how proud he was and how much it meant to him, that I am his daughter, that he had the chance to see me grow up. He was quite sentimental, but there is also a considerable bit of alcohol to blame, but that's what happens when there is an occasion to celebrate.

Together with a friend of mine and her parents we went to a Japanese restaurant, ate lots of amazing dishes (Takoyaki, guys! Takoyaki!), chatted and laughed. It was the most wonderful day. After an exciting football match (Netherlands against Costa Rica), we made our way to my apartment. My parents slept in my bed and I slept on the couch. It was probably half past 1 a.m and all of us were tired as hell.

This Saturday was a rainy one. It was exhausting and a bit wearisome, but at the same time I felt so loved. I am blessed with a wonderful, supporting family and amazing friends. It is something I always knew, always appreciated, but sometimes it is good to feel it so directly in an almost overwhelming way.
And because I am missing the dogs so much: the only proper attire for a World Cup match

This week I am so thankful for too many things. I can not find the words to express my gratitude properly.

What are you thankful for this week?