Celebrating Christmas, the German way!

Ever wonder what makes Christmas or Weihnachten in Germany different from the rest of the world? Every country has its own traditions, but have you ever wondered how Germans celebrate Christmas?

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Life in Germany : Skating in ice while waiting for Advent and Christmas !

There’s no stopping time now, few more weeks and November is over and here comes the end of 2017. And yes, Christmas is really just around the corner. Snow came early to Germany and winter-feel is definitely in the air. As the fire in the sky continue to pull the days closer to the merriest time of the year, also the darkest time, Christmas  or Weihnachten is heavily anticipated not only here in Germany, but also in the rest of the world. If you are planning to have a white Christmas or visiting Germany in the summer, you can now have the chance to learn about the unique and surprising  German Christmas traditions in the Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum located in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a well-preserved medieval town, also here in Bavaria.

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Local sightings in Christkindlmarkt : Beautiful hand crafted Christmas figurines

It’s almost a decade now that I don’t celebrate Christmas in my home country, the Philippines. Time really flies,and it feels even surreal. I totally missed the way we do it as a family, just like in the old times. It’s quite the norm from where I grew up that once the calendar months ends in-ber, say from September, it signals the start of Christmas frenzy!We start to hear Christmas songs played in the radio, the shops are flooded already with Christmas decorations, and yes, office Christmas parties are planned. The raffles, the never- ending exchange gifts, and yes—the most awaited Christmas bonus! I will never forget the evening mass and “Noche Buena“, the Kris Kringle madness, the jaw-dropping Christmas foods, and the crazy traffic during Christmas shopping! Everything is just so festive!

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Only in Germany : Angel or what??? This is the Christkind , the star of German Christmas markets

For the past years, I have seen so many differences in the way that other culture celebrate the most colorful time of the year, and for Catholics, it’s probably the most festive. When I was still living in Kuwait, although it’s a Muslim country, the spirit of Christmas can still be felt, unfortunately only in the confines of private accommodation and flat. At work, we were also granted with a holiday from work during Christmas Day. I even attended the midnight mass once. I noticed that more and more shopping malls have their Christmas decor and it is being talked about. The large number of expats in the Middle East is the reason, why  even miles away from home, you can still celebrate Christmas with friends and families. I had my first German Christmas last year here in Bavaria , with full anticipation (since I am very curious). I found many interesting German Christmas traditions that is worthy to document here in my Blog as part of my Expat life.

If you want to know how Germans celebrate Christmas the German way, then you might find this post helpful. So keep on reading and stay with me.

Here I wanna share with you  the surprising German traditions for Christmas that I personally love!

Christmas in Germany is beautiful, unique, homey and very warm!  

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Adventzeit : Light it up…!

The Advent Wreath or Der Adventskranz

The moment I saw these wreaths and candles, I know that Christmas is near. Back in my home country, I see these decorated wreaths as purely decorational, of course, minus the lighted candles.They are used to adorn the doors, and add to the already overwhelming Christmas decorations together with all the garlands in the walls, stairs etc. Not so here in Germany, because  Advent  time is important for Germans.

The German Christmas season officially starts at the first Sunday of Advent, roughly 3rd of December. The Advent wreath (or Adventskranz) is adorned with four candles, one of which is lit on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The first Advent wreath, which appeared in the mid-19th century, had 4 larger candles and 19 smaller ones. Each day, one additional candle was lit to help the children count the days until Christmas. Today only the four larger candles remain. Many Germans love to decorate their Adventskranz up to their own taste but there are also so many different designs of ready-made ones sold in almost every shop.

Adventskalendar —the sweet way of Christmas countdown.

During Advent season, you will never miss the sight of tons of Adventskalendar , (literally a Calendar with small boxes) almost overwhelming  in many designs, colors, and yes, all with yummy goodness chocolates or sweet goodies. This is one of the obvious signs that Christmas is coming. This is a delight for children and the child at heart. In the Adventskalendar, there are 24 “windows” that reveal a picture, poem or even part of a story – often the story of the Nativity – each day through December right up to Christmas Eve when the secret behind the largest window is revealed. Seeing Germans do  panic-buying of Adventskalendars especially when they are on Sale is a typical sight as early as 2nd week of November! This is totally German thing!

Weichnachtsplätzchen or German Christmas Cookies 

You know it’s the Advent season here in Germany when your nose is filled with heavenly delicious German Christmas cookies. Germans are very into home- made baking. They really appreciate if  you made the plätzchen  yourself and not  store-brought. They are great bakers of cookies and other treats.There are lots of baked treats that will surely keep your mouth-watering. My favorites are vanillekipferl (vanilla crescent cookies) Lebkuchen, Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars), Linzer cookies and Spekulaas as well.Germans love to use lots of almonds, hazelnuts, butter flavored marzipan and cinnamon in baking. Believe me, German cookies  are too beautiful and heavily decorated to eat!

Weihnachtsmann Schokolade or Chocolate Santa Claus

Its only here in Germany that Chocolate Santa Claus  ( or Weihnachtsmann) floods the shelf of all supermarkets here in Germany. Prior to Christmas, St. Nikolaus is celebrated on the 5th of December and so most Germans get this yummy figures in many sizes. If you have a child, I am sure you will get this one as well.

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Christmas in Germany

Christmas Tree or  Der Tannenbaum

With over 400 years in history, the Tannenbaum or the Christmas Tree is the real thing in Germany! The German Tannenbaum is usually put up and decorated on Christmas Eve, though some families opt to put up their tree during the Advent season. Please don’t tell anyone, but we already put up our Christmas Tree! Maybe my neighbors are shaking their heads when they see our lighted tree from our windows! I also see my neighbors starts to decorate their windows and garden with white lights. Who doesn’t? For us, Weihnachtsfreude  (Christmas Joy) comes early! In Philippines, this is also the norm.

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German Christmas markets

I grew up in adoration of Christmas Tree. Traditionally, I think it’s not complete when we don’t have a tree. Recently, on my research of German inventions, I found out that Christmas trees or Tannenbaum, actually originates here in Germany. I saw the biggest tree that I have ever seen in my  life, to top it all— a  REAL Evergreen Conifer , decorated with glass baubles, covered in real snow. Although there are lots of varieties for the plastic ones, most Germans still opt to put up the traditional real tree. During Christmas season, almost all town put up a giant tree in the city center adjacent to the place of Christmas market.Decorated with beautiful, handmade balls, and usually adorned with white lights.Compared to the Philippines, here I noticed that they only use white lights instead of colorful, blinking Christmas lights. And NO— they don’t decorate their whole house with lights!It’s also fascinating to know that it was German immigrants who brought the Christmas tree to America.

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Christmas Baubles, authentic German Christmas ornaments

In Germany, Christmas balls are not just an ordinary tree ornament. Where most of the  modern Christmas ornaments and plastic balls  nowadays are made in China, USA or Mexico, the origin of these “baubles” or Glaskugeln came from Germany. The old town of Lauscha in German Thuringia is said to be the place of the handmade, glass-blown Christmas bauble.

Below is the photo of  the family Weschenfelder work on Christmas balls in their combined living room and work space in the small village of Lauscha.

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Image Source   
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These are some of the pretty Baubles I saw in the Christmas market

Christmas Markets  or Christkindlmarkt

In Germany, despite the freezing temperatures, almost all towns are converted into one colorful, festive, unique Christmas wonderland during few weeks before Christmas day. Our local Christkindlmarkt  is open since November 23 up to Dec. 23.  Every place has its own attraction and each one has their own special features that draws attraction to everyone. If you want to have a glimpse of what is Christmas market all about, check this and it will bring you to a winter wonderland!

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O Tannenbaum!

Today there are over 2,500 Christmas markets across Germany. One of my dream came true when I experience Christkindlmarkt last year. Famous ones  are in Nuremberg, Munich and Rothenburg. Most markets are open also on Sundays and draws lots of visitors from neighboring places.This is the best time to see Germany in its most colorful and unique display of celebrating Christmas with the highlights of the Christkindl —the German equivalent for the world-renowned Santa Claus and depicted as an angelic figure with blond hair & wings. It’s really not time of the year without a Christkindlmarkt here in Germany.

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Heart-shaped Lebkuchen or German Gingerbread  cookies.

St. Nikolaus and the Christkind

Santa Claus originated as a Catholic figure. The Christkind was created by Protestants. Christkind transformed from a suggestion of Baby Jesus into a blonde, female angel. In Nürnberg, each year a teenage girl is chosen to represent the Christkind in the weeks leading up to Christmas. She is known as the Nürnberger Christkind and, much like with Santa, children take pictures with her and tell her what gifts they would like for Christmas. The highlight of each Christmas markets is the German’s famous mulled wine or “Glühwein” or hot spiced wine, the Krippenweg, the beautiful craft stalls, and lots of traditional German Christmas food. There are so many attractions for kids like carousel, trains, carousel and the ice skating rink. One thing worth mentioning is the efficiency of  Germans in their way of setting up the whole place into a big arena  winter wonderland within weeks or so.

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Only in Germany : Forget Santa, meet the Christkindl and Saint Nicholas

 Sankt Nikolaustag ( Dec. 5 or 6)

I grew up believing the magical tale of  Santa Claus as someone who is a bearded old man, with a big belly, dressed in red outfit riding the sleigh with sacks of gifts. All the way from the North pole giving gifts to children. But in Philippines, we don’t have snow neither reindeer or chimneys, so this makes me cringe now.  For many children, sitting in the lap of Santa Claus while being photographed is one of the most unforgettable time during Christmas. They either scream in anguish or shriek in delight! Here in Germany, there is no such thing as Santa Claus, only the Weichnachtsmann who is a favorite among children during St. Nicholas Day! My daughter will be celebrating her 2nd St. Nicholas in their Kindergarten this year.

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My daughter’s first Nikolaustag ( St. Nicholas )

In Germany,  December 5th is a very special night. Many children put their cleaned boots and shoes outside the front door on the night of 5 December. They believe that St. Nicholas fills the boot with nuts, oranges, gifts and sweets overnight. Sometimes the Nikolaus also visits the children at the Kindergarden or in the school and asks them if they have been good.My daughter already hung her sock in their Kita for the upcoming St. Nicholas. In Holland, as similar to this celebration, Sinterklaas is also a big celebration before Christmas.

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Frohe Weichnachten!

Christmas Eve – Heiliger Abend (also Heiligabend)

December 24 is still a regular working day here in Germany. But around 2:00 pm, often even earlier, businesses, and most shops are close in preparation for the holiday celebration, a large part of which occurs on Christmas Eve in Germany. The traditional evening meal includes carp and potato salad, but nowadays it varies from what each family loves to prepare. Families sing Christmas carols together and may read the story of Christ’s birth aloud.This is the counterpart of our traditional “Noche Buena” without the roasted pig, Christmas ham and Queso de Bola ( Cheese ball)! Compared to the Philippines and other countries, I don’t see  Christmas Carollers here either that goes from house to house, at least not in our neighborhood.Probably because its hard to sing and be out at night when its freezing cold at night.

Family members exchange gifts and children are typically the focal point of the gift exchange. Here in Germany,  opening gifts on Heiliger Abend is the normal way, compared to other countries who opens the gifts on the morning of December 25th.

I grew up attending Midnight Christmas mass or Simbang Gabi. We usually attend evening mass on a 9-day series of mass up to the” Misa de Gallo “or ( Christmas eve mass) . Here in Bavaria, I only went to the mass on Christmas Day, German families – whether Protestant or Catholic and even those who are not regular church-goers – often attend mass or a church service. While the mass traditionally takes place at midnight, in recent times the services have moved into the earlier evening hours. It is terribly cold around midnight or in early morning so the schedule of the mass usually happens around 9 in the morning. The mass is in German and it was a great experience for a first timer like me who listens to Christmas songs in German.

Second day of Christmas ( or St. Stephen Day)

Here in Germany, you have an excuse to sleep in after the big party from Christmas. Yes, Germans and other countries in Europe including the Netherlands have 2 days of Christmas, both are legal and widely celebrated holidays! This is a mellow day, a quiet day to recover from the hustle of  everything. Depending on the weather, people are still very active, running, jogging and doing sports during the 2nd day of Christmas. For typical Germans, they spend the second day of Christmas with their families, visiting Grandparents, enjoying seasonal threats and of course–ruhe or enjoying some peace & contemplation.

Also, do you know what else Germans do after Christmas?

Christmas won’t be complete without shopping!

They go shopping to grab the year-end clearance sales and buy everything on a decent price! Yes, Germans are practical, and spend their money wisely! Last year, we got our 7- foot Christmas Tree on sale for half of its original price!And we will be on the lookout once again for great things to buy this year!

How about you, do you also have unique Christmas traditions?

How do you prepare for Christmas for your family?

 

Sending you some warm cheers for the coming holidays!

 

Tschüss!

 

 

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A Dawn’s Transformation

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The story of the transformation of dawn

“You are always one decision away from a totally different life..”

 

Though I am fully embracing my “Life in Seasons”, everyday, I still struggle about German weather. It changes every now and then and I find it really challenging especially when I am caught up with so many things to do and so little time. I still need to master the way how locals  go on with their day with their mantra :

” There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing “.

As I go on with my day,  I found  wisdom from watching the transformation of the dawn prior to sunrise.Here’s the thing, I am not a fan of the cold. Frost finally arrived in Germany, in some parts it’s already snowing. Although I am not excited about the coming winter, I still embrace it as part of the change, but there is nothing more fascinating than to watch the dawn transforms into a colorful palette of colors in the sky. At least for me, it works.This one I truly love watching and if I have the chance, I go for it! I think watching the sky turns into a myriad of colors and hues can never be a boring sight .

This, amongst other things is special. It’s like an art story that only Artists can tell.

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Today’s Awakening hour

Everyday, as I drop my daughter to her Kindergarten, I passed by to this nearby sports field. It’s a huge field where children play football, rain or shine, showers and fog. Oh yes, if you live in Germany, the sight of people doing sports like running, Nordic walking and especially playing football is normal, no matter what the weather is. On Sundays, where it is considered as “Ruhetag”( or Quiet day) , most teens are playing sports. The place where I live is also near to another sports complex , so this is nothing new to me. I always hear the noise when people are playing so eventually, I knew exactly what is happening when there’s a tournament or a game.

The past weeks have been cloudy and wet, most of the time with constant pouring rains but the last days, we are rewarded with beautiful weather.But as it is the German weather, this things doesn’t last for long. It is fleeting. The transformation is so short, that in span of minutes, the sky is changed into something magical, into a boring, grey, clouded sight.

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Nature’s transformation

Before rushing to my German class, I managed to stop and snap some photos of the sky just to document this fleeting moment. Call me crazy but when I see these things, I can’t help but to admire nature, even in its simplest forms. I recalled that last year, I have witnessed a radical fire-burning Autumn skies, but this year, I noticed that they are less.

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A golden sunrise in Germany

I found my inspiration while watching this dawn’s transformation for about two minutes. As I hopped into my bike and go on with my day, I realized that within this fleeting inch of the fraction of my time, I saw a transformation that can never be recalled. While everybody is in chaotic morning rush mood—- going to work, rushing to school and dropping their children to Kindergarten and running errands,I found minutes to calm me down.

It’s automatic, piloted by nature, something so raw, simple, and yet precious. In modern times where beauty can be tampered with technology, this is called unfiltered beauty.

Have you seen something like this lately?

How do you manage to start your day while in chaotic morning rush?

This post is inspired by this week’s Photo Challenge |Transformation

Spekulaas : Dutch’s old time favorite soul food.

 

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My First time ever baked Spekulaas Cake ( Spekulaas Koek)

Thanks to my Dutch husband who introduced me to a hidden Dutch goodness, the Spekulaas,  or the longtime Dutch soul food. When it comes to food, the Dutch cuisine doesn’t boast of a world-renowned foods, but when you take a closer look at what’s in a typical Dutch’s table, you’ll be able to understand why Krentebrood, Kroket, Patat, Poffertjes, and Stroopwafels are humble example why you should taste them at least once in your life, at least if you have the chance! I remember the first time I sat on a Dutch table and devoured with delight some home-made meatballs with Rode kool met appleltjes. It was a delightful meal, my first time ever to taste a red cabbage— with cinnamon-tangy apples!

What is Spekulaas ?

I had  Spekulaas was when my parents-in-law  visited us in Kuwait and brought us a handful of Spekulaas goodies from Holland three years ago. There were Spekulaas cookies, Gevulde koek spekulaas and all sorts of pastry cakes spiced with Spekulatius. There was no way we can find Spekulaas spice in Kuwait, let alone the genuine spice composed of cinnamon ( zimt) nutmeg ( muskatnuss), cardamon, ginger, white pepper,and ground aniseed.  I have seen the  Lotus Speculoos  cookie spread ( Belgian origin)  sold in selected supermarkets like in Carrefour, but then it is not the authentic Spekulaas flavor. Since then, Spekulaas became a favorite of mine among Dutch food, creating a statement of soul food. It is not just a winter food.  It’s hard to explain, the taste, the smell, and the rich flavor, it is unique, and I found it to be  decadent for me. Here in Germany, fortunately, Spekulaas and spices are widely sold in most supermarket, all year round. But during Fall, and the Autumn baking season starts, Spekulaas, along with Lebkuchen and Stollen floods all the shop.

Last week, my daughter had the Lantern parade celebrating Martinstag (or St. Martin). The kids along with their parents walked in the dark with their lantern and singing songs. Despite the rain, cold and darkness, it was a meaningful experience. Parents are  also asked to bring some bakes goodies along with kinderpunsch and glühwein. I wrote Spekulaas Koek for our share! I know I must be crazy, because first and foremost, I have never tried making Spekulaas cake, and secondly, I don’t know how to do it! This is totally something bake from scratch!

But as the saying goes ” When there’s a will, there’s a way! ” so  definitely  I found a way! I did my research and get the ingredients and then I prepared to bake Spekulaas ahead of time.I got the Spekulatius spices from Holland. Sometimes I even springkle some in my home made waffles and pancakes!

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Our house feels heaven after I took this out from the oven.

Speculaas or speculoos is one of the Dutch culinary specialties. Normally, it is a spiced biscuit, made with wooden forms or moulds. They are typically winter food, and especially associated with the feast of ‘Sint Nicolaas’ or Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus. Along with their infamous Chocolate Letters and Kruidnoten, Spekulaas signals one of the best celebrated feast in the Netherlands  before Christmas;  the Sinterklaas. This feast is celebrated on 5 or 6 December. Speculaas is very old, the spices used date from medieval times.

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Home made baked Gevulde Koek Spekulaas
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My home-made Gevulde koek with Almond filling 

The name seems to derive from the Latin speculum (mirror, the biscuits had the carved figure of the mould in mirror image). Old wooden biscuit moulds show biblical scenes, historic events, ships, windmills, mermaids, and of course images of Saint Nicholas with the small children he had saved according to the legend. Single youngsters could receive a ‘vrijer’ (male admirer/lover) or ‘vrijster‘ (female admirer/lover). According to some this could be considered as a marriage proposal from the giver. These large speculaas dolls (Dutch’s version of  Gingerbread cookies) were often decorated with coloured icing, silver pills and even leaf gold.


The speculaas biscuits from before, say, 1850, were made with a very hard dough containing rye flour and honey.  Be warned though that these biscuits were so hard they could only be eaten if they were dissolved into a sweet (and tasty) porridge.
I enjoyed dipping these hard cookies in my coffee just to make it soft a bit. I noticed that they can also be stored for a long time in an airtight container.

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Decadent blanched almond on top of Gevulde Koek Spekulaas

So I brought the baked Spekulaas cake and Gevulde Koek Spekulaas to my daughter’s St. Martin’s party and  placed it along the German ‘s trays of Lebkuchen, onion breads, macaroons, pizza breads, pretzel and other home made goodies. Here in Germany, I observed that only healthy options are served to feed the children. the parents of the children in the Kindergarten are giving support to the school staff and this way of potluck is a great thing to enhance social aspects. Junk food and soft drinks are totally absent. I kept on looking if people would eat it or it will be left ignored. I stand there and watch each piece dissappear from the tray. When I only saw two to three pieces left from the Gevulde Koek, I felt relieved. It made me feel satisfied that my Dutch- inspired baking was consumed well and I was able to share some Dutch goodness.

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Dutch’s ultimate Soul food: Spekulaas

To get the best verdict : The Dutchman himself tasted and devoured the Spekulaas! I gave a few slices to our  German neighbor as well and they only replied with “Lecker” ! ( or delicious ).

I guess anything made with Love taste better, Do you agree? Are you also fond of home made cooking.

 

Do you like Spekulaas?  What  is your favorite comfort food for winter?

 

If you are inspired to do some Fall baking and bring some Dutch flavors in your home, you might want to try making the traditional Dutch Apple Pie ( Appeltaart ) and bring some crazy colorful Rainbow cake.

Guten Appetit and wishing you a lovely week !

 

Tschüss!

 

 

 

Acrylic FluidArt : Tropical Sea foam Blues

“Why do we love the sea? 

It is because it has some potent power to let us think things we like to think…”            { Robert Henri} 

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Acrylic Fluid Artwork :  Tropical Sea Foam blues ( 50 X 70 CM) Abstract painting

 

Hello friends! Just in time that the touch of frost finally arrive here in Germany today, I got inspired to create a tropical sea-foam abstract painting. I am still perfecting my skills in acrylic and creating modern abstract pieces, and this piece, by far, gives me most satisfaction. As a self-taught artist, I feel the satisfaction once I see the “enigmatic” factor in my painting. I can’t explain it, but I know when to put down my brush and say “It is done..”. I think this is very important since If I don’t like what I do, how can I persuade others to like what I do?

Yes, I admit that I am the kind of person who is affected by the weather and my mood changes depending where I am. Back to dressing up in layers, I face the cold weather outside. It’s all grey, and I am not planning to paint something bleak and grey. It’s been raining, cold, wet  and dreary so I just busied myself in painting abstract using warm tones of blue, green, teal, whites and silver to give accent. This weekend was all about November rain and gloominess all over our place, so there’s nothing much really to do, and complaining about the weather doesn’t help either, add the fact that I have a nasty cold so I needed something to lift up my mood.

Thinking about tropical views of the beach, the blue waters and cloudless bright skies, I let my mind wander about the calm sea blues and breakaway waves, all creating a majestic image.Did you know that Seascape is one of the fascinating subject to paint, also one of the most complicated one? As a self-taught artist, I can’t say that this subject needs a lot of patience, and imagination. If you are not flexible enough, then it will be hard to replicate the waves and the movement, and the spirit of being “alive”of the sea.

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Up close details of the “SEAFOAM BLUES”

This piece is made by using Fluidart with Acrylic. I have mentioned before in my previous post, how I am embracing this new technique and learning so much about dirty pour, and following the motion of acrylic when it comes to creating modern abstract pieces. To create the texture and depth of the moving waters and waves, I used pinsel, sponge and a lot of mixing and blending.It’s all about trial and error. I have made so many mistakes. I actually painted these canvas twice because I don’t like the previous one.

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Up close details of the “INFINITE BLUES”Abstract painting

Anyway, have you ever seen a painting that you really love and wanting to buy it, but it was too expensive?

I do, and I have been into this situation many times. Especially with Abstract, I have always thought that “How can something like this worth so much?” Here’s my thoughts about this dilemma.

WHY DO YOU NEED TO BUY AN ORIGINAL ARTWORK?

Many are intimidated to buy an original artwork, mainly they get intimidated by the price, or the access to original art is limited. There’s an old cliché that fine artwork is only for collectors or art enthusiasts. I knew this because before I am like this.

As a self-taught Artist, and Artisan , all of my artwork are purely made with Love and inspired  by my new- found passion for painting, priced reasonably and cordially. What started as an inspirational Hobby slowly turns out to become a passionate endeavor. I taught myself to polish my talent and skill to create unique paintings. I used high-quality paints and provides the concept in each piece. As an Expat-Mama here in Germany, painting helps me to establish my roots in my new home and gives me an outlet to channel out my love for arts. Every piece has a story behind it and this painting you are viewing is no-exception.

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If you buy an original painting, you are not just supporting the local Artist,  you are also empowering a self-taught artist and other skilled crafts people. My painting is not like a dress or a crafted jewelry where you can wear, it is a by- product of talent and hard work. A distinct work of art.  If you give a new home  to a painting, you’re not only buying another wall art to decorate your wall, instead, you create an infinite connection that never can be valued with money, something MADE With Love.

I am writing this not to promote my Shop or advertise sales for my artwork. I am sharing this for people to understand the concept of creating original artwork and sharing it to others who would like to have them. There are no such thing as easy when it comes to painting and artwork. It’s all about your passion to create something and being original. I fully understand these things now because now I have created something that I have shared with others. It is a great cycle.

IMG_4393Another 3-piece set, each piece depicting the calm breeze and soothing azure blues of a tropical scenery of the beach. This beautiful set of three is perfect to adorn any room, giving it a lift, and a modern look.

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“INFINITE BLUES “, Modern Abstract painting (50 x 70 cm)

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What do you think of this artwork?

Have you ever bought an original artwork?

 

If you have more time to kill, please say Hi and visit my shop, we are officially online now, and ready to do business with you. I am shipping worldwide from Germany, so give us a visit and maybe you find what you are looking for! We are also in Instagram, please connect with us! Hope to see you there.

If you like anything customized or made to suit your preferences, just send me an email about it.

 

Thank you once again for reading this Blog and I appreciate your visit!

 

Tschüss!

 

 

 

Kindergeld : My 3- year old’s basic income in Germany

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A Third Culture Kid enjoying the cold Autumn walks

It has been revealed by Internations, and there’s no denying that Germany is probably one of the best place on earth to raise a family. I am a first- time parent and raising my child in a culture totally different from where I grew up with, has been the focal point of our expat move. Of course I know that all parents ,in general, desires the best for their child, and this is the reason why I wanted to share my personal experience why despite of the crazy weather and difficulty to learn the language, I think Germany is a better place to raise a kid and be a child!

 

You might be surprised, having a child is Germany seems more of a blessing, an enjoyable reason to defray the nonchalant first-world country problems that weighs every family on a daily basis. With its excellent health benefits and support to parents, both financially & socially, raising a child here can be rewarding!

Raising an Expat child, which has windows to multiculturalism or rather, raising a  Third Culture-Kid child in Germany is a privilege . Aside from the extensive leisure activities, safe environment, a more play-based educational system in the early years, every child has their own allowance up until they reached the age of 18.

My three-year old daughter has a monthly income of 192 Euros that goes to our German  bank account paid by the German government. So simple as it sounds and yet so generous. When we came to live here in Germany and heard about this, we are extremely happy. Happy in a way that as parents, we all know that every single Euro matters when you are raising a child. Kindergeld is a great help to our family budget.It is granted as a tax refund, primarily to meet the constitutional rule that income is untaxable up to a child’s subsistence level.I am not talking about the amount itself, but as an expatriate parent like me, this amount is really something tangible, with this I can feel that the government “cares” about my child, and to every single child living here.

I am sure that I’m not the only one who is grateful for this. Although it seems to me that this country is an advocate of  “Ordnung“( or order) and everything seems to be ruled by rules, I see that hard work really pays off. All taxpaying expatriate residents of Germany are, like Germans, entitled to Kindergeld if they have children. Also called as” Child Benefit“,  the German government give all families, expats included, to help defray some of the cost of raising children. It can run from €190 to €221 per child per month, and is usually made by a fund transfer into a German bank account. We all know that raising a child is expensive. From diapers to milk, Kindergarten expenses and other essentials, plus the never-ending cycle of buying toys!

Just about any taxpayer living in Germany with children can get the Kindergeld, whether employed, self-employed or independent. You get it as a rule that until the children turn 18, though it can continue until they are 25 if they are still in school or meet other requirements for an extension.

This amount also varies depending on where region in Germany you are living.

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Kindergeld amount 2017 (standard amount):

Child benefit for the first child: 192 Euros per month
Child benefit for the second child: 192 Euros per month
Child benefit for the third child: 198 Euros per month
Child benefit from the fourth child: 223 Euros per month
The child benefit amount will be increased by 2 euros per child compared to the end of 2016 for 2017.

If you are a parent and planning to move to Germany or living here and about to have a baby, then this is good news for you! If you’re interested to know more about this, you can check it Here.  I will share to you the steps we took for us to avail of this benefit. It was easy, smooth and practical in all sense. The child benefit application must be submitted in writing and signed. Note that all the forms will be in German . Applications may also be submitted by an authorized representative, who must submit a written power of attorney (for example by members of the tax-consulting professions). An oral application, for example by telephone, is not possible

Official details in English are given Here.

Here’s how to apply :

  1. Anmeldung ( Application) – Open to all family members. This is to prove that the family is living in Germany.
  2. Birth Certificate : translations of them if they are not in English / German. If child is born in Germany, a birth certificate is issued separately to apply for Kindergeld, which should be attached in original. We translated my daughter’s Arabic birth certificate into Dutch & German languages because her nationality is Dutch. We also brought along  the originals with the attestations showing it was legalized both from the German embassy in Kuwait and the Netherlands embassy there.
  3. Your passport
  4. Forms to fill up are listed Here.
    • Haushaltbescheinigung (KG3a) – A proof with your address (This has to be certified as per procedure below)
    • Tax identification Number ( both parents & child)
    • German Bank account ( where the transfer will be made)

Procedure:

  1. Fill in following Forms:
  2. Take the Haushaltbescheinigung, and your passport to your local KVR/Rathaus (The place where did you registration/anmeldung)
    • Officer will verify the form and  pay the applicable fee. You will be issued stamped Haushaltbescheinigung.
  3. Put in the envelope:
    • Stamped Haushaltbescheinigung 
    • Antrag auf Kindergeld (filled in)
    • Birth certificate
    • Residence permit copy (Aufenhaltstitel)
  4. Post it to the office of Familienkasse belonging to the city you live in !

That’s it. You will now get your Kindergeld in 3-4 weeks. Keep the letters from Finanzamt safely for future references.

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Can’t make up her mind: Aspiring to become a Doctor today, tomorrow a Gardener, and next week will be a Veterinarian!

More than the benefit itself, I am really grateful that my child is growing up in a place where the family oriented lifestyle is very high.When I am writing this post, I am not actually surprised that Germany is considered a great place to raise a child and live abroad. Generally speaking, Germany is an economically strong nation, it’s a hard-working nation, and it’s a nation where the people feel a strong pride in their country. Right from the beginning, from childhood, they feel important !

Back in my home country, we don’t have such things as  child benefit. You as a parent is responsible to allot savings for your child. I grew up in a culture where there is an endless pressure on “getting rich” to be able to afford everything, seeing money as an achievement or a social standing. As a child, I don’t have such as this “benefit“. I have other siblings who, along with me, strive for all our needs to be met along with all other basic necessities.I saw both the joys and misery of raising multiple kids and I realize the effect of poverty and the support from government, or the lack of it. Families with more children  struggles to meet both ends.I think that beyond the cost, it is also the reason of advocating Family planning.

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My Third Culture Kid

Kindergeld is a form of love. There’s so much love for children here in Germany that I cannot sum up in this post. I will try to write more in my next post about this. Anyhow, top it all, let us not forget that having a child, and children are special gift. With toddler tantrums and all their screaming, Yes, they all deserved to be raised in the best way that we can give to them.

 

Have you ever had a “child allowance”when you were a child?

How did it make you feel?

 

 

 

Peek |Sneak preview of the “What Ifs?”

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We all love to have a sneak peek of all the What-Ifs” of life… It’s normal, ingrained in our human nature.

I , myself have a habit of having a sneak peek of almost everything, especially when I have the chance to do it. But, I am not so fond of taking a look through the lenses of the viewing binoculars to admire a view from a top. I don’t know why.

For me, I prefer to gaze through the vast expanse and look at a view from my own vantage point.I like this way of having perspective of things in front of me.

It’s common to see these coin-operated binoculars in any observatory deck. Even on top of Zugspitze, from the top of Alps, you can have a stunning view through these binoculars. Most of the towers I have visited in Kuwait have this same  amenities where aside from enjoying the view from above, visitors are given a chance to look further, for an intent close up of any sight they wanted to explore, for sight seeing purposes.

I had the chance to visit the Liberation Tower in Kuwait. It was one of the striking tower where you can see a great skyline of Kuwait in between skycrapers. The tour was privately arranged, and in Arabic, but I don’t really mind. I’ve always wanted to visit this tower so I grabbed the chance when the tour was offered by Aware Center.  At 372 m, the Liberation Tower is the world’s 38th tallest free-standing structure, by pinnacle height. It is standing proud & big symbolizing Kuwait’s liberation from Iraqi invasion. When we reached the 150th floor, within span of seconds, these views from the photos below  greeted me. I can’t really recall how fast it took for us to be on the top observation deck, all I know is that it was fast. Although the weather was fine, it was not a clear view because of the glass windows. Unfortunately, they are dirty, smudgy, and dusty, which is actually common in Kuwait because of frequent dust storms.

But then, it was a great experience to see the skyline of Kuwait from a view on top, almost desert. The buildings, the urban panoramic setting, with all of its beige tone dwellings. I can almost see the rummage  with all the trash piled up. The busy city center, in between the skyscrapers, and the crowded Souks (market place), and yes, the traffic jam. It’s surreal to see that this country is so small and yet managed to rise up, developed its own identity when it comes to architecture and modernization.

While I was still living in this place, I’ve always been a stranger on a daily basis, always roaming around, exploring like locals, and discovering the many facets of this city. I wanted to have a sneak preview of  everyday life in Kuwait, naturally. This particular view from the Liberation tower is no exception.

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Sometimes its good to look through the binoculars, to see things at a large range. But then, which is really a better view? After quite some time, your views will change eventually. Real experiences unfolds each facade of the postcard beauty you see .

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Sightseeing from above the tower is like a sneak peek of  “what is life in Kuwait?” It gives you a swift scan of all the what ifs of living in this place, dust, heat and all.

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In the end, it takes one to experience a certain culture in order to really know one.

Have you ever tried visiting a new place, and taking a look into the Observation binoculars and thought “what is it to live in this place? ”

This post is inspired by this week’s Daily Photo Challenge |Peek

JustBluedutchArt is now open for business!

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Guys, finally I have opened my online shop!

To start November right, I recently opened my first ever online shop through Etsy, JustbluedutchArt, to provide a manageable platform to sell my artworks online. You can now view the recent paintings that I have available for sale. And yes, we are finally open for business!

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I am grateful for every one of you who showed appreciation of my artworks and have encouraged me to moved on with my passion. Since the very first time I have posted my first artwork in social media, especially here in WP,  I have received positive comments and it was not long enough when people are asking if they can buy it. At first I was hesitant because I haven’t tried selling my paintings before, but then I think it’s just a positive thing to do.

It is not an easy one but it is one of the turning point of my life where I see another purpose of my hobby. My paintings are piling up at home and I have nowhere to stock them so I thought its just practical to sell them. It’s great knowing that as much as I enjoyed my journey of rekindling my love for painting early this year, it also provide me a way to channel out what I really love to do in my free time! Some of my paintings have finally found their new homes in Canada, the Netherlands, USA, The Philippines, and here in Germany. It makes me even more excited to reach out to more people through this shop.

This is my first time to open an online shop, so please bear with me. Stay tuned as I continue to stock up and post more of my artworks!

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JustbluedutchArt // Visual art // Modern Art

If you have time, do check out my shop, say Hello and if you fancy anything there, please feel free to get in touch with me and support local art.

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Painting is my breath, Art is my compass, and nature is my body.

Above all, I wanted to thank you all for your support. For those of you who are following my Blog and my expat life adventures here, you have been such a great source of inspiration to me. Many of you I haven’t even met in person but you have always been so encouraging. From my heart, Thank you, Danke, Salamat and Bedankt!

Please add me in  Instagram and Facebook  to get the latest offer, promotions and stay connected! Don’t miss out my Opening Sale coming right up!

 

Tschüss!

 

Rounded |A State of a Change

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Neatly piled round logs covered in snow.

When I looked at this photo, I can’t help but to wonder what’s the compatibility relationship of Fire (Hou in Chinese)  and Wood (Mu in Chinese) , being two of the most dominant elements. In most cases, as much as they appear to be, they are complementing each other.Wood, when consumed turns into Fire, but if you add Water ( Shui in Chinese), the liquid form of snow, then a breakdown happens. If you think of it, the Chinese Zodiac elements is a worthwhile subject to ponder, it is the basic of everything. The Five Movements, Five Phrases, Five Steps or Five States of Change embodies the changes we see every single day. Take for example , the seasons.

If you see them in your neighborhood, you know what these pile of logs means. The cold winter is coming so stacking up piles of logs for indoor fireplace is as adamant as shaking the dust from your well-kept winter wardrobe. It denotes the upcoming change that is bound to happen. It makes sense actually, before winter, there’s Fall. Autumn is the time where most trees loses its leaves, making it barren and almost dormant for any growth. It is the time to prune the trees and its branches. Some goes to better use, but the latter ends up as firewood. The word “Firewood” itself denotes a combined effort to make a state of change : Fire.

I took this photo from our holiday in Austria. As we walked through the bend, beside an almost frozen river, gazing towards the majestic Alps, I saw this cottage, with pile of rounded logs on its side. It is totally covered in snow. I thought ; why they aren’t covered properly? The spaces between the rounded logs creates a channel for the snow , making it like a mosaic. When I see something like this, of course, it calls for a good photography subject. One move of log from the middle could signal a change of order from top to bottom.

But then, who cares about the arrangement? They are all going to a common destiny : to be used as a firewood to create heat.

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Preparing for Winter : Round logs neatly piled

Even in the most common sightings, a state of change is evident. Maybe its pretty ordinary for you , but hey, I found some insights from this.

Have you learned an insight lately?

This post is inspired by this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge |Rounded

Auf Wiedersehen October, An hour of melancholy

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An hour of Melancholy : Spider webs like labyrinth of jewels

Hello November, but first, let me say my final Adieu to October.

I took a walk yesterday, the last day of October, and it was a fine, cold, grey day.Nothing special about it,  except that we have a long weekend here in Bavaria, so overall, we are just chilling out. All of us in the family are feeling sick, but still, we are fine. It’s Halloween time in almost half of the world, but I noticed that Germans are not so fond of this. Kinder Halloween parties are held in a music club bar where children clad in their costumes danced in the funky lights, grooving to the disco lights, and loud music. I must admit, a threat for eager parents like me as well. My Little one, dressed as a funky skeleton, with a complete face painting done by yours truly was cheerfully emancipated as she partied with other kids. Trick or treating is another melancholic dream, well at least here in Bavaria, it’s a ghost, not as fancy as I have seen in Philippines. I was surprised that although they love pumpkins,  it is best with pumpkin soup ( which I actually made for dinner last night !) and pies , the groovy jack-o-lanterns cheers up the lonely balconies outside , which is a picture of  deafening silence.

I think its detrimental to even ring the bell of a house where all the roller shutters ( or Rolladen in Deutsch) are  firmly shut!

Snapping some photos from my camera, and briskly walking on the carpet of fallen leaves,  here’s what I’ve written to my thought journal ;

October, the only time where I see spider webs as something fascinating. Probably the best time to see spiders webs looking great, beaded with the moisture of the morning dew or mist. Take note, no two spiders webs look exactly the same. I didn’t know about this before, but then, it’s good to know, right?

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My own Autumn melancholy

Walking into the woods surrounded with  colorful palette of autumn leaves may look dreamy and looks magical to others, it really looks beautiful , I cannot deny it. But after a while, this postcard of natural beauty becomes a fleeting moment. At the back of your mind, you know that the dreary cold winter still need to surpass, and I need to endure the cold. I am not so fond of winter that is why I’m saying this. After the ravaging winds we have from three days ago, which ripped off all the surviving leaves from its branches, now everything else is bare and grey. At least for enthusiastic Germans who runs everyday, the colorful foliage provides a great scenery, sort of.

But then, every leaf fallen to the ground and muddled up in the wet puddle only knows its own misery——-and melancholy.

The truth is , I could expect no more from this sight. It is enough. For me, everyday it gets even more ordinary. Maybe only by a pure accident of organic chemistry, leaves are reborn, as they start to die, in an astonishing range of colours that puts their spring birth to shame. We all know the look of  decay. This is the winding-down of everything, slowly towards death. Yet , for those who took time to have deeper insights about autumn, you know that the beginning of the end doesn’t feel like decay, at least on the surface, it doesn’t feel like a crumbling and a decomposing and a collapse from within; it feels like the arrival of a world of new feelings. At first, the sound of dried fallen leaves against a kick, that crisp sound it makes that creates a jolt of excitement is almost the same melancholic exercise from my muscles as I rake down the dried , stubborn , fallen leaves in the lawn  for hours.

That’s the other side of melancholy. How do you appreciate the beauty of a mess?

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Slowly drifting …

If we look closely, in the autumn foliage we can see our own mortality: a beauty with a sadness never far away. It’s the time where sadness creeps slowly, camouflaged in quiet, calmed emotions, basked in agony of anticipating the end of the cold months. Soon, the season to rest and reflect will pass. Like a long passage to cross. But there’s nothing beat the picturesque beauty of blooming colors of spring whilst in Autumn, the beauty comes from an inner understanding of the cycle of life.

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Wildlife watching in Autumn

Where everything looks hazy, the mystery beyond the mist is yet to be uncovered.

And then again, there is the mist, arriving uninviting. To me, autumn mist is something you smell before you see it; it’s the initial hint of the blow of the air as I leave the house in the morning, the first gush of wind which kissed my cheeks as I hop on my bike, slowly  creeping into my nostrils, and the realization from my inner  tissues tells me  that summer is  finally over and the world is turning.

Every morning, I notice that the sunshine is hazy.  I’ve moved all my plants to the biggest window in the house where they can received as much sun that they need to thrive on the coming winter months. It’s a joy to see them gathered together, as if they need each other to survive the gloom. I’ve picked my last  stem of roses from this year, pruning of stems will follow later. I’ve sensed it as early as the last week of August, the end of BBQ season and lounging in Biergartens has come to an end,  the gloomy sight of empty playgrounds, and steaming rivers becomes a panoramic dream right now.

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Auf Wiedersehen October !

This is my thoughts from my One hour of melancholyAuf Wiedersehen October! 

Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read , my friends. If you enjoy this post, please feel free to leave your thoughts, I would love to read them as well.

So tell me, are your moods also affected by the weather?

Do you also experience this so-called “melancholic” thoughts when winter is coming?

 

Cheers to November and wishing you all a lovely week ahead!

Tschüss!

Related readings :

The Beauty of Autumn in Germany

 

 

Rounded | Bavarian Kachelöfen

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Traditional Kachelöfen in Bavaria

Are your heaters on already?

When I first saw this thing in Abensberg, I thought its some kind of a weird corner decoration, I thought for a minute that its  just a ceramic or brick patch work, with bowls plastered to create a unique texture. I was mistaken. I didn’t know that this is a “Kachelöfen” or simply , “a heater”, a built-in  heating system in an old-fashioned way.

Very timely, as almost all of the leaves of trees are falling down outside, the cold chilly weather and the gloom arrived here in Bavaria and  “Heaters” (or Heizung in German ) are definitely essential to every home. You’ve got to have your heating system working properly if you want to survive the looongggg German winter.

The Kachelöfen  as a means of heating and a lot more dates back to the Middle Ages. Stoves  became a central part of the household, erected in the  ‘Stube’, the hub of family life. Not only did it give warmth, it was also used to dry clothes, keep food warm or even cook it in it and to sleep on a platform on top of it during the winter as was the case in Russia.In Eastern and Northern Europe and North Asia, these kachelofens (or steinofens) evolved in many different forms and names: for example the Russian Stove/Fireplace (RussianРусская печь), the Finnish Stove (in Finnish: pystyuuni or kaakeliuuni, “tile oven”) and the Swedish Stove (in Swedish: kakelugn, “tile stove” or “contra-flow stove”) associated with Carl Johan Cronstedt. The Chinese developed the same principle into their Kang bed-stove. The masonry heater has gained renewed domestic popularity recently because of its heating efficiency. No wonder that here in Bavaria, many of traditional homes still have this type of heating system.

First, the stoves were big but rather plain, but in the 14th century, the tiles were  decorated and the simple Kachelöfen often became a work of art. Castles featured elaborately carved Kachelöfen as standard equipment and masters of masonry created  pieces of great value.

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Kachelöfen in Austria

I remember from our holiday in Austria where we had the pleasure of dining in one of the restaurant in the city center, I noticed something similar to this. At first glance, you won’t see it as a heating device, but rather, again, as an eye-catching ornament built in the corner of the room. It creates such a homey atmosphere. Some can even be touched by hand. I think this looks far better than the mundane rectangular heating device in steel or cast iron that we have nowadays.

What do you think of Kachelöfen?

Would you fancy having one in your home?

This post is inspired by the Daily Post’s Photo Challenge |Rounded